Early Years

Troop 212 – 50 Years of Seeking Adventure
The Early Years, ’50s and ’60s, “Great Basic Beginnings”
By Michael Adams, Assistant Scoutmaster

The objective was to write something about the early years of “seeking adventure” in Troop 212 and John Douglas had dredged up some folders from the back of the Troop file cabinet to aid in the research. It was obvious on first glance that the papers in these folders were from another era. There were no word-processed, laser printed, Xerox copied documents here. Everything was hand-written or typed on a type-writer with lots of erasures or strike-overs. Copies had been made with those blue-ink mimeograph machines that I remember from my grammar school days. Reading them brought back memories of the smell that the chemicals in the machine produced when the teacher would churn out copies with a hand-crank. Clearly, a lot had changed since the days when these papers were written and I was expecting to find a big contrast between Troop 212’s program of that era, and the program of today. After all, the Troop 212 of today offers a very active, high adventure program that I considered to be unique. Surely today’s program had evolved from simple beginnings to the state it is today.

To my surprise, the documents revealed that Troop 212, and Scouting in general, has remained consistent for decades. Forty years ago, meetings were held on Monday nights at 7:00 in the Fellowship Hall. Demos were conducted on subjects related to upcoming outings. The program was planned a year in advance and featured many of the same outings we have today
If it had been typed on a blue sheet, you could have substituted the 1961 schedule for this year’s. Outings included an over-night bike trip, a back-packing trip, family weekend at the beach, leadership meetings, church clean-up day, rifle safety, and summer camp, just to mention a few. There were also some outings such as ice skating, water skiing, and a Halloween dance with Girl Scout Troop 162 that are not in the current program. But for the most part, the material in the folder was surprisingly familiar, such as a write up on a Colorado River canoe trip where strong winds had forced the paddlers to seek shelter in a shoreline cove, just as we had done in 2001. One item in the folder that pointed out how things have changed in some ways, yet remained the same, was a clipping from the March 6, 1966 Los Angeles Herald Examiner.

This was a letter from a former Scout who was in the Marines and writing from Da Nang, Viet Nam. He wrote that much of what he had learned in the Scouts was benefiting him in his current situation. The letter could have just as easily been written by Dominic Dougherty who was a Troop 212 Eagle Scout in 2001, and who was a Marine on the front lines in the invasion of Iraq last year. The summer camp regimen doesn’t appear to have changed either. From the letter that the Scoutmaster sent home, to the form used to plan the Scout’s merit badge curriculum and the merit badges that were offered, it was all very familiar. There were materials from Camp Tahquitz showing that the 1961 map is still correct, and the Troop stayed in the same camp site we use today. There was also information from a Crescent Bay Camp which indicates the Troop would occasionally travel to summer camp outside of our local area, as we still do. Something that was somewhat humorous to read, if you have a warped sense of humor like I do, was a form letter a ’60s era Scoutmaster had prepared to inform parents that their son had been, or was about to be (depending on the box checked) dropped from the troop for lack of effort and disruptive behavior. The Scoutmaster that wrote this was clearly fed up, and the gist of the letter was basically “I’m putting a lot into this, and your son isn’t”. It appears to me he was in an agitated state when he wrote the letter, so you have to wonder what kind of outing had preceded the letter (hence the humor). Certainly, nothing that Scouts do today tests the Scoutmaster’s patience, right John?

The thing in reading these old papers that made the biggest impression on me was the effort that has been made to provide a good program for the Scouts. There has been a long, long line of Scoutmasters, Advancement Chairmen, Committee Chairmen, Troop Committee members, trip leaders, etc. that have invested a great deal of time and energy to further the aims of Scouting. Troop 212 has a rich history of parents that care, and want to provide the best program possible. There was material in the folder that showed that parents have been asking their Scouts for 50 years “what kind of activities should we plan for next year”. It takes a high adventure program to keep Scouts interested year after year, and when the effort is made to do this, the result is a Troop that has staying power. Troop 212 has been in existence for 50 years because it has been seeking adventure for 50 years.