Trailblazing Suffolk Scouts reunite

Published 6:29 pm Saturday, September 17, 2016

Trailblazer. Leader. Innovator.

Those are just some of the words that the women who grew up in Frances Carr’s Girl Scout troop use to describe the woman who guided and mentored them as a Girl Scout leader from the time that they were in the third grade.

It was the 1970s, and Carr was a woman on a mission to ensure that her girls had the same, if not more, opportunities as the local Boy Scout troop.

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Carr, who still resides in Suffolk, knew she had a special group of young women in the troop she led. Through the years, she had seen them exhibit independence on primitive camping trips, watched them grow as leaders as they took on community service projects and observed as they experienced new sights, cultures and foods on international trips.

Carr and her girls hiked 40 miles on the Appalachian Trail. They canoed down the Shenandoah River. They journeyed to Canada to attend a Girl Scout camp. They toured England and Switzerland. The girls loved the outdoors and camping, and Carr brought them outside any chance that she could.

In July, Carr and three women who were once girls in her troop — Dabney Carr, Rosemary Hazellette Knight and Susan Nurney Griffin — reunited at Girl Scout Camp Darden, near Franklin, for the Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast Alumnae Encampment.

Camp Darden had been a favorite camping spot for the troop, and they enjoyed the chance to return to the site, catch up with one another and relive their Girl Scout days. Carr, Knight and Griffin were exceptional Girl Scouts, and Frances Carr proudly tells the story of the girls earning the highest award in Girl Scouts.

In the late 1970s, as the girls neared the end of their high school years, their leader called the local Girl Scout council, known as Girl Scout Council of Greater Tidewater at the time, and told them she had three girls in her troop who would be excellent candidates to work toward the highest award in Girl Scouts. She asked for details about the award and was sent the requirements for the Golden Circle Award in Girl Scouts.

The Golden Circle Award was a pilot project that had been launched locally as a proposal to be instituted to the national Girl Scout program as the highest individual girl award given by Girl Scouts of the USA.

Carr and the three girls read the requirements, many of which they had already fulfilled. They had earned numerous Aide Bars, demonstrated what it means to live by the values in the Girl Scout Promise and Law and took park in enough community service projects to fulfill the requirement to complete 200 service hours.

The girls had even earned the Girl Scout First Class Award, which is currently recognized by Girl Scouts of the USA as the highest award in Girl Scouts in the 1970s.

To earn the Golden Circle Award, the girls had to carry out leadership projects. Rosemary and Susan started a Brownie troop that they led for an entire year. Dabney planned an encampment weekend for troops from across the region at Camp Darden.

The girls completed the award in 1980 and Lucy Salzburg, president of Girl Scout Council of Greater Tidewater at the time, presented them with special Golden Circle Award pins. They were the first to earn the award in Suffolk.

Two years later, Girl Scouts of the USA renamed the Golden Circle Award to the Gold Award, which continues to be the highest award a girl can earn in Girl Scouts today. Since the Golden Circle Award was a pilot project that lasted only a few years, the award is not largely recognized today, much to Frances Carr’s dismay.

For Dabney, Rosemary and Susan, earning the award was a great achievement, but being a Girl Scout meant so much more than earning a pin. The lessons in leadership, confidence and self-discovery they learned from Carr made lasting impressions.

“Frances is a trailblazer,” Susan said. “None of us realized it at the time, but she was out in the community organizing opportunities for us, despite people telling her that Girl Scouts had never done such things before.”

All three women from the troop agreed that the No. 1 thing that kept them in Girl Scouts so many years was Carr and her leadership.

“Frances let us make decisions and helped us grow,” Rosemary said. “She taught us to be independent women and to follow through on projects.”

As the women reconnected at Camp Darden, their reflections on Girl Scouts mirrored the concluding line of the Golden Circle Award requirements — that accomplishment through dedication should be lifelong.

The women enjoyed their time at the July encampment so much that they’re making plans for the spring. Dabney, Susan and Rosemary are reaching out to all of the women who were in their troop and inviting them to come camping on Susan’s farm.