Remembering Mrs. Core

(The following was sent to us by Diana Schutte Dowling, who admits to being 82 (almost 83) years old. She and husband Tom, live in Helena, Mont., but have spent the past 24 winters at their home in Sun City West, Ariz., a home they call “Cabin South. It was edited to fit the space available but we hope you enjoy it as much as we did.)

By Diana Schutte-Dowling

On January 25 this year, we had violent wind gusts, snow, rain, hail, and graupel (look it up).  When I dared go outside …  THE FLAG WAS STILL THERE!

Still there, hanging limply from the sagging flagpole mounted beside our garage door.  I thought, “Mrs. Core would be so disappointed in me.”  As a Brownie Scout way back in about 1945, Mrs. Core, the leader of my Brownie Scout troop, taught us that a U.S. flag is posted in the early morning and reverently taken down and folded properly at dusk and NEVER left flying during rain or other inclement weather.

And like the lightening that had come with that storm, I started thinking of the uncountable other “rules” I had learned from Mrs. Core over the 10-plus years that she was my Girl Scout Leader, Troop #77, Greybull, Wyo. 

I learned that to “pledge” or “promise” anything (like allegiance to a flag representing “liberty and justice for all”) or like to do my duty or be kind or honest or fair MEANT THAT I MEANT IT! 

I learned that EVERYTHING must be ironed, especially tablecloths, but including sheets, pillow cases, and underwear.

I learned how to set a proper table.  The plate must be an inch in from edge of table; on right side of the plate the knife comes first with cutting edge facing plate exactly same distance from edge of table as the plate, then the teaspoon.  On left of plate big fork closest to plate, again same distance from edge of table, then smaller forks in reverse order of use.  Napkin folded correctly to the left of forks.  Water glass above the knife.  Wine glass to right of water glass. And if in doubt check Emily Post.  (I have never yet learned of a proper place for a cell phone on a properly set table.)

I learned that making or keeping a pledge or promise had nothing to do with religion.  Mrs. Core was Catholic as was her daughter, Caryl, and I.  Ruth’s dad was a Presbyterian minister, Lucille was a Lutheran as was most everybody else from Emblem Bench. I never learned if any of the other troop members even “went to church.”

I learned that it was often hard work to earn a badge; that’s why we could show them off with pride. I learned the correct way to wear a Girl Scout uniform and sash for badges.  The skirt bottom of the uniform had to be a certain number of inches from the floor so the uniforms would look uniform in a photo.

I learned that a month-long trip with 10 Girl Scouts and four leaders covering some 19 states is a life-changer. On that trip I learned that I LOVE to travel; I learned that I LOVE big cities. 

But long before that, I learned that I don’t love selling cookies and learned that I always take a “no” way too personally.  (Even now I can’t ASK for a donation to anything no matter how good the cause.)

But I’ve learned that I still can’t resist buying Girl Scout cookies, no matter how offered, even online offerings from a 5-year-old great niece in Massachusetts during the COVID-19 pandemic. $100 worth of cookies to be donated to the local Food Bank and another $100 to her Daisy Girl Scout troop.

But I did learn that saving money from cookie sales and planning a BIG TRIP as a troop for 10 years is worth every cookie! (I have that 1954 trip to our national Scout HQ documented in a large photo album in Helena which contains many photos and the original letters I wrote home each day to my parents about how SWELL and SWANKY everything was.)

I learned that in a big city restaurant – unlike Delane’s Café or the Five Sisters – there is a person whose ONLY JOB is to show customers to their table!

Back in the ‘50s and into the ‘60s, married women did not have first names; they were all known by their husband’s names, thus “Mrs. Core” was always Mrs. Clinton Core.  I never knew her first name and was shocked much later in life to hear my nursery-mate, Myrna Hirsch DeSomber, refer to Mrs. Core as LEE.  Well, that may be, but that woman who changed my life forever will always be Mrs.Core to me.