Celebrating 70 years of Scouting in New Jersey

By the end of World War II, Hungarian refugee scouts started forming patrols and troops already in the refugee camps of Austria and Germany. Most troops, however, were not registered until the 1950s, during the period of the great emigrations, when troops were formed one after the other in the United States, Canada, South America and the rest of the world. There was a great need for keeping the values brought from home – God, homeland, fellowship and service to the Hungarian nation – alive also outside the homeland they had to leave. After Hungary banned scouting, the Hungarian Scouts Association in Exteris (KMCSSZ in Hungarian) was founded in Garfield, New Jersey, gathering all the Hungarian scouts spread all over the world. Today it has grown to an organization of nearly 3000 members and several of its troops are celebrating their 70th anniversary.


On January 6, the Cicelle Rozgonyi Girl Scout Troop no. 38 celebrated the 70th anniversary of its foundation. The celebration at the Hungarian Scout House in Garfield, New Jersey was attended by the current troop members as well as older scouts and former troop leaders. It was a fun-filled tea party with nostalgic conversations and viewing old photo albums, as well as a trivia game on the history and presence of the local Hungarian scout troops that brought together in a friendly competition everyone from the youngest scouts to the oldest participants in their eighties.

At the beginning of the celebration, Fanni Kozma, the current leader of the Hungarian scout troops in Garfield, told the audience about the inception of the troop. In June 1952, a three-member girl scout troop named Árvalányhaj was formed in Passaic, near Garfield. Gabriella Kormann, building on her scouting experience in a refugee camp in Germany, invited her friends Ágnes Nagy (Paulovits) and Emőke Zágon (Kovács) to join her and launch the first patrol. Soon after other local girls, such as Sarolta Karácsony (Marshall), Katalin Pongrácz (Jámbor) and Ágnes Varga (Kazal), became also interested in joining, so by November of the same year already two patrols were operative. In addition to their regular meetings, they organized weekend trips and summer camps.

On January 2, 1954, the Executive Committee of the Hungarian Scout Association (abbreviated MCSSZ in Hungarian) approved the operation of the girl troop by admitting it to the association, under number 38 and named Cicelle Rozgonyi. The young commander Gabriella Kormann (later on Mrs. Pál Jámbor) led the girls with great enthusiasm. Over the years, many others who started scouting in refugee camps in Germany became members of the local troops. The two current Hungarian scout troops in Garfield build on the legacy of these enthusiastic and tenacious early scouts. Over the past 70 years, there have been countless events, excitement and challenges, too. Troop membership fluctuated over the past decades, but increased to 66 members in total this year.

The current troop leader is most proud of the strength of the community. As she pointed out, few scout troops are as fortunate as Garfield, since its former leaders are actively supporting the troops. Former troop leaders and deputy leaders organize and lead meetings and programs and many of the Scout House governing body chairs are still actively involved with various events. 

New Brunswick

A grand celebration was held at the Hungarian American Athletic Club (HAAC) in New Brunswick to mark the 70th anniversary of founding the Gergely Bornemissza Boy Scout Troop no. 5 of New Brunswick. After the entry of the boys’ troop István Bereczki, current troop commander, welcomed the guests, among them Imre Lendvai-Lintner, president of the Hungarian Scouts Association in Exteris (KMCSSZ in Hungarian), and delivered a speech. Subsequent to the introduction of all of the former local troop leaders István Vajtay Jr, vice president of the KMCSSZ, welcomed the guest of honour of the evening, Miklós Schlóder, the oldest former troop leader, and proclaimed him the Honorary Lifetime Commander of the troop. After the speeches, which were often interrupted by applause and cheerful laughter, the local Regös (scout folk dance) group performed folk dances from the Gömör region, and the local Fészer Banda and Horváth Duo took turns to play music until dawn. 

According to the official Troop Chronicle, Boy Scout Troop no. 5 was formed on 1 August, 1947 in Barnau, Austria, but it was disbanded in 1950 due to the post-war mass immigration of most of its members. Under the leadership of József Szőke, the Széchenyi István ‘mixed’ Scout Troop no. 18 was formed in Woodbridge in 1951, with boys and girls from New Brunswick also joining. In 1953, a separate boys troop named Gergely Bornemissza was also founded under number 5, led by Alfonz Mindel, and in 1958, a separate girls troop was also established, led by Judit Olcsváry, named Zsuzsanna Lorántffy and under number 41.

After six years of operation, Hungarian scouting in Woodbridge ceased. The boys’ troop, retaining its name and number, moved to New Brunswick in 1959, where Tamás Tamás became their commander. In 1962 Father Vazul Végvári took over both troops, while Miklós Schlóder (called ‘Mikibá’ by the scouts) led the boys for 14 years, until 1981, when he handed leadership over to Tamás Vajtay, the troop’s first New Brunswick-born leader. Since then, the troop has been led and managed mostly by boys (now men) born in America. Their sacrifice has ensured its survival. Their work has been supported by an enthusiastic support body, the Circle of the New Brunswick Scout Parents. 

In his welcoming speech, István Bereczki pointed out: none of the founders could have imagined that 70 years later a troop consisting of about 50 members would still be operating in New Brunswick. Imre Lendvai-Lintner conveyed the greetings of the association’s leadership. He recalled that scouting is now the world’s largest civic organization after the UN, with more than 40 million members. Within this group, there are more than 20,000 Hungarian scouts, while KMCSSZ has almost 3,000 members. The president continued his speech by thanking the parents (some of whom are now grandparents); then thanked the leaders (not only the commanders, but also the young officers, assistant officers, and patrol leaders who, week after week, conscientiously prepared and worked with the scouts without any financial reward); finally, he thanked the local Hungarian community for supporting the troop morally and financially for many years (the Catholic and the Reformed churches, the HAAC, and other local organizations and individuals).

István Vajtay Jr. recalled that at the end of his second term as the leader of the troop, he received a very nice gift, a reproduction of a painting by Norman Rockwell, who was also the official illustrator of the Boy Scouts of America. The painting titled ‘The Commander’ depicts a scout camp after curfew with the boys sleeping in tents in the background, and with a lone figure standing guard by the dying fire, protecting the peace of the camp, watching over the sleeping boys. Vajtay said he was very grateful for the painting, but immediately realized that the ‘tall, thin, thinning-haired but not yet bald figure, still wearing his youth scout trousers’ could not be him, but rather Mikibá, who had been the troop commander from his early scouting days until the end of his university years, for 14 years in total. When handing over the reproduction of the same painting to Mikibá, he recalled that Mikibá’s uprightness, cleanliness, helpfulness, frugality, being ‘gentle with others, strict with oneself’ are all part of the Scout Law and pledge. 

As Vajtay emphasized, some wear their command like a millstone, but Mikibá always radiated nothing but the genuine joy of scouting. Every scout had once pledged to ‘serve God, country, fellow human beings and the Hungarians’; but some had never taken it seriously, for them it was just ‘words spoken in a hurry at an evening ceremony for children’; there are some for whom it meant something for a while, and some have taken them to their hearts – perhaps because ‘their own character was already parallel to the Scout spirit, so it was natural for them to live according to those laws and pledges. In Rockwell’s painting, Mikibá seems to resemble the commander, but the truth is that all good commanders resemble Mikibá, so tonight, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of founding Scout Troop Bornemissza Gergely no. 5, we proclaim Miklós Schlóder, our beloved Mikibá, as our Honorary Lifetime Commander – concluded his speech. 

The celebrated thanked the gifts briefly with his usual modesty and his well-known humor, and then recalled that in 1950 the scout association organized the first big scout camp in Germany, which was attended by another person present besides himself. He did not reveal the name of that person, but the audience recognised her and greeted Eva Kazella with a big round of applause. Thanks and gratitude to the founders, to all those who took their laws and pledges seriously, and of course to all those who helped and supported them. God bless not only troops no 38 and 5, but all Hungarian scouts all over the world, and not only the local Hungarian communities supporting them, but all of them throughout the diaspora and the Carpathian Basin!

Antal-Ferencz Ildikó


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