Category Archives: 1950s

Dorene Lees Lengyel – Class of 57

I enthusiastically entered as a freshman in the fall of 1954. I believe my tuition was $350 per semester. It increased some over the next years, but I was able to pay for my entire 4 years by waitressing in the summers. I took liberal arts classes at Tufts and took the T into Boston to The Nursery Training School  on Marlborough Street for education classes in a lovely old brownstone with at least three floors. This is where girls attended for years but was the last year in Boston. They moved to the Tufts campus in 1954 having become affiliated with them in 1951.

The NTS had purchased a house on the Tufts campus where the first few (maybe 10) four year students could live if needed. Being a Medford girl, I commuted for three years until my senior year. We went to orientation meetings at this house. Women began entering after junior college which helped fill the ranks.

The school bought an old WW11 Quonset hut next to Cousin’s Gym for on campus classes. We had our music classes there with white haired Miss Beatrice Spaulding who had us dancing with scarves and tambourines, making up songs and learning the core of her collected nursery school songs.  I sang them for years in school and to my own children and still remember many. The boys on their way to the gym would peek in the windows and get a laugh out of our performances. One spring day Miss Spaulding thought it a good idea to take us all to the Stoneham Zoo with another music teacher, Tony Salatan, who was a co-host on WGBH Channel 2  with Mary Lou Adams (EPS) on the 1955 children’s program “Come and See”. The idea was to play instruments and sing to the animals and see what their reaction might be. I have some movies of that day and remember only a lot of silliness on our parts! One year at the end of classes the whole school had a picnic at Wingersheek Beach. I remember elderly Miss Chandler, our curriculum teacher, daring to roll down her stockings to get a tan while sitting in the sand.

I made friends in both schools but was not “allowed” to rush a sorority. Everything else was open for us as far as I know and I became a cheerleader for four years.

Because the Korean War was just ending, the school brought a Korean girl (Sook Kim) who spoke no English, to study with our small class. The poor girl was so homesick and timid. She would anxiously hold onto whoever was walking with her to class and we all helped her with English. She did not graduate with us and I think she must have dropped out her sophomore year, but I don’t remember. I wonder what happened to her.

In my freshman and sophomore years, we observed in many nursery and kindergarten classrooms, both private and public, to get a feel for the many differences in teaching styles and curricula. Fortunately I had a car so could drive myself and others to various schools. In our junior and senior years we had a different student teacher assignment for each semester, five days a week. This was absolutely invaluable!

In 1954 Tufts became a university. There was a movie made called ‘How One College Educates” for prospective students. I had a small cameo in it! Dr. Cockerell became our director and the name was changed to Eliot-Pearson in 1955. In my senior year I lived on campus at Wyeth House. We had a dear housemother Mrs. Ester Karlson who made sure we kept our curfews and had no boys beyond our front room. I remember having to get special permission to meet my boyfriend after the curfew one night as he was coming home from a navy assignment for our senior prom. We had one telephone in a booth on the first floor for all the girls. We’d take turns answering it and yelling up the stairs for whomever it was for. We had a kitchen in our dorm and sometimes got communal meals there but most often we’d drive to Cambridge to a buffet restaurant right off Massachusetts Ave. where we would get a 3 course meal for 99 cents.

In my Eliot-Pearson Handbook from 1956 I note we had a strict dress code. “Bermuda shorts or slacks and jeans may be worn in the dorms but not on Tufts Campus and not in Boston Proper” reads one admonition. There were many rules for “overnight absences”, “signing out” calling hours for men callers, times for being out evenings and quiet time for study hours.

After graduation, my first job was in Syosset, Long Island, NY teaching public kindergarten for $4200. I had 36 children in the morning and 36 in the afternoon with no aide. After that, I started a private pre-school, St. Paul’s Church Day School, in Peabody, Ma. I was director and kindergarten teacher there, was director for 10 years of a large pre school in Lynnfield, Ma, earned my Master’s at Lesley College over 7 years in Special Ed. and became a Lynnfield public school kindergarten teacher for 10 years. I did a great deal of private tutoring, was one of the early members of the Whole Language Association, taught English as a Second Language and taught in the Resource Room in Lynnfield Public Schools.

My years at Tufts and Eliot-Pearson were some of my happiest. I had wonderful hands-on, creative training and used what I learned for years. I continue many friendships made then.

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Miriam Lasher Class of 1956

Miriam Lasher: Notes from a Talk at the E-P Alumni Dinner:

In the early 1950’s I was an undergraduate Pomona College in southern California. I was a psychology major interested in children and had completed the only course then offered about children.  I looked all over the country for a way to specialize with young children as an undergraduate – Eliot-Pearson and the Merrill-Palmer Institute in Detroit were the most prominent. I applied to E-P and was sent to meet and be interviewed by Abigail Eliot who was at that time at Pacific Oaks Children’s School in Pasadena. Abby had gone to Pacific Oaks after retiring from E-P at age 60, to help establish a training program for nursery school teachers. The interview led to my being accepted to Tufts.

I arrived on the Medford campus along with Hurricane Edna – trees down, no power – no reception committee. E-P was part of the College of Special Studies, not yet a fully-fledged member of the college.  To Sawyer House – E-P students were then in three small houses on the edge of campus. 7 or 8 girls, one bathroom, one bathtub – no shower. Our meals were provided in Carmichael Hall – a brand new dorm for freshman men all alone on the western side at the top of the hill, a wasteland. I remember trudging up there in the dark and windy cold to be first in line for 7 a.m. breakfast before long commutes to student teaching. It was a hard life.

Another little vignette of those times: During those two years – I graduated in 1956 – the college ruled that women could wear slacks to Sunday breakfast in the dormitory. It seemed like a really big deal at the time.

I chose E-P because of the heavy dose of practical work with experienced mentors; and the opportunity for specialized coursework. For example, a Tufts course in speech and hearing disorders which for me included a mini-internship in the audiology department at Children’s Hospital;

and an E-P course on the hospitalized child which included intensive visiting in playrooms of Boston Floating Hospital – in the midst of the polio epidemic – with children in wheelchairs lining the walls just to be near something related to play.

The themes for the rest of my career were there – immersion in clinical experiences,  learning from very experienced clinicians in specialized settings; blending theory and science with practice.

Lots of student teaching – three full semesters – Harvard Preschool, Theresa Dowd’s kindergarten in Wellesley Hills, and a clinical placement at the Putnam Children’s Center in Roxbury – a unique clinic working with kids with emotional and behavioral problems, and autistic children – that’s a continuing interest of mine.

My student teaching at the Putnam Children’s Center folded into being employed there for six years as a teacher with a caseload of largely autistic children. Child Psychiatry fellows came through and we teachers showed them how to be with children.

In 1961, I went to an NANE/NAEYC conference somewhere in the Midwest and had dinner with Evelyn Pitcher. At the dinner table, she recruited me to come to E-P to teach three-year-olds in the brand new laboratory preschool – the Children’s School – that was then under construction.

By the time I came to work in July, 1962, I had somehow been promoted to Director. When I came to work I was handed the keys to the brand new building – the shell with no furnishings. We ordered everything for rush delivery from a catalog. I think of that austere setting – everything new and traditional and almost identical in three classrooms – and compare it with what I see in the Children’s school now: almost everything custom created to make unique individual environments.

I was director for four years – Rosemary Hutchinson followed me; later Nicki Leodas and then Sam Meisels.

Remember 1965? Legislation in January created summer Head Start programs. The department was funded for a children’s program – we had 10 so-called “welfare children” from the City of Medford. The department also was funded for a Head Start teacher training program. A contingent of faculty flew to La Guardia airport in New York the first week in June, spent five hours in a hotel at the airport; we came back trained to run summer Head Start programs.

At Tufts we were not satisfied with any teacher training materials then available. We flew back to Boston and in two weeks we wrote from scratch a training manual that we could live with. That became Helping Young Children Learn. It went through five editions – I was part of the first three. Sylvia Feinburg was part of all of them.

Early in my fourth year as Director of the Children’s School, Dr. Sam Braun contacted me – he was one of the young child psychiatry fellows who came through in my final year at the Putnam. He was in Washington, D.C. fulfilling his armed services commitment, working at NIMH where he took on the challenge of creating training programs for teachers to work with preschoolers who had emotional and behavioral problems. NIMH had a wad of money – it chose and gave generous three-year grants to four institutions to establish graduate training programs for teachers – it was pioneering stuff.

In 1966, I transitioned into directing that program. The grant included full tuition and generous training stipends for a hand-picked group of graduate students; and all the necessary expenses for the department. I remember then-Provost Leonard Mead advising me to find a couple of international conferences we’d like to go to and build them into the budget. The first thing I did was to hire Sam Braun to teach and advise in the training program.

In the first year we struggled to find appropriate internship placements for our students, and ended up creating our own, using local child guidance clinics in Somerville and Cambridge to provide clients and space. Those students provided consultation to Head Start classrooms as the core of their final summer practicum.

We published a project report, and later, Charles Merrill Publishers – which was already publishing Helping Young Children Learn – took it on.

When the third year ended in 1969, Sam Braun and I moved over to the community. There was a huge infusion of new federal money coming into communities to establish community mental health centers. In Cambridge and Somerville we gave it our early childhood twist. The work we had done at E-P really put us on the map – we were miles ahead of just about anyone in the country in what we provided for kids and parents, and the quality of the training experiences we could create for future professionals.

We continued working with Head Start under the auspices of the Cambridge Guidance Center. At some point George Scarlett joined us as consultant in Cambridge Head Start – when was that?

I continued teaching one course a semester for another ten-plus years in the department – then called “The Exceptional Child,” which gave me an opportunity to pull together my accumulated experience with young children with special needs and attempt to teach the skills adults needed to work with them and their families, and create community settings that made sense.

Through the years a couple of other themes emerged – creating community-based clinical settings where children, families and adults – teachers and clinicians – learn together and document what they’re doing. Thinking about and writing about what we do have always been important to me. It’s a quasi-academic approach with a strong behavioral science twist – serious scientific underpinnings to everything we do; but highly custom fitted to enhance what the individual – child or adult – brings to the situation.

Other benchmarks:

public kindergarten became almost universal in MA in the 1970s

the state established special education programs for children three and up under Chapter 766 in 1976 (?)

the Dept. of Public Health took on responsibility for children under three with special needs and established Early Intervention

In many ways I feel I never left Tufts. In the community clinical programs in Cambridge-Somerville, I hired Tufts grads and we always had graduate students as interns. The person who succeeded me as Director – Frances Rowley – had received her masters in the department.

Through the years I continued to “chair” the Scholarship Committee for the Children’s School – I still do. It’s a nominal role because Debbie LeeKeenan and the school administrator do all the preparation. Coming back annually to the scholarship committee meeting has enabled me to stay connected to the department and the changes taking place.

I continue to be deeply involved in EI in Massachusetts – as a member of the statewide fiscal subcommittee of the DPH EI Interagency Coordinating Council; and as Secretary to the Council. I read the E-P News with great interest – the multifaceted interests of faculty and the broad range of what graduate students do…….I doubt there’s anything like it…..

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