In the second grade I had a choice between being a Bluebird (the junior version of a Camp Fire Girl) or a Brownie (the younger version of a Girl Scout). I don't remember why I decided on the Bluebirds, but I suspect it had something to do with the uniforms. Bluebirds wore red, white, and blue, and Brownies wore...well, brown.
In the photo below, taken in 1948, I am the first girl on the left. The girl next to me was wearing a Brownie uniform, and the girl on the far right of the photo was wearing her Bluebird uniform (see the tiny bluebird on her breast pocket?). It was clearly troop meeting day. Now, if you were to call attention to the fact that the expression on my face indicates that my mind was a million miles away, I could only respond by guessing what I was thinking then: "How the heck did I forget to wear my uniform today?" And then I would have figured out a way to blame it on my mother.
(Left to right) Donald Smith, me, Linda Edmonds, Jean Lee Benning
I have vivid memories of two things that happened while I was a Bluebird: One week we made Rice Krispie marshmallow treats. (My carb-free lifestyle doesn't allow them now, but I can still taste them in my mind.) Another time we went on a field trip. It involved a short ride on a train, followed by the chance to run around on someone's pasture land. There was a large bull nearby, separated from us by a barbed wire fence, and I was firmly convinced that the bull was going to be attracted by my red sweater and charge me on the spot. I thought my death might be imminent (though I didn't yet know the word, "imminent"), but there I was, running around in little circles and figure-eights like a nitwit, holding the red sweater high in one upraised hand, waving it, simultaneously screaming and laughing for my friends' amusement.
I stayed in the Bluebirds for only one year. Apparently, I wasn't much into commitments in those days. In the third, fourth, and fifth grades I didn't join any groups, but in sixth, when I was 11, I decided to give it another try. That time I joined the Girl Scouts, despite never having been a Brownie. Why the switch? Probably because my best friends were Girl Scouts instead of Camp Fire Girls. Possibly because the green uniform of the Girl Scouts would have emphasized the color of my eyes. As the following photo demonstrates, I was quite a fashion icon by then:
Can you believe I'm actually posting this photo on a public website? (Of course you can believe it; I just told you I waved a red sweater in front of a bull, so you already know I make dumb decisions sometimes.) And can you tell that I was doing my own pin curls by that time? I don't know if the Girl Scouts had a hairdressing badge, but I'm pretty sure I could have been a scout for years and never earned one.
I dropped out of Girl Scouts after a single year, too. The funny thing is that I know I was a Girl Scout, but I have no memory whatsoever of doing anything with my scout troop. Not a meeting, not cookie sales, not anything. Is it possible that one look at this picture just erased the entire Girl Scout experience from my mind?
My older daughter, Kim, followed in my footsteps and became a Bluebird in 1969, when she was in second grade. I still remember the look of exasperation on her face when she returned home from her first candy-selling trip around our block, plopped her carton of candy boxes on the kitchen counter, and said, "Sheesh! Some people just close the door right in your face!"
Kim went on to sell more candy than anyone else in her troop that year. Her prize for her candy sales achievement was a week at sleepover camp, but I, her overprotective mother, thought she was too young. We traded it in for two weeks of day camp instead.
As for that banged-up, cardboard, Camp Fire candy carton, I've somehow managed to hold on to it. For nearly 43 years, through a number of local moves and half a dozen cross-country ones, it has held bits of ribbon and lace, zippers and threads, and lived in a closet next to my sewing machine. I'm careful with my kids and my cardboard boxes.
The song I've chosen for this week's Saturday Song Selection is from 1963. Come to think of it, this song may have unduly influenced my decision not to let Kim go to sleepover camp.
The song is "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" by Allan Sherman.