Early Scouting had an intense emphasis on citizenship. While today, we might see this in flag ceremonies or the pledge or simply completing the Citizenship series merit badges, Scouts in the ’20s and ’30s took this responsibility much more seriously. Scouting was about training boys to be responsible citizens in the nation and that meant getting real life practice.
One of the most overt ways this was done was with something called “Boys’ Day.” For a number of years, high achieving Scouts “took over” government for a day (well, an hour). This could be state government or local government or pieces of both. Boys’ Day meant Scouts in the role of Governor, adjutant general, and treasurer.
Creighton and Johnson outline this event as the culmination of a “Boys’ Week” begun in 1922. The week was generally held the first week of May, there were a variety of themed day, such as Boys Day in Industry and Boys Day in Church. The taking over of government offices was the capstone event, preceded by a parade of Scouts through town. For many years, there was a poster contest too, with the results displayed in shop windows.
By the early 1940s, Boys Week had become Youth Week, culminated in a Citizenship Day. Both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts participated. The practice seemed to have died out after about 1946, but that meant this was a hallmark event in Nashville for a solid quarter century.
Image from _Nashville Tennessean_ April 27, 1924. Caption reads “Nashville, among several hundred cities and towns in the United States, now begins observance of Boys’ Week, an annual event under the auspices of Rotary International.”
“Youthful Governor Finds Job Easier than Horton Does as Boys Rule State for Hour,” _Nashville Tennessean_, May 6, 1932, pg. 22
“Scouts to Offer Services to Governor, Mayor,” _Nashville Tennessean_ February 13, 1931, pg. 16
Leland Johnson and Wilbur Creighton, _Boys Will Be Men__, Middle Tennessee Council: Nashville, Tennessee, 1983, pgs. 76-77
“Boys and Girls Take Over Rule for Day with ‘Wise, Iron Hands,” _Nashville Tennessean_, May 1, 1942, pg. 10
“Scouts To Take Over Public Offices Today,” _Nashville Tennessean_, May 3, 1946, pg. 48