Each Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Council has a unique shoulder patch. Seeing one of these patches on a person’s uniform sleeve tells you where they are from. These CSPs have been an official part of the uniform since the early 1970s. Through the years, only a few council emblems have remained unchanged.
My home council has been Central Florida Council since I became a Cub Scout almost fifty years ago. Our first CSP featured a launching Saturn Five rocket and orange trees. Many years later, with the Space Shuttle program replacing the Saturn missions, the patch was changed to keep up with the times. I’m sure now, with the Shuttle being retired, that a new CSP design will take its place.
Through the years, many councils’ CSPs have under gone similar revisions. Many Councils now issue special event or fund raising CSPs to help fund their program. From recruiting to Christmas tree sales, there’s been a unique issue for almost everything you could think of.
I first started collecting CSPs while attending Philmont Scout Ranch in 1973. The ones I gathered are still in my collection after all these years. Everywhere I traveled with Scouting I carried a box of CSPs. I traded with the dream of one day having one CSP from every council.
In those early years of CSPs, there were few requirements from the National BSA office about these emblems. Then, in the mid 1970s, the National Office required that all CSPs be identified with a BSA trademark: a fleur-di-lis, the words “Scouting/USA” or just “BSA.” Some councils’ CSPs already had one or more of the required trademarks. Many did not. This requirement led to many councils’ second issue of their CSP. Often the required trademark was just incorporated into the existing design. For the rest, it led to a total redesign.
Before the new requirement by the National office, I was well on my way toward my collection of one from each council. At every Scouting event attended by people from out of my council, I was there trading.
When the chance to pick up the newer issue came up, I took it. Now my “one from each council” mission had changed. I now had the first and second issue CSPs from many of the councils. After trading at three Jamborees, three National Order of the Arrow Conferences, and dozens and dozens of state and regional gatherings, my collection grew and grew.
As my working hours took more and more of my free time, the collection was set aside. It was never really forgotten, as I would pick up a few new CSPs here and there. With my reintroduction into Scouting as an Assistant Scoutmaster and future Venture Crew Associate Advisor, I started thinking about collecting Council Shoulder Patches (CSP) again.
While traveling with Sandy to the SATW conference, we drove through Madison, Wisconsin. Looking online I realized that we were passing through a newly formed council, Glaciers Edge. It was formed when Four Rivers and Sinissippi councils were merged together. I already had the two no longer existing council patches in the collection.
Pulling up directions on the smart phone, we found the Glaciers Edge Council office. A purchase from their Scout Shop, and I had a new CSP for my old collection.
While visiting relatives in Iowa, a quick look showed us that a different council office was less than two miles away. A second new CSP for the collection! For this council I already had an old issue in the collection. It’s been replaced by a much newer and more colorful issue.
By the time we returned from our trip, we had visited nine states, visited six Boy Scout Council offices, and driven over 3,600 miles.
As we continue our travels and journeys, I’m sure there will be a lot more council offices in our future. I already have CSPs from just under 500 councils. But I’m still missing CSPs from 33 active councils, and 11 from councils that no longer exist.
Reviving an old collection from my youth is a lot of fun. Sharing it with someone just makes it better! I’m now trying to think of a way to display the newest issue from every council. I think it would make a nice traveling display at some of our local Council events. I’m looking forward to standing near it and hearing “Dad (or Grandpa), where were you a Boy Scout?” Wouldn’t it be great if he could point to the collection and tell his young Scout “this council right here?”
As we visit each council, Sandy is posting a photo of me holding one of their CSPs. Something else to make us smile while traveling.