Robert Hively-Johnson: The motto of the Scouts? ‘Be Prepared’

May 4, 2019

Some kids learned the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) motto: “Be Prepared!”

As one of 12 “city scouts” whose “outdoors” were the wilds of Lincoln Park, along Lake Michigan’s (then) pristine blue water, we played and learned BSA skills on occasional “woods hikes.”

Our Scoutmasters (“Marty” and “Chuck”) were young union masons or bricklayers. These young lads from the neighborhood parish just west gave us kids their free time, remaining honorable, memorable persons.

The war had ended; they donated their time to “babysit” us. Time for kids was shared at the expense of time for girls and beer; speaks volumes about these peer-leaders.

They even took us camping or “on hikes.” (When kids packed food and gear to live in tents for a couple days in summer.)

Of course, one or two “hikes” were illegal (no permit) and included sneaking our troop into Palatine’s “Deer Grove” preserve. (Deer Grove remains; how we did it is lost.)

City-boys with (dry) socks midst cans of “Austex” beef stew, “Scout knives,” etc., arranged in official BSA backpacks.

City kids “camped-out” and cooked, on their own. Inaugural independence! Rain or shine, permit or none, we pushed (scoutmaster’s cars) across roadside ditches.

VFW Troop 1243 consisted of two patrols: Cobras and Wolves, then Tenderfoots. Official BSA shirts, with kerchief and cap required, plus the official BSA Handbook — which might still sit with a “Dick and Jane” reader. That handbook contained “the Scout Law” and outdoorsy stuff.

“Scout Oath and Law.” Both recited at weekly meetings: “On my honor I will do my best to ...” We were boys learning to always “Be Prepared.”

That sunny summer, in Scout camp we learned about, “the kaibow” or communal potty. Important place.

Our kaibo was a simple square wood building behind the camp’s cabins — our “backhouse.”

When we Cobras first walked in, and the good old “latrine smell” curled our upper lips, we were gazed upon a wonderment. A humongous BSA “thirty-holer in-out house.” Strickly, BYOP — Bring Your Own Paper.

Basically, wood-sides, roofed open floor, with a raised, dais or center having 8-10 circular openings — holes — per side. This “dais” covered a large pit, below the building.

Curiosity certainly killed the cat — and nearly burned down our kaibo. On that first visit, five Cobras Scouts were awed. And, you guessed it, we did — just had to look in.

So, five heads went in holes, but ’twas dark below, so one “prepared” Scout whipped out his trusty official Boy Scout matches-holder. (Was daytime; so no BSA flashlights handy.)

Naturally, not to be outdone, four other Cobras lit matches — to “spy.” That “inner kaibo” amazed us!

Imagine: Six boy butts (jeans on) sticking up from that dais, heads in holes — wrong-way-round! Beholdin’ mounds of paper and “stuff.”

Breathless! As one Scout-dodger exclaimed, “Holy smokes, what a (****) pit!”

Whoa! One Scout dropped his lit match (“natcherly”) and it promptly ignited the corner of one of the toilet paper cascades on the mounds comprising the “kaibo-pile.”

Imagine: Five fully dressed panicked Boy Scouts, leaning down into the kaibo holes as far as they could, blowing as hard as they could, at the small flame flickering in the “pile.”

“Uh-oh! Kaibo pooh burns, we’re a pile!”

And, in comes Scout Master Marty. Aghast!

He says nothing, decides to “play” our game, grabs a Scout by his pants-belt, pulls the kid up-n-out. Leans in and starts to giggling.

“Big noise (wind) from Winnetka!” blows out the flame.


Six months later. Cobra Patrol’s dodgers receive their first-and-only merit badges. For “Spelunking” — cave exploration.

Well? Plan on voting for a different politician come election day.

Light a fire. “Be prepared.”