February 12, 1963

The Chicago Tribune reported the following on February 13, 1963. The Scouts of our Troop responded to a Presidential Challenge and completed a 51 mile hike in 15 hours.


On December 26, 1960, President Kennedy wrote an opinion piece for Sports Illustrated about "The Soft American." He warned the country about becoming unfit in a changing world filled with more automation and leisure time. In late 1962 President Kennedy announced to the public that he had discovered an executive order from Theodore Roosevelt challenging U.S. Marine Corps officers to finish a 50 mile hike in twenty hours. The President challenged the public, his administration, and the Marines to complete this walk.

The President's challenge became a fad and long distance walking became all the rage late 1962 and early 1963. On Lincoln's Birthday, February 12, 1963, walks were organized all over the country.

o The Attorney General, Bobby Kennedy, slogged 50 miles through snow and slush to prove the fitness of the Presidential Administration.

o Marines were ordered to complete the 50 mile hike over three days. Great Lakes Marines hiked out to Libertyville on 176, south on Butterfield Road, East on Half Day Road, south on Riverwoods Road to Glenview Naval Air Station, and then back up to Great Lakes up Waukegan Road.

o An Air Force Reserve unit at O'Hare hiked north to Genoa City, Wisconsin.

o And, Boy Scout Troop 78 from Half Day, now Lincolnshire, hiked 51 miles north north through Kenosha County to Bristol, Wisconsin, starting at 4:30 a.m. and completing the hike at 7:30 p.m.

On February 13, 1963, a Page 1 story of the Chicago Tribune, proclaimed: "7 Scouts Hike 51 miles in Day: 6 Are of Tenderfoot Rank." The reporter described the Scouts as:

"The latest enthusiasts -- or victims -- of a 50-mile hike craze which has swept westward from the White House were full of cheer."

"Here's the press." one 11 year old said to a newsman.

"Our public's recognizing us," quipped a 12 year old.

"Never," exclaimed Scoutmaster James Erickson, leaning almost paralyzed with fatigue against a car door, "would I try this again without a couple of months of conditioning." Erickson, who has led troop 78 in Half Day, Lake county for two months, gave out after 40 miles.

One of the Scouts overslept and ran six miles to Libertyville to catch up with the rest.

"The Scouts' performance has been miraculous," Scoutmaster Erickson said. "I hope the council will issue them a special medal." He also hopes for some recognition for the boys from the White House.

The next day, February 14, 1963, the Chicago Tribune editorial board wrote, (page 12): A-HIKING WE WILL GO

Now that the boys of Half Day's Scout troop 78 have proved themselves as fit on the trail as marines and Brother Bobby, perhaps President Kennedy will start moving his New Frontier ahead on roads other than the 50 mile hike. . . . . .

Although one marine officer set a record of 11 hours and 44 minutes for the 50 mile jaunt under spur of the Presidential challenge, it will be difficult for any New Frontiersmen to better the accomplishment of troop 78. Minus their adult leader, who dropped out exhausted, all but one of them a tenderfoot, sloshed into Kenosha county, Wis., 51 miles and 15 hours away from their starting point. Their time bettered Attorney General Kennedy's by two hours. . . . . . .

However, a follow-up story on page 3 said:

7 Scouts Miss School After 50-Mile Hike, Chief in Bed

None of the seven Boy Scouts who hiked 50 miles on Tuesday were able to make it to school yesterday.

Their scoutmaster, who walked 40 miles with the boys, couldn't get out of bed.

And the principal of the Half Day elementary school, which all attended, frowned at the whole thing. . . . . Harry Luhn, the principal, stated, "I certainly hope they don't do it every week. We advocate physical fitness, but we can't condone overexertion." He said the boys' absence would be excused . . .

Scouts who spoke to the Chicago Tribune are:

        • Jeff Morris, 14, of Mundelein, the only second class Scout.
        • Fred Niemczyk, 13, of Woodbine Circle, Half Day. Hero of the day he made it only 40 miles, but he went to school.
        • James Gordley, 11, of Prarie View said, "I sure hope Mr. Erickson is O.K.; I know he's suffering a lot. I feel kind of sore and I'm limping, but I enjoyed it."
        • Steven Breitenbach, 12, of Lake Forest, said: "My legs hurt; both of them are sore. But my mother's been massaging them. I'd like to do it again, but not right now."
        • John Kroll, 14, Prairie View, missed the step-off on Tuesday, ran six miles to catch up with the others, and then made it all the way. He said his feet were sore, but he a was happy.
        • Brent Leese, 11, of Half Day, was happy to have hiked 50 miles, even tho he was walking with a cane the day after.
        • Reed Adkins, 11, of Half Day, "I feel well, but I'm rubbing some sore spots around my ankles. I'm glad I made it all the way."