A Girl Scout Troop’s Adventures Abroad in 1949: Part 3 of 3

Come along as Barb Gilbertson experiences the “branching point” of a lifetime. To read Part 1, click here. To read Part 2, click here.

By Barb Gilbertson

Ten days on board a ship!  What a beginning to our three-and-one-half-month adventure.

The SS Samaria had been a luxury liner but was converted to a troop ship during World War II, and then after the war converted back–somewhat.  We slept in a dormitory type room…15 in one room!…but what did we know and what did we care? We were young and healthy and thrilled to be on this trip.

We loved the food, the attention of the waiters, the other young people on board, the movies, the tea on deck, playing shuffleboard etc….all in between our studying currency of the countries we were to visit, French idioms, etc.

We thought it hilarious when during a bit of inclement weather the tea cups slid off the cart on which they were piled..out on deck…right into the ocean!  We were not similarly amused when the same storm produced within some of us that dreaded malady “seasickness”.  However it was short lived.

We were met at Tilbury Docks, where we disembarked, by our pen pals from the Girl Guide Troop from Faversham, Kent. We spent some days in their homes, two of us to a home, and then camped with them nearby and then on to London where we stayed in the Girl Guide Hostel.  

We were escorted around by another group of Guides, seeing all the London sights: Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, St. Paul’s Cathedral..which in 1949 was still surrounded by rubble from bombings, the changing of the guard, the Tower of London, London Bridge etc. At this time the current Queen Elizabeth was Princess Elizabeth, her father, the King, still alive. We got to have a glimpse of her on a trip to Buxton when she and Prince Philip were being driven through the city and waving at the people…including us!  This was all very heady stuff for high school girls from the United States.

Lady Baden Powell

One of the most exciting things that happened  for us while in London was going to the apartment of Lady Baden Powell, the widow of Lord Baden Powell, the founder of Boy Scouting; she herself having started the Girl Guide movement.  We 12, along with various BBC radio people all squeezed into her elegant apartment to be interviewed and to have tea.  Because her husband had been knighted, she was granted housing for life in Hampton Court Palace.

Then across the channel to the continent and the remainder of our trip in Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, France and Germany…camping or staying in hostels and always interacting with Girl Guides from each place.  In Adelboden, Switzerland we stayed for 10 days in the International Girl Scout Chalet along with girls from several other countries.

In Brussels–the girl in the big hat is Ginette, our inspiration.
the Girl Guide Chalet Adelboden, Switzerland.

Once our indefatigable leader Emily got started, she took six more groups to Europe in the ensuing years.  I was on the first two and they shaped the rest of my life.   How very glad I was that I joined Senior Girl Scout Troop One as a Freshman in high school.

©  2021  Barbara Gilbertson

Barbara Gilbertson grew up on the East Coast; met her husband on a trip to Alaska visiting a Girl Scout buddy.  He was from Eau Claire, Wisconsin so that explains the past 41 years in Wisconsin. But prior to that they lived in Minnesota, New York, New Jersey and Alaska..again. Barb holds an Associate Degree from Fordham University, Lincoln Center, New York. Widowed since 2009 after 52 great years, she continues to travel, most often by ship and train.

About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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