It’s Girl Scout-cookie season again, which traditionally begins right after deer season, and is followed by Lent.
This is the time of year when words like “Samoas,” “Shortbread Trefoils,” “Do-si-dos,” and “Tagalongs” become household names. A season when many of us transition to wearing sweatpants full-time because we love cookies.
I miss seeing Girl Scouts selling cookies in neighborhoods and supermarkets. A pandemic put a stop to these things, and it’s a shame because I always purchase mass amounts.
Some years ago, two Girl Scout Daisies (kindergarten-age recruits) visited my porch selling cookies. If you’ve never met a Daisy, make it your objective to do so. You will die from cuteness overload.
I told the Daisies that I wanted to buy 100 boxes. I was joking, of course, but they didn’t realize this.
One of the girls had to be revived with cold water. Her friend shouted, “Ohmygosh! Mom! A hundred boxes!”
Whereupon the girl’s mother (this is true) said: “That means we win a pink Cadillac!”
The reason I regularly order cookies is not only because they’re delicious, but because I believe in these girls. I believe in their values. I believe in their organization. I believe in refined sugar.
My grandmother was a Girl Scout in the early 1920s. My mother was a Girl Scout. My wife was a Girl Scout Brownie—which is the same as a regular Scout, except they don’t file income taxes.
The Girl Scouts represent one of the finest institutions this country has ever produced, and that’s not an opinion. Take, for example, troop leader Miss Emma Hall.
In 1913, during an era of flagrant racism, Miss Emma’s “Red Rose Troop,” in New Bedford, Massachusetts, was welcoming African-American Girl Scouts into its group. And keep in mind, this was happening seven years before American women had the right to vote; and 50 years before public schools would be integrated.
I’m telling you, these girls are cool.
I first fell in love with the Girl Scouts when I had a gig writing for a small publication in Savannah, Georgia. My assignment was to cover local history.
One day I was interviewing a local historian in a coffee shop when this historian said, “Have you ever visited the Juliette Gordon Low house?”
“The what house?” I said.
In a few minutes this historian had whisked me across town to Oglethorpe Avenue for an impromptu tour of the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouts. And I was overwhelmed.
The more I learned about these Scouts, the more I liked them. This organization did more than introduce values of inclusion and self-confidence during an era when women were trivialized. These Scouts also introduced our nation to perhaps the most cherished American pastime ever established.
I am, of course, referring to Thin Mints®.
The first Girl Scout cookies trace their origins back to 1917, a year fraught with heartache and violence. There was a World War on. Twenty million men were dying overseas. Newspapers were reporting rumors of a possible Spanish Flu epidemic on the horizon.
A few girls from the “Mistletoe Troop” in Muskogee, Oklahoma, started baking and selling cookies in a high-school cafeteria to raise money to send gifts to troops. These soldiers would have been the girls’ brothers, uncles, and fathers.
The cookies were an instant hit. They became so popular that by the 1920s, Girl Scouts all over the nation were using the same simple sugar cookie recipe to raise money.
Back then, the cost of ingredients was about 25 cents per each seven dozen cookies. The girls would bake several batches in one afternoon, often on woodstoves, making serious attempts to burn down their homes without parental supervision. They would turn around and sell these cookies at 35 cents per dozen.
In other words, they were raking it in, hand over merit badge.
By the ‘30s about 127 Girl Scout councils in America were holding cookie sales. By the 1950s, Girl Scout cookies were a national thing, baked in commercial bakeries and delivered door-to-door by hand. By the ‘60s all Americans, no matter what their creed, shape, or denomination, had the God given opportunity to eat these sacred cookies and gain serious adipose tissue.
I don’t have to tell you that the Scouts are still going strong today. Currently there are about 2.5 million Girl Scouts in 92 countries. In an average cookie-year, 1.7 million girl members raise about $800 million dollars.
The remarkable thing about this is that one hundred percent of the money that’s raised stays within local councils and troops, which makes the Girl Scouts of America a very uniquely run organization. Especially when compared to, say, televangelism.
And so, amidst this pandemic, I wanted to remind everyone that the Scouts are still open for business. The selling methods are different, the girls are using socially distant ways to keep customers safe. But the idea is the same.
I am writing this because I believe in these kids. I admire what they stand for, I love what they do. And I want them to know that I support them. In fact, I just ordered my annual cookies online because, let it be stated here, my household supports our local troops.
During this COVID era, each one of these young women deserves to know that they, like their predecessors, have made my life infinitely more sunny. Not just because of their cookies, but because in this troubled world, these girls are brave enough to call themselves Scouts.