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By Gabrielle.

Would you indulge me in a little report about Ralph’s Eagle Court of Honor? It was held last Saturday and it turned out wonderfully. We loved it! Here’s are my notes about the event in list form:

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1) First let’s talk about his uniform (because I’m obsessed with it). It’s vintage from the 1950’s. We bought it last summer. As Ralph was working on his Eagle project, he happened to bring up the topic of vintage neckerchief slides and mentioned he’d seen some cool ones. I started searching for them on eBay and discovered the delightful world of old school Scout uniforms.

If you’re interested, here’s what I learned: There are tons! You can find single pieces, random pieces grouped together in lots, or sometimes a full uniform. And there are lots of bargains. Sizing is the tricky part. I ended up measuring the waist and length of a pair of Ralph’s pants that fit him well, and then comparing that to listed measurements for the items. Same thing with one of his button-downs. Of course, it’s eBay and sometimes there are no measurements listed.

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One note on length, the pants were designed to be hemmed and then let out as the Scout grew. So if the waist seems like the right measurement, but the pants are too short, they may have a long hem waiting to be let out.

We really like the pieces from the 1950s because they’re made a heavy cotton and they’re really sturdy and very washable. We found pants, a shirt, a belt, a scarf, a carved wooden neckerchief slide, a hat, and a badge sash. But they weren’t altogether, there were separate orders and some duplicate pieces. Also, his badge sash is from a later era — I think late 70s. But it still looks good with the rest.

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The badge materials have changed over the years — the current ones have a sort of stiff plastic backing — but the designs are the same. So if you buy an old sash and it has badges on it, you can reuse any your Scout has earned, and then just add new ones. They’ll blend right in.

I think he looks so handsome! That first photo feels super iconic to me.

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2) I want to tell you about this photo shoot. As we were planning the Court of Honor, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do for decor, but I got this picture in my head of a photoshoot where Ralph was in full uniform, doing scout-y things. I wanted them to be very formal and posed — as if we were shooting them for an old Scout catalog. I wasn’t sure how I’d use the photos, but I knew I wanted to have them shot.

So we made a list of things he could do — archery, chopping wood, canoeing, using a compass, making a fire, helping a senior citizen across the street, tying a knot, whittling, etc..

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We gathered supplies, borrowing an ax and archery equipment, and called Katrina Davis. She’s a street-style photographer here in Oakland who I’ve worked with before, and I knew she would do a great job on this. Then last Monday, we shot in our backyard. The 6 portrait photos you see here are my favorites from the shoot. Aren’t they awesome! I think they turned out so well.

They ended up being a key part of the decor at the Court of Honor.

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3) The venue was all about the redwoods. There is a beautiful grove just a few minutes from our house called Robert’s Grove and that’s where we held the Court of Honor. I’ve mentioned this particular grove before on Instagram. It’s a really special place, and when you walk through on a quiet day, it feels like a sacred area.

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It was a treat to spend the afternoon there with so many people we love. There are gathering spots throughout the grove with picnic tables and grills, and you can reserve them through the park system.

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4) Instead of a podium, we used a particular stand of trees as the main backdrop. We set up rows of chairs facing the trees, and there were picnic benches to sit on too.

On both sids of the main stand of trees we strung twine, and from the twine we hung ribbon, and posters from the photo shoot.

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For ribbon, I ordered big, inexpensive rolls of grosgrain ribbon in forest and green, with some brown and red thrown in too. I was going for scout-y colors. : ) I didn’t attach them in any particular way. Maude and Olive cut the ribbon to length and then we simply draped it over the twine. The weight of the ribbon hanging down kept it mostly in place.

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For the posters, I had the photos printed on an engineering printer. (It’s the same thing I did in the girls’ bedroom.) Engineering prints are big (3 feet by 4 feet) and inexpensive — about $6 per print. I attached them to the twine with clothes pins.

To weight the bottom of the poster, I either clipped a twig to the back along the bottom edge, or a taped it in place with duct tape. They still blew around a bit, but looked good while doing it.

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5) For the program, we focused on keeping it meaningful and short. We involved several presenters/speakers, but all kept their words to about 5 mins or less.

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For those of you who might need a starting point planning your own Court of Honor, this is what we did for the program:

Welcome — by Joseph Chu, a fellow scout in Ralph’s troop and one of the nicest human beings on the Earth.

Invocation — by Erik Heywood, he’s the owner of Book/Shop here in Oakland and has been a wonderful friend and creative mentor to Ralph.

Color Guard + Pledge — by the Cub Scouts. Oscar was involved. He was very professional.

Report of Eagle Qualifications + Eagle Charge — by Sam Hayes. Sam is the Assistant Scout Master and is one of Ralph’s favorite people to have on campouts. Sam talked about how hard it is to earn an Eagle. Only 6% of Scouts make Eagle rank.

Presentation of Eagle Pin & Certificate — by Matt Ritzman, the Scoutmaster. Matt has been a reliable and thoughtful leader, and we love the fact that he appreciates what Ralph brings to the table. Matt was really eloquent. He told 3 personal stories about Ralph and presented him with his pin and scarf.

Guest Speaker — by Adeline Lambert. Ralph’s Eagle Project was an awareness video for an organization called Made In A Free World. They focus on helping companies do what they can to reduce the risk of slave labor in their supply lines. Have you ever seen the website Slavery Footprint? It’s a Made In The Free World initiative. Adeline Lambert works at Made In The Free World, she’s the Manager of Data Analytics, and talked about the company and Ralph’s project and how it helped them.

Eagles Nest — all the people who had earned their Eagle came to the front and welcomed Ralph with a Scout handshake.

Eagle Challenge — by Greg Call, our friend and the Bishop of our congregation. Whenever Greg has extra concert tix, he often calls Ralph (keeping him high on Ralph’s favorites list). Greg talked philosophy and our call to tend to Earth, Heavens, Mortals and Deities.

Eagle Response — by Ralph. He gave a great talk, and mostly gave specific thanks to each person who had helped him on his Eagle path. He also made everyone laugh.

Benediction — by Steve Roland, the Scout Committee Chair. Steve is the most helpful person we know. He is always on the lookout for any need he can fill. He’s the person we talk about when trying to picture what a saint looks like.

Tour & Food — more on both below.

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It started at 4:00 PM, and the whole program (not counting the tour and food) took about 40 minutes.

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6) After the program, we had a local expert, Harry Johnson, give us a tour of the grove and teach us about the redwoods, and the nearby Blossom Rock monument.

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We served donuts for refreshments with milk and water to drink. The tablecloth was a roll of kraft paper attached with stripes of red duct tape.

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And that’s it! It was a really lovely event and our church and Scouting community were super supportive. So many people came, so many people participated, and they stayed after to help us pack everything up. I had the biggest feeling of gratitude the whole time.

Here’s a photo of friends and family gathering before the event — I love that background of trees!

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And speaking of photos, we didn’t ask a photographer to come to the event, and that might be my only regret. I had my camera around my neck, but I was definitely distracted, and I don’t have any photos of our kids! Oscar wore his cub scout uniform and did the color guard, and he handed out paper programs as people arrived. Maude and Olive were essential in getting the posters and ribbons hung. Betty and June cleaned the tables before we set up, and cleared the paths of sticks and other debris from a recent storm.

The whole family was wonderfully involved and helpful and I don’t have any photos to show for it. Oh well. It happens.

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Overall, it was a wonderful event — lots of laughing, lots of learning, lots of sweet, personal stories about Ralph. We’re super proud of him.

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Yay Ralph!

Okay. That was my report, but I’d love to hear: Have you ever hosted or attended a Court of Honor? What was the most memorable part? Feel free to share your ideas!Do you have a favorite outdoor space — park or forest — that is special to your family? What’s it like?