Scout Executive Paul Berkbigler

When I think of Paul Berkbigler, Shawnee District Scout Executive, I think of Norman Rockwell’s illustration of a Scoutmaster looking over his charges that graced the Scoutmaster’s Handbook. He was a man for whom a Scout uniform was made. I never heard him say a discouraging or unkind word to anyone, boy or adult, and he always had time to talk with any boy who came up to him. (Click on the photo to make it larger.)

This photo was taken at the 1963 pre-Camporee. I thought there would be all kinds of stories about his background and where he went, but Google popped up just three stories when I searched for his name. He wasn’t listed in the 1969 City Directory, so he may have left Cape by then. I hope someone can fill in the blanks.

Other Scout stories

I have scores of pictures taken of Scouts of all kinds: Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Brownies, Explorers. If they wore a uniform, I shot ’em. I’ll post more as I get them sorted out. Here are some Scout-related stories from the past.

12 Replies to “Scout Executive Paul Berkbigler”

  1. I remember Mr. Berkbigler as a big deal in scouting and like you said a picture perfect example of Boy Scout. I was in troop 13, from the First Christian Church on West End Blvd.; my dad was scout master before I was of scouting age and long after I was out of scouting. I was as proud member of Raccoon Patrol and was a proud patrol leader. I think I got to the high rank of Star and enjoyed the hiking, camping and all around boy stuff we used to do. I remember always looking for Boys Life every month and reading the cool articles about scouting and looking at the wonderful ads in the back where you could build a mini bike for $1.50 or get war surplus helium balloon for $1.95 and dream of all the cool trips and adventures that were open in the world outside of Cape.
    I just ran into a lady at the boat club in Dunedin, Florida that dated for YEARS, Jim Williams (“66”) from Cape Jim and his brother John were both in Troop 13 and John was in the famous Raccoon Patrol.

  2. I guess this gentleman was before my time. My memories are of Jerry Buckner, who was our council executive, and of my scoutmaster, Mr Ralph Flori of Troop 20 in Cape. We met in the gym at Alma Schrader every Monday night. Ralph Flori was simply one of the country’s greatest scoutmasters. I earned my Eagle Scout rank at the age of 14 in 1971. Ralph, Jr., is now a professor of enginerring at U. of MO Rolla. I stopped and visited with Mrs. Flori on a recent trip to Cape, and she remembered me. We had a great visit.

  3. I remember Paul very well as well as his son Vancleve. He was the epitome of a boy scout leader and kinda got me interested in drinking coffee, a milestone in anybody’s life.:) I believe he smoked a pipe and once said to us he didn’t want to get us into smoking. I attained the rank of eagle in troop 5 with Bob Eckelman and Louie Haman as leaders. My dad, Bill, spent many hours on the phone as a committee member and fully supported my scout career.

  4. Thank you for doing a story on Mr Birkbigler, Scout Executive of the Shawnee District. Near the end of my scouting career, a group of us older scouts moved from Troop 3 to form a new Explorer Post 5 sponsored by the VFW. In 1961, I loaded up part of the Post in my 1951 Chevrolet and we headed to Lewallen for the 1961 Camporee.
    That weekend there were weather advisories and tornadoes in the area. It rained in sheets the first night. A lot of troops cancelled. Being the older scouts, we had pitched our tents on the higher ground. Most of us explorers, headed by Mr Birkbigler, spent the night helping the younger scouts get into the shelter of their troop bus or into the poineer building. The next morning with the sun shining, we went to Mr Birkbigler’s tent which was near the gate and surrounded by water. There Mr Birkbigler was asleep, floating on his air mattress. It is one of the funny sights I ever saw and the kind of story legends are made. Son, Bruce was in my class of 1962 and Van was younger. Bruce was in our Troop 3 and I think went with us to the Post 5 but I am not sure about that but I remember picking up Bruce at his home for meetings. The Birkbiglers lived off North Cape Rock Dr on Jean Ann Dr.
    Mr Paul Birkbigler is another one of those adults you wish you could thank for his devotion to scouting. He certainly wasn’t paid much as Scout Executive! All one can do is try to use Mr Birkbigler as an example and pay it forward!

  5. My memories go back to Ed Mammon and then Clyde Clark as scout exectutives. That would have been in the 1940s. I ran into Clyde Clark again in the early 1950s in Decatur, Il. He was scout exec there then when I was scout master and then neighborhood commissioner.

  6. I was fortunate to grow up with the Berkbiglers for neighbors. We were richly entertained by all their animal and reptile antics. Mary Ellen, Paul’s wife, taught us the appropriate method of handling snakes. That skill served to confirm that Americans were truly barbarians. While living in Germany, I helped feed a large pet boa and python, and was rewarded by being allowed to hold them. My sister and Linn (Paul’s daughter) are still friends. Mary Ellen lives in Everett, WA, and still stays in touch. I will make sure that this gets forwarded to her. Thanks, Ken.

  7. The Berkbigler’s moved to Everett, WA in 1965. I was best friends with their daughter Linn. Van Cleve and Bruce also live in Everett, WA. Paul died several years ago of emphysema.He worked in scouting in WA too. I have been to visit them a couple of times. Mary Ellen is 90 and still going strong. Mary Ellen actually lives in Marysvile, WA. Van Cleve and Bruce are both retired.

  8. Ken & All,

    I am doing research for the ultimate purpose of writing a comprehensive history of Scouting in Cape Girardeau and Southeast Missouri. I am searching for articles, paperwork, memorabilia and photos. If you indeed have scads of photos of scouting subjects, I would certainly be interested in them. Any photos used will obviously be credited. This is not a money-maker, but my intent is to document our rich history here. I have quite a bit of information about our of-and-on formal council organization back to the 1910’s, some about the Golden Sun (need more) and some about early Order of the Arrow (need more, also). Anything you can provide would be helpful, and anyone you can put me on to for more information would be appreciated. Thanks to you and your readers in advance for anything they can provide. They can email me privately at semoscouter (at) gmail (dot) com

    I have been collecting and researching for 20 years (actually did a Scouting exhibition at the university museum in the early 1990’s) but have not formally started organizing my information, memorabilia and notes until recent months after encouragement from many Scouting friends.

    Thanks for keeping the old images alive.

      1. Images AND objects. The images obviously tell a story of their own, but they also lend perspective to the objects. Many of the things valuable to the local story are seen as junk when it comes time to clean out the basement or attic at an estate sale, or when Johnny leaves for college. Nothing with much intrinsic value to the general public, but very valuable in context to the story. I’ve recently recovered a couple of items from the very first year of our Order of the Arrow lodge that were previously uknown, and would have been headed for the trash bin except for a church friend who knew what I was doing. Then intent with the collection of objects is a display that can travel with me to scouting events, and ultimately perhaps a permanent exhibit somewhere when I’m in a rocking chair.

  9. Sorry if this is a duplicate post. Had an error when I posted.

    Anyway, images AND objects. The images tell a story of their own, but they also lend context to the objects. Too many things that help tell the story don’t have much intrinsic value (memberhip cards, letters, etc.), some do (patches, uniforms, neckerchiefs, etc.) but they are all invaluable for research. Much of this stuff goes into the garbage bin when someone passes away or when little Johnny goes to college. I recently found a letter, membership card, arrow totem and neckerchief from the first year of our Order of the Arrow lodge. (Who keeps a letter inviting them to a weekend at camp? I’m glad they did!) Some of the items had been previously uknown and people have been really excited to see them, and they lend fact to old stories that can now be documented.

    The photos and selected more important local objects will be in the book. My collection I share at scouting events, and hope as a group they ultimately have a permanent home somewhere. Long-term, a museum (or permanent display in a museum) would be great.

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