National Geographic : 1974 Jul
Flames warm the spirits as well as the bodies of Birmingham boys after a swim in the canal at the city's Hockley Port (above). Crowded into the slums, the boys formerly had no place to play. Gangs roamed and fought in the streets. Crime and vandalism flourished. Then the Hockley Port Trust, a group of concerned citizens, leased the dis used basin and gave the youngsters a place to let off steam. During his 14-month stay as youth ad viser, Tom Hodgson (right) counseled and consoled hundreds of teen-agers such as freckle-faced Kathy (left). "We took down the fences and cleaned up the rubbish," says Tom. "Everybody pitched in. Volunteers hauled debris away in their own trucks. They took the boys and girls on canal and hiking trips, taught them how to paddle canoes, and to repair boats." The result? Tensions eased, crime fell. As police superintendent Frank Broadbent ob served, "Kids do not get into trouble when they are messing around with boats."