EXPERIENCES AT CAMP DIMOND (1942 – 1948)
OAKLAND AREA BOY SCOUT COUNCIL
By Ed Totman (Oakland Troop 5, Eagle Scout)
The year was 1941 when I participated with Troop 5 for my first of many camping experiences at Camp Dimond in the Oakland hills. Our Troop met at Burkhalter School (near the Leona quarry) early on a Saturday morning for our seven-mike hike over to Dimond. Fortunately for us, a troop committee member with an automobile was able to take our packs over to Dimond ahead of us. Our hike over to Dimond took us across Mountain Blvd, along an old rail line from the Eastbay Transit railway, past the Chabot Observatory, Leona Park, Redwood Road up the hill to Joaquin Miller Road and then on to Scout Road where we turned right and then left at the entrance to Camp Dimond.
Once there we proceeded across the parade grounds to the camp office where we were checked-in for the cabins (Pre-registering was a pre-requisite). Each of us was given a “tick” (A large pillow-like sack as big as a full sized sleeping bag). We took the tick to a storage shed and filled it with straw that was to be our mattress for the weekend. Taking our "ticks" to the assigned cabin where we claimed a bed and unpacked our packs that had been deposited there by the troop committee members. There were about twenty Troop cabins and each one had eight beds and was about 20ft x 20ft in size. Seeing that we had about sixteen scouts in our Troop we had two cabins.
On our first trip to Camp Dimond the first time scouts were given an orientation of the camp while the experienced scouts began their chosen activities. After entering the pine edged road that led through the camp the first structure on the right was the long mess hall which was used for cooking, meetings and many activities which I'll allude to later. On the left side of the road and set back a little were the troop cabins arranged in a semi-circle. Behind the cabins was a steep-sided hill covered with Monterey Pine that led down to Mountain Blvd where there were a couple of open camping spots. (While camping there in later years we discovered a can of figs with both ends puffed out which we took up to the camp garbage depot and disposed of it). Proceeding along the road past the mess hall on the left was the parade grounds used for many activities and ceremonies. Beyond this field there was a hill and a path that led up to a small outdoor camping area called Indian Camp with room for about six sleeping bags and an open fire pit. Continuing along the road on the left was the "Bull Pen" or the "Nature Corral" and beyond it was the "Bug House" also known as the Nature Hall were BC Cain had his collection of bugs. Still further was the round swimming pool and the last, on the right was the garage and on the left was the scout office. Oh! I left out one important thing and that was, to the right of the cabins was the "KYBO". Now, for normal human beings, KYBO means "Keep Your Bowles Open" which would be the lavatories and the showers. This is the camp as I remember it however the last time that I was there was about sixty-two years ago.
There were a number of structures around the camp that I will try to describe:
A large building about 50 by 100 feet with a kitchen and was used for cooking, eating, meetings, demonstrations and used for passing certain Merit Badges.
About twenty cabins with eight spring cots in each of them. Boys were encouraged not to spend much time in them but to get out and participate, however raids between cabins did occur usually in the form of messing-up the other guys cabin. Short-sheeting the liner of a sleeping bag was a special effect. Placing a pan of water over the entrance door to soak the person coming through was another popular trick. Once after coming home from a trip to Camp Dimond I didn't undo my sleeping bag for several days before airing it out and when I did, to my surprise and sorrow, there was a large gopher snake that had suffocated in the bag. Unfortunately raiding sometimes resulted in damage to one thing or another and was definitely not a Scout-like behavior. Humor is one thing, damage is another.
Circular benches used for nature demonstrations such as Bugs Cain demonstrating the nature of snakes and the learning of some crafts such as "Boondoggling".
Many stuffed animals were on display along with maps for study and an old crank "Victrola" and a lot of old records to listen to. Many Merit Badge tests were given in this building. There were several doors around the periphery of the building that were about 2ft. X 2ft. with signs above them and they might say "GET A DRING FROM THE IRON SPRING" and when you opened the door there was a large iron coil spring. These joke doors were part of the fun at Camp Dimond and it's too bad that I can't remember the other ones. I believe that they came from the active mind of Bugs Cain. Bugs had a huge collection of stuffed birds and as I remember Bird Study Merit Badge (A required badge for Eagle Scout) stated that one needed to know forty birds but when the test was given Bugs would hold up fifty birds and you had to get forty right. In order to fulfill this requirement a Scout had to know about one-hundred and twenty five birds because of the wide variety of the critters in the Bay Area. There were tables set-up around the room for games and other studies.
Every morning colors were raised on the flag pole that was at one end of the field accompanied by a Scout blowing a bugle, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. Games were played on the field both day and night, however there were no night lights. One thing the Scouts did not do, was to march around the field in military style, that my friend was for the Nazis to do. Taps were sounded in the evening.
This was a place where you could camp out in the open on top of a hill with just a few level places for sleeping bags and a couple of fire pits for cooking and an evening fire.
A round pool that was all one depth and I believe it was about ten to twelve feet. To create a shallow area an underwater platform, made of wood allowing for a depth of about four feet. This covered about one half of the area of the pool. There was a diving board that was about four feet above the water and a diving platform that extended about ten feet over the water. There may have been a diving board under the top of the platform but I just can't remember. The edges of the pool were quite rough and one soon learned to avoid them if you didn't want a portion of your skin to be sanded off. As for the water in the pool the Council had obtained a large water filter from the U. S. Navy and this filter made the water more pure that the Oakland City water (EBMUD). Every year there would be a water show with races, diving contests and demonstration plus there would be several comedy routines on the diving platform and diving board.
Just what it says but sold Scout Badges and awards. Uniforms and camping equipment were sold at stores like Kraigs, Sears, Wards, Capwells, etc.
This was the domain of Willie Silver or better known as "Uncle Willie" who drove trucks, busses and did general repair around the camp. He also worked at Dimond-O, Dimond-T and Los Mochos in the same capacity. Willie was only about 5ft. 2in., not the prettiest thing to look at with his ruddy complexion and hooked nose but, boy was he strong and good natured. Why he could move around a 55 gallon container of gas or oil just like the barrel was empty. The Council was lucky to have a person of his ability around.
There must have been a campfire area around the camp but, for the life of me, I can't remember where it was however I do remember campfires there. It may have been at the far end of the assembly field.
Again there must have been a craft shop but that also slips my memory however it might have been in the Nature Hall or underneath behind it.
Indoor activities were held in both the Nature Hall and the Mess Hall depending on the size of the room that was needed. First let’s take a look at the Nature Hall and as you might imagine things having to do with nature were held there. So now I'll tell you about other things that went on there. This was a place to work on Camping, Tracking, Photography, Pathfinding, Pioneering, Civics, and Pioneering and Journalism Merit Badges. There were probably others that I can't remember or didn't know about. I'll now elaborate on some of these activities.
1. Journalism - Joe Knowland, the owner of the Oakland Tribune, gave a session every year on this subject elaborating on the main functions of a newspaper article which were "Who, What, Where When and How. Reading articles today I wish that reporters would take his advice.
2. Camping - In the Mess Hall was a barrel turned sideways with legs and a neck with a head on it. There was also a tail. Beside it, hanging on the wall, was a saddle and an X-frame which were used to learn about pack animals. The saddle for horses and the X-frame for pack animals in which you were to tie a diamond hitch just the same as you would do on your pack frame. DON'T FORGET TO KNEE THE ANIMAL IN THE BELLY BEFORE YOU CINCHED THE PACK DOWN. This gets it to exhale so the pack doesn't drop off. Remember "Knee the Barrel".
3. Pathfinding - This was the only Merit Badge that I failed on the first try. I learned to read footprints, study trails and their clues plus how to mark a trail however the test had questions like "If you were at the intersection of 90th. Ave. and East 14st. and someone ask you how to get to the Oakland Oaks' Baseball Park what streetcars and busses would you tell them to take?" Well East 14st. changed its name, and three years later Standard Oil tore all the streetcar lines out. Later the Oakland Oaks disappeared. We were also asked to map downtown Oakland but what would happen if you moved to another town, say Sacramento? This has to be the most useless Merit Badge I have ever earned except for the information I learned in preparation for the test. What I did learn I used many times when hiking in the Sierra or the Cascades.
4. Photography - Lessons were given by Bugs Cain on techniques and composition. Bugs had a 35mm Leica camera and also had a 3D attachment that Bob Delareuelle had made for him. When mounted on a tripod with the camera on it, you could take a picture, then very quickly swing the camera over about six inches and take another picture. When the two negatives were printed you could mount them and view them in stereo through a stereopticon. Bugs was a tough critic.
5. Civics - Lectures were given and together with a senior civics class in high school. The badge wasn't too hard.
6. Many leadership classes were held at the camp, classes for adults and young leaders as well. The adult sessions were held at night and the youth sessions were usually on an overnight at the camp. The one that I remember the most was the one for Junior Assistant Scoutmaster where we were divided into patrols and after about twenty minutes of not being able to come up with an original name we gazed out into the open field that was being watered, and came up with "The Revolving Faucet Patrol". Many who participated in this program became leaders in various troops.
Outdoor activities were quite important to Scouting and there was a meaningful saying that went "Don't take the out, out of Scouting" which was followed very closely.
1. On the field was an obstacle course for physical training and at times this extended into the mess hall for participation in the rope climb because there was no structure outside to support this kind of sport. Games such as tag football and baseball were played on the field however the main function was for scouting activities. At night "capture the flag" and other night games were played. Morning Revelry and Evening Taps were played regularly.
2. Indian Camp was explained earlier but it was primarily used by older Scouts who prided themselves with being able to camp using the minimum amount of equipment in practice for doing so in the High Sierra.
3. Not only were there campfires but sing-a-longs usually led by Bugs who had a good voice and a wonderful repertoire of camp melodies. Skits and camp stories also permeated the night air.
4. Cooking for Troops and Merit Badges filled the weekend activities, many of them successful others not so. One time, when our Troop was there, one patrol was in charge of the evening dinner which happened to be chicken and dumplings. Now realize that we were primarily city boys and at the time chickens were sold whole and needed to be plucked and cut up. This the Scouts did, however they didn't realize that you should not put the craw into the stew but they did giving it an extremely bitter brew which was gladly thrown away while the dinner for the morrow was quickly prepared. "Bread on a Stick" was a popular thing to prepare but, to this day, I have yet to have it prepared properly. Baking bread in a #10 tin worked much better. One thing that was supposed to be "off limits" was to steal away to a store in the Montclair Shopping Center and buy extra food, candy or soda pop but some of the wayward kids would do it. (NOT ME!) It was easier to do if you had a bike. Behind the cabins there was a steep hill sloping down to Mountain Blvd. planted with Monterey Pines and having pine needles all over the ground. With your bike you would ride over the top of the hill then applying your Morrell Coaster Brakes you could skid clear down to the bottom of the hill. What fun, but not in the Scout Handbook.
Needless to say if rain occurred activities were curtailed but there was still a lot to do around camp in the Nature Hall or the Mess Hall however this rarely happened, at least for our Troop 5. A byproduct of Camp Dimond was meeting Scouts from other troops who had new ideas and techniques and sharing your ideas with theirs. Talents, learned at Camp Dimond, were extended to Dimond-O and Dimond-T leading to enrichment of life experiences for which I am grateful.
At the present time this is about all I can recall about but, at my age, three of four weeks from now at about three-thirty in the morning something else will pop into my mind and I'll regret not including it in this remembrance. For now "May the Great Scoutmaster, Father of all Scouts, be with you until we meet again.
Ed Totman December 2011