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NAUGHTY & NICE Kate’s Journal


Episode 13

Highland Park, CA., 1943

All our lives are made up of periods of nice and not so nice. We may as well get used to it. I went to stay with Auntie and Uncle Phil in April, 1943 for the last couple of months of school. Probably not nice for any of us.

Alameda, CA., 1943

We moved to Alameda in the summer, into the old home that was built by my Great-grandfather and now owned by Great Aunt Helen. Yes, another Aunt took us in! Let me tell you, it’s good to have a lot of Aunts.

Alameda Ave. 1613

Mr. Lloyd Sisler was the drama teacher in the high school, and also gave voice lessons on the side. In my first solo concert at his home, I stood beside the piano facing the audience, and my voice refused to escape my mouth. In spite of that, he gave me lead parts in several operettas during the next two years.

I didn’t see him again till our 40th class reunion, and he had not aged gracefully, wearing full stage make-up and a dark wig slightly askew. I introduced myself feeling sure that he would remember me as his star pupil, and talented actress.

I was shocked to find that he not only didn’t remember me, but said my voice must not have impressed him! I raised my eyebrows and said that “My mother is not going to be happy to hear that.” He roared with laughter and said I had a great sense of humor. Well, better a sense of humor than a great voice I guess. Since my mother had passed away two years before she never got a chance to appreciate the humor.

I joined the R.O.T.C, which came with a uniform and an entire Battalion of boys! It was the style to bleach your bangs, but I went whole hog and bleached my entire head one day when my mother was gone. It looked good too–better than mouse brown.

ROTCThere I am in front row.

Confessions are in order at various times of our lives. We can either be perfect or lucky. I have been lucky, but also too trusting of other people. After a morning horseback ride with a group of kids, a girlfriend I learned not to trust, convinced me to borrow one of the boy’s cars and take it around the corner even though neither of us drove. She took the safer passenger side and I “drove”— right into a lamp post and a tree. I worked a long time to repay my mother for the damage, and received strong discipline from the judge.

In our small attic apartment I set up my studio and began painting very bad portraits of my friends. The space was like a small dark cave with a single light bulb, but I thought it was pretty snazzy. My first “payment” was a glass bell which lost its clapper when I took it out of the box.
Shadows of Our Ancestors“Shadows of Our Ancestors” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen ( This painting was done many years later.)

I needed money so I went door to door again, and boldly lied to the manager of the J.C. Penney store that I had worked for Penney’s in Grants Pass. He took me on to fold men’s jeans, but when the window dresser quit shortly after I took over his job, eventually doing the advertising layouts for the newspapers. At 17 I imagine I was the youngest art director in Penney’s history. However, I don’t advise lying to anybody, it’s not nice and it can get you into a whole lot of trouble.

There were few place that teenagers could congregate safely. The war was on, and though there was a local U.S.O. where girls could go and dance with young servicemen, the creamery closed early and except for private parties, that left the Alameda Theater. Several of us found an empty building and after much effort in raising money for rent and donations of recreation equipment and record players, we opened the Alameda Teen Center. It was a moderate success at least as long as I was there.

None of my girlfriends had their own car, however, we were permitted to drive our parents car on occasion if we replaced the gasoline we used. At eighteen cents a gallon, we pooled our money to take us to and from Oakland and San Francisco. We mostly walked our way around the island of Alameda. My mother taught me to drive on Otis Drive which was locally known as Lover’s Lane. When without a date, we spent Friday and Saturday evening patrolling to see whose windows were steamed up.

At Christmas, 1943 my mother and I drove to Torrance to be with my Grandmother. While there she became ill and we stayed for two months. At the end of the semester, having missed two months of school, I received an F on my report card in history. It was the first time I had ever failed in anything.

I went to summer school for a number of weeks with the same teacher who had flunked me: Miss Hook. Now let me tell you about Miss Hook. There is a word for people who resemble their names and Miss Hook exemplified it. Tall, skinny, drab, pointed features, buck teeth, and smug. As she handed me my report card with an “A” on it, she said ‘You see what you can do when you don’t worry about boys?” I never told her the reason I had missed so much school. There was a lot of “naughty” and “nice” in that year of high school.

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9 comments on “NAUGHTY & NICE Kate’s Journal

  1. Your title brought back the verse you surely know:

    What are little boys made of?
    Snips and snails, and puppy-dogs’ tails,
    That’s what little boys are made of.

    What are little girls made of?
    Sugar and spice, and everything nice,
    That’s what little girls are made of.

    We know the truth, of course, but it’s still a good story. I laughed at your little driving escapade. One of my best was “going to the library,” but actually going for a drive in the country in March, all by myself. There still was snow, and lots of mud. I went off the road into a snow-filled ditch, got pulled out by a farmer with a tractor and chain, drove home and parked in the garage, with not a sign of my naughtiness on the car. Three days later, chunks of mud started falling off from beneath the car. My father inquired, I confessed. I lost my driving privileges for a time.

    You really are right about those aunts. I’m down to just one, now, and she’s getting hard to talk to, as her short term memory is going. Still, she was as good a mother as my mom in some ways, and I’ll miss her just as much when she’s gone.

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    • As you can see I was not a nice girl. I lied to get my jobs, stole the car, had to go to court, bleached my hair, and even sneaked cigarettes. Oh my. I did have the chutspah to say I knew how to do things and then go and learn on the job. Remember–you only have to know one thing; You can learn anything.

      Of course I have no aunties left. The last one died last year at age 99. I was hoping for at least one more year. I love being called “Auntie” even though being an only child I am an honorary one to so many wonderful people.

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  2. It’s certainly fun reading about your naughty and nice. Your naughty sounds like most teenagers and your nice sounds commendable.

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    • Hi Aunt Beulah! Here we are talking about “Aunts and Auntie’s”.
      I imagine most teenagers today would think my escapades quite mild. I learned many years after the fact that one of my daughters loaded my Karmann Ghia up with 7 or 9 girls and drove it up a narrow winding country road near us. I am glad I didn’t know at the time. Living on an island as I did, there were no winding country roads, just water to water.

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  3. Geez, you are fun. I’d like to have half your chutzpah! The bell with the lost clapper as first payment made me laugh. The painting is wonderful, and so is the photo of you in the band. No wonder Miss Hook was concerned. Not another girl in sight! 🙂

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  4. I bet you never clamped a sardine underneath teacher’s desk? It’s the naughty bits that made life bearable, something to tell friends and family later on. All kids would have experienced a Miss Hook at school. Funny enough, the best teachers were always the ones that did hardly meet out punishment. They were also the ones that made class laugh.

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    • I probably would have if I thought of it. What happened? you took your first comment off? That wasn’t the band, it was the Reserve Officers Training Corps. I wanted to go into the Navy but they didn’t want me so I opted for the Army.

      Funnily enough, the Miss Hooks wear probably the best teachers too.

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