Ken Becker - My Stay at the Lark Ellen Home for Boys - 1960-1962

I'm Ken Becker I ran away from an abusive father and refused to return home, luckily I was placed in Lark Ellen by the court system from Oct '60 to my graduation from Azusa Hi School in June '62 at age 17. I was thrilled with the grand Victorian style (always wonder what it was initially built for) with converted dorms a long curving driveway that went under a Portola to the rear of property where the cafeteria, health and recreation bldg. were. Inside we had a huge donated book collection, study area, next to TV lounge area, and a large area with legit size pool table. The grounds were covered with gigantic sycamores, redwoods and eucalyptus trees, and citrus grove in the back area. Based at the foothills next to Citrus college; this place was heaven to me, like sharing the grounds of a mansion. CJ Miller was in charge, seldom was he personable, but he spoke of plans for a better location to move the home to, like the palm surrounded acreage that over-looked Highway 39 near Roberts Canyon. I wasn't a bully, but there was no shortage of bully mentality; that created an edge. One guy after leaving the home (Keene) got carried away and tossed a local guy through a furniture display window during Halloween, and was sent back to "Juvie".

We took bus trips sometimes, to Corona Del Mar Beach, Baldy, El Cid premier, B and B circus and fireworks show, miniature golf. The lions club provided well appreciated Christmas gifts such as Silverton shirts, deodorant, underwear and socks. Most of the boys went to either Glendora or Azusa High. Few of the other kids there seemed to befriend us, so the "home boys" hung out together. Most of the boys stayed out of trouble, as rumor was that CYA (Ca. Youth Authority) was in the wings to take you away from freedom. A chum that I shared dorm room with had a radio to blare out such hits as: A Million to One, Stay, A Thousand Stars, Angel Baby, Rubber Ball, Calendar Girl, Corrina Corrina, Wheels, Apache, Mother-in-law, Runaway, I Feel So Bad, I Like It Like That, Wooden Heart, This Time, Sad Movies etc. I associated these and other R and R tunes with good times at Lark Ellen. Most boys went home for the weekend, but many like me had a sack lunch prepared for Sunday as the chef always had that day off. I always found something to do without causing trouble (or embarrassment for "CJ") except for when I was offered some Ancient Times booze. I got loud and seems everybody thought I was funny except CJ....he was actually cool headed about the whole thing, to my surprise. That experience (believe me) caused me abstinence for life.

We always had Sat. clean up, where the large black top area was swept with large palm fronds (worked well) and inside was detailed clean. Everyone supported this effort as soon as it was done right, the rest of day we had free. We weren't to leave the compound without permission, but many did, the idea was to behave. We also had an annual track meet with the local juvenile homes and award ribbons. They also invited a local girls home/school for our entertainment with record playing R and Roll music/dance. The home organized a fantastic outdoor luau with BBQ pig cooked in hole of front grounds while someone played the "Lion Sleeps Tonight" many times. We had 3 meals a day, that were very acceptable, and we ate at tables that had 10 chairs each, in a nice chow hall. Boys were assigned to help cook, or clean dishes that rotated. We had a small pool that was cleaned for the summer use. We also had a crafts shop, where the instructor had us make clay castings to take home if wanted. We walked across a foot bridge to get to this shop. For those boys like myself that lacked (like me) a functioning family environment, this was paradise.

3 years after release from the Home, I was drafted to the USMC, went to Vietnam, got electrical training with the Navy and am now in Quality Control work. I've acquired a 40 acre grape grove with some citrus in central valley that I tend on weekend with my love; while we live in Org City. I have good memories of Lark Ellen, and it has played a large part in my evolving success as an adult. I think of the generosity towards us boys shown by this Lions Club venture of the past, and also pay tribute to Paul Noll for allowing this vehicle to "piece together" this puzzling experience for so many of us now.

Contact: Ken Becker at: