Poly’s Troop 5 Celebrates 100 Years of Scouting

A century ago, two men named Tallman Trask and Charles Miller decided to cobble together a Boy Scouts of America troop based out of Polytechnic Elementary School in Pasadena. Their vision to further the momentum of a burgeoning national movement resulted in a collection of local youth known as Troop 5. During the next several decades, generations of Troop 5 Boy Scouts have upheld the group’s values by developing character and
self-reliance through participation in outdoor activities, educational programs and community service.
Last Friday, more than 150 Scouts and leaders from the past and the present gathered in Poly’s Debbie Reed Courtyard to celebrate the time-honored tradition of Troop 5. The centennial salutation showcased historical memorabilia and photos dating back to Troop 5’s founding in 1916. Current Troop 5 Scouts orchestrated a flag-raising ceremony that preceded an outdoor reception, where attendees received the opportunity to mingle before sitting down for dinner.
“We’re thrilled to be here 100 years,” said Troop 5 Scoutmaster Chris Wilson, who graduated from Poly in 1985 and now has two sons in the program. “It’s really hard to put into words how passionate we feel about Scouting. This is really a chance to celebrate the goals of Scouting, which is helping other people at all times and doing your best every day.”
The establishment of Troop 5 at Poly came just six years after the founding of Boy Scouts of America and nine years after the 1907 founding of the original Boy Scouts organization by British Gen. Robert Baden-Powell. Troop 5 holds the distinction of being the second-oldest American group west of the Mississippi River, and Poly has maintained its role as the troop’s chartering body for the past 100 years. This doesn’t mean that participation is limited only to Poly students, though.
“We really believe that the troop’s open to everybody,” said Wilson.
Troop 5’s most recent Eagle Scout — the highest rank that a Scout can achieve — is St. Francis High School junior Charles Thomas Mayne. For his Eagle Project, he worked with an organization that provides disabled children with the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and ride horses. He helped build a retaining barrier on the lower end of the horse ring in order to keep rocks from eroding and tripping the horses. Mayne, the 254th Eagle Scout in the history of Troop 5, attended the centennial festivities along with 53 others who have earned that same recognition.
“The Scouting values from 100 years ago are just as meaningful as they are now,” said Dom Femino, an assistant Scoutmaster and Poly alumnus who has been involved with the troop since he was 11 years old.
Another long-standing Poly tradition that originated with Troop 5 is the annual Pet and Hobby Show, where the school community descends upon Babcock Field for an afternoon of food, game booths, hobby displays and a chance to interact with everyone’s pets. The festival began in 1916 when Principal Grace Henley permitted Troop 5 Scouts to bring their pets to school. In 1928, the event moved from the tennis court in the northeast corner of campus to its current location on the field.
Troop 5 Scouts organized the Pet and Hobby Show for several years, demonstrating various Scouting skills such as cooking, fire-kindling, archery and mule-packing. Although management of the show has since passed to a parent organization, Troop 5 Scouts have remained immersed by selling refreshments and entering their pets into contests. Troop 5 still practices cooking and fire-kindling at Poly, but archery has moved off campus.
The rich history of Troop 5 also includes the selling of Liberty Bonds during World War 1. In 1917, 21 members of Troop 5, ages 12 to 15, sold $56,000 worth of bonds in support of the Allied war effort.
“I enjoyed seeing the displays of Troop 5’s history,” former Scout and event organizer John Babcock said in an email. “From selling Liberty Bonds to helping fund World War I to ‘Get out the Vote’ drives in the ’60s and community service projects today, it’s impressive how much the troop has accomplished.”
Troop 5 began visiting Camp Cherry Valley on Catalina Island in the 1920s. The weeklong excursions dedicated to earning merit badges through swimming, sailing and hiking have come to represent a cornerstone of Troop 5’s passion for high adventure. Today, the troop’s travel schedule features trips to Philmont Scout Ranch, Northern Tier canoe bases and Sea Base, among other destinations.
“We have a fantastic outdoor program,” said Femino, who spoke highly of Troop 5’s journey to Joshua Tree last month. “We go at least once a month on an outdoor adventure, whether it’s backpacking or kayaking or canoeing or rock-climbing.”
There have been 15 Scoutmasters throughout the 100-year history of Troop 5, with countless volunteers supplementing their leadership in outdoor programs and community service projects. The centennial celebration attempted to honor all of those who have contributed to the success of Troop 5, but outreach initially hit a snag because a master list of every former Scout simply didn’t exist. Poly’s alumni office assisted with tracking down former Scouts who attended the school, and plaques commemorating past Eagle Scouts provided further information. From there, Babcock said, “we just had to Google them and start cold-calling and emailing.”
“I learned this: Most email gets ignored. But an email with the subject line ‘Troop 5 Eagle Scout’ gets replied to in about an hour — even when it comes from a stranger, even if you haven’t heard from Troop 5 in 40 years. That email doesn’t get lost in your inbox.”

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