by J.B. Hyppolite
Ann Perrone, a computer teacher at Germantown Friends School, has been involved with the Germantown community for many years, but now Ms. Perrone is on a mission to provide an endless heartbeat through Germantown via various community projects, specifically the Boy Scouts.
“There’s only one other major scout troop in Germantown now,” said Ann. “Back in the day there were probably 15 or 20 troops. Almost every church had one, but today there are large portions of Philadelphia with no scout troops at all. I’ve always lived in either Germantown or Mt. Airy. I like the diversity, but I also feel that in terms of scouting it has more need.”
Ann started recruiting area boys for her new Scout Troop 1719 last August and held the troop’s first meeting last Sept. 29 at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown (FUMCOG). She chose the number 1719 because the 17th letter of the alphabet is Q, and the 19th is S, which together represent an abbreviation for “quarterstaff.”
“We specialize in something I think I’ve invented called quarterstaff drill,” said Ann. A quarterstaff is a pole-like weapon made from the hard wood of a tree split, usually with a pointed tip at each end. The boys use their hiking sticks as the quarterstaffs. According to Ann, many years ago there were drill teams who performed similarly to what Marines do when they drill with rifles. That’s what Ann’s troop does but with quarterstaffs. “We are calling ourselves the Philadelphia Quarterstaff Scouts.”
Ann was inspired in 2010. As a Scoutmaster at a national Jamboree she was greatly impressed by a group of Trinidadian Boy Scouts at a National Jamboree who played steel pans (steel drums). “They were well behaved,” she said, “and they worked together really well. I thought, ‘Wow, I’d really like to start a troop like that with some kind of special focus.” Ann quickly realized that having a quarterstaff drill would be inexpensive and would require the boys to cooperate and trust each other.
After practicing for weeks, Troop 1719 performed their quarterstaff drill for the first time at FUMCOG on Sunday, Feb. 13. Troupe 1719 also engages in the more traditional aspects of Scouting, such as camping trips, a skiing trip, service projects and a week at Camp Resica Falls in the Poconos this June.
Ann got involved in the Boy Scouts after seeing the positive effect it had on her son. One thing she particularly likes is that it provides an atmosphere free of bullying. “In Scouting nobody is ever riding the bench,” she observed. “Everybody is pushed to go as fast as they can and achieve, whatever their abilities, and to see the dynamics of what it takes to be a leader.”
Ann visits three units (or troops) on a monthly basis and trains adults in advanced scouting. She is also an adviser for an honor society called The Order of The Arrows. Ann has been a member of FUMCOG since she was a teenager. She is also on the board of the Germantown Relief Society, a small charity that dispenses money for people who need medicine, clothing, bus fare, etc.
Ann has been teaching at GFS for 35 years. She has been teaching computer skills to first and fifth graders for 15 years. “I really like the freedom teachers have to design parts of their own curriculum,” said Ann, who created the computer position at GFS 15 years ago. “After I got a degree in instructional technology, they said, ‘Hey, I think we need a computer teacher here,’ and I agreed, so I switched over from classroom teaching to teaching computers.”
Perrone was born in Kansas City, MO, but came here as a child. She graduated from Girls High School in 1970, attended Beloit College in Wisconsin and earned a degree in Instructional Technology at Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science (now Philadelphia University). Her husband, Steve Perrone, is a Scoutmaster for a troop in Springfield, Delaware County. Ann’s son, Eric Brachwitz, is currently teaching English in Japan. Area residents may have heard of Ann’s mother, Clarice Herbert, who was the executive director of the Germantown YWCA and is featured on the mural on the side of the old Germantown YWCA building.
Ann welcomes anyone who’s interested in her troop to visit FUMCOG on Wednesday nights at 6:45 p.m. Boys in Troop 1719 must be between the ages of 11 and 14. For more information, 484-843-1719.