Bronx NYC Scout Explorer Post 205 Reunion, Jewish Community Center - The Boys in "The Post"
The Boys in “The Post”
By Martin H. Block
“Darn the wheel of the world! Why must it continually turn over? Where is the
reverse gear”? - Jack London
In 1949 my father, a former Boy Scout when growing up in Brownsville, in
Brooklyn, led me by the hand to the Jewish Community Center at the intersection
Street and Nelson Avenue, in the West Bronx, where I joined Cub Scout
Pack 338. Little did it occur to me that in six relatively short years I would still be
in Scouting and joining Explorer Post 205.
Post 205 met on Friday evenings in the basement of the Featherbed Lane
Presbyterian Church, an imposing stone structure at corner of Featherbed Lane
and University Avenue. I had graduated from Boy Scout Troop 205, which met in
the church’s gymnasium.
I quickly fell in love with Explorer Post 205. The members were a swell bunch of
guys, not just Friday evening fellow Explorers, but friends, some of who would go
on to become the very best of friends. We were a true band of brothers, sharing
our dreams, our friendship, and our loyalty.
Friday evenings were very special. We had the run of the church’s basement,
two bowling alleys, and ping-pong and billiard tables. While we had occasional
adult supervision, we largely were left on our own to shape and manage our
destiny – though once in a while we were reminded by the church’s pastor,
Reverend Arthur Matott, that we were in a church so we needed to show at least
a modicum of restraint.
Those evenings began with what invariably was a brief meeting, planning for our
camping trips and other grand adventures. We then adjourned to shoot pool,
bowl, and play loud matches of ping-pong.
Friday never ended at the church, because after the meetings and the fun we
engaged in what became a tradition of going for a late meal at one of the local
Chinese or Italian restaurants we haunted. Afterwards, stuffed to the gills, we
would next head to the bagel bakery on Nelson Avenue, where large men in
strapped undershirts, sweating in the 130 degree heat pouring out of the ovens,
baked the best bagels ever.
We dined together, laughed together, played together, camped together,
engaged in innocent mischief together, and grew up together, the members of
what we referred to simply as “The Post.”
After school we would often find ourselves in one of our local hangouts,
Georgie’s Kosher Delicatessen, on Featherbed Lane, eating fifteen-cent
frankfurters and French fries. The standard gag every time was for the same guy
to ask Georgie’s wife for a bologna sandwich on rye with a glass of milk. She
would go ballistic, “You know we don’t serve that here. We’re kosher.” Simple
fun, but we would laugh ourselves silly.
The Post members took extreme pride in being selected from among the
Explorer posts in our Boy Scout district to serve as the service unit at the
semiannual Bronx District 2 Boy Scout Camporee or Trekoree. We would be the
first campers to arrive for the event, would help set up the staff tents and other
facilities, and then would spend much of the time serving as instructors for the
younger Boy Scouts. We would actually get upset if another post was selected
for this function, because we knew we were the best there were.
Rarely did a month pass, and often more frequently, that The Post would not go
camping at one of the Greater New York Councils camps. It was not unusual for
us to gather at the Featherbed Lane Presbyterian Church, rucksacks on our back
and hike for 12 miles, across Upper Manhattan, the George Washington Bridge,
and then either along Route 9W or following the trail on top of the Palisades, to
Alpine Scout Camp. There used to be a wilderness camp within Alpine Scout
Camp exclusively for Explorer Posts, and that was our preferred camping area.
We always loved to “rough it” when camping out.
Spruce Pond Scout Camp was another favorite. We needed to arrange for
transportation, as it was located approximately 30 miles from The Bronx, in
above Tuxedo, New York. We would be left at the foot of the steep hill leading
up to the camping area, and we would hike the rest of the way there. Kanes
Open was also a wilderness camp, more rugged than Alpine. That suited us just
great, because we could stay up late around the campfire and not bother others
with our loud laughing.
On a one-week camping trip at Kanes Open over a very cold and snowy
Christmas vacation everyone got a hankering for someplace that was snow-free
and warm, and served food we didn’t have to cook. At the base of the hill, on
Route 17, was the Red Apple Inn, a well-known rest stop on the way north to the
Catskill Mountains in the years before the New York State Thruway was
constructed. We were supposed to be roughing it, but enough became enough,
so down the hill we went for some Red Apple Inn frankfurters and French fries. It
dawned on us that it was a lot easier than cooking ourselves, so the next night
and every night thereafter, down the hill we went to the Red Apple Rest. So
much for roughing it on that camp-out!
Harvey Frey at a Post 205 Camp-Out Circa 1955
Probably Kanes Open, Tallman, NY
The high point of the year was in the summer, when we would go for an
extended camping trip at Ten Mile River Scout Camp, near Narrowsburg, New
York. Each of the New York City Boroughs had their own camping area, with
mess halls and facilities. Camp Ranachqua, on the shore of Lake Nianque, was
the camp for The Bronx. Ranachqua was also the name of Order of the Arrow
Lodge Number 4.
When the Greater New York Councils decided to enhance their focus on the
Explorer program, they created a council of Explorers. Explorers from across the
city were selected to serve on the council, and I became the first vice chairman.
As part of their new effort to kick the Explorer program up several notches, the
Boy Scouts of America introduced a new forward looking logo and dress uniform
composed of blue blazers with the new logo on the left-side pocket, grey slacks,
white shirt with blue tie. I remember when the chairman and I were invited to a
function at the Explorer’s Club, at that time on West 72nd Street, in Manhattan.
Explorers Logo in 1959 - Boy Scouts of America™
The Explorer’s Club had its genesis in 1904 as a meeting place for the great
explorers of the early 20th
Century. It’s members have over the years included
Robert Peary, Matthew Henson, Roald Amundsen, Sir Edmund Hillary, Tenzing
Norgay, Piccard, Don Walsh, Chuck Yeager, and Astronauts John Glenn, Neil
Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins. That evening I had the thrill of
meeting Lowell Thomas, the world-renown writer, broadcaster and adventurer,
and Sir Edmund Hillary, who with Tenzing Norgay were the first humans to reach
the peak of Mt. Everest.
In December 1959 four of the members of The Post attended the Explorers Ball,
an elaborate affair put on by the Greater New York Councils at the Sheraton
Astor Hotel, on Broadway between W. 44th
and W. 45th
Streets, in Manhattan.
Photo taken in December 1959 at the Explorers Ball showing Explorers Mark Hykin, Karl
Wittman, Martin Block, and David Gostin, with their dates for the evening.
Time, the ever-spinning wheel, turns interminably, and slowly the Boys in The
Post drifted apart as they moved from the Bronx to far-away places, to go to
college, to take jobs, to marry, to fight wars, to buy homes, to have children and
then grandchildren, to live the American Dream, and sadly, for our brothers,
David Gostin, Alvin Heuer, Steve Snegroff, and Billy Bowles, to pass from this
life. The Post still lived, but only in the minds of aging Explorers spread across
the land and to foreign shores.
One day several years ago, in a moment of melancholia, I placed a classified
advertisement in “Back in the Bronx,” reaching out to see if I could locate some
other members of The Post. My expectations were not high and my search went
unanswered until I received an e-mail from Shelly Lebowitz, the sister of member
Harvey Rothman. I knew Shelly from Davidson Avenue where I lived until 1963.
Both she and Harvey were living in Central Florida.
It was that classified ad and Shelly’s response that was the catalyst to what
became the resurrection of Explorer Post 205. Shelly doggedly searched,
determined to find as many of the other members of The Post as possible, and
slowly they began to emerge, one-by-one, from the mists of time.
Karl Wittman, Harvey Rothman, “Honorary Member Shelly Lebowitz, and I got
together, along with our spouses, in my home in Southwest Florida. It was the
first time I had seen any of them in a great many years. It was there that the idea
of a Post 205 reunion was conceived. Sometime later we were visited in our
home by Gary Jones and his wife on their way to pick up a cruise ship in Miami.
Gary was living in the United Kingdom. By then I was in touch with a number of
the guys, including Jay Montague, by e-mail. Jay let me know he was going to
be in Westin, Florida on business. It turned out that it would be at a time
coincidental with our planned trip to Fort Lauderdale, which took us right through
Westin, so Jay and his wife and my wife and I had the opportunity to meet for
E-mails followed with regularity, as more members of The Post were located.
Always there was the drumbeat for a reunion of the Post 205 members. The
only questions remaining were where and when. With so many of our members
either living in Florida full time or being annual snowbirds, the answer was
obvious, somewhere between the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of Florida.
It took a good bit of work, but on February 28, 2014, the first reunion of Explorer
Post 205 kicked off as we gathered together at poolside, in a hotel in Orlando,
Florida. Memorabilia and photos were pulled out, stories were told and repeated,
friendships renewed, and of course, as tradition would have it, bread was broken
and wine consumed, as we shared the memories of the wonderful years when
we were a bunch of young guys; members of The Post. We toasted all who were
not with us, including two of the guys who could not make it because of health
Photo taken Friday Afternoon, February 28, 2014
They Still Fit – Kind Of!
Karl Wittman and Jay Montague
Photo Taken Friday Evening, February 28, 2014
Meeting of Ranachqua Lodge #4, Order of the Arrow – WWW
Martin Block and Harvey Rothman
Photo Taken Friday Evening February 28, 2014
Barry Leonard, Matthew Laskey, Jay Montague, Karl Wittman, Martin Block, Harvey Rothman
Photo taken on March 1, 2014, at the Post 205 Reunion Dinner. Left to Right: Harvey Frey, Karl
Wittman, Bruce Gordon, Matthew Laskey, Harvey Rothman, Mark Hykin, Barry Leonard, Martin
Block, Jay Montague
Sunday morning arrived far too quickly. As we wished one another farewell we
vowed to once again gather; and so the Boys in The Post shall, well before the
wheel of time makes too many more rotations.