The Boy Scouts & St John’s Story
Christopher Rutty & John Webster
St. John’s has a rich legacy as a partner with Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, the latter continuing today, but the former ended in 1983-84, although Cubs and Beaver groups for younger boys continued for another decade. The Guides story will be told in a future article. Long-time parishioner, John Webster, was closely involved with the “7th Toronto Scouts Troop” from the late-1970s to the early 1980s. The 7th Toronto Scouts began in 1909 and grew with the St. John’s Parish. Here, John tells the story of their last years at St. John’s:
“I became Assistant Scout Master (ASM) in the late 70s and continued to the early 80s. The 7th Toronto Scouts were based at St. John’s West Toronto and I was informed by Rev. Maurice Poole (then Incumbent) that the 7th were the first Scout Group formed in Toronto.
“The Scout Master at the time was Jim Winegarten, a sculptor and ‘Superdependent’ of the Sunday School (as he called himself). Jim and I took eight members of the troop to the Haliburton Scout Camp, a glorious outdoor excursion with full camp gear.
“During the week, a huge storm occurred, which knocked down trees. One fell against the tent that I was in. In the morning, Jim took his axe and removed the trees and branches, with help from the troop. I learned he was very good with an axe! A year or so later, he joined the Toronto Fire Department.
“As we left the general campground area by boat with all our tents and gear aboard, the troop was quiet as we sped away. Looking back, we could see a huge sign that said we would remember the time at camp as the ‘Good Old Days’. The next Scout Master was Don Hooper, an elementary school teacher.
“In all, I spent five years with the troop. I was chairman of the Scout Group, but I resigned due to differences of opinion. The 7th Toronto scout troop folded shortly afterwards due to lack of a leader and loss of interest in Scouting among the boys in the area.
“Our daughter, Quita, was involved with Guiding for 35 years at St. John’s and in Pickering.”
To supplement John’s report, I learned that the 7th Toronto Boy Scout Troop fluctuated in size over the years, but it was a large group from the 1920s through the late 1970s. A report in St. John’s Parish Magazine from May 1924 captures the Scout’s size and range of activities. In 1975, there were an average of 18-20 Scouts attending regular Monday evening meetings at St. John’s. The Scouts report in the 1975 Vestry Report noted: “The Scouts this year have participated in three camping trips without mishap. A one-week trip to the Haliburton Scout Range, accompanied by John Webster, proved to be an ideal holiday for 15 boys, although some comments were heard berating the amount of work required to sustain body and soul.” And as was noted in the 1977 Vestry Report, “One Tuesday every month since Oct., John Webster has been training some scouts at Humberside’s swimming pool and life-saving according to Saving Society’s standards.” By 1981, however, there were only 3 Scout members, and in 1983 there were 6 Cubs, but no Scouts. If you ask John, he can give you several reasons for the decline.
Included here are some photos of the 7th Toronto Boy Scout Troop published in the “St. John’s Church West Toronto: The First Century, 1881-1981” booklet (page 36) in the Odds & Ends section of the 100th Anniversary website.
Contact Christopher Rutty – firstname.lastname@example.org – with your historical contributions in support of the SJWT-100th, and to volunteer to help out with Doors Open Toronto, as well other special activities and events being planned to celebrate St. John’s 100 years on Humberside.
To learn more about St. John’s rich history, explore: sjwt.ca/100th