Were you a 1960s Girl Guide in Sunderland? Relive those golden days

Ruth Surtees and Grace Flynn lead the Fence Houses workout.
Ruth Surtees and Grace Flynn lead the Fence Houses workout.
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It was a golden year for Girl Guides, Brownies and Rangers in Sunderland in 1962.

When the Sunderland Division of the Girl Guide Association celebrated 50 years of the movement, 300 youngsters turned out to play their part.

The giant jigsaw which marked 50 years of the Sunderland Girl Guide movement.

The giant jigsaw which marked 50 years of the Sunderland Girl Guide movement.

What a night it was at Sunderland’s Town Hall where mementoes of a historic occasion were collected - to be preserved in a museum for all time.

And as Chris Cordner recalls, the girl guides weren’t the only females making a touch of hitsory on Wearside.

Fifty years of guiding were worth celebrating.

And Sunderland did it in style in 1962 when hundreds of females gathered for a “golden night of celebration.”

I am delighted to learn of the present strength of the local movement is 2,000 and that so many girls in the district have enjoyed the activities which are designed to promote better citizenship

Alderman Mrs K Cohen

Three representatives of every company in the Sunderland division were there at the Town Hall. They got to see a part of history.

Two badges were presented to the Mayor, Ald Mrs K Cohen. One was the then present-day Guide enrolment badge. The other was a similar badge from 1912, the year the movement was set up.

The mementoes were handed over to Sunderland Museum to become a permanent reminder of the golden jubilee celebrations.

A purse containing money collected by each company was also presented to the Mayor who donated it to an association which helped disabled people.

Elsie Defty, Jennie Benson and Emma Hancox.

Elsie Defty, Jennie Benson and Emma Hancox.

Other highlights included the creation of a giant 100-piece jigsaw, representing each Sunderland unit.

And Mrs Cohen was delighted when she was told the division was doing so well, it had 2,000 members. She said it was pleasing that, through the 50 years, so many people had enjoyed the activities which were designed to promote better citizenship - one of the best aims of the organisation, she said.

Officials at the celebration included Durham County Commissioner Ann Fry, county president Nora Dillon, Sunderland Division Commander Dorothy Wilcox, and Division President Freda Usher.

Were you part of the guide movement, or perhaps part of the evening of celebration. Get in touch and tell us more.

Or perhaps you were from another era of the Sunderland guiding movement and would love to share your memories.

Email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk

That same year, another group of females were just as influential and having just as much fun.

Three grandmothers and 20 mums from the Fence Houses YMCA spent the 1960s tackling keep fit, country dancing and international dancing.

It might have been a local way of meeting new friends and having a great time, but it led to more than that. It led to three-day getaways.

And everywhere they went, they would hone their exercise to the tones of a piano.

It turned out to be so inspirational, it spread to other areas including Boldon.

Today, Wearside Echoes asks for memories of the days when Theresa Snaith, Mary Caldwell, Elsie Defty and Ena Robson all got together for sessions led by Mona Theodorson - accompanied by Blanche Nairn at the piano.

It was 1962 when the Sunderland Echo first caught up with the ladies of dance who also included Jennie Benson and Emma Hancox, Joy Wanless and Evie Perry, Hilda Walt and Margaret O’Shaunessy.

They included Ruth Surtees and Grace Flynn, Mildred Coulter and Doris Maddison.

Our article said: “Each week, they try to relax in body and mind.”

Mona would lead the ladies in dance instruction before taking them away for a three-day break at Lambton Castle Residential College for Further Education.

Mary was from Maplewood Street in Fence Houses and Elsie was from Chilton Moor. Ena came from the Grange Estate in Fence Houses while Theresa hailed from Beechwood Terrace in Houghton.

From Friday night to Sunday tea, Mona would lead the way and said at the time: “We all had a marvellous time.”

But she was quick to pass praise on to Blanche who she described as an inseparable companion.

It’s fair to say the ladies were trendsetters as the women of Boldon were set to follow their example by holding their own weekend away from home.

Were you one of the keep fit ladies? Tell us more.

Email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk.