Talk about 'be prepared'
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JAM-PACKED JAMBOREE: In 1953, the largest gathering of youth in history descended on Orange County, here at the future site of Fashion Island.
Photo from First American Title Insurance.

August 12, 1999

They called it the largest gathering of youth in history. The Boy Scout Jamboree drew 50,000 Scouts from 22 nations July 17-23, 1953. They pitched tents, waded in the ocean and cheered Bob Hope and Debbie Reynolds. They put on their own lavish shows. The Jamboree sprawled from Corona del Mar High School and the old Ford Plant to Irvine Terrace. The event occurred just as the Korean War was ending — and Orange County's population boom was just beginning.

mm_mug_19990812.jpg (3791 bytes)RALPH WHITFORD, 70

It took 7 months of daily work to pull off a one-week Boy Scouts Jamboree in 1953.

Ralph Whitford was an aide to William Spurgeon III, organizing and preparing 3,000 acres of the Irvine Ranch for the 1953 Boy Scout Jamboree.

We worked on it for seven months, seven days a week for the one-week event. Then we tore it all down in a few days. It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.

I drilled 1,368 flag-pole holes, and more than 2,500 latrine holes. We figured there were 18 miles of latrine holes. Afterward, you could see a lot of green patches from the air.

Bill Spurgeon III made it happen. It was his idea, he led the whole effort. It was perhaps the greatest coordination of efforts by Orange County agencies in history.

There were 38 sections. The Army supplied trucks and other heavy equipment, and ran the motor pool. We had one of the largest charcoal shipments ever (40 freight cars).

It was a time of innocence and eagerness, the opportunity to show off their region. People from the South were barbecueing alligator. Everybody was trading badges and patches.

I think the Jamboree had a lot to do with the development of Orange County, giving thousands of people their first exposure to the area. It was a real source of pride.

— Interviewed by John Westcott

BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Story of the Boy Scouts," Wyatt Blassingame, 1968.