THE SCOUT JAMBOREE BOOK
THE next day the American jamboree crowd broke up and scattered in all directions for short tours before sailing for home. In our bunch were about ninety boys representing various sections of the United States.
On our way to London we stopped off to do some sightseeing in the Shakespeare country and vicinity. Even those of us who had thought of Sir Walter Scott as somebody who wrote books you had to read in school got a kick out of visiting Kenilworth Castle. As for those who just naturally revelled in Waverly novels and lapped up history as a cat laps cream, the sight of those magnificent ruins brought an unforgettable thrill. Even from the little that remains, the ancient glory of Kenilworth may easily be seen and imagined. A fine old chap at the castle gave us a splendid lecture on the history of the place.
From Kenilworth we rode to the birthplace of Shakespeare, Stratford-on-Avon. Here we saw the first editions of most of Shakespeare's plays and other articles that are closely connected with the life of the great bard. Of course we visited Anne Hathaway's cottage also and saw the memorial theater.
We boarded the buses again and were soon at Leamington. There we caught the train for London which we reached at about nine in the evening. On arrival some of the crowd were so tired they went straight to bed; but other fellows with more endurance went out and explored the city. Three of the gang were fortunate enough to meet a London Sea Scout and Skipper who drove his own little Austin Seven. This kind chap drove them all over the city, making a great finish to their first day of touring.
During the next day tours of London were taken by all of the Scouts. We explored the Tower of London from attic to dungeon, seeing about all that there was to see. We gazed at the stern but gaily hatted "Beefeaters" and watched the Tower Guard drill. We saw where this one and that one were imprisoned or beheaded, and learned how the old moat had been filled a few years ago by the overflow of the Thames.
One interesting yarn told about a prophecy concerning the death of a raven at the Tower that had been fulfilled in a strange manner. It seemed that there was an ancient belief concerning the ravens that lived at the Tower. The death of one of these birds portended the death of some one connected with the Tower. One day one of the ravens died. A few days later one of the soldiers at the Tower slipped away without leave. He managed to escape from one of the gates; but when he returned the gate was locked. He attempted to swim the moat and was drowned. Thus the ancient prophecy was fulfilled.
Within the Tower were the crown jewels of England's royalty and countless other relics of her long line of kings and queens. We gazed upon and marveled at each one of these treasures until it was time to leave. As we left one of the crowd walked up to one of. the King's guard at the entrance and inquired the time. The guard continued to stand, ramrod fashion, silent as a wooden soldier. Joe Walked back a bit, then returned and "accidentally" stepped on the guard's foot.
"Oh, excuse me!" he said.
The guard had to reply.
"Very well, sir," he muttered.
"Gee," said the Scout. "You are human, after all! That's all I wanted to know."
Leaving the Tower, we went to St. Paul's Cathedral where we saw as much as possible of that famous edifice which was built by Sir Christopher Wren. The most striking thing about it was its enormous dome. In the afternoon we visited Westminster Abbey. The guide pointed out the tomb of the Unknown Soldier of England and the grave of Ben Johnson. And we saw the final resting place of almost every king and queen that England ever had.
It was hard to get away from the Abbey which contained so much of interest but finally we did get off and drove to Crystal Palace in Sydendam; and on to Mitcham's Fair, London's great annual festivity.
The second day in London was "Free Day." During it we visited many places of interest, such as the museums, the parks, and Buckingham Palace which was the home of the King of England. Of course we made a point of seeing the famous "changing of the Guards" which takes place with great solemnity every day. The guards were impressive chaps, all over six feet, and wore scarlet coats, black trousers and tall black fur hats, know as "bearskins," which must have been about the hottest headgear ever invented. We also saw the changing of the Horse Guards mounted on their great black steeds and wearing magnificent shining, plumed helmets also astoundingly impassive expressions or rather lack of expression.
Finally the time came when we had to leave London and proceed on the next lap of our journey. We knew that there would be good things ahead! But I believe every one of us hated to leave England whose people had been so hospitable.
Our special contingent was going to Belgium. Another lot, comprising some of our good pals, were headed for Holland and left on the night boat for Harwich while we departed for Dunkerque.
One of the other gang sent us a long letter which showed what it was like in the dike country. Here is part of it:
"You bet we hustled in the morning to get our first view of Holland. When we arrived the sight that met our eyes was a typical Dutch scene. There before us was a hazy, misty, level country with some of the old windmills showing faintly through the fog. We were docked at a little town called 'Hook of Holland.' Here we caught a train for The Hague.
"From the train windows we could see the little Dutch homes in the distance. Here and there were cows feeding in the green pastures. Occasionally a farmer could be seen. And they were really wearing wooden shoes! I know that's the first thing you'd ask. Gee! How I wanted a pair myself. I made up my mind that would be the first thing I'd buy in Holland.
"Do you remember some of the Jamboree Scouts, who made a pre-jamboree tour of Holland, told us that the windmills were used to fan the cows?
"Of course we weren't quite green enough to swallow that; but anyway it is true that the windmills are used to pump water out of the land. Holland is below sea level and would be completely covered with water if it were not for the windmills.
"We ate a breakfast of rolls, butter and coffee at The Hague; then left on a street car for the little nearby town of Schevening. This place, located on the North Sea, is a very popular resort in Holland. The guide said we could go swimming there. We did. And, oh Boy, what a swim it was! Wish you fellows had been along. Our first ocean swim, and gee, how we rode those waves! And what salty water! But good things don't last long and we were soon on our way back to The Hague.
"We passed the famous Peace House, but viewed it only at a distance. We left it for Amsterdam that afternoon and arrived in time for a good look at the city before turning in. Amsterdam is a very beautiful place and has almost as many canals as it has streets. We bought a few souvenirs that evening but couldn't find any wooden shoes. Wasn't that tough?
"We left Amsterdam the next morning for a trip to the Isle of Marken which is located in the Zuyder Zee and is one of Holland's most typical settlements.
"After an hour's ride on a small steam tram, which resembled the Toonerville Trolley, we stopped at a town called "Brook." Our guide took us up a road to a little house where a Dutchman showed us how cheese was made in Holland. It was all very interesting especially when we got to sample the cheese.
"On our way back our eyes lit on a shop where wooden shoes were sold. Hot ziggidy, now we'd got 'em! A mad rush followed; and when the smoke of battle cleared away, every Scout had an armful of wood! Some had their shoes tied on a string; others were already wearing theirs. The arches in mine were not very comfortable, but I whittled them down until they felt fine.
"We got off the train at Edam and were transferred to a small house boat which was pulled along the canal by a man with a rope. At Volendam we really saw some Hollanders. just like you read about. Everyone wore wooden shoes and old fashioned costumes. As we walked along the street we could see wooden shoes outside the doors where they had been taken off before the wearers entered the house. I wonder if the shoes float off when it rains. Must look funny.
"The whole village came out to greet us, dressed in their best and very eager for us to take their pictures. After we had taken a few snapshots of the Volendamers we found out we were expected to pay them for the privilege! We didn't mind, however, since they were well satisfied with a dime. That is only four cents in our money I So it wasn't so bad a sort of a Dutch treat!
"After walking through town, we came to the edge of the Zuyder Zee where a sail boat was waiting to take us to the Isle of Marken, three miles away. It turned out to be a most interesting place. Nothing is raised there but hay on account of the salty soil. The people rely almost entirely on fishing for a living. We went into one of the Dutch houses and were shown the beds which were built in the walls. They also showed us a pair of beautifully carved wedding shoes, such as a Dutch boy would give his fiancee. When a Dutch girl reaches the age of eighteen she bobs her hair in the back. This is a sign that she's in the market for marriage. However, her husband must be an inhabitant of the island. We couldn't go into the matter too seriously; but we got a big kick out of trying to talk to the girls and we bought a whole raft of souvenirs from them.
"When we went back to Amsterdam we decided to go to the movies. So we found out at the hotel where a good theater was and away we went. We were pleasantly surprised to find that Ramon Navarro was showing in the 'Flying Fleet.' Oh boy a good old American picture! We entered the show and were met with stifling smoke. I believe everyone in there must have been smoking. But it was a beautiful theater with rows of colored lights around the balconies.
"We forgot the picture would be in Dutch. Gee, what funny looking words! When everyone else laughed at the picture, we had to sit there and wonder what was funny. Finally a man in front of us, who for some reason was wearing his hat, turned around and said in English, 'Want me to read it for you?'
" 'Sure,' we replied. So he read some of the words to us, much to the amusement of the people around us. We got the rest by watching the pictures."
But to get back to our own trip across the Channel. We had taken a boat train and were thinking how everybody always got sick crossing the Channel when the train slowed down and came to a stop. As we dropped our luggage on the platform to look around, a familiarly smelling breeze hit our noses and we knew that once more we were near salt water. After passing between the eagle eyes of two immigration inspectors who scanned our passports, we found ourselves installed on board the boat bound for Dunkerque.
By the time the deck under us had begun to throb most of us were in our bunks. With almost a heartache at leaving "Old England" and several mild pangs of misgiving concerning our prospects for the night, we went to sleep.
We awoke about seven o'clock in the morning. And, to our amazement, were not experiencing the slightest motion whatever! We jumped to the port holes of our cabins. First there was blank amazement on our faces and then with sheepish grins we walked away from the port. We might have known! The rim of each port hole framed the side of a wooden dock. On crossing to the other side of the boat all we could see was a calm harbor, warehouses and docks. We had crossed the Channel during the night and bad awakened without any sensational memories to speak for our experience.
But what did it matter? The Continent was at hand. We hurriedly made our toilet, jammed pajamas into our bags and rushed above for a first look at France. When we reached the dock we could see the uniformed customs inspectors waiting for us on the wharf. Proudly floating above the building was the Tri-Color. No sooner had we gotten a look at the countryside and had a breath of air than we were called below for breakfast.
This was our first sample of a Continental breakfast and we did not know whether we liked it or not. It is certain that dinner seemed all too distant when we had finished our allotment of bread, jam and coffee. As one boy expressed it his breakfast was "not worth a Continental." However, our stomachs were soon forgotten in the bustle and excitement of disembarking.
We were issued landing tickets which we handed to a uniformed gentleman with a mustachios. He stood at the gangplank and mumbled strange noises which probably meant "hurry up" or, in good American, "step on it." We soon found ourselves in a long room between winding counters where more uniformed inspectors shouted unintelligible things at us and, after marking our baggage with red chalk, waved us on. In the anteroom we dropped our baggage to change some money. Several of the boys thought they were quite rich after all, when, upon giving the change maker an American dollar bill, they received five paper five franc notes in return. Others, upon the advice of "well informed" friends, determined to change all theirs to Belgian money. The idea was that one got a little over thirty Belgian francs for a dollar, whereas he received only twenty five French francs. We forgot entirely that the Belgian franc was worth one cent less than the French. The trouble was that none of us knew very much about the money business at that stage of the game and had to take everybody's word for it.
We were soon in large buses driving away from the docks, through the town and eventually on a country road which ran alongside of a canal. Occasionally a long canal boat would glide past us, sometimes pulled by horses on the towpath and sometimes by men, and even by young girls. In one instance a lone woman skillfully maneuvered the long steering boom in the stern. Lining the edge of the road to our right was a long even row of tall slender Normandy poplars that continued mile after mile as we proceeded. The houses we passed were quaint old dwellings with sagging roofs and all clean as a pin.
We stopped at a little wayside Inn which also contained the quarters of the Belgian Customs officials. We got out to stretch our limbs and let the officer examine our baggage. A sign over the tavern door stated invitingly "English Spoken Here"; but when several of us tried to purchase chocolate we had to give it up as a bad job. The sign was unduly optimistic.
The examination was finished in short order and we were on our way again, but this time in Belgium. The scenery was different also in that we were passing through a country that had seen the devastation of war. Occasionally someone would spot what appeared to be concrete blocks with a slit running around three sides. These, the conductor explained, were built for use of machine guns during the war.
The houses in this part of our route were noticeably more modern in architecture and building materials. We surmised this was due to recent reconstruction that had replaced the old buildings which had been shelled and destroyed. Through the fields all around one could discern half filled trenches running in zigzag directions and connecting at points. We could see for miles because it is quite flat all through this part of Belgium and not a sign of a big tree could be found. Only the small ones that had been planted since the war and a few splintered stumps here and there were visible.
After a few hours of this type of scenery we struck a road along the seashore. The right side of the road sloped upward into a ridge of sand dunes along the top of which ran a series of the concrete dugouts such as we mentioned before. There were also battery positions that faced out to sea.
We stopped and climbed the dunes to examine one of these dugouts. The top and sides were covered with nicks and gouges in the concrete where shrapnel had struck. One of the fellows suddenly shouted from behind a dune that he had found a shell. When we had all rushed eagerly to him to see this relic of the war he nonchalantly exhibited a bit of broken seashell. What we didn't do to him!
We were soon off again and found ourselves shortly in the seaside town of Ostend. This is one of the famous summer watering places of Europe. As we drove slowly through it, we could see the summer inhabitants strolling among the cafes and amusement houses. The wide promenade along the sea wall was crowded with pleasure seekers from all parts of Europe, some in bathing costume, others in light summer clothes.
We stopped here in order to visit the famous Kursaal of Ostend noted for its great symphony concerts and musical gatherings. This hall would be quite a pleasant place for an afternoon concert since one could sit in a large room at a table and take his refreshment, listen to the music and look out through the large glass windows at the bathers on the beach all at the same time.
But we couldn't stop for leisurely amusement like this. We left Ostend and headed inland toward Bruges. After about an hour the tower of the Cathedral of Bruges could be seen and we soon arrived in what proved to be the quaintest little town on our tour. Our buses were perhaps the largest vehicles of their type in the city and took up most of the narrow streets as we passed on the way to the hotel.
The Van Eyke Hotel was one of the best in the city. And although it seemed to us to be located on a back street, in reality it was on one of the main thoroughfares. We got out of the buses and unloading our duffel, placed it in a pile in the courtyard. We then set about the more immediate task of satisfying the craving in our stomachs. Trays of French bread, cut in hunks, were set before us in the dining room and we were then served a cold platter lunch.
Our rooms having been assigned and baggage deposited in them, we separated from the hotel in small groups to see what novelty we could buy for our families and friends at home.
The town proved even more interesting than we had anticipated. A common type of vehicle we noticed was a two wheel pushcart that was designed somewhat like those used by banana vendors in American cities. The difference lay in the main center of locomotion. These carried under the tongue a round ring of steel through which a dog thrust his head and pushed, while also harnessed to the tongue of the cart. The gentleman in charge of the cart had only to keep it in the right direction by walking along behind holding the tongue handle. One couldn't help but admire the loyalty of the dog.
Several of us visited the main shops wherein tapestry, lace and bric-a-brac could be bought. After walking all afternoon on the rough cobblestones we could readily see the reason for the wooden shoes worn by the men and children.
The course of our wanderings finally brought us to the main square. This I was a great paved open space before the cathedral. Cafes with sidewalk tables that were scattered even out into the street surrounded it; and on one side stood rows of open horse cabs, or Victorias, waiting for fares. One could saunter across the square with complete impunity without the slightest fear of being run down.
Leaving the square we walked down a street to a shop where wooden shoes were sold. Like the fellow who wrote us from Holland, we were keen for this kind of souvenir and had fully intended to buy some; but obstacles presented themselves in the form of so many shops that we couldn't decide what we wanted.
When we reached the hotel several of the fellows were proudly exhibiting their purchases of the afternoon. We broke in and made them "take a back seat," as it were, with our recital of how cheaply tapestry could be secured at such and such a place and showing novelties in pottery which we had bought. By and by others began to arrive on the scene laden with glassware, china, lace and various types of needlework, brass ashtrays and ornaments of all descriptions. One of the Scoutmasters showed up with a large and a very odoriferous cheese resembling a grindstone and a loaf of gingerbread! The sheik entered to describe the numerous favoring winks and smiles he had elicited. Several Scouts had been to the movies and all had enjoyed the afternoon.
When we went down to supper one of the Belgian Scouts of Bruges came into the dining room to invite us to an evening camp fire and sing song at their camp grounds. It was an invitation we were happy to accept.
After the meal there was a little time to kill before our hosts should call for us. So some of us went strolling along the canals and through the quaint little streets. The shimmering canal, the stone arched bridge, the stucco houses with tiled roofs, the casement windows, the sweeping trees, and the cathedral spire golden in the last touch of the sunset, all made a beautiful picture.
Later we all assembled in front of the hotel and were met by several of the Belgian Scouts who guided us through the town and out to the edge where their camp ground was located. It was dusk and as we followed the towpath of the canal we saw on the other side a small pinpoint of light. Presently this light resolved itself into a crackling camp fire as we drew near. It was good to see a camp fire again. The last time we bad seen one was back at the Great jamboree encampment.
As we marched in, whistling a Scotch tune we had learned at the Jamboree, we were greeted with cheers by a group, of Wolf Cubs and Scouts. These boys had not been at the Jamboree but were glad to welcome foreign comrades at any time. We cheered them in return and then filing to one side took seats opposite them in the camp fire circle. They sang a song in Flemish which they did very well, responding to their leader most nobly, especially the little Wolf Cubs. The latter were from seven to twelve years of age. They were small but their piping voices showed enthusiasm and added to the general volume. We applauded their song and then sang one of our Jamboree songs in return. This they liked very much and applauded vociferously, the Wolf Cubs yapping in a style true to their names.
So it went, first we sang and then the Belgians sang; and each enjoyed hearing the other even if the languages were different. It seemed to us, as the camp fire blazed merrily and threw a ruddy glow on the poplars beside the road and on the placid canal behind us, that at this gathering of Scouts in a small unfrequented town in Belgium we were again getting a little something of the spirit of the World Brotherhood. Here we were, Scouts of different nationality and speaking different languages, gathered around a camp fire with no particular program. And yet we were enjoying association with each other and were finding ourselves good friends in no time at all.
When both groups had sung themselves hoarse a small Belgian Wolf Cub got up and played awfully well on a drum bigger than he was. Another performed on the accordion and then they played together so well that we cheered them when they finished.
Finally, as it was getting late, the boy who spoke both languages made several trips between the Scoutmasters of the two groups. This parley resulted in our teaching them the "Arrow" song and then standing in a circle holding hands and singing it. At taps we marched back to town together and returned to the hotel and our beds.
In the morning we took buses for a short trip into Holland, returning about noon. We had dinner and then piled our packs on dog carts to take to the station. Finally we boarded the train for Paris.
Paris, the place where Lindbergh landed! We could picture it already! But we had only a few hours to stay which meant we had to make the best of it. We arrived in the city about noon and went to a hotel where we ate dinner. After eating we decided to see the Eiffel Tower first, so about four of us left the hotel and hailed a taxi.
The French taxi driver was a very small man with a very large mustache. He must have twisted it for hours to make the ends so sharp. We said bravely, "'Effel Tower" and climbed in. He shook his head. What was the matter? He surely knew where the tower was. Everybody did. After a bit of puzzling conversation, we found out that we didn't want to go to the Effel Tower at all (our mistake!), but to the "Ifell" Tower, with emphasis on the "I."
The tower was huge. It had a whole park under it, and elevators in each of its monstrous legs to take the people up. For ten francs (40 cents) we could go to the top. So we got on the elevator and after about four changes we reached the top. We didn't look off but walked slowly to the railing and peeped off. There was Paris below us, like a miniature city, with the Seine River winding around like a huge snake. We could see the Notre Dame Cathedral with the Arch of Triumph not far distant. Farther on we could see the famous Le Bourget Flying Field where thousands of people had greeted Lindbergh on his arrival by airplane from America.
We were on the tallest structure in the world, over goo feet above the ground. It was the thrill of a lifetime. The traffic and people below looked like ants moving in an endless stream along the little streets. The trees looked as if they were lying flat on the ground. After a long look we bought some souvenirs at the little shop on top, then began the descent. Near the bottom we were surprised to find a dance hall and a lunchroom which were visited by hundreds of people each day.
No use describing the fascination and charm of Paris at night or day either, for that matter. The Bois de Boulogne, the great museums and galleries, the fascinating shops, the gay little restaurants with tables out on the street, Notre Dame, Les Invalides. It was all a glorious kaleidoscope a thrilling and colorful memory.
The next day we took an interesting trip to the battlefields near Paris. We saw Chateau Thierry and Belleau Wood; and had a fine time inspecting the great park supported by the government of the United States as a war memorial. At Belleau Wood we saw the Stars and Stripes flying over American territory in the heart of a foreign country.
Our "continental tour" was now almost over. There came a last hectic period of sightseeing, souvenir collecting and shopping One Scout proudly purchased what he considered a specially fine French gift for a relative, only to find, in later inspection, that the article was marked with discouraging distinctness "Made in United States."
We had a last breath taking ride in a Paris taxi. A last glimpse of the great railway station; a brief journey to Le Havre through peaceful, rural France. Then we boarded a great liner and headed seaward. The cruise home was pleasant. Then came the Statue of Liberty again and New York's towers and lights. It was America and home. We were sorry it was over. Yet home is good, too!
Copyright © Lewis P. Orans, 1998