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When We Were Boy Scouts

By W. Joseph Wyatt

scout with bugle
William H. “Bill” Wyatt of Charleston was dedicated to the Boy Scouts for more than 65 years. He is shown here, bugling, in about 1935. Photographer unknown.

Before I was old enough to be a Boy Scout, I yearned in vain to join my scoutmaster-dad as he departed on day hikes and weekend camping trips with the boys and other leaders of Troop 146 in St. Albans. When I moved out of the Cub Scouts at age 11, at last I was in Dad’s troop. Today, I recall those times with my father as a special part of my life.

William H. “Bill” Wyatt was a scouter, boy and man, even until the day he died. I remember vividly the last time we helped him out of bed and into the front room, in mid-December 1999. At 81, and weak from a long battle with cancer that would claim him a month later, he sat proudly in his scoutmaster’s uniform one last time, as we anticipated a visit from several officials of the local office of the Buckskin Council. The gentlemen arrived and made some small talk. Then they told my father that the local Boy Scout office would be re-dedicated in his name. It was a signature act of respect for my father, honoring his lifetime of devotion to local scouting.

Dad had been a Boy Scout in Troop 71 on Charleston’s West Side in the 1930's. Later, upon returning from World War II, he began a 21-year stint as scoutmaster of Troop 146. Following that, he involved himself in troop and Buckskin Council committee work, volunteered at National Jamborees, and led a local scout museum project.

Dad always referred to “Mr. Guice” with reverence. Charles P. Guice is thought to have organized the first Boy Scout troop in West Virginia, when he was commissioned a scoutmaster on December 10, 1910, in Barrackville, Marion County. After moving to St. Albans, where he became the first superintendent of schools in 1913, Guice organized the first Boy Scout camp in Kanawha County, located on the banks of the Coal River.

You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.