Yesterday's Magazette

13 – Girl Scout Days

Girl Scout Memories

Compiled By Madonna Dries Christensen 

The Following GS Alumnae Reminisce:

McClaren Davies:

No one in our family camped, but as a young girl, I listened to older boys tell camping stories: fishing for their meals, pitching tents, canoeing, shooting bows and arrows, trail-blazing through uncharted woods. They were exploring the mysteries of life and learning to take care of themselves. Wide eyed with wonder, I wanted to be wild and skilled as they were. Washing dishes and dusting furniture weren’t doing it for me. I looked forward to the age when I would qualify for scouting adventures. Surely the Girl Scout’s main activity would be camping.I joined scouts as soon as I was old enough. However, camping was not uppermost in our leaders’ priorities. I said nothing; surely we would run out of cooking, sewing, and First-Aid badges and then, and then—I could hardly wait as I rushed through these projects of making aprons, darning patches, cooking, and applying tourniquets.Finally, our troop leaders scheduled a cookout at a wilderness park. While we did not tent, as I had hoped, we gathered tinder and wood to build a campfire. I learned to light a dependable fire that grew full-flamed and then gradually settled into glowing coals. I was living my dream of conquering the wilderness. Before the wonder of that skill had settled, our leaders pulled another trick out of the bag. They taught us to build a reflector oven out of cookie sheets, an oven that could actually bake a cake. I was amazed at our leaders’ ingenuity, breathless actually.

But our leaders weren’t done with us. As we waited for our cake to bake, they showed us how to wrap stew meat, potatoes, carrots, and onions in foil. Wonder of wonders, they told us to throw the packets into the coals of our fire. I thought for sure they would burn up and all we’d have for supper would be cake, not altogether an undesirable outcome.

However, after 15 or 30 minutes, our leaders told us to pull the packets out of the coals. I dragged mine out wedged between two branches I had trimmed for the purpose. I landed the blackened packet onto a picnic table. Tenderly I unfolded the hot foil. Savory steam rose. Oohs and aahs also rose around the table as we enjoyed eating every morsel seasoned with the juices of the contents. What sorceresses our leaders were. And our wilderness cake was especially delicious eaten to the aroma of wood burning while the sun set. Boy Scouts had never mentioned anything like this experience. We were Girl Scouts, skilled and one with nature.

I’ve never outgrown my pleasure in building a fire and cooking over it. We’ve even entertained friends with this simple supper I learned to prepare long ago. And clean-up does not include washing dishes! What a satisfying experience. Thanks, Girl Scouts.


Beth Vick:

I was a Brownie leader, here and in Germany. At a meeting in Germany one of the girls started crying and wouldn’t stop. Finally I said we couldn’t help her if she didn’t tell us what was making her unhappy. She said that her little dog was very sick and she was afraid he was going to die. He was at the vet’s—down the street. We were having our meeting at the American School in Kitzingen, and the vet’s office happened to be outside the gate. We decided that our meeting that day should be a visit to his office. We grabbed our coats and marched off and walked into this small clinic. Everyone was nice and the vet brought the dog out for us. When we saw this sweet little dog we all started crying. The vet assured us that he was going to be fine in a few days, and did we want to tour the facility? It turned into a wonderful adventure and the vet’s assistant happened to be a writer for the local paper. She did an article about our visit and there was a photo of our troop with the vet holding the little dog.


Peg Russell:

On our Girl Scout trip from Bradenton [FL] to New Orleans and back, when we were Ninth Graders, all of us learned to play “You Are My Sunshine” on a plastic ukulele. There were 28 girls and I was the last one to learn. As our poor chaperones could probably agree, that adds up to hours and hours of girls singing and playing “You Are My Sunshine.” We ate in famous restaurants and saw a big church, but singing to the twangy plastic ukulele is my vivid memory.

The year that we had four Girl Scouts living at our house (two daughters, two nieces), all four had cookies to sell. Three cartons each is twelve cartons of cookies. There was a knock at the door. Mike answered and he bought two boxes of cookies from the little blonde neighbor girl.

Mary Miller and I led a troop of Seventh Grade girls. Mary is capable and patient, a perfect Scout leader. We camped at Camp Chenyatah, joined other district troops on a trip to St. Augustine, and we arranged for girls to earn their horsemanship badge. Our troop was settling down for the night at Camp Chenyatah when two girls came breathlessly into our tent. “There’s a man out there.” We brought the girls into our tent and Mary called the camp ranger. We heard the deep voice calling, “Hey. Hey.” The ranger and his dog came up in his truck. We waited and listened until he returned. “It’s just a bullfrog,” he said.

Probably the most memorable Scout leader at the time was a short, rather roundish older woman who must have modeled her leadership style on General Patton. She threw her shoulders back and marched around with her knees lifted high and barked orders to her troop. Her Scouts lined up for inspection and she strutted up and down before and behind them with a frown. At camp those girls even had matching shoes, bright white shirts, and knee socks. They didn’t walk to the big campfire; their leader marched them, two by two, calling, “Left, right.” Her regimentation was a contrast to the relaxed fun of the other troops. I hope she’s the last of her kind.


Chris Koppa Brzakala:

Being part of Girl Scouts was almost always fun. From the weekly meetings where we worked on crafts, learned new songs, and planned service projects, to camping and earning badges, there wasn’t a dull moment.  Earning badges was right up my alley; being an eldest child and Type A personality, I loved completing as many badges as I could! I pestered my mother until she sewed them on my sash, with the goal being to get to the bottom and around the back of the sash. Only when you had enough badges to make it all the way around to the back did people take your sash seriously (so we thought)!

My favorite part of Scouts was camping; I loved everything about it. Setting up tents and sleeping in them, cooking over a campfire, swimming, canoeing, and hiking were all amazing adventures for a girl raised in the city!

One trip was especially memorable. We were about Junior High age and quite proficient at the activities of a long weekend. Our leaders told us that on our second night there, we were going to try something new. We would keep a campfire going all night and, in groups of two, we were each assigned an hour to monitor the fire and keep it going. While doing this, we were to keep a “log” of everything we saw, heard, smelled, and touched. What an adventure!

My friend Angela is the daughter of our Girl Scout leader; while cleaning a closet, she found the journal from that night. Each entry is unique, but most are filled with awe at what we city girls heard in the middle of the night, in the country, around a campfire. There are descriptions of the fire itself, of the shadows that lie beyond the fire, the night sky filled with stars, and a large bright moon, as well as the sound of the wind, crickets chirping, and the crackling noise the fire made when a new log was thrown on it. When someone mentions an airplane flying overhead, it’s almost an indignant remark for the outside poking its way in to our peaceful night.

Of course, the log also contains remarks about being tired, cold, and ready to go back to bed, as you would expect from young girls; but this city girl still remembers that time around the campfire, in the middle of the night, in the country.

Vol. 39 – Copyright © Yesterday’s Magazette – 2012

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