A blogger friend of mine recently posted a story about her daughter joining the Girl Scouts and it got me to thinking about my participation in Girl Scouts when I was a kid.
This is me and I was about 11 years old. I was in full uniform, which we wore to every weekly meeting and most events. Please notice the official Girl Scout ankle socks that had the insignia on them. My son also laughed hysterically at my bow tie, which he said "is bigger than my head." Thank you very much Tony!
The Girl Scouts of America was founded by Juliette Gordon Low in 1912 after she met Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts. From Wikipedia: GSUSA aims to empower girls and to help teach values such as honesty, fairness, courage, compassion, character, sisterhood, confidence, and citizenship through activities including camping, community service, learning first aid, and earning badges by acquiring other practical skills.
The main reason I initially joined the Girl Scouts in the first place was because I wanted to go camping. I had seen the Walt Disney Movie "The Parent Trap" and in one scene the twins went camping. This grabbed my interest and was definitely something I wanted to do.
Well, ever since I saw that scene I had it stuck in my head that I just had to go camping. But there was one major problem - my dad, who was wonderful about a lot of things, drew a line in the dirt on camping. There was no way in hell he was doing that. So I did what I do best - started scheming. A friend's sister was a Girl Scout and after hearing that she had just returned from a Girl Scout camping trip, I ran to the next meeting and signed myself up.
Unfortunately, the next camping trip would not be until spring, and since it was only the middle of autumn, I was going to have to attend a lot of meetings before the trip. Over the course of the next few months, I quickly learned that being a Girl Scout consisted of way more than just camping in the woods.
First of all we had to learn and recite the Promise at every meeting:
On my honor, I will try: To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.
The Law consisted of:
I will do my best to be
Honest and Fair,
Friendly and Helpful,
Considerate and Caring,
Courageous and Strong, and
Responsible for what I say and do,
respect myself and others,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place, and
be a sister to every Girl Scout.
I think the LAW was a pretty good set of standards back then and it still is now. I like to think that they are something I have followed for the remainder of my life.
One of the activities that I really enjoyed was working towards badges. Each badge taught a new skill or technique. Some of the ones that I specifically remember were My Camera, Pen Pal, Outdoor Cook, Troop Camper and Active Citizen. There were several steps and procedures that had to be learned and performed before you could earn that badge. Many of the badges that I earned are framed and hanging on the wall for display at my lake house. Am I proud of those badges? You're damn right I am.
Another thing we did was go on field trips, which I especially liked. We went to Chinatown in Chicago and to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan several times. That's me in the center of this shot, holding a jacket and a huge sack lunch. My mom was our troop leader by then and she is bringing up the rear in her equally as green Leader uniform.
Sometimes we participated in shows and demonstrations around the Chicago area. Here I'm standing in a black and white jacket watching an indian music stick demonstration...
Each year we celebrated the Juliette Low Rally, which was held in locations around the country. All the Troops in our district would gather at a nearby Forest Preserve and spend a day in celebration. We would play games, sing songs, cook lunch, make campfires, do crafts and run around. They were a lot of fun. This year I had the honor of carrying the flag....
So what about the camping? Yes, I did go and I ended up going on many, many camping trips over the next 5 years. We went to places with names like Woody Acres and Juniper Knoll. We learned to hike and use a compass, and how to cook over a bunson burner (which was really a soup can with a hole cut into it and we'd start a fire underneath it and cook something on top of the can). We learned how to properly chop wood and then pile sticks to start a campfire and how to dig a ditch if a latreen wasn't available. We spent hours around the campfire, singing Girl Scout songs and telling ghost stories at night. Once it got really dark out we'd play flashlight tag in the woods behind the tents. After lights out, we'd giggle and whisper until we each slowly drifted off to sleep, our heads nestled on a rolled up sweatshirt that substituted for a pillow. By the end of each trip I'd come home with a pocket full of acorns, pinecones and tiny stones. I usually hadn't taken a bath in 3 days and I'd reek of campfire smoke, but I would be so happy! That's me waving good bye for a 3 day trip. I was SO excited!
Here we are on another camping trip. I specifically remember this one because my mom was the troop leader and she taught us how to make pancakes. We were staying at a camp that had a small kitchen so we made pancakes for breakfast and I remember her telling us not to flip the pancakes until the batter started bubbling on top. Those were the best damn pancakes! After breakfast we gathered for a group picture. My sister Laurie had joined by then as well, so she's kneeling on the right in the second row. That's me, high up on the right, hugging the tree. Hmmmm... definitely a recurring theme.
This was the sleeping bag I got one Christmas for my camping trips. It's been used a lot over the last 40 years and I just can't part with it. I still have it, rolled up, down at the lake house. They will probably have to bury me in it. LOL!
The Girl Scouts are closing in on a very exciting celebration - 100 years in existence. There will be all sorts of celebrations planned across the country for next spring. I hope something will take place close to Chicago so I can attend.
For me, being a Girl Scout was a huge, positive impact on my life. It taught me how to get along with others, how to perform many different tasks, broadened my knowledge on a wide variety of subjects, gave me skills that I have used my entire life and provided me with 5 years of fun filled activities. The Girl Scout Slogan is "Do a Good Turn Daily." I don't every day, but I try to as often as I can. The Girl Scout Motto is "Be Prepared" and I think this motto is a part of my life.
Special thanks to my mom for being my troop leader while I was a Junior Scout.
I got to see a side of her that was something other than "my mom." She was the troop leader and all the girls looked up to her. I think it was good for me to see her in a role other than mom. It taught me that I could be a mom and something else, although at the time, I had no idea what that something else would be. I'm also thankful for all the hours she spent putting together a scrapbook for me, so I have pictures of all these great memories. It was fun to go through the scrapbook today and look for all these old photos.
So thank you Juliette Gordon Low for having the foresight to establish such a worthwhile organization - one that truly benefits the girls of America. If you have a young girl in your life, I encourage you to get her involved in scouting. It truly does help to empower us. Go forth - Be Prepared!