Wellesley resident learns that once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Posted by: jennifer punch
Retrieved from: http://www.wickedlocal.com/wellesley/features/x393520899/Wellesley-resident-learns-that-once-a-girl-scout-always-a-girl-scout
By: Teddy Applebaum/Townsman Staff GateHouse News Service
Wellesley — It’s been 39 years since members of the Teaneck Girl Scout Troop 96 sat around the campfire belting out Scout songs, but when Deborah Trupin begins to sing, the words flow back to them as if it were yesterday.
"Camping, we have lots of fun all day, but at night we don’t sleep anyway,” they sing in unison, their voices wafting over the trees of Betty Cantor’s Needham home.
Eight members of the New Jersey troop and their leader — including an accomplished educator, a historic textiles restorer and a published author — reunited June 25. They traveled from as far away as North Carolina and Florida to reminisce about the times that were and catch up on what they’ve all become.
They’ve taken drastically different paths, lost touch with one another, and pursued different interests and passions, but here, sitting around a table laden with cheese and wine, they’re learning that once you’re a Girl Scout, you’re always a Girl Scout.
"Our lives have gone in all these different directions, but we have that commonality of that experience in high school,” Cynthia Krainin said.
Toward the end of the 1960s, during a time of social upheaval, in the run-up to Title IX, and at the peak of Vietnam War, their troop of Teaneck High School students fought convention in their own unique way — by camping, whittling and cooking over an open pit fire.
"In high school it was so uncool to be Girl Scouts that we just decided we would do it; it was sort of an act of defiance,” Trupin said. "We even decided on Girl Scout Day that we would wear our uniforms to school — and mind you it was 1969, ’70, and ’71, most of the time it was hip-hugger bellbottoms.”
As they tell it, most Girls Scouts left the organization by the time they reached high school. Not these teens; they relished the camaraderie.
"High school was tough times,” said Susan Schambach, who came all the way from North Carolina for the event. "Yet we all had this unity as friends that really helped each other through.”
And they didn’t just gather to hang out; they pushed the envelope with their barebones camping, and community service projects that ranged from presentations before the United Nations to a marionette production of the "Wizard of Oz” that they performed at local nursing homes.
Their leader, Dee Balliett, now 79 going on 25, was a large part of why the group pushed so many boundaries, and was able to accomplish as much as it did, the Scouts said.
"I felt that if you could go out in the woods and survive, where could you go that you couldn’t survive?” she said. "Whether it rained or snowed, and whether there were bears or snakes, we survived, and we ate well, we slept well and we had a great time.”
It was those lessons, that they could do whatever they put their minds to, that it only took a single match to light a fire that inspired many of them to become the empowered women and leaders that they’ve become today.
Many of the troop members can trace elements of their lives today all the way back to single moments at camp.
When Krainin considers her favorite activities she harkens back to those moments in the woods.
"Being out in nature with the crackle of the fire — this gargantuan wonderful fire — and not only the communing with nature, but also the community of us singing together,” she said. "It was spiritual for me.”
For Debbi Lee Keenan, her love of nature is something she’s passed down through the generations.
"My parents didn’t do any camping or any outdoor things at all, so I got all of this from the Girl Scouts,” she said. "I’ve done a lot of hiking with my own children, who are now adults, and now I’m doing it with my granddaughter.”
After Cantor reconnected with Wellesley resident Nancy Rich a few years back, the two old friends hatched an ambitious idea. They were going e-mail their fellow troops members and try and bring them together after all these years.
"Three weeks ago I get an e-mail from Betty saying, ‘We are going to try and have a reunion … can you come?’” said Balliet. "There was no way that I would miss it.”
It wasn’t just Balliet. Much to their surprise, six out of the seven members they contacted said they’d come. And the seventh? She was in Hawaii.
So they met for the weekend, swapping memories over wine at Cantor’s house, breakfast at Rich’s home at Dana Hall School where she works, and dinner in the North End.
"I thought it was great that people made the time,” said Rich. "It’s hard to give up a lot of time.”
"I think that every one of us has such a strong positive experience in Girl Scouts,” Cantor said. "It’s fascinating to see what people took away from Girl Scouts that they carry on through their lives.”
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