Scouting is filled with memorable events. Summer camp, canoe trips, Pinewood Derby, National Jamboree, Philmont, Appalachian trail hikes, whatever it is, we want to remember it. There are pictures, of course, but beyond photography, Scouts look for other ways to remember.
Our Scoutmaster Emeritus, the man who founded the Troop I have been affiliated with as an adult Scouter, has collections of stuff. Pins, patches, T-shirts, and coffee mugs. In the Scout hut he put up shelves in what was his office. A few Army mugs, one from the 82nd Airborne in the center, and then rows of mugs from OA, summer camps, and Jamborees.
He also has T-shirts, a footlocker full of T-shirts. All celebrating events long past, decades of summer camps, National and World Jamborees, and Wood Badge courses over the years. With hundreds of hat pins and patches to match.
I always bought the T-shirts when I went to an event, but I wore them, in some cases I wore them to rags. I have only a few now, most of them have been retired. What I mostly have are patches. Here’s the ones I’m currently displaying on my uniform.
Summer camp 1968 was the first one. I kept every one I ever got. I sewed some of them on a red wool jac-shirt when I was a Scout, but they have been recovered from that. All the recent ones (the ones in the last 20 years) look new. They are all different, and yet all the same. All of them have a Scout fleur-de-lis, most of them are round, 3 inches in diameter, and have the name of the event and the year.
If you asked me about some of the events, I might not be able to tell you anything, but the patches jog my memory. The art work and the colors somehow serve to anchor the event, and I can remember what we did, sometimes what we ate and how the weather was. They are worthless to anyone else and when I am gone, there will be no one to remember so their meaning will disappear.
Summer camp always ended with a campfire on Friday night. When I was the leader in camp, after dinner on Friday, I would gather the Troop in uniform in the campsite. I would have them form by Patrols, give a stack of summer camp patches to the Senior Patrol Leader and say, “The SPL has your summer camp patches, and he will be handing them out in a minute. You all did well this week, and I am proud to say I am your Scoutmaster. Remember these days in the woods, because this camp is unique. This exact group of people will never camp together again, someone will move or leave the Troop, and new Scouts will join in the fall. Remember who we were, what we did, and what it meant to you. Sometime, years from now, you will find this patch in a drawer or a box, and I want you to pick it up, and think back to this week, this camp. Let your patch serve as a reminder of these days.”
To understand a man, you must know his memories.