Published in the Deschutes Historical Society Newsletter “Homesteader”
Juvenile delinquency was running rampant in the winter and spring months of 1923. The Bend Bulletin was reporting rooftop parties at Reid School, bootleggers selling moonshine to high school students, kids taking joy rides at the rail yard, and underage patrons getting caught at the local pool halls.
In the early 1920’s, Bend’s youth were hard pressed to find an outlet for entertainment beyond school-sanctioned activities. “One of the reasons for the continuing and growing number of juvenile activities that verge on or actually are infractions of law is the utter lack in Bend of any opportunity for boys to vent their spirits and surplus energies in proper ways,” the editorial writer for Bulletin noted.
Damnation of school dances had already been brought to the pulpit in 1922 by Reverend F.H. Beard of the Baptist Church in a sermon entitled “From the Ball Room to Hell.” The reverend declared, “school officials who provide no other means of amusement are ‘copartners with the devil’.”
Dancing was just the beginning of damnable behavior by Bend’s youth. In early January 1923, bootleggers were found selling moonshine to high school boys as young as 15 years of age. “The climax to a series of disgraceful juvenile carousals came late Saturday,” reported the Bend Bulletin. “An agitated citizen appeared at [the] local police headquarters, reporting that his child had just arrived home intoxicated.” After further investigation, five boys were implicated in consuming bootlegged alcohol.
In April 1923 Bend was again abuzz when Reid School’s janitor V. A. Slaughter reported that merrymakers were mixing moonshine and milk at rooftop parties at Reid School. A month later, switching crews at the rail yard complained that youngsters were stealing rides on freight and passenger cars while they were being switched.
“Youth appears to be running wild in Bend of late,” complained City Recorder Louis Bennett. Juvenile delinquency had to be stopped and drastic measures were promised.
On Wednesday, June 5, 1923 the “boy question” was finally brought to the public forum. “Aroused by the need of a definite program to handle the boy problem in Bend, 42 citizens attended a public meeting,” reported the Bend Bulletin. The topic of the discussion: “Possible action which could be taken to provide enjoyable and healthful activity for Bend youths.” The solution: The formation of the Boy Scout organization in Bend “to give the boys opportunity for valuable physical training.”
Bend had already seen the formation of Boy Scouts but when the acting leader, Mr. Purdy, left Bend the work was left undone.
The Bulletin started running notices on the front page, urging the citizens of Bend to “decide what can be done toward providing proper entertainment and recreation for the boys, especially during the summer months.”
The plan to resume the Boy Scouts was formally put in place in June 1923 when a 15-member board was selected. Among the members were T.H. Foley, manager of Bend, Water & Light Company; G.W. Ager, school superintendent; J.A. Eastes, local businessman; Reverend F.H. Beard; Frank Prince, the editor of Shevlin-Hixon’s newspaper “The Equalizer;” and Paul Hosmer, the editor of Brooks-Scanlon’s newsletter, “Deschutes Pine Echoes.”
During the summer and fall of 1923, the Boy Scout organization started taking form. Representatives from the local business community, the mills, and the clergy came together to start raising money for the fledgling Boy Scout organization. The goal was to collect $1,800.00 by January 1, 1924.
The newspaper kept a running tally of the funds collected for the formation of a more stable Boy Scout organization. With the headline, “Prosperity and our boys,” The Bend Bulletin noted, “Bend has a population close to 8,000. It has a monthly payroll of $200,000 and more.” On June 26, the collected funds stood at $92.00.
It was just the beginning. By the end of 1923 the Boy Scout council reported that private citizens and local businesses had raised over $1,500.00 for the organization.
Under the auspice of the Presbyterian Church, Troop No. 1 was formed in September 1923 and many more troops were to follow. Acting Boy Scout executive R.O. Baldwin gave an upbeat prognosis for the organization in September. With over 100 boys already enrolled, he was hoping to sign up an additional 150 boys.
Eventually, the Boy Rangers and Campfire Girls organizations joined the Boy Scouts in supplying meaningful activities to Bend’s youth. The impact of these organizations were immediate: A year after the Reid School incident, the Bulletin reported that juvenile delinquency was markedly down.
What started as a “garden party” on Reid School’s flattop, ended up being the galvanizing moment for Bend’s citizens to provide more sustainable youth activities.