Hitch-Hiking to WJ'55
By Doug Black, Jonesboro, Georgia
I remember this 8th World Boy Scout Jamboree — 50 years ago! Cliff Rodell and I hitchiked 350 miles from Smithfield, Pennsylvania to Niagara! Cliff was 14 and I was 15. How different the world was then. I remember getting all kinds of lifts, even riding in the back of trucks to get there. We wore our Scout uniforms which made it easier to get a ride. I can't remember where we spent the night on the road. I think I recall that we had "shelter-half tents" and I am certain we didn't have enough money for a room. In Buffalo NY, we went to a diner for breakfast where I ordered a stack of pancakes to fill me up for the least money. It was less than a dollar — what a deal that was! We arrived at the Jamboree and I can't remember how long we stayed there. We had no reservations and just went from camp to camp and we were always invited in to stay as guests and treated well and fed. It is truly amazing how smooth things went and how completely unconcerned Cliff and I were about all things.
I took some "Fayette County coal" and some "Frick Mine" and "Robena Mine" postcards to go with my coal to swap at my Dad's suggestion. I was not able to swap much as I soon realized that many countries have coal. They said "it looked like the coal they had back home...". The postcards were received much better. I did trade an Eagle Scout patch for a Queen's Scout patch. Cliff and I had little trouble and never considered it a difficult journey. We always had the hopeful anticipation of getting a good long ride with someone "going our way." Coming back we were at a gas station somewhere between Erie and Buffalo where we got a bottle of "pop". It was there that I spotted a counselor who I recognized from Jumonville Methodist Training Camp I didn't bother to talk to him and ask a favor, as we never felt the least bit desparate about getting a ride. We hit Pittsburgh on the way back. It must have been rush hour. I remember walking along a busy parkway that winded up a large hill. There we watched the slag being dumped over the hill from a steel mill. It looked like lava flowing down. That segment was the worst of the whole trip as I realized it was too busy for anyone to stop and give us lift. We did a lot of walking. One carload of friendly Pittsburghers had time to shout out the window "Bullsh-ters of America!" at us, (BSA). Cliff and I trudged on and finally arrived home without incident.
As I watched my own children grow I often thought of such things that I did. Things that I would never consider allowing them to do. But it was a different time and I think my parents especially Dad was influenced by the Adventures of Tom Sawyer and he felt it was neccessary to do such things as part of growing up. However Dad would "only listen" to my plans of builing a raft of innertubes and floating it down the Monongahela River "North" to Pittsburgh then down the Ohio and Missisippi, on to New Orleans. I had it all planned out that he would pick me up in his car and bring me back home. As much as I wanted to do it, it could only be imagined for Dad always gave a "good" reason why it was not a "good plan." My parents also put the stop on a planned 30 day canoeing survival trip in Canada were we would only take fish hooks and a 22 rifle. Oh well...
I did get to attend that Jamboree and with encouragement! Being what he described as a "sickly child" and "overly protected" Dad must have felt robbed of such adventures and wished that he had it to live over. He certainly had faith that no harm would come to us. I mean he really had faith!