Girl Scouts vs. Campfire Girls

The other day I was in Alameda, on my way to the Hobnob for brunch with a friend who is designing my writing website. Since it was a Sunday and the downtown Alameda area is very crowded I had to park in Fresno and walk. As I was passing a corner Starbucks I saw them. The cookie crack dealers. Girl Scouts. The picture of Thin Mints stockpiled in my freezer was just too much. I was lured onto the rocks by their siren song and left with my purse full of two boxes of the addictive confections.

This started me thinking about my own childhood. Let’s go back in time shall we? When I was little I was a Bluebird and then a Campfire Girl. We had Brownies and Girl Scouts at our school as well. Why did I choose one organization over the other? Was it for social outreach reasons? Not really, I was 7, we made macaroni pictures! Was it the mints vs. the cookies? Partly but not really. It was fashion.

Totally. Even at a young age I chose the Campfire Girl organization because their uniforms were cuter. Period. End of story. For those of you unfamiliar, Bluebirds and Brownies are the “junior” levels to what will eventually be Campfire Girls and Girl Scouts. I’m sure there is a similar thing for boys but I honestly don’t care.

You see, the Bluebird and Campfire outfits were blue and tailored and smart-looking with a cute little cap. The Brownies were dressed in .. well, brown. Girl Scouts were in Kelly Green. I thought they looked like refuges from basic training. Years later when the movie “Camp Beverly Hills” came out, I totally got Shelly Long’s character wanting to tailor and overhaul the Wilderness Girl’s uniform.

Here is a Bluebirds uniform and a Brownies uniform to prove my point:

I tried looking on-line for a Campfire girls uniform from my youth. I was unable to find images of anything I wore as a child. Suffice it to say it was all blue with a white blouse, tailored vest and a blue cap. It looked cute. The Girl Scout green dress still looked like a sack. They also had berets which are not cool. Here is what a Girl Scout uniform in my day looked like:

Girl Scouts do NOT look like this (except during the new slut parade that use to be Halloween):

So what does this have to do with cookies? Absolutely nothing. It just makes me glad some organizations from my childhood are still going strong. I’m glad the uniforms have improved a little, ecstatic to see girls and their parents out peddling cookies instead of acid or guns and a bit sad that I haven’t seen a Campfire girl in a coon’s age. How long do raccoons live anyway? Five – seven years? That’s about right. It had to be at least seven years ago that I saw a few lone Campfire girls at the Embarcadero BART station selling Campfire Girl mints. I love those things! I hoarded them like they were gold. I have never seen them again. Perhaps they were sent by a kindly God who heard my inner yearnings for the sugar treats of my childhood? Then again, it seems like you can find them on-line: I have no idea if they taste the same.

It appears Campfire Girls are a dying breed while Girl Scouts flourish by the millions. I wonder if there was a deeper plan?

That looks like the answer. Just play it safe. Buy the cookies. Don’t go the way of the Campfire Girls. Eat those Thin Mints and live to fight another day.

Posted on February 28, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.

  1. Used to describe a long period of time; roughly 8 and a half years

  2. Pet Peeve:

    Brownies ARE Girl Scouts! This seems to be a common perception because Cub Scouts aren’t Boy Scouts and apparently Bluebirds aren’t Campfire Girls (I know nothing about Campfire Girls, so I’m taking your word on that). Girl Scout is a general term for everyone involved in the organization. We have Daisy Girl Scouts, Brownie Girl Scouts, Junior Girl Scouts (the ones with the kelly green uniforms you just called “Girl Scouts”), Cadette Girl Scouts, Senior Girl Scouts, Ambassador Girl Scouts, and Adult Girl Scouts (leaders and volunteers like me). The name just tells you how old the Girl Scout in question is.

    Also, those uniforms are very out of date. I’m sorry if you were growing up during one of the ugly uniform phases, they’ve changed them quite a few times since the organization was founded. The berets you speak of are now worn only rarely by Brownies (usually just ones whose mothers have nostalgia for them), and the other age groups don’t have them at all. Most girls just wear the vest or sash with regular clothes, unless they’re doing something official with the council, but here are the current formal uniforms:

    Brownie Girl Scouts:
    Junior Girl Scout (also has the option of a vest):

    • As I mention, Bluebirds are Campfire Girls. They are the young version. Just like Brownies are the young version of Girl Scouts. They are the little girls. I’m thinking I joined Bluebirds when I was seven and the next year was old enough to be a Campfire Girl. It was decades and decades ago so I don’t remember my age exactly. I don’t remember my first grade teachers name either though I do remember all my grade school teachers after that. Memory is a funny and spotty thing. As I posted in my blog I am talking specifically about my experiences when I was young. So, yes the uniforms were ugly which was why, as I said, I picked Bluebirds and then “graduated” to Campfire Girls based 100% on the uniforms. Yes, the uniforms are out of date because I am speaking specifically of when I was young.

  3. You might be interested to know that, historically, it was the Campfire Girls that was considered the sister organization to the Boy Scouts.

    Campfire started the same year as the Boy Scouts (1910), whereas the Girl Scouts came along a year later. Up until 1971, Campfire Girls were allowed to be participants in the BSA’s Explorer posts (14+), but that year the Explorer program officially became co-ed.

    Campfire went co-ed in 1975, and its membership is now almost equally divided between boys and girls. Other than that, Campfire has also distinguished itself by making a point of stressing its diversity, including on the grounds of race, religion (or lack thereof!) and sexual orientation. However, I think they have largely done away with uniforms in the process.

  4. Margo Anderson

    I was a Girl Scout in the 1960s, when we still wore the classic shirtwaist dresses designed by Mainbocher. Junior and Senior Girl Scouts wore berets, and Brownies wore beanies. We were encouraged to wear them to school on meeting days.

  5. i want 2 be a girl scout

  6. Well, Girl Scouts are also losing membership (I think), so it’s not like they’re flourishing. ‘Last I heard, they’ve been trying to revamp their image with the “Studio 4B” charm-bracelet thing.

    Oh, and the older girls’ uniforms are now khaki and fitted better (no culottes!). Cargo pants, zip-front stretch shirts, khaki vest/sash, etc. Better image.

  7. Ha ha .. it was Studio2B and they abandoned that after a few years. They are now on “Journeys” and discontinuing all of the badges except for the select few that will fit into their Journey theme.

  8. Campfire’s collapse dates from their whole-hearted embrace of social-engineering and extremist inclusiveness.

    When the boys were brought into the program, the girls felt robbed of something especially for them and the sense of identity was lost. Girls who lived and breathed the CampFire law were suddenly made to feel excluded and unwelcome by the new obsession with alternate lifestyles, non-traditionally structured families, and the sexual orientation of gradeschoolers.
    It seemed that the program imploded overnight. In an area where Campfire groups out numbered Girl Scout troops in many schools, it disappeared so totally that I had thought the program had gone entirely out of business nationwide. It was only recently that I found out that it’s hanging on in a few states.

    Now, American Heritage Girls groups are springing up like wildflowers out of the parched earth after a spring rain. In this area, new groups are forming as fast as leaders can be found and existing groups often have waiting lists. AHG attempts to capture the strengths of the old Campfire and Girl Scouting programs, and is rebuilding the good relationship with the Boy Scouts that Campfire discarded. Uniforms provide a sense of identity and level the playing field between economic stratas. Younger AHG members wear a uniform much like a BlueBird’s.

    The landscape is changing. Now that Girl Scouting has dropped achievement badges, eliminated religious awards, and embraced the “Journeys” program that younger family members have derided as “Too much like homework”, it has too little to offer today’s girls and it is dwindling, though perhaps not so rapidly as Campfire did.

  9. Interesting post and discussion. I grew up in Campfire and stuck with it up into middle school I believe. My memory is faulty too. 🙂 I LOVED the program. When my daughter turned 7 I looked into signing her up for a program. Unfortunately we moved from the west coast to the east coast where Campfire is nonexistent. I looked at into Girl Scouts and was very hesitant thinking their ‘inclusiveness’ to diversity was similar to boy scouts. I was happy to find out that the program was nonreligious based and very open to diversity, whether it was family structure, religious background or orientation. While we are very much a typical family in all aspects, I want a program for my daughter that would teach inclusiveness.

    Girl Scouts is doing a pretty good job of blowing itself up too.. mostly because I think they are getting away from their original objective. *shrug* Life changes, you gotta roll with it, right? There is also another new program called Frontier Girls which is more akin to Girl Scouts of old, with far less religion based than heritage girls. Don’t know what they’ll be selling. 😉

    Sargentspeaks.. I’m thinking you didn’t make it that far into Campfire, then you would know without a doubt that campfire has its own line of horrible uniforms. 😉 You’ve must never have been the proud owner of the ceremonial paperbag gown. Once or twice a year I got to dress up like an indian maiden with a fringed gown overlayed with a beaded ‘thing’. LOL I was proud of every bead, but fashionista I was not.

    BTW – skip the mints and the cookies.. its all about the almond roca!

  10. i have a picture i found with a doll wearing a campfire girl uniform if you like and can email it to you and you can add it to your post please let me know my email is looneytami@

  11. The old 1970s uniforms are fine – loved wearing them as a kid! And….I don’t remember any religious stuff in Girl Scouts, but then again…our troops were tied to the local elementary schools.

  12. I’m a campfire girl! I always thought we were better than the girl scouts because we would actually camp and learn wilderness survival, while my friends in girl scouts camped at Hotels… No joke o-o

    • Always a Campfire Girl

      I too was a Camp Fire Girl, beginning with Bluebirds. I was not going to wear that ugly brown uniform or the green one either. I loved our red, white and blue. Patriotic if you may. At the time I was involved, we sold Russell Stover Candy that was specifically marketed in boxes for the Camp Fire Organization. I was always proud to wear my uniform on meeting days, Campfire Birthday and week. My group always did more than the Brownies and Girl Scouts.

  13. Hotels? Not my girl scout troop. As Brownies we “camped out” in the troop leaders backyard, but learned firebuilding, cooking in coffee cans some kind of stew dinner, and of course learned how to make SMORES!!!!!!!!!!!!! then we learned how to safely put out a fire, conserve water for washing, teethbrushing, putting up the old canvas tents, how to properly store our food items at night so not to attract wildlife, construct a camp shower, wilderness potty room. I am amazed that you all didn’t do any of this. We got to go to summer camps for any where from 1 week up to 3 weeks and got to practice all that we had learned in our individual troops back in the city.

  14. I was a Bluebird and Camp Fire Girl too! during the first half of the ’60’s in Phoenix, Arizona. I loved every minute of it. I agree with Sargentspeaks that fashion probably influenced me on some level when it came to choosing Campfire over Girl Scouts. I have some old 35-mm slides of myself and my fellow Bluebirds in our uniform — very visually pleasing. I also agree with Talia about the emphasis in Camp Fire on camping and wilderness survival. In Phoenix especially, these were fascinating, memorable lessons and experiences. I am trying to remember more of those times. Back then, I believe our annual fundraising activity was selling Stover’s nuts and candies. I was a terrible salesperson, but I tried. Thanks Sargentspeaks for this blog post. I will say too that I never learned anything about the Girl Scouts, so I don’t know if I would have enjoyed it as well. All I can say is that I have no regrets at having been in Camp Fire. It was everything it advertised itself to be and more!

    • It’s so great to hear from a fellow Bluebird as I think they are mostly extinct now in the Bay Area which is sad. We did some wilderness stuff but not as much as I would have liked. So glad to hear your story!

  15. Nicole McGuill

    Sargentspeaks – its been 6 month since I posted and I tripped over this blog again. 🙂 I was online again looking for a picture of the old camp fire uniforms to send to a friend (because I’m lazy). I was searching my basement for missing Christmas decorations and yes, I had one of those horrible paper bag dresses AND I found it!! I was considering cutting it up for a costume for my daughter. DD is doing a native american project as school and they have to dress up. The only thing that stopped me is that my mother made (who has since passed) and she did such a good job I thought I was store bought. My best memory of that ceremonial uniform was being able to run around with a torch. LOL I must have been proud of all those beads because I don’t recall being deathly embarrassed to wear it… or maybe I’m just blocking it.

    • That really sounds fabulous! It is amazing what we wear as kids with no fear. Hell, I wore a cardboard crown for a week to school and refused to take it off. I think it just shows our sense of individuality, freedom and forward thinking fashion!

  16. I was a blue bird and campfire girl, too!!! This was in the San Fernando Valley in the mid-70’s and later in L.A. I loved them. I loved pretty uniforms.

    At my school, I was invited to visit with both groups. The day I visited the brownies/girl scouts, it happened to be the birthday of a little girl who accused me of only visiting that day so I could have some of her cake.

    Hateful ninny aside, I chose the bluebirds/campfire girls for the beautiful uniforms, too. To this day, I still like to dress in beautiful colors and not drab browns or olive greens. BLEH!

  17. Always a Campfire Girl

    Camp Fire Birthday is coming up: March 17. Depending on how you look at it we’re 100-102 years old. Cut and pasted the following from “Wikipedia”

    Camp Fire USA


    Kansas City, Missouri


    United States


    informally 1910; formally March 17, 1912


    Luther Gulick, M.D.
    Charlotte Gulick



    Nation Board Chair

    Gwen Whitson

    Nation Board Vice Chair

    Glenn Cravez


    Cathy Tisdale


  18. I was a Bluebird/Campfire Girl in the early to mid 1960s. I really wanted to be a Girl Scout like my mom had been (I thought badges were neat but wasn’t too impressed with beads) but we moved to an area that only had Campfire. I remember selling the mints: They were 50 cents a box back then! When I started junior high, our leader decided we’d do 4H instead. I was amazed when I got to high school and found out there were still girls my age doing Campfire.

  19. Kimberly Cherrix

    I was a Bluebird, then Adventure Girl from 1974-1977 in eastern Massachusetts, but we didn’t have boys in our council. I LOVED it too. I especially loved earning beads and sewing my own designs on my vest using the beads. The vest was much cooler than the sash! I have pics of me in my Adventure red vest and blue skirt but don’t think I have any in the Bluebird uniform. I would love to see an old Bluebird uniform too.

  20. Ok I will admit…. I was a Camp Fire Girl….. from BlueBirds thru Adventures… I even still have my beaded Blue vest and a couple of Large ziplock bags full of beads….as well as my Indian dress….Why you ask… well you see.. My Dad was a BSA scoutmaster and my Brother was involved… I loved going along and doing the stuff the Guys did… The older I get Im thankful for the experiences and training I recieved as a CFG…Today I take that train even further… I am now a BSA Leader and Proud of my Past training….
    Unfortunely My daughter never got to experience CFG’s they have disbanded in my area.. but
    She has followed along with the BSA experience and has learned alot…

  21. I just wanted to let you know that I too was a bluebird. But it didn’t last very long. You see I was such a Tom boy growing up always wanting and sometimes wearing my older brothers pants.

    • I left out an important fact, I didn’t like wearing dresses. Cus in maybe first grade I was getting a drink of water when this boy ran behind me lifting up my dress. Ever since then I didn’t like wearing dresses.

      • My granddaughter just told me that the Girl scouts do camp out in the wilderness sometimes. And said that she bets that the campfire girls would get scared.

  22. Karen Raines

    I have my grandmothers campfire girl uniform. I remember her telling me they had to make them theirselves. It is brown and looks alot like a indian maiden outfit. I believe she was a campfire girl in Massachusetts around 1912.

  23. I was a campfire girl, I friggin hated the girl scouts. Let’s face it beads rock! My daughter brought home a scout flyer from school, i promplty burned it and informed her that i would lead a campfire group if i had to, but she would not be a scout (people like candy more than cookies anyway, and really diet cookies, please). So here I am leading a campfire group, i have no idea what I am doing, but we are having a great time. Campfire is still alive, but seems to have faded a little. We have only about eight girls in our city (Santa Maria, CA) five of which are in my new group.

    But as God is my witness, when we have our first candy sale next year, the scouts better be afraid… very afraid. We plan on flooding the valley with mints, almond roca, pnuttles and whatever else campfire might give us to sell! And you can bet baby that none of it is going to be diet!

    • Good for you Heather! Santa Maria isn’t too far from the Bay Area. I have been CRAVING campfire mints for years and thin mint cookies don’t cut it. I will drive to Santa Maria to support the Campfire Girls!

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