Thursday, January 13, 2011

Scouting Material Donated to the Clarke

By Frank Boles

Image from Den Mother's Denbook, 1945
New acquisitions are always a source of wonder and amazement.  Recently, through the generosity of Pat Wilmot, a long-time volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America, the Library received five boxes full of published scouting material. Founded in 1910, Scouting is both an ongoing, active youth organization and an iconic part of American culture. When someone is described as “a real Eagle Scout,” the phrase still carries a great deal of meaning.

The printed material the Clarke received is especially focused on Cub Scouting. Cub Scouting was created to solve what was known in the 1920s as “the younger boy problem.”  Originally, Scouting had no program for boys in grades 1 through 5. To involve these children, in 1930 the organization creating a “cubbing” program, renamed Cub Scouts in 1945. In 1936 the male-dominated world of Scouting bowed to reality and established the position of “den mothers,” recognizing the critical contributions women made to Cub Scouting.

The books received from Ms. Wilmot go back to the 1940s and document the values taught to these young children as well as the ways adults sought to capture their attention.  The Den Mother’s Denbook (1945) begins by reminding a den mother of the Cub Scout promise, “to do my best, to be square, and to obey the law of the cub pack,” but it quickly adds solid practical advice, such when a special occasion is planned, “feeds” are always a good idea .

Ceremonies, Stunts, and Skits (1957) contains many good ideas for how to keep youngsters interested.  However Group Meeting Sparklers: 120 Ideas to Brighten Any Meeting (1962) reminds us that sometimes there is nothing quite so entertaining to a young boy as a lame joke.  The volume describes the “Magic Pencil” this way: “Explain that you have a magic pencil that writes any color.  Ask what color they would like it to write.  When the victim names his color, write the name of that color: green, red, etc.”  Even in 1962, the Magic Pencil was undoubtedly a groaner, but one that surely made the rounds of many playgrounds.

We are delighted to add these, and the many other volumes donated by Ms. Wilmot, to our collection.