Once a couple danced in front of her, and she told the man not to dance so close, but he ignored her and her trombone slid to seventh position, knocking him to the floor.
She started taking business courses in the evenings and hoped to get transferred to a secretarial job, she said, but then World War II came along and not many women had been trained in the accounting field, so she was needed elsewhere.
“I never even thought about whether I liked what I was doing,” she wrote in her autobiography. “I had a job and lots of people did not have one. My first goal was to acquire $1,000 in the bank.”
When Cargo’s mother died, she stumbled on a fact she hadn’t known growing up. She had been adopted from an orphanage where she’d been left by biological parents who had been too impoverished to raise her.
Cargo got married in her 30s, and in the 1960s, the family moved to Pinellas County. Though she continued to play for herself, her primary focus became her family, her son, Bob, said.
Bob, 62, said his mother tried to instill a sense of music into her two sons, packing a lunch for him to eat in the car as she’d drive him during his lunch break during school to band practices, but it didn’t really stick the way it did for her.
But when his father died in 1986, Bob said he realized how much a part of Helen’s life her music was.
“Out came the trombone again and she just flew with it,” he said.
Cargo joined the Pinellas Park Civic Orchestra and St. Pete Community Band. She now plays for St. Pete Masonic Band in addition to the South Pasadena Community Band she helped form.
Jim King, 81, a saxophone player, said he’s only come to learn more about Helen recently as the band planned a tribute to her for her 100th birthday at a recent concert — they played Miss Trombone.