Girl Scouts: “Looking Back”

Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.

One of the highlights of childhood in Faulkner County was participating in scouting. It allowed us to get outdoors, be with our friends and learn some really interesting things. This week’s article is about the Girl Scouts while next week’s article will be about the Boy Scouts.

The first Girl Scout troop in Faulkner County is thought to have been organized in 1920 by Margaret Gruber Goodin, an English teacher at Hendrix Academy, a private preparatory school on Clifton Street. The troop was never officially associated with the school although its six or so members were students.

The troop had handbooks, went camping and did things outdoors but it was more of a fellowship than anything else. In the summer, they took camping trips to Pinnacle Springs. Mrs. Goodin died during childbirth either in late 1922 or early 1923 and the troop disbanded.

During 1934-35, Mrs. G.W. Williams led a troop. The year ended with a camping trip out on the Williams’ farm. Those who participated remembered that some boys in disguises rode through on horses to scare them. No one ever found out who they were.

Lou Pittman was the leader from 1943 to 1945 and 1956 to 1962. During this time, girls camped out for two weeks in the summer. Forest rangers and people from other fields came in to tell them about their work. The girls, which included Pittman’s daughter, learned to cook and do all kinds of things.

Camping out in the country was a frequent activity of the troop Marguerite Silaz led in the early 1950s. The girls would camp nearly every weekend but never spent the night because some of the parents didn’t approve. The girls loved pitching tents, cooking and going for hikes.

The Ouachita Council of Girls Scouts in Arkansas was formed in 1955. It included Faulkner, Conway, Garland, Hot Spring, Lonoke, Perry, Pope, Prairie, Pulaski, Saline, White and Yell counties and was one of five Girl Scout councils in the state.

The positive influence that Girl Scout leaders could have on young girls was one of the reasons Faulkner County women got involved. Many felt it was important to just being there to help guide the girls. It was also rewarding to know the girls had a good time and learned something as well.

Aline Turner, a Brownie troop leader at Ellen Smith Elementary School from 1953 to 1955, led her troop in a lot of civic activities. The girls did lots of worthwhile things.

Albertine Simon, troop leader from 1953 to 1968, had a daughter in Scouts. She felt that getting to know her daughter’s friends better was a rewarding benefit. From 1957 through 1966, she and Janet Kordsmeier worked together with a troop. The girls earned badges and went on frequent overnight camping trips.

Ruby Massingill, my neighbor, was the leader of my Brownie troop that was organized at Sallie Cone Elementary in the 1970s. I still remember sitting cross-legged in the back of her station wagon as we traveled to our activities.

One of the things I became interested in while in Brownies was photography. I still have the book I studied and the pictures I took with my little Brownie camera. Capturing moments in time with a camera is an interest that has continued throughout my life.

By the 1980s, there were 28 troops in Faulkner County. The 14 Brownie troops were composed of girls in the first through third grades while the nine Junior troops were composed of girls in fourth through sixth grades. There were also three Cadette troops, composed of girls in the seventh through ninth grades, and two Senior troops, composed of girls up to age 18 years of age. The average troop has 15 members.

Linda Boardman served as the Girl Scout neighborhood chairman during this time. She oversaw the county troops and the organization of such events as the cookie sales. Cookie sales have been a part of Girl Scouts almost as long as the organization has existed.

The biggest change to the Girl Scout program in the 1980s was the new emphasis placed on careers, especially with the Cadettes. Their program was expanded beyond camping to show the girls what careers were possible. This reflected the changes that were going on in society as women entered the workforce in greater numbers.

Note:: Information included in this article came from “Girl Scouts of Faulkner County” by Ann Alsmeyer in Faulkner Facts and Fiddlings, Fall, 1983.

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