The move to establish the Kindergarten began on 29 March 1962 when a group of Toowoomba citizens called a public meeting at the Canberra Hotel, Margaret Street. In May, application was made for registration as a charitable organisation and duties of the adopted Constitution were carried out.
An approach was made to the Toowoomba City Council to assist with acquiring a suitable site for the proposed Kindergarten. Several sites were viewed and with Council’s assistance the Toowoomba Kindergarten Association obtained half an acre of land in the Red Lion Reservoir Park Area, West Street on a 30-year lease. With the full support of the Mayor, Alderman J McCafferty, it was decided to the proposed Kindergarten the Vera Lacaze Memorial Kindergarten and Pre-School, in memory of the late Deputy Mayor, Alderman Vera Lacaze.
In July, the Association started drawing the plans for the Kindergarten and setting about the mammoth task of raising funds for the fulfilment of these plans.
The first major fund-raising effort took the form of ‘summonses’ to many Toowoomba and Downs people from the ‘Court of Children’s Needs’. This was extremely successful. A Mannequin Contest organised by the Compass Club, jumble sales, street stalls, barbecues, dances and money raffles, are just a few of the numerous functions necessary to raise the initial £3,500 to start building. In 1963 and 1964, more jumble sales, street stalls a Kindy Quin competition, barbeques, a 200 club and a Major Art Union (the prize being a 22-day trip for 2 to the Orient) all met with good responses. The Creche and Kindergarten Association gave valuable advice and assistance in these early days and help from the local newspaper, radio stations, services and clubs all greatly assisted the Kindergarten cause.
By the beginning of 1964 the Kindergarten has raised £6,000, had borrowed £8,000, received subsidies of £300 and £250 from the Toowoomba City Council and State Government, and persuaded various business houses to act as Guarantors. Strohfeldt and Sons were given the task of building the Centre and by July construction was under way and completed in October at a cost of £7,500.
Committee members assisted with the many jobs on site as well as numerous behind the scenes activities. Working bees were frequent, attending to jobs such as spreading top soil, planting grass runners, assisting the very helpful Apex Club who constructed the sandpit and equipment shed. Further meetings discussed the Official Opening Day, enrolments, fees and staffing. The equipment committee spent up to £700 on the purchase of necessary equipment for the centre including tables, chairs, piano, blocks and lockers.
On Saturday, 20 March, 1965, the Kindergarten was officially opened by the Mayor, Alderman J McCafferty to a crowd of about 100.
The untiring efforts of the founding members of the Association, particularly Mr Doug Custance, had come to fruition. Of course, the hard work did not stop then. Although donations of items kept coming in from such Clubs as Toowoomba Apex, West Toowoomba Apex, West Toowoomba Rotary, Compass Girls Club and Downlands Hobby Club, further fundraising schemes were necessary. The Mothers Club was always busy. In the first couple of years Christmas trees went on sale, stockings were made and sold to friends, barbecues, pig on the spit, dances, garden fetes, gambling nights and find the ball competition all assisted in the continuing acquisition of equipment.
Affiliation with the Creche and Kindergarten Association (C&K) was granted in that first year meaning the Centre had achieved the mandatory high standards laid down by the Association. Parental involvement has always been encouraged at the Kindergarten. Being a Community Kindergarten the Centre has always been available to High School and Tertiary Students to become involved in the programme. Over the past 45 years many families have been fortunate to have had an association with the Kindergarten. Many parents, particularly Committee Members, as well as Staff Members have worked extremely hard for the benefit of the Centre. It is because of the endless hard work shown by this core of people that Vera Lacaze Kindergarten is still operating today. The Centre is one which the original founding Committee should be proud – it remains a pace-setter in the education of 3-5-year old’s in Toowoomba.
50 YEARS OF SERVICE
Vera Lacaze Memorial Kindergarten & Preschool celebrated 50 years of service to the local Toowoomba community in 2015.
Vera Lacaze Memorial Kindergarten & Preschool plays a very important role in the early education and social development of young children in the Toowoomba region. This vital service has continued for 50 years because of the countless hours volunteered by parents and other members of the local community, along with the dedication and professionalism of staff.
Vera Lacaze along with her husband moved to Toowoomba from Gympie in 1927. Dr Lacaze was a Dentist in the area and Vera had been a Nurse at the Royal Brisbane Hospital prior to their marriage in 1924.
Both Vera and her husband were prominent in charity work, working for the ‘little people’. She became a founding member of the local Repertory Theatre in 1932 and the Tick Tock Players Theatrical Group, which organised a 3 act play to raise money for the Ambulance Brigade. Vera helped run this play from Boxing Day until New Year’s night every year for 23 years (1938-1961) raising $50,000 for the Brigade and replacing 14 Ambulances. A remarkable achievement.
She expressed her enthusiasm and support of a Kindergarten following the formation of the Toowoomba Kindergarten Association in March 1962.
After her death in April, that year, the Association decided to call the Kindergarten the Vera Lacaze Memorial Kindergarten, a fitting tribute in her memory.