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.

2010 - Leadership Curriculum and A Copy of a Fax of a Copy of A Fax of a co...

  Can you read this? A document that has been copied and faxed several times. In my work with summer camps and outdoor environmental educati...