By MARTHA QUILLIN
Raleigh News and Observer
February 10, 2010
American newspaperman and world traveler W.D. Boyce, in London during a stopover on his way to Africa, lost his way. As the story goes, a young boy helped him along, and when Boyce offered him a tip, the boy declined, explaining it was his job to help as a member of the Boy Scout Association.
Intrigued, Boyce went to the Scout headquarters and picked up a copy of the organization's manual, Scouting For Boys. With the group's permission, he used the manual as a model for Boy Scouts of America, which he founded on Feb. 8, 1910, to foster character development, citizenship training and personal fitness.
It took a while to get off the ground, but the Boy Scouts eventually grew to be the largest youth organization in the United States. Today it has more than 2.9 million youth members, led by more than 1 million adults.
Boy Scouts is open to boys ages 7 to 17, who can work their way through the ranks from Bobcat to Eagle Scout. New members have to learn the proper salute and memorize the Scout Oath and Law.
Some interesting tidbits about Boy Scouts, celebrating its 100th anniversary:
-- Fewer than 5 percent of Boy Scouts achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, earning at least 21 merit badges along the way. The first Eagle Scout received his badge in 1912; the 2 millionth Eagle Scout was pinned in June 2009.
-- Neil Armstrong, Willie Banks, Michael Bloomberg, Bill Bradley, Michael Dukakis, Gerald Ford, Bill Gates, Robert Gates, J. Willard Marriott, Ross Perot, Donald Rumsfeld, William Sessions and John Tesh all achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.
-- The merit badge program has evolved, adding new fields of expertise and dropping others. For its centennial, Boy Scouts has brought back four historical badges, which can only be earned in 2010: signaling, tracking, pathfinding and carpentry.
-- The first Boy Scouts Pinewood Derby was held in 1953. The weight limit on a car for the competition was 5 ounces.
-- Norman Rockwell's first magazine job was as illustrator for Boys' Life, which became the official Boy Scouts magazine. Rockwell was 18 when he was hired, and though he later had other jobs, he produced 54 cover illustrations for Boys' Life over 58 years.
-- The Boy Scouts organization has faced competition from a number of groups, including William Randolph Hearst's militaristic United States Boy Scouts. In 1916, that group was put out of business by an act of Congress.
-- As America headed into World War I, Boy Scouts sold more than $355 million worth of Liberty Loan bonds and war savings stamps.
-- Membership in the Boy Scouts peaked in the 1950s at more than 3 million boys. During that decade, Scouts collected 2 million pounds of clothing for domestic and foreign relief and distributed 30 million doorknob hangers as part of a get-out-the-vote campaign.
Girl Scouts, a comparable group for girls, was founded in 1912 and claims 3.4 million members throughout the United States and in more than 90 countries.
Distributed to subscribers for publication by
Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.scrippsnews.com
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