• Steven Heller

Den Motherhood Illustrated

In 1969, as many of us long-haired, bead-wear’in, love-makin’ hippies were marching in the streets and rolling in the sheets, a generation of younger kids and their moms settled in for the all-American ritual of Cub Scouting. Whereas Boy Scouts had male troop leaders, Cub Scouts were supervised by dedicated moms called Den Mothers.

My mom tried it once. It didn’t work because she hated the cut of the uniform. But by 1967 when this handbook was first issued (and later in 1969 when it was reissued), the average Den Mom was pretty snazzy in her blues and maizes (yellows), dependent upon the “pack” that she was assigned to. There’s something to be said about a woman in uniform. And there’s something to be said about the paramilitary fun and games they oversaw. There’s also something to be said for the illustrations herein—wonderfully loose, though realistic in an ideal sort of ’60s manner by an anonymous but very capable illustrator.

My favorite image shows a Den Mother in the act of practicing the traditional den songs. Among them “Be Kind to Your Web-Footed Friends,” “John Jacob Jingle Heimer Schmitt” and the classic “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here.” If only my mom would have stuck with the program, I’d be a better singer and yeller today.

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