Monday, May 12, 2008

All That You Can't Leave Behind - Stinson's Day Nursery


I like to start out one of these entries - at the very least - on a happy note because when I think about my time growing up in Fort Wayne, there's lots of happy stuff to chat about.

I have been wanting to blog about Stinson's Day Nursery for three months. I lacked pictures, mementos - anything - and even though I could have just wrote about it, I really REALLY wanted to share with you what made it such a magical period of time in my life.

Thanks to Phil Marx (aka man about town - and owner of MyHudHouse) and the absolutely frickin' best realtor that ever walked the state of Indiana (aka Lynda King), I was able to get some info. Unfortunately, their information was hard for me to see and read. And so writing about Stinson's Day Nursery will be both a happy and sad thing for me.

End Preamble

When I write about a particular spot in Fort Wayne, I almost always start my blog entry with a picture of "the place".

I just can't. It's too depressing.

Instead. Your first picture is of me and my sister Patty - or PJ - as she was called back then. I believe that this is both of us walking up to Stinson's Day Nursery.

SO there you go. We're only 11 months apart, but you definitely wouldn't know it from this picture. Yes, I've always been tall.


When I was three years old, my mom worked at KMart as a cashier. I think she worked at some KMart close to Southtown Mall/Southgate. All I remember is the turquoise smock, subs with stringy lettuce & paper thin tomatoes, and blue light specials. But more on KMart in another blog entry....

In the late 60's there weren't many nursery schools in Fort Wayne. Perusing the phone book, there were perhaps a handful and Mrs. Paul Stinson's Day Nursery was one of the best in town.

The school felt like a home. Part of that was because of the "building" It looked like two large houses had been merged together with the help of a built on addition that bridged the two. The other part was that the people who owned it and ran it - they treated us like their own children. I know I felt very secure and loved by these caretakers and since we were there many hours - this was a good thing.

My mom worked a lot. My dad was in the army. Let's just say - there wasn't a lot of stability. Stinson's Day Nursery provided lots of stability and gosh - but I learned! Not book learning - but Kristina learning. Somehow, I learned how to be myself. Sounds kind of strange, doesn't it? I don't know of any other way to describe it. I just know that this place gave me the tools to trust my gut and this gut thing has served me well throughout my life (thus far).

Side note: Photos are courtesy of Phil Marx. They were just taken in April 2008. More on this later. It pains me to look at these photos it goes....

I have two very distinctive memories about my time at Stinson's.

First, no one cooked macaroni and cheese better than the woman who cooked it at Stinson's. I don't know what her name was - but I can still picture her. We would all be sitting at these cute, little tables and after everyone had their share, if there were left overs, she would come out of the kitchen with this HUGE silvery cooking pot and a giant wooden spoon.

Who would like more?


My sister and I both loved the stuff.

Oh yes - mac and cheese day was something to look forward to.

My second distinct memory was the day that I, Kristina Michele Frazier, fell in with a bad crowd. Yes, I know, difficult to believe, but true. I don't remember all of the girls involved but let me tell you, if I ever find them, they better stay away :).

We were outside playing - lots of kids of course - but in particular, me and my sister Patty hung out with three other girls. We were talking about pets. We wanted a dog. Somebody else wanted a cat. This one girl said she wanted a rabbit. While debating the idea of - was a rabbit really a pet - I grew bored and wanted to find something else to do.

I went off somewhere, but then came back.

These girls + my sister - had disappeared to the side of the school and right before my eyes - what did I see? A drawing of a rabbit.

Seriously. If I remember correctly, "somebody" found one of those pieces of rock - you know - the kind that when you press it, remarkably resembles chalk? Well somebody drew a rabbit on the side of the nursery school and before I could ask who did it (because please - isn't it obvious - it was the chick obsessed with having the rabbit for a pet), we were BUSTED....BUSTED I tell you.

I can't remember his name - but I'm assuming it was one of Mae's sons - either Wayne or Rex (this I only knew after doing some extensive research on the family names).

Let's assume it was Rex.

Rex took us all aside and asked, "who did this". Lots of NOT ME's rang through the air. So then, he broke us up and one by one he paddled each one of us.

That paddling took place in this silver thing - building. Yes, this is how it looks today. There were even bathrooms (aka toilets) in here.

I don't remember crying.

I do remember that I was going to seek revenge on that rabbit-loving artist though.

SO, that's all of the pictures I can stomach showing you tonight.

When I first saw Phil's pictures, a huge pit of sadness filled my tummy (see, I'm talking like I'm five now).

I became obsessed.

How did a place like this - which was in business for at least 25 years - how did it get to this point? What happened? Where was Mrs. Paul Stinson? Her family? Where was the maker of that wonderful mac and cheese?

I spent hours surfing the net.

I found lots of bad news. Mrs. Paul Stinson - deceased - 1987. Mr. Paul Stinson - deceased - 1997. Wayne Stinson - deceased - 2004. I searched through thousands of places looking for any reference to the nursery school and I found only ONE reference. It was in an obituary for Lorraine Kappel. She died in 2007 and worked at Stinson's for 20 years (until she retired in 1983). She was born in England - and just as I read that - BOOM - it hit me. She was the maker of the mac and cheese. I remember the accent...

But only ONE reference to an establishment that had been a part of Fort Wayne for over 20 years?! I don't understand. Seriously. I lack all understanding on this.

When Phil came back with these pictures, he told me that the place was up for sale and right away, I reached out to Lynda King to see if she could find out anything for me. Even though the place looked horrid on the inside, I really REALLY wanted to take one last look around on the inside. Must track down realtor...must convince s/he to let me take pictures.


My oh my you gave me quite a mystery to uncover. I found out lots of info about the Stinson Daycare property by tracking the owner of record through the Allen County Treasurer's Office. The property is owned by the Mount Calvary Housing Development Corporation (aka CDC), which I called and spoke to a gal by the name of xxxxxx. She said that Reverend Mike Nicholson is president of the CDC but he is unavailable for the next 3 weeks, due to having surgery. She doesn't believe you will be able to get into the property due to fact that the city ordered it to be boarded and will probably be demolishing it. You can call Rev. Nicholson or Pat at (xxx) xxx-xxxx for further information.

I hope this helps you, although, it's not quite what you wanted to hear.


I was stunned. Surprised? Okay. I admit. Just a little.

Part of me was hoping that someone with a big heart and close ties to the Fort, would swoop in and rescue this place. This place of love and warmth - a place that really had a great deal to do with the foundation of my being. (See, I told you...drama queen comes out every time - but really - that's how I feel.)

I'm traveling to Fort Wayne later this week. I may get shot, robbed, and my CRV stolen - but by golly, I'm driving by the place. I need to have one last cry and close this chapter.

Beautiful Day

The heart is a bloom - shoots up through the stony ground
There's no room - no space to rent in this town
You're out of luck, and the reason that you had to care
The traffic is stuck, and you're not moving anywhere
You thought you'd found a friend to take you out of this place
Someone you could lend a hand in return for grace

It's a beautiful day - the sky falls
You feel like it's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away

You're on the road, but you've got no destination
You're in the mud - in the maze of her imagination
You love this town, even if that doesn't ring true
You've been all over, and it's been all over you

It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away
It's a beautiful day

Touch me - take me to that other place
Teach me - I know I'm not a hopeless case

See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you
See the canyons broken by cloud
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out
See the Bedouin fires at night
See the oil fields at first light
See the bird with a leaf in her mouth
After the flood all the colours came out

It was a beautiful day
Don't let it get away
Beautiful day

Touch me - take me to that other place
Reach me - I know I'm not a hopeless case
What you don't have you don't need it now
What you don't know you can feel somehow
What you don't have you don't need it now
Don't need it now
It was a beautiful day


Colleen said...

Part of the reason I love your blog is that I can identify with you so much. I would TOTALLY be doing the ubergoogle, poking around online, etc, calling realtors, the whole deal. Now I may even have to drive by the place myself, even though I never heard of it until this morning!

Anonymous said...

Wow- you said everything I've felt about the old Sunnymede School. I did a little "urban exploring" a few years back, and took photos of my old classrooms.
In hindsight, I wish I hadn't. The memories I remember as a kid contrasted with the empty, broken shell I saw 20 years later has made it all the more somber.
I wish I could find some decent photos of Sunnymede (pre-1984) to have something better to look at.


PS: Your Project Indiana on Flickr is a great idea! I'm trying to get my Dad to go dig his photos up from South Calhoun El.

Vicky Trabosh said...

Hi - thanks for this blog - I was at Stinson's in the early 1960s and had the opposite experience.

I hated it and cried everyday. It was a horrible place and the people who worked there were really unkind. There was this game they played on birthdays. They would tie balloons with strings to your ankles and you'd chase the other kids trying to break their balloons. Seriously. AND (I SWEAR) when we were given apples to eat, YOU HAD TO EAT THE CORE! Sick? They put a bucket next to your cot to throw up.

Seriously, I hated that place. Both our parents worked and except for the fact that my brother was there, I had no hope.

The quonset hut in the back will never leave my mind.....

OK? So how did I turn out!? Relatively sane! LOL

It was good to read your thoughts - that place definitely made me stronger - but I'd never do that to a kid.

Vicky Trabosh

Anonymous said...

I attended Stinson's in the mid 70's. It was a great place for me. It was my own little Sesame Street. It saddens me to see the building in decay and the stinson family deceased. The daughter of the lady who cooked the food also worked at Stinson's when I was there. Time moves on. Thanks for the memories.

Karissa F. said...


While I am much younger, and did not attend Stintson, I can relate very much to how you feel. I attended Franke Park Day Care Center in the Late 80s and very early 90s.

I too experienced similar things as your Rabbit drawing as well as valuable life lessons such as: If someone bites you, bite them back...Yes This is what the German woman who ran the daycare told me and then proceed to make me bite the little boy. To this day I always wondered what happened to little Robert Stump hahaha.

Despite all that, every time I see a piece of Strawberry candy or eat a fresh pear, I will think of all the wonderful time I spent there. The day care has long since closed and Mrs. Kebelus has been gone for a few years now. A few years back I had the chance to go back and visit with her daughter, who all the children loved and walk around the grounds. It was sad to see the rooms so empty without all the long lunch tables and shelves of toys and the backyard empty without the play equipment, save for a small metal tunnel, which I can remember laying inside of on summer days and the metal was so warm from the sun it almost could burn you.

We are better people for having had such wonderful experiences that such a place provided. Though the places we love have changed or the are gone all together, they will always exist as long as the children who loved them remember.

There are so many kids I grew up with at the Day Care that I would give my right arm to know where they are today.

I love your blog, especially having grown up in Ft. Wayne myself. Friends of mine always are wanting to get out of this place and say they hate it here. I cant think of any place I would want to live more.

So thanks for your Blog, its pretty awesome!