On the corner of Baxter and Echo Park Avenue, a sidewalk runs along the edge of Elysian Heights Elementary School. It spans almost an entire block, but if you look closely, you’ll see messages of love carved into the cement. Back in the 1960s, students left behind written tributes to one of the school’s most beloved figures of all time: a domestic shorthair cat. His name was Room 8.
He died on August 13, 1968 — 50 years ago today. Room 8 first made his appearance in 1952, wandering into the elementary school during recess and ransacking the children’s lunches. The students named him after the room where they found him. He lived at the school while classes were in session and then disappeared during the summer, returning again only when students did. For the 16 years following his arrival, he wove himself into the community and Los Angeles history.
As historian Paul Koudanaris put it to KPCC’s Take Two, it wasn’t that the school had adopted a cat — “but that a cat had adopted a school.”
And this cat was popular. During his time at the school, Room 8 received more than 10,000 pieces of mail from all over the country. In his life, he never took a permanent home. He was always technically a stray cat. So when he died in 1968, the students wanted to give him a permanent resting place… read more >