I am grateful for:
1. The Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens.
This oasis of nature in the northern reaches of the city of the first 9 years of my life, Claremont, Ca. was my first extended experience of nature and was the place where I found my very first pets.
Yes, Pollywogs, those tiny little critters in the pond at the garden that would grow into Frogs.
I had my first lessons about responsible pet ownership tossing a few of these critters in a water-filled container and taking them home where I took care of them until I no doubt lost interest.
Hey, I was only 4 or 5 years old, give me a break!
(Series begins here = Daily Gratitude Writing Challenge Summer 2013 Preview)
2. The grounds of Pomona College, and the old, original building, below which the HQ of the grounds crew was located.
Next to the baseball diamond, attached to Bridges Hall of Music (AKA Big Bridges), and eventually torn down for a parking lot, the below ground haven for the grounds crew and the tools of their trade, was a place of mystery, wonder, the pungent smells of plants, and dirt and manure.
It was a place of friendship and stories, a place where a young boy would come, when not in school, to hang out with his Macedonian father, and his comrades; WW2 refugees from all across Europe, and a couple of Mexican immigrants, who daily made sure the college was the beautiful institution of learning it was.
The grounds of the college were a wonder of nature that a child could explore with his parents, or on his way to school, with the eerie wolf howl of one of the Mexican guys (hidden from my view somewhere near where I walked) echoing in his ears.
3. The streets of the college town of Claremont.
On foot, for a while on a skateboard, then on my earliest bicycles, I explored the streets of the neighborhoods where I lived.
When I was 9 years old we moved to Pomona, to a home just a few blocks from the 3 room home of Don Ygnacio Palomares and his wife, Dona Concepcion Lopez de Palomares, who owned everything in sight, over 150 years ago, as part of their ranch.
The contents of this building and the grounds of the homestead compound were my first serious experience with history, outside the classroom. My love of history, I think, may have been born through visits to this place, and just the act of walking past it to the market with my mom and later attending the nearby Palomares Middle School.
5. The weed infested field just northeast of the football and baseball fields of Pomona High School.
When I was in middle school and high school I would go watch the Pomona Elks Lodge High School Baseball Tournament games and chase down foul balls, in this field, for a dime reward for each found ball.
It was here, stumbling around among the weeds, that I had my introduction to genealogy. One day I stumbled over a huge, half buried, granite stone; worn, and chipped, it had the name of a Mexican woman, and when she died, on it (she had died in the 1890's).
The realization that I was stumbling around in an old, old, long forgotten graveyard spooked the hell out of me, but fascinated me as well.
While I, sadly, never wrote them down, I paid more attention to the stories my mother used to tell of our family past and, in my late 20's took up genealogical research in a more serious fashion.
The graveyard? Sometime in the late 80/early 90's the Pomona Historical Society, working with the matriarch of the Palomares family, cleaned up what had once been a family burial ground, and made it into Palomares Memorial Park, a small park whose more sacred grounds are fenced off from the public .
6. The weed infested field and abandoned shopping center behind my home on Merrywood St. in Pomona.
Until a housing community was build there in the 80's I could watch football games, and track meets at Pomona High.
One of the links in #5 shows the boundaries (Towne on the west, Vassar on the south, Arrow on the north, Merrywood on the east). It was here, from age 10 to 14, my early imagination got part of its fuel. playing with friends in this field, and the area behind the eventually abandoned buildings (a former shopping center that was, briefly a skating rink, then a christian school).
7. The streets of Pomona.
A love of walking was added to my enjoyment of bicycling as, with our mom, my sisters and I went to the market, to farmers markets, and all sorts of shopping venues, from thrift stores to the old malls in Pomona, and the one in Montclair.
The Los Angeles Rapid Transit District (now known as Metro Transit) had its origins in the 1940's and 50's and, even in its earliest days allowed people to travel from the beach in Santa Monica to San Bernardino and Riverside, in the Inland Empire, and cities in Orange County.
My parents used it, and later my mom took us kids everywhere thanks to those busses. We knew the owners of the cafe in the Pomona train station, the parking lot of which was the bus depot.
I later learned to ride the bus alone once we moved to Pomona.
A 7 year old boy used to have nightmares about walking out of the depot and across the lot to a bus, trying to make the short journey before the blacktop melted under his feet and swallowed him up.
It was an even earlier fuel for my imagination than the above mentioned field.
9. The Claremont and Pomona Public Libraries.
My love of reading was fueled by having library cards. My love of researching and writing book reports was fueled by access to the books they held. My first foray into genealogy research was a success thanks to an inter-library loan between the Pomona Library and a college library in KY, in the late 80's.
10. Montclair Transit.
When I was in college, from 1978 to 1982, on a Saturday or Sunday, I would ride one bus, on its 3 hour journey from the Montclair Plaza, to its eventual end in Yucaipa, a small town east of Riverside, eat lunch at a Jack-in-the-Box, and return home,
So, what did I do on a bus for 6 or more hours? Study.
What? You thought I stared out the window at the passing scene the whole time? Hee, hee!