Scouting

My relationship with some of the leaders in the National Office of the BSA was not always supportive. I had a serious altercation with W.Arthur McKinney at the US National Jamboree in July of 1950 which took a long time to be resolved. Five years later I wrote him a letter (which I do not have) and received this response.

W. Arthur McKinney
99 Rockingchair Road, White Plains, N.Y.
Feb. 4, 1955
Dear George:

It was very thoughtful of you to write to me the way you did. There are certainly all kinds of congratulations due to you for the things you have accomplished and I offer them with all the sincerity that I am capable of.

Yes, indeed, I was critical of you early in your career because I felt that there was plenty of danger in it for the future of a young man. I am very glad to know that you have turned out as you have and I hope that you can follow through in your chosen profession.

Even while I was critical, there was always a feeling something like envy on my part because I had always wanted to do some of the things that you were doing. Since my early boyhood I had a deep interest in far away places, no doubt as a result of my long time stamp collecting hobby. Quite accidently, my work with the Boy Scouts of America gave me many of those opportunities. Even though it was not the major part of my work, my opportunity for association with men from all over the world was the source of my greatest inspiration and enjoyment.

You have great opportunities ahead of you and I would be very glad to hear from you from time to time if you care to write. Enough of this preaching.

Your emblem collection has already been given good use. Unfortunately, the very size of it did not lend itself to usefulness for display at the Home Office. I realized too, that it was not of much use simply stored away as a record. After discussing it with Eddie Belason, our display expert, and with Carol Sawyer who was in charge of exhibits at Shiff Reservation, we decided that the most effective use would be to send it out in portions as exhibit material. In that way, it could get more constant care.

Balason used certain pages of it at the National Jamboree in California. It was also used in a rather substantial exhibit in Norfolk, Virginia a year ago. Parts of it were used in several Local Council exhibits. I believe that Joe Brunton is sending it on to you for your exhibit. I am quite sure that Eddie Belason will give it good care.

I am still laid up at home but am feeling much better. The cold weather is not too good for me. Three weeks after I retired I was hit by a heart attack but my doctor assures me that I will get well but must be more careful. Best wishes to you George and I’ll always be glad to hear about you.

Sincerely yours,
W. Arthur McKinney

I was accused of being a Boy Scout!

Hello my Scouting friends:

The phone rang this morning (Saturday, 23 August) and when I answered a voice said “George, your Boy Scout Good Deed is known by everyone in this retirement facility.” The fellow on the other end of the line had no knowledge that I had anything to do with scouting but felt that my behavior epitomized the public image of a Boy Scout doing his ‘good deed.’

What happened was that when I parked my car near my office on Friday I spotted an elderly man leaning on a post office box looking at a map. I asked if I could help and he said he was looking for the Ace Lock Company. He needed a key made. He didn’t look too steady on his feet so I said “You can’t get there from here on foot. It is too confusing. Let me take you and I opened the car door. He gingerly got in and we took off. The shop was only four blocks away but I was not too sure he would have been able to make it. I waited while he had his key made and then took him back to the bus terminal, a block from my office. He told me that he was 94 years old and had terminal prostate cancer and was encumbered with a large pad but that he was determined to do everything he could for himself as long as he could. Nonetheless, he appreciated my offer of a ride and thanked me profusely. He asked my name and I told him.

My caller said at the dinner table that evening he asked the group if any one knew George Drake and found that several did. He told the story of our encounter. The story passed around the dining room and the consensus was that if I ever ran for City Council again I would have every vote in the place. What pleases me about this little anecdote is that if you do a good deed you are accused of being a Boy Scout. I hope Scouting can hold onto that reputation but on the other hand I hope doing good deeds is not limited to Boy Scouts.

Even before I joined the ranks of ‘old folks’ I used to engage older riders on the city bus in conversation. One day I asked a little old grey-haired woman sitting next to me how she had earned ‘pin money’ when she was a child. A smile crept across her face and she responded “I used to buy ponies from the Indians and break them to the saddle and then sell them. That was fun!” and it was obvious from her big smile that the memory of that enterprise really pleased her. Whenever I saw Floyd Chandler, well into his 90s, on the bus, usually sitting by himself, in a loud voice I would ask, “Floyd, is it true that there used to be a bear pit at the end of the road here?” and that was all he needed to tell anyone who would listen about the bear pit and the amusement park that used to be in the neighborhood.

Folks riding the bus would stop their chatter and listen to him tell his stories. There’s stories all around us if we would stop to listen. Maybe you have to prime the pump to get them going but everyone has stories. One time I asked a man obviously in his 80s or older what was the funniest thing that ever happened to him. He began to laugh and said that he was on the city police force when they got their first cars and within a day he crashed his at a street intersection into the other car purchased by the police department at the same time. So both new cars were now laid up for repairs and he and the other officer were back on foot patrol.

One time I was trying to be nice and was rudely brushed away. It was at Tikal, the incredible Mayan ruins in the Peten jungle of Guatemala. A group of visitors from the American Museum of Natural History was touring the grounds listening to an anthropologist who was responsible for some of he excavations. This was obviously a group of museum docents, donors, etc. as they all seemed to be elderly and well dressed. Some of the stone steps were over 8 inches high and very narrow. I was next to a woman probably into her 80s who seemed to be a bit unsure of herself going down that steep stairway. I offered her my arm to help steady her as she descended.

She literally snarled at me “If I want your help I will ask for it!” Others in her group looked aghast at her crude response to my offer but said nothing. I responded, “Lady, I think your mother just rolled over in her grave. She probably taught you manners when you were a little girl. What happened as you grew old?” Shocked silence. This woman was obviously a wealthy dowager, supporter of the museum, etc. and used to being kow-towed to. She glowered at me for a few moments and then, reaching out her hand for my arm said “You are right. I apologize. Thank you for your offer.” The group applauded.

You don’t gotta be afraid of old folks. Just talk to them.