Sunday, June 28, 2009

Elmhurst Junior Hight School, Brookfield Village

Notice the typographical error in picture caption, which cannot be changed here, since it is part of the image: it should be sensitize (not sensitive).
I want to pay homage to a Junior High School that still exists. Our moving to an address on Darien Avenue in a subdivision called Brookfield Village (which Google now shows with barred windows on the houses, so that some later friends' shock at my having once lived there is perhaps accounted for, though it was not rough in 1948: I got a lot of babysitting income there) placed me in Elmhurst Junior High on 98th Avenue, which is still serving its very well integrated but mostly poor students and still keeping up school spirit, it seems, just as it did 60 years ago.
About half of my classmates were Hispanic and had inked quasi-tattoos with the Pachuco sign. Some students smoked marijuana at the bus stop (not many and warily); marijuana did grow in a number of empty lots. A number of the Anglo boys slicked up their hair in duck tails. The teachers were mostly nice, and classes were orderly. A few girls had to drop out because they were pregnant, but it wasn't at school that they got that way. I got a year of Spanish and a year of algebra. Getting good grades was easy, but if one got them it was for the standard California curriculum. In the Fall of 1948 there was quite an outbreak of mononucleosis, not only in our school. I hadn't been kissing (the usual mode of contagion), but I got it anyway and fairly seriously. I stayed home in bed with barely the energy to tune the little 'kitchen radio' (a plastic box about 8" X 6" X 6") that was lent to me to keep me company in bed. When I got up, after a couple of weeks, it was time to address Christmas cards to relatives and, to my horror, my small muscle coordination was so weak that I could hardly form letters, and very slowly. When I could go back to school, just before classes let out for Christmas, my homeroom and English teacher, who previously had favored me, because of my writing easily and my test scores, barely let me take my place and scolded me for deciding to come to school after all. She didn't believe I'd been unable. I am not naming names in this blog, but I haven't forgotten hers, though it was not common or easy to spell. That week we received our yearbooks. The Pachuco kids, who had never spoken to me before, brought their yearbooks for me to sign and signed mine. No discussion, just the gesture. I wish I still had that yearbook. We all knew that we understood.
So I graduated from Elmhurst JHS at the end of January and entered Grade 10 at Castlemont High School (then regarded as relatively nice; subsequently shut down), but not for long. We moved again, and I entered Oakland's biggest and (I think) oldest high school, still Grades 8-12 inclusive, Oakland High School, a wonderful school, taking students from downtown, including many Chinese as well as the motley poor who did not live so far west as to have to go to McClymond's (where, the word was, if you took all it offered and got all A's you'd just get an 8th grade education), including Fruitvale and little pockets of streets like East 25th where we moved, just up from the huge County Hospital (now wholly rebuilt) and Montclair, which was eminently respectable. In other words, it was a high school large enough and varied enough to have courses for all the students. Its building, stuccoed neo-somthing, was fondly called The Pink Prison; the building no longer exists. Jack London had actually attended OHS for a while.