One of the best parts of being in grammar school was being able to go on a field trip. Remember those daisy-colored busses checkered with those stiff manual windows?
With our childhood glee, we’d file onto the bus and cram ourselves like wet sardines into the leather booths, with half our bodies hanging out the windows as we anticipated the adventure that awaited us.
First, you had to get permission from your parents before you could undertake the journey. Bringing home a trip slip, you’d beg your parents to let you go. A scribble at the bottom of the paper gave you a free pass to get of school for most of the day, and wreck havoc upon the institution that graciously allowed you to visit.
Trips to the beach were always some of my favorite excursions. In the sweet swelter of summer, we’d go with our playground coach, Jo Hollis, piling into the bus with our beach gear, picnic food and wild whoops of excitement. Half the fun was the journey in getting there.
The bus would lumber over the Sepulveda Pass, since the 405 freeway wasn’t erected, the vehicle coughing and choking like a tired smoker before it entered into that dark sleeve in the mountain, that Sepulveda tunnel.
Remember honking the horn as you passed through the tunnel? I’m not sure if our bus driver actually did that, but whenever our family made its own trek to Santa Monica, everyone honked their horn. Hey, cars get lonely too. A quick honk between vehicles created camaraderie amongst the autos.
“Hey Chevy, I’m carrying six kids and two adults! How about you?”
At the beach, we’d pile out and head for a sandy spot to accommodate all of us. The adults would referee our activities, as we rode the waves on our rafts, built sand castles, or dug for crabs.
Educational outings included visits to the Natural History Museum where we’d learn about dinosaurs, Indians and the bloody rituals of wolves. If we were lucky enough to go to the Griffith Park Observatory, we’d watch that huge pendulum knock down those tiny metal pilings. I think it demonstrated how the earth rotates on its axis.
Recently, I was visiting a local ecology center when a band of kids came in to learn about nature. As the teachers and parents funneled the children into the building, I fondly recalled my field trips at Carpenter Ave., and the simple joy in getting out of the classroom.