The year was 1910, and the downtown branch of the YMCA had established the first Boy Scout troop in Memphis, numbered —logically enough — as Troop 1. Very quickly, other troops formed all over the city, and so city officials formed an organization called the Chickasaw Council to oversee the growing scouting movement here.
And there's no question that Boy Scouts were an important — and highly visible — part of our community. It's impossible to look at old school photos without seeing kids in school proudly wearing their Cub Scout and Boy Scout uniforms to class. Camps were purchased nearby — Camp Courier in Mississippi, and Kamp Kia Kima in Arkansas — as rural retreats where the scouts could camp out, mingle with other troops in the area, enjoy the great outdoors, and learn new skills they would have never encountered on the streets and sidewalks of Memphis.
The glorious adventure of scouting has now been told in a brand-new book, Scouting in Memphis, written by G. Wayne Dowdy. If that name sounds familiar to you, it should, because this column wouldn't have been possible without the always generous help of the senior manager of the Memphis and Shelby County Public Library's History Department, and his hard-working staff. And Wayne is uniquely qualified to write the book, since he worked eight years on the staff at Kamp Kia Kima, served as a member of Troop 247, and — here's the best part — earned the coveted rank of Eagle Scout, an honor you carry for life.
Wayne is also the author of half a dozen books on local history, including A Brief History of Memphis, Mayor Crump Don't Like It: Machine Politics in Memphis, Hidden History of Memphis, On This Day in Memphis History, and more.
Scouting in Memphis traces the history of the Chickasaw Council from its early days, through its rapid growth in later decades, the challenges it faced during the turbulent days here of the 1960s and 1970s, and the growing emphasis on community service in the present time. It includes lots of vintage photos of scouts, camps, and even maps of the camps.
The book will be for sale at the Boy Scouts of America Chickasaw Council Headquarters, 171 South Hollywood. At this writing, the price is just $10. Or you can get a copy directly from Wayne by calling the History Department at the main library, 901-415-2742.