Scouts still making plans after 70 years in Vicksburg

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 12, 2004

Longtime Boy Scout Troop 7 founder and Scoutmaster C.W. “Bud” Tacke, center, looks through scrapbooks with his successor as Scoutmaster, Johnny Nassour, left, and current Scoutmaster Greg Evans at Heritage House Nursing & Rehabilitation Center.(Melanie Duncan Thortis The Vicksburg Post),

[1/11/04]Most Saturdays, asking Scoutmasters C.W. “Bud” Tacke or Johnny “MO” Nassour whether members of Troop 7 would be at their camp off Boy Scout Road wasn’t necessary.

“(It)’s Sa’day, ain’t it?” was the standard answer, carried by Tacke from his own days as a Boy Scout in St. Louis, Mo., through his 50 years leading Troop 7. The phrase carried on through Nassour’s 16 years as Scoutmaster and continues today under Greg Evans, Scoutmaster since 2000.

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Founded by Tacke in February 1934, the troop is planning its 70th birthday celebration and reunion for Feb. 8. Current and former Boy Scouts, family and friends are invited to attend the 8:30 a.m. Mass at St. Michael Catholic Church off Fisher Ferry Road. A reception will follow at the troop’s current home, the Knights of Columbus Council 898 building. And a luncheon with catfish, hamburgers and fries will be at the same spot at 1 p.m.

Known to his Scouts as “Mr. Bud,” Tacke, 96, formed the troop and led it for its first 50 years.

“It is a rare accomplishment,” said Jim Bell, director of the western district of the Boy Scouts of America’s Andrew Jackson Council, of which Troop 7 is a member. Bell said he knew of only two other Scoutmasters who had served 50 or more years in that capacity in Mississippi.

On his retirement, Tacke received written greetings from President Reagan, and he later received a plaque on the accomplishment from Pope John Paul II.

In 1984, Tacke was succeeded by Nassour, his assistant of 22 years. Nassour served as Scoutmaster for the next 16 years, accumulating 38 years in leadership with the troop, and is celebrating his 49th year with the unit.

Current Scoutmaster Evans, 44, grew up in the troop and earned the Boy Scouts of America’s highest rank, Eagle, in 1974.

Tacke joined the Boy Scouts in his hometown when he was 12.

“We went camping every week,” he said of his days in scouting there, adding that he frequently canoed, often accompanied by his dog, on the Meramec River.

“People thought I was born and raised on the Meramec River, ’cause I went out there every day,” he said. “Not once in a while, but every day.”

Also an Eagle Scout, Tacke became an assistant Scoutmaster shortly after he moved to Vicksburg with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in 1928.

“I started out with Troop 3 for several years,” he said of a troop sponsored by the same organization that sponsors Troop 7, Council 898 of the Knights of Columbus.

Soon, Troop 3 grew too large, Tacke said, so he formed Troop 7 with 10 charter members.

And it grew.

At the troop’s largest, “We had over 100 boys in Troop 7,” Tacke said. “Everybody wanted to get in Troop 7 because we were really an active troop. We were always doing something well, you see some of these crazy things there,” in scrapbooks of news clippings about troop activities.

About 2,200 Scouts, including 90 who have reached the rank of Eagle, have been members of the troop since its founding, Nassour said.

On a typical Saturday, 30 to 40 of them would be at Camp Wilkerson to work and play, Nassour said. Nassour said he spent so much time working on building the camp that he did not become an Eagle Scout, though he was one of the first Boy Scout leaders to receive the National Eagle Scout Association Scoutmaster Award, which the Boy Scouts of America introduced in 1973.

“We built what’s out there,” said Nassour. He said some of the materials came from discarded railroad boxcars of Anderson-Tully, where Tacke worked as purchasing agent for most of his career. Most of the buildings were completed in about 1955.

Asked if he remembered what a typical Saturday was like at Camp Wilkerson, Tacke said, “No, because we never stopped we’d be going all day long.”

A flag ceremony would begin the day, followed by work on merit-badge requirements, camp maintenance work, lunch and recreation, Nassour said. Typical afternoon activities would include canoeing, swimming, horseback riding and tree-identification hikes, he added.

In a Troop 7 tradition that has since been discontinued, Nassour said Scouts would “take over” leadership positions in the city and county government and law enforcement, working with those officials for a day.

“As long as you wore your uniform, you could get out of school that day,” Nassour said. Tours of many local factories and businesses were organized for the scouts during the week, Nassour said.

Evans said the troop now has 17 registered members who do “a lot of the same stuff” Troop 7 has always done.

“We go to the Scout camp twice a month, including monthly campouts,” Evans said.

In recent years, the troop has also taken trips to the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, to two different ski areas in that state and to rivers in Arkansas and Wisconsin for canoeing, Nassour and Evans said.

“We try to do a canoe trip on a yearly basis,” Evans said. “We’re working on planning a trip to the Smokies for spring break now.”

Walking the 16-mile tour route of Vicksburg National Military Park near Christmastime has also been a troop tradition, Nassour said.

“We took a park trek almost every year,” Nassour said, adding that Tacke often took extra time to pay tribute to a monument from his home state of Missouri.

And Camp Wilkerson is being upgraded to include shower and bathroom facilities for out-of-town troops who come to hike the park, Nassour said.

At its birthday-celebration program, the troop also plans to present the first Johnny MO and Ann Nassour scholarship of $750.

Scouts and scouters who plan to attend the luncheon are asked to contact Nassour by e-mail at by Jan. 25. Additional 70th Anniversary information and troop history is available at the Web site