When Chicago publisher W. D. Boyce visited London in the first decade of the 20th Century, he found himself lost. A young boy pointed him to his destination. When Boyce offered a gratuity to the young man, he refused, saying it was his “daily good turn” as a Boy Scout. Inspired, Boyce set in motion a chain of events that lead to the founding of the Boy Scouts of America. Fondren’s Troop One, the state’s oldest troop was founded in 1916 and is part of the Andrew Jackson Council.
Bill Cheney, himself an Eagle Scout, has been Troop One’s scoutmaster for the last year and says his own sons lead him into the role. Guiding the largest troop in the state, Cheney is charged with the evolution of theÂ character and leadership qualities in 120 fifth through 12th graders in the metro area.
The Boy Scouts of America, just as in days of old, still practice the development of skills that will carry a young man into adulthood. Cheney explains the relevance to modern times. “(English scouting founder Lord) Powell said it is ‘fun with a purpose.’ While having fun, you’re learning outdoor skills, personal development and leadership qualities. It makes you a better person,Â a better citizen, a better human being — in a fun way.”
Scouts earn merit badges, markers of their individual achievements, in a diverse array of subjects. “Communication, salesmanship and how to make a presentation are all relevant skills in any field,” Cheney says. Badges are updated for modern times, bridging the traditional with today’s technology. “Who would have thought back in 1910 that a video game design and cinematography badge (launched by film icon Steven Spielberg, once himself a scout) would have been an option?”
In their community, scouts like three-year veteran Travis Rogers, 14, see the organization as a way to build lifelong camaraderie. He also notes the resume-boosting nature of this leadership training. Ten year-old Forrest Hutchison, who is just beginning his scouting experience, says his brother’s urging lead him to join. He’s learning skills, he explains, that he’s teaching others. And 14 year-old Robert Branson, a scout for the last two years, says he’s participating in community building activities like clean-up and tree planting efforts, all in the name of doing good for others.
Troop One can be found cleaning up at Greenwood Cemetery, deep in Eubanks Creek assisting a fellow scout seeking his Eagle badge or working on projects for sponsoring organizations, St. James Episcopal Church and St. Andrews Episcopal Cathedral.
Those are roles, like Boyce’s young English guide, Cheney says, scouts learn to play all the time. “They may not be in uniform always, but these boys stay active in the community.”