El Cajon Historical Society

El Cajon's Troop 46 BSA
(The 1940s)

By G. Carroll Rice

The Boy Scout Hut on Lexington Avenue was crammed on Wednesday evenings back in the 1940s. You could hear young men, aged 12 to 18, singing The Deacon Went Down in the Cellar to Pray, Johnny Verbeck (whose meat grinding machine led to disaster), and Billy the Goat a good block away. Singing was a great outlet for energy bubbling in the minds and muscles of between 40 and 70 super-vocal, supercharged Scouts. The meeting opened with a roll call, the Pledge of Allegiance, recitations of the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. With adult Scouters looking on, Scoutmaster Cecil Cheeseman maintained a semblance of order as the current business of scouting was discussed. Typical subjects were camping trips, merit badge training, honors to be bestowed, and often in those pre-World War II and wartime days, there was the serious business of patriotic duties that could be performed by Scouts. The 1940s were heady days in El Cajon for Troop 46, which grew to be the largest Scout Troop in the world.
   
After several false starts, Scouting became a significant force in El Cajon under the direction of Scoutmaster Harry Anderson. Barber Gus Broborg was a one-man cheering section for Scouting and it was through his persistence and constant urging that the Rotary Club became the sponsor of Troop 46. It has been said that Mr. Anderson agreed to become Scoutmaster if Rotary would provide any materials or supplies he asked for. They agreed, and in 1939, the Scout Hut was built from lumber donated by the W.D. Hall Company, and scouting history was born. When Mr. Anderson retired, the mantle fell on the shoulders of Cecil Cheeseman who led the troop during its period of greatest growth and public service.

Scouters, dedicated men serving as advisors to Scoutmasters and facilitators to the troops, are essential to a successful scouting experience. I particularly recall Anthony Cutter, Bill Davis (whose son Bill became an Eagle Scout and eventually Principal of El Capitan and Grossmont High Schools), Bill Treatheway (father of Billy, another Eagle Scout), my father, George Rice, who was also an Assistant Scoutmaster, Milton Harvey, Horace Gibson and Gus Broberg (who donated land for a camp near Alpine, which was named in his honor). Business leaders also stepped up to the plate and when the troop outgrew its original hut, the W.D. Hall Company donated lumber and volunteers joined the Scouters in building a foundation for a substantial addition.

It being a time of war, Scouts took part in War Bond drives and participated in joint training exercises with other troops in the San Diego Council. Trucks and drivers provided by the army sent Scouts all over El Cajon Valley, enthusiastically collecting scrap iron, rubber, paper and aluminum for the war effort. The Hut became a center of the civilian aircraft warning system, including the Civil Defense air raid siren. After the system was established, an adult as a Warden and one Scout as his messenger, spent nights in the Hut, ready for any emergency. El Cajon was prepared, night and day.

Along with the busy service schedule, there were camping trips, weeks at Camp Hual Cu Cush, days of ‘Capture the Flag’ at Mission Dam, and annual trips to Borrego Springs Palm Canyon. Our canvas-covered Model A Ford truck, named Asthma, tirelessly chugged to the camping sites and all events with never a breakdown. High school age Junior Assistant Scoutmasters and Senior Patrol Leaders such as Don Green, Nevin Freeman and Orville Buell took individual Patrols on hikes and overnight camping expeditions, gaining experience in leadership and planning. It should be said, too, that every camp and hike served as a training exercise, with the young men getting experience that would last a lifetime. Forrest Cleveland, for example, was an expert with the signal flags, Tommy Ballentyne and Jimmy Harvey were camp cooks and bakers far beyond the limits of pancakes, eggs and hamburgers. As they came of age, many young men, such as the Casteel brothers, Harry Baxter, Eugene Fennell and Bill Rock took their Scout ideals and training directly from the Scouts into the Army, Navy and Marine Corps.

Even in the structure of Scouting, boys will be boys. One Spring break, Scoutmaster Cecil Cheeseman took a truckload of kids camping at Borrego Springs’ Palm Canyon. The camp ground was isolated, facilities were primitive, and the nearest store was miles away. There, the Scouts experienced hiking, camp cooking, traditional campfires, and a taste of wilderness adventure. Then, the morning their scheduled return, the weather turned cold and snow blocked the roads in the mountains. Two days passed; only a box of dried prunes remained of the food supply and the boys went to bed semi-hungry. The next morning Cecil discovered that someone had sneaked into the truck in the night, broken the box open and feasted on prunes. He blew his whistle and ordered the boys to line up in formation. Before he could even announce the meaning of the assembly, a young man named Larry broke ranks and ran for the toilet facilities. The mystery was solved, and as I recall, Larry’s misery was considered sufficient punishment for his sins. 

Times have changed; the broad-brimmed hats and World War I-type uniforms have given way to modern overseas-type caps, practical shorts and straight trousers. Scouting has changed; younger boys enter as Tenderfeet, and older young men join senior scouting programs. Today’s young men are more sophisticated and far more mature than their predecessors; yet the basic Scouting traditions go on. The El Cajon Branch of the County Library occupies the land where the Scout Hut stood, and there’s nothing but memory to mark a spot where good times and comradeship once blossomed nearly 70 years ago.

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