Follow the red brick wall

I have often written in praise of the “Hebrew School Carpool.” Around here we call it the Kapolei Carpool and it has become an established method of transportation for the small group of West Oahu Jewish families who are driving  the 21 miles back and forth, some times several times a week, to Temple Emanu-El in Honolulu for our kids to attend the Jewish School of Studies.

On Sunday mornings it’s pretty easy. We zip in and out of Honolulu in less than 30 minutes, with little interference. Traveling west on H-1 into Town on a weekday afternoon poses a challenge. Traffic congestion is random and can start as early as 3:00 pm. Often the pace makes a slow crawl until well after 6:00 pm.

But that’s not what this blog post is about. It has to do with the carpool, but in a much different way.

While forming the Kapolei Carpool was generally effortless, it took me much longer to find a carpool with neighborhood families whose children go to the same secular school that mine attend. I’ve been looking for a kindred group of drivers since my Teenager was in second grade and was not successful until recently.

Several of  Middle Schooler’s classmates live nearby and together we have established a nice carpool system.

We’ve told her to be at the ready to jump in the designated driver’s car as soon as it pulls up to the house. I don’t like to wait for other kids when I drive, so I don’t want other parents to wait for mine.

I told her about my Hebrew School days carpooling with the Rosmans, Shermans and Oxmans. My parents made us go outside to wait for them. We would sit on the red brick wall that divided our yard from that of our neighbors, the Armstrongs.

That’s what this blog post is about, the red brick wall in the front yard of the house where I lived for the first 18 years of my life at 5081 Somerset Street in Buena Park, California.

My sister on the red brick wall when she was a teenager.

I pose on the wall when I was a teenager.

One of the main attractions of our trip to Buena Park was a visit to that house.

The Gershun girls pose with our paternal grandmother in front of our house on Somerset Street.

We entered the neighborhood from Beach Boulevard and turned right on Los Coyotes Drive. It was called Bellehurst when we were kids, but now the entrance simply boasts the way to Los Coyotes Country Club.

Turning right on Country Club Drive, we wound our way to Somerset Street. We pointed out the few houses whose former occupants we remember. We got to the Morish’s house, 5 doors from ours and entered “The Zone”: the Morish’s, The Jensen’s, The Sheatz’s, please remind me if you remember the name of this family, the Armstrong’s and ours.

And there we were, facing the home of our childhood and the wonderful memories it holds. The front yard was the gathering place for croquet games, hide ‘n seek marathons and relay races of any kind.

The red brick wall was not only a bus stop for the local carpool. It was home base for kickball games and the launching point for piggy back rides and the wooden stilts that a family friend made for us.

We hesitated about parking in front of the house to get a good look. It felt kind of stalkerish. But I insisted. Why hide?

They have added plants in front of the wall where we used to play so we had to take pictures sitting on the wall from the Armstrong’s side.

My sister poses on the red brick wall in 2012.

I pose on the red brick wall in 2012.

By the time I was taking pictures of the tree, a lady came out the front door to ask us what we were doing! We explained who we are and she was very nice. She told us that mail addressed to the Gershun family was delivered to them a few times. We talked about the yard, the area and the schools. And then we were on our way.

While not as prominent as the red brick wall, our front yard tree was ever-present in our childhood games. It was known to grow leaves and shed them at odd times of the year. It was my job to rake the leaves.

I visited the area in 2009 and took photos of the house and wall. It has changed, even since then.

The red brick wall in 2009.

The house and tree in 2009.

On that trip I reconnected with childhood friends.

On this trip I reconnected with my sister, our childhood and myself. Each stop on our itinerary prompted us to relate personal perspectives of experiences we shared, rejuvenating the wonderful memories of growing  up in our childhood home at 5081 Somerset and the surrounding Bellehurst neighborhood.

Who says you can’t go back in time?

I met my oldest sister in Los Angeles a few weeks ago for a good old fashioned trip down memory lane.

Even though we grew up in the northern Orange County area, we stayed in Santa Monica so we could be close to LAX and enjoy the trendy shopping and entertainment that the Los Angeles area has to offer.

Our hotel was conveniently located right near the I-10 Freeway, allowing us to easily address prominent items on our itinerary that were in Orange County: specific landmarks in our home town of Buena Park and neighboring towns of Fullerton and La Mirada.

We made two separate trips along the I-10 Freeway eastbound to the I-5 Freeway southbound in order to travel 35 miles and 35 years back in time to visit the neighborhood, Synagogue, schools and favorite foods of our childhood.

There is so much to share that I will separate it into several posts so as not to overwhelm anybody with TMI, including myself.

First stop on our journey: Temple Beth Ohr in La Mirada, California

We were excited to attend Friday night Shabbat services at Temple Beth Ohr in La Mirada, the shul of our youth! We went to Religious school, became Bat Mitzvahs and were confirmed at this small Synagogue on the border of Southern California’s Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Both of us were active in the Temple youth group, BOTY, during our high school days and I’m pretty sure we each managed to aggravate a Hebrew school teacher or two on the small faculty there with our talkative tendencies.

Through the magic of Facebook, and the fact that I keep in touch with several of my former Hebrew school classmates, 5 members of the Confirmation Class of 1978 were also in attendance. We sat together during services, chanting the prayers and singing the songs to the familiar tunes of our kinderhood, uniting the past and present in mutual celebration.

Posing on confirmation day with my sisters

My official confirmation photo from 1978

At the Oneg we reminisced about Religious School teachers, youth group days and whipped out our cell phones to share photos of our own kids who are presently in college and high school and having their own B’nei Mitzvahs.

When I describe what it was like to grow up Jewish in Buena Park, California in the 1960’s and 1970’s I tell them that it is very similar to my own children’s experience in Kapolei, Hawaii. I was one of few Jewish kids in my school, along with Jon Sherman and Jason Oxman. There are only a few Jewish families on the west side of Oahu and significantly fewer in the state of Hawaii than in California then or now.

Temple Beth Ohr had a small congregation of about 200 families. Temple Emanu-El of Honolulu’s congregation is of similar size.

I would also tell you that the facilities are of similar dimension and that is where I would be wrong. You know how you remember things from your childhood as being much bigger and then when you go back to visit them you realize that your perspective has changed? That happened to me a few times on this trip. I was surprised at how in reality both the sanctuary and the social hall are much smaller than memory serves. They look the same, they are lovely, just smaller than I remember.

BOTY Shabbat service held before new sanctuary was built circa 1973

My youngest sister's official 1974 Confirmation photo in front of the stained glass window in the old sanctuary which is now the social hall

My oldest sister and I in front of the same stained glass window which is now in the new sanctuary.

Confirmation Class of 1978 Reunites: Lorraine Gershun, Jon Sherman, Suzanne Atlas Skorheim, Lisa Grossman Bloch, Stacey Ellig Campbell, Don Bloch

While we enjoyed the sumptuous Oneg sponsored by the Sisterhood, we got to talk to Ellie Ursis who was the youth group advisor when my sister was in high school, Rhonda Atlas who’s home I spent as much time in as my own hanging out with her daughter when I was a teenager, Harley Rockoff who was the Temple President when I was a kid and who’s son is still a friend of mine and Sandy Bloch who’s husband was also a Temple President of my childhood and son a classmate and Facebook friend.

Then benefits of small town Jewish life shined as 1978 classmates Lisa Grossman and Don Bloch come now as a unit, Mr. and Mrs. Bloch and the new Rabbi, Rabbi Goldfarb is cousins with one of our Temple Emanu-El congregants. Jewish Geography at its best.

It was truly a Shabbat Shalom and a great way to start a nice long weekend connecting with my sister and our past.

Who says you can’t go back in time?

I met my oldest sister in Los Angeles a few weeks ago for a good old fashioned trip down memory lane.

Even though we grew up in the northern Orange County area, we stayed in Santa Monica so we could be close to LAX and enjoy the trendy shopping and entertainment that the Los Angeles area has to offer.

Our hotel was conveniently located right near the I-10 Freeway, allowing us to easily address prominent items on our itinerary that were in Orange County: specific landmarks  in our home town of Buena Park and neighboring towns of Fullerton and La Mirada.

We made two separate trips along the I-10 Freeway eastbound to the I-5 Freeway southbound in order to travel 35 miles and 35 years back in time to visit the neighborhood, Synagogue, schools and favorite foods of our childhood.

There is so much to share that I will separate it into  several posts so as not to overwhelm anybody with TMI, including myself.

First stop on our journey: Temple Beth Ohr in La Mirada, California

We were excited to attend Friday night Shabbat services at Temple Beth Ohr in La Mirada, the shul of our youth! We went to Religious school, became Bat Mitzvahs and were confirmed at this small Synagogue on the border of Southern California’s Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Both of us were active in the Temple youth group, BOTY, during our high school days and I’m pretty sure we each managed to aggravate a Hebrew school teacher or two on the small faculty there with our talkative tendencies.

Through the magic of Facebook, and the fact that I keep in touch with several of my former Hebrew school classmates, 5 members of the Confirmation Class of 1978 were also in attendance. We sat together during services, chanting the prayers and singing the songs to the familiar tunes of our kinderhood, uniting the past and present in mutual celebration.

Posing on confirmation day with my sisters

My official confirmation photo from 1978

At the Oneg we reminisced about Religious School teachers, youth group days and whipped out our cell phones to share photos of our own kids who are presently in college and high school and having their own B’nei Mitzvahs.

When I describe what it was like to grow up Jewish in Buena Park, California in the 1960’s and 1970’s I tell them that it is very similar to my own children’s experience in Kapolei, Hawaii. I was one of few Jewish kids in my school, along with Jon Sherman and Jason Oxman. There are only a few Jewish families on the west side of Oahu and significantly fewer in the state of Hawaii than in California then or now.

Temple Beth Ohr had a small congregation of about 200 families. Temple Emanu-El of Honolulu’s congregation is of similar size.

I would also tell you that the facilities are of similar dimension and that is where I would be wrong. You know how you remember things from your childhood as being much bigger and then when you go back to visit them you realize that your perspective has changed? That happened to me a few times on this trip. I was surprised at how in reality both the sanctuary and the social hall are much smaller than memory serves. They look the same, they are lovely, just smaller than I remember.

BOTY Shabbat service held before new sanctuary was built circa 1973

My youngest sister's official 1974 Confirmation photo in front of the stained glass window in the old sanctuary which is now the social hall

My oldest sister and I in front of the same stained glass window which is now in the new sanctuary.

Confirmation Class of 1978 Reunites: Lorraine Gershun, Jon Sherman, Suzanne Atlas Skorheim, Lisa Grossman Bloch, Stacey Ellig Campbell, Don Bloch

While we enjoyed the sumptuous Oneg sponsored by the Sisterhood, we got to talk to Ellie Ursis who was the youth group advisor when my sister was in high school, Rhonda Atlas who’s home I spent as much time in as my own hanging out with her daughter when I was a teenager, Harley Rockoff who was the Temple President when I was a kid and who’s son is still a friend of mine and Sandy Bloch who’s husband was also a Temple President of my childhood and son a classmate and Facebook friend.

Then benefits of small town Jewish life shined as 1978 classmates Lisa Grossman and Don Bloch come now as a unit, Mr. and Mrs. Bloch and the new Rabbi, Rabbi Goldfarb is cousins with one of our Temple Emanu-El congregants. Jewish Geography at its best.

It was truly a Shabbat Shalom and a great way to start a nice long weekend connecting with my sister and our past.