Jim Atkinson, the Northwest District Associate for Montana Scouts BSA (Boy Scouts of America) Council, remembers taking a local group of Boy Scouts to an International Jamboree in 2009 up near Waterton Park in Canada.
“There were 1,200 Canadians, and only one American troop there, Troop 1933,” Atkinson said. “It was a real competition-based convention and Troop 33 smoked the Canadians.”
Troop 1933, also known as Troop 33, is celebrating 50 years as a Scouting troop chartered by the Kalispell Rotary with a celebration on Sunday, May 15. All former Scout leaders, Scouts and associated volunteers with the troop are invited to attend and can RSVP to the celebration by emailing [email protected].
Barbara Oxford, the Northwest District Committee Vice Chair, said while the troop is celebrating 50 continuous years of the charter, there’s evidence that the troop is much older than that.
“I wish we could say there had never been a break in the charter, but I love the history and we are all proud to have a solid 50 years chartered by Kalispell Rotary,” Oxford said. “We know there was a break for World War II, and a break for Vietnam, so for all the trials and tribulations we’ve had in the last 50 years, it’s incredible to have gone continuously for so long.”
While looking up the troop’s history — which is difficult since the state organizations office in Great Falls flooded in the ‘90s, ruining many records of Montana’s Scouting history — Oxford found an old newspaper clipping from the late 1940s that mentions Troop 33 holding its first honor court “since the troop was reactivated following World War II,” indicating the troop was likely initially chartered in the 1920s or 1930s.
The Scouts BSA is known as one of the largest youth organizations in America and has counted more than 110 million members since its founding in 1910. In Montana, Atkinson has been tracking the number of Scouts that achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, which he says is only around 4% of those involved in Scouts, and has records of roughly 12,000 Eagle Scouts across the state.
“The merit badges that Scouts earn are really just life skills,” Atkinson said. “Scouts can pursue any interests these days, from orienteering to space, and that’s what propels them into careers later in life. You’re hard pressed to find a company or organization that doesn’t have some member connected to Scouting.”
In the Flathead Valley, Atkinson says there’s hardly a part of the community that hasn’t benefitted from members of Troop 33 giving back in some form — from rehabbing cabins at the local 4-H camp, to building handicap accessible tent pads at nearby campgrounds to planting thousands of trees near Ashley Lake. Even in Glacier National Park, members of Troop 33 were on hand in 2010 for the 100th anniversary of the Scouts BSA and Glacier Park. Alongside 370 other Scouts and leaders, they completed service projects including painting and staining 24 historic buildings and park structures, building handicapped accessible trails, and placing 2,000 feet of bumper logs.
Atkinson said that while COVID took a toll on the number of Scouts in the Flathead, particularly within the younger Cub Scouting groups, four new units were launched last year and three more are in the works. He estimates there are around 200 Scouts in the Flathead area and Troop 33 currently has 27 members, which Atkinson says is about twice as large as the average Montana size.
Scouting troops can often fluctuate, with new ones cropping up, small troops combining if numbers get too low and the occasional dissolution, which makes the 50-year benchmark of Troop 1933 even more impressive.
“It’s dramatic to see the troop make it this long, especially knowing the history goes back even further,” Atkinson said.
Adding to Troop 1933’s legacy, it was the first local troop to offer an all-girls Scouting program. In 2019 Scouts BSA began offering all-girls troops to mirror the programming opportunities that have long been available primarily to boys and Troop 1933-G launched in May of 2021 with an additional donation from the Kalispell Noon Rotary. Now the number of all-girls troops equals the number of boys’ troops.
All associated Scouts, alumni and volunteers associated with Troop 1933 are invited to join in the half-century celebration this month.
“The celebration will let alumni mingle and share stories, and we will have memorabilia from the last five decades on hand to look at,” Oxford said. “And, of course, every Scouting event has to have a closing campfire with songs and skits, so it wouldn’t be a Scouting event without it!”
The 50th anniversary celebration of Scouts BSA Troop 1933 will take place on Sunday, May 15 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Grizzly Base Camp in Bigfork. Please RSVP to [email protected].
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