Girl Scouting in the 1970’s

My girl scout sash and badges

My girl scout sash and badges

My daughter joined Girl Scouts this year and it brought so many memories of my own scouting experiences.  I joined the Brownie troop in 2nd grade in the 1970’s. It’s just what we all did. I think every girl in my grade belonged.  All I can really remember about those two years in Brownies – 2nd and 3rd grade – is that we had a scout hut and did arts and crafts after school one day a week.

But Girl Scouts was a different story altogether. Maybe because it was harder to get in.  For whatever reason, there wasn’t a Girl Scout troop at my school. However, there was one at another private school that several of my classmates joined. My mother called Mrs. H. to ask about me joining the troop. They were at capacity, but I could join on one condition – that my mother be the Cookie Chair! My mother agreed and that February, our hallway was lined with tons and tons of Girl Scout cookies.

I remember being so excited the night before my first meeting that I had trouble going to sleep. We didn’t do arts and crafts as busy work, but we worked on real badges. We did camping trips. We learned how to build a fire, to cook, to use a compass.  I remember going to Palais Royal, the big department store where they sold Girl Scout merchandise. I got my Girl Scout uniform, a knife, a canteen and a sleeping bag. I still have the sleeping bag today.

I remained in Girl Scouts for three years from 4th – 6th grade. One year, we met in a classroom, another year in the cafeteria and the last year in the drama theatre room. We learned square dancing, how to put on a play. We even had Girl Scout workshop weekends where we would spend the day at Mrs. H’s house and work on badges.

Overall, I enjoyed my Girl Scout experience except for camping. I was always a homesick child, but by 6th grade, I conquered that too and survived those experiences intact.  It wasn’t easy. I refused to go camping after the first camping trip when I got homesick. The next year, my dad took me for the day and took me home that night making up some excuse about having a previous commitment the next morning. Another year, my parents were the camp chaperones.  By the end of my scouting years, I managed to go camping without my parents and actually had fun! Maybe it helped me in the future go to church camp and eventually live 600 miles away from home.

One year at camp, we made paper boats, lit a candle in them and sailed them into the lake at night while we sang “Old Lady Leary.” Another year, we were dropped off in the middle of camp and told to use our compass and map to find our way back to base camp. One time, we made an oven out of a box and baked a cake. It seems the box had coals under it so it took all day to bake the cake. We made homemade frosting and were preparing to eat it after dinner.  When the big moment came, a large green moth, made the top of the cake its landing pad. We still ate the cake. The frosting was good, but the cake itself tasted like wax.

When I look at all the badges I earned, I can remember some of the projects I did to earn them. I had to comparison shop at the grocery store. Maybe that’s why I’m such a good bargain hunter now. I had to publish a small troop newspaper, learn how to make a lanyard, boil water and cook hotdogs. All were very valuable skills to have.

What’s so funny about all this reminiscing is that I don’t remember being so appreciate of the scouting experience at the time. My mother used to say that I’d look back one day and be glad I hung in there with the scouts. That day is today.