Troop 174

John T. McQuillan Jr.'s Memories of 1974-1977
Jan. 29, 2004


John T. McQuillan, Jr.

Mr. McQuillan was a Boy Scout in Yorktown Heights Troop 31 from 1961-1966 and joined Yorktown Heights Troop 164 in 1966.  He was a Troop Advisor and acting Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 174 from 1974-1977.

Mr. McQuillan:  “This is John McQuillan.  On the Eagle Scout list here I knew Doug Shriner.  His older brother was my best friend.  He was the first Eagle Scout in (Troop)174.  Marc Lerry, I knew him, too.  His father was the first Scoutmaster.  Ken Powers and Carl Ohlson . . . did you know that he went to West Point (United States Military Academy)?  His parents stopped in here last year and I think he is a Major in the Army now.  After that, most of these guys I don’t know."

Mr. McQuillan:  “Dave Lerry was the Scoutmaster of Troop 164 for about three years.  In 1974 he left (Troop) 164 to start a smaller troop.  He asked me to go with him to help.  So I did.  I was an Assistant Scoutmaster for (Troop ) 174 for about three years.”

Margaret L.:  “Did you do both troops?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Yes.  I was with both troops.  Then in 1977 I became Scoutmaster of 164 and then at that time I think Dave Lerry left 174 about that time.  I think Irv Breitbart was the one who took over after that.  Yes.  He took afterwards.  I just helped the troop get going.  In the beginning we went on campouts and stuff like that and got them going.  As far as summer camp goes, the only thing I remember is back in the 1990’s when Denis Horbatuk was the Scoutmaster, well he was very big in Cub Scouts at that time.  He was with Bob Rice taking care of the Cub Scouts at summer camp at the Webelos Resident Camp (at Camp Read).  He did that and there was nobody for 174.  There was no Assistants (Assistant Scoutmasters) or anything to take them to summer camp, so I let them come with us.  That is what really started both troops at the same place (Ranger campsite).  I had plenty of Assistants, so I took them, anywhere from 10 to 15 scouts.  I think that was about three or four years doing that.  Then as time went on 174 got their own leaders to come up to summer camp.”

Thomas L.:  “Were there any competitions between 174 and 164?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “I do not really think so.  During summer camp?”

Thomas L.:  “Anytime.”

Mr. McQuillan:  “I really do not think so.  At summer camp a lot of the stuff we did together.  I do not think there was any real competition between the troops.


Thomas L.:  “Are there any stories from Camp Read?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Do you want positive stories or negative stories?  I cannot think of any positive stories.  The only good story I can remember is about eight years ago I was getting ready for summer camp for 164 and I had a bunch of older guys who wanted to go and I just didn’t like the combination.  I knew something was up.  They were good guys, but I knew something was up.  So we go to summer camp.  The first night, it has got to be about 2 o’clock in the morning, I get a knock on the side of the tent.  It was two girl counselors 2 o’clock in the morning and they said, “Your scouts are running around camp.”  So I go over and I look at the older guys.  I put the older guys on one side.  They are all there.  I have to go in the tents because sometimes they put pillows in the tent to make it look, you know, that type of thing.  So I had to make sure I see a real head and hair in there.  Then I get out and they are all here.  Then I hear Tomatsu (Tsunekage) yelling at his guys at 2 o’clock in the morning, yelling at them.  Then I went over to check the young guys.  So I went in.  I knew one guy, one ten year old, is gone.  He is not in his tent.  So I went down to see Tomatsu.  What happened was they got out, my guys, his guys, they had this whole thing planned.  They were walking down in the camp and these girl counselors were up at 2 o’clock in the morning.  Eventually the ten year old, I told him he was missing, and he was in the woods watching us.”

Margaret L.:  “So what were they doing?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “They were walking around.”

Margaret L.:  “They did not do anything malicious?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Well, they did have fireworks.  The thing was when the girl counselors saw them they ran away and they dropped it.  They dropped the fireworks.  So then the next day the camp staff came up and they searched everybody.  This one ten year old had sparklers in his bag.  So that’s the biggest thing I can think of that the troops did at summer camp.  But mostly at summer camp 164 and 174 they did their things separately.  I think that the one thing that we did always was the pizza party every week on Wednesday.  We always did that together.  Always.  We always did that.”

Margaret L.:  “It is so much fun.”

Mr. McQuillan:  “We always did that.  As far as activities, hikes, and everything, both troops went their own way on that.”

Thomas L.:  “Do you know how the ice cream and pizza party came to be?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “That?  Oh, Dave Lerry was the one who started that in 164.  Actually he started that.  He came up with the pie irons way back when he started that.”

Margaret L.:  “Using the English muffins?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Using the English muffins and stuff like that.  He was the one.  So 164 was really the one who started that tradition way back when.  Then over the years I just kept it up.  That is where that came from.”

Margaret L.:  “Scouts really look forward to it.”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Yes.  It is a good time.  We never had any . . . a couple of burnt fingers, but not too much.  It always worked out pretty good.”

Thomas L.:  “How is scouting different than when you were a Boy Scout?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Well, I think it is a little easier to make Eagle Scout, I think.  I made Eagle Scout.  I started Scouts late.  I did not join until I was 14.  They did not have Boy Scouts in the Bronx.  It is not much different.  I think it is the same . . . go camping and hiking and stuff like that.  Parents do not have the time (to help).  That is the same always.”

Thomas L.:  “Are there any interesting stories from campouts, especially camps that are not around anymore?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Like, the only one I can think of is (Camp) Siwanoy.  We always went there every year.  In fact, I went there several times with 174 up there.  They had made reservations like in February or January and it was the Klondike Derby.  So they decided to go to Siwanoy instead of the Klondike Derby.  I went to the Klondike Derby and said I would meet you up there Saturday night.  Well, it was a snow storm you would not believe up there.  So, I made it up.  I have a Jeep so I was able to get there.  I parked in the lot and walked down.  I was covered with white because it was just such as snow storm.  So I went in there and 174 had dinner ready for me and everything right there.  That was . . . I do not remember the year . . . the years blend together.  That’s about it.  After Dave Lerry left, that’s when I became Scoutmaster of 164, so I didn’t have much to do with 174 after that.  I remember, that was 1977.  That was 25 years ago.  Time goes fast.  I cannot think of anything else.”

Margaret L.:  “John, do you remember who the charter organization was for 174 when it began?  Was it the Elks Club?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “I really do not know that.”

Margaret L.:  “Do you remember where the meetings were first held?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “I know they were held in the school, in T. J. school, Thomas Jefferson (Elementary) School.  I remember going over there.  I don't remember what the first place was.  I always thought that the (Grace Lutheran) church was, but I guess it wasn't when they started up."

Margaret L.:  “One person told us they thought it was the Elks Club.”

Mr. McQuillan:  “It might have been.  That I do not remember.  I remember going over to Thomas Jefferson.  That was before they built the addition then.  We (174) met in a little tiny room at the church.  From there they moved to Thomas Jefferson for more room.”

Margaret L.:  “They were in the church before they went to Thomas Jefferson.”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Right.  I remember going there a couple of times.  But is was small at that time.  I do not remember if they had a charter organization before that, but Dave Lerry would be the one who would know that.  I bet he would know.”

Margaret L.:  “Where were some of the places that you would go camping?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Right here in Yorktown over in Jefferson Valley there was a piece of land over there.  I cannot remember the name of the street.  It is right on the other side of (Route) 6, we used to go to.”

Margaret L.:  “On the north side of (Route) 6?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Right.  One of those side streets, 174 used to go there all the time.  I think it was private property and the guy let us camp on it.  I remember going there all the time.  Then I think 174 had a nice camping spot at the Field Home.  You ever go there?  The Field Home?”

Margaret L.:  “I have been there to visit the Field Home, but we’ve never camped there.”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Right across the road 174 had a nice, nice camping spot.  We (164) were on the other side of the road down further.  Now that whole place is all ripped up and buildings are there now.”

Margaret L.:  “So, on the property of the Field Home there were different local troops . . . “

Mr. McQuillan:  “Right.  I think just 164 and 174 were the only ones that camped there.”

Margaret L.:  “Ok, but you had an established fire ring . . . ?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Right, right.  We used to go there about twice a year, and 174 used to go there about twice a year to go camping.  I remember that.  Once they started building down there we lost all that . . . camping spots.”

Margaret L.:  “What kind of activities or programs would you do when you camped at the Field Home?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “We did a lot of compass work because we had . . . everything was all laid out there, so we did orienteering there . . . regular Second Class and First Class compass stuff like that we did.  We did a lot of pioneering projects like the bridge.  Mostly bridges, I do not think we built a tower there, but the rope bridge we did that a couple of times.”

Thomas L.:  “Were there any interesting foods that were either strange or good or interesting?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “No.  Nothing.  Not that I can remember.  Nothing out of the ordinary.”

Thomas L.:  “Did you have any problems with the critters of Camp Read?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Well, about back in the 1970’s there were skunks around.  That had to be the worst, and then we had raccoons but they were not as bad as the skunks.”

Margaret L.:  “They would come into the campsite at night?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Right.  You know how the guys have their food underneath their bunks and it is out and they eat and stuff falls all over, you know.  Then some guys used to get peanut butter and smear it on the tents of the guys that they do not like, and stuff like that.  I know 174 used to do that.  I remember that.  I think all those animals died off up there.  You do not see them anymore, just chipmunks and squirrels.  The raccoons all died off from something or other.”

Margaret L.:  “Did any boys get sprayed by the skunks?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Not that I can remember.  I do not remember.  No.  I think something like that I would remember.”

Thomas L.:  “Do you know how any of the activities that Camp Read has, how they started.  COPE or horseback trail riding?

Mr. McQuillan:  “No.  I was never involved in staff or anything.  I was asked to, but I did not have time for that.  I was asked to go on the committees and stuff like that.  I would like to because I think a lot of things that are done up there are done by non-campers, people who do not use the facility, and they make decisions on stuff.  I feel a lot of that is done.  But no, I was never involved in it.”

Thomas L.:  “Were you around before Joe became the cook there?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Oh yeah.  My first year at summer camp was 1966 in the old days.  I went in 1966 and right after that I enlisted in the Air Force and spent four years doing Boy Scouts.  I did some Air Force work.  I was an Assistant Scoutmaster down in Maryland.  I was stationed down there, and then when I went to Alaska I was there a month and I became the Scoutmaster.  That was two years.  I had a good troop up there.  I did not want to leave.  I tried to reenlist and they said, “Well, if you reenlist you have to go to a remote site.”  So, I came home.”

Thomas L.:  “How was the troop up in Alaska?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “It was good.  Most of the scouts up there were dependents.  Their fathers were in the Air Force.  We had our own building to meet in.  What else . . . we had a summer camp up there.  Summer camp was a little more primitive than Camp Read.  All they did was have the tents up there.  No platforms.  No bunks.  So the scouts made their own bunks.  They lashed them together and stuff like that.  We had to cook our own food up there.  That was pretty good.  Most of the guys that were my Assistants were guys out of the barracks.  They had nothing to do so I said, “Let’s go camping.”  I still correspond with one of the guys that was my Assistant.  He lives in Memphis, Tennessee.”

Thomas L.:  “How cold were the campouts up there?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Well, we did go camping in November.  One time it was 30 below.  We were able to get these big Army tents that held twenty people.  So, we all stayed in that.  It was really two tents in one.  You set up the tent and then an insert went inside of it.  So, we got it up to zero inside.  We warmed it up to zero.  Lots of snow.  It started to snow right after Labor Day and just about the middle of May the snow started to melt.  So, we were in snow all the time up there.  We had our own piece of land up there, just our  troop, my troop.  The base gave us the land.  We went there, and we camped there and then we built a cabin, for winter cabin camping up there on a lake.  There was a lake there.  We built a raft, a great big raft so scouts went out on the raft.  It was good.  I drove there from here in Yorktown.  I lived here in Yorktown.  I drove to Alaska.  I spent two years there and I drove back.  Same car.  It was about 3,000 miles to get there and about 7,000 to get back because I went the long way.  I went down to Arizona and I toured all over coming back.  So, I was not in a hurry to get back.  I started to go to school right after that.  I went to Pace University.  So I was not really involved.  I was an Assistant Scoutmaster.  I did as much as I can.  It took me five years working nights to get a degree, so I was not too much involved with scouts until I graduated in 1977-78.”

Margaret L.:  “Right now we are in the Westchester-Putnam Council in the Manitoga District.  When 174 was formed were we the Wiccopee District?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “No.  We were the Muscoot District.  We were the Muscoot District back then.  Yorktown was Muscoot, and then just around that time, that is when they broke up the district.  Yorktown used to be the Muscoot District.  I think it was 1975 they reformed the Districts and we went with Wiccopee.”

Margaret L.:  “Wiccopee was an established district they just geographically . . . “

Mr. McQuillan:  “Was it called Wiccopee at that time?  I think it was.  I think is was, yeah.  Wiccopee, yeah.  Wiccopee was from Yorktown to the (Hudson) River . . . Peekskill, and then Muscoot picked up like from Somers, where it is now.  We were in the Muscoot District.”

Margaret L.:  “So when you became Eagle you were the Muscoot District?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Yeah, and the troop I was in, I was in Troop 31 and they went out of business years ago.  They were in the Yorktown Grange.  The Grange used to sponsor them.  That is why I ended up going with 164 because my troop disbanded.”

Margaret L.:  “Since the adults who formed 174 came from Troop 164, can you briefly tell us the history of Troop 164, how it began, has it always been sponsored by Saint Andrew's (Lutheran Church)?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Well, what it is is, I remember that the first Scoutmaster (Troop 164) was a member of Saint Andrew’s (Lutheran Church) and he started it.  That was before my time.  He started the troop and several of the adults, fathers and stuff, that belonged to the church, started the troop.”

Margaret L.:  “And that was in 1964?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “That was 1964.  That is why some of the numbers like 174, that is how they got that number, because they were the first troop in 1974.”

Margaret L.:  “So, Troop 174 began in 1974?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Right, yeah.  As far as 164 that is all I know.  I did not get to them until 1966 when I went to summer camp.”

Margaret L.:  “When did the white-water rafting (at Camp Read) begin?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “That is probably from the early 1990’s, I guess that got started.”

Margaret L.:  “The horse trail rides . . . ”

Mr. McQuillan:  “We never, 164 never got involved with that, horses.  Some of the boys took Horsemanship Merit Badge and stuff like that, but we never went on the trail rides or anything like that.  So, I don’t know when that started.  I guess that started when they bought that piece of property where the horses are.”

Margaret L.:  “Currently Camp Read is about 1,000 acres.  So you are saying it used to be smaller and they bought more property?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Yeah.  Have you been up to where the horses are, that barn there?  Well, they did not purchase that until ten years ago.  That is just a recent, you know, ten years ago purchase.  That was not always there.  And that time right after that they had the barn there and that is when the horses (trail rides) started.  It was a place for them to stay.”

Thomas L.:  “Did your troop help out at the Webelos Klondike?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “No, I do not think we ever got involved in that.  There was just one thing, when I was up in Alaska they never had Klondike Derbies.  They never had them.  No such things as Klondike Derbies in Alaska.  Never had it.  We had winter activities, but no sleds and stuff like that, and they were around up there.  They were around.  Scouts never did that.”

Margaret L.:  “They had real dog teams up there.”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Yeah.  Right.”

Thomas L.:  “I suppose that people up there have enough of Klondike’s.”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Yeah.  We had camp-o-rees and stuff like that.  That was the only thing we never had.  We never had Klondike Derbies.”

Thomas L.:  “Did your troop do any high adventure?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “164 went to Philmont (Scout Ranch) several years.  We went to Maine High Adventure, this has to be in the 1970’s.  I took them to Maine High Adventure and a couple of years we went to Philmont.  I am too old for that now, that stuff.  That was good.  Now for high adventure we go on the canoe trek.  We (Troop 164) started that three years ago.  That is pretty good.

Mr. McQuillan:  “Me, I am getting ready to retire.  I keep on saying that.  I work here at the American Legion.  I am the Business Manager.  I fix things, too.  The American Legion here is the co-sponsor of 164.  We also sponsor Pack 251 at Thomas Jefferson.  They used to be sponsored by the Lutheran Church over there, Grace.  I do not know what the problem was, whatever, I never, so during the years I happened to know the District Executive and he says, “You want to sponsor a Pack?”  So now we sponsor Pack 251 for about five years now, I guess, about five years.”

Mr. McQuillan:  “You've got another (Eagle Scout) plaque for that?"

Thomas L.:  "Yeah."

Mr. McQuillan:  "This looks like one I made up.  This looks like my work.  Eagle Awards.  You know we used to be partners.  This looks like my work.  I am making a new plaque for 164 because that one is all filled so I made a bigger one, but I could only get 96 plates on it and we're up to 86 and I know I've got 4 more guys."

Margaret L.:  “Why do you think scouting is so strong in Yorktown?  It is unusual.  As I remember, the town of Yorktown has more troops and packs than any other community in the Council.  Why do you think scouting is so strong here?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Like I said before, you get a group of guys together and they support each other in scouting.  It is a camaraderie type of thing.  That is what I see.  Groups of scouts together and they go all through high school.  They are friends all year long, and scouting brings them together so they are not afraid about being harassed about being a scout and stuff like that.  The guy next to you is in the same troop as you.  That is what I see a lot of.”

Margaret L.:  “So, those guys are having fun enjoying the program and it sort of propagates itself.  New boys coming in see there is some strong troop spirit.”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Right, and the younger guys they are all in the same class in school and stuff like that.  That is what helps.  Most of our guys go to Yorktown schools.  We have got a couple of guys going to Kennedy (High School).  I think we got two guys going to Kennedy (High School).  Most of them go to Yorktown (High School).”

Margaret L.:  “We have a few that go in Putnam Valley, and the high school west of Lakeland, I can not remember it now.”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Is it Panas?”

Margaret L.:  “Yes.  Panas.  We have some that go to Panas, and we have got some boys from Garrison and Peekskill.  I do not know their high schools.  It is really interesting.  It is a community mixture.”

Mr. McQuillan:  “Yeah.  You are on that side of town that can draw from Putnam Valley and stuff like that.  Here it is just Yorktown High School.  It is too far to come from any place else.  The boys that go to Kennedy, they live close by."

Margaret L.:  “What was your Eagle project?”

Mr. McQuillan:  “What I remember is down on, you know where Saint Patrick’s (Catholic) Church is?  Down on Moseman Avenue?  Where the Grange is?  You keep on going down that road and up in the area, I guess there are all houses there now, there used to be big land up there.  It used to be owned by the Yorktown Sportsman’s Club.  What I did I planted trees up there, thousands of trees.

Mr. McQuillan was interviewed by:
    Thomas L., Troop Historian
    Margaret L., Troop Committee Member

Transcribed by Thomas L. and Margaret L.

Thomas L.
Troop Historian

Photo by Thomas L.

Boy Scout Troop 174, Yorktown, NY.