Carmen Lucero's 100th Birthday – Oct. 18, 2019
October 24, 2019
Carmen Lucero was born Maria Del Carmel Lucero to Jose Domingo and Ignacia Lucero nee Baca on Saturday Oct. 18, 1919 in Crowley, Colorado. Jose Domingo had moved his family to Crowley on the idea of making a killing in the watermelon market. Carmen became the 9th child and 3rd daughter to Agnes and Jose Domingo. The watermelon market dried up that year and the family moved to Lovell, Wyoming where the Great Western Sugar Beet Company had set up a refinery. The Luceros' became sugar beet farmers and Carmen spent her formative years as a tomboy playing among the foothills of the Grand Teton Mountains.
She loved hiking, horseback riding, camping and visiting the Indians on the reservation. The family survived the Great Depression on their farm with very little money but plenty of natural resources. The beginning of WWII took her brothers into service for their country which left Carmen, her mother and the smaller boys to run the farm. An impossible situation; so off to Monterey, California and a new life.
To Carmen Monterey was the big city, she missed the small town and mountains of Wyoming! However, with much going on she soon started work at the YMCA preparing meals and then on to Fort Ord working at the enlisted men's club manning the café counter and soda fountain. She loved working with the soldiers many who were away from their families for the first time, as they adjusted to military life.
She had many jobs in Monterey from caterer to elevator operator to cannery worker, the canneries were going full speed, 24 hours a day processing the fish coming out of the bay. She and a friend pooled their money and bought a little Café on Freemont Blvd in Seaside. The name came from the fact that an existent neon sign could be modified for less money so it was decided "OH BOY CAFÉ" would be the new name.
Almost immediately, Carmen's partner had to pull out due to illness and so she became sole owner. With a soda fountain, grill, a counter and some tables she was busy. All of the soldiers from her Fort Ord days and local businesses were her customers.
She had one shabby customer who would surprise her! She loved taking care of people and a man who looked down on his luck used to stop by regularly and she would promptly give him coffee and day-old doughnuts as he always stood by the door looking out her picture window. One day friends were at her counter when in he walks and she excuses herself to help the poor man!
The ladies look over and begin laughing as they ask Carmen if she knows who he is? "Some poor man down on his luck!" So, they call out to him "John! Why are you taking advantage of this poor young thing! Joining the ladies, Carmen was introduced to John Steinbeck for the first time! John said he wondered why she was so quick and persistent to give him coffee and stale donuts. John became a regular customer at the Oh Boy Café.
There was a shortage of men and man-power during the war! Agnes had purchased a piece of property in Seaside and was ready to have a house built. With no one to build. Agnes and Carmen decided to build it themselves. With railroad ties soaked in creosote their foundation was set. They built a two- bedroom one bath home with full front porch and big picture windows.
Monterey brought fisherman from all over the world and Italians were there with their prisoners. It was here Carmen met Roberto from Tuscany with family firmly in the fishing industry. They married at the San Jose courthouse on Valentine's Day 1949. Roberto drowned in a fishing accident and Carmen was left with 3 children to raise.
Moving to Palms – Los Angeles near an Aunt she worked as a waitress and then filled a seasonal job at Thrifty Drug Company on La Brea making Easter Baskets. She was hired permanently where she would work in their warehouse until retirement. It was the Culver City school system that brought Carmen and kids to Culver City in 1962.
Raising her kids in Culver City was wonderful, hiking weekends in the hills where WLA College now sits, having an apartment full of kids was a daily experience. Her home was a safe refuge for kids to have fun and enjoy themselves, learning new experiences such as cooking or baking. For many years Carmen was a familiar face working at the Culver City Fireworks stands, helped when she could with the local Cub Scout troops, led groups of kids on weekend day excursions through the different Culver City parks and the famous Culver Ice Rink. She was integral in getting her son Douglas involved with the JayCees during his teen years.
Carmen's eye for crafts is famous. Making things is what she does best, whether it's beading, egg designs, her famous corkboards or dozens of other ideas. She is talented beyond compare.
Her children are her proudest work; Doug went on to work as a Grip for the studios as well as becoming a professional photographer with studio. Fred owned a tour and travel agency and for 25 years traveled the world. Anna married had a daughter, later moving her family to Hawaii where she worked on cruise lines and shipping with major government contract ships traveling around the world as onboard chef.
Rachel, Anna's daughter completed her doctorate in Psychology and lives with her husband and daughter Siena outside Chicago. Rachel and mother Anna both fly for Southwest Airlines and enjoy their jobs immensely.
Carmen's eye for crafts is famous. Making things is what she does best, whether it's beading, egg designs, corkboards or dozens of other ideas. She is talented beyond compare.
Carmen is a proud member of the Culver City Historical Society, has been a Senior Center Member for ages, working out in their gym. At heart she is still a tomboy! Still attends the summer concerts on the City Hall lawn, lunches in Chinatown and loves to entertain her Culver City friends at home. Culver City, home for more than half her life is the community of friends that keeps her going. To her being 100 years old is just a number!