After retiring from the navy in 1979, I moved my family to Kirkland, Washington, where I was asked to be Scoutmaster. I said I’d like to meet with the committee chairman and the committee before making my decision. The chartered organization representative gave me a blank stare, implying “What’s the committee?”
I accepted the Scoutmaster job anyway, but it was hard having no committee for support.
At the onset, I read and reread the Scoutmaster Handbook from cover to cover. And I followed it!!! At the first troop meeting, I had two boys: my son Richard and another LDS boy. Neither had a uniform. I had prepared a fire-building contest, which was fun, but I stressed to them that they needed to get some of their friends from school to come out next week. I think there were three next time, so I again said we could have more fun with more Scouts. That’s how we built the troop. The boys did it…I didn’t!
I had a very good friend from work with whom I went deer hunting, and when I needed an assistant Scoutmaster, I asked my friend C.O. if he’d be interested. He said yes. I spoke with the bishop and he said, “Have him at the troop meeting next week.” While I sat in the back of the room and the senior patrol leader ran the meeting, C.O. and the bishop were quietly talking elsewhere in the room, Right after the meeting, the bishop came up to us and said, “Take good care of my boys.” I finally had a good assistant Scoutmaster!
Eventually I broke the boys into two (later three) patrols. On outings, they always cooked as patrols, never individually. We leaders brought our own food and although we visited with each patrol during mealtime, we didn’t eat their food until they got better! At the troop meeting following an outing, each patrol leader got in front of the troop and critiqued his patrol’s food and cooking (pancakes cooked on an aluminum frying pan is not a good choice for camp food!).
When we heard about the six-session Basic Adult Leader Training, C.O. and I went. We learned a lot, but we’d been following the Scoutmaster manual to the letter, so we didn’t have to make any major adjustments. Several years later I heard that our stake president was requiring all Scoutmasters, assistant Scoutmasters, committee chairs, and chartered organization reps to attend Basic Adult Leader Training. Wonderful!
I gave as many boys as possible “jobs.” I recall that our troop chaplain closed each troop meeting with a prayer from his Episcopal Common Book of Prayer. It was good.
I never pushed uniforms, but whenever a boy showed up in a Scout shirt and neckerchief, C.O. made note, and at the next meeting he formally presented him a Sierra Cup with his initials stamped in the bottom. It was a big deal among the boys, so most kids wore shirts and neckerchiefs.
Our troop leadership council (the senior patrol leader and all patrol leaders) went out overnight once a year to lay out the year’s activities, and to have fun without the “little” Scouts. After the yearly planning meeting, I met with the bishop to get his OK for our events. The troop leadership council recognized that being a “Mormon troop,” we needed to get our bishop’s OK for our annual calendar. They also met monthly to plan the activities in greater detail.
All this time I never had a committee. I did it all, which was a big mistake! For three years I did all the planning and arranging that should have been done by the troop committee, and I was burned out! By then I realized that the committee chairman is absolutely the most important adult in a troop. I told my bishop I needed to quit, but I said I’d be glad to serve as committee chairman. He agreed and we continued to have a really good troop…because I ran it as the committee chairman should. So from that first meeting with only two Scouts, we eventually had three LDS Scouts and about twenty non-LDS Scouts. It was the boys who built the troop!
Submitted by Karl A. Moellmer, Chief Seattle Council, Kirkland Washington Stake