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Biography: Carl Lawrence Jones (1927-2003)

Carl Lawrence Jones (1927-2003)

Carl Lawrence Jones (1927–2003)

My father, Carl Lawrence Jones, was a great inspi­ra­tion to me, and a man who lived through many struggles.

At the age of 16, he dropped out of school and took a train from West Logan, West Virginia to Seattle, Washington, where he lived on his Uncle Orvis’s farm and took a bus in to work in the stock room at Boeing.

While still under age, he joined the Navy with the approval of his par­ents, but ended up state­side, mainly in the Nebraska Navy at the US Naval Ammunition Depot, Hastings, Nebraska. (It was in Hastings that he met my mother.)

He was a recov­er­ing alco­holic, sober from 1964 until the day he died. He felt an emo­tional oblig­a­tion to help oth­ers try­ing to recover from alco­holism, and was an active mem­ber of a small group that met orig­i­nally in everyone’s homes.

My dad was largely self-educated, but had attended at least three col­leges: Farragut College and Technical Institute, Idaho (a school that had appeared just after the War on the site of Farragut Naval Training Station, and didn’t last long), 1946–1949, before going broke; San Jose State College (just after my par­ents mar­ried); and LA Valley College (later called CSU Northridge), but never received a degree. He told me that he was only an alge­bra class away from his Bachelor’s in busi­ness admin­is­tra­tion. He never felt good at math, and tried more than once to fin­ish college-level alge­bra. (In his later years, he was a long-time trea­surer of AA orga­ni­za­tions in Southern California and New Mexico.)

He was a vora­cious and wide reader, inter­ested in lit­er­a­ture, cul­ture, med­i­cine, psy­chi­a­try, big band jazz, social jus­tice, his­tory, and anthro­pol­ogy. The list of writ­ers he intro­duced me to, and whose works adorned our walls was sim­ply amaz­ing now that I think about it: James Joyce, Bronislaw Malinowski, E. B. White, Franz Kafka, Gustave Flaubert, Sophocles, John Steinbeck, Margaret Mead, Dashiell Hammett, Lewis Thomas, Herman Melville, Kurt Vonnegut, Guy de Maupassant, Lucretius Appelius, D. H. Lawrence, Samuel Johnson, Lillian Hellman, Bernard DeVoto, C. S. Lewis (the non-fiction works), W. Somerset Maugham, William Faulkner (espe­cially The Reivers) … I could go on, and prob­a­bly will at some point.

He was ded­i­cated to the social equal­ity of African-Americans and grew up offended by Jim Crow West Virginia. He told me once that the main rea­son he left the South was to get away from the treat­ment of African-Americans he wit­nessed there. He was also a life-long sup­porter of the union move­ment, his father hav­ing been a long-time union local pres­i­dent of the International Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen. In pol­i­tics, he was an FDR Democrat.

He was inter­ested in music, espe­cially in the big band jazz and folk music of his youth. He also lis­tened to more recent jazz, and pop­u­lar music, includ­ing Jim Croce, the Beatles, and Eric Clapton. In clas­si­cal music, he favored the Romantic period, espe­cially Beethoven.

His work life had its chal­lenges. His expe­ri­ences in the Navy and at Boeing led him toward aero­space as he moved to Los Angeles in the late 1940’s from Idaho. He worked in the stock room at Borg-Warner, and later was in pur­chas­ing at a num­ber of air­plane man­u­fac­tur­ers and retro-fitters: Ted Smith, American Aviation, and Volpar. The work was cycli­cal, how­ever, and he was often out of work because of a lay­off (American Aviation and Volpar), or a fac­tory mov­ing to Texas (Ted Smith). He did what he had to do, and in his 60s, for exam­ple, was doing paint­ing when he couldn’t come by a job in aero­space purchasing.

As you may have been able to tell, I felt an affin­ity with my father that goes beyond words. There were many ways that we thought alike, had sim­i­lar tastes and predilec­tions. He liked a leisurely day with a book bet­ter than most peo­ple. He could also be dif­fi­cult to get close to, and argu­men­ta­tive. I believe much of this stemmed from a sad­ness that he was able to let go of in his later years. He told me that Christmas was always a sad time for him, and later, that this feel­ing had soft­ened, and that he no longer felt that way.

I wish he were around and healthy, as there is much he would be inter­ested in the fam­ily sto­ries I have uncov­ered. And I would like to sit down and finally read Stendhal’s The Red and The Black with him, as I long said I would …

Farragut State Park,” Wikipedia: : accessed 12 May 2010.

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