Shirley Keller's fondest memories are of Girl Scout camping experiences. She camped as a girl then became a counselor. When she was a troop leader she often took the girls camping. The fact that her father and mother were instrumental in purchasing the property where Camp Amahami was to be built had nothing to do with it. She just liked the outdoors and the things it offered.
"I was a counselor in the Indian Village at camp. There were real tepees for us to sleep in.
We learned Indian dances and taught them to the campers. There was a heel-toe-heel-toe cadence to the dance. We made costumes and then performed for the entire camp.
One year Shirley had the job of training the pre-counselors. It wasn't unusual for Shirley and the other trainers to go to bed and find that the CITs (counselors-in-training)
had short sheeted or put snakes in their beds. Of course there weren't really snakes. The lake at Camp Amahami was full of lilies; if you know how lilies grow, you know that their stems are long and slimy and could resemble snakes.
"We were in a Mariner troop as juniros and seniors in high school. We learned some canoeing skills here at Amahami and then we took a trip to the Adirondacks. We canoed for a week and mountain-climbed for a week. I remember that the council was given an old police wagon, a Black Mariah it was called. They let our troop have it to go to the Adirondacks all together in one car."
Shirley had her picture in the newspaer twice representing Girl Scouts. She and Nancy Randall were in front of Binghamton High School in their Mariner uniforms laying wreaths for two boys from their high school who died in World War II.
"Another time I was asked to represent the Girl Scouts in my Mariner uniform to introduce the Ambassador from a South American country. It was a huge dinner at IBM. There was a long head table and microphones; IBM attracted all the media. Just before I was to welcome the ambassador, I learned that one of the mics was for International Radio. I was so scared. I was representing the Girl Scouts and I knew I had to do well. Even back then I knew that IBM was a big deal. I did my best...I did well."
"Here's a piece of advice I'd like to pass along to other leaders. 'Never let your girls get ahead of you' and 'keep the girls under control.' This is what happened: We were hiking. The girls were ahead of us. When we came upon this stream, one of the girls who had gotten ahead of the group, jumped out of a tree into the stream. We were so afraid for her and angry, too. We had no idea how deep the water was at that location. She could have hit her head or broken an arm or leg. Being a leader is a huge responsibility."
Shirley stopped camping when her family started "roughing it" at their cottage on Quaker Lake. However she passed along a love of the out-of-doors to her children. And she still smiles and chuckles as she remembers her Girl Scout camping days.
Shirley (Wilson) Keller
as told to Joan Sprague