Memorabilia Monday: A troop’s history, stitched in time

The Patch Blanket

You’ll hear about a troop’s history in a variety of ways.

Some seasoned Scouters will sit at the campfire and tell you the story of their troop from memory. Other units keep detailed scrapbooks or photo albums to pass on to future generations.

But St. Louis Scouter Lisa Balbes has a unique way of preserving Troop 352′s memories: a large patch blanket, seen above.

In a clever blending of classic Scouting and new technology, Balbes has even given the patch blanket its own Web site. The site lets you hover over each patch on the blanket for a closer look.

Here’s what she wrote in her note to me:

The troop associated with our school had folded, so when boys graduated from the pack they scattered to numerous troops. When my husband was Cubmaster, he decided to restart our own troop. After about eight years, we had a reunion and invited back everyone who could find who had ever been associated with either incarnation of Troop 352.

At the event, a lovely woman came whose father had been Scoutmaster of the troop in the 1960s through 1980s. Her father had passed away years ago, and her only brother, an Eagle Scout, had been killed in a car accident when he was 18. Her father had kept a patch collection, pinned to a piece of red fabric, that she’d kept all those years, not knowing what to do with it. She came to our reunion, and donated both the blanket and a Scout-themed candelabra to our troop. She was thrilled to find someone who wanted and appreciated them, and we were thrilled to get a piece of our troop’s history. I carefully sewed all the patches on (by hand), added a back and loops, and built the stand.

It now serves as a back drop at all our Courts of Honor, and the boys always enjoy looking at all the old patches, which include the first OA patch in our lodge, and some that we have not yet been able to identify. I am slowly figuring out what they all are and adding that to the database, so the troop’s history will not be lost again.

What a great way to preserve the legacy of Troop 352. If you have a cherished Scouting item you’d like to share for Memorabilia Monday, find out how to send it to me after the jump.

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Memorabilia Monday: He visited Philmont at 14 and can’t stay away

One song from my time as a Scout stands out among all others.

I have forgotten most of the words as time has passed, but I still remember the song’s tune and its key lyric: “I want to go back to Philmont.”

There’s truth to that line. It’s the exact thought that every man or woman, young or old, has as they leave Philmont and take one final glance at the Tooth of Time over their shoulder.

Don’t believe me?

Then ask Steve Skinner, executive board member for the Alamo Area Council in Texas. His most prized possession is the Philmont patch he wears on his right pocket (see a photo at left).

But it doesn’t stop there, as Steve tells it:

This Philmont patch was so special to me when I went as a 14-year-old in 1970 that I used my skills from the Leatherworking merit badge to create a permanent holder to keep it protected on my uniform (I still wear it very proudly today).

Little did I know then that I would go on the trails at Philmont nine more times during my 45-year Scouting career. I have the others framed.

You can see Steve’s framed collection above, which I’m grateful he took the time to show us.

That said, I have a hunch that Steve isn’t the only one with some Scouting memorabilia he’s proud of.

Send me yours for a future edition of Memorabilia Monday. Find out how after the jump.

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Memorabilia Monday: A poster boy for Scouting

BSA 44th Anniversary PosterWhen movie stars and athletes pose for a glossy, colorful poster, it’s routine. But when Bill Ward of Landenberg, Pa., was asked to star in a BSA national campaign, it was a life-changing moment.

That’s a 12-year-old Bill on the right in the poster seen here. Fifty-seven years later, the image is still a cherished memory for him.

Here’s how Bill remembers it in a letter he sent to me:

One of the highlights of my Scouting career was being selected to pose for the 1954 National BSA poster. From left to right the poster depicts Bill Shimpf (Explorer Scout), Jack Gallager (Scoutmaster), Ed Saunders (Cub Scout), and me. We were all proud members of Troop 179 of the BSA Cradle of Liberty Council in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, the artist changed our troop patch to 79. I was 12 years old at the time, and this was my 15 minutes of fame. We were interviewed on local television, and there were rumors of an appearance on the “Loretta Young Show” in New York CIty. We never made that trip, but the poster did, and it was broadcast on national television.

I loved my years with Troop 179, and I eventually earned the rank of Eagle Scout. I’m a little older now, but find every day that I still use the knowledge and skills I acquired then. I’m very pleased that my son Adam and grandson Zachary are active in BSA Troop 5 in Austin, Tex. I hope their experiences in Scouting are as positive and long-lasting as were mine.

That’s truly something to be proud of, Bill. Thanks for passing it along.

Now it’s your turn to send me your favorite piece of Scouting memorabilia. Here’s how:

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

Memorabilia Monday: Green Bar Bill’s autograph is indelible

It doesn’t have the historical weight of W.D. Boyce’s meeting with the Unknown Scout, but Bob Olafson considers his meeting with William Hillcourt to be just as special.

Olafson met Hillcourt, known to you and me as “Green Bar Bill,” and was never the same. If you don’t know who Hillcourt is, read about this true Scouting legend in a 2006 Scouting magazine story. Then you’ll understand why Olafson considers Green Bar Bill’s signature to be his prized piece of Scouting memorabilia. Here’s how Olafson tells it:

I became a Scout in 1977. I have collected a lot of Scouting memorabilia since then. But no single person had more of an influence on the Scouting program while I was a Scout than Green Bar Bill (William Hillcourt). Nor has anyone since. I was a pleasure to meet him in 1983 and get his signature to remember the event. Although, I do not need the autograph to remember meeting the man who wrote my Scout Handbook and getting to shake his hand. (The left hand of course).

Great note. Now it’s your turn. Send me a photo of your favorite item for Memorabilia Monday. 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
  • Include your name, position, and council.
  • Tell us why this item is special to you.

Memorabilia Monday: Two books that stand the test of time

Handbook for Patrol Leaders

Last week, I asked you to dust off boxes, dig through storage closets, and scour your attic for pieces of Scouting memorabilia.

But for some of you, I’ll bet your BSA memories aren’t stuffed in a box somewhere. I’m sure they’re proudly displayed in your home. At my parents’ house, for example, an entire bookshelf is dedicated to Scouting goodies. The items conjure up meaningful memories of the program and provide a nice decorative charm to the room.

But enough about me. Let’s get Memorabilia Monday started off right. This is the first in an occasional series where your fellow Scouters will share their favorite, well, stuff from the Boy Scouts of America.

So what have you got, Rob Pendle, assistant Scoutmaster from the Western Los Angeles County Council?

Here’s his note:

Here are my favorite pieces of memorabilia: a Patrol Leaders Handbook circa 1937 and a Scoutmaster’s Handbook circa 1938 (second printing). Both are in excellent condition, but more-so, I read and use them (very carefully of course!).

It totally amazes me how much harder Scouting was back then. The Patrol Leader’s book has directions on how to build a log cabin for a patrol meeting place. I am using some of the other scout-craft information, like Green Bar Bill’s Camp-o-sack (before he was known as Green Bar Bill!) to make my own gear again.

While I am trying to preserve these books as items, I am also trying to pass on the knowledge contained in them as well…after all, what good is a book if the knowledge contained in it is inaccessible?

Great stuff, Rob. Thanks for passing along your BSA memories. Check out a picture of Rob’s 1938 Scoutmaster’s Handbook after the jump.

As for the rest of you, keep digging for buried BSA treasures. Whether it’s from 1910 or 2010, we want to see it a picture of it for Memorabilia Monday. Follow the jump to learn how to send it my way. I’ll keep Memorabilia Monday going as long as you all keep sending me photos!

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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
  • 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!