The Cubs and Barney Jameson
Henryetta’s first Cub Scout pack was formed in the summer of 1940 by Barney Jameson, a projectionist at the Blaine and Morgan theaters. Its first three members were James Goodman, Carl Steckelberg, and me. Well, James and Carl were the first two and I joined them the next week. James and Carl were 11 and I was 10. Later, there were 9 near-olds, the age at which boys became eligible then. Tommy Goodman, who was 8, but large for his age, was always along – even the week before I was. Barney’s stepson, Jimmy Reynolds, a boy scout, was always with us that first summer, too. To my knowledge, Jimmy was Barney’s only “son.”
At first, Barney came by our houses to pick each of us up at 6:00 a.m. every Wednesday and take us to swim free at the swimming pool in the old City Park located just south of the football stadium inside a big curve formed by Coal Creek – the area is still there, but sort of deserted – the swimming pools have long since been filled and it isn’t used as a park anymore. Barney let us ride on the running boards of his car, but as time went on and there were more Cubs, the unlucky ones had to ride inside. By the end of summer, there were too many Cubs for him to pick up and we had to get to the park on our own.
The park had a lot of rock cooking sites and picnic tables. I think it had swings, a slide, teeter-totters, and maybe a merry-go-round kids pushed in a circle. But its most exciting feature, apart from the pools, was a swinging bridge across Coal Creek to a neighborhood in a separated area that was accessible by road only from Corporation Street. A few Washington grade school kids used that bridge to get to and from school. Jumping and making it swing up and down when there were girls on it was among every boy’s “funnest” things back then.
Back to the Cubs. We each had to cook our own breakfast after swimming. Mother would give me a small skillet, two slices of bacon, an egg, two slices of bread, a tiny bit of salt wrapped in paper, and two matches so I could make myself an egg sandwich at a cook site. I started a fire using kindling that was around, and Barney let us use matches instead of the boy scout way rubbing sticks together to make them heat up and then cause kindling to burn. Then I put the skillet on the fire and added the bacon. Mother said I had to cook the bacon to get grease to cook the egg. (One morning, I forgot to add the bacon and the egg didn’t cook – I didn’t forget again.) When the bacon was done, I cracked and put in the egg and stirred it with a stick to scramble it, usually remembering to add the salt. When it was done, I drained off the leftover grease, usually trying to drain it into the fire to make a flame. Then I slid the egg from the skillet onto a slice of bread, put the bacon and the other slice of bread on, and ergo: An egg sandwich. I had no mayo, mustard, catsup, cheese, lettuce, onions, etc. My egg sandwich was just bacon egg and bread, but I thought it was great. I don’t recall what I had to drink , but the park had fountains.
By fall, there were many more Cubs and we played football after school on Wednesdays in a vacant lot at Ninth or Tenth and Broadway – getting our clothes muddy seemed to be our biggest objective. Then, when winter set in, we played a chaotic type of gang basketball in the basement gym of the Methodist Church at Sixth and Broadway.
That winter, Barney’s stepson, Jimmy, became an Eagle Scout when he was just barely thirteen years old. As I recall, there was an article in the Free-Lance reporting that he was the youngest Eagle Henryetta had ever had. Shortly after that, Jimmy had an attack of appendicitis and died. Barney was devastated, but he kept up with the Cubs. While I had known of one other child who had died, Jimmy’s death vividly brought to me to face the fact that a child could actually die and never grow up.
In 1941, we resumed the free swimming and cooking at the old City Park, but changed to the great new Nichols Park when it opened, I think the Fourth of July. I joined the Scouts in 1942, but oh, those Cub memories!
Later, I got to know Barney in a different setting when I became an usher at the Blaine and Morgan.
I don’t know how long Barney continued to lead the Cub Pack or how long it continued as the only pack in town, but it was quite a while. Long after I left Henryetta, I’d sometimes be there at holiday parades and there’d always be a large group of Cubs, with Barney at the rear. Barney died long ago, but to me, he still lives as one of my special Henryetta memories.