Updated: Aug 15
In Blog 91, we looked at Boy Scout Troop 46 that Blawenburg Church has sponsored since its inception in 1933. It showed how all the activities of scouting are guided by the Boy Scout Oath and Law. This stirred the memories of two former scouts from Troop 46 and inspired them to share some of their activities with us. Larry May was the first Troop 46 scout to attain the rank of Eagle in 1966. Dick Van Zandt was an active scout in the 1960s as well. I hope you enjoy these recollections.
One of the early scouts in Troop 46 was a young man named Parvin Stryker. He was very active in the troop in its early years, and he later became an assistant scoutmaster. He also served as a NJ State Trooper. At the time, scouts received wallet-size certificates from the national headquarters of scouting when they earned a merit badge. This badge represented Parvin’s athletic accomplishments. It was issued in the first year that the troop used its new name, Troop 46. Previously, it was known as Troop 1.
Dick Van Zandt remembers turtle shells
Dick was a Life Scout and earned both the Order of the Arrow and the God and Country awards.
“I remember Parvin Stryker catching large snapping turtles at the now defunct Institute Lake. (See Fact 1 below.) During the winter, when the lake ice was thick enough, he would walk along the shore and look down through the ice. He must have had great eyes because he could see the large shells buried in the mud. He would break the ice and pull the turtles out and make "turtle soup". I'm fairly certain the shell in the photo was from that lake.”
Others have commented that Lake Sylvan was a good source for the main ingredients for turtle soup. Apparently, there was a man in the township who had a very good recipe for the soup and people would bring him turtles for soup making.
These days, using locally hunted turtles for soup might seem like a bad environmental practice, but for most of its existence, this was a farming community where hunting and fishing were a way of life.
The Famous Poisonous Snake Hunt
In blog 91, we reported on the contest to find the largest poisonous snake. We do not recommend that you try this, but it was apparently fun at the time.
Dick Van Zandt recalls finding the snake.
“Parvin was also very much involved with the award received for the largest poisonous snake. In fact, both Larry May and I were present when the snake was captured. We were on a hike in the hills around Camp Pahaquarra (See Fact 2 below). Larry was in the lead, and I was right behind him. As the Assistant Scoutmaster, Parvin was bringing up the rear of maybe 10-15 scouts. Suddenly, Larry stopped short, and I bumped into his back. I looked at his face, and it was white as a sheet. He stammered out "rattle snake!" Sure enough, it was about a 3–4-foot timber rattle snake sunning itself on our trail. (Yes, in NJ!).
Parvin came roaring up, shouting for someone to make a forked stick from a tree branch. That was done quickly, and Parvin charged off into the brush after the snake. In short order, he pinned the snake down with the stick and picked it up with his thumb and forefinger just behind its head. Needless to say, the snake was not happy. It wrapped itself tightly around Parvin's arm and rattled furiously all the way back down the hill to the camp. On the way, Parvin used a small twig to show us the large fangs and the venom that shot out of them. What a tremendous learning experience about the wonders of nature for all of us as young Boy Scouts. The snake was eventually returned to the wild.”
Larry May remembers capturing the snake.
“Dick’s recollection of our rattle snake encounter is right on. Parvin Stryker was Assistant Scoutmaster pretty much all through the 1960s, and he was the one that went to Camp Pahaquarra with the troop each year (except for one year). My brother Everett was Scoutmaster during that time. That day when we encountered the rattler, we were hiking up the mountain headed to the Appalachian Trail that runs along the summit. We were a considerable distance up the mountain when I spotted the snake. After Parvin caught it, he carried that snake in his hands all the way back down the mountain and delivered it to the camp nature center.”
A Memorable Hike
Larry May recalls an adventurous hike
“One of the stories that I remember about Camp Pahaquarra happened one year when Parvin Stryker was unable to go with us. Joe Beachell went in his place. During the week at camp, we planned to hike up to the Appalachian Trail and go south on the trail about five miles to Sunfish Pond, a small lake of about two acres along the ridge. We would camp there overnight.
The day started out as a beautiful, warm, sunny day, so Joe didn’t think that we needed to take any tents. We would just sleep on the open ground under the stars. I convinced Joe that we should take at least a couple of tents anyway. The tents in that day were US Army surplus shelter halves. Each person would have half of a pup tent, a 3-piece tent pole, and a few tent pegs. Two people would “button” their shelter halves together to make a pup tent for two people.
We made it to Sunfish Pond and established our camp. When evening came, it looked as though a storm was coming in, and we needed to erect a shelter. The tent halves we had were not enough for everyone, so we got out our ponchos and hooked them together with the shelter halves. We constructed a lean-to of sorts over a fallen tree. Some of us got under the lean-to while others stayed out in the open. However, around 2:00am, the wind kicked up violently as the rain approached. At this point everyone squeezed into the lean-to. All of our back packs were assembled outside and covered with an extra poncho.
Then the rain came, a heavy downpour, and it rained continuously through the night. Amazingly, and as uncomfortable as it was crammed under our lean-to, none of us got wet! Around 8:00am or so, it was still raining, and we decided that we needed to break camp and get back to the main camp. We crawled out and dismantled our shelter as quickly as we could and put our ponchos on.
As we headed back along the ridge of the mountain, there was lightning in the area. It was not safe to remain on the summit. Therefore, we headed straight down the side of the mountain even though there was no trail. We had to get off the mountain. It was a difficult descent and took considerable time, but we made it. Of course, it soon stopped raining and turned out to be another beautiful day. We were none the worse for the wear, and it was a great experience.”
In addition to building character, scouting builds a lot of memories for all involved. The same can be said for Girl Scouts. The interaction with peers, the adventures that turn out to be exciting, and the storms that sometimes dampen bodies, but not spirits, all contribute to memories that last a lifetime. Thanks to all the scout leaders who help bring the Scout Oath and Law alive for young men and women as it has for more than a century.
1. Lake Sylvan was created at the Village for Epileptics (now Skillman Park) by damming Rock Brook, which flows on the north side of Blawenburg at the base of Blawenburg Hill. A new dam was built before Montgomery Township sold the property to Somerset County in the 1990s. When the county gained ownership, they removed the dam and drained the lake, presumably to limit their liability. Rock Brook now flows as a wide stream through the area where the lake was.
2. Camp Pahaquarra was a Boy Scout camp owned by the George Washington Council of the Boy Scouts of America. It served thousands of boys from Mercer, Hunterdon, Somerset, and Warren Counties from 1925 to 1971.
The camp was at the location of the old copper mines established by the Dutch in the mid-17th century. Before the Dutch arrived, the Lenni Lenape Native Americans lived on the land.
The camp had to sell their property to the U. S. Government in 1970 because the Tocks Island Dam was going to be built on the Delaware River, and the camp would be flooded. The Tocks Island Dam was never built, and Camp Pahaquarra and several other camps in the area were never restored. The scouts relocated over the mountain to Yards Creek Scout Reservation in Blairstown, NJ. In 2018, Yards Creek was sold due to financial problems.
For the past few years, Troop 46 scouts have gone to Yawgoog Scout Reservation in Rockville, RI for summer camp.
Swimming in the Delaware River at Camp Pahaquarra in 1942.
Merit badge card – Troop 46 archives
Turtle Shell – D. Cochran
Snake certificate – Troop 46 archives
Swimming at Camp Pahaquarra - http://pineypaddlers.com/PP-Info/A-HTML/pahaquarra-history/pahaquarra.htm
Personal recollections by Larry May and Dick Van Zandt. Thanks for sharing your memories.
Camp Pahaquarra - http://www.npshistory.com/publications/dewa/spanning-the-gap/v21-2-1.pdf
Copyright © 2023 by David Cochran. All rights reserved.
David Cochran's author site: http://www.dcochran.net