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Learn Wilderness Survival With Antonin Scalia's Former Boy Scout Troop

By Katie Honan | August 6, 2014 9:40am
 A photo of Troop 17 from 1915.
A photo of Troop 17 from 1915.
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Troop 17

ELMHURST — A century-old Boy Scout troop that once counted Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia among its members will celebrate its 100th anniversary with a festival this weekend that honors the past and future of scouting.

Troop 17 in Elmhurst will host its Scout Expo at the Queens Botanical Garden on Aug. 9 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., with events including rock climbing, foraging for food and an introduction of the new "sustainability" merit badge, one of the options of required badges to make Eagle Scout, the highest rank, which encourages scouts to think about the future of the environment.

The festival will also celebrate Troop 17's long history in Elmhurst, which was founded in 1914 with help from Daniel Carter Beard, who helped start the Boy Scouts of America with Troop 1 in Flushing.

Bob Williamson  one of more than 1,000 alumni of Troop 17 — first joined the Boy Scouts as a member of another troop but switched over after attending an upstate hike by Troop 17. 

Williamson, 75, was particularly impressed by the scout master's use of a tiny stove to make a roast beef, he said.

"As a 15-year-old, that really struck me," Williamson said.

The 100th anniversary celebration represents a "bygone" era, when there used to be 14 Boy Scout troops in Elmhurst alone, he said.

"This one is the last of the old troops. Neighborhoods change, things change," Williamson said.

Troop 17 once owned two schoolbuses it used to take road trips to places like the Grand Canyon. Now days, the kids have less time for extensive travel, Williamson said.

"The kids had less to do in the 50s and 60s," he said. "There were a lot more opportunities for a scout troop to fill the gaps."

Now, his troop — which counts around 20 kids as members — works to remain relevant. Events like the scouting expo helps, he said, even with the change.

"We don't wear funny hats anymore  although I've got mine," he said.

The Scouting Expo is held Saturday, Aug. 9 from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. at the Queens Botanical Garden, 43-50 Main St., Flushing.

It is included with the cost of admission to the garden, which is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors, $2 for students and children and free for Botanical Gardens members.