Walls covered with graffiti are so common in Los Angeles that they sometimes almost go unnoticed. But a wall bordering the Betty Plasencia Elementary School along Temple Street in Echo Park no longer bears the writing nor does it go unnoticed. Cheryl Thomas, a teacher at the school and a former art student, has left her mark on the wall, the students and the community.
The elementary school teacher spent 2 1/2 weeks of her four-week summer vacation preserving for posterity her last year's third-grade students, as well as other children. The wall, 340 feet long and 10 feet high, is filled with silhouettes of 150 children in various poses, holding hands.
"Everyone can see themselves in the silhouettes," said Peggy Presley, assistant principal. "We see the children lining up to identify themselves. We know it has made an impact on them."
Thomas, who has been teaching for 1 1/2 years, planned the mural over six months and got $600 in supplies from the school and the Junior Arts Center in Los Angeles. Funds to protect the painting with an anti-graffiti covering are needed, Presley said.
One of the most rewarding, and unanticipated, consequences of her work was the reaction of neighbors. One, Luis Hernandez, helped her fill in the background. Others brought her soft drinks and ice water and came to watch the progress and visit, although some could not speak English.
"There were all nationalities. It was a real community experience," said Thomas of La Crescenta. "I began to see some of them fixing up their yards. Graffiti is so prevalent, I think this gave them some encouragement."
David M. Maymudes, 17, of West Los Angeles spends his summers seeing the world. Last summer he visited Czechoslovakia and this summer he traveled to The Netherlands. Not an average tourist, however, Maymudes earns his trips. The souvenirs he brings home are not average either. He brings back silver medals.
For the past two years Maymudes has been one of four high school students to represent the United States in the International Chemistry Olympiad. The competition began in Eastern Europe in 1968. Western Europe joined in 1974 and the United States was invited to participate for the first time three years ago.
Eighty-six students from 22 countries spent two six-hour days taking written and laboratory tests. When the smoke had cleared, a boy from Chicago, Keith Rickert, was one of 10 gold medal winners and Maymudes had nabbed his second silver medal in two years.
For Maymudes, the best part was seeing the world and making friends with other teen-agers. For example, the boy next to him in the laboratory was from Bulgaria. Since none of the Dutch proctors monitoring the test spoke Bulgarian or Russian (which the boy did) and Maymudes had taken two years of Russian at University High School in Los Angeles, he did the translating.
The team was chosen from a group of 20 students from around the country, which had been selected to train for the competition at the Air Force Academy. Four members of the group also were from Southern California: Robert R. Feber Jr. of La Canada, Charles Fu of Arcadia, David Grabiner of Claremont and Yoo Chun Yang of Irvine.
Although Maymudes just finished his junior year of high school this spring, he will go to Harvard in the fall. Like Joshua Zucker, 17, of Los Angeles who won a bronze medal in the International Physics Olympiad in London on July 20, Maymudes attended Walter Reed Junior High School, which has accelerated courses in science and math under the direction of William Fitz-Gibbon.
When Angels Attic opened last Sunday afternoon, about 20 people were waiting on the veranda and the flow never ceased. Four hours later, 356 people had traipsed through the life-size Victorian doll house near Santa Monica to view its collection of doll houses, toys and miniatures and to enjoy a spot of tea. An article in Sunday's Times featuring the nonprofit museum, which raises money for the Brentwood Center for Educational Therapy in Inglewood, a school for developmentally disabled adults and children, was partly responsible for the crowd. The museum, open from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays, usually draws 50 to 75 people a day, said Eleanor LaVove, co-director of Angels Attic. Sunday it made almost $1,500 in four hours.
"We're small and that is really a lot when you get them in those galleries," LaVove said. "But everyone was very friendly, nice and cooperative."
One customer, Elizabeth Schaut of Century City, saw how swamped the all-volunteer staff of four women was, so she spent the afternoon in the kitchen washing dishes. Schaut, who is originally from Virginia and has been involved in volunteer work most of her life, said, "People just do those kinds of things when they see someone needs help."
Sam Brand, 71, publicist for some major Jewish organizations in Los Angeles for the past 40 years, retired again last month--almost. Brand retired 5 1/2 years ago, "but it didn't take."
After more than 35 years publicizing the activities of the Cummings Auxiliary of Jewish Homes for the Aging and 26 years with the Hebrew Union College, Brand is retiring this time for sure. He became a consultant for the college the beginning of July, but "that's just for three months," Brand assures everyone.
Brand's fate was sealed when he was stationed with the Air Transport Command in Northeastern Canada with 2,000 other men during World War II. When a USO singer visited the camp, Brand told her he worked for the base newspaper to get to talk with her. After being found out, he was ordered to work on the short-handed staff. He has been in the writing business since.