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I was ready for a visit with the ghosts of campus past
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I was ready for a visit with the ghosts of campus past
By Horst Obermeit

The writer, a longtime Church of God member, lives with his wife, Sue, in North Carolina.

KENLY, N.C.--I took a short business trip to Los Angeles, Calif., several months ago. I flew in late Sunday night, Jan. 7, 2007, and left again early the next Tuesday morning.

I had to go to a bakery in Montebello to evaluate some equipment for a job my company is working on.

The last time I had visited what used to be the Ambassador College campus was in 1990, when my family and I were there for the Feast of Tabernacles.

So, since one of my brothers still lives near Pasadena, we decided to meet at the Wild Thyme Cafe & Bakery a little south of the old campus on Monday night.

I also have a cousin who lives in the area, and this was my chance to see him for the first time in just over 40 years.

Since my brother and cousin were working and wouldn't be there till nearly 6 p.m., I had a couple of hours to see the old college grounds.

Kept up

It was a partial ghost town, but the place looked in nice shape because someone had at least been keeping up appearances.

A Christian high school, Maranatha, has bought and is using the student center, gymnasium and former men's dorm, Grove Terrace. Maranatha has remodeled the dorm into a classroom building.

The student center also houses the school's offices.

School personnel have also redone the top of the parking structure to have a soccer field instead of the track.

Students were playing and practicing soccer as I walked by.

The gymnasium looked as it always looked, including the "fingernail" sculpture on the front.

The soccer field and gym were being used by the students, and they let me wander around with hardly a glance at this old man.

The pool was open, but no one was using it.

There were also students outside the former men's dorm, now classrooms.

This was at around 4 o'clock in the afternoon. This section of the campus looked busy and active.

It's been 40 years

Although it seemed an easy thing to talk to people there and tell them that I had been to college here 40 years ago, it was rather sobering to hear myself say "40 years ago." Where did such a huge amount of time go?

The remainder of the campus was like a ghost town.

The Ambassador Auditorium is owned by Harvest Rock Church (which is not connected to the high school, although the pastor's children attend there).

The egret sculpture in front of the auditorium sits dry. No water shoots up into the sculpture.

The pond around the egrets and auditorium was filled and clean. The pond had blooming flowers bordering its edges. Someone was obviously doing some gardening and maintenance.

Above one set of doors the lettering says "Ambassador Auditorium," and above the other doors are the words "Harvest Rock Church."

That was the only sign I noticed for the auditorium.

The doors were locked, but a lady inside let me in to look around the foyer briefly.

The auditorium itself was totally dark so I couldn't see anything in that part. Some tables were near the front doors displaying literature for the church's activities. The gold inscription on the marble wall still says "Ambassador Auditorium."

Below it had been some letters that  glue marks allow you to read to the effect that this was built with contributions from members of the Worldwide Church of God.

There was no evidence of the previous lettering saying something about this building being dedicated to God.

The new Ambassador Foundation

On an easel near the lettering was a large poster of the auditorium with the lettering "Ambassador Foundation" at the top. I asked the lady what that was and she said it was a fund-raising foundation to help pay for the high cost of maintenance on the building.

The Hall of Administration is closed, and I was told it will be torn down as part of the process of constructing a development for senior citizens.

The buildings along Green Street are all part of the senior citizens' development.

That might mean those buildings will all be torn down, but I do not know that for sure. The rest of the upper campus is owned by a company called Dorn Platz, which is developing or remodeling the various dormitories into apartments. A man I talked with lives in the Orange Grove apartments. He told me they had been remodeled.

The store across the street from the Hall of Ad is now a Ralph's grocery store. Long ago it was El Rancho.

Nothing of the WCG

Somehow I felt like I was looking for ghosts.

As I walked around the mostly empty campus, I couldn't help wondering if I would run into someone who had been there when I was there.

I realized the chances of that were almost nil because there is nothing of the Worldwide Church of God left at the campus.

The closest I came to that was a man working on one of the old men's dorms (which we called 360). He was working for Dorn Platz and preparing the outside for painting.

I talked to him and he told me a little about what's going on there. He had been around there since the late '70s and thought my name sounded familiar. He knew a few people I had known while at AC.

Most of the fountains were not working, although there was water in the various pools around them. The fountains behind Ambassador Hall and the Fine Arts Buildings were working, although not as well as normal.

The Fine Arts Buildings had some large sections of the outside tiles missing. That was the most glaring evidence of a lack of maintenance. Most of the rest of the buildings showed some age but did not look to be in bad condition on the outside.

Visiting more of Pasadena

After the campus walking tour I took a driving tour of Pasadena past three places where I had lived. The only place still standing was the little court with eight small houses and a duplex at the end where Sue and I lived when we were first married.

I drove around to the old press building on DeLacy, where I last worked in Pasadena. That looked much like it appeared many years ago, but there was no sign telling what is going on there now.

The buildings that housed Imperial Schools across Del Mar from the back of the gymnasium could be seen over a tall fabric construction fence. So it seemed there was some serious building taking place there.

Then I headed past the old Green Hotel, which had been refurbished many years ago. I must say this section (and most of what I saw in Pasadena) appeared much nicer than it used to look.

There were none of the really rundown sections that had been there when I first arrived in 1966.

Then I headed down Colorado Boulevard towards Victory Park, where the Rose Parade's floats end up after the yearly New Year's Day parade.

Driving around Pasadena was certainly a trip down memory lane. The stands for the parade on Orange Grove were still being taken down because my visit was only a little more than a week after the 2007 parade.

A synchronicity but no ghosts

I didn't find any ghosts in Pasadena, but I stirred up quite a few old memories.

Iexperienced an interesting coincidence as I left L.A. Tuesday morning. As I was waiting for my flight out of LAX I was reading a novel by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child about an archaeologist in the U.S. Southwest.

The archaeologist had contacted someone at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

The scene shifted to the man she was meeting, and I read that he "turned out of the complex into the California Boulevard traffic, and headed west toward Ambassador Auditorium."

I had just driven down California Boulevard the previous afternoon as I headed for the Ambassador Auditorium. It was the first time in many years that I had done so.

It was the first time in many years that I had read something about AC in a novel. That was the only mention of anything about Pasadena in the book.

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