Thursday, April 24, 2014

4/23/14 Trolley Stop # 9 - Juliette Gordon Low

Trolley Stop #9 - Juliette Gordon Low home

     There are those few rare people who have had a direct positive spiritual impact on millions of people.  And there are those still fewer whose legacy reaches far beyond their physical life.  Juliette Gordon Low is one of those people.

Juliette Gordon Low

     Juliette, the founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA was born in Savannah on Halloween of 1860.  Her story is another of those stories where someone has turned adversity into treasure.  Interestingly, her grand-mother, Eleanor Kinzie, was captured by the Seneca Indian tribe when she was nine years old.   Eleanor was so upbeat and active that the Indians named her "Little Ship Under Full Sail."  The family used this nickname with Juliette also because of her passionate involvement in all manner of activities.

    As a girl she formed sewing clubs to make clothes for the homeless - even wrapped the family cow in a blanket one winter.  She was always taking in stray cats and dogs - her antics later earned her the nickname "Crazy Daisy."

1887 portrait of Juliette

     In 1886 at age 26 she married the son of a cotton merchant, William Low.  The wedding didn't get off on a good foot - a bit of rice thrown lodged in her ear and the resulting infection left her partially deafened for life.  Theirs was a childless marriage, and by 1901 she had found her husbands mistress homesteading in their London home with her husband, who was drinking heavily.  A separation ensued, and he ended up dying of a seizure, presumably from alcohol withdrawal, in 1905. 

    She subsequently met Robert Baden-Powell in Scotland at a luncheon, and learned about his work starting the Boy Scouts.  She was enamored with starting a similar organization for girls.  The night of her return to the United States she called her cousin Nina Pope and said: "Come right over.  I've got something for the girls of Savannah and all America and all the world, and we're going to start it tonight."  And thus started the Girl Scouts, although she called it the "Girl Guides" for the first year. 

Katherine Knapp Keena

     I spent some time with Katherine Keena, interim director and program director for the homestead, who is a bundle of energy herself.  Interspersed in our talk as we wandered gardens and patios she greeted various girl scouts that had come to visit the home.  She tells each of them that they are daughters of this home, and as such they are always welcome here.  Roughly 75,000 people visit this place each year, and of those about 20,000 are Girl Scout Troops.

Katherine with visitor Chloe and her parents

     We all know about the girl scout cookie fundraisers each year.  But what I didn't know is what goes on behind the scenes with each troop.  When the cookies are sold, each troop has to pay for the cost of the cookies, donate some of the money to their local councils and some to charity.  The remainder is then used for an outing that the girls themselves vote on.  Troop leaders are not to make decisions or plan trips - the girls themselves must do that.  "The girls have to be allowed to make mistakes" says Katherine.  "It would be easier for the leaders to plan it for them, but they have to learn.  They have to develop their own self confidence, their own beliefs and their own faith."

     Katherine was an absolute pleasure to talk with, and I do not have the space to cover all the territory we discussed in this blog.  Just know though that she and many others are deeply committed to this organization and the lives that it touches.  And I had a little emotional attachment - the only other Halloween baby I know of besides Juliette is my daughter Heather born 10/31/90.

     President Obama awarded Juliette the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, the highest civilian award in this country.

     Numerous sculptures, paintings and other craft work done by Juliette adorns the home. 

     The home was remodeled by Juliette's parents in 1886, and they kept extensive notes and records of the work that was done.  The Girl Scouts have renovated the house to its appearance that year - so although the home itself was built in 1821, the interior is the way it was sixty years later.

     There are big curved corners in the back of the house, and the window sashes and the glass are curved to match the line of the walls.

     Renovation continues, but it is almost fully complete.  A portion of the basement and two out buildings serve as educational facilities for girls that make the pilgrimage here to the home of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America.  Oh, and that sculpture in the garden of Juliette sitting on the bench with the dog?  That was recently done by her great-great niece and given to the home.

     A few other things of interest in Wright Square just behind the home - this is the burial place of Tomo-Chi-Chi, the chief of the Yamacraw Indian Tribe.  They occupied this area when the settlers of Georgia first arrived, and agreed to move upriver to make space.  They helped the settlers in many ways, and when Tomo-Chi-Chi died he was buried with full military honors.

     There is a large monument to William Gordon, the founder of Georgia's first railroad company.

         And we end up today with Corey Schramm, dispatcher for Old Savannah Tours.  At eight years old she flew alone on an airplane flight where a stewardess took an interest in her and explained all of the workings of air travel.  The experience had her convinced she wanted to be an air-traffic controller until her father finally talked her out of it.      

      She first learned to drive in her fathers semi truck and earned her Commercial Driver's License early on.  She has worked in one capacity or another of the transportation industry since 1988.  I marveled watching her keep mental tabs on where numerous various folks were at any given time.  Balancing all of the shuttles, trolleys, customer pickups and drop-offs, traffic accidents, delays, route changes, mechanical problems - all of the issues that happen when you are transporting up to a thousand people a day requires a lot of coordination.  Corey might not have learned to build a fire in the Girl Scouts, but she sure puts out a lot of fires all day long on her job.  Thanks for your help Corey.

    And the last shot I almost missed - these two guys look down from a high-up window on an old building.  I wonder how long they have been gazing at the passers-by.

All have a great Thursday !!

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