Keeping up with the Jonesvilles

By Steven O. Martin - Down the River Road
Steven Martin -

It’s time for the Jones family reunion.

Not “a” Jones family, but THE Jones family — all 1,646,175 of them in the United States alone, according to the website

That’s a lot of people coming for dinner, and even more if you factor in all the Jones-related family members.

The surname Jones is of English and Welsh origins, being derived from John and Joan. In Wales, 15 percent of the population shares the name. According to the Atlas Obscura, the 2008 Wales rugby team has seven players named Jones on its 15-man team. Imagine being a play-by-play announcer at one of those games.

The Joneses have been very prolific, and in the US there are over 30 different Jonesvilles, nine Jonesboros, a Jonesburg, six Jones counties, and seven places just called Jones (counting one in Canada and another in the Philippines.) There was also a comic strip called “Keeping Up with the Joneses,” from whence came the well-known phrase, which ran from 1913-1940. Interestingly, although the Jones family was often referenced in the strip, they were never shown.

In Philadelphia, there is a restaurant named Jones. Not Jones’ Restaurant, but simply called “Jones,” where you can order fried chicken and waffles and wash it down with Passyunk Punch, whatever that is. (Trust me, I’m not making this up.)

New Zealand boasts the Jones! TV channel (and its spinoff, Jones! Too), which shows classics such as Rawhide, My Three Sons, Bonanza, Maverick, MASH, Columbo, Mary Tyler Moore, Baywatch, Golden Girls, Miami Vice and Matlock, but not The Andy Griffith Show. Being deprived of Mayberry undoubtedly means that New Zealanders are getting a disturbingly distorted version of the real America that we all know and love.

Perhaps one of the most interesting terms I ran across in my research of the Jones name is something called Generation Jones, referring to people born from 1954-1965 (including both Barrack Obama and Sarah Palin.) According to author Theresa Danna, “The name refers both to being anonymous or invisible and to the slang term ‘Jonesing,’ an offshoot of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ that means a craving or strong desire for something.”

To return to our TV theme from the preceding paragraph, maybe the best way to differentiate the real baby boomers (my generation) from Generation Jones and those who followed, Generation X, is to point out an iconic TV show of each period — Leave it to Beaver, The Brady Bunch and Three’s Company. Now, if you think I’m going to wade into why I think those shows are reflected in each of their representative eras, nope, not going to plow that minefield. I will say that if you find yourself in court, you’re much more likely to get sympathy from a judge by blaming whatever heinous crime you have committed on watching Leave it to Beaver than you are by using the Brady Bunch defense. As for you Generation X’ers and Three’s Company, forget it: just plead guilty and serve your sentence.

How does our Jonesville rank amongst those communities named Jonesville? Of the many Jonesvilles, ours actually ranks first in population, though only by 20 people (2,285 at the 2010 census, compared to Jonesville, Louisiana, at 2,265, and Jonesville, Michigan, at 2,258).

Most of the Jonesvilles are unincorporated; one is known as a city; one is a hamlet; five, including our Jonesville, are listed in Wikipedia as towns, although the definitions of “town,” “city” and “hamlet” are rather fuzzy. Generally, a city is bigger than a town is bigger than a village is bigger than a hamlet. Interestingly, the one city of the bunch, Jonesville, Louisiana, used to be a lot bigger, but the population shrank by half when a textile mill shut down in the late 1980s, a situation for which those of us in this area can certainly have empathy.

So our town compares quite favorably to those other Jonesvilles, but in one regard we come up way short. Jonesville, Arkansas has — or says it has — something called the Jonesville Monster, more commonly known as the Fouke Monster, or Southern Sasquatch. If you want to know more about that, there were three movies made, beginning with “The Legend of Boggy Creek” in 1972. Maybe we need to “discover” our own monster? I think, maybe, someone told me they might have, sorta, kinda, saw this weird looking creature on the Jonesville Greenway…

To make this family reunion a really big show, even without Ed Sullivan, I think we need a theme song. Fortunately, there are many candidates from which to choose: Me and Mrs. Jonesville, Along Came Jonesville, Basketball Jonesville, and, of course, the classic Ballad of Casey Jonesville, all found on the Greatest Hits by that country music superstar, George Jonesville. (Trust me, I’m making this up.)

How do we pull this off, a reunion for a ginormous family? Beats me, I’m just the idea guy. Y’all are going to have to come up with the mechanics and logistics on your own. Just for the fun of it, though, let’s run a few back-of-the-envelope calculations. Let’s say, including all the Jones family members, friends, hangers-on and party crashers, there’s a group of 2,500,000 from which to draw. Suppose we get only a 10 percent response. That’s still 250,000 people, or about 866.5 times the population of Jonesville. At $20 per person entry fee (for food, and to make it even more attractive, throw in some music so we can have a full-fledged all-day singing and dinner on the grounds), that’s a potential gross of a cool $5 million, not counting lodging and gas, as well as sales of official Jonesville T-shirts and hats. Think about it…

Steve Martin lives near the Mitchell River and works in the Jonesville Welcome Center, where he is actually paid to tell people where to go. You should be so lucky.

Steven Martin Martin

By Steven O. Martin

Down the River Road