Brown­ies and Crack­er­jack!

Irene Purslow re­calls when her sis­ter’s Brownie pack ap­peared on TV’s Crack­er­jack in the Eight­ies…

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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

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