The Pump House Museum at the Centennial Jamboree held all kinds of fascinating little treasures. Of the many artifacts on display, one of the most fascinating for us was a small collection of wooden canoe paddles, hand-painted by Stahlman Waterfront Director Jim Barr.
As a holdover from the 1960s Boxwell program, the Water Carnival was a big Friday afternoon event. It involved a series of events, including filling No. 10 cans with water to sink your opponents canoe, ring buoy throws, and boat races or various kinds and styles. Of course, by this point, there was also a greased watermelon contest, with the winning troop getting a watermelon for their site that night. With the exception of the watermelon, virtually all the other events were rooted in Scout skills.
While running Craig’s waterfront in the 1970s, Jim Barr was inspired by Ragsdale’s artistic flair. He recalled a painted paddle award of some kind from when he was a boy at Rock Island and began painting paddles himself. Every week, the winning troop got a painted paddle. Most of the paddles were done early in the summer with the troop number added each week.
Barr did the work himself, but received help from master craftsmen Mr. Nick (Nick Nichols) when he was at Craig and then Q-ball (Floyd Pearce) when he and Ragsdale moved to Stahlman. And the paddles have a unique Willhite backstory. While the wooden paddles were relatively cheap, Reservation Director Tom Willhite was not excited about losing several perfectly good paddles every summer. So, Barr had to use damaged paddles–either cast-offs from Willhite… or ones he damaged himself.
Seen here are four paddles painted by Barr that were awarded to Troop 87 from 1980-1983.
On this day–Thursday, October 9, 1975–the Executive Board accepted the resignation of Ward Akers, effectively ending the executive’s 28 year run with the Middle Tennessee Council. The Board met at Stahlman Dining Hall and the meeting was chaired by Council President C. A. “Neil” Craig, II (son of Edwin W. Craig, of Camp Craig fame).
There was some debate at the meeting as loyalty to Akers was strong. Some members felt Akers would be retiring “in disgrace.” Others felt the motion to accept the resignation be deferred to a later meeting when there had been more time to review the “Blue Ribbon Committee” reports that had arrived earlier in the week. One member said flatly, “I’ve read this report from cover to cover two times and I could not find enough wrong in that report to condemn anyone.”
Nevertheless, the wheels were already in motion. Several private conversations had already been had with Akers, who did not attend the meeting. Akers believed that retiring was for the good of the Scouting program and allow the Council to get back to the business of helping the boys. It was this argument that won the day. The vote to accept Akers’ resignation passed, effective upon the hiring of a new Executive, at which time Akers would become “executive emeritus.”
The VirtualBoxwell Team is sad to announce the passing Earl Tatum. Tatum was a Parnell staff member from 1961 to 1968. For many years Tatum served as Provisional Leader–a temporary Scoutmaster for Scouts coming to camp without a troop–before fully joining the staff in 1965 as Activity Yard Director. Tatum eventually joined the ranks of the professional staff and served as Camp Director at Parnell in 1967 and 1968.
Tatum passed away in January 2019 at the age of 76.
On this day–Friday, October 4, 1975–the Council released the findings of the “Blue Ribbon Committee” into accusations against Ward Akers. The “Blue Ribbon Committee” was actually several committees, including committees reviewing Council Administrative practices, Accounting, Budget, Ethics, Program, and Salary and Personnel. The Ad Hoc Committees were a direct result of accusation made against Council Executive Ward Akers by Nashville Banner reporter Larry Brinton reporter in July.
The committees ultimately exonerated Akers. Nevertheless, at the same time that the Committee reports were released, Akers announced his retirement, effective as soon as a successor could be found. Akers had retired for the good of the program. As he wrote in his resignation, “I will personally accept the blames of all problem areas that could have been corrected with more time given to the desk and dedication to paper work.” An Executive Board meeting at Stahlman dining hall later in the month accepted this resignation. In the meantime, the newspapers in Nashville–the Nashville Banner and the Tennessean–published highlights of the Committee reports as well as Akers’ resignation letter.
We are pleased to premiere our final installment of the History of Boxwell video. This month we conclude our look at Boxwell Reservation at Old Hickory Lake with out third. The first part covered the Akers years, 1960-1975. The second part covered the Willhite era, 1976-1996.
This particular video utilizes pieces of multiple videos over the last twenty five years. Some of these videos were actual promotional videos, whereas others were part of the Leaders’s Guides, which became increasingly electronic and digital. Additionally, it pulls music from The Tennessee Boys (made of mostly Stahlman staff from the late 1990s and early 2000s) as well as a little snippet from the Bloodworth Brothers (made of Craig staff in the 2000s). And, of course, you’ll see photos here we’ve never put out to the public before. It also includes narration by staff members from the period. We hope you enjoy it.
And that’s it. That concludes our video History of Boxwell. We hope you enjoyed them all. More historical material coming next month.