A camp song, a fundraiser, a bond connecting Macy alumni, the elusive Chartreuse Buzzard is a Girl Scout legend.
Girl Scouts of the USA faced huge budget deficits in the early 1970s, a product of slipping membership numbers and rising inflation.
In an effort to save as much money as possible, while cutting as few services as possible, GSUSA informed council presidents and directors in June 1974 that it would close the beloved Edith Macy Training Center in Briarcliff Manor, New York, for the 1975 season and possibly beyond. The sad news spread throughout the membership that summer.
The news arrived at Macy in August, during an “Innovative Training” workshop for adult volunteers. Upset and distressed by this development, students decided to take action. Led by Gloria Quinlan, Ginger Shields, and Betty Lankford McLaughlin from the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Council, the group believed that a grassroots fundraising effort might raise enough money to save Macy.
The women had just learned a new song, “Three Chartreuse Buzzards,” and unanimously agreed to bestow that name on their group.
Thus, the International Order of the Chartreuse Buzzards was born. Why “international”? Because several of the students were Canadian Girl Guides.
Patches for Macy
The group designed a brightly colored patch meant to capture the “combination of fun, friendship, and serious purpose, which have always been part of the blend that appeals to enthusiastic Girl Scouts.” Members sent a patch and a brochure to every council president. Patches were sold for $2 and, to further save expenses, buyers were asked to include self-addressed, stamped envelopes with their orders.
News of the group’s existence spread quickly. After all, no Girl Scouts worth her Thin Mints will pass up a unique patch.
IOCB members ordered 1,000 patches, and all sold out before they were delivered. The design changed slightly before the next order. The word “Macy” was added the spelling of chartreuse fixed.
Donations Fly In
Macy opened for one weekend in June 1976 to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The Buzzards chose that event to present a check to GSUSA for $2,200, earned from selling 8,000 patches.
In 1974, the Macy Lamp of Learning ignited a fire of learning under a dead tree. From the tree, the Chartreuse Buzzard took flight. The shadow of its wings has covered North America, Europe, Australia and other regions. This flight has spread the message of Macy Magic. The Chartreuse Buzzard RE-turns with a gift. The gift is to fuel the lamp of Macy.
The Macy Center was taken off the endangered species list in October 1977, when the GSUSA Board of Directors designated it as the movement’s primary program and training center. A massive fund drive helped GSUSA convert the Edith Macy Center into a year-round facility suitable for training, conferences, and other meetings.
That good news did not dampen enthusiasm for the patch. Sales continued by mail and at conventions, and a cookbook was produced as well.
As Macy expanded, Buzzards donations were earmarked for the Camp of Tomorrow, an experimental outdoor education area at Macy, and scholarships to attend Macy training events. By 1992 the Buzzards had raised $15,000 for Macy.
Is the Chartreuse Buzzard Extinct?
What became of the Chartreuse Buzzards? The last recorded sighting was near the Seal of Ohio Girl Scout Council office in 1992. Patch orders then were directed to council publications manager Betty Rutledge. Betty passed away in 2006, but she was very proud of the Buzzards movement and what the scrappy little group had accomplished. She also wanted GSUSA to do more than cash Buzzard checks.
Writing GSUSA President Betty Pilsbury in February 1989, Betty noted that the group was still waiting for action on GSUSA’s promise to share the Buzzard story with the entire Girl Scout family.
When such an impressive amount of money has been accumulated in $2.00 purchases, an opportunity is being ignored to comment on tangible support for a special Girl Scout place from enthusiastic grass-roots membership.Betty Rutledge letter to GSUSA President Betty Pilsbury, February 6, 1989
GSUSA ran a two-paragraph notice in the Summer 1989 issue of Leader.
Were you a Buzzard? Let me know!
©2022 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian