Meet Carrie Adelia Gabriel
By Beverly J. Clark, Publicity Director
Meet Carrie Adelia Gabriel, an amazing Retiree on the move and an L.A. historical figure! She’s celebrating 100 years!
What a wonderful pleasure it was for me to interview and meet with Ms. Carrie A. Gabriel. She contacted me and said she had a story for me. Ms. Gabriel holds a wealth of information and history about her employment experience with the City of Los Angeles as well as other jobs she held after she retired from the City. She began her City career in February 1946 just months after World War II had ended in September 1945.
Ms. Gabriel is proud to announce that she will be celebrating her 100th birthday this Jan. 28. She says, “I feel blessed and am not sure why the man upstairs (God) has shown me favor to reach this milestone!” I was amazed and struck by her presence of mind, clarity and ability to recall so many details of her career and life.
Ms. Gabriel, at the age of 99, says she has some health problems but her outward appearance does not reveal that. She walks well without the assistance of a walker or a cane. She does not wear glasses, at least not to get around. She says, “I was still driving until about a month ago when my son advised me to stop.”
Ms. Gabriel was born and educated in San Antonio, Tex. Her first two years of elementary school was in a two-room schoolhouse, then she attended Brackenridge Elementary School and graduated from Phyllis Wheatley High in June 1937 at 15. Although the schools in San Antonio were segregated at that time, Carrie continued her education by attending St. Philip’s Junior College in San Antonio during World War II. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Carrie found employment with the U.S. Government at Kelly Field in San Antonio.
Carrie and her family moved to Los Angeles in 1943 where she found employment with Lockheed Martin until the end of World War II – the end of the war might have been celebrated, but her job ended, too. She continued to job hunt and take classes at the Metropolitan School of Business. Her career goal was to become a court reporter. However, when the college moved the classes she needed to Bryan School, she could no longer afford the cost.
On Feb. 1, 1946, Carrie was hired as a War Emergency Clerk Stenographer with the LAPD. Thus began her 32-year City career. She worked for the LAPD for 17 years and was promoted to Sr. Clerk Typist. This was not an easy task in those days. She experienced many challenges as the first African American to be placed in many of her job positions. She recalls her first day reporting to work at Lincoln Heights Jail and having fellow employees staring at her as she walked through the doors. “I walked in the door and said ‘hello’ and no one spoke. I said, let me try this again. I walked out and came back in and said ‘hello.’ Everyone spoke on my second attempt. There were days when I would leave work, go home and just walk the floor to get out my frustration. My goal was to do my job well, and I did. My co-workers respected me, and we got along well. There are always some bad apples in the bunch, but for the most part, I enjoyed my City career.”
In October 1962, Carrie transferred to the Personnel Employees Folders Unit, where she received a commendation for organizing the unit. In August 1964, she transferred as Secretary to the Engineer of Survey in the Bureau of Engineering’s Survey Dept. In 1968, Carrie transferred to Data Service Bureau as a Data Processing Technician, then was promoted to Principal Clerk Personnel. When she retired in February 1978, Carrie had been promoted to Sr. Data Processing Technician in charge of two computer centers.
She has one son who lives in Stockton and drives down to visit her at least once a week, sometimes twice a week. He takes her to doctors’ appointments and takes care of the groceries. Carrie also has three grandsons and one granddaughter that she is very proud of. There are pictures throughout the house of loved ones including her brother, Arthur, who was also a City of Los Angele retiree from the Department of Transportation. She began taking care of him in 2010 when she was 89. He passed away at age 96 in 2017. She also took care of her mother who came to live with her when she moved to Los Angeles.
Do you get bored?
“No. I don’t allow myself to get bored. I just think how great life is. I love to read, and my phone rings off the wall. People call and check on me, and I call and check on others. I console and encourage those who are going through challenges. It is important to stay in contact with people. Many of my friends have passed on, but I have a group of younger people who check on me and I also check on them. I don’t wait for them to always call me. I call them also.”
“I wanted to have a big birthday party celebrating 100 but because of the pandemic, we won’t do that. Every day is a celebration.”
Carrie was and is a trailblazer. She has a wall adorned with her many awards, commendations and certificates of appreciation acknowledged by Supervisors, General Managers and City Councilmembers.
There is so much history to share in this story of longevity and wisdom, I could not put it all in this one article. Look for more about Carrie Gabriel, a Los Angeles City Retiree who at 99 and soon to be 100, is still on the move, in next month’s issue.