A Tribute to
Jim Southern

9/15/1951 -- 6/26/2017
by Todd Sestero

In General

Most people are lucky to have one best friend.  I was VERY lucky because I had TWO best friends.

Jim Southern was born and raised in the Cockeysville area of Baltimore County way back in 1951.  His parents were James E. Southern Jr, and Ruth.  This made Jim a JES the third.

Being a Cockeysville native, he went to Cockeysville Junior High School on Greenside Dr, and then Dulaney High School, also in Cockeysville.  I didn't meet Jim until the following year when we both attended Catonsville Community College, a junior college as I like to call it (now they call it a two year degree :-).  There was this table in the "social" area of (then) one of the two classroom building (three if you count the old building the electronics courses were taught in), and I could usually find Jim there in between classes.  It wasn't until a few years later in 1971, when I met my first wife Debbie, that she said she also knew Jim from Dulaney, altho she was a year behind him.  Many years later, another friend of mine who also graduated in the Dulaney Class of '69, also knew Jim.

Jim and I hit it off right from the beginning.  We shared many similar interests..... cars, motorcycles, biking (at the time), mechanical things, model trains, building things, and electrical things among others.  His curiosity was endless, and our areas of knowledge seems to compliment each other, so we were always asking each other questions about shit we didn't know right up till the end.

One of the friends Jim remained in touch with after graduating from Dulaney was Frank Wood.  He originally lived in a house that was right on Beaverdam Run, and when Hurricane Agnes came thru in September of 1972, his house got flooded out.  Frank later moved into a house on Ridgely Rd down in Lutherville.  Frank was also Jim's best man at his wedding.

One time, when the three of us were sitting around in Jim's basement, Frank and Jim were talking about the time they hopped into Frank's car and drove up to New York City on the spur of the moment, in the middle of the night.  Somehow, I was able to convince the two of them to "do it" again, so off we went for the Big Apple, at something like 9PM.  When we got up to NYC, we crossed the Verranzano Narrows bridge into Brooklyn.  On the way across the bridge, this car with a bunch of "heads" in it (the term back then for people who liked to smoke Mary Jane) pulled up along side of us, and held up a joint, seeing if we wanted to join in.  So we shook our heads yes, and they got about 6 inches for my car, and passed the joint over.  Ahhhh, the good ole days! :-)  We got back around 6:30.....

Back around the 1971 timeframe, Jim wanted a motorcycle, so he bought a Honda 750-4.  It was, for the time, the largest bike Honda made.  Jim finally had an accident with it, where someone went thru a stop sign, and Jim went flying thru the air..... luckily, he landed on the far side of the intersection on a grassy plot, but the bike was totaled.  So after he recovered, he proceeded to turn the bike into a "chopper".  I would come over after work and work on the electrical system, while he did everything else, including making a custom tank for it.  It looked nice when he got done with it.  We put many a mile on it once I got a Honda 450 to ride on and we could go out together!

I was into taking pictures of trains, a lot, and Jim came along on several occasions.  We chased after two steam engines in the early 70's, Nickel Plate #759, and Reading #2102.  On one of the trips, Jim lost the lens cap for the camera he borrowed from his father, and his father got pissed at him.  Jeez, accidents happen!!

Jim worked at a number of places around here.  One was a printing outfit, which was real convenient, because it was just down on hte other side of York Rd from Hillside.  It wasn't very often that they had interesting books for us to read, but he brought home a book or two over the years.  Another VERY handy things were the printing mats they used in the offset process.  They could only be used to photo grade printing for so long, before they needed to be replaced, so there was a steady stream of them coming home too.  They were handy for ALL sorts of things.  One thing that comes to mind was to cover an inner tube with one, and then use it to go downhill sledding on.... super nice!

One of the short lived things he did, for maybe two years or so, was to drive an 18 wheel dump truck, where the whole trailer dumped.  The tractor he bought to drive around did not have a hydraulic system on it, so Jim took one of the two fuel tanks, and turned it into a hydraulic fluid reservoir.  Again, he was a master at this kind of thing, considering he had to add a pump to the engine, and put in all of the valves, in addition to changing the tank around.

Jim was a handy guy, and could do ANYTHING mechanical.  He eventually wound up being a machinist, the longest run was probably with AIM up on Middletown Rd.  While there, he enjoyed being on second shift the most, and was made supervisor (which he said was more hassle than not!).  When the AIM gig ended, he managed to find work with another machine company, and worked there up until 2014 or so, when medical issues forced him into an early retirement.

In 1979, Jim got married to a girl he had been dating for about 4 or 5 years, Jan.  The two of them were into things like biking and hiking, and often made trips to that end.  They had two kids, Jessie and James the IV.  When they were first married, they rented an apartment in a house on Falls Road, just below Seminary Ave in Lutherville.  One of the other places they lived in was a house they rented off of Middletown Rd, just over into Pennsylvania.  This is also the time period when he was driving the dump truck.  He also had a tractor-backhoe while they lived up here.  I kind of lost track of Jim for a while, only getting to visit him at AIM since it was the closest place to see him.  Then, they moved into the basement of Soraya's house for a while - this was back in the mid 80's.  Soraya was Jan's best friend from high school, and Soraya still lives in the same house.

Jim also enjoyed working on cars, and got his start when his dad built a custom vintage car based on a VW engine.  Among the cars and trucks Jim had we an El Camino, an old 60's vintage VW bug, and a white Dodge van.  He customized the VW and had a really beautiful paint job on it - it was black with red metal flaking on top, and in the sun, it looked purple!!  He also managed to put a Corvair engine in the thing.  Unfortunately, he came out one morning, and the frickin thing had been stolen, right out of his driveway.  In later years, he had pick-up trucks and Jeeps.



Pictures are in no particular order.....

Building a frame to pour some concrete steps.

A picnic in the back of 24 Hillside.

Jessie missing a few teeth in August 1991.

Jim and Jan at Fort Clinch FL in April of 1991.

Jim and Jan's wedding in September 1979 at her uncle's house in Roland Park.

Jim's family at the wedding.
Left to right: Faye, Peggy, Jim's dad James Jr., Jim's mom Ruth, Jim, Jan, Donna, and Kaye, but no Hal!

Jim in 1989.

Jim and Hal in Jim's El Camino at the quarry in June 1978.  Jim always did a great job with the paint!!!

Jim with a couple of their ferrets.... no date.

Jim and Jimmy chowin down on some watermelon, summer 1989.

Jan and Jessie in April 1990.

Jim in the El Camino, maybe sometime in the early 1980's?

Jan and Jessie in March 1985, with a pretty white suit knitted by Grandma Southern.

October 1978.

Jim, Grandma Southern, and Jessie in March 1985.

Jim in 1979 in the Dodge Van.  That looks like a crab leg :-)

Jessie and Jimmy, Easter 1990.

Jan and Jessie, May 1990.

Jim and Jessie in 1989.

Hal driving the second VW Bug at the quarry.  We also rode this around in the back woods where Soraya lived, as we had water to splash thru there too! 
The dual CB antenna's was inspired by myself, who had two of them on the back of my 1970 Bug :-)


NEW 06/26/2017
Last Modified 04-Jul-2017