Troop 53 History 1949-Present
In 1949, two new organizations were about to be born in Kennett Square. James Meadowcroft III helped to found the Kennett Square Rotary Club and was elected their first president. In another part of town, James H. Gawthrop, Jr., was approached about starting another Boy Scout troop in Kennett Square. James Meadowcroft was delighted to have the newly founded Kennett Rotary sponsor the new troop. Mr. Meadowcroft became Troop 53′s first Institutional Representative.
Mr. Gawthrop was a young man, about 19 years old, when he started the troop. He was a scout from Kennett Square Troop 57 as a boy. He took 8 scouts from Troop 57, and told them, “We’re going to form a new troop. I want each of you to bring a friend who wants to be a scout to our first meeting.” At that first meeting, 16 boys met and formed the Racoon and Beaver patrols of Troop 53. They chose purple as the troop color because no other troop in the Council wore purple.
The first few years, the troop met at the old Mary D. Lang building, but soon after moved to the Baptist Church. In 1953, the Italian American Citizens League moved into their new, spacious hall. Their old building was empty, and the troop asked if they could meet there. The Club was very gracious in letting the troop use the building as their meeting place, the same place where we meet to this day.
Throughout the years, Jim led monthly camping trips, day hikes, and service projects. Hundreds of boys camped, hiked, cooked, and advanced through the ranks with Mr. Gawthrop as Scoutmaster. Twenty-five boys earned their Eagle award during Jim’s time as Scoutmaster. Others attended National Jamborees and National Order of the Arrow Conferences all over the country with Mr. Gawthrop leading the way. Many boys stayed in the troop until they turned 18, then signed on as assistant Scoutmasters. There were many years in the 1960′s and 1970′s where every assistant scoutmaster became a troop alumnae!
In the mid 1960′s, Troop 53 bought its first bus, a 1953 International school bus. The bus was painted purple with white script lettering, a roof rack was added, and the troop traveled in style and easily recognizable. The troop sold light bulbs during those years as a fund-raiser. Each April, the building would be stocked with orders for light bulbs, sorted for delivery. The boys worked very hard selling light bulbs, and made – per year – a commendable sum in the 1960′s.
In 1983, Jim Gawthrop retired as Scoutmaster. Dennis Chambers and Thomas Minshall succeeded him and led Troop 53 through the 1980′s. In 1990, a troop alumni, Rob Gallagher, became Scoutmaster, followed by Rich Keller and Bill Sedar, who stepped down in September, 1999. Another former alumni, Steve Brun, stepped down in December of 2003. Tom Johnson served in the role until 2008, followed by Nick Gramig. Rich Braden has been Scoutmaster since July of 2012.
The troop changed somewhat through those years after Jim, but boys still joined to be scouts every year. The troop goals of monthly trips, fostering leadership, service to others, and advancement toward the rank of Eagle remained uncompromised. The troop has had 5 more Eagle scouts since 1995, and 4 more have finished or are starting their projects towards the rank of Eagle. The Order of the Arrow, the national service organization, is bolstered by 53 boys and adults providing cheerful service for the camp and others. The troop attended the National Jamboree in 1997 and some plan to attended the National Jamboree in 2001, while some older scouts traveled to Philmont Scout Reservation in New Mexico this past year.
Troop 53 is as bold as can be, striving to continue to provide the strong scouting program it was founded on.
Acknowledgements – Steve Brun, Former Scoutmaster.