Remember When | By Mike Ryan
● Published by Anonymous
These days, David Hasty serves as district court judge in Cumberland County, but in 1966 he was a student at Holy Trinity Preschool and one-time frog kidnapper.
His mother ratted him out.
Back in 1964, Jane Horrocks was Jane Hollinshed. Today, she is a real estate agent and the mother of two grown children, a son and daughter who attended Holy Trinity just like she did.
And Dr. Stuart Jordan, despite delivering hundreds of Fayetteville babies, was once a fresh-faced kindergartner there himself. He would later send all three of his sons there, too. And developer Joseph P. Riddle III would send a daughter.
Lawyers, doctors, brokers, bankers, builders and developers, they all had their start at the Holy Trinity sand table. Hand-print turkeys at Thanksgiving, Popsicle stick works of art and finger-painted masterpieces, these were the building blocks.
“It was a good place to go to school,” Hasty said. Before public schools routinely offered it, Hasty attended kindergarten at Holy Trinity, and he fondly remembers the day he tried to bring a frog along for the car ride home. “After all these years,” he said, “it’s a bit of a landmark in the community.”
On April 18, Holy Trinity Preschool will commemorate 50 years of educating and nurturing Fayetteville children. Alison Jones is chairwoman of the school’s current board, which is organizing a celebration and reunion. “We’re hoping to get as many people back as possible,” she said. “This school has meant so much to so many for so long.”
Holy Trinity Episcopal Church opened its kindergarten in September 1959. When public schools followed suit, the school adapted by focusing on children with special needs. Later, it adapted once again by offering pre-school classes for children ages 2 to 4. Today, the school has about 60 toddlers enrolled.
Jane March Riddle is one of them. For more than 25 years, her father, Joseph P. Riddle III, has worked in and around Fayetteville as a general contractor and real estate broker. There is a 50-year age gap between them, giving Riddle a unique perspective on the school’s long history. He was in one of the school’s earliest kindergarten classes – now his own child attends the school.
“I remember how much fun the playground was,” he said and perhaps as a sign of what was to come, “Also, I loved playing with those big cardboard bricks. I was always building things with them. A lot of places don’t make it 50 years. Fifty years is a long time. A lot of things come and go.”
But not Holy Trinity Preschool. Like many a beloved school, behind the scenes was a beloved teacher. “We had a wonderful teacher, Grace Hicks,” Horrocks said. “She used to wear red- and white-striped stockings, which looked like candy canes. I remember sitting in a circle as she played the piano and sang songs. We sang a lot. We read a lot. We would go outside, walk down to the lake, and feed the ducks.”
“Everybody loved her,” said Jo Hasty, David Hasty’s mother. “I started thinking about David’s time there. It was a happy time for him. He made a lot of friends there. It was part of his life and part of mine as well.”
Jordan can still recall the friendships formed. “Mark Braswell, Susie Gardner, Laura McMillan, Melanie Godwin, Bonner Thomason, Julie Weeks, Catherine Bryan, Anne Scott Gillam,” he recounted in an email. “Hmmm, seems I remember all the girls but only a few of the boys in our class!”
The Rev. Ray Brown, rector of Holy Trinity, believes that the school has survived thanks to the quality of the program and the commitment of the people involved.
“It’s an excellent program run the right way,” he said. “It allows children to develop self-esteem, to become more independent, to make friends, and to engage in age-appropriate activities. Good leadership is the key. We’re lucky enough to have good people who love what they do running it.”
Ruth Gillis has served as the school’s director since 1993. “We provide a stimulating environment with lots of hands-on activities and play,” she said. “They make discoveries on their own. They have ah-ha moments where they see how something works. It’s learning by doing, which makes the most sense to me.”
Jones said the school continues to excel at what it has done well for 50 years, focusing on the entire child from an emotional, mental, physical and social standpoint. “They instill a love of discovery and learning, but they also allow the kids a chance to play,” Jones said. “My daughter is like a sponge. She is excited about school. She really loves it. She wants to be there. She wants to learn.”