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    Auction Finds

    Once a Girl Scout …

    I have a very strong image of me as a child in a green Girl Scout uniform. But I don’t remember any activities I participated in or who my troop leader was or the names of any of the other girls. I think I had also been a Brownie before that.

    It must have all happened in school, because I don’t remember any troops in my neighborhood in Lizella, Ga., where I grew up. My elementary school was Pleasant Grove Elementary School, and I still recall how big the school seemed to me as a young child. (Years later, when I went back, it looked so small and vulnerable. How large the world seems when you’re small.)

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    My mind drifted back to those years when I recently came across some Girl Scout handbooks, magazines, equipment catalogs and other ephemera at a local auction. I was one of two bidders on the lot, and I was determined to leave that auction house with it. And I did, for $40 – about $30 more than I had expected to spend.

    Once I got them home, I found that I had snagged three vintage Girl Scout Handbooks, from 1934, 1953 and 1954. Two of them had vinyl and faux-leather dust jackets. The jackets had kept those two in very good condition – strong binding on the spine and clean neat pages. One of the jackets had faded the inside front and back end covers, though.

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    As I flipped through the books, one yielded even more treasures: The membership card of a young girl in a troop in New Jersey. Her name was Florence Albright, and she had neatly printed her signature on the front of the card beneath the Girl Scout Promise. The membership expiration date was 12/57. What provenance!

    On the front inside pages of her handbook, Florence had filled in the form:

    Name: Florence Albright
    Troop number: 156
    Hometown: Riverside, NJ
    Date awarded her second class badge: May 26, 1955, by Mrs. Mustard.

    Glued to a page near the front of the book was a newspaper clipping of an article about Florence receiving the second class pin (Too bad the pin wasn’t included in the lot!). The book also contained a note that looked to be in Florence’s handwriting: “Ask about dance get mother’s name.” The other two books had the handwritten names of the girls who owned them.

    Thumbing through the Girl Scout Equipment Catalogs (from 1953-1959) was like walking back in time. There were black & white, and color photos of everything from uniforms (complete with belt, beret, anklets, tie and sash: $10.30) to watches ($16.50) to cameras ($3.50) to badges and pins (most less than 50 cents each) to shoes ($4.50), and more.

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    The lot also included a Girl Scout Patrol Leaders Handbook in comic-book form, apparently to appeal to young girls, and six of The Girl Scout Leader magazines.

    None of the catalogs contained photos of young black girls like myself. I’m sure that at the time, it didn’t occur to any of us in my troop that we were not represented. I’m sure if we had even seen those catalogs that we would’ve been wishing we could afford some of that stuff.

    I did find a black girl in the pages of the Patrol Leaders Handbook fraternizing with other Scouts. And surprisingly, the cover of the October 1955 edition of Scout Leader magazine showed a black adult Scout leader in a sea of her white counterparts.

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