Scouting History

Scouting History in the Heart of America Council - May 2015

by Andy Dubill, Council Historian

Scout Shows and Contests in the Early Days of Scouting

Scout shows and contests played a major part in Scouting’s early days in Kansas City. Clarence Abbott, the first Eagle Scout in Kansas City, Kansas remembered the intricate preparation for the Boy Scouts Exhibition and Outdoor Rally that was held at the Kansas City Convention Hall each spring. “We would practice our Scout skills for weeks to ensure that we could put on a good show for the folks who attended,” he said.

On Friday evening, March 23, 1917, the thirteen hundred Scouts in the sixty-three Boy Scout troops of the Kansas City council assembled at the Convention Hall in downtown Kansas City for their annual Exhibition and Indoor Rally.   Clarence remembered, “That Scout rally began with a formal introduction of each Scout troop by the president of the council. Then the troops participated in a number of competitions – we had knot tying, tug-of-wars, firefighting, and signaling. We demonstrated all kinds of camping setups from lean-tos to wig-wams. Then we played Scout games like kickball, mounted basketball, and the fireman’s carry race. The final event was the city championship for the troop tug-of-war competition. We had a great time at our rallies each year.”

Another highlight during Clarence’s Scouting days was the Kansas City Pathfinding Contest in 1920. The daylong event began at seven in the morning, and the last participant finished the course at seven that evening. Clarence remembered the event as if it happened yesterday. “We met at Quindaro Ruins at seven in the morning. We really didn’t know what to expect. The first station contained a message in Morse code telling us what direction to head. I was off like a rabbit. I knew I could win that contest! At some stations we had to identify trees. At another we had to build a fire using our Scout skills. I raced through the course and knew I had won.” Later that night, Clarence received the phone call he had anticipated – he had placed first among over three hundred participants. He was awarded a special gold medal which he cherished then and still today.

If you have questions about Scouting history that would be good topics for future columns email Andy Dubill at adubill@aol.com .