Every day countless people drive on Jamboree Road in Newport Beach without knowing the origin of the street’s name. Today it is hard to image that 45,000 Boy Scouts once camped on the spot now occupied by Fashion Island. But, in 1953, when Irvine Ranch hosted the Third National Jamboree, that was the case.
The Jamboree was an extraordinary local event. For a single week in July 1953, a full-scale city, larger than the permanent population of Newport Beach materialized. Scouts attending the Jamboree pitched more than 25,000 tents on the site bordered by present-day MacArthur Blvd., Coast Highway, Back Bay Drive and University Drive. Irvine Road, which ran through the site, was later renamed Jamboree.
Well in advance of the scouts’ arrival, planners surveyed the site and installed the infrastructure. Workers built more than 8 miles of roads, installed over 36 miles of telephone and electrical lines and constructed a water works capable of pumping 18 million gallons of water per day. The encampment also had its own telephone exchange, short wave radio station, hospital employing 164 doctors, fire department consisting of four companies, and police department with a staff of 150 officers. By the time the Scouts arrived, the site also included a theater, store, zoo, bus line and a parking lot capable of holding 16,000 cars.
The boys could select from many traditional camping activities like archery and pottery making. For many, no doubt, a highlight was taking a bus to the beach. An enormous theater offered formal entertainment, including visits from Hollywood stars, such as Danny Kaye and Debbie Reynolds. Even Vice President Richard Nixon made an appearance, flipping pancakes for a few troops.
For people wanting to know more about the Jamboree, Sherman Library has a collection of publications, photographs and newspaper clippings and other items – some of which you see here – available for people to use.