Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Women of vision make a difference

June 27, 2012|By Joe Puglia

I remember the day as though it were yesterday. It was Oct. 12, 1960. Nikita Khrushchev banged his shoe like a tyrant while addressing the United Nations as he proclaimed that Russia would dominate America.

At the time I was a member of Boy Scout Troop 136, had just made First Class, and was promoted to lead the Wolverine patrol. That evening during our scout meeting, Mr. Donahue, our scoutmaster, gathered the boys together and spoke of the day’s events relative to the Russian premier’s proclamations.

Keep in mind that I was a child of the cold war and all the men I knew had fought in World War ll.


Mr. Donahue warned of a pending war with Russia. He asked, “Boys, who will defend New York when the Russians invade?”

We hadn’t a clue! He paused and said, “The Boy Scouts of America!”

That was my call to action; instinctively I knew what to do. I organized the Wolverines and we prepared to defend the Bronx against the pending invasion. We carried rocks and sticks to the rooftops of buildings and made detailed maps of the sewers, as they would be our ingress and regress when we attacked the Soviets. Since the Russians would curtail the food supply, I insisted that we get used to eating dog food. It really didn’t taste that bad.

The scout motto was “Be Prepared” and we thought we were.

Saint Frances of Rome church also sponsored a Girl Scout troop, #118. The girls reacted in kind to the trepidation of the cold war. They formed a consortium of like-minded Girl Scout troops and promoted civil defense, emphasized disaster preparedness, and established and collected provisions for bomb shelters throughout the Bronx. I recall many of the neighborhood boys trivializing their efforts.

“Girls should stay home; we’ll defend the Bronx,” the boys said.

At the time I believed that girls had cooties, except for Amia Divia. She was the prettiest girl in the Bronx. She was outspoken, a true leader, and a consummate Girl Scout. Her idol wasn’t John Kennedy; it was Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts of America.

Amia took a hazing from the boys. But she gave as much as she got. I remember one of her witty remarks: “Stupid boys! Do you really think that eating dog food is going to help the neighborhood?” At the time I did, but hindsight is 20/20 and I can appreciate the pragmatic rationale of women and their genetic predisposition to make a difference.

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