Audrey Wilson on the steps of the Brownie hut.

Brownie Camp has a long history

Historian Elida Peers tells tales of the history of the Sooke area.

A secluded oasis in our midst, the Brownie Camp on Sooke River Road, with its 75 year old Brownie Hut, has seen a lot of history and speaks to the forethought of Girl Guide organizers so many years ago.

Entering into the green bower through a leafy portal, one passes through “Faith’s Gate” named in memory of Faith Jacobsen, longtime Guide leader and District Commissioner. An avenue of gigantic Douglas-firs, stately red cedars and feathery-foliaged hemlocks leads to the hut itself, kept in fine condition by decades of dedicated volunteers.

One of the first youngsters to attend sessions at the Brownie Hut was Audrey Wilson, who posed on the steps last week.  As 10-year old Audrey Sullivan, she rode her bicycle to the centre from downtown Sooke with her friend Merle Forrest in 1939, a year after the hut was built.  At that time Girl Guide meetings were held there, with Zara Pike of Kaltasin Road as the Guide Captain.

During the 1960s, Audrey was back at the hut again, this time as a leader herself, when as Brown Owl, she supervised camping stays for Brownie groups. She recalls having all the youngsters seated in a circle around the fireplace, practicing their knots, before they settled into their bunk beds for the exciting weekend sleepover.

After the Sooke Region Museum was built, it became a favourite destination for weekend campers, and the roadside pathway would be filled every Saturday with  little uniformed figures marching neatly from the campsite and across the bridge for personal tours of the museum exhibits. It was fun for museum volunteers as well as for the kids.

Many Victoria Guide and Brownie leaders took their turns coming out to the camp and providing safe, supervised camping experiences for tiny youngsters beginning to stretch their wings. It was a particular pleasure to recognize faces year after year shepherding new groups of little campers. One such Brown Owl we remember from the 1980s, from the Oak Bay/Willows area, was Angele Segger, one of many Victoria women who took shifts at Milne’s Landing as camp supervisors.

Guide leaders today have arranged an Open House for July 21 and are hoping to welcome the community back to the 75-year-old hut, to revisit old memories or start new ones.

Elida Peers, Historian

Sooke Region Museum