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"ONE TOWNSHIP'S YESTERDAYS"
By Edwin Corwin
LII. BOYS OF THEN AND NOW
"Say, Pa--what is the goldun rule 'At's allus at the Sund'y School?"....James Whitcomb Riley
BOYS WILL BE BOYS just about everywhere in this wide, wide world. And who can change them? As long back as any one can remember, boys have been "ornery" and pesky and mischievous and a whole lot of other things too numerous to mention. They have broken the Golden Rule; they have annoyed and worried every community the sun shines on and every countryside the moon sheds her light on; and Union Township, with all the land and communities therein, is no exception.
Our beloved Hoosier poet understood boys as few other mortals ever have. Riley knew the hearts of boys. He wrote a great deal about boys, and among his verses one finds these lines:
"I'd say, Gimme the old gang O' barefooted, hungry, lean, Orn'ry boys you want to hang When you're growed up twic't as mean!"
Yes, give us the "old gang." Many an inhabitant of Union Township can "reminisce" about the days of his youth, and recall, if not too abashed, some of the escapades and doin's that happened when he was a young fellow. Many a meek old gentleman will admit (though often only privately) that he was "something of a devil himself when lie was just a young sprout."
What to Do
The problem of what to do for the youth of a community to keep them out of mischief and interested in harmless amusements and good healthful recreation has long been uppermost in the thoughts of public-spirited citizens. In the early days of Union Town, then of Marmont, and somewhat later, of Culver, those concerned in the welfare of the boys of the community were not unmindful of this ever-prevalent problem. Always before them was the question, "What shall we do with the boys . . . and for them?"
In all periods of community life, there have been occasions when boys "kicked over the traces" and let loose on a career of pranks and other foolishness. Such was the case in the early days of Culver.
"Just write about what we did as boys and you'll have a book," remarked one rather staid citizen. "Mighty few of us had wings. Cherubs were as scarce as needles in haystacks."
Music Under Difficulties
Around the beginning of the Twentieth Century, Culver had a band of music, and a good one, too. They played music worth traveling far to hear, and concerts were given in the open air. But on concert nights, the boys would get on their "high horses" and prank about the bandstand, annoying the musicians and the bandmaster almost to distraction. At times the noise of boys almost drowned the sweet symphonies the band was trying to dispense, and the romping and racing came near breaking the orderly ranks of the audience. The bandmaster remonstrated, the musicians complained, and the newspaper editor editorialized, in the hope that the nuisance would be ended.
The boys, the boys! They were boys for all that, and good ones at heart, with very few harmful intentions and tendencies. But they had to have something amusing to do . . . and they did it, in their own way and after the fashion of youth, in all eras and all areas. There was something missing; they had no organized play, out of hours from school and chores; they had no place to gather under supervision with a definite program to keep them occupied.
long came Halloween each year, and with it came the usual call to "raise ructions" and disturb the peaceful lives of elders . . . who once had been young themselves. (A few of them forgot they ever had been young). Property, both private and public, mysteriously moved from old locations to new over night, and annoyed owners searched high and low for what was rightfully theirs. The inanimate things that were lost, of course had no feet, but they traveled to far places. Many were the labors, borne sometimes in a Christian spirit, during the aftermath of a Halloween, that marked the salvaging of various things that had been lost.
The inevitable Halloween arrived in Culver in the Fall of 1905. But that year a strange and almost unbelievable thing happened. Editor Koontz of the "Citizen" wrote about it in the first issue of his paper following the fateful eve:
"A number of boys, with more sense than a desire to destroy property, on Halloween night, assembled in the rooms over the printing office and had their full in playing games. This is a new departure for the boys in Culver and should be encouraged."
The Boys of '35
The boys of then--were just boys, that's all. And the boys of now---are just boys still--very little different. There are mighty few real bad ones, and there are hordes of good ones here, there, and everywhere. Much is being done for them, new things, in keeping with the times, things unknown to boys not so many years ago.
Since 1910, the Boy Scout movement has progressed apace. Now, in '35, it celebrates a quarter of a century of growth. Culver was very early an active participant in the movement. A stimulus to local interest was the coming to the Culver Summer School of Woodcraft of such great figures in the Scouting world as "Uncle Dan" Beard, Dillon Wallace, and Ernst Thompson Seton. Beard, who had charge of the camp on the lake along towards its beginning, is now National Scout Commissioner and the "grandpop of Scouting." Wallace, the Labrador explorer and writer, was Chief of Woodcraft for many years. Seton, the woodcraft and Indian lore man and artist, cane in early days and made a return visit a few years back. Quite a umber of the boys of the community and 'round about the camp became acquainted with these "big men."
So the boys in town were organized. A troop flourished. After the World War, the American Legion became a factor in community life, and in Culver became sponsor of a Scout troop and in later years of a Cub pack for the younger fellows. A cabin was built in mid-town, a model of its kind, for meetings and gatherings of the boys. The needs of youth were being cared for solicitously and also from an early beginning a strong factor in the betterment of the welfare of the boys, not only of the community of Culver but also of the entire township. Organized play, athletic teams, sports, recreation under competent directors and coaches, and the use of a modern community building and playground--all these things contributed year after year to the building of the boys of today.
The boys of '35, with all their privileges and advantages, nevertheless are just boys.
And as such would we have them--always.