Troop 174

Irving Breitbart's Memories of 1978-1984
May 21, 2005


Irving Breitbart

I was Troop 174's second Scoutmaster from July 1978 to July 1984.  I am an Eagle Scout, and the father of Eagle Scout Howard Breitbart.  While I was Scoutmaster, every boy in the troop who was a senior in high school achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.  Also, at one time during the years I was Scoutmaster there were over 70 boys in our troop.

The troop was chartered in 1974, with the Grace Lutheran Church as its sponsor.  During the late 1980s the troop moved to the Elks Lodge located on Waverly Road because the church was beginning a renovation program.  However, the Elks’ sponsorship did not last long because some of the older members of the lodge complained that the scouts made too much noise.  The troop then moved to Thomas Jefferson Elementary School for a short time, under the sponsorship of Grace Lutheran Church, until the renovations were completed, at which time it moved back to the church.

When I was Chairman of the Westchester chapter of NESA (National Eagle Scout Association), I organized a county-wide Westchester County Scout Government Day in White Plains with the support of Andrew O'Rourke, the County Executive.  About 300 Boy Scouts participated and all of the Eagle Scouts from Troop 174 played a major part in running it.  They took the parts of County Executive as well as heads of all the departments in the county.  The heads of each of the departments took the scouts to lunch after which they reported to the County Legislative Chambers and discussed the problems that they had for the day.  All in all the boys had a great experience and learned much about the county government.

When the news broke in the newspapers about the Westchester Scout Government Day we received a telephone call from the County Executive of Putnam County asking when we were going to have this event in Putnam.  Low and behold we had to schedule an event the very next week for those scouts who lived in Putnam County.  These Scout Government days went on for a couple of years until the Eagle Scouts from Troop 174 went off to college.

Winter camping was an exciting event for the boys of the troop.  Every year we made sure that we went up to Camp Siwanoy (in Wingdale, New York) for a weekend of winter cabin camping.  The boys from the Senior Patrol were the ones who usually ran this event, which included the cooking and putting on a skit for the dinner meal.  On one weekend the Senior boys wanted to do an Italian theme.  This consisted of Italian cooking for dinner and an Italian skit.  The boys came out dressed as Italian waiters (with towels on their arms) to take the orders and then served dinner.  The scouts all liked these experiences and would usually talk about them when they got back home.  Almost all of the troop participated in these weekends at Siwanoy.

Ken Powers, known as "Chainsaw Charlie,” used to bring his chainsaw up there and cut the wood up.  The kids would bring it up to the cabin.  We got yelled at one year because we stacked up so much wood against the wall (which we left there) that we closed up the entire end of the cabin.  That is how much wood we stacked up.  We had a ball!  The kids loved it, coming up for that.

The West Point Camporee (Scoutmaster's Council Invitational Camporee) was another big event for the troop.  Since one of the troop's former scouts (Carl Ohlson) was attending the Academy (United States Military Academy) as a cadet, we were able to obtain an invitation to this event for the four years that he was there.  Subsequently we were able to make contact with other cadets and the troop was able to attend the Camporee continually through 1990.

Summer camping, the big highlight of the year, included several trips to Canada for a week and trips to Boston, Battleship Cove (Fall River, Massachusetts), and Washington, D.C.  During our trip to Canada we planned our transportation by car pooling and going up in caravans.  The camping was done at government installations in New York State and then at Canadian scout camps and trailer parks.  The tour usually consisted of visitations to Toronto, Montreal, Quebec and Niagara Falls on the way back.  The boys enjoyed good home cooking by the fathers present, including steak for dinner.

At Battleship Cove Kenny Powers and a number of the boys ended up climbing on the 16 inch guns.  Over the loud speakers we heard the comments, "Get off the 16 inch guns!"  We also went to the Naval Ship Yards, the submarine base in Groton (Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut -- the U. S. Navy's first submarine base) and Henry Chuney, he was a sailor, said, “Oh, we are finally getting down to a place where we are going to have good food.”  However, when we got there we only had beans and franks!

On one of the camping trips to Canada with Kenny Powers, Kenny had said that if we tied him up he would be able to get out of it.  However, one of the fathers was a cop and had a set of handcuffs.  We put one of them on Kenny's wrists and we were going to lock it onto the top rack of the car when the father said, "Oh! I do not have a key!"  So we are stuck with him with one handcuff on and one without.  We had the CB's (citizen band radios) at the time, and we caught a Mountie (Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman) going by.  We started to come up with some story that hey, we caught an escaped convict and all of this.  We finally ended up telling him the truth and he was chuckling.  Luckily his key opened up the handcuffs.

On one of our trips to Washington, D.C. we were not able to get space at a military installation, but I was able to pull some strings and got Walter Reed Hospital as the base location for our stay.  We had a whole wing set for us.  The kids had a ball on that one!  Meals were eaten in the hospital mess hall with a minimum expense.

We also did other camping at the Field Home (in Cortlandt Manor, New York) where we had our own camp site in the woods.  Tarmo Maggie was the Scoutmaster at Troop 164 at the time.  He worked at the Field Home and gave us a camp site there, which we constantly improved.  Tarmo used to like to come down at night and tell scary stories to some of the kids.  His stories were unbelievable!  The boys were really shaking in their boots, but it was all in fun!

For our Eagle Courts of Honor I would try to get a West Point Eagle Scout to come down and take part in the ceremonies.  We used to do ours on a Saturday or Sunday.  I always asked the parent of the Eagle Scout to have a doggy bag for the cadet to take back to West Point.  That food never lasted very long when they got up there, I can tell you that much.  These kids are a bunch of chow hounds.  They will eat you out of house and home.  The other thing is that I think that I conducted every single Court of Honor in this troop from 1974 I would say up until in the 1990's.

Another activity was fishing.  We used to charter a boat out of City Island, and we would buy Kentucky Fried Chicken and have the scouts and some parents just go out fishing.  We would go out to Long Island Sound.  It never cost the kids any money.  The troop picked up the tab.

I tried to have a program that the kids would enjoy, and that was the main thing I wanted, for them to enjoy and have a ball, and we did.  We really had a blast here.  To me this was the best troop in town.

Photo by James L.

Boy Scout Troop 174, Yorktown, NY.