By Theresa Ream
This is the story of my Hispanic mother and the things she taught me.
Her name was Juanita Margarita Louisa Santos and she was born in 1920 to migrant field workers. They lived in the tent cities that you see in historical pictures, along the Salinas River and other work encampments.
They moved wherever the work was, up and down the valleys of California. My mother went to many different schools during a school year. Still, she managed to earn straight A’s and was advanced two grades.
Life was difficult for her growing up with two violent alcoholic parents. She escaped her home at age 13 by getting a job in Pebble Beach as a nanny with a doctor who had 7 children, At age 15 she began modeling for a local artist on Alvarado Street, She graduated from Monterey High in 1936 with honors at the age of 16. She soon met my father and was married very young.
A house with dirt floors and no heat was not a place to raise her family of three small children. She was a forward thinker of her time and decided to open a business. She was the first Mexican businesswoman in Marina in the late 1930’s.
She soon became known in Monterey County for her organically raised chickens and eggs. Thereafter she opened a pet shop on Lighthouse Ave in New Monterey, which later tragically burned down. She then opened Sabra Kennels in Marina, breeding beautiful teacup poodles, cocker spaniels and moon head chihuahuas. Next she opened a grooming facility to keep the local animal population looking good. Often she had to hide her identity of being a Mexican American to escape being discriminated against. She would wear big hats and long sleeve shirts so she wouldn’t tan her skin.
She exemplified strength and unwavering determination. My mother fought for her life through two deadly illnesses and lived to be 92. But one of her best attributes was her love for adventure. She was a free spirit, picking up and going somewhere fun at the drop of a hat. One day shortly after she broke her arm she said, “Come on Theresa, I’m teaching you how to drive a stick shift, I will work the clutch and you shift…. we’re going to Disneyland tomorrow.” I was only ten years old at the time, but we drove the LA freeways together.
My mother taught me to work hard and love your family. I worked at her side from the time I was very little. She taught me how to love my husband by the respect she showed my father and she taught me that your kids didn’t have to be perfect to be loved beyond words. She stressed that animals deserve our love and protection.
You see it’s all about the people in our lives. No one is who they are by their own making. I have always been fortunate to live in the cool shade of the people in my life. I am happy and proud to say that with my husband Terry we have run our businesses as a family for 40 years. We raised our family in the businesses, and now our grandchildren say they will work in the businesses when they grow up.
Together, these businesses put food on the table for over 200 people every day, when you count families.
The lessons of character, strength, and determination I learned from my mother live on through the values we live every day.