Ken Schwartz's "Settling in at Lark Ellen Home" - Page 1

Today, Olympic Boulevard originates in downtown Los Angeles as 10th Street then runs westerly to dead-end at the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica. When mother took me to live at Lark Ellen Home for Boys the home fronted on a two-lane dirt road that was ultimately to become an extension of Olympic Boulevard. In my days the dirt road was known as Louisiana Street.

It was a Sunday afternoon that I walked up to the entrance of Lark Ellen Home holding on to mother with one hand and my suitcase with the other. There was a statue of a majestic Lion lying on its belly on each side of the entrance steps. I learned later that those lions were the symbols of the Lions Clubs of the LA area who sponsored the home and partially supported its ongoing expenses.

We stepped into a small lobby and were greeted by a matronly lady named Mrs. Cassidy. Mrs. Cassidy ran Lark Ellen. She explained that the home was named for Ellen Beach Yaw a popular concert singer of the late 1800's and early 1900's. Her voice was so sweet and bird-like, she became known as "Lark" Ellen. Lark Ellen founded the home to care for homeless newspaper boys who she had befriended. Founded in 1890, the Home was originally known as Lark Ellen Home for Newspaper Boys and was located in downtown Los Angeles. Obviously, the Home was no longer downtown and the boys were not all abandoned newspaper boys. Many of the boys were from homes with a single parent who needed help in caring for their son(s). Mrs. Cassidy stressed that Lark Ellen was not a reformatory; it was indeed a home. It was to be my home for the next two years.

Mrs. Cassidy and mother went into a small office to conduct some business while I sat shifting from one side to the other. They emerged and Mrs. Cassidy announced that I would be a "Middle Boy." I later discovered there were also "Little Boys" and "Big Boys" and the terms determined which dormitory was to be my home. Mrs. Cassidy led us out a rear door of the lobby and up an imposing stairway to the second floor. The place seemed empty. All of the boys were outside playing.

The Middle Boys dormitory was straight back as if it were the stem of an upside down "T." Mrs. Cassidy said the second bed on the right would be mine and we set my luggage down there. Another lady wearing a white uniform came in. I don't recall her name, but she was the matron overseeing the Middle Boys. She seemed pleasant enough.