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The summer of 2019 has been a time of looking back for a lot of us. Fifty years ago this past June, the class of 1969 was preparing for graduation from Samohi. It would be a matter of weeks before Apollo 11 would take the first men to the moon. Shortly thereafter, the Woodstock music festival would make history in upstate New York. We felt like we were on the cusp of something bigger than ourselves. 

Our story began about a dozen years earlier, when we arrived for the first day of kindergarten at Webster Elementary School. Our classmates—including future Brownies Bonnie O’Neal Shirk, Connie Evans Gordon, Cathy Stanley Brody, Patty Stanley Reilly, Patty Hope Sales, Erin Murphy O’Hara, Pam Tully Price, Leslie Graves Hayes, Susie Chest Mills, Lynne White, and Maria Merrick—began to get acquainted. (We also got to know our lifelong friends, Dan Townsend and Jay Smith who were destined to become honorary Brownies.) Students from Topanga, Big Rock, La Costa, Las Flores, Cross Creek, the Colony, Latigo and Sycamore Park cemented friendships on the bus ride to Malibu Canyon. 

In first grade, several of the moms volunteered to start a Brownie troop. The girls who showed up for those first Brownie gatherings in 1957 had no idea that we were establishing bonds that would unite us forever. Mrs. Graves, Mrs. Herrmann and Mrs. Stanley were our leaders. They led us in crafts, took us exploring and instilled in us a sense of adventure and independence. Enjoying foods from other lands, pressing leaves from Topanga Creek and learning the Brownie promise and songs gave us a connection that has turned out to be unbreakable. 

Members of our troop graduated from Webster School in 1963. We entered Malibu Park Junior High School as part of its charter graduating class. We started branching out and making new friends in junior high but the loyalty we felt to our earliest friends remained strong—particularly in home economics class, where we learned to bake cream puffs and sew our own gym bags. Because the school was so new, tiny field mice could be seen scurrying under our ironing boards and a large tumbleweed once knocked over our elegant French teacher. 

The Brownies went on to Samohi, where some of us played sports, some danced or got involved in student government, and we all buckled down and studied! 

After graduating in 1969, we each pursued our own goals. We managed to stay in touch, which was a little more challenging than it is today! Holiday cards, letters and phone calls connected us. We began our careers, married and started families. 

When we reunited in 1989, we decided that we never again wanted to be separated for that long. We arranged a rendezvous at one of the Brownies’ homes in Cambria to celebrate our 40th birthdays. In later years, we found our way to Seattle, Donner Lake, Malibu, Santa Cruz and Beverly Farms, Mass. No matter where this group of friends gathers, guacamole, margaritas and fresh fruit are on the menu, the conversation flows, and the hugs are plentiful. Our theme?

“Make new friends/But keep the old/One is silver/and the other is gold.”

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