Sunday, March 18, 2012

Neat illustrations and more from a 1948 Bear Cub Scout book

Here's a wonderful old book that was loaned to me by Tracey Stoppard, so that I could check it out for Papergreat.

It's a 64-year-old Bear Cub Scout handbook that belonged to her father, Kenneth Stoppard. And it's chock full of wonderful vintage illustrations and insight into what life was like for boys in the 1940s and 1950s, long before Pong, Space Invaders, Atari 2600, ColecoVision, Nintendo, Game Boy, PlayStation, Dreamcast, Nintendo DSi XL, Wii, Zynga, iPod, iPad and ephemera blogs kept everyone indoors.

The 156-page paperback, published in 1948, is filled with fabulous illustrations and details of activities for young boys in the Bear Cub stage of Cub Scouts.1

It includes 12 Bear Achievements, including Feats of Skill, Flag, Tools, Collection, Scrapbook, Knots and Reading.

And then there are 23 electives, including Secret Codes, Make Believe, Radio, Electricity, Model Boats, Aircraft, Indians, Photography, Farm Animals and Pets, Soils, Cooking and Safety Service.

Here's a small sampling of some of the Bear goodness within:

1. Feats of Skill

The typography and illustrations (presumably all by cover artist Don Ross) throughout the guide are just wonderful. Here's an illustration for a skill they probably don't teach kids anymore -- the fence vault.2 The directions for the skill are: "Take a short run, place both hands firmly on rail, and, in same motion, spring up and swing your feet over. Start practicing on a low rail and work up to one 30 inches high."

Other Feats of Skill for this Bear Achievement include the dodge spring, baseball, horseshoes, swimming and shinnying up a 15-foot pole.

2. Secret Codes

The sample secret code illustrated here involves a picture for each letter of the alphabet -- Apple for A, Baseball for B, Cow for C, etc. Some of them are kind of tricky. That's a jack-o'-lantern for J, a letter (remember those?) for L, an oil can for O, a quart bottle for Q, and a trowel for T.

Scouts are encouraged to use other secret codes and forms of communication, such as tin-can phones and invisible writing with lemon juice.

3. Make Believe

In the Make Believe elective, scouts are encouraged to expand upon the skit they had put together for the Wolf rank. Hand puppets and shadow puppets are also suggested as creative projects. Some of the suggested costumes (pictured above) include Viking, pirate and Chinaman, the last of which I'm guessing has long since been (thankfully) phased out of the handbook.

4. Roller Skate Scooter

The "Things That Go"3 elective begins with this paragraph:
"Try making a scooter. It is fast and easy to make. There are many kinds, but one of the easiest is a roller skate scooter. Maybe you and the other boys in your Den can make scooters and have races."
The diagram for making a roller skate scooter out of soap boxes and roller skates is shown above. Other projects suggested for this elective include stilts, a windmill and a waterwheel.

5. Decorate your room with a theme

Finally, I love this aviation-themed bedroom illustration, which is included in the chapter on the Art elective. The caption reads:
"What is your favorite hobby? Sports? Collections? Boats? Aviation? Why not fix up your room with things you like? If you like aviation, you could decorate your room as shown here. The airplanes pinned on the wall can be cut out of colored paper. Or, if Mother will let you, you can cut a stencil ... out of cardboard and draw airplanes on your wall."
Isn't that a great bedroom for a kid? And the best part? No video games!

1. According to a note on Page 4: "The book was created and designed by Don C. Ross, Art Director of the Editorial Service, and written by Gerald A. Speedy, Assistant Director of the Program Division. The Boy Scouts of America is also grateful to many other persons who have contributed to this volume."
Speedy (April 18, 1910, to August 31, 2008) lived a long life and died at age 98 right here in southcentral Pennsylvania. He was a resident of the Willow Valley Retirement Community in Willow Street (outside Lancaster) when he died. I found obituaries for him here and here.

2. There could be all kinds of liabilities with fence-vaulting in 2012, right? Splinters. Scraped knees. Can't have any of that! (Sigh.)

3. Here's Monty Python's investigation into other things that might or might not go.


  1. I loved it! (Favorite part is long before ephemera blogs kept everyone indoors.) Thanks for putting some of my family history on display. :) Now I get to patiently wait to see my Grandmother's school books as a post!

  2. Thanks for putting this on. My brother had this very book when I was a kid and I must have worn it out looking at it. Every illustration is familiar.

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