Members of the few troops that exist longer than 25 years get to wear a special year "bar" above the troop number on their uniform (and for every 5 years thereafter). Fifty-year troops are even rarer. Troop 97 began in 1952, failed in 1956, then started again in 1959, so our "bar" now shows 55 years. The story of Scouting and of Troop 97 over those years makes an interesting tale. This story was researched and written by Scoutmaster Jeff Snowden in 1984 on the occasion of the troop's 25th anniversary. It has been updated several times since. The occasional opinions expressed are those of the author, based on research and personal experience. Corrections of fact are always welcome.
Troop 97 Milestones
Scoutmasters of Record
The late 1940s and the 1950s were a time of gradual change and rapid growth for the BSA (Boy Scouts of America). During this period, Cub Scout and Boy Scout age limits were lowered, Scout advancement underwent several changes, Cub Scouting added the Webelos program, and the Exploring program was extensively modified. In 1959, the BSA increased the dimensions of the Boy Scout Handbook (to its present size) and used full color throughout for the first time.
Between 1950 and 1960, BSA membership soared from 2.8 million to 5.2 million.
Troop 97 began in March, 1952, with eight Scouts on the first charter application. Started by the Brotherhood of St. Andrew (an Episcopal men's group), the troop has always been sponsored by St. Luke's Episcopal Church. For many years, the troop met at the old downtown church on the southeast corner of Oak & College (the beautiful stone Parish Hall is still there), until the present building at 2000 S. Stover was completed in 1965 (this was the south edge of town at that time). Troop 97's first Scoutmaster was Norton Miner. The troop reached a peak of 24 Scouts on the 1954 Charter, and produced its first two Eagle Scouts in April, 1954. Troop 97 had five Scoutmasters in four years and died in 1956. It would be almost three years before the troop was revived by a new group of leaders.
For the BSA, the 1960s were a time of increasing membership and high hopes for the future. The turmoil in American society of the late '60s (Vietnam protests, race riots, drug abuse) had little visible effect on the BSA until the early '70s. But childhood was becoming more complex, as illicit drugs and moral permissiveness became widespread. Scouting helped to provide solid standards during this era.
Sadly, the 1960s saw the BSA forfeit its valued reputation for conservation leadership, as the BSA failed to re-examine and update its now-antiquated and destructive outdoor practices. Not until the 1970s would the BSA begin to catch up with modern practices and begin again to teach Scouts to be leaders in preserving our outdoor resources.
The late 1960s finally saw the BSA end its 58-year record of allowing official racial segregation in its chartered Scout Councils, districts, troops, and camps.
Between 1960 and 1970, BSA membership climbed from 5.2 million to 6.3 million.
Troop 97 was reborn in June, 1959, with five Scouts on the charter application. The troop has been in continuous existence since then, making our troop officially 56 years old (as of May, 2015). Jerry Lamson was the first Scoutmaster of the new troop, but Scott Peterson took over as Scoutmaster during summer camp the month after the troop was organized.
From 1962 to 1966, St. Luke's also sponsored Sea Explorer Ship 97, a short-lived offshoot of the active Scout program at the church during that period (only 23 boys were members of the ship over its four-year life). The ship was closely allied with Troop 97, and about half of its registered adults and youth members had been members of Troop 97.
For Troop 97, the 1960s were dominated by the seven-year leadership of Scoutmaster Wayne Parsons (1962-69). Under Parsons, Troop 97 became one of the largest and most active troops in the area. Troop 97 achieved its highest charter enrollment of 84 Scouts in 1969 (although some remember troop membership exceeding 100 members at one time!). Eighteen Troop 97 Scouts earned Eagle under Parsons (including Ship 97's only Eagle). Parsons, who worked for the US Forest Service, also directed the troop in work on the Hornaday Award, which several Scouts received. This national award recognizes significant contributions to conservation, and is rarely earned.
The 1970s decade was a dark time for the Boy Scouts of America. The period from 1972-80 was a national disaster, when BSA membership declined nationwide by 34% (a loss of 2.2 million members)! Although many changes in our society had an adverse impact on all youth programs, much of the cause for the drastic BSA membership decline was due to the radically changed Scout program of the period.
In 1972, the BSA made sudden and radical changes to the Scouting program, abandoning much of the traditional outdoor program, and applying inner-city programming to ALL of Scouting (what to do if lost?—The new Scout handbook's entire "Lost" section showed a boy talking to a policeman with the instructions, "Ask for directions to find the way"). New, "politically-correct" terminology defined the era (the BSA had no "boys" or "Boy Scouts" because "boy" was considered demeaning; no longer an outdoorsman, the Scoutmaster became a "manager of learning" who taught Scouts the 11 "leadership competencies;" he guided Scouts through "personal growth agreement conferences" as they advanced through the various "progress awards.")
The BSA began modifying the short-lived "Improved Scouting Program" in 1975, and finally scrapped the program in 1978-79, after only six years of use. The program stands in sharp contrast to Scouting before 1972 or since 1978.
During the 1970s, the BSA finally updated its heavy-impact conservation practices to modern low-impact policies designed to protect our rapidly dwindling outdoor resources.
BSA membership peaked at 6.5 million in 1972, and reached bottom in 1980 with 4.3 million.
Troop 97 during most of these years was a sad reflection of the national BSA trends. From the area's largest and most active troop in the late 1960s, it was dying by the mid 1970s, declining in membership every year but one from 1969 to 1976. The troop went through six Scoutmasters during those seven years.
By 1976, Troop 97's program and leadership were bankrupt. The troop had only five Scouts and continued to exist solely to let four of them finish Eagle. The troop seldom camped and had not recruited a new member in over two years. With sad irony, Troop 97 was scheduled to die the moment those four Scouts finished their Eagle in September, 1976.
The story of Troop 97 continues, however, because new leadership appeared and revitalized the troop. Hank Deutsch and John Nicol assumed control of the troop in September, 1976, and built the troop up to 30 enthusiastic Scouts by January, 1979. Today's Troop 97 owes its existence and many of its traditions to this building period.
Starting in 1978, new national BSA leadership reversed course, scrapping much of the "Improved Scouting Program" and beginning a return to traditional Scouting that was completed in 1990 with the introduction of the 10th Edition of the Boy Scout Handbook.
BSA membership has been fairly steady since 1980 (about 4.5 million). What growth has occurred is due largely to lowered Cub Scout age limits and to the creation of new, often non-traditional programs (Tiger Cubs, Varsity Scouting, Learning for Life). The membership trend in traditional Cub Scout, Boy Scout, and Explorer (now Venturing) units, while up slightly from the '70s, remains nearly flat.
Jeff Snowden became Troop 97's 16th Scoutmaster in January, 1979. Active troop membership since then has ranged from the mid-30s to over 80 Scouts. As it was in the 1960s, Troop 97 has again become a large and active troop.