Cubs and scouts – integral to town’s heritage

1st Somerset Scout Troop, at Rosebank Camp, September 1926, at back, from left, areJ Walker, PL Dollman, I Cohen, T Louw, TL Chart, PLT Murray, E Hunter, J Skinner, D Donald, and PG Traut (Scout Master); in front, from left, are M Rieb, J Farrel, L De Wet, and V Van Niekerk.

I am the cliché single mom. I have two children, a pigeon pair. A few years ago I was advised that my son needed stable male interaction, and this is where the hunt started to find an activity which would suit our lifestyle and values.

After much searching I found the 1st Somerset West Scout Group Facebook site, and after only one meeting with the pack, my son was hooked.

I have a confession: I am not the type of parent who easily gets involved in my children’s extramural activities. Having a demanding full- time job simply does not allow for it.

However, after watching my son interact with boys and girls from various walks of life, and seeing the support which he received not only from the adult volunteers, but from his Cub peers when he was still new, was all it took to reel me in as well.

I attended a course at one of the Scout bases in Cape Town, which gave me a full background and explained why the Scouting movement is what it is today. By this time there was no turning back for me.

It was not long after this when my daughter asked if she too could join the movement, and there was no hesitation at all. This was it, we were now a “Scouting family”.

I could not ask for a better organisation to help teach my children independence, responsibility, respect, healthy competition and camaraderie. One which shows them how to care for the environment; actually shows them what it like to part of a community as well as being part of something bigger.

Scouting has been around since 1908 when it was formed by Lord Baden Powell in the United Kingdom. Our group was formed the very next year, which makes us one of the first groups to have started in South Africa.

Our troop flourished after inception and during World War One, they camped at Vergelegen.

At this time, Vergelegen was run by Mrs Kerr, and could only be approached by a Ford over the Lourens River. This had its draw-backs – especially for the ladies, and it was suggested by Mr Gatley that the Scouts should use their skills to build a bridge.

The Scouts acquired some wire netting and stretched it between two oak trees. They then cut poplar trees to make the floor of the bridge and made approaches. Mrs Kerr’s son, Sam, then tested the bridge by crossing on his motorcycle, and it was most successful.

At this time and until the end of the war, the Scouts met in a corrugated shed at the old Methodist Church, but when this was no longer available, they had to meet wherever they could – even in a stable at one period.

In October 1918, the then troop leader, Norman Mcleod, was preparing his troop for a display or “Jamboree” – and only then was it discovered that there was a Cape Divisional Headquarters in Cape Town.

Unfortunately, the flu epidemic of 1918 interfered with the Jamboree plans, as the Scouts were fully occupied doing good deeds. Their main function during the epidemic was to deliver soup fro m a central kitchen to all those homes where the people were too ill to cook.

Our troop still did not have a hall of their own, and set out raising funds in order to acquire land and build a hall where they could meet.

One was acquired behind the Arksey Guest House, but due to various circumstances; as well as another war, the building on this plot never became a reality. Sadly, by the time the Scouters who had served in the war returned to their scouting duties, the plot was a small oasis surrounded by residential development, and no longer suitable for Scouting activities.

After going through a short period where the group did not have enough numbers or a base , they temporarily disbanded.

The group approached AECI for the use of the old car park. A lease was obtained, and at long last the group had a permanent base to call “home”. Sadly, this was only to be until 1973, when the land was expropriated. However, the municipality decided to lease our current property on Lourensford Road to us, and it has been our home for over 40 years.

This home is in some serious need of TLC. In order to fix and ensure the longevity of our home, we will be having our first fundraising event in many years, and we will be going big.

We invite the community to join us on Saturday October 22, at Southey’s Vines in Somerset West. We will have carnival rides, food stalls, craft stalls and much more.

If you were a cub/brownie/girl guide or scout, come along and share your memories with us at our heritage stall at the fun day. We will be on the look out for the oldest member of the movement regardless of which country or city you were a member of. We will also share these memories and photos with Bolander.

For information on 1st Somerset West Scouts, and on the event, email 1stsomersetwestscouts@gmail.com