James Poynton and David Poynton

Recorded August 5, 2017 Archived August 5, 2017 40:18 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: chi002211


David (39) and James "Jim" (75) talk about Jim's parents, particularly Jim's father who worked as a salesman. Jim talks about his mother who was an avid reader and lifelong learner.

Subject Log / Time Code

Jim's father had a piece of advice: talk to the elevator operator. In other words, respect everyone you meet.
Jim's father always took care of "the little guy." He helped steel workers while they were on strike in Chicago in the 1950s.
Jim talks about his mother, who was quiet and private. She didn't have many friends but when she did, they were very close.
Jim's family went to church. They would walk but if they ever had to take a car, there would be 10 people in the car.
David asks Jim what he learned from his parents. Jim says he learned respect and failure.
Jim talks about why he started reading voraciously. He went to law school and realized how much he didn't know from speaking with other students.


  • James Poynton
  • David Poynton

Recording Location

Chicago Cultural Center

Venue / Recording Kit



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00:02 My name is David pointing. I'm 39 years old. Today is August 5th 2017. We're in Chicago, Illinois, and I'm here today to talk to my father. I miss son.

00:15 I'm his father James Boynton. I'm 75 years old. We're at the cultural center in Chicago on August 5th 2017, and they said I'm David's father and proud to be so. Thanks.

00:37 So I really appreciate you doing this with me today dad. I was in the car thinking about this this opportunity and the the thing that I really like to find out from you and then be able to put down in a recording is a lot of the history of your mom and dad. I was fortunate enough that with a dead mom's father lived with us for. Of time when I got to know him very well. I never got to meet your parents and it's

01:06 The whole I feel in my life sometimes and so I was really hoping to find out more about them.

01:11 Well, I think one of the most interesting things Dave is my mother was Helen of Troy.

01:16 That's why she was Helen Corrigan, but she lived in Troy New York and my dad grew up in this area in the midwest mainly Chicago or his father had emigrated to from upstate New York and was a lawyer in South Chicago. And at that time it was a separate community and then it got merged into Chicago and he became a lawyer in the Chicago system and my dad lived in went to school here and everything and one of his jobs was with the Chicago motor club and he was an investigator and that brought him out to the east coast and that's how he met mom, my mom and basically it all their courtship took place in Upstate New York around the skiing area up there. Not that they were scares but up around Lake Placid and so forth.

02:16 And that's the beginning of their courtship and then my dad will end up taking a job in Peoria, Illinois during the war time because he was too old. He was when I was born. He was 35 years old and he took the job as a Salesman for a surgical surgical supply business and Colbert. I think it was the name of it down in Peoria and that's of course where I was born in Peoria and then following that my sister was born down there and interesting enough. She was born on Christmas Day at the same hospital that I was born at so you can buddy or later. The other interesting tidbit about your life is when we are baptized the World Went Crazy the day I was baptized and that was December 7th 1941 being born in October 6th, and then waiting a month or so and then December

03:17 It's all in fun things to have in your background. What brought the family back to Chicago adjust relationship which Chicago because again his parents both were Chicago people and business and he got into the insurance business. He was a lawyer he had graduated from I believe was Kent College here now the Marshall College and so he got himself a job with the insurance company really the old Hartford group and raised a children, you know on the sand and darting 35. Yeah. I didn't know that I know and I think she lost one child and in the birth process, but it brought them back to Chicago, you know, and history was basically written back there because we lived on 128th and emerald which is like

04:13 Almost at the end of Chicago on the south side and my dad had too many children. So they threw us out of the apartment. So that's when he bought a home and basically we move from the suburbs into the city. We moved from 128th and emerald to 92nd and Cottage Grove, which is that was tough Intercity stuff at the time and not not like today but you know, it was tough with stuff and as a result of that he was a landlord because the property that he bought had a facility on it to rent out in the back like a back home and that helped him raise a family. What kind of structure was that? Was it a coach house or a little Coach House right in front of another elegant Coach House for anything but someplace that he read it out. So what type of renter's would usually be bad in your backyard.

05:10 It it was people that were normal people like that the ones I remember most was a woman that had one shot one guy and one child. Do you know and very nice people never had a problem. Then I'll just work out nice and the other interesting thing about where I lived and I tell people that I'm one of the most prejudicial guys you'll ever find. Okay, and it's not what people think it's because the neighborhood that my parents moved to in 92nd and cottage had many many ethnic groups Irish polish Italian hungarians blacks some Jewish people and then we had Christian and Catholics and methodists and so forth and then boys and girls and I learned because of my parents and what they taught me that the only prejudiced that one should have is whether or not the people were good. People are bad people and it didn't matter what their ethnic background was or

06:10 Sexual orientation meaning male female or whatever it is. They're good. People are bad people and if you hung around with the bad people you were going to be in trouble somewhere along the way and if you hung around with good people your life would be very good and and I have been blessed with that having happened to me. I've had a wonderful life as a result IT background from my parents. So what what parish did you grow up in I grew up in the original Parish was Saint Catherine of Genoa out on the Southside far south side, and I was in a choir believe it or not. I mean, you would not believe your father could sing, but I did and it was in a choir and then we moved into st.joe accum which is at basically 91st and Cottage Grove and then out to St. Cajetan's send by that time. I was in high school and going to Mount Carmel High School and doing that travel from hundred eleven Western down to 64th and Dante.

07:10 Just Stony Island base Riley.

07:14 So you said that grandma grandpa taught you that you know, hang with good people was one of the one of their life lessons that's that's served you well, is there anything else than other takeaways from that they'd want to whisper in my ear if I stayed at a chance?

07:34 Oh and my dad always gave me advice say hello to the elevator operator.

07:41 And basically what he was saying to me is talk to people.

07:45 They are working. They're all trying to survive and do the good things in life. And it's it's nice to be able to just say hello to them. And and you know me that's passed on you know, why I'm smiling and laughing right now and it's amazing what you learn what you learn, you know, and and any other thing is to respect people then no matter what may happen to them. No matter where they're coming from really they all have a life story to talk about, you know, and if you give them respect in a dignity that people deserve it's fun and it is fun in the end and you become good friends. Awasum. I think I've learned from you. Just inherently. I know that you ever told me to say hello to the elevator operator, but I find myself doing that very often as well Dave this really good one is

08:37 My dad, he always took care of the little guy.

08:42 Coming out of the war. There was a lot of men that came back to the United States that had problems and it was economic problems too. And he was in it. Is it worth free insurance companies during the day but he's sold insurance as an adjunct to help raise us. Well back in the fifties the steel company on strike. I'm in big huge United States will my dad even know he had nickels and dimes to rub it rub together. He paid their insurance policies so they could be sustained during this. Of time and end engendered huge loyalty.

09:22 For the part of the people that he interface with for my dad.

09:26 Some vertical back to the not having nickels and dimes to rub together. There was eight of you. How did how was that growing up kind of told me before that, you know that it was hard. But the only thing the only place we ever took a vacation was to his mother's and father's you know house in Michigan. That was our vacation and I don't think I ever recall going out to dinner.

09:55 And in all the years that we were together until later on and you don't want in life, but never never recalled is a family going out to dinner and how does that play into the store? You told me on the train come in here with starting to work at 8 years old. So it will it was there. Was there an expectation that you helped out that earlier was it just a life circumstance just a life services that they never my parents never force me to do a thing. Okay, but I had the opportunity to go hustle for Kingdom on and I'll never forget it it because homes are being built on the Southside that were all Bungalows and the end is Kingdom on in head aluminum awning that they sold the people for their front steps and windows and stuff and as an eight and nine year old kid, they would pick us up a couple other buddies of mine and then drive us to a neighborhood and we put circulars around for the product and then I gravitated from that at $0.10 an hour. I remember I remember to $0.10 an hour to pay per ride out there.

10:55 Outside with Calumet newspaper and then I like I told you driving down here. I have never not had a job in that net. Not anything because it was for semi or anything, but I just never wanted to not work. How do you pull that off during high school with all your support activities and everything like that? Well, I was cured for 2 because I would get jobs in the public domain. You know what I work for the County highway department through my uncle who was the head judge here in Chicago and then but at the same time, I would work two jobs one of the jobs I had was making the material that went down on the roads for striping and I would I became the manager of a crew that mix the stuff up cuz I couldn't travel but I could mix the stuff up on the near near Southside.

11:49 And then I would go to work at the night traffic court that I supervise during High School know why I'm sorry David in college. Okay. Sorry. I was thinking more like back in high school high school days cuz of what would happen is because of relationships. My dad had or more like Christmas time. I worked at the wholesale florist shop down here on right near Congress and State Street and Congress in Wabash and

12:19 Make money for the Christmas time high school days song with

12:37 With the family being on the Southside for so long. Are there any good Southside?

12:43 Stories I should die should know by yes. Yes Siri on this is a great one comes for my grandfather who he and his brother came into Chicago about 1890s something like that and his brother was a doctor and he set up South Shore hospital and they both worked out of South Chicago and South Chicago was a big-time steelmaking area for Wisconsin seal and US steel and had a lot of immigrants working in the Mills. And the best one that I ever heard was my grandfather had a irate father.

13:23 Come in with a son-in-law by the Scruff of the neck. He was a Polish immigrant came in with his son-in-law by the Scruff of the neck and his daughter and he demanded that the marriage that just recently took place be set aside and my grandfather said will Y and The Irate father said my daughter look big cheese big with child and it's just been married a couple months. And so my grandfather picked up on the message right away any trundle them across the hallway to his brother's office the doctor's office and the doctor set the Entourage down and he gently explain to the father irate father that you must understand.

14:06 The first one can come anytime it's the ones that are after that that are 9 months apart. So he's saved the boy's life marriage. So but it's a family story that was many and it down and then I believe it, you know because of the nature of the area that he did law office work in and I've seen a picture of him. I have a picture of him working in the walleye in the court system on the south side over the Hegewisch area focus on your father for a minute. Is there any time you remember me by Tim? Remember that like he would take you with him sometimes when he would do is yes, I never learned sales. I never knew what he look like for a long time because he smoked a cigar and I would travel with him doing his insurance work and the cigar smoke would be I heard he was

15:05 He was World Weiss. I mean, he would go with his buddies into these black and tan night clubs in the south side of Chicago the black and tans. I mean, these are black owned or black run night clubs and you know, we have friends down there and so he was in his friends would go in there and then and not be afraid and you also get along the way got to know some of the bad guys that were in the Chicago, but he would he would not hesitate saying that pay those are two circles I traveled in, you know, and without any injury not known all the bad stuff hurting like that just that I had fun.

15:58 What about Grandma? What can you tell me about her Erie, Pennsylvania? And her father was a railroad man for the Erie Lackawanna Railroad, and she then Mary Grandpa and came to Chicago and she was a very I wish a religious woman because again in two of her boys were priests became Carmelite priest father Walter who is the chaplain and during the second world war end in Father Ignatius or divide her dad who automatically left the priesthood but but she was very tune in to Mount Carmel High School. Are they got married at the Old Saint Clare's Church, which was a Carmelite facility and she would make scapulars for the carmelites and she was just very devoted. So you just told me about your grandma.

16:57 I was asking about my grandma your mother. That's that's the store. I wouldn't have thought they asked so I'm glad she was very quiet. She didn't make friends very well. Then she just didn't reach out. Okay, however when she did they were closed, okay, and and like again the neighborhood we lived in it was hard for her because she her mother never would let anyone into the house. It was an Irish.

17:32 And what you just said about the diversity in the neighborhood that you grew up with another woman on the other side. That was an American Indian family and then in the neighborhood other ethnic groups, but when she had made friends, they were closed, you know it and she would associate nicely with them, but she didn't graduate from high school, but she did work in very strategic areas. She was with the Arsenal in Watervliet. The Watervliet is right across the river the the Hudson River from Troy New York. So that's where she worked when she and my dad met she was working in the Arsenal.

18:19 And which would have been before the war know during the war Before the War for the US to Europe for the US was in at the Arsenal was operational to send another brother that but they were all we know is headquartered out there and she learned she never learned to bake because your mother never allowed her her mother was a baker.

18:55 And Bridget Brae was her mother's name and her father died when he was like when she was maybe fifteen years old or something like that. He died a young person and he too was a railroad guy of A Streetcar guy in in Troy New York. And so she was basically one of the Breadwinners for that family and her mother worked until she was 87 years old in the school system out there in Troy Albany, but Mom is the same way, but she was an Avid Reader mom loved to read I would come home and see her Readers Digest she would be going to the Reader's Digest, you know, and they're all kinds of stories and everything in and she just loved her children. She you know, whatever she could do for the kids and I mean ass kids all she would do, you know, and then she dedicated her life to that that was her lifelong ambition. She never worked after getting married and just took care of the household.

19:54 And she was a very soft soft the meaner person. What can I say? What would what would a typical Sunday Sunday at the point in home be used as you were growing up, you know, maybe trade school in the high school to get involved going to church church would be always on the agenda. I mean evil with eight children she would halt everybody we've all everybody. We had a long way to go to church when the kids were young from like 128 118th in and write down also Street a butt model like a little family of ducks are jump in the car 10 people that car wherever we went, you know, but one of the funny stories is it we had visited gram and Grandpa my grandma grandpa and they lived

20:54 80th and Harper and we got home two hundred 28th and emerald and a head count was made. It was only seven or should have been 8 who is Left Behind. Do you remember my sister? And then so my dad had a hotfoot it back to the grandpa and Grandma's at the last one. They were stronger yell a memorable. So you're so almost on the typical Sunday your you would pile under the car or you know know I'm we almost never was the only artery and uncle that lives not too far away. And then that would be those extent of our travel really, you know, and it would be all family style dinner at the table and they don't Sunday afternoon and and it was typical, you know and know until I got into sports and my brothers together.

21:54 Nice, do you think I'm going to give me a story with a bad word? Okay, but what it was classic family-wise my mother set them I left at the table that I have five sisters scattered about my brother's scattered about and my dad at the far end of the table. And so when I told you I was working down here on the feeder bascule Bridge. Well, as you know a construction site and you ought to know that it's a lot of bad words. So it was terrible hot summer day when I came home. I am taking the subway system out and then on the bus home and I was dog-tired. I'm a really beat up when I got home and so it was always family style, but everybody was at the table.

22:43 Now if I'm like 8 17 18 years old, my sisters are all the way down the line. Well, I sat down and I simply said will you pass the fucking potatoes?

22:56 My Five Sisters eyes open as wide as I've ever seen and I quickly picked up right away. And so I said once again, I'm going to ask you will you please pass the potatoes and my dad almost fell out of his chair laughing and your mom just pretending she had four different a different reasons, but good warm family. Will there's

23:38 Five little ones in the family. Now. There's five little ones in the family now, it's Aunt with Sam doing this recently. What that's for an engineer. Oh, yeah. I should I should I should have I should have had that better. Anyway, what what would you like them to hear and to know about Grandma and Grandpa and and life lessons that they could learn from them, you know David same thing whenever I'm with the kids that I was Sam courses too young yet, but the other guys I try and say to them respect.

24:15 Do sings don't be afraid to do things you're going to fail. But so what everybody in life fails just move on just move on with it and and give all the respect you can do your parents and your uncles and aunts and I think you know, they love their uncles and aunts because they're getting respect from them. You know, you guys are in cocaine in there with the same kind of philosophy is it move on to things and so if if I can pass those Concepts on to them at their age as they grow and mature I'm happy. I feel like I'm successful because I certainly feel success with the four of you guys. So you had to talk about Grandma being an avid reader. Do you think that that rubbed off on you at all in that is any other reason that it led to you?

25:15 Being such a lifelong learner

25:19 No, I don't. I don't I really don't I just picked up to reading I mean, I I liked it and I'll give you a story about me. And how what happened is it when I got into law school?

25:37 At the Paul I had my undergraduate degree 3 years of business no electives. So I had no Arts programs or any how you know, a literature and all that. So I get into law school and I'm with a group of guys and gals that are from various liberal arts and Engineering disciplines and table lunch table. They would talk about, you know, a Dostoyevsky or do you talk about the artist and you know and and and and and and and and I felt like I'm stupid, you know, and it was just totally pure accidental that I read on the paper in the magazine and a paper magazine coming down one day to school the time reading program.

26:25 And the time reading program says we're going to send you three books.

26:29 Every couple months of our selection that were crossover all the liberal arts areas Stalingrad point of return the screwtape letters and I mean just wide variety and I said, I don't have to go to classes. I can read these things. So I subscribe to it. And from that point on I learned to read meaning I could take myself anywhere. I wanted to go not only from our location point of view but a mental point of view, you know psychology psychological or whatever maybe and to this day. I still pick up my books. I'm reading one today. I just told you about the Renaissance Man Makaveli and stinks it were taking place in Italy in 1490. Awesome. But one of the things I learned by doing that is not eating enough, but things don't change.

27:30 Things do not change everything that was taken place from a political point of view with Machiavellian and all those people at that time are still taking place today in our society.

27:45 So the point of make is a dead rat that got me into reading I was not forced into it, but I saw him the need that hey if I want to know things I better do it and so that got me into reading and that's not even what I was asking about. I was really thinking more just you're taking yourself from you know, the the the neighborhood you were told us earlier that it was a rough neighborhood and then got yourself through high school got into college got through DePaul got into law school ended up not working out, but I'm getting an MBA. I was more curious if that desire that drive for an education came from my mother because she hadn't been there and I could see

28:35 I could see the pain in her when she couldn't talk about not graduating from high school.

28:43 And I said, I'll never let that happen to me and I flunked out of law school after 2 years, but I just gave it up. I didn't I wasn't for all kinds of reasons I gave it up, but then I want to continue and that's when I went and got my MBA in economics. And I told you the story how the reason I got it is I was taking the train all the time. So I did all my reading on the trains and it got me through. Where is if I was driving I could have done that. So and that's because you were going up north to work for Illinois Bell, right and you were taking the train from Riverdale. So I take the train downtown the only Central come to this building here that we're in right now basically and get off at Randolph the Randolph Street walk over to the subway on State Street and 5th South State Street Subway up to Montrose and in Montrose catch the bus the trolley bus at a trolley bus at Montrose to Linder.

29:43 Well, there's a couple hours a day and I did my reading myself and it was just because I wanted to do it. No one could I realize that no one could take it away from me once I got my in my high school ring that I got my undergraduate ring. No one can take it away. They can take the Rings away. I don't care but they can't take this away up in my brain. So that just was my motivation lesson for the for the kids too. And I think that especially doing a great job of passing stuff like that on to them and in my mom to your mother is sitting Yoshi Sossaman and making sure the kids have good books.

30:27 Drake

30:30 I've kind of come towards the end of a question that I had what what weird things you were thinking about us being able to talk about while we were in here was there. Was there anything that you had will it? I think Dave the biggest thing for me personally is a joy of my life is too thinks one of the one of the best things that ever happened to me is very your mom. You know what it was I was divorced and they got divorced to do it, you know, but but it just there's a whole backstory to that but your mom was the best thing that ever happened to me and the second thing that you children in to see two things one how you're growing up is good solid human beings doing what you love to do in making things happen making things happen. Any other part of that is to see the joy of it that each of you are experiencing and and I don't have to do any

31:30 Meals for for my satisfaction. I don't need money. I don't you know, I don't have to have great jobs or I can just sit back and observe and say pointing you did something right?

31:45 Well, you are 2 weeks from now will be up at Jen's cabin. And I think it's become one of one of two weekends that everybody looks forward to every year because the family gets together and you just get to see what an amazing group of people we are. One thing. I want to make sure that you know is Ted. We appreciate that. It's because of you and the things you've done and the sacrifices you've made your life to get all of us to where we are and to be the people that we are.

32:15 Thank you. I think it's Keith. It is it is nnn what I enjoy seeing with you guys is you do the same thing. I do is surround yourself with good people and in there isn't any the nicer in my in my estimation then seen that happen because I know so many people and you know, so many people that they get involved with the wrong people for whatever reason and their life is garbage and then turns out to be garbage. So thank you David. I mean it that makes me feel good and and I feel that I feel it from every one of you guys, you know,

32:53 And we know what we look at we look at you guys and we see how you interface with each other. I mean we all critique and and yellow Hammer each other and it's all open that nobody feels bad when you get you know last upon or you know, whatever may be a little bit or whatever it is. It's it's interesting that you come back to surround ourselves with good people because that was what you started with saying is the lesson that Grandma Grandpa gave to you. So just that I find it interesting that the stories kind of come full circle. Yep. Yep. Yep, just being people and in and you can see that all it started all the way back with my my grandfather because that was his or her ER Aurora of people meaning they were all positive in his life, you know and in it and he helped people in a one of the things I remember in school.

33:53 In grammar in high school is a priest that was teaching me a father Desales. SoJO points end up.

34:03 Okay, so I stood up and he would he knew of course, you know my uncle's a priest. He said I want everybody in this classroom to know that Jim point in his grandfather could have been one of the richest man in Chicago.

34:20 If he wasn't an honest upright person.

34:27 And he gave me his watch the priest took the watch off his wrist and gave me his wife. What's the story behind the father represented Calumet and Hecla The Witches the mining company for or door bills, and then he was in the Mills. I mean you only work for the u.s. Steel in and so forth and did work for them. And it one time you own property up there and in Calumet Michigan, but I never found the story to that other than he was a lawyer in Owen and they had opportunity to do crazy things.

35:05 Represents the order whatever it was, but it was you know, I'm out of the blue. Okay, never doing what a thing to have happen.

35:23 Continue doing that. No, unfortunately my father passed away like three or four months after he retired he retired at 65 and just prior to that he was found that he had cancer and it was a very aggressive cancer and in June he died, but he retired from selling insurance and retire from the insurance company at the downtown area or an insurance company in never got to see and in this is one of these always bother me. He never got to see the joy of his children growing up and everything one more thing that you know, and you know, this David what he inculcated in me roses.

36:12 He loved growing roses and and and as a result that at you know, I love reason roses. So

36:27 You like you haven't touched on or anything that you wanted to?

36:35 Don't know it just you know, if you are the one that one of the funniest stories at David and I have in this food pastera posterity. Is it you know your children never believe you, right? Okay, so David is a civil engineer and he be built a new police station out in Hardeeville neighborhood Morgan Park and he said Dad come down. I'd like to show you around the new facility and he was a project manager for this after you play golf on Saturday. So we should be glad to so I took your invitation I met you down there. You showed me around to the awesome facility brand new state-of-the-art police station and all the sudden buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz the mirrors, mirrors, Okay big deal. So we get in line with everybody else and is Samira steps into the building with the sheriff at the time?

37:35 Mike Sheehan, Mike looks at me and says point and what are you doing here? Will David almost fell over and in Mike Sheehan and I were good friends. We played a lot of all together on the Southside and Mike Sheehan turns to the Mary's Admiral. I can meet your place. We went to law school together and I know him since a kid my jaw hit the floor and I had to take it back out. And so we afterwards we I took a picture of Mike Shannon and David in front of the building he worked on but that was that was the one fabulous thing that happened between us because now there's a believability. Yes. Now I have now I have to believe every story and then verify whether or not it's true.

38:29 You know if it was funny I would have went for a run today and I told you this earlier and one of the things that you know, I was always amazed me about you was the fact that you kept playing basketball until you were deep into your 50s and 60s and getting the opportunity to do that with you. So I was as I was when I was just thinking about how you've kind of put that into me and I know you know even to this day I don't I enjoy being physically physically active in some way. But if I'm going to tell a story I think the story that I would tell us the time that you took me to play basketball with you and the the guy drove the lane and I went to strip the ball from him and he had two hands on the ball and I only had one and he took my arm with him and we found out later dislocated my shoulder you however wanted to keep playing so you stuck me on the sidelines.

39:28 Basically, you don't suck it off. Yeah, I can't be that bad. I don't know why. I don't know why you're not getting back in the game, and we get home from your walk across the rock walk across the fields. We live behind behind the school. I get home. I like to pet my shoulder still really hurts, and I think it was mom to finally convince you to take me to the hospital and find out that I had a dislocated shoulder for a good two hours. So, but but did Indian without telling a joke was very appreciative as I was running today that that was just something you only built into me all the way back from going on family vacations in Michigan and kicking me in the butt to go down to the beach and run a mile with you. It's stuck. So, thank you.

40:16 Thank you.