Girl Scouts, Dexter, Iowa–1933

Brownie Scouts met in the basement of the Dexter school when I was in the lower grades. I remember making Bunsen burners and having a cookout at Virginia Hauptman’s house for one meeting. (Virginia was born the day before I was at the Dexter Hospital, our mothers staying 10 days each after our births, so got well acquainted.)
But when it was time to graduate to Girl Scouts, we girls in the country were expected to join 4-H instead. But the town girls joined Girl Scouts, and I understand that they were such a close-knit group that they still have reunions.
Back in the 1930s, Della Gowdy, phys ed and social studies teacher, and Genora Cushman, who taught Sunday School (Methodist?) and collected news for the paper, were the Girl Scouts leaders. There weren’t any uniforms and no badges, just camaraderie and learning some skills
Della Gowdy
Doris Wilson (toward the end of her freshman year) remembered camping out in May of 1933 in the old Dance Pavilion at Dexfield Park, which was officially closed. During the night, they were wakened by walnuts thumping onto the roof and rolling to the ground.The girls picked Dutchman’s Breeches and Sweet Williams for May Baskets to deliver to elderly Dexterites.
Bonnie and Clyde
That July, they were again camping at Dexfield Park. Maxine Schell remembered that one morning the group took a long hike and came upon some people at a campsite, waved, and greeted them. Later they learned they’d encountered the Barrow Gang, AKA Bonnie and Clyde, who were holed up in the park so that Buck Barrow could recover from head wounds from a Missouri shootout. The historic Dexfield Park shootout, resulting in the escape of Bonnie and Clyde and their driver, and the arrest of Buck and Blanche Barrow, took place July 24, 1933. 
Meteor Shower
Della Gowdy lived just east of town with her father and blind brother (who lost his sight after falling from a horse). She hosted a campout of 16-20 girls on their front lawn that August. They were awake much of the night, mesmerized at the number and colors in a meteor shower–the marvelous Perseids.
They also camped out in pasture northwest of town. Each girl was assigned to bring something to contribute to meals. Doris Wilson was to bring six potatoes, to add to eggs and bacon, etc., for breakfast. During the night the girls were scared by threatening noises from “a bull.” They woke Della and all ran across the field to cross a fence. It turned out that local cows were just curious about who was camping in their field.
They were far enough out of town for that campout that someone’s brother drove out to get the group. Della and the girls piled into and on the car. Doris and another girl rode on the running board, holding onto the car frame through a window, while two other girls rode on the other side.
Times sure have changed.


  1. I never knew that my sister Genore, worked with Della in Girl Scouts… Years later, Della and I were leaders together, for a Girl Scout Troop.
    Phyliss Piatt was a leader, when I was in Scouts. Mrs Hemphill had revived Scouting and I was a member for only a couple of years then.. It was during that time that we sent cigar boxes filled with items, that had been hard to get in England, during the war, and the boxes went to children who had lost a parent in the war. Pat Nicholl’s father had been a pilot, lost over the Channel and she got my box.. That would have been in the mid 1940’s..We are still in close contact, talking on phone most every month. She has visited me 3 times, I been to her home in Birmingham, England twice, and we met once in Florida… I am still a ‘ Lifetime member’ of Girl Scouts, having been an
    active leader, for some 20 years in Storm Lake, Iowa. and received the Thanks Badge, after serving as Neighborhood Chairman, and on the Council board.

    I don’t know if Scouting is still alive in Dexter..It is in Storm Lake, although just this week the newspaper told of the first Girl to join the boys BSA troop there.

    • Susan, you should share your story on the Memories of Dexter Facebook page! Do you have any photos during those years? Because it was during the Depression, Mom had hardly any photos, so I took Della’s from a school class picture.

  2. I enjoyed this story of scouting from years ago. My mother and I were both Girl Scouts. Now that you mention it, in nothern New Hampshire and Vermont, the farmgirls joined 4H, while the village girls joined Girl Scouts.

  3. Great post. I especially liked the Bovine Adventure. I had a similar experience as a youngster with a group of friends camping in a local farmer’s cow pasture. We did not spend the night.

Leave a Reply to joynealkidneyCancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.