On October 21, 1998 Mrs. Mary Dwan King became Mrs. Park.
No first name.
No matter. In Leaside most people never think of Mrs. Park’s first name, and haven’t since 1961.
That’s when the first Mrs. Park started Bayview Nursery. That’s another name hardly anyone thought of.
Everyone knew it as Mrs. Park’s School, a famous name then and now in Leaside.
But Mrs. Park the First (first name Joan) decided to retire and Mrs. Park the Second bought Bayview Nursery in 1998 and changed its name to Mrs. Park’s School to honour its first owner.
So though Mrs. Mary Dwan King has lived in Leaside since 1980 – that’s 35 years – we hardly know her.
She bought the school because she loved it when her two children went there and her husband Andy, a lawyer, told her he was never going to retire.
How would she fill her days? After years as a child and youth worker, volunteering at Women’s College Hospital and running small businesses from home, she needed something to keep her busy.
She thought about the “lovely, calm place. There was music, children were happy and they were challenged when they needed to challenged.”
The process of buying the school took a few years, but when Park was ready, so was Dwan King.
But Park didn’t leave right away.
“She continued to do the music program for a few years,” said Dwan King, “so it was a nice transition for her. She lived across the road from the school. It was her life.”
Ditto for the new owner, who lives around the corner and is there every day.
The school is in Leaside United Church, at Millwood and McRae, where it moved years ago from St. Augustine at Bayview and Broadway.
Proximity wasn’t the only draw. So was music.
“Singing and music are something all children enjoy and we sing every day. During music the children perform playlets, which are children acting out nursery rhymes, etc. Joan Park actually wrote some of the songs we continue to use today.”
Dwan King even made a CD for a special anniversary.
“It was titled Mrs. Park’s School – Music for Families and produced to celebrate our 45th anniversary. All profits from the CD were directed to children’s charities and it included nursery school songs sung by graduates of Mrs. Park’s, storytelling, poetry and singer songwriter music.”
How did Mrs. Park run things?
Joan was very hands on.
So what has changed?
The basic philosophy has not changed. We value the same things as Joan. To meet the licensing requirements that were becoming more formalized from Joan’s start in 1961 I put in place the policies and procedures that were required. We began kindergarten programs and established a summer camp program, Mrs. Park’s Summer Fun Camp, which operated for 10 years. We also operated a second school at St. Cuthbert’s Church, Mrs. Park’s School Too Inc., for five years.
In my early years my mother started volunteering three times a week and became know as the school grandma. Neat bonus time with her.
And one day a little boy was walking down the hallway holding his mother’s hand. I can see it. He held his mother’s hand up to his nose and took a big whiff and he said, “My mom’s hand smells like cookies.” He was infatuated with her. It was lovely.
You can’t spend all your time at the school. What else do you do?
I have lots of interests. I take a lot of photographs and really enjoy taking them of musicians during live shows. I’ve had shows and people have bought the photographs. I make and sell silver jewellery and that’s something I really enjoy.
And will there be a Mrs. Park the Third?
I’m getting older. I wouldn’t mind doing some other things, but then I think I have the best job in the world. Why would I want to leave when I still really enjoy what I do?
Article written by Lindsay Blakely.