History: 1914 – 1958, Thomas W. Chinn, Director Troop Three Alumni Association
The Boy Scouts of America had been around for just four years when 13 year old Chingwah Lee and his friends came across a Scout manual in the Chinese Methodist Church play yard at 920 Washington Street in San Francisco.
The year was 1914, three years before the San Francisco Scout Council would be officially organized. In San Francisco’s Chinatown, a group of eight young boys thumbed though the pages of a worn Boy Scout Handbook in the play yard of the Chinese Methodist Church. The boys were thoroughly intrigued and inspired by what they saw in this new youth movement, something that was non-existent in Chinatown at the time. Eagerly, they studied the sketches, the diagrams, and read the printed words. From that moment, they knew they wanted to be Boy Scouts.
These eight young boys, the charter members of Troop 3, were Nelson Wong, Tim Wong, Ching Lum, Bing Moy his brother Stephen Moy, Chingwah Lee and his younger brothers King Lee and Edward Lee. It was Chingwah Lee’s interest in Scouting that had prompted him to obtain the handbook and it was he who sparked the interest of Scouting in the other boys. They invited Lim Kwong, an engineering student attending the Mt. Tamalpais Military Academy to be Scoutmaster and B.Y. Chu, a progressive Secretary of the Chinese YMCA, was nominated as the Troop Advisor. Troop 3 was the first all Chinese troop in the World and Chingwah Lee would later serve as Scoutmaster for over thirty years.
The year 1958 is the 44th Anniversary of the founding of Troop 3, Boy Scouts of America, San Francisco. Officially founded in May, 1914, when it received its first charter from the Oakland Boy Scout Council, the Troop was in existence for about a couple of years before the San Francisco Boy Scout Council came into being. Troop 3 is the oldest active Boy Scout troop in San Francisco (and as of 2022 the second oldest in the United States)
To our founders, we owe a debt of gratitude. The first few formative years of the troop were times of hardship, indeed. One must remember that these were young sons of parents born in China, in whom the idea of camping, outdoor life, and time consumed for meetings were for the idle rich, not for boys of hard working families! And money, it was unheard of to seek that from parents for Scouting purposes. There were no playgrounds, swimming facilities, or the meeting places such as are available for present day troops. Then came troubled times when Europe was in a turmoil, eventually plunging us into World War I. Even as the Scouts grew to work and play together, they also found time to enter into community service together. They made themselves useful in dozens of different ways, doing their good turns and deeds with the cheerful aplomb of all good Scouts.
During 1917 -18, when the influenza epidemic threatened and when even hardy adults shrank from the task, Troop 3 Scouts were to be found hard at work distributing flu masks in the community, and running errands for those afflicted or in need of help. In the early ’20’s, the Scouts were to be found in constant demand, to serve as guides and messengers during big conventions in the city. Several times they were the recipients of loving cups bestowed upon them by grateful convention leaders. They were active in distributing literature and assisting in every way possible during National Safety Week, founded in the late ’20’s. From 1926 and for the next dozen years, the troop included athletics in their program. They were acknowledged champions in basketball and track for both lightweights and unlimited. What they lacked in weight, they more than made up in agility and teamwork. But the troop was not just an ordinary one of thirty-two boys.
By 1926 they were still the only [Chinese] Scout unit in the community, and had become such a magnet that more than 130 boys met in three different meeting places – the Chinese Y.M.C.A., the Congregational Church and the Methodist Church. From there the groundwork and teamwork were effected with such good purpose that now, more than thirty years later, the fruits of those labors are still being harvested in the form of the Troop 3 Alumni Association. In 1934, when a large number of Scouts had passed the age for active scouting, a group of them met and formed the Association, with the desire to continue the comradeship they had developed over the years, and to be a service organization to continue to develop and encourage the Scout movement in the community.
After Pearl Harbor, Alumni were to be found scattered throughout Uncle Sam’s armed forces as well as manning the home front. Many brilliantly distinguished themselves. Among those who stayed in the armed services, we have today Lt. Col. George Chow, who presently is Chief of the Joint Political Advisory Section of the Military Advisory and Assistance Group to Formosa. Almost all of those who served in the armed forces count as invaluable adjuncts of their military career, the training they received as Scouts. It is also a matter of pride to relate that many of its members served in the commissioned and non-commissioned ranks in the main.
After World War II, the Alumni Association became an even greater community asset as its members came home to assume innumerable positions of respect and honor, not only in community, but in city-wide affairs as well. It would take many more pages to list the accomplishments of all of the Alumni, but among these are: Samuel Jung, Associate City Planner, City and County of San Francisco; William Jow, Chief Sanitary Chemist, San Francisco Dept. of Public Works; a past President of Peninsula Association of Chinese Americans; Past President, International Toastmasters, Skyline Chapter of Burlingame; Dr. Edward L. Way, Professor of Pharmacology, University of California; Dr. Chang W. Lee, Lt. -Col., Medical Corp. and active leader in fraternal orders; Dr. Edwin Owyang, Past District Commander, American Legion and Past Commander of Cathay Post, American Legion; President of the Optimist Club, Chinatown Branch.
The Alumni membership includes an impressive list of occupations, as can be seen from the Roster in this Bulletin. It is needless to say that the Roster is far from complete. From the Association also came the necessary help to keep the active troop functioning during the war years and post war years when leadership was at a premium.
Chingwah Lee: Troop 3 Founding youth, Scoutmaster and Silver Screen Star:
Official recognition of the important part Troop 3 has played in the furtherance of Scouting was given to charter scouter and former scoutmaster Chingwah Lee who received the Silver Beaver award from the San Francisco Council in 1942. This is the highest honor that a local council can bestow upon an Adult leader in Scouting. Chingwah Lee would also
Troop 3, Feb 1915 Enrollment sheet
Troop 3, 1929 Charter, Chingwah Lee Scoutmaster
Troop 3, 1960 newspaper article
Order of the Arrow