Bethel Logan Singing Scouts recount memories, songs at reunion

Published Aug 4, 2014 at 10:44 am (Updated Aug 4, 2014 at 10:44 am)

They looked for familiar names on each others name tags and found images of their teenage selves in old photos, but it was when they started to sing the old songs that the memories came flooding back.

On Aug. 2, more than two dozen former members of the Bethel Logan Singing Scouts gathered in Washington County for a reunion organized by former leader Laurine Williams and her family.

Williams, whose three daughters, Debby Williams Rudy, Diane Williams Lindley and Denise Williams Furuya, were Girl Scouts, was an active troop leader.

She had majored in music in college and as Diane remembers, their home was always filled with songs, many that her mother wrote, alone or with family members.

“There were poems for every occasion,” Diane Williams Lindley said.

At age 88, Laurine Williams still has fond memories of the scouting days and organizing the Bethel Logan Singing Scouts.

“We were riding home from camp and we were singing as we always were,” she said. “Margery Walter was sitting in the back seat and she said ‘Why don’t we sing more in Scouts?’”

It was then that Williams decided to form a group of singing Girl Scouts.

She got approval from the local council and recruited 19 scouts, who loved to sing. That was in 1960. Until 1968, Girl Scouts from troops throughout the South Hills performed with the group.

“After two rehearsals I knew that if we were going to keep this going, I had to get them in front of an audience,” she said.

Williams approached the scout neighborhood association and asked if the group could perform at the association’s next meeting.

After that, the Bethel Logan Singing Scouts became a much sought after group performing at Girl Scout events as well as local service club meetings, senior citizens facilities, department store openings and other community events.

“With the support from the National Scout Council, we had more work than we could handle,” Williams said.

The council sent uniforms worn by Girl Scouts and Girl Guides around the world and the Singing Scouts wore them when they performed at the Pittsburgh Folk Festival at the Civic Arena.

“I remember we were singing and they opened the roof,” said Lowell King Wade.

The Singing Scouts often performed folk songs and dances from other countries, including a Maori stick dance.

They wore costumes and used props made by Laurine Williams.

“Mom made all the costumes and they were a lot of work,” said Diane Williams Lindley.

Laurine Williams also wrote original songs and arrangements for the group. One, which was sung at the reunion, “What Makes a Good Girl Scout,” was based on a German folk song.

“I wasn’t really worried about copyrights back then,” she joked.

The Singing Scouts were not only a local sensation. With the help of Senator Hiram L. Fong, Laurine Williams made plans for the group to sing for President John Kennedy and his family during Girl Scout Week in March 1964. However, that was not to be.

Included in booklets of song and photos and other memories, given to participants at the reunion, was a letter from Fong dated Nov. 20, 1963, confirming the engagement. Three days later, Kennedy was assassinated.

The Singing Scouts got their first chance to perform outside the state when, in 1965, they traveled to Purdue University in Lafayette, Ind., to perform at the 4-H Convention.

“We stayed at the 4-H training center,” Laurine Williams recalled.

The cost for lodging and three meals a day was $4 for each scout and they stayed four days.

“We went on a lot of wonderful trips,” Barbara Walter McCurdy said

McCurdy is the daughter of the late Ellie Walter, co-director of the group, and she had many memories of her days as a Singing Scout.

“I remember having to sing a duet and I was so scared,” she said. “Mom made me do it.”

The reunion also included some present day Girl Scouts who provided information about present day scouting, which has changed in the 50 plus years since the Sing Scouts wore the uniform.

But, the tradition of scouts singing and dancing has continued as the present day scouts demonstrated by doing the Maori stick dance and leading reunion participants in a round of the Girl Scout standard “Make New Friends.”

The reunion gave not only those who attended a chance to reminisce. Through a Facebook page and lots of hard work, the Williams family was able to find and connect with dozens of Sing Scouts.

Laurine Williams said that over the life of the group, 108 girls performed with the group.

Members of the group are scattered throughout the United States and several reside in foreign countries.

Many of the girls stayed active in music and music education and several of them stayed in scouting, becoming leaders themselves.

“It’s amazing what the girls have done,” Williams said proudly.

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