Kumbaya

Vintage Girl Scout Pins

Every spring we began anticipating Girl Scout camp. Our Girl Scout Council had two camps in the Santa Cruz mountains and spots were limited. You had to get your registration in the day it opened, otherwise you weren’t guaranteed a spot. When I was entering high school, the Council began offering a two-week backpacking trip in Yosemite, and standards for getting to go was rigorous. Needless to say, I was really excited to be selected for that first year!

My sister and I always went to Skylark Ranch. I don’t know how that came to be, but once we started with Skylark, we stayed with it each year until we started backpacking. The cool thing about Skylark was it had an Outpost.

Outpost was for older girls, junior high age, and was a much more camping experience. I don’t remember exactly how many girls were at Outpost at one time, but it was a small group, like twelve. We were separate from the rest of the camp and had no amenities. Well, we did have an outhouse. We used tube tents (a plastic tarp-tube with a rope running through it, tied up between two trees) which were basically useless. Thankfully, whenever I was at camp, we had good weather, so we could sleep out in the open. We made all of our meals over an open fire, eating our entire meal out of our sierra cups. We considered it fine dining because you ate in courses.

Skylark was three to five miles from Pescadero State Beach. The older units and Outpost usually had an overnight, sometime during their two-weeks at camp, on the beach. Northern California beaches in summer are a mystery. You never know what the weather will do. It could be absolutely beautiful in the mountains and by the time you hiked to the beach, it could be cold and foggy. Or the reverse, overcast and cool in the mountains and fabulous at the beach. Good thing we all abided by the Girl Scout Motto, Be Prepared.

I was in Girls Scouts in the 1960s and early 70s. We had songs we learned at camp, but we also sang a lot of folk songs and, of course, protest songs. Those of us who played guitar knew many of the Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell songs. We created our own songbooks, writing out verses and figuring out the chords for the songs and then shared our finds with each other. Of course, we’d bring our guitars to camp because you do a lot of singing at camp. It was always fun coming back with some new songs to share with our troop when meetings started up again during the school year.

Besides all the fun, camp exposed you to a whole wonderful world for two weeks. There were always girls who were different, with different experiences than you. You learned new stuff about nature and the environment, while working together as an unit. There was work to do, but it wasn’t anything like the chores you have at home … although for some, it was a lot more work that they ever did at home. It was a time of expanding and exploring and experiencing, such an important part of growing up.

I’m really proud that Girl Scouts has, not only stayed true to providing diverse opportunities for girls, and that they are open and inclusive regardless of beliefs and lifestyles. For many, Girl Scouts is a window into future possibilities. Many pioneering women, like astronaut Sally Ride, are friends of Girl Scouts. Other women, like Queen Elizabeth, consider Girl Scouts/Girl Guides as an important part of their youth. Girl Scouts has changed a lot since I was involved, as it should. After all, it is the 21st century!

And yes, we did singĀ Kumbaya, but only in American Sign Language.

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