Troop 45 was not the first Boy Scout troop to be chartered in Milesburg. The roots of our town’s scouting movement goes clear back to 1941 when the Men’s Bible Class of the Methodist Church of Milesburg chartered the first troop of boys. That troop was known as Troop 59.
In 1957, Troop 59 rechartered with 54 boys, lost 26 boys the following year, then disbanded in 1958. Between 1959 and 1960, the Juniata Valley Council merged with the Blair-Bedford Council. Blair-Bedford had their own Troop 59 out of Port Matilda, who took over that troop number in the Juniata Valley Council.
In 1959, the Milesburg Methodist Church rechartered a Boy Scout Troop. Since troop number 59 was no longer available, they were assigned Troop 45, which they remain, today. The troop was rechartered as part of the Nittany District on March 17, 1959, under leadership of Scoutmaster Ivan Fisher. The troop started with 24 boys.
From 1959 to 1993, Troop 45 was chartered by the Milesburg Methodist Church. In 1993, the charter was taken over by the Milesburg American Legion Post #893. From its origin through 2009, Troop 45 was served by 18 scoutmasters with the troop ranging in size from 14 boys in 1978, to a peak of 55 boys in 1971.
When Troop 59 first formed in 1941, their uniform included neckerchiefs, knee socks, knickers (replaced by trousers in 1943) and the very recognizable “Smokey the Bear” campaign hat. In 1943, the campaign hat was dropped in favor of the field cap popularized by soldiers from WWII. Much of the insignia was colored as black on red.
At the time, Pearl Harbor had just been bombed a few days earlier. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was President and the United States was about to spend the next several years involved in World War II. The troop officially submitted its chartered on December 12, 1941, sponsored by the Men’s Bible Class at the Milesburg Methodist Church. Reverend William Snyder is listed on the charter as the Scoutmaster, though some sources list the first scoutmaster as Reverend Hewes Phillips from the Baptist Church. They became part of the Muncy District of the Juniata Valley Council
In the 1940’s, the troop charters included the names of the various patrols. Some of the early patrol names included names like “Beavers” and “Flying Eagles”. Through the years, the troop was chartered by the Men’s Bible Class, a “group of citizens”, the Milesburg American Legion, and ultimately the Milesburg Lions Club where they met at the Milesburg Community Center.
The troop started with a meager 10 boys, but along with the scouting movement in general, membership grew through the 40s and 50s. Between 1950 and 1960, BSA membership soared from 2.8 million to 5.2 million. Likewise, Troop 59 grew from a meager 10 boys to 54 at its peak in 1957.
In 1950, the troop changed chartered organizations to the Milesburg American Legion Post #893. In 1956, the chartering organization changed to the Milesburg Lions Club, which it remained until the troop disbanded in 1958. At that time membership had dropped by nearly half (to 28) from the previous year and nobody would accept the position of Scoutmaster.
Troop 45 – The Methodist Church Years
In 1959, the Milesburg Methodist Church, under minister Donald Ripple, were inspired to charter a Boy Scout Troop, once again. Our president was Dwight D. Eisenhower and Hawaii and Alaska were poised to become the last two states to join the union. Ivan Fisher stepped up as Scoutmaster for a troop of 24 boys. Milesburg once again had it’s troop, but unfortunately, they lost their designation as Troop 59.
In the year that the troop had disbanded, there were significant changes in the Juniata Valley Council. They had just merged with the Blair-Bedford Council, incorporating Troop 59 from the Porter District as part of the Nittany District of Juniata Valley Council. With it’s old designation gone, the Milesburg troop then became known as Troop 45, effective March 17, 1959.
Despite the social turmoil of the 1960s, the BSA continued to increase it’s membership. It offered a social alternative with high social standards. However, BSA began to falter as a model for outdoor conservation. It would take until the 1970s for the organization to re-evaluate its policies and again serve as a leader in outdoor conservation. In the 1960s, the BSA ended its policy of allowing racial segregation. Membership climbed form 5.2 million to 6.3 million. In 1960, troop 45 registered with 26 boys. In 1970, the registered with 54.
In the 1970s, BSA national membership declined by 34%. Troop 45 went from 54 boys to 20, in 1980. Perhaps some of this was due to the major changes in the BSA program in 1972, shifting emphasis from an outdoor program to that focused on those in the inner cities. Here is a short excerpt of the changes, taken from a history written for Troop 97 from the Longs Peak Council:
In 1972, the BSA made sudden and radical changes to the Scouting program, abandoning much of the traditional outdoor program, and applying inner-city programming to ALL of Scouting (what to do if lost?—The new Scout handbook’s entire “Lost” section showed a boy talking to a policeman with the instructions, “Ask for directions to find the way”). New, “politically-correct” terminology defined the era (the BSA had no “boys” or “Boy Scouts” because “boy” was considered demeaning; no longer an outdoorsman, the Scoutmaster became a “manager of learning” who taught Scouts the 11 “leadership competencies;” he guided Scouts through “personal growth agreement conferences” as they advanced through the various “progress awards.”)
In 1978, the BSA scrapped the old program, returning to an outdoor emphasis. But that wasn’t enough to stem the loss of membership which had declined from 6.3 million to 4.3 million in 1980.