Boy Scout Patch BlanketIt is only five more weeks until Boy Scout Troops and Cub Scout Packs around the country celebrate B.S.A. Scout Anniversary Week. Local units will be setting up displays in their communities to promote their Scout programs. We will probably be doing the same here in Melrose. We have four businesses in town that allow us to set up displays. Soon it will be time to plan what will be on the tables in each establishment. (Check out our 2012 displays at http://www.melrosetroop68.org/blog/?p=2892 )

If you have been following this blog you know that I completed my first Scouting patch blanket a month or so ago. It took several months for me to finish it but I think it turned out well. I plan to use that blanket as a part of one of the displays this coming year. I think it will attract a fair amount of attention.

I have now been working on the second blanket. This new blanket will hopefully display the rest of my patches (from 1996 to present day). I am also hoping their will be some room left over to apply future patches. At least a couple years worth. I think it will, but I will not be sure until I add a few more rows. If not, well, I guess I may have to start a third blanket.

Back to Scouting anniversary week. I really would like to be able to display both blankets, but that means I will not be able to take several months to complete the new one. In fact, I cannot even take several weeks. I have five weeks left. I guess I will not be able to drag my feet this time. I finished the third row tonight, and laid out the patches for the fourth row. As you can see, this will bring me to the year 2001. I guess you could say I have 14 years worth of patches to apply in a one month period. Lucky for me there are not as many patches in this 14 period as there was in the previous 14 years.

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    christmasscoutsMerry Christmas everyone! It is time for my favorite Scouting themed Christmas story – The Christmas Scout.

    In spite of the fun and laughter, 13-year-old Frank Wilson was not happy. It was true he had received all the presents he wanted. And he enjoyed the traditional Christmas Eve reunions with relatives for the purpose of exchanging gifts and good wishes. But, Frank was not happy because this was his first Christmas without his brother, Steve, who during the year, had been killed by a reckless driver.

    Frank missed his brother and the close companionship they had together. Frank said good-bye to his relatives and explained to his parents that he was leaving a little early to see a friend; and from there he could walk home. Since it was cold outside, Frank put on his new plaid jacket. It was his FAVORITE gift. He placed the other presents on his new sled. Then Frank headed out, hoping to find the patrol leader of his Boy Scout troop. Frank always felt understood by him. Though rich in wisdom, he lived in the Flats, the section of town where most of the poor lived, and his patrol leader did odd jobs to help support his family.

    To Frank’s disappointment, his friend was not at home. As Frank hiked down the street toward home, he caught glimpses of trees and decorations in many of the small houses. Then, through one front window, he glimpsed a shabby room with limp stockings hanging over an empty fireplace. A woman was seated nearby . . . weeping. The stockings reminded him of the way he and his brother had always hung theirs side by side. The next morning, they would be bursting with presents.

    A sudden thought struck Frank : he had not done his ‘good deed’ for the day. Before the impulse passed, he knocked on the door. ‘Yes?’ the sad voice of the woman asked. ‘May I come in?’ asked Frank. ‘You are very welcome,’ she said, seeing his sled full of gifts, and assuming he was making a collection, ‘but I have no food or gifts for you. I have nothing for my own children.’

    ‘That’s not why I am here,’ Frank replied. ‘Please choose whatever presents you would like for your children from the sled.’

    ‘Why, God bless you!’ the amazed woman answered gratefully. She selected some candies, a game, the toy airplane and a puzzle. When she took the Scout flashlight, Frank almost cried out. Finally, the stockings were full.

    ‘Won’t you tell me your name?’ she asked, as Frank was leaving.

    ‘Just call me the Christmas Scout,’ he replied.

    The visit left Frank touched, and with an unexpected flicker of joy in his heart. He understood that his sorrow was not the only sorrow in the world. Before he left the Flats, he had given away the remainder of his gifts. The plaid jacket had gone to a shivering boy.

    Now Frank trudged homeward, cold and uneasy. How could he explain to his parents that he had given his presents away? ‘Where are your presents, son?’ asked his father as Frank entered the house.

    Frank answered, ‘I gave them away.’

    ‘The airplane from Aunt Susan? Your coat from Grandma? Your flashlight? We thought you were happy with your gifts.’

    ‘I was very happy,’ the boy answered quietly.

    ‘But Frank, how could you be so impulsive?’ his mother asked. ‘How will we explain to the relatives who spent so much time and gave so much love shopping for you?’

    His father was firm. ‘You made your choice, Frank. We cannot afford any more presents.’

    With his brother gone, and his family disappointed in him, Frank suddenly felt dreadfully alone. He had not expected a reward for his generosity, for he knew that a good deed always should be its own reward. It would be tarnished otherwise. So he did not want his gifts back; however he wondered if he would ever again truly recapture joy in his life. He thought he had this evening, but it had been fleeting. Frank thought of his brother, and sobbed himself to sleep.

    The next morning, he came downstairs to find his parents listening to Christmas music on the radio. Then the announcer spoke: ‘Merry Christmas, everybody! The nicest Christmas story we have this morning comes from the Flats. A crippled boy down there has a new sled this morning, another youngster has a fine plaid jacket, and several families report that their children were made happy last night by gifts from a teenage boy who simply called himself the Christmas Scout. No one could identify him, but the children of the Flats claim that the Christmas Scout was a personal representative of old Santa Claus himself.’

    Frank felt his father’s arms go around his shoulders, and he saw his mother smiling through her tears. ‘Why didn’t you tell us? We didn’t understand. We are so proud of you, son.’

    The carols came over the air again filling the room with music: ‘. . .Praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on Earth.’

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      Near the end of this month’s Scenic District roundtable meeting I asked the Scouters if many of them had any of the digital copies of the old Boy Scout themed novels written in the early 1900′s. I had noticed that many of the Scouters owned smart phones and tablets and that they used these during meetings, so I thought it was a valid question. I do not think a hand went up in reply. That surprised me a little.

      I have collected over 50 of these old books in the open source epub digital book format. They are novels featuring the adventures of Tom Slade, Roy Blakeley, and Pee Wee Harris. You may recognize those names from the Boy’s Life magazine cartoon pages. There are stories of the Banner Boy Scouts and the members of the Eagle Patrol. All of these old novels have fallen into the public domain. I think I have more eBooks than I do actual hardbound books in my collection.

      I understand the epub eBook file works well with many current tablets, including the iPad, but does not work with the Amazon Kindle tablets. I guess Amazon would rather sell you a copy in their own format. However, I hear that there are free programs available to reformat epub files to something the Kindle can use. It is just an extra step needed to work on the Kindle.

      I asked the Scouters if they would like a digital copy of these books. Most of them said yes. This morning I got busy and started burning cd’s of the 50 Scouting novels for the next roundtable. I will bring 12 cd’s to the meeting. It will be a nice bonus for some of the Scouters who take the time to come to the roundtable. If more than one Scouter from a troop attends I am sure they would be willing to share the cd of books.

      How many of these digital novels do you own?

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        2001JamboPatchesThe 2001 National Jamboree may be ancient history to today’s Boy Scouts but it is not to me. Not yet anyway. That is the Jamboree I attended as a scoutmaster of one of two troops sent from the Central Minnesota Council. I had a great time at Fort A.P. Hill, as did the Scouts in my troop.

        I did not get to do a lot of patch trading while I was at the Jamboree. That is why I occasionally check eBay and other sites to find patches at decent prices to fill in the council shoulder patch and Order of the Arrow patch collections. I recently found one auction on eBay which netted me a six patch set from the Old North State Council. The six patches have the same design but sport different color borders. I like this addition to my collection.

        I have a question for you readers. Were there only six patches from this council, or were there others? Did the different color borders represent six troops sent or did they mean something different? Thanks for the help.

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          2013 auction prizesI was looking for a way to further excite the Boy Scouts of Troop 68 to attend troop activities and earn their advancement when I came up with the idea of having a troop auction for prizes at the end of the year. I do not remember if I got the idea from another troop or if I came up with it myself. I do know that it has been a part of our program for over twenty years, and that other Scouts leaders have developed their own auction programs after listening to how Troop 68 conducts theirs.

          Here is how it works. The Scouts earn “troop bucks” each time they go on an outing and for each merit badge and rank they earn during the year. They earn $25 per troop outing. They earn $50 for each merit badge. They earn $100 for attaining Tenderfoot, Second Class, or First Class; $150 for attaining Star or Life Rank; and $200 for reaching the rank of Eagle Scout. These bucks are then used to bid on prizes during the “troop auction” held after the December court of honor.

          When I first began doing the auction I would hand out troop bucks at each court of honor. The bucks were actually Monopoly money with our troop stamp stamped over the top of it so the boys could not use Monopoly money from their own games. The Scouts had to store the money themselves. If they lost it it would not be replaced.

          The Monopoly money worked well for a few years, but then Monopoly money disappeared from store shelves. Another problem was that brothers started pooling their money together to bid on the bigger prizes. That was not the way the bucks were meant to be used and was very unfair to those Scouts who did not have brothers in the troop.

          I created a troop bucks certificate on the computer to replace the Monopoly money. The certificate contained the Scout’s name. amount earned, and the year earned. Certificates could only be used by the person who’s name appeared on it. The year on the certificate helped to keep things honest for the one prize we auctioned for which only bucks earned that year could be used to bid. I also awarded the certificate once a year, at the December court of honor. That created less work for me and less chance of Scouts losing the bucks before the year’s last court of honor.

          Any unused troop bucks could be saved to be used another year on regular prizes. Once a Scout turned 18 years old his troop bucks became non-valid. It was interesting to watch older Scouts try to use up any troop bucks they owned at their last auction before they turned eighteen. Bidding is done in $5 increments.

          We I started the troop auction we based the amount spent on prizes by the amount of advancement earned during the year. A certain amount would be added to the kitty for each merit badge and rank. The more the Scouts advanced, the more money was thrown into the kitty, and the more prizes or bigger prizes could be bought. That worked well until the troop started shrinking. Ten Scouts had trouble earning a large fund so we changed the financing to a lump some. I also based the number of prizes on the number of Scouts currently enrolled in the program. We did not need 30 prizes when we only had eight Scouts.

          I also wanted to keep the cost of the auction down so I began looking for prizes throughout the year, not just a month before the auction. I started getting pretty good and finding nice items for free or little cost.

          Each auction contains some “traditional” items. There is the Boy Scout Handbook, because someone is going to wear theirs out during the year. Boy Scout bolo ties and merit badge sashes have also been used as prizes on a regular basis. I usually try to include some sort of camping gear. And then there are some fun prizes, of course.

          Tonight is Troop 68′s final court of honor for the year. The troop auction will immediately follow it. The picture posted with this article shows most of the prizes which will be auctioned. A merit badges sash is missing, as is the $20 cash prize for which only 2013 troop bucks will be allowed to be used to bid. There will be a lot of first time bidders at this auction. It should be a good night.

          Has your troop does anything like this as a part of your program?

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            Philmont ArrowheadSome of my favorite Scouting memories are from my trips to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. I have been lucky enough to attend Philmont six times: once for scoutmaster training and five times on a trek with the Boy Scouts of Melrose Troop 68. Needless to say, Philmont holds a special place in the heart of this long time Scouter.

            It has been ten years since Troop 68 has planned a high adventure trip, so at Wednesday’s committee meeting I brought up the idea that we should start planning for one. We discussed briefly each of the four national bases, the approximate costs of each one, and transportation issues. We talked about the two to three years of planning and fundraising required for this type of outing, and how it would give the younger Scouts something to look forward to as they get older.

            Of course, I am partial to Philmont. The Charles Sommers Canoe Base would be the closest and least expensive. The Florida Sea Base would be a fantastic adventure but also the most expensive, probably. We talked a little about the Summit in Virginia, but we did not have much information about that base yet. The committee decided to bring it up to the Boy Scouts to get their opinions.

            The theme of the Scenic District’s January roundtable is High Adventure. I am going to have to try to get our scoutmaster and maybe a few Scouts to attend this meeting. In fact, one of our Scouts participated in a Philmont trek this summer so I am going to ask him to come to the meeting and give us a brief summary of his experience.

            Talking about Philmont at the committee meeting. Upcoming theme about high adventure bases at the next roundtable. Add to this that I was watching the Philmont Documentary Collection DVD this week and you can see that I have been thinking about Philmont a lot recently.

            On Thursday I received a surprise when I looked through my mail. There was a letter from Philmont Scout Ranch. Talk about timing! I thought it was a brochure about the treks available for Boy Scouts. My surprise grew when I discovered it was an invitation to attend the Philmont Training Center in the summer of 2014. I was grinning from ear to ear.

            I called Bob, my district executive, to ask him about this. After all, you do not get an invitation unless your council recommends you. He explained that my name was on the short list that the council thought might be interesting in attending a course at the ranch. He also told me that he was thinking about attending a course himself. If I decided to attend, and our courses happened to be the same week, we could drive down together.

            As I hung up the phone I could not help but think about all the Philmont related coincidences that happened this week. Add to this that 2014 would be the 30th anniversary of my first trip to Philmont (for training) and the 10th anniversary of the last time I attended the ranch (for a trek with the troop).

            It almost seems like I am being called back to those starlit skies above, those aspen covered hills, and the country that I love. Is it time to return to Scouting’s paradise?

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              myscoutingDo your Youth Protection Training online, they tell us. Take your position specific training through the website, the council promotes. You should be doing your troop advancement through the internet, not through paperwork, I am told.

              How the hell am I suppose to do anything online through MyScouting.org when the website does not even recognize me?

              I have been a registered adult leader with the B.S.A. through Boy Scout Troop 68 for over 33 years. I am also on roundtable staff and a member of the Cub Pack committee. I once was able to use the myscouting.org website without a problem. Then something happened a year ago, right about this time. I was up for Youth Protection Training and tried to get on the website to take it once again. I could not get on it. I tried Safari and Firefox on my home computer ( I use a MacPro). I tried at work. No luck there either.

              I call my district executive and explained the situation. I have to admit, he went out of his way to try to fix it. He even called the national office. It took over a month, and a phone call from someone at the website, but it got fixed and I was able to do the YPT online. I have to say though, I was very frustrated with the B.S.A. during that time period.

              I have not been back to the myscouting.org site for several months. I had no need to visit it. I had a nice visit with my district executive this afternoon and we talked about internet advancement. Our troop does not currently use it. I told Bob that he should email the information to me and I would take a look at it.

              Meanwhile, I tried to get into myscouting.org on my Windows based computer at work. I tried Internet Explorer and Firefox. I could not enter the site through either one. (The server could not sign you in. Make sure your user name and password are correct, and then try again.) Maybe I forgot my password, I thought. I tried to reset the password but the site threw a page at me with a lot of code which meant absolutely nothing to me. Okay, I will try again at home and see if I was using the right password.

              After supper, I received the information from my D.E., including my username and password. Surprise! They was the same ones I had tried using at work. I tried it again on my home computer. I used Firefox and Safari. Neither one worked! We are back to playing that locked-out game once again.

              Can you tell that I am frustrated once again? The national and council offices want us to do virtually everything online these days, yet they lock me out of my account so I can do nothing. It is like I do not exist. If this is how the national office wants to treat me after 33 years of volunteer service I feel like it is time to tell them to forget it. If they don’t want me as a volunteer anymore then just tell me. If I am so low on their radar that they cannot even keep my account active then maybe it is time to quit this organization and find one that does appreciate the work I do for it.

              I have dropped an email to my D.E. to let him know what is going on again. I feel sorry for him, because I know what he went through last time this happened, but what can I do? I know no one at the national website, and from the looks of it, they do not know me.

              Have any of you out there have any similar problems with this website?

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                Scouting Village 2013It is finished. I have set up my Scouting Village for the 2013 Christmas season. What do you think of it?

                The village fills a 2.5 foor by 3.5 foot sheet of plywood. It contains the 2012 and 2013 collection pieces. Except for the Trading Post, that is. But at least I have two Ranger Cabins. ( I am still a little upset with myself over that.) I also bought two lighted tents because a campsite is just not a troop campsite with only one tent. I set the church higher than the rest because it is a smaller scale. I thought it might help it look further away and more in proportion to the rest of the scene. The campsite is across the river from base camp because I do not think a troop would want to camp next to the busiest part of camp.

                The “snow” was picked up at a hobby store. The blue river is simply felt paper. The scene contains two sets of the trees from the Scouting Village collection. The rest of the trees came from my Dept. 56 Dickensville collection. I think the trees really add to the looks of the campsite. I also found a little wood pile which fits well with the Boy Scout cutting wood for the evening fire.

                Have you set up your Scouting Village yet? How does it look? Send a picture or two to me and I will feature it in a post to this blog.
                Click on the pictures to see the scene in more detail.

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                I wonder what pieces will be added to the village next year. I bet I will need a bigger sheet of plywood.

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