Kids were tougher back then

Posted by Ken Campbell May 21, 2010 0 Comment 1123 views

There are a couple of stories behind the naming of Mount Tom. At 7,048 feet, Tom is one of the more prominent peaks in the Mount Olympus neighborhood, though it doesn’t see nearly as much traffic. (Which, when you consider how few climbers attempt the peninsula’s namesake peak, means that Tom is practically ignored.)

One of the possible sources of the name comes from a Boy Scout outing back in 1914, led by Edmond S. Meany, Seattle’s Grand Poobah of Scouting at the time. The large group was traversing a portion of what would later come to be the National Park when Meany told them that he would have the peak named for the first one of the bunch who made it to the top. 13 year-old Tom Martin (who would one day become Washington’s State Treasurer), beat out his companions for the honor and Meany, true to his word, hung his name on the mountain.

I cannot say whether this version of reality is unimpeachable truth – there is at least one other possible explanation for the name that involves a Land Office surveyor named Tom Hammond – but regardless of its veracity, the Tom Martin story is an amazing tale of an event that could never happen today, for a number of reasons.

First of all, to tell a group of kids, “Hey, I’ll name this mountain for the first one to make it up there,” is something no Scoutmaster will ever say again. The peaks have all been named, for one thing, but just thinking about the melee that the ascent must have become after Meany’s pronouncement would make any lawyer see negligence. I can only imagine the legal circus that would result if Scouts of today were injured in the course of trying to be the first to top out on an unclimbed summit. I’m sure there were less lawyers back then, along with a heightened sense of personal responsibility, which made the race to the top seem more acceptable. Between the abject whining of parents and the unquenchable appetites of the lawyers, such races ended some time ago.

I worry sometimes that kids have become too sedentary, that TV, video games and the internet, combined with Big Macs and high fructose corn syrup have conspired to make kids excessively flabby and devoid of imagination. That’s the pessimistic side of me – the “glass completely empty” side – but I worry about it all the same. Would little Tommy Martin have made it up to the summit of a mountain, any mountain, if he’d had an X-Box back in camp?

Kids were tougher back then. Adults were tougher too.

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