On Sunday, my parents and youngest brother came to the Bay to visit my 86-year-old paternal grandmother in Castro Valley so I decided to join them and catch up with all three of them. I call my grandma, Mamason (a nickname that I came up with as a baby when I shortened Grandma Anderson to “Mamason”). Most people who meet my Mamason agree that the die-hard Raider fan that I call my grandmother is a crack-up. She always has a hilarious tale to tell from her adventures growing up in Oakland. While I have heard many of these stories over the years, I had never thought to ask my Mamason or her sister, Sister Roberta (a sister of the Presentation who lives in the motherhouse in San Francisco) about the background of their family. Something that has been especially intriguing is what brought their family to the Bay Area close to one hundred years ago.
While I did not find out why exactly they chose the Bay Area, I know that my great-grandparents worked in the oil and ship-building industries two of the most popular and fruitful businesses in the Bay Area in the 1910s and 1920s when both sets of my great-grandparents came over from Ireland. They did so great in these fields that they were able to bring the rest of their families to the East Bay as well.
What interested me even more than the history of my family was learning about my grandmother and her siblings’ educations. I learned that before my great-grandparents moved down the street from Bishop O’Dowd High School, she grew up going to Sacred Heart Church and going to St. Columba. I was so excited to hear that she had belonged to these two parishes. She told us about how these churches have changed over the years (they appeal mainly to African American and Hispanic populations). What interested me even more than these changes was the fact that the schools that were once associated with these parishes each became a part of St. Martin de Porres schools in Oakland. I was so excited to hear this because that is the place of my work next year—I will be able to work in the same school that my grandmother did seventy-five years ago. I know that I am extremely lucky to have such a strong family history in the area, to know where I came from and the impact that I can make in the Bay Area.