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Juliet Gordon Low’s Little Known Life before Girl Scouts

August 18, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

 

Gordon Mansion and Gardens, Savannah, GA

Gordon Mansion and Gardens, Savannah, GA

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts, an organization I participated in for many years. In fact, so did my Mother and now my granddaughter. I recently had the opportunity to visit Savannah, Georgia and see where Girl Scouting began.  This article tells “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say.

 

Juliet Gordon Low, known as Daisy, was born and raised in a stately home on Savannah’s Oglethorpe Avenue. She lived a privileged lifestyle and was a talented artist and sculptor. As a young girl she was somewhat of a tomboy and later became active into sports.  Juliet’s former home (open for tours)  is decorated much as it was for her wedding in 1880.

 

Juliet Gordon Low's Birthplace

Juliet Gordon Low’s Birthplace

Unfortunately Juliet’s marriage to wealthy cotton merchant William Mackay Low was not a blissful one, a fact the Girl Scouts gently overlook, but not Sellers and Higgins. The eccentric pair of tour guides are known for telling hush-hush, behind the scenes Savannah stories. They explained Juliet’s complicated life while on a walking tour.

 

Sellers and Higgins

Sellers and Higgins

Juliet and her husband moved to England after their wedding and William turned out to be a womanizer and partygoer.  He kept a mistress and brazenly brought her into their marital home.  Juliet, needless to say, wasn’t pleased with the arrangement and divorce was considered.  Fortuitously, dear William suddenly died. Juliet later learned that he changed his will and left the bulk of his immense wealth to his mistress.

 

Widow Juliet traveled in England and then returned to Savannah after meeting Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts.  She was so impressed with his program she chose to start a similar group for girls. She wanted to foster ways for them to build character and learn new skills.

 

The Girl Scout Organization declares that it all began with a telephone call to a friend (a distant cousin).  Juliet told her, “I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and the entire world, and we’re going to start it tonight!” On March 12, 1912, Juliette Low gathered 18 girls to register the first troop of American Girl Guides. Margaret “Daisy Doots” Gordon, her niece and namesake, was the first registered member. The name of the organization was changed to Girl Scouts the following year.

 

Juliet wanted scouts should be rewarded for their efforts with badges and that idea still encourages girls to learn and try new activities.  Originally scouts could earn 29 badges but today the number runs to 139.  The organization has wisely kept pace with changing trends and scouts can now experiment and earn badges for digital movie making, geocaching, website design and locovore — a fresh take on the old cooking badge.  No wonder Girl Scouting has remained popular.

 

I recall earning the cooking badge and decided to dig through my old childhood memorabilia. I didn’t find my old badge sash, but found a few other treasures. Below are photos of my Mom and her sister at Girl Scout camp in 1936 and one of me leaving for Girl Scout camp in 1960.  The colorful photo shows my granddaughter, Kyra, who started as a Daisy Scout and “flew up” (a Girl Scout term) to become a Brownie in a  troop in Medford, New Jersey.

 

Kyra with her Brownie Badge Sash

Kyra with her Brownie Badge Sash

Juliet’s home now acts like a pilgrimage site for scouts around the world,  but my visit gave me an understanding for the woman who was just a name in my past. That type of learning is one of the benefits travel brings me and one I hope I  share.

Debi goes to Girl Scout Camp 1960

Girl Scout Camp 1936

Girl Scout Camp 1936

Girl Scout Camp 1936

Girl Scout Camp 1936

Sarasota’s Treasure: The Ringling Museum of Art

August 10, 2012 by · Comments Off on Sarasota’s Treasure: The Ringling Museum of Art 

Florida’s official state art museum rests on an estate overlooking shimmering Sarasota Bay. The magnificent Ringling Museum of Art is just one of the museums on the 66-acre retreat. A visit may surprise many Floridains who likely have no idea of the vast richness of this cultural treasure.

Statue of David in the Ringling Museum Courtyard

Statue of David in the Ringling Museum Courtyard

 

John Ringling, the grandiose circus entrepreneur, and his wife, Mabel, were fanatical collectors of European art. But, John didn’t just purchase paintings; he occasionally bought entire buildings or rooms where the artworks were housed. He shipped them to Sarasota and built his Museum of Art with specialized designs to incorporate these objects. The structure’s style resembles the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy including the columns, architectural details and courtyard complete with a 16-foot bronze cast of Michelangelo’s David.

Sadly, John Ringling lost most of his fortune shortly before his death in 1936, largely due to the collapse of Florida’s land boom and Wall Street’s crash. But, Ringling desperately wanted to leave behind a legacy and generous bequeathed his “jewel” to the people of the State of Florida. He actually borrowed money to do so. Today the Museum features 21-galleries packed with European, American and Asian art including masterpieces by Rubens, can Dyck, Titian, Velazquez, El Greco, Gainsborough and Reynolds.

Ca d'Zan: Home of John & Mable Ringling

Ca d’Zan: Home of John & Mable Ringling

The 1924 former winter-home and gardens of John and Mable Ringling, named Ca d’Zan meaning “House of John”, abuts the waterway and is well worth a tour. The immense Venetian Gothic style mansion measures 200-feet in length and encompasses 36,000 square feet with 56 rooms. Notice the decorative tiles, original furniture, an 82-foot tower, domed ceilings and masterful woodwork.

Interior of Ca d'Zan

Interior of Ca d’Zan

 

Tourists also enjoy the property’s Circus Museum which includes historic items like posters and  handbills, costumes, John and Mable’s private railroad car and the “largest miniature tented circus in the world,” a 3/4 inch-to-the-foot scale which spans 3,800 square feet. An interactive exhibit lets kids try to squeeze into a model of a 2-by3-foot clown-car and walk a high wire.

 

Finally, tourists can see the historic and beautifully delicate Asolo Theater. This venue was originally built in 1798 in a castle from the Italian town of Asolo, near Venice. It was moved to Sarasota and is used for live performances.

Asolo Theater, Sarasota, FL

Asolo Theater, Sarasota, FL

In all honesty, The Ringling Museums, like a three ring circus, offer too much to see at once. I suggest choosing one or two of the buildings. Kids will naturally favor the circus themed areas. Enjoy.

 

The Ringling Museum of Art
5401 Bay Shore Road,
Sarasota, FL
www.ringling.org

Photo of David in the courtyard by Debi Lander

All other photos courtesy of Ringling Museum of Art.


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Texas Hill Country: Fredericksburg

August 6, 2012 by · Comments Off on Texas Hill Country: Fredericksburg 

Texas Hill Country: Fredericksburg

as featured in

Automotive Traveler Magazine: Vol 3 Iss 5 Page 16

A beer at the bar in Luckenbach, Texas.

A beer at the bar in Luckenbach, Texas.

Tank-of-Gas Adventure: Texas Hill Country.

Food festivals and markets year round plus local wines and bier… Good thing historic Fredericksburg offers plenty of

 

To read this feature in magazine format please click the link below:

http://www.automotivetraveler.com/magazine/viewer.php?path=vol_3/iss_5&page=16

 

 


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