SCOUTING AND TOMAHAWK STAFF MEMORIES
1957 - 1959
By Skip Sheldon
My whole association with Camp Tomahawk began when Lloyd Knutson presented the Eagle Scout award to me in February of 1956. He told my Dad about the new rifle range being built at camp that was being named after “Dad” Drew, who had some connection to our troop (troop 17 in St. Anthony Park). Dad also found out that Paul Burson, who was an assistant Scoutmaster with the troop, was trying to get certified as an NRA instructor so he could be in charge of the Field Sports area at camp. I was shooting on a NRA sponsored small-bore ( 22 rifles) team at that time, so Dad arranged for Paul to take the course he needed, and after that, one thing led to another, and I ended up coming to camp to work on the new rifle range in 1957. I went back for the summers of 58 and 59 also working on the rifle range, but made a “career change” in the summer of 60 by taking senior life guard training, so I could work as a life guard, which I did in 61and 62. My only regrets about working at Tomahawk are that I was so young (age 14 – 16) that I really didn’t appreciate what a great experience it was. I was mostly the “tag along kid” who was looked after by the older staff folks, and usually didn’t understand what was going on. I did really enjoy the summers, however, and looking back, believe that they helped shape my future involvement in Scouting and developed a good work ethic, that has served me well. Even though I didn’t work at camp after 59, I stayed active in Scouting and helped organize Explorer post 3 (Ramsey County Emergency Explorers) and worked with the OA. I was an officer in the Council Explorer organization, went to several State Explorer Conventions and attended all the OA Conclaves.
Some of the events that stick in my mind from camp staff days are the staff parties and tag football games following the chicken Bar-B-Q’s on Wednesday nights. I also remember helping Lloyd Knutson split rails for the trail to the rifle range, and “sinking” the catamaran sail boat while trying to learn to sail. I now recall as funny, but at the time was terrified by, the “special” staff meetings that were called when “Burma Shave” showed up one Sunday morning at the end of the camp directors new Scout Law signs on the road leading into camp, and when one of the staff was found stuck in the window of the trading post late one night. There may have been another one when the Volkswagen Beetle managed to get on top of the service lodge roof, but I think even the top brass saw the humor in that. I use to try to follow Don Kelsey on his Friday night tour of troop campfires, where he would sing a song or two, but he had a bicycle and I was walking, so I usually only kept up for 2 or 3 troops. Saturday nights in Rice Lake, were a real treat, for this young country boy, who lived too far out of town to even go to a movie at home. We always stopped at that little café (can’t remember the name) on the way home for burgers and a shake. Talked a lot about the “local girls” but, at least the groups I was with, never meet up with many.
In 1966 I graduated from the U of M with a degree in Engineering and went to work for the DuPont Company in Wilmington Delaware. I had been on the job about 2 weeks when my boss took me to lunch and said he’d heard that I was an Eagle Scout with some experience at Camp and in the Explorers. Well, it turned out his Son’s troop had just lost their Scoutmaster, and was I interested in becoming the new one? You don’t tell the boss “no” after only 2 weeks on the job, so I became the Scoutmaster of troop 63 in Wilmington Delaware in September of 66. Had a good time and got a chance to do my first hike on the Appalachian Trail with those boys. In January of 1970 I was transferred to Brevard, North Carolina and thought my Scouting career would be on hold for a while (I had a 3 month old Son, and figured that I would get involved again when he got older). We had been “down south” for about a year, when the church we were attending got a new minister. The second Sunday he preached, he told us that every church he had ever been at had a Scout troop and this one didn’t, so “someone” was going to start one. I didn’t say “no” fast enough, became a Scoutmaster again, and led troop 603 for the next 15 years. During that time the troop grew from the one boy who showed up for the first meeting to 60 boys with a waiting list. We produced 27 Eagles (including both my Sons), earned “50 miler” awards 5 times including both on foot and on water, and were designated an “Honor Unit” 12 times. Along the way, I earned the Scouter’s Key, Scoutmasters key, Wood badge beads, the District Award of Merit, Silver Beaver Award, and became a James E. West Fellow. I served on 3 wood badge staffs, have been on the District Committee, Camp committee, the Daniel Boone Council Executive committee and Council Executive Board (currently still serving on the Executive Board). Took Adult leader training at Philmont Scout Ranch and served on a National Jamboree Staff.
Career wise, the 5 years I planned to spend at the Brevard plant turned into 27. I got a chance to develop some really great equipment for manufacturing X-Ray film including machines that are still “state of the art” in the industry, and hold several patents on them. I earned a Masters degree (at night) from the University of Tennessee in 1976. I’ve had the chance to go all over the world, to scope out new machines, stat up manufacturing plants, and help with the start-up and debugging of new equipment. I retired in 1998 when our department was sold to a company that I didn’t want to work for, and have been living the ‘life of Riley” since then. I do volunteer work with a number of different organizations including SCORE, Trout Unlimited, Ruffed Grouse Society, Appalachian Trail Conference (We do trail maintenance every Friday), YMCA, a number of community committees, and of course, Scouts. The wife and I travel extensively (I think the “country count” is approaching 35), and have a great time with the Grandkids ( 2 boys, a girl, and hoping for at least one more). I started a little consulting business when I retired, mostly so I could write off some expenses, but have mostly closed it down, because it started to become too much like work again.