Scout Merit Badge Books

Merit Badge books c 1960sBoy Scout merit badges are designed to allow boys to learn about sports, crafts, science, trades, business and future careers. There are more than 100 badges these days, many of which weren’t even on the drawing board in the mid-60s when I was earning them.

The ones that are missing are equally interesting. The current list doesn’t include Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Beef Production, Beekeeping, Botany, Corn Farming, Cotton Farming, Dairying, Farm Arrangement, Forage Crops, Fruit and Nut Growing, Hog Production, Pigeon Raising, Poultry Keeping, Rabbit Raising, Sheep Farming, and Small Grains. In fact, the only remaining agricultural badge is Farm Mechanics.

Another indication of how times have changed is this requirement: “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.”

Badges needed to advance in rank

1963 Boy Scout RequirementsMy 1963 Boy Scout Requirement book lists the merit badges needed to advance to Star, Life and Eagle ranks. I made it to Life before I was distracted by girls and newspapering.

I ended up with more than 21 merit badges, but I tended to go after ones I was interested in rather than what was required. Brothers David and Mark were more diligent: they both made Eagle.

Merit badge counselors

Boy Scout Merit Badge books c 1960sTomorrow I’ll run a 1971 list of all the merit badge in the SE Missouri district. You’ll recognize lots of names.

Photo gallery of merit badge books

We had a whole shelf of Scout books in the basement. Here are some of the merit badge books that were much-thumbed. They were great references, even if you weren’t working on a particular badge. Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move around.

Throne of Contemplation

Outhouse near Racine OH 08-31-2014I really pulled over to shoot a picture of an old schoolhouse outside Racine, Ohio, but I couldn’t stop myself from taking a couple frames of an old outhouse. I guess the chair is where you could wait until the current occupant of the reading library is finished. (Click on it to make it larger.)

The occupant of the waiting room chair would have an excellent view of the Ohio River and the Racine Locks and Dam.

Cherry bombs and outhouses don’t mix

I can’t say that I particularly enjoyed using the outdoor facilities, but I got where the latrines at Camp Lewallen didn’t bother me. They had a certain “earthy” aroma that wasn’t really offensive if you acquired the right attitude.

I DO remember when an unnamed member of Troop 8 thought it would be fun to throw a contraband cherry bomb firecracker down the chute before one of his fellow Scouts sat down. There was no explosion, so the miscreant waited until his target left, then he lifted the seat to see what happened. Evidently, the cherry bomb had a slow fuse. It went off with an impressive noise and coated the prankster with the aforementioned “earthy” aroma and more.

The red-roofed school

School - Racine OH 08-31-2014_7679Looks like the old school has long ceased being used, but there’s no trouble spotting it from a distance.



Boy Scout Books

1965 Boy Scount Handbook - Boy Scout publicationsI don’t know what caused me to look up when I was carrying the newspapers out to the recycle bin, but my eyes locked on some of my old Boy Scout books that were on the top shelf of the living room bookshelf. My 1965 Boy Scout Handbook was up there, but I was disappointed that my favorite 1959 Fifth Edition wasn’t sitting next to it.

The 1959 Handbook was a smaller-sized book with a two Scouts and an Explorer sitting around a campfire whose smoke is forming an Indian behind them. The back cover had an ad for U.S. Royal bike tires that showed a uniformed Boy Scout pedaling his bike up a hill. You can see it on Troop 97’s website.

1976 Handbook is politically correct

1976 Scout Handbook -  Boy Scout publicationsBy the time my boys entered Scouting, the 1976 Scout Handbook’s cover had embraced cultural diversity.

First Edition 1948 Scout Field Book

1948 Field Book - Boy Scout publicationsI think I liked my 1948 Scout Field Book even more than my Scout Handbook. It was a much-thumbed how-to book. The introduction to the next edition said that more than a million copies of the 1948 Scout Field Book (two words in my era) were “bought, used and treasured by Scouts and Scouters.”

Dad’s 1967 Fieldbook

1967 Fieldbook - Boy Scout publicationsThis is Dad’s 1967 Fieldbook for Boys and Men¬†that he used when he got active in Scouting with Brothers Mark and David.

The introduction to the Fieldbook (one word in 1967), says it “is a book of action. You won’t sit very long in an easy chair reading it – you’ll want to go outside to try the nature projects, to give the exciting menus a whirl over an open fire, to pitch your tent; yes, even to build an igloo.”

Merit badge books

Citizenship Merit Badge Book -  Boy Scout publicationsThe merit badge books all had a distinctive red bottom and a photo at the top. I had a whole shelf full of them covering topics I knew I’d never use to earn a merit badge. They were just too good to use as reference books to pass up for the price. This is the 1959 printing of the 1953 Citizenship book.

I only made it to Life Scout rank. It took 21 merit badges to qualify for Eagle, but they had to include specific ones. I had more than enough badges, but picked topics I was interested in rather than what was required.

The final step was when you had to make an appointment with a merit badge counselor to demonstrate your proficiency in the topic. That meant that you had to reach out to an adult expert who would review your qualifications and determine if you passed or if you needed more work.

Some troops that I dismissed as “Eagle Scout Factories” would bring in counselors who would pass a group of boys at a time. Even as a Scout, I thought that was shortchanging the experience. Screwing up your nerve to call the counselor, usually a stranger who could be a bit intimidating, was an important learning experience.

Dad served as a counselor for a number of merit badges. If he signed off on your merit badge, you knew that material. He wasn’t afraid to tell a boy that he needed more work and to come back when he was ready to try again.

Other references

When I think of the Scoutmaster’s Handbook, I think of Scout Executive Paul Berkbigler who was the epitome of a Scouter.

Colorado Troop 97 has some excellent information about the BSA handbooks.

You can see a Centennial Timeline of Scouting and the Boy Scout Handbook on the BSA website..


Cubs and Cuffs

Cub ScoutsI normally don’t bother to scan old 120 and 620 film because it’s a pain and usually not very good. Tonight, though, I discovered some old family shots that were fun and just in time for Brother Mark’s birthday later this week.

In the stack were these lineups of Cub Scouts that brought back some sartorial memories of the era.

Back in those days, mothers bought pants designed to accommodate a massive growing spurt, resulting in pants cuffs that were rolled up halfway to the knees in some cases.

Yep, that’s me

Cub Scouts 2The Boy Scout on the left is me. I must have had my growth spurt, because my pants cuffs are only slight rolled up. I served as Den Chief for Mrs. Jo Ann Bock’s den for a time. I wonder if that is Cape’s author on the right?

Click on the photos to make them large enough to pick out faces.