The Explorer’s Club

Basic Pan pipes, like I received from Commander Whitehall

I’m always hesitant to write about more obscure memories. After all, just three months after putting this site up for the first time, we already have a nice amount of traffic in the form of reminiscing Baby Boomers. I don’t want to discuss things they don’t remember, but on the other hand, maybe they’ve been looking for info about the same obscure factoid. So here goes.

I was unable to find ANYTHING on the web about Commander Whitehall’s Explorer’s Club. So I’m operating on memory alone. Fortunately, my memory is pretty good.

Mrs. Cox, my third grade teacher, introduced the class to the Explorer’s Club. It cost about $5.00 a month, and a child would receive a box in the mail filled with genuine treasures from all over the world.

When your eagerly anticipated package would arrive, you would rip it open to discover a flexi-disc record, a brochure with pictures of the featured land, and, best of all, a trinket from that country!

I was in the club for six or seven months before dad decided that $5.00 a month was too much to spend. But during those months, I learned a tremendous amount about other nations.

Commander Whitehall would narrate the record, filled with sounds of the land he was in at the time in the background. It was killer stuff, and it wasn’t unusual to listen to the recording ten of fifteen times while playing with my monthly treasure.

I can recall three of the items I received. Apparently, Commander Whitehall was actually touring these countries, because all of the ones mentioned during my too-short membership were in South America. I got a set of pan pipes from Peru that looked just like the pictured ones. I also got a “pipette” as he called it, a miniature non-functioning pipe with a person’s face carved in the bowl. And I got a little drum-on-a-stick that you operated by twirling between your hands. Sadly, I don’t remember what countries the latter two delights came from.

I also recall that dad got into a fight with the Explorer’s Club when he tried to quit. They sent a final package that he didn’t want to pay for. All he got was letters demanding payment, because we were living in rural Missouri at the time, and didn’t have a phone yet!

But despite dad’s bad experience with Commander Whitehall’s Explorer’s Club, it is still a precious memory for me, and it made me curious enough about geography that I grew up to be one of those exceptional adults who can pick out South America on a world map ;-).

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