The Newfangled Gramma

Margie Reins Smith By Margie Reins Smith, 7th Apr 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Retirement

The Newfangled Gramma remembers a girl scout project from the 1950s -- situpons. If you have some of these odd craft projects stashed in you attic, you might be sitting upon some cash.


Baby Sitting
By Margie Reins Smith

Raising decent children is backbreaking, exhausting, thankless work. I’m glad I took the time to do it. It was touch and go for a while, back when I was sitting on the front porch of my girlhood home, begging my parents to let me join the Girl Scouts.

I was browsing around eBay recently, marveling at the fact that old Life magazines are worth about 30 times their original purchase prices. The bidding for a 54-year-old issue of Life with Marlene Dietrich on the cover starts at $6.99.

It cost 20 cents in 1948.

When I was growing up, girls were warned – mostly by their mothers, who knew about all kinds of dangerous practices – not to sit on cold cement or cold ground. If your mother caught you sitting on the front porch steps on a chilly autumn evening, you were told to go inside and get a cushion. Or stand up, for Pete’s sake.

“Why?” we asked.

The answer varied according to whose mother caught you, but if all the answers were added together and divided by the number of mothers who actually responded, the reason boiled down to: “You’ll ruin your insides and never be able to have babies.”

That didn’t sound like such a terrible consequence to me.
Being a Girl Scout wasn’t all it was cracked up to be either. I joined because all my girlfriends were scouts.

The good part was the uniform, which we got to wear all day in school on Thursdays. Our meeting was held after school in the gymnasium. I felt important, like I belonged, like I was a member of the chosen few. I think that’s what uniforms are for.
I liked the badges too. I liked wearing them more than actually earning them.

The downside of Girl Scouts was all that camping crap.
I didn’t like sleeping in some Godforsaken forest in a tent on a rock-hard cot under a mosquito net. I didn’t like to swim unless the water was 90 degree or higher. I didn’t particularly like tromping around in swamps, dealing with large unfamiliar insects, drinking icky-tasting water or using outdoor toilets.

Why sleep outside, I wondered, when I had a comfy bed at home with a pink and white ruffled bedspread in a room with roses stenciled on the walls and screens on the windows.

In order to go camping and in order to earn our camping badges, we had to make useless, trumped-up craft projects.
Sit-upons, for example.

We made these things called sit-upons. All Girl Scouts had to make them before they went camping. I’ll bet any Boy Scout worth his salt in those days (or these days, for that matter) wouldn’t recognize a sit-upon if it bit him on the butt.

Our leader came to the meeting one Thursday afternoon with a stack of Life magazines, a couple of balls of yarn and some patterned oilcloth cut into rectangles with pinking shears.

We placed a piece of oilcloth on the top and bottom of a stack of four or five Life magazines. Then we punched holes all around the rectangles with paper punches and wove the yarn in and out of the holes to sew up the magazines inside the oilcloth.

The finished product -- the much ballyhooed sit-upon -- was a waterproof cushion. We were supposed to carry these everywhere and use them when we sat on the ground.

Today, in attics all over America, valuable old Life magazines are waiting to be reclaimed. They’re stitched up in faded red-and-white checked oilcloth sit-upons. The magazines have been protected and preserved and are still pristine, un-yellowed and un-dog-eared.

God bless the Girl Scouts because some girls really enjoy this stuff. If the organization ever needs to raise some money, it should put out a request for all former Girl Scouts to dig up and turn in their sit-upons. Today’s Scouts could rip off all that old oilcloth and put the magazines up for sale on eBay. It would be a splendid troop project.

They’d raise a fortune. They’d learn about recycling, about the Internet, about the auction process and the economics of supply and demand.

By the way, that stuff about not being able to have babies if you sat on cold cement – that’s baloney too.

This essay first appeared in The Grosse Pointe News, a weekly community newspaper in a suburb of Detroit, MI.


Aging Process, Grandchildren, Granddaughter, Grandfather, Grandmother, Grandson, Humor, Humorous Stories, Retirement, Senior Citizen

Meet the author

author avatar Margie Reins Smith
I'm a retired journalist, now a freelance writer. I write short, humorous observational essays, usually about being a senior citizen, a grandmother and a mother. I also write book reviews. I'm working on my first novel.

Share this page

moderator Mark Gordon Brown moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


author avatar Songbird B
11th Apr 2011 (#)

Really enjoyed this Margie, a humorous take on the Girl Scouts....You made me chuckle...Great share...

Reply to this comment

author avatar Rathnashikamani
21st Apr 2011 (#)

I understand 'Life' is very precious by aging!

Reply to this comment

author avatar Val Mills
2nd Jul 2011 (#)

Just loved this. I was never allowed to become either a Brownie or a Girl Guide. Maybe this is why. Can't wait to read more of your work.

Reply to this comment

Add a comment
Can't login?