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BASEMENT MUSEUM IS TRIBUTE TO BOY SCOUTS

Combine a love for collecting and a love for scouting and, if you let things get out of hand, you wind up with a Boy Scout museum.

That's what happened to Armando "Army" Leonetti of West Seneca. He conducts tours of his basement museum for area Scout troops and is thinking of expanding to make room for the ever-growing collection.

"I show the kids the fun of collecting and teach them about the history of scouting," explained Leonetti, 56. "I probably get about 100 visitors a year."

There are thousands -- perhaps 10,000 -- items of every imaginable description neatly displayed, some in lighted revolving cases.

Patches by the hundreds, neckerchiefs, neckerchief slides, belt buckles, glasses, cups, mugs, knives, cameras, first-aid kits, flashlights, eating utensils, dolls -- anything you can imagine with the Boy Scout logo.

One of the patches is from what was said to be the first Scout Jamboree in 1935 in Washington. President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the event canceled because of a polio outbreak, and it didn't take place until two years later, Leonetti explained.

Some of the items are no longer produced, such as Boy Scout shoes, or -- no surprise -- official Boy Scout ash trays.

He has all 13 volumes of the Boy Scout handbook and Boys Life magazines dating back to 1916.

One of the highlights of the collection is an original Boy Scout uniform from 1913, complete with "Smokey the Bear" hat and a jacket with removable buttons so they wouldn't get squashed in the wringer washers of the day.

There is a special edition .22-caliber rifle that Winchester produced to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the organization in 1910.

Speaking of money, Leonetti said he doesn't know how much he's spent on the collection, other than "it's more than I want to admit."

Leonetti said he started collecting in 1952 when he was a Boy Scout.

He left scouting after a few years but got involved again as an adult leader when he was 21 and married and started collecting again.

He started out displaying a few things in the basement and, well, one thing led to another.

The retired Bethlehem Steel worker is the only scoutmaster Troop 483, sponsored by Reserve Hose Company, has ever had. He also works part-time as an administrator for the Greater Niagara Frontier Council of the Boy Scouts.

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