The Northside Oral History Project

Ann Molica: A Half Century on the Northside

by Don Gagliardi

Ann MolicaAnn Molica remembers clearly the date of her wedding day fifty years ago. It was November 26, 1950. "You don't think I'd forget that, do you?," Ann chides me.

Ann Molica, my next-door neighbor, moved into her Northside home at 17th and Jackson Streets that same year, right after her honeymoon in Carmel. In the ensuing half century she has never lived anywhere else.

Ann's parents were both born in Italy in the 19th century, though Ann does not know when. Ann herself is a first-generation American, born on Bird Avenue in San Jose on December 19, 1916, nearly 84 years ago. Her father, says Ann, "worked in a cannery, then he worked in a packing house; that's what he used to do." Although he was born in Italy, Ann's father quickly picked up the English language, as well as Spanish, and even French. There was a French worker at the packing house, Ann explains.

Ann Molica"My father used to make us pick prunes," Ann recalls. "He was too strict with us. If we did something wrong, he'd hit us. We'd get it. That's how Italians are." Ann's mother, on the other hand, "didn't speak so good English." Her mother was quiet and non-confrontational. "She would say, 'what am I gonna do.'"

As a young woman, Ann worked in the Barron Gray cannery in San Jose. After she got married, however, "my husband made me quit," Ann says.

Ann met her husband, Vincent Molica, through his cousin. Vincent, who was born in Louisiana, had been in the military during World War II. He was wounded in the ankle, according to Ann. Vincent worked in a cannery, and then later at his brother's liquor store on 4th and Santa Clara Streets. Vincent purchased the couple's bungalow on 17th Street in September 1950 in anticipation of their wedding.

Ann and Vincent had planned on honeymooning in Los Angeles, but they couldn't go there because they had been told the road was "too foggy," Ann explains. So instead, they settled on Carmel and Monterey.

After setting up housekeeping on the Northside, the couple had a daughter, Janet, in September 1954. Janet attended Empire Gardens and then Grant elementary schools in the Northside, as well as San Jose High School. Janet lives in Soquel today. She is unmarried, and Ann has no grandchildren.

Ann was friendly with her next-door-neighbor, the late Rose Perreira, who used to own my house. "I used to always go over there," Ann says. "She was nice." Rose's husband, Manuel, worked at the Farmer's Market on Taylor Street, Ann recalls. Both Manuel and Rose died of heart attacks, according to Ann.

Ann has never been outside of California except once, in 1978, when she flew with her daughter to visit her sister-in-law in Crawley, Louisiana. It was the first - and only - time Ann has been on an airplane. "That is the last time I will get on an airplane," Ann insists. "Planes are falling out of the sky these days."

On April 6, 1984, Ann's husband, Vincent, died of cancer at age 66. "He smoked too much cigars," Ann says. Ann still misses him.

Ann MolicaSince her husband died, Ann has subsisted on a meager monthly payment from the Social Security Administration. By 1996, the roof on Ann's home was literally falling down. With help from the Northside Neighborhood Association, Ann applied for and obtained a grant from the City of San Jose to repair the roof. Later Ann also qualified for a grant from the city to repaint the exterior of her house. Nature was reclaiming her front lawn, but neighbors helped replace it, and 17th Street resident, Michael Solt, mows it for her for free.

Although she is nearing her 84th birthday, Ann is still spry and keeps an active schedule. She takes daily walks around the neighborhood with her neighbor and best friend, Kathy Chaplin. She also daily attends mass at Holy Cross Church. Every Friday morning, Ann has her hair done. And you're likely as not to see her on the 82 bus line, heading downtown or out to Westgate Shopping Center.

Ann has a soft spot for cats. Aside from cooing at my brood of four felines who watch her warily from my windows, Ann has her own gray tabby, Tanya, who lives under the crawl space of Ann's house and suns herself within view of my bathroom along the brick pathway leading to Ann's backyard. Ann doesn't know how old Tanya is. "Someone dumped her," she says. Ann sometimes calls Tanya by an Italian nickname, "Ni-Nee." Ann doesn't know how to spell it, because "I don't speak Italian," she says. Like most cats, Tanya can be finicky about what she eats. "She doesn't like certain foods, but I yell at her and tell her, 'eat it anyway!'" Ann exhorts. "But she likes fried chicken," Ann says. "Have you ever heard of such a thing?!"

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