New resident Frank Jones joined the Horizon House community this past April. Like many of our residents, Frank’s personal story is a fascinating one, as well as a reflection of certain larger events in America’s 20th century history. We hope you enjoy reading his account.
Francis Irving Jones, aka Frank, was born in 1930 in Washington, D.C. As was common almost everywhere during the Depression, there was little work available in our capital so Frank’s dad made his way across the country as a hobo and ended up in California driving a truck. It was 1934 before he returned to D.C. Four-year-old Frank remembers wondering who this guy was turning everybody’s life upside down! By 1943, when Frank was 13 and the U.S. was in the middle of WWII, the family was once again on the move—this time to Vancouver, Washington, where his dad had found work as a welder at Kaiser shipyards. He headed West six months ahead of the family, while Frank, his four younger siblings, and his mom traveled cross-country by train. To this day, Frank remembers helping his mom with the babe-in-arms and the other kids, the Pullman porters, the sleeping car, the little box where you could put your shoes to be shined, and the Rockies. He also remembers the trip as his first real experience of white people. When Frank was growing up, his neighborhood and most of Washington, D.C. was black. The journey was an eye-opener in every way.
Vancouver in the fall and winter was predictably miserable and rainy, but Frank got used to it. He loved school and did well at his new junior high, in spite of the fact that he was one of very few African American kids. After obtaining his A.A. from Clark Junior College, in 1950 Frank headed to Seattle and the University of Washington. He lived in a co-op house on Greek Row where half of the residents at that time were WWII vets. Prior to finishing his degree, he lost his deferment (“having too much fun,” quipped Frank), joined the Army, and ended up in Alaska, at Eielson Air Base—a home to the Strategic Air Command during those Korean War years. Thanks to his three years of college, Frank’s commanding officer assigned him as an Army reporter on the Air Force newspaper. In a twist of McCarthy period fate, however, this “cushy” job disappeared and became a series of latrine, KP, and other hard duties. Frank’s father had been active in the American Communist Party during the ‘40s and ‘50s so Frank was suspected of the same leanings—guilt by association. Frank was “cleared” and left the service in 1954, with the cloud lifted. He had married during these Army years; his first son was born upon his return to Seattle, and in Frank’s words, he himself had finally “grown up.” Frank earned B.A. degrees in Sociology and Elementary Education from the U.W. and in the fall of 1962 started working as a fourth grade teacher at Magnolia Elementary—integrating the teaching staff at the school and the community. To make ends meet after one year on a teacher’s salary, he also worked nights at the Post Office.
Still with Seattle Public Schools, Frank began to get “non-classroom” assignments, such as supervising cadet teachers, and he eventually became a coordinator for one of the Johnson-era War on Poverty programs that placed and trained low-income adults in para-professional jobs, like teacher’s aides. Many of his “New Careers” program graduates went on to earn their degrees and get good jobs, an outcome which Frank said was one of the most rewarding of his career.
In 1968, Frank was appointed the Seattle School District Headstart Director. Two years later, he was appointed Headstart Educational Specialist in the Office of Child Development, U.S. Federal Regional Office of Health, Education, and Welfare. He retired as Bureau Chief of Headstart in Region 10 (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington) in 1986. After traveling a bit, Frank followed through on his pre-retirement plans and went back to the U.W. to earn a Master’s in Social Work. This time around he was truly able to experience “the joy of learning” without the typical challenges of younger grad students. Frank then worked at various community-based organizations, like Mt. Baker Youth Services and Central Area Mental Health, as a child and family therapist. After retiring for a second time in the ‘90s and enjoying the U.W.’s Access educational program for seniors, Frank once again headed back to work, this time as a non-medical specialist member of an Institutional Review Board reviewing pharmaceutical company drug trials on human subjects. In 2012 he “really” retired.
Frank continues to support the United Nations Association of Greater Seattle, the NAACP, the Democratic Party, AARP, and the National Association of Social Workers. He enjoys music, theatre, dance, film, reading a variety of literature, politics, sports, and travel—not to mention his four children, thirteen grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Here at Horizon House Frank has been struck by the warm welcome of friends and the many residents he has met. He’s definitely planning on joining the OK Chorale singing group, but he hasn’t yet made up his mind as to which of the 70+ committees and activities he’ll become involved in!