When Dick Van Dyke gives you his endorsement, you know you’re doing something right.
In 1971, as the Emmy-winning actor was preparing to make his return to TV in The New Dick Van Dyke Show, the actor talked with Scouting magazine about his time as a Boy Scout, his opinion of Scout leaders and the challenges of parenting in a fast-paced world.
“They call themselves Scouters,” Van Dyke said, “these people who are being so wisely selfish in their desire to help a movement which today has more relevance and significance to human welfare than ever before in its 61-year history.”
On parenting, the father of four lamented how “the whole pace of advancing culture is speeded up.”
“It seems that even the family is more fragmented today,” he said.
When viewed nearly 50 years later, Van Dyke’s words retain their value. The BSA remains relevant and significant to humanity. And families feel like they’re pulled in a million directions every week — a fact that makes Scouting’s commitment to bringing families together even more essential.
With Van Dyke set to appear in the new movie Mary Poppins Returns next month, let’s revisit his 1971 interview.
Van Dyke on his time as a Boy Scout
Dick Van Dyke was a Boy Scout in Troop 11 of Danville, Ill. He says he was a Tenderfoot “for a long, long time” and never reached Second Class.
He didn’t much care for troop meetings, seeing them as too much like school.
“I had so darned much to learn and prepare for every Tuesday night,” he said.
(Hey, that’s a good reminder to Scouters and older Scouts: pack, troop and crew meetings aren’t school and shouldn’t be treated as such.)
While Van Dyke didn’t like troop meetings, he loved summer camp.
“I really looked forward to those two weeks of camping every summer,” he said. “That was the most fun.”
And did the future Television Hall of Famer get to practice his acting skills at camp?
“Of course we did do a lot of skits at camp,” he told Scouting magazine. “As a matter of fact, they’re doing the same skits today that we used to do. Remember the one where a guy would hide his arms behind him and somebody else would get behind him and stick his arms through his armpits, you know? And do all the gestures. We did that, and I see the kids are still doing that one.”
Van Dyke on Scout volunteers
Van Dyke said he has great respect for adults who volunteer their time as Scout leaders. He didn’t hold back when suggesting that the future of our nation rests in the hands of these men and women known as Scouters.
“They represent a major cross section of concerned Americans who realize that Boy Scouts may very well be the last best hope for the survival of a decent and civilized society,” he said.
To demonstrate his support for Scouting, Van Dyke filmed a 15-minute PSA for the BSA called “First Aid for the Gap.” The “gap” is the generation gap that Scouting can help overcome.
The video was created for the Theodore Roosevelt Council in Phoenix (now called the Grand Canyon Council), where Van Dyke lived at the time. But the council would send a copy to other councils for $150.
Van Dyke agreed to appear in the movie because, Scouting magazine wrote, “he’s a gracious, witty man who strongly believes in Scouting.”
The movie was characterized as wildly successful in signing up new Scouts and Scout leaders. I wasn’t able to find a copy online, so if you’ve seen it, please leave a comment below.
Van Dyke on parenting
Much of the Scouting article is devoted to Van Dyke’s experiences as a dad.
He says the most effective tool for overcoming the gulf between a parent and child is communication.
“I think it’s the only way in the whole world,” he said. “A little tolerance for each other’s points of view, a little bending over backwards, and, particularly, trying hard to understand the other person’s point of view.”