At the National Jamboree in 1953

Courtesy of Orange County Archive

Courtesy of Orange County Archive

If you attended the third National Boy Scout Jamboree in Orange County, California—the first jambo held west of the Mississippi River—you probably saw many welcoming and peculiar gateways erected by the scouts themselves at the entrances to their campsites.

This tradition was still alive, although hardly in its mid-century glory, when I attended the National Jamboree at Fort AP Hill in 1997. Members of my troop raised a gateway shortly after our arrival, although it wasn’t anything to write home about, and it didn’t display any local character that might’ve suggested we were from New Jersey.

There was a troop from Philadelphia nearby our campsite and I sort of felt sorry for the scouts. Their hometown had the Liberty Bell and Ben Franklin and even Rocky Balboa, but above their entrance, these scouts had a big green plastic ball with googlie eyes suspended from wire cables. Their gateway vaguely resembled a mosquito, and at the time, it reminded me of history lecture where I learned that primitive cultures erected totems because they wanted to harness the power and spirit of the creatures they mimicked.

I never figured out what kind of magic the scouts from Philadelphia hoped to harness with their mosquito totem.

Courtesy of Orange County Archive

Courtesy of Orange County Archive

Courtesy of Orange County Archive

Courtesy of Orange County Archive

Courtesy of Orange County Archive

Courtesy of Orange County Archive

Aerial View of the Jamboree in 1953

Aerial View of the Jamboree in 1953

Scouts on the March at the Jambo in '53

Scouts on the March at the Jambo in ’53

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