Genealogists and family historians get a lot of satisfaction from chasing their ancestors’ stories. Finding a diary, a message on a postcard, or a photo with a name attached is like the sun coming out after a storm. One day we will be somebody’s ancestor. We need to leave our descendants a little bit of sunshine too. So here is my story told alphabetically, not chronologically: Growing Up in Cradock.
is for Newton’s Nursery and Kindergarten.
Kindergarten was not provided by the public schools when I was growing up in the Cradock community of Norfolk County (later Portsmouth), Virginia. Parents who saw the value of early preparation had to pay for it. For my family, the service was provided at Newton’s Nursery and Kindergarten.
Newton’s was owned by Elizabeth J. Newton, the librarian at James Hurst Elementary School. Her building was located on Harris Road, close to her own home. There were two classrooms, the nursery for the toddlers and the kindergarten class for those heading to first grade the next year. In the middle of the building were the office, kitchen, and bathroom which had child-size toilets and trough sinks. A woman prepared snacks and lunch, but I don’t remember her name. My teacher was addressed in that typical Southern way: “Miss Sue.” She was actually MRS. Sue Montzingo.
|snipped from Google Maps|
Today Newton's is a regular house. Aside from new siding,
the exterior looks the same. The nursery was to the left;
the kindergarten was to the right.
The fenced playground was likely a second lot.
The fenced side yard was huge, providing plenty of playground equipment and room to run. On rainy days there was even enough room to run inside. It must have been on such a day that my friend Melissa and I decided to hold hands and run in circles, a bit of fun that resulted in a bloody mess when she let go and sent me flying face-first onto the linoleum floor.
Newton’s Nursery and Kindergarten was invited to participate in a special event featuring all the children. The Woman’s Club of Cradock put on a Tom Thumb Wedding as one of its major fund raisers. An American fad from the 1920s-1970s, a Tom Thumb wedding was a pageant in which the minister, bride and groom, their parents, bridesmaids, flower girls, ring bearer and groomsmen were portrayed by children all in elaborate costumes. The idea was based on an actual wedding between two famous little people, Tom Thumb (real name Charles Stratton) and Lavinia Warren, who were stars in P. T. Barnum’s circus. The event attracted a lot of attention back in 1863. Recreating the wedding must have seemed like a good idea to various schools, churches, and social organizations seeking to make money from ticket sales. What parent and grandparent wouldn't pay to see their darling in such a spectacle?
On the day that we paraded before the club members who decided who would be the bride and who would be an attendant, I wore this pretty little dress:
Not surprisingly, my friend Alice was chosen to be the bride. She was (and is!) tall and beautiful, even at age 5. I was one of many bridesmaids. Our gowns were layers upon layers of tulle forming a full skirt as wide as it was long; some of us wore blue and some wore yellow. The younger girls from the nursery were flower girls decked out in pink tulle. I suppose the boys wore little tuxedos, but I can’t see them in my mind’s eye. The groom did, for sure.
Other than that, my only other clear memories of kindergarten are positioning some mats on the floor for naptime and playing rhythm instruments while marching around the room. I loved the triangle, tolerated the sticks, and hated the sand blocks and castanets.
Many of the children in my kindergarten graduation also graduated with me from high school.
Lest I neglect the niceties, all neophytes, newcomers and novices are welcome to navigate the numerous news, narratives, novels and notes at the A to Z April Challenge.
© 2016, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.