Monday, November 23, 2009

The Short Flight of Air Squadron One

The Boy Scouts of America Air Scout program was begun to capitalize on older boys' WWII-heightened interest in aviation. "Tomorrow all the world will fly," promised the 1942 Handbook for Boys, "airplanes will become as common as automobiles are now, and the boys of today will be their pilots." The new branch of Senior Scouting for boys fifteen or older taught navigation, aerodynamics and aircraft engine repairs. Although well grounded in the fundamentals of aviation, the program at first had a serious glitch--Air Scouts were not supposed to fly, even as passengers, and many soon baled out to join the Civil Air Patrol where they could actually train for a pilot's license.

Air Scouts wore sky blue uniforms and worked on a series of four advancements: Apprentice, Observer, Craftsman, Ace. The unit was called a squadron, and the Scouts were referred to as "cadets".

Despite the "no-fly" rule, Air Scouting grew rapidly during WWII until it ran into turbulence in 1945. Charges of increasing militarism were leveled at BSA's National Office for developing an agreement with the Army Air Force to supply liaison officers to the Air Scout program, and for allowing Air Scouts to camp at West Point where Army enlisted personnel taught boys marching drills, Army songs and how to get ready for inspection like "regular" soldiers.

Members of Unadilla's Air Squadron One probably weren't aware of the turbulence that clouded the branch's early years when they became a specialized Explorer Post in 1951. Squadron cadets might not be able to actually fly a plane (in 1946, flying, but not pilot training was approved for Air Scouts) but on the ground at least they could get up close to real aircraft, get a rare chance to sit in the cockpit of a juggernaut and "fly" on adolescent dreams. If they were ever, say, called upon to go exploring with Byrd in the Antarctic or ocean hopping with Lindbergh, at least they would "Be Prepared!"

She'll Be In The Air Soon---This is one bird (translated, plane) that won't be grounded long if 23 members of Unadilla Air Squadron One have anything to say about it. Working busily at assembling the craft are, above, Richard Knowlton, Bradford Gay, Frank Pazel, Emmett Kilmeir, David Sommers, William Bauer, Roger Bard and John Baker. Standing in foreground is Stanley Campbell, chairman of the sponsoring committee. (Oneonta Star Staff Photo, 3/13/52)

'Listen Carefully Fellows'-- Attentive scouts of the Air Squadron listen as George Humphrey, instructor [fifth from left] explains plane instruments. [from left] John Baker, Richard Knowlton, Frank Pazel, William Bauer, Emmet Kilmeir, Stanley Campbell, chairman of the sponsoring committee, David Sommers, Bradford Gay and Roger Bard. (Photo by Ludwig of Unadilla, 3/13/52)

"I was the adviser for an Explorer Post specializing in emergency preparedness," says John Compton, "when George Humpfrey approached us with the idea of developing the post into an air squadron. Being a pilot myself, I thought this was a good idea. We formed a committee of like-minded adults, signed a note at the Unadilla Bank for $1,000 to purchase the first two planes and supplies, and set up shop in the back of the Unadilla School Bus Garage."

The boys that joined Unadilla's Air Squadron One may have had visions of adventure flying high on silvered wings, but the squadron's organizers were a little more grounded in the rewards of aircraft repair. They planned to teach the boys basic airplane mechanics, renovate old planes that were a little beat up and sell them for a profit, meanwhile keeping a couple for their own use. Walter Brooks, a charter member of the squadron, remembers "We had a couple Piper J3 Cubs and an old Stinson Voyager. Mr. Humphrey and some of us boys got the plane out of a barn up near Herkimer somewhere, all covered in hay and chicken manure; I remember we spent hours and hours sanding down the frame, recovering the wings with new fabric and paint."Early Aircraft Designs from a two-page spread in the 1942 Airplane Design Merit Badge pamphlet. The sketches were drawn by Remington Schuyler, a popular Boy Scout illustrator in the 1920s-1940s

Intentions were that the boys would also receive flight instruction, and when they were 17, would be given tests for private pilot licenses. But none of the boys ever reached the pilot's seat while they were Scouts in the squadron. "I probably came the closest, says Walter Brooks, "when I took pilot's training in Indiana in 1958 but I never flew solo on my own.

By March of 1952 the squad had expanded to twenty-three Unadilla youth, signed up the enthusiastic George Humphrey as a licensed pilot flight instructor, acquired Morris Taylor of the Oneonta Airport and Civil Aeronautic Administration as adviser, and seven [or parts of] planes to repair--the two Piper Cubs, one of which reached completion stage, one Taylor Craft, two Stinsons, one Aeronea Champion and one Tensco Globe Swift. By April 1, two more joined the flight line. There was talk about town of building a hanger and a grass strip runway for all the airplanes.

Air Squadron One had an ambitious but short-lived existence in Unadilla. From the start, it had set out to teach boys the basics of aircraft mechanics, aerodynamics, and aircraft business acumen, but the project crash-landed a year and a half later when their star pilot-adviser George Humphrey suddenly left town under a dark cloud of suspicion, presumably to fly over green-backed pastures of opportunity elsewhere. A couple years later, the flying yearbook and class ring salesman, spark plug of the squadron, turned up in Worthington, Massachusetts [pop. 515] in a 1957 Time Magazine article, charged by the FBI with embezzlement of company funds and counterfeiting.

When George bought a 15-room colonial house in Worthington and moved his family in, he claimed he was a publisher, running a little printing firm that turned out yearbooks and similar publications. He liked to drive around in a $10,000 Continental Mark II, and was known to be a mite expansive about his moneymaking prowess; ironically, he also gave the impression that he was related to the former U.S. Treasury Secretary George M. [Magoffin] Humphrey. His wife, Jean, once a Radio City Music Hall Rockette, opened up dancing classes at Worthington's Town Hall.

When U.S. Treasury agents arrested George and two other men in Boston, they found in George's cellar a complete counterfeiting setup, a small printing press, and $5,500 in inexpertly printed $10 and $20 bills, as well as negatives and plates for making Canadian currency and American Telephone and Telegraph Co. stock certificates.

Left holding an empty wind sock, so-to-speak, the Unadilla committee sold the remaining planes, paid off the $1,000 loan, and disbanded the squadron. All the talk of Unadilla aerodromes and boys' broken dreams of flights among the clouds soon faded away. "We made a couple attempts to track George down," said fellow-pilot and committee member George James, "but we didn't know where he had gone to until the article appeared in Time magazine. It was obvious that even if we had found him, he would never make good on his debts here."

With George in jail, the Humphreys lost their mortgaged house and most of their belongings. The townsfolk, though they did not make friends easily, rallied to the friends they had made. Neighbors called on Jean, offered shelter for her and her four children, furniture, food. In gratitude for their charity, the ex-Broadway hoofer offered free dance classes in Worthington's Town Hall.

--D. Tuttle

Charter Members of Air Squadron One--Unadilla, 1951.
Back Row [l to r]--Paul Knowlton, Silvester Lord,Elliot DuBoise, Bill Bauer, Jerry Kniffen.
Front Row [l to r]--Robert O'Connor, Dick Knowlton, Squad Leader John R. Compton,
Walter Brooks, Roger Bard.
(Photo courtesy of Walter Brooks)

Air Squadron One Members, March 1952
Paul Knowlton
John Baker
Roger Bard
William Bauer
Walter Brooks
Elliot DuBoise
Bradford Gay
Emmett Kilmeir

Jerry Kniffen
Richard Knowlton
Silvester Lord
Howard Paris
Robert O'Connor
Frank Pazel
David Sommers

Air Squadron One Committee:
Stanley Campbell, committee chairman
John Compton, pilot
George James, pilot
Herman Bard
Donald Baldwin
George Humphrey, pilot (and later, a very poor counterfeiter)
Morris Taylor, Oneonta Airport and CAA liaison

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Unadillan News Notes of the Boy Scouts

The Unadilla Historical Association recently was given several copies of The Unadillan, a monthly magazine published by Unadilla High School students during the late 1920s and 1930s. The issues we have at hand are 12-page staple-bound magazines with covers, commercially printed compendiums of school news, sports, articles and poetry written by the school's students, and news of the clubs and groups that met in the school. It's the Boy Scout News notes that interest us here.

The Boy Scouts, October 1929: "Last week, September 23, the Boy Scouts met and registered for another year. There were about 25 boys who were registered. Within the past week Rev. Yale Lyon received a letter from headquarters that he is the Scoutmaster of the oldest troop in America, since he started this troop in 1910. We hope to make many advancements this year as we did last." (Penciled note added: YL had met Sir Baden Powell at Oxford, Eng.)

Girl Scouts, October 1929: "The Girl Scouts held a corn roast on the Ontio hill, September 6. This was in honor of Scout Kenneth Gurney, who went on the Boy Scout (World) Jamboree to Europe this summer. Many scouts as well as invited guests enjoyed the talk Kenneth gave us. Although it rained everyone seemed to have a good time." (Penciled note: I ate 8 ears!)

The Boy Scouts, November 1929: "The Boy Scouts met on Monday, November 4. The Court of Honor was present and several boys tried tests before them. We have organized permanent patrols and each patrol studies by themselves. We hope to make many advances in this manner. After a period of study, we play games for awhile and then the troops are dismissed."

Boy Scout News, October 1930: "The Boy Scouts started the year's program with a meeting at the Rectory, September 8, when the Hon. Arthur North showed several reels of film, and with the first Board of Review, October 13. The regular meetings are held each Monday night at the High School gym. Board of Review being there the first Monday of the month. The Scoutmaster, Rev. Yale Lyon, and Assistant Scoutmaster Monrow Cole have received registrations from 21 boys, including four new members."
"Wednesday, October 1 Gray McClintock lectured for the benefit of the Scouts on his adventures as a pioneer and woodsman in northern Canada. Although there was a small attendance, the amount made will help with expenses."
"As an indication of progress, during the past year 14 boys became Second Class, and 13 First Class Scouts. Ninety-seven merit badges were awarded."

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Herbert Carter's Boy Scouts Along the Susquehanna or the Silver Fox Patrol Caught in a Flood

While researching the article On the Banks of the Susquehanna: Camping by the Book posted below, I came across a similarly titled Boy Scout "juvenile" called The Boy Scouts Along the Susquehanna or The Silver Fox Patrol Caught in a Flood. Boy Scouts Along the Susquehanna was published in 1915 by Herbert Carter and was still in print into the 1930s. The book recently has been reproduced by the American Libraries Project as an online facsimile in a readable PDF or flipbook format. It can be found at

Boy Scout Fiction: Adventure Mixed With Ethics in Action

Several dozens of books were published in the first three decades of Scouting with fictional stories about Scouts. Many authors and publishing houses wanted to cash in on Scouting's craze in those early years. James West fought to keep control of the Scouting name. Nonetheless dozens of these books were published, often with pseudonyms to protect the identity of the author. For example, the author we are concerned with here, Herbert Carter, was actually St. George Rathbone*who also published under the names of Alan Douglas, Archibald Fletcher, E. Sherwood, and George A. Warren. The books sold because they were an inexpensive source of reading material, adventure and entertainment. Many also contributed to ethical character development and knowledge of Scoutcraft skills. The most successful author was Percy Keese Fitzhugh who wrote over 70 books with a Scouting theme and had the official approval and sanction of BSA. His characters included Tom Slade, Pee Wee Harris (Pee Wee still appears in Boys Life magazine today), Westy Martin, and Roy Blakeley.

Herbert Carter's Silver Fox Patrol

Herbert Carter actually did include a considerable amount of moralizing and character building with his adventures for young readers. The Boy Scouts Along the Susquehanna, one of half-dozen titles in "The Boy Scouts" series follows the adventures of the Silver Fox Patrol of the Crawford, NY Boy Scout Troop One.A roll call of the Silver Fox Patrol reveals a collection of character attributes designed for maximum youthful reader appeal. The "eight lively, wide-awake boys in khaki" include:

Thad Brewster, patrol leader and assistant scoutmaster
Allan Hollister, assistant patrol leader, a Maine boy transplanted to Cranford, New York.
Bumpus (Jasper Cornelius) Hawtree, a fat boy, as good natured as he was ponderous.
Giraffe Stedman, a tall lad, with a long neck and quick movements.
Step Hen (Stephen) Bingham, who divided his name early in school and it has clung to him ever since.
Davey Jones, a gymnast with the energy to do all manner of queer stunts.
Bob White (Robert White Quail) patrol secretary, a Southern boy originally from Blue Ridge, North Carolina with a "soft manner of speech and certain phrases--he says "Suh!" a lot.
Smithy (Edmund Maurice Travers Smith), a "very natty chap" born with a horror for dirt.

In the Along the Susquehanna novel, the boys hunt down thieving hobos with stolen overcoats, carry rifles for protection and game hunting, survive a major river flood, fry up farm-fresh chicken, eggs, salt pork, grits in a cast iron pan, brew coffee-with-eggshells in an enamel coffeepot, and simply amaze everyone they meet with their self-reliance and Scoutcraft skills on the trail. In fact, much of the book's 1920s-style dialogue is often concerned about food. Even the hobos weigh in with Carter's sort of hatchet-work hobo dialect about hunger; here's a sample below:

“Oh! We all like to hear that, let me tell you,” asserted Giraffe, who was unusually fond of eating; “but we get tired of home cooking, and things taste so fine when your in camp.” “Huh! Mebbe so, when yuh got plenty o’ the right kind o’ food along,” observed the man who gripped the ham bone that Giraffe had tossed him, “but yuh’d think a heap different,let me tell yuh, if a ever any of the lot knowed wat meant tuh be as hungary as a wolf, and nawthin’ tuh satisfy it with."

While the Silver Fox Patrol makes its fictional home in the Orange County town of Crawford,NY*, it is not clear where on the Susquehanna the adventures take place until the end of the story. The last sentence of the novel reveals that Step Hen, Giraffe, Bumpus and the rest probably tramped the same Leatherstocking trails along the river as James Fenimore Cooper's characters Natty Bumpo, Uncas and Chingatchcook did long ago, and camped on the banks of the river with the real Scouts of Yale Lyon's Troop 1 Unadilla when the excitement and adventure of the Scouting movement was new!.

"All they thought about was the fun of tracking the hobo and eventually bringing back the old engineer corps overcoat to its late owner. That was glory enough for Step Hen,Giraffe, Bumpus and the rest. It afforded them a chance to get in the open,and imagine for a time at least that
they were outdoing some of those dusky warriors who, in the good old days of "Leatherstocking" and others of Cooper's characters, roamed these very same woods."

Boy Scout novelists often allowed their fictive boys much more freedom and less adult supervision than would be considered appropriate in Yale Lyon's day. In Herbert Carter's The Boy Scouts Along the Susquehanna, many of the Silver Fox Patrol carried guns and went on extended trips into the Florida swamps, the Pacific Northwest, boat trips on the Columbia River without adult supervision. One of Carter's Camp-fire Boys series has a trio of "clean-minded American youths" head off to the Philippines armed to the teeth with rifles, automatics and twin machine-guns flying their own airplane.


*Crawford, New York – The present-day hamlet of Pine Bush (formerly called "Crawford'), Orange County, is in the southeast corner of the state. Crawford was originally settled around 1740, originally part o
f the Town of Montgomery. Crawford was established as a town in 1823, with a population of about 2,000. Curious fact: In 1813, the town considered itself the butter capital of the world. In 1845, the town had a population of about 2,075 people.

UFO Sightings in Crawford

Crawford is famous for another reason than butter and fictional Boy Scouts.Though sightings of UFOs in and around Pine Bush date back to the 1950s, the period of time between the late 1970s and the early 1990s saw a huge increase in UFO activity throughout the Town of Crawford area, as well as within, or near, the Village of Pine Bush proper. At one point in the mid-1980s, UFO sightings along West Searsville Road was nearly a nightly event. Hundreds of UFO enthusiasts would line the road each night and revel in the shooting blobs of colored light that would streak across the sky at absurd rates of speed. The crush of sight-seekers became so intense that travel along the road was hampered, leading local authorities to pass a special ordinance prohibiting parking along the otherwise rural stretch of road. Local long-time residents interviewed in 2003 still remembered the throngs of UFO enthusiasts, parked every summer night in front of their houses, sitting in lawnchairs with early-model video cameras at the ready. Other long-time area residents on the other side of town also have testified to witnessing unexplained bright-colored lights seen through local forest trees late at night. Two residents interviewed testified to being restrained in their bed with a harmless "force field" while non-verbal communications were expressed directly into their conscious thought, warning them not to open their eyes or else "they would be afraid". When the "force-field" was lifted, the interviewee and her husband both sprang from their bed in time to see a medium-sized saucer-shaped craft with colored perimeter lights and tiny white orbiting tracers slowly lift off from the adjacent field and into the low cloud cover. --Source:,_New_York

*Rathbone, St. George (Henry) (1854-1938) known pseudonyms: Harrison Adams, Hugh Allen, Herbert Carter, Oliver Lee Clifton, Alan Douglas, Duke Duncan, Archibald Fletcher, Aleck Forbes, Lieutenant Keene, Marline Manly, Mark Merrick, Marne Miller, Warne Miller, Harry St. George, E. Sherwood, Col. J.M. Travers, George A. Warren.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

On The Banks of The Susquehanna: Camping By The Book

Few men (and even fewer boys) had ever camped out when the Boy Scouts of America and Troop 1 BSA Unadilla, NY were born in 1910. There were no training manuals for Scoutmasters, so new adult leaders like the Rev. Yale Lyon relied on the same manual for campcraft that the boys used--the hastily-drawn official BSA Handbook for Boys, authored by two of BSA's founders, Daniel Carter Beard and Ernest Thompson Seton.

In the new handbook, for example, it was suggested that the best camp shelter was a leanto of poles over which was laid a thatch of freshly cut balsam or hemlock boughs. Boughs were also useful to make a soft, fragrant mattress for sleeping on the ground. H.W. Gibson, the YMCA Boys' Work Secretary who wrote the section on campcraft, included a few lines of poetry to emphasize the serene joy of sleeping on a bed of balsam:

Then the pine boughs
croon me a lullaby,
And trickle the white moonbeams
To my face on the balsam

where I lie.
While the owl hoots at my dreams.
---J. George Frederick

Sleeping bags were available at the time, but Chief Scout Seton frowned on them, saying "They are too difficult to air or to adjust to different temperatures." Instead Scouts were told to lay their waterproof ponchos over the boughs and then make an "envelope" of two woolen blankets pinned together with large blanket pins. On very cold nights, heated rocks placed near the head, back and feet made good "bedwarmers," he said. A relay team of two night watchers could replace the cooled off rocks with hot ones from the fire every two hours. Boys unlucky enough to draw night watcher duty ferrying bed warmers back and forth while shivering in the dark, would have the dubious compensation of having their "imaginations stirred by the resistless attraction of the campfire and the sound of the creatures that creep at night." The unpoetical reality of hypothermia and frostbite apparently escaped Seton's attention.

The "Comfort Sleeping Pocket"

One example of the store-bought sleeping gear Seton objected to was the Comfort Sleeping Pocket, a portable pneumatic bed that appeared in the 1910 New York Sporting Goods Co. catalog. The Sleeping Pocket was touted as made for the camper who feared discomfort in the woods yet still liked to "rough it." The elaborate 22-lb contraption came with a rubberized air mattress fitted with a waterproof canvas cover, a felt liner, pillow and air pump. The Sleeping Pocket was guaranteed, at least with the addition of a couple wool blankets, to keep you warm and dry in the severest weather!

In the Handbook for Boys, Seton also provided directions for making several styles of tents, either of canvas duck or heavy cotton cloth waterproofed with what would be considered today a potentially lethal solution of alum and lead acetate. Another waterproofing method suggested dissolving paraffin into turpentine on a double boiler and saturating the canvas with the hot brew. "You must work outdoors," said Seton, "in a breeze if possible," as the fumes of the turpentine will surely make you sick if you try it indoors."

Scoutmaster Rev. Yale Lyon and the boys of Troop 1 BSA Unadilla, NY
at the first New York State Encampment,Cooperstown, NY, July 12, 1911.
The tentage included two Army-style wall tents and a wigwam made from a large tarpaulin
arranged similar to a plan published in the new Handbook for Boys.
The camp furniture included barrels and tables made of scrap wood.

Teepees were as popular with early Scouts as they are today. Seton included in the Handbook a plan for a small conical or wigwam tent utilizing a single center pole, and Daniel Carter Beard later published plans for making a large Souix-style tepee in his book Shelters, Shacks and Shanties. A four or five-pole tepee was among the tents Rev. Yale Lyon outfitted his troop with at the 1911 New York State Boy Scout Encampment at Cooperstown, NY.

Hearty, not Heart-Friendly, Camp Food.

Camp cooking utensils usually came from home. So did much of the larder because store-bought convenience foods like today's granola bars, instant rice and pancake mixes were far in the future, and most of today's dietary concerns also were unheard of.

The Handbook recommended menus heavy in fat and high in cholesterol. Scouts would start the day with a breakfast of fried bacon, fried eggs, fried potatoes, griddle-cakes with butter, and boiled coffee. Lunch (called Dinner in the handbook) called for creamed salmon on toast, baked potatoes buried directly in a bed of hot coals, bread, pickles and some fruit. Supper included fried eggs, creamed or chipped beef, cheeze, bread and cocoa. Foil dinners (including the foil itself), freeze-dried entrees, flavored oatmeals and noodle packets, instant coffee were not yet invented.

Tried and Tested Recipes from the Handbook.

The Handbook offered a number of tried and tested cooking recipes for long hikes or overnight camps, larded with plenty of sage advice. Biscuits and breadmaking in camp was discouraged; "amateur" biscuits, the handbook said, are not conducive to good digestion or happiness. Frog's legs should be soaked in water and vinegar before frying; watercress, presumably collected at the same time as the frogs, made a good relish to serve with them. Small fish should be fried whole with the backbone severed to prevent them from curling up. Roast potatoes should be poked with a sharpened sliver of wood to let the steam escape and used immediately. A roast potato soon becomes soggy and bitter, the book said.

Summer Camp on the Susquehanna.

Throughout BSA's first decade, most summer camps were run by individual troops; Unadilla's Troop 1 was no exception. Each summer until the start of WW1 Scoutmaster Yale Lyon conducted a "fine camp on the Susquehanna River--a full scout camp program."

The Susquehanna Camp was the highlight of the summer for Lyon's boys. In 1915, in spite of almost continual rains during the week's outing, their butter and milk larder floating down river with the morning tide and soggy tents, they did not desert camp. The Unadilla Times reported they would remain until the tents were dried out if it took until Christmas! But in 1916, Lyon reported to National Headquarters in New York that "...our Scout Camp [has been] given up as all the boys were at work." After the war was concluded in 1918, Scoutmaster Lyon quickly reestablished the summer camp tradition on the banks of the river for his troop, sometimes including boys from Unadilla's Protestant Troop 2 and nearby Sidney, NY troop with his own. "We have had a camp there since 1911, and we will again next year," he reported in 1919, "and we also go for 2 day trips to some interesting place where boys see museums, meet interesting people, camp overnight on water, etc." He also reported in 1919 that his summer camp was outfitted with its own tents, cots, and a canoe.

Local councils, however, soon began to establish their own camps. Yale Lyon himself served on the executive board of the fledgling Otsego-Schoharie Council in 1924 that operated a short-lived Camp Awenaga on Gilbert Lake near Laurens, NY. When the council expanded to include Delaware County two years later, he helped establish a new Camp Deerslayer on Otsego Lake at Cooperstown, NY. Thereafter, Lyon discontinued his Camp Susquehanna operations.

The Handbook advised that no group of boys should go camping by themselves--they should insist the Scoutmaster accompany them to prevent accidental drownings, settle disputes, or provide a man's help where needed to stave off the hundred and one things that will "surely break up your camp and drive you home to town or city."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Button, Button--Who's Got the Original Button?

Original 1910 B.S. OF A. buttons
made by the Waterbury Button Company, Cheshire, CT

In our research to outfit our Centennial Celebration Team with authentic 1910 uniforms and equipment, the question about buttons came up recently. The first Army-type uniform coats and shirts offered to the fledgling Boy Scouts of America came equipped with military style brass buttons with the letters "B. S. OF A." surrounding a British-style fleur de lis above a banner labeled "Be Prepared." Most buttons of the 1911-1920 period were stamped on the back with the Sigmund Eisner Company name, the same company in Red Bank, NJ that supplied the U.S. Army with its military uniforms. A few months later a more Americanized First Class Emblem design was substituted for the British version; by 1914, the letters B.S. OF A. were removed leaving just the Boy Scouts of America symbol every Scout is familiar with today.

Thus, button types are a handy indicator of age and authenticity of early Scout uniforms in collections of Scouting memorbilia and offered on eBay. But buying up enough antique buttons to outfit our Centennial Celebration Team's reproduction uniforms--each coat requires 5 3/4" buttons and 4 5/8" pocket buttons--could call for an economic stimulus package all on its own!

Googleing 'military button suppliers' produced several thousand hits which eventually led us to the Waterbury Button Company, a division of OGS Technologies Inc. in Chesire, CT. The Waterbury Button Company has been a major supplier of metal buttons for military, fire and police uniforms since before the Civil War, and if anyone had the brass to make our 1910-style Boy Scout buttons, they surely could do it. A timid call to their Customer Service Department revealed they could make stamping dies for any design we cared to submit but first they would check their die archives to see if they had made a similar Boy Scout item some time in the past.

A few days later, the Customer Service Department called again and said they had found the dies, in two sizes, that were used to make the original 1910 buttons! All they needed from us was quantities and sizes and finishes desired and, after 99 years, they could begin production again!

As Paul Harvey was fond of saying at the end of his newscasts, "And that is the rest of the [button] story!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Hiking Staff, Stave or Broomstick?

In the early days of Scouting, it was called a staff or stave. To those on the outside of Scouting, it was only a broomstick. To Baden-Powell's many followers, it was an essential piece of Scouting gear. Early pictures of Scouts showed that every boy had to have one; even if he did not have a uniform, he had his stave.

Overzealous Scoutmasters of the time used them to field drill their young charges. This led to some of Scouting's detractors to view them as make-believe rifles. They looked upon the 'broomsticks' as militaristic tools of the Mafeking war hero whom they believed was preparing their boys for war. Baden-Powell himself actually recommended that drill not be a part of Scouting, but in America, the increasing loom of European warfare made the stave-and-marching drill practice more acceptable. The 1914 edition of the Handbook for Scoutmasters*, with a photo of a Scout holding a stave on the cover, even included 4 pages of military drill, plus a page-and-a-half of "order of the staff"--exactly corresponding to the Army's drill with rifles. It wasn't until 1947 that the section titled "Scout Drill" was replaced by a smaller section on formations and silent hand signals to arrange them.)

Baden-Powell was insistent though that the staff was a part of the Scout's uniform and not just a broomstick. His first drawings of Scouts showed the trusty tool in the hands of the Scout. According to John Hargrave in the September 1917 issue of The Scout, "I was talking to the Chief only the other day and he is very keen that the picturesque part of Scouting should not be neglected. He added, "Put your sign on it--brand your Mark on it, and make it a record of your Scout life, and if you lose it, if you break it, if you don't carry it, you're a-you're a-a- MUMBLEBUMP!"

Troop 1 in Camp, c. 1912, note the hiking staves!
For those early eager Scouts, the staff was a vital wilderness tool. It was an aid for everything from making tents to cooking soup--it made an ideal trammel to hang the soup pot over the fire. And when things slowed down in camp, there were several games that could be played with them.

Today, this wooden shaft is more descriptively known as a hiking stave or staff. For the aerobically inclined, it can also be called a walking stick. Stave, staff, or stick are all inter-changeable and correct. No matter what you call it, this shaft of wood brings back some of the youthful adventure from the birth of Scouting to the Scouts of the next century.

When Sir Robert Baden Powell designed his bronze "Scout with Staff" he gave the staff the loftiest and most prominent place in the statue. Rev. Yale Lyon gave similar prominence to the staff and carried his Lion Patrol flag on the end of his hiking stave. Today, as a tribute to their first Scoutmaster, the Troop 1 BSA Centennial Celebration Team carry Lyon Patrol flags on their sturdy serviceable staffs whenever they are in camp or making a public appearance!

With our staffs or staves, we salute the next hundred years of Scouting, continuing the adventure and celebrating the rich heritage of the past!

* The first edition of The Scoutmasters Handbook (1914-1920) was published under the supervision of an Editorial Board which included William D. Murry, another early "forgotten" YMCA official-turned-Scout Executive. William Murry later wrote the BSA's first history, in 1937.

Monday, February 9, 2009

WW1 Boy Scout Watch Fob Discovered!

Unadilla Scouter James Beers discovered an unique item while gardening behind his home on Watson Street, Unadilla, NY--a Boy Scout watch fob, the little "adornment or medallion" that hangs from a watch chain (or strap) and provides a ready tab to remove the watch from your watch pocket to check the time. The fob Jim discovered is similar in design to those illustrated in a 1918 Scouting catalog in our Unadilla Boy Scout Museum. It is amusing to speculate that this particular fob might have been lost by a Unadilla Scout while tilling his garden of vegetables during WW1 to heed the call, "Every Scout to Feed a Soldier".

Originally sold for $1-2 each, Boy Scout watch fobs are valued at upwards of $125 today. Wrist watches are the watch of today but this was not the case when Yale Lyon founded his Unadilla Troop 1 in 1910. The standard then was the pocket watch. It only seemed fitting that the new Boy Scouts of America help identify its members with distinctive watch fobs. The fob is a medallion that hangs from a leather strap to which your watch was attached. The fob could hang out of your pocket and make a 'statement' about the organization you belonged to while making it easier when the time came to reach for your watch!

All watch fobs that are Scout related are quite scarce. The ones made by the BSA were considered fine jewelry, typically gold filled or plated, of sterling silver or enameled. Although regularly listed in Scout equipment catalogs up to WW II, adding to their scarcity today, they were only sold to registered Scouts and Leaders; orders for them had to be properly signed.

Pictured is Jim's Boy Scout Watch Fob,with crossed flags, rifle and fire horn; c. 1910s. Neat!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"Camping Outs": Encampments, Rallies and Circuses

Camping as a vehicle to deliver the tenets of Scouting had its beginnings when Lord S.S. Baden-Powell ran his experimental camp on Brownsea Island in 1907 for the 21 original Scouts. The "camping out" was a success and a movement was born that quickly spread to America and around the world. In America, Boy Scouting was quickly embraced by Sunday school and public school teachers, young ministers like the Rev. Yale Lyon in Unadilla, NY, and by leaders in the Young Men's Christian Association who began planning outings called "camping outs," or "encampments."

YMCA Camping.

Actually, YMCAs had been in the camping "game" since the late 1860s. YMCA records include an early reference to a Vermont Y's boys'-work missionary taking a group of boys to Lake Champlain for a "summer encampment." In 1881, the Brooklyn YMCA reported taking 30 boys on a "camping out" and by a year later, many other YMCAs began recording camping programs in their annual reports under "outings and excursions."

By 1908 and 1909, Y officials began hearing about the new Boy Scout movement gaining popularity in England. A few Ys actually set up Boy Scout troops within their own organizations, and some Y camps began using elements of the Scoutcraft skills Powell wrote about in his 1907 handbook, Scouting for Boys.

Scoutmaster Training at Y Camp at Silver Bay.

As organized a year earlier, the camp wasn't intended to be a Scouting experience. Now largely-forgotten veteran YMCA boys'-work executive Edgar M. Robinson, well aware he lacked the charisma to enthrall boys with the lore of nature and the exploits of Cooper's Deerslayer and Chingatchcook, had arranged for Ernest Thompson Seton to demonstrate Woodcraft Indians campcraft at a special late August session for YMCA boys.

As a result, the encampment became an experimental Scout camp, with an Indian flavor. Scouts lived in homemade tepees made from plans in Seton's Two Little Savages book, and Seton himself directed the program. William D. Murray, another YMCA official who later became a Scouting professional, was the overall camp director.

Subsequent encampments for the training of Scoutmasters of the Boy Scouts of America were held as part of the Silver Bay Summer Institute in 1911 and 1912. In the picture above, Daniel Carter Beard, National Commissioner, here wearing BSA's first army-style uniform, demonstrates the "throwing of the hatchet" in 1912. (Photo courtesy of the Silver Bay Association.)

A woodcraft camp organized by Ernest Thompson Seton was held at Silver Bay in 1910. Numerous boys' organizations were represented among the 125 attendees at the experimental encampment. Ideas formulated at the woodcraft camp led to the organization of the Boy Scouts of America later that year. Silver Bay is recognized as BSA's first training site. Seton, then known as Black Wolf, is the white-shirted figure standing to the right in this photo. (Photo courtesy of the Silver Bay Association.)

Boy Scout Encampment, Cooperstown, NY 1911.

In 1911, the following year after the Silver Bay experimental encampment, a similar encampment was planned at Cooperstown, NY during the week of July 12-18, with a planned attendance of 2,000 to 5,000 Scouts, all fully equipped to spend the week in the open on the shores of Otsego Lake, attending rallies on the Clark estate and going on hiking expeditions over the Leatherstocking territory made famous by J. Fenimore Cooper. It was hoped that Daniel Carter Beard would be the honored guest, and speakers under consideration at the time included ex-President Theodore Roosevelt and Governor Dix. (Teddy Roosevelt did manage to briefly visit the encampment on the Thursday of that week in the company of the YMCA official William D. Murray.) The committee organizing the event hoped they could also entice the Vitagraph Company to come and make a motion picture of the event to be shown in theaters around the country.

The event, though grandly conceived in the excitement of the new Boy Scout movement, went largely unattended--less than 200 Scouts made to Nathaniel Bumpo's literary birthplace that summer.

Boy Scout Rallies and Circuses.

Boy Scout rallies were held frequently during the 1910s and 1920s. At rallies, Boy Scouts would compete against one another for prizes in athletic contests like foot races, or in contests relating to Scout skills, such as signaling or fire making. Rallies that involved a large number of troops eventually came to be called Boy Scout circuses, and were often the troop's biggest event of the year.

While rallies were usually held outdoors, the Boy Scout Circus was an indoor exposition-with-added-midway attractions that featured community parades, presentation of ranks and awards, demonstrations of Scout skills, and often professional circus acts that attracted a more general audience.

One such event staged in the State Armory in Oneonta in 1937 featured a grand entry march of more than 1,000 Scouts and Scouters, a band concert, demonstrations of Scouting skills such as figure marching, flashlight drills using Semiphore and Morse signaling codes, wild animal acts, a rope lasso act by the 'larieteers' of Troop 41 of Roxbury, and a greased pig catching contest conducted by a mob of 'real' trained clowns! Now that was your Father's camporee!

Scout Circus 1938, Walton, NY

Monday, January 26, 2009

Troop 1 Celebrates the Ninth Anniversary of 1919!

On our way to the 100th Anniversary of BSA and our Troop 1 in 2010, this genteel news note from Unadilla Times in 1919 brings on a smile:

"The ninth anniversary celebration of the Boy Scouts of the United States [America] was observed by St. Matthew's Boy Scouts and friends last Friday evening from 7 to 10 in the H.Y. Canfield hose house parlors which had been prettily decorated for the occasion. Cotillion with patriotic Scouting favorites and figures entertained the young boys and girls. A full orchestra furnished the music. Hot chocolate, cake and sandwiches were served by Mrs. J.S. Seacord and assistants."

---Yale Lyon Scrapbooks, Vol. 3 (Sept 1916 to March 1919, pg 188).

Troop 1 BSA and WW1

In 1914, much of Europe, long an uneasy armed camp, erupted in open conflict, pitting Germany, Turkey and Austria-Hungary against France, Great Britain, Russia, Belgium and later, Italy. The United States was confident that it could remain aloof from the rapidly escalating war and Woodrow Wilson was reelected President in 1918 with the slogan, "He kept us out of the war."

Not for long, though. Germany began unrestricted submarine warfare and sank several U.S. merchant ships; on April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany.

The declaration was the signal for a burst of patriotic fervor that swept over America into cities and small towns alike., and through the Boy Scout movement. A day after the United States declared war on Germany, the BSA Executive Board committed Scouts to the war effort. Scoutmasters were warned: "Your town or city may face an emergency at any moment. Perfect [your] Mobilization Plans! Practice! Practice! Practice! Make sure your Scouts can keep cool, think quickly, act as a unit. Offer the troop NOW (if you have not) to help the Red Cross in your town."

The BSA's most significant service was in the sale of Liberty Loan bonds issued by the Treasury to finance the war effort. Five Liberty Loan drives were held, and in each case the Boy Scouts were called upon to follow the regular canvas by adult volunteer salesmen. Despite the handicap of being gleaners after the reapers, Scouts sold a total of 2,238,308 bonds worth $335 million.

Patriotic rallies connected with the Red Cross were held throughout Unadilla, and as a member of the United War Work Committee, Yale Lyon saw to it that his Scouts played a major part in pushing the quota over the top in its drive for funds. The rallies brought together business men and farmers to discuss home defense; older boys in the troop joined the new Government Rifle Club that practiced military style drills with wooden rifles, physical conditioning, and the proper use of arms--skills that would come in handy if the German Kaiser decided to attack Unadilla.

Unadilla's Red Cross in 1917 boasted over 200 members. Its Surgical Dressings Committee made bandages and dressings by the hundreds--659 in one week--for use in Allied hospitals. When attention was called by the Red Cross to the plight of French and Belgian children facing freezing winter conditions and starvation, Unadilla scouts immediately helped raise $236.17 to buy food and blankets. Red Cross Military First Aid courses taught by troop committeeman Dr. B. W. Stearns stressed the best use of a Scout neckerchief as a bandage, arm sling or tourniquet.

Yale Lyon's boys assisted in the sale of War Savings Stamps, collected money for the Red Cross, clothing for the French and Belgians, participated in Unadilla's patriotic meetings and parades, but at selling Liberty Loan bonds, they ran into a snag. On his 1918 annual Report and Application for Re-registration, Yale Lyon apologized, "At the request of the Liberty Loan Committee, they did not sell bonds, but many did, not as Scouts however. I am sorry, but the local conditions prevented." The next year, Yale Lyon reported that his troop again "...responded to every call of Government except the sale of Liberty and Victory Bonds, which was vetoed by the Town Council."

The earliest of BSA's war efforts--gardening--was the least successful, perhaps because the activity was limited to the summer growing season, and it took so much time to cultivate, harvest and preserve the resulting crops. The 1918 issue of Scouting catalog, a special gardening and equipment issue, proclaimed: "A food shortage in war means a nation in peril, and every Scout who has a bit of ground should grow vegetables in dead earnest!" The catalog thoughtfully included a page of BSA-approved cultivators, rakes and hoes to do the job, even "farm clothing to save Scout uniforms," as the overalls, khaki neckerchiefs and farmer's straw hats were billed! The catalog was also full of articles on how boys could apply for W.S.S. Awards, on the history of the potato and its value in times of extreme necessity, and wartime backyard chicken raising. The Chief Grub Scout Hal B. Fullerton opined: "Crowing roosters are a nuisance in the city and should be culled from the flock. More eggs will be produced without the rooster and the eggs so produced will keep longer than those produced in the usual way."

Rev. Yale Lyon's Scouts helped distribute "Wasteless Meals" Food Conservation pledge cards which encouraged meatless or wheatless meals on certain days of the week but from the pulpit and in the newspaper he reminded the community to remember the welfare of the local market and grocery stores "The ruin of local tradesmen is poor patriotism," he said.

My Tuesdays are meatless,
My Wednesdays are wheatless,
I am getting more eatless every day;
My coffee is sweetless,
My stockings are feetless,
Each day I get poorer and wiser;
Good Lord, how I hate the Kaiser!"

---Timely Verse, the Every Evening Magazine, 1918

All five of the troop's original charter members put their Scouting experience to the test in the U.S. Army. Thomas McKay, Cecil Sterns and Howard Morse served--and survived--the "war to end all wars." They returned to Unadilla to participate with the troop in a spectacular 1919 Fourth of July memorial parade down Main Street to the Unadilla House, where a large service flag (forty-eight stars, one gold star) was dedicated to "Out brave boys who fought for those at home that liberty may continue to be ours." Corporal Charles Hildreth, a graduate of Colgate University, later died in Montana in 1932 of heart trouble. Neil Stearns, brother of Cecil, died in a fatal car crash on the Sidney-Unadilla Road on February 13, 1934.

Yale Lyon Scrapbooks, Vol. 3 (Sept. 1916 to March 1919), pg. 145, 'Service Flag Dedicated July Forth,' Rev. Yale Lyon Deliversed Eloquent Address, Unadilla Times, 1919.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

First State Scout Encampment, Cooperstown, NY 1911

As the 100th Anniversary of the BSA and our Troop 1 BSA Unadilla, NY fast approaches, and the Centennial Committee begins staging a suitable event to celebrate, our thoughts turn back to the First State Scout Encampment, held July 12-18, 1911 at Cooperstown, NY. A great gathering of boys in the new Scouting movement had not been attempted before (the first National Jamboree didn't happen until 27 years later). The prospect of a Boy Scout encampment on the shores of James Fenimore Cooper's Glimmerglass drew great enthusiasm and a few concerns in the newspapers of the day.

Scout Encampment Matters.

"Last week's issue of the Otsego Farmer, Cooperstown, contained an article bearing on matters pertaining to the Boy Scout encampment soon to be held near that village, from which the following parts are excerpted for the perusal of local Boy Scouts and their parents."

"The program for the State Boy Scout Encampment on Otsego Lake, July 12 to 18, 1911, will be issued in a few days. The Rev. J.A. McQuaig is now in Cooperstown and is in charge of the preliminary arrangements for the camp."

"It has been deemed advisable in this initial encampment to lay down certain rules which will tend materially to limit the number of boys in attendance. This limitation is not through any shrinking in the spirit of hospitality but through foreboding lest the great gathering of boys originally proposed should result in injury to some or even loss of life."

"The executive board of the national committee of the Boy Scouts of America has forwarded the invitation of the citizens of Cooperstown to the Scout Masters throughout the country to attend the camp, and while the board will not exercise any official supervision over the encampment, the request has been made through James E. West, Executive Secretary, that every precaution be taken to safeguard the health and safety of those attending."

"In this connection it was pointed out that any untoward event would reflect upon scout encampment work in general. It was at national headquarters that not more than from seven to ten boys should be in the charge of any one adult; that to exceed the number of ten would entail too much risk."

"A proposition has come from the boy scouts of Fort Plain extending hospitality to scouts disembarking at that point for the tramp to Cooperstown. Tents will be provided at Fort Plain and enroute."

"During the past week a part of both troops of the Unadilla Boy Scouts have received the regulation scout uniforms recently ordered. They are of the khaki style and lend quite a

Rev. Yale Lyon and the five original charter members
of Troop 1 pose in their new Army-type Boy Scout uniforms.
A.E. Pixley Postcard View, June 1911.

distinguished and business-like appearance to the wearers. Last Saturday afternoon the St. Matthew's scouts thus attired passed down the street to the home of A.E. Pixley where they were photographed. Scoutmaster Lyon looked the biggest boy in the troop. It is understood that when the Unadilla scouts start for the Cooperstown encampment they will take a train as far as Oneonta, from which city the cover the remaining twenty odd miles on foot."

"It is to be regretted that President William H. Taft finds it impossible, owing to the demands made upon his time by pending important legislation now under discussion by Congress to visit the encampment on the opening day and address the scouts. The president recently granted an interview with Dr. McQuaig, expressed great interest in the movement, wished it every success, but found it impossible to attend. The committee has hopes that ex-President Roosevelt will dignify the encampment with his presence."

Troop 1 Unadilla at First State Boy Scout Encampment, July 1911.
Rev. Yale Lyon and his boys strike a pose amid tents and tepee, makeshift camp furniture.
A.E. Pixley Postcard Photo, Troop 1 Archives, courtesy Bruce Bard.

Unadilla Scouts Will Join in the Cooperstown Movement.

"During the late winter months, a city divine, the Rev. Dr. McQuaig lectured at Cooperstown and while there he became charmed with the natural scenery of the place and the historic lore the locality had inherited from the writings of J. Fenimore Cooper. He conceived the idea of making Cooperstown the headquarters of a Boy Scout movement encampment, put his ideas into practice with the result that the plan has been statewide in its acceptance among the Scouts and seems destined, in time, to spread over the country."

"To get the movement started plans have been perfected, with the hearty cooperation of the prominent citizens of Cooperstown, to hold the first encampment this year during the week of July 12 to July 18 and at this date it is believed that from 2,000 to 5,000 Scouts will participate in the outing. They will rendezvous from all sections of [the] state and some are expected from Pennsylvania. The first patrols of both the St. Matthew's and the Christian Endeavor troops of this village will go for a week, and it is being arranged to take the younger members of both troops in automobiles to the camp for at least one day. Accordingly the hearts of local Boy Scouts are on the qiu vive for a good time ahead."

"The attendance of a speaker of national reputation is being sought, among the names under consideration being President Taft, ex-President Roosevelt and Governor Dix. It is also hoped that the committee will be successful in arranging with Major J. Swaddling to attend with his wireless telephone section. Troy expects to send a bicycle corps of fifty boys, who will cover the distance from that city to Cooperstown by wheel."

Off For Scout Encampment.

Unadilla Times, Unadilla, NY, July 11, 1911. "Taking the earliest train out of Unadilla on Wednesday morning went Scoutmaster Rev. Yale Lyon and five of the St. Mathew's Boy Scouts, their destination Cooperstown, where the state encampment of Boy Scouts is being held. The local scouts going were Cecil and Neil Stearns, Charles Hildeth, Thomas McKay and Glen Whittaker, not as many as expected, but all fully accoutered to spend a week in the open on the shores of Otsego Lake. Earl Hoyt of Oneonta joined the party at that city. The plan of hiking the trail from Oneonta to the campsite was abandoned. They may walk back part way. The boys are obliged to prepare their own food, shelter themselves and in other ways imitate true scout life. Today and tomorrow the scouts are to go on expeditions over the territory made famous by J. Fenimore Cooper in the Deerslayer and the Pioneers. A rally is planned to be held on the Clark estate grounds in Cooperstown on Sunday afternoon. Several interested friends of the scouts from here intend to visit the encampment during the weekend. The Vitagraph company has sent a force of operatives to Cooperstown for the purpose of making a motion picture of the scouts, which will be viewed by the patrons of theaters all over the land within a few months."

"The daily press are giving many columns in support of the movement and the Times clips the following from two city newspapers:

"The site chosen for the encampment is located on the west side of Lake Otsego, about two miles from Cooperstown, immediately opposite "Point Judith," in the neighborhood of Leatherstocking Falls, and not far from the trail leading to the scene of the daring rescue of the Indian girl by Chingachcook and Deerslayer, where the latter was taken prisoner. Every inch of that trail is redolent of pioneer days. Boys of two generations will be fired by the prospect of traversing the ground over which Chingachcook, Uncas and their white ally stalked and fought."

"The shade of J. Fenimore Cooper will be invoked to give success to the undertaking. With his spirit pervading the atmosphere of the spots made romantic and immortal by the fascinating first book of the Leatherstocking Tales, the Deerslayer, youthful imagination will see in the broken twigs of the forests Indian signs; and across the glades in the shadow shapes that can not be other than crafty redskins stalking with stealthy shapes to the relief of a friend or the destruction of a foe."

Scouts Back From Encampment.

"The first annual state encampment of the Boy Scouts at Cooperstown came to an end on Wednesday, and while it was far from being as largely attended as expected, only about 200 scouts participating, the ends of the project were gained and in coming years the effect of this year's encampment will be evidenced by greater enthusiasm and larger attendance. Tents were struck and the Unadilla scouts reached home the next day. Field Secretary Orwig of the new National Council Office, New York City, accompanied by the former president Theodore Roosevelt, arrived at the camp last Thursday, and the boys given signal practice, taught bed making, cooking and the art of making Indian springs, besides given instruction in lifesaving and resuscitation. The storm of Sunday made it necessary that the exercises in Cooperstown be held in the Presbyterian church, where the scouts were addressed by Hon. Daniel Frisbie, speaker of the Assembly, Brigidier General Edgerly of the U.S. Army, Vice Admiral Savoy of the British Navy, and Dr. J. Aspinwall McQuaig, the latter being the person who conceived the idea of the encampment and was in the main responsible for bringing it to pass."

"The encampment was visited on Monday by eight members of the C.E. Boy Scouts of this village attired in their uniforms, who had originally planned to spend the entire week in Cooperstown, but instead went into camp above this village. With them went Marvin Teed, Harold York, and Raie Benedict."

--Yale Lyon scrapbooks, Vol. 1 (July 1910-March 1914), pg. 45-49, Unadilla Times, June-July 1911.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Early Boy Scout Uniform and Insignia Notes

Early Uniform. Recent research into early Boy Scout uniforms and insignia in preparation for outfitting our Centennial Celebration Team in authentic 1910 reproduction uniforms tells us that the first BSA uniform was an impractical copy of the US Army uniform, which disregarded the far more practical English uniform designed by Baden-Powell. The early BSA uniform had no neckerchief, and Scouts generally wore knickers with leggings and a button-down coat with metal insignia on their hats (adults were allowed to earn merit badges and ranks right along with the Scouts).
The uniform coat was buttoned with embossed BSA metal loop-shanked buttons in two sizes, the smaller used on the pocket flaps. The buttons were fastened by a wire ring threaded through the loop behind the buttonhole. Metal four-hole buttons were used on knickers or breeches to attach suspenders or stays used with a belt.
Early Insignia. During the 1910s, Boy Scouts typically wore their insignia as follows: On the lower right sleeve, Boy Scouts wore a combination of service stripes indicating their years of service. A green stripe stood for one year of service, and a red stripe for three years of service. Above the service stripes on the right arm the Scout wore his Second of First Class badges, as well as any combination badges. Above the right breast pocket, Boy Scouts (in the last year or two of the 1910s) sometimes wore "Boy Scouts of America" strips, and above the
left breast pocket they wore Life, Star and Eagle badges, or any other special awards they had received. On the flap of the left breast pocket, a new Scout wore his tenderfoot pin. Finally, on the collar of the jacket Boy Scouts sometimes wore metal "BSA" pins and troop number badges.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Unadilla Troop One...Two...Three...Forty-Eight? Ready, Set and Go!

Although it was from the very first a Boy Scouts of America policy to make Scouting available to any boy regardless of church affiliation, occasionally religion was a barrier. Troop 1's membership was limited to the first five charter members and other youth of the St. Matthew's Protestant Episcopal Church, though Yale Lyon admitted he allowed a few Roman Catholics and

St. Matthew's Church (right) and the mansard-roofed Rectory (left), Unadilla, NY, c.1912.
In the early years, the troop met in the rear upstairs recreation room of the Rectory.

some "out-of-town" boys on his roster. Glen Whitaker, an admitted infrequent Catholic, rebuffed as not being "one-of-us" when he showed up to join at an early troop meeting, resolved the problem by immediately joining St. Matthew's Church.

Other boys in Unadilla formed a second troop under the leadership of a Miss Sarah Polhemus, the daughter of the Presbyterian minister. This second troop, at first referred to as the "Christian Endeavor troop" and later as Troop Two when it received official recognition in 1916, frequently shared camping and hiking activities with Troop 1 and were friendly rivals in sports and Scout skills competitions. Newspaper accounts show both troops were active as early as 1910 but the second troop apparently suffered from a lack of male leadership.

Miss Polhemus (later Mrs. H. Lee Ward) complained, "We tried to have the troop registered in 1910 but there was not a man leader and I could not find one until Amasa Teed took over as Scoutmaster." Registered officially in 1916, the troop's charter lapsed in 1920, was reinstated in 1922, and lapsed again for good in 1925.

The second troop had originally planned to participate in the first State encampment at Cooperstown in 1911 with Troop 1, but at the last minute instead camped on the banks of the Susquehanna above the village. The encampment was to be held in Cooperstown on July 12-18, and although the promoters had planned that some 2,000 to 5,000 Scouts would participate, only a few hundred actually showed up for the event.

Newspaper accounts of the time reported that the first patrols of both the St. Matthew's and the Christian Endeavor troops planned to go for the entire week; arrangements were made to take the younger members of both troops to the camp for at least one day.

Another BSA policy limited membership in the Boy Scouts to boys 12 or older. To extend camping and outdoor skills to younger boys in Unadilla, Yale Lyon devised the Lion Patrol for boys aged 10-12 years. Members of the Lion Patrol were registered with the Pioneers of America, another Scout-like organization started in 1915 by students and faculty at Hamilton College and for which Lyon sat on the Board of Directors (see article Rev. Yale Lyon and the Pioneers of America elsewhere on this blog). Yale Lyon also by 1918 was using Baden-Powell's The Wolf Cub's Handbook in unofficial Wolf Cub programs for his younger boys that continued
as late as 1929.

Daniel Carter Beard's confusingly named Boy Pioneers of America, also initially accepted younger boys but had merged with the new Boy Scouts of America movement by 1916; the Pioneer Division of BSA continued to serve young rural boys after the merger until the mid-1930s when the Cub Scout program was instituted.

The Presbyterian Church in Unadilla sponsored yet another troop, Troop Three, in 1924. Otschodela Council records show Troop 3 was organized for more than five years before it officially registered with the BSA with a Rev. J. Graydon Brown as Scoutmaster. Short-lived, it was dropped from the council's roster in 1926.

Due to the fact that many of the boys of Scout age lived out of town, a school troop was formed in 1938 under the leadership of Mr. Glen Harris, the school principal, Mr. Charles Schultz and Mr. August Kehr. The troop met in the Unadilla High School during the "activities" period, went on hikes and camping on holidays and weekends, and attended the highly publicized Otschodela Council Camporee and Circus in Walton that year. School Troop 48 averaged about 15-20 boys, changed leadership often (Charles Schultz was Scoutmaster in 1939, William Cunningham in 1940, and August Kehr in 1941.) In 1941, the school troop membership was chartered with Troop 1, and though it continued under the leadership of teachers and faculty of the Unadilla School throughout the war years, it ceased to exist as a separate troop.*

*School Troop 48 registration records in Troop 1 archives; Otschodela Council registration records were lost during the council office flooding in 2006. Unadilla Central School yearbooks for the years 1938-1940 provide a good insight into school-sponsored Boy Scout activities during that period.