Sunday, April 29, 2012

'Handbook for Boys' (1948)

Presented with a cold and rainy Saturday, yesterday Mrs. KintlaLake and I spent a half-dozen hours visiting local garage sales and second-hand shops in search of treasures and odd bargains.

Her prize was a whimsical electric chandelier destined to hang over our patio. I was rewarded with a tattered-but-intact copy of the 1948 Boy Scout Handbook.

The cover price of this edition of Handbook for Boys was 65¢ (equivalent to $5.58 today). I fished it out of a pile of books at the Olde Shoe Factory Antique Mall in Lancaster and paid four bucks for it.

This particular copy is from the 1948 edition's sixth printing in 1953. A handwritten inscription on the first page records that a Scout leader presented it to the young owner in November of 1953 -- that's fifteen years before I earned the rank of Tenderfoot myself.

Thumbing through the Handbook's 570 pages transports me back to my own days in Scouting. All the elements of Scoutcraft are there -- it's chock-full of primers on essential skills.

In the back of the Handbook, among pages devoted to "Books to Read" and the Index, are advertisements aimed at boys of Scouting age. To me, these are just as interesting (and perhaps more significant, culturally) as the rest of the book.

There are ads for woodcraft tools, naturally, from Marble's and Plumb, along with a page promoting Eveready flashlights and batteries. Other ads pitch shoes (Keds, Buster Brown), bicycles (Schwinn, Raleigh), photography (Kodak, Sylvania) and sports equipment (Spalding, Louisville Slugger, Bike jockstraps).

A few of the others: Lionel Trains, Evinrude and Johnson outboard motors, Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix, Coca-Cola, Baby Ruth and Tootsie Roll.

During these post-World War II years, mastering marksmanship (with actual firearms, I mean) still was considered Scoutcraft. That's why this printing included ads for Winchester, Marlin and Iver Johnson rifles. Remington went so far as to invest in a two-page spread, the only such ad in this Handbook.

Air guns do make one appearance in the Handbook's advertising section. According to the Crosman ad, a "bolt-action, single shot, gas-powered pellet rifle" -- complete with refillable CO2 cylinder -- could be had for $21.95.

That's $188.58 in today's dollars. At the time, an honest-to-goodness Winchester Model 69 cost just $28.65 (or $244.32 now).