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Chapter 3  (Page 1)  (Page 2)  (Page 3)  (Page 4)
 Virgil Junior High School

1942 — Sentenced to Virgil Junior High

Switchblade Knife

Amorous Ice Man

Union Ice Co.
(Previous Page)

I don't know what went wrong between my mom and her third husband—all I know is that one day he was gone and that we could no longer afford our comfortable apartment on a hill overlooking Echo Park. So we moved to a tiny apartment near the intersection of Vermont Ave. and Santa Monica Blvd.  Murphy Bed

It was a one-room place with a Murphy bed, a small kitchen and a small bathroom. My "bed" was a second-hand sofa, while mom slept in the Murphy.  Icebox

We had no refrigerator, but used a small ice box, which had a drip pan that normally needed emptying once a day, and oftener in the summer. Guess whose job it was to keep it emptied. And if my mom ever came home and found a puddle in the kitchen I would be made to severely regret my carelessness.  Loveable Iceman Barney

A likeable iceman named Barney came twice a week to deliver a fresh block of ice. Barney (who bore a striking resemblance to the movie actor George Tobias) had quickly become enamored of my mother and was always delighted if she was home when he came. If I was there, too, he would offer me money to "go see a movie" or "go to the library" or just go anywhere for half an hour or so.

But to Barney's endless chagrin, mom would squelch the deal and say there was no reason for me to leave. So Barney would just sigh and settle for giving her an amateur chiropractic adjustment, which she dearly loved. She would tell me later that he gave great adjustments, but no way was she going to be giving him anything in return—so I might as well forget about ever accepting any "movie" money from him.

Anyway, when we checked to see which school I would be attending, we were told that 1124 N. New Hamphsire was in the Virgil Junior High district.

Well, I had an uneasy feeling about Virgil from the first day I arrived. A stark combination of concrete, asphalt and chain link fencing made the place look more like a prison than a school. And nobody seemed to be smiling. The people looked more like guards and inmates than they did faculty and students.

One of the things that struck me, however, was the fact that some of the students were wearing different colored armbands, each of which bore a two-letter insignia. The armbands, I learned, identified their wearers as volunteers who helped out with different jobs around the school. GA and BA (Girls' Athletics and Boys' Athletics) were worn by kids who helped with jobs around the gym, while HH (Hosts and Hostesses) identified kids who helped in the cafeteria and at assemblies in the school auditorium.

Well, I thought, maybe joining one of these groups would be a good way to meet some nice kids. But when I inquired about joining, I was told all the groups were full, except for NP (Noon Patrol).  Noon Patrol Arm Band When I asked what NP kids were expected to do, I was told that they "patrolled" the school at noon to make sure nobody tried to leave the campus without a permit or tried to get into any of the buildings when they were closed for lunch, and to generally be on the lookout for any kind of illegal activity.

Hmmm—I never thought of myself as being a policeman, but decided to give it a try. So I signed up.

The first thing I discovered was that much of the "Noon" Patrol duty was actually performed in the early morning and late afternoon. We were expected to act as crossing guards, holding up STOP signs while kids crossed Vermont Ave. and other busy streets around the school.

When I explained that I had to take a bus and a streetcar to get to and from school they said they would find a "noon" assignment for me.

Well, there was a "walk-through" quonset hut where candy, sodas, and other yummies were sold at lunch time. I was stationed at the hut's exit to make sure nobody tried to get in that way (to avoid waiting in the always lengthy line at the entrance).

I had only been there a few minutes when a pachuco-looking type tried to push his way past me. I grabbed his arm and said nobody was allowed to go in this way. So he pulled out a switch-blade knife and said he was going in anyway.  Switchblade Well, I was not about to argue with a six-inch blade, so I stepped aside.

When I reported this to my supervisor, he asked if I knew who the kid was. When I said no, he told me keep an eye out for him and to point him out to a faculty member if I saw him again.

Well, one encounter with a switch-blade knife was enough for me, so I handed in my armband and resigned. I also decided I would rather go to another school.

I had met a girl named Barbara Price, who lived directly across the street from me, and who said she went to LeConte Junior High. When I asked how come we went to two different schools when we lived directly across from each other, she replied that our street was the dividing line between the two school districts. Residents of her side of the street went to LeConte while those on my side went to Virgil.

So I asked Barbara if it would be okay to say I had moved and to use her address on any forms I might have to fill out. She checked with her mother and told me that as long as nobody came snooping around to see where I actually lived, then it would be okay.

The next day I told the Attendance Clerk at Virgil that I had moved. She gave me a suspicious look when she saw what my new address was, but gave me a transfer slip, anyway. I started going to LeConte the following week.

(Continued in Next Column)

But one good thing did result from my brief stay at Virgil. I met a fellow named "Terry" and we quickly became close friends. And we remained close even after I stopped going to his school.

About "Terry" & "Mrs. Terry"...
    I had my friends' real names and pictures posted here for a while, but "Terry" said he and his wife tend to be private people who would rather not be seen on the Internet. So I removed their pictures and have given them pseudonyms for these stories.

Terry lived with his dad and younger brother in an apartment building that also housed a number of Terry's aunts, uncles and cousins. Anyway, Terry's ethnic heritage was Jewish. Although several of their relatives went to a local synagogue and observed traditional Jewish holidays, I don't remember Terry or his brother or their dad being involved in any church activities.

In fact, Terry's dad eventually changed his last name, so it wouldn't be "Jewish-sounding." He was a building contractor and feared that his business might suffer because of a certain amount of anti-semitism that existed in some areas of Los Angeles in those days.

Terry, however, chose not to follow his dad in changing the family name. Having it sound Jewish didn't bother him at all.

This was one of the things I liked most about Terry. He was a laid-back type who rarely got upset about anything and always seemed to be at peace with the world and with himself.

However, there were a couple of idiosyncrasies that I remember rather fondly. Unlike most guys who have some kind of an idea of what they want to be when they grow up, Terry had none at all. Well, that's not entirely true—he did have one idea. He said he'd like to be the manager of a movie theater. That way he could see all the movies and get paid to do it.

You may think I'm making this up, but it's true.

Anyway, when Terry heard that a special "aptitude test" was to be given at Los Angeles City College one day, he thought taking it might help him discover something he would be interested in doing.

So Terry took the test and later told me it was full of questions like "Which would you rather be doing—checking the tires on your car or cooking dinner in the kitchen? Playing golf or working on a stamp collection?"

Well, after taking the two-hour test, guess which subject Terry was found to have the most interest in.

All of them! His numbers were basically the same for each category. Really.

Anyway, this reminds me of some other amusing "Terry Stories" from our youth.

Divorce? Why Not?

(Terry Story #2)     There was one area regarding his future that Terry did have some very definite ideas about. Neither of us yet had a girlfriend, and whenever the subject the opposite sex came up, Terry would say he thought that getting divorced after you'd been married for a few years would be a perfectly natural thing to do.
    "Seriously," he would suggest, "can you imagine getting married in, say, your twenties and then spending the rest of your life with the same woman? I mean you're bound to get tired of each other. I think ten or twelve years with one person would be about all a couple could manage. Then it would be time to look for someone else."
    Well guess what—I lost track of Terry when I decided to go to Mexico City and become a "free lance cartoonist." The last time I saw Terry (up until just recently) was at his wedding in 1957. Nancy struck me as being the ideal girl of any guy's dreams and I couldn't imagine how Terry was lucky enough to find her.
    And is he still convinced that getting bored with each other after a dozen years or so was a perfectly normal thing for a couple do?
    Apparently not. They are still happily cohabitating nearly a half century later.

But getting back to being school chums, I really never expected to see Terry again after I left for Mexico. We had remained close friends through our teen years, but stopped communicating during the three+ years I was in the army.

      However, after I got back from Korea and stumbled my way through a few dead-end jobs, Terry invited me to stay at the new home his dad had recently bought in Van Nuys. Well, that worked out beautifully. I had found a job in nearby Sherman Oaks, and living with Terry, his dad and his brother was a whole lot nicer than living in an apartment.

      This was prior to his meeting Nancy, and Terry had gotten a job as a teller in a local bank.

Impertinent Whippersnapper!

(Terry Story #3)     I remember Terry telling me about a strange incident with a customer the first week he was there. An elderly lady had come in and filled out a deposit slip for $20. She handed the form to Terry, along with two ten dollar bills.
    After Terry gave her a receipt, she handed him a withdrawal slip in the amount of $10. So Terry dutifully returned one of the ten dollar bills she had just given him.
    This seemed kind of strange to Terry, so he said, "Do you mind if I ask you a question, ma'am?"
    Not at all," she replied. "What is your question?"
    "Well, if you planned on withdrawing ten dollars after depositing twenty, why didn't you just deposit ten in the first place?"
    The question seemed to surprise the lady, who then drew herself up and replied rather indignantly, "Young man, I deposit twenty dollars in this bank every week!"

So how did Terry and I find each other again after 46 years? Well, remember Barbara Price, the girl whose address I had used so I could go to LeConte Junior High School? She's the one who made it possible. More about this shortly.

(Next Page)

Ch.1 Alameda - Los Angeles 1939-40   Ch.2 Echo Park 1943   Ch.3 Virgil Jr Hi 1944   Ch.4 Le Conte Jr Hi 1945-46   Ch.5 Gower Gulch 1946
Ch.6 Hollywood Hi 1946-47   Ch.7 Drop Out 1948   Ch 8 Norma Jean Salina 1948   Ch 9 Fort Ord 1949   Ch.10 Fort Belvoir 1950
Ch.11 Korea 1951   Ch.12 Back to Civilian Life 1952   Ch.13 Cornet Stores 1953   Ch.14 Puerto Rico 1955   Ch 15 Signs by George 1956
Ch 16 Mexico 1958   Ch.17 Fullerton 1960   Ch.18 Fallbrook 1973   Ch.19 Costa Mesa 2000

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Graphics Disclaimer:
Since I have no personal photos from my youth, I've used pictures found on the Internet to help illustrate some of the stories told on these pages. In a couple of instances I've used photos of people who just happen to closely resemble someone I once knew. However, if it's found that I'm using any images in violation of someone's copyright, please let me know and appropriate action will be taken.
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