06 June 2009

Oroville move

I suppose moving is always a bit traumatic, and a bit emotional. In the northern hemisphere school year 1953-4, I was in sixth grade - "Year 6" in modern New Zealand parlance, and more or less what was called "Standard 4" in the old terminology. At the time there were, I think, two high schools in Bakersfield: Bakersfield High, on our west side of the tracks, and East Bakersfield High on the other - that is, the dark - side. Racial segregation was certainly not a legal fact of Bakersfield life; it was nevertheless a pretty real separation.

We were on the white side, and I suppose Bakersfield High must have started with 7th grade - 1st Form - rather than there being a separate intermediate school; at least I anticipated, with some fear and trepidation, attending high school in September, 1954. So when it was announced that we were moving to Oroville, I think I felt a certain amount of relief. At least the daunting prospect of Bakersfield High did not face me. And Oroville was not yet real to me.

Peter was in 5th Grade. Mrs Soeder was his teacher. Mrs Soeder asked Peter's class whether any of them would not be at the school the following year. I suppose Mrs Kimble did not ask our class because it was assumed we would all be off to high school. Peter responded that he would not be there next year. Mrs Soeder told him - according to Peter - not to be silly, that his father was far too-well established in this town to leave, and didn't believe him.

Peter has never forgiven Mrs Soeder for that.

My father moved our household himself. I recall a lot of trips from Bakersfield to Oroville - some 700-odd Kilometres. Did he hire a truck? He must have, I think. Some, at least, of our trips were in our station-wagon - a 'woodie' - with us kids in the back. I recall one trip during which I hummed to myself the tune (just learned) of Aloha 'Oe - feeling very melancholy. I was leaving Robin Dalley behind. Robin 'liked' Donald Langston (who was tall and handsome) rather than me (who was short and ugly). I had dreamt of her seeing my better qualities once we were in high school. Now it would never be.

I suppose the move started considerably earlier, as at least Jeremiah had moved up there by himself in February, 1954. But it is certain that we were living there from September, because we - all three of us, I assume - started at Bird Street Elementary School. Miss (I think - I could not imagine her being married) Ida Huganey was principal. I thought at the time that she was about a hundred years old. This link:


appears to say that she was principal from 1900 through 1956, so I might not have been far wrong! If this is correct, she was principal when Ishi showed up there in 1911. She and I both left the school in 1956. To the best of my knowledge, there is no connexion.

I was now in 7th grade, which was very exciting. I had different teachers for different subjects, just like high school. I really did begin to look at learning much differently. In Bakersfield I had been deeply enamoured by science - particularly astronomy - but now I was beginning to see a little of the seriousness of the enterprise. Mr Jernigan was my science teacher and greatly impressed me.

I also began to become more serious about music. Mr Wolcott was the band teacher, and I joined the band, playing the cornet. I am pretty certain that all three of us - Peter, Robin, and I - were in the marching band, but cannot be certain from my memories. Peter may recall.

In Bakersfield, I had been a member of the Bakersfield Amateur Astronomers' Club. But in Oroville there didn't appear to be one. So I started one.

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