Sixty years ago, I was researching information about “Our Chalet” as part of the preparation for my Queen’s Guide Award. I had been a Brownie from the age of eight in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, where I lived with my parents, and moved up into Guides in the same town when I was eleven. This research was to make a booklet about the Girl Guide and Girl Scout Movement as it was at that moment, 1954, and for one section I was writing about the existing Guide Centres, national and international. There was obviously no Internet then, so I found magazines and newspaper cuttings to make up my articles, including some on “Our Chalet”.
I could not keep my booklet when finished, as it had to be sent to a Girl Guide or Girl Scout in another country, to help promote international relations, particularly within the Movement. Mine went to a South African Girl Guide, Adèle, who sent me a gift for my Company in return; I’m sorry to say I can’t remember after all these years what it was, but the link was really interesting.
What was exciting was that my Guide penfriend, Adèle, wrote to say she had been offered a trip to England, as a reward for her Queen’s Guide Award, and would be visiting London soon! So my Mother and I took a trip to London, and met Adèle in the Girl Guide Headquarters, where we also saw the Chief Guide, Lady Baden-Powell. We then visited nearby Westminster Cathedral, particularly interesting for Adèle as a Roman Catholic, including climbing up the tower for a splendid view over London. As she already had a busy programme for her few days in our country, we then had to return her to her group at Headquarters. We kept in touch for a while, but with the busyness of life and studies from the age of 16 onwards, our correspondence soon lapsed, which I regret – a continuing link could have been most informative in the subsequent years. I joined our small local Land Ranger Unit, but then went to King’s College, University of London, which meant that I met less often with the others, although we managed to win a Suffolk Trophy!
My particular interest in “Our Chalet” was increased by the fact that I studied for a Degree in French and German. In 1957 I worked as an “au pair” for a few weeks in a family in Fribourg, but I never visited Adelboden or “Our Chalet”, probably not realising how near they were! After University I worked for two years as a Secretary, during which time I served as Brown Owl of a Brownie Pack in North London.
In 1962 Peter and I were married, and we had four sons, so life was busy. We lived near London at first, and then moved to Hertfordshire. Our sons have all been Cub Scouts and Scouts, and both our granddaughters Brownie Guides and Guides. Since 1996 our eldest son, David, has been living and working in Basel, Switzerland; we generally visit him once or twice a year, with walking expeditions in various parts of your beautiful country. For many years I have been a Tutor in French and German – very useful for our family visits to Switzerland! We have often mentioned the idea of visiting you all, and once even passed the end of the road with a large trefoil signpost, which we saw from a Postbus on our way back to Basel. This year as usual, David asked if there was anywhere special we would like to go, so I replied that I would really love to visit “Our Chalet” before I get any older. David said we could easily visit you, if I would arrange it.
I suddenly realised it was just 60 years since I wrote that article for my Queen’s Guide Award, so we could celebrate my own special Guiding Diamond Jubilee with a visit at last!! One question puzzled me – on arrival should we introduce ourselves in English, French or German? It turned out to be English!
So that is how I came to Our Chalet this summer, with my husband, Peter, and our eldest son, David, when we were all made so very welcome!
We had a lovely wander round, and were all really impressed by the whole site, and its facilities, as well as by the two main buildings that we could visit. The friendly atmosphere was great, and it was good to make ourselves tea, and eat our picnic in your dining room, as it was fine and sunny but chilly outside. We then set out on a short circular Alpine walk – in a shower but still attractive!
I bought some interesting souvenirs for myself and gifts for our family in your shop. The gifts you have received over the years, including everything from badges to furniture, and the many written messages, are amazing, and truly international, and must contribute significantly to peace in the world – so very necessary now, as always!
I do hope this small contribution will be of some interest, after our really enjoyable day with you. Thank you all very much indeed!
Sally Aknai (née Page)