Migrant Oral Histories

Project: Oral History Project

Interviewee: Jim Dunn

Interviewer: Eddye Vanderkwaak

Date: 04/13/15

Eddye: You went into fabulous detail about the beginning of your journey here and some about your high school experiences. I was wondering if you could tell me more about your childhood?

Jim: I grew up in an Italian neighborhood. Most of my friends grew up to be either cops or gangsters, just like in the movies. So when I met them later,. I had kind of an “in”. At age 10 we moved to the ‘burbs, fairly typical life. Oh, I started school early – age 4, because I turned 5 in November. I skipped grade 4, so I was 2 years ahead of my age group and my classmates were 2 years older than I. When I started High School, it was fairly awkward socially. Luckily (and I think I told you this already) I started playing the guitar in a rock n roll band at the exact time that the coolest thing you could do was to play guitar in a rock n roll band.

Eddye: Were there any cool family traditions you practiced or perhaps have carried over into your own family today?

Jim: I don’t recall any family traditions as such. I do remember a LOT of love. My parents were always “smooching” and they were always hugging and kissing us. It took me years to realize that not everyone had that luxury. And that I have brought to my own family.

Eddye: What are your parents like? What are their backgrounds?

Jim: My Mother was born in Scotland and came to Canada at an early age – 9 or 10 months. Strict, old fashioned family, later she only spoke with that accent when she was mad at us.

My dad was and is my hero. Without exaggeration I can say that he was the smartest (and wisest) man I have ever met. He knew literally everything, and was unstoppable at trivial pursuit. J He was born in St Catharine’s ON and grew up in Niagara Falls ON. My mother and he were High School sweethearts, and married young — 21 and 19 years of age. They came to Sudbury for a vacation and never left.

Eddye: How did marriage and the beginning of building your family impact your music?

Jim: My Dad was always around us when we were kids – He told us it’s not quality time, it’s quantity time. (He was right). When we were playing baseball or football, there were always a lot of kids and my Dad. He had skills so the other kids loved having him. When we knew we were pregnant with Matt, I decided to quit playing “out” and to be a Dad. I was the dad always around — I joked that at parent meeting there were a dozen Moms and me. By the time Matt was born, I had been playing for 24 years all told, and 13 of it “on the road”. I had no second thoughts; it could be someone else’s turn. I was a Band Director then, so when we came to DSM no one knew of my “past life”; Rieman’s hired me as a Band expert. It was kind of behind me – I had retired. But between the store and playing in Church, my name got out, and I have “emerged” like the butterfly from the cocoon. J

Eddye: So I know that you still play today and church and stuff. Anywhere else? Do you teach music at all?

Jim: I have filled in with a few bands, have played some gigs at the Playhouse, and other musicals (Ogden, Nevada, and Newton) but what excites me now I have started playing with a band called Get Off My Lawn. They are guys like me, older, that still can rock. They are established so I don’t have to do that “starting out” thing. I used to teach lessons but that fire went out a long time ago. I don’t enjoy it anymore.

Eddye: Tell me more about you and what you are doing today? As you reflect on your life is there anything you would change? Anything that you wouldn’t change – not for a single moment?

Jim: Today: Grandkids (If we’d known how much fun they are we’d have had them first!) and of course our kids. Audrey & I have adjusted to the Empty Nester thing pretty well, and enjoy being able to be together. I have become more physical (after taking 35 years off from healthy living!): distance running, strenuous exercises, eating better. I recently saw a T.V. program about Centenarians and I told Audrey that’s my ambition. My life has been unbelievably blessed, and though I suppose it would have been nice to “make it” I don’t think I would change anything.