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Camp Emerald Bay - Postcards 1931-39 

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          The new Headquarters and Dispensary building built on Staff Hill in 1928 provided room for a makeshift photo darkroom and related equipment. That gave space for Emerald Bay and Crescent Bay photographer George Bergstrom to teach photography merit badge to interested campers. New Real Photo Postcards (RPPC), clearly not produced by Bergstrom, exist from Emerald Bay that are dated to around 1931. These more primitive looking postcards may have been made by Scouts under Bergstrom's training and supervision as a photography merit badge requirement.
          Some of these Camp Emerald Bay postcards are not much to look at. The photography is poor and the developing and printing is even worse. Images are not in clear focus and seem overexposed. Most noticeable is the printing of the images on the postcard stock is quite crude, often placed crookedly and asymmetrically onto the paper. In all, some of the early 1930's Emerald Bay postcards look very amateurish when compared to the Temescal Canyon Camp postcards of 1922. But given the limited equipment and facilities for their production and the bonus of immediate availability at camp, the early 1930's postcards served their purpose for those Scouts wanting to send a photo and message from Emerald Bay to the folks back home.

Authentication of Real Photo Post Cards (RPPC)
            A real photo postcard (RPPC) is a continuous-tone photographic image printed on postcard stock. The term recognizes a distinction between the real photo process and the lithographic or offset printing processes employed in the manufacture of most postcard images since the 1950's.
           Beginning in 1902 Kodak offered a pre-printed card back that allowed postcards to be made directly from photo negatives. These card backs, soon copied by other photo paper suppliers, had special distinguishing marks and letters in the "place stamp here" block on the reverse. These unique markings signified the particular manufacturer of the photographic card stock paper in the original RPPC. This practice, used throughout the twentieth century, has left historians and collectors with a way of authenticating RPPC's that might otherwise be easily reproduced by today's widely available copying techniques. Each of the cards pictured here can be authenticated by its stamp block on the back.


Artistic gems, these postcards are not. But they did document life at camp.
All of the 1931 postcards shown here were printed on authenticated RPPC postcard stock.

Headquarters & Dispensary Porch
(Health Lodge)

Pier & Lifeguard Tower
View East from Beach


The Headquarters & Dispensary was the 3rd permanent structure built in camp and first permanent structure built on South (Staff) Hill behind the eucalyptus tree.
Here we see a life saving demonstration by staff member
 Ed Williams on far right. As noted by the original owner of
the postcard, his technique shown is the "wrong position".

Emerald Bay's first permanent pier, complete with lifeguard tower, was built in 1928. Beginning in 1929, a short floating dock extension was built past the tower which was subsequently extended in 1930 and again in 1931 as seen here. The lifeguard tower was removed off the end of the pier in 1932 for filming of a movie called "Bird of Paradise" starring Joel McCrea, Deloris Del Rio and Lon Cheney Jr.

Pier & Lifeguard Tower
View Northwest from Water

Pier & Lifeguard Tower
View North from Beach

Swimming, canoeing and boating took place on both sides
of the floating dock extension from the lifeguard tower.
The popular helmet dive activity started in 1929 from the
dock extension was moved off to its own floating platform
by 1930.

The South (near side) of the floating dock was largely used
for recreational swimming. The North (far side) was used for training and instruction. NOTE: white patches on hill to the right were "fake" snow placed by a movie crew for a film shot in the late 1920's, then left behind.

Normally, a rickety wooden pier and tower would not warrant making at least 3 postcards, each photographed from a different angle.
But the recently built pier, Health Lodge and Dining Hall were the first permanent structures constructed at any summer camp
operated by the Crescent Bay Scouts and were considered a big deal at the time.

Swimming Instruction on
Pier Extension

Tent Row


Scouts on the extension dock beyond the lifeguard tower
(out of the picture to the left) might likely be participating in swimming or lifesaving instruction. Additional lifeguards were also close by in the row boat on the right.

Every evening before dinner, staff assembled the campers
in front of their tents for inspection of uniforms and quarters.
Wall tents (on cement slabs) seen in this image replaced
Crescent Bay's original pyramid tents in 1928.

Scout Contest
Waterfront Parade Grounds

Scout Games
Waterfront Parade Grounds


Scouting competitions were held on the parade ground in front
of the eucalyptus tree. The Headquarters & Health Lodge along with a striped wall tent for staff can be seen in the background. The striped staff tents were all replaced with cabins by 1934. The original white flagpole from 1925 Catalina Camp can be seen behind the row of Scouts on the left.

It's not clear why these groups of Scouts were huddled around
on the ground but it could be a game or competition organized
by the staff. An additional pair of staff tents are now more visible directly behind and between the eucalyptus tree and the Headquarters & Health Lodge on the upper right.

The photographer(s) and total number of different postcard images produced at Camp Emerald Bay in 1931 are not known.


More 1930's Bergstrom Postcards

          George Bergstrom continued to photograph Camp Emerald Bay through the 1930's (and 1940's) producing new RRPC postcards. His "tent mate" postcards of 1930 seem to have disappeared by 1931. Instead, camp scenes emerge as his favorite subjects, becoming more artistic with dramatic cropping and framing. They also exhibit a cleaner, more professional look including white borders. The known postcards from this period also appear to be shot with better camera equipment as well.
          By 1932, it is not clear where Bergstrom was developing and printing his negatives. Perhaps he was still doing all or part of the process at camp but it is also very possible that production of the postcards was being handled in Avalon or on the mainland where there was better equipment and facilities. Since there was no longer any need to "rush" the developing and printing so that campers could mail home their postcards while still at camp, the necessary time could be taken to produce the highest quality images.
          These new Emerald Bay postcards were meant for sale at the Camp trading post or even back at Crescent Bay Scout headquarters in Santa Monica. Either way, Bergstrom's growth as a photographer through the 1930's was quite evident. In June 1932, Bergstrom became Scout Executive of the San Fernando Valley Council where he continued to stay involved with summer camp at Emerald Bay. By the end of the decade, he was producing signed and labeled professional quality RPPC postcards on authenticated postcard stock in addition to whatever other photographic and filming assignments he was providing for both San Fernando Valley Council and Camp Emerald Bay.

          NOTE: The 1930's camp scenes can be dated by the buildings and structures present in the photos. Dates pinpoint when the images were photographed but not necessarily when they were printed, sold or mailed. It was quite common for Bergstrom to recycle though his negatives and produce postcards from images he had taken several years previously.

South (Staff) Hill, Parade Ground & Dining Hall

Waterfront with Pier & Canoe Fleet


Landmarks visible L-R: Eucalyptus tree; striped staff tent; flag pole; "Hooey TP"; parade ground; dining hall. All striped staff tents were replaced with cabins by 1934. The Hooey TP was home to junior staff and existed from 1929-1932 or earlier.

During the 1930's, Bergstrom liked taking photos from underneath the big eucalyptus tree. Here we see the pier with floating extension dock (without lifeguard tower) and Emerald Bay's expanding canoe fleet which now numbered six canoes. The rock pile in foreground may have been a "clean-up" pile of larger rocks removed from the beach or staff hill. NOTE: the short white post seen at the very left was the southern end of a new knee-high, chain link guard rail running north along the beach.

Indian Rock and View East

Emerald Bay Southern Coastline


Another view under the eucalyptus tree showing Indian Rock above and to the right of the white boat and almost invisible against the dark sky. Rock pile also has small white rocks used to line the border between the beach and parade ground.

Another look south along the coastline from underneath the eucalyptus tree. A row of low lying dark shrubs can be seen on the right, having been planted in 1935. The pier & dock from this vantage point are out of view to the left side of frame.

  Emerald Bay from atop North Hill

Parade Ground


This image is positively identified as being from 1936 because
of the building on lower left, still under construction (see wood cross-braces holding up chimney). That building was the Sea Scout Landship AKA "the Castle". NOTE: the single pier and
a tall, thin lifeguard tower built on the beach in 1933 after the original lifeguard tower on the pier was demolished following the 1932 camp season. It can be faintly seen below the end of the extension dock and shoreline.

View looking south across parade ground towards staff hill.
 All of the striped staff tents are gone, replaced by wooden staff cabins painted dark green. The Headquarters & Dispensary was converted to the Ranger's residence in 1935 and can be seen in shadow at the top of staff hill. The dining hall,also now painted dark green, can be seen on the right. The replacement lifeguard tower from 1933, now painted white, is clearly visible to the left of the line of Scouts.


Earliest Bergstrom Signature Postcards

By 1937 (and working as the Scout Executive for the San Fernando Valley Council), George Bergstrom photography was becoming quite well known to the local Scouts and he was a local Scouting celebrity in his own right, having been the camp photographer for over ten years. He began labeling his postcard images with:"Camp Emerald Bay - Catalina Island" in the lower left and his signature:
"Bergstrom Photo" along the bottom right. These notations became standard for Bergstrom postcards after World War II.
The two images seen below sum up looking into Camp Emerald Bay on approach by boat and looking out to the ocean from the beach.

Waterfront and Two Piers
View from Arrow Point

Indian Rock and Southern Coastline


  A 2nd pier & floating dock, dubbed "A" dock, was built south (left) of the original pier from this view before camp opened in 1937. It can be seen along the busy waterfront. The renowned and solitary eucalyptus is now flanked by many trees that were planted by the scouts in the early 1930's.

An updated view of Indian Rock and Emerald Bay from one of Bergstrom's favorite perches underneath the eucalyptus tree. Crescent Bay Council used this image to advertise the
1937 summer camp in its official announcement.

These postcards were still available at camp and both Crescent Bay and San Fernando Valley headquarters from 1937-1939.

NOTE: The number of different Emerald Bay postcards created and sold during the 1930's is unknown.

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