Our newest member of our This is Your Life Program is our resident train aficionado Gordon Mitchell.
Donald Gordon Mitchell and his twin sister, Donna Gail, were born on Feb. 21 1931, to Rhue and Donald Mitchell in San Pedro, California. Having twins was a big surprise to the doctor, Gordon’s parents and his older sister. No one had been aware that she would be bringing home 2 babies to add to the family!
As children, Gordon and Gail attended Leyland Elementary School, where he met many friends. He is still in contact with many of them, some of whom he’s known for over 80 years. His Dad started the first Boy Scout troop in San Pedro and Gordon joined the Cub Scouts at age 9. He participated in scouting for many years, eventually becoming an Eagle Scout. At age 10, Gordon became a newspaper boy and built up his paper route to 222 paper deliveries a day.
Gordon attended San Pedro High school and graduated in 1949. The “49ers” still get together for lunch every month and Gordon attends whenever possible.
The summer after high school, Gordon went to a church activity where he met a girl named Ann Ward. They lost touch and Gordon went off to Berkley that fall. He transferred to UCLA a year later and after much searching, tracked down Ann Ward. They began dating and got married in October of 1952. Ann worked while Gordon finished college and they lived in a small apartment in Santa Monica. During this time, he was drafted into the Army, but was granted a deferment, allowing him to get a Bachelor’s degree and his teaching credential before reporting for duty.
He spent the next 2 years in the Army, stationed in Germany, where he earned top secret clearance. He had training in Morse code, typed confidential reports, and did wiretapping of the American military personnel who would inadvertently give out classified information to their wives and girlfriends. As his final months in the Army approached, Gordon began sending out his resume in the hope that he would have a job when he finished his service.
Gordon received a teaching contract at Mark Twain School in Lawndale, teaching 7th grade. The military allowed him to leave 90 days early to start his new job. He and Ann bought their first house in nearby Torrance, and first daughter Leslie was born in 1956 with second daughter Nancy arriving in 1961. Gordon returned to school during that time, and after teaching 5 years was hired as an assistant principal under the mentorship of Pearl Kennedy. He finished his Master’s in Education at USC and became eligible to be a principal.
He was offered a principalship in 1962 by the Orange Unified School District at California Elementary School and moved his family to Orange. He loved being a principal and was beloved by his teaching staff, the students, and their parents. He always did his best to improve the schools he was assigned to during his 30-year career. He set up many fundraisers, implemented a positive report card system which was adopted throughout the district and was Safety Chairman for many years. He retired in 1991 and with both daughters grown and on their own, he and Ann moved to San Clemente.
He bought a small sail boat and built a catamaran and frequently visited Dana Point Harbor where he happily spent many hours on the ocean. Gordon and Ann were married for 61 years and had 5 grandchildren. Both daughters went into the teaching profession.
After Ann’s passing, 3 ½ years ago, Gordon moved to The Groves and has been there since 2014. He loves the food and puts sweet pickle relish on almost everything. He loves socializing, telling stories about his family history, and working on his model train hobby. His oldest grandson, Glen, helps with his train layout, takes him on errands and to In-N-Out every week.
He enjoys visits from family and friends, giving assistance to others, and attending Trinity Church in Tustin. He is always positive and energetic and enjoys showing his most recent layout to anyone who is interested.