Category Archives: Boy Scouts

Troop 3 Reunion

Dave Eckhardt and Bob Baum at the 2004 Troop 3 reunion. Photo by Pic Harrison

Dave Eckhardt and Bob Baum at the 2004 Troop 3 reunion. Photo by Pic Harrison

It must have been at my 40th Marblehead High School in reunion in 1997 that some of us spoke of Dave Eckhardt, the scoutmaster we hadn’t seen since the mid 1950s. Someone, maybe Tom Hansen, remembered that he had moved to Chicago, and on a visit there had tried to look him up with no success. Someone else remembered hearing something about Dave living in Virginia and had tried to find him, again without result.  The mystery of Dave Eckhardt rattled around in the back of my mind for a couple of years and I couldn’t let go of it. After all, I had played a role connecting him with Troop 3 in the first place. He had turned up as a border in the summer of 1951 in the house where we rented rooms at 18 Pearl Street when I was twelve. I mentioned that I was Boy Scout in Troop 3, and Dave, then age twenty-one, had jumped at the opportunity to get involved.  Fifty years later, in April 2001, I undertook an internet search and found a David C. Eckhardt in Virginia Beach, VA. I sent off a letter and received an email from him several days later. That evening we spoke on the phone for an hour.

Dave had four grown children and two grandchildren. What brought him to Marblehead in 1951 was a job with Sylvania in transistor research following his graduation from Carnegie-Mellon University. His young single co-workers, he told me, spent their evenings in bars, but he wanted to do something useful with his spare time — his explanation for his non-stop dedication to our Boy Scout troop.  He had discovered after his three and half years in Marblehead that he was better suited for sales than for research and had switched from Sylvania to IBM where he had worked mostly in Chicago. After IBM he moved to Virginia and began a real estate business. At seventy-one he managed an agency full time that dealt in condo time-shares. He added that he had raised his children through their teenage years as a single parent.  I couldn’t think of anyone better prepared for single parenting than Dave Eckhardt after his experience with us.

At our forty-fifth high school reunion in 2002, I suggested to Hopper Cutler and Tom Hansen that we might do a Boy Scout reunion and bring Dave back to Marblehead for a visit.  They agreed. After returning to St. Louis I dug into the job of locating as many alums as I could. I did a lot of this research using my internet connection at work during slack periods which my employer didn’t seem to mind. We had weathered the millennium bug thanks to intense preparation, and my job had become a lot easier. I started with a few addresses and sent letters and then emails. Everyone I contacted helped to locate others. The Yankee Clipper Boy Scout Council dug up old troop rosters from Marblehead going back into the 1930s and sent me copies.  Of the 41 alums I found 22 were willing to come on the date we had set: May 22, 2004. At the Marblehead end, Hooper arranged for us to use the Masonic Hall on Pleasant Street and located a caterer who did a marvelous job with fried shrimp at low cost. Buck Grader volunteered the Landing Restaurant for a Saturday morning gathering and arranged lodging for Dave Eckhardt at the Boston Yacht Club.

Hooper hams it up, again. Photo by Pic Harrison

Hooper hams it up, again. Photo by Pic Harrison

Barb and I drove east from St. Louis and stayed at the Harborside House B&B on Gregory Street. Eckhardt, it developed, was flying in from China, and had missed a connection which would delay his arrival at Logan Airport until late Friday night, May 21. Hooper picked me up at the B&B and we drove into Logan to collect our prize. Dave seemed refreshed after three sleepless days on airplanes. Except for white hair, he looked just he had in 1954. We drove him back to the Boston Yacht Club where Buck Grader was waiting; it must have been well past midnight.

The reunion was well chronicled in The Marblehead Reporter by Dawn Bucket, George Derringer and Hooper and Joan Cutler. “Pic” Harrison supplied great photos. Here, in part, is what Hooper and Joan wrote:

Mr. Eckhardt (Dave) spoke of his gratitude being sought out after so many years, what these “kids” had meant to him, done for him, given back to him – not the other way around.  A devout Christian, he told of his travels to Thailand living with a peace-loving gentle Buddhist family; or before yet another adventure, reading the Koran to better understand the Muslim family he would visit. …He shared his most recent journey: visiting a … Chinese English teacher. When asked to teach the class a song and poem, all he could think of was “John Jacob Jingle Heimer Schmidt” and “Peter Piper Picked, etc.”  Then Dave encouraged all present (former Scouts, families and friends) to look at life as an adventure and recognize that just Marblehead or just Virginia Beach isn’t our world anymore. He enjoined all to open themselves, to embrace, to learn what the world is and what it will be. With his four children grown and twin granddaughters recently born, he continues to live by own words, embracing life, sharing himself with them and others just as he did 50 years ago. Lucky Troop 3.

Dave Eckhardt at 79 in his office in Virginia Beach

Dave Eckhardt at 79 at his office in Virginia Beach

“Pic” Harrison shared another perspective:

In concluding his remarks, Dave Eckhardt said that, “life was a continuing journey and that we all had much to look forward to.”  After the applause Hooper Cutler, a third organizer of the event said, “Dave, why didn’t you tell us this fifty years ago!” For just a brief time while Dave was talking he was our leader once again, and we were the boys.

Next week: WRMC at Middlebury College

Crawford’s Notch

Crawford Notch general store today

Crawford Notch general store today

“They ought to call it ‘Nawford’s Crotch.’”  It was Hooper Cutler, seated with me in the back of Dave Eckhardt’s 1941 Buick limousine, just offering his latest witticism as we wound along US Route 302 just a mile short of our destination in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  It was 1953 and we were fourteen. Dave, our scoutmaster, was at the wheel. “Alright, that’s enough,” he said, as he turned his head a bit. He had already put up with more adolescent gross-out humor than any mature adult should have to endure. But then, in our eyes, Eckhardt wasn’t a mature adult. To start with, he was only a few years older than we were, and not only that, he had shared with us more than a few gross-out jokes and anecdotes of his own. Maybe he regretted these un-scoutmasterly lapses when he realized that once you turn on the spigot of juvenile vulgarity, there’s no shutting it off.

We pulled into the parking lot at Crawford Notch State Park and went into the general store where our scoutmaster checked our camping reservation with the proprietor.  We had a special spot, not an official campsite, right along the Saco River and behind a yard where the highway department stored sand for the icy roads in the winter.

Inside the gift shop we read the plaque relating the sad story of the Willey family which had been killed in August 1826 by a landslide when they ran from their house to a cave they had prepared as a shelter. The house itself was spared when a rock ledge caused the landslide to divide into two streams passing on either side. News of the Willey’s fate, the plaque said, had inspired poets and writers including Nathaniel Hawthorne to commemorate the tragedy.

We pitched our tents, cooked our supper and went to sleep to be ready for the next day’s adventures. On some of our trips we hiked the trails within the park, climbed Mount Willey or visited nearby Arethusa Falls, at two-hundred feet, the highest in New Hampshire. Once, I slipped on the wet ledge at the top of the falls, and slid a dozen feet towards the edge before catching myself on a protruding rock.  On one weekend we ascended Mount Madison to its desolate smooth rocky summit and another we climbed Mount Washington, the highest in the Presidential Range.

The summit of Mt. Madison in sight. Photo by Dave at 14.

The summit of Mt. Madison in sight. Photo by Dave at 14.

We were hiking up a sloping trail when I heard Hooper, behind me, singing some coarse words to the tune of “Turkey in the Straw.” It seemed so funny to us that we had to sing it for our scoutmaster and we did, once or twice. But on our third try, he said “No, that’s enough! I don’t want to hear that damn song again.”

Then, on another hike, we tried singing just the first few words, “Do your …,” just to test his reaction. He froze on the trail, and ordered us again to stop singing. Not to be outdone, one of us came up with sanitized lyrics:

Do your ears hang low, do they wobble to and fro?

Can you tie ‘em in a knot, can you tie ‘em in a bow?

Can you sling ‘em over your shoulder like a continental soldier?

Do your ears hang low?

Yes my ears hang low, and they wobble to and fro, etc, etc.

No, No, No! Not even with clean words! Never, Never again!”                                                           We were silenced, but I never forgot the song.

Our regular camping trips to Crawford Notch ended when Dave Eckhardt was drafted into the Army. Another scoutmaster took over Troop 3 and I went into the Sea Scouts.  A couple of years later when I was seventeen I suggested to two of my fellow scouts that we visit to our campsite in the White Mountains.  Dave Eckhardt couldn’t join us; he was out of the Army, but had been transferred to Chicago. One of the scouts, Paul Meo, was able to use his parent’s 1955 Chevrolet Station wagon, so Billy Doane, Paul and I piled in and headed up to Crawford’s Notch. On the way, we stopped at the American Legion Hall in Marblehead to pick up some of our troop’s camping gear that included a set of nested cooking pots.

Hooper hams it up at Crawford's Notch. Photo by Dave at 14.

Hooper hams it up at Crawford’s Notch. Photo by Dave at 14.

We checked in at the Crawford Notch general store, got permission to camp at our special spot and set up camp. I had my Army surplus jungle hammock which I strung between two trees; Billy and Paul intended to spend the night out in sleeping bags. We explored the state park a bit, returned to the campsite and cooked our supper. We scoured the pots and pans with sand from the Saco riverbed and set them aside to dry. I climbed into my hammock while Paul and Billy stretched out on the ground. Within an hour it began to rain, hard. I looked out to see Paul and Billy with flashlights retreating into the back of Paul’s station wagon. I remained dry and comfortable with the sound of the rain beating on the top of my enclosed hammock.  After another hour I went to sleep. I woke in the gray dawn and looked out. The rain had ended but the Saco River had overflown its banks in the night, washing away the pots and pans and other gear that belonged, not to us, but to Troop 3. The river bank was a foot or two from Paul’s station wagon but not quite up to my hammock. I stepped out onto soggy ground.  We stuffed the remainder of our wet equipment into the station wagon and headed back to Marblehead stopping for breakfast at a diner on the road.

Hooper Cutler, Paul Meo and I now are in our mid seventies;Billy Doane died a few years ago.  Dave Eckhardt lives in Virginia and shares a birthday with me. In December, on the day I turn 75, Dave will be 84.  We will exchange greetings and best wishes, as usual.

Two weeks from today: A Scout Reunion

Sea Scouts

Marblehead Sea Scout in their whaleboat off Fort Sewell. from Hartley Alley's " A Gentleman from Indiana Looks at Marblehead" 1963

Marblehead Sea Scouts in their whaleboat off Fort Sewell. From Hartley Alley’s “A Gentleman from Indiana Looks at Marblehead” Bond Wheelwright Company, Freeport, Maine1963

I remained with Boy Scout Troop 3 in Marblehead until 1954 when I was 15, around the time that our scoutmaster, Dave Eckhardt, was drafted into the Army. Many of us knew of the illustrious Sea Scout Ship Marblehead, which had prospered in the 1930s, winning the National Flagship Award and appearing in a Life Magazine feature in 1940. All of those boys and their leaders went into the military in World War II and after the war the Ship was revived but dissolved a few years before I became eligible to join.

A number of us in Troop 3 lobbied our parents and sponsors at the American Legion to revive the Sea Scout Ship again. An adult committee, which included my father, met with Legion and Scout officials who agreed to re-charter the Ship to begin meeting in the fall of 1954. Our new Skipper was to be Don Sweet, who had been a member of the 1930s group and who had served in the Merchant Marine during World War II.

When we met, Don told us to scrounge surplus navy uniforms, both wool winter blues and cotton summer whites. My mother knew a man about my size who had served in the Navy. She drove me over to his house in Beverly where he handed over his old uniforms with the sailors’ bell-bottomed pants. We stopped at Almy’s in Salem for the Sea Scout patches which she sewed on the next day.

Each week we gathered in uniform at the American Legion Hall. Our skipper directed us to lay out the room like the deck of a ship with wooden stanchions connected by ropes representing the rail. He taught us the proper naval protocol for boarding a ship, including proper salutes and piping officers aboard with a Bosun’s pipe.

We needed a whaleboat which one of our leaders located in Georgetown. We drove about twenty miles one evening in his pickup truck with a trailer hitch to bring it back to Marblehead. The boat was a little over twenty-six feet in length with four benches, or thwarts, accommodating eight oarsmen. A coxswain at the stern used a steering oar to direct the boat while an officer sat at the bow.

The American Legion did not allow us to use the “Beachcomber” cottage across from Fort Sewell Beach that the earlier groups has used as headquarters. But they did let us store and maintain our whaleboat right behind the cottage where we could launch it easily at high tide into Little Harbor. We fixed it up, launched it and set out to practice our rowing skills with our skipper’s son Don Sweet, Jr. serving as coxswain. After several weekend trips around Marblehead Harbor we learned to handle the boat well and were prepared for a big event coming up in June.

Sea Scouts Dick Bridgeo and Walter Bartlett on the porch of the Beachcomber Cottage. from Life Magazine, August 5, 1940

Sea Scouts Dick Bridgeo and Walter Bartlett on the porch of the Beachcomber Cottage. from Life Magazine, August 5, 1940

Several Sea Scout Ships from the North Shore of Boston held an annual regatta at Stage Fort Park in Gloucester timed to coincide with the festival of St. Peter, the patron saint of fishermen. A naval vessel, a cruiser, made a courtesy visit for the festival and some of the Scouts rowed out in their whaleboats for a tour of the ship.

To reach Gloucester from Marblehead we rowed about fifteen miles across Massachusetts Bay taking maybe two hours with a light wind and favorable currents. Don Sweet, Jr. steered from his coxswain’s perch at the stern while Don, Sr., our skipper, directed from the bow. We wore casual clothes, saving our summer whites for formations and for a night on the town in Gloucester. We carried our clothes in sea bags in the whaleboat with us while my father and some others brought the rest of our gear to Gloucester by car.

We were pitching our tents in the park when I heard a scream behind me. I turned to see Don Sweet, Jr. running in circles having hit his hand with the back of an axe while pounding in a tent peg. My father tackled him, bringing him to the ground and held his bleeding hand steady. Don Sr. arrived on the run and bundled his hysterical son into a car for the short drive to Cape Ann hospital. They returned to the campsite a couple of hours later with the younger Don sporting a fat bandage on his left hand. I hadn’t expected my father to act so quickly. I was proud of him for his decisive action in an emergency.

That evening we donned our whites and walked towards the Gloucester fish piers to enjoy the carnival set up to celebrate the Feast of St. Peter. The crew of the naval vessel visiting Gloucester had shore liberty and wore summer whites just like ours, except for the Sea Scout patches. A small group of us, Dave Fleming, Paul Meo, Charlie Pike, “Pic” Harrison and I, stopped at a booth selling ridiculous joke hats. Paul Meo and others dared me to buy a very wide, floppy beret: yellow with blue and pink polka-dots. I bought it stowing my white sailor’s cap into a pocket and putting the silly hat on my head. We stuffed ourselves with hot dogs and other snacks and decided after a while to walk back to our camp site in the park.

We had almost reached the Gloucester Fishermen’s Monument on Western Avenue when a jeep manned by sailors with Shore Patrol arm bands stopped beside us. “Come over here!” the driver barked at me. “You’re out of uniform!” I realized right away that the Shore Patrolmen had mistaken us for sailors from the cruiser, and that if I didn’t produce my Sea Scout card quickly I’d be on my way to the brig. I snatched the polka-dotted beret off my head and fumbled for my wallet. The man looked at my card and said OK before driving off.

The next morning, a Sunday, we Catholics attended Mass, celebrated by a priest in full vestments in front of a tent in the park. Two Gloucester Sea Scouts served as altar boys. Afterwards we competed in a whaleboat race, coming in second despite an exhausting effort at the oars.

Our fathers returned with their cars to pick up our gear. We broke camp, and started the long row back to Marblehead Harbor. The current which had favored us on the trip to Gloucester now opposed us and the rowing got very hard. We put our backs into it but the water towers and other landmarks on shore barely moved in relation to us. After an hour and half we hadn’t yet completed a third of our journey. A friendly man in a powerboat pulled alongside. “Want a tow?” he asked. We tossed him a line and relaxed all the way back to the dock in Marblehead.

The Beachcomber Dory Club, occupants of the building before the Sea Scout took over. From the Peach Collection

The Beachcomber Dory Club, occupants of the building before the Sea Scout took over. From the Peach Collection

Beyond the camping expedition, our skipper and his associates taught us numerous nautical skills and took us on expeditions which included a visit to an aircraft carrier, a weekend at Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire, and a short cruise on a destroyer. These Sea Scout adventures were the high points of my late adolescence, but I gave little credit to our leaders for arranging them. As kids we had no idea what it took to set these plans into motion.

Years later I read that Don Sweet Jr., had died in Florida in 1995 at age 55 and that Don, Sr. died in August 2001 at 85.    My mother kept the polka-dotted beret from the St. Peter’s festival in Gloucester at our home in Marblehead until it disintegrated.

Next week: Crawford’s Notch

Troop 3

Troop 3 Scouts at Bald Hill Reservation in Boxford, MA. Left to right: John Kohler, David Butler, Terry Soule, Jim Stone, Don Ridgeway, Bill Doane & Assistant Scoutmaster Bob Baum at Bald Hill. Photo from Bob Baum

Troop 3 Scouts at Bald Hill Reservation in Boxford, MA. Left to right: John Kohler, David Butler, Terry Soule, Jim Stone, Don Ridgeway, Bill Doane & Assistant Scoutmaster Bob Baum. Photo from Bob Baum (1920-2009)

I came into Troop 3, Marblehead in early 1950 just after I turned 11, having been in a Cub Scout pack at the Old North Church. We met at the American Legion Hall on Pleasant Street, a building that first served as Marblehead’s high school and was converted to condo’s after Legion Post 32 moved to the Old Town House.

Our scoutmaster was Al Gross, then in his thirties, a veteran of World War II and a businessman who, among other endeavors, brought the first coin-operated soda dispensing machine to Marblehead.  We met every Thursday evening, and under Al’s direction, lined up in ranks of four patrols, each with a leader. There was Senior Patrol Leader Tommy Hansen, Junior Assistant Scoutmaster, Barnes Ellis and Assistant Scoutmaster Bob Baum, who joined a couple of years after I did. I lead the Horse Patrol, which included Ben Chadwick, Peter Miles, David Fleming, “Pic” Harrison, Charlie Pike, Peter Gottlich and a couple of others.

Al took us to Boy Scout Jamborees at the Topsfield Fairgrounds, where we camped in tents and cooked over open fires. He taught to prepare steaks in a salted frying pan and to enjoy canned brown bread. We had along a supply of waterless hand cleaner in tubes like toothpaste – a jellied substance called No-No-No which came in quantity from one of Al’s business ventures.  You rubbed your hands together with the stuff until it turned into little balls of grime that you brushed off.

I found several cartons of No-No-No in the large open attic of the Legion Hall near the closet where we stored our camping equipment—the product had not been as popular as Al hoped. It might be fun, I thought, to remove the caps of the tubes, and stamp on them to see how far the stream of jellied hand cleaner would squirt. Dave Fleming and I disposed of about a dozen tubes this way, producing streams that reached no more than five or six feet.

In the fall of 1951, Dave Eckhardt, a young man from Pittsburgh, took over as scoutmaster. Like Al, he didn’t have a son in the troop, but he wasn’t consumed with business ventures as Al was. Instead, he had a full time job with Sylvania in transistor research which left his evenings free for us. We camped in the fall, spring and summer, first in Harold Parker State Forest near North Andover, Breakheart Reservation in Saugus, and then in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Campfire at Bald Hill, February1956.Left to right: John Kohler, David Butler & Jim Stone

Campfire at Bald Hill, February,1956.Left to right: John Kohler, David Butler & Jim Stone. Photo from Bob Baum

I don’t remember a trip to Harold Parker  or Breakheart without rain or freezing drizzle. One Sunday morning at Breakheart in the late fall, Dave Fleming cut his hand badly chopping kindling for a fire. Our Scoutmaster wrapped Dave’s bleeding hand in some cloth, loaded him into his MG Midget, and took off in search of a doctor. Meanwhile, deprived of adult supervision, we needed to get the fire started.  Eckhardt carried a five-gallon jerrycan of gasoline on the back of his MG, which we saw sitting near where he had parked.  The mind that thought nothing of squirting tubes of jellied goo on the floor of the American Legion didn’t hesitate to connect the five gallons of gasoline with the need for a fire.  We dumped it all on and tossed in a match. We jumped back as a huge flame erupted in the wet forest. Three minutes later the camp fire went out and left us wet and shivering to wait for Eckhardt’s return. He was back in an hour with Dave Fleming properly sanitized, sutured and bandaged.  After Dave’s emergency treatment, Eckhardt took him for a large green frappe which Dave proceeded to throw up. It was Eckhardt who got the fire started in the wet woods. After all, he had been an Eagle Scout and knew how. Sixty-five years later Dave Fleming still bears the scar.

Next week: Sea Scouts

Camp Norshoco

Skunk Hollow at Camp Norshoco with platform tents and the  old dining hall and post-office ( barely visible at the right..) The new dining hall is near the top. Photo by Dave Crowley, age 14

Skunk Hollow at Camp Norshoco with platform tents and the old dining hall and post-office ( barely visible at the right..) The new dining hall is near the top. Photo by Dave Crowley, age 14

I might have been 16 when one of the leaders at Camp Norshoco in Alfred, Maine, showed me a small album of color photos depicting log cabins situated at the edge of a dense pine forest. When I saw the pictures, in 1954, the camp was mostly open fields with a couple of low hills and patches of new growth hardwoods, grasses, shrubs, and a swampy creek. “How I missed the old cabins in the pines,” I thought to myself, adding, “They must have been wonderful”  In fact, I had never seen them, because in the fall of 1947,  a series of fires had destroyed over 300 square miles of Maine forest, including Camp Norshoco, three years before my first two-week visit to the camp in 1950.

We campers, from various Boy Scout troops in Marblehead, Salem and other North Shore towns slept in tents on wooden platforms in three encampments: Skunk Hollow, where I stayed two or three summers, a second site whose name I’ve forgotten, and Little Egypt, named for its Army-surplus square pyramid tents. There were three buildings: a long prefabricated dining hall with a corrugated steel roof and a kitchen at one end, a small infirmary and a modest administrative structure that doubled as a post office. There was a lake, in which we swam and canoed, called, as far as I knew, Lake Norshoco. In reality its name was Bunganut Pond – as I discovered from a recent Facebook posting. The name Norshoco, I believed then, referred to the Indian tribe that had once lived on its shores.

Little Egypt was reserved for Scout troops that attended Norshoco together, with their own leadership rather than as individuals mixed in with kids, as I was, from other troops. The most cohesive unit to attend Norshoco while I was there was Troop 83 from Ste. Anne’s parish on Jefferson Avenue in Salem, Mass. Its scoutmaster was an energetic priest named Father Bourgault. I had never seen a priest out of uniform before Fr. Bourgault, yet there he was, walking across the parade ground, pot bellied, and wearing an undershirt, shorts and sneakers. I didn’t believe that he was really a priest until he celebrated Mass for us the next Sunday, in full vestments.

Marblehead Boys in Skunk Hollow 1951: Joe Homan, rear; John Collins, Fred Petersen, Ross Goodwinn, left to right; Paul Meo & Warner Hazel (?) front. Photo from Chris Brown

Marblehead Boys in Skunk Hollow 1951: Rear – Joe Homan,  Middle – John (Jack) Collins, Freddy Petersen, & Ross Goodwinn, Front – Paul Meo & Warner Hazel (?). Photo from Chris Brown

Troop 3 in Marblehead, where I was a member, didn’t seem cohesive at all. It wasn’t the fault of our leaders; it was, instead, the large number of misfits among us, or so I believed. I envied the other troops like Father Bourgault’s in Salem, and Troop 11 from St. Andrew’s Methodist in Marblehead. They each had at least a dozen Eagle Scouts; we had one.

In 1953 a group of us from Troop 3 spent a week in Little Egypt at Camp Norshoco, along with one of our Assistant Scoutmasters. The first two days were fun, but the rest of the week was absorbed in drama generated by the destructive antics of two of our misfits,

During my second stay in Skunk Hollow in 1952, I developed painful headaches, and lay on my bunk during a hot summer afternoon. My three tent mates and some others were not sympathetic, taunting and throwing shoes at me while I tried to rest. By the end of the day, I had enough of this mistreatment and headed to the infirmary; I was feeling feverish and sick all over by then.

The infirmary nurse was the only female in camp and seemed to be in her thirties. She had medium length dark curly hair and was very attractive in her white uniform. She took my temperature, fed me some fluids and aspirin and put me in a cot. I went to sleep and woke up feeling better. She appeared with food on a tray from the dining hall and asked if she and her son could eat with me. I had noticed the young boy, maybe about eight. He wasn’t an official camper and he stayed mostly in the infirmary with his mother. He had some ugly scars on one leg, centered around the back of his knee, and walked with a pronounced limp. I sat on the edge of my cot to eat my supper, while the nurse and her son sat on another cot. I was the only infirmary patient. Afterwards she and her boy retreated into the dispensary beyond the small patient ward; their bedroom was in the back, out of my view.  I went back to bed and turned over, and as I looked up, I saw her walking past the open dispensary door in just a white slip.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, “I forgot you were here. I hope you don’t mind me in my slip. I don’t get many overnight patients.  My son is sleeping in the bedroom, so I change in here to avoid disturbing him.” She disappeared and came back in a bathrobe. “ I need to tell you about Paul,” she said, and in that instant, by addressing me as another human being who might be curious about the scars on the boy’s leg, she granted me a degree of adult respect that no one had shown me before. To her I wasn’t a patient requiring professional distance or a child needing supervision or discipline; I was another person, just as worthy as she was. Her appearance in the slip hadn’t seemed at all immodest to me, no more so than seeing my own mother in one.

She continued, “Paul was a baby when he pulled over a pot of boiling water on the stove scalding his leg. It was just an accident, but in healing, the burn left these very tight contractures that I have to work and massage every day to keep his leg and as flexible and mobile as possible. When he’s a little older, he’ll need an  operation on his tendons.”

Norshoco Patch

Camp Norshoco Patch

I awoke the next morning feeling fine and went back to my tent mates who didn’t bother me again. The nurse had given me refuge and the gift of respect.  So empowered, I thought again about the name of our camp − there never were any Norshoco Indians, it was simply a contraction of our Boy Scout district: The North Shore Council.

Next week: Troop 3