Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Washington School Days, 1954--1961 Burbank

With fifteen or sixteen elementary schools covering the sixteen square miles of Burbank it might seem as if half were named "Joaquin Miller" yet there were Henry Mingay, Emerson, Roosevelt, Edison, Franklin, Jefferson, Stevenson, Lincoln,.. And among the oldest still in use or recently still open you have George Washington sitting on the north side of the Golden State Freeway at Lincoln Street east of Buena Vista along Winona Avenue. The freeway and storm system took out the old location of the child daycare facility close to San Fernando Road but the old two-story building remained as in the days when our dad and his brothers and sister attended from about 1931 onward when at least six of us from the following generation began school. Mrs. (or was it Miss?) Jeanne Atkinson splitting sessions in the kindergarten classroom with Mrs. Weber(?); Miss Mildred Boyd's retirement began in June 1956 after teaching at least a second generation how to read (First Grade for me); Ophelia ("Bunny") Seapy working on our Second Grade reading and arithmetic skills plus meteorology and the fine art of making sugar cookies; Miss Nongard (later Mrs. Landrum) introducing Burbank history as well as having us learn some elements of journalism as we published The Room 8 Review in Third Grade; Mrs. Crawford in Fourth Grade carrying us along with California history and industries and sharing her experience teaching double-sessions in Burbank's suddenly-overcrowded schools during The War; Mrs. McElduff serving an excellent extended tour as substitute teacher with us in Fifth Grade until Mrs. Young could return in the second quarter after her initial battle with cancer to give her high levels of energy, intelligence, and professionalism as she would for just a few years more; and Mr. Louis Cramer staying on year after year to help Sixth Graders transition towards junior high school and bringing his perspective from growing up in Southern California, attending UCLA and USC, and serving out WWII as a US Navy officer.. Others will have to give you their recollections of Mrs. Montgomery, Mrs. Openshaw, Mrs. White, Mrs. Overton, Mrs. Roth, Miss Gilberg, and others who were part of the Washington faculty (some names and spellings may be incorrect).

Physical underdevelopment was no advantage to boys in those days especially when the competition included Darryl Smestad, Robert Grossman (an extreme sports player before the term was developed as demonstrated in at least two broken arms), Robert Saia and others who would be picked for teams well ahead of your own lack of speed, strength, and coordination. There were a few friends and acquaintances whose names I should recall better than has been the case lately: Dick Reed whose grandfather--as City Manager--hired my grandfather before the Depression reached into many towns and families; Dean Ortiz and I were in the same Indian Guides tribe with our fathers and we were similar in heritage having moms from Oklahoma and family names originating in the Basque Country. And both Reed and Ortiz were better friends to me than I was in return. From Fourth Grade through Sixth Mark Pollock was a Washington classmate also and even though I gave him a hard time later if you got to know Mark back then and his concern that no harm be done to people it would not surprise you to learn about his pursuit of consumer advocacy. Charlene Gualtney, Donna Campbell, Sharon Harris, Lynda Carlin, John Whitt, Mark Campbell, Richard Pearson, Mike Hickman, Steve Newgard, Phil Anderegg, Ron Smedley, and many more names and faces come to mind however incompletely; my apologies for leaving a great many out of this short narrative.

1 comment:

Michael Buhl said...

Hey Kent,

Just saw your post! Brings back great memories. I unfortunately had to attend 5 different elementary schools, but was fortunate to stay put between 4th & 6th @ Washington. I was on the teacher track parallel to yours and had Mrs. White, Mrs. Openshaw and Mrs. Montgomery. All 3 were fine teachers. I became good friends with Dick Reed myself in that I lived just off Grismer about 2 blocks from him. His closest friend then was Mark Campbell. I unfortunately lost a couple of close scraps with Mark. He was the fastest runner in school and had legs of steel that got me in scissors of death in our 2nd scrap. There was also Danny Larsen, Gary Tiegs, David Etheridge, Ken Powers (before my arrival), Steve Phillips, Susan Williams, Andrea King, Vivian Blum and Robert Del Rio. I wasn't much of a fighter (or athlete for that matter) but was also forced into scraps with Gary Tiegs and a blonde bully from your class named Mike. I was shocked and amazed to prevail against the bully. Don't think he'd ever seen a left jab, fortunately for me! Naturally I thought our class was superior to yours, but I remember clearly that you guys whipped us more than once in softball games. One last memory. I came to Washington as a tether ball prodigy having tons of experience. As a result I reined supreme throughout 4th grade and in to 5th. Then about 10 guys caught and passed me. Drat! I seem to remember one of them was from your class and named Strong something. I don't actually remember your name, but you actually look familiar 55 years later. Best regards, Mike Buhl