Birth of The Bungalow

The first nursery school room

Blanche Nosworthy leading circle time

"Dangerous" Blanche on the picket line

In 1927ish, small four-room Bungalow was built on several acres of farm property in the Old Fig Garden area of Fresno. As the family grew, the house did too, and thus the layout has a bit of a haphazard feel that beautifully suits our busy and chaotic community.

In 1937, a newly divorced Blanche Nosworthy purchased the property. She eventually added a playground (complete with equipment made from old WWII jets) and a living room space that would double as a nursery school room. Mrs. Sunshine's Nursery School opened in 1955 with a tuition of $0.35 per day. A dedicated, light-filled school room was added in the late 1970s, and the layout has not changed since then. The nursery school remained in the Nosworthy family for many years, changing names from Mrs Sunshine's to Mrs. Nosworthy's to Blanche's Ranch to (finally) Bungalow Lane ALC. 

 

Fun fact: Blanche, a prominent local activist, was friends with Cesar Chavez, and he slept in the nursery school room during his march to Sacramento with the United Farm Workers Movement. Blanche was arrested as an activist during this movement. She had collaborated with a group of Nuns to picket and be arrested ahead of the UFW in order to fill the area jails prior to the arrival of the UFW picketers. 

 

According to Nosworthy family lore, the CIA purchased a property across the street and wiretapped Blanche's house in order to keep her under surveillance for her radical and loud activism on behalf of the United Farm Workers. She was honored posthumously by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom as one of Fresno's "Dangerous Women" on the Fresno Chapter's 50th anniversary.

The nursery school itself was always a play-based, self-directed environment with a focus on outdoor play and natural, open-ended materials. Blanche and her descendants held the central belief that children are people, a tradition we continue to hold dear at Bungalow Lane. 

Around 2017, family needs elsewhere prompted Moria Rogers, the Great-Granddaughter of Blanche, to retire from the nursery school business. Two of the nursery school parents couldn't bear to see the magical environment sold off to investors and became determined to acquire the property and continue the program. Those parents were me (Jenny Lemker) and Miranda Cameron.

As unschooling parents with growing children, Miranda and I felt strongly that Fresno needed a mixed-age SDE environment that was inclusive of older children who are not served well by conventional schools. We began to meet as a cooperative several half days a week at Bungalow Lane and invited other families to join us, pooling together donations to pay rent. In 2018, the Lemker family was able to purchase the property and form a 501(c)3 non-profit organization under which to operate Bungalow Lane Agile Learning Community.

 

We officially began under the non-profit umbrella with four founding families in January of 2018, and two years later had blossomed into a community of 18 families, 37 children and a waiting list. I think I can speak for all the founding families in saying that we feel so very grateful for the opportunity to carry Blanche's subversive torch into the next generation, cultivating this space of freedom, peace and trust that has existed continuously for over 65 years for the children of Fresno.