Joy and Trauma in Scouting


Kevin V. Hunt

Scouting Historian, Author, Scouting Veteran, Camp Director

In some previous posts, we have talked about the fun, adventure and romance  in Scouting.  Most of those subjects involved the good times of Scouting.  Now I’d like to introduce another subject -that of the “Joy and Trauma” of Scouting.  In my experience in Scouting, I’ve found that there is always some of both.  I wrote recently of Jed Stringham, the camp building giant.  At first, I experienced some trauma as I anticipated “Jed Work”.  Then, after I got to know Jed and all that he did for me and for the camp, I found great joy in our association.  Much of that came through his assistance when I was the director at Camp Bartlett.

And speaking of Camp Bartlett, … I started a new tradition in a few camps where I worked – and I got it going once I became the Camp Director at Camp Bartlett.  Each week we had a volleyball game where the staff would challenge all the Scoutmasters in camp.  Later we perfected the activity and had the younger staff challenge all the Senior Patrol Leaders in a second series of games.  This was a fun time for both the troops and the staff. It was a beneficial diversion for all.


Though they gave it their best, invariably my staff would get beat by the Scoutmasters.  After a losing streak it was hard to keep the staff “pumped up” enough to go at it again.  One night as they were “down”, I got their attention when I promised milk shakes to everyone on our team if they’d win over the “old duffers”.  The Scoutmasters accused me of illegal bribery but it did the trick.

That activity cost me a fair amount of money in milk shakes but the guys rallied around and even beat the socks off the Scoutmasters.  The momentum of that occasion created a new excitement which carried over into the next week when volleyball day came again.

I tried constantly to show the staffers that I was interested in them and that I cared about them. On some rare moments the staff surprised me with little subtle hints that they too, appreciated my efforts.  Sometimes one had to read between the lines to get that message, however.

One such time was when they toilet papered the cabin where my family and I resided.  It was a job well done, I must admit!  This action may not seem like a positive expression, but anyone knows that youth won’t waste time toilet papering your house unless they think you are super.TP OF CABIN

Another special moment in Scouting came as compliments of a Scout who came to the camp Rancho Alegre, near Santa Barbara, California, while I was camp director there.  We had a little tradition there of passing around “Suzie”.  Suzie was a small piece of leather that was quietly passed, and generally without knowledge of the one receiving it, through pockets of Scouts and staffers alike.

At general camp wide gatherings, we’d sing for Suzie and the lucky man who found her on his person got to draw for a “good or bad prize” from a large can.  That was always a big moment as everyone was high with anticipation of what it might be.

A boy I knew was found to have Suzie.  At the final Friday night campfire program of the season, he drew a prize which stated, “A camp staffer of your choice has to jump, in complete uniform, off the diving board at the swimming pool.”  He asked, and was pleased to learn that his choice included the camp director so I soon found myself preparing for a swim.

This dubious honor was about like getting my house toilet papered.  I knew I would not have been selected had I not done something to impress the lad.


Camp Director, Kevin Hunt, jumping into pool in complete Scout uniform

I played it up big and the next morning, right after breakfast, I reported to the pool in complete uniform.  I think every one of the two hundred boys and leaders came to witness the grand event.  I went to the diving board, bowed to the throng and proceeded to dive off the board.  They caught me on a technicality, however, and said I had to do it all over again since I hadn’t “jumped off the board”.

The only problem with that little episode was the aftermath.  Since camp was ending for the summer, I had just the day before, sent home all of my extra clothing and gear with my wife.  I had kept only my pajamas and the uniform I had on my back for the remaining day of camp.

After that little morning splash, I had nothing but the pajamas to change into.  I had no choice but to conduct the final checkout for the troops and also my staff interviews while wearing my pajamas. Of course I got lots of “cute” comments from everyone who passed through.

While I have had many positive experiences with Scouts and camp staffers, there were also a few of the trying times also.  These were a little traumatic for me (and them) at the time but in retrospect, they bring a chuckle or two.

When I had directed Camp Bartlett in Idaho, I had tried to mold the staff into a working team that would work together on whatever assignment was given.  I had the philosophy that everyone should assist in the grungy jobs as well as the fun ones. In this way we could all have more time for the fun stuff.

I remember well the time we had to dig new latrine holes and then had to move the existing K.Y.B.O. shack to the new holes.  (For those of you who don’t know, “K.Y.B.O.” is short for Keep Your Bowels Open!)  In the moving process we had to repaint the two-holer, and either bury or “honey- dip” the old holes at each of the twenty locations throughout camp.


Speaking of two-holers, it has always intrigued me why there would be two-holers in a Scout camp.  I am yet to see two teenage boys that would go in there at the same time, no matter how urgent the call.

Of course our K.Y.B.O. cleaning and painting was a task that we were all thrilled to do …!  It was no more thrilling for me than for my guys but we “dug into it” with gusto.  We laughed and joked and made it into one of those memorable camp experiences.  The jokes about the job stank like the job itself: Though crappy jokes, they were … let’s see … in good taste?

Over the next few days, it became a thing of pride to be able to serve on the “K.Y.B.O. Patrol”. We all worked to make the job bearable.  When we finished, we had the best looking two-holers this side of the Mississippi River.  I still wear with pride, my uniform with the little while dots reminiscent of that activity.

While on the pleasant subject of KYBO’s, I’ll share another memory.  In 1973, Scoutmaster Jim and I took our entire troop up to the National Scout Jamboree in Farragut, Idaho.  As we got to the camp we noted yellow tents – which we learned were the designated KYBO’s for the Jamboree experience.  And as was the case for the entire Jamboree, the wind was terrible.  We didn’t know then what the tents were.  We were all amused, however, as we noted one of the tents whipping wildly through air.  It was held to the ground only by a single rope tethering it to the ground.  We later learned that this was the KYBO for a Canadian troop.  And the story goes that some poor kid was sitting in there when the tent took off.  It makes for a good story, anyway.JAMBOREE TENTS IMAGE

Again, while speaking of KYBO’s, I remember a story as told by my Scoutmaster when I was a kid.  He used to tell us of the two-holer in his home town in Minnesota.  He said he came from a little town there that was so small that the only public rest room was the two-holer in front of the one gas station in town.  He said that the proprietor of the station had a unique hobby.

He would let some old gal go into the place, he’d give her a minute or two to get all situated, and then with a walkie-talkie in hand he’d speak into the other walkie-talkie that he had taped up under the seat of the two-holer. He’d say something like, “Excuse me, Ma’am, but I’m painting under this hole.  Could you please sit on the other side?”  He said, “Within seconds the woman would come flying out trying to pull her pants up and her dress down all at the same time.

I don’t know whether that story is true or not, but it does teach one lesson:  the importance of leaders taking care with the kind of stories told to Scouts.  They’ll remember much of what you say — both good and bad.

I didn’t believe in putting any kids on permanent K.P. (Kitchen Patrol) duty for an entire summer.  Again, I felt that we should all assist with this task.  Thus, at Camp Bartlett I rotated the various staff patrols weekly through this responsibility.  No one balked about my work rotating procedures since no one had to do K.P. for more than a couple weeks any summer.  I might add that K.P. was done in addition to their regular teaching and program assignments. With the entire patrol working as a team, they could complete the task in short order.


It didn’t take me long to learn that teenage boys don’t have a natural talent or know-how for cleaning a kitchen (or anything else, for that matter) to a point of sanitary perfection.

As camp director it became my frequent but unpleasant task to haul all of the camp garbage to town for disposal.  This was usually done in conjunction with the town runs for food and supplies.  I remember one time I went to pick up a bag of garbage and soon found that morning’s leftover oatmeal all over my foot.  Some clown had put the whole mess of mush into one flimsy garbage bag.

That very day, and always on the first day of subsequent camp staff weeks thereafter, I conducted a training session about how to clean a kitchen.  And I was very careful to demonstrate how to properly dispose of garbage (i.e.: double bag, pull two rabbit ears – one on each side of the bag, and then tie a tight square knot – down tight against the contents of the bag).

As I look back, I see that there have been many joyful moments – threads of which can be seen and felt everywhere in the Scouting program.  And there have been the trauma moments, as well.  Certainly KYBO’s and garbage don’t come under the joyous moments, but even the crappy jobs could be turned into decent or at least manageable situations.

Best wishes along your Scouting Trails …  Kevin


Excerpts taken from Kevin’s many Scouting Trails books including “MR. Scoutmaster!”, “Keys to Scouting Leadership” and others at Scoutingtrails.  Connect with Kevin and read his articles on Scouting blogsites such as The Boy ScoutThe Scouting Trail and The Voice of Scouting.  Feel free to comment on anything you read!

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