Jo Cabreana Carlson

Jo Carlson Bio

I was born in Lompoc, CA. I remembered, as a small child that I was not able to speak English when I entered grade school. My grandparents lived with us when I was born and only spoke to us in Visayan. My parents were told by the teacher to speak to us in English. I don't even remember when I learned to speak English. It seems like I was speaking in Visayan - then slipped right into English.

There are seven brothers and sisters. Ernie, Adeline (Addie), Josephine (Jo), Gilbertine (Gil), Clyde, Geraldine (Gerry), and Douglas (Doug). The first of us were all born in Lompoc. Our youngest brother Doug was born in Oakland. We lived in a big house on Douglas Avenue, a farming area. Dad was a tractor driver.

I remembered we had a lot of fun, playing around the fields, the water ditches, watching birds in the rain, playing with frogs and rubbing their bellies. I remember Ernie hiking Addie and I on the bike to go to school. Addie on the railing of the bike and I balancing myself on the handlebars. Ernie, Addie and I were the only ones going to school at that time. We went to Artesia, a one- room schoolhouse, which is now an historic building in Lompoc. I was only in kindergarten. These are the things that stick in my mind about Lompoc. I was very young, so I don’t remember all the things that happened while living in Lompoc. We moved up north because our dad got a job working in the shipyards. Later on, our mother also worked in the shipyards.

I remember we had a lot of hardships during our early childhood. But when you’re a child you remember all the fun, the good times, the playing times - it seemed like endless days of just playing.We moved to Oakland for a short while, then to El Cerrito, then to Richmond.

In El Cerrito, the house we lived in had no indoor bathroom. We had an outhouse and when that filled up, they would dig another hole and move the outhouse onto the new hold and cover the full hole with dirt. There were two holes (I think) to set on in the outhouse. One big hole for the adults and one small hole for the kids. We took our baths in a tub outside. During this period, my mom and dad divorced. My dad raised all 7 of us as well as he could. He was always working so we actually raised each other.

While living in El Cerrito, I can remember having the most fun. There was a family that lived in a house located behind our house. The girl that lived there was named Barbara. She was my friend. We had a lot of fun times. My dad would cut my hair just above my ears. It seemed like every weekend I had a haircut (but it probably was not, it just seemed like it at that time). I would cry every time my dad cut my hair. I wanted long hair like the other girls in school. Barbara and I would get rags and cut long strips and pin the rags to our hair and pretend that it was our long hair. We would swish our long hair back behind our shoulders and let it fall to the front and then swish it back. We also used newspapers, which we would also pin to our short hair. We would cut strips and then use any object that we could pull through the paper to make it curl - then we had our curly hair! Barbara's mother had a jar that she kept pennies in. Barbara and I would sneak some pennies and walk to a drugstore and buy ice cream sodas. I think it was only a nickel for an ice cream soda in those days. There was a certain time that I would sneak to Barbara's house during the afternoon and go by a window because her mother would have the radio on to soap operas. I would listen to "Stella Dallas", "Just Plain Bill", and others that I don't remember at this time. All my sisters and brothers slept in one room. We would be in bed in the dark and listen to the radio to spooky stories. We would use our own imaginations to the stories. I remember "Intersanctum" with the squeaky doors - that one really scared me so much that I would hide under my blankets.

We moved to Richmond. My dad bought a house there. Our living conditions really improved 100 percent. It was one of the best-kept houses on the block - inside as well as outside (this is what my friends would tell me). I remember the girls, including myself, had to buff the living and dining room hardwood floors every day before dad came home from work. You couldn't believe that 7 kids lived in that house the way the hardwood floors would shine. I learned how to ride a bike by myself. There was this girl named Beverly that lived about a block away that had a bike. She was the one that taught me how to ride the bike. I think it took me a whole weekend to learn without falling and keeping the bike steady. I talked dad into buying me a bike from one of my girlfriends that was selling hers. I was surprised because he agreed. He told me to be sure to tie the bike to the meter behind the house so that no one would steal it. I remember I took the girl next door for a ride on my bike. We were going along and I hit a curb and we fall and my bike broke in half. I didn't know that the bike was welded together at one time. So there we were walking home with my bike, me carrying the front part of my bike and my friend carrying the back.

When I was 12 years old, I moved to San Francisco to live with my mom. I spent my teenage years in the city. I had a lot of fun and found new friends. I went to an all girl school on Scott and Gary called Girls High. After school my best friend, Betty Pascual and I would walk to the RV restaurant on Fillmore and Gary and hang out until it was time for Betty and I to go home. At the RV, I made many friends that to this day we are still in touch with each other. At that time we were 13, 14, 15, 16 years old. There were a few who were a little older that also hung out at the RV.

I married Billy Ramos, who was born and raised on Kearney Street in San Francisco. After we married, we moved to Sacramento and lived there for one year. One summer (so hot), one winter (so cold and rainy) - that was enough for us and we returned to San Francisco. While in Sacramento we had our first son who was born at the Sutter Maternity Hospital. Six months later our son, Rocky (Benito was his real name after Billy's father) passed away in San Francisco. Two years later, our second child was born. A daughter named Vicki.

Several years later Billy and I divorced. I remarried and had 6 more children. Between Vicki and the other 6, I think I gave birth in all the hospitals in San Francisco! Many years later, I became a single parent and moved to Santa Maria in 1969 to live closer to my mom. This was a very wise move because all my kids are doing very will.

I work for the State of CA EDD, better known as the unemployment office. I've been with EDD for 30 years! I love my job and I don't plan to retire until I'm 90 years old. As my boss said, I'll probably be the last one to turn of the lights and lock the doors of our office - and as my sister Gil advised - don't retire into "nothing"!

Jo is now remarried and living in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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