Celebrating First 100 Years of Merion Liberty Troop

Main Line Times

Merion Liberty Troop’s entering its 100th year with a proud history

Published: Wednesday, November 11, 2009



By David Block

Merion Liberty Troop has been a Main Line fixture for nearly a century. It was formed on Oct. 10, 1910, and was originally named Merion 1.

You might say that 10/10/10 was an auspicious beginning for this Boy Scout troop.

After the U.S. entered World War 1 in 1917, the Scouts in Merion 1 raised $1.4 million by selling Liberty War Bonds.

In recognition of the Scouts’ fund-raising efforts, the United States Treasury Department awarded them the special honor of the prestigious “circle L” Liberty emblem.

The Treasury Department changed Boy Scout Troop Merion 1’s official designation to “Merion Liberty Troop.”

“Scout troops are traditionally given numbers,” said Tom Shallow, president of the Merion Liberty Troop Benefactors. “We were given the honor of being called ‘Liberty’ instead of a number. To this day every member of Merion Liberty Troop proudly wears a liberty patch on the left shoulder of his uniform.”

When World War I ended in 1918, the Merion Community Association wanted to create a monument to the 84 young men from the Merion area who fought in the Great War. Amazingly 80 of the young men survived the war.

In 1919 RCA Victrola inventor Eldridge Johnson and his wife, Elsie, granted the Merion Community Association permission to build the Merion War Tribute House on their property.

The Johnsons donated their carriage house to Merion Liberty Troop as a meeting place for the Boy Scouts. The carriage house is still used as Merion Liberty Troop’s home, except it is now called the Merion War Tribute Scout House. According to Shallow, more than 3,000 Boy Scouts have passed through the doors of the Merion War Tribute Scout House.

Clarke Glennon has fond memories of his time in Merion Liberty Troop from 1945 to 1950. “It was a fantastic experience,” said Glennon, 76, who still volunteers with Merion Liberty Troop. “Every month we went on exciting camping trips.”
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In Glennon’s youth, children had fewer extracurricular activities to choose from. Even though children have more after-school options today, he said that there are always kids who want to be Scouts.

In Glennon’s Scouting days “parents never sat in on our Scout patrol meetings. When we had patrol meetings, we planned the camping trips and menus ourselves. We needed the parents for a few things, but we didn’t have so much parental involvement. We were in charge of everything. Today the kids can potentially miss out on the experience of not running things themselves. That helped us gain maturity and confidence.”

Glennon explained how Merion Liberty Troop helped the war effort during World War II by collecting newspapers and cans every week.

However, in the 1960s, the Vietnam era, some people looked down on the Boy Scouts.

“This is pure speculation,” said Jack Myers, vice chair of Merion Liberty Troop’s Troop Committee. “Back then, being or doing anything for the war effort was socially disdained. Some people saw Scouting as a quasi-military organization. That attitude cast a shadow on Scouting for some people. That’s just my opinion.” Meyers continued: “I got so much from being in the Boy Scouts. I’m still involved because my son is in the troop.”

When Bob Bramson was Merion Liberty Troop Scoutmaster in the mid-’70s, he enjoyed seeing the Scouts mature and develop into fine young men. Bramson said: “One boy moved from Puerto Rico to Merion and joined the troop. Camping was a whole new experience for him. On his first camping trip, his feet practically froze because he only owned thin flimsy socks. I lent him some of my thick heavy ones.”

Micah Fay, Merion Liberty Troop’s Assistant Scoutmaster, said that being a member of the troop from 1993 to 2001 gave him the opportunity to explore his adventurous personality.

“On one camping trip we had a nor’easter and my tent blew away,” said Fay. “It was totally awesome.” Those high-adventure camping trips prepared Fay to live off the land in British Columbia, Canada from 2004 to 2007. “I went out there with an axe, saw and a rowboat,” said Fay. “I fished and gathered wild plants for my food.”

Fay came back to share his knowledge with the troop. “I show them what wild plants they can eat, what they can use for medicine, how to build a shelter and how to make fire by rubbing sticks together. I teach them these wilderness skills so that they can survive in the wilderness as well as they can in the city.”

Fay continued: “We have over 40 Scouts in Merion Liberty Troop. That’s about four times as many as when I was in the troop. Now we have more programs for the boys.”

“When I was in the Boy Scouts (Troop 296 in Havertown),” said NBC10 meteorologist Dave Warren, “and got interested in how the weather works, there was nobody to give me any guidance.”

Warren, an Eagle Scout and 1992 Haverford High graduate, and Navy pilot James Brengle help area Scouts earn weather merit badges. Warren said: “We teach interested Scouts by showing them what we do, showing them where we get the weather information and showing them how accessible it is.”

Shallow said that Scouting can sometimes influence a young man’s career choice.

Shallow explained: “Many years ago, Ed Silverman from the Narberth Troop saw a lady having a heart attack. He had earned his first-aid merit badge so he was able to administer CPR. When the paramedics arrived, they said, ‘Good work, kid. You saved that woman’s life.’ Saving the lady’s life influenced Ed to become a doctor.”

To learn more about Merion Liberty Troop go to www.colbsa.org.