From the Archives, January 28, 2024

A Man and His Tractor

Each “era” of Boxwell has its chosen work vehicle. The early years had large trucks. The modern era uses conventional pick up trucks. The middle period, approximately 1976-2000, used tractors. And you didn’t have to know how to use a tractor in your real life. At Boxwell you could become a tractor driver!

Of course, not everyone was allowed to drive a tractor. Only a handful of older staff each summer were allowed. They had to go to “tractor driving school” and be “certified” by the rangers. From there, Stahlman and Parnell-Craig staff competed for which tractor they used. After Tom Chaffin killed the John Deere tractor by running it into a tree in 1990, there were two tractors available to the staff: a Massey 150 and a Massey 230. Stahlman generally took the 230 and Parnell-Craig the 150.

Seen here is Ben Webster with the Massey 230 in 1994, his last summer. Webster was completing his seventh summer and fifth as Handicraft Director, all at Stahlman. Here is a man proud to be a tractor driver!

Collection of Alex Cox

Ben Webster and the Massey-Ferguson 230 tractor
Ben Webster and the Massey-Ferguson 230 tractor, 1994

From the Archives, January 21, 2024

Boxwell Greats: Bruce Atkins

One of the powerhouse personalities of the early days of Boxwell Reservation was Bruce Atkins. Atkins joined the professional staff of the Middle Tennessee Council in 1960, working as a DE in the Dan Beard district, which served Pulaski in Giles County. He joined early in the year before Boxwell even opened. As many know, the professionals basically performed an “all hands on deck” approach to getting camp ready in ’60 to make sure it opened on time. Legend has it that the newly hired Atkins–described as a “towering” man by Jack Bond of the Nashville Banner–and fellow DE Gene Hensley would each grab a side of the oak tent platforms and run them as far back into the woods as they could go. That’s how they set up sites in the rush to open the Reservation!

Atkins moved up in the Scouting world quickly, as many did under the tutelage of Ward Akers. He served as Quartermaster of MT-7 (1962) and MT-8 (1963). IN 1964 and 1965, he served as Camp Director at Parnell, back with Camp Directors were always professional Scouters. He was promoted to Field Director that year as well. In March of 1966, Atkins was promoted to Assistant Scout Executive and Camping and Activities Director, the third person to hold that position, following Richard Parker and James Johnson. Almost immediately, Atkins came into conflict with the Ranger Coleman Wright and fired him, bringing in Bobby Smith as the new ranger.

Atkins was a man on the move. You spoke to him quickly as he was walking by. The conversation was short and then it was over. He was possessive of Boxwell: it was his camp and his staff. Other than Ward Akers, no one else told him what to do or how things were to be done. Kerry Parker relates a story of how during a Bull Crew week while National Camp School was going on, he and his crew were working on a tractor and trailer when they came to Stahlman dining hall for lunch. A National Staff man saw them and told them to get and not to get on again as this was again national policy. As Parker and the others tried to figure out how to get their work done, Atkins charged by telling them to get to work. Parker explained what had happened. Atkins replied this was his camp and they worked for him. Get back on the trailer and get to work! No one ever said anything about working on the trailers again!

As with many of the professionals in this era of Middle Tennessee Council, Atkins was promoted to a Council Executive. In 1970, he took over the West Tennessee Council headquartered in Memphis. In 1976, he was promoted again, this time to the other side of the state, as Executive of the Great Smoky Mountains Council.

Despite this incredible run over a very short period of time, Atkins died in 1982 at the age of 48. He suffered from a cancer. He had had surgery to remove the cancer in his younger days, leaving a scar on his next, but the cancer returned in the late 1970s. Atkins did not recover. Nevertheless, his 10 years with Middle Tennessee left a legacy of building a powerful Scouting program. For those who worked for him, Atkins was a larger than life figure.

Collection of Archie Crain

Bruce Atkins, 1963
Bruce Atkins in 1963. Atkins would serve as Reservation Director from 1966-1969.

From the Archives, January 14, 2024

The Bugle

Before Scout Shorts, before Jet Trails, before even Smoke Signals, there was The Bugle. The Bugle was the first official newsletter of the Nashville Council, with the first issue published in October 1938. The closing of summer camp–Boxwell at the Narrows–was the lead story, reflecting the importance of the camp to the program at the time.

The newsletter had a staff of about seven volunteers. Remember, the Nashville Council was quite small at this time, employing around five people. Many of the contributors to the newsletter were Scouts. In fact, two names we’ve discussed before. James Kilgore, who made the film A Day At Camp Boxwell, and O. E. Brandon, a Junior staff member, were part of this editorial staff. The publication was irregular and (to our knowledge) only six issues have survived, ending in December 1940.

Seen here is the page 1 of the very first issue. The first article on Boxwell is to the left and the Montgomery Bell tunnel graces the center of the page. The “newspaper” was sponsored by Burk & Co., which was the official outfitter of Scouting merchandise and uniforms in the days before there was a council Scout Shop. Burk & Co. got a full page advertisement on page 3!

Collection of Jimmy Stevens & Beany Elam

_The Bugle_ October 1938
Page 1 of the first issue of _The Bugle_, October 1938

From the Archives, January 7, 2024

Lad & Dad Weekends

Before CubWorld, there was the Lad & Dad weekend. It is difficult to pinpoint when exactly this program began, but it was sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s under the guidance of Tom Willhite. Essentially, a Cub and his father came to either of the two Boy Scout resident camps (Stahlman and either Craig or Parnell, depending on which was open that summer) for a quick overnighter. They arrived around noon on Saturday, had activities during the day, a quick campfire at night, and left before noon on Sunday. Some staff were required to stay to move Cubs in to sites and others were required to stay over the whole weekend to keep the camp running. This meant those staff did not go home at all for two weeks. Not surprisingly, Trading Post and Kitchen staff were essential personnel.

The program started with one weekend a summer and grew to two weekends. The steady growth was part of what stimulated the desire for a more permanent program for Cubs. Still, the program changed some as time went on. By the 1990s, “Lad and Dad” was becoming “Cub and Partner” as more women entered the program and brought their sons to Boxwell in the absence of fathers or other male relatives.

Seen here is patch from one of the first “Lad and Dad” weekends. The patch is from the extensive collection of Boyd Williams at mtcpatches.com. If you have any desire to explore council patches, this is the place to go.

Collection of Boyd William