Jimmy Minish, friend for 82 years

Posted 5/18/17

I remember rolling around in the dirt alongside lower F Street with Jimmy Minish back in the fall of 1935. We walked up to Lincoln School together. He was a small kid, but muscular even then—and he …

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Jimmy Minish, friend for 82 years

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I remember rolling around in the dirt alongside lower F Street with Jimmy Minish back in the fall of 1935. We walked up to Lincoln School together. He was a small kid, but muscular even then—and he was quick to challenge anyone at wrestling.

Jimmy and I went on to graduate with the class of 1947 at Port Townsend High School. He wouldn't have made our class’s upcoming 70th-anniversary reunion June 10 even had he survived, as he had suffered from dementia in recent years. But he will be bringing tears to the eyes of the 6 or 7 former classmates who have successfully fought on to this point. Jimmy was an ever-happy guy, quick to laugh—and I don’t recall ever having seen him angry.

Back in the middle of the Great Depression, everyone walked to school from out our way, even those who lived out beyond the fairgrounds. Ray Giusti at the old North Secondary military side overlooking the strait, Jack Guiher near the pond that was once the “Chinese Gardens.” The Hansen boys and their older sister who lived down behind the Catholic Cemetery. Even little Gussie Klingenbaugh, who insisted on tagging after me on occasion. We all hoofed it to Lincoln School and the rest of the campus, packing along our lunches, such as they might have been.

Jimmy Minish lived in the Portuguese community up on Dundee Hill, in that day generally referred to as “Portagee Hill.” A  number of Portuguese families had congregated there in the town’s late-19th-century years—on up from the San Juan Ave.-F St. intersection into the beginning of what became known as Discovery Road. Minishes, Caderos, Cables, Freitases, Enoses, etc. Jimmy’s ancestors (also known as “Moniz” in early times) emigrated from Portugal and the Azores about 1882-3 to the Hawaiian sugar cane fields and later wound up in 1888 or 1889 in Port Townsend. His is a much-older local family than mine—and than most everyone else’s. Mine, for instance, didn’t get here until 1927. HIs was here a mere 37 years or so after the town was born in 1851.

Out a block or so from F Street on San Juan Ave.—back when Jimmy and I were in grade school—was the vegetable garden of Ah Tom, who had migrated here from China very early in the 20th century. Another block or so out, on the upper side of San Juan, was the little inadequate house (still there) my father had built in 1936, in the middle of the Depression. (We’d formerly rented down on Tremont Street). My father spent his early years in a homestead log cabin on a ranch in Alberta, one of 10 eventual children. He had little concept of spaciousness. He built one small bedroom with bunk beds for four boys. Also, a barn for our cow, chicken house, pig sty, a very large garden—the works for life the hard way, as he also worked a shift at the paper mill. The mill was the town’s salvation back then. 

So Jimmy’s and my youthful upbringing sort of epitomizes to me the town as it was 80-plus years ago when we were kids—and pretty much how it remained for some time. The town’s affluence began to rise with World War II and a surge in military presence, but its character didn’t take wing until along about 1960 when it was “discovered” as an arts haven and soon as a refuge for those who had seen another war (Korea) and were caught up in still another (Vietnam). The Hood Canal Bridge opened the floodgates. Things moved on as escapees from the rat-race of growing population decided to seek peace in the verdant Northwest (soon itself to begin disappearing gradually beneath the hooves of the group horde that was their reality). 

In primary school, Jimmy won most of my marbles during recess. We sometimes wound up in different home rooms along the way, and my family moved from the old neighborhood about the time I was 14. In high school we again were somewhat close. He was not a charter member of my legendary “Kerchunks” gang, but he certainly qualified as a part-time honorary member. We spent quite a little time, together with others, in my father’s car. Some of the specific memories of that teenage interlude are of the type that probably best should die with the holders of same. So be it.

Jimmy lived down the block from me for the past half century or so. Our children went to our old school together. He and I worked together a bit when I wrote my book of local history that included Portuguese ancestry here in P.T. He had gone to Hawaii to research the cane-field years but had little success. He had no family pictures, he told me. They’d all been destroyed by rain through a leaky roof at some point. It pains me greatly that he won’t be here for a photo with us remaining  survivors of his old school class as we celebrate our successful longevity by reviving memories of the days when he was among us. 

Jimmy did everything right. He married (Mary Trotto, of another old-time P.T. family), worked a career at the local paper mill, raised a family, did not stray from religion or tradition—and did not deserve the dementia that overtook him.

Jimmy’s older brother Bernard, wound up also graduating in our class of 1947. Soon after graduation, on June 1, he, Jimmy and Ron Priest were fishing on Lord’s Lake when Bernard fell from the boat, tangled in fishing line and was drowned. Ron died just a couple of weeks ago.                  

We miss you seriously, Jimmy Minish; and I and others will unashamedly weep a bit at your absence June 10.

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