WO-HE-LO* by
50
(89 Stories)

Prompted By Scouting

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My mother was our Blue Bird leader. As such, she went out of her way not to show favoritism…so much so that when we put on a little production of the Pied Piper of Hamlin, I was cast as one of the rats.

My mother was our Blue Bird leader. As such, she went out of her way not to show favoritism…so much so that when we put on a little production of the Pied Piper of Hamlin, I was cast as one of the rats.

When I turned 10, I “flew up” and became a Camp Fire Girl. We sold extremely delicious chocolate-covered mint candy door to door, and I struck the mother lode when I discovered the then landmark and very sophisticated Park La Brea Towers nearby. Tower after tower of town houses, one hallway after another, rows of identical doors but for the apartment number, it seems like almost everyone answered my knock and bought a box or two of mints. I have no memory of how I carted them from door to door…I do remember that each carton contained about a dozen boxes. But my secret weapon was my grandmother. She worked behind a long, elegant counter in the custom stationery department at Robinson’s Beverly Hills department store and brought several cartons to work, hiding them behind the counter and selling individual boxes to her coworkers and best customers. “I” sold so many cartons that I won a trip to Disneyland! A bus picked me up at my house, I climbed onboard, took a seat, and an hour later arrived at Disneyland. Only problem was, it wasn’t much fun at all because I didn’t know one other girl. As they say, it’s lonely at the top!

My favorite scouting memory was when our troop joined several others at Camp Yallani Laheta in the San Bernardino Mountains. Although I was feeling very homesick the first day, sick enough to end up in the infirmary, by the second day I had recovered and had a great time hiking, making lanyards and other crafts, swimming in the huge pool, and sleeping under the stars for the very first time. I can still see the bonfire and hear the singing…my favorite song was the haunting “White Buffalo.” (I’ll sing it for you if you like.) 

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*Wohelo (pronounced (wo-he-lo) is the Camp Fire watchword and celebrates its core values by combining the first two letters of the words WOrk, HEalth, and LOve

Profile photo of Barbara Buckles Barbara Buckles
Artist, writer, storyteller, spy. Okay, not a spy…I was just going for the rhythm.

I call myself “an inveterate dabbler.” (And my husband calls me “an invertebrate babbler.”) I just love to create one way or another. My latest passion is telling true stories live, on stage. Because it scares the hell out of me.

As a memoirist, I focus on the undercurrents. Drawing from memory, diaries, notes, letters and photographs, I never ever lie, but I do claim creative license when fleshing out actual events in order to enhance the literary quality, i.e., what I might have been wearing, what might have been on the table, what season it might have been. By virtue of its genre, memoir also adds a patina of introspection and insight that most probably did not exist in real time.

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Characterizations: funny, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Great memories and photos, Barb. It seems that many successful cookies sales scouts learned the method of having parents who could sell to co-workers (someone in my chorus would sell for her granddaughter for years), or find some other way to leverage her contacts. I love the image of you going into apartment complexes, rather just in neighborhoods – much more efficient.

    Thank you for explaining what Wohelo means. Good watchword and reminder of values.

    The camping trip (once you adjusted for the homesickness) sounds heavenly. As I’ve written about many times, I attended a performing arts camp in a pine forest in Northern Michigan for 6 glorious summers in the ’60s. Mondays were our day off from rehearsals and we did all sorts of camp craft stuff, from cooking to sleeping under the stars (and of course singing, since we were all musicians). Laying there, watching the shooting stars, with the smell of the doused fire, talking with a special friend…well, there’s nothing like it. I’ll trade you a song for a song. I’d love to hear yours. Then I’ll sing you the one we’d sing, hand over hand, swaying around the fire, just before we sang Taps:

    “Each campfire lights anew, the flame of friendship true. The joy we had in knowing in you, will last a whole life through. And as the embers die away, we wish that we might always stay. But since we cannot have our way, we’ll meet again, some other day.”

    I’m glad you are my friend…

  2. I love your story Bebe.
    I was a Girl Scout but my best grade school friend Myra was a Campfire Girl – if only all rivalries were as sweet and innocent!

  3. Khati Hendry says:

    WOHELO is new to me! Camping in the San Bernardinos sounds great. Google had some interesting info on the philosophical differences between campfire girls and Girl Scouts, based in rivalries between American and UK boy scouting organizations which had ties to the respective groups. The cookie capers are legion, but my mom was the sort who firmly believed all such activity was our own business (as was doing homework) and as a result I sold very few cookies. Going door to door (no lucrative towers!) was a schlepp and I hated it. But liked eating the cookies and my mom did always buy a couple of boxes for the family.

    • Not long ago I’d done some Googling for this particular camp (Yallani) and found a blog from a camper (in a different group) with quite a few others commenting and posting memories and photos. The experience made a lasting impression on a lot of us…seems everyone remembered it with great fondness. That’s when I dug deep into my stash and found my own photos which I also posted, and which came in handy for this story. As for “cookie capers,” it’s interesting…I wonder how much the experience gained in selling various products in scouting affected our future endeavors. I did become very entrepreneurial, but not at all good at delegating which is at odds with my Camp Fire selling experience. On the other hand, maybe winning that trip and then feeling so lonely at Disneyland scarred me irreparably and now I’m afraid of success! (Kind of kidding here, but who knows, right?)

  4. Marian says:

    Aw, I do remember Blue Birds and Camp Fire Girls, Barb, although they weren’t as popular in New Jersey as the Scouts. Seems like you had a very good time at camp, and you certainly built your entrepreneurial skills with the help of your grandmother!

  5. Mister Ed says:

    I love the “cast as a rat” role! Kudos to your mother. My mother, who was a Cub Scout Den Mother, always bought the campfire mints. They didn’t last long in our house. I understand your homesick feelings about the Disneyland Trip. I felt the same way at Boy Scout camps, even though I had a a twin brother with me.

    • I’m so glad you liked the “cast as a rat” reference, Ed…that’s my favorite line in the story. My mother was also a Cub Scout den mother…I had four brothers (two of them twins). I was always a little envious of the twins for having each other…always wished I had a sister, and a twin would have been even better. But homesick at camp is probably very commmon…twin or no twin.

  6. Suzy says:

    Great story and photos, Barb. I was not aware of Camp Fire Girls in NJ, although they may have been around. They are here in Sacramento, and I don’t know how popular they are, but they have expanded to include boys too. I think that would make it less special, because the boys would probably take over.

    Good job finding those high-rise apartments to sell in. Love the idea of all those identical doors opening to your knock and buying mints. Much easier than trudging up and down the neighborhood streets! Too bad you didn’t have a friend along on the Disneyland trip, it would certainly have made it more fun.

    I enlarged your camp picture thinking it would be easy to spot you, but it wasn’t. I see one possibility in the middle of the second row – is that you?

  7. Laurie Levy says:

    The common thread between all of these scouting groups was selling something. How lucky you were that your grandmother helped you and you found that ripe territory of Park La Brea Towers. Try as I might, our neighborhood was too saturated with scouts and my relatives only bought a few boxes of those infamous cookies. By the time my daughters had their brief experiences with scouting, door-to-door selling was forbidden — this was during the missing-kids-on-milk-cartons era.

    • Well, “selling” kind of has a bad connotation…like a hidden motivation or agenda, and it seems someone is always trying to sell us something. But fundraising is crucial to scouting. Hence all those tables outside the supermarkets these days…and cute kids selling is undoubtedly much more “profitable” than adults selling. I always feel the need to explain that “I already bought” (as in “I gave at the office”) as I scurry by.

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