Guides change with times

Today’s Girl Guides are more likely to get badges for technology or environmental education than ironing or mending.

Today’s Girl Guides are more likely to get badges for technology or environmental education than ironing or mending.

“Things have totally changed since the days of the happy homemaker’s badges,” said Kim Verrier.

But the exhibit A Friend to All: A Celebration of Girl Guides in Central Alberta, which she curated for the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery, also shows that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

For instance, camp clothing and badges through the years tell of ongoing adventures in Guiding — from camps in Sylvan Lake to Mexico, or Our Chalet in Switzerland.

Photographic evidence also suggests that tenting in the old days was just as fun as it is now.

Verrier points to a newspaper article from 1941 that recounts how local Girl Guides were elated to meet Hollywood actress Myrna Loy after she stumbled onto their Banff campsite.

More recent artifacts indicate that local Guides made international friendships while travelling to camps in France and Italy.

And closer to home, resourceful campers learned how to make their own “burlap sack grilled cheese sandwiches.” (Verrier revealed this involves wrapping English muffins stuffed with cheese and tomato sauce in tin foil, and then burlap soaked in wax.

The burlap is burned off, leaving a delicious melted cheese treat.)

Verrier, who joined as a Brownie at the age of five in 1980, said she enjoyed the weekly meetings because of the friendships she made, and because there was always a new adventure awaiting.

“It was a riot.

“There were so many things I got excited about,” said Verrier — including group sing-alongs. She was thrilled to recognize during her perusal of photos for the show the enacted hand gestures for an old Brownie song, My Ship Sails From China.

Many other young girls also remain enthusiastic about Guiding.

Alberta has nearly 12,000 members in the program that encompasses 75,000 girls Canada wide.

The Parkland Region, which includes Red Deer and stretches to Ponoka, Airdire, Coronation and Rocky Mountain House, has 1,220 members.

The enrolment went up about five per cent last year, said Caroline Lobban, a local Guider and Parkland area international advisor.

Museum visitors will recognize various uniforms through the decades — including the short-lived yellow and brown Busy Bees outfit from the late 1970s.

They will also read about highlights in local Guiding history, such as when Girl Guides chief Lady Olave Baden-Powell visited Red Deer in 1946 to meet Mickey the Beaver — or when Heather Wood (daughter of local naturalist and author Kerry Wood) was selected from all Girl Guides in Alberta to have lunch with Queen Elizabeth in 1959.

Perhaps the most important thing about the program is it has always helped create self-confident female leaders.

Verrier pointed out that among the former Girl Guides or leaders mentioned in the exhibit is Alberta Premier Alison Redford, Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski, Alberta Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith, Red Deer Citizen of the Year Hazel Flewwelling, and former Red Deer City councillor Lorna Watkinson-Zimmer.

The museum display continues to Nov. 11.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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