Anne Walter Remembers St. Paul’s: 1975-1978
A transcript of an interview by the Rev. Dick Anderson of Anne Walter in 2017
When my younger daughter entered kindergarten, I became involved with the church school program here. I’m not sure if at that time I was on the Education Committee, but if I wasn’t, I soon became a member of it, so this would be in 1975. And so, at that time, the church school had a much larger enrollment than it has at this time, and I was co opted to take the preschool class, along with Kathleen Hare, who I did not know, at the time, but who has become a very close friend, starting in the church school, preschool. The church school at that time was located in the rooms in the lower level of the Great Hall, the rooms that eventually turned into the offices for the bishop’s staff. And at this time now, house some of our Cathedral offices.
The preschool actually was in the office space that was designated for the bishop when the Bishop of San Diego made his headquarters here and it’s a large room. And we generally had, I would say, somewhere from six to 10, sometimes more children here every week. Because of the schedule, at St. Paul’s on a Sunday morning, the preschool was operated from 9am to 12 noon, which is quite a long time. This allowed the parents to attend the forum and a service if they wished, without having to worry about their children. So we would be here bright and early for nine o’clock every Sunday morning. And we’d not been given any kind of curriculum guidance, so we decided that we would write our own, which we did, with the help of some literature that we got from a little Bible store in North Park, that translated very well to our purposes. And we were very determined that it was not going to be three hours of babysitting.
During the course of the morning, we had a small service for the children in the classroom, where we had a very nice small altar set on one side of the room. And the head of the altar guild at that time, was a lady by the name of Helen Aldrich. And Helen made sure that we always had a fresh bouquet of flowers on the altar for the children. The service, we did not write the surface, the service had been written by some someone previous to us, probably one of the clergy. And it was a very short abbreviated service that was conducted, on the whole, by a gentleman by the name of Curtis Tonell who was a lay reader in the in the church. If Curtis was not available, a gentleman by the name of Sam Harto would substitute for him. When these men came to take the service, they always came with robes on. So that gave the children that sort of feeling of church. And perhaps you might be interested in knowing what the service comprised. We would say the Lord’s Prayer, we would then say an abbreviated simple version of the creed. And then the officiant would say a simple prayer and ask the children if they had anything specific they would like to pray for. So we frequently prayed for dogs, cats, whatever their pets were, sometimes their parents. We tried to encourage them to name any friends or relatives who might be ill, but I think on the whole the prayers were directed towards the family pets. After our prayer session, we always sang All Things Bright and Beautiful. I think that was Mr. Tonell’s favorite hymn. And as I played the piano, when we had a piano there, I was able to play the piano and sing with him, and the children joined in as best they could. And following that, it was always rather amusing, because Mr. Tonell would ask if the children had anything particular they would like to sing. And I would have to say that, whatever the season of the year, I think the two favorites were Jingle Bells, and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. I think when Father Carroll came to a service, towards the end of my tenure there, that he was rather appalled by the by the fact that those were the songs that the children requested. I think actually, when Father Carroll came, which I believe was 1978; some time after he became the rector here, we started to take the children into the main church towards halfway through the service. And we would slip in through one of the front, one of the side doors. And I would encourage the children to behave like little church mice who were seen and not heard. And I had different responses to that; but we would slip in the side door, and we would sit around on the chancel steps so that the children could absorb some of the atmosphere and see some of the ritual that was going on around the altar. We would then, the children would then receive a blessing and we would depart before the business of Communion took place.