Being ask by Frank Hilton to write about your youth as a Boy Scout in the Chisholm Trail Council and more specifically as it was in the 40's and 50's in Troop 46 at Lueders, Texas brings up all sorts of fond thoughts as you begin to reflect back and the immediate problem is how to begin and where did my very first Scouting desires begin to develop.
Located 45 miles north of Abilene Texas, Lueders in the 40's and 50's was a fairly poor little farming community of around 900 folks including those living out in the country.
Some of our fathers as mine did, worked in the Oil Fields. Lueders also had a small oil refinery and in season a grain elevator and two cotton gins employed a few people.
Lueders was known as having one of the largest limestone deposits in the world and additional employment was available in the rock quarries and three stone mills.
Lueders was also well known for the Baptist Encampment Grounds which was located a couple of miles east of town on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River. However, employment at the encampment consisted of only one caretaker as the encampment was run mostly by volunteer help from the churches.
It might sound impressive but, these were all manual labor type jobs and one must also remember in the 40's and early 50's America was at war and still coming out of the depression of the 30's and folks working for wages and farming just didn't have much except for the necessities of life.
I would also say that Lueders was a thriving, bustling, little community of hard working and happy folks. Just very low on the economic ladder.
Kids of my era and raised in Lueders all have the wonderful memories of going barefooted. But, not because we enjoyed it as much as because lots of times we didn't have shoes or we were saving the one pair we did have. World War II in the 40's necessitated shoes being rationed and for one period I wore a pair of my older sisters oxford shoes because I had no ration coupon to purchase a pair of my own.
The beginning of my Scouting memory is fairly easy because of a man named "Little Joe Delwaide" who was a great promoter of Scouting and who happened to be a friend of my father and the Lueders Scoutmaster.
My father and Little Joe met because we had moved into Lueders from the 4 room box house we lived in out in the oil field three miles east of town.
To a 9 year old boy the most amazing thing about the new house in town was the bath room commode. After living in the country with an outhouse the commode was a fascinating machine for me and I would stand and flush it time after time with nothing but paper in it and wonder were it all went.
My father met Little Joe when he had a car garage built at the new house from Lueders Lime Stone. Little Joe was a stone mason and worked for one of the local stone mills.
He and my father would sit around the kitchen table drinking from brown bottles with little blue ribbons on them and tie rope knots.
My father was never a Scout but, he knew knots and how to tie a bowline knot. Little Joe tied it one way and Dad tied it another and they would argue which way was best and who could tie the bowline the fastest.
I was around 9 or 10 at the time and was fascinated by what they were doing and lots of times had to hold out my arm for my Dad or Little Joe to demonstrate how to tie a certain knot. That was when the neck of one of the little brown bottles with it's blue ribbon wasn't suitable.
Little Joe taught every Scout and lots of others the way to tie a bowline was that the "Rabbit ran out of the hole around the tree and back in the hole" to tie a bowline knot.
How my father tied the bowline I don't know but, I never forgot Little Joe's "Rabbit" way.
On one of Little Joe's visits he brought his Boy Scout Manual which showed all the knots and lots of other interesting things and I immediately wanted to be a part of all that little book was showing me.
My sadness still haunts me today when I recall Little Joe telling me "You're not old enough ."
The age requirement to be a Boy Scout was lowered in later years to eleven but in my era the age requirement for becoming a Boy Scout was twelve.
Little Joe and his wife Irene had two girls and no boys so perhaps Little Joe didn't know what he had just said "NO" too. I never left him alone about wanting to become a Boy Scout. I hounded him every time he and my father were together. Either to shut me up or out of frustrations, he finally told me I could attend one of the troop meetings but, could not yet participate and could not yet be a real Scout.
However, at some point after I started pestering him, Little Joe was able to find a lady to be a Den Mother and he established a pack of Cub Scouts in Lueders and although only a Cub I was finally a Scout.
I don't recall much about my Cub Scout days but, I do recall being a Wolf, a Bear, and a Lion. I won't deny that perhaps those memories could also be coming from my son Ray Jr. being a Wolf, a Bear, and a Lion. I know I never had a Cub Scout uniform and my son did.
I do recall my becoming a Tenderfoot and getting the badge at I believe the Methodist Church in Stamford, Texas. I remember being real proud of my badge and at last what I considered a real Boy Scout. I didn't much like being called a Tenderfoot because in my young mind I had just climbed a real high mountain of accomplishment. 12 years old and a Scout at last, even through they wanted to call me a Tenderfoot I was one proud Scout in 1946.
One minor disappointment of being a real Scout was not having a real uniform. After a period, I was one of the lucky ones and did get an official Boy Scout shirt but, the pants I wore were always a pair my mother had dyed a green army color to make them look as official as possible.
The dye came in a small paper package similar to Kool-Aid and I can still remember the big old pan full of green boiling water on top of the stove. Dying clothes at home was not unusual in those days and we always took full advantage of the dyes strength and any faded garments in the house were subject to being turned army green.
The fortunate ones of us had an official shirt, scarf and hat. The not so fortunate were lucky to have a scarf and hat.
The official Scout things we did get were purchased at J. C. Pennys in Stamford, Texas or at Minters Department Store in Abilene, Texas.
The Minters Department Store in Abilene was one of those wonderful old 2 or 3 story tall department stores right down town and the Scout stuff was either on the 2nd or 3rd floor and they carried most all of the official Scout items.
The J.C. Penny store in Stamford only handled a minimum amount of Scout items and it was always a big thrill when on rare occasions we got to go to Abilene and rummage through all the Scout stuff at Minters.
J. C. Pennys in Stamford had a fun side also because you got to watch the clerk put the customers money in a little jar device and then shoot it up a cable to the 2nd floor were a cashier handled the money, made the change and returned it by the cable back to the sales clerk.
Lots of the other boys dyed their shirts or pants and never got a real one. But, we were never bothered by it too much because most all the other troops in the surrounding towns looked as we did. And besides Scouting was too much fun to worry about little details like a real uniform.
I think in West Texas at the time, it could have been said that the official Boy Scout Uniform was a green shirt and Levi blue jeans.
Badges, rank, and awards was another thing, we were all very competitive and took great pride in our Scouting Achievements.
We loved the district meetings which were often times held in the big old Methodist Church in Stamford, Texas which is located 14 miles west of Lueders, Texas.
At the district meetings which were called "District Courts of Honor", we would get our next badge of rank and/or merit badges and then have competition events between the troops which made up our district of the Chisholm Trail Council.
Although we took our competition events serious some were just pure fun and one of the fun events was a district contest to see which Boy Scout had the most freckles.
One night at a district meet at the Methodist Church in Stamford Old Troop 46 let out a war whoop heard all over the church when we learned one of the contest for the night was, "Who has the most freckles". We knew we had that rascal rapped up because a pure red head, Fredrick Lieb had recently joined Scouting and was with us. Fredrick had more freckles then a porcupine has quills and he did take the 1st place trophy which was a regular old tin coffee cup with "Most Freckles" painted on the side. But, to us it was a gold medal and Fredrick our hero.
Our biggest Scouting asset living in Lueders was the Clear Fork of the Brazos River and Cotton Wood Creek which was a feeder creek to the Clear Fork.
The south side of Lueders residential area starts right were the Clear Fork and Cotton Wood join.
At one time the Boy Scouts had a Scout hut up on the highest bank overlooking the point where the Cotton Wood joins the Clear Fork. But, I don't recall ever using this hut in my era which should indicate Lueders had several years of serious Scouting prior to my years. By the time I was in high school the hut had lost it's roof. However, as of today the walls being made of river rock are still partially standing.
The Missouri, Kansas, and Texas (MKT) railroad came through Lueders and the railroad bridge was also located were the Cotton Wood joins the Clear Fork.
We always worried a little about being caught on the bridge when we walked across it. But, we also pretty well knew the train schedules.
It was very exciting and a wonderful experience to be down by the bridge when one of the old steam locomotives came across pulling a long freight train.
In the early 30's, a dam was built across the Clear Fork a little down river from the railroad bridge to provide a water supply for the City of Stamford, Texas and surrounding towns including Lueders.
The Clear Fork and the Cotton Wood became our home away from home as we truly lived on the river in all our spare time.
Scouting and the river provided a Tom Sawyer like environment for us. We had forts, hide outs, and camping spots on the river from one end to the other relative to Lueders.
An island was made were the Cotton Wood branched into two streams to enter the Clear Fork and the island was one of our favorite spots on the river.
We always did pretty good at Scout meets in the outdoor events and I've always believed it was because of the experiences we got living on the river.
The railroad bridge, river dam, 2 cotton gins, 3 stone mills, rock quarries, an oil refinery, grain elevator, box cars and a large cotton wharf loaded with bales and bales of cotton to explore only added to the excitement.
In my era I don't recall the Baptist Encampment ever being used for camping by the Boy Scouts but, I understand it has been used.
In my era the Scouts did camp and hold meets at a place called Swenson's Jog which was located a mile or two down river from the Baptist Encampment Grounds. The Swenson Jog was so named because it was on the SMS Ranch at a jog in the Clear Fork of the Brazos River.
I recall one camping trip when we spent a day or two at Swenson Jog and we came in 2nd or 3rd in the competition events.
That was also the trip when me and my Scouting buddy Albert McCurdy got into a big big argument because he was assigned the task of getting some large bridge nails to use for our tent stakes and he forgot them.
Albert's came by the assignment because his father ran the Lueders Lumber Yard and that made the nails purchase price pretty cheap.
Albert's father had driven part of our troop out and was still there. He told us both to "Shut Up and get your axes". He then helped us cut some tree limbs for our stakes and that ended the argument.
Now we knew how to do that but, cutting green mesquite trees with thorns all over them in a hot Texas sun is not easy or fun. It appeared to us it was easier to argue.
Albert and I argued a lot because we were the best of friends and very competitive with each other. His father was wonderful with all us boys and I give credit to him for his part in raising me.
At this same meet, Albert and I were teamed together to start a fire using only friction.
We choose to use flint stones to strike together to get a spark to start our fire and we were having a hard time getting it started. Albert was doing the blowing and handling the kinlin, I was doing the striking. I had brought along a file to strike the flint with but, didn't use it at first because for some reason I felt like it was kind of cheating to use a file. After a little while I did start using the file and started achieving some good sparks. Also about that time the two Scouts next to us were hustling around trying to get their fire started and kicked some straw over next to Albert and he reached down and got part of their straw and put it in with our kinlin.
We then got the fire started rather quickly and came in either 2nd or 3rd or something like that in the friction fire building event.
Our troop had already made some pretty good scores overall but, the fire contest got some needed points and afterwards, I was making the remark that you guys better be glad I brought the file. Albert's comment was, "Shoot you better be glad I stole them other old boys straw". I had to admit it was some fine straw.
Some of the fire building contests would be judged on who boiled water in a coffee can first and another would require tying two or three strings on sticks across the top of the fire and up a foot or so and the contest was judged on who got their fire started and burned the strings into first.
Other out door competition events I can recall were First Aid, Knot Tying and one I will call Troop Signaling. The Troop Signaling was to signal a marching patrol behind you when to turn left or right or stop or kneel down or move forward in a walk, trot or run.
Frankly, I didn't know then and don't know now what the signals were or what they were for and the funny part is, none of my fellow scouters did either. We simply had never heard of such an event when we got to the Scoutmaster Station judging the event.
Fortunately, our group had to wait our turn to be tested and it was while waiting and watching that we figured out what the event was about and to some extent how the other scouts were giving their signals. We didn't know what to do because we had never seen the event before and it was too late to learn any signals. I happened to be the Patrol Leader at the time and together we decided I would send some kind of hand signal but, pay no attention to it and just as fast as everyone could they were to do whatever maneuver I did. In other words we faked it all. Amazingly, we came in second or third in this event and I will never know how we did that unless we were expert fakes or none of the other troops were use to the event either.
The knot tying competition was conducted by placing several even numbered patrols in a line and using a tag type game, each Scout would run about fifty feet to a Scoutmaster who gave the Scout a knot to tie and when the chosen knot was successfully executed and verified by the Scoutmaster the Scout would then run back to the line and tag the next Scout to run up to tie a knot. The patrol which completed all the knot tying sequences first was the winner. It is funny to recall now the time our group lost out totally in this event because the Scoutmasters son Keith, had trouble trying a square knot. He finally got it but, took so long we finished last in the event. In Keiths defense, he had only recently became a Scout and we forgave him.
First aid contest were performed in a similar manner and each Scout would demonstrate how to care for a certain wound.
I recall an occasion being assigned to demonstrate a Rattle Snake bite and the judging Scoutmaster said I was perfect and right out of the Scout manual but, I had drawn and treated only two fang wound marks. The Scoutmaster reminded me, a Rattle Snake has two fangs on top and two fangs on bottom for a total of four fangs and I had only demonstrated how to treat two fangs. Well shucks, I've never been bitten by a Rattle Snake before and that's how the manual showed it, I challenged. I still got a reduced score .
Our tents were World War II pup tents. I remember each of us owning half of a tent and the two halves went together with button like snaps. I don't recall how the other Scouts got theirs but, my brother-in-law, Ferman L. Rains was in the army during World War II and gave me the half I owned. (Borrowed from Uncle Sam)
Our local Scout Troop Meetings were held, mostly at the Methodist or Baptist Church in Lueders and these meetings consisted of the normal things of reciting the Scout oath, motto, slogan, practicing knot tying, checking merit badge status, etc. and Scoutmaster, Little Joe Delwaide usually had some fun stuff up his sleeve.
We did not do it at every troop meeting but, one of my favorites was the scavenger hunts he would send us on. He did this by breaking us up into teams of 3 or 4 Scouts per team which on a normally meeting night would usually give us 3 or 4 teams of scavengers.
He then gave us a list of things to bring back in a set period of an hour or two. The list might go something like this, 1 solid green sock, 1 pair of flowered color boxer shorts. 1 hack saw, 1 red apple, last Sundays sports section from Abilene Reporter News, a size 6-3/4 felt hat, 1942 August issue of Look Magazine.
Some parts of the list might be the same for all teams but, then parts of the list would be different.
In a town as small as Lueders everybody knew what Little Joe and his Scouts were doing and also knew they would get their stuff back the next day in good shape. So, most of the folks in town actually joined in on part of the fun and once we had chose their house to ask for items they would help find the things on the list by calling neighbors or friends who they thought might have a certain item. If no luck, it was on to the next house. Of course Joe kind of knew who had what and usually he had the list made so we had to go to a dozen places or so to fill the list.
Afterwards. Little Joe usually had some wonderful prize for the scavenger winners. i.e. "wonderful" usually meant a gotcha type prize.
I was saddened when for employment reasons, my first Scoutmaster, Little Joe Delwaide relocated to Fort Worth, Texas. Little Joe had been a strong influence on my young life.
He was called "Little" Joe because he worked for another fellow named Joe who was bigger then he was. So, it was Big Joe and Little Joe.
Little Joe was a very talented man with his hands and he had constructed a cabin in his back yard from wooden railroad ties. In the cabin next to the ceiling and all around was a book shelf from wall to wall and the shelf held back issues of Popular Mechanics Magazines.
I spent many an hour going through all his Popular Mechanic Magazines, when my parents visited with him and Irene.
Joe was a stone mason by trade and he and his own father did the stone work on most of the buildings at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas.
Even after their leaving Lueders, I never forgot Little Joe or Irene and stayed in touch with them either by Christmas cards or their two daughters, Beverly and Mauda Alice.
In 1990 I visited with Joe and Irene in Azle, Texas just outside Fort Worth were they had lived since moving from Lueders and spent the night with them.
At 81 years of age Little Joe was still promoting Scouting and doing things with his hands. He gave me a corn cob back scratcher and a rocking horse he had just built.
While we were out in his work shop two young boys stopped by to visit and ask him a few words of advice which reminded me of how so long ago he often did the very same for me.
Irene told me about Little Joe being recently honored for being one of the oldest living Eagle Scouts and I would think that correct because he became an Eagle Scout in 1925 at age 16.
Not many men can stand 5 foot five in height and be 9 feet tall but, Little Joe and my first Scoutmaster did.
Curtis Hardwick from Brownwood, Texas arrived in Lueders at just the right time to become the new Scoutmaster and I also consider him a great roll model in my life. Curtis was a telegraph operator for the Refinery Division of the Humble Oil Company and on a few occasions he took me to work with him and tried to teach me to operate a telegraph key and use Morse Code.
Curtis arrived at an OK time for me because I was about ready to have one of the grandest adventures of my young life and without Curtis I might not have made the National Boy Scout Jamboree held in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania in 1950 when I was fifteen years of age.
I say that because I think Curtis provided the influence necessary for my father to approve my going. I just didn't think I had a chance to go and Curtis was my Rock of Gibraltar that made it happen.
He gave me the courage to ask my father to help me go and he then convinced my father it was the thing to do.
As I recall, each troop within the Chisholm Trail Council was allowed to send two Scouts. In otherwords, Lueders, Texas Troop 46 could send 2 Scouts.
Unfortunately I can not say the 2 Lueders Scouts were selected based on merit as it probably should have been. Based on the economical times and the backgrounds previously given, it boiled down to who could rake up the green stuff to pay for the trip.
I happened to be one of the unlucky-lucky ones who might just be able to come up with the funds.
Previously, I had thought unlucky because my father was a tough old Irishman who believed in hard work but fair pay and he believed I should learn that at a very early age. Therefore since age 12, I had been working on an Oil Well Service Unit he owned and had been paid a wage of 50 cents an hour. I washed tools, tailed rods, and helped the regular guys.
Since I only got to work when school was out for the summer and on weekends it took a long long time to save much money at 50 cents an hour and especially so, because since age 12 I had been buying all my own clothes.
Buying my own clothes at age 12 was not my fathers idea. I did it because I wanted too. After all I was now a Boy Scout and being taught responsibilities.
So, at age 15 and the opportunity to take the trip of a life time I was now very lucky to have had that tough old Irish man for a father because my savings was up around $50.00 as I recall.
But, the $50.00 was not near enough. I believe the trip cost $150.00 and that was to be paid to the Chisholm Trail Council to cover their cost.
Then there was a list of official Boy Scout Jamboree equipment which had to be purchased. Each Scout was required to have two complete official Boy Scout uniforms. Other specified equipment I can recall was eating utensils, first aid kit, sewing kit and some special sleeping gear of which one was a straw tick for a mattress. I think the cots were furnished by the council. If I remember correctly counting spending money, we were looking at somewhere around $250.00 total to make the trip.
In Lueders, Texas in 1950, $250.00 was over a months wages for lots of folks.
Curtis Hardwick told us that if our parents would pay half, we would raise the other half from the community and he purposed to do that by throwing a bean supper in the high school gym and inviting all of Lueders to attend.
This Curtis accomplished by getting the two ladies who worked in the school lunch room to cook the beans and accessories in the school kitchen with help from our Scouting mothers and serving them in the high school gymnasium.
The bean supper raised $150.00 to go to scouter Ron Spinks and I because by this time it had been decided we were the two able to go.
Ron Spinks had to drop out later and I ended up getting all the $150.00 which meant the community of Lueders, Texas paid the Chisholm Trail Council part of my trip. My parents and I provided the special gear required and I remember leaving with $24.00 and coins in my pocket for spending money.
I will always be grateful to Scoutmaster Curtis Hardwick and the community of Lueders for without either I would not have been part of the National Boy Scout Jamboree of 1950.
A journal of my 1950 National Boy Scout Jamboree is available at: National Jamboree Journal.
A few things not mentioned in the journal was the fact the Korean war broke out the day we left on the Jamboree and it was news flowing back and forth on the train because some of us realized in just a few years it would be our turn to defend our country and were thankful Scouting had prepared us patriotically and for the outdoor life prevalent in wars.
For a West Texas youngsters the jamboree was an unbelievable experience in ways not thought of today. I saw my first television set in a tent at the Jamboree in Valley Forge. The screen was about 10 inches and in black and white.
No jet planes or diesels for us. Our train was pulled by a steam engine and going through the mountains in Pennsylvania and around Horseshoe Curve we had to have two steam engines.
Underground Subways, Cathedrals larger then Barns, an Empire State building higher then Oil Derricks, Nigeria Falls, the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Yankee Stadium, and looking at the United States Constitution that Thomas Jefferson put his pen too and being in the U. S. Capitol at Washington, D.C. was pure dreamland for a fifteen year old boy from West Texas.
Shortly after the Jamboree our Scoutmaster Curtis Hardwick relocated and for the remaining three years of my Scouting career Scoutmasters were hard to come by in Lueders, Texas because farming and the jobs of the time were not likely to be 40 hours a week. Jobs were usually sunup to sundown or can to can't. Free time and things like a paid holiday were few and far between.
Accordingly, Scouting in Lueders for a period of time was an on again - off again thing as we were without leadership.
The highest rank I obtained in the Boy Scouts was Life and I have always regretted not becoming an Eagle. I have used the gaps we had in Scoutmasters as my excuse and today still believe had we had continuity between Scoutmasters I would have reached my goal.
One of our Scoutmaster in this period was Mr. Moody Galbraith who was also the Lueders High School Principle.
Mr. Galbraith was a fine heavy set gentleman as gentle as he was heavy and he was our Scoutmaster in several of the camp outs at Swenson Jog.
I can recall Mr. Galbraith coming over to our house to examine a model I had made to obtain my machinery merit badge and being with us at some of the District Meetings at the Stamford Methodist Church but, I don't recall our regular Scout Meetings.
One of my Scouting Buddies, Carol Felts and I grew up together living across the street from each other and I asked him what he could recall about our Scouting days.
Carol remembers Mr. Galbraith having us hike all the way out from Lueders to the Swenson Jog for one of the camp outs. We probably were working on a hiking merit badge.
It was at this camp out that a minor flood nearly washed away some of the tents of a group of scouts camped too close to the river. In this area of the Clear Fork of the Brazos it had about 3 different levels of river banks and it wasn't a good idea to be too entrenched on one of the lower banks, especially after a heavy rain.
Carol also recalls winning a contest at the Jog by having the brightest flashlight. The contest was conducted by forming all the Scouts up in a circle and with each flashlight shining into the night sky the Scoutmaster judging the event had the dimmest flashlights turned off one at a time until only the brightest flashlight remained and Carols new flashlight he had recently purchased from the Lumber Yard won.
Carol remembers being a Den Chief and on den meeting days he got to wear his Scout shirt, neckerchief and lanyard that marked a Den Chief to school and then in the afternoon he rode the school bus out to the Ivy farm north of town were Mrs. Ivy was the Den Mother. After the meeting the Ivy's would take Carol home.
The final Scoutmaster of my youth was our High School Ag Teacher, Truman Kidwell who I personally recruited to be our Scoutmaster.
When I first asked just before school started, he said he was too busy and turned me down. However, he was a young teacher fresh out of Texas A & M and after school started and he discovered how rowdy a bunch of country farm boys could be in class, he decided there might be some advantage to being part of us rather then an outsider. So, one afternoon he came to me and wanted to make a deal that if me and my other Scout buddies would help with class discipline then he would be glad to be our Scoutmaster.
So, Mr. Kidwell became our Scoutmaster for a period but, I don't recall us doing much except when school let out for the summer, we did get Mr. Kidwell to take about six of us on a camping trip to Possum Kingdom Lake for a few days. We went in a school bus and used the Boy Scout Cabin.
The Boy Scouts had a fairly large cabin on Possum Kingdom Lake and it could be reserved by different Scout Troops and used for a few days during the summer months. I recall it having a big old rock fire place.
As I recall it now, the weekend at Possum Kingdom Lake in the Boy Scout Cabin just about wound up my Scouting career as a youth.
Adult life brought me the pleasure of raising 2 girls and a boy.
The girls had there turn in the Brownies and Girl Scouts and the boy had his turn in Cub Scouting.
When our son Ray Jr. reached Cub Scout age my wife and I were instrumental in helping start Cub Scout Pack #351 in Titusville, Florida in the late 60's and it remains a very active Pack today.
She was a Den Mother and I was one of the Pack Scoutmasters.
In the mid 90's I was involved with the Space Explorers Post #7 of the Boy Scouts in Titusville, Florida. An interesting experience since one of our meeting places was the Astronaut Hall of Fame at John F. Kennedy Space Center.
The Space Explorer Post was formed by special authorization from the Boy Scouts of America.
Today in full retirement,
I hold the fondest of memories about all my Scouting experiences and wish
every boy could have the same, for I believe it makes one a better person
and a prouder American.
You can view more information about E. Ray Smyth on his web site at: http://www.raysmyth.net/
Last Updated: July 20, 3006
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