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.