History of Tiny Tots Pre-School, Inc.
Incorporated October 26, 1949, Tiny Tots Pre-school, Inc. is the oldest private non-profit cooperative nursery school in the Sacramento
Valley. Because of over-crowded classrooms in the public schools at that time, Mrs. Robert Wills sensed that there was a need for a
cooperative nursery school in the new Town and country Village area, and decided to do something about starting one. Knowing no
one in her area who might be interested in helping initiate such a move, yet knowing there were probably many women who would be
interested in a school if she could reach them, she placed a letter in local papers. She wrote to “Letters From the People” and requested
all readers of her letter to call her at home. The response was immediate and overwhelming.
The first group met at the home of Mrs. Wills, the first week in July to formulate plans and to meet her friend, Mrs. Joseph Strongfellow
of Oakland, who was then President of the California council of Cooperative Play Centers. The mothers learned from her what a
wonderful advantage it was for the parents, as well as the children, to be members of a Parent Cooperative School. The original group
increased daily and finally met the 13th of September to elect officers. They were: Mrs. Robert G. Wills, President; Mrs. Charles Cutler,
Vice-President; Mrs. Robert Smith, Treasurer; Mrs. William Manthey-Zorn, Secretary; Mrs. John Skillman, Membership Chariman. Other
charter members in attendance were Mesdames George Boyd, Dean McCullough, Oliver Livoni and B.L.Caperis. The constitution was read
and approved at this meeting.
These women enlisted the aid of Dr. Mary Frances Stuart who taught Early Childhood Education at Sacramento State College, and who
gave many hours of her time toward evolving the program for the school. She led monthly discussions with the parents and was
responsible in great measure for establishing the general philosophy which was to successfully guide the school in future years.
It was decided that the school would have an enrollment of thirty-five children between the ages of two to five years. The mothers would
be required to spend one morning a week assisting with the children and helping the director. A highly trained director would be hired to
be in complete charge of the children’s activities. The mothers would run the school financially as a business. Each mother and father had
to carry their share of the load, and the monthly tuition would be $10.00. Plans were made to open the school November 15, 1949, if suitable
housing could be found.
First classes were started on schedule that year, in rented quarters at the St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Edison and Bell Streets. The
school was maintained there in the rented classrooms until December, 1950, when the church as well as a large part of the surrounding area
was threatened with flood waters from the American River. A total of thirty-five children (whose mothers had discovered Tiny Tots through
a second newspaper ad in the fall of 1949) attended the original classes, with thirty-three mothers taking part in the program. Under the
program as laid out by the school’s founders and still in effect today, one-fifth of the mothers attended the school each day to help the
teacher in conducting the classes and supervising the playground activities.
The school’s first teacher, Mrs. John Gentry, was an English was bride who had gained valuable experience in teaching preschool
age children in England. Most of the school’s early success is credited to Mrs. Gentry, for her untiring effort to improve the program
and to help in the development of the children. She had studied the famed Froebel training, named the founder of kindergarten
work in the London Institute. She also had taught in the junior department of Bromley High School in London. During World War II,
she was an officer in the WAAF, evacuating groups of children to safer areas in England. After coming to this country, she taught in
Folsom and did substitute teaching in the Sylvan School. The Gentry’s daughter, Olivia, was enrolled in the school. Mrs. Gentry did
not believe in strict classroom rules for preschool children, merely directing their activities according to the needs of each individual
These charter members were very enthusiastic about their new venture, but there were many problems to overcome. One of the
most important steps facing them was the need for additional funds. After most of the other problems had been worked out, the
drive for more money began. Some donations were received from North Area people, but the bulk of the finances that started the
school were raised through a benefit fashion show, staged by the mothers at the Coral Reef Restaurant; fashions by Joseph Magnin.
This had never been done in the “Village” area before and was received with a great deal of enthusiasm. Tickets were sold out weeks
in advance of the luncheon. Meanwhile, the fathers were working at the school during evening and weekends.
After the 1950 flood, temporary facilities were found at the Carmichael Baptist Church. Then a group led and inspired by Mrs. Woodrow
Burgess, took its first big step and bought their own school building: a five-room residence at 1949 Bell Street (the present location).
Since fire regulations are very strict for preschool children, many changes had to be made before obtaining approval from the fire
marshall; doors had to be re-hung, locks changed, furnace changed, yard fenced in, and etc. Again, every father took the task seriously
and pitched in. The fathers painted the entire outside and inside of the building, built cupboards, a large storage area and much of the
equipment such as easels, climbing saw horses, sand box, tables, and etc. The parents working mostly at night and on weekends,
remodeled the interior from a home into a nursery school.
In the spring of 1958, a milestone in the existence of the school was reached; the group celebrated the burning of the mortgage. On
hand for that occasion, in addition to board members and their husbands of that and former years, were Mr. and Mrs. Harry Fischer, who
loaned the group the money for the down payment on the property. Others were Mrs. Wills, first president; Mrs. Woodrow Burgess,
president at the time the Bell Street property was purchased; and Mr. Melvin Garlick, who represented the mortgage, Capital Federal
Savings and Loan. This event marked the end of one era for the school, but it also marked the beginning of another. The Board Members
announced, as the original mortgage was burning, that they planned to go into debt again to remodel the school because of the need for
more floor space. The work was begun shortly afterward, and was the last major work done on the property until 1968. During 1969 and
1970, a new roof and new sewer line from the caretakers’ cottage (which was located at the rear of the school property) were added to the
list of improvements.
The caretakers’ cottage was burned down (by the fire department) in 1973 to make way for a new modern mobile home (which was
removed in 2002). This time the mortgage included enough funds to add a large arts and crafts room onto the original school structure.
Throughout the years, many functions have been held to raise extra money to repay the funds which were borrowed: luncheon-fashion
shows, rummage sales, wine-tasting parties, benefit movie premiers, puppet shows, parent night outs, spring flings, wreath sales, and
a resoundingly successful 20th anniversary homecoming party. All funds spent to operate the school are raised by the member; Tiny
Tots is totally unsubsidized by any agency of the county, state, or federal government.
From 1960 to 1970, the Teacher-Director was Mrs. Virginia Young. Mrs. Young, the mother of three grown children, devoted years to the
growth and development of the preschool child. She has taught a course concerning Nursery School Education and a course which deal
with the Preparation for Retirement at American River College. She is a past president and board member of the Mental Health Association;
member of the Sacramento County Mental Health Advisory Board, and a member of the Board of Directors for the Golden Empire Regional
Health Planning Council.
After Mrs. Young, the Teacher-Director at Tiny Tots has been Mrs. Ludwig (Joan) Larson. Mrs. Larson is the mother of four, and grandmother
of one. She has an A.A. Degree in Nursery Education; holds a Childrens Center Permit; and Designated Subjects (Parent Education Credential).
She was a participating parent in the Fair Oaks Nursery School and served as President of the Board for a year; she worked for four years as
an assistant teacher in compensatory education preschools in the San Juan Unified School District; she served as assistant teacher in a
summer session of Head Start Classes; and a workshop leader of a Head Start training session. Mrs. Larson is a member of the Northern
California Association for the Education of Young Children; Sacramento Valley Council of Parent Participation Preschools; Child Welfare
League of America; and the Childrens Lobby. Her intuitive knowledge, genuine wisdom and sincere interest in Tiny Tots continues to relate
and strengthen the total program as it involves new and returning mothers and children.
The nursery school is designed to supplement and strengthen the function of the child’s home. By expanding his experiences, his social
adaptability is increased. An environment that is scaled to the child’s size and timed to his needs will help the child to: (a) feel good about
himself; (b) feel comfortable with other people, both children and adults; (c) feel competent to meet the demands of life. The equipment
provides maximum emotional and bodily outlets; the maximum amount of developmental opportunities…the total of which will add to
the child’s happiness and potential growth.
Parent education is an important part of the total program in order to: (a) promote growth in understanding the physical, emotional, mental,
and social needs of children individually and in groups; (b) promote growth in understanding oneself, in handling one’s feelings and using
one’s resources constructively as a teacher, a parent, a citizen; (c) promote growth in understanding the needs of other adults and skill in
working with others to develop the creative capacities of individuals.
Tiny Tots welcomes and encourages children from all racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds.”
(This was typewriter written in approximately 1974-1975 time frame.)
It has been included here, to the best of our knowledge, unedited and unrevised.