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Scouting Roots at Sagamore Hill

Scouting in the Massapequa’s began in about the 1920s. The Theodore Roosevelt Council, Boy Scouts of America was formed in 1917 to serve the youth of Nassau County. In September of 1997, the council changed its name from the Nassau County Council to honor and recognize Theodore Roosevelt, its founder and first council commissioner. Roosevelt also was the first committeeman of Oyster Bay Troop 39. Currently the Theodore Roosevelt Council is a self-supporting, non–profit corporation. The Scouting program in Nassau County is governed by an executive board. The day-to-day business of Scouting is carried out by a professional and support staff under the leadership of Scout Executive David Richardson.

The council owns and operates three properties. The council offices and a full-service National Scout Shop is located at 544 Broadway in Massapequa. The phone number is 797-7600. The second property is the Schiff Scout Reservation in Wading River. That 403-acre property is used year-round for camping and other activities. During the summer months a large Cub Scout camping program is held there. The third property is the Onteora Scout Reservation near Livingston Manor. That 1,401-acre property is used by groups for weekend camping year-round.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is one of the largest youth organizations in the United States, with over four million youth members in its age-related divisions. Since its founding as part of the international Scout Movement, more than 110 million Americans have been members of a Scout troop. According to Kevin P. O’Shea, the director of Field Services, there are 12,000 Scouts in the Theodore Roosevelt Council with 186 Eagle Scouts. I met Kevin when I visited the Broadway Council Service Center and the National Scout Shop. I was amazed to see all of the items and uniforms available including backpacks, a variety of camping gear, award patches, camping cooking equipment, axes and insect repellents. Anyone would think they were in a major sporting goods store. I can remember my Scouting days back in the 1940s when we didn’t have the luxury of a Scout Shop and we had to buy our uniforms from a catalogue. A few weeks ago, I covered a Protestant Club Scout Activity Day at the St. David’s Lutheran Churches Fellowship Hall in Massapequa Park and met with Sheryl Palumbo, whose son is in Troop 5, the same troop I was in. I told her we held our meetings at the Massapequa School, known now as the Fairfield School. She told me Troop 5 still meets there.

On Nov. 5, 1917, Theodore Roosevelt invited a group of Boy Scouts to his Oyster Bay home, Sagamore Hill where he presented the boys with war emblems that honored their strong support of the “Liberty Loan Campaign,” that was created to raise money for the WWI expenses. Roosevelt awarded the medals to Scouts who sold bonds in 10 or more homes. Roosevelt, America’s 26th president, was always an enthusiastic supporter of Scouting and the honorary vice president of the Boy Scouts of America.

On Oct. 24, the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site hosted their traditional Fall Family Festival. This year’s festival was arranged to celebrate Theodore Roosevelt’s 151st birthday. James Foote, who regularly portrays Theodore Roosevelt at historic functions, was on hand the entire day and was a hit with adults as well as the Scouts and visitors.

On Oct. 27, the actual birthday of Theodore Roosevelt, a wreath-laying ceremony at Young’s Memorial Cemetery in Oyster Bay is conducted and always attended by elected officials, Scouts and interested historians.

When you watch the holiday parades, have you ever wondered where all the Scouts come from and who sponsors them, and where do they meet and what do they do? Scout troops are sponsored by church groups, parent-teacher groups, groups of citizens, business and industry, private schools, the American Legion, Lions and Rotary International, fire departments, community centers, and other community organizations. From the inception of the Scouting movement, Scouts have been urged to “Do a good turn daily.” The first national good turn was the promotion of a safe and sane Fourth of July in 1913. During WWI, “Every Scout to Save a Soldier” was a slogan used to motivate Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to help sell savings stamps. Scouting for Food, an ongoing annual program that began in 1986, collects food for local food banks. In 1997, the BSA developed Service to America with a commitment to provide 200 million hours of service by youth members by the end of the year 2000. As part of Service to America, the BSA provided service projects in conjunction with the National Park Service. In October of 2008, the Department of the Interior expanded the program with the creation of Take Pride in America, opening service to all Americans.

Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, is a former Scout and a strong supporter of the BSA. He has also praised the BSA’s Scout law required of all Boy Scouts – a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. “Americans have quaintly simplistic ways and direct ways of phrasing things. I think it’s one of the great strengths of this country,” Bloomberg has said.