Girl Scouts Mystery Series   

Girl Scouts Mystery Series
by Virginia Fairfax

That night in the privacy of her bedroom, [Hilda] set to work to compose her letter of explanation to Mr. Dalton.  It was not at all easy to write, she soon discovered.  She would write a phrase, then cross it out and write it over.  He wouldn't even remember her name.  Maybe she'd better begin by identifying herself so he could understand the letter from the start.  She certainly wasn't going to begin by saying, "I'm the fat girl who crawled up on the bank on all fours."  No, she would say instead, "I am the healthiest-looking one of the four girls who—"

                                                                                  —pages 234-235, The Curious Quest

This six title series was published from 1933 to 1936 by A. L. Burt.  The series was written by Virginia Fairfax, a Girl Scouts leader who lived in Mississippi.  Virginia Fairfax and fellow troop leader Helen Allan Ripley co-authored the Mexican Mystery Stories for Girls series under the pseudonym Helen Randolph.
Titles in the Girl Scouts Mystery Series:

  1. The Secret of Camp Pioneer, 1933
  2. The Mysterious Camper, 1933
  3. The Trail of the Gypsy Eight, 1933
  4. The Secret of Halliday House, 1933
  5. The Curious Quest, 1934
  6. The Camp's Strange Visitors, 1936

According to the University of Mississippi's website, Virginia Fairfax and Helen Allan Ripley became interested in writing due to the interest their scouts had in the stories they told while on camping trips.  All six volumes of the Girl Scouts Mystery series are set entirely within the state of Mississippi.

This series is rather obscure and difficult to acquire.  It is much more difficult to acquire than its related series, the Mexican Mystery Stories for Girls series, which was reprinted by other publishers.  The Girl Scouts Mystery series was only published by A. L. Burt and was never reprinted.  The strong racial stereotypes that are present in this series may be one of the reasons why this series was never reprinted.

All six volumes in this series are scarce.  Volumes 3 and 4 appear to be slightly more common than volumes 1 and 2.  Volumes 5 and 6 are significantly more scarce than the first four volumes, and volume 6 appears to be even more scarce than the elusive A. L. Burt Beverly Gray at the World's Fair is for the Beverly Gray series.  To my knowledge, volume 6, The Camp's Strange Visitors, has come up for sale only three times in the past three years.

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General Premise

The series centers around a troop of Girl Scouts in the state of Mississippi.  The girls' leader is Mrs. MacIntyre, known as Captain Mac.  The main focus is upon eight girls, who are collectively called the Gypsy Eight by their brothers.  The first girl is Patsy Anderson, who is about fifteen and is naturally the most sensible girl in the group.  Patsy's best friend is Joan, who is about thirteen and has much trouble pronouncing long words right.  Hilda is an overweight girl who is boisterous and likes to use her weight as an excuse not to have to do as much work or get up as early as she should.  Hilda dearly loves to entertain the girls with embellished stories about her Negro maid, Lily, who is very superstitious.  Madge is the artistic girl in the group and is also very short-tempered.  Madge responds poorly to criticism and teasing, and Patsy often has to intervene in order to prevent arguments.  Christine, known as Chris, wishes to be an aviatrix, and Flo wishes to be a mechanic.  Shorty is very tall, which is how she earned her nickname.  The eighth member of the group is Jackie, who is the youngest and newest member.

The girls spend most of their time camping or living in their Scout house.  As such, they cook their own meals, usually over a fire, and do their own chores.  The girls eat simple but yummy-sounding meals as they live the outdoor life.  In The Secret of Camp Pioneer, the girls eat Galloping Guinea Pigs, which consists of a cube of cheese wrapped with a slice of bacon that is cooked on a stick and then placed inside a roll with lettuce.  In The Curious Quest, the girls fix Jack-Knife Twisters by using paper sacks as a surface for kneading a flour and lard mixture into banana-shaped rolls.  The rolls are next wound around sticks and set over the fire to cook.  Bacon is wrapped around other sticks, and once both bacon and rolls are ready, the bacon is placed inside the rolls and eaten.

Racial Stereotypes

This series provides an interesting insight into life in Mississippi during the early 1930s.  There are many stories told of the Civil War and the "fo'-de-war" days.  There are elderly characters who lived during the Civil War who tell the girls stories about how they hid their belongings from the Union soldiers.  The series is rich with the ways of the South, and with this, a large amount of racial stereotyping is present, much more than in any other series reviewed on this site.  A few sample quotes are given below so that the reader will have an idea of the content.

Pages 27-28, The Secret of Camp Pioneer:

"That's good.  Mended clothes sell ever so much faster."

Patsy nodded.  "That's because the negroes aren't keen about sewing.  Hardly any of them own sewing machines.  Even after all these years many of them still seem to depend upon 'the white folkses in the big houses' for their clothes."

"Lot's of them seem to get a big thrill out of wearing clothes that have belonged to white people, don't they?"

Patsy stopped to cut off a thread before answering.  "I 'spose that's because they feel that wearing white folks' clothes is next best to wearing white skins.  I've often noticed how they unconsciously put on airs and imitate the former owners of the clothing.  I'd like to see the negro who buys this long-tailed coat of Dad's."

Page 163, The Mysterious Camper:
Before they started, Patsy had delivered, as Hilda put it, a lecture on "Etiquette at a Negro Wedding."

"Girls," she had said, "we'll hear and see lots of funny things at the wedding, but we must be careful not to laugh at the wrong times.  We must laugh with the negroes and not at them.  We don't want to hurt their feelings."

It was a good thing Patsy gave this advice beforehand as there were several occasions when only the recollection of this lecture saved the girls—Patsy included—from exploding with laughter at the wrong moments.

Pages 146-147, The Trail of the Gypsy Eight:
"I wish we had lots of servants at our beck and call as they did in those old days," put in Hilda.  "I could use three slaves myself nicely right now.  I'd set Number One to cleaning the Devil's Punch Bowl mud off my shoes; I'd order Number Two to make up my bed and pick up my clothes; and, as it's my turn to wash dishes this morning, I'd give Number Three the pleasure of scraping pots and pans while I'd sit and—"

"Grow fatter and fatter," interrupted Shorty, "till there'd be only one profession open to you—fat lady in a circus."

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