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.

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.

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..