A classic photo of the late former Lincoln Park Mayor William A. Dixon Jr., gallantly leading the Senior Scouts of Boy Scout Troop 170 on their annual trip down the Delaware River.
Remembering the Delaware River Trips
By Richard Mabey Jr.
During the 1960’s and into the early 1970’s, my dad and former Mayor William A. Dixon Jr. would take the Senior Scouts on an annual, week-long trip, down the Delaware River. It was an exciting adventure filled with promises of river rapids, tests of strength and endurance, and a great sense of accomplishment.
I went on my first Delaware River adventure trip in the summer of 1967. I had just finished the eighth grade. My good friends, John Dixon and Donald Stone were the same age as I was. We were the youngest Senior Scouts on the adventurous expedition that particular year.
We used to start the trip in Upstate New York. If I remember right, we would begin the canoe trip on a Saturday morning. The growth-filled journey would end the following Saturday afternoon.
I took the canoe trip, each and every summer from 1967 to 1971. On that fifth Delaware River Canoe Trip, I had just graduated from Boonton High School. I remember my dad leaned heavily upon me that particular canoe trip of 1971. For it was my first scouting adventure that I had taken as Troop 170’s youngest Assistant Scoutmaster.
Looking back on those great canoe trips, I learned an immense amount about leadership from those two great men, my dad and Mayor Dixon. The one thing that impressed me about the leadership style of these two great men, is that they did their homework. We used to build a little campfire, when we would set up camp for the night. I remember watching Dad and Mayor Dixon review the river maps, planning the next day’s river journey.
“See, Dick, tomorrow we’ll be hitting ‘Skinner’s Falls.’ This is one of the toughest rapids on the Delaware,” Mayor Dixon would tell Dad.
“I’ll tell you what, Bill. If you take the lead of the group, I’ll stay back and keep an eye on things from the rear,” Dad would say to Mayor Dixon.
There was a respect between my dad and Mayor Dixon that was so rich with a true spirit of good will, friendship and a common bond to build strong character for boys to become trustworthy men. There was a quiet strength in both of these fine gentlemen. Both of these great men sacrificed, gave unselfishly of their time and had real compassion for others. They both had this earnest sense that they were fulfilling a Divine purpose in their hard work to shape boys into men with strong moral values.
It was a true honor to share a canoe with my beloved father. He was truly a dedicated Scoutmaster.
On our many journeys down the Delaware River, the Senior Scouts of Boy Scout Troop 170 would be challenged beyond their wildest imagination. All of your food for one week, would be stored in the center portion of your canoe. I remember that Dad and I would bring cans of Dinty Moore Stew, Spam and other brands of canned meat to cook for our evening meals.
Not only did the center portion of your canoe have to store all of your food, it also had to store your sleeping bag and pup tent. And, of course, clean clothes. While it was a lot of fun to canoe down the Delaware River for a full week, it was a journey that was filled with challenges.
I’ve often reflected upon those summer canoe trips that we took down the Delaware. They were special times. I’m immensely grateful to my dad and Mayor Dixon for the time that they gave up to help shape all of us into becoming good citizens.
Here is an awesome fact. Every single gentleman whom I have had the privilege to keep in touch with in recent times, is now a big success in life. It really is an amazing thing, when you really sit down and think about it.
I think a big part of the incredible success of Troop 170 alumni is the role that the great men like my dad and Mayor Dixon played in shaping the character of our boyhood years. For me, it’s a debt I can only recognize, but never fully repay.