Pre-School Education – Eula B. Owens Play School

The Eula B. Owens Play School was opened in 1955 and named in honor of a woman who taught at Sixth Avenue School and Ninth Avenue for over 30 years. It began with a vision of three people at the Star of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church: Rev. G. E. Weaver, Mrs. Joseph Bailey, and Mrs. Valentine Mims. It was originally supported mainly through the United Fund with operations beginning in the Jackson house on 5th Avenue, with Mrs. Sarah Summey (Mitchell) as its first teacher. As the school grew they moved to a larger space at the Star of Bethel Baptist Church and with the church’s support, the necessary facilities were added to qualify for a day care facility. What started with ten children who brought their own lunch to school grew by the early 1960’s to include a full-time cook, and several more teachers. During the first years of operation, the teachers included: Mrs. Helene Campbell, Mrs. Bernice Gash, Mrs. Lillie Rickett and Mrs. LaMuriel Andrews. The cook was Mrs. Crotell Figgins. However, without Mr. James Pilgrim the program would have suffered greatly. Each school day he donated his time to pick the children up and take them back home in the afternoon. Even after the play school became a federally funded Head Start Program, Mr. Pilgrim continued to transport the children to and from the school. The school offered children and parents a safe and instructive environment for learning and was the first pre-school for Black children in the county.

From this first successful pre-school experience, others would follow. Mrs. Cora Young also decided to open a school for children. She had suffered a long illness and during her time of recuperation she felt called to serve the children of her neighborhood. She had taught young children for 30 years at Union Grove Baptist Church, and drawing from her experience she started “Tot Town.” This was such a successful school experience for the children, that many people urged her to open a fully- accredited day-care center. In the late 60’s she continued her work with children by starting a school in the basement of Union Grove Baptist Church which she called Play and Learn. The school would continue for many years offering the children of the Brooklyn community of Hendersonville a place to go (as the name of the school implied), to play and learn.

From A Brief History of the Black Presence in Henderson County by Gary Franklin Greene