Many of us have known Joan McLean during the forty years of her involvement as an
adult member of Guiding in Western Australia. Joan became a Unit Leader in 1973 and then joined the Lone Guides in 1979 spending many years as a Lone Guide Leader and is now a member of Lone Trefoil.
Over the years she has staffed on so many camps, that she is simply known as “cookie” right across Western Australia. Here, she gives us a glimpse into her youthful escapades in South Australia.
This is Joan’s story…
Many years ago with my two elder sisters, I joined the Brownies, I was six and a half years old and I went to make up the numbers in the Pack. I’ll never forget my first Brown Owl. She had very large brown eyes and an unusual laugh. Twenty years later in a public hall I heard that laugh again. Yes, it was her. “Fancy you remembering me after all these years!” she said.
It was a mile each way for my sisters and me to walk to Brownies until the Pack closed down. Then we had our meetings in a large shed in our own back yard until another Pack opened nearby. The year I received my wings to fly up to Guides I was dressed up as Father Christmas and gave the Brownies their Christmas gifts. What a Father Christmas I must have made!
My first Guide Leader was very tall and after only three months she left us to go overseas through the Guide Movement to help the refugees after World War II. I found her name and photo in the book “From a Flicker to a Flame”, she was still in Guiding as a Trefoil member.
Sometimes at our meetings we would be given a verbal message to remember while we did Scouts Pace down to the local library, half a mile away. Then we had to memorise the titles and authors of three books which had been in the library window, returning to the Guide hall within a certain time limit. I gave these exercises credit for my good memory later on in life. When trying to learn morse code I would sit outside the Post office listening to the tap tap of the morse coming in from all over the state. I was never successful in reading back any sense from the messages.
Hiking. I loved the outdoor trips we took with the company. We would meet at the Adelaide railway station with a small pack on our backs to board a train which was going up into the Adelaide hills. We’d get off at a station down the line and hike by road and cross country to a station further up the line. Then we’d make our way home after an enlightening day.
During the war years, every Saturday morning we would travel to Guide House in Adelaide to pick up a push cart and call on business houses to collect donations of scrap for our war effort. At this time everything was scarce, including oil. The Scouts and Guides were given the job of picking fruit from olive trees in suburban backyards. The trees were often in awkward places and one could get very messy juice. But at the same time we enjoyed ourselves. Once when standing on an old fowl house merrily picking olives I suddenly disappeared to end upside down, olives and all, on top of some very disturbed chooks. What a mess!
We shifted to the country before I could finish Guiding and it was not until many years later that I joined a Local Association before taking over a country Unit. We had many happy times, especially at hikes and camps. When I was being assessed for my Camp Licence we had 40 mph winds. I was very grateful for the wet weather shelter close by. At 2am when all the Guides had been moved into the shelter shed out of the rain and wind and had all settled down they were rudely awakened. A cocky little bantam rooster was sitting on a drum, his chest puffed out crowing at the top of his voice. I threw my shoe at him and at that moment a very surprised farmer, our host, came around the corner to start his early morning ploughing. Farmer, bantam and my shoe all met at the one moment. At my latest camp we had ten inches of rain in a week. It didn’t dampen our spirits and many lasting friendships were made.
I thank GOD for giving me the opportunity of being able to be a Brownie, Guide and a Leader.
Author: Ann Miller
Acknowledging the book Literally Ours printed by GGWA 1990