Jackie Finch

Born and raised in Westminster, Jackie is the only Carroll County native because her parents were originally from West Virginia. Growing up on a dairy farm, Jackie talks about growing up on the farm and what it was like to ride horses everyday and be an active student in school.


AUDREY CIMINO: Hello, this is Audrey Cimino representing the Carroll County Remembers, and today, I have with me– this is Jackie Finch. Hi, Jackie.

JACKIE FINCH: Hello Audrey.

AUDREY CIMINO: And welcome. I’m so glad to have you in that chair to ask you some questions that I’ve wanted to ask you for a long time.

JACKIE FINCH: All right.

AUDREY CIMINO: I know that you were born and brought up in Westminster. Can you tell us where that was?

JACKIE FINCH: Yes. I was, as old Doc Cable used to say, I made native because I was born here. However, both my parents and my grandparents on both sides were from Virginia. They never made native. I grew up at what is known as the Winchester Country Inn today. But a long time ago in the ’30s, it was just a farmhouse, a dairy farmhouse. My father was a dairy farmer, and in fact, part of that property was within the city limits, and part of it was in the county limits. So we had city water, for instance.

And growing up on that farm, I learned to ride horses, which I did daily, and we took care of a double chicken house for my mother, who sold her eggs as pen money. And we had a wonderful sense of being both city/country. It was a wonderful place to grow up.

AUDREY CIMINO: Now, where did you go to school?

JACKIE FINCH: I went to school in elementary school and Westminster High School, where I graduated. And we had the very first football team. I was the captain of the cheerleaders, and I had a very active life in music. And so those were lots of things– those and lots of other things I did and appreciated where I lived, maybe not so much then as I do now.

AUDREY CIMINO: Well now, it’s kind of in town. But then, it certainly was not in town, was it?

JACKIE FINCH: Well, we didn’t know at the time that it probably was the home of William Winchester, the founder of Westminster. I do appreciate it a little bit more now.

AUDREY CIMINO: It’s a wonderful sense of history. So once you got out of Westminster High School, then where did you go on for education?

JACKIE FINCH: I went to Towson State Teachers College. I think it’s had a multitude of names. It was first the abnormal school– Normal School, which I always thought of normal, abnormal, what is this– Teacher’s College, State Teachers. It is now a university, as you know. But it went through at least three name changes. And in addition to that, I went to the University of Maryland for Head Start training. And perhaps you want to ask me where else I’ve been.

AUDREY CIMINO: Well yes, indeed. Where else have you been?

JACKIE FINCH: I married when I was a senior in college. I escaped Westminster. As a matter of fact, I ended up in California. That was my first teaching assignment. I had the privilege of being at the Lida Lee Tall School at Towson, which was a very special school. It is no longer there. It was so elitist that it was closed. Indeed it was, because we had master teachers who taught us how to run everything.

And in fact, when I got to California– in Maryland, I was qualified to teach early childhood. In California, they examined my certificate and said, oh no. You can teach to sixth grade. And I’d heard how difficult it would be to crack the California teaching situation. I was very privileged to be able to teach and walk to my kindergarten, and I had a wonderful year there. And I became familiar with daycare in California.

AUDREY CIMINO: Now I want to explore for a minute for the viewers, define kindergarten for me in those days.

JACKIE FINCH: Kindergarten in those days, as it still is, was controversial. My daughter, who is also an early childhood major, talked to me not long ago about how long does it take you to persuade parents that each year of a child’s life is just as important as the one they’ve gone through and the one they’re coming to? And so I must say that many people think that kindergarten was boot camp for first grade. And that isn’t allowing a child to experience their fifth and sixth years as most of us used to have, which was a great deal of freedom and a great deal of choice.

AUDREY CIMINO: What other training did you have? I know that in your life, and I may get this out of sequence, that you’ve done a good bit of traveling.

JACKIE FINCH: Yes. My husband’s squadron mostly went to Okinawa. He was fortunate enough to be left here. And in 1955, we returned, by way of Baltimore, to Westminster. And we had the opportunity with the John Deere company, which he’s affiliated with, to travel. And in most places where we traveled, and we traveled in many different countries, I tried to make it a point to go visit whatever the schooling was. And it might have been, as it was in some of the islands, just simple little huts, perhaps with a little bit of structure, and other times they were very formal.

We went to the British infant school system, and I studied the British infant school system. I went to England to see what was going there intentionally because I’d heard they had daycare and everything. Well, we got some clarification about that.

AUDREY CIMINO: Now, I hear you have a special relationship with one of the headmistresses in England.

JACKIE FINCH: Yes. I was able to stay in a headmistress’ flat. She took me to her school. It was in the inner city of London. And she wanted to make it and did make it a community school, which was for them a fairly foreign idea. But that is what she chose to have, and it was a very fine experience for me to see how one incorporates the families, the grandparents, the community in what is happening in the classroom.


JACKIE FINCH: Yes. And I’ve remained her friend. We still–

AUDREY CIMINO: Isn’t that wonderful?

JACKIE FINCH: –see and correspond, and we still visit each other.

AUDREY CIMINO: That’s wonderful. Now, I did all of this, l laid all of this groundwork because now I want you to tell the story about what happened when you came back to Carroll County. And you looked around you, and what did you see?

JACKIE FINCH: When I graduated from college, there was no need for me to come back to Carroll County. If in fact I had of, I would have taught in a grade. And I was qualified to do that. I loved second grade. But there were no kindergartens here. I went to California and was blessed with the experience out there. And when I came back here by way of Baltimore, there still weren’t any kindergartens.

There had been a lovely lady by the name of Mrs. Shoemaker who had had a kindergarten in her basement home, and some of my classmates in high school went there. As a matter of fact, one of the classmates was her daughter. So there were those who had the privilege of going to a private kindergarten.

When I came back, the first thing we did was to become affiliated with the church. And we had a Christian family movement group of young people, and in it was another young lady by the name of Mrs. Joan Marsh who, when we discussed about the fact that her children had no place to go, well, why don’t we open one? And I looked at her knowing what that really meant and wondered if she knew of which she spoke.

But actually, she prodded me about that. I wasn’t finished having my family yet, nor was she, but we decided we’d kind of bug our husbands a little bit for some money and see if we could do this. And we did. In the ’50s– this was ’57– we started to work. We made our own blocks. We made our own sand table. We made our own easels. We made a lot of what was possible to make to start a kindergarten, and we started it in Sunnybrook Farm Social Hall, which was on Bond Street.

We only stayed there for a year and a half before the superintendent of schools, who had visited us on invitation, and the supervisor– and he said, well, you certainly have everything here that you would need for children. And we thanked him very much. And within a year and a half, he invited us to come into the public school system.

Now, from the get go, we were examined by the State Department of Education. We had a supervisor that came out of the State Department of Education. She landed on my doorstep one day unannounced. And from there on, she was our supervisor. Her name was Helen Whidmire. And as she felt, first of all, we were the most prolific early childhood people she’d ever met, which was true, I guess. And then, she also felt that no matter what was happening, it was her duty to tell us what was good, what was bad, and what was indifferent.

And so we were privileged to have her as a supervisor, and she was thrilled to have us go into the public school system. And so for eight years, we stayed in the public school system as a privately accredited school. We were a school. We were not allowed to call ourselves anything else if you were a school. Therefore, other programs that had started could not call themselves a school. They could call themselves a nursery, or they could call themselves some kind of a program. But they could not call themselves a school.

So we did have that distinction of being the first accredited one. And for eight years, until we ran out of room, we were moved from West Middle to William Winchester to the Robert Moton School. And Robert Moton school at that time was, as you know, the only black school that Carroll County had.

And some of the people resisted that. They wanted their children to remain at Robert Moton, and so there were still a number of families who were still attending it. They still had a principal, Mr. Lewis Beard, and when Mr. Janice said, I have no other room for you except to go there, it didn’t matter. We had always accepted in our school anybody who applied no matter what their race, creed, or what. And so we had that precedent ahead.

AUDREY CIMINO: Why am I not surprised you were ahead of your time?

JACKIE FINCH: Well, it didn’t seem quite fair to me. Besides that, we had a lot of litigation from the Feds, who had said the voting right this, and you will do this. And they– they did. And I’m not exactly sure whether I was used or our school was used to integrate Robert Moton, but I think I look at it that way, and it was a fine arrangement.

I noticed the difference and the disparities between the two systems right away. And in two years, they had accomplished their goal. We were fine. They were fine. And the public school took over that, that whole facility. It is now, I think, the health department, and a new Robert Moton School was built.

But after we ran out of school room there, we were housed in the Westminster Church of the Brethren. At that time, Dr. Chuck Eckert was a member of the church, and he went before their board and said, we know how hard it has been to have a school. And we know that we should be getting public kindergartens as soon as we can get the funding. Now, why do you want to, you know, disband what we have in favor of whatever might happen in the future? But I think we’re going to get public kindergartens.

And so for two years, we did stay in the Church of the Brethren’s facilities. And in two years, we did, after 12 long years, we did get public kindergartens.

AUDREY CIMINO: That’s a wonderful story, Jackie. Now, I know that there’s another piece to this. Your kindergarten experience kind of led you naturally into preschool.


AUDREY CIMINO: And I’d like you to tell us a little bit how that happened.

JACKIE FINCH: Well, one day as I was doing something with the children, a lady entered my kindergarten with a sanitarian from the Health Department. Mr. Art Caples was his name. And my aid came to me and said, there’s someone here to see you. And I invited them to have a seat because I was busy with the children. And when I was finished being busy with the children, I approached him, and it was the Chief of a new division in maternal child health within the Health Department who was visiting all of nursery programs, whatever, kinder– whatever you called it, in the state.

She had been through the Western parts of the state, and she made a statement to me that I felt was profound. She said, this is the first place that looks right. And I was delighted to hear her say that because she had had an overview of what was available to children in at least the Western counties, and she herself was from Montgomery County. There had been a few places in Maryland where there– they had kindergartens, Baltimore City, Montgomery County, and only those places was it available to everyone. Most everybody was having to do what we had done, and that was to find someone who would have an early childhood program.

Now, this lady’s idea was– and she soon made it clear in a letter– she was looking for someone who could, at least on a part-time basis, look at what was available, do a survey of your county, find out what the need was, design something to do in terms of broadening the preschool basis if in fact you needed daycare. Would you consider being a consultant for me? Would you consider giving part of your day a couple of days a week– but would you help other places that have begun? And would you start some daycare centers that were group daycare centers?

AUDREY CIMINO: How on earth did you even know where to start?

JACKIE FINCH: Well, for two weeks I wasn’t sure, at least two weeks. And I felt that I still had allegiance to my school, and I had a staff that I felt was quite capable. We had some very nice people. But I still felt– I had seen daycare in California. I had a very negative opinion about daycare until I visited some good ones, and I could see the value.

Aside from that, we had an attitude problem. The attitude was women should stay home with their children. My mother-in-law, Emma Bartholmew, and a group of maybe 10 people banded together and started a committee, the Carroll County Committee for Daycare. And so a couple of mornings a week, I might sneak out and visit some other program.

But we met, and we joined together. And first of all, we had to almost ask permission from the county commissioners to have such a thing. It wasn’t in any of the zoning laws. We– we had to– we had to– to find out what would touch their heart strings. They were very negative about it, because I think their attitudes were the same as most of us. And they felt that we didn’t need such a thing as daycare. It seemed kind of communistic, didn’t it?

Well, if in fact– and they were made to look at the railroad tracks. Wherever the railroad tracks were there was a little town, and there was industry. When they really allowed themselves to embrace the facts that were made known to them by the League of Women Voters, they had to face the fact that we had factories that employed women in Westminster galore. Taneytown Shoe Factory, Union Bridge Sewing Factory–

AUDREY CIMINO: You’re talking about literally the railroad tracks through Carroll County.

JACKIE FINCH: Literally the railroad tracks. Yeah. That was a very hard piece for them to really acknowledge. And yet, that was the basis on which the committee proceeded. And they did start the first one at the St. Paul’s United Church of Christ. And then they came over– after kindergartens went into the public schools, they came across the street to the Church of the Brethren. There was one in Taneytown, there was one in Union Bridge. They had– there was one down in South Carroll. And so they expanded greatly in those days because the need was so great.

AUDREY CIMINO: Now, you did a survey of the county. Tell me about– tell me the story about finding the daycares, where– where they were in the homes.

JACKIE FINCH: Well, I believe that the health officer probably– or someone in authority– called together a meeting of the daycares, those that would allow themselves to be named. There were many, many, many underground. In those days, there was no licensure, but there was going to be, and they could foresee that. So when we had to do our survey, there were those who refused to do it.

But there was a brave sanitarian, the same one who had come with the Chief of the division, and he went with me. And we went to different places where we had been given a clue that there were children. But one of the best clues was to go through the towns and go through the alleys. Because when we came to a large mound of soup cans, sometimes in the hundreds, we knew that there were children there. That was one of our clues–

AUDREY CIMINO: That’s funny.

JACKIE FINCH: –that if we went through the yard and knocked on the door, we would find the children. And we usually did.

AUDREY CIMINO: And some of the home ones were doing a, a decent job, I’m sure, and others were not. You want to talk about– a little bit about the conditions?

JACKIE FINCH: Yes. Well, the surveys show that there were very few books. We only found an array of books in about 2 out of 59. Some of them, most of them had toys, and many of them had things that were not age appropriate. If in fact they had two-year-olds and they also had threes and fours and fives, they would all be doing the same thing, obviously.

In one program that had started, there was a pile of bath mats in one corner of the room, and there was a pile of toys in the other. And so there were some ladies who were very, very much like a grandmother and were very nice and kind, and they were supplying TLC, you know? It was just the best they could do. Many of them were quite aged. But, um–

AUDREY CIMINO: But not a lot of stimulation for the children, probably.

JACKIE FINCH: No, I don’t think so. I think not. And the fact– and the fact was some of them thought that they were going to teach them first and second grade curriculum, and that’s– and they were not allowed to move around. Just not allowed. They had to do their work. And so you saw this disparity between ideas about what it was.

One of the– I came back from that survey very confounded. I had been told that we had a wonderful school, but how was I to get all of this thinking and all of these facilities into the same mindset? I could have closed them all down. They didn’t meet any qualifications, except for a very few places. But I thought that it would be necessary to educate them. And so we set about doing that.

After we got public kindergartens, I closed my doors, and I began to work on having a library for all of the directors of the centers, providing them with training. I contacted Towson State College and asked them to send to our– what we have then was a little branch of Catonsville Community College courses that they could take.

In the process of being a child daycare coordinator, I gave consultation. I had to do what I did by almost twisting arms and persuasion. And I wrote many, many letters in those days pertaining to what was age appropriate for the various children they had.

AUDREY CIMINO: So you were a true advocate for early childhood.

JACKIE FINCH: Well, I was– I was almost obliged to do what the state asks of us to do. Number one, we needed state regulations. President Nixon in those days did not care for daycare, so he said nothing in the federal guidelines about what you should or shouldn’t do. That was a problem. So our state had to make its own regulations. And so we wrote them. We had public hearings about them. We had resistance to them. And yet, with modifications, in most cases– and we had to go to the state legislature to even get them passed.

So I became familiar with Annapolis. And while I was there, I met Richard Dixon. And one of my fathers, Mr. Jake Yingling, was recognized by the Speaker of the House when the vote came to have kindergartens in Carroll County, and it passed.

And so we set about doing the regulations, and I felt that we needed training. I had director seminars about every month or two. And you had to continue your training even though you only had five, six, seven, 10 children. And that was very hard to change the thinking of, well, I’m just babysitting. Well, I’m just– I’m just taking really good care of these children.

AUDREY CIMINO: Now, were they required at some point to take those courses, or did you have to do a lot of sweet talking to get them to come?

JACKIE FINCH: Both. They were written into– they were written into the daycare regulations.

AUDREY CIMINO: But there was not yet licensing. So they had– they couldn’t lose a license they didn’t have. But you could have shut them down.

JACKIE FINCH: I could have. I could have. But the fact was that wasn’t what was needed. And I really thought long and hard about how difficult it would be for mothers. I had to change my attitude about daycare when I learned about real good daycare. I thought mothers should be home too, and that would be the best of both worlds for most mothers and most children. But it wasn’t the way it was back here in Carroll County.

And so I felt that we needed to have a library for the directors. Any time they wanted to come to my lending library, they could. I helped a lot of them figure out how to do their equipment the same way we did ours. I– I had to get them to see that having the children do messy media was very beneficial when they were young. And sometimes we would do science, and sometimes we would do music workshops. Sometimes we would do all kinds of curriculum, and we had to make a curriculum.

So I was on the editorial committee for the curriculum. And that was a big part of our help, because in the curriculum guide, which became that thick, we had information and curriculum about everything they could possibly think of. And I loaned that curriculum guide to someone. I wish they’d gave it back to me. And so it just, uh, it– it just happened because there was a need, and somebody had to do it.

I think my friend Joan Marsh was the one who poked me and said, let’s do it.

AUDREY CIMINO: Well, thank you Joan.


AUDREY CIMINO: Well, I know all of this leads to an endpoint, and that endpoint is called the Carroll County Child Care Center, is it not?

JACKIE FINCH: Yes. The ladies that I spoke of, probably around 10 to a dozen of us who got together initially and opened the original daycare centers that were called group daycare centers, and those– those people, and some of them have passed, were wonderful.

AUDREY CIMINO: The present iteration of the– of the daycare center is fully accredited. It’s one– it, it’s really one of the most accredited early childhood programs in the state, is it not?

JACKIE FINCH: As a matter of fact, I think it’s the only one in Carroll that is a daycare that is accredited. And of course, that means a lot about your staff, its training, and the background and the equipment, the square footage, the staff-child ratio, on and on and on.

AUDREY CIMINO: And what is the– the number of children served, and the ages that are presently at the center?

JACKIE FINCH: Let me say that I stopped being the child daycare coordinator about the time that we were writing regulations for infants as well as school age children. Now, we had finished the school age children, and we were beginning on the regulations for infants when I ceased and desisted being in that position. But they now have infant care from six weeks on through kindergarten. And I think there are arrangements with the Board of Education whereby the children are picked up and taken to their schools.

AUDREY CIMINO: So there’s a before and after care– after school care component?

JACKIE FINCH: Yes, there– there is, and a summer– summer care also, you know. And so it has advanced as was needed. There are many, many mothers still working.

AUDREY CIMINO: And they also have a sliding fee scale so that if someone can’t afford

JACKIE FINCH: In the– yes. In the Carroll County Committee– the child– they call it Carroll Child Care now, which is at the airport, they do, on a sliding scale, accept most any child. Now, some of them need help. A great many of them, especially if they’re a single mother, if they’re going to school, or if they are providing for their families alone, they are given help. And on a sliding scale, they are– they pay what they can.

At this present time, the rates have been raised for the rent. They are going to have to look for another facility in which to operate. They are in desperate need of money and funds from anyone– anyone who– any corporation, any bank, any business, or anyone who would help them. They did have an ideal location down the road from the library in the county owned spec buildings. Most of us will remember that an inspector found that there was a bulge in the wall.

AUDREY CIMINO: I remember that.

JACKIE FINCH: It was a terrible tragedy, because that very obviously well-made center for children had to be evacuated, and they had to find another facility. And so they share– they share that, that– that facility.

AUDREY CIMINO: And just, and just in the possibility that people might not know, the Carroll Child Care Center is separate and apart from the public school system. It is its own 501(c)(3) charity, so that any money that is given is a charitable deduction and goes to the school.

JACKIE FINCH: Yes, and they really are doing and have obtained the accreditation. It should be a wonderful thing, and it is, for our center. I’m very proud that that center is an accredited center.

AUDREY CIMINO: As well you should be. As well you should be.

JACKIE FINCH: But we do need help from individuals, and we do need help from the community. And it will continue probably as long as we possibly can, but you can’t sustain something on thin air. So we do need some help.

AUDREY CIMINO: Well, if somebody wanted, somebody in the audience wanted to help out, how would they go about doing that?

JACKIE FINCH: All they need to do is to look in the telephone book under child care centers, which is now at the airport, in that vicinity there. And they’ll find the phone number. They can call, and they would find the Executive Director very happy to receive that.

AUDREY CIMINO: And his name is?

JACKIE FINCH: And his name is Mr. Fred Teeter. And he is our new Director.

AUDREY CIMINO: Jackie, I’ve been wanting to get you in front of a camera for a long time. This is a wonderful story, and another example of how when you want something to happen, if you really want it, you can make it happen. And I thank you so much for this wonderful story.

JACKIE FINCH: Well, I thank you. But I think part of the wonderful story is that– I think I have successfully raised five children as well. And I have to tell you that they’re an absolute joy. And the 14 grandchildren which I now have are just running us ragged trying to keep up with their activities. So I’m still going.

AUDREY CIMINO: Good for you. Thank you Jackie.

JACKIE FINCH: Thank you, Audrey.