Two original Mort Walker designs are located in the Methodist Christian Life Center in Neosho.
They represent Boy Scout activities at “Camp Swampy,” the name given to a section of Neosho’s Bicentennial Park. The area is named for the camp where cartoonist Mort Walker sets his characters in the cartoon strip “Beetle Bailey.”
And, as most people know, the original Camp Swampy was born in World War II when Walker was stationed, as a 19-year-old soldier, at Camp Crowder right here in Neosho.
The late John Jones, Terry Cook, Gary Smith and several other Scout leaders were instrumental in starting Scout events at Camp Swampy. The first was held in 1992 and through Gary Smith’s efforts, the group got Mort Walker’s endorsement for the event and his original design for a patch to commemorate it.
Another Camp Swampy event was held in 1998 and another patch was created. Now, a new event is underway, with a couple of new patches.
The upcoming event is different from the ones in the past. The first two were for Boy Scouts while this event is for Cub Scouts.
“Parent-N-Pal” will be an all-day event on Sept. 14 as Cub Scouts accompanied by a parent or other adult will converge on Camp Swampy for an exciting time. Each Cub must have a parent or “pal” to be eligible. The Missouri National Guard, the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Boy Scout Council, Scout Leaders and senior Boy Scouts, are all serving as staff—a group that is expected to stay very busy.
Although the event is scheduled as a one-day affair, Cubs and their parents or pals can choose to spend the night at Camp Swampy—perhaps to earn a camping badge.
Some of the activities the Cubs will see or participate in are archery, BB gun shooting, wildlife fighting techniques (observation only), heavy machinery, Ozark stream study, turkey shoots (animation only), sling shots, obstacle course and many other fun and exciting activities.
Randy Becholdt, of Neosho, is chairman of the event, and he is expecting 300 Cub Scouts, 300 parents or pals, and 100 staff to make their way to Neosho on Sept. 14 for an exciting time.
Gary Smith, who has been responsible for obtaining the original patches, is a former Missouri Conservation forester and was able to get one of the trails at Bicentennial Park named in honor of Mort Walker. He worked with Mort Walker’s lead cartoonist, Bill Janocha, to set up the design.
Smith says, “I’m excited about the new patches. They are very special.”
He also expressed his pleasure with the Scouting program in Neosho, which had the biggest membership drive in the entire council this year and he adds, “We are providing lot of things for the little guys to do.”
So, for one day at least, Camp Swampy returns to Neosho.