Oral History Project:
Autobiographical Stories of Women From Chandler as Told to CGCC Students in partnership with Chandler Public History Program
Oral History of Charletta Jackson
Written by: Tasha Cruz and Scott Pritchett

Charletta Jackson Interviewed by Tasha Cruz and Scott Prichett On September 24, 2004

Mrs. Charletta (Jones) Jackson portrayed herself as the most vibrant, upbeat, and warm-hearted person in Phoenix. She continually stressed the importance of the past and the hardships that most endured in order to receive what they have now. Her history in Chandler, and the surrounding cities, tells a story of tremendous detail and the foundation of what the city was, before it became the fast paced metropolis that it is now.

Mrs. Jackson was born in Chandler, AZ on June 1, 1940. She was the first born of two girls; however she had one brother and one sister from her mother’s later marriage. Her sister’s name was Shirley; Shirley recovered from polio as a child, but unfortunately passed away when she was only 38 years old. Charletta’s father was from Louisiana and her mother was from Texas. They both moved to Oklahoma where they met. Eventually, her family arrived here in Chandler in the late 1930’s from Oklahoma. The town was partially segregated, meaning there were laws where colored people could live. Mrs. Jackson stated that the two main streets colored families could live on were Saragosa and Morelos. As a child, Mrs. Jackson lived at 184 E. Saragosa. After her father died in 1948, the family moved to 233 E. Saragosa. The family still owns the property at Saragosa today.

Her father, Mr. Jones worked as a “Cotton Contractor.” His main duty was to take trucks and pick up families who were in need of work; he'd drive to many states like Texas, Mississippi, Ohio and Louisianna to pick up the workers. Not only would Mr. Jones transport the workers to the farm where they could make a living picking cotton, he would also provide them with housing. The farm was a large establishment and had little homes that could be rented out to the workers. Mr. Jones had the additional challenge of serving as a mechanic for his own trucks when they broke down because racial segregation kept him from using the service stations in the city. Some workers stayed at the farm for as long as three to four months, tending to the cotton for the entire season. Mrs. Jackson’s mother, on the other hand, was a petite woman with a lot of strength. Some of Mrs. Jackson's fondest memories of her childhood are the times she spent helping her mother in their family restaurant. Mrs. Jones, Charletta’s mother, was an excellent cook and ran a small restaurant called the Blue Front Café (which was housed in a former Japanese Internment Camp building). Her mother woke up at 4 a.m. every morning to do all the cooking for the field hands. She took it out to them by means of a “chuckwagon” from the restaurant. Charletta and her sister Shirley would wake up early enough to help their mother. They also took odds and end jobs in order to earn some extra money cleaning their church and selling watermelons and comic books. Her mother and father performed these duties together until Charletta was eight years old. At this time her father passed away and her mother continued to work at the Blue Front Café to try and support her children.

Charletta Jackson attended Ocotillo School from 3rd-7th grade, located south of Chandler right across the street from Eddie Basha’s warehouse. Segregation was in effect at this time and children were bused in order to receive their education. The school contained first to eighth grade with only one teacher in a large room. At this time, children sat in separate rows based on their grade. At 8th grade, Charletta attended Cleveland School when it became integrated. Before, students had to complete their education and graduate in order to be bused to a segregated High School in Phoenix. However, Charletta was fortunate enough to attend Chandler High School, which was integrated when she was a freshman. She didn’t experience any racism between the teachers or the students because most had known her from Cleveland School. At this time she met her husband Obadiah Jackson.

Obadiah was an orphan at the young age of 3 to 4 years old. Therefore, he lived with his grandparents and worked on one of the Gilbert farms. He had more experience with picking cotton than Charletta and her sister ever did. Obadiah could pick up to 100 lbs of cotton by himself when he was younger. As a child he attended a segregated school in Mesa and then went on to Chandler High School as well. Ironically, they never met each other prior to High School; however Obi claimed to know Charlene from when she was eight years old. Obi and Charletta dated and remained high school sweethearts. They were married during high school and Charlene only attended one full year, unable to finish her education. Nevertheless, the year that she attended she made the best of it. Charletta played volleyball and did very well in Home Economics class since her mother was a great cook. Later she earned her G.E.D. from Phoenix Union and pursued her education by attending three business colleges including South Mountain College. While raising her family and attending business school, she would clean houses for Dwayne Ellsworth earning $25/week at the age of 22. After she graduated from college she applied for a position at Motorola.

Before Motorola would hire her, the F.B.I. had to do a background check on her. They asked her neighbors and other people around town uncomfortable questions such as: “What kind of person is she?” “Does she fight with her husband?” “Does she go to church on Sunday?” This is the only major experience where she felt that her privacy was violated based on the color of her skin. After the grueling interview, Charletta was approved for the job and started in 1965. Charletta Jackson would have worked for thirty years; however she took some time off in between to be with her family and later returned to complete 22 years. Mrs. Jackson attended her first six months at Motorola where she would have to lift a hot, heavy, iron object from the oven and literally toss it around her station. Fortunately, her supervisor noticed that she was a hard worker and promoted her to become an inspector. Charletta Jackson worked as an inspector for Motorola until 1967. Then Motorola opened the laser and laboratory plant on Dobson. Charletta’s department was the first to be moved to the new location where she continued to work as an inspector. One benefit that came with working with Motorola was the fact women were allowed 6 months to a year of maternity leave. The company actually let her stay home this long with her last son. She loved this opportunity because she witnessed many mothers these days going back to work only 3-5 days after the child was born.

The Jacksons had five children: 4 boys (Junior, Charles, David, and Wade) and 1 girl (Carla), along with nine grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren. Coincidentally, her mother remarried at the same time she did, and they both conceived two children within months of each other. Their four sons worked hard their entire childhood maintaining a paper route that estimated about a $1000/mo. for four children. This lasted for three years allowing the children to buy two horses when they moved to their permanent residence on 36th St and Southern. Charletta's youngest son, 4th born, was a favorite Football player for McClintock High School and earned a scholarship to the University of Missouri. While attending college he was offered a position with the Green Bay Packers, but couldn't accept due to a hurt leg. He later became diagnosed with cancer. Thankfully, he became victorious in his battle with cancer and overcame it. Her daughter actually attended college with Charletta at South Mountain and they took some courses together. Her family has always focused on education and a better life for themselves and their children. With this important component, many of her children and grandchildren have been able graduate and attend college to pursue challenging careers in Biology, Photography, and Real Estate. Her children also excelled in many sports during their school years; Charles, Wade and David all wrestled and won many distinctions.

Mrs. Jackson and her family are unique, wonderful, individuals who have a love and zest for life. It seems that they have a close family bond and have always tried to pursue the best in life. All of her recollections center on the good and fortunate life that she had obtained in Arizona. Mr. and Mrs. Jackson are two individuals with pure hearts and are the most kind, hospitable people we have known in a long time.

Pictures courtesy of Jackson Family.

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