Scouts and Rangers
by Mel Robertson
Several years ago I wrote an article about the pre-World War I founding of Burford's first Boy Scout Troop. During my research through old newspapers I found that there had been considerable confrontation between local churches over the insistence of some Burford people to make the Scouts junior militia men trained in sword drill, sham battles, route marches, weekly orders in the "Advance", military discipline, ambushes, etc. The Anglican Church supported this view of Scouting but other Burford churches felt that such belligerence was not necessary and supported an outdoor life for boys of a less-warlike nature. Such a life was found in the Trail Ranger and Tuxis Boys organization and this article covers its brief, but busy, life in Burford.
However, before I start this article I would like to stress that it is not, in any way, a criticism of the Boy Scouts, past or present, but merely an attempt to record a part of Burford's history.
To begin, it is not surprising that in 1912 there was such a strong emphasis locally to make our first Boy Scouts militia men, for the village had a formidable military background starting in June 1799 when over 60 local soldiers paraded on the ground now bordered by King, William and Dufferin Streets. Bur-ford men had fought bravely in the War of 1812 and Yeigh House on King St. East (now the home of Larry and Donna Cleverdon) had been a military headquarters.
In the following years Burford had supported both an infantry unit and a squadron of mounted dragoons. Considerable honour had come when the dragoons were rated among the best five such units in Canada and were chosen twice to be Escorts for visiting Royalty.
Military parades and "Tattoos" drew large crowds and demonstrations of sword and lance skill at garden parties were popular. In addition whenever the militia left for summer training at Niagara-on-the-Lake large groups of citizens marched with them to the RR station where they sang sad songs of farewell as if "the boys" were going to war, and every summer large train excursions were organized to see how "the boys" were doing at camp. Military balls with London orchestras, were a popular winter event.
Moreover, Burford Public School was run like a military "Boot Camp" with two daily military-style parades with shouted orders of "Quick march", "Stand at ease", "Stand up", "Sit down", "Put your hands behind your back", etc., and all books published by the Ontario Department of Education had a large Union Jack on the front page with the |words "One Flag, One Fleet, One Throne". Then, to add to the military fervour, boys of the time were full of stories about "manly" Christian boys fighting "the Heathen" and anyone else whose views were contrary to their bigoted view of Christianity. "Political Correctness"
did not exist, "Ethnic Equality" was not practised and British Empire belligerence was praised. Consequently, it was quite natural for many local people to support a very military Scout group.
This military attitude prevailed during the First World War but, when the war ended, a number of Burford men began to think about organizing a boys group that would include all the outdoor ways of the Scouts less the sword drill and sham battles. This group included the Rev. Gordon Raymer of the newly-formed United Church, my father Ed Robertson, Harry Bowerman, manager of the Royal Bank, Dr. T.D. Rutherford, Harry Wooley, Wilfred Eddy, Gil Terryberry and others. It was not long before they obtained information about the Trail Rangers and Tuxis Boys, a church-sponsored group that included all the outdoor activities of the Scouts with an emphasis on assisting community church activities and local enterprises.
Here I must pause to give information about these groups that I obtained from the United Church Archives.
The Trail Ranger and Tuxis Boys programs for teenage boys began when the Canadian Standard Efficiency Test was developed by the YMCA in 1912. The Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian and Methodist churches joined in this experimental effort in 1914. In 1915, a National Boys Work Board was established and, in the early 1920s, the Trail Rangers and Tuxis Boys were recognized by all the churches involved. Trail Ranger "camps" of 12 to 14 year-old boys and Tuxis Boy "Squares" of 14 to 18 year-old boys were formed in many churches. An Older Boys "Parliament" for Tuxis Boys was formed and, when Church Union came in 1925, the United Church took a leading part in this strong and healthy program for teenage boys. Consequently, when the very active and likable Gordon Raymer became Burford's first United Church minister in 1926, plans began to be made to organize Trail Ranger and Tuxis Boys units in Burford. These groups were not intended to be opponents of Scouting but rather to adopt all the outdoor activities of Scouting without the military aspects of that group.
In about 1926 word began to circulate in the "Playground Telegraph" that men of the newly-formed United Church were thinking about establishing a nonmilitary boys group. No one said much about it but kids (like me) began to wonder why their fathers were attending meetings they didn't talk about. We didn't understand why there was so much secrecy involved but can see now that it was due to a wish not to revive the "confrontation" that had existed when the Scouts were formed. However, finally on one Sunday morning an announcement was made at the local United Church Sunday School that any boy in the 12 to 14 age group who wished to become a Trail Ranger should come to the church basement on the next Friday evening and be "initiated" into the organization. We were told that membership in the Trail Rangers would involve camps, hikes, paper chases and all sorts of fun.
Consequently, a large number of boys turned up on the appointed evening. When we entered the basement we found, to our surprise, that most of the chairs had been put to one side and that a sort of "Obstruction Course" had been set up with tables, planks and all sorts of things. We were met by Mr. Raymer and several fathers who told us to go to the little room at the north end of the basement which, at the time, was used as the Sunday School library. There we were told to take off our coats and sweaters. We wondered what was coming next but it was Dr. Rutherford with a stethoscope around his neck. Then, with good humour, he checked our hearts and told us that we were to be "initiated".
This caused great speculation for our Masonic fathers had often said (with a twinkle in their eye) that Masonic "initiations" included being butted by a billy goat and, while we had not seen or smelled a goat, we wondered what was going to happen. Then we were all blindfolded and led one by one into the main basement. There we were put through the "Obstacle Course" that included "walking the plank", climbing a mountain of chairs and other humourous tests. It ended with a great deal of laughter and a swat on the bum with a shingle. This was all taken in good part and, although I dare say it would not be considered "politically correct" today, I don't think that anyone suffered in later life from having gone through it.
After the "initiation", we all went to the little room on the west side of the basement where Mr. Raymer explained the principles of the Trail Rangers such as honesty, truthfulness, fair play, service to the community and social responsibility. Then he gave each of us a lapel pin declaring us to be "Hustlers" and a book of badges that could be won. We were also told where and when we could buy a Trail Ranger sweater (blue with a gold collar) and that meetings would be held in the room every Friday at 4:30 pm.
We all became interested in accumulating badges and one provoked humour and controversy. That was the "Health" badge which required us to keep records of tooth brushing, etc. This was fairly routine except for the "KYBO" part. This meant "Keep Your Bowels Open" in which times, dates, quantities, etc. had to be recorded on a chart. Such records were immediately rejected by mothers who refused to have them displayed on the dining room table. Another requirement was for a morning cold bath. This was not included in the "Health" badge requirements but had been put "'here by a member of the sponsoring committee (no longer living and not mentioned above) who was a strong supporter of a widely-publicized "Health and Sex" expert who said that all men and boys should take a morning cold bath to "suppress evil thoughts". This was rejected by both mothers and boys because few houses in 1920s Burford had bathrooms and thus the preparation of a daily cold bath in a tin tub was "out of the question".
There was, however, a worthwhile badge called the "Observation" badge, one of which requirements was for a Trail Ranger to record at least ten items in a ten-second look at a store window display. For this Harry Bull, the local pharmacist, and Percy Sprowl arranged displays in their store windows. Since both of these gentlemen were Anglicans, many people felt that the old "inter-church confrontation" over Scouting was at an end. Most of my recollections as a Trail Ranger involve games, hikes and friendships. Only two bits of memorabilia remain. One is the "Hustler" pin and the other is a little bronze medal called the "Achievement" medal. This was awarded to Trail Rangers who sold five $ 1.00 bonds. The sale often bonds brought a silver medal. This "Bond Drive" was intended to raise money for boys' work generally. The sale of $1.00 bonds may sound ridiculous today but it must be remembered that, in the 1920s, Burford kids worked at the local canning factory for about 25 cents a day and reports that Henry Ford was about to pay employees SI.00 an hour filled people with awe. However, we all set out with our little books of bonds and most of us managed to sell S5.00 worth to parents, grandparents and aunts. In due course we all received our bronze medals. Only one silver medal was won by a boy with bank connections who sold $10.00 worth to bank employees and customers. I still have my bronze medal which shows a boy running to (or from) something. It is well-designed and probably cost a great deal to produce.
At age 14 all the local Trail Rangers graduated into the Tuxis Boys group. The word "Tuxis" means - "Training for Service, Christ in the centre - You and I on either side". This group covered boys from the age of 14 to about 16. In it, the boys were allowed to run "their own show" with only minor guidance from an adult. Emphasis was placed on teaching boys how to run local committees, local political organizations and young adult church organizations. It also sponsored love for the community, the environment and the plant and animal life around us.
Officers of Tuxis Boys groups were given Latin names. The President was "The Praetor", the secretary was "The Scriptor" and the treasurer was "The Comptor". The only adult participation was the Public School Principal who sat in on meetings and gave us advice when we needed it. Activities included "fun evenings" in the church basement in the winter and hikes and "paper chases" in the summer.
One very long "paper chase" remains in my mind. In this, two of our members set out laying a trail of torn newspapers from Bur-ford to Paris. The rest of us set out a half hour later and eventually ended on the banks of the Nith where we ate the small can of pork and beans we were required to carry. After that we followed the trail back and found our "Quarry" sitting in an old sleigh in the Bishopsgate Presbyterian church sheds. It was a day to remember since we were expected to examine any trash that might be part of "the trail". Since this was before "garbage collection", some of the trash was interesting (or disgusting).
Amid all the pleasant parts of Trail Ranger and Tuxis Boy activity, one unpleasant recollection remains. I refer to the lack of camps that members desired and the envy we felt for the annual camps local Scouters enjoyed. This was quite understandable for the Scouts, with their military connections, could use
Rangers and Tuxis Boys had to contend with the very limited amount of camping equipment that the non-Scout community could provide.
Finally, one year after a lot of complaining, an attempt to hold a Trail Ranger/Tuxis Boy camp was made. This was set up at Bakers Flats a mile north of Burford. It lasted a couple of days until a visiting father found a cigarette butt in the vicinity and declared to the sponsoring committee that the camp was "a den of cigarette smoking" which, at the time, was as bad a condemnation as was possible. As a result, the camp was closed. This was very annoying to us boy campers for Bakers Flats at the time was a favourite place for picnics, swimming, fishing and even Baptist Baptismals. Many people were there every day and we felt that the cigarette butt could have been dropped by anyone. However, our protests were ignored.
On quite a different scale were the annual elections to "Older Boy Parliament" which took place nationally every spring. They were run just like a regular election with speeches by candidates and polling booths in local high schools. One year our candidate, Scott Bowerman, was elected and, at another election, Dave Tough of Paris was successful.
And so the activities of the Trail Rangers and Tuxis Boys were an interesting part of boyhood. I don't know if these groups are still in operation as the material I received from the United Church Archives only goes until the 1950s. Locally, I think these groups ceased operation at about the time of the Second World War. Most former members are no longer living and survivors are "getting along" in years.
About all that remains is to wonder what lasting good came from them. It is true that they did not become muscular exponents of the "One Flag, One Fleet, One Throne" theory of British imperialism but I think members gained the more mundane knowledge of how to run local committees, organize recreational facilities and be of considerable intelligent use to their church and their community. One has to wonder if organizing the "Wilderness" or a local garden party was of more lasting importance.