Boy Scouts (1980s)

Two of my characters start cub scouts when they’re 7 or 8, in 1979 or 1980, and get very intensely into scouting, with the goal of earning all the merit badges. They’re in Kansas, if it matters.

Wikipedia has been very helpful to me on the topic of which merit badges were actually available at the time, so I think I’m okay on that front. But I was never a boy scout, so I don’t know what else scouting involves.

  • What is it like to be a very serious (i.e. not casual) boy scout?
  • What parts of the scouting experience would you consider to be essential, so that a story that didn’t include them would tip you off that the author doesn’t have personal experience?

Are we talking about cub scouts in 1979 or boy scouts in the mid or late 80s?

In any event, the big merit badges you’re almost expected to get are First Aid, Camping, the various Citizenship badges, Lifesaving, Orienteering, and Swimming. Oh, and Hiking.

They’ll also be wanting badges from the various camps and activities. Fifty Miler was a big one.

Cub scouts 1979-1984 and boy scouts 1984-1990, if I have my dates right.

IIRC, cub scouts don’t earn merit badges, but pins. Most of their work involves trying to get to the next rank. The ranks are different today than they were when I was a cub scout back in the 70s. We had bobcat, wolf, and bear. Now there seems to be a lion rank, which I believe was also in use back in the 60s, but it might not have been used during your time period.

ETA: Tiger. It’s tiger now, from a quick search. But there was (again IIRC) a lion rating back in the day. Our regional scoutmaster used to tell us that he was one when he was a kid like us, so maybe your characters’ scoutmasters might have a similar tale.

What was essential for serious scouts? A parent–usually the father–who was also seriously into scouting, probably by being a scoutmaster or some other BSA leader. All the serious scouts I’ve known were either pushed or pulled along by a parent who was part of the org.

I think the BSA site, Wikipedia, and others I’ve looked at have given me a decent idea of how cub scout pins and boy scout merit badges work and the requirements for each of them. It’s everything else about scouting that I don’t know about. :slight_smile:

I’ll need to double check the ranks at the time, I guess.

Going for Eagle Scout! It takes years and lots of work - we’re involved with this right now with my boy scouts. It gets mentioned frequently and IDK about the 80’s, but now they have an involved ceremony when someone earns it with speakers talking about all the hard work put into it, pictures, displays about their project, encouragement for other scouts to do this as well, and cake after. It’s a big deal. Even if they don’t want to go for Eagle, it will get mentioned.

1 Like

They’re the most overachieving overachievers ever, so not only are they going for Eagle Scout, they’re also going to earn every merit badge (which less than 500 boy scouts have achieved).

What’s it like to be a boy scout? I know that there’s more to it than merit badges and awards ceremonies, but I don’t really know what else there is. I don’t think my characters just working through the list of merit badges will give a very accurate picture of what it’s like to be a scout.