Girls Basketball Sensations Rule The Courts

Rita Fiorenza of San Pedro High (left) and Angela Wade of Port of Los Angeles High School (photos by Jamaal K. Street).

San Pedro High’s Rita Fiorenza & POLA High’s Angela Wade are focal points for promising 2013-14 seasons, which includes a rare December showdown.

Fiorenza, a junior guard, and Wade, a senior forward, bring a lot of great intangibles to the forefront and have been tearing up the nets from the outset with their amazing talent of putting the ball in the hoop. These two young athletes have led their respective schools to the CIF-Los Angeles City Section playoffs (San Pedro in Division I, POLA in Division V) in each of the past two seasons.

San Pedro’s first home game for the 2013-14 season is against the Polar Bears, setting the stage for what could be an epic scoring battle if Fiorenza and Wade both have their way. It’s the closest thing San Pedro may have to a Diana Taurasi vs. Tamika Catchings WNBA-type duel.

Fiorenza, who began her basketball playing days at the tender age of nine, came to San Pedro for the 2011-12 season as a freshman. The team was coming off a dreadful 2010-11 season that saw the Pirates win only once in 21 games, losing all 12 of their Marine League contests in lopsided fashion. Since then, she has given the rest of the league reason to think twice about San Pedro being a pushover.

The Pirates still had some problems dealing with well-known powers Narbonne and Carson, but pulled a giant upset over another, defeating Washington Prep for the first time in 20 years. Fiorenza, who averaged 12.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 2.5 assists, would help take San Pedro to the CIF-LACS Division I playoffs and garner All-Marine League first team honors.

For Fiorenza, there was one moment in her rookie season at San Pedro that stood out the most. “My most memorable game was against Elizabeth Learning Center,” said Fiorenza.

Sure enough, it was her home debut against the Bulldogs. With San Pedro trailing 42-40, only eight seconds remained in the game, and no one knew who was going to be the one to come up with the clutch moment. So Fiorenza took the inbound pass after it slightly went over her right shoulder, and darted to the basket, making a move to slightly avoid a Bulldog defender who didn’t want to draw a charging foul, double clutching a layup in mid-air that softly banked off the backboard and into the basket as time expired.

The crowd inside San Pedro’s gym went bonkers, and Fiorenza was elated and excited and her teammates were electrified. San Pedro eventually lost, 52-48 in overtime despite Fiorenza’s 18 points and signature moment.

“All I was thinking before I got back in the game was that I can do this. I believe in myself, and whatever I do, just get to the hole,” recalled Fiorenza.

There was no sophomore slump for Fiorenza last season, as she started off hot by scoring 26 points against University of Los Angeles, and then 23 in the rematch with Elizabeth Learning Center, which the Pirates dominated with a 72-49 road victory. She missed a couple of key games in the Marine League with an illness that slowed her down a bit. Despite that, San Pedro still made the playoffs again even with just three league wins.

Fiorenza has high hopes for her junior season, both individually and team-wise. “My main goal for me would be to try and be an overall better player and increase my scoring average,” she said. “And my goal as a team would be to do the best in leading my team and making sure we all play together well.”

Meanwhile, Wade is a pure sharpshooter for POLA who can adapt to any style, and the four-year veteran who’s been playing the sport since sixth grade is looking for more for herself and for her team. The Polar Bears look to build off last year’s CIF-LACS Division V semifinal appearance where they lost to Crosstown League rival Animo South Los Angeles for the third time in 2012-13.

“Getting to the semifinals was most memorable because even though we lost, we as a team did our best and fought hard till the end,” said Wade, who averaged 16.7 points, leading all scorers for all of the San Pedro-based high schools.

Friday, December 14, 2012, was a historic day for both Wade and the Polar Bears. Against New Millennium of Carson, Wade lit up the Victoria Park gymnasium like a Christmas tree, scoring 30 points to become the first POLA High basketball player – male or female – to put up a 30-point outing during the Polar Bears’ 69-46 victory. Even with that kind of individual brilliance, Wade was still humble, a lost trait in a lot of young athletes, and was a little surprised by her remarkable achievement.

“I was really shocked and amazed because I never really pay attention to my stats, but it doesn’t matter how much I score,” said Wade. “It’s all about the team and how much we scored together as a team, but the feeling was amazing. I was really proud of myself, but also thankful for a team that helped me get those points. Without them, I couldn’t have scored those points.”

Wade helped POLA post a 19-7 mark and a second place tie in the Crosstown League with a 7-3 record, along with two CIF-LACS Division V playoff victories over De La Hoya Animo of Los Angeles and Sherman Oaks CES, garnering an All-City Division V first team selection.

“Individually, I just want to help my team out as much as I can before I leave,” said Wade, explaining her goals for the 2013-14 season. “As a team, I want to have everyone work together and have a chemistry that will hopefully take us all the way to the championships.”

Fiorenza and Wade both carry at least a 3.0 GPA at their schools, with Fiorenza boasting a solid 3.5.

These two magnificent scoring wonders will have a chance to make a massive statement on December 9, when POLA visits San Pedro for their inaugural crosstown battle and overall bragging rights for their schools. It’s a game that can also bring this close-knit community together because you don’t see this kind of prep showdown very often these days.

Wade and Fiorenza are both looking forward to this latest challenge for different reasons. “To me, it feels just like another game,” said Wade. “But playing against San Pedro should be interesting and fun. I think it will really show not only the Pirates, but the whole San Pedro community what POLA High School is made of, that we are a competitive and good team. We will come with the heart to win and to just play to our fullest.”

“I think it will be a fun game to play in and I’m pretty confident our team will do just fine,” said Fiorenza. spt

Exciting Prep Girls Volleyball Season Ahead

The 2012 season was a year of firsts for Port of Los Angeles High girls’ volleyball. Its first year of being in a league (Ocean), ended up with the Polar Bears earning their first-ever berth in the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division IV/V (Small Schools) playoffs. How did POLA take advantage? They made a magnificent run with three straight victories and was one more crucial set away from ending Elizabeth Learning Center’s dominance in the Division IV/V championship match.

However, the experience factor came into play, and POLA was left wondering what might have been as the Bulldogs went on to claim their third straight City title in five sets.

“It was amazing to be able to play as a team the whole year and really get to know each other,” says POLA senior middle blocker Allison Bayer. “On top of that to be able to play in championships together. We lost, but it was a huge way to go out with a bang for our many seniors.”

As the 2013 season begins, head coach Felicia Ivie and the Polar Bears are out for some unfinished business as they look to get back to the City Section Division IV/V championship match.

San Pedro and Mary Star of the Sea High are also looking to deliver in 2013 in a town that is synonymous with volleyball.

Mary Star was a CIF-Southern Section runner-up in 1998, while San Pedro claimed three CIF-Los Angeles City Section crowns in 2001, 2004 and 2005.

POLA (20-10 last season) will return a bevy of experience to the forefront as they will be paced by Bayer and fellow senior captain outside hitter Angela Wade, who, along with Bayer, were two of the biggest reasons why the Polar Bears reached the City Section Division IV/V final last season. Bayer, who is already a three-time City champion in softball, will be gunning for her fourth ring. She also won’t be alone as some of her fellow softball friends join her on the team this season.

Playing volleyball for the first time at POLA will be some softball players with championship experience in senior outside hitter Kelsea Short, junior defensive specialist Tiffany Torres and junior middle hitter Savana Ramirez. Another player eager for a championship after two straight finals appearances in girls’ soccer, junior opposite hitter Isabela Van Antwerp, will also be making her volleyball debut.

Wade, who is also a basketball standout, will be looking for a breakout season. Senior setter and libero, Annie Constantino, will also be key, as will senior defensive specialist Myra Munoz and sophomore Makayla Warth.

Don’t be surprised if POLA, already with a key nonleague win at Banning of Wilmington this season, makes another run at glory… and ultimately seizes it.

“I think we have a good chance of being in the finals again, but a key factor will be if we can work as a team for the whole season,” says Bayer. “There is a huge amount of new players this year, and it is key for us to trust and work as one in order to succeed.”

Over at San Pedro, head coach Kyle Ross enters his fourth season at the helm as he will try to guide the Pirates into battle in the killer Marine League that features both Narbonne of Harbor City, last year’s CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division I runner-up, and Carson, a D-I semifinalist. Senior middle blocker Mila Maricic is the unquestioned leader, as she is a returning All-Marine League first team pick.

San Pedro, who went 9-7 overall last season, may be able to surprise their league foes considering they add many new faces from the junior varsity team to the mix. Last year’s JV team went 10-2 in the Marine League. Junior outside hitters Paige Peterson, Julia Sampson and Brittany Foster, along with senior setter Vanessa Ruiz, are the only other returning varsity players from a year ago.

Key newcomers to watch out for include senior Michelle Costanza and juniors Kirsten Bauman and Jazmin Tela.

“I have a good feeling about our team this year with all the talent we have,” says Peterson, who led San Pedro in service aces and was second in kills last season behind Maricic. “We are all athletic and have the potential to get that Marine League title. We also get along very well, which always helps practices go a lot more smoother and games a lot more exciting.”

The biggest new additions to the Pirates just may be senior outside hitter Katie Sullivan, who transferred from Mary Star, and Miranda Mueller, a transfer from Carson. Sullivan was an All-Camino Real League selection for Mary Star a season ago.

And speaking of the Stars, One of Mary Star’s all-time greats, Sarah Gascon, is in her second season as head coach. Despite the defection of Sullivan, the Stars, who were 5-8 last season, will still try to be competitive in the Camino Real League.

Senior opposite hitter Brina Garcia, senior outside hitter Sarah Pearson and junior defensive specialist Hope Marinkovich are the top returning players, but playing volleyball for the first time is junior Lexie Geich, who along with seniors libero Victoria Vitalich and opposite hitter Christina Padilla, helped Mary Star’s softball team reach the CIF-Southern Section Division 6 championship game in June.

“I think we will be competitive,” says Gascon. “Our biggest challenge will be consistency. With our team it takes everyone to win. I love my team and staff and I’m honored to have an opportunity to share my volleyball knowledge with them.”

The Stars, who started off the season already claiming the Chino Tournament, have four freshmen on the team that are all looking to make an instant impact in outside hitter Lexi Andrie, S/OH Kaitlyn Martinez, outside hitter Ally Spillane and S/OH Angela Pisano.

“My freshman are great!” says Gascon. “They have a great competitive spirit, they’re coachable, and they have a winning attitude.”

Seems like the Pirates, Polar Bears and Stars all possess a winning attitude, and that’s what should make for three successful seasons. spt

SPHS Totally 80’s Class Reunion

I still remember graduating from San Pedro High School back in 1983. It was a clear and warm day as we walked onto the original high school field. Back then the football field ran east to west as opposed to the current north to south setup. We were the Utopian’s as our painted sign proudly hung on the outfield fence. Our cap and gowns were a flashy gray with a burgundy tassel and the excitement of this milestone was in the air, not only on the field with the candidates, but in the bleachers filled with family and friends. As Student Body President, I had the honor of welcoming everyone to the ceremony, made a brief speech on the importance of this day, and enjoyed the rest of the ceremony. Thirty years ago seems like yesterday as time has truly flown by.

Having been involved in planning the SPHS Class of ‘83 20th and 25th year class reunions the time seemed right to combine class reunions for our 30th. I thought whom better to approach with this idea than my friend and SPHS teacher Kathy Carcamo (class of ’85)? Always the optimist, Kathy and I have stayed friends since high school and when approached with the idea she not only liked it, but thought the whole decade should be invited, and coined the phrase “Totally 80’s Reunion.” Although the phrase sounded like a valley girl expression from the 80s, it worked. I then proposed we engage the San Pedro Pirate Boosters to help with membership and scholarship fundraising efforts, so we did.

The San Pedro Pirate Boosters were incorporated as a nonprofit in 1958, but actually started supporting student athletes under the leadership of Matty Domancich and Bill Seixas in 1954 and is one of the oldest booster clubs in all of L.A. Unified School District. Next year, the boosters are preparing to celebrate their 60th anniversary. Currently lead by Pirate Boosters President, Leonard Miller, the club has seen memberships go from a 71-member organization two years ago to 376 today. This success is attributed to the commitment and hard work of the Pirate booster new leadership team like Guy Spinosa, Noe Lopez and Joe Domicoli, longtime members Jerry Lovarov, Larry Robertson, Leon Carr and Rick Trujillo. Other key contributors to this success are John Fiorenza, Kathy Carcamo, and Stacey Soto. This is the core of the “Pirate-for-Life” theme that continues to transform the traditional Pirate Booster club into a forward-looking group with a vision to bring home Pirate Alumni and build a Pirate network that is unparalleled by any other in the Harbor Area.

An example of this transformation is the boosters’ goal to break 500 members this year and surpass 1,000 by 2015. Most importantly is the focus and emphasis on building the Pirate Booster Scholarships annual fund. In the past, 2012 seniors received scholarships from a $1,000 budget, whereas 2013 seniors received scholarships from a $4,000 budget. The 2013 scholarships were presented at a dinner for the first time in front of family and friends at the San Pedro Fish Market. The goal now is to double the fund each year through membership and fundraising so more and more scholarships can be presented to students at the annual San Pedro Pirate Booster Scholarship dinner event. The proceeds from the Totally 80’s Reunion will not only support the scholarship fund but also provide reunion attendees an introductory membership to the San Pedro Pirate Boosters.

The Totally 80’s Reunion is scheduled for October 12 and will start at 6:30 p.m. at the San Pedro Elks Lodge. Music will be provided by DJ Scott Martin, an 80s favorite and Pirate alumni. Tickets are $40 each and can be purchased online at www.sanpedropirateboosters.com. Please purchase tickets ahead of time and spread the word. Our goal is to sellout the event before the Oct. 12. If the event has not sold out, tickets will be available at the door. I look forward to seeing all of you at this great event for a great cause to provide scholarship funding for our future Pirate Alumni. spt

Biggest Change In Fast Food Isn’t What’s Served, It’s Who’s Serving

I was amused reading about fast food workers wanting to go on strike for higher wages. Not amused by the plight of a group of people who work hard for very little, but because it took me back to my days in the fast food industry, when it was still in its infancy.

Back then, if I had gone to my boss and asked to have my wages doubled, he would have said something like, “Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.” Not to get too political, but the fast food industry has always relied on an unskilled workforce willing to work part time for minimum wage. The difference is that when I was young, the workers were mostly teen-age kids in high school who weren’t depending on those jobs to make a living.

Like so many others, my start in the “business” world was as a News-Pilot paperboy. My first “real” job came at the McDonald’s in Lomita on Western and Pacific Coast Highway, which is still there, albeit in a newer, bigger version (they introduced the newfangled Big Mac while I was there, and with every order we had to say, “Would you like a hot apple turnover with that?”). It was my senior year in high school, October 1968, when I started at the then-minimum wage of $1.25 an hour (and the Big Mac was 49 cents). I worked 26.5 hours those first two weeks, after school and weekends, and brought home $27.29. I’d never had so much money. I was rich!

I didn’t have a car, however, so I jumped at the opportunity when San Pedro got a brand-new Jack in the Box on Western Ave., the one that’s still there, in January 1969. It also meant a huge raise to $1.40 an hour. I now had a car and had graduated so I could work longer hours. The cash was pouring in.

My fast food experience ended just a few months later, when I began my journalism career as a sports stringer for the News-Pilot (30 cents a column inch could add up real fast), but I’ll never forget flipping burgers during the lunch or dinner rush and cleaning the grill and mopping floors at cleanup.

My colleagues at that time were fellow teens. At McDonald’s, I worked alongside my friend John Hiigel, who was San Pedro High’s student body president. He went on to become a pastor and then a professor at a Midwest college.

I was the “old man” at Jack’s. Most of my co-workers were juniors or sophomores. One was friend Ted Petrich, now a retired teacher living in Hemet. Another was Chris Traughber, a champion swimmer at SPHS and today Dr. Chris Traughber of the Palos Verdes Family and Immediate Medical Care Center. In a recent conversation with Chris, we agreed that we learned a great deal about life during our fast food days, but what we learned most was that it wasn’t what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives. Even at $8 an hour.

Of course, as I write this, the Big Mac is $3.89, and California is planning to increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour. Maybe I should rethink this and start practicing: “Would you like to make that a combo?”

Let’s Go Surfing

There are a couple of entertaining videos on YouTube that should interest San Pedrans. Linda (Barnes) Krammes (San Pedro High Winter `62) alerted me to the first (http://youtu.be/paLt3HLS3YQ) called San Pedro Memories.

Posted by Van Barbre (Winter `64), Memories is a series of snapshots, many of which appear to have come right from his family album, mingled with postcards of San Pedro and Long Beach in the `50s and `60s. I particularly liked the shots of the Pike, the Fishermen’s Fiesta in the heyday of the fishing industry, hundreds of white-uniformed cannery workers, the old Gaffey Street Pool, Marineland and San Pedro High in the early `60s.

For an entirely different look at San Pedro High, check out “Pirate Pride” (http://youtu.be/P21OZ7X55CQ). Judy Kiesel sent me the link to this video, which has been out since last fall. The brainchild of Joanne Cherry Booth, the dance teacher at San Pedro High, it’s a “Gangnam Style” parody that takes you on a tour of both campuses, and by the time it’s over has shown hundreds of choreographed students and a good part of the faculty and staff. All in good fun, it’s well-done, and if you don’t know what “Gangnam Style” is, well, you’ll just have to look to find out.

Kudos to Booth, a Venice, Calif., native who’s been at Pedro for 30 years, and camerman Victor Prudeux, an SPHS grad. Prudeux was on the stage crew as a student and, according to Booth, comes back and assists with performing arts events and technical needs.

I can’t help but wonder, however, what the Pirates’ API score would have been had they shown the same enthusiasm in the classroom. Just sayin’. spt

Missing: Harbor College Hall Of Fame Inductees

Richard Johnson, where are you?

Working on the Harbor College Athletic Hall of Fame committee these past five years has been rewarding, but it has its challenges. Chief among them is actually finding the people nominated so they can take part in the annual induction ceremony.

When contacted, inductees have expressed great enthusiasm, and athletes have come to the event from thousands of miles away, excited not only by the honor but also by the chance to see old friends and teammates. Jim Hight, the Gardena High alum and former All-American at Harbor College (1964) and San Diego State, was so impressed by his induction ceremony that he became a member of the committee and makes the drive up from San Diego to attend meetings.

The problem is getting hold of the nominee, particularly those who performed in earlier generations. Some of Harbor’s greatest athletes, even those who went on to four-year schools and the pros, have scattered to the four winds, and former coaches and teammates, when contacted, haven’t heard from them in years.

Such is the case with Johnson, who graduated from San Pedro High in 1978 and starred at Harbor in 1979-80. He started for two years at Colorado before embarking on a professional odyssey that included three years in the upstart United States Football League, where he led the league in pass receptions two years in a row, and two years with the Detroit Lions, where he set a team record for pass catches.

As of this writing, our every effort to get in touch with him has failed, so this is one last appeal to anyone who might know of his whereabouts to contact us before this year’s Sept. 13 event. You can use my email at the bottom of this column.

The same goes for members of the 1968 women’s track and field team and 1994-95 women’s basketball team, both of which won state titles. Finding women athletes has been particularly hard because while we have names, many obviously got married over the years and no longer go by their maiden names.

Then there are those who we want to honor who have died. Because Harbor’s Hall of Fame is relatively new, we have had to honor many posthumously. This year’s list includes three from three generations: Dick Hughes (meritorious service), a faculty member from 1963 to 2006; James Sims (1970-71), all-star linebacker who started for USC’s 1972 national champions; and pitcher Justin Miller (1996-97), conference co-MVP with seven years in the major leagues.

Joining them in this year’s class are Steve Cox (1963-64 All-American wide receiver); Charles Glass (1970-71 gymnast who became world-class bodybuilder); all-star shortstop Mark Lewis (1991-92); record-setting distance runners Sherry Simmons (1978-79) and Diana Karg (1978-80); and the 1983 baseball team that went 30-11 and lost in the state finals.

All of the inductees will be recognized at the Ports O’ Call Restaurant banquet. For tickets, call 310-233-4446. Proceeds maintain the work of the Hall of Fame in honoring Harbor’s finest athletes.

Because of past experience with no-shows, the HOF committee knows that, with or without Johnson and the others, the dinner will still be a huge success. It’s what you’d expect from a committee that includes the likes of Hight, coaching legends Jim O’Brien and Jim White, and Joe Marino, Dave Gascon, Mickey Teora, Jim Stanbery and the recently added Marion Perkov. It’s the honorees who miss out on a memorable occasion, so if you can help us find Richard Johnson, let us know.

Speaking of Pirate Football…

I’m sure the stories were flowing at the memorial for Bill Seixas, the longtime San Pedro High coach and teacher who died July 1 at 91, but there was one story that probably didn’t get told.

It happened during my SPHS days in the late `60s, when I had homeroom in the old gym. The teacher was the aforementioned Teora, and the class sat on one half of the bleachers, with another homeroom class, under Seixas, next to ours. Teora and Seixas, P.E. teachers at this point in their careers and longtime friends, had desks facing the bleachers, and there was always a lot of banter going on. One morning as I was doing homework there was a disturbance, and I looked up to see chairs flying and Seixas and Teora involved in a full-out brawl, fists flailing away. It only lasted a few seconds before some students separated them; I don’t recall any bloodshed or injuries, and the next day everything was back to normal.

Teora must have forgotten that morning when, commenting on his late friend, he said, “He was ornery as hell and he used to fight tooth and nail – verbally of course – but he was able to determine a good athlete from an average athlete and develop them into great athletes.” Then again, maybe he did remember, and was just being kind to the memory of the feisty little coach who loved all things San Pedro. spt

Life & How To Live It

Harry Hall, photographed at his home on May 10, 2013 (photo by Joshua Stecker)

Harry Hall has lived through both World Wars and the Great Depression. He was already an adult when the attack on Pearl Harbor happened. He’s bore witness to the modern motion picture and the advent of air travel, and was alive before the first transcontinental telephone call between New York City and San Francisco ever occurred.

The same year Hall was born also saw the completion of the Angels Gate Lighthouse, the opening of the Panama Canal and introduction of Ford’s modern assembly line.

To say that Harry Hall has seen a few things in his lifetime is an understatement.

The son of Charles and Christine Hall, Hall was born on June 7, 1913, in San Pedro, and is the youngest of eight children. He would go on to attend Barton Hill Elementary School, Bandini Street School and San Pedro High School, where he was the humor editor for the school’s Fore ‘n Aft newspaper and the yearbook.

Today, nearly a century later, Hall is healthy and happy and living a treasured life in his home in San Pedro; in the same house he’s lived in since the 1950s. You know, when he was in his 40s.

“Well, hello there,” Hall says as he welcomes this reporter into his home. He has a slow yet steady gait as he navigates his way through his living room, settling down in the middle of his couch. “Have a seat,” he says.

For someone approaching a century in age, Harry Hall shows no signs of slowing down. Sitting in khaki pants and a Hawaiian shirt, with his silver mane slicked and well coiffed, the man many people know as “that guy who plays the violin” is all too happy to discuss his life as he nears such an amazing milestone.

“My daily routine, you know, for a 100 year old, it’s not much,” laughs Hall. “I have nobody here to do the housework, you know. But I’ve got a gardener and I’ve got friends next door.”

It’s surprising to realize that Hall is as independent as ever. He still drives around town and lives on his own (though relatives drive him when he needs to go outside of San Pedro). He’s constantly entertaining the multitude of guests that stop by to make sure he’s doing ok on a daily basis. It’s safe to say that entertaining has been his life’s work.

A Lifetime Love Affair

Hall is never too far from his trusty violin. It’s the instrument that has come to define his life. The way he explains it, his introduction to the violin came in the form of a door-to-door salesman who was selling violin lessons in town.

“My folks thought it’d be nice if I studied some music,” he recalls. “It didn’t matter what it would be. If the guy who came to our door was selling pianos, maybe I’d have taken piano. But no, I started the violin. I found out I enjoyed it very much. And that I was capable of doing it.”

Since Hall didn’t own his own violin, he would pay a dollar a week to his teacher for a year, after the year was up, he could keep the violin he had been practicing on.

“It was a violin and a bow,” he says. “Then you’d pick the music up every week. That was a 10-cent sheet of music and it was gradually getting harder and harder as you went. But if you did it for one year – and it was a dollar a lesson – one year, the violin was yours.”

That one year turned into a lifetime love affair with music.

Eventually, Hall joined the Navy Seabees and served during WWII. While stationed at Camp Peary in Virginia, Hall called to have his violin shipped to him.

“I was entertaining the kids, you know, the fellows,” he remembers. “Somebody would have a guitar and they’d sing and if there was a piano, they had a pianist too. So we had a little group that we could get together.”

After the war, Hall joined the faculty of the National Institute of Music and traveled around the western United States teaching violin to students and teaching teachers, as well. In 1948, Hall would experience one of his life’s highlights as he conducted an orchestra of 2,000 violins at the Hollywood Bowl.

In 1950, Hall married his first wife, Muzelle Davis. Sadly, Muzelle would die of cancer in October 1961. Looking to move on, in December 1963, Hall would marry Eda Cortner. They would be married for 32 years before Eda’s passing from a stroke in 1995. Both marriages never spawned children.

Even through those difficult times, Hall always found solace in music. While he could read music, he claims he was a better learner by ear.

“My ear is pretty good,” claims Hall. “So, you know, I could actually play tunes that a lot of kids can’t play. They can’t play tunes that they’ve heard.”

Home

Even though he has been around the world with the Navy and traveled across the country as a violin teacher, he still calls San Pedro home, where he’s taught countless San Pedro kids (and adults) the art of the violin. From the bay window in his living room you can see the Angels Gate Lighthouse, two San Pedro stalwarts, both approaching a major life milestone.

When asked about all the changes he’s seen just in San Pedro, the first thing he mentions is the razing of Beacon Street in downtown, even though he was in his 60s when the bulldozers came through in the 1970s.

“There were a lot of changes here that I’m not too crazy about,” he says. “The fact that the downtown district is gone. You know, we used to have great clothing stores here.”

Hall will tell you how he remembers when the Palos Verdes hill was nothing but farmland, or how a dime could buy you a burger and soda on Pacific Ave. “Those were good days,” he says.

Today, as Hall approaches his 100th birthday, you can still find him playing violin at The Whale and Ale in downtown or entertaining the residents at the Harbor Terrace retirement community. Every Saturday night, his neighbors come over to his house and bring wine and snacks as they sit around the coffee table telling stories to each other. “We talk about old times,” he says.

Even though his active lifestyle may be a clue, when asked what his secret to reaching 100 is, Hall pauses to think for a second. He may have been asked this before, but his answer takes some thought.

“Study music because you’ll live longer,” he says. “Oh, and chardonnay.”

He has a glass of it every night. spt

Leading San Pedro

“This town eats its own.” I recall a friend on the San Pedro Chamber board saying this while lamenting that San Pedrans aren’t great at supporting their local leaders.

Whether he’s right or wrong, I believe that for many years San Pedro hasn’t done a good job of grooming future leaders. For example, before I launched San Pedro Magazine, I was not active in the community, but got involved because it now became my business to do so. The first major event I attended was a chamber luncheon attended by approximately 250 people. Although I was born and raised in San Pedro, with tons of family and friends here, I didn’t recognize more than two or three people.

Over the next several years, I became friends with many of the luncheon attendees. A large majority of them are wonderful people who do a nice job serving a community they love, but most came here from somewhere else. On one hand, it’s good to have leaders in your community that can provide a fresh pair of eyes on its issues, but on the flipside, I’ve found it challenging for many of them to accurately reflect the will of the majority of the people because they lacked the relationships to be able to do that. Furthermore, it’s not a very sustainable model to have to constantly find leadership arriving from someplace else instead of developing leaders that grew up in the community.

In recent years, things have begun to dramatically change. Our councilman, Joe Buscaino, was born and raised in San Pedro, as was the newly elected president of ILWU Local 13, Chris Viramontes. These are young dynamic leaders with the ability to attract their peers into getting involved to create a powerful leadership force for our community. In addition to Joe and Chris, I’d like to add the name of Anthony Pirozzi to the list of young San Pedro leaders that can brighten the future of our town. And I’m not the only one to think so; the San Pedro Chamber is giving Anthony its annual Leadership Award.

Anthony is one of my best friends. We met in high school when everyone called him Yog (which I still call him). In fact, I had to get past knowing him as Yog, who we loved teasing as kids, to recognize Anthony, a man that has grown into a great leader. The first glimpse occurred when Anthony joined our other friends, Dave Stanovich, Ron Galosic, Scott Lane, and Tony Cordero in leading the fight to secure baseball fields for Eastview Little League on Knoll Hill. Anyone that’s either played at Eastview or had a kid play at Eastview (I’m in both categories) will probably agree that their effort to have the fields built is one of our town’s finest accomplishments in the past few years.

The fact that Anthony threw so much of himself at the campaign is not a surprise. Anthony and I spend countless hours on the phone (his wife, Carolyn calls me his second wife) and the thing that comes up a lot is his passion for helping kids get better. He’s very proud that although he was a mediocre student at San Pedro High, he was able to get good grades at Harbor, go on to earn a degree at Cal Poly Pomona, and become an aerospace engineer. He uses his role as a Boeing executive to speak to kids about their futures and has facilitated more than $100,00 in donations from Boeing to San Pedro charities that serve children, such as the Boys & Girls Club, Top Sail, Toberman House, and Cabrillo Aquarium.

After the Save Eastview campaign had concluded, I convinced Anthony to join me on the board of directors at the San Pedro Chamber. Upon his election as chairman of the board, I began to realize that our generation has begun to assume the mantle of leadership. I can say with firsthand knowledge that we are fortunate to have leaders like Anthony, Joe, and Chris because they care so much for this town that we all love and they all share the same passion for grooming the next generation of San Pedrans into great citizens and great leaders. spt

Jack Baric can be reached at jackbaric@hotmail.com.

Holy Trinity’s Eagles Have Landed

New Eagle Scouts (l to r): Brad Fistonich, Matt Yracheta and Austin Leavitt (photo: Anita Yracheta & Julio Lemus)

Brad Fistonich, Austin Leavitt and Matt Yracheta aren’t your typical high school seniors. In addition to balancing varsity football, heavy class loads and choosing between college acceptance letters, the 18-year-olds have spent ten years going camping, earning merit badges and moving up in the ranks of the Boy Scouts of America. Three months ago, all three became Eagle Scouts, the highest rank in scouting, and an honor earned by only 5 percent of scouts annually.

On March 9, Fistonich, Leavitt and Yracheta had their Eagle Scout Court of Honor at Holy Trinity Parish, where they are members of Troop 234, and are the 24th, 25th and 26th scouts in the history of the troop to make Eagle. Congresswoman Janice Hahn was on hand to present them with certificates of honor from President Barack Obama.

“I’m extremely proud of what Matt, Austin and Brad have accomplished; they are great scouts and excellent role models for San Pedro’s youth both in and out of scouting,” says Troop 234 Scoutmaster Dwayne Cooper. “One of the aims of scouting is to develop well-rounded young men who are prepared to give back to their community. Through the service they provided in their scouting career and especially their Eagle projects, they have already begun to give back.”

Although the teens began their paths to Eagle Scout in different troops and went to different high schools – Yracheta attends the San Pedro High School Marine Science Magnet, and Fistonich and Leavitt go to Mary Star of the Sea High School – the three have developed and maintained a tight bond strengthened by their shared experience of making Eagle Scout.

“Boy Scouts isn’t all fun and games; it’s serious stuff and in the end, it’s very rewarding,” says Fistonich, who started out as a Cub Scout at Holy Trinity before bridging over to the Boy Scouts, eventually becoming a Senior Patrol Leader. Of the 21 merit badges needed to become an Eagle Scout, his favorite was the Shotgun Merit Badge.

In addition to the merit badges, Eagle Scouts must plan, lead and oversee a volunteer service project. Fistonich organized a 40-volunteer effort to renovate the gardening center at Silver Spur Elementary School in Rancho Palos Verdes.

“The whole process was two days, but there were dozens of prep days, which were probably even harder than the actual work days,” he says.

Leavitt spent months planning his project last summer to clean up his school’s deteriorating shipping container-turned weight room. The swimmer and honor roll student oversaw almost 50 volunteers. During his scouting career, he earned the 60 Nights of Camping Badge and reached the highest rank at Chawanakee Summer Camp.

“It’s been a long journey and it’s really nice to be able to finish after 10 years,” he says. “As you move up in the ranks, you figure out what you want to do and how you’re going to lead and be an example to others.”

For his service project, Yracheta led a two-weekend effort to replenish emergency kits in classrooms at Holy Trinity School. He’s also participated in food drives and camped in all types of weather conditions, earning him the 20 Nights Camping award. A member of San Pedro High School’s 2011 Marine League Title-winning varsity football team, he likens scouting to sports.

“When my team went 10-0, it was just like Boy Scouts in that when it was tiring and we wanted to stop and go home, we just had to keep pushing and pushing and go for gold.”

All three teens thank their parents, families, friends and scoutmaster for supporting them through their journeys to Eagle. They have all received multiple acceptance letters from universities. Yracheta plans on attending Marymount College and ultimately UCLA, Leavitt plans on attending California State University Long Beach, and Fistonich is still deciding.

“I think the Boy Scouts has given my son confidence, maturity, and the ability to speak in front of lots of people,” says Brad’s mother, Sharon Fistonich. “I think it’s a great growing experience and I’m very proud. I know all three boys will be friends for life.”

Yaracheta and Leavitt have been scouts together since they were Cub Scouts at Taper Elementary School, where Austin’s father Cary Leavitt was a Den Leader.

“I think the Boy Scout experience gives young men the skills and confidence to succeed at anything they do in the future,” Cary Leavitt says. “At Holy Trinity’s Troop 234, Dwayne Cooper is the most patient and understanding leader.”

Yracheta’s mother Anita says her son and Leavitt have developed a strong bond during the past 10 years that hasn’t changed despite going to different high schools.

“Matt and Austin have been friends since second or third grade, and even though they went to different high schools, it never changed their friendship. The scouts have kept them connected,” she says. “To see them grow and mature into such nice young men has been great. I’m proud of all three to be able to have accomplished what they have.” spt

A Third Chance at Life

Alicia Cline

It was a sunny afternoon in June 2005, and like many San Pedrans, Alicia Cline lined up excitedly to accept her high school diploma at Pirate Stadium, her family watching proudly from the stands. But unlike most graduates, as she made her way on crutches across the stage, rows of her classmates slowly rose to their feet and applauded her.

Only a year earlier, when most of her peers were worried about what they’d do over summer break, Cline faced a decision that could mean the difference between life or death: she had been diagnosed with stage four bone cancer after breaking her femur, and had to decide whether to have her leg amputated, or undergo a procedure that would save it, but at the cost of wearing a brace for the rest of her life.

Caught between the opinions of two doctors and her torn mother, the strong-willed 16-year-old opted for the choice with the best odds of survival. A few weeks after her seventeenth birthday, her right leg was amputated above her knee, and her life forever changed.

“Becoming sick makes you grow up really fast, and I think cancer really changed the person who I was. I was hell-bent on staying strong for my family,” says Cline, now 25 and finishing her bachelor’s degree in sociology at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

She still has the strong, witty, infectious and bluntly honest personality that helped her face cancer as a teen. It would help her again when her cancer returned twice in college: once in her lung, and again in an ovary. Today, Cline is officially in remission.

“When I found out, I just cried; it was such a huge relief. Thinking I might have cancer again every time I had an ache or pain for the past eight years was not fun.”

But despite all she’s endured, Cline will be the first to tell you that it could’ve been worse. While in treatment at Kaiser Permanente in Hollywood, she became friends with another teen in the pediatric ward named Joanna Cervantes. Sharing photos, they realized that they both went to San Pedro High and they both hung out in senior court.

Cervantes would also lose a limb in her fight against cancer.

“I chose to have my leg amputated, but she didn’t have a choice,” says Cline. “One night, it got really bad, and they had to take her arm. Later on, we both had recurrences, and unfortunately, she passed away.”

After months of chemotherapy, Cline returned to school for her senior year on crutches and a prosthetic wearing a wig and jeans. She got involved with a new club organizing SPHS’s first-ever Relay for Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. The experience boosted her confidence and she decided she wasn’t going to hide beneath her wig and jeans anymore, boldly coming to school one day in a dress and no wig.

“People who knew my situation were supportive, but it wasn’t easy being open. High school kids can be mean.”

That May, Cline and her father, who had overcome Hodgkin’s lymphoma himself, were among the first group to complete the survivor’s lap at Relay. It’s an event she and her family still participate in today. Later that summer, they went on a family vacation to Disneyworld through the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

“It was hard to see her go through something like this and not be able to just fix it,” recalls her mother, Cathleen Cline Dovolis. “If it weren’t for our family’s support and especially our sense of humor, I don’t know how we would have survived the whole thing together. Laughter was a huge part of keeping us all sane during that time. Alicia is one special young lady. She is my true inspiration and the epitome of the word ‘survivor’ for sure.”

Cline also participates in Relay for Life at CSUDH, where she’s a member of several clubs and the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority. She’s taken an interest in disability studies, and is considering graduate school.

“Regardless of what I do with my degree, I want to help people. It would be cool if I could get involved with the American Cancer Society or some type of nonprofit that helps amputees or cancer patients,” she says.

Entering adult life as an amputee and three-time cancer survivor is an experience Cline doesn’t sugar coat. In the real world of student debt, a competitive job market and steep medical costs, she sometimes catches herself second guessing her decision, but ultimately knows she might not be here if she hadn’t bravely made it.

“My patience might be tested, I might get sad, but I know I can handle it and at the end of the day, I’m not dead,” Cline says. “My mantra and something I tell my boyfriend all the time is that it might not be easy, but it’s going to be worth it.” spt

Relay for Life will be held May 18 at San Pedro High School. For more info, visit www.relayforlife.org.

Backyard Sojourn Inspires Bookkeeper To Write


I have a low retaining wall in my backyard, lined with rose bushes. On the other side of the wall is my neighbor’s ivy. When the sun’s out, so are the lizards, basking in the warmth and doing their little pushups on the wall.

I also am the husband of a kindergarten teacher, which puts me in her classroom quite often, and “Papa” to 5- and 4-year-old granddaughters. That means I read a lot of children’s books.

So I was intrigued when, while standing in line at my bank on Western Avenue, I noticed on a table nearby a promotion for a book titled The Lizard in the Roses. Beautifully illustrated, with bright, vibrant colors and cute little animal and insect characters that inhabit the book’s backyard, the story written in rhyme, I immediately thought this was something my granddaughters would enjoy.

None of which made it column material until I read that the author, Jeana Radovcich, is a native San Pedran, and the book is dedicated to her parents, Joe and Marilyn Scarcello, whom I happen to know. Joe worked for many years at the family-owned Rapid Shoe Repair on 6th Street.

The book came about almost by accident. Jeana, who attended White Point, Dana and graduated from San Pedro High in 1984, isn’t a teacher and doesn’t have children. What she has is a desire to paint, which was nurtured by her art teacher in high school, Margaret Works, but never went much further as she began a career in bookkeeping.

She did paint an oil portrait of Barbra Streisand, which she took down to Sunyata Gallery in San Pedro, where she met Tom Phillips. That friendship led to her modeling for some of the late artist’s well-known paintings of local landmarks. That’s Jeana in the orange dress in front of Phillips’ painting of Shanghai Red (“It doesn’t look a lot like me, but it’s me”), and she’s the figure with the umbrella in front of the Point Fermin Lighthouse.

She still wanted to paint, however, and finally, her husband, an IT professional, said, “We can handle it (financially). Go ahead and quit and do it.”

“I was sort of blocked, I couldn’t squeeze it out, and got depressed,” Jeana recalls of her search for inspiration. “I read books to unblock myself, and one day was out in the backyard, being in nature, with the now. That’s what I was doing when I saw the lizard.

“I loved to look at them. There was one on a rose bush, who used to run away, and one on the wall I could walk right up to. I saw the lizards there one day and told my husband there was a lizard under the roses. He handed me a pencil and pad of paper and told me to write it down.”

And that’s how the lizard book became “based on true events.”

The hardbound book is so professionally done that it comes as a shock that it was self-published, digitally illustrated. But that’s just one of the benefits of being married to a computer expert with his own company. George, whose father captained a fishing boat in San Pedro, attended Mary Star and was a member of the last class of Fermin Lasuen before graduating from Loyola Marymount. According to Jeana, he said, “Here, let me give you this digital tablet, and you can work with that. I was really intimidated by it… didn’t touch it for a year. He encouraged me to scribble, play with it. I got pretty good and learned all the little tricks.

“I had made some little sketches of the story I had written down and started with those. Next thing I knew, I had a little book,” she said.

They never even looked for a publisher. “My husband thought it was worthy of bringing it into reality as a book,” she recalls. “He was so impressed with the drawings, he wanted to do it himself. He knows all the computer tricks, the layout program. He did it all himself.

“It’s kind of like a little miracle for me. I was blocked, had no aspirations, and it just sort of came out. This may sound grandiose, but I think it’s something God wanted me to do.”

The book is available at Williams’ Book Store, Captain’s Treasure Chest, the Assistance League and The Corner Store in San Pedro, The Book Frog in the Promenade in Rolling Hills Estates, and Apostrophe Books in Long Beach. The cost is $16.99.

Jeana will be having a book signing at 3 p.m. April 27 at Williams’. If you have little kids of your own or, like me, little grandkids, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Lizard. And when you’re done reading it to them, tell them the inspiring story of a little San Pedro girl who grew up and became a children’s book author. spt