An Unheralded Strength of Scouting: Nurturing Life-Long Friendship (Stephen Bergman)
If memory serves, the 1950s edition of THE HANDBOOK FOR BOYS, colloquially known as the Boy Scout Handbook, in highlighting the strengths and attractions of the movement, alluded to the friendships that were bound to form among members of one’s patrol and one’s troop. Understandably, the material made no reference to maintaining these relationships for, say, sixty-five or more years. For the adolescent psyche, pondering the likely events of the next several months may be the extent of introspection about the future. Adolescents tend to live in the present. Yet, arguably, Scouting, in various ways, may well have planted the seed in terms of the merit of sustained friendship.
Of course, the SCOUT LAW does allude to friendship: “A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, FRIENDLY...” We all know the drill. Did any of us take the Scout Law literally? The answer is negative. But, these guidelines to conduct may have had a greater long-term influence than many of us could have imagined.
As a Camp Man, Lakeside Division rookie in 1953, l was housed with my “home troop” in Kiwiken, a nondescript lean-to campsite. The sole claim to fame of the place was its proximity to The Tower of Friendship.
Virtually every Scout from each camp which bordered Crystal Lake took a day hike to The Tower of Friendship and was exposed to its lore. The “hike” from Kiwiken to the Tower was approximately two hundred yards, so our visits were virtually on a daily basis. We were in awe of the collection of stones from each of the states and from several foreign countries...all provided by Scouts like ourselves. Our conversations focused on the place names. On some level we comprehended the relevance of the Tower as a physical symbol of the profound bonds created through Scouting.
Fast forward to the present. As we speak, a friendship founded in the mid -1950s through Queens Council Scouting, Ten Mile River participation and Suanhacky Lodge leadership is as strong as ever. The bond of friendship between Stephen Bergman (Suanhacky Lodge Chief, 1959-60) and Martin Von Holden, (Suanhacky Lodge Chief, 1960-61) and their respective families is rock solid. Thank you, Queens Council Scouting, for influencing two lives in such a sustained and profound manner.
The HANDBOOK FOR BOYS may not have defined the entire scenario, but it did its job well!