By Jim Chase
In my youth, if I had been asked to write a resume about myself, in addition to listing the different musical instruments I played, along with my ambition to be a world renowned artist/cartoonist and/or rock star/songwriting partner of Lennon & McCartney, my favorite foods (that’s easy: homemade burgers, Crispy Critters cereal and Mom’s egg & olive salad), somewhere near the top of my list of accomplishments would be the fact that I was a sash-wearing, merit-badge laden member of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
I got to thinking about my BSA experience last month when I stumbled across a news item buried in tiny print of some national magazine noting that February 3 – 10 had been the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. Really? An organization that has included such overachievers as President John F. Kennedy, moon-landing astronaut Neil Armstrong, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, adventurer Steve Fossett, FBI Director Louis Freeh, Oscar-winning director Stephen Spielberg and even Napoleon Dynamite’s Jon Heder, to name just a handful of celebrity Scouts, and its centennial is all but ignored by the press? How sad.
In our family, being a Boy Scout came as naturally as breathing for my two older brothers and me. You see, our dad was the all seeing, all knowing Scoutmaster of Troop 4 of the San Gabriel Council of the BSA. Our troop was one of the oldest in the region (hence the single digit) and we held our meetings in the old basement of the La Crescenta Presbyterian Church on Honolulu Avenue.
Although my brothers both achieved the highest rank possible – that of Eagle Scout – Dad resigned as Scoutmaster and our troop disbanded shortly before I had fulfilled all of the requirements for that award. Consequently, my scouting career ended with the penultimate rank of Life Scout.
Nevertheless, I wouldn’t have missed the experience for anything. I vividly remember picking up each merit badge booklet at the old Sport Chalet and pouring over the requirements to get a sense of how long it would take and to see how many skills at which I would have to become proficient in order to earn another badge at our next Court of Honor ceremony.
Back then, the list of available merit badges would make any red-blooded, Daniel Boone-wannabe kid drool with dreams of adventures in the wilds of – well, whatever wilds we could find – even if it was only a campsite in the Angeles National Forest.
Among the badges my Mom proudly sewed onto my uniform sash, I was most proud of earning recognition for Archery, Camping, Canoeing, Aviation, Climbing, Cooking, Hiking, Rowing, Swimming, Astronomy, First Aid, Life Saving, Leatherwork, Wood Carving and Forestry Skills.
Of course, like most venerable institutions, the Boy Scouts have adapted to the times. So today’s Scouts can earn merit badges for Disabilities Awareness, Citizenship in the World, Crime Prevention, Golf, Public Speaking, Traffic Safety, Nuclear Science, Soil and Water Conservation and yes, Salesmanship. Oh, to be a kid again.
I’ve always wondered why the Boy Scouts never developed a fund raising tool as wildly popular as the Girl Scout cookie drive. For instance, our troop had an annual glazed donut sale – with Scoutmaster Dad filling up the family’s Town & Country station wagon full of Pepto-pink bakery boxes filled with dozens upon dozens of the shiny sugary fat pills to sell door-to-door throughout the Crescenta Valley. To this day, my feet hurt whenever I see one of those pink boxes.
Some memories do indeed last a lifetime. For example, if I hold up my right hand in a three-fingered salute, I can still recite the Scout Law, unchanged since 1911: A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
Thank you, Boy Scouts, for setting and keeping standards high. May you thrive at least another 100 years.
I’ll see you ‘round town.
Jim Chase is a lifelong CV resident and freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.