Katharine Bagaley graduated from Duval High School (the first high school in Duval County) in 1911, the same year as Dancy Terrace was being built. She passed the teacher's examination at age 17 but still too young to teach (age 18) she became a principal's aide in the Office of Mattie V. Rutherford Elementary School. This position was later called "Cadett" or "cadetting" when my Mother, Joan Thomas, worked for Principal Nellie E. Cooke at MattieV long after Mattie V. Rutherford had gone.
After 10 years of teaching at Mattie V., Katharine Bagaley opened her own kindergartin in her home on 7th Street. This was a special kindergartin where the children not only learned to read and write but also to act and dance and put on performances. Some of these "shows" were staged in the Mattie V. Rutherford School auditorium.
Joan Thomas attended Mrs. Bagaley's kindergarten in the early 1920s not long after it first opened. Joan was taught to read by Mrs. Bagaley's Mother using phonics' cards with drawings of elves and fairies that Mrs. Bagaley had made. Years later, in 1977 Katharine Bagaley published a book of all these drawings and phonics. The book was called Mr. Easy Teaches Phonics and I have included a few pages here which were scanned from a copy of this book I managed to locate via the web. A prize!
The photograph below was made about 1923-24 on the steps of Mrs. Bagaley's house on 7th Street. The children are dressed in their costumes for the show they were in at that time. This production included Cinderella, The Three Billy Goats' Gruff, Hansel and Gretel and a little dance skit called the Looby Loo. Click on this picture to go to a picture where some of the children have been identified by Joan Thomas. (Please let me know if you recognize any of the others.)
Joan Thomas, 2nd row, 4th from right was in Cinderella. and her sister Barbara, 1st row, 4th from right, although too young to be in Mrs. Bagaley's Kindergarten at that time, was permitted to participate in the Looby Loo because she LOVED to dance and because their Mother, Stella Thomas, helped make the costumes for the children. Joan remembers how a car came to pick all the kids in Dancy Terrace up to take them to Kindergarten and then delivered them home again after.
On one of my many recent visits to Springfield, I went by Mrs. Bagaley's house on 7th Street. We happened to arrive just as the owner was coming home from work and had an interesting conversation with him.
Katharine Bagaley (who never married) says that she was always called "Mrs." Bagaley because of her son Earle whom she inherited when his mother left town, and later adopted. Earle had a good voice, and a talent for comedy so Mrs. Bagaley taught him to dance and helped him develope his voice. While not successful in breaking into the Hollywood showbiz scene of the 1930s, they were later successful with childrens' theater amd dance schools.
I would love to know more about this creative and enthusiastic woman who inspired so many children throughout her life, beginning in Springfield. All that I know about her now has been included on this website.
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