Knowing where we came from, our personal history,
sheds light on who we our today. I have always felt there was some scandalous
intrigue surrounding my birth. In 1963, when I was eighteen, I was ready
to get married and get out on my own. When I had to have a copy of my birth
certificate, my father, Robert Johnston, told me it would have a different
last name than his. I had not known anything about this; so, it was quite
a shock. He gave some feeble story, basically skirting the issue. It was
not a subject he ever wanted to discuss. I asked my mother, Carol, but
met with a similar attitude. Over the years, conflicting bits of the mystery
To this day, the whole truth is really not known.
Recently I called my older sister, Pat, to see what she could tell me.
Pat was six when I was born but she had always been confused about the
events that took place. Many years later,she had asked our mother, Carol,
to tell all. Pat wrote down the story that was told to her so she could
sort it out.
The story goes that Carol Powers left home in
1938 to marry Edward James Krebs, a railroad worker, when she was eighteen.
She was really getting away from her overpowering older adoptive mother.
Ed was a real mamma’s boy who would go to stay with his mother quite often.
Carol had a love affair with Norman Young. She became pregnant with his
child and had a girl, Patricia, in July 1939. She put Krebs as her daughter’s
last name. Norman Young, a pilot in the service, was killed overseas during
Then at twenty-five years old, Carol got a job
as a waitress at the 5th Street Creamy at the corner of E. Santa Clara
Street and 5th Street. She would bring Pat to work with her. Carol
started having a love affair with owner, Robert R. W. Johnston, a man twenty-five
years her senior. At that time, Bob was a married man with three children.
Carol became pregnant with Bob’s child. She left Ed and lived at the St.
James Hotel in downtown San Jose. I, Joan Carol, arrived on August 5, 1945
at San Jose Hospital. My mother decided to put Krebs as my last name on
my birth certificate. When I did get a copy of my birth certificate, I
also found out that the certificate had August 4th instead of the 5th.
Bob and Carol went to Mexico. They each got an
illegal Mexican divorce and then married. Soon they all moved in together
at Locust Street. Bob’s son, Russel, was in his early teens and would never
forgive his father for leaving the family. It would be over thirty
years before they spoke again.
When I was fourteen months old, my baby brother,
Robert J., was born at home on Locust Street, October 7, 1946. Carol
had the baby alone because the doctor arrived after the birth. Pat remembers
fifteen months later when George J. was also born at home on January 5,
1948. Pat had been an only child for six years, now her mother was paying
all her attention to the three babies.