Meet Clara Hollaway.
Please, call her Clara, because if you happen to call her Ms. Clara, you just might make her feel a bit old, as she says.
“I’ll be 89 in July,” said Hollaway, which in fact, makes her 88 and one of San Jacinto College’s most “advanced in years yet forever young” employees.
She came aboard San Jacinto College in 1991 and began working in the business office at the North Campus before switching gears and working as an administrative assistant for the police department, where she continues to work.
“I love my officers. They’re my officers because they’re like my family. They’re going to be my pallbearers,” she said.
So, how does a young woman from Velasco, now Freeport, Texas, go from watching President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Constitution Avenue during World War II to becoming one of San Jacinto College’s most dynamic personalities to ever answer a phone? The answer is in her story …
Tell us where you’re from, and how you got here.
“I graduated from Freeport High School in 1944 and went to work in Washington D.C. as a clerk for the VA during World War II. I remember that time being very exciting. We were all working with the goal of supporting our country. I lived in the dormitories in Arlington, Virginia, and I made a lot of friends. I saw Roosevelt go into his third term, when presidents had three terms, on Constitution Avenue. I had already seen him in 1936 on a yacht in Freeport for the Texas Centennial.
After a year in D.C., I returned to Texas and worked here in Houston for the U.S. Navy and typing letters for the officers. I married a WWII veteran in 1946 and went to work for the Southern Pacific Railroad. There, I worked in a variety of jobs. I worked in U.S. Customs, the cashier department, and as a chief rate bill clerk. I retired from the railroad after 38 years.”
After retirement from the railroad, what did you do?
“My second husband died in 1987 after my retirement from the railroad. That is when I decided to take road trips by myself to see places like Niagara Falls, to see the fall in New England, and Yellowstone. I took a cruise to Alaska.
I had no problem going alone. I like myself!
I wasn’t scared at all and had all my stops mapped out.
I’ve done a lot of things just by deciding to hit the road. I have a friend now who I go with, and we’ve been to Nova Scotia, Mexico, and Colorado. We may leave for Louisiana tomorrow.”
Why did you decide to return to work?
“In 1991, my friend attended an election at the San Jacinto College North Campus and was asked by a business office employee if he knew a person who could work part time in the evening.
Well, I wasn’t looking for a job, but he thought I’d be a good candidate because he said I went to bed too early that I needed to get out of the house. I came in on a Friday afternoon, and the business office offered me a job.”
What was San Jacinto College like in 1991?
“Back then, we didn’t process student payments using a computer. It was all hand written. The campus was much smaller. When Banner came in, it drastically changed everything! Now, I love it! You can look up on there and find people. You can find everything now. It’s so easy!
After some years there, the police captain at the time asked me if I wanted to work for him. I debated because the hours were late at night, but I took it and started part time in 2003. Since then, it’s been fantastic. I love the officers. I love the College. The new officers call me Ms. Clara, and that makes me feel old!”
You have worked quite a lot throughout the years. You’ve seen a lot of places and people. Would you like to offer any words of inspiration to others?
“Yes! It’s not about the money. It’s about the environment. It’s about the people. Get to know who you’re around, you’ll start to see personalities, and you’ll start to see the people. Working is fun. I don’t know; it just is. Is that weird?
I just like to get up and go. I’ve worked all my life, so why stay at home? To me, it’s wasting time, just like sleeping in too late!
Life is worth getting up for and experiencing different things during the thing. I just thank God that I’ve never been off sick and that I’m in good health.”
Okay, we just got to know, any secrets to your good health?
“Well, it isn’t from my eating!
I think it’s just family longevity. My dad lived to be 91. My mom lived to be 83. They were both workaholics. My dad was a business man, ran a feed store, and believed in education. He would always say two things – obey my mother and daddy, and read the Bible.”
Your father believed in education. How do you pass this belief along to our students?
“I see our students a lot and when I do, I encourage them to go farther. Take more courses. You got this far, don’t ever stop.”
Clara Hollaway has one son and one daughter, three grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. When on the North Campus, stop by the police department and say “hi.”
“When people call the San Jacinto College police department, I want them to know I’m there to help them.” – Clara Hollaway