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A cat named Room 8
September 10, 2012 2:32 PM   Subscribe

In 1952, a gray male tabby cat appeared at the door of Room 8 at Elysian Heights Elementary School in Echo Park. He stayed throughout the school year, left at summer vacation -- and came back on the first day of class in September. He became the school's cat, and his name was Room 8. Room 8 was featured in LOOK Magazine and the Weekly Reader, had a children's book written about him, and lived until 1968. One former student said, "I never liked Room 8 because he sat on my homework." The Wikipedia entry. Room 8's grave. The Room 8 Memorial Cat Foundation (a no-kill shelter).
posted by sdn (61 comments total) 66 users marked this as a favorite

 
Where is kitty pictures?
posted by Artw at 2:38 PM on September 10, 2012


Oops. Totally skipped the first link there. That is indeed a cat.
posted by Artw at 2:40 PM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Shame that the girl was forced to write left-handed because she had to hold Room 8's tail with her right.
posted by lukemeister at 2:45 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Cat location problem
posted by Artw at 2:49 PM on September 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Awww. I've walked past the elementary school many times on my way to the Fix Coffee Shop which is up the street. The kids at the time wrote little messages about the cat in the cement in front of the school. Plus there's a really awesome mural of the cat on the Echo Park Ave side of the school. It's all very sweet.
posted by You Guys Like 2 Party? at 2:52 PM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


What a great name for a cat. MetaFilter, expanding my boundaries when I didn't realize there were any.
posted by Xoebe at 2:52 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Former kindergarten teacher Toshi Ito, whose son Lance presided over the infamous "Juice" Simpson double homicide trial

Best random "keep it contemporary" attempt ever.
posted by jscott at 2:54 PM on September 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


That story has got me all tingly happy!
posted by ericb at 2:57 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is nothing cuter than a fat tabby cat!
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:59 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


As someone with an affection for stray cats that decide that they're going to be your pet without either of you really acknowledging it officially, this is a great story. It reminds me of the cats my grandfather claimed to not care about, despite feeding them on his porch everyday and even occasionally letting them in the house when he thought no one would see him being a big ol' softie.

I wonder where Room 8 went in the summer, since he doesn't appear to have been taken home by one of the students or staff members (until the later years, when a neighbourhood family took him in).

Also: I wish I had posted one comment fewer today, because this would have been a great story for my 1,000th comment.
posted by asnider at 2:59 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


What is it about us that causes us to think animals are awesome? I have my theories, but what is it, really?

Is there anything we can do to cultivate it?
posted by JHarris at 3:06 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


What is it about us that causes us to think animals are awesome?

They look and act like baby humans, which we are genetically programmed to love.
posted by DU at 3:10 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


What is it about us that causes us to think animals are awesome? I have my theories, but what is it, really?

Is there anything we can do to cultivate it?


Theory one: the mere fact that they are not humans.

Theory two: pheromones. If this theory is true, we should create synthetic equivalents and spray them on each other; we'll achieve world peace because we'll all be too busy asking each other, "Who's a pretty kitty?" to wage war on one another.
posted by asnider at 3:11 PM on September 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


Charming post.

Adding Leo Kottke's lovely piece on the guitar, Room 8, into the mix.
posted by nickyskye at 3:13 PM on September 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


What is it about us that causes us to think animals are awesome?

Well, as scientists noted in the late 1990s, kitty kitty kitty kitty kitty.
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:14 PM on September 10, 2012 [28 favorites]


What is it about us that causes us to think animals are awesome?

They look and act like baby humans, which we are genetically programmed to love.


Baby humans annoy the shit out of me though, and I love animals.
posted by Blue Meanie at 3:15 PM on September 10, 2012 [14 favorites]


In the olden days that cat probably would have been burned at the stake as a witch's familiar.
These days it would be banished because some kid now or at some point in the future might be allergic.
posted by Flashman at 3:16 PM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I love this story, but if this happened today, parents would be complaining about allergies or cat scratch fever dangers or that the presence of the cat endangers wild birds or something, something, something.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:16 PM on September 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


Well, as scientists noted in the late 1990s, kitty kitty kitty kitty kitty.

Brain amoebas.
posted by Artw at 3:18 PM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


he appointed a student as "cat remover" whose job it was to relocate the tubby tabby when he interfered too much with classroom operations

I wish I could get a job as cat remover (although "relocator" would be more accurate). The idea of carrying a cat around all day is just ... squee!
posted by scratch at 3:19 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cat location problem

That cat needs a tower.
posted by homunculus at 3:23 PM on September 10, 2012 [14 favorites]


These days it would be banished because some kid now or at some point in the future might be allergic.

The number of children allergic to cats is nothing to sneeze at.
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:29 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


They look and act like baby humans, which we are genetically programmed to love.

I don't know about all animals, but this is definitely true of cats. Cats actually mimic the cries of a human baby when they want to be fed. I seem to recall reading somewhere that they are more likely to use this "trick" on women than on men, too, although the story I've linked to doesn't mention that detail.
posted by asnider at 3:34 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The number of children allergic to cats is nothing to sneeze at.

I am ridiculously allergic to cats. The only one I've been able to be around for long times was the one that lived downstairs from us because he was outdoors a lot and shed a lot of dander running around and getting rubdowns from eligible college girls.

Obligatory cat photo link.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 3:47 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


> They look and act like baby humans, which we are genetically programmed to love.

Plus, fuzzy.
posted by jfuller at 3:54 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Cats actually mimic the cries of a human baby when they want to be fed.

My cat has apparently only heard about the human baby that punches you in the goddamn face when he wishes to be fed.
posted by Shepherd at 3:55 PM on September 10, 2012 [25 favorites]


They look and act like baby humans

Yeah, it was fucking sweet when my 2-year-old brought me a dead rat she had caught and partially eaten.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:00 PM on September 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


The number of children allergic to cats is nothing to sneeze at.

Fortunately, allergies change; I'd be even more bitter about the fish and seafood allergies I've developed over the past fifteen years or so were it not for the fact that I can have cats now (one of my two, a polydactyl Maine Coone mix, has never set off my allergies, while the other, a Bombay mix, only bothered me a little for the first month we had her).
posted by infinitywaltz at 4:08 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


JHarris: "What is it about us that causes us to think animals are awesome?"

I don't understand the question. They are awesome. Like, objectively.

Duh.
posted by brundlefly at 4:13 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Cats actually mimic the cries of a human baby when they want to be fed.

They also mimic the cries of a human baby when they don't want to go to the vet, and resent being shoved into the cat carrier. Twice now, when Squish had to get checked out and we walked to the vet, he let out such piercing howls that people ran out of their houses to see what the commotion was, and if I was OK. I just pointed to the carrier and said 'Cat'.

Goddamn Siamese.

Room 8 looked like he was a regal cat, and has a great cat name. He also looks exactly like my Mall Cop, who is also a regal cat, and has the best cat name of all time.
posted by spinifex23 at 4:27 PM on September 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, damn. Here's to you, Room 8.
posted by mintcake! at 4:57 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


ArtW: Cat location problem

Excuse me, I think you mean keyboard location problem.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:00 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Baby humans annoy the shit out of me though, and I love animals.

Which only proves you've learned to hate babies for some reason1, but the bare stimuli still work on you.

1Probably you don't hate actual babies, just "baby culture". The trope of the person who hates babies but loves their own baby is a cliche for a reason.
posted by DU at 5:01 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


ah, baby culture. babies in sport coats, sipping grape juice from stemmed glasses at a gallery opening.
posted by indubitable at 5:09 PM on September 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


Was there a large community of Japanese(-Americans) in Echo Park at the time?
posted by unmake at 5:09 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


What is it about us that causes us to think animals are awesome? I have my theories, but what is it, really?

Is there anything we can do to cultivate it?


I'm more confused by anthrocentrism than fascination with animals, but I know that's not the norm. Thinking animals are awesome has always been a major part of my personality - I'm an introvert, I like to organize things, I like to make stuff with my hands, I like to make people laugh, I like animals. Whether it's because of the way my parents raised me, or because of the genes they gave me, I don't know. But I'm one of those people that will remember your dog's name and forget you even have kids. I'll come to your party and hang out most of the night with your cat.

There's not a human baby in the world that looks like my shepherd mix dog, so I don't think it's always the resemblance to babies. For me, it's more that animals are not human, they're fascinating in their variety and complexity, in how they relate to each other and to us, sometimes they seem so alien and other times we can recognize human emotions in them.

And mostly, unlike so many humans, animals know when to shut up.
posted by Squeak Attack at 5:50 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I remember Room 8 vividly as I attended Elysian Heights along with my younger sister!
He was a wonderful cat!
Yes a lot of Japanese lived in the area, including my first male teacher, Mr. Ueyno (sic) who was a very good teacher. Room 8 mostly hung out inRoom 8, but he visited other rooms.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:54 PM on September 10, 2012 [29 favorites]


My stepmother had a rescue cat that turned into a dedicated school cat a couple of years ago: Rex of Marymount in Santa Barbara. He had actually grown up in another institutional environment for children (a school or a rehab center, can't recall), so when he found himself living across the street from an elementary school it became his permanent home.

During the time when he was living in her house he was a pleasant but unremarkable cat; moving to the school brought out the showman in him.
posted by Creosote at 6:06 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Years later, guitarist Leo Kottke saw the paw prints and inscriptions in concrete outside the school and asked his manager, who lived nearby, about them. Kottke wrote an instrumental called "Room 8," that was included in his 1971 album, "Mudlark." "It is an unusual tune because of the way it moves," said Kottke, "It took about a month to write."
posted by ovvl at 6:30 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Baby humans annoy the shit out of me though, and I love animals.

You just need to add bubbles.
posted by homunculus at 7:30 PM on September 10, 2012


Sorry, homunculus-- even with bubbles, cats >>>> babies. This is even when I try my hardest to find babies cute. It just doesn't work with me. They just look like bald, less attractive, monkeys. I guess I am heartless and evil.

But look KITTIES

YOU'RE A KITTY
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 8:34 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh dear, I've got something in my eye.

Yup, it's cat fur.
posted by maryr at 8:35 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I really want to see Room 8 on Art Linkletter's House Party. Thanks so much for sharing your story Katjusa Roquette.
posted by jessamyn at 9:23 PM on September 10, 2012


They just look like bald, less attractive, monkeys. I guess I am heartless and evil.

That doesn't make you heartless, it makes you an uncompromising monkey connoisseur. I salute you.
posted by homunculus at 9:27 PM on September 10, 2012


Dr. Joseph Black posted in 2003 "Room Eight taught not only the students of Elysian Heights, but millions of other eager young minds around the country, about renewal and of the inevitably of loss in a most heartwarming way."

One day, we had a discussion in class. They asked me, where did they go? The trees, the salamander, the tropical fish, Edgar, the poppas and mommas, Matthew and Tony, where did they go? And I said, I don’t know, I don’t know. And they said, who knows? and I said, nobody knows. And they said, is death that which gives meaning to life? And I said no, life is that which gives meaning to life. Then they said, but isn’t death, considered as a fundamental datum, the means by which the taken-for-granted mundanity of the everyday may be transcended in the direction of –
I said, yes, maybe.
They said, we don’t like it.
I said, that’s sound.
They said, it’s a bloody shame!
I said, it is.

posted by hydrophonic at 9:41 PM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


My favorite story!
posted by jessamyn at 9:58 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was on Art Linkletter's House Party. Not at the same time as Room 8.
Apparently Art Linkletter liked that school. I attended three grade schools in L.A. I can't remember the first one. The others were City Terrace in East L.A. and Elysian Heights.
Elysian Heights was an awesome school!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:22 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Years later, guitarist Leo Kottke...

Considering the guy's name was Leo and "kot" is Polish for "cat", I can only assume this man, following the great DC villain template, later went on to become Puma Man or something.
posted by Palindromedary at 11:33 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I hear Room 8 is also a good place to find a can of grue repellent.
posted by otherthings_ at 12:03 AM on September 11, 2012


Ugh. I meant "Repellant." Darn my fat phone thumbs.
posted by otherthings_ at 12:06 AM on September 11, 2012




My elementary school had a cat. An incredibly fat cat, as all school cats are.
posted by ryanrs at 12:19 AM on September 11, 2012


Considering the guy's name was Leo and "kot" is Polish for "cat", I can only assume this man, following the great DC villain template, later went on to become Puma Man or something.

Well, he does have... I guess they are kind of superpowers, if being very good at playing the guitar is a superpower.

I tell you what, I have been listening to Kottke and alternately reading the articles and watching my cat roll around on the chair across the room, half washing her face but more just crossing her paws in front of her eyes and occasionally peeking out from behind them in a beguiling manner, and it's like he makes cat soundtracks on purpose.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:36 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]




Ah, the beatnik has to go and put her own kitty pix in this thread!
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:50 PM on September 11, 2012


Great story. It reminded me of a similar story here in Japan about a dog that adopted a high school as his home. It was made into a movie called Sayonara, Kuro.
posted by misozaki at 7:17 PM on September 11, 2012


Didn't Japan have a cat running a train station too?
posted by maryr at 8:22 PM on September 11, 2012


I had never heard this story. Thank you!

It could have been very different - I'm glad the cat didn't take up residence in Room 237....
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 9:27 PM on September 11, 2012


Found it, maryr - Tama operates Kishi Station in Kinokawa, Wakayama.
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 9:36 PM on September 11, 2012


Computech_Apolloniajames, kitty threads demand kitty pix! I'm sure you have a few of your own you can show...

HINT
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 11:50 PM on September 11, 2012


Oh my kitty, this superb picture of Tama is totally going in my work screen saver, along with Business Cat, Science Cat, and Anderson Cooper holding a giant fat cat.
posted by maryr at 9:28 AM on September 12, 2012


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