A GRANDMOTHER who joined a Christian girls’ group as a child and remained there as a leader for 60 years has retired.
Hazel Hadfield, 77, was just seven when she joined Hartlepool’s Girls Friendly Society (GFS) at the town’s St Paul’s Church.
When she was 17, she became a young leader and remained there throughout her life until her retirement last week.
Sadly the Anglican Church movement for six to 14-year-olds, which has been around for 135 years, has now had to fold as there is no one to take up the leader’s baton.
Hazel, who lives off the town’s Park Road, even got engaged to her late husband, Kenneth, during a GFS trip to Butlins – a rare treat as it wasn’t often boys were allowed along.
She said: “I’ve enjoyed it, but you can’t go on forever, it’s time I packed in.
“It’s the oldest organisation there is – the Scouts are 102, but the GFS is more than 130 years old.
“Although the age limit was 14, you never had to leave.
“I suppose I’m the last girl to leave.”
Hazel, who worked as a teacher at the former Horden Dene School, for pupils with special needs, and ran a Sunday School at St Paul’s, also ran a GFS at St Oswald’s Church for 30 years.
Hazel, whose daughter, Allison Pringle, helped her to run the group, along with Doreen Robson, said the global organisation was formed in London by a vicar’s daughter to give girls who went into service something to do on their day off.
She added: “I have enjoyed the Christianity and friendship elements.
“We danced, we skipped, we did competitions every year with other GFS’s, we did keep-fit, we had pantomimes and went to camp every year.”
When Hazel was a girl, there were scores of members, and leaders were usually teachers, including Vera Pinkney, Dorothy Elliott, Doris Appleton and Minnie Anson.
When Hazel, who is also mum to Garry Hadfield and a grandmother-of-three, became a leader, a fellow leader was Mary Lynn, who was headmistress at Rossmere Primary School.
But she said in recent times, numbers had dwindled to just 14, as “there are too many things for girls to do now, like cinemas, and computers – we didn’t have any of that”.
There were 13 GFSs in the Hartlepools when Hazel was a girl. The St Paul’s GFS was actually based at St Joseph’s Church Hall in later years.
The nearest GFS now are in Eldon, near Bishop Auckland, and Pittington, in County Durham.
Hazel plans to spend her retirement with her two grandchildren, who live next door, as well as relaxing in her holiday caravan.
She was presented with gifts during a retirement party.