Thursday, March 19, 2009


Have you ever heard "WoHeLo"? It stands for "work," "health," "love." It's been years since I've heard it--or thought about it. It's funny what memories a trip to the thrift store will stir up.

Back in the early-ish 1960s, I was a Blue Bird. WoHeLo was the Camp Fire Girls motto. Most of my classmates were Brownies, but I opted for Blue Birds--the uniforms were cooler. Do you remember? If not, here's a photo--

Nope, this isn't me and it was taken a couple years before my time, but this was pretty much what we all looked like back then. Pretty goofy, huh? But at least our "uniforms" were blue and the only part really required, from what I can remember, was the white shirt and blue vest--unlike Brownies who had what I thought were some pretty ugly brown uniforms. And that goofy cap in the newspaper photo? I never owned one, or if I did, I certainly never wore it. Brownies--at least in our local troops--had to wear the whole get up, including the weird brown felt beanie. And they were forever sewing patches on their sashes--or maybe that was once they grew up to be Girl Scouts.

Not us though. Another really cool thing about Blue Birds and Camp Fire Girls? Beads! We didn't get those stinking patches for everything we did; we got wooden beads instead. That was the best part. From what I remember, that's really why I joined. I remember organizing my different beads and spending hours looking at the colors. The best bead in my opinion back then was a three-sided baby painted red on one side, white on another, and blue on the third.

So the other evening, I was digging through stuff at the thrift store in the "crafts gone wrong" aisle (not my own name for it--another blogger gets the credit, but I think of it every time!) Hubby likes big wooden beads for some of his crafty things, so when I saw a bag full of wooden beads, I pulled it out. At first, I didn't notice anything very exciting until I saw the small wooden beads at the bottom of the bag. Eureka! Suddenly I was transported back to childhood!

Once I got the bag home, I opened and sorted my find, divying out some to Hubby (the generic round wooden beads) and keeping some for myself. Here's most of what I ended up with:

That big brown bead in the foreground? When we'd get ten smaller beads in any color, we'd earn a BIG bead in the same color. The colors each represented a different category or area of life--and like Girl Scouts, we'd have to complete tasks in each category to earn beads. Here's a little info about the beads and what the colors meant:

Camp Fire Honor Beads - Honor beads are given to symbolize the achievement of an aspect of 1 of 7 Crafts:

Home flame flame of the hearth (Orange)
Health red sunshine (Red)
Camp brown earth & trees (Brown)
Hand green creation & growing things (Green)
Nature blue sky (Blue)
Business yellow harvest (Yellow)
Citizenship red, white & blue patriotism (The really COOL three-sided ones!)

~Large honor beads are granted for every ten honors earned in any craft.

~Purple beads signify completion of a rank.

And besides sewing the beads on your vest--or just playing with them for hours--a Camp Fire Girl could sew them onto her ceremonial robe. No, I never stuck it out long enough to have a ceremonial robe (and I didn't like brown anyway), but here's what one would have looked like:

This, of course, was back before us white folk didn't know it wasn't polite to dress up like Indians. I suspect Camp Fire Girls don't have ceremonial gowns like this anymore since it's not PC. And, by the way, in the ultimate gesture of political correctness, I think they let BOYS join now. Yuck!

But I digress. You know what's even better than finding a bag of Camp Fire Girl beads at Goodwill? Finding a whole ceremonial robe at Goodwill like THIS guy did. How excellent is THAT?!

Well, you'll have to excuse me now. I need to go play with my beads and dream about thrift store treasures. Happy hunting!


Sharon said...

Wow, thanks for the jaunt down Memory Lane! I was a Camp Fire Girl too, and had forgotten about WoHeLo! I had the vest and the beads...don't know what happened to them. My sister kept hers and still has the beads. I wonder if she has MINE too?? Anywho, how cool to find the CFG beads at the thrift store! Lucky you...Enjoy your beads!

Anonymous said...

Since I am from the Czech Republic, I don´t know about the groups you have mentioned, but I like the rich quilting under the beads :-). So I think everyone can find allways something in your blog.

Teresa said...

I had heard of camp fire girls but had never known of a group in this area. I do like the beads, but hey, us brownies have some nice colorful badges, LOL. I framed my daughter's for her, along with her girl scout badges and pins, and she was so "happy" when I told her she had to take them home after she got married and had her own house. Not sure what she did with them though and I am not asking.

tami said...

We didn't have Campfire Girls around where I grew up so we had to settle for the ugly Girl Scout uniforms. I never was a Brownie and only a Girl Scout for a few years, but I sure did like earning badges. Those beads would have been fun though. I don't still have my Girl Scout stuff, but if I had beads I'm sure I would still have them. Much easier to collect. :D

Nancy said...

When I grew up there wasn't a choice of brownies or blue birds, so it's a good think I look good in BROWN!! LOL I stayed with it so I could go camping...with the boys....FUN!! lol

Melody said...

Oh my goodness what a find for you. I always wanted to be a Bluebird.

debby said...

I had the vest, the beads, the Indian gown, and the WoHeLo medallion (kind of like an Eagle Scout award). I was disappointed when Camp Fire incorporated and let in the boys. And I wish I could forget all the pledges:

(from memory) I desire to seek the way that shall become a delight to my heart for it shall bring me to the fires of human kindness lighted by those who have gone before me on the Camp Fire trail.

kcenya1950 said...

Kim, it's so funny that you think of the "crafts gone wrong" label at the thrift store. I guess I have "infected" you with my warped thought processes. It is the best aisle without a doubt though. I was a brownie because my mother had been a campfire girl and even back then I was the anti to my mother just as my daughter is the anti to me! Great finds as always and good luck with the new pattern biz. I know it will go well for you

PunkiePie said...

I always thought the Campfire Girls were fake. Like a made up group! Never known them to really exist. Wow. But then again, I was a girl scout. A POLISH girl scout at that. I wasn't allowed (or wasn't give the option) to join the American Brownies/Girl Scouts. My parents wanted to keep my heritage fresh in my head, I guess.

Kim said...

What a trip down memory lane.. I was not a Brownie but I was a girl scout. I guess it was the 'sewing' of the patches. I was a co-leader for a year with a brownie troop.. that was alot of twin girls troop wouldn't be able to exist without another leader, so I did it to help them out. LOL

Sherri said...

That was a fun post...I was a Camp Fire girl too...even though most of the girls at my school were Brownie's. My first sewing was actually done in Camp Fire Girls as well...I'll never forget sewing my embroidery project to my skirt!

Judy H. said...

Wow, what a blast from the past. Like Debby, I was a Camp Fire member (Camp Fire became co-ed in 1976 and I didn't join until after that) all the way through to the WoHeLo medallion. I still have my sash, vest and gown in my closet. Lots of beads, but there were a lot of badges, too. My mother hated sewing things to that leather! I led my own Bluebird group when I was in high school and it was 50-50 boys and girls.

Judy said...

Hey now..maam...don't be dissin' the Brownie girls now...*G*! I went all the way up in Girl Scouts to the teen level.... how sad was that!? Cadets? was that it? it was really fun and my Mom was always the leader. I loved going to the camp-outs and stuff!

doni said...

Camp Fire girls Unite!!! The minute I saw those beads I remember that we made designs on the back of our vests with the beads. Mandala-like? Man, were they UNCOMFORTABLE during those long periods of time you had to sit on chairs! I'm sure our posture was correct because it hurt to lean back on the chair!!

Thanks for taking us back down memory lane!

doni @ Oregon coast

doni said...

Camp Fire girls Unite!!! The minute I saw those beads I remember that we made designs on the back of our vests with the beads. Mandala-like? Man, were they UNCOMFORTABLE during those long periods of time you had to sit on chairs! I'm sure our posture was correct because it hurt to lean back on the chair!!

Thanks for taking us back down memory lane!

doni @ Oregon coast

Sinta said...

Thanks for sharing that post. I always wondered how it worked being a Camp Fire Girl and Blue Bird... I was the funny dressed Brownie myself. I miss that hat!

quiltmom said...

Hi Kim,
I don't think that we had Camp Fire girls here in Canada- I went to a group called CGIT which was Canadian GIrls in Training for about one year. I was an apprehensive thing when I was a kid so I was not much of a joiner. I had friends who were Brownies and Girl Guides but I never was.
My mother in law was very involved with Brownies and was a Brown Owl for many years when my youngest Sister in law was a girl.
My son was involved in Scouts and attended it from Beavers right through To getting his Chief Scout award. I got to sew lots of his badges on his uniform sash...
The beads look pretty interesting -- you do find the coolest things in the thrift store.

Gran said...

OH, My Gosh! I was in CGIT. It was so much fun!
...I will do my duty to God and the Queen and especially those at home. That is all I can remember off the top of my head at the moment. We were service oriented and character building.

Your trip down the "crafts gone wrong" isle at the thrift stores in really funny. LOL!!!!

You know I have seen beads like you showed us and i did not realize what they were. Now I know and will pick them up for you if I come across some in the future.

I love how you take us back in time and laugh at your "opinions" already working their magic on your creativity.


Julie said...

Hey Kim -- I was a Camp Fire girl too. And my Indian name was Wa-Ke-Ta, which was a combination of my three favorite things in elementary school: teaching, art, sewing. Yes, even then, sewing. I went to Campfire Girls camp every summer up through junior high school All my beads disappeared - my mom cleaned house at some point and threw them out or something. I have been sad ever since. How lucky you are to find some at Goodwill. -- Julie from QH

Nan said...

Oh my goodness! You take me back to a time long ago and far away (even though I HATE to admit it!). I was a Brownie and I had the stupid beanie, but everybody else had to wear tem, so I didn't feel too badly wearing mine. Actually, I think we all thought we looked pretty cool. LOL!! I'll dig up a photo and email it to you. I know you're always up for a good laugh!

Amanda said...

I thought you had found a new way of saying "Hello"! lol

I was a Brownie. I don't remember wearing the little brown beanie hats, but I think I had one.

My youngest daughter was a Brownie. When she was about 7 years old we went to Savannah, GA to see my husband. He was working there. We were taking a carriage ride tour of the downtown area and my daughter said, "Oh. That's where Juliet Lowe(I think that's her name) lived." It shocked me that my daughter knew anyone that lived in downtown Savannah! Then she had to explain to me that she was the founder of the Girl Scouts. No wonder there were Girl Scouts everywhere!!! We took a tour of her home and it was very interesting, but it just goes to show you that I wasn't a very good Brownie if I didn't know who the founder was or that she lived in Savannah! I did enjoy being in Brownies, though.

Anonymous said...

I was in campfire when I was a kid and my daughter is now. They STILL wear the gowns! And I still have mine with all it's lovely beaded glory! LOL

Anonymous said...

I was also a bead wearing, candy selling, Camp Fire Girl and Wo He Lo award person. I loved Camp Fire and now our Omaha council is no longer called Camp Fire. So..I have a 9 yr old son and am a Cubmaster for his scouting Pack in Lincoln, NE.(popcorn selling- camping out with 12 boys this wkend)
Lots of fun, but no beads. I love how you listed the beads in color and meanings, that helps me remember what in the world is on my vest and brown ceremonial gown. I have it displayed in our entry way!
Have a great summer.
Michelle in Lincoln