Sandra Stewart Holyoak: This begins an interview with on August 21, 2006, in New Brunswick, New Jersey with John Alden Frost. Could you tell me when and where you were born?
John Frost: I was born February 7, 1945 on the Eglin Air Force Base down ... in the panhandle of Florida. My dad was there as an ... Army Air Corps staff sergeant, stationed there with my mom, Ruth. He was George Purves Frost. She is Ruth Buck Roberts Frost. ...
SH: Could you tell us about your father's background?
JF: ... Dad was born December 12, 1916, and he was born in Summit, New Jersey. He was the second of four children to ... Ellinwood Alden Frost and ... Mildred Marot Purves. ... Grandfather Frost ... had a very interesting background. ... Granddad was the oldest of seven and his father was Henry Weston Folger Frost. ... Great Grandfather Frost was a Christian missionary who spent the 1890s going back and forth between the US and China. ... His home base was in Toronto, Canada, which is relevant to me later on. ... During the 1920s, when Henry Weston retired, he lived in Princeton where he taught, and was granted a Doctor of Religion from Princeton, and he wrote numerous books. ... Dad used to tell me that as a child, that they'd go down there to Princeton and they were not allowed to make any noise, these young children, because his grandfather was writing books in the study. ... These books, I have many of them at home. ... It's amazing to me given what we have today on the internet and word processing. ... [laughter] He did everything obviously with one single light bulb and a piece of paper and reference books. ... His books are very detailed in terms of their theological background. ... Every statement he made was followed by a scriptural reference, ... it was just amazing to me that. ... These are not thin books, and he dealt with very deep subjects like who was the Holy Spirit. ... I'm very proud of these books and I confess, I haven't read them all. [laughter]
SH: Did he teach at the Princeton Theological Seminary?
JF: ... I'd have to ask. Well, I have one remaining aunt from that generation. My dad died in '92, and he had three sisters--an older sister, and two younger sisters--and there's one remaining sister. ... Maybe my mom might know. I was led to believe that he did. ... He went to Princeton as an undergraduate. He was a member of the Ivy Club, I do have a photograph of that. ... As a youth, he lived in upstate New York in Attica, and his father Malon Smith Frost was president of the Attica Waterworks. ... I guess the other thing about my great grandfather is that during the '20s, he went to England a number of times and did family research. So, I have in my possession a typewritten copy ... [with] at least a paragraph of information on every single Frost going back to--that's another thing I have to check--but from my memory I think it's 1100, and without a break. He's gotten every single one of them. So, again that's something very precious. ... Our family came over from England in 1635. Edmund Frost was one of the founders of Harvard. ... I've got this document, so that would be something that I would want to, I think, offer up at some point. ...
SH: Your father was born in Summit. Was your whole family in China as part of the missionary activities?
JF: No, no. That's another part of the story and there's a book called By Faith, I don't know if you're familiar with the history of Christianity going to China, but a gentleman named ... Hudson Taylor, in the 1850s, had a vision of taking Christianity to China, and he believed in never asking for a dime, you know, like many of the organizations today are constantly bombarding you with requests for funds. He believed that God would provide by faith. ... The other thing that he did, I think that was unique, was instead of going in and trying to "Westernize" the Chinese, he believed that he should go "native" and he had his hair cut, with the pony tail on the back, and wore the straight black Chinese dress. ... My understanding is that Great Grandfather did that as well. So, Great Grandfather met him I think in the late ... 1880s, and felt called to go. ... I'm not sure about all these things, but from what I understand at that point he had the seven children and they were in Toronto, Canada, and he would leave them there. ... Again, with no funding, not a big bank account, and they moved a lot because they were constantly being given homes to live in. So, my grandfather grew up in a number of different places, and, you know, led to a very chaotic ... growing up on his part. I got a good bit of information from his brother, Inglis Folger Frost, who was my Uncle Jack. He lived until 1982. So, my brother and I got to interview him a good bit. ... Grandfather died when I was here at Rutgers in '65, I think it was. ... At that point, I really wasn't interested in family history, so my brother and I did get to meet with Uncle Jack quite a bit in his latter years, and, of course, his memories were more of the early years, you know, but I guess because of Great Grandfather, my Grandfather then ended up going to Princeton Seminary and the story is that he preached two sermons and then felt that wasn't for him. So, the rest of his life he was sort of itinerant, and he just kind of worked in different places, and so that led to a lot of moves for my dad, and at one point during the Depression because he was out of work, they went back to Toronto and they split the family. My dad and his oldest sister went to Toronto, and the two younger girls stayed with their mother in NJ. ... They lived there in Toronto, and my dad went to a prep school there called Upper Canada College, and that's ultimately why I went there after my sophomore year at Morristown High. I ended up going up there for my last two years and then coming here. ... I like to say I have a master's degree, an MBA, without a high school diploma because in those days, the Canadian form of education was five years of high school, and three years of university. ... High school was called college and college was called university. ...
SH: Let us talk about your father. As you said, he moved around a lot.
JF: ... They were back and forth between Toronto and New Jersey; in the Summit, Morristown, Basking Ridge area.
SH: What was your grandfather doing?
JF: Just various jobs; ... friends I think gave him jobs. When I knew him, he was at that point, you know, "retired." ... I remember, as kids we were not allowed to participate in adult discussions, we were sent to another room, but Dad and his sisters and their spouses would all be sitting together and figuring out [how to support him]. ... They all kicked in money, I know, to support Granddad in his latter years. ... Family took care of family. Didn't worry about Medicare, you know, homes, and those kinds of things. He died in Mendham. He was living in a small house right on Route 24. ...
SH: Could you tell us about your father's education?
JF: Again because of these movings, ... I'm not sure where they were. Summit, they went to Toronto, [and] he did like seventh and eighth and maybe ninth grade in Toronto. Then he came back to Morristown, he went to Morristown Prep and I guess because they felt that the Canadian system was ahead of the US, that he was jumped a grade so that he only did like two years at Morristown Prep and graduated when he was sixteen. ... Because he was young, his mother did not want him to go to college. So, he ended up never going to college and he started working to help support the family. ... He started working when he was like seventeen, and then he ended up working for McKesson & Robbins ... later--who knows what it is today--for forty-four years. ... I know that he was never compensated as his peers were because of the lack of the college education. But we never lacked for anything, I mean, Dad, I don't know how they did it. ...
SH: Did he ever talk about his experience in the military during World War II?
JF: ... He didn't go overseas. ... He was a staff sergeant, and he was on the flight line ... refueling, maintaining aircraft. ... Eglin was, you know, a preparation pilot training place, still is today, you know, in preparation for going overseas. ... There are two things, I guess. They got married in October of '43, and so I was born in February of '45. So, sometime during late '44, early '45, prior to my birth, he was scheduled to go up in a flight and he was late arriving, and the plane went up without him and crashed upon take off. So, that was one blessing, and the other thing that happened was that, I was due, I guess on Valentine's Day, and he was scheduled to have CQ duties--Charge of Quarters--that night. ... You stay up all night and you answer the phones, and so he switched to February 7th so that he could be there with Mom on the 14th. Well, I came a week early, and he was doing duty, so he was not there, but my grandmother, Mom's mom, my "Nana" who lived in Basking Ridge, was there at the time and so she drove Mom to the hospital. ... Nana was a nurse too, so she had good care. ... The military piece of World War II, the more really interesting stuff, comes from my wife's side. ... Her brother, Kirk Conover, class of '76--she's Douglass '68--so I don't know whether you're going to do more people, but Kirk would actually, you know, he would tell you more details. ... Her father was a tail gunner, and he was shot down over Germany, and jumped out, and his parachute failed to open, and I guess he landed in a tree, which broke his fall, but also broke all the bones in his body. ... He was lying there on the ground and the German people came up and started kicking him and stoning him, as you would expect, and the German soldiers came and rescued him, took him to a hospital, and the German doctors and nurses put him back together, fused his bones--his back--before that kind of thing was done. ... He was in the hospital all this time and the German nurses sat there and massaged his hands, and then ... he recovered and [was] put into a POW camp. ... He marched, I don't know the number of times, but back and forth from South Germany to North Germany, back and forth several times, and, you know, in the snow and, you know, with no shoes, and eating potato skins and that kind of stuff, and made it through, and came home, and I'm glad he did because I wouldn't have had my wife. [laughter] So, then he came home, and her mother never knew that he was alive. ... He was just counted as missing in action [MIA], and the war ended, and because he was so emaciated they sent him to Colorado to build him up a little bit. ... So, it was another six months after the war, she still didn't know that he was alive. ... Then he just showed up one day. Now can you imagine that? ... She wrote every single day and, of course, never heard anything, but she was faithful in that, and then her father, of course, he gets home and says, you know, "You never wrote." ... She said, "I did," and then some other period of time went by, and then one day all these letters were returned. So, it proved to him that she had written everyday.
SH: Did the family keep the letters?
JF: ... I think they're up in Mother's attic, which is, you know, not air-conditioned or anything else, and Bonnie and I would like to get up there. ... One day, we did some cleaning. I'm pretty sure that they are there. So, Kirk Conover is somebody you want to talk to.
SH: You wife's father is deceased now?
JF: Yes, he died in '94 from cancers. ... He was a painter, so he spent ... the rest of his time doing physical labor and everything else, and towards the end he got arthritic and he was certainly hunched over. ... Amazing story, so that's one you want to get a hold of, and Kirk was an assemblyman from South Jersey, ... has lost the last election and so is not in office now, but he was a Henry Rutgers Scholar too by the way, very proud of him, and he was a baseball pitcher, star pitcher. ... I'm very proud of my wife, who's Douglass '68, and I can talk about her all day.
SH: Please talk about your mother and her family history.
JF: ... She was born September 30th, 1919, and she's coming up on eighty-seven. ... She's currently living at the Fellowship Village here in Basking Ridge, close to us. She was born in Baltimore, but her mother ... was from Basking Ridge as well, and her husband Mr. Buck, ... he lived in Baltimore, and he died before Mom was born. So, he died probably that summer of 1919. So, when Mom was born, she had no father. Nana was a school teacher and a nurse. ... I guess in 1921 or so, Nana married Mr. Roberts, who was president of the Bernardsville National Bank, First National Bank of Bernardsville, a very wealthy man, very influential in the area, [and] a devout Presbyterian. ... I guess he owned a home on the corner of North Maple and Lees Hill Road there at the edge of Basking Ridge. ... Certainly, in those days you called that a mansion; today it's just a two story old house. [laughter] ... Today, it's a Montessori School, right next to the Basking Ridge Country Club. ... The Basking Ridge Country Club was all his property, and he had a farm there. So, Mom essentially grew up knowing him as her father, and playing there. Because of his wealth, he actually had a movie camera, and we had these movies, had a bunch of these old things, and we had them made onto DVDs, and so we have those. ... Because of his position and wealth, mom had a very nice childhood as an only child. ... So, we have pictures of her sledding and things down this hill there, and she grew up on this beautiful farm, and then he died. They did a lot of traveling, so ... in her nine to thirteen years, she did a lot of international traveling, and they went to India and Egypt and Switzerland. ... We have pictures and movies of that. So, she had a very nice upbringing. Then, she went to Kent Place School in Summit, and then she went to Swarthmore College. So, she's a college graduate and Dad wasn't. ... Mr. Roberts died in '32, and they moved out of that big house into a smaller house on Rankin Avenue in Basking Ridge. ... If you know Basking Ridge, I mean it's one of those [towns that] today even, that you can still walk to the downtown, and the Presbyterian Church is at the head of the square there. ... They used to walk to church, and one of the various houses that the Frost's lived in was over in Basking Ridge. ... Dad and his sisters would walk to church as well, and the sisters got to know Mom, and so that's how she was introduced to Dad, and they used to walk down the main street of Basking Ridge together to go to church. They ended up getting married there in that church. I was baptized there, and so they were married in October of '43, and then I think, Dad, he had been either called or drafted or whatever, and then they went down to Florida from there. I think that's their story, I think I have that pretty right.
SH: What was your mother's degree from Swarthmore in?
JF: I have no idea, but at least we can find that out. [laughter]
SH: Did she ever work outside of the home?
JF: Yes, ... she did. She worked in downtown New York for some period of time. ... I'd have to get more information on that.
SH: Women with college degrees during this time period are not common. It is interesting to see what opportunities were available for them as a result of higher education.
JF: In regards to the war, in '39, she and some Swarthmore classmates took a transatlantic ocean trip. They were going across the Atlantic and I think war was declared ... and they had to turn around and come back. So, that's how she was touched by the war. ... She was still in college then. ... The local newspaper had an article and a picture of the girls on the ship there. ...
SH: This is extremely interesting. Please continue.
JF: ... The other ... part of the family tree--my middle name is Alden, and Great-Grandfather again did the historical research to find our link back to John and Priscilla Alden. So, my oldest aunt, ... Aunt Priscilla, she was Priscilla Alden Frost, and my grandfather was Ellinwood Alden Frost. ... The Alden's go back, I think all the way to Bass. ... The offspring of John and Priscilla was Ruth Alden, and she married Samuel Bass, ... then a Bass married a Frost. ... It comes down from Bass, and then links in with Frost, and so that's how we're connected.
SH: You mentioned that your mother worked in New York. Where did she live when your father joined the service?
JF: She went back home there to Rankin Avenue with Grandmother. ...
SH: Did your mother stay with your father in Florida?
JF: Oh, yes. ...
SH: During the war?
JF: Yes, because it was essentially a "six to six" kind of a job, you know. He did his duties during the day, and came home, and they lived in ... a little trailer kind of a thing in the Okefenokee Swamp. [laughter] ... Obviously, Florida wasn't built up in those days and that was up in the panhandle. ...
SH: Housing was very scarce during the war, especially for the soldiers and their families.
JF: Yes. ... Dad was called into service and they went down to Florida, but that was the only place he was stationed. ... I think he did go somewhere for training and Mom stayed there in Basking Ridge and then when he finished his training, then they went to Florida. ... Again, I'd say we were fortunate that he ... didn't go overseas.
SH: Did he use the GI Bill?
JF: No. ... I mean when he got out in '45, you know, I was born and then they came back ... to Basking Ridge and they lived with Nana, and then they bought their home in New Vernon, the next town over. ... So, that's where I grew up. So, whether they used the GI Bill to buy that house or not, I don't know. I could ask Mom.
SH: What your earliest memories of growing up in New Vernon?
JF: ... Again, a lot of those memories come from photographs, you know, the tiny ... 1x1s or 2x2s. I have those. [laughter] So, my sister was born eighteen months after me and then there was a gap of ... seven years when my two younger brothers were born. So, Sally and I essentially grew up together. ... Then when my brothers were born, ... I was in kindergarten when Chip was born, and first grade when Bill was born. So, you know, I was just that much ahead of them. My memories of New Jersey, of life, I remember certainly there were harsher winters, longer winters. We skated essentially from the beginning of November till February or March, and there was sufficient time of no snow that we'd have the ice and we had four places to skate. We had, right at the end of Sand Spring Road, our road, the New Vernon pond, and then later on they built a separate ice skating rink. So, we had both the pond and the rink. There was Silver Lake over towards Madison, and then there was Mount Kemble Lake, which was a residential community around a man-made lake. ... We had those places to skate and so, of course, our skating was nothing. ... When I went up to Toronto thinking that I could skate, [laughter] you know, my ankles were on the ice compared to what those guys did. ... Across the street from us was a huge field, there was a horse farm and a big hill, and actually Bill Simon, former Secretary of the Treasury, I don't think he still lives there, and this wasn't until the seventies or whatever when he bought that property and built a huge house up there, but when I was growing up it was, to us, it was un-owned. ... Everybody in the community would come there to toboggan. ... I remember, you know, with snow up to my knees, and trudging up there and, you know, the big Christmas gift one year was a six-seat toboggan, and we'd spend the whole day up there, and so, you know, that kind of our outdoor activities. We didn't have a TV till 1960, I don't think, in our house. In '54, the people across the street moved in, came from Illinois, and a wonderful family called the Coffins. ... They had four children, and Tuck was a year ahead of me. ... We played together all the time. So, they had a TV. ... So, we'd go--the Frost kids, all four of us--would go running over there, you know, we'd be over there in the afternoon, we'd watch the Mickey Mouse Club show (1955-1959) and then at six o'clock, we'd dash home because Mom would be standing there, "Get home for supper". ... We had a long driveway, and so I remember, you know, running down the driveway to get in for supper. The summers were great because again, New Vernon pond in those days, today it's contaminated, and you don't swim in it anymore, but in those days we could swim there. ... Over at Mount Kemble Lake ... there were a lot of young ladies in my class. I enjoyed their company, and so I would remember riding my bike, I mean we always rode bikes everywhere, the roads were safe, and riding my bike over there, which was certainly a good four or so mile hike, and just to be with a particular young lady. We rode bikes to school everyday, I mean, you know, we were healthy, there weren't any fat or overweight people. ... It's just the lifestyle. You weren't sitting around the TV, eating popcorn.
SH: Where did you go to grade school?
JF: Harding Township School. Dad was president of the board there for a number of years. I think that was after I got out of it, but I went there for kindergarten through eight grade, I went to Peck School over in Morristown for nursery school one year, and then to Harding Township School. ... Those were great years. I remember we had a field day in essentially the last week of May every year, and there was no class, and all kinds of athletic events and I was always ... the most athletic in the class. ... I remember coming home, Mom was in the hospital that day, was the 31st of May, my brother Chip was born, and I came home with three blue ribbons, and gave them to Dad, and he took them into the hospital to show to Mom.
SH: What a nice memory.
JF: ... We had soccer, and again our soccer was nothing like it is today. Soccer, basketball, and baseball were the three sports that we played there. ... I was captain of all the teams in eighth grade, and I was president of the student council and president of the band and sang in the chorus, and, you know, I just did everything.
SH: What instrument did you play?
JF: Trumpet. ... We went to Morristown High, we were a sending district, and can't remember whether I made it through the second year or not, but I was in the marching band. I didn't play football, ... so I was in the marching band freshman year at Morristown. I played basketball and baseball there. ... After sophomore year, ... in Dad's mind, I was slumming it in my studies and he said, "Son, I think you need a little discipline," and, "how'd you like to go away to school?" ... I can remember I sort of shrugged my shoulders, and said, "Yes, it sounds okay." ... "I'll send you to prep school up in Toronto." So, that's how that happened. ...
SH: Was there family still in Toronto?
JF: ... It turns out that Dad's sister--the number three in that family--my Aunt Bet, Elizabeth Reichart, ... that her husband was with American Cyanamid, I think, and he was transferred up there and so I had family there. ... The eldest cousin was Lee, and he was a year younger than I, and he was away at prep school, and then they had two younger daughters and I would go up and baby sit for them. So, I had a family connection, but that's not originally why I went.
SH: Was it tough to go away?
JF: I don't think so. ... I felt it was tougher going from Harding, where I was top dog, to Morristown High, where there was suddenly twelve hundred kids. ... My class was thirty, and suddenly there are twelve hundred kids, and, you know, there's three hundred in your class. I think I had a harder time adjusting to that. So, once I'd done that, then to go away, you know, get back into a smaller school, you know, it was all guys, there were no girls in the class to distract you. ... They called it battalion, where you actually dressed up a uniform and drilled Wednesday afternoon. So that sort of prepared me for, you know, when I came down here, I signed up for ROTC. I mean I always felt that my duty, I can remember goes back to history in sixth or seventh grade, and reading a paragraph that every American is expected, you know, it's part of your heritage as being American that you should serve your country for six years, you know, four active and two reserve, or some combination thereof. ... That was always part of my psyche, I guess, or just part of my future, that I would do my military service. So, coming from Canada, and having marched, and sort of had that discipline already, ... just going into ROTC at Rutgers and putting on a uniform and marching Wednesday afternoons was, you know, no big deal. ...
SH: When you were in Toronto, did you come home in the summer?
JF: Yes, ... I'd come home for vacations, and I came home Christmas.
SH: Did you have a job in the summer?
JF: Oh, yes. ... I always went to camp. That was another part of growing up. I always went to the Morris YMCA at that time, it was up in Mount Olive. It was Camp Morris, a nice camp on a lake. So, that is another memory of always being outdoors, camping.
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SH: Please continue.
JF: ... Camp Morris, I used to go there. ... I was always a Boy Scout, I started in Cub Scouts and went through all of that. ... Every summer I went to two camps. I would do Camp Morris and then I went to Allamuchy for Boy Scout camp and starting at age ... fourteen I ... started as a counselor at Camp Morris, ... first as a counselor in training, CIT, and then junior counselor and then senior counselor. ... All through those high school years, I was at a camp, and then ... I went down to Island Heights to the Presbyterian Camp, so I would have a week there. Yes, it's a little fuzzy, but it was certainly a week there, it a week in Allamuchy with the Boy Scouts and then there was time at the Y Camp. That was usually two weeks, I think. ... They were all sleep over deals, so I got into enjoying the outdoors, but then through high school I was a counselor, you know, for the whole summer at Camp Morris. ... Continuing on that vein, after freshman year at Rutgers, I got a job at a camp up in New Hampshire, Holiday Trails, and so that was an all summer camp. ... Sophomore summer, I was swimming coach at ... the Basking Ridge Country Club, ... right there on the property that my mom grew up on. [laughter] ... That was a fun experience. I coached, and we were 8-0 that summer. ... Then junior summer, I did ROTC summer camp, four weeks up at Otis Air Force Base in Cape Cod. ... Then, Dad gave me a gift of going to Europe for six weeks. So, I spent six weeks there in my junior summer traveling around Europe, and there are some funny stories there. [laughter] ... Senior year, I graduated and went off to the Air Force. So, those were summers, but the summers were always full and I never lacked for things to do.
SH: Did you continue as a Boy Scout in Canada?
JF: No, that ended. Yes, I stopped. ... I wasn't one of those who continued on with that.
SH: Why did you decide to go to Rutgers after going to school in Toronto?
JF: I can't say that it was my first choice. [laughter] Let's put that on the table, but very happy with the choice. You know, Dad not having gone to college, and being up there, and most of my classmates up there were all, you know, staying for the fifth year. ... That's one of those reflections, you know, ... should I have stayed and done the fifth year and then come down. ... There were a number of prep school people from the States who came up there to prep, and then go on to Yale and Princeton and so on. So, that trend was just starting. ... My picture of my future was, you know, four [years], move on. ... My decision, ... I was doing it in a vacuum, I guess that's where I was going with that, and, you know, I got the book and flipped through it and looked at all the colleges. ... I was focused on, I would say, small men's schools. So, my first choice was Davidson. ... It must have been the spring of my junior year, maybe on Easter break or something like that, when I came down and Dad and I drove south and went to Davidson. Now, at that point, I also thought I would play football because when I went to Canada, then I did play football. They didn't have baseball, so I went out for football, played football for the two years there. ... I was the captain of the basketball team. ... I couldn't play hockey, played basketball and, of course, they couldn't play basketball, so I was the star. [laughter]
SH: That is when you decided you could not skate?
JF: Yes, that was very clear right from the beginning. [laughter] I was thinking then that, you know, at that level, Division Three or whatever, that I could play football. So, Davidson and Hampden-Sydney, and we didn't see that many, I don't even remember where else we went if we did go anywhere else. I remember we were stopped by a policeman driving down through Virginia somewhere for speeding, and I had my first "grits." So, you know, I can't think of the movie name but, you know, when Joe Pesci [in My Cousin Vinny (1992)] says, "What's a grit?" That was me too, you know, they served you the plate ... and I said, "What's this?" ... Now, I love them, of course, and go out of my way to find them. ... I picked Bucknell, I guess, because, "Well, I'll throw in a coed school," I don't know, and Rutgers. ... I don't know that I even came for a visit. I really didn't do a lot of searching. ... It just, again, wasn't in the family history. ... Certainly in those days I don't think I did the kind of preparation and work and study and looking at what we did with our daughters, I mean, it's unbelievable.
SH: Guidance counseling was not as extensive as it is now.
JF: Oh, no. ... We have two girls, and my wife went with each one of them, I mean, they went to nine or twelve schools, you know. It was unbelievable these trips they'd take. ... They planned out week long trips, I didn't go on them, I was working. So, my wife went with them, and they would stop at, you know, they're driving down the road and they see a sign for a college. [laughter] Anyway, so I did not get into Davidson. I was accepted at Hampden-Sydney to play football, and I was accepted at Rutgers, was not accepted at Bucknell, my grades weren't that great. I reached a point, you know, through eighth grade I was a high honor roll student. Then, when I got to high school, I don't know whatever happened, I just didn't continue an interest in studies I guess. It was more sports and girls. ... Well, Hampden-Sydney, that's a distance and, "Do I really want to go down there?" ... So, I'll go to Rutgers. [laughter] ... I'm glad I did, and I think in the end, now that I think about it, it was more knowing that I didn't want to put any additional, knowing that I had two brothers coming along after me, who were very smart, that I did not want to put extra financial pressure on the family. So, that was in my decision too, that this would be less of a financial burden on the family.
SH: Talk about when you first came to Rutgers and what you got involved with.
JF: ... That's interesting too. I came in the fall of '63, and the big thing that was happening then, I guess, the freshman enrollment was expanding. I don't know if the numbers are right or not but I guess it had been in the nine hundreds or something or other, and it suddenly jumped to over a thousand to eleven hundred or so, and they didn't have enough dorm space, and I was one of the lucky chosen who got to live on Douglass. [Editor's Note: Douglass College, formerly New Jersey College for Women, became the Douglass Residential College, part of the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University, in 2008.]
SH: On Douglass, where were you and the other young men housed?
JF: We were on the first Corwin campus, first horseshoe. ... I was in Corwin "A."
SH: Was it only men housed in your section?
JF: Yes, we had one whole section of guys, and I was on the third floor, and my first roommate left during freshman orientation week, and I got somebody else. ... We were bused back and forth, and we got to eat with the ladies [in] ... Cooper Hall, the dining room. ... Yes, that's why they're called "Coopies." ... We still had to wear dinks in those days, I'm sure they don't today. So, we had our little red dinks with '67 on it.
SH: This was before Neilson Dining Hall.
JF: ... Neilson was new, I think. ...
SH: Did they make you sit separately? How integrated were you with the women?
JF: We were integrated. We had to wear a jacket and tie, and it was white linen. ... There were some girls who were making extra money to waitress. ... We were there only for the first semester, and then transferred over ... to Winants. ... My roommate at that time was Pat Wallace. Pat and I have remained friends to this day. He was from ... Weehawken. ... I was just with him. Unfortunately, his wife passed away recently from cancer and at the memorial service for her, we were reminiscing on this. ... She was his second wife, his first wife was there at the memorial, and she came up and looked at me and I looked at her. ... She knew my wife, and when Bonnie said, "Ellen," I said, "Oh, wow." ... This woman, Ellen, was one of the waitresses at Cooper and Pat and I both took a liking to her. So, during that first semester we were sort of sparring--friendly--for her attention, and when we went across back to Rutgers, I said Pat, you know, "Why don't you ask her out," because they both definitely had that Jersey accent. ... He ended up marrying her. ... At dinner, we got to meet a lot of girls, and that's where I met a sophomore--oh, this is really going back--I tended to, I guess, I enjoyed the company of the sophomores as opposed to the freshmen, and I ended up dating one of those women that I met there, Pam Mullen. ... When we came back from class, we had to put on a jacket and tie, and we'd go down and have dinner down there. So, because of that, ... I was able then to get guys dates--once I got back on Rutgers' campus--I was able to fix up other guys.
SH: At Winants Hall, what was your housing like?
JF: ... Pat and I wanted to room together, and there were three cots. ... It was, you know, one square room, maybe--well certainly a little bit bigger--you know, maybe another door width wide. We were on the first floor facing George Street. ... We had the quad on the other side with the basketball net, and Pat would go out and shoot baskets, I remember. ... There were three of us, and I think the third guy was (Ben Rush?), I think, I'm not sure of that. ... I was bent towards fraternities, Pat was not. So, when we got back over there, then rushing was always, you know, after Christmas, and so we went through rush week, and I ended up pledging at Delta Kappa Epsilon. So, I ended up spending most of my time there. As a pledge, you were required to. ... I was in ROTC, so we put on the uniform and marched every Wednesday afternoon. So I had that, and then I was on the crew team. ... I started rowing in the fall ... in my freshman year, and then we had the matches in the spring. So, I was rowing. ... I wasn't in that room a whole lot. I certainly didn't study there. When I did study, it would have been at the library, or back over at Douglass, and mostly talking. ... I had the meals at the house, so I didn't eat in the Commons, so I really was separated. So, you know, when we come back for reunions--and I've been the reunion chairman ever since the fifth--and guys get talking about these things, I mean, you know, I'm oblivious. ... I really don't have the same kind of memories that the guys who were, you know, not in fraternities and, you know, really living in dorms their freshman year.
SH: How formal was it at your fraternity?
JF: It was formal. We wore a jacket and tie at dinner. ... Our house mother, Judy Tybone, who unfortunately just passed away, she was in her late eighties. She was a wonderful lady, a Dutch Jew who hid during World War II, and ended up getting over here. ... She started as our cook. I think when I first got there, she was the cook, and then our cook left, and our house mother left, and she became house mother and cook, you know, to save money--poor lady. [laughter]
SH: What kind of oversight was there for the fraternities?
JF: The Interfraternity Council, Dean Dobbins; ... I mean, that was one of my extra-curricular activities. I was on the Council junior and senior years. ... I ran for president ... second semester junior year, and lost to Terry Ziegler, a Chi Psi, and so I was vice president, senior year. ... I mean, you know, we governed the fraternities, and everything went well. Now, during that time we went from women not being allowed upstairs, you know, and then we got into being upstairs with the door open, and the "matchbook controversy," and all that stuff. ... Maybe junior year we relaxed it, but, certainly the first couple of years we'd wear a jacket and tie. The house was well-maintained. It's certainly, and is still today, it is in the best position on campus, right there on College Avenue, you know. We maintained the grounds and the house and everything. ... It's very sad to see it today. I was just in it in May and, you know, there is a lot of tradition. The DKE house was one of the oldest, and we had a lot of old portraits of founding brothers and they had the composite pictures, you know, we had them line the walls, and now they're all gone. ... They're trying to resurrect them, but, you know, I don't want to get into all that. [laughter]
SH: It sounds like an interesting history.
JF: Yes, but in those days, to us, it was the fraternity glory days. ... We had the house parties on all the big weekends, and everybody dressed up, and the costumes, and I've got all the party pictures.
SH: Were you an officer within the DKE house?
JF: Yes, starting sophomore year. ... I was recording secretary, and then social chairman, and again, it's a little hazy. ... I should remember whether I was president or not, but again, I think I was again vice president. I think I lost by one vote or some silly thing. I got into the power struggles and junior, senior years, we weren't as close a brotherhood. ... I mean, it's like anything else. ... We had the Plainfield group, ... and who quite frankly were not the best characters, and we had one incident when a guy--didn't rape her--but, you know, he attacked a woman, and we got kicked off for a period of time. ... I'm not saying we're all straight-laced, you know, as much as we wanted to be, but they were fun days. We sang, the DKE's were known for their singing. We had a DKE song book, and we had a prayer before dinner, and then we always sang after dinner, and as a pledge, you know, you had to line up in two lines, and waiting for supper, and the brothers would walk down between you and go in and sit down first. ... Then, you had to jump up and recite the chapter roll, all the DKE Chapters, all the different schools, and, you know, there were the pledge duties that you had to do.
SH: How was the hazing?
JF: You know, we had paddles. They were ceremonial. I certainly was never hit with one and I don't think anybody was. I think our hazing was the right kind. ... Yes, you had to do pushups, you know. ... On "Hell Night," I guess, ... the final night, the final initiation, you know, they made you think you were eating something terrible, but it was an oyster. You know, you had to stay up all night, and they had music blasting and, you know, with the blindfold on, that was the worst it had ever gotten. I mean, I think, people in those days again, people knew there was a line you didn't cross. ... I think the brothers took it seriously. I don't think that they got drunk while this was on, you know, maybe they did, maybe one or two individuals did, but I don't know. We were okay in those days, and unfortunately, DKE ended up getting kicked off in '82. ... I think it was, you know, for doing bad stuff. ... I don't know, kids today are different. They don't have the values, you know, I can get on my soapbox here on this one, [laughter] go back to 1960 with taking prayer out of school. ... When I grew up in Harding Township School, we read a scripture, we read a psalm every morning, we said the "Pledge of Allegiance," and we sang a patriotic song. ... Morristown High, we did the same thing, so it makes a difference no matter what anybody says.
SH: What about crew? How strenuous was the training?
JF: It is certainly different. ... At this memorial service the other night, we got into a discussion about--I'm an avid Yankee fan--and just, you know, the old timers, ... were the Babe Ruths and Mickey Mantles even, were they better players than the players of today, and I said, "No, they weren't." They clearly, they were talented, but they certainly weren't as fast or as aerobic or as well-trained. ... I think there certainly is drinking and carousing on the professional level after, but I mean their travel schedule, they play more games. I don't think they can maintain their level of performance if they were out like Mickey and Yogi and Whitey Ford were out drinking at the Copacabana. I don't think they can do that anymore. ... When they were done in the World Series, they were done, they put their gloves away and went home. So, nowadays, they train year round. So, ballparks are better, you know, all the rest of it, but clearly, and the same as at the college level. ... In those days, we belonged playing Army and Bucknell and those kinds of schools. ... Anyway, to compete, and for me it gave me some training, some discipline. I have a bad memory of it because we were rowing against Princeton and "I caught a crab," which means your oar gets stuck down in the water, and we lost because of that. From that point on, I don't think I was as enthusiastic, and I didn't go back sophomore year. By then, I was a full-time fraternity guy, and did a fair bit of drinking.
SH: What about academics? Who was your favorite professor?
JF: I chose history as a default, I had no burning academic passion. History was interesting to me. ... I always enjoyed the Civil War, and ... we did have a Civil War expert, and so I enjoyed him. I mean, Dr. McCormick was here. [Editor's Note: Richard P. McCormick and his son, Richard L. McCormick, were professors in the History Department. Richard L. McCormick went on to become President of Rutgers University in 2002.] I can't remember the name of the guy who in the sit-in, said, "I welcome a Vietcong victory." ...
SH: Professor Eugene Genovese.
JF: Genovese. He was not a favorite. [laughter] [Editor's Note: Historian Eugene Genovese took a pro-Vietcong stance during a teach-in at Rutgers University in 1965, which led to criticism from New Jersey politicians. The Rutgers administration defended Genovese for exercising his academic freedom. Genovese later taught at Sir George Williams University in Montreal between 1967 and 1969 before moving on to other universities.]
SH: What impacted the decision to continue in ROTC?
JF: Well, I think that was, again, that goes back to that sixth grade, and believing all Americans have a duty to their country, ... and then having what I believed my leadership ability, and not wanting to be a private or anything else, that I wanted to be an officer. That became really my major, so that when it came to the point at the end of my sophomore year, when I can't remember who it was, suggested that I sit out a semester, I said, "No way." I said, "You know, then I'd be drafted, and I'm staying in, I'll do whatever it takes." So, I went to summer school that summer, while I was coaching the swim team, and I missed a family trip ... down to Mexico that summer. ... Maybe it was there, and I didn't seek it out, [but] I had no real relationship with any professor or mentor. ... I don't think I knew anybody who did. ... Maybe somebody who really had ... an engineering passion or something ... but again, I don't know that that was something that you thought about, sought out. That's more discussed or well-known today.
SH: Could you tell us about your worldview during this period? You are obviously aware of the draft and the Vietnam War.
JF: ... I was going to say that after the Genovese remark, ... being in ROTC, and, you know, being an ... American, and, you know, believing that our country was right on what it was doing, but I also believed that Genovese had the right to say that. So, here I am, and to answer all that question in one, and it's part of what I call "my testimony," but my dad was a Republican, so I was a Republican, my dad was Presbyterian, so I was a Presbyterian. ... Essentially, our property touched the Frelinghuysen property. The Frelinghuysen estate was right there in New Vernon, and the same Frelinghuysens continue on today, and Rodney Frelinghuysen was, I guess he's a little younger than I am, but he grew up right there, and I think our properties touched. I can remember going to a Republican fundraiser picnic on a Sunday afternoon with Mom and Dad and I can't remember the guy's name, but he was running for congress, and he wanted to get rid of Genovese. He said, you know, "A public educator should not be saying these kinds of things," and I remember going at him toe to toe there on the lawn, and all these people standing around, "Who's this young guy," you know, and saying, you know, "I'm a Rutgers student, I'm in ROTC, I'm going to serve my country, and I'm a history major, and I was there, and I heard him say it. ... I disagree with it but he had the right to say it, and you shouldn't be trying to get rid of him." [laughter] ... I think there was even some kind of a write up in the local paper about it. ... That's an answer to your question, I think that kind of gets it. ... Dad was always involved in a township committee. ... When they wanted to build the jetport right there in the Great Swamp in Harding in '64, Dad was on that committee. A woman named Helen Fenske seems to get all the recognition, I guess she continued on with it, but Dad was right there with them. He worked in the city, and would commute everyday, but he would come home, have supper with mom--the kids always ate early--and then he would go out. He was essentially out most nights, either at the church, or the Harding School. He was on the Board of Education. He was always superintendent of Sunday School or an elder. ... Again, that was my fatherhood example, I guess, and that I'm going to be a public servant, or I'm going to fulfill my social responsibilities, I'm going to be a good father, I'm going to serve my country, and, you know, get a job and work hard and I'm going to do civic kinds of things. So, that was my model. ... That holds still today, I guess. You know, it wasn't to the point where we were, you know, carrying flags or knocking on doors or anything like that.
SH: Was there a discussion on campus about Genovese's statement at the sit-in?
JF: I think it was just he made the statement, and I don't remember. ... It was in Scott Hall, right here. ...
SH: Was there any reaction to it?
JF: You know, it was later in the evening, I think, as I recall, I don't know. ... I think Targum picked it up, and probably that's where it got the play, and then that got out to the Courier News. ... In those days, I think it was still the Newark Evening News. Whether it was Star Ledger yet or not, I don't remember but, you know, that's how the rest of the state picked up on it.
SH: Was it a tough choice choosing between Air Force ROTC and Army ROTC?
JF: No, no. Again, I guess that goes back to dad having been in the Army Air Corps, which is the beginning of the Air Force. ... I would have to confess that I really wasn't interested in crawling through rice paddies, which as an Army officer, I probably would have. ... Your specialty sort of gets picked for you. I mean, I don't recall choosing transportation. ... While you're at school your junior, summer, you go away for your six weeks of summer camp. ... I did very well there in terms of, as my understanding, I mean when I came back in the fall, I was tapped to be a wing commander, so I was in charge of the whole wing. So, my understanding was that whatever performance appraisal you got, it came back and that, you know, indicated leadership. I do remember going out, they had what they called a field exercise, and that I was in charge of a group of people. ... It was sort of like hazing, and that the NCOs there were yelling at me and, "Save yourself," I don't remember the situation but, you know, it was eating, you know, you'd been running around with your backpacks all day, and, "You're in charge so you need to sleep and eat," and I said, "No, I'm not doing it until my guys do." ... They kept yelling at me, "No, no, it's okay, you can do it," and, you know, all that kind of stuff, and I remember refusing to do that, and I said, "I will not eat or sleep until all my troops are cared for." Whether that was it, I don't know. ... You just have these little snippets of remembrances, I guess.
SH: Did Rutgers have the Queen's Guard?
JF: Yes, I was in Queen's Guard. It was just freshman year, I still get their mailings and things. Again, joining the fraternity became the all-consuming thing. ... It may only have been freshman year, and I was on the drill team and we twirled the rifles and that kind of stuff, and crew was freshman year. So, I think, sophomore year, and being in the house and Saturday night parties became my focus. [laughter] Second semester, my weight ballooned, ... I was like 195 I guess, and I went up over 220, and my grades were something like a "3" in history, of whatever history it was, and a couple of "4s" and a "5" in French. In those days, it was the other way around. It was not good. ... I had this French woman and, you know, she's babbling away, I have no clue. I mean, that was my sixth year of French now, but I had no clue, and, of course, I really wasn't studying or anything anyway. ... I cannot claim to be a good student. I ended up with a "2.9" or a "3.0" or something like that, so I was right there in the middle. ... Statistics was the other bad one. [laughter] ... French I got, she wanted to give me a "5," and I went in and pleaded for a "4," because then I would have failed out I think, because I took a "5" in statistics. ... I looked at the final, and closed the book, and handed it in; highlight of my academic career. ... I did improve, I came back a sober fellow in junior year. ... I was more mature. ... I don't remember what I got junior year, I guess we could go back and look, but I do have my transcript, just to demonstrate that I did graduate. [laughter] Yes, I met my wife to be on a blind date. ... I had dated this one woman through sophomore year. ... It was clear that ... whatever reason I was interested in her, it wasn't the right thing. So, starting off junior year, I came back from the travels through Europe, and fall of junior year, I was sort of just not dating anybody specifically, was just hanging out at the house on Saturday night and picking up somebody to dance with. Came the last football game, Colgate, in November of '65, and on a Wednesday night, one of these women that I met while in freshman year called me and said, "I've got this friend who just broke up with a guy, a Phi Gam, and she doesn't have a date for the football game and for Saturday night, would you take her?" ...
-------------------------------------END OF TAPE ONE, SIDE TWO--------------------------------------
SH: Please continue.
JF: So, I told her, ... "Yes, I would take her to the football game, but she'd need to find someone else for Saturday night." So, we went to the game, we won, her name is Bonnie Conover, Douglass class of '68, and from Absecon, New Jersey. ... She was a sophomore, and I was a junior, and the game went on. ... In those days we actually wore ties to the games, jackets and ties. ... I know we did it early on, freshman, sophomore years. ... I'm not sure after that. ... I had a good time, and so I said, "Gee," you know, I said to myself, "Maybe she wouldn't be so bad to take to the party." So, drove her home, back to Douglass, and so I decided I would ask her, and I said, "Would you like to go to the party tonight," thinking, well of course, she'd just be dying to have me ask her, and she said, "Oh, no thank you, I have a date." So, that tells you something about this young lady. So, I went on and forgot about her. I also used to usher at basketball games in the RAC, and I don't remember whether it was the Princeton Bill Bradley game or not, but I guess you could go back in the archives and look and see who we played there at the end of ... November of '65. ... I ran into her and I recognized her but I could not remember her name, and so somehow, I don't even know how, I asked somebody or what, ended up asking her [out]. ... Some of the guys in the fraternity would, when they got to junior, senior years, would rent houses off-campus and this particular night there was going to be a party at somebody's house which was down the road--I can't remember the name of the town--between here and Princeton. ... I asked her if she'd like to join me and she said, "Sure." So, we went to this party and we danced and had a good time. ... Every year the Delta Kappa Epsilon National Fraternity has an annual conference, and they held them around the country, and this particular year, it was being held at the Seaview Country Club in Atlantic City. ... Absecon is right there, and so I knew this, and they do have a dance on a Saturday night, dinner and a dance. So, I invited her to go to that, and she said, "Yes," she would. I also remember that that night some of the guys from my Upper Canada College prep school had joined DKE at the University of Toronto, and they were coming down. ... I forget how we linked up, but one of the fellows named Bob Hyland came down and I said, "Would you like to have a date?" ... He said, "Sure." So, I asked Bonnie if she knew somebody, and she had her cousin, Linda Townsend. This is just a total aside but Linda has married Bill Gormley, State Senator Gormley, and unfortunately they divorced after some period. ... She had two sons with Bill, and this November the oldest one is getting married and doing a destination wedding down in the Grand Caymans, and we've been invited to go. Anyway, so Linda is Bonnie's first cousin, and so they've obviously kept in touch, [and] we have a good relationship with Bill too. So, Linda came out that night and was Bob's date, and we had a nice time. ... We took Linda home first, and then because I lived there in Jersey, I had my car, and so Bob was in the car with us, went back to Bonnie's house, and took her up to the door to say goodnight, and we ended up kissing on the doorstep, and I guess we kissed for quite a while. So, here's poor Bob sitting in the car, and this is, you know, wintertime, this is the week after Christmas, and he's out there freezing. ... I had a 1950 "Merc." It was my grandmother's car. It was a beautiful, black thing with the doors that opened opposite each other, loved that car. So, here's Bob sitting out there waiting for me, and after a while Bonnie's mom came to the door, and [said], "It's time to come in." [laughter] I don't know how long we were there. ... We clearly enjoyed each other's company. ... I don't know the way it works now, but in those days, ... the terrible thing was that we had exams after Christmas break. So, you had to spend your Christmas break studying. Did they change that?
JF: Oh, good. ... The semester didn't start till late January, so I don't remember whether I contacted her again, or probably not. ... I've seen her three times now, right, and the end of January, we come back to school, and I call her and ask her out, and she says, "I'm sorry, I'm pinned." "You're pinned? How did this happen in this space of time and we had such a good time?" Well, it turns out I guess she'd been dating this guy from Phi Gam and during that period after New Year's to then, she had seen him, and they'd gotten pinned, [I was] heartbroken. [laughter] Anyway, so then we go on through second semester junior year and I ran for president of the IFC and lost by one vote, and that was in April, and so here I am kind of crying in my stew, and I didn't know who to turn to but I called Bonnie. Well, in the meantime, I guess her guy had flunked out of school. So, he didn't come back second semester but she still stayed pinned to him for a while. ... I hadn't kept total touch, but I was figuring, well, you know, just somebody I'll call and cry on her shoulder. So, I drove over to Douglass and she came out and sat in the car and she comforted me and so that was the end of that. Then school finished, I was going off to ROTC summer camp, and then went off to Europe. ... She invited me down, I went down to her house, and they had a pool in the backyard, and we swam. ... So, then I ended up going off to summer camp, and my DKE roommate was Robert Barnes, Bobby Barnes, and he was taking flying lessons. ... While I was at summer camp, he with his instructor, went up in the air and he straight came down. He was killed. So, I was devastated by that, and then went off to Europe for six weeks, traveled around, and [had] a very enjoyable time. ... Flew to London, went to Denmark, to Copenhagen, and then from there took a flight over to Berlin. ... Obviously, in that time it was behind the Iron Curtain. ... That almost cost me my commission because I had gone to a Communist country. ... Senior year I had to, you know, make a statement that I had been to a Communist country, so I got grilled on that. So, that was an interesting experience. ... We were in the airport, and then we were driving along to go into West Berlin, and we got stopped, and, you know, the Communist guards, soldiers came on the bus and, you know, did the search and looked at your papers and everything, and then we ended up taking a train out to West Berlin. Went back to Switzerland, my cousin was living there at the time, spent some time with them, and he came on with me, went down through Italy, and ... we'd a night of drinking in Venice, and met some American college girls. ... We ended up, well my cousin--we all had a lot to drink--and he and this girl said, "Let's go swimming in the Grand Canal." So, they went running down and down the steps. Lee, my cousin, went jumping out into the water, and this poor girl, you know, you get below the waterline and the steps were very slippery. Well, she slips and falls down. So, I went rushing over to help her and I slipped, and I ended up going into the canal too. So, that was one of the highlights of my trip. [laughter] So, then we were all drenched, and we had no place to stay, and we went back with these girls to their hotel and wanted to stay with them and, of course, the innkeeper threw us out. So, we ended up spending the night sleeping on the floor of the Venice train station. In the morning we got on the train and went down to Florence, and then to Rome, and then he left me. Somehow, ... I met an American girl who had her own [Volkswagen] Karmann Ghia convertible and I ended up driving with her up the coast of Italy back to Nice. I had a Eurail pass, and then I left her in Nice, and got on the train and went up to Paris and then went over to London and up to Scotland on the train. ... A girl that I had dated in Toronto, her parents were from Scotland, was visiting her aunt and uncle, and I stopped and visited with them. ... Then, I came back to London and flew home. While I was in Paris, I sent a postcard to Bonnie, and I said essentially, and it's our little joke, "This is your last chance to go big time with Jack Frost. Would you go to the Princeton game with me?" ... I sent this postcard off. So, I get to ... Kennedy Airport. ... I get in the car with Mom and Dad, they picked me up there, and they handed me this pile of mail. So, this is now, you know, end of August of '66, and in the mail was a letter, return address, ... Absecon, New Jersey. So, I opened that one first. ... She said essentially, "Far be it for me that I should lose my last chance to go big time with Jack Frost, yes, I will go to the Princeton game with you." ... We must have had some contact between, you know, the Princeton game, which is like ... the last weekend of September. Well, as you recall, my DKE roommate had died in the plane crash, so I hadn't really mourned him and unfortunately, well Mom and Dad I think, I don't know whether my sister was there or not, but my two younger brothers were there, Mom and Dad and Bonnie, and I, and a friend named Fred Bensko who was not a Rutgers [student]. ... We called him "Big Fred" and he was dating Penny Sanford who was one of Bonnie's dorm mates. ... The four of us went in Fred's car, and Mom and Dad, and my brothers came and joined us there. ... I don't remember a whole lot, but before the game we started drinking and we were drinking gin, and I do remember going into the game and we had a Styrofoam cooler of ice, and I think we just poured the gin bottles into that, and we're up there on the Rutgers side yelling and screaming our heads off and throwing things, not a good display, and my rationale was well, you know, I lost my roommate. Well, certainly not the way to impress a young lady, and my Mom and Dad weren't impressed either. [laughter] So, you know, obviously there was a gap there and I don't remember how we said goodbye or whatever, but we ended up going home with Fred, and I remember yelling at the cars, we're driving up Route 1 back to New Brunswick, and we go to the house for a party afterwards. ... Somewhere in the evening, Bonnie and I went outside, went over to "Willie the Silent," [a statue of William I, Prince of Orange, now located on Voorhees Mall on Rutgers University's College Avenue Campus]. ... Again, all I can do is blame it on my inebriation, but I attempted to make unwanted advances, and she gave me the old fist in the chest, and said you know, "This is not the way I expect to be treated. ... If this is the way you're going to act, I don't need you." ... I don't know how she got back home. I probably drove her. We did a lot of driving in those days when we shouldn't have been. I don't know how much detail you want. [laughter]
SH: It is up to you.
JF: My room was on the third floor of the house that year, on the end of the hall, and I had the fire escape right out the door, and I left all the contents of my stomach on the ground below, and sometime Sunday afternoon I know I called her and I apologized but she said, "Well, let's just take a break." So, we didn't see each other for a number of weeks and I think I had a different date every weekend. ... Somewhere November, I said, "I want to be with this girl," and so I called, you know, "Would you give me another chance?" Well, we started dating again, and New Year's Eve, 1966, ... I think at midnight, and we have a picture of it, I gave her a Happy New Year's card, and inside the card was my DKE pin, and somebody caught the picture of her holding the card like this, and, you know, kind of like a surprise. So, we got pinned, and again in those days, we had a beautiful ceremony. ... Again, the fraternity life was just different then. It was collegial, it was brotherly, and ... it was all about respect and honor and, you know, looking out for each other, and certainly being a gentlemen. DKE were gentlemen. ... We had this thing called the "Pin Song." ... In our house, had nice steps going up to the second floor, and the girl would stand there, and all the brothers would stand at the bottom and sing the "Pin Song" to her. Essentially, "I wish I had a girl like you for DKE," and I can sing all the words. That's one of my things that I do remember. I remember hymns. Today, I sing without the hymnal because I was there every Sunday, but I know all the DKE songs. ... This past year when we were back for our annual reunion--and it's sad because I think there were only six of us back from that period, '65, '66, '67, '68--we ... started singing the DKE songs, and you got all these young kids sitting there, going, "Huh?" So, that's the tradition that's been lost, just as a little aside. ... We were pinned that semester, and I graduated at the end of May, and then the next day we had the ROTC ceremony, got commissioned, got my gold bar, second lieutenant. So that was ... the 31st of May or whatever, and then June 20th, 21st, something like that, I was in the car and on my way to Ohio for my first assignment. In between there, I went down to see Bonnie and, you know, tearful goodbye and all that good stuff, and I was out in Ohio for a month. ... Do you want all this detail? [laughter]
SH: What base did you go to?
JF: Lockbourne Air Force Base, just south of Columbus, Ohio, and I guess it's now called Rickenbacker, or it's now closed, but it was an active [base], what was known as SAC, Strategic Air Command base. I was part of the Tactical Air Command ... as a second lieutenant transportation officer. Anyway, just to finish up that part of the story, at the end of September ... they were going to send me down to this three-month transportation officer school in Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. I was only in Ohio a month, and I'm homesick, and especially for Bonnie. ... Her parents allowed her to come out, and she flew out, and so I think that weekend we decided that we wanted to get married and the first weekend of August I came back to New Jersey and we went to the jewelers in Atlantic City and bought a diamond ring and I asked her dad for her hand. So, then I went off to Wichita Falls, and had ninety days down there, and sometimes you wonder where a guy's head is, but knowing that we were going to get married, I got her a Christmas gift. I bought a vacuum cleaner. [laughter] Oh, dear. I mean you can read a lot of stuff into that. ... I've always believed that women are absolutely equal if not more than guys, and I had no ulterior motive other than, you know, as "a family to be" gift. ... I wasn't thinking of, you know, I expect you to be home vacuuming, I had no clue. I was clueless, oh, dear, absolutely clueless. ... She was back for her senior year at Douglass, and that spring ... I was back in Lockbourne, and so, we had only phone call contact, and preparing for a wedding, long distance got a little acrimonious. Well, my Mom and Dad drank, and I drank, but her parents didn't, and, of course, I'm saying, "Well, we've got to have liquor at the wedding." "No, my father wouldn't pay for liquor, he doesn't drink." So, that was a bone of contention, and I don't know what else. ...
SH: What date had you set for the wedding?
JF: We set June 8th, 1968, and she graduated May 30th, and she had one week as a single woman. I would not allow her on the marketplace. ... I'm twenty-three and she's twenty-one, her birthday is not till October so if you think about it, here we are thirty-eight years later. I really was clueless, now that I think about it. ... I sure made the right choice. ...
SH: She sounds like a wonderful woman.
JF: ... I left Columbus on June 4th, the day that Bobby Kennedy was shot. So I drove home hearing nothing but that on the radio, had a little bachelor party that Thursday night, and then Friday went down to Absecon and ... we had our rehearsal dinner there at the Seaview Country Club and then we had a twelve o'clock wedding at the Absecon Presbyterian Church. ... After the rehearsal dinner, I'm thinking well, I got to get up in the morning and get dressed, so I can't go out. It turns out Bonnie went out with all the bridesmaids and brides grooms and they were out till whatever hour of the morning, and here I am. [Editor's note: Presidential candidate, Robert F. Kennedy was shot in Los Angeles, CA on June 5, 1968.]
SH: The "original party guy" is sleeping.
JF: Yes, sleeping. ... Getting up, I remember all I did was in the shower, I was singing, "I'm getting married in the morning, ding dong, the bells are going to chime." ... I'm clueless about this, and I get there to the wedding and find out that she just really didn't go to bed. So, we had a nice little twelve minute wedding ceremony, and it was ... ninety-eight or a hundred degrees, and I'm there in my "mess-dress" uniform, and, you know, standing outside the church shaking hands and just sweating to beat the band, and then we went up to Smithville Inn for dinner. ... So, it was a noontime luncheon, so that's how we got around on having the alcohol, and that all worked out, and I guess we stuck around her house till late afternoon. ... Dad had helped me buy, and I was paying for it, a 1966 aquamarine Mustang, two-door. ... We got in that car and drove up to Idlewild [airport]. ... We didn't have a lot of money but, you know, I did no planning other than we get a motel at the airport. Well, it was one of these dingy old places right under the runway [laughter] and it was Saturday now, and the Bobby Kennedy funeral was going on. ... We were beat, and we get into bed and Bonnie immediately falls sound asleep. So, I'm left lying awake watching this, every channel. ... There were only three or four channels then anyway, but, you know, I'm watching the Bobby Kennedy funeral.
SH: Where were you bound for?
JF: ... We were going to one of the Bahamas. ... This is a stitch, too. So, anyway, it wasn't till the next morning that we came together. ... We flew out and went to this island and I remember I played golf and lost twenty balls or something or other. [laughter] ... That was a highlight, and we laid out in the sun and got so totally sunburned--both of us, bright red--that we had to sleep in separate beds and just lay there moaning. So, it's one of those honeymoons to forget. Anyway, we came back, rented a U-Haul, attached it to the back of my Mustang, [and] stuck all Bonnie's furniture in. ... I think I had a footlocker as a coffee table, and I had a single bed in the living room as our couch, and a TV and a dining room table that Mom and Dad had given us. ... Bonnie came with a double bed, and that was our furniture in this two-story townhouse in Columbus, Ohio. So, it goes on from there. Anyway, I don't know, this could go on forever. [laughter]
SH: This is backtracking, but how did the assassination of President John F. Kennedy affect you?
JF: ... John F. Kennedy, that was my freshman year. ... That was November '63, and I was over to Douglass Campus and it happened in the morning. ... They cancelled classes and I went back to Douglass, and so it was like one o'clock in the afternoon, and I went down on Antilles Field and walked to the back corner and stood there and looked down on the old Raritan and just watched the river flow by, and that was sort of my pondering what's happening in our world that the President of the United States that somebody would A) want to shoot him and B) I'm certainly not a Kennedy fan, but again, go back to the nationalism and ... just the pride in our country and its history that, you know, that this could happen here. Yes, that's a distinct memory. ... I was what, two months in the school at that point. [Editor's Note: Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. Lee Harvey Oswald, the primary suspect in the assassination, was himself killed by Jack Ruby on live television days later.]
SH: Was there a memorial service on campus?
JF: Maybe, I have no idea. I wouldn't have gone to it, I don't think. Again, that's where the political lines crossed. I may have voted for one Democrat, one President somewhere, and it would have been during college years, and somehow thinking that I'm a grand independent thinker, but that's probably the only time.
SH: Moving forward to your service in Ohio, is it a foregone conclusion that you are going to Vietnam to work in transportation?
JF: ... How all that played out was, in the military, there are two types of commissions. There is a regular commission, which means that you're in it for a career, and then there's a reserve commission. ... Everybody essentially goes in--unless you come out of the Air Force academy--as a reserve officer. So, I was a reserve officer, and what they told me was that I'd been in Ohio for four years. I expected to be transferred. I mean I wanted to "see the world." I wasn't interested in going to war and getting shot at. Senior year, I took the pilot's exam and again, unfortunately, lack of judgment on my part, I went drinking the night before. ... It was [an] eight o'clock in the morning test and ... it was at least a four hour test, and I woke up like at seven-thirty there at the DKE house and realized, "Oh, I've got to be over there." ... I don't remember which building it was, but it was one of these on the quad. So, I didn't have far to go from that perspective, but I remember running, and so I hadn't had any breakfast, I was hung over, and sitting down and taking these tests. ... I can remember that they had these aerial maps. ... The question was on this side, and here's the map, and you had to decide where you were. ... I'm sitting there going like this, and so I did not pass the pilot exam. ... Therefore, my flying career never took off, no pun intended. ... I said, "Well, you know, in the scheme of things that's probably better because then I won't be going to Vietnam, getting shot at." So, that's sort of how all these things played out, and, you know, when you look back on it after all these years, ... you're obviously very glad, and thankful that that's the way it worked, and you feel blessed.
SH: You said you expected to get transferred in the Air Force.
JF: Right, okay. ... I was given a transportation specialty, 6044, transportation officer, transportation/traffic management, which meant shipping of household goods, freight and passengers, and also included the motor pool. ... I went down to Texas through this three months of training. ... When I came back to Ohio, I was in charge of the motor pool. So, here I am a twenty-two year old second lieutenant in charge of these NCOs, and there were over one hundred men ... and several hundreds of vehicles, and a million dollar plus budget. ... I'd had no formal leadership training but it sort of just goes back to always--whether it was the student council in grade school or Boy Scouts or whatever--that I've always been in leadership roles. I've never believed in that "I know everything," and that I've always viewed it as I'm sort of a facilitator, you know, the buck stops with me ultimately if I'm in charge, but I'm going to get input from everybody. ... Certainly, I was wise enough to know that I didn't know more than a forty-year old tech sergeant or master sergeant or certainly my senior master sergeant. ... I was fortunate enough to have some men who did not look to take advantage of me, ... but I did learn from that experience, you know, sort of, you could sift out the "BS" and who was trying to put it over on you and who wasn't. ... Or, if you got some advice, you'd go check it out to somebody else. So, I was running the motor pool and then after coming back from the training, then I was put in charge of the vehicle maintenance division. ... Initially, I just had the drivers, and so on, and then I shifted over, had the maintenance part of it. I was there three years. ... The last eighteen months ... I was the traffic management officer, which meant shipping the household goods and freight. ... Anybody on the base--officer or enlisted--[who] was transferring in or out ... people who had been in other bases and were coming in, came through my office. ... I can remember they used to hand me a stack of multi-part form documents, and I spent a lot of time putting my "John Hancock" on documents authorizing the shipment of household goods and freight. ... I had a group of people working for me, civilians and military. ... I guess my first real mentor there was Colonel Miller. ... One morning I can remember, I was living off-base, and ... he called a seven o'clock in the morning roll call, and I can remember pulling up at 7:15 or something like that. ... He let me know that officers are to set an example for the enlisted men, and if he says seven o'clock, that means you're there at quarter of seven. ... I remember that very distinctly, that was one of the good moments, and I've also believed that I want to get feedback. ... That was the other thing, is as a reserve officer, you had the four years active duty and two years reserve, that was your commitment. ... Over a drink Colonel Miller told me that, ... "You got three years in, you got another year to go. You're really not going to go anywhere. They're not going to spend any money to transfer you. So, you'll stay here and then you'll get out." ... I said, "Well, what if I put in, you know, to extend and go beyond?" ... He said, "Well, if that's the case then you're AFSC [Air Force Speciality Code] is Southeast Asia critical. So, the only place you're going to go is to Southeast Asia." So, at this point we were, this was in '69, so we had been married a year, and our first family were Dachshunds, ... little wiener dogs. We had two of them. They have to come into this story too. Schnapps was our first one, we had him for a year, he was a red one, and then we had Gretel, black and tan. So, he gave me this counsel, and ... we went to Washington for a conference, and I was fortunate enough to meet a man from Randolph Air Force Base in Texas who was at the headquarters, personnel. ... I guess we struck up a friendship or whatever, and, you know, he was also in on that conversation, and said, "Yes." He reconfirmed it, "That's true." So, I said, "Well, gee, I really, you know, I'd like to go somewhere else, maybe Europe," and he said, "Well, tell you what. You go to pull your date of separation, your DOS, and you'll get assigned to Vietnam or Southeast Asia, and I'll see what I can do for you." You know, that's all. So, I went home, talked to Bonnie about it, and also at that point in time, this is early '70s, that the job market was not looking too good. ... Bonnie was a school teacher, that's the other part of it. She's always worked and so when she came out to Ohio, she immediately started interviewing. ...
-------------------------------------END OF TAPE TWO, SIDE ONE--------------------------------------
SH: We have been joined by Shaun Illingworth. Please continue.
JF: ... Bonnie has always worked. ... Growing up, she was a telephone operator, and that's an interesting story being there in Absecon in Atlantic City, that she always worked during the Miss America Pageant, and so she got to ... hear celebrities. ... She's always had an interest in what she calls "celebrity sightings," anyway.
SH: We can interview her at some point.
JF: Yes, you definitely want to. So, when she came out to Ohio ... after getting married, ... she immediately started looking for a job, and at that point she had also made it clear to me that she did not want to have children, [that] she wanted to work. So, she started interviewing at Ohio Electric. ... She started out in those kinds of places, and as soon as they found out she was a military wife and subject to departure, they immediately said, "We don't hire military wives." So, that was the first door that she ran into, or, "We don't hire young married women who are going to have a baby and disappear." So, again, she ran into all of those kinds of doors but that didn't stop her. She ended up getting a job at Bishop Hartley High School in Columbus as a ninth grade Spanish teacher. So, that was September of '68. ... Now, in terms of my Air Force career, we're now up to June of '69, and I had this discussion with the personnel officer saying, you know, he would see what he could do about getting me to Europe or somewhere else after I'd served in Vietnam first. ... I came home and discussed that with her. At this point, she had been teaching there at the high school, she was also the cheerleader advisor, and we had these two dogs, that was our family. So she said, "Okay," to my staying in, and again that part of that decision was the poor job outlook. So, I said, "Well, I might as well stay in, you know, enjoy the life." We had a lot of good friends, it was interesting, we were like the only married couple there. ... All our friends were other officers, and so Bonnie was just part of the group and we did all kinds of stuff together. ... I made a really good friend there named Dick Skersick. ... He was my roommate. I had two roommates in our townhouse that I got, so they were there until Bonnie came, you know, when she came, they left, obviously. So, I pulled my date of separation at the beginning of June '69, and within two weeks I had orders to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, South Vietnam. ... I'm not quite clear on this. ... My orders weren't till the end of August, so I had from June till August. ... I really don't remember if I moved her back, I don't think so. I think she moved back after I left, early September. ... I'm sure we went back home and said goodbye to my folks and her folks. So, I left at the end of August, flew to San Francisco, then to Hawaii, then over to Tokyo, and then down to Tan Son Nhut, and I went there as a traffic management officer, TMO, and at that point I was a captain. I became a captain, I mean, it was nothing that you earned, make that clear, you know. Eighteen months and you became a first lieutenant, and another eighteen months you became a captain. So, it was the three-year point, so it was June.
SH: While you are stationed in Ohio with the Air Force, how much did you follow the war in Vietnam?
JF: Quite frankly, I blocked out a lot of that. ... As a young married couple, we didn't have a whole lot of cares. I mean we did have the extra income from Bonnie, I mean she was making about five thousand dollars a year, she was making more than I was as a second lieutenant and first lieutenant. I was making thirty-six hundred or something like that, you know, three hundred a month. ... We had the base exchange, and we were able to save. We saved in those days ... and we enjoyed life. I played golf and I think we had parties within the group of officers or teachers every Saturday night. ... We weren't lacking for social life and I think that there in Ohio, you had Ohio State, we went to Ohio State football games, that was an eye opener coming from Rutgers, and five to ten thousand people on a Saturday to this hundred thousand people stadium. ... We got caught up in that, and, you know, it was the late '60s, I mean there was, ... I missed the Newark riots, and as I said, Bobby Kennedy had been shot the day I was going home for the wedding, but the Civil Rights stuff. ... Kent State happened while I was there, but as a member of the military, you were really insulated, and I mean Bonnie was sort of the link to the outside world in that sense but she was dealing with the parents, and we made friends with her students' parents. We got our first dog from one of her students. So, in the middle of the country, Ohio, other than the Kent State thing, I think, you know, it was really Middle America. It was on TV, but even being in the service, and knowing that you are going to go to Vietnam, and again, I think the Air Force certainly was different, a different attitude about it, and unless you were a pilot, you know, I was helping manage, I mean again that was part of it, you know, my transition to business ... felt very easy because I always viewed my Air Force work as business, and that I was a manager, and that I wasn't there giving orders. Yes, there were "the regulations," and I certainly didn't do anything that was counter to that, but there was latitude. ... I said, "I don't want to be one of those dumb by the book stereotype military people," and that I think the Air Force in particular allowed you that latitude, and I took it. Bonnie continued to take courses at Ohio State. She took library science. ... She loves to read and so at one point she thought being a librarian was sort of something she could do and would enjoy doing. I don't remember taking any courses there, ... but after Vietnam I got sent to Holland, a beautiful assignment, and so I ended up doing correspondence courses with Ball State. So, we both were always into education, continual learning. ...
SH: What was your first impression upon arriving to Vietnam?
JF: ... There was certainly some fear in the stomach. We had our summer uniforms, the khakis, you know, which were short-sleeved and you wore the V-necked T-shirt underneath it to sort of absorb the perspiration but, you know, stepping off the plane in Tan Son Nhut, all I remember is it was hot and muggy. I was in Tan Son Nhut for about three weeks and then they reassigned me up to Da Nang, which is up on the northern border and the DMZ. Our job there was to support the 366th Tac Fighter Wing, which was the F-4s, [Phantom II jet airplanes]. They would take off and were thundering off towards North Vietnam, and my hooch, as it was referred to, which was essentially a trailer with a bedroom on either end and a bathroom in the middle which I shared with an ... automotive maintenance officer. ... I was a captain at that point, you know, I passed my three years. ... I think I had a 150 Vietnamese, we referred to them kindly as "papasans," native Vietnamese, who were clearly over the age of military service, working for me. They fit the impression of Vietnamese, you know, no teeth and they just chewed on the beetle nut or whatever, and squatting down and coming to work with their little tin pot, and their fish heads and rice and sitting there making little fires in the parking lot. ...
SH: What were their duties?
JF: Their duties were to, my job there was essentially, for the most part at that point in the war, I was there '70, '71. It was 1970, end of August of '70. ... I came home beginning of August of '71. So, I was really only there eleven months. The job was to, at that point the war was winding down, was to ship home all the stuff that we'd shipped over during the war's buildup. So, I like to say that I didn't see, I mean, we were at the north end of the base, right at the end of the runway and the other closest facility to us was the mortuary. ... I didn't go in there but you could smell the embalming fluids. So, I like to say that I saw the material waste caused by the war, not the human waste, loss of lives. The field outside, we were right on the perimeter, so there were some GIs there, but they are mostly, again, regular Vietnamese army, and we were a little concerned about that, that we'd have infiltrators coming through, but they never really did. ... This field of pipes, bales of wire, rotting boxes of elbow joints and pipes and electrical junction boxes and just stuff that was shipped over to construct things, and essentially what happened was you'd have a supply officer would come in, and they'd say, ... "We need to build 'X' number of things," and so they'd run out of stuff, and they'd order it, and then they'd transfer out. ... The next supply sergeant would come in and there would be no paper work or they wouldn't even look at it, if it was there. ... They'd look and say, "Oh, gee, we don't have any of this, so I better, it's going to take time so I better order double," and then, of course, all three orders would arrive, and they only needed one. So, the other two would go out into this field, and so when I got there in August, well at that point I was, late-September, early October when I got up there, here's just this large field, acres of all this stuff. So, at that point, Vietnam was winding down, the Vietnamese government said, "We don't want any of your junk in our country, get it out." So here I am, then I was ordering plywood and 2x4s and so on to build boxes, and rat baits to build these boxes, and my papasans would sit there with a little hammer and they would build these boxes and then they'd take this junk and throw it in the box. The last thing in was a rat bait with a little red ribbon on it, close up the top with a ribbon sticking out, so you knew there was a rat bait in there, and then we paid Sea-Land, Sea Land made bundles of money, to bring over containers, and you'd fill up these containers, you know, forklift running in the boxes into the containers, and then they'd be loaded on to Sea-Land ships and taken over towards the Philippines, and maybe they made it to the Philippines, or maybe they didn't make it, you just dumped it over the side. So, that's ... I saw that sort of waste both in terms of the shipment charges, and the, you know, we were paying the papasans not a whole lot but, you know, it's probably good that we gave them jobs, ... and the cost of the stuff having been shipped over and the shipping transportation costs over and then all the stuff just sitting there and the purchase of it, and then all we did was ship it back. It certainly didn't come back to the United States.
JF: So, it either got dumped in the Philippines, on the Philippines, or in the ocean somewhere.
SI: When did you form that opinion that these practices were wasteful? Was it immediate?
JF: Oh, yes, it was obvious to any clear thinking Rutgers grad. [laughter] ... I mean that's one of the things where you are not just thinking, "Well, the Air Force tells me to do this, I'm going to do this." ... You certainly have your own opinion of it, but that's what I saw, and that was in '71, and then I was there till about, I think, ... May of '71, and then they transferred me down Phan Rang Air Base, and that was down more towards the middle of the country to shut down that base. So, I saw it again.
SH: You were shutting down Da Nang Air Base at this point?
JF: ... The war had not ended, certainly, but it was clear that it was winding down, and that you needed to get that stuff out of there. The closest that I came to combat at Da Nang, the Vietnamese, North Vietnamese would sit up in the hills and fire their rockets, ... thinking about the rockets in Lebanon today, how they could possibly be shipped, they're shooting a hundred to two hundred rockets a day, where do they get all these things, everyday. Again, any clear thinking Rutgers grad would figure that one out, but in 1970, '71, the North Vietnamese, they were very crude rockets, they did not have a whole lot of them, and essentially their guerilla tactics were to find some sticks or a little hill, or ... build up some rocks or something or other, and essentially just point it in the general direction of the base, and fire them off and then, of course, they would disappear into the jungle, and so you'd get these rockets coming in. ... Again, they're so crude and slow and everything else, that you could visually see them coming, you'd see the fire in the tail. ... The perimeter guards would see them and sound an alert, so the siren would go off, and so at various times these things would be coming in, and, you know, during the work day, you'd grab your flak vest and helmet, and there were safe places that you were told to go to. At night, you know, you're sleeping and you'd roll off your bed. I kept, and again the closest I was to military action, I had an M-16 assigned to me, and I kept it by my bed, and I had an air mattress underneath my cot, and I kept my helmet [steel pot] there, and the flak vest, and during the night, you would get off to bed, put the stuff on, get underneath the bed, and clutch the M-16 to my chest. Now, what am I going to do lying under the bed like this, right? [laughter] ... New Year's Eve of 1971, I went to bed, and somewhere in the middle of the night, and it was probably midnight, I guess, that the guards on the perimeter started shooting their weapons. Well, you know, I woke up out of a dead sleep and I hear this gunfire, and I hear bullets kind of hitting the ground outside, and I hear voices and I hear noise crunching around on the gravel and stuff and I panicked and dove under the bed and here I am lying there, and then I'm thinking to myself, "You know, if somebody comes through the door, I'm not even positioned to shoot, to protect myself," but that was the closest I came to action. Then it suddenly dawned on me, I mean, I kept hearing this noise but nothing was happening, and there were no sirens, and it suddenly dawned on me, "It's New Year's and they're just celebrating." There was one time, I've got photos of it, early in the morning that one of these rockets, normally it didn't hit anything, or they'd fall short. A couple of times they'd hit a runway, and make a pothole, and they'd have to repair it. One time, they did hit a fuel tank, and we had this huge explosion and fireball, and I ran out with my camera, got a picture of it. ... That's, thankfully, that's the closest they came. Down at Phan Rang, they had a couple of exercises when we put on our pots and flak jackets, and got everybody armed, and we kind of created a little circle or whatever and we were ready, but, you know, nothing happened. So, I was very fortunate in that respect.
SH: What activities did you do to keep from being bored?
JF: Well, we worked, we worked six days a week, six to six, and we had a little ... club. Well, there was an officers' club, and then in our compound, the transportation compound, we had a little club. It was a nicely built, I remember it had stone walls and a nice high-vaulted ceiling and there was a bar in there. The civil engineers who did the construction and building were in that compound before us, before transportation. So, they had left this, and there was a nice fire pit outside, nice stone barbecue pit, and we would barbecue there. The Army NCOs would come in from the field, and they had nothing, but they did have good food, and they would get steaks and lobsters. ... Their big deal was to swap and trade for building materials. They'd come in with these frozen steaks and lobsters and trade them with me because I had all the lumber. So, I would swap with them, so that they could build some place to get their guys out of the rain, plywood, I mean essentially it was a plywood and 2x4 swap for steaks. So, we ate pretty well. ... Certainly, there was some drinking and I would write home. That was pretty much it. ... Then Sundays, our release was we'd drive to the beach, that meant going off the base, and through town, and through potentially booby-trapped areas. ... I don't think booby traps were much in use then. There were snipers. ... Again, I would put on the steel pot and the flak vest and take the M-16 and I would take a group of my guys and we'd get in the jeep and we would drive to the beach, and it was beautiful. I used to say, I haven't thought about it in a while, but they were beautiful, white, wide sandy beaches with a line of palm trees at the back end of the beach, and so we used to go down there on Sundays and relax. Again, barbecue steaks, we ate a lot of steak and drink beer and we were cautious because then we had to drive back. ... At the six month point, I was allowed an R&R, and I wanted Bonnie to fly to Hawaii and meet me there. When I told you about her coming out to Columbus, before we were married, she flew out, that was the first time she'd ever flown, and that flight coming out there went through a storm and dropped an immense amount, or at least in her story, and that terrified her to bits, so ever since she has a fear of flying. ... Of course, on our honeymoon flight down to the ... Bahamas, we hit an air pocket and dropped. I remember, she just did one of those grabs on my leg, and the drinks went up in the air and landed on the people in front of us and all that kind of thing. So, she does not like to fly. Today, she says, "I take drugs." ... We've done a lot of flying, and we take nice vacations but she takes whatever kind of pills that she takes, and so she kind of sits there in a semi-stupor, and she is getting better. So, she would not fly to Hawaii by herself and back. So, I ended up coming home, and that was at the six-month point. ... It was in the wintertime.
SH: Did your wife stay in Ohio?
JF: No, she went back home, and while she was at home, she came back to Rutgers and got her master's in ESL [English as a Second Language] in one year, and she taught at, it was then Somerset County College, now Raritan Valley, she taught Spanish, college Spanish. ... She stayed with my folks during the week with the dogs, the two dogs, and then on weekends she'd go down to South Jersey to be with her folks. So, she had a good support. So, I came home that February. ... They allowed you two weeks, and that really was, that was not good, because then I didn't want to leave and go back. When I got back I moved from Da Nang down to Phan Rang, so it was a different group of people and different settings and the war was definitely shutting down.
SH: You moved from Da Nang to Phan Rang.
JF: Phan Rang, right. I was in Da Nang from September to May. ... I really wasn't happy at that point and then May I transferred down to Phan Rang and shut that base down. ... I was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service. ...
SH: Was it safe at Phan Rang Air Base?
JF: Again I think, as I recall I can remember mustering out once or twice in full gear, that we were concerned there was an infiltration, but I don't think anything came out of it. ... Again, that's part of it where I just, I didn't want to remember it, and I have definitely, I know in my early years after, that I purposely blocked it out. I didn't talk to anybody about it, I didn't have people that I kept in touch with. So, I didn't have that support. I mean, again, like a lot of people they were in the trenches together, and really formed bonds, and so then they maintained contact afterwards. I didn't have any of that. So, I didn't have anybody to feed me with "You remember when," and that kind of stuff. ... Day to day things, I just let them go, and that was sort of, I guess my defense mechanism, and other than remembering the material waste and, you know, I didn't lose any friends. We had one guy from the fraternity Tommy Harr, who was killed over there. I wasn't close with him. ... Other than the time away from Bonnie, and the fact that at that point, I was going to stay in. ... It was just ... a check mark on my military record that I had been and done the hazardous duty and was awarded the meritorious Bronze Star. ... It was at the six month point that I got my orders to Holland. So, that's what we had to look forward to. So, you know, we were both excited about that, and as it turned out then they were starting to let people go, so I got essentially an early out, early release. ... Instead of going back at the end of August, I went back at the beginning of August. ... I was really only there for eleven months.
SH: Did you go straight to Holland or did you come back to the United States?
JF: No, I came back to New Jersey, stayed in New Vernon with Mom and Dad, and Bonnie came back up there, and then we took a road trip, I had a 1968 Ford, maroon Ford Galaxy convertible, with a white top.
SH: What happened to the blue convertible?
JF: I sold that, yes, while we were in Columbus. We had to have a second car, so we bought a used '65 Mustang, so we had two mustangs at one point, and then we sold, we traded in that, the aquamarine Mustang for this Galaxy convertible. ... Bonnie had that while I was away, and then we drove across country, or down to Texas in that. I remember driving across with the top down again, young and just carefree. ... We met up with this friend Dick Skersick, my friend from Columbus, and he was stationed down in Texas, Laredo. He was going through pilot training at that point. Then we went down into Mexico, and came back, and at that point, my dad who had been with his company all those years, and had been working out of their New York office his company was bought by Foremost Diaries, became Foremost-McKesson and he was transferred to San Francisco. ... They left home at the end of June. So, here was this house that I had grown up in, you know, since '46, that they sold and they were gone. ... This is August of '71. So, we traveled. From there, we went in September, we went to Holland, and I was stationed in the port of Rotterdam. It was a civilian clothes assignment. ... It was a peach, and my boss was down in Germany. So, I was the Air Force water port liaison officer.
SH: What were your duties?
JF: The duties of a WAPLO [laughter] were to look out for Air Force interests as the Air Force representative. The Army was responsible for the receipt and shipping of cargo and personnel and household goods. So, if you were being shipped into Europe, and you shipped your car over, it would come in on a container ship, and land in Rotterdam and my job--particularly for officers--was to go down there, make sure it was all right, paper work was fine, it wasn't damaged, and then when the colonel or whoever showed up, I would escort them down there to pick up their car and, you know, show them appropriate respect. ... Our office was in a commercial building right there on the Rotterdam waterfront, and I was there with, there were about fifteen Army people, there was an Army colonel there and a major and there was a Navy commander, the equivalent of a major, and I as a captain, as the Air Force representative. So, we had our own little community, and we were there two years. The first year, and again, at that point, I was going to stay in, and Bonnie for the first year didn't have a job, looked for a job. So, we traveled every weekend. She was bored to tears, and we traveled every weekend all over Holland, and the Benelux, and the second year she got a job teaching in the American School, sixth, seventh, eighth grade, all subjects. So, that year, then we could only travel on her vacations. So, we did the big trips to London, Greece, France, Spain, and, of course, my family came over, then we'd take those kinds of trips. We were the tour guides.
SH: Did you have a lot of guests?
JF: Oh, yes. ... We had a beautiful ... row house on a little canal in a small Dutch community. So, we had all Dutch neighbors, and some very good friends. ... We had this military community. ... All the Army people were young married couples like ourselves, and nobody, maybe one couple had kids. ... We played bridge, we traveled, you know, we just, it was a wonderful time. ...
SI: Did you have good access to the PXs on the military bases?
JF: There was an Air Force base at Soesterberg, it's called, S-O-E-S-T-E-R-B-E-R-G, and that was the ... 32nd Air Force Tactical Fighter Wing there. So, it was an hour away. So, we would drive there, and that was one of the real benefits. We were living on the economy, and again, second year Bonnie was paid in Guilders, so we didn't have to do the conversion. Everybody else had to convert their money to go on to the economy. ... The local Dutch markets where you'd get all your fresh food and flowers, and then we'd drive to Soesterberg and pay in the dollars, which I was paid in, and get the staples, the kind of American things that we needed. So, we were able to save money while we were there, and really take advantage of our situation. The other nice thing was that we got coupons, you know, the gas over there was truly expensive in those days, and obviously more so today, but we got coupons at a lower rate, and so we were able to do a lot of traveling. The Dutch people were in awe. I mean I had three Dutch people working for me, and so he'd come in Monday morning, and, "Where did you go," because, you know, all they had were bicycles and tiny little cars, and they never went anywhere.
SH: Did you take your car with you?
JF: ... We sold the Ford Galaxy and bought a Volkswagen "square-back," which turned out to be a really good car, and we had the two dogs with us, shipped them over, and so we had that the first year. The second year, then we ended up buying a used Volkswagen Camper. So, we had the two cars. So, again we were just, you know, the Dutch people were amazed at us.
SH: They were wondering how you were able to afford all of these things.
JF: Right, you know, and we were just taking advantage of the situation. ... It was a civilian clothes kind of a job. I didn't have to wear a uniform. ... My boss was down in Wiesbaden, Germany, and when we went down there, they I put the uniform on. So, the last two years were great. Then, at some point during that time frame I decided, well, I'm getting a little bored, I really want to manage ... to make some money. So, I put in for a date of separation, and again the war had ended. The other part of that decision was all the pilots from Vietnam, you know, the pilots they want to keep. So, I was still a reserve officer, you know, and I could stay for the twenty, but I could see the handwriting on the wall that the jobs that I had in transportation, were the kind of jobs that pilots would be put in, you know, a pilot didn't have any clue, they'd come in and he'd get the colonel job. I could probably get to major, because now the promotions get competitive after captain. So, I certainly expected to make major. ... I had six years in, so probably in the eight to ten year time frame I'd make major, and then, you know, maybe a lieutenant colonel, you know, at the fifteen, sixteen year point or something like that, but all I could see was all these pilots coming in who were captains or lieutenant colonels or majors already and they were going to take those jobs. ... That combined with, well, I'm just getting bored, you know, in that job. ... Actually, as part of my swan song there, was that I wrote a recommendation that the job of waterport liaison officer be eliminated. I said, "There's just not enough to do, and that you really, you can hire a Dutch civilian to do this job, and they're committed to the US Air Force and they'll look out for our interests very well, or a senior non-commissioned officer, that you really don't need an officer here." So, I mean I could have stayed, but I mean all those things, and I was just getting antsy, and so I put in the paper work, and they eagerly accepted it, because they were looking for people to get out, otherwise you would had the RIF, the Reduction in Force, and that came along certainly in the next couple of years. So even if I'd stayed, I probably would have gotten the RIF. So, we came back in June of '73.
SH: Did you come back to New Jersey? Did you already have a job lined up?
JF: ... I came back at ... the middle of June and my dad at that point had already, you know, his company had been bought out by Foremost Dairies and they were moving them to California, and fortunately he got selected to go, I mean, there were people who lost their jobs so, even in '73, they were doing these mergers, acquisitions. ... If he wanted a job he had to go. So, they ended up leaving at the end of June and going to San Francisco and so there we were. My brother, whose six years younger than I, was married and living in Morris Plains. ...
------------------------------------END OF TAPE TWO, SIDE TWO--------------------------------------
SH: Please continue.
JF: Yes, 1973, the housing market tightened up. ... Prices jumped just prior to the gas, that happened in '74, I think. [Editor's Note: During the 1970s, the United States experienced "stagflation," with high unemployment and high inflation, due to numerous economic and political factors both domestically and abroad. The prices of staple goods and financing (such as borrowing money to purchase a new home) increased substantially.] So, yes my folks left. I mean, I guess that's the thing about being in Jersey, we're both Jersey people, and we had no desire to go anywhere else. So, we went down, and stayed that summer with her folks down in Absecon. ... At that point, I was starting to put a resume together, and job hunt. Her dad was a commercial painter and one of his clients was the England family, Bayard England, and he was the head of Atlantic City Electric, and he was also on the board of Vanity Fair, VF Industries, and so he was like the only connection that we had, and he got me an interview at Vanity Fair, which was I think in Reading ... or somewhere over there in Pennsylvania. [laughter] My other connection was with ... Bobby Kenny, who was a fraternity brother. He and his brother Ron--twins--were classmates of '67 and people you probably want to talk to. He was with Alcoa, and so I contacted him, and he got me an interview at Alcoa, which again was in eastern PA, I think Valley Forge area. So, I had those interviews, and I guess Mr. England also was on the board at Prudential, now that I think about it, that was my connection there. So, again, we didn't have all the tools, the things of today, the web, and all this training on job seeking, you know, I sort of thought I knew everything, sort of had this attitude. It takes a few years to figure it out. ... I didn't do a huge job search and I sort of was just sort of locked into getting a job. I interviewed at Prudential in Newark, and ultimately settled on it. They gave me an offer, as a planning consultant in the home office there in Newark. So, that allowed us to look in the Morristown area for housing. As I recall, we found a house in Burnham Park which is ... on the back side of Morristown. So, we bought our first house, and we were one of two mortgages granted in the month of August of '73, and it was because of our savings from our time in Europe, and each parent, I think, gave us two thousand dollars. So, this house we bought was, I think forty-six thousand and, you know, it's a little two-story colonial or whatever. ... We came out of the Air Force with this, what we thought, was a nice pot of money, and we had all our appliances, which we bought in the PX, and we brought them back, and, you know, we thought we were on the top of the world, and boom, we get hit in the face with this housing cost, and in order to do the down payment, we ended up having to use all our savings plus taking some extra money from the folks. We bought it in August, but then we couldn't move in until October. So, we had this gap and I started my job at Prudential in September. Again, that's where my brother comes into play living in Morris Plains, and he'd married his high school sweetheart, and he had gone to Brown, and she went to the University of Massachusetts. ... She had him in her sights back then and she wasn't going to let him go. [laughter] So, she went accelerated, and went through, they're both very smart folks, and she accelerated, and went through UMass in three years. So, they ended up getting married his senior year. She wasn't going to let him go, and so she taught in Rhode Island, I guess, and then when he graduated, they came back to Morris Plains and lived in her parents' house, the house she grew up in and her parents, her dad ... was with the thinking part of AT&T, whatever, you know, and they were sent off to Kwajalein out in the South Pacific. So, it freed up the house. So, it worked perfectly for them, and they had extra rooms, and so Bonnie and I lived with them for September and October until our house closed. ... So it was only, you know, like sixty days that we were living with them and I commuted into Newark and Bonnie got a job. Well, when we got out she became pregnant like in May while we were still in Holland. So, when we got out, she was pregnant, and so then taking the job at Prudential we had no medical insurance. We paid for our first daughter, and again, this will make you laugh, I think it was only fifteen hundred dollars to have a baby. Now, it's fifteen to twenty thousand, I mean, it's ridiculous. ... So, here she is pregnant, and she got her first job in December of '73 at the Parsippany Adult School as a part-time ESL teacher, and she was hired like this, and she started work and ... Caren was born January 27th, '74. ... Bonnie took a week off, and was back teaching, you know, being two nights a week, but that's her, and even today she says, "I'll never retire." So, here we are now in our own home in Burnham Park there in Morristown, and we were there five years, and at that point we had our second daughter, Rebecca, '76, and we moved out to Bernardsville. We were concerned about the school system, and decided to move out there on April 1st of '78. So, we were in Morristown five years, essentially five years from '73 to '78, and we've been there, in Bernardsville, ever since. So, we've been married thirty-eight years and twenty-eight living there in Bernardsville. Where do we want to go from here? [laughter]
SH: You said you stayed involved with Rutgers as the reunion chair of your class.
JF: ... I've been in every one since the tenth, and having been a DKE, so '67, '77 was our tenth. So, maybe that was the first one that I was involved in, and so having been a DKE then, you know, and naturally went there to use the house as our focal point and Bobby Lloyd and Jim Valvano were our classmates, and I remember that they came back to that one. ... Sadly, we lost Jim. Yes, I guess that's sort of my continuing connection. We agreed to be, you know, I guess I'm vice president of the class and reunion chairman and Bob Gravani ... has been our president, and so we've been good friends, and so we essentially organize it every year, and now all of a sudden with our fortieth coming up, now we're suddenly getting our own personal adviser to help us. I can't think of the young lady's name right now but a very nice young woman, who contacted me already, and we are in the planning stages, and all of a sudden, after all these years where Bob and I have really been, I mean we've had various guys come and go over the years but this year, this woman, through her recruiting efforts that she's gone out and put a little bit of strong arm on folks, and that all of a sudden I'm finding out, gee, I got some help. So, hopefully we can make it a nice event this year coming up, 2007, forty years.
SH: You had talked about your sense of duty and obligation to your country, and then going to Vietnam and being fairly disillusioned by the waste that you saw. What are your thoughts about that era now?
JF: I think it's the same as in respect to what's going on today that, I mean, you know, hindsight is always something else. Certainly the approach that the protesters took, I disagreed with violently, you know, burning the flag, and I mean, if they want to protest, that's fine. You know, do it peacefully and write your articles and editorials and whatever, but don't desecrate the flag. ... People are human. [laughter] Certainly, there are a lot of decisions made based on personal interests and desire for gain, ... whether they're Republican or Democrat. I think that's going to change. You know to a certain point, you have to say, yes, my president right or wrong, and I'm going to support him. ... There's a way to go about protesting that if you really don't like him, then certainly you don't vote for him, but I think that, you know, again, those times, there was this concern about the, I can't quite remember what they called it. ...
SH: The Domino Theory?
JF: Well, yes, the Domino Theory, and something about a ring. ... Communism certainly was a threat, and I think those people had dealt with Hitler, and you know that, what went on then, and certainly if you had just treated, I think that's the naiveté of Americans, some Americans, that other people think the way we do, and they don't, and this is where, you know, ... the decline of America. ... You take God out of it, and you're going to get a mess, you know, you don't want to believe but, you know, the Ten Commandments are a great way to live, and that we grew up that way, and, you know, love your neighbor as yourself, and that there's just good guiding principles in that. ... If kids, you know, that they're growing up today and not being exposed to that at all, so what do you have? You have a vacuum, and so it gets down to the law of the jungle and might is right, and, you know, I'll take it. ... Here you have people who've lived for centuries without that, and I'm reading Tom Friedman's books now, From Beirut to Jerusalem (1990), and I mean he just has it, it's very clear. I mean it goes back centuries, and you're not going to fix it, you can't, you know, and I guess that's where unfortunately President Bush has been a little, I don't know whether he's been naïve or not, but I think he understands the Biblical context of it, these people. Friedman talks about the clan is the most important, it's not the state, you know, you can create a Lebanon state or even Iran and Iraq, I mean people aren't Iraqis, they're this little tribe, and that's what's most important, so even if you, you don't have a state that you're dealing with, and how do you ever negotiate, and how do you, you know, they don't have a common foundation, you know, we change presidents and life goes on. As an American, you know, I know I have my civil liberties, I know what I can and can't do. I want to go to church, I can go to church. I know I can go to a state park and the park is going to be clean and taken care of, things that we just take for granted. ... They're over there scratching the dirt, and looking for bread and water, and so they're going to go and kill somebody to get it, if they got it, and I want it, and I'm going to take it. So, how do you deal with it, how can you negotiate with a government that doesn't have the support of the people. ... When it comes down to it, you know, they run into our buildings and kill our people, and we're going to rally. It doesn't matter whether you're Republican or Democrat, or from Ohio or New Jersey, you know, you're an American. ... Without the basic moral fiber, I mean we're just, we're going to go that way too. Well, you can do what you want. ... To me, it's God, life, family, God and country, family, wife, and then job and then Jack. ... I certainly hope I would lay down my life for my country, I certainly will, I mean this one Pakistani guy who was going to be beheaded because he was a Christian. ... I hope I would do that and be willing to do that but I mean those are the most important things and after that you worry about my car and my vacation home and other stuff but in other people, that's more important. ...
Shaun Illingworth: When you were in Vietnam, did you have to combat theft of supplies?
JF: We would have called it pilferage. I can't remember a specific incident where I had to take action, but it was certainly a concern not only from the papasans but from, you know, soldiers. That's why I think by being pro-active in our ... swapping, you know, being willing to swap plywood for steaks, that it probably prevented some of it. I mean, our compound was barbed wire enclosed. ... If other people, you know, the commissary or food or that kind of thing if somebody, I mean I didn't have that responsibility. So, I mean the things that I was in charge of, you know the lumber and the nails and I think, I mean, we may have lost some stuff to papasans, and I probably benevolently overlooked it, you know, if he needed something, you know, certainly scraps of lumber, you know, I let them take stuff home, knowing that they probably were at a subsistence level. ... I don't recall any major events where I had to take action or lay down the law or put on extra guards or anything else like that.
SI: Did you get to know any of the Vietnamese civilians beyond just the supervisory level?
JF: I'm sure I did. I certainly don't recall any names or even faces, you know, again its part of the blocking out, I think. ... No, they would come in, and I think I painted the picture, you know. They'd come in and squat and they had their little pails, their lunch pail, and they'd stick it on a fire, and boil the water, and cook their fish heads and they'd drink ... the noodles and the rice.
SH: Did Vietnamese civilians clean your hooch?
JF: I'm sure we had a mamasan. Yes, they had little brooms, maybe this long [a yard], and, you know, just brushes with something binding it there so that the ends were open. ... I do remember them coming and kind of, you know, cleaning, getting the beetles out, and the dust balls.
SH: Were they any interactions with Vietnamese civilians outside of the base?
JF: ... I'd have to say again, I don't remember, but I don't think so. I mean, when you work, we worked six to six, I mean Sundays drive in to the beach, maybe throwing candy to kids.
SI: You were at Da Nang and Phan Rang when they were shutting down. How was morale among the men?
JF: I did have to break up some fights amongst the guys. ... People were antsy. I mean, again, Air Force guys, we weren't getting shot at, we weren't on the frontlines, we were taking care of maintenance, and doing paperwork, and, you know, shipping stuff. So, usually, if anything I do recall one night having to jump in, you know, people drinking, and having to jump in, and probably took a couple of shots myself. ...
SH: Were the troops fairly integrated?
JF: ... Certainly not 50-50.
SH: There was integration though?
JF: Oh, yes. I had a number of black troops, NCOs who were black. Back in Lockbourne in Ohio, my boss was black, Major Johnny Martin. He was one of my bosses and when I was over in Holland, I can't remember his name, but he was black. I enjoyed working for him. He told me that, when I told him I was resigning my commission, he said, "You know, you're never going to be happy. You know, you should stay here." I don't know if we're ever going to get into my commercial side, but he was probably right. I have made a lot of job changes looking for something.
SH: Do you think you found it now?
JF: Oh, yes.
SH: If you want to talk about your career after the military, please do.
JF: ... Again, I'd be glad to, if you want me to. [laughter]
SI: Were you aware of any problems with drugs or the drug trade while you were stationed in Vietnam?
JF: No, and it may be just my naiveté and not looking for it. I mean, it wasn't part of my world, so, but I'm not going to say it wasn't there, ... but it didn't touch me. Again, I never had to deal with it as an officer. I'm sure there were people smoking marijuana, I mean, again, it wasn't something I sought out or was part of. ...
SI: It was not seen as like a discipline problem among the enlisted men.
JF: No, I mean maybe my NCOs took care of it and didn't tell me about it, and I mean, again, I'm not going to be so naïve to say it wasn't there, but I didn't have to deal with it. ...
SH: Tell me about your involvement in Rutgers at the class reunions.
JF: I think I mentioned before about that when I come back for reunions, and I think one of the things I found is that, you know, out of a class of nine hundred, graduating, I think it was, went from eleven hundred to nine hundred, the people who do come back, you never met, but you find out now that, you know, that's something in common, yes, you were here for four years at the same time, you didn't know each other at the time. ... Somehow either, you know, you either now know people that they know now, you know, it's the six degrees of separation kind of a thing, that somehow, but based on the common Rutgers link, that most of my experience, Rutgers experiences, revolves around the fraternity. ... I guess, you know, not a lot of people are going to have that experience in the future going forward. ... It's tough for those of us who then, you know, to get people to come back, it's hard because other guys who haven't come over the past forty years say, "Well, I don't know anybody. So what's the point?" ... So, I have to sort of make a pitch. Well, so on and so on, is coming back and, you know, you know them, and from my experience that I now have new friends who I've met over these five, ten, fifteen, twenty-five year reunions, who now I can come back and say, I know you and, you know, that they're really great guys, you know. ... Maybe the guys that you did know as the "people you wouldn't associate with then" they've turned out all right. [laughter] ... Maybe they even have better jobs or, you know, you might want to meet them for networking purposes. So, you know, it's just funny how things work out that way, but one of the things as a fraternity brother, that a number of us get together every other year, and so we've maintained a link that way. One particular guy, Jack (Dooley?), who started out class of '66, ended up as '67, started out in engineering and ended up in music, which is not strange, you know, when you think of it. ... We're golfers, and so he and I come back every year and play in the golf outing with Rich Sinding, who was the Targum editor when we were here, and is now with the Princeton newspaper that comes out twice a week. ... He's editor of that. So, you know, he wasn't necessarily a guy that I hung out with on here, but now, you know, we've become really good friends. ... The fraternity link or teammates and I guess that's the way the reunion people kind of print them out, they print you out by all the teams and they can sort it anyway you ask them to sort it. ... I guess they still do the phone calls, the phone-a-thon?
SH: They do.
JF: I used to do that. I'd always ask for class of '67, and call guys who I didn't necessarily know, and even some that I did, and I got a lot of bitterness. So, I don't know if that's still there, but back in the late '70s, early '80s when I was doing that, it seemed like there were people who were, ... somehow they felt like they didn't get jobs that they might have thought that they should have had. I mean there's an issue there with, but because they went to Rutgers, and not somewhere else. So, it was almost like a bitterness against Rutgers, no, I'm not going to give any money, or well, I'm just a school teacher and you know, I can't afford to give any money as opposed to, you know, well, yes, I'll give you five bucks, anyway. I had a great time on the banks. So, you know, I've had some of those over the years, and obviously some of the decisions that have been made recently, you know, not happy about. So, it's hard, you know, I came back this year, and, you know, it's a different place, and the big busses and, you know, women, okay, women here, I mean they've been here since '72, and my brother in law Kirk Conover was a member of that first class, class of '76. So, I mean it's changed, and that's okay, but I think, you know, for reunions and coming back, I mean you are coming back to kind of get a sense of the way it used to be, and it's not that. So, it's a little hard to get people to come back. ... I don't know what the school is going to do about that, but even as I walked across the campus, I parked over there on Old Queens and walked over, and I looked up and I don't know which one, the building right before Scott, ... I look up and growing out of the bricks are plants, weeds at the second or third story level, and I'm just thinking, you know, you get guys to come back, and they see that kind of stuff and, you know, you go back to Princeton or any other school and, you know, you're going to see nice looking buildings, you know, they're cared for. ... Yes, we're a state school and all that kind of stuff but it seems to me you ought to have somebody, a maintenance guy to lean out a window or something, or get one of those elevated lift trucks or whatever and clean that up, but gee, I don't know. I guess that's what I'm trying to say, and then to cut these athletic programs, it's very disheartening. ... I read every word that's written about Rutgers in the sports page anyway, you know, this Sunday they talked about the swim team who went in there and made their pitch and, you know, and now they're going to cut more. ... That's just going to make it harder and harder because again, as a five thousand men school at the time we were here, I mean you were focused on your fraternity, on your club, or on your sport. Yes, there were the independents and the commuters, but that's what campus life was all about then. That's your identity and, you know, if it's not there, or if it's been cut, you know, that's just going to create more ill will in the people who at our age now, who are retiring, and who have the wherewithal to make gifts. Then the womens' thing, you know, ... it's certainly perceived rightly or wrongly that, you know, Douglass had its own endowment, and all they did was to get their hands on the Douglass monies. ... They can put all the words around it they want but, you know, I go back to the ... we ought to be, you want to a big state university, want to be Ohio State, Penn State, you want to compete with those people, you got to have that name, it's got to be New Jersey University and then you can have Rutgers College and Douglass College and Engineering College, and Cook College, it just fits beautifully. I mean, what was wrong with that? ... Trying to hang on to, "Well, we're going to hang on to the past." I think people would be more amenable to that, you know, giving up the Rutgers name as the college. ... Even when I was here, they changed it to Rutgers, "The State University." I never accepted that, never even while we were here as undergraduates. ... You had to write a check, you wrote Rutgers University, or Rutgers College, one or the other, but you never wrote Rutgers, "The State University." ... I think things like that along the way are just going to somehow hurt the good old idea of 1766 and Old Queens and College Avenue, and now you want to fill in College Avenue, it's not a bad idea but, I don't know. Where are you going to get the money to do that? [laughter] So, it's I guess we're in that time, and I don't know. It will be interesting to see if the guys that we get back, we're going to have, again, I'm sorry I can't remember this woman's name, who has recruited a whole bunch of folks now to come back for the fortieth reunion committee so we're going to have some people. So, it will be interesting to hear, and there's a lot of people on that who have never come back at all, who now are at the retirement age and have retired and said, "You know, okay I'll do that."
SH: That is good news for you.
JF: Yes, but it will be interesting to start to hear when they start to see, having been away. Are you guys graduates?
JF: Okay, good.
SH: Henry Rutgers Scholars as well.
JF: All right good. That will be interesting to hear what they have to say when they hear about some of these things. ...
SH: Your daughters are grown now, did they go to Rutgers?
JF: No, they refused, and that was a sad thing, being that we were both graduates, and we certainly said, "Well, what about Rutgers." "Absolutely not." ... They're poisoned against I, at least out of the Somerset Hills, where you get ... all the private schools and Morristown Prep, and everybody is focused on Duke, and Virginia. ... So, you know, to me the cream of the crop, I don't want to be elitist about it, but I mean the Somerset Hills, it certainly is a different [place], and we recognize it. I mean, we're not part of that country club set, so that's not us, but on the other hand, you know, you got a lot of strong kids coming up through these school systems. ... When you see kids going to USC and, you know, all these other schools, and not considering Rutgers, ... it's a tragedy. I think they ought to be here, and they would be if you really did it right, and you compete. ... If you want to have some loyalty to the state, you got to have the state name. ...
SH: Do you want to talk about your career after leaving the military?
------------------------------------END OF TAPE THREE, SIDE ONE------------------------------------
JF: ... I got the job at Prudential and started as, the title was planning consultant, and we were responsible for, I was in the corporate services department, which ... had a corporate-wide responsibility for supporting all the divisions all around the country, the regions, and this was 1973. ... At Prudential, we were responsible for supporting the whole company and what intrigued me about taking the job was that there was project management involved, and working with, at that time, state of the art equipment, and looking to improve the process, which was an attitude I always had in the Air Force even. ... I was always looking for a better way to do things, "Better, cheaper, faster," I guess the best way to say it, and being in the corporate office. So, at that point, I also made the comment about that I've sort of, my career has paralleled the growth of technology, and that in 1973, and I had at that point certainly no computer background, that we were at the stage of IBM where punch cards were still in use, and just being phased out. ... IBM had just come out with their, what was called the model S/360, which was, you know, the computer the size of a room, and required all kinds of air conditioning, and special conditions, etc. And this was the first effort to bring technology into the office and actually, you know, you still had to be supported by technical people both in the computer room and the programmers, but you actually had the interface with the end user, and my job was to be the go-between, between the end user and in this case their internal supply department and then moving on to that was their own printing plant, and then purchasing. So, my role was to be the go-between, between the end user and the technical people and that was a challenge. Now today, I guess at the beginning of this year, 2006, one of my recent assignments was at J&J, and again we were go-betweens, between the end user and the technology department, and they had to hire outside consultants to do this, and now it's called "change management." ... It was interesting, I went back to, my wife will tell you I keep a lot of paper, that I found papers that I wrote when I was at Prudential in the '75 to '79 time frame about, at that point we called it office automation, and how it was going to take ten years to fully integrate the use of technology in the office. Well, here we are forty years later, thirty to forty years later, and we still haven't gotten it right, which is just really amusing. [laughter] So, my first assignment was as the go-between, at that point they called it, ... they built a new building to house all this computer hardware in Roseland, right off [Route] 280. ... Prudential, over the years, had turned inward instead of hiring outside vendors, they found it cheaper to do it themselves. So, they had an eight-story building in downtown Newark on Warren Street that housed supplies, and there were eight floors of forms, you know, the insurance industry, and to get those forms they had their own printing plant. So, their own printing plant generated all these forms and documents and pamphlets and brochures and you name it, they printed it. ... They called it SIMS, Supply Inventory Management System, and so I was the project manager, and set up the meetings between the end user, supply division people, who were, had no interest in computers and wanted to keep doing it their old way, which was the best, and you had these computer people with the glasses, and excuse me for the stereotype, but this particular woman did have glasses, and they [laughter] were people that you sort of didn't let out in public, and who couldn't really talk, you know, all they could think about was well, you know the computer can't do that, or it can't do this, or it can't do that. I mean, there was a lot of cant's in those days, and then you had the naïve people on the other side who said well, okay computers, well that can do anything and I want it to do this, this and this, and they said, "Well, it can't do that." So, I had the role of, you know, A) I had to learn about the computers myself, and then B) I had to learn about supplies, and so I think that was sort of my talent, and then be able to talk to both sides, and so I developed friends on both sides, and, you know, you could see where the supply people were just entrenched in their own ways and weren't thinking outside the box, and you had the other people who, this is the way we do it, and they wouldn't think outside the box either. So, I had to get those two to somehow talk and now today, it's called change management, has behavioral scientists all around this change, and how to introduce change into an organization. I've been doing this for thirty years, give me a break. So, it was interesting that here we are at J&J, top fifty Fortune 500 company, and they still don't get it right either. ... We should blank out J&J, I don't know, being they're a big benefactor to New Brunswick and the school. [laughter]
SH: It sounds like it is indicative of big companies in general.
JF: Well, it's the human condition, and that everybody thinks they have, they know it all, and don't want to change, and they're comfortable in the way they're doing things, and once you understand that, then yes, there is a process that you go through to get people to change from "A" to "B" and it takes time. It doesn't just happen, you know, if the chairman wants it done tomorrow, it just doesn't happen, and the computer people want it done tomorrow, and it just doesn't happen, and obviously now the vendors and suppliers, they want it done tomorrow because they want to get paid and it takes time. So, that's where I started, and so I've also, for better or for worse, I've sort of developed my own label of myself is that, I don't like it, "Jack of all trades," because I really, I don't want to know computers in the insides out, and I don't want to know supply right down to the gory details. I know enough and I think I have enough people smarts that I can cause this, and the project management skill of saying, okay, "Where do you want to be? When do you want to be there? How much do you want to spend to get there? ... Where are you today? ... Let's work our way back, and what do we have to do to get there?" ... To me it's sort of elementary, but again, you've got all these people going to project management school. [laughter] Anyway, so here we were with these computers in glass houses and with wires and a terminal this big and, you know, it just, it's obviously progressed, but people have stayed the same. ... I followed that wave of technology, and I started, while at Prudential, we started office automation, word processing went from typewriters, and I did studies to demonstrate that one word processor could eliminate two secretaries and two typewriters, and do, you know, even more work than those two people and obviously that's where it started getting the bad reputation and people would resist bringing technology into the office. ... You had to work through that in a way that you could find other opportunities for them, and then you had the executives who just wanted to save dollars, and so I've always had this people side of me that says, you know, there's something else that they can be doing, and that they really want to do it. They don't really want to sit there and just type all day, and that they've got brains, and, you know, they tend to be women, so I guess I've been sort of a feminist in that sense, I guess. [laughter] Again, it's just, you know, looking at it rationally, and that as a business person your company grows when; ... to me, your number one client as a company is your employees because if they're not happy they're not going to do a quality job. They're not going to give you a defect free effort, they're not going to be on the top of their game all the time, and be thinking about your external customer and saying, "What can I do for you today, madam or sir?" ... That's how companies grow and make money. ... I got an MBA at Seton Hall while I was there, in organizational behavior, got that on the GI Bill, used the GI Bill so I made money. ... I got four hundred dollars a month from that, and I got seventy-percent tuition reimbursement from Prudential. At that point we had one baby, and then the second baby, and our two dogs. [laughter] Life was good, and the career went well during the six years that I was at Prudential, got the MBA. I did, I think two years in this planning consultant job, then they moved me into security, and Chief John Redden, who was the former police director of Newark during the Newark riots, retired from the Police Department and came to work for Prudential as the ... security manager, so that was a wonderful experience working with him. Essentially, what I did there was develop procedures, and at that point there was the putting up all the elevator signs for, you know, starting to standardize signs and fire extinguishers. ... Again, it was projects and so I think I was there eighteen months or something like that, and then they me moved on. ... This is how I'm moving up in corporate services, that I got a number of different jobs. Well, little did I know that that was sort of starting a trend for me. [laughter] So, then my third job there was as manager of the Resource and Systems Division, and again, I was back in systems work at this point ... I had like eighteen people doing acceptance testing of the computer programs that were being developed now for, we finished the supply project, then we did a printing project, and then we did the purchasing. So, it was kind of like I came back full circle where I was still doing interfacing and project managing but now I had people reporting to me. Now, we had the quality control aspect of testing the code, making sure that it did right and then checking, you know, this is what you expected, these are the reports you wanted, checking with the end user. ... During that time, I attempted my first entrepreneurial effort. I don't remember how or why. I just always had this little antsy spirit about me. ... I don't know how it started, but I bought a camera, and a digital printer. ... This was 1978 now, and set up a little kiosk in the Livingston Mall, taking people's pictures and printing them on T-shirts and tote bags and, you know, so, you know, to make a little extra money. My boss found out, I told my direct boss about it, and, you know, over lunch in confidence I thought. Well, it turns around, he went right to his boss, the general manager, told him about it. So, he called me in and said, "You know, Jack what do you want to do? Do you want to be here at Prudential, or you want to do this?" I said, "Well, this is just for fun." He said, "I think you ought to focus here." I thought, "Okay, maybe it's time to find another job."
Well, that and I was like coming out of the Air Force and hearing later what my contemporaries, my Rutgers classmates, I was the only one in my class who went through ROTC, just thought of that. Everybody else went into, somehow bypassed the draft, I think maybe one or two guys got drafted, and did like two years and that was it. The lottery stopped at some point in there, and somehow I remember I was the only guy going to ROTC, putting the uniform on and going. Which I didn't think anything about it at the time for whatever reason but, you know, looking back on it, it's interesting. So, everybody else had gotten jobs in '67, and either got, you know, good starting salaries or had now worked their way up and gotten good raises, and so when I sort of did that old comparison thing, I'm finding out that, because where I started, twelve thousand dollars in '73. Now, it's '79, and I'm making less than twenty thousand, I guess I thought I ought to be making more. So, it was the money that was sort of egging me on, and two kids and Bonnie at this point was still doing ESL and night school, but she was now working full-time, and she was now administering programs and things, and ... she came back here. ... She has a Douglass degree, and she has two Rutgers degrees. She has four total. She got her educational specialist, because at that point she thought she was going, no, she got the master's when I was in Vietnam, ... master's in English as the second language. Then, she, when we just came back, she started night school for a Ph.D. in education. So, she went through all the class work, and she reached the point where, you know, looking around all these men are holding down all these superintendent and principal positions, so where am I going to go? So she cut the cord, and ... she took the EDS, educational specialist, and she came home one day, the girls were like six and eight, and said, "I want to go to law school." She remembers that I laughed or did some kind of a sarcastic response, but I don't remember that, of course, I said, "Well, sure, okay, if that's what you want." The girls and I will figure it out. So, she went to school, full time, law school Seton Hall, and also maintained twenty-five hours a week at Parsippany Adult School.
SH: That is impressive.
JF: Sharp lady, and mom with two kids. ... The girls and I, we did a lot of movies, and bowling and a lot of stuff. [laughter] She studied all weekend, so in three years she got her JD, and so now twenty years later, she's the managing partner in a law firm, and she just finished the year as chair of the matrimonial section in the New Jersey Bar, and she's now on the DRB, Disciplinary Review Board for the State of New Jersey, which means that she essentially, there are seven of them including civilian members, that review attorney ethics cases. So, she essentially sits in judgment, I won't say that, of other attorneys who have ... gone awry, gone in less than ethical directions. She always wanted to be a judge. ... Also this past year she was selected as a Woman of the Year in Somerset County in the field of law, and she was honored as a Woman of Inspiration by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).
SH: Good for her. ...
JF: She also was president of the local school board of the Bernardsville school system from ... '88 to '96, I guess. Both daughters went to Bernards High, one graduated, the other left after sophomore year [and] went to Pingry. The eldest daughter Caren went to Bates College as a theater major and is now a professional artist, has her own business practice, and is the mother of my grandson, Benjamin Frost Olmstead and, now mom to be of, who knows, baby number two, we're just calling her baby, male or female, I guess we'll find out this week. ... Rebecca went from Pingry to Wake Forest, graduated in '98, and then went to Boston College Law School, and is now an in-house attorney for J.B. Hanauer in Parsippany. ... I've lived with some very both lovely and intelligent women, which has been a real joy.
SH: Sounds like a dynamic household.
JF: Yes it is. It's really something to sit back and look at it. ...
SH: At some point you left Prudential. Could you tell us about your career afterwards?
JF: ... There are a number of stops along the way. ... I'm not going to go into all the detail in all of them, but I left Prudential after six years and took a job on Wall Street with Bankers Trust. ... I was assistant treasurer, I guess was the title, and I was in organization called product development, and essentially I did a national market research study to determine how Bankers could develop closer relationships with the banks around the country using technology, it turned out to be. ... Based on the market research, I traveled around the country and met with a lot of bank presidents, vice presidents and what you'd call a needs assessment, and then took that and turned it into a specification for a computer system, and then circulated that to computer vendors, software houses, and selected a software firm to write software that would allow the banks around the country to [communicate faster and more accurately] with Bankers. At that point the technology, there was a precursor to a fax, and essentially it came out on the thermal paper. ... The business issue was, well, you'd receive these documents and they were handwritten, and sometimes you couldn't read the handwriting and so then Bankers, they would key in, they were stock transactions, and so they would then key them in, and A) you'd get a mistake with the reading, the handwriting, and B) they'd get just general typing errors, and Bankers was liable for not making a trade when the client expected them to make the stock transaction. So, my solution was that we would put, at that point, it was called a micro-processor, this is 1979, '80, the precursor to a PC, but, you know, it didn't have multi-functionality. All it was, was you could type in, you know, you could pre-program a screen, and that they could type in, you know, "buy me a hundred shares of whatever," and send it electronically to Bankers, and then they could turn around and send it electronically to the stock exchange. So, you could get the information back, keep a record, ... and it would eliminate all this manual typing. ... I was in that position of pulling all that together. I was there ten months, and they promoted me to AVP, but then when I made my presentation to senior management, they chose not to proceed with the project, but they promoted me. So, they liked what I did, so again, you know, you look back on these things, and well maybe I should have stayed there, but right then, that was the beginning of August of '81, and New York transit system went on strike. Well, I was driving to Hoboken, and taking the PATH, ... or I would take the bus from Morristown or I'd take the train from Morristown. ... We'd get to Hoboken and stand there like sheep en masse and get on the bus, and have to sit in the tunnel, and it just happened that I got a phone call from a recruiter who said, ... "I've got a job in Morristown, Crum & Forster insurance company and as manager of their office automation unit." So, it was a no brainer. So, I turned my back on this nice raise and everything else and left that, and went to Crum & Forster and so again it was bringing in new technology. At this point, IBM had come out with their Displaywriter, which ... was primarily a word processor, the software for word processing, you didn't do data processing on it, but they sold the future and they talked about this empty, "look at this, you know, the box is empty, and it's very easy to put in some software that could do data processing." So, you could have one terminal, now you had a word processing terminal, and a data processing terminal on your desk, and you had no room for anything else. [laughter] So, again this is how the technology has evolved and people forget that. ... I guess the Heathkit was the first PC, you know, it was the home, put a PC together, and that was in 1980. ... That was part of IBM's marketing pitch was that you can, you know, "It's coming, it's coming." So, Crum and Forster was a "dyed in the wool IBM customer," and they made a pre-commitment to buy three hundred of these things, and so then I was hired to come in and do a cost justification. ... It was like after the fact, now we want to justify making this expenditure. So, I'm in the IT department, and so, I won't name names but there were, you know, gentlemen who had chosen IBM, and I'm sure IBM was treating them well, and so I was sort of the patsy, "Okay, Frost, come in here and justify these things." So, again, I'm traveling the country, Crum & Forster had like nine subsidiaries and the difference there was that they were independent. ... They had been purchased by Crum. ... Previously, they were just insurance agencies, and the owner was very wealthy, but ... the owner reached a point where, I'll sell out, make some more money, but you can't tell us what to do. So, we'll send you our business but, you know, we're going to run it the way we want to. So, this was the dawn of starting to say, okay, you're part of a ... corporation, and you're going to have to make some concessions. So again, Jack is sent out to deal with these people, you know, these real entrepreneurs, heavy-duty entrepreneurs, and so that was interesting, but we did have a corporate jet that we flew out of Morristown airport, and I got to travel around in pretty nice style, Atlanta, Chicago, West Coast, and meet with these people and convince them, you know, find out what they were doing and ... I had to now parcel out these three hundred Displaywriters. [laughter] ... That was my job and did it successfully. I ended up ... making good friends with the IBM salesman who happened to live in New Vernon and so we also played golf and, you know, he took me to nice places and paid for dinner and stuff like that. So, you know, I participated in that. [laughter] Out of that, because we were the first major account in the US that bought the Displaywriters, that Crum became a flagship account for IBM. ... My salesman, he got recognition for this, and so I don't know if they still do it or not, but IBM did these quarterly or semi-annual customer conferences, you know, two-day kind of things where you have different speakers, and obviously through it all, they're trying to sell more hardware. ... I became the spokesperson, sort of, for these Displaywriters. ... They put me on the docket to be a speaker, and so that sort of started my public speaking, that I would go to these conferences and tell them how I cost justified these Displaywriters. ... At Prudential, I was the head of the office automation committee there, and in those days they were buying DEC [Digital Equipment Corporation], and they were whole units, I mean it was a thing like that, with a terminal built into it and the keyboard. ... So, I had started doing speaking for them, and writing papers at that point. So, I did that for two years, and then it was like the project was done, and I could see I wasn't going anywhere there. You know, again, I was looking for income, and the girls were growing, and Bonnie was in school. ... I'm antsy. ... I sort of liked the sales game and the aura of it. So, I think I sought out the next job, and that was at Wang Laboratories. ... They were the word processing company and they were competing with IBM. They didn't have the computer side of it, and Wang was seen as being more people friendly and so on. So, I went there in a marketing role, I was area marketing manager for North Jersey. ... I was at Crum for two years, '80 to '82. I was at Wang from '82 to '84. Again, a lot of speaking, setting up marketing conferences, and the second year there, I had the idea, I said, you know, "I'm going out there and helping customers implement this technology. Why don't we consult to them and get paid for it. ... We'll do it generically." ... I mean you're cost justifying it based on using the technology to improve their process. "You can use Wang products, and we would prefer you do that, but you could use others," and so I sold that idea to the corporation, and I ended up ... starting the consulting service, and I had a couple of folks, who again, who had come from different backgrounds, and we started selling consulting services. ... While I was doing that, I met a gentleman who was at Coopers & Lybrand, and he recruited me to come over there. So, I was two years at Wang, and left there '84, and back into the city again, the commute, and with Coopers & Lybrand. We were up at 50th and Sixth Avenue, and that was fun. ... That lasted two years. After the first year, my boss said I was on my way to making partner, doing well, and six months later he called me in and said, you know, "You're not selling enough, you really ought to look for another opportunity." So that was the first time that I sort of, as I say, sort of ran into a wall, and, you know, I didn't make a move on my own initiative, and it was sort of my first failure if you will, that ... I didn't meet up to their expectation. So, I guess I moped about that a little bit and then, said, well, I looked at other jobs, and ... computer companies, you know, it's just the same old stuff. So, I said, "Well, it's time to do it on my own." Done it for Coopers, I can do it on my own. If they don't think I'm bringing in enough, it's certainly enough for me to live on. So, I decided to launch out. Now, at the same time then, again hindsight, but I was riding home and I heard on the radio some guy talking about what was called Postmark International, which was a precursor to the UPS pack and ship stores. So, it was a new franchise, and I'm thinking well, you know, that you can bring some steady income, and then I could, you know, do the consulting. So, I bought into this franchise, started up an office in Madison, and at this point ... we were living in Bernardsville. We moved to Bernardsville in '78. ... Started that business, hired a guy who used to be Bonnie's boss, he had been let go by the school system, to be the day to day office guy, and I had a consulting client down in Trenton, the Department of Community Affairs, who I had worked with at Wang, ... and I continued working with them while at Coopers. ... When they heard I was doing it on my own, and certainly at a lower fee than a Coopers' fee, and I was helping them with their office automation project, and getting them up and running. ... I've got a steady client, so I mean at the time it certainly made sense, and Bonnie had finished law school and she was starting at her law firm. ... It all looked like it was okay, and it was coming together here. Well, as you know it takes time to start a small business, and it takes a little more dedicated effort than just a little time here and there. ... It reached a point, again, clearly I probably pulled the trigger too soon, and now looking on it and how well these kinds of places [UPS stores] are doing, I certainly did pull out early. I made it through two and a half years, and I think I pulled out before the third Christmas, and Christmas time was always the best shopping season, and guys still tell me that. ... The local guy I use now, you know, says, ... he just makes it, he covers costs through the year and Christmas is his profit, all the shipping which occurs then. So, I pulled the plug on the shipping store, and continued on with the consulting. ... That was '86 to '88 sometime, and continued on with the consulting, and the girls were into high school now. ... '88 was when AT&T had all their lay-offs and things. ... The economy stopped growing and the state said, you know, "I'm sorry we can't afford you anymore." ... So, all of a sudden, you know, it was getting a little tight on clients. So, Bonnie said, "Get a job, ... enough futzing around here." So, okay, my entrepreneurial days were over. So, I went back and looked for a job, and that was in '92. So, I guess I looked for about a month, and met a man, I guess it was through my church, a guy said, ... "I know you're looking for a job, this guy over here, ... I think he's looking for somebody, why don't you to talk to him," and six weeks later I had a job offer as a quality manager in a semi-conductor manufacturer. ... So, again these jobs, you know, I went into banking, had no banking experience, and now I'm into manufacturing, no manufacturing experience, semi-conductors, and I'm working with all these scientists, PhDs, and, you know, I'm the only one with an MBA. ... Again, it kind of goes back to my jack of all trades, and that I'm able to go into new places, and as a consultant, and be able to do that. So, I spent ten years there, and got into ISO 9000 certifications, I mean, I immediately found out about the professional society for quality, ASQ [American Society for Quality] and joined them, and got certified as a quality manager, and, you know, go to a lot of conferences, and so I got up to speed on that and ISO 9000 is the international quality standard, and Malcolm Baldrige, the National Quality Award. ... I got our company ISO certified within two years, and so I probably should have left there in '95 or so, after I got the certification. ... That would have been, looking back, the time to have left. But at this point I said, you know, girls are in college, and ... I've had enough of job changing, and so I'm just going to stick this out. Well, in 2001, even before 9/11, the company was bought. I was part of Litton Industries, and we were bought by Northrop Grumman, and that's when the cell phone, our clients were Motorola, and so on, who made the chips for the cell phones, and that business tanked. We had our biggest month, we did four million in sales in March of 2001. In April we did six hundred thousand ... and in May we did zero. In two months, it tanked. ... Motorola not only made the semi-conductors, they were supplying in house to make their cell phones, you know. Nokia and all these other people who our customers sold to, they all called and said, "We have enough chips for ten years. ... Don't ship any." ... It just flows backwards in the supply chain, and so, you know, we just made the wafers that they put the chips on. It died that quickly, and right then Northrop, because, I think because of the upward swing, Northrop bought it, I mean we were just one division of many in Litton. So, they bought all of Litton, and they looked at us, and they looked at our sales, and they said, "Find a buyer," and we couldn't find a buyer. So, in June of 2001, they gave us the sixty-day, whatever it's called, notice that we're closing you. So, then, of course, 9/11 hit, and we were there, at that point, the place was pretty well-cleaned out, and it was just a bunch of us left to shut the place down, and we saw it on TV, and we went up to Fort Nonsense above Morristown, which is the highest point in Morris County, and we looked out and we could see two plumes of smoke, and then we saw one plume, and then we saw none. ... I was fortunate, the plant manager asked me to stay on and project manage the shut down. Everybody else left later in September, so I got to stay till May of 2002, which enabled me to pass the ten-year point, which I now get a modest pension from them. [Editor's Note: Mr. Frost is referring to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York City.]
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SH: Please continue.
JF: ... The plant closed, and I was the last one out in May of 2002. So, again I was sort of in the position of looking. Just as a quick rewind, ... in the late '80s there, in '88, I lived right in the area of the AT&T complex and headquarters at Basking Ridge and I don't quite remember how it all happened, but I got involved with our local YMCA, Somerset Hills YMCA, and identified the need for outplacement, counseling, job interviewing, resume writing skills. ... Having changed jobs a number of times, I felt pretty confident about interview taking and writing resumes. So, I volunteered to be part of that group that did the teaching, and so, I think for about four years, '88 to '92, I volunteered there at the "Y" and we had weekly meetings. ... We thought that the thing was going to last for two or three years and then it would, you know, like good programs, you meet a need, and then you're supposed to close up the doors, you don't just keep going. Well, it's sad to say that that program is still flourishing today. So, I kind of, you know, nice to know, that I was part of something that started and has endured, although it's, you know, unfortunate, but with all the AT&T closings and downsizing ... and whatever succeeded it, and that Basking Ridge area is just a hotbed for that kind of stuff and all the pharmaceuticals and everything else. So, it's continued on to this day. That's one of the things I still do is I help people with their resumes and that's what I'm doing now. [laughter] ...
How these things happen, again, my wife and I were taking a vacation this past April before I left Litton ... and we were sitting in the President's Club at Newark Airport and I picked up a New York Times business section and was just kind of looking through the want ads, and saw this ad that said, "Quality and HR," big bold letters, "interested?" ... I don't remember all of it, but, "Quality and HR," that's what I do. So, I contacted them, called the number that morning, and they said, "Well, ... we support coaching in the areas of leadership development and quality." So, I said, "Well, I'd be interested." So, when we got back from the vacation, and I scheduled an appointment in early May, their headquarters is in Reading, PA. I went down there, and it's an organization called Resource Associates Corporation, R-A-C, and their thing, their twenty-five year old company is that they started as a consulting organization, and I guess they found their niche in leadership development and quality. ... After a while, I guess they, in order to grow, what they found rather than hiring more consultants, that they found that their skill set fit around the development of the materials and the coaching of people and that rather than having employees, that they would, you know, essentially create, it's not a franchise, but what it boils down to is that ... it's like I retain my independent ownership of my own company, and they're like having a home office. ... After initial training and initial investment of materials, initial inventory, ... they have quarterly meetings, where it's essentially like a sales meeting where you can go back, and for just the cost of your hotel, and a minimal cost for the two days, that you get to hear stories from all these other people all over the country, and their success stories, and how they use the materials, and how they coach, and how they sell. ... It's like having your own home office but you retain, it's your business, and other than like a two hundred dollar annual sign-up fee, that's it. So, it's not like a franchise that you're locked into having to do it their way, like I experienced with the other franchise effort that I tried. So this, you can call it my third entrepreneur effort. I essentially decided, bottom line, I decided that I was going to have my own consulting practice, that at my age I wasn't going to go do the corporate thing anymore. ... I made my investment, and went out there for my training, and so my company that I formed is Firm Foundations, LLC, and we work with organizations large and small to help them build, what I call, the "firm foundation" of your business; your plan, your people, and your process. So, I'm using all my varied experience in all these various jobs. ... Somehow it all came together in the end. ... You were all over the place, Jack, and that's sort of how it's come together, and that I'm comfortable going into a bank or pharmaceuticals company. I did this job at J&J, and that was really my first, and it really wasn't anything to do with pharmaceuticals. So, I tend to stay away from, you know, really technical kind of things. ... If you're dealing with plan, people and process, it really doesn't matter what you're doing. ... I can come in, and through interviewing and understanding what you're doing, what your problems and issues are, and your challenges, then I can help you solve them, and you're the subject matter expert, not me. I have a process that I can take you through, a problem-solving process, project management, and most of my clients, you know, when I get a larger corporate client, although I certainly tend to have the smaller, everything from a one person executive recruiter, and a one person webmaster, to a three hundred million dollar company. ... Like the three hundred million dollar, I mean the president, when I did my final briefing on this last job I did for him, he said, "You know, I can really see the value of having an outside person." ... They had been working on this problem, literally they told me, ten years, and it was a safety issue, and that they needed documentation of their safety procedures, and it's a government requirement and, you know, they deal with a lot of chemicals and hazardous stuff. I don't know anything about that stuff, but essentially I just came in and asked them, "What do you need to do? When do you want to get it done? Okay, let's work back, what you have to do. You got to get this one done first, and then this one." ... It doesn't take a rocket scientist to do this, but they're so tied up in their jobs that they don't have time to do that. So, they're out, north of Pittsburgh, and so they paid my flight out, and travel, and stay over and everything and my fees, and we got the job done in a year. Now, they've been working on this thing for ten years, and so the president says, "Oh, there is value to having somebody from the outside come in and sort of honcho us doing this." ... I do quality jobs and help people get certified through the ISO 9000 standard and do, through R-A-C, I have these leadership materials, which are excellent and, you know, they involve, they take in best in a class kinds of things, and the strategic planning side of it. So, I used a process called "Fail-Safe Leadership" and again, it's probably not rocket scientist, but, you know, people need somebody to kind of lead them through it. ... The other part of it [is] once you have a plan, then use the plan, you know, and hold their feet to the fire, and then come back in on a monthly basis and meet with them. So, that sort of brings you up to date on all that, but I think the difference in my life is something else, [laughter] which I'd be glad to share if you're interested. Okay, through all those job changes, I mean my driving motivation was always, you know, success and money, and there was clearly something missing in my life, and didn't know what it was. Now, as I think I told you back in the beginning, you know, I was sort of modeling my life after my dad's. .... Other than the fact that I changed jobs, and he stayed with one company for forty-four years, that, you know, I saw my way up, rather than staying in one place, was to change jobs. ... But it never satisfied me, that I would always, okay, then I got to go to the next one. And the other part of my life was in Morristown, I joined the Jaycees [United States Junior Chamber] and, you know, so we were involved in the community. I'd grown up in the local Presbyterian Church as I had mentioned, but Bonnie and I had just sort of fallen away, and had the kids, and one day my dad just said to me very quietly, "Don't you think you ought to take the kids to Sunday School?" So, okay, "Sure, not a bad idea." So, well, maybe it's a good idea if I go. Well, the same situation there. Well, I'm here, I ought to be a leader. So, I sought out the leadership, and, you know, I say my dad was Republican, I'm Republican, my dad is Presbyterian, I'm a Presbyterian. So, I didn't really think anymore about it than that, and so it was just, well, it's a night out, you know, and I'm on a committee so, well, I like to sing, so I'll sing in the choir and, you know, I'll teach Sunday school. ... I was doing all this stuff, but there was really nothing spiritual behind it until 1986, when I was told that I wasn't meeting the standards, and so all of a sudden it was like, you know, what's going on here? ... Singing in the choir, and that was like at that point, six years I guess, and I had a friend who just always said to me, you know, "I'm involved in a men's group, why don't you come join me." "No, I don't have time for that. I'm working in the city." So, one morning, and it was June 26th, 1986, I had just started the packing/shipping company beginning of June, and he invited me again to come to this. They met Friday mornings at 6:30 at Drew University. ... I was thinking, "Gee, the store is in Madison. How am I going to say I can't go?" [laughter] So, you know, I'd lost the job, I'd started this new business and, you know, gee, you know, and I guess, there was just something, you know, I was pushing away, but pulling me. ... It was a Bible study, and he told me that, and so I said, "I don't know. Well, it can't be all bad to have a little God on my side, you know, help me with this business." ... I went that morning and it changed my life. I mean first of all I walked into this room and there were over a hundred men there in business suits, and clearly very successful people, and I listened and, you know, I certainly don't remember anything from that morning but the leader came up to me afterwards and said, you know, just, "How do you do? We're glad to have you here with us," and so on, and I know we talked, and then he said, "Have you ever heard of the four spiritual laws?" ... I said, "No." He said, "Would you like to?" ... It's now eight o'clock and my office is around the corner, and I don't open until nine, so, "Yes, I have time." So, he said, "Well, here let's sit down, and he pulled out this little booklet, ... "God has a plan for your life." I said, "Yes, I guess I know that. Yes, I believe in God." He said, ... "If God has this plan, then why aren't you experiencing all the peace and all the joy?" "I don't know." He says, "Well law number two is that man is sinful, separated from God, and so we have this disconnect." "Yes, I know that." I do consider myself a sinner, I think a pretty good one. [laughter] A sinner none the less and he said, ... "There's the separation law and the only way to get back and have a relationship with God is through Jesus Christ." ... Then he said, "Well, would you like to have a relationship?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Well, the fourth law is that you can have it by accepting Jesus as your personal savior and essentially being reborn." ... I had never heard that, had been in church all my life, and I said, ... "I didn't know that." I guess I had heard the term "born again" but it didn't mean anything to me. ... I'm a Presbyterian. ... I'm forty-one years old then and he said, "Well, all you need to do is pray a little prayer." ... Bottom line is I did pray that prayer with him that morning, June 26th, 1986, and it was the start of a new life for me, and again, you can't say that everything is roses, but I have definitely felt different. I went on another year, and the business started to fail. Actually, I expanded, I went to a second location in Morris Plains, I was really sort of full of myself, and still doing the consulting. ... I opened another place in Morris Plains, and that was in July of '87, and I'd continued to go to this Bible study every Friday morning, and had made a number of friends, and I still, in a lot of ways, I was still, as they say, trying to do it on my own, and trying to make this business work. So, that morning, sometime in July, I don't remember the exact date, but I had no money in the checking account, and I had a whole bunch of bills sitting on my desk. So, we finished the Bible study that morning, and I was talking to a friend, and I told him about this, and I just broke down, and he prayed with me that morning and prayed for me and I said, "Okay, God, I'm really, this is your, you know, I thought it was my business," and I said, "this is your business, and, you know, if it's meant to be, I'll turn it over to you." So, I felt better just having done that. Went back to the office, and got the mail, and there were checks in that mail, and they were the exact amount of the bills sitting on my desk. So, that "really made me a believer." [laughter] ... I have a number of other stories like that, ... but for whatever reason, you know, that happened that day, and call it a coincidence or whatever, but I believe that it was ... just God letting me know that he was there and he had me in the palm of his hand. Again, I've already told you the end of the story but I mean that went on for another couple of years, and then I closed that but I got this job, you know, within six weeks in an industry I had no background for. ... I've been at that Bible study every Friday morning ever since, and we've now started, we have a group out in Bedminster, which is actually where I go now. ... They still meet at Drew in the great hall there. So, that's where my life has focused. ... Part of my business plan is to work with churches and non-profits, and so I am fortunate enough that Bonnie has done so well in her profession, that we're at the point now where even if I'm not generating income, then I'm working for churches and non-profits, and I really don't charge. If they want to make some kind of a donation, that's fine. I helped the Wellness Community of Central New Jersey get started. I met with their board. They are a cancer support group, and helped the board, brand new board, write their strategic plan, and just this past fall, they completed it, essentially the first phase of it, by buying a facility in Pluckemin where people can come for services. They said that the attention has mostly been placed on the cancer patient and that people, the family, loved ones tend to get forgotten, so their main support is to the family, obviously the cancer patient can come along with them but the whole idea is to get out of the house, out of the facility, out of wherever the treatment is going on, and come to a safe place, and they have a lot of educational programs. ... Eunice Jadlocki is the executive director and she's an excellent reference for me and I have worked with a number of churches in the area and that's really where I get my real joy, helping them because churches as organizations are on the decline nowadays. ... It's nice to be able to use biblical references, when I'm working with them, and obviously use the power of prayer. So, to get your plan, and I think it's part of God's will that churches do flourish. So, those are more exciting jobs for me nowadays than working for profit, although profit is nice. ... I give away a good portion of my income, what I bring in, so I like to generate income so I can give it back. [laughter] Yes, God has been very good to us, and the girls are just doing wonderfully well, and I'm very proud of them, all three of them. So, at this point Granddad, is my number one job. Our daughter who lives in Asheville now is moving up to Basking Ridge next spring after she has the baby, and so I plan to do more full-time grandfathering, supporting her business, as an artist. So, that's my life, and I stick in a little golf. [laughter]
SH: Well thank you very, very much for taking time and for sharing all of this with us.
SI: Thank you very much.
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Reviewed by Jonathan Conlin 12/1/11
Reviewed by Nicholas Molnar 12/21/11
Reviewed by John A. Frost 1/14/12