“THE BADDEST TROOP EVER” at WVRC on April 14th
ELLIOTT TURNER provided the Invocation, a soldier’s prayer from the Civil War: I asked God for strength, that I might achieve, I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey. I asked for health, that I might do greater things, I was given infirmity, that I might do better things. I asked for riches, that I might be happy, I was given poverty, that I might be wise. I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men, I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God. I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life, I was given life, that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing I asked for… but everything I had hoped for. Almost, in spite of myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am, among all men, most richly blessed.”
Hey, ELLIOTT, a great choice. Thanks. PP MICHAEL NEWMAN provided the Pledge, but preceded by questions using the Four Way Test well done. He reminded us that this is the 150TH Anniversary of the start of The Civil War. Plus we should know that the reason the North won, according to them, was that they had 150,000 Irish in their ranks! While YOE is sure this was pleasing to our lone Irishman, PP SEAN MCMILLAN, I still could detect no exchange of coin between NEWMAN and MCMILLAN, so it seems likely that this compliment was provided “pro bono” as I think these attorneys say. And ever faithful LENNY rose to lead us in God Bless America always special, LENNY.
There were several guests. ED JACKSON brought his Godson, Nick Primo, and again introduced Chrisa Stilley as a Special Guest. STEVE PETTISE had a Special Guest, Lyndsey Guerrero. PEGGY brought her helper. DAVID managed to make some list of relatives who provided SUNNY, in support of LENNY. Our Speaker, Steve Hauser, brought two helpers, Dr. Chris Brown, who teaches at Cal State Fullerton, and Chris’s brother, Olivfan Stalworth.
It was birthday time, and each year we get the same opportunity to understand why ELLIOTT TURNER claims to have been born on April 1st in faraway Jacksonville, FL. DORIS OGILVIE liked the 5th, in LA but she was not present, as neither was DEBBIE HEAP who liked the 7th, in Pasadena. But we can depend upon ERIC LOBERG (I think he thinks there will be candy served) who claimed the 18th in Ithaca, NY. Another absentee was MADELYN FISCHMANN, who chose the 20th in Chicago. DON PARK held on to the end, specifically the 28th, and he liked Bruning, Nebraska. The small group of attendees were well serenaded, again, led by LENNY. Alas, ATHENA couldn’t report any missing pins.
There were announcements: Next Thursday, the 21st, WVRC will be shopping for and preparing dinner for those at OPCC, and JOHN HEIDT reminds us that he can use a few more helpers call him, please. April 30th is Dodger Baseball, and President GORDON has a sign up list. There will be a Preparedness Day on May 22nd and again, JOHN HEIDT would like you to join him, please. Apparently there is some opposition to the proposed Hotel which would be built where our present meeting place now stands. Some vote showed 269 for and 815 against. And DON announced the latest list of those who have contributed to our Japan relief campaign, which the club will double before sending it to R.I. The new names are RICK BROUS, JOHN O’KEEFE, PAULINE HARRIS, RAY ZICKFELD, PP JOHN SINGLETON, JACK PAUL, ALI SHOJI and MARK ROGO. Out total is over $4,000 which we will double and I think I can speak for DON when I say, it’s not too late to join up, OK?
PP and Program Chair CHRIS BRADFORD introduced our Speaker, Steve Hauser, who was and is an Eagle Scout. He was at UCLA in 1968, and decided to start a Scout Troop in South Central LA this just three years after the Watts Riots. It was tough to start, but he did gather a ragtag mix of boys, mostly black and a few Latinos and he was their Scoutmaster for TEN YEARS. During this time he finished UCLA, plus Loyola Law, and worked as an LA County public defender. In that capacity, he has encountered a number of his former troop members in some sort of trouble with the law. Steve says, “They would have been a lot worse off had they not been in the troop.” Among troop alumni are college professors, attorneys, a judge, teachers, and an elementary school principal. Steve is married, has two step-children and 6 grandchildren, and has written a book, “Baddest Troop Alive”. His presentation will be enhanced by Dr. Chris Brown an actual troop alumnus and his brother, Olivfan Stalworth.
Steve began by asking his two guests if they remembered the bad old days. Nardo replied, “Sure” and Chris, who had a chip on his shoulder, added, “We wanted justice, and we were gonna get it.” Chris, of course, was from Redlands, and a totally different environment. He was a naïve, 21 year old, on a quest to save the downtrodden and his experiences were among the most significant things in his young life. He was feeling guilty for having been given so much.
He got his fraternity, Tau Delta Phi, to bring some inner city kids to UCLA, and that’s how he met Jimmy Brown, a black who headed the Watts Job Corps. Brown told him these kids needed activities to keep them out of trouble. They first met in July 1968, just before his senior year. It was twenty miles to Willowbrook, and he planned to have weekly meetings, plus taking the boys on monthly overnight camping trips, hiking and other outings outside the ghetto. Before that, a lot of people came along, saying they would take us to Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Marineland but when we waited for them, they never showed up. However, it turned out the first meeting was lots of fun, and they proceeded to get to know each other.
Nardo, “Our patrol leader was John Atkins his father had passed away when he was younger, and my father left when I was about 6. When the father is not in the home, boys like John and I really suffered. We were never given the building blocks for men from our fathers. The Boy Scouts became out life preserver and Steve was captain of the ship. It seemed like every meeting had lessons on values that we had no interest in at first, but we soon found them invading our private lives at home. We stopped being bad, we just didn’t get worse.”
On their first overnight, Steve told them they had to bring their own food to cook. So Atkns, Nardo and Billy went into Banners Market. Nardo stuffed a package of hot links under his coat and paid for some chips. They went back, and Billy stuffed a loaf of bread into his pants, and bought some gum. Then they went back and got a can of peaches and some milk making sure they had something from each of the food groups Steve told them about!
Steve soon learned on later trips to the beach or mountains that some of the scouts had never been to either. The looks on their faces when they stood and stared at the tall, sweet smelling pines of the San Gabriel forest, gave him great satisfaction. Chris piped up, “Come on, face it Steve. Some of us were pretty close to being juvenile delinquents”. Nardo added, “That wasn’t rambunctious behavior, it was outright stealing.” Chris, “But when I put on that uniform, it reinforced by self-image as a good person.” During those years, Steve made sure they went camping in interesting places. They got a wonderful gift a 32 passenger, ’53 Ford bus and it served them well, until the brakes gave out. Several times they went to Clifton’s Cafeteria, at Christmastime, where the boys, most for the first time at a restaurant, we allowed to eat all they wanted. Annual trips included a yacht voyage to Catalina and camping on the beach in Mexico. They used the Boy Scout camps in the Santa Monica Mountains above Malibu, and in the foothills between Brea and Diamond Bar.
Steve, “On the campouts, after a day of hiking, at our campfire I loved to scare the boys with ghost stories.” Chris, “We didn’t really believe Steve’s scary stories, but we all had out knives and forks under out bedrolls just in case.” Steve was always trying to expose the boys to things outside the ghetto, and he told them he wanted them to march in the Redlands Lincoln Day Parade. There was some skepticism, but the troop leaders started to get into it, holding extra marching sessions. As they were preparing to march down the main street of Redlands, all his Scouts looked around at all the other troops theirs was the only one with blacks! Once the parade started, Terry, the senior patrol leader, started barking out orders, “Double to left flank, double to right flank, double to the rear, march. Granny Grappo bust her lip, on a Lays Potato Chip. Am I right or wrong?” People started to applaud when the troop passed by and Steve noticed the boys were marching taller, throwing their chests out as they put even more soul into their drill. Chris, “We were the sharpest troop there, even in our second-hand uniforms that were all starch-cleaned for the parade. We didn’t have to be born in Redlands.”
They had a memorable trip up the California Coast. They camped at Morro Bay, Big Sur, under the Golden Gate Bridge, and in the Humboldt Redwoods. As they got there, they saw a little store near camp and Steve told them, very specifically, NOT to go into that store. After his shower, Steve went to the store to get supplies, and all his boys were in the store. “Out!” he commanded, and they sauntered out and got on the bus. Steve was mad when he came out of the store and saw the boys on the bus. “I’m not driving you back. You came down against my orders; you can walk back to camp. Off!” When he arrived back at the camp, he found two stowaways inside the bus. Then he heard some chanting from the approaching boys. It sounded like, “Get whitey! Get whitey!” So here Steve was with a surly mob of inner city youth, heading toward the bus, chanting and waving stocks and rocks. “I thought I knew these kids, and found it hard to believe that they would actually do me any harm. But I had my doubts my mind raced through possibilities I had to think fast. Suddenly, it hit me. When they got close enough, I defiantly threw open the bus door and stood on the first step. With fire in my eyes, facing these fourteen Boy Scouts. I used the strongest weapon in my arsenal. I shouted, “I’m telling every one of your mothers exactly what you’re doing right now!” The rioters stopped dead in their tracks. Nardo said, “Aw gee, Steve, we was only funnin. Please don’t tell my mother.” And Chris added, “Yeah, Steve, lighten up. We didn’t mean nothin.”
During his ten years with the troop, Steve interacted with nearly two hundred boys. As Chris said, “ Steve rarely kicked troublemakers out of the troop. I guess he thought he could change ‘em all.” In 1976, Steve was working as a public defender in Central Juvie, and he saw a familiar face. Chris, what are you doing here?””They got me charged with attempted robbery and assault with great bodily injury. But I didn’t do it.” “Tell me what happened.” “I was on my way home when I came upon James Irvin as he was beating on my friend, Floyd. I had to help Floyd, and I socked James in the jaw. I guess I broke it. But because he was hurt and had to go to the hospital, and he told the police that I was some kind of gangster and that’s why I hit him. He said I started it by trying to rob him and that I was a gang-banger. The cops came and arrested me and I got charged.” “Do you have any witnesses?””Nope, it’s just Floyd and me, and Floyd’s picked up a case for arson since then.” “Well, Chris, I’m a public defender here, and I’d be willing to testify for you as a character witness. That might make a difference with the judge.” “That was the only time I was ever in trouble, and I thank God put Steve there to help me when I needed it most. “
Nardo, “I had a similar experience, only I was guilty. When I was 18, I got arrested for armed robbery. I was sitting in the country jail, and there were three people in the world I never wanted to see me in there - my mother, my father, and Steve. Remember when you came to the jail to see me, Steve?” “ I remember. I asked you if you did it, afraid of the answer. I would rarely ask my clients if they “did it - I’d get to know them a bit before going too far into the case. But with you, I figured I had a right to get the truth from the jump” Nardo, “Yeah, I did it”.
Tell me what happened.” “We got this big gun, it wasn’t loaded. We hung around the parking lot of this 7-eleven, and then we held the guy up. We were making our getaway, when we were being chased by the police. We sped up a little, just long enough for me to toss the bag and gun out the window. They didn’t seem to have any trouble finding the bag of money and the gun. Then they just took us to jail…I know I let you down, Steve.” “You let yourself down more than me…I want you to say the scout oath, right now…I am serious. Come on, I’ll say it with you.” Nardo, “I said it. I still knew every word.” “Now, do you think you’ve been living up to that oath, Nardo? “ “If I had, I sure wouldn’t be in here.” “You got that right. What was going on in your head?” Nardo, “I don’t know what I was thinking. I guess I wasn’t doing much thinking.” “Nardo, I look at you and I don’t see a criminal. I see a Boy Scout, one of my Boy Scouts. I’ll tell you what. I’ll write a letter to the judge and tell him that you were in the troop and that I’ve talked to you and don’t believe you are really a criminal.” Nardo, “Instead of prison, I was sent to Youth Authority. Steve never gave up on us.”
Steve, “I was doing a jury trial and we had just finished for the day. A tall, handsome black man with a beard, came up to me.” “Chris, remember me?” “Uh, no, tell me your name.” “Chris, Chris Brown from the Boy Scouts.. “ “Chris! What’s it been, seven, eight years since I last saw you in juvenile court?’ “Yeah, that court was something else…” “What are you doing now, Chris?” “I just graduated from UC Santa Cruz, and I’m starting my masters at UC Irvine this fall.” “Oh, wow. That’s so great!!” “Steve, I wanted to look you up to say Thank You for all you did for me. You know, my mother was raped when she was thirteen and I was the product. I never had much of a positive adult male role model coming up. Despite our racial and cultural differences, you were my role model and a great influence on my life.”
Donald Brooks, a senior patrol leader, after teaching school for a number of years, became a lawyer, practicing law in San Bernardino. Victor Wright, at the age of three, had to come to meetings with his scout brother, Eric, who had to watch him while their mother went to night school. Victor became our mascot, graduated from USC and then Yale Law, and after working with the LA County Counsel’s Office, has been appointed by the governor as a judge of the Los Angeles, Superior Court. David Bell has a master’s degree in education and is an elementary school principal in LAUSD. Eddie Potts graduated from USC and is a school teacher in Las Vegas. Victor’s brother, Eric, graduated from UCLA, has a master’s degree in African Studies, teaches college in Florida and is thinking about getting a doctorate degree.” Chris then read a letter from Eric, which was very touching - and long…”What I really believe is that no matter how much some of the guys would mess up or embarrass you, you continued in your faith and determination to help us, not only as Boy Scouts, but as young human beings…Being in the Boy Scouts gave me something to look forward to…you truly and honestly cared about your boys. That is what I remember most. And because of you, my dear friend, I always find myself helping others regardless of race.”
Steve Hauser, thank you for a most compelling and wonderful story today.