SF's Boy Scout Troop 3, 2nd oldest in America, faces an uncertain future

Today's troop is open to everyone, but back when it was founded in 1914, all of the members were ethnically Chinese.

ByTim Johns via KGO logo
Friday, September 16, 2022
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San Francisco's Boy Scout Troop 3, the second oldest in America, faces an uncertain future as its membership dwindles.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Tucked away on the border of San Francisco's Chinatown, you'll find a piece of the city's history few know is even there.

For the past 108 years, Boy Scout Troop 3 has withstood the test of time, becoming what's believed to be the oldest troop west of the Mississippi River and the second oldest in the nation as a whole.

But now it's at risk of fading away.

Steven Chang has been a part of the troop for nearly 60 years -- first as a scout, and now as one of its scoutmasters.

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"You see them when they're 11 years old, and you see them when they graduate when they're 18. And just to see the remarkable change," Chang said.

Today's troop is open to everyone, but back when it was founded in 1914 all of the members were ethnically Chinese out of necessity.

"Because of the Chinese Exclusion Act. History shows us that we weren't welcome here," Chang said.

Over the years, the troop has gradually dwindled in size and is down to about 13 members currently.

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Chang says he believes costs, as well as the neighborhood being home to many hardworking immigrant families, play a role.

"I see that we're a lot different than a lot of other troops. They have a lot more resources, a lot more parents to be involved in the program," Chang said.

But despite their reduction in size, the sense of camaraderie and the lessons the scouts learn remain timeless.

Lucien Lin has been a member of the troop for the past several years.

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He says he's made some of his closest friends in Troop 3 and enjoys passing his knowledge down to the next generation.

"I try my best to try and be a leader to them, but also be a friend to them," Lin said.

Chang says following the pandemic, the troop is stepping up its recruitment efforts.

It is hoping to remain a part of San Francisco's culture for another 108 years.

"The things that we offer here are hands-on learning experiences, building their confidence, teaching, having fun, responsibility. I don't think any of that gets old," Chang said.

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