Burlington Area History
Burlington Boy Scouts, 1912 (Burlington Historical Society)
Burlington Area Scouts traces its organization back to 1910 when the town’s population was about 1,000. Sir Robert Baden-Powell had advanced the idea of Scouting in 1908 so Burlington was one of the first towns to take up the new idea. The first local Scoutmaster was Archie McGibbon, who remained in his position for more than a year, after which there was a succession of leaders including Hughes Cleaver and William Gilbert. The original enrolment of 25 boys was considered excellent for the small population of Burlington.
At first, some residents complained about the Scouts marching through the streets with bugles blaring and drums beating, but for the most part people favoured the new movement and merchants generously subscribed to their appeals, as they continue to do. It was the merchants of 1910 who bought the band instruments at a cost of several hundred dollars and stood beaming their approval in the doorways of their shops as the troop marched past in the dust of unpaved Brant Street. The meeting place those days was the basement of the former public library on Brant Street (the site of the present Civic Administration Building).
In 1912, His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught, Governor-General of Canada, took the salute at the march past of thousands of Boy Scouts at the Ontario Jamboree held at Exhibition Park in Toronto. Burlington’s Scouts proudly brought home first prize for the best marching and best-equipped troop.
When the First World War broke out, many former Scouts enlisted and a great many of them were either wounded or killed overseas.
About 1918, Rev. George W. Tebbs took over the troop. It was in the 1920s when Scoutmaster Tebbs and the local troop met Lord Baden-Powell in Burlington. The founder was motoring to Toronto and broke his trip for a short while when he saw the Scouts lined up at Gore Park on the waterfront.
For many years, Rev. Tebbs led the boys as they marched out of town, hauling the trek cart to some distant camping place. It wasn’t until 1958 that the Scouts’ combined group committees were able to buy the 90 acre camping grounds in North Burlington at Camp Manitou and in 1966 a $13,000 swimming pool was added.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, the organization faltered as enlistments took a heavy toll of the leaders.
At that time, Stanley Craze was appointed chairman of the group committee and began the work of reconstruction; by 1953, there were about 200 Cubs and Scouts in three troops and three packs with a waiting list.
1st Burlington Scouts on Parade, 1950 (Burlington Historical Society)
The Burlington Boy Scouts Local Association was formed in 1952 under president W.G. Gowing. The headquarters on Elizabeth St. was acquired from the town when it vacated the building as a town hall. Later, when the police and fire departments built new quarters, the entire premises were taken over by the Cubs and Scouts.
Trinity United Church (later Wellington Square United Church) needed extra space and, in 1959, they purchased the Scout Hall which was next door and renamed it Trinity Annex. Cubs and Scouts then began meeting in various schools and churches.
For many years, boys in the Strathcona district had their own Scout Hall on Belvenia Rd. constructed originally by area residents for community gatherings.
In 1966, a new district headquarters in Burlington was obtained at 450 John St. and a new group called the Venturers was formed for high school boys. District Commissioner Peter Bromley headed an organization of 250 leaders, 50 Cub packs, 25 Scout troops and 9 Rover crews for a total of about 1680 Burlington boys active in Scouting.
The 3 Sections Of Burlington Scouting, 1965 (Burlington District Scouts Archives)
When the Rotary Youth Centre was built on Guelph Line, Scout headquarters was relocated there. In 1996, there were 60 Venturers and 18 Rovers. The younger youth, 425 of them, enjoyed Beavers; there were 388 Cubs and 209 Scouts.
– excerpt from the book From Pathway to Skyway Revisited: The Story of Burlington by Claire Emery Machan. Reproduced with the kind permission of The Burlington Historical Society.