Thursday, January 8, 2009

"Uncle Sydney vs the Boy Scouts"

Well it was the early 1960's, and "Morning in America!" Jackie Kennedy was "jazz'n up" the White House'n try'n to give us a little class for christ's sakes. Dr. King, and other's was out there risking their lives for the soul of the nation. Because of that white folks was finally starting to feel a little ashamed of all them lynchings 'n stuff they let pass.

We was putting up the first satellites, and planning to go to the Moon! For those of you who wasn't there I got'a tell ya this country was serious shit in them daze!

Dig it,.. our folks had good jobs, gas was cheap, we had tv's, and was watch'n 'em till the cows came home! The schools worked, the trash was collected, Santa came every Christmas, and any work'n Joe could buy a house.

Shit! We had the H-frigg'n Bomb, and zillions of shiny new B-52's to deliver them! So nobody dared give us crap. Not only that, but polio was licked, and comic books was 10 cents.

Hey! Was that a "Golden Age" or what?!!

Well, in the middle of all that bright, and happy noise I decided I wanted to be a Boy Scout! 'Made sense given the times. I wanted to serve my country,..over easy with fries. It was "Camelot" big time back then, and I wanted to do my bit for "King'n Country!"

Also in my horny young mind I figured the scouts was just the place for a Queer kid, with Anarchist tendencies. I figured getting in would be no problem. After all I was real smart, sweet, and polite as hell!

I also had the "Blessed Virgin Mary", da frigg'n "Pope", my Mommy, and Robert Kennedy's Justice Department on my side.

How could I lose?

See I had gleeful visions of wearing one of them "Smokey the Bear" hats that scouts gets to have. Boy those things is neat! Better than cowboy hats anyday. I was dreaming of that, and all them badges, ribbons, medals, and assorted bright, and cheerful doodads they heaps on ya in the scouts for being a good kid.

'Course then there was the official "Boy Scouts of America!" hatchet, canteen, compass, handbook, and surplus national guard folding mini-shovel dancing like sugar plums over my innocent, and curly head!

Eh, say nuthin' about them cute scout short pants, and knee sox. Well okay that was a later "fetish",..but still ya gets the idea.

Let me tell you of my innocent boyish scouting visions,...

I saw me, and my new scout pal's out in the wilds of New Jersey,..tracking down mountain lions, digging up "Spanish Gold!", building tree house's, and sighting UFO's.

We'd also be hot on the trail of "Atomic Spies", rescuing catz, exploring mysterious caves, and making friends with da Indians.

We'd be tying all sorts of knots, and painting ourselves up like "Souix Warriors". We would eat wild berries, shit in the woods, wipe our butts with leaves. The lot of us would go running on all fours, and howl at the moon like wolves!

To relax we'd go skinny dipping, have kissing contests, circle jerks, blow things up, and build model airplanes!

At night under the stars we'd sing do-wop songs, cook foot long koshur hot dogs over a roaring camp fire, and tell scary stories about deranged communist robots from Venus invading Nebraska.

At bed time we'd set up surplus air force parachutes, and use them as our communal tents. We'd all recite our prayers, kiss each other good night, cuddle up like puppies, and slip into the gentle arms of Elysium. Perhaps some few might stay awake to chase fireflies or sing songs to each other.

Oh, such a sweet, and innocent vision.

Unfortunately 'none' of this swell shit went down. What did happen was...

My Mom: "What did you say?!"

Scoutmaster: "Eh,..I'm sorry Mrs. Smith, but it's just policy". "There's nothing I can do about it"

"This troop doesn't admit Coloreds".

My Mom: "But my son goes to this school which is integrated". "Your troop is part of this school"

Scoutmaster: "Technically yes, but the board has the final say in these matters".
"As I said I'm sorry we can't admit your son into our program."

My Mom was gonna slug this jerk, but didn't. He seemed, (at least to her, she said). This american apartheid apparachick seemed ashamed of having to do this foul shit.

I'd have slugged him anyway, and maybe burned the school down too. Anyhow the "I'm just following orders" drone went on to tell my Mom of another troop that was willing to take a 'few' negro boys.


That bunch was a long bus ride away from where we lived so "thanks", but "no thanks!" Adolf. So with my scouting life receding in the rear view mirror I made do.

From then on I was looked after by the crazy old ladies at the Brooklyn Community Center. They were a bunch of very nice old Jewish ladies, and they taught me all sorts of stuff.

Mrs. Gold who's husband had fought in Spain against the Fascists showed me how to make cupcakes. She also taught me that white people weren't all full of shit.

Thank you Mrs. Gold.

If it wasn't for you I'd probably be a *fearful closet case in the Nation of Islam or one'a them other race nut groups.

*('s rumored the "Nation" kills any gays they find in their ranks.)

Getting back to what my Mom went though. I have to say I didn't know about any of this. Instead my Mommy told me this whole concocted story about their being no room in local scout troop that season.

'Made sense too. You have to remember it was the early 60's. The height of the "Baby Boom" era.

There were zillions of us kids all over the place. Hell, we was "climb'n in through da gawd damned windows!", quote Holden Caufield.

So yeah I bought it.

Next year I asked again, same story. The year after that I didn't ask. I had other problems. 'Like slamming face first into my "wonderful" teen years.

Well the seasons passed,..imagine the pages flying off a calender or hour glass's going nuts like in them old black'n white movies. Well with one thing, and another I found myself a young man.

Eh, perhaps I should put that another way. Never mind, look it was 1976 the Bi-Centennial year.

We'd just lost the Viet-Nam War, there were mile long lines for petrol, the economy was in the toilet. Ford Pinto's were spontaneously combusting on our highways. The latter because it was cheaper to pay off the families than fix the problem.

...rot in hell Henry Ford.

We'd stopped going to the moon, or anywhere else for that matter. People thought "platform shoes" were cool, and the first rumblings of the Drug War, and AIDS were being heard. Oh yeah, and lime green was 'in'.

...the 1970's.

America was 200 years old,...for the first time!

Well "lime green" or not you only get one "Bi-Centennial" to a country. So we celebrated. It was our 200th national birthday, and I had gone home to visit my folks.

'Back then I was living way out west.

'Stuff happened. I saw interesting, terrible, and wonderful things out there. The west is truly another country. New York is like Idaho like Moscow is like Lisbon.

...and about the same distance too.

I never told anyone about them strange, scary, wonderful days. Not my family, not my pals, not my radio audience, not you. day maybe.

But back to this particular story.

I was home sitting in the parlor watching the parades, and mayhem with my Mom on her color tv. Her first. Aw gee. I remember when I first saw color tv. Heck even the commercial looked good. Anyway as we watched there were these guys dressed in civil war uniforms re-enacting some battle.

After that six-gun tote'n cowboys showed up, and shot at each other for a while. Then some white guys came on dressed as Indians, and did some sort of phony native dance. There was a float with some actors pretending to be astronauts on the moon we no longer went to.

Next some old farts in funny hats driving "Model T's" chugged along. This was followed by a mess of high school "ROTC" drill teams goose stepping down 5th avenue like the Hitler Youth. They was flip'n their M-1 carbines all over the place, and not one was dropped!

Next a bunch'a folks rolled by dressed like pilgrims. They was drink'n Cokes on a flatbed pulled by oxen. Some "Rough Ryders' on horseback shot at some Cubans, and all this followed by poor slobs in hot dog suits shoveling up after them.

Yep! That's "America" okay. '..recognize her anywhere.

Well, after a while on comes the Boy Scouts,..hundreds of 'em! They was wearing their "Smokey the Bear" hats too! Wow them boys was have'n a great time marching, and horse'n around with each other.

I mention to my Mother it was too bad about all that "over crowding" when I was a kid. I told her how I 'really, really' wanted to be a scout.

My Mommy gets quiet, she looks at me, and tells me the whole story..., all of it.

Like I said, parents, the good ones protects their kids. Protects their Innocence as long as they can.

Many many seasons later. Long after my Mommy had gone to Heaven. I got a call from my sister. She said her son, my youngest nephew had been called "nigger" at school that day. He was still crying, was my sister. " begins I thought".

"Let your children enjoy their Innocence for as long as possible". But when the demons finally do breech your walls of love, and protection. Make them ready. Make them strong. Teach them to face the fire,..and Survive.

'But teach them to Love, and Forgive as well.



I still want one of them "Smokey the Bear" Scout hats,...I really do.

"Be a Good Scout!"


*(This, and the following three posts are from other blogs I've done in the past. I was looking at my old material, and thought I'd share a few items with our newer readers. Hope ya like'em.)

Stay tuned.


poetreader said...

^That's a powerful and tragic story. I was a Scout in the early fifties, joining when I turned 11. Those were good years, though sometimes hard. I never really fit in and never really knew why. As it happens the guys knew something about me that I didn't even suspect. They called me names I didn't understand, loke "queer" and "faggot". I honestly had no idea what those words meant, but I did like being around the boys, and, much later, when I finally understood, I knew they had been right about me all along. Anyhow, we lived in a lily white neighborhood and the troop was lily white. I don't think Troop 13 would have turned away a "colored" kid, and I know that, even at that age, I would have quit if they had - but none ever tried to join. You see, I heard a lot of racist things said, and hated every one of them. Most people I knew, including most of my relatives, disliked Negros, though they'd never known any, but my Dad was another story. He'd experienced anti-German prejudice in his early years, soon after WWI, and knew what it felt like, and one of his best friends at work was one of the most wonderful people I've ever known. Paul, still alive and in his 90s, is a black man from Louisiana who experienced all the prejudice one could find in Uncle Sam's Navy, and never lost his limitless love for people of all kinds. Well, listen to the old man ramble on!
Sidney, you keyed me into a lot of my own memories. Different worlds, but surprisingly similar experiences.


Anonymous said...

Hard luck with the Scouts thing! It sounds like those were the days when Scouting really was Scouting. But I can't really imagine BP would have approved of Scouts excluding boys on the grounds of the colours of their skins.

Uncle Sidney said...

Hi Poetreader,& Montague,

So true. R. Baden-Powell would have never stood for that sort of thing. Sadly too many that called themselves his spiritual heirs did.

I know it was a rather small thing compared with the then, and present injustices of the world. However it was an injustice I lived so it still lives in my heart.

Not having been a Scout has left a hole in my Heart along with all the others.

However yes I have forgiven the Scouts, and the others.

'...but not forgotten.

Here in the States the Scouts have sincerely tried to make up for their past racial racial/ethnic injustices.

Sadly they 'still' insist on sexual orientational ones.

BP wouldn't have sat still for this either.

Anonymous said...

I was Scoutmaster for two troops for about eight years in all back in the '70's. I have a lot of memories, some I probably shouldn't have....but there they are, and there I was....

There's a lot I'd like to say, but it's probably best left unsaid, at least in this venue. Let's just say there was a whole lot of stuff going on back then, and a lot of people looking the other way, or who knew and didn't give a damn, or who knew and didn't say anything because saying something would spoil their own fun. It was pretty endemic back then, whether they "did" anything or just enjoyed looking.

I know I'm in some black dossier somewhere in BSA headquarters, but from what I read about Baden Powell, he would be too.

Sorry if I destroyed anyone's illusions of childhood innocence. It's one of the reasons that, much as I'd like to believe, when it comes to boys older than ten or so, experience tells me it's pretty much a myth.


Mr. Chips

Anonymous said...

Sid...if you can find clips from a movie called Follow Me Boys that might be fun. The movie was made in the late 1940's, stars Fred McMurray as a travelling salesman who settles doiwn in a small US town and takes on a scout troop.

The movie details their adventures and misadventures, Mr. Scoutmaster eventually gets married and he and Mrs. Scoutmaster take on the prosaic "troubled young boy" who in this case happens to be a very nice looking blond kod of 12 years or so. The kid runs away, but in the end it's all resolved and everyone lives happily ever after.

It's a pretty tough movie when the juvenile lead is cuter than the leading lady (see Leonardo DiCaprio/ Kate Winslett in Titanic).

I believe BSA owns all extant prints of the film. Have never seen it in theaters or anything, just at movie night in scout camp once.

Mr. Chips

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