A "SCOUT Story" EMERALD BAY: I think this is my very favorite summer camp. Getting there over the years has always been an adventure and it seems that each year there was a different method of arrival and a difere4nt boat to get us there and back. We started out with what they then called water taxis and they were small, open, agile, fast, wet and got everyone, almost, sea sick on the hour long ride to Emerald Bay Scout Camp. We sat on benches on the sides and across the back of these open boats with our packs stacked on the engine compartment in the middle as the boat driver (don’t think I could call him Captain) smoked smelly cigars.
Then the Crescent Bay Council (changed later to the Great Western Council) arranged for us (all the troops going to summer camp on Catalina) to use the regular Catalina transportation but the landing arrangements changed from year to year. We landed at the dock in Avalon and used water taxis to Emerald Bay some 5 miles up the coast where we would unload at the camp dock. Once we ‘docked’ at a floating dock that the Council had built. It would be towed out to sea where the Catalina boat would tie up to it and transfer our packs from the big boat to the dock to BSA outboards to the dock then return to the dock to get the scouts. Once it even docked at the Emerald Bay camp dock and that was the most practical and worked best but they only did it once…too shallow the boat captain said. They tried out Two Harbors but the dock was too small and the camp staff had to use water taxis to get our gear to camp while we hiked a couple of miles to camp, then trying to sort out our packs from the several hundred on the dock and going to our assigned camp…several troops were involved so it was a mess finding the right gear (and getting back on the Catalina boat going home always was a challenge of the way we got to camp in reverse!) but somehow we got there with the porpoise gleefully swimming alongside as we crossed the channel, was a delight to see. The seasick scouts were not.
The best way to get there, of course, was done by the Sheriff who bummed a ride by the regular run of the Sheriff’s helicopter, landing on the parade ground one lunch time, to the dismay of the Staff and the delight of the campers, Sheriff jumped out and started yelling ‘where’s troop 31’.
Then we had the BOAC bags for one trip and we were envied by all the troops in camp as we proudly carried some of our stuff ashore in these bright sky-blue flight bags that had been donated to us by George Karl who worked for BOAC locally. He did a grand job of doing a campfire for this entire camp at Emerald Bay and even today I am envious of his campfire performance. He loved cactus of all kinds and I remember the trip to Death Valley, after we stopped to see what the trouble with Mergatroid was, he dug up a couple of specimens to take back to his San Fernando Valley home for his cactus garden.
The OA (Order of the Arrow) was in charge of starting the campfires on special occasions and one I well remember. They were always trying different ways to start these fires and one really ‘backfired’ on them by setting a whole hillside on fire with a flaming arrow. Seems that they were to shoot this flaming arrow from the waterfront into the bay to start the Order of the Arrow scouts in their war canoe hidden, around the point, to the water front where they would run whooping and yelling Indian calls to the campfire circle to start the fire for the camp campfire ….their flaming arrow missed and set the dry grass on the hill on fire instead and man you talk about fire drills…we had one that night.
The camp campfire area was an arc dug from the hillside, rock and dirt seats curved to fit the cut out…about 20 rows up from the dusty dirt ‘’stage’ that contained the natural rock cemented fire circle. A carefully set wood to facilitate the quick lighting of the fire when the time arrived was centered in the fire circle. And always the snake-like water hose hooked up and ready to go in case of fire and to put out the left over campfires. Sometimes the staff under certain conditions would let the fire burn out naturally and that was nice to be able to stand nearby and get warm…needed some nights. Natural Sumac, Monterey Pine trees, native trees and one small palm tree surrounded the outside area of the campfire arc and back of the trees at the top were the canvas covered huts of the staff. Beyond the staff area was the curved cliff of Doctor’s cove that was a great swimming area. Lobsters and a big forest of seaweed made this a great adventure swimming in the clear water and watching the golden Garibaldi swim through the kelp.
I loved the fragrant giant eucalyptus trees and the cool, shady grove that housed the staff lounge, the many craft tables and best of all for most the Trading Post…frozen Snicker candy bars were my favorite. Always cool, this was the spare time area for many of us campers and staff when they were off or on break. Walking back through this grove to trees to our camp one evening I noticed a small redheaded scout walking back from the dining hall to his troop’s camp with what looked like a kite string floating in the air. I stopped him and asked about this string and he replied that he was talking his pet fly for a ‘fly’ and sure enough there was a large horsefly tied to the end of the string just humming along.
Wild boar was another series of stories long to be remembered. Snorting and hooves noisily pounding the dried, sun hardened camp ground…trash cans banging to the ground with the boar rooting in them for goodies tossed there by the scouts. Hector Lemus loved these guys and would stay up nights trying to photograph them as they wandered through our camp and even into the tents looking for treats. Scout Chris left some tooth paste in his pack and outside his tent one night and sure enough the boar ripped it open to get the toothpaste…ending the career of the great red, white, and blue pack he was so proud of taking on campouts. Then early-on in our trip’s to Emerald Bay were the memorable evening hikes to the camp dump to watch the boar eat the dining hall/kitchen ‘left-overs’ dumped there each evening. Located in a nearby canyon, an area on the grassy hillside had been scooped out to make a seating area for us to quietly wait and watch the wild boar root in the garbage. Twilight was the best time since the dining hall would have driven their truck to the site and emptied it an d the boat, after napping all day were stirring about and hungry. We could hear them heading down canyon snorting as they came.
The staff, each year, would have a contest among themselves to capture one of these wild boars (and they get pretty big and are dangerous) and put it in a cage built for the purpose. Some contest but it provided amusement and excitement for the entire camp. The staff at another camp on Catalina, Cherry Valley,did the same thing and one year caught a small boar, built what they thought was a boar tight cage and when it was almost finished placed the ‘baby’ boar inside, loosened the ropes holding its feet together, and the boar lay there quietly for a moment (they had placed some water and food in the cage for the animal) and then, in single leap, flew over the three foot enclosure and disappeared in the brush. The camp staff involved in the boar hunt and cage episode was quick to put a reinforced wire fence top on the cage and went off into the brush to hunt another boar.
H W., Mike and Brad were three that I know of and maybe a couple more from our troop were involved in a an experimental camp program older scouts called the Rugged E. It consisted of a lot of commando type activities, capturing some of the staff’s gear, catching a goat for dinner, overnight’s, and lots of hiking and swimming away from their troops so it was a special program. It kept them occupied but not enough to keep them from mischievous acts with the staff who finally ganged up on them and tossed the lot into the ocean at lunch one day with the whole camp looking on. They had gone to lunch wearing a lot of the Staff’s ‘liberated’ clothing, jackets, T shirts and sweats and that was more the staff men could take so the race was on to catch the Rugged E guys much to the delight of the camp.
Story by Scout Master George B Underwood....
Barbi Ennis Connolly, 57th Bomb Wing Historical Researcher and personal friends with George.... one WONDERFUL man! PRINCESSBARBI_B25@msn.com