Saturday, 26 December 2009

Cubs and clubs...

The Woodcraft Folk

It is hard to believe that with so many activities taking place that I found time to involve myself in other challenges, as always I did think it important to keep myself active. I became leader of a youth club called the Woodcraft Folk; this was associated with the Co-op youth movement. This became an immediate success in the area and soon attracted a large membership. Our little group had great fun and went on camping excursions, and entered many events sponsored by the Co-op movement, such as on-stage elocution competitions. Unfortunately after a time, I felt that a number of the more mature members and some leaders in the organization were becoming involved with political activities and protests. I did feel that children should not be exposed to those influences at such an early age and I was not very happy about the situation. The matter was resolved when the council, due to cut backs, took away our meeting place at Station Road School, and an alternative venue could not be found. Sadly and with much regret, I was obliged to resign as leader, and the group in Harborne was terminated.

Our two boys were already active members of Saint Peters cubs pack and one evening the pack leader Rosemary Ruxton, came to our house and appealed for help in running the pack. I was pleased to offer my assistance; I did not believe at that stage that I would go on to remain with scouting for twenty-one years. I remained with St Peters Scout Group as assistant leader for many years and with the help of leader Rosemary, learned much about the scouting fraternity. As the saying goes “You are never too old to learn”.

After I had been with St Peters for approximately ten years, I was invited by the District Scout Leader to take over St Mary’s Harborne Scout pack and with it the title of Akela. This offered a further challenge and fortunately I was able to call upon the experience I had gained with St Peter’s. The pack was a great success and soon went from strength to strength, with our numbers overflowing.

Let me say at this stage that I could not have entered into these activities without the support of Geoff, he encouraged me to develop my interests and that my activities should not be solely confined to the home. During my many weekends away at camp and frequent weekly administrative meetings, Geoff would remain at home, holding the fort. Thankfully, members of the family came on board, Kathryn, Alison and Fiona, joined me at St Mary’s as assistant leaders, and wonderful leaders they would become; they all devoted their time and gave me great support. It’s right to say that with the help of our girls the pack became an outstanding success in the District.



Peter gave us all an insight into a very different way of life; he had always shown great empathy with disabled people, and an active interest in disability organizations. He began organizing holidays for Multi Handicapped Children, to enable their parents or relatives to have a break from the daily pressures, or perhaps to take a short holiday themselves. These breaks would be run under the auspices of the PHAB organization. Peter obviously needed volunteer helpers for this demanding task, in some cases on a one to one basis. Family members and many friends from scouting quickly came forward. Looking back, I can honestly say that those PHAB holidays were extremely demanding on the volunteers, far more so than Scout Camping. I cannot give enough credit and praise to Peter for arranging those holidays. The children needed twenty-four hour around the clock attention, for seven days a week. Often none of the helpers were experienced with some of the children who were multi handicapped; confidence was gained by hands-on contact. It was a privilege to have had the opportunity, to give our services; I would add that the experience produced much joy and laughter and occasionally a few tears.



Rhossili Bay on the Gower Coast:
a favourite camping destination for cubs and later our own family


Our family began to re-locate and go their own ways, as families do. Denis secured a position with Rolls Royce, and moved up to Melbourne in Derby and there he met his future wife Carol. Peter having finished his training as a nurse decided that the profession was not for him and so went off for a tour around Europe.

I recall that on one occasion he made arrangements to meet friends at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Athens, on such a day, at a certain time; only Peter could make arrangements like that. I believe he did meet up with those friends. Whatever the circumstances, he once made the trip to Berlin, visiting the same friends. Unfortunately he lost his ticket for the return flight home.

To sustain himself, he resorted to busking on the underground station. The British Embassy decided to assist him out of the country and provided him with a one-way overland ticket back to England. I remember he arrived back at Birmingham, New Street, absolutely famished. A group of nuns (bless them) had taken pity on him while crossing Europe and had given him a little food. He phoned the house asking that Dad pick him up from the station. Peter was not bound by practicalities or convention and led a very colourful life in his early twenties.

Alison was next with the wanderlust. She decided to have what is now called a gap year. She and two male friends went for a tour of Europe; they started off in Sweden, and made their way through Germany, France, Italy and Greece. Most of the time they had little money to buy food, but the three of them kept each other safe. They were so pleased to have seen and done the things they did, although they said they would never do it again. As parents, we were terribly worried about our daughter and were greatly relieved to receive her postcards. Perhaps it was best not to know too much.

I think that if Peter and Alison got together, they could write an interesting book about their escapades.

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