My Memories of Westside Church of Christ
I started attending Westside Church of Christ
when I was about 8. I woke up one day and
decided that I really wanted to go to a church
somewhere. My dad had attended Westside as
a boy and remembered that they passed out good
Easter candy, so he reckoned that this would be
a fine church for his daughter. Dad would drop me
off at Westside for Sunday
School then drive down the street and read the Sunday paper in the car until my class was over. I was very self-motivated to attend Sunday School every week. I remember that the Pastor, Bob Waldren, would come over to our house for visitations, and my mom baked fresh poppyseed cakes for him and served everything on her fine china.
One of the teachers I remember is Frances Ito. She spoke very clearly and articulately and used a Flannel Board for Bible figures and other cut-outs. I had a great itch to lay my hands on that Board and those figures. Once she invited some of us over to her house for dinner. That was a new experience since I wasn't used to going to other peoples' homes for dinner, especially a teacher's! I remember her mother, Mrs. Ito, who had a broad, kind face, and Mrs. Ito's mother, Mrs. Yoshimune. Mrs. Yoshimune was a thin little Issei lady who would sweep the sidewalk in front of the church and always had a big, genuine smile and twinkling eyes. She exuded friendliness and love, even though we did not speak one another's language. I was incensed when I heard that this sweet old woman was mugged and seriously injured near of the church many years later.
Another teacher I remember is Nelmarie Robb, wife of Pastor Ken Robb, who took over after the Waldrens went to Alaska. Nelmarie was the sweetest, most innocent little thing and reminded me of a fragile China doll. I remember watching her in church gazing adoringly at her husband while he preached. I couldn't imagine her getting mad at anyone or losing her temper. She was a model of serenity .I knew I'd miss them as they drove away in their Nash Rambler to pastor another church.
When I was 12 or 13, I taught a Sunday School class for 10 year olds. Maybe it was for Vacation Bible School. I took a pie tin full of dirt, with a ring of standing matches. My lesson's theme was "It only takes a spark to get a fire going", and I wanted to illustrate how one person could make a difference. I wanted to grab the kids' attention with a glorious ring of fire, started by one little match, and I was excited to present this lesson. Unfortunately, the ring never did catch on fire or combust into flames because the matches were not close enough together. I guess I should have practiced at home first! I doubt that the kids got the point of my lesson, but they were all very nice and polite. When I was 13 I made the momentous decision to "go forward" to be baptized. I told my mom that I was going to do it, and as the song, "Just As I Am" droned on, she looked at me, as if to say, "Well? Are you going to go up or not?" I was waiting for the right dramatic moment, and didn't want to stand at the front of the church during the entire song. Westside had not built the new sanctuary yet and didn't have a baptistery so we all caravanned to the Culver City Church of Christ to use theirs. This was the church where Pat Boone sometimes led the services, and my mom was impressed with that.
My fondest memories involved our summer church camps at "Camp Mazumdar." My cousin Lynn Kaneshiro, who also attended Westside, was my age and we invited all of our friends to come too. We had a whole cabin full of our best friends, had freedom from our parents and responsibilities, and there were boys in the next cabin-what more could a young teenage girl want? We did skits, worked hard to win the award for "Cleanest Cabin", flirted with the boys that we had crushes on, and always had a great time. It was funny to see Pastor Ken Robb wearing bellbottom jeans and a straw hat since we were used to seeing him in his same brown Sunday suit and short, neatly Vaselined hair. It was a good way to get to get to know the kids who went to Westside but did not attend our school or live in our neighborhood.
I am truly grateful for the tireless efforts of the faithful families that kept Westside Church going throughout the years. This church contributed greatly to my stable, happy childhood and undoubtedly helped me to become a healthy, confident, functioning adult.
Karen Karatsu Gundersen