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Camp Wolverton - Bear Claw Awards  

About Bear Claw Awards

           Crescent Bay camping in Sequoia began in 1927. The 1929 Sierra summer camp in
the Wolverton area adopted the same Good Camper program initiated at Camp Emerald Bay. At the 1939 High Sierra Camp, generally considered to be the first to take on the Camp Wolverton name, only those campers meeting a list of stringent camp requirements were awarded a camp Good Camper patch. But by 1947, Wolverton had developed its own "outstanding camper" honor soon to be known as the Bear Claw award. Bear Claw award recipients received an actual bear claw, complete with fur, to be worn as part of their scout uniforms. By today's standards, the wearing of dead animal parts seems strange, to say the least. But in the late 1940's, very few people gave it a second thought. The historical record credits no Wolverton Staff man with the bear claw idea and the process for acquiring the necessary bear claws to satisfy the annual number of Scout campers earning the award remains equally obscure.
          Real Bear Claw awards were replaced with plastic bear claws around 1956 and used until the award went out of use sometime in the mid 1970's.

Real Bear Claws

           Bear Claw Awards were worn in a variety of different ways over the years. During the late 1940's and early 1950's, they were suspended from a long leather lanyard and worn around the neck. Scouts attending Camp Wolverton and earning Bear Claw awards in multiple years would wear each of their claws on the same lanyard. Lanyards are known with various styles and colors of beads but the meaning of the bead combinations is not known and in some cases, may only represent customized decorations made by each scout.

Double Bear Claw

Single Bear Claw
   Early 1950's
Single Bear Claw
With Beads


(image courtesy of Frank Glick)

          By the early to mid 1950's, the style for wearing Bear Claw awards had changed. Instead of being worn around the neck, various lanyard configurations were used to wear the award around the neckerchief slide or as a neckerchief slide.

Double Bear Claw

Single Bear Claw
  Mid 1950's-58
Real & Plastic Bear Claws with Beads
  This transition Bear Claw award is significant in having both a real bear claw and plastic bear claw as part of the same award. The meaning of the beads is unknown.

Black Plastic Bear Claws

          The custom of wearing actual bear claws was discontinued around 1955 and the award was replaced with a plastic bear claw. Two types of plastic bear claws are known to have been used at Camp Wolverton between 1956 through the 1970's. While many types of plastic claws and talons have been seen from the period, the two types of claws shown below are the only types documented to be from Camp Wolverton.

1956-Early 1960's



TYPE 1 has a fat mid section and a small curved tip.
TYPE 2 is tapered from tip
to top with a pronounced
inner curve to the tip.

Troop 34
Red Painted Claw
"Long Lake"


In 1956, Troop 34. Venice, customized the new Black plastic Bear Claws awarded in their troop by painting the claw RED. Red & Black were also Troop 34's colors.
  Close up of Bear Claw award circa 1958 shown above on lanyard with real bear paw. Engraved:"Long Lake 1958" suggesting that early Bear Claws were awarded for completing overnight hiking camps from Wolverton base camp.

By the mid 1960's
, Bear Claws were most commonly worn from a loop that went around the button of the right pocket flap of the scout shirt.

Button Lanyard

Bear Claw award earned by
Jeff Morley at
Camp Wolverton
in 1966.


Plastic Lanyard
With Beads

Significance of beads
 is unknown.


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