Sign marking site of 1959 Girl Scout Roundup safe from nearby construction

By Garrison Wells Published: May 23, 2013 | 12:00 am 0

Within a few feet of the hard track where heavy machinery rumbles, a silent piece of history stands protected behind braided wire.

Not many know what it stands for, this large, weathered wooden sign about 70 feet east of northbound Interstate 25 just up the road from InterQuest Parkway.

Cars flash by headed toward Denver.

The sign may be historic to some, but it's a blip to others - not even marked on their vehicle's navigation system.

The sign - an homage to a Girl Scout Senior Roundup in July of 1959 - is surrounded by heavy machinery working on the widening of the Interstate.

The 11-mile project will add one lane in each direction between Woodmen Road and State Highway 105 in Monument.

In late March, barricades went up as the Colorado Department of Transportation started work on the $66.4 million project.

The sign is protected because people like Karen Little called the Girl Scouts when they saw the construction activity threatening the piece of history.

"The sign is safe," said Amanda Kalina, spokeswoman for Girl Scouts of Colorado. "It sits on Air Force Academy land and we've been in contact with the Air Force Academy, and they said the sign is going to be fine. It's definitely something that we cherish, and a lot of people have fond memories of it."

For Little, this is sacred territory.

She was a 15-year-old living in Buffalo, N.Y., when her troop decided to come to Colorado for the roundup in 1959. They took the train - a trip though Chicago and Cleveland before rolling to a stop in Denver. She can't remember exactly how they got to the camp site from Denver.

Buses, maybe, she said.

She turned 16 here, "so it's even cooler."

Roundups, where the best of the nation's Girl Scouts gathered, were common in the 1950s and '60s. They were considered the highlight of a Girl Scout's career.

The one in Colorado Springs was the second ever in the United States.

They are no longer held in Colorado, which has 30,000 Girl Scouts, Kalina said. El Paso County has about 4,000 Girl Scouts.

Today, Little, 69, lives with her husband in Frisco.

She's retired, and husband Ben works six months of the year, so they travel back and forth between Frisco and Buffalo.

They have three grown daughters, all of whom live on the Front Range.

One daughter, Meg Wieland, lives in Colorado Springs with her husband, Jon, who graduated from the Air Force Academy.

In 1959, back when this was undeveloped hills, about 8,000 Girl Scouts from all over the United States flocked to this site where they lived from July 3 to July 12.

Instead of tract homes, the area was strewn with tents. They used latrines and had to get their own water.

"We all brought tents," recalled Little. "It was the most phenomenal tent city. It was just incredible."

Everybody, she remembers, was clad in Girl Scout green.

And everyone had to bring something to swap. Little hand-painted 200 test-tube sized vials with scenes of Niagara Falls.

"That was the fun thing," she said. "It was great meeting people from all over the country."

A month ago, when she and her husband visited Colorado Springs, they were shocked by the construction.

"We saw all the equipment and barriers going up. I thought, 'Oh my God, they're going to destroy the sign.' We got out of the car and my husband took a picture of me by the sign so I would have this memory," Little said.

She called the Girl Scouts and offered to take the sign before it was destroyed. To her relief, they told her it was safe.

"To the people who were there, and especially since I am out in Colorado years later, this was a very big part our scouting," she said.

She has scrapbooks filled with the memories.

Here is one that was a secret then, so you can't tell anyone.

The vials she swapped didn't really have Niagara Falls water.

"When I got to Denver, I filled them with Colorado water," she said. "I had 200 vials of quote, unquote Niagara Falls water."

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