prune picker

This is the blog of a prune picker. (Native born Californian) Retired oilfield. I am an old man. (91) I blog a lot about my body and getting old. As I approach death life gets more interesting. More interesting is not good. I still drive. I attend sports, music, and civic events. I am writing my memoirs. I attend swim class three times a week. Some of my blogs might be interesting. A lot of my blogs are silly and trivial. None are very long.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Stay at Mckinley Home for Boys.

When my Mother passed away my Father and my maternal Grandmother kept the Monson household going as a unit for a year or two. When I was around seven years old the three youngest Monson boys were placed in institutional homes. George 15 was placed in the George Junior Republic in Chino, CA. Warren 11 and Chuck 7 were placed in the  Mckinley School for Boys in Van Nuys, CA. I believe that I was there for about a year. My stay there has always been in my memories. It was not a bad place and I had some good memories. During some recent research I obtained a dvd video of a movie made in 1928. My stay was around 1932. Seeing the pictures has been a fascinating experience. These pictures are from that dvd. My memories of almost 80 years ago now had pictures.

Van Nuys is in the center of the San Fernando Valley. When I was there it was mostly farmland. I can remember watching a wheat combine at work. The area now is full of freeways and skyscrapers.

I can remember eating in a dining hall with at least 200 boys.

There was a busy kitchen.

There was stage at one end of the dining hall that was used for church services, programs, and weekly movies. I remember silent Douglas Fairbanks movies such as Robin Hood and the Mark of Zorro. Once the Home took busloads of boys downtown to see a new WC Fields movie. I believe there was a circus in the film.

The  main building was a large impressive building. I remember spending a lot of time in the library. I read the Wizard of Oz on a window bench.

The dorm buildings were also large.

I can remember sleeping in a room with ten or more beds down each side. I remember laying in a wet bed dreading what the House Mother would do in the morning. I do not remember a big scene or punishment.

There was a farm at the Home.

And a print shop.

I got pneumonia while at the Home and was sent to Los Angeles Children's Hospital. Upon my return to the Home I spent a few days in the Clinic. I really remember the large spoon full of cod live oil I had to swallow every day! That is not me in the bed.


  1. Hi Chuck Thanks for posting these pictures my father grew up here at The Boys Home from 33-42 he went into the Navy.. I still feel so sad he had to grow up without his parents.. His name was John Butelo he passed away in 1999 and I have been looking for pics of his past God Bless you Please send me an e mail if yu know him Thanks so much

  2. Hi Chuck,

    Thanks for these great pictures. My father Gordon Johnson, and My Uncle Gene Johnson (namesake)were there in the 30's. My Uncle really enjoyed looking at the pictures.

    Gene Johnson

  3. Hello Chuck,

    Just discovered your blog tonight while searching for information on the McKinley Boys Home. So thankful that you posted pictures of the place. A great uncle of mine was there and died in 1932 (age 16) from accidental gunshot to the abdomen. His name was "Dan" and wonder if you might have known him or recall the incident. Please e-mail RFPLC@SBCGLOBAL.NET and would appreciate anything about how a day went at the home - meals, chores, study - anything to give an idea what it was like there. Thanks so much!


  5. Hi,I am taking another look at these pics Its so great to see where My dad Johnnie Butelo live during his youth and sad as well.. He grew up from 1932-1942 when he went into the Navy WW2 I wonder if anyone here's Fathers grandfathers~KNEW HIM..He passed Dec 28 99 talked of growing up here anout Karl Mott Klonger one of coaches the school nurse he was not abused bit during the depression his mother basically couldnt afford to take care of him..

  6. Hi Chuck,

    These are precious records. My dad Ross Amspoker and his little brother Carlos were there in the late 20's/early 30's. My dad's father was killed in a tragic accident in 1926 when my dad was 5. Six kids was more than my grandma could handle, so I guess that's why my dad and uncle went there. My dad always had fond memories of the place.

  7. Hi there! My sister and I are also doing our genealogy and our Dad and Aunt (twins) were taken to the McKinley Home in or about 1931/32. We are trying to find out more information. His name was Johnnie Edward Caston and my aunt was Margaret. We found a newspaper article that said he ran away from the home with two other boys in or about 1947 when he was 16.

  8. The McKinley Home's story and the stories of the boys who lived there are a major part of San Fernando Valley history. The Museum of the San Fernando Valley would very much appreciate copies (or originals) of photographs of the Home and life there. At present, The Museum has a small exhibit space in the Westfield Fashion Square Mall only a few yards from where the McKinley Home stood.
    The Museum of the San Fernando Valley's mailing address is 21031 Ventura Boulevard Suite 419, Woodland Hills, CA 91364. Our telephone is 1 (818) 347-9665
    We are a 501c3 non profit and run entirely by volunteers.
    Warm wishes to all. Jerry Fecht

    1. I loved the guys at McKinley!!!!! I hung out with their group in the early 60's!!! I can't remember what street it was on........ driving me crazy!!!!!
      LOVE the photos!!!!!! Julie

  9. Hi Chuck
    We would like permission to link your blog to our Museum's website.
    Check out our San Fernando Valley blog at

    Nice overcast day here in the San Fernando Valley,
    Jerry Fecht

  10. You certainly have my permission. The pictures are from a dvd that McKinley sent me.

    I wrote another blog on November 9, 2011 with the title "McKinley Home for Boys Revisited" There is a little more detail but not much.

    I posted two blogs about the book "Education of a Felon". The author, Edward Bunker, spent some time at McKinley.

    I hope to be in California this summer. I will try to come by and see the Museum. Best regards. Chuck

  11. My husband's grandmother worked there for years. He says she was always bringing boys home with her.

  12. Hi Chuck
    I've been receiving your blog through my e-mail for a while now. I find it interesting. But what would make me very happy is any pictures from the boys home I was there from around 58, 59 to 65 or 66. My first house parents were Mr.and Mrs Ryan. is there a way to write to you? thanks.

  13. Hi again, maybe you might like this facebook page for McKinley Home. Thanks, Roy Spencer

    1. Hi Roy. My email is I posted a few more pics on November 9, 2011 blog. The pics are from a cd that the present Mckinley Home sent me for free. Contact them in San Dimas and see if you can get one.

      You were there about ten years. It was a good place. Just was not home,

      Good luck. Chuck

    2. Hi Chuck Thanks for this Blog.. where do you think I could het some pics of the Boys home? Heres one of my father Johnnie Butelo around 1933 with his Mom who put him there at age 8 until he was 18 and went into the Navy..

  14. Hi Chuck, thanks for the pics, they bring back old memories, I was at McKinley from 1948-1950? I worked in the kitchen washing pots and pans before school, they had primary school there then, after we graduated from McKinley primary we were sent to Van Nuys Jr High, anybody reading this remember "Jake" and his pit bull dog? we all feared Jake! I live in Abilene Tx. now and am retired from the USAF, and tinker with old airplanes, and fly at least ounce a week to unwind in a old 1946 tube and fabric airplane I restored. Cheers, Jack

    1. I remember Jake, if it's the same guy. He was the football coach while I was there, and Yes, we did fear him.

  15. Hi. We want to invite all McKinley home for boys alumni To join our Group on Facebook.
    It is called McKinley Home For Boys- Alumni. Here is the link.
    Thank you.

  16. I was at McKinley for about two years, 1942-43. I remember it as one of the happiest periods of my childhood.


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