The Girl Scouts had their genesis on March 12, 1912, when Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low made her dream of helping young girls get into the open air and into helping their community a reality. That day, Low conducted the first Girl Scouts meeting with 18 girls in Savannah, Ga.
Now more than a century later, generations of women look back fondly on formative years that included hiking, camping, learning discipline and yes, selling cookies.
Armijo High School Home Economics teacher Jane Beck is credited with getting the Girl Scouts going in Fairfield in 1926. On June 22, 1931, a rustic Girl Scout building, located on Union Avenue next to the old County Library, was dedicated.
The ceremony served as a goodbye to Beck as she was leaving Armijo and the local troop to become the wife of U.S. Ambassador to China Nelson Johnson. Beck’s passing of the torch of the local organization to E. Ruth Sheldon was symbolized in a candle-lighting ceremony.
Sheldon’s husband Roy, according to newspaper accounts at the time, was “the man whose untiring efforts, enthusiasm, inspiration and hard work” most helped the construction of the Girl Scout house come to fruition.
The building’s fireplace, called in newspaper accounts at the time “a magnificent piece of masonry,” was built of concrete and huge stones brought from the Rockville hills by the Girl Scouts.
At the end of the dedication ceremony, the 40 Girl Scouts present, led by “Snookie” Gerevas, gave three cheers for Roy Sheldon then six for Jane Beck or “Cody,” as they called their beloved leader. They then sang “Taps” as a Boy Scout bugler accompanied them.
More than 70 years later, in 2002, another gathering, that included many former Brownies and Girl Scouts, took place at the Girl Scout house – to say goodbye. It was demolished in April 2003 to make way for the Solano County Government Center.
In the years between the dedication and the demolition, generations of Girl Scouts flourished – making friends and memories that last forever.
Locals shared remembrances:
Debora Austin Johnson: When I was a child, I thought that place was magical. It was used for all sorts of special events – potlucks, award ceremonies, Halloween, Christmas parties, etc. It was an important place for all sorts of meetings, leader trainings – everything used to be there. It was surrounded by trees to climb and hide behind. I remember the huge fireplace in the main room the best.
Diana Lynn Paladin: I did the Girl Scout thing, mainly because my mother’s friends’ daughters all did it and she thought it would be a good idea if I did it as well. My mother had a blast, even being a co-leader for my troop. I showed up, pretended I was having a good time, and then went home. The only times I jumped into the experience was when the local skating rink owner offered a program to earn the skating badge – yes, there was a skating badge – or when spiffy prizes were offered for selling the most cookies. I busted my butt to sell cookies and came in second in our district. Alas, no prize for coming in second. Oh yeah, there was also a weekend camping trip. That helped me discover how much I disliked camping. I’m not seeing the Girl Scout people coming to me as a recruiter any time soon.
Patti Thoming: When I lived on Travis Air Force Base, we would sell our cookies at the Terminal and the Men’s and Women’s barracks. They were the best places ever to sell. There was no adult supervision and no tables to set up in front of stores. They cost 50 cents a box! I was only 10 years old and rode the bus everywhere on Travis in my wonderful Brownie uniform with matching socks, beanie and sash!
Tracy Vest: I used to wear my Brownie uniform to school, keep the 10-cent weekly dues, then skip out and collect pollywogs at Dover pond. When my evil Brownie leader finked on me, my mom made me pay her back dues. That put a dent in my 35-cents-a-week allowance.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected].