Much has changed in Elmira over the past 100 years, yet one of the constants throughout the past century has been the 1st Elmira Scout Troop.
What began way back in 1912 with just 14 local youths who met in a clubhouse located above Philip Chrisman’s blacksmith shop has grown into two Beaver colonies (added in 1975), one Cub pack (1935), one Venture company (1968), and one Rover crew (1964), encompassing hundreds of local youth and at one time laying claim to the title of largest Scout troop in Waterloo Region.
“I think it’s pretty neat. It’s pretty cool,” said Bill Thuroo, chair of the centenary planning committee and who started as a Cub in Elmira, along with his brother Roger, in 1971 at the age of 10. It was their father, Oscar, who got them involved, and he piqued their interest when he explained how much fun they would have exploring the outdoors.
“We lived outside of town and we had a cottage and things like that, so it appealed to us. We actually had tried other activities in town – hockey, kung-fu – but we always went back to Scouting.”
Scouting Canada is nearly as old as the movement itself. In the spring of 1908, just months after the book “Scouting for Boys” was published in England, Scouting came to Canada, and the Canadian General Council of the Boy Scout Association was officially incorporated by an Act of Parliament on June 12, 1914.
The 1st Elmira Scouts have been working on planning a schedule of events and activities since January to properly commemorate their 100 years in Elmira. On May 9 they will hold their annual “Going Up” ceremony which promotes members to the next level of scouting and it will be held at John Mahood school.
Following that they will be planting trees at their new storage facility and den on May 12, located at the end of Oriole Parkway East. They also have their upcoming group link camp in June held at Everton Cub Camp, and the official birthday bash will be held Aug. 25 in Gore Park which is open to the public from noon to 3 p.m.
“Just like anything else, it’s a big undertaking,” said Thuroo, who also helped plan the 95th anniversary five years ago, adding that they are trying to keep the celebrations as low-key as possible.
After being involved for nearly 40 years, Thuroo said he has seen many changes in the Scouting world ever since he first enrolled as a Cub. He said that the focus of the organization has changed to be more multicultural, and that the types of badges that kids can earn these days vary from his days as a Scout.
“Now they have computer badges,” he laughed.
He also said that the rules and regulations surrounding the organization have increased dramatically, which has made it more difficult for kids to just hop in the car with their leaders and go camping for the weekend.
“You can’t do that anymore, now everything has to be checked out,” he said. “Now you have to be a registered leader and police checks are a big thing.”
Despite the changes, however, he said that the organization and the traditions inherent in Scouting continue to be passed down from fathers to sons and grandsons, and it makes him happy to see that tradition being carried on.
“The kids that I was in Scouts with, a lot of them still live in town and a lot of them now have kids in Scouts, and even grandchildren.
“I don’t want to sound too clichéd, but it passes on and passes down.”