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For Some, Trial Watch Means Life in Limbo : Families: As they await a verdict in the King civil rights case, some parents say they are playing it safe. Other residents say it's business as usual--with just an extra bit of caution.

April 15, 1993|JEANNINE STEIN and GAILE ROBINSON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Few of us have been able to escape the blizzard of media coverage of the Rodney G. King civil-rights trial, and most people are keeping an ear out for news from the federal courthouse.

But many Angelenos say otherwise it's been business as usual: Meetings drone on into the afternoon, brides march down the aisle, car-pool drivers show up at their appointed hours.

For some people, though, the wait for a verdict has meant life in limbo.

Changes have been subtle, often involving family life. Around town, for instance, some parents have been cautious about letting their children go out on social gatherings.

Earlier this week, Annette Ward said she wasn't taking any chances with her 9-year-old son, Matthew. He had been looking forward to attending opening day at Dodger Stadium, after earning two tickets through a school fund-raiser. But the fourth-grader's plans were nixed when his mother decided she didn't want to drive from their West Hills home to downtown L.A.

Ward said she was just too anxious to take her son to any of his usual haunts, worried that there might be an outbreak of violence after a verdict. "He wanted to go to the movies, and normally I would drop him off at the theater, but I don't feel secure leaving him like I normally would," she said.

She gave Matthew the news at dinner Monday night. "I felt bad about it," she added. "But we all need to be a little more careful this time."

Life, of course, has a way of throwing a curve ball. At noon Tuesday just an hour before the opening pitch, Ward was returning from the grocery store and listening to radio talk-show host Michael Jackson. "He was so reassuring, and he started talking about what a beautiful day it was for a ballgame, and I thought, 'Heck why am I giving in to the fear?' So we went and had a really good time," Ward said.

Barbara Friedrich had similar concerns, so she rescheduled her daughter Shana's eighth-birthday party and canceled a parents' meeting that was scheduled for Monday evening at her daughter's school.

"Everything is up in the air," she said.

The birthday party was originally planned for this Saturday; Friedrich bumped it a week ahead.

Her concerns were heightened a week ago when her children brought a notice home from their school, which is in the L.A. Unified School District. She said it outlined the emergency procedures that officials at Vintage Fundamental Magnet in North Hills were prepared to take in case violence breaks out in the area.

"They've never done that before," Friedrich said.

She is cautious about other upcoming events, such as her children's baseball games and her own meetings, evaluating things one day at a time.

The Cal Tot Child Care Center on South Spring Street in downtown L.A. has its own contingency plan, outlined in a letter that director Barbara Ann Unszusz sent parents at the start of the trial.

If a verdict is handed down after hours, Cal Tot will be closed the following day. If the announcement seems imminent during day-care hours, Unszusz will phone parents and have them pick up their children right away. She will close the center as soon as possible that day.

"We have infants here, so we're nervous," she said. There are 62 children at the center, ranging in age from 6 weeks to 6 years.

Unszusz added that she expects some parents to keep her informed about the goings-on at the trial.

"We have (some) who work for the Department of Justice, or who know somebody whom knows somebody at the court," she said.

One parent, Julie Jaskol, press deputy for Councilman Michael Woo, plans to take her 10-month-old daughter to work with her if Cal Tot closes.

Susan Hartzler is concerned about an 11-year-old named Blondie, and takes her wherever she goes.

Blondie is a mixed-breed canine.

"I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to get back to her (in the event of civil unrest) and she would be caught in a fire," said Hartzler, a publicist who lives in the mid-Wilshire area. If a client sees the dog as she drives up to an appointment, Hartzler just explains the situation.

"I'm not paranoid," she said. "I'm not an alarmist. I just don't like to borrow trouble."

The threat of violence has not kept some acts of charity from taking place.

It did occur to the brothers of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity at Occidental College that in the event of trouble, hanging out on a platform 12 feet off the ground might prove dangerous--or at least ridiculous.

But the frat members decided that their tradition of raising money for charity with a 100-hour "pole-sit" must prevail.

After all, they were encamped in their slapdash crow's nest last year when parts of the city went up in flames. At that time, members stuck to their post, arming themselves with Mace as they perched atop the tranquil Eagle Rock neighborhood surrounding their frat house.

This year, the fraternity discussed the pending verdicts and possible repercussions as they planned the event.

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