Editor’s Note: Oscar Caroglanian became an AYF Washington DC “Ani” member in 1950. He shared fond memories of the formation and early days of the chapter during the 80th anniversary celebration held on November 5, 2022. Excerpts from his prepared remarks are provided below.
Thank you for asking me to say a few words to the AYF youth of our community. Perhaps a look into the past will give you an idea about our community’s growth in Washington, DC and the surrounding area.
The Genocide of 1915 allowed those who survived to move throughout Europe, the Middle East and the United States. Those journeys took my father to Racine, Wisconsin in 1912, arriving through Ellis Island. My mother arrived in Canada in 1928, and not long after, married my father and moved to DC, where I was born in 1932. The Armenians managed to form organizations such as the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and the Armenian Relief Corps, later named Armenian Red Cross (now, the Armenian Relief Society) – followed by the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) in 1942. We didn’t have a formal meeting place. The local ARF was organized by a few Armenians in the 1920s, including, among others, my father Nazaret Caroglanian, Khachik Haroutunian, Nishan Shamigian, and later joining them, Arshavir Shavarshooni.
I was approached by Ann and Harry Atanossian to join the AYF. My interest was in basketball and bowling. Our basketball team was not very competitive, but we were very successful in all of our bowling matches, winning trophies. One of our star bowlers was Clara (Najarian) Andonian.
Since I had a driver’s license and a car, I used to pick up the members and drive them to meetings. On occasion, we drove up to Philly for dances where we wined, dined and danced to the wee hours listening to the Gomidas and Vosbikian bands. We also had a close fellowship with the Richmond AYF members and frequently attended dances and picnics at the homes of the Bandazian and Kerneklian families.
Our “Ani” AYF was also fortunate that we had musicians from our own community come together when we held dances and picnics. We heard the music of the Leo Derderian Band, consisting of AYF members Chuck Shamigian, Leo Sarkisian, Micky Kerneklian, Peruz Manoogian, Setrak Srabian, and on occasion, guest Emil Kasis. What wonderful times were had. Many of us from the olden days love the fact that the AYF has brought such joy to all of us. Those who were members stayed lifetime friends, such as Clara Andonian, Chuck Shamigian, Ann Atanossian and Edward Dombalagian.
From 1952-1954, I was drafted into the US Army, serving in Korea. Upon my return, in September 1954, the AYF Olympics were held in Washington, DC. This is when I became active again and was later elected as a delegate to the 1956 convention in Springfield, MA. My life took an amazing turn when I met my future wife at the dance that weekend. Eleanor Seda (Der Parseghian) Caroglanian, a Tseghagron and member of the AYF Watertown “Gaidzag” Chapter, and I have been married for 65 years. Thanks to that AYF Convention, we formed a family, and our children, Michael and Lisa, also went on to join the ranks of the AYF. In fact, Lisa would be among the first AYF DC “Sevan” Junior chapter members, formed under the watchful eye of AYF Junior Advisor Karen Abrahamian Hatchik.
Our community has grown, and we are so proud to see that a new generation has come forth. Getze Hayastan! Getze AYF and sister organizations. Continue the great work, and bravo to you all!