Scouting played important role in lives of local women


February 28, 1992|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,Staff Writer

An expert in space science, an actress and a couple of politicians -- very different women have at least one common thread weaving their lives together:

Each was involved with the Girl Scouts of America and they are darn proud of it.

Today, some 25,000 girls participate in Girl Scouts of Central Maryland activities. Over the years, say organizers, some things -- camping, cookies and good times -- have stayed the same, but lessons have kept pace with the times and now include avoiding substance abuse, preventing teen suicide and learning about careers in mathematics, science and technology.

"Generally, when people think of Girl Scouts, they think of cookies and camping but we are much more than that," said Marilyn D. Maultsby, president of the Maryland Girl Scouts' board of directors. Besides, even cookies teach lessons: The Scouts learn budgeting through the cookie sales and camping lessons include teamwork, she said. Decision-making skills and building self-esteem are also addressed.

As the Girl Scouts gear up for the 80th anniversary celebration of the national organization on Sunday, here are a few reminiscences from former Maryland Scouts:

Madam President

They call her Madam President. As head of Baltimore's City Council, Mary Pat Clarke wields a lot of power, asks a lot of questions and checks out the answers to her satisfaction. In her scouting days, little Mary Pat could be, shall we say, a tad more trusting.

Mrs. Clarke was a Girl Scout in Huntington, W.Va., where she lived at the time. She recalls someone in the troop decided washing with Tide after a camping trip -- and it had to be Tide -- would prevent poison ivy.

She tried it. "I guess it washed all your skin off," Mrs. Clarke said laughing at the memory and the gullibility of the girls. But, hey, it was a long time ago.

The City Council president does not -- repeat not -- recommend using detergent to prevent poison ivy. She does highly recommend scouting.

Besides her own days as a Scout, Mrs. Clarke has been a Girl Scout leader and a board member.

Acts for the Scouts

Verna Day, a veteran actress with the Arena Players, got involved with Girl Scouts more than 40 years ago. Not as a Daisy, Brownie, Junior, Cadette or Senior -- the different stages -- but, in 1949, as a Scout leader.

It was through Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore, Ms. Day recalled. Four women church members, including Ms. Day, volunteered to start the troops and shared responsibility.

Ms. Day's favorite scouting activity was camping. Every so often, she would gather a group of 10 or 15 girls and off they would go to a Frederick County campground. She loved the outdoors, the cooking, the camaraderie. Ms. Day became somewhat infamous among the Scouts and leaders for a particular piece of clothing she simply insisted on wearing in the wilderness.

"I wore white gloves," she said. It made perfect sense to her. Camping was one thing but coming in contact with creepy, crawly things was quite another. "I definitely did not want to touch a worm or something," she said.

Today, Ms. Day remains active in the Scouts giving occasional drama or speech workshops.

A space scientist

Kathleen A. Beres, has trained as an astronaut as part of NASA's teacher-in-training program. Today she represents NASA as a business development manager for Hughes, Danbury, Optical Systems Co. Her specialty is space science.

The Prince Georges County businesswoman was a Girl Scout in the 1960s while growing up in Baltimore County. Today she is on the go, working with engineers and scientists. When she was a Scout, though, she remembers a time when she was afraid to pick up a telephone.

To earn badges, Mrs. Beres' was supposed to make appointments to visit various Baltimore businesses and institutions to learn about them. As the youngest child in the family, she was accustomed to always having her mother help her.

This time, though, Mrs. Beres' mother refused to make the appointments for her. "She told me I had to learn how to do these things myself," she said. "I was so nervous making that first phone call, it almost slid out of my hand."

She got through it though, winning many badges and awards for cookie sales.

A 'girl thing'

She has a sharp mind, not to mention a classic sense of style and meticulous coiffure. But, when it comes to her on-target fashion know-how, it wasn't always so for City Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean.

She was 8 or 9 years old and a tomboy when her mother thought things were getting a bit out of hand. "My mom wanted me to get involved in 'girl things,' " said Ms. McLean. So she made her join the Scouts.

Ms. McLean was an army brat who was living on a military post in Fort Eustis, Va., at the time. She recalls that everything was segregated during those days -- except for the troop. "We had an integrated troop with a white leader in those segregated times," she said.

"I remember it well," she said of her days of scouting. "It's where I first learned how to make a bed." Scouting was such a positive experience for Ms. McLean, she made sure her own daughter Michelle, now 19, became involved.

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