Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cub Scouts

I moved to Seward in the summer before third grade. When the school year started and I became acquainted with all my classmates, I saw that many of them belonged to Cub Scouts. As I remember, the Cub Scouts in my class included Gene Meyer, Bill Schwich, Jim Hardt and Scott Brinkmeyer. I saw them wearing their uniforms occasionally, sometimes even at school, and I know that sometimes they were not available to play with me, because they were involved in Cub Scout activities.

Cub Scout Book. Image taken from

I expressed an interest in joining, and one member -- I think it was Scott Brinkmeyer -- brought me a lot of reading materials about joining. I understood from what he said that I would have to memorize a lot of oaths, codes and creeds from the manuals in order to become a Cub Scout, so I memorized all such passages I found in the manuals I had received. I thought I would have to recite all these passages in order to join.

Here are just a few examples of passages that I memorized:

Cub Scout Promise
I, (say your name), promise
To do my DUTY to GOD
And my Country
To HELP other people, and
To OBEY the LAW of the Pack

Law of the Pack
The Cub Scout follows Akela.
The Cub Scout helps the pack go.
The pack helps the Cub Scout grow.
The Cub Scout gives goodwill.

Cub Scout Motto

In all, I must have memorized at least ten times that much. Also, I prepared myself to answer many questions about Cub Scouts.

My parents, however, discouraged my interest in joining. I think they did not want to spend money on uniforms and other stuff and did not want to spend time on the activities. My parents were looking at me as only the first of seven children who might become involved in scouting, and they didn't want me to set a precedent for my younger siblings.

I was not upset that I did not join Cub Scouts. I never saw any Cub Scout meetings or activities, so I did not know what I was missing.

I did admire the Cub Scout uniform. There were a few days every year when the scouts wore their uniforms to school, so I did see the uniforms on those occasions. Nobody can deny that the Cub Scout uniforms looked really cool, especially with the various patches.

Cub Scout uniform.

From my experience reading the manuals, I also admired the wildlife hierarchies -- the Tiger Packs, the Wolf Packs, the Bear Packs, etc. What a great gimmick for capturing the interest of young boys!

I was a close friend of Jim Hardt through my entire time in Seward, and he was a Boy Scout. When I visited his home, I often read his Boy's Life magazine and other such reading materials. I always remained interested, and I never had any negative attitudes about Scouting.

I think that a lot of the boys in St John did not complete the transition from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. For example, I don't think that Gene Meyer or Bill Schwich became Boy Scouts.

There were a few girls who were Brownies and then Girl Scouts. As I remember, Candy Safarik was an example.

A few of the kids who became Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts acquired a lot of patches and emblems, and they wore them on a sash over their uniform. I thought that was a bit much, but I just perceived that as part of a different world, right in Seward, that I never entered.

Gene Meyer added:

Cub Scouts in Seward were under Pack 256, then broken down by Dens. A den had 5-10 boys. The first year you were a Wolf, the second year you became a Bear and the third year you became a Lion, then to Webelos, then to Boy Scouts.

I recall books that listed various activities that you had to achieve in order to earn arrow badges (or in Boy Scouts, merit badges) -- things like recognizing the names of trees, doing wood carving, learning how to tie knots, building a bird house or going on a camping trip. The first arrow badge was gold, those following were silver. When you had completed enough activities to earn an arrow badge, you (or your parents) turned in proof to the Cubmaster. Then, at the once-a-month Pack meeting, in addition to some program, you’d get your name called and receive the arrow badges in front of the rest of the Pack. Your mom would then sew the arrow badge on your uniform.

Cub Scout Neckerchief
Cub Scout Neckerchief Holder
Cub Scout Wolf Badge

Images from top to bottom:
Cub Scout Neckerchief
Cub Scout Neckerchief Holder
Cub Scout Wolf Badge

Each year, the Den’s parents (mothers) would organize Den meetings, usually after school once or twice a month. It was on that day of the week that you wore your Cub Scout uniform to school. The Den members would meet at one of the kids’ houses and some activity would be completed, usually toward an arrow badge, then we’d play or wrestle, have Kool Aid and cookies and go home by supper. Sometimes we rehearsed skits, which we then presented to the whole Pack at the next Pack Meeting.

The one experience all Cub Scouts remember is the Pinewood Derby. Every kid got a kit and had to build a model car out of a block of wood.

Cub Scout Model Car

At the appointed Pack Meeting, the Derby was held, where the cars were allowed to race down a long inclined track -- the winner being the car that rolled the fastest.

Every year, there was a Scout Jamboree (usually in Lincoln or Omaha), where all the Packs would gather and march with flags around the center, listen to someone talk and break into groups for some activity. (Sounds a bit like the Youth Nazis, now that I recall.) I think I went to only one of those. And there was summer camp, which I never went to, since it was for older kids.

By Webelos, I dropped out, since there were cooler things to do when you’re in seventh grade than wearing badges.

Webelos Patch

Webelos Patch

I liked Cub Scouts, because it rewarded positive activities. I don’t recall that Seward had a Girl Scout/Brownie organization, but I could be wrong. They did have Camp Fire Girls…which was the same kind of thing with a different name.

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