Kurt Piehler: This begins an interview with Dr. Norman Reitman on November 20, 1997 at Rutgers University with Kurt Piehler and ...
Scott Ceresnak: Scott Ceresnak.
KP: Several weeks ago, we first interviewed you and we covered your early years of practice, before the war. You were able to build up a successful practice. Are there any other memories you have of your early years in practice?
NR: Well, I always wanted to take care of sick people, that was a very important goal. ... I must say that my interests in research or administration were the farthest from my mind. I just wanted to sit down and say, "How are you and what can I do for you?" ... All through my personal life, I've had many opportunities to do many things, and I've done many things in medical administration and hospital administration, but, I am most comfortable when I'm sitting, as we are now, with me in my chair and you in your chair, and I say to you, "What's the matter with you? How can I help you?" ... That, to me, was the most important part of my practice. So, I consider myself, basically, a clinician. My approach to medicine was just ... to help people. In the early days of practice, of course, everybody worked very hard. Again, ... there are so many anecdotes I could tell. The competition was always there, getting to the patient was always there. ... I recall, when I started practice, ... I had an office over on Livingston Avenue, and next door to me, there was an old doctor, Dr. Salisbury, who was one of the old country doctor types. ... On the street which we lived, in those days, we had an office and ... our home was together. There were four or five doctors in a line there, and Salisbury said to me one day, he says, "Doctor, if you get a call in the middle of the night, don't get out of bed. You listen and see if whether Dr. Faulkingham's garage door is opening. If you hear it opening, you know he's beating you to the call." [laughter] So, there was this ... sort of competition, but, basically, the practice grew from ... word of mouth, and I can tell some interesting experiences. I started in New Brunswick because my wife, I think I told you, was a local girl, and I did have a core of patients from friends and family, but, my first patient group came from, of all places, Jamesburg. Shortly after we started practice, in September, 1938, we entertained some friends and this one gentleman was a chiropractor. ... In those days, medicine frowned on chiropractors, but, he had sent us a wedding gift, and we felt he should come for coffee and cake, and we chatted. ... He talked about medicine, healing, and I wanted to be diplomatic, and I said to him, "Norman," his ... first name was Norman, and I said to him, "Norman, you know, all roads lead to Rome." I said, "You follow your road, I follow my road, the important thing is to get the patient better," which is true, and about a day or two later, he called me up, and he said he'd like me to see a patient for him. He'd been treating this fellow for some trouble with his knee. ... When the fellow came in, I examined him. I found he had acute rheumatic arthritis, rheumatic fever, and, in those days, the treatment was bed rest. He lived in Jamesburg, so, I had to put him to bed in Jamesburg, and, of course, I had to see him. ... I had plenty of time in those days, so, I would drive down there twice a week, and everybody would see the doctor from New Brunswick who was coming to see Ralph, who happened to be from a very prominent family there. ... They would see me coming in and out with the medical bag. Before you knew it, I began to develop patients from Jamesburg. Before I had patients from New Brunswick, I had a cadre of patients from Jamesburg. So, this is how these things begin and one thing leads to another, for the most part. Everything was by referral. We worked in clinics, but, the clinics, in those days, were charity clinics. ... Those patients, of course, were not the patients with whom you built your private practice, but, for the most part, it was ... a good group of people. My wife's family have been long time members of Anshe Emeth Temple in New Brunswick. ... The family was well known, so, it was a ... relatively small group of people, at that time, maybe eighty or a hundred families, and it was sort of a family mixture, so that many of my first patients came from the temple group, and out of this grew a rather significant practice. However, the first month I was in practice, I made twenty-eight dollars. The second month, I made fifty-six dollars. ... The third month, I made a hundred dollars. ...
KP: Which, even in the 1930s, was not a lot of money.
NR: It wasn't a lot of money. ... I think I told you the story of my first call. ...
KP: The accidental taxi service.
NR: ... Yes, the taxi, but, there are ... so many of them I can think of. ... We had a doctor by the name of Florentine Hoffman, Dr. Hoffman. He was a big, husky Dutchman. ... When I came to New Brunswick to practice, I was befriended by a gentleman I call my mentor, Dr. William Klein, who was a radiologist. ... The first day, September the 19th, 1938, he said, "Well, I'll take you to the hospital and introduce you to all the doctors." The total number of doctors was sixty in New Brunswick and the surrounding areas, that's all we had, and we came up to the hospital rotunda, and this Dr. Hoffman's coming down, and Bill says, "Flo, ... I'd like you to meet Dr. Norman Reitman, a young doctor starting a practice." He looked at me and he said, "Who the hell told you to come here to practice?" [laughter] So, that was my ... introduction to practice. Well, it so happened that, ... about a year after I was in practice, I was called to see a patient of his, in consultation. He was an old-time doctor, very well-respected, very well-known. ... This gentleman was sick with a high fever, and he, Dr. Hoffman, went away on vacation, and the doctor he left wasn't doing much for him, so, the family asked me to see him. I'd taken ... care of other members of the family. ... I took care of the patient. To make a long story short, the patient had pneumonia and I had access to some of the earliest sulfa drugs. ... I got it, and gave it to this gentleman, and cured his pneumonia. Of course, the pneumonia was due to a cancer of his lung ... and the pneumonia was behind this. So, when Flo came back to practice after Labor Day and he went to see his patient, the family told him, ... "Dr. Hoffman, we don't need you anymore. We've got a real doctor." I was practicing one year. He had practiced about twenty-five years. Well, the honeymoon didn't last very long, because the gentleman got worse and worse. He was filling up with fluid and the only person in New Brunswick who did bronchoscopy, ... an examination of the lung, was Dr. Hoffman. So, I decided to take the bull by the horns. ... I called him and I said, "I'd like you to see a patient in consultation." He was very pleased with that. ... We met, and he asked me a few questions in general, and then, he said, "What about the patient?" ... I said, "Well, I don't want you to get upset, but, the patient is David Breitkopf, ... your old patient." I thought he was going to hit me, but, he didn't say a word. He looked at me, he says, "Well, tell me about his condition," ... which I did, and then, he said, "Well, let's go see the patient." ... We went to the patient's home in Highland Park and, really, it took an awful lot of courage to go into the house of the patient you took care of for twenty-five years and the family had discharged him. ... He looked at the patient and he said, "Well, there's no point in bronchoscoping this patient. What you need is a suction machine, because he's going to die within a week or two." So, I said, "I don't have a suction machine." ... He said, "Well, I do." He said "When you need it, just let me know," and about two nights later, this gentleman was filling up with fluid, and I called him in the middle of the night, and he came down in his bathrobe and gave me the suction machine from his office, and ... we became the best of friends, and I took care of him at the end of his life.
KP: It sounds like he was a very conscientious doctor.
NR: He was very gruff, a very gruff man, but, if you let him walk all over you, you were nothing. ... He respected me for calling him to see an old patient. ... That was a very, very interesting period. Of course, I made up my mind, I came to New Brunswick. Here's an interesting comment on the practice. I had trained as an internist in New York. ... When I came to New Brunswick, I realized that I had to ... have something that no one else had. ... Although I was trained in electrocardiography, there was no one in New Brunswick who had an electrocardiograph machine in their office. There were machines at each hospital, but, no one had an office machine. So, I went back to New York, and I took a course in ... advanced electrocardiography, and, in six months, there was a notice around that I was equipped to do office and home electrocardiography, and many patients, then, were treated at home. So, I began to get calls from doctors who wanted to have a cardiograph done on their patients without sending them to the hospital, and this is how you began to build a practice. You had to have, I hate to use the word, a gimmick, but, in a sense, that's what it was. You had to have something that no one else did. A good friend of mine, who was an eminent surgeon in New Brunswick, came out here and announced he was a rectal specialist. He was going to do painless hemorrhoids. Now, hemorrhoid operations were always very painful, but, Norman had a very nice technique, and ... these patients ... were operated upon relatively painlessly. He developed a tremendous practice on the basis of being a proctologist. He went on to be a vascular surgeon, later on, but, so, those are the sort of things that doctors do. ... If you do a good job, the patients come to your door. ... Within the year, I had a very ... nice practice which just continued to grow. I remember coming back from the war, in '46, and wondering how hard it was going to be, you know, ... how will you pick things up. The first day in practice, I had twelve consultations for heart disease. I said, "Oh, this is great." The next day, I had one. [laughter] But, it grew, and I always was very successful in my practice, both financially and ... in the academic area. So, those were some ... of the comments about the early days of practice. There were many rewards. I had a classmate of mine by the name of, I'm just trying to think of his name now, ... well, it doesn't make a difference. ... His father was a professor of Hebrew at the New Brunswick Theological Seminary and he had cancer of the lung. Ted Bayles, and the Reverend Bayles was his father, and I took care of him for his illness, and he lives in a big house up on Bishop Place, not very far from here, right up the hill here. ... He was a man of great wisdom and I would make my calls on a Saturday afternoon. I'd always make this the last call, like four o'clock in the afternoon, and I'd go there, and I'd spend fifteen minutes examining him, and then, we'd sit down, and we'd start to talk. ... He was a fountain of knowledge. He was a great Hebrew scholar. ... He was a professor of Hebrew. ... We had such interesting discussions that I would spend hours, and I'd get home, my wife would say, "Where were you? [laughter] I thought you were going to be home by five o'clock." ... She didn't mind it at all. Incidentally, I have the best doctor's wife. In fifty years of practice, she never once was upset by the fact that the priorities of practice sometimes interfered with our personal plans.
KP: Because, sometimes, your plans could change very rapidly.
NR: Very rapidly, very rapidly, but, she knew ... what the priorities were, and she respected them, and ... we've had a very, very wonderful life.
KP: Before the war, how much time did you spend doing charity work? Also, where was the clinic?
NR: Well, ... I'd like to differentiate between clinic practice in New York and clinic practice here. In New York, a young doctor always started in a clinic. ... He would spend a considerable part of his day in the clinic. ... Indeed, some of our most successful physicians in New York, back in the '30s and '40s, would spend fifty percent of their time working in clinics, for which they were not paid. When I came out here, we had clinics at both hospitals. Well, mostly at St. Peter's Hospital, because Middlesex Hospital was very small then, and I'd spend two mornings a week, ... I'd probably spend four hours a week, which is a very small amount of time. So, I would say that eighty to ninety percent of my time was income producing and the other part was given to charity, but, ... this is before the Medicare days, and we'd always have ... patients who could not afford medical care, and it was part of our responsibility as physicians to render aid ... to people who can't afford it. That was where the doctors learned. When you go to the big hospitals in New York, and Philadelphia, and Boston, there were these wards where patients were ... all charity cases. I trained at Bellevue Hospital. They were all charity cases. The doctors that worked there learned ... their profession by working on these patients and that was the way it was done, so that it was interesting, because I remember speaking to friends of mine in New York, and telling me, you know, "How could you give that much time to all your ... paying patients." I said, ... "That's all we did." In New York, they would spend, as I said, fifty percent of their time ... in the clinic without producing an income. I remember speaking to a friend who charged what I thought was an outrageous sum, at that time, to come out to see a patient in consultation. ... When I spoke to him about it, he said, "Well, look, ... Norm, I start at the clinic at eight o'clock in the morning, and by the time I see a patient that pays me, it's two o'clock in the afternoon." So, he has to charge these big fees. So, you can understand it, but, the clinic practice, although I won't say boring, it was the responsibility, at least I felt, of taking caring of the people in our community who couldn't afford to pay. ... I feel that when we have Medicare, which gave every patient the ability to pay, that we lost a certain something that we had for generations. The doctors always took care of charity cases. ... Now, there are no more, quote, "charity cases." The Medicare cases, maybe many of these people are on Medicaid and they're really charity cases, but, ... they do have some support from the government programs that we have. ... The doctors developed a different feeling towards it. I feel that is something ... that has been lost since we have these other forms of medical care.
KP: It seems as if there was a great deal of collective pressure put on doctors to work in charity clinics and to provide charity care.
NR: Well, that was traditional. ... When I went to New York to get my training in cardiology, I got most of it working in clinics at Bellevue Hospital and at Mount Sinai Hospital. I worked in the clinic. I didn't work in a ward. The wards I worked here, but, that was the way you worked. ... I got my training and I was able to pass my board exams and practice my specialty. It's a different world today. Today, there are no such things as clinics. They're all part of the same mix.
SC: You had mentioned that, your first day back, you saw twelve patients with heart disease. In the 1930s and 1940s, what could you do for those patients? You did not have the drugs and treatments which we have today.
NR: ... Well, TLC, tender loving care. [laughter] Not quite that, we didn't have anything like we have today. ... I don't know that I may have told you that, but, the first successful operation of the heart, inter-cardiac operation, was done in 1947. ... It was done by a Dr. Charles Bailey, who was a graduate of Rutgers. I think I told you that story, so that there was very little, you're right. ... We had the electrocardiogram. Now, the electrocardiogram was invented, or developed, in 1905 or 1906 by a doctor in the Netherlands. When I was a resident in New York in the '30s, my chief had gone over and worked with Dr. Einthoven. In other words, it was like someone who knew Jesus. [laughter]
KP: He was the original source.
NR: ... That's right, the original source. So, I go way back. We had the cardiograph. We could make diagnoses. Our treatment was mostly rest. ... If you look back on it now, it ... was coming out of the Dark Ages. I was very, very happy that I practiced in those years, the '40s until the '90s, ... fifty years. ... Medicine, as you look back on it, was really in the Dark Ages. We had available, now, ... as an internist, a cardiologist, what we had was digitalis, we had morphine, we had aspirin. That's all we had, really. Well, we had other drugs, nitrates, nitroglycerin, that sort of thing. ... Today, you know, we have such a wide variety of treatments of all sorts, drugs and procedures which we didn't have available before. ... Our knowledge has increased exponentially. ... It was an interesting time to practice medicine. ... Not only the practice, but the science of medicine was really changing. ... Of course, it was an art, originally, and that's something which is lacking today. It may be changing, but, the ... empathy, the compassion which every doctor had in those days, was a big part of our armamentarium. We would go and see a patient with cancer. We had no chemotherapy, radiation therapy. What could you do for them? You'd sit down, you'd tell them a story. I developed the art of telling stories, and I'd sit and talk to patients, and I'd tell them a joke or a little story, and I'd hold their hand and ask about their Aunt Tilly, or something of the sort. ... I had a pretty good memory, so, if somebody would mention the name of somebody, and, sixth months later, I'd see them again, I'd say, "Oh, how is your Aunt Tilly?" "How do you remember about my Aunt Tilly?" [laughter] ... It's something that we developed. It was an art ... of taking care for people. We didn't do much in the way of therapy. That's why the house call disappeared, because, as medicine became more scientific and we could do more, you really couldn't do it from ... that little doctor's bag. It looked very imposing, but, there was nothing there. If you had a real problem at home, you'd give them a shot of morphine and hope that that was going to take care of it. ... The science of medicine has grown so much that the art of medicine has been lost. ... In my years of teaching medical students and residents, I would give a series of lectures on how to approach a sick patient. What do you do when you go into a room and there's a patient sick there? What do you say to them? ... You'd be surprised, the majority of them don't know what to say, and I'd say, "The first thing you do is, go over to them. Besides saying, 'Hello,' take their pulse. ... You don't learn a lot from taking a pulse, because, today, with electrocardiography, you can get far more information about the pulse, but, you establish a connection. You've touched the patient, and then, that establishes a connection." ... That little, simple trick, ninety-nine percent of the young doctors don't ... know about. They come in, they'll ask a couple of questions, they start going through the history. ... There's an old dictum I learned years ago, ... "Listen to the patient, because, if you are smart enough, he's giving you the diagnosis," [laughter] and this is actually true. If you take a good history, in ninety percent of the patients, you can make the diagnosis. The other thing you'll learn is a sixth sense. I'm sure you've all had it. I have found, in my practice, that, within thirty seconds or a minute, when I see a new patient, I can tell whether that patient is sick or "sick" sick. In other words, if the patient is giving me a bunch of symptoms, ... I can tell that this patient is really in trouble, I've got to dig, and I've got to take him seriously, or that patient may be complaining, but, there's not a damn thing the matter with him. ... I knew what to do, but, this is a certain sixth sense that maybe is part of the art of medicine that I don't think they have today, but, it's a changing world. ...
KP: One of the things I noticed recently, when I went to see a doctor at Robert Wood Johnson, was the amount of time he spent with me. In other words, it seems, particularly in the early years of your practice, quite simply, you had a lot of time. You could spend a half an hour or forty-five minutes with a patient.
NR: Well, only within the first six months of practice. I would say one of the truisms I've found is that the only thing in life I couldn't afford was time. ... I think that's very important. For most doctors, that's the greatest enemy, ... how to do their work so they can accomplish it. ... That's why, you know, ... some doctors are there for five or ten minutes and they're on to the next patient, but, again, you have to learn it. ... For example, I told you the story about the "sick" sick patient. If I got a patient, a new patient, and if I felt that the patient was really not very sick, I'd give them ten ... to fifteen minutes. A new case would always get plenty of time, but, we're talking about the cases coming back, and if there was a patient I felt was really sick, they got the time. ... Again, I am a slave to the watch. To this day, if I have an appointment, I keep it. ... My practice always started at eight o'clock in the hospital and I got finished in the office at five, five-thirty, and that was it. There was a period in my life, which is another long story which we'll get to, when I was chairman of the Board of Governors here at Rutgers from 1977 to 1981, and I had oodles of meetings to conduct, and our meetings would begin at five-thirty. Many of them would be dinner meetings. ... My office was over here in Highland Park, on River Road. ... I would see my last patient at five-fifteen, or at five o'clock, and be finished at five-fifteen, and I'd be with the gavel in my hand at five-thirty here at the University. ... You learned how to use your time. Of course, if you're a surgeon, it's a different story, because you have an operation that could take five minutes or an hour and five minutes. It's very difficult ... to keep it. In my practice, I always kept my hours ... with my associates. That was the toughest thing, to get him to live up to the commitments of time, but, he never quit his work before he was finished. His wife went crazy because he was never home for dinner, you know. ... He was supposed to finish at five-thirty and he'd get home at nine-thirty. That's the way it was. So, time was a very important factor. ... So many doctors are precious with time, and they work their schedules around being able ... to get out and get away from their practice. At one point, we had four cardiologists and we had a very sick lady. ... It's customary now for doctors to group up together for coverage. ... We were together with another group. ... Well, I wasn't taking calls, and there were three, and there were four in the other group, so, there were seven ... cardiologists, and one night a week would be covered. ... They would take weekends the same way. Well, this lady was sick every ... weekend. She ended up in the emergency room, very seriously ill. ... She'd call in to the office, and a doctor showed up, but, it wasn't our doctors. It was ... the doctors from the other group and she complained to me one day. She says, "Dr. Reitman, I don't understand it. I know you have to have time off, but, if you're sick, ... you expect, once in a while, to get your doctor," because, when you get a covering doctor, it's a finger in the dike sort of situation. He's got his finger there until the doctor comes in Monday morning and says, "Here, take care of your patient." If we were on, any of my group were on, they would know the patient. They would know all about the patient and the patient would be adequately covered. So, time was a very big factor.
KP: You mentioned that there were about sixty doctors in the greater New Brunswick area. Could you perhaps talk a bit about the medical societies, both on the county level and on the state level? Were you active at all in any of these medical associations?
NR: ... Yes, I was very active. Well, we had the County Medical Society, which ... everybody joined. ... As a matter-of-fact, you couldn't belong to a hospital staff until you were a member of the medical society. In that is a very, very interesting story. We had a chap in town whose father was an MD, and he could not get into medical school, so, he went to osteopathic school. He got a DO. ... He took the board examinations to practice medicine in New Jersey, and, to this day, MDs and DOs are both licensed by the medical society. Unless you're licensed, you can't belong to the medical society. Well, he was licensed as a DO. Then, he went to Italy, and spent a fifth year, and the University of Bologna gave him an MD degree. Now, he comes back, and he's practicing, and he joins the medical society as an associate member. He's on the staff of St. Peter's Hospital. A good little doctor, he did his work adequately, I would say. ... After four or five years, he's to be promoted from associate to full-membership in the medical society. ... Someone found a little line in the bylaws that membership was limited to holders of the MD degree, ... licensed MDs. He was licensed as a DO, and, on the basis of this, they refused him membership to the medical society. If he wasn't a member of the medical society, he couldn't belong to the staff of the hospital, because they had a requirement, you had to be a member of the medical society. So, they threw him off. After five years of good practice, they threw him off the staff. He sued and he changed the law, which allowed a DO to be a member of a hospital staff. Today, there are DOs on hospital staffs all throughout the state, but, ... one little trick line in the bylaws of the medical society changed the ... whole attitude.
KP: When did this case take place?
NR: Oh, this took place in the 1960s, yes, about 1960. No, I was very active. ... As I said, I was an internist and a cardiologist. I began to do cardiology. ... I'm the kind of a person that, unless I have the credits, I don't like to say I'm this. ... I wanted to be an internist. I prepared, during my residency, and ... between '38 and '43, when I went into the service, to take my boards in internal medicine. I took them in '43 and I passed it. So, I was certified in internal medicine. When I came back from the war, I knew I wanted to do cardiology, so, I prepared myself in cardiology, but, I was not certified until '54, but, I was doing a lot of cardiology. ... I got a call one day, it must have been '48, or maybe '49, from a Dr. Kauffman in Newark. ... He said, "Dr. Reitman, ... I'd like you to come to a meeting at my house. We're thinking of forming the New Jersey Heart Association." So, I went, and, at that meeting, were all the big names in cardiology in New Jersey, names I knew of. What we formed was the New Jersey Heart Association. ... One day, I said to him, "How come ... you called me to join this group, because I'm a young physician, you know, a young fellow. I've just started to make my reputation and these are all well-established doctors, twenty-five years older than I was." He said, "Well, I remembered a case you sent me in 1942." I sent him a patient with a very unusual case of rheumatic fever with carditis, ... and, "When I had to pick out doctors for the New Jersey Heart Association, I didn't know anybody in central New Jersey. I knew people in south Jersey, north Jersey, but, I remembered that case you had. [laughter] So, I figured I'd ask you to join us." Well, as a result of that, ... I went up through the ranks. I became president of New Jersey Heart in 1958 and, following that, I became active in the American College of Cardiology, and I became on the Board of Trustees, the chairman of the Board of Trustees, on ... the Board of Governors of the American College of Cardiology. ... I was President of the Middlesex County Heart Association. ... Through that, I began to get hospital appointments of importance and they were very, you know, interesting. ... You have to be at the right place at the right time. ... A key thing in my career was the year of 1957. At that time, St. Peter's Hospital was the hospital in the area. It had a modern building and most of the doctors worked over there. Middlesex Hospital was sort of between a second and third rate hospital. It had a hundred beds. It was a private fiefdom to about ten or twelve doctors in New Brunswick. They weren't interested in making this a first class hospital. They were really interested in having a place to bring their patients to have surgery, deliver their babies, and that sort of thing. ... The idea of spending money or trying to spend more time at the hospital was not in their way of doing things. So, as a result, all of the action was over at St. Peter's. Well, the Board of Trustees at the hospital was headed by Paige L'Hommedien, who was a vice-president of Johnson & Johnson at that time, who was a wonderful human being. ... He said to the Board, he says, "Look, the hospital is broke. Either we make this a first class hospital or we just close up shop." ... They decided they wanted to make this a first class hospital. So, they decided, among other things, to change the medical staff, the operational medical staff. They drew up a table of organization where they had a ... spot for director of medicine, and director of surgery, and pediatrics, the usual, ... and then, they said, "Who is the best man in town to fill this spot?" and what came out was, they asked me to be director of medicine and chief of cardiology ... at Middlesex Hospital. Not only me, but, they selected the best young Turks, the new generation of doctors who came after the war. ... We were a whole new generation of doctors. ... This medical staff, I think ... the average age of the medical board was about thirty-five or thirty-six, at that time.
KP: That is very young.
NR: Group to run a hospital. In five years, from 1957 to 1962, we completely changed that hospital, so that by 1962, we had a first class institution which grew ... and evolved, today, into the Robert Wood Johnson Hospital. So, that was a very key year, and, of course, I occupied that post for many years. I was chief of staff, I was the director of medicine from '57 to about '75, and then, I was chief of cardiology there from ... '60 to '80, and I served as chief of staff for seven years, '67 to '74, I guess. So, I had a lot of experience with the administration of the hospitals and the various boards. ... I've served on many, many boards since then. ... It was a very interesting time of evolution. Almost anything you wanted to have done was done. ... Even the Board of Directors changed in its composition. Today, it's a very, very good board, ... and the hospital is, I wouldn't say world class, but, it's now a nationally known hospital, today. ...
SC: As director of medicine, you were involved in several studies, including the use of the heart pump in open-heart surgery.
NR: Well, ... that was the surgical part, yes.
SC: Well, you were also involved in research on several drugs, such as Inderol and beta blockers.
SC: Could you tell me a little bit about your involvement in these studies?
NR: ... Well, in the early days of the '60s, we were a clinically oriented hospital. We all ... read a great deal. ... Someone would write a paper, we'd all go to a meeting, the paper would be presented on the use of anticoagulants, and we started using anticoagulants. So, it was mostly our own clinical experience, but, none of us were academics. ... Of course, the medical school is another whole story. I was the first clinical professor of medicine ... at what is now the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, then the Rutgers Medical School, and I could spend hours talking about the history of ... the medical school, but, to answer your question, we didn't really do any clinical research until the medical school became part of the hospital. They were involved with ... clinical studies. Today, the emphasis is on whether a treatment works. You have to take large groups of patients, and these are clinical studies ... which are usually set up by the NIH, the National Institute of Health, the National Heart and Lung Institute, ... people who were epidemiologists, who are cardiologists, who are academics. That's their work, they don't have patients. ... They will ... want to study the effects of anticoagulants on heart disease, "Does it really cut down the mortality of heart disease?" So, they'll start a whole series of organized studies, and they would get maybe twenty hospitals throughout the country, and put together a group of 5,000 patients, and then, they would use one group, they would give them the anticoagulant, and another group, they wouldn't. ... They'd give them a placebo. ... Then, they would compare the differences. So, we really didn't do any of this type of studies until the medical school came on the scene, which was about '74, '75. ... We've been very much in the forefront in ... developing many of ... the drugs in heart disease. As a matter-of-fact, John Kostis, Dr. Kostis, professor of medicine, the head of the department of cardiology, his forte is cardiac pharmacology. He's worked with many drugs using this clinical trial technique. ... These are accepted throughout the world as ... the way to study these things. Years ago, you know, you'd say, "Well, I guess, maybe, the patient would benefit if you give him aspirin." If you give him aspirin, the patient got well. Well, you don't know, if you gave that patient a placebo, they'd get well either, so, they had this sort of thing. But, you know, I can recall a time ... when people with heart disease, thirty percent of them would die after an acute heart attack. ... When we started using anticoagulants, we dropped that to fifteen percent. ... Today, using a lot of ... the thrombolytic agents, the agents which dissolve, it's down to five percent. So, we've seen the changes by the virtue of using these clinical investigative methods. Does that answer your question?
SC: Yes, that answers my question.
KP: What led you into cardiology, to choose that as your specialty?
NR: Well, when I was a resident in New York, I had a service in which many of my patients had heart disease. ... They also had ulcers, and diabetes, and whatnot. ... I was interested in this new thing called the electrocardiogram. When I went to medical school, it was a very, very rudimentary, simple thing. We had three leads. ... I remember when Dr. Kossman went out to Michigan to work with a doctor out there to develop a fourth to pre-cordial leads. That was the greatest thing in the world. ... It was like discovering a cure for cancer. ... Of course, I became interested in this technique, and, as I said, ... when I came to New Brunswick in 1938, I looked around ... to see what was doing in town. ... Everybody was a general practitioner. Even the surgeons did general practice. The obstetricians were in general practice. ... Those of us who were in medicine, ... you know, I didn't do any surgery, I didn't do any pediatrics, I didn't do any gynecology and, you know, obstetrics, but, I treated a patient for a cold, and I treated a patient for a heart attack, even though I was certified as an internist. ... As I looked around the field, I saw that here was a town where no doctor had a cardiograph machine. So, I developed this reputation as an electrocardiographer, which, of course, is a basic part of cardiology, and I knew if I was going to do electrocardiography, I had to be a cardiologist. ... When I get back, after the war, I began to take courses, and I spent about six months up in Boston with Dr. Paul White, and I qualified for my exams. Today, it's very difficult to qualify for those exams, but, in those days, it was the beginning of the boards in cardiology, ... and they were able to let me take my clinical experience, and I got a letter from Dr. White and Dr. DeGraf in New York, where I worked, and they gave me a good recommendation, so, they let me take the exam. ... In '54, I took the exam and passed it, so, I became certified in cardiology.
KP: Before talking about the war, I have noticed that most doctors, really up until the end of World War II, were general practitioners and, as a layman, the things they did struck me as really remarkable. The first two physicians I interviewed were both general practitioners and they talked about doing everything from delivering babies to hernia operations.
NR: ... Well, even in those days, I couldn't do any surgery. I can tell an interesting story. It was a hot Sunday afternoon in August and there was a patient with acute appendicitis, a ... young boy about fifteen, and I had to have him operated upon. So, I called my friend, who was a surgeon, ... Dr. Copleman. ... He confirmed the diagnosis and he needed to have an assistant. You know, a surgeon needs an assistant, and no one was home. ... So, I volunteered, [laughter] but, the chief of surgery ...
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NR: ... Said, "No, he cannot be your assistant, but, he may enter the operating room." [laughter] So, even back in those early days, at least in this area here, there were restrictions. You couldn't go the way it was fifty years ago, when everybody did everything. ... You couldn't do this, and, of course, shortly after World War II, the requirements for staff privileges became very, very ... stringent, because not only did they have to have their training, but, they had to be board certified. ... Today, nobody joins the staff of a hospital unless they've passed their boards in their particular field, or if they do get on a staff, they don't get ... senior privileges until ... they get certified. So, that was about the story.
KP: It is interesting that you mentioned Dr. Copleman. His widow has recently contacted us. She would like to donate some of his papers. He was a decorated soldier in World War II. You seem to have some memories of him as a surgeon.
NR: ... Well, he was one of my very closest friends. He was my patient and I know the story very well. Hy was a graduate of Rutgers in the Class of 1929, Hy Copleman. ... He was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate. He went to the University of Chicago, Rush Medical School. ... He was very much a homeboy. He was a New Brunswick boy, tried and true. He grew up here and went to college here. ... After he finished his hospital training, in those days, it was one year at the Michael Reese Hospital and he came to New Brunswick to practice. ... He was a very good surgeon. ... He was one of the earliest. He became very active. When he came back to New Brunswick, he started a practice in ... 1935 and he became the doctor for the Rutgers football team. ... He, for fifty years, was the team doctor, and not only the team doctor, he had no children, he was the surrogate father to generations of football players. ... He went into the service in 1942, and he ... saw a lot of action, and he was captured. He was wounded. ... He captured a whole company of Germans, a very interesting story. ... He was a doctor in the prisoner of war hospital ... down in southern France. ... The German military people knew they were going to move because of the advance of the Seventh Army up from Marseilles and told him, get ready for his patients to move. Well, he didn't want them to move, so, he wrapped them all up in plaster of Paris. He couldn't move them, see. So, when the time came for the Germans to leave, they left the patients there. They left him there. ... About an hour after they leave, he sees the whole medical staff, ... the German orderlies and the nurses, that sort of thing, come up. They surrendered to him. [laughter] ... When the American Army, the US Seventh Army, reached him about a couple of hours later, he said, not only did he have his patients, who were ... US Army people, but, a whole bunch of prisoners. [laughter] He saw action in ... North Africa, in Sicily, and in France. ... He was the battalion surgeon for the 47th Infantry Division, First Regiment, First Division, so, he saw ... a lot of action. ... He came back here and was a beloved physician to a great many people. ... Roz, his wife, has a lot of mementos. As a matter-of-fact, after he died, we raised funds to develop the ... Physician's Room at the Athletic Center. ... She probably has many mementos and they might be of some interest.
KP: He apparently kept a diary during the war. What were your thoughts about the coming of the war in the 1930s, particularly with regard to Germany and Hitler?
NR: ... Well, not only am I a physician and an educated man, but, I am Jewish. ... The events that happened in 1933 up until the war affected me as a Jew, when I saw what happened to my co-religionists. It so happened that our synagogue in Jersey City, where my folks belonged, the rabbi ... had reams of information that no one else had. ... In 1934, I came out here and tried to sell a pamphlet on what was really happening in Germany to this community. ... The people said, "Sshh, ... we don't want to disturb anything. We want to keep everything very quiet," so that I was deeply involved in my own feelings, as a Jew, that this was the devil incarnate. ... I felt that we belonged in the war, that it was a righteous war. This was a man that had to be destroyed, his whole concept had to be destroyed, and, of course, his dark events have shown up to be true. So, I was very glad to be able to serve in the Army.
KP: 1934 was very early, even among the Jewish community, in terms of realizing the full range of the Nazis' intentions.
NR: Yes, but, we did know. ... I have ... little pamphlets at home that he distributed telling about people losing ... their business, and people being hurt physically, and some people being taken away to concentration camps, and, ... of course, ... they were destroying not only Jews but gypsies and mental defective cases, who were taken to vans and gassed in those days, see.
KP: How aware were you of the euthanasia practices at the time? Were you aware of that, as a physician?
KP: So, that was really a surprise.
NR: No, that came to me ... after the war, but, we knew about the concentration camps. ... You know, you read historic books. You've, I'm sure, read them. These events were actually described in '38, '39.
KP: Were there any efforts in your temple, or in the Jewish community, to harbor refugees?
NR: The problem is, we had no refugees. In those days, ... the United States government kept a very strict quota, so, there was very few Jews that were able to get in. Italians, Puerto Ricans, you know, they could get in, but, as Jews, they could not get in. I don't have to recount to you the St. Louis incident of the shipload of fools, you know, and it was a terrible thing. There were conferences where President Roosevelt went to try to solve this issue and ... couldn't solve it, so that we really had no way ... of telling that. ... There was no question about it, I think that I and the people in ... our group felt very strongly that Hitler had to be destroyed, whatever it took.
KP: What was your attitude towards Roosevelt, both in terms of the war and also in general?
NR: I supported him one hundred percent. He was the first person I ever voted for, 1932. ... I felt he was absolutely right. Of course, you know, Hoover, with his Smoot-Hawley Tariff, destroyed the country. He put up these high tariff walls, business disappeared, and it led into the Depression. ... Hoover did not know how to do it. ... He was an engineer by profession, but, he didn't know what to do. ... Of course, Roosevelt was the man on the white horse. ... He came and he said, you know, "Nothing to fear but fear itself." ... He took the action. He closed the banks and, ... in one hundred days, he had ... the whole New Deal organized, and passed, and working, but, they were rough times. ... I remember going to medical school then. Of course, I said the best thing that happened to me was, I was in medical school all those years, '32 to '36. ... There was a pawnshop on 23rd Street. ... I would commute from Jersey City to 26th Street and First Avenue in New York, and, on 23rd Street, there was this pawn shop, and every day I walked by, and more and more Phi Beta Kappa keys were in the windows. [laughter] It was a fact. ... People were starving. I recall, you know, in '20s, when my father was quite wealthy, ... we had an automobile, we had a chauffeur, we went away for the summer, and all that disappeared. Business went bad, he lost a great deal of money, and we had to change our way of life very much. That's why, when I went to medical school, I went to NYU Medical School, because I was able to commute from my home in Jersey City and to live at home. ... Of course, that was the way you did things, at that time, but, they were tough days. ... I mean, we were relatively, I wouldn't say unaffected, but, affected in a minimal way. ... For example, my mother wouldn't buy the best cuts of meat, ... but, we always had food on the table. ... We had to move twice to more humble apartments during the war, again, ... not a catastrophe, ... compared to others, but, ... it was a very tough time. We had twenty-five percent of the country unemployed.
KP: You were very successful in establishing your practice, but, I have read that physicians were working for the WPA.
NR: That's right.
KP: I mean, now, physicians are almost guaranteed employment, but, then, there was a real threat that you might not make it.
NR: ... That's right. Sure, I had a cousin of mine, who was the same age as I am, and he went to work for the WPA, and he went out to Plentywood, Montana. They had a CCC camp. They put all ... stalwart young men to work building roads or cutting down trees in the most remote parts of the country. ... Arthur did that. It was the way he started. So, ... it was a tough time, but, when I came out to New Brunswick, it was '38, ... towards the end of the Depression, but, the doctors here seemed to be doing pretty well, I must say. I don't know of one that had to quit because they couldn't make a go of it.
KP: In the 1930s, there was the famous case of Professor Hauptmann at Douglass College. A lot has happened since about the case, in terms of it being reopened and reinvestigated, but, at the time, what did you know about the Hauptmann case?
NR: Well, my wife had him for a teacher.
KP: Oh, really?
NR: She was at NJC, and she took German, and he was a German professor. ... One day, he disappeared. We heard rumors that he was a Nazi and he was helping the Nazi cause here, the German-American Bund, and he just disappeared. Everybody knew that he was a Nazi and he, in public, would try to promulgate their philosophy ... in his classroom. ... So, he was a real Nazi and he disappeared.
KP: So, at the time, your wife knew he was a Nazi.
NR: Oh, yes. ... There's not a question of, you know, maybe he is or maybe he isn't, like a communist, you know. [laughter] ... I never saw his card for the Nazi party, but, he was that way.
KP: Particularly after he disappeared, what stories did your wife tell of him as a professor?
NR: Well, he was a good professor, you know. He taught German and he taught German well. He was strict, you know, a tough prof, ... but, it was good riddance. ...
SC: Do you remember where you were when you heard that Pearl Harbor had been attacked?
NR: Sure. I was driving on Woodbridge Avenue, going to visit my parents. It was a Sunday afternoon and, ... here, it was about one-thirty, and I'm driving on Woodbridge Avenue to go out to US 1 to go to Jersey City, my family lived in Jersey City, and over the radio was this story about Pearl Harbor. ... I turned around to my wife and I said, "Well, this is going to change our way of life," because we knew what was going to happen. For me, I was fortunate, because they had procurement assignment. Doctors ... were not drafted, they "enlisted." It amounted to the fact that there was a committee of doctors, usually older doctors, and they decided, you know, who was essential. ... If a doctor was essential, he stayed home. Now, who was essential? Many times, someone, if they had physical defects, ... they wouldn't take someone who had polio, for example. Next door to me was a Dr. Brown, a wonderful human being, Fred Brown. ... He was chief of medicine at Middlesex Hospital in those days and he was the head of the draft board. ... I used to see patients for him. He's an older doctor. ... As time went by, he declared me essential, because I helped not only him, but, I helped in the clinics and the hospitals. ... I was then, as I am today, a very hard-working, conscientious person. ... So, for several years, I wasn't called until 1943. In '43, I was called, went into the service. Most of my friends went ... in '42, but, that's how I knew about the war, helping it. ... It was interesting, because we really were totally unprepared for the war. I shouldn't say that. Roosevelt, in '38, was already beginning to gear up for the war. In '38, he'd passed a lot of laws, but, ... this country was very isolationist. You know, for example, with this Iraq thing, today, the country's, "Well, go to war," actually go to war. In those days, it was very hard, but, once Pearl Harbor happened, no question about it.
KP: It is interesting that you mention that. We have read the Targum and we have noticed this sudden shift in opinion. For example, President Clothier, in 1939, addressed the freshman and said, "There is no reason for us to get involved, period." Could you maybe talk about some of these attitudes?
NR: ... Well, in '38, when the war began, there was a very strong movement that the United States, it's none of our business, because it was really European business, but, in '40, after the debacle in France, when Britain was crawling on its knees, Roosevelt gave them the ... fifty destroyers so they could maintain some sort of a defense. ... That was done strictly on his own, an executive orders sort of thing. He didn't ask for permission, he just did it, and that's why he was a great man. ... He would listen to a couple of people, but, he would sit down, and make up his mind, and that's the way it's going to be. [laughter] ... He stuck to his guns. ... By the time '41 came about and Pearl Harbor happened, the country was ready and ... no one objected to him. ... But, see, he couldn't declare war without an incident, and many people, you're a historian, said that, maybe, the whole Pearl Harbor thing was planned, so that we would have an excuse. I'm not a historian, [laughter] but, I think we were ready for it. ... First of all, I felt that this was the only way we could liberate my Jewish compatriots in Europe, and, of course, this is the only way we could destroy ultimate evil.
KP: You thought that at the time?
NR: Yes, that's right. ... When it came to going into the service, as I say, I stayed here, and I wasn't going to go running, because I did have a wife and family, but, no question about my desire to go and do my part.
SC: So, Pearl Harbor was not really a surprise and you could pretty much see it coming.
NR: ... Yes, I think so. Of course, at the time of Pearl Harbor, there were negotiations like occurred in Geneva yesterday. You know, there's always negotiations that were going on, but, we were ready, willing, and we became able.
KP: You were here in New Brunswick for a while. How was New Brunswick affected by the war, particularly Camp Kilmer?
NR: Yes, well, Camp Kilmer ... was one of the large World War II camps. Actually, it was a staging area for overseas shipment of troops. ... It happened to be right here in New Brunswick and it made it very convenient, so that we always had a large presence ... of troops. ... They came in and they moved out. This was not a training command, it was just a staging area, sort of. ... We always saw a lot of soldiers. They were all through the town. New Brunswick, then, was a very different community. It was a very vital community. The life of New Brunswick was George Street and Albany Street. ... It was a county seat, so, we had, you know, county business going on here. We always had Johnson & Johnson here as a big industry and we also had some others. The Mack trucks were here. At one time, they had an airplane plant here. They had ... a lot of industry, not big, heavy industry, ... and it was a good town. ... You know, after the Depression, everybody was making a living. I mean everybody, business people, ... you went downtown on a Thursday night, ... or a Saturday night, you couldn't walk on George Street, it was just so busy with people. ... I remember, there was New Brunswick, and until you got to Plainfield, that's ten miles away, or Somerville, which is ten miles away, you had nothing. You'd go out to where Douglass College is and it was farms from there until you get to the shore. South River was there and little communities. If you went through Highland Park, you get to Sixth Avenue in Highland Park, where the road cuts this way, and, from there to Metuchen, it was just nothing but farms, see, so that, as a matter-of-fact, ... in the late '50s, we had a study of the hospital needs in the New Brunswick area. ... Dr. Barnett, from Columbia, came, and he said, ... "Well, you need beds in St. Peter's Hospital and Middlesex Hospital, because ... you have all this area where these people are and they're going to come into New Brunswick for care," never thinking that ... these places grew, so, they all have developed their own little hospitals. [laughter] Metuchen was a big source of practice for us, and then, they put up this little hospital, which became the Kennedy Medical Center, which is a very big medical center. ... New Brunswick, in the '30s, was a busy town. I mean, people were busy ... doing lots of things. Business was good, the college added a nice social and academic amenity, nothing like what we have today. ... The community itself was more of a close-knit community. Everybody lived either here or in Highland Park. People didn't live in Princeton or Bridgewater the way they do today. ... It was fun. I always called New Brunswick a 'metropolis in microcosm.' It had all the elements of a big city. It had a good business, it had a good professional life, it had a good academic life, it had a good social life. ... I guess you would call it a blue-collar city, because, particularly because of J&J, we had a lot ... of blue-collar people. This was not a fancy community. ... I felt, when I went into practice, I would be better off with this kind of community than going into a fancy practice lifestyle, like Short Hills or someplace like that.
KP: Why did you think that?
NR: Because I felt I would get to know people easier. If I had to depend upon, you know, the lifestyle of the rich and famous, if I can use that term, [laughter] it wasn't quite my lifestyle. As I told you before, I wanted to take care of sick people and I wasn't interested ... in the family connections, you know, that sort of thing, or social connections. ... People came from these communities, they went back, they liked that sort of thing. Even to this day, I still like the New Brunswick practice rather than a very sociable community.
KP: So, it sounds like most of your practice was, in fact, blue-collar.
NR: Yes, but, on the other hand, I had General Johnson for my patient for awhile. Presidents of the University were patients of mine. So, I had a very, very good practice
KP: So, you had a very diverse group of patients.
NR: ... Yes. ... Of course, in those days, I became involved with the University. Well, I was involved with the University, really, from '28 until this minute, [laughter] except for the time I was in medical school and hospital work. ... You met a great many different groups of people. ... As a doctor on the Board of Trustees, I was the only doctor on the Board of Trustees for many years, so that anything medical became my bailiwick. We formed ... the Rutgers Medical School. I was the chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Trustees on the Medical School for the twelve years that it existed under our aegis, but, there are lots of other stories there.
KP: What was your involvement with Rutgers after graduating in 1932?
NR: Well, I came here as a student in '28 and I had four very good years. ... Well, the first year, it was great, it was '28, but, even in '29, '30,'31, I had a very nice life. I developed my bunch of friends, and I belonged to a nice fraternity, and then, in my junior year, I met my wife. ... It was love at first sight, still is. ... It added to my sense of liking Rutgers, and liking New Brunswick, and liking what I saw here. ... Then, I went to medical school in New York, did my hospital residency, and, when it came time to practice, I looked around, and ... my folks had lived for years in Jersey City. Jersey City was a morass of politics. Hague was the mayor in those days and I wanted no part of ... that scene. ... I looked around, the only place where I knew some people was New Brunswick, and, of course, my wife was teaching school. I had no money, so, I decided to open up an office here. ... The first patients I ever saw were here at Rutgers, because the first week I was in practice, I was examining freshman. ... Every student coming in has to be examined, and then, when I finished that week, I turned around to Dr. Kler, who was the college doctor, and I said, "Can you have any more use for my services?" He said, "Well, ... we have nothing that will pay you, but, we have a light-weight football team, a 150-pound football team, and Dr. Copleman is busy with the varsity, and if you'd like to volunteer your services, you're welcome to it." No money, but, I was glad to have a place to go in the afternoon, [laughter] especially in the fall. It was, you know, lovely, and being with a bunch of young people, and it was very nice. So, I served ... as team doctor. ... I became part of the Student Health Service and I served for many years in the Student Health Service. ... Then, in '42, I was asked to organize the 10th Anniversary for my class, '32, and I became involved with alumni activities, ... class activities. ... Then, of course, I became involved with the hospital and the medical societies and I began to get chief of this and chief of that. ... I was involved with the Alumni Association and, in those days, ... there were five alumni trustees. So, I was elected in 1958 as an alumni trustee and I served until 1970, twelve years, two terms, and then, by statute, I had to drop out, but, in '72, I was re-elected to the Board of Trustees. In '75, I was elected to the Board of Governors and, in '77, I became Chairman of the Board of Governors. ... I served on the Board of Governors until 1990 and as Trustee Emeritus since '88. ... Because I had been so much involved in the University, and I like it so much, I stay active. ... Now, I'm very active in the Foundation, the Rutgers University Foundation. I'm the secretary of the Foundation and I'm active in many of its programs. So, I've been involved, except for the couple of years I was in training in ... medicine, since 1928. It's a long time.
KP: Could you reflect on some of the presidents you knew as both a student and a young alumnus? The first president that you might have memories of is Whistling Willie Demarest.
NR: ... Well, I remember Dr. Demarest as a very energetic, retired president, a President Emeritus. ... He was a very energetic fellow. You saw him on the campus and he owned a house down on George Street and Seminary Place, I guess. ... We didn't see much of him, except he was running around. He was a very active man. My first president I knew was John Martin Thomas. ... John Martin Thomas is actually ... related to Ann Thomas, who is now chairman of the Board of Governors. He was a minister, as ... many of the presidents of Rutgers have been ministers, because the origin is in the Dutch Reformed Church. ... John Martin Thomas was a very nice fellow, and the University was a collection of small colleges, the Rutgers College, which was men, and they had the Engineering College, it had the Ag School, and those were really the three components of the College, the College of Women, which was across town and was sort of very separate in those days. ... After about two years, or three years, I guess, in ... '30, he retired to become the president of the National Life Insurance Company in Vermont. ... We had no president, so that Phil Brett, who was a lawyer in New York, an outstanding alumnus, a trustee of the University, became the acting president for two years, '30 to '32. ... Phil Brett, Jr., was a classmate of mine. ... Phil Brett was a wonderful person, but, he sort of held everything together until Dr. Clothier was appointed in '32. ... In 1932, Dr. Clothier was appointed president of Rutgers, and he served until 1948, and he was a wonderful gentleman, human being. He had a great deal of interest in the students. He related very well to the students. My brother graduated in 1942 and he had his problems going through Rutgers, financially. ... When he got his degree, President Clothier said, "Alan, I'm so glad you made it." ... He knew a lot of these people personally and it was a very nice thing, ... but, he was no great innovator or anything. ... In '45, he did serve as chairman of the convention that rewrote the New Jersey Constitution, which, of course, is a very good constitution. ... In '48, he retired. ... He was succeeded by Lewis Webster Jones. Lewis Webster Jones came here, I won't say under false pretenses, but, he was brought here because, in Arkansas, he did a very good job in developing the University of Arkansas, particularly its medical school. ... I think that the committee felt, ... we were having our problems with the state legislature, were we a state university, weren't we a state university, so, he was brought on board, I think, to really convince the legislature of New Jersey. Well, you can't compare the legislature of New Jersey to the legislature of Arkansas. [laughter] ... He served here from 1947 to ... 1958, I guess. ... He was a very fine gentleman. ... He was here during the change in the '50s, when Rutgers became, really, the State University of New Jersey, when Meyner, as a governor, insisted that we either give control ... of the University to the state, or else, go off on its own, and, even though the majority of the people on the Board of Trustees then were old Rutgers College people, ... the players really knew that we had to go in the direction of becoming, really, the state university. So, out of this came this bicameral group, the Board of Governors, that runs the University, in which the state has the six votes and the Trustees, which runs the real estate and the endowments to the University which belong to the private college. It's the most complicated university in the United States, I'm sure of that.
KP: Yes, I know it is and it stems partly from of this system of governance.
NR: That's right, that's right. In any event, he was the President during that time and, when I became a member of the Board of Trustees, he held a dinner and invited us to dinner. ... He pulled me aside, as the new trustee, and really gave me an earful of what was wrong with the legislature and the University. [laughter] ... I came home and said to my wife, ... "Honey, I don't think he's long for the University." [laughter] ... It's interesting how fate really decides certain things. In '48, when we were considering a new president, Mason Gross was here as a professor of philosophy, very popular. Obviously, you know, a cut above the average man we had at the time and very popular, and there was a great movement to make him president, but, Jones became president. Well, in '58, when Jones did retire, as he did in '58, Mason Gross became president. He became president two years after Rutgers became the State University. Funds were beginning to come in, the University had required tremendous periods of growth, and Mason Gross ... oversaw the twelve years that the University ... just expanded ... into a very fine state university. He was an imposing figure. He was ... an oddball. He was a democrat in a republican environment, but, he was ... like a Roosevelt democrat. He was that kind of a person, very intelligent, making the right moves, charmed everybody, and became a well-known person, because he was the referee on the Old Gold television program. Did you know that?
KP: People have told me that.
NR: ... It was one of these quiz shows and he was the moderator. ... If there'd be a question that no one could answer, he would supply the answer to it. So, everybody, every Sunday night, you saw Mason, our president, ... on the TV show. He was very popular. ...
KP: He seemed like a very charming figure.
NR: ... Oh, yes, he was a charmer. ... I'll tell you, he ... was an officer in the Air Corps during the war and he served in Italy. ... He was a speaker at our reunion weekend, you know, and, after he'd get finished talking, you know, giving his talk, we'd sit around the bar and he would tell stories, just like one of the boys, you know. You felt this way, you knew him and you respected him as a president of the University, yet, he was one of the guys, in that respect. ... He was a wonderful person, but, he had a limited view, as I look back now, of the University. ... He would say, "I want Rutgers to be Amherst on the Raritan." His concept was a bunch of undergraduate colleges. We had a graduate program, but, it was very weak. It really wasn't developed and ... he wanted to make Rutgers like ... a larger example of a good private college, like Amherst or Williams. ...
KP: He really believed in the college system.
NR: The college system, oh, yes, and this is what we had. We had a college system where the deans were the presidents of the colleges. The budget of the University was controlled by the deans of the colleges. So, every college controlled its own budget, Rutgers, and the Ag School, Engineering, all controlled it. ... He served until 1970 and resigned in 1970 with the debacle of the medical school. ...
KP: So, the loss of the medical school really was a big blow.
NR: It was a blow. First of all, ... you know, I can talk about many different aspects of what happened, ... but, in '58, the medical school was started with a million dollars from the Kellogg Foundation. ... At the beginning, the concept, ... by the biology people who were behind it, ... was to develop a program in human biology. They didn't even want to call it medicine, human biology. Well, obviously, ... it was a two year program. ... Then, of course, as the program began under Dr. Stettin, the first dean, it was obvious that we couldn't be a two-year school in the State of New Jersey. Maybe in the Dakotas you could, but, not here. [laughter] So, then, the state did ... okay us for a four-year program. In '64, we ... started a fundraising program to get money to help us develop it. Unfortunately, at that point, Seton Hall College of Medicine went bankrupt. They were seven million dollars in debt, and they saw no source of money, so, they went to Governor Hughes, and they asked Governor Hughes to take over ... the medical school, which he did. ... Here, we have a situation where Rutgers Medical School is ... the medical school for the State University, developing a fundraising program of private sources, and, now, we have a private medical school which was being taken over ... by the state for state funds. So, these two schools ran in the '60s where Rutgers was like the hind tit, if I can use that expression. [laughter] Everything went to New Jersey College of Medicine, which is the school in Newark, and we didn't have anything. Of course, we started our program with a very egalitarian approach. Dr. Stettin was a man who was trained at Columbia, Harvard, and NIH. I was the first ... practicing doctor that he ever spoke to. Here's the dean of a medical school, training physicians, and he never spoke to a doctor who was taking care of patients. ... Anyhow, it was that sort of thing. We were a weak school, but, the people he ... picked, recruited, for the faculty were top-notch people. The school of Newark was a third class school when the thing started, then, it became a second class school, but, it never had quite the faculty that we had. We started here ... with sixteen students, hand-picked, sixteen students who wanted a new experience and they were excellent. ... During the '70s, when we had the campaign about the medical school being separated, I was on a television program with Dr. Cadmus, who was the president of New Jersey College of Medicine, and who wanted to know, with these sixteen students, they had to go elsewhere for their third and fourth year, why we don't recommend them to go to the New Jersey College of Medicine in Newark. ... I said, "Because they all go to Columbia, and Harvard, and Yale, and Pennsylvania." [laughter] Well, anyhow, ... it was a very difficult time, and Governor Cahill became governor, and Cahill came from south Jersey. ... He was no scholar, he was no great legal mind, the way Hughes was. ... Mason called him the "Clam-digger from south Jersey." [laughter] He had despised him and he didn't want anything to do with him. So, when the invitation came to come down to speak with him about this medical school business, he told the Board of Governors and myself, as ... Chairman of the Advisory Committee of Trustees at the Medical School, "Let the little fellow talk. We've got ... all the votes in the legislature. Let the little fellow talk." So, we went down there and the Governor says to us, "You know, I have a bill here on my desk to take the medical school away from Rutgers and form another state entity, the College of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, with these two schools," and no one said anything. I don't know whether ... he was telling us the facts. Anyhow, there wasn't any discussion, and I had, during this period, there were three months when we were having the negotiations with the state, I wrote and canvassed all the senators, and I have, in my files, twenty-one letters, letters from twenty-one senators, saying they are going to vote against it, but, when the vote came in, seven voted against it. ... The Governor used all his power, his position, and he convinced these people to change their vote. So, the vote was taken, and, shortly after that, Stettin resigned in 1970, and Mason resigned, and Mason died about two years later. He had cancer of the colon. ... He was a, you know, very wonderful person and he really carried us up to a different level. Well, then, in '71, Ed Bloustein was appointed president, and, again, this is on the record, I think he was the best president the University ever had. When he started, ... he was a contrast. Mason was a patrician, like Roosevelt. He came from a fine family of scholars and lawyers in Hartford, Connecticut. ... Ed Bloustein was a product of the streets of the Bronx. Family were immigrants, he was a graduate of NYU. ...
-------------------------------------- END OF TAPE ONE SIDE TWO -----------------------------------------
KP: This continues an interview with Dr. Norman Reitman on November 20, 1997 at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, with Kurt Piehler and ...
SC: Scott Ceresnak.
KP: You were talking about President Bloustein.
NR: ... About Dr. Bloustein, how different he was, his personality and background, from ... Mason Gross. Indeed, when he came here, he had a very difficult time, because Mason was a very popular man, and Mason was very much in the public eye. You could set your clock by Mason Gross. His office was here in Queens. Twelve o'clock, he'd walk out, and he'd walk up College Avenue, ... speak to everybody ... from the freshmen to a university professor. He would go into the faculty club, and he had his table by the window for four people, and everybody, every player in the University, would have lunch at the faculty club, if they wanted to speak to him, and if he invited you for lunch, you were in the ... inner cabinet, [laughter] very popular, and, of course, along comes Ed. ... Unknown to any of us, Ed ... ate no lunch. He had breakfast and a huge dinner, but, he used to take his lunch time to do work. So, all of a sudden, the president had disappeared. No one sees him, and, at the beginning, we thought he was a very standoffish, aloof individual, kept his distance, and there were many votes of no confidence in the early days of his career. ... Mason, as I said, had this concept of this being a good state university, but, still, a provincial university. ... Well, he talked about Amherst. He didn't talk about Harvard, see, he wanted Amherst.
KP: There was a real distinction.
NR: That's right, and Ed felt that the mission of this university was research, that, by developing our graduate and research programs, this is where the distinction would come. So, the ... composition of the Board was changing, too. The people that came on from the Board of Trustees were, again, a different group than when I started on the Board of Trustees. I'll never forget, when I came on the Board in 1958, the meeting was in, what is now, the outer receptionist's room of the President's Office, and there was a big table, and a row of chairs around it, and a second row, and a third row. When I came in, I forget who it was said to me, "Doctor, you sit in the third row." He says, "Someday, you may reach the row around the table." [laughter] ... Today, you know, you go in, you take the first ...
KP: The first seat.
NR: That's right, because, if you're up in front, it makes no difference. ... It was a different attitude, and Ed ... wanted to take the University to a higher level, and, as I said, we had players on the Board then who were compatible with this concept. ...
KP: So, this new direction, which began in 1980, was somewhat unplanned. President Bloustein planned to focus more on research, but, the actual implementation of the plan was more complicated.
NR: ... Well, I could comment this way. Shortly after I became chairman of the Board of Governors, there were some questions about the mission of the University, and, particularly, the ... way the central administration was being conducted, and a committee was appointed, under Linda Stomato, to study the mission of the president and the central administration, and then, it was enlarged to … really explore the depth of issues at the university, which way we wanted to go. We spent two years on this mission. … Out of it came the famous mission statement of 1980, which designated that our goal should be the development of a university of national, international repute with large research, graduate education resources as well. … Fortunately, at that time, the entire atmosphere was encouraging, and the commission on science and technology, which, really, was another one of Ed Bloustein's brain children, came about, and the establishment of these various commissions that received independent funding, and supported a lot of the science and technology programs. ... Then, of course, during Ed's time, there was a heavy emphasis on graduate education and research, to the expense of the undergraduate program, so that this ... caused a problem. ... Ed was an excellent president. Mason was a wonderful person, but, he ran everything out of his hip pocket. He had a kitchen cabinet of two or three people that he ran things by. We all loved him. Ed ... was a much better administrator, ... reorganized the central administration, and ... they functioned quite well, but, ... there were administrative weaknesses in several areas. ... But, as the '80s went on, ... he was regarded with greater and greater admiration by the faculty and the student body. ... Unfortunately, he died in 1989 of sudden death. I might relate a personal incident which I think relates his life. Ed Bloustein had a massive coronary attack in ... 1976 and I treated him. ... He almost died and he was left with a great deal of heart damage. ... After he got over it, ... we had our discussion about life, and I told him, I said, "With that degree of heart damage, if you continue your frenetic operation, you're not going to live so long, but, if you are willing to retire, and do your research, and live a quiet life, you'll probably live longer. You have to make that decision." That was my philosophy. ... He said to me, "Norman, ... I don't want to live my life by the side of the road. I want to march down that road." ... Fortunately, he lived for thirteen good years.
KP: I never had much contact with him, but, you would not have suspected that he had a heart attack.
NR: That's right, and he died suddenly of a heart attack.
KP: Yes, it was a big shock to most people.
NR: ... Yes, it was. It was a big shock to me. I saw him at a Board of Governors meeting that Friday afternoon and, Saturday morning, he was dead down in Bermuda, or the Bahamas. ... He did a great deal for the University and, speaking, I'm sure, parochially, I felt he was the best president the University ever had.
KP: You mentioned it was a real change because he was Jewish and from the Bronx, and, for a lot of Jewish alumni, he really became a symbol of progress, because Rutgers had been a Protestant university, Dutch Reformed.
NR: Yes. ... I was shocked that he was ever appointed, because Ed was a very, very complex person. He was a secular Jew. He didn't belong to any synagogues or temples, but, ... he was Jewish. He supported many ... Jewish causes. He never ... celebrated a holiday. ... He worked on the high holidays, that sort of thing, but, I can recall a personal incident that I will never forget. You know, Ed was quite an emotional individual. ... His family, he said they were immigrants, came to New York from Russia, and he was brought up in the Bronx. ... During his tenure, my wife and I visited him one day, one weekend, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. It was a beautiful weekend, very informal, a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, that sort of thing, and, after dinner, Saturday night, we were talking about family background, and he was telling me about how emotional he was, in particular with his mother. He loved his mother very, very deeply. ... Jewish songs always affected him, and I said to him, "You know, there's a famous cantor, Cantor Rosenblatt, who's world famous, now, he's been dead fifty years, that used to sing a ... lot of deep, religious hymns." So, we started talking about singing these songs. ... He said, "I have tapes of these hymns." He took them out, and he started playing them, and he broke down like a baby and cried, couldn't stop. So, he was a great man. ... I'll tell you another interesting story about him, which I think is a testament. [laughter] ... It's so funny. Do you remember him? He ... was a boyish looking fellow.
KP: Oh, yes. Even when he became older, he still looked young.
NR: ... He was very much of a rebel. ... His wife was much more of a rebel than he. ... He had been president of Bennington College, which is a very liberal girls college. ... He came down here and he moved into the President's House on a Friday, I guess. ... Saturday, he just got up in the morning, and he put on a pair of shorts, and a T-shirt, and a pair of sneakers, and he said to his wife, "I think I'll go down to see ... what the office is like." So, he comes here, and he walks into the President's Office in Queens, and there's an Irish cleaning lady there, she's cleaning up. ... She says, "Who are you?" He says, "I'm the president of Rutgers University." ... She looks at him and she says, "Begora, and I'm the Queen of England." [laughter] That's a wonderful story I remember about him, but, no, he had a lot of vision. ... You know, Fran Lawrence is a much better administrator than Ed, much better. So, I've seen them all change the University.
KP: Different sides.
NR: ... Ed was a very public person. He loved the public, loved to speak. Fran is a very private person.
KP: You were on the Board of Trustees when Rutgers College went co-educational. What do you remember about the sentiment of the Board on that issue? We have a research assistant who examined a lot of the records that were available, and she, basically, found that the big stumbling block was Douglass College.
NR: ... Well, by this time, we had a University, you know. ... We had a graduate school. ... The College had grown, in many respects. We had many other programs going on, but, Douglass always considered itself separate. You know, until the '70s, maybe, Douglass College ran its own budget, I mean, the '80s. They really ran it. The dean of Douglass College was the president of Douglass College. ... What they didn't want to get from the University, they got from ... their own board. ... Mason used to say, his biggest job was to make Douglass realize they were a part of Rutgers. [laughter] ... In fact, the Board of Trustees realized that Rutgers College had to go co-educational. Now, I must say this for Douglass, Douglass, in those days, was a very elitist college. Their student body came from the highest ten percent of the class. They had very good students. ... For the most part, these kids that went there, you know, they liked it. That's all they knew, but, when Rutgers College went co-educational, a lot of these very bright girls wanted to have the ... co-educational college experience. So, Douglass lost a good group of these girls. ... I think it's only in the last several years that they've really regained that standard. Rutgers became the outstanding school. ... The student cohort at Rutgers College had a higher rank than the student cohort at Douglass College.
KP: Which was a reverse from the previous situation.
NR: ... Years ago, it was no question, Douglass was always on top, see, but, now, I think Douglass is coming back, ... with their many interesting programs. They're stressing the women's role much more so. ... I think it's a ... very good college and I'm glad we have the options. ... The Douglass experience is a unique experience. It's a close-knit group and the girls are almost the same type. They're diverse, but, they're not. I mean, they may not come from ... many different backgrounds, but, they're all much more serious than you find the girls at the co-educational institution. So, no question about Douglass was the toughest, ... not the Board of Trustees, to make Rutgers co-educational.
KP: No, in fact, she could find very little resistance to the idea.
NR: ... Every state university had co-education.
KP: I have another student doing her honors thesis on the unification of the faculty. That was seemed to be a very difficult transition, mainly because of the deans.
NR: ... Well, I was ... Chairman of the Board, then, and that was the biggest thing that we had. Ed came to me one day and he says, "I've got an idea." ... For example, how ... there were different colleges, different faculties, and there was a very popular candidate for English. ... They had the modern languages meeting in San Francisco, and Rutgers College tried to recruit him, Douglass College tried to recruit him, Livingston College tried to recruit him. ... Every night, he went to a different dinner. ... He said, "What kind of an organization is this? Rutgers is an institution and, here, you're competing against yourselves." [laughter] So, it was obvious that, you know, we had to have a unified faculty. ... Out of this came two years of blood, sweat, and tears in which we went through the agonies of setting this up, and the discussions at the various levels, and then, the Board actions. It started in '79 and we voted it ... in '80. We voted to spend a year doing it. ... The vote was not unanimous, the Board of Governors vote. There were two people who voted against it, two very, very intelligent people whom I respect very much to this day. ... I must say, once the Board voted, they did everything they could to support it. ... In '81, it went into effect and I think it was a great success, despite many of the problems that came up. It's given us larger faculties. It's given us the opportunity to develop programs that we never would have developed otherwise. ... I think that, today, the faculty has accepted this as a way of life.
KP: What were some of the roadblocks to it?
NR: Well, there were the deans. Deans lost their budgets. Deans were giving up their budgets. ... They had the money, and, now, all of a sudden, they had to come to another body, the central administration, for their dollars. ... The decisions as to faculty, decisions as to curriculum, all were taken away from them. The important things were taken away from them, and the deans, you know, in a sense, were demoted. ...
KP: I sensed it was a real blow for the deans.
NR: Yes, that's right, but, I think, in retrospect, it was a very good thing for the University.
KP: What about the students? I have read that the students were not thrilled with this.
NR: Well, they weren't thrilled with this, because of the peculiarity of Rutgers, geographically. ... Before the change, ... they took all of their courses on College Avenue, or, maybe, over at Busch, but, now, you have to take a bus to go over to Douglass if you wanted a course from Professor Jones. ... These bus rides ... aren't very pleasant. ... It made it very much more difficult for students, but, ... if you look at the catalog today, you take a serious student who wants a course in XYZ Philosophy, he's got someone to take it with. Never would have had it otherwise. So, from the standpoint of the academic prestige of the University and the academic strength of the University, ... I think that it was a good decision to make.
KP: Maybe we should go back to World War II now.
KP: Before you served, you mentioned that you were helping out with inductions and physicals.
NR: That was in '38. That was the students here. ...
KP: Oh, not in the Army.
NR: No, not the military.
KP: You mentioned you knew someone who was on the draft board.
NR: ... As I mentioned, Dr. Brown, Fred Brown, was in charge of the committee that procured doctors. It was called Procurement and Assignment, see, and he procured doctors, and, ... in other words, if New Brunswick had to supply ten doctors, they got ten doctors ... on a list, and he kept me off, because of the fact that I helped the community out a great deal in the clinics. ... I was the busiest young doctor in town, you might say, [laughter] who was physically able to go. It had nothing to do with the inductions.
KP: Nothing to do with Selective Service.
NR: That's right.
KP: You did, in fact, enlist. What were your thoughts about enlisting? Did you have a sense of where you would like to go or where the Army would put you?
NR: Yes. Well, all right, here we go. First of all, I was one of the few certified internists. Back in the '40s, there was no such thing as this. I was the first certified internist in Middlesex County. ... The Army, I knew, respected these qualifications. You know, if you had certification in pathology, or surgery, or whatever it was, you knew this was going to be the work you did. So, I knew, Dr. Brown told me, that I was going to be called, and suggested I go down to Washington, and work the best deal I could for myself. So, I went down to Washington, and I saw the Bureau of Medicine of the Navy and the Surgeon General's Office of the Army, and then, the Surgeon of the Army Air Corps. The Air Force did not have it's own branch. They were under the Army. ... I went in to see ... the various heads of medical departments, and, in every case, I kept pushing the fact, you know, "I'm a certified internist. I don't want to be out there, in the front lines, being shot at. I want to be doing internal medicine at a hospital." Well, the Navy said, "Well, you know, we're going to give you good rank, make you a specialist, but, that doesn't guarantee you're not going to be ... on an amphibious ship going into an invasion." ... I went to the Surgeon General's office and they said, "Well, you know, don't worry about it." I went to the ... Air Corps office, and the young lieutenant colonel interviewed me, and he said, "Oh, you've got a board certification in internal medicine. That's great, that's wonderful. ... You're going to be just a doctor in a uniform in the Army. You're going to work in one of our hospitals, if that's what you want to do." ... I said, "You know, ... I'm a certified internist." He said to me, "What's the number of your certification?" I said, "3,214." He said, "I hold certificate number seven." It was Dr. Howard Rusk, the fellow who developed physical medicine and rehabilitation. [laughter] Anyhow, he said to me that I was going to be sent to a hospital ... until I was at six months of service, and then, I'd be promoted to captain, and then, I'd be given an assignment as chief of medicine at an Army hospital. Well, my first assignment was in Tallahassee, Florida. ... I had a CO there who was a regular Army Texan. He didn't like me and I didn't like him. [laughter] We had our six months to the day. I went into the service September 24, 1943 and it must have been April 24, 1944. He calls me, he has a telegram on his desk, he says, "Who the hell do you know in Washington?" I said, "What do you mean?" "There's a telegram, 'Promote Lieutenant Reitman.'" He said, "If it were up to me, I'd never promote you." [laughter] Anyhow, I was promoted to captain and, within a week, I was sent to Lake Charles ... Air Base where I was chief of medicine there, and then, I got orders to go overseas. ... I got to Camp Grant, in Illinois, and one of the men who was deciding who goes where pulls me out and says, "You're not going anywhere. You're going to Mayo General Hospital." ... I went to Mayo General Hospital for a couple of months. Then, right after the elections in '44, I got notice to go out to California for shipment to a tropical climate, which meant the South Pacific. ... I get out there, and I bump into a chap at the Officer's Club, and exchanged stories, and it seems that he was supposed to go to the Arctic, but, he wanted an extra week off. So, he talked to people in the service command and they changed places with me, because he was a certified internist. ... I took his appointment to the Arctic and he took my appointment to the South Pacific. Well, I went up to Alaska, presumably to go to the Aleutian Islands. I ended up in Fairbanks, Alaska, where it was a permanent garrison base. You know, I had all the amenities of home, with my own quarters, and ... a regular bathroom, and a closet where, if you opened the door, the light would go on. [laughter] ... I lived a garrison life for the ... two-and-a-half years I was overseas, and this poor fellow went down, he was in the invasion of the Luzon Gulf, when they retook the Philippines, and he got malaria, and he died fairly early.
KP: So, if not for this accidental meeting in the Officer's Club, you would have ...
NR: I never would have known. ... This was an exchange.
KP: If he had not wanted to take a week off, you would have just gone to the South Pacific.
NR: ... That's right. I would have gone to the South Pacific. [laughter]
KP: Before you went, you had to go through Army medical training at Carlisle. What was that like?
NR: ... Well, it was six weeks ... of converting from a civilian doctor to being a military medical officer. You were trained, and you had your basic training, you know, training in the rules of war, and the behavior of an officer, and ... we marched, we had simulated battle experience, we got our shots, and, of course, we had military medicine. ... After six weeks, when we ... had already been commissioned, we then were sent down to different places. I was sent to Biloxi, Mississippi, and then, from there, I was sent to ... Drew Field, Tampa, Florida, and then, I was assigned up to Tallahassee, where I spent about a year.
KP: I think most doctors coming right out of medical school or right out of an internship were not used to a lot of autonomy. However, you had had a lot of autonomy.
NR: Well, I know, but, there were orders. You knew that this was the Army. You were given an order, you had to carry it out. I was given an order to write legibly. [laughter] ... The surgeon, ... the CO, said to me, ... "This is an order to write legibly and it's according to the rules of war," which means, ... if you disobey, it will be the firing squad. ...
KP: So, did you write legibly from then on?
NR: I tried. [laughter] ... It's not one of my better habits. ... It was not difficult. Actually, in my experience, I never had a day out of the hospital, whether I was in Florida, or in Mississippi, or Illinois, or Louisiana, or up in Alaska. I never had a day when I would not get up in the morning, put my stethoscope around my neck, and examine patients. It was the same thing. A different group of diseases, some of them very interesting, but, it was a different thing. It was a doctor in uniform, for me.
KP: You said you were lucky. What could some doctors end up doing?
NR: Well, first of all, the Army, ... they used to say, "There are two ways of doing things, the right way and the Army way." [laughter] ... Again, I was very protective of the fact that I was an internist, a certified internist. ... We get down to Kessler Field, Biloxi, and they called three of us into a room. One was an orthopedist, one was a urologist, and myself. ... I don't know what the officer is called that makes assignments, but, it's part of the medical department, and he said to me, "Your MOS is 3200. Your Medical Occupational Specialty is 3200." Well, 3200, to me, is a basic number, like 1,000, see. [laughter] So, I said, "Well, what does that mean? What specialty?" He says, "Oh, ... that's the medical officer, general duty." I said, "I don't do general duty. ... I'm an internist, a certified internist," and McGillicuddy says, "I'm a certified urologist." He had been an assistant professor of urology at Harvard. ... The other fellow had been a certified orthopedist. ... He said, "Oh, you are? Then, you're 3139," he said to me, "Your number is 3139." Well, you know, if I didn't say anything, it would have gone into the files. It would have been 3200 and I would have been assigned to a battalion or a first aid station. [laughter] You know, a young doctor, so, you had to be very careful.
KP: Medical officers, one of the things they had to do, for example, was routinely inspect the kitchen. Did you have to do that?
NR: ... Yes, because we were in charge of the food, particularly up in Alaska, where it was a small unit, and I, eventually, became CO, but, we had the Veterinary Corps ... under us. ... We had to approve the inspection of the veterinary officer on his examination of the food, and, in the kitchen, there were certain basic hygienic things that had to be checked, and there was an officer assigned to that, not a medical officer. They called them Medical Administrative Corps.
KP: The Medical Administrative Corps apparently grew during the war. Before you got to the Arctic, what was your typical day like at your various assignments in Mississippi, Florida, and so on?
NR: ... Well, it was pretty much the same as in civilian life. ... In the morning, we'd go to the hospital, and, depending upon where we worked, sometimes the clinics were in the morning or in the afternoon, you'd go in the clinic and you'd see patients. ... See, for the most part, this is done in the individual ... squadrons, see, or the ... companies in the Army, but, there'd be a squadron of 600 men. They'd have sick call, and they'd a doctor assigned to that, and he was one of these 3200s, you see. ... He would go through ... the retinue, and if there were patients that were sick or needed hospitalization for high fever, or vomiting, or something, diarrhea, they sent him to the hospital. Then, we would admit them and do there what we did in New Brunswick, you know. We'd do a physical examination, a history, start treatment. Sometimes it was minor, sometimes it was major, and we had interesting situations. ... I was called, once, into the CO's office. I mean, he's got the reporter from one of the New York papers there. This was 1944, the Army, segregation, black and white. ... The Colonel says, "I understand you've got a problem on your floor. ... People are complaining they're not getting the same treatment. Blacks are not getting the same treatment as the whites." So, what was the story? We were a group there, ... down in Tallahassee, that trained units to go overseas to build airfields, Aviation Construction Battalions. These were one hundred percent black, except for the white officers. A lot of them knew they were going overseas. A lot of them didn't want to go overseas. They had vomiting, they had diarrhea, they had abdominal pain. Well, they had to be checked out, so, they would come into the hospital. Well, the Colonel was a Texan, so, we had a black ward and a white ward. So, the black ward, ... where the people with complaints were, was here, and then, you had the white ward next to it. It so happened that the white ward didn't have any patients who had gastrointestinal problems, so, when it came meal time, they got regular Army food. In the black ward, because there was a lot of vomiting and diarrhea, we gave them a ... bland diet. Well, they would sit there, and see all these good steaks go down the ward, and they would get all this mush. They'd complain that they weren't getting the same food as the other people, and some wrote up to New York, and they sent down people to investigate. So, those were serious problems in those days, but, ... Army medical life there was garrison life. It was the hospital, and you had meetings to go to, and exercise periods, and then, in the afternoon, you'd go home. It's an eight to four business. Now, when I was down in Lake Charles, it was very hot, and our day began at seven in the morning, ended at three in the afternoon, so you could get home before the heat of the day, but, it ... was pretty much what we were doing here.
KP: So, in other words, you were really doing what you were trained for.
NR: I was a doctor, I was a doctor, MD.
KP: Did you have to do other things?
NR: No, ... not at all, except what you have to do in the Army. There were lots of meetings you had to go to. ... We never had to do it, but, the doctors would inspect soldiers for venereal disease, short arm examinations, that sort of thing.
KP: You never got called out for one of those?
NR: No, no.
KP: You mentioned that the cases you got in the Army were very interesting and different cases and you saw people from a wide geographical area. Could you perhaps talk about the different types of cases?
NR: Yes. Well, for example, the CO of the hospital insisted on a stool examination of everybody who came from below the Mason-Dixon line. We found ... about eighty-five percent of them with hookworm infection, because they lived in the South with very rudimentary hygiene. ... It's interesting, you know, you'd never find eighty-five percent hookworm infection ...
KP: No, not today.
NR: Well, yes, but, that was back in 1944. ... They were very much conscious of this sort of thing. I saw a lot more venereal disease than I ever saw in my practice, because venereal disease in the Army was sort of a special thing. ... It was in medicine. In private life, most of my patients ... did not have venereal diseases. We had a great many psychiatric problems because of the pressures of war, you know, different things that turned up in peoples lives. So, the psychiatric department was very good, but, I didn't handle it. ... That was a different part of the hospital, the department of psychiatry, but, we saw more of those patients than I saw in civilian life. ... Again, because of our population being a younger population, you know, twenty, twenty-five, my practice, in general, was an older practice. I practice on older people with heart disease, so that I saw more of the problems ... of younger people. So, in that respect, it was a little different than what I would see at home.
KP: Were you surprised at how high the rates of VD were in the Army?
NR: ... Yes, well, I could understand it, because, you know, I was surprised, because I never saw it before.
KP: So, it was very rare in your private practice?
NR: Yes, and, you know, remember, these were young people ... in the Army, and there were prostitutes around, and health care was not the way it is today. So, ... we saw much more of it. We didn't see the tertiary effects of syphilis, for example, you know, these neurosyphillis, with brain damage, heart damage, that we would see after twenty or thirty years of syphilitic infection, because these were all primary or secondary disease. I recall one patient that died of meningoccemia, meningitis, that died in twenty-four hours, ... impressed upon me, and a patient with leukemia who died in a week. ... You never saw that in practice. In Alaska, when I was up there during assignment overseas, I had a very interesting experience. I was there about three weeks, I was chief of medicine, and I get a call from a Dr. Haglund, who was one of the doctors who lived in Fairbanks, there were only two doctors in Fairbanks during the war, asking me to see a patient in consultation at the local hospital. ... In the Army, ... they were very strict about civilian practice when you're in the Army. They allowed you, if there were no other doctors available for that particular work, to take care of it. So, I went to the hospital to see this elderly gentleman. It turns out ... to be the oldest living doctor in Alaska. He was seventy-four years old then. This was 1944. ... He was there with empyema of the gall bladder, possibly the worst kind of gall bladder disease, and he was in heart failure, shock, cardiogenic shock, and the reason they called me, I had the only penicillin in Alaska. The Army, in 1944, was beginning to get penicillin, see, but, not for civilian use. You couldn't go to a drug store and buy it. So, if I got involved, I could bring penicillin, which I did. ... We cured this doctor of his heart disease. ... So, he was very appreciative of it, and invited me to his home, afterwards, for a couple of parties, and introduced me to the local people, and I was the only internist up there. The two doctors were both surgeons, so, any time ... people had a problem ... with their lungs, or their heart, or arthritis, they would call me in consultation. ... So, I did develop a private practice. ... Towards the end of my time, I was making almost a thousand dollars a month up there, seeing private patients besides the Army. So, even though I was in the Army for two years in Alaska, it wasn't just military medicine. I was seeing a profile of general medicine.
KP: What was it like to live in Fairbanks, Alaska, in the 1940s?
NR: Rugged. First of all, as I said before, we were lucky that this was a permanent base, so, they had permanent quarters for the officers and ... for the enlisted men as well.
KP: It sounds like this existed before the war.
NR: Yes, 1940, this was built in 1940. It was a cold weather testing detachment where they tested airplanes on the ground at temperatures of minus forty-five or minus fifty with those kind of temperatures and the winds are bad. ... So, we had very ... nice quarters and the hospital was a very nice, well-equipped, little hospital. ... It was interesting, because it was a unique kind of life. ... The hospital took care of all the Indians. There was a significant naval detachment at Point Barrow. They were dredging for oil, so, there was a US naval detachment there. We were the public health service for the Indians, or anybody else, and then, we had a five thousand man detachment for the Russian military, because, at Fairbanks, we received the planes from the United States on lend-lease, you know about lend-lease, for the Russians, and the Russians had a contingent to take over these planes, and inspect them, and so forth. They had several thousand troops there. So, we saw a group of Russians that no one else saw. It was 1944 and they got sick.
KP: Would you treat them?
NR: And, I would treat them. ...
KP: What was it like to treat the Russians?
NR: Well, first of all, very few spoke English. A few of the officers did, and whenever someone got sick, they would bring them over. ... I'll never forget, there was this one fellow, a Captain (Malanovsky?). ... He came over, he spoke English well. ... He'd come over and he would explain to me what they were complaining about. ... They had the usual complaints. ... There were nine medical officers and six Russian officers to handle their contingent and we were taking care of all their health needs. So, they invited us for a Russian dinner in their quarters, and ... we got to their quarters, and they gave us a dinner, and we were drinking and drinking, and, as the evening went on, this fellow, (Malanovsky?), and I were talking, because he spoke English quite well, and he says to me, ... "Major, are you Jewish?" and I said, "Yes, I am." He said, "So, am I." He told me an interesting story. He says, "I've been a captain for ten years. I can't get promoted because I'm Jewish," in the Russian Army, Soviet Army. ... I have another interesting occasion. ...
The commanding officer of the Russian military unit was a major general, and we had on our base, of course, we had officers ... homes, you know, ... little houses, and he had his wife there, and she got sick, and she came over to see me. I figured out what it was. Routinely, we do serology, you know, draw a blood test for sugar, we draw blood for syphilis, comes back four plus, syphilis. ... How do you tell a Russian general that his wife has syphilis? So, she had little skin eruptions of some sort, so, I said to him, "General," I said, "your wife has a very unusual skin eruption. I don't like the way it looks. ... I've seen no cases like this. I would like to send you down to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, DC, let your wife get diagnosed and treated down there." I was out of my jurisdiction. Well, he was very glad to get sent to Washington during the war. So, he and his wife ... went to Washington and they had to tell them that she had syphilis. So, you know, there are so many different stories.
KP: This is interesting, because we have not interviewed many people who had this much contact with the Russians during the war. The United States did not even recognize the Soviet Union until 1933.
NR: That's right.
KP: How did you feel about the Russians, especially since your parents had fled Russia?
NR: I had no feeling about that. ... They had left Russia in 1890, so, it was no question. ...
-----------------------------------------END OF TAPE TWO SIDE ONE---------------------------------------
NR: ... I had no connection at all with the people there. So, I had no personal connections with Russia.
KP: Did you have any ideas of what communists were like or what the Russians were like before you met them?
NR: Well, ... I knew it was a bad society, and a poor society, and I didn't agree with Stalin and what he stood for. You know, he had ... this business with the Jewish doctors. He killed fifteen Jewish doctors because he thought they were trying to poison him. You know, that sort of a thing, but, ... I must say, ... they were GIs like our GIs.
KP: I get the sense that they acted in many of the same ways.
NR: Yes, I would think so. ... I never had any trouble with them. ... February 25th is Red Army Day and they gave the entire base a party. In the Officer's Club dining room, we had tables set. There were tables of eight, three and three and two Russian officers ... at either end. ... Of course, before you began to eat anything, the Major General stood up, and he got a glass, not a shot glass, but, like an orange juice glass, full of vodka. ... He stands up, and he gives a tribute, a toast to Stalin, and, you know, you drink, you take a little sip, and you take a little sip after that, "Nyet, nyet, bottoms up." [laughter] I had six ounces of vodka in one shot, and then, of course, they started Roosevelt, and this one, and that one. It was quite an evening.
KP: So, it sounds like there was a lot of interaction between the Russians and the Americans.
NR: Well, there wasn't that much, just on these occasions. I would see them for their medical problems. They were on the other side of the field there. They had a hanger on the other side of the field from where we were and ... they were really separate. We didn't see them in town.
KP: They did not go into town?
NR: ... No, I never saw them in Fairbanks. ... They were there, they picked up these P-40s and P-47s, these fighter planes, for the most part. ... They could only fly a couple hundred miles. They couldn't fly any distance. So, we had air bases from Great Falls, Montana, where they started, up to Fairbanks. They'd go to Port St. John, then, they'd go to Alberta, then, Calgary, ... then, they'd go up to another place in the Yukon, then, they had two stops in Alaska, Northway, ... and some other place, then, to Fairbanks.
SC: So, you really never had any discussions with them about politics or anything?
NR: ... No, I never did and they didn't offer anything. The only question was this Jewish officer ... complaining about not getting promoted. [laughter] ... They were two very interesting years. ... I met a lot of people, made a lot of friends, I had a lot of experiences. ... My wife, of course, knew I was perfectly safe. [laughter] I was far away from any combat and we had a telephone. ... I took care of an officer who was in the Army Communications Service and he arranged for me to call my wife once a week, so, I would call her.
KP: That must have been quite a privilege.
NR: This was back during the war, when they had no connections, and I was able, through him, to call my wife. ... At the beginning, I'd go downtown to ... their headquarters, but, then, ... I would have a call put through at one o'clock and I'd have my lunch at twelve. ... I'd go up to my room, and I'd lie on the bed, the phone would ring, and there would be my wife. This is fifty years ago. It was eons ago.
KP: Yes, long distance calls were really the exception then. Now, it would not be a big deal.
NR: ... That's right. A couple of weeks ago, the phone rang, "Hello, Grandpa? This is Sammy." My grandson is in Moscow. [laughter] He called to find out how we were. He's on the, you know, third year abroad program.
KP: You wrote in the Rutgers Alumni Magazine several accounts of being in Alaska and, in one of them, you wrote about running into Ted Brick, Class of '34. I do not know if you remember him.
NR: ... Very well, very well. I talked about him just the other day. I got up to Fairbanks and, before I got my regular quarters, we were assigned to a Quonset hut. ... He came in, a group of three or four officers came in, and we had footlockers, and I had to move my footlocker. So, I turned around to this lieutenant and I said, "If you help with my locker, I'll help you with yours." So, he helped me with mine, and I helped him with his, and I said, ... "Thanks," and I looked at him, and I said, "You know, you look familiar. I've seen you somewheres before." I said, "Where'd you go to college?" He says, "Rutgers." I said, "What's your name?" He said, "Ted Brick." He was two years behind me, and he was a DEKE and I was a Phi Ep, and the houses were catty-corner, sort of, and we used to play ball, the two fraternities, you know, play catch, ball. ... I knew he was a swimmer. He was a champion swimmer. ... Over the years, I've seen him, and I was speaking to Don Dickerson the other day, who's a member of the Class of 1934, and I asked him about him. He says he writes to him, because they're classmates, they correspond. So, I gave him my regards. He was a sweet, swell guy. One day, he said to me, "Get a VOCO and come to the flight line." He was a rubber engineer. His job was to test the rubber connections on these airplanes in all kinds of weather. So, VOCO was Verbal Order Commanding Officer. In other words, you don't have to go through a whole business of filling out forms. The commanding officer says, "Okay," it's okay. So, I met him and there was a big B-29. This was when they were flying B-29s. ... We get in this plane, and it takes off, and it goes west. ... We're flying hour, after hour, after hour and he's checking all the connections. After about seven or eight hours, he lands on an isolated little strip in the Aleutians. Did you ever hear of Shemya? ...
KP: It sounds familiar.
NR: You've heard of Attu?
KP: Oh, yes.
NR: Well, Shemya ... was just west of Attu, where they did all of the bombing of northern Japan during World War II. So, it was nothing but a 10,000-foot runway. It was a flat thing. ... We got there, we went out, went to the little officers' club, had some coffee and a sandwich, and, in about a half an hour, got back in the plane, took off, and flew south over the Pacific, ended up at Hickham Field, Hawaii, Honolulu. Again, we got out, stretched our legs, got back in the plane, he flies east, Hamilton Field, San Francisco. Get back on the plane, it goes north, back to the Ladd Field in Fairbanks. They wanted to test these connections in all kinds of weather, arctic weather, ... in the Aleutians, there's a lot of rain, then, when you get down south, it's humid, and San Francisco is temperate. They wanted to see how the connections reacted ... to the changes in the temperature. So, that was quite a ride. [laughter]
KP: That must have been a lot of hours in the plane.
NR: ... That's right, but, it was a big, good plane. Not very comfortable, but, a very good airplane. [laughter]
SC: What was your training in military medicine like?
NR: Well, for the one thing, ... we had one day of field maneuvers down in, I think it was down at Dale Marry Field, in Tallahassee. ... We went out for maneuvers, we did sleep out on the ground, we had to run down the line, ... the clinic, and then, of course, we had to learn about the diseases that you see in military medicine. ... For example, a gastrointestinal infection was always a very serious thing, because that could go through a ... whole unit. ... We had to learn how to handle a lot of battlefield casualties. ... I'm talking about myself, but, the doctors in training. ... There's a whole big manual on military medicine. ... It's a specialty in itself, the problems that come up, so that, that was what I meant by that training. It's all part of basic training. You have six weeks of training at Carlisle barracks, which is the headquarters for that.
KP: Did you ever fire a gun at Carlisle?
NR: Never. ... That's one thing we never had. We marched, and we learned how to precision drill, and how to salute, and what to say, and what not to say, and then, of course, ... this is a funny experience, a friend of mine ... was in the class before me. So, he got all the training and I was two weeks behind him. So, he was telling me, ... one time, they wanted to simulate a battlefield experience. So, they had us marching on the road, and then, they ... had a dummy bomb go off in the road. ... They taught us how to use gas masks. So, they put me as a point, ... the fellow in front of the whole regiment, and Lou said to me, "Remember, when you get to the end of that road, just before you take the turn to the right, that's where they're going to put the bomb, see, the explosion's ... in the road." ... Of course, when you do that, you're supposed to yell, "Bomb," or something. So, I was more concerned about gas. See, they had taught us about the gas attacks and we all had gas masks. So, I'm walking in front, the bomb goes off, and I yell, "Gas," and the whole goddamn regiment took off their gas masks. [laughter] It was not a bomb, ... I thought it was a gas attack. [laughter] That was one of the funnier things that happened there, but, there were many, many experiences that you have.
KP: You mentioned that you had pretty comfortable quarters in Alaska because this was a permanent base. What was the food like in Alaska?
NR: ... Well, we had very good food. First of all, we were in a garrison, so, it wasn't cooking in, you know, ... field conditions. ... We had regular, you know, food, and ... most of it was very good. We had a fellow named Keith Something-Or-Other who was the base veterinary officer, and, when the food would come up from the States, it would be frozen. He would make an inspection of the food, and the best steaks, he would condemn. [laughter] He'd tell his sergeant, "You take these steaks and bring them over to the hospital, so we can dispose of them." ... Of course, that night, we'd all have steaks for dinner. [laughter] ... At all the places I was at, ... I lived in apartments. We rented apartments. ...
KP: So, you did not live on the base.
NR: I didn't live on the base, no. I was married and had children, so, ... we lived in a regular apartment. We could get an apartment wherever we went. ... It was nice. ... I was on my way overseas, we were in Quonset huts, you know, ... out in California, and up in Seattle, and when we got to Anchorage. It was living in, what they called, Quonset huts. Then, we got to Fairbanks. It was different up there. There, I had very comfortable lodgings.
KP: Your quarters in Fairbanks, were they on the base?
NR: Yes, yes, they were an integral part. ... There was a quadrangle, or a big circle, and we had the Officer's Club here, and ... the officer's homes here, and then, ... the administration was here, and the hanger was here. ... All these building were connected underground. This was 1940.
KP: This was a very permanent base.
NR: Yes. ... The movies was underground. If you wanted to go to the movies, it was underground. If you wanted to go to chapel, it was underground. If you wanted to go to the PX, it was underground. So, what happened, after a little while, people stopped dressing with their Arctic clothing. They would have on a pair of old slacks and a shirt, and, maybe, a little jacket, but, we would go around that way, because we knew that we were heated. ... I was very fortunate. Those were always comfortable quarters.
KP: How big was the hospital at the base?
NR: It was a 206 station hospital. I guess it was about 150 beds. It was a very healthy command. Oddly enough, there was very little disease up there. ... If you got an epidemic, you know, you had one epidemic of pneumonia went through, but, we ... didn't have a lot of the diseases that you find in the tropics or you find elsewhere. ... We had a lot of problems ... with the Indians, we treated them with various diseases. ... They were interesting, because these Indians had never seen an automobile, you know. ...
KP: You had written about that in the alumni column, that they were used to the planes.
NR: Planes, they were used to. ... This one fellow we picked up once, we flew him from a village 400 miles with a little (Cessna?), a single motor plane, but, ... it was a ski plane. It could land on the snow or the ice. ... We brought this guy in, he got out, we put him in an ambulance, we closed the doors to drive him to the hospital, yelling, and screaming, and pounding, and stopped it, he jumped out of the ambulance. He was scared to death. He had never seen a vehicle, a motorized vehicle.
KP: So, did you actually go up to this village?
NR: Yes, ... I was the medical officer, I had to go up to see ... what was wrong. Actually, he had ... glaucoma.
KP: Eskimos do not live the way they used to live anymore. I mean, you had a very rare experience.
NR: ... Oh, sure, we saw them, and, you know, through Dr. Sutherland, this other doctor, he practiced there, you know, for many years. He came up in 1906, during the Yukon Gold Rush, and he had so many stories to tell, you know, I can't begin to tell these stories. He came there on a raft. He was Canadian. He was from Toronto and, of course, he heard about a gold rush, so, he took the train to Vancouver, and the ship up, and he finally got to the Yukon River, and he was going up to Yukon City. ... He was on a raft. ... Most of his possessions were gone. Anyhow, he gets to this town, this frontier town, ... little walks on the street, everything is mud, and, ... above the pharmacy, he ... moved into two rooms, and lived there, and that was his office. How was he going to get patients? No one knew him. Well, the one thing he saved from this river trip was a silk shirt with a stiff collar and stiff cuffs. He got up in the morning, he put on this shirt with a collar, and a tie, and cuffs, real formal. He took his medical bag and he walked the length of this town to what was then the little hospital. He walked in, and sat down for ten minutes, then, he walked back to his room. Ten minutes later, he walked back again to the hospital. He did this a half a dozen times and he had a practice. [laughter] Well, I had a patient there I visited. He was a patient with diabetes. He's got very bad diabetes, diabetic ulcers on his legs. He came from Connecticut. You know, he originally ... was a prospector. ... He apparently couldn't get any gold, so, he bought some land there, outside of Fairbanks, and he had a little farm. ... One day, he wasn't doing well and they asked me to see him. ... I would go, because, you know, it would be something to do, and I drove out there. ... I got to a road, a little dirt road. He told me to take this road, and, around it, it looked like the mountains of the moon, big excavations, big craters, all over the place. ... I get to the end of this thing, and there's this little shack, and a couple of acres of scrubby potatoes were behind him. I said, "What's this all about?" He said, "Well, this area, they found gold. The farmers couldn't dig it out because the ground was frozen," permafrost. You know, it's cold there. So, these big mining companies come in and they offer the farmers 250,000 dollars for their land. ... Then, they'd move to Southern California, and the mining company would come in ... with this heavy equipment, and would dig out all the gold. So, I said, "Well, everyone is gone but you. ... Why didn't you go?" He said, "Go? Where would I grow my potatoes?" [laughter] It was that sort of a situation.
KP: He must have been an odd duck.
NR: Yes. No, we ... had very many good times there.
KP: It sounds like, with a healthy clientele, you would have been bored if there were not these other challenges, the Eskimos and the people of Fairbanks.
NR: ... Yes, that's right. ... We'd take trips up to the Arctic Circle, Nome, and we'd go ... down the AlCan Highway, which was a very primitive road in those days, and visit some of ... these bases. ... It was life in the raw. ...
KP: What about the weather? You mentioned having to use tunnels.
NR: Well, again, ... first of all, in the winter, it's very cold. I was out in sixty degree below zero weather. ... On the other hand, in the summertime, it's so warm that you can play tennis in your shorts. It's like ninety degree weather. Of course, in the summertime, it's daylight all the time. They have a baseball game that begins at midnight, June 21. ... At night, during, I mean, like, December, it was totally dark, except for about an hour, like twelve o'clock, eleven-thirty to twelve-thirty. It would be just light enough that you could see where you were, but, then, by one o'clock, if I had lunch and went back to the hospital to make rounds at one o'clock, it was like the middle of the night.
KP: What does that do to peoples' rhythms?
NR: Well, it affects their rhythms and, particularly, in many people, it produces depression, the constant darkness. We see that in Sweden, the biggest suicide rate in the world, in a modern country. ... If a day comes in Stockholm where the sun comes out, you see all the office workers ... leaving their offices, coming out to see the sunshine. So, ... we did have a lot of depression up there.
KP: Drinking is a real problem with Army life in general. I would imagine these conditions would make it worse.
NR: We had two kinds of drinking there. First of all, we had the ordinary drinking, you know, that would occur in the Officer's Clubs, or in the PX, that sort of thing, but, then, we had a different drinking with the Indians. They would drink. They would learn to drink, you know, and the bars, or the taverns, would sell them alcohol. If you wanted a bottle of Canadian Club Whiskey, you had to buy two bottles. ... In other words, on the shelves, there would be two bottles and the Canadian Club, and you had to buy the three bottles to get the Canadian Club. ... The other was rot gut, which was terrible whisky. So, one of our biggest problems, when you were on Saturday night, you always got a half a dozen Indians coming in vomiting blood, because ... they were drinking so much of this terrible stuff. So, you had that sort of thing to deal with. No, it wasn't a big problem, but, without it, it was pretty hard to carry on. ... I'll never forget, I took care of this officer from the Communications Service, the guy ... arranging my telephone calls. Came Christmas, and he brought me a bottle of Scotch, and he brought the radiologist who took the X-rays, did the GI series, a bottle of Scotch. So, after he left, Hunter opened up his bottle. He had Black and White, which is a regular Scotch, and I got a bottle of, what's the big company up there? ... Not Royal Canadian, oh, Hudson Bay, the Hudson Bay Corporation is a big supplying corporation. Hudson Bay Scotch, I never heard of it. I was mad, because he got the good Scotch and I got some terrible thing. So, it was Christmas Eve. I brought it down to the bar, the Officer's Club bar, I put my name on it and opened it up, I don't know how much you drink, it was the smoothest Scotch I ever drank. It was wonderful. [laughter] I couldn't take the bottle back, because it was there with my name on it. By the evening, everybody finished the bottle. Well, you know, it's a very hard Scotch to get, but, it happens to be one of the best Scotches.
KP: You had not realized.
NR: ... I used to drink it, ... here at home, for many years. ... There were so many interesting times. ... In 1946, after I got back from the service, ... I wanted to get retooled, and the American College of Physicians was giving a series of courses, and one of them was up at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, McGill University. It was a two week course. So, I went up there, and, for the weekend, I invited my wife to come up. ... In those days, you came by train, you didn't fly up. So, I'm here at the train shed, and she's walking down, ... wave to her, and she's walking with a lovely young lady carrying a violin case. ... She said, "Oh, hello, Major Reitman, remember me, remember me?" I said, "No, I don't." "Remember the Allies Room?" The Allies Room had the best food in town, but, it was the officers' brothel upstairs, you see. ... Downstairs was the dining room. ...
KP: What town was this in?
NR: In Fairbanks. ... The Allies Room meant one thing to most of the officers. I remember, I was there, and a friend of mine, one of the medical officers, they had a group that came through for the social services, a symphonia, women's orchestra, and Bill knew one of the girls, and he asked me, the girl had a friend, and he was inviting her out for dinner to the Allies Room, would I take this friend along? So, the two couples went out, and we had a lovely steak dinner, and we went home. To most people, the Allies Room was one of the brothels. ... I had to explain that to my wife. ... [laughter]
KP: It was just a club?
NR: It was a club. ... It was a restaurant, basically, the best steakhouse in Fairbanks. Everybody that wanted a good steak went to the Allies Room, but, upstairs, they took care of the officers. [laughter]
KP: Did the enlisted men have a separate brothel?
NR: Oh, yes, they had Fourth Street.
KP: Fourth Street was where the action was.
NR: Oh, yes, the red light district. ... There, the prostitutes lived in Wannigans. A Wannigan was a two-room shack with a floor that wasn't attached to a foundation, so you could move it around from place to place. ... They were arranged on both sides of a street, and the girls, just like in Amsterdam, would sit in the window, with shade up, and you'd walk down the street, and you could pick out whoever you wanted. Once you went in, she's occupied, she pulled the shade down. So, you never knocked on the door. ... One night, ... Dr. Sutherland invited me for dinner. I went to his home and he had a group of friends there. No food, no food, something to drink, and, after about an hour or so, he said, "We're all going to dinner at Mary's place," and he marches us, men and women, these are older people, too, ... right down to Fourth Street, and I don't know what the mores are of these people, and I am walking down Fourth Street, past all these Wannigans, the shades are up and down, and they keep on walking, and, at the end of the street, there was a larger log cabin. ... We come in, and two lovely young women take our coats, and these are women in their 60s, you know, and men in their 50s and 60s. These were the bankers, and the hardware store owners, and so forth, so, I don't know what was expected, and then, they opened another door and we go inside a banquet room. Well, here we are, in the middle of the winter, 6000 miles away from what we call civilization. The table was set with the most delicate chinaware, crystalware, silverware, doilies. They served us a dinner equal of any four-star restaurant in New York. It was just incredible. See, the people up there, these people who could establish themselves, money meant nothing to them. It was creature comforts they wanted, because outside was the wilderness. So, they would buy anything and bring it up there to make their home more livable. They had hi-fis ... that didn't exist here. [laughter] There were many experiences of that sort.
KP: The wilderness was not that far away and Fairbanks was not a very big city then.
NR: You had to be very careful and there's a discipline of how to behave, particularly in the cold weather. You had to dress, ... for example, they had felt shoes. Felt is impervious to heat or cold. ... You were issued, Army issue, double soled socks, long socks. ... Of course, you wore a shirt, trousers, and you had a parka, and you had gloves, and god forbid you lose a glove, and your fingers you'd get frostbitten. In sixty seconds, you'd lose your fingers. So, you had to be very careful. Once, we were out on an inspection trip on the AlCan Highway and the car ... begins to sputter. ... It gets on top of a hill and it dies. Well, I was the oldest officer in this group, so, they gave me a telephone, and the only communication was the telephone wire that extended ... from down in the States to Fairbanks, out in the wilderness, and this telephone had an extension. It had two clips on it, so, if you ever needed to get telephone communication, you would extend the thing up, and attach the clips to the other wire up there, and then, you'd get connected. So, I immediately took this out, rang it up, ... and we got ... Northway, which was about ten miles away, and we were going to inspect it. So, what happened, and, of course, immediately, as soon as the car died, the heat stopped and it was freezing, like minus forty degrees. ... This grizzled sergeant comes out with a little field jacket on. We tell him what's the matter, and, of course, one thing you learn is, when you took a trip like that, bring your own liquor along, because you're not going to find it anywheres else. So, we had a couple of bottles of ... whiskey there. ... "You've got a bottle of whiskey?" "Yes." "Let me have one." Opens up the gas tank, and he dumps in a bottle of whiskey, start the motor. Makes the sound of a motor starting. Whiskey is alcohol. Alcohol lowers the freezing point. The water in the gasoline froze, blocking the gas line. ... We drove into town on a bottle of whiskey. [laughter]
KP: While you were in Alaska, your son was born.
NR: My son was born just before I went. He was born ... before I went into the service. He was born in February, 1943 and I was called into service in May of 1943.
KP: So, you did not see your son for very long.
NR: Well, I saw him, because... he was born in February of '43, and then, ... I was called ... to go to Carlisle in September, even though I became an officer in May. So, I was home, and then, after, for a year, I was in the States.
KP: So, you did get to see him.
NR: Until May, '44. So, he traveled with us.
KP: So, your wife followed you around the States.
KP: It was only to Alaska that she did not follow.
NR: Yes. She always wanted to go there. ... I took her there about ten years ago.
KP: When you went back ten years ago, was that the first time you had been back?
NR: To Fairbanks. I had gone up there. ... We stopped off at Anchorage on a trip to the Orient, but, I hadn't been to Fairbanks until we took this trip up there.
KP: What was it like?
NR: A different world. The thing I'll never forget, first of all, ... we landed at the same field. It is now called Camp Wainwright, ... the fellow who was in charge of the contingent in Luzon, who surrendered. ... It was called Camp Wainwright, Ladd Field. ... It was the same field and I could see the buildings were still there. We came out ... to what would be the main street and there were a whole cluster of traffic lights. We never saw a traffic light up there before. [laughter] ... You know, all the streets were then paved. When I was there, there was one paved street. So, ... we found a lot together, and I found one of the doctors I ... was very friendly with during the time I was there.
KP: He was still up there?
NR: He was up there. We spent a nice day together with him. ... It was very nice, but, different. ... It must have been in the early '80s, maybe, and this was in the '40s, a forty year difference. Well, where are we? ...
KP: Did you stay in touch with any of the people that you served with for any period of time?
NR: ... Yes. Oddly enough, none of the medical people. I was never with a large medical unit. I was always an individual medical officer assigned to different places. ... I must say that I had no contact with the medical officers that I knew, but, I met several people in Alaska that I became quite friendly with, and, for several years after I came home, we would see them. One particular woman came from Connecticut. ... When she went to visit her family in Connecticut, we often visited them. Another lived in Long Island, so, we see them. Oddly enough, about two years ago, I was in Florida, and a mutual friend met the base finance officer, who had been an accountant in private life, with whom we were very friendly. ... They were living in Florida, near where we were, and we've met them several times since then, but, it's interesting, you know. We were very close during the Army, and, of course, we got together, it was wonderful, we embraced each other, and remember this, and remember that, but, after two meetings, it sort of petered out, because it was fifty years ago.
KP: Also, you never joined any veterans organizations.
NR: No. ... I didn't believe in it. I shouldn't say that. The veterans organizations, you know, I was ... a citizen-soldier. I mean, ... I served in the Army, I didn't try to get out of the Army, but, I was anxious to get back with my life. ... My life was to be a doctor, and a husband, and a parent.
KP: How shocked were you when you gained full knowledge of what had gone on in Germany? You said that in 1934 you knew some things.
NR: ... We knew, from the materials that were coming through, about the horrors of ... what came to be called the Holocaust, the terrible death camps. We knew about that. It was shocking to me, but, it wasn't something that I did not know and, suddenly, I learned about it.
KP: It sounds like the extent shocked you, but, not the whole phenomenon.
NR: That's right. ... I knew that the Jews were being decimated, destroyed, in the attempt to clean out the entire population. ... It's amazing, before the war, there was a large anti-Zionist movement in America, but, after the war, the country became, the Jewish population became, one hundred percent Zionist.
SC: What was the reaction of the medical community to the human experimentation?
NR: Well, it was part of what they were doing to people. ... They weren't human beings. They were doing terrible things. ... That was shocking, too, just as much as taking babies and burning them up for no reason. It was a shocking time. ... All right.
KP: Well, thank you very much.
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Reviewed by Scott Ceresnak
Reviewed by Eve Snyder
Reviewed by Shaun Illingworth 1/5/00
Reviewed by Sandra Stewart Holyoak 1/25/00
Reviewed by Dr. Norman Reitman 4/12/00