Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend

Old days are good days

One of the benefits of living in one place for a long time is a sense of living history.
This is especially true in small towns, such as Laguna Beach. Intimacies of friendship gathered in elementary school are allowed to deepen with the transition through middle and high schools, and with luck, further out to adulthood.

Geography also comes into play, as memories triggered by places bring the past into the present. Many places, such as Trotter’s Bakery, The Jolly Roger, Welsh’s Health Food Store, Denny’s and the Scoop Deck, are missing from the distant landscape. Once strongholds of youthful gathering, there are times when I can still hear my friends’ laughter where the establishments once stood.

Wandering past the high school, my mind zips to the biology lab on the second floor of the then library/cafeteria building. Wesley Lum was a classmate and tried his best to convince me that skinning a frog was a cool thing to do — a task I found totally gross, yet my grade depended on this skill set. While he was able to get me through the frog, when professor Wilkerson pulled the cat from the vat in the back of the lab, I was all vomit and … just send me to the library, thank you, I’ll take a “C.”

While wise with the science part, Wesley was no match in the shoe department. He bet me that I couldn’t wear a different pair of shoes each day for two weeks. Silly young man. I may have hated the shoes I had to trudge to classes, but I won the $5 bet.

When I read about the passing of Dan McFarland last week, I was deeply saddened. No, we can’t live forever, but I wish some of the special folks could hang around for a very long time.

It’s likely because of Mr. McFarland that I am writing this very column.

It was in his journalism classes in seventh and eighth grade that I began to learn the ins and outs of making a newspaper. We were cub reporters. We were paste-up queens. We were advertising salespeople. We were distributors.

We learned to rewrite, although we tried our best to defend our first drafts. We learned how to pick and choose stories, where to place them, which ones to trash.

Oftentimes, classmates Val Iverson, Sue Klassen, Shelly Randall, Gordon Cole, Donny Morsehead and Casey Conrad would huddle around the layout table late in seventh period, deadlines pressing down on our as-yet-not-completed paper.

Mr. McFarland would lean back and smile, and rather than solve whatever our dilemma might have been, he’d watch, letting us learn from our mistakes and develop ownership of our product.

Mr. McFarland was also in charge of the yearbook. Val and I somehow ended up in charge of finances. I’ve never been sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing. While we ended the year with our accounts in balance, we shared a moment of monetary terror.
One afternoon, we were let out of class early to make a bank deposit, at what was then Laguna Savings and Loan (now Wells Fargo Bank).

As was our usual routine, we stopped at Trotter’s Bakery (now the site of Pomodoro) for a vanilla coke and a chocolate éclair. As we walked from Forest to Ocean, we savored the sweet syrupy delights and gossiped about boys (no, I’m not going to reveal whom).

We waited dutifully in line for the “next teller,” only to discover when we reached the window, that we had left the entire yearbook deposit at the bakery.

You’ve never seen two high school girls run quite as fast. We probably broke the school record for the 50-yard dash!

The young woman behind the counter — there was a soda counter with seats for sipping malted and milk shakes — smiled knowingly as we raced in the door covered in perspiration.

“Forget something?” she asked slyly, and held out the official deposit envelope.

Grateful and chagrined, we might have even sworn off Cokes and éclairs for a week or so. The deposit was made. The yearbook was printed and a copy of it still lives on my bookshelf.

Thanks to Mr. McFarland — and all my other Laguna Beach teachers — for instilling in me a love of words and the power of story.

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