“The Last Boy Scout” from World Jamboree 1937
He is not Bruce Willis who played as the main character in “The Last Boy Scout”, a 1991 box office movie directed by Tony Scott. Yet, he is the real “The Last Boy Scout” from the 5th World Scout Jamboree, which been held at Vogelenzang, Netherlands, in the summer of 1937. Out of 28,750 boy scouts from 54 countries who participated in the jamboree, he probably the last boy scout who still alive.
On 3rd December 2016, Ama Soewarma, one of the contingent members from the Dutch East Indies (now Republic of Indonesia), celebrated his 100th anniversary. Born in Cibatu, Garut, West Java Province of Indonesia, on 3rd December 1916, he was the 7th from 8th children of Mas Oetjik and wife, Nyi Ningroem.
According to family’s tale, he was born in a train, when his parent visited their brother in Garut. His parent was lived at Gang Simcong (now Adibrata Street) in Bandung, which is the capital city of West Java Province. The distance from Bandung to Garut is around 70 kilometres and today with modern car it only took around 2 hours to go there. But it was in 1916 when not many people have car in the Netherlands-Indies. The easiest way to go from Bandung to Garut was used train.
Soewarma studying in Hollandsch-Inlandsche School (HIS), a Dutch school for bumiputera or Indonesian people. Then he continued his education in the Douwes Dekker School of Commerce. It appears that the education helps Soewama success as an entrepreneur. He established and managed some companies, among others PT Permorin (joint venture dealer car for Mercedes and Mitsubishi), travel agency PT Sari Express, and also of the hot water mountain attractions in Cipanas, Ciater, West Java, through his company PT Sari Ater.
Since 8 years old, Soewarma joined and active in Scouting. He became the member Nederlandsch-Indische Vereeniging Padvinders (NIPV), the Dutch East Indies Scouting organization. The opportunity came in 1937, when Soewarmaelected as part of the Dutch East Indies Scout contingent to attend the World Scout Jamboree ke-, 5 in 1937.
Besides Soewarma who are a young bumiputera, the Dutch East Indies contingent consists of various race, ethnicity, and religion. There was Dutch children, Chinese, and Arab. Among the bumiputera there also consists of several tribes. Starting from Sunda, Java, Maluku, Sumatra, and lots more. The contingent members religious affiliations were also varied, ranging from the Christian (Protestant), Islam and Catholicism.
The Dutch East Indies contingent depart from the Port of Tanjung Priok, Batavia (now called Jakarta). They departed by a seaship named MS Dempo. After traveling for a long time - compare today with modern aircraft traveling from Jakarta to the Netherlands takes time approximately 18 hours - the group arrived at Rotterdam. When in Rotterdam, some members of NIPV who live or were in the Netherlands, joined the Dutch East Indies contingent. From here they boarded a train and bus to Vogelenzang. But for Soewarma, to go to the Netherlands and participated in the World Scout Jamboree, was not easy. Soewarma should saved money for his Scouting activities. He then sell salt in front of his family house in Bandung. Actually the salt he sell is a usual sale, but he put a sign “Garam Bagoes” (Good Quality of Salt). With his skills as an entrepreneur, he succeed sold all the salt.
He also help sell stamps. The Department of Post, Telephone and Telegraph of the Dutch East Indies issued a set of two special stamps for the jamboree world, with face value 7 ½ cents and 12 ½ cents.
The stamps were deliberately issued to help the cost for the Dutch East Indies contingent. There was even issued a special cover (envelope) and also special postmark reads “Koopt Jamboree Zegels” which means "Buy Jamboree Stamps".
Soewarma did his best, and the result of his stamp sale actually pretty good. But apparently it was not enough for his cost to go to the jamboree. With his cooking skills which he learned in Scouting, he met the head chef on the seaship MS Dempo. Soewarma applying to be an assistant chef and accepted. Finally, Soewarma successfully participated in the jamboree which was recorded as the first world jamboree attended by participants from Indonesia when it was still called the Dutch East Indies.
Now, from more than 28,000 participants of the jamboree, maybe Soewarma is the only surviving participant. He really was The Last Boy Scout of the World Jamboree in 1937.
Photos by R. Andi Widjanarko and private documentation.