The Boy Scouts was a big part of my life in the 60’s.
I joined the Cub Scouts in the summer of 1963 completing the 5 badges, Bobcat, Wolf, Bear, Lion, and Webelos. I began Boy Scouts in 1965 at the age of 10 and continued on till the end of school year 1969 – 1970 at the age of 15 when we moved to Florida.
Oh the great times we had under the leadership of Ed Hicks our Scoutmaster. Most of my friends were in it from tenderfoot on. I prior to Boy Scouts attended cub scouts and earned the Webelos badge. So I was ready and prepared to make the change to Boy Scouts.
The following are the current ranks of a Boy Scout. Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, Eagle. I was a Boy Scout through the rank of Life. I never joined a troop after I moved to Florida.
The troop 135 met at the Wattles Park Jr High building (torn down now) cafeteria on Wednesday nights at 7:00 PM. I played bugle and earned the Bugler patch for doing so. I would hide in the curtains on the double stage that separated the cafeteria from the gymnasium. Then at exactly 1900 I would play the assembly bugle call and all the Scouts would line up and square up for inspection. At the end of our meeting I would again hide in the curtains, wait for the signal from one of the leaders, and then play taps to end the meeting.
A typical Scout Camp out in the 60’s
We were a motley crew indeed. Too young to have military discipline and bearing and too old for toys and kids stuff. After Mr. Hicks and Mr. Hamilton looked us over and gave us a rundown on things happening with the troop, we all went to the round tables in the cafeteria in our different squads that formed the troop and worked on merit badges.
A Boy Scout Jamboree
A memory comes to mind when the troop participated in a Boy Scout Jamboree. I was a tenderfoot and it was my first camp out. I had been studying the boy scout manual about cooking, and general camp keeping. Our troop arrived at the Jamboree and Ed Hicks instructed us to set up our tents together in squads. Our squad finished setting up camp and then hung out around the fire and chatted.
Three older scouts from another troop walked into our camp and asked if any of us would like to join them for a “snipe hint”. The following is a quote from Wikipedia as to what a Snipe hunt is.
“Although snipe are actual birds, a snipe hunt is a quest for an imaginary creature whose description varies. The target of the prank is led to an outdoor spot and given instructions for catching the snipe; these often include waiting in the dark and holding an empty bag or making noises to attract the creature.”
The older scouts in our squad smiled and one of them said “Na I will pass but thanks for asking. Why not you Jim? And you Cliff and Greg? Why don’t you go with them?” Well we had never been on a snipe hint so we told the older boys yes. We would love to go. “Okay. We will start in about 1 hour after it gets dark. We will come and get you.” Said one of the older scouts.
After it got dark the boys came and asked if we were ready. We said yes and we followed them into the big field where 20 or so other tenderfoot scouts were waiting. The older Scouts gave half of us pillow cases. He then gave us instructions. He said “Okay boys. Here is how to catch snipes. Break up into pairs. One of you hold the pillow case open and crouch down behind your partner and follow him close. And you with out the pillow case raise your arms up high and swing them back and forth. While you are doing this both of you yell out. Here snipe! Here snipe! Be careful. Snipe are very fast and hard to catch.” We all nodded that we understood our instructions and the older Scouts signaled for the hunt to begin.
So there we all were. 20 or so of us combing the field for snipes! All of us screaming at the top of our lungs “Here snipe! Here snipe” with half of us crouched down with pillow case in hand and the other half with raised arms swinging them back to and fro. We looked ridiculous! All this time all of the older scouts were laughing and laughing and rolling on the ground in amusement! It soon became clear that we had been had! Hoodwinked if you will. The older Scouts called off the hunt and gathered us around. One of the older Scouts said “Now that you have all been on a snipe hunt you are now able to conduct snipe hunts in future camp outs. You must never tell the younger scouts that you all were tricked. But that is the fun if the whole thing as now you can do the same thing!” We all agreed that it was fun and promised to keep it to ourselves.
Our troop camped out many times in many locations. My favorite was camping at Ludington at Hamlin lake in Michigan. There was a boy scout facility there with bunk house and dining hall. I learned and earned fishing merit badge there as well as archery and rifle shooting. One camp out comes to mind at Hamlin lake. It was a 20 mile canoe trip down the big sable river that flows into lake Hamlin and eventually into lake Michigan.
A typical Boy Scout Canoe trip
We set out down the river in about 20 canoes and made a stop each night and set up camp and prepared the evening meal. For lunches we were previously instructed for each of us to bring 3 cans of soup. When we stopped for lunch a fire was prepared and we would each dump one can of soup into the big pot. Ed Hicks called it trail soup as it was a mixture of many different soups. It was quite a long trip but we made it in 3 days to the end at Hamlin Hamlin lake. Going down the river was fun and easy as we were going down stream. As soon as we hit Hamlin lake the going got tougher as there was no longer any help from the river. We had to paddle the last five miles all on our own.
Scouting was a big part of my life and I am so glad I participated in it. I believe that it helped me be what I am today. I am forever grateful for Mr. Hicks and Troop 135!