Camping and Events
In the midst of truck farms, forest preserves and the picnic groves of the northwest suburbs of Chicago, during the booming 1950’s, a Church and School named after St. John Brebuef arose to humble attention. Considering all the other growth in the “up and coming” community of Niles the opening of entities like SJB were quite common. Not too common though for the parents who wanted a little extra for their children. But as the “little red school” house and few other buildings just north of Oakton and Harlem Ave went up, it wasn’t long before people started to wonder what was happening.
They didn’t have to wait too long to find out; total enrollment quickly grew above 500 children. By 1958 the first graduating class of 62 children seemed to indicate that more boom times were ahead. Plans were soon outlined for more classrooms; with the growth in the local population it was only a matter of time before this rapid increase was bound to cause some concerns.
One being that in addition to educating these children how would parents be able to keep them busy; not only out of trouble, but building character – especially the boys.
In those days children were still somewhat “seen and not heard”. Parents were not quite as involved in their children’s lives like they are today. But they were still concerned about outcomes.
By the time of the founding of St. John Brebeuf School, the Boy Scouts of America had been around for over 50 years and had developed a strong tradition of teaching young boys to become good citizens and cultivated the concept of building men of character. Thus several parents of young boys at SJB – who were well aware of the benefits of scouting – decided to start a troop in the beginning of 1962.
They were given the number 175 from the Boy Scouts Local council and Troop 175 was born in June of that year. Mr. Dan Moriarity was their first Scoutmaster. Indeed, Troop 175 was chartered – started as a Boy Scouts of America entity – in June of 1962. The Chartering organization was the St. John Brebeuf Holy Name Men’s Society. By 1966 there were 34 Scouts.
In September of 1964 an additional troop requested a charter by the same organization. A Vasco Matteoni was the Holy Name Societies representative and Gerald Sullivan was the first Scoutmaster of Troop 275. There were 6 paid members – in the following year there were 20. They met on Thursdays at 730 pm. Both troops operated independently but out of the same location.
Since inception, both troops have always met and been a part of the Parish of St. John Brebeuf School. Most of their Scouts as well as leaders had either direct connection with SJB Church and School or indirectly through CCD classes or some other ministry.
One early scout – Mike Ellgas (the first Eagle Scout in 175) – remembered how the troop would meet in the basement of the little red school-house. He was a member of the Fox patrol and credits his time in scouting for his strong swimming skills, knot tying ability and love of the outdoors. He was also one of the last Scouts that were not required to perform a service project to attain the Eagle award, but he says it was still no easy task: “Our Scoutmaster used to expect that we knew our first aid. It wasn’t just some casual experience. We spent a lot of time at meetings and in the field making sure we knew what to do in an emergency”.
First aid meet 1970
First Aid Meet ca 1990
Troop 175/275 has also done its share of camping. Over the years they have camped in many different areas around the home base of Niles Illinois. A frequent locale is the White Pines State park near Oregon Il, which seems to have been a favorite since the early 1970s. The troop has gone there almost every year around June since. It is always very well attended by the scouts.
Tippecanoe State Park 1973
White Pines 1982
White Pines 1982
Chief Blackhawk near White Pines 1982. Built in 1911
White Pines 1989
White Pines/Rock River canoeing 2011
Reagan’s childhood home in Dixon Il – near White Pines 2009
White Pines 2010
Scoutmaster Leo Weiss remembered a time when the boys were catching fish from the creek with their bare hands. “I was amazed to see these kids just walking in the middle of the creek, grabbing one fish after another. It was quite a site to see. They looked like Grizzly bears scooping salmon from the Alaskan rivers.”
Andy Beierwaltes, a Scout from the 70s and 80’s fondly remembers camping at the Mississippi Palisades state park. The hiking was great and one year “we were caught in a blizzard. There was over 3 feet of snow and we were in canvas tents. Luckily we weren’t too far from a family member who was a nun at a local convent. She let us stay in the warm house for a while and gave us hot chocolate. That made a huge difference! We also used to explore an old house boat that was left in dry dock. That was a lot of fun as well”
On one event Weiss remembered a planned trip to the Indiana dunes almost didn’t happen at the last-minute. “We had gotten all the supplies together and made our way to the park on a Friday evening, except someone (and it might have been me) forgot to book a reservation at the campsite. This is a really popular place and it’s even more popular on a weekend in the summer. We got to the ranger station and my heart almost stopped when I realized that we had no reservation and they informed us that the park was full”.
Things weren’t looking so good – “I had no idea what I was going to tell these boys. But as I walked back to the car, an older gentleman, who must have heard my discussion with the ranger, approached to let me know that he had a very large farm nearby that had plenty of room for the Scout’s to camp in. It turned out to be the perfect place. He not only had room for us, but he had a solar oven and showed us how to cook with it! His farm was very close to the park, so this was a huge blessing.”
What a nice couple they were!
And he had tons of room too!!!
The Troop still camps at the Dunes today:
Other popular local stops are places like the annual Circus World Heritage weekend in Baraboo Wisconsin, held at the Baraboo fair grounds near the middle of May.
They do a grand flag parade:
Baraboo used to be the Winter home for the B&B Circus and they still have a troupe perform here:
Seems we’ve been part of the circus a few times
He’s not in the troop…is he?
(One of the only places you can do some pig wrestling)
The Lincoln pilgrimage weekend in Springfield is also a very popular destination for scouts all over Illinois:
Lincoln Trail 1975
This and the Grant pilgrimage weekend in Galena have been camping staples in both troops for many years.
Troop 175 has attended Camp Napowan in Wild Rose Wisconsin likely since its founding. This is usually during a week in July and some years the troop has gone for 2 weeks instead of just one.
Leaving for Napowan 1982
The troop would also attend Camp Namekagon near Hayward Wisconsin.
Camp Lakota is also common destination. The annual Camporee is a must for all new Scouts. Much of the training and other practice events are held at this Northwest Suburban Council property in Woodstock Illinois.
Many Troop leaders have done their Woodbadge Training at Camp Lakota
1991 & 2009
The Boy Scout Klondike – a popular winter event is also held here.
High adventure has also been a part of Troop 175. Troop members have gone to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimmaron NM at least 8 times over the years, most recently in 2011.
Beierwaltes relates an interesting story. “When we went to Philmont the first time in 1976, six of us Scouts crammed into our Scoutmasters station wagon and drove straight through to Raton NM. He was the only leader”. Things have certainly changed. Nowadays not only would a troop never go anywhere without 2 leaders, but definitely not on a high adventure trip.
Things didn’t always turn out as planned however. He remembered that one “on one trip to Philmont, we stopped in Kansas and a tornado came through. It didn’t hit us directly, but our whole tent went flying through the air. We weren’t sure if we were going to make it. Those were some tense moments”.
“Our Scoutmaster wasn’t really in the best of shape so we spent a lot of time on the trails. Were so lucky we no problems and made it back safe and sound”.
Beierwaltes went back again in 79, 82, 2004 and 2011. “I love Philmont and it is so great that Troop 175 was able to attend so many times”.
Prior to it becoming a high adventure base, the troop attended Northern tier canoe base in MN once in the 80’s.
The troop has also attended the national Jamboree many times over the years; as recently as 2013 and 2010. These are massive gatherings of Scouts from the US and all over the world.
National Jamboree Fort AP Hill 2010
The Summit National Jamboree 2013
They even spent the night on a submarine docked at Navy Pier
Order of the Arrow
The Troop has had many members of the Order of The Arrow over the years.
OA Conclave 1980
1980 Order of the Arrow Conclave
Additionally, both troops always had a very strong tradition of producing Eagle Scouts. This is the highest Rank of Scouting in the US and is only achieved by 4% at best of most scouts. Originally this could be achieved by simply earning 21 merit badges before a Scouts 18th birthday. Over the years the components changed and a service project was added in 1965. Since inception the two troops have produced over 50 Eagles Scouts many coming in only the last 20 years or so when the project has become much more involved and required even more specific tasks and challenges. In the 2012-2013 year there will be 6 Eagle Scout ranks awarded alone for Troop 175. Clearly we have done our job of character building!
Some Early Courts of Honor):
Service is a major element of the Scouting program. Over the years certain rank advancement requirements have begun to include a service project that typically does not benefit the Scout or his troop. Troop 175/275 has done so many that it would take an entire book to describe them all. Some of these include paper drives, recycling drives, park clean ups, scouting for food and food drives. The Scouts have also participated in many parish events – Friday Lenten fish fry’s, fun fairs, flea markets, parish picnics just to name a few.
Chicago River clean up 1972
Paper Drive 1977
Flag Retirement 2012
Scout O Rama
The Northwest Suburban council used to hold an annual “Scout O Rama” which was an exhibition of general scouting skills for scouts and the public. For years this was held at Arlington Park Racetrack. Both troops would always have a booth and the event was well attended.
The 12th point of the Scout Law is “A Scout is Reverent”. The BSA also has special awards for scouts wishing to do extra work within their own faith traditions. Both Troops have participated in these programs and Troop 175 continues to do so today.
The awards for Catholic Scouts are presented at Holy Name Cathedral each year.
One of the more popular activities for the Troop has been the annual 4th of July parade run in Niles each year. Over the years the troop has done such things as roasted hot dogs to building a rope bridge and showing it off on a float. Candy is always a favorite. Additionally they have assisted with flag retirement ceremonies each year at Jackman park in Glenview on Flag Day. Attendance at Niles Village Board meetings is a regular event in most years.
4th of July 1993
Flag Ceremony 2010
Flag Raising 2010
Flag Retirement 2012
Village Board Meeting 1991
Scouting takes a lot of planning. Each year the troop leadership gets together to plan the outings and events that will shape them. This is no small matter and the troop has been doing this every year since inception. As some things change, some still seem to stay the same:
Leaders and Scouts
Troop 175 has been in existence for over 50 years now and the troop would not have continued on without the support and leadership that many members of the local community have provided. These tireless individuals below have directly impacted Troop 175 and the program that it provides today.
An early roster:
( Each troop has had at least 10 different Scoutmasters over the years.)
1962 – Scoutmaster: Dan Moriarity
1963 – William Halle
1966 – Scoutmaster: William Feid. 34 Scouts
1970 – Scoutmaster: Ralph Kozeny 28 Scouts
1971 – Scoutmaster: Richard Covey 29 Scouts
1972 – Scoutmaster: Richard Covey 44 Scouts
1973 – Scoutmaster: Richard Covey 34 Scouts
1974 – Scoutmaster: Richard Covey 34 Scouts
1976 – Scoutmaster: Ralph Kozney 31 Scouts
1978 – Scoutmaster: Tom Paustian N/A Scouts
1979 – Scoutmaster: Leo Weiss 21 Scouts
1980 – Scoutmaster: Leo Weiss 25 Scouts
1981 – 1983 Scoutmaster: Joe Gabel
1984-90 Scoutmaster: Rich Zaprazalka
1994 – George Novak.
1994– Cheryl Techen.
1995 – Joan Sniezak
1995 – Jim Kaiser
1998-2004 – David Okun
2004-2007 Bob Galassi
2007-2010 – John Mazur
2010 Pres – Greg Cieply
1964 – Scoutmaster: Gerald Sullivan 6 Scouts
1965 – Scoutmaster: Gerald Sullivan 20 Scouts
1966 – Scoutmaster: William Keeny 15 Scouts
1967 – Scoutmaster: Walter Schuster 16 Scouts
1968 – Scoutmaster: Walter Schuster 17 Scouts
1969 – Scoutmaster: Jack Jensen 30 Scouts
1970 – Scoutmaster: Jack Jensen 16 Scouts
1971 – Scoutmaster: Frank Koch 14 Scouts
1972 – Scoutmaster: Frank Koch 21 Scouts
1973 – Scoutmaster: Frank Koch 15 Scouts
1974 – Scoutmaster: Bernard Namovicz 17 Scouts
1975 – Scoutmaster: Cliff Drexler 16 Scouts
1976 – Scoutmaster: Cliff Drexler 21 Scouts
1977 – Scoutmaster: Leo Weiss 14 Scouts
1978 – Scoutmaster: Leo Weiss 14 Scouts – Terminated and merged with Troop 175
This barely scratches the surface of those who have shaped this great program as leaders not to mention all the Moms, Dad’s, Sisters, Brothers, Aunts, Uncles. Grandparents and many others who have had a positive impact on so many young boys lives through the Scouting program.
Thanks to all who took time to answer questions about this! We look forward to another 50 years.
Greg Cieply – Oct 2013.
The official blog of Scouting magazine, a publication of the Boy Scouts of America.
The official blog of Scouting magazine, a publication of the Boy Scouts of America.