Helen Remembers The Girls’ Guild

The Girls’ Guild played a big part in most of the school girls’ lives. The Girls’ Guild, as distinguished from the Womens’ Guild, met in the Anglican Church Hall.’ We started going to Guild when we were seven years old.
Miss Helen Kidd was in charge of the Girls’ Guild for many years. It took many hours of work to keep the Guild going but it seemed to be a labour of love for Miss Kidd.

We looked forward to Guild on Wednesday afternoons right after school. There was a short “business” period with the reading of the minutes and the financial statement and the Lord’s prayer at the opening of all meetings. The older girls had their turn being secretary, treasurer, vice president and president.

Each little girl was given a workbag with her name written on the drawstring. At the end of each session our work was put into this bag. The smaller girls’ bags were kept by the teacher. The older girls took theirs home to work on their project.

Then we started on our sewing projects. The girls were divided into groups according to age and ability. Miss Nellie Grant took charge of the beginners. We practiced plain sewing by making a doll’s quilt. We sewed little blocks, about two inches by three inches with pencilled lines for us to follow.

Many times the cry, “Please, Miss Grant, my needle is unthreaded” was heard around our little circle. We had to make small stitches or Miss Grant would rip them out and make us do it over again, and again.
When the quilt top was large enough, Miss Kidd took it home with her. She put batting and a back on it and then sewed the layers together. Then we were taught how to do blanket stitch around the edge. That was more difficult for little fingers. It was so hard to get the stitches evenly spaced.

At last the day came when the blanket was finished. How happy I felt when I could take it home! I knew my doll slept better for having a warm quilt covering it.

Next we learned how to hem by making a doll’s sheet. This had to be done in neat stitches as if it we were going to be used on a real bed.
Once the sheet was completed we were ready to start embroidery work. We learned to do the outline stitch on easy designs on white cotton squares. The transfer designs were of animals or simple flowers. Miss Kid would say to us, The back of your embroider should look as neat as the front. No knots or ends of threads showing!

When enough blocks for a quilt were finished, they were pinned up on the wall. We thought they looked very nice and liked to spot which ones we had done. The blocks were made into crib quilts by the ladies of the church and sold at a church tea.

This had been our first attempt to use round embroidery hoops. We were also trying to learn to thread our own needles. How awkward it seemed, and yet from this humble beginning my love of embroidery and colours grew.

I do not remember who our teacher was at this stage. I do remember Dagmar Rothdram helped a lot in the Guild work.

Twice a year the Women’s Guild and the Girls’ Guild held a tea and sale. One was in December in time for Christmas giving. The older girls helped at the sale tables and waited on the tea tables. Each girl was so pleased when someone bought an article she had made or embroidered.

Often the quality of an item was discussed by the ladies who came to buy. Some would even ask who had made a particular item.

There was always a candy table with homemade candy for sale. Mrs. Alex (Alice)
Rothdram made White Divinity Fudge which just melted in your mouth. There was also brown sugar candy and chocolate fudge for sale. The candy was sold in paper cups, five cents for a small cup, ten cents for a larger cup.

Boxes of candy, all decorated up with crêpe paper, were sold for twenty or twenty five cents depending on the size.

There was never a shortage of volunteers for the candy table. As new cups or boxes were filled, there were always a few crumbs left in the original container. That was real candy! We had not heard of calorie counting. It was pure bliss for a sweet tooth to work at the candy table.

May was the month for the Girls’ Guild Concert. These concerts were always well attended. The small girls were often dressed in crêpe paper costumes representing spring colours. They were taught a drill performed to music played on the piano. It took a lot of patience and many practices to get the girls moving in the right direction at the right time. Many of the little ones did not know their right from their left. Confusion reigned.

Songs were learned by heart from words written in large letters with black crayon on the back side of wall paper. I remember one song that ended, “May! May! May!” rising in a crescendo.

There were also recitations and one year, my sister Edith tap danced with Alberta Way to the then popular tune, East Side, West Side.

There would be a short play or two, as well. One time I complained to Miss Kidd that I always had to take the part of a boy. The reply I received was, “But you make such a good boy!”

One year in an all girls play, The Clumsy Fairy, I did get a girl’s part. The play was taken from my copy of Blackie’s Childrens’ Annual. Pauline Haddad was the fairy, Linda Blagrave was the witch.

Still I had to be a boy in the concert. I was Phyllis Blagrave’s “barefoot, bashful beau” in the tableau for the song “School Days, School Days” which was sung in the background. Carmen Kyte loaned me his pair of navy blue Boy Scout pants. The shirt was one of my brother’s and I do not remember whose cap I wore to hide my hair. Thus I became a school boy and had to carry Phyllis’ books. There was a pretty white picket fence as we slowly walked across the platform.
There were no amplifiers in those days. People at the back of the hall missed some of the words being said on stage. Miss Kidd would stand at the back of the hall and tell us to speak louder while we rehearsed.