One thing leads to another.

What is it that lends amazing truth to such an obvious observation? I think it’s because it almost always implies discovery.

Flipping through old newspapers is always great fun for me as I prepare these River Views columns. Discoveries are all the more special when they involve new family information.

Just such a discovery was made in the pages of an April 1951 issue of the Lewiston Evening Journal Magazine Section. There, on page one, was a large photo of about 20 Girl Scouts, and seated in the front row of the group was my mother, Lona Ray Sargent, leader of Troop 6 in Auburn.

She was reading a letter to the members of her troop … . a letter from Lady Baden-Powell, wife of Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scout movement and Girl Guides, of which Baroness Baden-Powell became world chief guide.

That letter and its journey to these Girls Scouts in Maine also involved an unusual set of circumstances for three Lewiston women on vacation in Bermuda. They were Mrs. Bertha Ham, who was a Lewiston YWCA worker, and her friends, Mrs. Grace Butcher of Lewiston and Miss Grace Teague of Auburn. Mrs. Ham related the meeting with Lady Baden-Powell to Rose O’Brien, longtime Lewiston Journal feature writer.

The Bermuda newspapers were full of stories of an appearance at a rally by the famous world chief guide on the same day Mrs. Ham was sightseeing in a museum. She mentioned to the librarian that they would very much like to attend the rally so that, when she returned home, she could tell local girl scouts about it.

The librarian was instantly interested because her daughter (one thing leads to another) was one of the guide commissioners in Bermuda. When Mrs. Ham and her friends returned to their hotel there was an invitation awaiting them.

At the rally, O’Brien’s story said, “They were escorted to the stage and had excellent seats throughout the highly interesting program.”

Mrs. Ham was able to speak briefly with Lady Baden-Powell. She asked for a message to take to the Girl Scouts at home.

Immediately, Lady Baden-Powell assured Mrs. Ham she would be delighted to send a message to the Girl Scouts of Lewiston-Auburn. The baroness said she would write notes that very evening, and sure enough, they were delivered the next morning to Mrs. Ham who brought them back to L-A.

There were two letters dated March 1951 in the world chief guide’s handwriting. The letter being read to Troop 6 members a few weeks later began, “We have never met, you and I, but we are all members together in this great big Girl Guide and Girl Scout Fellowship.”

Continuing with expressions of encouragement and inspiration, the letter said, “I hope that you Girl Scouts of Lewiston and Auburn are going ahead happily and well, and making your bit of the Girl Scout movement in your city as fine and as good and as helpful and as valuable as any others in the whole world!”

Some of the names of girls in the Troop 6 photo were Wilma Way, Sally Sjostrom, Patricia King, Beverly Day and Fay Higgins. Also named were sisters Barbara and Nancy Andrews, my cousins, whose mother was Edith Andrews … later a well-known columnist in the Lewiston newspaper. She was a member of the original Troop 6 founded under my mother’s leadership at the High Street Methodist Church in Auburn in 1928.

My mother, at the age of 17, was too young to be named the troop’s leader, so it was chartered with my grandmother, Minnie Ray, signing on as leader.

From that start, my mother was a continuous member of Girl Scouts of America for more than 60 years, a national record at the time.

My wife, Judy, and I have been reviewing our families’ connections with scouting that began so long ago. Wouldn’t you know … one thing leads to another.

Of course, our daughters, Laurie and Susan, were Girl Scouts. Judy was a Girl Scout leader in Portland and Raymond and she was Sebago Association chairwoman of Kennebec Council.

With all that Girl Scout history, it seems I was destined to be tapped to sit for a term on the Kennebec Council board.

Membership in the Boy Scouts is also a family tradition. My brother, Jim, and Judy’s brother, Ron Spofford, are Eagle Scouts of Troop 111, one of Auburn’s oldest troops. For a time in the 1960s, I was scoutmaster of the troop in Raymond where we lived.

Dave Sargent is a freelance writer and a native of Auburn. He can be reached by sending email to [email protected]


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