In true Scouts fashion, organizers of a celebration honouring the organization’s 110 years in the South Okanagan found a way to get it done despite a pandemic that has severely limited public activities.
“This was supposed to have been a series of celebrations over the entire weekend, then, of course, COVID struck. But there was no way we were going to cancel 110 in 2020, because 111 in 2021 doesn’t quite do it,” Gerry Lamb said with a laugh Saturday at the official opening on a new Scout-themed exhibit at the Penticton Museum.
“Besides, the celebration is only a brief moment in time.”
Lamb led a group of volunteers who spent the past nine years exploring a vast trove of items documenting Scouts Canada’s history in the South Okanagan. Some of what they found was featured in a series of articles in The Herald and some of it was donated to the museum.
“What you’re seeing here is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much material archived: minutes of meetings, documents, photographs, various artifacts,” said Lamb.
“You could write a whole book just on the history of Scouting here in Penticton.”
That history includes some notables among the Scouts themselves, including Mayor John Vassilaki, who was invited to speak at Saturday’s opening.
Vassilaki said he couldn’t speak English when he joined Cub Scouts about a month after his family immigrated to Canada from Greece in 1956.
“It’s a very lonely feeling” not speaking the local language, he said. “But you know what? Cubs and Scouts never made you feel lonely. They always made you feel like you were home and like you were a brother to the organization.”
Before delivering his remarks, Vassilaki was presented with a 1960s-era Queen Scout Award badge, the highest honour in Scouting.
“He didn’t earn it as a teenager, but, boy, did he earn it in his adult life giving back to the community,” Lamb said after presenting the badge to the mayor.
Also at Saturday’s opening were members of the Penticton and District Stamp Club, who unveiled an special commemorative stamp and cover in honour of 110 years of Scouting in the South Okanagan.
The stamp features a photo of a wooden bust of Scouts founder Lord Baden Powell. The bust was delivered in 2012 to the Scouts Canada National Museum in Ottawa as a gift from the Sierra Leonne Scout Association. Scouting in that country was resurrected by Canadian soldier working there as a UN peacekeeper.
An exhibition honouring Scouting in Summerland is now open at the museum there.
Summerland’s first Scout troop was created in 2009 or 2010. Penticton’s troop was formed in 1910, followed soon after by groups in Naramata, Keremeos, Hedley and Princeton. Troops in Oliver and Osoyoos were created in the early 1920s after the First World War.