Bangor’s first Boy Scouts hike to Levant in 1910

Posted June 20, 2010, at 7:49 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:26 a.m.

From the Boy Scouts to the Moral Muscle League, clubs for boys were on the upswing a century ago as progressive reformers looked for ways to keep young men on the straight and narrow. Bangor’s new playground promoters and the YMCA seemed to be behind most of the activity in the Queen City.

Bangor’s new playground director, Miss Susan Myers, got right to work founding three clubs in the city’s poorest neighborhoods for boys ages 10 to 16 after she was hired in the spring of 1910. One met at the Valentine schoolhouse on First Street, drawing many of its members from the Devil’s Half-Acre area, said the Bangor Daily News on April 12. A second, named the United States Club, met at the Pine Street School, attracting small boys from upper York and Hancock streets, an area heavily populated by immigrants. A third club met at Abbott Square, where the high school was located, across from where the Bangor Public Library is today.

Each club met one night a week and was staffed by two volunteers. The boys’ activities included saluting the flag and performing gymnastics. Then they played games and had an occasional boxing match. Baseball was a major pastime as well.

“Just how enthusiastic the boys are may be imagined when the fact is known that last week Miss Myers was called from her dinner to the door to be confronted by two small boys who explained that they were the captain and manager of a ball team and wanted to know if they could be in one of the clubs with the rest of the [team],” said the newspaper. A club for girls also was meeting at the Bangor Theological Seminary, according to the newspaper two days later, although it certainly wasn’t getting as much publicity as the boys’ activities.

The next big news about Bangor clubs for boys came two months later. “BOY SCOUTS HERE,” said a headline in the Bangor Daily Commercial on June 21, 1910.

“The Boy Scout movement, which has spread like wildfire over England and which has already gained much headway in the United States has reached Bangor. Ass’t. Sec. James B. Withee, who has charge of the boy’s department at the YMCA, is organizing a scout group and they will shortly become affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America.”

At least one local Boy Scout troop already had been assembled the previous fall across the river in Brewer under the auspices of the Brewer Congregational Church and the Boy Scouts of England. Now that an American organization had been formed, troops were rapidly forming all over the nation.

The Bangor troop’s first activity was a hike and camping trip.

“They will leave the YMCA building at 7 o’clock Tuesday and will march over the country roads and fields to Levant, 10 miles distant. The Boys’ club of Levant will have tents pitched for them when they arrive and they will camp there for a night. The return trip will be made Wednesday,” The Commercial explained.

The campsite was going to be on Black Stream, the Bangor Daily News said three days later.

“Those who attend are requested to wear khaki trousers, blue flannel shirt, slouch hat, red bandanna handkerchief and heavy shoes. Each scout must carry tin dipper, plate, knife, fork, spoon and single blanket.” Those who wanted to make the trip were asked to call Mr. Withee at 329-11.

A dozen boys, each carrying a blanket roll over his shoulder, left on this expedition, the newspaper said on June 29. Lunch was to be cooked by the roadside at noon, and, “one of the rules of the hike is that each scout shall cook his own meal.” Keep in mind this was in the days before lightweight packs, freeze-dried food and other tools for making camping easy.

The list, or at least a partial list, of these original Bangor Boy Scouts, as published in the Bangor Daily News on June 29, is worth preserving here for the ages. They included Edgar Bowler, John Philbrook, Philip Howe, Leland Millett, Charles Shaw, Harold D. Banton, Joseph Murch, William E. Bass, Russell C. Foster, Frank A. Estes and Ralph Jordan. Anyone who has been a Boy Scout in a new troop and gone on the first hike and cooked his first meal outdoors knows about the excitement they felt.

An illustrated collection of Wayne E. Reilly’s columns titled “Remembering Bangor: The Queen City Before the Great Fire” is available at bookstores. Comments about this column may be sent to him at wreilly.bdn@gmail.com.

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