By Kevin V. Hunt
Scouting Historian, Author, Blogger , Speaker, Scouting Veteran, and Camp Director
It’s Scout Jamboree time and the hype and excitement is probably building in your council and throughout the country. There are not enough adjectives to describe the jamboree experience – but most descriptions of a Jamboree begin with “FUN!” and “TRADITION”. Jamborees certainly bring all of that together. National BSA Jamborees come around every four years. And international or world jamborees also happen every four years – but between the BSA events. (So literally, there is a Jamboree is held every two years.) Every Scout and leader “should” have opportunity to attend a Jamboree. They are the ultimate!
Though each Jamboree is unique and different in their own way, yet too, they are much the same. There is so much of tradition in the Jamboree that Scouts attending the Jamboree this year – in 2017 – will likely experience many of the same great feelings, events, and activities as a Scout might have in 1937 when the first Jamboree was scheduled.
Back in October, I blogged a bit about the National Scout Jamboree that my Troop 155 “The Best Alive” attended together. This was hidden in a blog of tribute to my Scoutmaster, Jim Johnson, who had just died. But, since it is Jamboree time, I thought that I would re-visit the Jamboree theme – in this and a couple more blogs.
You might all know by now that I might be as old as dirt. And our Jamboree experiences might be years apart. Yet, even so, perhaps as you read you can relate to or get excited about your Jamboree experience whether it is upcoming or like mine – a part of ancient Scouting history. Anyway, with that in mind, I’d like to share some of my Jamboree experiences with you.
My own experience was actually a bit unique. For most Jamborees, Scouts and leaders work hard to earn or to get funds to attend a future Jamboree. Then as the Jamboree event gets closer, the Scout or leader registers with the local council and becomes a member of a Council Jamboree troop. And a council could have a single such troop (of Scouts from all over) or it could have many troops – each with its own adult leaders and sometimes even different itineraries to and from the event.
When I attended my Jamboree (in 1973) the BSA staged two different Jamborees simultaneously (one in Farragut, Idaho and one at the Morraine State Park in Pennsylvania). I attended the one in the north Idaho pan-handle. Also, for that Jamboree, they opened up the event the regular home-town troop to attend under its own regular adult leadership. And so each troop could create its own Jamboree plan, how to finance it, where to stop along the way, etc.
I had forever heard of Jamborees and had always had an intense desire to attend one. But, money (as it always does) seemed to play a big role in the decision. So generally lacking it, my hopes of attending a Jamboree were always “dashed”. But, when I was about age 16, I read in the BSA “Scouting” Magazine of the opportunity to attend the Jamboree with one’s own troop. And man, did I ever get excited. That would be an understatement. As I read the announcement, I knew that that it was plausible – and too, that I could make such a trip possible for me and my troop.
I don’t know exactly when Scoutmaster Jim Johnson came on the scene but I believe it was also when I was about 16. And as the Troop JASM, I took on the task of “training him” in his Scoutmaster duties. Jim and I hit it off immediately and we soon developed a pattern for great things in the troop. I can still remember those wonderful “Patrol Leader Council Meetings” – held in his living room – wherein we planned and created the troop meetings and outings. I worked very closely with Scoutmaster Jim and in many ways he treated me as if I was an adult Assistant Scoutmaster. I helped plan activities, hikes and other programs. Those were great days and they bring back such great memories.
Anyway, as I read that article that day, I was elated! I could not believe it. I had always wanted to attend a National Jamboree – and now suddenly out of the blue – here was my chance. I rode my bike over to see the new Scoutmaster Jim Johnson. I said, “Hey, Jim (that is what I always called him) … look where we are going in two years!” (as I showed him the magazine). He said, “We are????” But, he was willing to talk about it. I was ecstatic as I worked to persuade him and he soon bought off on the plan. And this would be a very major sacrifice for him since the Jamboree was about a ten or twelve day affair and with travel to and from, it would be about nineteen days. And Jim was a self-employed painting contractor. So, if he didn’t work, he didn’t get paid. Jim was soon as excited about the plan as I was.
We went to our church leader – Max Killian – and presented the plan to him. With a Scout son in our troop, he bought into the plan immediately. He gave us the charge to earn as much of the money as we could over the next two years – and then gave us the promise that “whatever else you need, you will have”.
So we were then off and running. The next two years were hectic and busy but glorious and wonderful. Jim and I met often to talk about our plans and to put them into place with the Troop Leader’s Council. There was so much to do. We staged every fund-raising event possible. (We could do those things in those days.) We planned and bought equipment. We trained and re-trained our youth leaders. We had shake-down meetings, activities and outings. We made saguaro cacti men – four of them – to be our gate entry into our campsite.
Once we made the decision to attend the grand event, we recruited two other troops (from the nearby village of Lehi – and from our local Mesa, Arizona LDS Stake) to go on the outing with us. Ultimately we chartered a 51-seater bus for the 52 of us and we were on our way. Our Troop 155 had 13 Scouts plus Scoutmaster Jim and me. What a glorious and wonderful trip or adventure it was. It was the grandest of adventures. We all had a really great time.
We were to be gone for nineteen days! I thought then, and have since, how few men would be willing to make a time commitment like that to Scouting and to boys. But such was the commitment of Scoutmaster Jim Johnson! I will always be grateful to Jim that he and his family were willing to make that sacrifice for us. The trip was a dream-come-true for each one of us.
Out Troop 155 group included Robert Wagner, DeLane Davidson, my brothers Kyle and Darcy, Don Carroll, Smith Skouson, Lance Gardner, Scott Johnson, Marvin Peterson, David Killian, Jim’s son – Markley Johnson, John Ray and Kenny Smith. What a great crew! We were ready for the fun and grand traditions of a National Scout Jamboree.
Best wishes along your Scouting Trails … Kevin
See this link for an introduction to Kevin the Scouting Trails Blogger. Blogging articles have excerpts taken from Kevin’s many personal journals and Scouting Trails books including “MR. Scoutmaster!”, “Keys to Scouting Leadership,” “Gnubie to Eagle Scout”, and others at his Scoutingtrails website. Connect with Kevin and read his articles on Scouting blogsites such as The Boy Scout, The Scouting Trail and the Voice of Scouting. Feel free to comment on anything you read! Find Kevin on Facebook at: Scouting Trails Books and Blogs.
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