My first Boy Scout troop camporee occurred sometime in the summer of 1969, in Miami Florida. I was part of a troop of scouts that met at the community building at Corpus Christi Catholic School, in Miami Florida. At the end of our block was also a Boy’s & Girls Club; this was a national organization that also provided after school programs for us wayward kids. For those of you not familiar, a Boy Scout camporee is a gathering of scout units from around the area that meet once a year for a period of camping and common activities, such as working on our merit badges.
Unbeknownst to my much younger juvenile self, the moment our troop arrived at the annual camporee I started feeling and undergoing some type of strange out of body transformations that began to scare the hell out of me. I had no idea what was happening. It first started with pain on both sides of my neck that began to quickly spread to both sides of my face. For fear of (them) sending me home, I first consulted with my fellow scout troop. The major consensus of the 15 year old’s in the troop was to simply place a towel around my neck and forget about it. He said it just like that- the kid originally from New Jersey.
A towel I said. Yeah. Your cheeks are now starting to puff out and you are beginning to look allot like Alvin. Whom I asked? Alvin, you know, like in the Chipmunks. I stopped watching Saturday morning cartoons some time ago so, I really wasn’t quite up on, who Alvin or the Chipmunks were.
Another scout wanders by. What happened to your face? Me. Shark attack, Tenderfoot. That’s what they called the new scouts. “Shark attack.” Not likely. Alligator attack.
Very possible, I didn’t worry then as I had my plate full but, our camporee full of boy scout tents was now strategically located just south of the Miami International Airport, by a slow flowing River across from some rich people’s golf course.
I grew up in Miami, and in the era where our elementary and junior high schools bombarded us, almost weekly with public service announcements such as; don’t swim in open rock mining pits and watch out for long reptiles in rivers; both can suck you down like a vacuum cleaner.
Those public service announcements really worked for us. They did their job so well, we were frightened enough to never, ever, want to swim in anything that would suck us down like a vacuum cleaner. We always stuck to swimming in the nearby always warm waters of the Atlantic.
And so I did as I was told. I placed a rolled towel around my neck so, as to hide my swollen neck and puffy cheeks, and then I commenced to join in all the scout activities all around.
The other scouts wore colorful wearable scout neckerchief and me, the poor scout of the troop, just ran around with this rolled military olive drab fabric towel scarf.
It made perfect sense to everyone, and the best part was that we weren’t yet in the military – we were in the Boy Scouts scouts. Not one adult in the group questioned my neck apparel and other kids soon started to imitate my Hollywood like appearance.
“It was 65 years ago that a vaccine began to put an end to a virus epidemic that gave American parents nightmares. As David Oshinsky wrote in his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Polio: An American Story,” the newly developed Salk vaccine was soon administered to a majority of Americans under 40.
Swimming pools reopened in the summer of 1956,” Oshinsky noted. “A child with a fever or a stiff neck no longer sent shockwaves through the neighborhood. Newspapers stopped printing the daily box score of polio victims on the front page.”
NO. Not to worry. I didn’t get polio. It wasn’t polio. It was the mumps, a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. Today I know that the swollen salivary glands just under the ears on both sides of my face is what gave me those puffy cheeks. Symptoms typically appear 16-18 days after the person is infected. Some people like my juvenile self end up with just a very mild symptom (similar to a cold) or even no symptoms at all.
Today I also know that coronaviruses are part of a large family of viruses that are transmitted between animals and people.
And if you’re still wondering – yes, the COVID-19, we are experiencing in 2020/21 is a coronavirus. And the great part about it is that there is a vaccine that was created to combat it.
The Scout Pledge
“To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight. ”
See you later, alligator. After a while, crocodile.