Memories of Sharon Kislingbury

by Jeanette Goodwin

KISLINGBURY, Sharon Jean
Photos Courtesy of California
Historical Society, MSP 3800

Sharon and I met when we were 12 years old attending Junior High at Burlingame Intermediate School in California. We had the same homeroom as well as all the same classes.

Sharon helped me on several school projects. I was amazed with her intelligence and creativity. Sharon pierced my ears when we were 12. I went home with safety pins in my ears and my mom just about died. Every time I put in an earring, I think of Sharon.

When I went to her house I was envious of how she lived and she felt the same way, about how I lived. I could never figure that out. I grew up on welfare and started babysitting when I was 10 so I could buy or sew my own clothes. I lived with my mom, five brothers and sisters along the 101 freeway in a two-bedroom apartment. She lived in a wonderful house in an exclusive area in Burlingame. Her family was with the high society crowd.

I remember when her parents invited me to go to the opening of “Oliver” in San Francisco. My shoes were not appropriate so they bought me new shoes to attend. Sharon was embarrassed, I was thrilled!

Sharon’s parents were always concerned about her appearance. We would come downstairs from her huge bedroom, and her mother would always say, “Sharon, you can’t go outside looking like that, what will the neighbors think?”

Her mother came over to my family’s apartment once, and afterward said Sharon wasn’t allowed on that side of the tracks. Sharon loved my family for who we were and didn’t care that we didn’t have fine things. I’ve done a lot of serious thinking about her family situation compared to mine since Jonestown and came up with various conclusions.

Sharon and I went through high school as best friends. She was always soul searching. We graduated together from Mills High School in Millbrae in 1974, and she ended up at the College of the Redwoods. That’s where she joined the Jim Jones cult to help poor people.

Right before they moved to Guyana, all the members were in a frenzy to make money in San Francisco to support their way. I went to visit Sharon, and she was a completely different person. She was not allowed to talk to me or she would get punished. They tried to recruit me. Shit, I was the one that should have gone there instead of her because of my upbringing!

Sharon was a very passionate and caring person that only wanted to help the less fortunate. She is and has been truly missed.

(Jeanette Goodwin can be reached at jeanette@montana.edu.)

Originally posted on July 25th, 2013.

Last modified on February 11th, 2014.
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