Archive for the ‘Program’ Category


In the last article I printed a copy of the letter I sent to parents in 1986 when I was a scoutmaster having problems with the troop and ready to resign from the position. Part of that letter was a questionnaire that I asked the parents to fill out and send back to me. I really did not expect many questionnaires to be returned, but I received a pleasant surprise. (Keep in mind, this was long before everyone had access to the internet and email. We sent letters to each other by the US Postal Service!)

Here is a copy of that questionnaire:

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TROOP 68 PARENT QUESTIONNAIRE

NAME: ____________________________________________

Do you know the Scout Oath and Law? If not, would you be willing to learn them?

Do you think that the principles set forth in the Oath and Law are good goals to strive for?

Would you be willing to work with your son(s) on developing a proper and positive attitude about Scouting?

Do you know the requirements of the award(s) which your son(s) are currently working on?

Do you know what a merit badge counselor is? What is it? What subjects do you feel you could be a councilor for?

What kind of discipline actions should a scoutmaster be allowed to take?

What is your opinion of Scouts wearing the Scout uniform?

Are you willing to make sure that your son participates in Scout activities?

Would you be willing to spend two hours, or more, a month toward helping out and developing a better troop?

How important do you think it is for parents to attend a court of honor?

How do you think your son feels about Scouting in general? How do you feel about Scouting in general? What do you think about Scouting in Melrose?

How many hours a week do you think a scoutmaster should spend working on Scouting?

Please write any additional comments below.

You may not believe this, but I still have the questionnaires that were returned to me. I have them in a file in my Scouting cabinet. Nineteen people replied, which represented most of the troop when you count how many families had brothers involved. It gave me a pretty good idea about how the parents felt on the topics. For example, only 5 parents checked knowing the Scout Oath and Law, but nearly everyone replied that they would be willing to learn them.

How would your troop’s current parents answer these questions?

(And this irritates me. I cannot get the picture of the hats to rotate properly.)

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    If you have been a leader in the Scouting program for a few years, or any sort of program for that matter, you have probably reached a point when you have said to yourself, “Why am I doing this? Am I the only one who cares? Why do I put up with these problems and these people?” It has happened to me several times during the 30 years I have been a leader of a Boy Scout troop.

    The first time I was ready to hang up my scoutmaster hat was in 1986. I was a 25 year old scoutmaster, on the job as the scoutmaster for less then five years. The boys had become an unmanageable group, at least in my opinion. I was so frustrated that I wrote a letter to the parents. Then I called a friend of mine who lived nearly 100 miles away but had one of those new personal computers and a dot matrix printer. I asked him if he could type this letter and print enough copies for me to send to each family of the troop. After he agreed to do it I drove to his place that night. It was early in the morning when I arrived back home and mailed the letters but I didn’t care. I wanted the parents to know how I felt about things. I listed the problems I saw in the troop, and gave some solutions on how we all could solve them. Here is what I wrote in that letter 24 years ago…

    FROM THE DESK OF: Scoutmaster Steve B
    TO: parents of the Scouts of BSA Troop 68
    REGARDING: Problems of our troop.

    Dear Parents,

    The BSA program strives for three aims: 1) building character, 2) fostering citizenship, and 3) developing metal, moral, and physical fitness. Could our troop be failing to do this? I think so.

    The month of April was the worst month, at least in my opinion, in our history as a troop. At the April 15th troop meeting the boys reached an all time high for rowdiness, goofing off, not listening, and not giving a darn. The meeting had to be halted twice to settle things down. It was after this meeting that I almost quit being a scoutmaster. But I didn’t. And I will tell you why.

    First of all, I like the boys and I care about them. I believe that each one has the potential to be a great human being. Second, I believe in the Scouting program. I feel it is the best program in the world that a boy can belong to. Third, I think that you and I both realize that if I quit this troop will more then likely fall apart for lack of a scoutmaster. I do not want that to happen.

    During the week following that meeting I did a lot of thinking about the troop and my involvement with it. Should I stay on as scoutmaster? Is our troop really Scouting? Do the boys really care about Scouting? Do the parents care?

    By the next meeting I found six things wrong with our troop: attitude, advancement, discipline, Scout spirit, uniforms, and participation. Quite a bit, isn’t it? In the following pages you will read my feeling about these six items and my solutions. At the end there is a questionaire. If you as a parent care about your Scout and want Scouting to continue in Melrose, I would like you to fill it out and send it back to me by Monday, May 13th. If you do not send it back, my opinion will be that you do not care about your son being a Scout or Scouting in general. If this is the case, I ask you to keep your son at home. Scouting is a three way partnership between the boy, the scoutmaster, and the parents. If this partnership is not complete, the battle is lost.

    And I am finally sick and tired of battling parents and boys.

    Now, to get down to business. PROBLEMS:

    1) Attitude
    I feel this is the most important problem. If this problem was solved, everything else would probably fall into place.
    Problem – The boys just do not seem to care about Scouting anymore. They want all the fun and games involved with Scouting, but they do not even try to act like Boy Scouts. They will often fight things that deal with Scouting (for example – knots).
    Solution – This one is up to the boys. Either they start trying to be what a Scout should be, or as far as I am concerned, they are out of the troop. I have several boys that would like to be good Scouts and I will not have their time wasted by kids who have an attitude problem. I have tried discussing this with the Scouts. It is now your turn.

    2) Advancement
    This is a way of measuring a boy’s interest in Scouting. But most important, it builds confidence in the boy and recognizes him for his achievements. This is extremely important at his age.
    Problem – Advancement in our troop is almost at a standstill. I knew it had been bad, but I did not realize how bad until May 3rd when I did a report on troop advancement. The report is on the 24 boys who were in the troop for at least three months. Out of these 24 boys there is 1 Life, 1 Star, 4 First Class, 5 Second Class, 7 Tenderfoot, and six Scouts without a rank. Over one half of the troop is Tenderfoot or lower. These thirteen Scouts averaged 9.3 months with no rank advancement. Eight boys have not advanced in rank in over one year. Four of these have not advanced for over a year and a half.
    Solution – The solution comes in two parts. First, and most importantly, you have got to show that you care. Sit down with him and calmly talk about it. Do not yell at him or he will shut you out. Find out how he feels about it. And then, this is very important, volunteer to help him, and then carry through with that promise. It is going to take some of your time, but he is worth it, isn’t he? Secondly, I have tried to push the boys along. It is now time for me to take more drastic action. Any Scout who has not advanced at least one rank during the previous eleven months as of 5/31/85 will not be allowed to attend any troop monthly outings until he does advance. The only exception to this rule will be summer camp.

    3) Scout Spirit
    Scout Spirit is defined as following the Scout Oath, Law, Motto, Slogan, and Outdoor Code, and having a positive attitude about things.
    Problem – The boys’ Scout Spirit is at a very low point right now.
    Solution – Other then to keep reminding them about it, I do not really have a solution. All of us, myself and you parents, must try to live up to the Scout Oath and Law, setting the example the boys need.

    4) Discipline
    To put it bluntly, a lack of it.
    Problem – There is not enough of this in our troop. There are two groups of people who are at fault, the adult leaders and the parents. When I say the adult leaders, I am referring to one person, namely myself. This is the main area in which I must improve. I realize that I have been too lenient in disciplining and have let the kids go too far. But I have one problem. How far can I go in disciplining them? After all, they are not my kids.
    Solution – First of all, I must get tougher and do more disciplining. This will be hard for me because I hate doing it, but the attempt must be made. Secondly, our troop is presently at 29 members, which is too much for one man to handle. Therefore, I ask that at least one other parent should be present at all troop functions or they will be cancelled.
    Are you willing to give two hours a month to help your Scout and Scout troop?

    5) Uniforms
    The scoutmaster handbook states, “Just as it identifies the wearer as a Scout, the uniform reminds him that he is a Scout and influences his actions. The Scout uniform is also a leveler. Whatever a boy’s background, when he puts it on he shares equally in the program.”
    Problem – The boys do not like wearing the uniform outside of a meeting. Sometimes the parents side with the boys.
    Solution – The Scout handbook, scoutmaster handbook, Council and National Office state that whenever a Scout is on a Scout Function then he shall wear the uniform. As I told the boys last month, “You don’t have to wear your uniforms, and you don’t have to come to Scout activities either.” If a boy wants to be a Scout in our troop then he will wear the uniform.

    6) Participation
    Problem – First, the boys sometimes feel they do not have to come to meetings or activities unless they fell like coming. Wrong! Part of Scout Spirit is actively participating in meetings, outing, good turns, and service projects. Secondly, it seems that some parents feel this is a baby sitting service. There are a number of parents in this troop who seldom help out. A couple have not helped at all yet. They keep saying they are busy and don’t have the time.
    Solution – Well, you should make the time! They are your kids, not mine. If you can not find the time to help out with the organization your son belongs to, then I can not find the time either. From now on I expect a lot more parent participation at troop meetings, outings, activities, committee meetings, and such. I am not going to try to handle 29 boys by myself. And I do not expect those parents who are already helping a lot to help anymore then their share.

    I will be asking all of you to make commitments to your son and the Scouting program. If this troop is to work properly, we will have to work together. I myself am making a firm commitment toward helping the troop. At the end of April, I dropped out of every other organization I was involved with except two – Boy Scouts and the city council. I did this for a couple of reasons. One, I was getting involved with too many things. I finally realized this and set my priorities.

    Secondly, I strongly believe that our children are our greatest resource. If we don’t take the time to teach them and show them what is right, who will?

    Third, the boys need adult guidance. By getting out of all the other activities, I will have more time to spend with the boys. But remember, your guidance is the most important to them.

    Fourth, when I took the scoutmaster position, I promised the troop committee that I would dedicate myself to the troop. Well, I have been slacking and it is time I got back on the right track.

    I have said a lot in this letter, and I have probably made a few of you angry. But I have been quiet for too long and it is time these things were said. I would like to hear your comments and remarks. Please remember to fill out the questionnaire and mail it back to me.

    Thank you.
    Your scoutmaster,
    Steve B.

    Looking back at this letter today I am amazed by what I actually wrote. I am also amazed to see that things have not changed that much during the last 25 years. We are still having a few of these problems with today’s troop.

    I am curious, what do you think of this letter by the 25 year old scoutmaster in 1986?

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      The Boy Scouts of Melrose Troop 68 recently spent a weekend at Parker Scout Reservation, the Central Minnesota Council’s camp. One of the highlights of the weekend was a tour of the newest building on the site, the Miller Castle.

      The castle was built with Cub Scout camps in mind. The building really does give the impression of a medieval castle nestled in the woods. It features a grassy courtyard surrounded by a 15 foot high masonry wall, complete with an outer catwalk. Inside, the medieval theme continues with banners hanging from the walls, chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and suits of armor placed around the great meeting hall. The meeting hall also contains a small stage that is accessible for interior and exterior programs.

      The castle was built for year round use. Unlike some of the camp’s buildings, this one includes heating and air conditioning, insulated walls, and insulated windows. There are separate restrooms facilities for boys and girls, and also separate shower facilities for men and women. The two large bunk rooms can sleep 32 Scouts each. There are separate sleeping quarters for the adults. A large modern kitchen is found off the great meeting hall.

      When the Melrose Boy Scouts walked up to the castle’s outer walls I could tell they were impressed. As they entered the courtyard the stood and looked around in awe. When they entered the great meeting hall their imaginations were flowing. “We need to play a game of Dungeons and Dragons in here”, they remarked.

      I took a few pictures of the boys touring the Miller Castle which I plan to post to the troop’s website in the next few weeks. In the meantime you can check out the photos at the council’s website found at http://www.bsacmc.org/ under Camp Parker.

      Thanks for Sharing!

        The Patrol Leader Council planned it. The committee approved it. The parents and troop members were told about it, and liked it. The Boy Scout Troop 68 program for 2009-2010 is now official.

        The theme for September is campsite safety, with Totin Chip and fire safety being the key points. The troop will attend a merit badge weekend at Parker Scout Reservation as their activity for the month.

        The theme for October will be Personal Fitness and will touch on that merit badge. A weekend camping trip will be held south of town. It is also the month of the Scouting For Food Drive, and the month of the troop’s fall fundraiser.

        In November, the troop will switch from personal fitness to personal management as the meeting theme. The monthly activity will be an all day event which will include skating, a pizza party, a theatrical movie, and late night bowling.

        During the December meetings the Scouts will be reviewing special awards available through the Boy Scouts of America. The troop will spend a day downhill skiing at Powder Ridge and follow that with their annual Christmas Party. The year’s final court of honor (award night) will be held this month, along with the troop auction.

        Citizenship will be the theme for the meetings in January. An overnighter is planned for the month’s activity. Past overnighters have included table tennis, darts, chess, and Wii bowling tournaments. And, of course, their will be movies.

        The B.S.A. will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in February 2009. Troop 68 will begin the month by celebrating Scout Sunday and plan to have several displays about Scouting set up around town. The theme for the month will be Scouting Heritage. A weekend outing at Camp Stearns is the planned activity.

        Family Life merit badge will be the theme for March. The activity will be a camping weekend at parker Scout Reservation, located north of Brainard. The troop will hold a court of honor near the end of the month to recognize Scouts for their achievements.

        The boys will be practicing their first aid skills during the month of April. The troop plans to attend the Central Minnesota Council’s Ripley Rendezvous which will be held at the Camp Ripley National Guard base.

        During May, the Scouts will be honing their roping skills and work on pioneering. Troop 68 will spend a weekend at one of their favorite camping spots, Camp Watchamagumee. The Order of the Arrow’s spring conclave will be held this month.

        The month of June will begin with a paper drive and end with a community project by helping to clean up the city park after the festivities. A camping trip at King’s lake is planned. The year’s second court of honor will be held.

        There will only be one troop meeting during July as the troop prepares to spend a week at Many Point Scout Camp, located north of Park Rapids.

        Troop 68 is planning to cover a new topic in August as we explore the excitement a geocaching and GPS gadgets. A weekend at Minnesota’s Sibley State Park will finish our program year.

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          Boy Scout Troop 68 really did not have a regular meeting place during its first year in 1980, so we would sometimes have our meetings in the clubroom of our sponsor, VFW Post 7050. It worked out fairly well but the boys could not play any rough and tumble games there. Some parents did not think it was very appropriate to hold Boy Scout meetings next to the VFW’s bar but we really did not have many choices at the time.

          The troop held its first (and one of its few) Halloween parties at the VFW clubroom. Of course, it was a costume party and we did have a contest for the best costume. Many of the Boy Scouts participated. We had the typical Frankenstein monsters and vampires. Two of the boys must have had some help from their mothers because they looked pretty good in a wig and dress. One of my favorite costumes was the Scout who came to the party with two heads. I was dressed up as a clothed chimpanzee using facial appliances from a costume kit I bought that was based on the type of makeup used in the Planet of the Ape movies. It was an awesome costume, if I do say so myself. Unfortunately, no one thought to take a picture of me.
          It was getting a little late in the season when we decided to have one more overnight camping trip. The leaves had already fallen from the trees but the snow had not yet arrived. We drove several miles north of Melrose to the Lake Sylvia park and public access. We did not realize that camping was not allowed at the park until a sheriff happened to drive by and see us there. He was very nice and very understanding, and allowed us to stay the night but instructed us not to camp there again.
          There was not much to do at the park. It did not take long before a couple of boys picked up some sticks and began having a sword fight. Or was it a lightsaber fight? A couple more boys joined in. Soon, the whole troop had sticks, including the adults. We broke the troop up into two teams for the big battle. It was interesting watching the sword fights take place in (somewhat) slow motion. After all, we did not want bashed fingers or hands.
          After supper the boys competed in a timed obstacle course. The course was created using things found at the park. It included bench jumping, trench leaping, stump leapfrogging, and log crossing, along with other things. The course was a hit with the boys.
          It was about this same time that I moved into an apartment. Some of the boys decided my place would be a great place to hang out. I had a decent stereo system along with a recordable cassette tape player and a couple of microphones. We began making spoof versions of radio and tv shows, recording them onto cassette tapes. I still have a couple of those tapes, but unfortunately, many have been lost over time. Little did I realize at the time that those early shows would develop into my current hobby of making videos and podcasts.
          Isn’t it funny how some things work out?
          Pictures of the year’s activities can be seen by clicking HERE.
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            The year of 1980 was the first full year of the newly reformed Melrose Boy Scout Troop 68 which had started up in December of 1979. I joined up with the troop in April as a nineteen year old assistant scoutmaster. There was about 15 youth in the troop at the time, ranging in age from 11 to 13 years old. There was not much of a planned program that first year. We planned things from month to month, but soon we began doing yearly planning with the boys doing most of the planning.

            The troop’s first camping trip was held during the summer at Uhlenkolts Lake, located about six miles from town. The grass was knee high when we arrived. It did not take long before we were pulling off the wood ticks. Lots of wood ticks. One boy came up with the idea of collecting all the ticks in a soda can which we then threw into the evening campfire. We could hear the popping sounds as the ticks exploded in the heat.

            Once it was dark we placed the boys throughout the woods for a snipe hunt. Yeah, I know, we can not do that in today’s Scouting program, but back then it was not a big deal. One of the boys claimed he almost caught one of the elusive birds.

            It was only a one night camping trip but for many of the boys I believe it was the first time camping without their family.

            The troop did not attend a week of summer camp in 1980. There had not been enough time to prepare for it.

            In August, the troop went on a one day canoe trip down the Sauk River which runs through Melrose. The boys and the adults had a great time. We even did a little fishing and swimming. Did we follow the safe swim and safety afloat guidelines? I don’t think so. I do not think anyone even knew about those guidelines yet. That came later after we attended training.

            The troop attended the fall camporee at Parker Scout Reservation in September. In addition to the various activities, I remember waiting in line for Saturday’s supper and our troop receiving a ribbon during the Saturday evening campfire program. But the thing I remember most is the great egg war that involved three troops.

            There was a short time Saturday during which the Scouts had free time. Some of the boys wanted to play catch but no one had thought to bring a ball to camp. A suggestion was made to use an egg. The campsite was shared by three troops so more boys began joining the game. The circle began to grow. The boys began tossing the eggs the more force. Some boys became too cautious about catching the breakable missiles. After a couple eggs were broken a few rules were made. One was that if you threw an egg too hard and the egg broke the catcher of the egg would get to throw an egg back at you.

            The rules worked for awhile. Until someone threw an egg hard at another guy. Of course, the egg broke so the other Scouts were egging him on to throw an egg back. One Scout even ran off to fetch another egg to throw. Anticipation was high. Would the Scout through the egg back or not? I did not think he would. Until he did! That set off the egg battle. Scouts ran back to their camps to fetch the round white breakable ammo. By the time it was over three troops were nearly out of eggs for Sunday breakfast.

            Luckily, no one got hurt, but it sure did make a mess.

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              The Northern Star Council has an interesting website called Scouting: Good For Life. In addition to some local videos and commercials it lists ten reasons that Scouting is good for you life and family. Here is their list:

              1. Scouts are Leaders
                More than two thirds of Scouts say there have been real life situations were Scout experience has helped them be a better leader.
              2. Scouts are Helpful
                Over two thirds of Scouts’ parents and Scouts themselves say their willingness to help other people since their involvement in Scouting has increased.
              3. Scouts are Responsible
                Over two thirds of Scouts’ parents and Scouts themselves say their willingness to take on added responsibility has increased since their involvement in Scouting.
              4. Scouts have Fun with a Purpose
                By enjoying the outdoors and gaining new experiences in the company of friends and mentors, Scouts build confidence and competence.
              5. Scouts earn Better Grades
                Statistically; Scouts earn more “A’s” than their non-Scouting counterparts.
              6. Scouts have Higher Levels of Education
                91% of men who were Scouts completed high school, compared with 87% of men who were never Scouts, and 35% versus 19% earned college degrees!
              7. Scouts earn Higher Incomes
                Men who were Scouts five years or more earned average household incomes of $80,000, compared to $61,000 by men who have never been Scouts.
              8. Scouts are Respectful
                80% of Scouts say that Scouting has taught them to treat others with respect.
              9. Scouts Do Their Best
                78% of scouts say that Scouting has taught them to always give their best effort.
              10. Scouts Live by the Principles of the Scout Oath and Law
                84% of scouts say the values they learned in Scouting continue to be very important to them today.

              The site can be found at http://www.scoutinggoodforlife.org/

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                The Sauk River runs through the city of Melrose, the home of Boy Scout Troop 68. This river nearly cuts the city in half. It is not very large. In fact, A teenager could through a football across most portions of the river. Below the dam in Melrose, in the city park, a person can walk across the river and not even get your chest wet.

                The Sauk is an “old” river, with a lot of twists and turns as it flows from Sauk Centre to the Mississippi River in St. Cloud. It is actually a nice river for canoeing. It is quite scenic, and at times you will not see any signs of civilization. But it also has its challanges. There are curves of strong currents, downed trees, and the occassional wire fence stretched acrossed its width.

                Yes, you read that correctly. The Sauk River meanders through a lot of farmland and pasture. There are parts of the river in which a farmer owns pasture land on both sides of the river so he stretches a single wire across the river to keep the cattle from “escaping” the pasture. There are many wire fences along the bank of the river. Many of them are electified with enough current to keep the cattle from walking through it.

                In 1994, the troop was canoeing down the river for a weekend outing. We had permission from one of the farmers to camp overnight in his pasture. Between the river and the pasture was an electric and barbwire fence. The Scouts were very careful as they moved the gear from the canoes to the campsite. No one wanted to receive an electric shock.

                After supper, some of the guys became bored. A couple of them walked up to the fence and decided to see how strong the current was by giving it a quick touch. More boys joined the crowd. They noticed that some guys received a larger shock then other guys due to the soles of the shoes.

                They began experimenting. Two guys grabbed hands. One would touch the fence to see if the second would receive a shock. A third joined the line. It did not take long before all the guys had formed one line to see who would get a jolt, and how far the current would travel. After a short period the boys grew tired of this and began looking for other things to do.

                The following morning was cool. A heavy dew covered the ground. An 18 year old alumni of the troop who had joined us for the weekend walked out of the tent in his barefeet. He walked across the dew covered campsite and, for some unknown reason, grabbed the electric fence. His yelp was loud enough to alert the whole camp that the current was still flowing through the wire.

                As we loaded the gear into the canoes the Scouts were very careful handing the packs and bundles over the fence. No one wanted to experience the same shock that the eighteen year old had received that morning.

                View some pictures of the trip at http://melrosetroop68.org/Web%20site%20yearly%20highlights/yh94.html

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