06 April 2013

Getting Badged

Now I'm going to repeat a shocking confession I made in one of my earliest posts on this blog:  I was a Scout.

Actually, they're called "Scouts" today.  But back when I was in uniform, they were "Boy Scouts".  So, you might ask, if I was dealing with a gender-identity conflict, why did I join the Boy Scouts--especially when neither of my parents, nor any other adult in my life, nudged me into it?

You might have guessed at least part of the answer:  I was trying to fit in.  But I also got to spend time away from home and school on camping trips and such.

I mention my Scouting because, believe it or not, the Boy Scouts had a merit badge for bicycling.  (They still have it.) I was the first in my troop to earn the badge; if that troop still exists, I'm guessing that others have earned it.

For most merit badges, the scoutmaster or some other adult approved by him was supposed to supervise whatever work you did for the badge.  At that time, there still weren't very many adult cyclists--at least not in the part of New Jersey to which my family had moved me.  So, my scoutmaster, Mr. Kroner (who was also a county judge) basically took my word that I did the rides of fifteen, twenty-five and fifty miles.  Being the good Scout that I was, I kept my Scout's honor and did those rides.

As I remember, I had to show that I could fix a flat tire and do a couple of other basic repairs.  I demonstrated those to Judge Kroner.  He quizzed me on the rules of the road and hand signals, and He signed off on the badge.

Actually,  Cycling wasn't the only merit badge I earned for doing things I would have done anyway. As I recall, there was a merit badge for Scholarship, which required, as I remember, a "B" average and to do some sort of research project or paper.   There was also one for Reading:  I think I had to read twelve books and write brief reports or summaries. Mrs. McKenna, my English teacher, signed off on both of those merit badges.

Perhaps the strangest merit badge I earned was for Fingerprinting.  At that time, a show called "The FBI", starring Efram Zimbalist Jr. as Agent Erskine, aired every Sunday night. My father never missed an episode. I often watched it and actually found myself fascinated with how fingerprinting and other techniques were used to solve crimes. I asked Judge Kroner about the badge; he arranged a visit to the forensics lab for me, where one of the officers showed me how fingerprints were made and what made each one different.  All I did was listen to the guy and I had another badge.

But I digress.  Today I take issue with the Scouts' ban policies on gays (and, to my knowledge, trans boys).  But I also do not forget that they were the first group  of people to reward me for cycling!


  1. My own 50 mile ride was where I learned about booting the tire in addition to patching the tube. http://dfwptp.blogspot.com/2009/11/before-afghanistan-steve-got-run-off.html

  2. There's good and bad things about every organization. That's a nice looking badge though. I hope you still have yours.

  3. Steve--I guess you could say it was a journey to knowledge.

    Betty--I might have it. I'm looking through some old stuff.

  4. I have few vivid memories of way back but the day the scout master came to the house to conscript me was the day I fled the house screaming! I think they got part of the message and he never came back. Now if it had been the Girl Guides...

  5. The Girl Guides. Hmm.

    Me, I wanted to be a Campfire Girl because I liked their uniforms better than the ones the Girl Scouts wore!