Observations, speculations on a boy at Wal-Mart

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 18, 2002

Being a vintage wine bottled in 1925, I have lived through many teenage changes since I was one in 1938. My first experience as a teenager was during the bobby socks and soda grill days where the high point after school was sitting in a booth near a juke box that provided more company than girls did.

A song was a nickel and a soda was 10 cents, 15 if you wanted double chocolate. We had just showered after football, track or basketball – the only sports available – and our hair was still wet. By seven we had better be home or no supper, then hit the books. We had not yet outgrown listening to Orphan Annie and Jack Armstrong so we had to choose between them and 30 minutes of booth time that was considered fun. Our clothing was whatever had survived years of the Depression, and it was considered fashionable if there were no glaringly obvious patches on the seat of the pants. Shoes were anything that almost fit after your older brothers finished with them. There was no question that our parents dictated what we wore. The idea of any of us buying our own clothes was unthinkable.


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How much parental influence was there on a kid I saw at Wal-Mart, a slob, his hands dirty, his jeans at nearly half mast so his cuffs dragged the floor hiding his untied shoes, a half tucked-in soiled tee shirt with an obscene message, tattoo on his neck, ring through an eyebrow. What got the kid in this shape, being manly with his father or remaining in the now-humiliating but still comforting arms of his mother? At first I thought he probably preferred the company of boys to that of girls, and that girls would give him a wide berth.

Nope, two females joined him and prattled excitedly. Not the types I would have wanted to join me in the soda grill booth. None of them looked healthy.

I had to remind myself that he is almost certain to be in better health than us earlier counterparts. He probably made it into pre-adolescence without being weakened by the diseases we took for granted as hazards of childhood, such as measles, mumps, scarlet fever, diphtheria, and the blue terror, polio. The odds are he is not likely to have had much in the way of real physical suffering. And much closer attention has been paid to the state of his emotions by those who are around him. He has been scrutinized by parents, relatives, neighbors, and school authorities for any signs of impending social or psychic disturbance so amphetamines could be administered.

Is this kid the good luck or the private sorrow of his family? Is he mindful of others? Does he aspire by setting goals for himself, and learning how to reach them? Can you see him taking the Boy Scout oath, &uot;On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout law?&uot; And you have to wonder if we will be dealing with this hapless soul at a later date when he finally learns that his limited education also limits his earning power. I’d rather raise a Boy Scout.


There is a twelve-year-old boy up in Jersey who had been a meritorious Scout and earned his way to the highest rank and had become an assistant scoutmaster. When he went public with the fact that he was gay the Scouts responded by asking for his resignation. All hell broke loose. Naturally, the Civil Liberties Union was on the spot. All over the country various community funds, such as the United Way – funds that had supported Scouts for years and years – withdrew support. Schools and park facilities, where Scouts had been meeting were suddenly closed to them and public denunciation rang through the air. This kid, seeking to honor the Scout law, would find himself an outlaw. The fat was in the fire and our 12-year-old became the object of a tug of war between those who wished to recruit him for scouting and those, make no mistake about it, who wished to

recruit him for homosexuality. This case ultimately found its way to the courts and all the way up to the United States Supreme Court where the Scouts won. Justice?

In September 2001, the Scouts’ national organization issued a public statement to explain their position. Part of it reads, &uot;Today, young people and adults from every ethnic, religious, and economic background, in suburbs, on farms, and in cities know and respect each other as they participate in our program. Boy Scouting makes no effort to discover the sexual orientation of any person. The scouting message is, however, compromised when prospective leaders of youth present themselves as role models inconsistent with BSA standards. We believe an avowed homosexual is not a role model for the traditional moral values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law, and homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the values we wish to instill.&uot; The questions are how many young members the Scouts will lose over time as a result of holding firm to this position, and how many young American boys will decide it wouldn’t be in their best interests to join? And how many boys that don’t join will be &uot;marked?&uot;

Robert Pocklington is a regular columnist for the News-Herald.