JoJo the dog

My old dog JoJo was great entertainment for my family. We had him for many years and he provided the family with love, companionship and much laughter.

He always did silly things. We always lived in a one-story house and JoJo liked to jump up on my daughter’s bed, unto her dresser and then escape out the screened window in her bedroom. I can’t even guess at how many times we had to replace that screen. He just loved being outside.

Well when we moved to Norwalk, we moved to a two-story house. We were just getting settled in and there were always many neighborhood kids out on the driveway waiting for my son top come out and play.

One day JoJo decided to make his escape. He went right to my daughter’s room and dove out her window. I guess once in mid air, he must have realized that something wasn’t right. He grabbed on to the flower planting box and wrought iron railing on the front of the house. He hung there with his front paws wrapped around the railings and his body was just dangling above all the kid’s heads. They were all yell at him to hang on (like he understood the situation). Eventually he dropped down, hit the ground and started chasing all the kids. All the kids surrounded him trying to catch him. Well, he bit Ralph and ran away.

As I’m running down the street trying to catch him, what I was actually thinking was, “Oh great, what a once welcome to the neighborhood.” A lawyer will be at my door any minute.” Ralph and JoJo were both fine and no lawyer ever showed up!

JoJo was always getting into something he wasn’t supposed to. It’s a good thing the family loved him so much. I, not being a pet person, never laughed as hard as the rest of the family when he did something wrong.

Once after breakfast we had all left the kitchen unattended. When we walked back in we found JoJo standing up on top of the kitchen table. His face was completely covered with white powder. All we could see of his face were his big eyes. The empty powdered sugar donut box was laying on its side.

JoJo froze as we entered the room. (Like if he stood still enough, maybe we wouldn’t notice). He stood perfectly still, face completely covered with white powdered sugar and had a look on his face like as if he were saying, “What donut?”

One time my white cat was up on the roof of my house and fell all the way down the chimney. She landed in a big thud and was completely covered in ash and soot. We had no idea what had fallen down the chimney, and thought it might be a squirrel. We could only see two big eyes staring back at us.

Well JoJo spotted those eyes and the chase was on. The cat ran and JoJo chased, out the fireplace, up on and across the couch, over the chair, behind the TV, up on the window sill and across the love seat.

This was a fast and furious chase that we were unable to stop. JoJo was determined to catch whatever this thing was. Only after they made several rounds around the room, leaving a trail of soot and ash every step of the way did we realized that it was our precious kitty.

Imagine me not smiling that day. It was an unbelievable mess.

Oh yes, JoJo brought much entertainment to our family.

Gail Earl is a student in the memoirs writing class at Cerritos College.

Eyes on our Schools: February 2019

This is my second full month as Board of Education President since being installed in December. Reaching out to the community with updates and information has been an idea that we as a school board have wanted to do for some time now and here is our first message. I plan to share the latest achievements and news happening in our schools each month at this time.

I want to start by thanking our entire Downey Unified School District family for all they do for our students. I want to point out that in my view our family consists of each teacher, administrator, instructional assistant, office manager, cafeteria worker, bus driver, maintenance worker, attendance clerk, mom, dad, aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa, even just a kind friend or neighbor. They all truly affects the lives of our youth and I just want to recognize and thank each of you for all you do.

Nancy Swenson, Bobbi Samperi and Giggy Perez-Saab on a visit to Gallatin Elementary.

Nancy Swenson, Bobbi Samperi and Giggy Perez-Saab on a visit to Gallatin Elementary.

Now let’s get into some district highlights! First, we are so excited to announce the official kick-off of Downey Unified’s new Dual Language Immersion program. The Global Language Academies of Downey (GLAD) will open its doors in the 2019-20 school year at Carpenter Elementary School and we couldn’t be prouder. With this inaugural year just around the corner we will start by offering this new Spanish/English immersion program with TK and Kindergarten students, then we will grow a grade-level each year. In the coming years our goal would be to expand this GLAD program. If you would like more information on this new program, visit Downey Unified’s website (www.dusd.net).

Next, I want to give huge congratulations to Warren High, Columbus High and Doty Middle schools for their most recent accomplishments! Earlier in February, Warren High School celebrated receiving the designation of Special Olympics Unified Champion School. Warren was visited by ESPN’s Neil Everett and former ice-skating Olympian Michelle Kwan, where they were presented a banner for their national recognition as one of five “ESPN Top 5” Banner Schools from across the country for making their campus one that’s centered around inclusion. This means the staff and students worked very hard to successfully include special education students in many activities such as cheer, basketball and track and field.

As a graduate of Warren High, I couldn’t be prouder of my alma mater.

National Unified Champion School Banner.jpg

Now for Columbus High. Their success started in 2010 when they passed a WASC accreditation process which validates the integrity of a school’s programs. And now to add to that they have been named a 2019 Model Continuation High School by the California Department of Education because of their continued work with students who have faced many challenges all while getting them back on the pathway to learning. How cool is that?

Last but certainly not least, Doty Middle School recently received the nationally recognized Schools to Watch designation! What can’t our schools do?!? Doty was selected as a high-performing model school that demonstrates academic excellence, social equity and responsiveness to the needs of young adolescents... I think that about says it all! Doty now joins last year’s Schools to Watch recipients Griffiths and Stauffer middle schools.

I want to thank all of the teachers and staff members at Warren High, Columbus High and Doty Middle schools for ALL of their hard work in making these awards and designations possible! We could not have accomplished these goals if it wasn’t for your dedication and drive. I, and all of my fellow Board members, truly thank you!

Each month I’m going to close by inviting the entire Downey community to a few upcoming events so let’s start with a great event supporting True Lasting Connections (TLC) Family Resource Center! For those of you who may not know, this Saturday is the Healthy Downey 5K for TLC and all are welcome to come show support and even run/walk (registration is still open).

This community event, which begins at 8 a.m. at Apollo Park, directly benefits the Downey Unified students through the TLC Family Resource Center. I truly hope to see you there!

It is also Open House season across Downey Unified and I’d like to extend an invitation to any of our schools’ Open Houses! Primarily beginning at 5:30 p.m. or 6 p.m., the majority of our schools have upcoming Open Houses through the end of March.

Visit your home school’s event or travel to another school to see the incredible programs, teachers, classrooms and facilities across the district.

Make sure to keep an eye out for other activities being advertised on social media as well as on school marquees. I can’t wait to reach out next month and tell you about more amazing achievements and updates within Downey Unified!

Nancy A. Swenson
President, Downey Unified Board of Education

SHORT STORY: The Oakland Jazz Festival

Vickie Williams is an aspiring writer from Monroe, Louisiana who migrated out West from the South as a teenager. Her spirit of adventure is reflected in the following story.


I was twenty years old, had completed my second year in college, and flirted with adventure. It was the early seventies.

Hitch hiking was common. The hippies were anti-war advocating love and peace. The Black Panthers were rising up and had a ten-point program, and I was styling and profiling a big afro.

I was moving and grooving to the tune of “I’m Black and I’m Proud.” You couldn’t tell me I wasn’t cool.

I was bell bottom chic, colorful to say the least. Minnie skirts, jumpsuits, go-go boots, platform shoes, plaids and pen stripes were in vogue.

I was so happy to retire my snow boots, sweat shirts, and turtle necks during the summer. How sweet it was to be in sunny California!

When I arrived home from Central College in Pella, Iowa, I was ready to shake loose the corn huskers dust off my feet and take a break from milk white Iowa.

I had lived in cultural shock and was hungry for some soul food, flavor and familiar culture. It was only 42 blacks from the east coast and west coast, the south, and Midwest on a campus of 4,000 students.

I was an affirmative action recipient. Without it, I doubt I would have gone to Iowa for college.

My sister Peggy and her husband, Lorise (who we called Bud) hosted family gatherings regularly on the weekends during the summer. Friends were also invited.

We ate barbeque hot off the grill and golden fried chicken right out of the skillet with all the trimmings: potato salad, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, string beans, 7-Up cake, and occasionally homemade ice cream.

We played Bid Wiz, checkers, dominoes, listened to jazz and Motown jams, and entertained a lot of trash talking. Hot fun, family, friends, love and happiness were what we were all about.

My brother-in-law owned a motorcycle and loved biking. I overheard him talking to his friend, Marshall, he had invited to a Sunday barbeque about planning a biking trip to the Oakland Jazz Festival.

Marvin Gaye was the main attraction. I had never seen him perform live. My heart almost leaped out of my chest.

He was my idol: tall, handsome, gifted, sexy, a musical genius, songwriter, producer, played keyboards, drums and synthesizer and could croon with the best.

He made women drool over his sexy moves and could sing in any genre. I leaped at the opportunity to invite myself to go with them.

His album “What’s Going On” released in 1971 was not just music. His lyrics were conscientious, compassionate, and laced with concerns about the environment and war like.

His beautiful lyrics, “Mother, mother there’s too many of your crying, bother brother, brother, there’s far too many of you dying, you know we’ve got to find a way to bring some lovin’ here today,.” rocked my world and stirred my soul.

With dogged determination, I convinced my brother-in and his friend Marshall to let me hitch a ride with them up to the Bay Area for the concert. It was to be held at the Oakland Alameda Coliseum.

“It’s going to be a long ride. I don’t know if you can handle it, but if you want to go it’s okay.”

“Really, are you sure? I can’t believe you said yes.” I was grateful for Bud’s approval.

My sister Peggy frowned on the idea. “You must be crazy. Better you than me. You’re out of your mind to ride that far.”

I ignored my sister’s comments. When Bud said okay, I had won half of the battle. I had a suspicion he thought I would back out at the last minute.

I got my mother’s approval also: “Child, a hard head makes a soft behind. You got to experience life for yourself. So, go ahead. Enjoy yourself. Be safe. I ‘ll just keep praying for you”.

I grabbed mother around the neck while she was sitting on the sofa watching her favorite soap opera in her paper thin, cotton duster and gave her a big kiss on her cheek. We both grinned at each other.

The concert was circa 1973, after Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On album had been released. The exact month or year it was, I don’t remember.


The Adventure

We left early morning, before the sun came up. I had packed all the essentials including my light green bell bottom slacks with a plaid, multicolored blouse that tied in the front to wear to the concert.

I wore my suede rust colored high-top boots, Levi jeans, a long sleeve pull over cotton top, and wrapped a wind breaker and thick sweatshirt around my waist.

I borrowed my sister’s white helmet and jumped on the back of a two-seater 750 Honda with Bud as the navigator.

The silver chrome, sleek, slender handle bars and pipes, the shining dark, metallic brown body contrasted with green and golden streaks gave the bike an aesthetic elegance.

Bud had recently purchased it. When he revved it up to get started, it roared like a lion. It purred gently as a kitten on the highway.

Bud and Marshall were serious, safe bikers. They loved taking long trips. Both were trustworthy, fun loving, Vietnam veterans, and good Louisiana down home guys.

I had taken short trips before, but never a round trip nearly 800 miles. They wore black leather gloves, helmets, and short leather jackets with black leather boots, Levi jeans, and short sleeve V neck tee shirts.

We took I-5 out of L.A. heading north. Early on, adventure was sweet as honey. We were zinging in the wind. The ride was long, but sitting for hours was arduous.

The early morning breeze made the trip tolerable, especially when we cropped between the mountains. When we hit the valley, the stench of some dead carcass along with the sound of locust and crickets was eerie and nauseating.

Navigating pass 18-wheel rigs and racing among the shadows of danger were daunting. We darted ahead with precision. There were rough and smooth, cooler and hotter spots along the journey.

The seat I rode on was elevated, a firm hump of leather. I kept my legs snugged comfortably with my feet resting on the foot rest.

I could hear the crashing, squashing sounds of insects on my helmet. We ran into swarms of them, but championed ahead.

We had few pitstops, only to relieve ourselves when nature called, to refuel, or stop for a snack and water. Our pace was on schedule.

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on a Friday afternoon was the greatest challenge. The wind was so cold it felt like a million-darts stinging me.

I broke out in goosebumps, although I was layered with my windbreaker and sweat shirt. My nose turned as red as a beet and felt as frozen as a Popsicle.

I shivered out of control. My resolve weakened. My legs ached with pangs of pins and needles. I held on with adrenaline arching through my veins.

I could hear my heart pumping, racing in my ears. “Lord, help me get through this,” I prayed.

I held on to Bud for dear life. The wind was so strong no one could hear me, even if I screamed. There was so much traffic and cars zooming at such high speeds.

I closed my eyes. I’m sure I had a death grip on Bud, but it didn’t seem to faze him.


Our Arrival

We arrived at Geneva Towers where my sisters Jo and Mae lived in Daly City. It was good to be on solid ground safe among family.

When I got off the bike, I felt I had been riding bare back on a horse for a month. I walked as bad as John Wayne in a cowboy flick.

My behind felt like raw hide. “Dang”, I said to myself, “I’ve got to ride back home.” I acted cool with a grin masking my tears and pain.

My sisters greeted us with smiles, hugs, and open arms. We unpacked our things and I welcomed the warm, Epsom salt bath before we broke bread.

Jo provided us with a spread of her homemade Fettuccini seafood pasta, creamy coleslaw, steamed broccoli, and garlic bread. She said to me, “Girrl you got guts, more than I will ever have. Will I ride on a bike?”

With some attitude, her lips curled, one hand waving in the air and the other on her hip she said, “Hell to the no! We may be sisters, but I don’t have your guts.” We all laughed.

I braided my afro before sleep, so it would be big and puffy. I had a good night’s rest in a firm bed with fresh linen and slept like a baby.

The concert was Saturday night, the day after our arrival. I couldn’t wait. We left early to beat the traffic and arrived safely. The crowd overflowed into the stadium.

I was mesmerized. Marvin Gaye swooned and grooved with gritty, grinding, sexy moves. The crowd went wild when he sang, “Let’s Get It on.”

Marvin-Gaye-Album-Cover-Crop.jpg

Heads bobbed. Shoulders swayed. Hands clapped. I dreamed. His falsetto was dynamite. There was not a dull moment.

The quality of his voice was great. For sure, it was top-notch entertainment. It was worth a sore butt. The swell of the crowd ballooned even more when he sang “What’s Going On.”

Nancy Wilson also performed. She sounded like a songbird. Her voice was light, soft, and jazzy. She was fantastic.

An all-time great made a guest appearance. Ella Fitzgerald claimed the stage. Her voice was powerful, sharp, sassy, and classy.

Her performance was breathtaking. She pinned our ears to the stars, scatted up to heaven, owned the mic, and stole the crowd.

I will never forget those legendary greats and neither will I forget how badly my butt ached after returning home on that 750 Honda. One hell of a ride.

Downey Rotary gets first-hand look at new Rancho building

Rancho Los Amigos administrator Gilbert Salinas. Photo by Lorine Parks

Rancho Los Amigos administrator Gilbert Salinas. Photo by Lorine Parks

A blustery rainy morning confronted visiting Rotarians, but it cleared just as everyone arrived at Downey’s world famous Rancho Los Amigos (RLA) National Rehabilitation Medical Center. We met in the sparkling new Outpatient Building, that compliments the new Jacqueline Perry Inpatient Wing of the hospital, which opened in September, and the big Don Knabe Wellness Center. All are part of project Rancho Rising 2020, right on target for completion.

Bill Kirkwood recalled Downey Rotary’s history with RLA. Bill Harriman, one of the founders in 1924 of the Rotary Club of Downey, was Superintendent of Rancho when it was still a work farm for the country poor to serve farming families who could not afford medical services.

Bill also remembered that Bill H., for whom the impressive RLA Administration Building is named, sponsored for membership into the Rotary Club of Downey a young man whom he called “The Boy Wonder.” Guess who? It was Angelo Cardono, now 91 and the club’s - and District 5280’s- longest serving member since 1948. As a sailor from Rhode Island freshly discharged from the Navy after World War II, he decided to stay here and make Downey his home.

Deborah Arroyo, Director of the Rancho Foundation, served as hostess and was joined by Walter Afable, Assistant Hospital Administrator. By now nearly 40 members had found their way to the appointed spot, the Auditorium with its pictures windows that showed the lowering sky.

Deborah introduced Administrator Eric Zapata, who explained that the Rancho Foundation is the non-profit fund raising arm at RLA, whose purpose is to improve the life of the patients, and enable them to be productive citizens again.

“If you were a skier,” said Deborah, “You might think your skiing days were over after your accident. But we organize trips to the slopes in Colorado, and put them out there again. If not on skis, then on a sleigh or toboggan. Kayak trips, surfing. biking, these activities can be made available to patients during and after rehab. So there is life after your accident, and life can be good.

Deborah Arroyo, Rancho Los Amigos Foundation director, and Jesse Vargas, Rancho Los Amigos board member and Rotary program chair. Photo by Lorine Parks

Deborah Arroyo, Rancho Los Amigos Foundation director, and Jesse Vargas, Rancho Los Amigos board member and Rotary program chair. Photo by Lorine Parks

Paul Mathis of the Rotary Club of Downey is Treasurer of the Foundation, and Jesse Vargas, Program Chair, is a member of the Board. Deborah invited everyone to come to the Foundation’s Gala Ball on March 23, and Rotarians were handed an elegant envelope. Held at the Westin in Long Beach, the Amistad (Friendship) event is a fun, glamorous evening, and the theme this year is A Black and White Ball. Downeyites Sam and Beverly Matthis will be there, as always: they’re deeply involved with the Foundation.. She’s a Soroptimist, he’s an Optimist, though the service clubs are not related.

Late Rotary member Pat Gomez Pratt, who died in 2014, was for many years President of the Rancho Foundation Board. She also served as President of the Downey Chamber of Commerce and Grand Marshall of the Christmas Parade. As a young hairdresser, Pat gave her Sundays, her only day off, for cutting and styling the patients’ hair, both men and women, a great moral booster. Later as proprietor of Johnny & Company, Pat even got married at the Amistad Ball, to Cliff Pratt, a Rotarian from the South Gate Club, making cherished memories for many at the Amistad.

Members were divided up into three groups for a tour of the newly opened building, and I joined the one led by Administrator Gilberto Salinas, himself a polio survivor who moved through corridor traffic expertly in his hand-propelled wheelchair.



Gilbert Salinas, chief clinical officer at Rancho Los Amigos. Photo by Lorine Parks

Gilbert Salinas, chief clinical officer at Rancho Los Amigos. Photo by Lorine Parks

We stopped by a glass mural wall at the entrance, showing the history of Rancho. Prominent there were Downey Doctors Vern Nickell and Jacqulin Perry. In 1955 they invented the “halo” head brace for patients with spinal or head injuries. And then came Dr. Perry’s ground-breaking Gait Analysis studies in 1968, so useful for rehabbing stroke victims. The Downey Symphony will present a Gershwin! Concert in April, dedicated to Dr. Jackie. Today’s discoveries at Rancho are almost magical: brain-to-computer interfacing.

We whizzed through marble corridors, up in brushed steel elevators, past the new Rehab Facility, custom designed to meet the special needs of patients. The $190 Million building is a “one-stop shop” where patients can get all their therapy, medical and nursing needs all in one place. “They can even get their prescriptions filled speedily here,” Gilbert told us.

We walked through the wide enclosed connectors between Out-Patient Building and Hospital. Everywhere we saw smiling wheelchair patients and workers. When one employee in dark blue scrubs unexpectedly joined the twelve of us on our elevator ride, she was asked to tell what she does, and she willingly explained her role.

A friendly, casual and up-to-date and upbeat place. RLA’s new Out-Patient Building is expected to serve an amazing 70,000 patients in 2019. That’s a lot of well-spent tax-payers dollars in L A County Supervisor Janice Hahn’s Fourth District, doing good work for the community.

My Little Runaway

Many family members were jam-packed in our small, upstairs apartment to celebrate Mark’s fourth birthday.

The adults were enjoying each other’s company and the toddlers, conversing about the latest family happenings, and having a bite to eat, of course.

When it came time for Mark to blow out the candles on the cake, suddenly, someone asked: “Where’s Mark?” He was nowhere to be found in the apartment, so panic set in, and we all went our separate ways looking for him. Out on the sidewalk, some went east, some went west, while others stayed and searched in the front and back yards. With our searching in every direction, and still no sign of Mark, my panic was raging.

Thankfully, not too long afterward, someone shouted “Here he is.” He was in the yard all along…asleep under the giant elephant ear plant. My little man had had a busy day while scaring the stuffing out of the family!

Years later, when he was about eight, he was upset with me and told me that he was running away. Well, I said: “You haven’t eaten dinner yet so wait a few minutes, and I’ll fix you something to eat to take along.” I packed a few things he liked, tied it all up in a hobo style bandana, and tied it to a stick. Off the little brat went down the street. My heart was pounding as I watched him turn right at the street corner and walk out of sight. I kept looking out the window hoping to get sight of him, and about twenty minutes later, there he was sitting on the curb in front of our home.

I guess he figured home wasn’t such a bad place after all, and his runaway days were over.

Sharon Benson Smith is a member of the writing class at Norwalk Senior Center.

Can the Rams' offense overcome Brady's greatness?

The Los Angeles Rams are heading to Atlanta to face off with the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 53 as -2.5 point underdogs, according to Vegas.

Although it seems like Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are in every year, it is the first time in over three decades that Los Angeles has a team in the big game. Flashback to just three years ago-- Los Angelenos didn’t even have a football team to root for, let alone two playoff teams.

But we are back baby!

It is easy to dismiss the emerging Rams by saying this will be a lop-sided advantage for the seasoned Patriots, who have utterly dominated the playoffs for nearly two decades, but according to the ‘Madden 19’ simulation, the Rams are going to edge New England, 30-27.

The simulation has a proven track record and has been impressively accurate over the years. It has predicted 10 of the last 15 Super Bowl Champs and has even accurately predicted the final scores twice since they began doing the simulation in 2004.

But in order for the Rams to reign victorious and host a championship parade in LA, they will need to put together four good quarters of football and maybe even overtime.

Aaron Donald

Aaron Donald

They need to look like they did in the second half against the Saints in the NFC Championship for the entirety of the game if they want to beat Belichick and company, though according to the EA Sports simulation, they will have to rally to come back from a 17-3 halftime deficit.

In reality, the Rams will obviously need a great game out of Goff and Gurley, both, to stand a fighting chance on offense, while Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh will need to push the pocket into Brady’s comfort zone quickly and often.

The game will be won in the trenches and very much depends on the Rams offensive and defensive lines.

If LA’s big men are beat at the point of attack and can not get a push, it will certainly be a long day for Sean McVay and his coaching staff.

For Brady, this will be his unprecedented 40th playoff start and his chance at winning his sixth ring. He threw his first playoff touchdown pass 17 years ago against the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl 36 when he won his first ship.

It seems as though Brady just keeps getting better with age. He has won 11 playoff games in the last five seasons alone and has more playoff wins under his belt than some NFL franchises.

I believe the Rams will need to put up more than 30 points to beat these guys. I predict a Patriot win, unless the Rams can put up 35 or more points.

New Year's Lessons

I have learned friendship can fill the void when family brings disappointments.

I have learned grandchildren are God’s gift of a second chance.

I have learned change is necessary to grow in knowledge.

I have learned from the terrorist event of September eleventh 2001, violent climate change and countless mass shootings that tomorrow is not a given.

I have learned from my husband, true love is unconditional.

I have learned from my cat, it is okay to nap in the middle of the day.

I have learned from my homemaking tasks, I have no excuse to be bored.

I have learned from my addiction to chocolate that some things are out of my control.

I have learned through my writing, I have something to say.

I have learned from Bonnie Mansell’s Memoir Group that our stories are our legacy.

These are the life-lessons I will carry in to the New Year with its new adventures and challenges.

Yolanda Adele is a member of the writing class at Norwalk Senior Center.

Mom's Fur Coat

Dad and mom belonged to a lodge called the Knights of Pythias. Dad was a Knight and mom was a Pythian Sister.

They attended frequent Lodge meetings. They also went to dinner dances and, quite often, mom bought a new dress.

The holiday gala was the main event of the year, and dad surprised mom with a fur coat for the special occasion. We were so proud of dad’s generosity and even happier for mom. The coat was lovely and we all gathered around mom telling her how pretty she looked. The next day, she told us all about the evening and what a great time they had, and gave us each one of the favors.

Wintertime was fast approaching, and we three girls were huddled together in our bed in the living room where a tarpaulin served as the east side of the house during dad’s do-it-yourself-remodel. We had plenty of blankets on top of us, but that still didn’t keep out the winter cold.

Along came mom, saving the day, as usual. She laid her fur coat atop the blankets and off to dreamland we went. I should say off the dreamland “they” went, as Phyllis would grind her teeth and Donna would pee the bed and I would struggle to fall asleep until the sandman was at last successful.

Dad came home from his semi-truckin’ in the middle of the night. He checked on us and how the tarpaulin was doing. Seeing the fur coat must have given him a “case of the vapors,” but that wasn’t the last time mom covered her girls with her fine fur coat. As a matter of fact, over time, strips of fur began to disappear until it was torn and tattered.

Years later, our hearts would be torn and tattered when she had to leave us.

Sharon Smith is a member of the writing class at Norwalk Senior Center.

And the Oscar goes to...

I sat aflutter waiting for my favorite actor’s name to be announced. I was at the edge of my seat.

“These are the nominees for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama role: “Sam Rockwell,” “Woody Harrelson,” “And the Oscar goes to” Sam Rockwell!”

“Yes,” I cheered with joy!

The Oscars were held March 4, 2018. The 90th Academy Awards ceremony honored the best films of 2017 and took place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. I prepared myself to watch this event unfold on TV, as I always do.

I am a big fan of the Academy Awards. I love watching movies and I have seen many of them; for instance, “The Godfather,” which won for Best Picture in 1973 (one of my favorite quotes in The Godfather is, of course, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse…”); “The Deer Hunter,” also won for Best Picture in 1979, and I love the scene in the bar where they’re singing, “I love you, Baby!”; and “Jaws,” winning Best Sound in 1976, and my all time favorite quote in “Jaws” is, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Although I did not watch all of the movies that were nominated in 2018, one movie in particular I did see was “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri.” If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you see it. Frances McDormand won Best Actress for this picture.

I try to keep up with the movies that are shown, but sometimes it can be overwhelming. But, as I got prepared to watch the Oscars, I knew I had to plan in advance. By that I mean getting all my chores done, homework, and any writing that needs to be completed. I don’t want any interruptions during the day and time during the Oscars.

For instance, I don’t want my phone to ring, and if it does, I will not answer it. The same goes with text messages; I will not answer any of them, and if a fire were to break out, I would probably ignore that, too!

My children know better not to talk to me or even look at me, and if I see one of them approaching me, I immediately put my hand up, gesturing them to stay away! I expect myself to give full attention to the Oscars.

I love the fashion, glamour and seeing all my favorite actors and actresses. Viola Davis looked stunning in a hot pink gown and matching handbag, with her hair pulled back, and with glossy lips, looking so youthful. Nicole Kidman strolled down the red carpet in a royal blue dress with a slit in front and bare shoulders, and with both hands gracefully grasping on to her waist. I thought her lipstick was maybe a tad too red for the dress color she chose, but that’s just me (hmm, am I sounding like a fashion critic?). Sandra Bullock almost looked like a statue posing so elegantly.

Jane Fonda is one of my favorite actresses. I remember her in the movie “Barefoot in the Park” with Robert Redford, he is another one of my favorite actors (I used to fantasize that I was Jane Fonda in that movie). Jane was a presenter at the Oscars in 2018, and she looked amazing. She is 80 years old!

Woody Harrelson is another favorite actor of mine. I remember him on “Cheers,” a TV sitcom. But he is best known for his portrayal in the movie “The Glass Castle,” a book I read last year and also was made into a movie.

It amazes me what these actors can do. The Oscars are a day to honor these extraordinary performers and their roles in movies. I admire them and the work they do. People travel from all over just to get a glimpse of one of their favorite actors.

I’m only 26 miles away from this event sitting in front of my TV waiting to see one of my favorite actors. Sometimes I imagine myself walking the red carpet looking glamorous, posing for pictures, smiling, waving to my fans, but then reality sets in! Well, I can still dream.

And the Oscar goes to “The Shape of Water,” winning best picture for 2017!

Yolanda Reyna is a member of the writing class at Norwalk Senior Center.

Young people show up for a night of symphony music

On another of these delightfully mild winter evenings we’ve been enjoying in Southern California, the nearly full January moon shone on an almost full-house crowd.

What brought the attendance for the Downey Symphony Orchestra’s winter concert? The young people. Students and family and followers of the new Downey Foundation for Educational Outreach (DFEO) came to hear Lars Clutterham who conducts the newly formed middle school string ensemble. Lars’s new piece, Arc of My Life, premiered.

And a busload of youngsters and families came all the way from Arroyo High School in San Bernardino, to see the art show in the lobby, sponsored by the Downey Arts Coalition (DAC) and curated by President Pat Gil. Pat was seen standing by a magnificent winged dragon sculpture which twinkled with lights. Carolina del Toro’s color photos, enlargement of minutia, were featured as were husband Jorge’s ceramic whorls.

Most of the young audience sat in the balcony. Emma and Meghan from Griffiths Middle School and Jenna from Doty all participate in DFEO, and were looking forward to Mozart’s “Great” Symphony #40 in G minor. They play the violin. Then they and the others patiently waited till after intermission, for Lars’s piece, after which he was called up to the stage by Conductor Sharon Lavery to take the audience’s enthusiastic applause.

Middler schoolers Emma, Meghan and Jenna at Saturday’s Downey Symphony concert. Photo by Lorine Parks

Middler schoolers Emma, Meghan and Jenna at Saturday’s Downey Symphony concert. Photo by Lorine Parks

Anesssa Lee, director for the violin program for DFEO, and her husband Eric were seated in the balcony too. Anessa is responsible for writing the program and the instrumentation, and for liasing with the Downey Unified School District to find a place to classes and to give concerts for the growing program. The rapport between Anessa and the kids was apparent in everyone’s smiles.

Aa Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf began, everyone greeted Antony Moreno’s narrative with cheers as each instrument was introduced. Then they settled back to enjoy the lively story in song. Anthony replied to the audience’s appreciation by giving us an encore, Donezetti’s tenor aria from his opera buffe Don Pasquale.

During intermission we saw music patrons Ruth Hillecke and Nancy Ramage. Nan was the winner of a bid at the Symphonic Society’s September Garden Party Gala, to an event at the Segerstom Center for the Performing Arts, and she chose tickets to Itzhak Perlman, who appeared just two nights before. “Fabulous,” said Nan.

Also enjoying the respite from the rains was Chad Berlingheiri. Fresh from his successful show, “It’s Christmas in Downey,” Chad is producing Love Songs, a Valentine’s evening cabaret and dinner show on the Queen Mary on February 9. Bette Teagarden, and Jorge and Maru Monero, were there, as well as poet Frank and essayist-blogger Carol Kearns, Dorothy Pemberton and Bernice Mancebo Stumps.

Bill Hare. Photo

Bill Hare. Photo

Bill Hare, Symphonic Society Board member is also a member of La Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevins, celebrators of Burgundy with its emphasis on its gastronomy and great wines. “The Orchestra sounded great, especially with a good audience,” said Bill.

Music enthusiast Ryan Keene was helping at the reception for season ticket holders, attended by regular patrons Jim and Judy Reynolds, and Anna and Harold Tseklenis. Harold is a supporter of Art in Public Places in Downey for DAC, and has been a welcome gadfly in Downey civic affairs.

Mozart’s Great D Minor Symphony showed off Artistic Director Sharon’s gifts as a conductor. In spite of the minor key, Mozart cannot resist breaking into a sunny minute in the third movement. Sharon gave a Mozartian balance to the tempestuous score.

Enthusiasts of great music are looking forward to the Downey Symphony’s April 6 performance, Gershwin! That’s the night the conductor’s baton is up for auction too. Twice winner Pris Winslow was seen here, chatting with well know local painter Roy Anthony Shabla, whose next Green Salon will be January 26. Pris came down to Downey, her former home, from Berkeley, just for this concert.

Dan Lorenzetti, son of well-loved Sal Lorenzetti who for many years operated Sal’s Italian Market, joined the audience on the patio for intermission refreshments. He’s the father of singer Rachel, who will perform some George Gershwin favorites at the April concert.

April’s Gershwin! Concert is being offered as a tribute to Dr. Jacquelin Perry. Dr. Jackie worked as a pioneer orthopedic surgeon and then gait studies expert, at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehab Center here in Downey.

Concert versions of excerpts from Porgy and Bess, with book and words by Dorothy and du Bose Heyward, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, will be featured. This work has been considered the crowning achievement in the stellar careers of all of the authors. Appropriately for Downey audiences, Porgy is a crippled street beggar, disabled by the loss of use of his legs.

An American in Paris and then the Rhapsody in Blue will climax the evening, with a champagne reception for all to follow. Tickets are available now: early birds will ask for keyboard-side, the better to enjoy virtuoso soloist Bernadine Blaha. Go to the Downey Theatre Box Office, or downeysymphony.org.