BJ Fischer

What Brownie Aged Girl Scout Isn't Curious?

It was natural that I would walk onto the dock at Camp Kanadasaga on Seneca Lake near Geneva, NY to watch the girls practice their diving. It was natural that I would step aside when older kids ran past me. It was unfortunate that I, a non-swimmer, would fall into the unguarded deep water. It was terrifying when my mouth filled with water and my toes failed to find the earth as I tried stretching to stand.

The watchful lifeguard rescued me to shore, but the camp director, Mrs. Lutz, made a perceptive assessment of the scene. “If that Brownie isn’t handled correctly, she will be afraid of the water for the rest of her life,” Mrs. Lutz must have thought to herself.

I was shaking, petrified, afraid of the water, trying to get away. She put her arm around me while we sat at the shoreline. For the next 6 hours she never left my side. She made me her helper and let me carry her clipboard to all the classes that day. Her goal: help this little girl learn to love the water.

During the last lesson of the day with me as the assistant, Mrs. Lutz “accidently on purpose” kicked her bathing cap from the dock into the water. She wailed, “Oh, my cap, my cap, my favorite cap,” making a big deal of losing her “favorite” bathing cap. BJ FischerBy this time I wanted to please her, so I put my face into the water and retrieved the cap for her. She rewarded me by predicting, “You could be a lifeguard one day.”

I had no idea until years later that Mrs. Lutz had “tricked” me into loving (not fearing) water. She actually shaped my future. Over the next 45 years I trained over 5,000 people in all aspects of water safety. Ultimately I was invited in 1967 by National Red Cross to be a Water Safety Instructor. In addition to all that teaching, I’ve saved 10 lives, including twice my mother and once my brother.

Girl Scouting saved my life. It is the best thing that happened. It gave me direction and taught me many things besides swimming. Completing badges gave me special skills. I earned the Curved Bar. The handbook with the badges was like a Bible to me. My curiosity as a Brownie allowed me to soar.

BJ Fischer (McLeod)
Binghamton, originally from Geneva, NY
9 years a Brownie and Intermediate Girl Scout in Geneva, NY