One day in 1952, Elysian Heights Elementary School students were delighted by a surprise guest: a large, hungry, gray-striped tabby cat who simply showed up and made himself at home. He stayed at EHS until the end of lunch that day, then departed the grounds, as mysteriously as he arrived.
He returned for class the very next morning, and after a few days of this, it became clear that this friendly feline had adopted Elysian Heights Elementary. Although he roamed the halls and slept wherever he pleased, he was soon named after the classroom where he made his debut: Room 8.
Room 8 quickly became a legend both at the school and throughout Los Angeles. When EHS closed down for summer vacation, Room 8 vanished. On the first day of school the following September, Room 8 returned, once again showing up every day like clockwork. The school’s new mascot repeated this routine every year for over 15 years, never missing a day.
Room 8 was beloved by students and faculty alike; the most coveted job for any Elysian Heights 6th grader was not class president, but cat feeder. In almost every 6th grade class photo from 1953 until 1967, you could find Room 8 sitting front and center.
The press eventually heard about this extraordinary cat, and by 1962 Room 8 had become an international celebrity. He was featured in countless newspapers and television news programs, as well as Time, Look, and Weekly Reader magazines, Art Linkletter’s TV show House Party, and a 1968 documentary called Big Cats, Little Cats. It’s no exaggeration to say that, during his long life, Room 8 was the most famous cat in the world! He received over 10,000 fan letters while he lived at EHS, most of which were answered by the students, happily acting as the cat’s “secretaries.”
In 1966, Room 8’s story was told in the classic children’s book A Cat Called Room 8. The book was written by former EHS school principal Beverly Mason and former EHS teacher Virginia Finley, and illustrated by Valerie Martin, who also taught at EHS when Room 8 first introduced himself.
Room 8 passed away in 1968 at the ripe old age of 22. His legend lives on at EHS today, where paintings, photographs and even sketches in cement have immortalized this famous feline throughout the campus.