|A recent inquiry from an Independent Film Producer regarding questions about West Texas Boy Scouts taking Horned Lizard to the Jamborees for the purpose of trading to scouts from other areas caused the old memory bank to start churning and the following stories fell out.
Those of us raised in West Texas grew up with "Horney Toads" as we called them and they were as much a part of our lives as cats and dogs.
As a youngster we played with them all time and since they were suppose to like eating Red Ants we would catch them and place them in the biggest Red Ant Hill we could find and we usually knew were plenty of those were located.
As a small boy I remember the Legend that a Texas Horned Toad back in the 1800's was placed in the corner stone of a Texas Courthouse some place in Texas and 50 or so years later in the 1900s when they tore the courthouse down to build a new one the Horned Toad was still alive.
Until the inquiry, I had not thought of that legend in years and years having left Texas in 1962 so my memory was vague on the details of the full story but, I asked a few of my Texas Friends and they reminded me the memories I was having was about "Old Rip", the Horney Toad that was placed in the Corner Stone of the County Court House in Eastland Texas when it was built in 1897 and the 31 years later in 1928 when the court house was torn down to build a new one they found Old Rip still alive.
Several web sites on the internet tell the story of "Old Rip" but, one of the better ones is located:... HERE
Prior to attending the 1950 National Boy Scout Jamboree, the 121 Chisholm Trail Scouts going to the Jamboree held a shakedown campout at Camp Tonkawa south of Abilene, Texas and it was at this campout that our Scout Leaders explained where all we would be going and what to expect on our trip as we visited Washington DC, New York City, Philadelphia, Nigeria Falls and camped out in Valley Forge for 10 days.
They explained, there would be approximately 50,000 Boy Scouts from all over the world attending and that we would experience many different cultures and see and hear of things we had never witnessed before.
One of the things discussed and made aware of was the fact it was customary for Jamboree Scouts to trade things like our neckerchief because they would be slightly different from scouts from other areas and lots of us had special handcrafted neckerchief holders or what is a Tie Clasp and other items of interest not accustomed too or normal to our area of West Texas.
They suggested that Horned Toads would make an excellent Barter Item for us to trade with other scouts at the Jamboree because they had never seen a Horned Toad.
I will assume too that this was when I first learned that our beloved little Texas Horney Toad did not exist in all places of the world.
Accordingly, I took 6 or 7 Horney Toads with me in one of my Dad's Cigar boxes. However, some of the other Chisholm Trail Scouts had large shoe boxes with 20 or more Horned Toads in them. AND yes some of the scouts choose not to take any.
I don't recall feeding or being too concerned with them dying and 60 years of memory now escapes me of traveling with the Horney Toads on the train or taking care of them.
As I recall I was also not too successful in doing much trading with my Horney Toads. Seems like I did trade one or 2 for a tie clasp and another trade was for a hand made belt.
I do distinctly recall a trade my Tent Mate, L. J. Cook made as I was not too happy with L. J. when he traded 2 Horney Toads and I believe 3 dollars for a black snake I had to sleep with every night in our tent. I remember fussing at L. J. because I thought the snake worth the 2 Horney Toads but, not the 3 dollars.
The train we took from Abilene, Texas to attend the jamboree was the same as those passenger trains known in World War II as Troop Trains.
The cars were a dull green in color and were not air conditioned. The seats sit back to back and the backs would fold down to make a bed for sleeping which is what we did at night.
As I recall our particular train started being made up in Arizona. In other words the Arizona scouts were first on the train and then as the train headed east it made stops all along the way picking up other groups of scouts.
We left on June 25, 1950 which was the same day the Korean war broke out and the news was a major topic of discussions flowing back and forth on the train because some of us realized in just a few years it would be our turn to defend our country and were thankful Scouting had prepared us patriotically and for the outdoor life prevalent in wars.
I recently compared the time lines of my Jamboree Journal with one from a scout from the Midland / Odessa area which is the Buffalo Trail Council and it is very obvious they were on the same train as the Chisholm Trail Council which was my group.
Our train was pulled by a Steam Engine and when we got into the mountains of Pennsylvania we had two steam engines pulling us.
I don't recall the number of stops we made to take on additional scout groups but, I don't recall it being two many because the car I was riding in was never too far from the rear of the train and myself and L. J. did a lot of riding standing out on the rear platform of the train.
The Train Conductor hung out in the rear of the train and we made it a point to get acquainted with them every time we changed Conductors along the way because we were afraid they might not like us being out on the rear platform.
Each Conductor had a different personality and we caught one them on the rear platform taking a sip from a pint of whiskey he was carrying in his pocket. He was really friendly with us after that.
This was before radios and communications being what it is today and it was from the rear platform they caught the train orders when we passed through a town where there was a train station and the train was going straight through.
I recall one conductor was walking through the cars sort of fast and when I asked him what's the hurry. He said I missed getting the orders and I got to make sure the front of the train got them or we got to stop.
I learned they put out 2 sets of train orders one for the engineer to snag up front and one for the conductor to snag at the rear of the train. This was done in case either missed grabbing the orders which was done simply by holding one's arm out to go through the loop with the orders attached.
It was one of the Conductors who alerted us we would be going around Horseshoe Curve and would be able to see the front of the train from the rear of the train and suggested it was a good place to take a picture.
So, I was prepared with my camera and took the pictures shown:... HERE
Apparently we made a stop in Indianapolis, Indiana because my memory tells me we went inside the station and I saw a real Indianapolis 500 Race Car on display which I thought quite fascinating since I was a race fan and all I could do each year was listen to the 500 mile race on the radio.
Another exciting event of our train ride was being a low priority train we had to pull into a lot of sidings to let higher priority trains pass us on the tracks and it was a bit of a thrill to have a high speed train passing you only a few feet away.
I believe it was on the train ride home that it was hot hot hot and everybody was complaining about not having air conditioned cars and at some point we stopped and they put 500 pound blocks of ice in the top of the passenger cars we were in and we learned this was a method of air conditioning the cars because the air flowed across the blocks of ice as it entered the car and we had cool air until the ice melted a few hours later and then it was back to being hot hot again.
The cars were designed to be cooled this way but, I think we can assume the Train Company had provided the Boy Scouts a cut rate deal and were not going to put out too much extra money for the ice.
Aw! But, it was fun - Two Steam Engines - Horseshoe Curve - Missed Train Orders - Whiskey Drinking Conductors - Stops on the Sidings and Clickety Clack, Clickety Clack down the tracks we went half way across the USA.
The first stop on our way to Valley Forge was Washington DC and several miles outside of Washington DC we had to stop and get a Electric Locomotive to take us into Washington because Steam Engines were no longer allowed in Washington due to the soot and other particles coming from the smoke stack.
Events that stand out most in my mind about visiting Washington are:
1. Witnessing the changing of the Guard at the Unknown Soldiers Tomb.
In recent time, I can not imagine turning loose several hundred teenagers as young as 14 on the downtown streets of New York City. But, in 1950 that was exactly what our scout leaders did with the Scouts of the Chisholm Trail Council.
If I remember correctly we were required to travel in pairs using the buddy system and we were told where to be at certain times but, other wise turned loose.
The first thing our leaders did however was give us a bus tour of the city which was narrated by the bus driver.
I'm still amused when I think of the bus driver narrating our tour around New York. He had to wait for a brand new 1950 Cadillac to parallel park in downtown New York and as he kind of pulled out to go around the Caddy, he pointed down with his finger at the car and said "Jouse Boys sees dat car right don dere. If I had de money dat dere car cost I wouldn't have to work for a hoe year." He apparently knew we were from out west and probably figured we had never seen a Cadillac.
After the Bus Tour we were turned loose and went to sight seeing on our own and going all over down town Manhatten.
We visited Madison Square Gardens and Radio City and went to the top of the Empire State Building which in 1950 was the tallest building in the world and that was something to a kid from Lueders, Texas. The ride to the top required us taking 2 different elevators because the height was more then one elevator and it's cables could handle.
I remember being told the building swayed 14 inches at the top in a slight wind and I can remember it appeared to me you could take a cable and attach it to a car and pull the building over it was so tall.
After our visit to the Empire State Building, there was 4 or 5 of us walking down the street in New York together and passed this good looking women in a bright red dress and man she had a figure like Marilyn Monroe and her dress was cut real low exposing most of her endowment.
Now us old Texas Boys had never seen anything like that. So, what happened, we took off running down the street to the next red light intersection and crossed the street and raced down about 2 or 3 blocks in the opposite direction and crossed back over so we could walk real slow past this lady in the red dress again.
Our schedule for the afternoon was a ride on the subway out to the House that Ruth Built, The Yankee's Base Ball Stadium were we got to watch the Yankees play the Washington Senators.
The Stadium was not real full in the outfield bleachers so me and a few others went exploring all over the stadium and I took the picture shown below.
Interestingly enough, that afternoon when we came out of Yankee Stadium to catch the subway back to town here was this same lady in the same red dress standing out in front of the main stadium exit just kind of standing there swinging her red purse back and forth.
It was then that it dawned on us we had just witnessed a lady of the evening at work.
Another memory of New York was Grand Central Station being all underground and inside was this huge area with a large clock and they were roping the area off so a scene for a movie film could be made that night and I have since seen the movie and recognized the scene but, have forgotten which movie it was.
After New York it was on to Valley Forge and our 1950 National Boy Scout Jamboree.
The Chisholm Trail Council had brought with them a large sign to be erected at the entrance to our camping area and it is shown below.
Our camp area was set up in a U shape with a large canvas bag of water hanging on a tripod.
Mine and L. J's. tent was about in the center of the U shape as indicated by my marking on it a long long time ago as shown below.
In the opening of the U Shape area we had a large open canvas canopy under which was our kitchen and dinning tables.
Scattered through out Valley Forge was Trading Post with supplies in case we forgot anything but, I don't recall many visits to the Trading Post.
I guess we didn't have air mattresses in 1950 because one of my memories is of a "Straw Tick" I had to purchase as part of our required equipment. The Straw Tick was simply a large cloth bag the size of a folding cot so you could make a straw mattress for the cot being provided to us by the Council.
After setting up our camping area in Valley Forge we were told to go to this certain area and we could purchase straw to put in our Straw Tick.
My tent buddy, L. J. and I went over ahead of most of the others in our troop and here was this guy selling hay for us to put in our straw tick.
Best I can recall, you could pay 35 cents to fill your straw tick or for $1.00 you could buy a full bale of hay.
Now here was a challenge for me knowing a lot of the guys back at camp had not purchased their straw yet.
I don't recall what L. J. did but, he was busy filling his Straw Tick while I was studying my options of buying a full bale for a dollar or paying 35 cents for filling my tick.
As I sized up how much hay was in a bale against how much I could get in my Straw Tick I asked the salesman "Let me get this straight, I can have all the hay I can get in my Straw Tick for 35 cents or a full bale for a dollar. He said that is correct.
I paid my 35 cents and proceeded to stuff my tick with over a bale of hay and then the guy starts telling me I didn't need that much hay because I only should have enough to make a soft bed.
He was not aware I knew several of the guys back at camp had not come over yet and I left with my Straw Tick so full of hay it was plumb round it was so packed with straw it was like a log as I carried it back to camp on my shoulder.
But, back at camp I sold straw out of my tick to 2 or 3 other guys for 25 cents and still had so much straw left in my tick I had to take some more out after the first night as I found it uncomfortable.
When a scheduled event was not taking place, we roamed all over Valley Forge taking in the experience of visiting George Washington’s headquarters and different places were the continental army camped out and lived in log huts.
We viewed all the statues and read the inscriptions.
And, it was fun talking to Scouts from other areas of the USA and seeing what they might have to trade for one of our horney toads.
In all, Valley Forge was a great big wonderful experience for a 15 year old, especially the pagents put on in the amphitheater which was actually the side of a large hill with a stage about the length of a football field down at the bottom of the hill.
It was really something to be one of the 47,000 Boy Scouts sitting on the ground on the side of that hill listening to General Dwight D. Eisenhower or President Harry S. Truman giving us a speech.
My Journal indicates President Truman spoke at our Opening Night Ceremony and General Eisenhower spoke on July 4th.
Journal also indicates we watched $5,000.00 worth of fireworks after Eisenhower's speech on the 4th which I considered astonishing.
Another amazing sight was the night each of the 47,000 scouts sitting on the side of that hill light a candle and was holding it.
A picture of that is in a brochure published after the jamboree and some place about in the middle of the pictures shown below is E. Ray Smyth of Troop 46 - Lueders, Texas
On one of the days while camped at Valley Forge they took us into Philadelphia on a doodle bug type train and back then the Liberty Bell was still housed in Independence Hall and we were able to actually touch the Liberty Bell and see it's crack up real close.
I don't recall doing anything else in Philadelphia but, it was exiting touring Independence Hall and being in the same spot where our forefathers met to establish our country.
We elected Lloyd Roberts to be our Troop Leader for the Jamboree which was designated Troop 7.
Lloyd was big for his age and a Big Old Lovable Teddy Bear type who every body liked as he was as gentle as he was big and just a great guy to be around.
For what every reason mischievous ideas come to young boys, one day we decided our leader should be dressed in a diaper. Now Lloyd was no small boy and it took most all of us in the troop to accomplish the task but, the results is shown below.
AND, I've always been sad and mystified WHY things happen in life as they do because 2 years later this scout friend we dressed in a diaper died at age 18 from cancer.
Lloyd was a great guy on the Jamboree but, I recently researched the Abilene Reporter News Archives and the articles found attest to just how outstanding a young man Lloyd truly was and this can be readily be learned by the articles shown:... HERE
After our 10 day stay at Valley Forge it was back on our hot hot passenger train to make one more stop and that was to be at Nigeria Falls.
Seeing Nigeria Falls was also an exciting part of the trip because of the sight of course but, also because for the first time in my life I was able to walk into another country. Fact is, I stopped and put one foot in Canada and one foot in the US when we walked across RainBow Bridge to visit a tiny bit of Canada.
After our short stop off at Nigeria Falls it was back on the train and straight back to Texas.
In 1950 our family didn't even have a suitable camera to take on the Jamboree but, our local drug store had a policy of loaning you their camera providing you purchased the film from them and allowed them to have the film developed.
Accordingly, I borrowed their Kodak Box Camera and my remaining Jamboree pictures worth viewing are:... HERE
The 1950 National Boy Scout Jamboree was an exciting and wonderful experience for a 15 year old Boy Scout from Lueders, Texas
I saw my first television set in a tent at the Jamboree in Valley Forge. The screen was about 10 inches and in black and white.
At the time, Washington DC - New York City - Valley Forge - Philadelphia and Nigeria Falls were imaginary places only read about in books or seen in a movie theater and for the Boy Scouts to provide the experience I had, I shall forever be grateful.
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