If you know how to tie a square knot or cook a delicious meal over a campfire, chances are you learned these skills as a Cub or Venturer under the guidance of Ed and Sandra Harrison. The couple has been involved in the 35th/37th Scouting program at St. John’s Norway Anglican Church for nearly their entire married lives, and Ed has been a fixture in Scouts since he was eight years old. Their two sons were in Beavers and Cubs.
“I started with the group in 1951 as a Cub,” said Ed. Today, 60 years later, he has served in every capacity in the organization and is now Group Commissioner, looking after all five sections of scouting levels at the church.
“The Group Commissioner makes sure that everything is running right between the sponsor (St. John’s Norway) and all the sections – Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Venturers and Rovers – making sure the leaders are running a proper program, making sure they have enough funds to run a proper program for camps and that sort of thing,” he said.
Sandra has been a guiding light in the program for nearly as long as Ed, but her involvement began when she first fell in love with her future husband.
“We started to date and every night he was out with Scouting so I finally gave up,” she said. “After three years I decided to join.”
“When she met me, she said ‘I can’t beat him so I better join him’ so she joined Scouting,” added Ed.
Sandra first became a leader in a Scarborough group, but moved over to St. John’s Norway to work alongside Ed, who was now a Cub Leader, as an assistant. She is now Fundraising Coordinator, making sure each group has all the fundraising equipment it needs.
“We’ve got fundraising starting up now, so we have to get organized for that,” she said. “We’re visiting each group to hand out fundraising bags for selling popcorn and Regal (giftware).”
This weekend, Oct. 12 and 13, the Scouts will be undertaking one of their biggest, and most identifiable, fundraisers: Apple Day. The Scouts will be selling apples on Friday night from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., and the Beavers and Cubs on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
During their lengthy tenure, the couple has seen a lot of changes, one of them, most noticeably, in the uniforms. In fact, the kids no longer need to wear a uniform at all, just an official shirt, which many parents might see as a good thing.
“Parents only need to buy a shirt,” said Ed. “The pants are fairly expensive and as fast as kids grow you’d be buying a new pair every year. They don’t even wear hats anymore. Hats are not part of the uniform.”
The Stetson hat was part of the original Scout uniform, but it met its demise a number of years ago, to the dismay of the Harrisons.
“We were sorry to see the Stetson go,” said Ed. “That’s the way Lord Baden Powell had it, with the Stetson and the whole works.”
The badges have changed somewhat too. Ed remembers working very hard to become one of the first Cubs in Toronto to earn a 13th, and newly introduced, badge that year: the cyclist badge. Today, the young Cubs work hard to get their computer badges. And although knot tying and campfire cooking are still a big part of the program, the annual trip to Laser Quest is probably the most highly anticipated.
There have also been changes to the way Leaders are taken on, as potential candidates now must have a police check, a training course and fingerprinting, all of which takes three to four months.
“I don’t mind that, I feel better for the kids’ sake, but we can’t get new leaders going right away,” said Sandra. And with some groups folding because they can’t find leaders, time is often of the essence.
The Harrisons are no longer directly involved with the youth as they have moved on to more supervisory roles. The camping got to be a bit much and the pair decided to turn over some of those jobs to younger people.
“My idea of roughing it now is the Holiday Inn without a jacuzzi,” added Ed.
The Harrisons will be helping the 35th/37th Scouting group celebrate its 100th anniversary on Saturday, Nov. 3 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at St. John’s Norway. There will be games, draws, a tea room and the opportunity to meet old and new friends.