• Joe Pace

Granite State of Mind, #23: Old Firehouse, Stratham


Not sure whether the bolo tie or the unlaced hightops are more 1980s.

In the last year or two my own boys have gotten involved in Cub Scouts, and I've found myself drawn inexorably into a pack leadership role, sentenced to a stint as treasurer. Watching them put on those familiar blue uniforms, and donning that tan shirt myself, makes it impossible not to recall my own Scouting roots, back in Stratham's Pack and Troop 185. I remember earning Wolf and Bear and Webelos badges with John Sable and Jeff DiBartolomeo and Brian Wilkinson and others, progressing through Webelos and Arrow of Light into Boy Scouts.

I was an indifferent Boy Scout, truth be told - Eagle was never in my future like it was for Stratham Scouting legends like Dave Emanuel and Garrett Palm. I did serve a tour as a Den Chief for a Cub Scout den, and with the serendipity of small towns, that Den Mother was my future mother-in-law, Ginny Foss. Her son Mark Foss was in the Den, and her pre-school daughter underfoot at the meetings would turn out much later to be Sarah Pace. Destiny is a quirky thing. (And yes - I was a husky little dude.)

I sort of wish I'd stuck it out with Scouting, past Second Class or First Class or wherever I tapped out when school and sports and girls became more important to me. The character of 185 also changed when our outstanding Scoutmaster, Garrett and Brian Palm's late dad Chuck, stepped aside. Scouting, like so many other youth activities, depends on committed, reliable adult volunteers. Mr. Palm was one of those irreplacable souls who build a culture for a Scouting organization, and it wasn't the same after he left. I've been lucky enough to work with a few others in that same mold - Jen andJim's dad Ron Strickland was one such animal with the Kensington troop, and my own family is fortunate enough to have a selfless Cubmaster out here with 472 in DuPont.

My most indelible memories of Scouting, though, other than summer camp at Hidden Valley in Gilmanton Iron Works (see below), came in the upstairs community room at the old Stratham Fire House on the corner of Winnicutt and Portsmouth Ave. The building has been replaced by a shiny new facility, but I can still clearly recall the creaky wooden floor with that massive town seal where the Pack or Troop would meet, where the Arrow of Light bridge was rigged, where we had pancake breakfasts and other festivities. There was a recreation room adjacent with a pool table that we relentlessly abused as younger Scouts, with constant rebukes from our exasperated adult leaders. When Xavier and his Tiger pals get on my nerves, I try to remember that pool table and my own checkered neckerchief past.

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