JIM PERRY, CLASS OF 1970
"Luck is what happens when
preparation meets opportunity!"
F-A.COM: What did you like the most about your job as a Carpenter/Locksmith for the SEPTA Regional Rail? What were some of the challenges? What year did you start?
JIM PERRY: I transferred from Conrail to SEPTA Regional Rail on January 1st 1983. I was the only Carpenter/Locksmith for the whole Regional Rail Division. It was very challenging at first.
I had installed locks as a carpenter but never had to take them apart and re-pin them or cut keys, so I decided to take a correspondence Locksmith course which helped me immensely to do my job.
I completed the course in record time and in the end, SEPTA reimbursed me for taking it.
F-A.COM: Did your experience any major adjustments when Conrail changed to Septa Regional Rail?
JIM PERRY: There were many new experiences at SEPTA compared to Conrail. Trucks weresmaller and we traveled in pairs.
Conrail's trucks were huge and fit six men. Most of our jobs were on bridges and you didn't need to be a finished carpenter to work on their jobs.
SEPTA was different, we worked on the train stations, hung doors, put in windows and replaced flooring. We also did a historical renovation at Queen Lane Station using modern construction techniques. We took pride in our work and it showed.
F-A.COM: Tell us about your family--your wife and children--parents and siblings. (Your sisters and brother attended Frankford – include the graduating years.) Did your parents attend Frankford?
JIM PERRY: I've been married to my wife Cheryl for 35 years and we have three adult children. I have a son, Jimmy, who graduated from Frankford class 94.
My sisters also graduated from Frankford, Katie class of 69 and Dottie Class of 77.
Cheryl and I have seven grandchildren--six boys and one girl. Our daughters Amy and Lauren both have sons born on Christmas Day--four years apart--Keegan and Westley. Our son Matt has a son Kieran who is starting high school this year. Jimmy and his wife Jenn live in Las Vegas with their family. Jimmy is also a carpenter, his children are: Indigo Skyy, Satchel Frost, Rocker Haze and Sixx Bay.
F-A.COM: How were you all drawn to Frankford High? What neighborhood did you grow up in and what was the best part about growing up there?
JIM PERRY: Our family moved to Philadelphia in April 1963 and lived in the Wissinoming section. My Dad was a career ARMY officer and we lived all over Europe growing up.
JIM PERRY: My sister Katie was born in Frankfurt Germany and my brother Bob Was born in Madrid Spain. I was born at Vally Forge Army ARM Hospital and Dottie in Bethlehem PA.
My Dad retired in 1963 and got a job at the Frankford Arsenal so we ended up in Philadelphia and going to Frankford High School. My brother Bob went to Lincoln. The best part about moving to Philly was meeting kids and having friends. We moved so often growing up in a militar family we never had friends very long.
FRANKFORD-ALUMNI.COM: Who inspired you at Frankford? Why?
The teachers at Frankford were all good, but a few stand out the most Mr. Angelo, Mr. Howley, Andy Folino and Mr. D. I played football, gymnastics and pole-vaulted for the track team. I became close to all of these mentors who always encouraged me to do better not only on the field but also in class.
Mr. Howley was my coach in all three sports. He was a gentleman, a great teacher and coach. In my junior year, I was walking to summer football practice, school hadn't started yet. Mr. Howley saw me, pulled over and offered me a ride to practice.
So, here I am getting out of Coach Howley's VW Beetle at the field and all the guys are," what's up with that!" I played along for a while saying he's going to pick me up every day but the guys knew better.
F-A.COM: How did Frankford prepare you for the adult world?
JIM PERRY: Frankford High School prepared me well to go out into the world. I learned never give up and hard work and determination pay off.
I was ready after leaving Frankford but, I didn't have any idea what I wanted to do with my life. I went to Community College and worked construction jobs. Times were tough and jobs were hard to find. While collecting unemployment, I signed up for a job on the railroad. They called and I took the job.
I didn't like the job at first, but I stayed. I give full credit for that decision to the FHS mind set that said..."stay things can only get better." I'm glad I stayed.
F-A.COM: What was it like attending high school from 1966-70? The world went through a lot of history-making changes during that time. How did you overcome the challenges?
JIM PERRY: Frankford was a great school, but from 1967-1970 many things started to change. The Vietnam war was in full swing and protests against the war were going on everyday, even at Frankford.
My dad was recalled to active duty in August of 1967 and was sent to Vietnam in October 1967. He spent my high school years from 1967 to 1970 in Vietnam, coming home every 13 months for a 30-day leave.
Seeing the protests was hard on our family, knowing our Dad was in harm's way. Also, watching the war unfold on television was no easy thing, especially when the attacks were near Dad.
Life went on...very few people knew Dad was stationed in Vietnam--only a couple of trusted teachers and close friends.
I think the students became better people. We talked about the war and the protests; and how it will affect us in the years to come. Many of our classmates joined the service and saw combat in Vietnam. Even with all that going on...Frankford still had the BEST SCHOOL SPIRIT!
F-A.COM: What stands out the most for you, about graduating in 1970—the start of a new decade, a new era?
JIM PERRY: My best Frankford memories are playing football on the 1969 Public League Championship team. The fall of 1969 was one of the most exciting times of my life, playing varsity football.
We were 4-0 and were scheduled to play Central High who also was 4-0. One of our players didn't come to school that day, so he couldn't play in the game. To say the coaches were upset is an understatement.
The game was away at Central. We went into the locker room and Coach Angelo gave us a talk about the game and its importance. The the last thing he said was: "At 5 o'clock tonight...there will be one undefeated team in the public league. Who's it going to be?"
We won the game, shutting out Central 22-0. On the way back to our field, we passed by a clock and it was 5 o'clock on the dot. Everyone on the bus went crazy. I've never forgotten that moment.
F-A.COM: What advice would you give today’s Frankford students interested in pursuing carpentry?
JIM PERRY: My advice to Frankford students is simple...find something you like and pursue it with passion. The trades are a great way to go, especially the mechanical trades.
After a four-year apprenticeship, you could be making $80,000.00 a year with no college debt, full health benefits, annuity and a pension. Not a bad deal.
F-A.COM: What would you tell your 17-year-old self, if you could go back to 1969/70? What is your favorite quote?
JIM PERRY: If I could say anything to my young self at 17, it would be to stay focused on the present, but plan for the future.