Girl Scout National Center West Set Back in Time 

Have you ever had the wider opportunity to sleep under the Milky Way in a Girl Scout platform tent in the Big Horn Mountains in Tensleep, Wyoming? Welcome to Girl Scout National Center West (NCW). 

In 1968 Girl Scouts bought 15,400 acres of rugged wilderness in the Big Horn National Forest, making it the most significant purchase Girl Scouts made at that time. The center was a national destination for many. NCW’s primary emphasis was on the Girl Scout Program in The Great Out-of-Doors for Girl Scouts and Girl Guides, ages 14 to 18. 

The camp was a place to explore Native American pictographs or for future geologists to sleep under a rock shelter called The Pow-Wow. Hiking The Peak was a 19-day pack trip up to Mesa and the backcountry. For novice backpackers, you could Tote n Trek 9 days out in the eastern foothills of the Big Horn Mountains. If you had a LOVE for horses, NCW was the Girl Scout Camp you sold a lot of cookies and fundraised for. Camp had three corrals on the property, and the programs included Ride Rap and Wrangle, Cadettes on Horseback, Buckskins, and Calico or Saddle Straddle. Each year a few new programs were added. Imagine your view of this country’s rugged wilderness from atop a horse, a priceless Girl Scout opportunity at its BEST!! 

If you loved western arts, the camp offered Stage in the Sage, Paint the West, Windows n Wildlife, Furs Feathers, and Fun for the eye behind the camera. NCW also offered Focus I & II, where you learned the art of developing your black and white, some color shots, and slides in the darkroom—capturing such beauty and friendships of the country and wildlife around them! Wyoming Trek offered a program for Girl Scout troops and families traveling to other destinations out west. 

National Center West ran programs from five base camps with pit latrines, running water, platform tents, a kitchen fly, a unit house with a staff office, showers, a food commissary, and a meeting room with a fireplace. We need to remember that NCW was a journey set back in time. For most participants, it was the first time they flew in an airplane. Just the red gravel Rome Hill Road up to camp had to freak the daylights out of you. But these strong Girl Scouts were prepared for this wider opportunity at National Center West. They each worked hard to be a participant in these programs and have the T-shirt, patches, and diddys to show from the famous Trading Post Log Cabin. 

Camp had full-time staff throughout the year and hundreds of summer staff members that came back year after year bonding with their Girl Scout sisters and brothers. Girl Scout sisters mostly ran the camp and were the hardest workers I had ever been around in the summers of 1983 and 1984. 

Sadly, in 1989, NCW saw the last campers. Due to high maintenance costs, the property was sold in 1991 to the State of Wyoming and Clay Ranch. 9,851 acres are preserved with the State of Wyoming Nature Conservatory, now called the Tensleep Preserve, and are open to the public. Clay Ranch picked up 4,749 acres. 

On July 5, 2018, after 35 years, I returned to the site of NCW, now Ten Sleep Preserve, for a bucket list trip and reunion on the property. More than 100 staffers/campers reunited like Girl Scout sisters do by picking up where we left off. On the day of the reunion, we hugged, hiked to The Pow-Wow, gathered for a pack-in lunch, sang and sang some more, toured the property on 

the cool school bus, and had the best Chuckwagon Dinner to end our day!! Time to get off the mountain and head into town to enjoy some live music.  

I can’t thank my mother enough, the Best GS Leader ever, for helping me make my dreams as a young adult to reach for those stars, even in the longest days. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer during my stay and passed away in May of 1984. I returned to the place National Center West that summer, where I knew I needed to be with my Girl Scout sisters and brothers. 

To this day, I (we) treasure these Girl Scout memories. When I hear the word “camp,” I know that these memories and moments truly last a lifetime! Thank you, Girl Scout National Center West! 

Yours in Scouting 

Kathy Webb 

gsgcnwi SU 714 support Council Historian 

An Inside Look at How Council Historians Preserve Our Girl Scout Treasures

Who are the Historians you might ask? The Historian Team at GSGCNWI is made up of 26 volunteers who are interested in the history of Girl Scouts and actively work to preserve and present the story to our community.

History of the movement

Begun by Juliette Gordon Low on March 12,1912, Girl Scouts quickly spread throughout the country. Girl Scouts offered young women the opportunity to learn important life skills, as well as to live by the values of the Promise and Law – unselfishness, patriotism, loyalty and truth. Our current Council was formed in 2008 from seven councils in the Chicago media market following the guidance of Girl Scouts of USA (GSUSA). Those seven councils were the result of over 40 smaller councils that had been established, functioned and eventually combined over the years.

In the early days of the movement, individual towns were set up as councils that governed and guided their girl and adult members. Logistics, better governance and the opportunity to bring a better program to the girls brought these smaller councils together. What it also created was story after story about the local Girl Scout program.

Enter the Council Historian Team.

Historical Treasures

Some members of the team have been actively involved in preserving our memorabilia and stories since the 1980’s. GSUSA encouraged historians to step forward and provided professional level training in the preservation of all aspects of the history of Girl Scouts. Many of our team members have traveled to the Macy Program Center in New York, as well as multi-day programs held before National Council Sessions to learn the proper techniques to accession and store all the bits and pieces of history donated to us by our local community. Members of our team hosted “Learn to Preserve” in 2014 and were privileged to have experts from GSUSA and volunteer historians from throughout the Midwest attend our training.

When the words Girl Scout history come up, most people think of the uniform they wore and the handbook they used. We have all that and so much more. Each item that is donated to us is recorded and then passed along to the team member responsible for accessioning that category of material. We use simple excel spreadsheets to record our work and have over 70 categories of physical items in the council collection. Yes, we have magazines, dolls, camp canteens, mugs, postcards, volunteer gifts, tins, cameras, pens and pencils, membership cards…and the list goes on.

The collection is currently housed in the annex at the Joliet and Vernon Hills Gathering Place (GP). Team members meet on Mondays and Tuesdays each week at one of the GPs to process the literally thousands of pieces of historic memorabilia that have been donated to us over the years.

Over those same years, we have opened the gray archival boxes and shared the collection with our local communities. Sometimes it’s smaller displays at libraries, community meetings and events. We have produced fashion shows of uniforms for Alumnae and Service Unit events, as well as large scale shows at local malls. To celebrate our special anniversaries, we have held programs at Navy Pier (90-year anniversary) and at some of Chicago’s premier museums in 2012 to commemorate the 100 years of Girl Scouting. Currently there are displays in the Gathering Places in Chicago, Joliet and Woodridge. The displays are changed regularly to showcase just some of the treasures from the collection.

The team has offered Victorian themed tea parties throughout the council, taken books and uniforms to troop and Service Unit meetings, and participated in other council events, such as Trunk or Treat. We have put together kits that can be checked out by troops for use at their meetings – ranging from tea parties to history themed book and uniform bins from the 1960s and 1980s.

Take Home a Piece of History

This upcoming September 29 (10am – 4pm), 30 (10am – 6pm) and October 1 (10am – 2pm) will be our first sale of excess historical items from our inventory. We are always grateful for any donations, but we have limited storage space and must be selective about which items we accession. We invite you to the Joliet Gathering Place to shop for books, uniforms, badges and patches, and many of those extras that might be new to you.

Most of us are Lifetime Members of Girl Scouts and have served in many volunteer positions over the years. Our love of Girl Scouts and her history keeps us active in the movement and having fun. If you are interested in learning more about the team or donating some Girl Scout treasures, please contact our Archivist, Rosemarie Courtney at rdcourtney1940@gmail.com.

The History of Bridging in Girl Scouts 

Bridging is the term that Girl Scouts use to identify the work that a girl or troop does to get ready to move to the next level.  This work is not mandatory but is meant to give a girl an idea of what is waiting for her at the next level.  Bridging insignia are worn on the next level uniform, not the level where earned.  For example, the bridge to Juniors is worn on the Cadette uniform, not the Junior uniform. 

The first bridging was started about 1927 when Brownie wings became available. Since Brownies were at one time called Brown Owls, the idea was for them to “fly-up” to Girl Scouts.  The first wings were red, green and white embroidered on brown cloth and were used until 1935.  In 1931 the wings were brown embroidered on gray-green Girl Scout cloth.  With two types of wings, Brownies who had earned the Golden Bar were awarded the brown wings, while Brownies who had earned the higher award of the Golden Hand were awarded the multi-color wings. In 1935, both types of wings were discontinued.  The new wings were bright yellow embroidery on dark green felt that we still have today

In 1977, the Bridge to Juniors patch was introduced.  The original patch was a green arch with Bridge To Juniors embroidered in gold.  The arch was meant to go over the three Brownie B’s that were earned by Brownies at that time.  In 1980, the Bridge to Cadettes patch was introduced.  The patch was a yellow rectangle with a small trefoil embroidered in yellow in the middle. In 1987, both of these patches were changed to coordinate with the new Five Worlds program.  The Bridge to Juniors patch was still an arch but was embroidered in the colors of the five worlds (red, yellow, blue, green, orange).  The Bridge to Cadettes remained a rectangle but was embroidered in the same manner as the Bridge to Juniors. 

In 1987, the Bridge to Seniors patch was introduced.  It was a chevron embroidered with the same rainbow as the Junior and Cadette patches.  The Bridge to Adults was also introduced at this time.  It was a small rectangular pin with the rainbow colors surrounded by a green border. 1993 saw the introduction of the Bridge to Brownies patch for Daisies.  This patch was an arch shaped top over a rectangular bottom. 

With the new program changes in 2008 the girl bridging patches were redesigned. They all are arches but with different multicolored designs. The Bridge to Ambassadors patch was introduced in 2013.  The Bridge to Adults pin was not changed. 

The requirements for earning the bridging patches have changed in number over the years but the intent has remained the same.  Girls are to find out about the level the are going into and meet with the older girls, then they are to share what they learned with younger girls-planning their bridging ceremony at the end of their work. 

Honoring History: Two Families Carry the Girl Scout Torch for Over 50 Years!

As we enter into year 110 of instilling courage, confidence and character in girls, we are always honored to learn how Girl Scouts has made an impact on families and communities throughout the years. Thanks to our council Historians, we are able to share stories of heroism, empowerment, and recollections of heartwarming tales throughout different periods of our Girl Scout history.

Travel back in time and read about two Girl Scout families with over 50 years of Girl Scout experience, submitted by our GCNWI council Historian, Elise:

A True Girl Scout Family

In 1968, the Girl Scout Council of Northwest Cook County, honored two families from Service Unit 611 in Skokie/Lincolnwood. These two families, the Roth and the Petroski family, had one daughter in each level of scouting, Brownie, Junior, Cadette, and Senior Girl Scout. Their mothers were leaders of troops as well. It was the first for the council to have two families with such an honor. 

On the right side of the picture is my family. My sister Michele is the Brownie, my sister Sharon is the Junior, my sister Renee is the Cadette, and I am the Senior Girl Scout. My mother was a leader for one of my sisters. We were truly a scout family! One of my many fondest memories of that time was when we all sold Girl Scout cookies. My dad felt he had to buy from all of us and so he bought one case of cookies from each. We had cookies for a whole year! 

On the left side of the picture is the Petroski family. Gayle was the Brownie, Sally was the Junior, Regina was the Cadette and Edal was the senior Scout. Their mother was also a leader for one of the girl’s troops.  

Today, two of us are still involved in scouting. Michele Roth Herman, now works for our council and I am part of the Historian Group.