Joanie was in fourth grade and the family still living in Linda Vista when she developed rheumatic fever. Back then, it was a disease to be taken seriously. The likelihood of developing complications was high. Since there was no other alternative, prolonged bed rest was forced upon her quite literally.
Furthermore, the combination of two working parents and one seriously sick child led to work schedule compromises, awkward adjustments, as well as added worry and stress. And yet, both her parents seemed to have adopted the attitude of “what must be done, must be done” and got on with it.
By this time, her mother’s career as a working woman had already taken off. She began at Convair, and then moved to Ryan Aeronautical; moving up the ladder relatively quickly — eventually working her way up from a Rosie the Riveter position to bookkeeping and then to a librarian. Both parents’ incomes were needed. The couple decided one would take the night shift and the other would work during the day. In this way, one of them would always be at home with Joanie. At least, that was the plan.
It was a good solution, but it would have worked even better if Joanie hadn’t been such a rambunctious child. Or, for that matter, if either parent needed to sleep. Joanie simply couldn’t bear to stay still. To this day, she still can’t.
“Just horrible,” is her assessment of this time period. Obviously, sports were off the table. But she wasn’t above trying to override this by sneaking out to play football with the boys.
She eventually was to develop a heart murmur, which required even a longer period of bed rest. All in all, she was out of school for six months. Her parents
arranged for Joanie’s teacher to visit her two or three times a week. It speaks volumes of Joanie’s level of intelligence that she was able to eventually return to school, and pick up at the same level as her classmates.
When it wasn’t school work, her mother kept her busy in other ways. She started bringing her books from the Linda Vista Library. Whereas before Joanie had loved reading, she now, having nothing else to do, took it to another level. She claims she read ALL the books in the young reader’s section of the library, and those who know her don’t doubt it.
In fact, she read so much that she ruined her eyes, but didn’t even realize it. It wasn’t until she was in seventh grade that her teacher, Mr. Lippman, began to suspect something was wrong when she kept changing her seat and moving closer and closer to the blackboard. By this time, she was also experiencing frequent headaches. In due course, she was diagnosed by a San Diego eye doctor as being near-sighted and her first pair of glasses was prescribed. She was astonished at the difference. When she looked at peoples’ heads, she could now see each individual hair!
Joanie recovered and life went on. The family moved to the Clairemont area in San Diego, first as renters and then purchasing a home off of Balboa Avenue. When she was ready for high school, she attended Mission Bay High. Established in 1953, it was a brand new school on Grand Avenue in San Diego. She got there by bus and had to transfer twice. She remembers it as a fun experience. New students were coming from different areas to attend the school. All the time spent on the bus gave them time to bond, some of them forging friendships through to university level.
Joanie’s memories include: GAA Sports, music, becoming a majorette, dances, and her paddle board routine at Mission Bay Plunge. It’s almost as if she
were making up for lost time. All her courses were college prep. Needless to say, she received very good grades, living up to her father’s expectations: “If you don’t work as hard as you can, then it isn’t good enough.”
She graduated in 1957. It was to be the first full graduating class of 500 students at Mission Bay High.
When it came time to register for San Diego State, she was given an early priority number thanks to her high placement testing, and was able to get all the classes she needed. This was during the pre-computer era when registering students had to make a long line in front of the cafeteria and once inside, walk from one station to the next. It was a time-consuming procedure, especially for a big college. In those days, San Diego State was big, but now, according to Joanie, it’s “monstrous.”
She banded together with some of the high school friends she’d bussed with, and they decided to carpool. It so happened that Joanie’s grandmother made the best Grape Nut bread (with real butter even!), once a week. The kids soon figured out it was to their benefit to drop her off first on that particular day of the week, so they all could enjoy a slice of Grape Nut bread together. An obvious sign of intelligence in the primate family, I might add.
Since a very young age Joanie had always known she wanted to be a teacher. She was focused on this goal. It made an impression on her when she heard the highly respected San Diego State College President Malcolm Love recite incoming student statistics.
“If you have 15,000 entering freshman, by mid-year you’ll only have 7,500. By the time you graduate, you’ll only have half that number.” Joanie was a little apprehensive at the beginning. However, by the end of the first semester, she knew she would make it. One day she would be a teacher.
Joanie Thornburg’s story to be continued in next week’s issue of the Holtville Tribune.
Marcia R. Jennings is a member of the Holtville Woman’s Club.