Chapter 5: School Days, Part 2 (Junior High and High School Days)

My next school was John Muir Junior High School on Vermont Avenue in Southwest Los Angeles. It was a large two story building with a basement in it. There were several other buildings on the property, too, and it was beautifully landscaped. I was quite proud of it.

That year I had a new name to begin with. It came about this way: One day that summer, I was sitting at the sewing machine in our dining room when my oldest brother, Phil, came home. He had a lady friend with him, and when she entered the front door, she saw me and immediately called out to me, “Oh, Mickey! You look just like a very good friend of mine called Mickey, and I’m going to call you that!” I don’t know if she ever did learn my real name, but I was very pleased to have a nickname at long last. My older sister, Violet, had taken on a nickname, and she was having everyone call her by that name. It was Vickey. Now this would be my nickname, and we would almost be twins by the sound of the names. This friend of my brother was actually not just a friend. She was his new wife, although I can’t remember now what her name was. I liked her immediately, and was happy that they had come home to visit us.

When I went to John Muir, I told everyone that my name was Mickey. Of course, I had to write my real name on all papers in order to be officially recognized, but to new people I met, I was known now as Mickey. I told them that if they were my friends, they would call me that—not Rose Fern, which was my given name. After that, I knew that anyone who called me Rose Fern was an old friend from way back or else he/she was a family member. Even some of them now call me Mickey. Having my new name didn’t change me. I was still the same person inside.

I don’t remember too much about junior high school except that was where I had a course in homemaking, and I learned how to cook and sew. In Physical Education, we learned how to do simple dance steps, which I enjoyed a lot. Also, in PE, we had a large open locker room that didn’t have separate dressing rooms for individuals, so I had to learn to overcome my feeling of being embarrassed when changing clothes when there were lots of other girls around me.

Mr. Toomey taught my favorite subject, social studies, and he was one of my favorite teachers in junior high. I remember some foolishness we did in that class. A note was passed around the room from desk to desk saying that at a given time, we would all drop our rulers. When that time came, we all dropped our rulers, and what a clatter that was. The teacher was quite disgusted with us for doing that. I remember that at another time, I guess I had been talking in class to a neighbor, because Mr. Toomey took me out into the hallway and bawled me out. Needless to say, I didn’t do that anymore.

At that time, I had a crush on a boy named Leroy Lennert. He didn’t even know me, but I thought he was handsome, and I even got a tiny picture of him from somewhere and put it into my heart locket which I wore around my neck. Of course, when we graduated, that was the end of that because I never saw him again, so I assumed he went to a different school from the high school to which I went.

John C. Fremont High School was the name of my high school, which was quite far from home. We lived just 8 houses from the district boundary at Slauson Avenue. We had to take an ‘F’ streetcar to the end of the line to the south, and then took a bus on Manchester going east. It took us to Central Avenue, on which Fremont was located, so we got off there and walked several blocks to school. Sometimes we would walk home the three miles from school, and when we did that, we would stop at a library and check out some books. We did a lot of reading.

Throughout high school, I was younger than my classmates by a year, so I didn’t fit in very well with them. Finally, in my senior year, I started to blossom socially. I got into different organizations in school such as the Young Women’s Christian Association, (YWCA), and was elected as their chaplain. This made it so I was the one who had to pray at appropriate times. No one else wanted to do that, so they elected me to that position. I was almost petrified the first time I had to do this, but after that, it came a little easier. One thing that really made it hard was when I was asked to pray without having been told beforehand. To pray extemporaneously was not my forte, but somehow I managed. The Lord must have been with me without my realizing it. Do you remember that scripture that says when you are called on, you will be given the words to say? Well, that was what happened to me at those times.

Another thing I got into was Girls’ Court, which was interesting. We discussed cases concerning things that girls at school had done that were not right. I can’t remember even one case, so I guess it wasn’t all that important to me at the time, but at least I was involved in a special organization which I had not been involved in before.

Early on in high school I took a class in a cappella choir. That was really a wonderful class, and the teacher was Miss Bach, a descendent of the famous Johann Sebastian Bach whose piano pieces I used to play when a little girl. This led to me becoming involved in a trio with one of my best friends in high school, Betty Fiske. She was in the a cappella choir, too, as was Ruth, the third girl in our trio. We used to go to different classes together, and on the way, we would practice our songs which were popular songs of the day. In fact, we got so good at it we were invited to sing at some of the dances we had at school at noon time. We sang “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” “Oh, Johnny, Oh, Johnny, Oh,” “Moonlight Cocktail,” “Tangerine” and others.

Sometimes I would walk home with Betty and we sang almost all the way. The time went so quickly while we were singing it was almost unbelievable. Sometimes we met at her house to practice. Her folks had been missionaries in Puerto Rico, and I felt right at home with them.

Years before that, two of my sisters and I had a trio, too, in our own home, and we used to sing at church. We sang mainly choruses, and it was a lot of fun. This was with Violet and Midge. Both had beautiful voices, so I was in good company when with them, and our voices blended very nicely as did ours at Fremont with Betty and Ruth. During my high school years, I was going to the Figueroa Boulevard Christian Church on 57th and Figueroa in Los Angeles and got into the Triumphant Chorus with Carl Fromhold, the director. He was a truly great man and directed the Christian Endeavor Convention song service at the large Long Beach Convention Center as well as the great choir that was made up of many Christian Endeavor singers from churches all over the city. This experience was a fantastic one; very thrilling to be singing the great songs of the faith in a great choir like that to thousands of people. The young people’s society of Christian Endeavor was a nondenominational evangelical society.

Later on, at Northwest Christian College, I was in two trios during my three years there. We used to go out on weekends with one of the professors who shared about the college at various churches. I took Voice under two excellent teachers there, and sang in the college choir and Ensemble. At San Jose Bible College, I was in a mixed quartet which also went to churches on weekends to help one of the school professors tell about the college. It became a real time of ministry for us. At this last school, the men in our mixed quartet took turns preaching, so it was a real blessing being in on that!

During the last two years at high school, I was also involved with the Fremont Drill Team. We had beautiful cardinal and gray uniforms, 144 of us being on the team. That was a class all its own, with practicing all semester long and marching for the football games and whatever games we had at that time. I loved that. It was just beautiful to see the formations we got into that were quite breath-taking and the activities with pompoms and/or the United States flag.

After school, I went out for girls’ sports, playing softball, soccer and tennis, in which I didn’t do well. However, volleyball was the sport I really loved and was good at, and was on the team chosen to play at the league tournament. For me, this was a real blessing that I had never dreamed of doing. Not only that, but our team won the tournament.

It was while I was in the twelfth grade that Japan went to war against the United States on December 7th, 1941. It wasn’t long before both men and women students at our high school were learning how to knit, carrying around knitting needles and yarn wherever we went. We worked on making afghan squares to be used for soldiers on the battlefield. Before the next year was up, we had graduated, and most of the young men in my class were in one armed service or another. At night I would stand by my bedroom window looking out at the stars, praying for the different men I knew who were on fields all over the world. A few of them never came back alive, though most did, and that was a thought-provoking time for all of us that required much prayer on behalf of those we loved who were “over there” fighting for our country.

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