From the Archives, November 17, 2019

The Murrey Bell

Have you ever wandered around the CubWorld dining hall and noticed that large silver bell next the loading dock? What is that bell there for? Good question!

In “the old days,” the bell was used at Camp Murrey as a bugle replacement. While Stahlman and Parnell had buglers as part of their staffs, Murrey did not. The bell thus served in that role to notify families of the daily schedule, such as meal times.

Cindy Human, one of the daughters of Reservation Director Ed Human (1970-1975), explained it this way: “[T]hey had big dinner bell right outside the back steps of the Murrey dining hall, and they rang that at I don’t know, seven o’clock in the morning. That was your wake up call. The bell rang to wake up and then 30 minutes later it ring again telling you you had like 10 minutes for breakfast, and then it would ring when you could come into the dining hall to eat breakfast…. It became the dinner bell [too]. They would ring that and then they would ring it 30 minutes before lunch, and then when it was time to go in… because they would keep the doors locked while they were setting the tables and everything. And then once they had everything ready they’d ring the bell again and we’d go in for lunch and then the same thing for dinner.”

Pictured here is the bell in the modern day. Like the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, it is mostly there for show today, but there was a time when it served a more glorious function!

Murrey Bell

The bell at Murrey Dining Hall, located right next to the loading dock.

From the Archives, November 10, 2019

New Traditions

Boxwell is steeped in traditions. Some traditions fade away, others stay across generations. But what if you had the opportunity to make wholly new traditions from scratch? This is the reality that CubWorld staffs have been faced with for some time. With a quarter century under it’s belt now, the newest camp at Boxwell is sometimes still not seen as a co-equal staff or program by it’s “bigger brothers.” Nevertheless, these are Scouts on a Scout camp staff and they are making traditions all their own.

A simple tradition is recognizing their own staff. As the Boy Scout camps have noted for some time, that year’s staff is only together once and never again. CubWorld takes that idea to the next level and memorializes that year’s staff. This is done by staff made “plaques” that hang in the dining hall, right alongside the National Camp School Inspection pennants. Every year a new marker is added to the wall, taking note of all the staff from that summer. What happens when that wall fills? A new tradition will be born…

Seen here is one of the very first of these plaques, this one created by Program Director Dominick Azzara. The “Zulu Shield” motif fit with the “Jungle Book” theme the camp was using that summer and that idea of theme related plaques continues to this day.

CubWorld Shield, 2007

A Memorial for the 2007 CubWorld Staff, created by Program Director Dominick Azzara.

From the Archives, November 3, 2019

Fartsacks

The last few weeks we have focused on serious matters in Council history. We felt like it was time to go in a completely different direction this week. Thus, we bring you… fartsacks.

A fart sacks was not quite what it sounded like. It was neither an insult (though I suppose it could be) nor was it an actual sack used to capture farts. No, it was a mattress cover. Fart Sacks existed in a world that still used cotton mattresses and was interested in keeping those mattresses in the best condition possible. By the mid to late 1970s, the covers were retired.

In the early years of Old Hickory Boxwell though, mattress covers were part of camp set up and take down. When cots and mattressed went out to the sites, each cotton mattress was stuffed inside a Fart Sack. One person picked up the mattress, another slide the cover on. And then out the mattress went: on a truck, out to a campsite. And thus “fart sacks”–the covers protected the mattresses from Scouts… and their farts.

The covers also served a secondary purpose. As they became worn and completed their lives as mattress covers, they were often used as burnable material. Torches and the first Burning Eagles were made of this material. Neat side note: mattress covers burned faster than canvas.

Not surprisingly, no one took a direct photo of a mattress cover. Instead, we give you this photo of Skip Marlin at the compound in 1970. Behind Joe is a stack of mattresses. To his right (our left), near the top of the stack you will see a mattress that look just a little bit whiter than the others. That’s because this mattress is still in a cover. And that’s the best we can do…

Skip Marlin, Compound

Pictured here is Skip Marlin of the “Ski Dock” staff, returning boats to the compound at the end of the summer. What matters for our story though are the huge stack of mattresses in the background!

From The Archives, October 27, 2019

The Charges Against Ward Akers, Part IV

All this month, we’ve been looking at the events that led to the retirement of Ward Akers. If you recall, our story started on July 1, 1975. Reporter Larry Brinton in the Nashville Banner raised questions concerning Akers’ salary, nepotism in the Council office, and some generally questionable practices of the Council, specifically concerning trips and reimbursements. He followed up these charges 2 days later with accusations that the Council was trying to bury the publicity in hopes it would go away. Undeterred, Brinton pressed forward and a week after the first accusations, he then charged Akers with violating the Council’s own policy of no professional holding an outside position or interest. Akers was an investor in Camp Hy-Lake and his eldest son Ward E. Akers ran the camp. In response, the Council formed six ad hoc committees in Accounting, Administration, Budget, Ethics, Program, and Salary. Ward Akers “stepped aside” while the review was conducted.

The work of all six committees was completed by the middle of September 1975. However, the work of the committees was not made public for approximately two more weeks. The results were first reported in The Banner on the afternoon of October 4th and published in more detail in The Tennessean the morning of October 5th. The reports from the various committees total over 200 pages of investigation into the Council’s dealings and Akers’ performance. As The Tennessean explained, “The committees scrutinized the administration, ethics, salaries, budgeting, programs and bookkeeping procedures of the organization. The Committee which considered the question of salary paid to Ward E. Akers was especially concerned with how he received his raised and whether his salary was too high.” In the interests of brevity here, we direct you to attachment. This is _The Tennessean_’s summary of the various reports and tackles the highlights clearly. The short version: no outrageous violations occurred, though there were some misunderstandings and some poor decisions made. The nepotism and salary charges were clearly explained and dismissed. Camp Hy-Lake was not so easily dismissed.

Of course, because this was a “no stone unturned” investigation, the committees looked into more than the charges. They found some evidence of “ghost” enrollments and some evidence that the farming operation sometimes personally benefited Akers and the rangers. One of the most interesting finding came from the Administrative Review Committee, which found “that the [Executive] board is little more than a ‘rubber stamp’ to the scout executive, probably because it is the easiest, fastest way to get things accomplished.” It was clearly a necessary, but painful examination into Council operations.

While the Council basically found nothing horribly inappropriate with Akers’ behavior, Akers knew what had to be be done. The Council would always function under a cloud of suspicion, even with these reports, if he stayed on as Council Executive. On Saturday, October 4, 1975 Akers announced his early retirement. He would stay on until a new man was hired. Hershel Tolbert was announced as the new Executive on January 4, 1976.

And so ended the era of Ward Akers, council executive from 1947 through 1975 and visionary of Boxwell at Old Hickory Lake…

Nancy Varley, “New Executive Sought to ‘Reorganize’ Scouts,” _The Tennessean_, October 5, 1975, pg.1-A, 6-A.

“Scout Committee Report Excerpted, Summarized,” _The Tennessean_, October 5, 1975, pg. 6-A.

Akers resignation


Nancy Varley, “New Executive Sought to ‘Reorganize’ Scouts,” _The Tennessean_, October 5, 1975, pg.1-A, 6-A.

 

Akers resignation

“Scout Committee Report Excerpted, Summarized,” _The Tennessean_, October 5, 1975, pg. 6-A.

 

From the Archives, October 20, 2019

The Charges Against Ward Akers, Part III

For the last two weeks we’ve been exploring the charges against Ward Akers, a topic we have been asked about several times. To recap, on July 1, 1975, Larry Brinton in the Nashville Banner raised questions concerning Akers’ salary, nepotism in the Council office, and some generally questionable practices of the Council, specifically concerning

Brinton, Akers

Larry Brinton, “Akers Steps Aside During Full Review of Scout Program,” _The Nashville Banner_, July 11, 1975, pg. 1, 18.

trips and reimbursements. He followed up these charges 2 days later with accusations that the Council was trying to bury the publicity in hopes it would go away. Undeterred, Brinton pressed forward and a week after the first accusations, he then charged Akers with violating the Council’s own policy of no professional holding an outside position or interest. Akers was an investor in Camp Hy-Lake and his eldest son Ward E. Akers ran the camp.

It was clear by this point it was not going to be possible to completely bury this story without doing *something*. Money was clearly one motivator here. The United Way, where a percentage of Council funding came from, was demanding documentation that funds were being spent appropriately. Further, the Council’s own fund raising efforts (the SME campaign that year) was well short of its goal. Given this reality and the accusations, it seemed that some sort of investigation was warranted. Indeed, for the good of the program and the Council’s reputation, a thorough audit could only be a good thing. And so despite some members of the executive board being opposed, such as former Linton Boxwell camper and former Judge and Metro Mayor Beverly Briley, a “blue ribbon committee” was formed.

At a meeting at Boxwell on Thursday evening, July 10, the Executive Board announced a “no stone unturned” review. Ad Hoc Committees were established to investigate the following areas: Accounting, Administration, Budget, Ethics, Program, and Salary. Still, the Council was going to control the situation as best it could. The names of the Committee chairs would be released, but there would be no discussion of their work until said work was concluded. In other words, they could conduct their investigations without further interference from Brinton.

And the kicker? Ward and his wife/secretary Elizabeth Akers agreed to “step aside,” “temporarily relinquish[ing] their duties” while the investigation was conducted. This was July 10, 1975. The “Blue Ribbon” Committee work would not be complete until the first week of October, 1975, 44 years ago this month…

Larry Brinton, “Akers Steps Aside During Full Review of Scout Program,” The Nashville Banner, July 11, 1975, pg. 1, 18.