(Written for Highland Park Baptist Church’s 50 year Anniversary Book)
What every church needs is an outstanding Boy Scout Troop. Highland Park is fortunate to be the sponsor of such a troop. On July 2, 1956 the men of the church gathered to discuss sponsoring a troop. There were 15 present for the organizational meeting. After discussing the church’s responsibilities and liabilities, the benefits of the scouting program and boys of scouting age in the church who might participate, it was agreed to formally petition the Deacon Board for sponsorship.
On July 5, 1956, J Fred Jones’ letter to the Board named the proposed Institutional Representative, the committee and the scout leaders as follows:
Institutional Representative: Bill Saunders [also Deacon Chair]
Scoutmaster: J. Fred Jones
Assistant Scoutmasters: Herbert Skinner and John Miller
Committee Chair: Courtland Craig* (Prentice & Randall*)
Committee: R. Spencer* (Charlie*), T. Bean (Randy), T. Ferguson (Randy & Ricky), V.L. Montgomery* (Vernon), Herbert Skinner* (Steve), Fred Jones* (Jim Fred), Joe McMordie* (Roy), Vick Carrington* (Vic), John Miller* (Mike & Robert), Bill Saunders* (Billy Frank*), Lon Fitzgerald (Dennis), Avery Smith* (Wayne), Johson Gault* (Johnson)
[Sons’ names not included in Jones’ letter]
The July 8 Deacon Minutes state that the Board recommended approval of the Troop Committee to the Church and to the Nominating Committee, which was subsequently approved. Only a few of the organizing committee had sons of scouting age so church families with sons 11 and above were contacted. In doing the paper work for the troop charter, several troop numbers were available. Joe McMordie, a very active committee member urged the selection of “410.” “It is a number that will stand out in everyone’s mind,” he said. In John Lee Smith’s February 4, 1957 newsletter he wrote, ”A covered dish supper sponsored by the Boy Scout Committee will be held next Monday. There will be presentation of scout charters for both the Boy Scout Troop and the Explorer Post, accompanied by a Court of Honor. ----to give tangible evidence of our whole hearted support of the Scouting program and its leadership.”
That first year was a year of organizing and learning, for the boys and the adults. The boys selected their leaders, divided into two patrols, choose patrol names, selected a troop neckerchief, learned the Scout Oath (On my honor---), worked on advancement and merit badges, and began to function as a scout troop. A month or two after start-up, Scoutmaster Fred Jones resigned his troop position because of work commitments. John Miller reluctantly moved up to Scoutmaster. (He had not had any scouting experience or training and his boys were only ages three and six months.)
Monday night meeting were held in the basement, which was an unfinished area-a huge dark cavernous room. The scouts met around a ping-pong table under a couple of bare light bulbs hung from the ceiling on extension cords. In November, at the monthly church business meeting, permission was granted to the Scout Committee to erect partitions, as needed, for use of the Scouts. The lighted Scout Room was a vast improvement and gave the scouts more of a sense of “troop esteem.”
Like many young couples of the day, the troop was starting with nothing but a dream and was as poor as a “church mouse” (like the church itself) so fund raising was a necessity for 410. There were numerous fund raising projects including painting curb numbers, car washes and selling various items door-to-door. Those early scouts had a heavy dose of financial and entrepreneurial training. The first purchases were a United States flag and a Troop 410 flag. Joe McMordie learned from the Scout Office that the camping equipment used by the local contingent to the National Scout Jamboree was to be sold at bargain prices. Arrangements were worked out with the Scout Office for an installment purchase to be paid from fund raising activities. Joe also learned of surplus military equipment that was available to scout troops for free. He and John went out to Bergstrom Air Force Base and loaded the back of Joe’s station wagon with everything from mess kits, kitchen utensils and pots and pans to a canvas welder’s screen (which became a latrine privacy screen).
There was emphasis on putting the “out” in scouting, the idea being one outdoor activity each month, usually the second weekend of the month. The May ’57 outing was to a ranch near Hwy 620 and RR 2222 intersection. That turned out to be Mother’s Day weekend. Not a good selection and perhaps an omen for the outing. Herbert Skinner’s company lent a bobtail truck for the weekend. Gear and boys were loaded Friday afternoon. They headed out 2222 with Miller driving a truck with at least 17 forward gears and no reverse. On the “big hill,” on the old two lane road, Miller stalled trying to down shift. With boys hollering and cars backing up behind the truck, he finally managed to get the truck moving, in some low gear. At the ranch, the owner showed them a good campsite. It was large enough to allow the truck to circle since there was no reverse gear. The ranch was a beautiful place with a flowing spring surrounded by lush foliage, some with red stems topped by three feathery leaves. Yep, poison ivy! Everyone got a bad case of poison ivy rash from that outing.
Joe McMordie became Scout Master in June. He and others on the committee took the troop to its first-ever summer camp at Camp Tom Wooten, five miles out RR2222 (at the junction with today’s Loop 360). It was a great week for Troop 410 with campfires, crafts, swimming, canoeing and lots of advancements.
In John Lee’s 9/25/57 newsletter, he wrote, “On September 30, Troop 410 will have completed the first year of its existence at HPBC. Proud of work by scouts and its leaders, ---- we extend our congratulations and thanks. Tomorrow night will be Scout Charter review. Joe McMordie, the new Scout Master [he continued as Scout Master for six years], requested attendance by Scout Committee and all other interested.” Joe was the guiding force behind Troop 410’s successes, leading it to a position of preeminence in the Capitol Area Council as well as recognition for its sponsoring institution, Highland Park Baptist Church.
February 28, 2002
Addendum for Troop 410's 50th Anniversary Celebration on November 4, 2008
Joe and his Troop Committee planned and took the troop on an extended camping trip to West Texas and New Mexico about 1958, which was replicated in 1968.There are probably scouts here today who were on those trip and can tell some wild tales about those trips.
Joe continued as Scoutmaster for six more years and was the guiding force behind Troop 410’s early successes, leading it to a position of preeminence in the Capitol Area Council. 410 has continued to be an outstanding troop and today’s leadership, both boys and adults, have activities and programs that boggle my mind. I tip my hat to you.
On behalf of Highland Park Baptist, know that we are proud to be your charter organization and look forward to the next 50 years.