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October 14, 2009 > History: Boy Scouts of America

History: Boy Scouts of America

The Boy Scouts of America was incorporated in 1910 and scout troops organized all over the country. The Handbook of the Boy Scouts was published, the Scout Oath and Laws developed and a Scout uniform and badges manufactured. Scouts served in disasters and civic events and soon justified their motto, "Be Prepared." Because they had proven to be so useful, Congress granted a Federal Charter to the Boy Scouts of America in 1916.

The Centerville troop was organized about 1915. Through the 30s and 40s Phillip Sousa served as scoutmaster. Tony Avilla recalls camping and cook-outs at various locations, trips to Big Basin and the Hayward Plunge and the formation of a drill team. A favorite was camping trips to a ranch in Almaden owned by game Warden Fred Rogers whose sons Fred and Stanley were troop members. Sousa remained active in the Scouts for many years, later in an advisory capacity.

Orion Dunbar was the scoutmaster in 1950; Richard Mendonca, cubmaster and Arthur Belshaw the committee chairman. In the 50s the community became interested in building a scout house behind the Centerville School. Under the leadership of Centerville School Principal Philip Brazil - an eagle scout, active in scouting for many years - and Superintendent Tom Maloney, a committee was formed. Led by Judge Allen Norris, Val Tuchsen and Jim Logan, money was raised, and the building was formally dedicated by community leaders and the Washington Union High School Band on December 12, 1954. The Scout House is in use today as a meeting location for several troops and training purposes.

The Irvington troop was organized in 1916. Wes Hammond joined Irvington Troop No.1 in 1938 and remained in scouting five years. Paul Hunt was the scoutmaster, and meetings were held on the second floor of the I.O.O.F. building. Meetings were often held outdoors in summer where activities included hiking, nature study, and signaling, ending with a hot dog roast. A special Indoor Rally between Washington Township troops was held annually in the Washington High gym. Other activities included snow trips, swim parties at the Hayward Plunge, "Camporees" at Lake Merritt, weekend troop camps and week-long experiences. Adult leaders recalled by Wes include Paul Hunt, Joe Silveira, George Scamman, Raymond Benbow and Wes's dad, Everett.

Frank Gould was the scoutmaster in 1950 and Robert Zwissig his assistant. Committeemen were Gus Robertson, Allen Hirsch, Robert Wright, Clifford Rogers, Rowen Henry, Chris Jorgensen and Lester Gomes. They were sponsored by the Junior Chamber of Commerce. Chris had been a member in 1924 when the scouts hiked up Mission Peak where they hoisted a flag and swam in a rancher's pool. On a later December hike to the peak they threw snowballs and "skated" on a frozen pond.

In 1924 the Niles Chamber of Commerce organized a troop with Roland Bendel as scoutmaster. Their record was irregular until 1928 when the P.T.A. reorganized them. Lewis Lewis was Scout Chairman from 1935 to 1949. William H. Ford gave the Scouts a cottage and $500 for a tennis court in 1930. The property eventually reverted to Mrs. Ford. Thomas Robbins was scoutmaster in 1950, Dr. W.F. Lamoreux, chairman, Harvey Granger, secretary, and Paul Elliot the leader of several cub dens.

Peter Decoto started the Decoto troop in 1925 and led them for 15 years through some difficult times. A local writer stated in 1950, "Today's generation of useful citizens owes much of its high sense of citizenship to Mr. Decoto."

The Newark troop was organized in 1921 with Father John Casey as scoutmaster. He sometimes took them on scouting adventures in his Buick. After some difficult times, they were reorganized in 1938. Several groups were sponsors before the Chamber of Commerce took over in 1945. Carl Pierce was the scoutmaster and Luther Hudson his assistant with Clark Redeker and Richard Texeira committeemen in 1950.

Local Boy Scouts joined scouts from all over the country in February 1934 to listen to President Franklin Roosevelt's exhortation to service. They gathered in the Niles Veteran's Memorial Building and listened via a radio provided by the Vieux Brothers. Afterward they cleaned up weeds, grass, leaves and garbage on First Street. Supervisor Ralph Richmond presented the Niles troop the Roosevelt award "for good standing and progress." The scoutmasters were Lawrence Pine and Jack Townsend.

Currently the Mission Peak District, which includes Fremont, Newark and Union City, has more than 50 active packs, troops and crews. Most are sponsored by service organizations and churches and meet in schools and churches. Mission Peak scouts, as well as the entire Boy Scout community, are looking forward to their 100th Anniversary Celebration in February 2010.

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