How to become a “Boy Man”: The Story of the Scouts and the 6th Toronto Scout Group

Since 1908, scouting has been the largest youth movement in the world. It was founded by Lord Baden Powell as an experiment to prove to the world that boys could make good spies and help the war effort. Lord Baden Powell took several boys from his home town on a camping trip. There they learned basic survival skills, how to hunt, fish and got some basic military training. This was the first scout camp. But the idea of scouting hatched in BP’s mind many years earlier. BP, as he was known, was educated at Charter House School in Surrey, England. At school, he was known to his teachers as a bit of a trouble maker. Part of this was because he preferred to wander into the woods by the school (which was strictly out of bounds) and observe nature or play hunter. This would be his first experience of learning scouting skills which would later pay off when he joined the military and was sent to fight in the Boer War in South Africa.

In the military, there was a position called a scout. This rank was usually held by a young boy whose job was to cross over enemy lines, spy on the enemy and deliver messages to fellow soliders. BP was fascinated with this rank and when he returned home from the war he wrote a book called ‘Aids For Scouting’ which to BP’s surprise became a bestseller. To test his theories, BP held another camp to prove his theories he had written about. This again was a huge success. A short time after his book became a bestseller and scout groups started popping up all around the world. Lord Baden Powell realized how the boys embraced his book and decided to re-write it and remove much of the military techniques. Instead, he added fun games and experiments for the boys to try. This book became known as “Scouting For Boys” in 1909. Today, this book is still one of the biggest bestsellers and scouting is still going strong.

Girl Guides would start a year later by Lady Baden Powell. This new organization stemed off of the basic idea of scouting but was tailored more for girls. In 1920 scouting became a world wide program and the first Jamboree was held in Olympia where Lord Baden Powell became known as the King Scout and would later become known as the Chief Scout of the world. At the 5th Jamboree, Lord Baden Powell announced he would retire from scouting life and he passed away on January 8th 1941. His grave is marked with a trail sign which means gone home. This term is still used in scouting today. My family has been involved with scouting for five generations going all the way back to my great grandfather. I volunteer with the 6th Toronto Scout Group which was founded in 1909 by Mr. Ed Redman and as the story goes, scouting started in a very small way in a 1909 Toronto. Apparently there were 6 numbers put into a hat and Mr.Redman chose # 6. The orginal location was St.Nicolas Anglican Church. They then moved to Birchcliff Heights United Church and then to the groups’ present location at Birch Cliff Heights Public School in Toronto.The Group still continues to meet here several times a week. This year our group will be celebrating 65 years at our summer camp called Camp Wilmac located in the Hockley Valley. Our group has camped in many places over the years but no camp has as odd of a story as that of camp Wilmac. One lovely day in the early summer of 1951, one of our original members Mr. Fred Foster decided to take a fishing trip up to the Hockley valley. He had headed further up river to try and find a more active fishing spot when he accidentally ended up on private property. In those days, trespassing was not as serious as it is today. Fred got out of the river and started fishing on the bank when suddenly a voice broke the silence”what are you doing on my Property!” That was the voice of the property owner named William. Fred turned around and quickly apologized and then said, “love the property,its great for fishing.Can I bring some Boy Scouts up to camp here?” After some brief nogotiations that lasted about ten minutes a deal was reached that the group could use the property so long as they came up each year and cleared the brush and kept the place tidy. Since that handshake, we have been going up to the property every year for our annual summer camp. Today scouting is still the largest youth movement in the world and a great opportunity to have fun, experiance the outdoors and meet new friends.