White Plains Troop 73
A History- Prepared for the 50th Anniversary Celebration in 2005-2006
In 1955, we know that President Eisenhower in The White House was staring nervously across the sea at the Kremlin, which we assume was staring nervously back. Reaching the moon was still only a dream. Pocket computers, cell phones and the internet were, at best, vague ideas on someone’s drawing board. Cars were bigger, gas was cheaper, and if your Dad made $10,000 a year, your family was doing pretty well. In September of that year, your family could eat at a brand new restaurant chain called McDonalds, visit a new theme park named Disneyland, and use a new brand of toothpaste: Crest. Dr. Joyce Brothers answered the $64,000 Question, someone named Ann Landers started an advice column in the Chicago Sun-Times, and a woman named Rosa Parks was becoming tired of sitting in the back of the bus. In a few months, she would do something about that. If you had a television set at home, you could look forward to Jackie Gleason’s Honeymooners, which would premier next month. And if you lived in New York, you could look forward to a Subway Series featuring the Yankees and Dodgers. The Dodgers would win it – but it would take all 7 games of the 1955 World Series. And if you were a parent of a boy in White Plains, you could have been working with others to create something very special for your son that would live on long after he had moved on … and his children had moved on … and their children.
The Boy Scouts of America was certainly not new in 1955. Lord Robert Baden-Powell of England began to develop a concept that would become Scouting shortly after his return from the Boer War in Africa. American men such as William D. Boyce, Daniel Carter Beard, James E. West, and our Greenwich, Connecticut neighbor Ernest Thompson Seton took that plan and brought it home to the United States. From Baden Powell’s first Boy Scout camping trip on Brownsea Island in 1907, the Boy Scout movement quickly spread throughout the world. The first World Jamboree would take place in London in 1920 and Scouts from around the globe would gather together again almost every four years thereafter to celebrate the most significant youth movement ever to appear on the face of the planet. Back home in the U.S., Scouts have served their country in times of emergency, have distinguished themselves in their dedication and devotion to family and civic responsibilities, and have gone on to become leaders of industry and government, pioneers in medicine and science, and exemplary citizens of this great nation. Famous Americans from Hank Aaron to Harrison Ford and Walter Cronkite to Bill Gates were Boy Scouts. Astronauts James Lovell and Neil Armstrong, businessmen H. Ross Perot and Sam Walton, and President Gerald R. Ford are included on the lengthy list of prominent Eagle Scouts.
In 1955, there were more than four million Boy Scouts in the United States in nearly one hundred thousand different units. Here in White Plains there were several Boy Scout Troop serving scores of youth. Why did a group of parents feel there might be room for one more? Maybe that founding group of parents had a different idea of how a Scout Troop should be run, or thought of a more creative way to bring the program to their sons. It might have been a simple desire to have a Scout Troop that met in the southern end of the city, nearer to their homes. And maybe they wanted to have a program that was their own, that they could start from scratch and create from the ground up. Whatever their initial motivation was, the number 73 was designated as the new Troop’s unit number and on October 25, 1955, representatives from the new Troop Committee, under the leadership of Dr. Arthur Strauss, would sign the unit’s first Application for Troop Charter. Two days later, the paperwork would be signed by Barney Mayrsohn as representative of the Troop’s Sponsoring Organization, the Ridgeway Elementary School P.T.A. And at that moment, with approval from the Orawaupum District of the Washington Irving Council, Boy Scouts of America, White Plains Troop 73 was born.
The man listed as Scoutmaster on that first Application for Charter was Robert Kirtland, but G.H. Flewellen is noted as Scoutmaster shortly thereafter. Dr. Strauss would continue to serve as the new Troop’s Committee Chairman for the next few years, to be followed by other fathers of boys in the Troop. Within their new Scouting program, dozens of boys learned the basic skills of Scouting, experienced the responsibilities of leadership, and saw first-hand the wonders of nature. As much as Ridgeway Elementary School would serve as the Troop’s home, the great outdoors would be its classroom. The Scouts of Troop 73 would often pitch their tents on the grounds of the Purdy Scout Reservation right here in White Plains, where barrel-chested Program Ranger “Tiny” Sperling would entertain them with campfire stories, and camping tips. Sometimes they would hike to the Allen Scout Reservation in Harrison, or the Seton Scout Reservation in Greenwich, CT. In the coming years, Mountain Lakes and Pound Ridge in northern Westchester, Croton Point Park on the Hudson, and the Curtis S. Read Scout Reservation upstate would welcome Troop 73 Scouters young and old. Some would do so for decades to come. It would not be long before one of Troop 73’s own had passed his Board of Review and would be presented with the rank of Eagle Scout. Roger Weider horn, who would later become a doctor, became an Eagle in June of 1958. Larry Gold would receive the rank next in 1960, and 35 other young men would join that unique and special brotherhood in the Troop’s first 50 years. Many boys’ Dads would serve the Troop as adult leaders and several would become Scoutmasters. After Scoutmaster Flewellen, Bernard Grayson, Donald Mack, and Robert Gottlieb would take the helm, followed by Dr. Lewis Neiberg, Burton Komita, and Al Cohan. Upon the untimely death of Al Cohan in 1965, Gerald Gold-who confided that he never intended to become Scoutmaster – accepted the position and served as Scoutmaster for the next several years. He was succeeded by Al Geller in 1975, who served for the next five years until he passed away quite unexpectedly at the young age of 39. Committee Chairman Justin Ehrlich (with four Scouting sons) assumed the role of Scoutmaster briefly, soon to be succeeded by his own son Doug – the first Troop 73 Scout to return to the Troop as its Scoutmaster. Doug would serve for two years, during which the Troop would move from Ridgeway to Rosedale Elementary School, and then he would pass the torch to Troop 73 alumnus, Jeffrey Gold, son of former Scoutmaster Gerald Gold. After Jeff would be Scoutmasters Peter D. Beekman and Charles Agro. During those years, the Troop would return briefly to Ridgeway, and then with the restructuring of the White Plains School System, would move to the White Plains Intermediate School – Highlands Campus – in 1982. The Highlands Intermediate, and then Middle School would remain the Troop’s home almost consistently through to the 50th Anniversary.
In August of 1987, Committee Chairman Steve Loewengart, who served in that capacity for twelve years, telephoned former Scout Michael Bennett, who had graduated from college a few months before, and asked him what he was doing on Tuesday nights. When informed that he had no specific plans, Steve informed him that was probably best, as Michael was to be the new Scoutmaster. Michael Bennett – who had been a Troop 73 Scout under the adult leadership of Doug Ehrlich, Jeff Gold and Peter Beekman – would then serve as Scoutmaster from 1987 through the Troop’s 50th Anniversary in 2005.
In addition to the Ridgeway P.T.A., Troop 73’s Sponsoring Organizations would include the Rosedale Elementary School P.T.A., the P.T.A. of the Highlands Intermediate School and Middle School, The White Plains – Ardsley Elks Lodge, and St. Bernard’s Church. The outdoor program of the Troop would expand from local camping trips – because outing is three-fourths of Scouting after all – to larger and farther adventures that began with Troop 73’s first Delaware River Canoe Trip in 1978, and would eventually take Troop 73 Scouts to the wooded mountains and jagged cliffs of Maine, the whitewater rapids and caves of West Virginia, and the Everglades and Coral Reefs of Southern Florida. The Troop would visit Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands of South Dakota, and the Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana. Washington D.C., Boston, Gettysburg and Valley Forge would become regular destinations, and Troop 73 would make its home, for a week, at summer camps in Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and in all parts of New York.
But, despite the exciting places the Troop has been to, and the wonders we have seen, beyond the first aid, the map and compass, the knife and axe and knots, what makes Troop 73 special is the people: the boys who first came wide-eyed and eager – and soon became the Troop’s veteran leaders, the parents who offered their time, energy and a piece of themselves to continue bringing the Scouting program to our youth – often long after their own sons had graduated from the Troop and gone off to college, the supportive members of our Community and local government, and the many who have opened their doors to us in otherwise uncommon ways – simply because we were Scouts, and they knew we were doing something good … and important.
Over the years, nearly 700 boys have learned about leadership by leading, about citizenship by being good citizens, and about devotion to family and community by the activities of the Troop, and hopefully by the examples set for them by their adult leaders. They learned to respect others and to respect themselves. And they developed friendships that have lasted, and will continue to last, for lifetimes. These boys and men and women know that they were a part of something very special together. They were a part of a very unique experience at a very special time in their lives.
They are, and always will be, a part of White Plains Boy Scout Troop 73.