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35 Years of Guiding - My Story

I joined Brownies (now Embers) in 1973 when I was seven because mom (May Webster) wanted to expose me to activities I might not otherwise get a chance to do as she was a single mom at the time.

Given that we had been attending St. John’s for a few years at that point, and since Guiding had long been established within the Church, it made sense that I would attend 12th Toronto Brownies. Back then, Sparks didn’t exist, having only started in 1988.

The Weston family was very involved in the church as well as guiding. Nan and Cy Weston had three daughters that were also very involved in guiding and their middle daughter, Sharon Weston (now Barnes), was my Tawny Owl and Nan’s sister Pat was my Snowy Owl. Our leader-in-charge was Darlene and what’s special about her was that although she was blind, she didn’t let that define her or slow her down (or us Brownies). I learned skills that I’ve kept to this day including simple ones like braiding and tying knots, as well as the deaf alphabet. I earned a few badges including cooking, reading and how to be thrifty and through being part of the St. John’s family and community, I earned my first stage of the Religion in Life Emblem. I was enrolled as a Gnome and rose to the rank of Seconder before moving on to Guides when I turned 10. St. John’s was fortunate to have all 3 Guiding Branches meeting in the same location, so it was an easy transition into 12th Toronto Guides where Nan Weston was our Captain. I was a member of the Blue Bird Patrol with Heather Weston (now Janke) as my Patrol Leader. I continued to learn and have fun within the unit, earned my second stage Religion in Life Emblem and in 1979 I advanced to Pathfinders which was a newly created branch within Guiding. Nan also moved into Pathfinders and so was also my leader for the next 3 years. At the age of 15 I moved on to Rangers that was headed by Nan’s oldest daughter, Susan (yes, it really was a family affair at St. John’s). Through continued service within St. John’s I was awarded the 3rd and 4th stage Religion in Life Awards in Pathfinders and Rangers respectively. These presentations happened annually at our Church Parades.

On the Sunday closest to Thinking Day (Feb 22nd; the birthdays of the founders of both Scouting and Guiding) St. John’s hosted the girls and boys of all the Scouting and Guiding groups that called St. John’s home. The first several rows of pews would be filled with many of the members of the 12th Toronto Guiding units and the 7th Toronto Scouting units. Parents and siblings were encouraged to stay and many did. After the procession of the choir and clergy, Gary Gray (organist at the time) would play a special Trumpet Voluntary and the Guides and Scouts Colour Party followed carrying both unit and Canadian Flags to be displayed in the Sanctuary for the duration of the service. New flags were blessed by Rev. Maurice Poole. Readings and prayers were done by various members in the units and those of us in the choir or altar servers were allowed to wear our uniforms instead of our vestments.

Upon graduating from Humberside, I aged out of the organization, but was pulled back into guiding as a leader of the 12th Guide unit upon my return from university. For the next several years, I learned about Guiding from a leader’s perspective and began developing leadership skills that have continued to benefit me throughout life. I continued as a leader at St. John’s for a number of years within the Guide and Pathfinder units until after the birth of my first child. The commute from Pickering got a little too challenging so I decided to find a unit closer to home where I continued as a leader for another 10 years.

Pathfinder camp on Snake Island (Toronto Islands) in 1999
Pathfinder camp on Snake Island (Toronto Islands) in 1999

My time in Guiding at St. John’s was truly memorable and has stayed with me to this day. I’ve learned leadership skills, teamwork and confidence as well as outdoor skills. My family has been camping together for more than 17 years and I’ve been able to put into use what I’ve learned as a leader during these outings.

MIchael & Quita Taylor Wedding with Pathfinders and Rangers Honour Guard
MIchael & Quita Taylor Wedding with Pathfinders & Rangers Honour Guard (1998)

As a footnote in the history of St. John’s and the 12th Toronto Pathfinders and the Grenadier Rangers, I was the leader married at St. John’s that had the Pathfinder/Ranger honour guard on the church steps after the ceremony.

(Maria) Quita Taylor

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