From the Archives, October 10, 2021

Jim Barr Paddle Awards

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.

Jim Barr Painted Paddles
Water Carnival Painted Paddles, 1980-1983

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