Faces in the Crowd: Jim Borders

March 9, 2020

Jim and Sharon Borders
Jim and Sharon Borders on Vacation
Jim and Sharon with their family at Christmas.
Jim and Sharon Borders were married at the Methodist Church in 1965.
Jim and Sharon were married in 1965.

Jim Borders has held many titles throughout the years.
Dairy Farmer. Real Estate Agent. Truck Driver. Bus Driver. Coach.
But his favorite titles are husband, dad, grandpa, and great-grandpa.
Jim, a ’63 Marion grad, married his high school sweetheart, and fellow ’63 alum, Sharon, in 1965. In their hometown of Marion, the couple raised their five kids: Lori, Lynn, Todd, Kristy, and Ashley. Together, they now have 11 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
From 1963 until 1971, Jim worked on the family dairy farm just west of town. After selling his cattle, Jim took up real estate in the early ‘70s. He took up bus driving – at the suggestion of Sharon’s dad, school superintendent Henry Moes – shortly thereafter. He’s still driving bus to this day, working for Tri-County Schools out of the Wexford-Missaukee ISD.
In between stints as a bus-driver [going on 28 years], Jim hauled expedited freight for 17 years. So he’s seen much of the country. And he’d still rather be right here, in Marion, with Sharon and his family.
We caught up with Jim recently at his new home just north of Marion. We learned all about where he’s been, what he’s learned, and what he’s all about. We learned that Jim Borders is more than just another face in the crowd.

Marion Press: Have you always lived around here? Where were you born and raised?
Jim: Yep. I was born and raised on my aunt and uncle’s [Ellis and Thelma Borders] farm. My aunt and uncle had a 160-acre farm right there between 70th and 80th Avenue on 18 Mile Road. They owned the grocery store (where the COA building is currently located). Frank White owned that, and he sold it to my aunt and uncle.
My dad, Emerson, worked at Michigan Gas Storage and retired from there; my mother, Naomi, worked at Evart Products for a number of years. I grew up with two sisters: Judy Carpenter and Kathy Saine – and they both live in Tennessee.

MP: What kept you busy growing up?
Jim: Out in the country, on 18 Mile, on the north side was Marion School District, and on the south side was Evart School District. So a lot of my friends went to Evart. It didn’t matter how old you were; neighbors [all played together], we all rode bikes and played horseshoes; we played softball. I rode bike everywhere.

MP: What kept you busy at Marion Schools?
Jim: Sports: Football, basketball, track.

MP: What was your favorite sport?
Jim: Track. I just loved to run; I always did. Steve Baker, Dan Crozier, Doug Dalton and myself ran the mile relay, and we held the school record for 11 years. Leon Mosher [was on the team]. I ran the open quarter mile; high jump, long jump, and mile relay.
We didn’t have a track. The elementary school used to have a cinder track. When I was running on the track, most of it was sand and grass [at the elementary]. They used to make us run sprints up the bank going up to the road. And when we got done with that, [coach would] load us in the car and take us out west to the five-mile corner and make us run back. Coach [Rex Terwilliger] would climb up on top of the school with a set of binoculars to make sure we were running!

MP: And this was before the high school was built.
Jim: Yes. We played basketball in that tiny gym. Terwilliger was our basketball coach; a guy by the name of Bob Rapson was our football coach; I had Wally Dietz my freshman year, and then he went to Bay City.

MP: Were your sports teams good?
Jim: The football team was okay. We had broke a string of losing, and our senior year we ended up 5-3. We lost those three games by a total of seven points. We lost to Beal City in the last 20 seconds. We were ahead, and they had a couple Schafer’s down there. The last play – the one Schafer was a quarterback, and his brother was a tight end, and they both were about 6’4”, 230 pounds. Leon Mosher and Bob Youngman were our safeties. And Bob weighed about 110 pounds soaking wet. And that [monster] carried Bob across the endzone. He was on his back trying his dangest to get him down, but he couldn’t do it! Steve Baker was our fullback and we run a full-house T. I run right halfback, and Mosher was left half.
Jim Crozier was our quarterback for one game our senior year. We lost to Evart, 7-6. We run a fake kick – Ron Lloyd was our kicker – and we could’ve tied it up. Rapson called a fake kick, and Crozier was to run around the end to try to score two points, and they tackled him and tore his knee all up, and he was all done.

MP: You and Sharon started dating in school, how’d that happen?
Jim: She was insistent! I came to Marion in eighth grade; I went to a one-room schoolhouse out on 70th Avenue next to the Pisgah Heights Church. I came to Marion in eighth grade, and she came in seventh. We started dating as sophomores, I think. We got married June 12th, 1965.

MP: You started driving school bus in 1973. What did you enjoy the most – and the least – about driving bus?
Jim: You’ve gotta remember things were a little different back then. I enjoyed the kids; I did. I enjoyed them quite a lot. And a lot of ‘em still today will come and talk with me – some of ‘em I don’t recognize. Bob Ryan, I had to haul him; Mike Quibell – they graduated in ’84 with my oldest daughter. I enjoyed watching them play football. I took football teams, basketball teams; baseball, track, wrestling. Cheerleaders.
I did not like 7th and 8th grade girls’ basketball; you were deaf when you got done! They were cheerleaders from the time they got on the bus until the time they got back to Marion. If they lost, they were quiet for about 10 minutes, and then somebody would start. Oh, my!

One of the most memorable moments I had: I took the wrestling team downstate for [tournaments]. Pete Ashby, Sr., his junior year, he was wrestling a black kid down in southwest Michigan. And that kid had Pete all but pinned. And Pete took that right hand, picked that kid right up, flopped him down, and pinned him. He was a special kid. Him and his brothers, Tony and Jim. I had those three all on the bus too.
MP: Tell us about the Borders family. What did you enjoy doing as a family?
Jim: We went camping. We camped a lot at Hartwick Pines State Park. [We’d go with] our best friends, John and Mary Martin. We went to Cedar Point every other year for years. Sports: the kids were in every sport there was. John and I coached little league baseball for seven or eight years; I coached rocket football one year; I coached

Kristy’s softball team two years.
The kids were quite active in youth group; Kristy and Ashley, especially, at the Methodist Youth Group.

MP: So over the years, you’ve been a dairy farmer, a real estate agent, a bus driver, and a freight hauler. What did you enjoy the most?
Jim: You know, there’s aspects of all of it that you could call your favorite. Probably one of the most enjoyable things I did was in the late ‘70s when real estate was booming. We sold for a company called United Farm Agency. That was a lot of fun at that time. We were busy. I started full-time in ’71 and it was fair. ’72 and ’73 it gradually got better. In ’74 there was the gas embargo – and the price of gas went sky high – and that killed the real estate business. We didn’t diversify enough; 85% of everything we sold was recreational property; we didn’t sell much housing at all.

After they got past the oil embargo in ’75, the market started to come up again. ’78 was the best year. I think we sold about $950,000 in real estate. You could go out and buy a 40 [acre parcel] for under $2500 bucks. I sold 40 after 40 for $1200 to $1500. ’76 through ’79 I really enjoyed the real estate business. There were aspects of farming that I really liked; just never seemed to make enough money at it. Hauling freight, I met some really good people. I saw a lot of [country]; I tried to show [Sharon] some of it a few years ago. We went around out west. Went to Zion, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Sequoia, the giant redwoods; back down and around to Carlsbad Caverns.

MP: You’ve been in the area since the ‘40s. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen?
Jim: Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, we had Riverside Electric down here, and that employed a lot of people. Of course, Michigan Gas Storage employed a lot of people; the school employed a lot of people. We didn’t have much unemployment. [Those businesses] generated a lot of income. The businesses in town were still rural America businesses: the five and dime; the gas stations; we had two grocery stores. Jenkins Oil out there employed a number of people too. It was a booming area.
When Riverside went out, that was the largest employer in the area. Marion lost its nucleus, and struggled for a long time.
When Pollington’s started expanding recently – and I credit Ross [Richards] for a lot of this. I think Ross has really got a good head on his shoulders when it comes to business. They’re obviously doing something right; they’re employing a lot of people again. I think the pendulum is starting to swing back up again.

MP: Why did you choose to stay in this area? What’s kept you here?
Jim: I like the people here. My folks and [Sharon’s] folks were here. My dad helped me on the farm for quite a while. Everybody pulls together, and that really is true. Kristy had a bad accident in the ‘90s, and the little girl [Karrie Duddles] that was riding in the car died, and you just wouldn’t believe the outpouring of love that we got from the community. And we aren’t big social butterflies, but it’s nice to just waive at people and have them waive back.

MP: Who have been your role models over the years? What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Jim: My dad was my role model. Unfortunately, I didn’t always follow his advice! The best advice I learned in elementary school: The Golden Rule. And I believe my dad and my mother, for the most part, tried to follow that without telling me about it. I learned it in elementary school, in a one-room schoolhouse. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I don’t think you can get along any better than that.





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