HISTORY of TROOP 208
Troop 208 dates back to when the Boy Scouts of America was still a young organization -- 1920 or 1921.
Former scoutmaster Francis G. Gradel recounted that the very first Boy Scout Handbook told boys that "if there is no scout troop near you in rural areas, find a man and give him the information, and form a patrol." We believe this is how Scouting was first established in Huntingdon Valley.
By 1925, the patrol became a troop, and John Porter became the first scoutmaster of what was then Huntingdon Valley Troop 1. However, the troop still did not have a sponsor. Mr. Porter went on to achieve higher positions, serving as a council commissioner and member of the Eagle Board of Review Committee.
In 1928, Mr. Jones, a shop teacher in the Lower Moreland Schools, became the scoutmaster. The troop still had no sponsor.
The Rev. Alfred Taxis became scoutmaster in 1932. Because he was affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in Huntingdon Valley, the church became the troop’s first sponsor.
Mr. Franklin Hoke served as scoutmaster from 1933 to 1935. Little is known about the troop between 1936 and 1940. It is believed that troop enrollment declined to the size of a patrol, and the troop had neither leaders nor a sponsor.
In 1940 the cubmaster, Mr. Livesy, also became the scoutmaster. 1941 was a watershed year for the troop. Troop 1 was officially chartered as Troop 208 and became more formally organized. The troop was chartered to "a group of citizens" from the community, and Robert Fraim became scoutmaster. Mr. Fraim served until 1943, when he was called to service in the U.S. Navy. He was replaced by Isaac Moore, who served as scoutmaster until 1945.
Mr. C. Kennedy Allen became scoutmaster in 1945 and served for a year. Also in 1945, the Huntingdon Valley Fish and Game Association became the chartered organization. In 1946, William R. Gilvary became scoutmaster; he, too, served for a year and was replaced by Charles J. Shafer, who served from 1946 to 1950.
In 1948, during Mr. Shafer’s tenure, Pennypack Post 800 of the American Legion became Troop 208’s chartered organization. It held the charter for forty-two years, the troop’s longest affiliation with a chartered organization.
In 1951, the troop celebrated its tenth anniversary as Troop 208. Jack Purdy became scoutmaster and served until his death around 1953. To honor Mr. Purdy’s memory, Pennypack Post 800 of the American Legion created the Jack Purdy Award, given annually to the most deserving scout in the troop.
Ralph Foy replaced Mr. Purdy in 1953 and served for two years. At a troop committee meeting in 1955, Richard Dietrick was asked to serve as scoutmaster. He served in that position for four years until his resignation in 1959.
Mr. Dietrick was replaced by assistant scoutmaster Frank Gradel, who became the troop’s longest serving scoutmaster. Mr. Gradel held the position from 1959 until fall 1986. During Mr. Gradel’s tenure, Troop 208 was known as one of the best in the district.
Bob Keisling served as scoutmaster for the remaining months of 1986, when Dave Williams was asked to serve. Mr. Williams served until some time in the 1992-93 school year.
Disaster struck in 1989, when the troop's meeting place and storage facility were destroyed in a fire. Most of the troop’s memorabilia and equipment were destroyed. Local troops and families helped to clean up and store whatever had not been destroyed in the fire. Over several months, the troop worked on replacing its equipment and held its meetings at the Pine Road School in Lower Moreland. The troop ultimately decided to hold its meetings at the Carson Simpson Farm, which also became the troop’s chartered organization in 1990.
When Mr. Williams resigned during the 1992-93 school year, Bill Lang became scoutmaster and served for several years. Andrew DiPiero followed Mr. Lang and served until the spring of 1998.
During the early 1990s, Gloria Dei Church replaced Carson Simpson Farm as the troop’s chartered organization. From the mid-1990s until 2010, the Huntingdon Valley Activities Association, a community organization that provides sports and recreational programs for local youth, was our chartered organization. In 2010, the troop returned to Gloria Dei Church as its chartered organization.
In the fall of 1998, Marci Cherry replaced Mr. DiPiero, becoming the first female scoutmaster in Troop 208’s history. She served as scoutmaster until the spring of 2004, and continues to serve as an assistant scoutmaster.
Mark Kenney served as the scoutmaster from 2004 until fall 2015, and still serves as an assistant scoutmaster. Randy McNeely served as the scoutmaster from fall 2015 until fall 2019. Bob Hesser became scoutmaster from 2019 through 2020, leading the troop through the unusual events of the COVID-19 pandemic. Staring in 2021, Don Murtha will be the new scoutmaster with Mr. Hesser continuing his service as an assistant scoutmaster.
For over seventy years, Troop 208 has served the community and helped boys become better citizens.
As of May 2020, a total of 93 troop members attained the rank of Eagle Scout. We hope to see more of our scouts reach that goal.
This history is a work-in-progress. If you were ever a member or leader of Troop 208, you may be able to provide more details of our troop’s history. We would like to hear from you.