Saturday, December 6, 2008


One of the loneliest times in my life was the first time I spent a night, two nights, actually, away from home.

Back in the 5th grade, I participated in an after school program sponsored by a non-profit organization, Community Science Workshops, Inc. I still have the pamphlet about it. Its purpose was described as follows:

These classes are designed to develop interest and background for fifth and sixth grade pupils in various fields of science; to stimulate creativity and curiosity while children are still eager to learn [my interpretation: before they become teenagers, and certainly before they become adults in the working world]; to help pupils develop research techniques, record ideas and share them.

11 elementary schools participated, each school focusing on a different field of science apparently based on the instructor's expertise. Our classes dealt with biology and met every Thursday afternoon from 4:00 to 5:00.

During one class Miss Stovall, our teacher, announced that I had been selected to attend a special UCLA science weekend at Lake Arrowhead. I was the only one from 36th Street School who was chosen. Here's a copy of the mimeographed letter sent to my parents (with the purple ink; I checked and it doesn't have that purple ink smell anymore.. click the image for a larger version):

Notice that Rexall Drugs contributed $1,000 to help pay the expenses. Whatever happened to them? Did they become Thrifty? And why do people like to burn down Thrifty Drug Stores when they riot? Is that the storefront of preference?

Here's a copy of the letter that described what would take place that weekend (again, click the image for a larger version).

I found it odd that there were 40 kids from 11 schools, yet only one from my school. That's a rather disproportionate selection!

You would think I'd be jazzed at the opportunity to attend a weekend outing like that, wouldn't you? Well you'd think wrong. I wasn't looking forward to it at all. All I could think of was how I'd be away from home all by myself with no one I knew, not even our teacher going to be there.

Friday afternoon rolled around and my parents drove me to Marvin Avenue Elementary in my dad's '62 Ford Fairlane. I was downright glum. When the time came, I trudged onto the bus and found a seat. I couldn't be unhappier. With tears in my eyes, I could only give a brief glance at my parents as they waved goodbye to me, and manage a weak wave in return.

What do I remember from that trip? That all the other schools had more than one representative so everyone but me had classmates to keep them company. There was a JA boy and a couple of black girls who befriended me but I was still miserable. I also remember pine trees, vaguely recall a dining room and wondering what we were going to eat, and that's about it. I don't even remember if we had single or shared rooms.

The eternity of two days away from home finally ended when the bus arrived back at Marvin Avenue and there were my parents waiting to greet me. Oh, was I happy!

Back in high school I thought Three Dog Night didn't get the lyrics right - it should be 'three is the loneliest number.'

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