Saturday, January 15, 2011

The School is Gone

by Lupe Fernandez

Burbank Elementary School of my youth is gone. Sure there's a new Burbank School built over the Little Side and old Hunts cannery site. No doubt it has all the modern conveniences: computers, thermostats, water-saving toilets, ergonomic chairs and desk, OSHA approved play yard and no chain link fence.

Gone is the cafeteria and pigs in a blanket.

Gone is the principal’s office and the fear of the paddle.

Gone is the auditorium stage and the plays where nobody knew their lines.

Gone is the classrooms and the globe lamps shaped like the planet Saturn.

Gone is the tether ball and the smack of little fists.

Gone is the mighty oak tree, roots pulled, and branches long since chopped, leaves shredded and trunk smoldered in asphalt.

Gone is the grass of the infield and the thumps of kickball.

Gone is the fence clanking, although the chain-link surrounds the property like a forbidden grave.

Gone is the line of pine trees and their soft pile of needles.

Gone is the red rubber balls and the sting of dodge ball.

Gone is the afterschool snow cone sales and the cherry, lemon and cocoanut flavors.

Gone is the shouts of Kindergarteners, the questions of third graders and the insolence of sixth graders.

Gone is the line of cars waiting for their kids.

Gone is the crossing guard in his yellow vest and red sign.

Gone is the shrill bell and end of recess.

Gone is the teachers: Ms. Meanes – lovely Kindergarten teacher, Ms. Olson – white hair and glasses, Ms. Nakakawa – I wonder if was Interned during the war, Ms. McMasters – she didn’t wear a bra; Mr. Heath – taught me to ride a bike.

Gone are George – King of the School, Joey – George’s best friend, Douggie – great imitator of Yogi Bear, Manuel – hit me in the chest for no reason and got mad at me for refusing his punches, Ramon – the only boy to challenge George for King of the School title, bloody fight was a draw, but they were still good friends, Michael – Violent Kid of the School with obssessive hatred for Ramon, Georgina – O’ be still my beating heart, Linda – the only girl worthy of the King of the School, Dwanise– fell in love with Ramon after a wrestling match and Sam – chubby kid and avowed girl-hater.

Gone.
All photos by L. Fernandez

21 comments:

  1. What an interesting post. I totally relived all of the characters (at least the ones I could remember) from my days in elementary school. I often wonder how surreal it would be to walk back into my high school, try to remember where my locker was or smell that heinous cafeteria food again. Interesting, might be worthy of a research trip sometime:)

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  2. Dear Lindsay,
    My high school graduated its last class in 1989. Now it's an adult continuation school. I won't be making that commencement speech as a big time author.
    Sincerely,
    Class of 1980

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  3. Been too long since I commented,
    The snow cone sales are still there, but reading this makes the site where the school once stood that much more eerie. Was Ms. McMasters a hippy?

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  4. Yo Chris,
    Ms. McMasters came of age during the sixties, man. Power to People! Right on! Stop the War! The brassiere was the symbol of patriarcal oppression, man. Alas I was too young at the time to appreciate Ms. M's political protest.
    Sincerely,
    Cherry Snow Cone

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  5. Laurie,
    I need to spread the word.
    Sincerely,
    Mayo on Wheat

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  6. Lovely, lovely post, Lupe. My old grade school - a wonderful, hippy-dippy affair where art and self-expression were always key - closed it's doors forever this past May. very sad, but time marches on, I suppose.

    KRS

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  7. Somethings are the same, and some things are different between my elementary school and my kids'. More asphalt for them, muddier fields for me. Same soggy veggies in the school lunch, but they usually pay for them with an online code. Some book-loving librarians, but no card catalog; half of library class is learning to use the internet. Principals now are friends instead of feared overlords. Or maybe that last one was just me.

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  8. Karolina - After a teacher returned from vacation in Japan, our class work focused on Japan. This teacher was crazy about Japan. She came to school in a kimono.

    Beth - Asphalt. One of Pen & Ink's finest told me about a school where the kids couldn't go outside because the asphalt was too hot. Welcome to the future.

    Sincerely,
    Candidate for Fifth Grade Class President

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  9. Georgina?! Of Medicine Boy? Sad when the setting of so many memories changes, but those kids you describe live on in today's elementary schools for sure.

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  10. Lori,
    Yup. Georgina. Sam. Wylie. And our hero, Angel.
    Sincerely,
    Kick Ball

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  11. Your post is a poem.

    The school may not be there, but there will always be plays somewhere where nobody knows their lines.

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  12. Thanks Frances.
    In the fourth grade, I was terrified to appear in a Japanese play, not because I was onstage, but I had to appear barefoot. Fortunately, my kimono aka bedsheet was long enough to cover my shoes.
    Sincerely,
    Barefoot Challenged

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  13. So sad. Beautifully written, but sad in the most poetic of ways.

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  14. Dear Jennifer,
    Thanks. Certain mixture of meaty food smells remind of my the Burbank cafeteria. Hydro (generic Orelo) cookies and garlic bread remind me of summer school at Burbank.
    Sincerely,
    Pig in a Blanket

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  15. Connie Rabbiosi AndersonJuly 3, 2011 at 3:38 PM

    I was in the class with you Lupe, I remember all those kids and more, you got most things right on. Sam on the other hand was a very talented artist, I loved to watch him draw. He and I would sit and talk often. I often wondered what became of him.

    Ms. McMasters was my most favorite teacher. I remember one time when class was excused, we were all walking out past her and for whatever reason I stopped in front of her, stood on my tip toes and gave her a kiss on the cheek and a hug, I don't know what came over me. I felt very close to her, she helped me to believe in myself at a time when I really needed it.

    Do you remember when I used to bring my little sister Cindy to school with me for show and tell? It was in Ms. McMasters class that I really remember that :o)

    I remember playing tetherball, four square, kickball, eraser tag and dodge ball..... I remember Burbank very well. Sorry to see it's gone!

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  16. Connie, I liked McMasters. I used to hang out with Sam at recess. We'd kick the leaves in the gutter. I remember his drawings of dinosaurs and suggested to him that he become a police sketch artist. Sam would call me "Moe" as in The Three Stooges whenever I tried to boss him around.
    Sincerely,
    Lupe F.

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  17. I went to Burbank for 4-6 grades, I remember Mr Jensen & miss Oliva I had them in 6 grade they would pull open the divider and share the class, in 5th grade I had Mrs salvadera I also had field trip every Thursday they were called Urban studies only ten kids got to go on them, I remember the day I took my sister Cathy to her first day of Kindergarten to Miss Meeks Class, it was funny because I did the same thing with my own children except for miss meek was now Mrs Poultion

    they might have torn it down but like many of us we have the memories that will forever live on

    Monica Chambers / Kindelspire

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  18. My older siblings told me that Mr. Jensen and Miss Oliva had "thing" going on. Miss Meeks taught Kindergarten? Do you mean Miss Meanes?
    Sincerely,
    Lupe F.

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  19. Monica Chambers / KindelspireJuly 6, 2011 at 11:53 PM

    no I mean miss meek, she became Mrs Poutlon she was there for 20 years she later had to use a Cain,, both my kids had her in 86 and 88 she was there when My sister Cathy brothers curt Donny went there in the 70's as well, And I do think Mr Jensen & miss Oliva had a thing going on lol

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  20. Ah, the drama of elementary school is not confined to the students. Teachers, too.
    Sincerely,
    Lupe F.

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