Loyal fan of Boy Scouting collects memorabilia

February 02, 1994|By Dolly Merritt | Dolly Merritt,Special to the Sun

Eugene Shaffer is a self-proclaimed expert on the Boys Scouts of America, the group's history and deeds -- and he's delighted to talk about it all.

With his own museum of Boy Scout memorabilia in the basement of his home, the Ellicott City resident is researching a book he hopes to write about the history of the Scouts.

"I have all the Boy Scout handbooks that have ever been printed," said the 67-year-old retired crane operator, showing off a Boy Scout handbook dated 1911, which he keeps on a neatly organized bookcase.

He found the handbook at an antique show in Williamsburg, Va., just one volume in several bookcases of Scout publications that Mr. Shaffer has collected over the years.

His collection also includes displays of Boy Scout patches dating from the 1930s, sashes full of merit badges, hat pins and collar pins from the 1920s, old photographs of Boy Scout troops, and Scout shoes, socks and even a 1918 uniform.

"There are people who have been in Scouting for 20 years who are surprised about some of the historical facts that I've discovered," Mr. Shaffer said.

For example, there's the maroon and beige felt banner, dated 1915, with the emblem "ABC," which Mr. Shaffer found in an antique shop in 1985.

Within 24 hours, the collector had looked in his files and learned of a Boy Scout temporary camp named the Archibald Butt Camp that operated in 1914, 1915 and 1916 in Chesapeake Beach, Md.

That camp was named after Col. Archibald Butt, a prominent Maryland resident who died in the sinking of the Titanic.

Mr. Shaffer's collection stemmed from his long affiliation with Scouting, which began in 1940 when he joined a troop in Baltimore at age 13.

Four years later, Mr. Shaffer joined the Navy. He later married his wife, Marjorie, and had a son, Eugene Jr., and a daughter, Christine.

Mr. Shaffer returned to Scouting when he and his family moved to Ellicott City in 1960 and he began helping his son's Cub Scout pack. In 1962, Mr. Shaffer started Boy Scout Troop 794 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Ellicott City and served as Scoutmaster for six years. His son eventually earned the rank of Eagle Scout there.

Among his other Scouting activities over the years, Mr. Shaffer began an Explorer's post for boys 15 and over and took part in camporee outings for 20 years, twice serving as chairman of the events.

Mr. Shaffer is a member of the Boy Scouts of America's local staff of commissioners, who advise individual Boy Scout troops and packs. He teaches basic training to new commissioners, and also teaches the recruiting of volunteers for the Scouts' College Of Commissioner Science.

Sunday, Mr. Shaffer will launch local festivities at Chatham Mall in Ellicott City to celebrate the 84th anniversary of the founding of the Boy Scouts of America, which officially takes place Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Mr. Shaffer -- who once gave away more than 1,000 camporee mugs to make more room for more memorabilia -- is looking for a place other than his basement to house his extensive collection.

"I would love very much to establish it some place where people can enjoy it long after I am gone," Mr. Shaffer said. "I personally think that Scouting is the best organization in the world for young boys."

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