Saturday, November 7, 2009

Eliot School: The Quiet Storm

Something's going on in Pasadena's schools. Teachers are teaching and kids are learning. Quietly. Without making a lot of noise about it.

As I mentioned in yesterday's comments, they don't use the lockers at Eliot School in Altadena. Principal Peter Pannell noted a couple of reasons, the obvious one being that kids can't use them for hiding contraband. The less obvious reason is noise. Books are kept in the classrooms, and much of the homework gets done in after school programs. If kids have to take a book home they can check one out. At Eliot, they're not loaded down with pounds and pounds of them.

It was quiet during the first period at Eliot, and our tour group sat in the library while Pannell told us a little bit (well, a lot) about how the school operates. They do 90-minute class periods, alternating subjects but keeping the same group together in the same area of the building. Teachers meet regularly to discuss curriculum, the students in their group, what's working and what isn't. (A teacher group was meeting in the library while we were there.) All the teachers in the group know all the students in their area. This "embedded grouping" helps educators spot problems and work as a team to solve them. It also makes the kids feel safe--it's a big campus but they get to know their area and their group.

All this has been successful at Eliot, where they chalked up a 97-point gain in their API score just in the last year, jumping from 606 to 703. The target for all schools is 800. (I linked to the same article yesterday but in case you didn't read it, it's worth a look.)

Even if you don't have kids I think every citizen should care about the quality of local schools if only for mercenary reasons; if the schools in your town are good then your property value is higher. Touring Eliot School (see yesterday's post) showed me that, contrary to tired rumor that gets passed from tongue to ear to tongue to ear with nary an open-eyed fact check, Pasadena's schools are in decent shape and getting better. There's enough improvement (and hope for more) that it's worth making some noise about.

Our tour group was in the library when first period let out. I expected pandemonium. But it was a quiet storm.
Parent Tours at Eliot School are given the first Tuesday of every month, first thing in the morning. Contact the school at (626-396-5680).

Friday, November 6, 2009

Eliot School

I think everyone who drives up Lake Avenue to Altadena wants to take a picture of Eliot School. Founded in 1931 and named for Charles W. Eliot (who was a president of Harvard University and responsible for introducing the elective course system), Eliot is a middle school, part of the Pasadena Unified School District and current home to about 700 sixth, seventh and eighth graders.

I toured the school the other day along with a small group of parents and Susan Savitt Schwartz, Director of Operations for Pasadena Education Network. PEN helps parents learn what Pasadena's public schools are really like by connecting them to the facts, to other parents and to the educators themselves.

Our tour was led by the (relatively) new principal of Eliot School, Peter Pannell, himself an Eliot alum. Mr. Pannell (he's the principal--I can't call him Peter) patiently answered questions and gave me the feeling he's an educator who cares. He hasn't forgotten what it's like to be one small kid in a big school.

You know me, I'm interested in the visuals, the architecture. But I found Pannell's earnest talk compelling. Over the coming days, with his help, I'll show you around inside Eliot School and tell you a little more about the fantastic things going on there--like the biggest API score gain of all the PUSD schools in the past year--and that's saying something.

Parent Tours at Eliot School are given the first Tuesday of every month, first thing in the morning. Contact the school at (626-396-5680).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Corner in Time

Just because I couldn't find much information about the old Owl Drug Store building online yesterday doesn't mean the information isn't out there. It means I don't get to spend as much time at the library as I'd like to.

But thankfully, other people can. Sometimes I'm lucky and the information comes to me from Pasadenamanians both past and present who are happy to share photos and can't stand it when I come up short. (Thank goodness for them.) Three (count 'em, three) people sent photos for today's post. Let's do a chronology.

Dale Trader sent a bunch of historical shots; the top one is looking south on Fair Oaks across Colorado in 1890. At the top right you can see the dome of the original Victorian building that graced the northwest corner.

This photo, of the same building, is labeled "First National Bank Building NW Corner Fair Oaks and Colorado 1900."

This one was taken in 1910. I think we're looking east from West Colorado Street. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Here's the one Ann Erdman sent from the City's USC digital archives. If this photo was indeed taken in 1926 as its label states ("1926 Colorado Street Post-Parade"); if we're looking west on Colorado Street at Fair Oaks; if the information I had yesterday is correct and the Victorian burned down in 1929; then Owl Drug was in the Victorian at this corner pre-fire.

That might be a run-on sentence. Let's move on.

Here's another from Dale. Taken in 1930, a mere four years after the one above it. We're looking north on Fair Oaks and you can see the square, "Zig Zag Modern" building that replaced the Victorian. Owl Drug still occupies the corner property.

Here--just for fun and because I'm being chronological--is a business map of Colorado and Fair Oaks. Dale sent a larger section and I cropped it so we can look at the corner. This is circa 1950; around this time, post World War II, the neighborhood was already run down.

Dale says, "Another Owl Drug Store was located just east of the Security Bank Building on the SE corner of Marengo and Colorado; when the Plaza Pasadena Mall was built they preserved the facade only and now in the Paseo it is still just a parking entrance false facade. "

Last but certainly not least, a piece de resistance from Terry Griest. You remember Terry: she sent some great photos back when we were studying the Doty Block. She has a treasure trove of Old Town photos from the mid-1980s thanks to a project she did while a student at Cal State Long Beach.
This ought to bring back memories for some of you. Pascal Jim mentioned this shop in his comment yesterday.

This is the building we have today, though it's been considerably spiffed up. I'll get to Old Town asap and see if I can match this position and snap a shot for you.

Thank you Ann, Dale and Terry so much for your contributions today. Even if no one saw this post but me I'd be thrilled to have a fuller understanding of time's progression in this little corner of my world.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Owl Drug Store

The old Owl Drug Company doorway now leads into Old Town Pasadena's J. Crew store at 3 W. Colorado Blvd. The corner of Colorado and Fair Oaks is where local commerce began.

Finding information online about this building and about Owl Drug isn't easy. The building, in Zig Zag Modern style, was built in 1930 after the previous Victorian structure burned in 1929. Apparently Owl Drug was there in the 1930s and 1940s (or the 20s-40s, depending on which article you read). Confusing, I know. Also, it looks like Owl was one of the forerunners of Rexall, but not until the 1940s. Yeah. Hard to follow.

This is a treasured old building, but not one of the oldest in town. Pasadena goes back to the turn of the 20th century.

Hey! It's my brother's birthday. One of these days I'd love to tour him around Old Town. He'd love it. Happy birthday, Stu!

This photo was a contender for the November first theme day of Doorways but I set it aside when I discovered how little information I was able to find on the web. In my search, though, I did find this 2006 article about hidden history by Janette Williams for the Pasadena Star-News. It reminded me that if I'll just dig, there are always treasures to uncover here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Happy Anniversary, John

11/2/09 Shakespeare Garden Gazebo, Huntington Gardens

About my husband, my long-sought and happily-found partner in life:

I'm sure of his love and he's sure of mine. We trust and respect each other. We support each other's individuality, work and ideals. We have separate goals and mutual goals, and in the short time we've been together we've come a long way toward achieving them--together.

Sometimes I wish I'd met him sooner, but it wouldn't have worked. By my forties I was frustrated by the mate search and ready to give up. When I found John I realized why it had taken so long: I had to be prepared to handle all that certainty and trust. I had to be ready to support and be supported before I could marry the unusual, brilliant, generous, handsome man I'd pictured.

Plus, now my inner dork has someone to hang out with.

We'd been dating for about six months when we went to the Huntington for John's birthday. Neither of us had been there before. I'd say we fell in love then but that would be too tidy. No, we were already in love. The purchase that day of our dual membership was simply our first mutual financial transaction of import, an investment in arts and letters, and in ourselves. It was a declaration, in a way, of who we already were and wanted to become, together.
7/27/00 Shakespeare Garden Gazebo, Huntington Gardens

Monday, November 2, 2009

Zen Monday: #70

Zen Monday is the day you experience the photo and give us your thoughts rather than me telling you what the photo's about. I look for something worth thinking about or, failing that, at least something odd or silly. Sometimes you have to look closely.

As I post each new Zen Monday photo I'll add a label to last week's to identify it if necessary--if I know what it is.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Theme Day: Doorways

Pasadena is a foothill town, pressed up against the San Gabriel Mountains. We face nature every day, whether nature likes it or not. In places like this, sometimes you can see entryways to the underworld of faerie. There's at least one on the Sam Merrill Trail, not far from the first mile marker. It doesn't photograph well, probably because the faeries have put spells on it. A couple of tree trunks at Hahamongna Watershed Park that I've tried over and over again to photograph refuse to be captured, which tells me they are indeed what I guess them to be.

This, then, must be an ordinary doorway. To the sky, perhaps, or to Brigadoon. I've shown it to you in black & white because the color seemed too extraordinary.
To see what other City Daily Photo Bloggers have done with today's theme, Click here to view thumbnails for all the participants.