The grand parade at the Boy Scouts Jamboree in June 1949 marches along Tucker Street in Norway. It was 2 miles long, with Scouts marching four to six abreast and displaying 125 flags, representing the number of troops. The parade went through the streets of Norway to the Oxford County Fairgrounds on Main Street in Paris with an estimated 8,000 people lining the streets to watch. Jack Quinn/Paris Historical Society

PARIS — For any Boy Scout, the anticipation and excitement of a jamboree, where troops from around the state rendezvous for a weekend of competition and camaraderie, is an eagerly anticipated event.

For many Scouts, the weekend of June 3-5, 1949, which was ruled by heat and humidity, was a historic one. The weekend saw Scouts converge on the fairgrounds on Main Street where Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School sits.

In all, Scouts from 11 counties participated, with 125 groups from southern Maine.

Registration for the historic event was conducted by Earle Clifford. Only the 10th jamboree to be held since the inception of Scouting, and the largest camp gathering in New England at the time, the event was led by Chairman Fred Scribner Jr. of Portland and included over 3,000 Scouts.

The Pinetree Council, made up of five districts — Abanaki, Androscoggin, Aucocisco (Casco Bay), Kennebec and York, converged on Paris and Norway between 1 and 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon, with tents being erected by 5:30 p.m. Meal preparation was the major task at hand, followed by an area campfire at 8 p.m. and a council campfire at 9 p.m. Lights out were at 10:15 in preparation for a Saturday filled with excitement and activities.

One motivated and energetic group from Pownal, led by Scoutmaster David Whittemore, hiked 38 miles of roadways over two days, starting at the Pownal School and staying over in Hebron, before arriving at the fairgrounds.

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The organizing committee, which met for several months prior to the camporee, consisted of local adult Scouters Elmore Edmunds, Charles Cummings, Lloyd Flanders, Ashley Bean, Chandler Briggs, Gilbert Stevens, Merle Lurvey, Ted Chandler, Don Mason, Harry Shaw, Earle Clifford, and a host of others from throughout western and central Maine. In addition to creating a blueprint for the weekend, the committee also provided 15 cords of wood, divided into five piles for each district.

The wood was necessary for cooking and campfires. Straw and blankets were issued for bedding at each site. Elmore Edmunds was credited with creating the blueprint for the jamboree.

Tents cover the Oxford County Fairgrounds in June 1949 in Paris for the historic Boy Scout Jamboree, the largest camp gathering in New England at the time. More than 3,000 Scouts from 11 counties participated, with 125 groups from southern Maine. The site is now the location of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School on Main Street. Jack Quinn/Paris Historical Society

Camporee headquarters and the field hospital were in the exhibition hall, now the Central Office for Maine School Administrative District 17.

The hospital, set up by local Scouters Hank Morton and Donald Mason, was staffed with local physicians and Mrs. Helen Bonney, a nurse from Bath, who over the weekend handled 200 Scouts suffering from heat issues and minor scrapes and scratches. Only one leg injury was reported, which required stitches from a local doctor.

Water and a cooling station were set up at the canteen with ice cream and soft drinks available for purchase. Over the three days, 5,000 half-pints and 1,200 quarts of milk were purchased along with 500 cups of ice cream and 500 loaves of bread. The canteen was manned by Ashley Bean, Chandler Briggs and Theodore Chandler.

Paris fire Chief Sol Gay and Norway Chief Homer Luck provided fire apparatus for protection.

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The first night council campfire involved a great deal of singing and a special Indian ceremony displayed by Troop 310 of Saco.

Reveille at 6:30 a.m. Saturday ushered in a hot muggy day reaching 90 degrees. The day was filled with games and competitions between troops and demonstrations ranging from ax throwing to fly fishing. The Kennebec area troops gathered the most points for the competitions.

The noteworthy event of the day, however, was the grand parade, which took place at 7 p.m., and was 2 miles long, with Scouts marching four to six abreast and displaying 125 flags, representing the number of troops. The Scouts and leaders marched through the streets of Norway to the fairgrounds with an estimated 8,000 people lining the streets to watch the event.

Pearl Cook Kilburn’s Norway community band provided the music and jamboree Director B.R. Andrews of Bath was the grand marshal. The curbs were filled and parking spots nonexistent.

The reviewing stand, in front of Beal’s Tavern, was manned by Scout officials and Maine Gov. Frederick Payne. A novelty in the parade included a famous fisherman who was casting a fly with a light trout rod. While working his way down the street, he was warned to “watch for short ones, as wardens up this way carry tape measures.”

Hank Morton, 88, of South Paris was a 14-year-old member of Boy Scout Troop 130 of South Paris at the time of Maine’s first jamboree and was one of seven Boy Scouts to receive the coveted Eagle Scout award during the historic weekend. Chuck Martin photo

Many of the spectators were escorted by select Scouts to tour the camping area throughout the two days. The colors lined the racetrack and in the evening, the governor and Mrs. Payne, along with Mr. and Mrs. Edmunds, were escorted by Life Explorer Scouts Ronald Keniston and Robert Mitchell to the vaudeville stand.

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The evening campfire was initiated with a speech from the governor and awarding of seven Eagle Scout badges by the governor. Two local boys receiving their Eagle Scout awards were Hank Morton and Frederick Moulton.

Troop 310 received an award for what was then called the “Indian Lore” merit badge, based on their outfits.

Prior to the ceremonial campfire, the governor and his wife were treated to a baked bean supper, with the fixings, put on by Troop 119 of South Paris, led by Scoutmaster Harry Kearney.

Sunday, known as “break away day,” again emerged as hot and muggy. Local church services, consisting of 1,500 Scouts sitting in the grandstands, included one for Protestants led by the Rev. Colby, who preached about unsinkable “ships,” including “friendship,” “leadership,” and “worship.” Another was led by the Rev. Antonio Girardin, diocesan chaplain of South Portland, who provided a Catholic service for some 500 Scouts.

The Sunday lunch, known as “the feast,” was followed by breaking down camp at 2 p.m. and departure for home. Leaving the area cleaner than they found it, which is a goal for all Scouters, hopefully led to them receiving the 100% camper award.

Overall, the jamboree hosted by the two towns was the most successful and had the best attendance in the state’s 10-year history of Scouting. This largest gathering of Scouts in New England at the time saw Elmore Edmunds receiving praise for his hard work and overall blueprint for success.

A local note of interest was Troop 119 of Norway, which included a mascot — a Labrador retriever named Towser — who accompanied the boys to all of their events. The dog was adorned with a neckerchief and hat, and proved to be a fan favorite throughout the camp.

Chuck Martin has been a middle school and high school teacher at Maine School Administrative District 17 in Oxford Hills for over 40 years, as well as a South Paris Troop 130 Eagle Scout and a Scout leader. He is a history lover and runs a popular Facebook page on Oxford Hills-area history spanning 1957 to 1998: Oxford Hills-Posts and Pictures from Local Papers. The information for this article came from area newspaper digital archives and the Paris Historical Society. He is encouraging readers with anecdotes of the jamboree to share with him at chuckmartin2590@yahoo.com. More pictures from the jamboree can be viewed at his Oxford Hills Facebook site.


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