The following, in Shonnie Brown’s “Neighbors” column, appeared in The Healdsburg Tribune, our local weekly, on February 9, 2012. [Most of the images were not in the original.]
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Ann, born and raised in Casper, Wyoming, has the dubious distinction of attending high school with both Dick and Lynne Cheney and participating in student government with Dick. Dick, who Ann recalls as being “good looking” back then, wrote “I’ll be your friend forever” in Ann’s yearbook.
Marty Stein and Benny Silverstein operated shoe stores in Oxnard, my California childhood’s small town. Marty’s store (Kirby’s Shoes) was on A Street’s east side, right next to my father’s men’s & boys’ clothing store. Benny’s store (GallenKamp’s Shoes) was directly across the street. Marty carried a marginally higher-priced line, but in a town that lived off three military bases and farming, they competed for the same clientele. The men were not friends, but they ate lunch together at least once a week, at which they spoke only lies.
I was in Southern California all last week hopping from bookstores to schools in an exhausting and exhilarating schedule of 22 Cheesie Mack book events and two Pobba concerts. All were fun and rewarding, but one visit, a spur-of-the-moment trip back in time, stood out.
In September 1952, Oxnard’s Kamala School (K-6) opened to students. I was one of those students, a fourth grader, full of energy.
It was 1953. I was eight. I had known California for over five years and knew bits of New York and Pennsylvania through my parents’ stories.
Miss Jones was from someplace between the coasts. I’ve forgotten her first name, and I’ve forgotten the state. Iowa, maybe Nebraska. She was my fourth grade teacher, and as I recreate her image, she was light-haired, pale-skinned, bird-like, under 25, and orderly. She did not laugh aloud. She was a first-year teacher. She was a Christian.