Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Two lifetimes in Scouting.

At their home in Quincy, Mass., Scoutmasters John and Buell Fuller, who are twins, sit back and reminisce about how Scouting has changed since they joined in 1919. They have both stayed active either as Scouts or scoutmasters for 65 years, and now head a troop of handicapped and mentally retarded Scouts and Explorers. ``We turned out the light by throwing a shoe at the candle,'' says John of the camp outings before the days of flashlights. ``They won't let you put candles or kerosene lamps in tents nowadays.''

``There's no longer any need to teach Scouts how to stop and catch a runaway horse,'' adds Buell.

About these ads

Back in the 1920s, the Fullers say, getting to the wilderness wasn't nearly the task it is today. ``We'd put on our backpacks and be far into the woods in just half an hour on foot,'' says Buell. ``Now its a good 50 miles by car or train if you're lucky.'' The packs themselves were horseblankets rolled with a belt, and there was no such thing as a sleeping bag.

``Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt insisted the Boy Scouts of America add two words, -- clean and reverent -- to the British oath which was `A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, and brave,'' says John. ``After they did that, 75 percent of the early troops were formed through churches.''

The Fullers say many of the military trappings have disappeared: constant saluting, learning to march in military formation carrying 6-foot staves. ``And when we went to Scout camps, we had to dig our own latrine, now they have flush toilets,'' says John.

The high point in Scouting, they say, was just after World War II. ``After the war you could take a Scout troop in a Memorial Day parade, each carrying a bouquet of spring flowers just picked from nearby woods and destined for Civil War graves. You couldn't do that today without harassment.''

Some other obvious changes? ``We used to have a special ax that cost $1.75 in the 1930 handbook,'' says Buell. ``Today it costs $30.''

``Uniforms were $14 then, $75 now,'' adds John.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.