Scouts kick off centennial at palace
• Photo gallery: Boy Scouts centennial celebration
By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer
The Aloha Council of the Boy Scouts of America, backed up with brass by The Royal Hawaiian Band, kicked off its Centennial Celebration at 'Iolani Palace yesterday morning.
"We are honored to have you all join us on this truly marvelous occasion — the launching of the centennial year of both the Boy Scouts of America and the Scouts of the Aloha Council," John Henry Felix, chairman of the Centennial Celebration Committee, said in greeting the crowd gathered next to the bandstand.
Proclamations were mentioned, political potentates sent well-wishes, and dignitaries galore spoke eloquently on scouting's 100-year legacy of service and selfless leadership. Eagle Scout Mark Ishizu talked about a "Call to Service," in which scouting units far and wide would be asked to undertake relevant and lasting projects throughout the year that would positively affect the community at large.
But the star of the show was a Hawai'i flag unveiled midway through the festivities. The fading silk, the gathering was told, had been embroidered in gold thread with the royal crest by the hand of Queen Li-li'uokalani herself, and personally presented to the Scouts of Troop 5 by the former monarch on the grounds of Kapi'olani Park in 1913.
Thereafter, Troop 5 was known as "The Queen's Own Troop." The flag was presented to the Aloha Council yesterday by the Queen Lili'uokalani Trust, which had possessed the flag since the mid-1970s.
Among those in attendance, Tim Leong, assistant scoutmaster of Troop 33, watched the unveiling with special interest.
That's because he had seen that flag before — in December 1966, as a Tenderfoot, when, as one of the newest members of Troop 5, Leong was photographed with the flag for the troop's 55th anniversary celebration.
Troop 5 — organized in April 1911 by James A. "Kimo" Wilder — was one of the five oldest troops in the United States at the time Leong's picture with the flag was published. And it was the only troop in America with a royal connection.
"I wasn't going to come today," said Leong, 54, of Wai'alae Iki. "See, my scouts are all hiking today, and I was the last overflow driver. If another boy came, I would have to drive them and go hiking. I was on standby."
When it became clear that he wasn't needed to drive, Leong decided to check out the 'Iolani Palace Centennial Celebration launch.
"I had no idea what they'd be doing here," said Leong, who had assumed he would never lay eyes on the Queen's Flag again. "Something told me I should come."
In 1966, Leong figured Troop 5 would live on forever. But scouting, which has had its ups and downs over the years, hit a low point in the 1970s. Membership began dropping off. Leong was in college in 1975, the year Troop 5 ended and its charter dissolved.
By chance, another person at yesterday's gathering was David Jeong, assistant scoutmaster of Troop 5 when Leong was a member. He's also the guy who gave up the flag.
"I gave the flag to the Lili'uokalani Trust after Troop 5 disbanded," said Jeong, 75. "I was worried about it. I didn't know what was going to happen to it. I wanted it to be taken care of. And I knew they had a vault."
Leong and Jeong both lament that Troop 5 is no more. But at least the flag is back with the scouts, they say. And there's talk about starting a Cub Scout Pack 5.
"Which could grow into Troop 5," Leong said. "It would be rechartered. But it would be in the legacy of Troop 5. I would help them any way I could. I think that would be great."