Navy Education

Schools I’ve Attended

My Life
Those Places Thursday
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.Grace-Lee Products, Inc

After I graduated from high school, I moved to Northeast Minneapolis and got a job at Grace-Lee Products, Inc., 1414 Marshall Avenue in Minneapolis. They manufactured and packaged industrial chemicals. My job was to move 55-gallon drums of chemicals from one place to another. Grace-Lee was a dangerous place to work, but it paid reasonably well for unskilled labor. I recall that a drum of caustic potash (Potassium hydroxide) accidentally opened and the powder came up into the person’s face. He lost an eye and I realized this was an extremely hazardous place to work. Shortly after that, Honeywell hired me to work in their Golden Valley plant.

Honeywell

At Honeywell, I worked in the paint department racking and stacking thermostat rings to go through the paint booth then taking them off the fixture and packaging them. Those thermostats haven’t changed much since 1968 when I work there. I knew that I didn’t want to follow my step-father to be an assembly-line painter, so I decided to join the Navy. I enlisted under a 120-day deferment program where I enlisted in September, saving me from the draft but not going active duty until January, after the holidays.

A-School

Me on barracks steps c. 1969 (This barracks was torn down several weeks after this.)

After Boot Camp, I was enticed to sign a “promissory to extend” in order to go to “A” School and learn a trade. I agreed to do so and went to about a year of electronics training, first eight weeks in San Diego, then 42 weeks at Treasure Island (San Francisco). I was in a really smart class. Nearly everyone in my class received very high grades. After school, your next duty station depended upon where you placed in your class.  I think I was 8th in a 20, so I knew I was going to sea. After I realized that, I took an administrative assignment for a few weeks, which put me into another class. In that new class, I was number one. As number one in the class, I was able to select the best duty station offered–a tour at Boardman Bombing Range, Boardman Oregon. Two years in Oregon sounded great, so I took it.  I thought, “Hopefully the Viet Nam war would be over by the time my duty in Oregon was complete.” No such luck.

Boardman Bombing Range, Boardman, Oregon

QM56 – M56 with gun removed, remote control radio tower and reflector screens installed

In Oregon, I was a bomb spotter most of the time. I worked on transmitters and receiver equipment used to talk with the aircraft doing their bombing runs. Also, the base had M56 90MM Mobile Guns that had their gun removed and then converted to remote control. We would operate them remotely as mobile targets for the aircraft to bomb. In both cases, the electronics seldom broke down, so time was spent on preventative maintenance and repairing the mobile targets. I had no formal training or education while at Boardman.

CTMS – Cryptographic Technical Maintenance School, Mare Island (Vallejo. California

KY-8 – photo courtesy NSA, NSA Museum

After two years in Oregon, it was time for sea duty, and I received orders to the USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63). On my way there I was sent to CTMS Mare Island (Vallejo, California) and attended a “C” school for eight weeks. There I learned to the KY-8, shipboard crypto equipment used on ships for secure voice communications with aircraft. It was a challenging class (understanding how crypto works can be a challenge) at a big building with no windows on Mare Island.

These Navy schools did what I was hoping for. I learned the basics of a vocation, electronics maintenance and repair, that gave me the fundamentals of electronics that carried me through the rest of my life. Navy Schools were a great beginning, but I wanted more. The USS Kitty Hawk and the Program for Afloat College Education would help me further my education.

 

Schools I’ve Attended – Mumford – Detroit

My Life
Those Places Thursday
By Don Taylor

I lived in Detroit for a short while.  While there, I attended Mumford High School. It was one of the most challenging times in my life. My experiences in school, at work, and life in general, were mostly negative and difficult for many different reasons.

My stepfather was a mean drunk and beat on my mother frequently. Skinny, scrawny, fifteen-year-old me couldn’t do anything about it. I tried to stop him a couple of times, but he just smacked me into a corner and into submission. I didn’t realize at the time, but I learned years later that my mom miscarried during one of those regular beatings. Finally, one day mom packed my little sister, Sharon, me, and all she could fit into the car and started driving. I don’t think she knew where we were going at first but decided a few miles down the road when her head cleared a bit. She had left my step-father a couple of times before, only to go back to him after several weeks. This time she seemed serious; I was hoping. We headed east, lived in the car for a few days and drove the seven-hundred miles from Minneapolis to my mom’s hometown, Detroit. She didn’t have family or anyone there who could help, but she knew the city and knew she’d figure something out.

She found an apartment for us. It was an old, dilapidated place in a mostly industrial area. I don’t remember exactly where it was, but it was a very bad part of town at the time – I’m pretty sure it was on Third Avenue between Forest Ave and what is now Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. There were many empty lots nearby with the rubble of a time long past. There were a couple old, 19th-century hotels remaining in the area that had been converted into apartments. We were in one of them. Behind the building was an empty lot and beyond that the John C. Lodge Freeway. I remember one night I was stopped for WWW (Walking While White) in a black neighborhood. The police stopped their patrol car, jumped out, pulled their guns, threw me up against a fence and want to know what I was doing in the area. Admittedly, I was wearing a large winter coat, much more coat than necessary for the weather, but it was the only one I had. I probably looked like a shoplifter. They searched me, determined I didn’t have any drugs or weapons, and finally let go. Having one cop hold a gun on me while the other searched my pockets was scary. God, would they not find anything and then plant something on me just to make an arrest. I was really afraid. That experience gave me an understanding of what “driving while black” (DWB) is like for people of color in this country. The exception is that their experiences are much worse and more common.

Sharon slept with my mom in the bed and I slept on the couch. The couch smelled like it came from the previous century, and I’m sure it probably did. It wasn’t ideal, but we were warm, dry, and had lots more room than we did living in the car. I enjoyed reading as a vehicle for escape and, like so many teenage boys, I read science fiction. Unfortunately, reading was impossible because the one 40-watt light bulb hanging from the ceiling barely lit the room and we had no other lamps. We couldn’t watch TV and cook on the hotplate at the same time because we had to be careful to not blow any fuses. The fuse box was in the basement, four stories down. The TV was so old that it had continuous tuning. Rather than stepping between channels like most TVs of the time, we tuned it like a radio. Between channels six and seven we could tune into FM Radio, airplane frequencies, even emergency radio transmissions.  Of course, the picture was horrid, but at least it was a diversion.

My mom found a job in Northwest Detroit – just beyond Highland Park and I think it was near Marygrove College. She decided it would be better for me to go to school out there rather than in the inner city. She worked at a dry cleaner and the owner’s mother watched Sharon, who was two at the time, during the day while mom worked. Mom used her work address as our home address so that I could go to a better school. I walked to Mumford High School and hurried to the cleaners afterward because I worked there also. I’d “mark-in, assemble, and bag.” The laundry, in those days, would mark a person’s clothing with an indelible pen identifying the owner. After the laundry was washed and pressed, I’d gather the entire order together (assemble) and then bag it up. Occasionally, I had to press shirts which I didn’t like doing. I wasn’t very good at it and was slow, but I had to do it when the work was backed up. I don’t remember how much I earned, but it wasn’t much – maybe 75 cents an hour. I worked from after school until closing when mom, my little sister and I drove home together, made something to eat on the hotplate. After that, we watch the blurry, flickering TV until bedtime. One time an irate customer pulled a gun and pointed it at mom, which really scared me. Luckily the guy’s wife made him put the gun away.

At Mumford, I encountered institutional racism for the first time. I was shocked that school had programs in place that separated students along racial and economic lines. The biology class I left in Minnesota before leaving was the same class at Mumford and used exactly the same textbooks. After a few days, I mentioned to the teacher that in Minnesota, the students did all the lab exercises, and wondered why the instructor did the lab work while we merely watched then answered the lab questions based on what we observed the instructor do. Oddly enough I was immediately put into “college prep” group that did the lab work. It wasn’t lost on me that the college preparatory group was mostly white. It was obvious that these students received a much better education and encouragement to succeed rather than shuffled through the system.

A couple of weeks later my stepfather showed up at school. He tracked us down by discovering that my school records had been transferred to Mumford and he drove there to retrieve us. He promised Mom and me that he wouldn’t hurt her again and swore he had quit drinking. My mom, like so many battered women, believed him, so we returned to Minnesota. He followed us all the way, probably to make sure she didn’t try to run again. One time we escaped to Billings, MT when he found us, he not only followed us all the way but pushed us at 60 miles per hour when Mom’s old clunker couldn’t make it up the hills fast enough for him.

Most of my stories bring back fond memories as I write, but this post is a catharsis rather than a joyful trip down Memory Lane. In writing this, I’ve finally processed many painful events that I haven’t thought of in decades. Our foray to Detroit taught me many things, including fear of the police and the existence of institutional discrimination. It also taught me the importance of working my way out of despair, which is one of the greatest lessons that my mother ever taught me.

Schools I’ve Attended – Osseo High School

My Life
Those Places Thursday
By Don Taylor

During the summer of 1965, my stepfather decided to sell the house in North Minneapolis and build a new home in Brooklyn Park. Brooklyn Park is a second-tier suburb about ten miles northwest of Minneapolis. I believe Budgar was the first to buy in a development called “Sager’s Acres.” In any event, as is often the case with new construction, building completion was delayed. The house on Bryant Avenue sold and we needed a place to live. We ended up renting a dwelling on Lowry Avenue in Minneapolis between Lyndale and Aldrich Avenue. I registered for school at Osseo with the expectation that we’d move to the new house before school started. No such luck. Somehow, we were able to find an Osseo teacher who lived in North Minneapolis and who would give me a ride to and from school until the house in Brooklyn Park was completed. I’m not sure, but I think I rode with the teacher for about a month, maybe two.  I wish I could remember her name and thank her for the rides.

Osseo Then

Osseo High School, New Wing – Source: 1967 Osseo Yearbook

Osseo was an old farming town that was experiencing the pains of massive growth. The school district (Independent School District #279) was an area consisting of Osseo, Brooklyn Park, Maple Grove, and parts of Brooklyn Center and several other towns. The original building was built in 1928. More classrooms and a lunchroom were added in 1949 and more classrooms again were added in 1957. In 1959 a gymnasium was added. In 1961 a major expansion was added and in 1964 another major expansion was added. With one of the expansions, the old part of the building was designated the Junior High portion of the school and the new expansions were designated the high school part of the building. I started at Osseo in the fall of 1965. As I recall, all of the high school classes were in the two new expansion wings of the school. The newly built gym and the cafeteria were used by the High School.  Osseo had the worst lunches ever. Just plain horrible. One meal I remember vividly was toast with a blob of spaghetti-like mix on top with a little cheese melted on top that they called “pizza.” They were also trying to be healthy, so they took chips and good things out of the machines and replaced them with apples, oranges, and other “healthy” foods. In my junior year, the Junior High students moved to a new building nearby and the old building became a newly established Junior College. Needless to say, our attitude changed greatly when we learned that they had student lounges and more adult facilities. They also had good food in their machines. Occasionally, we’d sneak around the building, enter the Junior College, and buy goodies out of their machines.

Foster Home

In the spring of 1966, I got into a big row with my stepfather. He and my mother had been fighting, which typically occurred when he had been drinking, and I broke it up and beating him until I got tired. He made it be known that he would kill me in my sleep for it, so I decided it was time to leave. After a few weeks on the street, I was arrested for trespassing (Two other runaways and I were sleeping in a model home at night.) Budgar didn’t want me back, so I was ruled incorrigible. I was lucky enough to be sent to a foster home in Brooklyn Center (not a group home) and I was able to continue at Osseo High. It was while living in the foster home I met my best friend, Doug, who lived a few blocks away from the Olson’s house on Perry Avenue.

Osseo Interests

Don Taylor junior class photo, 1967
Junior Class Photo – 1967

I was in the audio-visual group, chess club, computer club, and was seen as a generally geeky, nerdy, kid.  I was over six feet tall and under 150 pounds –skinny. I did well in high school and never needed to study to get a “B.” If I really liked a class and I decided to work for it I’d get an “A.”  At that time, they gave students two grades, the standard A to F letter grades for academics and a “Citizenship” grade from 1 to 3; three was a “misfit.” The vast majority of students received a “2,” meaning “Satisfactory.” Once, I receive an A-3. Academically superior but a misfit.  It was Spanish class. My teacher was from Boston and couldn’t trill an “r.” I, however, could trill my “r’s” and would correct the teacher’s pronunciation regularly. She was really frustrated with me. Basically, if I liked a teacher, I did well in school, if I didn’t like a teacher, I cut up constantly and did poorly.

Senior Photo – 1968

I didn’t do anything in the way of sports in high school.  Living in the foster home, I didn’t receive any type allowance or income, but my foster parents encouraged me to work to earn money. I worked at several different jobs during high school. I was a fry cook at a greasy-spoon restaurant in Crystal called Marty’s Grill. Doug worked there also. We were both stiffed on our pay when the place went out of business. I also at International House of Pancakes (IHOP), Sweden House, a smorgasbord (buffet) in Crystal and several different Embers Restaurants. I also worked at a large Holiday gas station in Crystal. (My best friend Doug worked there too.) Twelve years later, when I got out of the Navy, Doug and I also worked together at TRW in Arden Hills. So, we actually worked at three places at the same time over the many years of our friendship.

While I was living at the foster home, I really needed and wanted a driver’s license. In order to get one, I needed to get a copy of my birth certificate. That is when I learned that my birth surname was Taylor. A name I had never heard before. It was shortly after that when I changed my name. My foster parents couldn’t put me on their insurance, so in order to afford insurance, I decided to try to move back with my mother, who truly missed me. Budgar and I were able to co-exist for much of my senior year. However, once I graduated, Budgar want me gone so I moved into a small house in Northeast Minneapolis with a couple friends.

Osseo Today

Image of Osseo High School Today (from air) source Google Maps.
Osseo High Today – Source: Google Maps

Today, Independent School District 279 serves Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Corcoran, Dayton, Hassan Township, Maple Grove, Osseo, and Plymouth. It has 19 elementary schools (K-5), four middle schools (6-8), three high schools, including Osseo, and an area learning center (9-12). Osseo High School is a four-year school with a huge campus. The old 1924 building with the 1935 and 1948 additions were demolished for a new gymnasium. The 1959 gym was converted to a new cafeteria in 2002 along with adding new office spaces. From 2002 to 2005 the exterior was renovated. Finally, in 2014-2015, more classrooms were added along with a choral rehearsal room. Frankly, I don’t think I’d recognize the school today as the same one I attended 50 years ago.

It has been 50 years since I graduated from Osseo. I hope there is a reunion. I’d love to see the old school and possibly catch up with some old friends.

 

Schools I’ve Attended – Jordan Jr. High

My Life
Those Places Thursday

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.We rented the house on Fremont Avenue for only a few months in 1962. During the summer of 1962, Budgar[i] bought a duplex at 2419 Bryant Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN and we moved there. We lived downstairs and had renters living upstairs. Grandma Kees lived with us for a short time. Budgar and her argued all the time. He called her a liar and she knew he was an abuser. In any event, Budgar threw Grandma Kees out before Christmas, 1962.  It is interesting that I have no photos whatsoever of anyone at that house. Not me, not my mother, not Budgar, not even my sister Sharon, who was born in the fall of 1962.

Budgar wouldn’t give me an allowance. He said I needed to earn my way. So, while living on Bryant, I had a paper route most of the time. I always delivered the morning paper. I’d get up about 3:30, get my papers about 4 am, and have my route delivered by 5:30. I’d be home by 6 for breakfast and to get ready for school.

Photo of 2419 Bryant Ave N, Minneapolis, MN in May, 2013.
2419 Bryant Avenue – Today (May 2013)

Across the street from where we lived on Bryant was the Franklin Junior High attendance area. Likewise, two blocks south was also Franklin Junior High attendance area, so we lived just about as far away from Jordan Junior High as was possible and still be in the Jordan attendance area. During the winter, some of my friends and I would hop on the back bumper of the city bus. It was really dangerous because the bumpers on the bus only stuck out about a half an inch and the sign on the back of the bus wasn’t sturdy enough to rely upon.  Better than the city bus, we learned the route a postman took and could hop the back of his mail truck for several blocks. We’d also just hop the back fenders of moving cars occasionally.  I think all of us could hop off the back of a car moving at 30 miles per hour without falling. On really snowy days we would just grab a passing vehicle and slide on our shoes for blocks on the snow-packed streets. Budgar hollered at me a couple of times about my needing to walk and not shuffle my feet as I was going through shoes way to fast. Little did he know…. I remember putting linoleum inside my shoes to make it through the summer and not need new shoes until winter.

I attended all three years of Junior High at Jordan starting with 7th grade in 1962 and completing 9th grade in 1965. It was the longest I ever attended a school. There were a couple of excursions during that time, but more about them later. I remember school lunches at Jordan (after my grandmother moved out) or any other school I ever attended.

Photo of Mr. Goodrich in 1963
Mr. Goodrich in 1963 Source: Jordanian 1963

By the time I got to the 9th grade, I was pretty much incorrigible and continually battled with Budgar and with my teachers. I had a Home Room teacher named Mr. Goodrich. He and I didn’t get along at all. I think I received the paddle from him every day for two weeks straight. I am sure I was the bane of his existence in 1965. Within the 20-minute homeroom period, I pretty much always smarted off. Sometimes, I’d be sent down to the Vice-principal’s (Mr. Carlson’s) office, but mostly, Mr. Goodrich and I would step out into the hallway, and he’d give me from one to three good swats with a paddle, depending upon what I had done. For me, it was something of a game and a mark of status in the school.

Music Room, Jordan Jr. High (c. 1937)

During junior high, I learned that I was good at almost everything scholastic and I didn’t need to study. I did great in science and math, very good in history, civics, and social studies, and about average in English. I was a klutz in sports. Even though I once did 1000 sit-ups without stopping, I couldn’t climb a rope up 20 feet in gym class. (I had core strength but no upper body strength). I did well in the shop classes they had, particularly well in print shop but I still did okay in woodworking and metal shop as well. I got a few stitches in my head because in woodshop someone came around the corner with the base for a soapbox derby car and smacked me in the head by accident. I was also in the school orchestra and learned how to play the cello using a school-owned instrument. I had enough skill that my orchestra teacher suggested I try out for the Minneapolis Junior Symphony Orchestra. I asked Budgar to buy a cello for me. Of course, he wouldn’t. I had to have my own instrument to be considered for the Junior Symphony and couldn’t afford one on my newspaper delivery income, so I never had a chance to try out. I wonder how different my life would have been had he purchased that cello… I still love the sound of the cello; it is my favorite instrument.

Jordan Junior High School, Minneapolis, MN (1924 photo)

I remember gaining some “cred” when a school bully was picking on skinny little me. (I was probably over 6 foot and under 135 pounds in 9th grade.) We were to meet in the alley behind Frank’s Grocery store, a half a block from the school.  He and I fought; there were probably 50 kids there to see the fight. My first punch was a lucky punch that broke his nose; after that, I kept hitting on it whenever I could. Blood everywhere. Don hit me a few times but nothing damaging. After a few minutes of fighting, the police showed up, and everybody ran. Neither Don nor any of the other school kids messed with me after that. I didn’t look for fights, and they didn’t look for me either.

Jordan Junior High School, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Photo of Jordan Jr. High during demolition, 1985
Jordan Jr. High during demolition, 1985.

Jordan Junior High was at 29th and Irving Avenues in North Minneapolis. It was named after Charles Morison Jordan, a Superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools. The school opened in 1922. It was razed in 1985. Today the school location is Jordan Park. Next to it is the Hmong International Academy.


Endnotes

[i] Budgar is a combination of “Bud” my step-father’s nickname and “Edgar” his actual first name. In the 1960s, I always called him “Bud,” and I learned to call him “Budgar” later in life.

Elizabeth Hall Elementary – 6th Grade

Schools I’ve Attended

My Life
Those Places Thursday
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.My mother married Budgar (Edgar J. Matson) on 8 December 1961 in Webster, South Dakota. We celebrated the following Christmas at the Spring Lake Park house. I remember Budgar’s two daughters from his previous marriage being there. They received a bunch of Barbie stuff. It might be when things started to become difficult between Budgar and myself.  He made me play a board game, “Barbie Queen of the Prom,” with his two daughters, Janna and Heidi.  I was not amused.

Shortly after Christmas, we moved from the small house on Monroe Street in Spring Lake Park to a much larger home in North Minneapolis.  We rented the upstairs of a fairly large duplex at 1502 Fremont Avenue North. Fremont was a very busy street.  It was a multi-lane one-way street that commuters used to go into the city in the morning. The owners of the house lived downstairs and we rented the upstairs.

Photo of tront of 1502 Fremont Ave N, Minneapolis
1502 Fremont – Front

I have no photos of the house from the time we lived there; however, in 2013 I visited the neighborhood and took a couple photos of the house. The house, built in 1900, has fared well over the years and it looks better now than it did in 1962. I’m pretty sure we moved in there the first few days of January 1962.

It was a very rough part of town. I had lived in the country and in the suburbs before that and Fremont Ave. was my first experience living in the inner city. The three and a half block walk to school was dangerous. There were kids that would beat you up and take your lunch money. Some would beat you up just because they could. I quickly learned to take a route to school that avoided the Franklin Junior High kids, who were the older kids most likely to beat you up. It wasn’t too bad in the dead of winter, but as the year warmed up the likelihood of being accosted on your way to school increased exponentially. Not much could be done; parents in those days didn’t drive their kids to school. Besides which, Budgar thought it built character to be beaten up occasionally.

Elizabeth L. Hall Elementary

Photo of Elizabeth L. Hall Elementary c. 1960
Elizabeth L. Hall Elementary (from the back) circa 1960. (This was the view I saw when walking to school.) Photo Courtesy: Minneapolis Public Schools.

Elizabeth L. Hall Elementary was built in 1960 as a K-6 school. There were ten classrooms, a kindergarten area, lunchroom, and gymnasium. It was a four block walk to school and I had to cross Emerson, a fast running one-way heading North that carried much of the commuting traffic. If I remember correctly, my teacher’s name was Mr. Malmburg. He was the first male teacher I had in school. He did an excellent job of keeping control of the class. I think the school worked hard at developing the social skills of the students rather than focusing on academic skills. About a week before the end of the school year, Mr. Malmburg left the school for a job in Germany. A substitute came in for the final week and the class went utterly out of control, especially the last couple days. On the last day of school, and for us sixth-graders the last day of elementary school, many of us boys were so disruptive that we spent our last couple hours in the assistant principal’s office. My mother had to leave work and come to school to take custody of me and my report card. The school detained me because I jammed a screwdriver into an electrical outlet blowing a breaker thus plunging several classrooms into darkness. I have no doubt we would have been suspended if it wasn’t our last day.  That poor substitute teacher.  I feel sorry for her today. She probably never wanted to come back to Elizabeth Hall school ever again. I didn’t either.

An addition of another six classrooms was added the following year, in 1963. Today, Elizabeth Hall is a “magnet school” supporting K-5. According to Trulia and Realtor, it is graded as a 1 on the scale of 1 to 10. Its academics don’t seem to have improved much.

That summer, we moved again, about a mile away to Bryant Ave. so, I begin Junior High School at Jordan JHS, which is another story.

Sources

Internet: Minneapolis Public Schools History // Schools and Facilities // Elementary Schools // Elementary Schools D – H // Hall // Planning for the Future

Image Source: Internet: Minneapolis Public Schools History // Schools and Facilities // Elementary Schools // Elementary Schools D – H // Hall // Slideshow