The Snake Patrol, of Scottsdale’s
This year, the Boy Scouts of America celebrates its 100th anniversary. Although the organization is only 89 in Arizona, there's still a lot of local history.
Troop 446, gathers in the
Adirondack Cabin at Camp
Geronimo in Payson in 1962.
© Boy Scouts of America,
Grand Canyon Council
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By Jodi Cisman
phoenix Although the thick-rimmed glasses and sleek, short hairstyles of the 1950s have evolved to LASIK eye surgery and messy bed-head, the mission of the Boy Scouts of America has remained constant. "The goal is to build character in youths," says Derek Bechtel, director of development for the Grand Canyon Council. "It's all about serving kids and giving them good direction."
That's been the guiding principle of the BSA, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year — it's been around in Arizona for 89 years. Robert Baden-Powell, who established the Boy Scouts in 1910, wanted an organization through which youths could learn about the environment and develop leadership skills to apply within their communities.
Scouts have the opportunity to earn any of 121 merit badges in such disciplines as canoeing and archery at camps scattered throughout Arizona, including outposts like Camp Geronimo, which opened at Hewitt Station in Magma, Arizona, in 1922. Today, Geronimo is a year-round camp north of Payson.
The pursuit of merit badges has played a significant role in the evolution of the Scouts' attire. While shirts and pants have remained fairly basic, other than the addition of cargo pockets and a more water-resistant material, the differences are in the details.
Buttons, for example, have gone from metal to plastic, and belts are much sturdier. Interestingly, the Scouts' socks have gone through dozens of redesigns, from old-fashioned calf-high stockings in the Boy Scouts' early years to 21st century low-cut athletic anklets. "When I was a Scout in the 1980s and '90s, we had knee-high socks with a red band at the top," Bechtel says. "No one wanted to wear those."
Uniforms are constantly being restructured for functionality, but not necessarily style. "They even have pants where the bottom part of the leg can be unzipped to make shorts," Bechtel says. "They had nothing like that back in my day."
Whether it's the improved uniforms or something else, the number of Scouts in Arizona is on the rise. When Boy Scouts organizers met in Mesa in 1921 to form the Arizona chapter, they did so over a cup of joe. That summer, only nine troops with 204 Scouts attended the first camp, which was held at Irons Ranch near Superior. There, the Theodore Roosevelt and Grand Canyon councils merged, adopting the latter's name for its national identity.
Today, Arizona has 2,886 troops composed of 58,865 members. Despite the growing numbers, the mission is still the same — only the uniforms are different.
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