When Jeannie Crampton was cleaning out her parents’ house last year on Kroupa Road (Norm and Wanda Crampton), she graciously invited me to come over and bring home a few vintage items from the Old Mission Peninsula.
Having just been through this with my own parents’ house (Walter and Mary Johnson), it’s definitely a win-win for both the person cleaning out the house and the person interested in OMP items of historical significance.
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One of the items I brought home was a children’s book entitled “The Brownie Scouts in the Cherry Festival” by Mildred A. Wirt. I figured this was probably going to be one of those books where I couldn’t find any info, but amazingly, a Google search revealed quite a bit about this book and the author.
Published by Cupples and Leon Company in 1950, the book follows the adventures of Veve McGuire and her Brownie Scout friends, under the guidance of their scout leader, Miss Gordon.
Turns out there was actually a Brownie Scouts Series published from 1949 to 1953, and the author, Mildred A. Wirt, was one of the primary authors of the Nancy Drew mystery series, published through the Stratemeyer Syndicate.
While the Nancy Drew series was written by multiple authors over the years, Wirt actually helped to create the teen sleuth and wrote many of the early books, including the first one, “The Secret of the Old Clock.”
Wirt wrote many other children’s book series, as well, under various author names, including Kay Tracey (as Frances K. Judd), Penny Parker (as Mildred A. Wirt), the Dana Girls (as Carolyn Keene), Penny Nichols (as Joan Clark), Connie Carl (as Joan Clark), Madge Sterling (as Ann Wirt) and Ruth Darrow (as Mildred A. Wirt).
Interestingly, Wirt’s Wikipedia page doesn’t include the Brownie Scouts series, but we do learn more about her life. Wirt was born and died in Iowa, but was quite the adventurer, making numerous trips to Central America, traversing the jungle in a Jeep, canoeing down rivers, visiting Mayan sites, flying airplanes and witnessing archaeological excavations.
I haven’t had a chance to read all the way through “The Brownie Scouts in the Cherry Festival,” but a cursory skim doesn’t reveal any references to Traverse City or northern Michigan. Instead, the story takes place in the town of Rosedale in an unspecified state.
Still, it seems clear that Mildred Wirt must have had some connection to the Traverse City area, based on references in the book, including Mexicans picking cherries, a huge cherry pie on display (you can see our own huge cherry pie pan on Cass Road in Traverse City), an “autograph quilt” (which I just mentioned in this story about Log Cabin Day, although I’m sure these were prevalent across the country back then), baking a cherry pie to take to the President of the United States, even a farmer named Hooper (longtime Old Mission Peninsula farm family).
In the book, the Brownie Scouts help Pa Hooper pick cherries ahead of a storm. The Scouts also organize a cherry festival, rallying the community of Rosedale to help out with various food booths and exhibits, including a quilt show.
What I also love about this book is that there’s an inscription inside the front cover, stating, “Merry Christmas Pluma, from Mama & Daddy, 1961.” The only Pluma I know was Pluma Kitchen, so I’m wondering if this was her.
Jeannie’s mom, Wanda Crampton, whose maiden name was Hoxie, was the director of the Peninsula Community Library for many years. She was part of the team, along with my mom and others, who back in the 1990s secured the land on the corner of Center Road and Island View Road for a new library, which is currently under construction and will have a grand opening in the next month or two.
So it’s very possible that Wanda would have had a variety of books in her house, including this one with such an inscription.
Are you familiar with “The Brownie Scouts in the Cherry Festival” (check it out at Amazon) or author Mildred Wirt? Do you know if the Pluma note written inside the cover was Pluma Kitchen? Leave comments below!