Or, The Kindness of a Stranger
It was around 1960. Lolly Scholtz was a kid from Salinas, California, steeped in literature and Steinbeck. She remembers Salinas school officials a few years earlier wanting to name a new school after the author, but Steinbeck, in New York, said "No, not a good idea", so what might have been Steinbeck High became the more generic North Salinas High.
But by 1960 Lolly was attending Mills College, just up the road in Oakland, and this particular summer, deciding to spread her wings, she thought it would be a good idea to take a class in Hawaiian Culture at the University of Hawaii. So she flew to Hawaii and got a room in a hole-in-the-wall hotel near what was known as the ``Waikiki Jungle,'' then made her way by bus to the university to register.
It was, she said yesterday, a long and tiring day with thousands of students jostling to register: ``There were huge lines, enormous. I must have stood for hours. After I finally registered, it was very late in the day, I looked around and realized there was probably no public transportation back to the hotel. And I was exhausted.''
It is difficult to imagine Lolly Scholtz exhausted. She exudes joy-of-life energy. She's had a twenty-year career as a professional Polynesian dancer, she Hulas, of course, she has taught and now she farms, organically. Her husband Bob Scholtz, an author and eminent professor of engineering at USC, laughs ``You know how there are gentlemen farmers? Lolly's a lady farmer.''
But, on this day in the summer of 1960, she was wrung out and exhausted when a young black man approached her. ``I probably looked lost. He was the blackest black. He surprised me. In my high school in Salinas, there were maybe two black kids. He said to me, `You look like you need help.'
``I said I didn't think there were any more busses running. I must have looked like, `Now what do I do?' because he said he'd be happy to drive me into Waikiki. He had the strangest name to my ear _ Barack Obama. On our way to Waikiki he said, `I bet you haven't had anything to eat today at all,' which was true. So we stopped at a little Indian restaurant.
``We chatted about all sorts of stuff, and I remember him talking about his native Kenya and his desire to go back there someday and help his people. You could tell he was very serious and passionate about it.
``That was the only time we sat down and talked, but we'd see each other walking on the campus or in Waikiki and we'd wave and say `Hi.'
``Anyway, fast forward many many years and one day I open the Los Angeles Times and see this article about a young man named Barack Obama being made the president of the Harvard Law Review. There can't be many Barack Obamas. I knew it had to be his son.
``I was happy to see his son was doing so well and clipped out the article.''
And, eventually, Lolly would learn that the young man who had helped her in 1960 when she needed a ride and a bit of friendliness had, indeed, returned to Kenya, and died in 1982 from injuries suffered in an auto accident.
Causes Steve Hauk Supports
City of Pacific Grove Public Library, Pacific Grove, California; Animal Friends Rescue Project, Pacific Grove; Animal Welfare Information and Assistance,...