ORONO, Maine — The Boy Scouts of America organization has spent a century helping cultivate young men into strong, civic-minded citizens, and the Katahdin Area Council will spend the next year holding Scouting events designed to continue that tradition and celebrate the group’s 100th anniversary.
“We’re basically planning a yearlong celebration of the anniversary,” Gary Savignano, Scout executive for the regional council, said recently.
Scouting was pioneered in England in 1908 under the tutelage of Robert Baden-Powell, a military veteran who created a manual for his military regiment about survival that was later used by British youth. Baden-Powell rewrote the manual, removing the military segments, and called it “Scouting for Boys.” Soon afterward he kicked off the Boy Scouts.
Chicago publisher William Boyce brought Scouting to the United States after visiting London in 1909 and getting lost in the city’s famously dense fog. Luckily, he ran into a Boy Scout.
“Nearly at his wits’ end, Boyce stopped a young man and asked directions,” the Boy Scouts of America Web site states. “Not only did the youth tell Boyce how to reach his destination, he actually led Boyce there to make certain the American found his way without becoming lost again.
“Boyce, to show his gratitude, offered the youth a tip, but the youth would not accept it,” the story goes. “When asked why, the young man told Boyce he was a Boy Scout and taking a tip would negate the good deed he had done and violate his Scouting code.”
Boyce met with Baden-Powell and after returning to the U.S. incorporated the Boy Scouts of America on Feb. 8, 1910. The organization was chartered by Congress in 1916.
The Bangor area also has some century-old Boy Scout history.
Brewer’s Troop 1, originally called the Brewer Congregational Scouts, was chartered on Oct. 25, 1909, under the British Boy Scouts, predating the Boy Scouts of America by four months.
The troop still exists and joined the Boy Scouts of America in 1910, according to a 1938 Bangor Daily News article.
Katahdin District Director Tim Archer, who joined Troop 1 as an 11-year-old in 1958, said things have changed tremendously over the decades, but honor is something that is instilled in all Scouts.
“The first thing you learn as a Scout is honor thyself and be true,” he has said. “Sometimes it’s not easy. Scouting prepares you to make some of these difficult choices.”
As times have changed over the past 100 years, so have the patches that Scouts can earn. Scouts still can learn to build a fire without matches and how to tie knots, but nowadays they can also learn about cinematography and how to use a global positioning system to find where they are and where they’re going.
“There are hundreds and hundreds of skills for Scouts to learn,” Savignano said.
In Maine communities Scouts celebrated Scout Sunday this weekend to kick off the anniversary events and wore their uniforms to services at local churches and chartered partners. Scouts who did so earned the right to wear a special 100th anniversary Scout Sunday patch.
On the tentative agenda for the next year are a visit with the governor, a centennial kickoff at the University of Maine, an Eagles gathering, geocaching, a Centennial Camporee on the Bangor Waterfront, and a distinguished dinner and dance to end the year.
“The whole thing wraps up with our camporee,” Savignano said. “We expect 1,500 young folks.”
The gathering of the Eagles is planned for April 24 and is for all who have earned the rank of Eagle in the past two years.
“We’re going to bring back some of the ‘balding’ Eagles,” Greg Morin, chairman of the 100th anniversary celebration, said.
Around 50 boys earn the rank of Eagle Scout annually in the local council, he said, adding that each had to complete a project to benefit his community.
“A lot go unnoticed,” said Archer, listing cemetery cleanups and welcome-to-town signs as examples.
Scouting has played an important role in the lives of several community leaders, Savignano said, handily listing a dozen easily recognizable names. One is Cianbro President Andi Vigue, who started as a Cub Scout in the 1970s and earned the rank of Eagle in the 1980s.
“Currently I’m a Scoutmaster of the same troop, Troop 428,” Vigue said recently, adding that Troop 428 has been chartered continuously longer than any other in Maine.
Being a Scout “enabled me to be confident,” Vigue said. His father, Cianbro Chairman and CEO Peter Vigue, became interested in Scouting after being exposed to the organization three decades ago by his then-boss Chuck Cianchette.
The Portland Scout headquarters is named after Cianchette, and a dining hall at Camp Roosevelt in Eddington is named after Peter Vigue, and both have earned the BSA Silver Beaver Award for their generosity in time and efforts.
As a Scoutmaster, Andi Vigue said he is able to watch his son and his friends grow into young men.
“It’s a program that levelizes all boys,” he said. “It doesn’t matter [whether] you come from a wealthy family or a poor family. It allows exposure to a variety of things to learn and develop skills they can use later in life.”
Scouts throughout the Katahdin Area Council will hold community breakfasts to educate residents about Scouting and bottle drives to support the Celebrating the Adventure, Continuing the Journey campaign.
Those who attend Boy Scout or Maine High Adventure camps this summer will earn a special centennial patch, and a number of troops are planning live webcasts of the “Points of Light” presentation at the National Jamboree. The 10-day celebration is July 25-Aug. 4 in Fort A.P. Hill, Va.
The Katahdin Area Council serves more than 4,000 youth in six counties in eastern and northern Maine. The council provides educational programs that instill values and develop social and leadership skills and promotes physical fitness and environmental awareness, Savignano said in a statement.
“The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law,” he said.
The Boy Scout Oath
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.