Clover, 8th - San Francisco, CA
I remember seeing Carl Payne for the first time when I was in elementary school. He was tall, extremely tall, and had kind, sincere eyes that would always express how he was feeling. The man never drank enough water. My father and his friends would sit at a casino diner with Carl, and he would always order the sweetest iced lemonade, shooing us away as we pushed at his stubbornness from across the table. To be fair, I don’t think it would be right to both him and me to refer to him as someone I wasn’t close with. Carl Payne is one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met. And to this day, his life is a source of hope, wisdom, and jaw-dropping stories that have become more precious to not only me, but to the countless numbers of people he has blessed with his presence, than ever before.
It’s a Monday, and Carl is planning for his windows to be painted after a day trip . We sit down for a little chat over the phone, and with a sad smile, I ask him how he’s doing. Chuckling, he comments about the beautiful weather, especially good for painting, and eases my worries.
Carl is an extremely easy-going man. He takes pride in his many jobs, and stories he recalls easily roll off his tongue. As of now, Carl is a San Francisco park ranger who spends quiet time with the park wildlife and friends who pedal by on bikes to say hello. However, Carl is quite well-known in the city, and it all started from a job years ago that changed his life forever.
“I went to the post office to sign up for a job. The same day I did that, I had put in an application for Muni. That afternoon, when I was supposed to go to the post office to get sworn in, Muni called me and said, ‘Hey, do you want to start working tomorrow?’” I said, ‘Yeah, okay!’ And that’s where I spent the next 29 years!”
Carl was a Goodwill Ambassador for the city. He recalls traveling with Senator Dianne Feinstein to Philadelphia and Los Angeles for a show to raise money to save the cable cars. Carl entered the San Francisco Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest and won 10 times (1977, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, and 1989), which is the most awards ever won by one contestant to this day.
Carl’s career with cable cars provided benefits throughout his life that not only gave him joy, but connections to the people he met daily.
“That was a really good, and most exciting time because not only did I learn where different people were from, but I learned how to speak different languages. I was able to master a little bit of Japanese. Meeting different people every day is really fascinating, it really is, because it gives you a chance to see, to listen and learn, how other people live, speak, and think of our city here! Almost everywhere I went, I would say, ‘Oh, I’m from San Francisco!’ They would say, ‘That’s my favorite city! I always want to go there.’”
“There are a lot of beautiful people out there. A lot of beautiful people in this world. If you ever get a chance to travel and meet other people, do it.”
After retiring from the cable cars, Carl decided to apply to the Police Academy to become an officer. For 24 years, he served at Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf where he learned lessons that he shares with me over the phone.
“All everybody wants you to do is just listen to them. Some of the biggest problems we have out there on the street is that no one wants to listen to them.”
Before becoming an officer, Carl was subjected to age discrimination and exclusion.
“When I first applied to the police department after passing all the tests and getting on the list to be eligible, about two or three hours before I was going to be sworn in to go to the academy, they called and said, ‘Oh, we just looked over your application again, and you have to be in the academy before you turn 36. We see you just turned 36, so you’re automatically disqualified.’”
Carl wound up in a lawsuit as the federal government was suing the city for age discrimination. He was then asked to testify, which he gladly accepted.
After a two-year hiring freeze for the academy, Carl finally got in after the age limit was lifted.
“I had an equal chance to pursue what I wanted to do. I was one of the oldest guys to ever go through the police academy.”
Carl entered the academy when he was 50 years old and retired when he was 75. He is currently in his 80s and is continually passionate about his days as a park ranger “talking to the trees.”
One year in July, my dad and I, Carl, and a few more of his friends sat in the humid, 106-degree weather as the seatbelts of Carl’s Rolls-Royce warmed our stomachs, and the sticky leather seats burned our thighs like a barbecue grill. Without a cloud in the sky, the car bounced over every pebble on the rocky city roads of Reno as we eyed the shimmering colors of the Hot August Nights displays.
I remember seeing Carl’s pursed lips and prideful expression through the rearview mirror, holding back a smile. His car turned heads as it slowly rolled through the rows of beauties parked near the chicken wing stands. I shrank back while peeking at the gawking tourists from the back seat and let out a tiny giggle as Carl hung his hand out the window of the car without giving the viewers a single glance.
“Do you know Chewbacca? I had him in the car. He is really tall, oh my goodness! That man is wow! I had Fleetwood Mac in the car, and a Giant’s player when he and his wife got married. I’ve always loved the old British cars. I think they’re the most prettiest things in the world.”
About a year ago, Carl Payne was diagnosed with cancer. He had broken out of CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia) after being diagnosed years ago, but a new illness had formed. He was hospitalized while on chemotherapy, and with no cure in sight, the distance between my family and Carl lengthened by the day.
April of 2021 comes, and his voice fills the room as my dad paints the hallway ceiling. His strength booms through the phone speaker and smiles spread across our faces.
As my talk with Carl comes to a close, he shares his story with this life-changing illness.
“Your mind controls your body. Whatever your mind tells your body, your body responds to it! I have been blessed up to this point, and I can’t complain. I cannot complain. I won’t complain. You have to stay strong all the time, no matter how hard life may get! There is always going to be a tomorrow. I thank God that I wake up every day, and I’m still here. I’m still alive. I keep fighting that way. I say my little prayers to God at least a hundred times a day, thanking him for letting me see another day, for the air in my lungs, and for the beat of my heart. I push that message to anyone out there who finds out they have a problem, or if they’re battling something. Don’t let it get you down.”
Amalie Allison, 9th - Wichita KS
Possibly the most influential thing in our lives.
They have the power to motivate fear.
They can tear others apart.
They can make you feel insignificant, small, worthless.
They can make you overthink simple things in your everyday life.
Words can tear you down, until you’re nothing but an empty shell of your former self.
Words are power.
But words don’t have to be used to for bad.
Words can be used to motivate, to encourage others.
Words can give life.
They can show a person how much they mean to you.
They can spread kindness, replenish energy.
Words are life changing.
And depending on how you use them can determine an individual’s feeling of worth, their confidence in themselves.
Words impact others more than you’re aware of.
So when you have the chance to use your power, use it for good.
Use it for the sake of others, not for revenge or duplicity.
We all have power, and how we choose to use it sets the pace for your entire life,
as well as the lives of others.
Words are power.
And I pray that you use them for good.
A, 10th - Oakland, CA
That empty apple juice bottle that sits in my room
Looking at it as we speak
Well I guess it's not really empty
I dropped a piece of paper in it and I can’t get it out
Is a reminder of how much I love my dad
And I think that's what it is for him too
He always tears up when he drinks it
Maybe it’s all the memories
The times we would sit on the porch
With my tio and my abulo and sisters
And just drink apple juice
We would laugh all night
And act out El Chavo Del 8
I'll be popis since
I would carry my stuff animal since I was 1
I still have that stuff animal till this day
Maybe it's that my tio and abulo are no longer with us
Maybe it's just that were all grown up now
But every time I ask him he just laughs
I guess it not empty
It full of happiness
And full of those memories
Something I would never like to lose
Pearl, 6th - Virginia
She had never believed in the midnight garden. Yet, she was trekking up this mountain. The never ending darkness consumed her, wind blowed through her auburn hair. Oh she was so full of self pity. As she climbed the flowers grew, higher and higher till they reached far above her head. The first signs of the garden was an earthquake. The ground shock, the wind screamed. Her hands slipped and she fell back down the mountain, until she felt something grasp around her body, suspending her upside down. Trying to find her savior she gazed around, but no one was there. "Up here yu’ big lump" screeched a loud voice. Slowly her head turned upward, and there was a gigantic flowery face. "Yu' welcome hun." It said as they moved up and up the mountain. It plopped her down just in front of two golden gates, "bye' bye Ms." It said tipping a pretend hat. Ok then.
She opened the gates. Light flew around her as she stepped into the garden.
Sage, 6th- Oakland, CA
Recently there has been a big impact on Asians. People think that Asians are the cause of the Coronavirus. Asians have been getting attacked out of nowhere, and people have been getting hurt as well. A 61-year-old man named Yao Pan Ma was recently attacked as he was approached from behind, when the man pushed him to the ground, then he was kicked in the head multiple times.
A lot of protests and rallies were held as people protested about Asian hate here are some recent ones, according to Wikipedia, in Berkeley: Around 1,200 people held a march in West Berkeley on March 28, and in Los Angeles: On March 27, a solidarity march was held in Koreatown. I don't know why people don't try to make the world a better place.
Over 3,090 people have helped to stop Asian hate and that was just in California, in Hawaii Honolulu: A Stop Asian Hate rally was held at the Hawaii State Capitol. People all around the world care about the discriminations that are happening to Asians and that is important because people’s lives matter and it is important that you realize that because if you don’t you might end up doing the wrong thing.
I think it is very important to support the Stop Asian Hate movement because there is no reason to punish people just because you think it is right when it is wrong. People have rights that they live up to and I think you should live up to them too because not only are you making a huge impact on them you are also making an impact on the world and other people’s life. It is a scary thing not to know if your family might get hurt today so stand up proud and STOP ASIAN HATE.
Students 6th-12th Grades