From May 9th through the 11th in the year of our Lord 1958, the very first "Jamboree of the Air" (JOTA) was held by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). The American Radio Relay League (ARRL), in conjunction with the BSA, is promoting this year's 60th anniversary event occurring from October 20th through the 22nd. As you might imagine, quite a lot has changed over 59 years in terms of equipment, but the basics in terms of encouraging and assisting the next generation of licensed Hams remains as always the primary goal of organizers. The Boy Scouts, of course, join in for the fun and learning experience. Jamboree on the Air events, held in October, do not coincide with the National Scout Jamboree, held in July. Rather than gathering bodily at one location per the annual event in West Virginia, JOTA events are distributed nationwide with participants "joining" via radio on the air. Operators are encouraged to make contacts worldwide, not just amongst U.S. Boy Scouts. A nice, colorful merit badge is awarded for participation. The official station call sign K2BSA (interesting story of its change from the original K2BFW).
Here is an excerpt from the "Strays" column in the May 1958 issue of QST magazine that reports on the very first Jamboree on the Air. Unfortunately, there were no photos accompanying it.
May 1958 QST
A Boy Scout "Jamboree-on-the-Air" will be held from midnight Friday, May 9, to midnight Sunday, Mall (local times) on al amateur radio bands. All radio amateurs who have an interest in the scouting movement are invited to make contact with each other to further international friendship and brotherhood. this is, however, not a contest, and there will be no prizes. The Boys' Life radio club stations, K2BFW, will be on the air, and it is planned to have a station on from the International Scouters Training Center at Gilwell Park, England, using the call sign GB3BP.
Below are a couple excerpts from the 1957 Boy Scouts of America's National Jamboree, held in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Hams were there even before JOTA!
September 1957 QST
Field Day? No, this is the General Class tent of K3BSA at the Fourth National Jamboree of the Boy Scouts of America. Another tent nearby housed the Novice shack. From July 12 through July 18 the station worked nearly a thousand hams, many of them Scouts, on all bands from 80 through 2 meters. About 350 amateurs and at least twice that number of SWLSs visited the station in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, during the week, but the lucky ones on watch when the Norristown Times Herald photographer came by were K9AYT, W9WVM, K2EAZ and Idaho SWL Kent Johnson.
K3BSA also played an important part in the very beautiful ceremony used to close the Jamboree. Early in the morning of July 18 the station had a schedule with KC4USA and recorded the voice of Explorer Scout Dick Chappell, who is with the polar expedition, reciting the Scout Oath. That evening, the tape was played back in the main arena, and more than 50,000 Scouts, each holding a lighted candle, joined Dick in re-dedicating themselves to the principles of the movement.
"Man bites dog," says W6YY. A Russian sent John a 10-ruble note, asking for W6YY's QSL.
KN4OWM tells us that within less than two hours one morning he worked both KN4KID and KN4OLD!
How to confuse the postmaster! VE1QY and VE1YQ both live in Yarmouth.
Even W1AW has gotten into the coincidence act. Two consecutive contacts the other night were W3FOX and W3DEN.
October 1957 QST
WN2MTC, left, and "almost-hams" Bill Cabeen and Steve Springer obligingly swung away from the counter so that Hq. staffer W1UED could get this shot of the QSLs stapled up by some of the hams taking part in the recent Scout Jamboree. Thirty-eight state, Hawaii and Ontario were represented in the guest book.
An extensive search of the Newspapers.com website turned up no specific stories reporting on the amateur radio aspect of the Jamboree on the Air.
Posted October 9, 2017