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James "Jim" Jones Transcript

Minnesota Deaf Heritage Oral-Visual Interview with James “Jim” Jones

Background Information

Interview Information

This interview with James “Jim” Jones (JJ) was incorporated into the Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans’ (MNCDHH) Oral-Visual History Project. This interview was originally produced by the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Metro Division (DHHSD) of the Minnesota Department of Human Services. This interview took place in 1997. The interviewer was Robert “Bob” Cook (BC).

Translation Notes

A note about translation of this interview: The interview was recorded in American Sign Language (ASL). The interviewer and interviewee used ASL as a first language, and the signed information was translated into vernacular or spoken English by interpreters.

This transcript and the open captions in the video are based on the spoken English information.

Actions are in brackets. Translation notes are in parentheses and italics (using the emphasis font), and they represent additional information and corrections about what was said.

Transcript of Interview with James “Jim” Jones

Key to names:

JJ = James “Jim” Jones (signs in American Sign Language, voiced in English by interpreters)

BC = Robert “Bob” Cook (signs in American Sign Language, voiced in English by interpreters)

[Visual of title graphic “Minnesota Deaf Heritage: An Interview with Jim Jones”]

[Robert “Bob” Cook is sitting with James “Jim” Jones for the interview.]

BC: Well, hello. My name is Bob Cook. I am very excited to have a very special guest with us here today. A leader within the Deaf community – Jim Jones. I’m going to be asking him questions about his life, things like growing up. And here he is, Jim Jones.

JJ: Now, wait a minute, you’re going to be asking me all about my life, my entire life? Oh, no, that’s going to take us more than seventy years, here. I think, well let me see if I can try to briefly summarize some of the major events in my life. Now, I wasn’t born Deaf. I was born dumb, but I wasn’t born Deaf. I grew up in Indiana, and I became Deaf at the age of five from spinal meningitis. And, shortly after that my father began trying to find where would be an appropriate place for me to gain my education. In that search, we found that the state school for the Deaf was located close to our home. And that’s where I spent most of my years, at the school for the Deaf. During that time, boy, the worst part was that struggle with speech and speechreading. Signing was no problem at all, and that’s what I spent most of my time doing. But I had to do that speech and speech training. After graduation, I went to Gallaudet University. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for my future, but I had taken a chemistry class and fell in love with it. I loved science. And I decided to major in that. And while I was at Gallaudet, of course, I met the girl of my dreams and married her. And then I started at the U (University of Minnesota).

BC: Now, wait a minute. Your wife? What’s your wife’s name?

JJ: My wife is Eldora, well, Eldora Lux. That was her maiden name, Lux. And she graduated from the state academy in Faribault (Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf – MSAD). Anyways, let me see, going back to the University of Minnesota, where I started my first career. I was working as a scientist, and worked there for twenty years. And then I was offered an opportunity at St. Paul TVI (Technical Vocational Institute), and made the move over there for a second career, a different job, well truly a different life. And I taught at TVI for twenty years. And now I’m beginning my sixth year of my third twenty- year career, doing my time here in God’s waiting room.

BC: You’ve had many interesting and different careers, but what I want to focus on here is your work at the University of Minnesota as a chemist. What exactly did you do? Was it working in pathology?

JJ: Oh, no, no, no. We worked on living people, not dead people. And what I was doing then was research on the heart, well, actually blood flow. We did a lot of work in that area. Well, you know here in Minnesota we have a high incidence of frostbite, and so what we were trying to do was experiment and find what effect that might have on blood flow in individuals. So a lot of our research dealt with timing - the time it took for the blood to flow around the circulatory system to return back to the heart. We found on average, it was seventeen seconds for people.

BC: It didn’t matter how tall or how short a person was? It was still seventeen seconds for the blood to go through one cycle?

JJ: On average, yes.

BC: And you say you worked as a chemist. Did you have any interpreters that worked with you? How did you communicate with people?

JJ: That was a problem. Sometimes I was required to do continuing education work, to broaden my field of knowledge in chemistry. And so I had to go to classes that were offered at the University. There were no interpreters at that time. It was 1950 to 1970 that I spent my time at the U. And through that whole time there were no interpreters; it was entirely speech and speechreading that I had to depend on. And the professors never attended to me or spoke to me in the class. So I had to pretty much depend on people who might be willing to give me their notes or act as note takers for me in class. There were three nurses that I worked with in that twenty- year period, and they got to be pretty good, well good enough, at knowing sign (American Sign Language – ASL). And, so every once in a while for meetings and things like that, that we would have, we would use them as interpreters. That probably wasn’t the best situation, but it worked out all right. Most of the time what I had to do was have people talk directly to me, which was a difficult task because people wanted to look all about the room and never attend to me or give me good eye contact. But, then I moved to St. Paul TVI, and there was a totally different story. Here I had an interpreter every time I needed one. All I would have to do is say, “Would you mind coming with me?” It was really easy. There was no communication problem, and the communication difference between TVI and the University was just huge.

BC: You know I’ve had some of the same problems with communication access and I’m kind of curious here. When you moved to TVI, who offered you that? Why did you make that move?

JJ: Really, why it was offered to me, I’m not quite sure. But, Tim Jaech was the first instructor at the TVI Program when it was established, and Bob Lauritsen, the director at that time, had been working with Tim for one year. Well, Tim had found a better position back in his home state of California. The two of them sat down to try to discuss who might be an appropriate replacement for Tim when he left. I have no idea how my name came up, but Tim offered my name. He had heard about me in the community and he thought I might be a good replacement. So, they contacted me and it was a big decision for my family, I remember, the total change in career. But, it was a challenge and I went for it.

BC: OK, so you made the move over to TVI. You were also very involved in the Deaf community. There’s so many different things we could talk about, that I could ask you about. I know one in particular, that you are very active in the national fraternity. That’s the selling of insurance, right? Can you explain a little bit more to me about that?

JJ: Well, really what I need to do is take us way back quite a few years, to when I was a student at the state academy for Deaf students in Indiana. I was a leader of the school, and was identified as an individual that would probably be good to work with Frat (National Fraternal Society of the Deaf – NFSD). That was a nice way to earn some extra money. Unfortunately, Frat wasn’t doing very well at that time, in the area, so they were looking for people who might be interested in officers’ positions, and I was willing to become the vice-president. I was selected to be the vice-president and I thought I should certainly learn a little bit more about what I was going to talk about, so I studied the insurance area. And then I was appointed to the vice-presidency and I served on various positions for sixteen years on the board of directors for Frat. I served as the president at one time in and in different positions on the board of directors. I think we did a real good job during my interim.

BC: You’re still involved with the Frat, is that right?

JJ: Well, yes as a member. I’m not active, no.

BC: I know they still have meetings. Is it the first Saturday of each month?

JJ: Local Frat meetings, yes. I go to those when I can, but right now I’m kind of stuck with children, well grandchildren, and that keeps me pretty busy.

BC: Well, now wait, this is the first you’ve talked about this. You have children? How many?

JJ: Well, we have five children, the first being a girl and the rest are all boys. They’re all grown and out of the house now. Really, I can’t say my little children, I have to say my big children.

BC: Are they Deaf or hearing?

JJ: They’re all hearing, all of them. All are married, and all have children of their own. Seventeen - oh, no no no no no, I’m going ahead of myself here. Ah, no, I have thirteen grandchildren, the oldest of which is twenty years old and the youngest is um-six-seven months. Seven months. 

BC: You must be very proud of them. Do they keep you busy?

JJ: Oh yes. Yes, we’ve been very busy. We take care of them quite often. We babysit one of the children - that was the one that I was mentioning, six-seven months old. We babysit every Wednesday and another set of three kids, we babysit every Thursday. So, my time on Wednesdays and Thursdays is pretty well committed. Every once in a while a meeting will pop up, and I will need to go someplace else, and then my wife steps in and takes care of that, but, ah – I help her out.

BC: Now, your wife, that’s Eldora, is she also a member of the Frat?

JJ: Well, not as active a member as I was, but certainly a member, yes.

BC: OK then, other than being involved with the Frat, you’re also involved with Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens (MADC). How long have you been involved with that organization?

JJ: Ha, well, I’m not really sure. Ahhh, hmmm, well 19 – well, early ‘50s, early ‘50s is when I joined MADC, and then I became actively involved. I was the secretary for four years and a board member for many years. I lose count. I’m not a board member anymore. I still certainly have my interest and keep my nose in their business as much as possible. I try to keep aware of their activities on the behalf of Deaf Minnesotans.

BC: Yeah, I can remember when I was at the school for the Deaf. It was in my senior year in 1959 right before graduation, and Dr. Lauritsen was encouraging all of us to join MADC. The membership only cost five dollars for a lifetime. Well, I took that bait right away and joined. And I noticed when I got my membership card back, I looked at the secretary, and it said “Jim Jones.” And now I am here with you. This is so interesting.

JJ: Oh, hmm, I don’t remember signing your card, but I was signing so many cards back then, a stack at a time. It’s certainly possible.

BC: I can only imagine. Ok, next thing to talk about, you’re also president of the Minnesota Deaf Senior Citizens (MDSC). What, don’t you ever get tired?

JJ: Ha, well really I joined Minnesota Deaf Senior Citizens - MDSC - and thought I’ll just sit back and see how they can serve me. Then, all of the sudden people were coming to me for assistance with this or that, and I noticed – “Hmmm, I think that group can certainly do better.” And so I decided to stick my neck in the midst of it, and I got heavily involved. And it’s been kind of quiet as an organization, but I certainly shook everybody up. And we’ve started to do quite a few things now. And let me see, 1996, I just became president, it’s only been a few months, and we’ve just got started, but I’ve been kept pretty busy. Next April, we’re going to have our next national convention in Phoenix, Arizona. And, just last week I got a letter from Phoenix, talking about sixty Deaf people had already indicated they’re going to be going from Minnesota. I don’t think we are going to be the largest contingent, of course, because California is right next door to Arizona, and there’s a huge number there. You can imagine how many people will come in from the California area. But, oh, it’s just a wonderful group, and no politics. Just socializing and talking about people’s lives, and catching up, and finding out what’s going on in different communities. It’s truly a wonderful experience. This will be our fourth national convention, and I’ve gone to all of them so far. I really enjoy them. So you see, it pays to be old.

BC: Well, pretty soon I’m going to be joining you. It seems like I’m always following in your footsteps. Now, you said that there’s no politics involved in these meetings and conferences. What do you discuss if there’s no politics?

JJ: Well, I have to say that when we go to Phoenix, it’s more of a senior citizen’s conference, so it’s really more focused on educational information. We get together to discuss issues and ideas or subjects that are of interest to us and happening on a national part, you know. And we also get benefits, because we have a badge that will let us into parks at a discount. We play a lot of bridge and we have instruction on how to play bridge better. Oh, but probably the most well attended workshops are typically on sex. It just goes to prove you are never too old to enjoy sex. Isn’t that interesting?

BC: So, meaning if you didn’t have sex, that your life would not be worth living?

JJ: Well, that’s certainly my perspective.

BC: Can the Deaf seniors, do they work with AARP (American Association of Retired People)?

JJ: Well, no, we’re not very happy with AARP, because, as an organization, they refuse to provide interpreters. So, let’s see, the last two meetings, we discussed about going under NAD (National Association of the Deaf) or AARP or being a free organization with an identity of our own. And, we really didn’t want to have anybody else taking control of us or having control over us, and we didn’t like AARP. NAD was OK, but AARP didn’t provide us interpreters, so we decided the best for us would be to go out on our own. Of course, it means that money is always an issue, but money is typically an issue. So, I think it’s all right. We’ve been – well, we’re having our fourth national conference, and we seem to be going along just fine, everybody enjoys themselves. We always see smiling faces every time we go. It’s interesting, for example, one meeting two years ago, I met a lot of friends. It was in Columbus, Ohio, and I met so many of my friends. And we were shaking hands, and everybody was saying, “How are you?” “How are you?” That’s how people always would greet each other and say, “How are you?”  And people would say, “Oh, I’m fine, but I’m taking this medicine for my blood pressure,” or “I’m having this problem, or that problem,” or “I’m on this medicine, or that.” Then I went to meet with one man, he said – I said, “How are you?” and he said, “Oh, I’m great, and I’m not on a single prescription, I’m not taking anything.” And I thought, that’s the kind of thing that you see. It’s really fun. It’s a lot of – it’s kind of funny, we really enjoy ourselves.

BC: So, Minnesota Deaf Senior Citizens, how long has that been established?

JJ: Well, I’m not really sure. As president I certainly should know more about the background. But I think it got its start in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s. It was established with a group or as a federation, a senior federation, I believe. There was a grant that allowed the group to form. And then we were able to hire an individual, her name was Peg Thomas, and she was able to secure continued funding for the group, that they were able to enjoy for a while. But as you know, money’s gotten tight, and grants have been halted in several regards, and so we really weren’t able to have Peg advance the way she would have liked to, so she left. And then another woman came in, and we weren’t very successful in getting any further grants. And we had moved ourselves out from the dependency on any other group. What we mostly wanted to do was just do social functions and things, and our own group of people weren’t very willing to subsidize the organization. So, it was difficult to get funding, but it seems to have grown as an organization. I’m not the only person that does work, other people have done a lot of volunteer time. And we try to keep ourselves going through that route.

BC: OK, suppose I join as a member. What is the cost?

JJ: Oh, it’s expensive! Five dollars a year! That’s expensive, eh?

BC: You’re teasing me.

JJ: Well, some people think five dollars is a lot of money. But, you’re a rich guy, Bob. You don’t have to worry. 

BC: OK, so MDSC, do they work with any other organizations, like MADC or D.E.A.F. (Inc.)?

JJ: Well, sure we do do work with the Deaf school. We just started working with the State Academy for Deaf students last year – well this year too. We have a grandparent program, grandmothers and grandfathers, where once a month, a group of us will go down to the state academy – it’s not always the same people, there are different people each time – and we interact with the students at the school. The students have the opportunity to ask us about our experiences, what we did when we were growing up, how our signs have changed over time, ask us about Deaf culture. And then we have time to interact with the children. Now, not the really young children, but it is enjoyable time for us. And I think both sides really benefit from that. Now with MADC and D.E.A.F., I think we can do service for them, volunteer service of sorts. So many of those organizations are crying for help. They really need people to help them out with all kinds of tasks. And well, why not ask senior citizens to come in and do some volunteer work, some volunteer jobs? Now, what kind? Well, that has to be answered yet. But I certainly think that our members can do letters, mailings and other kinds of office work. There certainly are things we can do. 

BC: OK, before I get off of this subject, I have one more question related to MDSC. How many members do you have?

JJ: At last count, I think 130. Over 130 now. It seems lately we have a few more people coming, nobody died. Nobody’s died, everybody’s in good health and they’re living longer and we’ve had more people join, so our numbers are increasing.

BC: OK, now, I remember that you used to be involved with the foster care program. You were taking care of somebody. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

JJ: Well, that was nothing. At one time we were doing foster care with an older lady. And, in that care process, what we were trying to do was provide her with some more independent living training. And I’ll have to let you know, that was a difficult, difficult job at that time. I really don’t think I would want to do foster children care anymore – well, foster care in my case, as it was. It certainly eats a lot of your time. One advantage, of course, was that my wife was not working so she had more time to put into this effort. But, I don’t know about doing that again. After several months you really find out how much time it takes up. And a lot of your energy as well.

BC: Yeah, I can relate to that, because I had a similar experience. Took care of a girl one time, and I know it did take a lot of energy. But, I did gain a lot of experience from that.

JJ: Oh, oh sure. It is a good experience and I would recommend it for anybody.

BC: Well, now I wanted to say thank you, Jim, for taking your time to come out here and be interviewed. Many thanks.

JJ: That’s OK.

 [Visual of end graphic “produced by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division, Metro Regional Service Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People, 1997”]

[Visual of end graphic “special thanks to Gordon Allen, Kathleen Moe, Lloyd Moe, Jim Jones, Bob Cook”]

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