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Preschool celebrates 40 years of molding young students
The Anne Hamrick Community House celebrates its 40th anniversary.

 LEFT: In 1963, Sammy White (center) lived next door to and attended the original 'mission school,' known as The Charles Street Settlement House.
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Date published: 11/3/2002

SOMETIMES it pays to listen to your teachers.

Cleo Lewis did, and she's been thankful ever since.

Two of her teachers talked Lewis into a teaching job she has loved for more than 30 years.

In 1968, Marion Bowles and Maude Richardson, Lewis's former librarian and fourth-grade teacher at Walker-Grant Elementary School, served on the board of a preschool for disadvantaged children.

The preschool's director left to teach at Fredericksburg City Schools, and the board needed a new teacher.

Bowles and Richardson were convinced Lewis could be that teacher.

Lewis was not convinced.

"I didn't think I could handle it," Lewis said.

So she proposed a compromise: She would teach the preschool for a month while the board continued to look for another teacher.

Thirty-four years later, Lewis said, "I guess they're still looking."

That preschool, the Anne Hamrick Community House, commemorated 40 years of service to the community last Saturday. About 50 former and present students, teachers, parents and board members attended the anniversary celebration at Walker-Grant Middle School in Fredericksburg.

For Lewis, the celebration was a triple one. Along with the preschool's anniversary, she personally celebrated both a long teaching career and a birthday, though she won't mention which birthday it is for her.

"I have a lot to celebrate, a lot to thank God for," Lewis said.

Back in the '50s, Anne Hamrick, a local Methodist minister, and Julia Tyler were concerned about children without supervision in the Mayfield area.

Their parents were often busy working, and Hamrick and Tyler wanted the children to have a place to go.

So they found a house on Charles Street and opened the Charles Street Settlement House in 1958.

According to Sammy White, who attended the preschool in 1963, the area residents referred to it as "the mission school," and a sign outside the school proclaimed it as such.

The settlement house served as a preschool in the mornings, a place for older children to go in the afternoons, and a homework area in the evenings. Tutors came to the house for the evening homework sessions.

Many other people came to volunteer to teach the students, said White. In addition to academic studies, students at the settlement house learned sewing and cooking skills.

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