Unearthed journal, photos, sketches show what makes World Scout Jamborees special

Most of us would be lucky to attend a single World Scout Jamboree.

DeWitt Thompson attended four of them.

His son, Jon Thompson, recently came across his father’s collection of incredible artifacts from the 1929, 1933 and 1937 World Scout Jamborees. DeWitt actually went to a fourth World Scout Jamboree, in 1951, but Jon couldn’t find any documentation from that event beyond a patch.

With just 500 days left until the 2019 World Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia, it’s the perfect time for this fascinating look back.

Through these priceless World Scout Jamboree treasures, you’ll see what makes these events unlike anything else in Scouting.

1929 World Scout Jamboree, United Kingdom

DeWitt attended as a 17-year-old Boy Scout and patrol leader from Troop 25.

This personalized medal (seen in front and back) was given to everyone in the American contingent at the 1929 World Scout Jamboree.

DeWitt’s journal entries from 1929 tell of his journey by train from Dallas to Montreal, where his troop boarded a ship called the Duchess of York.

From there they traveled to Liverpool, England. The journey itself was part of the story. For example, in his journal DeWitt tells of his daring attempt to sneak through the first-class section and meet the ship’s captain.

“We were so nervous and undecided on what we should do that our whole bodies were ‘a-tingle,'” he wrote.

I won’t tell you how that story ends; you’ll have to read the July 24 entry for yourself.

The adventure continued once he got to the Jamboree. He met Scouts from Czechoslovakia; welcomed Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell, arriving on horseback, to his camp; and participated in an American Pageant where boys demonstrated signaling, camp pitching and rope stunts for their foreign friends.

“It all came off in fine style, and we received much applause,” he wrote.

Enjoy the journal entries below. Click a thumbnail to enlarge, and then use the arrows to navigate between pages.

1933 World Scout Jamboree, Hungary

DeWitt was Scoutmaster of Troop 4, which included Scouts from Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and the Philippines.

DeWitt Thompson (right) and a group of Scouts from Dallas rode the S.S. President Harding to the 1933 World Scout Jamboree in Budapest.

DeWitt and the 400 boys and leaders in the American contingent at the 1933 World Scout Jamboree apparently had quite the appetite.

Over the two weeks, the American contingent ate 120 pounds of ice cream, 616 loaves of bread and 209.5 pounds of apricots, according to a booklet published at the end of the Jamboree.

You can read that booklet, named “Jó Munkát!” (“Work Already!” in Hungarian), below. I’ve also included a few pencil drawings Jon Thompson sent me. They were in his father’s collection, as well, but the artist’s identity is not known.

Click a thumbnail to enlarge, and then use the arrows to navigate between pages.

1937 World Scout Jamboree, Netherlands

DeWitt attended as Assistant Scout Executive of the Norwela Council in northwest Louisiana.

DeWitt Thompson (standing, fifth from right) attended the 1937 World Scout Jamboree as Assistant Scout Executive of the Norwela Council in Louisiana.

It was a summer to remember.

In his role as Assistant Scout Executive of the Norwela Council, based in Shreveport, La., DeWitt led a Louisiana contingent to two Jamborees in 1937. First, they attended the inaugural National Jamboree, held June 30 to July 9 in Washington, D.C. After that, they crossed the Atlantic for Holland and the World Scout Jamboree, which began July 31.

(This was the first of two times the World Scout Jamboree and BSA’s National Jamboree were held in the same summer. The other was 1957. These days, the two events alternate every odd-numbered year.)

In between the Jamborees, the Scouts toured Europe. They visited France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and England.

Total cost for two Jamborees and a European tour, including transportation: $410.75 per person. That seems like a bargain — until you adjust for inflation. That’s more than $7,000 in 2018 money.

Below, find the cost breakdown and a letter DeWitt sent to the Scouts’ parents from New York. New York City, he wrote, was “even more than we expected — the noise, the crowds, the traffic, the confusion.”

Click a thumbnail to enlarge, and then use the arrows to navigate between pages.

1951 World Scout Jamboree, Austria

DeWitt served on staff. 

The only item in DeWitt’s collection from the 1951 World Scout Jamboree was a patch, which looks like the one below.

Make your own World Scout Jamboree memory

DeWitt’s collection makes it clear: World Scout Jamborees are special.

To learn how you can be a part of the 2019 World Scout Jamboree, click here.