From The Archives: February 24, 2013

No discussion of Old Hickory’s Boxwell is complete without taking notice of one of the reservation’s original historians.  Before VirtualBoxwell, before cell phone cameras, much of Boxwell’s history was recorded by the reservation’s Business Managers.  From 1980 until 1996, the Business Manager was Russell Parham.

Parham’s connection with Boxwell is so long and involved that any recap of his history in a space this short must virtually turn into a listing. Russell Parham started as part of Stahlman’s Kitchen staff in 1970, a young protege of then Kitchen Director Jerry Barnett.  In 1974, Parham became a Program Commissioner, a position unique to Boxwell of the 1970s.  In 1976, when the Great Staff Strike occurred and many of the older staff walked out after the first week of camp, Parham became Program Director (the reservation’s youngest to that point).  Russell became Business Manger in 1980 and continued there until 1996.

Parham’s role as Business Manager was enormous. Obviously, it included the Trading Posts.  This meant all the stocking and planning involved with Trading Posts goods.  It meant deciding what Boxwell related items arrived at camp every year, from belt buckles to t-shirts. The position also included all the money taken in from Friday night family dinners, making sure all the patches were delivered in packets, taking care of the fees at check-in on Sunday, and a variety of other things.  For anyone who worked with Russell Parham, the Business Manager’s job extended deep into the night and encompassed a wide variety of money-related activities.  It was not uncommon to find Parham at the Trading Post after midnight, still working.  And remember, this was a volunteer position.  Parham had a day job.

However, for many years, the position also incorporated other dimensions that were not money related.  This meant taking the yearly staff photos.  It meant documenting the physical evolution of the camp itself.  Sometimes it even meant going to other Boy Scout camps to understand how things were done and bringing the best ideas back to Boxwell.  To say the Business Manager’s job was large in scope was an understatement!

After his run ended as Business Manager, Parham remained (and remains) involved in Boxwell’s history.  He was an integral planner of all four reunions.  He has been involved in the project.  He is still involved with a troop in Nashville AND he still takes Staff Photos when asked.  It is hard to imagine someone who has had a greater behind the scenes impact.

Below is a young Russ Parham from 1975.  As a neat sidenote, the photo was taken by Michael Seay in 1975.  Seay was Business Manger from 1975-1979.  The two are good friends, even today.

Russ Parham

Troop 156 Scoutmaster Russell Parham on a campout with his troop in July 1975.

From the Archives: February 16, 2013

Before there was Barnett-Ragsdale, there was Jackson-LaFever.  Jimmy Joe Jackson (Parnell) and Chester LaFever (Stahlman) were the first great Program Director pairing at Boxwell Reservation at Old Hickory Lake.

Jimmy Joe Jackson (right) was Program Directot of Camp Parnell from 1963-1970.   In his regular life, Jackson was a World War II veteran before becoming a school teacher for Metro schools, teaching at Smyrna, Joelton and finall Antioch High Schools.  He taught for 30 years.  For the Scouts, he worked at Rock Island Boxwell before coming to Old Hickory Boxwell in 1963.  Not only was he instrumental in establishing the early program at Parnell, his wife, Elizabeth, was the “program director” at Camp Murrey throughout many of these same years.

Chester LaFever served as Stahlman’s Program Director from 1960-1969, with years off in 1966 and 1968.  LaFever was also a World War II vet before entering education.  He taught at Two Rivers High School before becoming the first principal of McGavock High School.  He started as Conservation Director at “old Boxwell” (Rock Island) from 1956 to 1960 before the move to “new Boxwell” (Old Hickory Lake).

During their time at Boxwell, the two men were fiercely competitive while in sight of their staffs, often encouraging the idea that Parnell or Stahlman was “better” than the other.  Indeed, it was through these two men that staff competitions developed, often emerging in such activities as “re-appropriating” mirrors from each other’s showerhouses.  At night though, both men lived over at Camp Murrey in an area for adults only, known as “the Hole.”  In “the Hole,” an area of four man tents off from the other tents, LaFever and Jackson stayed with their wives and were good friends, often laughing at the antics of their staffs.  In these early years, Murrey was run by Joan Hitt, whose husband, Harold, was Waterfront director at Stahlman.

Jimmy Joe Jackson died in 2010. Chester LaFever died the following year. While this is an overused photo of the two men, it is one of the few of the two together.  It is by Russell Parham from the first Boxwell Staff Reunion in 1983.

To see more reunion photos, check out our Reunion photos collection on Flickr at

LaFever & Jackson

Boxwell’s first great program directors. Chester LaFever and Jimmy Joe Jackson at the first Staff Reunion in 1983.

From the Archives: February 10, 2013

From the Archive this week  is none other that Floyd “Q-ball” Pearce.  “Q-ball” is unknown to most modern staff members, unless they have seen the Q-ball plaque at the Stahlman Trading Post.  Nevertheless, Q-ball is a figure that looms large in Boxwell history.

Q-ball worked at “old Boxwell”–the Rock Island Boxwell–where he became fast friends with Ward Akers, the Council Executive who led the camp from Rock Island to the extensive reservation we know as the Old Hickory location.  Floyd “Q-ball” Pearce was at Old Hickory Boxwell by the mid-1960s, working as the Handicraft Director at Stahlman. He continued in this position until 1984, when he felt he was too old to return.  That first year he didn’t return, 1985, he sent a tape recording to the staff, updating them on his health and how he was doing.

It is almost impossible to explain Q-ball.  He was involved in the OA and an enormous believer in Scouting and its principles.  Every summer he came from Clarenden, Arkansas to Boxwell. He brought not only himself, but his footlocker full of woodworking and leatherworking tools.  He was both humorous and full of anecdotes, and irascible and set in his ways.

Perhaps one of the greatest stories about Q-ball comes from Web Webster.  Web worked for Q-ball in the Stahlman Handicraft before becoming director in his own right.  When confronted with John Norwood’s break dancing–a 1980s phenomenon–Web explains Q-ball’s response this way: “Q-ball said, and Q-ball was a man of few words and he never cursed, so when he did it was to extremely good effect… when Q-ball did choose to pepper up the dialogue it was extremely effective; it hit you.  John was dancing and Q-ball was going up and Q-ball said in that way that he does and if you listen to else on the [recording] the way that his voice sounds on the [recording] is the way I remember him sounding if you can picture that.  So I wont try to do an imitation of that way his voice sounded, but I will sort of do.  Q-ball would sort of look back at ya and would sort of squint his eyes through these metal, metal frame glasses that he had. And he sort of shift his jaws around and recede his teeth.  “Say boy, what’s that there your doing?” and John would say, “I’m dancing Q-ball.  Can’t you see I’m dancing.”  “Oh, you are are ya?  Boy that’s not dancing, that’s dry humping.” He didn’t use the word “humping.”

The nickname “Q-ball” came from his bald head.  Q-ball explains that while working at Kia Kima, he attended a campfire.  He sat down on a rock seat and, lo and behold, wasps started crawling up his pants legs.  He jumped up and quickly removed his pants.  The Waterfront Director, for whatever reason, thought these antics were mocking him and he got mad. He began using the sobquiet “Q-ball”, after a cue ball, and the name stuck and followed Floyd all the way to Boxwell, both at Rock Island and Old Hickory.

Q-ball died in 1988.  Close friends–staff members, his brother and his wife–were with right up to the end.  Q-ball was unique in that he spanned generations.  Not just generations at Old Hickory Boxwell, but generations of Scouting.  In 1968, he was recognized for 55 years in Scouting.  By 1988, when he died, he had been involved in Scouting for almost 75 years, almost from Scouting’s very start.  Today, all that is left of Q-ball’s legacy is a plaque at the Stahlman Trading Post put up by “renegade” former staff members and friends.

Floyd "Q-ball" Pearce at Stahlman Handicraft. 1970s

Floyd “Q-ball” Pearce at Stahlman Handicraft. 1970s

From The Archives: February 3, 2013

Undeniably, another big name in the history of Boxwell Reservation is Tom Willhite.  In addition to serving as a camp director at Parnell in 1967, Willhite is still the longest serving Reservation Director in Boxwell’s history, working in that position from 1976 to 1994.

And that 18 year run was quite a ride!  In 1976, due to forces beyond his control, Willhite’s first summer camp staff was charged room and board by the Council, leading to the Great Staff Strike his first summer!  Over the years, Willhite instituted the red staff hat, performed a “mini-capital campaign” that replaced the roofs on most buildings as Boxwell, brought COPE to Boxwell, oversaw a long period of stability with Ragsdale and Barnett as program directors, and worked with the 1994 Capital Development Campaign–the largest in Scouting history at that time with a goal of over $9 million–that led to the creation of Gaylord CubWorld and “The Flip” at Camp Craig, where the waterfront moved to Duck Head.  Of course, these were just the big events; there were countless small ones, like paving the deck at the Cripple Crab.  Indeed, perhaps the great success of Tom Willhite was putting together a well known program on what was essentially a shoe string budget.

Willhite at the Crab

Tom Willhite at the Cripple Crab, 1990.