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Interview with Sean Jamieson

Jamieson, Sean
Martini, Paul
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with People and Places
Sean Jamieson provides a wealth of information concerning his family background and details the close-knit relationship among the family members in Canada.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Paul Martini interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
PM (Paul Martini): Testing, one, two, three, four. I'm here with Sean Jamieson he's going to be the third subject and I'm just making sure this recorder's working good. OK we're here with Sean Jamieson he is the third subject here in the, um, project and Sean is from Chicago originally. And, uh, how would you describe your, your accent, the way you speak or--
SJ (Sean Jamieson): To, to well I guess I, I of course I don't think I have an accent. Ah, I speak like ah everybody I grew up speaks, so, speaks the same way but, ah, to the extent I have one it's a, would be Midwestern I, I think more generically Midwestern than specifically Chicago. Chicago, to me, sound is, is more nasal and more pronounced and sounds like ah sounds surprisingly close to Chi, New York. Uh. But I don't think I speak like that however you may prove me wrong.
PM: But you're from the suburban area.
SJ: Suburban Chicago, that's right.
PM: So that may have something to do with that.
SJ: Um-hum.
PM: And, and how about living in the South? Do you think that's actually, ah, I mean when, if when, you go back up north do people say, "Hey I can tell you're picking up some 'y'alls' or something."
SJ: I have not heard that to the to the best of my knowledge I have never knowingly used the term "y'all."
PM: [Laugh] But, ah, maybe, maybe the words are slightly as far as you know.
SJ: They might be I don't know, ah, you know, the people I hang out with in Charlotte by and large are, are not southerners because the people I work with and the people who are my friends tend to be transplants as well. The newspaper business recruits nationally and so the people I work with are from all over the country.
PM: That's right.
SJ: And only a minority, I guess, are southerners and uh my friends here are, tend to be people from other places as well and rather than, rather than, ah, southerners or Charlotteans, so I don't, ah, I'm not although when I'm in the store and when I'm out and about in other places yeah I hear the Southern accent but I don't I think my speech patterns are probably pretty much set at this point and, and I don't think I'm picking anything up.
PM: OK, so and we're talking, we're talking about, um, I guess going back to Chicago and um your, you want to talk about your family //um on your dad's side. //
SJ: Yeah I was. Trying, trying to think of a subject to talk about and I I'm, I'm not good at remembering stories. I don't remember jokes and I don't remember stories which is, which says something about the way my brain works but I do remember you know hearing about family history and such and, and uh had asked about it since then to, to figure out how everybody, ah, came to be in Canada which is where is where my dad's side of the family is from and my dad came down to the United States in the middle of the 60s when he was working for a company in Guelph, Ontario, which is outside of Toronto and met my mom in at that time and he settled down they settled down in the Chicago suburbs and, and spent their whole lives there. Ah, but my dad both my grandparents on my dad's side were born in Europe. My grandfather was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and my grandmother was born in County Cork, Ireland. They both immigrated well my grandmother immigrated to New York I believe and then made her way up to Rhode Island where I believe she worked as a domestic. And my grandfather ran away from home as a very young boy and became a sailor and sailed back and fourth across the Atlantic. I know that much and I don't know where all else he sailed but, ah, eventually got tired of that and left his ship in New York and, and was spending, was in New York and this was I guess about the time of WWI.
PM: Do you think he was fishing or was he doing.
SJ: He was working he was doing some sort of work. I don't know exactly what, this is, this is a little bit, ah, hazy. I don't know if my dad's, if I've ever, if my dad's told me that I don't recall exactly what it was and then, my, so my, my grandfather was living in New York I believe in an immigrant community in New York and the Canadian Army was recruiting from among immigrants because I believe at the time the Canadians did not, uh, did not draft, did not draft during WWI, and try need, but they needed to help the British fighting in Europe and so the they decided that a good place to recruit would be among the immigrant communities in New York, particularly among people who had immigrated from the British Isles. And the promise was that if you made it through the war you would have a shot at some, ah, you know, there would be money for you at the end, ah, you'd be able to settle in Canada. And so my grandfather joined the Brit, and joined the Canadian Army, fought in France, was wounded, and eventually made his way back to, I guess, New York and then up to Rhode Island where he met my grandmother. I don't know the exact sequence of events here but he met my grandmother and then moved to, to, ah, Ontario, Canada where--.
PM: He had a farm waiting for him right?
SJ: Where he had a, where he became, tried to become, a farmer and this was an area about 60 miles southwest of Toronto in what at the time must have been a pretty remote part of part of the province. Turns out he was not very successful as a farmer and gave that up and moved into the city of Guelph which was a decent sized a free standing city outside of, of Toronto but much smaller than Toronto and build a house there and became, did a variety of jobs ah I don't believe I don't know if he had a particular trade other than being a sailor so he worked in a variety of jobs. I know during the Depression he worked as a, as a night watchman at a factory and he was my dad talked about how he, how my grandfather felt very fortunate that he didn't lose his job during the Depression, that at least he was able to keep a job all through the Depression working as a night watchman, and they built a house which the family owns as of today. In fact my aunt who just died within the last month was living in the house that my grandmother and grandfather built when they first moved to Guelph very old wood-framed house on two lots and at the time this wasn't a big deal but now it is, there's about a hundred yards of, a hundred yard wide strip of forest behind the house and then behind that is a private country club, and a very nice one and so the land the land has become very valuable. At the time obviously it wasn't a big deal to live on a golf course and now it is, so that, that property is still in the family, um, as a kid my I used to go, we used to go up there every year for family reunions we would ah drive from Chicago through Detroit up to Guelph.
PM: To the same house?
SJ: To the same house that my grandmother and grandfather had had built and, uh, attend the family reunion my dad was one of eight kids and I guess six of them married and everybody had at least three kids. The number of kids that my aunts and uncles had varied I guess from three to six. So there was a pretty good, good crowd at the reunions.
PM: [Laugh].
SJ: Typically about 75 to 80 people at each at each reunion which is held in August of every year.
PM: You ever count how many first cousins you have. [Laugh]
SJ: Um, I'm not sure I know. Somebody has these numbers but I'm not sure, but, ah, but my dad's, my dad's siblings were so, ah, spread out in age they're at least 20 years at least 20 years from the oldest to the youngest so my oldest uncle had married fairly young he had fought in WWII and he was married during WWII and I believe he and my aunt had their first child during the War, and that, that was a cousin of mine named Dave, who I, oh, when I first met him and his wife I thought they were my aunt and uncle but when I got older I realized that they're actually my first cousins they were just old enough to be my parents and so it seemed to me like they were too old to be cousins because the people I associated with being my cousins were my age or relatively close to my age, uh, and they were a large group of these kids but these other two were like, um, my parents' age and hanging out with my parents at the reunion and you know drinking beer under the tent and shooting the crap, and I just thought they were my aunt and uncle, but they were actually my cousins, uh, and that was because--.
PM: It's like their, ah, dad's, ah, brother or sister beared children other--.
SJ: Yeah, exactly, exactly.
PM: Your dad's probably, ah, oldest brother.
SJ: Right that was my dad's oldest brother and his wife's oldest kids so there was, and then, then there would be different people who would show up at different reunions so every year there would be people there who I didn't know and then I would, we're fairly close relatives but I didn't know who they were and so I would always have to be asking or would kind of wait for an introduction of some sort. So it was quite, you needed a scorecard to keep track of who was who. And it got even more confusing when my cousins got older and would bring girlfriends or boyfriends or spouses who I never met before to, oh, the reunions and it all just, ah, so, it's still, uh, these days, I was at one about two years ago a reunion and there are still about 75 to 80 people who show up consistently every year although it's, it's a different group of people they'll be, you know, there's a group of maybe 20 or 25 who don't come to every reunion like me but there'll be a different 20 or 25 in there. So the number of people who show up is pretty consistent it's just that the group changes somewhat from year to year as the people are, are available to make the weekend or aren't. Um--.
PM: Is it every year they have the reunion?
SJ: Every year, yeah we do a reunion every year. And it was, was my, my aunt who owned my Aunt Pat who had the, ah, my grandparents' old house, who was instrumental in getting these started and keeping them going because she realized she told me this just within the last couple of years that she thought it was very important to have the reunions every year so the family would stay in touch with each other cause otherwise I would never have known my cousins because the only things we might have gotten together for would be maybe at weddings and funerals which are not good opportunities to do much mixing and mingling because there are other things on the agenda. At a wedding or a funeral it's really hard to catch up with people. So my aunt had been, had been real smart about, about scheduling those every year and trying to get as many people there as possible so that we all, ah, kept in touch and we all know who our cousins and our relatives were.
PM: So who's going to, ah, start doing that, who's going to be coordinating that now that she's?
SJ: Ah, one of my cousins apparently is, well, two of my cousins are, are keeping it going in fact. I just had a phone message tonight from my dad saying that the date has been set for this August on the reunion and, ah, it's not clear who's going to host it but, ah, there's still quite a large group of family members in this city of Guelph and somebody is going to end up hosting it. Ah, the reason that, one of the reasons my Aunt Pat was always good at being the hostess for it is that the family had, there are two small houses on four big lots on this dead-end street, so there was a lot of room for everybody to kind of spread out, put up a couple of tents or shelters or whatever, have barbecue grills out there, and, uh, a couple of houses to run in and use the bathroom, whatever, so there's just a lot of room and, uh, but it's not clear if that house is going to be sold or not now that my aunt has, ah, passed away. Apparently in her will she said that the house should be sold and the money given to a, ah, couple of my aunts and it's not clear if a family member is going to buy the house and sort of keep it in the family or what's going happen to it, but I'm hoping that they keep it because it's, it's, ah, there's so many family members there that you think somebody would want to hang on to it and it's such a nice set up with really sort of an extended family that always sort of lived right on this block and uh I'm thinking would probably want to keep, hang on to the house.
PM: How many of your, um, um I guess that's these are all the, ah, brothers and sisters of your, your dad?
SJ: Of my dad yeah.
PM: How many of them live in is it Guelph?
SJ: It's the name of the city is Guelph. Yeah it's named for a city in Belgium I believe and I'm not sure.
PM: How do you spell it?
SJ: G-U-E-L-P-H.
SJ: And I'm not sure why it's named for a city in Belgium but it is. There is let's see I've got an aunt and an uncle and two of their kids are still there. I've got an aunt who's a widow and a cousin. I, I'm running out of fingers here but, ah, and then an aunt or ah, a, a cousin and his wife and their three kids, and, let's see, that's about a dozen people right there that I can think of off the top of my head and then quite a few cousins and their and their families and kids are in the Toronto area some of, some of them have moved away and come back, ah, but everybody, most of them have sort of settled in and around the Toronto area in the suburbs in one direction or another. Oh there's, in fact, there's a cousin and her husband and their, ah, their six kids who just moved back to Guelph after having been ah, ah his business had taken him away for a couple of years but now they're back in Guelph so that's number six. So I'd say there must be at least 20 uh, immediate relatives that are still living in Guelph.
PM: Um now how big of a city is that?
SJ: I want to say it's 90 or 100 thousand or something like that. There's a couple of other cities of similar size nearby so it's almost getting to be like its own metropolitan area, small metro area.
PM: Right. So it's, um, almost like you'll, you'll meet, ah, if you go to Guelph you'll meet someone will probably know a Jamieson there.
SJ: Yeah, yeah because some of, like my aunt who just died was a bookkeeper who worked at a lot of local businesses and was extremely gregarious, so I think she was probably on a first name basis with a awful lot of the people who shopped downtown or whoever went downtown she was she lived there all her life and just knew a lot of people and they sort of come out of that kind of, that Irish tradition like everybody's your friend, everybody's your neighbor and even people that, ah should be fairly casually, she'd greet those people by name and know a little bit about them, ah, and so yeah she's, ah, and my cousin, one of my cousins, has a couple of businesses in town and I think is relatively well-known is on some sort of city board, or something like that. Yeah the family is big enough and the city is small enough I think that you would run into a decent number of people who would know a Jamieson or two.
PM: Or at least somebody married to a Jamieson.
SJ: That's right. [Laugh]
PM: Interesting.
SJ: Uh-huh.
PM: And then, ah, I guess the family reunion is, when is the next one you're going to go to?
SJ: It's August 12th of this year, August 12th of 2000, and, uh, don't know, don't know too many more details about it and don't know if I'll be able to go. I went a couple of years ago and didn't make it last year and I'm, I'm, now I'm kind of sorry I didn't, because my aunt passed away in the meantime, and I knew she was in poor health last year. Oh but there's just, um, just a couple of my dad's generation left. It's, they're starting to get up there and, and a lifetime of bad eating habits is starting to catch up, although my aunt was about 75 when she when she died so she had a, she had a long run.
PM: Sounds like she was getting out and meeting a lot of people.
SJ: She was, yeah right up, right up to the day, ah, when she fell, and I think she fell and broke her hip, if I recall what put her in the hospital. She was, ah, I think she was, ah, downtown, I think she had taken the bus or a cab downtown, and had, uh, met with her lady friends to have lunch or something. She did almost every day and I recall that she slipped and fell, and then, as happens with a lot of older people, developed complications while she was in the hospital and, ah, never, never recovered unfortunately. It sounds simple breaking your hip but you just, it is, I, I'm sure, you know, older people who've had that happen to them, you get into the hospital and you end up catching an infection or something like that from somebody else and your immune system is kind of weakened and she just, um, um, didn't make it unfortunately.
PM: It sounds like a big loss for the community just because there was so many people and she organized the family reunions but you know at least you know you've got somebody that's going to take over and start putting that back together there.
SJ: Yeah but Aunt Pat was definitely the matriarch of the family.
PM: Matriarch, huh?
SJ: Matriarch. That's a good, that's a good vocabulary word. You can, you can probably add a whole chapter in the report of my use of the word matriarch. [Laugh]
PM: That and a couple of others too. I'm sure. OK. I'm not sure if I said, ah, Sean's name, but this is Sean Jamieson from Charlotte, and, um, and, uh, you know, he's the third, um, subject.
SJ: I think you did say that. You might have said my name at the beginning. I'm just not positive. Is it?
PM: And, uh, I think we did a little background on your dialect, or how you think you speak.
SJ: That's right, that's right.
PM: OK that's, that's, and that should wrap it up there. Thanks Sean.