Kareem's Memoir & Bio

1983

El Sobrante Christian School
I attended El Sobrante Christian School for both Grades 5. My favorite teachers were Mrs. Delaney and Mrs. Willis. The school principal, Mr. Wells played tennis often. I knew this about Mr. Wells because his wife would always warn the students that he had a very good left-arm swing and would practice that on our posteriors if we ever needed it. Yes, this school did allow corporate punishment and I surely had my share.

One such time was when several other students and myself got in trouble in class for drawing naughty pictures. While the others drew very simplistic doodles, my artistic abilities allowed me to create very detailed and unmistakenly familiar but inappropriate sketches. The accomplices were Robby, Peter, and Sarah. I won't describe what I drew but it sure got a lot of attention. Anyway, our teacher caught us and sent all of us to the office to see the principal. Mr. Wells called all of us into his office. All of us sat down in a row of chairs facing Mr. Well's desk. Each of us thought to ourselves that we would probably have to get a paddling (known as a swat around school) by the principal. He gave us the option of either getting a swat or having a letter sent home to our parents informing them of our naughty deeds. We knew that a swat in school would be much better than having our parents find out. So, all of us agreed to take a swat. I volunteered to go first. He asked me to stand up. He then told me to touch the end of his desk. I did so. There was momentary silence, as I waited for what was to occur next. And then it came. Pow! I grimaced and flexed in pain. Suddenly, Robby frantically jumped up and shouted, "I'll take a note home to my parents!".

At El Sobrante Christian School (ESCS), I also attended their before/afterschool program. It was here that I met several of my favorite daycare teachers Miss Rogers, Miss Tomlin, Mrs. Quick, and Mrs. Dowdy for whom I had a crush on. I don’t know why I was so fond of this teacher, perhaps it was her long red hair. As I grew up during my two years at ESCS, I became more aware of my influence on many of my peers. I started performing to entertain the others. My buddies and I would occasionally put on puppet shows in the afternoon. My puppet, named "Wacky", always stole the show. Increasing number of children began to show up at our puppet show. Soon, teachers began to wonder why so many children were flocking to another classroom where the show was taking place. Before long, almost all the children attended the puppet show which was never planned. Most of them just wanted to see Wacky.

Another really cool teacher at this school was Mr. Hare. He was nearly bald and walked with a limp and a cane. Mr. Hare often walked about the classroom teaching us about mathematics and shooting flies with a bunch of rubber bands he strung together. He had good aim. We loved it when he would walk by our desk, take aim at an unsuspecting fly and snap!!! Fly guts would be smashed all across our desks.

Banned from schools
Garbage Pail KidsI never collected baseball or football cards. It was never interesting to me nor did I know anyone else other than my brother who collected them. I did collect National Geographic magazines thanks to my grandmother who purchased my subscription for many years. I did however, collect something similar to baseball cards but they were images of animated characters known as Garbage Pail Kids. Each card was different from the other and usually people who were bizarre, twisted, and demented would collect them. To be honest with my readers, I really couldn't tell you why I started collecting these. They were a hot item and schools soon begin banning them. I had nearly 300 different ones and often traded them with other goofball friends.

Television
As I grew older, television was still a big part of my life. There were just too many good shows on. They prompted us to enjoy watching them with the rest of the family. Punky Brewster

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and Gimme A Break Punky Brewsterwere best ones that my sister and I watched frequently. We loved pig-tailed Punky and of course Nell Carter Nell Carterwith Gimme A Break.

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NBC television was really becoming bigtime and most of the television sitcoms we viewed were on that network. They launched a major campaign too.

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A big movie that eventually grew in popularity was one called Wargames starring Matthew Broderick. This was a cool movie because if you were into video games as I was, this movie inspired you. We didnt have the Internet than and so I was always thinking to myself, "how could I do what he did in that movie?"

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Soul TrainOn Saturdays, and after all of the cartoons went off, we watched Soul Train! I used to sketch pictures of the train that was used for the Soul Train show. Talk about dancing and grooving to the funk of the era. This was where it happened. Hip-hop before the 90s. Crazy!

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Commercials were not as annoying as they are nowadays. There were several tv ads during this time that our7up Geoffrey Holder family enjoyed seeing. One was the animated commercial featuring the new Crest Gel Toothpaste and the infamous cavity creeps! Milk was being pushed to help teens like me build strong bones and become healthier thus emerged some great Milk ads - Milk it Does A Body Good!

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Finally, another commercial that featured the emerging "uncola" was the new 7up. Some dude who wore this cool white hat, had a jamaican accent, and a cool laugh, was involved in a bunch of 7up commercials. His name was Geoffrey Holder. I'm not sure what has become of him these days but he sure made 7up look refreshing.

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As far as commercials go, Micheal Jackson was making news when started doing Pepsi commercials. During Michael Jackson burned, Pepsi Adone of the rehearsals for one of his very big commercials, he was injured when the pyrotechnics ignited his hair and he was burned. The story was strange because the news broke at night. We were watching a TV show and suddenly it was interrupted by an special news report that announced that Michael was injured. Of course we thought the worse but it eventually had all worked out and he looked fine. Of course we never saw any video footage of the accident. Today the incredible footage was finally released.

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Crazy into sketching and assembling…
I was very creative and quite skilled in crafts. Whatever interesting thing I saw on television, I would try to recreate it. All I needed was scotch tape, staples, and paper. If it was the robot that fought the Six Billion Dollar Man, all I needed was about 15-20 minutes left alone and voila, I would have a paper-replica of the robot. If I wanted to pretend to be a cop like what I saw on the TV show CHiPs, I would take cardboard and create my very own badge, nameplate, and the duty belt complete with holster, handcuffs, baton, and pistol – all made of cardboard. If it caught my attention, you could bet, I would have a mock version done up in a short period of time.

I also loved building models. My favorite models were usually police cars, military vessels, firetrucks, ships, and jets. Soon, friends would ask me over to build their model. I graduated from building the so called Snap-Snaptite Revell ModelTite models which could be assembled without the use of model glue. I eventually progressed to the more advanced and challenging models which usually required me to keep a full arsenal of Testors model paint and glue. After I would build the model, I couldn’t wait to “play” with it and go wild in my very own imagination. Whenever, I visited a toy store like Toys 4 You or Kaybees at Hilltop Mall, I would spend hours gazing at the large boxes of models they had on display in the store.

Sketching realism was another favorite pastime of mine. Again, seeing something on television or in real life would inspire me. It could be something like a car accidents, disasters, semi-trucks, trains, airplanes, etc. I also sketched various elements of nature such as insects, spiders, volcanoes, and sharks. I enjoyed doing small doodles like these and occasionally people would ask me to sketch something for them.
Later, neighbors would ask for me to assemble pieces of furniture or electronics for them because I figured I had the know-how. They were usually correct, so I obliged to help them out.

City of Hercules & Community
As I became a teenager living in Hercules, I started going to city-sponsored events such as dances and recreational field trips. The dances were usually held at Hercules School in the small multipurpose room, which equaled the size of two adjoining classrooms. And even though this trendy style of dance was usually left up to the pros (I certainly was not a pro, nor was I even a qualified wannabe.), I attempted to do my first break dancing performance at one of the community dances. The room was crowded with teens. We soon formed a circle to give room to those who wanted to show off their break-dance moves. I had never break danced before and so I needed to first see how those who were performing did it. My confidence slightly Break dancing at schoolincreased as I watched and learned, but my impulsiveness grew even more. Then before I knew it, I was out on the floor, attempting to do a gyro-spin. The spin was only partially successful. I wobbled and almost spun out of control, then I realized that I was supposed to end my performance by motioning to someone else in the circle.  All I can remember is that I spun myself so hard, that I couldn’t regain my equilibrium fast enough to see who I was supposed to call out to the center the floor. Anyway, the dance was fun and I attended many more without any further attempts to break dance.

Hercules also sponsored a fishing trip to the San Pablo Reservoir. My sister and I wanted to go, so we bought fishing poles and the other necessary gear for the excursion. A young lady, a teen, named Chris Cooper was the recreation leader in charge of the field trip. She drove us to our trip destination. There was only three of us who went on this fishing trip. The other kid's name was Tim. He was a troublemaker. Chris kept an ever-watchful eye on Tim for she knew he was usually up to no good. Some years later, Chris ended up being my supervisor as I started my very first job with the City of Hercules.

The City of Hercules Recreation departments always had fun events for the community. Woodfield and Refugio Valley Parks were the places to be at on Tuesday and Saturday nights as bigscreen movies were played for the us kids. Movies like Star Trek, Star Wars, and Superman were the most popular movies. Kids from the neighborhood would walk down to the parks with their older siblings, parents, and buddies. Everyone would bring their flashlights and sleeping bags for the excursion and movie. It was good times in Hercules!

Our buddies on Pepperwood Street
My family and I moved to Pepperwood Street in Hercules. On this block, my sister and I made lots of new friends. This street seemed to have even more of our peers than our previous neighborhood. We were playing Atari 2600 and trading game cartridges with them. My favorite game was Pitfall.

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Our next-door neighbors, Erick and Amy were very nice. I had a crush on Amy. We played with them often. Danny and Laurie lived across the street and then down a few houses. We grew fond of them and usually spent long, hot voltron action figuressummers playing at their house and hanging out in Hercules. Danny collected cool toys like Voltron cabbage patch dollaction figures and introduced me to movie theme music. He was also into the Dungeons & Dragons craze. My mother thought that D&D was satanic. Laurie and my sister did the girly thing and shared Cabbage Patch dolls. They eventually got into Girl Scouts together and became Brownies at the same time. Danny’s father was cool, since he was a police officer and made homemade beef jerky. He also coached softball and was active in boy scouts. Since I was into sketching things, I drew a picture of his Richmond police cruiser. They had a backyard pool that provided a relief from the scorching summer days.

My neighbors and the fireworks
Fireworks started becoming illegal. Various counties and cities began cracking down on the use of them. Hercules began to encourage the ban on firework use within the city. Residents had to sneak and do their fireworks. During that time, people were not being arrested but rather being warned not to do fireworks.
When Independence Day eventually arrived, doing fireworks became more of a challenge as Hercules Police patrolled the neighborhoods in their cruisers looking for the law breakers. The urge to do them was made stronger by the fact that the summer evenings were generally warm and pleasant causing families to spend much of their time outdoors well after the sun had set. Our neighbors were no different. On this July 4 evening, Eric and Amy’s dad, Jim, apparently had a huge stash of fireworks. He was anxious to set off a few bottle rockets but he also knew that his desire to do so was coupled with the fear of being caught by the cops. Jim stood outside in his front yard, with his water hose appearing to be innocently watering his front roman candlelawn. But my family and I knew his true intentions as we watched from the second-story window of our home. Jim would keep watch for any headlights of passing cars hoping they weren't police cruisers. When he thought the coast the clear, he would quickly run back to his garage, grab a few Roman Candles, and return to the street. He lit the Roman Candles and swiftly retreated to his garage where his wife, Eric and Amy were. All of us watched the Roman Candles rocket up into the dark sky leaving a trail of blazing colors. It was beautiful we thought, as we continued to peer from our window. Jim waited a few minutes and returned to "watering" his front lawn. He waited. And still, no cars. We watched Jim's confidence grow as he repeated the deed over and over again, each time retreating to the safety of his garage. Suddenly, we saw a pair of headlights approaching. Jim retreated to his garage. The car passed. It was okay-just a neighbor. Jim grabbed

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a few more Roman Candles and Bottle Rockets. He checked to see if the coast was clear; for now, it was.

He ignited them and retreated again. Up rocketed several green and orange flares of sparks and twinkling lights. And once again, we thought it was beautiful. Jim was still standing in the street when suddenly again, another glare of headlights approached. This time, he didn't have enough time to retreat to his garage, so he grabbed his water hose and started "watering" his flowers like a good neighbor would do. The passing car was a Hercules Police cruiser. Our amusement quickly turned to concern and fear for Jim. We were going to shut the curtains and turn away from what we thought was going to be an arrest in progress. The police car stopped in the middle of the street. The officer motioned for Jim to come over to his car. Jim put his hose down and walked over to the police cruiser’s window. The rest of his family went into the house at that moment. We watched, waited, and listened. Jim quickly and cleverly pointed at the sky and exclaimed to the officer, "did you see that, it was green and orange!" My mother and father laughed. The police officer drove away. Jim returned to his garage and we watched the garage door close. Jim's show was over. But it was one of the more fun times we had living on this street.

This year, a Luckys store was built in Hercules and became the first real grocery store at the Creekside Shopping Center. The residents of Hercules began to express concerns of loitering skateboarders in front of shopping centers and local ordinances were being planned. At this time, this was the most serious form of crime in Hercules.

The Orange Marshmallows 
My sister, Alexis and I spent the long summer days with Danny and Laurie, our neighbors across the street. There wasn’t much for us to do on our street so we usually walked to Refugio Valley Park. The park had just been completed two years before. It was lush and included a very large pond. The worse part of the park was that it was teeming with vicious ducks and geese. Walking along the paths around the pond was a feat if you were trying to avoid duck poop. Conversely, the pond was stocked with Bluegill, Crappie, and Largemouth bass and they made for very good fishing. We referred to the pond as “a lake”. One day when we were going down to Refugio Valley Park to fish, we almost got into serious trouble. While we were walking down Sycamore Street to the park carrying our fishing gear, Danny tossed some of his fishing bait at a passing station wagon. The bright, fluorescent station wagonorange marshmallows somersaulted through the air striking the driver on her cheek. We stopped and turned around. The station wagon slammed on its brakes. marmellow fish baitDanny, Laurie, Alexis, and I ran down a nearby flight of stairs which lead into Country Run, a townhome development. As we nervously walked through the development, taking the paths which lead to the park, we thought we were in the clear. Not being concerned, we spent a little playing around in Country Run. We decided to eventually leave and continue on to the park. When we were exiting the development, I noticed a station wagon slowly approaching the curb along the street of which we were walking. The driver stopped her car and motioned for all of us to come toward her car. We were terrified. The woman, who had orange markings left on her cheek by the bait, asked each of us for our names. Alexis, Laurie, and Danny told the woman their names. I quickly thought of a fictitious name and said my name was "Bill". The woman recognized Danny's last name and asked if his father was active in sports. Danny replied, "no". Sensing that we were scared enough, she lectured us briefly and then drove way. And for a long time after that, I had this fear of seeing that station wagon.

Another crazy escursion we went on with Laurie and Danny was when we took our bicycles to Hercules School one summer day. The school was closed but the campus was still accessible. The cool thing about this school was that there was a huge area of dirt and a very large outcrop of rock that was probably about twenty feet high located in the center of the school campus. We took our bikes over to the foot of this rock and gazed at the tire tracks left by other bicycles which lead from the base of the rock to the very top and over. The tire tracks were all that was needed to entice us to take our bikes up and over this rock as well. (Bike helmets pink huffy bikewere not enforced then.) So, Danny, who was always driven and a bit of a natural stuntman, volunteered to go first. His Mongoose Dirt Bike was well suited for this kind of deed. He jumped onto his bike and like a madman gave himself a bit of a leadoff to peddle up enough momentum to make it over the top of this pinnacle of a boulder. He was successful! This prompted the rest of us to take a turn at the feat as well. My sister went next. She took her Pink, banana seat Huffy up the front of the rock and peddled like crazy up one side of the rock and with a bit of a struggle, made it to the top. But she froze there. She took her feet off the peddles, placed them firmly on the ground and kept looking down at the ground. We told her to"go". (Er.. they told her to go.) She slowly peddled forward and gravity did the rest. Instead of her bike sailing smoothly down the front of the rock like Danny had previously done, the bike just dropped 20 feet from the top of the rock onto its front tire. Alexis crashed down right on top of it. We were stunned and scared. She gets up and starts crying. She's holding her head. We all return home to get a bandaid. Alexis was okay.

Ghost Riding
Along with Laurie and Danny, we spent time with other kids who lived near us. One of those crazy things that we did was something called "ghost-riding". Ghost Riding is when the someone on a bike would ride downhill gaining just enough speed so that he/she could jump off of the bike allowing it to continue coasting on its own, rider-less. Kids don't try this at home. We did this with a few other kids who lived on Redwood street.

 
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