Smoke Signals 4th Edition 2021

As the year draws to an end, we review the last term in a year of scouting in the second year of the COVID pandemic…

Our Meerkats are a very active unit under the leadership of Judith Bishop. Meerkat equivalents around the world have proved to be highly successful and the the South African version is no different. It is never too young to learn about saving us from ourselves and our Meerkats have taken this first step by learning about energy and contributing to the health of our urban parks. They ended off the year with awards of the Gold Star – the highest Meerkat award – and starring in a film!

The cubs also learn about saving the planet and have engaged in learning about the sustainable development goals which have been adopted by scouts worldwide as part of our programme. This is in addition to the usual cub activities such as an evening walk in Kirstenbosch and summiting Eagles’ Nest.

The scouts have been active despite exams in the fourth term. More significant activities have been a day hike across Table Mountain for juniors, the District Survival Scoutcraft Badge Course and an annual camp – something that we have not had for the last 24 months. Annual camps are great experiences for scouts and this one was no exception with activities such as the round robin volleyball tournament, raft building, constructing and running an obstacle course, hacking, swimming and, of course, cooking. As part of the camp was run by Alex Clarke as part of his Springbok camp, some of our other senior scouts had the chance to experience what it was like to run a camp rather than just attend one. Other scouts had the chance to see what it was like to be a Patrol Leader on a camp and everybody had a great experience.

Annual camps have their own traditions and one which has sprung up has been the apologising to your lost property in order to retrieve it. This year there were some fine performances, so good they might have lost their property on purpose!

Key to the success of 1st Claremont over the last decade has been a dedicated group of adults who have poured countless hours and energy into the Group. This energy has paid off in the expansion of the Group with the restarting of the cub pack, the starting of the Meerkat Den, the winning of every major scout competition and the awarding of Springbok to multiple scouts. In addition, our scout troop is the largest scout troops in the Western Cape. Part of these endeavours has been building a culture which enables the baton of leadership to be passed on to younger leaders and also one in which adults take every chance to undergo training and to help in providing training.

This department of adult leadership has also enabled 1st Claremont to take a leading role in the re-establishment of 4th Claremont Cub Pack in addition to playing a greater role in the Liesbeek District after the untimely passing of our long term District Commissioner.

The Group is managed by the Group Committee which over the last decade has improved finances to such an extent that we are now working on the major improvements which have been critical for the last 30 or 40 years but have been unattainable.

As 2021 draws to a close, we include the final Reflections from the Troop Scouter as he steps down after 7 years in the role. In closing, we wish you all a fantastic 2022 and we look forward to seeing all our Meerkats, Cubs and Scouts back after a break.

Sometimes one of our old scouts sends us a remembrance or, in this case, a chance meeting, 40 years later and a friendship renewed. We are always happy to add these to our archives.

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Mackenzie survives at Hawequas

The course taught us how to survive in the wild and build shelters.

We learned the four basic needs of survival, how to start a fire with flint and steel, different ways to start a fire without matches, the things you need in a small and big survival kit, how to build a weatherproof shelter, the different types of snake venom, how the venoms affect us, what snakes they belong to, how black wattle helps us when building shelters, and different ways to find north in the day and night.

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Cubs’ 4th term highlights

Trek Cart

The “Trek Cart” is one of the oldest Scout traditions. These are hand carts that were used in the earliest days of Scouting to take equipment to camp, and you can read about one in an article about a 1st Claremont journey from July 1908. These days our trek cart lives on the stage (the chassis being too big to fit through the basement door), and we occasionally use it for cub or scout races.

Leaping Wolf

The Leaping Wolf is the top badge a cub can earn, and we were pleased to award one to James Sullivan during the term. James was a cub at 1st Claremont but has now moved to 2nd Rondebosch Scout Troop, hence the green shirt and brown scarf. Well done James and best of luck at your new troop.

Firefly walk

On the 5th of November the Cubs went on a late evening walk through Kirstenbosch Gardens. We learned about how to locate the fireflies through listening to bird calls, and spent hours wandering through the pathways surrounded by the magic of a myriad fireflies. We even had a few stuck on cubs’ hair!

Eagles Nest hike

The final cub meeting of the year was a sunset hike to Eagles Nest above Constantia Nek. It was also our smallest meeting of the year as Covid numbers were increasing in local schools and many families were either isolating or chose to stay away, but we enjoyed a lovely evening on this short (but strenuous) hike to a beautiful summit.

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Meerkats help our parks

This being our first year as a Den, the Scouter team was caught off guard by various calls to participate in national events when we had already planned a full programme. Next year we’ll know better! The National Challenge for Sustainable Development Goals proved extremely interesting, though, and the Den set to it willingly.

The first Challenge was Decent Work and Economic Growth. Our ADSs having made biscuits in advance, on 16 October we had a biscuit decorating event and the older Meerkats made posters. All the biscuits were displayed and parents came to buy at the end of the meeting. We made R345 which was donated to Friends of The Arderne Gardens, a place that the Meerkats visit often. We received this thank you from Joy Woodward, Secretary of the Friends:

“What a lovely surprise to receive this donation from the 1st Claremont Scouts. It is especially great to know that the scouts worked so hard to make this happen.

Sincerely many thanks to each and every one for their efforts and for their enthusiasm and support of our great garden.  It is especially good to know that young people have a love of nature and the environment.”

Moving on to Sustainable Communities, on 30 October we met at Paradise Park in Newlands. This is a main thoroughfare for people walking through the area and also a place for families to relax and enjoy the green space. Anton, who is in charge of the Friends of Paradise Park, told us about the trees and the river that flows through the park. The Meerkats did a litter clean up, both on the river banks and along the paths. We then helped to plant clivias in some of the flower beds under the trees where there were bare patches.

“I loved my time at the park, helping to make the space more beautiful. I particularly enjoyed playing in the treehouses, picking up litter, finding butterflies and looking at the beautiful trees.” (Sarah, aged 6).

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Oliver vzS hikes across Table Mountain

The junior scouts set out early from Cecilia Forest and ended at 2pm at Teresa Ave in Camps Bay.  David, Susan, Jonathan and Junior led the hike. It was very varied; some areas would be flat, steep, narrow and very uphill.  It wasn’t too hot and was partly cloudy.  Our first destination was a waterfall where almost everyone got soaking wet, then we hiked for a bit and some people did map skills. 

We hiked even further to an old nursery and walked through all the different trees.  We hiked to the scout hut and multiple dams, then to the old cable car station and some very crazy people sat on a rock that hung straight over the edge of the mountain!  We then headed to our final destination (10km in total).  It was a fun hike and there were lots of nice people there.

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40 years later…..

One summer’s afternoon about 5 years ago, I was standing in line at Starbucks in Lake Oswego, Oregon,  USA. There are about 6 people ahead of me and the line is moving slowly. I’ve just had lunch, I’m tired and not paying attention. Anyway, I’m looking at the back of the head of the person in front of me and I’m thinking I know this head, but did not want to embarrass myself by tapping him on the shoulder and verifying if it’s who I think it is. The line gets shorter and he turns sideways, I say Adrian and he says Mark. What are the chances?

In 1982, Adrian Polliack and I were at 1st Claremont together, he was no Eagle, so definitely inferior but nevertheless, a Bowwood Road compadre. Adrian and I immediately connected and over the years have supported each other with career opportunities, shared meals and I even attended his son’s Bar Mitzvah. Adrian lives about 10 Km’s away and although we dont spend a ton of time together, we know we are a phone call away if either of us needs help with something. It’s very special having somebody here who knows my foundation and we dont have to talk about where we came from. So look left, look right and the person standing next to you could be from your past on the other side of the world 40 years ago.

Front row: M Berkovitch, M Weight, M Connolly, R Fuller, G da Silva, G Hennik, D Knight

Middle row (kneeling): Unknown, J Kneubel, T McCullough (possibly), A Polliack

Back Row: D Amato, A de Chalain, D Evans, D da Silva, R Winstain, Unknown, R Dixon, B Klein, K Long , A Watson (possibly)

The photo is circa 1982 at annual camp at Delheim farm

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Reflections really started as a series to explain why scouts is not just a social event or a youth club but an movement that really seeks to enable the development of our youth into better citizens – future leaders and thinkers who can add real value to our country and world. I firmly believe that we do this at 1st Claremont.

Over my time as Troop Scouter we have, as a troop and a group, passed many milestones and made many records in the history of the troop. I am very proud of what we, as a team, not only of adults but of scouts, have achieved. But the most interesting understanding that has evolved is that of the benefits that accrue to the adults themselves through their involvement in volunteering at scouts. As with the scouts themselves these benefits are evident when the person is committed to scouts – a half-hearted commitment will not see the benefits accrue. There is not a day at my day job that I do not rely on the skills and experience I have learnt at scouts.

Scouts has been a huge influence from age 7 until now – almost half a century. It has given me friendship, experiences, life skills and challenges – sometimes more of these than I wanted but each one a growth opportunity. I have met great people and learnt to “parent” more teenagers than I ever thought I would. Being the Troop Scouter enabled me to give back to others what my four Troop Scouters gave to me. When I first took over I was faced with the question of how to be the Troop Scouter. It was only then – some 35 years later – that I realised how much my Troop Scouters had influenced me and I could see the fine examples I could follow. In a very real sense, being the Troop Scouter was a reflection on those adult scouters who took the time to help me along the path of scouts and life.

It has been one of the greatest honours of my life to be the Troop Scouter at 1st Claremont. For all those scouts, scouters and parents, past and present, who have helped me, I give thanks. Maybe one day, one of my scouts will look back and do the same for their scouts that was done for me.

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Making a whirlpool at annual camp

In the heat of Hawequas, we did more swimming than originally planned. In the swimming times, the scouts always manage to come up with something. This year it was a whirlpool. It created an amazing powerful current and was a lot of fun.

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