Many kids form a bond with a class pet, but few schools have seen one become as popular as Room 8, a stray cat that once frequented the LA elementary that is now covered in tributes to the feline.
On the corner of Baxter Street and Echo Park Avenue, Elysian Heights Elementary school is practically plastered in images of one very famous feline, a cat named Room 8. The exterior walls have great murals of the grey cat frolicking, while the paving stones that line the fence along Echo Park Avenue are etched with student drawings of and messages to the school’s beloved former pet.
As the story goes, a neighborhood stray wandered into classroom 8 one day in 1952. In a great lesson on puns, room 8 found a longterm roommate, and in a great lesson on caring, the kids made the cat their own. Soon enough, both students and cat had adopted these visits as a routine that continued every day until summer vacation, and resumed each September from that point forward. Room 8’s devotion to the Elysian Heights Elementary kids became fodder for news pieces, a children’s picture book, a movie, and even a Leo Koettke song. Like many a Los Angeles celebrity, the heaps of fan mail he received kept a whole crew of little ghostwriters — the students — busy.
When Room 8 passed on in 1968, the cat’s obituary was printed in newspapers all over the country. Stories of pets and children, of course, are perpetual people pleasers that cross geographical boundaries, but this one was special. The story of a cat that wandered from the sunny, blooming courtyard into the classroom held just enough of the California dream to captivate the imaginations of anyone who has ever sat at a chilly desk, staring longingly out a window.