“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other is gold” is a chant sung around the campfire by Girl Scouts as long ago as the 1960’s.
This chant encourages young people never to abandon an old friend for the sake of a new one. Because “old” rhymes with “gold,” I assume that the old friends are gold, and the new friends are silver. This implies that there is something more inherently valuable about old friends.
I imagine it works particularly well in a camp environment, where many young people are anxiously seeking social comfort and status. It is easy for them to get caught up in the feverish nature of it all, and abandon old friends for new, possibly more popular ones. However, this chant encourages them never to do so, as a new friend’s value cannot match an old one’s. It doesn’t discourage them from making new friends, but it does advise them to keep in mind the value of relationships that have had a chance to develop over a long time. In this way, it helps to foster an ever-expanding yet stable network of friendships within the Girl Scout troupe. I also believe it serves as a warning to young girls to avoid the cattiness and exclusivity typical of adolescents.
The informant is my mother. She remembers learning this chant at Girl Scout camp in the 1960’s from camp counselors and other girl scouts. It was often performed around a campfire. I asked my mother what the chant means to her to which she replied:
“They are both very precious…An old friend is really valuable because they know you and you’ve come to trust each other. Keeping them close while making new friends seems to make so much sense to me.”
She often repeated it to me as I was growing up. I believe she did so because it is one of the tenements she has lived her life by. She always relishes the opportunity to meet a new, interesting person, but prioritizes her long-standing relationships.
I believe it’s a particularly poignant chant, especially for children to hear. It is very tempting for children to abandon their old friends when they find new, shiny ones. This is a dangerous trap that robs them of people who know and love them. In this way, the chant is a smart, succinct warning against dangerous impulses that exist within every child’s mind.