Some nice photographs are published at the link.
In July 1953, over 51,000 Boy Scouts and Scout leaders from across the country and as far as Mexico and Japan descended on what is now Newport Center and Fashion Island to form friendships and enhance their camping skills in the first Boy Scout Jamboree on the West Coast.
Hollywood celebrities Jimmy Stewart, Bob Hope, Will Rogers Jr. and Danny Kaye attended for “Hollywood’s Salute to Scouts” and Vice President Richard Nixon gave a speech and went to a pancake breakfast with his former Scout troop.
The seven-day gathering was documented, made into a one-hour film and screened around the country — including at Newport Harbor High School. But it was not widely viewed and faded into obscurity over the years.
But on Wednesday night, July 19, after some film detective work by Eric Longabardi, a TV journalist who grew up in Newport Beach, the Newport Beach Historical Society will screen the Jamboree film as part of a fundraiser for the group and to bring awareness to the remarkable Scouting event that put Orange County in the spotlight.
See video of Debbie Reynolds at the 1953 jamboree.
Longabardi said he discovered partial footage of the Jamboree film while online one day.
“I’d never heard of it, never seen it or had an inkling that it ever existed,” said Longabardi, a Newport Beach Historical Society board member. “Just the piece that I saw, my jaw just hit the floor. The first credits are Howard Hughes and Cecil B. DeMille.”
Longabardi obtained a copy of the film — shot in color — from the Irvine Historical Society. The only other copy he was able to locate is stored in the UCLA Film Archives.
The Irvine Historical Society copied the 35-millimeter film onto a DVD and gave it to Longabardi, said Ellen Bell, the group’s president.
Bell said she did not know how the original copy came into the Historical Society’s possession.
At the time, the Jamboree drew unprecedented attention to Orange County. The only other event that would garner that kind of curiosity was Disneyland’s 1955 opening.
The event — held on what was then part of Irvine Ranch — was the first time Scouts traveled West for the gathering.
Irvine Company president Myford Irvine spent around $250,000 to construct the massive campground, which was equipped with trading posts, commissaries, hospitals, post offices, fire crews, a bank, two rodeo grounds, a telephone exchange and 30,000 tents.
Bulldozers moved tons of dirt and land was cleared and leveled to fill ravines.
The main road constructed to give access to the site — known as Jamboree Town — would later be expanded and named Jamboree Road.
Former Newport Beach Mayor Don Webb said he traveled from Tucson, Arizona with his Scout troop to attend the event.
Over the event’s seven days, Webb said he practiced archery, went swimming in Huntington Beach and shot a rifle.
“You had an activity card that lists all the events and you wanted to try to fill in as many activities as you can,” he recalled.
During the closing ceremony, performers stood on a stage on the land that now houses Corona del Mar High School and the Scouts on a slope in what is now the East Bluff neighborhood, Webb said.
He said he first viewed the film around 20 years ago and has seen it several times since.
For his part, Longabardi said he was amazed at seeing thousands of Scouts gathered in Orange County and wondered why so few have seen the the film.
It should have been shown in Newport-Mesa, Irvine or other Orange County elementary, middle or high schools, he said.
“That’s incredible footage,” he said.
If you go:
The film screening runs from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Oasis Senior Citizens Center, 801 Narcissus Ave. in Corona Del Mar.
Scouts who were there will answer questions from 7:30 to8:30 p.m.
Online tickets prices are $15 for adults and $5 for children ages 11 and over. Tickets at the door are $18 for adults and $7 for kids.
Children under 10 are free.