Being a Girl Scout in the ’80s

Earlier this week, my mom came from my brother’s house with the Girl Scout cookies I ordered from my niece earlier this year. My younger niece enthusiastically informed my mother that the cookies they were packing for us were “fresh”. She’s already practicing her sales pitch for when her turn comes. 

The cookies got me thinking about my own days as a Girl Scout in the 1980s. I started as a Brownie, then Bridged to Junior and eventually to Cadette. Unfortunately, after the Cadette crossing ceremony at the end of the decade (and the end of grade school) our troop ended up dissolving. According to my mom, at the Cadette level, the book was more individualized and demanding. 

Also, I’m not really an “outside” person. It’s too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer, so camping never really held that much appeal for me aside from the fire and s’mores. 

When I first started as a Brownie, I was in the same troop as my neighbor from across the street, Lora. Lora’s mother, Susan, was our assistant leader. When Lora and I first started, we were going to the other leader’s house. Monday night was Scout night and we would get into Susan’s car to go to Sue’s house. 

We would wear our uniforms and take our Worlds to Explore books and our “sit upons”. I remember mine as being two pieces of vinyl with a repeating poinsettia print. I think it was laced together with green yarn with old newspaper in the middle. 

Sue and her adopted daughters were Jewish, so we learned about Hanukkah at the holidays. They also bred Brittany spaniels and I remember at least one litter of puppies born during the time we we were going there. 

One of my other memories of Sue’s house was an acorn tree they had in their yard. At the end of meetings while the other girls were waiting for their rides to pick them up (I carpooled with Susan and Lora), we would take the acorns and rub each side against the driveway pavement and then pop out the middle to make rings. 

We also attended district events. One year, Thinking Day was held at the church my family attended. One year, I did a presentation for Thinking Day on Australia. I remember my mom helping me with the research to find the lyrics to “Waltzing Matilda”. I was also selected to read the presentation on Australia for our troop.

Eventually, Sue’s husband got transferred for work as was common in those days. Susan took over the Girl Scout troop and we started meeting at a Methodist church a little bit closer to home. The meeting room at the church had an organ in it. 

I remember one of my troop friends could play piano would play various commercial jingles on the little organ. There was one for the grocery chain Kroger that I still remember. The lyrics were: “Let’s go Krogering. For the best of everything. Including the price.” 

I also remember at the beginning of meetings, we would have Kool-Aid. Rainbow punch was a popular choice, but I think we also had Sunshine Punch or Mountain Berry on different weeks. Some of my most vivid memories are of the crafts we made as our meeting activities. One was a purse made from an old pair of jeans and the other was a pinstripe cooking apron with a faux fur bear face on it. 

Around the time Lora and I were starting fourth grade, our troop was affected by another big change: Rocky Mountain (the elementary school half the troop attended) was splitting off into two new schools: Keheley (which was the school Lora and I were going to attend) and Garrison Mill (the school the other half of the troop would attend). 

Our half of the Girl Scout troop moved from the Methodist church to Susan and Lora’s house. Back then, I probably spent just as much time at their house as I did at my own. Eventually, Lora’s younger sister, Erin joined Girl Scouts in her own troop. 

On the weekend closest to Valentine’s Day, the district had a Father Daughter Dance. I remember carpooling to the dance with my dad and Lora and Erin’s dad. Lora, Erin, and I were in the backseat in our prettiest dresses, dress shoes, and tights. 

We were having a great time dancing. Suddenly, there was an interruption from outside: one of the fathers saw a group of young men slashing tires in the parking lot. Some of the fathers stayed with us in the building, which I think may have been a school auditorium. The other fathers went outside to help with spare tires and to run the young men off. 

Now the part everybody waits for: the cookies. I have a very specific memory of coming home from delivering cookie orders early one Saturday afternoon. There were syndicated Three’s Company reruns on television. Ever since, I have associated that apartment set with Girl Scout cookies. Specifically, the Thin Mints for some reason. I’m guessing I had been told I would have to deliver cookies to my customers and then eat lunch before I could open my own cookies and at that time, Thin Mints were my favorites. 

I still like Thin Mints, but I now also enjoy Tagalongs, Samoas, Trefoils, and S’mores. I used to like the lemon sandwich cookies that were called Chalet Creams when I was selling them. I also liked the Savannah Smiles with the powdered sugar they had until two years ago. I had the Lemon Ups last year but we’ll just say the humidity of the Southeast was not kind to them.

When I started high school, I had a pleasant surprise that started in homeroom when I was reunited with former troop mate Robyn. Our last names both started with F, so we were in the home room with all of the other members of our class whose names started with the same letter. Throughout the day, as I went from class to class, I encountered more and more of my old friends. 

Somewhere around junior year, it happened again. Another move. This time, it was closer to home. This time, Susan’s husband and Lora’s dad was the one being transferred to another part of the state. Lora and her siblings had been my first friends when we moved to Georgia. I thought we were going to go through the entire school experience together, at least up until college. 

In 2002, I received a card from Susan with some photographs she found. One may have been from Thinking Day and the other was probably from the last Bridging ceremony, so the “vintage” pictures in this article are both courtesy of Susan. The picture of the cookies is from this year’s order from my niece.

More Features From Karen on TRN

About Karen Flieger 45 Articles
I was born in the late 1970’s, spent my childhood in the 1980’s, and my pre-teen and teen years in the 1990’s. I graduated from Kennesaw State University in 2001 with a B.A. in English. I collect various forms of media (books, music, movies, and television shows) as well as plush toys, dolls, and Funko figures.