Kurt Piehler: This begins the interview with Mr. Bert R. Manhoff, on April 19, 1995, at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey with Kurt Piehler and ...
Jeff Schneider: Jeff Schneider.
KP: I guess I'd like to begin by talking about your parents. I guess the one thing that struck me was that your father was born in Dubuque, Iowa.
Bert Manhoff: That's correct.
KP: But you mentioned before we began that you have long-standing roots in Newark.
BM: Yes. It starts ... on my father's side. Not only was my father born in Dubuque, Iowa, but his father, which is my grandfather, and my great-grandfather were also from that area. In fact, my great-great grandfather, three generations removed, was a deputy-sheriff in Dubuque, Iowa and being a member of the Jewish faith and being a deputy sheriff over a hundred years ago in Dubuque, Iowa ... was unique unto itself. So, then on my mother's side, I'm Newark bred. ... My great-great grandmother-I gotta get them straight-owned an employment agency in the city of Newark on the corner of what was then Belmont Avenue and Springfield Avenue--it has a new name now. ... The building, up until a few years ago, had her name on it. It was a cornerpiece building. It had "Solomon Agency" on it. That was my great-great grandmother who had ... one of the first employment agencies in the city of Newark. It supplied housekeepers, et cetera. ...
... It's very interesting, too, because ... on my mother's side also ... my grandfather, he, too, was born in Newark and his father and his father. So the three generations ... on my mother's both sides, her mother and father were all Newark bred ... And as I said, one was the Solomon family and the other was the Charick family. And my granddad ... used to tell us about washing his feet in the Canal, the Morris Canal, which is now Raymond Boulevard. So that goes back a long time. [laughs] My mother went to Morton Street School, which was probably one of the original elementary schools in the city of Newark. And on that side of the family, I think the only thing ... I guess my grandfather on that side of the family was the most notorious of all of them, because when he got into his eighties and nineties he was a ... terror. We'd go walking along the boardwalk down the shore, and he would pinch a young lady on the backside [laughs] and then look at my cousin Herb, his two grandsons and there we were, standing with our mouths open. He was quite a character. His name was Ike Charick. And he worked in a shoe store known as "The Famous Shoe Store," which was opposite the Courthouse, where it is right now on ... I don't know what street that is, that's maybe the beginning of Market Street ... But he worked in that shoe store. And he also had one of the first shoe stores, in the city of Newark where Ohrbach's came in, ... An aside, not off the record, but an aside, he was a wagerer ... of great note. [laughs] Particularly, he liked the races ... and this goes back a long time. Well let's see, I'm in my seventies, so this was my grandfather, so he would be ... oh, we're talking over a hundred years, just about a hundred ago, I guess, maybe 85 or 90 ago ... where he often would wager on the horses and sometimes my grandmother, who was a real lady and a grande dame, she'd go someplace and see her jewelry on somebody else's hand ... because my grandfather used it as security. ... He was way ahead of his time, he was a super guy ... as I say he ... that's where he was there. I don't know what his education was.
KP: So ... your grandmother starting this employment agency, she worked...
BM: That was my great-great grandmother.
KP: Your great-great grandmother.
BM: Yes twice ... two greats.
KP: Two greats?
BM: Yes, two greats.
KP: So, she maintained this employment agency even when she was married?
BM: Oh, yes. ... I would assume she did.
BM: ... That part of the history, I've never checked what she did. All I do know is that she had the agency, I saw the building, because the name was still there and my mother told me stories of her. In fact I think ... a humorous story is that my mother, I love her dearly--her memory dearly, ... was not a worker [laughs], ... she didn't believe ... [in] work. See, we have some people in our history way ahead of their time, see. My mother, today, would be right at home [laughs] because she believed in "finding herself" ... only, they didn't know what the word was then. But she was finding herself, so she went to live with her grandmother, which is the one I'm talking about, my great-great-great grandmother. She went to live with her ... And she had a housekeeper, my great-great grandmother had a housekeeper, again, we're talking a hundred years ago. And she had a housekeeper who would, at the end of the evening when it got a little late, she'd come in and say, "Mrs. Solomon, it's time to go to bed; the company's wants to go home." ... That was the way, she would later become ill, her name was Matilda, and Matilda later wound up up in Greystone, and the only person that she would see was my mother. I don't know if that was any indication of why they related so well. But ... then again, as I say now ... my grandmother, again on my mother's side, was a very active organization person, way, way back. In fact, there must be at least three doctors, who are history now, who got their starts because my grandmother got them to be the doctor for the organization, that was the way you got medical practices started in those days. One was the lodge called, the Martha Washington Lodge and the other was a Lady Foresters. And my grandmother would get them to be appointed to the doctor of that ... and allow them to get their starts that way.
KP: Were they Jewish doctors?
BM: Yes, yes, they were. One was Dr. Edwin (Steiner?), who delivered me. And his sister is a survivor and ... her name is Weil, Grace Weil. And she belongs to the same temple as we do and I see her ... and someplace along there was a family intermarriage so that we're cousins also, so we're related ...
My father's side of the family, I really had a very distant relationship with them. Other than a few of them ... my father's brothers. ... One was Charles Manhoff ... and he was a Socialist when it wasn't a popular one to be. Norman Thomas was a personal friend of his. And Charlie Manhoff, Charles, Charlie Manhoff, he later became the manager of the Newark Academy building, on 17 Academy Street. ... Charlie was a very wonderful individual. In fact ... then also there was a (Flossy?), who was my father's sister, whose son was Bill Manhoff, who wrote "The Owl and the Pussycat" and he wrote "Duffy's Tavern" for radio, and he was a very noted person out there. He just thought he was immortal, so he lived a life all hell-bent for election, didn't last too long. But ... other than that, I would say that that's the way it went. I have ... an aunt who's deceased now, my mother's sister, and two uncles, my mother's two brothers ... I don't think anything other than the fact that my aunt was a very magnificent person. Well, I should say one of the two uncles a character, I guess, for a book or anything ... He lived life, again, to the fullest. He ... was a teamster, and ... he lived a life of [a] teamster during the day, but he lived a bon vivant life otherwise. There was a time when we lived in pretty close quarters and he'd have about three or four young ladies on a string ... It was unbelievable, the stories that I concocted on the phone to answer for him. So, he was an interesting character, too. The other one we had very little to do with. ...
KP: So, growing up you had quite a few characters, if you don't mind me saying characters ...
BM: Characters, no, you can say it. You can say it, that they were.
KP: Before I ask you more questions about your relatives, I would like to turn to your father. He was born in Dubuque. When did he leave Dubuque? And why did he come to Newark?
BM: ... Let's see, his father, my grandfather ... [I'll] trace that a little bit; that may help a little bit. [He] was in the hardware business; he owned a hardware store. But I don't know what he did before that ... a cabinet-maker. ... I imagine my father came to Newark--I'm just guessing at it--as a teenager, I assume, a young teenager. I'm assuming that, I really don't know. My dad worked for Public Service Gas and Electric and he was killed in an industrial accident, which also was a part of my life that's interesting and shocking. Those days, PSE&G owned, and I'm making a statement without contradiction, they owned the courts. I mean almost every judge was on their payroll. There were two attorneys who could defeat them in court. They were the only two. And interesting[ly], one was a distant cousin of mine who deceased just before my father's accident, and the other one was an Italian attorney by the name of Victor D'Aloia who ... was good enough that they offered him an amazing stipend just not to fight them--just not to come court against them. What happened was my dad was a master electrician. There were maybe about five to ten of them in the United States ... So, therefore, he had some rank at the power plant where they were. Of course, the superintendent of the plant was, likewise, a unique person. Well, we went out on Christmas Day, on the 25th ... my mother, my father, my grandfather, [and] grandmother ... We went out, we came home, and then the next day, on the 26th of December, my dad went to work ... He had a helper, and he didn't like the way he handled his tools. And he asked the superintendent of the plant to give him another helper, but they didn't care too much about it. So he tolerated that. Well, he came into work on Monday, and the helper had one responsibility, from starting time until my dad got there ... In those days, they worked on live wires and he was to cover the wire with a blanket, a rubber blanket. My father assumed he did that because ... [it was] the one job he had. [He] applied the wrench and the flames came out. ... My father survived [for] about 48 hours, and the kind of person he was, they tell me--I was seven when my dad was killed--they tell me that ... if we were Catholic, he'd be a saint because of ... the kind of person he was. In fact the only thing, when he recovered consciousness, the only thing he wanted to know was how the helper was--the fellow [who] eventually caused his death. Well, the tragedy, in those days, is that if you sued, and you lost, you had signed a contract with them when you went to work [at] PSE&G, if you sue, for any damages of any kind, death or body damages of any kind, and you lost, you lost even a pension that went with it. And the fellow who was the superintendent of the plant came to ... my mother, and he said, "Ruth, I'll testify ... but ... I will lose my job. But I'll go to work for Consolidated Edison. They'll grab me off. I'm unique like Harry," my dad was ... "But you know you're gonna lose" ... so we decided not to sue ... That was an amazing number, the numbers were amazing, this is pre-income, tax. My father was earning maybe 200 dollars a week, which today is outstanding.
KP: That was a big salary in the 1920s.
BM: And we went from 200 dollars a week to seventeen dollars a week ... [That] was the compensation we got. So, it was a little let down. But that made life interesting growing up. That would bring [us] up to date, I guess, on my [dad]. I don't know when my dad came to Newark, but ... he went to work for Public Service; he may have been a grown-up. I don't know, I really don't know any early history of my dad. It's a shocking thing that I'm talking to you, I know where he was born, I knew his family background and those things, but I don't know the personal things about him, like when he went to work for PSE&G and how long he worked there. One unique thing that someplace along the line, if you put it in the history, my father's buried in a cemetery that's on ... let's see, it's South Orange Avenue and 19th Street. That's a real old, old Jewish cemetery. His headstone, my mother was that kind of flambouyant person, when my father died, ... she bought a granite stone, there are no other ones in there. It's the only one that is standing up straight. You can read it from a mile away--that's the kind of magnificent stone this is. As I said, my mother ... had no sense of value for the dollar. It meant nothing to her. My mother was the original spendthrift. And I learned it from her very well. But this stone is just, as I say, it's a granite stone and it stands up there. It's too heavy for the vandals to knock it over. It's the only one that they can't knock over. ... But the fact is ... he was buried in 1927, and the stone is, as I say, you can read it from a mile away. It's a really magnificent stone ... Other than that, I think that would bring you up to date. ...
Let's see, Bill Manhoff is one of our famous members of the family. He was a very famous writer ... After that, I don't think we have really anybody ... [who is] noteworthy of being historically recorded other than being characters. My mother ... well, my mother was one of the early teachers of contract bridge, and I mean early.
KP: How did your father's death affect your family? You've mentioned one thing-- that the family income dropped dramatically and your mother was something of a spendthrift.
BM: Yeah. ... How does it effect it? ... Again, the years now have blurred a lot of it. ... My mother assumed a role of a widow, I guess unlike a lot of other widows in those days. The only thing that my mother did not do, which I view as a tragedy, was that she didn't remarry. My mother was 31 when my father [died] and I was seven. ... She didn't remarry. She had men friends and so forth, but she was very flamboyant, my mother, and very outgoing and so forth, and as I say, uniqueness was her thing. My two cousins, Herbert Neiman and Bernice Neiman Schwartz, who I almost consider brother and sister, that would have been my mother's sister's children ... Thank God they're both alive. ... Well, the unique things we would do, such as we'd go to temple on Saturday morning on High Street and Waverly Avenue ... We would go to temple ... and then we'd ... walk down to Perry's Restaurant. My God, I can remember the name of it! It was on Branford Place ... [and] Halsey Street near Branford Place. And then we'd go to Proctor's or the Paramount theater. And that was a routine which we could ill afford, but my mother, that was her thing to do. ... I guess those kind of highlights stick out in my mind as far as ... my family goes. Other than the fact that my mother, as I say, ... was a unique, again may I use the word unique, she was a unique widow, because she took things all in stride and rolled along and ... as I say, now, there were only just the two of us--my mother and myself--so I don't know how [my father's death] effected [us]. As I say, the more I try to recollect it, I think my mother recovered pretty well, until later years, much later years, when physiologically she started to suffer from hardening of the arteries and they weren't too aware of what that was all about. It changed her personality. It really changed her personality.
JS: Going back a minute.
JS: Do you know what the Jewish community was like in Iowa? That's not somewhere where you'd normally think of a Jewish family living.
BM: No, it was very, very limited. I can tell you that much. ... The way I found out about it is that ... any history I have had about it, like the one that was an under sheriff, ... my son is a ordained Reform Rabbi and when he was appointed in California, he got a phone call and a woman said, "Are you related to Charlie Manhoff?" which was my son's great uncle. So Harry thought for a minute. He really hadn't heard too much about it, because that part of my family I wasn't too in touch with. He said, "Yes, I think that was my father's uncle." She said, "Well, if it was ... his great grandfather was the sheriff." The caller lived in California, this lady and ... she said, "Your great uncle ... whatever he was, whatever the relationship was, was a dear friend of ... her father...her great, great..." It was a limited ... I don't know what their life was like, but ... it was a limited population obviously. Oh, he was there because he was, my great-great grandfather, ... he was a cabinet maker. It was a skill that he brought over with him. ... I guess, he was sent to Dubuque, Iowa. That's how the original Manhoff got there, by immigration. I would assume that's it, because I don't know otherwise how he would ever hear of Dubuque, Iowa. [laughs] So I would think that the immigration department. That was the hub and the beginning of that furniture industry.
JS: Where in Europe did your family come from? Was it Germany?
BM: Okay. That's it now. They came from, my father's side came from Alsace-Lorraine, but we're not sure who owned it at the time they were there. Because, if you remember, the French and Germans were playing six months here and [six months there]. ... So, I figured in my own mind, that if it was French, it was Manhouf, if it was German it was Manheim, and it became Manhoff. So we're not too sure of that. That's the thing we haven't been able to trace. We have a couple of family trees made, but they don't go that far back as to when they came here, because that's one hundred years ago or more. But it was either French or German, that I claim. ... On my mother's side ... that's a good question. I believe they, too, came from France. Because it was Charick and I don't know how they got to that name. So I believe that they came from there. My father's side I'm more sure of because I know he came from Alsace-Lorraine. My mother's side, I think they came from France.
JS: Back to where we were before ...
JS: Your father died just before the Depression?
BM: No, no. He died in, he died in '27.
JS: Once the Depression hit, what type of impact did that have on you and your family, but also on the neighborhood?
BM: ... Well, I must explain, at those years, we were living on Nineteenth Street in Newark which was right below the Irvington borderline. ... We lived in an apartment--one of the earlier apartments there. Let's backtrace that. When my father was killed, we were living on Avon Avenue in Newark, then we moved to the place over there. I think the only way I could describe it is that as far as we were affected, it was just that--I guess we were [in] a little better shape than a lot of people, because we had a steady income. It was minute, but it was steady, though. It went a lot further in those days obviously. ... I don't have any really disastrous memories about the Depression, because I was growing up and by the time I was really old enough to appreciate it was gone, after, I was born in '20 ... I was seven [when] my father was killed, and by the time I was fourteen we're already out of the Depression, or coming out of it. So my years, seven to fourteen, were the Depression years and I don't recall them being anything more than just a close operation. ...
KP: When did your mother work? Did she work at all after your father died?
BM: Never! [Laughs] My mother was offered a job. I was very active and still [am] active at our temple, and we were active in the Boy Scouts. And we had a committee member who owned the (Millmar?) hosiery chain, the whole chain called (Millmar?), Jimmy Schreiber. He came and he said to me, "I don't want to insult you, but I'll give your mother a job as assistant manager. All she has to do is sit at the register, and ring up the money and talk to people."
KP: [laughs] What do you ...
BM: Now ...
KP: Oh, no, go ahead.
BM: Sure, that's all right, no, she just didn't believe in work.
KP: What did she do?
BM: She played bridge and belonged to organizations.
KP: Which organizations? Temple organizations?
BM: No, no, well we belonged to a temple, but she was not active. She, too, was active in the organizations that my grandmother was active in. Martha Washington Lodge, and Lady Foresters. ... She had some friends and ... [she] consumed her time that way. Again, my life from seven to fourteen was very typical, I guess. ... I went to an elementary school in Newark and ... it's interesting--a sidelight of that is, Ralph Schmidt, who is [class of] 1942.
KP: Yes, he was one of the first people I interviewed.
BM: Oh, really?
BM: Well Ralph came from Germany. He came to South Seventeenth Street School where I was in the eighth grade, about seventh or eighth grade, we were. So that's an interesting sidelight because he's the class of '42, I think.
KP: You knew Ralph Schmidt?
BM: Sure, sure, [I] knew him well. Yeah, that's one of my achievements, when we get up to date, I['ll] start talking about what happened to me here at Rutgers when I got back from service. But Ralph I knew from elementary school.
KP: And did you also know him from Boy Scouts?
BM: No, no ... Ralph is not Jewish, Ralph is German. Our troop was Jewish.
KP: Oh, okay, so you were ...
BM: It was connected to temple.
KP: So Boy Scouts were separate by religion?
BM: Yeah, it was a temple ... a B'nai Jeshurun troop. In those days, if you were a church troop you had Catholics ... and there were very few temple troops. ... We may have had one or two non-Jewish boys--Oh, I know, we had a few, one or two non-Jewish boys in our troop, but they came from the orphanage. [laughs] That was up on Clinton Avenue. That's how they got into our troop. But anyway, ...
JS: Was your neighborhood predominantly Jewish?
BM: Well let me just straighten out [the] neighborhoods. I lived on Nineteenth Street near Sixteenth Avenue, but I used my cousin's address, Osborne Terrace and Nye Avenue to go to Weequahic High School. Because I didn't go to West Side HS, I wanted to go to Weequahic to start with. I used to commute on the six cross-town bus. The neighborhood on Nineteenth Street and Sixteenth Avenue was not predominantly Jewish. It was a very strong mixture, very strong mixture. I'm not sure, but I think that what's his name ... the musician, Simon ... Neil Simon, Neil Simon? ... Is there a Neil Simon? ...
BM: Neil Simon. I think his ancestry were the ones that were in our particular neighborhood at that time who I was friendly with. They had a grocery store on the corner. Now the Weequahic [area] where my cousin lived, that was predominantly Jewish. That was Osborne Terrace and Nye Avenue. And that would have been in the years of, particularly ... Well, I'm the class of '38 out of Weequahic, my cousin, Herbert's the class of '34. Well, he came from the South Side. He was the first class to graduate from Weequahic High School. I think it was '34 or '35. Then it was a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. ... I don't know too much about it personally, but I do know that a cousin of mine came out of that area and I guess that was pretty Jewish at one time. Yeah, but the Weequahic section, pockets of it were Jewish and pockets [of it] were non-Jewish. ... The Clinton-Hill section, which touched Weequahic, was non-Jewish. That was very much a mixture ...
JS: When I looked through my father's yearbook, my father was in the class of '45 at Weequahic. It seems like every name was Jewish.
BM: Everybody was Jewish, oh yeah [laughs] Weequahic High School was. When we went there, I was graduated [in the] class of '38. We had one black girl in the class out of 400 and she didn't live in Newark, she lived in East Orange, but her family didn't want her to go to East Orange [High School], proud of the fact, so her father used to drive her down in a limousine every day. [Laughs] We were very proud of the fact that whole Weequahic High School was outstanding. I don't know if you're aware of the fact that from '48 to '58, '48 to '58, Weequahic High School graduates had more Ph.D's than any high school in the country. That ten year span produced more Ph.D's. We had Max (Hertzberg?) as the principal. His mythology book is still used all over [laughs] in English; it may be outdated by now. ... He had a very simple philosophy, he sat behind a desk and if you got as far as the door, it was "How old are you?" and if you were over sixteen, you were gone. If you were under sixteen, you would sit in a chair there until he called one of your parents to come and get you. Everybody was afraid of him in those days. So, it was a very excellent school, Weequahic High School--excellent faculty and students were very bright and ... a lot very prominent people came out of there. Jervy Wald, the movie producer and successful musician was a person in those days. In fact, he was the cream of the cream, because he was way ahead of his time also. He would come to school in his blue convertible, a Buick model. But that's the way the neighborhood was, Weequahic was predominantly Jewish. I don't know when it exactly started to turn. I coached football at Weequahic, in the year that I was ineligible down here at Rutgers. So that would've been '49, I guess, yeah, '49 or '50. And ... the football team was basically Jewish. We had the Rosenbergs and the Liewart and names like that who were good. And we also were different than the rest those years--we won more games than we lost. That was the only time in that period where WHS team won more than we lost.
JS: Well, you played football when you were at Weequahic too, right?
JS: And did you play any other sports?
BM: Yes, at Weequahic, I was the manager of the basketball team, but I played--I was on the track team. One season I played a half a season of baseball, but mostly it was football and track in Weequahic. Then when I went to Montclair State, which was in '38, I would have been the class of '42, but I left in '40 to go to war, I was playing football and I wrestled and I was in track.
JS: Speaking of baseball, did you ever get to see the Newark Bears play?
BM: ... [Yes]
JS: How about the Newark Eagles? Did you ever get to see them play?
BM: Yes, I--it's funny that you should bring it up. I'm the executive director of the Newark Athletic Hall of Fame. And last year we took in the Newark Eagles--we honored their team. And this year I'm going to take in Effa Manley who was the lady owner. If you read any books about it, she was the lady owner of the Eagles.
JS: The Eagles were one of the elite black teams.
BM: The Newark Bears was one of the best, it was a superior team. The Bears, my uncle, Herbert and Bernice's father, again, we used to have six seats in the first row reserved grandstand, right behind the visiting dugout at Newark Bears Stadium. We would see almost every single home game. Yes, we were very close. And then I had another tie into the Newark Bears, that the sexton of our temple, ... Jonas Meyers. This would be worth looking into on that one there. He was the sexton of our temple, and we were, again, ahead of our times, as a Reform temple to have a sexton, everyone else had a (shamas?). We had a sexton, and he was a funeral director on Clinton Avenue. But he was the number one Newark Bear fan. They never had an opening day where he wasn't there standing next to the illustrious person that threw the opening ball out. He'd have the baseball teams, the Newark Bears at his house for dinner. So we had a lot of tie-ins to the Bears and we had an awful lot of fun with those seats. My uncle bought them and we would go sit, the first row, the reserved section, right behind the boxes, just the very first row. And we got to know the opposition pretty good. And Al Mamaux, by name, who later became the manager, he was the coach at Seton Hall, and then he was the coach at one of the teams, Montreal or one of them. And we were on him unmercifully one day, really tearing him apart in our typical fashion. And this young lady comes up and she says, "I don't think you should talk about the [manager]..." And we knew it was Al Mamaux's daughter because she had his face. They were identical. So my cousin, in his inimitable fashion says, "Okay, Miss Mamaux, we'll lay off your father's back." ... She returned to the seats. Nothing to do with the war, though. But anyway, that's ... we were very strong Newark Bear fans.
JS: You got to see some great ball players go through there before they were famous.
BM: Oh, the one that was the great team. That was the one that had--well, everyone and their brother, but George McQuinn who played in the majors, Red Rolfe the majors, Joe Gordon, Phil Rizzuto it was just, and then the outfield was Bob Seeds ... and (Keller?), King Kong Charlie (Keller?) played up in the majors for many, many years. And--oh, yeah, they turned out many, many major leaguers. It was a beautiful stadium then, and I wound up coaching East Side HS down in that stadium, and little by little, it started to decay there, tore it apart, that one time, we were playing one year, the only thing left was the concrete stands, and it had some fences around the other side, and when I wanted to turn the lights on, I had to go take a board and turn it on because the electrical connection would give off flames and flashes and everything. It got quite a season of neglect. But we played down there for a long time. All right, do you want any more background or are we going to get up to the war?
KP: You mentioned your temple was very Reform, especially for its day.
BM: Oh, yes.
KP: Can you elaborate a bit on your temple? And it sounds like your family was very much in the Reform tradition.
BM: Oh, yeah. My great-great-great grandparents were married by the first rabbi of Temple B'nai Jeshurun, that's a fellow by the name of Joseph Leucht. He was the first rabbi of B'nai Jeshurun, and then in later years, ... our family belonged to Jeshurun, ... let's see, it's 120 years old, the temple, I think, and I would say that our family goes back 100 years there. And ... We've gone through Rabbi Foster who was the second rabbi ... We were very active members, not affluent. There were affluent members there, many ... very, very affluent in the congregation. In my personal life, we picked it up, we were on High Street already in our building, but prior to that, they'd been on Washington Street, in a make-shift building, but then the building on High Street was a magnificent building, I started there in '27. So, that's how long I've been active, personally active, and my mother before me, and my grandparents before me. But we have been active since then, my two sons who are both bar-mitzvahed and confirmed there and very active in the temple. I've served on the Board of Trustees for many, many years. And I'm still active now on quite a few committees. And we try to go to temple almost every Friday if we can, whenever we can, we go. And as I say, my son is a Reform rabbi out in California so he took his temple pretty serious.
My granddaughter has just been elected the president of the National Federation of Temple Youths, which covers from Alaska to Mexico and the whole of the United States. This is a 17-year-old kid going off to college next year. She's probably going to go to UC-Berkeley, that's one of the lesser schools that she's been accepted at. She got into Rutgers and NYU and ... was wait-listed at couple of the Ivys. I think the only thing that knocked her out of the box of the Ivys, which I think she would have taken, is that she did everything else that there was for any student to do, except she ... was just short of 1300 on the boards. That would knock her out of the Ivys, most of the Ivys, which is a pretty elitist approach because she did a great deal otherwise. I am bragging, because she's just an outstanding young lady and ... dance, and scholarly and this and a very fine person. But anyway, she was just elected president of the NFTY, neither her father nor her uncle who were my two sons, they both got to be president of their local NFTYs, and maybe, I think one of them got to be vice-president of state, but never further than that. So she doesn't have to take a backseat to that anymore, to them. Presently she is the R.A. to the football team of U.C. Berkley. Her interview for the job was interesting. She told the Board her grandfather coached all levels, her uncle coached college level and her father played at Yale. We love our temple and ... we're very active in it. Even now, I serve on a couple of the committees, and my wife does too. I don't know if you've been to Jeshurun, the new one, it's in Short Hills?
BM: Were you in that area, Jeff?
BM: It's on South Orange Avenue just east of Don's. Do you know where Don's Restaurant [is]?
JS: The one ...
BM: Yeah, the Temple, [with the] big tower.
JS: On the hill?
BM: Which ... the guttural anti-Jeshurunites call it Pilchek's tantarey, see.
Because it's a magnificent spiral thing all the way up. Those are the conservatives and Orthodox Jews who are jealous of us. [Laughs] You can see I'm very chauvinistic, I am very chauvinistic about my religion, my university, and everything else.
KP: What was the relationship between the different Jewish communities, the Conservatives and the Orthodox? What were the effects of the large Orthodox community in Newark? Was there any tension in the 1920s and 1930s that you remember?
BM: In the early years, I think I would best describe it, they had very little to do with each other, except they would possibly control parts of it ... like the YMHA, which was on High Street and even though our temple was High Street, the reformed Jew played a very little role in it. Because I think they may have made--begin their exodus out of the city sooner than other denominations. So the Y didn't have that much of a purpose. So the Y is one of them that I would say was much more under control of conservative and orthodox Judaism. The Jewish News, the publication, which is supposed to be non-partisan ... is very heavily oriented today [towards] conservative Judaism. ... Even though the past three presidents have been from our temple. The three past presidents of the Jewish News have been from our Temple. But the paper policy has changed. In answer to that question, I think that in those years ... there wasn't a real rivalry, there was more, if anything else, was live and let live. Because you didn't have too much interchange as you do now. I think that would be the best answer to it.
KP: What about the relationship of the Jewish community with the other communities? Newark was a very diverse place.
BM: Right. I would say this--and I say it again in a very chauvinistic fashion. We, B'nai Jeshurun, had the best relationship with the non-Jewish community. In fact, Rabbi Foster, our rabbi at that time, was elected to the Board of Trustees of Newark University. No clergyman had ever served on it, out of any denomination. And our rabbi became used to the slings of the non-reform Jews against him were pretty tough. They were pretty rough on him. They called him everything from Father Foster to anything they wanted. And they did not like him. Likewise, other than they were very successful, orthodox and conservative Jews, very successful in the mercantile and places like that. But I think the roles of leadership, be the government or whatever, the reform had to lead a little bit there. I'm thinking in terms of the corporate world, I guess the reform Jews that I know were the first to break into, to go through the glass ceiling for Jews in Prudential. I remember one member of the family, now it's his grandchildren and they're grown up and in our temple now. He was the first actuarian, Jewish actuarian that the Prudential ever hired. He got to be one of the vice-presidents in that particular department, which is as far up as you could get in those days too. So I would say that our, the reform movement had a good relationship. ... I think that again, I didn't see it, at a real breach between the communities. I think it was a lot more homogeneity then, obviously, than there is today. I mean there's no, I don't think there was any real overt or even under-the-table anti-Semitism that was going on.
KP: In Newark?
BM: At least I didn't see it.
KP: You never were called names on the playground?
BM: Not really, no.
JS: In the 1930s, did you hear about, or did you hear it through the temple, any inklings of what was starting to happen in Germany?
BM: The only thing that I recall now--again we're talking fifty years now--was that the Nazi movement started to grow around Newark. And I remember very vividly that one of the "Nazi groups," held a function at what was then called The Laurel Gardens. It was an old fight club and they had a convention of some sort. There was an ex-fighter, by the name of Nat Arnold who organized what he called the Minutemen in Newark. They were vigilantes, they were Jewish vigilantes. They went up there and they had enough power, that's why I say, they had enough power that the police were standing outside facing Springfield Avenue, and they were inside destroying people and property ...
KP: How much of this was reported at the time?
BM: It just said that, the paper came out and it said that there was a disturbance between two groups. One was this pro-Nazi group and one was identified as, gee, I don't know the phrase they used, but it was a very, mildly related to a Jewish organization, very mildly. But the police, who didn't like this Nazi group any more than anybody else made sure that nobody interfered for them. But that instance stands out in my mind, I don't know if Newark started to feel it any sooner than the rest of the United States. Now ...
KP: Were there any boycott-Germany movements in the 1930s?
BM: No, no, and ... pockets of Nazi support as it got close to where it broke out were in, as far as Newark was concerned, it was the borderline of Irvington. Up in Sussex County, Andover was their training ground, and that's historically recorded. Irvington, the total Irvington picture was not as receptive to Jews as it is.
KP: Did your parents assume, or at least your mother, did she assume you were going to college?
BM: ... Assume, let's see ... yes.
KP: Or ...
BM: Well she knew, let me put it this way. When I was in high school, I was supplementing our income and then when I became sixteen, that income stopped. That was another thing, part of that contract with Public Service. If either my mother or I [were] deceased from the time of the accident until I became sixteen, the other one never got the seventeen dollars. It was cruel. It was absolutely, it was brutal. Somebody ought to write a book about that if they can investigate that kind of thing. But at that point, when I became sixteen, seventeen--between my mother who was getting some kind of pension, I don't know what it was, not too much, of some sort. I started to work. So my Weequahic High School schedule was school and athletics, student government, I was always a BMOC, I loved it ... And then I'd go to work, in Newark.
KP: Where did you work?
BM: Crawford Clothing Store, down there, running suits from the tailor shop up to the main floor. I worked like from seven to nine, seven to ten, or whatever it was. So that in answer to that particular question, we kept rolling along and I really became the sole-supporter of the household. And we were pretty tight.
KP: So your mother didn't work, and you were, in a sense, supporting the household. ...
BM: Right, exactly ... I think it may have continued, the pension may have continued for a little while. And then, when I was graduating from high school I was one of the first Weequahic all-stater in football and I had a lot of good football offers, and in those days in '38, it was as crooked as could be. I mean an incident there, there is a pre-war story...
KP: Actually, hold, I think the tape is running out.
----------------------END OF TAPE ONE, SIDE ONE----------------------------------
BM: Two schools that were interested in me, two of many others, was NYU and Fordham. They both had football in those days. And the two recruiters came over to our apartment the same night. Now we lived in a three-room apartment, my mother and myself and they both came in and they both must have agreed, coming out together they were going to offer me room, board, and tuition, and a job, which was legal in those days. Both of them came out, room, board, tuition. One gave me a job at the library, one gave me a job in the post office, whatever it was. I was going to be pulling shades down, I guess. On the way out or I should say, the conversation was over [and] they were gone. My mother comes back and she says, "Wasn't that a nice man from Fordham! You know what he told me, that Christian Schmidt," which was a furniture store in Newark, "That if you went to Fordham, we'd get three new rooms of furniture." I said, "Gee, that's funny. The other guy said Hoffman Brothers," which was another furniture store in Newark, "offered me the same three rooms of furniture." They both undercut each other with the same offer, not knowing, not knowing that they were doing that. So that was one of the recruiting stories that we had in those days. And ...
KP: And this was common?
BM: Oh yeah, this was real common. I flew down to University of Florida in Gainesville and there were 96 of us because there were only 48 states then and there were 96 of us there and they ran a regular try-out--like a professional try-out where we wore numbers and each day they drop off ten, fifteen, twenty. By the way, with me, was a New Brunswick football player by the name of Andy Beno, I think he was a local hero. Andy and I were two New Jersey boys down there. We both survived to the last cut. Some of the players opened up our eyes. We were in this magnificent dorm and one of the kids on the team, he said look, he said, "We don't want you to get trapped." He said, "We're here, and we're playing here and they're taking care of us, but when the season's over we go live in those over there." And they were dorms that you needed a bloodhound to find them, see. But the scholarship, in those days, was room, board, [and] tuition and your name was on a state highway payroll.
... Those days were ... unbelievable ... Great stories were passed on and I pass it on because I heard it. ... A woman who worked in the North Carolina football office came to work for us here at Rutgers, because we were G.I.s and older we ... had good relationships with the secretaries, more than the average high school kid would. And she was telling us that down in North Carolina, Charlie Justice, who was one of their all-time greats, first of all, he was drafted--the congressman got him out, out of the Army to come to college. Took him out of the Army and took him in college! And every week, he would come in the office on Friday, and he'd walk in and one of the coaches [would say], "Mr. Manhoff, this is Charlie Justice," and Mr. Manhoff, being an alum, would say, "That's Charlie Justice? He's the one that's breaking all those records? My God, he doesn't look like he could pick up this microphone ten times!" The alum "Oh, I'll bet you $100 he can't!" And he'd put two hundred dollars on the table, he'd walk over, pick up the mike, pick up the $200 and say good-bye. He pulled shades down, he'd sharpen pencils, each week it was a different bet. Of course, everybody will deny it, but it was so. Of course, she saw it there. Anyway, that was my [story]. Oh, I went to Montclair State. ...
KP: Yeah, you didn't take these scholarship offers and the new living room set.
BM: No, no, I went to Montclair State, because there we had everything taken care of. That was the tailend of the depression. We had everything provided for us. The only thing that they didn't, there was no under the table stuff. ... Well, the under the table stuff was that we had jobs on the NYA, the National Youth Administration, which was the WPA for college. I had two jobs. One I was a seventh assistant snow shoveler. All year you put in time reports. And the other one I was the fifth assistant secretary. Chuck Pitzer, our coach, rest in peace, he had about eight of us listed as assistant secretaries and when he needed a lot of typing done, he'd call someone to type. But that was our bribe, that was our corruption, that we were on the NYA. But, and then also, not knowing it, they would take us down ... the beginning of each semester, and we would sign a piece of paper, and who read it? It was a promissory note to pay back the tuition, but we never know it. And I'd say about 25 years after I got out, I started to get bills from the state and I just ignored it and they got tired of writing me about it. But that was ... that was how they were taking care of our tuition and the room and board, we were in a dormitory.
KP: Why Montclair State? Why not NYU or Fordham?
BM: Because Coach Pitzer said, "I will guarantee you a job when you graduate." And being very practical-minded, because I'd lived so close to the vest with my mother, I didn't want to be without ... resources. And he guaranteed us a job. There were about five of us that came in the same class--well, no, I should say there were more, there were fifteen of us, and we carried the whole athletic program for them. We played football, we wrestled, some of the guys played basketball, some of the guys played baseball. ... There were about fifteen to twenty, ... I would say, that carried the whole basic program. It was a fun time because there were 500 students at Montclair State then, 400 girls and 100 of us, so you really had it made. You were 400 girls to 100 guys, it was a pretty nice set up.
KP: So you dated quite a bit?
BM: Yes, we had fun, we had fun. Yes, that was our, Montclair State, and I stayed there and I was, in the meantime I was working a job too, so. I just couldn't keep ends meet, and take care of my mother and that, so I quit school in December of '40. I'd say that's going to bring me up, almost to the military time. I went and I worked for DuPont out in North Arlington as a time-study, because I had a year and a half of college. ... DuPont ... where I worked there was a time-study department. There were not too many Jewish people working for DuPont, in fact, there was a good, strong feeling they were quite anti-Semitic. Except in our plant, a guy by the name of Dr. Marx, had every patent that they needed for that plant, so he was the director of research and he ran it good, but he rubbed it in. His staff went home 2:00 Friday afternoon, they never worked on Saturday, and any Jewish holiday. No matter what denomination you were, you were his staff, you were gone. Well, I worked in the time-study department and we had a senior, ... these were the early guys who had degrees in efficiency. They were called time-study, that was already improved the name from efficiency expert to time-study. They were early degree from Harvard and the likes of that, so he was the pro on his staff. Then there was a semi-pro, with a man who maybe had a bachelor's in something to do with time-study. And then there was a person like myself, who had some college, we were listed junior, and then we had a clerk. That was a four-man team. And we were good--of course the men I was working with were tremendous. And we had come up with some magnificent studies, fun studies too. We went in one, was a baking process, where they had these half-ton bake things going around. And actually, we didn't set standards, then you got paid average efficiency for your job. So that meant they took the salaries of the whole production, and the whole plant, and they found the average and that's what they paid you, which was a good deal. But they knew that, and if they cooperated we were good to them, we were really good to them. I know one time I went into this baking place and I said something to the senior, I said, "I don't think we better double cross these guys because these half-ton things are hanging over our heads. [A] cable could break, you know, and it could be all over for us." He said, "You're absolutely right." Sure enough, a cable broke, we went nowhere near it, it didn't touch us. We saw it happen, we said, "Wow," we were glad.
We got to one worker, whose job was as the tubes of plastic were coming out and he cut it, that was his job to cut it at certain lengths. And he was getting paid average efficiency, that meant he was getting paid a good salary for doing nothing. He was nasty to us, he was really mean to us, and my boss said, "We'll get him." We wound up ordering a second machine that cost DuPont, I don't know, about $100,000, whatever it was, next to him, so now he had to sit and cut two, and he didn't have time to go relieve himself if he was going to make his salary because he was nasty to us. But that happened at DuPont, I was doing pretty nicely and enjoying it, with my two years of college, and I stayed home for a religious holiday. And when I came in the day after, the fellow who was running it, shall remain nameless--we don't need a desecrator's name--but he said, "Where were you?" "I was home for my holiday, it was Yom Kippur. I was home for my holiday, it's the most sacred day of the year." [He said,] "Oh I didn't know you were..." He didn't finish his sentence, he was going to say, "I didn't know you were Jewish," he said, "I didn't know you were going to be out for the holiday." All of a sudden, we started to get the crappy assignments, so I went to my boss, and I said, "You know, that's because of me, I'll start looking for another job." I said, "Because it's senseless for you to be penalized here." He said, "You're right Bert ... but you don't have to change your job." He said, "Well, we'll get even with him one way or the other." We got one of the offices, to do an efficiency report on ...
KP: On the time-study department.
BM: I went every day and took the carbon papers out and calibrated the carbon papers. To see how far down they went. Then we called the manufacturer and said, well how far down should they go before they replace it? We counted paper clips they threw away, rubber bands that they threw away. They were so glad to rid of us, he got the message too. But I left and I went to work for an accounting firm in Newark, and I have a lot of good experiences there, and then from there, I went to work for the Social Security [Administration] in Baltimore, Maryland.
KP: So you were trying a number of different jobs?
BM: I started with DuPont, I worked with the accounting firm, and ... then I went down to work for Social Security in Baltimore, but then I switched over to Washington, D.C. where I was teaching school, and that's where the beginning of my military career came about. I was teaching health and physical education and I was working as a part-time accountant for the War Department in the office [of the] Chief of [the] Finance Department.
KP: And this was before Pearl Harbor?
BM: This was, yeah, this was just before Pearl Harbor. I was working in the War Department and teaching school, and I had a 2-A deferment, which meant I was essential to public health and the sole support of my mother, which is a pretty sound deferment. So, one of the kids that I was coaching in Washington, D.C. came up to me and said, "You know, coach, my father's the chairman of the board down here. Why don't you have your registration changed down here and they'll never find you, coach." This was a high school kid telling [me]. ... I said, "No, no, my friends back in Newark, they'll take care of me. I'm not going to worry about that." Well, I got a letter, you're up for reclassification, I was reclassified as 1-A, boom, boom, boom, like that, see. So now I'm getting ready to go in, and this is where it starts. H.K. (Lowry?) was the commanding general for the Finance Department. He was a Coast Artillery General, who had predicted Pearl Harbor, and they didn't want that. So the took him out of the Coast Artillery and made him Chief of Finance. So he'd walk around with his two stars, but he wouldn't take off his Coast Artillery emblem instead of the Finance one. He'd walk away and he'd say, "I'm the best f--ing General they got in the Coast Artillery, here I am, signing my name, I don't even sign my name, I stamp my name!" And he was p.o.-ed to the wall.
KP: He let this be known. I mean you sensed this as a junior ...
BM: Oh, he let them know, he didn't care, he let them know that. So our department was about fourteen people. Seven guys came in [during the] day hours. Now we came in 3:30 [or] 4:00 and we're all working on developing the dependency bill. We're getting ready establish how the dependency bill [would work], particularly for selectees. So one day, he comes in, he comes in and he says, "Well, I got to militarize this whole department." He said, "How many of you want to be commissioned as second lieutenants?" ... He said, "Remember, you'll spend the war pushing paper if you wanted to be a second lieutenant here." It sounded real good, except that I had an uncle in the service. He was already serving in his second war, in World War I, he ran away when he was sixteen, seventeen. He's the way out one I said about, he ran away at age sixteen ... and joined the Navy in World War I and faked his age. Milton Charick was his name, he was quite a character. ... He was in the service and Pearl Harbor had occurred now and we were, early '42. I passed it up, and about eight of the fourteen guys took it. So the next day we go to work, and there they are, these eight guys, their uniforms fit them like diseases. They had shirts that fit him here and jackets they were dressed as second lieutenants and their desks were on one side of the room and ours were on the other side, the six of us or seven of us who decided to stay. I decided to stay a civilian at that [point]. Now, I get drafted, or I get called anyway. So I go to Lowry and I said, "I'm going into service." He said, "You want me to make a phone call?" I said, "No, no, no, no, no." I said, "The only thing I'd like you to do is give me a letter," because I had already decided, this begins my career, I wanted to go into the tank destroyers. Now where did I learn about tank destroyers? I don't know, I read about them, they were forming two new battalions, they were just forming, the first two tank destroyer battalions. But I had an ulterior motive, those days, in order to get to be a phys ed teacher, in the Air Corps, not the Air Force, but the Air Corps. To get into that, you had to have your degree and be commissioned directly, or have a commission in some other branch and then come in there. So I had it all planned, I looked at it and that's how I got the idea. The tank destroyer would have been the easiest way, the quickest way for me to get to be a second lieutenant, then I would transfer into the Air Corps. That was my plan. So Lowry gives me a letter telling what a wonderful guy I am and that I should be allowed to go in whatever branch I want to go in. So now I get to Fort Dix, I'm getting questioned and I hand it to a clerk, and he looks at it and he almost flipped out of the chair, because he sees it's the commander of the whole Finance Department. He said, "Well, it looks like we're going to have you here at Dix. Now what do you want to be, the Quartermaster, the..." I said, "No, I want to be in the tank destroyer corps." He dropped his pencil and he looked at me and he said, "What?" He was out of his mind, he says, "What does this kook want? He can pick his branch. You're sure you don't want the Signal Corps, you're sure you don't want this and that?" I said, "No, I want the tank destroyer." So I sat in Fort Dix [for] a short time, because they were just forming these battalions. And then I find out, a very humorous incident, too. I get reclassified 1-A and I get down there, and my cousin, who was in ahead of me, and I--Oh, I know what it was, he was drafted and he got sick, so he didn't report right away, so on, so on. And we sat back to back in an open latrine in Fort Dix, both of us on a commode. That was where we met. And he says, "What are you doing here?" And I says, "I'm waiting to go out." He had just come down. But then I started my career. I was sent from Dix I was sent to ... not ...
KP: Actually, I would like to go back ...
BM: Sure, whatever you want.
KP: I guess first you worked, just briefly, for Social Security when Social Security was still in its infancy.
BM: Brand new.
KP: Brand new. What was your job there?
BM: I was making records, I was a C, CAF something. I was recording in the old fashioned microfilm, putting papers into a machine and they were coming out the other side.
KP: So you were probably ...
BM: That's because I was a year and a half college, that made me that one, the others were taking paper clips out of it something else there. That was a bureaucracy in those days there. But ... I was working a reproducing machine of some sort or other.
KP: So you were glad to get out of that?
BM: Oh. But then I got the job teaching.
KP: Where did you teach? What high school?
BM: Taft Junior High School in Washington D.C. It was a very nice one ...
KP: In the northwestern section ... ?
BM: No, northeast.
BM: Northeast, yeah. I lived in the northwest. But it was the northeast section and it was a very nice neighborhood and a good school, and I had a good principal. I remember her name like it was yesterday, Margaret Merit. Because we went to a meeting one day, a faculty meeting, and they were discussing something and I made a suggestion and one of the women said, "Do we have to take these suggestions from the non-academic division?" So Margaret Merit, she didn't like that, ooh, did she tell off that lady! I got to her after it was over and I told her thank you. She said, "Don't thank me." She said, "She had no right to talk like that." I said, "You're right."
KP: And your job there was as a coach?
BM: Yes, I taught.
KP: And taught?
BM: Taught health and phys ed, in the junior high and I was coaching the track team. But it was enjoyable. ... I loved Washington, I really do. It was very exciting. And I had some very exciting time. I lived in one place, we shared a floor with a fellow who was a lawyer for one of the War Departments, a fellow who was an accountant for one of the War Departments, everybody was working for the War Departments there. And ... we had a good life. One day I got into a cab and shared a cab with Madame Perkins, the Secretary of Labor. And another day with Hap Arnold, Air Force General, Air Corps General at that time, General, rather, in charge of the whole Air Corps. So it was very exciting in Washington.
JS: You were at the War Department when Pearl Harbor was bombed, you were working there ...
BM: No, no I came in after. Let's see, you know, let me get it straight now. No, no, I came there [in] January of '42.
JS: January of '42.
BM: That's what it was, yeah.
KP: You started working as a civilian?
BM: Yeah, right, as a civilian.
JS: Do you remember where you were when you first heard about Pearl Harbor being attacked?
BM: ... Oh, wait, I was in Washington D.C. I was in Washington, D.C. I was at the Redskins game. That's the one that gets recorded very famously. They started to announce, "Will general so and so report to his office? Will colonel so and so report to his office?" Then all of a sudden, "Will the detachment from so and so ..." They were emptying out the stadium. I don't know who they were playing though. I must have got there in October or November of '41, I guess.
JS: So at this football game, the stadium just gradually emptied out?
JS: But they weren't saying why they were getting called?
BM: No, no, they were just calling them back.
JS: Before you know it, you're the only one left.
BM: No, no, no, no. [There were] quite a few thousand there that were not military oriented. But it was a good call back though, I'll tell you at that particular point there. Because a lot of military personnel came to the games.
JS: And living in Washington, you know, right after that ...
BM: Yeah, it was very exciting. It was, as I say, it was exciting. ... But it didn't last too long, because then I went to service.
KP: You mentioned you had worked on the dependency bill in the finance section.
KP: What work did you do on it?
BM: We were doing mostly ... it wasn't actuarial, but we were doing charts. We were setting up average incomes, and we were doing frequency. What would a twenty year-old be contributing to his family if he was an attorney, if he was a this, or if he was a that. Of course, most of them were non-professionals, but we were doing frequency charts.
KP: This issue must have hit close to home because you had lost your father at an early age and you had a very inadequate pension.
BM: To be very honest with you ...
KP: You didn't make the connection.
BM: It didn't affect me. I wasn't any more liberal than I would have been normally with it. Of course that dependency bill ... The highlight of that whole thing is that they moved that office to Newark.
KP: To the Prudential, one of the Prudential buildings.
BM: Right. So I would have spent the war in Newark if I had taken that commission.
KP: [laughs] Did you ever have any regrets that you didn't take that commission?
BM: Now that you pose the question, I would think the answer ... Now I would regret it, but not then.
KP: Not then, you didn't, or in '45 when you were in ...
BM: No, I was anxious to get in there and ...
KP: Just going back ...
KP: And this is even more out of sequence, but going back ... Newark, in the 1930s would have its first Jewish mayor. Do you have any memories of that?
BM: Sure. In fact, I'm pretty good of it, Meyer Ellenstein, Ralph Vallani, Brady. That's three. Pierce Franklin is four, and I forget who the fifth one is, no, it was Congleton was the fifth one. And we always used to say we had the best commissioners money could buy. He goes, they were good politicians because they stole like crazy, but they didn't hurt the city. We had police and fire and the schools were all superior. They were all, as I say, they were good. Ellenstein, I believe belonged to Oheb Shalom, which was the middle-road, conservative, next to the Y in Newark. A lot of his department or people belonged to Jeshurun. He had, you know, his attorneys and people like that. As I say, I can only have good memories of what that form of government--there was no question, there was a price-tag on almost anything you wanted, but it was well-run. You see, and later on, they kept up the bad part of it, but they got rid of the good part.
KP: Elements of that existed in the '30s that there was a price for things.
BM: Oh yes. If you looked across the Pulaski Skyway, Jersey City was a perfect example with Hague. I mean his schools, hospitals and everything were the best you could have, but graft was [accepted]. ... The only thing he did not tolerate was prostitution. Other than that anything he could tolerate. If your precinct had a good book and a good gambling situation, nobody would bother you. But if you had one prostitute floating around, if you didn't drive her out, you were in trouble. Yeah, he was quite a guy too, Hague. The way I knew him was through the temple over there. We knew the rabbi that was there. His wife on radio was Widow Brown. Rabbi Berman was his name.
KP: What was Hague's relationship with the Jewish community in Jersey City? Because you said you knew him through relationship with the temple.
BM: Yeah. From my point of view, it was a good one. As I say because I felt that his only evil, as far as that I knew was that he was taking graft. Other than that, I think he was a good person. I don't know ... whether the Jewish population had problems, I don't know. I have a friend who came out of Jersey City, they were the Goldman family. They had a pawn shop, a big pawn shop down there. I don't recall, in all the years I've known him, whether he mentioned he's ever had any problems over there. I don't think so. I wouldn't swear to it.
KP: How did your family feel about the New Deal and Franklin Roosevelt?
BM: At that time we thought he was great. We now realize what he was, no. But ...
KP: At that time ...
BM: At that time, everybody thought he was great.
KP: And I guess I also want to ask about, two of your uncles stick out--one you said he was a Socialist before his time and he was good friends with Norman Thomas.
KP: Did he stay a Socialist all [of] his life?
BM: I believe he did, yes, I believe he did. I think he did. He was a very intellectual man. ... His two daughters, my cousins, Leah and Florence, who I had very little to do with them through the years, except on occasions, my Uncle Charlie came down for my graduations, down here, and that was post-war. And we graduated one of the first stadium graduations, 105 degree sun shining out there and people [were] collapsing all over the place. But my other uncle, my mother's brother, was a rogue. He was a real rogue and he did a lot of things. There were stories that were told to me, and I have no reason to doubt, ... that they would bring liquor in and the Coast Guard would escort the boat in and then when they got on the main island, the police department held up traffic so the trucks could go right through. Everything was bought off from top to bottom.
KP: So your one uncle had some underworld, bootlegging experience?
BM: Again I am repeating stories I have been told. Bootleggers employed techniques used later on. As I say, Milton was a teamster and he was with one of the trucking companies in Newark known as Satsky, S-A-T-S-K-Y. And they had the contract of bringing in from New York to New Jersey the comics and those ... sections from New York to New Jersey. And then one of the locals pulled a strike on them and in the Satsky family, they had a disreputable member of the family, too, who had vacationed in Joliet, Illinois. So he, in turn, called some friends, and the friends came in and they escorted the trucks through. And they broke that strike real fast. They broke it real fast because the truck would come and then the car would come. And my uncle tells me, he said if you watched Elliot Ness, he said this is what these cars looked like with the barrel machine guns sticking out the window. So you either got out of the way or you were going to have a lot of trouble. So that made for interesting life stories.
KP: You had one uncle who, you said, ran away at sixteen.
BM: That was ... him, that was the same one. Milton.
KP: He was the teamster that ran away ...
BM: Well, he ran away, first of all, when he was about sixteen and joined the Navy and lied about his age. So he spent, oh, three or four years at that time in the Navy all over the country and then that was just--let's see, I guess right during the war, World War I. I guess it was during World War I. Because I think, if I remember correctly now, I got some of his service records when he became my responsibility at the end there, he needed ... He was quite a guy, married two women and divorced and lived with another one, very, very, way ahead of his time, also a real kind person.
KP: What did he say about his experiences in the Navy?
BM: He had a ball. During the first time around, he told us stories of it. The second I never heard too much from him. Oh--that one I think he spent most of it in the United States ... as an instructor out on Long Island some place. But he found it comfortable ...
KP: So he, in a sense, wanted to go back very much in World War II.
BM: Oh, yes ...
KP: Before Pearl Harbor, he went back, or after?
BM: After. Yeah.
KP: You mentioned you had to wait awhile in Fort Dix. What did they have you do while you were basically waiting around?
BM: Let's see ...
KP: Did they have you doing K.P.?
BM: Not that much ... I did some K.P., not that much though. I think I got, most of the time, I think I had barrack guard duty, I think--because they kept reading that letter and I think they were afraid I was a company spy, I think they were afraid. I think they really were concerned that I might have been a plant to see what they were doing there. This is my thought because I had that letter from H.K. (Lowry?), and they may have put a tag on me, just watch him carefully, and don't mistreat him or the people around him.
KP: You were a Boy Scout.
KP: What rank did you make?
BM: I got to be a Life Scout, no further, because I got a little rebellious. But I went further in Sea Scouting. I got to be, well, equal to that would be the Quartermaster. So Life Scout and Quartermaster. And then I got to be the skipper of our ship down at temple. Yeah, very interesting Sea Scout down at temple. We had an outline of a ship that we used to pull out on Thursday nights. It was boards with a pipe in there and then one of the fathers gave us, I guess you'd call it a scow. And we took it down to the water and if I could resurrect the pictures, it would be nice. Walter (Ershow?), who was a graduate here, was at one of the reunions and he brought a picture of, he was with me, I was the skipper and he was one of the Sea Scouts. They were interesting times.
KP: Had you thought of joining the Navy at all?
BM: ... Yeah, I tried to get into the flight program of all of the services, but I just never made it.
KP: Had you always been interested in aviation?
BM: Not really, no.
KP: It was really the war-time ...
BM: It was at the war-time it caught up with me.
KP: So you hadn't been one of those kids in Newark who went to Newark Airport to watch the planes?
BM: No, no, I probably didn't know where Newark Airport was.
JS: You said you spent a couple of months at Fort Dix.
BM: Maybe less.
JS: Where did you go after that?
KP: From there we went to ... Texas. Let's see ... Oh, I got a mental block for a minute for that one there now, ... Oh, Camp Bowie in Texas was the first camp I went to from Dix. ... And we did a very interesting basic training there. And then from there we went to Fort Hood and in Fort Hood, they experimented with our battalion. They were going to make us 90 day wonders like they were doing at OCS, but they were doing it with a battalion. So the days lost their names and the days were numbered one to 90 and you go through your routine. So come Saturday or Sunday, you didn't know it was Saturday or Sunday, it was day nine, twelve, or whatever it was. And they would bring a chaplain in for the non-Jewish guys and if I wanted one, because ... there were two of us out of a 1000 that were Jewish in the battalion so if we wanted one, they would have brought a chaplain into us, but ... So we went through 90 days of training, and we were good.
KP: This was for tank destroyer, right away.
KP: Right away you were trained for tank destroyers?
BM: Tank destroyers, yes.
KP: No other basic training.
BM: No, oh no, we had basic at Dix.
KP: Which is rare to take basic training at Dix.
BM: Yes, that was mostly an induction center, see. But at Camp Bowie, we combined it--that was I should say, excuse me, that was basic tank destroyer training, it was a combination, it was a basic training [center]. ... I mean Dix was reception center. At Bowie, we combined it, it was called basic--that's right, it was basic tank destroyer training. Then we went over to Hood and that was advanced training there and there were two battalions that were formed: the 610th battalion, the 612th battalion, and whoever got ready first was going to go over first. And we were trying like hell to be first. We were stupid enough we were trying to be first and they beat us out, and we were p.o.-ed about it and they went over to Africa and got the hell beat out of them there. But that was at Hood, Camp Bowie was in Killeen, Texas, Hood was in Temple, Texas. And we experienced a little bit of that kind of stuff where you saw a sign, no dogs or servicemen are wanted here.
KP: Really, even in World War II?
BM: Oh, yes.
KP: The war had now been on for awhile.
BM: Oh yes. ... And I saw one training incident that made ... an impression on me, because I was that kind of person anyway. The original 82nd Airborne was training near us and that was Jim Gavin's troop and ... ... when they were dressed, they wore a kerchief and they were very dapper. And we were in town one day, and some guy started to tease them about their cravat. That they were sissies and this stuff. As sure as I'm sitting there, they walked over, they grabbed the guy, one guy on his arms, one guy on his shoulder, walked over to the telegraph pole and broke his back on the telegraph pole and let him lay there. [They] fixed their cravats and went right on. See, they were taught the same as we were, that you were a war machine and human life meant nothing to you under certain circumstances. We were trained the same way ... I found no problem ordering ... [interruption] and having to administer death to Germans or anything like that. That was not a problem to me because we were taught that we were a war machine and if we were not ... Yes, I saw some, when you get into my true war stories, I saw some horrible acts that the Germans committed that were really pretty bad. I saw a medic crawl out on a field with a big Red Cross all over him and they zeroed in on him with artillery. He was going out there to try to recover a wounded soldier and the soldier was dead already, but he was trying to go out there and zeroed in on this, so as I say, ... I had no problem with that and I have no problem, which is wrong, there's no question [about it.] Today I'm a little more educated, I guess, or little more sophisticated.
KP: You have thought more about it.
BM: Yes, a little more normal about it and I find that they should not have done that to him, the scout incident and artillery incident.
KP: But at the time you really understood.
BM: Oh, it didn't bother me at all. I thought he was stupid to pick on them. We used to give them a wide berth, we were just as tough as they were, but we would give them a wide berth, the 82nd Airborne.
JS: Did you see any big differences when you got to basic training between people from different parts of the country?
BM: Oh yes, oh sure. ... We had guys in our outfit--by the way, our outfit was, I'd say about 90 percent volunteer, that you picked the branch. They were draftees, we were draftees, because we came down from the northeast and we had a cadre of crackers that were impossible, yeah, we saw a difference. The cadre was made up of Oklahomans and those regular Army and not too bright, but good soldiers and they were really tough. Oh, the difference was between night and day, I mean those of us that come from up here in the northeast, I mean, some of the homemade cures that they had and they believed in...
KP: What did they believe in?
JS: How did the southern people react when they found out that you were Jewish? I've heard nightmare stories from my dad about people from the south expecting him to have horns because they never met a Jew before.
BM: Yes. I didn't, I don't know, maybe it was my circumstances that I didn't feel any anti-Semitism, not at all, in fact ... the only ... [time] I did was in Germany and in France. ... Another one of our famous stories is that we were advancing, we were with Patton so you know we were so far ahead so we couldn't see the American Army. And we came to a town and we were on top of a crest and being in the reconnaissance company, we were out ahead of the tanks destroyer battalions. So we were out ahead and there were the French people lined up at this end of the town where we were going to come in. They were there with their American flags and their flowers and at the other end of the town, you could see it, they were kissing the Germans good-bye. Kissing, embracing them and that was it. They were French, this was a French city of (Marmelande? Petite?) ... I think it was that. Unbelievable, the sight was unbelievable.
KP: They had literally gotten the American flags out of storage.
BM: Oh, yes, they had them somewhere and they were waving them and they were there with fruit baskets and the other end were the Germans saying good-bye. No, I did not have a high regard for French or German [people.] I had a high regard for the English fighters, they were funny as hell. We were attached to the desert rats. I guess, I don't know what number Army they are, but they're the British desert rats, 2nd Armored, I think. And we happened to get attached to them. And, assigned, we were never attached, we were assigned to them. And our job as recon was to go and find the tank parks come back and report them and they went to knock them out. So we find the tank park we come back and I'm reporting now to this British Sergeant, the typical one you see in the movies with the mustache up here and the rolled up sleeves. Typical right out of Hollywood, you know. And he said, "Say, yank, what did you see?" I said I saw about four tanks down there. "Good," he said. "We'll pursue them, and you stand by and knock them out." We had a gun, a 37 millimeter gun, it would be hard to break that window with it. He said, "We'll flush them out and you deliver one smashing blow." I said, "Wait, you got that wrong. We'll flush them out and you deliver the [blow.]" He had a 90 millimeter gun on a Churchill tank that could knock that next building over. We had a gun that could knock the windows out. Well, he looked at me and he smiled as if to say, okay kid, ... we'll play it your way this time. He said, "You flush them." It was tough enough for us to so-called flush them out. We just went down to show this bunch what we had and then ran like hell. So they ran the other way and they ran into the fire of these tanks and they were good. ... You know I dance all over these stories because they're interesting to me. I saw what the 90 millimeter gun could do because later on we were equipped with them. See, originally our gun companies had half tracks. They were towing 75 millimeter guns which really were pathetic. And not only that, but these ... trucks that they were driving in, they were half tanks, they were grenade baskets because you could throw a grenade, it was like playing basketball. But your thing was as big as this room. So they were really grenade baskets. So then we wound up with the Churchill tanks, with the 90 millimeter. And we went into one town and there was a sniper there and the captain of the gun company, happened to be a Catholic and he was a little angry because the sniper was hiding behind a statue. [The] sniper fired it from behind a religious statue. So he said, "We want him!" I said, "I'm not going after him. You want him, you go get him." So they got him all right. And I was told this, I didn't see it, no reason to doubt it though. He ordered one of his tanks to go out with him. They tied the guy to a tree and they hit it with a 90 millimeter shell. That's one human being standing against a tree. As I say a 90 millimeter could remove that building. [It] must have been quite a sight. I didn't see it. It's just as well, I could live without that sight. But those were the little things that happened. We did capture the SS Graduation.
KP: What year was the SS Graduation?
KP: What year was the SS Graduation?
BM: Let's see, it must have been in the fall of, no not the fall. Spring of '44, I guess. ... Let's put it [this way], the beginning of the German decline. It was the beginning of it. They were still graduating SS troops and it was this town outside of Craulshein, Germany. But they were very much on the run. ... Not on the run, but they were starting to weaken, so it must have been '44 I guess.
JS: You had said that the other tank destroyer battalion went over to Africa.
JS: Your battalion went to England?
BM: ... We went to England, and then we were part of the European invasion.
JS: On June 6th.
BM: ... They went to Africa and Italy and they were in the whole thing. Our problem, one of the highlights of my military career is our battalion was always assigned and not attached. Attached and not assigned. What would happen, we would be attached to the Fourth Division and they would fight [for] x number of days, fifteen days, whatever. Then it was time to get some relief. so they would take the attached troop and detach them. You stayed there and you waited for separate orders for yourself and another division would move in. Well, they must have lost our records, because we were in direct contact with the enemy for over 100 days, which is not supposed to be. They kept detaching us and then attaching and detaching ...
KP: So you, in a sense, worked with a lot of different units.
BM: Oh, yes, we did.
KP: Which is rare, most people only work with one division.
BM: ... Right, we were always attached to different [divisions]. [In] fact we had the Yankee division. I believe the 26th they're called. They came over, they were a National Guard outfit up in Massachusetts. And the commanding general of them was one of these transportation experts ...
KP: Hold that thought.
---------------------END OF TAPE ONE, SIDE TWO--------------------------
KP: This continues an interview with Mr. Bert R. Manhoff on April 19, 1995 at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey with Kurt Piehler and
JS: Jeff Schneider.
KP: I had cut you off in mid thought ...
BM: That's all right.
KP: But I wanted to ...
BM: Yeah, I was just trying to think of which one I was telling you, there's so many of them. What was I in the middle of?
KP: This was why your unit ended up in this very peculiar situation ...
BM: ... Oh, of how we were attached and not assigned. They would move it in, the 26th division came in, a Yankee division. And as I say, he was a transportaion expert, so he brought in for our sector one-way roads getting up to the front to do the fighting. We sent one tank back to be repaired [and] it took the guy a long time to get back up. It took a long time. He couldn't get on a road that would take him back up to the front. He'd go on a road, it would be a one-way road going the wrong way. Get on another road, wrong way. That was my fondest memory of the 26th. I think they were the 26th, the Yankee division out of Massachusetts. That he made a one-way road system over there that made it impossible to get back up to the front. No offense meant.
I wound up in a hospital, and we were ... outside of Nancy, France.
... [A] Nancy, France story [that] I would like to be part of the record is that we came in right after the liberation of Nancy, France. Right behind the original troops that liberated it. And we came in there, and we were with Patton at that time and we went to the first temple and it was a horror sight. They had stored animals in there. They had desecrated every symbolism that there was there, but I think the highlight of atrocities as I say, the fact that they had animals in there, the animal elimination was all over the place. It was just, as I say, it made ingrained hatred for any of us who were of the Jewish faith for the German. So we can leave out the part about the Jewish faith, it's just that it made an ingrained hatred for anybody that observed religion because I'm sure ... we never went to any churches, I'm sure they were desecrated just as well, too. But Nancy, France later became an "R and R" place," the rest and recreation place so they built it up real fast. But we were in there and that was one of the things that stuck out in my mind there.
The other one was (I have been told this incident while I was in the hospital) when later on, we were in a hospital and the 82nd Airborne had been pulled back to be ... and stuff like that and it was near the town of, I can't think of the name of the town now, but there was a WAC attachment and they were running a dance and they didn't invite the 82nd Airborne. And he wrote a letter, Gavin, this is the guy that later became a peacenik. He was cruel, absolutely cruel. He found out about it and wrote her a letter. [He] wanted to know why his men weren't invited to the dance. She wrote back, we didn't want any of your high-priced killers. That was a mistake. They made a real logistic military mission [on] the night of the dance. They went in ... commando type guys, you know with the stuff there. We were told this because we were in the hospital as patients. They cut down the post so that the roof of the porch closed down like now everybody's inside [and] there's no way anybody's going to get out. They barricaded the back door, the back doors were ... that they could never get from inside there and they just did a job on that. That was unbelievable. They got out, before anybody knew, of course they knew who it was, see, but they didn't do it by detection though. I understand what I was told is that he later sent a check to the hotel from the division, paid all the repairs. Yeah, he was quite a [character.] They were great guys, the 82nd Airborne. I had a lot of fun with them. I was a patient with a couple of them and they were wild guys, they were really wild.
KP: In a Targum article when you were here in school, it mentioned, and maybe I should ask this later because I wanted to ask a little bit more about your training, but it mentioned you had fond memories of your time in England waiting, particularly some trips to London.
BM: Oh yes. ...
KP: In fact you said the best campaign of all was in London where ... quote, "I had a good time," but he refused to elaborate.
BM: I met a young lady, (Guinevere?). In fact it was (Guinevere? Dyson?-Skinner?) ... She was typical British. Her father was a leftenent colonel, that's equal to our lieutenant colonels. And we had a nice ... thing going. And one weekend she said, "My father would like to join us for the weekend." I said, "What?" Still with some of my American morals, you know. It was all right for us to have an affair, but I didn't want the father to know about it. She said, "It's all right, he's bringing his girlfriend." I said, "What?" Her mother was back in [the] town where they came from. I said, "Oh, Okay." ... We had a lot of fun. She was a very fine young lady, a very pretty, young lady, too. I kept in contact with her for quite a few years later on, nothing serious, but I kept in contact with her and then I lost contact with her.
KP: What was her father like?
BM: He was an American that had been anglicized. He was very British by the time I met him. He was very British, very proper and very British. [He] had his swagger stick wherever he went. And he had his lady friend with him. That was the code of ethics.
JS: When did your unit go ashore in Normandy?
BM: H plus about twenty ... hazy on exact time.
JS: Which beach did you go to?
KP: So you saw what had happened on that beach?
BM: Yeah, that I ... black out. I'll be very honest with you, I black out that part of my military career. I'd ... guess I'd let it alone. Too many things were, too much for me to handle now, 50 years later. Now, I can only repeat one thing I know--that there are no atheists in foxholes. That I will tell you. That you are appealing to something when you are in that foxhole. You may be a non-believer and you're praying to that tree in front of you or you're praying to something around you. But that's the only thing I would, other than that, I kind of let it go, I got rid of it and pretty good. Because I came out with a disability ... Well, you can't use it, ... yes, you can why not--psycho-neurotic-moderate-severe, that's what it was. It was called that. Before that they used to call it war nerves, ... but by this time they got very scientific and they called it psycho-neurotic-moderate-severe. I had a pension for it and I am still getting a pension. The pension been reduced over and over again. ... This started out with a nice, respectable pension, then they kept calling me back to re-exam, and re-exam, and kept cutting it down. And finally, I happened [to meet a] RU basketball player for us here, his father was a V.A. doctor. He said, "You want to see my father?" I said, "Yes, I think that's a name on the list there." So I got there and he says, "Look, they will keep calling you back, cutting ... I'll make yours a permanent disability. At twenty percent or whatever it is." I said, "Okay." So then I won't have to get called back.
... Our action is we stayed and my best recollection, truthfully, we hung around and did reserve and stuff like that until the Saint Lo campaign. Whatever that date is and the time was. The nicest part about Saint Lo, that I can really start talking about, because I enjoyed it. We were kind of, not necessarily pinned down, but we were pretty ensconced there and they were, if you remember, that was the big ... the first big air strike. They sent 1,200 planes over Saint Lo and ... the sky was black with airplanes. We got out and we were jumping around and dancing around, out of the houses and everything else like that. ... It was a beautiful sight. Then the ground started to tremble underneath it. But that ... was the first attack, the breakthrough of Saint Lo is the first thing that I recall. ...
KP: So the artillery bombardment was really scary for you ...
BM: I think that the worst sound that I can remember hearing, the two worst sounds, one was the battleships firing over our head. They sounded like freight cars flying over your head. That's what the shell sounded like. Then the other one was the German 88, which was a horrible weapon, until we devised a 90 millimeter. The German 88 was the one that had a screeching sound, and it was a horrible weapon. Those two are the weapons that I recall, otherwise we used small arms mostly in the work that we had to do.
JS: After you had landed in Europe, did you start to pick up any inkling of what was actually happening to the Jews in Nazi Germany?
BM: Oh, yes. ... We started to see some of the horrors that had been perpetrated on the Jewish population. Yes, we started to see some of it. We saw the horrors that was perpetrated and you knew it was a Nazi type of thing. Our own men ... you've read stories and I've read the same stories. I saw some of it, but not as much as they write about it. About the paratroopers who got caught in a tree and they were killed there and they would cut them down and cut off their private parts and stick it in their mouths and those kind of horror stories. I didn't see any of those, but I heard them from the other front line people that they were doing those things.
JS: Now, 50 years after the war, what's your attitude towards the Germans now? Has time been able to heal it at all?
BM: Okay, the best way to describe it is I truthfully vacillate, I really do. I still have a strong, strong, almost bordering on hatred for them, but then there are times when I recognize, like myself ... the people of the now generation, your generation, it's not that I don't hold you accountable for it, but I kind of forgive that generation. I forgive them. By that I mean I'm saying to you there are times when I'm not holding them responsible any longer. But I'm not completely over that, that they're just as part of the picture. So I really vacillate between the two of them. I do and I don't hold them responsible, the present German population. It gets all renewed when I read about these skinheads over there and some of the things that are going on there and I am totally concerned that it could happen again. I am. I wish I could be thoroughly convinced that it can't happen again. I don't necessarily feel that it may be the Jews as the next scapegoat, but I do feel that the ... Jews will be the likely one. But I think it might be elsewhere too. ... If you watch the backlash right here in the states ... against the minority progress that's going on, if you project it a little further, you can become very nervous about it. And you see some of these rednecks reacting to programs for the minorities, you start to worry a little bit. At the same time, I think that I don't know whether the Jews in Germany ever gave the Nazi movement any reason to keep getting stronger and stronger. Whereas I'm not sure, I have doubts--or questions, not doubts--I have questions as to some of the minority, particularly some of their more flamboyant speakers for them are borderline, increasing the backlash. I concern myself about that. Being as involved as I am here at Rutgers as a Board of Trustee and many, many committees, and I see some of the intolerance of some of the minorities against what's happening to them. ... It concerns me a little bit. See, I get a little concerned. I think this thing about the president's horrible, horrible mistake, should be gone by now. But it's not, it's not. And I find the objectives right now becoming offensive to me. And it sounds like a very conservative point of view, but it is the truth. And I think ... it certainly could happen in Germany again.
KP: Did you ever go back to Germany?
BM: No ... I won't even go to France. England I did, I loved England, we went to England.
KP: When did you go back?
BM: I went back with my wife this time.
JS: President Eisenhower, or at that time, General Eisenhower ...
JS: ... When he first saw the camps he said ... the description of the camps wouldn't be enough, people wouldn't believe that and he tried to usher as many troops through as possible to see the concentration camps. Did you ever visit any camps?
BM: We saw a couple of concentration camps, without Eisenhower sending us there.
KP: Did you liberate any?
BM: No, we backed up liberation. ... We backed up the Buchenwald one. The engineers and the division just got a write-up the other day for doing it. We were backup to them. We were reserve and backup to them. I would hardly congratulate Eisenhower then as I would now. My wife just recently as two or three years ago, went to Budapest and they went to one of the places where they have this thing there and the guide was absolutely rude about it. And then they said could we see where the crematorium was or whatever it is that they wanted to see. Well, it's over there and there and there and would not take them. My wife and my sister-in-law, who she was with, reported the incident because it was just a total disregard for it. ... Okay.
KP: You were on the line for a hundred days.
BM: Right, roughly, yeah. ... It wasn't those hundred days.
BM: ... No, it was later on that it started. ... Yes, it was a follow up from that, that's what it was, yes. We didn't realize it, and we never thought it was supposed to be different. I don't know whether our high ranking officers knew there was a difference, but those of us down, we never realized, we thought everyone was doing the same thing. You know, it's the same old story.
KP: You had gone in hoping to become a second lieutenant in the Air Corps.
BM: That was my original thought. That was my goal.
KP: When did you learn that that was not going to be the case?
BM: When I got shipped overseas.
KP: And when did you go overseas, roughly? You were part of the buildup.
BM: Yes. We went over, yes. Let's see, the invasion was in June of '40 ...
BM: '44, we were over there ... in ... March or April of '44 and what had happened to me, was on two occasions back in the states. I had taken the interview for OCS and passed the interview. And then we were down in Hood, Fort Hood, was then Camp Hood, now it's Fort and ... we lived on like 50th Street. That was the street our battalion was on. And the OCS was ... on 23rd Street in the same camp. And most commanding officers would say to you, Bert, pick up your stuff, go over to the PX, hang out there until it's time to report. So if anything happened to the battalion, you're out, you're gone, see. Well the guy I had was not too nice about the whole thing so he made me wait in the day room until it was time for me to go down there. Well in between that time, we got alerted to move out of camp, the battalion, to move up to Camp (Atterbury?) to some specialized training. So that canceled my orders, so we went up to (Atterbury?). I did the same thing at (Atterbury?), took the interview all over again, passed the interview, got ready to ship out and we got orders to go overseas. So that was why I missed OCS.
KP: And when did you get promoted to sergeant?
BM: When we ... went over, because going over we--... that didn't last too long--but we went over, we were the first ship, troop ship to go over without an escort. We were on the New Amsterdam. And sure enough, the Germans knew about it and all of a sudden we hear this Dutch voice, "This is enemy attack," ... with a Dutch accent. We were being attacked by submarines and they fended it off themselves. And I guess I was a little helpful with keeping the troops normal there. So when we got over to the other side, they made me a sergeant. It didn't last too long.
KP: You were not in a convoy then?
BM: We went over by ourselves. ... The first time they sent a troop ship over without a convoy.
KP: And it was a Dutch ship?
BM: A Dutch ship. It was the New Amsterdam.
KP: Yes. With a Dutch crew?
BM: Yes. It was all Dutch, the only people ...
KP: Had it been an ocean liner?
BM: It was an ocean liner and they converted it, yes.
KP: You went over then as a private or a corporal?
BM: Yes, PFC.
BM: Because that's what I later wound up as.
KP: How cramped was it?
BM: ... To the best of my knowledge, it wasn't that cramped.
KP: You weren't sleeping five or six in a room?
BM: No, I don't recall that to be honest with you.
KP: ... The plan was probably to outrun the German U-boat.
BM: Yeah. And I think they fired back at them, I think. They had some depth charges onboard ship. I would imagine they would because there was a hell of a lot of racket going on, that were going around us. An experience that's well recorded and taken care of. ... They decided that was it. That was the first troop ship they decided to send over without an escort and without being part of a convoy. And it's interesting, because we just took a cruise on the (Masdam?) which is owned by the Holland-American lines who owned the New Amsterdam ... But I think it's an entirely different ship, I don't know, it better be, after fifty years.
KP: When you were under attack by the U-boats, you said you calmed the men. How anxious were people about sinking?
BM: Well, I think as much as you would imagine. Don't forget these were all [scared], nobody's a seasoned soldier going over. They were all trainees and recent trainees. So everybody was upset and that, but ... I didn't see anybody panic. You know, I didn't see anybody running around [saying] we're going to die, we're going to die ... I didn't see any of that at all. Just they talked nervously and everybody stayed close to wherever they wanted you to stay close to.
KP: And put on their life preservers and all that?
BM: Yes, yes. ... That's true, everybody did have one of those on. I don't think ... anybody ... at least I wasn't smart to think you were going to get hit. I wasn't smart enough to think they were going to hit us. I don't know why I blocked it out, but I did. I successfully blocked it out.
KP: How good was your training in the states?
BM: Excellent. Excellent. Truly excellent. Truly excellent. ... Our major training officer was a fellow by the name of Benjamin F. Taylor, who was a United States Military Academy graduate of whatever year. And we met him in Texas, we met him at Camp Bowie, and he got up on platform. He must have just made the minimum height. He got up on the platform and he said, "My name is Major Benjamin F. Taylor, United States Military Academy" so and so, "and I'm just as rotten as I sound." I mean here are a thousand guys from New York who never heard anybody talk like that, you know, New York, New Jersey, around there, other than the cadre, who was standing on the side there. And he put us through hell, but he took us through training. There were many times that we were in trouble in Europe that I said, "Wherever you are, Benny, thank you." He got to be a general in charge of training tank destroyers.
KP: So your training actually helped? You did not go into combat and feel that had failed to teach you something?
BM: No, ... We were well prepared. I thought we were well prepared for anything that they gave us. ... I think anything that they threw at us, I think they did.
KP: What were some of the problems that you got in training that you later used...?
BM: The problems in training?
BM: I think fatigue was the basic one, because they worked you, they worked ten, twelve hours, fourteen hours a day of training. They were on this kick, this was a new method of teaching, of training. They modified it later on, but it was quite comparable, not exactly modeled after, but quite comparable to the original paratroopers and rangers.
KP: So you had a lot of forced marches?
BM: Oh, that we did, that we did. And he had a simple philosophy: the only way the medic could pick you up and take you in their vehicle is if you fell face forward. You fell backwards or sideways, that meant you were only fainting and you were not unconscious. So they put you back up on your feet and on your way. That's what they did. You fell face forward that meant you lost conscious[ness] and they would take you in the ambulance. It took us a long time to catch on, that was the trick that he was doing, but you don't know whose got enough nerve to fall face forward intentionally? ... I didn't. You were afraid to break your nose or something. But he was quite a guy, I admired him, I lost track of him. ... I was very pleased with him. Our training was good.
KP: You mentioned the cadre and that they were southerners.
BM: They were National Guardsmen and those kind of guys. And the only thing they taught ... us was discipline and, well, they knew how to dig foxholes and they knew how to do that kind of stuff, but anything beyond that, we had our own officers who had been OCS ... or [a] military [academy]. ... We had quite a few Academy graduates with us in our gun companies. I know that the captain of my company, the recon company, was an Military Academy graduate and the company A, I believe. ... B and C had OCS guys, but they were good, they were all good.
KP: So you had very good leadership?
BM: Yes, I admired them, yeah, I thought so. ... But I was set up for that, though, because that was my way of thinking, too, because I had come out of coaching and I felt that my team owes me a blind, almost a blind allegiance, almost.
KP: Really? That was your thinking.
BM: ... These guys were my leaders and that was it. What they said was good enough for me.
KP: Did the other men in your unit think the same way?
BM: I think so, our training made us that way. Yeah, our training made us that way. I think ... that our original 1000, we started with 1000 ... I don't how many were closely screened to get in there. ... I think all of us, almost all of us were picked for that branch. I don't think there was anybody who was thrown into it. I think all of us had ... volunteered [for] either the armored, or tank destroyer, but nobody knew too much about the tank destroyers because they were just forming them. But armored, there were men who wanted to go into armored ... I didn't meet anyone that was discouraged about being there. I didn't meet anybody that didn't want to be there.
KP: Did anyone not make it to the training, either basic or advanced?
BM: Most of them ... did, yes. I think so. We were well trained, as I said before and tough, too ... We were tough. We were fairly unrelenting in our pursuit. That's why I think I wound up with the nervous condition that I did. Again, as I said very quickly, and that's the only part of the story that's quickly with me, is that these guys I teamed up with, two of them were from the 82nd Airborne and there was one other one. He was from a ranger battalion. And all of us were going back for the same problem. We had a lot of fun and even in our condition, I think we thought it was fun, but I think it really wasn't. And we didn't realize that we were ... We played around with imaginary dogs. We knew we were playing with imaginary dogs, but I'm not too sure if we really knew we were playing with imaginary dogs. One trick that we pulled was that they got out in the hall with paper bags, two of them, and they threw an imaginary ball and then when they got--they snapped their fingers in the back of the bag. If you ever did ... paper bag ... it sounds like something's dropping in it, see. So one Frenchmen comes mopping the floor and he sees nothing go in the air and he hears, plop. And he goes the other way, plop. [laughs] And he threw the mop and he ran like hell. [laughs] Yeah, we were not too nice. We were fun. That's where we learned about the 82nd Airborne because the room that we were in overlooked their training grounds. Their recuperation grounds.
JS: On your survey, you said that you came across Patton one time directing traffic.
BM: Yeah, that was the Moselle River, and it was a crossing and the way it was done, it was on a clock basis. They had clocked the German artillery so that every blank minutes, you could go across the bridge between the two fires, see. And you needed MPs there to wave you on or whatever. And there's old Patton standing there with his stars across his helmet. Everybody else is in foxholes up to their shoulders. The MPs, the real MPs, they're in there like this ... and he's standing there. And we're in our vehicles ... sitting there like this, you know, and I rode a Jeep. And when he came by ... salute him and I said, "Hi!" It was my pleasure to say. And we retreated from that sight, too, and I believe he was involved in that retreat, too, for awhile. In the river swimming back, I believe so. I don't know how he could have got back there without swimming back.
KP: But you saw him standing there.
BM: Standing there with two guns hanging down, his helmet with his stars and directing, the others watching, he was directing travel. When it was time to go, he'd go like this.
KP: At the time, did that give you a lot of confidence?
BM: It sure did. [laughs.] ... It made me realize what a good general he was ... Maybe not the smartest general at that particular point, but he was a good general.
JS: One of the things that, you know, people say about Patton is though he may have been, to a large degree, a nut ...
JS: He gave his soldiers a lot of confidence.
BM: Yes, he did.
JS: ... and he let them perform, maybe even exceeding what their abilities might have been, or exceeding what soldiers in other units had done.
BM: Yes ... definitely did. There's no question about it, I think. Even in his wildest things, such as he made Nancy, France, when it was an "R and R," but he made it into almost a training grounds, because when he came back ... you were so glad you didn't have to wear those damn tin pots on your head that you wore the liners. Well, you didn't go into Nancy, France with a liner because his guys would arrest you. His M.P.s would arrest you for being out of uniform. And that was his order, you wore that tin pot. [laughs] And you've got no reason; there were no enemies for miles around there! ... And if your vehicle was, you know, if you had just come off the lines and your vehicle was expected to be in pretty good shape or else you'd get a summons there too. ... He ran a tight ship, I guess that's the way you describe it.
KP: So compared to the other divisions you served under ...
KP: You really noticed a difference between being attached to his.
BM: No, I'll be honest with you, no, I didn't. Because I think most of the generals, except for these kooks that came over with the National Guards, the ones I call the real generals ... you knew you were serving under a real general. You really did.
KP: But you could tell a clear difference between the National Guard and the regulars?
BM: Oh yeah, those guys you could tell because they ran things like they didn't know what the hell they were doing. That was the thing, most of the time, they didn't know what they were doing and they were lucky they didn't get you killed.
KP: You told one story about the one-way traffic. Were there any similar incidents?
BM: Yeah, well, there was one guy that wanted ... our gun company to take a hill and there was no way, absolutely no way that our guys could take that hill. No way at all. It would have wiped out that entire battalion trying to take that hill.
KP: Do you remember roughly, when that was?
KP: Well, yes ...
BM: ... It was in Germany ... It was outside of Crailshein. And our battalion commander, at that time--was not Commander Taylor because he stayed home--but our battalion commander, I forget what his name is now. But anyway, he was a West Point graduate, a major, and he just went up to the guy who commanded the other one, and he may have been a full colonel, and he said, "You want the vehicles, there they are. They're yours. Go ahead! My guys aren't going with them." That's exactly what he said to him. He said, "I wouldn't stop the war. You can have the vehicles, but we're not going to take them up there and go after them." There was no way we would have been be able to do it, I mean, there was no way you could do it. Eventually they bombed them off the top of the hill, that's what they did, which is what should have been done originally. They were good, I ... want to tell you. I watched that Air Corps in action and they were good.
KP: You mentioned Saint Lo earlier, and that was quite controversial because a number of Americans were killed.
KP: ... including, I can't remember the general's name, because of the fact that ...
KP: They had bombed so close. Did you have any wind of that at the time? That Americans had been killed.
BM: No, to be honest with you, I'd be a liar if I said I did. As I say, you could feel the ground shaking, so you knew it wasn't too far away, but you didn't know if there were any front troops there. You didn't know. We were always in a position, I shouldn't say a, we were never in a real position that we could be devoid from the real front, ... but we were not close enough to know if the bombing hit anybody up there or not. But I know that it was; it was good because it made the ground tremble, so they must have really ...
JS: You said you were in recon companies.
BM: Yes, reconnaissance.
JS: You would go out ahead of the rest of the unit.
BM: Yes, ... we would. Our gun company would be--let's say this was the front and we were responsible for this particular area--well we would get the guns up to here, the vehicles up to here. Then our job would be [to] go out and see if we could find whether the Germans had any tanks in that area. So we were ... like scouts, or whatever you want to call them though. It was a challenging job and ...
KP: Well, you weren't really even on the line, you were even further ...
BM: Yes, we were in front of it.
KP: Yes, you were in front of the line.
BM: Some of the times we were in front of it. Once we reported positions ... we got the hell out and got back as far as we could, back of our own guns.
KP: How many close calls did you have in recon? What were your closest calls?
BM: ... I would say there are two occasions where we ... couple of shells landed quite close to us. None of us got hit by them or fragments or anything. And there ... [was] another time that we got out of the vehicle, and we didn't realize it, but the vehicle was on top of a mine. [laughs] Thank God it didn't go off, but it was there though. We had a little, I had a little Italian driver whose name is Fuenacolo. He was funny as hell.
KP: Where was he from?
BM: Brooklyn. I had two Brooklyn guys with me. The other guy, ... Kelly, was an Irishman, and Kelly was funny. And that's one humorous story and ... we'll be running out of them. We were in, the day that Roosevelt died, I forget where we were. We were up in Germany, and we had taken over a house. And by the way, because I was Jewish, I was the interpreter in Germany, see. I knew ... "Where are the eggs?," and "How many rooms?" That was my extent of ... [laughs] Yiddish that I could convert to German. "How many rooms?" and "Where are the eggs?" That was it, see. That made me the interpreter for my battalion.
KP: Did you know any other Yiddish?
BM: No, no. That was it. And we went into a house, we took over a house for our company ... for our platoon, and Kelly was there. And there was a German young boy in there, bright as hell. Probably right out of the Hitler Youth Jugend, no question about it. He was right out of their youth movement, bright as hell. So, Kelly, what we decided, [was] as long as we're going to be there, we're going to Americanize them. So we're teaching them and teaching them. And we were there [for] quite awhile because that was when we were so far ahead that we didn't know where the hell the rest of the army was with Patton's outfit. We were so far into Germany that we didn't know where the rest of them were. And each night, we'd gather all the people in the town, and turn the radio on, the radio broadcast, the broadcast America was doing in German, see. And the night that Roosevelt died, you know, a lot of the Germans were concerned his name was Rosenfeld. There were a lot of Germans that were a little concerned from propaganda. We educated this kid and he was bright, he knew every capital of the United States and [was] really bright as hell. And we get ready to leave and he comes up to Kelly and he says, "Kelly, why are you fighting Hitler?" At this point we thought we'd cleansed his mind, see. [laughs] So Kelly comes back and he says, "I'm going to get a gun and I'm going to kill that kid." [I said], "No, you're not." [And he said,] "Yes, I am!" [I said,] "What are you going to do? He said, "Does he deserve to live?" and he's all ready to kill him. I said, "I'll tell you what, Kelly, I got a better way to scare him." They were so afraid of the blacks, because they had been taught that the blacks were inhuman and stuff like that. I said, you go back and tell him, that was the other thing I learned, tell him that the ..."Die Schwarz ihr kommen." "Black is coming." See, right? He goes back and tells this to the kid, and the kid turned the color of the paper and goes running up to his mother. He was scared to death, absolutely scared. I said, "Now, doesn't that feel better Kelly ... [instead] of killing him?" He said, "No, I think I would have rather killed him." [laughs] He was a good tough Irishman, too. We lost track of each other, our whole battalion.
KP: You have never been to any reunions?
BM: We had one reunion, and we had it in a hotel in Paterson and we never got together since then, never had contact with any of them.
JS: What was the reaction of German people when you would come in? Did any of them find out that you were Jewish?
BM: No, I don't think so. ... I never had an incident that would prove that to me. The only is that I recall the German people coming around the mountain with their hands over their heads, "Me, no Nazi, me, no Nazi." Nobody was Nazi.
JS: You said that they were scared of the black soldiers.
BM: They sure were.
JS: I could imagine that a German's worst nightmare, at that point, would be a Jew.
BM: I would think so, equally as tough. That's why I think a lot of them were worrying about whether Roosevelt's name was Rosenberg or Rosenberg or something like that. And I'll tell you, that was a hairy night. We had no enemy around us, we were way in the clear and there were no enemies around us there. But it was hairy because our cooks and clerks came out with guns. They didn't know how to hell to shoot them. This was our battalion, we were all there, the companies, we were like this here, you know. ... I was only afraid that some German was going to make a move that would trigger one of these guys and we would have had a forerunner of the My Lai Massacre. There's no question about it. I was more frightened than that. I went to my company commander and I said, "You know ... I think you ought to try to do something about it." He said, "What am I going to do Bert? I can't tell them not to take their weapons." Some of them, I'm sure, some of them never fired a gun. I'm sure because they were clerks and chefs. [laughs] ... But they were looking for one of these Germans to show something bad about Roosevelt and they were going to let them have it.
KP: Someone, who was in Germany at the time recounted how a German said to him: "Why are you fighting? Roosevelt is dead?" They could not understand why American troops kept fighting. Did any Germans express that sentiment?
BM: No, no. The young boy, he just wanted to know why we were fighting Hitler ... He was regurgitating, I think, his training that Hitler was a great person. That's, I think, what it was. It just got the better of the treatment, because we treated him royally while he was with us and we were teaching him and we clothed him and we fed him, we did everything else to him. [laughs] But we were working on him; we were brainwashing him, but it didn't work.
KP: You mentioned you had two close calls in recon. Do you remember anything about those two close calls?
BM: One I remember that a shell landed I don't know how close. It was pretty close and we were fortunate that we didn't get hit with any of the shrapnel, ... all three of us in the vehicle. The vehicle just hit it a little bit, it was close enough that it hit it a little bit like that there. ... And then the second incident, I said before, we parked the vehicle and we were getting ready to get back in it, and I said, "Wait a minute, what's that under there?" [laughs] ... Either the machine-gunner or the driver said, "Wait, I'll find out what it is," I said, "Don't go too close to it, let's see what it is." So then we saw what it is, so we said, "I'll tell you what, instead of getting in it, let's get behind it and give it a shove. Let's give the vehicle a shove." And that's what we did, we just moved it up by pushing it up nowhere near the thing. I just got shook up a little bit there, because they did a bit on television the other day about the mines in ... Bosnia, or one of the places. It would take them a hundred years to clean up the mine fields.
KP: So mines, for you, was the biggest fear? Or was it artillery?
BM: It was artillery. Yeah, it was artillery. ... We not too often got in close contact with infantrymen at all. In fact, once we got started, we never saw our own infantrymen, because we were always on our job ... [a] tank destroyer was to clean out the path so that the infantrymen could come up... and that was a sector. ... We had twelve guns, we had three platoons of four guns each and a reconnaissance company and a headquarters company. Oh, and a medical detachment too. That made up our battalion, it was a good battalion. I'm really sorry that we never [had a reunion.] ... And the fact, I don't have an answer as to why. I see all these reunions, every once in awhile they're having a reunion there. We never got together. We had one reunion in Paterson. I guess there was just no leadership to get it going, that's the only thing. Or enough guys were not happy about their service. [laughs]
JS: You said before that you came up, a couple of times, on concentration camps on reserve.
BM: As backups, yeah.
JS: As backups. You said, I think, Buchenwald was one of the ones.
BM: I think it was Buchenwald, yeah, I would think so.
JS: Could you talk a little bit about what you saw when you came up upon that?
BM: We saw the horrors, we, collectively, not only myself. ... One place we saw the bodies that were stacked like the cordwood. That convinced me that I really wasn't anxious to see anything else. And we saw more atrocities, but that's a good thing you can do. You can block out some of that stuff. But the first one I could not. Yeah, I would say that you saw enough, I saw enough, we saw enough ... that there is no question that ... anything that you read about is true.
JS: There actually was just an article in U.S. News and World Report talking about recollections of seeing concentration camps for the first time.
JS: And it said that the first time Patton came across a concentration camp, you know, he stood up real strong in front of all the soldiers and as soon as he could, he went around behind the building and he threw up because of what he saw.
BM: That wouldn't surprise me a bit.
JS: You know, General Patton.
BM: Yes, that wouldn't surprise me a bit because it was enough to make anybody, there's no question about it--it was enough to make anybody that way. I'm told, I didn't see it, but I'm told that one of our guys saw an infantryman come in and it was a young kid, a replacement. He must have just come up. And he had seen enough of it, that he walked over to a German guard who was surrendering and knocked him down with a butt of the gun and took his bayonet, and the bayonets weren't sharp enough to cut butter, see, and he's hacking off the limbs of this German that's lying there. And, as I say, one of our guys saw somebody, he said that they ordered ... one guy to take the American off of him. The guy "not me." He said, "I'm not going after him until he gets done ... he'll turn on me," and rightfully so. So, that kind of thing did happen, at least, reported to me, I never saw it. I have no reason to doubt it, either.
JS: Did you have the experience, a lot of soldiers talked about the experience, of the concentration camp prisoners clamoring for food. You know, just grasping to get anything they could.
BM: No, no, honestly, no. I would make myself glamorous by saying, yes. No, I didn't, really, no. I think ... because, you see, don't forget, we were backup and most of time, the good outfits that liberated the camp would go in with their fighting men, or really go in with their engineers to make sure nothing was booby-trapped. Then they'd go in with their fighting men and then they would bring in their medics. And it was not too far apart. And then the people that were serving them would be, so, by the time we got there, they were pretty much under control that way. We didn't see, ... I didn't see any ... live concentration prisoners.
----------------------------END OF TAPE TWO, SIDE ONE----------------------------
KP: You arrived in concentration camps after things had been secured.
BM: Yes ... but they were, you know, again I read about and heard stories, again, about the lampshades and all those things there. We didn't come across any of those. We didn't because they were either cleaned up or taken as souvenirs before we got there. I will say this for the Army, as far as the part that I saw, they were great souvenir hunters. I mean ... there was no question about it, they took a lot of things as souvenirs.
JS: One of things that was talked about was townspeople around these camps always said that they did not know what was going on, yet American soldiers said they could smell it miles away.
BM: There was no question that that's absolutely a boldface lie. There is, and I would not forgive anybody that lived within twenty to 25 miles within these camp and say they did not know what was going on. Even if the stench didn't reach them, 25 miles, they saw the trucks and they saw other signs of it. There's no question of that, in my mind. There was no way you could live with, I'm 100 percent with that, that they can't tell me that they lived within it and didn't know what was going on. ... I have a problem to ...justifying the statement that even those ... who were hundreds of miles away didn't know what was going on. ... It's hard for me to believe that the German population did not know what was going on. They may not have known the enormity of it, the total picture of it, but they had to know what was happening with Hitler, as far as I'm concerned. I can't believe that. I may be wrong. It could not have been hidden from them. I don't think it could have been hidden from them, I really don't. Yet people, they'll respond to that by saying, well ... there's a lot things that you don't know what's going on in the United States. That's true. But something as horrendous as that, .. I don't think it could survive today--would not survive today. Now, in those days, I feel it could have been. Took a long time for people, the Jewish people, to find out about Roosevelt [being] involved with the Axis and so forth. I mean it took a long time to come out, a long, long time. Speaking of that, my granddaughter's going to do one of those, she's being elected to president of National Federation of Reform Temple Youth Groups, she's going, to a conference in Paris, it's tough to take. ... This kid, going to be eighteen. Sending her to a conference in Paris, when she gets done, they're going to Greece [to] a conference. ... Then they're going to pick up a ship and travel the Exodus route, these young Jewish leaders in the United States to see what it was all about.
KP: You were promoted to a sergeant and you were with your unit when it was trained in England.
KP: What was it like to be from a PFC to a sergeant? And then be a sergeant all through your days with the unit. You were responsible for yourself, but you were also responsible for your men.
BM: Yeah ... What we were buck sergeants, which was a three-stripe sergeant, and your command was your own vehicle plus one more. So that was how it was, because we were not a big company and ...
KP: How big was your company?
BM: ... Let's see ... we would be probably ... between 100, 150, I would think is our company, maybe 200 in our company. ... I'll tell you, I think I did a good job of assuming leadership because it was a minor leadership, don't forget, it was a minor leadership. And I think I did a good job. I think that the men that worked with me, and frankly that was the only way I would say, not for me, with me, I think they had a good respect for me. And I know I respected their rights. ... I was not tolerant of mistakes or sloppiness, because too much depended on it. I mean, your Jeep better be ready to go from zero miles to ten in hurry, [laughs] or whatever it takes to get out of some place and likewise, the machine gun is mounted on it should function well and your own weapon should function well and your own cleanliness and your own frame of mind. I don't think I played too much with the psychology involved in it, because being in the outfit that we were in, you really didn't have to keep reinforcing what we were doing there. And truthfully, even the recruits that were coming up, the replacements that came up, I didn't really meet anybody that was a--whatever its counterpart would be as a flower-child in the military at that time. I don't recall meeting anybody that was questioning why we were there. I don't recall meeting anybody of that nature at all. Maybe our outfit was such that you wouldn't meet that kind of person ... But I'm willing to say that going through the hospital system too, ... I can't envision, not even a minority, nobody was happy about being there, but nobody was ... rebelling against it. At least I didn't meet anybody that was rebelling against it.
KP: You mentioned earlier that your unit received replacements that were quite good. In a lot of units, replacements often did not last very long on the line. In many cases they were killed on the first day with their new unit.
KP: How good was the integration of the replacements in your unit?
BM: I never saw friction. Now I want to make sure I say it right because there could have been, and I didn't see it. I never saw friction. I would imagine that a lot had to do with the fact that the fellows in my section knew how I felt about it, and therefore they felt the same way about it. And we were fortunate, I guess that's the only word to use, that the replacements we got were ones who knew what they were there for. ... I never saw a replacement come in that didn't know what he was getting into. How they transmitted it to them, I don't know. But they didn't know how much problem and danger it was, but they knew they were not coming up there for tea. ... I didn't see a problem with that. I guess ... we may have different than a lot of [other units], I shouldn't say that, I guess most of the action outfits were about the same. I think they were all about the same.
KP: It sounds that the elite status of your unit meant that you received the best replacements that were around.
BM: I think so, too. I think that they really were, I think they were pretty much selected, I do believe that. I saw it in training. I saw the weeding process work out that I will say. We had a fellow who was assigned to our training platoon who just couldn't adjust, also from Brooklyn, he just couldn't. He was too fine, he really was too fine. He couldn't tolerate his boots having mud on them. He really was too fine for that. I remember his name like I do my own. His name was [Simino?] ... They transferred him out, he went to the infantry. He was killed in the first engagement. Who knows whether he would have been killed in our first engagement or what would have happened. You feel badly about it, but you say to yourself, you're glad he wasn't there, because you didn't want him to let you down.
KP: Who didn't perform well in combat and how did people get killed or wounded? Was it completely out of their control? Was it artillery fire? Or did they make mistakes?
BM: ... I would say that, again, from my personal experience, I didn't see any foul-ups. I may have been blinded to it, but I didn't see any foul-ups. ... A foul-up I saw was this medic who went out there to try save a life. And I kept telling him, "Don't go, don't go," but he decided he wanted to save. ... See, to me that's a foul-up, I mean there was no reason for him to go. His code was, he thought he was, regardless of whether he knew he was dead or alive, under those conditions, you had to wait. I mean, because he wasn't going to help that guy, but who would think that they were going to zero in on him? On a human being, with one shell. Of course, my captain did it, too, so I guess it's questionable. My gun captain did it to a German soldier. I guess they felt the same way about it. I just realized now, relating it to you, I've been faulting them all along and I didn't fault my [own]. That's my chauvinism, I didn't fault my, then gun company, captain for killing this guy with ... with a shell.
KP: Did your unit ever take prisoners?
BM: Not often, not often, no. ... There were times where I am sure that some of the patrols that would bring the prisoners back, killed them before they got them back. Not all of them, I don't know what percentage or numbers. ... But ... we as a recon outfit, in particular had very little to do with direct contact that way.
KP: So, in other words, the enemy was always off in the distance.
BM: Well, we found the enemy and we ran like hell back to where we came from. We didn't want to get in there.
KP: Well, you didn't have very many troops to use against them.
BM: No, no, no ... We'd get up close enough to a tank park to see the Germans walking around, but I sure as hell wasn't going to go in and arrest anybody. No, we didn't. ... I don't think our battalion took too many prisoners either because our gunfire was always a good distance off.
KP: Did you ever have any contact with any black units, either in England or on the battlefield or behind the lines?
BM: No. ... The only one I ever saw were on the docks. They were the non-active blacks, there. No, ... I never had contact with any black troops at all.
JS: In the Pacific one of the advantages that the units there had was that they would go in, do the invasion, rest up, you know, for a month or two months before the next one.
JS: Obviously in Europe, it was ...
BM: One drive ...
JS: ... march across to Germany. How long did that take before that really took a toll on the soldiers? The not being able to relax ...
BM: Yes, yes. I would ... from looking around and judging from what I saw, don't forget, mine is limited. My close contact was with maybe 25-30 people. Of the 25 to 30 that we had, ... I would find it tough to tell you when they needed the R and R badly. But I would say that, a calculated guess would be that I think 30 days would be an outside maximum that they should be pulled out of the action. They don't have to go all the way back to an R and R, but just pulled out of the action. I would say maybe 30 days. That's just a guess of mine.
JS: The hundred days must have been ...
BM: That was ... stressful and quite a few of our guys cracked under that, yeah. Not that many, but quite a few cracked under that. Again, because we didn't know any better. That made it a lot easier to handle. You thought the whole war was going on that way. You didn't know of anybody resting. Now, you saw the other troops going back, but you didn't know if they were going back, being committed somewhere else or what. So you really didn't know any better.
KP: So you thought the war was just never going to end.
BM: In fact, I never believed the war was on a day and night basis. Because, as far as I was concerned, the war was going on 24 hours a day.
KP: How many night operations would you do?
BM: We didn't do too many of them. We did our share, but not too many of them. Of course it's tough to move vehicles at night. Especially, you're going to do a reconnaissance with them and you want to close enough to try to get a body count as well a time count, a live body count.
KP: How good were your equipment and your supplies?
BM: Once we got. ... The supplies were good. Once we got rid of the half track, which was a terrible, terrible vehicle, and the 76 millimeter gun, which, again was just inadequate. It was a good gun, but it was inadequate. Once we got to where we had the M-4 tank with the 90 millimeter gun, then I would say our equipment was superior. Up until that, the supply was good. We didn't have a problem with supply.
KP: You always had enough to eat and enough ammunition?
BM: Yeah, we usually ... not that I know of ever ... running out of ammunition, our gun companies. See we had 50 millimeter shells so that was no big problem, 50 millimeter bullet projectiles. But I don't know of any gun company of ours that ran out of ammunition at all.
JS: Doing recon, what equipment did you use?
BM: Mostly a 50 caliber machine gun and a personal weapon sometimes.
JS: Would you drive all the up to the point you were doing recon from or you would drive to a certain point?
BM: We'd drive to a point and then do it by foot. ... We'd try to get up close enough that we, as I say, try to get a good estimate of how many men were there. Many times I would do it by a formula. You know, if you saw enough guys going to the john, you'd count that and multiply it by, ... you'd pick a number and multiply by it. It was always good to time, you could always get them while they were eating, see because they were out in the field and everybody came to eat. So then you'd get a good count.
KP: Did you ever attend services when you were on the line? Did chaplains ever come out?
BM: Yeah, I'm just trying to think now. I know that when we got ready to go across the Channel, our whole battalion, we didn't have a Jewish chaplain. So it happened, and this is a humorous incident, that the priest was Father Goldberg. This is legitimate. He was a convert to Catholicism [laughs] and he became a priest. So he was Father Goldberg, it was on his trunk. So I figured I'll get in line with them, [laughs] and I went up there and I said, "Could you say the Sh'ma Yisrael with me?" He said, "Sure." He was prepared to do it anyway no matter what it was. So we said it together, Father Goldberg and I said it together. No, come to think of it, I didn't get to services at all. Nope. The closest I came to it was the desecrated temple in Nancy, France.
KP: Did you get any leaves when you were on the line? Did you ever get rotated back?
BM: No ... not individually. We got it as a battalion, they took us back, yes. ...
KP: But you just went a little back behind the lines.
BM: Yes, that's it.
KP: You did not get to go to Paris?
BM: No, the only time we got to a recreation area was when they did let us go to Nancy, France. That's after we liberated it ... and we backed them up and then it was cleaned up. And about a month or two later, we were still in front of Nancy, France and they let us come back for an R and R. I guess that lasted for about a week, I think.
JS: You said before that after you crossed the river ...
BM: Mosel, yes.
JS: You had to retreat back across the river ...
BM: Yes, they didn't establish a big enough base over there. ... You know, it's not one of these things, retreat, where you go back miles and miles and miles. It was just that we got back on the other side of the river and took up our former positions. And then they waited for the Air Force to come in--the Air Corps--in the next day and do a job on them. They tried. ... It's not easy for the Air Corps to break up something like that, so you try first without it. And we just didn't get a beachhead established across there. So we had to go back and later on the Air Corps softened them up, and we were able to make the crossing. In fact, we didn't even do the crossing; somebody else did the crossing after that.
KP: If someone was wounded, how good was their immediate medical care and how much confidence did you have in it?
BM: ... From what I saw, it was good ... As I say, I'm a bad interview for one thing. I don't have that many negative things to say about the military. My experiences were bad, I mean they were bad, the experiences. I mean seeing that kid get shot with a gun there and some of the townspeople that we saw that were affected by it. And the actual, but, no, as far as I could remember the medics were good in their jobs.
KP: So you had a lot of confidence in that if you say, took a bullet ...
BM: Right ... that they were going to do all right. ...
KP: You mention that a lot of people in your unit cracked. What happened to them? Was there anything that you remember?
BM: I would correct that and say some, not a lot. But the ones that did, I don't know. I lost track of those people. I know that, see I left my outfit right after V-E Day. Right after V-E Day, I left and came back on a hospital ship and we turned over a lot of guys in our outfit, but never had track of them. This is a big hole in my total experience. After I left my outfit and I didn't finish up with them, and that may be something that had to do with it. I don't [know] what happened to them. ... There were some guys that came back, I saw them leave and come back, but I don't know what happened to any of them that wound up with the neurosis, I don't know.
KP: But on the line, how did you know that they had to go back? It was not something where you could just snap out of it ...
BM: To the best of my knowledge, most of those cases came back and complained to whoever they complained to. They just couldn't take it anymore. I didn't see anybody break out in a frenzy or a fit.
KP: Or would anyone say they could not move their legs? Or did you have any of those cases?
BM: No, I don't think, no, I didn't see any of those, as I say, I think all of them that I saw were guys that came back and just were able to convince whoever they talked to by verbalizing that they just couldn't take anymore. And I will say this for whoever turned them in and let them off the hook. They were good, whoever they were, they were good. Whether it was a company commander, whether it was the platoon leader, or whether it was a staff sergeant. They were able to read these guys. I don't think there were too many fakers. I really don't, because at that point, why would anybody become a faker? I mean you'd either be snapping yourself, because if you were going to fake, you'd fake long before that, before you got into any of this thing.
KP: Or if you are there to ...
BM: That's right. Once they got in it, yeah. I think that would be the best way to answer that question. Whoever they were able to [decide], ... and they were good. I didn't see anybody run away from any assignment. Never, you know, throw up their gun or throw up their hands and run away from the assignment. They all stayed with it, and [if] they needed help, they got help.
KP: You mentioned earlier that you had liberated, well, captured this one town [and] the Americans were way behind. When did you start seeing German resistance really starting to collapse? Was it January, February, March of 1945?
BM: Yeah, I'm trying to think now.
KP: When did you see a perceptible decline?
BM: ... I'm just trying to think where we were. ... I think we were very close to the border. We may have still even been in France the first time I saw them on the run. I think right after Bastogne. Right around that time. That was the spring, I think, very early spring. Yeah.
KP: Where was your unit during the Battle of the Bulge?
BM: We were on our way up to help when it broke out.
KP: You were part of the famous ...
BM: Yes, we were part of it. Not way up in the front, but we were part of it though. It was a big thrust to the best of my knowledge of knowing what was going on. There was a three-way thrust to get up there. I think we were in the third tier of one of the three.
KP: You weren't given, Patton had a prayer written by his chaplain. It was distributed to all his men. Did you get that prayer?
BM: I don't recall that. I do recall coming home to the hospital out in the island there. Wherever the hell that was ...(Hapatchogue?) I think. It's out in Long Island there. The chaplain getting on the bus and we were all grisly veterans. I mean we had been through a lot. The chaplain gets on with a smiling face. He says, "I'm going to give each one of you a TS slip." Which originally meant "tough shit," see, but his was a "theological service." [laughs] But when he said, "I'm going to give each one a TS slip," he was taking a chance that some of these guys would not have treated it as a big joke, you know. We had some real battle star veterans on that bus with us going out to the hospital there. In fact, one guy got in front of me in a cafeteria line and he saw milk, bottles and bottles of milk. And he hadn't seen milk in months and months and months. And he almost flipped out over the milk. That I will say. He started calling it in German, "Milch, milch," I said, "You're back here in Long Island. Knock it off!" Which was stupid of me, too, because he could have turned on me because he was a little bit off the beam, seeing all that milk. He hadn't seen it for so long. And he obviously came from a state and he loved milk and all that kind of stuff and everything came back to him. But yes, this chaplain thought he was funny by giving us a TS slip and he was pretty lucky, I thought, that he didn't get clobbered. [laughs]
JS: When was it that you were brought to the hospital?
BM: Let's see, ... I was discharged in August of '45, because I came back here. I would say that my first trip to the hospital may have been in middle of '45. [I was] first hospitalized in France and then went through these different trips getting home. I had enough points to come home without a medical reason. ... Yes, I'd say the middle of the year someplace.
KP: You had made it through the war.
BM: Yes. ...
KP: And then so it hit you afterwards, in a sense.
BM: No, I think it hit me while it was going on, but I just was overriding it, that's all...
BM: I was overloading the circuits that's all.
KP: Did you recognize this, or did your commander recognize that you needed medical care?
BM: ... To the best of knowledge, again, I had gone to sick call, because I was throwing up a lot, and I think that's where it was picked up. Right there, I think. I would think probably picked up by the doctor, I would say. Again, these are fuzzy with me. My wife accuses me of it, and I do have a magnificent ability to block out what I don't want. I'm really good at that. [laughs]
JS: After you had gone to the hospital in France, you shipped back and you stayed at the hospital in Long Island for awhile and then ...
BM: We were discharged from there.
JS: ... How difficult was it, initially, making that adjustment to being home?
BM: Back as a civilian? Well, ... this should be the crux of this particular interview, as far as I'm concerned. This is why I feel I owe Rutgers so much and this [is] why I've done everything I've done as an alumnus for the class and for the school. Rutgers was my lifesaver. I made a decision, I wanted to go back. I was going to have a pension, so I wanted to back to college and I wanted to also play football. So I came down here, ... I got out in August and I was in school in the end of August, the beginning of September. ... The adjustment time was all right on campus. Everything ... was good for me. I joined Tau Delta Phi fraternity and they treated me good. I made some decisions, such as I didn't take a Veteran's Pledge, I took a pledge with the kids. So I had a lot of fun. I needed some. ... Frankly, the last diagnosis I had was that they said that, "You must keep totally occupied. Don't allow yourself any time." ... And I didn't. I did everything you could. I played football and I was student government, real active. I was [in a] fraternity. I was even socially active. ... But I don't think there was a span that was, as I say, a matter of weeks, maybe, that I was down here at school.
KP: So you only spent a few weeks in Long Island at the hospital?
BM: Yes, not too long. ... I do recall one treatment they gave us. They used to take us out in a canoe and a corpsman would paddle the canoe and we would lay there with our hands in the water. That was one treatment we had to try to ... I don't know what the hell they were trying to do, but that's what they were doing, though.
KP: How long did you have bad dreams about the war?
BM: Long time, long time. In fact, which came first, Vietnam or Korea, I never remember?
KP: Korea came first.
BM: Korea came first? ... We came out of the Roosevelt Theater in Newark on Clinton Avenue and there was a big headline about the war in Korea. And I gave my wife a hard time that night, boy. I screamed and screeched and I gave her a hard time. That was Korea. I think after that, well, Vietnam, I didn't weather that one too well. I, for awhile, I had a tough time, I had a tough time ... if I got ... excited or anything. But, they're very instantaneous though and very short in duration. Not the Korean thing. That set me off, there. But...
KP: Did you fear you might be going back? You might be called up again?
BM: No, I don't think that even entered my mind. It's just the experiences came back. Maybe it did, maybe it did, because I would have been young enough.
KP: What about movies, did you ever get frightened by watching them, a World War II movie?
BM: Yeah, I don't do too well on some of them. ... Ones that I can relate to, you know, personal experience, I don't do too well with them.
KP: What movie did you think was most accurate? Were any so accurate that you could not even watch it because it was just too close to home. Are there any that stick out?
BM: I really can't isolate the one. ... I'll tell what I went and I saw and I sat through it, the whole thing was Schindler's List I would think that that probably had the greatest effect on me. It just reiterated what I knew, that's the thing.
KP: Are there any in terms of your combat experience?
BM: No. I don't think of any of them that I know of. I saw From Here To Eternity. I don't even recall them to be honest with you. I guess maybe those are the ones I block out. I can't think of a war picture I saw, truthfully.
KP: Did you ever join any veteran's groups?
BM: Try what?
KP: Veteran's groups, did you join any veteran's groups after the war?
BM: No, that was the one thing, when I got down here, the first group that wanted [me] was AmVets. I didn't go for it. ... We had an unholy foursome, I'll tell you that, on campus. We had Bill [Hobby] who was a WASP. We had Jim Alexander, who was a good Roman Catholic. We had Carl Thomas who was a black man. He wasn't Afro-American, he was a black man. And myself, Jewish. The four of us. Three of us were GI's, Hobby, Alexander and myself. Carl was a pre-divinity student. Carl Thomas is probably the most unforgettable character, the most unforgettable guy I ever met. He's Paul Robeson's nephew. He came out of Jersey City. He's deceased now. He came down here and established a phenomenal ...
KP: He was quite a man about campus.
BM: Oh, absolutely, magnificent, Carl. He was one of my longest and dearest friends. He was a magnificent guy. Well the four of us teamed up and we went to dinner at the Lambda Chi Alpha house. [laughs] And I'm sitting next to Bill Hobby and I imagine, I said, "You know what's happening? The forefathers are doing a whirly dervish in their graves because you got a Jew, a Catholic and a black sitting there." We went to Beta house, because Jim was a Beta and we brought the boys to my house, the Tau Delta house and Carl was an independent. Carl was the kind of a guy, he was taking a shower one day and a couple guys were peeking, they were peeking at him to see what his black body looked like. And he went, "It doesn't come off." [Laughs] Oh, he could handle anything. There was nothing he couldn't handle.
KP: There were only a handful of black students at Rutgers at the time.
BM: He would never believe, he would not allow himself to believe that he was discriminated against--would not allow himself to be that way. First of all, down here, he wasn't, because the four of us and maybe five or six others, we took over the campus. We were in the president's house many times, we were in Dean Reed Silver's house many times and there was nothing that we, nobody ever got treated differently.
KP: Did Carl make it into the book?
BM: Yes, I think he is in there. I think he is in Dean Silver's book. I'm not sure, gee, that's a good question. I'm not sure. But ... started a veteran's organization, so the first one on campus was the AmVets, I think. And I looked and them and I said there were too many phonies in it, I think. [laughs] I mean there were too many guys, particularly in this chapter here, down here, that didn't know one end of the gun from the other. They were Vets. ... So I never got into that and neither did Jim or Bill. None of us ever got in the veteran's organization while we were still here. In fact, ... I'm affiliated with all of them now, I pay my dues in all of them.
KP: But you're not active in them?
BM: No, no.
JS: When you first heard of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, what was your reaction to it at that time?
BM: I was pleased and I don't hesitate for one minute, because I believed that our leadership knew what price we'd pay if we didn't do it. And now I will say this, ... I think that Truman must have went through a living hell. There's no question in my mind he did. But I think he finally decided the same way I decided. I didn't take as long as he did. I mean I don't know how long he took, but no, I felt that it was [the right decision.] ... First of all, I thought it was necessary, which is the real cause of it. I think it was necessary, and next of all, I think it was earned. I really do. See I'm sounding very much like a reactionary now, but I honestly believe that Japan brought it upon themselves. I think they did it. Now, whether I think and I honestly feel that all those people--I'm not going to call them innocent because nobody's innocent. If you're in a war country as far as I'm concerned--no, but I will say that they had no choice in the matter and there were a lot of people, civilians and others who were killed that ... maybe not. But I think that the first reason because of necessity and you couldn't isolate the military from the civilian. ... As I say, I did not have a bad reaction, I don't have one now. I don't know, if someone would come up to me and say, they could have done this, this, and this and not done it, but these ones that come up now in letters to the editor and say we should've waited, you can be assured that none of them faced a gun.
KP: Would your unit have gone to Japan? Or was your unit done with the war?
BM: No, we were finished.
KP: You were finished.
BM: Yes, we were finished. ... I don't think we could have functioned. First of all, there was no need for us down there, because tank warfare was very minimal down there, and that meant retooling or retraining, which they would have never done.
KP: You knew your war was over at V-E Day?
BM: Yes, yes. Definitely. I shouldn't say that. I will say this, I think some of the key...
KP: Some of the officers might have gone to Japan.
BM: Yes, I would not be surprised if they were pulled back and they weren't retrained and sent out. That would not surprise me, ... but I don't think any of our guys would have gone.
KP: You had no expectation that you would go.
BM: No, no, no, I didn't, and neither did the guys surrounding me.
KP: Because I know some people in Europe had orders, which for some it worked out fortunately because they were sent back to the United States when the war had ended.
BM: Yes, that's true.
KP: Why did you come to Rutgers? Why not the University of Newark or another university?
BM: ... Good question. ... I really don't know what led me here other than the fact that I contacted Harvey Harmon, the coach, and I wanted to play football. ... I guess it was because, as far as I was concerned, ... I had gone to Montclair State before the war, and I think it was the major university that I wanted to go to and play some football. I don't have any explanation as to why.
JS: When you got here, how many Jewish students were here at Rutgers?
BM: Well, there was Tau Delta Phi and for all intents and purposes, we were 100 percent Jewish. Phi Ep was Jewish. Sammy was Jewish. Those were the three Jewish fraternities. And I would say, I don't know the answer to that ... truthfully how many there were ...
JS: But there was a good ...
BM: ... But there was a ... good Jewish showing here. But you had to remember that Tau Delta Phi, my fraternity was formed because it wasn't safe to walk on the campus in '27 as a Jewish student. It was not safe. That was why Tau Delta Phi was formed so that they'd have a union together. [It] started as Tau Omicon local became Tau Delta Phi National
KP: How large was that memory in 1945 of that 1927 incident?
BM: Zero, zero.
KP: But you knew about it.
BM: Oh! Let me put it to you this way, my maturity, don't forget I was 25 when I got back, see, there the freshmen, in the 1920s they were freshmen. They had no idea. Yes, they read the history, but there's nothing in the history that said they were saving their behind by banding together.
JS: Some vets who came back to Rutgers after the war, you know, part of their recollection is that the veterans who came here just put the war behind them, didn't really talk about it and just wanted to get on with the lives that they had left when they went into the military. Was your experience similar, would you say?
BM: Exactly, 100 percent, 100 percent. When I came here, day one, ... there ... [was] no war in my background. I will say this. A couple of incidents that scared the hell out of my roommate. We had a double decker in the fraternity house, and I took the top deck and Jerry Haines [is] on the bottom. And I guess about the first week we're here, somebody decides to buzz New Brunswick with an airplane. And that was one of my things, I had a plane phobia. I had a real bad plane phobia. I jumped out of the double decker, I'm laying on the linoleum floor and I'm trying to dig a foxhole. [laughs] My poor, eighteen year-old roommate is looking at me, and nobody told him what to do with this kook. Nobody told him how to handle that, see. That's about, truthfully, honestly, that's about the only incident that I can remember happening. Of course, I'm joking ... [now]. No, I had a bad, bad plane phobia, and it's interesting the treatment that I got. The psychiatrist in the hospital, this was over in France, and he should have been a general, because he was that bright, but he was absolutely impossible. ... He would come to judge you when you came in the hospital, ... he would evaluate you and ... he had this beautiful nurse with him, it was his permanent nurse, he'd say, "How would you like to make love to her?" Just like that, that's the first question that he would ask you. Or "Did you bring any dirty pictures back with you?" or something like that, you know. So obviously they couldn't make him anything higher than that, he was a colonel, a light colonel. And they couldn't make him higher though. But he knew that I had, he knew a lot about plane phobias, so they gave you some sodium (pentothal?). And then he said, "All right now, close your eyes and you're going to hear a plane coming at you. Just put your hand up and it's going to stop that plane, see." Okay, doc, anything you say and I [put my hand up and heard the plane noise] and it stopped. And he said, "Now, put it down and I'm going to call the plane back." Okay [plane noise], and it stopped. He did it three times and I took about four treatments, four treatments. Got all finished with the four treatments and he said, "I think your alright. Whenever you hear a plane, throw your hand up and I think you'll be all right," he said. "It may not block it out completely, but ... you won't get frightened to death." Okay, I said, "Doc, what were you using?" He was using an egg beater. [laughs] An egg beater to get [the sound.] He knew that the sodium (pentothal) would put my mind in such a frame that all that was needed was a whirling sound. I mean he was a genius as far as psychiatry, but as nutty as a fruitcake. Oh, he was really up a wall. ... So that made me think of it, when I hit the deck with that airplane there.
KP: It sounds like you got very good medical treatment.
KP: Both in France and in Long Island.
BM: I did. I did, all over.
KP: And how much contact would you have when you were at Rutgers? Let's say after this incident when the plane came over and it woke you up. Did you go and see someone? Or was there someone you could talk to?
BM: No, no, no. ... I just took it all by myself, and took my semi-annual or whatever they were called, quarterly VA examinations.
KP: So that was largely your contact with veteran's and military medicine
after you left the service.
BM: Yes. That was my total contact with VA.
KP: In some ways, you were exceptional in how active you were on campus. Many of the '48 veterans we have interviewed took part in few activities.
KP: A lot of them, they took their courses and they often had families or they commuted. But you got into everything.
BM: Yes. I didn't miss a trick. ... But there was a reason, I was doing it selfishly. I was doing it to keep myself level, there's no question about it.
KP: But it sounds like you got a lot out of the experience.
BM: Oh, I did, I did. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it and as I say, it imbued me that I have done things that I give more than I should give to the alumni fund. I really do, I overgive. [laughs] My wife and I fight about that. ... Let's see, I've been president of the Alumni Association, I've been on the Board of Trustees, and right now, I'm in the Senate. That was my newest one, I was elected to the Senate and that was a real eye opener. ... I never knew what the Senate looked like, the University Senate. And I'm going to tell you, it's unbelievable. You got to go to those things, they call the meetings for 1:10, not 1:00, but 1:10. They start at 1:10 [and say] this topic has this much time, and this has this much time, and they can vote the time they want to. It's wild. And I'm [on] a couple of committees there. ... I've been most active with the ... Rutgers Alumni Association and the athletic department. When we were allowed to recruit and scout, I was a full-timer. I was on stipend. But, now it's got to be a full-timer, not a part-timer.
KP: Who was your favorite professor and why?
BM: Favorite professor ...
KP: You had listed Richard ...
KP: Reager, yes.
BM: Yes, he and George Docket probably were my two favorites. Richard Reager was the head of the public speaking [department] and he was a fabulous guy. He was unrealistic, I mean, he actually had a class where we had all the football players in it, see. Oak Bandick six [feet] five [inches,] 290 [pounds,] Bob Ochs about the same size. I was weighing up about 270 in those days. And we were in the class, and it was called persuasive speaking and it was about the third level. We had all taken two years of previous public speaking. This is about the third level. He comes in and he says, "You know, I think a couple of you are doubting this course. So I'm going to do something. I'm going to talk about a fake charity. Now do you all hear me? It's a fake charity! When I get finished, Oakley, you're going to go collect for me. Steve..." Steve (Senko?), later on he said, "Steve, now you're going to go to the door to see if there's anybody outside and Bert Manhoff you're going to be sniffling." Oh, okay, go ahead, fake charity, right. "Now," he says, "I want you all to look," and takes his hand up the clock, "It's," whatever it was, "ten after ten. Now you're all here, here we go." And he talked about a fake sanctuary for animals and he gets all done and he says, "Okay, Oakley, get up and pass the hat around." And there's old Oakley getting up and passing the hat around. And Steve (Senko's?) going to the door and I'm blowing my nose because the tears are coming out. ... We knew ... the s.o.b. told us it was a fake charity to start with. But he was unbelievable. He took a job to be the spokesman for the ice cream industry. So we said, "What the hell do you know about ice cream making?" Because we were on a good level with him and we're all being in our twenties, middle twenties. He says, "I'm going to visit the plant down in Newark tomorrow." ... "And when I come back I'll be an expert on ice cream."
----------------------------END OF TAPE TWO, SIDE TWO--------------------
KP: ... This continues an interview with Bert Manhoff on April 19,1995 at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey with Kurt Piehler and Jeff Schneider, who will be joining us shortly after he feeds the parking meter. You mentioned you had gone to the initiation rituals with the nineteen year olds.
KP: Why did you decide to this?
BM: It's another part of ... my flawed makeup at the time that I didn't want to miss anything. I wanted just to be involved ... I could have done anything I wanted to about it, but I wanted just to be part of it. That was the whole thing ... I still have that need today. I still have that psychological need to be part of. ... I'm ... very active and desirous of action and I don't take rests. I have some quirky habits that indicate that, such as ... I work a couple of days a week up at the college, Sussex County Community College. ... That morning I get up at six. Well, I go to bed one, two, I get up at six and go. Now, if I don't have to work, I could sleep until twelve, and I mean sleep until twelve. [laughs] So, it's still the same thing. Like, I've been active in the Football Letter Winners Association. In fact, I restarted it in 1949, I restarted it and [have] been active ever since. ... I want to be part of that and I like being part of the Alumni Association. And I do whatever I can to help the ... athletic programs. So I think that was the answer as to why. It's just that I wanted to be part of it. ... I am equally as proud of my association with the Rutgers Football Hall of Fame. I serve on the Selection Committee.
KP: It also sounds like you wanted to be just like any other student.
BM: Yeah ... That, again, I didn't [have] too much of a problem because I had a college life before the war, see. And ... it wasn't that much as it was that I just wanted to be occupied, truthfully occupied.
KP: Today colleges have many more of what we now would call non-traditional students. In my classes I have students ranging from eighteen to 60 and 70 in class. But in your day that was for colleges, especially for the Rutgers tradition that was unusual. You had people eighteen and people 25, 28, 30. What was the relationship between the two groups?
BM: ... The best answer to that, I think is that, it was an individual thing, truthfully. ... I would think of, again, my unholy foursome. Jim and Bill, both being about the same age [as] I am. ... Let's see, I think Bill was married [and] Jim was not. But Jim was in Beta Theta Pi; Jim was in student council with me and he was here and there. ... Our group, that I could see ... [did not have] a problem adjusting. On the teams, when I played [it was a]... a level field. ... But I think that student council and then clubs were equal, oh, I know, like we did a couple of shows. The program's laying around there. We did one for ... Leiden University and one of the [laughs] scenes was a dormitory scene, and Carl and myself and whoever we were with, we were women, Douglass women, see. And we're in with guys from Queens Players and they're dramatic students. They're very serious about it. Neither Carl or I learned our script. ... Both of us had script notes or whatever it was and if I couldn't remember a line, I would say, it's your turn, see. I think we broke up that poor guy. But, they tolerated us in that case there, I mean we had an awful lot of fun with it. Yeah I guess, I don't know about the total population. I didn't see any breeches. I didn't see them. But I...
KP: You didn't see that there were two sides that did not see much of each other?
BM: No, not really. I really didn't. Now in the fraternity house I know, some of them, I describe it now, they looked at me in awe, because there was an appearance in the National Magazine; they had a big spread on me they kept laying around for recruiting purposes, you know? So, there were a couple of them. Then the fact that I was playing varsity football, and I was doing this and doing that. So, some of them envied me. But other than that they didn't have any ... I didn't have any problem with them and they didn't have any problem with me.
KP: Jeff and other students in the class have looked at old Targums and done reports based on them. What struck my students, individually and collectively, were several things. They were struck by the active social life of the campus: military ball, dances, and the rest. One student was amused to learn that the Targum decided to throw a dance for the independents so that they would have place to go. They were also struck that the only real evidence of political activism centered around the United Nations and Zionism. They found an active Zionist group.
BM: Which one?
KP: Zionist group.
BM: Oh, Zionist group.
KP: Yes. Yes. At least that there was some ...
BM: ... In fact, ... we had a problem, my house was not anti-Hillel, but we just were not supportive of Hillel and Rabbi (Funk?) never forgave us for that. Never, because we were the key Jewish house on campus, and we didn't support him. Oh we did, once in the year he would run, to raise money and have a beauty contest [laughs] and we would start one of the girls and we would take one of the guys and we'd enter her, and then we'd cheat. [laughs] We'd threaten people to put money in it. And then one year, we got a girl whose father was from Perth Amboy, who shall remain nameless, very wealthy, and he gave us a check for a 100 dollars. [laughs] We put in our kid to win and we won every year. Our candidate won every year. And Rabbi (Funk?) used to be P.O.-ed as hell. We were there after that. We would be there for that. ... I didn't know anything about a Zionist movement. But it was a great social campus, no question about it.
KP: There were social activities?
BM: There weren't that many problems for our kids to occupy themselves with. Nobody thought of racism. They really didn't think of racism. We didn't even think of anti-Semitism. Now, we knew it was before us. I won't comment about anything that's after us but we know about, but while we were here, those very first post-war years, we, the four of us went to get a beer at (Smojy's?), which is now the one on Mine Street and Easton Avenue. I don't know what it's called now. It was then called (Smojy's?) and we were there and the guy that was a bartender, it was a part-timer and he must've been a cracker. So he pulled the routine, I don't know a beer was maybe a quarter then. He says, "You owe me three dollars for four beers." And it should have been two dollars. He was going to pull this routine about breaking the glass because Carl was there, the black guy, see. Now, without each other knowing it, we're planning, the three of us, not Carl, how we're going to wreck the place. I knew I was going to pick up a bar stool; I knew it. I knew which window I was going to throw the bar stool at. Jim was planning in his mind which ... [window] he was going to throw the bar stool at. We planned, not knowing it ... It's really ESP, because it scared the hell out of me. So Carl sees what's happening, he sees our faces. ... He says, "Let's get out of here, come on..." I said, "No, we have to take care of this, see." "Let's get out of here!" [Carl] ... persuaded us to get outside. He said, "Now I read all three of your minds," he said. "You're crazy ... You were planning on destroying the place." I said, "I was." And Jim said, "He was." [laughs] And sure enough, Bill said he was. It was unbelievable. So Carl said, "Look, this is terrible, it's a terrible incident, but we've got to do something about it." So the next day, we went up, the four of us, we went to see Ed Curtain, who was assistant dean then. And we said this and this happened, we want you to know we're going to issue a request for a boycott until he comes and apologizes to Carl. So we went through our connections, and we had enough connections. We put a boycott out, and he almost went down the drain in about two weeks' business. The bartender was forced to come and apologize to Carl. And that's the way we handled a racist incident that day, see.
The same thing happened is that Ed Curtin, now deceased, was an assistant dean, and he was the guy who said good-bye when you were being expelled. He was the one saying good-bye. One time he runs into a span of about six Jewish kids getting expelled or suspended for plagiarizing and stuff like that. The seventh one, he reacts to. First of all, the guy was a no good to start with, but Ed reacted to him. He said, "You don't belong in school, you belong in the garment industry!" Okay, now the guy gets thrown off campus and he starts writing letters back to campus. Curtin should be fired and ... [so on.] This was is in the late '40s. So student council, and I'm the president of the student council that year. We get a letter [saying] we should investigate. I said, "Alright, tomorrow we'll go see Mason Gross." ... We make a call, we go to see Mason [the] next day. We explained the whole thing to him and he said, "Did you verify the story yet?" [And we had not.] He said, "I'm calling Ed Curtain's office." Now the four of you are going over there right now to talk to him." [Laughs] We weren't too anxious for this confrontation, you know. ... I mean, only Mason Gross could do that, only he could do that. I mean he would think that way, boom. We go over there and we sit down and he kind of turns the color of the page and he said, "Yes ... I said that. But I want you to know my background. I came out of Brooklyn [and am an] Irish-Catholic and we were taught to hate Jews, blacks and ... other Catholics," other than what he was. "But," he said, "I had a blood transfusion in the military." He said, "I don't know what's in me now. I don't think I have that prejudice anymore. It was a terrible slip." What are you going to do, are you going to crucify the guy? I mean, that's it.
... So we go to student council and we said we made a thorough investigation, it was a terrible mistake and he's writing a letter apologizing to so and so, and that's it, let's move on. The next student council, this little s.o.b. comes to the student council meeting. He's now back on campus a while later on. And he comes to the student council and he's accusing me, now you've got to recognize, I was the first Jew elected to president of a class in the history of the university ... in my freshman class. So he says, " You're not ... for Jews and this and that and that." Well, not being adjusted to human life or normal life, I went after him. [laughs] And I was ready to beat him up physically. And thank goodness Bart Klion and a few others that were on the council grabbed me and held me back. I was going to beat him up physically, because ... [even] today I'm still very sophomoric in a lot my actions that way. And I went after him and I said, "Don't you ever accuse me. You better check out what I've done as a Jewish student here before you do anything more than that."
There were two of us playing football and ... there was a game on Yom Kippur, Gill (Greenberg?) and myself, so we didn't know what to do about it. So we went to Harvey Harman. ... He said--we didn't know Harvey's background--so Harvey said, "I don't expect you there." That's all he said. He wasn't going to say, "I'm giving you permission." "I don't expect you to be at the game" [was all he said.] Harvey was that kind of ... coach that. ... on the sideline: on the field here, there wasn't a profane word that he didn't know. There wasn't one that, he made truck drivers look like Sunday school teachers. Over here, he was an elder of the church. [laughs] He was an elder of his own church. He was as religious as anybody could be. He was a pistol. So the two of us didn't play that day, and of course there was a story in the Targum later on [about] why we didn't play. ... But you see, times are different. There wasn't anybody, no matter what denomination they were, that objected to us doing it. Today you couldn't do it. You would have fourteen groups castigating the two guys that did it. You know, there'd be two guys, they'd be after the two guys. But Harvey was good that way. ...
JS: When you were here Rutgers still played Princeton.
BM: Yes ... We never won. That was one of my frustrations. I never beat Princeton in football, and in fact I wound up in the penalty box in lacrosse. ... What happened was we're playing Princeton, and I'm the second string goalie because you see we had spring practice and we couldn't play lacrosse until your senior year. So I went out for lacrosse in my senior year, and I made it as second string goalie. And now, I don't know why I'm in playing against Princeton. And the guy who taught me lacrosse was the dirtiest lacrosse player in America, Joe (DiOrio?), who came from out in Long Island. Joe ... taught me as the goalie. The crease is yours. They come in the crease one time warn them, second time warn them, third time, let him have it. And I never had to use that little philosophy until we're playing Princeton. And I had lost some teeth down at Palmer Stadium, anyway that season, so I wasn't too happy. And sure enough, one of these really Princetonian comes in the crease. Once I warn him, twice, third time I take aim and I catch him in the neck. His helmet went one way, his stick went another way and ... the official comes over and puts me in the penalty box. So Freddie Fitch, who's gone now, he said ... "Hey Manhoff," "Yes, coach?" "You made Rutgers lacrosse history today," "I did coach, really? What did I do coach?" "You're the first goalie to be put in the penalty box in the history of lacrosse." [Laughs] No ... we really had, sports was fine here at Rutgers, and the coaches were good.
JS: One of the things that struck me from reading the old Targums was that the level of support the students gave to the athletic program.
BM: Oh, yes.
JS: Which you don't see today.
BM: No, no. And it aggravates me. It really aggravates me. It truly aggravates me. ... We have season tickets for football and basketball, and basketball I bought mine while they were building it. So we're in 104 ... ideal seats, absolutely ideal seats. And in football, we have at home, our seats are on about the 48 or the 49 [yard line,] up where we want to be. At the Meadowlands ... one seat is here the 50 [yard line] is here, the other seat is here. So we're dyed-in-the-wool season ticket holders, and it aggravates me when I see basketball or even football, not supported now the new stands are going to pull the kids out, [because] of some of the teams you're going to see have nation recognition. I think you're going to see an upbeat in attendance at football. When Syracuse comes here and people like that comes here to play, they'll come out. ... I think people have been using too much of an excuse that we should show better teams. I think a lot of it is plain apathy.
JS: Tickets are free, I mean.
BM: That's right, I mean, that's unbelievable. And bus transportation up to the Meadowlands sometimes is free. I mean it's unbelievable that they don't show.
KP: Did you know that you wanted to become a teacher again when you got to Rutgers?
BM: Yeah, at that point, I did. ... My original life goal was to be a lawyer. That was my original life goal. I wanted to be a lawyer. But in those days you had seven years, no cutting it short. Four [years] pre-law and three of law and then there's this and that and that. So I knew I didn't have the time to do that, I had too much responsibility to do that. So the next [profession] dealing with people was being in the field of education, that way.
JS: When you started in Newark, you started in recreation.
BM: Yes ... Well ... again, [laughs] quirks, quirks happen. George Docket, rest in peace, he was ... phys ed head of the department, he was advisor, he was everything. There was only maybe twenty of us in the whole phys ed course. "Take the Newark exam," he says. "I want to see how you guys do." ... And the Newark exam read, "physical education recreation teacher". So we figured we'd take the exam, we'd get on a list, we'll get a phys ed job. No, that exam we were taking was to create a list of recreation directors. But it was all one thing. It was all the same salary schedule and everything just the same. It's just that the hours were three to nine. So we took the exam and I came out way in the top of the list; I think I was third on the list. And at that time, I was just starting my master's anyway. So I was able to work it out. So I went in as a recreation director, but what I was doing was I was teaching and coaching at Newark Rutgers ... from nine a.m. to about two. And then we had matches of some sort and I worked my recreation position. And then I added to that Irvington High School. I had three sessions so that is seven a.m. to nine a.m. sessions. I was substituting then. That's why when I do counseling now with the kids that want to go into education, I say, "It's a much better profession I only need two outside jobs to survive." [laughs] We had five. ... That was how I got into recreation, I got into that and then I took the reexam all over again, so we got added to the phys ed list.
And then in '50, I was down here, first of all, before I went to Newark, I was on the staff with Harvey Harmon as a volunteer; I was helping down here. But we were not teaching or anything like that. So then I went in, I took the job in Newark in recreation in '49, I guess or in '50 and then in '55, we took the exam again. In '56, the list came out and there was an opening at Cleveland Junior High School. I was assistant coach at both ... Weequahic first, when I came out of school I was doing my master's. I was assistant coach there, and I was assistant coach at Central. So I had three years assistant coach and I put in for a job that opened at East Side, so I was sent down to East Side there. And then I had some successes and we started to get offers to move to suburbia. Nutley would call me up and say, "We're going to have an opening as the head coach." Because they found out I was running an ultra, ultra-successful program, I had a Parents' Association, not a father and son; I wouldn't buy a father and son because they're too tough on you. ... They don't mind their own business, but you got the mothers involved, you're in pretty good shape. So I had a Parents' Association, a very successful one. Then my college placement with my kids was outstanding. I had kids that went to college, didn't know how to spell the word college when I found them. When I discovered them in their junior or even their senior year. One guy became the vice-principal of ... Clifford Scott, up in East Orange, Tom King. When I met Tom as a junior, I don't think he knew how to spell the word college. I wound up sending him off to college and he played at a couple of different colleges around. ... Frank Grant, I sent him, he was the first black to ever go out to Colorado, not School of Mines, but the University of Colorado at Boulder. The college out there and he played for them and did very well. Then he played for the Redskins too.
But we had ... a phenomenal program. I had 200 kids playing football at East Side. ... Rules allowed 70 people insured. Weequahic's having trouble getting 70 kids to come out so maybe they had 30. So I'd say to guy at central office, "Give me his 40 insurance." [Laughs] If West Side didn't have their full complement, whatever the number was. So I got the insurance around that I had 200 kids playing football. And we did a couple of weird things. Not weird things, interesting things. We took games down the shore, Atlantic City, where we stayed overnight, you know, and it used to kill other coaches because they didn't know how to do it. They didn't want to do it, or whatever it was. I used to send a scout to the game purposely, see, and he'd come down to the field and he'd say to ... the coach at Weequahic and he'd say, "Lou, what do you think of that Bert? He's down at Atlantic City having a good time and he wouldn't take me. He sent me to scout the game." ... Well I just wanted to rub it in that we were down in Atlantic City. Because the city would say now, "Bring back any money on the guarantee you don't use." Yup, you had as much chance of getting money on that if I had to buy souvenirs for the kids on the way home. But we were playing overnight games and we had ... a great program down there and I still, it's amazing ... the contacts I still have with the kids that played for me at East Side because of what the program we ran.
The funniest thing of all was they announced my appointment in May, and I had a meeting with the kids in June and now this is for September. The phone rings and I'm living on a third floor walk up on Schuler Avenue and the calendar is over the phone with the days, see and there's a voice. "Manhoff?" "Yes." "What are you going to be doing on October the tenth?" I'll pick a day out of the air. I say, "Just a minute." I go over to the calendar and I see it's Yom Kippur. So I said, "My team will be practicing, but I won't be there, because it's my holy holiday. Good bye." And I hang up. [Laughs] We now have the dinner in December, the season is over and some guy comes up, nineteen foot tall and 400 pounds and he said, "Did you have a phone call, a strange phone call?" And I didn't remember it for a minute, I said, "What happened?" He tells me a whole story, he says, "That was me, because if you weren't a good practicing Jew..." Now he was Catholic through and through, he says, "My kid would have never played for you." That's how strong ... [laughs] I says, God almighty. And the kid was good; he was good.
And we did a lot of things down there that were interesting. In fact, one year that I ... had a back surgery so I was out, we went from our good record to a four [and] five. Until ... we got there, they were always four and five--never got over a four-four-one. But we gave them eight and ones, eight and ones, and seven and twos. So we had four and five that year, and they hung my assistant coach in effigy in front of East Side High School. That's the only high school that I knew in Newark that knew the word effigy, never mind that they hung somebody in effigy. [laughs] But the parents were so supportive and stuff. The first day we practiced, the very first day, practice was over and Vic Gonzales, who later became the head coach and director of athletics at Irvington High School, and Vic was walking in front of his father's about this big and Vic's about this big. And the father's pounding on him. So I got to go up and hear what's going on. So he says, "Next time you don't listen to the man, I breaka you head." [Laughs] Because I had criticized Vic ... So the next day, I said, "Vic, how did you make out?" He said, "He kept it up all night, coach." [Laughs] Oh, well, that was a good experience, too, down there.
JS: You stayed in Newark until the late '60s, correct?
BM: Yeah, I moved up to Parsippany Hills in '69, I think.
JS: So you were in Newark when the city changed.
BM: Oh, yeah, yeah. Well, let me put it this way. It was changing, as far as administrators go. They abolished the promotion exam. See, my life's career had been planned. I wanted to go take the promotion exam, get to be either a v[ice] p[rincipal], or a director of athletics ... and coach football and then I owned a summer camp, which was paying all my real bills. That was sending my kid to Yale and Colgate. So I wanted to get to be an administrator, but then they abolished the promotion exam, and you were either black or Italian or you weren't going to go anywhere. So I started to entertain invitations, and people knew that if you wanted Bert Manhoff to interview for a job, you put his name into the group of finalists and then he'll apply. And they knew this, because I had a great job and they knew this, and I wasn't going to give it up. So I get calls. ... One was Nutley and I go to Nutley for the interview and they like everything. They like my parent program, they like my college program. Oh, they loved it. Well, what would you like for a salary? I said, "Match present income." I underlined the word income. So one of the guys on the board, didn't think clearly enough, he said, "What does that mean?" I said, "Well, I teach, I represent a sporting goods store in Elizabeth; I teach religious school, and I teach at the college. Combine all four of those and that's my income and I want to match the income, because I'm going to have to give up the three to take the job here." ... [They wanted to know] what ... that ... [added] up to. Whatever the number was and everybody gets as white as the sheet. [laughs] And they said, "Our principal doesn't draw that much." And I remembered reading about Bear Bryant, when somebody pulled that at one of the colleges, they said the president doesn't make that much. ... He said, "What was his record last year?" ... I knew I was out now, I said to him, "What was his record last year?" And they didn't know what [to say]. ... They didn't know how to handle it. The Nutley citizens didn't know how to handle that one and didn't know how to handle that one at all.
And then I took one in Bloomfield and Joe Bogus was the director of athletics. He wanted me to have the job. He knew what job I could do, and it would make him look good as the director of athletics. So I'm taking the interview and we get all done and I'm very favorable. There's two others, finalists. One from Virginia and one from Massachusetts, we're the three finishers. Oh, no, and also Kenny Karl from up in ... someplace in Jersey. So we turned to take our interviews and the one guy says to me, Lester Rice says to me, he's the principal on the committee, "How's your relationship with the principal?" I said, "Professionally or personally?" [laughs] I said, "Professionally you see in front of you ... Personally I have nothing to do with him." [Laughs] He said, "Well I understood that that ... Well let me ask you a question. If you want to put a policy in, what will you do?" I said, "My first thing is I would go to Joe (Bogus?) and ask permission for me to bring it to you, Mr. Rice." "All right, now I turn it down, what will you do?" I said, "Do I believe in this policy?" "Yes." I said, "I will go back to Joe (Bogus?) and ask if I can take it to the committee." "Well, supposing the committee comes to me and I still turn it down." "Okay. I go through Mr. B ..." Poor Joe is dying there, because the collar's getting tighter on him. I said, "We'll go through him and we'll go to the athletic committee on the Board of Education." "Well, suppose I get them to turn it down too, what will you do?" I said, "Do I believe in the change. I'll put it into effect." [Laughs] That was it, that was my interview there. Kenny Karl gets in and they say to him, "What's unique about your coaching technique?" He said, "The first thing I do is collect all the car keys. ... Everybody that drives a car that's going to play in the football program on any level, they give me the keys for the season. He was out the door. [laughs] Each of us got some reason ... to be [eliminated]. ... They took a guy from Bayonne, Sam Cavalero; he's now dead. Sam was so glad to get out of Bayonne he would have come in there and shined shoes in Bloomfield for them to do it. So I took quite a few interviews in those days, because I knew that, and I kept coaching at East Side.
But then Bernie (Packen?), who was a Rutgers man, went up there to be the principal and they were going to start football there and he said, "There's only one coach I want, I want Bert Manhoff here." So they called me and they said, "Would you like to come up?" And I set my own conditions. Everything I wanted ... [was given] to me and that was why I moved up there in '69.
I think we ... broke a New Jersey school record. We were the first school to play a full schedule and win more than they lost the first year the season was open. We were six and three. ... There were some good kids. We worked them in shape. So after two years, it got a little heavy too, so my wife said, "You got to pack it in. It's getting a little too heavy." I said, "Well ... if I do, I'll go down an help scout at Rutgers." She said, "Alright, I'd rather see you do that, than what you're doing there. So I turned in at the end of two years and they're hiring the guy and I called him in and I said, "Look, this will be the third year of the team," maybe the fourth, I said, "They are ready to win. Just use my system. Let them play what we've been playing. ... If you want to do things different, do it with the JV or throw in one or two of your own things. He converted out of our system into a double wing T, a double slot T that you couldn't work if you were on the college level. And he went from our seven and two, he went to an zero and eight. Now those are the stories.
KP: Did you have any ambivalence about leaving Newark? Your family has deep roots in Newark.
BM: You mean moving my body or profession?
BM: Well, bodily, no, no. I didn't hesitate for a minute, because housing-wise I had a simple philosophy, my wife and I both had a simple philosophy, whatever neighborhood we moved into, if the people on both sides of us are going to live up to the standards that we live up to, be it economic, be it moral, that's fine. I don't care who they are or what they are. So that didn't make a problem as far as moving socially out of there. I picked Livingston because, if we went to Westfield, but I was still teaching at East Side and that would have meant I'd have to ride [Route] 22 and I wouldn't ride 22. That's exactly why I didn't buy in Westfield. I wouldn't drive on ... 22, I was afraid of it, absolutely petrified of it, and I wouldn't drive on it. That's why we went to look in Livingston. And we bought a nice house in Livingston, and the school system was good, police and fire were good. And we were very satisfied. We're there 40 + some-odd years now. ... Professionally, I had no problem with that either ... I felt that I had paid my dues to Newark very, very adequately. I didn't owe them anything at all. But as I say, I owed Rutgers much more than I owed Newark.