Winter with the Girl Scouts

With record low temperatures across the country, I’m sure you are all wondering what Girl Scouts do in the winter. Admit it. 

That simple question is the theme of the current Archives and History Committee display at the main office of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital at 4301 Connecticut Ave NW in Washington, DC.

The answer? Lots!

Play Outside

Keep Toasty Warm

Girl Scouts have long had many options for frosty fashions. And if they have nothing in their closet, they will knit something themselves!

img_0119

Girl Scout winter wear

Go Camping!

Personally, I’ll stick with lodge camping in the winter, but some hardy souls will still pitch their tents in the snow.

winter camping

Winter camping (2002 GSCNC Calendar)

And let’s not forget the brave troop that was rescued by helicopter from Camp Potomac Woods after a surprise snowstorm in 1958. Here they are after arriving at Ft. Belvoir.

dec06ar19

 

Earn a Badge

There have always been badges appropriate for winter time.

 

March in a Parade

Holiday parades, Martin Luther King Day parades, Presidents’ Day parades, Girl Scouts take part whenever asked. And every four years, there is a presidential inauguration to take part in.

Enjoy Tasty Treats

Bake cookies, decorate gingerbread, sip cocoa, or try a cookie-flavored coffee pod and creamer.

Sell Cookies!

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow will distract us from a cookie booth.

Erins_Last_Booth

My daughter’s last cookie booth, March 2015. We froze our cookies off.

But the absolute best part of the exhibit? New lights.

Finally, everyone can see the treasures on display!

©2019 Ann Robertson

Who’s That Girl Scout? Oleda Schrottky

I have long been fascinated by former GSUSA staff member Oleda Schrottky. But when I recently found this vintage photograph, I was in love.

Oleda_Schrottky

Oleda Schrottky in costume (presumably), Macy Center, 1928 (Acme Newsphoto)

From 1921 to 1964, Schrottky was the Girl Scout “play lady.” She reluctantly took this position and over time crafted a one-of-a-kind job description uniquely tailored to her talents and convictions.

Why is Oleda Schrottky the coolest Girl Scout ever?

First, there is her name: Oleda Schrottky. Try saying it aloud a few times. Doesn’t it feel and sound fascinating?

From the Midwest to Massachusetts and Manhattan

Oleda Schrottky was born in Appleton, Wisconsin, in 1894. She was a highly educated woman for the era, attending Lawrence College, the University of Minnesota, and New York University.

She established herself as a well-regarded speech and drama instructor at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. She frequently performed in professional productions, especially with the Provincetown Players.

She Admitted to Misunderstanding the Girl Scouts

In 1921, the Provincetown troupe debuted a new play in New York City, The Inheritors, written by Susan Glaspell and directed by Jasper Deeter. Twenty-seven Oleda memorably played the lead character’s grandmother.

Jane_Deeter_Rippin

Jane Deeter Rippin (GSUSA)

After one show, Jasper introduced Oleda to his sister, Jane Rippin, who had greatly enjoyed her performance on several evenings.

Oleda was later astonished when Jasper commented that his sister was the executive director of the Girl Scouts. She could not believe that the aristocratic theater patron, dressed in an evening gown and furs, could possibly be a Girl Scout. She protested:

 

 

 

They wear khakis; they wear black khaki stockings; they wear the most awful-looking hats; they wear great big belts; they have got stuff hanging around like ropes and knives and they march. They are always marching and they are camping, they sleep in the poison ivy, they knock trees down, they dig holes, they cook meals. They are dreadful!

Leader (Winter 1985)

Obviously, she eventually changed her mind.

She Forged Her Own Path

Jane Deeter Rippin sought to hire professionals in the fine arts to train troop leaders in drama, music, and more. She offered Oleda a salary of $150 per month “and a lot of opposition.”

As promised, many volunteers and staff resisted the new initiative, but Oleda stood firm and eventually gained respect and her programs were praised. She originally meant to stay just a year, but 12 months rapidly turned into 40 years.

Everybodys_Affair

Play written by Oleda Schrottky

As Secretary of Plays and Pageants, Oleda wrote scripts, guidebooks, and ceremonies, and she travelled across the country helping adults and girls perform.

Her training courses included lessons on set construction, costume design, and the importance of understanding a play’s context. She published guides for Scout’s Own ceremonies, “Simple Dramatics for Girl Scout Troop Meetings,” and plays such as “Lend a Hand,” “Milestones: A Girl Scout Pageant in Seven Episodes Based on the Life of Juliette Low,” and “A Pot of Red Geraniums: A Christmas Play in Two Acts.”

While she insisted that any number of girls, even a handful, were sufficient for a dramatics program, Oleda preferred to stage her own pageants on a grand scale.

The photo above was taken during a dramatics course for leaders given at the Edith Macy Training School in 1928. All 150 students participated in “Nottingham Fair,” a pageant based on the Robin Hood story.

Oleda became an in-demand speaker across the United States. Her presentations were noted for their insight, humor, and ability to mobilize civic clubs and parent-teacher groups to support youth recreation and community theater.

She Helped Dedicate Rockwood

Oleda organized the dedication of Rockwood National Camp in 1952, combining it with a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Girl Scouting. She wrote a new pageant for the event and found a unique way to include thousands of Girl Scouts in a ceremony held at a relatively small venue.

Councils across the country were encouraged to hold their own community-wide campfire ceremony over the summer, make a bundle from the remains of the fire, attach a special message, and send it to Rockwood. No detail was left to chance:

These bundles of sticks should not exceed 12” in length; each piece of wood approximately one inch in diameter. We experimented and the simplest way is to make a cloth bag, of unbleached muslin or light-weight duck, with a draw string, then use mailing tape.

Twenty-nine bundles arrived in time for the dedication.

Schrottky Bundles

Oleda Schrottky examines bundles of sticks mailed to Rockwood National Camp (GSUSA archives)

She Retired from Work, But Not from Her Mission

Oleda officially retired from GSUSA in 1957. But she continued to work with young women and maintained a busy schedule as a guest speaker.

Too many of our children today just sit and want to be entertained. They must learn that they themselves have resources for entertaining.

–Oleda Schrottky, 1964

She passed away in August 1969, after giving presentations as recently as that May. She also had a speaking engagement booked for November 1969.

She Believed in the Importance of the Liberal Arts

I wonder how Oleda would fare in today’s Girl Scouting. We supposedly are fighting against a public image of preferring crafts over camping. Increasingly, Girl Scouting is focusing on developing skills in STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math.

These are undoubtedly valuable skills, especially in the 21st century.

But as a social scientist married to an architect and with a daughter in art school, I cannot ignore the value of non-STEM topics as well.

I hope we can find a balance that includes all of these subjects.

Otherwise, maybe I’ll have to wear my own floaty Maid Marian dress to the next Maker Fair.

©2018 Ann Robertson

Favorite Pin Identified

Three years ago I shared my favorite piece of Girl Scout memorabilia. It is a sterling silver and brass brooch that I found on eBay.

 

 

The pin is engraved “Suncoast Girl Scout Council,” but the seller had no information about its origins.

A few weeks ago I received an email from Terri Costello, the special events manager for Girl Scouts of West Central Florida. Suncoast was one of the councils that merged to create West Center Florida during realignment.

Terri had recognized the pin immediately. It is presented each year to the council’s Women of Distinction. Many councils have similar programs to recognize inspiring women.

This event is held each year to honor and celebrate local women who have achieved success in their chosen fields and serve as inspiring role models for girls and other women in our local communities, each exemplifying ethical leadership and a commitment to making a difference in the lives of their fellow citizens through community service.

GSCWCF website

While the Suncoast program dates to 1992, the pin, designed by Tampa artist Karen Arch,  and was introduced in 2002.

I am delighted that even though I am not a “Woman of Distinction,” Terri has given me permission to continue wearing it with pride. In fact, I think I’ll wear it today!

©2018 Ann Robertson

When a Girl Scout Passes Away

There are no words to adequately acknowledge the tragedy suffered by our Girl Scout family this weekend. In Wisconsin, a pickup truck plowed into a Junior troop gathering trash on a roadside, killing three girls and an adult and seriously wounding another girl.

How can we possibly comment on this loss?  How do Girl Scouts grieve?

My first thought was to share part of some traditional Girl Scout song, but none seemed quite right.

I also remembered an odd set of photos from the Nation’s Capital archives. It seems to be a Girl Scout honor guard at a funeral in the 1920s.

Funeral 002

Girl Scouts carry the casket of a friend, circa 1920 (GSCNC Archives).

But then I thought of something else. Something much simpler, a ritual that a 9 or 10-year old’s troop mates would understand.

It is a ceremony known as “Our Last Friendship Circle.”

Last_Friendship

UPDATE: This ceremony was created by Mary Burdett of the Western Ohio legacy council.

Please share. This tradition should not be stored away in the depths of an archive.

©2018 Ann Robertson

So That’s In Your Bag, Girl Scout

Last week I shared photos of our exhibit of pocket-sized Girl Scout memorabilia. We had photos of various Girl Scout bags and what girls and adults might have carried over the years.

As promised, here are the four main photos, with the various items labeled. Did you recognize all of them?

Enjoy!

Girl Purses 1970s Labels2

Girl purses then

Girl Purses today Labels2

Girl purses now

Leader Purse 1950s Labels2

Leader purses then

Leader Purses today Labels2

Leader purses now

 

©2018 Ann Robertson

 

What’s In Your Bag, Girl Scout?

Scouting Bag T-Shirt

I had this t-shirt from the late 1970s!

When we changed the history display at the council headquarters recently, I realized that I hadn’t shared our summer exhibit online.

The theme came from a non-Girl Scout source: a regular feature in Us Magazine. Each week, the magazine has a celebrity dump out her bag; usually a purse, but sometimes a diaper bag, backpack, or shopping bag.

 

meghan-trainor-whats-in-my-bag-02

Singer Meghan Trainor’s bag, Us Magazine (August 25, 2018)

Magazine editors tag various items, usually providing a handful of product names and purchase information. I think a little pruning happens before the actual photo shoot, as you never see dirty tissues, used gum, and other unmentionables that you’d find in my purse, at least.

I didn’t fully photograph this exhibit due to lighting issues. Instead, I tried to recreate parts in my tabletop photo studio.

We created paired “now-and-then” vignettes for girls, leaders, and campers.

How many items do you recognize?

I’m not going to label these pictures today. I will update with labels on October 1.

IMG_5959

Girl, 1950s-1970s

IMG_5962

Girl today

IMG_5966

Leader, 1950s-1960s

IMG_5970

Of course, the first Girl Scouts didn’t need a purse. They carried all of their essentials on their utility belt or in their pockets.

Utility Belt

Here’s a quick look at the entire display. You can bet I took plenty of photos as we installed our fall exhibit!

Bag Display

©2018 Ann Robertson

 

 

Badge Mysteries Solved

Marvelous_Mystery_Jr

Marvelous Mystery, Black Diamond Council

Regular readers of the Girl Scout History Project know that I am obsessed with the former Council’s Own badge program. From the 1950s until the Girl Scout Leadership Experience was introduced in 2011, troops and councils could create badges on topics not already covered by the national Girl Scout program. (More history will come in another post.)

I used my Council’s Own collection as the basis for a website (gscobadge.info) that archives the images and requirements for over 1,000 badges. My intention is to help identify mystery badges and to provide inspiration for new patch programs.

Incredible_Insects_Jr

Look, a Council’s Own bug!

Other Girl Scout adults have been bitten by the CO bug, and many people have helped expand the website contents. I see “my” photos across the internet.  Of course, the biggest surprise was seeing one of my website photos (unattributed, of course) appropriated for a presentation former CEO Anna-Maria Chavez made at the 2014 National Council Session. (Now I watermark most photos, just in case.)

 

COs_in_SLC

Why are they showing a photo of my desk?

It is an especially thrilling moment (at least for me) when I finally identify a mystery badge. I’ve cracked the code on several this summer and decided to share them here.

If a mystery badge is on a sash, that provides some major clues: specifically, a council and a rough date. The council indicated on an ID strip may not have created the badge, but it is a start. In addition to knowing the years a particular sash or vest was in use, don’t forget to look at cookie and event patches that have a specific year or two.

I also regularly troll eBay and sometimes I’ll see the mystery badge there. If it’s on a sash, then there are a few more clues.

Next, I do some keyword searches on Newspapers.com. I use the state and year clues to limit the results, and, lately, I’ve had some really good luck.

Tennessee History TrioSearching for “Girl Scout,” badge, and “Tennessee history” gave me 32 results. But when I limited it to the 1970s, based on the badge fabric and design, I found that a troop of girls in Reelfoot Council had created their own Tennessee History badge in 1977.

The design description is a little different, but it is reasonable to think that when the badge was manufactured on a larger scale, the design became more elaborate.

Tennessee History

I also have this patch, which is likely another incarnation of this program.

Tennessee Reelfoot

OprylandStaying with the Tennessee theme, I was delighted to acquire this badge around the same time. Opryland USA was a theme park in Nashville from 1972 to 1997. I grew up in Kentucky, about 2.5 hours away, and Opryland was a frequent destination for school, church, and other field trips.

Another search on Newspapers.com turned up several clippings about Girl Scout troops going to Opryland. According to one, there was an annual Girl Scout weekend that included a badge. It sounds like girls had to complete a scavenger hunt across the park’s attractions to earn it.

Worlds_Fair_Jr

1982 World’s Fair

I never attended the Opryland Girl Scout weekend when I was a girl, but my troop did go to the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville. I didn’t know at the time there was a World’s Fair badge, but better late than never!

This castle badge has long been one of my favorite mystery badges, and I assumed it was something about fairy tales. Then I saw TWO of them on a single sash from Central Maryland. Someone had added a date to one of them with a pen.  Hmmmm…

Back at Newspapers.com, I tried a search using “Girl Scout,” cookie and castle. That came up with over 12,000 hits. When I restricted the findings to 1982 and Maryland, the database returned a much more manageable four articles.

It turns out that Central Maryland sponsored an annual Cookie Castle Contest, with specific themes like fairy tales and famous landmarks. Every Girl Scout who entered received this cute castle badge.

A little more searching turned up photos of some of the creations, especially as more and more councils held their own competitions.

Finally, let me repeat that THESE BADGE PROGRAMS ARE DISCONTINUED. Do not contact Council shops asking to purchase them, because that triggers snippy emails asking me to take down the reference site or portions of it.

Perhaps instead of getting annoyed, council shopkeepers should take the hint and reinstate or update their programs.

©2018 Ann Robertson