PhilmontPTCpatrol1984My first trip to the Philmont Training Center (PTC) was shortly before my 24th birthday in 1984. It was my first trip on a plane. It was my first trip away from Minnesota on my own. In fact, it was my first trip anywhere on my own. Yes, I was quite nervous. Was it worth it? Yeah sure, you betcha!

That training course was “Boy Scout Skills For Scoutmasters”. Scoutmasters from around the country came to learn about doing a great job in the role they held. The instructors were Carl Nelson and Jim Boeger. They did a fantastic job of leading the conference and made it both fun and enjoyable. I was even able to get Jim Boeger to sign a copy of his book The Scoutmaster.

The course participants were divided into patrols, just like a Boy Scout troop. I was a member of the Daniel Boone Patrol. I think the age of the members of our patrol spanned forty years, but it did not matter. We were all there to learn new skills and have fun. And we did. (pictures of this trip can be seen in my Flickr album at
https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevejb68/sets/72157622517598000/

It will be thirty years to the month, this month, when I travel to PTC for a second training conference. Bob, my district executive, and I will be taking a new course for 2014, “Increasing Advancement By Delivering Excellence”. According to the brochure:

It has long been said in the BSA that the best advancement comes through participation in exciting activities. Units presenting programs with “built-in” opportunities to fulfill advancement requirements not only retain youth through the rewards of recognition and develop confidence through advancement, but they retain youth because every meeting, every outing, every adventure, leaves them wanting more. How is such programming planned and promoted? What is the responsibility of the council and district advancement committees? What can commissioners, trainers, and members of camping committees do? If you are a unit leader, a volunteer involved in the advancement program, a commissioner, a trainer, or anyone else connected with district operations that is interested in building the rate of advancement through excellence in program delivery, then join us at Philmont!

Bob and I are looking forward to this conference and bringing back new ideas for our troops and district. I also look forward to meeting Scouters from around the country. I hope to get a little patch trading done while I am there. I was not prepared for trading council strips when I first attended in 1984. In fact, now that I think about it, things could be a bit different this time around. After all, in 1984 there were no home computers, iPhones, iPads, or digital photography. I thought I took quite a few pictures last time. That will be a small number compared to what I plan to take this time.

If you are there during this time I invite you to look me up. Let’s trade patches!

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    Philmont SMT19840008I had been a scoutmaster for only two and a half years when I received a letter in the mail inviting me to attend the Philmont Training Center (PTC) for the Scoutmaster Fundamentals course. I had always wanted to go to the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico so I jumped at the opportunity. The troop committee thought it was a good idea and agreed to fund a portion of the trip. The Melrose business community provided most of the rest of the funds. So, in 1984 this 23 year old scoutmaster received his first experience at the ranch.

    I have returned to Philmont five times to participate in backcountry hiking treks, but I have never returned to the PTC for another training training course. The last time I was at Philmont was in 2004 when I was an advisor for a trek crew. As the years slipped by I began to think that would be my last trip to the ranch. I was beginning to miss the place.

    I received an invitation to attend the training of my choice at PTC early this year. I was thrilled to receive the letter but also a little skeptical since I had stepped down as the scoutmaster of Troop 68 two years ago. Yes, I remain active with the troop and serve on the committee but why would the council recommend me for training at Philmont Scout Ranch? No particular course was recommended this time. I would be allowed to sign up for whatever interested me.

    I called Bob, our district executive, and asked him what was up with this. He replied, nothing special, no particular reason. The council thought I might be interested, that’s all. We chatted a few times about this over the course of the next few weeks. Before I knew it we had both registered to take a course in June, this month.

    I am thrilled to be going back to Philmont. The course is just the carrot on the stick for me. I am really looking forward to seeing the silver on the sage, starlight skies above, and aspen covered hills once again. Philmont truly is a Scouting paradise. And a great place to have a training center.

    I wonder if the old stagecoach is still there.

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      alexeagleOn Sunday, May 4th, there was a court of honor held for Melrose Boy Scout Troop 68′s newest Eagle Scout. Alex is the 22nd Scout to attain this honor since I began serving as an adult leader of troop in 1980.As far as I know, there was only one Eagle Scout in Melrose before 1980, thus Alex would be the troop’s 23rd Eagle Scout, historically.

      Twenty Boy Scouts earned the rank of Eagle Scout while I was the scoutmaster of Troop 68. The last two, Thomas and Alex, were Boy Scouts during my last years in that role. It is great to see them continue the advancement trail and received Scouting’s highest higher. In another two or three years I hope to see the first Eagle Scouts of Troop 68 who joined Scouting after I retired as the scoutmaster. That will fell a little different but no less important.

      Alex asked me to serve as the master of ceremonies for his court of honor. This was the first time I have ever served in the role for such an event. As the scoutmaster I would usually get a chance to speak about the Eagle Scout and his accomplishments during the ceremony. I presented the Eagle Scout rank at several of them or was asked to serve in some other role, but I was never a master of ceremonies. And you know something, that was fine with me.

      This court of honor was going to be a slightly different experience, but I was looking forward to it. One of the duties, of course, was to introduce the guest speakers and presenters. There was also a spot on the program for me to talk about Alex and his Scouting accomplishments, so that part of things has not changed.

      As I have for the last twelve Eagle Scouts, I presented a video featuring pictures of the Eagle Scout’s years in the troop along with some family pictures. Alex picked out the music himself, and brought along a few pictures he wanted to include in the video. I also snuck in one or two that he did not know about until he saw the video during the court of honor. This video will be posted to the Melrose Scout Productions Podcast later this year.

      I also video recorded the ceremony. I will edit it and burn it to dvd as I have for nearly all of the Troop 68 Eagle Scouts. The dvd is a great way to remember this important moment in the Scout’s life. His parents will also receive a copy.

      Alex’s Eagle Scout court of honor went very well. A lot of people were in attendance. There were good guest speakers, and four previous Troop 68 Eagle Scouts attended and took part in the ceremony. I think the younger Scouts were quite impressed with the whole ceremony, as were many of the family members and guests. I had a good time being the MC, and I was told a did a good job. I do believe I talked to much at one point but you know, I could have talked for much longer. Alex is a good Eagle Scout. There is always a lot to say about good Eagle Scouts.

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        bloggerI am not really sure why I started doing it. Maybe it was to keep a kind of online journal. Maybe it was to see if anyone would be interested to read what I had to share. I did know I did not want to write about how a Scouting leader should be trained or how an adult could be an effective leader. There were already blogs about that subject. I just wanted to share my thoughts and experiences.

        My first post to “A Scoutmaster’s Blog” appeared on May 18, 2006, eight years ago! Blogging was just starting to gain in popularity. There were not many blogs about Boy Scouting at that time. I wanted to keep mine fun and, hopefully, entertaining. There have been a few changes over the years. I switched from Blogger to WordPress, which has worked out well. Two podcasts became a part of the blog. I have even had a few guests writers.

        One of the biggest changes was when I stepped down as the scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 68 at the end of 2011. I gave a lot of thought to changing the name of this blog but finally decided to leave it alone. Some of the names I had thought about changing to were already taken by others. Besides, I will still be writing from a scoutmaster perspective. It is hard not to after holding that role for over 30 years.

        I am still very active with Troop 68. That means I will still have things to write about. Hopefully, you will continue to find these posts fun and entertaining, and maybe even gain a bit of knowledge or two. Who know, maybe there will be a tenth anniversary of “A Scoutmaster’s Blog”. That is not that far away anymore.

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          2014flags2The Boy Scouts of Melrose Troop 68 will be doing it again this summer. I believe this is the fifth time they will be doing it. The Scouts have fun and the people in the community enjoy it. What am I talking about? The Boy Scouts will once again be handing out small U.S.A. flags along the parade route before the parade begins in Melrose on June 28th.

          We ordered this year’s “made in America” flags from the United States Flag Store. The ones we chose are the 4″ x 6″ stick flags that they currently have on sale for only $0.17 each. They are manufactured at the factory in Pennsylvania, printed in bright colors on cotton fabric, and securely stapled to a 10 inch natural wooden stick. We ordered these last year and people along the route really liked them. They can be found at
          http://www.united-states-flag.com/usa-stick-flag-4×6-no-tip.html

          When we first started doing this project several years ago we bought the cheapest flags we could find which were made out of plastic. Unfortunately, they were not made in the U.S.A. and by the third year people started refusing to take a flag because they were not American made. They had a good point, but we had a limited budget. So, do we buy American made and order half of number of flags, or do we keep ordering the ones not made in America?

          Thankfully, when we were ready to purchase flags last year, the United States Flag Store ran a sale just at the right time. We could order the quantity of flags we wanted and stay in budget. The Scouts handed out all 1500 flags before the parade. Unfortunately, the flags did not say “made in America” on them, so when people asked the Scouts had to tell them they were made in Pennsylvania.

          The flags for this year’s parade arrived last week, another 1500 of them, paid for once again by Melrose VFW Post 7050. I checked them out and once again they are not stamped that they are made in America. They are great flags, but I really wish they were stamped. It would be nice for people to know they were made here in the U.S.A. without having to ask about it.

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            EagleScoutThomasSHas it really been five months since I last posted a video to the Melrose Scouting Productions Podcast? I guess so. Time to get busy with that once again. After all, I do have a few more videos to share with you.

            This video is a slideshow of the Scouting life of Eagle Scout Thomas Schwinghamer. Thomas became an Eagle Scout early last year and held his court of honor outdoors in the spring. Unfortunately, this video was not a part of the court of honor since it was an outdoor ceremony, but I did include it on the DVD of the event. Just in case you are wondering, the song used is Faith Of The Heart by Russell Watson.

            The video can also be found on his Eagle Scout page on the troop’s website. Thomas was a member of two troops as a Scout, finishing his Eagle Rank while a member of Melrose Troop 68. Thomas in now in college but still helps with troop activities a few times a year.

            Click here to DOWNLOAD and watch this Podcast.
            Subscribe to the Melrose Scout Productions Podcast at http://feeds2.feedburner.com/melrosescoutingproductions
            or through iTunes  (and rate the show).
            Don’t forget to leave a comment below, or at the iTunes store.

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              A Time To TellThe theme for the Boy Scout Troop 68 meetings in April was personal safety. The troop had a local police officer come to the first meeting to talk to the Scouts about how to stay safe and what sort of things officers look out for when dealing with youth. It was my turn to talk about safety during the second troop meeting. I grabbed my flat screen television with the built-in DVD player and my copy of A Time To Tell. We would be watching some of the videos during the meeting.

              A Time To Tell is a series of videos produced by the Boy Scouts of America. The DVD contains five videos. According to the scoutstuff.org website: With introductions and “reality checks” by teens for teens, A Time to Tell presents a variety of situations that young people may encounter. These scenes stress the importance of the three R’s of Youth Protection: Recognize strategies and situations used by child molesters to isolate an adolescent that can lead to attempted molestation; Resist attempts of child molesters; and Report individuals who attempt to molest or who have molested in the past.
              http://www.scoutstuff.org/bsa/literature-media/dvd/educational/a-time-to-tell-dvd.html

              Due to the subject matter of the videos I invited all the parents to attend and watch the films with the Scouts. Several of them took the offer. Due to the time limit I was only able to show three of the videos. After each video I would ask the Scouts a couple questions and hold a short discussion. Later, as the boys played during their game time, I had the chance to talk to the parents. They all agreed that the videos did a good job of getting the message across to the boys and that we did a good job of highlighting the important parts of the videos.

              Have you ever used the A Time To Tell videos within your own troop? How did the Scouts react?

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                waffle supper 2014Boy Scout Troop 68 of Melrose conducts three fundraisers during the year. In the fall we participate in the council’s popcorn sales. For the last few years the other two fundraisers have been a Dad’s Belgium Waffle meal. We have been holding a supper a week before Good Friday and a breakfast the first Sunday in October.

                The troop usually does very well with these three fundraisers but last fall we did not do very well with our waffle breakfast. The pre-sales ticket period of time lapped over the council popcorn sales since the council sales began earlier then they used to. The popcorn sales went well but the breakfast proceeds were the lowest we have seen in decades.

                This spring, the scoutmaster and I talked to the Boy Scouts about the importance of having a successful meal fundraiser. Yes, they would earn credit for camp for each ticket they pre-sold but the meal fundraisers were the main ones used to keep the cost of the yearly program to an affordable level for the families.

                For example, each year the troop participates in the council’s annual Ripley Rendezvous, a weekend outing at the Camp Ripley National Guard Base in Minnesota. The cost for each participant is around $40. The troop has traditionally paid about $20 of this fee. Due to the troop not doing very well last during last fall’s breakfast our troop finances were getting a bit low, so the troop was only able to apply $10 to the cost of this year’s outing. As we explained to the Scouts and their families, we either work together to make the fundraisers successful or it will cost more out of the family pocketbook.

                The Boy Scouts took the message seriously this spring. Most of them did go out and sell tickets. In fact, the top seller sold 95 adult tickets, just falling short of his 100 ticket goal. As the current troop treasurer I was impressed when I started adding up the final pre-sales tally.

                The troop served over 430 people during the waffle supper. As we counted the income and started paying the bills we soon realized this fundraiser was turning out to be one of our best fundraisers ever. The troop made a profit of over $2000 which was more then three times the amount we cleared at last fall’s breakfast. The troop should be financially stable for the rest of this program year.

                Now the committee has to look toward this fall and see how we can avoid the problems we had last year.

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