a Scout is prepared

letters to my future self

Continuing to go through my mother’s papers, I have a number of letters that stir old memories of my days in the Navy.  You, my readers and someday my adult children will get additional understanding how little things can chart the course of your life in ways you cannot fathom.

Whenever I read or see a reference to the Boy Scouts of America, I recall a chance meeting and conversation that had a bearing on me.  (Forgive my nautical puns.) On a Greyhound bus ride in 1974, an old ( I was 14- everyone over the age of 30 was older) gentleman,  and I started chatting.   With the discovery today of his letter to my mother and me,  I know him as J. Harold Williams.  At the time, I had been in scouting for four years, starting when we lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and continuing when Mom and family moved to Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Scouting, Cape Cod, 1974 (me at l.)

In his correspondence he asked how my last advancement to Scout First Class had gone – I had been selected since our bus ride.   From a Google search today,  I realize how interesting that encounter had  been.  “Chief” Williams, at that time, was national Boy Scout Executive Emeritus, and the founder of scouting in Rhode Island during the 1920’s and 1930’s.  (We discussed scouting and stamp collecting among other things).  I might still have an book on Scouting he gave me that day.

Guest speaker will be J. Harold Williams, U.S. Scout executive emeritus, who will “tell the story of the Scouting trail” from 1910 to 1965. Described as an “eye-witness to history” In the Scouting movement. Mr. Williams will relate personal experiences including the movement’s birth, and it” progress over the last 55 years. Started at Age 12 Mr. Williams has been active in Boy Scouting in Rhode, Island where he first began Scouting as a boy at the age of 12, and was the first Scout in the United States to come up through the ranks to become a professional Scout leader. He was Scout executive of the Narragansett council in Providence, R. 1., for 45 years, after which he was elected to the position of Scout Executive Emeritus and now spends his time speaking throughout the country on the Boy Scout movement. He has been honored by universities, newspapers, civic organizations and veteran groups and holds honorary degrees of Doctor of Education from Rhode Island college. Master of Arts from Brown university and the Achievement award from the University of Rhode Island. —  the Bridgeport Post, March 23, 1965 (edited for clarity)

And I recall, he was the one who started me in stamp collecting.  My Aunt June worked at the United Nations, and had been sending postcards to me from all over the globe.  Till Chief Williams, I did little with these stamped postcards except dream of traveling.   Untouched for thirty years,  I still have albums of stamps stuck away.

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.

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