Lady Baden Powell Find

Phyllis Gay of Arizona Cactus Pine recently offered me a box of color slides of Lady Baden Powell. She said the World Chief Guide appeared to be having tea in Washington, DC.

Of course, I said yes! When the package arrived, I pulled out my slide scanner and found a delightful moment in time.

The slide frames are dated March 1962, so I assume they are from the Girl Scout 50th Birthday Celebration.  That was an enormous event, held at the US Government Departmental  Auditorium on March 11, 1962. Ambassadors from 51 countries attended, with Lady BP as the keynote speaker. The coveted event tickets for “A Salute to Youth” were carefully rationed among the five councils in the Washington area: National Capital; Arlington County, VA;  Alexandria, VA; Southern Maryland; and Northern Virginia. The five combined forces into Nation’s Capital in 1963.

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The photos show a very animated Lady BP at a tea for leaders, possibly held at the Rockwood National Camp just outside Washington.  The reception might also have been at the home of Gertrude “Bobby” Lerch, who was president of the National Capital Council at the time.

LadyBP&BL

Lady Baden Powell and Gertrude “Bobby” Lerch

Lady BP stayed with the Lerch family during her visit. Bobby passed away in 2014 (age 104), but she often recalled that visit; Lady BP apparently could be a somewhat high-maintenance house guest!

Does anyone recognize the other guests?

 

GSUSA Focus on Western Kentucky

Who remembers Bear Creek Girl Scout Council?

Show of hands? Anybody?Bear Creek patch

I certainly do!  I grew up in Paducah, Kentucky, the headquarters of the council. I joined Bear Creek council as a Brownie in 1973.

Five years later, in 1978, the Bear Creek, Caveland, Pennyroyal, and Kentuckiana councils merged into one large council, Kentuckiana. My Cadette troop took a spring break trip to Louisville soon after and camped out in the loft of the council’s main office at 730 West Main St. While most of my troop spent summers as staff at nearby Camp Bear Creek, I worked at day camps and the field office in Paducah.

Flash forward several decades…..I found a copy of the 1951 GSUSA Annual Report to Congress recently and was thumbing through it.  I was stunned to find a page devoted to Paducah and Bear Creek Council!

The 1951 GSUSA Annual Report

The 1951 GSUSA Annual Report

According to the report, the federal government had defined 277 “critical defense areas”; that is, regions where a sudden, massive influx of new residents working in the defense industry had overburdened the local infrastructure. Shortages were everywhere: housing, classrooms, sanitation, health care, milk, day care for working mothers, and recreation. Paducah made the list as it was the home of a new $505 million atomic energy plant.

GSUSA noted that one of its main challenges in 1951 was bringing Girl Scouting to girls living in such crowded conditions. The report highlighted efforts in four areas: San Diego, Colorado Springs, Savannah River, and Paducah, Kentucky, where the population had suddenly doubled:

One of the largest critical areas is that centering on Paducah, Ky. … By November 1951, some 20,000 workers and their families had moved into the area.  Schools were overflowing, living quarters were at a premium, and workers were commuting from 100 miles away.

To provide desperately needed recreation services for these families, GSUSA merged the Paducah and nearby Mayfield councils, as well as lone troops from seven surrounding counties, creating Bear Creek Council. Girl Scout professionals were busy organizing troops and training leaders for the teeming population.

Postcard from the 1950s.

Postcard from the 1950s.

The impact of the plant on Paducah was not news to me. Growing up, I knew of numerous neighborhoods, schools, stores, churches and more that dated to “the boom.” Many of my friends’ parents worked at “the plant.” And, since my father is Paducah’s unofficial historian, I’d heard plenty about the plant over the dinner table, too.

Some of my father's books on Paducah's history.

Some of my father’s books on Paducah’s history.

But the connection between the plant and the Girl Scouts was new to me.

The Paducah gaseous diffusion plant and the better-known Oak Ridge, TN, plant were part of the same project. I know the Tanasi (now Southern Appalachia) council did badge and patch programs related to their plant, I don’t believe the same was done for the Paducah plant. Perhaps it’s time to write one!

Tanasi Council's Own and current Southern Appalachia programs.

Tanasi Council’s Own and current Southern Appalachia programs.

Behind the Box: An Exhibit about More than Just Cookie Crumbs

We all know about cookie patches and profits, but what other prizes come with cookie sales?

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To earn their Museum Discovery Interest Project (an old teen badge), my troop of Seniors and Ambassadors created the new exhibit at the Nation’s Council’s main office. They decided to focus on four types of cookie awards: to girls, to adult volunteers, to councils, and to the entire Girl Scout movement.

The girls visited the council storage facility to select items from the council collection, searched their own rooms, borrowed from older and younger sisters, contacted one of the council’s top 100 sellers, and sorted through items loaned by members of the council Archives and History Committee. I loaned a few items, such as mugs from when I was a troop cookie manager in the dark ages, and the girls made thorough use of my cookie patch collection, too.

Weston Lodge at Rockwood National Center (demolished in early 1980s).

Weston Lodge at Rockwood National Center (demolished in early 1980s).

They came up with a wonderful assortment of patches and stuffed animals (naturally), but also puppets, t-shirts, dolls, mugs, and jewelry. They included a plaque of appreciation presented to Nation’s Capital by Little Brownie Bakers, as well as an old Weston Bakery box and photo of Weston Lodge from Rockwood National Center. In the early 1950s, W. Garfield Weston gave $25,000 to kick-start a $200,000 expansion program for the national camp.

Pewter-like incentives from 1999, 2000, and 2002.

Pewter-like incentives from 1999, 2000, and 2002 (eBay photo).

Installing the exhibit down at council on a Saturday, the set up team met the council’s product sales manager, who gave them an insider view on the process. They discovered that Nation’s Capital did not offer the adorable puppy hat from 2006—but decided it was too cute to leave out. They also learned that the pewter animal prizes (and every girl in the troop seemed to still have at least one) were actually not real pewter. What’s more, when they were discontinued, the girls didn’t complain—but parents did!

 

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The display will remain in the lobby of the council main office at 4301 Connecticut Avenue NW through March.

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A Warehouse? On Winter Break?

I have the greatest troop of Senior and Ambassador Girl Scouts.

They are unfailingly kind, generous, smart, funny, and always willing to be guinea pigs in whatever crazy scheme I come up with.

Over the years we’ve rung in the New Year with movie marathons at our local camp, gone to DC Roller Girls matches, walked the length of the National Mall on the hottest day of the year, debated proper attire for vampires, and collected nearly 200 bras for victims of domestic violence.  They have gamely tried out possible activities for my patch programs about princesses, Barbies, and the Hunger Games.

Since I became chair of the Nation’s Capital Archives and History Committee in 2012, they have become Girl Scout historians, too. They have visited local sites with Girl Scout history ties, such as Peirce Mill and Rockwood Manor. They spent one meeting arranging a suitcase full of old teen uniforms in chronological order and critiquing the style and fabric. Last year, over winter break, a group dismantled, relocated, and reassembled the Committee’s storage area when the council headquarters received new carpet.

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Yesterday, I took a carload of girls to the warehouse in Northeast Washington, DC, where the majority of our collection is housed. Our two storage units are packed to the brim, so I limited the trip to four girls. Would you believe I had a waiting list? Let’s review: I had teenage girls on winter break clamoring to go to a warehouse. A warehouse!

I didn't know we had old GS bathing suits!

I didn’t know we had old GS bathing suits!

We spent about two hours at the warehouse, carrying out several missions. I had old Leader magazines to return and needed to borrow some Rockwood materials for research. We also had a request requiring some old camp uniforms and a roundup hat, so we located those and talked about what roundups were.

Everyone loves old hats!

Everyone loves old hats!

 

Our main goal was to locate items for an upcoming display about cookie patches and prizes over the years. The girls are working on the old Museum Discovery Interest Project, and the display will satisfy some of those requirements. But there’s more to the cookie display project than just earning a badge.

 

The Museum Discovery Interest Project

The Museum Discovery Interest Project

Next year Nation’s Capital will open a dedicated history program center at a former field office in Frederick, Maryland. I am beyond excited by the prospect of permanent displays and being able to better share our collection with our members and the community.

We’re still working out what types of programs will be offered in Frederick, but I hope there will be a mix of “for girls” and “by girls” on the menu.  I visited the First Headquarters in Savannah last summer and was so impressed that teens from the Historic Georgia Council work at the museum and lead most of the programs.  pa_pinI would love to implement a similar model for Nation’s Capital, perhaps even creating a History Program Aide specialty.

Working with my own troop has confirmed that, with proper instruction, girls can handle artifacts appropriately and responsibly. I try to reinforce with my girls that there is a huge, wonderful world of Girl Scouting out there beyond our troop. They enjoy seeing how they fit into our timeline, discovering what has changed and what has stayed the same.

Above all, they prove that Girl Scouts want to learn more about Girl Scout history.  I can’t wait to give them and other troops that opportunity.

Daisies Turn 30

As 2014 draws to an end, we celebrate the 30th birthday of the Daisy Girl Scout program.

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In October 1984, kindergarteners joined their older sisters as the newest Girl Scouts.  The new Girl Scout Leadership Experience, implemented in 2008, regrouped age levels and made Daisies a two-year program, for kindergarteners and first graders.

Daisies are, of course, named for Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouting. “Daisy” was Juliette’s childhood nickname. But when the new program was tested by over 70 councils across the United States, the proposed name was “Pixies.”

Councils piloting the kindergarten-age program used this guide, published in 1975.

Councils piloting the kindergarten-age program used this guide, published in 1975.

The Daisy program has grown considerably over the years. The first Daisies received a scrapbook to record her experiences and activities. She carried her scrapbook in a clear plastic pouch and saved room in the scrapbook for certificates marking the beginning and end of her Daisy year.

Daisy pouch and certificates (1984 catalog).

Daisy pouch and certificates (1984 catalog).

Daisies always had their own membership pin, but they did not earn recognitions for nearly a decade. The Bridge to Brownie patch was introduced in 1993, petals in 2000, and leaves in 2011.

Daisy insignia over the years.

Daisy insignia over the years.

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The Daisy uniform has evolved from a simple blue tunic to range of options including shirts, shorts, leggings, hats, and a vest plus a closet-ful of unofficial fun wear.

Drop by the GSCNC Main Office at 4301 Connecticut Ave. NW and check out the delightful world of Daisies!

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This display was inspired by a question in the “Ask It Basket” at the August Kick-off. Do you have an idea for a display? Let me know!

 

An Afternoon with Fran Randall

This week I had the pleasure of meeting Frances A. Randall, a true pioneer of Girl Scouting in Frederick County, Maryland.

Fran (r) tells Betsy Thurston (c) and I how to kill a snake on a hiking trail.

Fran (r) tells Betsy Thurston (c) and I how to kill a snake on a hiking trail (GSCNC photo).

Frannie, who just turned 90 years young, joined Frederick’s Troop 5 in 1938 and has been involved non-stop since then.

The future Mrs. Randall worked at Braddock Heights day camp in 1944.

The future Mrs. Randall worked at Braddock Heights day camp in 1944 (GSCNC archives).

I enjoyed telling her about Nation’s Capital’s plans for a Girl Scout history program center in Frederick and brought several old scrapbooks for her to look through.

In one of the scrapbooks, Fran found a newspaper she and her brother had published in 1942. Today, the Randall family publishes the Frederick News-Post.

In one of the scrapbooks, Fran found a newspaper she and her brother had published in 1942. Today, the Randall family publishes the Frederick News-Post (GSCNC archives).

We spent the afternoon swapping stories about troops, camping, council mergers,  National Center West, writing books about local history, and trips to Russia. We also compared notes about attending Girl Scout National Conventions in Houston, TX, in 1981 (Frannie) and 2011 (me).

We agreed to get together again in a few weeks with the right equipment to capture her wonderful memories and stories about Girl Scouting in Frederick County.

©2014 Ann Robertson

The Girl Scout Red Scare, part four

Technical issues delayed this final installment of the Girl Scout Red Scare, but I have a treat that is worth the wait!

On August 6, 1954, the Illinois chapter of the American Legion passed a resolution withdrawing American Legion support for the Girl Scouts for supposedly subversive, anti-American content in its 1953 Intermediate handbook.

GSUSA President Olivia Layton  contacted Irving Breakstone, the newly elected commander of the Illinois chapter, to discuss the matter. Breakstone distanced himself from the Clammage resolution and assured Layton that it would never reach the floor of the National American Legion convention, set for August 30-September 2 in Washington, DC.

Breakstone was wrong.

The Illinois resolution, retyped from a file at GSUSA NHPC.

The Illinois resolution, retyped from a file at GSUSA NHPC.

Legionnaires from across the United States gathered at the Washington Armory over Labor Day weekend, 1954, and voted on a series of proposals calling for vigilance against communism, including  universal military training. They passed a resolution praising McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Regarding the Girl Scouts, convention delegates commended GSUSA for taking “remedial action” (revisions underway long before the Legionnaires got worked up over the handbook) and called on GSUSA to disclose the author(s) who had inserted the “un-American influences” into the text and whether or not they still worked for the Girl Scouts.

Furthermore, Legion National Commander Arthur J. Connell reneged on a promise to let the Girl Scouts defend themselves if the handbook issue made it to the floor.

GSUSA President Olivia Layton at the 1957 Roundup (GSCNC Archives).

GSUSA President Olivia Layton at the 1957 Roundup (GSCNC Archives).

Layton was furious, especially as she lived in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and could have been at the convention with less than an hour’s notice. Layton blasted the vote, saying,

They promised to get in touch with me if anything at all was to be done. Then they went ahead and did this, without even letting me know a thing about it, until I read in the paper Wednesday that the resolution had been passed.

Connell’s reply seemed to suggest that Layton should find a scapegoat to preserve the movement’s wholesome image:

All organizations, including the American Legion, could be infiltrated, and it seems to be that it might be well for the Girl Scout leaders to see who in their organization was responsible for the changes in their handbook, that ought to be blamed rather than any individual in the Legion.

As it turns out, the author of the Intermediate Handbook was Margarite Hall, an old friend of Nation’s Capital who worked at Camp May Flather when the camp opened in 1930 and later on the council staff.  In 1953 she was the Intermediate Program Advisor at GSUSA and hardly a rabble-rouser.

Hall previewed new badges in the May 1953 Leader magazine.

Hall previewed new badges in the May 1953 Leader magazine.

Hall introduced the 1953 Handbook in the October 1953 Leader magazine.

Hall introduced the 1953 Handbook in the October 1953 Leader magazine.

Although the controversy over the Handbook had to be frightening at the time, by 1990 Hall could laugh about the incident, as she did in a 1990 presentation at Rockwood Manor, outside Washington DC.

Now that the recording of the presentation has been digitized, I’ll let Margie have the last word on the Girl Scout Red Scare:

 

 

©2014 Ann Robertson