Scouting in Wantagh is 100 years old this year.
In fact, the first Wantagh Boy Scouts of America unit — Troop 1 — was chartered on March 15, 1918, and sponsored by the Wantagh Memorial Congregational Church, on Wantagh Avenue.
And the church, built in 1888, has been sponsoring Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs ever since. Wantagh scouts continue to meet and hold their Eagle courts of honor there.
To mark the community’s 100th year of scouting, Wantagh’s Cub Scout Pack 96, and its committee chairman, Paul Sigler, created a commemorative patch. The pack is selling the patches, and all Wantagh troops and packs are purchasing them. The money raised will be donated to the Wantagh Preservation Society, a group of residents who help preserve Wantagh history.
So far, Pack 96 has sold 339 patches and raised a total of $841.65, after costs, Sigler said. There are still some available for sale, for $4 each.
The patch was the brainchild of Sigler, a history buff who decided to research the origin of scouting in Wantagh when its umbrella organization — the Theodore Roosevelt Council of the Boy Scouts of America — celebrated its 100th anniversary last year.
In the center of the patch is an image of a totem pole, like the one that once stood next to the Wantagh train museum. Boy Scout Troop 656 erected it on the museum grounds, and dedicated it on July 4, 1977. Today there is a building in its place.
The patch also lists all six current troops, and on the other side, in the shadow of the totem pole, is the original Troop 1.
“Being a history buff, I wondered, when did scouting start in my town, Wantagh?” Sigler recalled thinking last year. “Digging in old newspapers, many of which are now online, I discovered that the first unit in Wantagh, Wantagh Troop 1, was chartered on March 15, 1918. Wow, I thought, the 100th anniversary of that first unit is next year. It would be nice to commemorate it somehow.”
So Pack 96 made a 100th-anniversary float, which scouts marched with in Wantagh’s Memorial Day and Fourth of July parades.
“Seeing the success the Puerto Rico relief patches were, it seemed it would be a wonderful idea if we could use this patch for a similar purpose,” Sigler said. “Since this is a local history anniversary, it seemed a natural idea to raise funds for our local historical society, the Wantagh Preservation Society. This non-profit organization is run by volunteers and has a very tiny budget. I’ve visited their local museum and helped them a little now and then.”
It was at the museum that Sigler learned about the totem pole. In his research, he also found out that the Theodore Roosevelt Council — originally called the Nassau County Council — was formed in 1917 as a response to World War I.
“That’s when the population increased dramatically, as farms turned into housing developments, and more [military] units were needed,” Sigler said.
By January 1920, the Council had 32 troops and 685 scouts. The first Seaford scout troop was registered in April 1921. The first Eagle Scout in Wantagh was named in 1926.
Sigler said he wanted to involve all the Wantagh scout units in this 100th anniversary service project. He also worked with the preservation society to help set up a small 100th-anniversary scouting exhibit at the museum. And, seeing his interest in local history, members of the society asked him to come on board as a member. He agreed.
Cub Scout Pack 96 began selling the patches last year, and plans to present a check to the preservation society at its monthly meeting on the first Tuesday in October.