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Memories Spanning 80 Years
Eleanor Drew turned 93 in June 2011. As recently as 2009 she visited Amahami Outdoor Center where she was camp director in the summers of 1969 and 1970. Working in a Girl Scout camp was nothing new to Eleanor. At the age of 18 she was an apprentice counselor at Camp Quidnunc (Greater NY Girl Scout Council) and later worked as an assistant camp nurse, weekend camping site director, and then director at Camp Amahami.
Eleanor's daughter Susan, also an experienced camp staff member, came to Amahami as Mountaineer Unit Leader in 1968 and returned in 1969 as well. When Susan's dad first drove her into Amahami he said, "Do you really want to me to leave you here?" as the whole drive was a mud pit! Little did he know his wife Eleanor would spend the next two summers there as well. Eleanor's youngest son, Bill, grew up in Girl Scout camps, a tag-along in the summers and weekend troop camping. He credits this experience as building his love of the out-of-doors. Since then a granddaughter has also camped at Amahami.
Girl Scouts fosters great friendships and one formed at Amahami in 1968 by both Susan and Eleanor Drew was with Sue Brown of Binghamton, NY. They remain great friends to this day.
Here are some of Eleanor's memories of over 70 years as a Girl Scout as told to Sue Brown:
"My mother made my first Girl Scout uniform. They sold the materials and patterns back then. I was about 14."
"The first time I went to Girl Scout Camp Quidnunc in Bear Mountain State Park I had never been away from my home in New York City. But I loved it and couldn't wait to go back the next year. In 1936 at our weekly meetings we gave our leaders any money we saved that week. By the end of the school year we went to camp with the money our leader saved for us. It was $18 for 2 weeks. Our leader (a teacher) also persuaded the other teacher to contribute $18 so we had the supplies needed to go to camp." Eleanor kept going back and later worked as an Apprentice, Journeyman and Assistant Counselor at Camp Quidnunc. Eleanor enjoys looking at the many photos she has of these times at camp as well a with her troop.
"There is a bond about Girl Scouts," Eleanor reflects. "I remember at camp a group of girls found some green apples and decided to eat them. Soon after eating the green apples, one of the girls had severe pain and they sent her to one of the hospitals with appendicitis. The apples were the cause. Some 30 years later at a camp training I overheard a woman telling this story. I joined the conversation and asked if it was at Camp Quidnunc and of course the woman said it was. It turned out that she was the Camp Director at the camp where I was to be the Assistant Nurse! We enjoyed looking at the pictures of our camping days and reminiscing!"
"When I was a Girl Scout Captain, what leaders were called then, we had a Bicycle Patrol and rode our bikes on the weekends to several parks in New York City. We took food and cooked a meal once we got there. We played ball and did whatever the girls wanted. Of course, we planned ahead. The bike rides were 7-12 minutes one way and including biking on some dangerous roads, when you think about it, including Queens Boulevard and Long Island Expressway. Everyday was an adventure."
Eleanor stayed in Girl Scouts and was the leader of her daughter's Girl Scout troops and also took other troops camping when their Leader was not qualified. She said, "I learned a lot in Girl Scouts - I was basically shy and had to overcome that quickly." The spirit of helping others learned as a Girl Scout resulted in her deciding to fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse. In her 50s Eleanor earned her Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) license from Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and went on to practice for 20 years.
"As a weekend camp site director I hosted handicapped troops. The buses came to camp with 3-4 troops of handicapped girls. The way the others helped get them to their units was very rewarding to watch."
Eleanor attended the 1999 GSUSA Convention in Kansas City and was proud to watch her daughter Susan become a member of the National Board of Directors of GSUSA. She was re-elected to another term in 2002. Together, Susan and Eleanor have visited four World Centers (Our Cabana, Our Chalet, Olave House and, later, Pax Lodge) and Susan has been to Sangam.