A Brief History of Roulhac's Preschool
Written By Dottie Reding, 2005
Roulhac's Preschool, the oldest preschool in Memphis, was founded by Mrs. Leila Roulhac in early 1940's. Originally called Miss Roulhac's School and located in the midtown area, Roulhac's quickly became "the place" for young children of prominent Memphians. As the city began to grow east, Miss Roulhac and her husband, Mr. John Roulhac, bought the property on the corner of St. Nick and Poplar, and Roulhac Colonial Kindergarten became an East Memphis landmark.
I became acquainted with Miss Roulhac and her gentle, southern-lady ways when my oldest daughter, Kathy, attended Junior and Senior Kindergarten from 1962-1964. At that time, I was just a mother, driving up to a door with my carpool number in the lower right hand corner of my windshield. Miss Francis would put my little carpoolers in the car for me, I never dreamed that one day I would be a staff member, let alone owner!
Programs were presented out in the garden among Miss Roulhac's prize rose bushes, and serenity reigned over all. The highlight of the morning was circle time, with deep discussions of our beautiful world, nature, the brightly colored leaves falling to the ground, and the pale green buds arriving on cue in the spring. Each parent was assured just as the spring buds unfold and the beautiful leaf or flower blossoms, so would each child "unfold" in time and become a wonderfully aware person released from the tiny little bud.
The children had "Tea Party", not snack (which may explain why, even today, I sometimes slip and say "Tea Party"). No one was allowed to eat until after the blessing and the host or hostess announced "The Tea Party may begin". I will never forget watching in total amazement as the wiggling and squirming 3, 4, and 5 year olds, sitting in little wooden turquoise chairs, would calm instantly as Miss Roulhac sang softly and slowly, "I place my hands in my lap, my feet together so. I sit up straight, as straight can be, for that is right you know." My, how times do change!
The corner of St. Nick and Poplar was rapidly becoming a much-traveled, busy section of Poplar and the area was zoned commercial. Miss Roulhac sold her property and co-leased rooms with a dance studio in East Memphis, a very unsuccessful venture that lasted one year. Mrs Jan Kabakoff, a member of Wesleyan Hills congregation who had her children enrolled in the school, aided Miss Roulhac in securing a lease from Wesleyan Hills Church. The move to the new quarters was made for the 1965-1966 school year.
The following school year (1966-1967) I enrolled my twins, Ms. Terri and Scott, in the Junior Kindergarten. I was asked to take over the music program and was given a class of 4 year olds to teach. I continued to teach, gradually assuming more administrative duties. In late 1972, Miss Roulhac became ill, and in late 1973, she turned the total operation over to me. I purchased the school (and the legal right to use her name) during the 1973-1974 school year and have continued at this location.
Originally a half day program, we initiated our Extended Day (until 2:30PM) program in the mid 70's, when Country Day School came to this area with a full day school program. Shortly after adding Extended Day, we began a full day care program, keeping the readiness program as the focal point. With the upgrading of private as well as public school early childhood education curricula, Roulhac's has, of course, followed the trend and upgraded its curriculum to include all subjects required for entrance into any of the Memphis private or public school systems. We take tremendous pride in our teachers and staff. Our goal is to prepare each child as best as we possibly can for his/her school career.
NOTE FROM TERRI MCLAIN, OWNER
Roulhac's Preschool's reputation was built on Ms. Dottie's lifework. For more than 50 years, she touched the lives of thousands of young children by devoting her life to making Roulhac's Preschool what it is today. My mother passed away May 18, 2022. My goal is to continue the legacy of Roulhac's Preschool with her core values through my own dedication and commitment to Roulhac's, as well as my daughter's, Ms. Erica.