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Learn more at es.statefarm.com. State Farm is a proud partner of the Michael Tura Podcast Network. Music And we continue with our American stories and with our Mother's Day celebration. Up next, you're going to hear from Donna Martin, who is our own Madison's mom. She'll be telling us about her first time leaving Mississippi at age 19 for a summer job in Yosemite, California, where she thought she was headed to become a famous movie star. But life had other and better plans for her.
Let's take a listen. I grew up in Forrest, Mississippi, and I lived on the same street as a major chicken plant. So depending on what time of day it was, there may be a really horrible smell, so that was kind of interesting. I also lived at the bottom of that street, so if I was ever outside in the front yard or whatever, there was a stop sign right there, so people would just like always be looking at you. I just remember always being like, I'm never going to live at the end of a street when I grow up and have my own house, because it felt like not very much privacy.
The whole time I was living at home, it was great, but I just knew when I got in high school that I was going to leave Mississippi at some point, probably never go back. I knew pretty young that I wanted to be a movie star. I would like always think about like how I was going to get to Hollywood, how I was going to be famous.
It was kind of a thing, like everybody did that about me. And so my really good friend was at a university, and she called me one like, I don't know, spring I think, and she's like, hey Donna, oh my goodness, these recruiters came to our school today, and they have this summer program, and we can go work in California. So immediately I was like, oh my goodness, we're so doing that, can you sign me up? And she signed us up, and I was just so excited because I was going to be in California, so I was going to be able to like work during the day, and then on the weekends or at night or whatever, I would go for my auditions, and then I was going to be famous and never come home. What they asked you was like some of your skills or hobbies, and they gave you like a list of jobs that were available. Well, I had been a lifeguard just like in the summers back home, so I signed up to be a lifeguard.
I had all my training and everything, and I think that's the only thing I checked. And they were like, oh yeah, and they wrote me like, yeah, you got hired as a lifeguard. So we got the trip planned and left on May 10th, and when we landed we had to have some sort of transportation to get us from the airport to Yosemite. Her dad was like, I don't want y'all just taking any old taxi cab. He was scared for us girls to be by ourself, so he had us a limousine. And that was really neat because I had been in a limousine one time just for like the prom or something, but like we got to be in this limousine, and it was all nice, and the driver pops open champagne and like lets us drink alcohol and everything. So of course we're all away from our parents, and of course we want to open up champagne, and we're like, yay, celebrate. So we're like having champagne and having so much fun, and then all of a sudden he is smoking, and it's not a cigarette. I'm a nervous person, so I was kind of like, okay, let's all be aware of things that are happening. And my friend is not being aware of things that are happening.
She's really relaxed and having a good time, and it's so funny because her dad made sure that we were safe to have this driver, and he's not being safe at all. And we have to start going up this mountain, and it's very twisty-turny. Like if you look off to the side, you're like, oh, goodness, there's cliffs. So we're going slow in this big humongous limousine, and we're going around these twisty mountains being so careful. Well, my friend starts feeling bad from the partaking of whatever that dude was offering, and so we had to pull over in this humongous, I mean, this is old-school limousines.
Limousines are big, but like the old-school ones, it's very big. And so there's nowhere to pull off on the side of the road because there is no side of the road because you're going up a mountain. So we're basically hogging up a whole entire side of a mountain, and by this time, the driver is starting to get testy with us, too, and he's like, you've got to come on. And so I just had to like say, pull it together, you've got to get in the car. You know, we finally get to where we're getting dropped off, and all I took was $200 in traveler's checks.
That's what my mom gave me. So we got there, and I grew up in the South. This is May the 10th, so it's really hot and humid the whole summer. So I packed, you know, shorts and T-shirts and tank tops, and we get out of the car, and there is snow on top of the mountains, and I am in shorts. It was freezing.
So thank goodness my mom had given me these $200 in traveler's checks that were for emergencies. Well, I immediately had to go to the mountain store and buy a wardrobe. I had to buy long johns, hiking boots, these thick socks, probably for skiers.
So once I spent it, that was it, and I wasn't getting any more except for what I worked for. And so I had to wear those same long johns until it got warm enough that I didn't have to wear them. And we had to like go like to a wash interior to wash our clothes, and it wasn't always available when you needed it, so it was just kind of a dirty situation. So we go to our lodging, find out where we're going to live, and it was a tent cabin. And if you don't know what that is, the roof and sides are literally a tent.
Like you could punch your fist through your wall, and the bottom was a wood floor. So half cabin, half tent. Tent cabin is what they called it. And they were like, do not have any food. You're not allowed any food because there's bears, and they will come and eat your food. So that was scary. So absolutely, I did not have food ever with me.
So I ate a lot before I got to my tent, because you're not eating again once you're in that tent. I don't even think I knew Yosemite was like a mountain thing. I mean, people go there to rock climb.
I didn't even have those thoughts. I was just trying to get to California to go be famous, and I was thinking it was going to be close. I realize now we're in Northern California. Southern California is where I would have to go to Hollywood or whatever to do these auditions. I don't even know how many hours it would have taken to get there.
It would have been impossible, but I did not know that going in. So I was just like, okay, I'm going to go be a lifeguard, be all tan, amazing, whatever. And at night and on the weekends when my day's off, I'll just bebop over to Southern California, Hollywood, and do my auditions, and this will be great. So the next day is our orientation to find out what we're doing. We all go and get our little job assignments since I'm prepared to be a lifeguard.
And the pool's not open yet and won't be for some time because it's freezing. So I am going to be in housekeeping. So I'm like, okay, housekeeping, I can do this.
That's how I make money at home in my house. I mean, it was easy. I knew how to vacuum dust.
Okay, this is a piece of cake. So first of all, I had to wear this stiff, scratchy, tight, horrific outfit that was like not adorable. It was so uncomfortable, that outfit they made us wear. I don't even know what material it was. It was almost like canvas.
I don't know. It didn't wrinkle. I'll tell you that. It didn't wrinkle.
You could have run over it with a car, and it would not have a mark. It was really stiff. So we have these outfits, and we go get our assignments, and I'm with this man who's like way older than me. So he tells us what we have to do, and we got to clean the really nice hotels, nice rooms. So this other man was kind of over that guy, and he said, you got to really clean good, because he said this lady was going to come behind us and check, and you're going to be in big trouble if you didn't clean it good. And she did like a white glove inspection. So I was terrified that this mean lady was going to be like mean to me. So I tried to really clean good. I found out later that wasn't true.
No one ever came and really checked on me or anything, but I made sure they weren't. And we're listening to Donna Martin tell her story, her adventure to California, where she thought she'd find stardom and never come home, only there was a slight detour and a slight miscalculation. When we come back our Mother's Day celebration continues here on Our American Stories. The biggest savings ever. Cozy Earth fabric is so unbelievably soft, so unforgettably comfortable. CozyEarth.com products are made from responsibly sourced viscose from bamboo. Feels like heaven to the touch, and their premium fabric regulates her body temperature. Keeps her feeling just right no matter the season. Check everyone off your list this Mother's Day. Be sure to use promo code PODCAST35 for an unheard of 35% off, but only for a limited time. So order today. Shop for Mother's Day now at CozyEarth.com for best selection, and use promo code PODCAST35 to save up to 35% off site-wide.
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Leguizamo Does America. All new episode Sunday, May 14th at 10 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC and streaming on Peacock. And we're back with our American stories continuing our Mother's Day celebration. Let's return to Donna Martin with the rest of her story. And again, this one is by our own Madison, the daughter of Donna Martin. When we last left off, she'd gotten her job assignment after arriving in Yosemite, which she thought would be being a lifeguard. She ended up instead being placed in housekeeping.
I think it was about three weeks I had to do that job. At this point, I had to put that bathing suit on. And this lifeguard bathing suit was not flattering at all. And the food there was amazing. Things I had never even heard of, like manicotti.
I'd never, I didn't even know what manicotti was. That was so good. And you went through this cafeteria, but it was really good food. And like the dessert for these humongous pieces of cake. It was the biggest piece of cake. You can't imagine how big this cake was. So it did not take long at all to gain a lot of weight. I did not realize how much weight I really gained until when I put my bathing suit on and I bent over and like something popped and like broke in it. And I was like, oh my goodness.
So the food was really good. So one day I was lifeguarding and I was looking around and I see like right under my chair, under the lifeguard stand, this little boy, and I can tell that his feet are not touching the bottom, but he's not moving. He's got his head looking up and he's not yelling.
He's not doing anything. I was like, I've got to help him. So I didn't want to jump down in the water because I would have jumped on him. So I just jumped off the side and just, I didn't even climb down or anything, which I didn't realize that until later. But I had this horrible bruise on my heel.
So I got him and he just, you know, went off with his family or whatever. And my heel was like really hurting. And I just called my mom back home and was just telling her about it. And she goes, oh yeah, that sounds like a stone bruise, which I think it must be some kind of a southern thing to say because this, you know, thinking back on it now, she's like, that sounds like a stone bruise where you hit your heel on concrete, I guess. I don't know. And so the remedy for it, this is what she told me though, she said, go get a potato and cut it in half and put the potato, the inside, the white part of the potato, put it on your heel. And I guess it was supposed to take the pain away. I don't know, I did it. So I'm thinking back on that now that I'm sure everybody's like, who is this country bumpkin walking around with the potato on her heel?
What are you even doing? So that was kind of crazy how I think about it. It worked. One weekend, I finally got a weekend off me and this other friend. We decided we were going to go to Santa Cruz. In my mind, we were heading far away and the word Santa just sounded close to where I needed to be, Santa Monica, I mean, like all these places, to go be famous. So we get in her car and wind down the road and we go in her little red car that was like, didn't even have a back seat, just this little red car. And I realized to be fast, like it took us so long to get there, there was no way I was going to go any further. Like she was like, yeah, we're not going to make it any further. So we got to head back because we had to be back to work. And so I realized we were not going to be getting to go do any auditions.
Clearly, being in Yosemite was not going to get me close to L.A. to go do my auditions. So I just thought I would go back to college again and figure out what I was going to do next. I ended up going to Ole Miss and a friend of mine was like, hey, we are hiring $10 an hour. All you have to do is call alumni. You're asking for money. You make $10 an hour.
Do you want to do it? And I was like, yeah, that sounds easy. So you get these folders of all these alumni to call to ask for donations.
So I had somebody in my little files and it said that she was in New York City and that she was an actress and that she worked at this performing arts school in New York City. So I was so excited. So everybody's like making their calls. And so I called her and I was like, hi, I'm calling from Ole Miss.
We're just calling the alumni. Well, I don't even ask her for the money because I just want to ask her all about New York and how she got to do this. So we had this long conversation and she gives me her permission to call her again and she was telling me where she lived and she was going to help me. So I was so excited about that. So I had it all planned and I had started dating this guy and I was telling him what I was going to do, that I was going to New York and I was going to be an actress and he was going to be going to medical school. And I mean we liked each other, but I'm like, oh, okay, that's great, but I guess I'll never see you again after this summer. And then I talked to my mom about my plans and I was getting excited, you know, we need to get our airline tickets and everything to go to New York. And she tells me, no, I want you to get your degree. Then I was like, okay, well, it was going to work out and we can hang out and like each other more because I'm going to be staying around longer to graduate. So now I'm going to be going back to school in the fall and I realize I don't like this theater stuff.
I don't even want to do that. I just want to be a movie star. I don't want to do theater. So I was changing my major again. So then it kept pushing how long I was going to graduate because I kept changing my major. I thought I was going to be a nurse and could not pass the classes. So I remember being in the grocery store with my then boyfriend and I remember saying, I've got to have something to graduate with. You know, the theater thing didn't work out.
The nursing thing didn't work out. And he goes, well, you've got a lot of English classes. Why don't you just graduate and major in English? So it ended up being fine because I had so many classes in English that I was able to graduate with an English degree.
So I ended up changing my major for the seventh time. By becoming an English major, I got to take this creative writing class. We had these writers and residents that would come and teach your class.
And Barry Hannah was the same as writer. And he got to come and teach the class. And so one day he gave us this exercise and it was like he said go and you just wrote a story from beginning to end and then he stopped you. And my story got pitched for him to read to the class. So I was so excited. And it was a drama.
It was actually a tragedy. If you've ever been to Oxford, Mississippi, the roads are very narrow and there's cars that are parked all along the side in our little town off of the square. And so I would see people riding their bikes sometimes and I always would think in my mind what if somebody in a car opens their door and the biker goes right just at the nick of time and flips over.
I don't know, I'm just one of those people I kind of catastrophize and I would always see in my mind that happening. I would just be so nervous like oh bikers watch out for cars. So I wrote that and my story. There's a guy riding a bicycle and some man opens his car door and the biker flips.
It was terrible. I mean I was like oh my gosh he is going to love it. He's reading this. You know everybody's going to think this story is everybody's going to be crying in the room or whatever. So he starts reading the story. He starts cracking up reading the story.
I guess because it sounded so nuts that that would actually happen because most normal people probably don't go around thinking of worst case scenarios all the time like I do. So he has to take his glasses off. He's wiping the tears off of his eyes. And I was going oh my goodness this is supposed to be so sad and everybody crying.
Well he's crying all right but not the kind of crying that I thought he was going to be crying. And so I decided to go with it like ah yeah this is funny. Then I ended up using that degree to become a school teacher, elementary school teacher. So I became an actress in a different way with kindergarten students because every day was a show. You might be a clown. You might be Mary Poppins.
You might be a book character from one of the books they read. I had to sing a lot. It was a lot of changing outfits and putting on a show and it was actually a lot of acting. So I didn't necessarily become well actually I didn't become a movie star. I wanted to be all serious and I just imagined these dramatic movie scenes and I guess what I should have been all along was myself and not someone else. So the way that my life went and all the little twists and turns that I took, God really had it all worked out for me because I got to see that summer in California how much I missed the south, how much I missed cornbread and sweet tea and being barefooted.
And then once I met this guy that I was starting to fall in love with, who's now my husband, God just changed inside my desires inside my heart to be a mom and have a family and I'm so happy the way that it actually turned out. And we're so happy it actually turned out well too for Donna Martin. That segment was produced by her daughter, our own Madison, who did a terrific job on the production. And what a voice you just heard and anyone in Oxford who knows Donna knows what a storyteller she is.
The clock will start and an hour will pass and it'll be the most delightful hour you ever listen to. And my goodness, what a story she told. As Tom Waits said, I never saw the east coast till I moved to the west. And in a way, Madison's mom had to discover Mississippi by leaving it. A story of dreams not shattered, but reinvented.
Our Mother's Day celebration here on Our American Stories. State Farm is committed to being your top choice when ensuring the things that matter to you. My cultura podcast host, Dramos, also believes in the power of financial knowledge. That's why he makes sure to share his financial tips on his podcast, Life as a Gringo.
Financial freedom usually means having enough savings, financial investments, and cash on hand to afford the kind of life we desire for ourselves and our families. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. Learn more at es.statefarm.com.
State Farm is a proud partner of the My Cultura Podcast Network. I'm Malcolm Granbo. I live way out in the country. I drive everywhere.
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