|Oak Avenue School Library - Temple City, CA|
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.
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.