Considering the Logistics of the Girl Scout Roundup in 1965

New rambling. While I was driving home from a wedding I officiated yesterday, I decided to visit one of my old hiking places from childhood. I hadn’t been there in 40 years (at least)! That raised all kinds of thoughts about our 1965 Roundup. First, I think it was yesterday (if not, certainly this week), that many thousands of us boarded trains and started heading to the Pacific Northwest. And as I left the woods and crags behind to join the highway home, I began thinking about the logistics of putting together a Roundup.

At least in my case, an abandoned rail station in Springfield, MA, was opened up solely to stage many local girls boarding the Roundup train. As I remember this was before Amtrak, so each part of the tracks on which we travelled was owned an operated by a different rail company. From Springfield to Chicago, it was New York Central. I have been unsuccessful at locating a history of rail travel with good maps to show what companies operated the rail lines west of Chicago. (I was a seasoned rail traveller at the time, having travelled over much of the northeaster quarter of the US with my Dad who did not drive until the mid-60’s.)

So contracts had to be made with all the involved railroad companies – and we took a different route home from Idaho to Chicago – for a number of very large special trains to get all us girls to Idaho. I remember about our being special trains, because whenever a freight came by, we had to pull onto a siding and wait for it to pass! Because those trains were sometimes many miles long and very slow moving, some stops were for several hours.

I thought about the work that had to be done to ready the five large areas where we camped, the arena, the Avenue of Flags, the hospital, the forum areas (where I got to meet our national president and talk with her about GS policy at the time), the obstacle course. They had to arrange for running water, sanitation, FOOD for 10,000 3 meals a day – it boggles the mind. And arrangements had to be made with the military for site security. Sadly, I don’t think current politics would allow for an NPO to share the benefit of a few helicopters and a fair number of new recruits! Looking back, those boys were hardly older than we were! And when I fell of a cliff during one of our hikes, they carried me down to the hospital and taped up my ankle. I remember my doc, bitching about that when I got home because they didn’t shave my leg first and getting the tape off was a nightmare.

When they took us on trips off site, consider how many school busses they needed to accommodate all the people? But for all the logistical work – I would have loved to participate in the planning of a future event – the place seemed small, and the numbers manageable. Today we can manage to put together Olympics and World Cups and the SuperBowl and USTA Tennis, but programs that benefit a small, developing segment of our society seem to be less important. I am sorry that Roundup got to be too expensive to continue, because I am sure that was one of the issues. I think that the sheer size of the event contributed to its continuing impact on those of us who were able to participate.

I am so looking forward to revisiting those moments, and am very grateful for the people, businesses and governments that worked so hard to make it possible!

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