From the Archives, February 28, 2021

Boxwell T-shirts: The Repost

As summer camp and the reunion for 2021 start gearing up, patch and t-shirt designs are in the planning stages. So, we thought we’d do a repost and then link out to a few items this week.

First, the links. In April 2019, we ran a brief series on Boxwell t-shirts. Below are the links to the Boxwell at Old Hickory Lake t-shirts. We also included a link to the famous Seymore Duck shirt post.

April 14, 2019: Old Hickory Boxwell T-shirts, 1960s and 1970s
April 21, 2019: Old Hickory Boxwell T-shirt, 1997
April 28, 2019: Old Hickory Boxwell T-shirt, 2014
August 4, 2019: Old Hickory Boxwell T-shirt, Seymore Duck

Second, the repost. Rock Island is the camp where t-shirts and a commissary first became part of the Boxwell experience. Below is the original post on Bob Alley’s Boxwell staff t-shirt from April 7, 2019.

From the Archives, April 7, 2019
Boxwell T-Shirts: Rock Island

It’s time to look at Boxwell t-shirts! Obviously, there have been quite a few of them, so we can’t possibly cover all of the shirts ever produced. However, we’re going to spend April looking at some popular Boxwell t-shirts over the decades.

This week’s t-shirt is the oldest Boxwell t-shirt we know of. This was the Staff t-shirt of Bob Alley when he worked on the Rock Island Boxwell staff in the 1950s. Clearly, there isn’t anything particularly special about the shirt. However, in a period before staff hats, a staff t-shirt was an easy to delineate Scouts from Staff.

“Staff” isn’t printed on the shirt anywhere, so how are we certain the shirt was a staff t-shirt. First, the Rock Island Commissary didn’t sell t-shirts and clothing like modern Trading Posts do. Second, Bob Alley told us it was a staff t-shirt. That seemed pretty definitive.

If you have a Boxwell t-shirt, take a picture and send it our way. Staff t-shirts are the top priority, but all Boxwell t-shirts are important. When you send the photo, please try to include the year if you remember! Contact us at or (Copy and paste the address; hyperlinking leads to incredible amounts of spam!)

Rock Island t-shirt
Staff T-Shirt at the Rock Island Boxwell, 1950s

From the Archives, February 21, 2021

War Canoes

The Narrows of the Harpeth Boxwell was blessed with an amazing waterfront. The waterfront was perhaps the most popular feature of the Narrows Boxwell… well, besides the rattlesnake eating. Part of what made that waterfront experience were war canoes.

The war canoes were two large ten-man canoes. There was a man in the stern and one in the bow and four pairs in the middle. They were enormous. And generally, they were used for one thing… racing.

At the end of every week of there was a water carnival. The carnival was open to the public, but it was mainly parents that attended. The carnival consisted of a variety of races. Quite a few were swimming races, but some were canoe races as well. The grand finale of the carnival was the war canoe race, where teams raced up the river, around the Harris Street Bridge, and back to the waterfront.

What happened to the war canoes is unclear. They did not appear to survive the transition to Rock Island, but for the Narrows Boxwell, they were a highlight! Pictured here is a war canoe in 1932 finishing up a race.

War Canoes at the Narrows
A “war canoe” at the Narrows of the Harpeth Boxwell, 1932

From the Archives, February 14, 2021

Namesakes: Rudolph Light

As this year is Boxwell’s Centennial, we thought it might be worth exploring the backgrounds on some of the people you’ve heard of but probably know very little about. The Reservation is dotted with names of people who were once significant to the Middle Tennessee movement, but are basically forgotten today. So, to kick off, we thought we’d start with… Dr. Rudolph Light of Camp Light fame.

Rudolph Alvin Light was a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1910. He attended a military academy in his youth before attending the University of Southern California, where he studied physics and chemistry. Light spent most of the 1930s in college and graduate school, earning degrees from Yale and Oxford. His final degree was a doctor of Medicine in 1939 from Vanderbilt University, which brought the twenty-nine year old to Nashville. He performed two years of internship at the University hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.

Light returned to Nashville after his internship to serve on the surgical staff at Vanderbilt. His employment was interrupted in 1943 when joined the U.S. Army Medical Corps to serve in the Second World War. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his work during this years. In 1946, he retunred to become director of rehabilitation services and director at surgical research at Vanderbilt Hospital. It was during these years he was critical in establishing the S. Rudolph Light Laboratory of Surgical Research for Vanderbilt, financed and named for his father. In 1958, he accepted a position as a visiting surgeon at Oxford until 1962. His professional associations included New York Academy of Science, the American Medical Association, the American College of Surgeons, and the Southern Surgical Association.

With both his family and his work at Vanderbilt involved in pharmaceuticals, an exploding field after World War II, Light also became a philanthropist. Light was a president of the Nashville Symphony Association and the Nashville Civic Music Association. He was involved in the Nashville Educational Television Foundation, which established WDCN-TV, the forerunner to WNPT Nashville’s Public Television station. He was also director of the Middle Tennessee Heart Association and Tennessee Heart Association. Light was also deeply involved in the Nashville Children’s Museum.

Light became involved with the Boy Scouts of Middle Tennessee when Lem Stevens becames President after Leslie G. Boxwell’s retirement. He joined the Executive Board and helped moved Boxwell from the Narrows to Rock Island. He served as chairman of the Health and Safety Committee and even served as chairman on the Camping Committee during the early 1950s. As his service continued, Light recognized the shortcomings of the Rock Island location and help champion the move to the Old Hickory location. Light himself gave $75,000 to the campaign and served on the Planning Committee that developed the plans for the reservations physical layout and facilities.

Light died January 12, 1970. His family asked the contributions be made to the Middle Tennessee Council. Light had four children (one natural, one adopted, two stepchildren), and six grandsons at the time of his death.

Rudolph Light from _The Tennessean_ January 13, 1970, pg. 1

From the Archives, February 7 , 2021

Boxwell Adventure ’87

This week we bring you another Boxwell Centennial treat: the 1987 Promotional video! In the late 1970s after Tom Willhite took over as Reservation Director, he started to promote summer camp every year. This was done with volunteers, former staff members, and sometimes the OA. This was a slide presentation in the 1970s into the early 1980s. By the mid-1980s, we had video.

This is the first promotional film we know of using the video technology of the time. Like the 1967, the color has bled somewhat and the original picture is not very sharp. This video is also much shorter than the 1967 film, clocking in at approximately seven (7) minutes.

However, if you pay close attention, the 1987 promotion video has some real jewels in it. You can find in these seven minutes: the old rappelling tower, prone rifle shooting on the camp’s cotton mattresses, LOTS of COPE shots (it was still a very new program), Scouts doing the movements to “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” Fort Campbell personnel running the rifle range, the 1986 staff hat (often called the “Amoco hat” because of the oval patch), Council Executive Hershel Tolbert and Reservation Director Tom Willhite cooking steaks, and a close up on lovable Parnell/Craig staff member John Estes singing at the campfire. And don’t forget to appreciate the 1980’s smooth jazz guitar!

Find the video on our YouTube channel:

1987 Promotional Still
The “title card” from the 1987 promotional film: a scout diving into the water from the docks.

On This Day, February 1

On this day, February 1, 2006, Percy Dempsey passed away. Dempsey himself was a long time Scouter in Middle Tennessee, specifically coming out of the Trail of Tears (Murfreesboro) district. With a life stretching 89 years, Dempsey had a lifetime involvement in Scouting. Over 40 boys reached Eagle under his tutelage. He also had a long history with Woodbadge, first attending MT-2 back at Rock Island, and later serving on the staffs of MT-21 and MT-24 through 34. He was Scoutmaster for MT-30 and Quartermaster for most of the others. He was a recipient of the Silver Beaver and served on the Executive Board of the Council for several years. The Percy Dempsey Camporee Area was named in his honor as part of the 1994 Capital Development Campaign.

Percy Dempsey in the 1980s as SM of MT-30.