The troop committee was called to a local restaurant for a special meeting on September 13th. As the troop’s assistant scoutmaster I was invited to attend. So was the district executive. The scoutmaster was not informed of the meeting.
The troop had a problem. The current scoutmaster was not doing his job. He did not attend many of the meetings. He did not attend many of the outings. The committee needed to talk to the district executive about their options. After a short discussion one member asked the D.E. if they could fire a scoutmaster. The D.E. replied that they could. After all, it was their troop.
I had to leave the meeting at that point to go to the Cub Scout Pack’s monthly committee meeting, so I did not get to partake in the rest of the troop committee meeting. Later, on my way home, I noticed that a few of the Boy Scout committee members were still at the restaurant so I stopped to talk to them. The committee chairman invited me to sit down. They gave me a quick update about what I missed. They decided to fire the scoutmaster. They appointed me as the troop’s new scoutmaster.
I was a little stunned. No one had asked me about it. True, I was already doing most of the scoutmaster’s job, but I was only 21 years old. I was not sure I was ready for such a responsibility. The committee thought I was ready and promised their support. What could I do? I accepted the position.
That was in 1981, thirty years ago. I had been an assistant scoutmaster for only 16 months. I wanted to do a good job as scoutmaster so I took all the training the council and district provided. I attended nearly all the monthly roundtable meetings. I poured myself into the program because I believed in what Scouting had to offer.
The core principles of the program remain the same as they were thirty years ago, but their have been some changes. Women are now allowed to be scoutmasters. Two adults must now attend any troop functions. Youth protection training is now mandatory. Councils now do background checks on any adults who wish to hold a leadership position. Oh, and skill awards have disappeared from the advancement program.
The remember when the first boys joined the troop who were born after I had become a scoutmaster. “Wow. I am getting old,” I thought to myself. Then the parents of some of the Scouts were younger then me. I have now been a scoutmaster so long that those first Boy Scouts from the ealry 1980′s are old enough to have Scout-age boys of their own.
Thirty years. Wow. I have seen hundreds of boys go through the Scouting program. I have been to the Charles Sommers Canoe Base, attended a national jamboree, and been on five treks at Philmont Scout Ranch. I have participated in two dozen week long summer camps and attended nearly a thousand troop meetings. I have seen 19 boys earn the Eagle Scout award while a member of Troop 68. Hopefully there will be one more before the end of the year.
During the last couple of months I have been thinking about retiring as the troop’s scoutmaster. Thirty years is a long time. I have accomplished my goals. I have given it a good run, but I have been growing tired of the meetings and outings. I do not think I have much more to offer as a scoutmaster. Another factor is that Melrose has not been supporting Scouting like it once did. The troop is down to nine members. Only two of them live in town. If the community is not willing to support a Scouting program by getting involved then maybe it is time to let it go.
Like I said, thirty years is a long time, but I do not regret it. Sure, there have been some rough times, but there were a lot more great times and great boys that came through the program. I think I can honestly say I have done well as the scoutmaster of Melrose Troop 68.
If I hadn’t done a good job, the committee would have fired me. Wouldn’t they?