This year’s Colony Days Grand Marshal is all about family, raising children the right way and making sure the next generation of young Atascaderans is on the right path. At 89-years-young, long-time Atascadero resident Flora Adams has more than enough wisdom to go around and doesn’t mind sharing it with the multitudes of youngsters in her life, including her 27 grandchildren and 37 great-great-grandchildren.
“You gotta be real close with your children,” she said. “You gotta teach them — some friends they don’t need. Keep your friends that’s good and do what’s right. When they came home and they did something wrong, I spanked their butts! I raised my kids the old-fashioned way and all my children are doing good. They participated in sports and they were good — I didn’t have no bad reports for none of them.”
Born in New Orleans on January 19, 1930, Flora is the daughter of George Smith, a factory worker, and Azzalle Smith, a house cleaner. After she graduated from Washington High School in 1947 she went to work cleaning houses with her mother. She met and married John Davis Adams, a Mississippi native, and the couple had 11 children before moving to Atascadero in 1964 where they had another child.
“It’s changed a lot [since then],” Flora said. “People are more friendly. When I first came here a lot of people were racist. But people changed, the kids went to school and made friends with their children and a lot of them came to my house. It ended up being real nice.”
John worked in underground construction until he was injured when a large boulder fell on his foot. Unable to return to construction after the injury, John opened the first auto detailing business in Atascadero. For more than 10 years Flora worked for the Atascadero Head Start program, teaching youngsters life skills for four hours per day. To this day, Flora still has former students approach her with fond memories of her classroom.
Flora is all about family but that family is not limited to blood relatives. After raising all 12 of her own children — all of whom attended and graduated from Atascadero High School, including local high school football star Carlos Adams — Flora and John took in and adopted several foster children, filling their lives with love and guidance. She also adopted two of her own grandchildren who live with her now.
“She’d take anybody in whether she knew you or not,” Carlos Adams said. “I have friends that still pass by and say they’re a friend of Carlos’ and she says, “Come on in!” She’s very welcoming to everybody, she’s just a welcoming committee. No matter how hard your circumstances have been, she’d let you in and give you a fair chance. She’s always been one to help out anybody.”
Carlos said that some of the “riff-raff” his mother allowed into the house made him worried for her safety.
“But a couple of years down the road and these people would have straightened themselves out — she just changed people,” Carlos said. “She’s a healing type of woman.”
When he heard that his mother had been named the Grand Marshal of Colony Days, Carlos said that she is more than deserving.
“She’s the greatest lady in the world,” he said. “She deserves bigger awards, but that’ll do.”
Carlos said that growing up, his mother was always a disciplinarian but he’d “rather get disciplined by her than my dad John,” he said.
“She was a great lady — she was fair, she was honest, she just told it like it was and didn’t hide anything,” he said. “She’s just a great person. My favorite woman in the world.”
When her grandson Derrick learned that his grandmother was going to be the Grand Marshal of Colony Days, he said, “It’s a wonderful thing.”
“It’s a great honor and she deserves it,” he said. “She’s been taking care of kids her whole life and she adopted me and my sister.”
Flora often travels to visit her sister and brother in New Orleans and her grandkids in San Diego but when she’s home, she’s always surrounded by a steady stream of grandkids and great grandkids and is still busy
imparting her wisdom.
“Spend time with your children,” she said. “Grandmothers should help with the children. One thing I am against is the drinking alcohol and the drugs. If you want your children to do right, you’ve got to be an example and so
far I am lucky.”