World Scouting, Some Thoughts

Here is a letter sent to me in 1955 by the former International Director for the Boy Scouts of America. He had given me a hard time when he found me at the US Scout Jamboree in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania and then, again, when I wanted an International Letter of Introduction from the BSA for traveling in Europe. In my letter of 1955 I told him of my service in Korea and subsequent activities in California. In this letter he talks about the immense collection of scout badges that I gave to the BSA in 1951which, in 2008, the BSA stated that they could not find. My name is not even in the Boy Scout Museum archives or list of donors.

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

Scouting in Korea, Costa Rica, Guatemala and the World (October, 2008)

On arriving in Seoul last week I telephoned Simon Hang Bock Rhee, a Korean Scout leader that I met two years ago at a Korean scout jamboree. At that time he was the International Commissioner of the Korea Scout Association and held other posts in regional scout organizations. He offered to pick me up at my hotel and we would go to dinner together.

Over a wonderful Korean dinner he informed me that he has been elected Vice President of the World Scout Committee that has its headquarters in Switzerland. We spent much of the dinner talking about scouting in various countries. When I told him of my activities with scout organizations in Central America almost sixty years ago he said “You must talk to His Excellency Fernando Borbon, Ambassador of Costa Rica to Korea. He was active in scouting in Costa Rica.” At that he took out his cell phone, punched in a few numbers and said “Your Excellency, is it convenient to talk a few moments with you?” Getting an affirmative answer he passed the phone over to me and Ambassador Borbon and I chatted about scouting in Costa Rica and also Guatemala where he lived for a while as a youth. He knew the names of some of the scout leaders in those two countries that I mentioned but, given our age difference, he had not met them personally. After all, it was almost 60 years ago that I was traipsing around those countries visiting the scout organizations. He suggested we get together for breakfast or lunch and talk scouting. Unfortunately, given my tight schedule, I did not have the opportunity to do so. I very much enjoyed the interaction with Ambassador Borbon as it was conducted in Spanish and dealt with scouting in those countries which still has a lot of meaning for me.

Among other topics Simon Rhee and I discussed declining enrollment in Scouting in developed countries but an increasing enrollment in developing nations, especially in Africa.

Since I did not get to visit a Boy Scout troop meeting in Japan where I spent the prior week I gave Mr. Rhee the scout badges that were sent to me by Mr. David Crow of Monmouth Council, BSA and some that I purchased at the local scout office and asked that he give them to scouts when he attends gatherings of scouts from Korea and elsewhere. He informed me that in several weeks there will be a gathering in Seoul of scouts from all over the country with the specific purpose of exchanging badges. He will give the badges away at that gathering. I also gave Mr. Rhee a sizable collection of Boy Scout stamps from many countries that I spotted for sale on eBay and asked him to use them as gifts to scout leaders as he travels the world on his scouting duties. It is always useful to have small packages of gifts in one’s pocket when traveling. Mr. Rhee’s personal collections are limited to scout badges and scout stamps that have the number “75” on them. Accordingly, he especially appreciated the Monmouth Council’s 75th anniversary badge. That one, he said, will go into his personal collection. Simon Rhee insisted on picking up the bill for the meal and had it paid before I could grab it. Definitely my turn the next time.