By William E. Grau
A New Jersey Cub Scout pack marks its first 50 years with a yearlong celebration, capped by a gala blue and gold banquet.
Daniel Stern jumps excitedly into the back of his parents' car, straightening his Webelos Scout neckerchief for the last time. Today, he's graduating into Boy Scouts, and he and his family are on their way to the ceremony at his pack's annual blue and gold banquet.
The drive is barely a mile long, but it is a road paved with happy memories of Daniel's years as a member of Pack 1 in North Caldwell, N.J.
Looking out the car window, he sees the church where his Tiger Cub den met four years ago. And there's the parking lot where he raced homemade soapbox derby cars.
Farther down the street are the town's police and fire departments, which his den visited on field trips. And up ahead is the main athletic field, site of the pack's big outing last fall.
The car also passes beneath a large, colorful banner hung high above the street that announces an important milestone: the 50th anniversary of Pack 1.
Just as Daniel has been thinking of the people and places that were important during his Cub Scout years, so will others reminisce at the blue and gold banquet about Pack 1's long history of serving the families of North Caldwell.
In 1954, the year of the pack's founding, North Caldwell was slowly changing from a rural farmland community to a residential suburb. Retaining a small-town flavor, the community is now home to nearly 7,400 people, many of whom travel each day along its hilly, wooded roads en route to their jobs across the Hudson River in Manhattan.
The town's 50-year commitment to Cub Scouting has never wavered, says North Caldwell Mayor Mel Levine (who was once a Cub Scout in nearby Caldwell).
"Thanks to Pack 1, our Cub Scouts have participated in experiences that have given them the knowledge and appreciation to serve as model citizens," he notes. (Some North Caldwell Cub Scouts who grew up to become model citizens include town councilman Jim Campbell and at least two current Cub Scout fathers, Tom Asché and David Mead, all of whom were members of Pack 1 in its early years.)
Many people and organizations have supported Pack 1 through its first five decades. Members of the local police department, for example, have taught bike safety at the pack's soapbox derby and have assisted with pack-sponsored drug awareness and health programs.
Local Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant clergy have helped Cub Scouts earn religious awards from their respective denominations. And members of the rescue squad have hosted tours of their facility and taught basic first-aid skills.
Cub-o-ree and more
The pack's golden anniversary celebration began with the program year in September 2003. Fliers highlighting special activities planned for the year were sent to returning Cubs Scouts and prospective new members.
Committee members used the opportunity to add a special anniversary theme to the pack's traditional programming, as well as plan special service projects as a way to give back to the community (see sidebar).
Trip McMillan, Scout executive of the Northern New Jersey Council, observed that Pack 1's anniversary plans demonstrated how Scouting must show what's good about the program in order to reach more members of the community.
"Pack 1's anniversary program is an excellent example of an interesting, innovative way to tell our positive story to the public," he said.
A new event early in the program year that captured the interest of both Cub Scouts and community members was a family Cub-o-ree overnight camp-out at the town's main athletic field.
"We've always prided ourselves on sponsoring a regular program of outdoor activities, such as hikes, family camp-outs, and residential summer camp," said Cubmaster Paul Holland." But we had never organized a family camp-out in the town itself. Also, camping overnight so close to home is a good 'first-camping' experience for our younger Cub Scouts."
On a sunny but blustery fall weekend in October 2003, 80 Cub Scouts and family members participated in a first-ever North Caldwell Cub-o-ree. Activities included launching water-powered bottle rockets high above the field and swapping 50th anniversary trading cards bearing photos of famous people from Scouting's past.
Town officials were invited to join the festivities, and neighbors and passersby commented favorably on the weekend's energy and excitement.
"We also used the camp-out as an opportunity to spotlight the efforts of the Boy Scouts of Troop 1 in North Caldwell; [they] helped set up tents, cooked meals, and worked with the Cub Scouts to plan campfire songs and skits for our evening program," said Cubmaster Holland.
Anniversary fever continued to build throughout the program year.
At the pinewood derby in March, a special heat featured racers designed to look like a fire truck, police car, school bus, and sports car. They represented North Caldwell organizations that have contributed to Cub Scouting's success.
The cars were raced by fire officer (and former Pack 1 Cubmaster) Sue Schlesinger, police officer John Belotta, local elementary school principals Linda Freda and Jack Venezia, and Mayor Mel Levine.
When the school bus proved to be the fastest, it seemed fitting, because for 50 years the North Caldwell Board of Education has served as the chartered organization for Pack 1.
Betty Ann Wyks, superintendent of the North Caldwell Public Schools, recalled how excited she was about the victory." Principals Freda and Venezia presented me with the winning racer, which I took to the next board of education meeting to show to the board members."
Blue and gold celebration
The blue and gold celebration in late March 2004 capped the year's festivities. The event sported a 1950's theme (and a family price of $19.54, in recognition of the year of the pack's founding). Classic 1950's cars were parked at the entrance to greet the guests.
Table centerpieces highlighted each decade since the pack's founding. A centerpiece for the 1970's included a disco ball suspended from the handle of a wicker basket, while the 1990's were represented on a basket featuring photos of each of the graduating Webelos Scouts.
Cub Scouts and guests were photographed behind a cardboard cutout of a 1950's car. Nearby, a slide show ran continuously with photos of activities from the pack's 50-year history.
In blue and gold tradition, guests dined on cakes baked and decorated by the Cub Scouts and their fathers.
One cake was decorated to look like the town's athletic field during the pack's Cub-o-ree, complete with graham cracker "tents," a pretzel stick "campfire," and a surrounding "forest" made of broccoli.
The focal point of the blue and gold, however, remained the ceremony during which fifth-grade Webelos Scouts took part in a symbolic "bridge crossing" into Boy Scouting.
Cubmaster Holland had nurtured these boys, watching them grow and mature. After he had exchanged their Webelos Scout neckerchiefs for their new Boy Scout colors, he reflected on the meaning of the past year.
"Our 50th anniversary may be over, but we will continue to bring the best possible Scouting program to the boys of our community," he promised.
"For Pack 1, 50 years is just the beginning!"
William Grau celebrated 40 years as a registered Scout and leader in September 2004.
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