Meet the girls of Troop 13

When the girls from the Big Rapids Girl Scout Troop 13 get together, it’s clear that while a few years may have passed, not much of what’s important has really changed.

There’s a bit of a chat, quite a bit of reminiscing, and a lot of giggling from the ladies of the Class of 1948.

“Oh, I could tell you a few stories about her,” laughs one of the girls-now-grandmas.

“Don’t even think about it. I can tell a LOT of stories about you,” comes the reply.

The once-upon-a-time girls are now respectable grown-ups each in her own right. At the same time, they’ll always be Scouts.

Always.

Getting together, they talk a lot about who is who, and who is where.

“You remember her! She married the good looking boy who used to chase us around the school yard,” says one.

“Oh! He was quite a character back then. (Still is today, by-the-way,)” answers another.

And so the giggling begins. The meeting of the girls of Troop 13 (the troop number changed a few times over the years) brought together girls who had been in Scouting since its inception in Big Rapids.

The Girls Scouts centennial is an important anniversary for them, because scouting was a great part of their early lives, and a huge influence on who they became in later life. These women became life-long friends – sisters in scouting.

“There is a large group of us scouts still left around the area,” reported Darlene Novak, owner of Big Rapids Antique Shoppe.

Back in the day, there were actually two troops in Big Rapids — for a while. There was a troop in the First Ward, explained Charlotte Eaton, and there were separate troops of Brownies.

“Then in high school we all joined together,” Eaton said. “It was 1945 when the Brownies started here in town.”

REMINISCING: Ruth Ann Rose, Cinda Reed, Appollonia Impellizzeri, and Darlene Novak look over a table to Girl Scouting memorabilia from the distant past and recent years. Not pictured is Charlotte Eaton, who also joined in the conversation with her troop mates. (Pioneer photo/Jim Crees)

At a meeting at the downtown shoppe, the ladies looked over a collection of their uniforms and memorabilia still lovingly wrapped in tissue paper, tucked away in boxes, and stored in closets back home.

There are Brownie vests that probably don’t even fit their granddaughters today, and Girl Scout dresses that still look distressingly hot to wear.

There are badges, pins, certificates, awards, and tools — all the accoutrement of a serious scout.

And there are photos.

Same girls. Different time. Different world.

Talk about the “good old days” brings up talk about mothers.

Mothers were troop leaders. Mothers were involved. Mothers had a informational network in Big Rapids that made the CIA look like rank amateurs.

“We were good girls. We didn’t get in trouble. We couldn’t,” Novak said. “The moms were always there. Our mothers kept us in line, and they were our troop leaders so we needed to be imaginative if we were going to get into mischief.”

They still remember when they got each and every patch and medal stitched and pinned on a variety of ties, scarves, and sashes.

The different uniform accessories show the progression of Girl Scouting over the years. All display the reward of hard but exciting and enthusiastic work.

“We had so much fun earning patches,” said Ruth Ann (Miller) Rose, with a huge smile. “They always had projects for us to do.”

“We learned how to do all kind of things,” pointed out Cinda (Eaton) Reed. “We would make things — mats, candles, cooking stuff — that we’d use in little trips and cookouts out in the woods. It was so much fun.”

There was a lot of outdoor activity. The Scouts did a lot of walking in the woods, Novak recalled, and had to learn to identify trees and plants. This carried over to the next generation.

“I remember having to identify trees and learn what plants were good for use and which were not – like poison oak,” said Appollonia Impellizzeri, Novak’s daughter and a second generation Scout.

“We had to know our birds. We would take walks out West Avenue, and keep our bird and plant lists updated.”

It was fun.

And exciting. Especially that one time …

“We were camping out at School Section Lake and the Boy Scouts rowed across the lake from their camp to ‘raid’ ours,” Novak remembered. “We saw them coming and ran around all over the place.”

They started giggling. They remember too. In fact, they still have the photo.

“We used to have parties,” Novak said. “Here’s a photo from out at the lake. Ruth Ann and I used our sheets to make togas …”

“OH … MY … GOSH …!!!!” Rose exclaims, blushing bright red even 50 years later.

They bonded as girls, as friends, and as women.

Years together. Years gone by.

And still scouts together.

“There were no other organizations in town for us girls — other than church youth groups,” Eaton noted. “There wasn’t a lot for girls to do. Scouting gave us a lot of opportunity for fun and fellowship. It stuck.”

Scouting in Big Rapids involved mostly town girls. Transportation was an issue, and farm girls had a lot to do at home.

The Big Rapids Girl Scout troop had mostly Big Rapids girls on its roll. Even 19 Mile Road was considered way out in the country, Reed pointed out.

The girls got a lot out of scouting. It taught them to work together, and support each other.

“We still are there for each other, whatever happens,” added Eaton.

“It gave us a good moral fabric,” Novak continued. “Scouting tied values we learned in life together. It still affects us today in almost everything we do. It taught us honor and compassion.

“Scouting instilled in us a sense of integrity.”

The girls learned to care for others.

“We went way beyond what people might think to do for each other today,” noted Reed. “It was just what we were taught, and it is what we learned.”

Is what the girls of Troop 13 learned way back when still relevant today?

“Oh, yes,” Novak said.

“It should be,” added Rose.

“We learned a sense of fairness that has carried through our lives and is still so important today,” noted Eaton. “Girl Scouting reinforced a lot that we learned at home and in church, and added a lot to that as well.”

Lessons learned in Girl Scouts, are lessons that should be considered today.

“In scouting were learned so much about how to live with what was right, and how to change what was wrong,” said Reed. “Scouting gave us values for not only living our own lives, but values we could put to use while dealing with others. What was important about Scouting then, remains important today.”

And more so.

“I see the things Scout leaders are doing with girls today, and I think this type of activity is even more important than it was in our day,” said Novak. “It gives so many opportunities to do and learn things that they may otherwise not have a chance to do. Scouting will always be relevant. We may get older, but Scouting will always fit — our generation and theirs.”

And then, as the ladies look over their photos from back then, the grandmas fade away for a while and the girls are back at the table — giggling and pointing out some other boy “who chased us around the schoolyard.”

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Posted by Jim Crees

Jim is the editor in chief of the Pioneer, Herald Review and Lake County Star. He can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8360 or by e-mail at jcrees@pioneergroup.com.

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