Chartreuse Buzzards: The Real Story

I went to Macy last month and what did I see? Four plain buzzards, sitting in a dead tree.

Palisades Buzzards
Palisades Buzzards

Alas, these birds were not chartreuse, but they spoke of a chronicle, long in disuse.

Macy Entrance Sign
Macy Entrance Sign

It seems their history was recorded 30 years ago, taped at a gathering at Rockwood (wouldn’t you know).

It was not kept at Macy nor with any national staff. Instead, it was stashed in Maryland, secretly stashed on the buzzards’ behalf.

When an archival box was knocked off a shelf, out tumbled an old DVD, not some stupid elf.

The disc had no label, the images were unstable, but the program was still better than most public-access cable.

With the story discovered, the legend of the chartreuse buzzards has now been recovered.

Let us rejoice!!

Gloria Quinlan, Chief Buzzard
Two girls hang a wooden sign outside a building
Girls hang a sign at Weston Lodge

Who’s That Girl Scout? Janet Tobitt

By guest blogger Bethan Clark

Known as “Toby” in Girl Scout circles, Janet Tobitt was born in Reading, England in 1898 and educated at St. Andrews (Scotland), King’s College (London) and the Sorbonne (Paris). She first travelled to the United States in 1929 to teach at the innovative Mary C. Wheeler School in Rhode Island. Two years later she joined the Girl Scouts and began spending her summers teaching folk music at Camp Edith Macy before joining the GSUSA Program Department in 1940. She became a US citizen in 1940

Skip to my Lou cover
Skip to my Lou cover

She became involved with Brownies and Guides whilst teaching at an English boarding school in the 1920s, where she discovered how well folk songs and dances were suited to young people. Tobitt was an inveterate traveller, and she gradually compiled an extensive collection of songs and dances from Europe (France, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Malta), Asia (Korea, Japan, Sri Lanka) and throughout North America.  

Although based in the United States, she retained connections with the UK’s Girl Guiding Association (GGA). In 1936 she returned to the United Kingdom for 18 months, partly for the coronation of King George VI, and partly to travel around England and Scotland leading campfire singing workshops for Girl Guides and leaders for GGA. She took a year’s sabbatical from Girl Scout work during this trip to carry out a survey of music-related activities in 200 towns and hamlets in the United Kingdom.

We certainly tried to get all we could out of “Toby” before she went home to England last fall. We practically have a “Five-Inch Janet E. Tobitt Music Shelf” now.

Marie Gaudette, Leader (January 1937)

From 1947 to 1948 she traveled through more than 100 American communities giving song and dance sessions for 16,000 people. The tour, she wrote, “proved to be not a mangling experience, but a rejuvenating one”. People referred to Toby as an “itinerant Scout executive,” perhaps unsurprising when her work took her to 40 states, some repeatedly, leading workshops for up to 1,000 people at a time.  

As an educator, she believed that “any adult equipped with some basic recreational material, plus sound teaching principles, can go forth as a leader and have fun.” She encouraged groups to sing rounds, stating they “afford a painless, even joyful introduction to part singing.” Her 1937 “Notes for Song Leaders,” listed at the end of the Ditty Bag, are as valid today as they were nearly 90 years ago, and are highly recommended. 

Ditty Bag Cover
Ditty Bag Songbook

Tobitt achieved several “firsts” during her lifetime. In 1933, she became the first person to introduce the making and playing of shepherd’s pipes to the Girl Scouts. Soon after, she introduced the pipes to a nationwide audience, by playing them on a radio show broadcast from the newly opened Rockefeller Center. 

Tobitt contributed several articles to Girl Scout Leader magazine over the years, and held many Girl Scout job titles, including National Supervisor for Singing and Folk Dancing, where she was credited with creating “a strong musical culture for the organization. “As Music Director, she was considered principally responsible for the “national movement towards keener appreciation of music by Girl Scouts”; and, most notably, the first GSUSA staff member assigned to overseas duty in 1951. 

Her overseas assignment was as head of the North Atlantic Girl Scouts (NORAGS). This new division was based in “the American Zone” in Heidelberg, Germany. She trained 650 women, and organized activities for 3,000 girls in more than 100 troops at 17 US bases. As result of her efforts, the Army granted her the civilian equivalent of a Colonel’s rank. 

Tobitt organizes Girl Scouts in Japan
Tobitt Clipping

From 1953 to 1954 she directed the Far East American Girl Scout Association in Japan. “These wives and daughters of our security forces’ personnel, State Department officials, traders, and clergymen,” she explained, “have a unique opportunity as ambassadors of good will to effect understanding and to bring back to their homeland their broader knowledge of the world.” Her duties included introducing Japanese women to Girl Scouts. “Our objective was to give understanding, not to change Japanese women.”

She used her contacts in Japan to facilitate the 1955 “Hiroshima Maidens” airlift, which brought 25 severely disfigured young women to the United States for reconstructive surgery. When journalist and peace advocate Norman Cousins repeatedly failed to find financial backing for the venture, Tobitt suggested an appeal to the editor of the Nippon Times, which resulted in the U.S. Far East Command arranging air transportation for the women. 

Once the Maidens were in the United States, Tobitt, together with C. Frank Ortloff from  the Religious Society of Friends in New York City, was in charge of their outpatient care. The women stayed in private homes in New York City, as they prepared for and recuperated from multiple surgical procedures.

In addition to work and travel, Tobitt found time to edit and publish 34 books, including the highly popular Sing Together (1936), The Ditty Bag (1946) and the original Canciones De Nuestra Cabana (1963). She co-authored five books with another British-born naturalized American, Alice G. W. White, aka Alicen White.  

Tobitt continued to lead folk dance and singing workshops until she retired in 1963. She died in February 1984 age 86, in her adopted home of Manhattan.

Bethan Clark is a British woman who has lived in Hong Kong since 1999. She was a Brownie, Girl Guide, Ranger and Young Leader whilst living in the UK and has spent the majority of her career working with amateur singers, much like Janet Tobitt but on a smaller scale! She is currently a District Commissioner for Bauhinia Division, Hong Kong Girl Guides Association’s English-speaking Division, and is Guider In Charge of a Guide Company comprising 27 girls aged 11-17. Last year she created a YouTube channel ‘Songs for Girl Guides and Girl Scouts’ which, as far as she is aware, is the largest repository of Guide and Scout songs on the internet (500 and counting). It was through this project that she discovered Janet Tobitt and wanted to know more. Hence this article, and now a Wikipedia page too:  

Making New Friends, Again

Why is “Make New Friends” such a popular Girl Scout song?

Because staff come and go so quickly that we’re always dealing with someone new.

Four years ago, when Anna Maria Chavez resigned as GSUSA CEO, I wrote a blog post about “If I Were CEO.” I listed five steps that could be done to strengthen the Girl Scout movement. It was a popular post, and GSUSA used the framework for its own blog.

Now we are saying goodbye to CEO Sylvia Acevedo, and the points I made four years ago are still relevant.

One directly addressed the perpetual issue of staff turnover:

3. Invest in Staff Stability

Girl Scout councils have become pass-through workplaces. Few staff stay as long as two years, regarding the jobs as temporary stages in their careers. But younger doesn’t necessarily mean better in terms of employees; it simply means cheaper. How do we get them to put down roots? We could ask new hires to make a two-year commitment. We could also recruit from another demographic—current volunteers. Would empty-nesters, long-time volunteers whose troops have graduated, be interested? They are already  familiar with the program, so they would have less of a learning curve. We can’t build strong relationships and continuity with fleeting partner.

Another point asks you to consider your own communication style:

4. Promote a Culture of Collaboration

The various components of our movement must commit to improving communication, treating others with respect, and not going off to pout in our tents. This is OUR movement. It is up to us to find ways to perpetuate it.


The old recipe for Brownie Stew applies in the conference room as well as the campsite: everyone brings something to the table—new ideas, hard-earned experience, and enthusiasm, to name a few. Just because an adult wasn’t a member as girl doesn’t mean they can’t contribute today.

We must eliminate the fear of being expelled or fired that intimidates leaders and staff into silence.

Staff must learn to value the contribution of volunteers—that means recognizing the hours they serve as well as the dollars they give. Both forms of contribution are equally vital to the future of our movement.

National, council, staff, volunteer, girl—we’re all part of the same big troop.

…But Keep the Old

Girl Scout careers seem to be getting shorter and shorter. Most of our early CEOs (or “National Directors”) spent a decade or more in one position. But now, programs are launched then fade away because the driving force has hit the road. Who is left to clean up the crumbs?

Past CEOs of GSUSA

The result of staff churn is an unfortunate feeling among volunteers that we can wait you out. Why listen to new procedures when we can be fairly sure that the presenter won’t be around for next year?

No wonder there are so many, many verses for “Make New Friends.”

Two girls hang a wooden sign outside a building
Girls hang a sign at Weston Lodge

Bear Creek Flashback

This week I was contacted by someone doing research on the former Bear Creek Girl Scout Council.

She had done an internet search for Bear Creek and found me. That is where I began Girl Scouts, as I mentioned in another post a few years ago.

We talked a bit about Bear Creek’s merger into the Kentuckiana Girl Scout Council. I also offered to search my home town newspaper for anything relevant.

A quick search of the Paducah Sun archives produced a detailed article, as I expected:

But wait….what’s that on the page next to the article?

It’s a photo! An old photo with very little contrast. Plus the three figures are in shadow since they are standing under a canoe.

But if the faces aren’t clear, those three names sure are. That’s my old troop! I know those girls!! Heck, Laura Terrell sang at my wedding!!!

The photo is accompanied by a detailed article about the troop’s 1978 canoe trip to the Boundary Waters area on the US-Canadian border.

No, I didn’t make the canoe trip. I joined the troop a few weeks after they returned home. Even if I had had the opportunity to go, I’m positive my parents would not have let me. (Don’t even get me started on that subject….)

I already knew some of the girls from Junior Girl Scouts, the others I met at day camp later in the summer. After two weeks at day camp I felt like I had gone on the trip. That’s all they talked about! And they sang…the canoe songs… the car songs…the tent songs…. So many songs!

We’ve lost a few troop members over the decades, but I’m still in touch with many via Facebook. (Ladies, please leave a comment!)

Finally, I have to share another photo gem that turned up in my search. Nothing to do with canoes, but I need to recognize two women who were very important parts of my early Girl Scout years: Aleta Worthen, my Junior leader, and Mary Henry, my Cadette and Senior leader.

Does anybody remember Mrs. Henry with that hair??

Happy Throwback Thursday!

Two girls hang a wooden sign outside a building
Girls hang a sign at Weston Lodge

Princess Pat Carved from a Tree

Every camper’s favorite princess is being honored with a new statue in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

Sculptor James McMahon is carving the image out of the trunk of a spruce tree.

While we know that the correct lyrics of the popular camp song are not “The Princess Pat lived in a tree.…” perhaps they can be updated to “…carved from a tree”?

James McMahon at work on his statue of Patricia of Connaught (
James McMahon at work on his statue of Patricia of Connaught (



Princess Pat: Chop Down that Tree

My July post about the “Princess Pat” song and its controversial lyrics brought a flood of comments.  They can be divided into two categories: people who insist that the song be sung with the correct lyrics (The Princess Pat, light infantry…) out of respect for this hallowed unit of the Canadian military, and people who favor the garbled camp version (The Princess Pat, lived in a tree….).

I also received many links to an Internet post saying that the Princess Pats had actually asked that people stop singing the Tree version. However, I never found anything to verify that request.

So, I decided to ask the soldiers themselves. While I couldn’t work in a trip to Canada, I did get in touch with Captain Alan M. Younghusband, the regimental adjutant. (Yes, Capt. Younghusband, isn’t that a great name!)

The regimental flag hand sewn by Princess Pat.
The regimental flag hand sewn by Princess Pat.

Although he was traveling (August 2014 was the unit’s centennial, and they were quite busy), he promised to investigate the origins of the song in their records.

I received his response a few weeks ago:

The origins of the “Princess Pat” song is one we call The Ric-A-Dam-Doo Song based on the founding of our regiment and the pride we hold in our original camp flag colour (or flag) that is affectionately known as The Ric-A-Dam-Doo which is Gaelic for “Cloth of thy mother”.  Which refers to HRH Princess Patricia (later Lady Patricia Ramsay) working the flag by hand before presenting it to her regiment before they sailed off to the Great War.  I’ve only ever heard one version of the song (the non-offensive one) and we still use segments of it during Regimental Salutes.  While the colour was retired after surviving WWI , the song is still held within our Regimental Song Book.

Thus, the answer seems to be that there was no official request from the unit. Capt. Younghusband was apparently not even aware of the Tree Version, but he does indirectly refer to it as “offensive.” I suppose it is then up to each troop to decide which lyrics are respectful.

The regiment’s lyrics are:

Our Ric-a-dam-doo, pray what is that?

‘Twas made at home by the Princess Pat.

‘Tis Red and Gold and Royal blue.

That’s what we call our Ric-a-dam-doo.

The wives of the current regiment recorded a beautiful song written by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance for the centennial.  The video includes many photos of the regiment over the years.  Proceeds from the song, which is available for purchase from iTunes, will go to Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry Foundation, supporting Canadian military service and former military personnel in need.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation released a documentary about the Princess Pats for their centennial, “A Battalion Apart.”  The accompanying website has much more information about the regiment.

Thank you Capt. Younghusband!

Two girls hang a wooden sign outside a building
Girls hang a sign at Weston Lodge

Princess Pat Out of Her Tree

We’ve all heard of the Princess Pat, and most of us know that she didn’t really live in a tree.  But who was she?

Princess Patricia of Connaught (London Illustrated News)
Princess Patricia of Connaught (London Illustrated News)

Born in 1886, Princess Victoria Patricia Helena Elizabeth of Connaught was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Her parents were Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert, the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, and Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia. After a lengthy career in the army, the duke served as Governor General of Canada from 1911 to 1916. Because her mother was in poor health (she passed away in 1917), Patricia served as her father’s official hostess in Canada. Patricia was very popular and highly respected for her work for the Red Cross.  She was appointed Colonel-in-Chief of the newly formed Canadian Light Infantry in 1918 and personally embroidered the regiment’s first official colors — their flag. Colonel-in-Chief is a ceremonial role, similar to a sponsor or patron.

Princess Patricia and the Duke of Connaught at the Winnipeg Expo in 1912 (
Princess Patricia and the Duke of Connaught at the Winnipeg Expo in 1912 (

The Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry was formed in August 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, and will celebrate its centennial next month.  Members are affectionately known as the “Princess Pats” or the “Patricias,” and their annual magazine is The Patrician. It is a highly decorated unit that served with distinction in both World Wars, Korea, Cyprus, the Balkans, and Afghanistan.

The popular “Princess Pat” camp song is said to be a variation on the regiment’s own marching song, with lyrics that have become increasingly garbled over time. Like a game of telephone, the phrase “light infantry” has transformed into “lived in a tree.” The word “rigabamboo” (or rickabamboo) refers to the red, gold, and purple regimental flag and is “Ric-A-Dam-D00” in the original.

Princess Patricia presents a wreath to the troops.
Princess Patricia presents a wreath to the troops (

I’ve come up with at least three versions: the Scout Tree song, the Scout Light Infantry version, and the Regimental lyrics.  Although I could not find a definitive statement, the regiment supposedly has asked that the song not be sung with the irregular lyrics as they regard it as disrespectful.

In addition to her needlework talent, Princess Pat was an accomplished painter whose work was widely exhibited. She married Alexander Ramsay, a Naval officer who worked for her father in Canada, in 1919. Now known as Lady Ramsay, Patricia traveled the world with her husband as he rose to the rank of admiral. They had one son. Lady Ramsay passed away in 1974, but Princess Pat lives on in hundreds of Girl Scout, Boy Scout, and Girl Guide camps around the world.

Want to learn more about real princesses? Check out my new patch program, Real Princess.

My Real Princess patch program.
My Real Princess patch program.