26th Hamilton Scout Group celebrating 90 years
By Mark Newman, News Staff
It’s an organization that encourages boys and girls to put away their cell phones and tablets for a while and explore the wonders of nature, learn how to paddle a canoe or read a compass and pick up some other useful skills like first aid, wood working and craft-making.
The 26th Hamilton Scout Group is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year and while the numbers have declined over the years, the organization remains as busy as ever.
“It’s fun,” said 12-year-old Hayden Tucker, who has been a member of the scout group for five years, starting with the 26th Cub Pack. “You learn leadership rules and being respectful.”
Tucker is among the thousands of boys who have been part of the Mountain scout troop since it began in 1924 and has been meeting in the basement of Chalmers Presbyterian Church since 1930.
“Harry Bryant was my first leader,” said Peter Corbett, who joined the organization when he was six years old and now at 84 remains one of the elders of the 26th scout group. “We used to go for hikes around Albion Falls, we would walk from here.”
Learning to tie knots and games like dodge ball were common activities during his days as a scout recalled Corbett, who gets emotional when he talks about the dedication of leaders like Bryant and recalls the many friends he made through scouting.
Corbett noted his two sons, two grandchildren and (briefly) two great-grand children were also members of the 26th.
“It’s been passed down from generation to generation,” noted group commissioner Russell Brown, who joined the organization as an eight-year-old in 1957.
After reaching a peak of about 150 members back in the late ‘50’s the group today has 55 members age 5-18 in beavers, cubs, scouts and venturers.
“They’re learning values and laws, how to treat each other and how to treat the environment,” Brown said.
Scout leader Bill Murphy, who has been with the group for 22 years, noted they have been blessed over the years with good leadership.
“I believe the leaders get more out of it than the kids do,” he said. “They get the satisfaction of seeing some of these kids grow from little boys and girls to young men and women.”
Murphy noted scouting through weekly meetings and other outings offers a positive distraction for youngsters if they are dealing with issues elsewhere.
“There are some kids that this is a sanctuary for them,” he said. “They can get away from what ever problems they are having.”
It also gives boys and girls who many not be the greatest of athletes a chance to get outside for some physical activity.
“A lot of these boys (and girls) don’t get enough physical activity,” Murphy said. When we can take them to the park to play football or soccer or baseball that is as much a novelty to them as the computer was for us.”
According to The History of the 26th Hamilton Scout Group written to celebrate the group’s 60th anniversary by long-time and beloved leader Harry “Chief” Bryant, who died in 1984, and the group’s anniversary committee, the organization began at the suggestion of Allan Dove, a carpenter at Stelco.
Bryant writes that a group of boys from the Concession Street-Upper Wentworth area formed the nucleus of the first scout troop.
“During the summer of 1924, one such group (or gang as we would call them then) had been playing ball all summer and now the nights were getting dark earlier and they discussed what they could do during the winter months. Mr. Allan B. Dove, who lived at that time at East 19th (maybe 31st) came over and after listening for a while, suggested that they might like to form a Scout Troop. Mr. Dove had been an assistant Scoutmaster, but if I ever know where, I have forgotten. However, he was from Scotland, so it is possible that he had been connected over there. His form lists 6 years of service before the 26th. After a few more get-togethers, his offer was accepted and permission to meet at Lloyd George was granted, and on October 10th, 1924, the 26th was born. There is no record when the Cub Pack actually started, but it was very shortly afterwards.”
There were 12 boys in the first scout group.
Dove was the first Scout Master serving from 1924 to 1929.
Bryant served in a variety of leadership roles including Cub and Scout Master and Venturer Advisor from 1927 to 1982.
The group met at Lloyd George (laterInverness) elementary school at Upper Wentworth and Crockett.
Now long gone, the school was first known as SS Number 3 in pre- annexation Barton Township.
Among the scout group’s major accomplishments was the creation of Camp Wheeler on about 10 acres of land in Haliburton in 1950.
It’s named after Lewis Wheeler a popular scout leader who, according to the group's 60th anniversary pubhlication, was killed by enemy shell fire in Germany in 1945 while serving as a member of the Queen’s Own Rifles.