Aides assist units for Day Camp and also help run the shelters.
This information was provided by DJ Weatherford, the AIT Advisor and Bugs, a former Aide.
Aide names first appeared after Casey Kowalski and Leslie Lemmons went to Camp Kachina. They went by Corkey and Lemon, but "never withheld their real names, as is at Kachina until the last day, or at Howdy," indefinitely. When Bugs became an aide, "Lemon was long gone and no one other that Corkey had used a camp name in years."
"I wanted to use a camp name (mostly so people wouldn't remember me as, JaNelle, DJ's daughter--as I knew [her] popularity would grow from being the AIT leader) and so did my best friend, Amanda Garber (aka: Taz) and some others (Emily Svatek, who was already called M&M by friends, and Jennifer Cantey, Jaay Birde). We had come up with the plan the summer before at a Kachina stay, along with Amber Tobias. Amber called herself Rocky that first year, because she had started using it at Kachina after
having sold enough cookies to stay for free all summer long. At Howdy, [however], the film 3 Ninjas haunted her as we chanted "Rocky loves Emily" everywhere she and M&M went; Amber gave away her true identity immediately and remade her name tag. Like Lemon, years before, preteen camping went out of [fashion] and she left within a year or so.
I still think Jaay Birde and I used nicknames to separate ourselves from our mothers to a certain degree, but like Emily, we also just wanted to make things more campy and fun. I always thought it was cool for some girls to use their real names, especially when they come with cool ones, like Diedre, my first little sister (who never got a camp name).
However, Diedre wasn't swayed to come up with a camp name so she could fit into the newly revived AIT world. I think that it may be a little out of control now, as girls SEARCH for a nickname. When I was last there much of the day was spent asking me my real name, and my little sister's and the other aides, etc.
I think the names add to the spirit of camp in many ways, but no one should feel obligated to use or hide their real names. The funny thing is, even after girls know your real name, they still want to call you Bugs (I guess because I was always willing to play with the bugs and talk to them about insects when they started in on me and my real name). Nonetheless, its been over ten years and I still remember my first camp aides, nicknames, first and last."
-Courtesy of Bugs
DJ might have possibly been the first aide at Howdy. When she went to Camp Howdy, "day camp was limited to girls who had finished the third, fourth, fifth grade, or sixth grade--what we called Brownies (third grade) and Intermediate Girl Scouts (fourth through sixth). Daisies didn't exist back then, and you had to be in the third grade to be a Brownie--which is why ... [she thinks she] probably started day camping about the first year of it, in about 1959. Day camp was there for [them] because [they] weren't allowed to camp overnight that young.
We didn't have aides back then, either. Instead, the units were all one troop, so our usual leaders and assistant leaders were also the leaders and assistant leaders of the day camp units. Most of them went to training regularly (back then, only a few moms had jobs), and that training included enough outdoor training that, if they weren't already "farm girls" to begin with, they felt pretty comfortable out in the woods with a bunch of girls, and day camp was a snap for them.
But by seventh grade, we were in "junior high," and Junior High Girl Scouts were considered "too old" for day camp anymore since we were "officially" old enough for overnight camping. Besides, I think the leaders were pretty burned out of day camping by then, especially by the time we also expected them to take us overnight camping once a month!
It wasn't enough for me, so when Mrs. Bruner told us we wouldn't be going to day camp after the seventh grade, I asked mother if she could find a way for me to go--even if it meant I had to help out somehow. We lived a few blocks up the street from the scout house, and mother had been a leader for years before the council had purchased Camp Howdy, so she asked Julia Hillman if there was a way for me to help out at camp. Turned out there was a troop from Hearne who wanted to camp there that year, but the leaders were feeling pretty nervous about taking a bunch of little girls out in the woods that way; without a camp in Hearne, they weren't getting the outdoor training Bryan leaders got.
I had been camping with my family since I was six months old, so I had pretty good skills (both of my parents were long-time campers and scout leaders), so I was pretty much the person that troop needed. I had a ball showing off my skills, and I think the leaders really appreciated me; I worked with that troop for the next several years. But I never had a camp name.
Camp names were already popular in other places, though; when I went to resident camp and Kachina that year, all of our counselors had camp names and none of us knew what their real names were. And my older sister had had a camp name for years before she went to Girl Scout Roundup in 1959. "
Name tags were not introduced until the 80s or 90s.
"How has Aide-ing changed throughout the years?
Well, I'm sure you can see a start here. I was never "trained" to be an aide; I just volunteered, and some nice person accepted me. I'd like to think that part of the reason the aide program grew was that the nice folks from Hearne liked me enough to spread the word, but I can't be sure of that at all.
By the time I came back with my daughter (let's see...must have been about 91), I was proud of the aide program in some ways but appalled by it in others. We had enough aides around camp that I could have two in my unit up to the year I had the AIT unit (which had then--and needs now--at least four, I think), and I had some good ones.
The problem I saw was in the way aides treated AITs, which I considered a *horrible* model for the younger girls. Back then (this must have been about 96), the AITs were just the same as all the other campers in camp, except that they were given a big notebook of aide information that I think was supposed to be providing their "aide training"; the year I was the AIT assistant, before I became the leader, they spent about half an hour the first day with the manual, but I don't remember that they ever even looked at it after that.
The way we were supposed to tell AITs from other campers was that someone had come up with the notion that they were supposed to "grow" from campers to aides during the week of AIT training. Originally, that meant they were supposed to be "babies" on Monday, "toddlers" on Tuesdays, "preschoolers" (I think) on Wednesday, and "campers" on Thursday before they "graduated to aides" on Friday.
From what I gather, that started off pretty well, but by the time I got there, we had AITs coming to camp in "diapers" over their shorts (or not) all week long, wearing pigtails and freckles so they would look more like toddlers, and generally acting the part. The Big Sisters were supposed to give age-appropriate "gifts" every day, which meant they usually gave pacifiers and baby bottles full of candy on Monday, and we had AITs sucking on baby bottles all week long. You may have guessed this isn't the image I really wanted AITs to have, especially since I had been a full-fledged aide by the time I was they're age, and I had had some pretty important responsibilities then.
Worse, the aides treated them horribly. For some reason, someone decided that "hazing" is a good thing. (I've never seen the benefit to yelling at, belittling, or hurting people you want to do a good job, but a lot of other people have....) So the aides were allowed to force the AITs to sing "We Love You Aides" anywhere and any time they saw them, and that included making them kneel on the trails and sing it until the AITs were late enough to wherever they were going to worry their unit leaders.
At graduation, the Aides would blindfold the AITs and lead them around part of camp, sometimes causing them to stumble and fall, sometimes hurting themselves. [Tiger: The Aides no longer do this.] One year the aides sprayed the AITs with a water hose and caused one to go into hypothermia. The AITs usually didn't go to the units until the last 30 mintues or so of the day (and sometimes less; I think they went to all the other camp activities and closed down the AIT unit first), so they really never had an opportunity to practice working with the girls in units. The last year I was in a "real" unit (my daughter had just finished the fourth grade), our AIT came to the unit while we were trying to clean up from cooking out, and I needed all the help I could get. (In those days, nobody expected the units that were cooking to get to the flagpole before camp was dismissed, but I was determined to change that.) Imagine my anger when I looked up from cleaning a pot to see my aides making the AIT stand in the middle of our *table* and sing "We Love You Aides" instead of helping clean up! I stopped it and put them all to work, but that was typical of the way aides interacted with AITs and the way AITs were treated. The aides came up with a pretty wide range of things to do to try to humiliate the AITs.
You can imagine that I was grateful for the opportunity to take over as AIT trainer and stop that. From the beginning, I told the AITs that I expected them to be training to take over responsibility and to remember that part of the Girl Scout Law (at least back then) was to be a sister to every other Girl Scout, and I couldn't think of anybody who would want to be treated the way the aides were treating the AITs. And I assured the AITs that if an aide tried to do anything to humiliate or hurt them, they were to report to me, and I would take care of it.
A few people still thought "hazing" was okay, and one of the girls in my troop got chastised several times the next year and a few times the year after that for treating AITs badly; the next year, she was invited not to come back to camp. That's the last year I've heard of aides causing AITs any trouble.
Instead, most of that first group I trained picked up exactly on what I meant, and the aides have been really supportive of AITs ever since. It took me a couple of years to get the directors to understand that I didn't plan to send AITs to all the usual camp activities, but when I started getting them into the units earlier in the day with "assignments" for things to do (like cleaning latrines, entertaining campers, or helping with discipline at programs), both the directors and the unit leaders liked it. I think the aides appreciate feeling as if they are important to helping the AITs learn, and I think that has a lot to do with the better treatment.
I'd still like to see some things change. I don't like the blindfolds at graduation at all, and I'd like to get more leaders to get their units to the flagpole right after lunch on Fridays so we could have a really nice, well-planned graduation ceremony; so far, that hasn't happened, from either the end of the leaders or the planning. (I'd like the aides to start in the back of the camp, picking up AITs from the units, and sing their way all the way to the flagpole to let the leaders know they need to get their campers there. I'd like the Big Sisters to make a big show of putting the name tags on the aides and saying something meaningful about the little sisters--either something special they've done, the reason for the camp name--*anything* that would make each AIT feel really, really special. But I dream....) And I need to keep working to be sure we've gotten good evaluations of the AITs in the units.
The other important thing that has happened has been the work of the aide leaders. For a long time "aide leader" meant "sit in the unit and read a book so someone will be there when the girls come for lunch." You already know that hasn't been the job description for years; those ladies do an incredible job of keeping the aides working on name tags or cups (or whatever; I don't see much purpose to continuing the cups, but I don't know of a good substitute!), planing and scheduling activities, and making sure the aides are where they are supposed to be and doing what they are supposed to be doing. I really think the biggest part of the reason we had 100 Cadettes and Seniors last year is the wonderful work those ladies do.
You didn't ask about the AIT swaps, but here's the skinny on that, too: I had learned about swaps when my sister went to Roundup in 59, but I hadn't seen them anywhere since then. I explained them to the first AIT unit after I became the leader (I was assistant leader for one year first), and those girls did the best they could to come up with something. The ones I got that year are not the most complex or creative I've ever gotten, but they are precious to me.
A year or two later, one of the other leader trainers went to some event where swaps were the big thing, and they brought the idea back to Howdy with them, urging everybody to make them. But the important thing I remember about Roundup was that the swaps were supposed to represent the "swapper"; since my sister was from Texas, we used egg cartons (they were all that weird gray "cardboard" stuff back then) and circles of posterboard to make "cowboy hats," and she spray painted sweetgum balls and palmed them off as "porcupine eggs." I never did figure out what porcupines were supposed to have to do with Texas!
At any rate, it saddens me a bit that we've lost that sense of the "personal" in our rush to have everybody "do swaps." I guess we have to learn when to let old memories go, but that one's hard for me.
... I think Emily [Pulley] was the one who stated the "growing up" thing, and I think it worked well at the beginning. ... I'm pretty sure that Emily developed the "testing" that was going on when I got there, but then it was a "wide game" where the AITs were supposed to go to each station, answer some questions, and move on. I don't even know if anybody was at the stations to hear whether they answered the questions right. (When I got there, I don't think so; when Emily did it, probably.) And they didn't have to *demonstrate* that they had the skills.
Emily also had a different way of indicating that the AITs had "passed" each station: She cut out long strips of green felt, and at each station the girls got a felt "symbol" for the station; for example, the first aid station was a red cross. I liked the idea (it had been abandoned by the time I got there), but I wanted the girls to be able to show anybody forever that they had passed; hence the pony beads. Emily's strips were almost a foot long, over an inch wide, and pretty gaudy for aides to wear after they 'passed.'"
-Courtesy of DJ Weatherford