Jennie Martha Gonzales is the Building Attendant for Philips Hall. Like sister Sylvia, Jennie is quiet and shy, but she opens up to us during this interview about her life and her experiences at CMC. This interview is the sixth of thirteen.
Whenever we feature a long serving employee of the College, we are amazed by the history that they have witnessed and shared with generations of CMC-ers. Think for a moment about the things going on in the world when Jennie Martha Gonzales joined CMC in 1979. Electronics manufacturer Philips had just unveiled the prototype for a new audio system that they called, after much internal debate, the “compact disc.” McDonalds introduced every health conscious parent’s worst nightmare – the Happy Meal. And while the first female students at our school were progressively making their way towards graduation, we were still known as Claremont Men’s College on September 3, when Jennie became an official employee of the College.
If you are surprised that she remembers the exact date and time, don’t be – Jennie is an amateur history buff with a passion for scrapbooking. “I like watching the shows that they have on the National Geographic Channel and the History Channel. I like learning new things that I didn’t know,” she says shyly. Jennie reveals that she carefully saves news stories about events that are interesting and meaningful to her. “I cut them out and laminate them so I can always have them with me,” she says. Media coverage of the Pope and the heartbreaking legacy of 9/11, for example, have touched her. Is Jennie a religious person, then? “I like to keep that part of my life private,” she informs us and we happily move on.
Blue is her favorite color, Jennie says, pointing to the rubber gloves that she dons while working at Phillips Hall. As it turns out, the color has special meaning to her. “It was the color of my high school,” she informs us “and I have always liked it since.” The high school school she attended was in Chino, California where she grew up with sister Sylvia Gonzales and four brothers. Jennie’s parents divorced while she was young but she remained close to both parents. Family is important to her, she says, even though people get busy and some times you meet them once or twice a year.
Her mother, Jennie remembers with pride, was an expert embroiderer and crocheter who passed the techniques on to her daughters. Jennie prefers embroidery over crochet and enjoys sewing patterns in her spare time. Where does she sew her designs? Pillow cases, she says laughing, lots and lots of pillow cases. These days, however, Jennie is getting ambitious with her hobby: her new goal is to embroider an entire tablecloth.
Among her favorite cuisines, Jennie lists Chinese, Italian and Brazilian but reiterates that she likes to try new things. Jennie isn’t particularly picky about food, and that helps. Her favorite actors of all time are John Wayne and Clark Gable. So it comes as no surprise that she also loves films from the heyday of American cinema. When we ask her if she has enjoyed any recent movies, she names two that starred Tom Hanks: Saving Private Ryan and Forrest Gump. “I guess I like Tom Hanks,” she says, smiling. Saving Private Ryan, Jennie notes (while shaking her head) is too sad but also a true depiction. She can relate because her own family has been a witness to the harsh realities of war. Her uncle was in the Normandy Landings, as part of the Allied Forces in World War II. His son, a favorite cousin, went to fight in Vietnam where he was exposed to Agent Orange, a herbicide used by the military. He died from health complications caused by the exposure and is dearly missed.
Over the long period of time that she has been here, Jennie has worked at a number of dorms, including Appleby, Green, and Wohlford. Most recently she had been working at Auen but has since been assigned Philips Hall. “I am just getting to know the kids, ” she says “and they are slowly starting to get to know me.” In fact, throughout the time that we chatted, Jennie repeated her appreciation for the kids that go to CMC.
She also praised the Worker’s Support Committee for its various activities, including the early morning coffee breaks arranged by the students once every month. “Things get too quiet when you guys go away for break,” she says “I am happy when at least the athletes come back in December.” We mention her long time here but Jennie isn’t complaining. It has been a good journey at CMC, she says. “I have seen so many kids come and go. The kids always make it nice. I know the other ladies enjoy it too,” she says, with a smile.
So there you have it folks, Jennie Gonzales, the charming Building Attendant from Phillips Hall. Interested in getting involved in appreciating our support staff? The Worker’s Support Committee (WSC) meets on Thursdays at 7:30pm in Marks Lounge. Each month WSC holds student sponsored appreciation events for our service staff.