THE SCOUT JAMBOREE BOOK
ANOTHER turn of the winding St. George’s road brought us to the two towers of the pioneer blockhouse that proclaimed to the world: "This is the gateway to America!"
The gates swung open and we walked through them for the first time into our camp.
During the jamboree, going out or returning through these gates always gave us a special thrill. They were a symbol of something very dear to us, for the part they had played in our country’s history, from the first settlers in New England to those sturdy souls who had pushed their way to the west coast across the vastness of our continent.
Only our blockhouses were not built for defense against hostile Indian tribes. They were a promise to the Scouts of the World that, in entering, they would find the same spirit, in Scouting, of resourcefulness, perseverance and friendliness that marked the early pioneers.
Through this mutual symbol, we claimed kinship with our forefathers.
Weren’t we settlers, too, in a strange land? Hadn’t we come to help in the building of an empire-an empire of youth and brotherhood?
Now we had the same problem as these other settlers, that of setting up our camp before nightfall. The last few tents were put up, kitchens were established and the fires started. While a Patrol in each Troop Camp prepared the supper, the rest of us made the beds, cleared the sites and made the camp in general habitable.
As darkness fell, we gathered around the small fires within our own Troop camps to get together in friendly council.
Here it was the first evening of the jamboree. We were to live together as a group for two weeks, to share in making our camp a success, thus helping to make the whole jamboree one. The sooner a real spirit of unity was created within our Troop, the larger would be our contribution.
That’s why we gathered together to become better acquainted with each other, that’s why we used the spell of the camp fire to bind us .together. And as we closed our evening, softly singing "Day is done," we knew that the spell was already working. . . .
The next morning we were awakened at 6:30 by the weird rising and falling call of a flute, followed by a lively marching tune.
The call of the flute was an old Hungarian folk melody and the march, a snappy and well played piece of modern music that came to its from the jamboree headquarters, through an extensive loud speaker arrangement. Together they proved an effective means of getting us all up and about.
A whole chapter could be written about the music in camp This jamboree was truly a musical one—and those Hungarian Scout bands!
On our arrival in Gödöllõ a band had met us at the railroad station and had marched its up to our camp site. At every parade, a band would accompany us to the arena and throughout the day, bands passed by our camp
They all played remarkably well and had amazing repertoires. These boys made us realize that Hungary is one of the most musical nations in the world.
The weather on the opening day had been cold, with a bitter wind blowing, but as the Hungarian melodies awakened us our first morning, the sun was beaming and our surroundings were bright and shiny, with the white and khaki tents against a green background.
We had plenty to do.
After a swell breakfast, we continued our camp making to have everything in order before the visitors started to arrive.
There wasn’t much hope in finishing, though.
Before we knew it, the horde was upon us.
By train and trolley, automobiles and. bicycles, a mass of people arrived from Budapest and from villages and towns, east, west, south and north.
In spite of the fact that visitors’ hours were not supposed to start before two o’clock, the roads outside the camp were thick with people, from the early hours of the morning. There was really nothing else to do, but to show the spirit of helpfulness by letting some of them in.
And in they came . . .
Ten thousand — twenty — thirty — fifty — eighty, yes, the biggest visiting day in camp more than a hundred thousand defied the terrible heat—that day the all-time heat record of Hungary was broken—to walk around for hours and hours to see the whole world gathered at Gödöllõ. When you add to that number the twenty-five thousand Scouts who were in camp all bent upon making friends and seeing as much as possible, you can understand the traffic problem which arose.
But that wasn’t the only problem. Another one was the mania the visitors brought along with them.
Wherever we went we would be stopped by eager adults—or children—who would push a book toward us with the single request:
There was no use telling them that autographs were prohibited in camp. They wouldn’t understand what we said anyway. So you just had to sign. And as people found out that the request worked, they developed another stunt. They brought sets of post cards around with the idea of getting the signatures of as many different nationalities as possible before the cards were mailed to admiring relatives.
If you had a long name, you were just out of luck. And whether you put a U. S. A. or a B. S. A.—for Boy Scouts of America—after it, it was equally bad… U. S. A. to some meant the Union of South Africa, and the B. S. A. meant anything from the name of a continental motorcycle to Brazil, South America or British South Africa. And it really was too difficult to put after your signature, "E Amerikaiegy Allamok," the Hungarian name for our country.
The American camp seemed to be one of the most popular. There were crowds standing around everywhere, just looking. Any activity we put on attracted them, our very dressing, peeling potatoes and eating was greeted with great enthusiasm. We didn’t even need the activities, just being in our camp was exciting enough to most people.
But then there was plenty to be seen. How much we didn’t realize before we set out ourselves that day on a regular tour of our camp so that we might say, upon our return to the States, that we had really and truly lived up to our promise to "See America First."
We started in the shadow of the blockhouse where the boys from the states of our Pacific Northwest had erected their camp.
The official name of the group was Jamboree Troop One, but the Scouts themselves soon changed it into "The Gold Fish Troop." And they certainly did have as little privacy as these proverbial creatures. Rather-less. At least people don’t dive into a bowl to swim around and see how the inhabitants look.
There was plenty in their camp to intrigue the visitors.
The open front western lean-tos reflected the sun in their whiteness and looked comfortably inviting with the eider-down sleeping bags spread over the new mattresses.
The backs of the tents were even more interesting. On one was given the complete list of the boys in the group, on another was described their yearly Scouting program, on still another was painted the route they had followed from Seattle, across Canada to Quebec, up the St. Lawrence, over the Atlantic and through five countries of Europe to Gödöllõ also their scheduled return trip via other European countries, the ocean and from New York to Seattle.
Visitors stopped in amazement in front of the map, as they realized that these American Scouts had completed but half of their trip to the Jamboree the day they boarded the ship on the eastern coast of our continent.
But when a California boy tried to impress upon a Hungarian the vastness of our country by explaining that it takes five days to go from coast to coast, the Hungarian just asked, "But have you no rapid trains in America?"
From the "Gold Fish Troop" we jumped over the guard-rope that separated it from its neighbor and landed in Troop Nine, the representatives from Region Ten.
This was one of the most spectacular of the American jamboree camps and loads of visiting Scouts from other countries gathered in front of it all the time to admire the "Indian tents." As a matter of fact, however, they weren’t Indian tents at all, although one of them had been erected to resemble a tepee.
The tents were of the simplest possible design, the rectangular tarp type and had been made by the Itasca Troop itself. They could be pitched in a number of different ways, as the boys demonstrated throughout the jamboree period—putting them up one day as double tents with open fronts, the next as forester’s tents and the third day as pyramids.
The paintings, in bright colors on the light orange canvas, attracted much attention and the boys were asked hundreds of times a day to explain their significance.
They were all in Indian pictograph style and had been painted on shipboard when the Troop was on its way to Europe. Here was shown, in easy understandable. pictures, the history of the Troop and on each tent was given the symbol of the inhabitant—such as a key for the Quartermaster, two feathers for the Patrol Leaders, one for his assistants, and so forth. We had arrived in Troop Nine just in time to see—and taste—its special jamboree demonstration, the making of flapjacks-good old fashioned American Flapjacks!!
Hundreds of visitors were admiring the skill of the two cooks in their white aprons, who poured the miraculous batter into a smoking griddle, flipped it over and finally tossed the finished product across a rope onto a waiting platter, to be portioned out among the onlookers.
"Um-m-m. bellycakes good!" remarked a small Hungarian Scout, as he returned the plate for more.
After a bite of pancake, we slipped into the next camp, that of Troop Ten, to meet the boys of California and Missouri.
The Californians had put up their nine small light-weight Baker tents in a perfect circle with a fire in the center, while the big Bakers from Missouri had been placed in a row to provide easy access to them.
Two Scouts were standing at the entrance looking at each visitor with eagle eyes and
making small marks on pieces of paper. We later discovered what mysterious goings-on had taken place. The boys had organized a traffic count to ascertain whether the visitor problem was as large as had been rumored.
And this was their result. . . .
During one hour, between three and four, that afternoon, 3,934 persons had passed through their camp, 1,863 of them were women, 1,010 were men, 309 children. The remaining 752 were Scouts from England, Austria, Hungary, India, Scotland, Ireland, France, Lithuania, Iceland and Roumania.
And, involuntarily, we started to figure almost four thousand in one hour and, during its two weeks, the jamboree would be open to visitors more than a hundred hours!!
That was a bit too much for us, so we hustled off to Troop Five and entered their camp by sedately walking through their "Good Turn" swinging door.
Great activity was going on in the kitchen. The cooks of the day were busily preparing the evening meal, supervised by the jolliest fellow of the bunch, the only negro representative in our camp, who was introduced to us as the best "fried-chicken preparer" on the continent.
Many pots were put over the fire and next to it, a big reflector oven—a very effective and typically American aid to cooking—filled with the beginnings of dozens of hot biscuits.
A great crowd was gathering in front of one of the tents. We pushed our way through to see what the excitement was about and found an American Scout sitting there changing lead in his automatic pencil.
We backed out through the crowd and out through the gateway of the Fifth Jamboree Troop, until we had backed the whole way across the "Old Pioneer Trail" into the camp of Troop Six. The Scouts were unpacking the material for their part in the American display.
Here were glorious Indian headdresses of horsehair tipped eagle feathers, vests and leggings with intricate beadwork, peace pipes, moccasins , representative of the Plains Indians, of the Pamunkey tribe of Virginia and the Cherokees of North Carolina.
Equally exciting was the camp of their next-door neighbors, Troop Four. Here were boys from several corners of the earth gathered in one camp—from New York and Texas and Pennsylvania and the Philippines.
The eight Filipino Scouts had come by way of the Indian Ocean, Suez and the Mediterranean, bringing along with them the war dance shields and spears, which were displayed in front of their tents, together with their pack baskets made of native rattan.
One of them was demonstrating a unique firemaking set to a group of visiting brother Scouts. It was made of a split piece of bamboo which was placed on the ground and rubbed with a saw-like motion with another piece, until a spark was produced.
In the center of the camp was the box of the five-foot bull snake which the Dallas, Texas, boys had brought along. It traveled on its own passport and was looked upon with great awe by all visitors, many of whom had had it described as "the terrific twenty foot, poisonous snake from the jungles of America."
On visiting Troop Eight, the all-New York State-group, we were accepted into the "Order of the Boondoggle." We felt greatly honored as a boondoggle, a braided leather lanyard the famous product of the Rochester Scouts—was placed around our necks and we were greeted with eardrum-splitting yells. We were then released and permitted to see the camp with its clever arrangement of bakeshell tents and an ingenious shower-bath.
We found Troop Seven with tents all neatly placed in the shade of a big sycamore.
The sign over the archway offered a great puzzle to the visitors. The "Troop Seven, B.S.A." was bad enough but worse was the rest which appeared on it. It said, "New England-Missouri-Paris, France!" Not knowing the meaning of "New" England the visitors wondered what a British troop was doing in the American Camp. "Missouri" meant very little to most of them. But worst was "Paris, France!" It took a great deal of trouble to explain to them that the Troop contained a number of boys from the American Colony in the French Capital.
The table under the dining fly was surrounded by a group of boys all busily occupied in writing letters and cards to the home-folks. Without disturbing them, we walked around the camp and studied the great number of Troop Papers on display and the clever exhibit of the historical development of the "Stars and Stripes."
Out again, in again. This time to Troop Two, where several visitors were admiring the "mechanical cow"—the desert water bag which was used by the Troop to keep their drinking water pure and cool it by evaporation. The boys were putting the finishing touches on their camp. The oilcloth-covered vegetable bins, the square wash stands and the covered over cooking places all created much comment among the visitors.
Again we stepped across the road to visit the last of the American groups, Troop Three, with representatives from ten states.
They seemed to know what they wanted. They had come to the Jamboree to see and experience as much as possible. Accordingly they had acquired the services of a Hungarian "cousin" to help them prepare dishes peculiar to the country they were visiting. That’s why a bag of powdered red paprika was prominently displayed on the kitchen table, while a fragrant dish of veal pörkölt was simmering over the fire.
A crowd of visitors were admiring the cook with his big white apron. In one of his pauses he was finally bombarded with the request for "Autogram-Autogram!"
With a smile he generously obliged.
The first to get one looked with amazement at the Hungarian name, then tried to start a conversation by asking:
"Sprechen Sie Deutsch?"
"Certainly!" answered the boy. "And Hungarian too! I happen to be a Hungarian.
The interest in his autograph immediately cooled. The visitors had apparently not heard of the Hungarian mother’s advice to her son before his setting out on an autograph hunting expedition:
"Stop any one who is brown or has glasses and ask for his signature. The others are only Hungarians!"
We had been around the American camp and at last stepped out into the open grounds in front of the beautifully arranged reception tent and the tents of our headquarters.
A number of, activities were going on here.
At one side some Scouts were warming up to a game of baseball, curiously admired by a great audience which tried to penetrate the mysteries of the game. In another spot boys in full Indian costume were rehearsing for the evening camp fire, and in the land ship, the S/S Miraculous Stag, which had been erected by the American Sea Scouts at the jamboree the boys were going through their routine.
And that was quite a ship.
The Skipper of it was Dr. W. C. Menninger, Skipper of the National Sea Scout Flagship Kansan and its crew of thirty-four boys had come from thirteen states.
Every day the boys would meet, usually with several foreign Scouts, to exchange ideas and to have a good time.
This same group represented America at the International Sea Scout regatta at Budapest, on the beautiful Blonde Danube (as the Hungarians say).
We looked at our watch. The day had almost slipped by . . . it was time to get back to our tents . . . .
That evening as darkness fell, we gathered for a council of the American Scouts. We sat in a circle around the flaming camp fire while all around us stood a wall of visitors.
At one point the circle of boys was broken to make room for the leaders of the American contingent.
Here was Dr. James E. West, our Chief Scout Executive and the Camp Chief, Colonel H. D. McBride with his Assistant, Fred Bosbyshell. Here was also Harvey A. Gordon, the Jamboree Executive; Oscar A. Kirkham, our Morale Officer; Stuart A. Walsh and William Hillcourt, in charge of publicity; Merrill Christopherson, the omnipresent "Chris," Chief Quartermaster; Charles H. Mills, Director of Activities; Calvin McCray, Service Director; Dr. C. E. Colgate and Dr. W. C. Menninger who were responsible for keeping our health in good shape.
We sang some of the good old American songs, we yelled as if our lives depended upon it, we applauded as a group of our "Indians" showed us their dances and we listened intently as our Chief Scout Executive struck the keynote of our participation.
"We have not come to this Jamboree to make a show of ourselves," he said, "or to try to impress upon anybody that America is the only country in the world.
"We have come in brotherhood, humbly, to show how we put into practice the game of Scouting, to prove that as Scouts we consider ourselves the brothers of all other Scouts.
"The Hungarians have done a wonderful job and we owe them great thanks. They have made us feel at home with their smiling hospitality. Let us thank them with smiles and kind words.
"It is very much upon my heart that all of us should carry home an impression on our soul of friendship and good will. So go out and learn the great lesson that is taught here. Visit in a systematic way all the countries you can. I do not expect you to visit all the Hungarian camps. That is physically impossible. But bring greetings from all American brothers wherever you go!"
Our council was over. A minute later we were on our way to the parade ground of our sub-camp where another camp fire was on for the countries in our part of the Jamboree. But as we sat there laughing with our Brother Scouts in the magic ring, the Chief Scout Executive’s words kept ringing in our ears:
"Go out and learn the great lesson that is taught here …."
And we decided to make them come true.