By Suzanne Wilson
From across seven decades, former members of a Kansas troop gather to honor a unit tradition that has produced more than 500 Eagle Scouts.
- Former Troop Members Continue the Tradition
- Words of Praise From a Former Scout (Who Happens To Be the Governor)
In 1931, young Charles Colladay became the first Eagle Scout of Troop 1 in Hutchinson, Kan.
In 1996, Sam Sellers became the 500th Eagle Scout in the same troop, now called Troop 301.
The milestone passed quickly, because T. J. Williams received the 501st Eagle Scout Award the same day.
By last March, when the troop gathered many of its Eagle Scouts for "A Celebration of Eagles," the number was 514 and still counting, with more Scouts reaching for their Eagle wings.
Pursuit of excellence
There's a tradition in this troop, and Hal Dick, Scoutmaster from 1992 to 1995, explains it: "More than being an Eagle Scout, there's a pursuit of excellence. It's not so much the earning of the Eagle Scout rank but the skills the youth develops in earning it."
Current Scoutmaster Rick Roberts describes it this way: "The benefit is the journey to get there. And it's not an end but hopefully a way of living."
More than 400 persons - Eagle Scouts from seven decades and their family members - attended the Saturday evening celebration at the First Presbyterian Church, hosted by the troop's 45 Scouts and their leaders. There was a lot to look forward to - a speech by Kansas Governor Bill Graves, the chance to talk with old friends and Scout leaders, and time to share memories.
"It was just a good time for the guys who had been in the troop," said Paul Dillon, who became an Eagle in 1940 and later served as the troop's Scoutmaster for 25 years.
Dillon was surprised to see Nigel Fletcher, who traveled from the western Canada city of Nanaimo, British Columbia. In 1940, 12-year-old Fletcher had been sent from England to Hutchinson to escape World War II. He lived with the family of Scoutmaster A. Lewis Oswald and became an Eagle Scout in what was then Troop 1.
His Scouting years have been valuable, Fletcher said. "You keep the lessons you learn, like being prepared, being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, etc. I'm very fortunate to have been in Scouting, particularly in Troop 1, where those ideals were hammered home."
Six members of Dillon's and Fletcher's Cobra Patrol attended the reunion. Dillon's son David and grandson Jeff came to the celebration from Cincinnati. The Dillons are among several families who have Scouts from three generations on the troop's Eagle roster.
One generation to another
Hutchinson residents Frank and George Stuckey lingered in the church's Fellowship Hall, which is also the Scout room, to look at the hundreds of photo portraits taken of Scouts the year they received their Eagle awards. Frank earned his Eagle in 1936, George in 1937.
"We're in the first 100," Frank said. In a memorabilia display, Frank found a photo of his Pinetree Patrol and another of a staff meeting with George as senior patrol leader.
The brothers struck up a conversation with several 12-year-old Scouts.
"Is the troop today a pretty good one?" Frank asked. The answer was a definite yes.
The young Scouts talked about joining Troop 301 and their expectations of being among its second 500 Eagles.
"I heard it was a really good troop and it had a bunch of Eagles in it, and the troop went on a lot of camp-outs and activities," said Scott Schriener.
Some of the boys, like Cameron Petz, had older brothers in 301. He said, "I wanted to make my grandma and grandpa proud, because they wanted me to be an Eagle."
They talked enthusiastically about having fun on camp-outs, always wearing uniforms or field uniforms at Scouting events and camp, and learning good manners and leadership.
"It's a very traditional troop," said David Little.
'You're going to be an Eagle'
The Eagle tradition began almost 70 years ago. Charles Colladay, the first Eagle, recalls what Scoutmaster Oswald always told new Scouts: "If you're going to join Troop 1, you're going to be an Eagle."
Oswald, who was Scoutmaster from 1930 to 1943, had a plan for boys to become Eagle Scouts in three years. Today, the objective is to reach Eagle before entering high school (ninth grade). Troop 301 leaders believe a Scout has the best chance of completing his Eagle before he's involved in high school studies, activities, sports, and dating.
Scouts who transfer into the troop and a few others may need extra time. "If the young man's trying, we'll make every effort to get him there," says Scoutmaster Roberts.
The troop offers Eagle-required merit badges in a cycle that lasts two and a half years, as well as other merit badges from which Scouts can choose. "We push leadership early and hard," says Roberts.
Advancement Chairman Loren Frees uses a BSA computer program to keep track of Scouts' progress.
"We encourage them and show them the way," says Roberts. "When they come in, they know we want them to finish. I take it as a personal loss every time one slips through and doesn't make it. We don't give it to them; they have to earn it."
After attaining Eagle, boys can become members of the troop's Eagle Scout unit. And some join crews in Venturing, the BSA program for young adults.
Staying on the trail
Troop leaders believe the pace toward Eagle is not too fast and the learning of skills is thorough. The young Scouts agree.
"Merit badges are really fun," says Cameron Petz. Brady Blevins adds that Scouts work as a group, "and nobody gets behind." David Little says: "We do every step. We don't skip stuff."
Dick Beale, a troop committee member who earned his Eagle Scout Award with another Hutchinson troop, chairs the Mohawk District advancement committee and its Eagle board of review. The thoroughness of the Troop 301 program is widely respected, he says, and when a Scout from the troop appears before the board, "It's a foregone conclusion that he's ready to get his Eagle. They do make the boys earn their Eagle awards."
The number of adult leaders has increased since the days of Scoutmaster Oswald, who usually led the troop by himself, seldom with an assistant, and saw more than 100 of his Scouts become Eagles.
Today the troop has seven assistant Scoutmasters and 15 troop committee members. "I'm surrounded with a group of adults who are absolutely great," says Scoutmaster Roberts.
Joining with a commitment
"This troop is well known for its organization and motivation," says Paula Payton, mother of Scout Grady Payton. "A parent enters knowing the child will most likely succeed in achieving Eagle Scout rank, and it's nice to know that they'll reach that goal - and when they do, the boys are so proud of themselves. Most join the troop with a serious commitment to complete their Eagle."
Troop 301 is the right place for making such a commitment, says Scout Brady Blevins, now on his Eagle journey. "We have great opportunities."
Suzanne Wilson is a Scouting magazine contributing editor.
Former Troop Members Continue the Tradition
Two Eagles and longtime Scoutmasters attending the Troop 301 celebration were Lewis A. Mattingly of Houston, Tex., and Paul Dillon of Hutchinson, Kan.
In 1943, Mattingly was the troop's 120th Eagle.
"I was 26 years old when I became a Scoutmaster," he says. "The only thing I knew was what I learned here."
In his seven years as Scoutmaster of Troop 11 at Houston's First Presbyterian Church, 42 Scouts became Eagles; during 29 years leading Troop 642 at the Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church, another 354 Scouts achieved the rank.
Meanwhile, Paul Dillon was leading Troop 301 in Hutchinson. The troop's 78th Eagle, he had been senior patrol leader when Mattingly was a Scout. The Scoutmaster was A. Lewis Oswald, who began the troop's effort to help boys achieve Eagle. During Dillon's 25 years as Scoutmaster, from 1955 to 1980, about 240 Scouts became Eagles.
In 1972, Dillon was selected as outstanding Scoutmaster in the BSA's Central Region. In 1973, Mattingly received that honor in what was then the South Central Region.
Finding 'Lost Eagles'
Vince Puyear, assistant Scoutmaster and committee chairman of the Troop 301 Eagle celebration, said the toughest part of planning the event was finding current addresses for the Eagles.
Charles Colladay, Troop 1's first Eagle Scout and a member of the reunion committee, searched alumni records at the high school. Other committee members contacted contemporaries of the "lost" Eagles, in case they were still in touch, and called people in the phone book with the same last names as the missing Scouts.
The announcement mailed for the event included a "Lost Eagle Search" column, asking for responses by phone, mail, or e-mail.
Scouting Was 'a Full-time Job'
Eagles of past years value their achievements and experiences in Troop 1. Charles Colladay remembers traditional activities, like building towers, signaling, and learning swimming and lifesaving.
An unusual challenge was the "sealed-order" hike. Scoutmaster A. Lewis Oswald gave Colladay and another Scout a sealed envelope containing their destination. They hiked through Hutchinson to "the old folks home," visited it, and wrote a report.
"Scouting was a full-time job. That's all we did," says Colladay, noting that there wasn't the variety of activities now available to young people.
Colladay later helped other Scouts on the Eagle path when he was Troop 1's Scoutmaster from 1943 to 1946.
Words of Praise From a Former Scout (Who Happens To Be the Governor)
"All of you who hold the rank of Eagle Scout, you have my great admiration and respect," Kansas Governor Bill Graves said in his keynote speech at Troop 301's Celebration of Eagles.
Saying he admired the Eagles for choosing to pursue "a personal search for excellence," he also praised troop leaders, parents, professional Scouters, the First Presbyterian Church, and the community for their motivation and support of Scouts.
"The fact that you have impacted over 500 to reach the top of the Scouting organization to achieve the rank of Eagle speaks so highly of you, and you have every reason to be very proud," he said.
He also spoke of the benefits to all young people in the Scouting program.
'A lasting impression on my life'
In an interview, the Governor described himself as a "summer Scout" in Troop 21 during his youth in Salina, Kan., explaining that he most enjoyed outdoor activities, camping, and high adventure. He became a Life Scout, senior patrol leader, and member of the Order of the Arrow. While he regrets not attaining Eagle rank, he values his leadership experiences.
"My Scouting experience has made a lasting impression on my life," he said. "I have lots of friends to this day that I first met and spent time with in Scouting, and I had great role models in Scoutmasters and volunteer leaders."
In Topeka, Governor Graves is a member of the Jayhawk Area Council's executive board; he has been honored by the council with the Silver Beaver Award, as well as presented the Silver Antelope region award. Quivira Council, which includes Hutchinson, honored him with its 1997 Distinguished Citizen Award.
His father, William H. Graves, who has been involved in Coronado Area Council leadership roles and is currently a council executive board member, has been awarded a council Silver Beaver and the Silver Antelope region award as well. The council service center in Salina bears the name of the elder Graves.
'My way of being of service'
Because of his early Scouting experiences and his involvement in the Jayhawk Area Council, the Governor says, "Scouting has a special place in terms of my priorities." He sees his participation in Scouting events as opportunities "to be involved and emphasize how important Scouting is. It's my way of being of service."
Elected in 1994, he instituted a practice of sending out a letter and certificate to each new Eagle Scout in the state. "I've been impressed by the large number of letters and certificates I've been issuing over the last four years," he said.
"I think there's a role for government in acknowledging young people who rise to the occasion and make themselves better citizens of our state through their Scouting and especially through their achievement of Eagle rank."
May-June 1999 Table of Contents
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