Scouts say good-bye to beloved cabin Slated for demolition March 12
By: JOHN CRAWFORD Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer
Skip Walls stood uphill from the Boy Scout Cabin in Lititz Spring Park on Saturday and looked thoughtfully at the rotting log building.
"We spent some evenings and overnighters in here," he said of his days with Explorer Troop 42. "I don’t know why it sticks in my mind, but I remember one night we stayed in here and parked our bicycles inside, too, so no one would take them. They got going with a "tsetse fly" thing (as a prank) and what they were doing was letting the air out of the bicycle tires. The scouts were doing it. It was just fun stuff."
Memories of the iconic little cabin that has stood for over 80 years, but will come down shortly, flowed during a closing ceremony and open house held Saturday.
Local historian and park board president Ron Reedy provided the background.
"Eight-five years ago this coming October, Boy Scout Troops 2 and 3 opened the doors of the new log cabin they built," he said. "Because of their interest in the great outdoors, the scouts received permission from the Lititz Springs Park Committee to build a cabin on the hill overlooking the head-end to serve as a headquarters."
Reedy went on to say the Scouts worked throughout the summer on the cabin, supervised by Scoutmaster Floyd Hackman.
His daughter, Necia Hackman Weinhold, told Saturday’s crowd of the memories her father had of that summer.
"My father and his troop were the ones who built the cabin back on May the 5th, 1927, when the foundation was laid," she said. "He obtained the permission from the Moravian Church, who owned the park land at that time, so that he and his scouts could build a cabin for meetings. The cabin in the park became a well-known landmark for the park and for Lititz. My sister Reba tagged along with my dad and the Scouts, and told me when it was built she put her handprint in the base of the original chimney."
Reba’s handprint remained on display for decades while the cabin was used for a variety of purposes.
"From 1942 to the early 1960s, the cabin was the staging facility for the Fourth of July Queen of the Pageant," said Reedy. "It even served as the half-time locker room for the Lititz High School football teams of the 1940s and ’50s."
Because of the structure’s popularity, Explorer Troop 42 decided to expand their headquarters around 1960. Explorer Jim Good recounted that summer’s work.
"We used to have our meetings in the original part of the cabin and somewhere along the line, we decided it needed to be bigger," he said. "The original fireplace was where the step is now and we broke that down and took out the end of the cabin and got the trees, debarked them. Somebody, I don’t remember who, had trees on their land that were suitable and allowed us to cut them. We cut them and brought them back, stripped them and used them to build the extension and wing."
"There weren’t many, maybe a dozen," said Good of the amount of members doing the work. "We put a lot of time in on it, especially laying the stone on the outside. Ira Yeagley was the local stone mason and he volunteered to build the firebox and the inner part with the square stones that you see there."
Fellow Explorer Ken Kline helped fill in details of the work.
"We’d be out here at night with lights and some wooden scaffolding," he added. "I think if OSHA had seen that, they would have had a hemorrhage! We’d be out here working late at night. We had a lot of fun. We were really pleased with the way it turned out. I think for a bunch of high school boys, even though we had professional supervision, we did pretty well."
Overnight stays resumed with the cabin’s renovation and became warmer with the new fireplace, recalls Good.
"It was usually pretty cold. We tried to keep a fire going in the fireplace in the old one and the new one. The new one is a lot better because it is built like it should be with a damper and a smoke shelf. The original one was straight through like ancient times. You could stick your head in the fireplace and see the sky."
The Explorers enjoyed themselves, despite the tsetse flies, in the renovated structure.
"We had a lot of fun," said Kline. "The Scout Troop was a more social organization. We didn’t have any emphasis on badges. We met here like Jim said and have a good time and didn’t get into any trouble. It was a different time."
Time was never an ally to the little wooden structure. The cabin remained a Boy Scout meetinghouse through the late 1970s and early 1980s before passing to the park’s control as a storage area, but it always required rigorous upkeep.
"With every year, we put preservative on the wood on the inside and creosote the outside," said Kline. "We’d fill in where the chinking broke out. It was a high maintenance building even back then. I can see why there is better use for their money than keeping this thing going."
"The cabin is not in very good shape so the park has decided to take the cabin down and they’re going to put a pavilion in its place," said Kerry Nye, a current Scoutmaster and member of the Lititz Springs Park Board.
"The pavilion is going to resemble the cabin and have a history of the cabin. The fireplace is going to stay and actively be used. The pavilion can be rented out to people for use throughout the year."
"I believe the pavilion is going to be eight feet wide by thirty feet long and is going to be built in and around the fireplace," continued Nye. "By the end of April, it should be done. It’s on the schedule to be rented so it’s there for this year. I would imagine people would start renting it when they find the other three pavilions are already rented. This will be a fourth pavilion."
The pavilion will also bear another reminder from the town’s recent history.
"The Lititz Police Department is sponsoring most of (the construction cost) out of money from the scholarship fund dedicated to Chief Douglas Shertzer, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2004," said Nye. "There will be a plaque (honoring Shertzer) on the fireplace, but it will actually be called the Log Cabin pavilion."
Provided enough material can be salvaged, the park hopes to have a scale model placed in the Welcome Center.
Nye, who organized the short ceremony, was pleased with estimated turnout of over 200 people.
"I’m very happy with all the turn out. We had a lot of Scouts here, friends and leaders and a lot of community. It was nice to hear old Scouters reminisce of their fond memories of the cabin." More SCOUT CABIN, page A16