Monday, March 23, 2009

Grover Cleveland Elementary School (part one)

The elementary school that I attended was Grover Cleveland School in Lakewood, Calif. Lakewood is a planned community suburb of Long Beach. I started attending Grover Cleveland in kindergarten in Fall, 1955. The school was newly opened in 1953; my sister started elementary school in 1951 at Douglas MacArthur School and was transferred to Cleveland when it opened. Cleveland was half a block from our home and MacArthur was a mile distant.

Cleveland is in the Long Beach Unified School District. Nearly all of the schools are named after famous Americans and American presidents.

When I was a pupil there, and that's the word they used to use, "pupil", the schoolgrounds looked so big and it took so long to traverse the entire property from side to side and particularly its length. I visited there recently while traveling and it seemed to have shrunk up some. Here are some pictures that I took when I was there.

The first picture about is the front of the school office. When I attended, it didn't have the gold lettering underneath the school name, nor did it have the handicapped ramp where the boy on the bike is standing. I asked him if he went to this school, and he said no, that he went to Clara Barton which is several miles away. While we were talking, his cell phone rang and he took a call. We didn't have cell phones in 1955-62 either; the "Dick Tracy Two-Way Wrist Radio" was still a cartoonist's dream in that time.

The olive trees are the same ones that were planted there in 1953; they don't grow very fast.

The second picture is a view looking north down the school building's front from the office area. Way down on the left is the kindergarten. I had first and second grade classes in the rooms facing the street. The tubular metal railing near the flagstone wall wasn't there in those days.

The building in the third picture is a combination cafeteria and auditorium. It must not have been in the initial construction budget because it was built after the rest of the school, around 1956 or 57. The cafeteria was in the end of the building on the left hand side, and the auditorium space is in the end on the left. I never noticed it before, but with those weird angles it certainly dates itself to 1950's architecture. There used to be a giant concrete and iron incinerator behind the cafeteria. It was gas fired, and the custodian (Mack) burned up all the school trash in it, including the little wax-coated milk cartons that came out of the cafeteria by the hundreds every day. Mack had a long metal ram with a flat plate on the end of it that he used to stoke the incinerator. As a boy, I enjoyed watching this daily ritual. Due to air quality issues, the incinerator disappeared around 1960 or so; so did the little concrete back yard incinerators that many homes used to have.

In January, 1961, we were herded into this auditorium to watch the inauguration of John F. Kennedy on two large Philco Predicta television sets.

In the fourth picture, the entrance to the cafeteria can be seen. The tubular railings and handicapped ramp weren't there during my years of attendance. If you got shoved off the steps, it was just TS. The rust-colored boiler room doors were the scene of a minor drama for me once. While standing in line to enter the cafeteria, I was playing with my lunch money which was a silver quarter. Somehow, I dropped it into one of the air vent louvers on the boiler room doors. The lunch room lady taking the money listened to my story (she'd heard dozens of versions of the same thing already, no doubt) and let me have my lunch with the promise of payment tomorrow. When my mother got home, I told her what had happened and we went down to the school. We looked up Mack the custodian, and he hauled out his wad of about 50 keys, opened up the boiler room door and retrieved my quarter.

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