Indomitable Molly Millar

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MTT News Desk's picture
By: 
Katherine Perreth
Molly Millar at her home today.

As can so often happen with volunteering, a need arises and someone steps into the void. Then stays. For go-getter Molly Millar, a name once synonymous with Middleton Girl Scouting, make that “needs.” Millar, now 80, has spent her spare time during the previous half-century as a Scout leader, AFS host, and foster parent. To this day, she foster mothers children in emergency situations.

“There’s so many kids that don’t have anybody,” Millar stated. “I love talking to kids, and [foster] kids really need it. Another very good reason, I do boys mostly because I work well with them, I can put tools into their hands and do outdoor things with them that they don’t otherwise get.”

Indeed, Millar’s love of the outdoors is a common denominator in many of her lifelong pursuits. Instilled during her youth by her Scoutmaster father on their land in the country, Millar was allowed to tag along with the boys in his troop.

“I was a mascot,” she quipped, adding, “But I was not allowed on camping trips.”

She had so much fun at those Boy Scout meetings, she said, that for 14 years in the  ’60s and ’70s she led three Middleton Girl Scout and Cub Scout troops – for a number of years, simultaneously.

“If I can plan programming for one, I can do it for three,” she recalled thinking. “I just did it on different days.”

Millar’s stint with the Boy Scouts ended after her son’s Cubbies moved on, but she took her two daughters’ Girl Scout troops through high school, she said. Recently, she reunited with a group of women whom she had led on adventures roller skating, canoeing, and trail blazing, besides the “constant camping” trips, she said.

If Millar didn’t know how to do it, she either got trained or literally called in experts. “I’d open up a phone book and start calling,” she recalled. That’s how she found a Sierra guide to take her troops rappelling and rock climbing, and the Madison Ski Team to “pull them up on water skis,” she said.

Perhaps the strangest activity the girls and their dynamo leader embarked upon was training stubborn and unbroken mules in the Baraboo Hills.

“We cut brush on a farm and trained Sicilian burros to trade for horseback riding [fees and privileges],” Millar remembered. According to Millar, and an April 1969 article in the Capital Times, the owner of nascent Blackhawk Ridge Wilderness Tent Camp off Highway 78 wanted to utilize trail pack mules for hunting, fishing and camping in his 600-acre woods. But first he needed the mules trained to carry loads of gear.

Highly motivated teenage Girl Scouts vs. young, wild donkeys? The girls won. The determined horseback-riders had their eyes on an additional prize: a week in Wyoming riding horses at a Dude Ranch.

Along with learning to ride, they had been saving their pennies from two-years worth of twice-a-month fundraisers: bake and calendar sales, car washes, and newspaper drives. At the time, Middleton residents placed bound stacks of newspapers curbside for the girls to collect and sell to the “junk man,” before recycling was commonplace, Millar said.

“[For newspaper drives] the city of Middleton allowed us to use their pick-up truck,” Millar remembered. “The gearshift came off in my hand once, and I stuck it back in and we continued.”

Her indomitable spirit and leadership also continued. All told, Millar raised funds and headed west from the Kromrey school parking lot three times with a busload of Middleton teens.

“We did so many things that you wouldn’t be allowed to do today,” Millar mused. Myriad typical Wisconsin outdoors adventures, camping in snow and storms for example, were one thing, but besides the mule-breaking-in there was another exotic bonus. The owner of Blackhawk Ridge also had “llamas, darling baby tigers, we played with them, and boa snakes,” Millar reminisced. As she recalls, he had “something to do with the zoo in Madison,” she said.

Millar also remembers picking up trash along the beltline, a horse swim in Lake Wisconsin, sharing her float down the Apple River with a scout whose leg was in a cast, and the time she poured water out of her boots so that her tent mate teased,

“You’ve been doing dishes with your feet!”

Getting away from dishes and changing diapers as a stay-at-home mom initially lured Millar into trying many different things, she said. She took up piano lessons from Middleton’s iconic Greta Muehlmeier (1905-1998), which led to directing a church choir and teaching piano her self, “for 50 cents per half hour,” she said laughing. Her first pupil was a third grader with a “gorgeous voice,” noticed by Millar during rehearsals for the school play. Now she teaches piano to the grandchildren of that Springfield youngster.

 Millar retired in 1996 from the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District (MCPASD), having served as Springfield Elementary School secretary for 25 years.

Like her father before her, Millar has been awarded for working with youth. The Springfield Jaycees honored her with the 1988-89 Outstanding Service Award for her efforts spanning decades, including launching the Springfield Elementary school Cub Scouts. Millar recalled its beginning. While organizing the girls for the Girl Scout cookie sales during lunchtime, a boy came up and asked why she was always talking to the girls, and wasn’t there anything for the boys? Her troop legacy from that school continues, even though Springfield Elementary is no longer in existence.

“Some Boy Scouts still come to my house to sell me things, “ she said.

Indeed, Millar holds dear the many relationships forged by shared experience in scouting. During her scouting heyday, one weekend each fall Millar organized and programmed “roundups” for the 25 Middleton Girl Scout troops. On 300 acres, she “strung out campsites for 150-200 girls,” she recalled. “On the first night, we had a leader meeting where some of them would have to walk a mile, so I rode a horse to each unit to get the information.” A quick learner, “By golly, by the second time I did it, I grouped them together,” she said, laughing.

The recent reunion of some of “her girls” charmed Millar. “It was the most amazing feeling to see all the love and hugs that this group still have for each other.”

In fact, four of those scouts later married four boys who had joined their troop during the short period of time co-ed scouting was allowed, she said. According to Millar, the men came to the reunion with their wives and they all gleefully brainstormed memories of: miserable camping conditions, blistered butts from horseback-riding, burnt tennis shoes from attempts to dry them by campfire, salamander races, getting bucked, split britches from climbing in Wyoming, trying to rein in a burro running downhill, digging tent trenches, lugging gear, and being flooded out of a camping trip.

“These kids just amaze me – they were still the girls I had in Girl Scouts,” Millar concluded.

The unsinkable Molly Millar.

 

 

 

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