Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lord Baden-Powell's Finishing School for Young Men

A hive of scum and villany
I was re-reading A Girl Named Rose the other day, a book suitable to almost all moods and seasons, when I ran across a bit that made me laugh:
Him: What did you have for lunch? Beans on toast? (he asks her of her date with an oily, Brighton-bound houseman)
Her: Yes, and a cup of coffee...
Him: I've never liked beans since I ate them out of a tin when I was a scout.
Her: You were a scout?
She looked so surprised that he laughed.
Him: It keeps little boys out of mischief.

My boy is in scouts.  He's about to earn his Tenderfoot rank.  I was his Cub Scout leader for several years several years ago.  I wrote on my mommy-blog at the time:  
The way to the heart of an 8-year-old boy lies through projectiles and food...but mostly projectiles.

and in another entry:
Scouts, scouts, scouts...(head cradled in hands) Can't live with 'em, can't legally trebuchet them off a ravine cliff...

After a very difficult den meeting (tears were shed, egos were bruised, mothers were called) I was packing up to go (baby on hip, toddler in hand and shepherding three cubbies out the door) and heard the fire alarm. All I could hear was a drumbeat of Yoda in my head: Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to the Dark Side.

Oh for the love of Jane Wyman!
Arg. Cubbies. The story is that it was mostly an accident--if hanging on the plastic box covering the fire alarm is ever an accident. But I was a little too soul destroyed to dredge up den motherly kindness. That's right. I went there. I recounted the plot of Magnificent Obsession.
--which is just what this situation was like if you see the Cubs as cavalier, playboy Rock Hudson who crashes his speedboat doing something silly and reckless (something suspiciously like hanging from a fire alarm box), keeping life saving equipment from Sexy Jane Wyman's husband who subsequently dies. I only hope that when Jane Wyman looses her eyesight and needs restorative surgery she will be helped by those same Cubbies who have fallen in love with the widow and also (freakishly fast, pre-internet) gotten to be expert eye surgeons all in the name of Christian charity (which is what Magnificent Obsession refers to although I'm pretty sure the movie makers wanted you to think that it was Sexy Jane Wyman).

And let that be a lesson to you.

So, no, I'm not really sure if it does keep young boys out of mischief.  I'm pretty sure it was invented to get young boys to want to adventure to the Antarctic for King and country.  (Non sequiter-ly speaking, my Canadian brother-in-law was a Queen's Venturer.)

I was massively pregnant with my latest pledge of affection while I had this job which I thought was bad enough  (those scout shirts are as unflattering as possible) and then I had the Pledge.
Hey Sister van Voorhees...Where did the baby go?  What's he doing under that blanket?

No, I'm not sure I can agree with Professor Sybren Werdmer ter Sane on this one.


  1. Having vastly more Scout experience than Betty Keira(5 boys of my own, years, nay decades spent involved in Scouts), I can say with near certainty that Scouting was invented as a way to legitimize playing with fire.

    Dr. van der Stevejinck (who, in his off hours, is the Scoutmaster of our troop) will be going camping tomorrow (rain, snow or shine). Fire will definitely be involved.

  2. Betty Barbara here--
    Alas, I can only speak from second-hand. I know a number of young men (and women)who were avid Scout members. The girls liked camping, sort of. The boys liked camping because it gave them a chance to not bathe and to not change their underwear! Playing with fire was a definite attraction, too.

  3. Coming from many, many years of Girl Scouting, I agree with the fire-based attraction for scouting... we girls were always envious of the boys, because before we got to do anything deemed "fun" (ie camping, cooking, fires, archery, backpacking...) we had to be trained in how to do it properly, without anyone dying or burning or otherwise causing incident.

    The boys, on the other hand, didn't need to deal with this training, and thus discovered what happens when you throw non-dairy creamer packets into fire... Luckily, they were willing to share their knowledge with us!

    1. Girl Scouts v. Boy Scouts:
      At the same time that the Princess Royal was selling cookies in front of Wal-mart last Saturday, The Heir and The Spare were camping on Mt. Nittany playing with the lighters that their fellow Scouts brought with them because no "open fires" are allowed on the mountain. ("Mom, did you know that a lighter that has run out of fuel can still spark and cause a scar on trees when flicked?")

      No wonder girls drop out....

  4. Does anyone happen to know just how many of the RDDs were scouts as young boys? I know quite a few of Betty's heroes were described as mischievous as boys and I could swear there are a few others besides Mijnheer Werdmer ter Sane who were specifically mentioned as having been a scout at one point - I just can't for the life of me remember who!

  5. I'm not sure our resident statistician, Betty van den Besty, would even know. But I'm sure you're right that there are more than a few.

    In the Netherlands they belong to Nederlandsche Padvinders Organisatie (Pathfinders).

    Here's the wiki:
    "During World War II all Scouting movements were prohibited and officially dissolved in the Netherlands, because the organizations refused to merge with Youth Storm, the Dutch National Socialist youth organization. Still, many continued their activities secretly. After the end of the war, Scouting again became very popular and therefore many of the current local Scout Groups in the Netherlands were founded in 1945 or 1946."

  6. And I've got to add the Padvinders Law!:

    Be much (help) at home
    Do not despise any kind of work
    Be honest and faithful
    Be helpful for human and animal
    Speak and think no harm
    Obey without complaining
    Wear disappointment with cheerfulness
    Care for your health

    Sounds like RDD material to me!

    1. Wow, "wear disappointment with cheerfulness"--we might need another Betty Kylene cross-stitch....

    2. That's a classic right there.

  7. No idea about the amount of scouts but I loved how all the professors seemed to be bad boys, literally, from the stories the lovingly retained nannies tell the heroines about the naughty things they did as kids.

    Boys + men + fire + scouting = with great responsibility comes greatly sanctioned misbehaviour.

    Comparatively, girl guiding sucked. All we seemingly did was sell cookies to people who either did not want them (our friends and family) or people with an inappropriate interest in the uniforms. Hello, sounds like a possible Betty girl story...
    Betty AnHK

    1. I think my brother was a Pfadfinder (compare: Dutch padvinder) for a while. But I cannot recall him telling us anything about it. But I do remember that the little girls I knew from my time as a Nanny by Chance (read Choice)were successful little cookie vendors. Which may have been due to the great taste of the cookies back then.
      Betty Anonymous

  8. Well, if it's instructions on manly behavior we're talking about, nothing beats Kiplings "If".

    Betty von Susie