Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives

Source: April 1965 Volume 13 Number 3, Pages 58–61

Berwyn nursery school

Mildred Fisher

Page 58

"According to the authorization of October 26th, 1933, by Harry L. Hopkins, and a further authorization of May, 24th, 1934, the Emergency School program will be supported for the winter of 1934-35". And so the Berwyn Nursery School became a part of the Works Project Administration of Pennsylvania under the Education and Recreation Division in Chester County. And so in February, 1934, an Advisory Committee had been appointed and had met and selected Mrs. Robert C. Liggett of Valley Forge as its chairman, Mrs. James G. Boyle of Berwyn, Treasurer, and Mrs. Charles J. Bradley (now Mrs. LeRoy Fisher) of Berwyn as Secretary. Other members of the Committee included Mrs. Joseph Englebert, Clarence Leighton, and J. W. Fell, all of Berwyn.

There were four purposes defined in the rules for the Nursery School:

1- To restore qualified unemployed teachers and allied workers to socially useful services.
2- To develop the physical and mental well-being of pre-school children in needy, underprivileged families.
3- To assist parents in meeting the nutritional, physical and social needs of their children.
4- To set up an environment and daily program appropriate for pre-school children as a demonstration for schools, homes, and welfare agencies.

It was the duty of this Advisory Committee to assist in obtaining donations of needed equipment, supplies, and volunteer services.

As the Nursery School came under the Public School System we turned to them for a place to have the school. We were delighted when they offered us two rooms in the Lincoln Highway school building on Lincoln Highway and Central Avenue, Berwyn. This was the answer to the following qualifications which had been stressed to the Committee: proper lighting, ventilating, heating, fire protection, toilet, washing and bathing facilities, wardrobes, isolation space, play places and facilities and serving of food. Necessary equipment included low chairs, tables suitable to various ages of children, cots or other satisfactory provisions for rest and sleep, steps and platforms for toilets and lavatories, wash cloths, towels, combs, tooth brushes, etc.

Page 59

And so we started. At first we borrowed army cots, and two children took their naps on each cot. Then we were allowed a little money to buy wood and canvas, and Albert Groll, a carpenter of Lancaster Turnpike, Berwyn, made us low beds. The Red Cross contributed towels,wash cloths, rompers, play suits, and quilts. Then we needed partitions between the beds, so we went to Walker's Drug Store and asked for the heavy folding advertisements they used in the store and windows. Some pieces of wallpaper and paste soon made very attractive folding partitions between the low beds, and we were ready for naps. A picture of an animal was placed at the top of each little bed in order that each child would know his own bed. Small chairs were borrowed from Trinity Presbyterian Church along with low tables.

A Nursery School could not be established unless there was an enrollment of not less than 20 children, and 30 would be better. The School was designed for the age range of from 2 to 4 years inclusive, and could be extended to 5 according to the needs of the Community. But it was to be understood this was not a kindergarden situation and I quote "The Emergency Nursery School Program in Pennsylvania is designed to establish an environment and daily program for pre-school children as a demonstration for schools, home-and welfare agencies, stressing child development with emphasis on health needs, family relationship, and improvement of the home life of needy families."

Under admission requirements we find "Application must be approved by the Local Relief Administration or person designated by the Official." Also child must be vaccinated against smallpox.

Teachers and nurses were to be selected from a list of graduate teachers and nurses who had been unable to find employment. The School was to start out with a head teacher who must have had Nursery School training. This we found in Miss Mary Hill (now Mrs. Joseph Townsend), daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Hill of Cassatt Ave, Berwyn. Her assistant was Miss Dorothy Croll, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Croll of Lancaster Pike, Berwyn. A part-time cook was Mrs. Emma Kauffman, also of Lancaster Pike, and the nurse Miss Elizabeth Stinson.

Page 60

For part-time help from the Unemployment Youth Administration came Violet Simms, Mary Simons, Angeline De Luzio, and Edward McKenna, all of Berwyn. The janitor from whom a great deal of assistance came was Floyd Buchannan. A Mothers Club was formed and Mrs. Buchannan was very active in that.

Then there was the Professional and Service Division of the Works Project Administration, Education and Recreation; this was represented by Mr. William B. Hickman, County Project Supervisor, and his assistant Miss Minerva Brendle.

On January 17th 1935, the Berwyn Nursery School had qualified and opened its doors with 30 children on the roll, ten of whom came from Howellville and would need transportation. Mr. J. W. Fell, a member of the Advisory Committee, drove his bus for the children.

Schedule for the day:

9 A.M. to 9.30: Arrival and inspection by the nurse.
9.30 to 10.30: Free Play.
10.30 to 10.45: Toys put away.
10.45 to 11.00: Prepare for lunch when children are taught to wash themselves and comb their hair.
11 to 11.15: Stories and music.
11.15 to 11.30: Rest on cots.
11.30 to 12.00: Luncheon consisting of milk, sandwiches, green vegetable, potatoes,light meat, fowl or eggs and dessert.
12.00 to 12.30: Preparation for a nap, wash, clean teeth and undress.
12.30 to 2.30: Sleep.
2.30 to 3.00: Milk and crackers and home at 3 P.M.

The Committee.

Appreciated help came from the following organizations; Men's Business Club of Berwyn, Berwyn-Paoli-Malvern Rotary. Club, Berwyn Fire Company, Malvern Monday Afternoon Club, Advisor of the Monday Afternoon Club Jrs., Berwyn Garden Club, Tredyffrin-Easttown History Club, Valley Forge Republican Club, Thompson Lodge F & A. M, Twin Valley Garden Club, and the following members who served later on the Committee; Mr. and Mrs. John Jacobs, Mrs. Rudolph Bowman Jr., who was Secretary of the Mother's Club, and Wilmer K. Groff, Superintendent of Schools. Twelve dollars a month was allowed by the Federal Government for supplies. Mrs. Harrison Hires donated overshoes for each child and these were kept from year to year and used by each class.

Page 61


Bakes given by the staff, 1933-37; Movie Benefit,1936-37; given by the Committee and Staff; Rummage Sale, 1936-39, by the Mothers Group; Card Party given by the staff, 1936-38, and by the Committee in 1940; Chanced off a ton coal and ten dollars and five dollars in 1939.

Most of this money was used to pay for heat and transportation. Cost of food was approximately twenty five dollars a month. In 1940 there were 30 children in the School, 121 had graduated and 74 families had benefited. In December of 1940 Mrs. Boyle the treasurer reported a bill for a half ton of coal, $6.00, 1 ton of coal, $11.00, and gas $4.40. Amount made at Bingo, $13.70. Another report says that the School was in the red in the amount of $25.09, with $5.94 in the treasury.

Of great assistance in the raising of funds to carry on the School was the Mothers Club, among whose members we find the following persons with only the last name on the list: Baitinger, Barlow, Belden, Bowman,Jr., Bowman,Sr., Buchanan, Campbell, Chiccino, Frazier, D'Andrea, De Luzio, Prince, Harley, Kahley, Hanley, Ledo, Mitchell, Olcina, Beinhart, Sequi, Thornton, Zenotti, Kauffman.

The last president in 1941 when the School closed was Mr. Clarence Leighton, with Mrs. Boyle still Treasurer. There were a few dollars left and these were turned over to the Red Cross and the Berwyn Nursery School closed its doors.

Nursery School


Page last updated: 2011-08-14 at 16:45 EDT
Copyright © 2006-2011 Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society. All rights reserved.
Permission is given to make copies for personal use only.
All other uses require written permission of the Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society.