From reading my book everybody should know that I’m a big supporter of the Boy Scout movement. I still go by the Scout Law which I can repeat just as well as my Army serial number and the Army General Orders which I was required to learn while on guard duty.
I joined the Boy Scouts when I was about 8 or 9 years old. I was on my way to become a juvenile delinquent and following on my Uncle’s way of life. I was at the Wesley Community Center and enjoying the recreational programs they had there. I saw a bunch of kids my age in cub scout uniform having some fun doing handicrafts with wood and other items. I was fascinated and asked if I could join them.
This was the beginning of my adventures with the boy scouts. They taught me a new way of life different from the environment I was in. My uncles call me a sissy but I stayed in. At that time there was no money for a uniform which I badly wanted to wear. However, I was able to get a yellow neckerchief and wore it about a t-shirt or whatever I was wearing at that time. Eventually I receive a hand me down shirt which I wore to school sometimes. I still remember a patriotic show at Navarro Elementary Honoring Veterans and I proudly stood there with my cub scout uniform.
Mr. Saenz, our scout leader. (I never knew his full name.) invited me to join the boy scout troop when I turned 11 years old. I had to scrounge for a scout uniform which was different from the cub scouts. Not only that, but because scouts usually go camping, I had to get camping equipment. The only place that I could get it was the army surplus store which had canteens, pistol belts, pup tents and knives. The army back packs were plentiful.
The first thing I learned was to be part of a team. They were called patrols and each had a name like Eagle patrol or bear patrol. The oldest scout was usually an older scout who had several merit badges and was a Life Scout. We were all tenderfoots and to be advanced, we had to set examples of the Scout Law. There were badges given to Scouts from the Catholic Church and so forth. Merit badges were given for scouts who wanted to excel in wood working, wild life, astronomy and others. The idea was to give a scout to see his potential in accomplishing in another field.
Going camping was an experience I will never forget. The first time we were scheduled to compete with other scout units at San Pedro Creek. At that time, San Pedro had a running creek next to the campsites. There were scouts from all over the city. They were far more better equipped than we were. Tents were bigger and scouts slept in sleeping bags compared to our roll up blankets. We participated in fire starting, wood chopping, rope tying and many other events during our three-day camporee.
Our major outdoor outing was when we went to Indian Creek Camp in Ingram, Texas. It was situated on a bluff near the Frio River. This was the first time that we had tents that could sleep two with cots. They were set on concrete foundations. Each unit was given a place in the woods separate from each other. In order to go to eat lunch or dinner, we had to go through a trail set in the woods. Ok in the morning but hard to do at night without a flash light. The old army flashlights came in handy.
Our activities lasted all week. We had swimming pools, boating, shooting 22 rifles, archery and everything that a scout had to learn to survive in the woods. We had games at night which included all the boys in the camp in a large field. No flashlights. Sort of Rescue the flag. It was a riot! There was one area which were all told to stay away from and that was a snake pit with all kinds of snakes including rattlers and coral snakes.
The most dangerous event was canoeing. We had to prove that we could handle ourselves if the canoe was to flip over. So they had us go to an almost deep part of the river and flip the canoe over and remain holding both sides under the canoe so we could both flip it back and climb back on. It was not an easy thing to do if you were small and not so strong. This event entitled scouts to go canoeing on the river.
The dining hall was an outside porch with benches and each unit was to have their day on kitchen police (KP) for every meal period. This is where we learned to call Koolaid as bug juice. Meals were great and it was something we were not used to. Cereal, juice and milk in the morning and meat for lunch and dinner. I think we gained some weight that summer.
Mr. Saenz had to leave and the scout program went with him. However, I managed to join the Scouts at Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our leader was Father Joe Gutierrez at first but we had to replace him when he left. Alfonso Gomez was the Scoutmaster for some time. Eventually the troop fizzle out.
I was still in High School when I became an Explorer scout. By that time, I was going to the meetings after school but life intervene. I had to go to work to support the family. So for a long while I couldn’t participate in the Scouting program even though I wanted be involved. After graduation I left to join the army and didn’t come back until I retired.
After retiring from the army in 1978 I needed a job but that didn’t work out. Afterward I decided to go back to school at Our Lady of the Lake University. It was during that time that Scouting called. I was at St. Michael Catholic church and I saw the need for a scouting program. So I started being a scoutmaster at St. Michael.
The program had not changed much and I jumped right in with camping programs. It was exciting to be back in the field. There were new uniforms to wear and new merit badges to earn. The kids ate it up. I even had my two sons involved with me. Martin had been through Cub Scout all the way to Assistant Scoutmaster with me.
After graduation from the Lake I was asked by the Boy Scout Executive if I was interested in joining the board as a scout executive. This was a paying job which I needed after spending two years without pay going to school. They first sent me to Arlington, Texas at Boy Scout Headquarters to learn how to be an executive. It was a six to eight-week course which taught me above all to raise funds and volunteers for the program.
I then became district executive for the Polaris district which encompasses most of the East side of San Antonio and ranges all the way to Karnes County. As the new district executive I traveled a lot giving speeches, raising money and helping new and old units to succeed in their programing. At first I enjoyed it because I was doing something I had never done before. However, it seemed that I was losing touch with the boys in the field actually helping them succeed. I was now working as an administrator and for three or four years I started not to like what I was doing. The executive board saw what was happening and asked me if I wanted to continue. I saw the signs and I was let go. It was a fortunate time because now I could concentrate on just being a leader in the program. So now I started being a field commissioner working at scout camps and helping the boy scout program grow.
In the end I started working in my chosen field as a social worker in the school district. I still miss the time I had with the boy Scouts and I still believe that in this age of technology all boys and girls should have the opportunity to learn about the outdoor life.