Constance Alexander: Recalling memories of Girls Scouts, the power of girls and summers at Camp Sacajawea
Sacajawea was a Girl Scout camp in northwest New Jersey. It was cheap, democratic, no frills. We slept in tents, bathed in cold water, ate at every meal whether we liked the food or not, won badges, created cords and other arts and crafts projects. and sang songs around the campfire. Every day we were discovering the power of girls in a new way.
The camp was definitely low-tech, stubbornly plebeian, and had nothing to do with home, so I loved every minute of it. Thanks to a post on Facebook, I learned that I was not alone in my passion. Readers from across the country shared a field of good memories just like mine.
Born in Murray, Maggie Sasso, now an artist in Milwaukee, thanked parents Paul and Sandy Miller Sasso for sending her to the Pennyroyal and Bear Creek camps. “The camp taught me that I’m really good at making friends fast,” recalls Maggie. “And I also learned to canoe, windsurf and endless crafts.”
Maggie’s mother stepped in to say that she enjoyed learning camp songs from Maggie, and Paul recalled trying to write to his daughter every day. Maggie described her father’s highly regarded epistles as “OVER THE TOP! ”
Jenni Hopkins Todd, now mother of a Girl Scout, recalled her own scouting days at Bear Creek Camp. She decorated white T-shirts with a toothbrush to create the pattern. “As an adult,” she remarked, “I love taking my Scouts to camp and watching them grow as people and learn new skills. One girl has become an incredible canoe captain, ”explained Jenni. “Another led a group of girls in funny skits. Scouts and camping are the best!
Robynn Smith, an artist from California, found: “Camp was a place where I could reinvent myself and not carry the weight of my identity at home / at school. For her, the experience was invaluable.
An educator from Murray, Susan Crawford, recalled attending Camp Shantituck. “The songs and the campfires were always fun,” she said. “I loved the different campsites and the community that grew around each one.
“I felt empowered every summer,” she added. “There was really nothing that matched the opportunities that the camp offered us as young girls in the 60s and early 70s.”
Leslie Rowland-Yeh, an educator from South Carolina, responded to Ms Crawford’s entry because the two had attended the same camp. “I sold 400 boxes of cookies every year so I could go to camp,” Leslie reports.
She also shared her experience of overnight solo survival on LBL and described “the night lightning explosion across the prairie.” It seemed like there were thousands. Where did they go?”
Murray’s Joy Waldrop cherished the memories of chanting around the campfire every night. She also remembered “being thrown in cabins, swimming in the lake and the food was always great, probably because we were always hungry. “
A lifelong sports enthusiast, Joy has observed that children these days seem to opt to play in summer sports leagues rather than go to camp.
Growing up in Louisiana and now a longtime resident of Trigg County, Kathryn Coon Harper attended the Piney Woods Girl Scout Camp. “The experiences there played an important role in shaping who I am today,” she said. “Long hikes in the woods to identify trees, insects, poisons, birds and wild flowers” were all part of his summer adventures.
She also mentioned the joy of cooking campfire stew and cans of coffee, calling them “delicious after all that hike.” Learning to light a campfire with a single match, which I can still do, was an empowerment skill, ”she added.
Healthcare marketer Tory Daughrity didn’t go to camp, but every summer his Murray Girl Scout troop would go to Energy Lake and visit Boy Scout camp one night during the week. She also enjoyed her memories of campfires and nighttime songs, and recalled her troupe’s many experiences in Brandon Springs of Land Between the Lakes.
A professor at Murray State University in the Department of Music, Tana Field’s Scout reflections brought her back to northern Iowa and Camp Gaylord. She cherished her time learning fishing and astronomy and fondly remembered “pitching tents to sleep under the stars and contemplate the constellations.” Aside from those specific experiences, ”she remarked,“ I mostly remember the campfires and nighttime songs. “
Public Health Nurse Tracey Brown Yazvac wrote from South Carolina to mention that she attended Girl Scout Camp in New Jersey at Camp Lou Henry Hoover. “I still remember all the words in the song of the unit,” she said. “It’s a doozy song… are you trying to rhyme Swartzwood Lake ?? !!”
As a Girl Scout in the Indianapolis area, Jean Martin loved songs and long walks in the woods. She also loved sleeping in a tent and hearing scary stories around the campfire. “I also remember a few of the advisers who looked so old back then, but now I realize they were mostly teenagers.”
In his final year at camp, Jean learned to swim and joined the swim team in the fall. This realization, she confessed, changed the course of her life.
A retired nurse, Toby Shapiro went to Camp Sacajawea the same years I did, although our paths didn’t cross until high school. His stays at the camp were sessions of two and four weeks. She said she still had her songbook from the camp and cherished the friendships forged there.
“At forty,” she says, “eight of us got together for a weekend of reunion. We went to the camp even though it was closed. Since then, she continued, we have met every two years in our home regions. It’s THE only thing I treasure !!! ”
One of the most exciting articles on Camp Sacajawea came from Dolores Donnelly, now a Florida resident. Dee recently celebrated her 97th birthday, but took the time to post on Facebook that she was the director of Camp Sacajawea in 1980 and 81.
“Mrs. Dee” was how she was known to campers.
Camp Sacajawea was named after the Native American woman who guided Lewis and Clark’s land expedition to the Pacific Ocean. She was an interpreter of an unknown language and unknown territory. “Woman bird”, she was sometimes called, for her strange ability to commune with nature.
The camp is aptly named. The three summers I have been to Camp Sacajawea, I have come home with the understanding that the outdoors is nature’s cathedral. I learned independence and autonomy, working with others and loneliness. When to lead, when to follow. Tolerance of myself and of others.
I especially experienced the magic of summer nights while singing around the campfire. There wasn’t a stern conductor who harassed us to memorize words and notes, but somehow everyone learned the songs. The harmonies emerged spontaneously; decants have just appeared – beautifully, naturally, the way the stars come out. The music was already in each of us, perfect note, just waiting for a voice.
For more information on Girl Scouts, log on to www.girlscouts.org.