There were plenty of Sea Scout ships around before Ship 24 of Houston set sail in 1923.
But when those other ships let their charters lapse during World War II, Ship 24 stayed afloat.
Sea Scouts, BSA, officials confirmed to me this week that “the Jolly Roger,” to use Ship 24’s swashbuckling nickname, is the oldest continuously operated ship in the country.
It’s been around, without interruption, for 95 years.
That’s 95 years of young men and young women forming lifelong friendships, learning essential leadership skills and performing service for the Houston area and beyond.
Ship 24’s history of service
Ship 24 has weaved itself into the very fabric of the city of Houston.
During World War II, members of Ship 24 served as “coastal watchers.” The Coast Guard was needed for wartime activities, so the Sea Scouts patrolled Galveston Bay to assist recreational boaters and fishermen.
In 1947, after an explosion in Texas City, Texas, killed nearly 600 people, members of Ship 24 served as messengers. Cellphones didn’t exist, and roads were closed, so the uniformed Sea Scouts carried important missives to emergency officials by bicycle or on foot.
In 2017, in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Sea Scouts from Ship 24 unloaded supplies and assisted victims at NRG Stadium.
Every time their city needed them, Ship 24 answered the call.
Ship 24 celebrates its 95th birthday
In December 2018, current and past members of Ship 24 gathered for a giant party to celebrate the ship’s 95 years.
They ate cake, watched a slideshow and heard stories about Ship 24’s importance to Houston and the BSA’s Sam Houston Area Council.
Kara Hooper Green attended and was delighted to see someone had brought a photo of her as a Sea Scout in 1975. She said her father, Henry Hooper, was the ship’s top adult leader, called the skipper.
“He told me stories about the ship, so I decided to join,” Green said. “He was a professional photographer for Exxon and a former member of the ship.”
The winds continue to billow Ship 24’s sails today. Leaders tell me Ship 24 will have five young men and young women achieve the rank of Quartermaster in 2019.
The rank, the highest in Sea Scouting, is one of the hardest achievements in the Boy Scouts of America. Few ships have even a single Quartermaster recipient in a year. Five in one year would be impressive, indeed.
“We have a 95-year history of seagoing traditions and selfless service to community and country,” says current Skipper Rodger Brown. “We look toward the future to continue that legacy.”
Thanks to Neal Farmer for the tip, photos and additional reporting.