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Scouts From First National Jamboree Share Memories

July 27, 1985

BOWLING GREEN, Va. (AP) _ The steady rain at this year’s National Scout Jamboree looked familier to veterans of the first Jamboree in 1937.

″We had weather just like this,″ said Gil Rhodes, 63, of Clinton, Md., one of about 25,000 Scouts who attended that first National Scout Jamboree in Washington, D.C.

About 50 former Scouts and leaders from the 1937 Jamboree shared lunch, memories and camp songs Saturday in a dining hall at Fort A.P. Hill, where 32,500 Scouts and leaders are attending the 11th quadrennial Jamboree.

Many wore the Boy Scout uniform because they remain involved in Scouting, teaching today’s generation the skills they learned as teens.

Gage T. Myers, 82, of Norfolk, Va., wore the uniform he had when he joined the Scouts in 1916, six years after the organization began in this country.

″Still Scouting is in my heart and soul,″ he said.

Myers, who continues to serve on Scouting committees, remembers meeting Scout founder Sir Robert Baden-Powell of Great Britain and refusing to pledge allegiance to the ″God and my king″ at a World Scout Jamboree in Glasgow, Scotland.

″I said I’m an American,″ he recalled. He pledged allegiance to ″God and my country″ instead.

The oldest Scout at the reunion was Stephen L. Kowalski, 83, of Locust Grove, Va., who has spent 65 years in Scouting.

This would be the 50th anniversary of the first National Jamboree if not for a polio scare that caused the scheduled 1935 Jamboree to be postponed for two years.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the postponement out of fear that Scouts from polio-infected areas along the coasts would spread the crippling disease.

When the Scouts arrived by train two years later, they pitched their tents amid the monuments on the Washington Mall.

″It was all right there in the city,″ said Ray L. Weaver, 79, of Lake Worth, Fla., the communications director of the first Jamboree.

The Scouts visited Congress and FBI headquarters and saw Roosevelt throw out the first baseball at a game between the Washington Senators and the Boston Red Sox.

Unlike the Scouts of today, they did not spend their days trading decorative cloth patches and hat pins.

Instead, they brought mementos of their home states to share with the other boys.

James E. Sonneborn brought lumps of coal and bottles of Ohio River water from his hometown of Wheeling. W.Va.

The most popular souvenirs were the horned toads brought by Texas Scouts.

″It was dead when I got home,″ Sonneborn said of his toad. ″Nobody told me not to put it in the bottom of the pack.″

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