- An Extraordinary Troop: The Boy Scouts Program at Kalaupapa
In February 1949, an article published in Boys’ Life magazine caught the attention of thousands of Scouters and their supporters. In the piece titled “Most Remarkable Troop,”1 James W. English, an assistant editor of the magazine, highlighted the unique Scouting program at Kalaupapa, a settlement on the Hawaiian island of Moloka‘i where patients diagnosed with Hansen’s disease, then called leprosy, were confined for fear of spreading this malady. Scouting had come to Hawai‘i the same year the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) organization was founded.
An article titled, “How to Become a Scout,” was already in print by early September 1910 in the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, explaining how to join or organize a patrol or troop in the Hawaiian Islands.2 Subsequent news reports by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin told of Scouting activities in Hawai‘i, including early BSA travels.3 It was viewed as an [End Page 83] organization founded to establish values and ethics, to prepare boys for the military, and to Americanize first-generation immigrants.
Hawai‘i Scouting records, personal letters and journals, as well as Kalaupapa primary sources and oral histories, provide a glimpse into the unique experience of Scouting at Kalaupapa and the adventures of the boys, notwithstanding the fact that as Hansen’s disease patients they had some limitations. This article explains the establishment, development, and uniqueness of Troop 46, and recognizes and appreciates the service and positive attitude of these resilient Boy Scouts and their devoted adult leaders. (Figure 1)
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Prior to America entering World War II in late 1941, not much is known about Scouting at Kalaupapa. However, there is evidence that written application for a charter was made there for Troop 46 as early as December 7, 1929 (exactly a dozen years before the bombing of Pearl Harbor). This application notes the troop committee consisted of C. H. Siebert, with the “Hon. Construction & Draying Company”; C. J. Cooper, an employee for Oahu Ice & Cold Storage; and [End Page 84] W. N. Hana, secretary, Honolulu Elks Lodge 616, as the sponsor. The application also noted that the Troop planned to meet in the Social Hall of the Baldwin Home for boys at Kalaupapa. Stephen K. Dawson applied to be Scoutmaster. Dawson, who had been a patient and active Scouter at the Kalihi Hospital for Hansen’s disease patients, was only twenty-one years old at the time.4
Attempts had been made several years before the Troop 46 charter application to establish a Scouting program at Kalaupapa. The genesis for the Troop originated at the Kalihi Hospital from whence many patients were later transferred to Kalaupapa Settlement on Moloka‘i. At Kalihi the Boy Scouts and their supportive Scouters thought that a Scouting organization at Kalaupapa would give the boys an opportunity to develop and express themselves (as it had at Kalihi) so that they too could be part of a world-wide brotherhood, especially after they were transferred from Honolulu to Moloka‘i, creating an even greater separation from their families. As early as 1924, six mature Scouts, including the Assistant Scoutmaster, made a trip to the settlement to try to launch Scouting in “the rocky bound settlement.”5 Yet for unknown reasons, no troop would be organized for another five years.
Over a decade later, Troop 12 Scouts from Kalihi merged into Kalaupapa’s Troop 46 where meetings were held in the Social Hall of the Baldwin Home, as the original charter application specified. When the Troop 12 Scouts arrived at the settlement, they discovered a new freedom at Kalaupapa where they were not as limited in their camping or hiking activities as they were at Kalihi. In fact, Troop 46 went on eight overnight campouts and fourteen day hikes the first year of its revitalization in 1942.6
Five months after Pearl Harbor was bombed (December 7, 1941), Troop 46 began to swell. The population of Kalaupapa’s youth increased as patients were transported to the...