Diary of a Scout Leader: Remembering Thorpe Hall, Part II

By Richard Mabey Jr.

Our story so far:

It is the first day of summer vacation of 1969. I am 15 years old and have just completed my sophomore year at Boonton High School. It is nearing high noon and I have spent the entire morning painting Thorpe Hall of Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, for my Eagle Scout project.

It was now a quarter to 12. I began to feel hungry, so I put my paint brush down, atop the can of paint and walked into the kitchen to get my brown bag lunch out of the refrigerator. I decided to eat lunch at the long table that looked out to the parking lot of Thorpe Hall.

It had been slow going. The molding around the many windows of Thorpe Hall were taking a lot of time to paint. They required extra care in painting, so as not to get any paint of the glass.

As I began eating my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I looked out to the empty parking lot and felt a deep sense of sadness. There was a long-standing tradition in Lincoln Park, that on the first day of summer vacation the boys in the town would all meet at the baseball field at Chapel Hill School. As I ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I felt a dull, laden emptiness abiding within my heart center. I longed to be playing baseball with the gang.

For one solid moment, I wondered if it was all worth it. I felt very insecure. I wondered if I would ever really earn the rank of Eagle Scout. I was now a Life Scout, the rank that came before Eagle Scout. I now had 19 merit badges. I needed only two more merit badges to complete the merit badge requirement to earn Eagle Scout. Those two merit badges were Swimming and Life Saving.

I sipped my lemonade from the little plastic cup of my thermos, as I wondered if I would ever be a strong enough swimmer to earn these two difficult merit badges. I had spent the last two summers, attending the classes for the swimming merit badge. The classes were held at the shore of the Rockaway River in Boonton Township. After spending two entire summers, taking the swimming merit badge classes, I had failed to successfully meet the requirements, both summers!

I could not allow myself to think negative thoughts. I told myself that I had to be positive. That this was the summer that I was going to pass the requirements for the Swimming Merit Badge. As I took the last bite of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I looked across the width and breadth of Thorpe Hall. I still had a lot of work to do. And, I could see that there was a lot of time-consuming detail painting to do. I longed to be playing baseball with my buddies.

Then, once more, in the corner of my eye in a flash of a matter of a couple of seconds, I saw the ghost of my 11-year-old self. It was a rather eerie feeling. I took a bite of my apple and wondered if I was going to have enough paint to finish this big job. And then, once again, I wondered if I was really, ever going to actually become an Eagle Scout. The thought shook something deep in the inner chambers of my heart.

I finished eating my apple and wrapped the apple core in the wax paper upon which my sandwich was encased in. I carefully folded my brown paper bag and put it in my back pocket to use for tomorrow’s lunch. I took the last sip of lemonade from the little plastic cup that was atop my thermos and threw away my apple core.

I had now reached the point of painting the middle of the wall that faced the parking lot of Thorpe Hall. And, I returned to the mundane drudgery of painting the area around the windows. I remember this so well. It is as if this moment is set in my mind with indelible ink. As I was focused and concentrating upon painting the molding around one of the glass windows, a knock came on the door, half-way across the large hall, to my right-hand side.

This knock was not a friendly tap. Everything about this knock on the door, frightened me. To say that there was a knock on the door, doesn’t quite define it. For, it was more like a hammering fist, rapidly pounding on the door. The door had a window on the upper half of it. I could see that it was a man at the door. A rather disheveled, late middle-aged man. Everything in my gut told me not to answer the door.

I could hear the man’s muffled voice shouting, “anyone there! Anyone in there! If there’s anyone in there, open this door right now!” The loud, demanding voice of this man, left me wondering if he was drunk or high on drugs or just emotionally unbalanced. I put my paint brush down, atop the paint can. I sat on the floor, with my back tightly against the wall. I brought my knees to my chest to do my very best to be as inconspicuous as possible.

The man continued to hammer at the door. He continued shouting, “I know someone’s in there. Open this door, right now. Ya’ hear me, open this door right now!”

As I sat on the floor, my back against the wall, crunched up in a ball, I prayed and prayed that this distraught man could not see me. Fear began to seep into the chambers of my heart.

To be continued next issue!


Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at richardmabeyjr@hotmail.com. Please place the wording “My Life Weekly” in the subject line.



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