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June, 2009:

John Viden

I was in the Cub Scouts when I was 8 or so. Clayton, New Jersey was the town I grew up in.  We were in Pack 308.  My mom was our den mother.

 
We had a lot of fun and she always had stuff planned for us to do. 

One time we went to New York City and visited The Statue of Liberty and the United Nations. 

One time we went to Crystal Cave Cavern in Pennsylvania.

One time we went to Annapolis @ the US Naval Academy.

But this isn’t a story about me in the Cub Scouts… or my mom being den mother. This is a story about a man named John Viden.

You see after I got too old for Cub Scouts I moved to Webelos. My Uncle Dennis was our leader. He wasn’t even my uncle back then, but that’s a different story for another time. 

After a year in Webelos I moved to the Boy Scouts. Troop 47. We met one night a week at the Youth Center on North Center Street in Clayton, New Jersey.  Mr. Fichebach was our Scout Master and Mr. Gardener was our assistant. I remember Mr.  Gardener because I eventually took guitar lessons from his son Warren Gardener.

I sucked at guitar.  I wish I’d practiced more because I really wish I could play now. :( 

Oh wait… John Viden.  Yeah. 

So my family moved from Clayton to Pitman, New Jersey (only about 8 miles away). I joined Troop 1 in Pitman.

I looked the other day and I don’t think Troop 1 in Pitman or Troop 47 in Clayton even exists anymore.

They were both part of the Southern New Jersey Council – which I don’t think exists anymore either. 

Anyway, the man who was our Scout Master was named John Viden. I don’t know how old John was, but we called him John, not Mr. Viden. 

He lived on the corner of Holly Avenue and West Avenue.  I lived on North Broadway only a few blocks away. The year was… oh… 1970 or there about. 

John graduated high school in 1968.  Don’t ask me how I remember that, I just do.  So he wasn’t very old.  20 or so.  I guess I was 12.

I can’t for the life of me remember ONE person in my troop.  Well, now that isn’t really true.  Let me see.  We had some kids that lived in another town about 10 miles away called Mullica Hill. John Means.  That name I remember.  

John’s dad was a funeral director and owned Means funeral home. 

The only other person I remember is a guy named Chuck Datz.  His mom & dad were really involved with his scouting and they owned an apple orchard near Mullica Hill.  

They were all really good to us.  We’d hang out there whenever we wanted, Mrs Datz would give us jobs in the summer working on the orchard.  There are lots of stories about Mr & Mrs Datz – who have both passed away by now – and us… but I have to keep on track. 

John Viden. 

I don’t know what John did for a living.  It seemed to me that he didn’t work.  He lived in his dad’s house.  His dad’s name was Ed.  I’m sure John did SOMETHING but he was always home when I would stop by.  Perhaps they were very wealthy.  I really don’t know.

John Viden was a good man and an important part of my life when I was between 12 & 14. 

He would take us all to different places. One summer John took us up to New Hampshire for two weeks to camp.  He knew this guy.  An older guy named Doug.  I think.  I don’t remember his last name. 

Doug owned a roadside motel in Bartlett, New Hampshire… right in the middle of the White Mountains. 

I don’t remember the name of the hotel, but it was an Indian name of some sort. “Tecumseh” rings a bell. I’m sure it isn’t there anymore… or at least it has a new name. We all went to Bartlett and met Doug. 

Then we set up camp on a river (a river in the mountains is a really wide stream… shallow, running water coming down from the mountains… very clean… and very, VERY cold.). 

The name of the river was called the Saco River and it flowed down from the mountains along the main road in Bartlett.  

I’m going to go look on Google Maps now and see how good my memory is.  Hold on… I’ll bring back a pic.  Ok, here you go: 

Well, I could find no record of Tecumseh Motel. But I’m fairly sure it was where the arrow is pointing. There is a motel there now called “Chippanock Inn”. Heck that’s sort of an Indian name. Maybe it’s the same place.  

I noted on the photo the Saco River. There is a cool write up on the Saco on Wikipedia.  Its watershed is in the White Mountains and it flows all the way to Maine into the Atlantic Ocean. 

Here is a photo of the Saco I found on its Wiki page.  

It is a really wide river bed most of the year of round, smooth stones. I imagine in the spring when the snow is melting in the mountains these rivers are pretty violent and very fast flowing and dangerous.

In the summer though they look like this. Just a brook in a wide riverbed.  We used to just fill our water jugs right out of the river and drink from it.

I also noted our camping area.  I’m pretty sure this is where we camped. I don’t know who owned it in 1970 or who owns it now… but there certainly hasn’t been much development there in thirty years. 

Every day we’d get up and John would get us together and we’d go somewhere to hike.  We hiked and hiked and hiked the White Mountains.

Drinking from streams and cooking our meals and camping on the trails. It was awesome. We all earned our “Fifty Miler” award that summer. Hiking and Camping the White Mountains and the Appalachian Trail!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/50-Miler_Award

We hiked Franconia Notch http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franconia_Notch,
Crawford Notch http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crawford_Notch and many others.  

Funny thing… we climbed all the major areas in the White Mountains but for some reason we never climbed Mount Washington.  I don’t know why. :( 

That was a summer I’ll never forget as long as I live.  I’d like to go back there sometime and see if I can find all the things I remember so clearly.  Maybe I should climb Mount Washington! 

The next summer John took a job for the summer with the Southern New Jersey Council to be the Program Director at one of its Boy Scout Camps up in Indian Lake, New York.  Indian Lake is a town up in the Adirondack Mountains. The 60s group “The Cowsils” wrote a hit song about it.  New  York is a beautiful state and Indian Lake was no exception. I’m not sure how a Boy Scout Council in South New Jersey ended up owning a camp in the Adirondack Mountains.  I used to know but I don’t remember.

The name of the camp was called Chimney Mountain.  It was named that because it was at the base of Chimney Mountain. :) 

John asked me if I’d like to come up to work at the camp for the summer.  He couldn’t pay me but I could hold a position of C.I.T. (Counselor In Training) and enjoy the summer in the mountains.  My parents were all for it and off we went. 

I could tell (and I may later) lots and lots of stories about my summer at Chimney Mountain.  But in a nutshell we spent a great summer helping to run a camp for troops of scouts week after week.  

Some of the older guys who worked there (probably 17 or so in age) had a car and they loved to fish.  They’d take me along a lot of the times and man did we catch some big ‘ol bass! 

Part of the activities the scouts used to do was go hike up the mountain to the top of Chimney Mountain.  There were caves up there with snow from the winter that was there all summer long.  We’d climb down into the ground between the rocks… down under the earth and had to wear lights on our heads so we could see.  Then we’d gather up buckets of snow and bring them out and the scouts would have a snowball fight on top of Chimney Mountain in the middle of August.  How cool was that?   

At the end of the summer instead of going right back to New Jersey, John took me up to Montreal.  I’d never been out of the country.  We went to the site of the old Expo ‘67.  I really don’t remember much about it except that we ate at a French restaurant and John ordered Escargot (that’s snails for you people who don’t know what I’m talking about).  He had me try one… and you know, I seem to remember it didn’t taste too bad.

I don’t know what ever happened to John Viden. 

All the things we did together and I don’t have a single photo of him.  I remember what he looked like though. I’m sure his father Ed passed away LONG ago.  John graduated high school nine years before I did so I’m guessing he’s still 59 or 60 years old. 

I haven’t really tried to track him down but there is a good possibility that he (or someone he knows) will see this blog entry when they google his name one day.

If someone DOES read this that knows John, please pass it along to him and have him come here and post a comment to my blog.

John, I’m sure I never told you this when I was a kid, but Thank You for everything you ever did for me. 

You were a good guy and the things you did for me meant a lot.  They are full of stories that I’ll never forget as long as I live. 

The world would be a much better place if there were more John Viden’s in it. :)