On May 24, 1937, the Albany Recreation Department, with funding from the W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration), opened a preschool play center in Memorial Park. Mrs. Eleanor Quiggle and two assistants supervised the immediately popular program.
Mothers of attending children met on July 15, 1937, and formed an educational and social club to support the play center. Meetings were bi-monthly and the 25 cents dues charged provided juice for the preschoolers.
The need for a more protected facility resulted in the transfer of two portable buildings from the high school grounds to four city lots on Masonic near Solano. One of these buildings housed the offices of the Recreation Department and the other opened in October, 1937, as Albany Preschool. The Mothers’ Club continued to supply juice and handle special holiday celebrations, as well as hold numerous successful fundraising projects to supply equipment to the new play school.
Due to high enrollment, a second play center was established in early 1940 at the Albany Community Church, but it was a short-lived addition. In 1942 the W.PA. was forced to withdraw funds because of World War II. The Albany City Council and the Recreation Commission provided the necessary funds to maintain the original play school and the mothers now participated in its operation. At the same time, training these mothers became important, which led to the evening adult education program at Albany High School.
In September 1943, the Preschool tried to meet the increasing attendance demands by implementing an afternoon session for older preschoolers, while maintaining the morning session for younger preschoolers. Despite the double sessions, there has consistently been a substantial waiting list so preference for enrollment is given to Albany residents.
A major influence on Albany Preschool was Mrs. Nell Curran. She came to the Preschool (then Miss Nell Smith) in 1939 as Mrs. Quiggle’s assistant. In 1941, she became the Director and held that position until her retirement on October 1, 1971 – giving a total of 32 years service to the Preschool. In February 1970, Georgia “Joan” Castell came to assist Mrs. Curran and in October 1971, became Director. She held that position until June, 1974. Nancy “Bobbi” Steinhart with Marilyn Rie assisting were the last Directors to manage both sessions. In 1974, Marilyn Rie became Director of the morning session, and Helen Sommers Director of the afternoon session.
Today, participating parents are trained by the Directors at the Preschool rather than in the adult evening education program. There was a loss of funding from the state when evening classes were no longer required so the Parents’ Club now contributes financially to the school to supplement the City’s Preschool budget allowance. Parents participate as part of the teaching team every week and meet as a club once a month. The Parents’ Club continues to support the Preschool with necessary maintenance, as well as funding special projects.