I Loved the Boy Scouts

The so-called Boy Scout Perversion Files describe more than a thousand molestations of boys by men who took them into their care. The scoutmasters my brother and I had aren’t on the list. I’m surprised by how emotional I was when I looked it up just now. We had a really good troop – an active and fun, funky bunch of dads and kids. The fellow who took over the troop toward the end of my tenure as a boy scout, and who stayed on for decades, was a spirited, single man, prone to irascibility but dearly devoted to scouting; I never got a weird vibe from him. The national director of USA Scouting Operations at the time lived a street down from my family, and his son, a star athlete, was in my troop.

I wasn’t the best scout – I typically returned home from camping trips dirty and often wet and cold as well, even in the summer – but I looked forward to our troop meetings and all our camping trips. I always felt included and protected, and I learned a ton that I still know.

These perversion files are sickening in so many respects, but not entirely surprising. Boy Scout troops were, if possible, even more ripe arenas for ephebophiles than Catholic parishes were not too long ago. They provided easy access to a larger strata of men, for one. And then throw in the whole “camping adventure” thing. Oh, boy: *awful*.

In our troop we had kids who were really hurting and vulnerable. Many were poor. Many had broken families. But they were looked after and were safe when they were around the men in Troop 209, Raymond Baptist Memorial Church, Fairport, NY. I believe that.


  Tom Buchanan wrote @

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s I was a Boy Scout. Mostly, I think, because my mom considered joining scouts to be a good idea. I can’t say I have great memories of the experience, but for several years I participated in Scout meetings, and I went on a few camping trips. I progressed through the Cub Scout program and earned a few merit badges as a Tenderfoot, the lowest achievement rank in Boy Scouts, but the program didn’t really appeal to me so I dropped out.

In recent years I’ve watched the scouting sexual abuse scandal from a distance, wondering if anything untoward had been happening in my troop, and if the local ‘leaders’ of boys were actually ‘seekers’ of boys. My memories don’t include any discomfort like that, but rather just a general dislike of the organizational structure, yet still, there has been a lingering curiosity about what might have been happening to my friends, and what might have been happening outside of my field of vision.

The national scouting organization has finally been forced to release the so called “Perversion Files” that detail all communication about abusive scout leaders from that era. And so I opened the file and looked for reports from my hometown of Croton-on-Hudson, New York. The national listings cover 27 easily sortable web pages, and each report sequences an abuse charge in several pages of pdf documentation. It’s a staggering collection that reveals a wide range of abuse in towns I know well, some big and some small. But Croton-on-Hudson is not on the list. It’s comforting to know that, and to securely retain a belief that the volunteer scoutmasters in my local troop were really there to help boys, and not to prey upon them. I appreciate their service and am sorry their efforts have been tarnished.


  Jenny Basil wrote @

It was a wonderful troop, Robert. I liked going to the medal ceremonies. Only wish I could have joined!

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