This site was created originally to answer a series of questions about the Boy Scouts of America's many cloth emblems which represented national, regional and local Council awards. We call them "Square knots" but some of them are not "square knots" nor are they "knots" at all.
In 1991, shortly after I returned from serving during the First Iraqi War (Operation Desert Storm), I enrolled myself in one of those online classes that were just dreams of people out there. The topic of the class: "Hypertext Markup Language and How it Would Change the World."
I took the class but became bored by it...who in their right mind would want to download pages of textual information from someone else's site, I asked myself. I already knew how to program using Digital's Command Language and was already building small menus for students and staff members on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University. So, the new HTML code wasn't really exciting me. I quit the class but I retained the instruction which was taught electronically.
A year or so later, in a discussion on Scouts-L, a group of Scouters all splintered off and formed a new group, called E-Scouts, to concentrate on this new markup text computer language and how we could all use it for Scouting. A year and a half after that, I found myself building my first website. I built it by hand -- there were very few HTML programs out there, and most of them ran within Windows, which I was not using at the time. Each bracket, every codecolor, and the backgrounds were very, very pale. I posted it to America Online™ which had just started their "community" personal websites and FTP access.
The year was 1993 and that first website answered a simple question:
"What do all of those knots on your shirt represent?"
That original site developed into The Tree, my personal site (and perhaps the site where you started from to find this site from...I hope so!)!! The Tree was (and still is to a large extent) a truly "I love me" site, full of stuff that nobody really wanted to know about. How I got married and divorced. Twice What do my kids look like. Who am I seeing now and why I love her so. What do I do for a livelyhood. See, you're already getting bored...*smiling*
What kept people coming back to that site, however, was NOT the stuff about me. It was instead the stuff about how to wear, earn, receive and nominate someone for one of those "square knots". I had to revise the site twice because it became such a hit with online Scouters, that frequently their comments about "not being able to read or download the images" filled my email box more than most others.
In 1996, I reintroduced the Insignia Site to the world as a large branch off The Tree. The Tree has been "replanted" twice since then; the last time in 1998 when my family moved to the Twin Cities area. It had to be renamed because in 2006 the BSA would provide their own version of their Insignia Guide online and I wanted to avoid confusing my site with theirs -- so it became the "Badge and Uniform Site".
By the end of the summer of 2009, The Tree will be "grafted", "replanted" and "fed" more food to continue to make it one of the most popular personal Scouting sites on the web. The Badge and Uniform Site is the MOST POPULAR part of The Tree (according to the stats kept on this website. More people go to the Badge and Uniform Site FIRST and then discover other parts of The Tree. The second most popular part? The military branch. Go figure!) With the assistance of many other Scouters, The Unofficial Uniform and Insignia Site continues to grow and branch out almost to a "tree" of its' own. Much of this has to do with the help and support of Mike Kauffman, the Webmaster of the Meritbadge.com website and the board of directors of the US Scouting Service Project. Mike allowed me to link his pages of how to earn the various training awards to my descriptions and color scans. The US Scouting Service Project later linked the ENTIRE SITE (graphics and all!) to their excellent resources. Other Scouters have contributed by providing full-color scans of various patches that I have given credit to them by. Because my personal Scouting collection is small, those other Scouters have truly helped ALL of us by providing those images and in some cases, descriptions on what the item is and how it is earned in *their neck of the woods*.
The Tree site continues to grow because of your "watering" and "feeding it" and my careful "pruning and cultivating it." You have asked questions directly to me, through Scouts-L, Arrow-L, Patch-L, LDS-L; on GEnie, CompuServe, AOL and the Imagination Network; within rec.scouting, rec.scouting.issues, rec.scouting.usa, and rec.hobbies; and through the forwarding of questions from BSA professionals, volunteers and parents to me with the note "I don't know, but I betcha if anyone does, it would be Mike Walton...I'm forwarding this to you...." Thank you, one and all, for your questions and your comments!
As a result, both my personal ArmyMan site and the Badge and Uniform Site will carry separate "uniform resource locators" or URLs to make it easier for people to find that information.
Remember, while the information contained on those pages may reflect current BSA uniforming and insignia policies and procedures, the Badge and Uniform Site is NOT maintained, reviewed nor "sanctioned" by the BSA nor the BSA's Subcommittee on Uniforming and Insignia Policies. The content here is given to you on the same basis as if you called me on the phone or ran into me at a Roundtable meeting and asked those same questions. Please don't use this site as a sole source in arguing "this is what National says" with your fellow Scouters or the local Council; the official guide as to what "National says" is the Insignia Guide. Every unit should have a copy and definately, every Commissioner should make it a part of their "personal Scouting notebook or binder!"
From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for allowing me to be of service to each of you. I hope that within these pages and those linked to them, that you find the answers to your questions. That you find comfort knowing that you're not the "only one out there." That you get a giggle or full laugh from some of the stories. That you find ways to be of service to others. If not, you know how to reach me!
I have to thank two special people. First, my second former wife, Jessica. There has been many long evenings in which she waited patiently for me to come to bed, only to give up and let "the computer win"; seldom did she get angry or upset because she realized why I spend the extra hours looking up material, or typing and retyping various items, or on the phone running up our long distance bill to listen to impassioned pleas for help -- or just to vent -- and those phone calls using my electronic Rolodex to gather answers; or creating HTML code which sometimes baffled me as to why it didn't work. She truly loved me and what I attempted to do for others, and for that, I thank her so very much for being the woman worth "several dozen brand new top-of-the-line computer systems"!
The other person is that woman who started all of this by asking the question about the "square knots", Allison deBuke, at that time a Scouter and a member of one of the rec.scouting USENET newsgroups. She was the one who gave me feedback on my four pages of website stuff way back then and asked "What's the significance of all of those knot badges on your shirt -- does that mean you're an expert in tying various knots or does that mean that you've been in Scouting for some lenght of time. I'm curious because I've never seen someone with such a well-decorated uniform shirt before..." Ally was the person who planted the seed for The Tree. Her questions -- not just about Scouting and my uniform shirt but also about my life and "What am I doing now?" made this from a little four-page site to the close to 200 pages its now sitting at. She would make a GREAT "Friend" on my Facebook page! (this page was last updated on 8 May 2009 by Mike Walton)
Here's hoping you and your unit have a great Scouting experience! Stay warm, dry, and loved and don't forget to always ask to be of service.
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