Since we have a long history in the community the West Side Improvement Club is sometimes mentioned in the news. On this page you will find articles by various publishers.
Published Date: June 21 2011
Publisher: The Bremerton Sun
Author: Terry Mosher
Bruce Larson grew up in Navy Yard City and wandered down to the Westside Improvement Club for activities. The club became a foundation for a lifetime of athletic success. Larson, 59, and a teacher (PE), coach (basketball) and athletic director at Central Kitsap Junior High, left Tuesday for a nine-day tour of Europe — France, Germany and Switzerland — with 44 students and parents, leaving behind another season in which both the boys and girls basketball teams again went undefeated. He and Tommy Thompson, a retired teacher, built a basketball dynasty at CK Junior High in 27 years of coaching together (Larson coaches the girls and Thompson is his assistant, and they switch roles for the boys season). Thompson’s boys teams have lost just twice in the last seven years and Larson’s record is similar. “He’s a big man,” said Thompson of the 6-foot-6 Larson, “but a very compassionate person — very caring. I think the world of him. I’ve been blessed to coach with him all these years.” Larson was one of the better basketball players to come out of West Bremerton High School. He broke Danny Shedwin’s single-game scoring record of 37 his senior year (1969) when he scored 40 points. Coach Dick Anderson sat him on the bench for the fourth quarter of an easy win against Shelton. Marvin Williams scored 45 points, but did it in a Bremerton High School uniform. When Larson was growing up in the 1960s, life revolved around outdoors activities at the Westside Improvement Club between “D” and “E” Streets in Navy Yard City. “That was the ‘hood,” Larson said. “That is where the kids hung out.” Somebody installed outdoor lights at WIC so the kids could come down at night and play ball. “We’d go down after playing a high school basketball game (at West) and hang out and play basketball,” Larson said. Football was played in the dirt parking lot. Crushed rock was spread over the lot. It didn’t stop the football games. “It was real dangerous to play on, but we still played. We made the most of it,” Larson laughs. Baseball had special rules at the club. Balls hit by the young kids (up to age 12) were home runs. Older kids were limited to doubles. Go-carts were raced down E Street. If you got out of control, the safe thing to do was to turn into the club parking lot to slow down. Most of the black families lived on Sinclair Heights next to Navy Yard City. This was a period of time when racial tensions ran high around the country. But on E Street, kids of both colors mixed as one and differences, if there were any, they were rooted only in the heat of the competitive battle. It was different during school hours at West. “There was a lot of racial tension,” Larson said. “You kind of had to roll with it. Sometimes you would get in trouble with some people, and sometimes some people would back away. You would be walking down the hallway and somebody would make a comment, and that kind of stuff. “They called us racial slurs. Of course, you always defended yourself. We had some pretty good fights at the high school.” Larson earned a college education through basketball. He also played football through his freshman year at West. Between his eighth and ninth-grade year he grew six inches to his current height and football coach Chuck Semancik had his sights set on him as valuable addition to the varsity. But Larson was only about 165 pounds with a football uniform on, and he dropped football to stick with basketball despite phone calls from Semancik imploring him to play. Larson, by the tiniest of margins, beat out Central Kitsap’s Don Thorsen for the basketball scoring title in West Sound his senior year. That earned him a scholarship to play ball at Tacoma Community College for coach Don Moseid. He helped lead Tacoma to the NWAACC championship in 1971 and Moseid was offered the head job at Montana after the season, but he turned it down when school officials rejected his request to scholarship his starting five at TCC. Larson wound up playing at the University of Puget Sound for Don Zech. Larson became a graduate assistant for one year to Zech and his new assistant Mike Acres (who later became the coach at Central Kitsap). In 1974, Larson began his 37-year teaching career in the CK district, all but six years of it at CK Junior High (he spent the other years at Fairview Junior High). Larson also was Acres’ varsity assistant coach at CK for eight years. The lessons of life he learned growing up in NYC and playing at WIC has helped him impart wisdom along with fundamental basketball skills for nearly three decades to young students and it’s not something he’s ready to quit on. “I’m going to keep going as long as I enjoy it,” he said. “It keeps me young and as long as I can still be productive and can teach kids basketball I’ll keep going. I’m not going to give it up.”
Published Date: January 01 1971
Publisher: The Bremerton Sun