Radio Scouting at 1973 Jamboree

Ham Radio at the 1973 Jamborees

League staffers WA1PID and K1ZND were trustees and managers of the special ham stations, KJ7BSA and KJ3BSA, which operated in late July and early August from the two sites of the 1973 National Scout Jamboree: Farragut State Park, Idaho, and Moraine State Park, Pennsylvania.

With over 70,000 Scouts and 10,000 Scouters in attendance, plus untold hundreds of thousands of visitors to the sites, the Jamboree presented a unique opportunity for demonstrating ham radio to an enthusiastic and receptive audience. About 110 different operators made contacts from the stations, which were both equipped for operation on at least three hands simultaneously. A typical day found the equipment in use for fourteen to sixteen hours. Over six thousand contacts were made using tile special call signs, and all states and over 60 countries were worked from each location.

The display stations did encounter some problems, but none that couldn’t be solved. In Idaho, it took a couple of extra days to get the station connected to the power lines. In Pennsylvania, the 4-element monoband Yagis for 20 and 15 meters which had been ordered, failed to arrive. (It was later discovered that the 20-meter beam had been shipped to Idaho by mistake!) Thanks to W3BWU of Tydings Electronics in Pittsburgh, a substitute tribander was obtained which worked sufficiently well to account for over two thousand of KJ3BSA’s 3800 contacts.

A message service was available at both stations, and over 800 pieces of traffic were originated. Some incoming traffic was handled, but delivery was uncertain due to the limited internal communication facilities available at such a temporary installation. (At Jamboree East, the telephone serving the ham station was over 100 yards away; it was a half-mile hike to an outside line.) Most incoming traffic was posted on bulletin boards in front of the stations, and a surprising amount was picked up by the addressees.

Interest in the ham radio activities was very high among the Scouts, even though we were competing with such features as sailing, canoeing, hiking trails, and archery for their attention. Many brought their code speed up to five words per minute by taking part in special code classes taught at each location.

A handful of Scouts completed the requirements for the radio merit badge while at the Jamboree, and several dozen earned partial certification.

The two ham stations were located right in the center of the Jamboree’s busiest areas. Special temporary broadcast stations were set up to service the Jamboree and were widely listened to, but were deliberately located away from the stream of traffic. This resulted in the question most frequently asked of us by visitors and Scouts: “is this the broadcast station?” We didn’t mind answering a bit, since it gave us a chance to explain what we were doing – and why it was so much more Interesting than one-way broadcast radio!

– from the October 1977 issue of QST