Troop 174

Horbatuk's and Landsman's Memories of 1990-1998
Jan. 3, 2004

Denis Horbatuk                                                       Robert Landsman


Denis Horbatuk

Mr. Horbatuk was Troop 174's Scoutmaster from July 1990 to January 1993.

Robert Landsman

Mr. Landsman was Troop 174's Scoutmaster from February 1995 to December 1998.

Mr. Horbatuk and Mr. Landsman were interviewed by:
    Thomas L., Troop Historian
    Margaret L., Troop Committee Member
    James L., Troop Committee Member

Mr. Horbatuk:  “My name is Denis Horbatuk.  I have been with the troop since 1988.  I started out as an Assistant Scoutmaster.  Along the way after a few years I became Scoutmaster.  We really had a good troop, and I do not know what else you want to know.”

Thomas L.:  “Do you have any stories?”

Mr. Horbatuk:  “Oh, we have plenty of stories. We went to quite a few places.  We were always an active troop.  We went to Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian, we stayed on Governor's Island quite a bit. That was one of our starting trips where we did the southern Manhattan historical trail.  We used to stay on Fort Hamilton, and then our latest area was staying on the Coast Guard at Governor's Island.  Through the years we started summer camp.  At one point we were not going to summer camp and then we hooked up with Troop 164, and we were able to go to summer camp because we jointly used our leadership, and we have been camping with them every summer for the last, almost 20 years.”

Thomas L.:  “Feel free to give us any stories in detail, and talk about them.”

Mr. Horbatuk:  “I had some really classic scouts.  We had some scouts that always had a black cloud around their head, wherever they went they wound up in trouble, including my son.  Both my sons were in the troop, Nicholas Horbatuk and Denis Horbatuk, Denis Horbatuk being the oldest. The first year that Denis was in they were doing a District Camporee, and there used to be a troop (patrol), a super-eagle troop (patrol), that was in Troop 174.  Anybody that hears this, back in the early 80s, they were the super patrol.  They would win everything, and they actually were looking for somebody to do lashing, and my son Denis was a very good lasher, and they took him under their wing, and from that point on he was a qualified member of the troop (patrol).  We had quite a few, like I said, classic scouts.  I was telling a story before about me being up at one end of camp and then the other kids down in the other (end of) camp.  And I wound up with my tent always being knocked down, and my clothes in the woods, and I swore I would get ‘em (in a fun way).  And the night before we were supposed to leave I got them.  They had visitors all night long, raccoons, chipmunks, I sabotaged their tent, I sabotaged an alternate tent, and they were there all night long with the little critters of Camp Read.  We went up to, like I said, we traveled all over, we did Boston, we did Washington, D.C., we did Virginia, we did Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.  We did a lot of historical trails.  We also did the Salem Witches Trail.  We traveled all over and stayed at many military bases.  But, overall we had a good time all the time, and we have always had clean fun, and we have always had good scouts in the troop.”

Margaret L.:  “Where were the troop meetings?”

Mr. Horbatuk:  “The troop originally started out on Route 202 over at the Elks Club right off of 202 (Granite Springs Road and Route 202).  The Elks were our sponsor originally and then what they did was the original place burned down and they rebuilt the Elks Club so they more or less dropped us and we started going over to Grace Lutheran Church at that point.  Our meetings were not originally at Grace Lutheran.  They were up at Thomas Jefferson (Elementary) School every Wednesday night.  Then when Pastor Kennedy got more involved with Grace Lutheran then we started doing more and more scout meetings there.  We also had an individual, Dale Saltzman.  We were doing Midnight Runs.  He got the older boys involved where we would cook meals and make sandwiches, and bring them down to the city (New York City) and do Midnight Runs.  He was a very unique individual.”

Margaret L.:  “He is still active with the troop.”

Mr. Horbatuk:  “Yes, he is.  He was our spiritual leader.  He was into different (American) Indian type history and the nature aspect of conservation.  He started doing a lot of world conservation type things.  He was a good guy.  There was a lot of people who went through the troop who are still involved in the troop that are very dedicated.”

Thomas L.:  “Any special stories?  Some things that turned out really well, and some things were not supposed to happen?”

Mr. Horbatuk:  “Well, we always tried to get the boys to do things for themselves.  When I first got involved with the troop most of the adults did all the cooking.  After I got involved we more or less made it a competition on them creating budgets, going out and buying their food.  Every Thursday night before a campout we would go out and I used to give awards to the patrol that came closest to their budget without going over.  Plus they were also in competition with what the adults were doing.  One March we were up at Clear Lake in four inches of snow and I was cooking corned beef and cabbage for Saint Patty’s (Patrick’s) Day.  We were doing corned beef and cabbage.  All the kids had to do a hot meal and it could not be hot dogs or hamburgers.  It had to be a meal.  It was kind of funny because you could smell the corned beef and cabbage throughout the woods.  There was a group up there from Manhattan.  The troop leader came over and he says, “Do not tell me that is what I smell!”  We invited him and his group over for dinner.  We had some interesting ordeals.  We went up to (Camp) Siwanoy one year and we did a lot of cooking and everything else.  There was a Girl Scout troop up there.  All the older guys wound up over at the Girl Scout troop.  They wound up inviting the girls over for dessert, so we always had cakes and everything else.  They (the girls) were very impressed.  The girls said, “I cannot believe this is what you are eating and all this other food and everything else.”  So we outdid them there.  We had a lot of good times!”

Mr. Horbatuk:  “Bad times?  Going up to a West Point Camporee (United States Military Academy Annual Scoutsmaster's Council Invitational Camporee) in six inches of mud.  Getting washed out and being down and washing sleeping bags and everything else and bringing the kids home and the kids being on the front porches of their houses or in their garages taking off all their clothes because they were covered in mud.  Good times?  Hey, you know they are all good times as bad as they are.”

Mr. Landsman:  “People learned a lot.  One of the experiences that I had as Scoutmaster is learning from Denis and taking some of the traditions that Denis and his predecessor, Fred Paniccia, had.  Going back to the cooking, we used to make it a competition.  You could not have tin foil dinners.  You could not just do hot dogs and hamburgers you had to think about a menu and actually cook.  What most people do not realize is that you can do corned beef and cabbage, you can also do peach cobbler in a Dutch oven.  There is nothing to doing corned beef and cabbage other than boiling water.  It is a big concept.  We would have linguine and clam sauce.  Again, it is boiling water.  It is spaghetti.  We wanted to get the guys to think outside the box and do things on their own and that is what created a lot of the good times and a lot of the good memories that a lot of these kids have today.  It is just basically doing things that are different and fun that you can do all this stuff out in the woods, but you do not need a stove to do it.  They can lash tables together, lash the trees, actually lash the seat of a latrine.  We have done all those kinds of things as well.  Now the emphasis is on low impact camping.  It was not back then.  It was refrigerator pits that we used to build.  It was kind of bring everything but the kitchen sink and you were allowed to bring that, too.”

Mr. Horbatuk:  “The best patrol meal though was my son, Denis, and his senior patrol there.  They wound up; their budget was $25 a person for the weekend.  They had lobster tails and filet mignon for dinner.  Then they had baked clams and all these fancy hors d’oeuvres.  It was $25 a person.  It was what they chose to do.  It was the fanciest thing that I have seen them do, so it was pretty cool.  The kids had a ball.  That is one time that they beat us in their meals because they had filet mignon and lobster tails.  It was good!  Like Bob (Landsman) was saying it is holding the traditions.  Like I was telling Chris Long before that this is the tenth year we have been doing Garrison (Fish and Game Club).  I have been doing it ten years.  It was the things that you carry on as a tradition.  This was always a great weekend.  I am glad I am part of it."

Margaret L.:  “Mr. Landsman mentioned the difference between low impact camping and the other style of camping that you guys used to do.  Are there any other changes that have occurred that are significant in the scouting program since you began, either in Cub or Boy Scouts?”

Mr. Horbatuk:  “My feeling is always the same.  No matter how or what changes are being made or whatever it is doing, it is trying to teach the youth the ability to be self-sufficient.  To have confidence in themselves in to doing things and to not being afraid to take a chance to do something.  It is building a character that you will never forget in your life.  I was involved in scouts when I was younger.  I got back involved when my kids were younger.  Some of their greatest memories are of the scouts.  So whether it is low impact camping or high impact camping what we used to call tailgate type camping where you bring everything.  We have had people that wanted to bring generators on camp outs.  It is all good stuff.  No matter what you learn and I have run into kids that are 30 years old now – 30, 35 years old - and I had them when I was Scoutmaster in Boy Scouts and they always reflect on those things.  It is something you cannot get back.  I do not know if Bob (Landsman) has anything else to add.”

Margaret L.:  “Why did you become a Scoutmaster?”

Mr. Horbatuk:  “It is a good question.  At the point somebody had to come forward and do it.  At the time I wanted to do it.  It is a very difficult thing.  It is like anybody else that volunteers time.  Why?  That is a tough question.  I really cannot answer that.  There was no selfish reasons or whatever.  Somebody was needed at the time and I stepped forward.  It is a tough question.”

Margaret L.:  “It took so much of your personal time and your family time.  In retrospect now that years have passed, are you glad that you did it?”

Mr. Horbatuk:
”Sure!  Sure!  My wife was very involved in it.  Not as involved as I was once they got older.  She went from the Cubbing program.  She did her summer day camp and scout camp down in Yonkers and then later on up in Durland.  So she spent her summertime up there.  It is something that you want to do.  You cannot force anybody to do it.”

Margaret L.:  “Do you have a fondest memory?”

Mr. Horbatuk:  “They are all fond.  Every time I went out I did something that I normally would not have done.  I normally would not have went on a lot of these different treks or spending time . . . every time that I was out camping with the kids they were always fun.  Something always came up, and we always had a good time doing it.  I really cannot pick out one specific thing.”

Mr. Landsman:  “I can!  I find this memory, quite honestly, seeing some kid came into the troop right out of Webelos real bashful, real shy, not thinking that he could survive on his own, and then watch him go through Tenderfoot, and Second Class, and become a First Class Scout, and now he is got confidence and he is Patrol Leader and can now teach some other shy, young scout coming in that is just as scared as he was, and that is what made it worthwhile for me.  Quite honestly the merit badges and the Star and the Life and even the Eagle Scouts, I was proud of them, too, but I was more proud of the kids that got to First Class because that is where they wanted to be.  They did not want to go any higher.  They just wanted to go out and have a good time and they knew that if they had to they could take care of themselves.  That was why I did it.  That was really what it was all about.  It was not about as Denis said, all the memories are fine, but take one kid that took a garbage bag and you had to help them even with it, help them out with it, and to see him a couple of years later become a patrol leader and show people how to pack a pack, and realize that Dale had a big impact on their lives.  Everything that they did along the way groomed them into growing up a little.  That is what made it worthwhile.  Making it.  Nothing more.”

Thomas L.:  “I've got a question.  How did the (annual Garrison) peanut fight start coming about?  Did you get to start it?”

Mr. Landsman:  “That was Mr. Long.”

Mr. Horbatuk:  “That was Mr. Long.”

Mr. Long:  “...They are boys, and they should be having fun!”

Mr. Landsman:  “I do not know the answer to that other than we had peanuts one year and somewhere along the line when the lights went out peanuts started flying and nobody knew where they were coming from or who they were aimed at or where they were going to, but there they were.  So it became a tradition.  I guess one of the nice things about this particular troop versus a lot of the others is that we try different things.  We are open to suggestions and do different things that are new.  Chris is doing that now.  Denis did some things in his time that were new and different.  Everybody said, “Well, I do not know about that,” and they became traditions.  I did some, and now Chris is doing some.  That is what makes it exciting is that if you talk to the kids who were here ten and fifteen years ago they did totally different things that the kids are doing today, and that is good.  We continue to do certain things, but you can change.  Do something different next year.  Part of that is getting the parents involved, too.  You have got to have parental support because the Scoutmaster cannot do it all.”

Thomas L.:  “What do you think of the website?”

Mr. Landsman:  “I think it is great.  I think there is a technology that has come of age that I know when I was Scoutmaster I used to make sure, it was a big joke, that there was a little space in your uniform pocket and there was a space for a pen.  I used to go around and I used to bust chops to make sure everyone had a pen and everybody had a little pad in their pocket.  When I would go over when their troop meetings were, when the next campouts were, when money was due, I would make sure that they would write it down.  So now with the website you do not have to do that.  It is right there in front of you, but that technology was not there and we did not have the expertise in the troop to make a website.  I think that that is terrific.  There is a whole lot more information on that site than any Scoutmaster can give out, and quite honestly than any scout can absorb even if you did give him that.  Because now you can look at it and go back and look at it and go back and look at it.  I think it is terrific.  That is a major improvement and I am glad we have it.  Thank you both for doing it.”

James L.:  “Why did you become a Scoutmaster?”

Mr. Landsman:  “I have always been in scouts.  I was a scout myself.  I had a great time.  I had two sons and actually I got involved in Scouting early.  My wife was a den leader in Cub Scouts.  Her thing was the Cub Scouts.  It was not my thing.  I do not have the patience for the arts and crafts, and the very small attention span of the younger kids.  I know it is just not my thing.  I would rather go out and go camping, cooking, fishing, and whatever else we do.  I wanted to get involved because I enjoy the program.  I think it is a worthwhile program and compared to what else is out there I think that more parents ought to get involved in it with their boys.  You are talking to Denis (Horbatuk) and I and neither of us have a kid in the troop anymore we are still here.  Why is that?”

James L.  “How did you change things when you became Scoutmaster?”

Mr. Landsman:  “I think a lot of the challenges that every Scoutmaster encompasses is a lack of parental support.  It was the problem in the troop when I took over.  There were a lot of groups (parents) that were doing everything with any organization and I just decided that I did not want to be involved in a troop that was like that.  (Either) the parents got involved, or go find another troop.  I did not have time, the energy, or the ambition to sit there and baby-sit a bunch of kids.  If the parents were not going to get involved and they were not committed to the program then the only thing that would work for me.  So the bottom line is that I decided that I was going to get the parents involved and today we have more parents registered than we have boys.  I think that there is a reason for that.  The reason that a lot of the kids go through with the program is that their parents were involved and they are supportive, and they understand that they are an integral part of what is happening in this troop.  I do not know if that answers your question or not.  I just think that was one of the biggest changes that I made coming in is I wanted at least one parent to register or the kid was not registered.  It got parents involved right from the get-go, and they understood that they needed to stay involved if their son was going to stay involved.”

Thomas L.:  “What was Camp Read like when you were a Scoutmaster?”

Mr. Landsman:  “I think Camp Read has not changed all that much other than it has certainly added some things, the ropes and some of the high adventure.  I went to Camp Read as a scout.  In fact I used to stay in Ranger (Ranger campsite in Camp Buckskin at Read Scout Reservation).  So I have fond memories of the camp.  I think that it is very well run.  It is an excellent camp.  It certainly has had its challenges over the years.  There was one year when we registered and because we register with (Troop) 164 and historically either our numbers are up and theirs are down or theirs are up and ours are down and we all fit in the site.  Well, we got up to the site and there was just no way they could accommodate us because both our troop numbers were up.  I was a little annoyed at the camp because we ended up staying at Little Big Horn (campsite in Camp Buckskin) that year because there was not enough room in Ranger.  We got it resolved and they added some more platforms and tents in Ranger and made Ranger bigger.  Somehow they bent over backwards and helped us, and we have never had a problem since.  So I think that Council has been receptive.  Sometimes the squeaky wheel needs to get oil, and I was the squeaky wheel.”

Margaret L.:  “You said that you were a scout as a youth.  How has the scouting program changed since you were a youth and today?”

Mr. Landsman:  “I do not think it has changed fundamentally.  I think that some of the basics have changed.  I seem to recall when I was a scout we spent much, much more time on knots and fundamentals versus having a good time.  My basic philosophy was if you are not having a good time, no matter what you are doing, it is not going to keep your interest.  So, you want to vary the program for the youth and basically you want all of the fundamentals to be learned.  There are certain things that you need to know, but you have got to make it fun!  Not everything has to be scout related, I mean it is just about boys 11 to 18 getting together and having a good time together when they have nothing to do in scouting.  We used to go to the Coast Guard base on Governor's Island when it was a Coast Guard base and yes, we would take a hike and do some of the trail that is in southern Manhattan, but for the most part it was a good time, similar to Garrison.  There really is not a lot of redeeming scout value of why we come here.  But you know something, that is not what is important.  What is important is the guys getting together, getting to know each other, getting to work together as a team a little bit better, so when we do go on a Camporee or something like that, there is more of a cohesion.  There has got to come a point in time when you just have fun.  We used to walk down through Chinatown, New York (City), to see the tree in Rockefeller Center, ride the subway, and just do a lot of the things that a lot of the kids around here do not get to do.  They do not ride subways.  They do not have them.  They do not do that.  Riding subways a lot of the time was the first time for a lot of the kids.  It is no redeeming scout value in that other than just having a Buddy System knowing where your partner is, and going out and having a good time doing something different that you will remember in your scouting experience.  If we just sat there and did knots all the time you would not stay and you would not enjoy it.”

Margaret L.:  “Tell us something about the boys who were in the troop.  What are they doing nowadays?“

Mr. Landsman:  “Well, some of them are still in school, some of them are in college, some of them are out and graduated college and they are doing financial planning.  Some of them are police officers.  Some of them are mechanics.  Some of them are still trying to find what they really want to do.  It is just a combination.  I hope that whatever experience they had in scouts would help them in whatever they are doing today, no matter what that is.  I hope that they rely on some of the things that they learned.  If I had a part in teaching them any one of those then it was a success and I am glad they went through it.  I know I am glad I did it, but I also hope that they turned out something out of it.  I am very appreciative of the Dale’s of the world who gave all of these kids their start and love of the outdoors because he is a genuine outdoor person and he just loves what he does and it comes through.  His son has been out of scouts, he was there I think for the last two years I was in the troop.  The bottom line is he does not have a kid in scouts and he still does this because he loves to do it.  We just need more people like that.  It is not a question of what are these kids doing today and those are some of the ones who I know of.  I do not know where some of the other ones are, but I think that they are all better people for having gone through the program.  I hope so anyway.  Anything else?”

Thomas L.:  “Did you have any high adventure trips, sort of like a 50 mile canoe trek or anything like that?

Mr. Landsman:  “No.  We started the whitewater rafting actually, going down the Delaware (River) and then we ended up going down, I guess it was the Susquehanna (River) or something; I do not know exactly what it was.  No, actually, and I think that is one of the things that Chris (Long) is really good at I was not, in taking a lot of those types of things.  When I came in as Scoutmaster it was kind of after a transition period in the troop when it had gone from very high enrollment of 50, 60, 70 kids and we were down at one point to about 18. We were not doing a whole lot to recruit out of Cub Scouts....  (I explained to the Packs that the feeder system was) non-existant.. It used to be that if you belonged to this Pack, then this is the Troop that you went to. But you really should not do that to join a troop.  I spent a lot of time going to Packs and speaking to the Cubmasters trying to get people to look at different Troops and choose which program of their choice was more to their liking.  Honestly, if they chose us that was great.  If they did not, then if the kid continued in scouting I was happy.  I did not care where he went, but look at different Troops because every Troop is doing something different, whereas one of the questions that you asked before, when I was a scout you came out of one Pack and you went into that Troop.  That was all you did.  You did not look at any place else.  If that Troop did not do what you were interested in then you either accepted it and you joined, or you just kind of ignored it, but it was not a choice.  So I think that it is important today, that a lot of these Packs do not realize, that there is a choice, and that is one of the things that I spent a lot of my time doing.  So we built the Troop back up again from having a tough time recruiting from Packs to not necessarily having a tough time recruiting from the Packs.”

Thomas L.:  “How were the troop positions . . . how did the Librarian do, how did the Historian do?”

Mr. Landsman:  “You know I think it depends on the individual.  Certainly some people did a great job, and there were some other people that did a good job.  Let us put it that way.  I am not sure that anybody was doing a bad job.  It is a tough job when you do not know what you are doing.  I think that different people look at that position of leadership differently.  The ones who take it seriously do a great job.  The ones who are just doing it because they need to have a certain amount of leadership positions do not do as well.  I think that every position is important it is just how much you want to put into it.”

Margaret L.:  “The troop meetings started off at Thomas Jefferson (Elementary School)?”

Mr. Landsman:  “Yes, we started off at Thomas Jefferson.  Basically it was the closest to Grace Lutheran.  At the time the church did not have room for us.  As the troop evolved, and as the budgets of the school district went into an austerity program, basically I had a Cub leader who decided that she wanted to have meetings on Thursday nights with her Cub Scouts at Thomas Jefferson and happened to get to the school before I did.  ... (The school meeting room was rescheduled in competition with other groups) every year so we had to either change the time or change the night or find a different place.  That is kind of how we ended up meeting at George Washington (Elementary School).  And then more and more of the kids started coming from the other side of town if you will, not necessarily Yorktown.  That is how we ended up at George Washington.  There was no other reason but that.”

Transcribed by Thomas L. and Margaret L.

Thomas L.
Troop Historian

Photos by James L.

Boy Scout Troop 174, Yorktown, NY.