I was active as a Boy Scout during the two years that I lived at Dreux. Here are a few memories of that time. The Dreux troop was #265 and was part of the Fleur de Lis District of the Transatlantic Council. Our Scoutmaster was Ed Bertels and we had several assistant Scoutmasters including Don Carrico and Louis Guy a€" all were great guys and contributed to us having a solid Scouting program.
The Scout Hut, as we called it - our combined meeting place and equipment storage area - was in one of the Quonset huts in the officers' trailer park. We'd meet weekly during the school year. We did our camping at Marguerite 6. There was a wooded area there with some clearings that were perfect for setting up tents. We had AF provided gear, which seemed pretty cool at the time (remember, I was only 11 years old . . . ). We had good old GI mess kits, canteens, tents, etc. Our tents (if you want to call them that) were two shelter halves that you'd button together, add poles, and put a few stakes in the ground to hold the whole thing up. (As a side note, when I was on active duty in Air Force tactical communications in the late 70s the AF was still using the same stuff - progress was a little slow to come to AF camping techniques). Back to Dreux. For our campouts, we'd hike from the Scout Hut around the Perimeter Road to the Marguerite 6 area. It was a great adventure for us kids. I don't recall any other activity in the Marguerite 6 area when I was there starting in the summer of 1961, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. One of the attractions at Marguerite 6 was "the rope". Someone had hung a big, sturdy rope from a tree next to a drainage ditch and we'd take turns holding onto the rope, taking a big running start and swinging out over the ditch. The ditch was probably about 20 -25 feet deep and quite wide so it was a pretty good ride. Nowadays, you would have to wear a harness and a helmet, have at least two safety observers, and 30 minutes of certified instruction before undertaking such an endeavor, but, despite hundreds of swings, nobody ever got hurt and we all survived to tell our stories. At least one of the years -- probably 1962 -- we had a Scout carnival in the Marguerite 2 hanger as a fundraiser. There were lots of games and, as I recall, it was well attended. The base was in standby status at that point, so, small as the carnival might have been, it was, indeed, the greatest show on earth or at least on Dreux.
The summer camp for all of the American Boy Scout troops in France (and the American Youth Association as well) was at Camp Cazaux on the banks of Lac Cazaux, near the Atlantic Ocean in southern France. Getting there from Dreux was a two day drive. Those were the days long before Autoroutes so we had to drive through every little village along the way. We would load up on a bus and head south, spending the night at the American base at Poitiers. We rode in a military Blue Bird school bus and had a volunteer driver that drove us down, stayed the two weeks, and drove us back. Arrival day was Sunday new troops would check in and those that were staying (we stayed at camp for two weeks) would be taken to the Atlantic beach a few miles from the camp so the new arrivals could be checked in.
The camp had been built by the Army with few permanent facilities such as the dining hall and showers, and a lot of tents for the Scouts and Scouters. The tents were large, GP Medium tents with permanent concrete slabs for the floor. We slept on GI beds (yes, beds, not cots) complete with sheets and GI blankets. When you checked in on Sunday you were given your bedding and assigned a tent. Our entire troop fit in one tent. I don't recall how many of us there were I'm guessing about a dozen plus our adult leaders and the bus driver. Looking back through the eyes of a current adult leader in Scouting, I've got to say those were pretty fancy accommodations for summer camp. The food in the dining hall was good and there was plenty of it. Of course, being a young Scout, the plenty of it automatically translated to good. The camp itself was in a pine forest on the banks of the Lake. The tents were interspersed through the hilly forest, so everyone had plenty of room. Each tent had a large 55 gallon drum nearby that was filled with water and had a bucket attached to it to be used for putting out fires. I'm not aware of any use for its intended purpose, but a rite of passage for all Scouts was to be dunked in the fire bucket at least once during his stay at Cazaux. Camp Cazaux was set up like a typical American Scout camp with activity areas for merit badges and skills instruction. We sang songs after the lunch and evening meals. (I still remember a bunch of them. For those that were there, you might remember: Green Grow the Rushes, Oh; My Brother Bill's A Fireman; and The BINGO Farm). We had our campfires on the beach at the lake. The lake was beautiful and we had a large sandy beach that was just across the street from the main camp. Although the lake is obviously still there, I can't find the camp's location on a map, so am not sure exactly where it was. Here are a few pictures from the camp.
One of the big events for Scouts is earning the Totin' Chit? award which teaches the safe handling of wood tools. You can't carry or even use a knife in Scouting unless you've earned the Totin' Chit, so given our love of carrying pocket knives, earning the Totin' Chit enjoyed a very high priority for us. In the summer of 1962 Troop 265 was recognized at the final campfire for a unique achievement. We not only had 100% of our troop earn their Totin' Chit, we also got our bus driver to go through the course, thereby achieving a new Camp Cazaux record of 101%. My guess is that the record still stands. Some evenings we would have camp-wide games, such as capture the flag. The area was so large, I don't ever remember anybody winning, but it was fun and kept everybody occupied for several hours.
After two weeks of fun at Cazaux we headed back, again spending the night at Poitiers before returning to Dreux. Scouting was just another of many great memories of Dreux.
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