Kindy of the Air – Margaret Graham

During WW2 when all Kindergardens were closed during this time of National Emergency in Australia a new and innovative method of reaching out to young children was pioneered by an amazing woman. Margaret Graham. This is not in the Goldfields but is a great story.

Margaret Graham (1889-1966), kindergarten teacher and broadcaster, was born on 5 June 1889 at Ballarat, Victoria, fourth of six children of Scottish-born parents John Graham, tailor, and his wife Maggie, née MacKeddie. In 1893 the family settled at Leederville, Perth. A gentle woman with a love of children and a talent for handicrafts, Margaret completed a course at the Kindergarten Training College, West Perth, in 1916. Placed in charge of the Free Kindergarten, Pier Street, in 1921, she moved to the Mount Hawthorn Kindergarten School as director in 1926.

The other day I paid a visit to 6WF radio studio to listen to the kindergarten session which is broadcast every morning. Then I went to a home and saw a group of children listening-in to) their very own programme.

Western Mail 19 Nov 1942

Western Mail 19 Nov 1942

It all began about eight months ago when, in a time of national emergency, all kindergartens were closed. They remained closed for a number of months, and those who were interested in the children who attended them, felt greatly concerned at this interruption in their work.

Someone suggested that a radio session would partly fill the gap, and so “Kindergarten of the Air” was begun.It has flourished ever since, and has become so popular that even grown-ups listen in regularly. Many country mothers are taking advantage of it, and in homes throughout the metropolitan area regular groups of children gather at their radios and take part in the programme.

LEARNING IS FUN.

Like all kindergarten work, this cession is designed to teach in an interesting way. Miss Margaret Graham, who is in charge of the session, is the possessor of a clear and pleasant voice, and her many years of kindergarten work make her an ideal person for the work. Music for songs and action work is provided by Mrs Jean McKinley.

Every programme contains variety. There are songs, a story, something energetic to exercise the muscles, usually a song about health habits, instructions for making some simple toy and various other items of interest to small children.

In the studio on the morning of my visit there were Rae, Merle, Graham and Peter. Wendy is also a frequent participant. These youngsters are conversant with all the songs and act as leaders. They were keen with anticipation for the session to begin.

I asked them which songs they preferred. Graham voted for “Hur-rah for the sailor boy” which he later sang for his unseen audience. Merle’s choice was “I wish, Oh, I wish that I had a little house;” while Rae preferred “Clickety Clack.” Wendy’s favourite was “Moon, moon,” and Peter chose “Soft pussy, warm pussy.”

Teaching children the rudiments of physiology is easy with a song like “Where is Thumbkin?” Fingers become Thumbkin, pointer, tall man, ring man and small man. With hands behind their backs the children “sing a little song, and as each word comes into the song so the right finger must be produced. There are also catchy little verses about washing your teeth and cleaning your nails. Surprisingly enough children are keen to do these things when told in Miss Graham’s quiet way.

 

Students of the Kindergarten Training College in Perth, Western Australia, 1915. Margaret Graham is in the back row, first on the left.

Students of the Kindergarten Training College in Perth, Western Australia, 1915. Margaret Graham is in the back row, first on the left.

LISTEN IN GROUPS:- The picture would not be complete -Without the other side of the story, and so Í went out to a home at Victoria Park where Maureen, Gwennie and Russell were waiting anxiously for the clock to say five minutes to 9:30am. I have discussed this angle with mothers of young children who live in the metropolitan area, and my impression is that in a great many dining rooms and living rooms at that time the same thing happens. Mothers may be found in all sorts of undignified attitudes playing caterpillars or aeroplanes … or skipping round the table … or playing statues, enjoying the fun with their children.

There was a little “verse which ran: “Low is the grass” . . . children bend over and touch the ground . . “High is the sun” , ‘ they stretch up as high as they can reach . . . “Sit on the ground” . and down they sit. . . “Lie down for fun” and they all lie down and relax.

Mothers play a big part in the success of this broadcast. Young children need someone to put them on the right tracks; to show them how to make the toys, and to take down and teach them the words of the various songs. But the mothers who take such a keen interest in the session find that for the rest of the day their children improvise and play on the lines taught in the broadcast.

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My name is Moya Sharp, I live in Kalgoorlie Western Australia and have worked most of my adult life in the history/museum industry. I have been passionate about history for as long as I can remember and in particular the history of my adopted home the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia. Through my website I am committed to providing as many records and photographs free to any one who is interested in the family and local history of the region.

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Comments

  1. Margaret Moir says:

    I remember Kindy of the Air very well in the early 1950s, when we lived in Kalgoorlie. I adored it, and couldn’t wait for the first song, which was “Good morning, good morning and how do you do?…”
    There was a real life kindergarten which my mother attempted to send me to, in Lamington, but it was nowhere near as much fun and kindy of the air, so I used to scale the fence and run home until she stopped sending me.
    I was even lucky enough to attend a live broadcast in 1954 when I was four, at Radio House in Perth, a building next door to government house, now demolished sadly. It’s seemed a magical fairy tale building to me, as it was built in that Art Deco gingerbread house style, set in the lush Supreme Court gardens. For a goldfields child, Perth seemed impossibly green and watery.
    I still teach those old Margaret Graham songs to my grandchildren.
    Thanks for your fascinating blog.
    Best wishes, Margaret Moir, née Marshall.

    • Hi Margaret So glad you enjoyed the story, the kindergarden you mention in Lamington only closed its doors a few years ago. My husband went there and so did my grown up children. We just live down the street.

  2. Thank you for this story about Kindergarten of the Air. I remember listening to this as a child. When did it cease as i was born in 1955.

  3. How I loved kindergarten of the air. I used to go to the School of Arts Hall and be part of a group of about 12-15 children, from what I can remember, As well as following the kindy teachers, we also had an extended session where we would paint or draw or do a varity of crafts. I loved wool stitching .. creating a picture by stitching through the holes on a page.
    I still have one of those books safely tucked away.

  4. Susan Wishart says:

    What lovely memories! “Kindergarten of the Air” was my lifeline as a four year old living in the tiny town of Wilga in the late !940’s. We had no electricity in the area so a very large cabinet radio run on batteries was our only means of education and entertainment. With my two baby sisters for Mum to look after, her time was precious, but she always found at least a few minutes to listen in with me. Margaret Graham was a wonderful presenter, a radio “friend” and a critical influence on my otherwise quite isolated early life.

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