Kathy Breadner has met the Queen of England and the matriarch of the guiding movement Lady Olave Baden-Powell along with many, many other memorable experiences in her 55 years with Girl Guides of Canada (GGC.)
“I couldn’t wait to turn eight so I could join Brownies,” Kathy said.
“That was back when the promise included God and the King – that tells you how long ago that was.”
Living in the Lower Mainland, Kathy joined a Brownie Pack in North Burnaby.
“Brown Owl would take us on nature walks almost every weekend,” she said.
“We collected pennies for the World Friendship Fund. We’d make a picture with the pennies and send them in.”
Kathy remembers their was more emphasis on challenges, testing and passing milestones with the GGC.
“For my Golden Hand (Brownies) I hand knitted an eight-inch square, we also had to know how to light a match and light a candle. I still teach the Girl Guides how to properly light and manage a match. We also had to learn the signalling system Semaphore.”
Semaphore is a series of signals conveyed through the use of flags, primarily for military and naval applications.
This close association with military ways began with the founder of the scouting movement, Lord Baden-Powell who had a prestigious military background. He noticed young boys assisting enlisted soldiers and decided in 1908 to write a book Scouting for Boys and in 1910, after young girls clamoured to join the scouting organization, under the direction of his sister Agnes Baden-Powell and later his wife Lady Olave Baden-Powell, the Girl Guides organization was founded.
The military influence extended to the Girl Guides in the form of their uniform, the testing process and marching and parade requirements. Survival and woods skills were also taught as this also extended from soldier training.
Brownies were the first level of the Girl Guides of Canada for girls in Kathy’s age group; and when she flew up to Guides level she said this was the largest group, sometimes numbering as many as 36 girls.
“There were so much more testing done then today – it was a big deal – if you failed you had to wait until next year to try again.”
Kathy added much of the activities back then were to teach skills that would be tested and much of their testing was based on military standards.
Kathy has an impressive blanket that chronicles her time as a Girl Guide and some of her time as a Ranger. Unfortunately her badges from Brownies have been lost but she remembers clearly her first badge was a Second Class Guide badge when she was around 12 years old.
“The most interesting and most memorable badges were Friend to the Deaf and Friend to the Blind. I spent time with deaf people and blind people,” she said.
“But I’m most proud of achieving my Gold Chord.”
She has fond memories of time spent in the woods in North Burnaby and the Lower Mainland, learning nature and survival skills as well as leadership and friendship skills.
It was while she was a Sea Ranger (she was 16 years old at the time) she and some of her fellow Rangers were asked to attend a garden party in Victoria where the guest of honour was Queen Elizabeth II.
“Queen Elizabeth arrived by navy ship and I was then invited to be introduced to the Queen,” Kathy said.
“A Star Weekly reporter happened to be there and captured the moment for the paper.”
The Guiding movement was a major part of Kathy’s social life and she still treasures friends she met through the Rangers.
After Rangers, Kathy volunteered her time as a leader and attended many provincial and national camps and events. One such camp was the National Heritage Camp on an island in the St. Lawrence River. Guiders were invited from countries around the world.
Lady Baden-Powell travelled from England for a part of the camp and while there, attempted to speak to as many of the attendees as possible. Kathy was in the food tent doling out supplies for the patrols when she sensed someone was behind her. She turned around and its was Lady Baden-Powell.
“I was so amazed and later regretted not having a camera handy,” she said.
“She was a kind, gentle woman with so much wisdom.”
Over her years with GGC, Kathy has seen many changes. As a leader, there have also been many changes.
She recalls when she first became a leader at the age of 24, she was the oldest of five leaders in a guiding company of 36 girls.
Now 55 years later, Kathy recognizes guiding suited her lifestyle.
“Girl Guides defined my life, I learned so many skills,” she said.
“And when you teach the promise and the law for so many years, it becomes a part of you.”
She has served in many administrative capacities right up to the provincial level, she’s taken girls all over Canada and is currently a trainer for new leaders.
Kathy joined the Quesnel Guiding organization as a music advisor until her two daughters joined GGC. She then followed them through the program and is now proudly watching over her granddaughter in Girl Guides.
“We’re an organization that develops all aspects to life at age appropriate levels and certainly promotes international awareness.”
When asked why men are not part of Girl Guides, Kathy was quick to say GGC wants the girls to be strong, independent leaders in society and not relying on men. Even back when the fledgling organization was defining itself, Girl Guides were designed to focus on the girl.
Kathy encourages young girls to consider joining GGC.
“Come and join us and see how much fun it is,” she said.
She added training is available for those wishing to become leaders.
“I can honestly say I truly believe in the organization,” Kathy said.
“I wouldn’t still be involved if I didn’t.”