Postcards will document my journey through the creative world I have traveled.
My mom was an Executive Assistant to a well-connected VP at International Paper Company. She knew her boss’s best friend, Mr. Faddis, ran a successful architecture office in town. While in high school I started exploring career options and got an opportunity to work during the summer at a real architect’s office “for free!” I did everything from taking out the trash, answering phones, drawing endless Leroy Lettering ink sheet title blocks/borders on mylar, and going to the nearby grocery store to restock their bar supplies. Fortunately, I was too young to go to the Alabama State Store to purchase the bar alcohol. The most heard statement from the boss on project deadline weeks was: “I only want to see asses and elbows today”. This phrase was used because we were all leaning over large drafting tables with our pencils, ink pens, adjustable triangles, and T-squares in hand.
This experience did open my eyes to architecture and the possibilities of that career. I also learned that many people thought highly of this profession as a career choice; and that it was a creative and highly technical choice. This summer experience captured my interest in the profession and had me wanting more.
I also took art classes at the local YMCA. My teacher was excellent and had gone to the Chicago School of Art and Design. We did charcoal drawing and went into oil painting very rapidly. She pushed me to develop my drawing and painting skills. The next year in high school, I entered three drawings in the high school art show. My drawings took each of the top three prizes, much to the chagrin of the art students in the high school art program. Our high school was taking a trip to Washington, DC for sightseeing. My girlfriend went on the trip and took one of my paintings called “Eventide” to enter in a student show at the National Gallery of Art. Surprisingly, my painting was accepted and used at the show’s entrance to the national student exhibit. My painting was a view of the sunset on Mobile Bay. This drawing experience also helped me confidently pursue a design degree in architecture.
Musically, I had an excellent outlet in the high school Marching and Jazz Band of the Pride of Mobile Band, directed by Joe Reimer. Mr. Riemer was young and energetic, and always got the most growth and music out of the students at my high school. I learned the value of working as a team to balance the output of the sound. Each person must do their part to have a phenomenal output. Also, there is no standing still in the art of playing a musical instrument. As with many art forms, you are either advancing or retreating.
I really discovered music during my high school years. Besides playing an instrument, I sang in my church youth choir. Our church just happened to have a young and gospel driven “minister of music” who brought students together to share the gospel of love through music. Roger Breland definitely was, and is, blessed by his faithful ministry over the last 50 years. After experiencing music in middle school and high school, it was much easier learning to sing in a choir setting. Mr. Breland always had very big dreams. In high school we toured the country with a special singing group called the Varsity Singers and a 100-voice high school choir called the Springhill Singers. Our pianist was Thomas (Tommy) Jaber who is now a music professor at Rice University. My experiences with this choir included singing on the steps of the US Capital and touring in the Southeast and Southwest. In 1970 Mr. Breland left the church and started an evangelical ministry called “Truth”. For 50 years this leader traveled the world, made countless albums, and changed the lives of many people that needed love and hope in their lives.
In high school I thoroughly explored and developed my talents and was given some amazing once in a lifetime opportunities. I also began solidifying the vision of what my life’s journey was to be. When I look back at these experiences, I can see that it was to be a very special journey as these early mentors were outstanding. You must have a passion for your work to thrive in the design profession.
Jim McGregor is a founder of Browne McGregor Architects and has served on the faculty at PVAMU and Auburn University. He is a graduate of Auburn University and Rice University. Before starting the firm in Houston in 1995 with Charles Browne, he worked at firms in Mobile, Denver, and Houston.