A hundred years ago, just a few years after Girl Scouts began, a group of girls in Muskogee, Okla., made homemade sugar cookies and sold them to fund their activities.
A tradition began.
By 1922, cookie selling had caught on throughout the country, and Girl Scouts was distributing a recipe for girls to make cookies and sell them. The original recipe went like this:
Girl Scout Cookies
1 cup of butter or substitute
1 cup of sugar
2 Tbsp. of milk
1 tsp. of vanilla
2 cups of flour
2 tsp. of baking powder
Cream butter and sugar, add well-beaten eggs, then milk, flavoring, flour and baking powder. Roll thin and bake in quick oven.
Sprinkle sugar on top. This amount makes six or seven dozen.
The girls printed a card and attached them to the cookies:
“Cookies large and cookies small,
Made by SCOUTS both short and tall.
What’s your ORDER? Phone us quick,
So that we may do the trick,
THIRTY CENTS is all we ask,
And we find it is no task
To DELIVER to your door
DOZENS — one, two, three or more!”
Commercially made cookies didn’t appear until 1935, and those Thin Mints you love didn’t show up until 1939, and they were called Cooky-Mints.
On Wednesday, the 17,000 girls that are part of Girl Scouts of Central Texas launched their cookie sales. On Saturday, you’ll start seeing girls selling cookies outside at local stores.
This year Girl Scouts of Central Texas is back with ABC Bakers, which means you can buy Thanks-a-lots (sugar cookies covered in chocolate on one side) and Lemonades (an iced lemon cookie) but not Savannah Smiles or Rah-Rah-Raisins, which are from the other bakery. Some of the cookie names are different, too: Caramel deLites instead of Samoas, Peanut Butter Patties instead of Tagalongs, Shortbread instead of Trefoils, and Peanut Butter Sandwiches instead of Do-si-dos. The gluten-free cookie is called a Trio, and it’s a peanut butter oatmeal cookie with chocolate chips.
Thin Mints will always be Thin Mints, but this year, in honor of the 100th year of Girl Scout cookies, there’s a Girl Scout S’mores cookie, too. It’s a graham cracker dipped in chocolate with a creme icing inside.
Like the last few years, the cookies are $4 a box or $5 for the gluten free variety. The money goes to the girls to support their projects as well as to the council for program support, including maintaining the two Girl Scout camps in this area.
In honor of the 100th year of the Girl Scout cookie, we asked Girl Scouts from different decades what they remembered about cookie sales and what they learned by selling cookies.
Edith Scott is 91 years old and remembers cookies costing 50 cents a box in 1935, when she first started selling them as a 10-year-old living in Schulenberg.
“We didn’t sit outside stores,” she says. “We went door to door.”
Plus, the one grocery store in town, she’s certain, wouldn’t have let them sell outside the store because they were girls. “You’ve got to remember the age. In 1935, we were in the minority. We weren’t allowed to do things.”
All of the money they earned from cookies, plus the 2-cents-a-meeting dues they paid, went to funding the troop activities. Her troop, which was led by her mother, covered all the Girl Scouts in town. They had their own summer camp, which took over a local family farm for a week or two during the summer.
The troop also had a marching band, which would travel by bus to Houston and San Antonio to march in parades.
Selling Girl Scout cookies taught Scott the value of money, she says, and how to manage it and make change. “We really learned what money meant in those days,” she says.
Scott went on to be a troop leader herself in the late 1940s at Pease Elementary School. She remembers the girls she led selling cookies for $1 a box.
“With money, you can do a lot of things,” Scott says.
Carol Castlebury, 67, remembers selling Girl Scout cookies in the 1950s at stores and going door to door in Atlanta, Texas, about 25 miles from Texarkana. “I had a wonderful time doing it,” she says. “It was just fun.”
At first she sold cookies for 50 cents a box and there were only two varieties: a chocolate and vanilla cream sandwich and Thin Mints.
Selling cookies, she says, teaches “how to approach people and how to deal with people.” And, of course, “how to take ‘no,’ but doing it in a way that doesn’t burn any bridges.”
While Castlebury was selling cookies, she was in direct competition with her parents, who owned the local grocery store and bakery. “My mother was fantastic with cakes and pies and doughnuts and all kinds of cookies,” she says.
Her family wasn’t particularly affluent, which meant that selling cookies was the way she was able to go to summer camp every year. Cookies also allowed her to go to the Girl Scout Roundup in 1965, which brought 10,000 Girl Scouts to Sandpoint, Idaho.
She was able to meet a lot of different people and see another part of the world. “I learned there was a lot of stuff out in the world to see,” she says. “Otherwise, I would have wound up staying in Atlanta.”
Castlebury continued Girl Scouts through high school and later became a Girl Scout volunteer, working with the camp committee, serving on the board of directors and even being the neighborhood cookie coordinator.
Jaclyn Sharp, 28, who now works for Girl Scouts of Central Texas as a volunteer support services manager, remembers selling cookies from the time she was in first grade through high school in the Los Angeles area. She remembers selling them for less than $3 a box, and there were six varieties, many of which we still have today.
“It really encouraged me to be more social and to put myself out there,” Sharp says. She remembers being intimidated by talking to strangers. She found it easier to make up a song and sing her request. “It allowed me to build some confidence for myself.”
Cookie sales also taught her how to count money. “I didn’t learn it in school, by the way,” she says.
When she was in fourth grade, she sold 1,000 boxes and earned enough money to pay for an overnight trip to an aquarium, where she got to sleep by the shark tank. That year, as part of selling 1,000 boxes, she earned a toiletry kit as a prize. She brought it with her on her trip. “I remember being so proud of them,” she says of the prizes. “I worked so hard for them.”
Isabel Leggett is an 11th-grader at Akins High School and one of the top sellers in Central Texas. Last year, she sold 4,661 boxes. She says she works about 40 hours a week selling cookies during cookie season, which goes through Feb. 26.
“I work my tail off,” she says.
“Selling cookies has taught me how to talk to people of all sorts,” she says. “Before Girl Scouts, I didn’t even talk to family members outside of my house. Whenever we went anywhere with family that was not my immediate family, I would hide behind my mother’s legs. It has helped me come out of my shell.”
She remembers her first booth as a first-grader. Her mother had to push her out to the crowd to ask, “Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?”
Her first goal was to sell 75 boxes, but when she realized she had way surpassed that, she remembers thinking, “Oh, I’m good at this.”
Last summer, her cookie sales earned her a trip to Disney World, and for the past three summers she’s been able to go on a backpacking trip in Colorado. She’s gone to Girl Scout camp every summer, sometimes twice, without her parents paying a dime. She even earned a limo adventure with Girl Scouts of Central Texas CEO Lynelle McKay.
This summer, she’s spending two weeks backpacking across Switzerland, Italy and France. She’s been saving up her cookie money for this trip for nine years and doesn’t expect to pay more than $1,000. “Lifelong goal accomplished,” she says.
She has one more big cookie goal: When she was in sixth grade, she wanted to break the Texas record for the most cookies sold. She learned that 35 years ago a girl sold 5,432. Since then, she’s had a goal of selling 6,000.
What you should know about Girl Scout cookie sales
When: Through Feb. 26
Price: $4 a box, $5 for gluten free
How can I pay? Cash, check if you buy $14 or more and have a phone number and driver’s license on the check, or credit card.
Where to find them: Go to gsctx.org and search under the cookie tab to find the booth locations and times.
Which ones are vegan? Thanks-a-lots, S’mores, Lemonades, Thin Mints and Peanut Butter Patties
Which ones have the least amount of sugar? Shortbread and Peanut Butter Sandwiches
Which ones have chocolate? Thanks-a-lots, S’mores, Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Patties and Caramel deLites
Which ones are safe for a nut allergy? Thanks-a-lots, Lemonades, Thin Mints
What if I don’t want cookies? You can say no. Girls learn how to handle it. You can also buy a box of cookies to give to the troop’s local charity of choice or to send a box to a soldier stationed overseas.
What should I NOT do if approached by a girl? Ignore her. She won’t know if you heard her and might ask again. Plus, little girls especially get more hurt by you ignoring her than if you just say no.
Why do girls sometimes not ask me? Girls are not allowed to ask you if you are on your way into a store, only as you are coming out. Girls also sometimes get shy or get confused which girl’s turn it is to ask.
Where does the money go? 21 percent goes to the troop or group of troops; 12 percent to funds management, general and fund development; 42 percent goes to programming; 25 percent is the cost of the cookie.
How do you join Girl Scouts? Go to gsctx.org/join and search for a troop by grade, school or ZIP code.
Share your story: Go to austin360.com/raisingaustin and post a comment to our blog about your story.