1957 - 1963

Medical Assistant, Turlock, CA
The Missing Chapter
by Ralph Cooper
     There is little documentation of this period in her life. From her own writing we know she left John after 1954, when the girls were about four and five years of age. Jo had been saving money in anticipation of leaving and finally decided it was time for the break. Without a warning to John, she bundled up the girls and drove across country with them to her parents' house in Turlock, California. She did record that it was a very difficult time and that she had a hard time getting a job.
Work History
     Over the next few years she did find various jobs at many different places. She first worked as a medical assistant in the hospital in Turlock. Later she worked in the offices of the Gallo Winery for a time. She resented the regimentation which was part of the office routine. When the bell rang for employee's breaktime, eveyone had to stop, even if they were on the phone with a customer. Also, because she was a woman, she had to make the coffee for the office, every morning. Still later, she worked for a local radio station, doing all kinds of jobs, including writing some scripts and commercials.
     When I met Jo in 1963, she was working as a secretary for an assemblyman in Sacramento. Her first task in the office, as she was third in line of seniority, was to answer the pile of letters from his constituents, some of them already two years old. She was instructed to answer each one in a very cordial and personal tone. She was very impressed with the assemblyman's ability to remember the names of everyone he had ever met, a useful tool for a politician. She also recalled that he never initiated any bill on behalf of his constituents. He simply waited in his office for the call from the leader of the house to show up and vote as he was ordered. After working there for a few months, she understood why most of the secretaries usually crossed the street to a bar where they had their two-martini lunch. Then they were prepared for the afternoon.

Continues to Write
     Jo continued to write during this period. She had one major success in 1960. She wrote an article about "Breaking the Sound Barrier" which was accepted and published in the prestigious magazine, Highlights for Children. You can read that article by clicking on the title.
     Encouraged by that success, Jo chose another subject which she thought should be of interest to the editors of Highlights. Somehow she became interested in the subject of Diatomaceous Earth as produced in Lompoc, California. a bit esoteric to be sure. In the bulging manila folder I found in her file cabinet, I found numerous pages of her handwritten notes on yellow pads, numerous photographs taken on the site, and several booklets describing the operation of the Johns-Manville plant in Lompoc. Sadly, there was also a very long letter from the science editor explaining in great detail why the article was not suitable for the magazine. She revised and re-submittted it to Highlights in 1966 with no greater success.
Jo Loses the Girls
     After the separation from John, and while living in her parents home in Turlock, Jo found it to be very difficult to find enough good jobs to provide adequate support for the girls and herself and to be a good mother at the same time.
     Jo wrote:
     "After he remarried, and they assured me he didn't drink anymore, (sounded reasonable to me as I figured that living with me had caused it), I let the girls go to live with him in Germany. Cathy was seven years old at the time, Peggy was six. It was a mistake. He hadn't stopped drinking and it was Hell for the girls, but I didn't know it until years later. I lost custody of them because my papers were only legal in California and all he had to do was be sure he was stationed somewhere else. So I didn't even see the girls again until they were grown."

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