Town of L'Anse au Clair

Labrador, Canada

My Guiding and Scouting Experience

Brownie tie and enrollment pin.
Brownie tie and enrollment pin. (larger version)

A Community Voices story by Lorena Clarke.

My story begins when I was 7 years of age. We lived in Goose Bay, Labrador. My older sisters and brothers were in guides and scouts and air cadets. My mom heard that there was going to be Brownie unit starting in the neighbourhood and asked me if I wanted to join. I said yes.

Around a week later at lunch time my mom kept me home after my older brothers and sisters went back to school and gave me a brownie uniform to try on. It was a blouse and a skirt, a belt, tie and tam (hat). It fit me well and she took some photographs of me wearing it. I remember she took me to school herself as she had only recently got her driving licence.

After supper that night she told me to put the uniform on again and she gave me a quarter and told me which house to go to. We lived on the United States Air force Base and all the houses were the same. I put my coat on and went out the door. I was nervous, I did not really know what this Brownie stuff was all about. I walked up the steps and rang the doorbell, a man answered the door and let me in. He showed me to the basement door and told me to go down.

When I got down the basement there were other girls running around and playing games. The lady came to meet me, I told her my name and I gave her the money. I did not know what the money was for and she told me it was fairy gold. She said every week we have a little ceremony called the brownie ring and that we give our fairy gold in the brownie ring and that the money is used to run the unit for supplies and badges.

Every week I took the same trip to that base house for the next two years. I enjoyed Brownies very much especially playing games and being with friends. I earned three brownie badges. Being with my friends I guess was more important than getting badges!

We left Goose Bay for Lanse au Clair in 1976 and there were no Brownies in Lanse au Clair at the time. In my two years at Goose Bay I had learned about Thinking Day which is February 22 every year. It is the founder, Lord Baden Powell's birthday... a day in which we wear our uniforms and think about Guides and Scouts throughout the world. I remember that I put on my blouse and tie and went proudly off to grade four at St. Andrew's Elementary in Lanse au Clair. My classmates asked me all about my uniform and I told them what I knew about Brownies and Thinking Day.

I explained that it was the joint birthday of Robert Baden Powell and his wife Olive. Robert Baden Powell was a Scout in the British Army... he marked trails and used his knowledge of nature that helped his comrades during war time.

When he retired he wrote a book called Scouting for Boys and started a small scout group. When the popularity of the book got out other scout groups got started. Baden Powell had a rally to meet all other scout groups and some of the girls came also. When Baden Powell asked who they were they proudly proclaimed we are the girl scouts. At the time Baden Powell asked his sister Agnes to take over the girl scouts. When BP got married his wife Olive took over from Agnes. She became the World Chief Guide and her birthday was also Feb.22 and that is why this date is called Thinking Day.

It was around a year or so later when the ladies started brownies in Lanse au Clair. My classmates and I were too old for brownies, we wanted Guides. Nancy Chubbs and Patricia Jones volunteered to be our leaders and the 1st Lanse au Clair Guide Company was formed. We met once a week in the old St. Andrews Elementary school that is now the Lanse au Clair fire hall. We learned our Promise, Law, Motto, and about guiding in other lands.

When we turned 13 years old there was a new addition to the guiding groups... pathfinders. Our leader for this was Gladys Thomas. Because it was so new we just continued on with our guide badges and proudly sewed them on our pathfinder sashes instead of working on the new pathfinder challenges. We learned to knit and sew. I remember we all knit strips of different colours and sewed them into an afghan. We were all fighting about who was going to get it when it was finished.The leader put all our names in a bag and Sheila Letto's name was picked. She now has a keepsake for life.

We finished pathfinders in 1980 and we did not have the opportunity to experience Rangers or Cadets. While reading the handbooks I learned about lone guides.... it is when a Guide decides to work on the program on her own and send it to the provincial office or another unit that is close to her. I did some simple work on my own and recorded it in my copy of the bridge handbook.

One example is community emblem challenge number 29. It states using a map, trace possible routes from your home to your provincial/Territorial capital... be sure to use car bus and air routes if you can. I completed this task on April 30 1982.

Pathfinders and Guides died down in Lanse au Clair but brownies were still going. Mona Horwood and Darlene Dumaresque were Brownie guiders at the time. I called Darlene and offered my help. She told me that there were only four girls still involved at the time and that she did not have time to do it anymore and asked if I would like to take over.

I was very excited about this but could not do it by myself. I asked a close friend, Vernice Dumaresque, to help and she agreed. We had a meeting with the girls and their parents and got a committee going.

We had fun with the girls. About three months later I found out who the commissioner was for our area... Sr. Madeline Gurette a lady from West St. Modest. We arranged for her and her helpers to come up and enroll us and our unit. Vernice and I were only 17 and 18 year old at the time. She told us that we should wear our pathfinder ties and be considered Junior leaders. She also told us that because Vernice was older than me she should be considered (Brown Owl) Guider in charge of the unit.

Things worked out great for about a year, then Vernice moved away and got married. A teacher named Cindy Parsons came to town and she helped for the next winter. I kept the Brownies going myself after that. The older girls were now ready for guides... I had encountered a problem... I could not be a leader for Brownies and Guides at the same time. Vernice's older sister Joyce decided to take over the Guides. The Guides under Joyce's watch full eyes flourished for the next year or two.

In small communities like ours there are not a lot of children born every year, we had no girls of brownie age and Joyce had had enough of it. I then took over the Lanse au Clair Guides with help from Marilyn Dumaresq. We had a lot of fun and excitement in those early years and a lot of learning experiences.

It was time for me to move away and try to better myself. In August of 1988 I left for college at Happy valley Goose-Bay Labrador. While at college I asked about Guiding and if there were any units close by. I found out that there was an opening for an Assistant Guider for the 1st Happy Valley Guide Company... a position that I accepted freely.

The next winter, 1989, I was married with a child on the way and didn't think that I could be of any help to the Guiding community. I was approached by the commissioner of the Happy Valley units and asked would I be interested in leading the pathfinders... there were only five girls. We had a great time that winter, from sleepovers at our apartment to a snowmobile trip to Muskrat Falls, 30km away. The day we went it was a beautiful sunny day but you might have called us reckless because the temperature that day was -30 before the wind-chill.

We had a very enjoyable day... we all had very red cheeks at the end of it. At Easter we got invited to one of the girls homes by her mother to make Easter chocolate. I went to the washroom and when I got back the girls had a suprise baby shower ready for me... they had a cake and some nice baby gifts for me.

We left Happy Valley for Northern Ireland the next fall. while In Northern Ireland I got involved with Brownies again. I was Snowy Owl Assistant Guider.

We took the girls on a Brownie Pack Holiday which is a camp in a cabin. During that week we did some sightseeing... there were places I visited in that week that I had not seen in three years of being there.

The next year I took over as Guide Guider (leader). There were two big events that year... one was a joint Guide and Scout camp. I took five Girl Guides and there were five boy scouts along with two male leaders. The girls slept in a patrol tent and the boys had their own personal tents. I thought that I was quite equipped to put up my own small tent but I could not get the tent pegs into the ground and the men came to the rescue. During that weekend we went hiking, canoeing, and learned archery skills that I had no idea about any more than the girls.

The other big event that was big for the girls at the time was ice skating... in Northern Ireland they do not get very much snow and the closest that the girls got to skating was with roller skates on the sidewalks. I got the girls to get permission slips signed by their parents and the fee for the arena. Mark (my husband) got permission from the base to borrow a mini van to drive the girls. We had a very enjoyable evening.

I did not take over guides the next season. I was pregnant with my second child, Shannon.

We moved back to Goose Bay in the fall of 1993. While there I got involved with the Brownies again. Alana was 4 years old at the time and I had her with me whenever I could. She came selling Guide Cookies and she helped picking up garbage at the playground. She wanted to be involved very badly. We left Goose Bay for Carterton, England in the summer of 1995. We were only there for 3 months but while there I wanted to get Alana involved in Rainbow Guides. We went to the meeting hall and the Guider just looked at me and said no. Apparently there were three Rainbow guide units in the town and they were all full. She was a very dissapointed child.

When we moved back on the Labrador coast I found out that there was Sparks and Brownies in Forteau. I called the lady that used to be commissioner,Mrs. Phyllis Roberts. She still was commisioner for the area and she also was Brown Owl for Forteau. I asked he if there was Sparks in the Labrador Straits area.

She gave me the number of Norma Flynn and I got Alana registered with the Forteau Spark unit. I took her to Forteau for the next three years and I became a parent helper for one Year with Sparks and two years with Brownies. Then Shannon my other daughter joined Sparks for the next year... again I was a parent helper.

The year that Shannon was in Sparks I took over the 1st Forteau Guides. I had a good year. All the Forteau Girl Guide units folded after that because of lack of leaders.

In 2002 I got contacted to help with the Forteau Cub Troop. My daughter Shannon was in the cubs. The first year we had five leaders and 24 children boys and girls.

In June, 2003 we took the kids on a camp to Gros Morne, Newfoundland. The next year we had 8 children and three leaders. This is the last year that there were scouts on the coast.

I think that if there were any of these units on the coast that I would be involved in some capacity. I enjoyed my Guiding and Scouting Experience very much.