Monday, January 18, 2021

1982 - Learning to serve others, who Lead and Serve Others

Camp Bluff Lake Map (San Bernardino County, California, USA)

(Fifty Nifty Years in the United States Series)

I’ve told this story several times now. So much of my life I trace to a few different events and individuals.

While we did not run a session of camp until summer 1983, and it was a fateful meeting at the downtown YMCA in Pasadena with Ron Perry that set it all in motion. Another member of the Temple City Y team and myself sat down at the urging of our program director, Maxine, to find out all that we had to do to have a Temple City YMCA session at Bluff Lake.

I think it was one of my first and somewhat formal business proposal meetings. We asked questions and Ron gave us a clear overview of it all. He was so gracious with his time. I remember that huge desk and the huge figure behind it. And during that summer of ‘83 and during that week that week that I discovered who I was to become.

It was during that session one evening, my junior leader, Mike Nordin, and I were taking a break. It was raining and a bit cold so we went down to the KYBO to stay warm and dry.

Now a KYBO is the restroom and shower facility. There were some benches in the shower area and we sat there and talked. At one point the camp director, Ron came in to say hello. Now Ron was a big gregarious guy who was one of those people that you just wanted to be around. He was tall and spoke in a sing song mesmerizing way. I am sure each of you have know someone like this.

So we are in the KYBO...oh did I mention that KYBO, besides being a radio station outside of Barstow California - at camp KYBO or K Y B O stands for “keep your bowels open.” When you’re at camp it’s an important place to know where to go. we’re in the KYBO and in walks Ron and he starts asking us questions and just checking in. After a few minutes he asked, “so how long is your break?” I told him we had to get back up to our cabin now. This is where it got interesting. Out of no-where, he pulls two soda bottles out of his back pockets and says, take 20 more minutes, I’ll go and watch your cabin for you. He handed us the sarsaparilla and walked out. I turned to Mike and said, “someday I want his job.”

I did not fully grasp what that meant at the time. I gained so much from those early days. Ron was truly a leader invoking John Maxwell's Law of Legacy. "Leadership is the one thing you cannot delegate." It was his thoughtful exercise of service that taught me to lead and serve others. And of course if this shows anything, it is John's 2nd Law of Influence. "Leadership is simply about influencing people. Nothing more, nothing less."

Not an actual view, it is a super imposed view of main gate and the lake.

Always grateful to Ron Perry Sr. for the influence of giving his time in service of others as we pass our 50 plus year mark in these United States.

Post Script - I want to take a moment and invite those who are reading this to consider a comment. Let me know where you are in the world and your thoughts on leadership as well. I also invite you to hit the "FOLLOW" button so you will get the latest story reminder. 


Monday, January 11, 2021

1981 - More Leadership Lessons From Another Teacher


Ms Rosencranz (Circa 1980)

                                                           (Fifty Nifty Years in United States Series)

So, there have been many teachers in my 50 plus years in the US. Ms Rosenkrantz was the best. I recently came across my copy of “Kindred Spirits” and recalled that was my first time published. That was Ms Rosenkranz.

When I was in my second year at Cal Poly and decided that all the crazy people were actually the Psych majors, I went back to Temple City high School, (Temple City, Calirfonia) or TCHS and talked to her about changing my major. I moved to Communications (Journalism and Organizational Communications.) That was Ms. Rosenkranz willing to listen and to advise and as much as I wanted permission seeking, she inspired me to decide what direction felt right, and I learned this early.

Ms. Rosenkranz let me be her student aid in 1981. And it was in a class that was discussing limericks that she whispered to me the entire version of “There was an old man from Nantucket.” I had only heard the start if that and never heard the entire R rated version before and I asked her to share and she did. Thinking back on this, may not have been the best decision for an educator. And this is why she inspired.

She helped me to further my education and to think out of the box. It was unconventional style that inspired the way I write. I wrote stories, I wrote a book, I even think I have written a couple of things that may be worthy of publishing.

I am so grateful for that kindred spirit and how much I have gained from her early influence. As part of my 50th anniversary in the United States (celebrated three summers ago on July 24), I am so grateful to Ms. Rosenkranz and the kindred teacher that she drew out of me at such an early age.

I think about Dusty to this day and how inspiring she has been to my life. And as i mentioned, while in college, I went to visit her TCHS class one day and she helped me see a different path when I needed to decide about "two roads" and "that has made all the difference."

Post Script: My friend and mentor, John Maxwell says. “A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change a life.” I read once (about John) that teaching, leading, or mentoring is a form of creating accountability.

I went to Dusty to permission seek and a form of accountability when I knew what I wanted to do. It took me on a different path that looked nothing like the life I thought I was headed towards. I look at that moment as a gift and how it changed my life.

I have received many gifts from teachers. My lesson from this teacher remains this quote from John, “You have to love people. When you stop loving people, you stop leading people.”

And teaching them.


Monday, January 4, 2021

1980 - Thank a Teacher for A Pile of Leadership Lessons

Steaming pile of "s_ _ _"

                                                     (Fifty Nifty Years in United States Series)

I suppose why you are looking at a picture of manure and the headline is "Thank a Teacher." Buy now you will note that I have had a couple of teachers on my BLOG and a few more will show up later.

Mr. Shaw, was my high school drama teacher; one of my first "bosses" when I started working at the San Gabriel Civic Auditorium (Southern California); and director in the few shows were he choose to spot light your truly in a game he liked to play called "find the house manager in the show."

My first show with him was a version of "Heaven Can Wait" (Here Comes Mr. Jordan) and I played a worker delivering equipment to the home of the protagonist. Bill said something to me and I immediately decided that this guy was a worker from New Jersey trying to support his family. He stooped a bit from carrying things and had a thick Jersey accent. Bill said, "make him feel real."

I learned and gained so much from Bill. (I still struggle to call him that). My reason for writing this is that I am celebrating 50 year living in the United States later this year and have challenged myself to write a thanks to different people who came into my life for each year. 

This is Bill (right) and yes, that's Ginger Rogers on the left

I can think of at least seven different times where I went to Mr. Shaw and asked for help/support and an opportunity and he always said yes or provided the space for me to take that opportunity. More often than not, I failed at what ever I was trying. I wanted to be a stage manager because I looked up to those who had that role and Bill gave me an opportunity and than saved me as I learned that was not my fit. 

As I moved through college, I made a choice early on not to pursue some poor decisions on how to make money. Bill graciously carved out some work for me at the theater where I had to really work hard to even come close to other money earning potential. 

My co-worker at the theater and myself wanted to have a say in who we supervised and demanded that we were allowed to screen and hire new staff members. For whatever reason, he gave us an opportunity and we failed forward in that endeavor. I have conducted well over 5000 interviews since then and I am grateful for the early lesson and opportunity to learn how to ask questions and figure out who would fit in that role we cast as a theater usher.

Had it not been for Bill, I would not have met Lee Anne (we married nearly 7 years later) who he hired after promising not to hire people anymore as a favor or because they were a warm body on the schedule. I purposefully left her off the usher schedule for two months after that and finally gave in when he pressed me to do so. (There is a bit more to that story).

I gained a sense of value and self worth because he always wanted to help and support what I was doing. I had many conversations with Bill and I always gained some lesson from them. He was always looking at me intently as we talked and later on I came to believe he was always casting people in roles. In fact in one of my last encounters with Bill more than a decade ago. We were chatting in his office at the theater and he said, "you know you would make a good Samwise Gangee."

When the theater became the home to the Music Theater of Southern California, I had his full confidence to run the front end of the theater in the role of House Manager. I know it was a title he graciously let me co-opt and I was proud of the service our team provided in making things run smoothly for the patrons of that theater. 

Perhaps the best lesson came from one story that I know he shared with so many. It was a simple story of two kids; one was an optimist and the other a pessimist. Their father tried to teach them both a lesson. There's more about ponies and what they produce.

I will leave the simple concept and moral of the story here. I thank Bill for the wonderful lesson and the value he helped me to see in myself as I have shoveled my way through these many years. I am forever always, “looking for the pony.”

Post Script - John Maxwell's leadership "Law of Solid Ground" is about building trust and how that requires competence, connection, and character. As I look back on this teacher, he was always about the business of allowing me to grow with that gift of building my own competence, connection, and character.

January 8, 2021 - I had just posted this 4 days ago and heard of Bill's passing today. I take his words to heart even more so as I look for the pony in all of this. Prayers for Bill, his family and friends and the thousands of students who have been blessed by his work.

Monday, December 28, 2020

1979 - Bruce, Lessons in Friendship


(Fifty Nifty Years in United States Series)

Want a lesson in what a best, best friend is? And how to be one? Call Bruce.

We met at Science of the Dessert (1977 - mentioned briefly in that BLOG about Nude Wash). I was walking past the port-a-potty and out came Bruce flying across the way. He knelt down and puked. to this day I can still faintly recall the smells of that port-a-potty.

Anyway, that was in ’77 and by the time spring and summer of 1978 came around, I was spending most of my time off school with Bruce and his family. Bowling league with his grandfather, weekends at the Pasadena Glen where he and his mom lived. He took me to the King Tut exhibit in Los Angeles when it came through the United States in the late '70s.

And then later, down to Dana Point where he ended high school a year early. I would ride the train down and we would ride all over Orange County on the Orange County Transit District (OCTD) buses. We would meet often at King Arthur’s pizza in Arcadia and talk about everything under the sun.

Did I mention he was and is one of the smartest people I have ever known? In college and beyond (While he was in the Army in Korea) he worked on a system that allowed a computer connecting to a satellite to pin point a person within three feet of their location on earth. This was before cell phones and GPS. (Yes, I know he was testing the military application precursor to GPS)

We had fun and we would listen to comedy albums and individually listen to Dr. Demento on Sunday nights. That was always the topic on Mondays at school. (Just to be clear, there were no cell phones then and we did things and then talked about them after wards. Kinda like Instagram, but without the pictures or instantaneous results, or likes - Okay, it was nothing like Instagram). We listened to the Smother's Brothers and he taught me the Jerry Lewis "One Hen, two ducks, three squawking geese..." bit.

We talked a great deal about so many things. He was that friend that I good share everything and he was the first friend that listened...really listened. Our conversations would meander around and be about so many different things.

Bruce told me once that if you could have just one or two good friends for the rest of your life; that would always be more than enough. He introduced me to the book Illusions by Richard Bach. (More of him later at a later BLOG).

In the book, Bach says, "The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.” That was our relationship and Bruce always modeled that for me. I have to admit that I lost my way and lost the connection for a few decades.

I learned so much from him on how to be a friend – from his example not mine. I am so grateful for those lessons and for sharing his family with me. As I think about the past 50 plus years in the US, I am so fond of his friendship and memories of how he shared so much. And as Richard says after all, "they give you a book to read."

Thanks Bruce.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

1989 - Stewardship – Leadership Lessons in Investing and Re-investing


Split trunk of the Champion Lodgepole Pine
(Person in blue standing near the base helps with size perspective)

(40 Summers 40 Lessons Series)

Stewardship - It’s an old fashioned word. It does not come up in normal conversation. I have worked with hundreds and hundreds of volunteers and only once in a blue moon (That’s a full moon twice in one month - which occurs on average every 2.5 to 3 years).

I heard the term from several mentors in my early days at Camp Bluff Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California.

Each week during the summer, several hundred youth traveled to the camp and each Wednesday was hike day. Some 10 or 11 weeks of each summer, one of the hikes was to and past the Champion Lodgepole Pine which is said to be the largest of its species in North America. (Check out the hike for yourself next time you are in that area. Here is a link: Champion Lodgepole Pine)

Some 10-12 youth could hold outstretched hands and while holding hands wrap around the base of this tree. We would hike past the tree to a neighboring meadow where we would look back and have a somewhat unobstructed view of the entire tree. About a third of the way up, the tree split into two different trunks. It was estimated that the tree was hit by lightening at the time of the Revolutionary War and grew in the split trunk format from that time forward.

During my last year as a program director at the camp and while I became the Director, a logging project was started at the camp. A thinning that took many of the trees throughout the center of the camp facility. Those trees, (Ponderosa Pines, seen around the Lodgepole picture above), were a huge part of the vista as you drove into the facility. Their bark also smelled like vanilla.

It was quite a site that these huge trees would be felled into the exact spots that the lumber jack would determine. Sometimes narrowly missing buildings or falling between two cabins. The sound was tremendous and if you are curious, while I was there, it was always heard. (Considering that fact that someone was in the woods.)

It was one of these trees that as it fell and landed in its precise spot that its top and middle branches brushed another tree and it fell in an unintended direction. That second tree landed towards a cabin and it’s top took out the front porch and most of the roof. The owner of the logging company determined that the road traveling just past the base of that tree had eroded the root system for decades to the point that the tree was compromised and was bound to fall.

True to his word, he replaced and repaired the porch and roof of the cabin. Fred Ford, the logger, was one of those who used the word “steward.” He often proceeded it with the word, “good.” He talked to me about doing what had to be done to make sure that the saplings would grow and get enriched from having additional sunshine and room as the bigger, older trees got out of the way. Fred was captivating in the sense that a five minute call or talk always ended up in a half hour lesson or story. 

I heard that from others as well. People, like George Finnerty (Previous Blog subject) and countless other long time volunteers and leaders. It was one of those early leaders that said that we (as directors) had to hire and train our own replacements. Those volunteers who talked about how the earth and ground would get in and under your skin to make you want to come back again and again to serve.

Those big trees and the funds that came from the sale allowed the camp to persevere for several more years. The funds were reinvested in another portion of the facility that had been neglected and became an urgent problem and need. Some 25 or 30 years earlier, a dump was established on the property and those in charge at that time neglected to file a permit with the county.

It was during the cleanup of the timber harvest that a county inspector discovered that dump and investigated the permit less problem. The funds helped us clean up and restore that portion to its original state (or as close as possible). Decades of waste were hauled away and re-landscaped to what the forester determined it may have looked like.

We applied for Tree Farm status and in the subsequent two years, planted over 3500 new saplings in different areas. I feel like the right things all lined up in order for a problem from a previous generation was being solved and moved forward to restore balance. Our original intent to reinvest in the property became an effort in cleaning up what others had caused. And it was a reinvestment.

Those hikes after that season also added a talk to the youth, staff, and volunteers about what had happened. I felt that the care and responsible management of something entrusted to my care also meant teaching a new generation that they had be “careful and responsible” in their management of something entrusted to their care.

The lesson I gained about stewardship I have applied at every level of my work. Taking care of land, property, individuals, equipment, culture, history, and every aspect of the organizational work. I know I have fallen short and I know I have had some success as well.  

Stewardship is often intended as a way to treat the environment. I believe that it is also a way to look at economics, health, possessions, theology, information, culture, and individual relationships.

I do find that today’s dialogue about how we manage the world a bit presumptive and narrow minded. It is difficult to believe that humans can change what has been set in motion and that somehow we can manage our way out of something so huge. It is also narrow thinking that presumes we shouldn’t try.


Post Script: According to the Center of the West, “wood from the tall and slender, Pinus contorta, or lodgepole pine, was preferred for tipi poles because of its resilience to weather and rot. The hide or canvas of the tipi was tied to a pole to the rear of the door and wrapped around the frame.”




Monday, December 14, 2020

1978 - Lessons in Orchestral Maneuvers

It's All About the Bass

 (Fifty Nifty Years in United States Series)

(This entry I wrote as a letter of gratitude to my orchestra conductor and leader.)

Dear Mr. Hoolihan (Emmett Hoolihan) - I am writing today because this year, I am celebrating 50 years (now 52) in the United States since coming from Brasil when I was 4 years old. I am challenging myself to write to different people who had a great influence in my life for each different year.

So in 8th grade, I was accidentally placed in Orchestra class at Oak Avenue School (in California) by some fluke of the modern computer era. You thoughtfully told me to hang out for a week or so until the back log of folks got thru the office with changes.

I am not sure if this was deliberate on your part or not, but I did and in that short time you convinced me to take up playing the bass. I was challenged and was accepted into the group. 

Bill Heinen and Reed Gilchrist helped me along as well and later Rich Hollinger as well as Mike Perini and Sue Brown.

I am so grateful for that welcome and being a part of something that allowed me to express myself in a way I had never had before. I always had an appreciation for music and you helped me learn how to grow through that appreciation. If it where not for the experience, I would never have been able to know what it is like to get lost in the music.

To this day I have that feeling of immersion that you so skillfully allowed me to find. Our time together ended and I look back at that time as one where a teacher pushed me into a area that I would never had thought I would go – the lesson of a teacher that has inspired me in so many ways.

I have had the opportunity to spend the majority of my adult life teaching (through experiential education in camp settings and music has always been a big part of that) to over 53,000 young people.

I aspire to have an influence on just one of them like the influence you had on my young life. For that I am grateful. And I thank you – and think to myself, how wonderful to be in America.

Warmest regards, Al Ferreira

Post Script - Bob Ross said it best. "There are no mistakes, only happy accidents."

When I wrote this I believed I would use this format for each of my folks who influenced me on a 50 year journey. I quickly changed the format to the format of having an idea, which led to a story and the "solution" that I found in the lessons. As the song stated "I need you now like I need you then" and each lesson and individual has been a reminder of the work as well as the journey. I know that it references a love song and I know that if I could I would do it all again and would not let go of these memories at any price. I remain grateful to the computer error and to Mr. Hoolihan and the other individuals mentioned above.

Emmett Hoolihan


Monday, December 7, 2020

1977 - Lessons from A Scout Leader and A Librarian

Oak Avenue School Library - Temple City, CA

                            (Fifty Nifty Years in United States Series)

Jim McClaren and Mrs. McClaren. We went to Science of the Dessert with him and she was the librarian at Oak Avenue Intermediate School. He was my first Scout leader and camp enthusiast that set off a path of camping.

If you don’t know Mr. McClaren, just think of Ward Bond, the character actor from many John Wayne and John Ford movies. That was Mr. McClaren (More about him in a bit). Mrs. McClaren gave me so much time in the library at Oak Avenue School. I had moved to the area the spring before 7th grade to the school district and was subjugated to the library by the administration while they determined what classes to put me in.

I had become disenchanted with everything and felt somewhat isolated. It took a toll on my self esteem and I had always stuttered through my English. I would panic in meeting most new people and would have a difficult time even saying someone's name. 

Needless to say, Mrs. McClaren saw my struggle to adjust and started to coach me on speaking to groups. Over a many after school sessions, she suggested that I sing things in my head and then say them aloud. It was brilliant – I went from stuttering to sing/thinking and then it made it easier to talk to people.

Anyone who has been in 7th grade knows how tough it can be and she helped me get out of my head by focusing on thinking differently with the other side of my brain.

As for Mr. McClaren, those of us who went on Science of the Dessert that next year all remember the great and hilarious happenings at Nude Wash in Anza Borrego. Mr. McClaren was tall and always seemed to be focused on something and had a great wisdom about him.

Pictured - Ward Bond - not Mr. McClaren

My best memory of him was in our 7th grade Science of the Dessert trip to Anza Borrego Dessert in San Diego County, Calirfornia. We were at a place called “Nude Wash” and as we hiked up sure enough there were several people there who were in fact nude.  As our chaperone, Mr. McClaren of course had to diffuse the situation and went over to explain to them that they should cover up because we had 50 or so 7th graders hiking through.

The situation got hot (yes, we were in the dessert) very quickly and in my recollection, their voices got louder and the next thing I knew one of the “gentlemen” was pushed into a cactus. So, this prickly situation is just one lesson I have learned at Summer Camp.  (LESSON -Bonus) “There is always a place for a pun.”

I am so grateful for their influence. I know they both have been gone for at least a decade and I want you to know that they are a big part of who I am today because I learned about organized camping and I learned to think in different ways. They are part of the 50 plus years that I have been in the US with my family and I am eternally grateful.

1982 - Learning to serve others, who Lead and Serve Others

Camp Bluff Lake Map (San Bernardino County, California, USA) (Fifty Nifty Years in the United States Series) I’ve told this story several ti...