Boy Scouts 1952

My cousins Lew and Phil Groebe invited Chip and me to join their Boy Scout troop, which met in a local gym in Morgan Park. We wore Boy Scout uniforms for our weekly meetings and looked forward to the campouts in the wilderness. The troop informed us they had arranged a three day canoe trip for us as the first long camping outing. When the day for the canoe trip arrived a torrential rain came down and plummeted the area making a roaring noise from the powerful wind driving it. This worried me as I was the youngest, had never been in a canoe before, and was new to Boy Scouts. The scout leader drove us to a location that had a number of steel canoes that seated two scouts with their equipment. Since Lew was the oldest and very muscular and I was the youngest, we decided that Phil and Chip should select one canoe, while Lew and I would choose another. We loaded our back packs, tents, and sleeping bags in the canoe in a driving rain storm as the winds blew furiously. The downpour completely soaked us and our equipment before we ever put our canoes in the water. What was promised to be an exciting adventure had me shivering and fearful from the start.           The river our troop selected for the canoe trip contained many large rocks in it and an incredible number of tree blockages along the way. Lew explained we had to “portage” each time the canoe could not continue while the pelting rain blasted us. We had to lift our canoe out of the water and carry it with all our equipment to a place where the river continued unblocked.
By the time we had finished, we had portaged seventeen times during this wet, cold, and strenuous outing. The scout leader brought food for us at a campsite set up along the route each night for our three-day ordeal. Totally exhausted by the time we took the canoes to the truck, I was relieved we finally entered the large van and drove to Morgan Park stopping the constant drenching we had experienced. My first major test of endurance of such magnitude was a lesson that taught us never to quit a difficult task and how to bond as a group. We were proud to have survived a true test of our determination, skill, and strength. Believe it or not, despite the struggle we had many jovial moments, laughing and shouting with glee when we glided in our canoes and raced each other stroking our oars as fast as we could under a canopy of forest trees in the wilderness oblivious to the cold wet rain. During the summer we enjoyed a week at a Boy Scout camp in Michigan called Camp Owassippi. We had assigned tents with four of us to a tent that came with mosquito netting for each of us. Hikes, star watching, knot tying, campfires, singing, and Indian tales kept us busy and made the week enjoyable. After the first night however, I awakened to a mosquito net full of spiders and screamed fearing they had entered inside where I slept. Lew, Phil, and Chip laughed as they had planned this hazing by moving hundreds of daddy-long-legged spiders from their netting to mine before I awoke. The joke was on me making me laugh realizing it was all in fun with nothing to fear. We were comrades in the Boy Scouts and joyful cousins.

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About Daniel C. Lavery

Dan’s writing shows his transformation from a child to an athlete and a Duke pre-ministerial student where he began to question ancient and arbitrary dogma. He graduated from Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, and a ship to Vietnam, fell in love, turned peace activist and a civil rights lawyer for Cesar Chavez's UFW. His memoir, "All the Difference," describes the experiences, some humorous and others deadly, that changed his consciousness from a pawn to an advocate crusading for justice against some of the most powerful forces in America.

2 thoughts on “Boy Scouts 1952

  1. I remember that three day canoe trip as being one of my most miserable experiences. The three day trip, as I recall, ended as a two day trip because of the constant downpour. I remember spending the night under a picnic table, with spiders, because I didn’t have the desire or energy to pitch a tent in the rain. I remember the many portages and dragging the canoe over an endless number of rocks. How could the water have been so shallow with all that rain? It could have been 17 portages; your memory is better than mine. Also I thought you and I shared a canoe-at least part of the time.
    I was active with the Boy Scouts when Steve and Dan were growing up and spent many long weekends canoeing in Minnesota’s Boundry Waters Canoe Area(BWCA) with their troop. It was fun. Today, Steve and I and grandkids Tom and Andy make an enjoyable annual trip into the BWCA. But I wiil never forget that “three” day trip.

    • Hi Duke! Thanks for adding some details that are still an old memory, but one we both were involved in up to our necks! Under a table with spiders reminds me of what you, Chip, and Lew did to make my first awakening at Camp Owassippi a moment of terror until the laughing made it seem only a tease for fun as I batted a legion of spiders away from my mosquito netting. Thanks for sharing.

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