Al "Big Al" Gaudio, claims he didn't get his nickname from his girth or stature, but from the size of his heart - a heart that has been dedicated to Boy Scouting for more than 40 years.
In 1953, Big Al attended the National Jamboree in California and began collecting Boy Scout memorabilia. His hobby has since grown into a three-room museum on the second floor of his shoe-repair business at 154 W. Center, Provo. One of only 32 Scout museums in the world, it is filled with donated or purchased items Big Al has collected from the four corners of the Earth."I have uniforms from Ireland, Nigeria, Brazil, Australia, England, Italy and Japan," he said. "I even have one of the first issued Boy Scout Eagle patches (circa 1926)."
Gaudio's love for Scouting moved him to leave his shoe-repair business and become a professional Scouter. His first assignment was in the Utah National Parks Council where his duties covered Carbon, Emery and San Juan Counties. After many years of service, Al retired from Scouting and is again, with the help of his sons, in the shoe-repair business.
"I get most of my stuff out of people's garages," Gaudio said. But he also receives many gifts from visitors to the museum. A women recently visited the museum and noticed that there wasn't anything representing her native Denmark.
"The woman returned to Denmark," he said, "and sent a complete Cub Scout uniform to me for Christmas."
Al Gaudio's Scout Museum displays everything from neckerchiefs (he has more than 200 from throughout the world) to discontinued items such as Air Scout and Sea Scout uniforms.
"See this case," Gaudio said. "This has all the Scout handbooks printed in America from 1910 on." He also has several copies of Boy's Life as far back as 1928.
One of the charming aspects of touring the museum is hearing all the stories Big Al has to tell - like the story of the first Scout Jamboree in 1935, which was never held.
"There was an outbreak of polio that year," he said, "so President (Franklin D.) Roosevelt sent all the Scouts home. That is how it got the name The Ghost Jamboree."
In fact, Big Al's museum is so full of Scouting history and treasures it almost overwhelms the visitor. When Big Al takes tours through he figures he's good for about one hour of talking, even though he says he could do a whole lot more.
"The Cub Scouts last about 15 minutes, the Scouts about a half hour and the adult leaders a little longer than that," he said.
One wall in the museum is dedicated to Boy Scouting's founder, Lord R.S. Baden-Powell. Items on display include everything from Baden-Powell's Christmas cards to a replica of the Kudo Horn he had in South Africa.
Big Al, also known as "Trader Al," has pen pals all over the world who trade everything from the smallest button to complete uniforms. When a local distributor of Scout uniforms went out of business, the owner gave Gaudio several complete sets of brand new uniforms.
"I trade these uniforms for others, with people all over the world," he said. "One of my closest friends is from Italy."
He called his museum the Scouting Museum because he doesn't just cater to Boy Scouts. He also has a big collection of Girl Scout memorabilia.
"I had to have the Girl Scouts in this museum, my daughter was one," he said.
Al Gaudio's Scouting Museum was incorporated in 1986, and is open for guided tours by appointment only. A $1 donation per person is requested. For more information, call 375-7236.