Juliette Gordon Low didn’t mess around when it came to the Girl Scouts organization she started 101 years ago in Savannah, Ga. Inspired by boy scouting in England, Low wanted to impart similar outdoor, survival and homemaking skills to girls as well. Her idea took off like gangbusters, and by 1920, there were more than 70,000 scouts in the United States who met up and learned all sorts of neato stuff, like knot-tying, semaphore codes (aka flag signals) and edible plant identification.
The 1925 Official Handbook of the Girl Scouts itemized 47 merit badges girls could attain, which made me a little sad that I was never part of a troop back in the day. Young girls today can earn snappy, 21st-century badges, including ones for digital film making, web design and geocaching. But the following six vintage merit badges could’ve really made my modern adult life easier in plenty of ways. Take the Milliner Badge (charmingly symbolized with a bonnet), for instance. Think having hat know-how in my noggin wouldn’t serve any practical purpose? Think again.
1) Milliner: Merit Badge Requirement: Renovate a hat by removing, cleaning and pressing all trimmings and the lining, turn or clean the hat and replace trimmings and lining.
First off, Halloween would be a snap with these handy milliner skills. I could also, at long last, crack into the DIY publishing genre with my guaranteed-best-seller, “Hello, Chapeau!”
2) Laundress: Merit Badge Requirement: Demonstrate how to remove stains; ink, fruit, rust, grass, cocoa and grease. Why must stains be removed before laundering?
Although this doesn’t mention removing spaghetti sauce stains, which I could’ve used last week one a brand new white sweater (true story), I have a feeling I’d be able to figure that one out if I can get out grease stains like a one-woman dry cleaner.
3) Canner: Girl Scout merit badge requirement: “Submit the following specimens of canning work: (a) six pint jars of two kinds of vegetables, showing the cold pack method; (b) six jars of preserved fruit, at least two kinds; (c) six glasses of jelly, jam or marmalade.”
Not only would my cupboards be continually stocked with potential (and cheap) holiday and birthday presents, but I could also earn extra cash at farmer’s markets on the weekends. Better yet, whenever I participated in an icebreaker activity that asked “Name something completely mind-blowing about yourself,” I could finally shelve my stock answer, “I’m left-handed,” while looking around at the very unimpressed faces around me, and proclaim, “I can can! Not in a kick line kind of way, but as in preserving fresh fruits and vegetables in quaint mason jars.” Clearly, I would be the queen of all ice breakers.
4) Drummer: Merit Badge Requirement: Be prepared to play all of the following taps and steps and in order further to show proficiency on the drum, perform any feat selected: 1. “Roll off”; 2. Flam (right and left hand); 3. Five-stroke roll; 4. Seven-stroke roll; 5. “Taps” step; 6. Six-eight step; 7. two-four step; 8. Single Stroke.
When I was in my early teens, I taught myself to play the guitar — upside down. If I had that drummer badge I would probably be heading to sunny Austin, TX for a slate of shows at SXSW right about now, living the dream. Granted, I’m not exactly sure which dream it would be as I wanted to be writer when I grew up, but it would be a dream nonetheless that would likely include a weathered denim jacket and a neck tattoo.
5) Hostess: Merit Badge Requirement: Demonstrate receiving, introducing and bidding guests goodbye…
Simply put, I would throw the best parties. And guests would receive a lovely “bread and butter” note the following week. What more could a lady ask for from life?
6) Photographer: Merit Badge Requirement: [Be able to explain] what constitutes a good picture?
With this badge, I might’ve had a shot at Instagram popularity. Again, what more could a lady ask for from life?