|Les Bruckner, Former Burbank High Teacher|
|Jerry Bloom, Former Burbank High Student|
The wonderful folks at the Santa Clarita Sunshine Rotary Club invited me to give a short presentation today. Great people.
I had the pleasure of meeting Salvation Army Ministry Leader Jerry Bloom. He had recently moved to the area after doing the organization's work for many years in Ventura.
During my talk, I mentioned that I always hated history when I was in school, but learned to love it later.
When I was done speaking, he told me that he also hated history, but he had a teacher who made it come alive for him.
"I went to John Muir Junior High School in Burbank," he said, "and then to Burbank High."
What a wonderful coincidence, I told him. "So did I!"
"My history teacher at Burbank High changed my life," he said. "His name was Mr. Bruckner."
I smiled, nodded and told him that Mr. Bruckner had also been my government teacher.
I had a feeling I knew what he was going to say next.
"He had been a football coach," Jerry said. "He was a tough guy --- a big guy. He could be assertive.
"One day I walked into his class and he took me aside. He told me that he had seen me hanging out with the wrong friends. He said to me, 'You need to find a new set of friends!'"
Jerry says he told the teacher that he was very capable of picking his own friends, thank you.
"When class was over I was standing against wall. He came up to me and put his finger on my chest
"He said, 'No! I'm going to pick your friends for you! You're hanging out with the wrong friends!'"
Jerry said everything changed for him that day.
Jerry's dad was a minister in Burbank, he says. Jerry admits that being a preacher's kid turned him into a bit of a rebel.
"But somehow, I wanted to earn Mr. Bruckner's respect. I began to think twice about who I picked as a friend," Jerry said. "I realized that it was important to pick the right friends. I wanted him to see me the right way.
"He turned my life around."
Many years later, Jerry says he ran into Mr. Bruckner at Don's Restaurant on Glenoaks in Burbank. He approached his old teacher to thank him for the influence he had had on him when he was a sophomore in high school.
"I don't think he recognized me," Jerry said, "but he knew what I was talking about. I'm sure he touched a lot of students over the years."
I knew that Jerry was right about Mr. Bruckner. I've heard from two of my classmates who remembered Mr. Bruckner as someone who you didn't mess with --- but someone who, at the same time, earned their respect. That was how it was with me.
When I got back to my office, I called Mr. Bruckner's son, Scott. When I told him about the wonderful encounter I had had with another of his dad's students, he wasn't surprised. Scott said that there were many former students who, years later, went out of their way to thank his father.
Mr. Bruckner is 96 years old and lives in a care facility. He has trouble remembering things.
However, it's clear that there are more than a few of his students who won't forget him.