The History of Troop 61 BSA
The Early Years
Troop 61 was founded in the fall of 1940. An 8th grade nun was apparently influential in encouraging the introduction of scouting into this Catholic parish, then on the outskirts of Milwaukee. Robert Johnson, then 28 became the first scoutmaster with Jim Doherty as assistant. Both were active for several year, but Mr. Johnson was transferred to second shift and Mr. Doherty was transferred out of town. The troop became less active. Fr. Peter Pimeskern became the second scoutmaster. Not much is know about the troop at that time.
During the 1940s the troop met in the Villa Maria, which was then used as a kindergarten classroom. The was the first church building when MGC parish was started in 1925. It stood in the front yard outside the current rectory living room. It was torn down to make room for the new rectory.
In 1945 Fr Paul Schuster was pastor of MGC, and Fr. Joseph Derks was assistant pastor. Fr. Joe asked his friend Jim Neidhoefer to reorganize the troop. This was done by Fr. Joe (a Catholic Priest), Jim Neidhoefer (a Luthern) and Gus Marks (a Jew).
The troop met in the school gym with Jim as the scoutmaster and Lee Fina as assistant scoutmaster. Fr. Joe was the committee chairman and chaplin. Fr. Joe remained active in the troop until his retirement in xx?) The troop started to grow.
Building The Scout House
In February 1950, Jim Neidhoefer owned a lot on the northeast corner of 68th and Burleigh. He deeded the lot to the parish in exchange for the land behind the convent to use for a scout house. This is to be the property of troop as long as the troop exists. The deed to the parish is public record. (This was a gentleman's agreement never put in writing for fear that the land could someday get into the hands of someone outside the parish.)
Fr. Joe talked Fr. Paul into giving the scouts two bus garages to use in building the scout house. The bus garages were moved into place and the center of the building connected the two. Two years later, the four side rooms were added. Now there is a handicraft room, first aid, trail skills, camp craft, and nature den. There are also an office, storage closets and a quarter master room.
Troop 61 is one of the very few troop in the county who own their own house, build with money generated by the troop, and is maintained with no financial help from parish. In the 1950s there were over 100 scouts in the troop. The meetings were held in the main room under the scoutmaster Jim Neidhoefer. During meetings, the troop broke up into groups doing activities in various rooms.
Transportation to campouts was provided by using the MGC school bus along with a number of cars and a trailer built by the troop. Campouts were run as a troop with adults doing the cooking etc. (Camping is now done by patrol with the boys doing there own cooking, cleanup, etc.) There were enough tents and equipment for over 100 people, so at that time there were big campouts.
In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s every summer the troop and many from the parish celebrated Fr. Joe's birthday at Nature's Acres (Neidhoefer's farm in Menomonee Falls, WI). Also, every fall the troop held a Halloween campout at the same location. There was always work to be done improving the river banks and whatever needed to be done to improve the environment. Sunday mornings the troop walked across the fields to St. James Church in Lannon, WI. They sat in front and the priest always made mention of the scouts being at Mass.
The Troop Newspaper
In 1971 the troop newspaper called the Buggle (a misspelling for Bugle) was first published. It has had many editors over the years and continues to this day. In the early 1970s a small trailer was donated to the troop which was converted to a canoe trailer and six canoes were purchased from the council.
In the troop there was a Sheepshead Patrol. This was a group of scout leaders who at times after meetings would go to a member's house for a game of Sheepshead. There was membership installation where a new member received his membership card which was to be carried at all times. lf a group of members are together and a member can't show his card he has to donate $1 to the troop treasury.
The flag pole in front of the school was purchased and installed by Troop 61 with the maintenance still a responsibility of the troop.
Scout Circus and Scout-O-Rama
In the 1960s Milwaukee County Council had on alternate years a Scout Circus which was held at the Milwaukee Auditorium (and later the Arena), and a Scout-o-rama at State Fair Park. As part of the Scout Circus the troop put on a bicycle act where did they intricate maneuvers in the dark with only lights on their spokes. It was always the hit of the show. At the Scout-o-rama the troop put on an anti-litter skit with music and dancing. It was called Hairy Debris. Hairy was a manikin made from garbage cans, down spouts, oil cans, etc. His cap was a Christmas tree stand. This was the time that recycling became vogue in the country. Hairy showed that instead of littering, things could be recycled into something useful. The show always drew crowds. Hairy also went to the National Jamboree in 1973 where he also got a good bit of attention.
About 1958 Explorer Post 61 was started for boys that were past scout age. The Post took over selling Christmas trees and the troop sold wreaths. (Trees and wreaths were donated to the church, and this practice continues to this day). The Post had a general interest was sailing and camping. They purchased an old lightning class sailboat and with a lot of work made it into a very seaworthy craft. They sailed it on Lake Michigan every summer and in July took it up to Menomonee Michigan to the annual Bay Jammer which was a weekend campout for Explorer Scouts with competition in water related events. The Post also had a ham radio station with the big antenna behind the scout house. The Post kept active until the death of Post adviser Hugh LaFontaine in 1984. A new advisor didn't become available so the Post disbanded.
In the 1950s and 1960s the troop went to summer camp at the council camps at Indian Mound Reservation at Silver Lake near Oconomowoc, and the Northwoods Camp near Laona WI. In 1971 it was decided that with our large adult staff that it would be better going lone troop camping outside of council camps. It was felt that the program could be made more flexible to better suit the needs of the troop. The troop started to go to a Northern Highlands State Forest campground at Jag Lake near Boulder Junction. That was so successful it has continued to the present. The troop traveled by school bus until the school no longer had one. Now transportation is by cars, trailers and a rental truck for supplies.
In 1963 the troop received the Hornaday Award for distinguished service to conservation. This was presented to the troop by the New York Zoological Society and The Boy Scouts of America. This was a unique award only once being presented in Wisconsin, and very few in the United States. The application alone is about 100 pages of text and pictures, It can be seen in the scout house.
Paper and Can Drives
In the late 1960s the troop started to collect newspapers as a fund raiser. Boys were given credit for papers that they brought in. Each boy had an account kept by the treasurer. The money could be used for troop activities or personal scout related equipment. This started with filling a couple of dumpsters until in the later years of the program, semi-trailers were necessary, this lasted until the price of paper went so low that it was no longer profitable. The troop switched to aluminum cans which has continued to this day. If anyone asks about the concrete slab next to the scout house, this is where the front pads of a semi-trailer went through the asphalt and a large wrecker had to be used to lift it up and set it so it could be picked up by the regular tractor.
Every winter in late January or February the troop goes to winter camp which is held at Indian Mound Scout Reservation at Silver Lake near Oconomowoc, WI. This has been called 'Winter Fun Camp." There is skating, sledding, hockey, skiing,etc. There are cabins providing for sleeping, and eating, with enough room for programs.
The National Jamboree
In 1973 the troop was allowed to go to the National Jamboree at Cooks Forest in Pennsylvania. It was the only troop from our council that was allows to attend as troop. Normally scouts from a council form contingent troops to go. There were many fund raisers that year to get enough for uniforms and equipment needed for the event. Two school buses were needed to carry the scouts and equipment for the journey.
JL High Adventure Trips
In the early 1970s the troop started a junior leader training session during the summer. This was designed to train patrol leaders and junior leaders in leadership skills. This training evolved into the annual JL Trip which is now called The High Adventure Trip. The troop rents vans and some older scouts and leaders take a trip out of the state for more high adventure scouting. Trips have ranged from San Diego, to Banff Canada, to Nova Scotia, to Key West Florida, and many, many places in between.
The famous scout pancake breakfasts started in the early 1960s. A 24X48 griddle was made and the first breakfast was served in the scout house with the pancakes being made in the First Aid room and served in the main room. About 200 people were served. With this success it was moved to the school cafeteria. A second griddle was needed so another one was built. This grew to serving as many as 1000 breakfasts after the Sunday Masses at MGC. When the new church was built, the breakfast was moved to the church dinning room (now Paullik Hall). For about the last 25 years it has been held on Palm Sunday.
As a service to the Milwaukee County Council the troop serves a pancake breakfast at the Milwaukee County Zoo the first weekend in June during annual Zoo Campout. This happens because Troop 61 is the only troop with enough equipment to handle a breakfast this big. The biggest one was the year that 800 meals were served (all the pancakes you can eat) in about 2 1/2 hours. This event is enjoyed even by people who are not members of the troop, but have such a good time that they keep coming back.
In September 1990 the troop celebrated it's 50th anniversary. There was a golf outing and cookout at Silver Spring Country Club the site of many parties and campouts (the old Neidhoefer farm). In the evening there was a dinner and program at Old Heidlburg Park. It was a grand homecoming, as many scouts from over the years came to meet old friends and reminisce.
In the 1990s as enrollment in the school decreased the troop has invited members of local packs to join the troop when they became scout age. The troop has been able to keep between 40 and 50 boy, still keeping an active adult staff of at least 20. Meetings are always held on Friday night with the some sort of activity at least once a month.
To this present day, the troop is active in teaching young men to become good citizens in the troop, their families and the community, and having fun doing it.
The Totem Pole in front of the scout house, and the smaller pole inside the scout house, were carved in 1974 by Roman Renk with assistance from many leaders and scouts. The dedication of the pole took place in October 1974 with a large cemermony in front of the scout house.
Scoutmasters of Troop 61
1940 - 1943 - Robert Johnson
1943 - 1945 - Fr. Peter Pimeskern
1945 - 1963 - Jim Neidhoefer
1963 - 1968 - Claude Heise
1968 - 1971 - Dr Greg Harrington
1971 - 1973 - Tom Pelt
1973 - Present - Dr Greg Harrington
Senior Patrol Leaders of Troop 61
1971 - Brian McGlin
1975 - Patrick Bieser
1986 - Richard Ballering
1990s - Matt Maigatter
1990s - Paul Vincent
1990s - Paul Roback
1990s - Mike Bolger
2001 - 2005 - Brian Krause
2005 - 2007 - Eugene Kendl
2007 - 2009 - Ian Redman
2009 - 2011 - Francis Klein
2011 - 2012 - Andrew Genal
2012 - 2013 - Brian & Sean Denny
2013 - 2014 - Calvin Spolar
1950s - Fr. Joseph Derks
1970 - 1989 - Ray Pelt
1989 - 1993 - Dick Amedi
1993 - 1999 - Jeff Gengler
1999 - 2012 - Dave Mehring
2012 - Present - Gene Genal