9.09.2009

Camp Fire (Girls) and Blue Birds


When we decided to write this post it came as a strange surprise to see how many women we knew come forward with their own memories of being a Camp Fire Girl. In fact, to any devotee of Camp Fire Girls (or its younger group called Blue Birds), the biggest mistake you can make is to equate the organization with the now better known Girl Scouts (or Brownies). It is a mistake that is a bit unfair considering Camp Fire actually came before Girl Scouts. Actually, it was born from the fact that girls at the time had no organization comparable to the Boy Scouts. So, in 1910, in the state of Vermont, Camp Fire Girls was established.

We felt it was important, on the eve of Camp Fire's centenary celebration, to share with you something that was very important to many young girls during an equally influential part of their lives. An organization that has been handed down from mother to daughter over many decades (boys were finally encouraged to join when Camp Fire became co-ed in 1975).

Leslie H, our friend in Long Beach, CA, has shared with us many of her own fond memories of being a Blue Bird first, and then achieving the level of a Camp Fire Girl. She told us a story of how her mother was a group leader, the Camp Fire meetings held at her house, the summers spent at camp and the 'ceremonials' where the girls would dress up in American Indian influenced outfits and receive new honors. She said she was excited to fly up through the various levels. Both her parents organized meetings and the girls would learn macrame, sewing, beading and would produce every kind of craft imaginable. A Camp Fire group is usually 10 to 15 girls, meets weekly to do projects which will earn each girl a patch and/or bead. There is still a curriculum for leaders but Camp Fire is set up to be fairly flexible when it comes to the weekly activities. Leslie tells us she was in CFG for 10 years and enjoyed every minute.

The Girls in Leslie's group make clothes for their barbies!

The CFG started with their earliest inspirational word/motto created by co-founder Charlotte Gulick in 1910, which was (and still apparently is) used as a greeting among members and as a sort of password. WoHeLo stands for Work, Health, and Love. The meaning was important in introducing the progressive programs designed to encourage strength, compassion, and wisdom in the young girls and was a strong basis for allowing the girls to recognize the importance of self respect, service to their community and country, and openness to diversity in others and the environment as a whole. Through the decades the organization fostered programs encouraging the girls to helpful action, starting with World War I. The vintage Camp Fire books describe a Camp Fire girl as someone with high ideals, a quiet pride in being a girl, deep love for her country, a good friend, can do work skillfully and takes pleasure in hard work, has interests and hobbies enjoyed with others and alone, has good health and good habits and a love for the outdoors.

Today, the numbers of members has sadly diminished with the rise of many other activities for girls and boys - as well as the better known Boy Scouts fostering their own sister organizations like Brownies and Girl Scouts. In fact, Leslie told us that one of the hardest things is to find a mother (or father) willing to commit the time to engage in forming and maintaining a group. This is a modern problem considering that many families now have both parents working full time - which is one significant change from 100 years ago. In fact, it is the very thing she struggled to come to terms with a few years ago when her own daughter came of age. Leslie has found a way to balance her own busy schedule and thinks that other parents could do it too. As the Camp Fire organization enters into its 100 year celebration in 2010, we are told that the organization as a whole has steadily declined in interest for some years now. Some fear that it will one day soon just disappear as anything viable. But, we remain optimistic that it can find a new meaning in the coming years and once again inspire.

a vintage shot of a CFG camp

If you'd like further information about the organization you can go to the Camp Fire website. And, if you'd like to get some insight into a particular group Leslie has agreed to share with us her blog called 'From Blue Birds to Bear Cubs'. It goes without saying that if this story triggers your own memories of being a Camp Fire Girl we'd love for you to share them with us. It really seems to have been a special time for many mothers and daughters through the years. And, that alone, is worth celebrating!!! WoHeLo......!

20 comments:

leslie said...

thank you thank you!! wo he lo!

lauren.wiedt said...

Thanks for the great sentiment about Camp Fire USA! You can connect with other Camp Fire fans, parents, and alumni on the national social networking sites on Facebook, LinkedIn, and many more! Just visit http://www.campfireusa.org and scroll to the bottom to find the links to all 8 sites!

If you're an alumni, be sure to register on the alumni page to stay informed about national centennial events and news updates!

Wohelo!

Anonymous said...

Although I'm not a Camp Fire alumnus, I beleive in the magic of Camp Fire! I agree we are fighting an uphill battle to keep this special organization alive in the face of busy schedules, losing camp properties, and just a true disconnect from nature that many parents have. That's why our girls are so lucky to have a shining star of a leader in Leslie! Her passion for the organization, its history, and what it has to offer to our group comes through loud and clear. Go Camp Fire :) ~Dori

Jennifer said...

I am a friend of Leslie, and am continually impressed at the eager ness and spirit that the camp fire girls bring to any event Leslie is involved in. What a great way to get kids involved in their community, and empower them to feel they can make a difference!

Anonymous said...

Camp Fire Girls did not become Girl Scouts. They are and have always been two separate organizations. Camp Fire began in 1910. Today it is an coeducational organization called Camp Fire U.S.A. The Girl Scouts are still the Girl Scouts in the United States and are still Girl Guides in many British countries. Originally Camp Fire was considered the sister organization to the Boy Scouts. You can read more about this in "WoHeLo:The Story of the Camp Fire Girls" and in many other publications.

Leslie said...

Thanks for the compliments jen and dori! I could never be a leader without friends like you!

Anonymous said...

I am a former bluebird turned campfire girl, where do I find the alumni?

leslie said...

There is an alumni link on the camp fire usa website listed in the post above. There are also alumni groups on facebook, some are specific to camp fire camps if you went to camp as a kid. Good luck in your search!

heath said...

I was a Bluebird in Massachusetts in the 1970s. Do we have to change the name to Starflight if we form a group today? I am not jiving with the other name.

Rosemary Pezzuto said...

I am in the Patuxent Area Council in Washington DC and I love your blog. I suggested that we do something here for our alumni to share their thoughts. You have brought back many memories of my childhood in Camp Fire USA.

Anonymous said...

I'm almost 49 and have great memories of being a Blue Bird and even better a Camp Fire Girl. I still have my book, skirt, beads, vest and scarf slide. Remember selling those peanuts? I was always able to sell cases of them. What a blast I had!
Betty, Sterling, VA

Anonymous said...

I was a blue bird when I was a little girl. I had two uniforms one was a blue dress and then another with the skirt shirt and vest. I am looking for one of these dresses or a pattern. Do you have any information that may help me? You can email me at lsellers70@yahoo.com Im not really sure how to do all this blogging. Sorry!

Maria said...

Not sure if I posted this before, but I just wanted to say this was a great post and was really informative. After reading it I learned more about the Camp Fire organisation than I ever did before.
But I do have one correction. The Brownies are part of the Girl Scouts; specifically it is one of the lower age levels of the organisation. First you have the Daisies, then Brownies, then Juniors, then Cadettes, then Seniors, and last but not least, Ambassadors. Just wanted to clear that up.
Also if I posted this same information before, I do apologise.

April said...

I'm a Camp Fire leader and just wanted to voice what a great experience being a Camp Fire kid has been for my son. As highlighted in this article we are always looking for new leaders so if this article inspires any of you who are alums or like me never got to be a Camp Fire Kid yourself but would like to enrich the lives of kids in your community please contact your local council of Camp Fire USA.

Anonymous said...

As a Bluebird Girl in Great Falls, MT, I remember a favorite recipe for "Bluebird Balls" that I can't find anywhere. Some of the ingredients were Cocoa Krispies Cereal, karo syrup, peanut butter and powdered sugar. They were a no-bake cookie that all of us would stand around in the kitchen mixing and rolling into balls as we socialized and learned lessons. Can anyone help? Thanks! 8-)

Anonymous said...

I'm 48 now & I was a Bluebird that "flew up" to Campfire Girl. I've moved from the area that I grew up in & participated in BB & CFG. I now live in Upstate N.Y. & have mentioned to several people that I was involved in these organizations, I was both shocked & a little sad to find that no one had ever heard of either one! I have wonderful memories of crafting & cooking, holiday parties & so many other things you would want your child to be involved in. I have to say, it was & always will hold a special place in my memory & my heart! WO HE LO

Anonymous said...

Even though Campfire has gone co ed, what happened to the Bluebirds? I was a bluebird in the 2nd grade; way back in mid 1960's. I would love to get Montana back on the map with this wonderful program, to give the Girl Scouts here a little competition! lol

Jean said...

Bluebirds was too feminine, so they changed the name to something unisex.

I was a Bluebird from 1973-75, and quit when the admitted boys to the program and changed all the names.

Kathie said...

I was a blue bird for a few yeats then i was in campfire for several i was one year from becoming a consular and my sister was bluebird we lived in California. I live every moment with both i had two vest cover in beads and patches. I learn alot bead working whick i make indiana jewerly now i also leasrn how to sew and now i make quilts and cooking. So i learn alot to become ahousewife and grandmothet. Im 56 and 8 grandkids from 15 to 5 and they are taught some of thing learn my oldest make her own doll cloths by hand

Anonymous said...

I remember being Blue Bird when I lived in Atascadero, California. We went onna hike and I got poison ivy. That has been many years ago, I'm almost 72 now