My mother was a Scouter mom. I am not sure that she set out to be one, but, with four sons and a husband in the program, it was probably inevitable. Always wanting daughters and ending up with four boys, she poured her energy into making us good boys. Scouting was an important part of that, and she was proud of her four sons’ Scouting accomplishments–and dad’s too.
As time went on, she wanted a way to show off those accomplishments, so dad commissioned a charm bracelet made to hold the mother’s miniatures for each of our awards. (I’ll bet if they made miniatures of the merit badges, she would have worn them too.) This bracelet records two generations of Scouting covering more than half a century.
When mom started dating dad, I don’t know if she knew she was dating an Eagle Scout, but he loved Scouting and gave her a love too. If you take a closer look at the bracelet, Dad’s were the first miniatures attached (on the left), Tenderfoot to Eagle. In her own family, there were two boys, so she may have seen some Scouting but nothing like what she was about to embark on.
Right after getting married, mom and dad moved from Salt Lake to Baltimore, where dad became an assistant Scoutmaster. There never was a time after he joined Boy Scouting in 1927 that he was not involved. He put effort in the program until he died 75 years later. His interest made us a Scouting family, but mom made it more so. A lot of our history is shown as each of us successively added ours awards to mom’s charm bracelet.
My oldest brother Gary was a Life Scout (he was not a strong enough swimmer to get Lifesaving Merit Badge, so he was not an Eagle), but my older brother was an Eagle and my troop’s Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. I earned my Eagle, and my youngest brother followed along soon after.
Mom was proud of us Scouters nearly as much as she was when we were boys. Right in the middle of all the charms, you find my older brother’s Silver Beaver.
But lets go back to look at how my mom becomes a Scout mom. When I was old enough to be a Cub Scout, she was my den mother. We did such fun stuff as a den. I loved her help with puppets and costumes at pack meetings. The crafts she had for us were unending. It was a very fun time for me and the neighborhood boys.
When, I turned eleven and became a Boy Scout, it meant she would not be so directly involved. Still, she found a way. For example, as the third son, I benefited from a mom who knew what should be in a backpack; she had helped my older brothers get ready for camp many times.
Those first campouts were so exciting for me, but mom knew her stuff by then and asked: “Have you gone down the packing list in your Scout Handbook?” So, I would double check and put in a few more things. When I didn’t understand what things were like a poncho, she would help me find one and explain how to use it.
Then, when I came back home, she’d sit with me until I told her every detail about the camp’s food, the campfire program and interpatrol games. Her interest in my Scouting was constant, and I suppose it had been for my older brothers too. When my younger brother started Scouting, she began again. Indeed, she was a Scouter mom but not just the usual kind.
Whenever and wherever we went to summer camp, mom and dad, who were on the troop and district committees, would show up with cookies for the entire troop of 40 Scouts. It was an excuse to check on us.
On family camping trips, she would walk with me and teach me about the trees and plants. She especially loved wildflowers in bloom, which helped with the Nature and Botany Merit Badges I earned.
Her interest in the badges I worked on was surprising. She would make sure I got each requirement down pat, then she would scoot me out the door to see the Merit Badge counselor. This is actually how she earned those mother’s miniatures.
I was timid about making appointments with Merit Badge counselors, but she would not let up until I called for an appointment. Then she would take time to review what I knew until I was confident for the visit with the counselor.
Then after earning my Eagle, I got very involved in the Order of the Arrow, Scouting’s camper honor society. If you really study the picture closely, you will see a tiny triangle representing my Vigil Honor right next to my Eagle, which was my supreme youth accomplishment.
This was an amazing era in my Scouting life. I loved everything about the Order of the Arrow. I really wanted a costume and headdress, so for my 15th birthday she sewed this elk hide to fit me and gave me the kit to make the headdress. It was a major undertaking, but over the summer together we got it done, not without many broken sewing machine needles.
Of all the brothers, I was the one that could not let go of Scouting and the Order of the Arrow. Both led me to joining a camp staff at sixteen. Now, a new age of Scouting came to our home; my younger brother soon joined camp staff with me.
This was such a huge commitment: I would need a duffel, second uniform, real backpack plus so much more. Once at camp, though, true to their form, mom and dad came to visit.
There were dozens of cookies for the entire camp staff, and all were happy. Me though? I was homesick that first summer on staff. I wanted to go home with them, but mom would have nothing of it. She said, “You made a commitment to Scouting, and you’re going to keep it.”
Then, she sat and listened to my complaints about the long walk to meals and my inability to get my clothes clean. While we talked, she did something I had no idea she could do. She heated a tub of water, took a scrub board and proceeded to show me how to clean my clothes in the wilderness. I learned a new skill from my Scouter mom, but I actually learned more about the therapeutic value of getting busy when you are homesick. I cannot tell you how many times I have used that trick on other Scouts.
Of course, the supreme moment of her support, was when I won scholarship to BYU to study Scouting. She was so proud, even though she had hoped that I would use my Army medical training to become a Doctor. Still three years later, I was running camp, and she and dad made their annual pilgrimage to see how I was doing. When BYU named me alumnus of the year just a decade later, there was no question in her mind I had made the right decision.
She remained supportive of us and her grandchildren in Scouting to the end. Thanks mom!