1964 editorial wonders: What if Lee Harvey Oswald had been a Boy Scout?

Today’s about remembering the life of John F. Kennedy, but it’s impossible to do so without mentioning Lee Harvey Oswald.

Kennedy was the first president to have been a Boy Scout, and earlier today I offered an in-depth look at Kennedy’s involvement with Scouting and strong positive opinion of the organization.

It’s clear our 35th president’s life was improved by his involvement in Scouting. But what if Lee Harvey Oswald had been a Scout? Would it have altered his life’s course? Would he never have taken that history-defining shot?

That’s just what California Scoutmaster Robert W. Wiley posited in the July-August 1964 issue of Scouting magazine.

I recently uncovered his editorial while browsing Scouting magazine’s digital archives, and I wanted to share it with you. Full text after the jump.  Continue reading


Remembering John F. Kennedy, the first president to have been a Boy Scout

When he was 12 years old, John F. Kennedy asked for a raise.

The year was 1929, and Kennedy was a new member of Troop 2 in Bronxville, N.Y. Now that he had reached Scout age, Kennedy reasoned, it was time for his allowance to match his new Boy Scout-level maturity.

With that in mind, he penned this letter to his father:

My recent allowance is 40 cents. This I used for aeroplanes and other playthings of childhood, but now I am a Scout and I put away my childish things. Before I would spend 20 cents of my 40 cents allowance, and in five minutes I would have empty pockets and nothing to gain and 20 cents to lose.

When I am a Scout I have to buy canteens, haversacks, blankets, searchlights, a poncho — things that will last for years and I can always use while I can’t use chocolate marshmallow sundae ice cream, and so I put in my plea for a raise of 30 cents for me to buy Scout things and pay my own way around …

Kennedy dreamed differently throughout his life, and this letter proves that his uniqueness started as a Scout. In fact, he was the first president to have been a Boy Scout. And like all presidents from William Howard Taft to Barack Obama, he served as Honorary President of the Boy Scouts of America.

And so on the 50th anniversary of his death, let’s look back on the life of the man who led our nation and was a strong advocate for Scouting. Find Scouting-related photos, the condolence telegram the BSA sent Jacqueline Kennedy and much more after the jump. Continue reading


Rocket-powered backpacks and 10 other wild predictions of Scouting in 2000

Scouting-Feb1960-coverAt Boy Scout camps in the year 2000, milk doesn’t spoil, knots are rarely used and backpacks have been replaced by rockets that deliver camping gear in “near-zero time.”

That’s according to the 1960 predictions of Nostradamus, at least.

In the February 1960 issue of Scouting magazine, there’s a fun, tongue-in-cheek article that channels the prognosticating ability of that 16th-century French seer to predict what the world — and Scouting — will be like in 2000. Suffice it to say there are a few hits and many, many misses.

Now that we’re more than a decade past the year 2000, it’s fun to see what Nostradamus (aka the writers at Scouting magazine) got right and what they got horribly wrong. Follow the jump for 11 predictions and my assessment of how close they were to reality.  Continue reading


This 1930 summer camp flier shows how much has changed, how much hasn’t

Summer camp season may be over (sadly), but we can still have a little fun looking back.

And I mean way, way back — to 1930 and summer camp in the Kansas City Council.

Michael Dulle, membership coordinator of Overland Park, Kan., Troop 0459, sent me the flier below from the “Kansas City Scout Camp” in Osceola, Mo., now called the H Roe Bartle Scout Reservation.

I found it interesting how much has changed in summer camping in the 83 years since this charming document was printed. Equally fascinating: how much has stayed the same.

Take this sentence directed at a Scout’s mom and dad as a perfect example: “Let your boy acquire that healthy tan, the sparkle in the eye, and that enthusiasm for the worth-while which Scouts attending camp bring home with them.”

Hold on. A healthy tan? Most experts consider that phrase an oxymoron these days. Today’s parents send their kids to camp with a fresh bottle of sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. But the part about a boy returning from camp with a “sparkle in the eye” and “enthusiasm for the worth-while”? That’s still true today. So is an earlier phrase about summer camp offering “fun not found in cities.”

I found it intriguing that summer camp was a two-week affair in 1930. Summer camp these days is just a week, of course.

But this was my favorite part. Guess how much it cost to attend summer camp for two weeks, including food, lodging and transportation in 1930? A whopping $16.

Check out the flier after the jump…  Continue reading


Putting jamboree attendance numbers in historical perspective

As any sports fan will tell you, numbers don’t always tell the whole story.

Earlier this month, I shared the final attendance figures from the 2013 National Scout Jamboree.

The count was 30,037 youth and adult participants, a number that doesn’t include staff or visitors.

But what I didn’t know at the time was this: The 2013 jamboree had the third-largest attendance as a percent of Boy Scout membership in our history. Only 2005 and 2010′s events had a higher number.

Roughly 4.42 percent of registered Scouts and Scouters attended the 2013 jamboree. For comparison, the first jamboree, held in 1937, was attended by about 3.49 percent of registered members.

Here are the year-by-year numbers, in case you’re interested:  Continue reading


Hawaiian Boy Scouts stitch their place in history

A close-up of the nearly 100-year-old flag.

On a Saturday in 1913 on the island of Oahu, Queen Lili‘uokalani drove past a group of boys doing Scouting drills.

Intrigued, she walked over and asked what kind of military exercise the boys were doing. We aren’t military, the Scouts replied, we’re Boy Scouts.

The boys explained the concept of Scouting to the queen, and a month later she returned with a silk Hawaiian flag. Onto the red, white, and blue flag with the Hawaiian royal crest the queen had hand-stitched the word “Onipaa,” which means “stick together” — a message for Scout troops that still resonates today.

For decades, the flag belonged to the Lili‘uokalani Trust. Then, in 2010 the trust presented the flag to the Aloha Council to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the BSA.

And now, as we approach a century since that regal meeting, the Aloha Council has “paid it forward” and donated the flag to the Bishop Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of Hawaiian and Pacific artifacts. And as you can see above, proud members of Honolulu Troop 33 served as the color guard in the opening ceremony. Continue reading

Scout Stuff Book BSA

Scout Stuff collector’s book

With more than 100 years of history, it’s no surprise that Scouting has seen its fair share of innovation and change. And collecting historic artifacts — uniforms, handbooks, and, of course, patches — from the past is a popular activity with many Scouts and Scouters.

Now, you can teleport back in time with the simple turn of a page in the soon-to-be-released Boy Scouts of America Scout Stuff: A Unique Collection of Memorabilia written by Robert Birkby, author of the Boy Scout Handbook and several other official BSA publications. Continue reading


51 years ago, 30 Lubbock Eagle Scouts made history

If you think 30 boys getting the Eagle Scout Award at once is impressive today, just imagine that feat happening 51 years ago.

In 1960, the accomplishment was so amazing, in fact, that the President of the United States took notice. Click here to check out the telegram he sent.

On July 1, 1960, 30 boys from Lubbock, Tex., gathered for what was, at the time, the largest Eagle Scout Court of Honor in history. Continue reading

These 1913 Scout Law postcards are the coolest thing you’ll see today

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You know the Scout Law, but you’ve never seen it like this.

The 1913 Scout Law postcards seen above are a real treat. The cards, originally produced by The Henry Heininger Co., were reprinted by the Northern Star Council in Minnesota and sent to me.

Back then, the postcards were a cool way for boys and leaders to show off their Scouting pride. Today, they’re a visual time machine that shows us how the Scout Law was interpreted nearly 100 years ago.

Most of what you’ll find on these cards is still quite relevant today. There are some real gems in there.

I love the “A Scout is Kind” card. Its main focus is kindness to animals and features the now-defunct First Aid to Animals merit badge. But I want to know how that Scout got the dog to stand still while wrapping his leg.

The words on “A Scout is Brave” are especially relevant with the rise of bullying in schools. I do wonder why the Scout is entering that fire wearing his full uniform and neckerchief, though.

And the next time your guys whine about camp chores, point them to the “A Scout is Cheerful” card which says a Scout “smiles whenever he can” and “never shirks or grumbles at hardships.”

Which one’s your favorite? Which words resonate most today? Do you see any that don’t?

Sound off in the comments.

Send us pictures of your favorite pieces of Scouting memorabilia

Jamboree-ad-1937 Whether it's tucked away in the attic or proudly displayed on your mantel, everyone who was in the Boy Scouts of America has a favorite piece of Scouting memorabilia.

Eagle Scout and current Scouter Mark Truax sent us a picture of his favorite item, a Coca-Cola ad promoting the 1937 National Scout Jamboree.

Here's what he said in his note to us:


Dear Scouting magazine,

I fell in love with Scouting when I was in it and have continued in multiple capacities since then.

I have also started collecting Scouting memorabilia that I have come across.

Some time when I was in Scouting, my mom came across a Coke ad for a jamboree, and it hung in their house ever since—likely around 1999 or 2000.

When I was home for this past Thanksgiving I made comments to my parents that I would love to have the picture. For Christmas, they had it reframed and gave it to me.

We think the ad was either in Life magazine or the Mercury Daily News in 1937.

Yours in Scouting, 

Mark Truax


Mark, thanks for the letter and for the great image (click on it to see it in a larger size).

Seeing that image has whet our appetite for more pieces of Scouting memorabilia. So come on, Scouters, snap a photo of your favorite keepsake and send it to us!

Here's how:

  • Take a high-res .jpg image of your favorite Scouting item. 
  • Just select one to send us (we know that picking one could be hard, but please try!).
  • The file must be less than 2 MB in size.
  • E-mail it to us with the subject line "Memorabilia" to scoutingmag@gmail.com.
  • Include your name, position, and council.
  • Tell us a few words about why this item is special to you.

We want to start posting them on the blog as soon as possible, so start digging!