Bryan on Scouting

Four Eagle Scouts share one thing in common: a pair of Scout pants

Does your family have a Scouting-related possession shared from generation to generation? Eagle Scout Rob Vernon, an assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 46 in Martinsville, N.J., shares this short story about a particular pair of pants donned by the Eagles in his family. Vernon calls this story, “The Brotherhood of the Traveling Scout Pants.”

These pants have been around: they’ve traveled some distance, they’ve been around since 1982 and they’ve literally been worn around the waist and lower limbs of four Eagle Scouts in my family. They might not be magical like the Traveling Pants in the book and film, but they have been cared for by a special lady.

Back in 1982, I was a senior in high school and struggling to complete the requirements for Eagle before my 18th birthday. The older I got, the smaller my old-style Boy Scout uniform became. I was the only Scout in my troop to attend the 1981 jamboree wearing the olive drab colors. My Eagle tardiness and frequent growth spurts meant that I would have to move up and get the newer uniforms that were being introduced that same year. With two days to spare before turning 18, I completed my requirements for Eagle, but the pants no longer fit me. My mom, Jean, happily purchased a new pair for my Eagle court of honor.

With college around the corner, I only wore the pants a few more times. But my mom never has been one to toss out anything, much less a decent, hardly-been-worn pair of Scout pants. Unbeknownst to me or anyone else, she tucked them away in a spot only she would know where to find them. 

The pants sat untouched until 2009, when the growth hormones hit my nephew, Reid Vernon. He was an active Scout and worked toward his Eagle at a much faster pace than I did. He grew quicker, too. When it came time for his Eagle court of honor, he needed a new pair of pants. Enter Grandma and the 27-year-old trousers. She did some quick alterations and had them ready for Reid — a perfect fit.

In 2011, Reid’s younger brother Nathaniel was next in line. My brother, Jim, an Eagle Scout himself from 1973 (when every Scout wore olive drab) thought, “If the pants worked for Reid, why not for Nate?” And once again, Grandma came through, downsizing the pants to fit Nate’s smaller frame for his Eagle court of honor.

Not long after Nate’s ceremony, I received a package in the mail from Jim. It was a pair of Scout pants. My first thought was, “Why would my brother be sending me Scout pants?” My brother explained the history and how my son, Andrew, was next in line for the pants.

After hearing the story, I felt some pride knowing that both my nephews wore the same pants that I had worn. I felt nostalgic as I recalled my own Scouting years. And I even felt a bit anxious as I wondered whether Andrew would get to wear them. Would he complete his Eagle requirements in time? (Yes, with a couple months to spare.) Would I be able to find the pants sent by my brother when it’s time for them to be worn? (Yes, but it took some time to dig them out.) And would the pants fit Andrew at his court of honor? (Thanks to Grandma’s magic — and a slight change in the hem — yes, they would.)

Now it is Andrew’s turn to go off to college. For the time being, he is the last to have worn these special pants. But I’ll keep them in a safe place until the next Vernon grows a little too fast for his britches and needs a pair of special pants to wear for his Eagle court of honor. ​

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From top: Reid Vernon at his Eagle court of honor in 2009 with dad Jim Vernon; Nathaniel Vernon at his Eagle court of honor in 2011; and Andrew Vernon at his Eagle court of honor in 2014 with dad Rob Vernon. Not photographed: the original wearer of the Scout pants, Rob Vernon, at his Eagle court of honor in 1982.