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Boy Scouts in Govans hold their 75th anniversary

No. 133 thought to be one of longest continuously run troops in Baltimore

By Larry Perl, lperl@patuxent.com

4:09 PM EDT, April 17, 2012

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Larry Smith was a member of Boy Scout Troop 133 in 1939. Smith, now 83 and a retired insurance agent, was the oldest member in attendance Sunday at St. Mary's of the Assumption Catholic Church as the Govans troop celebrated its 75th anniversary as one of the Baltimore area's longest, continuously running Boy Scout troops.

Catonsville troop 306 will celebrate its 100th continuous year in September, but that doesn't diminish Troop 133's accomplishment, said Dennis Gray, chairman of Troop 306's Centennial Picnic Committee.

"Tell the members of Troop 133 we extend our congratulations for their longevity," Gray said in an email April 16. "We at Troop 306 have been blessed like Troop 133 with strong leadership and sponsorship. Both are records that need to be celebrated."

The 15 current Scouts of Troop 133 and dozens of former Scouts —- many up in years — wore Boy Scout uniforms. They also provided memorabilia, ranging from binoculars from the 1920s to campfire cookware from the 1950s, which was displayed on two tables in the church hall.

"I'm surprised they kept all this stuff," said Smith, of Govans. He still remembered cooking in such pans in his day — "potatoes, probably," he said, laughing.

The church was a fitting setting for a special Mass in the troop's honor, and the hall, where the troop meets on Friday nights, was the logical place for a reception afterward. The St. Mary's parish has nurtured Troop 133 through the years, and its former longtime school was a magnet for recruiting new Scouts.

But the school was a casualty of the economy in 2009 when the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore closed it to save money. That has hurt the troop's membership.

This year, Scoutmaster John Davis recruited children from Baltimore's nearby DeWees Recreation Center. He waived the $25 troop registration fee, in an effort to boost membership.

Troop 133's membership has dwindled, even as membership for 52,000 Boy Scouts in the Baltimore area has grown by two to four percent a year in the past 10 years, said Ethan Draddy, CEO and Scout executive for the Wyman Park-based Baltimore Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

Govans is among 12 neighborhoods in Baltimore that have been chosen for a council initiative to start new Cub Scout packs as a way to seed scouting, he said.

But Draddy said the success of scouting is dependent on the passion of volunteers like Davis, who was not a Scout himself, but whose son was.

Davis, who also coaches varsity football at his alma mater, Mount St. Joe's High School, and does sales and marketing training, said he believes in scouting as "a form of prayer."

"My job is to prepare (Scouts) to enter the world as a good man," he said. "They need to learn that."

Through the decades, hundreds of Troop 133's Scouts have learned survival, service and leadership skills by camping in the dead of winter, serving food at the St. Mary's annual spaghetti dinner fundraiser or running the troop's annual Christmas tree sale and fundraiser.

Many of the grown former Scouts now are in careers that allow them to continue a life of service, such as teaching and counseling, said Davis' wife, Valerie.

Will Cameron, 17, the current senior patrol leader for Troop 133, will be finished with scouting next March but said he will still serve as a camp counselor for six weeks this summer at Camp Spencer in north Harford County near the Pennsylvania line.

Cameron, of Rosebank-Brackenridge-Bellona, hopes to major in environmental studies in college, possibly at the University of Vermont, he said.

Scouting is "a unique experience — incredibly useful later in life," said Cameron, whose father, Mark is the troop's assistant Scoutmaster and helped organize the anniversary celebration.

Many former Scouts have gone on to notable careers or military service.

The Davis' son, Logan, stationed in Camp Pendleton, is a helicopter pilot for the U.S. Marines.

Harry Shaw, 59, lives and owns a graphic design and printing company in Towson.

Barry Bilson, 48, who grew up in Govans and now lives in Middle River, is a senior vice president for Legg Mason.

But they remembered their roots on Sunday and were in the pews watching as the current members trooped into the church for the Mass after Davis gave them some final instructions.

"Hands out of your pockets," he told them. "A 200-megawatt smile. Let's bring honor to your family and honor to your troop."

Midway through the Mass, the troop members joined the Rev. Patrick Besel at the altar and an audience of 200 people applauded heartily as Besel said, "This is our Troop 133 and we are very proud of them."

After the service, free at last, they whooped and tore out of the church and down the driveway to the hall, where City Councilman Bill Henry presented them a certificate of appreciation from the City Council and another from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. The children will also be honored at City Hall at a date to be determined, Henry said.

Henry, of Radnor-Winston, went to the church school as a child and said he always admired the Boy Scouts and their uniforms.

But he never joined, he said, because "there was no way to get away from the camping."

Scout Tyler Robinson, of Parkville, "9 going on 10," he said, read aloud a banner with the troop's rhyming slogan:

"Troop 133, the best there'll ever be."

That about said it all.