From the beginning in San Rafael to family life in Fair Oaks, California, Jim’s life is a tale of family, traveling, teaching, yearbook, and the grace and mercy of God.
1955 – 1960 – age birth to four. The story begins on September 29, 1955 at Marin General Hospital in San Rafael, California. Born to James Robert Jordan and Doris Helen Mason Jordan, I first lived on La Pasada Way in the Santa Venetia neighborhood of San Rafael, California. Santa Venetia was a suburban neighborhood developed in the 50s that has a portion of the land that backs up to canals that can be navigated to head out into the bay toward San Francisco. Hence the name Santa Venetia. The Jordans had a number of friends close by – the Masons, the Crottys, the Tonnemachers, the Stirlings who all had kids roughly the same age. It was a great place to grow up from ages 1-4.
1960 – 1962 – age four to six. Starting school at Crowell Elementary. Some time during the summer of 1960, the Jordan fam left Marin County and struck out for the Central Valley, settling in the town of Turlock where my dad, James Robert Jordan had taken an assistant superintendent job. Bob and Doris rented a house in the country with a place for horses. There were open fields on either side of the house and barn and Markeley’s Dairy across the street. In those days Turlock was quite a sleepy little town. The university was still in the planning stages.
I remember when we built an arena off the barn in back for Sue and her horse. One of my most vivid memories is sitting in the living room one Christmas season and singing together along with a Mitch Miller Christmas album. I think inside the liner it came with song sheets too. I enjoyed that evening of singing so much and I don’t believe we ever did it again
I started school in the fall of 1960 at Crowell Elementary and attended both Kindergarten with Mrs. Bolin and first grade with Mrs. Christiansen. “I vividly remember that I was allowed, starting in kindergarten to ride my bike to school, a journey of close to two miles I think. Not sure what my parents were thinking.” Sometime during the first grade the school had a Book Fair and I bought my first books, Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little. My life as a reader had begun.
1962 – 1967 – age six to eleven. The Alta Vista years – Elementary School. In the summer of 1962, Bob made his next move up the administrative ladder and became the Superintendent of the Auburn Union Elementary School District. My parents, Bob and Doris, purchased a two story home at 195 Shields Avenue and Bob and Doris would live there for the rest of their lives. Before school began that September Jim and his mom were invited over by Alice Robie to the Robie’s home on Terrace Street for an introduction to the neighborhood.
I started second grade at Alta Vista Elementary with Mrs. Dorothy Hall. Third grade brought Mrs. Bonnie Slack; fourth grade Delores Flake; fifth grade, Marie Goetz; and sixth with Clarence Ericksen.
1967 – 1969 – age eleven to thirteen. The E.V. Cain years – Junior High. Starting in the fall of 1967, I next attended E.V. Cain Junior High for seventh and eighth grade. I played trumpet in the school band, played flag football, basketball, and ran track. On the basketball court I was primarily known for my ability to foul.
In the spring of 1968 we all faced the death of Martin Luther King in Memphis, but much closer to home was the tragic death of Robert Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in the California Presidential primary during the last weeks of the school year. We all could see and feel the impact this had on our teachers and our world.
One of the amazing aspects of the junior high era was the music. My friends and I in student government at E.V. Cain got to hire the live bands for the dances. It was an explosion of great music and new bands would play live at every junior high dance. A lot of Hendrix and Creedence covers. Nothing quite like slow dancing with a beautiful eighth grader to Donovan’s “Season of the Witch.”
Another remarkable part of the junior high scene were the Friday nights everyone spent at Auburn’s State Theatre. “Starting in seventh grade it went like this. You would go to the movies by yourself and then somehow hook up with your new love or the girl friend you had been seeing for months. No relationship ever lasted more than seven months was the rule. I remember kissing Cindy Smith who was the best friend of my best friend’s girlfriend Lynn Anderson.” Cindy was my first real kiss. I remember seeing The Bible and the Sound of Music. The first movie I ever remember seeing there was Goldfinger with my cousin Joe Maksim, my Aunt Jane’s son. I also saw The Great Escape and The Ten Commandments. Not at all sure on the dates on those.
Woodstock took place in August 1969 in that summer between eighth grade and high school. Music and concerts have always be important to me. I am pretty sure my first real concert was when my sister took me to the Memorial Auditorium to see Donovan.
1969 – 1973 – age thirteen to seventeen. The Placer High School Years.
Freshman Year – 1969-70. My high school journey at Placer High School in Auburn begin in the fall of 1969. Just a few weeks after Woodstock, I started high school. Cindy Polansky and I were voted “Freshman Boy” and “Freshman Girl” – the only two elected student government positions open to freshmen. I began my high school sports career in freshman football with Coach Bill Flake but broke my hand before ever playing in a game that year.
In late fall I joined the wrestling team also coached by Bill Flake and then ran track in the spring. I was pretty fast running in the 10. somethings in the 100 yard dash and won a lot of races, but I never got any faster than I was that year even though I ran track all four years.
Sophomore year -1970-71, was pretty amazing. It began with having an incredible year in JV football as the starting fullback on a team that won the SFL championship. In wrestling I placed third in the SFL at 177lbs at the varsity level and then incredibly, to everyone including myself, wrestled to a second-place in the sub-section tournament. This was one of those things that could just not happen, but it did. I had planned to take my girlfriend Leslie Kalim to the Soph-Senior formal dance that evening knowing that he would be out of the tournament before noon. However, I just keep winning, beating the seniors who were done with their seasons. I lost to Leon Adler from Nevada Union, aka the Caveman, and I got home at around 10 pm to find my girlfriend devastated on her living room couch.
During this year Young Life, a Christian outreach organization, had become a dominant force on campus. My best friend Paul Robie had attended a Young Life summer camp called Woodleaf in Northern California and we were having a weekly “Club” at people’s homes that every one attended.
On March 29, 1971 that spring the weekly Young Life meeting was held at Mary Ann and Dave Stouder’s house out in the Christian Valley part of the Meadow Vista area. The big attraction, besides Mary Ann, was that several bands from Calvary Chapel in LA were going to be performing. In that era great Christian music was exploding every where and the epicenter of the Christian music scene undoubtedly at Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel. On that night, March 29, 1971, I dedicated his life to Christ, a deep commitment that continues until this day.
Junior year – 1971-72. Junior year was much tougher. As a first-year varsity football player I didn’t play much and I lost my varsity spot on the varsity wrestling team to Bob Cunningham. No memory of that track season exists. My girlfriend during most of this year was Julianna Edlund who lived out in Meadow Vista. On one memorable night I got my car stuck backing out of her driveway and had to spend the night.
Senior year – 1972-73. My senior year was equally tough as I dislocated my elbow at the homecoming football game in the fall of 1972. We started the year with two new varsity football coaches – Bill Miller and Tom Johnson who had coached together in Southern California. The town was definitely hungry for a football champion; Placer hadn’t won the Sierra Foothill League title since the 50s we all believed.
Miller had coached at Long Beach State and Johnson at Jordan High School. They were great coaches but they didn’t always understand at first that we were high school kids. At least it was hard for Coach Miller I think. Let’s just say they pushed us to our limits and got the best out of us. We went on to win the Sierra Foothill League Championship after starting the season 0-3.
I was able to fight back from the injury and wrestle, though I had to have my elbow taped in a special way before every match, and won the SFL Championship at 177 lbs. at Casa Roble High School. Track was a pretty cool as I was on the 4 X 100 yard relay that won the SFL Championship at Nevada Union High School. We also placed fifth in the subsection.
1973 – 1975. The Sierra College years. After graduating from Placer High School in June, I continued working that summer at the Red Wagon Restaurant off of Combie Road and highway 49 on the way to Grass Valley. All tolled I would work six years at the Red Wagon. The owners Lyle and Emily Spencer became mentors and friends all through the college years.
During my first semester at Sierra, I took English 1A with Dorothy “Dottie” DeRoche and this was the first time I really began learning how to write.
Then it happened. In my second semester I took my second English class, English 1B with V. Elmo Daley. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.
1975 – 1977. California State University, Sacramento years. One thing of note about my college years, I never lived at college. I commuted from home in Auburn every day. In just two shot years that flew by I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English.
1976 – 1977. Student teaching. Earning a Ryan Act Teaching Credential meant three phases/semesters of student teaching. Phase One was primarily for observation and I was placed at Mira Loma High School in the fall of 1976. Phase Two was at Valle Vista Junior High School in the Grant District in the Spring of 1977. Phase three was back again at Mira Loma with Joyce Hayward and Joyce Fuller as my master teachers in the Fall of 1977.
January 1978. The teaching career begins. I started teaching in January 1978. I never thought he would be a teacher. But one day I wandered into the class of V. Elmo Daley at Sierra College and an in-depth analysis of Yeat’s “Sailing to Byzantium” later, I was hooked on the beauty and power of literature and the journey had begun. The next educational stop was at California State University, Sacramento.
The “open major” at CSUS in English literally meant you could take any course of study you wanted too and so I did. Shakespeare, Chaucer, Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Twain, and the like. It wasn’t until I took an Advanced Composition class that he began to realize that there were actually rules that governed correct punctuation and usage. My life as a writing teacher really began in that class.Advanced Composition with Dr. Robert Olmstead.
January 1978 – June 1981. The Mira Loma Period. After phase three was completed, I was hired in January 1978 to teach two periods of ninth grade regular English at Mira Loma High School. During that first semester I also was a TA in the CSUS English Department which meant I got to teach one period of Freshman Composition. In the fall of 1978 I started with four periods one of which was World History, and then in 1979 I became full time English teacher for the first time. 1979-80 was a magical year of teaching in every way. I taught two periods of Senior English, the first and only time in my career I would teach English to seniors.
November 1978 – April 1982 Coaching Wrestling at Mira Loma High School. Randy Blankenship, who I had known since I was in high school in Auburn, was coaching football and track at Mira Loma and was teaching at Barrett Junior High, and he asked me if I wanted to help him get the Mira Loma Wrestling team going again. When you are a wrestler, it’s always in your blood, so I said yes and we started on our four year journey of coaching. We had many league champions and ever went to the California State Wrestling Meet twice.
September 1980 – June 2017. The Del Campo Period. Then the bottom dropped out. One day in September Bart Lagomarsino, an Assistant Superintendents in the district, came to speak directly to me. Standing together outside of my second floor classroom, he told me that because of declining enrollment at Mira Loma I could not continue to work there full time and I had a choice to make.