Memories of my School Days at Bridge Street School in Boyle Heights

I recall being in Kindergarten at Bridge Street School, playing in the sandbox and on the swings, and learning to read from the Dick and Jane book, “See Spot Run.” My teacher’s name was Mrs. Gulag, who by the way, years later, became my own daughter’s kindergarten teacher when she too attended Bridge St.

Then my life changed when we moved to a house on Bunker Hill, near Boston and Figueroa. My sister and I attended Alpine Elementary School. Little did I know that in the 3rd grade, I was in the same class with Alberto Dueñas, my future husband. We were not aware of each other there. We stayed at this school until my parents decided to separate. We returned to Boyle Heights with our mom and grandmother and back to Bridge St. School. Meanwhile, Alberto and his family also moved to Boyle Heights. His father owned a printing shop on Brooklyn Avenue near Echandia, Sierra Printing. Then Alberto started at Bridge St. with my sister and me.

World War II had started by then, and at school we were taught the anthems of the Marines, the Army, and the Navy. We had a Victory Garden across the street from school. I loved working in this garden. We grew squash, tomato, carrot, and other vegetables. The teachers also took us to Prospect Park, where we learned the names of the different trees.

Our teachers also saw to it that we attended our religion classes. We Catholics went to the Bronson House, accompanied by our teacher. Our Protestant friends went to the church, “El Salvador” and another one, a little white building, across the street.

Since this was war time, we collected newspapers and practiced air raid drills. We were given dog tags, which I still have. We met out on Bridge Street, where we assembled and received our instructions, then marched to our rooms. An alarm would sound, and we would crawl under our desks. I would get so scared and still remember my feelings.

I recall the metal stairs we had to climb to reach our classrooms. We girls hated this, because the boys would look up and see our panties. We assembled every morning outside to receive our news for the day from our principal Mrs. McCann. Then we had to climb back up those nasty stairs!

Mrs. Strong taught music. Mrs. Fox was our 3rd or 4th grade teacher. We would sing to her, “A hunting we will go, a hunting we will go, We’ll catch Miss Fox and then we’ll let her go.” She did hear the kids sing it to her, and she laughed with us. Mrs. Deiderick was another teacher. Mrs. Benton was our 6th grade teacher.

I graduated from Bridge Street School in 1945 and went to Hollenbeck Junior High. I attended and graduated from Roosevelt High School. I still get together with my friends from Bridge St. School:

Jessie Godoy, Ralph Rivera, Jesus Landeros, Billie Ruiz, “Slutsky”, and Alberto Dueñas, who was my husband for 52 years.

- Olivia Dueñas

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