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 ;-).

6 thoughts on “The Explorer’s Club”

  1. I too was in Commander Whitehall’s Explorer’s Club or World Explorers Program. I have fond memories of the anticipation of waiting for the mail to come from the Commanders Club. I still have some of the records as well as some of the gifts you talk about on your blog. Thought I would share some photos of the records as well as some of the gifts with you but not sure how to put pictures on here?

  2. What a delight it was to receive those packages. The only thing I still have is my Explorers Club Pin. In addition to the pan pipes, pipette, and drum, I recall a pair of woven sandals and a clothe covered folding pencil holder. My favorite was the abacus which I learned how to use. One thing I never figured out was this reed-like thing w/ large brown flattish-like bean things stacked on each other at the top (two or three) w/ a string w/ 1/2 bean cut open and scooped out and dry-couldn’t understand what it was for. I just remembered, I still have this tiny dried red bean w/ a stopper in it and inside are very tiny carved ivory animals. So w/ my pin, that makes two things I still have. The booklets and records are long gone, but I still recall Commander Whitehall’s voice on those thin records: “This is Commander Whitehall coming to you from……………………..” Wonderful memories of a time I felt very special to be singled out to get that package each month.

    1. I just found my World Explorer books and trinkets when cleaning out my mother’s house. Alas no records.

      The thing with the large brown flattish beans was a spinning top/yo-yo-like toy. You held onto the bottom bean and pulled the string and then let it rewind by itself and pull again.

      I still have that with the pan pipe, the wooden recorder, a carved zebra?, tiny wooden shoes, a wooden finger puppet, the pencil holder thing and a couple others.

  3. Thank you for posting such a great childhood memory!! What stands out is the little bead with the ivory elephants… and something about some ink you could make…..I remember how the Explorer’s Club package was so mysterious and I couldn’t wait to open it. Wish I still had these treasures~!

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