Reminders have been pouring in for the past few weeks. The AYF Olympics are less than two months away. In the Armenian community in the United States, the term Olympics has a special meaning. I’m not referring to that multi-billion dollar television show every four years on NBC. It is very close to home. It has a rotating host and is a reference point for the American Armenians for generations. The AYF Olympics has been a lens through which anyone can navigate their personal history for decades. As a culture that values ​​social relationships, we have different subgroups based on organizational affiliation or interests. The AYF family includes parents, children and grandparents who have participated in what AYF has to offer locally and nationally. AGBU has a Camp Nubar family with a long service history and alumni. The AYF Olympics is particularly unique because it has thrived on the test of time (since 1934) and has attracted many generations in one place and promoted lifelong friendships to sustain the diaspora. K. Merton Bozoian, Popken Hachigian, Arthur Giragosian and others from the founding community established a winning recipe. It has evolved with improvements, but the core remains the same. It’s so ingrained in our culture that it’s hard to say “Labor Day weekend” without considering the upcoming Olympic venue.

For many of us, part or all of our family history is linked to a few working days. Every time you look at the Olympics you remember some of the stages in your life that brought you into the present. To clarify this point, I will provide reference details from my own personal history. I suggest you do the same with your family and share this rich information with your children. Our first family milestone with the AYF Olympics was in 1941 in Providence. Just a few months before Pearl Harbor was going to change everyone’s lives. My father and his older brother Murad were attending the weekend celebrations. Staying in a hotel was a foreign concept at the time. Families opened homes. It was a different time from a social and economic point of view. When they asked my grandfather for permission to go, he told them about a “lost friend” living in Providence. They were united in the Armenian army from 1918 to 1920; For my grandparents, this was always their starting point. This man was Sarkis VaradianVice-Chancellor of the Vardian clan. My father and uncle were two of the many spaces on the sleeping floors in the Varadian house. In the evening, the father wandered into this sea of ​​Varadian youth and asked, “Who are the Piligian children?” My uncle and dad came from the wall of the blanket in the warm embrace of their hosts. It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship between four Varadian brothers, his sister and four Piligian brothers.

Beatrice and Carnegie Piligian, 1942 (Photo courtesy of Stepan Piligian)

I always keep up with 1942. That year the Olympics were held in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and it was there that my father and mother met. We have a photo of my mom (fresh out of high school) in Bobby Socks and standing in the field near Track Stadium with my 20 year old dad. Just a few months before the outbreak of World War II, the youth’s innocence was gone. My father was a tool and dye maker and he was put on hold according to his skill needs. He wasn’t happy about it and eventually joined the Air Corps and fought in the Pacific Theater. His AYF romance continued until his engagement while his mother waited for him to return. By the grace of God, Baba returned in late 1945 and they were married in June 1946. A few months later, the Olympics were held in my mother’s hometown of New Britain, CT. Naturally, he participated in a running event with his grandfather. Many “children” returned and got married, in those few years after the war the Olympics were filled with married male and female members. Some even had kids attending the weekend. Two factors influenced itCouples in that generation got married much earlier, and the end of the war accelerated that trend. Literally a newlywed couple, my parents weren’t going to miss the “hometown” Olympics.

In 1952, the Olympics were held in Springfield (Indian Orchard) where my parents lived and they started raising a family. This will be the first and only time this small community has hosted the Olympics, and they proudly accepted it. It was another home game as my father was born and raised in this community. This was the generation before the establishment of the Olympic Governing Body; Templates for organizing were yet to be installed. My father grew old that year when he was 30 years old. He and my mother are now entering a new phase of their AYF relationship as alumni. In the early 1950s, alumni were only emerging as a large group because the institution was only 19 years old. From the mid-50s to the late 60s, our parents would participate in the Olympics, pushing strollers at track and field events on Sundays, and then dancing to the Olympic Ball at night. Alumni dances were not as organized as they are today. Due to the large number of alumni and the emergence of generational differences in the 70’s, they were added over the weekend. Before we were old enough to attend on our own, I remember driving in games and living with family. I vividly remember the 1965 games in Hartford with the track and field events at Willow Brook Park in New Britain. We used to go there with our grandparents for entertainment. We spent the whole day watching on the field and getting to know people from our parents. Slowly, my older sister and I set out to hang out with our friends in Springfield. I didn’t realize it then, but the generational transfer had begun. It was the year I joined AYF. After the game, we went to my grandparents ’house where my parents changed for a dance. We enjoyed living with our grandparents. The modern-day Olympics have truly become a three-generation weekend With the presence of everyone.

The 1969 Games were a personal watershed because it was the first Olympics in which I stayed in a hotel for most of the weekend. It represents a transition from “Family Day Visitor” to where we participate full-time in events with our parents. My childhood with my parents had changed more than I could remember. The hotel had now become a major anchor for the weekend. The era of the “hang out” in the lobby was in full swing, and the Olympics expanded demographically with hotel facilities. The 1970 Games were the first international watershed event to be organized by the Montreal Chapter. In this beautiful French-speaking city, we were experiencing Armenian life as teenagers. This was my first entry into political activism as AYF members removed the Turkish flag from a large hotel. I can still hear the chanting of “Levon Calm” from our Montreal ungerner. So the weekend got a new meaning. I also met my future best man that weekend.

The 1971 game in Boston was my first game as a Central Executive (CE) member. This represents a new level of responsibility over the weekend. The host “Siamonto” chapter at Statler Hilton (now Park Plaza) represented the city with admiration. That year saw the birth of a large number of friendships that are now in their sixth decade. The 1972 Olympics was a bold move, with the Los Angeles community hosting games on the West Coast. Many of us have never been beyond Mississippi (Granite City). Downtown Biltmore was the main hotel. That weekend, the organizing committee held a pre-dance party at the hotel on Saturday. I had the honor of representing CE to speak a few words on behalf of AYF. Jerry Tarkanian was sitting next to me at this endless long head tableCollege basketball coach. We were both very far from the stage and made a difference. As it turned out, Tarkanian needed a little help with his comments because he wasn’t particularly adept at his audience. At dinner we worked on his comments and he was proud of his school and all the Armenians.

Returned to Canada on 1973 weekend with Toronto chapter hosting in their beautiful city. The 1974 game was New England-based with the venerable Worcester chapterChapter of my future wife. Funnily enough, the 2022 Games (twice postponed) will be the first in Worcester since the 70s. By 1975, my tenure at CE was over, creating another transition. I look back to the host communities of 1970-75 and remember the incredible work done by two Canadian chapters, Southern California, the historic Worcester community and Detroit, the stronghold of the Midwest. The size and professionalism of sports increased after the rise of the Olympic Governing Board in the mid-70s.

The Games were held in New York in 1979, which is always special. This was especially memorable as I played my first Olympics with my future wife. In the early 1980s, married and outside the AYF, many of us entered new and proud positions.The alumni who are now considered the anchor of this prolific weekend, Alumni Night, began many years ago as a modest gathering of alumni and most recently “graduates”. Friday night was the logical time; The reception of informal gatherings and the increase in the dance format which is the main basis for the Olympics. The Olympics still have a very personal meaning as it is time to come together with the friendships that have been formed in the AYF over the last 50 years. As we become what our parents were a few generations ago, the glow of this weekend is even more pronounced. Each of us has the potential to reach important milestones through the OlympicsHigh school, college, relationships, friendships and families. What I learned from my personal journey was the remarkable flexibility of the Olympic recipe. The main thing is the ability to attract a large population under the umbrella of the Olympics. Take some time to appreciate this gift and think about your journey.

Stepan Piligian

Stepan was raised in the Armenian community of Indian Orchards, earning an M.A. at St. Gregory Parish. A former member of the AYF Central Executive and Eastern Prestige Executive Council, he served for many years as a representative of the Eastern Diocesan Assembly. Currently, he is a member of the Board and a member of the Executive Committee of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR). He also serves on the board of the Armenian Heritage Foundation. Stepan is a retired executive in the computer storage industry and lives in the Boston area with his wife, Susan. He has spent many years in schools, camps and churches as a volunteer teacher of Armenian history and contemporary issues for the younger generation and adults. His hobbies include the Armenian Diaspora, Armenia, sports and reading.

Stepan Piligian