BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Thirty-four men with mostly white hair, or not much hair at all, face the camera squarely. Light bounces off their spectacles. In the front row, a man leans on a walker. The rest stand carefully, an occasional arm thrown over a shoulder. All wear coats and ties and white or pale blue shirts.
Not to read too much into a photograph, but they look like men who face life squarely as well. And they look like what they are a bunch of old Boy Scouts. This is their annual meeting.
Scattered all over the country now, they grew up in Clifton, meeting in the Methodist church at Senator Place and Clifton Avenue. After they were mustered out of their Troop 161 at age 18, their Scoutmaster said they would be assistant Scoutmasters and could still get together when they wanted.
Which they have been doing for 49 years.
"Kids in old bodies'
We didn't want to give up Scouting, says D.A. Brown, or each other. And that is probably about as sentimental as any of them is likely to get. I can't imagine them sitting around inside a sweat lodge or in an encounter group where they would explore their feminine side. Their conversation runs more toward remembering campouts and marching in the Armistice Day parade.
We are like a bunch of kids in old bodies, one of the men says.
Oh, and they do get a little misty when they talk about their Scoutmaster, Nux, pronounced Nooks.
By the book
I came from a kind of a broken home, says Dustin Schermbeck. And Nux kept me going. Alvin S. Boesche was called Nux by the women who shopped at his little grocery store on the corner of Woolper and Vine. This was one familiarity he also allowed his Scouts. The rest of it was by the book. Disciplined. A little formal sometimes.
He didn't have to tell us to get quiet when it was time for the meeting to start, Mr. Brown says. All he had to do was go to the front of the room.
The assistant Scoutmasters remember Nux, dead now for nearly 10 years, as a massive person. Tall with thinning dark hair, he was always impeccably dressed. He made us work, gave us goals, Mr. Schermbeck says.
Nux taught them how to cook and make campfires. Mr. Schermbeck can still do the flint and steel in three seconds. That means he can ignite a fire without matches.
Not much call for that these days.
One of the men shakes his head and tells about visiting a Scout camp recently where one of the kids called his mother on a cell phone.
Troop 161 sold enough scrap iron and newspaper, saved enough sales tax stamps, had enough spaghetti dinners and bake sales to buy their own camp. Camp Timberidge, 33 acres east of Milford, was purchased in 1945 for $100 an acre. The boys built bridges and a flagstone porch. They patched the roof of the old cabin and built in double-deck cots.
This year, they'll meet at Shuller's Wigwam on Dec. 28. Mr. Schermbeck is accepting reservations at 896-1557 up until Christmas Eve.
They will remember pranks and a time when they turned their neckerchiefs over so that the BSA for Boy Scouts of America was backwards, ASB for Alvin S. Boesche, a man who was a role model before we knew that's what they were called, somebody who stuck up for kids who came from sort of a broken home and who made them shut up and listen when it was time.
There are monuments all over the city to important men. Brass plaques. Buildings. Streets. The monuments to Nux are scattered all over the country. A fireman, construction workers, a couple of doctors, a dentist, accountants, lawyers, all facing life squarely, just as he taught them.
Laura Pulfer's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 768-8393, or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Mondays on WVXU radio and NPR's Morning Edition. Her book, I Beg to Differ, a collection of her most popular radio commentaries and newspaper columns, is available at (800) 852-9332.