Scouting life for 72 years

By Roger Moroney

When he was 8 years old and growing up in Nuhaka, Ken Crombie joined the local scout group and made the promise to live by the Scouting Law.

Now 80 and living in Napier, the law still stands - it was a promise well and truly kept.

"I just never left it," Mr Crombie said in the wake of receiving National Life Membership of the New Zealand Scouting Association at a special function last Saturday night.

He is one of only 40 people in the country to be awarded life membership.

"I was very proud to receive it but there is still work to do. I'm not quitting yet," he said with a laugh.

It adds to his Silver Tui Award (for outstanding service to scouting), an International Year of the Volunteer Award and a Napier Civic Award. But it has never been recognition he pursued, it was simply about getting young people involved in outdoor pursuits and challenges.

"It is tough to get young lads involved," he said, adding that organisations such as scouting had to battle indoor "pursuits" like computers and game machines.

"We were going downhill for a while.

"The numbers slipped pretty low a few years back but the numbers are slowly growing again, and that's good to see."

Youngsters were getting a brief taste of outdoor fun and adventure through school trips, and many enjoyed the experience and wanted to do more, Mr Crombie said.

They were turning to Scouts, which he said had reacted to changing times and provided challenges and fun.

"And I think a lot of parents are now wanting to get their children out doing something - away from the computer or the game machine in their room."

He said another of the battles for scouting was keeping parents involved after their children had left it. "Because it's great to be a volunteer [and] to see the kids get so much out of it."

While Mr Crombie doesn't get out in the field much these days he remains a scouting associate and the patron of the Waiapu Zone.

"I go along to groups and talk about cubbing in the old days."

A retired teacher, he said that in his career wherever he went he either joined scouting groups in the region, or on two occasions where there were no groups he started one.

And it runs in the family. All four of he and wife Jean's children had taken up Scouts or Guides, with one of his sons going on to become a Queen's Scout.

And Mrs Crombie, in her own way has been a huge, and on one occasion understanding, support. It was their 25th wedding anniversary but they were unable to go out for a celebratory dinner because Mr Crombie had gone off to the big annual Scout Jamboree.

"It's been good and I'll always be involved ... once you get in you can't get out," he said with a smile.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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