Miami Sea Scout Ships 537 and 520

How it all began
by D. Wood


Memories of
S.S.S. 537


Dan Hogg

Rick McClure

Nancy Morris



















  How it all Began by Dave Wood  
  Click to enlarge image  

By David Wood .....April 12, 2004

My Scouting experience began in the 1930's when my Dad, Hayes S. Wood, was the Scoutmaster of Miami's Boy Scout Troop 3. My older brother Hayes and I were mascots enjoying the friendship and excitement by way of the many outdoor adventures scouting offered at that time. Never did we know as little kids that we were playing with many of Miami's future leaders and other professional persons such as Boy Scout Thomas Tatham who was to become one of Florida's most ardent supporters of Scouting - the Dade County Boy Scout Headquarters in Miami Lakes, Florida is named after Mr. Thomas Tatham........The success of Troop 3 encouraged my father to organize and lead a new and exciting adventure, along with Troop 3, which he called the "Greater Miami Drum and Bugle Corps." It became one of the most spectacular uniformed musical and marching achievements for Miami's young people in which to participate. The Corp always took part in parades and was available for public functions of much importance to the city of Miami.

My second experience with Scouting was as a member of Pack #1, Den #1, of a new branch of Boy Scouts of America called "Cub Scouts." We were the first Cub Pack in America. We met at the new Coral Way Elementary School in Miami. I earned the Lion Badge.

My third experience in Scouting was when I graduated from the Cub Scouts to the Boy Scouts. I joined Troop 44. The Troop met at the Shenandoah Presbyterian Church on SW 8th Street and 22nd Ave in Miami. My Scoutmaster was Fred Sutton - a great guy. I earned the rank of Star Scout.

I had many excellent experiences while attending Camp Pinnacle near Hendersonville, North Carolina where Scouting was one of the camp's important activities. Coupled with camping, hiking, boating, fishing, riflery, archery, crafts, sports and camping trips to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park, Mount Mitchell State Park and many other close-by areas, it was very easy as a youngster for me to become an experienced camper and lover of the out-of-doors.

My Scouting experience was very helpful to me during my service in US Army Air Corps during WWII.

In 1954, I met Mr. Charles Berry and many of his wonderful associates who were having difficulty with the operation of their Boy Scout Troop #37 which was sponsored by and we met weekly at the Coral Gables Congregational Church across from the US Veteran's Hospital (presently the Biltmore Hotel). Their children were members and they were not satisfied with the management of the Scouting Program. Their Scoutmaster had resigned. I visited one of their meetings and noticed that the kids were full of fun, excited to be Boy Scouts, and wanted to be active participants in a real scouting adventure. I met with Charlie's other adult BSA Committee Members - William Middlethon, Harry Mooty, Charles Wheeler, John Barrett, Paul Borg, William Bates Cole, Herman Hoff, Dr. George Mitchell, Dr. Ralph Allen, John Royer, Frank Brundage, Dr. John Rumball, Gordon Ring, Samuel Mathes, David Kitchin, H.D. Kerr, E.L. Duncan, Donald Stiens, C.C. Cadwallader, J.W. Johnson, Dick Gardner, and Clarence McLeroy - and was encouraged to offer any assistance I could so the Boy Scout Troop could become a success and the boy members could have a realistic scouting adventure. I was very busy completing my studies at the University of Miami - BS Mechanical Engineering - at that time. I advised the committee to become active to the point that they would select an experienced Scoutmaster who would, along with the committee and family members, participate in advancement, camping, service to the community, and award ceremonies. I recommended the immediate purchase of certain camping supplies in order to show their determination to provide for the needs of their kids while camping. I heard from the Scouts that most of the time when the scoutmaster scheduled a camping trip or other adventurous event that it was called off. So, the adult leaders had failed them many times. This problem should be met immediately with new camping equipment and a camping trip scheduled and followed-up by the Committee and other leaders. This took place at the beginning of a new school year so a new program could be planned in accordance with School and National Holidays with ease. Charlie and the committee responded with the purchase of the requested equipment and I was appointed temporary Scoutmaster working with Troop 37's Eagle Scout Frank Brundage as Assistant Scoutmaster..... It was a simple task for us to review each scout's advancement and attendance record, establishing an order of seniority in appointing leadership positions, receiving and storing new equipment purchased by the committee, setting goals for scouting advancement, scheduling and planning camping trips and other events necessary for a successful and fun-filled adventure for the scouts, their families, and the recruiting of new scouts from the community .... The Troop camped in many sites in South Florida and the Keys where they experienced opportunities to advance in scouting while having fun being part of a group... The committee obtained a bus from the city of Coral Gables for use in camping. Charlie Berry introduced us to the "12 Hour Grand Prix of Endurance" 12 hour sports car race in Sebring, Florida. Charlie made arrangements with the race management for the Troop to be part of the race - responsibilities included: providing services as the Race Color Guard, crowd control prior to the start of the race and following the race as the winner's trophies were presented, food service for timers and other VIP workers, distribution of race publications for the news media from the Press Booth, and VIP Box holders security and assistance. The Sebring Race committee paid all expenses. This arrangement was so successful that Charlie Berry saw to it that it became an annual Scouting event for Troop 37 for many years. The Race Committee visited our Troop meetings many times and thanked the Scouts for their excellent assistance. The Troop 37 Scouts practiced many hours and for the first time won the Boy Scouts of America District Marching and Inspection Trophies at the Coral Gables War Memorial Youth Center (presently Publix parking lot in Coral Gables). The Troop Committee worked closely with the City of Coral Gables Police and Fire Departments - so closely that the Troop was always on call during meetings for assistance if needed. One evening during a meeting, City Buses pulled-up outside the Church and police officers requested that we help them locate a child who was missing. Everyone boarded the buses, went to the sites established by the police and by Patrols searched for the missing child without success. The child was found dead the next day. Because of the Troop's success, it became a problem for our management team to register all of the boys in our program because Boy Scout Headquarters would only allow a Troop a maximum of 50 boys. Therefore we sponsored an Explorer Post 37 (led by my brother Hayes Wood) to care for our older scouts leaving space for additional boys to become members. Other steps were taken by Charlie Berry to increase membership beyond the maximum of 50 because he couldn't disappoint any kids who wanted to become members. There was talk among the older scouts that they wanted to change from the Explorer Scouting Program to Sea Scouting if it were possible. Paul Borg and other committee members checked with the Federal Government regarding the donation of a surplus small boat for our Troop's use. A USN Plane Personnel small boat was made available, our committee had it transported to Miami where Merrill Stevens Dry-dock Co. helped us complete the repairs and make it seaworthy for our use. ... The Troop became too large which naturally caused some problems for the Church such as automobile parking, loud activities during meetings, minor damage and cleanup caused by our Scouts. Therefore, the committee re-organized the Troop and Explorer Post with Boy Scouts of America and were assigned our scouting units as Boy Scout Troop 537 and Sea Explorer Ship 537. Bates Cole allowed our Sea Scout Ship to meet in his un-used office space in Coral Gables. We really looked silly in our new Sea Scout Uniforms. That would soon change with the assistance of US Navy veterans. Charlie Berry was able to get the approval of the Coral Gables Elks Lodge #1676 to be the Sponsor of Ship #537 and Troop #537and have the use of its meeting room.

Ship 537

Seamanship for Youth was incorporated by our Attorney, Hayes S. Wood, as a State of Florida Non-Profit Corporation for the purpose of providing our Scouting Units with the ability to receive tax-deductible gifts such as boats, fuel, maintenance - operational - insurance - maritime material and equipment funding, etc.

The following persons were responsible for the many successes and opportunities provided Sea scouts during the Ship #537 era: Bob Clarke, Alan Mooty, D.J. Kitchen, Irene Speith, Al Starks, A.W. Dunlop, Dr. T.S. Gowin, R.A. Cranfield, Clarence King, Lee Johnson, David Kitchin, Bill E. Fitch, Bob Wixsom, Harold Van Niman, Blake Rowland, Cliff Feith, Allen Paul, Jerry Gross, Milt Johanneman, John Pinder, James Owens, Mike Cummings, Frank Fitch, Victor Gregory, J.B. Haviland, Ken Taylor, Brian Bees, Doug Quillen, Lucile Steward, Elizabeth Self, H.G. Deppen, Don Mitchell, Ted Fruitkoff, John Montgomery, David Kitchin, John O'Leary, Jim David, Wesley Miller, John Nicolas, Mike O'Leary, Jim Charnley, B. F. Landahl, Norman Pallot, and Johnny Rosasco.

Ship 537 - Unit Activities

Participating in and winning awards in "Predicted Log Races" organized by many South Florida Yacht Clubs, meeting the Astronauts and World Renown Racing Drivers, assist in the construction of Elliot Key Park, visiting the Dry Tortugas - Key West Naval Training Station - El Infante Spanish Ship Wreck, cruising on Kenneth Keyes' Yacht Caprice to Bimini in the Bahamas, Cruise Ship Trips to Nassau, Camping in "Skytop" in NW Georgia, Orange Bowl Parade crowd control, the purchase and use of MV GAMECOCK, witnessing the Lipton Cup Race off-shore aboard the USCG Cutter Androscoggin, attending the Sebring Grand Prix of Endurance 12 Hour Race, providing needed assistance to many boats in distress, operating the Yacht SEASCOUT to the Key West Naval Base and return, fishing, skin diving, maintaining radio operations/assistance when at sea, providing an inspection of the Yacht SEASCOUT representing the Coral Gables, Elks Lodge #1676 during the National Convention at Miami Beach, experience maintaining and repairing boats at Merrill Stevens Dry-dock and at sea, Charlie Berry getting our own Bus - was painted Grey and had our name lettered on both sides "SEA SCOUT SHIP #537" - we took many trips including Cape Kennedy, Jacksonville Navy Air Station, and Patrick Airforce Base, Christmas Tree Sales, and camping in the Great Smokey National Park are but a few adventures provided our Ship 537 Sea Scouts. Many Scouts earned the rank of Eagle and Quartermaster.

Ship 520

Youth Maritime and Sea Training, Inc., was incorporated by our Attorney, Tom Maxey, as a State of Florida Non-Profit Corporation for the purpose of providing our Scouting Units with the ability to receive tax deductible gifts such as boats, boat maintenance - fuel - operations - insurance - maritime material and equipment funding, etc.

Ship 520

The following persons were responsible for the many successes and opportunities provided Sea scouts during the Ship #520 era: Charlie Berry, Rev. Ladislau Biro, Rev. Wayne Odom, Frank and Marie Fitch, Cleve and Carolyn Jones, Mr and Mrs Bob Johnston, Chip Collins, Elaine Thickman, Bart and Sara Garey, Mike Cummins, Bill Thorpe, Tom Maxey, Dr. and Mrs. Sena, C.J. Simmons, Carl Parra, Mario Parra, Bill Curwood, Brian Bees, Jim Curwood, Virginia Pinney, Howard Thickman, S.D. Riggins, Jim and Kathy Charnley, Frank Jones, Jim Groves, Orrie McBroom, Norman Bean, Sil McCall, Mike Manfredi, Jack O'Leary, Larry Mansfield, Ben Crum, Paul Glazer, Kytle Williams, Phil and Peggy Kelly, Luther Thompson, Marty Saul, Sam Alston, Earnie Manfredi, Milo Lee, Jim Saunders, Renny Young, Robert Householder, S.W. Larsson, Mark Thorpe, John Hackling, W.P. Berry, Hardie Johnson, John Bennett, John Wilkie, Mr and Mrs Bill Saunders and Mr. and Mrs. Rex Roffler.

Ship 520 - Unit Activities

We met at the Coral Gables Baptist Church and had many wonderful adventures including:
participating in and winning awards in "Predicted Log Races" organized by many South Florida Yacht Clubs, meeting the Astronauts and World Renown Racing Drivers, visiting the Dry Tortugas - Key West Naval Training Station - Spanish Ship Wrecks, sailing to and from Bimini in the Bahamas on our Sailing Vessel BLUEY with our sailing master E. Bart Garey, cruising on Kenneth Keyes' Yacht Caprice, Cruise Ship Family Holiday Trips to Nassau, Orange Bowl Parade crowd control, attending the Sebring Grand Prix of Endurance 12 Hour Race, fishing, skin diving, maintaining radio operations/ providing approximately 300 assists of small boats at sea (many during the Ship 537 era), experience maintaining and repairing boats at Merrill Stevens Drydock, Jones Boatyard, Tom Maxey's Boat Houses and at sea, the 72 Ft Yacht YOREL (a gift to our Unit), overnights in Biscayne Bay, using Mr. & Mrs Bill Thorpe's home and dock in the Keys, providing assistance at sea during Columbus Day and other races, learning to sail on our Sailing Boat "BLUEY" under the leadership of our sailing masters Bart and Sara Garey, visiting many Churches on Saturday Nights in order to hear the latest and most exciting Christian music - the NEW DIRECTIONS were our favorite, for a more family oriented Scouting Unit we added young ladies to our roster with as many privileges as possible without compromising our young boy agenda, many at sea activities aboard the MV's STRANGER, CHARLES BERRY, SHIP 520, and the SEASCOUT, earning Eagle - Quartermaster - Aircraft Pilot's Licenses (Flying Eagles) - Parachute Jumpers, earning NRA Awards via our Riflery program led by Phil Kelly, and camping in the Great Smokey National Park, Bimini, and the Dry Tortugas are but a few adventures provided our Ship 520 Sea Scouts. Many Scouts earned the rank of Eagle and Quartermaster and some became "Flying Eagles," Awards Banquets at the Holiday Inn, Coral Way Steakhouse and Downtown Miami Hotel (with Chuck Zink)

It was necessary for our Seascout Unit to end our relationship with the "Grand Prix of Endurance - 12 Hours of Sebring Sports Car Race" when it became evident that crowds (especially the press) became very unruly and ran over our Scouts. Other situations regarding the potential lack of safety and security of our scouts and other friends also added to our decision to withdraw from this event.

My Scouting experience came to an end in Miami in June 1977 when Luther Thompson, Mario Parra and Jim Groves agreed to lead our "YOUTH MARITIME AND SEA TRAINING" Non- Profit Corporation and out Sea Scout Ship #520 and Boy Scout Troop #520. They carried out their responsibilities with much success for many years before the Units were disbanded.

Saudi Arabia Boy Scout Troop # 254

During my work with ARAMCO in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, it was reported that they were in need of someone who had experience in dealing with a Boy Scouting Unit in the States and who would assist as Scoutmaster. The Troop met weekly (and on camping trips during the weekend) at the US Marine Gym at the Consulate. I was appointed Scoutmaster, organized the Committee - schedule of activities including BSA advancement and off we went with a family oriented Scout Troop. Many older Scouts who had already earned their beginner's/younger awards earned Eagle Scout Rank because of the help of a great many Dads, Mothers and volunteers from the corporation (the Marines too). All meetings were only for USA kids, not advertised to the Islam public, no US Flags on Camping Trips, no " do my duty to GOD and my Country...." stuff in public - only at the Gym. It was a wonderful experience helping those USA families in Saudi Arabia.

MY THANKS TO YOU .........

I'm thankful for the lives HE has touched through our Scouting experiences of 24+ years. Some 4,000 youngsters, both boys and girls, their families, hands-on volunteers, and businesspersons in the community participated in the success of this wonderful adventure. Over all of the successful man-planned adventures our HEAVENLY FATHER protected us from failure. Make no mistake about it, there were many times that disaster was right around the corner but for the grace of GOD everything went well and we are left with many wonderful memories of experiences with friends and the happy times of long ago. I certainly made many mistakes and possibly lost some friends during the years I was Scoutmaster/Skipper. However, it is my hope and prayer that with much vigor only the good times will be remembered. Praise the LORD.....

It was indeed a great honor to have had the opportunity to be just one of the thousands of adult and youth leaders, and scouts associated with our Cub Packs, Scout Troops, and Sea Scout Units. To you, I offer congratulations for all that you have achieved, and best wishes as you grasp the opportunities, and confront the challenges, now before you regardless of your age and position. From our beginning in 1954 our leaders did their best to stand for freedom and for the basic moral truths and principles of civic life that are at once the foundations of freedom and among the great ends to which freedom is ordered. In our Scouting Units it was always securely understood that ignorance of these truths and principles places freedom in dire jeopardy. Today, this understanding makes you very nearly unique in contemporary thought where it is fashionable to deny that there is such a thing as truth and to embrace relativist and subjectivist doctrines that abet the deconstruction of the very concept of freedom and its replacement by a counterfeit.

Our LORD clearly wants to provide a safe way to freedom and the abundant life for us when HE says,

"If MY people, who are called by MY NAME, will humble themselves and pray and seek MY FACE and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from HEAVEN and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (II Chronicles 7:14)

I still remember some of our old sayings that go way back, such as:

"A Country to be loved must be lovely."

"Will you leave your kids in good hands?"

"It is no longer right and left, but right and wrong."

"Truth is violated by falsehood but outraged by silence."

"The question is not whether GOD is on our side, but whether we are on HIS."

Please pardon my poor use of the English language, typos, spelling and my forgetfulness in not including many other wonderful persons names and events that made for the success of our Scouting Adventure.

Thanks.......WE6000 OUT




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