LOWGAP — Hundreds of scouts from around the region converged on the Raven Knob Scout Reservation this weekend, gathering for a celebration of the 85th anniversary of a beloved troop.
Young and old, members of Troop 538, based at the Mount Airy First Baptist Church, gathered for what organizers said would be an informal fellowship session.
“I have a history degree, and realized that the troop is 85 years old and no one had even mentioned it,” said current Assistant Scoutmaster and reunion Organizer Casey Culler. “So we decided to invite all former members to come out and get together.”
Culler said invitations went out both online and through word of mouth.
“I know that I’ve made over 140 phone calls, and we put the invitations up on Facebook, sent out emails and letters,” he said.
And for Culler, the bonds created in the troop are worth preserving.
“We have a really strong history,” he said as he looked around a room filled with young and old scouts. “We’re the oldest troop in the 10-county Old Hickory Council, and this troop has over 260 years of leadership experience, so there is an unequaled history and knowledge.”
The event was less structured than many other scouting events, Culler said, noting that was on purpose.
“We structured the agenda loosely to allow plenty of time for fellowship, stories and memory sharing,” he said, noting that activities included a tour of the camp, which has undergone many improvements in recent years; a hike to the top of Raven Knob and a large campfire. “This is designed to be an informal way for us who love the troop and love scouting to get together and celebrate our rich history.”
Culler said there were families gathering for the reunion with multiple generations represented.
“We have families here where the grandfather was a troop member, the father was a member and the son is a member,” he said. “Troop 538 is definitely a family, and this is more of a family reunion than anything.”
One of those families was the Hull family, represented by grandfather Paul “Bones” Hull, father Ed Hull and son and Eagle Scout Zack Hull.
Ed Hull, who traveled to the event from his home in Virginia, said when his son was old enough to join scouting, there was only one troop to join.
“This troop is very important to me and my family,” he said as he and his son worked to prepare for the campfire event. “It teaches boys important life skills and there was no other group I wanted him to belong to. Troop 538 is truly a part of my family.”
For George Speight, who joined the troop in 1943, the reunion was a homecoming.
“To let you know how things were when I joined at age 13, our scouting project was to go out and collect scrap metal and carry it off for recycling for the war effort,” he said, fondly rubbing his first scouting hat as today’s scouts looked over his 1940s-era Boy Scout Handbook.
“I’ve always been interested in scouting, but when I heard about this reunion, I knew I just had to come,” Speight added.
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.