Matthews Boy Scout Troop 39 held its first meeting on Dec. 11, 1941, four days after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Seven decades later, under the leadership of Matthews architect and current Scoutmaster Frank Williams II, boys are continuing to live up to the Boy Scout oath.
Late last month, Troop 39 celebrated its 79th anniversary at Belk Scout Camp in Midland. Over 240 scouts, parents, former scouts, scoutmasters and friends showed up to celebrate.
"This is the best youth organization around teaching the strongest morals, character and leadership skills I have ever been associated with. I started as a seven-year-old, and I registered as an adult leader when I turned 18. I have been active at one place or another for 52 years," said 59-year-old US Airways pilot Rich Alter.
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He is a former Troop 39 scoutmaster and committee chair. He also is a current committee member and Eagle adviser. He is an Eagle Scout and both his sons, in their 20s, are Eagles.
Matthews resident and Troop 39 charter member Jim Crowell, 86, was on hand for the celebration.
"I can remember going on camping trips with no tents. We were on a shoestring budget, so we used bedspreads stretched across an old rope. I don't remember how high I got in rank, but I do remember I learned a good bit of first aid. When I turned 18, I traded my Scout uniform for an Army uniform," Crowell said.
The Troop's first Scoutmaster, Rev. Hubert S. Mumford, was minster at what then was Matthews Baptist Church. Today the church is known as First Baptist Church of Matthews.
The first meetings were held in the old Matthews School gymnasium, moved to Matthews Presbyterian Church, and ended up in the former American Legion building, now home to the Matthews Women's Club.
Troop 39 now meets at and is sponsored by Matthews United Methodist Church. They have their own building, The Eagle's Nest, on the church campus.
The troop currently has 70 boys and 40 adults. Over the past 70 years, they've had 137 scouts earn the rank of Eagle. The troop meets each Monday night, but plans numerous service projects, camping trips, and other adventures throughout the year.
Most boys attend monthly outings and a weeklong summer camp. Older boys participate in high adventure trips and over the years have hiked the trails of Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, canoed the boundary waters of Canada, Minnesota and Maine, and sailed the Atlantic and Caribbean at Sea Base in the Florida Keys and the islands of the Bahamas.
The troop also regularly cleans up Sam Newell Road through Matthews and the new greenway and Squirrel Lake Park. Two weekends ago they distributed over 4,300 bags throughout Matthews for the annual Scouting for Food campaign. They later collected the bags and delivered the food to Loaves and Fishes.
Troop 39 alumni and Ballantyne resident Dave Mills earned his Eagle in 1976. His dad, Walter Mills, was committee chair for the troop for over 20 years and his son, Connor Mills, a member of Troop 199 at South Mecklenburg Presbyterian Church, earned his Eagle just last week.
"Scouts gives you a sense of direction and teaches you how to be a better leader," Dave Mills said. "You can take the scout law and the scout oath, 'Be Prepared,' and apply them to your life as an adult. The principles are all the same."
When they are young, many scouts wonder if the skills they learn will ever be put to use. Williams said even if they don't reach the rank of Eagle, they will still have developed skills that will serve them well into adulthood.
"It's amazing to watch. All of a sudden you see these boys break through with a level of confidence. They have a new level of belief in what they will try and what they believe they can accomplish," Williams said.
Even in mundane tasks scouting skills prove useful as Troop 39 Eagle Scout alumnus and Wingate University graduate Brennen Cash, discovered.
"I had an exam where I had to teach three different ways to build a fire. It was the easiest test I had in college," Cash said.