Singing Scouts recount memories, songs at reunion
They looked for familiar names on each other’s name tags and found images of their teenage selves in old photos, but it was when they started to sing old songs that the memories came flooding back.
Earlier this month, more than two dozen former members of the Bethel Logan Singing Scouts gathered in Washington for a reunion organized by former leader Laurine Williams and her family.
Williams, whose three daughters, Debby Williams Rudy, Diane Williams Lindley and Denise Williams Furuya, were Girl Scouts, was an active troop leader.
She majored in music in college and, as Diane remembers, their home was always filled with songs, many her mother wrote, alone or with family members.
“There were poems for every occasion,” Diane Williams Lindley said.
At age 88, Williams still has fond memories of the scouting days and organizing the Bethel Logan Singing Scouts.
“We were riding home from camp and we were singing as we always were,” she said. “Margery Walter was sitting in the back seat and she said ‘Why don’t we sing more in Scouts?’”
It was then that Williams decided to form a group of singing Girl Scouts.
She got approval from the local council and recruited 19 Scouts who loved to sing. That was in 1960. Until 1968, Girl Scouts from troops throughout the South Hills performed with the group.
“After two rehearsals I knew that if we were going to keep this going, I had to get them in front of an audience,” she said.
Williams approached the Scout neighborhood association and asked if the group could perform at the association’s next meeting.
After that, the Bethel Logan Singing Scouts became a sought-after group, performing at Girl Scout events as well as local service club meetings, senior citizens facilities, department store openings and other community events.
“With the support from the National Girl Scout Council, we had more work than we could handle,” Williams said.
The council sent uniforms worn by Girl Scouts and Girl Guides around the world and the Singing Scouts wore them when they performed at the Pittsburgh Folk Festival at the Civic Arena.
“I remember we were singing and they opened the roof,” said Lowell King Wade.
The Singing Scouts often performed folk songs and dances from other countries, including a Maori stick dance.
They wore costumes and used props made by Laurine Williams.
“Mom made all the costumes, and they were a lot of work,” said Diane Williams Lindley.
Williams also wrote original songs and arrangements for the group. “What Makes a Good Girl Scout,” which was sung at the reunion, was based on a German folk song.
“I wasn’t really worried about copyrights back then,” she joked.
The Singing Scouts were not just a local sensation. With the help of Sen. Hiram L. Fong, Williams made plans for the group to sing for President John Kennedy and his family during Girl Scout Week in March 1964. However, it was not to be.
Included in booklets of song and photos and other memories given to participants at the reunion was a letter from Fong, dated Nov. 20, 1963, confirming the engagement. Three days later, Kennedy was assassinated.
The Singing Scouts got their first chance to perform outside the state when, in 1965, they traveled to Purdue University in Lafayette, Ind., to perform at the 4-H Convention.
“We went on a lot of wonderful trips,” Barbara Walter McCurdy said
McCurdy is the daughter of the late Ellie Walter, co-director of the group, and she had many memories of her days as a Singing Scout.
“I remember having to sing a duet and I was so scared,” she said. “Mom made me do it.”
The reunion also included some present day Girl Scouts, who provided information about present day scouting, which has changed in the 50-plus years since the Singing Scouts wore the uniform.
But, the tradition of singing and dancing continued as the present-day Scouts demonstrated by doing the Maori stick dance and leading reunion participants in a round of the Girl Scout standard “Make New Friends.”
The reunion gave not only those who attended a chance to reminisce. Through a Facebook page and lots of hard work, the Williams family was able to find and connect with dozens of Singing Scouts.
Williams said that over the life of the group 108 girls performed.
Members of the group are scattered throughout the United States and several reside in foreign countries.
Many of the girls stayed active in music and music education and several remained in Scouting, becoming leaders themselves.
“It’s amazing what the girls have done,” Williams said proudly.