Boy Scout Troop 342, Eden Prairie’s original Boy Scout troop, was established in April of 1966.
At a Court of Honor gathering held Monday, Aug. 21, at Eden Prairie United Methodist Church, Troop 342’s flags were ceremoniously retired. The proceedings had the look and feel of a funeral.
“They’ll be stored in dignity and honor,” says John Klutchka, former scoutmaster. “When it comes time for these flags to meet again, they’ll be ready.”
For Troop 342 charter member Ken Hookom, Monday was a sad, sad day.
“My dad started this troop right here,” says Hookom, while standing in the church lobby. “It’s bittersweet as I think about all the guys who had been through 342. For it to last so long and touch so many lives is really special.”
Troop 342’s fate was sealed during the COVID-19 pandemic as Scout numbers dropped and in-person meetings stopped.
“For two years, the number of new Scouts coming into 342 was low,” says Scoutmaster Brad Knorr. “It’s getting better, but it’s not like it was a few years ago.”
Troop 342 numbers currently stand at about 20. Ideally, it would be twice that.
The answer wasn’t to shut it down and let the Scouting experience fade away, but to merge with another local troop, Eden Prairie Troop 695.
“Combined, the two troops will have about 40 Scouts,” says Knorr. “That number is better for the scouts and better for our volunteers.”
This merger isn’t unique, not for Eden Prairie and not for troops across the country. At one time, Eden Prairie was home to five Boy Scout troops. It now has two.
BSA Scouting, which falls under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America organization, is a year-round program for boys and girls ages 11-17. Core objectives include strengthening character, personal fitness and good citizenship.
Lynn and Brian Seppman attended Monday’s meeting, respectively, as a former Troop 342 volunteer and a former Troop 342 Scout.
“It’s kind of sad,” says Brian Seppman. “I have a lot of good memories of Troop 342.”
The National Jamboree and the Philmont High Adventure trip were at the top of his list.
“While we loved the ice fishing trips to Mille Lacs, I’m not sure the parents did,” said Seppman. “We’d throw on shorts, crank the heat and crank the music. We might have had a line in the water, but we weren’t really fishing.”
Seppman did achieve Eagle rank, an achievement reached by more than 100 Troop 342 Scouts. Seppman’s Eagle project involved pulling invasive mullein weeds.
Hookom remembers the early, err earliest, days of Troop 342.
“We did a lot of camping,” he says. “We’d ask the landowners, and they’d let us on the land. We’d camp at Red Rock, Mitchell and Lake Ann.”
Hookom also remembers fundraising and pancakes, lots of pancakes.
His most unforgettable memory?
“We were selling Tootsie Rolls,” says Hookom. “They came in a big cylinder that had a top you could remove. I rang the doorbell and this guy’s Great Dane came through the door and knocked me right over. As the guy was apologizing, he was shoving money in the container.”
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