September 7, 2008

Come to Think of It

By Cameron Sullivan

There's a good chance I attended a party in the mid-1970s with my third-grade girlfriends at which we sang and danced to songs by Peter, Paul and Mary, Simon & Garfunkle or Elvis. We wore bellbottom pants and flowered T-shirts, simply because those were the kinds of clothes we owned.

We may have eaten pound cake and fruit for a snack.

But I am sure, without a doubt, that we did not dip our fruit and pound cake squares into homemade chocolate fondue. In fact, until last week, I had never tried my hand at fondue.

My first attempt at the concoction was for a Girl Scout meeting that my good friend Dara Hogue and I organized to kick off the school year for our daughters' third-year Brownie troop. Dara and I are co-leaders for Troop 31134.

Having surveyed the girls last year, we learned that they are not motivated so much by earning badges as they are by things like field trips, crafts, camping and out-of-the ordinary activities. We therefore decided to use their favorite activities to secretly help them earn their badges.

Scouting badges represent mastery of life skills, of learning about the world in which the girls live, and of each girl finding empowerment to be the most she can be. What better way to learn these skills than while engaging in their favorite activities?

Last week we snuck in many of the requirements for two badges -- one for "Making Music" and one about "Girl Scouts Through the Years."

Chocolate fondue, therefore, was an imperative educational component of the meeting.

As luck would have it, fondue became popular in the U.S. during the 1960s. After a brief discussion of the Sixties, including the fact that many of the scouts' parents were born during that decade, we ate chocolate fondue-dipped fruit and cake.

However, open flames are not allowed on school property. So, searching the Internet two weeks ago, I found a recipe for crock pot chocolate fondue, which Dara and I began cooking (and sampling) in my kitchen prior to the meeting.

When the girls entered the multipurpose room, we told them to get ready for some time travel. We began playing hits of the Sixties and talking about fashion, culture and what it was like to be a girl back then.

One activity included making tissue-box guitars and bell-and- plate tambourines that the girls played to accompany the folk music.

I'm sure I made instruments like these during my time as a young scout. But I am also certain that the music at parties I attended in third grade did not come from a set of MP3 speakers using a custom play list. More likely, someone provided a stack of 45s and a record player or a flashy new dual-cassette tape player that wowed partygoers with its futuristic features.

As Dara and I sang along to "Cecilia" in harmony, the troop looked on bug-eyed and one girl screamed out, "My mom would love this! She listens to this kind of music all the time!"

I resisted the urge to let her comment make me feel old. Cultured, certainly. Talented, for sure. But not old.

Later, we taught the girls the words to "If I Had a Hammer." They cleverly used the backs of their guitars as hammers for the first verse, and their tambourines as bells for the second verse.

We then played some 1960s Elvis and videotaped the girls dancing.

At the end of their dance, parents who returned to school to pick up their daughters were greeted by elated girls who fantasized about posting their dance performance on YouTube -- yet another element of pop culture not available to me as a young scout.

This is the fourth year that the girls of Troop 31134 have been together as a group. With the promise of bridging to Junior Girl Scouts next spring on the Golden Gate Bridge, we'll encourage them take the lead in planning their scouting year.

As a member troop of the Crossroads (Tri-Valley) association of Girl Scouts of Northern California, we also hope to go on field trips and service projects with other troops from across the area.

After last week's meeting, the girls may want to co-host a Sixties dance-a-thon.


Cameron Sullivan welcomes column ideas from readers. Reach her at

(c) 2008 Oakland Tribune. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.