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Scouting family takes pilgrimage to Baden-Powell’s grave in Kenya

Tracing the life of Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell takes you not only to his birthplace in London but also to Kenya, where he spent the last few years of his life.

My recent trip to London and Gilwell Park, provenance of the Wood Badge training course, inspired Idaho Scouter Steve Jung to share photos and stories from a similar Scouting pilgrimage.

And I’m sure glad he shared.

The Jung family traveled to Kenya, the East African nation where B-P died on Jan. 8, 1941, at age 83. His grave is now a national monument.

Steve, along with his wife, Becky, and daughter, Anna, visited B-P’s final resting place, the cemetery museum and his home in Nyeri, Kenya.

“Our trip to Kenya was a most memorable one,” Steve says. “We did some backcountry hiking and a lot of touring. We went caving and places most public  people don’t go or know about. Just a terrific trip.”

See Steve’s stories and photos after the jump. Continue reading

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14 fascinating facts about Scouting in Alaska in the 1950s and 1960s

alaska-history-2“Amid the furor of adding a new star to the flag,” the BSA professional wrote, “people want to know what Alaska is like, and Scouters are asking about Scouting in Alaska.”

For those of us who have never visited the state, Alaska is still a largely unknown frontier. But 55 years ago, the Land of the Midnight Sun was even more of a mystery.

Interest in the former Territory of Alaska reached a fever pitch in 1959 when Alaska officially became our country’s 49th state. Scouting had been around since the 1920s there, but Scouters in the Lower 48 had new questions about what Scouting looked like in somewhere so vastly different from what they were used to.

Questions included: How do people live in Alaska? How do Scouts camp? And how do they gather for meetings in a land so spread out that “each person can have almost three square miles to himself”?

To find out, Ray W. Sweazey, the BSA’s director of interracial service (a title we don’t use today, thankfully), visited this “state of extremes and violent contrasts” in late 1958. He wanted to take the temperature of Scouting in our country’s newest state.

His story appeared in the January 1959 edition of Scouting magazine. Eight years later, Scouting magazine published another interesting account of “Scouting Under the Midnight Sun.”

You can read both stories in their entirety below. But first, I’ve picked out 14 of my favorite facts from the article. Some are specifically about about Scouting in Alaska, while others cover general life there during the late 1950s and 1960s. Because, as Sweazey wrote, “you can’t know about Scouting there without learning something about Alaska first.”

Continue reading

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7 ways to celebrate Baden-Powell on Founder’s Day, his birthday

Chief Scout of the World: There’s no cooler title around.

That’s what they called Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the worldwide Scout Movement and therefore one of the masterminds behind the Boy Scouts of America.

B-P was also the first recipient of the Silver Buffalo Award in 1926, the highest award the BSA gives adults.

Baden-Powell was born Feb. 22, 1857, exactly 157 years ago Saturday. Scouts worldwide — roughly 30 million in 161 countries — celebrate his birthday each year as Founder’s Day.

You can join the celebration in a number of ways. Here are seven ideas: Continue reading

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Remembering Waite Phillips, 50 years after his death

WaitePhillipsWhen Waite Phillips donated the land that became Philmont Scout Ranch, the total properties were valued in excess of $5 million. Adjusted for inflation, that’s roughly $79.5 million today.

Scouts and Scouters who have visited the beautiful, rugged New Mexico paradise know the real value of Waite’s gift, however: It’s priceless.

Waite Phillips died Jan. 27, 1964, which was 50 years ago last month. He was 81.

Waite’s vision for Philmont was that it would be an opportunity to get young men closer to the great outdoors. He must have realized, even in the late 1930s and early 1940s when he donated the property, that boys needed nature — especially in a world that offered more and more excuses for them to remain inside.

He once said the best contribution Scouting can provide to a young person’s development is “learning to live in the great out-of-doors.” That helps build “initiative, self-reliance, and dependability,” he said.

Philmont specifically, he continued, perpetuates “American idealism and patriotism among boys from all parts of America.”

Waite could never predict a world of iPhones and Xboxes, but he knew the land he donated possessed a magnetism strong enough to rip young people away from other draws on their time, which today are many.

What if Waite could see Philmont today? Continue reading

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What’s happening in this Scouting cover? (Or: A history of ‘new Exploring’)

exploring-1“Who wouldn’t like to do Exploring in this pleasant fashion,” Scouting editors wrote in describing the April 1959 cover seen at right. “It’s a case where it might be more fun to fail than to succeed!”

It’s a cover that must have been considered risqué in its time, making it unlike any Scouting cover printed before — or since. But the image surely got readers talking, meaning it achieved its goal. I shudder to picture the stack of letters the editors must have received, though.

Because today’s Valentine’s Day, I thought it appropriate to investigate this Scouting cover a little further. Who are these teens, and what are they up to?

As you might have noticed by the logos on the young men’s jackets, the cover depicts the “new Exploring program,” described in the November 1958 issue of Scouting as the BSA “reaching out to more of these four and a half million high-school age young men where they are, on their own ground, whether or not they have been Scouts.”

Chief Scout Executive Arthur A. Schuck explained in the story that the BSA had no trouble “aiding mid-adolescent boys through that difficult stage of their development.” Reaching older teens, however, wasn’t so easy.

And so beginning Jan. 1, 1959, boys could join Exploring at age 14 and in the ninth grade or higher or at age 15 regardless of grade. Explorers chose Continue reading

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Happy 104th birthday, Boy Scouts of America!

Five score and four years ago today, the Boy Scouts of America was born.

Yes, the nation’s top youth-serving organization was incorporated on this date in 1910.

A lot’s changed since. In that 104-year span, we’ve watched 45 Olympics (including the Sochi Games), lived under 18 U.S. presidents (Taft to Obama) and welcomed four new U.S. states (New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii).

So much has changed in 104 years of the BSA, too, including new merit badges, new programs for younger boys and for young women, and new high-adventure destinations.

Each Feb. 8 gives us a chance to look back on the year in Scouting. (Just like I did on Feb. 8, 201320122011 and 2010.)

Here were some highlights from Scouting’s 103rd year: Continue reading

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National Scouting Museum keeps BSA history alive, one artifact at a time

They store and catalog more than a half-million precious pieces of Scouting history. They handle 200 requests a month from individuals wanting their Boy Scout artifacts identified. They even consult on Scouting props and costumes for movies and TV shows like HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.

Yes, the life of a National Scouting Museum employee seems as glamorous as it does hectic.

The museum sits right across the street from the BSA’s headquarters in Irving, Texas. Its hometown newspaper, The Dallas Morning News, this morning published a positive piece on how the museum preserves and showcases the 103-year history of the Boy Scouts of America.

“One hundred years from now, somebody will want to know what happened today,” museum director Janice Babineaux told the newspaper.

It’s her job to oversee a collection that includes the first Eagle Scout medal ever awarded, 47 original Norman Rockwell paintings used as Boys’ Life magazine covers, every Scouting uniform design in history and more than 600,000 other items.

The museum welcomes visitors, takes its exhibits on the road and even fields some less-common requests from the entertainment world. Continue reading

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How many of these 20 Scouting cartoons from the ’60s still hold true today?

Cartoon-1963-Camp-Dreams“A boy is naturally full of humor,” Scouting founder Baden-Powell once said.

So it’s completely appropriate for us to share a good-natured laugh about those funny, spontaneous moments that make Scouting great.

In that spirit, I’ve gathered 20 of my favorite Scouting cartoons from the 1960 to 1963 issues of Scouting magazine (available for anyone’s perusal in our digital archives).

Do these scenes still ring true today? Which are your favorites? Do any remind you of your Scouts? Have a laugh after the jump. Continue reading

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23 bizarre but true fundraising ideas from Scouting’s past

Popcorn’s all the rage these days, but Scout fundraisers haven’t always been so mainstream. Throughout history Scouts have sold a variety of less-conventional products to raise money for their pack and troop. I’m talking candles and fire extinguishers, road atlases and safety flares, candy and oranges — if you could slap a price tag on it, chances are Scouts sold it.

Not that fundraising creativity is a bad thing, of course. Fundraisers are a necessary part of any Scout unit, always done in the name of filling a unit’s coffers so it can offer more and better Scouting outings. But some of the items I came across when searching through Scouting magazine’s digital archives made me do a double-take.

But hey, whatever works, right?

After the jump find 23 bizarre fundraising ideas from Scouting’s past, all presented as they appeared in Scouting magazine. And those of you who have been in Scouting a while, tell me: Did you sell any of these items? Or better yet: What was the craziest Scouting fundraiser you ever took part in? Continue reading

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47 years later, ‘Follow Me, Boys!’ still a leader in movies about Scouting

follow-me-boys-posterTomorrow’s release of Saving Mr. Banks, which spotlights Walt Disney’s efforts to acquire the rights to Mary Poppins, got me thinking about a Walt Disney film released two years later.

Follow Me, Boys! is Disney’s tribute to the Boy Scouts of America, and nearly five decades after its release, it’s the only major motion picture I can think of that celebrates the Boy Scouts and holds up our organization’s strong values.

The Follow Me-Poppins parallels don’t end with Mr. Disney himself. The title song in Follow Me, Boys! was written by Robert and Richard Sherman, the same duo who penned the music in that British-nanny musical. (The actors B. J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman portray the Sherman brothers in Saving Mr. Banks.)

The theatrical debut of Follow Me, Boys! on Dec. 1, 1966, was followed two weeks later by some tragic news. Walt Disney died of lung cancer that day, meaning Follow Me, Boys! was the last production released during his lifetime.

I’d love to see a film like Saving Mr. Banks that delves into Walt Disney’s interest in the Boy Scouts of America. What sparked his curiosity in the organization and desire to turn MacKinlay Kantor’s book God and My Country into a feature film? How did the Scouting organization respond to his request? And what, if any, involvement did the BSA have during production?

Follow Me, Boys! stars a teenage Kurt Russell and Fred MacMurray (a former Scout in Troop 33 in Madison, Wis.). It follows a childless couple who devote themselves to the youth of the community. They decide Scouting is the best way to help boys become confident young men who are prepared for life. (Good call.)

To say their plan is a success is an understatement. MacMurray’s character becomes a major force for good in the lives of these boys, who come and grow throughout his 20-year Scouting career. I won’t spoil how it ends, but I will say it’s an inspiration to watch this Scoutmaster soar.

I think of Follow Me, Boys! as Mr Holland’s Opus but released 30 years earlier and set in a Scout troop instead of a high school. And I mean that as a compliment.

Follow Me, Boys! got solid reviews when it debuted, including from Scouting magazine. In our December 1966 issue, we wrote: “Laughs chase the tears throughout this portrayal of small-town and rural life in the model-A era and the career of a man who becomes a leading citizen by his avocation of helping boys. Take the family to see it.”

What was solid advice 47 years ago still holds true today: Follow Me, Boys! offers good, wholesome family fun. Watch a trailer and see original write-ups from Scouting and Boys’ Life magazines after the jump.  Continue reading