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La Cañada Boy Scout Troop 501 to celebrate 100 years of tradition with special event

The past century has brought many changes, but for Boy Scout Troop 501 time has only deepened traditions established by the group’s first founders, who sought to teach young men leadership, resilience and a love of the great outdoors.

June 4 will mark the 100th anniversary of the original charter agreement between La Cañada’s oldest troop and sponsoring organization La Cañada Congregational Church, reached just nine years after Boy Scouts of America itself was founded.

To recognize the historic occasion, troop members and leaders past and present will hold a centennial celebration on Saturday at 6 p.m. at the church. The free event will include stories and photos from throughout the troop’s history, a light dinner and scouting demonstrations. It is open to the public.

“We really want it to be a celebration of thanks to the church for chartering us for 100 years,” Troop 501 Scoutmaster Mark Cowdin said Monday. “It’s been a fantastic opportunity all these years for scouts to learn and grow in that space that’s been dedicated by the church.”

The group meets on Tuesday nights in the church’s basement, which offers a roomy place for scouts to conduct business and perform a range of activities. The area doubles as a kind of troop museum, owing to the presence of the original 1919 charter, historic flags and albums filled with black-and-white vintage photos.

Troop 501 Committee Chair Chuck Coleman said it’s evident from the old pictures that some things, like the uniforms and guidelines, have changed in the past 100 years.

ElRey Ensch, in front in this 1955 image in a picture album, at the Boy Scout Troop 501 meeting room
El Rey Ensch, front, in a 1955 photograph kept at Boy Scout Troop 501's meeting room at La Cañada Congregational Church. A former Scoutmaster, Ensch may attend a centennial celebration being held Saturday at the church.
(Tim Berger / La Cañada Valley Sun)

Some of the photos in the collection, for example, show scouts playing in the ocean during a beach trip, not allowed these days due to liability issues, or building campfires that are today largely prohibited in drought-stricken Southern California forests.

“On the early bicycle trips, nobody had helmets on, and now who rides a bike without one?” Coleman said. “What’s defined as safe has changed over the years.”

But while conventions have evolved, leaders roundly agree Troop 501’s foundational activities and beliefs remain the same. The Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared,” the slogan “Do a good turn daily” and the 12 Scout laws — which encourage boys to embrace loyalty, kindness and reverence, among other character traits — are just as present as ever, Coleman assured.

“Those principals are something a scout may or may not be getting outside of scouts,” he said, “but it’s something a scout absorbs and takes with him throughout his entire life.”

FYI: Troop 501’s centennial celebration takes place Saturday at 6 p.m. at La Cañada Congregational Church, 1200 Foothill Blvd. RSVP by calling (818) 292-0771. For more, visit troop501.org or email info@troop501.org.

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