Eileen Pearson, nee Walsh writes:
4th B’ham 1st Aston Manor Guides, from 1950 – 67

I became Captain in 1950 after Lois Crutchley resigned but still ran the 4th Brownies and Rangers. I obtained my Camper's Licence in 1951. Food rationing, from the 2nd World War, was still in force so camping became rather complicated as everyone had to bring their own rations of food for Q.M. (quartermaster) to “pool” for cooking. I still helped with Rangers. There were quite a lot of Brownie packs and Companies of Guides in the area, Aston District consisting of Brownies and Guides at Sycamore Rd. (4th), 50th at Dyson Hall, 214th at St. Peter's, Wyrley Rd., one at Station Rd. school, one at St. James' church, one at Lichfield Road Methodist church, also one at the mission church, also one at the mission church near Aston Station. With those at St. Paul's Lozells, St. Silas's church, Havegal House Newtown, St. Paul's in the Jewellery Quarter, Perry Common and as far as Duddeston, this made Aston Division.

We had events organised for the District as well as larger events for the whole Division, e.g. sports day, a competition for the silver cup which is now on show at Trefoil House (retired) and of course church parades, both Divisional and District as well as our monthly company one to Aston church. We started this at Dyson Hall together with Boys' Brigade and Lifeboys, Scouts and Cubs with sometimes 2 bands. Brownies sometimes met us at church (not marching). The Divisional parade, when held at St. Paul's (Jewellery Quarter), was well attended: Guides and Brownies seemed to enjoy sitting on the pews with doors on each end and made more trips to the loo than usual.

Badge work seemed different from today's. Guides liked getting badges but found it was almost impossible to become a Queen's Guide – I'm glad this badge is now only for Rangers.

We camped for one week each year near the sea and usually with another company in order to get more Guiders, needed to run the camp. Food rationing ended in 1954 (Thank Goodness). We travelled to camp in Walter Powell's furniture van, complete with tents, poles, mountains of luggage and tea-chests packed with cooking equipment and food and of course us. The tents and kitbags made good seats for us all to sit on and we tried to give everyone the chance to sit for part of the journey near to the open end of the van to see some of the views. I enjoyed the camps shared with the 212th Company from Perry Barr, Edna Williams and myself taking it in turns to be commandant or Q.M. Biannually, sharing the responsibilities and knowing each other's Guides.

We went to Kewstoke several times to Mr. Stuckey's farm. He was very fond of us going and a great help seeming to know exactly what we required (e.g. digging a trench for the “lats”) and coming into the field each morning to collect any left-over food for his pigs. He loved giving the girls a ride in his trailer round the field and sometimes round the farm to see the other animals.

We also went to Beer, S. Devon (by train), Barmouth, Weston-super-Mare, Saundersfoot (S. Wales), Sarneau (mid-Wales, near Cardigan) and Idlicot (near Skipton). Weekend camps at the County Campsite, Goodrest Lane, Kings Norton, was in those days very primitive. Just a field with a pump for water and a hut to keep dry in wet weather and store the equipment. We had to dig a trench for lats, later used chemical toilets (which had to be emptied into a trench) and put up screening for both lats and wash-houses. Now the field is a wooded area, trees everywhere, the hut is fully furnished for cooking, has piped water, flush loos and electricity. It is still used most weekends and holidays for badgework testing, and district and divisional camps.

All our company equipment was stored in Miss Crutchley's attic in Victoria Rd. when she lived in Aston. This was quite a problem sometimes, getting all the heavy tents, poles, tea-chests etc. up her tiny twisting stairs. When she moved to Little Aston we kept it in her garage. We sold programmes at the Scout Rally each year at Handsworth Park, collected jamjars and sold them for funds or charity, had jumble sales in the Vicarage Room and many other things

I had several helpers, most from Rangers, one Eileen Pittaway became my Lieutenant for a little while, and Beryl Parkes, who became Beryl Attwood when she got married and worked in the Guide shop.

Over the years, many families had to leave Aston because of the planning of what is now Spaghetti Junction and the Expressway. People who owned their own house had to sell it to the Council and find somewhere else to live; people in rented houses had to decide to go where they were sent or try to stay until the Council could rebuild when the new roads and motorways had been cut through Aston, and get a new house.

Guide companies had to close one by one until only the 4th and 1 or 2 Brownie packs were left. (Finally the 4th Company was adopted by Erdington Division.) Margaret Griffin, who had been a Guide in the 4th company, was at university in B'ham just at this time, and thankfully decided she would help at Guides. In 1970 she became Captain. I had got married in 1961 and moved to Balsall Heath for 3 years, then to Kings Heath and found the journey quite difficult sometimes. In 1967 I became District Commissioner.

It was a very difficult time in Aston. How the 4th company survived is only due to the hard work done by several people, Margaret Griffin (nee Hall) being the real leader together with help from her mother, husband and others. I'm afraid my commitments got more and more but I tried to support Margaret when I could. I had to resign in 1976. Miss Martineau was very concerned about Aston and managed to get quite a few old Guiders together to try and support the 4th. We were known as the “Aston Links”. When the 1st Aston Manor Girl Guide Company was set up by Miss Crutchley, Aston was not part of Birmingham. Her sister Lois took the Company over, and was determined to keep it independent from the church so that girls from any denomination could attend. She lived at the time in Victoria Road. In 1911, Birmingham assimilated Aston, and the Company became 4th Birmingham, taking girls aged 11 to 16. Eileen Walsh (Pearson) became leader, and marched the girls from Vicarage Road School to Aston Parish Church every second Sunday of the month. She rode to guides every week on a motor scooter, storing the Company's goods in a chest at the school. Rounder’s was a regular feature during the summer, and despite the enormously high wall between the playground and the police yard next door, the ball still had to be retrieved on a fairly frequent basis. We became the only Company in Aston District, sharing Aston Division with Lozells. Miss Hilda Cox was District Commissioner, and Miss Dorothy Platt Division Commissioner.

When I became leader of the Company in 1970 my first few years were very hard. I was 22 and just starting teaching. The Aston area was run down, with many families having moved out prior to the building of the Expressway. We moved the Company to Yew Tree Road School, but then had to survive the “3 Day Week”, when without warning the lights would go out and we would have to resort to candles. The school would not allow us access to kitchen or toilets, and even the chest was forced open with a note put on it that it should be removed. We had a somewhat disastrous jumble sale: the girls had brought lots of jumble, but forgotten to publicise the event. One evening I came out of guides to find that my mini car had been completely hedged in by football fans' cars, so to avoid having to wait until 10.30 when the match was over; I had to drive along the pavement in front of the house windows to escape. A little while later the Company became very low in numbers. At the same time, the 212th Methodists on Lichfield Road had no Captain.

Carol Taylor was their Lieutenant, and as I had no help at the time, the two companies merged. This meant that the number of girls was still viable. When Carol married and moved away, we reverted simply to the 4th.We became part of Stockland Green District, so we were part of Erdington Division (Lozells became part of Handsworth). We were grateful to the successive leaders in charge for their support: Linda Benson, Patricia Corden, Frances Longstaff-Tyrell and Gill Richardson. We have been grateful over the years to the Aston Link ladies who are former Aston Division members. They have been the recipients of various guide cards, and have supported us greatly. Miss Simmonds was one of our most helpful supporters. Emily and Anne Weaver held Link parties at their house.

Those were the days of the outdoor cooking competition, the Emergency Helper competition, winning the Hayward Trophy, swimming evenings, looking for Mars, bonfires at All Saints' Gravelly Hill, trips to Water world, Sandwell Valley, Conkers, Aston Hall by candlelight (“Why don't they repair the staircase?” from one bright Guide), McDonald's, “Zoom”- a church event, “Stomp”, a Fire-fighter badge day, Cadbury World, Stockland Green Methodist church parade and exhibition, circus skills, and camp days at Blackwell and Goodrest. And so to CAMPS. One at Goodrest was so muddy that one girl slipped over and had to change her clothes 4 times, and having nothing left to wear had to go home. One of the best was in Lin Benson's field, with Ida Russell in charge: paddling in the stream in wellies after a walk through the rape field to a bluebell wood. Clair Douglas disliked her compulsory Baden Powell camp so much that she was silent for the whole weekend. At her Patrol Camp permit camp, Susan Smart pitched her tent on an ants' nest and burnt her gadget wood. The leader's comment “She is sensible, but needs experience.”

The most memorable part of the camp day in Walmley was the flasher in Rectory Park, frightened away by Paulette Reid and my daughter Pam. After a security alarm at Beaudesert, Annette Hill (Lieutenant) and I waited at the entrance of the camp site until after midnight for our volunteer guards from church to arrive; but they had got hopelessly lost in the rain. One year at Goodrest, each patrol was to cook dinner on its own fire. The Nightingales' fire simply refused to light, even when Pam Sumner (our Lieutenant at the time) held her cigarette lighter inside it. In the meantime, Ann Holden's patrol had cooked their entire meal and were busy eating, so we took the Nightingales' food to her fire and cooked it there.

Several Queens’ Guides won that award while it was still available to Guides, instead of the Senior Section, including Ann and Catherine Holden and Katrina Butler.The highest award available now is the Baden Powell Trefoil: 3 girls have achieved this during this year – Bethany Conway, Bethany Smith and Lemara Campbell. I took my Holiday Licence at the Scout Hut next to Rectory Park in Sutton. We had to take the girls out on a midnight hike around the park, because the disco at the nearby football club made sleep impossible. Both Pam and Annette's dog claimed to be the ones to have found the way back. In February 2005, we held a sleep-over in the church centre

It was the coldest day that year, and at 5 a.m. I was picking my way between sleeping bodies to reach the heating control. The reason that we were there was that early the following morning, we were off to the CBBC audition for junior dance. Charissa Reid reached the final four, and some of our guides were shown on TV. A couple of years ago at the Guiding Star Talent Show, four of our guides became the “Ghetto Princesses”, and represented the Division at County level. (Erdington Division having been disbanded, we were welcomed into Perry Barr by Commissioner Linda Jenks, succeeded by Margaret Jones).

At present, we have several leaders / helpers: Paulette, Vicky Smale, Paula Lynton, my husband Cliff and Cath Beard, who has recently decided to retire. In September 2009, Beth and Yasmin danced on stage at the Symphony Hall Centenary Launch. Eight girls went to the Drayton Manor Carnival. Twelve climbed 100 steps (for the 100 years) up the church tower. Eleven girls travelled 100 miles to have 100 rides at Alton Towers and seven abseiled 100 foot down Aston Church tower. At the Centenary finale, eight remade their promise. 70 people attended our reunion party in October 2010 to enjoy sharing memories of 100 years.