19111 North 90th Drive
Many nights while waiting for sleep to kill all thoughts, I have turned over in my mind the idea of putting certain fond memories down on paper.
The day came when I was 12. That Thursday night I went to a meeting of Boy Scout Troop 356, located at the Kingshighway Jewish Center, East 29th Street and Kingshighway, Brooklyn, New York. I filled out the application papers and was assigned to the Panther Patrol.
That night I learned the structure of a Scout Troop. Top man was the Scoutmaster (SM), Assistant Scoutmaster (ASM), Junior Assistant Scoutmaster (JASM), Senior Patrol Leader (SPL), Patrol Leader (PL), and lastly the Assistant Patrol Leader (APL). There was in addition a Troop Scribe, Bugler, and Quartermaster. Any one having been a scout is familiar with the set up.
Two weeks later at a meeting I was ceremoniously presented with my Official Membership Card. I will never forget that three fold card with a picture of two scouts on the cover, the Oath and Law inside, and places for advancement signatures starting with Tenderfoot.
Excitedly waiting for Saturday, my parents drove us all downtown Brooklyn to the Cabin (an official Scout retailer) on Court Street. There we were greeted by one of the owners, Uncle Julie Meyers, who introduced us to the world of Official Scout Equipment. Starting with knee-high green socks, green wool tab garters, breeches laced at the knees, a long sleeve shirt, neckerchief in the troop colors (green and gold), an official neckerchief slide, belt with Scout emblem on the buckle, flat brimmed hat (smoky bear style) embroidered patches to be sewn to shirt, and a Scout Handbook. A wealth of information for a growing boy. Financially over budget we included a day pack and canteen. Uncle Julie threw in the Scout Knife and belt holder it attached to. It was several years later I was in a position to buy myself a decent overnight knapsack.
That Spring we were given applications to Scout Camp. The cost was $15 for a 2 week period, and $50 for the entire summer of 8 weeks. I told my father I would like to go for a period. He said he would think about it. A few days later he asked if I would like to go for the entire summer. Of course I said yes and the papers were filled out. I later learned my Dad had borrowed the money from the Morris Plan.
Next step was to borrow a camp trunk and camp blankets from cousins who had gone to camp in their younger days. Back to the Cabin for Official summer uniforms, shorts and short-sleeved V neck shirt. We bought 2 of each.
On the appointed day we drove to Brooklyn Plaza opposite Borough Hall where the busses were waiting for us. The trunks had been shipped the previous week by Railway Express. Waving goodbye, we were off, stopping halfway at the Red Apple Rest a famous stopping place on the drive up to the Catskills. Arrived at the Brooklyn Scout Camps, Division Two, about 3 in the afternoon. Checked in and was assigned to Camp Kennebec. Kennebec was just off the ballfield, where our trunks were. Checked in with the Scoutmaster, assigned to Bunk 4 (Dutchy Patrol). Back to the ballfield to get my trunk, and back across the ball field to the Quartermasters hut to get a mattress tick which I filled with straw. Back to the bunk to make the cot, meet the rest of the patrol, and learn a little about the Brooklyn Scout Camps.
The Ten Mile River camps were Brooklyn, Man for Manhattan, Ranaqua and 2 more whose names escape me. Each camp was situated on its own lake. Ours was Rock Lake, about 2-3 miles long by about 3/4 of a mile wide. We were divided into 4 divisions, each division having about 10 to 12 individual campsites. Each division had its own waterfront and activities on the lake. One additional camp Apalachi, was part of division 4 but had its own waterfront on Davis Pond. Each division operated independently of the others, having their own mess hall, nature lodge, handicraft lodge, etc. The camp headquarters was situated near Division 4, having a huge log building named Talequah housing camp staff, etc.
Toilet facilities must be mentioned here. We shared ours with the neighboring camp, Iraquois. Known as the Willie, a roughly built 2 story structure. Upper story had 2 showers, 2 rows of faucets, 4 to a side, and a wash tub. The lower level had 2 sides. One side had a wall for urinating, with a pipe on top dripping water. The side had a cement bench with 4 openings. Outside was a pivoting bucket the collected all the wash water and when full tilted flushing the toilets. All water came from the lake about a half mile downhill. On very warm days we had warm water. Otherwise all bathing and washing was in cold water. Cleaning the Willie was done on a daily basis with disinfectant and water. The 2 camps and total of 8 patrols shared cleaning duties.
In the mess hall, all camps sat together, with individual patrols sitting at large square tables, seating 8 boys. One boy a day was the waiter. At the appropriate bugle call he went to the mess hall, and set the table, putting out silverware, napkins, bread, plates and cups. He went back to camp. Assembly would be blown on the bugle, and all camps assembled on the ballfield which was also our parade grounds. Scoutmasters took reports from Patrol Leaders, and the reported to the Camp Master. We lowered the flag and proceeded to the mess hall. When all seated, the waiters would form a line, and trays of food would be passed out a window by the mess hall staff, and brought to the tables. Back for a pitcher of water, or milk, or a fruits flavored drink we called Epco. Foodservice was family style, and Patrol Leader would assure orderliness and fairness. Back once again for dessert, and afterwards the waiter cleared the table, putting dishes on one place for the dishwashers, silverware in another, garbage in the pails, and lastly wash the table down, wipe the benches and put them under the table.
Once a week the mess hall would be thoroughly washed down. Floors, walls if any, tables and benches. This was accomplished with soap and water. Best job was to man the hose. No windows, sides were open above a 4 foot wall, with hinged shutters that would be let down in case of rain. No electric. At night, and at wash downs, every body brought flashlights, kerosene lanterns, etc. The Wash downs were known as Swiss Navy Nights.
The bunks were open on 3 sides with a 4-foot wall on the sides and front. The rear wall was up to the roof. Eaves were very deep. In case of a hard rain we would hang our ponchos over our cots to keep them dry. Each bunk had a kerosene lantern and the glass globe had to be cleaned every morning before inspection. Each bunk had a broom, and floors were swept every morning before inspection. Rivalry between bunks created some interesting front entries, etc. All being swept daily. Fire Racks containing #10 cans from the mess hall, cleaned, handles fitted, and filled with water were hung in front of each bunk. Trunks fitted under the cots, so floors were open. Cots were placed one on each side of the doorway, 2 on each side and 2 against the back wall. In case of overcrowding, room in the center for up to 4 cots.
Having covered this much, the next most important place was the waterfront. On the second day, all campers went down to the waterfront. All swimming was in the nude except for weekends when visitors present. We all took the Dock test. This was to jump into the water and swim behind a boat with a waterfront man sitting in the stern holding a long bamboo pole to offer you if need. If you swam the distance successfully, you were a dock swimmer with the appropriate color tag. If not you were a crib swimmer, you would be swimming in a 4 sided cage with a bottom, floating in the lake. On the shore was a large board divided in sections into dock swimmers, crib swimmers, and canoe swimmers. You hung your tag in the appropriate section, and in all swimming the buddy system was utilized. When a whistle was blown and the guards yelled Buddies, you found yours quickly and raised both hands clasped in the air while a count was taken. If you did not co-operate rapidly you were docked (no swimming) for a length of time according to the severity of the offense. Usually a day or so. Canoe swimmers had to show proficiency in swimming, paddling a canoe, swamping it, emptying it and getting back in, and getting a swimmer into the canoe.
Mornings at the waterfront were given over to instruction. The motto was "every Scout a swimmer". So swimming, rowing, canoeing, and life guard instruction was offered. Afternoons were for rowing and canoeing for after lunch to 3 P.M. at which time all boats had to be in, and a general swim was on from about 3 to 4. After supper passes for rowing and canoeing were issued by the scoutmaster. We would go to the end of the lake, where the canteen would be open and buy Dum-Dums a popular lollypop, candy bars, cookies, soda and ice cream. The canteen was manned by older scouts who work this job and had the entire summer free in exchange. A plum job.
Advancement and Merit Badge instruction and testing were held during several morning periods, after camp inspection. Bugle calls announced the start of each period. This went on until lunch. The Handicraft Lodge and Nature Lodges were open every morning and afternoon. In the Handicraft lodge tools could be borrowed for carpentry, leatherwork and metal work. Kits were also available. Most popular were lanyard strips for braiding, leather kits for knife sheaths, moccasins and feather headdresses. Also popular were copper blanks for hammering with molds into ash-trays, candy dishes, etc. In the case of ash trays, soldering was taught for the cigar rests. I bought a lemonwood stave, and fashioned it into a bow to be used for long distance shooting. It was fitted with two straps for the feet, as this was used lying down on ones back, with the bow on the feet. The pull was well over 100 pounds. I made the string from linen thread, twisting it into a serviceable bow string, and waxing it heavily with bees wax. I fletched the arrows myself, using target points as they dug into the ground, and extra long shafts. After planing and shaping the bow, final finishing was done with glass being used as a very fine plane or scraper. I oiled the wood as a final finish, several coats. No shellac or varnish.
Every period a Board of Review or a Court of Honor was held to review all advancements in rank or merit badges. My first summer I made Second Class and many First Class Requirements. Also a few merit badges allowed to a Second Class scout.
Many council fires were held every period. First a patrol fire the first two days of the period to work up a patrol cheer and song which were shouted in the mess hall. Secondly a Camp fire with all the patrols. The Camp song and cheer were learned for use in the mess hall and at the Division camp fire. Schedules such as interpatrol sports, inter camp sports, etc. were gone over. Each camp would vote for two candidates for election to the Order of the Arrow, an honorary camp society. At the division fire large circles were formed and silence was maintained. Members of the order dressed in Indian Blankets and 2 Eagle feathers in their hair would walk around the circle. A same dressed member walked at the rear of the circle. When they came to an elected scout he would be pushed backwards into the arms of the rear member, who would cover his mouth to maintain silence. This was known as the "push out ceremony". The candidates were led back to their bunks to pick up a blanket, and were left out in the woods for the night. They were picked up in the morning and told of the events to come. Firstly silence must be maintained. Secondly two meals consisted of 2 slices of plain bread and water. They did various manual work around the camp, maintenance or special projects. No one spoke to them all day. At night they could bathe, change to clean uniforms, and had a supper feast attended by all members after the new candidates were led to a secret campfire site used only by the Order for the induction ceremony.
The most impressive Fire was held once a period at Headquarters Tahlequah Council Ring. The camps all hiked together to Headquarters, and the canteen was open. When the bugler blew Assembly. We lined up on the huge lawn in front of the Talequah building, by Patrol, Camp and Division. Attendance was reported, and the flags were ceremoniously lowered. We all marched camp by camp to a huge Council Ring with members of the Order of the Arrow in ceremonial dress lining the trail. The Council Ring had rough hewn log bleachers and huge logs on the ground for seats. It seated between 1200 and 1500 scouts. In the center was a pyramidal fire of logs, with kindling inside, standing about 6 to 8 feet tall. I never had seen anything like it. The Indians had a ceremony, and a flaming arrow was shot into the fire which blazed up instantly as the wood had been soaked in kerosene.
Selected camps presented their song and cheers and rehearsed skits were well applauded. After the last song, all camps marched back to their campsites in the dark. Most boys had flashlights. Some of the patrols had brought their lanterns. We took the Rim Trail, paralleling the road but through the woods.
Divisions one and two were kosher, and we would have 2 rabbinical students from a seminary. They saw to it the pots used for the overnight hikes were kept kosher as were the cooking and eating utensils. They led Sabbath Services in the Mess Hall after Breakfast clean up. Uncle Julie came up that summer and under his guidance volunteers built the Synagogue in the Woods. A simple platform with an ark and table, and benches from the mess hall were used. The congregation sat on large logs we cut and set up in circular rows around the platform. We would usually have between 200 and 300 scouts at services.
Every camp had to go on an overnight hike every period. Scouts were sent to the mess hall to draw food. Eggs, bread, vegetables, jams, cocoa, butter and meat were brought back to camp. Others went to the quartermasters and took pots for each patrol, kosher and not, silverware, cooking utensils, and such. All Meat pots had red paint slashes as had the silverware. We also had soap powder for cleaning, scouring was done in the river with sand, as was the other cleanup. Spoilables were placed in waterproof bags and left in the water. For those with too small a knapsack, TMR Packs were available from the quartermaster. These were canvas squares about 6 foot square. Grommets were set about every 12 inches on all 4 sides. In the middle was stitched a set of adjustable straps. The pack was placed on the ground straps down, and packed with clothing, blankets, toilet gear, towel, etc. Food and pots as apportioned were added, the sides folded in as a package might be, and tied all around with binder twine. I remember seeing one packed once with an egg crate used to contain everything. It made a very substantial and handy pack. It could be used at the campsite as a hammock, lean-to or ground cloth. Most of our campsites were in deep old growth pine woods, so we had plenty of needles to sweep together for mattresses.
We also brought back supplies of these needles to put into scraps of canvas stitched into a cushion, for use as kneeling pads in the canoes.
The Ten Mile River Scout Camps all had their own individual campsites, so we never met scouts from the other Borough Camps.
Near all the campsites used by Camp Brooklyn, was the Donut Farm. We would go there, and gather in one large room, for donuts and milk. Also nearby was Doc Vanattas, a filling station with a few cabins for visiting parents, who sold candy, ice cream and soda. This was a popular place. Both were situated on Route 97. They could both be reached from the camp by walking on the road all around the lake, or on a backwoods trail from Division 1 known as the Pig Trail, as it came out alongside a pig farm on 97.
Three to four day trips were available every period at a nominal cost. One was the Slide Mountain Trip, the other was the Lake Wallenpaupak Canoe Trip. The lake was in Pennsylvania, and tremendous. Part of this trip was to camp near a resort, White Swan, where we could buy food, candy, etc. The canoe trip was a good time to take the canoeing merit badge. We had been taught the various strokes, a canoe rescue, empty a swamped canoe, canoe repairs, and how to repair a broken paddle.
Every scout who was or became a dock swimmer, and went on at least one overnight hike received his TMR badge. A round, red badge with a tab, fastened to a button over the right shirt pocket. There were 4 borders and 4 stars available as trim on the badge. Four different colors, one each for Nature, Camping, Waterfront Activities and Handicraft. Merit badges in those specialties were necessary and if memory serves me correctly, 2 badges for the borders, and 2 additional badges for the stars. After several summers I had all 4 borders and stars. Members of the Order of the Arrow wore a narrow, white sash printed with a bright red arrow, over the right shoulder with the arrow pointed up.
The post office was a smallish log building under some large pine trees in the headquarters area. Each camp sent a scout daily with the mail bag containing outgoing mail, and he would pick up incoming mail for the camp.
One of my years in camp I was elected to the Order and as such was a First Degree member. If you continued working at the camp you could reach Second Degree and eventually Third Degree. Third Degree was as honored as was a Silver Beaver.
Back home in Brooklyn, hiking and camping was limited. Day hikes to the Jersey Palisades via the Washington Bridge or a ferry at 125th Street, Van Cortland Park via a long Subway Ride and Alpine Scout Camp in New Jersey reached from the Yonkers Ferry, or a long hike up Route 9 from the Washington Bridge. Alpine was also used for overnights, and Camporees. The town of Closter was nearby for additional provisions, or later for a cup of coffee and piece of pie. We also took the Staten Island Ferry and hiked along Boulevards to the beaches. This ferry docked at the foot of 59th street, Brooklyn. The ferry from the Battery was a great ocean voyage for a quarter, round trip.
Going back to TMR camp, after the Order of the Arrow push out ceremony, the candidate was rushed back to his bunk to get a blanket, and was led into the deep woods at the end of Rock Lake, where he spent the night alone. He was picked up the next morning. He was instructed to carve a small wooden arrow which he hung around his neck. This was the Ordeal Honor. Usually a Patrol Leader who was not a member would start electioneering, being ultra friendly to campers in his camp. Occasionally an ordinary camper usually in his second summer at least would be elected.
During my many years in Scout Camp I earned 28 merit badges, and others such as Scout Lifeguard, Red Cross Senior Life Guard, etc. All the required badges for Eagle I had with the exception of Civics. This badge required the candidate to make a scrapbook, which I thought was silly, so I never got the badge, and never made Eagle Scout, which in later years I regretted.
Active in Scouting all through High School, in College joined the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity, the Honorary Scouting Fraternity based on service to the school and students.
After service I went to L.I.U. in Brooklyn, and there was active in the formation of a new A P 0 chapter. A friend enlisted me as a Mate in his Sea Scout Ship, a division of boy scouts ages 15 and up. Eventually, when we bought our house on Long Island I had a Sea Scout Ship of which I was the Skipper.
I also at this time became a Merit Badge Counselor for the camp badges, to give the opportunity to boys who never got to Scout Camp. These were Camping, Cooking, Pioneering and Hiking. Classes were held on Saturday mornings on my front stoop. (Stoops in case you do not remember, were steps leading up to the front door.) Boys would bring home-made ovens and stoves to cook a meal on the front walk, and we usually enjoyed these. One boy even rang the door-bell to ask how deep I had taught him to ditch his tent for water run-off. I told him and advised him to pitch the tent on the lawn and forget the ditching.
All this while we lived in Nassau County on Long Island. I was a member of the troop committee all this time. The Sea Explorer Leaders held a Round Table meeting monthly, during which courses were given to new leaders and I was one of the instructors.
One time, while still in Brooklyn, there was a New York City-wide Scout-O-Rama to be held in the old Madison Square Garden. Scouts built towers and bridges on the main floor and other such exhibits. The Sea Scouts threw heaving lines and other nautical exhibits. Our ship had borrowed a line throwing gun from the Atlantic Beach Coast Guard Base, and we set up a Breeches Buoy from the main floor up to the balcony, and sent several boys up and down. This got rave reviews in the press.
One weekend while camped out at Short Beach (adjacent to Jones Beach) one of the boys spotted flashlight signals from a boat. It was not in Morse Code, but we figured they were in trouble, so we went to investigate. Four men had gone late night fishing, well equipped with several six-packs, and had run aground. We got them off the sand bar and towed the boat to the nearby Coats Guard Base. Our Ship received a Commendation from the Coast Guard Headquarters praising the boys for their actions. The men we rescued bought us a tankful of gas the following day as a thank you offering.
Eventually as my own two boys got older, they went into scouting, and I became active in the troop, withdrawing from the Sea Scout activities.
As my sons grew, and left home, my interest in scouting waned and I was left with a merit badge sash and Order of the Arrow sash, which I kept for many years, eventually selling all to a collector.
TMR Scout Camp:
Bunk 4- Patrol Leader Artie Altaman
Scoutmaster- Eddie Kanner Asst. SM - Hal Brody
Campmaster- Maurice Pollak (Polly)
Bugler - Charlie Kogan ( I admired him, as he occasionally came with us on the overnight hikes and he had a basket pack and wore Bean boots.)
Waterfront - Two guys named Phil. One known as Phil Up, the other as Phil Down. This was due to their disparity in height. The waterfront was a long down hill hike from Camp. The trail was behind Camp Iroquois. It was a shock initially as we swam nude.
I was also a Senior Scout. We took classes Saturday Mornings at Brooklyn College. I rode the Ocean Ave. Trolley from home on Ave R to the school. We had a special Senior Scout badge with small arc badges, similar to the TMR emblems to denote special areas. I remember having the Scout Woodsman arc. The other specialties I cannot remember.
My first summer I advanced to Second Class. This was mainly due to Hal Brody working with me for several hours to teach me Morse and Semaphore codes.
Before joining troop 356 I visited troop 40, Ted Roth, scoutmaster. Meeting at the Ave. R Temple, just a few blocks from my home. An old, well established troop, but I guess I was overwhelmed with their extremely large membership. 356 a new troop met at the Kingsway Jewish Center, Kingshighway and 29th Street. Both 40 and 356were in the Sheepshead Bay District.
A fellow member of 356, David Lewis went on to become an executive in the Brooklyn Council. A fellow member of Alpha Phi Omega at LIU, Wally Friedman became an executive in the Greater New York Council.
Round the shores of dear old Rock lake Camps encircling lie Nestled close to wooded hillsides Charming every eye. Dear old Rock lake Bathed in sunlight How we love thy shore, Calling us to truer manhood Now and evermore.
Round the blazing campfires light We have met in comradeship tonight. Roundabout the whispering trees Guard our golden memories. And so before we close our eyes to sleep Let us pledge each other that we'll keep Scouting memories strong and dear Till we meet again.