Marjorie Shaw’s dining room table is covered in a lifetime of memories.
From badges to pins to newspaper clippings, they form a vivid picture of her nearly 80 years of service, first as a Girl Guide, then a leader and subsequently, a member of the 1st Trefoil Guild of Victoria – a group for former Guides.
Her stories include the time, at 15, that she met Lord Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scout and Girl Guide movements, and his wife, Lady Olave Baden-Powell, who herself was very involved with the Guides in the early years.
“Lady Baden-Powell was very easy to talk with,” Shaw recalled. “She would sit and chat with everyone – she even showed us how to shake hands with three people at once.”
The Baden-Powells were visiting Victoria as part of a trip to Canada’s West Coast.
At a ceremony in Beacon Hill Park, a tree was planted and a plaque erected in Lord Baden-Powell’s honour – Shaw threw on the first shovelful of dirt on behalf of her fellow Guides. “It was amazing how Lord and Lady Baden-Powell seemed to blend together despite their age difference (32 years).”
Now 91, Shaw joined the Guides in 1932 while she was a patient at the Royal Alexandra Solarium in Mill Bay. “I must have fallen out of one tree too many times, because I ended up there,” she said.
The solarium was home to Boy Scout and Girl Guide troops. According to Shaw, “All the other girls were joining,” so signing up was the logical thing to do.
“The nurses would roll our beds down the hall to the meetings,” she said.
From that moment on, she was hooked. Upon her recovery, Shaw returned home to Victoria, where she was recruited by local Guide leaders, and when she wasn’t in school she was involved in various Guiding activities.
“I met friends in high school that were in different patrols,” Shaw said. “We would often meet together at camp.”
As with many youth groups, strong bonds were formed, and as Shaw and her fellow Guides began to age out of the organization, they began searching for a way to stay connected.
“We’d made all these friends and we didn’t want to lose them,” she said.
After several years, Shaw and her cohorts formed the 1st Victoria Trefoil Guild.
Guilds had been recognized by the Girl Guides since 1943, but in 1961, Shaw’s Guild was the first to be registered in Canada. There are now dozens of Trefoil Guilds across the country, with five on Vancouver Island alone.
Make no mistake, these are not simply groups of women who sit around drinking tea. The Guild maintains a direct link to current Girl Guides by organizing events such as the annual Oak Bay Broom Bash, and helping out at Girl Guide camps.
Guild members meet monthly and organize group activities ranging from visiting museums to running camps of their own.
Shaw’s lifelong love of Guiding has rubbed off on her family as well; her daughters joined the organization as Brownies, her grandson leads a Boy Scout troop and her granddaughter has served as a medic at Girl Guide camps.
One of Shaw’s daughters, Brenda Jagdis, has continued in her mother’s footsteps as a Guide commissioner and leader of a number of different Brownie and Guide troops.
“It’s an important part of my life, because I believe in the value of the organization,” Jagdis said.
“The values he (Baden-Powell) had were really basic ones about being good citizens, and I can’t see any fault in that.”
Shaw’s 1st Victoria Trefoil Guild celebrated its 50th anniversary Monday with a picnic in Beacon Hill Park and a visit to the tree where Shaw tossed that first shovel of dirt in 1935.
In the intervening years, the Guild has taken her across Canada and beyond – notably to an international Trefoil Guild conference in Denmark.
“I’ve just had so much fun,” Shaw said. “I wouldn’t change it for anything.”