Scouting Girls Have Always Scouted For New Horizons

Grandmother on the cover of the 1991 Gulf Pines Girl Scout Council cookbook. (personal collection)

I am a third generation Girl Scout.  My grandmother, who was born in 1909, was a member of one of the very first troops in the U.S., and a member of the very first troop in Delaware, Ohio.  She also started the first troop in Laurel, Mississippi when she moved there in the 1940s.  My mother and aunt were both Girl Scouts, as well as my sister and I.

I’m kind of into Girl Scouts.  I have my grandmothers and aunts old uniforms and memorabilia from jamborees and such.  I have been to Juliette Gordon Low’s home in Savannah, Georgia twice; once with my family and once on a Girl Scout sponsored trip.

This is getting weird.  I’m not saying I’m super important or the Girl Scouts is a lineage thing like sororities.  I’m trying to say that I do not think I would be so into the Girl Scouts had it not been for it encompassing my life the way that it did.  I was so surrounded by it at every turn that it was a portion of my life from age 4 – age 15.  Also, my grandmother was pleased as punch that the Council agreed for her to be the cover photo.  She gladly signed copies that we gave to family and friends.  It wasn’t because of a self-inflated ego, it was really sweet.  She was a wispy 82-year-old grandmother who thought it was all “rather neet” and was able to feel a bit special once in her life, and was also a bit overwhelmed that anyone would even want to remember her that way.  It was a wonderful memory, for me, and I’m sure for her.

1950s postcard of Girl Scout visiting Juliet Gordon Low’s birthplace in Savannah, Georgia. (personal collection)

My aunt was then living in Canada, so I encountered even more Girl Scouting things; The Girl Guides.  I was given a stuffed Girl Guide doll, a Girl Guide emblem pendant, as well as Girl Guide and Girl Scout stamps.  My aunt was into stamp collecting and so was I.  She supplied most of my stamps during my childhood which also included special Canadian issue stamps, various Canadian stamps, as well as Armenian stamps (as that is my Aunts heritage).  But that’s a completely different story.  Basically I had both Girl things coming from her in Canada which encompassed my world even further with that particular subject.

Newspaper clipping from the Laurel Leader-Call depicting awards being given to leaders for their efforts to bring scouting to the area and to get the troops included into the Gulf Pines Council. My grandmother is the second from the right. (personal collection)

I enjoyed being in Girl Scouts.  I was a member of Troop 267 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in the Southern Pines Council.  We met in, what was then, a Methodist church with really great, simple mid-century interior design.  It is now a non-denominational church of some kind and I no longer know what the interior looks like.  I will admit that I wasn’t too keen when my own mother took over the troop and became our leader.  She was a really great leader.  I especially admired our introduction to world cultures that was a continuous theme with our troop, which is not something all troops do, or even other local troops at the time were doing.  However, she was my mother, so while she was really great with the other girls, she was often snarky, overly critical, or overly harsh with me.

It’s a different mother-daughter dynamic than what one of my close friends encountered.  She was also a Girl Scout and her mother was also the leader.  Her mother was great with all the girls, including my friend, so she loved that her mother was the leader.

Sadly, my mother was also a bit controlling.  Do the event she wants you to do or not do the event because she thinks it’s silly sort of thing.  The introductory level of Daisy was not around when my mother was young, it simply started with Brownies, so I was not allowed to be a Daisy (nor was my sister allowed to be a Pixie in the 1970s, the precursor (and way more awesome sounding) to the Daisy).  Instead, my mother made me wait until I was old enough to be a Brownie.  By the time I made the level of Senior, there were only two girls left in our troop, and that number included me.  There was no Ambassador level in 1996, and while I could have continued to become a leader, I didn’t.  I withdrew from Girl Scouting as I was officially finished.

She did this with other things as well; “you join a choir because I think you should, though you do not want to” & “I went to a junior college and hated it, so you will not be going to one”, but those are also stories for another time… or never.  So, I did miss out on being a Daisy, which I was sad about.  Their outfits were so cute with daisies on them and that light blue and yellow, plus my two friends that I saw all the time were Daisies, so of course I would want to be one with them.  But that is that.

1989 Girl Scouts Father-Daughter Dance. My dad and I are the one’s in the middle. The girls on either side are the girls I was friends with who were Daisy’s at the time. Apparently the theme that year was “Ho-Down” or was it “Shin-dig”?

I also enjoyed and also did not enjoy camping.  Our closest camp was Camp Ita Kana, which was about an hour south of here and across the highway from Camp Tiak.  Camp Tiak is the Boy Scout camp, and incidentally the one that my father attended in his youth, so I thought that was awesome.  It is also awesome that Tiak (tee-ahk) is lighter wood in Choctaw.  So, now knowing that we refer to it as Camp Lighter Wood.  If you are from somewhere besides the south you may know it as fat wood, rich lighter, pine knot, or heart pine (though I only know that last as wood plank flooring using by Colonials in the 1700s).  It is the bits of wood you find in the forest that is excellent for building a fire and keeping the wood logs lit.

Anywho.  As I was saying before I got all nerdy nature up in here.  There were weekend camp retreats a couple of times a year and then a week-long summer camp.  I was always excited and would exclaim to my mother, “sign me up!”, but as the date drew nearer, I would want to back out.  I knew I would miss our cats and unless my two childhood friends would be there, I would not know anyone.  Plus it’s weird sleeping in nature, because you wake up dewy and you smell like the woods.  Yes, I was one of those kids.  However, after my first day there, I’d become best friends with one of two girls and we’d pal around the entire week and I was not home-sick and would end up not wanting to leave by Saturday.

Picture postcard depicting a Girl Scout receiving the Golden Eaglet pin from Juliet Gordon Low. (personal collection)

Camp Ita Kana was equipped with cabins of various styles.  One camp site had A-frame cabins that looked like tents.  Most were rectangular cabins that either held four or up to 12 beds, similar to the cabins in the 1960s original Parent Trap film.  You know, in the beginning the girls meet at camp?  Yeah, like that.  I love that movie, but I digress.

There were two things I always wanted when I was a kid.  I liked that my dad had been a member of the Boy Scouts.  My cousin was also a member, and I felt it unfair that I would have to go to his meetings with him, but be across the field from the boys, like a wretched outcast.  They seemed like that had so much fun.  There wasn’t really a thing as primitive camping in the Boy Scouts, as that is the only type of camping they did.  In Girl Scouts you had to be old enough, and only certain girls were recruited to do the primitive camping during summer camp, at least at our camp.  They learned how to tie all sorts of knots and build up camp fires.  My cousin was even allowed to participate in the Powwow that was held every spring in Natchez, Mississippi.  The Boy Scouts would do all the appropriate research, design their own regalia, learn that particular dance and were included in that particular years Powwow.

I did not realize that this invitation was not also offered to Girl Scouts, but for years I idealized the Boy Scouts and thought they were better than Girl Scouts, all while also liking the Girl Scouts.  It was awkward.  However, and this leads me into why I’m writing this post, in recent years, the news surrounding both groups have made me realize how awesome the Girl Scouts were and still are, and that I am proud that I was ever a member.  It has made me realize that I had a good thing the entire time.

Back in 2012, the Boy Scouts were in the news for maintaining their staunch ways of forbidding homosexual troop leaders into the organization.  When that news broke, I was taken a-back.  I had never once bothered to read my fathers old Boy Scout manual, or delve into Boy Scout secrets, or I might have realized they were quite an exclusive bunch.  At the time I was also finding out that most of their donated revenue comes from Christian organizations and that they are singularly, at their core, a a biasedly Christian group.

The Girl Scouts, however, are an inclusive group.  They do not judge anyone on any criteria.  If you are a female and you want into the scouts, then that is all it takes to become a member.  It does not matter if you have no money, where you’re donations come from, who buys your cookies, what race or religion you are.  Nor does it matter your sexual orientation or your sexual identity.  While both the Girl and the Boy Scouts include God in their motto’s, the Boy Scouts mean only the Judeo-Christian God, where-as in Girl Scouts, while it is there, Girls are always encouraged to absolutely sub out for whom ever they see as their omnipotent being; or to exclude it if they do not believe in a higher power.  In the Girl Scouts it’s more of a guide-line than a truth.

Recently, a $1K donation, was intrusted to the Girl Scouts of Western Washington.  However, since the donor specified it not be used to help transgirls, the council returned it proving again that The Girl Scouts supports ALL girls.  #ForEVERYGIRL is right!

If it wasn’t apparent, I am absolutely thrilled to the moon and back that trans or lesbian/bi girls, nor trans or lesbian/bi troop leaders would ever be denied a place into the Girl Scouts.  I am also thrilled to know that every religion (or lack of) is accepted into the Girl Scouts.  When they say we accept EVERYONE, they mean it, and I couldn’t be more thrilled or more proud that this is the group that I was a part of.

Girl Scouts camp out with First Family on the White House Lawn. (theroot.com)

And also in super happy news, is this not absolutely beautiful and thrilling… or is it just me?  I would have been over the moon to be able to have the chance to attend this camp out as a girl.  There were chances, as a Girl Scout, to meet or correspond with various presidents, but personally I found President Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush too stuffy and I didn’t want any part of it.  Not that they would ever have held a camp out, but if they had, it wouldn’t have even looked fun.  Seriously, this looks like it was the best thing ever!

Though, judging by all the girls faces except two where there is delight on one face and apparent hero-worship in another, it appears rather boring.  But this could be due to anything from bad timing, to ‘I’m missing my favourite show’, to there was pomp and circumstance surrounding it considering that this is the First Family at the White House and so maybe a tad too adult-minded for eight year old girls?  Who knows.  All I know is that my eight-year-old self was wishing that I was there.

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