PROVO — Brent F. Ashworth begins to unpack his Boy Scout collection. His descriptions fly by as the artifacts pile up on a large round coffee table in his store, B. Ashworth's Rare Books and Collectibles.
"I've been collecting Scouting stuff all my life," Ashworth says.
Ashworth is known for collecting in Utah. His store's new location is in Provo Town Square at 55 N. University Ave. The walls and display cases are full of autographed photographs, rare Mormon and American history items, first edition books and ephemera. It is half museum and half living room.
Onto the coffee table the Boy Scout memorabilia accumulates in layers. Neckerchief slides spin a little as Ashworth puts them down. Three Utah Boy Scout coin medallions are set next to them. Out comes a Silver Buffalo Award, followed by another. Here is an Eagle medal. And another. And another. Here is a Silver Antelope. Ashworth apologizes that he forgot to bring a Silver Beaver (he was awarded one himself in 2006).
Ashworth loves to collect things. "I was a collector before I was a Scout."
He holds up one of the first Eagle Scout medals — one of a batch of only 300 "T.H. Foley" models made in 1915.
"I grew up on the stories of Scouting," Ashworth says.
Ashworth's grandfather, Paul P. Ashworth, was on an early Scouting committee for the LDS Church when it began sponsoring Scouting in 1913. "He knew President George Albert Smith and President Heber J. Grant and those that served on the original committee," Ashworth says.
He proudly opens a Scouting Jamboree book that belonged to President Smith to show the prophet's signature. He grabs a journal belonging to "Utah's first Scoutmaster," Dr. L. D. Pfouts from Payson. Pfouts took his troop on a trip to Washington, D.C., in 1935 for the first National Scouting Jamboree. While the Utah Scouts were en route, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt canceled the Jamboree because of a polio outbreak. They toured New York City instead.
Ashworth opens an old military ammo case on the floor and pulls out autographed letters about Scouting from FDR, President Ford ("Our first Eagle Scout president") and President Carter.
He has letters signed by Robert Baden-Powell the founder of the international Boy Scouting movement.
Belt buckles clink. Scrapbooks open. Certificates. Diaries. Games. Posters. Pocketknives. Photographs. Coloring books. Watches. "I've got lots of material. I've got rooms full of stuff," Ashworth says.
Ashworth's father, Dell, was the first Eagle Scout in the Waterloo Ward in Salt Lake in the 1930s. Ashworth's mother, Bette, was his Cub Scout leader in "Den 1" on Provo's East Bench.
"I was just always fascinated and I ended up swapping badges and things like that at Scout camps," Ashworth says.
Fistfuls of badges pile up. Ashworth apologizes for not bringing some sashes. "I've got over 1,000 kerchiefs," Ashworth says.
The pile of memorabilia continues to grow. Things worth pennies sit on top of things that are worth thousands.
"This is my pride and joy," Ashworth says as he pulls a small, red paperback book out of a protective book box. "This is the little book that started Scouting and most people have never seen it or heard of it."
The book is "Aids to Scouting for NCOs and Men" by Baden-Powell, who was a hero of the Anglo-Boer War. Ashworth says the 1899 book became very popular with boys who self-organized into troops.
In another book box is the six-part fortnightly "Scouting for Boys" — which Ashworth says is the only complete copy of the early handbook in the United States. "Most Scouting things are not that expensive," Ashworth says. "This was very expensive. I bought this from a book dealer. I've had it for over 25 years, but I think I spent $15,000 on it then. It's just a very rare piece. You never see it."
Ashworth points to a framed case that has all the American Boy Scout Handbooks — from the 1910 "original edition" to the 1960s when he, following the tradition of his father, became an Eagle Scout. His seven Eagle Scout sons continue that tradition.
The collection was displayed in a museum in Provo from 2000 to 2008. The museum was named after the oldest living Boy Scout at the time, George E. Freestone. Freestone and the museum are now gone.
Ashworth is thinking about opening another museum in St. George after he is "fully retired." Alternatively, he is hoping the Utah National Parks Council (the governing group that oversees about 50,000 Boy Scouts from central Utah down into Arizona) will accept the collection.
"I think I've got the largest Scout collection in Utah — I've never seen a bigger one," Ashworth says. "It needs to be displayed somewhere."
One at a time, Ashworth quietly places the medals, neckerchief slides, autographed letters and photographs back into file folder boxes and ammo cases.
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E-mail: [email protected]