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Camp Josepho History - 1940  

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before 1940  <  history on other pages  >  1941    1942-48

          1940 brought two seemingly unrelated events together that would be a game changer for the Scouts of Crescent Bay Council. The first came in April. Scout Executive F.R. "Uncle Bob" Hill announced that the lease for Camp Emerald Bay expiring on May 31, would not be renewed and summer camping on Catalina Island would be abandoned.

Crescent Bay Scout News
May 11, 1940  pg.1

          The circumstances related to this decision are unclear to this day. The camp had been operated successfully for 15 consecutive summers since 1925 on a lease (of unknown duration) provided by the Catalina Island Company. One story, unsubstantiated, claimed that a film studio wanted the Camp and Bay as an outdoor set for a new movie. True or not, there is evidence that some of the Council's older troops were looking for more traditional camping experiences. To some, Emerald Bay had become more like a luxury summer resort than a test of scouting skills. Campers bunked in cabins and were served three meals a day in the dining hall. Troops like 34 Venice had stopped attending Emerald Bay in 1935 after years of continuous support. Instead, they organized their own summer adventures that required reliance on survival competence including setting up encampments with their own tents; planning and cooking their own meals, and mapping their own hikes.
          Crescent Bay Council responded in 1939 by resurrecting summer camping in Sequoia National Park. High Sierra Camp Wolverton, whose origins went back to 1927, proved very popular in 1939, minimizing the Council's dependence on Emerald Bay for 1940.

Anatol Josepho's Gift      

          The second announcement followed a week later. A surprise "miraculous gift" of $50,000 for a new camp was offered up by an unknown in local scouting circles. Anatol Josepho, inventor of the photo strip booth, (the patents and licenses fetching $1 million dollars in 1928) approached Scout Executive, F.R. "Uncle Bob "Hill with the prospect of developing a permanent Scout Camp in Rustic Canyon adjacent to his own ranch.
           Josepho had no obvious connections to the Boy Scouts other than his two young sons, who were signed up in Brentwood Cub Scout Pack 8. It seems he held an option (possibly negotiated at the time of the original purchase of his own property in 1932) to buy a 110 acre parcel from the Mountain Park Company for $19,800.
           Mr. Josepho proposed exercising his option and then gifting the land to Crescent Bay Council along with an additional $30,200 to build an access road, water tanks, dinning hall and other improvements.
          Officially, the motive behind his generosity was said to be a show of appreciation for the opportunities afforded him as an immigrant by his newly adopted country. And to be sure, no one doubted the sincerity of his statement.
          But Josepho may have also had more practical reasons for his proposal. In the spring of 1938, Rustic Canyon Creek,which
ran directly through his ranch, broke its banks with flooding across his property. Later that year, on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 1938, a major wild fire broke out in Topanga Canyon, three canyons to the west. The blaze quickly jumped multiple ridges eastward and burned upper Rustic Canyon before it was finally contained and extinguished seven days later. While not directly effected by the fire, Josepho likely remembered Will Rogers' thoughts about development up-canyon from his own property serving as a buffer should a wild fire come roaring down the arroyo. A scout camp above the Josepho Ranch, with separate water tanks and access road could similarly act as a first line of defense. The scouts were well aware of the fire and flooding dangers in Rustic Canyon but that was not a deterrent to the prospect of owning their own permanent summer camp.
          Crescent Bay Council quickly organized a Camp Josepho planning committee from its board of directors including Merritt Hull as chairman; C. E, Vesy, President; Russ Clover, Henry Kirby; Thad Nettercutt; Clinton Kolyer, and Uncle Bob Hill. The majority of the meetings were given over to the planning of the grounds and improvements. Mr. Kolyer, an architect, volunteered to design the Grand Lodge and other buildings while surveying the route and grade for the needed access road was started.

The Freeway that Never Was

          Around 1939, Josepho became aware of a more immediate problem effecting the security of his home and one that has escaped the historical record to this point. The City of Los Angeles was actively looking for new roadways and freeways through the sprawling metropolis. In anticipation of rapid population growth in the San Fernando Valley, City engineers proposed a multi-lane, divided highway connecting the Valley to Santa Monica and beaches to the south. They settled on a route that would extend Reseda Boulevard southward from Ventura Boulevard; connecting up with Mulholland Drive and then down through Rustic Canyon (the lowest pass through the Santa Monica Mountains) to Sunset Boulevard. The route divided the Murphy property from the Will Rogers estate and skirted his property to the east.  (Rogers' wife later donated their ranch to California as a State Park in 1944).
         Plans were drawn bringing the proposed Reseda Freeway right through the Josepho Ranch. It is thought that a single property owner such as Anatol Josepho would have little influence in stopping or altering the grand schemes of the City of Los Angeles. However, if there were to be a Boy Scout camp in the path of the Reseda Freeway, removal of said camp (immediately up-canyon from the Josepho Ranch) might result in public outcry, negative press and even an opportunity to change the route of the roadway around the camp (and therefore the Josepho Ranch as well).
          Within weeks of Anatol Josepho's gift (and enthusiastic acceptance by Crescent Bay Council), discussions about the proposed Reseda Freeway were underway between Uncle Bob Hill and a Mr. Turner at the Valley District office of the City of Los Angeles. Lloyd Aldrich, City Engineer, was able to confirm the discussions in a letter dated May 29, 1940. Amazingly, not only did the City agree that relocating the freeway route was feasible, they also expressed a willingness to undertake development of a revised alignment at their own expense which they estimated to exceed $100,000. Most importantly, the City would agree not to oppose the zone variance required to build a Scout camp on the property. There were, of course, some conditions. Both Crescent Bay Council, Anatol Josepho and the Mountain Park Associates Company needed to assure cooperation with the City in the voluntary dedication of land on their respective properties where the new re-route of the Reseda Freeway might fall.

Letter to F.R. Hill from Lloyd Aldrich, City Engineer
May 29, 1940

Letter summarizing issues with the Reseda Freeway and necessary steps required
by the City of Los Angeles for creation of a Boy Scout Camp in Rustic Canyon.


          City engineers worked through the summer of 1940 and by the beginning of September, confirmed a change of alignment "so as to leave practically undisturbed" the new scout camp, hinging only on:
  1. Cooperation from the Los Angeles County Road Department in supplying free chain gang labor to offset the additional cost of the new location around the western property line of the camp;
  2. Securing commitments from Mr. Josepho and Alphonso Bell Sr. (Mountain Park Associates) of the necessary right of way and slope rights through their properties; and
  3. Voluntary dedication from the Council for slope rights on the western border of the new camp.
          Everybody involved came out a winner. The realignment changed the path of the freeway from passing along the floor of Rustic Canyon to following a course high up on the western wall of the canyon, far away from existing and proposed developments. Alphonso Bell was able to sell a property that otherwise would have little value if a freeway was running through it. Josepho saved his home and the value of his property as well. He was also able to make a charitable contribution to the Boy Scouts and further advance his philanthropic interests. The City of Los Angeles was able to eliminate the risk of potential litigation and delays surrounding their freeway route through the mountains. And Crescent Bay would get ownership of a state-of-the-art camp within the Council's geographic boundaries and just a short drive from all of the scouts it served.
          On September 16, 1940, Anatol and Ganna Josepho exercised their option to purchase the Boy Scout camp parcel from Mountain Park Associates.

Grant Deed Excerpt
September 16, 1940

NOTE: Ganna Josepho's name is misspelled "Hannah" on the deed.

           The Grant Deed for the property contained several restrictions of note:
  1. There could be no drilling or excavation for oil or gas;
  2. There could be no excavation of stone gravel or earth unless it was used on the property;
  3. A cemetery was not allowed to be built on the property;
  4. Only residence, agriculture or a Boy Scout Camp was permitted;
  5. The property could never be leased, sold or occupied by any person of Ethiopian, Chinese or Japanese decent;
  6. No person of Ethiopian, Chinese or Japanese decent would be permitted on the property unless they were a servant, employee or a member of the Boy Scouts of America.
          All of these conditions expired on January 1, 1999 and to the best of anyone's memory, none of these restrictions were ever enforced.

Camp Josepho Begins

          At this point, progress on the new camp moved with lightning speed. On September 23, 1940, the Los Angeles City Engineer signed off on the zone variance for the Boy Scout Camp development. Uncle Bob Hill announced that bulldozer work on the roadway into Camp Josepho started on September 26. And it was reported the Los Angeles Planning Commission had granted the zone variance for the camp on September 28. A call was made for older Scouts to head up to Camp Josepho the first three weekends in October to help out with road and brush clearing. On one of those weekends, photographs were taken to be used in press releases announcing progress at Camp Josepho. It was also decided to "staighten out" the creek running through camp in preparation for the rainy season.

Scouts Invade "Camp Josepho"
October, 1940

Scouts Clearing Brush & Timber
from Future Parade Ground
  Council Leaders Meet with
Anatol Josepho

View looking north across what would become the parade grounds. Weekend Scout volunteers working through brush and timber. Large trunks are Eucalyptus, likely cut from the new road access south and west of the camp.
Anatol Josepho points something out to Eugene Biscailuz, Los Angeles Co. Sheriff, seen to his right. John Ingram, Camp Slauson Ranger, in light pants and Uncle Bob Hill, Scout Executive, in tee shirt, on left.

Josepho Family Poses with Scouts

  Josepho Takes Scouts on Carriage Ride Through His Ranch

Ganna and Anatol Josepho sit among scouts at their ranch. Their two sons, Roy and Marco sit in front. John Erhlichman sits leaning on right. Wives of dignitaries are in background on right.
Anatol Josepho and sons lead Scouts on a carriage ride
through his ranch and future camp. F.R. "Uncle Bob" Hill is standing at back of wagon on right.

F. R. "Uncle Bob" Hill Explains Campsites
to Anatol Josepho
  John Ingram & John Ehrlichman Lead
Scouts through Camp Site Areas

Anatol Josepho, with shovel, listens attentively to Uncle Bob Hill who seems to be drawing something in the dirt with a stick. John Ehrlichman standing second from left; John Ingram in safari hat second from right.
John Ingram and John Erhlichman lead scouts across
 Rustic Canyon Creek into the future campsite areas
of the camp that extend 1 1/2 miles up the canyon.

           Additional grading was also started in 1940, including the site for the Grand Lodge and pool area. Everything was set to start construction for the opening of the Camp, tentatively scheduled for May of 1941. As for the Reseda Freeway, World War II put a hold on highway expansion plans. The matter would not come up again until the mid 1950's when another twist of fate would save Camp Josepho once again.

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