Scouting around: Cub Scout Pack 144, one of the oldest Packs in the country, celebrates 75 years this Sunday

It was the antithesis of the motorcycle gang Hells Angels: Dozens of pint-sized do-gooders on bicycles, racing around in swarms like the mosquitoes that filled the last gasps of the sunny, spring evening at Magnuson Park on Thursday, May 5.

But unlike the mosquitoes, these were no pests, and unlike the aforementioned biker gang, there were no grizzly appearances or riding leathers - only baseball caps and toothy grins. Any teeth that were missing from this group had fallen out on their own and were probably waiting under a pillow somewhere.

This was Cub Scout Pack 144's annual Bike Rodeo, just one of the many activities and adventures that the group participates in each year.

On this day, the 80 boys of the Pack, who range in age from 6 to 11, brought their bikes and their families to the park to ride through a parent-designed obstacle course. There were no winners or losers - just fun.

So it has gone for the last 75 years.

Decades of members

Since 1929, Pack 144 has met every Thursday evening during the school year to teach its young members the skills and values that provide a foundation for their futures. It is the oldest Cub Scout pack in the state of Washington and one of the oldest in the country.

Perhaps some perspective is in order. When the very first members of Pack 144 filed into the Bryant Elementary School gymnasium for their inaugural meeting, Herbert Hoover was president, comic-hero Popeye had just begun spinning his spinach-laden propaganda and the term "Great Depression" was probably a misnomer for the Grand Canyon

Much has changed since that first autumn meeting, but the members of Pack 144 have stayed true to founder Howard Krippner's vision to prepare young boys for adulthood.

On Sunday, May 15, Pack 144 will celebrate that commitment by burying a time capsule during its 75th-anniversary ceremony at Bryant, 3311 N.E. 60th St., in North Seattle, where the group usually meets.

In addition to the member families, pack alumni and the press, 82-year-old Everett Krippner, son of Pack founder Howard L. Krippner and one of the Pack's original members, will fly up from California for the event.

'Defining the legacy'

Krippner's attendance is a fitting tribute to the foundations of Pack 144 and its storied history.

"The theme for the event is about defining our legacy," said Tony Grega, one of the Pack leaders, who has two sons, Joshua, 11, and Mathew, 8, in the Pack. "What is our legacy, and what can we do for those still to come?"

The term "legacy" seems appropriate given the staying power of the group and some of its impressive alumna, including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and former politicians Dan Evans and Gordon Clinton.

There are less-famous, but equally impressive, legacies in the group, as well. One family has sent four generations through Pack 144. They commute 30 miles from Marysville to Seattle for Pack events to keep the tradition alive.

Most importantly, though, to current member families are the good qualities that scouting instills in their sons.

"If you look at the numbers, and there are statistics that show this, the number of kids that go through the Cub Scout program and end up getting into trouble later in life is very small," said Dan Klepac, whose sons Regan, 10, and Wyatt, 8, are both members. "Scouting provides them with a good foundation. It's just great to see the boys gel the way the do."

Numerous activities

In addition to their weekly meetings, the Scouts organize and participate in a number of activities and events throughout the year, from a Pinewood Derby, where the boys build and race small, hand-held, wooden cars, to a coffee and nut sale that generates enough revenue to sustain the group's activities for the year.

Several times a year the boys and their fathers go on overnight camping trips, including outings to Blake Island, Snoqualmie Pass, Miller-sylvania State Park and a year-end excursion to Camp Shelton.

While the group promotes both learning and fun, one the main points of emphasis is community service.

As a matter of fact, there are three parts of the Pack's "Akela Challenge," all of which are designed to teach members about the importance of building and maintaining positive relationships with their communities through good deeds.

First, each den, or subdivision of the pack, must complete its own community-service project. This can be anything from picking up trash to putting on a food drive; the important thing is that the boys create and organize the event.

Second, each boy must perform a "good turn," or a unilateral good deed. The idea is that the boys get in a habit of helping others without being asked.

Finally, Pack 144 is creating a scrapbook that will be placed in the time capsule, and each boy has been asked to contribute his own page to the effort that includes his fondest memories of the pack and a prediction about where he'll be in 25 years, when the time capsule is to be unearthed by his Cub Scout successors.

A continuing legacy

The legacy seems poised to continue.

In the end, though, it's all about fun, family, friendship and the foundations of a quality life.

"Cub Scouting is an opportunity for parents to spend time with their kids," Klepac said. "You've got this one-to-one interaction and all the dads pitch in to help out. It's just a great organization."[[In-content Ad]]