Elusive Memories of Girl Scouting in the 60’s


Claire Leininger, Girl Scout Historian, shares her thoughts of her visit with Barrington Girl Scouts. You can view photos of her visit here.


“I am now officially an old lady,” I thought as I read an email from Nicole, a Barrington Girl Scout leader who wondered if I was interested in coming to her troop meeting in January to share my experiences as a girl member in the 1960’s. And the best part was, I didn’t even need to prepare a presentation! The new Journey program, Nicole explained, was girl led. The girls had to come up with their own questions to ask. Piece of cake, right?


After many years as an adult volunteer I became the historian for the Barrington Service Unit. We have a collection of uniforms, memorabilia and scrapbooks stored at the local historical society. Over the past years we have shared this with troops as well as creating displays, fashion shows and even a 75th reunion for Barrington Girl Scouts. So, I have lots of things to ‘share’ with troops, but I have never been asked to share my memories. I could not imagine what they might ask me, but those days of my ten-year-old self (with, strangely enough, the same haircut I have now) seemed pretty fresh in my mind.


Dressed in my mother’s Stella Sloat leader uniform (calling Dr.Freud!), I arrived at the troop meeting with some ‘show and tell’ items for the troop-some 1960’s era uniforms and handbooks. A group of curious little girls were gathered in a circle on the floor, armed with notebooks and pencils. Nicole introduced me and suggested we go around the circle to let each girl ask a question. Expectantly, I looked at the first girl who asked, “How many boxes of cookies did you sell?” I was like a deer in the headlights! I had no memory whatsoever about selling cookies and had to say (sheepishly), “I don’t remember.” This was going to be harder than I thought. Surely, the next question would be easier, so I was flummoxed when the second girl asked, “ How much did a box of cookies cost when you were a Girl Scout?” Uhh………Well, maybe 75 cents or a dollar? Anxiously, I looked up at Nicole who said, “Well, the troop has just started selling cookies.” Ah! The third time turned out to be the charm, as the next girl asked, “What was your favorite kind of Girl Scout cookie?” “Thin Mints!” I proclaimed. Finally, a question I could answer!


Bit by bit, the girls opened up and asked more questions that I was able to answer, like “What was your favorite thing about Girl Scouting?” Easy, Girl Scout Camp! And, “Who was your leader?” My mother, who died seven years ago after a long battle with Alzheimer’s, led my troop from Brownies onward and went on to become the district chairman in our council. I thought about what a ‘circle’ Girl Scouting can be and left the girls with one final thought. “Guess what! When you grow up, you can all become Girl Scout leaders.” I told them. Their faces lit up and they smiled. “Because, when you get older, you may not remember how many boxes of cookies you sold, or how much they cost, but you will remember how much fun you had, the friends you made, and how much you learned.” And those are the memories worth passing on.

Tagged in: 2014 historians blog