THE 1960 BOY SCOUT JAMBOREE

in Colorado Springs, Colorado

 

This is a sample of the complete article, with small-size photos.
You will find the full story, with full-sized photos,
in my e-book View America: West Mountain - Part 3
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In the travel series View America, West Mountain - Part 3 covers Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.

It is not a traditional travelogue, but a non-commercial and more or less objective chronicle of an in-depth exploration of these states. Each state is described with its own brief historical background and its main sights, tourist attractions and points of interest.

My book does not describe lodgings, restaurants or entertainment, except where these may interact with the narrative. It is illustrated with more than 100 full-sized photos.

1960 Boy Scout Jamboree

In July 1960 a Belgian delegation of 16 Boy Scouts was invited to participate in this Jamboree. Our visit would take one month, during which we would explore several places in the United States and thereafter attend the Jamboree itself. For Europeans this was a very special occasion, since the old continent was still recovering from the enormous devastation of World War II.

A plane trip from Europe to the U.S. was quite a bit different in 1960 than it is today. In those days the airplanes couldn't fly as far as modern planes do, and so the Atlantic crossing was more of a Greyhound-type flight, with several stops in between. We took off from the Melsbroek airport in Belgium, since the national airport of Zaventem, Brussels (BRU) had not yet been built at that time.

The first leg of the flight went to Shannon, Ireland, where the plane was refueled. The next leg was to an airport in northern Canada, where the plane was once more refueled, and the last leg brought us to New York.

New York

In this giant metropolis we took an elaborate city trip and visited touristic places like the Empire State Building and the Rockefeller Center. We also visited Harlem, which I heard later that this was becoming nearly impossible, since no taxi or bus would drop you off anymore in this neighborhood.

We visited the local China Town, and I remember our group having a Chinese dinner there. This truly Chinese menu tasted completely different from today's Chinese buffet, and I recall that its taste was very unusual to our European palates...

A few days later our group continued its travel to Niagara Falls, where we admired the fabulous beauty of these enormous falls. Obviously we made the equally famous trip on the lake with the "Maid of the Mist"!

a Belgian Boy Scout delegation
NY Empire State building
   
NY Rockefeller center Niagara Falls

Detroit - Chicago - Milwaukee

The next step led us to Detroit, Michigan, where we visited the Ford factory. From there we took the train to Chicago, Illinois, and took a grand City Tour to visit this sprawling city. I (vaguely) remember it being rather somber, not overly neat, and nowhere near what Chicago is like today, but the "Underground" did leave a lasting impression, as most of it seemed to be ABOVE ground...

By train we then traveled to a new destination, Milwaukee in Wisconsin, where we spent a week with our hosts, local Scout families. And then we all boarded the train for the long trek to our final destination: the Jamboree in Colorado Springs, Colorado!

Ford in Detroit
badge of the Jamboree
   
Chicago the train to Colorado Springs

The 1960 Jamboree in Colorado Springs

Between 22 and 28 July 1960, Colorado Springs was the scene of the Fifth National Boy Scout Jamboree. The Boy Scouts movement was founded in England in 1907 by Lord Robert Baden-Powell, and on 08 February 1910 the Boy Scouts of America were founded in Washington, DC. By 1960 there were more than five million American Boy Scouts, and by today more than thirty million Americans have been members of the Scout movement.

Given this fifty-year jubilee, the organization planned a large festivity, which Lord Baden Powell, the son of the founder, would personally attend. Delegations of Boy Scouts were invited from all over the world.
This Jamboree was to be the largest Boy Camp ever held in de United States, and the entire event was therefore simply one series of superlatives! The organization was enormous, every detail was checked and rechecked, and nothing was left to chance.

A suitable campsite was found some eight miles north of Colorado Springs, next to the 14,100 ft high Pikes Peak. The enormous surface of some four square miles was obligingly made available by the Reverse J Diamond Ranch.

It took two years of preparation with hundreds of volunteers to transform this vast area into a tent city called Jamboree City, that actually temporarily became the temporary fourth largest city in Colorado! There was a large arena, roads, water mains, electrical cables, a postal service, a bank, a newspaper (90.000 papers per day!), a 60-acre field hospital, and several stores called Trading Posts.

Lord Baden Powell
certificate of participation
   
Jamboree City 1 Jamboree City 2

Extensive contacts were made with suppliers, the railroads, the U.S. Army and Navy, and legions of volunteers. The huge project attracted many donations from generous benefactors. The entire Jamboree ended up being financed entirely through donations and a contribution of fifty dollars from every participating Boy scout!

Seventy-two thousand people were present at the opening ceremony, including 650 scouts from 26 other countries. Next to the 56,377 participating Boy Scouts, there were more than 200.000 visitors! During the ceremony the Navy's Flight Demonstration Team, the Blue Angels, flew over the entire campsite and gave a 20-minute demonstration with four Jet airplanes.

It took incredible logistics to feed all these Boy Scouts. The volume of food and accessories that was brought in per train was awesome: 2,800 tons or 97 train wagons! Every day 21,000 loaves of bread and 2,183 gallons of milk were distributed, and 16,380 open charcoal fires were burning at the same time. More than 1,278,000 meals were prepared during the event, and in one week more than 9.5 million paper plates, cups and other objects were used...

During the Jamboree there was no lack of things to do. There was a full-fledged rodeo by the local Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo crew, with bull riding, bull dogging, saddle bronco riding, calf roping and bareback riding. There were three large Skill-O-Rama areas, where the scouts could exhibit their talents as cook or rope maker, and there were all kinds of folklore.

Many foreign Boy Scouts also showed their talents, and there was Fire Making and several local and Indian dances. The scouts exchanged all kinds of objects such as badges, neckerchiefs and sliders, knives, woodwork, beadwork, leather objects, ceramics and swords.

A few amusing anecdotes managed to escape the mists of time. I remember spending the first night sleeping on a table, as our tents and beds hadn't arrived yet... Smoking was of course prohibited, but there was one special circumstance where a cigarette was allowed: when you got bitten by a tick!
This bothersome insect nestles itself under the skin and is nearly impossible to dislodge. The American solution is most practical; light a cigarette and burn the insect right through the skin! After that you were allowed to smoke the rest of the cigarette, to soothe your nerves...

President "Ike" Eisenhower honored the event with his presence and drove through the entire camp, widely acclaimed by all. It was estimated that more than 100.000 pictures were taken!


When the Jamboree ended, so did our journey. We accompanied our hosts back to Milwaukee, said goodbye to them, and went on to New York. From there, a series of flights took us back to Melsbroek and Belgium. A most memorable trip for a young fellow !

President Eisenhower 1 President Eisenhower 2

Colorado Springs - 2003

In Colorado Springs, a somewhat hard to locate plaque commemorates this extraordinary event.

Today, fifty years later, the entire site of Jamboree City is located IN the city, and the plaque can be found at the intersection of Voyager and Briargate parkways.

memorial plaque in Colorado Springs

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