It was a cold day (or so we can only assume) in December 1964 when Joseph Derr, Joe Schaeffer, and a handful of boys started a new Boy Scout troop at Holy Communion Lutheran Church. From the beginning Troop 48 set out to be different, starting with purple kerchiefs that Scoutmaster Joe Derr picked out for the troop. Their first summer, they skipped the usual Boy Scout summer camp that most Boy Scouts troop attended. Instead, Mr. Derr took the boys for a week of water skiing and camping at Roger’s Rock Campground at Lake George in New York. This tradition of camping at Lake George in the summer continued well into the 1980s, and the tradition of a non-summer camp summer trip continues to this day. For the first twenty years, the program was very successful. Troop 48 canoed on the Wading River; journeyed to Jamestown and Yorktown, Virginia; attended Klondike Derbies at Pine Hill Scout Reservation; built large and impressive pioneering projects at Big Timber Camp-er-ees (some of the signs announcing them still hang in the shed), and camped frequently in the nearby Pine Barrens. Scores of boys were able to experience camping and the outdoors, and more than two dozen boys made the rank of Eagle Scout.
In 1984, Scoutmaster Joe Derr retired from his Scoutmaster position after 20 years (although he would serve as the Committee Chairperson for many more years). He handed the reins to Gary Lake, who had grown up with the troop, making Eagle before heading to college. After college, he returned as an Assistant Scoutmaster before moving up to Scoutmaster. At one point early in the 1980s, the troop had shrunk to a mere 4 boys. Gary (as he has always been called by his boys) began to grow the troop, both in culture and in numbers. Class A uniforms were replaced by purple t-shirts with the motto “We Do More Before Breakfast Than Most Troops Do All Day” proudly printed on the back. The troop branched out on their summer trips, leaving behind Lake George for backpacking adventures on the Appalachian Trail (the first 50 miler backpacking trip completed in 1988 on the Appalachian Trail in New Jersey), the White Mountains of New Hampshire (1993), Shenandoah National Park in Virginia (1994), the Smokey Mountains (1998), and Ohiopyle (2001) and other places, with high adventure aspects for troop members of all ages. Popular trips through these years were Rodney Scout Reservation, Goshen Pond, Gettysburg, our own Klondike Derbies (we swept 1-2-3-4 in 1994 at districts and stopped attending for the next decade), and Rosedale Gun Club. The troop expanded to 3 patrols, then 4, then 5, then 8. Thanks to Gary and a crack team of dedicated parents, by the late 1990s and early 2000s, Troop 48 boasted a membership of over 100 boys.
It was during this time period (2000 or 2001) that Troop 48 also became involved with the Battleship New Jersey, helping to do work on her even before she landed at the Camden waterfront. The relationship has continued for more than a decade, including dozens of work parties, 3 or 4 Eagle projects on the ship, multiple Eagle Court of Honors on board, and having our Troop flag flown from the mast. The troop is honored to be officially listed among the roster of the ship’s volunteers.
In 2004, Gary Lake retired from his job and relocated to Western Pennsylvania to start his own business. He sadly retired from his long-held position of Scoutmaster as well. Taking his place was his cousin, Chris Farrell. Chris served as Scoutmaster from 2004 to 2009. He helped guide 16 new boys to Eagle, including both of his sons, and helped keep the troop moving with an active and adventurous camping schedule. The highlight of Chris’s tenure (and one of the all-time highlights of Troop 48) came in 2006 when Chris Farrell and Assistant Scoutmaster Andrew Johnson led eight boys on a ten day expedition to Philmont National Scout Camp in New Mexico. All told, they completed over 100 miles of hiking and backpacking and made a lifetime of memories in a week and a half and set a new, higher bar for the troop for what high adventure could be.
But by 2007, the troop had visibly shrunk again. Older boys had stayed active and involved, but the troop simply wasn’t recruiting much new blood. The troop, which had so recently numbered over 100, had shrunk to less than 20 scouts, most of them only a few years away from aging out themselves. Newer troops in the area had taken over some of the Troop’s historical recruitment areas, Cub Scouts were crossing over to other places, the troop’s longtime feeder Pack, Pack 48, had disbanded… the end of Troop 48 had become a real possibility. Former troop members began to hear rumors that the troop was in trouble. Just as Gary Lake had heard the call to return to his old troop back in the 1980s, others began to heed the call themselves. As early as 2002, the boys-turned-men began to trickle back. Starting in 2008, this trickle became a flood as more than a dozen former Troop 48 Scouts took up varied levels of commitment to the troop, serving as Assistant Scoutmasters, the Committee Chair, Troop Quartermaster, Merit Badge Counselors, or simply showing up to a meeting to keep an eye on things. Even those who were not directly involved attended fundraisers, showed up at Court of Honors, came on the odd trip, donated old equipment, sent in their old patches… helping in whatever way that they could. In 2010, the Troop 48 Alumni Association was formed, holding its first annual Alumni Campout in 2011, in what has become an annual tradition. In December 2009, Mike McCormick became the 4th Scoutmaster of Troop 48. Infused with the energy of these returning Scouts, pushed along by a return of emphasis on the patrol system and on having the boys of the troop make the decisions, the Troop began to grow. 2010 saw the Troop’s 100th Eagle Scout. Exciting summer trips to Lake Champlain in Vermont (2009), Acadia National Park in Maine (2010), and Ohiopyle in Pennsylvania (2011) introduced a new generation of boys to the fun of high-adventure summer trips. Weekend trips grew bigger and better by the month. Backpacking returned in a big way when the troop completed its first 50 miler in five years in April 2011 on the Batona Trail, following it up just four months later with another 50 miler on the Laurel Highlands Trail.
In August 2012, the troop embarked on it’s most ambitious trip to date – an 11 day trip to Wyoming, including four days in Yellowstone National Park and six days backpacking in Grand Teton National Park.
Another milestone was reached in December of 2014, when Troop 48 celebrated its 50th Anniversary at that year’s Court of Honor. Well over 100 Scouts, parents, leaders, and alumni showed up to celebrate our 50 years of adventure.
Now in our second 50 years, Troop 48 continues with what has made us so successful for over half a century – camping, adventure, and independence. With old Scouts turned leaders giving to the next generation what was given to them as Scouts, teamed up with dedicated parents and adult leaders who Scouts left the troop long ago, and a great group of kids taking charge of their troop, great things will continue to be possible for the purple.
Joseph Derr – 1964 – 1984
Gary Lake – 1984 – 2004
Chris Farrell – 2004 – 2009
Mike McCormick 2009 – present
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