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Adventurous Boy Scouts used drainage tunnels to stay out of trouble

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Proclaiming themselves the Huck Finns of New Braunfels, Carroll Hoffmann and Doyle Krueger recently talked about their exploratory activities under the city streets. Mark Twain, author of “Huckleberry Finn” described Huck in this way:

“There were things which he stretched, but mostly he told the truth”.

The truth is, the trips underground started when Hoffmann and Krueger were in the fourth grade at Carl Schurz School. They were joined by fellow explorers Bobby Govier and Allen Pittman. It was 1941 and with about 4,000 people in town, children had more freedom to wander around. Boys ran around barefooted and as Hoffmann says,”with a marble in one pocket and a rock in the other”. His mother told him that he could go barefooted when he spied a scissortail in the spring. That solved a question that I have had for years. Why were the boys in our class pictures always barefooted, but not the girls? You guessed it, it was the macho thing to do – like stepping on a rusty nail.

Drainage tunnels were located at low spots throughout town. These boys would crawl inside and follow the tunnels. The entrance sloped down and branched off in different directions, eventually spilling out into a river or a creek. Their favorite tunnel emptied into the Comal Creek. This was the dark world of the unknown with many hazards. They would hit their heads on the overhead waterlines and cut their feet on broken glass. (They should have worn shoes)

Few streets were paved and those that were, had the pavement in the center and gravel on both sides. Lots of run-off water soaked in the ground, but the excess filtered through the gravel and so the water left inside the tunnel was cleaner.

These Huck Finns knew when they had traveled under an intersection because they could hear the cars overhead and they particularly recognized the sound of the only motorcycled policeman. That was important!

This enterprising group of boys plus about 25 more at junior high age became part of Boy Scout Troop #122. Here’s where their knowledge of the tunnels really paid off:

There was a group of older boys in Troop #122 called Senior Patrol Boy Scouts (Norman Krause, Jack Krueger, Kenneth Ikels, Carl Liebscher, and Hilmar Karbach) Right after their joint scout meeting, a game of cat and mouse began, the younger boys being the mice. The chase would commence downtown, around town, and into the neighborhoods. If the older boys got too close, the younger ones would brazenly go up to someone’s house, knock on the door or just walk in.(People didn’t lock their doors in those days).These actions scared off the cat, so the mice were safe for a while.

Reemerging after the coast was clear, they would make their way to their favorite tunnel and hide. The Senior Patrol didn’t know about the tunnels (or they were too smart to engage in that activity).

The older boys grew up, went off to college and the younger ones abandoned the tunnels and turned into the first Sea Scout Troop in town. Skippers Ray Roth, Bob Tays, and Fred Reinarz had their hands full, let me tell you. The leaders knew they had to keep these guys busy, so they got a small sailboat that they took to Lake Dunlap.

Every week-end the boys were out sailing. Very close to where the Sea Scouts launched their boat was Baetge’s Camp where the Mariner Girl Scout Troop met, perfecting their survival skills in a little rowboat. The Sea Scouts came along, dumped the rowboat over and over and over and took away the oars. And so the game continued, but a good time was had by all!

L-R Norman Krause, Jack Krueger, Kenneth Ikels, Carl Liebscher, and Hilmar Karbach, 1944.