80 years of learning
Kindergartens have come a long way since they began in 1928
By LAWRENCE GULLERY
It was a time when young women were encouraged to work at kindergartens but they weren’t allowed to be called teachers, the Government of the day instead labelled them “directors”.
Men considered kindergartens to be a good training ground for motherhood and did everything they could to push their children in that direction.
Such was the way of life during the 1920s when the ﬁrst kindys began operating in Hastings.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Heretaunga Kindergarten Association and in October the group will hold its annual general meeting and a special celebration.
To mark the occasion, Havelock North author Michael Fowler is researching the history of kindergartens in Hastings and a book of his findings will be released at the AGM.
A photo of the Hastings Free Kindergarten, 1928, was a starting point for his research. The picture was handed to him by one of the pupils in the photo, Napier’s Lorna McNally (nee Aldridge), who responded to a letter he wrote to Hawke’s Bay Today asking for information about the kindergarten movement.
Mrs McNally was aged 4 in the photo and was able to help Mr Fowler identify at least two others in the picture who he will contact over the next few weeks.
And he’s keen for anyone else who may recognise the youngsters in the photo to contact him.
Other material providing clues to the early days of kindergartens included minute books, meticulously kept, tracking the times of the depression era of the 1930s, the Hawke’s Bay earthquake and World War II.
“Usually minute books were biffed out but they’ve kept them all,” he said.
Research into the early years of kindergartens had proved interesting and revealed the slightly sexist mindset men had towards it.
“Men said it was all women’s work but they keep an eye on them to make sure they didn’t get out of place. Everyone tried to push their kids to be kindergarten teachers but usually they were married off.
“The Government wouldn’t let them be called teachers, they were to be called ‘directors’,” Mr Fowler said.
The Hastings Free Kindergarten began in 1928 and did not have a permanent home until 1951 in Hastings Street which was now known as the Harold Mayo Kindergarten.
The Heretaunga Kindergarten now oversees 15 kindergartens.
“It will be interesting to find out where the photo was taken.” Lorna McNally.
EVERY morning Lorna McNally’s brother would “double” her across Hastings on his bicycle and deliver her safely to the town’s ﬁrst kindergarten.
The year was 1928 when Lorna (nee Aldridge), aged 4 and her older brother, Frank, 8, made their journey across the town each day.
Eighty years on and the pair are still reminiscing over those early childhood days, prompted by a book being researched to celebrate 80 years of kindergartens in Hastings.
“We lived near St Matthews Church, King Street South. My brother lives in Waipuku now but he told me the kindy was in the YMCA hall, he used to drop me off there on his way to school,” Lorna said.family tree
Lorna’s parents kept a photo of her first year at the kindergarten which has become a starting point for the book compiled by author Michael Fowler.
Lorna was the youngest of four in her family and the only one to attend the kindy as it ﬁrst opened its doors in 1928, early research suggested.
Lorna was at St Josephs primary school when the 1931 earthquake hit the city. “I remember the ground rising up and then going down. The teachers locked the gates of the school until every child was accounted for.
“The chimney in our home came down. We were sent down to the South Island to live with my mother’s brother until the town was cleaned up,’’ she said.
Lorna’s keen to read the book when it will be presented to the Heretaunga Kindergarten Association’s annual general meeting in October.
She’s hoping Mr Fowler’s research will help identify her fellow students in the photo from 1928. “It will be interesting to ﬁnd out where the photo was taken . . . I thought it was Cornwall Park but there is a steeple in the background. Maybe it was near St Matthew’s Church or St Andrew’ s Church,” she said.
Photo caption – HISTORY LESSON: Can you help identify the pupils in this photo of the Hastings Free Kindergarten, 1928? The teacher is a Mrs McLeod and there is a church steeple in the background but little is known about the location of the photo. It was handed to author Michael Fowler by Lorna McNally, who is in the front row, fourth from the right.