There’s No Upside...
NOTE: If you are interested in Michael’s business inspection related blog, then click on Bloggers in the left column and select Michael - Inspector.
Billy #$%#$% - Humor Kept Me Safe - Part IX of “I Survived Washington Irving JHS”
BILLY #$%#$% - HUMOR KEPT ME SAFE - The following is part of a series of articles written by Michael Leavitt about his real life experiences at Washington Irving Junior High School in Los Angeles, California from 1974-1976. The events are true and have been documented to help Michael's family better understand the racial tensions he endured during that era. If you haven't read the previous 8 entries, then I invite you to enjoy them when you have time.
“DAD, WHAT WAS IT REALLY LIKE FOR YOU IN JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL?”
NOTE: 7/28/14 - This entry was authored and posted pending the approval of "Billy". I have removed all references to his last name. If he reads this entry, likes it, and gives approval, then I will add his last name and insert the unaltered photos showing his last name. Otherwise, it will remain as originally posted.
CHAPTER 8 - BILLY #$%#$% - HUMOR KEPT ME SAFE
Life has been busy and it has been a while since I have written any more regarding my mid-70's junior high school experiences in the heavily Mexican gang influenced East Los Angeles school system. Earlier this morning I was thrilled to receive the Facebook message from a fellow Washington Irving Junior High classmate. In fact, it took him two Facebook messages before I took the time to finally read his first message and realize who it was from. It didn't help that his Facebook name is Dave #$%#$% and the name rang no bells in my head and I skimmed right over it in the Notices window. The first message read...
JULY 12, 2014 - "Hey Mike Leavitt, Bill #$%#$%, here. I was glued to your 8 part series on Irving. Very happy I wasn't mentioned. Life's a series of trade offs. Very well aware that the only reason I didn't have your experience at Irving was because I was a comedian. But I might have accepted some of that abuse to hang around some of the young ladies that you did. Anyway, you have more than survived. Let's catch up. I'll tell you about my very different experience with Frank Reyna. For the most part, I have led a very charmed life for a kid that grew up in Glassell Park. BTW, we didn't know we'd be so active on Facebook. We let "Dave" be our representative. Dave is our cat."
His initial Facebook message drew no response from me, so Dave tried again on July 27, 2014.
JULY 27, 2014 - "Hey Mike, Looking forward to catching up. Can't believe you're a granddad. Bill #$%#$%"
This time around I read his name was Bill Graham and I thought that sounded familiar. So off to Facebook I went to research (stalk down) who this was contacting me. I looked at his profile picture and nearly 40 years of life camouflaged his junior high looks. So I went to his Facebook photos and voila, there was a face I could remember.
Seeing his young face looked familiar, but it wasn't until I cracked open my 1976 yearbook that the memory banks started to open. On page 7 Billy had the privilege of being placed next to Ingrid Goodrich amongst the 9th grade class.
Of course, Billy is now Dave. Wait a minute, Dave is the cat. Billy is now Bill and all reports are that he is leading a "very charmed life for a kid that grew up in Glassell Park." I am very interested to know how life has been for Bill and looked further through our 1976 Knickerbocker yearbook and I found his signature to me...
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS - Yep, Billy also loved the Cardinals and his comments referenced Ken Reitz, who was the third baseman for the Cards back then (I added the Ken Reitz baseball card to the photo). Bill and I were avid St. Louis Cardinal fans. I would love to know why he loved them so much. For me, I would spend each summer back in the panhandle of Missouri with my Grandma and Grandpa Garner in the small city of Campbell, Missouri (population 1,600). The summer between 7th and 8th grade would have found me playing for the Campbell All-Stars in regional tournaments. I greatly enjoyed my notoriety of being from Southern California and being the skateboarder/surfer that visited that locale for about 10 weeks each year. I felt like a shining star there and almost dreaded returning back to Irving each September. While spending summers in Missouri I have great memories of sitting high up in Bush Stadium with my Grandpa Bob while watching the Cardinals play. At that time I still thought I was going to be a professional baseball player playing either first base or center field with the L.A. Dodgers. Yes, the only thing better than sitting in Bush Stadium was going to a Dodger game at Chavez Ravine.
NOT MENTIONED - Bill shared, "Was glued to your 8 part series on Irving. Very happy I wasn't mentioned. Life's a series of trade offs." Well now you have been mentioned, but I wonder what Bill really meant. Is he in the witness protection program, or just glad nothing foolish or indicting was shared? When I think back to Bill in junior high, nothing embarrassing comes forth to my mind other than the normal awkwardness of those puberty years.
COMEDIAN - "Very well aware that the only reason I didn't have your experience at Irving was because I was a comedian." I would love to hear some of Bill's stories of where humor kept him out of hot water.
ABUSE FOR YOUNG LADIES - "But I might have accepted some of that abuse to hang around some of the young ladies that you did." Thinking back on it, skateboarding, baseball, basketball, dirt bikes, and young ladies are what made surviving the Washington Irving Junior High years worthwhile. I spent thousands of hours talking and joking around with some of the greatest, nicest, cutest, and funniest young ladies in the school. Come to think of it, if it were an all boys school, then there would have been little or no reason to wake up each morning for school. back then, the smile of a young lady just melted my heart and gave me the desire to endure yet another day. Just flipping back through the autographs takes me back to a very innocent time where the thought of putting your arm around a girl during an assembly or holding hands was a big deal.
YES I SURVIVED - "Anyway, you have more than survived." That is so true. Life has been good in so many ways. The older I get, the more fondly I look back on those innocent years of junior high. Innocence is such a an interesting thing. Sometimes we seek to gladly give it away, and other times we have it forcefully stripped from us. I always got the feeling that the Irving gang bangers that caused me so much fear must have had their innocence stripped away from them much earlier in life. Maybe that is why they seemed to relish robbing the innocence from the rest of us.
Looking at my decisions as a Father, my youngest of four is now 16 and heading into his junior year of high school. I always wanted for my kids to be able to choose when and where to give away their innocence. I knew that would not be possible in Southern California. Freedom of choice is important and that is why my lovely wife Shelly and I opted to leave that harsh environment of So Cal looking for somewhere more kid friendly, where they could be more in control of their agency and actions. That would include getting as far away from the gang mentality as possible.
FRANK REYNA - "Let's catch up. I'll tell you about my very different experience with Frank Reyna." I can't wait to hear more about what Bill has to share about Frank Reyna. I am left to wonder about the different experience he had with him... I doubt that they used to skip school together and hang out playing baseball. It is doubtful that Frank stepped up to be a bodyguard and protector for Bill. Maybe they both would buy some of those delicious cinnamon rolls from the cafeteria and sit in a corner and tell jokes. Who knows?... But one thing is for certain, I can't wait to learn more about Bill's experiences and memories of that junior high era.
TOP 10 QUESTIONS - I would love for Bill to tackle any and/or all of the following questions about his Washington Irving Junior High School years.
- 1) What was your funnest memory at Irving?
- 2) Who were your biggest romantic crushes? Did they ever know?
- 3) Were you ever intimidated or bullied? Details please...
- 4) Where did you feel the safest at school? Why?
- 5) Where were you most scared at school? Did you ever feel any protection from the administration?
- 6) Who were you most afraid of when walking down the halls? Why?
- 7) Who were your best buddies at Irving? Where did you hang out? What did you do during lunch?
- 8) What was your greatest moment at Irving?
- 9) What teachers did you love? Why?
- 10) What was your most embarrassing moment in junior high?
In fact, if there are any Irving classmates reading this from that era, please take some time to respond to some of those questions and send along your answers. Was it just me that feels like they survived, or are there others that have had similar feelings. And please don't think that I spend my life dwelling on these issues, but it is fun to take some time out every now and then and ponder about the experiences that have helped to shape my life and get me to this point. After all, in just seven days I will have my 53rd birthday. All of this happened 40 years ago...
I look forward to Bill's sharing how being a comedian kept him safe!
TO BE CONTINUED...
Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah - Michael@TheHomeInspector.com
NOTE: Washington Irving Junior High School was 7th, 8th, and 9th grades during my 1974-76 tenure. I see that it is now named Washington Irving Middle School and features 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. I wish the change happened decades ago and I could have completed 9th grade at the much more impressive and friendly Eagle Rock High School.
NOTE 2: Washington Irving has changed again. The internet shows it is now called the Irving Magnet School and is painted white and vibrant blue and features grades 5th through 8th. LINK
What are your thoughts?