Catonsville Troop 306 celebrates 100th year

Members of Catonsville Boy Scout Troop 306 posed for a group photo 60 years ago while at Broad Creek Lake Front row: Ted Johnson (1956 Eagle Scout), Steve Peters, Ralph Ditch, Tom Myers, Tom Appler, unknown, Dick Kittridge (1957 Eagle Scout), Gordon Hammersla, Bill Schuman. Middle row: Carroll Hahn, Bill Woolston, Dennis Stein, Myron Wheeler, Bill Clark, John Youle (1952 Eagle Scout), Art Clark Back row: Scoutmaster Dick Kiefer (1929 Eagle Scout), Ed Yingling, Bob Bragg, Lee Swift (Eagle Scout), Art Dryer (Eagle Scout), John Baker, Ray Gunderstorf and Scoutmaster Chan Easton. (Photo courtesy of Troop 306 / September 18, 2012)

In 1911, America was a much different place. President William Howard Taft was in the White House, and baseball was the national pastime. There were no National Football League games on Sunday, Monday or Thursday, because there was no NFL.

That same year, a Boy Scouts of America troop was founded in Catonsville.

On Sunday, what is believed to be the oldest Scout troop in the nation will celebrate its 100th anniversary when current and former members of Catonsville Troop 306 gather at Patapsco Valley State Park. There is no admission charge for the event, which is scheduled for 1-5 p.m.

"We are the first troop ever to request 100-year identification bars from the national office," said Dennis Gray, chairman of the committee that planned the Sept. 23 100th anniversary picnic celebration. "The troop actually lapsed for a year, so that's why we're celebrating in 2012 instead of 2011."

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Gray expects more than 200 former members of the troop, which is based at Catonsville Presbyterian Church, to attend the celebration.

"The alumni have been very enthusiastic about it," he said. "This program has withstood the test of time. It will be an afternoon of memories, social interaction, and stories being exchanged. "

Gray, a 65-year-old resident of Ellicott City, witnessed firsthand the benefits of Scouting through his two sons. Jason, now 33, and Brian, now 24, spent many years in the program and both earned the rank of Eagle Scout. They are among more than 100 members of the troop who have attained the highest rank in Scouting, beginning with Dick Kiefer in 1929.

"Being with my sons and sharing their experiences was one of the best segments of my life," said Gray, a real estate portfolio manager who is still involved in Troop 306 activities. "The camaraderie and the opportunity to see kids develop into solid citizens have kept me involved."

Ted Johnson grew up in Troop 306 and became an Eagle Scout in 1956.

Johnson, who later became a Scoutmaster, remains active in the organization after 65 years in the program. He said he is excited about the prospect of seeing so many faces from the past at Sunday's event.

"I haven't seen a lot of these people, and will get the chance to renew old friendships," he said.

He and his wife, Glenda, are both members of Catonsville Presbyterian and have served as the liaisons between the church and Troop 306.

Known as CORs (Chartered Organization Representatives), the Johnsons are responsible for all communications from the troop to the church's ministers, the Rev. Kenneth Kovacs and Dorothy Boulton.

The couple have also helped raise more than $11,000 for a scouting scholarship fund in memory of two former Scout leaders.

"We believe in the ideals and values of scouting," said Glenda Johnson, a former Girl Scout.

"Without Catonsville Presbyterian, there wouldn't be a troop," she said. "The church not only provides a place to meet, but also gives the troop an opportunity to sell Christmas trees on the grounds during the holiday season. That's very helpful to the troop, because the tree sale is our major fundraiser."

More than camping trips

Though no longer an active Scout, Catonsville native Andrew MacLeod plans to attend Sunday's celebration.

MacLeod joined the program in 1991 at age 6. He moved through the program, and at 18 earned the rank of Eagle Scout. His uncle, Richard Decker, is also an Eagle Scout from the troop.

MacLeod said he is grateful for the role Scouting played in his personal growth.