Migrant Oral Histories
Project: Oral History Project
Interviewee: Jim Dunn
Interviewer: Eddye Vanderkwaak
Eddye: Can you tell me your name and your age first?
Jim Dunn: James “Jim” Dunn, age 68.
Eddye: And what country are you originally from?
Eddye: And where specifically in Canada?
Jim: Sudbury, Ontario.
Eddye: And tell me about your childhood in Sudbury, Ontario.
Jim: Pretty normal. One mother, one father. Older brother, younger brother. Lived in the suburbs. Kinda ran away and joined the circus. Started playing guitar and singing. Yeah, went from there…
Eddye: What age did you start playing guitar?
Jim: 15 – 16?
Eddye: What influenced that?
Jim: February 9th, 1964. The Beatles on Ed Sullivan.
Eddye: So when did you leave Ontario?
Jim: Well I left Sudbury in about 68’. Played on the road. All over the north and the south. And when I really left Canada it was in 73’. In October.
Eddye: October…ok…And you came here?
Jim: No uh, I was still playing still on the road. But my first playing gig was in Beckley, West Virginia up in the mountains. Which refers to one of your things about how different it was. It was really different. Ha-ha.
Eddye: Ha-ha. Ok umm, how old were you at the time?
Jim: 27? 26!
Eddye: 26, ok. Ummm, so next question is what did you do in your country before you moved here I mean obviously you –
Jim: I was a musician. Dropped out of school and went on the road.
Eddye: What age did you drop out?
Audrey: He finished high school.
Jim: Oh yeah, I finished high school and dropped out of college.
Eddye: So you just played music? Got better?
Eddye: Uhhh, what were the conditions in your country when you left?
Jim: Ummm…Not as tumultuous as here because there was no Vietnam. Um, there was no Nixon. There was no Civil Rights. They um, in my world the hippie thing was developing over – uh and being a musician that was my world but it was pretty normal. There is, there was and still is quite a few similarities between the U.S. and Canada day to day.
Eddye: Mhmm. Ok. And can you describe how you kind of prepared for your trip here?
Jim: Years of playing. Ha-ha.
Eddye: Ha-ha. And how many were in your band when you traveled over?
Eddye: And they all came illegally as well?
Jim: We uh, we came together. The other three went back to Canada. That’s another story though…
Eddye: Uhhh…do you mind sharing that story? Ha-ha.
Jim: Oh yeah! We were actually on the beach in uh Clearwater, Florida. We had had a band meeting and our leader drummer said, (looks at Audrey) she must have heard this part before, ha-ha, and uh said, “Ok, were going to play a week in Albany, Georgia, a week in Chattanooga,” – I remember all the details, “A week in Huntington, West Virginia, and a week in Buffalo then cross back into Canada. And does anybody have anything to say?” And I said, “Yeah I quit.”
Jim: And he said, “Well you cant do that!” And I said, “Of course I can, its 121 degrees colder at home than it is here. I quit.”
Jim: And um, so he says, ya know, “what happens if you get caught?” And I said well they kick me out. Ill be the same as if I left with you guys that is if they don’t catch me. But they never caught me. So I was really illegal for six and a half years.
Eddye: Six and a half years?
Jim: Yeah. On the advice of an immigration agent, by the way.
Eddye: So what uh what about, like how did you learn how to cross into the U.S. without getting caught?
Jim: Well pre-9/11 it was really easy. They ask when you crossed either way, “Citizen of what country and how long are you going and how long have you been gone?” and you just make up something. And I crossed at uh, Niagara Falls because that it was always busy, and I said going in I was going to be at Niagara Falls, New York for a couple of hours, do some shopping. And then it was always, “Welcome back to Canada, sir.” And I was gone for years.
Jim: Just come back and see my family.
Eddye: Were you, like what were some of your concerns at all? Were you afraid or did you know people that got caught?
Jim: Um, the band I was in got caught coming back a year after I was with them –
Eddye: The one you quit?
Jim: They would always go for like 6 months, go back for 6 months, go for 6 months, and I jumped ship and stayed. Um, and obviously if you are gone 6 months especially on a VISA, which they were, um you bought some things and if you said you didn’t buy anything, their gonna go “What?” Ya know I always said I bought guitar strings, ya know, I got this shirt, I got this and that. Here’s the receipts and they go, “Oh yeah you’re fine, go ahead.” And if you have 5 guys who say they didn’t buy anything, their gonna go, “Lets have a look.” And then when they start finding pianos and amplifiers and stuff, you’re in deep doo-doo at that point.
Jim: But I was single and I didn’t care. I mean I didn’t want to go back to Canada but I was single so I didn’t care. There was nobody to be responsible to except myself so…
Eddye: Right. So your parents live in Ontario?
Eddye: And how did they feel about your decision to cross?
Jim: (Deep sigh). They didn’t really say anything. Um, except ya know when I was when I was gone and I would call home – mothers day, Christmas, stuff like that – like I was in Los Angeles and called home on Christmas and my mother just sighed and said, “Its just so damn far.” But that was the only feedback I ever got so…
Eddye: Umm…So are there…I mean obviously your family, your parents, like, was there anything you felt you may have left behind or that you were moving away from? Haha…if that question makes any sense?
Eddye: Anything you were attached to?
Jim: Eh, I had a girlfriend there but it was kind of soured at that point and I was really selfish as far as my goals. I wanted to, quote, “Make it,” whatever that was – as a musician. And just so much more music opportunity in the United States than in Canada.
Audrey: Very close friends, ya know.
Jim: Oh yeah, I had friends, but, yeah…
Eddye: So this is going to be a silly question but like, did you drive into the U.S. or did you take a train, like how did you get here? A train or a plane?
Jim: We were, um, we had a car and a trailer and it was just drove everywhere. Cause for my world and my situation, it was like playing bars and lounges and stuff and so we would be a week, two weeks, three weeks in the same place. And you know we would go from, Minnesota to Fort Meyers, unload, set up, and we would be in that club at Fort Meyers for three weeks. Then we would go to Miami and we would be there for four weeks or whatever so…
Eddye: So financially how did you do that? How did, like, financially, how did you do all that?
Jim: Money was really good back then. Oh yeah. Um there were, there were tons of places to play that just don’t exist anymore. They just aren’t there anymore. And um we were, the band I was in, was the pretty much the top of that circuit so they gave me quite a bit of money. So, yeah, of course I spent it because I was single, and barely broke even by the time I was off the road but yeah…
Eddye: You didn’t have the need to send any home or provide for your parents?
Jim: No because I knew I wasn’t going home. There were – home wasn’t home at that point. It was pretty much just with me. I had a bank account still in Sudbury that was like on auto payment with my band because that’s where I got it because I couldn’t get one here because I was illegal and uh then I had a bank account in Fort Meyers where all my money went. But I mostly spent it even though it was good money. You know if we had a week off I would go to New York, or go to LA or something and my friends would go home. The guys in the band would go back home to their families and I was single so I would just go somewhere.
Eddye: So as far as, you and your band, like where did you guys live and stay and sleep like at night?
Jim: Hotel rooms, cause a part of the deal was, so like, if we played at Ramada Inn we would get X amount of money and rooms. So we had rooms wherever we went…
Eddye: Ok and did you coordinate all of this or someone else?
Jim: No, no. There was always someone else who was our leader who took care of all our business and our management agents took care of all that stuff. It was always someone else in the band that was the liaison. So all I know was that, say, Saturday night I got my money.
Eddye: Ok. So why did you choose the U.S? Why not another destination?
Jim: Well, ya know the line in the song, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” Ya know, so, this is where the opportunities were. Also this is, this was, approachable. You just cross the bridge and you’re there, ya know. Where as if I was going to go England, and I had friends who went to England because there were a lot of musicians that went to England that made it then came back. And uh, Hendrix being the most famous. But um, I knew some friends that did that but it is pretty hard. Where as it is just really easy to get into the car and just cross the bridge and say, “Ill be back in an hour,” and never come back, haha.
Eddye: Yeah. Do you speak any other languages?
Jim: I speak French pretty well, although I’m pretty rusty, but it comes back pretty well. Cause the area that I’m originally from is probably a quarter French but the little towns outside like in my hometown, Sudbury, is like Des Moines. All the places like Mitcheville and Adel and all that are like really like a lot French. So, I took French in school, took it as a compulsory. It was really easy because of the way my brain is, and I wanted to talk to the girls when I was playing, ha-ha, and you know then I studied Spanish in school and um because language is pretty easy for me. I’m pretty good at that but I’m really rusty, I think I learned it too late in life that I’ve forgotten a lot of it.
Eddye: So can you tell me about how your friends and family either treated you or commented on your decision to go back and forth or to stay and not come back?
Jim: I’m sure they all thought I was nuts. My brother, my older brother, didn’t want me to go. Yeah I suppose he could imagine all sorts of horrible things happening.
Audrey: Well and you guys played in a band so he was always moving…
Jim: And um, but the guys that I had played with that had actually been in the U.S. I think they understood because they saw what was here. The opportunities, the money, the way we were treated, ya know, that it was just another world that was just so much better. And uh, so I’m sure they all thought on the one hand as far as career wise it was probably the smart thing to do. On the other hand saying, “I’m just going to go – where you gonna go? – I don’t know – well what are you going to do when you get there? – I don’t know.” And then I drove from my parent’s house to Los Angeles knowing only one person and I stayed with her until I found a place to play. But I had no idea what I was going to do when I got there.
Eddye: So you weren’t afraid of much back then were you?
Jim: No, no. Ha-ha.
Eddye: Ha-ha. That’s cool. So –
Jim: Ya know I see Katharyne, ya know now, going to Las Vegas and going here going to that destination wedding in the Dominican Republic and that’s just me.
Eddye: Did you have to make any life style changes or anything in being here?
Jim: Lose my accent, ha-ha! But you know I was already uh, already a musician, I was used to being on the road I was used to staying in hotels. I had no fixed address ya know for like 13 years. Every official thing went to my parent’s house because I didn’t have a place because I was traveling all the time. Um, yeah I think ya know the one thing, especially being illegal was, I needed to lose my accent but that was easy after my very first gig being a month in the mountains in West Virginia.
Eddye: Can you think of a few things you had to ya know to cover up or not do to draw attention to yourself? Like what…what was it like to be illegal?
Jim: Um, well it was really different then. It was really easier because it was pre-computers. So like, if I had got stopped at the border and somebody ran a check on my Canadian drivers license or whatever, there would be limited stuff it would do. It wouldn’t cross reference or, lets say, I got stopped at the border with two amplifiers or whatever, there would be no cross reference to immigration that said that I had been gone for three months or whatever because there was no computers. Um a lot like you had said, you don’t draw attention to yourself. You don’t run stop signs, you be cool, you don’t get in trouble. Just before I came too Iowa we were in southern Texas. And the band I was in, they all thought I was from Florida cause that’s what I told them. And um, every night they wanted me to go cross the border to Mexico, cause that was the Wild West down there and it went on all night and I didn’t go. And after ya know the, “come on you gotta go, what’s the matter with you,” blah blah blah, finally I realized that I had to tell them why I wasn’t going. Cause we were there two weeks and every night they wanted to go and I didn’t want to go. But I’m always, like at any kind of party, or whatever, I’ve always been like the last man standing. So why wouldn’t I go to like this crazy place? And so finally I just said, “ok here’s the deal,” and so they were still very cool about it cause the next night they introduced me on the stage as being directly from Gainesville Florida, ha-ha, and that’s what everybody in Iowa thought when I came here cause that’s what everybody told them. That’s what Audrey thought too.
Eddye: Did you ever, morally feel like you were doing something wrong –
Eddye: – breaking another countries laws or anything? Haha.
Jim – (Shakes head) No. Because it was a stupid law. Well, if I wanted to be here – well, Ill do this quick but, when I was in Tampa, the first time, going around talking to people on our breaks, I talked to a guy who was an immigration person – just luck of the draw. He worked in immigration in Tampa, so I said, “How do I get to stay here?” And he said, “You don’t.” And I said, “What? No if I want to be legal here what do I have to do?” and he said, “You don’t.” Cause at the time he said they have an unwritten policy that they all know what it is. Do not let Canadians in and do not let Brits’ in. Because the –
Eddye: Do not let what?
Jim: Britain’s. British. The United Kingdom, because the education system is so much superior. That if, I’m up for the job and you’re up for the job – Ill get it.
Jim: Yeah! So, um, they just keep us out. And I said, “So what do I do? Ya know I really want to be here ya know what do I do?” And this is an immigration guy, and he said, “Stay here.” He said, “Nobody’s going to know because you are a white guy. Were looking for Cubans.” Yeah. And cause he was immigration and I thought well why not ask the guy, he’ll know, and he did know. It wasn’t the answer I wanted but he knew. And um, so he said if ya know you are a white guy and were looking for Cubans, as long as you’re cool and just keep your nose clean and even if we had come busting into a bar on a raid – you’re up on the stage were not looking at you were looking at all the other stuff – so just stay! I said, wow, what a good idea – so I did ha-ha. But that’s another reason…I thought it was a stupid law anyways. That kinda confirms it ya know and that, plus, “Well we try to keep Canadians out,” and I went oh yeah – well not me!
Audrey: Can I interject something here?
Audrey: I think probably the most stressful part of being illegal was when we were together – and my mother. Wouldn’t you say?
Jim: Yeah! Yeah…
Audrey: Yeah that was really hard…
Jim: Yeah we had to tell Audrey’s parents that I was illegal…
Eddye: So tell me how you and Audrey met.
Jim and Audrey giggle.
Jim: Um…this sounds so corny, ha-ha. I was playing at a bar, in Iowa. I had come here for six weeks – tops! Yeah – I’ve been here 35 years. Um, and it was about week four, and I was at the bar and one of the waitresses said, “Oh, Jim, this is my friend Audrey. Audrey, this is Jim, this is the guy who played in the band.” And she turned around and said hi and then looked away. And I was in love! Literally, no joke, no fooling around – that was it, for me. So that’s how we met.
Eddye to Audrey: Was that how you remember it? Ha-ha.
Audrey: (Huge grin) I just ran as far as fast as often as I could. Ha-ha!
Jim: See, its no big deal now, but I was 34 and she was 19.
Jim: So that’s like major scandal. Ya know, ha-ha, especially if I’m a rock n roller in the bar and her parents are Christians. Somewhat conservative, community leaders blah blah blah.
Audrey: What people don’t know is that he never drank; he never did drugs, never ever! And that’s not what you see, and my parents were like aw he’s going to sweep her up and take her off somewhere and get her involved in this band and drug stuff and..yeah.
Jim: My kids don’t believe me. They have both told me that. That they don’t believe me. Ha-ha.
Audrey: That you never drank.
Jim: Yeah that I never drank and never took drugs.
Eddye: Well was that, was that huge then? Was it as big as –
Jim: Well it wasn’t for me, I just didn’t want to. If I wanted to I would have –
Eddye: Was your band members – did your band members dabble in it.
Jim: Oh, hmph, I always said that if I was against drugs and against alcohol I would have nobody to play with.
Eddye: Oh ok.
Jim: Cause this was the 60’s ya know, come on. Ha-ha. Yeah and the 70’s, so all you have to do is watch Woodstock and moderate pop and go ok.
Eddye: So were you just not interested or just –
Jim: No, I just didn’t want to. I just didn’t care. It’s like I don’t want to skydive. Feel free if you want to but I don’t to ha-ha.
Audrey and Eddye laugh.
Jim: It’s not that I am afraid of it I just have no desire to. Ya know, so…
Audrey: He’s all black and white…he just is ha-ha..ha-ha…
Eddye: Yeah yeah…
Audrey: Which is good ya know…ha-ha.
Eddye: SO tell me about your…if you can remember, your first impression of the United States. Like did somebody tell you about it, what you thought about it?
Jim: Well you don’t know this because you were born here but for the rest of the world America is magic. The streets are paved with gold, blah blah blah blah blah….So we were prepared to have our minds being blown, living here and um in a lot of ways its true. Ya know, in thinking about it, it is pretty damn cool here. And um I sent you that link about my city and it is pretty cool and it’s really pretty hip. There’s a real artistic community and politically active, really politically active people there um, and Toronto was a major real world class city, its just its different there than here –
Jim: Its just there’s a, there’s a magic to it…because of all the legends ya know the first time I was in Los Angeles and I was walking down Hollywood Boulevard, and see what was Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, you go, holy shit, I’ve seen that movie a hundred times, ya know. Or you drive up into Laurel Canyon and there’s Joni Mitchells house and then suddenly you go holy cow this is mind blowing. And New York City and it just is magic. Ha-ha. The first, the first four places we played were, Beckley West Virginia, ya know like I said in the mountains, uh 60 miles and 2800 hundred feet away from Charleston and it was real hillbilly country, coal mining country. Um, Cincinnati, which is almost as redneck. Um – it is, I don’t know if you have been there but its..it’s real red. Green Bay, Wisconsin. Um, what’s the – Colombia, Missouri, which is where the college is, which is kind of a small town still, um, Middle America. And then we went to Tallahassee and Clearwater Beach, which is where I jumped ship. And um –
Eddye: It’s a good place to jump.
Eddye: Good place to jump.
Jim: Haha, yeah! Well that’s what I said, it was 121 degrees colder at home than it was sitting out on that beach, ya know, it was 21 below and then it was 80 so…
Audrey: Really that’s where your heart is in Florida.
Jim: Yep. Still is.
Eddye: Ok. So you talked a little bit about it but maybe you can talk more about the differences in culture from here to where you grew up.
Jim: Um, well even now a lot of the average American and the average Canadian is the same. Um, the TV shows are the same the movies are the same. There’s a European influence from Quebec. And Montreal is a major city. Montreal is one of the greatest cities in the world just because of that, I think. So there’s a little bit of the Canadian culture and the European that’s not here that’s kind of cool. But there’s so much the same, I mean, um ya know the brand of the clothes are the same and the food is the same. The number one beer is Budweiser, lays potato chips, the McDonalds, its basically the same…so much the same. There are differences but to the casual observer it’s kind of the same.
Audrey: This isn’t culture but you always talk about the education…politically things have been different.
Jim: Yeah, there’s a um, I, I’ve been gone so long I don’t know, but the Canadian education system was at the time the best in the world. Ontario, because it’s a branch of it, was the education system at the time was the best in the world. And um, that’s, that’s one major difference and um although it’s the same with the TV the countries become a lot more polarized. I’ll see that on Facebook that Fox News, MSNBC, is the same as the liberal conservative up there now, ya know yelling at each other calling each other names and ya know that crap, whereas, that didn’t used to be that way. Ya know it used to be, and this is just an example, that the elections in Canada for federal elections, ya know for the federal government were 30 days long and three days before the election all the signs had to come down, there were no commercials, ya know you just kind of had to shut up and let people think and then just the election. And it’s a federal holiday. The bars don’t even open until the polls close. And ya know, they have people running for president two years ago for 2016 it just, it never ends ya know. There was that difference, like I said, I don’t know if that still the same now, but and – and the cliché about Canadians being so uh polite and so apologetic is, is true.
Eddye: It’s true?
Jim: Yeah, yeah, oh yeah. They are sorry for everything. Ya know, ha-ha. “Oh I’m sorry!” Ha-ha.
Eddye: Ha-ha! Ok, so were there any other clichés or statements attached to anything?
Audrey: “Eh?” Hahahaha!
Jim: Um, yeah the accent, for sure. Um…I don’t know. Just that kind of politeness and the…
Eddye: Well from what I’ve noticed there’s a lot of pride, like Canadians, I don’t know, are very prideful. Of where they come from and ya know…
Jim: Mhmm…well there didn’t used to be but there is now, yeah, definitely there is now,
Eddye: Why do you think that is?
Jim: *Sighs* I don’t know, um cause I’ve been gone, ya know I’ve been gone since 73.
Eddye: You haven’t gone back at all?
Jim: Oh yeah, yeah, I go back uh quite often but um, but um, yeah…yeah, I don’t know. Maybe, in 1967, the worlds fair, was in Montreal, and that was an incredibly huge deal. I don’t know why, but it just was. Kind of this identity. And it was either then or 68’ or 69’, the Canadian red flag had always been the red enzyme which was the British flag of the British navy. And in 67’ or 68’ they actually had their own Canadian flag. The two reds and the whites with the red maple leaf on it. That’s only been the official flag since the late 60’s.
Eddye: What does the leaf symbolize?
Jim: The maple leaf has always been the symbol, like the eagle. Same thing…
Jim: Umm…and so that and uh Canadian hockey, yeah –
Audrey: yeah I was gonna say, hockey.
Jim: – Yeah definitely and they don’t necessarily win at a lot of stuff ya know, like the figure skaters do well and like the skiers and everything but the hockey teams kick butt. Everybody loves it. But! The last Olympics it was hilarious but it was true. The gold medal game was at whatever time it was, where were they in Japan? Sochi? And so the game was at like 3:00 in the morning – Canadian time. They changed the law to open the bars so they could watch the hockey game. And, ya know, all the Canadians were saying, “What a country. We actually change the law to open the bars one day for a hockey game.” But it happened, it really did happen.
Eddye: So, obviously you wanted to play music, you wanted to be young and free, ya know, and do all the things that you did but what were your hopes/fears of when you came here?
Jim: Um, well I wanted to make it in music, although I couldn’t probably tell you what that was. I probably still couldn’t. But I don’t think I wanted to be a rock n roll start at that point. I think I was looking more at…I don’t know something more middle of the road like a permanent Las Vegas gig like uh, Celine Dion has now, ya know, or Wayne Newton, he’s been there for 20 years. 30 or 40 years now at this point. Something like that I’m not sure, the whole thing was you know, music was my um, a vocation it was also what I loved to do but it was my job. And so you want to reach the top of what your job is and whatever your job is ya know.
Eddye: Ummmm, how were you…since it was kind of in secret, how treated when you first got here? Versus how you’re treated now? I mean…
Jim: Well that’s where I think my situation was unique because musicians always get treated well, ya know, everyone loves you, they want to buy you drinks and girls always want to be around you. Um, especially in the smaller towns. Like when we were in Beckley we were only there two days and everyone in town knew who we were cause it was only a couple thousand people in that town in the mountains, so they’d all been there hundreds of years and so here were these four guys with accents. That really look kind of big city, Las Vegas-ey. Everybody knew who we were. Ha-ha.
Audrey: Was that the tuxedo days?
Audrey: Someday you will have to see the pictures –
Eddye: Yeah –
Jim: We hadn’t got to the, to the Earth Wind and Fire look yet, ya know those big splashy flashy clothes but I had those too!
Eddye: Well I might, if it’s ok, ask for some of those, I mean I’ll explain more about why and the project, but I thought it might be cool to show that.
Jim: No absolutely.
Eddye: So if you can, um, how would your experience coming here been different had you needed to come for, say, family or financial or you like survival needs or so?
Jim: It would have been really hard, because like I said that immigration policy, like if I had wanted to come here, and be a medical person or something the VISA process is unbearably slow and I wasn’t computerized then so, um in fact they told us that the, what was supposed to happen with us when we wanted to get married, was I would go back to Canada, that we would file the petition to let me in, so we could get married. It could take anywhere from 9 to 26 months. And so there again, the immigration guy said, “Get married. Once you’re married you’re here, they are not going to kick you out. And then you just file that petition and you just go ahead of the class cause you are already married. And it took, May to November. In November I had my meeting to get my green card, and it was clichéd too. They took her one place and me the other. They asked her what side of the bed we sleep on what kind of aftershave I use, do I snore, all those idiotic questions to prove that I just didn’t hire her to come with me.
Jim: And then I got my green card.
Eddye: So what was that experience like? (To Audrey).
Audrey: Weird, ya know it was, they ask you questions just about what they do and what each other does. See if it matches up. Make sure that we weren’t…that I didn’t offer to marry him just to make him legal and then…cause that probably happens –
Jim: Aw yeah.
Audrey: Often but it was just something we did but it was, it seems kind of fake. We had to go to Omaha to do it – Was it Omaha?
Eddye: What was it like telling your parents? If you are willing to share that story..
Jim: I’m willing to share it but I don’t remember. I remember I’m sure that we were worried. That her mom is not really upset that it happened but like now what’s going to happen, what if something happens to you? What if you get caught and thrown out? You’re gonna marry this guy and he could get * snaps * deported at any second and all. And her mom was really tender hearted. I’m sure you’re dad being – you’re dad just went, “Well, so be it.” Ya know, ha-ha…but her mom was, ya know, really worried about this being a real thing.
Audrey: It was a real stress, I mean, it was a stress on me and ya know my parents were, they were worried, worried about being deported and not paying taxes and all that stuff. Um, but by then, we had been together long enough, they like him – a lot. So, so it made it easier.
Eddye: So now that you’ve had some things that you were attached to here * gestures towards Audrey * how did it change your…your ways of avoiding you being deported or discovered –
Jim: Well, that wasn’t…it really wasn’t even in my head, at that point because I was – I said I was illegal for 6 and half years. When I came to Iowa I came for 6 weeks and we were in Florida, we had the band together and – I’m taking you off track again but – we had went around to southern Texas to McAllen and we were going to play our way back, make some money, buy stage clothes, get a better PA system, and have fancy pictures and all that stuff. So when we got back to Florida we would have it all together. We get around to Texas and the guy who was our manager, quit and left town. We had nothing. And the keyboard player and drummer, who really formed the group, were from Iowa, from Ottumwa, and they said we can go back to Iowa, it was the first week of February, we can go back to Iowa and we can play. Otherwise we are going to have to break up cause we don’t have anything. I mean we don’t have enough money to get back to Florida, what are we going to do? And um, so the bass player who was from southwest Cincinnati like I said – reaaaal redneck country –um and I said ok, but you don’t go to Iowa to make it, I mean you leave Iowa to make it, ya know. And it was in the winter and um we said 6 weeks – 9 weeks tops. And so we went to Iowa and we ended up playing there. And I hated Iowa because it was small town, it wasn’t Florida, it was cold, it was the winter and Jeff, the guy from Cincinnati and I both hated it. And uh, in fact, he left after about three months. But, week number five, ha-ha, and um, so then I was still there and I never thought about being deported or whatever because I was safe as could be in small town Iowa. If you’re hiding out somewhere ya know uh before the age of computers when it didn’t cross reference your or anything um so but then I decided I wasn’t leaving. So…
Eddye: Was there ever like a close call or like a time when your really thought this is like or I’m caught?
Jim: No…no I don’t think so. When we came back, for her to meet my parents, I actually had my paperwork then but I had a student VISA we went up north for her to meet my parents because we were going to get married the following spring and on the way back coming into the United States we got a real jerk for a – instead of welcoming to the US um when I showed him my student VISA he said something about, “Where are you going to work, you cant work on a student VISA?” I said, “My parents are going to pay for whatever I need,” because I didn’t tell him I was going to be a musician. And so this guy hauled us in and gave us the third degree over and over and over again about well I cant work how am I supposed to survive blah blah blah. So finally, I call my parents and um they are three hours away and they come over and uh my dad whose just like me except mellower is explaining to the guy that whatever I need they are good for it, he’s getting married, he’s going back to college, he quit when he was 19 and now he’s going back, were thrilled, were going to pay the bills and this guy was just being an absolute ass. And my mother – you old enough to watch Beverly Hill Billie’s? – oh ok, maybe your professor is – my mother is like Granny Clampett, she is real small and really quiet and old fashioned, until you crossed her. And so she comes walking up to the counter, pushes my dad, whose a big guy, leans across the counter and says, “I’m the goddamn minister of finance in this family, what do you want?” And her financial system was to have a million bank accounts and this was for the electric bill and this was for the water and this was for that. And she starts throwing these bankbooks at the guy. This has 130 bucks a month in the bank account – do you think that’s enough? This has 500 dollars a month – interest! – is that enough for you? The guy reaches down, pulls out my papers, stamps it good, and hands it to her. Ya know he’s got a gun and the whole thing and my mother just backed him down, ha-ha.
Audrey and Eddye laughing.
Jim: It was hilarious!
Eddye: That’s awesome! Haha. I like that.
Jim: Oh yeah, she was the best.
Eddye: So, what’s your status now, like have you established citizenship or –
Jim: Yeah I have my green card, from 81’, until 2000 anddd – I always forget August 2nd, 2004 or August 4th, 2002. I’m thinking it was 2002. Um, 9-11 happened. Broke my heart, same as everybody else. And I realized that I wasn’t Canadian anymore, I was an American. And simultaneously the rise of the right wing started talking about deporting legal residents for parking offenses and stuff like that. Um, and I thought, that’s me! So I cant do this anymore I better be a citizen, so um, I wrote a letter….so I wrote a letter to Senator Tom Harkins office and they kind of greased the wheels on getting citizenship for me and it took maybe seven or eight months for me to do the whole thing instead of a year to do this and then a year to do that. It was two months and then I went for my citizenship test, which was kind of hilarious because they have a computer screen that I cant see and they ask you a question and your answer it and they just click the answer and you ask a question and you answer it and I mean everything from what are the stars and stripes and what do they mean to who is the current house of representatives guy to what’s the separation of powers – all this stuff about America that ya know. Id lived here so long and I read like a maniac so finally she stops and she said ok, we’ve gone through nine screens and you haven’t made a mistake yet I think we can stop…ha-ha.
Eddye: Oh man!
Jim: So that part was ok and then I got a letter saying ya know, you gotta get your pictures taken, go get this paper work for your citizenship and then on this date come to the courthouse. So I’m sure it was August 4th, 2002.
Audrey: So we all went, watched him get sworn in and yeah…
Eddye: What a happy day…
Jim: Yeah. It really was a happy day. So now I’m a citizen, a hundred percent citizen.
Eddye: 2002 you said? And you came here in-
Jim: October – here Iowa or here US?
Jim: September of 73’.
Eddye: September of 73’. Ok…wow.
Jim: But in those days, the green card was permanent and now its not its every ten years and whatever, so once I got my green card and I was legal here, neither one of us gave it another thought.
Eddye: Yeah…so what do you have to do to redo that or renew or –
Jim: I’m not sure, because like I said, when I had it, it was permanent. When I got my green card it lasts forever. Like a birth certificate or social security almost. They took it back when I became a Citizen so I took a bunch of pictures of it, so I still have it, ha-ha.
Audrey: But you personally don’t have to do anything at all –
Jim: No, no. I’m a citizen, the same as you. Yeah.
Jim: Except I have certificate and you don’t. So I can prove it and you – ha-ha.
Eddye: Yeah, I will just have to show them, what, my social security number?
Jim: Yeah, ha-ha. But see I had one of those when I was illegal so even that doesn’t count for anything. Ha-ha.
Eddye: Ok…ok. I had no idea! I mean…our relationship.
Jim: Yeah, yeah.
Eddye: I mean that’s cool. I’m glad I chose you.
Jim: Well good, yeah me too. Yeah I can see for, it made me think about stuff that I hadn’t thought about before in a long time, and um, yeah and its been a long time.