Saturday, March 29, 2014

Frank Heiss and Scouting: The Golden Age – Part I: The Beginning

Times were different in the 1960s and 1970s. America was brushing off the façade of the 1950s where life was seen through a glass darkly. The world of Leave to Beaver, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and the simplicity of Lassie was over.

These weekly television classics gave way to The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, and All in the Family.

The Brady Bunch was a blended family. The viewing audience was never aware if these two families came together through death or divorce. While they were still a semi-idyllic family, they did take on more relevant issues such as self-esteem, lying, cheating, and teen-age smoking.

The Partridge Family was headed by a single mom who tried to keep her family together while being a popular rock band and touring the nation at the same time. David Cassidy played the oldest son and had long hair, as sign of rebellion. The family performed in high-end night clubs and sang songs of love and romance.

Archie Bunker and his family pushed the social envelope over the proverbial cliff by facing hot button issues as racism, conservative extremism in the post Nixon era, as well as the impact of the budding sexual revolution.

Movies also reflected this break away from the halcyon days of the 1950’s. Mickey Rooney’s optimism was replaced with Jimmy Dean’s realism in Rebel without a Cause depicting the angst families faced during this tumultuous time. Jimmy Dean played a trouble teen who looked to his parents for guidance while the parents were too aloof to realize the new reality.

But all difficult, and sometimes necessary transitions, are preceded by a time known as the Golden Era. A time when life made sense and all was good. In the Heiss history of scouting, this Golden Era was when Frank Heiss was made Scout Master in the Fremont 3rd ward.

Dad, as I noted in my previous post, loved scouting. But after his teen-age years there was his mission,

the Army, 

and college. 

Finally at the ripe old age of 28, dad married mom. 

They started the life in West Lake, CA, a suburb of San Francisco, but three young kids and humid cold weather didn’t mix well, so in 1961 they moved to Fremont. I was less than a year old.

One of Frank’s first callings in the ward was Mutual President. In our days, that calling is analogous to the Young Men’s President. The Bishopric recognized that dad worked well with the youth and they were right. Dad loved his calling.

One day, as he was surveying each of the classes going on during Mutual, dad walked back to the Scout room (yes churches in those days had a scout room) and was quite surprised with what he saw. There was a large group of young boys standing at attention with the Scout Master, an old Navy veteran, pacing around the room scowling at them.

Dad could feel the tension in the room. He asked the Scout Master if this was some sort of game he was playing with the boys. Dad loved the games he played when he was a scout and was unaware of one that required the boys to stand at attention. The grizzled old Scout Master barked out that these boys had no discipline. They came to scouts and simply goofed off.

Such lack of discipline was not allowed in the military so the Scout Master had them stand at attention as punishment for their lack of respect. And they were going to stand there the rest of the night. Dad was appalled. He explained to the old Scout Master that these were boys and not soldiers. They needed to come to scouts to have fun and learn at the same time.

Such an affront from a young whippersnapper like dad upset the Scout Master and he told dad that since he had all the answer, he could take charge. The old man left and there was dad with a group of wide-eyed boys still standing at attention.

He quickly told the boys to relax and thought back to his days as a scout and remembered some games that he loved to play. The boys and dad spent the rest of the evening playing games and bonding. The boys had a great time. Dad had a great time as well.

As soon as dad had a chance he reported what had happened at Mutual to Br. Wally Severs, who was in the bishopric. He pleaded with Wally not to let that ancient mariner near the boys. Wally took this information back to the Bishopric and by next Sunday dad was released as Mutual President and called to be Scout Master. That calling lasted for over 12 years. The legend was born.

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