LETTER TO THE EDITOR: There was no morgue

Former Shalhevet history teacher Michael Petrella, left, now teaches at the Buckley School in Encino.

Former Shalhevet history teacher Michael Petrella, left, now teaches at the Buckley School in Encino.


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Dear Editor:

Although my name may not be familiar to the current student staff of the Boiling Point, your advisor should remember me as will many of your older brothers and sisters as I taught at Shalhevet from 1997-2006.

The occasion of my writing you, my first contact with the school since I left, is to correct a bit of history about the building which you currently inhabit.

Over the past month, I have come into contact with three individuals (two alums and one former teacher) who have told me about the new building plans.  They mentioned that my old classroom – “the morgue” – would be disappearing.

This brought a smile to my face for you see the concept that the large classroom in the basement was the morgue was a completely fictional creation.  I know – I created it.

There was no morgue in what was formerly the “Westside Hospital”.  This was a little joke I played upon some unsuspecting sophomores many years ago.

I know this for a fact as I was the original inhabitant of the large lower classroom in the basement.

When the hospital was purchased in 2001, it still had all its equipment.  The main floor were the patient rooms – all with beds, monitors, chairs and the like.  One of the rooms even had a functioning heart monitor that was beeping – eery!

The lower floor were operating rooms.  There were two of them.  They still had the gurneys, instrument trays – everything you needed for an operation.

There was no morgue.  The hospital was too small.  The deceased were taken away by the county.

Initially those rooms downstairs were not used.  In 2003, as the school grew, they were remodeled.  The principal at the time, Dr. Parmer, asked if I would move my classes downstairs.  I jumped at the chance.

One day – I can’t recall the year – I made a little joke about my classroom being the morgue.

And here we are, a decade later, with that joke becoming a “fact.”

I assure you there was no morgue.  That’s an urban legend started by a former history teacher with a unique sense of humor.

And I’m certain my old friend, Ms. Berkey, will testify that this is exactly the type of joke I would have used.

Best regards,

Michael J Petrella

Former Shalhevet Social Science teacher, 1997-2006

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