From Eldon Bray’s “Copperfield Remembered” on sale
There were six scout troops in the Bingham District. They were Troop 111 in Bingham (sponsored by and met at the Methodist Church), 112 in Copperfield (sponsored by the PTA and met at the grade school), 113 in Highland Boy, 114 in Lark, 136 also in Bingham (sponsored by and met at the LDS Church), 150 in Copperton (sponsored by and met at the LDS Church -- was 350 for a while). The Utah Copper Company (later Kennecott) unofficially fostered these troops; several of their management personnel, such as Vern Pett and Kay Landenberger participated in planning the District activities. For several years Kennecott paid the salaries of the scoutmasters in their employ while they took the boys to camp.
The scouts really did work on advancement during the scout meetings and several of them reached the rank of Eagle Scout. Years later after everybody had moved down to the valley Chinky Aguayo and Lee Halverson, who had both attained the rank of Silver Beaver, were honored to participate in the Court of Honor for Scotty Robertson’s youngest son, Kevin, when he received his Eagle award.
During scout meetings the boys also played some rough-house games such as “Steal-the-Bacon”, “Horses” and “Leap Frog”. During World War II when scrap metal was needed for the war effort Troop 112 collected more scrap metal than any other troop in the Bingham District. They also collected newspapers.
The most popular of the other activities for Troop 112 was swimming at Saratoga Hot Springs which they did about six times a year. Everybody would load into the old 1929 White school bus that the Bingham District had purchased and drive to Saratoga. The boys spent most of their time swimming, diving and splashing around for two or three hours in a disorganized free-for-all. But there was some actual swimming instruction and practice that took place. Most of the boys learned to swim at Saratoga and they often held impromptu races and diving competitions. The boys were pretty well famished after all their exertions at Saratoga so on the way home they would stop at a café in Murray, Midvale or Bluffdale for a hamburger and milk shake.
Garland had just received his Life Saving merit badge when Paul Valdez was discovered at the bottom of the outdoor pool at Saratoga – he’d been there for quite a while and wasn’t moving. Gar dove in and pulled Paul up to the bank. The boys lifted him out and laid him over the edge of the pool. They were preparing to resuscitate Paul when he came out of it OK without any further effort on their part.
There were some feelings between the troops. Copperfield boys were looked upon as socially inferior ruffians from “the other side of the tracks” while the Copperton boys were perceived by some to be goody-goody sissies. This difference in social status was brought home one summer when the troops went to Scout Camp. The Copperfield troop, upon requesting use of the bus, was told that it was already reserved for one of the other troops. So what did Troop 112 use for transportation? The garbage truck! Of course the truck had been washed quite thoroughly but it still had a certain odor about it and – it was still the garbage truck. The boys couldn’t help but feel that they had been slighted.
A great rivalry between the troops was apparent at the annual swimming meet. Each summer there was a swimming meet at Tracy Wigwam in Mill Creek Canyon. The swimming pool at Tracy was 20 yards (60 feet) long and the water was really cold – it wasn’t heated at all. Right from the beginning Troop 112 had some exceptional swimmers such as Billy McIver, Rex Leatherwood, Dugie Gonzales, Lee Halverson, Paul Valdes and Garland Bray. Year after year as one of Troop 112’s best swimmers left the troop another “unknown” would rise to the occasion. One year Troop 112’s best swimmer, Rex Leatherwood, was sick. Scotty took Lee aside and told him to swim the whole length of the pool without breathing – just keep his head down and swim for all he was worth. Lee did as instructed. He kept his head down and swam as hard as he could. He couldn’t see how the other swimmers were doing but when he reached the far end of the pool he had won first place!
Year after year the same troop won – Troop 112! This was very galling to some of the other troops and to their scoutmasters in particular. So they conspired to introduce “special events” with which they hoped to change the outcome of the swimming meet. One of the troops thought they had some good underwater swimmers who could beat Copperfield’s best so the next swimming meet included underwater swimming for the first time. The opposing troop’s best was able to swim the entire 60-foot length of the pool underwater. This was farther than any of the preceding swimmers had been able to do. But then it was Paul Valdez’s turn. Everybody watched, almost holding their own breaths, as Paul, deep under the water, approached the far end of the pool – touched it, turned, and swam halfway back to the other end! He had beaten all previous swimmers including the best from the other team. But then, as if to rub salt in the wound, Lee Halverson took his turn. Lee swam the entire length of the pool, turned, and swam all the way back to the far end! Lee and Paul were first and second in the underwater swimming competition. The strategy of introducing this new event had backfired on the troop that had proposed it. Copperfield had beaten the other troops more handily than ever! Another attempt at introducing a new event was Diving. Again it backfired – Garland took first place in the Diving contest.
The next attempt to find a way to beat Copperfield was to change the rules so that the adults from each troop could participate along with the boys. A meeting was convened at which this change was considered. During the meeting, however, it became apparent that Lee, who was the Assistant Scoutmaster and Garland who was swimming for the University of Utah, could both participate for Troop 112 if the rule was changed. These two could both beat anybody that the other troops had. The proposal to change the rules was immediately dropped. Lee and Gar gave an exhibition swim rather than racing with anybody.
Thinking back, years later, about why Copperfield always won the swimming meets there could be a couple of explanations. Copperfield was at an elevation of about 6800 feet up in the canyon where the streets and trails were steep and almost all walking involved a climb. Copperton was 1300 feet lower at an elevation of 5460 and the streets and trails were all relatively level. The boys in Copperfield probably had greater lung capacities and were in better shape because of all the hill-climbing that they did. Another explanation might be that the Copperfield boys simply tried harder.
Boy Scouts quite often do some funny things. Following are some of the “screwball” things that I remember happening in Troop 112.
One year the troops from Bingham went to camp for a week. All of the groceries were purchased through Leonard Miller’s store and a menu was provided for each meal. Each troop had its own camp site, its own portion of the groceries and did its own cooking. There was some room for modifying the menu. When black bean soup was called for early in the week it didn’t sound very appetizing so they found a substitute for it. A day or two later black bean soup was again called for and again they substituted for it. This was repeated several times. The last day at camp was the day of reckoning. There was almost nothing left to eat except black bean soup! They managed to choke it down but only because they were really hungry and had no other choice.
A few of the kids who were in Troop 112 or went to the scout camps led pretty tough lives at home. This became apparent when they went on a one-week camp to Tracy Wigwam. They all loaded into the old bus that the District had purchased and away they went to camp. It was a regular, fairly normal camp with the boys taking turns at the cooking and the food wasn’t really outstanding. The boys got along pretty well with each other about the way you would expect them to. At least that is the way most of the boys felt about it. But for one boy this was Heaven compared to his life at home. When it came time to go home he didn’t want to go! His solution was to take an axe and chop a hole in the gas tank of the bus! This created a delay but the boys were all delivered safely back to Copperfield.
Most of the boys had some memorable personal experiences at Tracy Wigwam. Competitions in the swimming meet were remembered by all with many of the boys becoming champions and enjoying victories they would never forget. My own major victory came when I won the backstroke race. An older boy had taught me the backstroke only a week or two earlier. This older boy was in the race with me and I beat him along with all the other competitors!
Doctor Richards cooked hamburgers for everybody after the swim meet. These always tasted great to the hungry boys but they were also remembered as being half raw. But there were some other odd experiences that would stick in a boy’s mind for the remainder of his life.
One of Garland’s experiences was his first and only encounter with a rattlesnake. Gar was walking along a dirt trail close to camp when he came upon a medium-sized rattlesnake that was in the trail. He warily walked around the rattler and hurried back to camp with neither he nor the snake bothering the other.
My odd experiences at Tracy include the doctor at camp determining that I had athlete’s foot and couldn’t go swimming until it was cleared up. Not to worry though – the doctor had me soak my feet in a bucket of water with a small amount of Clorox. The athlete’s foot was cleared up in only a day. When I hear of the high-priced fancy treatments for athlete’s foot now days I still think back to the Clorox cure and how effective and inexpensive it is.
Another humorous experience was when the troop, while at Tracy Wigwam, went on an early-morning hike up the canyon. The sun was just coming up as we hiked up the dirt road and came upon an unexpected sight – a guy and his girl parked in a car. They obviously had been there most of the night in what they considered to be a private “Lover’s Lane”. Now, to their dismay, they were confronted by the sight of a whole troop of Boy Scouts marching upon them. There was a lot of scrambling inside the car and then the engine came to life. As the whole troop of scouts gawked in curiosity the car with the guy and his girl roared away amid a big cloud of dust. I’ve sometimes wondered whether that poor girl was embarrassed for the rest of her life or whether she got over it in later years.
Camp Steiner was very different from Tracy Wigwam. Steiner was in the Uinta Mountains at an elevation of about 10,400 feet. There were numerous lakes and streams that were loaded with trout. Each troop had its own open-front log cabin with bunk beds. We also brought tents to use for the commissary. There were scouting activities in which the boys could earn merit badges but fishing was the main activity for many boys.
I especially enjoyed the fishing but it did lead to a mishap. When boarding the bus for Camp Steiner one year I wore a hat to which I had attached several fishing flies. My friend Warren was pushed up against me from behind by the jostling boys and was “hooked” on his eyelid by one of my flies. The doctor used some wire cutters to cut off the barb from the hook and then he withdrew the body of the hook with no problem. It was a close shave though and could have been very serious if the hook had pierced his eyeball just an eighth of an inch away.