Monday, August 4, 2008

The Lot

Back in the 7th grade I used to hang around with Edwin, the boy across the street. He was five years older than me but he was, using the term back then, mentally retarded. Do they still use that term nowadays or have the PC nazis outlawed it?

Regardless, that's what he was, but of the educable or trainable category. He may have been five years older physically, but not mentally. I think I've mentioned before, at least that explains his behavior whereas I had (or have) no excuse.

There was an empty dirt lot around the block from us on Western Avenue that we got to calling "The Lot," and we used to go there to collect red ants. We'd catch them, then make an ant farm out of them by putting them in a glass fishbowl halfway filled with dirt. It fascinated me to watch them dig tunnels and go about their other chores, oblivious to my observing them.

One day we met Luther Mitchell, the kid who lived in an upstairs apartment next to The Lot. He was a couple years younger than me, outgoing, and he became quick friends with Edwin and me. The Lot then became not only the place to snag red ants, but also to go play with Luther.

Normally Edwin and I would stand below his window and call his name, and he'd come out. One day he didn't, though, so we walked up the stairs and rang the doorbell. A man wearing a really sloppy-looking white undershirt and pants opened the door. It was Luther's dad, and he told us Luther was busy and couldn't play right then. Edwin and I walked back down the stairs and I was kind of shocked because his dad looked, well, like a slob and I hadn't expected anyone's parent to look that way.

I saw Mr. Mitchell a few more times after that, not quite as slovenly as that first encounter, but nevertheless decidedly comfortable.

The first semester of the 7th grade ended and the second semester began. That morning I checked the class assignment list that had been given to me and headed over to my math class. I entered the room, looked around to see which of my friends were there, and then looked at the teacher. I did a double-take.

It was Mr. Mitchell. He was standing there looking at me with a grin on his face. Wearing a suit. "How are you, Rickie," he asked, still grinning. "Fine," I replied sheepishly.


Mr. Mitchell, like his son, was nice. I wound up getting an "A" in the class. I received no special treatment (better or worse) from him; Edwin and I still continued playing with Luther and depleting his red ant population, but you can imagine it was quite a surprise when I strolled into my class that morning and the "slob" was now clad in a suit and was my new math teacher!

**

On a more somber note, over the course of googling people from the past I ran across an obituary for one of my favorite teachers, Deanna Hutton. She was my seventh grade history teacher (the class where I kept annoying poor Eva Quon with my question about her weight) at Foshay. It was her teaching debut and I guess it showed because she was too nice and caring, lol. But we knew that she had a genuine concern for us and that's why we liked and respected her.

One Saturday morning she and a friend of hers took several of us from our class to POP (Pacific Ocean Park) in Santa Monica. The thing I recall most from that trip was going on some ride that spun around and around while the bottom dropped out so you were held onto the side of the spinning wood fencing by centrifigal force. I have never felt so sick in my life and I had to bear with it until the ride was done. Good thing I didn't throw up - it would have just flown back at me!


Above is a picture I found of her. She must have been camera-shy because she doesn't appear in the group teacher pictures. She's in the top row, second from the right (as if you couldn't figure that out, haha). Here's some of my buddies, too:

1st row left to right: Theodore Edwards; Robert James; Channing Ahn; Sterling Tom; Keith Honda. 2nd row, left: James Wong (Eva's boyfriend). 3rd row: Danny Quon, Aaron Chang. 4th row: 3rd from the left is Alan Jones, one of my three Jones buddies. I don't know the others in the picture. And I don't know what happened to me, either.. maybe I am there but am short.

I also vaguely remember Mrs. Hutton and her friend in the parking lot counting heads to make sure we were all there before heading home. I'm sad that she is gone but from reading the obit, it sounds like she had a fulfilling life. She was one of the good ones, for sure.







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