Taking Along Twisted Sister...or...
By: Mike Walton (blackeagle)
Posted On: 2021-02-15
Walton Family Archives
Settummanque, the blackeagle writes:
Yes, we *did* have the Twisted Sister band to "accompany" us during the trip and when things got really tough (a rainstorm on the third and fourth days almost forced us home...but to the strains of "We're not gonna take (make) it", (sung by eventually ALL of the Scouts (and yes, Scouters) participating), their spirits were uplifted enough to keep going. I don't think that seventeen choruses of "I'm on the Upward Trail" would do it in this case.
(For a month afterward, every time I heard that song, I would immediately be reminded of an event that occurred during that trip...)
Let me back up a bit. While I served as Scoutmaster in what was then West Germany, one of the first goals I set for myself was that EVERY Scout would have a summer camp experience each year. In Europe, the number and locations of summer camps were really staggering: there was the camp at the foot of the Alps, Camp Bayern; a camp in a valley between two rugged mountain ranges, Camp Freedom; a camp on the coast of Morocco (Camp DuMoroc) and one right outside of one of the largest fiesta areas in that country (Camp Ole); another camp in the middle of Italy that allowed every camp a superb view of the water from afar (Camp Tuscany); the camp in the Swiss Alps (Camp Kandersteg) and camps in England, Turkey and Greece that are shared with the host nation's youth programs.
So there was NO shortage of places to go. But you see, all of those camps (and I know, since I've been to ALL of them as a Scout) have some commonality to them. They are all ran pretty much the same way each year. Okay, they get a new professional or a great volunteer to spice it up...but it's the SAME Camp Ole, the SAME Camp Kandersteg, and the SAME Camp Freedom.
So at the original insistence of the Goeppingen military community commander (MCC), I decided that we would travel the 112 kilometer (about 68 miles total) "Prince's Road" (Strasse der Stauffer) which surrounds much land in south-central West Germany.
(The MCC wanted the Scouts to do something off of the base during a period of tension on the base associated with the Pershing II nuclear missile deployment and movement. The base where I was assigned first had the mission of supporting and defending Pershing missile sites in central Europe. The headquarters of the command that has control of the missiles and the people were on the other side of the mountain between Goppingen (where we lived) and Schawbish Gmeund (the other side).
The German people did NOT like nuclear missiles fired from THEIR land toward ANYONE. )
This event would take place during the spring break of the American school system, ideally around Easter. The trip had five goals, as I sold it to the Troop Committee and Patrol Leaders' Council (PLC, the youth which leads the Troop). One, it was designed to allow those Scouts that PCSed (permanent change of station...military move) back to the States to have a long-term summer camp under their belts before they left. Two, to allow the youth leaders to lead, direct and motivate Scouts in a more realistic environment. Three, to allow each Scout the opportunity to earn nine of the twelve then-Skill Awards and to be ready for First Class; for those First Class or higher, the chance to earn four merit badges the HARD WAY...performance each camp day, rather than performance once in front of a counselor; and five, to use skills learned in school and home and apply them to living and being among German nationals. (there was the sixth one...that of doing some PR work for Scouting and our military community...the PLC didn't buy it...but we did it anyway).
On the first year's trip, we didn't allow ANY radios or tape players. That was a mistake because, on the third day, we found out from a German man, that rioting had broken out in the city where we were heading toward, and the idea of American boys coming into town with flags and banners, would *just not be great* (to say the least). The PLC changed plans and we ended up more than 90kms (45 miles) out of the way to avoid the rioting.
The second year’s trip, I am more fond of than the first one, because we did what we sat out to do. And then some.
What makes these events work is that for the first time, I gave the Senior Patrol Leader a map, the name of the campingplatz (campsites) we would be staying in, the names of the owner, and the money for the sites. His job would be to get us there. Through city streets. Through farmers' fields (which at this time, many were sprayed or covered with manure...Pee You!). Through paved and unpaved walking trails and sidewalks. We had to work as a Troop composed of Patrols. We exercised the Patrol Method in ways I feel even Baden-Powell would have been proud of. And the music.
Arnat Vale, our Senior Patrol Leader, and his sidekick Steven Basso (my boss's son) were both fans of the heavy metal group Twisted Sister. So were lots of German boys and girls that got to hear over and over again the one Twisted Sister tape that they carried in a side pocket player in Steve's backpack.
One of the songs on that tape is "We're Not Gonna Take It", talking about how their music wasn't accepted (I think). The refrain, however, I will NEVER forget...because that became the marching song, the work song, the Troop song played long after our Scribe stated: "Guten Nacht, Pieffinders" (his attempt at "good night, Scouts") each evening. It became a quiet lullaby as the twenty-three Scouts and eight adults went to bed each night and for those that DARED to sleep in the next morning, it was blared in your ears at volume 10 to get you going!
"We're not going to make it...NO, we're not going to make it..."We're not going to make it...this time!"
During the fourth day of the trip, an expected rainstorm hit us. We knew it was coming, since we had remembered last year's "show stopper" and brought ONE radio which was tuned into American Forces Network radio from either Stuttgart, Heidelberg, or Neu Ulm each morning.
We didn't know that it would *stay* with us for the next two days. Scouts were really ingenious, however...one patrol built a large fire to keep everyone warm …the other patrol went to a factory, whereby assisted by an adult, they explained the situation, and everyone had dry sleeping materials to sleep on that evening.
With everything wet and soggy (a great lesson for Scouts to learn that when you clean up, you put away too...), we trekked up a long and narrow road, winding upward and upward to a castle. We arrived just as an American couple was leaving. The man, a Scouter from central Illinois and his wife, asked the Scouts about Scouting in Europe and the Council...and then, changed his plans and invited all of the Scouts and Scouters to breakfast...his treat.
It is great to know that once given the opportunity to lead, the boys took the lead and did just that. Older Scouts told younger Scouts to get their elbows off the table, to please pass the butter, asking "may I" instead of "gimmy".
I had problems with one Scout in particular...not behavior problems. Self-esteem problems. He would shy away from being with the other Scouts. He was self-conscious about his weight. He was younger than the others in his patrol.
On day five, he was really dragging behind. They *all* were until Arnat Vale found that tape...that song that motivated them so far, and they all developed NEW verses to keep them moving until nightfall. And our SPL had everyone hike slower and even walked with David until they got to the campsite.
And there are some that will tell me that kids CAN'T understand concepts such as leadership and sacrifice.
On day six, it was THIS Scout that led and stayed in front as the lead. His self-confidence was built up by his peers, telling him the day before that "David can make it...YES!, We know he can make it...David can make it--This YEAR!!"
After the camp, with the memories of the week spilling over in discussions with parents, David's parents told me "I don't know what happened but this is NOT the same boy that left here last week. He talks more...he wants to go out into the country and see things...he's even been wanting us to sign him up for Karate lessons like his friends. What happened?"
I guess he--and everyone else on that trip--has been listening to too much Twisted Sister.