I Remember Dad: A Most Endearing Klondike Derby

By Richard Mabey Jr.

 

My father served 25 years of volunteer service as Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 170, of Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Lincoln Park. Of all the many scouting activities that Troop 170 was involved in, I think that the Klondike Derbies were one of Dad’s dearest remembrances. A special memory of my father’s love of the Klondike Derbies, came in January of 1968.

 

The Klondike Derbies were always held on the first weekend after the first of January. So in 1968, the Klondike Derby for the junior teams (scouts between 11 and 13 years old) was held on Saturday, January sixth. The Klondike for the senior teams (scouts between 14 and 17 years old) was held on Sunday, January seventh.

 

In January of 1968, I was 14 years old and in my freshman year at Boonton High School. I was to be part of the senior team. As Dad and I rode home from the Friday night scout meeting, Dad asked me if I wanted to ride with him to Camp Allamuchy the next day, to see the junior team get ready and take off from the starting line. I didn’t miss a beat. I told Dad that I would love to go with him.

 

Well, the Klondike Derby sled had been packed and put on the back of my dad’s Ford Econoline truck, at the Friday night scout meeting. Dad and I rode alone together on the long journey to Camp Allamuchy in Northwest New Jersey.

 

Driving from our little Mayberry of Lincoln Park to the wooded mountains of Camp Allamuchy, Dad shared with me his perspective and philosophy of the adventuresome and keenly competitive Klondike Derby.

 

“I don’t care so much about the boys winning the boy First Place Trophy, just as long as they put their best forward,” I can still hear my father telling me, as if it was just yesterday.

 

Also, along our hour ride to Camp Allamuchy, Dad talked to me about my Swimming Merit Badge. Basically, he told me not to give up. I remember my father telling me that he believed in me. That even though it might take me a longer time to earn the Swimming Merit Badge, he knew that if I put my mind to it, I could do it.

 

“I believe in you, Richie,” my father told me, in the midst of the two of us talking about my trials and tribulations of working toward earning my Swimming Merit Badge. I can still hear the echo of my beloved father sharing those cherished words with me.

 

When we reached the big parking lot of Camp Allamuchy, the six scouts of Troop 170’s Junior Klondike Team came running to Dad’s blue Ford Econoline truck. It was poetry in motion as I helped my fellow scouts lift the big Klondike sled from the back of Dad’s truck and ever so gently place it to the ground.

 

And then, Jimmy Anderson, the Captain of the Junior Klondike Team grabbed the back handle of the glorious dog sled, the other five boys grabbed the rope handles, attached to the thick manila rope that ran from the front of the sled, and they ran off to the starting line.

 

At the starting line, the grand and glorious Junior Klondike Team of Boy Scout Troop 170 had about four other teams in front of them, awaiting to approach the shot gun start. Each shot gun shot, would send off two Klondike teams, one running to the left and one running to the right. Mr. Spotts had the high honor of starting the teams off with his famous cap pistol. It was such a magnificent sight to behold.

 

Back in the line, I watched Dad give a pep talk to his scouts. Suddenly, I saw the grand and glorious leadership of my father come to life. There was no doubt about it. Dad was incredibly proud of his scouts and he cared about each and every one of them.

 

I took a picture of the moment with my Kodak Instamatic camera that I had in my coat pocket. That very picture was to appear within the pages of the noteworthy Lincoln Park Herald, along with a story that I wrote about the big event.

 

Now at 69, I would give an eye tooth, give up my entire comic book collection, give up most of my worldly possessions, to just relive that day once again. This past May twelfth, marked 17 years from when my dear father went Home to be with the Lord. I still deeply mourn for him. In all so many ways, my father truly was the Beloved Scoutmaster.  

 

Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. Richard hosts a YouTube Channel entitled, “Richard Mabey Presents.” He most recently published a book of poems and short stories. Richard can be reached at richardmabeyjr@hotmail.com.

 

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