1953 National Jamboree

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Irvine Hosts Boy Scout Jamboree

The third National Boy Scout Jamboree in 1953 was a momentous occasion for Troop 36. Myford Irvine worked with Bill Spurgeon and the Boy Scouts of America to provide a location for the Jamboree. This area is now known as Fashion Island. As those of you familiar with Orange County history are aware, Myford Irvine was the grandson of James Irvine I (see History of Troop 36) and Bill Spurgeon was the grandson of the founder of Santa Ana and a vice president of The Irvine Company.

To act as host for the Jamboree, Troop 36 was was formed by the Irvine Ranch and chartered in August, 1952. Most of the very early history of the Troop has been lost. What is known is that many of the original Scouts were sons of ranch workers; William Spurgeon was the Troop 36 Chairman and went on to found the BSA Explorer program; and Troop 36 has become an integral part of the community.

The Irvine Ranch was host to the first international gathering of Scouts ever held in the western United States. During theweek of July 17 through July 23 more than 50,000 Boy Scouts and their leaders participated in the Jamboree. Fifteen hundred troops represented all 48 states, the "territories of Alaska and Hawaii" and 26 foreign countries. The greatest Hollywood stars were there to entertain the boys and 30,000 guests, among them Vice-President Richard Nixon (be sure to read Vice-President Nixon's speech to the Boy Scouts).

A lot of preparation was necessary for the Jamboree. The Irvine Company cleared land and leveled hills to fill in ravines. An eight mile road was graded (Jamboree Road) to get to the camp headquarters site, commemorated today with a plaque at Fashion Island. Jamboree Road connected the Troop 36 Clubhouse directly to the National Jamboree site. The event cost Myford Irvine a quarter of a million dollars, but he didn’t care. To make 51,000 boys happy was good enough reason to host the event.

The Jamboree site was just north of Pacific Coast Highway and between today’s Jamboree Road and MacArthur Boulevard in Newport Beach. The tent city, called "Jamboree Town," covered today’s Newport Center and East Bluff residential community.

Eighty-eight miles of pipe brought more than three million gallons of water to Jamboree Town each day. Telephone and electrical wires stretched for miles on utility poles put in place strictly for the Jamboree. The town even had its own fire station, 150-man police force, medical facilities, 75,000-seat amphitheater, U.S. Post Office, telephone exchange, and a zoo.

Thirty-five thousand tents were divided into 36 sectional camps, each with its own health lodge, headquarters, commissary, equipment tents, post office, shower building, and most importantly, trading post. Each section quartered 34 troops. There were 1,292 troop campsites, each 90 by 90 feet.

Cooking was done over charcoal fires. It took 48 railroad carloads of charcoal to supply the fuel for the week. The food consumed that week was staggering - 18 million gallons of water; 623,656 quarts of milk; 169,594 loaves of bread; 500,000 eggs; 500,000 rolls; 200,000 pounds of meat; and 62,800 pies. More than 15 tons of garbage was generated daily.

Each day 18,000 boys were transported by bus to and from the beach for a promised swim in the Pacific. Marine helicopters and Coast Guard life guards made sure there were no accidents.

The Jamboree was an overwhelming success. The Irvine Company had created a city with the population of Miami Beach on a small portion of the ranch lands.

The above text was taken from Judy Liebeck's Irvine A History of Innovation and Growth published by Pioneer Publications. Some additions to the original text were made to include Troop 36 highlights.

Jamboree Diary and Patch donated to Troop 36 by Gary and Judy Hartman,

Pictures were taken from the August 17, 1953 edition of Life Magazine.

From top:
OPENING CEREMONY for the Jamboree.

REVERENT SCOUTS, some 30,000 strong, went to Protestant service. The boys are seated on the ground in natural amphitheater facing pulpit. Religious groups had separate services, including a small group of Buddhists.

CONTINENTAL SOLDIERS in uniforms - "mostly made by our mothers" - have fun waiting to perform. Several thousand wore these on stage.

SHERIFF'S POSSE, a squad of deputy sheriffs, adds movie-like touch to jamboree as it raises dust in "Avenue of Flags." The Orange County posse volunteered to police the boys' 3,000-acre camp. They also directed traffic.

SNOOZING DRUMMERS of the Racine, Wis. drum and bugle corps doze toward end of program. They were not tired, they insisted - just killing time.

INDIAN WAR PAINT is applied with grease-paint stick by busy performer readying for war dance in frontier act.