One Year at Revere

Paul Revere School is now located at 140 West Guinida Lane in the heart of Anaheim— just 2000 feet east of the edge of Disneyland. Back when I was there the address used to be 131 W. Midway Drive. The school, essentially, is still in the same location— but it underwent a modern expansion to the north on into where some 1960s-era apartments were razed. The office is now situated along Guinida Lane.

I attended Revere just for one year— 1990-91 for the sixth grade. Mere days before the first day of school we had just moved from having lived in Corona for several years. Anaheim is where we were originally from and in addition to adjusting to Orange County life— there was a new school.

I usually remember the first days of class of just about every school year and strangely enough the first day of my sixth grade at Paul Revere Elementary in Anaheim doesn’t really stand out much. I only remember it being a cold morning, standing in a double line outside of Room 8, where my new teacher walked up from the nearby staff parking lot. Next door to us, to the east, was a lot that serviced/sold motor homes and all day long you’d hear their dispatcher calling loudly over the intercom. For the next nine months we would come to know that unknown woman’s voice.

This was September 1990 and I had Mr. Bolton for 6th grade. I want to say his first name was George, but I may be wrong. I should have asked him when I saw him last—which was when I was a clerk at Stater Bros. in Garden Grove back when I was 18 years old. He was still teaching in those days, but as to where- I didn’t ask. He remembered me, but it took him a minute. He was the only male teacher I had in elementary school; a factor my father thought would’ve been the driving force to curb my previous eccentricities with my prior teachers—all female.

How soon we’d seen that it didn’t matter on my end I guess. Mr. Bolton became a “frequent caller” to my house. Never failed. When I knew I had been more than ripe in class- I’d expect our house phone to ring in the evening around the 8 o’clock hour. Never understood why when it came to the timing, but it was always the case. I think it was because the first call probably happened one night when “The Simpsons” came on. Back in those days it came on Thursday nights at 8pm.

I always pictured Mr. Bolton sitting in a darkened den, or living room, in his home, surrounded by wooden paneling, plaid design wallpaper and sitting in a high wing-back chair, prepping the dial to my father from his antique rotary phone. The insightful imagination of an eleven year old.

Telephone nights, as the calls came through, usually entailed me looking at our old 1970s Timex kitchen wall clock every time I’d hear the phone ring to know it was Mr. Bolton. 7:45, 7:53, 8:01, etc. Especially after hearing my father say hello, it was followed with a proper “I’m good, sir. How about yourself?” He never talked to any of his work-pal chums or anyone in our family as formal as that. It was known by me that less then five minutes, usually, after a call from Mr. Bolton commenced, I’d hear “Thomas Robert! Front and center right now! That was your teacher; what the hell were you doing today?” Probably goofing off!

Mr. Bolton was a good teacher. Near as far as we could tell he was a bachelor. He may have had grown children from a previous relationship; I don’t recall exactly, but that wouldn’t be too far fetched as I believe he had children. Mr. Bolton was older, in his 50s, and had semi-balding hair, but it was always slicked back. He was about 6ft tall; give one or two more inches taller perhaps. Mustache and goatee, blue eyes, sharp dresser. He was a man about town around Paul Revere. He was serious about his job, but he knew how to have the occasional good time with his class.

But let me be perfectly clear: I absolutely HATED my newfound school and surroundings. I was not in Kansas anymore, or more appropriately, Corona. This surely was no longer the familiar stomping grounds of John Adams Elementary that I previously came to know the last six years of my schooling.

As I entered the 6th grade here, my brother Shawn began 2nd grade (with the very popular Mrs. Allen) and my sister Breana began kindergarten (with Miss Grijalva). Out of the entire Paul Revere School— we were only among the ten or so white kids throughout the entire school; it was predominantly Hispanic.

The reason why I despised my new life at Revere is because I immediately became the subject of some severe bullying that began not long after the start of school that year, and didn’t stop until just after our winter break when we returned in January. I was hit, slapped, stalked, called names—all because of a nasty neighborhood kid, who lived down and around the corner on Wilken Way. He got the rumor started that I said some foul things about some people I didn’t even know. He fiercely tried to fit into the “gang” at school and this is how he tried.

Even though it was only elementary—we did have some 5th and 6th graders who in fact were just beginning to come up in the minor ranks of local gangs. Most of them had older siblings (middle and high school age) who were full-fledged gang members. It showed.

As I could write a lot about those hard times I endured, I’ll just say that it was terrible, horrible, and had lasting effects on me for several years. I suffered physically, emotionally and mentally. I had an innate fear for quite some time when I would come around groups of gang members or alleged gang members in my own neighborhood—who ironically did not harass or mess with folks where we lived.

How it all ended was thanks to my next door neighbor, and friend/fellow classmate, Robert “Bobby” Martinez. He knew the many guys at school who were after me and after he found out it was based upon falsities—he let them all know the truth. The day I returned from winter break in January of 1991 I was approached by one of the “leaders” of the pack at school. He had several of the guys with him in a big cluster. I thought I was dead right then and there. For what I thought was gonna be a flying fist—was just an extended hand. It was an apology and assurance that from there on out they all had my back and assured protection there at school. I never felt so better in several months by that point. The rest of the school year, along those lines, was a breeze.

I got along with my classmates. I mostly only remember first names—like Christy (who I miss), Chela, Diana, Alex, Celeste, Albert, Bruno, Bobby and that’s about it. I do recall other teachers—like Mrs. Kirpan (next door to ours), Miss Blowers, Mrs. Lyle, Mrs. Allen, Miss Grijalva, and my two “reading hour” teachers—Mrs. Reddle and Mr. Schloniger.

And yes, I did know the front office administrators as well. Our assistant principal was a lovely and spacey-appearing (though she was far from it) lady, Mrs. Ruble. She once got between me and another student during my bullying days where I actually hit back and my fist went over her shoulder. Surprisingly enough—I didn’t get brought up on that as if it appeared I tried to strike her—when I didn’t.

Our principal was a great lady, who took absolutely no bull, named Patricia “Patty” Tafolla. Her last name was pronounced “Tuh-foy-ya.” She commanded respect out in the school yards and she gave it in return. There was a few times I ended up in her office with a group of various kids—all of us busted together for whatever shenanigans we pulled. I usually was the only white kid in the group, and when the others would switch to speaking Spanish—Mrs. Tafolla would, again, abruptly remind them to speak English as she said it was rude. She was very fair.

I’ll never forget the time when I was out on the blacktop on a winter morning recess. A huge, tumultuous fight broke out in the volleyball area between various boys. It was a considerable brawl. At Revere there was a bell system we had to learn. It went something like two rings meant for the custodian to call the office, three for Mrs. Ruble and/or Tafolla to call, etc. But when the bell would be held down in long alternating bursts—that was specifically meant for Mrs. Tafolla, indicating there was an on-site emergency needing her attention out on the playground.

Apparently one of the office ladies didn’t hesitate in pushing down the bell, as off to the side, where Mrs. Tafolla’s office was, there she came—running out, full steam ahead. She was always professionally dressed in a nice hemmed skirt, blouse, etc. But the only thing different was she had on running shoes and socks over her nylons. She was ready. She dove right in to the mass of fighting boys, separated the main aggressors, and instructed everyone to remain still. She walked those boys up to the office and it was end of recess right then and there. She was brave, bold and I’m not afraid to say now, (twenty one years later), that she had a set of brass ones!

I learned a different school life being at Revere. The school was located just east of Disneyland in between an industrial area and apartment housing off of West Midway Drive. To the west of the campus, up over the ball fields, was the Santa Ana (5) freeway with unobstructed views of the Disneyland Monorail passing by with the Howard Johnson partially blocking our view of the Matterhorn. I always thought that was a cool thing to be able to see from your school. But now in my adult years—I’d take the old view of Mt. Baldy and the San Gabriel Mountains that was afforded to the north from my old John Adams Elementary.

There was one late morning where I was sent by Mr. Bolton to get refreshed chalk board erasers from our head custodian, Carlos. His “office” was at the end of our building on the west side. Halfway there the school bell rang and it didn’t stop. Back at John Adams I knew that when the school bell is held down in a constant ring it’s usually indicative of an earthquake drill. One of the teachers in the classrooms to my right yelled for me to get down and lay completely flat and not to move. I thought that was weird. What that ended up being was an actual emergency ringing of the bell—for an immediate threat/danger on the campus. In the apartment houses to the north of the school (mere feet, in fact) was a man who allegedly fired off a gun and a teacher in nearby classroom heard it, called the office, and the police arrived. I believe I laid flat on the stale concrete for a good ten minutes. That was my first taste of what a campus-lockdown was. There were a few that year.

I got in my fair share of trouble at Revere, but nothing too much like my old John Adams days back in Corona. One day I got on the bad side of a couple teachers and school staff. I got sent to the office by Mr. Bolton for blurting out in class. Saw Mrs. Tafolla with a referral, got reprimanded, and was sent back. But what got me in trouble is what I did at the close of lunch that very day. Mrs. Reddle was coming from the teachers lounge, on down to her classroom, when on the way there she interrupted two other boys nearby me who were horsing around. I don’t know what my malfunction was, but I proceeded to make a stupid dog barking sound to amuse my friends, and Mrs. Reddle took immediate notice.

Right then and there I knew that was so the wrong thing to do. I felt that encompassing, warm feeling you get when you know something’s wrong (like, whoops). She looked dead at me, forgot about those two other boys, and said I was out of line for barking at her. I remember telling her that it was not meant for her, but that didn’t suffice any. She said it was wrong and she led me to the office.

I sat in the chairs in the office (probably the same exact one from previous in the morning) and waited and waited for Mrs. Tafolla. Her office door was open and I had a clear view on inside from where I sat. Very rarely did she keep her door closed during school hours. I sat and waited while the office ladies typed, answered phones, made calls all the while KOST 103.5 FM played softly on a radio with “Wind Beneath My Wings” (the Bette Midler version) played. Seemed like an eternity. Smelled like coffee and carbon paper that day. Mrs. Reddle was in with Mrs. Tafolla, and was quite animated in explaining what I had done.

Not long after that I was called in. Mrs. Tafolla was very quick with me. She barely looked up as she was enamored in other preceding paperwork, but said she knew why I was in there, knew what I had done, but this time she didn’t ask me anything, nor to inquire for me to explain myself. Her next and pretty much final words on the matter threw me asunder.

“I’m placing you under suspension!”—as she wrote out my paperwork in my school file.

“I’m, what? Suspended?”—I asked as I tried to validate otherwise.

No room for discussion. That was basically it. She asked me to sit back out in the chairs in the office while she called my dad at work. My father was a truck driver, as he had been since the late 70s, and when he was called it was a feat in of itself. You’d call the mainline, get transferred to his dispatcher, leave the message with the particulars, and in turn the dispatcher would relay said message over the radio—where my dad and all his fellow drivers could hear it. There’s been a few times my dad would say he’d get ribbed by his buddies with stuff like “What’d Tommy do now?”

But on that day my father called back quite fast. One of the ladies in the office got the return call and I happened to be sitting in front of her. She’d tell Mrs. Tafolla, while looking at me, “It’s Mr. Donovan on line 2.” In distantly listening to Mrs. Tafolla’s end of the call, I could tell my dad was working with her on some aspects, but I couldn’t tell exactly what. I was then beckoned into Mrs. Tafolla’s office by her as she held the receiver in her other hand while still talking to my dad.

As I sat down, Mrs. Tafolla was listening to the remainders of whatever my father was telling her as she’d nod and conclude with “Yes, correct. Okay here he is.” She’d hand me the phone with a look only a principal could give that said “I’m through with you, but your dad is mad and here you go.”

I took the phone to my ear, warm to the touch from it having been in Mrs. Tafolla’s ear. I could hear the faint buzz of street traffic of whatever establishment my dad was calling from. It was usually in rear delivery bays of the stores of customers he’d deliver to. He waited for me to speak.

My dad, of course, was mad and quite disappointed. I got questioned as to what I did and much to my nature there I was trying to explain myself. My dad said that suspension, like last year in Mrs. Lopez’s 5th grade, was unacceptable and I of course knew the full punishment on that. For every day suspended it was a week of being grounded. This suspension was for one day which would have ensued the following day. But there was a change that my dad was able to facilitate with Mrs. Tafolla. My dad didn’t want me at home alone, with free reign of the television and whatnot, and instead I served it in in-school suspension. I served that the next day in a classroom of a teacher I had previously and warmly knew—Mrs. Hansen’s first grade. I knew her from the playground as she’d occasionally monitor recesses. She was so disappointed in me and actually presented me to her class, as I sat in the back, of what you do not do in order to be in the trouble I was in. I still was grounded for a week though.

Don’t get me wrong—there were some fun times at Revere.

I was called upon by our visiting deputy from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department who spearheaded out D.A.R.E. program. I was one of a few students who got to dress up in fully Disneyland-like character costumes. These were Skippy, Spike and Wise Owl Mike. We’d get dressed up to perform in front of the primary grades—usually the K-3rd grades. I did that a couple times.

I was in a reading program under Mrs. Lyle. She was a great woman and solid supporter of my success when I really worked hard. Like a true mother- she’d get quite disappointed in me when she’d learn of my various schoolhouse troubles I’d get myself into.

I remember a couple fun field trips we had in Mr. Bolton’s class. One being an all-dayer at the Cabrillo Tide pools down near San Diego. That was extremely fun and further cemented my love for underwater sea life that began back when I was a student of Miss Johnson at John Adams. The other field trip, which I specifically recall being the Friday right before our week-long Spring break, was to Fullerton College. We got to tour various classrooms and buildings. One in particular was the science building with all the taxidermy animals and live creatures in tanks. Little would I know that I would be attending that same school just nine years after that!

I will never ever forget the morning I graduated from 6th grade. It was a one-hour ceremony for the entire 6th grade only while the remainder of the school was still in session. Student speakers, faculty and Mrs. Tafolla all spoke. I got my “diploma” and my dad was there. It was great. I think by 9am—he and I headed back home and that was the end of my days at Paul Revere.

I did visit back a time or two while I was in junior high for school productions that my brother and sister were involved in. Mrs. Tafolla, Mrs., Ruble and most of the teachers I knew were all still there. But being a year or two removed from there—it felt like a decade had passed.

As I wrote earlier, I last saw Mr. Bolton in 1998. It was a quick 2 minute encounter. He was in the next checkout line over from the one I was working at in Stater Bros. in Garden Grove. I knew he was still teaching, but if I’m not mistaken, now as I think of it, I believe he may have moved up into middle or high school teaching by then.

I last knew, as of around 2004 or so, that Mrs. Tafolla was still somewhere with the Anaheim City School District as a principal. A quick check of their district site, as of this writing, doesn’t show her anywhere. I don’t know where she since has ended up—but I wish her well.

There are about four songs that whenever I hear them—they take me back to my one year at Paul Revere—all because they were among the chart toppers of the time. They are “Groove Is in the Heart” by Dee-Lite; “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice; “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J and “Tom’s Diner” (re-mix) by DNA featuring Suzanne Vega.

September 1990 to June 1991. The longest school year”—ever.