By Jenny Quill, GazeboNews reporter
Since it opened in 1953, Joytime Pre-School has educated and nurtured thousands of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff children. Now, after 60 years, this Lake Forest institution will close with the graduating class of 2013.
Joytime got its start as the offshoot of Lake Forest’s first nursery school.
“Mary Hart had the first daycare in Lake Forest in 1950, and then she and her husband were transferred to Ohio,” said Joytime’s director Kathleen Hodgen. “Mary knew my mother and said, ‘Why don’t you take over?’ That’s when [my parents] decided to have the school built. It started as a daycare center, and turned into a preschool in 1962. It’s always been family run.”
Indeed, Hodgen has worked at Joytime since 1973. She worked alongside her mother, Joy, for 26 years, until she passed away in 1999. Hodgen’s sister, Renee, worked at Joytime for about 5 years, and Hodgen’s father, Earle, a teacher in Highland Park, helped out whenever he could. “He was the behind-the-scenes man, doing building maintenance, paperwork, and lawn mowing,” said Hodgen. Her father recently passed away.
That sense of family and tradition is still very much alive at Joytime, which is now teaching its third generation of children. “Children who came here now have their children coming here,” said Hodgen.
Children who went to Joytime years ago will still recognize the annual end-of-the-year art show for parents, where the kids get to display the artwork they made out in the yard. Somewhat newer is the “quiet garden,” a memorial garden Hodgen created in her mother’s memory.
“[The students] come back and reminisce about things like the merry-go-round,” said Hodgen. “We have a little hill called Joytime Mountain, and when there’s snow, we go tubing down it. We have a worm garden where they can dig for worms.”
The decision to close Joytime after 60 years was a difficult one. “It’s bittersweet for me,” she said. “But the timing is right. We’re calling it our Diamond Jubilee Year. I thought 60 years is a good time.”
Joytime will host an Alumni Open House Grand Finale on June 8. Families are invited to drop in, visit with old friends and wish the Joytime clan good cheer and best wishes for the future.
Questions regarding the event can be directed to Kathleen Hodgen at 847-234-1969, firstname.lastname@example.org.