WELCOME TO JIM VOSSEN'S STORY
Last Updated 2/22/18
Hi, Jim Vossen here. For a long time I have been putting off writing about my life. Oh, I've started here and there trying to write my life's story and for some reason or another I've gotten interrupted, but I'm hoping that this is the beginning of "The Story of Jim Vossen".
I have decided to write my story in different chapters. I will probably write and complete most chapters not-in-order of my life's story. I will try my best to be as accurate as I possibly can. In most cases I will use real names.
I will be writing about where I was born and raised, my parents and my sister, the schools I went to, my pre-grammar school days, my grammar school days, my junior high school days, my high school days, my businesses, my jobs, my first marriage, my children, my fights with the law, my fights with government agencies, my early days of radio and television, my present days of radio and television and of course my current life with my wife Mary Lou Tedder Vossen.
"The Story of Jim Vossen"
I was born on December 30th, 1949 at Children's Hospital in San Francisco. My parents were Arthur and Virginia Vossen. I lived at 2307 29th Avenue in San Francisco until July 1970 when I married Carol Lee Stahl of 44th Avenue. I was 20 and she was 17. I have a sister about 8 years older than me, named Carole. Though I never considered Carole as my half-sister, she did have a different father and her maiden name is Carole Popoff.
It's hard to remember my experiences from ages 1 to 3, but I can remember being in the Anderson Sisters School of dance on 6th Avenue and Clement in San Francisco with my sister Carole, who had already been there for a few years. I can remember, thanks to some old photos, my being a frog and being a clown and dressing up as Mighty Mouse and coming out on stage and singing, "Here I come to save the day". When I was about 5 and 6 I came out on the stage, dressed up as a cowboy, and sang "Happy Trails to You". When I was about 7 and 8 I came out on the stage with a cute blonde curly- haired girl named Diane and we sang a duet song called "Give Me a Little Kiss".
My Sister Carole
Probably, my earliest buddies were Paul Taylor, Don Buckter and Billy Lightner. Paul lived down the street from me on 29th Avenue and he is about a year younger than I. We were probably about 4 or 5 when we first met and still friends today. Billy was my next door neighbor, about 2 years younger than I and I haven't seen him in probably 5 to 10 years. Paul and I saw more of each other while growing up. Paul went to Catholic School so I didn't see him during school times. On the other hand Don Buckter and I went to the same grammar and junior high schools and were in the same grade. I guess you could say that during my early years at Lawton Grammar School, Don was my best friend, but, when I was at home Paul was my best friend. Don and I had early music interests, he played the trumpet, I played the accordion. Don and I spent many summers up at Camp Mather, a Summer vacation resort owned and operated by the City of San Francisco. We spent a lot of the time seeing what kind of trouble we could get into.
Camp Mather was my summer home away from home. In fact in the early 1990's I wrote a song about Camp Mather.
THE CAMP MATHER SONG
Some people call it Mather, (short 'a' sound)
Some people call it Mather, (long 'a' sound - the right way)
To me it's just my home away from home,
Cause every year at summer time
Being there is so divine,
Camp Mather your my home away from home.
There's a big old lake and a beautiful swimming pool.
There's big tall shady trees to keep you cool.
There's tennis courts and volleyball,
Ping pong tables and basketball,
Horseback riding and that's not all,
Waiting there for you.
Camp Mather your my home away from home.
Camp Mather your my home away from home.
Cause every year at summer time
Being there is so divine,
Camp Mather your my home away,
Camp Mather your my home away,
Camp Mather your my home away from home.
LAWTON GRAMMAR SCHOOL
In 1955, at the age of 5, I entered kindergarten at Lawton Grammar School located at 31st avenue and Lawton. That's when I met Don Buckter, Penny Scott, Aldo Parenti and quite a few other kids, who would continue on with me through the 6th grade and onto Giannini Junior High in 1962. I fell in love many times in my younger days. In Kindergarten there was Jane and Lorna Perkins and Maureen Kelly, who lived across from my Grandmother at 1247 33rd Avenue. Because both of my parents worked I would spend many of my early days, Kindergarten through 2nd grade, going to my Grandmother's house after school.
In first grade there
was Penny Scott, who I gave a Cracker Jack prize 'ring' to as an engagement
'ring'. I can't remember too much about any girls in particular during second
and third grades. Another girl I vaguely remembered was Karen Anthony. I think
I'm still in love with her to this day. Then there was Emily Martin, that's at
least a paragraph or two. On June 1st, 1959 somebody set Jefferson Grammar
School on fire. The fire pretty much destroyed most of the school. About a third
of students were redirected to Lawton, starting Fall season of 1959. This
brought a new supply of some cute girls, Elaine Kosturas, Sue Chapman, just to
mention a few. For some reason, while in the fourth grade, I had an infatuation
with one of the new 5th or 6th graders, named Becky.
Emily Martin was kind of a cute blonde tom-boy. I believe I've known her since fourth grade. She had a brother who was in my same Cub Scout and Boy Scout organization. I would see her at a couple of Scout family events. She had kind of a smart mouth, which for some reason, along with her extremely cute looks, made me fall in love with her. My love for her continued through Giannini Junior High School. We didn't have what one would call a true love relationship, but, more of a buddy relationship who was good looking.
More to continue.
1961 THE RUSSIAN RIVER & RUTHE
In the summer of 1961, when I was 11 years old I went with my sister Carole and her future husband Jim Barnett to the Russian River. While by myself down on the river beach I met a 10 year old girl named Ruthe. She had this gorgeous Gypsy look about her and I was infatuated with her. At that time I must have been in love, not knowing the word 'infatuated'. She had a couple of older sisters who thought I was kind of cute and funny, but, she would not have anything to do with me.
Their father had a station wagon to which I found their address on the registration in a holder attached to the steering wheel. When I returned home to San Francisco I took a streetcar ride downtown to the main library where I looked up the address and phone number in a reverse directory. When I got home I proceeded to give Ruthe a call. Her sisters talked to me, but, apparently Ruthe was too shy to talk to me.
One of the most interesting things about this so called relationship is that back in 1961 when I met Ruthe there was a song that was on the radio and on the Juke Box at Rio Nido called "Take Good Care of My Baby", by Bobby Vee. To this day when ever I hear or play that song, I can't help thinking about Ruthe.
Around 2008 when I was involved with radio station KNRY in Monterey, I decided to do a little detective work to see if I could locate Ruthe. I lucked out and located her and contacted her by phone and after a little convincing she agreed to call me one Saturday night on my 'Oldies' radio show. It was quite remarkable. Other than that time at the Russian River in 1961, I had never seen her again. Maybe someday.
If everything works
out, I will be meeting Ruthe and maybe her sisters in the Summer of 2016.
No, not yet.
There will be more about this later.
GIANNINI JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL
My 3 years at Giannini Junior High were probably my more developmental years. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but it was during those 3 years, for my first year my parents put me on diet pills, during the end of my second year we were introduced to the Beatles and by my third year I had already ventured into a few business ventures.
My first year, 7th grade, my parents put me on these 2 diet pills, one was for my thyroid and the other one was to control my appetite and control my appetite it did. During my diet pills year I would not eat any lunch at all. I wasn't hungry. The one pill had another affect on me and that was I became the most studious student in class. I would have my homework done way ahead of time and I would get exceptional good marks on all my school work and tests. When I got home though, as the 'pill' was wearing off I would make up for the lost time by rambling on and on.
In February of 1964 the Beatles arrived and boy did the girls started looking different, in a very good way. I believe I still have my first original "Meet The Beatles" album.
THE BABES OF JUNIOR SCHOOL
Where does one begin? I had a whole new appreciation for Penny Scott. Nothing serious, but, in 8th grade journalism class, Penny sat in front of me and during most of the semester I spent a lot of time writing little love notes on her back with my fingers. She was a good sport. She even mentioned it in a poem she wrote in my autograph book upon graduating from 9th grade. During that same journalism class a new girl was a late addition to the class, named Janice Wright. Word was that she got kicked out of Hoover Junior High for fighting with another girl. If that's not enough to make me fall in love with her, I don't know what is. Imagine Marsha Brady, from the Brady Bunch, not only in a leather motorcycle jacket, but, driving her own motorcycle too. She was the kind of girl that I would bite my knuckles for.
I mentioned Emily Martin earlier. Emily and I always got along pretty well. She was kind of a 'knockout' Tom Boy. My 'school boy crush' on her came and went many times. I can remember, as if it was yesterday, in 7th or 8th grade Mr. Levine's English class, when I would be sent to the back of the room to write "I will not talk in class" a hundred times, I would stare out the window at Emily Martin during her girl's P.E. class. I can remember biting my knuckles a few times. I even started to write a song about her, but, never finished.
I MET A GIRL NAMED
I met a girl named Emily, I met a girl indeed.
I met a girl named Emily and she's the girl I need.
I met a girl named Emily, I met a girl indeed.
Now we're gonna get, get married.
One of my later buddies was Mike Toporkoff, I'm not too sure when, who moved in down the block from me, but, a few doors up from Paul Taylor. He lived at 2351 29th Avenue. He was a half year younger than I and while I went to Giannini Junior High, he went to Hoover Junior High and Paul, as I mentioned earlier went to Catholic Schools. Through Mike, Paul and I met George Sanotsky. Both Mike and George, though not born in Russia, had Russian parents. Through George we all met Jim Whereat and Dave Rothman. Through the years we have all stayed in contact, with the exception of Mike, for reasons unknown.
2014 Photo 'left to right' George Sanotsky, Paul Taylor & Jim Whereat
Taylor passed away in November of 2018, a few days before his 68th Birthday.
PAPER ROUTE & MIKE TOPORKOFF
Somewhere around the ages of 14 and 15 I had an early morning paper route with the San Francisco Examiner. I just went to 'Google' to double check that the Examiner was a morning paper. I remember that my paper cart was 'red' and that was an Examiner color while the Chronicle cart was 'yellow'. I am a little confused because I also, for a short time delivered the Chronicle, I was a district sub.
My Examiner route covered 29th Avenue from Pacheco to Taravel. My buddy Mike Toporkoff, who lived about 10 houses down the street from me, had the Examiner route on 28th Avenue from Pacheco to Taravel. Every morning about 5:00 we would meet at 29th Avenue and Rivera where both of our papers would be dropped off. The papers would usually arrive within 10 to 20 minutes then we would be on our way.
LET'S BACK UP A LITTLE BIT
I've left out a few things. When I was about six or seven my parents bought me a 12 Bass Accordion and had me take Accordion lessons / classes on a once a week basis. Within a couple of years I advanced to my brand new 120 Bass Accordion. I still have both Accordions. Around the same time I started the Accordion I also started roller skating at 'Skateland At The Beach', something my sister Carole had been doing for a few years earlier. There weren't too many kids there of my age, either a couple of years younger or closer to my sister's age.
During my Grammar and
Junior High School days I also dabbled in HO Trains. I had a 4 X 8 foot table
that I laid track with remote switches and so on. Yes, this took up one of the
spaces for a second car. Thank goodness my parents liked to park outside most of
Because both of my parents worked, (my father was in Real Estate sales and my mother worked for the U.S. Post Office and my sister was about 8 years older than me), I was home alone most weekdays after school and during summer time all day long. This 'time' gave me the freedom, to some extent, to work with my trains, mess around at the work bench in the basement and a few other things I'll be writing about. More to continue.
From about age eleven to fourteen I spent most of my summer vacation days taking the 'L' Taravel Streetcar down Taravel Street to 46th Avenue to catch the Bus that would take me to Skateland At The Beach where I would roller skate for about four to five hours working on improving whatever skills I may have had. I wasn't much of a 'figure' skater. I was more of a 'free style' or 'jumper' type of skater. At one point I was able to do a 'double' jump, (that's doing '2' 360 degree revolutions in '1' jump. For over weight Jim, that was pretty good. By the way, 'wood burns' can really hurt. Later I will write about how I got back into roller skating when I was 16, had my Corvair truck, and started visiting other roller skating rinks throughout the San Francisco Bay Area where I met many young ladies. More about this later.
When I was about 11or 12 years old my sister Carole and her boyfriend, and future husband Jim, took me to a couple of different County Fairs. I became fascinated with some of the 'arcade booths' like the 'penny pitch' into various glass dishes, throwing darts at balloons and a few others. I did fairly well with the 'penny pitch' and won quite a few glass bowl, ashtrays, etc. Having all these items I won and the fascination I had with the whole concept, I soon came up with an idea.
Somewhere, and I can't remember where I got them, I had a roll of about 200 paper sheets, about 2 feet wide and 3 feet tall, that was filled with about 600 1-inch squares, which contained a number, (1 through 6), throughout the poster, which became my 'dart game'. I took a 4 foot by 4 foot board along with about a 31/2 foot piece of a banister and a 3 inch ball bearing wheel and made kind of a roulette wheel which I drew and painted 12 evenly dispersed numbers in a circle which extended to the edge of the board. Of course I had all of my glass ashtrays, about 12, and about 6 of my various bowls which I used a Dymo Labeler to label with different numbers, 1, 5, 10, 15 and 20.
In San Francisco at the corner of Geary and Van Ness was and still is a great restaurant called 'Tommy's Joint', known for its 'Buffalo Stew'. This is where I got the name 'Jimmy's Joint'. Now I was ready to go. For about 2 to 3 years I operated 'Jimmy's Joint' in front of my home at 2307 29th Avenue, mostly during the summer months at various times. I had 3 different games, the 'Penny Pitch', the 'Dart Game' and the 'Roulette Wheel'. All chances cost a penny to play except for the 'Dart Game', which cost a nickel for 3 dart throws. Winnings were disbursed in the form of 'Point Tickets', which then could be exchanged for various prizes such as small priced toys, medium priced toys, games, etc. I wasn't open everyday and when I was, I was probably opened for only 4 or 5 hours. Bottom line, when I was open, after paying for the prizes, I probably averaged a $5.00 a day profit.
LINCOLN HIGH SCHOOL
For whatever reason I seem to remember more about my days at my grammar and junior high schools than I do about my days at Lincoln High, on 24th Avenue between Quintara and Santiago Streets. It may be because I 'cut' quite a few of my classes and the fact that I left Lincoln at the beginning of my 3rd year, which I don't go around and brag about, but I don't regret it either. I had just turned 15 when I started high school. Most of the times to get to school I would either walk up the 5 steep hill blocks on Santiago or I would walk down to Taraval Street and then either walk up or grab the streetcar. Sometimes I would meet up with a buddy of mine named Danny Whetstone, who I met in junior high. On the way to school we would talk about our plans and dreams to be a 'great' comedy team. In junior high we did a couple of comedy skits during the Thursday morning Pep Club gathering in the main auditorium.
GYM & ROTC
Like most all regular kids who start high school, I too opted for gym instead of ROTC. Unfortunately, when it came to the next semester, for whatever reason, Mr. Payne the gym teacher insisted I sign up for ROTC, sighting my different than normal personality. So, I went into ROTC. Thank goodness I only had to wear the green uniform one day a week. I could never figure out why there were so many Chinese and Japanese students who were in command. I had some very mixed and scary feelings about that at the time. There were two staff teachers who were real Army Sergeants, Sergeant Thompson and Sergeant Budington. I guess I had worn out my welcome within a few semesters and had to go back to gym.
HARVEY CHRISTIANSEN - DEAN OF BOYS / PRINCIPAL
I guess my being a little rebellious and having a compulsive habit to 'cut' school classes, ever so often, introduced me to the Dean of Boys at Lincoln High, Harvey Christiansen. For some reason he liked to call me 'Vossen' with an emphasis on the letter 'O', instead of the proper way with the 'O' having more an 'AW' sound like in 'boss' and 'toss'. He had a certain manor about him that reminded me of Robert Stack as Eliot Ness of the TV series. I wasn't a 'bad' kid, I just was restless and got bored sitting in most classes. I believe that a lot of the times I would 'cut' classes was more of a game to see what I could or could not get away with. To add complications to my situations, my Aunt Billie was the School's Clerk and her desk was next to the Dean's office, thank God separated by a small wall, creating another challenge of when called into the Dean's office of avoiding her seeing me.
THE BABES OF HIGH SCHOOL
As I start writing
this chapter I got to thinking that there were more babes in junior high than
high school. The reason might be that a lot of the babes in high school I knew
from my earlier days, however, there are a few that stand out in my mind. One of
those babes was a girl named Lydia, (not sure of the spelling). Lydia was
somewhat of gorgeous
tough kind of a girl with long dark brown hair. She lived on 32nd Avenue between
Taravel and Santiago, only 3 blocks away from me. She might as well have lived
in New York, she wouldn't have anything to do with me. Maybe that is what
attracted her to me. I had a habit of going after that kind of hard to get girl.
CORVAIR PICK-UP TRUCK
On December 30th, 1965, I turned 16 years old. About 2 weeks earlier, with help from my parents, I bought a 1963 Corvair pick-up truck from Gateway Chevrolet in Daly City. It was a very unusual truck with the engine in the rear, like the Corvair cars. This allowed for a passenger side ramp-door that I could use to dolly up items like washing machines, refrigerators, etc. I had a couple of small signs made that said, "Wanted, Odd Jobs, Reward, Lots of Hard Work", and of course my home phone number. Not wanting to deface my beautiful white with a red stripe truck, I utilized the existing post holes along the top rim of the bed of the truck to be able just slide my signs in and out. From the signs I started getting jobs like rubbish hauling and small moving jobs.
FALLING IN LOVE IN 1966
In 1966 my buddies George S., Mike T. and James W. had a garage band and ever so often would practice in James W. garage on 44th Avenue in San Francisco. George S. had and played a portable organ. I played the accordion which, at the time, was not a popular instrument for a garage band, so quite often I would just be parked outside the garage listening.
One night a beautiful girl walked by with her big white dog. I began to engage in a conversation to learn more about this 'babe'. Her name was Cheri. It is hard to say if I fell 'in love' with her right away or if I was mostly infatuated with her, maybe a combination of both. There was something about the way she walked and ever so often moving her head in such a way to fling her long beautiful dark brown hair from one side of her back to the other.
More to come...
GETTING BACK TO ROLLER SKATING
Once I had wheels I came up with an idea to meet girls. I took my old pair of roller skates, which my feet had outgrown the boots on the skates, and swapped the old boots for some boots that were more my size. Then I started visiting different roller skating rinks throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. At these various skating rinks there were usually a few girls in the 15 to 16 year old range that appeared to be regular skaters. I was 16 and a fairly good skater with uniquely sharp looking skates. I think that because the girls had never seen me before allowed for me to engage in some kind of conversation which usually resulted in some kind of flirtation from both sides, which I enjoyed quite a bit. It sure helped me build my confidence.
VOSSENOVA BURGLAR ALARMS
For Cars, Vans & Trucks
When I was 16, besides doing rubbish hauling and small moving jobs, I found a certain fascination with automobile electronic and electric gadgets. This led me to the development of a burglar system for cars, vans & trucks. There was an electronic store, Lafayette Radio, downtown around 9th and Howard. From that store I started purchasing a few metal boxes, 3 inch X 3 inch X 3 inch, some 4-screw terminal strips, some double pole double throw 12 Volt relays, some fender mounted single single throw key lock switches and of course some wire and some connectors. That is how Vossenova Burglar Alarms for Cars, Vans & Trucks was started. In 1969 I somehow convinced the big Sears store on Geary Street in San Francisco to allow me to sell and install my alarms at their auto department. I did this for about 6 months.
My car alarm business was off and on until 1979 when I started installing my alarms at custom van conversion businesses, Classic Vans in South San Francisco and Bizi Body Vans in Newark, near Hayward. Around that time I got a call from a Service Writer at Weatherford BMW in Emeryville, near Oakland. The Service Writer told me that one of their mechanics accidently broke one of our alarm sirens off its mount. I came over and replaced the siren at 'No Charge'. From that I started putting alarms on some of their BMW's and from there the word got out and within a year I had 8 BMW dealers in the San Francisco Bay Area installing about 150 to about 200 alarms a month. More to come.
MY 1967 PONTIAC GTO
MY 1968 CHEVY TRUCK & 1967 PONTIAC GTO REAR ENDS
In about February,
1970 my then brother-in-law Jim Barnett invited me to do some deliveries, mostly
in the San Francisco financial district area. He and two other partners had just
started a printing business called Goodway Copy Center. I had my 68 Chevy Truck
and of course I had commercial plates on it. I worked independently under the
name of Vossenova Trucking (Special Delivery & Messenger Service) and charged by
the delivery. Within a month or two I had acquired a couple of other customers.
This was before Cell Phones. I actually had a Mobile Telephone through Pacific
The month of July, 1970 was a very busy month. My delivery business took off with a new customer, IBM, moved into a loft above a parking garage (64 Golden Gate Avenue) and got married on July 4th. The growth of my delivery business was fairly quick, considering I was working with a very limited operating capitol. Somehow from July 1970 to the end of that year, I had traded in my 68 Chevy Pick-up Truck for a 1970 Volkswagon Pick-up Truck, bought '2' Honda 125 Motorcycles, '1' 1970 Honda 350 and bought a 1971 Volkswagon Bus (wagon).
Vossenova Trucking specialized in very quick deliveries in the Financial District of San Francisco. Our 2 Volkswagons were equip with 2-way radios with our base station antenna located on the top of a 50-story building at 1 California St. Our biggest customer was IBM. We had a 2 direct phone lines, called 'hotlines', 1 located inside the IBM parts department at 340 Market St. for IBM to use and 1 in the back hallway for our delivery personnel to use.
IBM would call us to deliver a computer part to an IBM technician at various locations. Most deliveries were picked up and delivered within 15 minutes of the initial call. At one point we had 2 bicycle, 2 truck, and 2 motorcycle delivery persons. Vossenova Trucking was active from February 1970 until about 1974. There were some good times and some bad times.
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