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The Guide Movement in Fenelon Falls

January 3, 2023

Girl Guides, Colborne Street, Fenelon Falls, 1915

From the Tweedsmuir History of Fenelon Falls (1972)

Over the years there have been two efforts to get an organization in the village open to include all the girls of the community. Miss Grace Fuller (later Mrs. G.M. Littleton), a High School Teacher, organized the first group in 1937 with Miss Muriel Brokenshire (later Mrs. Glen Quibell) as her assistant. A few girls were chosen and trained to become Patrol Leaders. Sponsored by the local Salvation Army Corps the first meeting was held November 17, 1937. It is thought the four Patrol Leaders were Jean Brandon, Orlee Bulmer, Clara Graham and Mona Gray. Training of this small group continued in the S/A Hall and the first general meeting took place there on January 5, 1938 with thirty (30) girls assembled.

The first tea was held by the Group on Feb. 13, 1938 when over two hundred attended to encourage the new movement. February 16th saw thirteen girls enrolled as guides and twenty-one more followed on March 9th. Original quarters soon became too crowded and in May meetings began in the High School. June 2nd, 1938 was a red letter day for the Guides (and the town in general) when they had the privilege of providing a Guard of Honour for Lord Tweedsmuir, Our Governor General, when he toured the Trent Canal on the “Bessie Butler,” a government boat. June 19th, at the invitation of Rev. William Sterling the group’s first Church parade was held to the United Church.

During the war years, the girls did a good deal of work for the Red Cross, Red Shield, etc. In 1943, Mrs. Glen Quibell assumed leadership but a year or two later Mrs. Littleton took over again with Mary McInnes and Vivan Whitehead as Lieutenants.

By 1951 this group was discontinued and reorganization took place. Under date of May 13 it was registered as 1st Fenelon Falls Guide Company with Mrs. Neil Gregory and Mrs. Wm. Graham as leaders. April 8th, 1952 the first Brownie pack was formed and Mrs. Hugh Hepburn was the first Brownie Owl.

As numbers and interest increased and the girls went into their ‘mid-teens,’ the third branch of the Movement came into being in the Autumn of 1964 and it was registered 26th February 1965, with Mary Baker in charge. Later that year Hazel Graham accepted Leadership and the first six Rangers were Mary Rose Gault, chairman; Gail McNevan, Sec.; Katherine Brandon, Treasurer; Ann Wood, Pat Gault and Jane MacArthur completed the list.

Each year’s girls chose certain interests and projects and accomplished much under capable leadership. Many and various badges were won. The first Religion and Life badges were awarded to Penny Burk late in 1959 and to Mary Brandon, February 2, 1960. These were presented at a Church Service in St. Aloysius R.C. Church shortly after. It is impossible to record all the outstanding events over the years. The Rangers, as a ‘broadening out’ project early in their organization attended a performance in Lindsay, given by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and were thrilled.

On December 9, 1963, Sharilyn Shosenberg was presented with the Gold Cord as the First Given, not only from Fenelon Falls Company, but from Lindsay Division. It was an honour and an achievement; this represented sixteen (16) Proficiency Badges to her credit, and she passed thirteen (13) other tests entitling her to the all-around cord as well. Mrs. Neil Gregory, Divisional Commissioner, made the presentation and a few words of praise were spoken by Mrs. Hugh Hepburn not only to Sharilyn but to her parents who had given her encouragement to strive for the highest goals. Another year Kathie Hepburn was honoured by an invitation to Rochester, N.Y., as guest of American Girl Scouts, the first and only time this honour has been accorded.

In 1957, the World Centenary Girl Guide Camp was held at Doe Lake, Muskoka, and a number of our local group were there to mingle with sixteen hundred others from forty-one countries. In 1967, “Centennial Year,” Capt. Mary Baker and Ranger Lynda Palmer spent two weeks on an island in the St. Lawrence with two thousand girls from around the world. Lady Baden Powell, considered the founder of the Guide movement, was there in her 78th year. She lighted a candle for each girl present, signifying the world-wide reach of the organization as they build understanding and friendship across all barriers. Later that year, Lynda addressed our local Women’s Institute, emphasizing the Spirit of the camp and the many facets of training as girls strive each year for further achievements.

Down through the years, locally, the three groups have been involved in many community efforts—floats in the Santa Claus parades, Carolling at Christmas, much camping, swimming instruction, mother and daughter banquets, Armistice Days to the Cenotaph, and many others.

Each February 22nd is known as “Think Day” when all girls are expected to wear their uniforms, and once a year a Church Parade is well attended.

The various branches of the movement have been financed in the usual ways—Spring Teas, Bake and Candy Sales, Cookie Days, all receiving good support.

No one can estimate the lasting effects on the lives of hundreds of girls in our area over the 35 years of activity. Some of the leaders’ names available or remembered in the three groups are Mrs. N. Gregory, Mary Baker (still going strong in 1972), Bernie Stewart, Hazel Graham, Marg Dancey, Betty Leach, Donna Skitch, Eva Popert, Jenny Gould, Mary Morey, Isabel Clerk (E. & O.E.) and Mrs. Sturgess (Rangers 72).

As far as can be recalled, Mrs. Gregory Div. Com. and Mary McInnes—a first patrol leader—are the only ones who answered the final call.

The community must be very grateful to ALL the people, named and unnamed who have given leadership in the many ways that go to foster good citizens who become an ever widening circle of influence in Canada and beyond.

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