History of the Unknown Scout

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Scary Alley (Click on picture if interested in purchasing a print.) Art by: Hideyoshi
Scary Alley (Click on picture if interested in purchasing a print.)
Art by: Hideyoshi

There is a legend, a tale of sorts. This legend would come shortly after the time of Jack the Ripper. In fact, this story would also take place in London—near the dark streets where Jack the Ripper himself had plagued the city. One poor, unfortunate soul, W.D. Boyce, an American newspaper man, would find himself in a potentially perilous predicament as he attempted to find safe haven from the elements of the night. With the fog whisking around him, as if to ensnare him, Boyce found himself hopelessly lost. When out of the darkness—what would appear? Yes, it was an unknown Scout, a boy. This brave young lad stepped out, came to Boyce’s aid, and guided Boyce safely to his destination. Sorry for the let down…neither guts nor gore here.

My story, like the many that have preceded this event, has been slightly embellished to portray this night as a significant event; however, this night would be just like any other night for this unknown Scout. This Scout, a member of the Boy Scout Association of Britain, was just behaving in a manner that one would expect from a Boy Scout. As Boyce insisted on tipping the lad for his time and efforts, the unknown Scout refused, explained that he was “merely doing his duty”, and went about his way. Boyce was so overwhelmed with this young boy’s dedication to help others that he took time out of his busy schedule, for he was en route to a safari, and stopped by the Boy Scout Association so that he could gather information about it.

W.D. Boyce completed his safari and headed back to Chicago, where he lived, to start the leg work for what would become one of America’s largest youth organizations. During this time there were several organizations for boys, but Boyce’s Boy Scouts of America would leave them all in the dust. When Boyce established the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) on February 8, 1910, he would leave all rival “boy’s organizations” behind him. This was a feat he easily accomplished because of two main reasons: his business strategy and the YMCA. The main difference between the BSA and all of the other like-minded organizations is that Boyce decided to run the BSA as a business, not just as a club for boys. Having support and personnel supplied by the YMCA didn’t hurt either. What most people don’t know is that the YMCA pretty much ran the entire show for the BSA’s first year. YMCA executive Edgar Robinson and YMCA official John Alexander were key in the operations of the BSA. They set up an office in Manhattan, New York. They established a national office, developed a temporary scouting handbook, got an endorsement from the Boy Scout Association in Britain, and continued to seek a Congressional Charter from Congress. (As a special treat, you get a pictorial timeline of my history in the Scouts!)

Young-Cub-Scout

As Boyce’s BSA was run like a business, it did what businesses do best–take out the competition. Immediately, the BSA started to absorb other youth organizations. American Boy Scouts, Boy Pioneers, Boy Scouts of the United States, National Highway Patrol Association Scouts, National Scouts of America, Woodcraft Indians, and YMCA Scouts… (poof) all gone. Whether closed up shop or absorbed into the Boy Scouts of America, these organizations were all directly affected by the business-like power of the BSA. With the successful take off of the BSA, Edgar Robinson was ready to return to his former YMCA life. A new leader was needed to run the BSA office and James West, a lawyer and child’s advocate, was selected to run the organization.

One of James West’s first tasks would to be the re-writing of the British scout handbook, to adapt it to American boys. He was significantly, if not solely, involved in the expansion of the Scout Oath in adding “To help others at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” He also added “brave, clean, and reverent” to the Scout Law. He insisted on adding article III to the constitution of the BSA (also known as the Religious Principle):

Boy Scouts of America believes that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.

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(I am in the back, left corner.)

Here we end. This is the start of the Boy Scouts of America and the history that directly deals with the current situation our country faces with the BSA. I, myself, as was most of my family, was in the Boy Scouts of America. I understand that every organization is allowed to pick and choose as to whom they allow in, but I must admit that I am surprised by the recent decision to continue the exclusion and ban of gays. I honestly believed that when the United States military lifted its ban on homosexuals that other organizations (such as the Boy Scouts of America) would be not so far behind.

Boy-scout

10 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent post–and I loved the pictures. And I agree. The sad part is that there still are and will be gay men and boys in the BSA, they just don’t know about it and won’t acknowledge it. Sad.

    • Great post! I, too, grew up in scouting and even earned the distinguished rank of Eagle. As a fellow American and scouter, I understand your concern with BSA’s recent decision. However, I must confess, it is probably for the best. The acceptance of gays into the military is commendable, but a completely different scenario. Those men and women are voluntarily putting their lives on the line for these United States; they deserve the support of their nation. BSA, however, is an association for developing, vulnerable children. Parents should be able to feel comfortable sending their child on a weekend camping trip with a group of other boys without worrying that their son might be pressured or manipulated into participating in certain activities. The ages of boy scouts ranges from around 10-17 years old. A high school senior is significantly different from a 5th grader, and those younger scouts should be protected, regardless of whether or not it offends someone.

      Furthermore, the Scout Oath, part of the foundation on which the Boy Scouts are established, states, “On my honor… To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” For over 100 years, scouts have taken an oath to be morally straight. In my opinion, that includes abstaining from homosexual relations.

      • Thanks for stopping by Sven! But for your sake, I hope that there are no gays in your children’s schools or churches. Most church youth groups span from 12-18 year old… lock-ins, summer camps, mission trips… That is A LOT of unsupervised alone time with kids of all ages and sexual orientation.

  2. Sven, I appreciate your comment. Gay men and women who are in the military are adults, with the ability to make mature choices. Children are vulnerable. Here’s where we diverge.I Ihink you are promulgating the opinion that gay people are all predators, which is far from true. I think, knowing that children of all ages begin to have sexual “awakenings” so to speak, that one of the worst things for gay people is to grow up feeling unnatural and strange. Perhaps Scouts could provide a good role model for such children. Learning at an early age that you are not a freak, and can be as strong and capable as the next person. And I don’t believe there’s a conflict between being homosexual and being morally straight. I think those are two different issues. I believe wholeheartedly that being gay is not a choice.

  3. I don’t know anything about those “other” boys groups but I’d not be surprised that one reason the kids liked the scouts was because of those para-military uniforms. Compare them to what the Brownshirts wore…very striking similarity.

  4. I never was a Boy Scout, and I have no reverence for the organization as others do. My son was a cub scout and I was the pack chairman. My son chose not go into the Boy Scouts, He was gay, although he had not outed himself at that time. I know that he did not feel welcome in the scouts, as no gay person was welcome there. He killed himself when a senior in college.

    There’s no moral to this story, The Scouts can go their own way. I believe it has come to the point that most people don’t care. Are the Scouts relevant, anymore?

  5. Great post! Thanks for reading mine, as well.

    In answer to Bob’s question above my comment: Yes, I believe the Scouts are still relevant, which is why their decision is so regrettable.

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