November 1973: HELEN REDDY - Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)

I had the biggest crush on a blonde hair, blue eyed boy in my 2nd grade class, Scott Van Seiver. Proximity is what made these feelings so urgent: he sat next to me alphabetically in class and lived down the street from the lady who babysat me, so I saw him on the walks to and from school. Sometimes he’d join us, and all this togetherness was exhilarating.

One day in class, I was quietly singing the chorus to “Ruby Red Dress,” and Scott said, “I love Helen Reddy.” I felt an odd pang of jealousy; if he loved her, could he possibly like me?

“Leave me alone, won’t you leave me alone…” After constantly refusing to join, I finally said “yes” to becoming a Brownie. Hell, the meetings were at the babysitter’s house, and since I was already there, it was getting hard to avoid it. I liked the snacks and the crafts (jewelry boxes made of popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue – what’s not to love?), but was most enthralled when we gathered in a circle and sang songs. I especially loved that each meeting ended with the singing of the same song, much like Sonny & Cher always ending their show with “I Got You Babe.” I appreciated this adherence to showbiz tradition.

What I did not appreciate was the Brownie uniform. If it had been the cotton, shirtwaist dress model with the crisp, elf collar and bow tie with matching belt and hat, I’d have been ultra happy. Snacks and that uniform were the reason I gave in and joined. But 1973 was the year the Girl Scouts of America decided to update its image.

The uniform they sold to us at Goldie’s department store in the Village Square shopping center was a shapeless polyester jumper (you had to supply your own shirt to wear underneath!) the color of cheap chocolate milk. The hat had become a dark brown polyester/wool beanie that didn’t match the jumper, and the formerly natty bow tie was now a strip of burnt orange polyester shaped like a bowlegged man’s tie.

The new uniform made our troop look like walking baked potatoes, and even the troop leaders must have felt negatively toward the new look because they only made us wear them when out in public doing official Brownie business. And after suffering through one public Brownie event in that ridiculous costume, I made sure to somehow forget/skip out/be sick for every event after that.

See Helen Reddy perform "Leave Me Alone" on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.


Tina said...

I enjoyed reading about your experience in brownies. When I was a brownie I joined a troup. I am 41 now and so it was mid to late 70's. My dad did not make good money then so I had to get my uniform from the Goodwill. It was the old one in your pictures. All the others girls had the newer version and I was made fun of at my meetings because of my older uniform. I think it is very ironic that you would have rather wore the older one. If I could go back now, I would have worn it proudly. I think because I got teased alot, it has made me way to cynical and sensitive.

hollybrick said...

Aw man. Just discovered this blog via an impulse Google search (was wondering if there was something like it!) and am bummed to see the latest post is from February! Oh well - I will read backwards.

Susan said...

I had the new uniform, but there were a number of girls in my troop who had the older uniform b/c they wore their sisters' hand-me-down uniforms. We did not tease them though! I'm sorry the other girls were so mean, Tina.

To Toby (?) who wrote the blog - just a note that the "new" uniform in 1973 did include the short-sleeved blouse (with a brown stripe made of some repeated design - trefoils?) that is shown in your photo. (Is that you?)

My middle daughter is about to fly up from Daisies to Brownies, so we have enjoyed looking at your photos. :-)

Anonymous said...

I loved wearing my brownine dress with my beanie (I still have the beanie). My daughter wore the newer version and yes looking at the two they should have never changed the look of the brownie uniform. My granddaughter is now a brownie and her scout leader does not enforce the girls to wear their sashes, but since I am the one who puts the patches on, she wears it to scouts. After all, isn't that what makes us unique?

November 1973: HELEN REDDY - Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)

I had the biggest crush on a blonde hair, blue eyed boy in my 2nd grade class, Scott Van Seiver. Proximity is what made these feelings so u...