In my last post, I mentioned growing radishes in Mr. Anderson’s 7th grade gardening class at Burbank. Classmate Mitch Mulino saw the post and sent me an email saying that in his 7th grade gardening class with the same teacher, he had grown carrots. I asked another classmate, John Marshall, about it—like Mitch, he remembered carrots. Then, I queried Bob Ortiz, someone else I was still in touch with. He had been in my 7th grade homeroom class and had taken the gardening class. He remembered radishes, and in my mind, that settled it in—Bob, myself, and our other radish-growing classmates and I were being “tracked,” the method used by schools, starting in junior high and continuing through high school, of segregating students based on grades and test scores. Of course, it sounds reasonable. Smart kids are put in classes with other smart kids, and less capable students are put in classes with less capable students. Carrots, that haute cuisine vegetable, were for the bright kids—and radishes, the fat little tuber found sliced and pickled in neighborhood Mexican restaurants, were for the dummies.
At the time, I didn’t know what tracking was. Few not in the teaching profession did, but years later, after a career in education, I did. Low-achieving, less ambitious students were tracked into different classes than those considered college-bound. Did our counselors by the B7 already project that some of us were not destined for academic careers? And were Mitch and John, both future attorneys, already being groomed for the middle class, while myself and others were being readied for blue-collar careers?
I thought back to the Iowa Test of Basic Skills everyone had taken as sixth graders—they were terribly boring sessions that some of us, at least the boys, I think, found overly long and tedious. When we got tired of filling in the answer blanks with our gritty number 2 pencil, we simply filled in any slot to get the test over with. Were our low scores and mediocre grades on our 6th grade report cards enough to get us into Burbank already labeled as dunces?
Of course, back in the 7th grade, it didn’t interest me that much, whether it was radishes or carrots. What did I care? I really didn’t know or care about what I was taught, much less what others were being taught—but since the 50th reunion, in conversation with other classmates, I have given the matter some thought. I wonder, was Bruce Bendict, our valedictorian at Franklin, made to grow radishes with Mr. Anderson? And now, I think I understand why myself and most of my friends were always underachievers. We had been placed together in the same classes by counselors who grouped us academically and, therefore, socially—although that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I liked having classes with guys like Mike Rose, George Saenz, Ed Matthews, Paul Reese, and others—fellows liked to have a good laugh, and cared little about good grades.
The friends I made, starting in the 7th grade, were made because we shared classes together—as the old saying goes, like likes like. I don’t remember that much about junior high nowadays; it’s been too long. I do remember some of the fun part, and what went along with it, getting in trouble. I also remember that getting good grades was hard, and watching television at home most nights was better entertainment than homework.
By the time I got to Franklin, things did change a little, I sometimes chose electives that put me in different company. I got accepted into journalism class, and then into the class that put together the Almanac year book. The students in those classes were different. They got good grades. Most were headed to four-year colleges. Students like Betty Jo Allison, Elaine O’Connell, Mike Reilly, Lewis Colgan, Sue Lindelef, Sheri Petrie, and Mabel Woods. None of them became my friends at that time, and I don’t remember even talking to any of them, although I have gotten to know a few of them since through class reunions.
Taking journalism and the yearbook classes must have thrown a monkey wrench into my tracking, since the classes were held at a definite time slot. Suddenly I was in classes with students and instructors I didn’t know before. Some of the teachers were fun, like Mr. Warden. His ironic wit and easy-going manner were a refreshing change from the drill masters I usually had for teachers And then there was his plaid shirts (no tie) and mixed pattern sports coat fashion sense. No one else I knew dressed like that except for my uncle, who spent every afternoon at the horse races. And Mr. Rodgers, the history teacher who loved to talk about World War ll and the important part he played in it. I met students Gary Anslyn and Nick De Pento for the first time. I remember how we used to laugh at Mr. Rodgers after most classes, especially when he went on looney rampages talking about how the students at Hamilton, Los Angeles, and Fairfax high schools were all smarter and better than we were—what an inspiring teacher Mr. Rodgers was!
That’s all I can remember for now.
Mitch Mulino lives in San Clemente, California. He lived for a while in British Columbia, Canada. He retired from his successful private law practice to become a successful custom home builder.
Bob Ortiz is married and still lives in Highland Park.
John Marshall lives with his wife, Tracy, in Porter Ranch, a neighborhood in the northwestern San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles. In 2022 he is still practicing law.
Bruce Bundict had a long career in the federal government, mostly in the Forest Service. He attended the 50th class reunion with his wife, and they plan to attend the 60th reunion party.
George Saenz had an untimely death around 1980. He was much beloved by a large group of friends from Highland Park who mourned his passing.
Ed Mathews was married and still living in Highland Park around 1970. His whereabouts now are unknown.
Paul Reese changed his name to Paul Campos while at Franklin. His whereabouts today are unknown.
Betty Jo Allison lives on Toland Way in Highland Park. She became a teacher at Roosevelt HIgh School in East Los Angeles. She went to the 50th class reunion and plans to attend the 60th class reunion party.
Elaine O’Connell came with her husband to the 2012 reunion. She passed away in 2019.
Mike Reilly was one of the first Phaetons to pass away.
Lew Colgan is widowed and lives in Colorado. He was at the 50th reunion festivities and plans to attend the 60th reunion party.
Sue Lindelef travels a great deal but has been a permanent resident of Culver City for many years. She is a retired LAUSD teacher and elementary school principal. She has been involved with Phaeton reunion planning.
Sheri Petrie (W’62) is a retired LAUSD teacher and elementary school principal. She has come to Phaeton reunion functions in the past, and is planning to come to the 60th reunion party.
Mabel Woods (W’62) worked in the movie and television industry after graduating from college. She has come to Phaeton reunion functions in the past, and is planning to come to the 60th reunion party.
Gary Anslyn has lived in Basalt, Colorado for many years, He is married. He and his wife came to the 2012 reunion.
Nick De Pento was at the 50th class reunion. He has been a lawyer in San Diego for many years. He seems to be retired now.
Jerry Weiner, the journalism teacher, married former Franklin student Judy Hinman (W’60). He spent 32 years with the LAUSD. He passed away in 2003 at the age of 73.
Priscillia Beattie, the extraordinary and eccentric art/ceramic teacher, was the Almanac Year Book teacher in 1962. She lived well into her nineties. During her time at Franklin, she inspired many students who became artists and art teachers. One of her students, Adrian Saxe (S’60), became the head of the Ceramics Department at UCLA and exhibited at the Louvre in Paris, France.
Alex Morrison stayed in touch with many former students for years. I saw him at a fundraiser for Franklin scholarships at Santa Anita Racetrack in 2018. He spent 32 years at Franklin as a math and PE teacher, and football coach. He retired as Dean of Students and Vice Principal. He died at his home in Eagle Rock in 2019 at the age of 95.
Hope Jeter, the English teacher, remained in contact with Betty Jo Allison and Mae Woods long after she left Franklin. She died in February of this year in Los Angeles at the age of 99.
Clint Taylor, who taught English at Franklin, was the teacher who probably remained in closest contact with his former students. He is in his 90’s now. As recently as this summer, John Duda (W’62) spent time visiting with him at his nursing facility.