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The 8 interviews included in this collection were conducted for the Old Dominion University History course 495/595: "Recapturing Women's History: Local and National," taught by Dr. Dorothy Johnson in the Fall of 1982. Each interview includes a brief biographical sketch of the person interviewed and a typed transcript.

Georgie L. Harris became a professional Girl Scout in 1934 and a field director of Norfolk, Portsmouth and Princess Anne County. She was executive director of Virginia Tidewater Area Council of Girl Scouts from 1937 to 1963, and she retired from the Greater Tidewater Area Council of Girl Scouts in 1972.The interview discusses her background and her involvement in the development of Girl Scouts in Norfolk. Also included with the interview are a biography and bibliography.


Interview with
GEORGIE L. HARRIS

October 15 , 1982
Interviewer: Marcia S. Sergent

Listen to Interview

Transcript

SERGENT: This interview is taking place on October 15, 1982. I am Marcia Sergent and I am interviewing Miss Georgie Harris, who is also known as Buck Harris. Buck, where were you born?

HARRIS: I was born in Franklin, Virginia, September 30,1907.

SERGENT: How long have you been in the Norfolk area?

HARRIS: I came to Norfolk in March, 1934, from Southhampton School system. I was teaching in Cortland, Virginia, having done camp for about four or five years with Margaret Rangley, who was then the Executive Director of the old Norfolk Girl Scout Council. We had gone to college together and she needed someone who knew how to cut wood and so she recruited yours truly.

SERGENT: Where did you go to college?

HARRIS: I went to Randolph Macon Women's College in Lynchburg, 1926-1929. I finished with a degree, an A.B. Degree, in Psychology.

SERGENT: Did you do a lot of camping at that point, too? Had you always camped?

HARRIS: I never did what you might say resident camping-official camping. I camped on my own in my own woods at home--in my own backyard.

SERGENT: You learned how to chop wood in your backyard?

HARRIS: That's right! It was my Mother's favorite way of punishing me--was to split kindling to make seven fires in the morning at home. So I had pretty good practice!

SERGENT: Turns out the punishment was what you did the rest of your life!

HARRIS: Yeah!

SERGENT: Have you ever been or are you now married?

HARRIS: No!

SERGENT: Never have been?

HARRIS: No! Never had time!

SERGENT: So you don't have any children.

HARRIS: No. but I guess maybe I've been responsible for helping raise thousands of them and enjoyed every minute of it.

SERGENT: What kinds of organizations have you belonged to?

HARRIS: While I was working or now? Because they are entirely different.

SERGENT: Both.

HARRIS: Both. Okay. Well, when I was working I was President of Region III's Professional Group.1 I was Treasurer of the Virginia section of the American Camping Association; I was Membership Chairman of the Virginia Council of Social Workers; I was Chairman of Group Work, Recreation Division of the Council of Social Agencies here in Norfolk. I was a registered Social Worker and I belonged to the National Association of Social Workers.

SERGENT: When you say, `when you were working,' do you mean as a....

HARRIS: As a Professional Girl Scout worker and, of course, when I taught, I was a member of the Virginia Education Association. Gosh! That's been so long ago, I've sort of forgotten!

SERGENT: What do you belong to now?

HARRIS: Gosh! Right now, having been retired since 1972,I'm a member of the National Audubon Society, Cape Henry Audubon Club, National Wildlife Federation, the American Association of Retired People, and the Virginia Beach Maritime Museum. That's an entirely different avenue!

SERGENT: You sound like you're busy!

HARRIS: I am!

SERGENT: With your belonging to the National Wildlife Federation and all the Audubon societies, do you have any special hobbies or interests?

HARRIS: You name it and I've tried it or I'm doing it, one or the other. I fiddle around with refinishing furniture,I do all kinds of crafts: jewelry, counted cross-stitch (making my own designs). You know...photography.

SERGENT: If it's there you like it?

HARRIS: If it's there I like it! I'll show you my workroom. I have a work room upstairs and one downstairs. I've got one outside.

SERGENT: What do you do with your things?

HARRIS: Give them away! Give them away! It's just very interesting sometimes, and challenging, to go to somebody's house, a friend of mine, and I say, `Gee! That's a pretty picture!' And they say, `Well, you gave that to me back in 1940!' And I say, `Oh my heavens! No! Not really!'

SERGENT: When did you first become interested in Girl Scouts?

HARRIS: My Junior year in college. Ann Roos, then a young member of the National Staff, had been recruited to go into various colleges on a recruitment program for undergraduates, to try to interest them in professional scouting. And, as I said later, Margaret Rangley was a schoolmate of mine and was quite an outstanding Girl Scout in Montgomery, Alabama, and had invited Ann Roos to come down. Of course, she called on all of her friends to come take this little training course. It was there that I first had my introduction to Girl Scouting, through this initial basic training course, and I guess that was in 1928. And then, of course, when I went to teach in Cortland, I organized a Girl Scout troop there and I worked with the girls there for three or four years.

SERGENT: What did you teach?

HARRIS: Well, let's see. Basically, the fifth grade. But I did the girls' athletic program, mainly coaching basketball. And I also did a course in Library Science.

SERGENT: Very diversified! Was this an elementary school?

HARRIS: Well, you know, in those days there was one school in a little town which included the primary grades, secondary grades, and high school. So it was all one school building in one town.

SERGENT: Was the Girl Scout movement very big at that time? I know it started in the United States in 1912, didn't it?

HARRIS: Yes, and the first Council was organized in Norfolk in 1923. And from then on it began to grow and grow. Of course, it was during the years of 1938 to 1960 that it grew enormously in this area because of the influx of military personnel here. We would train people for leadership here and we served as ambassadors around the world, because the leaders we trained here would go with their husbands. We had established troops on Guam, the outposts of Japan, France, Belgium, you know...just all over! We think we were able through our training here, and our insight and interest, to bring Girl Scouting to many posts around the world that otherwise would not have had a Girl Scout opportunity. Because, let's see....Armed Forces Staff College was established somewhere around the beginning of the war, around 1942-45. They change classes every three years, I think, and everytime they changed a class, we gave a training course. The women were very responsive.

SERGENT: You had a lot of military wives that were active in the Girl Scouts?

HARRIS: That's right! And of course, they were in town such a short time, their troops were basically at the Staff College or on the bases themselves. Then they would go out and they would take their knowledge and their training with them. Sometimes they'd get into tight spots and they'd, well.... let's see.....we used to service them through the milk run-- they called it a milk run. Our planes would come into the base, we would be at the base with a supply of pins, nooks, and uniforms, and the officers would take them on back to the next post. It was really a great opportunity.

SERGENT: That's really nice. I know Girl Scouts is a worldwide movement now. Was it at that time--you're talking about 1938-1940?

HARRIS: Well, we have always had an international organization as such. In fact, one of my former professional workers who was serving on the National Board, was International commissioner: Mrs. W.R. (Jean) Capps. She was old Princess Anne District Director for about five or six years and did an outstanding job. She left the Girl Scouts here and went as a Red Cross worker, I think, to France. There she met her husband and they were married. She always continued her Girl Scouting no matter where she was. And she was the Commissioner of Girl Scouts for TOPS, which was the International Organization for service people on bases around the world.

SERGENT: That's fascinating, and she was here in this area!

HARRIS: She was here! And then one of our former people was training chairman... she was located in Germany, I think. Then, another one of my Field Directors joined the National Staff as part of a service team that serviced the European theatre. We had them all over. Once, a little girl went to Guam. She wrote back. She said, `I had such a good time at Matoaka. Matoaka is my dream of camps. It's just ideal. I am working with the Commandant here at the base in Guam, and he's given me permission to have a Girl Scout Camp here and I'm writing you to see if it would be all right if I called it Camp Matoaka.' Now, wasn't that great!

SERGENT: That was really flattering! When did Camp Matoaka start here in this area?

HARRIS: Camp Matoaka started in 1927 or 1929, I forget which. It was in operation when I came, therefore, I'm not too sure on the dates.

SERGENT: Was it the first of the resident camps in this area?

HARRIS: It was not the first resident camp that this council sponsored, but it was the first Council operated camp. Up until that time we had rented from Richmond and other Councils in Virginia.

SERGENT: You told me when you became interested in Girl Scouts, why did you become interested?

HARRIS: Well, that's a long story. Because, see, when I was teaching, I came to camp and I got to know some of these dear women like Mrs. V. Hope Kellam, Mrs. Herman Aspegren, Mrs. Legh R. Powell, Mrs. Henry Vanos, Mrs. Abner S. Pope, and Mrs. J.S. Gregory, and we became real good friends. So it was in 1934, when the Council here was thinking of getting on the bandwagon with National Organization to form area councils. They wanted to form an area council which would include Princess Anne County, Norfolk County, the cities of Portsmouth and Norfolk and Virginia Beach. That meant, they had to have additional staff. So, some of these delightful women said, `I know! Let's write Buck and see if she'll come and be our Field Director!' Well, they did. And I said, `I'm not interested! I can't be interested! Here it is, you want me to come to work in the middle of the year--in March. I've got a contract with Southhampton County Schools and I can't leave my kids in the middle of the year. Not for a long shot!' And they said, `Oh, please!' I said, `No! And I dismissed it. Besides, I had an apartment with two other girls and I couldn't leave them in the middle of the year because finances were tight in those days. So, they wrote to my Superintendent. And one day, I looked out of my window and I saw this Mr. Jenkins walking up and I thought, `Oh my heavens! What in the world is he coming?' And I knew he was headed right up the steps towards my room. He knocked on the door and he said, Miss Harris, I'd like to see you a minute.' So I appointed one of the youngsters to be a monitor and I went out in the hall and I talked to him. And he said, `They're offering you something that I think would be extremely interesting and I know you're well qualified for.' He said, `I'll tell you what you do. You go...you try until next September and if you don't like it, I'll give you your job back.' I said, `Mr. Jenkins. I can't let my kids down. I mean, they're depending on me!' He said, `Okay. I'll go one step further. I'll get the best girl I know to take your place. And I won't hire her until you have given your approval and you've seen her operate for a week in your classroom.' I said, `Well, I don't want to go.' He said, `But I want you to. You don't want to be a supervisor, you said you don't want to be a supervisor, and all I can offer you right now is $80 a month for I don't know how long.' See, I started out at $125 a month. And it was right during the Depression and the officials came down and said if you want to take a cut in salary, you can stay with us. If you don't want a cut in salary, go find another job. It's just that simple! So he said, `And they will offer you $90 a month with $10 for travel expenses.' So that means $100 a month. Well, against $80 that was a little raise you know. I said, 'Well, I don't want to but let me go home and talk with Brooks and Mary and see how they feel about it. They were my apartment-mates. So, I finally decided that I might try it on his recommendation. And I did. So, in July, I wrote him and I told him that I appreciated what he had done, and what he had said, and what he had offered. But, if it were all right with him, I thought maybe I would stay on for a while longer. Well... and there I was from 1934 and I stayed until 1972.

SERGENT: That's a long while!

HARRIS: Yep! A lot of fun! Great challenges!

SERGENT: Your position then in the movement to begin with was what?

HARRIS: Well, you see, it's hard to explain because terminology changes every third year. I came in as a Field Captain.2 If I said Field Captain now, no one would know what I was talking about. So, I don't know what they call them now, but I started out as Field Captain. And I was Field Captain for Princess Anne County, for Portsmouth, and, I guess, Norfolk County. I think that was my assignment. I can't remember that far back. Then, in 1937, the Executive Director, who was Miss Mabel White, resigned because she was getting married to Neil Gilchrist and they wanted an Executive. Well, they came to me and said, `How about moving up?' I said,`Not on your bottom dollar!' You know, I'm doing what I like to do. I'm down here with the girls, you know. Forget the Administration!' They said, `But we have to have an E.D.3!' So, for a year I did the E.D.'s job but I never accepted the title. But as time went on, I finally became the E.D. And all the time I was E.D., I directed the camp.

SERGENT: So you got to be with the girls.

HARRIS: I got to be with the girls.

SERGENT: It wasn't just administrative.

HARRIS: And, bless the Council's heart and with a good staff, I was able to operate and lead a Girl Scout troop from 1934 to 1960, I'll say.

SERGENT: So you had a troop in addition to the other.

HARRIS: I had a troop but I could not have done it without the help and the assistance of my staff and my Board.4 But, I maintain, you can not train other people to do a job that you yourself do not have a concept of what goes into that job. How could I talk about getting a patrol to function as a patrol if I myself had never worked with a Court of Honor.5 If I myself had not been there with the girls and knew what they were thinking; what they would like to do; and how they operated. So, it was good basic training for me as well as a deep insight into the fundamentals of what makes a Girl Scout troop click. And we had a wonderful time! Of course, it was in the days when money was hard to get and often times right now when I say we operated a troop on dues of 50 a week, people look at me and say, `you couldn't do it!' Oh, we went camping in the Fall, we went camping in the Spring, we had hikes, we had cook-outs, we did community service, we did everything on our own little troop budget. It's true we sold coat hangers and we collected newspaper-I think newspaper was about 200 a hundred pounds or something like that, just a minimum you know. But, we did it! And we didn't ask parents every week for another $2 or another $3. But things were cheaper in those days. Membership fees were 500 a year, now, they're $3...and that sort of thing. So,I mean, there's a difference in the cost, but there's a relative deep comparison too. And, we had what we call a uniform closet. It was in the framework of our own troop. Because girls came into a troop at ten years old and they stayed with you until they were seventeen. The younger girls looked up to the older girls for leadership, for guidance, for training, for developing skills and what have you. And when the younger girls outgrew their uniforms, they put their uniforms into a closet and they took the older girls' uniforms that they had outgrown. It was just a nice little cycle of uniform exchange. So, just one thing after another.

SERGENT: That's a good idea! During your time with the Girl Scouts were there any developments that you felt were especially important?

HARRIS: Well, I think we've talked about some of the changes. We grew from a Board control over the area to a neighborhood basis.6 I mean, we formed little segments within the Council known as districts and then neighborhoods, which brought the whole neighborhood together in a closer unit. Then, there was a breakdown...a stress...in younger girl activities, intermediate girl activities, and senior girl activities. I think right now they have Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes, and Seniors.7 Well, you know, every year we break down a little bit further and a little bit further. But anyway, I feel that we lost something when we broke our age levels down into such small units because, as I said, in our troop the young ones looked up and learned from the older girls. But anyway, training has changed, concept of financing has changed, the Administration seems to have grown to such an extent that it's so complex now, it's once removed from the girl itself. Of course, I know we have tax forms and all of those other things that come in that we weren't bothered with in those days. There was no such thing as W-2 forms and what have you. Life was just simple. It was fun. It was fun to do things with people and for people. And, I guess, basically, that's my philosophy of life.

SERGENT: With the Administration the way it is now, they very seldom have any activities with the girls. It's all administrative. Do you feel that that's not good, or it's inevitable, or...?

HARRIS: Well...Complications...Complications. If you have an organization for the girls, you've got to be down on the level of the girl. They're not so much interested... well, the same thing happens to schools. You used to go to one school and there were all the girls in the neighborhood there, You played with them after school. You played with them during the summer and that sort of thing. You knew the people. You had a feeling of belonging. Now, you have these big get-togethers which sound wonderful on paper, everybody from Timbuktu; from Newport News, from Williamsburg, from Hampton, from Franklin, from Virginia Beach, from Norfolk, they all gather and they have these big bailiwicks. They gather, they sing songs, they play games, they go on hikes, they exchange ideas, they have many discussions and that sort of thing, but very few of them leave with a sense of belonging to a particular group because they disperse. They perhaps will never see those girls again within the next six months, until they have another big gathering. And by then, they've changed their hairdos!

SERGENT: Don't recognize them anyway!

HARRIS: Don't recognize them anyway!

SERGENT: In the developments--the ones that you've mentioned of more or less. Narrowing down and having girls that range in age from one to three years difference--did you have any part in this? Did you play any role in this, either negative or positive?

HARRIS: I wouldn't say so. I was so involved in what was happening with the girl and her own activities that I just sort of followed the pattern that was handed down from the National Organization or was interpreted by our own Board people as to our needs and that sort of thing. Now, we have taken great strides into developing the International program and our actual participation in the International program as such. Well, money has gotten a little bit easier to get I guess, the way they travel to Japan and to England and that sort of thing. But, that is a small nucleus of girls who get a chance to go. Now, I know, it means involving those girls who do not go into various projects and patches and programs and that sort of thing. But, for the money spent and the activities involved, it seems to me so few people actually benefit, that concerns me a great deal. Sometimes I wonder if it's leader motivated or girl motivated.

SERGENT: That is a good question. If the girls would choose to do it that way, that only a few would really benefit.

HARRIS: Yeah.

SERGENT: Have you noticed any other changes?

HARRIS: Oh, there are changes everyday! I mean, there have been so many changes since I left in 1972, I feel like I don't even belong to the same organization. I get to a meeting and they say, `Say your Girl Scout Laws.' 8 I start with the old one-two-three you know, behind my back. I can't even follow the Laws. I can't say the Promise.9 It's, to me, for those who grew up with an organization that had the keynote of belonging--belonging to an organization that really had the fundamental basis of the essence of life in it. It's not there anymore. Now, I shouldn't be saying these things. But anyway, that's the way I feel about it. We have lost the real sense of belonging. Belonging to something that was ours. I remember I was giving a Tenderfoot pin10 to a youngster one time and I said, `Ruthie, what does `On my honor'" mean to you?' Well, she told me all the basic little things that you know on my honor means that other people can trust me, that I was going to do what I said I was going to do, and I'm not misquoting and that sort of thing. Then she hesitated and she reached up and she touched her Girl Scout pin and she said, `On my honor means that not only other people can trust me, it means I can trust myself.' Now, somebody had done a beautiful job in leadership with that youngster in giving the basic ethical code that Girl Scouting stands for...and I hope continues to stand for.

SERGENT: Do you think that the girls who are going into Girl Scouting today are basically the same as they were when you first started?

HARRIS: Oh, I think girls are basically the same by and large, whether they were born in 1890 or whether they were born in 1982. Their environment is different. They are more experienced, they are more sophisticated, they have more opportunities, their knowledge of the world around them is much more complicated then it was back when, But basically, girls are girls. They're subject to the same types of fun, they want the same things from life, and they are subject to the same temptations. I mean, life is always the same ingredients they're just more complicated, that's all. And of course, I know our degree of handling these things have to be modified and have to be increased but, by and large, they are the same.

SERGENT: With so many more of the women in the labor force now, do you foresee a problem for the Girl Scouts in obtaining volunteer leaders?

HARRIS: There shouldn't be, because the same desire on the part of a good leader, the same desire is there whether she is working or whether she is not working. She has the desire to serve. And I think whether working or not you are always going to find people who want to belong, people who want to work with girls, people who want to share their abilities and that sort of thing. They're always going to be there. We're going to have to look different places for that leadership. We're going to have to stretch our vision a little broader and reach out into and seek out the help of the institutions and the offices where these women are working and find them. I mean, we've taken by and large, the easy way of going and saying to a lady that pushes a baby carriage down the street on Mondays and Wednesdays and Fridays, `Hey! That's a Girl Scout leader! She doesn't have anything else to do!' But we fail to do a good recruiting program in reaching out to where the women are who want to do these things. And if you have a bill of goods to sell you've got to reach the client. You can't expect the client to come to you. Not regularly, anyway. A person likes to be asked. And enjoys being able to serve. It shouldn't...recruiting volunteers should not be, in fact, I'm amazed right now. I am volunteering one day a week at Seashore State Park, working in the Visitor's Center. Soon, when the weather gets a little colder, we will leave the Visitor's Center and go out on the trails, police the trails and the campgrounds and that sort of thing. But it's amazing to me that the people who find...Remember last year when they said we were going to have to close the State Park unless we find some volunteers? They made a personal appeal and set a time and a date for people to come to the Park to register to do that job. And some of those people worked all summer long, right through the heat, the mosquitos, and everything else. They're still doing it! Because they love to do it! I remember one time I went to see a Principal about getting a troop in his school. He just did not have time to sit down and talk to me. He was interested in what was going on... on the playground, he was interested in getting to a teachers' group. And as I left the door I said, `Well,okay. I might come back to see you again.' And as I left, I looked over in the cabinet and there was a collection of rocks. I said, `Oh! Are you interested in rocks?' Honey, he dropped everything he was doing and talked to me one half an hour on rocks...where he's been...what kind they were. Didn't have time to talk to me about Girl Scouts but once I got interested in his rocks then easily I converted him into Girl Scouting because I told him that he had the greatest opportunity in the world of creating within the hearts and minds of the youngsters there in the school an interest in his own hobby. Well, next week we had a Girl Scout troop going on in his school. You've got to get the people where their interest is. Now, Girl Scouting has broadened its base of activities to meet the needs of the modern world. The Handbook has been revised three or four times, including new fields of interest, new badgework, new approaches to badges, and that sort of thing, which is all great. You just can't do the old type of program which fit the needs of the thirties in a 1980 regime. It has to change. Those changes are fine, but I hope Girl Scouting will never lose its fundamental principle of patrol organization and its ethical code. Because, that makes Girl Scouting unique. Girl Scouting is a neighborhood oriented program, not a building oriented program. If we have to say anything, it's oriented in the great out-of-doors within the framework of the neighborhood boundaries. Learning to be creative.

SERGENT: You've already touched on some of the ideas you've got for recruiting adults, I'm a little concerned over the prevalent attitude of, `I don't have time, I work, I can't do it.'

HARRIS: Just don't say, `Oh, come meet with the girls, it won't take much of your time.' Lay the facts on the table. When you do a Girl Scout troop it's almost like getting involved in church work. It's a twenty-four hour a day assignment.

SERGENT: It's a commitment, too.

HARRIS: It's a real commitment, a deep commitment, and if you don't have it, then the recruiter should recognize that right away, and go play ball in another field. Now, in recruiting, sometimes you went in to recruit a leader and you can almost recognize immediately that that person is not the leadership qualities that you are looking for. But, she might be the ideal person for a finance committee or a training committee or a site-development committee for a camp or something of that sort, because that's where... all right, change the subject, nail it down to that particular kind of a situation. A recruiter has to be a person of many skills. She has to be able to recognize facts, qualities, and basically an understanding of people. The person's needs that she's talking to and the person's needs with whom she's going to be working.

SERGENT: It sounds like the Principal with his rocks. You approach them from what they're most interested in and where their abilities lie. But that takes time on the part of a recruiter also.

HARRIS: That's right. And you can't do it by a telephone call. It's got to be something one to one basis. It's got to be a real feel.

SERGENT: A heart-to-heart way of teaching.

HARRIS: A heart-to-heart talk. Right! And sometimes it's not always the woman that has children. Some of the best leaders I've ever seen in my life are women who have never had children. Maybe they wanted children. Maybe they needed children. But they have something to give and they have been wonderful.

SERGENT: If you have a chance to list some of the ideals that you wanted to give to your scouts, the girls that you worked with, what would they be?

HARRIS: All Right. The greatest thing would be self-resourcefulness, understanding yourself, knowing what you have to give, realizing that you yourself are one of a group but you yourself have certain abilities. You can't do it like Susie did it, you've got to do it like you do it. All right, self- resourcefulness, creativeness, to find beauty and understanding in God's great universe, whether it is doing something with your hands, whether creating with the pen, whether creating with the mind, or whether just taking everyday mundane things and making something that's beautiful out of it. Creativeness. What bothers me in this day and time is youngsters don't seem to be able to laugh. To laugh and to have just solid good fun. That's one thing that I think every Girl Scout troop should do is to even have a laughing corner where everybody goes and learns to laugh. Not laugh at but to laugh with. To laugh and to learn. To have fun! Then, I think you have to step back and look at yourself and say, `Now, I can do certain things but Susie can do certain things.' You've got to learn to appreciate the contribution of others to the group. To give them a chance. To let them be first sometimes and you step aside. Every dog has its day, you know. So, that's one of the important things. I remember one day I was doing a troop in an underprivileged neighborhood and I thought I would never get those youngsters to be able to come to an opinion without fighting...you know, arguing, bickering. And one day, I said to one of them, I said, `Why is it that you still come to the Girl Scout troop?' She said, `You know why I come to the Girl Scout troop now?' I said, No. But I certainly would like to know!' She said, `It's the one place I can come where I can get what I want and what I need and don't have to fight for it.' I said, `Well, we've done something, you know!' Well, it takes a long time sometimes but you work at it long enough, it takes place. And I think it all goes back a lot to what Juliet Low11 said-I don't know which handbook it's in, but it's in the front of one of the handbooks-it said, `It's not whether you won or lost, but it's how you played the game.' And I think in every Girl Scout troop that's the thing that's important, how you played the game. You played it not for yourself, but for the group as a whole. Then, I think along in all of this the leader must create a sense of wonder. What it's all about. You can do it through your study of the stars. You can do it through the observation of things that grow, birds that fly, just everything! Did you ever take the little bud of a Tulip Poplar leaf? There's a big leaf, then there's another little sepal that you pull down, there's another little leaf, you pull the next one down, until you can get down to the most minute formation of a leaf. But each is folded just perfectly. How? Why? When? A sense of wonder in everything that you see and feel and you taste. It's great!

SERGENT: Is some cases I guess it would be like opening their eyes to the world.

HARRIS: That's right. As one youngster said to me one time, she said, `You know-we were talking about what camping meant to her and that sort of thing-I've been looking all of my life, just looking, just looking. But I have just begun to see things. I see design in the twirl of this little vine, I see design in the way these leaves cluster.' There it is! It's there, all we have to do is look!

SERGENT: Sometimes I guess we get too busy.

HARRIS: I have to tell you this one. This is a good one. We were out on a hike one day and I said, 'Want to see something real pretty?' `Yes, ma'am!' "Okay, I'm going to show you something that very few people see and you might not see it much longer because it only grows on the north side of the hill. It's Trailing Arbutus. Now, I want you to kneel down on your knees and I want you to smell. I want you to look at the tiny little blossoms and remember what they look like. Remember what they smell like. But don't say a word.' And they all knelt down and they smelled and they looked. And as they smelled them, one or two of them had the most divine smile on their faces and so when they got up I said, `Hon, what did it smell like?' And she said, `Oh! It smelled just like my Mommy!' I thought, `My soul! That is the sweetest thing I ever heard in my whole life!' Cause if you've ever smelled arbutus you know it has the most divine, the most delicate of odors, and to think that that youngster had associated that with the love and the tenderness and the caring of a mother. It was just heart-rending! It really was! One day we were out and we saw a whole bunch of Lady Slippers. You know, you don't find Lady Slippers growing all over the fields like Queen Anne's Lace and Daisies and Dandelions. You have to look for them. But in this particular cluster there must have been hundreds because it was a nice pine thicket you know, with pine straw all over the ground. And they were just having the best time. I mean, the Lady Slippers were. They were growing in little clumps here and little clumps here and little clumps here! And one youngster dropped down on her knees and put her arms around a whole bunch of Lady Slippers and she said, `Oh, Buck! This looks exactly like little ladies comin' out of church after church on Sunday. Just talkin' and having such a good time, chatting and gossiping and telling the news.' You know, that's what happens at a country church. It doesn't happen in city churches, but in a country church, which this little girl was a member, they all gather outside and have the best time. Wonderful things happen when you get a bunch of girls out at a troop meeting on a trail. They say the most wonderful things.

SERGENT: It's sometimes amazing how insightful they can be.

HARRIS: But you've got to listen. And sometimes you have to listen very very carefully.

SERGENT: Do you think your philosophy toward the Girl Scouts is different now then it was when you first started?

HARRIS: No. My philosophy of living, my philosophy in relation to the Girl Scouts originally, and my philosophy towards people will always remain the same. Because, I think definitely it's a philosophy of steadfastness of faith. Faith that doubt, failure, disappointment, nothing else can shatter it, it's there. You know it's early morning. You know the sun is going to come up. There's no question about it... it always has and it always will. That's a faith! Whether you see it or not, it comes up. I don't know whether that's a philosophy or not, but it's a good way to live and along with that you've got to love the next guy. You've really got to love him! And be able to share with him. Friendships that are deep and rich and hold against the tide. My philosophy has not changed. It's a crude one, but it's a steadfast one.

SERGENT: How would you like to be remembered?

HARRIS: You mean I want to build a building or I want to conquer the world?

SERGENT: When somebody says something about you, how would you like to be remembered?

HARRIS: I'd like to be remembered as a pat on the head to a youngster who needs encouragement. I'd like to be remembered by a smile to a person that had been in trouble. Oh, you know, I remember one day, it was Christmas Eve. I was walking down Granby Street and I was feeling just beautiful! Beautiful all on the inside. And this dear little lady was sort of trudging along and I sort of smiled at her and spoke to her. In a few minutes she came up to me in the store and she said, `Lady, I want to tell you. That smile that you gave me on the street just a few minutes ago, lifted my soul and I've been happy ever since.' Okay, That's what I would like to be remembered for! I'd like to be remembered as a friend, a real friend, to everybody that my life has touched in some way shape, form, or fashion. Just be remembered in their hearts. I would like to be remembered as a person who gives of oneself. And who will live in the hearts of others always.

SERGENT: Well, I know I'll remember you that way! Thank you very much for your time. I have enjoyed it!

HARRIS: It's been great! I like to remember...I like to recall. And as you remember, and as you recall, there's so many faces, there's so many events, there's so many times that flash back and you relive, you recall. It's a joy! Thank you for coming!


Notes

1. Region III's Professional Group: Girl Scout organization whose members gave operational services to area Councils in Middle Atlantic States. Now obsolete.

2. Field Captain: Current position in Council is Field Executive. Responsible for helping Service Units carry out Council objectives.

3. E.D.: Refers to the Executive Director of the Girl Scout Council.

4. Board: Group of volunteers elected by the Council for a specific term whose responsibility is to make policy decisions and set direction for the Council.

5. Court of Honor: A system of representative democracy. Consists of Patrol Leaders and the Troop Leader. Represents all the members of the troop in setting policy and making decisions.

6. Neighborhood: Geographic, operational unit managed by selected group of administrative volunteers, now called Service Units.

7. Originally the Scout program was divided as such: Brownie Scouts, ages 7-10; Intermediate Scouts, ages 10-14; and Senior Scouts, ages 15-18. The current rankings which became effective around 1963, are Brownies, ages 6-8; Juniors, ages 9-11; Cadettes, ages 12-14; and Seniors, ages 15-17.

8. Girl Scout Laws: Refer to background paper.

9. Girl Scout Promise: Refer to background paper.

10. Tenderfoot Pin: Refers to the trefoil Girl Scout pin earned as a Tenderfoot Scout, the first rank in the Intermediate Scout program. Now obsolete.

11. Juliette Low: Founder of the Girl Scout movement in the United States.

Interview Information

See her Obituary from The Virginian-Pilot.

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