Orange Ave hadn’t changed much. Most of the houses on the block looked like they had when I was growing up. I slowed down as I approached my old house. The front still looked the same, but visible above the roof line was a huge room addition that had been added over the garage. It looked enormous! I thought about my little 8×8 garage room. My mother had originally banished me to the garage as a punishment for letting her down, but as it turned out, life in the garage was good. After graduation I could have moved back into the house, but chose to stay in the garage.
The room, though small, afforded me one luxury I never had in the house, privacy. There was just enough room for the cot, an old arm chair, my stereo, TV and a deformed floor lamp that had been attacked by my buddy Art one summer night for reasons we won’t go into here. Again, that’s a story for another time. The room had been a real sweat box in the summer and cold as hell in the winter, but the seclusion it provided made it all worthwhile and definitely allowed for some really good times.
Driving up Angelino Street was like entering a time warp. Everything still looked like it had back in the day. All that was missing was us! I half expected to see Cheryl Hahn or Cathy Smith walking down the street, Paul McCully sitting in his Ford panel with the stereo blaring, Art’s 57 wagon, affectionately known as the “burnt tortilla”, Bob Pacheco’s blue VW and my red 63 parked at the curb in front of Pete’s or Paul’s house. Angelino had been like a second home to all of us. We spent a lot of time there, made a lot of memories there. If we weren’t at the ranch you’d usually find us on Angelino, just hanging out.
Up the street, Memorial Park hadn’t seen much change, a few improvements here and there, but basically the same park we grew up with. The rec center at the west end of the park was where we spent most of our time playing basketball, volleyball, table tennis or just hanging out. As we got older and began driving, we gravitated away from the park and began spending more and more time at the ranch or on Angelino St. Still, we didn’t give up the rec completely and would drop in from time to time to see what was going on.
It was getting late and time to head home. I drove east on Fifth Street and considered driving home on old Foothill through Glendora. I turned left on Pasadena Ave and was preparing to turn onto Foothill, but at the last minute decided to continue north on Pasadena and take Sierra Madre home. I can’t explain why, but as I passed St Frances Church I got the overwhelming urge to turn into the parking lot and did so. I drove around the auditorium, (home of some great CYO dances and a mother’s day show I will never forget), and pulled into the schoolyard. It too was like driving into the past. Everything looked the same. The buildings color had changed, but otherwise the school was much the same.
While I sat there taking it all in, I was reminded of an old Twilight Zone episode where this guy goes back to his old hometown of Willowsby after thirty years and finds that it hasn’t changed a bit. St. Frances was my Willowsby. Just then one of the doors opened. Three girls of about eleven stepped outside, followed moments later by a group of eight or nine boys and girls and a nun. They began walking toward the church. As I watched them I realized two things. The first was that they were probably public school students here for a Saturday religious education class, and the second was that they had come out of my old eighth grade classroom! I couldn’t believe my good fortune! Here was a chance to actually visit my old classroom, a room I hadn’t seen in nearly forty years. I got out of my Explorer and eagerly walked towards the classroom.
Unlike the outside of the school, My old, eighth grade classroom had undergone major change. I was a little disappointed to find that the blackboards and wooden desks that I remembered were gone, and had been replaced by whiteboards and aluminum legged, plastic molded tables. Gone too were the odd spiral shaped light assemblies that had hung precariously over our heads. In there place was a white dropped ceiling and eight rows of recessed lights that turned what I remembered as a drab dimly lit room, into a bright and cheerful classroom. It was all so different, yet oddly the same.
To be Continued…August 3