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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • UNFAIR TO BABIES, 1936

Made for Walkin': 1937

Made for Walkin': 1937

June 16, 1937. "Walk 800 miles to attend Boy Scout Jamboree. Two Venezuelan Boy Scouts, Rafael Angel Petit, left, and Juan Carmona, examining their boots after tramping 25 miles a day for two years in order to attend the Boy Scout Jamboree in Washington. They left Caracas Jan. 11, 1935, arriving in Washington today." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

 

The Thirties

They went when the going was good, a better time than now. I once thought the 'thirties were a dull, dishonest decade, but have since come to think better of it. It was a fine time to be young, a world full of wonders and adventures and you could get there on foot. The law was becoming a bother, but not the villain it has since become. And when they went in wild places they were able to go armed: Heaven forfend. And how nice that some of their descendants remain to remember their excellent adventure.

A little more of this story

My name is Carlos Uzcategui Petit, am a member of the Petit family, the history of this pair of young to mid-30 is worthy of pride and admiration of many generations, but to me that for years was a member of the Scouts Venezuela, I am happy to know that today there are those who somehow remembered this story.

Mapquest por favor

"In the southern part of So. America they were taken captive by savages"... They made a serious wrong turn if they left Venezuela headed to the USA and ended up in the southern part of South America!

[They seem to have roamed a bit before heading north. One news item noted that the Scout Jamboree "was not their original objective." - Dave]

Cracker Jack

The sailor standing on the right is actually a Sea Scout, as the Scout badge on his cap testifies. For one so young he certainly does have the air of an old salt.

Jaguars & Bandits

Another accounting of our young amigos adventure comes to us from the student newspaper of the State Teachers College, La Crosse, Wisconsin.


The Racquet, Dec 5, 1937: Vol 30, No. 8

Venezuela Scout-Head Writes Exciting Letter

Several days ago I received an interesting letter from a young man I met at Washington, D. C., while attending the National Scout Jamboree. This man was Juan Carmona, a scout-master from Caracas, Venezuela, South America, who had hiked with a companion, Rafael Petit of Maracaibo, Venezuela, from Caracas through South America, Central America, Mexico and the Southern part of the United States to Washington. The trip took them two years; they covered over ten thousand miles and each wore out twelve pairs of hiking boots. Three started originally but one turned back.

They went through jungle territory never before seen extensively by white man, some days they were able to make good progress; on others the dense jungle growth and swamp bogs limited them to three miles a day. Poisonous snakes and wild animals forced them to be constantly on guard. At night they had to sleep in trees to escape prowling animals.

Once they were awakened by a scratching sound. As the scratching came closer they both aimed and fired their rifles in the direction of the sound. It was so dark that they were unable to distinguish a thing about them. At the sound of the shots the scratching ceased and something crashed to the ground beneath the tree. Unable to sleep further they waited for daylight, which revealed a large jaguar lying dead at the base of the tree. For three days the dead beast's mate stalked and followed them; one was required to keep guard against attack while the other cut and broke the trail. Finally the animal left and they were free to advance more rapidly.

In the southern part of So. America they were taken captive by savages, the chief of which treated them royally but would not permit them to leave. Finally, he was persuaded to allow them to continue their journey. As they traveled through Central America they were made prisoners of revolutionists (it seems there is always a revolution down there). None of the soldiers could read their letters or credentials and they were kept in prison until the revolutionary general returned, read their identification papers and set them free. In Mexico they were robbed of their rifles and money by bandits but finally after many other interesting and exciting adventures, they crossed the U.S. border and reached Washington, D.C.

They have many valuable stamps, seals, letters, pictures and papers from notables of the various places through which they passed. It took them two days to fly by plane back to Caracas. They crossed territory through which they had passed on their two-year journey.

The letter I received was written in Spanish as Juan does not wish to attempt a letter in English even though he understands, and speaks it. Mr. Lairx helped me to translate the letter.

At the present time Mr. Carmona is writing a book of the experiences and adventures of the trip he made with his companion Petit. Our friendship began at Washington and will be continued through our correspondence. I hope to visit Mr. Carmona some time, and he, in turn, has promised to visit me the next time he comes to the United States. Several scouts of the troop of which I am scoutmaster are establishing correspondence with boys of his troop.

What a story!

What a story! Thanks to Stanton Square for finding the article. Imagine backtracking from Laredo to Mexico City to fix your passports!

And the sailor looks like he popped right off of a box of Cracker Jack.

Musical Moment

This is just before everyone launches into a chorus of "Y.M.C.A.," right?

Amazing in any age

That trek would be no less amazing if it was executed today. The regions through which these men walked are still rife with dangers of the same sort, from isolated tribes to snakes to drug lords to marsh and impenetrable jungle. Very cool! I had to wonder though, how is it they didn't have anything better to do than walk all day? Scouts indeed! Try that on your privileged suburbanite boys today!

The Return Trip

Anybody know how they got home?

Can't imagine the end of the Jamboree a week or so later. Everyone says so long and adios, these fellows look at each other, look southward down the road, then both start crying uncontrollably.

[As noted below, they flew back. - Dave]

Susan

>> I had lace-up boots like Rafael is wearing. It's just that I wore them with miniskirts ...

Photos, please!

Big Boys

Okay, I get Boy Scouts staring at them. But where the heck did they find the sailor!?

I wonder what these guys did when they grew up. Although they look quite manly already.

Boots

l have a pair that are the same made by Harley Davidson. but if you go on ebay and look up logger boots lm sure you will find what your looking for.

Alternate Alliterative Appellation:

Sole Searching Scouts?

Descansar

A few numbers: Jan 11, 1935 to Jun 16, 1937 is 886 days which works out to an average of about 9 miles per day for a 8,000 mile trip. That seems reasonable given the following description of hacking through jungles for part of the trip.


Washington Post, Jun 17, 1937

2 Boy Scouts End Long Hike,
Ready to Rest

Pair Finish 8,000-Mile Hegira From
Venezuela to Washington.

Descansar.

In Spanish that means rest, which is what Rafael Angel Petit and Juan Carmona are going to get plenty of, now that they've completed their hike from Caracas, Venezuela, to Washington.

The two Rover Boy Scouts, who had been en route since January 11, 1925, puffed across the Key Bridge a few minutes before noon yesterday to reach the end of a trail that led through snake and malaria-infested jungles, head hunters' camps and brigands' hideouts.

They were greeted near the city's entrance by a reception party of Boy Scout officials, legation attaches and motorcycle police but politely declined an invitation to ride.

"No, thank you," said Juan, 26, and quite handsome with Valentino sideburns, "we've walked every step of the way to this point, except when we crossed rivers on handmade rafts. We want to walk all the way to the Capitol."

At the Capitol were waiting the Venezuelan Minister, Dr. Diogenes Escalante, and Director General Leo S. Rowe, of the Pan-American Union. Much handshaking, newsreel and photograph shooting, more handshaking and South American gesticulating followed.

A few hours later the boys were telling a radio audience what it's like to hoof some 8,000 miles apiece without ennui. (The actual distance may be far less but Rafael and Juan often had to take the long way around, not the crow's route.)

Hardships were plentiful on the trip but the boys arrived fit and sound, save for a few vanishing malaria symptoms. Carmona was hit the worst and, through an interpreter, said he is going to look up a doctor here.

At times the heat was so bad the hikers nearly despaired of continuing. The tropical sun killed a dog companion and another perished of snakebite.

Two thousand miles, or about one-fourth, of their journey was through dense jungles. One of them, the Choco Colombiano separating Panama and Columbia, had never before been traversed by civilized man.

"We had to cut our way through this territory," the scouts said, "with machetes, not being able to take one step forward through unbelievably luxuriant vines, trees, grasses, without first clearing our path.

"We were forced for many miles to lay a constant bridge before us of tree trunks in order to avoid quicksand and quaking marshland. For nearly six months we were wet constantly, as the normally difficult crossing of this jungle was further complicated by our striking it at the rainy season."

Malaria, dampness, snakes, insects and heat plagued them. Often they slept in hammocks swung high about the ground for safety. Usually, however, they made their beds on the earth.

In Panama they were feted by the San Blas Indians who, more often than not, are hostile to strangers. A few of them spoke a Spanish dialect, which helped. The natives gave a banquet in their honor, featured by a beverage called chucula.

"This drink was bad enough by itself," the adventurers said, "but we had to watch the women prepare it, and that nearly finished us. It is made of green plantains, grain and coconut, all chewed up personally by the women, mixed well with saliva and left to ferment."

Juan and Rafael said they had a hard time explaining their way out of the clutches of Honduran bandits, then when they were liberated the police placed them under arrest, until their credentials were verified with the Venezuelan government.

It was pretty discouraging, too, when they arrived at Laredo, Tex., only to be halted because of passport difficulties. The scouts had to walk all the way back to Mexico City to get their entrance papers in order.

The sojourners averaged 25 miles a day, wore out 24 pairs of shoes, and passed through Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.

Carmona and Petit will make their Washington headquarters at the Roosevelt Hotel. This morning they will be received formally at the Pan American Union Building by Dr. Rowe.

Wow!

I bet they had some amazing stories.

Try 800 days

Distance from Caracas to DC is a little over 2000 miles. At 25 miles a day it would take 800 days to travel. Also Jan, 1935 to Jun, 1937 is a little over 800 days.

[Hm. Might want to check your math, Levi. Next! - Dave]

Back in the day

I had lace-up boots like Rafael is wearing. It's just that I wore them with miniskirts, and the farthest I walked in those boots was from the bus stop to my junior high.

A math problem

800 divided by 25 is only 32 days. Either they walked 8,000 miles, or they only walked one day every three weeks or so.

[A news item in the Washington Post (which gave Rafael's last name as Betit) didn't say anything about mileage, although it noted that the boys planned to make the trip home by air in two and a half days. - Dave]

I want those boots!

Does anyone know where to find boots like these? I've been wanting a pair like that for as long as I can remember.

 
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