Sheldon Baker joined a Cub Scout pack when he was 9 years old. That was in 1945. He's been in Scouting ever since.
One of his favorite Scouting memories is of camping in the local foothills. “In those days, almost every boy in Verdugo Hills Council went camping in the summer,” he said.
Many went to Camp Bill Lane.
The camp, located on the west side of Big Tujunga Canyon Road, was one of the largest in the area and was filled with towering trees that provided lots of shade for the campers as they set up their tents and rolled out their sleeping bags. They swam in a nearby swimming pool and shopped at the camp store.
Baker recalled the summer when he and several other boys were elected into the Order of the Arrow, a Boy Scout honor society that uses American Indian-style ceremonies to recognize Scouts elected by their peers.
It came into being in 1915 to encourage older Scouts to continue in Scouting and camping events.
“We were selected by the boys in the troop,” Baker explained. “It was a secret ballot. There were no nominations, no speeches; the leaders would ask, ‘Who do you think is the leader in your group?' On Friday, at the awards campfire, they would call you out, one from each troop. There were many troops, so 30 kids became (members of the) Order of the Arrow each summer."
Members met regularly, usually in the evening after the other campers went to bed. Film star Iron Eyes Cody, who lived in Eagle Rock and was very active in the Scouts because his son was a member, often came to their meetings.
“He taught us how to make Indian costumes and also taught us sign language,” Baker said.
In the fall, after everyone was back in school, members organized a performance at the Civic Auditorium to show their parents what they had learned at camp.
“There were boys and men on stage doing authentic Indian dancing. The Civic would be jammed,” he recalled.
When he was 15, Baker became a staff member at Bill Lane. “The young staffers ran the camp. There was a director and he was there all the time, but he gave us the job and expected us to do it,” Baker said.
“One year, I was in charge of the camp store and kept the inventory; we sold milk, eggs, bread and craft items. I was a merit badge counselor also and we all served as lifeguards," he added.
Baker was on staff at the camp for five years — three summers while he was a student at Hoover and then two summers while he was at Rutgers University.
Baker remained active in Scouting, serving as chair of the Verdugo Hills Council in 1966. Nowadays, many of the former staffers get together to tell stories, laugh and salute friends who have passed away.
“We all believe in what Scouting did in our lives,” he said.
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