Merit Badge Counselors

Merit Badge books c 1960sYesterday I ran a list of Boy Scout merit badges available in 1965, along with a gallery of merit badge books my brothers and I collected over the years. Today’s post will have a list of every counselor registered with the Shawnee district in 1971, and a little about the counselor’s role.

It’s interesting to read through the list of counselors. The men who volunteered for the job included some of the top in their field: names like Hal Lehman (Architecture), Jake Wells (Art), Weldon Hager (Athletics), Lawrence Bahn (Atomic Energy), John Seesing (Aviation), Bill Ewing (Music and Bugling), Fred Wilferth (Citizenship in the Nation and Scholarship), Ed Blummenberg (farming badges), Earl Siemers (Dairying), Dr. L.W. Hathaway (Dog Care and Pets), Tom Holshouser (Drafting), Milton Ueleke (Electricity and Electronics), Sheriff Ivan McClain (Fingerprinting),  Henry Ochs (Fruit and Nut Growing and Gardening), John Blue (Journalism), Dr. W.O. Seabaugh (Horsemanship), Claude Foeste (Landscape Architecture), Richard Flentge (Swimming and Lifesaving), Harry Siemer (Personal Finances), Dr. J.A. Kinder (Personal Fitness, Wildlife Management and Public Health), B.W. Birk (Plumbing), Bill Nowell (Photography), Clarence Suedekum (Salesmanship), James L. Garner (Sculpture), Larry Grisvard (Theater), and Calvin Brennan (Wood Carving).

What was a merit badge counselor?

1971 Merit badge counselors 01The counselor was an adult who had a specialized field of knowledge who could determine if a Scout had met all the requirements for a particular badge. The official rules make it clear.

You are expected to meet the requirements as they are stated—no more and no less. You must do exactly what is stated in the requirements. If it says “show or demonstrate,” that is what you must do. Just telling about it isn’t enough. The same thing holds true for such words as “make,” “list,” “in the field,” and “collect,” “identify,” and “label.”

Contacting a counselor could be scary

1971 Merit badge counselors 02The scariest – and, to me, most valuable part of the process – was when you had to screw up your courage to set up an appointment with someone who might be a prominent citizen in the community. When you got there, you were generally pleasantly surprised to meet someone who had a real interest in the topic you had picked, and was more than willing to share that knowledge.

That’s not to say that some counselors weren’t tougher than others. Dad wasn’t afraid to tell a boy that he needed to schedule another appointment because he didn’t meet the requirements. That, too, was an important lesson.

Mass production Eagles

1971 Merit badge counselors 03Troop 8, sponsored by the Trinity Lutheran Men’s Club, didn’t have many Eagle Scouts when I was in it. We looked up at those who had attained the rank with awe. Part of that was that we felt that it was a rank that was best achieved by an individual who was motivated to make those “scary” calls on his own.

There were some troops in the area that we perceived to be “mass-production Eagle factories” that brought in counselors and ran boys through the merit badge process in groups. Even as young boys, we could see the difference. Our perception might have been wrong, but our Eagles were numbered in the ones, and other troops had them by the tens.

Obligatory confession since a Scout Is Trustworthy: I never felt I deserved my Horsemanship merit badge that I earned at Camp Lewallen. I think everybody who signed up for the course and paid for the riding time passed it. I was about as good at riding a horse as I was at dancing. I read everything in the Horsemanship merit badge book, but the horse and I were never on the same page at the same time.

Times have changed

1971 Merit badge counselors 04I met with all my counselors on my own. Generally, my folks would drop me off, and I’d call them for a pickup when we were done. That’s not how it’s done today. The official policy:

You must have another person with you at each meeting with the merit badge counselor. This person can be another Scout, your parents or guardian, a brother or sister, a relative, or a friend.

The list of counselors

Here’s the rest of the list. Finding a counselor for Citizenship topics, Cooking, Electricity or Photography was pretty easy. I don’t know what you’d do if you wanted to earn Textiles, Skiing, Small Boat Sailing or Pottery. Click on any photo to make it big enough to read, then use your arrow keys to move around.

 

Liberty Bell of the West

Kaskaskia Bell State Memorial 11-09-2012Bill Nowell of Nowell’s Camera shop invited Girlfriend Lila and me to go on a ramble to Ste. Genevieve one weekend in 1966 or 1967. On the way, we stopped to see the Liberty Bell of the West. Back in those days, you could walk right up to it and give it a ring or two. Today, you have to push a button that causes a door to open, and you have to look through bars.

The bell was given by King Louis XV of France to the Catholic Church of the Illinois Country in 1741. The people of Kaskaskia rang it in celebration after American General George Rogers Clark occupied the town on July 4, 1778.

Photo gallery of the Liberty Bell in 2012

I haven’t run across the negatives from the Nowell trip, but here are some photos from 2012. Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the gallery.

Kodachrome R.I.P.

2015-03-14 Kodachrome Mailers 01It’s getting time for me to head back to Cape, so Wife Lila has been stuffing my clothes in a suitcase so they are ready to go. That means that when I went to the sock and underwear drawers this morning, I could see all the way to the bottom.

Now, the bottom of my sock and underwear drawers are the swamps where I hope dinosaur memories will go to turn into diamonds under a combination of pressure and the passage of time.

Souvenirs, cards from friends and family, Boy Scout badges, my old high school medals, the Richard Nixon cufflinks, the Cross pen and pencil set I got for 10 years of service at The Palm Beach Post, some Steinhoff, Kirkwood and Joiner wooden pencils, Old Maid playing cards from grade school days…. all sink to the bottom. Things get shuffled enough that their ages could be determined by carbon dating, but they wouldn’t necessarily be stratified in date order.

Back in the back of the back, hiding under a baseball autographed by a bunch of guys who might or might not be famous, was a stack of Kodachrome prepaid mailers that I bought when I was photographing the last days of Trinity Lutheran Church in 1978.

Kodachrome introduced in 1935

2015-03-14 Kodachrome Mailers 02Eastman Kodak introduced the color reversal film Kodachrome in 1935. “Color reversal” meant the end product was a positive image that could be projected rather than a negative that had to be reversed in the printing process.

Kodachrome was produced as 16mm film at first, but branched out in other sizes over the years. Our 8mm home movies were shot on Kodachrome and lots of my early 35mm slides were on that brand. Until GAF bought the company, even my Viewmaster slides were Kodachrome.

Required special processing

2015-03-14 Kodachrome Mailers 03Unlike black and white film and Ektachrome, which could be processed in a home darkroom (or even in the back of a small airplane), Kodachrome had to be sent off so one of a handful of special labs

The closest one to Cape was in Chicago.

Unfortunately, demand for Kodachrome died off with the popularity of Ektachrome and Fujichrome E6 films. Digital photography killed it off completely. On July 14, 2010, the last roll of Kodachrome was processed for Steve McCurry, on assignment for National Geographic. It was a 74-year run.

Even black and white was sent away

2015-03-14 Kodachrome Mailers 04When Dad took in some of my film from our big 1960 vacation trip to Florida for processing, Nowell’s Camera Shop shipped the rolls off.

Here’s something that you youngsters who are sexting on your smartphones won’t encounter: Kodak was pretty prudish. If you sent them any pictures that were the least bit racy, they not only wouldn’t return them; they might even turn them over to the cops or the postal authorities who would come to chat with you.

Because of that, we photographers on the university newspaper and yearbook would sometimes be approached to do some discrete processing for some guy who didn’t want to send his “art” off to Kodak.

After my first freelance processing job, I saw why the other guys would turn down that business. We weren’t afraid of getting caught: it just wasn’t worth the hassle. Hormonally hindered guys who aren’t real photographers would bring in horribly underexposed, blurry pictures that might be of their girlfriend or a water buffalo. Then, when you couldn’t pull anything recognizable off the film, they’d refuse to pay up. We would suggest they go uptown and buy a cheap Polaroid if they planned to ever do that kind of photography again.

Black & white only went to St. Louis

2015-03-14 Kodachrome Mailers 05A piece of tape on the back of the processing envelope said my film had been sent to The Carna Studio in St. Louis. Cape probably didn’t generate enough processing business for Bill Nowell to invest in the kind of equipment it would take to automate the process and to carve out enough space in the store to set it up.

On top of that, keeping the chemicals balanced is difficult if you don’t run a large volume of film through it. I was pleased when a Kodak rep who looked at the calibration strips at we ran at The Post said that our results were better than a commercial lab in town, probably because we processed more film per day than they did and (I like to think) our lab techs were better trained and more motivated.

So, if Kodachrome ever comes back, I’m ready with my envelopes.

Mary Nowell of Themis Street

Mary Nowell c 1966Mary Nowell was one of the many Central High School students who lived on Themis Street. I did a video of Linda Stone and Tricia Tipton sitting on Linda’s old steps and listing off all the classmates who grew up around them.

I didn’t know Mary well, but her dad, Bill Nowell, was a major influence in my life. Mr. Nowell owned Nowell’s Camera Shop at 609 Broadway. Other boys hung out in pool rooms and gas stations, but we photo geeks gravitated to Nowell’s so we could drool over the latest Pentax cameras (he carried Nikon gear, but Cape was a Pentax town), Honeywell strobes and other gizmos.

There was faint acidic smell of photo chemicals in the air, along with the odor of unopened boxes of photo paper and film. When I walked into The Palm Beach Post’s photo department stock room, I’d be transported back in time to Nowell’s. I can’t describe the smell, but I’d recognize it anywhere.

Mr. Nowell took a chance on us

Mary Nowell c 1966Mr. Nowell took a chance on us kids. I don’t know how many teenage boys were extended credit, but I was one of them. I don’t recall Mr. Nowell and I ever discussing it, it just happened. I know he didn’t talk to my parents about it.

Dad grew up in the Depression era where you paid cash. I remember overhearing him talking to a friend one day when he didn’t know I was in the vicinity. He was telling him that Mr. Nowell (he was the kind of man you didn’t call “Bill’) was letting me “put stuff on the books.” Dad said it in a way that indicated that he was proud that an adult trusted me enough to give me credit.

I was always careful to pay the bill off regularly. I always paid for major purchases like cameras and lenses on the spot, but I would charge consumables like film, paper and chemicals. When the balance hit around 25 bucks, I’d pay it off and start again. I’ve held off writing about Nowell’s because I keep hoping I run across more photos taken in the shop.

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone more kind and decent than Mr. Nowell.