Some Girl Scouts of the 1970s hiked and camped, learned leadership skills, and volunteered in their communities. Not my Girl Scout troop. We hid inside.
Girl Scouts of the 1970s
When I was in second grade, my family moved to a new home on the other side of town. At my new school, Glenbrook Elementary, I joined the Brownies and later the Girl Scouts. At the time, I wondered why anyone would want to join either organization. As I didn’t know my participation was optional, I stuck with the organization throughout my elementary school years.
We all wore uncomfortable, ill-fitting uniforms to our meetings, most of which took place in the Glenbrook Elementary music room after school. There, our troop Girl Scout troop would sing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad (the Levee Song),” “Low Bridge, Everybody Down (Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal),” and other songs about barges and trains. Or we would work on latch-hook rugs or make weaving loom potholders. Or take turns reading aloud from our girl scout handbook.
We spent a lot of time reading from that handbook.
On special days, we would gather at the troop leader’s house instead of the music room and take turns stirring batter in big metal bowls. While the brownies or cookies baked, we would work on our latch-hook rugs or practice our needlepoint.
Our troop never spent time outside. Not once.
Not All Troops Were Created Equal
One year, our troop gathered with other local troops for an indoor ceremony. I can’t recall why. What I do recall is girls from other troops talking about hiking and building forts, about camping and cooking by the campfire they themselves had built.
By that point, I had made dozens of potholders. I knew how to bake a pan of brownies without adult supervision, and I had all the potholders I would ever need to remove that hot pan from the oven. I had three latch-hook rugs on my bedroom wall and had made a dozen more as gifts. I knew the lyrics to songs about boats and trains though I had never once boarded either.
My troop mates looked as if they didn’t care. So I asked them if they cared. They said they didn’t.
“Camping is stupid,” one girl said.
Me? I cared. A lot.