Troop 51 celebrates 75 years of scouting

During the 1950s, scouts from Troop 51 made their own canoes to use on a two-to-three-day trip down the Keowee River from the narrows of the “Horse Pasture” to the Pickens-Walhalla bridge. In this picture, troop members are seen on the Keowee River going under the old Chapman Bridge with nicely dressed “scout moms” observing from the banks of the river.

By Perry Gravely
Special to the Courier

PICKENS — Even on a cold, drizzling Sunday afternoon, a crowd gathered at the Troop 51 Scout Hut in Pickens to celebrate the troop’s 75th anniversary and to reminisce about past camping trips, socialize with former scouts, review old photographs and enjoy a moment of scouting history. Troop 51 of Pickens was chartered on Nov. 30, 1940, after succeeding previous Pickens Scout troops going back to 1912.

bsa_logoDuring the anniversary’s formal program, the Pickens Lions Club was recognized for its 75 years as the chartered organization for the troop. “It’s an honor for me to represent Pickens Lions as the original sponsor of Troop 51 on its 75th anniversary,” longtime Lions Club member Doug Hinkle said. “I was a Troop 51 scout in the 1950s, when Troop 51 did so many exciting things such as building the scout hut.”

Hinkle also recalled a canoe trip in the ‘50s when the scouts built their own canoes to “make the challenging two- and three -day runs on the Keowee River from the narrows in the Horse Pasture to the Pickens-Walhalla bridge.” During the celebration, Hinkle was reviewing an old black-and-white photograph from one of these canoe trips and recognized himself as the young scout in the front of one of the canoes going down the Keowee River under the old Chapman Bridge.

During the ceremony, many current scouts received a commemorative “75” patch from assistant scoutmaster Justin Carlisle for meeting a rank advancement challenge. Also recognized during the ceremony were previous scouts, previous Eagle Scouts and former adult leaders. Records show that more than 1,500 youth and adults have come through Troop 51 during its 75 years and 105 scouts have earned the highest rank of Eagle.

One of the highlights of the afternoon was the arrival of Jack Black, who was a member of the first group of scouts when it was chartered. Black, who is now a “young” 87, joined the troop in November 1940 at the age of 12 when some of the other boys on his street talked him into joining.

At that time, Black recalled, the troop met in a building off of Ann Street, and R.A. “King” Cole was the scoutmaster.

“King Cole was a wonderful fellow,” Black said. “We met every Monday night and we learned a lot of things, although we did not do a lot of camping during that time because it was during (World War II).”

Black said he enjoyed his years in scouting and they “taught him how to get along with people, learn responsibility and try to do the right thing.”

Dr. E.W. Rabon delivered the keynote speech at the event and talked briefly about some of the scouting history in the Pickens area and shared some stories about the legendary Jack Gantt, who served as the troop’s scoutmaster from 1945-81. Rabon also discussed the importance of the scout oath and how scouting helps prepare young men for many of life’s challenges. Rabon has been very active in scouting as an adult leader for Troop 37 in Easley and served in many roles in the Pickens District and Blue Ridge Council.

Justin Hemphill, a current scout working on his Eagle badge and serving as the troop’s senior patrol leader, attended the celebration and said “it was a very interesting thing to see the past members of our amazing troop and its extensive history.

“Seeing both these things made me reflect on how I may someday be the person standing in front of new members of Troop 51 and telling the amazing experiences that I’ve had in the troop and in scouting as a whole,” Hemphill said.

To put the founding of the troop in historical perspective, other major events in November 1940 included Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election to his third term as president, the bombing of Coventry, England, by the Germans and the bombing of Hamburg, Germany, by Great Britain during World War II, the introduction of the Willys General Purpose vehicle called the Jeep and the introduction of classic cartoon character Woody Woodpecker.

Troop 51 meets every Monday night at the Troop 51 Scout Hut and has monthly outings of camping, hiking, biking, backpacking and community service projects. Most recent events included camping and cycling the entire Doodle Trail in Pickens and for December, the troop has planned what will most likely be a very chilly backpacking trip in Pisgah National Forest.

For more information about Troop 51 or scouting in the Pickens area, contact scoutmaster Perry Gravely at