Follow-up to the Name Game

It was interesting for me to list all my teachers and administrators from my school years the other day, and it sure sparked some conversation with friends from those days. Over on my Facebook I posted a pano-shot I took the other evening of the front of my junior high school from when I took my evening walk. Thereon it sparked a lot of remembrances and so forth and I ended up finding one of my yearbooks from Alamitos and posted our 1993 8th grade class picture.

Click for larger size.
Click for larger size.

I still know a couple of my teachers from my elementary years—kindergarten and fifth grade. Mrs. Lopez still teaches at John Adams, second graders.

Mrs. Ireys, my fourth grade teacher, passed away in 1999. I actually wrote a good remembrance of stories about her seven years ago—which you can read here.

For my Alamitos years—Mrs. Cutler and Mrs. Donigan are still there. I reconnected with Mrs. Cutler about six years ago. She hasn’t changed and she’s still a student fave. I had her for art—and I’ll never forget Room 73. I understand that Mrs. Donigan gave up the clipboard for the blackboard—and now teaches science. Though I rubbed her the wrong way at times (not making par on the mile run)—she really was a great PE teacher. I mean that. I’ll admit that I never was much for a being a runner (save for necessitated sprints), and I find that I’m still not. I do love to walk. So Mrs. Donigan—if you happen upon this—I’ve bested my previous “mile run” of 32 minutes down to 18—and that’s walking. She’d probably shake her head at that.

Mr. George E. Malouff, Jr.- circa 1992/93.
Mr. George E. Malouff, Jr.- 1992.

And then there was Mr. George Malouff— who I had for U.S. History, 8th grade. Man, I gave that him more gray hairs than he already had. Back in the Bush/Clinton transition era I did nothing but get in trouble in his class and the man was only tolerant to a point.

“Tom! Outside!!”

Whether if I was caught, or ratted out by a fellow classmate, it didn’t matter if he witnessed what I did (or did not do), but I would be ordered outside. There against the wall just inside the door was a folded-up metal auditorium chair, complete with vintage GGUSD stenciled on the back. It was there at the ready for any shenanigan-offenders to park it outside, on the grass, along the fence under the juniper tree.

But somehow I passed his class.

Around 1998 or so one of my best friends (who was a fellow Malouff classmate) and I were at the Westminster Mall, and who would we encounter? Mr. Malouff himself. Still looked the same.  I greeted him and he didn’t appear to remember me, but he vividly recalled my friend standing there next to me. A few moments in I could tell that he was feigning in not remembering who I was and then he said it, after I gave a few “instances” from class…

“You drove me to retirement.”—and I kid you not, he simply walked away. End of interaction.

I thought he was joking, but I later confirmed that he in fact retired in 1993—at the very end of my 8th grade. That didn’t feel too good knowing that.

I recently learned that Mr. Malouff was involved in a very bad car accident in December 2013 in Huntington Beach. It was eleven days before Christmas on a chilly Saturday night, just before 9pm. He was driving westbound on Talbert Avenue in his Nissan Altima and for unknown reasons he slammed right into another motorist in a Toyota 4Runner who was heading northbound on Newland. The woman in the 4Runner was taken to the hospital, but sadly Mr. Malouff didn’t survive and died instantly.

The Mr. Malouff I remember was very passionate in his patriotism. It was a roaming legend around school that the man would shed so much as a tear at the playing of God Bless America. I remember his car back in the teachers’ lot having the bumper sticker: Abortion | It’s a Life, Not a Choice!

A 1983 letter written to Orange Coast Magazine by Mr. Malouff.
A 1983 letter written to Orange Coast Magazine by Mr. Malouff.

One of my lasting memories of Mr. Malouff was an afternoon about a month before school let out in 1993. It was the lunch hour and he had just exited the teachers’ lounge where he encountered our principal, Mr. Baird, heading his direction. The famed Warner Bros. presidential film, Dave, had just debuted in theaters, and Mr. Malouff raved about it to Mr. Baird and highly recommended he see it. I didn’t see the movie until several years later—and it’s one of my favorites.

Mrs. Cutler told me back in 2010 that my 7th grade English teacher, Mrs. Bass, was retiring and I made dang sure to send her a card and a note. I always liked her—despite what I semi-put her through!

As far as my Sonora years—I still know my principal. A great woman, Dr. Ranii even wrote an autobiography that I recommend anyone to get— Parakeet Races and Other Stories: A Memoir. My sophomore English teacher, Ms. Blevins, is still teaching as are a few of the coaches. Mr. Hunt, who I had for Agriculture, retired not that long ago and makes his home in Texas; we reconnected on Facebook a few years ago. I did hear back in 1999 that Coach Ginny Clark had passed away, but I have not seen anything about that; I hope it isn’t true. She was truly a motivator of mine.

I think just about all my teachers and administrators at Rancho have retired in recent years. John Johnson, who was one of the assistant principals my junior year, later went back to the Corona-Norco Unified School District after leaving Garden Grove Unified. I remember the first couple days of my junior year at Rancho I saw him and he instantly was recognizable, but I couldn’t place him. It wasn’t until the third day of school during a back-to-school student assembly that it hit me. He, and other staff, were introduced and then I knew—he was my principal back at John Adams in 1984-85. I went up to him after the assembly and it was a nice reunion. I later brought in my kindergarten yearbook from Adams and I never saw it again. He later transferred to a junior high in our district and then to Pacifica High School as their principal. Last I heard he returned to CNUSD and finished his career at Norco High School before retiring. I hope he still has the yearbook, because I haven’t been able to get it back.

California Governor Pete Wilson at Lake High School, April 1997. Mr. Strecker is second from left with me to his right in white.
California Governor Pete Wilson at Lake High School, April 1997. Mr. Strecker is second from left with me to his right in white.

Finishing off at Lake High School senior year—only Mrs. Lowry is still teaching at another high school in the district. Everyone else happily retired. Mr. Gerald Strecker was our assistant principal and although serious at times— the man truly had a great sense of humor. About four years after I graduated high school he passed away. He had just finished a round of serious racquetball and succumbed to a sudden heart attack. He was a great man indeed. I should point out in that picture above with Governor Wilson is also a longtime chum of mine— James “Jimmy” Shirley (far left). He and I met in 7th grade at Alamitos and we were an Oscar/Felix type— frequent flyers as Mrs. Chips (Gereb) would say, to her office. Still know him to this day and he’s still a bro.

Never forget your school years and those who made it possible.

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