I Remember Mom: The Dark Letter

By Richard Mabey Jr.


It was during the Fall of my second year of college, attending County College of Morris, that the Dark Letter arrived. It was some time in the middle of November of 1972. I remember that it was after Halloween and before Thanksgiving that the letter arrived in the mail. The Dark Letter nearly destroyed my dad’s inspiration to continue to serve as the Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 170 of Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Lincoln Park.

If you’re familiar with my writings, you know that my dad dropped out of high school to enlist in the Unites States Army Air Corps. His inspiration to do this, is that his older brother, Edward, was lost at sea, off the coast of England. Uncle Ed’s ship had been sunk by a German war ship. It wasn’t until after Dad signed up for the service, that Uncle Ed was found at sea, amazingly still alive.

My dad was a hard-working man, who all so dearly loved his family. Dad was a deeply religious man. Scouting was his ministry. He would often say that it was better to set a sapling straight, than try to straighten out a crooked old oak tree. Dad truly believed that scouting was a good movement to teach boys to be strong and independent, to develop a love and respect for nature, and to learn leadership skills.

So, when the Dark Letter came, my father’s heart broke. The Dark Letter was written by a father of one of the scouts of Boy Scout Troop 170. This letter had been mailed out to all the Assistant Scoutmasters, Committeemen, and parents of the scouts of Troop 170. It was filled with false accusations against my father. The Dark Letter attacked my dad for not using proper English, specifically double negatives, when Dad spoke. It was truly one of the most cruel, hurtful and mean-spirited letters that I have ever read in my entire life.

I remember Dad broke down and cried, when he first read this letter. He wanted to give up on being a Scoutmaster. It had that great a devastating effect upon my father. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with Mom and Dad. I remember my mother saying to my father, “you can’t give up, Dick. You can’t give into this man’s evil attacks. He just wants to take over the troop. He’s just plain jealous of you.”

And, Mom was all so right. This mean-spirited man, did in fact, want to take over Troop 170. He was a man who never served one hour on the Troop Committee, but had it in his twisted mind, to become the Scoutmaster of Troop 170. And, he was going to become the new Scoutmaster, no matter what he had to do!

But, it did not begin and end with just the Dark Letter. This man spread lies about my father all over town. He was determined to destroy my father’s hard-earned reputation for being a good and decent man.

The entire ordeal of this man’s horrible attacks upon my father’s character lasted a good three months. I remember that it was well into 1973, when this cruel man ended his brutal campaign to destroy my father’s good works. Finally, he and his son moved on to another scout troop.

Through it all, it was pure agony for my beloved father.

If it were not for my mom, lovingly ministering to my dad, Boy Scout Troop 170 may well have had a very different destiny. For if this cruel man had become the Scoutmaster of Troop 170, he had plans to set up the scout patrols, by how well a scout did in school. This was in direct opposition to my father’s philosophy of setting up the scout patrols by neighborhoods.

He also thought that my father’s way of thinking was out of line. For Dad, the qualities of fairness, scouting spirit, and good sportsmanship were more important than winning a big trophy or a plaque at a scouting camporee. This cruel man felt that Dad should have taught the scouts to win, win, win at all costs!

Also, this cruel man felt that Dad was too easy going about boy’s earning their cooking and camping skill awards. If a boy burnt his hamburgers, Dad still would give the boy credit for trying his best. The cruel man felt that a boy should be turned down for his cooking skill award, if he did not cook up the absolute perfect meal.

There were all so many times, during this horrible era, that Dad felt like just giving up on scouting. It was a really tough time for my father. But, my mom would not let my dad give up. Mom’s loving ministry, kept the flame of service to scouting, burning all so brightly in Dad’s heart and soul. For truly, if it wasn’t for my mom’s determination and loving heart, I think Dad would have resigned as Scoutmaster.

None of us are perfect. None of us. We all have faults. As Jesus said to us all those years ago, “why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3 of the New King James Version.

Through the ordeal of the Dark Letter and the cruelty of the man who longed to overthrow my father, Dad became even stronger in his determination to be the best Scoutmaster that he could possibly be. My father was one of the most honest, hardworking, and caring individuals whom I have ever known in my life. About a month before he went Home to be with the Lord, Dad and I talked about the cruelty of the man who wanted to take over Boy Scout Troop 170. Dad quietly said to me, “Richard, you gotta forgive him.”

Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at richardmabeyjr@hotmail.com. Please put on the subject line: I Remember Mom.

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