Most of us can only imagine what it was like to go camping in a secluded portion of Sonoma County among the coastal redwoods near Cazadero in the 1930s. Besides the local residents, those that knew it best were the Boy Scout troops from San Francisco that journeyed to the remote region to camp, swim and get a powerful taste of the great outdoors. Just reaching Camp Royaneh in Cazadero in 1936 was no easy achievement for the Scouts. After crossing the Bay by ferry it was four-and-a half hours by train to the campgrounds.
With the recent anniversary of the establishment of Boy Scouts of America, now celebrating 107 years, I set out to find the oldest Boy Scout in this area. And while I’m not positive he’s the oldest, or longest-serving, I’ll venture that 94-year-old George Daum, who joined the Cub Scouts in 1933, became an Eagle Scout in 1939 and is still active in scouting after 84 years, ranks near the top.
Born in Oakland and raised in San Francisco, where his parents owned a delicatessen, Daum immersed himself in the Scouting life. Along the way, he saved every Scouting-related receipt, ticket stub, emblem, pin, merit badge, arrow and certificate, which he has carefully mounted into numerous showcases and albums chronicling his Scouting life.
Among his souvenirs are a Scouting Merit Badge Exposition guidebook from 1935, a newsletter touting his troop’s camping trip to Yellowstone National Park in 1936, Boy Scout events on Treasure Island in 1939, usher’s ribbons from the 1937 and ’38 East-West football games, and ephemera from every Scout-O-Rama, Camporee and assemblage he attended.
Following his discharge from the service, Daum returned to San Francisco as Scoutmaster of his troop while embarking on a 22-year career as a private investigator and insurance adjuster. The Daum family moved to Corte Madera in 1955, where he joined the Marin Council of Boy Scouts and is still active as an advisor. Twenty years ago, they grew tired of climbing the 27-step staircase to their front door so they packed up and moved to Petaluma.
While remaining active in Scouting, George and his wife of 73 years, Elaine, joined the Petaluma Historical Library & Museum where he did some repair work and both of them became involved with the Farm Kids program, teaching school kids how farm life existed many years ago. Energetic and full of life, they were avid square dancers for 27 years and spent 13 years wintering in Arizona.
When the Charles M. Schulz Museum opened in Santa Rosa in 2002, the Daum’s were among the first group of volunteer docents. They’ll tell you it was fun working for Peanuts, but in reality they are both committed volunteers who unselfishly donate their time and expertise.
“We’ve tried to keep active and do a lot of things. When you get involved you meet a lot of interesting people that you wouldn’t ordinarily meet,” said Daum, recalling meeting former President Herbert Hoover, composer Hoagy Carmichael and famed cartoonist Rube Goldberg in addition to several of the founding members of the Boy Scouts. “Over time, I’ve been fortunate to meet so many influential people. You get involved, you volunteer and it pays off.”
An Eagle Scout with Gold Palm, Daum has been recognized for his leadership skills, ability to instill confidence in others, length of service and dedication by the Boy Scouts, and in 2003 was honored with the Marvin M. Lewis award by the Elks Lodge, given for making a significant contribution to the youth of the community. He was the scholarship chairman for the Petaluma Elks for 11 years and earned Elk of the Year honors. Daum is a member of the Eagle Scout Honor Society, Knights of Dunamis, and his son Gordon and two grandsons, Christopher and David, are Eagle Scouts.