Another Goodbye

Dear Liza,

In 1990, when my teaching partner, Laurel Sherry-Armstrong and I moved from Hartnell College’s Child Development Center to University Park Elementary, we were happy to become part of an elementary school community. But we were sad to lose the lovely playhouse at the Center.

IMG_6084 2.jpg
Best Playhouse ever, 1990

We mentioned this over dinner one night with my parents, who were visiting from Lompoc. My dad (your great grandpa Lowell) said that he could design a playhouse, and would even build it, if  the District would allow us to put it into our new classroom. Weeks of drawing and discussion, proposing plans and changing them, became months of waiting for the District to get back to us.

Uncle David helping out

Finally, there was good news! They approved the planned two story playhouse, with stairs and a railing, to be built in room 13. Dad took the plans, built the house in pieces (walls, floor, railings, stairs), and drove it up to Salinas.

Painting the pieces

He and Great Grandma Billie, Grandpa Nelson and I, Uncle David and your Momma Katie (who were 10 and 8 at the time), Laurel and her husband George, and our friend Rick, all worked to paint the pieces. Then we put it together, laid carpet on the top floor, and even installed a bookcase and pile of pillows for reading on.

The kindergarten kids loved the playhouse. It was part kitchen, part pirate ship, part reading loft, and part cave. It was good for quiet times and silly conversations. It has been climbed on by, I guess, more than 700 kids over these 28 years.

And now, the kindergarten classes are moving, and the District hasn’t said that it will approve the playhouse for the new space or move it there. The teachers have no guarantee that it will even be on campus when they return for the next school year. Technically it belongs to me, but I only have two days left in Salinas and no way to pull it apart and move it anywhere.

This makes me very sad. There are so many things right with the playhouse, things that are missing in education these days. Imagination, thoughtful quiet time, and changes in perspective.

Fourth Generation

My only remedy was to get up extra early this morning, get you dressed, and take you up to play on the playhouse before it (maybe) goes away. You had so much fun! I looked at every inch of it, from the plaque Laurel put on after Great Grandpa Lowell died to the railing on the stairs, rubbed by hundreds of tiny hands.

When it was time for us to go, I cried a bit and said goodbye to yet another old friend.

     Lowell G. Evans Memorial Playhouse      Built Labor Day 1990                              5-7-21 to 12-7-98


Grandma Judy

Retirement Festivities, Part 3

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Illustrated Jack and Jill

Yesterday was a wonderful, long, happy day! At school, we had a wonderful discussion about what cities do to remove their trash. We did art and writing, with more students finishing their cardboard constructions and their stories. While the kids were working on their projects, I continued packing. All our shelves are now empty and dusted, ready for the kindergarten classes to come in.

All packed up!

It was also Crazy Hair Day! Kids came with dyed hair, hair piled up on top of their heads, and even a few sculptures…like on young lady who used a soda bottle! Friday afternoon was Fun Friday, so all three classes (except for a few kids who were in trouble) got to play kickball, have races on the track, or climb on the Panther Palace.

That’s some Crazy Hair!

After school was my third retirement celebration! The lady from Portobello’s brought quiches and salads, Auntie Olga helped set up the beer and wine, and Jamie Gaynor brought four dozen of her wonderful cupcakes!

Dear Pat van Noy and Mr. Burgess
Me, Leslie Carter, and Anne Crawford

Friends that I have known for thirty years, like Rochelle Breschini and Stefanie Burgess came and got to meet new friends like Emma Mandella, Heather Gattis, and Shawn Quiane. Mrs. Breschini was Auntie Katie’s kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Burgess was her first grade teacher! We go way back.

Mrs. Burgess and Mrs. Breschini

Our friends Mimi and George Niesen came, as well. It was quite an afternoon. When Uncle David and Liza woke up from their naps, they joined the party. Everyone ate and drank as much as they could, but there was still quite a lot left over. We sent some quiches and salads, and even some cupcakes, home with folks. Yummy party leftovers!

Liza, me, and Emma Mandella

By the end of the evening, I was done in. I was so full of friendship and love (and good food and wine) that I dropped right off to sleep.

Love, Grandma Judy




Wise Friends

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

I have gotten to tell you about many of my lovely friends here in Salinas. Today I had dinner at Gino’s Italian Restaurant with one of them, my former colleague and former Principal, Anne Crawford.

Anne Crawford and me

I met Anne about 20 years ago (without all my school yearbooks, I can’t be sure) when she was a new teacher at University Park. She was teaching what was then called Primary Introduction to English, or something like that. It was a class specifically designed to teach newly arrived  students English. She struck me as having great empathy and understanding for her students and a desire to broaden their horizons.

Having always taught at University Park, when it was a mostly middle class  population, I had never thought of using school to provide what I thought of as normal “kid” experiences. But Anne’s students had never been to the ocean, never gone to a play, never talked about the news. Anne was determined to give them those experiences. I watched and learned, and I’m glad I did.

As our school’s population changed to more lower income students, I began to see the wisdom in Anne’s approach. Not all of our new students had yards to play in, family vacations to remember, or books in their home. I remember the first time a student told me they hadn’t done their homework because they didn’t have a pencil at home, I thought it was the silliest excuse I had ever heard. But they didn’t. And I had to re-think homework.

A few years after I met her, Anne got her Administrative credential and moved to a different school to be their Principal. A few years after that, she returned to University Park as our Principal. What a homecoming!

Now Anne was leading our merry band of teachers, and school went from being good to being great. If you have never been a teacher, it is hard to explain how a Principal who knows exactly what it is like to be in a classroom all day is a golden gift. They understand the importance of little things, like pencil sharpeners that really work, and how important it is for students to see the Principal RIGHT AWAY when there is a problem.

Anne brought her concern and wisdom to all our students, and was a fine Principal, even in the hard times of tight budgets and increasing micro-managing by the District Office. But after her many years of working in the public schools, Anne hit a wall with parents who wouldn’t parent and kids who had no limits. She retired.

Of course, as we now understand, retiring is just the beginning of a whole new life. Anne had new grandkids to look after, dinners to hostess, and beaches to walk on. And, like today, friends to buy dinner for. AND, she’s coming to my retirement party on Friday!


Grandma Judy