That was the name of my preschool out on Haster Avenue in Garden Grove—out along the Anaheim border near where I lived. I remember bits and pieces, but it seems to have been an eternity. This would be around 1982/1983.
There was a morning where I was sitting outside of our duplex having breakfast on the porch. It was one of my dad’s specialties—bacon and eggs. I had the plate beside me while the sun was coming up from the backyard to my right.
“Romper Room” was playing on the television inside of the house and my dad was still in the kitchen. He called out to me and asked if I wanted to go to school. Now I didn’t know what school was but since I was immersed in my breakfast I simply said yes.
I do not remember the car ride and I do not remember walking inside the school—but I do recall when my parents were at the front counter doing the registration paperwork. My dad was holding me and I didn’t want to stay. But I was left there that day for a short while to kind of try it out.
What I recall most about Holiday Gardens was the craft making and nap time. Nap time was always a foggy time as most of us kids were actually half-spent and the lights would be turned down just a bit. We got to choose our own cots and I always seemed to pick the one with the newspaper print pattern. That really stands out in my mind.
The mornings of getting ready for preschool seemed to resonate with oatmeal, Lucky Charms cereal with either “Bewitched” or another unnamed children’s television show I cannot seem to recall. I watched “Sesame Street,” but I don’t remember doing so before preschool.
There was a time that I got myself into trouble. It was during an arts and crafts session where another kid, a big kid, had done something to make me mad and I think I hit him—and he began wailing so loud. Man, I felt so bad. I genuinely did where I get that sad, remorseful feeling in my chest (and still do to this day). The next thing I know is I’m being put into the office by one of the ladies and was told to sit on the floor. It was simple room with a brown desk and a window that seemed so high up, but very wide (similar to a bedroom window in an old apartment).
What I remember most about that was the Bert and Ernie wooden figurines that say in the window ledge facing inward. They were not painted but just dark, polished wood. I had wondered if they would come to life for me, but they didn’t. The funny part about that is the woman who brought me into that office look and reminded me of ‘Maria’ from “Sesame Street.” As she put me in the room—I vividly recall her leaning over to me, saying “I’m angry.” I sure I landed myself in some trouble when I got picked up, but I don’t remember it!
Outside was also known to be place of fun. Out in the front of the building was a gated courtyard that was surrounded by juniper trees and laid out with concrete walkways and sand lots.
One of the favorite things to do was ride those old steel and heavy aluminum tricycles from the 1960s—with the faded blue and gray “hubcaps” to prove it. And yes—there always seemed to be one with a bum wheel—and yes I always seemed to get it!
One of the last memories I have of Holiday Gardens was around Christmastime (probably ’82 or ’83). They had a wall up towards the front (and also maybe to the back) of inside the main open area that was made of large hunks of rock. Garland and other 70s era home Christmas decorations were strewn across. I think we were all gathered together at a long table, hanging out before going home.
If ever a smell takes me back to those days—its modeling clay. We played with so much of it there.
When I recently researched Holiday Gardens, I found that it had closed down sometime in the summer of 1987, and it later became St. Callistus Preschool. I drove by the old school not too long ago and it didn’t look like it was up and running. It’s lighted-sign out front shows it had been damaged as if someone had thrown a rock at it. St. Callistus is under the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, which has since taken ownership of the former Crystal Cathedral’s properties.