Welcome to Carpenter Stories.
I’m Joe Cadwell, the writer, producer and host of the show and I am proud to bring you this special series within the Grit NW podcast.
Carpenter Stories will introduce you to individuals whose lives have been bettered after finding a career as a professional tradesperson in the UBC.
On today’s show I have the pleasure to speak with Jimmy Jones, retired Journeyman carpenter, and member of the local 271.
I met Jim a few years ago and have admired his positive attitude and can-do spirit. Jim exemplifies what someone in the trades can achieve through hard work, tenacity, and ability to grow and change with the industry.
We’ll start our conversation by learning why Jim decided to leave Oregon State University where he was working on a degree in forest engineering to become a full-time carpenter.
Next, we’ll hear some of the challenges and biases he encountered on the job that stemmed from his not going through a recognized union apprenticeship.
Later Jim will tell us about his time spent as a Job Corp instructor and how he feels his career came full circle when he was able to give back and share the knowledge and insight he had acquired over the years in the trades.
And we’ll finish our conversation when I ask Jim to answer 3 questions designed to give guidance and direction to anyone interested in becoming a professional trades person.
This is a great episode full of humor and stories that you won’t want to miss.
So, sit back, and enjoy Jimmy Jones, Carpenter Story.
The Show Notes
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Jim Jones Welcome to Carpenter stories.Jimmy Jones:
Good morning, Joe. Thanks for having me on the show.Joe Cadwell:
Thank you so much for taking your time on the Saturday morning, Jim to talk with me. And I know you are a guy that I've respected for quite a number of years ever since I first met you, and I'm super interested in Jim, and finding out who you were before you join the UVC.Jimmy Jones:
I'm a fifth generation Texan. I grew up in Waco, Texas and moved out to Oregon to go to school at Oregon State. I was a forestry major and transferred into the forest engineering program. After four terms at Oregon State I was out of sync with the with the engineering classes I needed about eight months I decided to work, earn some tuition mine. And I had a choice between framing houses at five bucks an hour or framing a shopping center at 11 bucks an hour being represented by the union, I chose the 11 bucks an hour, it was pretty easy math. And and so that's how I got in at the end of that eight months, I realized that I was where I wanted to be. I've had a number of changes in direction over the years from wanting to fly airplanes with the Air Force to want to be an underwater welder. And then the forestry thing, I wanted to be outside. I did not want to be inside the house, okay. And I realized that a four year degree was going to put me inside a building somewhere managing somebody else. I didn't particularly want to do that. I was working with the best carpenters that I'd ever been around in my life. And I've done a lot of non union stuff. Over the years, I didn't go straight to college I worked for for several years before I went to college. And I realized that, that what I was doing was what I wanted to do so so I chose to stay in the carpenters union. It's been a long eight months since June of 1978. That's when it was and I gotta tell you, I've I've had a hell of a good ride. I mean, a really good ride over the years. I'm a retired Carpenter now I've got a good pension coming in. Thank God for that. It allows me to do things like buy little sawmills and cut up lumber and and do stuff that I want to do. I don't have to make money with my sawmill because I've got a good pension coming in. I really appreciate that.Joe Cadwell:
It does seem like you've done a lot of things right? You are enjoying your retirement from what I can can hear. So taking it back, Jim to 1978 and making 11 bucks an hour what was the UBC like back then?Jimmy Jones:
Well, they think the at that particular point in time, the apprenticeship was a three year program, I was offered the opportunity to go into the apprenticeship program, I chose not to I would have gone in and about a year and a half or so about halfway through. I chose not to because at that point in time, when I was asked that question, I thought I was going to go back to college. And I just wanted to make as much money as I could before I did that. Was that a mistake? I think hindsight being 2020, I should have gone back into the apprenticeship and finished it up. And why is that? Not having served the apprenticeship program, I felt like I was kind of looked down upon by some of the members. Okay, because I didn't have the education. I didn't understand the vocabulary as well as so I had a harder time keeping work. I work hard. I was taught to work hard in Texas, believe it or not, and, and so the the contractors would keep me till the end of the job. But then they hardly ever took me on to the next job because they were they were grooming their apprentices for those leadership positions. And I was passed over because I didn't have that. That education. Now, that being said, I went on later in life to actually teach apprenticeship classes. I think I did pretty well at that. Judging by by results. I taught pre apprenticeship classes as well with the Job Corps. So I I really do believe in our education system that we have with the UBC it's it's tremendous. I wish I had had those opportunities in the beginning, but I didn't I think I've made up for it. In the long run,Joe Cadwell:
as do I Jim I came in to the UBC as a commercial diver and I basically journeyed straight in. We don't really have an apprenticeship program or we didn't when I came in for divers, it was the pile driving program and someone that just wanted to dive some of the you know, hundreds if not 1000s of hours underwater, I felt like I did not need with the apprenticeship was going to be offered offered me and I to reflect back on that and kind of a missed opportunity to just kind of accelerate my learning curve and, and again, garner some of that respect that I think was Last early out of my career, even though I was a military diver, and had worked quite a bit, it just it was a missed opportunity. You have spent a lot of time, as you said, educating our apprentices. And you've also worked a lot with the Job Corps. How did you get involved with the Job Corps? And what is the job for for our listeners, Jim?Jimmy Jones:
Well, Job Corps program has been around for a little over 50 years, about 55 years, okay. And the first three or four years, the carpentry programs were taught by the Forest Service, okay, and the Forest Service knew how to build Forest Service structure is pretty good. But they weren't able to really train their students to get into the commercial end of things where the where the money was, right. And so about three or four years into the Job Corps history, the UBC was contracted to provide a program of instruction to the Department of Labor, right, who ran the Job Corps program, the carpenters union provided instructors and tools and stuff like that they were reimbursed by the Department of Labor, it provided opportunities for our members to become those instructors, all those job four centers draw pretty good wages, Foreman's wages, right. And he got 2080 hours a year. And it was it was just a wonderful job, a wonderful job.Joe Cadwell:
So UBC journey level, carpenters are teaching the Job Corps students carpentry skills, and who are the students that come into Job Corps,Jimmy Jones:
they're described as our nation'sJoe Cadwell:
disadvantaged youth,Jimmy Jones:
Disadvantaged youth? That's exactly right. Okay, and what the requirements for getting into Job Corps has to do with your income level and, and mostly it's for, for kids that either aren't able to hold a job on a regular basis, or kids that didn't get through school. Okay. Age requirements are 16 to 24. If you get in at that 24, you've got two years, we've had students as old as 26, in the program, and as young as 16. So the there's, there's some issues there. And howJoe Cadwell:
did you handle those issues? I mean, working with with 16 year olds, teaching them the skills of professional carpentry, and you must have experienced a lot of, you know, challenging attitudes during your years, and how did you put your particular skill set to use Jim to help them see the light of the trades?Jimmy Jones:
Well, I gotta tell you, Joe, the, the students and Job Corps are individuals, and they're all different. Okay. And some are coming right off the streets have had very little supervision in their life. They left home when they were really young, 12 1314 years old. And so they have issues leaving the street on the street. Right. And, and coming into into job, I've had other students that had tremendous home lives and, and maybe had worked for a year or two framing houses or whatever, they knew that we had a direct entry into the apprenticeship with the instructors approval. And so they just wanted to get into the carpenters union. And at that particular point in time, maybe we would close, you know, there was one a lot of work or whatever and, and so it was an avenue for them to get into, into the union. And that's, that's what they were doing. Every every single is different. And some came, came to job for with all different biases towards towards other cultures, right? We had issues with racial tension and stuff like that. I don't know. I think just just holding the students accountable. And being flexible enough to understand that sometimes you got to be tough, and sometimes you got to be understanding, I think maybe is a lot like parenting, you know? Anyway, I enjoyed it, quote, half years. ItJoe Cadwell:
was wonderful. In which location did you work atJimmy Jones:
I was at Angel Job Corps on the Central Oregon coa t. I believe that's the fin st place to work in the pro ram.Joe Cadwell:
Yeah, it sounds nice. Out of all those students over the years, the 12 and a half years you worked as a Job Corps instructors, any one particular success story or someone that you thought, Man, this person's not going to make it and then they just surprised the heck out of you and in turn their life around.Jimmy Jones:
Yes, we've had a umber of successes. You know, hen I first got in, we had a oung fella named Brian, that he as that guy that it was just rying to get into the right. nd he was easy. And it was like nly three months in, he had it ompleted and everything and, nd I told my boss Oh, Holy oly, I this is this is the kind f guy we wish we had a lot of nd she said, well jump in the eginning, that's true, but the nes that are really going to hange your life are the ones hat you'll think never are onna make it. You know, they're truggling against too much too any obstacles. But then they urn it around the light bulb licks on, and you realize that ou might have saved someone's ife. Right? You kept them out f the system, you put them into career path that they never ould have been able to access ithout our program, that those hose are the successes that gain, and there have been everal of them. And I talk bout those if you want.Joe Cadwell:
Well, sure. It sounds like a very satisfying and very rewarding aspect of being an instructor, I find the same thing being an instructor at the Pacific Northwest carpenters Institute and actually shining a positive light on the trade, people's first choice career being a professional carpenter, building the wealth of our nation. And along the way, earning the skills that are going to provide for them for the next 15 2030 years of their life providing a livable wages and benefits for themselves and their family. These members, you know, can really turn their lives around when they have the structure that an organized labor union provides whether it's the carpenters, the plumbers, electricians, iron workers, as long as there's some structure there that and again, very importantly, the representation so that when contractors should want to cut corners or cheat the workers of wages, we have that ability to call it our representation to to make sure things get taken care of and we don't get taken advantage of so yeah, what's, uh, what's one story out of out of many hundreds of 1000 stories that you you know, who is in particular just sticking out in your mind that you'd like to talk about?Jimmy Jones:
There was one young fella I don't know. But anyways, a young fella out of Seattle. I mean, he was the class clown. And he got in so much trouble on that center, you would not believe how much trouble he got into he was always getting rolled up for something. Yeah, usually upstairs in the residential area, or maybe an education and he did okay, most of the time down with us. But I had to be on his tail pretty hard. I at that point in time, I was taking students to the regional council meetings. Right. And I was actually one of the first jobs. I was the first job to didn't do that, because it was a little bit risky. But I decided that the potential for them getting something out of going to the meetings was was tremendous, as well. So the staff junkware staff said, Why are you taking Brown? He's a goof off. He's either knucklehead. Yeah, at all. You shouldn't be rewarding him for this stuff. I said, Well, yeah, but he does good down in the trade. Right. And I'm taking my balance. Okay. Right. Well, we got up there. It was in Seattle, and, and a little bit worried about brown taking off, you know, because he's from Seattle inner city. But he, he got it. He listened to what was going on. And he realized that we were more than just a labor broker. We were an organization that took care of each other because of what what he heard at those Regional Council at the regional council meeting. And so we got him back and he said, Oh, Jimmy, I've got to get into the union got to get into the union got to get into the union. So we got him in. Right. And, and he did good. The first job that he was I called him up about a week after, after he started his first job. I said, Well, how are you doing? Right? So I'm doing okay. I said, you're still working. He said, Oh, yeah. And he says, Yeah, but but I missed work the first couple of days, right? He says, I got sick and miss work. I said, Well, how are you still working then? Because most of the time you get cut loose, right? You know, he said, but I did what what you told me to do, Jimmy went to the jobsite, even though I was sick. And I went up to the superintendent a half an hour before start. And I said I'll be here for you if you need me here, but and then I vomited in his office. He told me to go home.Joe Cadwell:
We'll see on Thursday. When you get better.Jimmy Jones:
Yeah. They appreciated his his desire to To be on the job is his willingness to overcome the adversity of being ill and that kind of stuff. And he did well, he did well.Joe Cadwell:
Yeah, I again, I can see your persona and just being so effectual and relating to people of any age, and being able to drive home some pretty important messages about, you know, leadership and accountability and professionalism. I also know you're you're pretty tough guy. And I heard a story recently about just how tough Jim Jones could be. And I was hoping you could share the the hayloft story for the listeners, if you will.Jimmy Jones:
Well, that's a little bit embarrassing, Joe, but I will, because I'm not afraid of embarrassment. I've taught over 50 OSHA cam class over the years, right, and facilitate OSHA 10. Right now, as we speak, we have a pre employment Safety Awareness class where I help out with those you can stuff. And so for me to fall out of the law that I built 30 years ago, okay, I built this barn. And I took a tumble out of out of the loft, and I fell nine feet. Oh is jerking on a hay bale that I shouldn't have been jerking on. And trying to launch it over the side, the hay hook came loose, I flew over the edge, fell down across the water trough and broke three ribs and tore an artery loose a little bit. Okay, and, and that's some internal bleeding going on stuff like that. Of course, I didn't know that at the time, my adrenaline was up, and I felt pretty good. So I finished out feeding the meals in my backup a little off, you know, after I pull my head out of the water, because my head was down in the bottom of the water trough had to find the damn hay hooks and they were in the bottom of the water trough, right. Anyway, what went up finish feeding and then then I went up to the house, change clothes, shaved and brush my teeth because I thought I might need to go to the doctor maybe later on, drove? Well, I realized my cell phone was smashed. That's what actually probably what might have saved me was my cell phone because it distributed the force over three ribs instead of one. Right? And so I didn't poke a rib through a law. That was a good thing. And so anyway, I knew I needed a cell phone. So I decided to drive to Salem, because the at&t store was is a Sunday evening. I was going to be open till seven. I can get there just in time. So I drove the half hour from Dallas to Salem and bought a phone and then was driving back to Dallas, got pretty lightheaded, had to pull over. managed to get older. My wife she convinced me to go to my daughter's house. She's a nurse at Samaritan in Corvallis. And, and she when I got to her house, she said you're going to the hospital right now. So the hospital was pretty it was Valley Hospital in Dallas was just three doors away. So I was walking over there she met me at the street with a wheelchair. And from there I got shipped back to Salem to their their first class trauma unit. There's only two in the state so they could deal with my arterial bleed. ButJoe Cadwell:
anyway, Holy smokes. Yeah, you definitely got kicked hard out by the mule. But at least by the the the food for the meal, it sounds like and lucky to get drowned in that water trough.Jimmy Jones:
I actually had the questions myself as my face was on the bottom of the water draw as to how I was going to get out of that. ButJoe Cadwell:
the bottom line is you made it onto the water trough, that's for sure. Be a boring conversation not to have you here right now. So Jim, we're gonna finish up our conversation with three questions. I'd like to ask everyone that comes on to the carpenters stories podcast. And the first one is during your career in the UBC What do you think the biggest challenge you had to face was?Jimmy Jones:
I think the biggest challenge especially in the beginning was to learn to become more of a team player. I I was pretty good at working by myself. It was hard becoming that that team player originally. That that skill develop is as as I went forward overcoming the The stigma of having bought my card instead of going through the apprenticeship was stuff took me six or seven years before I held long term jobs with with a single company. Right? I bounced around a lot. It wasn't it wasn't surprising if I got five or six jobs a year for different outfits. You know, in the beginning, it was a it was a struggle, but backup one,Joe Cadwell:
yeah, that tenacity and you just finally push through and gain the knowledge and the respect on the job site. Next question, your biggest success, and we talked about your students big success, and overall in the arc of your career with UBC, what do you think your personal biggest successes,Jimmy Jones:
when I got into training, is when I think I really blossom. I think that, that that was the career that that I that I needed to be. And I know that I worked for john Stephens back back in the day when he was the training director at W CTC while at MacArthur training center. And it was, it was a great job, best job I've ever had in my life. And I tell people that I quit the very best job I've ever had in my life to take the very best job I've ever had in my life, because the challenges of the pre apprenticeship program with the job for so different, so different, you know, trying to, to help these young folks learn how to work, as opposed to learning the skill set. I mean, they have to learn some skill set, but but the learning how to work with stuff.Joe Cadwell:
That sounds like a pretty good definition of success. And I know you are retired, as we talked about, but you are still taking advantage of the 480, which means you can continue to affect other people's lives up to 480 hours a year, and I'm sure more on your own time.Jimmy Jones:
Yeah. I love working with young people. And Mr. Mr. Hawes, our boss when he told me when he was developed during the piza, the pre employment Safety Awareness class, right and the positive job site call to action because of the positive jobsite culture that he was working on. And we were talking at a regional council meeting, I think and he said, You know, you're the guy that I want to teach positive jobsite culture. I said, Well, I'll let you know what I'm available. I became available and then we went from there.Joe Cadwell:
Oh, there you go. And the final question, Jim, words of advice. Someone listening to this podcast right now? They themselves or maybe they know someone who's interested in a career as a professional carpenter, what word of advice would you give to that person?Jimmy Jones:
Well, never quit. Never give up. You're gonna run into obstacles. And whether it's relationship obstacles on the job site, every relationship that we have is based, if it's going to be a good relationship, it's going to be based on trust and respect. always treat your fellow workers or your supervision with that respect, and always work to earn trust, whether it's showing up every day or taking accountability for mistakes that you may earn that trust, develop that that respect level and trust level and will do well will do us.Joe Cadwell:
That sounds like some great advice, Jim. Again, thank you so much for taking your time to be on the show. You have a great weekend, sir.Unknown:
And you too, as well. Joe, thank you so much for the opportunity.