Historic childcare centre turns 70

It started as a collection of modest wooden buildings and 18 small children. Today, 70 years on, it may have 125 children coming through its doors every week but the buildings have barely changed.

The Pennant Hills War Memorial Centre (PHWMCC) turns 70 this month making it one of the longest-running childcare centres in Australia, and to mark the anniversary it’s going to have a party on Sunday May 27.

Max Ruddock, the father of current Hornsby Mayor Philip, was on the original set-up committee, but it’s welcoming past, present and future families of the centre to come along and join the party.

Affectionately known in the district as ‘Shields Lane’, the preschool has grown from humble beginnings in 1948 to the popular childcare centre it is today.

“The Centre was set up as a public memorial to the war and thereby qualify it for tax concessions,” explains Director Jill Crispe. “The Children’s Centre was officially opened on 18th May 1948 with 18 enrolments and practically no equipment beyond tables and chairs, a sandpit and a swing.”

Then Director, Jean Reid, reported that “progress was due entirely to parents and citizens willing to donate time and money to the project.” They fundraised with card nights, a dog show, a flower show, street stalls, Rose Day button selling and musicals.

That aspect has changed little too – today the Centre is still not for profit with a volunteer preschool parent based management committee. Department of Education funding coupled with fees keeps it going, while the kids get on with it with activities in the bush tucker garden, yarning circle, veg garden, or getting creative with arts and crafts, sandpit and all the other usual play-based learning activities of preschool centres.

There will be a walk down memory lane with class photos from 1968 to the present, as well as children’s activities, an appearance by award-winning children’s’ author Lesley Gibbes who’ll read some of her stories, and a Welcome to Country & Smoking Ceremony.

“We even have several generations of the same families coming through the Preschool and this year we welcomed a third generation family!” said Jill.

Grandmother Dale Turnbull went to the Centre soon after it opened, in 1956. Today she drops her grandson Noah off there. “Our family has been lucky enough to enjoy the preschool for three generations. We love the preschool for its passionate, creative and caring staff. There’s a real feeling of inclusion and respect for one another and everyone is valued and celebrated.”

The 70th celebration is on Sunday 27th May 2018 from 11am to 2pm in Shields Lane, Pennant Hills. For more information call Margo at the PHWMCC on 9484 1133.

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