I Once Was a Brownie

When I was in the second grade I became a Brownie for a few months.  At the time my father had left St. Marks Presbyterian Church with 300 members and founded a new church, Central Congregational church. We met at Crossman School on Sunday and held all other church activities at 2254 Chicago Blvd. We also lived there.  It was a huge house.  That was my bedroom window on the upper right. Perfect casement windows for Peter Pan to fly through.

Central Congregational Parsonage at 2254 Chicago Blvd, Detroit.

Input from Benjamin Smith, one of the scouts pictured below:

“I am the taller kid in the rear. All of us in that picture went through Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Explorers. Sadly, I am the only one still here.  John Curry, standing, left front. Ligens Moore, seated front. Norman Cassells, seated front right. Harrison Stewart, standing with rope, front right. Benjamin Smith rear left. Longworth Quinn rear left. Ligens had a pilot’s license at 12 yrs old. Longworth’s father published the Michigan Chronicle for many years.

“The girl scouts from left to right, are Andrea Keneau, Ann Page, unknown, Laura Mosley and Janice Mosley, deceased (and Laura’s older sister.)

“Between Scouts and Youth Fellowship, I spent a lot of years in the parsonage basement. It was a different time. The side door was unlocked until your father went to bed.”

Times were different but I remember that someone tried to break into the house one night when my father wasn’t home. My mother rapped on the upstairs window with her ring – they were in the backyard trying to break in through the french doors of the conservatory – and they fled. Pearl and I were asleep. When she called the police they said she shouldn’t have knocked on the window, but she was so mad at the nerve of them.  They would have been so angry if they had gotten inside and found nothing worth stealing.

I remember Longworth. In 1969-1971 we both worked with the Black Conscience Library. He was in Law School at the time.  Such a long, long time ago.

The scout troops met in the basement recreation room where all of the youth activities were held. We wore the usual Brownie uniform and used the usual Brownie handbook.  I remember only one event, a jamboree held at Roosevelt Elementary School in a small gym, up a short flight of stairs above the 2nd floor. There were various stations set up and we went to different ones and did different things.  After several months I quit because I was bored. I wish I had a photo of me in my Brownie outfit, but I don’t.

At some point I was in the kitchen, which we shared with the church, while my mother was making dinner. One of the Brownie leaders came in to prepare a snack and asked where I’d been. I told her I wasn’t coming any more. That was my experience as a Brownie. One more thing I remember. A little girl at school, which was majority Jewish at that point, said there couldn’t be any brown Brownies. I don’t remember who she was telling this to but I told her, yes you could be because I was a brown Brownie.

My youngest son joined the Boy scouts. He was an active member of a troop in Baldwin, Michigan for some years. They did all the scout things, camped out, went on hikes, earned badges, went to Jubilee at Mackinaw Island. He earned the Sharp Shooter, Swimming, Water Skiing and the Polar Bear badge to name a few.  To earn the Polar Bear Badge he had to camp out two nights in a row in weather below freezing, preparing all their meals at the campsite. As I remember it was in the 20 degree range.  My husband became the troop treasurer and continued in that capacity long after my son lost interest.  He also camped out in the 20 degree weather.  They were a pretty free-spirited group and never wore uniforms so I have no photos of him in scout gear. My older children were in 4-H clubs.

To scout out other Sepia Saturday offerings, CLICK here.

 

30 thoughts on “I Once Was a Brownie

  1. I wish I had one of the catalogs with pictures of the uniforms and other items. The uniforms in the picture are the kind I had.

    My county’s Girl Scout Council had a nearby camp that that was used for overnight camping. There was a large rustic building that was used in the winter. I don’t think anyone had the right kind of equipment for outdoor winter camping back then.

  2. Good for you for standing up for yourself! It’s nice to hear of one rebel this week; everyone else seems to have taken to it like a duck to water. It never appealed to me so you have my sympathy.

  3. Maybe your troop didn’t have a good inspiring leader. My scout leader died this year. She was 94. What a fabulous leader she was. Mrs. Fern Brewster. RIP.
    Nancy

  4. I am the taller kid in the rear. All of us in that picture went through Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Explorers. Sadly, I am the only one still here.

  5. Wonderful post. And that was the handbook I had when I was in the Brownies in Hawaii where Brownies came in all colors.

  6. I loved being a Girl Scout. I think it was because of the wonderful leaders I had. I always said that I got one-third of my education from scouting. I later became a Girl Scout leader for my daughter. She and four of the girls in our troop are “friends” on facebook. Your pictures brought back memory.

  7. John Curry, standing, left front. Ligens Moore, seated front. Norman Cassells, seated front right. Harrison Stewart, standing with rope, front right. Benjamin Smith rear left. Longworth Quinn rear left. Ligens had a pilot’s license at 12 yrs old. Longworth’s father published the Michigan Chronicle for many years.
    The girl scouts from left to right, are Andrea Keneau, Ann Page, unknown, Laura Mosley and Janice Mosley, deceased(and Laura’s older sister.)
    Between Scouts and Youth Fellowship, I spent a lot of years in the parsonage basement. It was a different time. The side door was unlocked until your father went to bed.

    1. Ben, thanks for identifying everybody. Now that you did, I can see who they are. Times were different but I remember that someone tried to break into the house one night when my father wasn’t home. my mother rapped on the upstairs window with her ring – they were trying to break in through the french doors on the conservatory – and they fled. Pearl and I were asleep. When she called the police they said she shouldn’t have knocked on the window, but she was so mad at the nerve of them.

      I remember Longworth. In 1969-1971 we both worked with the Black Conscience Library. I think he was in Law School at the time. such a long, long time ago.

  8. Kristin, what a cool house, though it might have been hard to share it with the church. Preachers kids are always under the microscope, but the congregation could really keep an eye on things when you shared a kitchen!

    I was in Blue Birds, and I think that I gave Brownies a half-hearted short term try after we moved, when my BF Carla joined up. Their leader did not seem to be a good one and things were wild, from what I remember. She promised to take them camping, and the girls ended up sleeping in her garage for the weekend. I thought that they got ripped off!

    Looking at the brochure and reading the little girl’s comment, I can see why she would think that. Little brown girls were not often shown in the advertisements, were they? That makes me sad.

    Kathy M.

    1. That and troops weren’t integrated. They were usually at your place of worship which also wasn’t integrated, in Detroit in the 1950’s. Housing wasn’t integrated either except as a neighborhood changed from white to black.

  9. I always wanted to be a girls scout. There was something my mother found objectionable about them, so she wouldn’t let me join. Was it something in the pledge? I have no idea, but I became a bluebird instead. I’m guessing that the girls in that picture had ordered their uniforms and were waiting for them to arrive.

  10. Another good match to the Sepia Saturday theme. I tried to be a cub scout for a few months but even though my father was an army officer, I could not adjust to the uniforms and quasi-military traditions, so I quit.

    I do find it a bit disturbing that the scouts are admiring what looks like a hangman’s noose. But then it is always one of the first knots most boys learn.

  11. That was not a hangman’s noose. I think it was a bowline. Even though we had a lot of fun, we took scouting very seriously. We had a pretty large troop. Most of us were together through Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Explorers. Three of us made Eagle. We went camping one weekend per month and one or two, 2 week sessions in the summer. We slept in cabins, lean to or tents. Including tents in snow storms. They didn’t have the Polar Bear Badge back then. We made life long friendships. Kristen’s father shepherded strong youth programs in his church.

  12. That was a nice window to daydream out of. Never thought of it before but troops were more often than not associated with churches years ago, not so much nowadays. I love the story of your mother tapping on the window, and them running off especially “the nerve of them” comment. Both funny and admirable.

  13. I enjoyed your post, and I agree with the reader who commented that scouting depended on a good leader. I was a Girl Scout from Brownies up through High School, but my little sister dropped out right after Brownies. She had a terrible leader who loved to scream at the kids to keep order. I had two wonderful ladies who made scouting fun, and it made all the difference. I wouldn’t have stayed if it wasn’t fun. I tried to remember that when I became a Girl Scout leader, and the girls (all 25 years old now) still tell me how much fun they had.

    1. Heather, I think that’s true, the leader makes all the difference in activities and the teacher makes the difference in the classroom.

  14. I agree with everyone that that is a wonderful house, huge, the stuff of fantasy.

    What a strange institution the Scouts is. It’s fortunate that your youngest son’s Cub Scouts group was more benign. I can understand why you soon tired of it (though I remember enjoying folding and tying my tie). Great photo of the girls taking the pledge, each with a different length of shorts.
    (I too was a sometime Brownie, and in India, a “Bulbul”—perhaps because otherwise we would have been brown Brownies. I’ve written a story on it here: http://josna.wordpress.com/2010/06/06/learning-how-to-fold/)

Comments are closed.