“Men Like These,” our Council’s new marketing tagline, conveys the importance of male role models in the lives of young men. The effect men of character can have on boys is well represented in my own father’s Scouting experience. Guy D. Alder was born in Salt Lake City in 1915 to Ada and Ruel Alder, but was essentially raised by just his mother. The Scouters in his life became vital role models and mentors.
Dad was born into a large family with a total of ten children, so he learned at an early age what it was like to do without. Polio hit the family in 1927. One of his brothers died, but at age 12, Dad survived the illness. After hard work, he overcame the lingering effects of the disease.
That same year, Dad joined the Boy Scouts along with the other young men in the LDS Liberty Ward. Troop 58 had nearly 150 Scouts; all but two boys within the ward boundaries registered with the BSA, and the troop was made up of boys of all ages, races, and religions.
My father embraced Scouting wholeheartedly, working to become an Eagle Scout in the early days of the program. Because his home was essentially fatherless, men like “Mac” Wooley, his Scoutmaster, and Mr. Wilder, his patrol dad, played an important role in showing him the way. For my father it was consistent examples of manhood that made all the difference. These men were good husbands and fathers, something Dad did not have at home.
In the late 1920s, Troop 58 made the 15 mile hike to Tracy Wigwam, a camp in Mill Creek Canyon, east of Salt Lake City. This early camp experience cemented Dad’s passion for Scouting and he loved and supported Camp Tracy for the rest of his life.
Shortly after this camping trip the stock market crashed, putting Dad’s family along with many other Utahns in financial peril. But Scouting leaders in their LDS ward kept the program going, knowing what it could do for boys. The ward held movie nights each Friday to help the ward budget. At these showings Scouts sold candy to raise the needed funds for registration, badges, Boy’s Life Magazine, hikes and campouts, which were frequent. This way no boys were left out of Scouting.
In the summer of 1930, the troop made its way to the Great Salt Lake Council’s newest camp, Steiner, in the High Uinta Mountains. Just getting there made men of those Boy Scouts—the Model-A and trucks could not climb the hill outside of Kamas, so the boys pushed the vehicles to Mirror Lake and then hiked into the BSA’s highest camp, with an impressive altitude of 10,000 feet.
In the years that followed Dad worked through each rank until earning his Eagle. He later called this process his “map to manhood.” Having been shaped and led by his own Scout leaders, he went on to serve as an adult leader himself.
As a newly married couple, Mom and Dad moved to Washington DC, where he served as Assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 41, sponsored by the new Washington DC LDS Ward. We don’t know much about that troop or what they did, but by the time I was born camping was a clear part of our family life.
Reflecting on my childhood, I’ve realized Dad’s experiences with his Scout leaders shaped the kind of parent he was. Dad had never played catch with his own father, so when he didn’t really know what to do with his four sons, he took them camping and spent time with them outdoors. He tossed ball some for little league practice, but he was better support at my Pack meetings, never missing one, right there alongside Mom for my awards.
By the time I was a Boy Scout, Dad was serving in the Mt. Olympus District as Advancement Chairman. Eventually he would preside over my Star and Life Boards of Review. He proudly celebrated each time one of us earned the Eagle rank, which three of his four sons did. He went on to revel in my older brother’s Silver Beaver and my own service as a District Executive. Yes, we are a Scouting family—a product of the program.
Though his active service diminished some over time, Dad’s generosity and support for the Scouting movement did not. In 1984 he was one of the first Patron members of the Utah National Parks Council. In his own beloved Great Salt Lake Council he helped rebuild the lodge at Camp Tracy, his first summer camp. At the time of his passing he had maintained 75 years of registration with the movement; in his death he was honored with a James E. West endowment that same year.
But more importantly, this man who didn’t have a father in his own youth had taught four sons fatherhood and set us all on paths to manhood.