Quest in Roots:
Brookdale Manitoba History

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"As a Canadian Girl in Training, under the leadership of Jesus, it is my purpose to: Cherish Health Seek Truth Know God Serve Others and thus, with His help, become the girl God would have me be." How many thousands of Canadian girls have repeated that pledge? When looking at the history of any organization one is forced to ask what its purpose was and how it met its aims. A youth organization that has survived for over 70 years must indeed have offered somethng of great value to its young members.

Nationally, e.G.LT. sprang from ecumenical roots, and arrived as a war time baby in 1915, the result of Anglican, Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian, as well as Y.W. e.A., acknowledgment that young girls needed an outlet for their enthusiasm and their desire to serve.

CGIT in Brookdale began in the 1920''s - a group existed in 1925 - but it is difficult to determine if this group was the first one. The leader was Mrs. Chester Fryer and some of the members were Marjorie Robertson, Rena Christensen, Jean Evans, Jean Lawrie, Fleda Parrott. Some ingenuity on the part of leaders and girls made for good fun.

Marjorie Sandercock (Robertson) recalls skiing down a straw stack in McNaughton''s field - good ski hills not being a prominent geographic feature around Brookdale. This group embarked on the great adventure of going to a rally in Neepawa. This was no simple matter of getting in a car and driving for 20 or 30 minutes on a paved road. The girls were taken to Monroe Siding where they caught the train and stayed overnight in Neepawa.

Late in the 1920''s Mary McLeod (Renwick) was one of the leaders. Two of the members, Leila and Bernice McDonald, recall going to camp at Clear Lake. They slept on mattresses filled with straw from a nearby stack and were pleased to have the best tent in the camp. Later members enjoyed the comfort of Camp Wasaga''s well built cabins, but recollections of camp routine from 1929 and 1960 are remarkably similar. There were hikes, campfires, crafts, swimming and worship. Over the years some campers shared the same feeling of homesickness, too.

The duration of these early groups is hard to determine but it seems there was no active group for several years during the 30''s and early 40''s.

In 1943 Phyllis Diehl (whose husband, Cecil, was school principal) re-organized the Brookdale e.G.I.T. In spite of gas rationing which limited driving, there was a large group. Mrs. Diehl remembers concerts put on to raise money. One netted $27.25. The girls were pleased to be invited to neighboring communities with some items from these concerts.

The fact the e.G.I.T. functioned continuously from 1943 until well into the 1960''s is a testimony to the unselfish efforts of the leaders during that period. A partial list includes Marjorie Mikkelsen, Rene Vinthers, Rose Jones, Ruth Lawrie, Marie May, Kay Repko, Jean McDonald, Mary Kinney.

No account of e.G.I.T. in Brookdale would be complete without mention of Mrs. A.W. Moffatt who was leader for many years in the 40''s and 50''s.

Many busy women gave time and encouragement to these teenage girls over the years, but Mrs.

Moffatt was the embodiment of a patient and energetic leader. Her love of young people and her deep religious faith merged to inspire her girls.

Some former members recall: Kathleen McKinnon (McLeod) - "She was a wonderful woman. We traipsed through the house many a noon hour to make plaster of paris plaques, etc". Florence Burridge (Dennis) - "After our wiener roast Mrs.

Moffatt led the pack to climb a tree and crawl in the window of an old house." Roberta Ratz (Chapman) - "Mrs. Moffatt worked very hard with us teenaged girls." The common thread of activities that runs through records and memories confirm that the objectives stated in the motto remained valid over the years. Fun and recreation helped girls to "Cherish Health". Nearly every member looks back fondly on wiener roasts, skating parties, crafts, baked bean suppers, games, sing-songs, mother (or father) and daughter banquets.

e. G.1.T. girls "Sought Truth" through study projects such as baby-sitting, health care, mission study and through the guidance of their leaders.

To "Know God" the girls studied their Bibles, prepared worship services and led each other in prayer.Old minute books and recollections of leaders and girls recall that the "Serve Others" part of the purpose was held in great importance. Marj Mikkelsen remembers: "One of the highlights of the year was driving the girls round the countryside on Halloween to collect for U.N.I.e.E.F. We were always pleased at the generosity of the community." Marion Kennedy (Mitchell) remembers e.G.I.T.

girls teaching younger children in Sunday School.

Minutes show that the girls assisted at U. e. W. teas, mended church hymn books, sold home-made candy for mission projects, collected needed items for Brandon Mental Hospital and supported the Cancer Society and Foster Parents'' Plan with donations.

Every member participated in the annual Vesper Service. These beautiful services were a moving worship experience for the whole congregation as girls in white middies proceeded to the front of the church carrying candles and singing with fresh young voices.

The C. G.1.T. uniform deserves some mention.

The properly dressed girl wore a dark skirt, a white middy carefully rolled at the waist and pinned neatly towards the back (no small feat), a lanyard with end tucked in left pocket, a black ribbon tied just so, and left sleeve resplendent with chevron and maple leaves earned during membership. Most girls felt very mature when they finally learned to manage the whole thing (easily).

Local church records don''t reveal any formal decision to disband the Brookdale e.G.LT. As far as can be determined competition from a wide variety of activities which came when high school students were transferred to Neepawa, plus the necessity for longer bus rides which encroached on the traditional after school meeting time may have caused some members to drift away. However, these may only be partial reasons as youth groups in urban areas also saw declining memberships.

Television, potential leaders going into the work force, and changing interests of teenagers may also have been factors. The last extant minute book at time of writing is from 1967.

So many Brookdale girls benefited from the well thouqht-out aims of c.G.I.T. and the unselfish dedication and creativity of their leaders! The tangible measurable skills such as chairing a meeting, looking after minute and treasurer''s books, fund raising, performing in public, learning to sew, built self-confidence and competence. But perhaps one of the greatest benefits was that girls glimpsed something of the value of the fellowship of women.

Perhaps Sheila Claridge (Mitchell) says it for most of us, "There was great comradeship among the girls. c.G.I.T. was the beginning of my religious experience."


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