The Way It Was – Kindergarten


Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.

Pictured above is Jean Graham’s kindergarten building which still stands today in the alley off West Sixth Street behind Conrad, Leibold and Woerner CPA office.

I think every public school in Ohio nowadays is required to include kindergarten in their program. It wasn’t that way in the 1930s. In fact, there was no kindergarten in the Marysville public school system. The need was there, but Ohio lawmakers didn’t make it required. Fortunately, however, there was a young lady here in Marysville, who not only saw the need, she also did something about it. She opened a private kindergarten for four- and five-year-olds.
Her name was Jean Graham, and she was the daughter of Alvi Graham, the Union County Surveyor. The Grahams lived at 210 South Court Street, across the street from the United Methodist Church. She opened her kindergarten some time around 1930, and it operated for 20 years or so in a red barn behind her house. The barn is still there today.
I didn’t go to kindergarten, so I have no first-hand knowledge of the place, but I recently got some help from the Union County Historical Society. I also talked with one of Jean’s early students, my long-time Marysville friend, Jim Snider. He was in one of Jean’s early classes, in 1932.
Jean’s kindergarten classes were held three days a week from 9 to 11 a.m. in the converted haymow of that barn. It comfortably handled about 25 boys and girls in each class. The kids did a lot of singing and coloring. They learned the letters of the alphabet and how to use Arabic numerals. Then they did a lot of counting. What Jean was doing, was preparing all her pupils for the years of schooling that would follow.
I asked Jim some time ago what he remembered most about that kindergarten. He said it wasn’t the singing or the coloring. It wasn’t learning the alphabet or how to count and use numbers. The thing he remembered most about those kindergarten classes, around 90 years ago, was Jean’s dog. It was a chow, and it sometimes wandered around during classes, and the kids could pet it.
I don’t think I missed too much by not going to kindergarten. I had two older sisters, and they were constantly helping me with my numbers and letters of the alphabet, and things like that. It would have been nice, however, if I could have seen that dog. From what I can gather, it was a great dog and the kids really liked it.
Jean was also a talented musician. She was the organist for the Methodist Church, and she was involved in a number of musical projects at the Ohio Reformatory for Women. On top of all that, she was a piano teacher. She gave piano lessons in her house for many years.
Jim tells me he also took those piano lessons. In fact, he took them for six years. I have never heard him play the piano, but if he took them for six years, I bet he’s a really good piano player.
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