Carbonear woman reflects on her involvement in the Girl Guide movement
Fifty years is a long time to serve in any organization. But this veteran Carbonear Girl Guider has enjoyed every minute of it. Serving the organization has been a rewarding experience.
The Girl Guide motto Be Prepared is more than just slogan to Priscilla Earle, nee Moores, of Carbonear, they’re words to live by.
In her lifetime Earle, 77, has faced many ups and downs, experienced many difficulties, but for the most part was able to address them by being prepared to do the right thing at the right time.
Earle says she got her start in positive thinking from the Guiding Movement, an organization she joined as a young child. Although she is no longer an active member, she still follows the motto Be Prepared and still considers herself a Girl Guide. Sometime next spring Earle will receive a 50-year membership pin from the organization.
A few weeks ago The Compass sat down with the energetic senior to talk about her involvement in the Girl Guide movement as both a member and a leader. When and where were you born?
Earle: I was born in 1932 in Montreal and moved to Newfoundland when I was a baby. When did you join the Girl Guides?
Earle: I was actually a Brownie first. I joined when I was a little girl. The only memory I have of being a Brownie is of my Aunt Ruby taking me to the old Orange Hall and giving me a picture book. I came up through the Brownies and when I got old enough, about 12, joined the Girl Guides. We met once a week upstairs in the old school, just a bunch of us girls. It was so much fun! We were organized in patrols of about six or eight girls. We played games, did a lot of crafts and worked on our badges, many of which I still have today. We also sang a lot of songs and played sports too, but the main focus was learning the importance of being honest and of being a good friend. My mother and my aunt encouraged me to join and I’ve never regretted it. Two of the Guide leaders (Florence Parsons and Florence Penny) were also my teachers in school, but they were very different in Guides than they were in school. In Guide meetings they were laid back and fun, just one of the girls, but in school they were strictly the teacher. The two roles were very different. However we all knew when they were Guide leaders and when they were teachers. We were never confused about that.
As in Earle’s day, today’s Guiding movement teaches young women how to be good citizens. It is also a fun place where girls can experience new things, meet new people, make new friends, and challenge themselves in a safe place with other girls. They learn about themselves, and about the world around them. Camping and the outdoor life is still very much a part of the Girl Guide experience. Girls also learn about respecting each other, respecting the environment, and how to become responsible adults.
What are some of your fondest memories about the Guiding movement?
Earle: We went on a lot of parades and had to walk long distances sometimes, but it was something we always looked forward to. We also sold poppies for Remembrance Day to honour the war veterans, and forget-me-knot flowers in the spring to honour the service men. We each had a certain area in Carbonear that we were responsible to cover. I remember going door-to-door selling them, that was something I really enjoyed.
I got to go to summer camp in Botwood a few times as well. We slept in canvas tents on the ground. There was no such thing as air mattresses back then in 1946 and we didn’t have sleeping bags, only blankets. We also had to make our own fire too, we didn’t have the convenience of a fire pit like nowadays. At summer camp I was able to meet many new friends,; it also gave me the opportunity to travel and see a bit of the province, which would not have been possible otherwise. In those days you didn’t get to drive or go places like we do now. Summer camp was a big exciting trip.
I also made some life-long friends through the Guide program and at summer camp. One girl, Pat Gushue from Grand Falls, and I met years later when we were attending school at
Montreal. Another memory I have of being in the Guides is going to town by train to sing in a CBC Christmas program. It was a miserable old day, but we were all excited. When I got to the railway station I realized I had left my Guide tam home. Now that was something you did not do... forget part of your uniform when you were out in public. Anyway I raced back home and I mean raced! I was so scared I was going to miss the train. However it all worked out better than I could have hoped it would because when I arrived home my Uncle Bill Duff was there with $10 for me. In those days that was a small fortune! Afterward I was some glad I had left my tam home. I took the money to town with me and used most of it to buy sheet music for band.
Was the Girl Guide uniform the same as it is today?
Earle: It was similar in style. We wore blue skirts, long navy blue shirts, tams and black shoes on our feet. Our shoes had to be shined too, we wouldn’t dare go to meetings with dull looking shoes. We wore our badges on our sleeves back then, but now they are worn on a sash. The leaders also had whistles, which were worn around our neck.
It was not acceptable to wear just a part of the uniform, we had to wear the whole works.
The Girl Guide movement has been a part of Canadian society since 1910. It began in Britain in 1909, when Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, asked his sister Agnes to start a similar organization for girls. Girl Guides was a way for girls to get together in an organized way to help them develop their life skills. In addition to activities similar to the Boy Scouts, such as camping and tracking in the wilderness, they learned all of the skills necessary to run a home.
Did you ever get to meet Lady BadenPowell?
Earle: Yes I got to meet Lady Baden Powell, the World Chief Guide, several times actually. It was a pretty exciting time. We held an afternoon tea in honour of her visit to Carbonear and she talked to us about the importance of being a guide and also praised us for all our efforts and the work we did on Thinking Day. As Guides we always helped out in the community whenever we could, but each year on Thinking Day (Feb. 20) we went the extra mile. That was a day of service when the guides performed special work in their communities.
Priscilla Earle went right through the Girl Guide program and when she turned 17 became a leader. For many years she also served as District Commander and Divisional Commander. While she was known for promoting the organization and taking many young girls under her wing, she never looked for credit or praise. In fact according to many Carbonear residents she shun attention preferring to work quietly and diligently behind the scenes to keep the organization and its goals alive. She remained an active leader until she was well into her 50’s.
Have you noticed many changes in the Guiding movement over the years?
Earle: Oh yes indeed. It’s harder now to keep membership up because there are so many other activities on the go for girls to be involved in. When I was young there were only a couple of organizations on the go.
In 1948 Priscilla married Fred Earle and had five children: Lyn, Priscilla (Babs), Pegi, John Norman (deceased) and Fred Jr.
She says she has just one regret about her involvement in the Girl Guide program.
“Neither of my older girls, Lyn and Babs, were involved in the organization. Pegi joined and loved it, but the other two didn’t. I really wish now they had been part of it,” she said.
In her spare time Earle enjoys reading and spending almost every afternoon at her cabin on Big Fling’s Pond Road.
POSITIVE THINKER-Priscilla Earle, 77, displays the uniform she wore while volunteering as a Girl Guide leader in Carbonear. Earle spent 50 years as a Brownie, Girl Guide and leader.