Author Archives: Brooke Turpin

Scouts’ Own

My informant was the President of the Girl Scouts of America (the Los Angeles chapters) for several years in the 1990s. My mother was a Girl Scout and my informant was her troop leader all throughout her school years. She has many wonderful stories about being my mom’s troop leader.

I sat down with her the other night and asked her if she could share a custom, or ritual that the Girl Scouts have.

Informant: “We had something called a Scouts’ Own. It’s a spiritual, thoughtful ceremony. It can have any kind of theme. I remember one that was very meaningful to me… the idea in girl scouting is that each girl, through all of these things that we do, is to develop leadership… we never told them what to do but they were to be creative. This Scouts’ Own– the challenge for my junior high girls was to put on a Scouts’ Own for all the neighborhood Scouts, the younger girls. Young girls always look up to older ones…They chose the theme of friendship. That was a special one. The Scouts’ Own can happen anywhere…we’ve had them in the forest, in the desert…”

Me: “And what might happen at one? What happened at this particular one?”

Informant: “There is always a point of silence, where when everyone gathers, once they cross the point of silence, they are not to speak. You go in and are shown silently where you are meant to sit and then they begin… They had candles…I can’t remember… they had music and they all shared some important piece of friendship. The children were enthralled by these older girls sharing something important to them. When you are all through, you sing a girl scout song. There are many wonderful songs. Whatever it is, it has to be done thoughtfully. It is very meaningful. A Scouts Own is a very important part of girl scouting.”


I was a Girl Scout, as well, all the way until I was in 9th grade. Being Girl Scouts is always something that has brought the three of us together. We all love to camp and camping skills were one of the things we learned the most about. My informant loves and respects everything that the Girl Scouts hold dear. Since she was President of the region, she is also very knowledgable about practices and has seen many.

Annie Laurie


My informant has a very interesting story. She is Scottish, but grew up primarily in England, near London. Informant’s parents were both very Scottish and so much of who she is surrounds this Scottish heritage. In this particular piece, she outlines much of her story as she is flipping through an old Scottish book of songs that she is showing me. When I asked her about folklore from her past, what comes to mind the most is folk music — as she is a singer. The book is old and falling apart. We are looking at it together. It was printed in 1884… She is gazing lovingly at the book, gingerly flipping the pages. My informant loves music. Everything in her life has to do with singing. She has been a singer her entire life and even now continues to sing in the church choir. Ever since I was little, we have always sung together; it has always been our special bond. She says that I got my singing skills from her. It makes sense then, that we now sit down and for the next 5 hours, go through this book.


Informant: “It smells old. It’s so Scottish [laughs] I inherited this book from my Aunt Mary, my sister Anne got it and then it was given to me. Aunt Mary was my mother’s oldest sister, she was the singer and she had all of these old music books. She would have gotten it from her parents. I am McCready but this came from the Riddell side of the family. The McCready’s were once O’Gradys, coming from Ireland and wanted to blend in when they went to Scotland.

I was born in London but what happened was, my parents were engaged for seven years. This was during the depression…they had no money. My father was a good electrician and he wanted to have his own shop. And people needed work done because… he couldn’t get paid but he was doing the work for free for the people because he was too kind. He decided he needed to get a job in London. He worked at the Dorchester Hotel in London and saved up and married my mother in Scotland, as soon as they married they went back to London. They had no money to stay in hotels, none of that. They were married in 1936 and had a nice little flat near Clapham Common, buildings that are still there. I was born at the end of 1938 and the war was rumbling around at that point and they decided to go back to Scotland, they put all of their furniture in storage and they got on the train and I was very precocious, verbally, and my mother says I jumped around all night long singing a soldiers war song, “Roll out the barrel” all night long. They were exhausted. My father had a job keeping the lights on while the fighter-bombers went. I lived in Largs, I have fond memories of that. So we lived there.

Then in 1944 we were back in Glasgow and had a little apartment and my father had his first heart attack and things changed. We came back to England after that. I remember him saying when he was young, they didn’t have trade unions and workers never had any rights….[looking through book]…but here! This is called Annie Laurie..This is one of those things that I’ve known forever. My father used to sing it. My father used to sing in choir, you know.” [She reads the lyrics out loud in her Scottish accent]


 Annie Laurie

Maxwellton braes are bonnie,

Where early fa’s the dew,

And it’s there that Annie Laurie,

Gi’ed me her promise true;

Gi’ed me her promise true,

Which ne’er forgot will be,

And for bonnie Annie Laurie,

I’d lay me down and dee.


Her brow is like the snaw-drift,

Her neck is like the swan,

Her face it is the fairest

That e’er the sun shone on;

That e’er the sun shone on,

And dark blue is her e’e;

And for bonnie Annie Laurie

I’d lay me down and dee.


Like dew on the gowan lying,

Is the fa’ o’ her fairy feet;

And like winds in summer sighing,

Her voice is low and sweet.

Her voice is low and sweet,

And she’s a’ the world to me;

And for bonnie Annie Laurie

I’d lay me down and dee.


[Photograph is the inside cover of the book]


My informant is my best friend’s mother. She comes from a very Italian family, and learned a lot of folklore from her own grandmother. She is a fascinating woman who has traveled the world. She has a wide knowledge of Native American history and folklore. She is involved with the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, a diverse group of women from around the world who are devoted to prayer. She lives on Nantucket, so I was able to Skype with her one day to talk about things she has learned from her Italian heritage, in particular, as well as her other vast knowledge of folklore from around the world.


Informant: “I have so many idioms that my grandmother used to always say. I can remember them so clearly.”

“Every cloud has a silver lining.”

“No pain lasts forever.”

“Nothing is so bad that nothing good doesn’t come of it.”

“Be careful what you store away, like resentments. If your closet gets too full when you open it, it will all fall out and it will create a big mess.”


Me: “Did she say these often?”

Informant: “Oh, yes. She said these all the time.”


These little idioms remind me of proverbs… little pieces of advice that have been passed down through the generations in this family. There is no doubt in my mind that my best friend has heard these all, in turn, form her mother (the informant, in this case)


This informant, my best friend, comes from a very Italian family. I interviewed her mother, as well for this project. Informant’s mother is very knowledgable about folklore, Italian and otherwise. She has taught informant much of what she knows, including folk remedies and family superstitions.

My friend grew up on Nantucket island and talked to me about a legend that her mother once told her about how Nantucket was created. She has heard it since then as well, and has recalled the version she remembers best. It is a legend from the Wampanoag tribe, who were native to Massachusetts.


Informant: “So, basically…this giant, I think his name was Maushop… the legend goes that Maushop had been walking and traveling for a long time, and he came to the end of the land, like where Cape Cod is and he was very tired and he decided to lay down, and he lay on his side and the legend says that the shape of his body is what created the elbow shape of Cape Cod where he layed down and his body made depressions that then became lakes. While he was sleeping, he had sand in his moccasins and he threw them off into the water and that became Martha’s Vineyard and one that landed further out was Nantucket.”


[For another version of this myth, see and, subsequently, the book; Spirit of the New England Tribes: Indian History and Folklore (1620-1984) by William S. Simmons]

Framed Picture Superstition

This informant, my best friend, comes from a very Italian family. I interviewed her mother, as well for this project. Informant’s mother is very knowledgable about folklore, Italian and otherwise. She has taught informant much of what she knows, including folk remedies and family superstitions.

Me: “Your mom told me a few of the superstitions that she remembers her mother and grandmother believed in. Do you remember any others?”

[I read the ones her mother has already told me]

Informant: “If a framed picture fell off the wall, that meant there was a death in the family. My Great-Grandmother really believed all of that. My mom would always talk about it, if a picture ever did fall off the wall…[laughs]