Girl Scouting is a time-honored tradition in many families and Linda Scaggs’ family is no different.
This summer, Scaggs and her two daughters, Katie, a 10-year-old Girl Scout Junior, and Elizabeth, a 7-year-old Girl Scout Brownie, made the trek from Southern Maryland to Chicago to visit Scaggs’ parents, Elaine and Walter J. Valters, and learn more about their family’s history in Girl Scouts. With her parents in tow, the family made its way to Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana’s Friendship Center in Country Club Hills, Illinois to revisit the past.
“I wanted my girls to get a better understanding of why they’re Girl Scouts,” Scaggs said. “The trip stirred up so many memories. I think everyone should have the opportunity to do that.”
At the Friendship Center, the family had the chance to see pictures of and uniforms worn by Gertrude Gerken Valters, Scagg’s grandmother and Walter J. Valters’ mother. Elizabeth and Katie even got to try on parts of their great-grandmother’s uniform!
“When my grandparents passed away, we cleaned out their house. We had all of my grandmother’s Girl Scouting stuff and my aunts donated her items,” explained Scaggs. “We knew it was all on display somewhere and I wanted my daughters, who are fifth-generation Girl Scouts, to see it. I encourage everyone who has family history in Girl Scouting and Boy Scouting to reach out and learn more about it. You never know what you’re going to turn up.”
Longtime Girl Scouts and volunteer council historians, Carol Macola and Pat Walenga, showed the family all of the artifacts on site that belonged to Gertrude Gerken Valters, who was born in 1912 (the same year Girl Scouts was founded).
“I’d never seen some of the pictures from when my grandmother was an actual Girl Scout,” Scaggs said. “It was so moving. I can understand why my family members are the way they are – it all comes from my grandmother being influential with her can-do attitude. I didn’t realize how many awards she’d won. The whole experience was very eye-opening. I really enjoyed it.”
Gertrude Gerken Valters joined Troop 1 in Chicago’s Norwood Park in 1924 and was the troop leader from 1933 until she passed away in 1981.
Because of the troop’s proximity to O’Hare International Airport, the troop operated as a Wing Scout troop, Walenga said. These troops were popular during World War II for girls who were interested in flying, according to Girl Scouts of the USA.
“It was very cool to see the connection,” Walenga said of the family’s visit. “It’s the magic thread of Girl Scouting. It’s those shared values that bond us all together. But it’s not a thread, it’s more like a giant, throbbing anaconda. We’re looped together much more closely than I imagine a thread could ever do.”
Scaggs was also grateful for the opportunity to share her family’s history and love of Girl Scouting with her daughters.
“Girl Scouts taught me so many lessons,” she said. “You’re a part of a team. At the meetings, you all work on things together. You look out for each other. There’s a sense of community. It’s like a family reunion. Girl Scouts is a second family.”