Turning 15, October 18, 1976
Having settled into the new community of Cerritos after living in West Long Beach Navy Housing for the previous 6 years, I was on my bicycle riding up 183rd Street towards Cerritos High School. I hadn’t been thrilled about leaving my friends and the Stevens Junior High School Band and Choir during the 9th grade in 1975. If you attended any music concert at Stevens, you’d of seen me in nearly every act. I would show up late to my first class as the top Trumpeters played Reveille during the Rising of the flag to start the School day. Since Cerritos was a four year High School, I was switched from Junior High to High School mid-year. I joined the Cerritos Band and in just a few weeks marched in my first Parade. Playing music while marching down the street to a drum cadence felt powerful. With band class 2-3 times a day, I almost forgot the smell of manure hanging in the warm air.
In 1976, Cerritos (formally called Dairy Valley) was a Dairy Town. The land where Cerritos Towne Center and the Cerritos Center for Performing Arts was a Cow Pasture that would flood onto 183rd Street during rain. Our home was close to 91 Freeway’s Carmenita Rd off ramp, so I rode to school on the shoulder of 183rd adjacent to the cow pasture. As 183rd Street approached Bloomfield Ave, the shoulder disappeared replaced by a Right Turn lane. Student bicyclists would cut across 183rd and ride against traffic for the last block. A poorly planned and busy intersection, it was obviously safer to break the law for a moment. Cerritos High School was located on that side of 183rd just across the street from Cerritos City Hall. LA Sheriffs policed Cerritos and had a station at City Hall.
On the morning of October 18, 1976 an LA Sheriff on foot was waiting at the intersection writing traffic tickets to all the student riders who had crossed and rode against traffic. He requested my CHS School ID and as he looked at my ID, he paused for a moment and then said “today is your birthday”. He continued to write the ticket as tears began to fall. Happy 15th Birthday!