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 complete 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.

What’s particularly neat is that the address and phone number of the counselor is listed. That might be fun for some of you who are looking for neighbors.

6 Replies to “Merit Badge Counselors”

  1. Becoming an Eagle Scout (in the 70’s) is an achievement that I am very proud of but rarely speak about. It did impress a couple of past employer’s when I listed it on my job application and that alone was worth all the effort it took to earn all those merit badges.

    I have found that there are two camps when it comes to people who find out that I am an Eagle Scout. One group dismisses it immediately as just a young boy’s accumulation of awards in a boy’s organization. The second one usually appreciates the whole scope of what it took and what it also represents.

    When confronted about it being a petty thing that has no legs, I turn and ask the person they are with, “Which of us do want to be stranded on an island with?” Aw, the sheepish look on their face when I am chosen over them, makes all the hard work to took as a kid to become an Eagle Scout even sweeter as an adult.

    Baden Powell said, “A week of camp life is worth six months of theoretical teaching in the meeting room.” I’m quite sure that Baden would be a bit put off by my crassness but I’m sure he wouldn’t kick my shins under the table when I said it either…

    Again, Powell, “”Be Prepared… the meaning of the motto is that a scout must prepare himself by previous thinking out and practicing how to act on any accident or emergency so that he is never taken by surprise.”

    (drop mic here)

    1. I think you nailed it: the award isn’t just a collection of badges, it is a recognition of goal-setting and perseverance. I always admired you and Brother David for making Eagle and becoming Vigil members of Order of the Arrow (along with Dad).

      Boy Scouting was much more chaotic than the fancy brochures would lead you to believe, but it taught me to Be Prepared and to always have a Plan D in my back pocket.

      I used to take a stack of spot news photos to troop meetings and ask the boys, “You’ve just arrived at this scene. What do you do?” It was a good exercise.

  2. Dear Mark,

    As a former scout myself, I appreciate your efforts to become an eagle scout. I know how hard it is (was) to make it to the ultimate scouting achievement. I did not achieve such a lofty ranking as Eagle scout, but I made it to Life, and for a young kid, it was very difficult. The most difficult task I had was remembering the Morse Code. I still don’t remember it, but passed that hurdle over 50 years ago when I had to. Belated congratulations. If becoming an Eagle Scout was easy, we’d all have been one.

  3. Eagle Scout 1973 Troop 10 First Baptist Church in Cape. I have to contribute a lot of my success to Camp Lewellan. I accomplished a lot at the camp earning more than half my merit badges. I do wish I had kept my merit badge books. The information is still valid today.

    1. Camp was a big part of my summer life, too. Like I said, I always felt bad about Horsemanship. I felt they gave that one away just because you had paid for the horse hours.

      Of all the badges I earned at Camp Lewallen, though, I have to say the Mile Swim is the one I was most proud of. I went from being a non-swimmer to a Mile Swimmer in just a couple of summers.

  4. Unfortunately, I got started in Scouts at age 13 and ran out of time before making Eagle. Advancement in Troop 8 was definitely earned by fully meeting ALL requirements of a given rank. As a result, I can still tie every knot and lashing in the Scout Handbook and Explorer Field Guide blind-folded. My First Aid skills are still 100% as well.
    When my son got into Boy Scouts, my skills amazed scouts and scouters in my son’s troop, thus I was leaned upon to help the boys train each other. My son made Eagle, and upon entering the Army, it was good for an immediate grade increase to E3.

    BTW, I did make Life Scout.

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