Before Jamboree was a road

Sixty years ago, buses carried tens of thousands of Boy Scouts down a little dirt road in Newport Beach to the third national Jamboree — a gathering of troops from across the country.

Thursday, about 25 of those Scouts returned to a drastically different landscape.

That dirt street had become Jamboree Road, and the land they had camped on turned into a sprawling shopping center — known as Fashion Island — where they gathered around a small monument near Macy's.

"Fashion Island was the site of the Jamboree, and the road got its name from that," said Devon Dougherty, chief development officer for the Boy Scouts of America Orange County Council.

In July 1953, the land where Fashion Island now sits was covered with tents.

Big Canyon served as a rifle and archery range, the property that became Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort hosted a rodeo, and what is now Corona del Mar High School had been an 80,000-seat arena where Scouts listed to Bob Hope and Dwight Eisenhower, Dougherty said.

"It was the largest Jamboree ever," he said. "It was over 50,000 youth, and it was the only one on the West Coast."

Those 50,000 Scouts traveled by train to attend the event, which takes place every four years.

Steve Diumenti rode from Twin Falls, Idaho, with his troop.

"The only thing I remember about it is the railroad track running right down the middle of Reno," said the 74-year-old who now lives in Tustin.

The Jamboree was the first time Diumenti, who was 14 at the time, had been to California. "First time I'd been anywhere," he said.

By a twist of fate, another Scout, Carl McLarand, has had a hand in developing pieces of the land he camped on 60 years ago.

His employer, MVE International, an Irvine-based architectural firm, has worked on nearby Corporate Plaza office buildings.

But no matter how foward-looking McLarand has been, he has kept a piece of the past, a souvenir from 60 years ago.

His troop, from Hollywood, decided to bring along special neckerchiefs that Boy Scouts wear as part of their uniform. They brought extras to trade with troops across the country, but McLarand made sure to hold on to one as a keepsake.

At the anniversary gathering, he showed off the yellow kerchief, which bears signatures from Elizabeth Taylor, Red Skelton and dozens of other Hollywood stars.

"They wanted to trade big time," McLarand said.

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