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Angelo Holt is a Vietnam veteran who grew up in Sacramento. Most people can probably relate to the anxious feelings aroused one morning by a summons to the principal’s office. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns
In October of 1956 I was attending school at St. Ignatius in Sacramento. My folks had been arguing constantly about money and such, and one time my mother told him, “I might be married to you, but you don’t own me.”
At the time, Jack Holt was a journeyman aircraft electrician at McClellan Air Force Base about six or seven miles north of the suburban neighborhood, Arden Park, where we lived.
Jack had bought a 3-speed bike and occasionally would ride it to work to save gas money. Our car was a black and white 1954 Chevy 2-door sedan, six cylinders, automatic.
This particular morning Jack took off for work on his bike. Stella, my mother, had the car for the day to wash clothes, buy groceries, run errands, pay bills, etc. So off to school I went on my bike.
About half an hour later in my class, the intercom speaker came on. Every classroom had one for announcements or emergencies. Sister Marie Anna was the new school principal that year, replacing Sister Margaret who transferred to Sacred Heart in Pasadena.
The intercom speaker crackled and Sister Marie Anna’s voice came on loud and clear. Mrs. Rockenova, a lay teacher in our class, was told to have me bring just my English and math books and come to the office.
Everyone looked at me with a concerned stare. I just shrugged my shoulders, grabbed my two books, and went to the Principal’s office.
I knew something was wrong, but I hadn’t done anything wrong. My last school yard fight during recess was well behind me. So I said to myself, “Pull yourself together and face the music;” but I knew something was wrong.
The secretary was behind her desk and knew me. She buzzed Sister Marie Anna and told her, “Angelo Holt is here.” I could hear the reply in a calm and cheerful voice – “Send him in.”
“Sit down,” she said. “I see you brought your books.”
I asked, “Am I being expelled from St. Ignatius?”
“No!” she replied. “Far from that. Your mother called me a few minutes ago and told me that her older sister Mary Jane called her from San Bernardino. Apparently she tumbled down the stairs and broke her leg.
Your mother wants you to go with her to San Bernardino and pick up your aunt and three cousins and take them to Clovis, New Mexico, to stay with family. I asked your mother how long you would be gone, and she said a week or two, three at the most.
That’s why I want you to take your English and math books and study a chapter a day while you are gone. Your mother said she will call me after she helps Mary Jane and starts heading back to Sacramento.”
“Well,” I said, “I’d better get going on my bike back to the house. Do me a favor and call my mother at home and tell her I’m on my way.”
I turned around before leaving, “Oh, would you also get on the intercom and tell the class on my behalf that there has been an unexpected family emergency and I’ll be back in a few days? Apparently by the look on everyone’s face, they thought I had done something terribly wrong.”
“No problem,” said Sister Marie Anna. “Stand right there so you can hear it for yourself.”
She turned around from the desk and flicked that room switch, and in a clear, loud voice said, “Attention, everyone in Angelo’s class – there has been a family emergency and Angelo will be gone for a few days. That’s all.”
I thanked her and left.
When I got home, my mother, Stella, went to the bank to draw some cash and she called Jack Holt at work to let him know what was going on. We gassed up the car, a ’54 Chevy, and headed for San Bernardino. Mom took Hwy 5 and cut over.
It was evening when we got there. Mary Jane had everything boxed up and ready to go. They went to a U-Haul and rented a small trailer. Then we all took off.
It was the eve of Halloween when we left, so there was a quick stop in Williams, Arizona, so my three cousins and I could go trick-or-treating for an hour. My mother and aunt sat in the car and waited for us.
When we got to Clovis, we stayed at my grandparents’ house for two days before heading back. Even though I was only fourteen years old, I did most of the driving on the way back. My grandfather on my mother’s side had taught me how to drive before I was a teenager.
On the way to Sacramento I drove mostly at night so no one could see me, and I stayed within the speed limit. I also made sure the tail lights were working. My mother couldn’t drive more than about two hours at a time, and she slept in the back.
My classmates thought I got back rather soon (we were gone less than a week). I was a senior altar boy and a member of the football team, so I didn’t miss much of my responsibilities. Everyone was glad to see me and I explained what had happened.
Published: Jan. 30, 2014 – Volume 12 – Issue 42