What Boomer can ever forget that first uniform of his or her youth, likely from being a member of a Cub Scout or Brownie troop. I clearly recall that royal blue shirt with the bright yellow kerchief, my Cub Scout uniform in 4th grade.
As a new scout recruit, I was fascinated by the badges and emblems, and I wanted as many as I could pin or have Mom sew on my uniform. They didn’t cost that much, and I figured we could buy enough to fill up my shirt. Come to find out, you didn’t just buy badges, you had to earn them. You also had to learn how to salute with two (and only two) fingers and you had to memorize lots of stuff, including the Cub Scout motto, which went something like this:
On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
We also had to obey the pack laws, whatever they were, and to honor somebody called Akela.
We met weekly at the den mother’s house. A den mother was whoever drew the short straw at a gathering of mothers of young boys aged 7 to 11. Being a den mother meant a half dozen boys came to your house every Wednesday after school for Kool Aid and cookies. There we memorized stuff, planned projects to earn badges and generally acted up and behaved as 8-year old boys normally do.
I remember that no old lady was ever safe standing on a street corner in Beckley, WV waiting for the light to change. That’s because a veritable pack of Cub Scouts raced to her side to assist in crossing the street, whether she wanted to or not. That single act was good for two badges – one for helping old ladies and another for obeying pack laws.
A project we did which hangs somewhere in the attic of my childhood memories was a hula dance we performed at a local civic show. The pack members had to create our own costumes as well as make ukuleles from a piece of cut plywood. We painted the wood cutout to resemble this stringed instrument. We created and displayed posters to honor the newest state into the Union – Hawaii. On an elevated stage, we danced to tropical music, swaying our hips and strumming our make believe ukuleles. We dressed, naturally, as hula ladies with two-piece costumes and lipstick. It was my first experience at cross-dressing, but we earned lots of money for some charity and a pile of badges for the experience.
My other Cub Scout memory was a fireworks party at the den mother’s lake house where each guest was given a book of matches and a bag of assorted cherry bombs, M-80’s and other explosives with the goal of shooting them all off without sacrificing an appendage. We blew up everything in sight – cans, sticks, toy soldiers, miniature mud forts and the like. At the end of the day, no one lost any eyes or fingers. It was the single most fun day I have ever had in my whole life. Being a Cub Scout was fun. And you know what? “Do Your Best” is not a bad philosophy for life, no matter how old you get.