Troop 56’s Dr. Brian Decker Passes

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North Star Troop 56 (St. Luke’s United Methodist) announced the passing of its immediate past scoutmaster Dr. Brian Decker. Brian stepped down as scoutmaster when he was diagnosed with cancer. He had been battling ever since.

Dr. Decker with two of his assistant scoutmasters and newly-minted Eagle Scout. (L to R): Bill Cherry, Brian Decker, Sam Teague, Don Bievenour (Dec 2015).

There will be a multi-faith Celebration of Life for Brian on Saturday, June 16th at 11:00 AM at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church (100 W 86th St, Indianapolis, IN 46260).  Following the celebration, there will be a light luncheon for fellowship with the Decker family.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Indiana University School of Medicine Nephrology Division to be used to support fellowship training and personalized medicine activities.  Please make memorial gifts payable to the “IU Foundation – IUSM” and mail to Indiana University School of Medicine, c/o IU Foundation, P.O. Box 7072 Indianapolis, IN 46207-7072. Please indicate “In memory of Brian Decker” on your gift.

Please keep Brian’s wife Peggy and sons Scott (age 19) and Noah (age 17) in your thoughts and prayers.

His obituary in the Indianapolis Star is posted here.

Last fall, the Indiana University Medical Center had posted a wonderful article about Brian, his battle with cancer, and its effect on his medical practice.

For any in the scouting community who would like to participate, please share any stories and/or photos of Brian with John Blue (innovationcreation@gmail.com), who is collecting them for the Decker family. Cards to the Decker family can be sent to the Nephrology Division, c/o Sharon Moe, 950 W. Walnut Street, R2-201, Indianapolis IN 46202 (or campus mail R2-201) and will be sent on to the family.

One of Brian’s first outings as scoutmaster (far left) (Sept 2012).



Welcome to North Star’s 100th Year of Service

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As those who attended the North Star Recognition Dinner last weekend know, our beloved North Star District was announced by the old Indianapolis Council in January 1919. You can see some of the history of the District on this old post.

The name of the District has changed from “Number 4” then back and forth from “North” to “North Star” several different times. We have been North Star uninterruptedly since 1964. Our boundaries have moved northward as the Indianapolis city limits moved northward.

We will be celebrating the centennial in January 1919. Until then Vice Chair for Programming Mark Pishon is planning many commemorations of the centennial. We will have special swag, including things like neckerchiefs and patches. So look forward to seeing what North Star Willie is up to.

(If there are talented cartoonists among our scouts and scouters, submit your own cartoons about what Willie may have witnessed over the years or what he most enjoyed about scouting. May be we can convince Mr. Pishon to use your cartoons on some of the swag!)

If you have old North Star patches, please photograph them and email them to me. We would love to post them on the website in the next 12 months!

Who made Baden Powell Famous?

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One of the little secrets of scouting is that Baden Powell would not have had the fame and international renown if it were for a little known journalist of the era.

The journalist was the son of an extremely important family in Great Britain. His paternal grandfather was the Seventh Duke of Marlborough. The journalist was known for his daring and desire for excitement.  He ranged through Africa during the colonial wars of the late 1800’s. He later became Lord of the Admiralty during World War I, Chancellor of the Exechequer (like the Secretary of the Treasury), and twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, known for his desire to fight Nazism and Communism.

His name was Winston Churchill.

Shortly after his second time as prime minister, Churchill wrote this remembrance of Lord Baden Powell, who had died over 10 years earlier.

“B. – P. ”

THE THREE most famous generals I have known in my life won no great battles over the foreign foe. Yet their names, which all begin with a B, are household words. They are General Booth, General Botha and General Baden-Powell To General Booth we owe the Salvation Army; to General Botha, United South Africa; and to General Baden-Powell, the Boy Scout Movement.

In this uncertain world one cannot be sure of much. But it seems probable that one or two hundred years hence, or it may be more, these three monuments that we have seen set up in our lifetime will still proclaim the fame of their founders, not in the silent testimony of bronze or stone, but as institutions guiding and shaping the lives and thoughts of men. I remember well the first time I saw the hero of this article, now Lord Baden-Powell. I had gone with my regimental team to play in the Cavalry Cup at Meerut. There was a great gathering of the sporting and social circles of the British Army in India. In the evening an amateur vaudeville entertainment was given to a large company. The feature of this was a sprightly song and dance by an officer of the garrison, attired in the brilliant uniform of an Austrian Hussar, and an attractive lady. Sitting as a young lieutenant in the stalls, I was struck by the quality of the performance, which certainly would have held its own on the boards of any of our music-halls. I was told:

“That’s B.-P. An amazing man! He won the Kader Cup, has seen lots of active service. They think no end of him as a rising soldier; but fancy a senior officer kicking his legs up like that before a lot of subalterns !”

I was fortunate in making the acquaintance of this versatile celebrity before the polo tournament was over. Three years passed before I met him again. The scene and the occasion were very different. Lord Roberts’ army had just entered Pretoria, and General Baden-Powell, who had been relieved in Mafeking after a siege of 217 days, was riding in two or three hundred miles from the Western Transvaal to report to the Commander-in-Chief. I thought I would interview him on behalf of the Morning Post and get a first-hand account of his famous defense.

We rode together for at least an hour, and once he got talking he was magnificent. I was thrilled by the tale, and he enjoyed the telling of it. I cannot remember the details but my telegram must have filled the best part of a column. Before dispatching it I submitted to him. He read it with concentrated attention and some signs of embarrassment, but when he had finished he handed it back to me, saying with a smile, “Talking to you is like talking to a phonograph.” I was rather pleased with it, too. In those days B.-P.’s fame as a soldier eclipsed almost all popular reputations. The other B.P, the British Public, looked upon him as the outstanding hero of the War. Even those who disapproved of the War, and derided the triumphs of large, organized armies over the Boer farmers, could not forbear to cheer the long, spirited, tenacious defense of Mafeking by barely eight hundred men against a beleaguering force ten or twelve times their numbers.

No one had ever believed Mafeking could hold out half as long. A dozen times, as the siege dragged on, the watching nation had emerged from apprehension and despondency into renewed hope, and had been again cast down. Millions who could not follow closely or accurately the main events of the War looked day after day in the papers for the fortunes of Mafeking, and when finally the news of its relief was flashed throughout the world, the streets of London became impassable, and the floods of sterling cockney patriotism were released in such a deluge of unbridled, delirious, childish joy as was never witnessed again until Armistice Night, 1918. Nay, perhaps the famous Mafeking night holds the record. Then the crowds were untouched by the ravages of war. They rejoiced with the light-hearted frenzy of the spectators of a great sporting event. In 1918 thankfulness and a sense of deliverance overpowered exultation. All bore in their hearts the marks of what they had gone through. There were too many ghosts about the streets after Armageddon.

One wondered why B.-P. seemed to drop out of the military hierarchy after the South African War was over. He held distinguished minor appointments; but all the substantial and key positions were parceled out among men whose achievements were unknown outside military circles, and whose names had never received the meed of popular applause.

There is no doubt that Whitehall resented the disproportionate acclamation which the masses had bestowed upon a single figure. Was there not something “theatrical”, “unprofessional” in a personality which evoked the uninstructed enthusiasms of the man-in-the-street? Versatility is always distrusted in the Services. The voice of detraction and professional jealousy spoke of him as Harley Street would speak of the undoubted cures wrought by a quack. At any rate, the bright fruition of fortune and success was soon obscured by a chilly fog through which indeed the sun still shone, but with a dim and baffled ray.

The caprices of fortune are incalculable, her methods inscrutable. Sometimes when she scowls most spitefully, she is preparing her most dazzling gifts. How lucky for B.P. that he was not in the early years of the century taken into the central swim of military affairs, and absorbed in all those arduous and secret preparations which ultimately enabled the British Expeditionary Army to deploy for battle at Mons!

How lucky for him, and how lucky for us all! To this he owes his perennially revivifying fame, his opportunity for high personal service of the most enduring character; and to this we owe an institution and an inspiration, characteristic of the essence of British genius, and uniting in a bond of comradeship the youth not only of the English-speaking world, but of almost every land and people under the sun.

It was in 1907 that B.-P. held his first camp for boys to learn the lore of the backwoods and the discipline of Scout life. Twenty-one boys of every class from the East End of London, from Eton and Harrow, pitched their little tents on Brownsea Island in Dorsetshire. From this modest beginning sprang the world-wide movement of Boy Scouts and girl guides, constantly renewing itself as the years pass, and now well over two million strong.

In 1908 the Chief Scout, as he called himself, published his book, Scouting for Boys. It appealed to all the sense of adventure and love of open-air life which is so strong in youth. But beyond this it stirred those sentiments of knightly chivalry, of playing the game – any game – earnest or fun – hard and fairly, which constitute the most important part of the British system of education. Success was immediate and far-reaching. The simple uniform, khaki shorts and a shirt – within the range of the poorest – was founded upon that of General Baden-Powell’s old corps, the South African Constabulary. The hat was the famous hat with the flat brim and pinched top which he had worn at Mafeking. The motto “Be Prepared” was founded on his initials. Almost immediately we saw at holiday times on the roads of Britain little troops and patrols of Boy Scouts, big and small, staff in hand, trudging forward hopefully, pushing their little handcart with their kit and camping gear towards the woodlands and parklands which their exemplary conduct speedily threw open to them. Forthwith there twinkled the camp fires of a vast new army whose ranks will never be empty, and whose march will never be ended while red blood courses in the veins of youth. It is difficult to exaggerate the moral and mental health which our nation has derived from this profound and simple conception. In whose bygone days the motto “Be Prepared” had a special meaning for our country. Those who looked to the coming of a great war welcomed the awakening of British boyhood. But no one, even the most resolute pacifist, could be offended; for the movement was not militaristic in character, and even the sourest, crabbiest critic saw in it a way of letting off youthful steam.

The success of the Scout movement led to its imitation in many countries, notably in Germany. There, too, the little troops began to march along the roads already trampled by the legions. The Great War swept across the world. Boy Scouts played their part. Their keen eyes were added to the watchers along the coasts; and in the air raids we saw the spectacle of children of twelve and fourteen performing with perfect coolness and composure the useful functions assigned to them in the streets and public offices. Many venerable, famous institutions and systems long honored by men perished in the storm; but the Boy Scout Movement survived. It survived not only the War, but the numbing reactions of the aftermath. While so many elements in the life and spirit of the victorious nations seemed to be lost in stupor, it flourished and grew increasingly. Its motto gathers new national significance as the years unfold upon our island. It speaks to every heart its message of duty and honor: “Be Prepared” to stand up faithfully for Right and Truth, however the winds may blow.

Why Unique Scouting Jargon?

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Like most human specialized endeavors, Scouting has its own unique jargon. We often use these terms without much thought about their original meaning or its meaning as time has passed. Let’s stop and examine this language for a few minutes to see what we can learn about the philosophy of scouting.

The terms Cubmaster and Scoutmaster are used every day. There is even a movement to change these terms. Many national councils in the Worldwide Movement of Scouting have already taken this step. What does the term “master” mean in this context?

In Baden-Powell’s youthful days (1850-1880), a school teacher was referred to a “school master.” The teacher might have had a Master’s Degree. These were the 19th century license to teach. They had mastered the material well enough to teach the material.

Notice it is not a reference the doctrine of law known as “master-servant” or other less savory references that the XXXIII Amendment to the Constitution outlawed.

Knowing what Baden-Powell meant when he chose the term, does it change your vision of what a Cubmaster or Scoutmaster should do when working with Den Leaders or Senior Patrol Leaders, respectively? Look to some of the early stories from Wood Badge leaders about their first experiences as scouts trying to figure out how to build fires, pick camping sites, or hike without going in circles. The need for a teacher was clear. In some of the stories, the boys would set up tents but the police would show up and march them home, because no adult was present to vouch for the boys’ good intentions. The need for an adult mentor, not just an older brother was also clear.

Council is a very strange term. In the late 19th Century, British government was moving away from Administrators with sole responsibility. They were moving toward a more collective method of organizing. Councils sprung up everywhere in British society. They were not corporations. In American parlance, we would tend to use the term “committee.” Since Baden Powell was encouraging a “Scouting Movement” not a “scouting organization,” the idea of individuals coming to together more informally fit his vision for what scouting should be.

Commissioner is a very strange term. In the Commissioner literature, the attempt to explain the term is that Baden Powell wanted to rely on the landed gentry, who did not work for living to advise new scoutmasters. He chose an archaic term of Commissioner from the 13th Century. Council Commissioner’s Training Manual, pg. 57 (2009) tells the story this way:

The word “commission” dates back to 1344, when it was derived from the Latin word commissionem, meaning “delegation of business.” The nation’s monarch delegated authority to a deserving few.

Individuals identified by the monarch had to qualify as a “gentleman,” legally defined as a man who earned his income from property and as such was independently wealthy with time to devote to other agendas. It was exactly this kind of man that Lord Baden-Powell wanted as his volunteer commissioners: men of both money and leisure. [ed.: too bad this era has past.]

Baden-Powell’s first chief Scout commissioner was Lieutenant General Sir Edmond Roche Elles Baden-Powell’s commissioners included W F deBois MacLaren, who donated Gilwell Park; and Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book [ed.: and the source material for Cub Scout concepts].

As communities formed more troops, it became evident that leadership was needed to maintain standards, provide camping opportunities, recruit leaders, give training, establish local courts of honor, and stimulate local Scouting This person was the commissioner.

The Scout commissioner represented the local community committee or council. A great deal of importance was placed upon the selection of this man. He was expected to have a great deal of outdoor experience and act as the local authority in all Scoutcraft matters.

While originally a volunteer, in some areas the community was able to raise enough funds for the Scout commissioner to become a salaried position.

The areas with paid leadership positions, such as a Scout executive or executive secretary, became known as first-class councils, while those with a volunteer head, still called the Scout commissioner, were known as second-class councils. By 1931, there was only one second-class council left.

The wreath of service that surrounds all commissioner and professional position badges is a symbol of the service rendered to units. It also symbolizes the continued partnership between volunteers and professionals.

Sometimes a return to original definitions helps better understand how we can improve our service to youth, as an indirect means of returning to first principles.

History of North Star Scouting

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At the last District Committee Meeting, the question of our district’s history, particularly its founding and name.

I did some quick research, finding all Indianapolis Council districts were announced in the Indianapolis Star in January 1919. North Star was originally designated as District No. 4. Within 10 months, though, it was already called North Star.

Last night, District Advancement Chair long-time Troop 358 scouted Mark Pishon sent me a historic book on Zionsville’s former Camp Wilson, circa 1945. The author does an incredible job of giving a snapshot of all of Central Indiana Scouting. It includes the list of all units and their Chartered Organizations.

In this same document, you can see that the Central Indiana Council had moved to designating districts by directional names: North, East, Central, etc.

In his history of North Star District and North Star Willie, the late “Uncle Mikey” Stalcup wrote how the name of the district returned to “North Star” several times. This history focuses on the logo, but there are some interesting bits about other reorganizations of the district from 1963 to 2003.

Bicentential Torch is Coming to Us!

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Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay is coming to Boone and Montgomery Counties on October 13th, 2016!

In Montgomery County the torch will be passing through between 10:00am and 12:00pm. In Boone County it will be passing through between 12:30 pm and 2:30pm (at the court house around 1pm and Lincoln Park in Zionsville around 2pm).bicentential-torch-relay-graphic
Follow the torch and support the torchbearers! Follow them on social media. http://indianatorchrelay.com https://www.facebook.com/INTorchRelay/ https://twitter.com/intorchrelay https://www.facebook.com/boonecountybicentennial Download INTorchRelay app and follow the torch.

That’s not all!

That night between 7 and 10pm a FREE block party will take place at the Boone County 4-H fairgrounds. Anyone can attend. This includes Food, Activities for the Kids, Historical information about the counties and much more. Bring a can food item to donate to the Caring Center, Bring a book to donate to the “Boone Counties little Library” and a favorite picture of your location in Boone County.

Download the flyer here.

100 Years of Eagles with Troop 18

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In a previous post last month, we announced that Troop 18 is celebrating 100 years of Eagle Scouts in the Crossroads of America Council. In 1916, Troop 18 had the first three Eagle Scouts in the Indianapolis Council (the predecessor to the Crossroads of America Council).

This week we will add more to the story of Troop 18.

In 1917, Louis Fletcher, First Class Scout, age 14, earned bronze honor medal for saving 2 boys from drowning (Boys Life, Sept. 1917.)
Also in 1917, Troop 18 put on a show at the Peter Pan Theater. The net proceeds were to defray expense of the two-week summer camp the troop went on every year “An elaborate moving picture program has been arranged for the performances” (Indianapolis News, May 23, 1917, pg 13.)
In 1924, Hillis Howie worked with Troop 18 and earned gold badge from William Hornaday for service to wildlife. (Mr. Hornaday was instrumental in the BSA’s early conservation program and was the director the New York Zoological Park.) The gold award today requires the equivalent of multiple Eagle Projects dedicated to conservation. While the Bronze and Silver awards are met by requirements. The gold award is by nomination only after 3 years of dedicated service to youth conservation efforts. 
In 1926, Hillis Howie, now Scoutmaster of Troop 18, organized Prairie Trek summer camping in American Southwest. Later, Prairie Trek goes under name of Cottonwood Gulch Foundation. Mr. Howie purchased 500 acres near Thoreau, New Mexico for the camp. (see Prairie Trek expeditions records 1926-1982). The center of the treks moved from the Boy Scout Troop to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. In 1938, Hillis Howie led an expedition with the young Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., an Indianapolis native and graduate of Shortridge High School. Vonnegut thought so highly of Howie that he dedicated his book Galapagos to Howie. Vonnegut’s father, Kurt Vonnegut, Sr., known today for being the architect of the Athaneum and Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument on the Circle, showed his appreciation to Mr. Howie by designing the cabins that remain in New Mexico to this day.2nd Pres troop writeup Feb 2016
In 1929, Howard Young received his Eagle Scout award from the hand of Chief Scout Executive James West (1929 Boys Life).
In 1931, Indiana Department of Conservation (pg 118) lists Troop 18 as having 28 members attend Camp McCormick.
Skipping forward several decades, in 2012, Eagle Scout Ian Kenney awarded honor medal with crossed palms for saving a friend during a house fire.
Help Troop 18 celebrate its and Crossroads of America Council celebrate its century of Eagles together by joining in the fun!

District Reminders for next 7 days

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1. Thursday, July 14th at 6:30 pm is Roundtable at St Luke’s United Methodist Church (New room assignment Room W-125 (Entry #4) due to scheduling conflict.). The topic will be annual planning and adult staffing. See Church Map (Entry #4 cut off on bottom of map.)

2. Friday, July 15th Membership Kickoff beginning at 7:00 pm at St Paul’s Episcopal Church. Packs and Troops welcome. Food served.

3. Sunday, July 17th is the 50th Anniversary Celebration for Camp Ransburg.