James Jones: Summer of 1984 turned my life around

Published 10:29 am Saturday, June 8, 2024

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My life was at a crossroads 40 years ago until a Tuscaloosa realtor named Michael Jacobson changed things.

I was 14 years old and just completed my eighth-grade year at Holt High School. Although four years away, my college aspirations took a big hit. My report card was full of D’s and F’s for most of the year. The only As I received came from Physical Education and Industrial Technology.

Nothing worked for me in the eighth grade. I got off to a slow start and I never recovered. I got approved for pre-algebra after outstanding math scores as a seventh grader. I stumbled all year. History was another strength for me, but I struggled. Always did well in English, but couldn’t get untracked. Science was added to the list of my struggles. 

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Things improved the second semester enough to where I did not have to attend summer school. History and English became B’s, but PreAlgebra and Science remained the same. I finished with a C-minus average, way below my expectations.

Jacobson provided a turning point during the summer of 1984. Jacobson owned a few properties in the neighborhood near us and needed someone to cut grass at those homes. Jacobson offered me the job, I accepted and my family approved.

I was part of the working class in my family. The best thing about the job: the money was mine and I could do anything I want. I spent some and saved most of it.

The Jacobson real estate business is still going in Tuscaloosa. Since the summer ended, I never talked to him again after that, but I thank him for help turn my life around.

Working that summer also gave me a chance to think about high school and the immediate future. I was eligible to get a Learners Permit in the fall.  

I am grateful an unexpected job provided the boost I needed to turn things around.

James Jones is the managing editor of The Selma Times-Journal. He can be reached at james.jones@selmatimesjournal.com.