Book’s success ignited Boy Scout program

By Don McAlavy: Local columnist

How great were the days of yesteryear and how filled with the promise of those ahead for the youngsters who follow in Scouting and the various Council programs.

Thanks to the author who started it all.

General Douglas McArthur’s farewell address to the Congress of the United States was a most stirring reminder of one’s “Duty, Honor, Country”.

The rankest Tenderfoot learned the Scout Oath, the Scout Laws, and the Second Class Scout, the First Class Scout, the Star Scout, the Life Scout, and the Eagle Scout and all the newer departments can thank those men like Minor Huffman who instilled such timeless principles to our eternal advantage – deep within the breasts of east of us.

Scouting did not just happen. It came about because of a need for a good boys’ program.

In the early part of the 20th century (like 1903) the cities were growing. Families were moving from the farm to the nearly industrialized areas.

Boys’ organizations were beginning to spring up over the country.

Those feeling their way, included Ernest Thompson Seton’s Woodcraft League; Daniel Carter Beard’s Sons of Daniel Boone. Others included Boy Knights, King Arthur Knights, Boys Brigade, Big Brother, Y.M.C.A. Knights of the Holy Grail and many others not so well known.

Credit for the development of Boy Scouting program must go to Baden-Powell. Through his experiences in training young city boys for service in the wilds of Africa, he found that the important thing was to teach them to take care of themselves in the rugged countryside.

This resulted in training in tracking, signaling, reading compass, how to read maps, first aid, outdoor cooking, use of hand axe, how to camp with a small group, what to do if lost and how to judge distances.

When Baden-Powell returned to England in 1903 from the Boer War, he was the hero of all England. He had withstood the siege of Mafeking and people were clamoring for copies of his book called “Aids to Scouting.” This had been written to supplement the army manuals and did not include combat information.

Baden-Powell was surprised to find his book was being used by some schools and other youth groups.

He was soon approached by prominent people to incorporate this in a boys’ program. Learn by doing was already a part of his planning. He talked to many top people in England, many were educators. They all encouraged him to continue his study.

In 1907, he held a camp at Brownsea Island. Boys were selected from all economic areas of England. They were enrolled in four patrols, with Baden-Powell as Scoutmaster.

This was the first time to use the term Boy Scouts as it is now understood. This first Boy Scout camp was a huge success. Baden-Powell now set out in earnest to write the book “Scouting for Boys.” This was completed in 1908 and with this new manual, the Boy Scout program was off to a good start.

Word of this movement spread like a prairie fire across the world!