Don Michael Wall - My Stay at the Lark Ellen Home for Boys - 1972

I came to Lark Ellen via Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in, I think, 1972. I was a ward of the court and was living through the rigors of foster homes. In any case, I remember quite a bit from my year or so there. My housemother was Mrs. Roberson, and some of the other staff members were Ms. Micheleson (my case manager), Richard "Pop" Canon, and "RJ" Reynolds. I was about 14 years old and attended "Citrus Lab" experimental school. It was a high school for those who found attending school difficult. To get straight "A's" at Citrus Lab all you had to do is show up and answer roll call. The rest of the time was recreationally spent . . .in those days, "recreational drugs" was in full swing, and in full color! I also remember many of the "home boys."

In my cottage, I recall Tim Harvey, and Mark Wilson. I still have some tiny tattoos that Mark Wilson gave me. Although I gave him a few tats as well, they didn't show up on his African-American skin as well. I typically hung out with a guy named Robert "Bob" Day.

Bob Day was a thief to no end, and one day (at least) he and I, along with a couple of girls from Citrus Lab, "Lisa Troupe," and I forget the other gals name (I had a thing for Lisa), well, we all left school early, stopped by the grocery store near the I'm-sure-now-long-gone Foothill Drive In Theater. Bob was grab a few bottles of Boonesfarm Strawberry Hill, Annie Greensprings, and plenty of cigarettes. . .and then we'd sneak into the Drive In, and right below the marque was a box they used to store the letters to spell out the movies. . .anyway, we all used to hide up in that box and drink, drink, drink! I drank so much that when I got back to Lark Ellen (must have been w-a-a-y too early to be back from school, well, I vomited so much that the staff figured I learned my lesson. . .on my own. I guess some lessons take 14 years to learn!

Boxing was in style for Lark Ellen at the time. Every time someone had a beef with someone else, if we were caught scrapping, Pop Canon would make us put on the gloves and box it out. . .in front of the whole home family! Right out on the lawn there as you pulled up the main driveway. Again, Lark Ellen taught me to "work it out." Pop Canon also taught me to bowl off the right arrow over at. . .I guess it would be Glendora Lanes I think. We went a lot of places. . .Puddingstone Dam was a frequent place for us. I also remember this pick-up truck pulling up on the lawn (backing up) and unleashing its tailgate full of Halloween Candy! Yea, must have been like a 1/4 ton of candy I think. Some other kids I recall are "Jerry Hood." Jerry was "the Fonz" of Lark Ellen at the time. We used to go up to Oak Knolls, a camping area where many of us would routinely get poison oak! Mrs. Roberson would giggle at us and say "Time to pass out the Calamine lotion and cotton balls.

Lark Ellen was a good place to be, considering. I don't know exactly the circumstances, but I suppose I had "learned my lesson" and was to return to the foster home I was in. I did have a crush on "Mrs. Michelson" my social worker. I did look her up years later and she was kind enough to send me a few photos of her and her daughter. I was pleased to have gotten the pictures, but a lesson a learned then, when I was about 25 was. . .sometimes, memories are best left as memories.

I, being a bit hard headed tried this on again in 2002 and went to find Lark Ellen to take a photo shoot for a book I wrote for my four children, "God's Pet." It was written for them as a story of my life which they had missed a great deal of, but Lark Ellen was simply as it had been since I left it. . .a fond, bittersweet memory. I currently reside in Oregon after getting tired of the beautiful weather in Hawaii for a few years. Just kidding of course, but I am serving a good and useful purpose here. And ah, now at age 52 I have learned another lesson: "What a noble gift it is, the power to play upon the souls and wills of men. . .arousing them to lofty purposes, and holy deeds."

I am an ordained minister and heeding God's call: "Bring them to Me!"

Don Michael Wall Woodburn, Oregon

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