Published on: Tuesday, December 1, 2015 Takoma Park Newsletter

Takoma Park Boy Scout Troop 33 celebrates nine decades of service

By Rick Henry

For 95 years, local boys have been joining Takoma Park Boy Scout Troop 33, and the reasons now are the same as they have always been.

“Leadership skills and management skills,” says current Senior Patrol Leader Nate Blower, 17, when asked what he values most about of the Boy Scout experience. “And knowing how to tie different knots will come in handy, too.”

It is that mix of the organizational and aspirational (leadership, service projects), the practical (knot tying) and the natural (camping, hiking) that has kept young boys involved in Boy Scouts of America (BSA) since it was established in 1910 in New York City to help young people be “Prepared for Life.”

Ten years later, in 1920, Troop 33 was established in Takoma Park, where it has been continuously chartered to the Takoma Park Presbyterian Church. As has happened so many times since, troop members and Takoma Park residents gathered at the church for a fundraiser on Saturday, Nov. 14. This time it was for a chili dinner to commemorate the troop’s 95th anniversary.

Such a long-standing association between a troop and a sponsoring organization is “rare,” said current Scoutmaster Tim Miller. “We have a really great relationship with them,” he said.

That relationship was showcased during one of the seminal moments in the troop’s (and church’s) history. In 2012, both stood up against what was at the time a BSA policy excluding “open or avowed homosexuals” from membership (a policy that has since been changed).

The troop was one of the most openly critical and defiant of the national policy and even adopted a rainbow theme at its annual pancake supper that year to show its support for inclusiveness.

But that is only one of many achievements and milestones the troop can claim. Troop 33 has a proud record of service and achievement. The newly chartered troop of the 1920s undertook community projects, such as a clean-up of the Sligo Creek area. On February 22, 1932, a select patrol from Troop 33 performed the opening ceremony of the George Washington Bicentennial Birthday Celebration at his birthplace in Wakefield, Va.

Eight young men associated with Troop 33 lost their lives serving in World War II. In its 95 years, Troop 33 has engaged an estimated 4,000 boys in scouting, and 96 scouts of Troop 33 have reached the highest level of scouting achievement, the rank of Eagle Scout, including Hank Harman, who earned his at the age of 86!

In 1957, Troop 33 purchased 43 acres of rolling timberland east of Romney, W. Va., for a permanent troop camp with funds donated primarily by the parents of Waldo E. Schmitt, one of the former Troop 33 scouts who perished in World War II. Today, Camp Waldo E. Schmitt includes a large main cabin, a Venture Scout cabin, numerous patrol camp sites, a lake, and nature trails.

For Troop 33 scouts, such as Adil Hall, 11, it is the opportunity to bond with nature at places such as Camp Schmitt that make scouting so appealing.

Hall, who says he got involved in Scouts four years ago after hearing one of his friends talk about how great it was, loves ”camping, hiking, trailing, exploring around, all of it.”

His self-described “best friend” Mateo Griffis, agrees. “Camping is the best,” he says. “I love running around and being free.”

Talk to scouts at the Troop’s 100th, 150th or 200th anniversary, and it’s a safe bet they will express the same love.

This article appeared in the December 2015 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.