Brownies and Crackerjack!
Irene Purslow recalls when her sister’s Brownie pack appeared on TV’s Crackerjack in the Eighties…
When my daughter Julie was eight, my sister Ann, who helped out at Brownies, thought it would be a good idea if she joined the pack. Julie settled in well and Ann soon became Brown Owl after her predecessor retired. In the early Eighties Ann discovered that it was possible for Brownies to be part of the audience for the popular BBC TV children’s programme Crackerjack and she wasted no time in applying for tickets. In response, she received a letter from the BBC stating that they would like one of the Brownies from her pack to be a contestant in a future programme at the London studio. They asked Ann to select three Brownies she thought would be suitable – they realised that it could perhaps be a little daunting for some girls. Three of the Brownies were interviewed by a BBC representative who had travelled up from London and one was duly selected to take part.
A few weeks later, we all set off on a specially arranged coach – including the other two girls who had not been chosen. My daughter Julie (by now a Guide) and I went along as helpers. The programme was recorded at the BBC Television Theatre and was hosted by Stu Francis, famous for his catchphrase “I could crush a grape!” The show featured Chas and Dave, as well as a young Gary Wilmot. Each contestant had a celebrity as a partner and our Brownie, Sinead, was paired with Geoff Capes, popular for being The World’s Strongest Man. The atmosphere in the studio audience was amazing, with lots of screaming and shouting in support of the various contestants.
The highlight of this memorable day was Sinead becoming overall winner – her prize being a rather large radio cassette player. Ann arranged numerous enjoyable meetings and outings for the Brownies over the years, as well as a colourful float every year at the local carnival, but Crackerjack was certainly very special.
Sadly, in the early Nineties, Ann was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and in 2000 was forced to resign from Brownie activities as it had become too difficult to continue.
As an acknowledgement of her 25 years as Brown Owl, a presentation was made by the Guide movement and the local vicar at the church where the meetings had taken place. She died in 2015 but will always be remembered as a special Brown Owl who gave so much happiness to so many young girls.
‘The atmosphere in the studio audience was amazing, with lots of screaming and shouting in support of the various contestants’
Brown Owl Ann getting ready for the carnival
Ann’s Brownies and above, a copy of the Crackerjack invite