About this section

The Scout neckerchief has been a part of the uniform since 1916, but became more popular after the high collar coats were discontinued in 1920. Woven “Turk's head” slides were available in the 1920’s but were not very popular. An official metal slide was first available in 1934 and special colored Turks head slides were available for the 1937 Jamboree and 1939 Worlds Fair. Starting in about 1940 scouts were encouraged to develop, often carve, unique neckerchief slides. Slides fell out of favor as some troops discontinued the use of neckerchiefs in the late 1990’s.Many men who were scouts 1950-1990 have a slide they carved among their souvenirs.
Boy Scout with Carved Slide
Hand carved neckerchief slides reached their peak in the 1950-60’s. Boys Life had a Slide of the Month column each issue. Woodcarving merit badge was a popular pursuit. A cottage industry developed with individuals developing blanks and selling them while teaching woodcarving at camps or regional events. Neckerchief slides were hot trade items at Jamboree’s. Among the pioneers and the best-known carver of the era was Ed Choby of Pittsburg, PA. He was a prolific artist, developing his own designs, teaching woodcarving, making blanks for others to carve as well as producing inexpensive finished slides.

Through my friendship with Bruce Shelley I became acquainted with the work of Choby. Bruce wrote to Choby as a Scout in the early 1960’s and bought slides from him. Years later he became interested in his carvings and began collecting them. Bruce has done some incredible research, meeting with Choby’s relatives, documenting the Choby style, and cataloguing his works. Bruce believes that Choby was an American folk artist that deserves to be remembered. I am delighted to host Bruce’s research on my bsainsignia.com website. Choby slides are Scouting collectibles, although I believe individuals who collect Americana or folk art could also be interested. It’s a unique art form that might become unknown in a later era. Thanks, Bruce, for your research and allowing others to enjoy it.

This is an abbreviated introduction to the much larger research project that Bruce Shelley continues to advance. He has created an archive available on a CD for the benefit of the family and others that includes extensive documentation of slides, blanks, carving instructions, catalogs, and a great many woodcarvings unrelated to Scouting.

Bruce was interviewed by TSPA (Roy More) about ten years ago about Choby slides. It’s still relevant And you might care to check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Vb6xlA4deg 
Contact Bruce at shelleyotte@comcast.net.

Ed Choby

Ed Choby was a first generation American from a Slovak coal mining family living in Patton, PA. His father was adamant that Ed would never work in the mines, except perhaps to earn college funds. Ed commuted 60 miles to St Vincent's College in Latrobe, PA. With his pre-law degree he attended Duquesne University, but did not finish Law School. He taught at Duquesne Prep School and later took a job at Catholic Charities. He volunteered at the Stephen Foster Community Center and used his law background to help boys in trouble. He met his wife Kay while working at Catholic Charities and they wed in 1936. The union produced three children.

Ed first tried photography as an activity for the boys he was mentoring but found it too expensive. He next tried woodcarving and discovered he had a talent for it. He worked with old dental tools provided by a brother and scrap sugar pine from a neighbor who worked in a steel mill pattern shop.

His work at the Community Center included getting boys involved in Scouting. A Scout leader saw one of Ed’s carvings and asked Ed if he could carve neckerchief slides. From producing blanks for carving for demonstrations he evolved to supplying blanks to Scout summer camps.

Ed Choby was a dedicated family man. His family worked in the business. His daughter Jane was especially active in every aspect of the business and is an accomplished woodcarver.

In 1954, following a family meeting, Ed gave up his counselor position to pursue his wood carving and slide business full time. He was successful until his death in September 1988.

Ed Choby AdvertizementChoby was the earliest carver of note associated with Scouting. His first advertisement appeared in Boys Life in November, 1948. In a newspaper article it is claimed that by the early 1950’s he had taught at least the beginning of wood carving to over 5000 Scouts at camps in the greater Pittsburgh area.

He was one of the few carvers who would sell beautifully finished handmade slides at very inexpensive prices. Ultimately he offered over 150 different slides and would develop unique slides on demand. Choby traveled extensively to scouting events, camporees, OA Area Conferences, almost anywhere Scouts gathered and might be interested in carving.

Like many artists, Choby developed a distinctive style over his career that makes his work recognizable. He was so prolific over the 40-50 years that he carved, that there is a large body of work in existence, helping to make it collectible.

He was an active teacher and evangelist for wood carving. He traveled to Scout camps to teach carving for a day, often with his daughter or another family member as assistants. It is estimated that at his peak Choby was selling 100,000 blanks a year.
ed-choby
 
Ed Choby with a large Indian Chief carving. He was recognized locally in numerous articles within the greater Pittsburgh newspapers. He had displays in business windows and was a celebrity within the Pittsburgh Scouting community.
Sampling of Bruce Choby Slides
 
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Paul Myers Goshen, Indiana
gimogash@comcast.net