The Weekly Meeting

During the school year, our Scouting program consisted of weekly meetings, weekend campouts, some special events like the Father-Son Communion Breakfast,  an Annual Awards Ceremony and the Memorial Day Parade.  And, like most other Boy Scout Troops, we had a 2 weeks summer camp during July.

We had our weekly meetings in the cafeteria of SBJL on Thursday evenings. I believe the meeting times were from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM. However, the start time may actually have been 7:30 PM (I probably got there early to hang out prior to the actual meeting). We would be in full Scout uniforms for these meetings. Since we may have a uniform inspection, we needed to make sure our uniforms, and ourselves, were neat and clean.  Before we would start the official meeting, we would settle up with Uncle Al for dues and camp fees. He would be sitting at a folding table at the entrance to the cafeteria.

Bill Welsch would then start the formal meeting. Bill had served in the Marine Corps and would always be a Marine. He brought that sense of order and discipline to everything he did in Scouts. And I mean that in a good way. He would have the American Flag and Troop Flag at one end of the cafeteria (the end toward the kitchen). We would make the Scout Salute and say the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, we would give the Scout Sign and say the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. Bill would then say “Two.” That meant you could put down the Scout Sign.

I should add here, that anytime the Scout Sign went up, we all had to put the sign up, stand up straight and be quiet. This system actually worked very well, for a room full of young boys running around, hollering and screaming. Bill would put the sign up, junior leaders would follow suit, some yelling “Scout Sign’s UP” or more succinctly, “Signs UP!” And fairly quickly, the room was silent. On those rare occasions when it took longer for us to quiet down, Bill would make sure we held up the Scout sign a little longer before saying “Two.” Even though we were young, we soon got the message.

What followed next would be periods of advancement training, merit badge training, organized games, (sometimes singing songs instead) and some treats, usually in the form of cookies and soda. We would have announcements, and then say good night and leave.  Some nights we would have a ceremony to recognize advancements and other honors. What was remarkable about the night’s activities was that the junior leaders took over once we completed the opening ceremony. We would split up into Patrols for advancement and the Patrol Leader and Assistant Patrol Leader would do most of the training. And the JASMs and Younger ASMs did much of the actual timing and running of the meeting, often assisting with Scout Training and Merit Badge preparation.

I know Bill, Uncle Al and Tom Costigan did the planning for every week’s activities, but they trusted their junior leaders to actually run the meeting, with minimal supervision.  They told them what to do, but not how to do it. This was a valuable lesson that I quickly learned and took away with me as part of my own leadership style.

No discussion of the yearly Scout program should omit the Richmond Hill Memorial Day Parade. This was a time when Memorial Day was a big deal, a really big deal. Every town had their own parade, and there were always many marchers as well as spectators lining the sidewalks. During the 60's, the men who fought in World War II were only in their 40's or even late 30's. The Korean War veterans were in the 30+ category. So our veterans were still young, there were a lot of them and our memory of their valor in two wars was very fresh.

Bill Welsch always enjoyed having our Troop march in this Parade. Both our Troop and Pack participated in this annual event. We would line up somewhere between 111th and 114th Street, North of Liberty Ave. Then we would take our turn marching down Liberty Ave towards 130th Street. We had a lot of marchers including active duty military units, NY Police Department, the Fire Department, bands, bagpipes, many veteran's groups, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and other civic and church groups. It really was a very big parade. At the end of the parade, Bill would gather us at the Roby-Ryan Triangle and we would eat ice cream and sodas, before saying goodbye, and heading back home for the cook-out.

My father really enjoyed watching us march. He was an active duty Army NCO, and was a World War II veteran and a Korean War vet. He had a bad hip (owing to a German 30 cal machine gun that shattered his hip during World War II) so he didn't walk long distances without pain. He would always be camped at the corner of 123rd ST and Liberty, and would salute our Scout unit smartly when we passed. I could see the pride in his face.

Even though my father didn't march in the parade, he would always join his friend around 123rd St, Joe Schaeffer, one of his buddies from the 18th Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division. Joe joined the Army with my Dad and they served together for most of World War II. Joe was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and often served as one of the Parade Chairmen or Parade Leaders each Memorial Day. So Dad would join Joe every year, as Joe led the parade past the Lefferts Theater, and would take his place alongside of Joe for several blocks. Then he would say his goodbyes and return to 123rd st to watch the rest of the parade. (He often joined Joe and a some other friends at the end of the parade at the local bar for a couple of cold ones. Then he would return home and start the family cook out).