Former Boy Scouts gather at Kootaga

WALKER – Hundreds of current and former Boy Scouts gathered Saturday afternoon at Camp Kootaga for a Scout Reunion Day.

Greg Gentry, president of the Allohak Council, said the event was expected to draw 400 or more former Scouts to the camp which has been in operation since 1922.

“We’ve literally had thousands of boys come through this camp through the years,” he said. “We thought it was time to bring them back and let them see what we are doing with the camp.”

Many of those former Scouts are now grandparents and parents with Scouts of their own, or those who fell out of Scouting but now want to see if their children would want to participate, Gentry said. This the first year of the reunion, but Gentry said they are hoping to form alumni groups for troops, staffers, council members and Eagle Scouts.

“We’re tickled at the opportunity to have all of these guys back here,” he said.

Terry Schoolcraft, 61, was one of those returning scouts. Schoolcraft said he was in scouts from 1960-67, but hadn’t been back to the camp since.

“It was really different back then,” he said. “We had total tent cities. We didn’t have a swimming pool, we did our swimming in the river.”

Bruce Enlow, 65, began as a Scout in the mid-1960s. This is his third year as camp director at Camp Kootaga.

“To me, this is like coming home,” he said. “I remember my first time here. We didn’t have a bridge, we came across in an old cable car. We brought our things across on a hand-pulled barge.”

Since then the camp has added facilities such as a mess hall, a swimming pool and a camp store, but Gentry said the spirit of the camp and its charm remains the same.

“We’ve tried to keep as much of it traditional as possible,” he said.

Enlow said seeing so many former Scouts return for Saturday’s event warmed his heart.

“It’s great,” he said. “You meet fellows and families you haven’t seen in years.”

Enlow and Gently said the reunion also was a great opportunity to show how the Boy Scouts have updated in recent years. The program now features STEM-based badges and programs, which include lessons on auto repair, plumbing, welding and electricity.

The gathering Saturday featured a ceremony to honor some of the Scouts lost in recent years. Lodge Advisor Jay Wilson said members of the Order of the Arrow planned to hold a Ceremony of the Broken Arrow, a way of saying goodbye to Arrowmen who passed away this year.

“It’s just a really nice ceremony to do for the deceased,” Wilson said. “It honors past members and their dedication and service.”