Diary of a Scout Leader: Writing from the Heart

By Richard Mabey Jr.


Our story so far:

An old photo from Troop 170’s Holiday Party of 1966. The scout leaders on the stage are from left to right; Mr. Jack Floyd, my dad and Mr. Raymond Grimm.

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. After eating my lunch, a man comes to the door and begins banging on the door and demanding that I let him in. Fortunately, I had locked the door. I try to huddle out of sight of this man, who is continuing to hammer on the door and scream for someone to let him in. Shortly after that, my mom knocks on the door of Thorpe Hall. My sister, Patti, is with Mom. I clean up and we all go to Moe’s Sweet Shop. Cute Mary Tafano is at Moe’s. To my utter surprise, Mary asks me to her birthday party on Saturday. Later that afternoon, I help Mom to get supper ready, while my sister Patti plays in the yard, with her neighborhood friend. After supper, Dad comes into my room, while I am at my desk and offers words of encouragement and hope to me. Morning comes, Dad drives me to Thorpe Hall on his way to work. Our story continues.


I reached the top of the stairs leading to Thorpe Hall. I stood at the outdoor balcony, with the hall key in my hand. My dad waved to me, from within his blue Ford Econoline pick-up truck. I waved back to Dad. Then Dad drove out of the parking lot and made the right turn on Station Road and headed off to work. As the morning sun shined upon my face, I felt the blessing and protection of the Divine One. My fears and anxieties began to melt away, about whether or not the obnoxious man would return today. 


I opened the door, walked into Thorpe Hall, and immediately turned around and locked the door. I walked to the back kitchen and put my brown bag lunch in the refrigerator. Then walked out of the kitchen and standing in the doorway, from the kitchen to Thorpe Hall, took a moment to take in the quiet, the solace, the comfort of seeing a thousand and one memories blur in front of my eyes. I saw the ghosts of old scout leaders, some of whom had passed through Heaven’s Gate, some of whom had moved far away. I saw the ghosts of all of my old buddies, who were once my fellow scouts, but had one by one dropped out of dear old Boy Scout Troop 170. 


Across the long hall, was the legendary stage. It was the very stage, where Troop 170 would hold its Court of Honors, special events and holiday parties. I had first joined Troop 170 when I turned 11 years old in September of 1964. I was now 15, halfway through high school, and I had a big job to finish, if I wanted to earn the coveted rank of Eagle Scout, scouting’s highest rank. 


Before I opened the paint can, before I spread out the blue tarps upon the floor, I sat down and reflected upon the thousand and one memories that Thorpe Hall held for me in my heart, mind, and soul. I had a few sheets of notebook paper in my denim pocket and I was suddenly moved to write an essay on what scouting meant to me.


From the time I was 12 years old, I often wrote little articles about Troop 170 for the old Lincoln Park Herald. Mostly about the Klondike Derbies, the big camporees, summer camp, the annual week-long canoe trip down the Delaware River and hiking the Appalachian Trail. But this was a kind of different article for me. It spoke more from my heart, about what scouting meant to me. I remember while writing this composition, I began to seriously consider presenting it to Mr. Marino, the Editor-in-Chief of the Lincoln Park Herald, to see if he thought it was worthy of being published.


I turned to my left and just looked at the old stage for a few minutes. I saw the ghosts of all those many scouts who were once a part of Boy Scout Troop 170 and had now moved on. I was furiously determined to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, so I happily stayed in my scout troop, when so many of my good friends dropped out of the troop. 


I remember this so very well. I wrote my heart out that early morning in June of 1969. My heart, mind and soul poured out upon those sheets of notebook paper. Perhaps it was the strange and eerie feeling of being alone in my old scout meeting room. It was kind of a home away from home, for me. I had so very many good memories of that scout meeting hall. 


I didn’t know it at the time. But that very essay that I wrote that morning, changed my life. I had stepped out of the who, what, when, where and why of straight forward journalism, and had written an essay that poured forth from the deepest chords and chambers of my heart. I was beginning to grow as a writer. 


I finished my hand written essay and put it in my shirt pocket, close to my heart. My plan was to type it and then present it to Mr. Marino. I then spread out the big blue plastic tarps on the floor. I opened the can of eggshell white paint and began painting the walls of Thorpe Hall. All the while I thought, “I hope Mr. Marino publishes my composition.”

To be continued.


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

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