My friend Marvin Awbrey died. I loved him dearly. He was such a close friend that I could criticize him when we disagreed, but don’t you dare unless you loved him too!
He was my mentor. He taught me how to be a history consultant. He dedicated himself to all educational organizations especially history. He sent me tons and tons of picture and story emails that I was supposed to pass on. I seldom did, but they showed me that I was on his list. He loved me and thought about me every time someone sent him a chain email.
Marvin’s last few years were rough, but he did not complain.
His good friend and sometimes caretaker, Linda Boaen, said,
“It is a testament to my best friend Marvin Awbrey what a great person he was. We can all take lessons from his dignity. He let those he loved know it. He never ever complained through kidney transplant. Three bouts of cancer and all the treatments that go with it. Massive surgeries that would devastate most. He kept extremely busy with causes he believed in. He gave to all charities. And he forgave those who trespassed against him. He loved my children, David and my pets. He was a kind caring human that most will never encounter. I hope he knows how much we miss him.”
I will miss Marvin a great deal. We always went out for his birthday. He turned 78 on January 14th. I emailed him asking when we could go out for his birthday. He didn’t return the email. Sometimes people don’t. I emailed him about something else, and he didn’t respond to that either. Sometimes people don’t. I rarely called him. Cancer took his voice box. I called him and left a message. He didn’t call back. Sometimes people don’t.
He sent me and six others an email on January 13th. I finally emailed him back 22 hours before I heard that he was gone. It was about going to the doctor.
On the 23rd of January he sent his last email along with a personal message.
At birth we boarded the train and met our parents,
and we believe they will always travel on our side.
However, at some station
our parents will step down from the train,
leaving us on this journey alone.
As time goes by,
other people will board the train;
and they will be significant
i.e. our siblings, friends, children,
and even the love of your life.
Many will step down
and leave a permanent vacuum.
Others will go so unnoticed
sothat we don’t realize
they vacated their seats.
This train ride will be full of joy,
sorrow, fantasy, expectations,
hellos, goodbyes, and farewells.
Success consists of having a good relationship
with all passengers
requiring that we give the best of ourselves.
The mystery to everyone is:
We do not know at which station
we ourselves will step down.
So, we must live in the best way,
love, forgive, and offer the best of who we are.
It is important to do
this because when the time comes for us to step down
and leave our seat empty
we should leave behind beautiful memories
for those who will continue to travel on the train of life.
I wish you a joyful journey on the train of life.
Reap success and give lots of love.
More importantly, thank God for the journey.
Lastly, I thank you
for being one of the passengers on my train.
(By the way, I am not planning to get off the train anytime soon
but if I do, just remember I am glad you were part of my journey.)
“Marsha happy new year dear friend! Can you forward the particulars for the SJCCSS Alcatraz visit? Can it be done in one day? I could use the minutes from the Reedley meeting, too. When is out meeting this month and where is it? I am feeling unconnected to SJVCSS and I don’t like that. Thanks, Marvin”
I replied back 11 hours later, and he didn’t write back. Sometimes people don’t. That’s rough!
I am blessed to have been his friend. I will miss him. I had fun with Marvin. This is rough.
At a Woodlake High School Foundation Dinner I attended recently, Bob Burke, the 2011 San Joaquin Valley Council for the Social Studies High School Teacher of the Year, told me he had just published his first book, Through the Redwood Curtain.
I was thrilled for him, and anxious to read it, a story about places and times familiar to me.
The main character, Steve, a long-haired student at the College of the Redwoods, transversed between his home, where he lived in a tiny trailer in an ultra-conservative, poverty-ridden McKinleyville trailer park with his brother and his brother’s wife, to his place of school and employment in Eureka, 13 miles away. On the way driving south on Highway 101 in his rundown Volkswagen van Steve passed through the now progressive town of Arcata, home of Humboldt State University, just over five miles away from his home. The two towns couldn’t have been further apart politically. When folks for the two towns met and talked politics, it was like metal on pavement, driving on the rims.
Through Steve’s naive eyes, the reader sees the battle lines being sketched between two ideologies, environmentally conscious students, and lumberjacks and fishermen barely scratching out a living as they destroyed some of the most pristine forests in the United States. The destitution of the residents contrasted with the privilege and unappreciated wealth of the majority of the Humboldt State students from Southern California created a dramatic backdrop of political sparks that fueled this book’s plot from beginning to end.
The drama didn’t end with politics, however. Steve had his own internal combustion engine when it came to the love of his life, Cheryl, and their lonely times of separation, the abundance of drugs, family differences, friendships, and betrayals. In addition, the death of Steve’s mother, the lack of support from his drunken father colored his emotions, and his own desperate financial situation added to the intense conflict of forces within the story.
Finally, the story wouldn’t have been complete without Steve’s $1.65 an hour job at Coastal Gardens Nursery in Eureka. Steve worked with an assortment of characters, most of whom were paroles, students, or local tooth-free young women looking for good men – in all the wrong places. Steve seemed to innocently bound through his mixed up world always seeing roses through his fog colored spectacles.
All of the dramatic facets and interludes of Steve’s life seem inextricably intertwined into the life of his rusty, fussy old VW van. Could it be that the opposing forces in Steve’s life wouldn’t begin to come together as long as he had the troublesome VW? Or would his troubles only deepen if the old van ever died? To find that answer you will have to read the book.
Common Core Standards
While this is a work of fiction, I think most high school teachers could use this with their students studying modern U.S. history, and would find Through the Redwood Curtain more than just a fun read. Of course they could analyze the characters and setting, both of which are part of the new standards. One of the important aspects of being a historian is to know the author, and understand the lens through which the book is written. Robert Burke graduated from Humboldt State in the 1970s, so is a primary source when it comes to the issues found in the book. So did Bob have an agenda when writing the book? Did he see like as a wealthy college student, or did he, because of his own lack of funds, identify more with the conservatives who also had financial troubles bigger than the Redwoods? How would the book have been different if written from the perspective of the owner of Coastal Gardens Nursery? These are topics with which students have to grapple in their Common Core classrooms. In my opinion this story would be an excellent one for examining perspective.
If you know Northwest California, and love the complexity of the simple life found there, you will love this book. Read it and pass it on to a friend or two that went to Humboldt State in the 1970s. They probably knew Steve – even though he is fictitious. I felt like knew him – back when.
This was my first year in the past twelve years NOT to coordinate Tulare County’s History Day event. The job now falls on my dear friend, Joy Soares, who took my place as the History Consultant at the County Office. She has enough energy and ideas for three people, and indeed more than three people kept very busy bringing this exciting day to fruition.
My job in all of this was to represent two volunteer organizations, San Joaquin Valley Council for the Social Studies (SJVCSS), and Tulare County Historical Society (TCHS). Both organizations had booths, and both gave scholarships to students. This was the first year we named any of the donations from these organizations.
Two individuals from TCHS were especially instrumental in bringing TCHS and History Day together, Stan Barnes and Madeline Franz. When I first started coordinating History Day, the Fresno County Historical Society actively supported the Fresno County event, and I didn’t even know who the Tulare County Historical Society was or how to find them. Then Sharon Doughty created a website, and I made a phone call. That next year Madeline Franz judged for our event. The next year she brought friends, Don MacMillian, Terry Ommen, and Stan Barnes.
Stan was particularly taken with the project, and insisted that the Society donate money as long as it didn’t get swallowed in a “black hole.” The society also contributed a large amount to a group of students from Kingsburg, CA who were going to National History Day in Washington, D.C. What an opportunity for students who had never been out of Tulare County! TCHS bought tee shirts one year so that when our students went to state they all dressed alike one night and really stood out in the crowd of thousands of students. This year was the first year that the Society specified scholarship amounts, and named the scholarships. Unfortunately, Stan Barnes passed away just a few weeks ago, so did not see what the scholarship named for him will do for students. His daughter attended the awards ceremony.
Madeline also participated in the awards ceremony, bringing her family with her. TCHS President, Jill Brown presented both awards.
SJVCSS is the local affiliate council of the California Council for the Social Studies (CCSS) It is a professional organization for social studies teachers, administrators, and professors, and really is NON-profit. Each year since I started as coordinator the organization gave $50 to History Day, and I used it to purchase things we needed for the event. This year we upped it to $100 and created an Exhibit Scholarship in the name of Marvin Awbrey, Father of History Day. Marvin is from Fresno County, just north of us. He IS the Father of History Day in California, the man who brought it to Fresno County, then the state. He also served as the judge captain of the Exhibits Category for many years. At the awards ceremony yesterday, I made a presentation speech, and Marvin gave the scholarship to a deserving exhibit designer, Mr. Wilson.
I will write a more professional article that has student names and a little less silliness for the Los Tulares, the TCHS quarterly magazine available to members. My blogging friends have to put up with all my foibles, bad photography, and antics. It is SO fun to be retired and be able to be silly. There is something to be said for that second childhood!
Here are some other photos if you are a parent or an interested bystander that just loves HD.
January – Thirty years ago student teachers HAD to be a member of a professional organization as part of their graduation requirements. Although it is no longer mandatory, social studies teachers who join California Council for the Social Studies become the leaders in their field as they meet colleagues from across the state, and make friendships that last a lifetime. In January the CCSS Executive Board asked to serve as the First Vice-President, replacing a member who had moved to Colorado. In May CCSS members voted me in as President-Elect, and in June, 2013 I will serve as the President of this organization.
February – In 2011 I become officially involved with the Tulare County Historical Society (TCHS) as their recording secretary. This year TCHS decided to adopt a broken-down caboose, remains of the old Visalia Electric Railroad, as its project of the year. To kick it off the Society held an event at the museum so that people could take a look at the caboose, and see how much work it needed. It had definitely seen better days, but its good bones, charm and appeal made it the best project ever.
March – At the 2012 California Council for the Social Studies Conference I enjoyed some amenities as the new First Vice President. Although I shared the room with the Conference Chair, it WAS a HUGE suite. With size came responsibility. Several parties important meetings took place in this room.
April – I started blogging April 17th just as this busy month got into full swing. Our San Joaquin Valley Council for the Social Studies Banquet honored our County Superintendent, Mr. Vidak, my boss. Most teachers, and in our case social studies teachers, seldom receive recognition for the hard work they do, so this banquet is the highlight of our year. Instead of being serious and boring, this year everyone played the part of stand-up comedian.
May – National History Day California or State History Day. Set in historic Riverside, CA at the Mission Inn and Convention Center, this was a photographer’s dream. Now that I was officially a blogger, I appointed myself the official photographer of this huge event with nearly 1,000 students aged 4th-12th grades attending. Unfortunately I didn’t know how to focus my camera at this point, and with lasik vision – one eye distance and one eye close, nothing ever looked in focus, and often wasn’t. One of the participating students taught me how to focus my camera. Students from all over the state display their year-long theme-based projects: exhibits, documentaries, performances, papers or websites for 6-12th grades, and posters for 4-5th grades. They present to a team of 3 judges who have the difficult decision of determining which of these amazing projects will advance to the National Competition in Washington D.C.
June As the school and fiscal year ended, we came to the last year of a three-year cohort of teachers who participated in the Tulare County Teaching American History Grant. Each year we had a one week institute during which time teachers went on a short field trip, worked with primary source materials, received scholarly lectures each day, and translated all of this learning into a lesson plan. This was our last week together with this group of teachers. For their final project teachers presented their lesson plans to the new cohort of teachers. We toured the Railroad Museum, Old Town Sacramento, and the Bicycle Museum in Davis.
July History Ladies go to Shell Beach May was our last official meeting as County History Consultants, and three of the four friends moved on to different responsibilities. We decided that instead of loosing touch, we would travel somewhere in CA once a quarter. Our week-end at Shell Beach cemented the already strong friendship with crazy dancing in the kitchen of the rented house, cinnamon rolls, pictures of a walk in San Francisco where clothes are optional, feeding baby animals at Avila Barn, roasting marshmallows over the stove after the barbecue ran out of charcoal, and sun bathing on the beach.
August – Retirement Once I made the decision to retire, that’s all I could think about. My last day was funny because I fought with my poor secretary about why I dressed casually that day. She knew I was having a party, and I didn’t. Paula took me in hand, and took me get a new dress for the party I didn’t know I was having. Ivette was already dressed for the party, so we posed when I got back from my spree.
September -V and I decided to start taking advantage of retirement right away with a trip to the beach. Lots of walks with Kalev until one day it started raining, and it didn’t stop. We scurried back home.
October – We arranged a week-long trip to our timeshare in Hawaii to Ka’anapali Beach Club. It was almost like coming home. We preferred October to December which was cold and rainy last year. We had a great time rolling around in the surf, horseback riding, and eating.
November – The National Council for the Social Studies Conference took me to Seattle. We really did go to meetings, sessions, and had a chance to socialize. I finally went to the dance they have on Friday nights. I walked all the way back to the hotel to change into a dress. Walked back. Got to the dance. Where were all my friends? Felt really hot – had my dress on backwards. Went to the rest room to change. Got back to the dance. No friends. Cajoled poor Joel into letting me teach him the West Coast Swing. One dance. Left. My friends got to the dance just after I left. Leslie and I went to see Twilight Part 52 or something like that. Then I walked home after midnight. Got lost, helped a lost soul find HIS way in Seattle (that’s a switch), and finally made it back to the hotel safe and sound. Had a $65 dinner at the Space Needle for two rotations of the restaurant. Had a great time!!
December– Home At Last For the first time all year I hardly traveled during December. Oh whatever would I find to occupy my retired time? Hmmmm How about an online birthday party for Renee? Christmas with PT and the kids, started going to Kiwanis Club, read some great books, blogged, blogged, blogged, and ……
…..poof the month was gone!!! Woah!!!! What happened??? Did anyone else have that problem???
Thank you all for visiting my site yesterday – I had 100 views! I don’t know about the rest of you bloggers, but that fact makes me forget that I have any other worthwhile work to do, and makes me want to think of what to write to y’all today. I do love that contraction. (I’m not a Southern Belle, but I just love using it in honor of PT, who reads my blog every day. Thanks PT.) Don’t you just love her dimples. She’s amazing, but that’s another story. One of the unanticipated benefits of retirement is to have my library all in one physical location. That means I found my journal that I kept during my Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute. These are VERY cool. They are handmade – even the paper. I was afraid to write in it at first because I didn’t want to mess it up. So I may bore you from time to time, sharing my reflections that accompany the hundreds of photographs I took while I was there, and have just sat in my Facebook gallery, my external hard drive, and who knows where else. I didn’t want to spend time too much time writing about them because I didn’t want to get my facts wrong. And I didn’t want to spend time researching when I knew that somewhere I had written downs tons of notes. Ah the bane of not having a photographic memory. Just think what a joy I could be to y’all if I could just remember things perfectly. Actually I remember large bits of things, but somewhere they get jumbled, and my facts get scattered, and come out incorrect. Then, because I am supposed to be somewhat of a history guru, I am embarrassed when I err, and my guru credibility is lost. But I meander…In addition to being Clementina Rind for the week, I was also assigned to be on the Military Committee. I had no recollection of that for several reasons, but I wrote it in my journal, so it made SOME impression at the time. Clementina is still with me 4 years later. I was really into taking pictures of 18th century military life. I have 97 pictures, and NO Notes!! The sad thing is that we participated in amazing feats of war. I accidentally hit the woman next to me in the face with my wooden musket when we were standing in formation practicing loading aiming, and firing our supposedly harmless weapons. I didn’t volunteer to attempt loading the cannon. It was real.My entry for the day we went to Yorktown reads, “I forgot my journal when we went to Yorktown. ”
Ever consider what it might have been like if you got a toothache on the battle field – or even back home in the 18th century? When I was a dental assistant, believe me none of our instruments looked this vicious. Of course, without my notes I don’t know if these WERE dental instruments or something with which to take out bullets. Whichever, the look malicious, and I know there was no anesthesia involved. No laughing gas. No Novocaine. No topical anesthetic to numb your gums BEFORE you got a shot of NO Novocaine!!! So maybe these wicked tools for the little balls that came out of muskets. The point is I FORGOT TO TAKE MY JOURNAL. Do you see how disastrous the effect merely four years later??? Can you imagine if I waited 40 years to label my precious pictures?George would never have forgotten HIS journal. This desk was center stage in his tent.The troops did eat, and what you see in the background is part of the outdoor dugout oven. This piece of equipment, as I recollect, was not a branding iron, but had something to do with cooking. Wish I had taken my journal.This was my 75th picture. I bet you are wondering what’s in the box. Well, if I had brought my JOURNAL, I could have told you, but NO, it rested safely in my room where it wouldn’t get dirty. (It still isn’t dirty.) Judging from the pictures sequentially around this photo, which I can see, but I won’t bore you with, the box has something to do with canons. My solid hypothesis is that it holds cannon balls. Where is Mike Lebsock when you need him? Probably sitting in his Colonial Williamsburg home office writing memoirs in HIS JOURNAL. Or maybe he’s sketching. He actually painted the middle picture right above his books. What a talented SJVCSS President we have!!! When I got back I quoted Clementina as saying, “I have watched as this revolution became inevitable. I published Thomas Jefferson’s first declaration. I strained to see this conflict that I might rejoice at our freedom. Freedom of the press (of course that was of GREAT interest to Clementina), which we have as British citizens, but which could as easily be taken from us, as surely as taxation without representation has already been taken. I regret that I did not live to report this great event.”Don’t try to read THAT quote, I photographed a page that had better handwriting!!! Then I did what I do most in my journals. I introspected. “Its amazing to me to understand what bravery and sheet luck has play a part of my privilege of being born and raised as an American woman. This privilege becomes clear and dearer as I age and I realize the foundations that were laid to make my life possible.” I still stand by that statement.The moral of this story. Buy a journal. Take your journal with you. Write in it. Don’t lose it. Then share it with someone.