By Gerald Karwowski, racinehistory.com
The Boy Scouts of America, founded in 1910, is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year.
In the 1910s boy scout groups were springing up all over America and Racine, Wisconsin was no exception. The idea of scouting was stimulated after a English author Lieutenant-General Sir Robert Baden-Powell wrote a book Scouting for Boys.
Soon Baden-Powell became a hero to young men and they admired his ideals.
At the time the center of youth activities for boys in the area was the Racine branch of the Y.M.C.A, which was located in the historic 1886 Y.M.C.A. building at the north east corner of 6th and College Avenue.
Local boys approached Paul M. Stauffer who was the boys work secretary at the time and asked him to help organize a scout group in Racine. He agreed and became the first scoutmaster. Within the next few years several other scout groups were being organized and Tom Rees became the local scout commissioner and also supervised scouting activities in the area. However, it wasn’t until 1918 that the Racine council was formally organized and chartered as a permanent Boy Scout organization.
Some of the early scout groups would use the wooded camping area above Horlick’s Dam. They had a cabin called the “Wigwam." The area was scattered with camps and cottages owned by families and local club groups.
The first permanent summer campsite was at Norton’s Lake east of Burlington. The Consumers Co. of Chicago let the Council use the property as a camp site. In 1935 the Racine Council bought its own 50 acre site on Pleasant Lake in Walworth County this in turn was replaced in 1962 when summer camping was moved to Camp Robert Lyle in Langlade County, 245 miles north of Racine.
Judge Ellsworth B. Belden was the first council president serving from 1918 to 1931.
The Holy Name Society Drum Corps in their scout uniforms in 1916.
Racine Boy Scouts Camp, Norton’s Lake, Burlington, Wisconsin. Camp Director Voss instructing the 1st period class. This rare photo was taken by Wilfred G. Marshall in August of 1921.
Norton’s Lake showing the Diving platform in 1921. Marshall’s caption – “The ol’ swimming hole” camp site in the distance. These two views were printed from original glass plate negatives. There are over 1,000 views in the Marshall collection.
Racine County Scout leaders of 1932 at the Norton’s Lake camp. It was called “Camp Chickagami” at the time. From left, In the front row, Arthur Gruhl, Scout Executive at the time, Joseph Moriarity, James E. Bunck and Harry J. O’Haire who was Camp Director in 1932. In the back row is Charles Goodsell, Russell Hansen, Robert Bowman and Edward Westberg.
The Racine County Council Boy Scout Drum and Bugle Corps in front of Memorial Hall in 1937. This was the first time that the Racine Boy Scouts ever appeared at a Wisconsin American Legion Convention.
A Racine County Boy Scout history wouldn’t be complete if John Batikis (now deceased) wasn’t mentioned. Batikis is credited for his services to all Racine youth, especially the Boy Scouts. He was Scoutmaster of Troop 400 and also served as the VFW Youth Work chairman. In this 1972 photo he is seen holding a Wm. F. Ehrlich Post 1391 Youth Activities album.
Western Printing & Lithographing Company encouraged their employees to be active in the community and made generous contributions to many civic activities. Boy Scouting was high on their list. In 1959 Western Printings Golden Press printed “The Golden Anniversary Book of Scouting." The beautifully illustrated hard cover book was done by Robert D. Bezucha with assistance from the Staff of the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America honoring the first 50 years of scouting. This was the personal book of one of Racine's best known scout leaders, Arthur Gruhl, who was the Scout Executive for Racine County for many years. A treasured volume among the growing collections at Oak Clearings.