New Exhibit: 50 Years, 4 Levels, 1 Program

In September 1963, Girl Scouts changed from a three-level program to a four-level structure. The Intermediate program was divided into Juniors (grades 4–6) and Cadettes (grades 7–9). The restructuring was accompanied by the release of new handbooks for each level, as well as new badges, uniforms, and awards.

The Nation’s Capital Archives and History Committee has created a new exhibit to mark the 50th anniversary of that exciting program. Items are on display in the lobby of the Council headquarters at 4301 Connecticut Ave. NW.  How many items do you recognize?

The October 1963 issue of Leader magazine kicked off the new program.
The October 1963 issue of Leader magazine kicked off the new program.
The new handbooks went on sale on September 9, 1963, and books purchased that first week came with a special commemorative bookplate.
The new handbooks went on sale on September 9, 1963, and books purchased that first week came with a special commemorative bookplate.
New badges were introduced for the Juniors and Cadettes.
New badges were introduced for the Juniors and Cadettes.
Virginia Walton (left) and Bonnie Johnson checked to make sure the badge sash was correct.
Committee members Virginia Walton (left) and Bonnie Johnson check to make sure the badge sash is correct.
The first Cadette uniform was a variation on the alternate Intermediate uniform.
The first Cadette uniform was a variation on the alternate Intermediate uniform.
The new yellow-bordered Cadette badges were sewn on sashes  beneath the Junior/Intermediate badges.
The new yellow-bordered Cadette badges were sewn on sashes beneath the Junior/Intermediate badges.
New insignia included the Sign of the Arrow and Sign of the Star for Juniors and new interest patches for Seniors.
New insignia included the Sign of the Arrow and Sign of the Star for Juniors and new interest patches for Seniors.
Cadettes had their very own logo!
Cadettes had their very own logo!

The handbooks, badges, and awards combined to create a framework of progression. One program, built on one foundation, would be adapted to four ages levels.

That foundation contained six basic elements, which are still followed 50 years later:

  • Dedication to the Promise and Laws,
  • Commitment to service,
  • Belief in girl-leader planning through the patrol system,
  • Participation as citizens in a democracy,
  • Hopes for international friendship, and
  • Concern for health and safety.

Text and Photos © 2013 Ann Robertson

Vintage Camping Equipment on Display

There’s still time to see the latest exhibit from the GSCNC Archives and History Committee.

“Girl Scouts: Camping Is Our Bag” showcases  vintage camping equipment.

Whether you’re shopping for a new uniform or taking a training class, next time you are at the GSCNC main office at 4301 Connecticut Ave., NW in Washington, check out the displays in the lobby!

What did the well-prepared Girl Scout bring to camp? Compare the  Camp May Flather packing lists from 1930 and 1947:

CMF 1930 packing list
1930 Packing List for Camp May Flather
1947 Packing List for Camp May Flather
1947 Packing List for Camp May Flather

Roaming around Rockwood, part two

Thirty-five years ago, on May 22, 1978, GSUSA announced it would sell the Rockwood Girl Scout National Center to developer Berger-Berman for $4.1 million.  The developer planned to build 180 luxury homes on the site.

At the time,  membership had fallen from 3 million to 2 million nationally, and the movement faced a $300,000 annual budget shortfall. Ultimately, the national board decided that one of the four national centers must be sacrificed. Rockwood was chosen because it duplicated many services provided by the Edith Macy National Center in New York state. “We had these two centers serving the same area and needs and we were incurring a six-figure loss on our properties,” said GSUSA spokesman Richard Knox. “The difference between them is substantial. Rockwood has 92 acres and is in the midst of suburban development. Macy has some 270 acres with 114 adjacent acres being leased to the New York Girl Scout Council for a camp.  We could not maintain both.”

Local Girl Scouts disagreed.    Loudly.    Very loudly.

They argued that the sale violated the provisions of Carolyn Caughey’s will, which stipulated that should the Girl Scouts “abandon” the property or cease to use it for a “character building” purpose, it would revert to the Esther Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star. (GSUSA paid the Esther Chapter $150,000 for its rights to the property.)

They also argued that the sale violated the Girl Scout Law’s commitment to “protect and improve the world around me” and “to use resources wisely.”

They further argued that Rockwood and Macy were not interchangeable, as “It is difficult to show girls the people and buildings of the Nation’s Capital while encamped in New York.”

But above all, they argued that the decision to sell should not have been made without consulting individual Girl Scouts.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Rockwood fans banded together as the “Rescue Rockwood Committee” to save the camp. (The name later changed to “Friends of Rockwood, Inc.”)

In October 1978, GSUSA President Gloria Scott and CEO Frances Hesselbein met with concerned local citizens at a forum in Bethesda, Maryland. A few weeks later, delegates to the National Council Session voted 907-736 to ask GSUSA to “cease negotiations and reconsider the sale of the Rockwood property.”  GSUSA continued with plans for the sale.

Nine Nation’s Capital Girl Scouts filed a class-action lawsuit against GSUSA  in Montgomery County, Maryland, court in January 1979 to block the sale. The Rockwood nine included seven adults (Anne Pomykala, Jean Moore, Jo Reynolds, Wilma Jean Crompton, Patricia Cornish, Charlotte Myklebust, and Dorothy Heisey) and two girls (Kendra Moore and Christina Cornish). Maryland State Attorney General Stephen Sachs soon joined the suit on behalf of the nine Scouts.  The local council, Nation’s Capital, was not part of the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, the developer applied to the Montgomery County Council for sewer and water service for the camp. The Council deferred a decision until the lawsuit was resolved.

As legal fees mounted (over $25,000), Committee members raised funds through garage sales, letter-writing campaigns, bake sales, and selling patches and other items.  Marian Corbin Aslakson, a member of Juliette Gordon Low’s original Savannah troop who had moved to Bethesda, Maryland, donated a pair of antique leaded glass windows and a dozen sterling silver goblets to be auctioned off.  Actress Elizabeth Taylor, then married to Virginia Senator John Warner, donated a framed, autographed photo to be auctioned.

In May 1979, the Rescue Rockwood group marched in front of the White House to attract the attention of First Lady Rosalyn Carter, Honorary GSUSA President.

As the trial date approach, Helen Zelov (see part one) planned to travel to Maryland to testify.

Instead, an out-of-court settlement was reached in 1981, whereby 20 acres and most of the buildings went to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and the rest to Berger-Berman Builders.  Before the deal was final, the Montgomery County Council needed to approve the developer’s request to rezone the land for residential use.  The park commission and local Girl Scouts also had to work out arrangements that would allow both Girl Scouts and the public to use the facilities.

Today, Rockwood is a popular venue for weddings and other events.  Girl Scouts can camp overnight in the dormitories, but there are no cooking facilities available to them.  Next door is Woodrock, the neighborhood of homes built on former Girl Scout land.

Roaming around Rockwood, part one

The Manor House.
The Manor House.

As I wrap up the manuscript for my book on the history of Girl Scouting in the Washington, DC, region, I realized that I did not have a good photo of the exterior of the Rockwood Estate.  So one recent Sunday my husband, daughter, and I headed down MacArthur Boulevard with our camera. Erin had camped there once as a Brownie, but that was eight years ago.

Rockwood is located at 11001 MacArthur Boulevard in Potomac, Maryland, about 15 miles northwest of the U.S. Capitol. The 93-acre property was bequeathed to the Girl Scouts by socialite Carolyn G. Caughey in 1936. Caughey’s gift was inspired by the bravery of Helen Hopkins Zelov, a Girl Scout leader whose strong voice and calm reaction had guided rescuers to save 11 victims when Washington’s Knickerbocker Theatre collapsed under a heavy snowfall on January 28, 1922. Seriously injured herself, Zelov was presented with a medal for her bravery.

Manor House from the side.
Manor House from the side.

I did not know about the Knickerbocker Theatre link until I began researching Rockwood. Washingtonians know of the tragedy, as it still is used as the benchmark for measuring snowstorms in the area.

Helen Zelov, with her mother and son.
Helen Zelov, with her mother and son.

I got in contact with meteorologist Kevin Ambrose, who has just published a history of the Knickerbocker snowstorm. Kevin graciously sent me this photo he’d found of Helen, the heroic Girl Scout leader. He also mentioned that he was working on a second project, gathering stories from the survivors.

A few weeks later, I discovered that Helen had been interviewed by two members of the GSCNC History and Archives Committee in 1981, one year before her death. The transcript tells of the chaos that night in the theatre, and it reveals that Helen had had spat with her fiance (Mr. Zelov) that day and had actually gone to the show that night with a male friend…who was killed in the roof collapse. Helen and her fiance made up and married a few months later.

Erin is not impressed by my Rockwood knowledge.
Erin is not impressed by my Rockwood knowledge.

Helen’s interview also contains some other interesting details. I knew she was part of the famous Troop 8, formally led by Lou Henry Hoover. But I didn’t know that the daughters of Amos Fries were in Helen’s troop. He is the man who arranged for Camp Bradley, the resident camp at Edgewater (Aberdeen) Arsenal used by Washington and Baltimore Girl Scouts in the 1920s. Those are Camp Bradley Girls in the blog header!

GSCNC Antiques Road Show

The GSCNC Annual Meeting on April 13, 2013, included the council’s first Girl Scout Antiques Road Show. Members were invited to share their Girl Scout treasures and the stories behind them. The Archives and History Committee helped identify a few curious objects. We hope to repeat the Road Show next year and have better audio for the 2014 video!