Father’s Day Times Seventeen

In the era of Khrushchev and Eisenhower, with Elvis and the Everly Brothers on the radio, large families were not unusual. But seventeen kids was unusual enough to warrant a story in the Post“How to Bring Up a Multitude” [PDF].

At the time of the article — 1958 — the Joachim (pronounced Joe-ACK-im) children included twelve girls and five boys ranging in age from 18 months to a 24-year-old.

The logistics of raising a family this large were impressive. The annual milk budget was $1,300 a year for milk (over $7,000 in 2010 dollars.) Getting roughly 50 meals a day out of one not-too-modern kitchen was strategically daunting. “But we have all the gadgets we need,” Rose (Mom) told the Post, pointing to her brood. Dad added, “And when they’re through, they don’t clutter up the kitchen. They go outside to play.”

That Dad was Jack Joachim, Sr., who made ends meet by holding down two jobs, one as a supervisor at the local telephone company, the other at a retail hardware business, where he was a partner. He mastered plumbing, electrical work and photography.

“When he took up something, he went all the way,” Marylyn reports. “He learned developing with the photography and built a warehouse as a darkroom studio.” Since there was a military base nearby, Jack Sr. was often developing up to 500 rolls of film a day, making his hobby a paying one.

Jack Joachim is still around at age 93. “I have to go to the gym for an hour each day just to keep up with him,” his daughter, Marylyn jokes. He joined some of the kids on a trip to Italy when he was 89. He still drives and family members take him to dinner and a movie every Friday. Jack Sr. has a home health nurse, “but sometimes the nurse has a hard time catching him,” according to his daughter (well, one of the daughters).

The Joachim Family - all 19 members - sit for a meal.
The Joachims at breakfast. The menu: cereal (cold in summer, hot in winter), milk, juice, toast, jam.

He still enjoys photography and is “on his fifth digital camera.” The kids call him the Gadget Man. And yes, the 93-year-old patriarch can use a computer. He can get frustrated with it (like the rest of us) but the kids help him with e-mails.

At the time of the article, the parents had “coped with about every problem that mothers and fathers can face, including the tragic death of a son who was struck by an auto.” Since the article, there were two more births, so the child count was a total of 20.

The extended dinner table pictured in the article had to be custom-made, Bill notes. A carpenter came to the house and met the Joachim’s specifications of “three feet wide and ten feet long.” Sometimes, a young classmate of a Joachim child would slip in for a meal. “Nobody noticed an extra body or two,” Bill says.

A new baby in the house was nothing out of the ordinary, according to the article. One time, Mrs. Joachim went to the hospital for a day to treat a minor ailment. Upon her return, a bored child yawned, “Well, what did we have this time, mamma?”

Son Bill, now 60 years old (“I was number 12”), reports a Joachim family appearance on the TV show I’ve Got a Secret. The host was Harry Morgan that week, since Garry Moore was on vacation (“We think he saw us coming,” quips Bill). But the trip to New York, where they were “treated like royalty,” was a memorable treat to the wide-eyed Biloxi children.

Some of the complications of a large family still follow the siblings. “Someone will talk to me, and obviously they know me, but I don’t know them,” Bill says. When he asks them to jog his memory, “they’ll say, ‘I went to school with your sister.’” (Word of advice when talking to a Joachim: be specific.)

Today, the “kids” range in age from 49 to 75. And some have as many as five children. Three have retired from the same phone company that employed their father for 46 years (“When you find a good horse, keep riding it,” says Bill). One owns a successful cookie and chip distributorship, and one is an executive with a major insurance company. Most remain in the Biloxi area. “We’re all still speaking to each other,” Marylyn jokes. They get along great and happily share in helping dad out.

Jack’s many interests also include motorcycles. “He always went all out,” said daughter Marylyn, “Of course it had to be a Harley.”Photo courtesy of the Joachim family

Do they have family reunions? we asked. “More like mild riots,” Bill says. They get a church or other public gathering place, since this much of a crowd is too much for most homes. This usually happens Christmas Day, which happens to be Dad’s birthday. Although sadly, Rose Joachim passed away in her 80s, she is fondly remembered on the family website. Through the website, the children dote on Jack Sr. A photo of “Paw Paw” in a classic car bears the caption, “A true classic…the car’s nice too.” We agree and we’re happy to be able to say to Jack Joachim, along with the rest of you Superdads out there: Happy Father’s Day!

View the original 1958 article, “How to Bring Up a Multitude” [PDF].