Scouting around the Ten Mile River Museum

By LYLE T. GALLOWAY
Posted 8/18/21

NARROWSBURG, NY— Scouts from Troop 106, from Middle Village, Queens, pace around the Ten Mile River Museum, moving from one glass case to the next. Pencils in hand, they jot their answers down …

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Scouting around the Ten Mile River Museum

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NARROWSBURG, NY— Scouts from Troop 106, from Middle Village, Queens, pace around the Ten Mile River Museum, moving from one glass case to the next. Pencils in hand, they jot their answers down on the museum’s trivia worksheet.

“What did you get for number seven?” asks one Scout. His friend answers that he’s still trying to find the answer to question number five. Once they’re finished, they hand in their papers and are off to their next destination.

“The point isn’t that they get the question right; the point is that they get to various parts of the museum and if they get distracted along the way, we win,” said museum director Glenn Pontier.

The Ten Mile River Museum provides a look into one of the largest Boy Scout camps in the nation.

Pontier, along with the museum co-director Ira Nagel, is in charge of  the museum and its activities. Pontier’s knowledge of local history and Nagel’s 60 years in scouting make for a good combination.

“Glenn knows the history of the whole area, and I know all the programs, because I’m a Scout. We blend really well,” said Nagel.

Pontier knows the museum like the back of his hand. Every exhibit, old and new, seems to have some story, anecdote or interesting fact attached.  

A display of photos and species of various insects and mammals hung on the wall. It featured the findings from the past Upper Delaware BioBlitz. During this event, eight teams of scientists would try to identify all the native fauna that they see and hear within a 24-hour period. It’s one of Pontier’s favorite exhibits in the museum.

Also on display were pieces of pottery and projectile points from the Lenape tribe. There was also a glass case containing a variety of wooden neckerchief slides, carved by Roland Flora and painted by his wife, Louise.

Against the wall by the door was an aged upright piano that once belonged to Margaret Soller. Soller was the owner and operator of the Doughnut Farm, a local restaurant that was frequented by Scouts visiting the area. The museum also acquired Soller’s machine, which was used to make the doughnuts after the restaurant opened in the early 2000s.

The museum also had some new exhibits on display. The first was a display created in conjunction with the Upper Delaware Council, featuring the geology of the Ten Mile River camps and the surrounding area. Artist’s renderings show that the area was completely underwater 385 million years ago, and covered with a colossal glacier close to 18,500 years ago. Most of the larger rocks on the property were deposited as the glacier advanced through the area. A multicolor map found on the display also shows mineral deposits for each surrounding area.

“Somebody who lives along the river could come into the museum, find their house and find out what’s underneath it,” said Pontier.

The other new exhibit featured a timely glimpse into the role that Scouts played during the 1918 influenza pandemic. During this crisis, Scouts ran kitchens, gave out masks and distributed literature on public health.

In New York City, they’d stop spitters on the street and hand them a card and tell them, “You’re in violation of the sanitary code,” Pontier said.

In many cases, the work the Scouts did was much more involved. In some cities in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, Scouts were manning ambulances and acting as hospital orderlies, delivering messages and operating telephones.

Many museum visitors have noticed the similarities between what the Scouts had to deal with more than a century ago.

“When people come in and they see that 100 years ago, the Scouts were dealing with the same thing, suddenly it’s not about Biden or Trump. It’s about a disease,” said Pontier.

When they look at the wealth of memorabilia and black-and-white photos of the smiling Scouts from decades before, Scouts visiting the museum are reminded of themselves and the institution they serve.

“They love it because it’s about them, it’s about the place that they love,” said Pontier.

Both Pontier and Nagel hope to continue to share their unique knowledge with the Scouts of Ten Mile River. In their experience, there are things in Scouting that can’t be learned in school, or in a museum for that matter.

It teaches self-reliance, confidence, responsibility and the value of being included in a group.

Nagel recalled how good it felt to be included in the Scouts after being told he couldn’t join another group of boys.

“There was a group of kids a few blocks from me and they were playing football. I was 11 years old, I was a little guy and I wanted to play football with them. They said, ‘We don’t want you, you’re a nerd,’ and as soon as they say that it destroys everything in you… That’s when I joined the Scouts, because I wanted to get friends,” he said.

In accordance with the theme of inclusivity, both were interested to see where the recent decision to make Scouting co-ed will take the organization.

“When the Scouts are at their best, it’s a wonderful program that teaches great values and outdoor skills. Too many kids are sitting in front of the TV, or in front of a game console or in front of their phones. Scouting is one of those programs that reaches and challenges young people to be more than who they are,” said Pontier.

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