She was my neighbor, a cute little thing who interviewed me once about my favorite movie. At the time, I liked “Thelma and Louise.” And I always bought Girl Scout cookies from her. Recently, Kate Owen Haldeman of Columbia, South Carolina, just had her 28th birthday. I keep up with her on her world travels with her husband, Dr. Stewie Haldeman, on Facebook and learn about her college degrees and the important work she is doing. Kate, however, will always be to me that little girl selling Girl Scout cookies.
She has been replaced in that role, however, by June Essinger, a granddaughter of a friend of mine whom I’ve never seen in person. As an option for customers, June offers options for her cookie sales online.
My husband is fond of telling the story of the Haldeman days when a Piqua law enforcement officer caught me speeding. I had mega boxes of cookies in the back seat of my car. I asked him if he’d like to have a box. He declined, but I noticed as he handed me my ticket that he had subtracted 10 miles from my speed. Score one for the Girl Scouts.
I was a Girl Scout once upon a time in the small town of Cumberland, Kentucky. I didn’t earn badges or go on camping trips, but I saw a side of my maternal grandmother, Viva Moore Adams, that has always stayed with me. She was a Republican, very conservative, a leader in a host of Masonic-affiliated organizations in the community as well as at Central Baptist Church.
When school photos were taken the year I was a Girl Scout, I wore my scout uniform and a big smile. Our leader was an outsider, living in an apartment over Fields Feed and Grain on what we referred to as “Back Street,” and her husband was a union organizer. For the first time, I saw my grandmother move out of the tightly-restricted social structure in Cumberland to embrace this outsider. I don’t know what they talked about, what made them friends. I only know they were. And in about a year, the union organizer and his wife left town. I assume he felt he was leaving his work with the United Mine Workers of America in good hands.
What was so strange to me about my grandmother’s usual behavior was that my mother, Opal Moore Bowling, had always taught us to judge people, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would advocate later, by “the content of their character.” Lesson learned: that in certain circumstances individuals can alter their customary behavior and judge folks by their actions as opposed to their social status.
I solicited comments from my Facebook friends on the roles Girl Scouts, which Dr. King had indicated in 1956 as “a force for integration,” had played in their lives:
• Helen Alatorre-Evans, Channel Island, California, says of her daughter Luna that selling Girl Scout cookies has afforded this once shy little girl the “opportunity to practice using her voice.”
• For Kelly Metz, Minneapolis, Minnesota, selling Girl Scout cookies enabled her to see the world in a more comprehensive way as she observed “ a man in a kilt playing bagpipes in his back yard,” a “woman covered with flour who was frying chicken,” an outcast from her school whose residence had no curtains, no electricity, no running water, and was furnished with a single shabby upholstered chair.
Other stories were lighter:
• Dolores Dennehy , San Antonio, Texas, a troop leader, indicated that it rained every time she took her troop camping and that when they tried to cook biscuits over a fire, the biscuits always fell into the fire. As a Girl Scout, she sold cookies for 50 cents a box (Mine were $4.00 this year), and her generous mother bought her a bike so she could earn a merit badge.
• Do memories of Girl Scouts last forever? Carol Kozak, Toledo, Ohio, was in a restaurant at Point Place 21 years after she was a troop leader at Longfellow Elementary School, and one of her former troop members recognized her.
In conclusion, in addition to business concepts taught with cookie sales and a host of skill building merit badges, Girl Scouts are encouraged to be prepared and to do a good turn daily. The Girl Scout law further indicates what girls should strive to be and do: honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, responsible for what they do and say, respectful of themselves and others, respectful of authority, a wise user of resources. And all of this is intended to “make the world a better place.”
Would that all young American girls could benefit from participating in Girl Scouts or an organization with similar values. Additionally, I still have a few boxes left over from my 2020 purchase if you’d like to sample them.
Vivian B. Blevins. Ph.D., a graduate of The Ohio State University, served as a community college president for 15 years in Kentucky, Texas, California, and Missouri before returning to Ohio to teach telecommunication employees from around the country and students at Edison State Community College and to work with veterans. You may reach her at 937-778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. This column shared through the AIM Media Midwest group of newspapers.