The Boy Scouts of America is celebrating its centennial -100 years of Scout oath and Scout law, community service and the daily doing of good deeds.
The BSA is one of the nation's largest and most prominent youth development organizations. It provides a program for young boys that builds character, trains them in responsibilities and develops personal fitness.
The local Boy Scouts organization, the Sir William Johnson District, in 2009 had more than 11,000 youth members in 71 units, and 19 boys became Eagle Scouts.
The Leader-Herald/?Amanda Whistle
Members of Boy Scout Troop 55 inNorthville practice the “log drag” on Jan. 16 in preparation for the Klondike Derby.
The Leader-Herald/ Joel?DiTata
Casey Coughlin drags his homemade sled at the Boy?Scouts’ Snow Box Derby Feb. 13 in Rockwood.
Photo from The Leader-Herald Photo Archives
Scouts are shown in August 1972 at the
Boy?Scouts’ campground at Woodworth Lake in Bleecker.
District Director Thomas Blackmon said the number of Scouts has grown in the past seven years, which he credits to the leadership of the adult volunteers. The district has won "Quality District" honors for the past five years from the national Boy?Scout organization.
"What makes us extremely successful is the phenomenal adult volunteers," Blackmon said. "The districts that do struggle are the ones with poor adult leadership."
Blackmon, who is originally from Johnstown, has been involved with the Scouts since 1965. An Eagle Scout, Blackmon was a Scoutmaster in the late 1970s and then become the camping chairman.
"I push communication services and volunteerism," Blackmon said. "Young people today don't seem to understand - to have a successful community you have to give back to it."
Todd Payne of Northville has been involved with the Scouts since he was a Boy Scout. Payne, a Scoutmaster for Troop 55 for more than six years, said the Scouting and troop participation is better than ever.
"We've gone from 10 to 12 scouts, to currently what we have now, 25," Payne said.
Payne has three sons - Zachary, 11, Cody, 9, and T.J., 7 - who are part of their father's troop. Payne said although he would prefer his sons stay in Boy Scouts, he doesn't force them to do anything.
"The choice is totally up to them, they all participate in a lot of different activities," Payne said. "I can guide them along, but I never push the issue."
A lot has changed over the last 100 years, including the technology used in many activies associated with Scouting, such as camping. Many outdoorsmen don't have to "rough it" anymore, but no so with Payne's troop.
"They can bring their Game Boys or cell phones for the car ride, but that's where they stay," Payne said. "Nothing electronic is allowed."
Although Payne doesn't allow electronic gadgets while camping, he does admit that technology cannot be ignored. Troop 55 has its own Web site with the troop schedule, pictures from past events and a weekly message for the Scouts. Payne said that the Scouts update the site themselves.
"Technology has its good side too," Payne said. "It has made everything a lot easier on my end, it probably keeps the kids interested as well."
Payne said he has implemented changes to his troop that were not included before. The troop has established monthly camping events and has guaranteed the Scouts that there will be a summer camp for one week a year.
Although Payne has seen an increase in the number of Scouts in his troop, some Scoutmasters aren't so lucky.
Scoutmaster Joseph Maybury of Troop 15 in Gloversville has been involved with the Boy Scous for more than 30 years. He and his two sons, Joseph Jr. and Raymond, are all Eagle Scouts. Although Maybury has seen his troop drop from 40 Scouts to only six, he said the number of Scouts doesn't determine how dedicated they are.
"Scouting is changing; were trying to get the younger kids involved," Maybury said. "They just don't have as much time."
Maybury said when he was growing up, for example, children didn't have as many opportunities to play organized sports in their free time. Maybury said he requires his troop to meet on Saturday mornings, rather than during week.
"The nice thing about Saturdays [is] kids don't have to restrict themselves at night," Maybury said.
In honor of the BSA's 100th anniversary, the Scouts will be able to experience some of the activities that older generations of Scouts have enjoyed. Special merit badges will be offeredm including badges for signaling, tracking, pathfinding and carpentry. If they want to earn them, Scouts must start and finish working toward these discontinued badges within the year 2010.
Maybury said the traditions of Scouting have stayed with him.
"I remember when I had bypass surgery and I went to shake my doctor's hand with my left hand and he said to me 'You're an Eagle Scout,'" Maybury said. "He knew that because you learn as an Eagle Scout to shake with your left hand because it's closest to your heart."
Joel DiTata can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org