Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It Happened on B Street

by Lupe Fernandez

My former elementary school, Burbank Elementary School in Hayward, Ca., inspires my middle grade fiction manuscripts.

The school had two sides – the Big Side and the Little Side. Kindergarteners, first, second and third graders stayed on the little side. Fourth, fifth and six graders used the Big Side. Pine trees surrounded the Little Side. The brown needles made for soft beds in the curve of the chain link fence; thick roots bulged out of the ground to form houses for girls and thrones for boys. Hunt’s Cannery was across the street. Stewed tomatoes filled the air with a hot, sweet liquid smell.

On the Big Side, boys perched in gnarled oak trees, crunched on fallen leaves and smashed pollen balls down each other’s necks. The Big Side had two baseball fields with a real dug out and an announcer box for Little League games. Metal chains clanged against tether ball poles. A torn jacket, a dirty shoe, a floppy hat, a pair of cracked glasses collected on wooden benches and in the gutters after the children went home. Forgotten items lost during recess, to be replaced by understanding mothers and fathers, or sometimes not at all.

The chain link fence that surrounded the whole school was a series of hexagon links, thousands upon thousands of wires, greasy from sweaty, clutching fingers, dented by assaults from errant red rubber balls.

Neither side mingled with the other. Once I left the Little Side, I never looked back. Passage to the Big Side was a step toward that heaven of adulthood, the pedestal before the door of Jr. High School, the entrance to serious things – like Love and its mysteries.
All photos by L. Fernandez

23 comments:

  1. Oh for the aroma of stewed tomatoes! What evocative sensory details. I can see why your childhood school is a source of inspiration for your writing.

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  2. Thanks Megan.
    The acrid smell of hot roofing tar splattered in a cart, black blots dripping down the side, reminds me of walking home from school. Sincerely,
    Tarred and Feathered

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  3. Beautiful piece. Is this part of a larger work?

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  4. Laurie,
    Originally part of Medicine Boy, but didn't make the cut.
    Sincerely,
    Nap Time

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  5. Were you a popular kid on the Big Side or a nerdy smart kid who carried his books around with him all the time?

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  6. Lee Rae,
    I was the shy, skinny kid. Other kids applied the Inverse Ability rule to me. Since I wasn't popular or athletic, I must be smart. Silence and obedience was equated with intelligence.
    Sincerely,
    Boy Blogger

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  7. I am glad you posted this. I loved the description

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  8. Thanks Sue.
    Sincerely,
    Token Mexican

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  9. In your next post are you going to tell us what actually happened on B Street? Or will you leave us hanging out there on the Big Side waiting for Junior High and cupid’s arrow?

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  10. Lee Rae,
    To be continued...
    Sincerely,
    Incomplete Inkhead

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  11. Fantastic post, wonderful details! I also really liked this comment: "Silence and obedience was equated with intelligence."

    Har har! You speak the truth. Which tells me you've got a good handle on the way life worked at that age. I look forward to your books.

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  12. Dear Rita,
    Nice of you to visit.
    "Silence and obedience was equated with intelligence."
    Applicable to the workplace.
    Sincerely,
    4th Grade Slacker

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  13. It looks EXACTLY how you described it in Medicine Boy. Great photos and lovely descriptions. It makes sense you'd be writing about this time in your life since it's obviously still so clear in your mind.

    Happy New Year!

    P.S. Internet Exile is over. I finished my first draft of the new novel around midnight last night. Hurrah!

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  14. Great evocative details. I wish my elementary school had had a Big Side and Little Side--we were a K-8 school and the big kids were pretty intimidating when I was in second grade.
    Thanks for stirring old memories.
    Carmela

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  15. Dear Lori,
    I wrote and read this excerpt in a class taught my Kerry Madden. Glad you've returned from Internet Exile.
    Kickball Kid

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  16. Dear Carmela,
    Thanks for visiting. K-8? Yikes. Scary. When I entered Jr. High School, I noticed lots of kids making out. Alas, not me.
    Sincerely,
    Kiss and Tell

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  17. I love your details. Quite inspiring.

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  18. Dear Trina,
    How about a game of tetherball?
    Sincerely,
    Hall Monitor

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  19. This is great writing, Lupe. It's cool you grew up in Hayward. I lived in that area, too, for part of my life: Pittsburgh, Walnut Creek, Concord. They're all close, right?

    Good luck with your book. It sounds great!

    Amy

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  20. Dear Amy,
    Concord, Pittsburgh and Walnut Creek are in the neighborhood and under the influence of SF Bay, so you understand. And all those lovely earthquake fault lines. I don't mean to brag, but I lived a mile from the Hayward fault, a major seismologic menance.
    Sincerely,
    Shake'n & Quake

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  21. I couldn't find your contact email, so am leaving a message here. Your blog was picked in for a Comment Challenge Check-in Prize! Please drop me a line at MotherReader AT gmail DOT com and I can give you some book choices.

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  22. Monica Chambers/ KindelspireJuly 28, 2011 at 1:31 AM

    I remember Burbank just as you described it. We went there at the same time, when I grew up and had children, They also went to Burbank. I became Present of the PTA, never in a million years would I thought that would happen when I went to school at Burbank Thank you so much for the wonderful Memories

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  23. Monica,
    I was in the Cub Scouts, and on certain days, I would wear my blue uniform to class. I wonder if the uniform impressed the girls?
    Sincerely,
    Wolf Pack

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