by Keith Monroe
The Scouts in Troop 1135 were rebellious black teen-agers from South Central
Los Angeles. Their Scoutmaster was an idealistic college student named Steve
Maybe the ugliest moment in the troop's 10 years was when a Scout pulled a gun
on the young Scoutmaster. Or maybe when one threatened him with a knife. There
were times when Scouts threw rocks at him. Once his whole troop seemed ready
to attack, chanting: "Get Whitey! Get Whitey!"
Steve Hauser quietly surmounted these deadly showdowns. They are forgotten now.
When his ex-Scouts visit, they talk of achievements or chuckle at gleeful
Reunion of a Scout Troop
They finally arranged a troop reunion in September 1996. After 17 years, long-gone
Los Angeles Troop 1135 met for a family barbecue in a shady Long Beach public park,
a million miles from where they used to meet. They were a notable sight: 42
African-American young men, flocking around one slender white man in an old
Scoutmaster's uniform, hugging him and clasping his hand and grinning.
After the meal came reminiscences. "I'd probably be in prison if it weren't for
Steve," said 39-year-old Renard Stevenson, a Compton minister. "I joined the troop
just to find things to steal at the Job Corps building where we met. In summer
camp at Lake Arrowhead I stole food from other camps and hid it in my tent. Steve
caught me, but he didn't get mad. He said: 'I guess you need more food. I'll start
giving you more to eat.'
"That turned my life around."
Tommy Tucker, a 41-year-old television producer, said: "Remember why we wore big
jackets to troop meetings, even in summer? To hide our uniforms, so other kids
wouldn't pick on us."
"But we looked suspicious to cops," someone added. "Many a time they frisked us.
Steve himself got pulled over sometimes."
"Any white man in that area might be buying or selling drugs," Hauser pointed out.
"My Scout uniform didn't seem to make a difference."
Praising Steve Hauser as a role mod-el, 35-year-old tax accountant Barry Toston
remarked, "I always wondered why you started the troop."
It had been a happenstance. The story, too long to tell at the barbecue, is worth
In 1969 as a UCLA sophomore, Hauser joined a fraternity which nicknamed him "Holy
Hauser" because he wasn't eager for drinking and partying.
The fraternity brothers put him in charge of public relations. "Get us good
publicity," they ordered.
Beyond punch and cookies
After pondering, Hauser proposed a party for inner-city youths: "We can drive
them here, show them around, serve punch and cookies." This was done and duly
reported on TV. The guests enjoyed it hugely, so a second party ensued.
In making arrangements, Hauser was dismayed by his glimpses of teeming South
Central Los Angeles, where wholesome recreation was rare. That summer, on his
own, he took a group of boys to the beach. As they rode home, one asked, "Steve,
will we ever see you again?"
"Sure," he said on impulse.
He recalled later: "I realized they needed a regular activity they could look
forward to. I could provide it. I could form a Scout troop."
An Eagle Scout, Hauser had served as senior patrol leader of Troop 6 in the
comfortable, nearby town of Redlands.
A district executive helped Hauser start Troop 1135 that same summer. The core
was 11 boys in a four-block area where stores had been destroyed during the
historic 1965 riot.
A hike or camp every month
Hauser promised a hike or camp-out every month and made good with the help of
Allen Lundy, a fraternity brother. The new Scouts proudly donned thirdhand
uniforms bought at discount stores for a dollar or two. The troop grew
Hauser wasn't sure his Scouts really accepted him. But the question was settled
one Saturday. Lacking enough transport for all 20 Scouts who'd signed up for
camp, Hauser decided they would hike to a wooded area three miles away called
As they filed along a city street, a man shouted, "How come you kids out here
with a white man?"
Timothy Hamilton barked, "That's our business." The others chorused, "Yeah!"
There was no further public criticism. However, a few Scouts occasionally disrupted
troop meetings, chattering or cavorting. Hauser usually asked them to leave. Any
who didn't seem sufficiently repentant were barred from the next outing.
This so enraged one Scout that he lay in wait after the meeting and threw rocks
at Steve's car. "I went to his house and told his mother," Hauser recalls. "She
disciplined her son. The mothers were stricter than I was. Once the Scouts knew
I'd tell, my threats had teeth."
The teeth of his threats seemed less biting on trips, however. On one weekend
outing, a Scout shook a rock at Steve, who said calmly, "I know you won't throw
it." But the youth did throw it, hitting Hauser squarely on the chest. The young
Scoutmaster thereupon drove the Scout home, a two-hour trip, and returned to
find the troop subdued.
The redwoods 'riot'
As years passed, the summer trips became more ambitious, financed by Scoutorama
ticket sales and other money-earning campaigns. The troop traveled in a 1953
school bus donated by a welfare agency.
In this vehicle Hauser took 20 Scouts to a redwood park in northern California.
There they grew bold. Against orders to stay in camp, they strolled to a store
while he showered. He found them in the store and commanded them to hike back
to camp. Instead they took seats in the bus outside.
Hauser can tell the story with a laugh now. "I grabbed the little kid that was
the worst troublemaker and dragged him out. I was careful not to hurt him. He
squealed and cursed me, but the others slowly swaggered off the bus. I drove
it away in a hail of rocks.
"Later in camp I heard chants, 'Get Whitey,' and saw the troop advancing, with
sticks and rocks. I wondered if I'd exported the Watts riot to the redwoods.
Then an idea came. I climbed on the bus step and yelled, 'I'm telling every
one of your mothers.' The Scouts froze.
"Finally one said: 'Aw, Steve, we was only funnin'. Please don't tell.' But the
kid who was the troublemaker drew a pocketknife and made some threats. I then
took the knife away. He screeched: 'You better not go to sleep tonight. I'm
gonna get a butcher knife and pay you back.'
"All that night I tensed at the slightest sound, but nothing happened. The troop
behaved for the rest of the trip." (At the 1996 reunion several of the "rioters"
assured Hauser they had been bluffing.)
There was no more trouble, except once when Hauser had to intervene between two
of his Scouts. "One of them got beat up for answering too many questions at school.
Finally he was challenged to a fight with a bigger Scout, and he showed up with a
gun. I'd heard about it, so I was there.
"He pointed the gun at me and said, 'What you gonna do?' I knew neither boy wanted
to fight. I just said, 'Knock it off, you guys,' and everyone went home."
By 1979 Hauser was out of college, married, and practicing law. He had no time for
troop meetings. He persuaded two fathers to take charge and wrangled a $1,000
charitable donation to pay for supplies and outings. But Troop 1135 wasn't the
same. It disbanded in a few years.
'Bound together for life'
Nevertheless 39 of its alumni remain in touch with Hauser. One went to the U.S.
Naval Academy. One is a college professor; another is a famed rap artist known as
Coolio. Others are teachers.
A few are in prison. The rest are saddened to think of this, but they believe the
troop had done the best it could.
The reunion gift to Hauser was an enlarged color photo of a joyous-looking Troop
1135 in uniform in 1972. It is mounted on a handsome desk piece with the Scout
emblem and an inscription that says in part: "Steve, your pure and innocent display
of care and concern...has bound us all together for life."