Legacies Project Oral History: Jack Pointer
Wed, 01/15/2020 - 10:06am
John Davis “Jack” Pointer was born in 1935 and grew up in New York City. His great great grandfather established the first Jewish congregation in the South Carolina colony when he immigrated in the 1760s. The family later converted to Episcopalianism. His grandfather was a journalist for The Denver Post, his parents were artists, and Pointer was a mechanical engineer.
Jack Pointer was interviewed by students from Skyline High School in Ann Arbor in 2010 as part of the Legacies Project.
- [00:00:09.22] SPEAKER 1: OK, and go ahead and start.
- [00:00:13.10] MARCUS: This is an interview for The Legacy Project, which has students gathering oral histories and putting them into an archive for future generations. To the best of your ability, please ignore the camera. While your eyes can certainly wander, mainly look at me. And please do not look directly at the camera lens.
- [00:00:54.86] This video tape is about [INAUDIBLE] minutes long. If you are in the middle of answering a question and we have to change tape, I will ask you to hold that while we change tape. And we'll pick up where you left off on the new tape.
- [00:01:33.56] I am first going to ask you some simple demographics questions. While these questions may jog memories, please keep your answers brief and to the point for now. We can elaborate other later and [INAUDIBLE]. Please say and spell your name.
- [00:02:18.84] SPEAKER 1: Jack? We're ready to begin.
- [00:02:21.47] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: OK.
- [00:02:23.03] SPEAKER 1: Can you start by telling us your name and spelling it for us.
- [00:02:27.57] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: My name is John Davis Pointer, although my friends call me Jack. I was born and raised in New York City. My parents were both artists.
- [00:02:53.24] The major event of everyone's life in the United States was that of learning about the war that was going on in Europe and France. The US didn't actually become--
- [00:03:18.70] SPEAKER 1: Let me interrupt you, Jack. We're going to get some demographic stuff, just real brief stuff first. And then we'll get into some specific stories. So Marcus is going to ask you, like, your birth date and some other things real quick. OK, Marcus, go ahead.
- [00:03:35.03] MARCUS: When is your birthday including the year?
- [00:03:39.51] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: My birth date was August 21, 1935. I was--
- [00:03:50.71] MARCUS: How old are you?
- [00:03:52.51] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: How old am I?
- [00:03:53.57] MARCUS: Yes.
- [00:03:55.21] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: At the moment, I'm 30-- I'm 74 years old. So I was in second grade.
- [00:04:13.75] SPEAKER 1: How would you describe your ethnic background?
- [00:04:16.12] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: Oh, motley. Ethnic? God. I was a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.
- [00:04:39.08] MARCUS: What is your religious--
- [00:04:42.98] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: religion?
- [00:04:43.24] MARCUS: --affiliations or [INAUDIBLE]?
- [00:04:45.86] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: My religion was Episcopalian, which is about as WASPy as you can get in the United States. World War II involved the United States as I was going into third grade. There were all kinds of patriotic projects for the kids. One of the ironies was all the little kids had gardens. Among other things, we had a victory garden, of sorts.
- [00:05:39.36] SPEAKER 1: We'll get into early childhood in just a minute. We're going to ask, I think, just a couple of more demographic questions.
- [00:05:44.65] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: OK.
- [00:05:46.82] MARCUS: What is the highest level of formal education you have completed?
- [00:05:54.42] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: The highest level? I have finished four years of college, working towards of bachelors degree. We had to-- oh, subjects like history, irony-- I'm trying to find the right choice of words to describe what our education was like.
- [00:06:41.34] SPEAKER 1: We'll find out more. Right now, we're trying to, again, get demographics sorting-type information. So I think that's all we need for now. And we'll talk more about college years later on.
- [00:06:51.57] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: OK.
- [00:06:53.95] MARCUS: Did you attend any additional schools or formal career training beyond what you completed?
- [00:07:05.80] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: No. I did take graduate courses in physics, which was my undergrad degree.
- [00:07:19.40] SPEAKER 1: What's your marital status?
- [00:07:21.24] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: Oh, marital? Oh, I've been married since I was 21 years old, always with one wife.
- [00:07:37.81] SPEAKER 1: And is your spouse still living?
- [00:07:40.02] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: Yes. We've been married 53 years now.
- [00:07:47.74] MARCUS: How many children do you have?
- [00:07:50.50] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: I beg your pardon?
- [00:07:51.45] MARCUS: How may children do you have?
- [00:07:53.47] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: We raised three children, two daughters, one son. Although I was in a technical field, physics, my basic background was physical sciences. And my career was actually that of a mechanical engineer.
- [00:08:30.96] SPEAKER 1: We're going to get into a career quite a bit in detail.
- [00:08:33.27] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: OK.
- [00:08:36.21] SPEAKER 1: We're almost done with these real brief [INAUDIBLE] questions. Then we'll get into your early childhood here.
- [00:08:41.42] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: OK.
- [00:08:43.48] MARCUS: How many siblings do you have?
- [00:08:46.32] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: I have one sister.
- [00:08:52.22] MARCUS: What would you consider your primary occupation to have been?
- [00:09:01.48] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: I was an engineer, specifically working on the-- Oh god, I'm trying to find the word for it. I work primarily on the performance of the vehicles.
- [00:09:31.12] SPEAKER 1: We're going to get more into that. Engineer is as descriptive as we need. So we're going to begin now. And Marcus is going to tell you or talk about the early childhood now.
- [00:09:40.31] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: All right, early childhood.
- [00:09:41.20] SPEAKER 1: And also families.
- [00:09:42.98] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: OK.
- [00:09:44.73] MARCUS: Now we can begin the first part of our interview beginning meeting with some of the things you recall about your family history. We're beginning with any family history. By this, we mean any story about your last or family name or family traditions in selecting first or middle names. Do you know any stories about your family name?
- [00:10:33.79] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: Not very much, really.
- [00:10:39.79] SPEAKER 1: If you don't know, we'll move on.
- [00:10:41.35] MARCUS: OK.
- [00:10:42.72] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: I beg your pardon?
- [00:10:44.68] SPEAKER 1: If you don't know or recall anything, that's fine. We'll just move on to the next question.
- [00:10:47.94] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: Yeah, OK, let's go ahead, then.
- [00:10:52.53] MARCUS: Are there any naming traditions in your family?
- [00:10:59.47] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: Not that I know of.
- [00:11:04.76] SPEAKER 1: Ancestors?
- [00:11:08.12] MARCUS: Why did your ancestors leave to come to the United States?
- [00:11:16.97] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: Well, on my Father's side of the family, that was that of getting away from Europe in the 19th century.
- [00:11:48.97] SPEAKER 1: When you say getting away from Europe, was their specific persecution going on to your family?
- [00:11:55.08] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: Yeah, actually there were two different persecutions. One was from-- oh, what's the word? On my father's side, it was a rabbi.
- [00:12:48.11] My grandmother on my father's side I'm told never spoke a word of English until she came to the United States. My great great great grandfather was a rabbi. And when he came into the South Carolina colony, in 1765, he established the first Jewish congregation in the South Carolina colony.
- [00:13:50.88] Oddly enough, his grandson was the first Episcopal bishop of the South Carolina colony at the time of the Revolutionary War. And his grandson, whose name was Mordecai Cohen, was the Episcopal bishop of Charleston, South Carolina, which is really a remarkable chain of occurrences. But the bishop was the first Episcopal bishop in Charleston, South Carolina history.
- [00:14:58.14] MARCUS: Do you know any stories about how your family first came to the United States?
- [00:15:07.49] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: Well, they were-- they rapidly assimilated themselves as converts to the Episcopal Church. During the Civil War, they were [? probably ?] distinct. They were-- I had this brilliantly phrased turn of opinions.
- [00:16:23.28] My own grandfather was a newspaper man. And they settled in the Denver, Colorado area. And my grandfather, great great grandfather took root. And he became a newspaper reporter.
- [00:17:03.33] SPEAKER 1: Can you hold that thought? We need to switch tape real quick.
- [00:17:05.27] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: OK.
- [00:17:06.77] SPEAKER 1: So go ahead and pop that one. [INAUDIBLE]
- [00:17:17.15] And so we're back. And you can pick it up with the next question.
- [00:17:22.31] MARCUS: Where did they first settle?
- [00:17:25.05] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: Pardon?
- [00:17:25.85] MARCUS: Where did they first settle?
- [00:17:27.85] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: Where did they first settle? Durango, Colorado. And I guess after a couple of years of trying, my grandfather decided that there was no way he could raise a family in the frontier days of Colorado. And so he moved the family to Denver.
- [00:18:01.06] And he became a feature writer for The Denver Post. And he wrote sort of history columns for The Denver Post. And he interviewed a number of relatively notorious residents. Somewhere, there is the original of an interview he conducted with the Indian Chief Geronimo.
- [00:18:53.54] SPEAKER 1: Wow.
- [00:18:54.97] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: And another interview was with President Theodore Roosevelt, following the Spanish American War.
- [00:19:11.05] SPEAKER 1: That would have been prior to him becoming president.
- [00:19:13.48] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: Yes.
- [00:19:14.45] SPEAKER 1: I think we need to wrap up to have room for our final [INAUDIBLE]. So we'll pick it up next week.
- [00:19:20.46] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: OK.
- [00:19:21.19] SPEAKER 1: You're good.
- [00:19:21.96] JOHN DAVIS POINTER: Yup.
Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Ann Arbor District Library
The Denver Post
John Davis Pointer