Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient from Citrus College (class of 1971)

Citrus College, Glendora, CA...

 This past Friday evening (6/7/24)  family, friends, school officials, dignitaries both state and local and even a film crew joined in a celebration honoring me as this years  Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient. 

The school marquee announcing the event... 

(below ) a mild California outdoor setting for the evenings activities (below)...
(photo by Stacy Armstrong)


name tags for attendees...

entertainment by the Citrus College wonderful band and vocal group 'Nightshift' (below and right) led into a memorable evening that wildly passed anything I could ask for or imagine.

(Photo by Stacy Armstrong)

(Photo by Stacy Armstrong)

 LaVonne and I got there early enough to mingle with the assembly. I got mic'd-up for the film crew, Don Hahn (Howard, Waking Sleeping Beauty) was on hand as he has 'something up his sleeve', so to speak.

Many "congratulations" from newly made friends to 70 years of friendship between me and some of those present who have known me since elementary school.

As mentioned earlier, Nightshift put on a rousing, toe tapping performance with music and vocals that hit a beat for all present. Their time on stage was truly electrifying as they left to  enthusiastic applause.

Dinner lines formed...

 followed by an informative history of Citrus College and the activity of the Citrus Alumni and Friends Association

 After a exuberant and animated introduction by Citrus Foundation member Mary Ann Lutz, I was presented with a certificate (below) representing the state Legislature from the office of Senator Hon. Anthony J. Portantino...

(Photo by S.A.)
then another presenter (below) with more positive remarks presented me with a certificate from the County of Los Angeles...

(Photo by S.A.)

 ...(below right) certificate from the Glendora City Council (Citrus is located in Glendora)...

 (below) from the City of Monrovia (I was born and lived in Monrovia most of my life)... 

(Photo by S.A.)

(Photo by S.A.)
 (below) certificate from the Board of Education, Monrovia Unified School District...
(Photo by S.A.)

(Photo by Stacy Armstrong)
and (above) Mary Ann Lutz, representing the Citrus College Alumni Foundation presented me with the Distinguished Alumni Award, accompanied by Citrus College President Greg Shultz, Ed. D.

A memorable and enjoyable time was had by all.

 Every story needs context to be properly understood.

 In order to know how this event and these circumstances came about, read on.

  November 1967- Aboard a school bus, filled with bodies in grass stained uniforms smelling of sweat, scarred helmets, worn cleats, a few bruises and amid jubilation, we, the Monrovia Wildcats football team were on the way home from a victory over Alhambra High. Our last game of the season. A season which saw us loose our first four games. Our fifth game, we pulled an 'upset' against Whittier and the winning streak continued to this night (below) newspaper clipping.

In the noisy, semi-darkness on the bus that night, I thought to myself, "that's it, no more football for me". I had no dreams of playing any further. Small build, not really that fast a runner, an 'ok' ballplayer, that's me.

 My personal goals had been accomplished. I wanted to play football at the same high school my brother Kenny had played for eleven years earlier, and I did. Ken had been captain of the basketball team, though I did not play basketball, I wanted to be captain of some team. I was named co-captain (below).

 Through sports teams I made friends, learned to play within the rules, lessons of sportsmanship, play hard, play hurt, give your best effort, whether you are winning or on the short end. Follow the leadership and instruction of the coaches, encourage teammates and don't complain... about anything.  Sometimes you do not get out of it what you put in. All this and more. Life lessons.

I felt this night I was putting on the breaks with one more hurdle to cross before my high school athletic participation would come to a close. The last track meet would be the end of my high school athletic career.

The end of the football season Sports Award Banquet brought a surprise.  As a team, we vote for individual honors.

 My votes went for wide receiver and safety Steve Collins as our Wildcat of the Year (best player). Offensive and defensive lineman Barry Reynolds (second from right) for Most Valuable Player and tight end Manuel Carlos (third from left) Most Improved. Johnny McLaurin (far left) got an award that was newly instituted that year. I was voted MVP. (below)

 I always liked this picture because you can see the 'Big M' over my left shoulder. Insignia in the foothills overlooking the city and serving as a sign if we won or lost at football on homecoming night as the 'V' in the M would be lighted as in victory.                                     Track season brought my high school athletic competition to an end...so I thought.
Graduation brought a few more unexpected surprises.

 After graduation I had a summer job in Monrovia at Consolidated Electrodynamics, a drafting company operating an ozalid machine. This machine reproduced blueprints for the drafting crew. The machine ran on a continuous feed of ammonia. You can imagine what I smelled like at the end of the day:- ).

Returning home from work, Mom had left me a note (below) to..."call Coach Gurney".

  Coach Walt Gurney was the head football coach of Azusa High. In conversation over the phone he told me he remembered me from a pre-season game we (Monrovia) played against his team the year before at Citrus College Stadium.

Action (below) caught on camera of what Coach Gurney remembered of me.

 He was coaching the East San Gabriel Valley All-Star football team. One of the players got injured and there was a place on the team for one more more. They had been practicing a few days when a player got injured. On the team were these All This and All That running backs, Coach Gurney told me I would not be playing that position. Maybe a little on defense as a defensive back as  had missed days of practice.

"Yes, sounds fun...see you at practice coach". 

 Me (above) far left end of second row (...#10 middle first row, Rocky Long our starting quarterback, after college went on to a successful coaching career as the head coach at San Diego State U).

The experience re-awakened the athletic competition spark in me, though still not decided what I wanted to do after summer ended.

After a few days of practice (#32 below), I fit right in.


I was the starting running back that evening. The game ended 14-14...still not sure which way my future path would lead me.

  My high school counselor never mentioned I needed an SAT to apply to a college and no advise from those around me, left me scrambling to take the test in June. A month after I graduated.

 I had applied to Art Center College of Design. The results of my SAT were sent to the college and I did not hear from AC until December. They accepted me but I had spent the summer waiting to hear from them and when no communication came, I got discouraged and did not enroll at Citrus College. I worked that Fall washing dishes in a cafeteria at Avon here in Monrovia. Today there is a Home Depot on that location.

 To be honest, I did not have the finances to attend a highly ranked art school like Art Center, though the school accepted me. Now, looking back, did I have the mental toughness and discipline it requires to be a serious art student. 

 I enrolled at Citrus, took drawing, painting, drafting, English, creative writing and more. I thought of becoming a medical illustrator so I took a class in kinesiology. That was a mistake, I did poorly.

 I also ran track and played football for the 'Owls'. Those were the days you signed up for a class, bough your books and that was it out of the pocket.


Me, fourth block from the left.

Me (above) second row, far left.

Me standing, third from left (right).
Like in high school, I ran high hurdles and was on the sprint relay team (below).



I drew a caricature of the 1970 team (below). Number77 James (Wildman) Branch and #75 Barry Reynolds were voted co-captains. When captains were called out for the coin toss, Head Coach John Strycula would say "Huz, go with 'em".

November 1969...

 end of season awards freshman year...Most Improved.

 November 1970...
 end of season awards, sophomore year. 
 After a year at the Air Force Academy Barry Reynolds (below, second from left) teammate from Monrovia High, we were united again. His scholarship would take him to Stanford U. James Branch (far right) and I got scholarships to play for the 'Rebels' at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Wayne Nunnely (third from right 1952-2021) childhood friend, would come to UNLV a year later.

All-Conference and MVP on offense (above).

By the end of the semester had I earned an AA degree and on to another step of my journey in art and athletics.


 A great foundation for life was laid during my time at Citrus. Studied under some outstanding instructors Robert Bullock (art), Manly Johnson come to mind and coaches, John Strycula and Ed Conly, football and track respectively. These men had an positive impact on my life. 

 There are a fair amount of action sports images above. That is what I remember most when I think about those years of my life. Had I not played sports, my life would surely have taken a different direction. For sure, I would not be writing this blog.

 My time at Citrus College helped shape my future.

Until next time...