I Remember Dad:

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At 70, A Reflection of My Father’s Kind Spirit

By Richard Mabey Jr.

I am writing this column on the twelfth of August. It is Saturday morning. I’m writing this article as though I am writing a letter to a friend. For, in reality, that really is what I am doing. Over the years of writing for Mr. Joseph Nicastro’s various publications, I have written hundreds of articles. Some were on the history of Lincoln Park, some were about the history of the Morris Canal, some were news stories about the First Reformed Church of Lincoln Park, and some were true-life stories of remembrances of my family and of growing up in Lincoln Park. I am very grateful to Mr. Nicastro for his immense belief in my writing.

In September, I’ll turn 70. When you read this column, I will either be very close to 70 or have turned 70. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting, in the past few days. I’m getting old. I’m on third base and the fellow at bat is a home run hitter. And, I was doing a lot of thinking about the question of what one single true-life story would represent the heart, mind and spirit of my father’s wonderful kindness. After sitting down and doing a lot of contemplating on the subject, Dad’s Scout Campership Program kept coming to mind.

As many of you know, my dad served as Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 170 for nearly 28 years, from September of 1966 till June of 1994. Every year, Dad would take a week of his vacation time and take the scouts to summer camp, most of the time at Camp Allamuchy. Although the price of summer camp, for each scout, was not unreasonable. Sometimes, it was a bit of a stretch for some families. Especially if the boy’s mother or father was recently laid off from work. And, it was not uncommon for parents to have two or three sons in Troop 170 at the same time.

My father often talked about the Boy Scout Campership Program. As Andy Griffith used to tell Barney, my dad would put a little jam on the bread. Dad would talk about the campership program with great authority and knowledge. Now, after all the years have come and gone, the real truth can be told. There never was a Boy Scout Campership Program. Here’s the true story of the Boy Scout Campership Program.

Dad had this wonderful, elaborate workbench in the basement of the old Mabey Homestead. Toward the back of his workbench, along the cellar wall, Dad had rows and rows of jars of screws, bolts and nails set up. But behind this long parade of jars, there was yet another row of jars, mostly peanut butter jars.

Dad would open up one of these peanut butter jars every Saturday morning and put in his change for the week. He would begin the process with empty jars, in the beginning of August of every year, right after the scouts returned from Summer Camp. By May, Dad would have a significant amount of money in those peanut butter jars. I know, because I used to help my father put the pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters into the paper coin rolls, to take to the bank.

Hence, this made up about 80 percent of the funding for the Boy Scout Campership Program. I say 80 percent, because every year Dad would reach into his wallet and put a few 20 dollar bills into the Scout Campership fund. Dad would quietly, and without anyone else knowing it, pay for a scout’s summer camp fees. Scores of scouts, whose families were going through rough times, benefited from the Boy Scout Campership Program.

The other day, I was alone in my house in Florida. My sister, Patti, was at a church ladies’ meeting. Not to sound like a wimp, but I sat in the easy chair in my living room and cried when I thought of the sacrifices my dad made to help boys grow to become good men, through the scouting program.

Life is short. I feel like I blinked my eyes and became an old man. It seems like yesterday, I was 18 and just starting college. Life’s too short to hold grudges, to not forgive people who hurt you. Love is the key that unlocks the door of strife in human relations. It is the very foundation for miracles.

Life is short. Tell the people you love, that you love them. Let kindness be the battery in the flashlight of your guiding light in life.

Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He hosts a YouTube Channel titled, “Richard Mabey Presents.” Richard most recently published a book of poetry and short stories. He can be reached at richardmabeyjr@hotmail.com.