A Trip Down Memory Lane

Brownie Days

I was very shy as a child and was always extremely nervous when trying anything new. So when it came to joining Brownies when I was seven, I wasn’t sure if I could do it. After all, I’d stood outside the school playground, holding on to my mum’s hand for dear life on my first day at school. But my best friend, Jackie, was joining Brownies at the same time, so I was sure I’d be okay.

Every week, the Brownie meetings took place in an old hall. I can still remember the slightly musty smell which hit my nostrils every time I walked inside. But I didn’t mind it and actually came to look forward to that smell each week – because I loved Brownies. It was such fun – we’d play games, make things, learn about all sorts of weird and wonderful phenomena and I felt part of something. The Brownie leaders were so kind and supportive too.

To become a Brownie, there was an enrolment ceremony. You had to learn your Brownie Promise and recite it in front of all the other Brownies and Brownie leaders. Brown Owl was in charge of the Brownies and once you’d successfully made your promise, she pinned your Brownie badge onto your uniform (I still have my badge). I recall feeling very nervous before the ceremony and I kept going over and over the promise. I managed to do it without even a stutter and I was so proud to become enrolled in the 1st Washcommon Brownies. I was placed in the Gnomes Six (we were all placed into different groups of six, with names like Elves, Pixies and so on). I’d wanted to be put in Gnomes as I thought their badge was the cutest!

The uniform for Brownies has changed greatly over the years and today’s is far more practical, with comfy T-shirts and trousers. There’s still brown in the uniform, but it’s a little more colourful. Mine consisted of a brown dress and brown bobble hat. But I was very proud to be wearing it. 

My favourite game was one called ‘Fruit Salad’. We didn’t play it very often, but I just loved it and I can feel the excitement bubbling up just as I think about it! It was a physical game and involved lots of running about, but everyone had a smile on their face as they took part.

Many people think about Brownies and have an image of them all sitting around a camp fire in the dark. I only did that once. It was a large event, with many different Brownie packs taking part. We had to travel about an hour away to another town. If I close my eyes, I can see the huge orange flames dancing as they reached higher and higher. And, of course, we sang camp fire songs. My favourite song was Ging Gang Goolie, which is really just gibberish!

So, although I loved being a Brownie, I’m not sure I made a very good one. I did try to be and I earned several badges – a collecting one, reading one and homemaker one, amongst others. Though, I’m not sure how I managed to earn the latter. I had to keep a record of all the helpful things I’d done around the house to help my mum. She often likes to remind me that one of the things I’d written down was ‘I help my mummy every day by opening my curtains’. And I like to point out that it may not be as helpful as ironing a pile of clothes or washing up, but it’s still helpful!    

I went on to join the Girl Guides when I left Brownies, but I really didn’t want to leave and, sadly, Girl Guides wasn’t anywhere near as much fun as Brownies. Perhaps that’s down to age and growing up, or maybe it was the leaders at Brownies. They packed so much into every meeting and they seemed to have as much fun as us. It’s something I’ll never forget.

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26 Responses to A Trip Down Memory Lane

  1. Darlene says:

    Such great memories. You look adorable in your Brownie uniform. My daughter was in Brownies, Girl Guides and Pathfinders. She love it. I lived on a farm so I wasn´t able to join but we had a church group in the nearest village, called Explorers, which was similar. I think I still have my uniform too.

  2. I never was a Brownie or Girl Scout, but my daughter was until , I as a leader, had to quit. But it was fun!!

  3. Kim Smyth says:

    I always wanted to go into the Girl Scouts but Mom said we couldn’t afford it. I ended up going into the military right out of high school.

  4. Ritu says:

    I always wanted to be a Brownie!

  5. You took me back, Esther – it must have been the mid/late 80’s the Brownies came up with a new badge – scientist – my daughters, both Brownies at the time, told all my Dad is one of those – and I found myself involved in taking, as I recall, 40 of them around the London Science Museum with plenty Mums in tow – question papers to be filled in – and I to mark them and find a way to pass them all too – and then – to my surprise I was asked to present the badges – to the shy and to the proud – in front of Mum’s and Dad’s – and the Brownies county top brass. Lovely writing, Esther, all my best to you.

  6. HI Esther, this is a lovely story. I was also a Brownie but only for a few months. My family then moved and I the opportunity never arose again. I also had a brown dress with a yellow tie.

  7. Chel Owens says:

    I wish I had thought to include “opening the curtains” as a household job! We have Girl Scouts over here; everyone wanted to be in it during elementary school, and that group is called Brownies as well. Your activities sounds more fun, since we often made things out of paper.

    In contrast, I had more fun in the older scouts. My leader did lessons on frugality, cooking a variety of foreign foods, and an annual Ukrainian Easter Eggs party (the ones done in wax).

  8. TanGental says:

    well, being gender curious didn’t really cut it in North Surrey in the 1960s, so I was a cub, then scout and finally a venture scout. Loved the whole silly, hopeless useless militaristic feel to it all. Cubs were in sixes but we were colours – I was in white – and there was a triangle with the colour on my sleeve. I quite envy the brown dress, mind you. We wore these green pullovers made from knitted green brillo pads, whatever the weather. There’s a photo of me somewhere when I went through my growing phase, walking next to Ballou, the deputy troop leader (the leader was akela, I think, silly Kipling names). I was about twice the size of every other boy.
    And winding back, my gran was one of the very first girl scouts before WW1 when the troop was formed and approved by Baden Powell himself. I should ask my bro for some details and either blog about it, or get him to. Nice memories…

    • And I must say I’m quite envious of the knitted green pullover made from brillo pads! Ah, the things we went through as kids. Fascinating to read about your gran. What an experience!

  9. TanGental says:

    PS was bob-a-job a thing for brownies/guides or just a scout thing?

  10. Ruth says:

    I was a Brownie too, back in the day, with a similar brown dress and yellow tie but we wore a brown beret, not a bobble hat. I moved up to Guides at the required age where I eventually achieved my Queen’s Guide Award – and then went to Ranger Guides afterwards for about a year… I loved it all, such great memories! 🙂

  11. I was never a Brownie as I was brought uo in a very rural environment but I encouraged my daughter to join and she loved it

  12. Rae Longest says:

    My uniform was the same as yours. My first grade photo was in my uniform; yes, even the beanie.I was seven two months after entering first grade, and I, too began my Brownie career then. My second cousin, whom I called “Aunt Blanche” was one of the leaders, and her daughter and I were three weeks apart and lived with one house between us from the time we were four until we were in high school. My third cousin and I were raised like sisters, except we didn’t have to share parents or bedrooms. LOL
    We did not have badges until we had completed our Flying Up ceremony and became Girl Scouts. But, boy did I begin earning badges then! I remember in Brownies we had to pay 15 cents in dues each week, and a nice brown change purse with the Brownie emblem was attached to our uniform belt to keep us from losing that dime and nickel.
    You really brought back memories for me with this post. Thanks!

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