Pinewood Derby harkens back to simpler times

January 28, 2007|by JOEL HUFFER

Words. I like words.

After all, I've chosen to make my living writing them and reading them.

But letters?

Lately, I don't like them so much.

CD ... DVD ... GPS ...

HTML ... DVR ... DSL ...

HDTV ... PDA ... LCD ...

It's enough to make a techophobe like myself scream.

But talk to someone who works in your company's computer department - most likely dubbed IT or IS - and they probably will tell you about the strides being made with technology.


They'll tell you how great it is, how it's our "friend" and how it's taking us places that we've never been.


But can somebody tell me what was wrong with where we were?

Was the world such a terrible place when our telephones had cords? Or when we had to get off the couch to change the channel on the television? When mail wasn't delivered to your Inbox?

Call me old-fashioned, but I long for simpler days.

Fortunately, I've found some relief from the digital onslaught through the Boy Scouts of America.

My 6-year-old son joined Cub Scouts this year, and - much to my delight - it's just like it was 25 years ago when I wore the blue-and-gold uniform.

Last weekend, his pack held its Pinewood Derby.

He and his friends raced cars made from the same kits that my friends and I used in the early 1980s. The cars were painted much the same way as they were then, with the boys' favorite colors and logos of popular sports teams.

The Scouts gathered at the bottom of the wooden track, hoping their cars would cross the finish line first. Parents, siblings and grandparents watched, enjoying the enthusiasm of the boys as much as the competition.

Since my son joined Pack 36 in Halfway in September, his den has visited a local zoo, a fire station, a museum and the offices here at The Herald-Mail. At his den meetings, he has made a food pyramid, a puppet, a family scrapbook and a pine cone bird feeder.

The pack had a family campout at Fort Frederick State Park in October and a family Thanksgiving feast in November. In December, we sold Christmas trees and had the annual sleepover that featured bingo, ornament painting and a showing of the movie "Cars."

The boys still work out of paperback handbooks, completing projects and activities to earn badges, beads and pins as they move from Tigers to Wolves to Bears to Webelos. Many of the projects are the same as they were in the '80s - and as a co-worker who was a Scout before me pointed out, the same as they were in the '60s.

Scouting is a tradition-rich program that teaches boys honesty, respect, responsibility and good citizenship. It is my hope that the experiences my son is having will be ones that he will carry with him for years to come.

And maybe I, too, can take something away from my second experience with the Scouting program. Perhaps I'll come to terms with my aversion to letters.

Because the way it see it ... BSA is OK.

Joel Huffer is managing editor of The Morning Herald. He can be reached at 301-791-7587 or by e-mail at

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