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‘These things are for recreation and you don’t take tests.’

Want to learn where bass swim and how to catch them?

El Camino College in Torrance will tell you how in February, when it presents a “Bass Fishing Institute.”

No fewer than six expert anglers will make presentations Feb. 4-5 in the college auditorium, not on the water.

At the South Bay Adult School in Redondo Beach, the winter catalogue--in addition to hard-core academics such as accounting, basic English and math--offers courses in creating party appetizers, how to wire your house, and coping with burnout.

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In the South Bay, community colleges and cities spend time and imagination coming up with interesting things for people to do weekends and evenings, when TV and puttering around the house have paled.

The classes attract anywhere from eight to 40 people and are priced to cover hourly instruction costs and other expenses. Fees range from $5 to more than $100.

“We try to keep a hand in this all the time, finding out what people want by trial and error,” said Elizabeth Hightower, recreation supervisor at the Rancho Palos Verdes Department of Recreation and Parks, which coordinates an extensive program of activities from out-of-town excursions to one-day seminars, serving all peninsula cities.

“These things are for recreation and you don’t take tests,” said Mary Lu Waddell of the Manhattan Beach Recreation Department, which is about to begin a new series of activities. In addition to creative woodworking, there is a new attraction, “Whales, Scales and Fish Tails,” which will meet at the end of the Manhattan Beach Pier and explore undersea life.

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“People take these things for fun, to learn to improve the quality of their lives,” Waddell said.

Among the more popular kinds of classes, said Hightower, are health and fitness courses on race walking, self-defense and Tai Chi Chuan, which relaxes and body and helps the mind to concentrate.

Instructor Alan Kan, who describes Tai Chi as “a very natural healing and revitalization for mind and body,” said he averages 40 students--from ages 16 to 70--in his beginning, intermediate and advanced courses.

Some of Kan’s advanced students are enthusiastic about the relaxation they feel and the heightened energy they get from the discipline of Tai Chi. “The feeling is nice . . . and if feeling good is addicting, I guess it is,” said George Deerfield of Rancho Palos Verdes, a physician’s assistant in Los Angeles who first enrolled in Kan’s class six years ago after spotting it in the program guide. “I maintain a hectic schedule and it appealed to me,” he said.

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Hightower said some of the more popular classes are seminars on the stock market and estate planning, reflecting the affluence of the peninsula residents who take them.

“Computers are a big thing here and (those) classes are usually filled,” said Rosalie McCarrell, who compiles the South Bay Adult School catalogue. Self-help courses and cooking are popular, too.

“People like the course on cooking for two,” she said. “We’re trying a sushi class for the first time, but I don’t know how it will come out.”

As a gauge of what’s hot in Manhattan Beach, Waddell said that several tennis classes are already filled and the rush is on for ballroom dancing and ceramics. In the summer, she said, beach volleyball will be the A ticket in the sports-oriented beach town.

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Because the goal is to make classes self-supporting, they must attract enough people or face cancellation. To entice registrants, classes are given clever names: “The Procrastination Seduction,” or how to escape the syndrome of being too late or too busy, and “Recovering From Perfectionism"--getting out of the trap of making unrealistic demands on yourself and others.

“Reliable House-Breaking” is about training puppies, not the art of burglary.

The cities and the schools work hard to get the word out.

South Bay Adult School, which draws enrollment from El Segundo to the peninsula, mails 85,000 brochures. The peninsula program guides are sent to all area residents four times a year.

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Many courses are starting now and enrollment is open. While it’s best to get in at the beginning, people can still join through the early class meetings, unless there are skills involved that would make catching up difficult. Even late registrants must pay full fees. One activity available in the South Bay requires no registration, no classroom, and has no set meeting times. It’s 24-hour automated play and pay racquetball at Marine Avenue Park in Manhattan Beach. The cost is $1 for 10 minutes.

Says Jim Stecklein, city parks and recreation director, “You’d be surprised how many are there at 2 in the morning and as early as 5.”


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