Wondering what to do while you’re in Wichita Falls, Texas?
Through March 2010, you can view a display commemorating Scouting’s 100th anniversary in the United States, featuring nearly 100 years of Scouting history in Wichita Falls.
History teaches us if you learn from the past, you’ll be better prepared for the future. But being prepared is a quality also embraced by another organization — the Boy Scouts of America.
And so it seemed fitting that when the Boy Scouts reached their 100th anniversary this year, the Northwest Texas Council would commemorate the event at the Museum of North Texas History.
The downtown museum will open its latest exhibit, “Boy Scouts of America: 100 Years,” with a preview dinner at 6 p.m. Thursday at the dowtown museum, 720 Indiana, though more than 400 visitors got a sneak peek of the display Saturday during the Wichita Falls Museum Coalition’s Stroll ‘N’ Roll Museum Day.
The $40 preview dinner will include a viewing of the exhibit and a talk by Jim Hughes, George Adams and Darrell Kirkland.
Hughes, the Boy Scouts Chartered Organization Representative at Floral Heights United Methodist Church, has been involved in Scouting for about seven decades. A lot of his Scouting memorabilia peppers the exhibit, such as his Order of the Arrow badges and Boy Scout, Cub Scout and Explorer awards.
One of the most valuable pieces of memorabilia in the display, he said, is a flag hand-sewn by Scouts in 1913.
“Boys didn’t have money back then and had to make their own flag,” Hughes said.
Another impressive contribution to the exhibit is Bill McClure’s Eagle badge. McClure received his Eagle rank — the highest rank that can be achieved in the organization — in 1921. He was the first Eagle in the Wichita Falls Council to do so. He earned 21 merit badges and would eventually become a journalist for the Times Record News and sold advertising for KWFT before his death in 1982.
Hughes said what he treasures most among his scouting collection over the years is his own Eagle badge.
The exhibit, curated by Betsy O’Connor with Stephanie Wood as assistant curator, also includes a Pinewood Derby track on which visitors can race wooden cars, along with a display of a tent and camp fire.
Visitors will see Boy Scout, Cub Scout and Webelos uniforms on display, as well, such as the 1930s-era uniform of Billy Sims, the 1961 outfit of Tim Hunter and the 1998 uniform of Cory Wood, along with the “brag vest” of Cole Watson.
One area features information about Philmont Scout Ranch, a 137,493-acre ranch in the mountains of northeastern New Mexico in the Sangre de Christo Range of the Rockies, donated by Oklahoma oilman Waite Phillips.
Posters in the exhibit show various ropes and knots Scouts learn to tie, and things Scouts can do in nature conservation.
Other items to look for: Carl Watson’s walking stick, an Order of the Arrow Native American headdress and Eagle Claw necklace and photographs of local scouts.
The Boy Scouts of America was incorporated on Feb. 8, 1910, by William D. Boyce and others. It was modeled after an organization in Great Britain founded by Lord Baden-Powell.
In 1911, Dr. J.L. McKee, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, organized the first troop in Wichita Falls with 27 members before the troop disbanded after McKee left town. But two years later, four more troops were organized. The Wichita Falls Council became the Northwest Texas Council in 1937.
All three of Jim Hughes’ sons, like their father, earned the rank of Eagle Scout. So has one of his grandsons. Another grandson is a Cub Scout who is continuing the tradition of Scouting in the Hughes family.
“I got so much out of it,” Hughes said. “I wanted to have my kids have the same experience.”
Following the exhibit’s opening, “Boy Scouts of America” can be viewed through March 2010.
Do museums in your area have Scouting exhibits planned, or already up? Let us know in comments.
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