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Polaris - History    

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Polaris Beginnings 1965

          Polaris was initiated in the summer of 1965 as a replacement for Crescent Bay Area Council's youth training program known as JLT (Junior Leader Training) and JLIT (Junior Leader Instructor Training). Named after the Northern Star, Polaris was selected because it connoted a true direction to be followed, a quality expected of a leader. Council training vice chairman, Mike Hiehle, was the driving force in the development of Polaris. Clell Piper was the first coordinator. At the start, the One Star, Two Star and Three Star names had not yet been applied to the different levels of the new program.
          Spring of 1965 started off as a continuation of the popular Junior Leader Training begun in 1957. As in previous years, one junior leader was nominated from each Troop for a special JLT event which took place April 10, 1965, at Camp Josepho. From this group, totaling 93 scouts, 27 junior leaders were selected to attend the Polaris Senior Instructor Training (later to be known as Polaris Three Star) held at the Region XII Shaver Lake Training Center, July 18-25. This week at camp replaced the Council's annual two-week trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Twenty-two of the selected junior leaders, led by six instructors, successfully completed the original Shaver Lake training and were entitled to wear a special color ((gold or light Orange) key below their Polaris shoulder patch.

Round-Up Photo
September 1965

          The remaining 71 junior leaders completing the April 1965 JLT event at Camp Josepho, were invited to an annual week-long encampment at Camp Wolverton in August. That year, the annual Wolverton Junior Leader training changed its name to Polaris Instructor Training (later to be known as Polaris Two Star). This group, along with the Shaver Lake  graduates, became the first Polaris instructors to "assure the Districts of having their own adequate personnel to conduct outstanding Polaris Conferences" in the fall of 1965. Two-day District events, (not yet known as Polaris One Star) were scheduled between September and November.
           Mike Hiehle announced two new insignia for the Polaris program in September 1965. For completing a District Conference event, Scouts earned a shoulder patch with a five pointed Star on a midnight blue background. While this may have been the original thought, the patches ultimately produced were on black backgrounds. An additional badge showing a training key and worn under the black shoulder patch would signify completion of the Polaris training back in the Scout's troop. These badges were originally known as Polaris Service Medallions
          By the following year, the fledgling Polaris program evolved into four separate levels, each distinguished by its own black shoulder patch of one, two, three or four stars. The Service Medallions evolved too, being issued in different colors signifying different types of units and positions. The Service Medallions became known simply as Polaris Keys.

Original  Polaris Levels described in 1966:

Polaris One Star Encampments
The Districts organized their own weekend Polaris trainings each Fall.
Camp Josepho was the favorite location. Circle B Scout Ranch was also used on different occasions.

Polaris Two Star Encampments
One week-long training held annually at Camp Wolverton.
The encampment took place after the last regular camper session, usually in August.

Polaris Three Star Encampments




Reg. XII Training Center
Shaver Lake, CA
Sequoia Council

Circle B Scout Ranch Southern Sierras
Old Baldy Council

Circle B Scout Ranch
Southern Sierras Old Baldy Council

Camp Mataguey Santa Ysabel, CA San Diego Co. Council

Camp Mataguey Santa Ysabel, CA San Diego Co. Council

Camp Mataguey Santa Ysabel, CA San Diego Co. Council

Camp Ahwahnee
Green Valley Lake, CA North Orange Council


Camp Ahwahnee Green Valley Lake, CA North Orange Council

Holt Scout Ranch Yucaipa, CA San Gabriel Valley

Camp Whitsett Sequoia Natl. Forest
Great Western Council


*1972 - Transition Year
1973-75 -Great Western

: Attendees and instructors at 3 Star camps were entitled to wear a (gold) Light orange Key on their uniforms.
NOTE 2: Both Crescent Bay Council and Old Baldy Council (Pomona-Ontariio) operated separate & different Circle B Scout Ranches.

          A special fourth year of training in Polaris called Staff Leadership Training, conducted by adult Council graduates of the B.S.A.'s Wood Badge training program, was announced in September 1966. The first Polaris Three Star junior leaders picked for Staff Leadership training were Greg Spinner, Mark Rosenthal, Vic Marmon and Chuck Goldstein. It is believed these four trained youth leaders became the first youth staff of Polaris Three Star and possibly the first Polaris Four Star recipients. The precise timing of when Polaris Staff Leadership training became known as Polaris Four Star remains a bit fuzzy. By 1970-71, this most advanced level became known as Torch Training.
                                            Polaris Levels

          Polaris One Star - Entry level for the District weekend events held at Camp Josepho. Troops sent junior leaders (patrol leaders and senior patrol leaders) from their ranks for the one star training weekend. After successfully completing the One Star weekend, scouts were encouraged to return to their troops and train the the scouts in their patrols. (phase four in Mike Hiehle's original plan). A dark brown Key Patch, also know as a Training Award, was then awarded to the scout for wear under his Polaris shoulder patch.
          Polaris One Star for Adults - The Camp Josepho weekends also provided a training program for the adult troop leaders. This program was not a substitute for "Basic Leader Training", also know as Troop 258, which ran concurrently with the Polaris program. Polaris Adult leaders who successfully met the requirements for training of other junior leaders within their troops, were awarded a red Key Patch (also known as a Service Medallion) to wear beneath their Polaris shoulder patch. Polaris One Star adults could serve as staff for future Polaris One Star weekends but this was their only training level in Polaris, all additional levels being exclusively for youth.
          Polaris Two Star - The second level of Polaris training was held one week each summer at Camp Wolverton. Boys who had successfully completed Polaris One Star were eligible to attend two star training. Called "trainees", these scouts were divided into patrols
which were then organized into troops. The troops were named after stars.
The names used were always from the same group: Altair, Deneb, Vega, Castor and Sirius. The first three names were the most commonly used.
          Camps were in three different areas of Wolverton: Bear Haven (across Wolverton Creek); The Meadows (across Wolverton Road); and Deer Hollow (an area west of the Lodge). Patrols prepared their own meals and were joined by Polaris staff for lunch and dinner. Trainees were given old JLT neckerchiefs known as work neckerchiefs to wear around camp for the week. Graduates of Polaris Two Star received new Polaris neckerchiefs and were encouraged to serve as junior staff at future Polaris One Star weekends held at Camp Josepho.
          Polaris Three Star - The third level of Polaris was "invitation only" for top Polaris Two Star scouts. "Try outs" were held at Camp Josepho. If chosen, the next step was attendance at a special one-week, mid summer encampment outside of Crescent Bay Council summer camps. Once completed, the Polaris Three Star graduate was then expected to serve as junior staff at the Polaris Two Star week at Camp Wolverton where he would receive his Polaris staff jacket and an orange Key patch.  
          Polaris Four Star - The four star level appears to have been reserved for the adult leadership that directed and ran the various events in conjunction with the youth leadership. It is believed that there may have been a few youths, specially trained to serve as staff for Polaris Three Star, that were awarded the Four Star level. The majority of the adult leadership for the Polaris programs were members of the Council training committee and Wood Badge recipients that had organized and directed JLT, the predecessor of Polaris.
          Torch Training - Referred to as an "experimental program", Torch was final level of training for boys, developed around 1970-71. It was available only to hand-picked Polaris Three Star recipients that stood out during their staffing responsibilities at Polaris Two Star encampments. Torch training involved six to seven evening classes conducted at the Council office followed by a special weekend at Camp Josepho. Course topics included staff responsibilities, counseling, evaluation and critique. Torch trained leaders received the torch segment and a special white neckerchief.
          Polaris Keys - Initially called Training Awards for youth and Service Medallions for adults, the Keys signified an additional component to the Polaris Training. Once trained, junior leaders were supposed to go back to their troops and train the other junior leaders and scouts in their patrols. Following Polaris One and Two Star, completion of additional training requirements resulted in the awarding of a round key patch to be worn beneath the black Polaris shoulder patch. Another key was available to Polaris Three Star junior leaders for completing a week at Camp Wolverton as Polaris Two Star staff. Adults also had keys, the first awarded for completing the post-one star training within the troop and the second, for serving as adult staff at a Polaris training.

                                  Decline of Polaris 1973-75

         Polaris and all of its component levels were incorporated into Great Western Council after the merger of Crescent Bay and San Fernando Valley Councils in 1972. For a brief time it was called Polaris Troop Leader Training.  Crescent Bay Council Scout Executive, Schiller Colberg was very committed to Polaris and the junior leader training programs that were developed during his tenure. When he became Scout Executive of Great Western Council following the merger in 1972, Polaris continued in the new Council. It appears that efforts were made to involve Scouts and leaders from the old San Fernando Valley side but it never fully caught on. Perhaps that was because there were limited or no opportunities for them to be included in running the program. All of the adult and junior leader staff for Polaris were former Crescent Bay Council Scouts and Scouters who had either been directing the program since the 1960's or were junior leaders who had worked their way up from JLT or Polaris One Star and had ascended to positions of Senior staff at all levels. 
          Schiller Colberg retired in 1976. His successor at Great Western Council did not share the same enthusiasm for Polaris and after ten years, the program disappeared.

Polaris Song

Oh I'm a hayseed
My hair is seaweed
and my ears are made of leather
and they flop in windy weather
Gosh oh hemlock
I'm tough as a pineknot
For I'm a member of (course name such as) Polaris Two-star.
Polaris Two-Star (Shouted as loud as possible)

(Thanks to Frank Glick and Bill Topkis for their help in writing this page)

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