Kurt Piehler: This begins an interview with Mr. Fred L. Ritter on March 28, 1997, at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, with Kurt Piehler ...
Yvonne Smith: Yvonne Smith.
Andrew Smith: And Andrew Smith.
KP: I would like to begin by asking you about your family. Your family has quite a military tradition. You have done quite a bit of research on your great-grandfather's role in the Civil War.
Fred Ritter: My great-grandfather was born in the Watertown, New York, area. He was a man who had four children, two born before his military service. My grandmother, who I knew well, and her sister were born after his military service. He served in the Tenth Regiment of New York State Artillery Volunteers. ... Apparently, even though he had a family, being a poor farmer, when the call went out by Abe Lincoln to come forward and defend the country, he came forward, along with his brother, apparently by the name of Sidney Woodard, and; therefore, they were mustered into service in September of 1862, and, being in the artillery, apparently, from records that I have for the first year or two of that military service, they were largely in the artillery fortifications in the Washington area, guarding the capital, because President Lincoln was very much afraid that the Southern forces were going to capture the capital. His unit, within the last year of the Civil War, fought in the Battle of the Wilderness, in Spotsylvania, Battle of Richmond, several battles. ... I get this information from a journal that was written by one of his own officers in 1881. I got copies of this from the archives in Washington, and, also, from the Historical Society in Watertown, New York. ... My sister and I are continuing research ... on this gentleman. He died, unfortunately, in 1871, at the age of about thirty-four to thirty-five, and, basically, left his wife and four children quite penniless, and, in fact, along with the information that we have, we have their application for a pension. ... We really haven't determined whether the family ever got a pension, but, we saw that they did apply for a pension. That about ends that, ... on my father's family. My father entered the service, and served ... in the escapade in Mexico, prior to our entering World War I in 1917, and then, during the twenties and the thirties, he had transferred over to National Guard, served in National Guard, and was federalized in 1940, and spent time in Fort Benning, down south, and then, overseas, in Africa, Italy, and Sicily, and so forth, and he came back ... in the ... winter, 1944, while I was finishing high school. ... My dad didn't tell, really, stories of ... his military experience, necessarily. On rare occasions, he would, but, he really didn't talk about his military experiences very heavily.
KP: What did he tell you when he came back from World War II?
FR: Well, ... he did have one thing, that if you come from an Italian background, you wouldn't like it, because, he said, well, the military tried to teach him. He did know a little German, back from his family, and, ... when in the First World War, he learned some French, ... but, they didn't have to learn any [Italian], and this is in the context [of], if you had to surrender, it would be very handy for you to know some of these languages, so you didn't get yourself shot when you were starting to surrender. He said, ... in the area of the Italians, when he was in North Africa, they had captured literally thousands of Italian soldiers, but, that is a language that he never had to worry about surrendering in, in Italian. So, he never had to learn any Italian, but, ... he was a blood and guts type of guy. World War I, he served with General Patton, when General Patton was a captain, and he had stories that he would tell about Patton. One time, in the winter of 1917-1918, they were trying to cross this stream, and it was just shortly before the war was going to be over, so, people weren't really necessarily taking any big risks, ... but, they had to ford this stream. It was really a fairly wide stream, and it was really running pretty quickly, and the engineers were having difficulty, and Patton walked up, in his tailor made uniform, and his jodhpurs, and his expensive, leather boots, and so forth, and wanted to have explained to him why things were not moving quickly. ... They had all kinds of excuses, so, Patton takes his trenchcoat off, takes his boots off, he gets a coil of rope, he literally dives in the stream, and swims to [the] other side, and ties this rope on the other side, and says, "Okay, let's come." I don't know whether that's a true story or not. My father, particularly as he got older, told stories that ... kind of got embellished, more and more.
KP: Given what we know about Patton, it sounds quite plausible. "No," was not part of his vocabulary.
FR: That's right, that's right.
KP: It sounds like your father respected Patton.
FR: Oh, yes, very much so. He followed his career. He followed the difficulties that Patton had in North Africa, slapping of the soldier, and all of that type of thing. ... What he basically explained is that he was just the type of leader and the type of man that really only fit the mode ... of action and [did] not fit the mode ... of military politics. He certainly was not a military politician and ... a lot of the difficulty he got into is because he was not very good, politically, and really didn't give a damn ... about it.
KP: Did your father ever explain why he enlisted in the first place? He enlisted even before the war.
FR: Right. Well, I never really confirmed it, but, I believe that my grandfather might have served for a short time in the Spanish-American War, in the Army, and my father never really finished grammar school, that I know of, and things were not really very good in the US. He was born in 1893, which means, in 1910, he was seventeen years old. A few years later, he enlisted in the Army. I think that he had difficulty getting work. He worked for at least a good few years as a chauffeur. I mean, he had learned how to drive a car and there were very few cars around [in] those days. He became a chauffeur, and he wasn't necessarily a mechanic, he was a driver, and so forth, and why he joined the Army, I think, was a matter of, it was a good job that had pride associated to it. He was a real patriot, there's no doubt about it.
KP: He won the Silver Star in a very heroic action. Did he ever talk about his experiences, particularly that incident of capturing two German soldiers and an officer?
FR: Right. ... Well, he really didn't talk too much about it. ... A battle really is a bunch of small battles, ... and, you know, they were going trenches to trenches and everything like that, and ... he was a sergeant, and he really didn't talk the specifics of it very much, other than he did say that he was pleased that, in that instance, ... he didn't have to kill anybody. He was pleased that the killing did not come into play. ... It happened, I think, in October of 1918. It was very near to the end of the war. Many Germans ... had started to surrender in big numbers, ... and, while the action was a legitimate action, ... he did protect his own men and there was no killing involved.
KP: How did your father feel about the settlement of World War I, because, not only did he serve in World War I, but, he also served in World War II?
FR: Well, after the war, ... my sister, who lives in Somerset, she still has ... the records, he took the Civil Service exam and was the first man, at that time, to have got one hundred percent on ... the police exam. He got one hundred percent on the test and he was ... a Hudson County boulevard policeman. In fact, I still have a photograph of him on his motorcycle in front of the Stanley Theater, in Journal Square, in Jersey City, and ... he was a policeman from, basically, 1920 to ... 1928. ... He got in several scrapes, got hurt in, basically, accidents and much shooting, although he was never shot in police duty. ... While he was in the Army the first time, he had been a military policeman. He had been a military policeman back ... in World War I days, prior to going ... overseas. Eventually, if you're a big, strong, strapping guy like he was, six foot two, strong, you know what, and he was ... good with arms, and he had been a boxer, ... I guess it was natural, after the Army service, to be a policeman, because he had been a solider, and he had been a military policeman, and, you know, times were fairly tough in the twenties, certainly the latter part of the twenties, prior to the Depression starting.
KP: Your father was a policeman when Frank Hague ruled Jersey City and Hudson County.
FR: Yes. He was involved ... with Frank Hague. ... I don't know whether he got paid for it or whether he did it because he just admired ... his leadership ability, he had tremendous leadership ability, Frank Hague, my father was a driver, ... he drove him from time to time.
FR: I don't know. I don't think that was necessarily while he was a policeman. It might have been after he was a policeman, 'cause my father was a tax assessor in North Bergen, a small town a couple of miles up from Jersey City, from 1933 to 1966, and, during all of that time, he had ... political responsibilities. He was an appointed town official. ... I never did tell my father ... that I was a Republican. ... [laughter] I never told him I was a Republican, because I knew how upset that would make him. However, I was very proud of the fact that, with all conscience, in 1960, I voted for John Kennedy. I did tell him that I voted for Kennedy in 1960 and he was pleased about that.
KP: Your father thought Hague was a great leader. He not only worked under Hague, but, he also dealt with Hague's successors.
FR: Yeah, I forget the fellow's name. ... One of the Hague followers became the leader, ... Kenny?
FR: Kenny, Kenny. Why, do you know that area?
KP: A student of mine did an honors thesis on the Hague years.
FR: Okay, Kenny. ... It never occurred to my father ... that Frank Hague was ... a dishonest person, ... that he, without a doubt, stole large amounts of money. My father looked at him from the point of view that, he's the individual that built a number of things in Jersey City that were important things, hospitals, public buildings, and other things. It never occurred to him that he was other than perfect, ... never occurred to him.
KP: Even with all the corruption?
FR: Although, ... my father was very proud of the fact that, when he was a tax assessor, he had many opportunities, because he would be evaluating property, and he would be reassessing property, and he would be ... the primary town official that would be ... taking companies around, showing them property that was available, indicating why it should be good that they move into the town and do business there, and so forth. He was very proud of the fact that ... he never took a bribe. At least, he said he never took a bribe. Although, I remember, at Christmas time, very well, that my father, who did not drink, and the reason he didn't drink was because ... his father was quite a drinker, to the detriment of the family. He was a drinker, my grandfather. He was a detriment to the family. My father did not drink, ... but, at Christmas time, he used to come home with huge amounts of liquor, and baskets of fruit, and baskets of this and that, just given to him by grateful people, [laughter] that he would take, and, subsequently, in any year, he would basically give away everything that he got. He would give it away.
KP: Oh, interesting, interesting.
FR: He would give it away, and, therefore, even though he might have taken it, and he really should not have taken it, okay, he felt ... that his conscience was expunged by the fact that he gave it away. ... He was not a terribly complicated type of individual, really, and we're spending a lot of time on my father, but, you know.
KP: It is a shame we did not have a chance to interview him.
FR: Well, ... I had a wonderful mother, very sensitive, intelligent. In fact, if there was any difficulty between them, it was because my mother was a very sensitive, intelligent person, much less action oriented, ... loved the arts, loved music, and ... he was much more of ... an action type of individual.
KP: You told us a great story before we started about how your mother, for an adventure, decided to go to Washington, DC.
FR: She and her sister, Anna, went to Washington Mountains, at Raqouette Lake, and my mother met my father in a large hotel, the "Antlers," in the Adirondack. They met as he was working for a family as the chauffeur. ... You normally would go for several weeks. You'd take all your steamer trunks and everything. My father went up there at least a couple of summers with this family that he drove for, and my mother and her sister worked there as waitresses ... [at] the restaurant-hotel, and I assume that ... they fell in love. ... This is now between the time he was first in the service. Then, he was out of the service, working as a chauffeur. War started, or ... the war was going to start, he got back in the service. She and Anna went to Washington, worked in the War Department. ... Unfortunately, the sad part about that is that, during the influenza epidemic, ... worldwide, where I think something like twenty million people died, Anna, who was nineteen years old while she was in Washington, contracted influenza and died there. My mother was in Washington and, while he was over in France, she had her sister's illness, her sister's death, and she had to take her sister back home, to bury her, and then, go back to Washington.
KP: That probably clouded the whole experience for your mother.
FR: Oh, yes. ... I have a wonderful picture of Anna. ... She must have been about sixteen or seventeen in the picture, very pretty, young girl. ...
KP: Were your parents dating at this time?
FR: Yes, I don't know whether they were engaged or not. I really don't know.
KP: However, they definitely knew each other.
FR: Yes, well, in any event, I guess she was looking at records, or something like that, and saw that he was on the missing in action list, and things got unconfused in the final offensive battle of World War I, but, then, ultimately, she learned ... he was okay. Following the Armistice, my dad was in the Army of Occupation in Coblenz, Germany, until October, 1919.
KP: Did they correspond while he was over in Europe?
FR: Yes, but, unfortunately, when he died, my sister discovered the letters and my sister destroyed them all, ... which I am really upset that she did that. The letters were largely love letters, and, although he talked in terms of the conditions a bit and everything like that, those letters weren't censored in any way, and ... it was a stack of letters maybe three, four inches [high] with a ribbon. She found the letters after he died. She looked at a few of the letters and decided to destroy them. She didn't discuss it with me. ... I'm really sad about that. I wish I had those letters.
KP: Yes, I know. It sounds like they would have been interesting.
FR: Yes, right.
KP: What did your mother do at the War Department, specifically?
FR: She was a clerk. She was a secretary, or a clerk, or something like that. ... Again, as I mentioned, the family was poor. Her mother was married the first time when she was fifteen or sixteen years old, and had a family, and then, lost her husband, was a widow for a number of years, and then, my mother was born of my grandmother's second marriage. So, she ... actually lived with her stepsister, who lived in Syracuse, in the area of the Syracuse University campus, and so, therefore, she went to Syracuse High School, and lived with her sister and her family for a few years, then, went back to Adams, New York, prior to the trip down to Washington. ... She must have been in Washington for a couple of years.
KP: When did your parents get married?
FR: As soon as he got home, they were married on November 1, 1919. In fact, I have, ... well, my sister had. ... They stayed at the Willard Hotel on their honeymoon. They were married in Clarendon, Virginia, in nearby Virginia. You know the Willard Hotel? ... When Abe Lincoln arrived in Washington, prior to his inauguration, where he stayed was the Willard Hotel, and if you ever go there, about fifteen years ago, ... they did a complete restoration of the hotel.
AS: It is absolutely beautiful.
FR: ... It's absolutely gorgeous, but, ... I think a single room is now about $275 a night, or something like that. ... Oh, incidentally, they had the relatives from Virginia. I understand from one of my cousins that his mother and his two aunts were at the wedding in 1919. I confirmed that not long ago, when someone helped me. I go down to Virginia usually for weddings and funerals, you know, and so, they were married in Clarendon, Virginia, which, I think, is probably in the Fairfax area, someplace right nearby there, and then, ... basically returned to the area that they lived in for many years. They bought a house in the early twenties, after my sister was born, in North Bergen. ... That was the same house that they owned until he died in 1966, my mother dying in 1954.
KP: They were well-rooted in North Bergen.
FR: Yeah. Well, ... my father, and his brothers and sisters, were born in Manhattan. ... My grandfather was a policeman for ... one of the railroads. ... He got the job over in Weehawken, Weehawken area, which is the area there where the Lincoln Tunnel is, that area, so, they moved to Guttenberg. ... From there, they moved ... to Union City, used to be called Union Hill. ... They lived there for many years, and, as I said, they bought the house, it was a new house at the time, in about 1924 or so, something like that, and I was born there in 1927. I was born at home. ...
KP: When you were growing up, what kind of a community was North Bergen? What are your memories of it, especially since you followed the town for a number of years afterwards, because of your father?
FR: ... Yeah, well, we lived right across the street from a large county park. Do you know the area?
KP: Not very well.
FR: Well, we lived right across the street from a large county park and I didn't have too long a walk to school, to elementary school. I went to elementary school there. My sister's five years older than I. ... We didn't get along very well when we were kids, but, we're getting along better now. [laughter] Well, you know, when she was seventeen and I was twelve, I mean, the mixture just isn't there, ... but, we've been close over the years and we appreciate each other quite a bit. My father was quite an athlete. He was a fantastic swimmer, very good baseball player. He taught me all the sports. ... My mother taught me the value of reading, reading good things, and things like that. My father was a boxer. He taught me how to box. Once you got to learn how to box and fight pretty well, you never got into any fights. It worked out fine.
KP: Did you grow up in a rough neighborhood? Were there people who wanted to fight with you?
FR: Oh, yes, sure. Largely, ... the family activity centered around our church. ... In fact, the minister of our church was one of the deciding factors of my going to Rutgers. He went to the seminary here, the Reformed Seminary, right up on the hill here. The Reformed Church in America, also called the Dutch Reformed Church, he went to that seminary, and, of course, ... Rutgers College was ... totally men until 1972. ... He would basically tap young men in the church, ... if he felt they were going on to college and so forth, to consider Rutgers. ... Usually, someone was already here and you knew them. They were a few years older, and then, he would work that out.
KP: You learned about Rutgers very early.
FR: Yes. ... My dad was away in the service, and I took a state scholarship exam, and I had been a fairly good athlete ... in high school, probably would have been better if I'd worked harder at it, but, I was very much into Scouting. In fact, I still am into Scouting. Last year, I got my Fifty Year Award from the Boy Scouts of America, in terms of, you know, volunteering and so forth, and, I mean, when I tell the stories to kids these days, the fact that, when I was like fifteen, sixteen years old, course, I was out of high school when I was sixteen, but, I was like fourteen, fifteen, sixteen years old, I would play in a game on Saturday, and then, people would ask you, "Are you going on a date? Are you doing something?" "No, I'm going camping." On Saturday afternoon, we'd go home, after getting bruised in a game, take a shower, pack, get your food that mom put together, and we would head to go camping. ... The way we did that is, we walked about three miles from where we lived, down this long hill in that area. We'd go out to the Susquehanna Railroad, and the railroad had a ticket that they sold Boy Scouts. ... The ticket was something like ... fifty cents each way, and you'd take the train there, would go all the way up into the area of Pompton Lakes and Oakland, ... in the Ramapo River area. We would get off the train there and we would hike up into the mountains. We'd spend the weekend, and, on Sunday afternoon, ... late, if we could get one of the fathers to come up and get us, we got that privilege many times, we would walk down a couple, two, three miles, ... to the Oakland Station, take the Susquehanna Railroad, take it to North Bergen, and walk up the hill.
KP: For how many years have you been a Boy Scout?
FR: From the time I was ten, and I haven't stopped, and I'm going to be seventy soon. So, I've been in Scouting for sixty years.
KP: I take it you made Eagle Scout.
FR: I was an Eagle Scout with three palms.
KP: Oh, that is the highest you can achieve.
FR: Three palms, right. Are you a Scout?
AS: I was for a short time.
FR: Okay, three palms means, ... for the first palm, ... you earn five more merit badges, for the next palm, five more merit badges, for the next palm, five more merit badges, and you keep going until you do all the merit badges, and, ... every year or two, a Scout earns all of the merit badges, over one hundred. ... I got my Eagle Scout Award when I was a senior in high school.
KP: Was your father involved in the Boy Scouts at all?
FR: He was not involved with Scouting at all, other than he would be supportive if we were having, oh, some type of jamboree. We would go over to the county park, and the various troops would get together, and we would have cookouts, and we would have tower building contests, and stuff like that. He really didn't know ... much about Scouting. Of course, Scouting only started in the United States in 1910, so, he was seventeen years old at that time. So, he felt ... that it was a good influence on boys. It was a good influence, he felt, on me and we had a marvelous Scout leader in our troop. His name was Wilfred C. Bohling, an engineer and graduate of Stevens Institute. In fact, the same man was a leader from the time that he was a boy. Bill Bohling was one of the first Scouts in that troop, and he was the Scoutmaster of that troop for nearly fifty years. He earned every award that Scouting gives, and he did it with modesty, and he literally influenced positively hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of boys, not only in scouting skills, but, in citizenship development, and their educations. He just was an absolutely marvelous man.
KP: You mentioned that your mother enjoyed music and art. Was she involved in any clubs or organizations while you were growing up?
FR: My mother was supportive ... in helping my father, politically, in that she was ... very charming and she was a fantastic cook. When they had a social gathering, and different political people came in, she would make nice cakes, and cookies, and everything like that. My mother was very active for many years in the Eastern Star. ... When I was finishing college in 1950, she was a state officer of the Eastern Star. ... I think her title was called District Deputy. She was the District Deputy of her Eastern Star region. ... I am not, but, ... my father and [many members of] his family were members of the Masons. My mother ... helped out politically. ... She helped in the church. She worked for the Eastern Star. During World War II, she worked for the Red Cross as a volunteer, primarily over at the ... embarkation points and the arrival points, making coffee, and doing this, and doing that, and helping with blood drives, and all of that kind of stuff.
KP: Your family and yourself were very active in the Reformed Church.
FR: Yeah. ... I guess I graduated from every year of church training and achieved confirmation, and so forth, and so forth, and, in fact, when I arrived at Rutgers, I indicated that I was interested in participating, and ... I was an usher at Kirkpatrick Chapel in 1944-1945. In those days, when you came to Rutgers, this was ... pre-state university days, if you were a resident student, you had a requirement of attending a certain number of chapels per semester. I considered, at one time, becoming a minister. During a short time, while I was in the Navy, I was a chaplain's assistant, when I was shipped to Newport, Rhode Island. We had first gone to Melville, Rhode Island. At that point in time, with the war in Europe being over, being able to get into any of the government programs, V-12, V-5, was completely out of the question. So, the best I could do would be to get into PT boat training. We traveled to Melville, Rhode Island, to discover ... that the base was being closed down. So, we literally sat up there and did nothing for nearly a month, 'til they discovered that there's a bunch of guys sitting here, doing nothing. [laughter] We would have sat there forever. That's the way it is in the service, you know. My father gave me good instructions. He said, "Don't volunteer for anything." [laughter]
KP: Your father really told you that?
FR: Oh, yes, "Don't volunteer for anything," and, let me show you something, and he also said, "Don't get tattooed." [Mr. Ritter shows the interviewers his arm.] You see none, right?
FR: "Don't get tattooed and don't volunteer for anything."
KP: Did he have a tattoo?
FR: My father had just his initials. He had, "F.R." ... on his right arm, right here, ... not that that bothered him so much.
FR: ... He said, "Don't get tattooed." The day I left for the service, my mother was in tears, thinking that I was going to get hurt, or whatever it might be. She was the typical mother, okay, and he, I remember well. ... It was kind of a small house. ... They told you, "Don't bring a lot of stuff, you know, just a little change, whatever it might be, and the stuff you're gonna have, you can put it in a little box, and then, get rid of it, mail it home," or whatever it might be. My father sat down and we had a conversation. ... I was, at this point, seventeen plus, and while I had been away from home a lot, basically camping and everything like that, ... I hadn't done a lot of world traveling. I had really never been up in an airplane. I had never done any of those things, okay, and, also, the world was dangerous. ... It was a dangerous world, and you could get hurt, you could get killed, and so forth, and he said, you know, "Be careful of who you make friends with. Be careful of your money." They bought me ... a cheap watch. They bought me a cheap watch, and, "Watch out for your money. Watch out for your friends. Watch out who your friends are," and ... this wasn't a long speech. It was maybe five to ten minutes and ... it was really only him talking. I got no opportunity to say anything. [laughter]
KP: I am sure that your father learned about some of these things the hard way.
FR: Well, he taught me how to box, ... to the extent that, when I was in high school, and, for some reason, at 170 pounds, I was a heavyweight, ... I had to fight this guy, and I was chairman of my high school reunion, and, just a few years ago, we had our fiftieth reunion, and this man that I fought, his name is Vito Raya. Well, he's ... a very successful contractor in Bergen County these days, and I guess he's semi-retired now, but, he is ... about fifty pounds heavier now than he was then, but, then, he was about 225, but, ... we fought to a draw, and I was 170 pounds, 'cause my father taught ... me how to box. In the Navy, ... in those days, they really were looking for boxers. Navy, Army, thirties, forties, and so forth, fifties, even into the fifties, boxing ... was a very important sport, ... very competitive sport, but, I ... didn't really want to.
KP: So, you did not box in the Navy.
FR: No, I ... really didn't want to, and, in fact, I think in Rutgers days, there might have been some boxing at Rutgers, in those days. There might have been, there may not have been.
KP: You stopped boxing after high school.
FR: I stopped boxing and the only other incident I had is, ... I was mugged in New York. My office was ... on the Avenue of the Americas and Fifty-Fifth Street. ... My office was right across the street, one block up, from the New York Hilton Hotel, and ... it was a little later than this, maybe late May, early May, late May, or something, and I had to get some work done in the office, and I stayed there until about seven-thirty. It was just starting to get a little darker. I came down, went down the street, ... and a couple of guys grabbed me, ... pushed me against the building, and proceeded to demand my watch, my wallet, or my life, and I beat the hell out of both of them. Of course, I completely ruined my suit, and barked up my elbows, and all that kind of stuff.
AS: How long ago was this?
FR: This was ... twenty-five years ago. I was, maybe, at that time, forty-three, forty-four, forty-five.
KP: It was probably in the late 1960s.
FR: Yeah, yeah, ... 1967, eight, nine, something like that, but, I showed them a few tricks they hadn't seen before, one of which was, get the knife away from the one guy, and then, take it, and throw it ... across the street, and so forth. You know, something like that happens very quickly. I mean, you're talking about a matter of maybe a total of a minute, the whole thing, ... total of a minute. The police got both of them, though. The police got both of them and there was so much commotion. There was screaming, and yelling, and everything like that. It wasn't very far. ... The driveway into the hotel is like here and it was right up here. They were just looking for a quick score, push the guy down, ... maybe slap his face a little bit, and so forth, take it, go down the street, and so forth, but, I ruined the suit. I ruined the suit. I don't recommend fighting. ...
KP: Yeah, but, it is a great story.
FR: ... But, I also don't recommend being a victim, either, and I don't know whether I would fight now. Maybe I'm too ... old to fight, but, I think I would probably fight.
KP: It is interesting to see how your father's training kept you in good shape and really helped you years later.
FR: Well, I got a few things I would show them.
KP: What kind of expectations did your parents have for you and your sister in terms of going to college?
FR: I think, largely, the expectation was driven largely by my mother. My father expected that we both did fairly well in school, my sister being a much more serious student than I. ... She got better grades than I did, certainly in elementary school and high school. In fact, my sister, who's now seventy-five years old, still [is] a custodian of my report cards. She will not give them to me, because, she claims, and it's a true story, that, for many years, I'm talking about fifth grade, sixth grade, primarily the middle grades, fifth grade, sixth grade, seventh grade, and so forth, ... I would very often fail things, and, in those days, they would do would be to write your grade on there, and if it was an A, it would be an A in ink, blue ink, and if it was an F, they would go to the trouble to use red ink. [laughter] So, every once in a while, when I visit her, she lives right here in Somerset, she would open up the report cards, and show them, and there's lots of red ink around. ... My sister was quite a serious student ... in those days and she was a very pretty girl. She still is a pretty woman. ... We didn't date a lot. We had friends, we were in Scouts, and she was in different organizations. She has a club, ... it's the ARCELD Club. ... I remember it very well, ARCELD Club. In fact, they even had jewelry made, and they had shirts made, and these were girls who were lifetime friends, and, surprisingly, they're all in their mid-seventies and they all still survive and stay in touch. ARCELD, there's Audrey, Ruth, Carolyn, my sister, Evelyn, Lucille, and Doris.
FR: Yeah, ARCELD. ...
KP: Do they still meet?
FR: Well, they live all over the country. They pretty much share notes, on occasion. ... Three of the girls live in California, and I've been encouraging my sister for years to go out and spend time with the three of them out there, but, ... they've been friends for all those years, and they were friends since they were in elementary school. ... Now, my sister, when she finished high school, she went to the same high school I did, Cliffside Park. In that time frame, North Bergen did not have a high school, so, we went to Cliffside Park, the high school. You took a little local bus up there, it was about two or three miles, something like that, and, following high school, she decided that she wanted to go through the five-year nursing program [at] the Margaret Hague Hospital. So, she went to Jersey City State College, and she went through the hospital, so that, when she graduated, she got her BS and her RN, and, ... after having done some general nursing, ... after graduation, then, she married. The marriage did not work out and she spent many years as a school nurse. She worked as a school nurse in Old Bridge, right down the ... highway here. So, she retired about five, six years ago. So, she was a school nurse over all those years.
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FR: ... I don't know how it came about, but, after she was a year or two into the program, ... she wore a uniform of some type. ... It kind of looked like a woman's Air Force uniform, nurse's version of it. ... They put the girls into a program that provided payment of tuition and things like that. That was in the latter portion of her training, 'cause, being five years, she finished high school in '39, she graduated in, what? '44, '45. So, she went to college for a few years, then, she was in the hospital for a few years, then, went to college, and finished up, and so forth. but, she basically had a scholarship. My dad sent two children through college and never paid a cent of tuition. He really couldn't afford to, ... very much.
KP: How did the Great Depression affect your family? It sounds like your father was pretty much employed throughout.
FR: My father had tremendous initiative. ... He had real, native abilities. It's a shame that his family circumstances were such that he didn't have more education, because, anytime he was involved with anything that required more knowledge, he was able to gain the knowledge rather quickly. He did so in the military, he did so in the, you know, ... tax assessment field, and he always ... had other jobs, because, when he was first a tax assessor, he made a very small amount of money in that job. He would always find something else to do. ... He sold insurance at one time. ... He did insurance adjustment work, you know, for people who had accidents. He sold tires on a wholesale basis or he leased them to people. He always ... found the initiative to do it and my mother, having basically come from a poor family, she could really ... make do with very little. She could make do with very little. I tell this story often, and ... it's a true story, I remember, as a boy, I'm talking about five years old, six years old, seven years old, eight years old, in the middle thirties, often, my mother would get a knock on the back door of the house, and this was a pretty modest neighborhood, and men would be coming around, and they would knock on your door, asking, "Do you have any work that I can do?" I mean, ... "Can I clean up your basement? Can I clean up your garage? Can I take the trash out? ... Whatever I can do for a while," and the trade off is, "Will you give me a meal? Will you feed me? I'm hungry. I'm hungry," and ... this is in the period [of the New Deal]. ... In fact, one of the programs was a youth program, Civilian Conservation Corps, and they had a local version of it. ... A friend of ours, Mr. "Pop" Follmer, became one of the supervisors or leaders, and we would kind of play, and we would also ... kind of do pioneering work in the park. We would cut shrubbery ... and this was when I was older. I was maybe twelve, or thirteen, or something of that nature. So, very often, my mother, ... she could make a marvelous pot of stew that was unbelievable, or she could make a chicken or a turkey soup, and I'm talking about a big pot of soup, you know, with rice, and with carrots, and with onions, and with a lot of turkey, and potatoes, and everything like that. So, by the time the poor man went out and he did his work, she would bring him in. ... People were not afraid. ... We didn't lock the doors. This is North Bergen. Today, oh, my God, [but], he would come in, and she would sit him in the kitchen, and she'd ask him if he'd like to wash up, and, in most cases, the people weren't terribly dirty, but, they did need to wash up. You needed to use the bathroom, use the bathroom, and she would sit them down with a big bowl there, and she would have bread that she would make. She baked bread, she baked fresh bread, she baked fresh doughnuts, particularly in the winter, you know, fresh donuts, and she would feed them. So, our vacations, [which] largely were as a family, were associated with going up to see my grandmother in upstate New York. She lived to be seventy-eight. She died in 1940, and, when my sister was like sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, when my grandmother was starting to fail quite a bit, she went up and spent the summer with her grandmother, and I went to camp. I went to boy's camp starting when I was about six or seven years old. Now, the link there was the fact that my father, on Saturdays, would take me down to the YMCA, where he would play handball, or basketball, or run, or jump rope, or hit bags, or something like that, and I would be involved in some youth activity. The YMCA had youth activities, some physical and ... some non-physical things, and then, the director of the YMCA, David B. Jetmore, that we knew very well, he had a little summer camp up in the Poconos, and, in those days, the first year I went up there, I think it was 1934, so, I was about seven years old. I think the first year I went up there, the total fee was something like five dollars a week. So, my father would load up the old Buick, never had a new car until many years later. He'd load up the old Buick, and my mother would get everything in the footlocker, we had a footlocker, and we'd go up to the Poconos, and I'd be up there for July, August, and, at that point in time, the family would come up to the Poconos, pick me up, and then, we would drive all the way up ... to upstate New York, see Grandma, and turn around, pick up my sister, and come back home. So, we did that for maybe six, or seven, or eight summers.
KP: Was that the farthest you had traveled while you were growing up? Did you travel anywhere else?
FR: ... I used to go to Virginia often, to see our relatives down there. My father ... had three first cousins down there, and, in fact, his mother, ... unfortunately, died when she was very young. She was forty-one or forty-two years old, but, ... my grandmother's sister, my grand-aunt in Virginia, lived to be quite an old lady. Grandpa ... was not much of a provider. ... He was a good drinker, at least. When the kids got out of school, for several summers, I don't know how many, several summers, she would send them down, and Aunt Mary in Virginia would take care of the kids, and they would get refurbed, in the summer. ... The stories go, ... and I confirmed them down there, they'd literally go down there ... with virtually worn-out shoes, worn-out clothes, and being a little underweight, and they would literally get refurbed down there, and, by the time Aunt Mary sent them up North again, she would make sure that they had good shoes, and good clothes, and a present for their mother, and so forth. ... My travel, until service time, was basically New York State, Poconos, Virginia. We have great memories of New York. We spent a lot of time in New York as kids, because we lived so close to New York, and we used to walk from North Bergen down to Weehawken, which was four or five miles, to save a nickel. The bus was a nickel. To save a nickel, you would walk that far, and you'd take the ferry across, and then, when you got to the other side, you would be roughly ... at the end of the west side of 42nd Street, and then, you'd walk ... from there, and, of course, we'd take the subway all over New York for a nickel. The subway in New York was a nickel until 1948.
KP: So, instead of frequenting Jersey City, it sounds like you went to New York more often.
FR: We went to New York more often, ... other than the YMCA was in Jersey City and visiting family friends.
KP: Oh, okay.
FR: So, the YMCA was on Bergen Avenue in Jersey City, right below Journal Square, ... and Jersey City was an area that my father was very familiar with, having been ... the county policeman down in that area. Yeah, so, we went to New York a lot, I remember, and we're not talking about the military very much, but, I remember very well, my mother taking me to Macy's, and, even in those modest days, she would take me there in the fall and get me new knickers. They were heavy corduroys like these, but, they were knickers. You wore these long socks, long socks, and I'd get a new pair of pants every year. So, I'd wear the good ones to school, and then, next year, if I didn't grow out of them, and then, I'd get a heavy jacket, and she knitted hats, and gloves, and stuff like that. ... I don't have a feeling for the Depression as being a period that ... we were deprived. My sister and I often think in terms ... of how much we have spoiled our children, I have five children, okay, ... with material things, and, of course, they realize it, and, fortunately, they haven't been hurt by it. ... For Christmas, I remember very well that I expected a bicycle. I was about eight [and I] expected a Balloon Bicycle, made by Rollfast Company. Remember the Rollfast bikes? Balloon tires, ... and I really expected that bicycle, and I really wanted that bicycle, and I was crushed that I didn't get that bicycle.
KP: Did you get a bicycle at all?
FR: End of the story is, my father, this is now Christmas Day, ... who apparently had been saving money to get himself a new suit, this is probably twenty odd dollars, twenty dollars, or something like that, ... he got in his car in the late morning, he went over to New York, to the area of Delancy Street, ... where a lot of those places are open. ... They're closed every Saturday, but, they're open every Sunday, they're open every holiday, and so forth. He got a bicycle, and brought it home, and I had that bicycle through ... all the years of being a paperboy. I left the bicycle in the garage when I went into the service. When I got out of the service, I came home and I was coming back to Rutgers. I took the bicycle apart, repainted it, ... brought it down to Rutgers, and used it until I was a senior, and I finally got a car, ... and I sold the bicycle for fifteen dollars, and I took my father out to lunch. [laughter] I still have my trains that ... my family bought me when I was five years old. They're in absolutely wonderful condition. I'm either going to give it to one of the kids, ... or some museum, or something of that nature, but, ... we didn't have a perception of being deprived at all. ... My grandmother, who was always very poor, she didn't know anything in her life but being poor, she made things. She made things for us and she sent them to us [for] Christmas. She sent a box of made things, you know, like mittens, and caps, and unique little things. It was marvelous what you could do with what, and then, ... my mother and dad, ... she made quilts, you know, patchwork quilts. She made those and sent them down. In fact, my sister still has some of them. ... My sister still has some of the patchwork quilts that my grandmother made in the thirties. It would have to be in the thirties, because she died in 1940.
KP: A lot of museums, like the Newark Museum, have recently done exhibits on quilts.
FR: Right. Well, I can't judge ... how skilled she was, but, I remember, ... she lived in this little house, and she rented the house in Adams, New York, which is about ten miles below Watertown, and I remember how upset she was when they increased her rent. Her rent was ten dollars a month for the house and it had no central heating. ... It did have a bathroom in the house, but, it had no central heating. She had a potbellied stove in the lower level, and she had a potbellied stove in the upper level, and the only time that we would stay there would be when we came up after I went to camp, those years, you know, like in August, start to get cool up there, and I remember ... the bed there. I wish I still had this bed, an old, wooden, really hard wood, probably cherry wood, or oak, bed, creaked when you sat on it, you know, and so forth, and I remember it had a feather mattress, ... and they always packed everything in cedar, cedar chips, ... and I remember the quilt, when ... I would sleep in that, upstairs. I wound up sleeping upstairs. ...
KP: You were in elementary school and high school when the war in Europe broke out and, eventually, the United States entered the war. What are your memories of those events?
FR: Well, a very close friend of ours was very much into Hitler. ... This was now the second generation in the US, but, the ... family had come here, and they had started a dairy, and had done extremely well in life, and so forth, and my ... father and mother were really friends of their family, but, they were proponents of Hitler and the fact [that] Germany had every right, as a result of the World War I aftermath, ... to gain the prominence and do for its citizens what they apparently were doing, getting back, ... you know, the spirit of German pride, and so forth, and so forth, but, I remember very well how open they were, in terms of speaking with such pride of Germany. ... In fact, two or three of the families, at this point in time, ... the mothers and the dads were probably in their early forties, they had children fairly well-grown, two sets of the families ... were over in Europe when the war started, and they were only able to get out through Italy, before Italy ... declared war, and so forth. Of course, while I had no perception at all, I was aware of the fact that, in New Jersey, there were several Bund organizations holding a significant amount of meetings, ... and speaking, and doing things that were certainly not pro-American. They were anti-American! ... The authorities were not really doing very much to basically stop these people. The rights that we have allowed them to do, and say, and to do the things ... they were doing, and, of course, that was ... in the pre-war period.
KP: Your family knew this German family fairly well.
FR: ... Course, once the war ... started, they just completely zipped the lip, and many of the members of the family went into the service, and ... they got their act together, but, it was several years, I'm talking about ... 1935 to ... the period when the war had started, that there was justification for entering Poland, and there was justification for bombing the hell out of England, everything like that. There was justification for what the French were exposed to, with the conquering of France in the spring of 1940, and so forth.
KP: They were pretty militant supporters of Hitler.
FR: ... I mean, the bombs had to be coming down on Pearl Harbor before they [changed] and I don't know what they really, really felt at that point in time. ...
KP: Was there any Bund activity that you knew about, were they involved with the Bund?
FR: I don't know.
KP: Were they the exception in North Bergen or were there other either Italian or German sympathizers?
FR: I don't really know. ... There were more German sympathizers than Nazi sympathizers, I think, and I didn't know of any other families. ... This one really stood out, because they were ... a prominent family in the community, and they were people that my father and mother knew for a long time, but, I really don't have any other perception to respond more to the question.
YS: I have a question concerning your mother. You said that she was upset when you left for the service. Did she understand that you had to go or did she just not want you to go?
FR: ... You know, in the time frame that I'm talking about, the war had been on for several years. This was at the very end of the war. ... My sister's fiancée experienced, ... you know, a tremendous amount, in terms of combat. ... I was very touch and go in terms of whether he was going to survive. ... At Anzio, he was a captain in the infantry ... and that was a very short tour in Anzio. Anzio, if you want ... to look at nasty combat situations in World War II, there were very few that were worse than Anzio, and he landed in southern France, and, you know, and so forth, and so forth. A close friend of mine that I was in the Scouts with, a few years older, went in as an eighteen-year-old, took his basic training, entered ... the tank corps, Fifth Armored Division and ... was killed at the Battle of the Bulge, so that ... virtually every family knew of either someone immediately or close that ... had been killed or badly hurt. So, I mean, her concern was a normal mother's concern. I mean, she loved me and she didn't want me to go. She loved me and didn't want me to go. My father, on the other hand, ... he gave me good advice, [was] not looking at the Pacific area, because he had, ... really, no experience in the Pacific area. His view was the fact that to conclude the war in Europe was going to cost X-hundred thousand Americans, young Americans' lives, and the young American is, like, eighteen to twenty-one, going across France and Germany. ... I had two classmates from my high school class who went in the service like a few months early. I had a classmate, Alex Blaso, who went in in February, 1944. He was at our graduation on June 15th of 1944 and he was killed in France in late July. He was killed in France in late July, shipped over, [got] off [the] trucks, up there, bang. So, the thing was ... over quickly, or it could be over quickly, but, my father's feeling was that I would be safer joining the Navy. He says, "I have nothing against the Navy or for the Navy. I love the Army. I mean, I think the Marines are good people and everything like that, but, I think you'll be safer in the Navy." Of course, he wasn't necessarily reading ... the reports of how many naval ships and how many sailors being killed at Okinawa and Iwo Jima, ... because, in the Pacific War, in 1945, you're a historian, you know what the situation was, and, at that point in time, if the war had continued, I clearly would have been in the Battle of Japan, because that's what we were being geared up for, but, strangely enough, when I finished Naval training at Samson Naval Training Center, ... we had a number of companies finishing at the same time, and there must have been at least three thousand guys, well, all but three hundred were sent west on trains, no ships or anything. ... They put sailors on troop ships and took the sailors out to Pearl Harbor, to the Marinas, to Guam, you know, and so forth, to put them on to ships. I was one of three hundred that wound up going to Melville, Rhode Island, Newport, Rhode Island. ... You didn't get any ship in Brooklyn. So, if the war had continued, we probably all would have been ... going out to Japan. I gave you a very long answer to your question. [laughter]
YS: That is all right. How did you feel about going?
FR: ... It was something that you just did. It was something that you did. It was only a question of, "Do I want the Navy? ... What friend of mine is in the Navy?" ... or, maybe, "What school can I go to?" or, "Do I like wearing Navy blue rather that Marine green or ... khaki?" or, you know, whatever it might be. It was just a question of where you went, and I actually went in the service, and I went down to the New Brunswick Post Office to enlist with a man who has been my friend for years, Angelo Baglivo. Angelo is a member of the Class of '49 and we actually went into the Navy the same day. In fact, the way we went into the Navy is that we were told to report to Penn Station in New York. "Don't bring anybody with you. Don't bring your mother, don't bring your girlfriend, don't bring anybody with you, because we were ... going to get three, four, five thousand guys at one time, and we're going to ... get all those little trains down below, and we're going to take you up there." So, we get there around six or seven o'clock ... in the evening, and it was three or four o'clock in the morning before they finally pulled us out of there, and we had nothing to eat, nothing to drink, nothing. We got up to Samson, New York, in the afternoon, and they gave us bologna sandwiches or something like that. [laughter] Nobody was really complaining, necessarily.
YS: Who instilled that value in you? Was it your family's military background or was it society at the time?
FR: I have that same feeling today. I mean, I have the same feeling today, I mean, in terms of citizenship responsibility, ... pride in our flag. ... In retirement, I do a little consulting work. I do a little part-time, ... if the local high school calls me up to come over, and be a part-time substitute teacher, and everything like that, and I continue to be an assistant Scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts, and I see young people, and, ... clearly, the reason that many ... young people, including students on the campus, ... don't really give a damn about the flag, don't give a damn about the country, ... is because we haven't led them in the right direction. We haven't educated them. Not that they should be constantly saying, "My golly, I'm an American. My golly, I should respect this flag more," and everything like that. They haven't been educated properly, ... so they do it willingly and sincerely. They haven't been educated correctly.
YS: Where do you feel the education has failed? Do you feel it is in the schools, the families, or a combination of both?
FR: Let me say ... the schools try. The schools do try, and I think many families do a marvelous job, okay, but, I think it's up to the individual, and it's up to everyone else, every other adult, teacher, clergymen, supervisor in jobs, and everything. Everyone ... is responsible for helping the kids understand what life is really all about and what true values they should really have. ... We could go on for a long time ... with that, obviously. [laughter] ... We people haven't been injected by anything. I mean, ... we're not on a high of anything like that.
KP: You were a high school student during much of World War II.
KP: Do you remember where you were when you heard about Pearl Harbor?
FR: Yeah, I had gone to a movie and I don't remember who I was with. I was probably with some of my friends, usually local friends, and it was, at that point in time, in the late afternoon here. It was a Sunday, December 7th, ... and we were coming home from the movie, and the movie was ... a walk from my house. It was maybe no more than about six or seven blocks, and we, typically, would stop at one or two of, I guess we used to call them soda fountains, or soda stores, or something like that, where you could get an ice cream soda for a nickel. ... So, we'd stop and get something to eat, 'cause, you know, boys like to eat. So, we stopped in there, and ... the man who owned the store, he had the radio on, and I don't ... remember particularly how he said it, but, he said, "Well, we're in the war. ... They bombed the Naval base at Pearl Harbor and they'll have more information later," you know, ... something of that nature, and I went home, and my father, ... no, my father wasn't home. ... My father was in the service. ... He was down in Fort Benning, someplace down there.
KP: Your father had been called up, or enlisted, before the war, before Pearl Harbor.
FR: Yeah, right. He was called up in 1940. He was given a leave of absence, so, he was in the service again from, it was like the summer of 1940. I had just finished grammar school, and my sister ... just had started college, and, I don't know, ... the town, in some way, paid part of his salary, and then, he had something of an allotment that he sent the family. ... We were always doing something to earn money, you know. If it snows, we'd shovel snow. ... I had a paper route, started out with twenty papers, and I got it up to 140 papers. I just couldn't deliver that many, so, I had to hire other kids to deliver the papers, but, no, I'm sorry my father wasn't home.
KP: What was it like to have your father go off to the war even before the war had started?
FR: ... He had come home several times. ... He was overseas. The North Africa [invasion] was in November of '42, ... so, he went to England, like, in the summer of '42, and then, after North Africa, he went to Sicily. He was home one other time, and then, came back and forth.
KP: Was he in the infantry again?
FR: Yeah, yeah.
KP: What was his rank in World War II ?
FR: ... When he was discharged, I have a picture of him, too, that I didn't bring with me, he was a lieutenant colonel.
KP: He really moved up the ranks in World War II.
FR: Oh, well, ... I guess he went in as a first lieutenant or something like that, but, ... he had been in the National Guard for a good many years. I think he did get a small retirement. By the time he linked it all together, he had twenty years, I know. ...
AS: Before we came over here, I was watching the movie with George C. Scott, Patton.
FR: Oh, yeah.
AS: In the North African and Sicilian campaigns, was your father with Patton again at all?
FR: He had no ... exposure to Patton in World War II. That was World War I exposure, when Patton, ... I guess he was a captain in ... World War I. ...
KP: Was your father disappointed that the Army sent him back home?
FR: ... Yeah, I think he recognized ... the inevitable. He recognized the fact that my mother ... really needed him, and that she had born ... a lot of the brunt of the family for a significant period of time, and I think ... he, privately, was relieved to be less active. I think ... he was glad to be home, glad to be in one piece. He was seriously wounded and gassed in World War I.
KP: Did your high school or your Boy Scout troop participate in any bond drives or scrap metal drives?
FR: Oh, yeah, yeah, we did. We did an awful lot of newspaper stuff, and tin cans, and foil, and gum wrappers, and all that kind of stuff. We did a lot of EMT types of duties and things like that. The troop was a very active troop. It was a fantastic troop, just prior to the war, before some of the older fellows, you know, like nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, [went into the service]. They continued an association with the troop. We had over 125 in the troop. It was a huge troop, and I was, I think, sixteen years old before I made patrol leader, and I had three Eagle scouts in my patrol. ... It was just a very active program. So, today, the parents say, "Well, my kid's got all kinds of conflicts. I mean, they can't continue with Scouting. They're involved with soccer and this [and that]." ... I said, "It's only a matter of priority. I mean, is playing soccer more important than learning about the outdoors more, and learning more about citizenship, and ... the contributions that you can make as a citizen, and everything like that? Is that more important than you've got to do one or the other? You don't have to say, 'I can't do this, because I can't do that.' You can do this, you can do this, you can do anything you want to do." It's all excuses. We have all these excuses that we make for ourselves, right? It's like I tell ... those kids in school, I mean, "The big ingredient to your need is, you have to be willing to work hard, and, if you don't know how to work hard, you need to learn how to work hard," because I don't care what kind of talent you have, if you ... have the kind of talent that I believe most kids have that are accepted ... at a good school, then, those kids can do well at a good school, if they'll work hard, period. They can and everything else is excuses.
KP: You came to Rutgers partly because of your minister.
KP: Also, you earned a state scholarship. Had you considered any other colleges?
FR: ... I never considered any other college. Now, while I was in the service, a good friend of mine, ... he was a neighbor, actually, a couple years older than I, he had been in the V-5 program in Dartmouth, and, when he got out of the service, which was a little before I did, he was trying to influence me to go to Dartmouth on the GI Bill, ... but, I really never took him seriously. I had joined a fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha, when I first got here, so, I had someplace to come back to. ... See, you got to understand, in that period, in the war time period, when I came to Rutgers, I was interviewed by Dean Earl Reed Silvers, the Dean of Men. ... I would sit down with him and he'd say, "Well, ... why do you want to come to Rutgers?" ... I would have to sell myself on why I would want to come here and what I could contribute to the school, and then, he would help with, "These are the things that the school can contribute to you," and so forth, and I originally entered in the ... pre-vet program, and found out that the science was just too much for me, but, I was also interviewed, at that time, ... by Dean Helyar of the College of Agriculture, ... his name is on the building, and, very shortly, ... I was trying to play football, and I had a bad leg in the first place, and things just weren't going very well, so, I went to see him one day. ... I didn't go to see some advisor in some little room, I went to see Dean Helyar, and ... I said, "You know, I guess I could work harder. I guess I could quit football," and, "I had gotten a part time job, because I really needed the money," and so forth, and he said, "Look, you do what you think you should do," and he used the terminology that I'll always remember, and he said, "You look to me like the kind of man, I like the cut of your jib." Course, you know, I had told him that my intention was going in the service shortly, but, I just wanted to get started at Rutgers and everything like that. Well, I moved into ... the history/political science program, and so forth, kind of stuck ... with that, with English and everything like that, but, it was really a very small school.
KP: This was when you came in 1944.
FR: It was really small. ... Of course, it got much larger in '46, '47, [that] time frame, but, still, it didn't get big from the point of view that I was in, that small fraternity environment. ...
KP: How many people entered with you in 1944? Do you remember your first experiences at Rutgers?
FR: ... I have no idea. How many ... students?
KP: Do you remember?
FR: Gee, ... I have no idea. At that time, of course, the Army program was still here, so, there were soldiers marching around and ... I have no idea how many were in the class. That would have been the Class of '48. ...
FR: '48-B. ... A good friend of mine, a fraternity brother Bob Shabazian, was Class of '48-A, which means, July 1, he came to school. In September, October, '48-B started. ... I really have no idea. At that point in time, there was a sprinkling ... of new students that, for one reason or other, were discharged from the service. There was a sprinkling of, you know, guys who weren't yet eighteen. What happened in those days is, you signed up for the draft, or you enlisted before eighteen, and, literally, on your birthday, you went. You didn't start the process of when you were going to go, that's when you went. [laughter] You went on your birthday or the day before your birthday, not the day after your birthday. You went then, and you have to consider the fact that, in those days, the population of the US was roughly half of what it is today, and ten percent of the population was in the service, so, you've got thirteen million plus people, men and women, in the service, and you've got a population of a 130 million. So, everything was geared up to winning and everything geared up to, ... "I hope my loved one isn't paying the price for the winning," but, many did, of course. So, I got a great picture that I didn't bring, because the only way you're going to react to it is, "Gee, what a nice picture," you know. It's a picture of my sister and I at her wedding, which was in June of '46, and she in her bridal gown and I in my uniform, and, actually, I was being staged for discharge at that time, and ... our ship was down in Hampton Roads, off of Norfolk, ... and they were trying very hard to get people discharged from the service as quickly as they could. So, what they basically said is, "No leave, [we'll] give you no leave, ... not even three days," and I wanted to come up to take part in the wedding. So, I decided that, damn it, my sister had ... waited for her fiancée for three years, my father had been through what he went through, I was going to come home for the wedding. So, I just literally took off. I went AWOL, and I left down there, and I had a friend of mine that got me papers that got me on ... a plane that flew up. ... I flew up and I spent the weekend. I flew back and I immediately got a summary court-martial. In the Navy, your gradations are captain's mast, summary court-martial, general court-martial. Maybe there are other gradations, but, those are the ones I remember. So, I was ... given fifteen days in the brig, ... bread and water for fifteen days, in a cell on the ship, and I remember it very well, because the size of ... the cell was exactly this wide and exactly this, plus another arm, long, and it had a bunk in it, and it had a little toilet, and a little desk, and no light, fifteen days. ... I was fined, I guess, fifty dollars, which was a lot of money, and ... they didn't take my rating away. I was quartermaster, third class. They were ... going to break me back to seamen, first class, and they gave me a summary, and that was it. ... I remember, I was in the brig from July 15 to July 31 of '46 and ... that was aboard the ship. I was on the brig aboard the ship. ... Of course, they let me out everyday to take a shower and all that kind of stuff. I go down to ... get my clothes and someone had broken into my locker and stole my uniform. I had no uniform to go home in, and, of course, I had no money to speak of, and I'm not going to call my father. ... My father didn't know. They didn't know 'till many months later what I had gone through, okay, and ... they didn't know I was absent without leave, okay, not that I was stealing government secrets or anything like that. I just wanted to go to my sister's wedding. So, ... my dilemma, "What am I going to do? What am I going to do?" So, I said, "The only thing I can do is, I got to steal someone else's uniform." So, I literally did, I stole another uniform ... off the ship. Course, you understand, this is a very big ship. You ... got nearly a thousand in crew. You got lockers and lockers and lockers. Very little is locked up in those days. ...
-------------------------------------END OF SIDE TWO, TAPE ONE------------------------------------
KP: You got out in August, 1946.
FR: Yes, I got out of the service in August. The wedding was at the end of June of '46. By the time I got back, and I had the summary court-martial, I had the fifteen days bread and water, I got on the train, I came home, I got my mustering out pay, I headed for the shore. I contacted Rutgers, said, "I'm going to be back." They said, "Great." I have a very good feeling, though, that the Rutgers admissions people, particularly, I guess, if you had been at Rutgers before, ... there was no big mechanics. You called them up, and you say, "I'm getting out of the service in August. ... I'd like to come back to school," and, "Fine, great," and you'd get a letter of confirmation. I mean, you didn't have to ... come down, get in line, or anything of that nature. I mean, they welcomed you back. They didn't want to lose people not coming back to Rutgers. I don't believe they did, but, so, ... the prison was a true story. [laughter]
KP: Did you have Marine guards?
FR: No, regular Navy. ... He was a friend. ... They fed me.
KP: They gave you bread and the water.
FR: ... It was bread and water for fifteen days, but, every third day, you got a full meal. Every third day, you got a full meal, so, you got a tray and you really filled it up, you know. It was bread and water, period, ... that was standard. There wasn't any unnecessary brutality or anything like that and ... you kept busy. Every day, ... literally, they would bring in buckets ... and mops and you would take everything out of this small, little cell, this cell block in this ship. The USS Taconic, AGC-17, was a group communication ship. It had been built on a Liberty ship hull, which was a fairly good size ship, must be 800 feet long, and it had ... on it as a crew ... Army, and Marines, and Navy, and the staffs of the admirals. It was a group communication ship. It was built to be a ship that would be the focal point of an invasion, okay, in the event. The brig on it must have been maybe a dozen cells and there were no more than two or three in the cells at any particular time. I mean, why would you be locking people up? ... You're in Norfolk, people are getting off. The ship, at that point in time, was down to about three or four hundred. ... We couldn't go to sea with the size of the crew we had, and what was happening in ... those latter stages is, young fellows who were enlisting in the Navy, no draft any more, well, there was still a draft, but, they were enlisting in the Navy, they were going through boot camp, and, as hundreds of us would go off the ship, hundreds of them, but, not enough, were coming ... aboard ship, 'cause, once the war was over, they stopped drafting into the Navy. ... They basically were drafting into the Army.
KP: Before we got started, you showed us a great picture from your ID card, which we hope, someday, when people read the interview, they will also see the picture.
FR: I hope I'm still alive.
KP: I think you will be. If I were to look at this picture of you in your dress uniform, I would say it was your uniform, but, in fact, you did not have very many clothes on when that picture was taken.
FR: I didn't have any. Well, no, the picture that I gave you is a staged picture and that's in uniform. The picture that I have is on my ID card, and I still have my ID card, the original ID card that you take, and, along with the fact that they cut your dog tags, you wind up also with an ID card, and then, you wind up with different ID cards, like, you have an ID card for your ship, or, if you go to the San Diego Naval Base, you have a Naval base ID card. You wind up with a picture ID card. That first ID card is one that you have actually ... stood up in this model of this (shoulder?) uniform, butt ass naked, and you get your picture taken. [laughter] They cut all your hair off. ... You don't get a chance, "Just leave me a light trim," you know. They take it all off, and, by the time ... you're out of boot camp, which is six or eight weeks, usually, your hair, largely, has grown back, you know.
YS: Do they shave it again?
FR: No, no, no, no.
YS: Just the first time.
FR: ... At least at that time, then, your requirement is that you just keep it at a certain [length]. Now, the ship that I was on was big enough, so we had a barber on the ship. I mean, that was a big ship. They had a couple barbers on the ship. So, you'd go and get a haircut for maybe a quarter, something like that, ... and many of those guys got very skilled at it. They had plenty of practice, they had no competition. [laughter]
KP: After your induction at Penn Station, you went to Sampson and were greeted by bologna sandwiches.
FR: ... That's Sampson, New York, or Sampson Naval Training Center, later became ... an Air Force facility, and now, ... in more recent years, ... the last twenty, twenty-five years, ... at least part of that facility is a branch of one of the SUNY colleges of New York State. ... It's located on one of the Finger Lakes, is where it is. You're familiar with the area? It's on one of the Finger Lakes, near Geneva, New York.
KP: Yes, I know where the Finger Lakes are.
FR: ... Right. The closest town that you can find on a map is Geneva, New York. It's a very nice, little town, beautiful little town.
AS: I am very familiar with the area.
FR: Yeah, pretty little town. It's miserable in the winter. ... Fortunately, I went to boot camp in June. People who went up there to boot camp in the winter, [it] was really bad.
KP: Someone I interviewed talked at length about being there in the winter and how cold it was.
FR: Samson, oh, it's terrible in the winter.
KP: However, in the summer, it sounds nice.
FR: It was beautiful. We went out in big boats, out on the lake, you know, with the oars.
KP: You went through basic seamen's training.
KP: What did that entail?
FR: I really don't remember too much about it. I remember we did a lot of marching, and I took to that pretty well, because we did a lot of marching in the Boy Scouts in those days, because many of our leaders had been in the service, World War I service, and we were basically taught to march. We were taught to parade. So, what we basically needed to do would be to learn to do it as a group, do it as a unit, and ... the group, of course, was a company. We had a company, and, basically, the company was in a barracks, two level barracks, one company, part of the company was up here, next part of the company was here. Six weeks, out you go, and a lot of running, a lot of physical conditioning. Most of ... the fellows ... were young. Therefore, by definition, their physical ability, within a few weeks, was greatly enhanced. We did have some draftees, which, at the time, I thought were very old people. They were thirty-five or thirty-six years old and some of those guys who got drafted late in the war had a very tough time getting themselves up to physical standards. Of course, the physical standards of the Navy, ... or the demands of, physically, are not nearly what it would be in the ... Army or the Marine Corps. We did some obstacle courses, we did some target training, we did some identification ... of Japanese planes, that kind of stuff.
KP: Did you train in fire fighting?
FR: Oh, yeah, we did, yes. I remember, we had to go to fire fighters' school. ... They had built a small, little town, or, actually, it was part of a town, and part of a superstructure of a ship, and they put these crazy suits on us, and we had to wade in there, first, start the fire, just start the thing up, and then, they would get the hoses out, and, as a team, you would attempt to do it without hurting anybody, or breaking any fingers, or getting burned, and so forth. ... We did a lot of testing, too. I think they were thinking in terms of, "With this war running down, how can we use these people to best advantage?" So, there was a lot of testing. I saw that it was a lot of testing, but, if you took this test and you did fairly well, then, you would go take this test, to see if you'd do fairly well, and then, I'm going to take this test, but, again, as I indicated before, all of the really meaningful college service programs had been closed down at that point in time
KP: That was your preference, to go into one of the V-programs.
FR: Oh, yeah, right, or maybe even ... Navy aviation or Marine Corps OCS
KP: Was that also closed down?
FR: It was all closed down. In fact, I had fraternity brothers who spent a good piece of the war ... in Army programs and were literally bombed out of the programs in the Summer of '44, right after the invasion. They had gone through infantry training two and three years before, then, had spent those two or three years in college, ... essentially, and got shipped over to France, and two of them I knew very well. One was badly wounded and the other ... was not as badly wounded, but, captured in the Battle of the Bulge, and, you know, certainly a contributing factor is the fact that ... they really didn't have very good training. They were just sent in as replacements, ... but, I really don't remember an awful lot about training. ... I had been to camp all my life as a kid. I had been to camp as a teenager. I had been involved in athletics. It was kind of fun. ...
KP: You had done this before, some of it.
FR: It didn't seem like it was awfully hard. ...
KP: How was the food?
FR: I was taught by my mother and father to eat what is put in front of me. [laughter] ... I guess you've heard that many times in the course of these interviews, eat what's put in front of me, and, if I take it, you must eat it, ... period.
KP: It sounds very familiar.
FR: It isn't because we don't have imagination, it isn't because we don't have initiative, but, we know how to take orders.
KP: Did you sense that the war was winding down while you were in training?
FR: Well, it clearly was. ... I remember, there's an event I'd like to mention. I was on the 1945 track team, I was a letter winner in track, and a couple of friends of mine, we were trying to learn how to throw the discus and shot-put. Although I was ... about 175, 180, I was fairly strong, and, you know, we were all that was available. So, that was what we were doing and my father, ... he literally worshipped Franklin Roosevelt as an individual, the president, basically, that saved the country by a variety of programs, and by his leadership, and wisdom, and so forth, and while we were there at that practice, ... it was right behind the College Avenue Gym, that field, which was, of course, a field at that point in time, not a parking lot, ... we were throwing the discus around, [that] was when I heard that Franklin Roosevelt died, which was in April of '45, and I guess I went and enlisted the next day, or something like that. Of course, the semester was kind of winding down and I was going to be able to not be going until early June, so, it all worked out fine. So, I went with my classmate and fraternity brother, Ang Baglivo. Ang is a very successful guy. ... He was a reporter for years, and, now, has a public relations company based in Metuchen, and ... I don't know whether he's ... necessarily politically connected, but, he was ... the spokesman ... for the state lottery for many years, and is a very bright guy, very nice guy.
KP: He enlisted with you.
FR: He enlisted ... the same day. We went on the train the same day, and then, we were in different companies, and then, lost track of each other. ... Of course, I knew him. We both came back to school at the same time. ... He was one of these guys, he was Phi Beta Kappa as a junior, ... that I think very seldom got a B, ... and a guy that I respected, because I think I learned from ... him, and ... he was a very tough, dedicated guy. ... He was very dedicated to getting the best education he could get and ... he was very tough at it. ... He was tough on his teachers. He was tough on his teachers, literally. I mean, if you're not teaching me enough, fast enough, with the highest quality, he's after you. He's been a tough guy all his life. He's a tough guy today. How are we doing?
KP: We are doing great.
FR: Gee, ... I wish I had earned a lot of medals, killed and not get killed. [laughter]
KP: No, this is really great. Where did you go after Sampson?
FR: After Samson, I went home on leave for ten days, or eight days, or nine days, whatever it might be, and then, I went up to Melville, and I was in Melville for a couple, two, three weeks. ...
KP: This was the PT base ...
FR: PT boat training base.
KP: ... Where you just sat around.
FR: ... Yeah. They had a couple of boats that were running, so, we went out and we ran around. You know, it was in the fall, ... and then, before I went to Newport, I guess we did ... go to Newport, they had nothing with us, because they had no ship scheduled ... to be commissioned, and so, they put us on this old destroyer flotilla duty. The duty was, and this is now November, in the North Atlantic, November, December, we went out, ... and, of course, at this point in time, the war is over, and we just ... headed east, out into the North Atlantic, heading toward Greenland, in just wide open [seas] for two days, and ... these are old destroyers. They weren't World War I destroyers, but, they were built, like, in the late twenties, or something like that, and ... the bow of the ship would go down like this, and then, it would come up, and then, it would hit down, "Baboom." ... Going out on the decks, [it] was full of ice and ... it was three solid weeks of disaster. Everybody who went came back having lost probably about twenty pounds. [laughter]
KP: Did you get seasick?
FR: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah, everybody got sick, everybody got sick. The captain got sick. The captain, on a ship like that, would normally be a lieutenant commander, ... on a ship of that nature, but, we had a very light crew, and, ... in those days, with ... so many hundreds of thousands, millions, of men being discharged, ... we had a very basic crew, ... really, regulars running the ship and a few of us running around not knowing what we're doing. Now, I went to quartermasters' school between that fall and the winter, when the USS (AGC-17) Taconic was commissioned in Brooklyn, and so, being a quartermaster, I guess they call them striker, quartermaster striker, I was up ... on the bridge. On a destroyer, the bridge is not very high, okay, and we were learning, and I had learned things, again, back to my Scouting days. I'm not trying to convince you to be a Scout or anything like this, ... but, I mean, there were things I knew. I knew the compass, and ... I knew some basic navigation, and things of that nature, so that I was able to bridge onto, you know, that particular training, and we were watched pretty closely, being rookies. We were watched pretty closely. They didn't allow us to do anything that would hurt anything very badly. I mean, ... you would actually take the wheel, ... and you were given the course, ... and they would be checking to make sure you were on the course all the time, and then, every day, we had to do the journal. We had to do the ship's log journal. They would actually do the log, and then, we would take the log and actually type the log with ... one of these old, Remington typewriters, you know, that you had to hit them really hard, and we had big, big lights on the thing, and the typewriter would be going like this, with the ship. ...
KP: What did you learn in quartermasters' school?
FR: ... It was navigation, keeping ship logs, things relating to navigation, like that. It was really ... the best training. There were other training that was good, you know, ... signal training. I didn't want to go below decks, necessarily. There was, you know, machinist training, motor machinist training, ... oilmen training, fireman training, you know, stuff like that, and then, everyone had ... the responsibility of being on some particular station, general quarter station. I was on a .40 mm anti-aircraft gun. This is now when I was on the USS (AGC-17) Taconic. Yeah, unfortunately, I dropped a shell on my foot and I have a bad big toe today, because of that.
KP: It has been fifty years since you did that.
FR: That's right, that's right.
YS: How heavy was the shell?
FR: ... Well, a .40 mm shell, this is ... about like this, but, they were really long, and they fit into a magazine, ... and you take the magazine, and you actually push ... them down in the gun, and then, ... you have a ratchet, ... and that takes the first one into the magazine, and one fell out of it and fell on my foot. ... I never got a Purple Heart for that, either. I should have applied for it. I should have applied for the Purple Heart, but, over the years, ... I wind up soaking the foot, and every X years, I wind up with a doctor doing a little, minor, ... in the office surgery to relieve the pressure. ... It's really not that bad. I'm sorry I mentioned it.
KP: It is intriguing because I have been struck by how, even in small ways, the war still impacts people lives.
FR: ... Well, I don't want to show you my toe. It's kind of mangled. ... [laughter]
KP: That is okay.
FR: I have clean socks on. It's all right.
KP: The Navy is a very hierarchical branch of the service. There was a very clear distinction between officers and enlisted personal.
FR: Oh, yeah. Well, of course, ... you had a very clear segregation. ... On the USS Taconic, that I was on the longest, which is, what? eight months, or thereabouts, the USS Taconic had captain's mess and had admiral's mess. The captain's mess stewards were all African-Americans. The admiral's mess stewards were all, by and large, Filipinos, regular Navy Filipinos, and they constantly had fights between that two groups, and ... at least not on our ship, there were no non-whites in any of the deck divisions, ... deck divisions meaning that ... you basically have ... deck duty, painting this, that, everything. ... One thing comes to mind that I remember, ... we did the first cruise on the USS (AGC-17) Taconic, that was in January, February of '46, and then, after that, we made two trips to North Africa to ... bring coffins home, and we would bring them back, ... actually, we used Bush Terminal, Brooklyn, New York. We used ... our home port. ...
KP: In Brooklyn.
FR: In Brooklyn, and then, ... these were deaths from the North African campaign, and, I guess, other parts of the world, that part of the world, and I remember one day very well, that the chaplain aboard the ship, he said, "I need a couple of guys to come with me to the baggage room at Grand Central Station, because we've lost somebody. We've lost somebody," 'cause what they would do at that point in time is, they would send honor guards for the deceased, coffins, and ... there would be an honor guard, and you would go up to Albany, and you'd go up ... not as far as Rochester, but, whatever it might be, or you'd go up into Connecticut. ... What I remember, today, and I could close my eyes, and I could go into that baggage room in ... Grand Central, and there must have been a couple of hundred coffins in there, and if you don't think that that gives you an eerie feeling. ... They had ID tags and ... numbers on the ends, and we were looking for one, and I believe we did find it, ... and we didn't have any ability to do anything with it, but, it belonged going not to New York, but, it belonged going, maybe, to Maryland. ... Somehow, they asked us to do it, because they had no one else to do it, but, even ... as wild as, there'd be a tag on there that would be the remains of ... a whole bomber group. That was the ... only remains they had of a whole bomber crew and they'd have it right there.
AS: In one coffin?
FR: Yeah, yeah. ... So, what also comes to mind, in addition to the stacks of military coffins in this baggage room, which ... was a huge room, this room must have been, maybe, forty, fifty feet high, this room was absolutely, unbelievably big, is, people were told, at that time, you see, in World War II, [due to the] very large number ... of the deaths, people were buried where they were, and you've got huge, huge cemeteries in France and Italy, you know, all over the world, ... and so forth, and so forth, Germany. In any event, ... there were comparatively few brought home, but, here, this is now three years after, ... the family had the right, if they were buried in a temporary, military cemetery in Casablanca, and ... they had petitioned the government to bring their loved one home, they would do it, and they were trying to, you know, help ... the situation. ... However, they told people, "We don't know when they're going to get here, but, when they get here, we will let you know, okay." ... I don't know how it happened, but, both trips, it happened the same way. There was a huge crowd of mourners on the dock when the ship pulled in and ... we had no ability to be ... having blue uniforms and ... white gloves, taking the coffins off in teams, or anything like that. We were actually taking them off in cargo nets and the people started screaming and yelling how disrespectful we were. We weren't being disrespectful. ... We had a huge physical job to do, to get them off, and then, we put them on the docks, and so forth, and so forth, but, I don't know how in the world, and I'm talking about, these people were really getting emotional.
KP: It sounds like no one on the crew, from the officers on down, was expecting this.
FR: No, no, no, no, that's right. ... Of course, having been a quartermaster, I knew the captain and I knew that he was a ... Naval Academy man. The executive officer had been a Naval Academy man. Both of them had very heavy duty in the Pacific during the entire war. Both were extremely heavy drinkers, really heavy drinkers. They'd come back, after being off the ship, they were really in rough shape, ... and they were not old men. I mean, the captain was a man in his thirties someplace and the lieutenant commander, who was executive officer, he was a man in his late twenties, and so forth, a lot of drinking.
KP: Their drinking was fairly obvious.
FR: ... You asked about, you know, coming back to Rutgers, and other schools, and so forth. During the time that my ship was in the Hampton Roads-lower Chesapeake area, ... we also carried a number of landing boats on the ship, although it was not a ship designed to take troops, and to land troops from landing boats, and so forth, but, we had ... a very big array of landing boats. ... We took the ship, and we went as far as we could go up the Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis, Maryland, which was relatively far, and then, we took the landing boats, and we went up to the Naval Academy, and we were at the Naval Academy for, like, four weeks. ... We must have had fifteen to twenty boats and we lived there. ... We lived that easy life, and then, we took some of the upper classmen over to the other side of Chesapeake Bay. We got them good and wet, you know. ... We were showing them ... all kinds of landing boat tactics and everything like that. ... The lieutenant commander, ... his name was Jack Trainer, he was trying to influence, not only me, other ... young fellows there that had been to college briefly, whatever it might be, of applying for a fleet appointment to Annapolis, ... which, basically, is no different than a regular appointment, other than the fact that you wouldn't need a Congressional appointment. You could get a fleet appointment based upon your testing and based upon recommendations of your officers, and I did consider ... that, but, I basically wanted to get out of the service and come back to Rutgers. ... Don't forget the fraternities. ...
YS: Did you feel any different when you came back to Rutgers?
FR: Well, it was ... completely different, the atmosphere. It was completely different. ... It was basically two years later. I was still only nineteen years old. When I came back, I was nineteen years old. I was influenced in a very positive way, throughout the campus, ... [by] the veterans that had come back, ... and, also, in my classes. I was influenced in a very positive way in my fraternity, which is Lambda Chi Alpha, of the ... various brothers that had returned ... from their service responsibility, and the fraternity was able to get itself better organized and focused. ... That fraternity house was in the hands of the Army, and it was used for housing for at least a couple of years, and was turned back to the fraternity in 1944, when, I guess, they used other housing. In any event, it was kind of a mess at that time that I was there, and, in the ensuing year, year-and-a-half, ... the fraternity was able to decorate it, and get a decent cook, and fix up a nice apartment ... for the house mother Mrs. Lein, and so, ... everyone could say, "Gee, I don't have to look over my shoulder. I don't have to look at a service responsibility. I can just get myself back into ... going to school, and learning what I need to learn, and having a good time, and dancing, and meeting girls, and doing all the things I want to do, and I don't have to worry about things." So, it was different. It was very different, but, I'm glad, ... you know, I came first.
KP: When you went across the Atlantic to North Africa, you were only about eighteen years old or nineteen years old.
FR: ... Well, we went to Africa, we went to the Canary Islands, ... we went to Bermuda. It's only the last couple of months, when the ... crew had so many people taken out of it, that we really couldn't ... go awfully far, because we just didn't have the number of people that we needed on all kinds of duties that we had to do, but, I don't know. ... I don't know where a lot of the pictures are, you know. I said to my wife, "Where is ... the envelope that I had with all of the pictures?" She said, "I don't know." Well, we moved several times. ...
KP: Yeah, that is always a dangerous time.
FR: I just have lost them. I had a lot of pictures ... of service people and I don't know where they are. I think I threw a lot of them away. I said, "I don't know who this is. Why keep this?" [laughter]
AS: What was the social life like on campus after the war?
FR: ... There was a lot of travel between here and New Jersey College for Women. There was a lot of travel back and forth, and, I guess, ... before I went into the service, I really didn't date a lot, and, shortly after I got back, I met a young lady that was at Douglass, at NJC, and we really fell in love. ... She graduated in the Class of '48. ... So, we really ... were together until she graduated, and then, she took a job, and started graduate school, and we just drifted apart, ... but, what was social life? ... We did a little drinking. I had a roommate who ... had been a bombardier, and was shot down, and spent two years in a stalag, prison. He was a ... PL-16, I think, PL-16, which meant that he got more money than I got. I got like seventy-five dollars a month. He got a little more. Does anybody tell you that story? Well, he got a little more, in any event. So, Stoney, the first couple of ... weeks of the month, he would drink whiskey, I'm talking about during the day, and then, he would buy jug wine and be drinking jug wine, and, at the end of the month, when he'd run out of money, he just ... scrounged for it. You know, people would lend him money and he was quite a brilliant guy. He's still alive, to this day, and ... he was a ceramic engineer. He went through the Ceramic Engineering School, very bright guy. ... We had no liquor on the premises in the fraternity in those days. That was not allowed.
KP: Did you go to the Corner Tavern?
FR: Yeah, right. We'd go to the Corner Tavern. I worked at the Corner Tavern as a bartender for a couple years. I actually inherited the job from a fraternity brother. In those days, the employees at the Corner Tavern were Zeta Psi's and Lambda Chi's, and, when a Lambda Chi was graduating, he had the privilege of naming his successor. Now, ... you might have worked some part time, or something like that, but, he had the privilege of naming his successor. Now, the owner of the bar, George Kali, he, of course, had the privilege of saying, "I don't want him." [laughter] It never really worked that way. We had dances ... at the fraternity all the time. We had ... Junior Prom, Senior Prom, all the prom type of things ... at the old gym. ... Generally speaking, we didn't pledge freshman. We didn't pledge freshman. ... We wanted to make sure that, at that point in time, that someone got the freshman year under their belt and they understood what life was all about, that you're here, really, to go to class, learn, get acceptable grades, contribute ... to yourself by participating within the college environment, whether it be sports, clubs, or any combination there of, but, ... just coming here to screw around, this is not why you're here, okay, and most all the guys in the fraternity, they worked. Several years, we kept it open twelve months of the year, you know. ... I had a good job at the Corner Tavern. I also worked as a lifeguard in a pool on Livingston Avenue. So, I didn't want to leave those jobs in the summer, so, I would take a couple of summer courses, ... you know, that were morning courses. In the afternoon, I'd go and lifeguard, and, at night, I would go bar tend. In fact, when I graduated, the first job I took, I had to take a salary cut. I was making more money lifeguarding and bar tending than I was with my first job. ... As far as the terms of social life, we had ... some really nice involvement with the parents in the fraternity. ... My mother and a group of other mothers formed a mother's group, and they came in, and they basically said, "Fellahs, you got to clean up this place and you got to keep it clean." ... Well, it was pretty clean at that point in time, by today's standards, so, ... we decorated it, and ... they would come down every month or two, and they would have a cake sale, ... and they would bring cookies down, and they would earn money for us, which meant that we could [buy decorations]. ... We put curtains up, we washed the windows, and it wasn't a barracks, it was ... just a nice place, really was.
KP: What percentage of your fraternity was returning veterans and what percentage was traditional students who had not been in the military?
FR: Very small percentage had not been in service.
FR: A very small percentage. As the next couple of years went by, prior to Korea, course, Korea happened immediately after I finished school, if we had someone that came into school or into the fraternity, they probably wouldn't be around very long and they'd get drafted. ... There were not the amount of deferments that took place at the Vietnam era. I mean, it was expected, if you were drafted, that you went and served and you normally were gone for two years. You would serve, and then, you'd come back to school, but, the percentage was very high. It was very high in terms of ... GI Bill people that were in school in the '46 and '47 time frame.
KP: You mentioned that your roommate received a slightly bigger GI Bill allotment.
FR: Stoney Jackson, Stoney Jackson.
KP: Did he ever talk about how tough the war was for him?
FR: Oh, yeah. ... He basically took years to get his health back. ... He lost all his teeth. He lost a kidney. When he ... parachuted down, ... German civilians got him and just beat the hell out of him. ... He found it very hard to take ... going to class very seriously, but, he was a fun kind of guy, anyhow, keeping in mind now, at the time that I knew him, he was only twenty-five or twenty-six years old and he'd been through hell.
KP: He had endured the experiences of a lifetime.
FR: That's right, and, in terms of his prison camp experience, as best I can remember my conversations with him, and guys don't sit around telling, ... we just don't do it, it's very much like ... the very old Bill Holden, Stalag-17 movie, very much like that, in terms ... of doing everything you can ... to survive, to get enough to eat, you know, and so forth.
KP: That is one of the things we have found in doing this project, that most people are telling us stories which they never told their classmates. I get the sense that, at Rutgers, the war did not come up that often.
FR: Right. Well, my father, ... every once in a while, ... he was gassed, ... and, you know, if you've done some reading of World War I, particularly extensive reading and research, and the old All Quiet on the Western Front, and everything like that, ... there's absolutely no ... comprehending the suffering ... that went on, regardless of what type of helmet you wore, ... particularly in World War I.
KP: Did you and your father see All Quiet on the Western Front?
FR: Oh, yes, sure.
KP: What did he think of the movie?
FR: He didn't say much. He didn't say much, no.
KP: Did he like the movie?
FR: I don't remember. ... He didn't like Germans. [laughter]
KP: Really? Did he have a lingering animosity?
FR: Actually, I think he liked the Germans better than the French. He didn't like the French at all. [laughter]
KP: It sounds like All Quiet on the Western Front really spoke to him.
KP: What did you think of the movie, at the time?
FR: Well, I had read it before I had to see the movie, and, periodically, it pops up on TV all the time. ...
--------------------------------------END OF SIDE ONE, TAPE TWO-----------------------------------
KP: While you were at Rutgers, Bucky Hachett was the class president.
FR: Right, Bucky, Bucky. ...
KP: There were some black students, but, there were not very many.
KP: Can you talk a little bit about him and how he became class president? It was a remarkable feat, given how few black students were at Rutgers.
FR: ... The immediate Class of 1950 president before me was a man by the name of Bill Reed, who was also an African-American. ... The answer to Bucky Hachett, ... next week, a good friend of Bucky's, Hank Pryor, ... is going to be named, or inducted, as a Rutgers Loyal Son. ... It's the annual Alumni Association naming of Loyal Sons and Daughters. ... It's a program that started about forty years ago or so. ... It's not measured on how much you contribute, dollar wise, or anything like that. It's people who have contributed in a very sincere way over a consistent period of time in a lot of different ways to Rutgers, and Hank Pryor, who was also an athlete and he's a man about a little older than I, a year or so, but, he was a football player, and just recently retired as a senior administrator at Union College in Cranford, okay, and is on our class committee. He's on our class committee, so, of course, we endorsed it ... and he was inducted two years ago in the ... Rutgers Athletic Hall of Fame, Hank Pryor. Bucky Hachett, ... [I] knew in school. I didn't ... really know him other than as a student, and, also, as an ... athlete, a football player, basketball player, track. I knew him in track. ... He, and Hank Pryor, and Bill Reed, ... and a number of other African-Americans that I knew in college, the question and the issue, ... maybe issue is the wrong word, the question ... of their color, or anything like that, just literally never came up. It just absolutely never came up. Bucky Hachett is the same, nice, very competent guy that he has been all his life. ... He retired a few years ago. He was an executive of RCA. Do you know Bucky?
FR: Okay. ... He was an executive of RCA for a number of years, retired, lives in ... Virginia, and that group, by group, ... I'm talking Class of '50, and ... those guys are lifetime friends. They're lifetime friends with the friendship going as deep as friendship can go and their friendships are friendships ... among all races. Bill Reed is that kind of fine guy, Hank Pryor is that kind of fine guy, Harvey Grimsley, who was also ... a football player of our class, and, also, an African-American, is that kind of guy. The question never came up.
FR: It just never came up, ... the question never came up. Let me tell you, ... in the period of, I guess it was, ... the Fall of '48, my mother became very ill and I was just needed at home. My sister was married, living in Texas. My father wasn't very helpful at home. He wasn't very helpful in the house. Although he wanted to be, he just wasn't. ... So, I decided that I had a responsibility to ... either quit school, or delay, or whatever it might be, so, what I did is, I went home, and ... I went to Columbia, a couple of courses at night, ... so I wouldn't fall too far behind, but, the next semester, my mom was better, substantially better, and she and my dad said, "You must go back down to New Brunswick." So, I said, "I want to go back to New Brunswick." ... I left my room at the fraternity and had given up my spot, so, there was no spot there for me. So, I came down to New Brunswick, to the housing department, and I say, "I'm looking for a room in the dorms." ... Just a couple hours before, I'd been walking down the campus, and I was talking to a young fellow ... by the name of Bill Leveret, ... another African-American I knew from track, and I said, "How you doing, Bill?" He says, "Well, I'm doing fine, but, I lost my roommate. My roommate left school," or something like that. So, I go down to the housing department, the housing department says, "We're sorry, we have no room in the dorms." I said, "Wait a minute, I just saw my friend, Bill (Leveret?)." So, they do some mumbling in the back office and they would not put me in his room.
FR: 1948, they would not put me in the room, rooming with him, apparently, because I was white and he was black, even though you were willing. ... Well, in any event, ... I took classes with Bucky Hachett. Bucky's ... a good friend of mine. He works for the class. He works for Rutgers. He's always been the same kind of guy, all his life.
... He was elected based upon his capability and his popularity. ...
KP: I looked him up in the yearbook and, on paper, he seemed quite remarkable.
FR: If he could walk in the door there, right now, ... in ten minutes, he'd charm you. He's a charming guy.
KP: We tried to get Hank Pryor to give us an interview. He came to our attention because there was an article about him that Tom Kindre read. The first year of the project, we wrote to him.
FR: Okay, yeah
KP: We would very much like to interview him, because he had some really remarkable war time experiences.
FR: Right. ... I may have one, ... I'm talking about the pre-interview form. ... Give me a pre-interview form, and, when I see him at the Loyal Son dinner on the 5th of April, I'm going to say, "I've got a job for you to do."
KP: Yeah, we would very much like to interview him.
FR: ... I will ask him to consider your invitation. ... [laughter] "It's something that you need to do, Hank." ... I've never had a discussion this way. Now, Bill Reed, I knew very well. I've served on our class committee for about twenty-five years, and Bill Reed and I were very close, and I guess I've never said, "I'd like to discuss ... the prejudices that you experienced while you were a student as an undergraduate at Rutgers," but, ... we've talked about everything, and, if that was a worthwhile subject, that this was a problem, with Bill, I'm sure he would have brought it up. ... He died in 1993. His wife is on our class committee. We have her as an ex officio member of our class committee.
FR: So, we're getting geared up for our 50th reunion.
YS: When you were in the Navy, the war was winding down. You did not see much combat.
FR: ... I didn't see any, other than bars and things like that. ... [laughter]
KP: Sailors often have a reputation for rowdiness on leave. They are very disciplined on the ship, but, once they hit town, it is a different story.
FR: ... As I said, my father taught me how to box and everything. I did have some periods where I was on shore patrol duty and you had to be very careful, because there was a lot of ... bottle activity. Guys would just break the corner off a bottle, and then, they'd go after the other guy. I remember taking a young fellow, and this is down in Norfolk, ... which was a very raucous Navy town, and I remember a guy, ... he must have gotten over a hundred stitches put in his face, because of the cutting that had been done with a bottle. The guy put the bottle right in his face. ... We didn't mess around. If somebody was at you with a bottle, you'd go at them with a stick and take care of them quickly, before anybody got hurt, if you could avoid it, but, I only had few incidents like that. Most of them were just ... pleasant kind of things and the guy had a little bit too much to drink. You say, "Why get him in trouble?" Just put him on the bus, or put him on the boat, or something like that. [laughter] ... Well, I'm sure you understand. I mean, most of these guys are eighteen, nineteen, twenty years old, and they get out, and, ... while on bases, they had 3.2 beer, 3.2 beer. On ships, there was no liquor. There ... was no liquor on ships.
KP: Except for the officers.
FR: I wasn't aware of it. I mean, I would deliver messages to the captain. ...
KP: Would you?
FR: They had ... liquor?
KP: They were allowed to have liquor.
FR: ... I mentioned that the captain and the executive officer drank a lot. We had a chaplain aboard ship. ... He was really bad. They had to take him off, and dry him out, and so forth, but, ... he was a chaplain and a priest. ... When he was leaving the ship, he would be taking the crosses off his uniform and putting them [away], [laughter] ... Father Ryan.
KP: He liked to go into town.
FR: Go into town and get blasted, just as long as there's no trouble, as long as there's no fighting, ... as long as someone's not getting hurt.
YS: Actually, my question was more towards the idea of, were you upset that you did not see any combat or were you thankful that it was over by that point?
FR: I would say I was upset. I think I was, ... as a young guy, before I gained some wisdom. I'm delighted that I didn't have anybody directly trying to kill me and my friends. ... I was delighted that I was not placed in a situation where I would have to kill somebody else, either face to face or long distance. ... The flag waving, and the ribbons, and the metals, and the (folderol?), and everything like that, that's fine for the people that get them, but, it's not fine for the people ... that lose their loved ones. There is nothing good about war or anything approaching it. There's nothing good about it.
AS: As a Lambda Chi alumnus, can you talk a bit about what has happened to the Lambda Chi chapter on-campus?
FR: ... I don't really know a lot about what happened. ... I had, over many years, periodically gone to fraternity alumni events, and they would usually be, it might even be homecoming. You would stop in and see if you saw some old friends at the fraternity house after the game, or something like that, and, periodically, it would be the annual dinner, and you would do the annual dinner at some restaurant, or something like that. When my daughter was at Rutgers, she graduated in the Class of '81, her baptism to Lambda Chi was, she went there to a party, and while she wasn't attacked, she was threatened and she also had her purse robbed. ... That was in the time frame of the late seventies. ... I have never been an official of the chapter. I mean, I have never been an official. They've invited me to be. My son, David, completely unknown to me, although his mother knew it, and I would not have had anything to do with it, he pledged and was initiated to Lambda Chi when he was a sophomore, which would have been 1985, or something like that, and, at that time frame, Lambda Chi was ... just getting off a probation. ... However, they had a graduate student that was resident there, placed there by the university, to be sure that the conduct was ... proper, okay. Now, two years later, the whole thing came apart with some type of event that caused this young fellow to, basically, drink himself to death.
AS: James Callahan
FR: Right, and the conclusion of that was, the fraternity national chapter and Rutgers decided that the fraternity should cease being in business here, even though they were in business at Rutgers campus since 1916 and they had initiated nearly 1500 men in that period, okay. ... When I was in college, ... we're one of the top chapters, in academic activity and athletic measurements, ... in the country. I'm not talking about athletically, I'm talking about Ang Baglivo and several other Phi Beta Kappas, I'm talking about one Rhodes Scholar, I'm talking about ... some Fullbright people mixed in there over the course of six or seven years. In any event, so, Lambda Chi folded up their tent. They sold their property. The money is out at the national fraternity and ... the property, of course, had that marvelous building built on it, which is a fine use of the property and so forth. ... The corporation is in effect, still in business. There is a board of Lambda Chi Alpha, this chapter, which is largely sprinkled with men who are in classes of the sixties and seventies. ... There's one guy there that is like '58 or '59, but, largely, sixties and seventies. However, it is the same group ... that was there in charge when Mr. Callahan died. So, I met with them a couple years ago and I said, "I'm interested in the fraternity getting back into business when five years passes and when it seems like the right kind of thing. I remember very clearly how important ... the fraternity experience [was] to me and I would like to see that experience updated to the nineties. However, I would like to see it brought back." Okay, the fraternity has had some visitations into high administration here at Rutgers and ... I said, "I'd be happy to ... meet with you to come up with a strategy that makes sense of why Rutgers should have anything to do with you people, because, if I were they, I would have nothing to do with you, because you are nothing but trouble. You have caused nothing but bad press overall," and so, that's where the time out is, and they asked me to join their board, and I said, "You need somebody younger than I am. I'd be happy to help you put together the strategy. The strategy must work. The strategy is a strategy of not, 'I don't know how you update it to the nineties.' You have to somehow bring back all of those values, and all of those influences, and all of those things that make fraternities and sororities, I think, what they used to be," which ... is the case in some important pockets in the United States, particularly in the southeast, ... down in the Carolinas, and in Georgia, in Mississippi, in Texas, and some of those places, and, to a degree, on the West Coast, but, Lambda Chi Alpha, in recent years, has taken the charters away from places like the University of Michigan's chapter and places like that. Because of what? drinking, and ... hooliganism, and ... every violation you can think of.
KP: Are you disappointed at how the fraternity turned out?
FR: I'm not disappointed. I'm realistic.
FR: I'm saying, ... if you want to do that, you've got to convince Rutgers that ... you can police the thing. ... I mean, after all, this fraternity, over a ten year period of time, prior to 1988, had several chances. They were on probation a number of times.
FR: They were on probation a number of times.
KP: It is very clear, from the Targum and the yearbooks, that fraternities were very important to the campus in your day.
FR: We contributed to the total college experience.
FR: However, ... we went through times in our chapter that we were concerned with the mix of our people. ... We were concerned about things like, "Maybe we have too many Italians. Maybe we have too many Catholics," or, maybe, you know, whatever it might be, but, in any event, I think the fraternity experience was an excellent one. I don't know whether it's possible to restore ... that kind of thing today. I don't know whether it's possible to do it.
KP: You have been very involved with the university over the years.
KP: You are also a Loyal Son. When did you see a shift in the fraternities, that they no longer had as much of a hold on the campus and that your fraternity life was very different from the fraternity life now?
FR: I think, from talking to the guys in the seventies, maybe they didn't get caught, but, ... they did a gigantic amount of carousing and everything like that. I think the ... shift happened in the sixties. ... It's part of the whole Vietnam thing, sixties, early seventies. I mean, the fraternity members, when I was in school, they were ... basically the leaders of ... the school.
KP: Non-fraternity people have attested to that fact.
FR: ... I really wasn't active in the fraternity nearly as much when I came back after my mother had been ill and I did find a ... room in ... Hegeman Hall. I lived in Hegeman Hall. I became a preceptor. I continued to go to fraternity meetings and things like that, but, I didn't live in the fraternity house. I put my nose to the grindstone in terms of studies. ... I still recall very clearly what that experience was, in terms of doing all kinds of things, of good things. For example, let me get back to my, two or three hours ago, Scouting experience. I was a charter member of Alpha Phi Omega, the Scouting fraternity. In fact, they just ... celebrated, recently, I couldn't make it, the 50th anniversary here at Rutgers. In any event, the Salvation Army post, which is, at least it used to be, down the street from the Methodist Church, down on George Street, our fraternity, several of us that had been in Scouting, particularly in Scouting, we started a Boy Scout troop there, and, for at least twenty years, I know that Lambda Chi's, when they came to school, they got recruited by the upper classmen that were Scout leaders down there, taking those kids out hiking, camping, and so forth. ... I know that fraternities and sororities ... worthwhile things and contribute to the personal development of college students.
KP: There is a great picture in the yearbook of a fraternity throwing a Christmas party for some kids from New Brunswick.
FR: Right, right. ... I mean, I would ... dearly like to see Lambda Chi return to the campus here, ... but, until the group that basically is in charge of ... their affairs, that group, the committee, it's called a foundation, Lambda Chi Alpha Foundation, [it will not happen.] They have in their grasp ... a sizable amount of money that ... were the proceeds from the sale of that property on the corner of Senior Street and College Avenue. They have a sizable amount of money. I think they're doing constructive things in that they have funded, for the last two years, an alcohol/drug rehab training seminar, to the tune of not a lot of money, three, four thousand dollars each year, ... as a contribution toward a need that people be trained better in that area, but, ... to try to get a group of young men together and say, "We're going to tell you about all this lousy history, and the way you're going make this thing successful is, all you'll do is study, all you'll do is work, you don't drink, you don't smoke, you don't," you know. ... It's such an unnatural thing to try to come off with in life, come up with a bunch of superpeople, and the attitude of the university is the fact that, "We really don't need you," and they're right. They don't need you. I mean, ... if a man or a woman ... going to Rutgers, or any of the Rutgers colleges here in New Brunswick, is interested in a fraternity or sorority experience and it's ... what they want and it fits into their plans, they can find it. You don't need another fraternity to produce it, I don't think. So, I think that, periodically, they should take that money and find a good place to give it away.
KP: You mentioned that you met Dean Earl Reed Silvers the first time you came to Rutgers.
FR: Right. Well, ... this is now when I first started school in 1944. He was still there in 1946, and then, he died. He died pretty suddenly. ... I had the same kind of relationship with a Dr. John Milton French, Chairman of the English Department.
KP: I was just going to ask you ...
FR: Dr. French, in the English Department. He was the chairman of the English Department. ... You're a history major? ...
FR: Minor. Well, I made the mistake of taking ... an English course with him that had, like, five or six graduate students in English and this was a course in John Milton. ... I didn't know, at the time I signed up for the course, that his full name was John Milton French. His father had named him after John Milton, and ... his father before him was an international expert, and they had lived for several years, when he was a youngster, in England, doing research on John Milton. [laughter] So, I had ... an English minor and I absolutely had to get a B. ... I had to get a B. So, I worked like hell in his class, I really did. ... Do you still give postcards in for the final grade? ...
KP: No. I think most people just wait and see if the grades are posted.
FR: Okay, so, what ... we did in those days is, you'd give them a postcard, and then, as soon as your final grade was established, they'd send you the postcard. So, I worked, and worked, and worked, and ... I was really having a hard time. I was really a solid C. I was really a solid C. I was certainly not a B, but, I went in, and I asked for extra work, and I was doing everything I could possibly do, and I wrote a paper, it was ... something like, contrasting Paradise Regained with the Biblical Book of Job. Now, that is heavy stuff, [laughter] that is really heavy stuff. In any event, I worked on it, worked on it, worked on it, and I got a B on that. So, it's getting to be the 1st of May, things are really starting ... to come along, so, maybe my C is now a C plus. So, in those days, an A was a one, a B was a two, three was a C. When I got the postcard back from him, I turned in the postcard, final, you know, do the blue books, do the exam, and everything like that, give him the postcard, and I still have that postcard. He gives me the postcard and he puts on the postcard, at the very top, left-hand corner, two, meaning a B, and then, he takes the time, with his pen, and he fills the entire postcard in with dashes, two, minus, minus, minus, minus, must be a hundred minuses there, and then, at the very bottom, he says, "Regards, Dr. French." Those are great memories to have. He was a great guy.
KP: Did you ever take a course with him again?
FR: No, I was finished, I was done. I would have taken him again. ... In those days, it was very common for a department chairman to have, my perception was, a full teaching load, not teach one class, or do research, or something like that. They would have a full teaching load. I still haven't done it. In fact, if I see you the next time, I took a class which I enjoyed from Dr. Richard McCormick in New Jersey history and I still have the textbook. I have the textbook. ... You know, he's a Loyal Son, okay.
FR: Many years ago, I said, "I still have that textbook. I'd like you to autograph it." Well, I got to watch out, you know. He's not too young anymore. [laughter] ... My point in all of this is that the relationship, ... it was very, very easy to have and good to have, to the fact that you could be ... dealing with full professors, chairmen of departments, and you didn't have to seek them out, and they spent a lot of time with students, and, course, I'm only dealing with arts and sciences at this point in time. I assume the same was true in engineering, and agriculture, and so forth.
KP: What kind of a career did you hope for while you were in college?
FR: ... When I finished school, I went out to look for a job and it was ... kind of like, do you remember the movie Kramer vs. Kramer?
FR: Remember the movie Kramer vs. Kramer, like, on Christmas Eve, he's going, because he has to get a job, because he's lost his job, and his wife is going to sue him, and he's not going to have a job, so, that's going to influence the fact that he's not going to be able to keep the boy, remember that? In any event, I went out saying, "I got to find a job." Like, it's this week, "I got to find a job," like, and then, I would say to myself, "It's gotta be today. I gotta find a job." Okay, so, I graduated, ... I got a BS in education, and I wanted to teach. I wanted to get more education, but, I also had to find a job, because ... I had been largely not dependent upon my family, but, I didn't want to be dependent upon my family at all. So, I got a job at Lord and Taylor in New York, in their training program, and, ... when I got into the retail field, I very quickly figured out that ... there's the haves and the have nots. The haves are the president of a store and the have nots are all of the everybody else, okay. ... In those days, merchandise people, merchandise management people, buyers and so forth, some of those people made a ton of money in those days. Now, I think it's much less. They are not as powerful people as they used to be. In any event, I worked for them for a year-and-a-half, and I immediately starting looking for another job, and I was looking for a company with opportunity, and, once I went to work for Lord and Taylor, I stopped looking for a teaching job. In those days, a teaching job... in a high school, teaching history, paid something like two thousand dollars a year. Of course, on the other hand, you could rent a nice apartment for fifty bucks a month, you know, and you could buy a brand new car for fifteen hundred dollars, okay. However, I didn't necessarily want to move in order to get a job. Like, if somebody offered me a job ... teaching down in South Jersey, I didn't really necessarily want to move. So, I went to work for IBM in 1952. It clearly was a company that was in the forefront, even in those days, of important things and worked for IBM for nearly thirty-three years, to the time that I retired.
KP: When you worked for IBM, it was the leader, by far, in computer technology.
FR: ... Well, when I first started working for IBM, of course, the computer, ... only these special purpose things had been built. Computers were not being sold or built for scientific computing and business computing, other than in a very rudimentary way. ... We were talking about punch card technology. ... We sold punch card technology. Data was punched into a punch card, and those punch cards were put in machines, and the cards were sorted in a certain, correct way, and then, they were put in a printer machine, and the information was printed, or added, and ... so forth, by creating an invoice, or creating a paycheck, or something like that. ... So, in the fifties, I sold some of the earliest computers. I was involved with the sale of probably over a hundred million dollars worth of equipment. I still maintain an IBM association, in that I was one of the early members of the IBM Credit Union in New York City and I'm still on the board. ... Last year, I retired from the board, and they immediately named me as a director emeritus, and they gave me a job, ... and they also gave me budget. ... I said, "I don't take jobs unless I get budget. If I'm going to develop the strategy along with you guys, I want budget to hold meetings, ... to take actions, to do things."
KP: You are still affiliated with IBM.
FR: I'm still affiliated ... with the credit union. Now, IBM itself, we saved a lot of money ... over the years, buying IBM stock, and, in 1986, I had a major heart attack, and I decided that it was too much aggravation, having all of our life savings in largely IBM stock. So, we sold it all. We sold it all, paid the taxes. ...
FR: ... Well, my wife basically watches investments and ... everything like that for us, today, and her broker gave her bad advice a few years ago, when she said, "Gee, I think IBM stock is really going to move the next few years," and he said, "Well, I don't really think so," and, of course, she was right and he was wrong, 'cause it's moved in a really major way the last couple years, but, ... it was flat on its back for years.
FR: But, we sold it high, and we paid the taxes, and ... that's the end of that.
KP: One of the images I have is of my junior high social studies teacher talking about the IBM culture. I think he had a brother working for them at the time. I mean, IBM even had a song book.
FR: ... I have a copy of it.
KP: Blue was the standard uniform. It was very hierarchical. It did have a very distinct company culture.
FR: ... To give you some idea, hanging in the board room of the Credit Union Building, being in New York, ... the major item in the frame is the Stockholder's Report of 1952. When I started with IBM, I bought one share of stock and that stockholder's report indicates the fact that IBM, in that year, worldwide sales were 428 million dollars, ... and, last year, they were ... seventy billion dollars. So, that's the magnitude of IBM. I don't know how many employees they had. I would guess that they couldn't have had any more than twenty or thirty thousand employees in 1952. Of course, now, even though they've purposely shrunk themselves down, I think that's a lot of malarkey, in that they've hired ... too many people, many of the worse people to hire, because I know, because I sit on the board of the credit union, and many of those people we took as members, they borrowed money, and, when IBM let them go, they went like this with the loan that we made them.
KP: You had some defaults because of the layoffs.
FR: Big time defaults, big time defaults, big time defaults, but, we're surviving. So, in terms of the culture of IBM, that's really another subject. It's kind of not part of the Oral Archives of World War II, I think.
KP: Well, I have interviewed other people who worked for IBM and went to Rutgers and they have substantiated some of my generalizations.
FR: ... I went to IBM training up in Endicott, New York, and, at the time that I went to training at Endicott, New York, Endicott Johnson, which you've never heard of, was a major shoe manufacturer, and, in 1952, Endicott Johnson had many more people in Endicott, New York, working for them than IBM did. They were that big. Endicott Johnson is still in business.
KP: Yes, I have seen their stores.
FR: ... Right, they have ... stores, like, in small malls, small strip malls. ... Their stuff is kind of medium quality. It's not really, really bad, not really terrific, either. My branch manager in IBM told me that, when I went up to training, since, ... apparently, I didn't have any paper collared shirts, that I had to get paper collared shirts. Paper collar basically means that you have to find a haberdasher, white, of course, nothing but white, right, you had to find a haberdasher like one here in New Brunswick, Wolfson's was here years ago, and ... you actually bought paper collars that fit on your shirts, with a collar button right here, and the collars attached, and they were paper. ... They were a hard pressed paper that looked like ... a cotton shirt and they were really stiff. They were really a stiff, cardboard type thing, and, ... if it wasn't a nasty, hot, miserable day, you could get a couple of days out of a paper collar, and then, you threw it away. Now, the normal shirt just went into the laundry, no collar on it, but, you bought shirts that way. You bought shirts without collars and ... you had a paper collared shirt. ... That kind of shirt would be acceptable, but, you wouldn't think of wearing a button-down collar. ...
KP: Also, you would not wear a yellow shirt, something like that.
FR: Oh, no, no, no, no. ... It would definitely be white shirt, definitely be white shirt. We had family dinners, ... we sang at the classes, and we had good morale. We had good morale.
KP: It seems very natural, since many of the people who were working for the company had been in the military.
FR: ... Well, the spirit of the thing was Mr. Watson, Sr. Mr. Watson, Sr., had been with the old National Cash Register, and could not get along with the founder of National Cash Register, so, he left, and, with a small loan, he bought a time recording company that, basically, made time clocks, time clock types of things, in 1914. ... The tabulating equipment, the punch card equipment, was only developed, really, in the thirties, the twenties and the thirties, and then, you know, a big development after World War II. ... I knew Tom Watson, Jr., very well. In fact, the company, ... even when it was getting big, the founder's two sons were in the company. Arthur Watson ran the international operation, and Tom, Jr., ... he was president for many years, until his father died, then, he became chairman, but, he was president of IBM for many years, and I had an association with him, because he was president of the National Council of Scouts for many years, and he was a flyer in World War II. ... He only died a couple of years ago, Tom Watson Jr. ...
-------------------------------------END OF SIDE TWO, TAPE TWO------------------------------------
KP: This continues an interview with Fred L. Ritter on March 28, 1997, at Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, with Kurt Piehler ...
YS: Yvonne Smith.
AS: Andrew Smith.
KP: While I was changing tapes, you said that we have been asking you to look backward, but, you also wanted to say that you look forward.
FR: Well, I basically decided that I'm not really happy working part time and I'm basically looking for a full time job. I have two possibilities, now, and I don't know how good they are. ... The vital thing in deciding what you're going to do is, you have to be able to articulate why someone should be interested in you, right, okay. The one is a fairly high state position. It's got nothing to do with Rutgers, okay, it's got nothing to do with Rutgers, but, it's a fairly high state position, and I wouldn't mind the fact that it would only last as long as, let's say, for some reason, Governor Whitman didn't enter the second term. ... That wouldn't bother me, the fact that ...
KP: It might only last a short period of time.
FR: ... It certainly is going to be tied in ... with her administration, okay, and the other is a job, basically, managing a fairly good sized learning center, ... without the need of my having any necessarily high technology contribution. It's really my management ability, leadership ability, and things like that. Now, what I've been doing for a good many years now is, I've been doing a lot of volunteer work. The details are in there someplace. In the summers, since my wife doesn't like me hanging around, ... I've been managing clubs, ... swim/tennis clubs, that kind of thing. That is ... a very hard job, in terms of, you know, keeping the public safe and happy, and keep the kids from killing each other, and drowning, and blowing up the locker room, and all of this kind of stuff. So, I've been offered a job this summer which I've accepted, at least, I've signed a contract, that I'm going to be the camping director for a day camp, ... basically, with a staff of people teaching camping, camp craft, and all of that kind of stuff, just for the fun of it.
KP: You have remained very active in recent years, in terms of Scouting, and Rutgers, and the credit union.
FR: Right. I'd like to be more helpful ... to your project, but, I don't know how to be, really. I'm fearful ... that, with the passage of time, that the impetus that is relatively high today can continue to accomplish what the goals are to accomplish. I would be very disappointed ... if it wouldn't, but, we've all seen better things collapse.
KP: Oh, I am very aware of that possibility.
FR: ... It's a real concern.
KP: You sent your children to Rutgers.
KP: How much of that was you wanting to send them to Rutgers and how much did they want to go to Rutgers?
FR: ... As each ... came along, ... we did more college shopping for the first, we did slightly less for the second, and, when it got to be the forth, we did almost no college shopping, because they look up to their older brothers and sister so much that, to them, going to Rutgers was a goal, although, ... we did visit two or three institutions in all cases, and, keep in mind, throughout the years, ... I did not drag my kids to all Rutgers athletic and all other kinds of events that there are. I did not dress them, in their cribs, in Rutgers shirts and stuff like this. My wife is the sports person in our family. I mean, although ... I was into athletics, I'd rather read a book than watch a basketball game on the TV. I'd rather read a book or go take a nice long walk than to watch Melrose Place or 90210. [laughter] My wife seems to like to watch all versions of Melrose Place and 90210. I don't.
KP: I almost started watching Melrose Place because my wife watches it.
FR: My wife, ... I happened to be home yesterday at twelve-thirty, and I said, "Well, would you like to have some lunch?" She says, "I'm going to watch the Young and the Restless. What do you mean lunch? I'm going to watch the Young and the Restless. This is not lunch time, this is Young and the Restless time." [laughter]
KP: I assume that you are very proud that your children choose to come to Rutgers.
FR: ... My two older sons, my daughter, my next son, ... periodically, they make fun of me, in terms of, "You're this Rutgers Loyal Son guy," and so forth, [laughter] you know, and I encourage them to make sure that they have their membership in the RAA. I send them personal notes saying different things that are going on at Rutgers, and my son, David, who's the guy who graduated in '88, [he will be receiving his MBA from Rutgers in 2000], they live nearby, in Bridgewater, and his wife, who's a Cook graduate, she and they have other friends that are Rutgers people, and so forth. So, they're ... the closest to being involved with the Rutgers community as alumni, but, they're not really working. I'd like to see them, because, ... in their own rights, they're all sharp, creative people, and what I keep saying to Gene Armstead, the executive director of RAA and other things like that, is, ... there's getting to be a handful of us people that are in the front of the parade, coming up for the reunion, coming up College Avenue, and what is happening in terms of developing, really, the young alumni, the young alumni being people of the eighties, and the classes of the nineties, and so forth, in terms of getting them to contribute some small measure back to what they got through their four years, or their six years, or whatever time they spent at Rutgers, and I think there's a lot of contribution going on, but, I think there's ... a long ways to go to have more contribution. Now, my daughter, who graduated from Douglass, she's been up in the Boston area for many years, she's married up there, and everything like that, and with as many fine schools ... that are up there, she says, "I can hold my head very high when I tell people that I'm a Rutgers graduate," and everything like that. ... They're impressed and they should be impressed. I think we gotta ... get our heads up, and so forth, and forget about paying some of the coaches these gigantic salaries. ...
KP: You graduated from high school into a war, you came to Rutgers while the war was going on, and then, after you graduated in 1950, the Korean War broke out. What was your reaction to the Korean War?
FR: ... Well, I had ... friends that were called up and went, [we're] involved in it. I was really shocked that ... it turned into a political war, in that, the first part of it, we had the opportunity, and we actually did win the war, and then, we got involved in the politics of the stalemate, which caused a tremendous amount of loss of life, and so forth, not only Americans, and British, and Koreans, and Chinese, and so forth, but, I think it was ... the starting point of an ... absolute crazy Asiatic political mess, which, then, developed itself into the Vietnam situation. ... I had a very close friend of mine that was a French officer at Dein Ben Phu. ... He was a French officer there and I knew him. He was an IBM executive of IBM France, Frenchman, and we spent a lot of time ... talking about that, and this was in the time frame of the late fifties and very early sixties, ... when we had a handful of advisors there, and I'm sure that if I had talked to him after that, when ... [we] got into the big build up and everything like that, he said, "My golly, you guys have got to go in and you've got to win, or you don't go in." ... Korea was clearly a situation, I supported the action of President Truman, that it was ... a question of aggression, of the North versus the South, and it was a question ... [of] dominant position on the part of [the US]. This country had to take the forefront in order to get the thing squared away.
KP: Had you thought of enlisting at all?
FR: ... While I was in college, I was in the Marine Corps Reserve, and I had actually considered going into the regular service, ... in the Marine Corps service. I would have been [in] the platoon leader OCS program, and so forth, but, come along the IBM opportunity, and, very shortly thereafter, I met my wife to be, and I had the reality that I was now twenty-five years old, and I ought to get down to business, and then, son number one was born, and it was very clear that ... my days of running around the world were refocused.
KP: It sounds like your Lord and Taylor job, although you did not stay there very long, was very significant, because that is where you met your wife.
FR: I met my wife there, right, and ... I don't know how this happened, but, I got to know the president of Lord and Taylor very well. ... The president of Lord and Taylor was a lady, unfortunately, she died at a very young age, ... by the name of Dorothy Shaver. ... She was a top executive in retail in the fifties, and she had a very small, little training program, and she had a handful of men, handful of women, you know, kind of straight out of college, or straight out of the service and college, and ... she would have them up to her office for tea and coffee, or whatever it might be, and so, ... I got to know her fairly well over that year. ... When she heard that I was leaving, she called me up to her office and she basically said, "I don't want you to leave Lord and Taylor. I think that, you know, given some years of experience and everything like that, ... you could have a good opportunity here. From ... everything that I've personally seen, I think that you could do well with us and I'd like you to stay," and I said, "I'm sorry. ... I've looked at the situation pretty closely. I've enjoyed my time here. ... I've learned a lot. I needed a job, and you gave me one, and I thank you for that, but, I'm going to work for International Business Machines Corporation," didn't even say IBM. In those days, you said ... all the words. ... When you called somebody up on the phone and said, "I'd like to make an appointment to see you, I'm a salesman for the International Business Machine Corporation," you didn't say IBM, because, IBM, they'd say, "IBM, what's IBM?" and, believe me, they didn't know what that meant. In any event, she said, "Well, you couldn't have picked a better place to go. I know Tom Watson, Jr., very well. I've sat with him on some local committees in New York, business people committees, and I want to wish you the very best of luck, and, if you ever decide that you don't like IBM, Lord and Taylor likes you. You can come back to us," and that was the end of that.
KP: How did you meet your wife? Was she in the executive training also?
FR: No, no, my wife was born and brought up in Brooklyn. She went to parochial school, and then, she went to Catholic girls prep school, and then, she had her education at Pratt Institute, in design, design and merchandising, basically. She went to work briefly ... for a manufacturer, and then, she decided that she should get some retail experience, and she went to work for Lord and Taylor, and she managed a department at a Lord and Taylor, and that's how I met her. ... Same lovely lady that she's always been, forty-four years later.
KP: Who likes Melrose Place.
FR: Oh, no, well, ... she reads pretty well, too. She reads. ... I bought her the collection of Jane Austin's novels and a whole bunch of other stuff, which she immediately gives back to me. She says, "I don't want to read this stuff," [laughter] although, when she watched Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice on TNT recently, she really enjoyed them. She says, "God, ... the dialogue, and the flair, and the depth of the personalities, and everything like that," and I said, "Well, I gave you the book, why don't you read it? It's not hard."
KP: You seem to have enjoyed your military service and found it quite constructive. Do you wish that your children could have had the military experience?
FR: Well, ... if you take out the element of danger, ... both in training and in combat situations, I think the military experience ... is a wonderful experience for ... both men and women, I really do. Of course, I'm so far out of date with the circumstances of training and the relationships, ... maybe I'd have to couch that in some way. ... I really don't know, but, I think the experience ... is a good experience.
KP: If your children had been of age to serve in Vietnam, how would you have felt about that?
FR: ... I would have encouraged them to serve as called, serve as called, and, ... if they had chosen not to, I would have suggested that they run for president.
KP: We were reading through the old WPA guides.
FR: Oh, okay.
KP: One of the things they said about North Bergen was that there was an area of farms and woods known as the Jungles and that there was an annual custom of crowning the King of the Jungle. Do you remember anything like that?
FR: No, I don't. I know the area ... that our house was in, just immediately north of that, there was a race track, ... an actual race track, and that over in the county park there, ... in fact, they're talking about it, now, again, from down in that lower area, basically putting in a transit line, ... a trolley/monorail type of thing, because it's tremendously congested in that area, in terms of moving around that five miles. From the Lincoln Tunnel ... to the George Washington Bridge is a ... really hard trip. I don't remember that.
YS: In what ways do you feel the college experience has changed from your era to the time when your children attended college?
KP: Also, what has remained the same?
FR: Depending upon the course of study that someone takes, my oldest son is an economics major, my second son, economics major. My second son is a consultant involved in marketing and sales and stuff like [that]. Daughter was an American Studies major, David is a marketing major, John was a marketing major at Stockton State, and so forth. So, there's a kind of a commonality of the kinds of education they got. I think that they all had a good experience. I think they got a good education, ... as good an education as there was or is. I can't really ... speak for the quality of the teaching and the classes. ... I don't know anything about that. I really don't. ... When I ... was a fund-raiser, phone-a-thon and other things like that, ... people would complain about the quota system, and, "You're letting people in that you shouldn't let in," or, "You're not letting people in that you should let in," and, "The quality [of the] education ... is down," and, "Bloustein was a tremendous leader and Lawrence isn't," and I said, "Look, let's get something very clear. I'm a volunteer for Rutgers because I think that's a fine school, dealing in a very, very overhead gross way that I spend time on it, because I believe it's a debt that I want to pay, and it's a debt that a lot of people pay, okay." ... I don't know how to comment on [that]. ... I mean, you've had consultants come in and do studies.
FR: If I was coming in to do a study, that'd be different. I don't know how to comment on it.
KP: A lot of students are pleased with their education, but, they find the bigness of Rutgers very alienating.
KP: A lot of alumni comment on how large the university has grown.
FR: ... I don't really have any ... real contact. ... This is the most contact I've had for years, and years, and years ... with a faculty member and ... student assistants. This is the most contact I've had. I have to assume that the ... quality education is there, that the ... delivery is good. ... I think the fault would be in the students. The students have got to make you guys do your jobs. I mean, the students have to contribute to it and ... got to make you do your jobs. I mean, you contribute enthusiasm, well, they should contribute enthusiasm, too. If you have a problem, you say, "This is my problem. I've done everything I can to solve this problem, now, I can't solve the problem. You got to help me solve the problem." I mean, it's ... a relationship of, like, a supervisor and an employee in the work environment. This is the work environment. This is not fun, this is school. It's important money ... taking place. There's important work being done by the students and by the teachers and we should get a better result from it. We should get a better result from it. The effort's got to be ... better and the answer is not ... only technology. Technology is a partial answer, but, it gets down to, really, basics, to go ahead and get the job done.
YS: I lied. I have one more question.
FR: That's all right. You can lie. It's all right. What time is it? five o'clock.
YS: Do you feel that the draft age is too young, considering what you saw when you got back from World War II?
FR: Draft age? Well, there is no draft now.
FR: Hasn't been for years.
YS: However, if there was one, I believe it starts at eighteen.
FR: No, ... I think it's a good age. ... It's a good age, I think, eighteen to twenty. I know a young man who has dual citizenship, Israeli and US, and he ... was born there, his family lives here. He could have ... not done the training over there. They called him, he went over there, he took two years out. I know other young men and women in the course of my life ... that devote two years to the Mormon Church and to other types of activities, and those activities, ... to me, they're very solid character building and contributing activities. I think they are, I really do, not necessary being ... an Israeli paratrooper, which he was, but, he's back now, and ... he's glad to be out of there, because that's a dangerous place.
KP: Yes. It is very dangerous.
FR: You're tired?
FR: We're tired and we're done. [laughter]
KP: Is there anything we forgot to ask you?
FR: Gee, I don't think so. ... [laughter]
KP: Well, thank you again. We really appreciate it.
--------------------------------------------END OF INTERVIEW-------------------------------------------
Reviewed by Shaun Illingworth 2/9/00
Reviewed by Sandra Stewart Holyoak 2/25/00
Reviewed by Fred Ritter 3/00