THE NATION'S CAPITAL
CAPTURED BY 27,232 YOUTH
HAVE you ever seen 27,232 boys at one time in one spot? Boys from all parts of America. From the banks of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest; from the Imperial Valley of California; from delightful Hawaii; from nearby Puerto Rico and the far-off Philippines. Boys who have come from the cactus beds of Arizona, and the Indian country of New Mexico. Lads among them from southwestern Texas, from mountainous Colorado, and from the corn belts of Kansas. Youth who have journeyed from soft-spoken Mississippi and its neighboring state of Louisiana; from semi-tropical Florida; from industrial Pennsylvania and from the vigorous outspoken Midwest. Boys too have trekked from the population centers of the East and from historic New England.
How proud these American boys were of their home places, whether in the isolated mountains of Tennessee or the deserts of Utah or the cornfields of Nebraska!
Then mingling among them, boys from twenty-four foreign countries. Upstanding lads from Canada nearby. A delegation from remote New Zealand. A large representation from England, others from Scotland, and the Irish Free State. A lone Indian from the Far East, a Chinese who nearly stole the show in the Arena on a prancing steed in medieval garb and with painted lance. A large group of Poles, several Haitians, a number from Chile, a group of Scandinavians, a Dutchman, a group of French Scouts and so on.
Can you imagine 27,232 boys like that in one Arena, orderly, disciplined-through a self-imposed discipline? Can you visualize 27,232 lads, twelve to eighteen, held together by a high spiritual ideal? A crowd like that without such an ideal would be a mob.
To see those boys together with their flags flying, their songs and cheers and bands and drum corps, thrilled you. It stirred your emotional center. It brought a lump into your throat. It made you gasp. It caused your eyes to glisten and your face to shine. It had never happened in America before.
Can you imagine what it means to mobilize that many persons, and feed them and care for them? For let me remind you, it was a self-sufficient group, a self-financing group, a self-entertaining group.
There were 250 chefs, and 250 doctors; 250 tons of food were consumed daily. 13,000 lbs. of meat were eaten each day. It cost $600,000 to provide this ten day camp with all its appurtenances but the boys paid for it. The Scout Movement was self-contained, self-sufficient. It built a city within a city, it planned the water supply, organized the sewage system. It purchased the food-all grade A material and plenty of it, and every meal was served on time and each mess was on a Troop basis-a small group of about forty under its own leadership, all of them in Uniform so that each looked trim and neat and all false economic differences in clothes or social status were dissolved. They were Scouts. They were American boys, the boys of our homes and firesides, city boys and country boys, farm boys and village boys. If there was any distinction it was only that of merit and achievement.
This tent city stretched from the Washington Monument to Arlington Park. It lined the Potomac River and included Columbia Island. It stretched along three miles of territory.
Everywhere in the District of Columbia, and in the surrounding country were boys in khaki with their red and blue neckerchiefs, with all manner of unique, original and community identifying neckerchief slides. You found them as far up as Mount Vernon and extending to Annapolis. You saw them crowding the Senate Galleries, in the Smithsonian Institution, in the Bureau of Engraving, having their fingerprints taken in Edgar Hoover's office, and piled into taxies. Always on the move. Eager, curious, wide-eyed youths. A babble of youthful voices everywhere, and not one case of discipline, no brawls, no arrests, no riot calls.
No, you have never seen anything like this in the United States. for it had never happened before in America. It was a fourth dimension of Boyhood. It was a great crusade of youth. They were hosts of the Government but not dominated by the Government. They captured the Government. Senators and Congressmen witnessed their displays. Took meals with them in their camps. These Scouts lined the length of Constitution Avenue for three miles on both sides of the street as the President reviewed them.
News with a Washington date came out of Washington, but it was not political news. "Never until now," says the magazine Time, "has the United States seen a juvenile mass migration comparable to the famed crusade of the 13th century." No connoisseur of mob scenes had ever seen such a scene.
A news commentator, Lowell Thomas, said, "I was completely bowled over," and Lowell Thomas had seen and reported many of the world's dramatic episodes.
A penologist remarked as he viewed this 350 acres of high minded youth, "If the juvenile delinquents of the country were in one camp, thirty times 350 acres would be needed, for they number 700,000; and we would need 60,000 acres for all criminals."
It takes your breath away, a statement like that. Why so many anti-social persons in free America? Who is to blame for it? Surely it is not youth that is to blame. Thank fortune there are almost a million of Scouts back home who didn't get to the Jamboree, the forces for construction in this Movement far outnumber the total of the entire criminal group in American society! That's something to be thankful for, and probably it is at least a partial answer to the problem.
A physician said no other group had such a health record. One hundred beds were reserved in the Navy Hospital for Scouts, but never more than forty were in use at one time. There was no fatality. No carrying of disease, for each camper at home, as a requisite for Jamboree membership, was required to have a strict physical examination and daily inspections and instant medical treatment were available. The secret of the efficiency was immediate hospital service when accident did occur.
A clergyman found here boys of all faiths. They met in a great convocation on Sunday, addressed by representatives of all leading faiths. On Friday evening, the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath, several hundred Jewish boys participated in the religious services peculiar to their faith.
On Sunday morning, in the Arena, a Pontifical Mass was attended by several thousand Catholic Scouts under the leadership of two Archbishops, and simultaneously throughout the camp, seven or eight Protestant meetings directed by local clergymen were held. The Mormon tabernacle in the city was crowded with Scouts, and the great Protestant Cathedral in Washington was packed with boys in Scout Uniform.
Ah, here is a youth movement void of bigotry and suspicion. It is said that when the Washington Monument was built, stones were sent from all parts of the world to be used in its construction, but that the stone sent by Pope Pius from Rome, because of bigotry, was thrown into the Potomac River. At the very base of this Monument in the Scout Arena at the Jamboree a great Catholic religious Service was held. This is Americanism at its best! Here is a 'Youth movement that embraces all the churches of whatever faith. It does not banish them. It reinforces them. A Scout loyal to his own religious faith respects the religious beliefs and customs of others.
As one lived with these youths from-day to day and observed their wholesome attitude toward life, their response to high idealism, their originality and genius, and realized their great potential possibilities, one was reminded, as one speaker said, that there are strong nations in the world that in the mechanized arts belong to the 20th Century, but in the art of morals and political justice belong to the dark ages.
Youth in some other nations were being nourished on hatred and suspicion, but here, on ideals -- of brotherhood, fellowship.
These boys were a living symbol of patriotism. For patriotism is not a way of voting, simply it's a way of living, and the Good Turn is the center of the Scouting way.
When the flags in all the camps were raised each day "one could watch the glint in 25,000 pairs of eyes as they stood at salute. Here is a rainbow of hope. While diplomats blunder and men debate-here is youth and hope and faith unquenchable in spirit, free of prejudice-pledged to a high code of living."
There was a peculiar symbolism and spirit in the camp. It is hard to explain. The camp was erected on hallowed ground. The arena shows on the Monument grounds bad rising up in their midst the Washington Monument. All through these performances it towered above them, changing its moods as the lights and shadows played upon it. It was ever present, dominating the scene with its majesty, beauty and purity.
Again, as I sat in my tent and looked down the avenue of flags there in the distance, pure in its architecture, lovely in its lines, spiritual in its implications, was the Lincoln Memorial. It dominated the landscape.
The voices the boys heard and the personalities that impressed them were not those of shouting dictators. Rather it was the still voices and the spirits of Washington and Lincoln that were among them. You felt it. You sensed it. It permeated the camp. It gave meaning to it. That's why the Jamboree came to Washington. For no other place could do what Washington did in this respect.
But I run ahead of my story. This Jamboree was a boy affair. The place was vibrant with boy life and boy activity. The camp was a colorful affair. Many boys made their own tents. They were of all sizes and shapes and of as many colors as Joseph's coat. There were tents with historical illustrations peculiar to their part of the country on them and Tepees with Indian drawings traced on them.
There was the Sea Scout Camp with its smack of the sea, its water craft and aquatic gadgets, its natty blue and white uniforms, its regattas, its signals and marine objects.
There were the foreign Scouts in one section with a riot of color and many unique articles of craftsmanship peculiar to their respective countries. It was always crowded with visitors.
The entrances to all camps gave opportunity for original decoration. Some from the South had Spanish moss and even palm trees. Others had stuffed wild animals, native to the part of the country from which they came. Others had historic settings, such as the reproduction of Liberty Hall, and the replica of the Summer White House at Hyde Park.
And such collection of odds and ends and creatures dear to a boy's heart. Horned toads, live alligators, snakes and the like. Even a monkey. Excellent exhibits in each of the twelve sections, of leathercraft, basketry, wood carving and tin can artistry, and unlimited genius shown in making neckerchief slides of horns and bones and wood and metal.
And then there was the trading and swapping. Here was a group of Texas boys with heavy iron book ends with illustrations of the Alamo molded in it. Here was some rough cast bowls of Arizona copper, and here were beautiful silk leis from Hawaii. Lowell Thomas said that it appeared in the swapping that a pair of French shorts were worth three pair of North Dakota pants.
Everywhere was music and boy bands and boy drum corps. Large broadcasting companies had tents and stations in the camp and Scout programs were broadcast the day long. Such music and performance! It was a veritable beehive of activity and parents back home listened in and seemed nearby.
And they put out their own daily paper! It was a sixteen-page tabloid sized paper, written and edited entirely by Scout journalists and would have been a credit to any large city!
The Arena shows by the several Regions were wonderful performances. Two Regions on each of six nights joined together several thousand Scouts in each performance. The boys were in and out of the Arena like magic. Now the lights were out, then suddenly, as they were turned on, out of nowhere came a thousand Scouts in a great mass signaling drill or in a great first aid demonstration of a score of ways to be of first aid. Again the lights went out and then, as they brought the performers into view, a western settlement was built before one's eyes-the corner store, the bank, the blacksmith shop rose before one's eyes like magic. Here the first railroad track was being laid and before our astonished eyes a locomotive with real smoke coming out of the chimney noisily puffed across the landscape. Again about a hundred Scouts were boxing, several groups were building pyramids. When two mid-western and southwestern Regions came on there appeared a caravan of western Scouts in chaps, in sombreros, miners, cowboys and such Indians, a number of them real, in wonderful plumage, transporting one back to the Pioneering days. I noticed one small Indian boy dancing with all the verve of his fathers and feeling again, no doubt, much of the emotions that stirred and thrilled them as they celebrated the hunt or prayed for the harvest moon.
Here were new Scouts imitating, and not so remotely either, the glories and the virtues of the old Scouts.
One Region provided a pageant of a hundred covered wagons, depicting Brigham Young settling in Utah. As one looked closely he could discern behind the painted wheels moving objects strangely like human boy feet propelling the wagons.
People in the stand wondered where all these implements came from. They gasped and said, "Oh" and "Ah" and marveled as these lads evolved their activities before them. "Here," said one writer, "was an open air variant for a city tired of machine-cooled and machine-produced moving picture shows." Here was life and verve and action.
All of it without bosses or officious men to command. The boys were off at the firing of a pistol. They were on at a signal of a bugle.
And such music! Wonderful bands, and drum corps. It was all boy-like but not amateurish. It was beauty and romance, and yet real and vital boy- performance, taken out of the regular Scout programs.
There was humor about it, too. The mythical and prevaricating John Runyan was illustrated as Scouts carried his gun a dozen feet long, his ax of giant proportion, and other impedimenta of like exaggerated proportions.
And such dragons and prehistoric and synthetic animals weaved across the field! Their like had never been seen before. One was impressed with the degree of genius potentially resident in a group of boys. What can these lads not do? How readily they respond to constructive stimuli!
The thing that was most attractive about the jamboree was the boys themselves. How rich, true and varied this Scout program is that lends itself to so much varied performance. There must be in it that which would appeal to every boy, be he motor minded or inclined to the quieter arts.
Thus, finally, the Washingtonians, "some of whom scoffed about the coming 'sprouts' who would litter the streets and clutter both shores of the Potomac but who, when they left, had nothing but praise for these clean-cut, manly, inventive young men.
Is Scouting a great National Organization? Yes, but it does not lift boys out of their local relationships. The program of Scouting works where boys are in their homes and churches and schools and communities. It is national unity without uniformity. It is national cooperation without the loss or weakening of individual initiative and responsibility.
The struggle in the world today is for the control of youth. Over the world we hear the tramp of the feet of youth. In so many places youth exploited, youth regimented, youth mobilized for selfish aims.
"Each generation as it comes to maturity has no more important duty than that of teaching high ideals and proper behavior to the generation which follows." This is the call to our generation.
"I am looking to you, 11 said Gabriel Heatter to the Scouts, to keep the camp fires of freedom burning for a long time." May the words of one of the news writers prove true that "These boys, captained by men of good will, have given us a preview of a possible future, a future for everybody."
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