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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    Tuesday
    Mar092010

    On My Honor, We Were Girl Scouts When Scouting Wasn't Cool

    Brownie Day Camp July 1967, Suzanne May at back right.

    Brownies and Girl Scouts across America celebrate this week to mark March 12, 1912 when Juliette Low gathered 18 girls in Savannah, Georgia to form the first Girl Scout group in the United States. If tradition has not changed too much, Scouts will still attend church on Sunday in their uniform, sell cookies in front of the market, and blow out birthday candles in commemoration of the day.

    My sister and I spent so many years going through the ranks of Brownie, Junior, Cadette, and Senior Girl Scouting that I thought it would be easy to find a few snapshots of us in uniform, but I was wrong. Somewhere about age ten or so, I must have been given a camera. All the photos I can find show other people in poorly composed, over-exposed, blurry images. By junior high and high school, of course, it would have been a social disaster to be caught in scout uniform, so those are surely lost years.

    Instead, I offer a few snapshots of our fearless Scout Leader, my mom, Suzanne May. As a traditional stay-at-home-mom with organizational skills and creative energy, she routinely signed up to be Neighborhood Cookie Chairman, Brownie Leader, Day Camp Director, and everyone's favorite Mom.

    With her encouragement, no outdoor skill was too gross to be mastered. We learned how to make a portable stove from a tuna can, coiled corrugated cardboard, and paraffin, and then mastered building a fire and cooking Hobo Stew. We learned how to dig an outdoor latrine and make a toilet paper holder from a forked stick. When it got dark, we learned that scary stories are really not a good idea in in a tent in the middle of a field.

    As we hit the 'tweens and then 'teens, Mom stepped back and waved us on our way to snowshoe glaciers in the High Sierras and ride the rapids down the Colorado River. She drove us countless miles to the trailhead and washed the mud out of our socks when we got home.  When we wanted to quit because scouting was really not at all "cool," Mom signed us up to be camp counselors for weeks of independent adventure. And, when our Girl Scout Troop started hiking with Boy Scouts, she didn't keep us home.

    In the 1960's and 1970's women were just figuring out all that they could do, and scouting offered an opportunity for mothers and daughters to try new things and master new skills. It really didn't matter that we were learning to mark a trail or keep wildlife out of our food, the important thing was that we were learning to trust ourselves.

    Happy Birthday Girl Scouts of America!

    Photograph: May, Suzanne. "Day Camp." Photograph. July 1967. Privately held by Denise Levenick, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Pasadena, CA. 2010.

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    Reader Comments (7)

    Yes, Happy Birthday Girl Scouts. My troop leader was my favorite aunt, Aunt Jean. She was the stay at home mom in our family and operated the "Kool-Aid" house.

    It is a great photograph and those are lovely memories.

    -fM

    March 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterfootnoteMaven

    Being a Girl Scout was cool where I grew up. I remember well the little tuna can stoves and net bags to hold our mess kit to dry. I still sing some of the songs I learned with the kids at school. Scouting was a bright spot in my youth. My mother wanted nothing to do with it so Thanks! to all of the women who were willing to take on a group of other people's kids!

    March 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterApple

    Maybe we'll have to do a blog jamboree for scout stories. We could all earn a badge! Thanks for joining the campfire fM and Apple!

    March 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDenise Levenick

    Loved this post! I was a Girl Scout, and then a Girl Scout leader for 13 years. I had the Seniors (high school aged girls) and they often didn't want anyone to know they were Girl Scouts, it wasn't cool, until it came to filling out college applications when suddenly the whole high school wanted to join a troop! I even had a six week genealogy special interest group. The Boy Scouts have a genealogy badge, but the girls just did it for fun! My daughter loved Girl Scout Camp, and her favorite memory is hiking the Appalachian trail for four days through Vermont.

    March 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeather Wilkinson Rojo

    This brought back so many fond memories! It might not have been cool, but I was a Brownie in the early '60's. Went on to be a Junior, then a Cadet, and lastly a Senior. And I adored every single minute. And I was one of those individuals who LOVED camp! Attended Camp Matoaka ever summer! And I lived for the individual camp outs! [Hmmm, still do!]
    Now, why does this make me crave s'mores?
    Oh yeah, great photo! I'll have to see about digging out some of mine!!!

    March 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCyndi Beane Henry

    Love this post and remembering our scouting years. Mom really was a great leader! Even today when I get together with old school friends we always seem to reflect back when mom was our scout leader and all the fun we had. I particularly remember one time when our patrol went grocery shopping for an upcoming camping trip. I was responsible for the budget and handling the money. Mom and my patrol went to the store, filled the cart and checked all the items off our list. When we got to the check out everyone turned to me to pay and I couldn't find the envelope with the money! We had to retrace our steps and there it was - sitting in the produce section among the watermelons.

    March 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDeanna Craig

    Great article. I'm from the same era and it was cool when I was growing up well until I got to junior high. There wasn't a Senior Troop, so I stopped at Cadets. Like you, I always thought I had a lot of pictures in uniform but there wasn't. Thanks for the memories.

    March 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMavis

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