On the day Gerald Caudle was born, his family was given a devastating decision to make.
They lived on a farm in a small town in Oklahoma. When Gerald’s mother went into labor, his father jumped on their horse to fetch the doctor. Later, the doctor announced, “I can only save one of them” and asked which one that should be.
“My mother’s sisters said to save her,” said Gerald, “but we both made it. My mother lived to be 34 days short of 100 and I’m 85 years old.” Just a year after Gerald’s birth, his brother was born.
This was the 1930s, when Oklahoma was known as “The Dust Bowl”. By 1934, the Great Plains were a desert and Gerald’s dad couldn’t make money farming, so he and his brother took the family west.
“My dad knew he had an uncle in Modesto, California, so three adults and two kids crammed into a Model T,” remembered Gerald. When they arrived after the 1,700-mile drive, they didn’t have an address for their uncle, so they hung around the post office until he happened to show up.
The family picked peaches at a local farm. Gerald’s dad and Uncle James were good workers but at the end of that first day got “paid with
change.” They ate a lot of flour gravy and biscuits in those days. Ultimately their dedication paid off because the family was able to work that one farm and put down roots. Gerald’s dad built a home that stayed in the family until 2014!
As a teen, Gerald worked in a lumber yard. His boss noticed his aptitude with numbers and promoted him to work in the accounting department. Gerald went to night school for advanced accounting and of the 60 people who started in the class, he was among the 6 who finished. He and his brother then attended the new Sacramento State College and worked part time.
“We got an apartment above a garage and I made $300 a month. Th at’s when gasoline was 17 cents a gallon and McDonald’s had two cheeseburgers, two shakes, and fries for a dollar,” he said, so he felt pretty rich.
Gerald’s parents showed up at his graduation ceremony with a letter. “It said, ‘Greetings’ – so I was drafted,” he recalled. It was peacetime and he had hopes of being stationed in France but ironically, found himself back in Oklahoma. Using his accounting skills for the Army, he also made extra money doing taxes in the evening and his supervisor encouraged him to become a CPA.
After the Army, he joined an accounting firm and became a partner. He lived in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill for 38 years, had a view of the City, frequented clubs such as the Purple Onion and hungry i, and ran 5 to 10 miles every day. He loved City life. After 20 years as a CPA, Gerald left to become the Controller at a firm called Nurserymen’s Exchange in Half Moon Bay where he worked until retirement.
One thing that becomes apparent throughout Gerald’s story is that he is grateful to every person, family member, professor, or supervisor who ever encouraged and helped him along his journey. His cozy Sterling Court apartment is filled with mementos of a life well-lived – including a photo of him and his brother on that farm in Modesto.
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