SCOUTS TODAY-MEN TOMORROW
AN ADDRESS BY
MAJOR-GENERAL D. C. SPRY, C.B.E., D.S.O.
Chairman: The President, Mr. H. G. Colebrook
Thursday, February 16th, 1950
Honoured Guests and Members: We have with us today a man with a very brilliant military career.
In December, 1939, Captain Spry went overseas. He was promoted to Major in 1940. In September, 1941, he was appointed to Headquarters of the First Canadian Division. In 1942 we find him working on plans for the invasion of the Continent at General Headquarters of the British Home Forces-later being named Personal Assistant to General McNaughton. During the Sicilian campaign on the death of the Commander of his old regiment--The Royal Canadians-he was appointed to its command.
In 1943 he was promoted to Brigadier and awarded the D.S.O., for brilliant leadership of the First Canadian Infantry Brigade in the Pontecorvo region. Honoured by The King with the C.B.E.
He was promoted to Major General at the age of 31. You will agree, I am sure, that a man with such a record was a very happy choice for the position of Chief Executive Commissioner of the Boy Scouts Association and I will now call upon Major-General Spry, C.B.E., D.S.O., who has chosen as his subject
"SCOUTS TODAY-MEN TOMORROW"
Mr. Chairman, Mr. Dodington, Members and Guests of the Empire Club of Canada: I consider it a very great honour to be invited again to address the Empire Club of Canada. I find this is the third time that I have been so honoured.
I am especially delighted that you have given me this opportunity of speaking to you at this particular time, because I would like to draw attention to the activities of the Boy Scouts Association, as we are asking the public of Canada to lend a hand financially in the further expansion and development of this great movement.
There is no need to tell an educated audience such as this, what Scouting is trying to do. Anyone who considers himself aware and informed certainly knows the aims and intentions of this tremendous movement, a movement which has grown from an idea in a man's mind to one of the largest, uniformed, but non-military bodies in the world-some 5 million of us today, and in Canada about 110,000 men and boys.
In brief, these leaders are endeavouring to train these boys to be the sort of neighbours you and I want to have around us.
Now, in the face of the political hazards of the day, in the face of alphabetical bombs, and at least economic mists, man is searching.--I think in his dilemma man is searching for three important things.
The first is FAITH: faith in some power greater than himself, a faith which will give him the spiritual strength to face changing conditions, over which he himself appears to have little control. It is in this search for faith that the Scout movement lends a hand. Every member of the Boy Scouts Association, man and boy, is required to do his best to live by a promise which is primarily to do one's duty to God. No one can be an active member of this Association without subscribing to that promise.
The second thing which man is searching for is some degree of STABILITY in his social contacts. He is trying to find some stability in his relationships, perhaps with his family, with his employer or employees, with his friends, in his neighbourhood, in his city and community. Scouting lends a hand in the development of the boy, to be the sort of man who will enjoy some degree of social stability, because the Scout method of training develops the boy mentally, so that he is capable of living with others; he learns to give and take at a young age, so that he is capable of withstanding the mental shocks, the mental kicks on the shins, which he doubtless will get in the world of politics and business.
The third thing which man is searching for is some power of RESILIENCY: resiliency within himself, to change his way of living, to change his thoughts and methods of thinking, to change even some of his beliefs, because he is going to have to change whether he likes it or not. We are in a period of change.
In the face of all these changes and frustrations, it is only the resilient man who can bend himself to changing conditions; and so I suggest to you that these three things are amongst the important things which many of us search for--Faith in some power greater than ourselves; some Stability in our social contacts, and Resilience in our ability to cope with changing conditions.
Scouting provides a multitude of activities which give the boy some experience, some background, some training for this sort of search. I would like to give you a few examples.
This past summer we held for the first time a Canadian National Boy Scout jamboree just outside of Ottawa. There we brought together just short of 3,000 young boys from every part of Canada, and a representative group from the United States. I think that jamboree did a tremendous job of debunking three Canadian myths. We have always been told that three obstacles to Canadian unity were religious differences, language differences and geography, or time and space.
Let us see how this group of 3,000 boys debunked those three myths. At this jamboree we had, I think it was twelve different denominations and faiths, and yet there were no incidents or unpleasantnesses. There were many incidents of boys showing considerable respect for the faiths and religious persuasions of others. An example: On one Sunday there was a church service going on in one of the buildings and a group of boys coming away from another religious service, were laughing and shouting as boys will, until they came alongside this building. They realized that there was a church service going on, and right away I noticed that this rollicking group of boys became silent; they walked past with dignity and with respect for other people's feelings. It was just one of the examples I saw of boys growing up with some degree of tolerance for other people's beliefs.
Language proved no barrier, and yet we are told this is one of the obstacles to Canadian unity. It was not many days before boys were jabbering away in English and French, and a little Spanish because we had a small group of Cuban boys--and language, instead of a barrier, became a bridge bringing boys together. They swapped belts and neckerchiefs in English, French and Spanish.
And the third point – Geography--we have always been told it is difficult for Canadians in the East to know much of the Canadians in the West because of time and space, because of cost of travel. These boys debunked that, by co-operation. This was brought about by pooling transportation costs. The boys of Ontario and Quebec threw a few extra dollars into the transportation pot to enable boys to come from Halifax and the West for the same price as the boy from near Ottawa. In other words, co-operation overcame time and space and money, and those boys set a lesson for their adults and presumably betters.
I saw another example of what Scouting can do in Norway last August. I was one of the three Canadian delegates to the World Scout Conference. When I saw this motley crew gathered together in the first session of the Conference, I wondered how it would be possible to achieve any degree of understanding and agreement amongst such a mixed lot. Yet by the end of the first day we were calling each other by our first names. By the end of the Conference, in spite of the number of very controversial matters on the agenda complete understanding was achieved. The Resolutions Committee tabled their report at the last session, which I unfortunately had to Chair. That Resolutions Committee report was adopted unanimously by 140 men representing 41 countries, unanimously adopted, in spite of the variety of background, educational standards, different languages and faiths, different colors, different standards of Scout experience. Unanimity was brought about by the fact that all of us approached these problems with a community of interest. . . . A community of interest based upon Scout experience, the Scout law and promise. That was the meeting ground on which we built understanding.
I shall never forget the last closing moments of that Conference, when these 140 men from 41 countries stood up and reaffirmed the Scout promise in their own language. I have never heard such an extraordinary sound in my life. I heard the Scout promise
"On my honour, I promise that I will do my best, to do my duty to God and the King, to help other people at all times, and to obey the Scout law".
I heard that in English, Gaelic, French, Dutch, Flemish, Danish, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese. That was possible because we had a common ground on which to meet. That is one of the things which people do not seem to have when they sit around the tables of the United Nations, but these Scouters were capable of showing their elders and betters a lesson or two.
I think that these sort of gatherings of young lads from various countries must be encouraged. Canada hopes to participate this coming summer in the second American jamboree, which is being held in historic Valley Forge. There will gather there some 40,000 young lads from all-over North America.
We hope to have a representative group from Canada who, I am sure, will give a good account of themselves. Another example of Scout activity I saw not so long ago, was up at your Toronto District, Haliburton Camp. I went out by canoe in moonlight to a little rocky island to attend a camp fire of boys from what we sometimes call your "Less-Chance" areas. These young lads from poor homes, in many cases disrupted homes, were in one of your Toronto Scout troops run by three enthusiastic young men.
As we gathered on the Island one of the leaders jokingly said to the boys, "Here you are, lads, you are on this little island. There is no food and no canoes are coming back. What are you going to do for food?"
One of these cut-throats, with a nasty little leer, said "O.K., Skipper, let's cut up Benny."
Now the same lad, a few minutes later, amazed me, when this group of scouts, some 35 or 40 of them, representing about 10 different racial groups, and several different faiths, sat around in the light of the camp fire and sang, in almost beautiful voices, the Indian's version of the Lord's prayer.
Those boys were not angels, we were not trying to make them into angels. We were just trying to make them into the sort of citizens you want to have in this city.
I saw something of this sort of thing in the East End of London last, September. I spent several days visiting Scout groups in the bomb-torn East end of the city. If you think you have some tough guys in the City of Toronto, you ought to see the lads in Hackney Wick and Stepney Green--they are really tough--and if any Scouters are here listening to me who are at all concerned about appearing in shorts, I can assure you it is quite an experience wearing them in the East End of London.
Yet, in spite of the torn and tattered homes in which those lads live, under proper leadership they are developing into the sort of citizens they would want in the East End of London. Those boys in many cases, through Scouting, are pulling themselves up by their own boot straps.
Another example of the same thing is going on here in Canada. We have what we call Lone Scouting-boys who live in out-of-way places, farmers' sons, boys who don't have contact with other boys. These Lone Scouts are serviced by the Association, by correspondence, by magazines and pamphlets, by occasionally bringing them into central training camps, and in some provinces even by weekly radio programs. These boys may on some occasions go for months without seeing another scout, and yet we have many examples of these boys grasping and living by the Scout spirit.
We have other examples of it in the North West Territories. We have Indian and Eskimo Scout troops. The farthest north Scout troops under our jurisdiction are in Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk at the mouth of the Mackenzie. In many cases these communities are not too co-operative amongst themselves, and yet Scouting in many instances has brought the people of these communities together.
We have instances of missionaries of different Faiths, who perhaps have not been too co-operative in the past, sitting together on the same Scout Committee. We have examples of the white man and the aborigine co-operating for the good of the local Scout troops, which contain white boys, half-breeds, Eskimos and Indians. This is largely made possible by the fact that you can find a common ground for all these people of varying backgrounds providing the effort is made.
Since the war, we have organized Scout Troops in out-of-the-way military establishments such as Camp Borden, Shilo and Chilliwack. We are very proud of the fact that we have Cub Packs and Scout Troups in almost every army camp in the country. I know of one particular camp where the Commanding Officer told me he had been having a lot of trouble with young boys "Barrack Rats", they call them-damaging government property, breaking windows, etc. He said that when Cub Packs and Scout Troops were organized that disappeared, and they had not had a broken window for weeks, and he laid it all to the door of successful Cubbing and Scouting.
Another activity is Radio. We are sometimes told that Scouting is not modern, it is not up-to-date. Well, if training boys for radio work, training boys as auto mechanics, is not up-to-date, what is? For instance, in Alberta we have three ham radio stations, owned and manned by Boy Scouts. We hope we will have more.
Another activity is Exploration. We are trying to get these lads out into the open following the routes of the explorers, learning incidently, something about the history of their own land.
A group of Calgary Scouts not so long ago did a canoe trip through the Shuswap Lakes, following the route of David Thompson.
In the Gatineau and Laurentian districts we have had long range canoe trips. We hope that sort of thing will go on, because that advanced type of scouting is the sort of thing which will teach these boys how to live and take care of themselves. They return to the confusion of the city, more self-reliant citizens.
We have another example of what a man can do for boys. The famous big game hunter, Colonel Snyder takes a competitively selected group of scouts, from Alberta and Saskatchewaan, on a three weeks' trail ride through the foothills of Alberta. Those boys go back to their homes with an experience they will never forget.
We have many examples, particularly in Eastern Canada and in the Rockies, of Scout Ski Meets. Boys competing against one another, not often on an individual basis, but more often on a team basis, for the honour of their own particular group.
These are some examples of the sort of things we are trying to get these lads to do.
Of recent years we have paid great attention to Winter Scouting, scouting all year around, for we have felt in many cases there was a tendency for scout groups to stay indoors, in the church basement or the atmosphere of a school auditorium too frequently. While such meetings are necessary of course, it is much better that more troop meetings take place out of doors. To this end we have developed a Scout Winter uniform and Winter Handbook, which will make it safe and sensible to take boys out in a Canadian Winter. We have had boys fifteen years of age, properly equipped, sleeping out in tents and lean-to's in 30° below zero weather. If that does not make men of them, I don't know what will.
I could go on and give you many examples such as these I have given you. There are thousands of such stories. What does all this mean?
It means these various activities are providing the opportunities for boys, under proper leadership, to develop their spiritual strength and to develop mental adaptability, so they can get along with other people. They are developing some self-reliance in things material, and reliance on God in things spiritual.
That is what this is all about.
Our present position in Scouting today is most favourable. We are an expanding and developing movement. We have more boys on waiting lists than we can cope with. There are very few city Wolf Cub Packs which have not waiting lists.
We have new areas which we must service. We must do more in the rural districts; we must do more than we are doing amongst boys in the "less chance" areas of the big cities. We must do more for the boys in the North West Territories, and on the lonely islands on the Coasts. We must more carefully select and train our leaders, and we must service them on the job.
There are many, many things which we must do. We are well aware of most of our own weaknesses. There is no doubt about it, in spite of these weaknesses we are growing, developing, improving and expanding. This has only been made possible by the loyalty and service of some 10,000 uniformed Commissioners and Cub and Scout Masters, who give thousands and thousands of man hours a year for the training of your sons and mine.
There is no doubt about it. You can look in any section of Canadian life, and you will find that amongst the younger elements the leader types are usually ex-Scouts.
Five out of seven of one group of Rhodes Scholars were ex-Scouts. I can go on and give many examples on the Bench, the press, business and industry. There is no doubt about it, that Scouting does develop that spark of leadership in a boy, and it is leadership which we are going to need in the future, leadership in all parts, on all levels of our Canadian society.
We cannot do any more as an Association than we are doing now, unless the men and women, the businesses and corporations, the industries and governments of Canada are prepared to give us the tools to do the job. What we need, briefly, is more money and modern methods. We need more leaders, we need more money for the training of those leaders and for servicing them in their training for leadership of boys. We need constant study of our methods and techniques, to be sure we are up to date and that we are training boys to live in the sort of tomorrow they are going to have to face. That is why I leave with you the thought that the Scouts of today are the Men of tomorrow.