Oliver Jensen’s memoir of Boy Scouting brought on a horrible fit of nostalgia. I’m still lost in a reverie of the days when I almost became a Boy Scout.
It was 1913 or 1914, Scouting was just spreading across the land, and it had finally reached our town of Menominee, Michigan. Word went out that a Scout troop was forming. The Reverend Mr. Curzon, pastor of the Methodist church, would lend the church hall for the new troop. We were just getting well started when Father Jacques called me aside after a Saturday catechism class.
Didn’t I realize it was bordering on mortal sin to get into something sponsored by the Methodists? And in the church itself, yet! he exclaimed. But, Father, we don’t meet in the church, I said. Makes no difference, it’s a Methodist building, he answered. My suggestion that I thought they were only renting the place was dismissed as of no consequence, and it was strongly intimated that the very foundations of the Vatican were quivering—or would when they heard about my actions—and Father Jacques would be held responsible.
Well, I didn’t want the good Father in any trouble. Besides, 1 really didn’t want to go to hell. But I was ashamed to tell the Scouts what a wimp I was, so I just quietly stopped going to meetings. I tried getting into something called Lone Scouts, which I rather hazily recall was sponsored by the magazine Youth’s Companion , but it wasn’t the same as getting together with the other guys.
How times have changed. About thirty years ago I was helping one of my sons with a Cub Scout group, and Mother Church still stood. The kids had changed too. I was demonstrating how to start a campfire, and I handed one of the boys an old-fashioned kitchen match—the kind you light on the seat of your pants, not on the side of the box. He looked at it curiously, turned it end for end, pressed it here and there, and then said, “How do you start this thing?” Shades of Baden-Powell!