We’ve all heard of TikTok, the short-form video app all the rage with young people nowadays. But what about the original version, also made for young people? Tyc-Toc, a center for youthful fun and excitement created through philanthropy and community organizing in 1951 was a hub for teenagers in the Titusville community.
“At long last the teen-agers of our city need no longer sit back and dream of one day when they might have a recreation center of their own,” Jim Sexton wrote for the Titusville Herald on July 25, 1951. “No longer are their dreams just dreams, but are readily becoming realities and their ideas are quickly being organized with others to lay the basic foundation” for the new teenage youth center. After much campaigning by the teenagers of Titusville to have a place to call their own, a youth center became part of the plan for the soon-to-be-unveiled Burgess Park.
Charles and Charlotte Burgess were English immigrants who came to Titusville in the 1880s after their purchase of Eames Petroleum Works. Charles turned Eames into Cyclops Steel Company and the business flourished. The couple and their daughter, Helen, lived across the street in a beautiful mansion originally built in 1870 by Jonathan Watson, a wildcatter who grew to great prosperity after Drake’s discovery of oil in the valley.
Watson commissioned the home and property to be designed by William Webster of Rochester, New York who also designed Woodlawn Cemetery. He wanted to maintain the original oak trees on the property as well as construct a home, a barn, two greenhouses, install gas lighting throughout the grounds, raise horses, cows, and chickens, and plant countless fruit trees. The property was a farmstead wonderland, meticulously cared for by its future residents, most notably the Burgess family.
After both her parents died, Helen Burgess Doty continued to live in the house with her husband. After residing there for over fifty years, Burgess gave the house and land to the City of Titusville on June 22, 1951 to be a public space for all people to enjoy in memory of her mother and father.
A Junior Board of Directors (JBOD) comprised of twelve students from Titusville and St. Joseph’s High Schools in grades nine through twelve was assembled for the creation of a youth center. The JBOD ran a contest to name their new building. In July 1951, the winning name was chosen as Tyc-Toc, submitted by Gordon Myer, Ed Myer (who later grew to recreational fame in his own right), and their mother Edna Myer of Hydetown. TYC stood for Teenage Youth Center, which over time was colloquially changed to Titusville Youth Center. TOC seems to have been chosen because it made for a great name that rolled easily off the tongue.
A young Mabel Clark chaired the Social Recreation Committee that formed a Tyc-Toc Constitution over the course of three meetings and set a grand opening date for September 28, 1951 after the big Titusville vs. Greenville football game. Membership sign ups began and in just a few months 344 students ages 14-20 paid 50 cents for one year’s membership to Tyc-Toc.
On a chilly September Friday night after the Rockets fought the Trojans to a 0-0 stalemate, more than 400 teenagers streamed down the street to inaugurate their new youth center. Members who already paid were immediately allowed in and guests could enter for 10 cents but only with a registered member.
The entire lower floor of the building was dedicated to the new youth center with the upstairs reserved for adult education programs. On either side of the main hallway were rooms dedicated to dancing, games, ping pong, shuffleboard, checkers, and cards. There was also a snack bar which featured cupcakes, ice cream, and soda on opening night “for reasonable prices.” Revelers could get candy, gum, and peanuts from dispensers.
Tyc-Toc was open every Tuesday and Wednesday from 7pm to 10pm and Fridays and Saturdays from 7pm to midnight. Over the years, countless people of all ages from the Titusville area have made use of Tyc-Toc for everything from dances and music theater practices to meals and senior activities as the current Titusville Senior Center. The Watson-Burgess House, once Tyc-Toc, and now the Titusville Senior Center, has stood the test of time. If only its walls could talk.
Sources: Titusville Herald 7/7/1951, 7/25/1951, 9/27/1951, 9/29/1951, NWPA Stories previous post research, Google Street View Images