Host Nadine O. sits down with Broadcast Pioneer Joaquin Bowman, author of Tadville- A Brother’s Story Of Living With Asperger’s and Letter’s From Dollie. In this recording Joaquin talks about his life, the books he has written and his mentor Tom Hickey. We hope you enjoy!
Nadine O.: 00:04 Over 50 you are not done yet is a podcast documenting the lives of Americans 50 and over. They are artists, musicians, performers, authors, teachers and coaches. Their stories are your stories, their lives, their legacies, and the people that they’ve touched are all inspiring. Listen, as they open their hearts and share their passions.
Joaquin Bowman: 00:39 You know, there’s always a story behind the story, right?
Nadine O.: 00:42 Yes. What’s your story? What’s your story?
Joaquin Bowman: 00:48 Oh my goodness. I don’t know where to begin.
Nadine O.: 00:52 This is Nadine O., Host of the over 50. You are not done yet show . I’m feeling truly blessed today. Blessed to be alive, blessed to be speaking with you today and blessed to have met some pretty amazing souls. One of those souls is broadcast pioneer and author Joaquin Bowman. He’s written several books, two of which we will speak about today. Tadville a brother story of living with Asperger’s and letters from Dali. And although he’s no longer with us, I will cherish our conversations forever. Take a listen.
Joaquin Bowman: 01:40 I was with SEPTA for 24 years. Uh, but after I graduated from Temple, uh, I had been working in broadcasting, um, at WDVR, which does now B101 for three years while I was at Temple. And then, um, when I left the WDBR, I had graduated from Temple, I was married and we were expecting our first child. And so I needed to actually get a real job, um, where I could make it a paycheck that would provide for my family. Um, and I took a job in industry at the Leads of Northrop company. Uh, and I was working as an industrial editor, which meant I put up the, uh, company magazine. It was a monthly magazine. I knew absolutely nothing about putting out a magazine because my training at Temple was in broadcasting.
Nadine O.: 02:50 Interesting.
Joaquin Bowman: 02:51 But I sort of needed the job and it, um, it was a good, uh, it was a good job with benefits and, uh, provided medical care for my family. And, uh, at that point we are expecting our first child. And I had the good fortune of, um, working for one of the most incredible individuals, uh, I had ever met in my lifetime and we’re still very, very good friends and still work together on projects. Um, he’s 90 will be 97 years old shortly. Um, and I was lucky, um, to, uh, have met Tom Hickey and I was lucky that he saw something in me that I really didn’t see in myself. And that was the ability to, uh, to write, to do layout, to do photography. But there’s a monthly magazine that went out to 3000 employees across the country. And, um, I, well, I, I, I have to say, I think Tom had more faith in me then I had on myself.
Joaquin Bowman: 04:17 And, uh, when he offered me the job, I took it and, um, and he gave me, uh, he was my mentor, Gave me some great advice on how to do it. (right.) And then he stepped back and said, well, now do it. You’re on your own. But when I look back over my life and the experiences, I had even as a child where we moved frequently and I had to adapt from one group of kids to another to one school to another all the way from Los Angeles to Philadelphia and back again. And then back again. Uh, my parents move frequently, then I learned to adapt and um, and so I used those skills that I had. Uh, in my first job . I worked, uh, for Tom for three years. Then, uh, he went to SEPTA, I went to SKF industries that made bearings, as things kind of developed. And I worked for SKF for three years. And then Tom, who had, like I said, been accepted, hired me at Septa Uh, and as a manager for public relations, I represented SEPTA mainly with the news media and that job. And again, I had to learn cause I really wasn’t dealing with the news media. Prior jobs I had to learn, you know, how to do press releases, how to speak to the media, how to represent a major organization. So again, I had to adapt.
Nadine O.: 06:12 You’re listening to the Over 50. You Are Not Done Yet Show.
Joaquin Bowman: 06:21 I was born in Los Angeles and we lived there a couple of years and my parents who were from the east coast decided to move back to Pennsylvania, to Philadelphia area. And um, you know, I was constantly, uh, yanked from one place to another. Um, I, I learned to make friends, I learned to talk to people. Um, uh, I learned how to be accepted into, uh, the clusters of people that I dealt with. And then we would move back to Los Angeles and from Los Angeles moved back to Philadelphia. My parents really couldn’t decide which coast they wanted to live on,
Nadine O.: 07:07 Hot, cold and they couldn’t decide.
Joaquin Bowman: 07:10 Well, their family was here. Their family was also in Los Angeles. And you know, I was born in 1944 and there was a lot of opportunity in Los Angeles for jobs.
Nadine O.: 07:24 [inaudible]
Joaquin Bowman: 07:24 My father was a tool and die maker. My mom was this basically a stay at home mom and um, so that they, and I think they enjoyed the process of moving, you know, I’m not sure they really gave a lot of thought to the idea that my brother and I and eventually my two sisters weren’t going to have long time friends because we were constantly on the move. But I think I learned some skills, uh, in that process.
Nadine O.: 07:58 I would like to talk to you about retiring and what got you into writing some of the books that you have written such as Tadville.
Joaquin Bowman: 08:17 Well, there’s a story, you know, there’s always a story behind the story, right?
Nadine O.: 08:23 Yes. What’s your story? What’s your story?
Joaquin Bowman: 08:35 Oh, my goodness, I don’t know where to begin. (We have time) My brother and I had, as I said, an unusual child, childhood, both of us because we were moving constantly. And um, my, I can’t say that my brother and I were close, we were two years apart, but he would not really consider me his friend. I couldn’t understand why my brother could not accept me.
Nadine O.: 09:04 [inaudible]
Joaquin Bowman: 09:05 and this was kind of something that bothered me for, for my entire life with my brother. And my brother died when he was 52.
Nadine O.: 09:18 [inaudible]
Joaquin Bowman: 09:19 I was 49 when he died. And, um, I couldn’t, I couldn’t feel an attachment to my brother even though I tried, you know, I really wanted him to love me and to be my friend, but I never felt that that was part of our relationship.
Nadine O.: 09:41 [inaudible]
Joaquin Bowman: 09:43 it wasn’t until after I retired from SEPTA, uh, in 1996 my brother had died in 1994 and I started teaching. Uh, I took, my wife was a teacher and she still had some time to go before she retired. So I decided to, um, try something totally new. And I accepted a job with the central bucks school district as a longterm substitute teach, which meant I worked practically every, every school day. I worked. And I did this for six years. But in the process of doing that, I had met, uh, an individual who was a school counselor. His name is Dave Sears.
Nadine O.: 10:36 [inaudible].
Joaquin Bowman: 10:39 Who, I talked to at length about, uh, my brother and, uh, how I could never feel a bond to him. And, um, we started talking about, um, Asperger’s and Autism. Uh, and I was working with kids too. Uh, we’re on the autistic spectrum, uh, doing work in special education with the school district. And I saw some parallels actually between some of the kids that I was working with and some of the things that I saw in my brother. Um, and I really give the credit to Dave Sears for turning me on to, to things that I, I books I should read, people I should talk to. Um, and I’ve wanted to try to find any parallels between, um, kids with Asperger’s and the, and the way that the, my relationship with my had developed and whether Asperger’s or some degree of autism could have been involved
Nadine O.: 12:00 [inaudible]
Joaquin Bowman: 12:01 in our relationship.
Nadine O.: 12:04 What did you find? Pardon me? What did you find out?
Joaquin Bowman: 12:10 I researched, uh, you know, and I read the books, uh, that Temple Brandon had written and others and I could really see that there was something going on, uh, with my brother. And I also suspect my mother that had to do with, um, Asperger’s, which, you know, is on the autism spectrum
Nadine O.: 12:36 More with author Joaquin Bowman coming up
Joaquin Bowman: 12:43 When my brother was born. He was born in 1942 and his act and his actions were unusual even at that time. And I’m not going to get into a lot of details.
Nadine O.: 12:56 Sure, no, I understand.
Joaquin Bowman: 12:59 But you could see that he was different.
Nadine O.: 13:02 [inaudible]
Joaquin Bowman: 13:03 and, uh, even though he, he, uh, had a family and he was a teacher in Philadelphia, graduate of Penn State, that there were, there were problems with his interaction with people and with his family. And I was part of the family too. And, um, that led me to, um, to do a lot of research on this subject and that, and that also led me to write the first book that I wrote, which is called Tadville. Uh, Tadville was really his world. His name was Thaddeus. We called him Tad.
Nadine O.: 13:44 [inaudible]
Joaquin Bowman: 13:45 and he really, as children, we had an imaginary, um, sort of a little town that we created. And like I said, we move so much that even though he didn’t like me very much, that I was his companion and we created this little town that we could carry from Burbank, California to Philadelphia. Uh, and the little town was called Tadville
Nadine O.: 14:17 Cute.
Joaquin Bowman: 14:19 And, uh, he was always of course the top dog. He would either be the mayor or the head of city council and I would be, you know, serving him in some capacity, capacity or another.
Nadine O.: 14:30 Of course, you’re the younger brother
Joaquin Bowman: 14:33 and you know, it’s a long story, which you don’t have the time to get into, but it’s a long story. And what I’ve found is that my brother had Asperger’s
Nadine O.: 14:46 [inaudible]
Joaquin Bowman: 14:47 and today they would really say that he had some form of autism. He was on the autism spectrum. Okay. He was very functional. Like I said, he was married, had four kids, uh, taught. Um, but he had a hard time
Nadine O.: 15:05 [inaudible]
Joaquin Bowman: 15:06 and, uh, in 1994, he died of a stroke. Uh, things had changed on his job. Kids were getting older, he was having more and more difficult keeping control of his environment.
Nadine O.: 15:21 [inaudible]
Joaquin Bowman: 15:21 and, um, he was having h s and uh, and then he died. And then after his death, I was trying to put all the pieces together and I was devastated by the loss of my brother and I was trying to put the pieces together. Well, what was different about my brother?
Nadine O.: 15:39 [inaudible]
Joaquin Bowman: 15:40 And, um, and that led me to write the book Tadville, which describes our relationship and things about my brother that, uh, if you read the book, you see that, well, this, this was rather strange. That was rather strange. There, t there are different things that, uh, that were very, very unusual about. My brother and I, I talked to several professionals and I’m one psychologist who deals with the young people who are autistic, said that there are no two that are alike. That if you’ve met one kid who had Asperger’s, we’ll use the term Asperger’s. If he met one kid with Asperger’s, that kid is totally unique. You’ve met one kid with Asperger’s. You can say that there’s another one like him or her that each, each one is an individual. And my brother certainly wasn’t individual and he had his own idiosyncrasies.
Nadine O.: 16:51 [inaudible].
Joaquin Bowman: 16:53 Um, which I found later, uh, that really when you look down through our family tray that it really was passed from one generation to the next. Uh, and as I say, I suspect my mother had some form of autism or if we want to use the term Asperger’s,
Nadine O.: 17:20 Hey there, don’t forget to subscribe to our show. More coming up.
Joaquin Bowman: 17:28 I self-publish because I guess I’m thin skinned. First of all, I don’t consider myself to be, you know, a grade a writer, writer. I, I’m, I can write, but I don’t consider myself to be a professional writer.
Nadine O.: 17:47 It is your story. I [inaudible] my
Joaquin Bowman: 17:50 story, but it’s not a story that would appeal to a lot of people and maybe it could be better told.
Nadine O.: 17:56 Okay.
Joaquin Bowman: 17:57 Um, in 2010, um, I published Tadville . I had stopped, uh, teaching, uh, after my wife retired. She retired in 2003 as a, you know, she was a trained professional teacher, high school teacher, and I retired from teaching in 2004 and published Tadville in 2010. So I really put a lot of work into my research and to talking to people to try to figure out what was going on within our family. And then I decided to publish, of course, you know, all first time writers out of the box want to have a mainstream publisher. And, um, I tried, but like I say, I don’t consider myself a writer. So I really was trying to, uh, partner with somebody to write my story and, um, I wasn’t having a lot of luck, so I decided to self-publish and I’m glad I did. I cause, you know, once the book was published, I felt a sense of relief and, uh, I also was able to work with the other family members who were also scratching their heads about my brother and why he died when he, as early as he did. We put our heads together and, and, uh, I worked with a neuropsychologist on the subject and, uh, others who dealt with kids with autism and Asperger’s and put the story together. And I felt that great sense of relief once it was published.
Nadine O.: 19:46 You know what, Joaquin listening to you talk about this, I just think it’s so wonderful that um, not only you produced a book about your story, but that it’s out there for other people that might be going through something similar.
Joaquin Bowman: 20:08 Well, you know, Nadine, it was something that I had thought that would be important for people. And um, I know there are a lot of families who are struggling with their kids, um, who have, who are on the autism spectrum and I’ve met a lot of people and I’ve talked to a lot of people and I give, I’ll give my book to people who would like to read it. It’s also available on Amazon. But you know, I’ve given away many books to people who have, who have some degree of autism and I think it’s been helpful. I hope it’s been helpful and that, and I saw that as the reason to do it. I’d never did it with the idea of, well, this is going to make me money. I did it because I had to do it for myself and for our family. And I did it to help others. And hopefully there’s been some benefit from doing the book, uh, other than just for myself and in our own family members.
Nadine O.: 21:29 Oh,
Joaquin Bowman: 21:30 now this is from a book that I wrote. It was published in 2015 called Letters from Dollie and the writer of the letters was Dollie McFarlane. Who lived from 1905 to 1970. And I was fortunate to inherit from my mother-in-law letters that she had received from um, family members, a box of letters that were written by Dalai Starkey, MacFarlane Dolly and uh,
Joaquin Bowman: 22:11 to her friend Hazel Hepler.
Joaquin Bowman: 22:15 This was a letter that Dolly wrote on June 11th, 1923. All afternoon. I wiped the perspiration from various portions of my anatomy and have watched the heat simmer in waves out of the ground. Watched somprero tanned men drive horses white with leather across Sandy hollows to turn and type right madly wipe away more sweat, turn and watch tractors crawled through the blazing sunshine. There a line of trees greener than grass against the blue burning skyline. A mule team passes the mules back their heads to Bray. Dolly was exceptional and my mother-in-law often talked about Dolly in these letters. And to think that they might’ve been discarded makes, makes me very sad that I was very happy that I took the time to read them. And I re-read them and re-read them. And I couldn’t believe, um, the skill that this woman who was really a Prairie woman, she had come over from Ireland when she was a young girl, uneducated and the family lived in the Midwest and she really didn’t get much schooling, but yet she had the gift of being able to write. She’d love classical music. She married a guy that also loved classical music and they basically were farm people and she wrote and she wrote and she wrote. And I was very, very fortunate to be the one who received, uh, this package of letters. And I mean, what I read is just one small, tiny fragment of Dolly’s, uh, description of what it was like to be in that portion of the country. At that time,
Nadine O.: 24:38 but important.
Joaquin Bowman: 24:40 And then, well, there was a sense of hope and yet there was this hopelessness where people were struggling. These were hard times. I know that she was also published in a women’s magazines, but with all my research, and I’ve had others help me in this regard, I can’t really find the publications, said that that used her book. Uh, but she was a published writer. Um, she was also a woman who would do a lot of things to, to put food on the table. Uh, when times were tough. Uh, I know she made dolls that she sold character dolls, probably a version of like the American girl dolls. She was making them and selling them. She was a woman who was a survivor and she talked about it with her writings.
Nadine O.: 25:42 Now when did she pass?
Joaquin Bowman: 25:45 Dolly died in, uh, 1970. They had moved from the Midwest. Uh, I believe they had two children and I believe from my research that the children had moved to California and, uh, Dolly and her husband followed them West.
Nadine O.: 26:08 Mm.
Joaquin Bowman: 26:09 And so she died, uh, in California. And, um, the last writings I have from Dollie are really the late 1940s.
Nadine O.: 26:22 Wow.
Joaquin Bowman: 26:24 And, uh, I don’t know what she did between that period and, uh, 1970 when she died, whether she continued writing or not, but that’s where I lose track of her. And so I, you know, I had these letters and when I did my trilogy on, on my life, uh, and I was also working with Tom Hickey to publish his books. I published the, these letters from Dolly in 2015. It was an act of love and it was really out of respect for my mother-in-law. I loved my mother-in-law. I don’t know how many people say that, but I did. She was a very good and generous woman and saw that these, what she gave me, I guess that was my inheritance. What she gave me was really quite a fabulous gift. That gift with these letters. And I, and I, I didn’t take the time, uh, to really read the letters until my retirement, you know, this was during my retirement. Uh, and then began to appreciate the gift that she had given me. And the, the wonderful, uh, writing ability of Dollie and, and not only her writing ability, but a chance to get to know her as a very, very strong woman way ahead from time.
Nadine O.: 27:53 That is so interesting to me. That is so interesting to me that, um, it took that shift, that time where you had retired and then you [inaudible] rediscovered those letters, this gift from your mother-in-law.
Joaquin Bowman: 28:12 Well, the benefit of retiring, especially I, I retired at 52. The benefit of retiring wasn’t, I had time, which I really never thought I would have, uh, in my lifetime is the time to do things. And one of the things was to sit down with this box of letters and to, to really delve into them and to really study their mothers and to study the language.
Nadine O.: 28:39 What would you say to people who are approaching retirement, considering retirement or forced to retire? Um, uh, about that second half of their life?
Joaquin Bowman: 28:55 Well, in the old days when I was working in industry, people didn’t retire until they were 65. And, um, unfortunately I knew many, especially men who retired and within a few years they were dead. I don’t know. I don’t, I don’t know all the answers. And I think it’s different where someone chooses to retire or they’re forced to retire. So, you know, I think people who are retired need to have that sense of purpose and need to have a reason to get up in the morning. I remember my mother-in-law saying to me, uh, unfortunately she died of cancer. She was 79 years old. She was always very busy. And then she retired and she said to me, no, I just don’t know how to fill my days. And that’s sad. You know, that’s, that’s a tough thing if, if you get up in the morning and you have nothing to do, that’s where it gets hard. And people that talk to me about, you know, I’m thinking about, I always ask, what are you going to do after you retire? You know, and, and that’s, that’s a real important question because you have to have a reason to, to go on. I taught, I wrote, I helped other people. Right. Those are the things I did.
Nadine O.: 30:27 I’m really inspired by the fact that not only are you rediscovering yourself, but that also you’ve come full circle working with Tom Hickey on his writings and that the fact that, um, you’re helping each other in this process,
Joaquin Bowman: 30:56 you know, it’s life does come for full circle. You’re absolutely correct. Because when I started my career as 21 years old, out of temple, uh, needed a real job and Tom gave that to me and he gave me, um, a real, you know, a way to support my family, a real paycheck with benefits. I and I always felt that. I owed Tom my career. So later on, you know, when Tom was in his nineties and he was looking for a sense of purpose and I said, Tom, what is it that you really would like to do? You know, I guess you would call it a bucket list. And he said, well, I have this stuff that I put together from the time I was in India in the 1940s in the service. He said, I always wanted to pull that together into a book. And I said, well, let me see what you got. And he showed me what he had and I said, well, let’s, why don’t we work on this together? And it was, and it was an opportunity for me to give something back to Tom who had given me great gifts when I was a young man
Nadine O.: 32:10 Joaquin Bowman, inspired his friend and mentor Tom Hickey to continue to write in his latter years. Who could you inspire?
Joaquin Bowman: 32:25 So we did the first book on his time in India, India.
Nadine O.: 32:31 No,
Joaquin Bowman: 32:32 and it’s called Tom Hickey’s, India a Soldiers Diary. And then the next project we worked on together was how his family survived the depression. Uh, and then the third book were the 10 lessons. I learned it by nearly 100 years. I said, Tom, we’re, we’re going to do more. And then, you know, basically told me to get lost.
Nadine O.: 32:56 Okay.
Joaquin Bowman: 32:56 I said, what are you doing to me? Bowman. And you know, I said, Tom, you’re a writer. I said, let’s write. So he was doing the short essay called his musings . They were five of us little stories. And I said, well, you know, not many people live to be your age. What lessons did you learn in all your years of life? And that led to this third book, which also includes some of his shorter essays, his musings. And so we put together this collection of writings and I said, you know, we need something to write about in your, when you turn 97 and all of these books, they’ve, the Tom is India surviving the great depression. The lessons I learned are all published on Amazon.
Nadine O.: 33:48 Wow. Amazon is a great, it’s so great.
Joaquin Bowman: 33:54 It, it, it helps people like ourselves who aren’t going to publish a best seller. I’m never going to be on the New York times best seller list, but it helps us to tell our stories and to preserve our story
Nadine O.: 34:09 that is so important to preserve the stories because if we don’t put it, if we don’t document it, you know who’s going to know?
Joaquin Bowman: 34:18 it will be gone. It will be gone forever. And that’s why I felt that I really had given my mother in-law who I loved dearly, the gift of publishing these letters that she valued so much. The letters from Dollie, I think letters that these letters, this book will live forever. Dollie won’t be forgotten and my mother-in-law won’t be forgotten because I, the book is attributed, it’s dedicated to her and I tell the story about her and the letters in the, in the introduction to the book so that her life lives.
Nadine O.: 34:58 That’s just, that’s just so amazing.
Joaquin Bowman: 35:01 And it is. And you know, is there a huge audience for this stuff? No. You know, if 10 people read it, that might be it. But that’s great. That means 10 people read it. I’m happy with that
Nadine O.: 35:14 one person at a time.
Joaquin Bowman: 35:16 It’s better than leaving the letters, lay in a box, then the kids throw them out after we die.
Nadine O.: 35:21 That is so true. Joaquin. So true.
Nadine O.: 35:26 I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Joaquin. Bowman is an equal while more amazing stories are in the works. So hope you will subscribe
Nadine O.: 35:38 and stay connected until the next time. I’m Nadine O, and this is the Over 50 You Are Not Done Yet Show.
Letters from Dollie
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By Jules Gaia