SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KTVU) - One of the Bay Area's longest-serving and most well-known lawmakers, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, grew up in South San Francisco. Many people know about her harrowing experience of being shot and left for dead, in Jonestown, Guyana, when she was an aid for Congressman Leo Ryan, in 1978, but there is so much more to her story.
When she was a child, Speier grew up in a home on Park Way."
"Ours was the last row of houses on Sign Hill, and we could break down a cardboard box and slide down those letters into our backyard. It was a great childhood," Congresswoman Speier said. "My parents bought their home on Park Way for $30,000."
Congresswoman Speier was born in San Francisco, and moved to South San Francisco as a young child long before bio-tech came in.
"This was a blue-collar community," said Speier, "My parents were blue collar, my father worked for Loomis armored car company."
Now, current estimates put her childhood home at more than a million dollars. The main strip through town has changed as well.
"I could walk you down Grand Avenue and show you places that are still there and just recently closed," said Speier. "The community is changing now!"
Speier points to a teacher at Parkway Heights Middle School for starting her on a path that lead to her career in public service.
"Mister Jex, who just passed away, was the person who inspired me to be a leader," said Speier, "I was in 8th grade and he made me the editor of the school paper, the Panther Scream, and he would call me chief."
Speier said that gave her the confidence to lead her peers and later run for office. Congresswoman Speier also says her family drove home the idea of "supporting each other" to the point that, if her brother was sick and couldn't do his paper route, she was expected to get roll the papers, get on his bike, and deliver them around the neighborhood.
Congresswoman Speier now represents much of San Mateo County and part of San Francisco in the House of Representatives: the same area that was the setting for adventures and challenges that shaped her earliest years. "It was a great childhood, said Speier, "a very simple but great childhood."