Scouters From 'The Greatest Generation'
By Robert Peterson
Americans who grew up in the Great Depression, served their country during World War II, and parented the Baby Boomers also played a major role in shaping Scouting in the postwar era.
NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw dubbed them "The Greatest Generation" in a best-selling book of the same name published three years ago. They are the men and women, now in their twilight years, who came of age during the Great Depression, served in the Armed Forces or on the home front during World War II, and became the parents of the Baby Boomers in postwar America.
More than 292,000 of them died in World War II battles alone, and a million more were casualties of war. Hundreds of thousands of the survivors came home and married, started families, and became adult leaders in the Boy Scouts of America as their children reached Cub Scout age.
The numbers are revealing: In 1940, before the United States entered the Second World War, the BSA had fewer than 343,000 adult members. Five years after the war ended, the number had more than doubled to 723,000, and by 1960 it was l.3 million.
Obviously, the "Greatest" were willing volunteers. Many Cub Scout packs and Scout troops had auxiliaries of parents, mostly mothers, in addition to the regular unit committees.
A Scoutmaster who had served in the military during the war was probably better prepared for the task than a nonveteran. He was more likely to have learned some camping and first-aid skills. He probably knew how to lead others. He certainly was familiar with flag courtesies and uniforms.
Women who became den mothers in Cub Scouting in the postwar era may also have been more prepared by experiences outside the home than their predecessors. Some were military veterans, having served in the Army's WAC or Nurse Corps, the Navy's Waves, the Coast Guard's SPARs, the Women Marine Reserve, or the Air Force's WASPs; others had done "men's work" in war industries.
During World War II, the vast majority of Americans fully supported the effort to defend the country and overthrow tyrants in the Axis countries, and their patriotic spirit carried over into the postwar years. It showed in unit flag ceremonies and quasi-military marching and drills in a few troops.
Having grown up during the Depression, the new Scouters believed in hard work, thrift, and self-reliance, and they tried to instill those virtues in their Scouts by example and by giving them responsibilities in the troop.
Here are the stories of a handful of the "Greatest."
Thomas Parker Emery
"I was holding a close friend in my arms as he died in battle, and I said to myself: 'I'm going to go back home and be a Scoutmaster, and I'm going to teach kids how to survive lifenot the jungle, not a warbut life.' That's what I did. It's the greatest program any man ever designed."
Thomas Parker Emery, a well-known California artist and longtime Scoutmaster, is an exemplary member of the Greatest Generation. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, Dec. 27, 1922. In 1933, as the Depression deepened, his father, a house painter, could not find work, so he moved the family into a ramshackle house owned by his wife's family in Mineral City, a tiny village south of Canton, Ohio. He painted barns and was paid with food by farmers until his death in 1938.
That year Tom Emery joined the brand-new Troop 88, chartered to the Reformed Church in Mineral City. He became the only Eagle Scout in the troop's first 25 years. En route to Eagle, the teenage Emery decided to earn the Art merit badge.
The merit badge counselor, named Silvernail, was so impressed with Tom's potential as an artist that he arranged to have him leave Mineral City High School, which had no art courses, and enroll in Canton McKinley High School, which did have them. Silvernail also paid six months' rent for a room in the Canton YMCA for Tom Emery and got him a part-time job at Timken Roller Bearing Co.
Tom's talent earned him a scholarship at the highly regarded Cleveland Institute of Art. He was studying there when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, plunging the nation into World War II.
"All the males in the school went to enlist the next morning," Emery remembered. "It was the most wonderful thing I ever heard of."
He was trained as a paratrooper and assigned to the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment, which became part of the 11th Airborne Division. "Parachute training was really a carryover from my Scouting experience because I was in good shape and knew a lot of things the others didn't knowhow to track and how to be a scouta military scout," he said.
The training was rigorous. In preparation for jumping behind enemy lines, Emery was taught how to elude pursuers, how to meld into a crowd, how to make topographic maps, even how to smoke a cigarette as enemy soldiers might do.
In April 1943, his unit was sent to New Guinea, where their training intensified. On one exercise, Emery and 20 other paratroopers jumped into a supposedly uninhabited village that turned out to be teeming with Japanese troops. Four paratroopers were shot dead on the way down, and the other 17 were captured and beaten. They were held for 18 days until the Japanese moved out, inexplicably not further harming the Americans. Four of the survivors were lost during the 21 days it took them to hike back to U.S. positions.
In October 1944, Tom Emery was given a temporary lieutenant's commission and assigned to the 187th Parachute Glider Regiment. He fought in bloody battles on the islands of Leyte and Luzon. His war ended on Feb. 22, 1945, when an 81-millimeter mortar round struck his head. He was hospitalized for several months and discharged on June 16.
Emery went back to art school that fall and married. He and his wife had two daughters.
They had no sons, but that did not deter Emery from following through on his vow to become a Scoutmaster. He led Troop 401 in East Cleveland off and on for 15 years. After moving to California, he was Scoutmaster of the PTA's Troop 610 in Poway from 1960 to 1985 and then became council commissioner.
Thomas Parker Emery is a sculptor and painter whose war memorials, murals, fountains, and stained glass work can be found in many cities across the country. He has had a full life and a fulfilling career, but, he said, "Of all the things I've done in my life, the most gratifying and rewarding has been being a Scoutmaster."
Richard B. Domingos
"I didn't get the Purple Heart, but I came close. On one bombing mission, a round came through the turret wall right where I had been sitting a second before, and it rattled around in the turret."
Talk about stick-with-it-iveness, consider the life of Richard B. Domingos. As a young man, he flew 50 bombing missions over Italy, and he has had 60 years of service to Scouting, as well as a long career in retailing.
Domingos was born in December 1923 in Macon, Ga.
His family owned a department store in Macon, so, he said, "I was luckier than most during the Depression."
In 1935 he became a Boy Scout, and two years later he attended the 1st National Jamboree, which was held in Washington, D.C. There he met Daniel Carter Beard and Chief Scout Executive James E. West, two of the "fathers" of the Boy Scouts of America.
"I got to Life Scout rank," Domingos said, "but I didn't make Eagle because I had trouble with the lifesaving requirement."
When the United States entered World War II, he was a student at Emory University in Atlanta. He joined the Army on April 8, 1943. Domingos had taken the test for the U.S. Navy's V-12 program for advanced education, but his application was too late. He wound up with four or five classmates in the Army's Specialized Training Program (ASTP), which was designed to train promising students in such specialties as engineering, medicine, and languages.
As a private in the ASTP, he studied at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., and The Citadel, Charleston, S.C., until the program was phased out in mid-1944.
He was assigned as a gunner to a flight crew of the 456th Bomb Group of the 15th Air Force, flying B-24 bombers over Italy. He earned his stripes as a staff sergeant, not to mention the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters and the European Theater ribbon with seven battle stars (but happily, not the Purple Heart for wounds).
The war in Europe ended with Germany's capitulation in May 1945. Domingos was discharged that month and went back to his studies at Emory University. He soon got back into Scouting, too, as assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 19, chartered to the United Methodist Church in Macon.
He worked in his family's store after the war and got married in October 1949. He continued to work at the store for the next 30 years until it was sold.
He and his wife had two daughters and a son, Richard B. Jr., better known as Dick. Dick went a step past his father in Scouting, earning his Eagle Scout badge.
Like most veteran Scout leaders, Richard Domingos Sr. has worn many hats over 60 years of service. He has been a troop committee chairman, chartered organization representative, neighborhood commissioner, council commissioner, council president, and Order of the Arrow member. He is currently the Central Georgia Council's treasurer. In 1963, in recognition of his service to youth, he received the Silver Beaver Award, the highest honor bestowed in local councils.
Why did he serve Scouting so long? "Because I enjoyed it, and they needed people who would stick with it," he said.
I. J. Lamothe Jr., M.D.
"My observation has been that the people I've come in contact with in Scouting were giving thingsgiving their time, giving their expertise, giving their moneyall the time, not asking or begging for anything. That was impressive."
Growing up African-American in the Deep South, I. J. (Izzy) Lamothe Jr. had no chance to become a Boy Scout when he turned 12 years old, then the minimum age for joining, in 1936. Troops for black boys existed in a few southern cities, but none in his New Orleans neighborhood.
He was the son of a contractor and grandson of a man who had established a contracting business after having been an interpreter for the federal government in Haiti. Despite the hard times near the end of the Depression, he was able to attend Xavier University of Louisiana, a historically black university in New Orleans.
An excellent student, he graduated when he was not quite 20 years old and set his sights on a medical career. World War II was still raging (although the tide had turned in favor of the United States and its allies), and the U.S. Army beckoned.
Izzy was accepted for the Army Specialized Training Program just before it ended, and, he chuckled, "I was told that since I spoke a foreign language (French), I would be valuable to the Army, and I said, 'Well, I didn't come in here for that.'" Luckily for him, he was accepted by the medical school at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and was able to begin his studies.
After graduation, he set up practice as a family physician in Marshall, Tex. (He now specializes in addiction medicine and is medical director of a substance abuse program in Marshall.)
In 1951, Dr. Lamothe was introduced to Scouting by Alex Duncan, a young black professional Scouter. Duncan was executive for the East Texas Area Council's Caddo Division for black units. (At the time, many local councils had separate divisions to serve blacks.)
"Alex Duncan asked me to become chairman of the Caddo Division," Dr. Lamothe said. "I looked at the Scout literature and concluded that the Scout Oath and the 12 points of the Scout Law are principles that any boy would profit from if they were instilled in him. There was not a lot of activity in Scouting among African-Americans, in this area anyway."
He took the chairman's position to change that. In the 50 years since, Dr. Lamothe has served as district chairman, council president, a Scoutmaster for 20 years, regional Scouting chairman, and member of the National Executive Board and Advisory Board. He has received the top honors for Scouters at the local council, regional, and national levelsthe Silver Beaver, Silver Antelope, and Silver Buffalo awards.
"During the war, Scouts were assigned the job of being messengers for Civilian Defense. Those of us who had bicycles became messengers for air raid wardens and others, and we also took more first-aid training to be prepared for emergency service."
Philip (Skip) Kappes, now an attorney in Indianapolis, Ind., and a stalwart Scouter in the Crossroads of America Council, was born in Detroit, Mich., Dec. 24, 1925. His father had an advertising agency that went belly up during the Depression, so he took a job as an advertising salesman and moved the family to Indianapolis.
"Although I and my two brothers didn't recognize it, our parents had pretty tough sledding, but we managed to get by and survive quite well," Kappes said. At the age of 12 he joined Troop 78, chartered to the North Meridian Methodist Church and later the Northwood Christian Church on the city's north side.
"Our Scoutmaster was a fine man named Glenn F. Findley," he said. Findley owned land outside the city on which he built two log cabins. The troop frequently went there for hikes and overnight camps.
"Scouting was significantly different then than it is today," Kappes said. "There were a lot of competitive activities. We'd have rallies with other troops for competitions in fire-building, signaling, knot-tying, and what were called potato races.
"We also had first-aid competitions," Skip Kappes remembered. "You'd be given a set of symptoms and a 'patient' who supposedly was exhibiting those symptoms, and you were supposed to administer first aid. This went on for so many years that the problems became so complicated that even the doctors who were judges couldn't say which was the correct diagnosis," he laughed.
Kappes was rejected for military service because of a corkscrew-shaped spine and a heart murmur, he said. He attended Butler University in Indianapolis and continued working with Troop 78 as an assistant Scoutmaster until his graduation in 1945.
"While the war was still going on, there was gasoline rationing, so we were restricted on where we could go camping," he said. "Our camping was limited to places we could reach with bicycles."
Skip Kappes attended the University of Michigan Law School for three years. When he graduated and returned to Indianapolis in 1948, he began practicing law and got back into Scouting in the Central Indiana Council (with the addition of several smaller councils, now the Crossroads of America Council).
Kappes is now a member of the council executive board. He has served as council president and as a troop committee member and Civics merit badge counselor for many years. He has also been chairman of the council's trust fund and public relations committees. Kappes holds the Silver Beaver Award.
Reflecting on his long service, Kappes said: "I've always liked working with young people. In my later years, I wanted to be associated with the people who adhere to Scouting's principles. They're good people, and they teach good lessons."
Kappes added, "Of all the youth-oriented organizations I've been involved with, I think it's the one institution that has been constant in its adherence to good moral principles. It provides excellent training to young men."
In the October 2001 issue of Scouting magazine, contributing editor Robert Peterson described the BSA Lone Scouting program in his article "Scouting Alone."
November-December 2001 Table of Contents
Copyright © 2001 by the Boy Scouts of America. All rights thereunder reserved; anything appearing in Scouting magazine or on its Web site may not be reprinted either wholly or in part without written permission. Because of freedom given authors, opinions may not reflect official concurrence.