As a Dragonfly I remember one game, 6 to 5, on a disputed call at third base. No amount of intervention by the teachers avoided the game's real outcome later -- two bloody noses for the Panthers and one scraped knee for us.
The school's tough rules extended even to the after-hour softball games. I was once called out simply because I had entered the batter's box before I was told to do so by a teacher.
Youngsters at Hammel were prohibited from speaking Spanish, a common restriction at the time.
Once a classmate whispered something about a movie on television that night. I told him in Spanish that I would see it at a cousin's house. Hearing the chatter , the teacher approached me.
"Not only do I not like talking in class," he said, "but I especially don't like it in Spanish."
I stood in the corner, back turned to the class for an hour. The same offense later earned me a shaking -- the teacher shook you until he thought all the knowledge of Spanish had fallen-out-of-your-head.
These days, all office workers at Hammel are bilingual. All the school signs are bilingual.
Charles Lavagnino, Hammel's outgoing principal, was vice principal when I first entered school there. Lavagnino told me that his fondest years as an adminstratir were in East Los Angeles.
Looking back he conceded that he had supported some of the restrictive measures imposed in the 1950s, mainly to keep a tight rein on unruly students. But improved teaching methods as well as sensitivity to the reality that East Los Anglees is 95% Latino have made Hammel a better school today, Lavagnino told me.
"This is a good school, we try to involve the parents," he said.
I was reminded of other aspects of life on Record as I revisited old haunts;
-- La Providencia, the nearby mom-and pop corner store, still extended credit to its faithful, my 81-year-old grandmother assures me. The owner trudges up Record with Grandma's groceries about twice a month.
-- The neighborhood church, Our Lady of Guadalupe, still chimes its invitation every morning.
-- The vatos locos (crazy street guys) have changed hardly at all. Dressed in cholo-type "uniforms" (khaki pants, flannel shirts and bandanas around the head) they still cruise neighborhood streets in lowered autos and ask passers-by for money, They are distrustful of outsiders and are quick to confront anyone who challengers their "turf rule" of the area.
-- Many of the families I remember have remained in the area. A close friend of my mother provided some insight: "Yes I'd like a nicer home, pero aqui estoy contento. The kind of people who still live here are maybe not the type of people who want to advance, but I am content."
A Positive Resident
In many ways, life on Record has not improved much since my parents bought the small, wood-frame house at 812 for $3,500 from relatives in 1946. But don't dwell on the negative when you meet my grandmother, the current resident of 812 N. Record.