Frequently Asked Questions
Contents of Brownie Pockets
These varied from pack to pack, as it was up to each Leader to make the rule for her unit - so there is not one absolute answer! Commonly requested items were:
- A clean fabric hanky in a sealed envelope - for first aid
- A safety pin - for fastening up the hanky, ripped clothes or other uses
- A length of string, hanked - for tying things up
- A plastic bag - for waterproof storage, or cutting up into 'temporary string'
- A coin for the phone - in an era when mobiles didn't exist, to use in call boxes, or to pay the owner for making a call from a private phone.
- A pencil and paper - for making notes (back in the day we didn't use permission slips for outings, just handed parents a handwritten note which Brown Owl had dictated to us . . .)
- Current Pocket Book or Record Card - as well as handbooks, our challenges were printed in a pocket-size format so they could easily be carried and referred to.
Positioning Badges on Uniform
Prior to 1990, there were set positions for badges to be worn on uniform - these were published in 'Policy, Organisation and Rules', the 'Guide's Book of Rules' and in the handbooks, so these should be referred to when judging where badges were to be positioned in any given year up to 1990. No badges other than those on the list were permitted on uniform, under any circumstances. If you are 're-creating' old uniforms by adding badges to period blouses/dresses to create a sample uniform of a particular era, please research carefully to make sure all of the badges used are of the right era, and that the 'story' adds up - can't go giving a uniform a 'Little House' emblem if you haven't also got all the right interest badges needed to earn one, or ignore details like the Brownie Six badge changing side in 1931!
Post 1990, this ceased, and it was then entirely up to the individual whether or not they wished to sew badges on sashes, then from the 2000s on other garments if wished - and if they opted to do so, where each was positioned. Some units may try to invent their own byelaws or even issue unofficial/non-approved diagrams in breach of the guidance, but even then it is entirely up to the individual whether to follow these local suggestions or not, as such unit byelaws are very strongly discouraged! Nevertheless, sashes, if used, should always be worn on the right shoulder, with the notch at the neck!
Brownie First Class
Part of Brownie Traditions badge, the badge the Brownies worked for wasn't commonly known by that name, it was usually referred to as Golden Hand - even in the official publications!
After passing their initial 'tenderfoot' tests during the first few weeks of membership, the Brownies worked for Golden Bar (the lower of the two badges shown), and had to pass set tests, these could be passed gradually. The badge was worn above the left pocket on the frock.
Once Golden Bar was earned, the Brownie could start practicing the skills for her Golden Hand test - but it was only practice, and preparation of the things which had to be made or grown, because the actual testing of Golden Hand had to all be done on one day, by an independent Guider. If any clause was not completed, a full re-test was required.
In the 1950s, "Golden Ladder" was introduced, to bridge the gap between the Golden Bar and Golden Hand tests - it enabled Brownies to get a second Golden Bar badge to stitch above the first if they passed certain intermediate clauses, as a stepping stone to gaining Golden Hand - and it also allowed those who would not pass Golden Hand to have a target to aim at.
For many years Brownies could not gain interest badges until after they gained Golden Hand. Brownies who gained Golden Hand got to 'Fly Up' to Guides, and received a "Brownie Wings" badge to wear on the sleeve of their Guide uniform. Those who did not pass Golden Hand would "Walk Up" to Guides and did not receive the wings badge. Later the rule was relaxed to allow Brownies to gain up to two interest badges, plus Thrift. This is why many pre-1968 Brownies had very few or no interest badges - there was often little time left between passing Golden Hand and moving up to Guides in which interest badges could be done. It was only in 1968 that Brownies were free to start earning interest badges as soon as they had made their Promise.
How to Tie a Brownie Tie
Prior to 1968, Brownies and Guides wore a tie which came as a triangular bandage, which was folded into a necktie, as seen in the photo to the left. As part of her 'Tenderfoot' tests every Brownie had to learn to do it for herself. What you do is:
Lay the tie out flat on a table, long side towards you. It works best if it is ironed and starched.
Fold the pointed end up to the hem of the long edge, then repeat twice. You should now have a long narrow strip of fabric - now for the tricky part - tieing the tie!
Fold around 1/3 of the length of the strip up the back, leaving a longer working end in front. Lift it up now and fold the longer end at right angles, then round the back and round again to the front. Then tuck the end up through the loop you have just made, so that you have a shape like a necktie.
At this point, take a minute to adjust the length of the tie, tidy up any crumples around the knot, etc. Then tie on the tie using a reef knot at the back of the neck. Add on a carefully-polished Promise badge of the right era in the middle of the tie. Ideally, the end of the tie should be about 3 fingers above the belt, but nowadays there sometimes has to be a degree of compromise between this and strangling the wearer!
Originally, Brownie ties were only available in brown, later the dark gold colour was introduced, each unit had to decide which colour to have, soon the more colourful gold colour was by far the most common.
How do I trace my Unit's history
The first step is to note down what you already know. What is the unit's current name, do you know of any past names or mergers? Where do you meet now and have you always met there or do you know of previous locations? What former Leaders do you know of, and can they help to fill in some of the blanks? Do other local Leaders (especially those who have been involved in Guiding for a while locally) have information or recollections which could be helpful? There may be a date quoted on 'GO', for a while it tended to be a generic/nonsense date of 1 January 1900, but a lot have now been updated to give an accurate registration date.
The next step is to approach your County Secretary - she will have access to the official records which your County holds on the unit. These will probably give the official registration date (and any gaps where the unit was closed and re-opened), and they may give the names of the former Leaders (in my area they usually have complete records of Leaders back to the 1960s but not necessarily earlier - but this may vary). If you can give the Secretary plenty of time to look up the records (she has to fit it in amongst all her other more pressing duties) then she will be able to liaise with the archivist and give you all the information that she has.
Once you have these bare bones, the search proper can really begin! If you've met at the same place for a while, might they have records of how long - perhaps the treasurer has an old accounts book with a list of rent payments which you could trace back, or the hall booking secretary has some old correspondence, or the owners might have a minute book where your hire request was discussed or noted, or your rent rise was minuted - these small details can all help to fill in where you met and when, and who the leader was at the time. Is there a local history club and do they have any information on Guiding in your area in the past? Do local newspapers have a searchable database, which would allow you to search for articles? (Some national papers like The Times do too.) Does your County publish an annual report, or regular newsletters, or did it used to - could you access the back copies to search for references to your unit? Remember that County boundaries may have changed over the years - did your unit used to fall under another District or County, and might they have any records of your unit from that time? Do you have contact details for any of the former Leaders (perhaps gleaned from the information the County Secretary had), and do they have recollections, photos, or even log books from the past? Does your County Archivist have any information - they might have old logbooks, reports, photos, records of County events, and other snippets of local District or County activities which your unit might have been part of. What about former Leaders of other units - if you know Flossie used to run the Wednesday Guides back in the 1950s, then she was likely to have known who was running the Monday Guides at that time, where they met, about some of the events both units were involved in . . .
Don't forget to keep your net wide enough when searching - if there was a Division or County unit event then your unit might well have participated, even if the information doesn't explicitly say so - so search for larger events like County Camps, Rainbow Riots, and Brownie Revels. With Senior Section units, be aware that if their history stretches back pre-1968, then they would probably have started as either Land Rangers, Sea Rangers or Air Rangers, or maybe even as Sea Guides or Senior Guides - can you find out which?
Then there is the 'legwork searching' - searching through back copies of "The Scout", "Girl Guides Gazette", "The Guide", "The Guider", "Today's Guide", "Guiding", "The Brownie", "Senior Branch News" and "The Ranger", as appropriate, to see whether your unit is mentioned on the letters pages, or in the badge honours. I recently found an entry for one of my local units back in 1926 in "The Guide" - sadly it's an obituary for a Guide who had 'passed to higher service' as they termed it - but it gives me written confirmation that the unit was running at that date - and that the Leaders subscribed to the magazine and so might have submitted other items around that era too. I then also found a letter in a 1931 issue of "The Guider" from the Leader of that same unit, where she happens to mention that it has been running for 10 years - so I now have confirmation of who was the Leader in that era, and also of how early the unit existed - at least back to 1921! Local newspaper archives will often have a library of back-copies, sometimes on microfiche or online, sometimes original copies, which you may be allowed to access. There is no guarantee of finding anything on the unit you want, but during your search you may find useful background, or information on other neighbouring units which you can share with them - and you might just get lucky . . . and some church magazines have been running a long time - wonder how good they are on keeping a library of back copies . . . ?
And finally - if you are interested, then so might future generations be - so do catalogue whatever you manage to find out and it's source, add in details of the current unit set-up for future reference, and store it safely, on paper, so the next person who enquires has a head start and doesn't have to repeat all your hard work - it's amazing how many meticulously-kept log books tell you lots about what they did, with write-ups, photos and cuttings - but don't give any details of who the author of the log book is!