First Powell River Scouts marks a different kind of milestone—in years instead of kilometres—this week. It is its centennial anniversary, which makes First Powell River one of the oldest continuously running troops in Canada.
The Scouting movement started in 1908 in the United Kingdom by Robert Baden-Powell and spread throughout the British Commonwealth. In 1910 Baden-Powell wrote to then Governor General Earl Grey to help him establish scouting in Canada.
In 2007, Scouts Canada celebrated the movement’s centennial with a national Jamboree, a gathering of more than 10,000 scouts from across Canada. While festivities next week for Powell River Scouts won’t be as grand, they’ll certainly be as sweet.
Currently, First Powell River involves 40 children at four levels: Beavers, Cub Scouts, Scouts and Venture Scouts. Scouting involves young people between the ages of five and 29. The movement has been fully co-ed since 1998. Beavers is for children from five to seven years old, Cubs for eight- to 10-year-olds, Scouts for 11- to 14-year-olds and Venture Scouts for 14- to 17-year-olds.
Tina Bevans is a Scout leader and administrator for the troop. She said she feels “enormous pride” in the community for supporting Scouting for so many years and for volunteers being there to help Powell River’s youth gain insights in areas where leaders may not have been able to provide for them.
Scouting Week runs from February 17 to 22 and culminates with a birthday celebration of Scouting’s founder Baden-Powell. A dinner and awards evening is being planned for tonight, Wednesday, February 20 at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 164. First Powell River Beavers, Cubs and Scouts will sing the national anthem at Powell River Kings’ hockey game on Friday, February 22. Over the next five months, a number of special events planned include a Kub Kar Rally, a family camping trip and a community open house for the troop at Scout Hall, Timberlane Barracks. Bevans said she hopes to be able to send some Scouts to the Canadian Jamboree this July at Sylvan Lake in Alberta.
Art Fletcher, 81, joined First Powell River when he turned 12 years old in 1943 and has been involved with the movement since then. As a young man, he left Powell River to go to university and then settled in the Kootenays to pursue his teaching career. He was a leader when his four children went through the program and after they were finished he, like many others, moved into more of an administrative position with Scouts Canada.
“I was fortunate to be part of a good troop and have a great scoutmaster, Ben Watson,” said Fletcher. “He did an outstanding job with us.”
Fletcher was an only child growing up and he described his parents as not being overly outdoorsy and definitely not campers.
Fletcher’s fondest memories were of going off for summer camps up to Okeover Arm as a Scout.
“I made a lot of friends over the years, friends that have stuck,” he said.
He and his fellow Scouts helped clear the district commissioner’s property of trees for camping and were fascinated by his stories.
“I remember that Mr. Carrouthers had met Baden-Powell and had many interesting stories to tell us around the campfire on his property,” said Fletcher. “I also remember he was well-known as a cougar hunter and recall the cougar skins hanging on lines drying in the sun.”
While Scouts might not be required to do any logging these days, Fletcher noted that the fundamental principles of the movement haven’t changed over the years.
Community service is a cornerstone of the Scouting movement and Scouts continue that tradition with yearly community connection projects. Over the past few years, Scouts and Venture Scouts have been involved with stream enhancement, tree planting, volunteering at Powell River Forestry Museum and visiting senior residents.
“All these things, like first aid and tying knots, they’re all just means to an end and that end is creating good citizens with character,” Fletcher said.
For Frank Spreeuw, 54, scouting was a family affair. As a child, he was a part of what he called the “Spreeuw Patrol” which included his mother, father, sister and brother all involved one way or the other with Scouting. As an adult, Spreeuw was a Scout leader when his son joined, and then treasurer and district commissioner.
Spreeuw shares his birthday with Baden-Powell.
In the early 1970s, Spreeuw remembers helping his father coordinate the effort to build the kitchen and fix up the cabins out at Camp Nassichuk, the Scout camp located south of Powell River.
“Everything was done by volunteers,” said Spreeuw. Camp Nassichuk has been a centre for Scouting in Powell River since the 1960s as the only Scout camp on the Upper Sunshine Coast.
As an administrator in the early 1990s, Spreeuw worked to replant the trees after the timber on the property had been cut and sold. He said he was shocked when he saw the camp as an adult because he remembered the camp as “a beautiful place with trees.”
Many involved in the Scouting movement share stories like Fletcher’s or Spreeuw’s. These are the stories of childhood connection with the outdoors, with friends and shared experiences learning independence and confidence. They often translate into a desire to provide the same kinds of experiences for a younger generation.
“I can honestly say my closest friends here in Powell River were all because of Scouting,” said Mark Kerr, 54, who first started with Scouts when he was 10 years old and then volunteered as a leader when his children joined up. “One of the great pleasures is running into old Scouts around town.”