A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster
The Scouting Movement was a big deal when I was a kid. I hope it’s still going strong, but I somehow doubt it is as massive as it was in the ‘40s and ‘50s. Scouting taught us all sorts of handy things that I have been able to carry with me as I plodded my way through life.
I don’t know how many times I’ve used my knowledge of semaphore, (flag signalling for the uninformed.) Off-hand I would say – never. By the time I figured out what the message was, it would have been quicker for whoever was waving the flags to mail me a letter.
My most amazing feat as a Boy Scout was winning a badge for knot tying. My mother must have paid off the Scoutmaster. I have never understood the mechanics of knots. To me the relationship between a knot and a piece of string is on the same intellectual plane as quantum physics. If I had been a longshoreman on the Southhampton docks during the maiden voyage of the Titanic, the disaster would never have happened. They’d still be there trying to get the damn knots in the mooring ropes undone. Even the simple reef knot is beyond my ken.
How to start a campfire was another useful bit of information that has served me well. Unfortunately, I was sick the day the troop took how to start a campfire with wet wood. Years later, I tried to do it by squirting naphtha on a reluctant fire. Not only did the fire ignite, but also my eyebrows, nose hairs and most of the fur on my arms.
Boy Scouts were big on parades. The troops were always off marching from one place or another. It wasn’t too long after the Second World War. I think Ottawa’s idea was to whip us kids into shape in case the Russian Fleet sailed into Toronto Harbour.
When I was 11, one of the great heroes of the scouting world came to Toronto just to see us, Lord Rowland. I remember all the scout leaders were excited so there must have been a free bar after. Every troop and cub pack in Toronto and beyond was gathered at a huge rally in Greenwood Park.
I remember Greenwood had lots of grass, a wading pool and damn few johns. (That’s ‘johns’ as in urinals, not ‘johns’ as in hooker customers.)
Lord Rowland, realizing he had thousands of kids as a captive audience, mercifully cut his message of hope and inspiration short – just over five hours
Now you must remember that this great event was held long before the invention of the portable fibreglass outhouse. Greenwood had two, maybe three, toilets. I think some rocket scientist of an engineer worked it out that one urinal for every 6,000 boy scouts was a reasonable number. I believe he was the same genius who later designed the plumbing system at Exhibition Stadium. That was the ballpark that was washed out to sea during the 7th inning stretch at a Blue Jay-Yankee game. The lineup for the can in Greenwood Park was only a foot shorter than the parade itself. If you had to go, you needed to pack a lunch. Carrying an empty pop bottle wasn’t a bad idea either.
I knew I was getting dangerously close to urgent as the ceremony was ending but for some reason I decided I could hold out until I got home. Things were starting to get a little tense as we were leaving the park, but I was still sure I could make it. As I was going along Mortimer Avenue on the bus, I realized the dam was washing out. I hopped off the bus at the next stop looking for a bush, a tree, a hydrant, anything I could hide behind, lean against, or water without gathering a crowd.
Too late! I stood there in the middle of the sidewalk and peed my pants. I can still feel the stuff running down through my knee socks.
Isn’t it amazing how hot pee gets? When the scientists finish building that on/off erection switch for teen age boys, I think they should look into designing hot urine heating systems to replace oil and natural gas. Of course, the government will have to figure some way to collect the sales tax every time you pee in the tank. If anyone can, Queens Park and Ottawa will do it.
As if it wasn’t bad enough I had to squish the next couple of blocks, there were people standing there waiting to get on the bus. I’m trying to look the proper young gentleman and a half a gallon of scalding pee is pouring down my leg and attracting dogs.
If I am to be granted one wish before I’m taken to that great Scout Jamboree in the sky, it will be to stand next to Lord Rowland at a public urinal. He better be wearing rubber boots.