Monday, August 9, 2010

Early California Mission Project

Most kids attending fourth grade in California schools are required to make a model of any one of the the 21 early California Spanish Catholic Missions.  Bossy Betty recently posted a blog entry about the subject. I left her a comment, but saved most of the pain for my own blog.  Here it is...

I recall with terror fondly remember my own mission project in the fourth grade. I chose Mission San Juan Capistrano because my mother said she'd have one of her drunken friends someone take me down there to see it, before I started making it. Of course that never happened, so I used a photo I found in a book. My primary building materials were sugar cubes, model glue, paint, and cardboard. I obtained all the items from Cole's Market and Jigg's hobby shop. 

I shoplifted purchased the sugar cubes from Cole's and found the cardboard in their dumpster. I pocketed bought the other items from Jigg's.  I knew it wasn't the right thing to do, but I had no other way of getting the materials I needed. Besides, I was already pretty good at what we called "kyping" from stores.  If you "newer readers" dive into some of my older childhood posts, you'll understand why this skill was important in my family.

My project turned out pretty good considering nobody helped me with it at all. I finished it the night before it was due.  I would have loved a ride to school the next morning, but there was no way that was going to happen, as my mom never came home the night before. 

It was very awkward carrying it the entire mile to school.  I might have made it without too much damage, if it hadn't started pouring about half way there. The cardboard roof wasn't protecting my mission at all.  My only choice was to take off my jacket and use it to protect the mission instead.  When I finally made it to school the mission was still in pretty good shape, but I was soaked to the bone...

Whatever good feelings I had about my work died a quick death as I saw all the other kids walking into the multi-purpose room with their parents carrying their damn missions. I was shocked at how nice they all were (thanks to their parents) and how crappy mine was. I was humiliated and once again reminded of just exactly who I was.

I picked my Mission San Juan Capistrano model up off of the table, dumped it in the nearest trash can, and walked back home in the rain. If I remember correctly, and I do I had to beat up a smart ass named Norman Chambers a couple of days later, because he was stupid enough to remind me how much my mission sucked.

As fate would have it, I now live only a few miles from that very same mission. EVERY time I drive by there, I think of Norman Chamber's face, as I was punching him for making fun of me...



  1. Boy are you bringing back memories. When I was in school, we had to make a Roman building...but it wasn't til 7th grade. Very few people's parents helped back in THAT day. We had to do it ourselves and most of us did the obligatory sugar cube creation. I made a Roman house w/ an atrium & a pool symbolised by my mother's small lipstick mirror. I remember painting a piece of playwood some color and building the house on it with an open roof so you could look down. I had palm trees I bought at the local craft store, Moskatells (sp?) but other than that, not much. It looked like everyone else's EXCEPT that of my close friend. She was a perfectionist and had something really nice. I don't recall what exactly but it was probably a Roman temple with alot of architectural flourishes. She was a Type A even then.

    We all suffered with those rotten, unimaginative projects.

  2. Kids and even adults can often be so very cruel. Sad that those are
    the memories that linger the longest.
    Such a sad and touching post.

  3. Bet you feel the same way every time you see sugar cubes, too. Ah, fond childhood memories...

  4. Hi Pat...I guess we all have our "mission" statements if we were raised and schooled in California. I do think my dad probably helped me with mine..I can' quite remember...but I for sure did most of both of my kids. I think we enjoy these projects as adults because they are big and grand and usually require an adult's help. It sounds like you were one of those rare kids who actually did the assigned project as yourself with the creativity of a fourth grader...which in my opinion is probably more interesting and unique than done with the refined skills of an adult. I am sorry you felt "less than" with your mission and it was never able to be seen by your teacher who probably would have thought it was fantastic.

  5. Patrick--So glad my blog entry dredged up these memories for you. People say my writing can be painful to read and now I see they are right.

    Ouch for you, my friend. Yikes.

  6. So sad!!! :(

    I can't even imagine.....your childhood certainly left much to be desired. My heart would have broken for you.

    It's a wonder you're not a bitter man as a result of your experiences as a child. (I'm guessing you're not bitter, sure don't seem it...and I can't imagine someone as gorgeous as buymebarbies putting up with your shit if you were!) (That was a feeble attempt at some lighthearted humor....I hope it didn't fall flat!)

  7. A lot of the stories you tell remind me of things that happened to me. I think I was in 5th grade when we had 4-H and there was a muffin contest. We were given a recipe to use for corn meal muffins. Well guess what? The winners didn't used the recipe and didn't even use corn meal but their muffins were more like cake. No way was that fair!! I think I have had problems with self confidence all through my life because of the way some of the teachers treated me.
    Sometimes I wonder how you over came and survived with all you had to deal with.

  8. Ha! I used to use the word 'kyped' as well! I'm surprised I remember that word!

  9. See, I was right there with you until you pummeled the poor nerd...badly. I know how strong you are from previous posts.

  10. One more great story from your childhood years Patrick.
    Thank you.

  11. We did very much the same things here in England, but I didn't have such bad experiences as a child as you. Your openness is to be very much admired, and I have read your background for a good few months now.
    Your strength of character just amazes me!

    We used to call it "The Five Finger Discount"! That brought back memories of when I was in my teens!

  12. So very sad, Pat....all that effort you put in coming to nothing!

  13. Ahhh, Pat..I am so sorry that happened to you.
    You know, the teachers should realize that most kids that do it themselves with sweat and tears deserve the recognition SO much more than the kids whose parents probably do most of the project for their kids....
    But now, you know that you learned more than one lesson from that experience other than the painful one and it has made you the man you are today.

  14. I still wish I would have beat up the bastard that made fun of my pyramid project in the fourth grade. Years later I shot him, accidentally, with a BB gun and his parents were nice enough to not press charges or make me pay the hospital bills. Even his parents thought he was a bastard.

  15. Pat, I am so sorry for the life you had as a child. Many children unfortunately have to live lives like you did. It's not FAIR--and kids do not deserve that life.

    You turned out very good though regardless of the life you were given. Somehow you were able to step ABOVE that life and make a new life for yourself. Pat, you truly need to write a book for kids in that situation.


  16. Being a kid sucks sometimes! I am sorry you had to go through that.

  17. Man Pat.

    That just sucks- everytime I read a post of yours like this one I wish I could just give the little boy you a hug.

    I read your comment on Betty's blog- so I was anticipating/bracing myself for this- but the whole thing. man pat.

  18. California Girl - yep, and not all school memories are good ones. this was one of my worst. My reaction was probably as much about having zero help. Heck, my mom wouldn't even pay for the materials...Lovely lass she was!

    faye - thanks Faye! The kids knew better to pick on me, the crazy mom part really sucked.

    Alex - Ah yes, the sweet days of youth!

    Warren - That's what I'm saying...

    DrSoosie - I would have rather had some help, but my mom couldn't have cared less if I even turned one in or not. I did do as well as I could and was even able to be sort of proud of...right up until the time I saw the other ones.

    BB - That's funny! Food for thought is what it was. No pain here! Thanks!

    Marlene - Thanks so much! I'm not bitter at all, I'm much happier than I have any right to be. Life is good...

    dot - I'm sorry you had to go through that stuff. It sure sucks!
    I overcame it only because of a lot of "family-of-origin" type counseling. Thanks!

    Joe - Usually when I use that word, people just say "what?" I'm glad somebody recognizes it.

    Copyboy - good old Norman Chambers was bigger than me, but it took a few beatings for him to realize he shouldn't try to pick on me.

    Costas - Thanks Costas!

    Alice - Oh yeah, we used that term also! Too bad I had to get so good at it.

    Nat - Unfortunately, I was already so screwed up, I didn't know what "sad" was. I sure knew anger though...Thanks!

    Joan - Thanks Joan! I have to admit I helped my kids with projects, but mostly with ideas only...

    Jhon - I understand that! Well, I beat my guy up enough for both of us. That kids sounds like a total AH... you shot him accidentally? wink wink...

    Betsy - Thanks Betsy! Once I get all the stories out of my head and my notes, maybe I'll try to write something...

    SenoraG - Thanks! It sure does. In my house it sucked most of the time.

    Ren - Thanks so much! Right now I'm considering myself hugged!

  19. Kids can definitely be cruel and when you work so hard on things by yourself as a kid only to be humiliated rather than rewarded for your efforts is something you always remember like it was yesterday, it sucks my friend.

    Thank You for sharing

  20. That is a sad tale. I bet your project would of tasted delicious though. Mmm sugar cubes.

  21. I have to wonder about the teachers in your school. Didn't any of them notice what was happening with you?
    Or were they too busy and overworked to care?

  22. Jimmy - It sure sucked at the time. Now it just makes for a good story...thanks Jimmy!

    PTM - I do remember eating quite a few of them. Like I said earlier, I didn't know sad, because it wasn't safe in my house to feel sad. Thanks!

    SQ - They didn't seem to notice a thing. I do remember when I started at my third school in first grade that they made excuses to talk to me. I know now that they were giving me the once over's a link to that:

  23. You would have made a great flight attendant.

  24. pitchertaker - Free Steven Slater!

    Not me buddy! I'm not tolerant enough of my fellow man! I'd have beaten up the passenger and thrown him down the emergency exit (withou the chute deployed)

  25. As always, Pat, your stories paint a picture (memory) that somehow seems right. Excellent - especially the crossed out words. EXCELLENT!

  26. How did I escape the Mission building? I'm going to have to search my memory banks.

    If it were dioramas, now...

  27. Sort of reminds me of this project I had to do back when I was in 3rd grade, and my mom would have helped me, but for some reason I never told her about it, and did it all by myself the night before it was supposed to be turned in. So my project was probably the crappiest LOL. But it was all my fault though.


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