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Polish Jamboree

Horseshoe Scout Reservation hosted the Polish Scouts in Exile Jamboree in 1988. 

Edited by Andrew Coe  [Contribute Info]

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Polish Jamboree Participants

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Polish Jamboree Staff

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Ceremony and Flags

The Polish Jamboree was filled with flags representing many countries and units.  These flags were a large part of the ceremonies held on the HSR Parade Field.
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International Polish Scouts-in-Exile Jambore

This recap of the Polish Scouts-in-Exile Jamboree appeared in the 2013 Summer edition of the HSRAA news letter, The Octoraro Loop, 25 years after the event was hosted by Chester County Council at Horseshoe Scout Reservation.

A 25 Year Look Back

1988 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III  [Contribute Info] 

If one were to ask our Scouts and many leaders today, we doubt that they would be aware of the fact that the Horseshoe Scout Reservation, both John H. Ware, 3rd and Horseshoe for one 'glowing' period in the 1988 year in August was the focal point of many continents, countries around the world - a site where 1200 boy and girl scouts from as far away as Australia, Great Britain, Poland and parts of Russia controlled countries in Europe plus USA and Canada met. It was at a time in history when communist influences had a great role in the governments of many of these countries - we of the Chester County Council played a major role in hosting this event. It is quite a story and many of our staff and leaders played a role!

Polish Jambo Representatives of many countries at Horseshoe
1988 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
Why was our camp selected? That seems to be a part of the intrigue. Bill Hess, our Camp Business Manager (now deceased), was the primary contact. The story is told that the International organization had deliberated for some time on location and it was our being close to a town that had some meaning to the Polish. The fact that we had a mailing address of "Rising Sun" made the difference. Apparently, the relevance to Rising Sun to their ambitions or their philosophical scheme, gave us the event But, more than likely it was the reference to Rising Sun in their country's song...

Our role was one of the host for the event…providing camp facilities, aquatics availability at both our camps, location to Philadelphia, Washington, DC and environs which were close to major Catholic dioceses plus the ability to camp the female Scouts at Ware and the male scouts at Horseshoe, yet having a good common meeting ground access. The first week was to be spent "in camp" taking advantage of programs, etc. The second week provided them opportunities to visit major cities.

In 1988, the Polish Scouts in Exile Jamboree was held at Horseshoe Scout Reservation.
1988 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
Of special note, our Horseshoe Reservation has entertained foreign Scouts and dignitaries over its 86 year history. While this particular piece is about, the Polish Scouts in Exile, we also have entertained among others: a Norwegian Scout contingent whose leader was originally a member of Troop 78, we had over 100 Scouts and leaders at Camp John H. Ware, 3rd in an Irish 2000 encampment. Each of these events have their own stories but that of the present subject is perhaps the most intriguing because it was supported by so many of our own Council Staff and Volunteers.

The timing was unique…summer following an active season of our own Scouts. Fifty of our more seasoned staff were invited to stay on to form the basis for the camp leadership. Recruited were some 110 volunteers from the Council's Unit Service and Executive Board group…a group of seasoned and experienced leaders. Under the leadership of Bill Hess, JB Rettew (newly elected Council President) and Hab Butler (newly elected Council Commissioner, a cadre of committed volunteers were on hand throughout all or most of the two week period.

Upon arrival the female contingent set up at Ware with the male group at Horseshoe. The signs and the "shouts" called attention to the theme of the event - "CZU WAJ" which was literally interpreted as the equivalent of the BSA motto "Be Prepared" to mean "Be Alert". The aim of the Jamboree was to keep alive the tradition of Polish Scouting in spite of the fact that Scouting in Poland was challenged by the Communist party.

Events planned during the week included Olympic sporting events, camp wide field games, orienteering events, campfire programs, rallies, etc. The Scouts were a very close knit group…loved the singing…cheering…and the camoradarieie of the get together!

Reading from the "Spirit of the Horseshoe", the feeling this event created for all the workers from our Council is clear:

A patch from the 1988 International Polish Scouts-in-Exile Jamboree.

The following was contributed by Clarke Green:


This patch was created by the first contingent of Scouts from Poland to attend one of the Jamborees. They couldn't get exit visas in Poland to attend an event like this, so they stated a different reason for travelling to the U.S.

The "P" in the center of the patch has two upturned arrows that signify that Scouts in Poland at that time were conducting their activities secretly, and the Polish underground resistance during the Nazi occupation (comprised of many, many Scouts).

The contingent wore neckerchiefs that were half red and half black. When I asked the significance of these colors Christoph Lipiski, (a member of the contingent who I would correspond with for several years afterward) held up the black side of the neckerchief and whispered "death", and holding up the red side added; "to the communists."

1988 - Contributed by Andrew Coe
"For many of our 110 volunteers and 50 Reservation staff members, this was a truly 'unforgettable experience.' The sights and sounds of the 'Zlot' (Jamboree) were memorable and, at times emotional. Few will forget the opening march onto the Horseshoe Parade Field when over 1000 Scouts marched onto the field to the sound of drums, bugles and whistles. Leading the way, the many multi-colored flags of the various international Polish scout groups - the first singing of the Polish Scouting song - the tearful reunion of past jamboree groups on the Horseshoe field. The haunting melodies of the evening campfires and Catholic masses in the pine grove - and finally, that special moment on closing day when each Scouting unit marched passed and saluted the President of the Polish government in exile." Bill Hess did an exceptional job in coordinating the event and devoting many long hours both in preparation for the Jamboree and at Camp to insure its success. He officially greeted the Jamboree at the Opening Ceremonies and was joined by Council President Rettew. The Commissioners Staff, under Hab Butler's leadership, was always prepared and willing to serve. Many friendships between our service crews and the Polish Scouters were made during the encampment. Even serving for several days at the hectic Trading Post was the Council President's wife, Ellie Rettew along with Sue Crouch and Sue Fisher. Ellie had a great time conversing in Polish with many of the Scouts.

There was a brief problem that had been unanticipated. The weather was hot as only Horseshoe can be in August. The Polish organization had delayed qualifying all their Scouts - boys and girls - for their swim tests. The result was that the showers were in continuous use for the first several days! As Bill Moffet on the service Staff put it: "Oh! Oh! No Water!" Well, thanks to some quick thinking and help from Camp Ranger Roy Cole, Bill and others, a water line was run to a remote well and we soon were filling the tanks at both camps. In the meantime, some restrictions had to be enforced... paper plates for meals and the ladies' hair washing had to be halted briefly.

When talking with all the staff members who were there and the members of the Commissioners' Unit Service group like Hab Butler, one will get a real sense of the impact it had on the lives of all who served.

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Video Recollections

During the 17th Annual HSRAA Reunion, several older HSRAA members such as Fred Gates and J.B. Rettew III discuss their memories of the Polish Jamboree in Exile held in 1988 at HSR.
J.B. Rettew III discusses his recollections of the Polish Jamboree in Exile at the 17th Annual HSRAA Reunion. 

2016 - Contributed by Andrew Coe  [Contribute Info] 
J.B. Rettew III discusses his recollections of the Polish Jamboree in Exile at the 17th Annual HSRAA Reunion. 

2016 - Contributed by Andrew Coe  [Contribute Info] 
During the 17th Annual HSRAA Reunion, Fred Gates and Damon Sinclair discuss the Polish Jamboree in Exile that took place at HSR in 1988. 

2016 - Contributed by Andrew Coe  [Contribute Info] 
Fred Gates and J.B. Rettew III discuss the Polish Jamboree in Exile (1988 at HSR) at the 17th Annual HSRAA Reunion. 

2016 - Contributed by Andrew Coe  [Contribute Info] 
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Polish Jamboree Memorabilia

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