Having been a Girl Scout as a child, and later, an assistant troop leader and employee of the local Girl Scout Council, the “green” month of March always reminds me of my scouting days.
Girl Scout Week honors founder Juliette Low’s birthday, and as any good Girl Scout has learned—occurred on March 12, 1912, at the family home on Oglethorpe Avenue in Savannah.
Girl Scout cookies have a season that has been pushed back to an ordering exercise in January and curb sales in February.
Back in the 1960s, cookies were shipped to the troops and stored in leaders’ homes for door-to-door. I remember selling cookies supplied by Burry’s of Chicago, a division of Quaker Oats. The leaders ordered the cookies and distributed the cardboard cartons full of cookies for each girl. I remember getting three that first year, one of each kind of cookie available: Thin Mints, Scot-Teas (shortbreads) and Savannahs, the oatmeal- and peanut-butter patties that have been renamed Do-si-dos. I have no idea why they’re Do-si-dos; Savannahs seemed a perfectly good name to me.
Back then I don’t remember recipes featuring Girl Scout cookies or people being encouraged to freeze cookies for later. Cookies were a treat of the moment, appearing like crocus and jonquils after a cold, blustery winter—in March and April, when the weather was nice enough to allow us to sell door-to-door, unaccompanied.
When I was a Brownie, cookies sold for 45 cents a box. Selling multiple boxes was encouraged, and the figures enhanced my multiplication skills as a third grader: 2 x 45 = 90. That number fact has been forever stamped on my brain. If I’d been a better cookie seller, I might have also memorized 3×45 = $1.35 and 4 x 45 = $1.80, high finance in my third-grade world.
Adults weren’t very involved in cookie sales other than to distribute the boxes and goad the girls to turn in their money. Woe to the scout who wasn’t bold enough to sell at least one carton of 12. Proceeds helped fund summer camp for members. There were no orders to be taken from co-workers children by taking orders at work—there were no order blanks, just boxes of cookies needing a home. Cookie sales were considered a learning experience for girls to learn self-confidence, salesmanship and arithmetic.
I wasn’t the best cookie seller, but I liked Girl Scouting. That’s why I went on to serve, however briefly, as an adult. Was there anything more fun than a troop wiener roast or earning badges? I don’t remember how many I earned as a junior scout, maybe eight or ten. Having a colorful sash on my green uniform was a source of pride and accomplishment—the same kind of pride I enjoy now as a member of lineage societies that encourage members to earn pins for genealogical research, service and leadership. Some of us never outgrow merit badges.
One of the “activities” we did as a troop was making embroidered aprons for Mother’s Day. I remember mine was a blue gingham apron with a row of cross-stitches across the hem. We scouts learned to cut fabric, thread a needle, sew a straight line, do the hem stitch and embroider, all in one project.
When I worked for the Catawba Valley Area Girl Scout Council in 1992, I had the opportunity to visit Juliette Low’s home with my family. At the time our young son, then a Cub Scout, was into hermit crabs in a big way. While taking the tour, the guide, a fussy older man, offered historical facts about each room and then asked for questions. Our son raised his hand.
“And what’s your question, young man?”
“Do you have any hermit crabs?” our son asked.
The group chuckled as the guide explained that no, he didn’t have any and frankly, he’d never been asked that question before.
We walked to the next room, and again, after giving his spiel, the guide asked if anyone had a question.
Our son raised his hand. “Do you know where I can get hermit crabs?”
Everyone chuckled. The guide suggested he try Tybee Island.
I don’t remember finding any hermit crabs on that trip. It was winter, and the critters were out of season, but if we had, I suppose one crab would have cost maybe $1.35, or 3 x 45 cents, less than half the price of a box of Girl Scout cookies today.