By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
He had big ideas while growing up in Colby, setting as his goal to sing and dance professionally someday. So he started taking dancing lessons and got involved in every play and musical he could find.
Like so many boyhood dreams, however, life got in the way.
Robert Custer moved with his family when he was in eighth grade to WaKeeney, which didn't offer the same opportunities in tap dancing.
Not to be deterred, Custer improvised. He also loved plants and flowers, so he built a lean-to greenhouse when he was in high school, which turned into a lifelong business venture.
Then he got involved in scouting with his own children.
Now in his mid-50s, Custer's passions are family, scouting and flowers.
For anyone who thinks those last two don't exactly go together, just ask anyone who has bought an arrangement of flowers from the Vine Street Dillons or a parent of a Hays Cub Scout.
By the time Custer was a senior at Trego Community High School, he had moved his greenhouse downtown. He and his dad also bought a restaurant about the same time.
"I loved working all the time," said Custer, who ran his floral business during the day and worked at the restaurant at night.
Coincidentally, one of the waitresses caught his attention, and he and Gloria Weigel started dating and were married in 1983 and moved to Hays a few years later.
For years, the Custers celebrated their wedding anniversary during a day camp for Cub Scouts in the Hays area.
Custer, who has worked in several floral businesses in Hays, including the last 14 at Dillons, got involved in scouting when his oldest of four sons was in second grade.
"We went to a round-up, and there were about 10 parents showed up for this promotion," Custer said. "We were in the back row, and they said, 'We don't have any leaders. Would somebody like to volunteer?' Gloria looked at me and said, 'Don't you dare!' Well ..."
That was in the early 1990s, and Custer has served in numerous leadership roles ever since, including all the while the three younger boys -- the youngest is now a sophomore in high school -- were in Cub Scouts.
He stayed at the younger Cub Scout level even after his sons moved up to Boy Scouts, because "I enjoy the little guys," said Custer, the Cub Master for Pack 133, who also has other positions both at the district level and for the Coronado Area Council that includes six districts and spans north-central and northwest Kansas.
"They're like sponges," Custer said of the Cub Scouts, which includes youngsters in first through fifth grades. "They want to absorb everything you throw at them."
The entire Custer family became heavily involved in scouting, including his wife and the couple's only daughter, Courtney, who tried Girl Scouting one year.
"But she didn't like it because they didn't do the same things the Boy Scouts did," Custer said.
Custer didn't entirely give up his dream of singing and performing.
For years, he sang in the church choir at First Presbyterian Church in Hays, and until several years ago, he performed in summer musicals at Fort Hays State University.
He said he put that dream on hold because his children were "heavily involved in activities."
Besides scouting, the Custer siblings also played several sports in Hays Recreation Commission programs, where both Mom and Dad co-coached them.
With youngest son Conner close to reaching the Eagle Scout level, Custer knows the time is nearing when he once again could pursue his dream of performing.
"If the venue was right, I'd probably do it," he said.
"Although I'm old now," he added with a laugh.
Custer said he has a lot of years left of volunteering for the Scouts, something he plans to stay involved in "as long as I'm needed."
The same goes for being a florist.
"Flowers are my second love," he said. "It's become quite a passion of mine."
The Custers' wedding anniversary is June 4, which this year will be three days after the Cub Scout camp. So they will be able to celebrate their 30th anniversary by themselves.
"It won't be the same," Custer said. "It'll be one of the few times (their anniversary) isn't during day camp. I guess I'll have to take her out for dinner somewhere nice."