Southcentral Los Angeles – 1988 through July 1996

I was 9 years old when the decision to move into Southcentral Los Angeles came into view. My mother prayed for a place to open up, with 4 bedrooms that was not there. You see, we were living near the old portion of the Los Angeles Convention Center, just off Pico Blvd on a street called Wright Street. The part of Wright Street I used to live on, you see, is no longer there. It sits where the newer portion of the Los Angeles Convention Center, on the south side of Pico Blvd. The green overlay, I have added to the Google map image below, shows a rough placement of the 1300 block of Wright Street, based on the part of Wright Street still remaining.

Wright Street Map Overlay
Wright Street Map Overlay from Google Maps

We were part of those affected by the October 01, 1987 Whittier Narrow Quake, which registered at a magnitude of 5.9. The quake caused a huge crack to go down the side of the building and the Convention Center seized the opportunity to snatch up the property nearby. My parents were granted section 8 money to relocate, moving assistance, and even some cash based on the number of rooms where we were living.

And so we moved to our new address: 615 1/2 West 92nd Street. The attached photo, again from Google street view, shows the front half of the first of the 3 buildings on this lot. They are 4 bedroom duplexes, or at least I believe they are all 4 bedrooms, and ours was the back half of the first building. That small building to the right, just past the cars in the laundry room for the premises. I remember helping my mother wash clothes there in the coin operated machines. I don’t remember the white fence being up around the property, although I do remember bars on the windows with fire escape release buttons and a security door.

615 1/2 West 92nd Street
615 West 92nd Street (1/2 is in the back of this front duplex) using Google Street View

The elementary school I was to attend, Manchester Avenue Elementary, did not have room for both my sister and I, cannot remember which of us were the unlucky one, so we were bused out of the area. We ended up at Mar Vista Elementary School, near Venice Beach, which made no sense with other schools in the area. The thing to realize is that what Elementary School we were suppose to attend was based on where we lived. Another close by elementary school was not chosen, at that time, since it was for people living in another area. My sister and I walked to the elementary school we were supposed to attend, to catch a bus to the school we ended up at.

It took some doing, but our parents ended up getting a waiver to allow us to attend 95th Street Elementary, the elementary school where I first used a computer in the fourth grade. I graduated from 5th grade here, as well.

Junior High Years

I attended Bret Harte Preparatory Middle School on the corner of 92nd and Hoover, just a short walk from where we were living. I completed 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, to graduate in 1992, shortly after the Los Angeles Riots. Yes, I lived in Southcentral Los Angeles during the 1992 LA Riots. However, I spent part of the time just outside the area. It was a crazy time indeed. To this day I do not understand how burning down your own neighborhood achieved anything. Some of the places I remember going while living there are still gone and may never return. I remember the local Boys Market, our grocery store, on Manchester Avenue and Hoover Street. I remember so much and yet I have not stepped foot back in the area I grew up in since moving out in 1996.

Bret Harte Prep Middle School
Bret Harte as seen using Google’s street view, April 2015

My First Magnet School

After the riots and graduating from Junior High, I was on track to attend Washington High School. As my parents and I were not comfortable so close after the riots, I ended up being bussed to Peary Middle School in Gardena for 9th grade. It was my first experience with a magnet school and it was the final year the middle school would offer 9th grade. It was not my first experience at a school with other white people though, as I had experienced that at least once before at Mar Vista Elementary, years earlier. However, it was my first experience with other things: including horticulture class. I was also invited to be a part of a teen section for the Daily Breeze. That experience, while beneficial in seeing how newspapers operate, yielded no stories for me. While I am white, before that experience I had never really dealt with any white issues and being that I lived in a predominately black area, what did I have to write about reader might actually care about. That’s how I thought at the time. If only I had spoken up and suggested some stories.

Moving Day Number One

I remember the first move we made, not out of the area but from one place to another. We moved just a few blocks away and not having a vehicle, we got some assistance from the Mormon church we were members of, for the big items at least. The smaller items we moved by shopping cart. Talk about embarrassing. We moved most of the items using a shopping cart. The new place was smaller, in the number of rooms, but still not bad.

High School Years

After graduating from Peary Middle School, I attended Garfield High School in East Los Angeles. I missed the first few days of 10th grade due to a camping trip, but once I started 10th grade I realized I would once again have a hard time fitting in. I had some serious bumps attending schools in South Central Los Angeles, being white, but also some bumps at Peary for being from the “inner city”. Now I was attending a predominately Hispanic school in a Hispanic area.