Boy Scout Troop 1, the oldest Scout Troop in Milford, will be celebrating its 100 year anniversary in November.
The troop, established on Nov. 19, 1919, today averages between 45 and 60 members, and with the competition from myriad sporting activities, that’s impressive, said Mark Krom, Scoutmaster for 40 years. Numbers were higher years ago. In the 1960s, the troop was so large it split into two troops. But back then there were 15 to 20 troops in the city, and today there are six at the most.
Sports are indeed a competition, but Troop 1, like other Boy Scout groups in the city, offers outdoor experiences and trips the leaders said help keep the youth between 10 and 18 years old interested in the Scouting program. Troop 1 leaders led a Housatonic River canoe trip in recent years, and there are trips to Scout camps in Washington, D.C., Virginia and other locations.
“We do a mystery trip once a year. We never tell the kids where we’re going,” said Don Ogrisek, advancement chairman for almost 42 years. Last year, the surprise trip was to Hersheypark.
Scouting, Krom said, fills a valuable niche.
“It gives them an opportunity to do things that they don’t normally do,” Krom said.
The Scouts learn survival skills, they learn to tie knots, like the tout-line hitch, the bowline, the clove hitch, and they learn first aid. Working on merit badges, they learn about the Constitution and history.
“If you go through Scouting, you can be almost self-sufficient,” Krom said. “You learn how to cook. You learn all aspects, how to prepare it, cook it and clean up afterwards.”
Boy Scout Troop 1 is sponsored by the First United Church of Christ’s Plymouth Men’s Club.
The troop’s history is largely based on word of mouth and some records. The council office used to be in Hamden and it flooded years ago, so many records from the original days were destroyed.
“We went back and made a list of who the former Eagle Scouts were, but we were never able to find out who the former Scoutmasters were,” said Krom.
The troop’s first Eagle Scout was the late Winthrop ‘Pink’ Smith.
Krom knows that 40 years ago he took over as Scoutmaster from Pink’s son, Winthop Smith Sr., also an Eagle Scout
The Smith family connection to Troop 1 doesn’t stop there.
Former state Sen. Winthrop Smith Jr., is a Troop 1 Eagle Scout, as were his father and grandfather before him. So was Winthrop Jr.’s brother Daniel, and his uncles, Danforth and Frosty.
“Troop 1 and Scouting taught us about the value of the outdoors, teamwork, patriotism and community,” said Winthrop Smith Jr. “For our family, it has also been a generational bind. We all share that and are proud of each other for it.”
His son, Winthrop Smith III, is an Eagle Scout too, but he went to the St. Mary’s Troop 721, because that is where he went to school.
Over the past 100 years, Troop 1 has seen 148 Scouts earn the Eagle award, which is the highest award in Scouting.
“We average at least two a year,” said Ogrisek.
Those Eagle projects, as well as other Scout endeavors, have left their mark on the city. Years ago, the Scouts helped with many public works projects, the Scout leaders said. Scouts painted the gazebo on the green and did landscaping around Milford.
They started a paper drive under former Mayor Alberta Jagoe in the 1980s.
“The city thought they could save money if they could separate paper,” Krom said. “A company from New Jersey used to bring a trailer down on Saturdays. It took tons and tons of expenses off the city so they didn’t have to pay for that.”
The effort stopped about the time recycling came to be.
These days, the Scouts are still very active in the community. They’ve done hat and coat drives for the Bridgeport Rescue Mission, they collect food each year at Thanksgiving for the needy, they send Christmas cards and supplies to troops.
“When Hurricane Sandy came through, we did the Sandy Relief dinner,” Krom said. “The city, the fire departments, both stations on Naugatuck Avenue and Melba, we had both of them and we served dinners out of there and we also collected clothing, supplies and we set up a whole rummage sale so people could come through and pick up necessities. We served I don’t know how many trays of pasta and ziti.”
Troop 1 Eagle Scouts have built a kiosk at the city’s community gardens; they built two bridges at Osbornedale State Park in Derby, did trail work at Mondo Ponds in Milford, and planted trees at Milford’s Eisenhower Park. They built and erected bat houses and duck houses in the community; they built teepees and a canoe rack at the Connecticut Audubon Coastal Center.
They also help maintain the Milford Cemetery.
“We do at least one project a year at the cemetery,” Krom said.
The deer sometimes knock the headstones over and break them in half, and the Scouts go in and set them and glue them back together, Ogrisek explained.
Some troop members have gone on to become area lawyers, police officers and fire department medics. A large number have entered the military, and some have gone on to work jobs in Washington, D.C.
All those former Scouts will be invited to help celebrate the 100th anniversary Nov. 30 at the Costa-Azzurra Restaurant in Milford. Krom said it will be more a reunion dinner than a formal celebration.
So far invitations have been sent to about 150 former troops members and leaders.