I wanted to write something profound, extolling Girl Scouts for creating generations of loyal citizens, but ideas were just not coming.
I searched through back issues of Girl Scout Leader magazine and BA-BAM. Then Destiny spoke and decreed that I must share this pageant. Because this play was not written by Girl Scout “pageant lady” Oleda Schrottky, but by a troop in my hometown, Paducah, Kentucky.
This splendid pageant teaches flag history, which early Girl Scouts had to learn for their Second-Class Test.
The cast calls for one girl in uniform; one dressed as Columbia, described as the personification of the United States; and the rest of the troop costumed as various flags.
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.
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
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.
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!
Earned by all those ladies who must be pioneer campers, dignified hostesses, landscape gardeners, puppet makers, and untold other things in rapid succession.
The primary requirement for earning this badge is to have gotten into improbable and thorough trouble while doing an extraneous good deed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
How did you receive your Girl Scout volunteer training?
Was it in a classroom with other new volunteers, led by an experienced volunteer?
Was it a telephone conference call, with you alone in your living room?
Perhaps you watched an online video? Read a packet of papers that came in the mail?
When you were taught how to perform a friendship circle, did you hold the actual hands of a living, breathing human being, or did you have to make do with the throw pillows on your couch?
Chances are, you did not head to the nearest university to major in Girl Scouts. But that was the practice in the earliest days of the movement, especially in areas where troops were just forming.
In 1922, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller fund awarded the first of many grants to the Girl Scouts to train a group of young women who would teach Girl Scout Leadership Training Courses at colleges as universities. The program was extremely popular and quickly spread across the United States.
Reports for 1925 indicate that 6,000 young women had taken courses in the first three years they were offered. Training courses were available at 116 universities, colleges, and technical schools, located in 39 states and territorial possessions.
Participating institutions included Wellesley, Smith, Vassar, Columbia, New York University, Cornell, University of North Carolina, and the University of Texas.
from January 1924 Leader magazine
At Stanford University, for example, the Department of Education offered classes to prepare prospective troop leaders.
Typically, students from a variety of majors took the Girl Scout coursework in the spring quarter, but the smaller summer quarter classes were usually made up of rural teachers hoping to bring Girl Scouting to their schools.
Nancy Beck Young, Lou Henry Hoover: Activist First Lady
Some schools offered academic credit for the leadership training. The University of Iowa offered one credit hour to women who complete the course and run a troop for the rest of the school year.
Stanford alumna and GSUSA President Lou Henry Hoover threw her support behind college-level training and encouraged expanding the program to more and more teachers’ college whenever possible.
Textbook from 1942
Girl Scout officials also hoped the courses would encourage young women to consider careers in the Girl Scout movement.
GSUSA partly revived this idea with the website Girl Scouts University (http://gsuniversity.girlscouts.org/), which provided online training and enrichment courses. However, the website has not been updated in over two years.
This Girl Scouts University should not be confused with an earlier incarnation, also called Girl Scouts University (http://www.gsuniv.org/history/). This site somewhat links to the newer GSU site. Notably, it still has valuable history resources produced by the former National Historical Preservation Center.
The wrenching images of immigrant children separated from their parents reminded me of several articles about Girl Scout outreach programs. The Department of Homeland Security should take note:
Girl Scouts have a long tradition of welcoming newcomers. They have created innovative programs to welcome girls moving across the country or across town; girls moving into overcrowded boom towns, as well as refugees from all corners of the world.
They have established and operated Girl Scout troops in challenging, high-security settings, such as the Japanese internment camps of the early 1940s. Since 1992, the Girl Scouts Beyond Barsprogram has formed troops in women’s prisons so that inmates can participate in troops with their daughters. They even sell cookies to prison staff!
Early in the Cold War, troops were encouraged to seek out Displaced Persons arriving in their communities.
Item from January 1949 issue of Leader magazine.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Girl Scouts in the United States reached out to children in Europe and Korea, sending care packages and school supplies to communities ravaged by war.
Hugh M. Milton, II, Undersecretary of the Army (left) and Frank G. Millard, General Counsel of the Army, are presenting school kits to Vietnamese Girl Scouts on December 3, 1959, at CARE headquarters, Saigon. Thousands of kits donated by GSUSA troops (including 339 from Southern Maryland) were distributed in India, Vietnam, and Hong Kong between December 1959 and February 1960. (GSCNC Archives)
The Girl Scout way of Making New Friends continued in the 1980s. A February/March 1981 article in Leader magazine highlighted programs designed to help newcomers integrate into their new communities.
Leaders in the Girl Scout Council of Tropical Florida … visited Cuban mothers to assist them with grocery shopping, cooking and coping with the trials their new and confusing lives, while the Riverland Girl Scout Council in LaCrosse, WI, held a five-day cross-cultural “get acquainted” day camp with some of their new Cuban neighbors.
When community members in Fort Smith, Arkansas, were less than welcoming toward a group of Cuban refugees, Mount Magazine Council staff greeted the newcomers. The council CEO went on local television to challenge Girl Scouts to be friendly, prompting more residents to come forward with donations.
The article highlighted efforts in my own council, Nation’s Capital, to warmly welcome Vietnamese and Laotian families to the Washington region. Council staff first recruited high-school aged Vietnamese girls into Girl Scouting, then used their language skills to form multi-level troops for each community. The best sign of the program’s success—the girls soon were bringing more friends to the meetings.
The current refugee crisis in the United States, with children desperate for friendship, attention, activities, and caring adults, provides a critical opportunity for the Girl Scouts to put decades of experience to work. We have the skills and a proven track record—if we are allowed to use them.
This month’s history exhibit comes straight from the pages of vintage Girl Scout Christmas catalogs.
Starting in 1928, Girl Scouts published holiday-themed catalogs in addition to annual uniform and equipment catalogs. Leader magazine, when it existed, also had full-page ads with gift suggestions.
The National Equipment Service, which publishes the catalogs, sells the basics: uniforms, handbooks, badges, and camping equipment. But it also sells a range of other products: jewelry, casual clothing, books, and accessories.
Unfortunately, these trinkets often wind up in the trash when a girl decides she’s “outgrown” Girl Scouts. Sometimes the cheapest items become the rarest collectibles.
The Archives and History Committee has many of these gems in our collection, but we rarely have the opportunity to show them off. We decided to take a few pages from these catalogs and match up the items included.
Brownie play clothes, pennant, dictionary, stationery, and records.
Penguin sweater, headbands, trash can, wool cape, and gloves.
Yes, that’s Girl Scout wrapping paper at the bottom!
1965c 00 cover1
What’s on my wishlist this year? This stylish housecoat from the early 1940s.
Vintage Girl Scout Online Museum
Don’t forget the matching slippers, too!
Vintage Girl Scout Online Museum
The display will be at the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital main office, 4301 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC, through January. Items are also on display year round at our Archives and History Program Centers.