Forty years is a good run. Forty is enough to span two generations of parents, thousands of children and produce a parade of memories.

“Did you know that MOMs preschool is closing?” Sue asked.

We were driving. Looking out the window. Long car rides are good for looking out the window, remembering the past and taking guesses at what the future might hold.

MOMs (Morning Out for Moms) was an important part of our past. All four of our kids went there. If you had kids between the ages of 1 and 5, the preschool at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was worth its weight in gold.

“I may be remembering this wrong but MOMs was before you had to sign anyone in,” said Esther Brandon, who sent both of her boys, Sam and Philip, to the school.

“It was totally safe before we thought much about safety. The teachers were warm and the classrooms were welcoming.”

There were three classrooms. The nursery, the toddler room and the “big kids” room. The hours were 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and kids brought lunch. Lunch was a big deal both for the students and Moms, because when they picked up their children, it was nap time.

The playground was in a church courtyard and if you drove or walked by, you could hear the sounds of children playing, which sounded as joyous as church music.

The location didn’t hurt. Downtown, a quiet block on 17th Street, a beautiful old church, giant shade trees, two blocks from Franklin, the epitome of a neighborhood school. MOMs felt like home without being home and eased the transition between them.

“They took you where you were and where your children were (potty training was not required),” Brandon said. “There was no such thing as being too early or too late.”

Good preschools are like this. Finding a good preschool is like finding a good babysitter. Each engenders loyalty stoked by the tenderness of the age and the importance of the job.

The job was twofold. Watch the kids, teach the kids and make sure the kids had fun. Equally important was give Moms a break before they ended up in the looney bin.

There was no happier mother than one leaving her child in a cheery room full of kids presided over by a fresh teacher wearing a smock and then the same mom picking up that child several hours later as if she had just returned from a week at the spa, which probably meant she took a shower, had a cup of coffee and cleaned up the house.

MOMs had a must-see Christmas program, where the students sang songs and wolfed cookies before their parents could fill their own plates. MOMs held a graduation program for the kids moving on to kindergarten. The graduate may have been unaffected but the parents cried as if their 5-year-old was going off to war.

Teachers, when we were there, included Miss Harriet, Miss Yolanda and two Miss Sharons. Susan Buckingham was the director. The teachers were like what the parents wanted to be but couldn’t because they were parents. The kids were babies, still sweet and years from being teenagers with all the ensuing complications.

In the press release from St. Paul’s announcing MOM’s closing at the end of August, it mentioned its sadness at having to do so but also that “the leadership at St. Paul’s has not made this decision lightly, especially after so many years of operation but MOM’s has been operating at a financial loss for sometime.”

Almost 40 years is a good run. Two generations of parents thank you. In their own way, the children do too.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or (661) 395-7279.

(2) comments

Stephen

Whew! When I saw that headline...

JSmith

First Presbyterian (also on 17th St) is expanding it child care to all day. Just want families to know when one door closes another opens up,

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