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Camp Wolverton - Bear Claw Awards  

About Bear Claw Awards

           When Camp Wolverton opened in 1939 as "High Sierra" Camp, the Staff adopted a form of Camp Emerald Bay's Good Camper program. 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 1958 and used until the award went out of use sometime in the mid 1970's.



 
Real Bear Claws
1940's-1957

           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.

  1940's
Double Bear Claw

 
1940's
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.

  1950's
Double Bear Claw

 
  1950's
Single Bear Claw
 
  1957-58
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 significance of the beads is unknown.

 
Black Plastic Bear Claws
1958-1970's

          The custom of wearing actual bear claws was discontinued around 1957-1958 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 1958 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.

  1958
Long Lake

   
   
 
Close up of Bear Claw award circa 1957-58.
Thought to be first year of plastic Bear Claws and engraved:
"Long Lake 1958"


1958-Early 1960's
TYPE 1

 
  1960's-70'S
TYPE 2


 

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

 
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.



1960's-70'S
TYPE 2
Button Lanyard





Bear Claw award earned by Jeff Morley at Camp Wolverton
in 1966.
  1960's-70'S
TYPE 2
Plastic Lanyard
With Beads



Significance of beads is unknown.


 
         



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