Summer camp history

Monthly campout history

Troop 411 was founded in 1982 by a small, dedicated group of adults, led by the troop’s first Scoutmaster, Darrel Blevins.  He and the others that worked with him were responsible for the troop’s existence and much of its early survival.  Mr. Blevins' oldest son, Randy, was Troop 411's first Eagle Scout, awarded to him on December 12, 1983.  In a little over 30 years, Troop 411 has now generated over 100 Eagle Scouts.

From its inception, Troop 411 was quick to accomplish excellence.  It attended summer camp at Camp Evergreen on the east fork of the Bear in both 1983 and 1984.  The troop earned the first of many Troop Year Round Camping Awards and National Camping Awards in 1984, as well as the Honor Award at Scout-O-Rama and the Honor Unit Award.  Also noteworthy was that Troop 411 earned the Quality Unit Award in 1984 - the first year of what is now 32 consecutive years … and still counting.  Near the end of 1984, though, Darrel Blevins reluctantly resigned as the Troopmaster, as his career forced him to relocate out of the area.  Troop 411’s first five Eagle Scouts were under his watch. 

After Mr. Blevins’ resignation, Mike Dean stepped in and served as Scoutmaster for a brief period of time.  In 1985 the troop repeated as an Honor unit, and received the Honor Award at Scout-O-Rama and the Award of Merit and Honor at summer camp (Camp Maple Dell). Three more young men earned their Eagle rank.  For approximately 18 months, Troop 411 was held together by the volunteers who had been there before, although they were anxious to bring in some “new blood” and energy. Mike Dean, Hugh Douglas, and Gary Tomsic were instrumental in keeping the troop intact, maintaining accurate advancement records, and soliciting help from the parents of new scouts, but by mid-1986 the troop was on the verge of extinction. The new blood arrived just in time, though, most notably in the form of Mr. Fred Kidston. 

Fred, as he is known to everyone, agreed to assume the role of Scoutmaster of Troop 411, but in order to make the program as successful as possible he wanted some support in place – most notably a Committee Chair – and Joe Hunnicutt agreed to step into that role.  According to Mr. Hunnicutt, it was Fred’s enthusiasm, and the work and organization of his wife Colleen, which led the revitalization of Troop 411.  With the new scouts that entered the troop came a group of dedicated and involved parents – Uwe & Anne Denk, Joe & Colleen Hunnicutt, Ron & Barbara Eisenhour, Tommy Thompson, and Larry & Nancy Huffman, to name just a few.  With a strong emphasis on camping, service, and achievement, Troop 411’s pulse began to climb again. 

Fred Kidston served as the troop’s scoutmaster for roughly ten years.  It should be noted that Fred never had a son in the troop – he is a prime example of one who served because of his love of scouting and devotion to the young men of Troop 411.  Fred was the first adult from Troop 411 to receive the District Award of Merit, and also the first to receive the Silver Beaver Award. To this date, the “diner” that the adult patrols use on each campout is proudly and boldly labeled “Fred’s Diner.” There are thirty young men that credit Fred with leading them to their Eagle rank (including my younger brother, James). A plaque in our troop’s awards cabinet recognizes him for his service and leadership, and lists those young men as members of “Fred’s Eagles Nest.”  However, Fred Kidston would be the first to point out that the accomplishments of Troop 411 were not solely measured by the number of boys who advanced to the rank of Eagle Scout.  On the contrary – the troop’s success preceded that of the individuals. 

In the mid-1990s, the adults of Troop 411 took “Lead by Example” to another level.  The adults had started to form their own patrols, the most prestigious of those being “The Geezers” (I acknowledge my partisanship here; I am a proud Geezer).  At summer camp of 1994, a couple of adults took it upon themselves to bring into existence a new adult patrol.  At the troop’s final campfire of Camp New Fork, Mike Robinson and Joe Hunnicutt did a parody of some of the “elite” groups of our culture and history, such as the Navy Seals, Army Rangers, and Knights Templar.  With a background of adults humming “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” they recited the profound history of The Flamingos, and a new adult patrol was born.  At each summer camp since, Friday evening has involved an elaborate ritual in which the Golden Egg sends forth its decree of who has been selected for membership in the Flamingo patrol.  The new members are ceremoniously “Flapped Out” and initiated into the Flamingo patrol, amidst some incredible pomp and a sea of pink feathers.  Members are poached from the other adult patrols:  the aforementioned Geezers, and the Flying Monkeys (members taken from the Geezers to become Flying Monkeys are less ceremoniously “crapped out” earlier in the week).  The competition between adult patrols is subtle and in good spirits year-round, but at summer camp every year it takes on a life of its own.  Practical jokes and good-humored trash-talking abound all week, and the adult patrols compete as fiercely as the boys’ patrols for displays of scout spirit and patrol cheers each and every day.  Members of the adult patrols adorn their uniforms with patrol patches and other insignia; almost every Flying Monkey has a small banana hanging from his hat.  This year, a fourth adult patrol as made its debut in Troop 411:  The Poodles, made up of the women of our troop, their adornments complete with berets and a poodle patrol patch (the poodle sporting a fashionable pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses). 

In the mid-1990s, as Fred’s tenure as Scoutmaster wound down, the troop was in the midst of tremendous success.  There were a large number of adults participating, and the troop’s growth had been outstanding.  As it became time to find a new Scoutmaster, the choice was fairly clear.  Doug Orr had joined Troop 411 in 1990, shortly after moving to the area, and had been serving as an Assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 411 for a considerable time.  The success and growth of the troop didn’t miss a beat, and has shown no signs of slowing down since. 

I indicated before that a number of adults have served (and continue to serve) without youth active in the troop.  Doug Orr has also seen his son earn his Eagle rank and move out of the troop, yet he is among the most devoted of adult leaders (as evidenced by his previously mentioned attendance of campouts and presence at virtually every single troop activity).  Reese Pope has two sons who have become Eagle Scouts in Troop 411, and he continues to serve as the troop’s chair of service (as well as now being a Commissioner for District 27).  Larry Huffman may be the most notable – he’s been with Troop 411 for 30 years, never misses a summer camp, and his automobile proudly bears the license plate “GEEZER1.”  The number of adults who have given their all for Troop 411 is almost too many to count, and it is their work that continues to contribute to our troop’s success.

You also asked about some special events that might have happened in the history of the troop.  There were several that came to mind, including volunteer work prior to the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.  However, there are two particular activities that I wanted to mention …

The first involves a dedicated group of young men that had a rabid interest in climbing.  From 1996 through 1999, they conducted several mountaineering expeditions around the west.  They did backpacking trips in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming in 1996, 1997, and 1999 – the last trip including the company of a freelance photographer, Garth Dowling.  That trip got three of those scouts – Keith Stevens, James Barlow, and Dan Dolan – on the cover of the February 2001 issue of Boys’ Life magazine, climbing out of Titcomb Basin towards Dinwoody Pass.  The others on this trip included Jonathan Buck and Don & Chris Tetzloff.  James has told me that he and his friends in the troop – Duane Poslusny, Andrew Smith, Matt Dolan, Greg Peterson, Seth Weibel, Dave Stair, Corey Fischer, Isaac Westfield, Ryan Kendrick, and Richard Higgins, as well as those previously mentioned – did an enormous amount of hiking and climbing when in the troop, and in fact he and Keith Stevens climbed all 32 peaks over 10,000 feet in Salt Lake County from 1998-1999.  He added that they reunite whenever possible and continue their climbing adventures all over the country. 

The second is probably more dramatic than the first.  This took place at the troop’s 1994 summer camp, at Camp New Fork. Near the end of that week, members of Troop 411 were instrumental in preventing what could have been a devastating forest fire. I have been able to talk to a number of the people that were there, including Dave Poslusny, who kept a journal during summer camp and was able to draw from it for his remembrance of the experience. Curt Smith, an adult in attendance that year with Troop 411, also gave me his narrative, including a picture of the aftermath.

Near the end of the week, following morning Gilwell and breakfast, most of the younger scouts had headed off to their merit badge classes, and a number of the older scouts were in camp when another of them, Rob Huffman, came running into camp and yelled that there was a fire.  I have two quotes, but the essential version was for the boys to grab their fire buckets from outside their tents and get moving!  For a split second they looked at each other – a group including Dan Jepperson, Patrick Hunnicutt, Brandon Richards, Nick Lyon, and Dave Poslusny – and then they did exactly that.  Some of the boys took the two fire buckets from every tent, and others grabbed tools (shovels, pots, axes) and took off at a sprint following Rob. 

When they arrived at the fire, the boys threw their buckets of water at it but hardly made a dent.  They all recall the heat was unbearable, and getting closer than about ten feet was just not possible.  Fortunately the fire was only about 40 yards from the lakeshore, and those present started a bucket brigade from the shore of the lake to the scene. Curt Smith left the fire and ran to the camp headquarters, looking for someone with a two-way radio to warn everyone (this was before cell phones, mind you).  He recalls having to go to the dining hall before finding someone with a radio, who then got in touch with the camp director and told him to sound the fire alarm.  A call was placed to the Forest Service requesting assistance. 

Back at the fire, the makeshift bucket brigade had expanded as more people showed up at the scene to assist.  They heard the camp fire alarm, and knew that everyone in camp was supposed to report to the camp parking lot. They stayed put, as the bucket brigade was starting to make an impact on the fire.  By the time a Forest Service helicopter showed up on the scene, the roughly 40 boys and adults making up the bucket brigade had all but extinguished the fire.  One tree was cut down, and a motorboat was used to drag that tree into the lake.  A Forest Service firefighting crew arrived as well, making sure that the entire fire had been doused, and completing the clean-up of the scene. 

At the end of summer camp that week, Troop 411 received an award from the camp, acknowledging their pivotal role in preventing what could have been a disastrous forest fire.  There was a brief write-up in the Salt Lake Tribune the following month conveying what the members of the Troop had done, and before the end of the year the Rotary Club of Sandy presented the troop with a plaque in appreciation of their heroic efforts.  As a footnote, when Troop 411 returned to Camp New Fork for summer camp in 2001, Curt Smith returned to the area of the fire specifically to see the condition of things.  He recalls it being much like he remembered – except for the “shameful evidence of more ‘illegal’ fire pits in the same area.” 

After the fire, the evidence pointed to a group of scouts who had been working on their Wilderness Survival merit badge and had made a campfire at that location the previous night to stay warm.  They extinguished the fire in the morning before their merit badge counselor returned to check on them, but unfortunately, they had prepared their fire pit on top of some very shallow tree roots.  Even after the campfire was extinguished, the roots continued to smolder, and the fire traveled from there up to a nearby tree where it again found oxygen and ignited.  In any event, use of a campfire while working on the Wilderness Survival merit badge probably does not meet the standard of spending a night in a self-constructed shelter which “minimize[s] the damage to the environment” (MeritBadge.com)  Curt Smith did take a photo of the aftermath of the fire which shows what was burned, and what could have been much, much worse.