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Former Colfax resident donates Girl Scout uniform

by Marlys Kruger

A 1944 graduate of Colfax High School, Ruth Gregory (now Gochnour) returned to the village last week and made a donation of her old Girl Scout uniform to the Colfax Municipal Building Restoration group to put on display in their history room.

With the 100 year anniversary of the Girl Scouts celebrated in 2012, Ruth, who now lives in Silver Springs, Maryland contacted the Smithsonian Museum and asked if they would be interested in the uniform, which was hand made for her in 1936. The Smithsonian said they would like to have it but the amount of paperwork they needed to go with it seemed too much for Ruth to deal with and she wondered if her hometown would like to have it instead.

“I began wearing this uniform, which was made by Mrs. Lillian Farner, when I was ten years old,” Ruth said. “At that time, we were not able to buy a uniform in a store, they had to be sewn by hand and I’m sure Lillian made a lot of them.”

Colfax had a rather large troop in her days and a number of local women were the advisors for the girls and helped them complete their badge work.

“Mrs. Felland taught us the proper way to make a bed with hospital corners at the foot and to turn several inches of the sheet over the blanket,” Ruth recalled.”Mrs. Leon Snyder was a local artist and quite an authority on birds and was our advisor for the bird finders badge, I remember going to a Girl Scout camp north of Chetek in August and even though it was the end of the summer, the lake was very cold. In order to earn our swimming badge, we had to swim a mile without stopping and the route was out to an island and back. We had an escort in a boat for our safety if we needed help but I was determined to make it, even in the cold water, and I did,” she said.

During her years of scouting, 20 badges needed to be earned for the rank of Eaglet and Ruth had all intentions of achieving that goal. But the organization discontinued the rank with Ruth still needing four more badges.

After graduating from Colfax, Ruth, the daughter of Mable and Dr. Ivan Gregory (who was the veterinarian in Colfax), attended school at Lawrence College for a year and while there, her and several friends were “recruited” for the nursing program at Luther hospital in Eau Claire. With World War II coming to an end, there was a demand for nurses, especially in the military and after she completed her nurse’s training in 1948, Ruth took a job in Houston, Texas at a V.A. Hospital. She met her husband Don in Houston, who went on to become a special agent for the FBI and they settled in Silver Springs in 1956.

Her daughter Donna has carried on the Girl Scout tradition in the family and was active in scouting starting as a Brownie and continuing through high school. In 1969, Donna was a delegate to the National Girl Scout Convention in Seattle, WA, representing east coast scouts. After graduating from high school in 1972, Donna attended Mansfield College in Pennsylvania where she put together a troop of senior scouts on campus. In 1975 she was selected  to represent the East Coast of America at Our Chalet, the Girl Scout headquarters near Geneva, Switzerland where she met girls from many countries.

“Mrs. Juliette Gordon Low was the first president of American Girl Scouts and felt by bringing all these girls together it would encourage world peace,” Ruth said. “I was very pleased that my daughter became involved with the scouts and was an active member for so many years. I hope having my uniform on display here in Colfax will bring back fond memories to others who were in our troop or have participated in Girl Scouts at any time,” she concluded.

Ruth presented the uniform with its 16 badges to Joan Scharlau from the restoration group.

“We are happy to accept this as a display of Colfax history,” Joan said.