Trip of a lifetime remembered
NEW ALBANY -
Ninety-four-year-old Bill Baker and his former Boy Scouts joined each other Sunday for one more outing.
This time, however, it wasn't the Great Outdoors, but rather the New Albany Methodist Church that was their destination.
They gathered there to remember the trip of a lifetime they took 50 years ago to the Philmont Boy Scout Ranch in New Mexico.
Back then, they were teenagers. Today, they're grown men - husbands, fathers, grandfathers. But their pride in Scouting still runs deep, as does their fond memories of Philmont.
"I loved it," said Baker's son, Sam, of the Williamsport area, who was 15 years old when he went on the trip back in 1964. He remembered seeing mule deer.
"It was great, it was very educational."
According to the ranch website, Philmont Scout Ranch "is the Boy Scouts of America's largest national High Adventure Base," and its 34 staffed camps and 55 trail camps "provide an unforgettable adventure in the high country along hundreds of miles of rugged, rocky trails."
It's drawn more than 950,000 Scouts, Venturers, and leaders since 1939, its first camping season, according to the website.
Others who went on the trip 50 years ago were also at the reunion: Bill Rinker of Milford, Del.; Clifford "Skip" Dunn of New Albany; John Howell of New Albany; and David Norton of Athens.
At the reunion, there were old photos and other items to help them take the trip down memory lane.
An old article from The Daily Review dated July 28, 1964 was included in the display.
It read, "On Monday, July 27, the Philmont contingent of the General Sullivan Boy Scout Council departed from Waverly by train for a 12-day high adventure experience at the Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron, N.M."
It noted that "many months of planning and preparation have gone into this activity," and provided some information on the ranch, which it said was 127,000 acres in size and allowed the Scouts to hike, camp, mountain climb, fish, pan for gold, ride horses, and take part in other activities.
The article stated, "it is most certain that these Scouts and Explorers will long remember their trip as a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
The article proved to be especially true in that sense.
Prior to Sunday's reunion, the Scouts were asked what they remembered about the trip, and their recollections were recorded on a handout that was provided at the event.
Norton remembered catching some trout with John Howell and some survival techniques that he said "produced some very warm barrel cactus to help our parched throats."
"I don't believe cutting cactus is allowed now!" he wrote.
He also recalled "the rattlesnake episode."
Dunn also remembered this incident.
He wrote, "I remember guys digging under a rock for a rattlesnake and luckily not finding it."
The hand-out included Dunn's diary entries from the trip.
An Aug. 4, 1964 diary entry notes how the Scouts met a boy "who had a large gash in his arm from a bear, who had swiped his arm in Cimarroncito."
That seemed to have given one Scout an idea.
The diary entry notes, "After we went to bed, John Howell got out of bed and knocked over our trash can to make us think there was a bear there, which a few of us believed. After that he went in back of our tents and scratched on the back of them like a bear would. Some of us were a little scared, but found out in the morning that it was John, which was a big relief."
An Aug. 6 diary entry notes how the Scouts hiked up 2,000 feet to reach the top of Comanche Peak, where they ate lunch.
State Rep. Tina Pickett, who said she was an admirer of Scouting, presented Bill Baker, of Wyalusing, who chaperoned the Scouts on the trip to Philmont, with a citation from the state House of Representatives.
"I do have a congratulations for you here today," Pickett told him, prior to presenting him the citation, telling him it was from "everybody in Pennsylvania." She told him that the years of service he contributed to Scouting "means a lot to this entire state," including the local community and his Scouts.
"What you have done through the years is just an incredible accomplishment, and we thank you for it," she said.
The citation notes that he "is lauded by the General Sullivan Council as the oldest Silver Beaver award holder, an honor he received in 1989."
"Demonstrating outstanding loyalty to the noble goals and principles of the Boys Scouts of America, Mr. Baker has generously contributed to the welfare of the organization and its members through his valuable service."
Former Scouts who also went on the trip but have passed away are Robert Hanzok and Bob Bennett. Other former Scouts who made the trip but were not present for the reunion were Max Gannon and Gary Adams. Former Scout Jim Carey of Franklin, Tenn., it was noted, was not able to attend the reunion, but sent his pictures and other memorabilia.
Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.