MEMORY LANE: Two friends are guides to West Van’s past

This column is about Daphne Hales and May Loudon, friends involved with Guiding in West Vancouver since the 1960s and ’70s.

“Guiding is so valuable for girls. Along with self-reliance and leadership, girls learn to work together, they learn skills and explore the natural world. They learn that friendship and harmony have no borders or boundaries,” says Daphne.

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Because Guiding in West Vancouver goes back 99 years, and its progress is so closely connected to that of the community, we must begin with a little history.

Founder Lord Baden-Powell, his sister and his wife, considered Guiding and Scouting to be movements rather than organizations, because they would move with the times. After the devastation caused by the First World War, there was an emphasis on international friendship and learning to live in peace.

Women got the vote in British Columbia in 1917 though they would not be recognized as persons by the government of Canada until 1929.

The power of the vote for women meshed with Guiding’s mandate to instill self-reliance and leadership in young girls, to be accomplished through training in indoor and outdoor skills.

When Girl Guiding reached West Vancouver in 1921, the community was an ideal incubator for the raising of Brownies and Girl Guides. The population was predominantly British, with politics and the economy run by men, and socially organized by their wives, strong-minded women, by and large. 

Gwladys Davies, one of the first Guide Leaders, was also West Vancouver’s first female councillor. Gertrude Lawson, the daughter of John Lawson, one of the community’s founders, was a teacher and supporter of Guiding.

North Vancouver’s Phyl Munday, outdoorswoman, explorer, mountaineer and conservationist, became a Guide Leader at the age of 17.

She was involved with Guiding for 60 years and her influence, as an individual and as a Guider, is remembered to this day. As the North Shore Nature Advisor, Munday trained Guide Leaders in outdoor skills and in the conservation of plants and animals, which they would pass on to their charges. 

Daphne and May talked about contributions by these women to Guiding in West Vancouver.

As they prepare for the centenary of West Vancouver Guiding in 2021, sifting through papers, discovering caches of photographs, retelling stories and discovering new ones, the connection between guiding and the community emerges. 

Here is one example. While serving as Nature Advisor for West Vancouver, May had the idea to set up a Nature House at Lighthouse Park, to carry on Phyl Munday’s commitment to Guiding and to the conservation of our natural world.

The people of West Vancouver pitched in. Pat Boname, a Guide Leader before she became West Vancouver’s first female Mayor, helped negotiate the lease with the municipality. Frank Kuruscz provided support from the parks and recreation department.

The building, one of those erected at Lighthouse Park by the Canadian army during the Second World War, was renovated. Service groups painted it, all except for the Nature Room. Here, West Vancouver artist Val Brouwer sketched images from the natural world on the walls, and supervised the volunteer painters to complete the work.

Ever since the Phyl Munday Nature House opened in Lighthouse Park in 1985, Guiders have come to learn about living with, and conserving, the natural world. And here, in a building constructed by the Canadian army during the Second World War, the vision of the Baden-Powells for the Guiding and Scouting movement – that we live together in peace – is alive and well.

“You wouldn’t believe the people that visit the Nature Room on Sunday afternoons,” says Daphne. “Visitors come from all over the world. They come from Vancouver and from here in West Vancouver. Some were born and raised here, others are immigrants like me and May. These days, we welcome recent immigrants, exploring and learning about their new community. We are all volunteers, of course, so Nature House cannot always be open. Visitors to the Park and to Point Atkinson on Sundays can look for our sign: Open from 2 to 4 p.m.”

Thanks to Daphne Hales and May Loudon and their fellow Guiders, more stories will be told in 2021, during the centenary.

They are worth waiting for, I promise.

In the meantime, anyone with memories or stories to share about Guiding in West Vancouver, can get in touch with West Vancouver Historical Society at 778-279-2235 or wvhs@shaw.ca. You can also leave a message by visiting wvhs.ca.

Laura Anderson works with and for seniors on the North Shore. Contact her by phone at 778-279-2275 or at lander1@shaw.ca.

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