Sunday, April 22, 2018
The high school I attended (Poly High in Long Beach, CA was large by any standards. I graduated in the class of 1953, and there were about 900 in that class. I took what was then called the “college prep courses” but my real focus was in journalism. And it was the kids in the journalism classes during those three years who became my closest friends. Bill Warch was one of them.
He was one of the funniest kids I ever met – funny to be with and funny to listen to. He could take anything and turn it into something that would cause all of us laboring away under a deadline break into laughter. I was always afraid he was going to tell us we were too deadly serious, but no, he just had a knack for making anything funny.
As I recall, we had a short period of dating, but I really was not focused on my social life, so we just remained very good friends. Our journalism classmates probably were “grinds,” an early “epithet” for kids who were way too focused on work, rather than “play” – but Bill kept us laughing. He remained a special friend.
Finally we graduated, spread out to the various schools of higher learning and started our adult lives. I saw Bill again at our 5th High School Religion, and at that time he was engaged to be married and had already graduated from Long Beach State College. He was also studying with the “Players Ring” Theater in Hollywood, already starting to pick up some acting roles. He and I had met again at the reunion committee planning meeting. He was still funny, but with a little charm by this time.
When planning began for our 10th reunion, he phoned and asked if I’d like to ride with him to the committee meeting, as at that time both of us lived in Orange County and the meeting was in Long Beach. It seemed like a good idea; the big shock was that a very handsome 27 year old knocked on my door. I was still expecting to see the kid I graduated with, slightly pudgy and kind of funny hair, but age and experience had done a very good job on him. Yes, he still could turn things into laughable stories, but it was like we both finally had become adults. And we had, of course! That was the last I ever saw him.
I didn’t go to the 20th reunion because I had shortly before then divorced and wasn’t in any kind of condition to go to such an event. At the time of the 30th reunion, I had just married again, and had no desire to attend a reunion.
One evening in 1979 I opened the evening newspaper and in the obituary column saw that Rev. Bill Warch had died. I read it carefully and yes, it was the same Bill Warch that I knew, my funny friend – who at some point had left the acting profession and was now a well-known fellow in Anaheim who had actually founded a church he called “Church of Christian Living.” Furthermore, he had written books and handbooks that are still being sold today. His religion was not of a standard variety but you’ll get the idea when I quote from one “”If you are getting tired of being called a sinner yet you want to know yourself and God better, you are about to experience the most fantastic revelation in your life….” I could tell that Bill had channeled his own smiling and positive approach to life – the very same kind of mirth that I remember from those high school days – into his life’s work.
Unfortunately, it was a short life for him. I cannot remember the cause of death but it seems that it might have been something like leukemia. I am sorry I could never have told him how much fun being his friend was, not only for me but for the others in our little journalism group. The best I can do is to name him as one of the Immortal Nobodies that I never want to forget!
Thursday, April 5, 2018
Date of death - August 6, 1998
Big Lagoon, California
Miv was a writer. My path crossed hers (thought she didn't know it) when back in the mid-1970s I decided to change from the very-conservative newspaper in Orange County (The Register) to the LA Times, which was right up my alley - in all ways. And I always read it cover to cover.
It wasn't long before I discovered that my favorite of all things I read was her weekly column, "Writing for Yourself." I never knew what she would have to say each week, but it was always interesting, touching, surprising and special. Whether it was about family, houses, music or hobbies, after I finished reading it I always had something to think about. Her column reminded me that this kind of writing is what I always had wanted to do.
I can't pin down the year but it was probably in the late 1980s that I went to a talk she gave at UCI called "Writing for Yourself." I sat spellbound as she shared how it was that she came to write such a column and why it was important to her to do it. It was far and away the most life-changing talk I'd ever heard. I knew she was talking to me.
I have always written. I think I had a pattern to follow: from my earliest years I can remember my mother at her old typewriter "writing." In my files I have a copy of a 1941 letter of acceptance sent to her by a religious publishing company for an article that would appear in a handout to Sunday School children. Along with this letter was clipped a crisp $1 bill. This was the only thing she ever published, but she kept on writing all her life.
She also told me of my great-grandma Louise Hall Ryland being the ghost writer for a book on Caldwell, Kansas, where she lived. The family was very proud of her (although later critics called it 'purple prose.)
My younger sister also was a writer; her first recognition (and last) was winning $200 at a Forest Lawn-sponsored writing contest while a student at George Pepperdine College. She was far better than I at writing, but she had no drive for it. Yet when I did my self-published Istanbul cemetery book she edited it for me and it was oh, so helpful.
I have always written. The other day in tidying up my files I found once again all my school report cards from 1st through 12th grade, which had been bundled up and saved by my mother. I looked through them again and was shocked at how many of them had teachers' notes to the effect that I was "a good little writer." (Well, in the later years they didn't use "little"!)
It was Miv Schaaf who gave me permission to write for myself without waiting to publish. My first husband, who was lazy, always nagged me to write a novel so we could have more money. I don't think in "novels". Non-fiction was always my love. But I felt there was not much of a market for someone as mundane as I was, and I certainly was never a "creative" writer or thinker. But oh, how good I feel when I write something I like!
I think my kids are "sort of" aware that I do a lot of writing. I hope when I'm gone they will want to tackle some of it to see just who their mom was. But alas, I suspect I will fall in the category of Rev. Abner Peet as expressed in Edgar Masters' Spoon River Anthology.
I had no objection at all
To selling my household effects at auction
On the village square.
It gave my beloved flock the chance
To get something which had belonged to me
For a memorial.
But that trunk which was struck off
To Burchard, the grog-keeper!
Did you know it contained the manuscripts
Of a lifetime of sermons?
And he burned them as waste paper.
Nevertheless, I owe my pleasure in writing directly to Miv....her legacy to me was making me understand that writing for myself was OK!