Boy Scouts of America Troop 160 was sponsored by St. Peter’s Catholic Church. Ken Basso and Col. Jim Anderson were the Scoutmasters in the early 1960s.
My membership in Troop 160 was a very important era in my life. An era that taught me values and skills imprinted for a lifetime.
There was nothing negative in my BSA career. From Cub Scout to Webelos to Boy Scout and, later, to Explorer Scout, I enjoyed every minute of my seven-year adventure.
Most DeLand churches sponsored Scout troops. There was a mild rivalry between troops in a good-natured way. The Boy Scout motto bound us to a common purpose of making future leaders — or at least productive citizens.
Weekly meetings included competitive tugs of war, competitive knot-tying and woodcarving.
For those who did not grow up with World War II vets as parents (and the discipline instilled in American society as a whole), the concept of conformity to positive values may seem quaint and amusing in a Norman Rockwell kind of way. Uniforms, salutes, courtesy, honor, woods-craft skills and life lessons were deemed important.
Camp La-No-Che in Paisley, just west of DeLand, was everything a young boy could want. Scout troops would reserve campsites for a week in the summer, and we would participate in various events and skills.
At that time, there were 15-20 campsites. Each had a Florida Indian name, such as Micanopy and Calusa. Each offered 10-12 “wall” tents, which were army surplus canvas tents with a pallet floor and two iron cots. The prepared Scouts brought mosquito nets to cover their beds. The others just suffered, as the tents offered only rain protection.
In the center of each campsite was a fire pit with log benches and a small screened mess hall with a tin roof and an area for the adult leaders to bed down.
Life in the campsites followed a military regimen, with reveille at daylight and taps in the evening. A bugler was assigned in each troop.
Camp La-No-Che is a 1,480-acre Scout reserve situated on beautiful Lake Norris. It’s still in operation today as part of the BSA Central Florida Council.
Our days at camp were taken up with practicing mapping skills, leatherwork, lanyard-making, swimming, canoeing, archery and practice on the .22 rifle range. What boy today would not value these activities?
The rifle range was one of my favorites. We each got a single-shot .22 rifle with five rounds. We were taught to aim, shoot and pick up (“police” in Scouting terms) our spent cartridges.
It might surprise some to know that the National Rifle Association was instrumental in the rifle training. In the 1960s, gun safety and hunting skills were the main focus of the organization. Future controversy was hardly imagined.
Each evening, the Scouts would gather at the main mess hall, then called the Rotary Lodge, for flag lowering and dinner. This was a formal ceremony, as Scouts were required to wear full uniform, or at least as close to that as they had. The formal summer uniform included BSA shorts, shirts, neckerchief with slide, sash with various merit badges and awards, and knee socks with tasseled garters.
Dinner was pretty basic, prepared by older Scouts who served as the staff. Dinner was served with a drink called “bug juice,” which was just Kool-Aid. We sang songs, and the Scout leaders would make announcements.
After dinner, we would all march back to our campsite and have either a campfire or something called “cracker barrel,” where we would meet in the small campsite mess hall to share crackers, (USDA surplus) cheese and, of course, more bug juice.
Each troop got to stay only one week. I loved La-No-Che and always looked for an excuse to extend my stay. One way to extend was to join a special Scout group called the “Thunderbirds,” made up of Scouts from various troops.
Thunderbirds were the special forces of La-No-Che Scouting. It was a one-week course in woods craft and survival techniques. We camped on our own, took long hikes, and ate a couple of wild-game dinners. Armadillo was one entree. I wouldn’t eat the roasted opossum.
Ross Allen, the famed snake man from Silver Springs, gave demonstrations of dealing with rattlesnakes, and Bo Randall (of knife-making fame) displayed knife-making techniques. Randall had a program by which a Scout could buy a premium knife for $50, by paying $5 each month. That same knife sells for more than $600 today, and you have to wait many months for delivery.
There were no cellphones, no video games, only healthful outdoor activities for boys in a very formative period of their lives.
A couple of years ago, I went back to La-No-Che. It all looked familiar, but vastly improved to include more activities, attuned to today’s youth.
To be honest, I would go back to my Scouting era if I could. Who knows? This time, I might even try the opossum.
— Mancinik is a fifth-generation Floridian and a native of DeLand. He has been an active Realtor for more than 40 years. Did you grow up in West Volusia? Send your reflections to firstname.lastname@example.org.