Trying to find one drawing to encapsulate the work of Beany Elam is like trying to find one Beatles song that exemplifies the entire catalog; it can’t be done. Indeed, we could easily spend the rest of the year simply showcasing Elam’s work and never quite capture it completely.
Nevertheless, this week we make an attempt to demonstrate the artistry of Beany Elam to those who may not be familiar. Elam was a prolific sketcher. From more detailed drawings like this one to caricatures of individuals he worked with to simple stick man drawings, Elam was constantly creating.
This drawing is one of many Elam completed for the various Woodbadge sections he was involved with. This particular drawing was for MT-3 in 1956. Elam was Scoutmaster of this Rock Island Woodbadge training. The initials carved in the tree are the staff for Mt-3 (D.S. for Don Starin, E.D.R. for Ed D. Roberts, J.G. for Jim Gray, B.E. for Beany Elam, Y for Wayne Yearwood).
Artwork created by Beany Elam for MT-3 at Rock Island, 1956.
If you’re going to go through a collection of materials from Harry “Beany” Elam, it seems appropriate that you present something on Woodbadge. After all, the Woodbadge area at Boxwell is named for Elam.
Elam attended Woodbadge 34 when it was Rock Island (Elam claims this was 1952, while Creighton’s _Boys Will Be Men_ says 1951). From there, Elam officially completed his “ticket” in January 1954 and was then certified to become a Woodbadge Course Director in May 1954. Thus, Elam became the first Scoutmaster for Middle Tennessee Council Woodbadge, MT-1, also held at Rock Island. MT-1 lasted one week, from July 31 to August 8.
Pictured here is the staff of MT-1, which included Elam as Scoutmaster (third from right), Ted Childress of Mississippi as ASM, Jim Cray of Clarksville as ASM, Ed Roberts of Nashville as SPL, Robert Davis of Clarksville as QM, and Wayne Yearwood as QM. There were only three patrols in MT-1: Bouncing Bobwhites, War Eagles, and Fabulous Furry Foxes. Among those participating in MT-1 included Hershel Tolbert (later to be Council Executive) and John Green of Troop 137 in Franklin, TN.
The very first Middle Tennessee Council Woodbadge Staff at Rock Island, 1954. The tall skinny man third from right is Harry “Beany” Elam.
Last month we received a special treat. Thanks to former Stahlman and Craig Program Director Ian Romaine, we got a copy of what we are calling the “Stevens-Elam Collection.” In other words, this is a collection of images and documents from former Council President Jimmy Stevens and long-time Woodbadge guru Beany Elam.
The collection is varied, including newspaper clippings and letters. But it contains some real jewels we hope to showcase as well, including artwork from Beany Elam himself, as well as quite a bit of early Woodbadge material. There are also a handful of photos of different Boxwell and Council events that we haven’t run across anywhere else.
To kick things off, we wanted to share a mailing from the 1959 Capital Development Campaign. We’ve shown images of the early planning of Boxwell before. We even have an entire Special Exhibit dedicated to it. But this is new. This gives us an idea of how the pieces fit together and how “new Boxwell” was pitched and envisioned. You’ll note that this is yet another early vision of Boxwell would turn out… one that didn’t quite match the reality that we all know.
A mailing from the Council presenting the vision for the Old Hickory Lake Boxwell.
This week’s photo is a bit of a mystery. Here are the costumes for a Native American Ceremony of some kind laid out on picnic tables behind the compound in the late 1960s (or perhaps early 1970s). The tables are basically where the dumpsters are today; the dirt road leads back to the now abandoned dump.
The knee jerk is that these costumes belong to the OA, and that theory makes sense. Everyone knows that Boxwell and the OA have a long history together. The very first OA tap-out ceremony for Wa-Hi-Nasa was at the Narrows of the Harpeth Boxwell and many of the founding members were Boxwell staff members. To this day, the OA continues to have a large influence at Boxwell, even creating and running Winter Camp!
However, in the 1960s, Native American ceremonies were a regular part of summer camp. “Native Americans” opened and closed campfires and there were also often Indian dances as part of the campfire program. As there are no visible OA sashes here, these costumes could easily be part of those activities as well.
And thus, the mystery…
Two picnic tables of Native American costumes for some kind of program at Boxwell.
In honor of the passing of Claus “Dutch” Mann, we thought we would do something a wee bit different today. The very first interview we ever conducted for preserving Boxwell’s history was with Dutch in 1996. Fortunately, one small story he shared connects with this month’s theme of camp vehicles.
Some background first. In 1971, Boxwell and camps around the nation moved to what was known as “the Commissioner System.” Program Areas were basically done away with and camp was divided into a clusters, each with a set of Camp Commissioners. Each Commissioner staff took over the duties of the previous program areas, save the Waterfront. In other words, the duties of Activity Yard, Con Yard, Handicraft, Field Spots, and site leader were all rolled up in each commissioner staff, of which there were five.
At Stahlman in 1971, Kerry Parker, Jerry Barnett, and Dutch Mann were three of the five Camp Commissioners leading commissioner staffs. They decided to have a little fun with the job by utilizing one of the MANY military screen vehicles found at the compound at the time. As Dutch briefly explained in 1996…
“We had an old Army staff car that in the compound we decided that Jerry Barnett and Kerry and I decided to get dressed up like Generals and for flag formation we, we pulled up, we had a driver and we pulled up, we made like we were 3 generals and called everybody to attention and we had a swagger sticks and we had inspections of the ranks and so everybody was dressed. We chewed a few guys out and we had a lot of fun with that and then after the inspection why then we had the flag lowering. We had a lot of fun with that command car.”