Stephanie Lee Jordan

In the mid 1950s, Stephanie Lee Jordan lived in Saltus a remote mining community with under twenty homes and no running water a mile down a dirt road that led to Route 66.  Stephanie, who is third generation Chinese-American, was six years old when her father Chester took custody of her and her sister.  They had been living with her mother Patricia in Long Beach, and Saltus was a far cry from the city! Stephanie’s first memories of Saltus are that it was 110 degrees in the shade (something that registered in her six-year old mind) and of the neighbor’s bull dog whose head exploded after he was bitten by a rattlesnake.  Most of the other children were immigrants from Mexico, and Stephanie recalls that the INS would periodically raid Saltus and that people would disappear when they heard they were coming.  Stephanie had one friend Veronica who was the only legal hispanic girl living in the community.  Every day, they waited for the school bus by the railroad tracks and placed pennies on the tracks so that they could collect the flattened pennies when they returned.   The children were bussed to Amboy about a mile away where there was an elementary school.  Stephanie says that she was called “every variation of Ching and Chong imaginable”, but other than the name-calling she endured, she doesn’t recall much discrimination.  The only time she was told she couldn’t do something stands out.  The local Catholic Church was providing outings for children to a nearby swimming pool, and Stephanie was told after the second time that she couldn’t go because she wasn’t Catholic.  In the 1950s, public pools were a battleground for desegregation in California, so it is likely that the religious grounds cited were false.  When she was nine-years old, Stephanie ran away from home after being beaten by her stepmother Doris for something very trivial.  She was standing on the crossroads of Route 66 and the Saltus Mine Road when Sheriff Penny Pendergast spotted her and picked her up.  The Sheriff was horrified and upon returning Stephanie home, told her stepmother that he was heading to Needles to get a warrant for her arrest.  That night, Chester packed the whole family up into their station wagon and moved them all to Los Angeles, leaving the store and everything else behind!  

 

 

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