“The Real Father of the Boy Scout Movement”
Who would have thought? Robert Baden-Powell, an Englishman, was not the originator of “boy scouting”, as he is usually credited and I was taught …although he did found the “International Scouting Movement”!
Who Cares You May Ask?
Many besides me might care because the Boy Scout movement was a major shaper of young men in years gone by.
As a young boy, I and many like me in Toronto, Canada first joined the “Cub Scout”, at about 8, then we graduated to being a “Boy Scout, at about 12, and later, some like me, chose to stay involved as “Rover Scouts” at about 16. The scouting movement was hugely popular with parents in Toronto and around the world, back in the 1950s and 60s.
Scouting was so popular then because the volunteer Boy Scout leaders, plus the volunteer parents of both genders whom actively assisted, had a superior reputation for enhancing the character, knowledge, skills, spirituality, and leadership capabilities of young men. (Young women participated in the companion movement called Brownie Guides”, “Girl Guides”, and “Ranger Guides.)
City-dwelling Cubs, Scouts, and Rovers learned “Scoutcraft”. It was a blend of a broad range of outdoors and homeowner skills. For example, I was taught how to camp in the woods, alone, as well as how to rewire a table-lamp. I learned how to cook a cake over a campfire as well as in my Mom’s kitchen.
The scouting focus on outdoor and survival abilities was rooted in the lifestyle Burnham grew-up-in on the plains of the mid-U.S.A. Baden Powell spent his youth in an exclusive British prep-school. He did love playing in the nearby woods and camping with his brothers and acquired an early passion for scouting..
It was in scouts-infested Toronto, where I was born, raised, got a University of Toronto education, married Karen Jean Nettie, plus started my working career at Maple Leaf Mills Ltd in its Human Resources Department. (For more about what I’ve done for the last 70 odd years my Visual Profile will give you a snapshot.)
The True First Scout
Boy Sounting’s true Father was a U.S. Lakota Sioux, “He Who Sees in the Dark”, aka Frederick Russell Burnham!
At last, you’ve got a nickname for your stalker or whatever is lurking under your bed! Frederick Burnham’s life sounds like an adventure novel. And quite possibly is, at least partly, made up.
Born in 1861 on the Lakota Sioux Reservation in Minnesota, U.S.A., he first learned trail signs and survival skills from the tribes there. Then, this rugged individualist moved south west to learn from the last of the frontier cowboys.
An Amazing Career Serving Others
Major Burnham used his skills in tracking and survival to fight in colonial wars (for the colonists) on two different continents …America and Africa.
Politically, the First Boy Scout is no longer a popularly-cited history maker. But there’s no denying that he was tough as nails. For example, in Major Burnham’s late fifties/early sixties, he was selected and recruited for a unit similar to the Rough Riders, which was going to go into France during World War I.
In His seventies, He Who Sees In The Dark was still working in the outdoors for the National Parks Service. Despite his very, very long involvement with the military, he’s best known today for starting the scouting movement in the United States. He mentored Robert Baden-Powell, who started the scouts in the UK, after they met in 1896 while both served as scouts during the Boer War in South Africa.
About Burnham’s root role in world scouting, another well-known early U.S. Scouting Executive said:
“Here is the sufficient and heroic figure, model, and living example, who inspired and gave Baden-Powell the plan for the program and the code of honor of Scouting for Boys.”
~ E. B. DeGroot, BSA Scout Executive of Los Angeles
You can learn more about this incredible man and his adventurous life on Wikipedia.
Scouting’s “Hay Day” Is Past
Scouting now is not as strong or popular as when I was actively involved. It’s decline mostly is due to parents’ concern that some leaders and boys/girls might promote, or worse practise, their homosexuality with their children. I can confirm parents’ concern was legitimate, in the 1950s at least, because I was sexually abused by my Scout Master who also was a Public School teacher in Toronto. The biographers of Lord Baden-Powell are divided as to whether he was a repressed homosexual.
There is no doubt, however, that Baden-Powell’s personal views leaned to fascism …a dangerous bent with which, in retrospect, I never felt indocrtinated. He was a friend of Italian Dictator Mousolini’s.
In 1939 at height of Hitler’s gobbling up of Europe, English Lord Baden-Powell noted in his diary:
“Lay up all day. Read Mein Kampf. A wonderful book, with good ideas on education, health, propaganda, organisation etc. – and ideals which Hitler does not practise himself.”
But on the other side of the fascism coin, the Lord was put on the Nazi’s “Black List” for ‘elimination’ after Britain’s defeat because of the regime’s view of Scouting as a dangerous espionage organisation.
Regrettably, as a result of Scoutings decline, far fewer young people now learn the life-long, helpful life skills I learned as a scout.
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Blessings in Jesus all …’till next we interact!
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