A Girl Scout is a Model Citizen

Told by council historian, Carol Macola

From 1920 to 2011, Girl Scouts could earn a Citizen Badge, that was recognizable by its eight-pointed star symbol. The name varied from Citizen to Junior Citizen to Active Citizen to Model Citizen, but the look of the badge only differed in the colors, varying from black and white on the khaki uniform to green and white and finally blue and white.

The badge was first presented in the 1920 handbook. However, Juliette Gordon Low’s 1913 How Girls Can Help Their Country included a whole section on patriotism, requiring Girl Scouts to know about their town and state to earn their Tenderfoot rank. A few more requirements about the American flag’s history and display rules were incorporated into the Second Class rank.  

The new Citizen Badge in 1920 was a requisite badge for First Class rank. A Girl Scout had to know what constitutes a citizen, what are our government’s responsibilities, what are our President’s duties, and how laws are made. Qualifications to vote, secret ballots, and party affiliation were also part of the badge work. Remember, women only got the right to vote in 1920! 

In 1934, the badge was renamed Junior Citizen and was green and white. The requirements were more directed at community responsibilities and activities. A Girl Scout had to know who to contact for different emergencies—without a telephone or 911! She had to know public buildings and places of interest in her community and draw a map or give clear directions to get there. She even had to explain how garbage is disposed of in her community and how she could help keep areas clean and attractive.

In the 1938 Girl Scout Program and Activities and the 1940 Girl Scout Handbook, Junior Citizen requirements returned its focus to patriotic symbols, how one becomes a citizen, and how one can help with the responsibilities that accompany privileges. Girl Scouts were to identify patriots in history, find out about various types of taxes, learn about voting procedures, and care of public property.

The 1947 handbook added three mandatory activities: community service, a presentation on what democracy means, and what the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights provides. In 1953, the name was changed to Active Citizen. The requirements were tweaked to incorporate the government and patriotic activities with community life activities.

With the new Junior Girl Scout program in 1963, the badge had fewer requirements but still focused on “finding out about and putting into practice the responsibilities of a citizen of the USA.” Active Citizen in 1977 brought in the blue and white symbol. Then, in 1980, Girl Scout Badges and Signs had both Junior Citizen for Juniors with the eight-pointed star and Active Citizen badge for Cadettes with a state capital symbol, expanding the importance of knowledge about our government and our communities.

In 1990, the name Junior Citizen carried on for Junior Girl Scouts; Cadettes now had Interest Projects. 

The last change came in 2001, with the name changed to Model Citizen. The familiar blue and white eight-pointed star remained the same, as the badge was now connected to the part of the Girl Scout Law with a promise to “make the world a better place” by understanding what it means to be a model citizen.

By 2011, the Citizen Badge was transformed so Girl Scouts at all levels can still strive to become active and model citizens. Today, the badges are named Good Neighbor (Daisies), Celebrating Community (Brownies), Inside Government (Juniors), Finding Common Ground (Cadettes), Behind the Ballot (Seniors), and Public Policy (Ambassadors).

Campfire Tales: The Evolution of Girl Scout Camp 

For more than 100 years, Girl Scouts have discovered outdoor adventures full of learning, challenges, friendships, and tons of fun by going to camp. Today, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana offer outdoor programming at four camps across Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Camp Palos and Camp Greene Wood are day camps where Girl Scouts spend the day at camp and return home in the evening. Camp Juniper Knoll and Camp Butternut Springs are resident camps where Girl Scouts can have an overnight camping experience.  With all summer camps now in full swing, our council historians and previous Girl Scout members have shared their fondest memories of attending and the history of former Girl Scout summer camps. 

Camp Timber Trails – Munising, Michigan

Camp Timber Trails was leased for nine weeks from 1928 to 1942 from Bay DeNoc Lumber Company. It was in the heart of the Hiawatha National Forest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It was a pioneer camp for older Girl Scouts where they could roam over the entire National Forest from Lake Superior to Lake Michigan.  

Mary-Jane Ryan’s camp application for Camp Tiber Trails.

Girl Scouts who attended the camp came from Chicago and other surrounding councils. Some Girl Scouts were driven to camp, while others traveled from Chicago by train. Former Girl Scout Mary-Jane Ryan started her camping experience at Juniper Knoll, and at age 17, she attended Camp Timber Trails. Mary-Jane Ryan returned to Juniper Knoll as a staff member. Mary Jane Ryan’s daughter, Corkey Waite, said her mother’s Girl Scout experiences made her who she is today and that she always talks about Girl Scouts. 

Camp Cloverleaf – Sheridan, Illinois

Camp Cloverleaf was originally named Camp Sheridan until 1959 and was located on the Fox River.     By the spring of 1958, the winter house, which is seen in the above picture, was completed. It was the only building with hot and cold running water, central heating, and a stove. In the early 1960s, eight cabins that housed four Girl Scouts each and an outdoor kitchen were added. Eight platform tents were erected in 1962. In 1964, the Cloverleaf Council purchased another 44 acres adjacent to the original land. The next building to be built was the summer troop house; it had an indoor kitchen and fireplace. Between 1969 and 1972, the council purchased another 84 acres, bringing the total acreage to 198 acres. In 1979 and 1980, more platform tents were built. These had wooden roofs and canvas sides. Eventually, the original platform tents had wooden roofs added. The last building to be built on the property was a shower house. The camp also had two primitive camp areas, trails, an archery field, and a canoe launch area.   

Former Girl Scout Marty Devereux-Poch’s fondest memories of Camp Cloverleaf were that her grandma was one of her Junior troop leaders and loved camping in the little cabins. Each cabin had a name like Sleep Inn. There was space for activities and for having meals in the middle of the ring of cabins. 

“My troop was from Our Lady of the Mount Catholic School, so we always packed our Girl Scout uniforms when we went camping. On Sunday morning, we would all get dressed up and head down to Wedron, IL, to attend Mass, and then we would return to camp for breakfast before packing up for home. As a Cadette, I learned archery, and Mr. Whelen, who farmed part of the camp property, always found some arrows during harvest time. I learned to canoe at camp. Some trips on the Fox River were short, to Wedron and back to camp. Others were day-long trips from camp to Yorkville, stopping at Camp Merrybrook to eat our lunch in their meadow, then being picked up and driven back to camp,” said Marty.  

Former Girl Scout Gwen Novy Ferguson also has fond memories of Camp Cloverleaf. She camped there as a young Girl Scout and became a Junior troop leader and council trainer in the late 1970s.  

“My memories include times spent with Junior Troop #13, Cadette Troop #17, and Senior Troop #99. During my Junior and Cadette years, my mom, Gladys Novy, was my leader, and Erma Slovak was my Senior leader. We enjoyed outdoor cooking, badge-work, singing, stargazing, knot-tying, compass, lashing, crafts, nature lore, campfires, skits, service projects, hiking, long and short canoe trips on the Fox River, and exploring other places that were a short distance from camp. During the summer, we’d drive to the Pitstak Dairy, which had a small swimming lake with a beach and offered horseback riding. I remember we’d use the council van, named the Green Giant, for transportation. For added adventure in the evenings, we’d sometimes hike down the road to Camp Merrybrook and have a campfire with the Girl Scouts from the West Cook Council,” Gwen said.  

When the West Cook Council and the Cloverleaf Council merged, they decided to sell Camp Cloverleaf on April 1, 1994. The eight cabins and the outdoor kitchen were moved to Camp Merrybrook. Later, the platform tents were also moved, and the unit was named Cloverleaf. 

Camp Merrybrook – Serena, Illinois  

In 1954, the West Cook Council purchased 97.5 acres of wooded property near Sheridan, Illinois. It fronted on the Fox River and Mission Creek. The council originally named the camp: Camp Kiwanis-on-the-Fox, because the Kiwanis Club of LaGrange provided money for the down payment. An existing fishing lodge near the creek was named Kiwanis Club.   

The first campers arrived in 1955, and Mr. Bray, Sr. was the first camp caretaker. In 1956, the camp was renamed Camp Merrybrook. From 1957 to 1958, three platform tent units were added to the camp. In 1958, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad donated a huge steam engine bell to the council. It was installed on a concrete pillar outside Lenona Lodge and used in emergencies. The camp was dedicated on October 4, 1959, and the mortgage was burnt. From 1960 to 1961, the caretaker house and maintenance building were constructed. The Heritage House Lodge was built in 1964. At some point, more acreage was purchased, and the camp totaled 136 acres. At some time, a totem pole was displayed in respect for Native American tradition.    

In the late 1970s, electricity and running water were installed in Heritage House. It was renamed Bonnie Brae after a camp trainer and the first caretaker. In 1971, Idle-a-While Lodge was built between Lenona and Bonnie Brae. It was the first lodge to have flush toilets. The pool and pool house were built in 1976. In the early 1980s, a challenging adventure course for older girls was constructed. It was not maintained and deemed unsafe. Repairs were never made, so it was taken down. 

Camp River Trails – Sheridan, Illinois

In 1986, when the West Cook Council and the Cloverleaf Council merged, the board decided to sell Camp Cloverleaf and keep Camp Merrybrook. They renamed the camp: Camp River Trails. As mentioned above, the eight small cabins, outdoor kitchen, and platform tents were moved from Camp Cloverleaf to Camp River Trails. At the same time, the post office changed its address to Sheridan, Illinois.  In 1995, the old farmhouse was torn down, and the Dreamcatcher Room was added. The Lenona Lodge was renamed the Merrybrook Room.

The entire construction included: 

  • Two kitchens joining the two-unit rooms. 
  • Multiple leader rooms. 
  • A handicap ramp. 
  • A stone wall for sitting around the fire ring. 
  • A washroom and shower house with a storage basement and storm shelter beneath. 

 The entire complex of new buildings became known as the Lenona Complex.  In 2000, a Friendship Pole was installed, and a challenge course called The Challenge of the Castle Garden was installed near the pool.  Then, in 2014, an Ambassador troop from Lyons, IL, donated the materials and built an archery course near the camp manager’s house. Other troops built and painted a map of the camp and archery rules that were installed on the outside of the maintenance building. 

Near the manager’s house, there were two landmarks: Smokey Bear and his two cubs, added by a Senior troop in 1958, and a sign that read, Camp Built by Cookies. Both landmarks are now at Camp Greene Wood.  Over the ravine on one of the trails, there was a footbridge over a stream called River Kwai. Senior Girl Scouts made and repaired the bridge using logs, and branches lashed with twine.    

Lifetime Girl Scout member Kathi Krankoski shared some Camp Merrybrook tall tales and traditions that carried over to Camp River Trails: 

Friendship Pole: One of the traditions was to place “wishing rocks” around the Friendship Pole. The rocks were painted with environmentally safe paint, and when spring came, the magic happened, and the rocks and their messages were carried out via the Mission Creek, Fox, Illinois, and Mississippi Rivers, and eventually into the ocean. 

Sparkler pencils: At checkout from camp on a weekend, if your site or cabin met inspection, each girl received a camp sparkler pencil. 

Cadette roundup:  During a special week when only Cadettes could attend camp,the Cadettes never used the words “poison ivy.” They just said, “PI.” 

Daisy Bridge: If a Girl Scout didn’t make the Girl Scout sign before crossing the bridge, it would collapse.   

Old wagon:  There was an old wagon abandoned as a group was heading west. It was left behind after the group was attacked by Native Americans. When excavating the area, clothing and other items were found.  

The Legend of Hernando’s Hideaway: Legend has it that Hernando was a local bandit river private. He and his group stole from farmers and hid the treasures along Mission Creek. From the beginning of Camp Merrybrook until 2013, Girl Scouts would walk the creek and investigate caves to see if they could find a treasure. Early on, wagon wheels and broken pottery pieces were found. 

The Legend of the Crying Princess: Behind the area where Bonnie Brae stands, there are bluffs that form what we call the Crying Princess. It’s a sandstone formation that weeps out a trickle of water. Legend has it that long ago, a young Native American woman, while running to escape an undesired suitor, fell to her death there. Her tears are what are seen to this day.  

A United Effort on Both Sides of the “Pond” – Securing a Plaque for Juliette Gordon Low’s Wellesbourne House

by Karen Schillings

In the January 2023 historian blog post that I wrote, From Savannah to Wellesbourne, The Story of Juliette Gordon Low in Warwickshire, England, I told the story of why Juliette Gordon Low’s Wellesbourne House was so important to her. I also shared that the dedication of the plaque, which identifies the house for its historical significance, had been rescheduled. Having recently returned from the dedication ceremony that took place on April 15, I will now share the journey for obtaining the plaque and what other individuals did as they accompanied me on the way.

The saga began in July 2017, when my husband Denny was planning an upcoming trip to the English countryside for that August. He had prepared a fascinating itinerary that took us to Canterbury, the Cliffs of Dover, Highclere Castle, Stonehenge, Hadrian’s Wall, and Stratford-upon-Avon.

When he shared his plans for our excursion, I thought that maybe when we reached Stratford, we would be close to Juliette Gordon Low’s country estate. This is probably something only an enthusiastic Girl Scout historian would ponder. Anyway, I searched the internet for the location of Wellesbourne and used Google Maps to determine its proximity to Stratford. I realized that the distance between the two towns was a short 15 to 20-minute drive, and I shared my findings with Denny.

Since he is a meticulous planner, he wasn’t thrilled when I indicated that I wanted us to take a short trip to Wellesbourne. His response was that his plan was for us to go to Conway from Stratford, and Wellesbourne was in the opposite direction, so that would cause a disruption to the schedule. After I explained to him how important it was for me to see Juliette’s house, he agreed to deviate from the set-in-stone itinerary only if I could acquire the house’s exact location. He would not travel around the countryside looking for it since that would put us behind on his rigid timetable. I told him I would find out the house’s exact location, making it possible for us to be in Conway by his designated time. However, after he agreed to this proposition, I had yet to learn how I would obtain the exact location. Enter Ben Earl, the webmaster at Our Warwickshire.

When I found the Our Warwickshire website, I had the option of contacting the webmaster for further information. I wrote a lengthy message to Ben, explaining my predicament. He was unfamiliar with Juliette Gordon Low and her Wellesbourne connection, so he had to do some research in the county record office catalog. Ben successfully found the house’s location, and he relayed that information to me. I could now tell Denny how to find it.

When we got to Wellesbourne and located the house, I was thrilled. Even though it was a Sunday morning, and the gates were locked, I could at least get a photo of the home’s exterior and of the replicated gates, which are copies of the original ones that Juliette forged and are now on display at the Birthplace in Savannah, GA. I kept trying to see if there was anything on the house that identified it as once being the home of Juliette, but to my disappointment, I could not find anything. I was quite concerned about the house not having something to recognize its historical importance. In the meantime, Ben had asked me to write an article for Our Warwickshire describing Juliette’s time in Wellesbourne, which I did when we returned to Illinois. I asked Ben how I could get a plaque placed on the house. He gave me some suggestions as to where I might start.

This next pursuit found me contacting My Wellesbourne, which gave me the web address for the Wellesbourne Local History Group. It was through the local history group that I found Michael Dane. Michael was very receptive to my idea of having the house identified with a plaque and offered to help with this endeavor. His first task was to acquire permission from the owners to place a plaque on the house. This was no easy task. He had to do a considerable amount of research to locate that information.

He discovered that a property investment company had recently purchased the house and some of the other buildings, which would be converted into condos. He was finally successful in contacting the owners and was able to gain their approval to place a plaque on the house once the construction was completed. Michael then set to work getting bids for the fabrication of the plaque. On my end, I solicited my fellow Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GCNWI) historians and the Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois historians for the funds to pay for it. Michael received the plaque and gave it to the owners, who were to install it after the renovation was finished. 

In the advertising brochure for the condos, the history of the property and Juliette’s time in Wellesbourne were highlighted, with much of the information taken from the article that I had written for Our Warwickshire. While this was all happening in September of 2018, several of my fellow historians and I went to Our Chalet in Adelboden, Switzerland, for an adult program. To my delight, a group from the Warwickshire Trefoil Guild was there with us at the same time. They were very supportive of my pursuit to have a plaque placed on Juliette’s house, and I appreciated their enthusiasm for this undertaking. Initially, Michael thought the project might be completed in time for me to stop by Wellesbourne on my return trip from Our Chalet, but that didn’t happen. The remodeling was taking much longer than anticipated. However, I felt very hopeful that everything would eventually fall into place. Then we hit a slight bump in the road. Somehow the plaque had been lost during the construction, and Michael informed me of this unforeseen setback in October 2019. 

At first, the owners wanted me and the historians to come up with the funds for the replacement. However, Michael and I convinced them that they were responsible for losing the plaque, so they needed to pay for another one. This time, Michael kept the replacement plaque until he was sure it would be mounted. In January 2020, Michael sent me a photo of the plaque attached to the house.

So, after much angst, Juliette’s Wellesbourne House finally had a plaque to properly identify who had lived there.

Plans were set into motion to have an unveiling of the plaque at the end of March 2020.

Denny had made all the arrangements for us to be in Wellesbourne on March 28. However, our plans came to a screeching halt. This time the COVID-19 pandemic put us in lockdown, and everything had to be canceled. It was such a disappointment. We were ultimately able to have a proper dedication on April 15 of this year, and it was such a joy to see the plaque affixed to the house.

Lesley Goodhead from the Warwickshire Trefoil Guild and the local historian Michael Dane made all the arrangements for the day. Michael secured permission for the event to take place on the property. He also arranged for me to have the opportunity to enter the house and see the front parlor, which has been modernized, but the same wrought iron railing still adorns the upstairs hallway. 

Lesley informed local Girl Guides and Trefoil Guild members of the event. Additionally, she organized a luncheon to take place after the dedication in a nearby church hall and involved volunteers in preparing and serving the meal. I brought 12 boxes of Girl Scout cookies donated by GCNWI to serve and be enjoyed by all those in attendance. It was a gesture of our worldwide friendship, too.

At the dedication, I welcomed the Girl Guides and community members who came to the ceremony and thanked all those who supported the effort to have the house identified with a plaque. Since so many in the community were unaware of Juliette’s time in Warwickshire, I also explained the history of her journey that brought her to Wellesbourne House.

At the end of the ceremony, I presented Michael with the GCNWI Girl Scouts Hero Award for all his efforts in acquiring the plaque. Although Ben could not join us that day, he was approved for Girl Scouts Hero Award as well, and Michael agreed to take the award to him. In addition, I gave out to all the Girl Guides in attendance a Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana patch.

I, in return, received the Warwickshire Girl Guide Service Award for volunteers from the Girl Guide County Commissioner.

After the ceremony and luncheon, some of the Trefoil Guild members took me to Chedham’s Yard, the local blacksmith’s forge that has been in the same location since 1856.

It is believed that this is where Juliette was taught how to shape the iron to create the gates for Wellesbourne House.

The day’s international spirit was very evident, and it was heartwarming to be part of this effort to have Wellesbourne House properly identified for its historical importance.

Karen – Girl Guides – Trefoil Guild

So, in the end, why all the fuss over getting a plaque put on Wellesbourne House? It’s because Juliette Gordon Low’s vision has meant so much to girls for over a hundred years, and this particular house, is the one she considered to be her own. She imagined a movement where all girls could come together and embrace their unique strengths and passions—and as Girl Guides and Girl Scouts have done ever since, she made that dream a reality.

Remembering Girl Scout Volunteer, Pat Walenga

As a volunteer leader, one usually looks to an experienced leader for instruction, advice, and mentoring. Pat Walenga, who died suddenly in 2019, was one of those mentors. 

A photo of Pat’s tribute.

Pat Walenga was a Girl Scout herself. With disruptions in her own life growing up, she could always count on Girl Scouts as the place that provided stability. 

Initially an assistant leader for two years when she was just out of high school, Pat returned to being a leader when her older daughter needed one. Pat never stopped being a leader over the next forty years, which led to having four or five troops at a time every year.

Pat (fourth from right) with fellow Girl Scout Historians.

Pat was steadfast in promoting Girl Scouting. She was a service unit manager, area chair, master trainer, council and national delegate, board of directors’ member, board secretary (for the Girl Scouts of Chicago, before the merger of councils in 2008), and historian. She served on numerous committees: 75th Anniversary, By-Laws, Contemporary Issues, Outdoor, Long-Range Property, and Field Policy. 

With Pat’s many jobs, her dedication to girl involvement and experiences was always at the heart of what she did. Girl Scout activities needed to be fun, as well as a place to learn skills, learn about oneself, and learn about others.

Pat as her clown character, “Yum Yum,” posing with her husband.

At Salmagundi, a northwest area annual event she ran, Pat appeared as Yum Yum, her clown character. On camping trips and outdoor events, Pat would have teams of girls go on an unnatural hike, looking for non-natural items near the path.

At times, questions were asked at troop meetings that girls did not feel comfortable asking in any other environment. One Daisy was worried that her grandparents would be sent back to Mexico; Pat was there to listen. Pat was always there to squeeze the hand of a Junior who got a bad grade; she encouraged a Cadette struggling with school; she hugged and assured others.  

Pat connected not only with girls but also connected with former Girl Scouts wherever and whenever she could. When Girl Scouts of Chicago was considering selling Camp Juniper Knoll, Pat provided the local newspaper with a very old photo from the archives which showed young campers with lily pads on their heads; a half-million-dollar donation was received from a woman who remembered the event, saving the camp.

Pat received every award over the years. However, her most outstanding achievement was the fun and adventures with her many Girl Scouts. Her reward was the joy of working with the girls to help them become confident and caring women.