These Are Scouting’s Good Old Days


Recently my wife and I caught a movie we missed when it first came out. Called “Midnight in Paris,” it tells the story of a contemporary writer who gets to travel back in time to the Paris of the 1920s. When he gets there, he runs into all sorts of famous people, from Ernest Hemingway to Cole Porter to Salvador Dali, and pretty much thinks he’s in liberal-arts-major heaven.

But he also encounters a young woman who longs for the Belle Époque, the period around the turn of the 20th century that her parents and grandparents had lived through. As the two discuss which period is more idyllic, our hero gradually realizes that every generation looks back toward some “better” past. In doing so, they forget the bad things about their preferred time–like no penicillin and no air conditioning–and they fail to look around them at the wonders of the current age.

Which brings me to Boy Scouting.

I had a discussion earlier this year with a fellow Scouter about whether former Scouts or newcomers to the program make for better leaders. We didn’t come to a firm conclusion, but we did agree that the worst leaders may be those former Scouts who can’t stop pining for the good old days.

Of course, the Scouting program back then–whenever then was–wasn’t as perfect as they remember it to be. (Segregated camps, anyone?) Moreover, what worked a generation or two ago would probably not work as well today.

So who are the best leaders? Those who recognize, as Carly Simon once sang, that these are the good old days.

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at


3 thoughts on “These Are Scouting’s Good Old Days

  1. Dean Whinery

    Mark, Well said. However, some things might, indeed, have been better in “the god ol’ days”. Visited my favorite backwoods BSA camp recently: They’ve installed sidewalks, a water slide in the pool, abandoned patrol cooking in favor of meals delivered from a neighboring camp’s dining hall, all campsites are now fully car-accessible as oppposed to >Good Grief!< campers walking up to a quarter-mile with all their gear in a pack….

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