Barbara Smith, winner of the Girl Scouts of the Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont Juliette Gordon Low Lifetime Achievement Award, began her journey with the organization as a Brownie in 1938. Years later, she found an old membership card from that time and discovered that her leader’s name was Mrs. John Smith. Smiling, she says, “And my husband’s name was John. So, I was Mrs. John Smith, too. I don’t remember my Brownie leader at all, but that’s a funny coincidence.”
By the time the U.S. entered World War II, Smith was an established Girl Scout. Later, she became a Girl Scout Mariner and learned about water activities. But she says she had the most fun as a Wing Scout.
“Our leader was a flying instructor,” she remembers. “We didn’t actually learn to fly, but we learned all about flight and about planes — the parts of planes, why they could fly and that sort of thing. Ground school, I guess.”
Smith’s parents, the Lashleys, moved to Arden in 1936. Decades later, in 1980, Smith and her husband purchased her childhood home, where the two raised their own family. “Both my girls went as far as they could in Girl Scouts. Both my sons are Eagle Scouts, and my husband was a scoutmaster for 11 years.”
To this day, Smith remains a Girl Scout, working as a member of the Council Archives Committee, helping to collect, catalog and display Girl Scout memorabilia. Smith is also active in the Trefoil Guild of Western North Carolina, a group of adult Girl Scouts who meet regularly for fun, fellowship and service. Additionally, Smith meets weekly via Zoom with the Girl Guide Trefoil Guild in Aberdeen, Scotland, presenting programs on topics including her 80-plus-year history with the organization.
Xpress sat down with Smith over Girl Scout cookies to discuss her Scout work over the years, the lifetime achievement award and her favorite camping spot in the area.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.
What sort of Scouting work is typical for individuals like you who remain a Girl Scout into their adulthood?
Among other things, I am an adult learning facilitator — what we used to call trainers. Trainers train troop leaders. I primarily train leaders in outdoor skills. And I’ve been doing that for about 40 years. The courses I help teach prepare leaders to be comfortable with their troops in the out-of-doors, including such things as fire building, knots, safe use of knives, meal planning, outdoor cooking and the use and care of tents and tarps. I also help maintain our training equipment and supplies.
What was your reaction to learning you’d been given the lifetime achievement award?
The award totally took me by surprise. It was at the annual meeting this year. In the program, they listed all the various awards. The program would say what the award was, the requirements for winning it and then it listed the recipients. Well, the program got down to this one lifetime achievement award, and it listed all of the requirements but no name was printed. There were about 175 people there, and so I kept looking around to guess who it was. When they announced my name, I couldn’t even stand up. I didn’t know what to think. I was humbled and honored by it.
What does receiving this award mean to you?
I don’t know how to express it. … It just meant so very, very much to me because my friends were responsible for this happening. They went to the CEO and said, “We need to do something for Barbara Smith.” The council had never given this award before. They developed it just for me. So that in itself is very humbling. And then the same friends said, “It’s all well and good for her to have a trophy. But if you give this award again, somebody else will get a trophy like that. And we want Barbara to have something that is just hers.” And so they had this badge made for me. It’s one of a kind. There’ll never be another one like it. It’s engraved on the back with what it’s for. It’s very hard to put into words how much it means to me.
What was a particularly memorable adventure that you had as a Girl Scout?
Once a year, a group of five friends plus our Wing Scout leader would get together for a long weekend, usually over Labor Day, or whenever we had some extra time. One year in the ’90s, we decided we wanted to go to the Girl Scouts and Girl Guides’ international center, a chalet in Adelboden, Switzerland.
Our leader said, “Let my travel agent plan all this, and you just send us your check for the airfare.” We did that and went to Europe, traveled around, went to the chalet and had a wonderful time. On the plane coming back, our leader handed us our checks. She paid for our trip! Most unusual. She said, “I’m single. I don’t have any children. You’re my children.”
Growing up, what was your favorite camping spot here in Western North Carolina?
In the late 1940s, there was a cabin in the Cradle of Forestry called Shank Lodge. We could rent that for the weekend for $16. And that included all of our lanterns and wood for the fire and all kinds of things. We used to try to camp there when the moon was full. And there’s a big flat rock down at the bottom of Looking Glass Falls. We would go down there and sit on that rock in the moonlight and sing Girl Scout songs. That’s a good memory.
Favorite Girl Scout Cookie?
It used to be Thin Mints. But then I decided I like Peanut Butter Patties [aka Tagalongs] better. And there is a new one this year called Adventurefuls that I really like. Would you like to sample it?
For more on Barbara Smith, visit avl.mx/btb.