Our helper who tracks down newspaper clippings about L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology continues to find rare gems for us, and we thought we’d share another one with you today.
And the lesson we couldn’t help taking from today’s item is how much better Hubbard was with self-promotion than Scientology’s current leader, David Miscavige. At a very early age, Hubbard learned how to get a newspaper’s interest, and how much the press of the time was willing to go along with a tale of adventure.
In 1927, L. Ron Hubbard was a 16-year-old high school student in Montana who managed to get a local paper, the Helena Daily Independent, interested in what he had done that summer.
Hubbard was born in Tilden, Nebraska on March 13, 1911, but he spent some of his childhood in Washington D.C. and then Washington state, first in Bremerton where he was a high school freshman in 1925, and then as a sophomore in a school across the Sound in Seattle in 1926.
In April 1927, Hubbard’s father, Navy lieutenant Harry Hubbard, was assigned to Guam. So that summer Hubbard and his mother sailed to the Pacific island, stopping at many places along the way. When Hubbard returned, he went to Montana, where his maternal grandparents lived. And as Hubbard’s junior year began at Helena High School, he managed to get the Daily Independent interested in an account of his travels.
The Helena Daily Independent
October 3, 1927
Ronald Hubbard Tells of His Trip to Orient and Many Experiences
Ronald Hubbard, son of Lieutenant and Mrs. H. R. Hubbard, and grandson of Mr. and Mrs. L. O. Waterbury, 736 Fifth avenue, enjoyed a trip to the orient last summer with his parents who are now located at Guam, M. I., naval base. Ronald is a pupil at Helena high school, having returned from Guam the first of September to stay with his grandparents. Lieutenant and Mr. Hubbard visited in Helena last summer a year ago while Mr. Hubbard was on furlough before being sent to Guam.
Ronald has kept a complete diary of his trip in which he visited the Hawaiian islands, Philippines, China, Japan, Guam and the small island of Wake. While in China he witnessed an execution, which was possible through a naval officer with whom Hubbard had become friendly.
Last night, in speaking of his trip, Ronald said:
“We left San Francisco, April 30, on an oriental liner for the Hawaiian islands and from there we sailed for the orient.
“We visited the Philippine islands, where we spent two days. The Army and Navy club is the big center of attraction for visitors. I went into the inland country to see the natives in their homes. Some till farms but the greatest occupation is the preparation of copra, which is the meat of the cocoanut dried and broken into small pieces. The natives cut the cocoanuts from the trees with a bolo, an instrument resembling a huge butcher knife. They also use these in eating their food and in olden times they were the chief weapon of defense.
“There are five old forts in one group each connected with the other by underground tunnels. The tunnels are said to be filled with gold and other precious stones. The gold is perfectly safe for the tunnels are alive with small snakes, known as 15 and 20-minute snakes, the time necessary for the bite to become fatal. Many natives have attempted to secure the valuables but none ever came out alive.
Celebrate Imperial Day
“In China we saw many interesting sights. Hong Kong appears very much British on the surface but one need not go far to see the Chinese customs in evidence. China was celebrating Imperial day when we arrived, the ships in the Hong Kong harbor were gaily decorated and flags were flying. Three or four regiments of British soldiers were drilling on the drill grounds.
“Perhaps the cultivation of the hillsides was the most interesting sight in Japan. Hills that appeared to be almost 90 per cent grade are terraced and 10 to 20 people live from production on half an acre of land.
“The harbor of Yokohama showed evidence of the earthquake. Two forts at the mouth of Yokohoma harbor, in which 2,700 were killed in the earthquake are now in ruins. One is being rebuilt. Guns can be seen protruding through the debris and beneath hundreds of bodies are still buried. One of the ports was built on a submerging plan and was never seen above the ground until the earthqake forced it up and then shook it to ruins. Our ship was met by a submarine chaser, torpedo boats and airplanes, which was none too pleasant for those on board.
[Photo of Guam youths by Hubbard]
Guam Interesting Place
“Guam is under an autocratic government and the marines conduct the martial law. This place is excedingly hot but beautiful. The natives engage in copra production while some corn is grown. The intense heat and moisture make the island very productive, many crops maturing in a month’s time.
“While with my parents in Guam I taught school for about a month. It was a good experience and in my opinion an adventure. The natives were none too easy to handle and I would not care to continue as a teacher there.
Birds are Friendly
“We stopped at Wake island, which is 1,000 miles from no where. There are no inhabitants on the island and very little vegetation. There are, however, beautiful tropical birds and they have no fear of people. They flew onto the boat and we could walk up to their nests on the island and touch the mother birds. The water around Wake island is a deep blue and one can see down in the water for 60 feet. It gives you a sort of gruesome feeling to see the huge fish swimming around the sea plants on the bottom.”
Ronald Hubbard has the distinction of being the only boy in the country to secure an eagle scout badge at the age of 12 years. He was a boy scout in Washington, D. C., before coming to Helena.
We’re trying to imagine what it must have been like for the other students at Helena High School to see a story like this about the new guy at the beginning of the 1927 school year. We have to assume that a few of the boys wanted to take a swing at the smug redhead with his tales of poisonous snakes guarding buried treasure.
And Hubbard couldn’t help himself with that brag at the end of the story about being the only 12-year-old eagle scout in the country. In fact, he did become an eagle scout on April 1, 1924 when he was but 13 years of age. But Hubbard’s claim, repeated by the church, that he held the record as the youngest ever eagle scout in history has never been backed up by the Boy Scouts themselves. In 1986, the BSA issued an official response about the claim, writing, “we do not keep record of who was the youngest eagle scout.”
Still, you have to give Hubbard credit for the way he was trying to build his legend in the press while at the same time his actual bona fides were less than impressive. As we reported last year based on documents first dug up by researcher R.M. Seibert, Hubbard’s high school grades in Bremerton and Seattle were mediocre, and his record at Helena High was even worse.
Despite some decent grades in English and History in the fall semester, Hubbard lost interest in the spring, and in both subjects he was barely above failing. On May 11, 1928, he was expelled for bad grades, and so ended Hubbard’s high school career. (He would go on to flunk out of George Washington University in Washington D.C. in 1932 after three semesters of work.)
After his Helena High debacle, Hubbard went back to Guam that year, where his mother attempted to give him the schooling he would need in lieu of a senior year of high school. Hubbard also jumped at the chance to take a trip to China in 1928 where he was mostly unimpressed with the sights and with the people. “They smell of all the baths they didn’t take,” he wrote in his journal. “The trouble with China is, there are too many chinks here.”
But if Hubbard was candid in his personal journal, he’d already learned how to tell a pretty story to newspapers, and it would continue to serve him for years to come.
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BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
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