San Francisco Chinatown Boy Scout troop prepares for 110th anniversary

A Bay Area Boy Scout troop is coming up on its 110th anniversary. Now that troop is looking to the past and future. 

On a May evening, the scouts of Troop 3 in San Francisco gathered to work on an Eagle Scout project. "We're actually making three benches and a planter box and these are for Washington High School," said William, one of the Boy Scouts.

Assistant Scoutmaster Steven Chang was a scout himself in Troop 3, and says they have a unique place in history. "Troop 3 was the first Chinese American Boy Scout troop in the United States," said Chang.

The troop has met in Chinatown since July 1914, just four years after the Boy Scouts organization was formed.  

Jones Wong was also a scout here before joining the Navy. He says the troop originally came together at a time when most of the country viewed those of Chinese ancestry as non-Americans. "But, if they could say, 'I'm a Boy Scout,' you know, 'I'm a scout member,' they could say, that's as American as apple pie and I'm a scout," said Wong.

Over the years, Troop 3 persevered, even thrived. Generations of scouts helped define the American experience, meeting other scouts from across the country and showing that all scouts, no matter their backgrounds, are more alike than not. "And then once they find out that 'oh, you're no different from me,' then there's a bond, there's something that changes," said Wong. "So that they don't look at you like you're the foreigner or something."

Now Troop 3 finds itself facing a new challenge; declining numbers. Fewer children in San Francisco and more options means fewer Boy Scouts. Now, the scouts are evolving and Troop 3 says it's ready to welcome one and all to a life of adventure. 

"As a kid growing up in Chinatown, I was never going to see a tree in the forest someplace," said Wong. "There was no opportunity to go camping or go hiking and stuff like that. So, when I joined the troop and I was able to get out and do those things, it was great."

Troop leaders say the scouts lay down a foundation for a lifetime of dedication to the community. "A lot of our past alumni from the troop were police officers, firemen," said Chang. "They're mayors supervisors of different cities around here."

The scouts say with all the changes over the years, the things that have remained consistent are the ideals of learning one's own abilities and being of service to others.


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