The celebration marked the 104th anniversary of the girl scouts, which was founded by Juliette Gordon Low in 1912, in Savannah, Georgia. The girl scouts have a rich history in Oak Ridge as the town’s first youth organization, established in 1943, by Elsie Novy, to help students feel at home in “the City Behind a Fence,” during the Manhattan Project.
Girl scouts wearing vintage uniforms from the 1940s to 1970s, carrying a 48-star American flag, kicked off the event with the opening flag ceremony. Girls from various Oak Ridge troops of all ages participated in re-enacting scenes of historical events during the Manhattan Project. The most notable was the scene of the famous “Giant White Sale” of 1946, where the girls of Troop 69, helped organize the sale of 35,000 pieces of unclaimed laundry at the request of the army. Due to a high number of people sharing limited facilities of the Secret City, many clothing items were misplaced. The proceeds totaled over $2,300, which was split between the army and the girl scouts. A bright-eyed junior scout wearing an authentic 1940s uniform, held up a pair of patched men’s boxer briefs with a sign saying, “Make ‘em due, or do without.” This was a famous saying for the city behind the fence during wartime efforts.
Following the opening ceremony, scouts and their families toured an original flat top house and visited historical exhibits at AMSE, which was part of the requirement for earning the Secret City Patch. This patch was created to help girls discover the history of the Secret City, during World War II and the role it played in ending the war. Participants then visited CMOR, to visit additional historical displays and the well-known photographs of Ed Westcott, the official Manhattan Project photographer.
This activity-filled day ended with girls receiving their Secret City Patch and participating in a friendship circle, where they tied square knots to link gold and silver rope pieces to symbolize making new friends (silver) and keeping old friends (gold). Throughout its history, girl scouts have inspired millions of girls and women with the highest ideas of character, conduct and patriotism. This historical event showcased the influence girls scouts had in the community of Oak Ridge, and the town’s rich history.
Manhattan Project National Historical Park
c/o NPS Intermountain Regional Office
P.O. Box 25287
(505) 661-6277 This phone number is for the Los Alamos Unit Visitor Center. You may also contact the Oak Ridge Unit Visitor Center at (865) 482-1942, or the Hanford Unit Visitor Center at (509) 376-1647.