The Cambrian

My Turn: Not much rain, snow, sleet or hail around here

I took a test to get hired on the Newport Beach Fire Department on April 1, 1958, and placed first out of the 83 applicants.

Two years later, I applied for the position of engineer (driver and pump operator of a fire engine) and placed first. In 1963, I was number one on the list for captain.

About 15 years ago, I sought a part-time job at the Cambria post office; I wanted to supplement my retirement checks, but I failed the written test.

But Johanna Zambrano passed the same test and was hired in 2007. To top things off, English is a second language for her. Darn.

“My family moved from Guadalajara, Mexico, to San Jose, California, in 1990 for a short time and then to California Valley, 55 miles eastof Atascadero,” she explained. Fewer than 500 people live in California Valley— quite a contrast from the 5 million citizens of Guadalajara.

“I worked at a water pump factory for a few months before applying for a job at the Cambria Post Office. It was an interesting experience because I originally responded to an ad on line.

After I was hired, I drove an hour and a half each way fromCalifornia Valley to Cambria for the first year; then my sister and I moved to Atascadero.”

Postmaster Gerry Kalar has high praise this soft-spoken, petite, 24-year-old Latina.

“Johanna is one of our best and hardest workers. She has applied herself and has learned five routes, so I can use her without hesitation if there is a problem with staffing. She gets along well with her fellow workers and being bilingual is a big advantage.”

Only one thing was missing—she was not yet a U.S citizen.

“I began the process by sending a request letter to the Department of Immigration in May 2000. I was directed to go to Oxnard to start the procedure by providing information and having pictures taken. I was given some manuals to study concerning naturalization and history of the U.S. A week later, my mother, father and I went to Los Angeles for an interview at the Department of Immigration.

I had a 45-minute interview that included some oral questions and a short written test. When I returned to our car, I told my parents that I passed and was now a U.S. citizen. Needless to say, my mother shed tears and my father had a hard time controlling himself. Then we went out for dinner — Mexican food, of course.”

On Wednesday, Oct. 27, Johanna was feeling the happy effects of the recent event and decided to take two dozen donuts to work and share them with her friends. She was not aware that they had planned a surprise pot luck party for her on that morning before opening up for business.

Great minds think alike.

“I love my job, but if I had a wish it would be that I could be a professional soccer player,” she said, smiling.

After we finished our chat at Linn’s, I asked her if she wanted some more iced tea.

She declined and replied, “Would you like to see my material?” She handed three things to me. One was a copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Next was a letter of congratulations signed in person by President Obama. I got lightheaded when she handed the last item to me. It was an official certificate from the United States of America that she was now a citizen.

I envisioned how her descendants would appreciate and admire this absolutely beautiful declaration for countless years.

My eyes grew warm as I read it, and as I typed this last paragraph.

E-mail John Brannon at