Surviving the Big Trip

Surviving the Big Trip

Many Girl Scout troops spend several years working toward a “Big Trip.”

Often it is to one of the World Centers, located in London, Switzerland, Mexico, and India. Perhaps the destination is New York City, Washington DC, or Savannah, Georgia.

The Trip guides badgework, fundraising, camping and field trips that gradually build skills and cooperative behavior.

Planning a Big Trip to Washington DC, from Rockwood Film Strip

For the troop leaders, excitement is tempered by anxiety. How do you take twenty or so girls to the other side of the country; or the world?

(Plus, Girl Scout regulations specify that you must bring home the same number of girls that departed with you. Same number, I suppose you could swap some girls. Or at least threaten to.)

But relax, other volunteers and staff members will help you prepare the girls and yourself. At one time, trip plans had to be approved by the local Girl Scout council.

The Big Trip will make memories that last a lifetime, most of them good!

So, in a belated nod to Leader Appreciation Day, here is 1955 poem composed by a New York leader who took 64 seventh graders on a three-day trip to Washington, DC. And she survived!

Washington 1955 (Leaders’ Ditty)

Washington when Spring is here, to some may seem to be
A gay time, a play time, a time that’s fancy free.

With the blossoms and the buildings and the beauty of the city
To wander o’er and ponder o’er; and it really seems a pity

Or so you’d think, to have to steer wherever you may go
A gaggle of, or straggle of, Girl Scouts both fast and slow.

How very wrong such thoughts would be, the girls add to the fun,
But have no doubts, 64 Girl Scouts can keep you on the run.

They lose their buddies, sing strange songs and roam far and near
And history is a mystery to most of them I fear.

Senior Girl Scouts at Mt. Vernon, from Rockwood filmstrip

They stroll around Mount Vernon, while you revel in it too,
The FBI stands way high in their list of things to view.

Memorials and monuments and museums, where they see
Two-headed babies, gems of rubies – strange things you will agree.

But those they rank as equal to the homes of famous men,
Or the Capitol. They lap it all up – want to go again.

But see these green-clad forms stand still when the Guard is changing o’er
Way, that’s a sound of girls you’re proud of, now and evermore.

And though they give you headaches, if you’re honest, you must say
You’re glad you went, not sad you went, and you loved just every day.

Heading Home, 1950s (Rockwood Collection)

©2020 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Put These on Your Sash

I’m a BIG fan of Spoof badges.

You’ve probably seen examples online, such as these camping-themed badges from Demerit Wear.

They range from funny to foul and some are far too mature for our dear girls’ delicate sensibilities.

(And just how many fart badges does one Cub Scout need?)

I’ve been a freelance writer in a home office for 20-some years, so I earned the full set of working-from-home recognitions long before it was trendy.

Adam Wentworth’s Working From Home series on Etsy

Apparently, spoof badges aren’t a new idea. I found a several proposed leader badges in, where else, Leader magazines from December 1958 and February 1959.

For your enjoyment and troop planning, I present (only slightly edited):

Vintage Spoof Badges

Idiot

The Idiot badge may be earned in various ways. A simple start is to forget the can opener on the night of the big party–or, after careful solitary rehearsal of the flag ceremony, to go blank when a group of wide-eyed Tenderfeet (-foots?) are looking to you for guidance.

Straight Face

The Straight Face badge is one toward which credits can be earned painlessly at every meeting. When you can ask seriously, “Don’t you think steel wool and scouring powder are a little too rough for a baby’s skin?” or comment, “It’s very messy to put your elbow into the soup to test the temperature”– you’re made!

Split Personality

Earned by all those ladies who must be pioneer campers, dignified hostesses, landscape gardeners, puppet makers, and untold other things in rapid succession.

Good Intentions

The primary requirement for earning this badge is to have gotten into improbable and thorough trouble while doing an extraneous good deed.

For example:

  • Ms Susie ventures out into the icy world on a particularly nasty day in order to light the stove at the church where the troop met, so that some hours later the room would be warm. On the way down the hill from the church, her car slips into a deep ditch, requiring a tow truck and the payment of $150.
  • Ms Linda decides to take home one of her Brownies who lives miles beyond nowhere in the Arkansas countryside, rather than let her wait an hour for her parents to pick her up. Heavy rains had converted the back roads into deep mud. On the return trip, to avoid some heavy branches overhanging the road, she got ignominiously stuck in the mud, up to the floor of her car. It took a good half hour to get out, to say nothing of mud (sprayed over everything and oozing through the floor) and frayed nerves. In cleaning up the car after my fiasco, I scrubbed the skin off my hands trying to get everything mud-free and ran the well dry.

Broken Note

To earn this badge, you must NOT to be able to sing. It is a noble ambition to have our girls learn to sing, and, whenever possible, to do so by listening to someone sing the song. Some volunteers can read music easily and have an excellent memory for words.

But others (you know who you are) can’t sing a note. Or more accurately, they can sing one note. They all come out the same. When they sing “Make New Friends” it sounds like a Gregorian chant. This badge is awarded to all who have suffered the frustrations and woeful eyes of girls who want so badly to learn and enjoy but can’t make heads or tails of the melody, at least not the way their leader sings it.

Scrounger

Any Girl Scout leader who wasn’t born a scrounger and saver must develop into one or perish.

There are three requirements for earning this badge.

  • Save one dozen items, such as two-pound coffee cans, to be used “at a later date” for “something.”
  • Save one dozen items for at least a year, such as empty baby cereal boxes with spouts (there must be some use for spouts?), which collect dust, dirt, and despair.
  • Scrounge ten different items from ten different sources, whether they be No. 10 cans from a restaurant (we all know what those are used for) or cuttings from the local greenhouse.
The Sacred Pot of Golden Yellow Nuggets

Needless to say, all of these tasks must be accomplished with minimum expenditure, if not free.

Personally, I live with the giant jar of yellow pony beads that has been passed through my Service Unit for 25+ years. The SU was merged out of existence several years ago, but the beads remain. Alas. They do make a good door stop.

Black Day

The Black Day badge consists of two parts.

First: There are certain conditions that must be present before the other requirement may be completed: it has to have rained solidly at least three days; you have to have a cold, or think you have a cold; you must at least have a headache, a toothache, or a husband on a diet.

Second: Face one of the listed experience or a similar calamity.

  • When the young ladies duly burst into troop meeting, they are like uncaged tigresses, deaf to ideas and entreaties, unable to sing or play games or otherwise vent their energies without producing chaos. The leader must be poised, gracious, in full command of the situation, smiling and bright.
  • The second requirement is to have chaos at home develop at the moment you leave for a meeting: a younger child has just come down with scarlet fever, measles, or such; the stove has blown up or the bathroom overflowed; your husband is bringing home three guests for dinner. Again, you must appear at meetings, poised, gracious, and with three of the craft supply boxes living in your basement.

Surely these coveted recognitions will be wonderful additions to your new, official leader vest!

Preview(opens in a new tab)

©2020 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Girl Scouts and Japan, part 2

Let’s return to Japan and keep touring our exhibit on Girl Scouting in that country.

(Need a refresh? Jump back to part 1.)

Our three scrapbooks represent three different US troops and document their activities for about two years. There is some repetition and duplication due to multiple newspapers covering the same event.

What kind of events? The girls living in Okinawa did the same Girl Scout activities as US-based troops. They wore the same uniforms, recited the same Girl Scout Promise, and earned the same badges.

That was the purpose of having Girl Scout troops for families living abroad. Parents knew that their daughters would find a warm welcome and many new friends when they attended their first troop meeting.

Local residents from the Girl Scouts of Japan were often invited to troop meetings to share in the fun.

Twist Me and Turn Me

Courts of Award

Girls of Kaden Air Base receive their First Class pins from base commander Col. William C. Adams. First up is Sammie Towne, while Sharon Foley, Marylin Earl, Martiele Graham, and Kaye Rodgers (USAF Photo)

Active Citizens

Service Projects

Jane Ruiz of Troop 12, Kadena Air Base, presents a Girl Scout handbook to Katherine Newsom of Keystone library. (Note the “Professional Military Books” shelf!).

Mealtime

Square Dancing

Camping

Day Camps for Brownies and Intermediates began in 1957.

Badgework

In addition to regular Girl Scout badges, the American troops on Okinawa created their own badge for learning about Okinawa. The design was apparently used for patches as well. (I’ve also seen a Okinawa troop crest with the red Shinto gate symbol.)

That tradition has carried into modern day, with USAGSO offering badges on Okinawa’s culture and sea life. These can be ordered online.

Shared Activities…

… will be featured in part 3.

©2020 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Girl Scouts Online: Then and Now

Have you ZOOMed yet?

Thanks to the coronavirus quarantine, this program has, well, zoomed its way to prominence.

Schools, hospitals, shuttered businesses and more are using Zoom to create virtual classrooms, meetings, exercise classes, and more.

I had my first experience with the popular video platform yesterday. A group of former staff of IREX, the International Research and Exchanges Board, met online to share war stories about working and living in the Soviet bloc in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Patch from Snappy Logos

The Girl Scouts have also jumped on the Zoom express, using the platform to hold virtual troop meetings, long-distance staff meetings, discuss program proposals, and to bring guest speakers to the girls. The Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital held 60 virtual troop meetings last week.

Councils with Annual Meetings scheduled over the next few months are turning to Zoom as well. (As of April 7, 2020, I have no idea what will happen to the National Council Session scheduled for this October.)

Which troop has the privilege of being the first to go virtual?

First Online

Cyber Girl (1998-2010)

That honor goes to a REALLY large troop in western South Dakota. Starting in fall 2002, 2,400 girls worked on badges and service projects from their own, very isolated homes. The Black Hills Council sought to bring Girl Scouts to these girls and GSUSA responded with a new program. The virtual troop covered 34,000 square miles, with an average of six residents per square mile.

Girl Scouts on the Small Screen

In a lower-tech time, GSUSA experimented with training by television. The first programs were done in conjunction with public television stations.

In 1955, only 18 education television stations existed in the United States. One of the 18, the University of Alabama, turned to the local Girl Scouts for program suggestions. The Girl Scouts of Jefferson County had plenty of ideas and eventually came up with a three-month series of programs:

There were to be four programs on leadership of Senior troops, followed by two on outdoor activities and three on ranks and badges. Later, a series of afternoon telecasts was outlined to present a Girl Scout and a Boy Scout demonstrating outdoor skills, crafts, and dramatics.

Leader Magazine (June 1956): 15.
Radio-Television (1963-1979)

When the Camping Caravan (a station-wagon traveling the country and providing outdoor trainings), arrived in Alabama, its training team added their own flourish to the programs.

In one episode, camping expert Kit Hammett fried an egg over a tin-can stove. As the emcee closed the show, Kit flipped over her egg and bread creation to reveal toasty perfection just as the credits began to roll.

The Colorado Springs Council piloted another TV training program in 1958. Staff from the Training Division and the Radio-TV Section in New York created an eight-part series for new leaders. They also created a workbook that applied to all of the 30-minute shows.

A local commercial television station provided free air time for the shows. They were so popular that the council received many inquiries from non-Girl Scouts who had seen the programs and wanted to join.

Technologies and Tradeoffs

Whether on television or in cyberspace, the Girl Scouts have embraced new technologies to bring the movement to its members. But just as in the 1950s, today’s virtual programs risk leaving some girls behind. Girls may live in remote areas with poor internet service, and not every family has a computer. Let’s find a way to include them, too.

©2020 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Masks? Who Needs Masks?

Today you cannot turn on the news or surf the internet without seeing plea upon plea for face masks to protect health care workers during the Covid-19 crisis.

Groups across the country have sprung into action, sewing masks while quarantined at home. Girl Scouts are doing their part, collecting materials and sewing masks themselves. Troops across the United States are sending cases of cookies to hospitals and other health-care centers.

Girl Scouts have provided war-time service since the movement was founded in 1912. When the United States entered the World War I in 1917, girls distributed sandwiches to soldiers passing through town, raised homing pigeons destined for the front lines, and made bandages for the Red Cross.

Girl Scouts dig a victory garden behind the DAR Hall in Washington, DC, 1917

Local Girl Scouts also jumped in to help when another mask-related emergency occurred.

The March 1918 edition of The Rally (the first Girl Scout magazine) introduced a Girl Scout War Service Award to “stimulate thoughtful direct effort that would have a distinct value to those in the war.”

To earn the award, girls had to knit two pounds of wool, make 50 jars of jam, and sell at least 10 Liberty Bonds. 

The Rally also directed Girl Scouts to collect and dry fruit pits and nut shells:

A CAMPAIGN FOR PITS

Gather up the peach pits,

Olive pits as well.

Every prune and date seed

Every walnut shell.

The "Peach Pit Champions of Washington, DC, collected thousands of peach pits for the war effort.  From left: Lillian Dorr, Troop 60; Helen Collier, Troop 33; Eva Tarslush, Troop 60.  (The Rally, March 1919.)
The “Peach Pit Champions of Washington, DC,” collected thousands of peach pits for the war effort. From left: Lillian Dorr, Troop 60; Helen Collier, Troop 33; Eva Tarslush, Troop 60. (The Rally, March 1919.)

The magazine article explained that “200 peach pits or seven pounds of nut shells produced enough carbon for one filter for a solider’s gas mask” (GS Collector’s Guide, p. 87).  With the German military deploying highly toxic chlorine gas against the Allied troops, the Red Cross and other organizations launched peach pit collection drives across the country, according to The Atlantic magazine.

The Girl Scouts rose to the occasion, and three Washington, DC, Girl Scouts — all under age 13 — were declared “Peace Pit Champions.”

Hopefully we won’t have to resort to fruit as protective gear but if so, the Girl Scouts are ready.

Many troops had to cancel cookie booths due to social distancing. You can purchase cookies online and have them delivered to first responders, food banks, or yourself!

©2020 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Breathe in Virtual Fresh Air

Got cabin fever? If not, it’s coming soon.

The ongoing coronavirus crap means that thousands of spring Girl Scout camping trips have been cancelled.

Maybe this vintage postcard from a 1920 leaders’ camp will help anyone experiencing camp deprivation:

Leaders perform their morning calisthenics at camp.

These leaders are starting their day with a round of “setting up” exercises, just like the campers in the Golden Eaglet, a 1918 promotional film from the Girl Scouts.

This postcard was never mailed. Instead, the owner used it as a souvenir of her time at camp.

For you non-cursive folks, it reads:

“The mess hall is to the left and the lake down to the right. I am the 7th one in the 2d row from the left and Rose is the 4th one in the 3d row. The 3d on in the 4th row was our bugler. We called her Tommy. She was fine at the taps trade.

Our tent isn’t shown here.”

Don’t you just love the camp uniform of middies and bloomers?

Those were the days!

©2020 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Girl Scouts and Japan, part 1

The newest history exhibit at the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital is inspired by the capital’s famous cherry trees.

We timed the installation to coincide with the city’s Cherry Blossom Festival.

It was a great idea. Except that the coronavirus decided to come to Washington at the same time. The festival was cancelled, the Girl Scout offices closed.

While the city offers virtual strolls among the blooming trees, we can do the same thing with the exhibit.

One of the three donated scrapbooks from Okinawa

The exhibit draws from three scrapbooks donated by the family of long-time Girl Scout Fran Phoenix. Each album has a heavy black lacquer cover with mother-of-pearl inlay, and each belonged to a different US Girl Scout troop in Okinawa, Japan, in the late 1950s.

Those Pesky Prepositions

(This may get complicated, so grab a buddy. )

The albums were created by US Girl Scout troops in Japan. Their activities are preserved, as well as their many activities with local troops. That means we have Girl Scouts in Japan, Girl Scouts of Japan, and combinations of both.

Plus, the Girl Scouts of Okinawa is a branch of USA Girl Scouts Overseas (which has had many names over time), and Girl Scouts of the Ryukyu Islands is a division of the Girl Scouts of Japan.

This exhibit covers a range of Girl Scout groups in Japan

Not Japanese Girl Guides?

Oh my, this is confusing. Let’s go to the exhibit signs for help. First, the American context:

Yes, Japanese Girl Scouts

Now, the Japanese side. Although their group briefly was Girl Guides, they have proudly been Girl Scouts for nearly a century.

In fact, the Japanese Girl Scout organization has a special online history exhibit marking their 100th birthday.

Japanese Girl Guide troop, 1920s

Got it? We’ll look at some photos and clippings from those scrapbooks in Part 2.

In the meantime, enjoy these images of our exhibit.

©2020 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Another Day, Another Pandemic

This post was originally published in 2014, and it has been updated for the coronavirus era.

The Washington Post recently compared the influenza epidemic of 1918 to the current Ebola outbreak, but the newspaper left out the Girl Scout part of the story.

From late 1918 through early 1919, a particularly nasty strain of flu killed 50 million people worldwide and some 500,000 in the United States. Washington, DC, was particularly hard hit because the city was overflowing with federal workers (“living three or four to a room in private homes and boarding houses”) and soldiers passing through on their way to or from the World War I front.

The Girl Scouts had already mobilized to sell sandwiches, cake, and ice cream to soldiers and war workers.  One girl, Edna Schwartz, recalled making stacks and stacks of egg and ham sandwiches and setting up a stand near the Corcoran Gallery of Art at lunchtime. They put those skills to work as a new enemy attacked.

Flu Soup Kitchen
Volunteers ladle soup to children whose parents were stricken by the flu (Bettmann photo)

Invalid Cook, 1916

That’s “invalid” as somebody with a persistent disease, not something “not valid.”

(Photo from Vintage GS Museum)

When the Spanish flu brought Washington to a near-standstill in October 1918, the Girl Scouts set up a Diet Kitchen first at Central High School, then later at 1101 M Street NW.

Girls who had earned their Invalid Cook badge had mastered the art of making soup, broth, custard, gelatins, and a formidable-sounding substance labelled “kumyss” in their Handbook. Now they worked from dawn to dark cooking gallons of these very basic meals.

Volunteers delivered the hot meals to patients throughout the city. Leaders had to make a public appeal for drivers and containers to meet the demand. Some 2,180 patients were served from the high school and a total of 7,821 patients at the peak of the epidemic. Troop 60 put on a play and sang songs, charging 10 cents a head, and raised $25 for supplies.

Washington DC Central High School (later Cardoza HS) https://historicsites.dcpreservation.org/

The Diet Kitchen was such a success that Susie Root Rhodes, DC Supervisor of Playgrounds, asked the Girl Scouts to also distribute soup at playgrounds in two of Washington’s poorest neighborhoods. This meal often was the only meal, certainly the only hot meal, that many of these children received each day while their mothers worked or were ill.

Image from The Economy Administration Cook Book, 1913

Mrs. Rhodes credited the Girl Scouts with saving the lives of people too poor to afford doctors and preventing malnourished children from succumbing to influenza.

Is it a coincidence that the latest virus arrived at the same time as Girl Scout cookies? Girls Scouts to the rescue again!

DISCLAIMER: There is no scientific proof that Girl Scout cookies prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But they don’t hurt, either…

©2014, 2020 Ann Robertson

Those Naked Leaders?

Those Naked Leaders?

I received this announcement from GSUSA today:

GSUSA Message, February 25, 2020

The new scarf looks lovely. But what really caught my attention was the statement that I underlined:

“In 1968, our first adult uniform…”

Oh my. No adult uniforms for the first 56 years? Really?

That gives a whole new dimension to exploring the great out-doors.

Perhaps what was meant in this release was that 1968 was the first time a well-known designer created an adult uniform?

Wrong again.

In 1948 the American designer Mainbocher created new uniforms for Intermediates, Seniors, and ADULTS.

GSUSA eagerly announced the new garments in its own publications:

1948 National Equipment Catalog

… and press releases.

Lancaster New Era (September 8, 1948)

Before the Girl Scout uniforms, Mainbocher was best known for outfitting the WAVES (women serving in the US Navy) during World War II.

A retrospective exhibition of Mainbocher’s work was held in Chicago in 2016. Vogue magazine described the man as “The Most Important American Designer You’ve Never Heard Of.” (And it’s pronounced Main-Bocker)

Tsk. Tsk. Next time, run it by a Girl Scout historian. Better yet, an editor/Girl Scout historian.

©2020 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian