When Lord Baden-Powell founded the boy scout movement early last century, I am not sure he had boys like me in mind.
I was cub for some years but never graduated to the ranks of scouts.
This must have been a great relief to the boy scout hierarchy. I never received anything official, but I have a sneaking suspicion they were not too unhappy to see me hand in my woggle.
I was not the least bit adventurous. I have always hated camping and trudging through the bush where all kinds of creepy-crawlies probably lurk.
I failed my adventurer's badge at cubs because:
I did, however, pass my entertainer's badge, thanks to an anomaly.
I belonged to two cub groups. The first, the 2nd Invermay pack, had a policy that in order to obtain an entertainer's badge the candidate actually had to entertain. Preferably for the whole troop in front of a campfire.
I was much too shy to do that.
However, the second half of my time as a cub was spent at a pack in Lindisfarne in Hobart which had less stringent rules.
In order to pass my entertainer's badge there all I had to do was sing a couple of songs to a music teacher. Just her and me, with my closet boy soprano voice. No audience. No campfire. No dib-dib-dib, dob-dob-dob. No drama really.
At a guess I was seven or eight when I came face to face with my first woggle.
(Woggles are the little leather clasps that held our scarves together at the 2nd Invermay cub pack.)
I cannot remember how I came to join the cubs.
I suspect I went because all the other boys I knew went and my father probably thought it would be good for me. Toughen me up.
The pack met once a week in a hall behind St Finn Barrs school at Invermay. We had bright yellow scarves and little caps, sensibly warm jumpers, shorts and knee-high socks.
A few memories stand out.
We participated in bob-a-job week, raising money by knocking on friends' and strangers' doors and offering to to do odd jobs.
It was probably my first insight into human nature.
A lot of people who let us little ones go through the motions of raking a few leaves before giving us cooling glasses of lemonade and a few bob.
But there were a few Tightarses who would expect us to toil in the sun at a task that was way, way beyond the ability of an eight year old, offering us nothing more than water from the garden tap, then complain that a single bob (or 10 cents) was much too expensive.
Another fun-raising venture was our Bottle Drive, travelling on the back of a truck around various neighbourhoods collecting empty beer bottles and cordial bottles. In those days, just about all bottles were recycled and there was a small refund on each of them.
The cubs took me away from family for one of my first times.
We spent a few days away at Camp Carnacoo at Paper Beach, 25 minutes drive north of Launceston, set in bush surroundings with frontage to the Tamar River.
We slept in a bunkhouse but had campfires outside.
I remember our Akela telling us a scary ghost story which, if I could remember it, probably was not scary at all.
I remember being taught basic bushcraft skills.
I also remember doing an observation test — going inside a building for, say, 60 seconds, scanning all the things there and trying to remember them later. I have not got a clue now what was in there, so I guess that's another cub failure you can mark me down for.
Some time during the camp, our parents were invited to the camp for an inspection of their children learning to live with nature.
We were split into small groups for the occasion and had to make small, green, tranquil, non-polluting landscapes under trees, using things from the surroundings: twigs, leaves, rocks, etc.
My group made a fully functioning freeway network, using a few sticks, a few leaves, a few rocks but mainly a lot of toy cars someone had stowed away in their kitbag.
We did not win the prize for the best display and I am not sure our parents were terribly impressed.
In 1967, we travelled on a train to Longford, not far from Launceston, for a jamboree. Lady (Olave) Baden-Powell, widow of Lord (Robert) Baden-Powell was visiting.
I had always thought the boy scout motto was: Be Prepared.
But my father added a new one to my repertoire for that trip: Pull Your Head In.
Not long before, someone had been decapitated when they stuck their head out the window of a speeding train. I guess that thought was weighing heavily on my parents' mind.
I came back in one piece but I remember very little from that day.
Oh, there were a lot of other scouts, in all kinds of coloured scarves. And I saw a woman in the distance who might have been Lady Baden-Powell.
I wonder what memory will come back to me first?
Lady Baden-Powell? Or the contents of that room?
©November 8, 2002 John Martin. All Rights Reserved
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