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A story of Scout courage during World War II near Cody-Powell

 


Xenophobia: intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries.

The definition of the oddball word Xenophobia came true in all its ugliness here in Wyoming when the United States government wrongly imprisoned more than 11,000 Americans of Japanese descent in a camp between Cody and Powell during World War II.

However, there are so many stories that have come out of that incarceration and many of them are positive.

One of the best and most often repeated is how a young Cody Boy Scout named Alan Simpson became friends with a Japanese-American Boy Scout named Norman Mineta. Simpson later became a U. S. Senator. Mineta later became the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. Two wildly diverging life paths merged together in Washington, D.C.

Both men have been instrumental in the creation of a very well done visitor center at the location of the former internment camp beneath Heart Mountain.

Another terrific story to come out of that trying period has been written and compiled by retired Lander schools social worker Bill Lee. Bill shared the story of Glenn Livingston with me and agreed to allow me to tell it to you in this column.

The following paragraphs serve as an edited version of Lee’s well-written story, which he has submitted to national Boy Scout publications for their consideration. The story should be told here in Wyoming:

Few know the story about the courageous scoutmaster of Senator Simpson’s Cody Troop 50.

During World War II, there were approximately 11,000 internees, making it the third largest city in Wyoming, living 11 miles outside of Cody, a town of 2,500.

To young Simpson these were not great odds. He tells that there was a great backlash to the locating the camp at Heart Mountain. There were protest signs all over the community.

When the scoutmaster learned that the Internment Camp had Boy Scout troops, he decided to take his troop into the camp for a scouting jamboree. Against the backdrop of the war and the community’s feelings, this was a difficult decision on his part.

Pete Simpson, Alan’s older brother was 12 years old and also a scout in Troop 50. He recalls when the scoutmaster was asked why they were going into the Japanese-American Internment Camp, he replied, “The boys in the camp wear the same uniform, salute and fly the same flag and say the same scout oath.” This is the reason he gave to persuade the other scouts’ parents for why it would be important to meet with the Heart Mountain Scouts. Pete recalls that of the 25 boys in Troop 50, the parents of all but two scouts agreed to allow their sons to attend the Jamboree.

Pete was downright scared in the first place. Why would Pete and the Scouts go? The reason was simple, Pete said. “Because of Glenn Livingston.”

Glenn epitomized what is great about scouting: the building of character through bravery, loyalty and helpfulness, three of the Laws of Scouting. He saw the value in celebrating with other scouts even though they were interned in a camp. His actions captured the character that scouting develops.

Few people knew that when WW II broke out, Glenn went to his draft board to enlist to fight for his country. His daughter Barbara Green of Lander remembers the draft board had a different idea. They wanted him to stay home and continue to teach and run the schools. Barbara shared that the board considered her father’s role as a teacher one of the “critical need positions” along with a doctor, a dentist and the school superintendent. She reports this was a bitter pill for Glenn to swallow.

Livingston had a great influence on the young men and women of his community during a very troubling time in our country’s history. After the War he took this Scouting Spirit and concern for human welfare into helping to develop the Community Mental Health program in Cody, which served as a model for other Wyoming communities. He became the Superintendent of the Cody Public Schools and a strong member in the local and state Elks organization.

The next time you hear the story of two young scouts meeting at Heart Mountain Internment Camp who became a U.S. Senator and U.S. Secretary of Transportation, remember the scoutmaster who showed great courage in his character to make that happen.

Remember Glenn Livingston of Cody, Wyoming, a scoutmaster of troop 50 and Silver Beaver recipient.

Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at http://www.billsniffin.com. He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written six books. His newest is “Wyoming at 125,” which is now on sale at fine bookstores. His books are available at http://www.wyomingwonders.com.

 

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