My status at UCLA was precarious in a different way. I also returned to the post office, which allowed me as a veteran to set my own work schedule while I attended school. UCLA’s tuition of per semester helped make our goal achievable. S.-born father was bilingual, our parents spoke Spanish with one another.) But Raul was hospitalized once and unable to communicate with hospital staff.Mother was the only breadwinner in the family, which included six minor children, a fact that weighed heavily on me, her eldest. One difficulty was deciding on a major, and I didn’t know anyone who had attended college whom I might ask for guidance. A nurse then spoke to Mother about the importance of teaching children English. Only shards and fragments of Spanish remained in my head. His assumption was that I spoke Spanish and had enrolled in his class in quest of an easy grade.Getting from south Los Angeles to Westwood and back also meant that I spent four hours every day riding streetcars and buses. Eventually, I wound up going in a direction I hadn’t expected. This caused me considerable frustration, because with any attempt to speak Spanish I committed errors that made me a target of scorn and laughter among native speakers. In the first few minutes of my first Spanish class Professor Donald Fogelquist called me to his desk. I apprised him of my situation and later took several advanced classes with him.
John, a very good student, had failed the test; I had passed. Despite my initial relief over leaving school and helping my family, I’d also been unhappy about it.
He did not recover from his disappointment and dropped out soon afterward. When I was discharged from the Army in May 1953, I applied for—and was granted—readmission to UCLA. Bill paid veterans a small monthly stipend but not enough to allow me to help Mother, so I decided to work while getting a university education, an arrangement that was not unique at the time.
There were times as I sat in class when I experienced a physical thrill from learning, as when professor of anthropology Joseph Birdsell lectured on DNA, still in the early stages of study.
Years later, thanks to that class, I read with pleasure .
I did not enjoy lugging surveyors’ instruments around open fields near campus or struggling with calculus. The only acknowledgement of my departure came from the Army major in charge of my R. In my customary seat in the back row I often struggled to contain my laughter at his witticisms. Veterans were common in the colleges and universities of the era, and younger students referred to us as DARS—damned average raisers.
Then, encouraged by postal clerks we worked closely with, I landed a job at the U. Post Office at the Terminal Annex just north of Union Station.
On the black-and-white television set there I watched Don Larsen pitch a perfect game in the World Series between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers. Anna Kraus, called me to her office to inform me that the Spanish department had chosen to submit my name to the University as its candidate to study for a year at Oxford University. I taught my classes in Royce Hall, the beautiful Romanesque building that is the symbol of the University.
The supervising professor visited my class early in the semester, and I was apprehensive about being observed. In 1961, to explore another career possibility, I enrolled in Loyola Law School and attended night classes at its downtown L.
Carmel High School, and new UCLA students, sat quietly, bewildered, on the lawn of the quad eating our brown bag lunches. In 1951, I got drafted into the Army and took a leave of absence from the post office.
Around us swirled groups of stylishly dressed, exuberant students greeting one another and sharing stories of just-ended summer vacations. He had received the results of the Subject A Examination, administered to determine whether he would be required to take English 28, a remedial class. My postal experience proved crucial in the Army’s assigning me to a postal unit in Alaska rather than sending me to Korea, where war was raging.