Troop 124 History

Ramblings by Ken Mattson, Scoutmaster at 25th Anniversary Celebration, July 22, 2000

For over 25 years Troop 124 has been there:

  • Hiking hundreds of miles through the Cascades of Washington and Oregon, Washington's Olympics, the Tetons in Wyoming, and Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.
  • Cycling the length of the Oregon Coast three times, through the San Juan Islands twice and the width of Oregon, from the ocean to Idaho. Let's not forget the annual journey from The Crab Broiler to Ft. Stevens, Oregon.
  • Rafting the upper Snake River in Wyoming, the Deschutes in Oregon and the Rio Grande in the Southwest.
  • Canoeing, mostly on top of the water, the Willamette, the Clackamas, and the upper Snake rivers.
  • Joining with thousands of other Scouts at National Jamborees in Pennsylvania and Virginia.
  • At World Jamborees in Canada, Australia, The Netherlands, and Chile.
  • Attending the Japanese National Jamboree as guests.
  • At the top of Mt. Hood, (almost twice!) and Mt. Adams.
  • Under the snow on Mt. Hood, (a planned experience), and even Badger and Pansy lakes (unplanned snow outings.)
  • Crossing the international border into Canada at least four times. Twice in vehicles, twice on the Pacific Crest Trail.

And those are just the high-adventure portions of the program ...

Since 1974:

Who can forget the intrepid parents who wholeheartedly support the troop program? They willingly, (usually) drive stinky Scouts home from outings They pile blisters on top of aching muscles on backpack trails. Some attach themselves to ropes and with an ice axe, pitons, fortitude and Advil, climb mountains. They learn the real meaning of saddle sore, either on the back of a horse, or on the seat of a bicycle. They have courageously pondered the mysteries of Christmas wreath bow tying; some better than others. The needy have been supported by our parents assisting their Scouts delivering food and gifts during the holidays for the Special Church Action Team. How about those parents who supply all the pizza, drinks, and whatnot to Scouts helping at Eagle Scout projects! What about those Parent Meetings! The Troop Chair, the Asst. Scoutmasters, the Committee members, and the moms and dads who support the troop and its boys so well. They help as Merit Badge counselors. Our parents are real unsung heroes. (The boys really have no clue, do they?)

Since 1977:

Troop 124 has received the former 5-Star or current Honor Troop Award every year. This troop has supplied boy and adult staff leadership at Camporees, National and World Jamborees, Webelos Woods, Cub day camps, Cub World, Camp Meriwether, Camp Cooper, Camp Pioneer, Camp Baldwin, Council horse treks, and the Jr. Leader Training camps Brownsea 22, Polaris, and SOGUS. Add to that adult leaders who served as Woodbadge staffers, Council Vice-Presidents, a Camp Director, and members of district and council-level committees. Several adult leaders have been honored with the District Award of Merit, and the Council-level Silver Beaver award.

Let's not forget St. Matthew Lutheran, our sponsor, which has suffered surprisingly little damage for 25 years. Well, there was the old church bus put to the test more than once, in places it probably shouldn't have been. (Bennett Pass Road, etc.) However, the blown muffler, the stuck throttle (volcanic ash in the air intake, the rolling mass of pop cans, and the pudding dripping down the side, were all easily remedied. The church has generously given us meeting space and especially storage space (The Pit!) that would be envied by other troops who's leaders' garages are crammed with troop supplies. Thank you St. Matts!

So how did all this get started?

A former Life Scout from Bridal Veil Falls, Oregon, Tom Cowling, started thinking that St. Matthew needed a Scout troop. How this thought came to his mind I don't know. Tom was in contact with the Portland Scout Office, and the District Executive of Sunset Trail. The D.E., always looking for increased units and numbers of Scouts, willingly agreed to meet with Tom and at least one other person Eagle Scout Bob Richardson. This "Gang of Three" started checking out the congregation for possible veteran Scout leaders, or former Scouts who could be "convinced" into leading this new troop. (You would only meet once a week, and...) They found two, Mr. Don Coursey and myself. In the fall of 1974 we met in the church library and started discussing the possibility of chartering a new unit. They sure knew how to pick their prospects. Don's kids weren't in Scouts anymore and I only had one child, Julie, who was all of 9-months-old. (What was this committee thinking?) As they talked, I kept remembering the great experiences I'd had as a Scout in good old Troop 592 in Raleigh Hills. The group confirmed the fact that Don had been a leader in California or some place like that, and that I was indeed an Eagle Scout. Their squinty-eyed expressions should have been a clue as to what was coming next. Their scheme was revealed when they asked me if I had ever thought of being a Scoutmaster?

Well yes, someday, I answered. If I had a son. Someday.... Would I like to be scoutmaster of this new troop? Gulp. I would be glad to help, but not as Scoutmaster. You see, I told them, I'm only 28 and I just have a daughter. ... (and my wife doesn't know anything about this yet.) At that point Don Coursey said that he would be Scoutmaster and relieved, I chimed in that I could "help" as an adult. As Troop Committee Chairman? they asked. Uh, sure, I responded - just glad to have dodged the Scoutmaster bullet.

At this point the District Executive, happy as a clam, said something about a troop number. I remember thinking that if I had been in Troop 592, and it was 25 or 30 years old, that this new troop would have a pretty high numeral starting with an 8 or 9. "1-2-4," he said. ONE-two-four, I questioned? Yes. A troop across Portland had folded, so the number was free to use. Little did I know how those numbers would influence not only my life but those of so many others. (Have you ever caught yourself seeing those numerals all over the place; car license plates, street signs, bus numbers, etc?)

It was October of 1974 when we officially got started. We had an organizational meeting and showed a film (sorry - no home videos invented just yet) which promoted the activities that Scouts do. It was quite a variety of action-oriented, high-adventure stuff. I remember telling the assembled boys that if they stayed in Scouting, they would do all the things they had just seen. I believe we signed everyone who showed up, about 7 boys. Five were from the Oregon City-West Linn area. They either had connection with St. Matthew, were buddies, or brothers. Luckily Highway 217 had just been completed a couple of years before. so their trip to meetings was a little easier. Tom Cowling suggested we immediately have an outing of some sort. About the third weekend of that month we took a day hike to Twin Lakes near Mt. Hood. We started off at the Frog Lake parking area next to Hwy 26. Nice day. As I recall, the whole troop went on the outing! Except Mr. Coursey, the Scoutmaster (I think Tom Cowling managed to attend about one or two more outings himself. He figured that he'd got the thing started so now he could slip away, unscathed. Bob Richardson had disappeared. We got him years later when he had a son.)

A couple more boys joined and we were able to temporarily entice Kevin Johnson, an older Scout from another troop, to help us get started. That would make him the first Senior Patrol Leader. We established our meeting times at 7:00 PM on Monday nights. Why? Because that;s when my troop met when I was a Scout. We were just making it up as we went along. Sometime in December, Don Coursey told me his job was taking him away too much, and he might be moving, and would I think about taking over as Scoutmaster? Oh my. Tom Cowling's eyes got a little "squintier" as he glanced my way upon hearing this news.

I obviously had to talk this over with my wife, Elaine. I had been attending all the meetings anyway. We'd never had a Troop Committee meeting under my chairmanship, so it was no loss to hand that over to someone else. I was more interested in the program and camping once a month anyway. Okay, she told me. Go ahead. (Little did she know...) I bought a uniform, Scout handbook, and a Scoutmaster's Handbook. The first thing I did was to read the whole Scoutmaster's Handbook. After that I took over the position in January of 1975. The first thing that I heard as I walked into the downstairs Fellowship Hall in uniform was a statement blurted out by one of the scouts, Bones, (David Hayes), "Wow! We have a REAL Scoutmaster now!" That's all it took.

Our first summer camp (1975) was Meriwether. We stayed at the Mandan campsite with maybe eleven boys. We had a grand time. I even took my first adult training called "Cornerstone."

In 1976 we decided to come back to Meriwether and timed it for the 50th anniversary celebration of the camp. That year we were at the Thunderbird site. We had about 20 boys. The biggest in-camp recreation was "kybo-rolling." (We had a ways to go with sophistication of program, I guess.) Round firewood logs were rolled off the sloping roof of the kybo, hit a step, turned and rolled down a small hill to a final stop in the mud. The object was to stretch that roll as far as possible. I'm sure they also took some time for some Merit Badges that year, I just don't know how many. I do know we broke a wrist, and left a kid at camp on the last day. Space doesn't allow for detailed explanations.

Assistant Scoutmasters have been a blessing to this organization. Without them, none of our success would have been possible. Some were an unlikely bunch indeed! Nelson Adkins, (like me, no son either), Dale Neuman, (no wife - no kids! But he had a Datsun 280Z which everyone thought was cool. Of course, it only held two backpacks...) Nelson and I had two mid-sized Plymouths. Limited trunk space. In 1976 Butch Berquist arrived with son Clarence. He was to remain as Asst. Scoutmaster for 20 years!! Shorty Jones taught us to be adult leaders, along with Jack Walcott, who was willing to try any new gear on the market. We'd watch his new gear and if it didn't break or blow up, the rest of us would buy it. Our Asst. Scoutmasters have provided huge additions in resources and leadership. Of course, they also added to mass amounts of "true life adventure stories" and wisdom, as well as belly laugh around the campfires over the years.

Our outings and summer camps were always either fun or "unique." Many are a bit of a blur to me now, but a few stand out. You know you've been around awhile or "through the mill" if you remember:

  • Camp Millard (Watching a lighted flashlight slowly sink to the bottom of a water-filled kybo - never to shine again - or be rescued).
  • Snow outings at Hood River Meadows before there was Meadows Nordic Ski area, with acres of parking and a lodge.
  • During the 1977 NBA Finals weekend, traveling to Scouters'; Mt. meadow for Camporee and marching in behind a bagpipe which finally wheezed its last in a soaking downpour. Because of heavy rain, the Camporee was cut short, and we all went home early, just in time to watch the Blazers beat Philadelphia for the championship.
  • "Bus surfing" on the Clackamas River road.
  • Sitting in Kennedy Hot Springs near Glacier Peak, after a 21-mile day on the trail.
  • Having to cross-country hike, using compass and map skills, from Bagby Hot Springs to reach the church bus parked many miles and several ridges away after discovering the trail had petered out.
  • Hiking the North Lake trail, in good weather - and bad. (enough said.)
  • Hearing, "There's a beak in my egg!"
  • Clambering up the second Mt. Hood 2/3 climb complete with a "crevasse rescue", illness, falling rocks, and a rapid downhill departure.
  • These words: Chef Wessee, yellow jackets, pizza, and the lost patrol on San Juan Island
  • The "Mud-er-ee" at McIver State Park
  • Raccoons everywhere at Ft. Stevens
  • The"Crud-er-ee" at Butte Creek Scout Ranch
  • Putting the first ding in the Scoutmaster's new truck
  • Ol' Blue
  • "Good Morning! Good morning, morning glory ..."
  • Red rock
  • A large pioneering project appearing in an Asst. Scoutmaster's yard
  • Chaining up the church bus tires in a surprise snow storm on Gumjuwac Saddle
  • Night search for a lost mother and her child at Badger Lake, with our guys covering two trails, and a local drunk with a dying flashlight wandering down the third.
  • Columbia-Pacific Council and Sunset Trail District
  • "Has the syrup been heated?"
  • "Good grief, Charlie Brown!"
  • "... and we don't go with the girls that do ...' Cept Stu!"

There are so many more! Each of these statements may, for better or worse, jog old memories and cause endless stories to arise, some actually true. Of course, there are incidents I've forgotten, or never knew about. (And don't want to know about, either.)

It took until 1982 for a Scout to earn Eagle. He's Chris Patterson. Chris' Court of Honor was unique. It was our first, but we struggled though it and quite well, I might add. We had a little added pressure at the time. Having ties from my Scouting days with the Honorable Victor Atiyeh, it was especially exciting to have him speak at this first Eagle Court as the Governor of Oregon. Of course, it was certainly amusing for the boys to hear the Governor call their Scoutmaster "Kenny." (He's one of the few who can get away with that.) In 1983 Clarence Berquist was our second Eagle, and the first to have been totally "home-grown" in Troop 124. As of Spring of 2000, we are privileged to have assisted 77 boys in becoming Eagle Scouts. They worked for it.

In twenty-five years many things have changed. Three different Scout handbooks have been published. Some rank requirements have been revised. New Merit Badges have been added to keep up with technology. Badges have changed colors. Uniforms have been redesigned. Equipment has modernized, to say the least. For environmental reasons, cooking fires are used less. We now pay for the use of some of our biking trails. Youth Protection has had to be implemented. We have a new district (Sunrise) and Councils merged. Instead of 7 Scouts, we're presently a troop of over 100 members, which gives us a depth of talent and resources.

However, some things remain the same:

  • The Pit
  • "It's a boy-led troop."
  • The Scout Oath, Law, Motto, and Slogan
  • Dedicated parents and adult leaders
  • Just use the Scout program...

As the next decades (hopefully) go by for Troop 124, we can just hope and work for the continuation of its program, expectations, and dedication.

One closing thought: You know you've been around a long time if you were a member of the troop and don't feel funny anymore about calling the Scoutmaster by his first name.

Here's to the next 25 years and, oh yes; "ROOTY TOOT TOOT, HEAR US ROAR ..."

Thanks to all of you. It's been a wild ride, and I'm sure that won't change.

Good Scouting.


In memory of:
Assistant Scoutmaster Jack Walcott
Eagle Scout Erik Weswig