|Betty Clay and my daughter|
at Pax Lodge, London 1996
I was a Girl Scout for eleven years, and then a Girl Scout Leader for 13 years, for a total of almost 25 years in Scouting. I became a lifetime member sometime along the way and heard about the World Centers. There are four World Centers in Girl Scouting, located in England, Switzerland, Mexico and India. The one in England is called Pax Lodge, located in London.
When my daughter was about nine, and then again when she was eleven years old, we stayed at Pax Lodge, as a family, on our way to Spain to visit relatives. This was in the days before direct flights from Boston to Madrid. We took a flight that changed planes in London and thought, “Next time, let’s layover a few days and see the city!” The most frugal way to do this was to either stay in a hostel (I was past the age for hostels) or to stay at a World Center. There is a Boy Scout house in London, too, located very close to the British Museum and Albert Hall.
On our first trip, it was February school vacation week here in New Hampshire, and so our visit at Pax Lodge happened on the same weekend as Thinking Day. This day is celebrated not only as the joint birthdays of Lord and Lady Baden-Powell, the founders of Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, but as a day of international understanding and reflection on Scouting. It was a perfect day to explore Pax Lodge, meet Girl Scouts and Girl Guides from all over the world, and celebrate Thinking Day.
In order to stay at Pax Lodge, I needed a letter of introduction from our local Girl Scout council. The women at this office were thrilled to find out I would be there on Thinking Day, and they told me not to miss the big celebration at Westminster Abbey. We had only three days to explore London, so to combine seeing Westminster with a ceremony sounded great! We flew to Heathrow, jumped on a train to Victoria Station and walked to the Girl Guide’s main London headquarters, conveniently close to Buckingham Palace, another site on our touring list.
After touring the Girl Guide museum and picking up our tickets to the Thinking Day ceremony, we checked into Pax Lodge. It was a wonderful place to stay with a little girl, for it was full of girls from all over the world. There were Guides from all over England, Scotland, Canada, Australia and other countries I can no longer remember. We had a two bed room for my daughter and husband, and I bunked in with the leader of a Shropshire Brownie troop. In the room between both of us there was an elderly couple, and the woman’s name was Betty Clay. I knew I would remember her name, for Betty Clay was the same name as my own Girl Scout leader from Holden, Massachusetts when I was a girl.
One of the Girl Guides on the house staff whispered to me that Betty Clay was Baden-Powell’s daughter and I almost fell off my chair! She was the sweetest woman, who always remembered everyone’s name at breakfast and dinner, and chatted me up about Scouting in America. She had visited Boston during World War II and was impressed that Mrs. James Storrow had knitted socks for soldiers during their “official visit” meeting. What a memory had Betty Clay! Helen Osborne Storrow was a prominent supporter of Girl Scouting in the early days of scouting, and Storrow Drive in Boston is named for her husband. It was so much fun to have Betty Clay right next door for two days that weekend.
We thoroughly enjoyed the celebration in Westminster Abbey, and my daughter and I wore our US Girl Scout uniforms. All the elderly women in our section of the seats wanted to photograph us. Of course, we wanted to see all the uniforms of all the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides from all around the world, too, that were part of the ceremony. My daughter, only age nine at the time, promptly fell asleep from jet lag as soon as the ceremony started and missed the whole thing. I stayed awake, and I’ll never forget all the British pomp and ceremony. It was magnificent, and our seats had a wonderful view of the children who laid a wreath on the memorial of Lord and Lady Baden-Powell.
We spent the rest of the weekend sightseeing around London, but also spending time with the other residents at Pax Lodge. We went to sing-alongs, and learned new,fun games and folk songs to share with the New Hampshire Girl Scouts. My daughter’s favorite past time was swapping badges and pins, and she expertly bartered for some wonderful items to pin to her Girl Scout vest from Australia, Russia, Japan and other faraway places. We made good friends with the Shropshire girls, who were my daughter’s age, and had tea with Betty Clay. It was a wonderful experience.
The Baden-Powell Family
Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell (22 February 1857 – 8 January 1941), son of Reverend Baden-Powell and Henrietta Grace Smyth, married Olave St. Clair Soames on 31 October 1912. He is buried at the St. Peter’s Cemetery in Nyeri, Kenya. They had three children:
1. Arthur Robert Peter, later 2nd Baron Baden-Powell (1913 – 1962) married Carine Crause-Boardman.
2. Heather (1915-1986) married John King
3. The Honourable Betty Clay CBE (Commander of the British Empire) (16 April 1917 – 24 April 2004) was the youngest child of Lord Robert Baden-Powell. She was married to Gervas Clay in 1936, and had four children. She was vice president of the Guides in 1978 and vice president of the Scouts in 1985. She was awarded the CBE in 1997, just about the same time we met her in London. Every February 22nd I reflect on our first trip to Pax Lodge, and our wonderful experience.
http://www.paxlodge.org/en/home The official Pax Lodge website
http://www.wagggsworld.org/en/home the website for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, headquartered at Pax Lodge
http://www.worldthinkingday.org/en/home the website for World Thinking Day, celebrated by both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts
http://www.mythinkingday.com/welcome.htm the website for the International Thinking Day Postcard exchange, where troops/packs/units can exchange postcards from around the world, and earn patches for participation
Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo