A Scout Commissioner who began his Scouting in the year One was asked if he noticed any great difference between the Scouting of to-day and of the Pioneer period. His reply came without any hesitation. He said that in the early days the normal thing was to see Scouts going off on Saturday afternoons with their staffs and billies (old cocoa tins mostly) for some kind of attack and defense game or for stalking, fire lighting, or other Backwoods pursuits.
"Nowadays," he added, "it is rare to see that kind of thing, but, of course, we hadn't clubrooms in those days, so we had to get out!"
It would be interesting to speculate why the club-room kind of Scouting began to grow on us. Was it reaction from the stress and discomforts of war? Was it that more Scouters became available, and that the boys themselves had not, in consequence so much say? Was it the sudden growth of more artificial pleasures?
Club-room Scouting, as we may call it, is an easier kind to run - so far as surface matters are concerned. It takes up less time at a stretch, and we may, therefore, have tended to take the line of least resistance. Moreover, if we work hard to get a club-room, we feel bound to use it as much as possible to justify all the grind of getting it!
Large towns offer special difficulties; access to open country is not easy, and, in spite of cheap fares and other facilities, there is a very serious drain on pockets. Yet the fellow who grudges a sixpence spent on bus fares in order to enjoy a whole afternoon's Scouting does not seem to grudge the same amount for two or three hours of the 'talkies'. We must, however, take into account all the multitude of counter attractions, such as the cinema, that have grown up in the last decade.
But, one of the most encouraging things in Scouting to-day is the fact that, despite all these difficulties and counter-attractions, we have not been content to sit down and say that outdoor Scouting is no longer possible. There has, in fact, been a considerable increase in the amount done in recent years - notably in the direction of camping and my present purpose is to try and encourage further increase by passing on ways and means of occupying half days in Scouting activities that have been adopted by various Troops.
The Commissioner whose opinion has already been quoted supplies a sure and certain line of attack against the apathy of indoor Scouting; that line is the use of wide games and practical Scout activities, such as cooking with any old gear available. None of us have grown so old as to have lost the fun of trying things out, of making experiments, of making things do although at first sight they may seem woefully inadequate.
Wide games cover a multitude of exciting activities; instead of the Scouts going to the cinema to see Tom Mix, they can take Tom Mix out into the open with them! The Scouts themselves will soon suggest Cowboy, Red Indian, Smuggler and Spy tales that can be used for the setting of wide games. In this way their visits to the 'talkies' can be turned to good account, and the cinema roped in to aid us instead of being regarded as likely to give us a spill at any moment.
The fatal thing - and this applies to all kinds of Scout activities, and not only to wide games - is to go on playing the same old game in the same old way. Boys crave for, and need, variety, and every time a fresh setting is given to an attack and defense game it becomes a fresh game.
Again, we can go through the Second and First Class Tests and from these draw up lists of practices and activities that our Scouts can utilize on half-days. Some of our Scouts don't get Saturday afternoons off, but they do get one afternoon off in the week, and will be glad of suggestions to improve their Scouting by making use of that free afternoon. One of the reasons why there are still so few First Class Scouts is undoubtedly the fact that we have not been getting out of doors enough. A boy, or a man for that matter, cannot become a First Class Scout in a clubroom. Another reason is that we have been tending to reduce our Scouting to terms of the Troop or the Patrol and to ignore the fact that it is a matter of individual development. The individual Scout requires suggestions and encouragement to carry on with his Scouting on his own, in his own time.
It is unnecessary to list the various activities that clamor to be done out-of-doors; such a list would cover the whole of Scouting, and we have Scouting for Boys to stimulate our imaginations, the Boys' Edition of which can be had for one shilling only.
Some may feel that this appeal to get out into the open more is all very well in a small country town where Scouts can get out into the open without so very much in the way of expense in either money or time, but what of London and Manchester and Birmingham and Glasgow, and such like places as these? It is true that Scouting in such areas does involve added difficulties; but these difficulties are not insurmountable, and these ultra-large towns carry with them some compensating advantages that are missed by Troops in small towns and in the country.
"Slowly, slowly catchee monkey." Start small. Take as an aim getting out into open country once a month, or even once in two months. Plan ahead. Find out the cheapest way of doing it. Find out the nearest open country that suits the purpose required. It does not always lie in the direction you would expect to find it. Go exploring all the surrounding country to find out possibilities. Get the Rover Scouts on the job. Discuss the matter at Scouters' Meetings. Pick other people's brains. Invite your own Patrol Leaders and Scouts to join in the search.
It is only by these means that the way over the difficulty will be discovered, and in the course of all this search and exploring, you will already have got most of your Scouts out into the open, and infected them with the desire for more.
Make that once a month half-day of Scouting a real adventure. Get into it all the excitement and romance that you can. If the Scouts are reluctant to come, don't blame them, blame yourself. Such days should be red-letter days that a Scout would no more think of missing than of refusing Christmas pudding! But the way to paint the calendar red cannot be learned from articles, or books, or courses; it can only be learned by experiment and practical experience. Articles, books, courses may suggest roads to explore, but the fun of exploring and of experimenting is yours and your Scouts'. It is bad enough to miss it yourself; it's horrible that they should miss it because you won't give them a lead!
What of the other half-days? There again planning ahead is essential. The Court of Honor is just the place to throw out suggestions for the Patrol Leaders to improve on. It is not of much use going to the Court of Honor and saying, "Well, Chaps, what shall we do next Saturday?" Bring out a definite suggestion; let them pull it to pieces, and in the course of discussion all kinds of ideas will crop up. Get the Patrol Leaders interested and the rest will follow suit,
Some of you may be asking, "But am I expected to give up every Saturday afternoon as well as two or three evenings each week?"
Of course not!
But we must all realize - whatever our particular niche in Scouting is - that if we are going to do our jobs properly we have got to make up our minds to sacrifice both time and thought.
Many of these afternoons should be arranged and carried out by the Patrol Leaders with their Patrols. At first much of the brain work, of the suggestion, will come from the Scouters. They can share the time between them, if necessary; the majority of Troops have more than one Scouter to their credit. After the tradition of Scouting on half-days has been established, the Scouters can sit back a bit and see the results of their hard work. Many of us refuse to sit back, and so don't see any results. There is a moral to that remark!
If you want an idea to pass on to the next Court of Honor, suggest to the Patrol Leaders that they should have a good look at the conditions of the Explorer Badge. These conditions simply bristle with ideas for half-day expeditions for Patrols or for individual Scouts.
The lesson is clear. Outdoor Scouting has to be planned well ahead; Scouters should use their imaginations as well as their heads to work out suggestions for Patrol Leaders to discuss and put into practice; Scouts should be encouraged to set about their Scouting for themselves; the aim should be any amount of variety, lots of fun and plenty of real honest-to-goodness SCOUTING.
It is undoubtedly and unfortunately true that the balance of Scouting has swung from outdoor to indoor; but it is also undoubtedly and fortunately true that the pendulum is swinging back again to the right side. Still it remains the exception for Scouting to be done on Saturday afternoons or other half-days. The continuity of Troop nights gives the habit of regular attendance, but occasional Saturday afternoon meetings appeal only to those who are interested.
Do we in towns take as much advantage as we might of the open spaces that are available in the neighborhood? Granted that it is difficult to scout in, say, some of London's Parks, yet in others you will find children almost any afternoon playing at Scouting on their own. Again there are open spaces - temporarily unoccupied perhaps - that can be found for the seeking in most large towns and which can be utilized for our purposes. Builders' yards, large car and bus parks, river banks and foreshores have been utilized by the First Class Scouter - the one who has an "eye for a country." (Scouting for Boys, p. 65 .)
Even what are commonly known as open spaces are not always essential to the practice of real Scouting. There are many quiet streets and byways in every town that lend themselves to its pursuit.
Given the ground, then comes the choice of activity; but don't select an activity and say, "Oh! we cannot possibly manage that." That way lies defeat. If you and your Scouts are keen enough, you can manage, no matter where your Troop may have its being. It may require a deal of planning and infinite patience, but remember "easy come, easy go". Is it not a fact that too large a number of our Troops suffer from that disease, and that our best Troops are those which have had to struggle for themselves, to plot and plan, to learn to do without, to make one article serve two purposes - one of the hiker's golden rules?
Here is a medley of ideas: murder hunt, sealed orders, treasure hunt, town tracking games, cross-town runs, swimming and visits of exploration and discovery to all kinds of places. Occasionally two Troops can combine, either for a prearranged activity for both, or for a surprise afternoon at the invitation of one of the Troops.
Visits - not to other Troops, but to places of interest need careful thought. Museums can be visited occasionally but only for definite purposes, for instance, to see the birds and animals of Patrol emblems, and never with a larger number that a Patrol at a time, unless split up into several quite separate and independent groups. Just wandering around a museum is about the most tiring activity there is and the worst form of boredom, and will put boys off going on their own to explore for themselves.
Other visits can be more attractive and can usually be arranged without much difficulty. Here are some suggestions, although there is nothing new about them:
Gas works, Electric Light works, Newspaper printing works, Factories of all kinds, Ships, Docks, Railway works, etc., etc. In fact, any place where the Scouts can see things being done is suitable.
Taking afternoons generally there is no need to set about trying to maintain some kind of a balance between the activities you imagine to be Scouting and the activities you perhaps class as recreational. Anything that is truly recreational is good Scouting, the trouble is that so few of us appear to realize it. Swimming, football, hockey, cricket and so on are all both recreation and good scouting if played aright, and if they do not exclude all other activities and contacts. If your Scouts play football on their half-days, there is no need to deter them, far otherwise. There will be many, however, who do not care for, or have no aptitude in, such games, these are the boys for whom you should provide more recreation in the shape of other Scouting activities.
Below is given a suggested program for a year's Saturday afternoons. It will be noticed that opportunity has been given to Patrol Leaders to run their own shows on nine of the afternoons - five outings and four camps. This number might be extended with advantage. After preliminary suggestions had been made, the actual arranging for the outings, writing for permission, and so on was done by the Patrol Leaders themselves. These outings included the following visits:
Government - G.P.O., Mint, Tower of London, Museums, Broadcasting House.
Municipal - Gas and Water Works, Electric Power Station, Cleansing Department.
Industrial - Hovis, Peak Freen, Shredded Wheat, Cadby Hall, United Dairies, Docks, Locomotive, Newspaper printing and Piano works.
The material for the lantern talks, notes and slides, were obtained free of charge from Museums, Under-ground Railway and others.
1. District Scout Social.
3. Preparations for Good Turn.
Conference, tea, games.
5. Good Turn (Entertainment
District Swimming Gala.
1. Roland House Pantomime.
Rehearsal for Show.
3. Patrol Visits (See London 1 s. and
Visit (Tea Lantern talk).
1. H.Q. Painting and Repairs.
3. Patrol Competition (Question Game
Games and Tea, followed by Mock Trial.
your own District").
Troop Tracking Game.
visit to Locomotive Works.
1. Patrol Camps.
Kit. (Cinema film of past camps)
3. Patrol Camps.
4. Trip to Croydon Aerodrome.
s Surprise Stunt.
1. Patrol Camps.
Tramps in Country.
5. Inter-Troop Cricket Match.
District Field Day and
2. Troop Camp.
It is of more than passing interest to reproduce from the Headquarters Gazette for January, 1914, a list of the activities actually practiced by a City of London Troop in 1913! Let the article - not one word of which has been altered speak for itself.
"The following Fixture List of the City of London Troop for the quarter September to December, 1913, is published at the request of the Chief Scout as a suggestion to other Troops. It is a good example of how a program should be thought out beforehand, and the future properly prepared for:
SEPT. 6, GREENFORD GREEN. - Attack on Camp held by the Ealing and Hanwell Troops. Train (Mark Lane), 3.30; ret. train (Sudbury Hill), 8.15.
SEPT. 13, EARL'S COURT. - Rally of Scouts of London District at Imperial Services' Exhibition. Train (Mark Lane), 3.30; ret. train (Earl's Court), 8.45.
SEPT. 20, NORTHOLT. - Attack on the Camp held by the Ealing and Hanwell Troops. Train (Mark Lane), 3.15; ret. train (Sudbury Hill), 7.45.
SEPT. 27, HORSENDON HILL. - Hare and Hounds, followed by a Route March along Canal Tow-path. Train (Mark Lane), 3.35; ret. Train (Perivale), 7.45.
OCT. 4, SOUTH HARROW. - Red-cap Hunting, followed by Camp Fire or Will o' the Wisp. Train (Mark Lane), 3.15; ret. train (South Harrow), 7.30.
OCT. 11, PINNER. - The Haunted House Mystery. This Game is done in Patrols (Patrol Leaders must see all their boys are present). Train (Mark Lane) 3; ret. train (South Harrow) 7.30.
OCT. 18, SUDBURY HILL. - "Sealed Orders" in Patrols. Patrol Leaders to wear broad white bands round right arm. Train (Mark Lane) 3; ret. train (Sudbury Hill) 7.30.
OCT. 25, GREENFORD GREEN. - Dispatch Relay Races across country against Ealing Troops, or Section 'A' of Troop against Section 'W. Train (Mark Lane) 3; ret. train (Sudbury) 7.30.
NOV. 1, PARADE OF SCOUTS ON TOWER HILL. - See Special Orders. Preparation for the Lord Mayor's Procession and Church Parade.
NOV. 8, LOUGHTON. - Waggon Trek and Ambush Work across the fields from Loughton to Chigwell. Train (Fenchurch) 3.11; ret. Train (Chigwell) 7.45.
NOV. 10, LORD MAYOR'S DAY. - Full Parade of all Scouts in the Troop; parade Order. (See Special Orders for this day.)
NOV. 12 (Wednesday), MERCERS' HALL. - Guard of Honor to the Chief Scout on his Installation as Master of the Mercers' Company. Scout Choir.
NOV. 15, GRANGE HILL. - Red-cap Ambush over Hainault Forest. Winners to reach Romford Marketplace by 6.30. Train (Fenchurch) 3.20; ret. train (Grange Hill) 7.45 (Ch. S.); Red-caps return from Romford.
NOV. 20 (Thursday), "CRUMPTON COLLEGE." - At St. Augustine's Hall, Victoria Park, 8. Full Uniform.
NOV. 22, "CRUMPTON COLLEGE." - At Clapham Town Hall at 3 and 8. Full Uniform.
NOV. 29, CHIGWELL. - Hidden Treasure Hunt in Patrols. (The Treasure, when found, will be the property of the finder.) Train (Fenchurch) 3.20; (Ch. S.); ret. Train (Chigwell) 7.45.
DEC. 6, LOUGHTON. - Winter's Stob (see Scouting for Boys, p. 21). Trial at Robin Hood Barn at 6.30. Train (Fenchurch) 3.11; ret. Train (Loughton) 8.23.
DEC. 13, CHINGFORD. - Waggon Trek across the Forest; Observation Tests; Camp Fire and the tale of the Haunted House. Train (Liverpool St.) 3.34; ret. train (Chingford) 7.55.
DEC. 20, GRANGE HILL. - "The Babes in the Wood." Special prize for the highest marks in this event. Train (Fenchurch St.) 3.20; ret. train (Grange Hill) 7.45.
DEC. 27, LOUGHTON AND HIGH BEECH. - Bear Hunt and Spider and Fly. Camp Fire and Moonlight Trek to Chingford. Train (Fenchurch) 3. 11; ret. train (Chingford).
CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS. - Indoor Camp at "Bracebridge Hall," in Warwickshire Christmas Games, Outdoor Sports, etc. See Special Orders. Only those boys will be chosen who show best Scouting, etc., during last four months.
Equipment for Saturday Outings. - Cocoa, sugar, milk; bread and butter or sandwiches; hard-boiled eggs, etc., etc. Spirit lamp and mentholated spirit. According to the Troop Regulations no Scout under the rank of warrant officer is permitted to enter a tea-shop or restaurant to have his meals except in London. He must be prepared to make his own dinner, tea, or supper under the charge of his Patrol Leader.
Thursday in each week is "Patrol Night," for Training in Tests, 7.30.
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Last modified: October 15, 2016.