Kurt Piehler: This begins an interview with Mr. Fred H. Quantmeyer, Jr. on July 7, 1998 in New York City with Kurt Piehler and Eve Snyder. I'd like to begin by asking you about your father, who was a true Rutgers man, even though he never officially graduated. Could you talk a little bit about your father at Rutgers?
Fred Quantmeyer: Well, my father was in the Class of 1922, and he entered there in 1917 as an Army Specialized [Training Program] student and was only able to attend Rutgers for one year, or two semesters, when the war finished. He was there at the same time with Paul Robeson, and he became a very, very loyal son. He never graduated from Rutgers, but he was the person that instigated me to go back to college and to go to Rutgers. … From about 1945 on, until a couple of years before his death in '97, he never missed a reunion. I would go every five years, but he went every year. Even though he never graduated, he became a Loyal Son, and he also became the "Old Guard." As I said, there was no one more loyal than my father.
KP: You mentioned that your father was in the Army in World War I.
FQ: Well, that was what, in World War II, it was called the Army Specialized Training Program, and they would send people that had to take tests, and then they would go to college under the Army and in uniform and march, and so forth and so on. So he did that for the year, as long as the Army funded him.
KP: So he did that not at Rutgers but at …
FQ: No, at Rutgers. He did that at Rutgers, but I did it at Syracuse.
KP: So that's how he came to Rutgers.
FQ: That's all he had at Rutgers was the time he was there under the Army.
KP: So in many ways, the ending of World War I cut his college education.
FQ: That finished him. That was the end of his college education. When he went home to his parents, his parents said, "We're sorry, but we do not have the money to send you to college."
KP: It sounds like your father was very disappointed at not being able to finish.
FQ: Extremely disappointed. I never understood why eventually, in later years, that he didn't go and get a degree, because he always felt that he'd missed out on that.
KP: You also mentioned that your father knew Paul Robeson.
FQ: Oh, I've got pictures of my father standing [next to Robeson]. My father was six-two, six-two and a half, and Paul Robeson was big, and they stood side-by-each in the Army formation. Paul Robeson was ahead of him in the class, because Dad was class of '22, and I think Paul Robeson was older, but in the Army and in uniform, they were height-wise together.
ES: Did they take classes together?
FQ: I don't know. I think if it was anything like when I went to Syracuse, I'm not sure, but we marched to class, and we did everything as if we were in the service. In fact, I didn't want to go back to college after I was at Syracuse, because Syracuse University, or any university, was the way the Army treated everyone. I thought, "I'm not going to go marching to class, with everything so regimented." But, anyway, my father talked me into trying it out. I loved it.
Eve Snyder: Just because Paul Robeson is one of the famous Rutgers alumni, did your father say anything about Paul Robeson?
FQ: Oh, he thought very highly of him. In fact, as a kid, I remember going to see the movie where Paul Robeson played the part of an African chief. I remember going to the movie. My father said, "You have to go and see this, because I was in college with this gentleman," and you know, "he was an outstanding athlete." It's not the Othello black part. It's the other one, because he's in like a leopard skin. But I still remember this …
KP: Your father sounds like he was very proud of the connection with Paul Robeson.
FQ: Extremely proud, I mean, very proud.
KP: What did he think of Paul Robeson in the '50s when he started to get into communism?
FQ: I don't think he ever got down on him. I think he stayed [supportive], because I think he always thought of him as an outstanding person. I never heard him say anything disparaging, nothing.
KP: After your father found out he couldn't go back to college, what did he do?
FQ: He became a draftsman, and he worked for, it was in construction. He became a draftsman and worked for Turner Construction that's still well known in the City. … Then he went and worked for Pease and Ellerman, and he was in real estate up until the crash. In fact, I have a letter on the wall from Enrico Caruso to my father, because somehow he was involved with him in some real estate deal. He used to sell real estate over in the seventies on the West Side … He was married. I was around when the crash came, and he said that for two years he didn't make one sale or one red cent. So when the crash came, we owned a home in River Edge, and he sold that home. … My grandfather had some buildings, which he was building. My father and mother sold their home. We went to live with my grandparents, and they took the money from the home and opened a hardware store, and also the buildings, put some of it to add buildings, which my grandfather used to live happy up to the day [he died]. He was eighty-six; he was in his eighty-sixth year when he died.
KP: You come from a family of people that lived to very old ages.
FQ: On one side of the family. One side is great. … My father's mother made it to ninety-six, my father's father made it to eighty-six, [and] my father made it to ninety-seven. But then forget my mother's side.
KP: Although it sounds like your father took a real cut in the standard of living during the Depression, it sounds like your family did fairly well before the crash.
FQ: He was doing very well, because I still have some of the things they had before the crash, and then we went to live with my grandparents, which was a different style of living, but I never felt poor. I mean, there was always an income. … My grandfather had retired in his late forties and bought property in Rivervale, a big piece of property, and he moved to Rivervale, NJ in 1911. … Anytime he needed a couple of bucks, he would sell a piece of property. … He lived to eighty-six, and he took some minor jobs … He never had a lot of money, but he, as I said, we never felt poor.
KP: How did your father like running the hardware store?
FQ: Anything my father got involved in, he got involved so deeply that he would drive me crazy, out of your mind. … My poor stepmother, when they went on vacation, they would visit hardware stores throughout New England. Then he got involved in the library in Harrington Park, and when they went on vacation, they visited libraries throughout New England. So he would drive you out of your mind.
KP: It sounds like whatever your father did, he did it well. I mean, he went to Rutgers and he became very loyal ...
KP: Then the hardware store.
FQ: When I was a kid, he was involved with semi-pro ball in Bergen County. The only time we could go on a picnic was if it rained on a Sunday. Otherwise, we had to go to baseball games. It took me a long time to get over hating baseball. [laughter] Eventually, I enjoyed it, because I have some knowledge of it, because, as a kid, I grew up with the game.
KP: How did your parents meet?
FQ: I'm not sure how my parents met. They were both from Bergen County. I'm not even sure why they got married, because they were complete opposites, so, but I don't know how they met. My mother grew up in Bergen County, and my father did, but I don't know for sure how they met …
KP: … Did you ever work in your father's store?
FQ: Oh, after I got out of the Air Force, the second time, I went back and put thirty-three years in … Back to the grandparents, my grandfather built the business stores in the 1930s, '30, '31, and he used them as income, and then my father had the hardware store. … Then when my grandfather died, they were passed onto my father, and then when my father retired, I took over the hardware business, but I had worked some years with him. … Then prior to my father's death, I took over the buildings, and prior to my retirement, my son now owns the buildings.
KP: So these buildings have been in the family since …
FQ: My grandfather built the buildings in 1911, I mean, bought the property in 1911.
FQ: So my grandfather bought the property probably in 1911, and they built business properties in 1930. Then, of course, a piece of adjacent business property that was vacant all these years, just before I retired, I sold the vacant lots. My son took over the buildings and bought back the vacant lot that I had sold. [laughter] So now he has the whole entity back again.
KP: Where is this located?
FQ: Harrington Park, New Jersey.
KP: On the main street?
FQ: If you want to call any street in Harrington Park a main street, yes. It's the business section of Harrington Park.
KP: When you were in school, did you ever work in your father's business?
FQ: Oh, sure, and not only that, I used to love snow days, because they had all flat roofs, and we had to shovel off the roof. So when there was a heavy snow, my father would say, you know, "Don't go to school today," you know, "the roof has to be shoveled." Yes, I did work in the business and so did my sons. They grew up with it, but then, we got rid of, because it's no longer a good business.
KP: When did you leave the hardware business?
FQ: In 1986, when I turned over the buildings and liquidated the hardware store.
KP: So the hardware store had quite a long run.
FQ: Oh, yeah. It had fifty-some-odd years, fifty-five years, I guess.
KP: What about growing up in Bergen County?
FQ: I loved it. I mean, Harrington Park was, it was ideal. I spent from one to three in River Edge, three to ten in Rivervale, and from ten to '81, 1981, in Harrington Park, and so I saw quite a change in it. When we first moved to Harrington Park, there were about 1,300 people living there, and not only did Harrington Park change, but Bergen County changed. I mean, do you know Paramus, where all the malls are? They used to be celery farms. They were all farms. … When my mother grew up in Teaneck, she grew up on a horse farm, and she said there were always approximately 200 horses on this huge horse farm. So there have been vast changes.
KP: From farms to malls.
FQ: Oh, sure. When we moved to Harrington Park, my father had built a home for speculation. It was a four-room, Cape Cod cottage and built on a fifty-by-one-hundred [property]. … He tried to sell it for 6,750 dollars, and he couldn't sell it, so we moved in. From the kitchen window to the school was approximately three to four blocks. There was one house between our kitchen window and the school, and now it's all homes. So there's been a vast change. I mean, Harrington Park was a good percentage of farms, when I was a kid. Now, there's nothing left as far as farms.
ES: So I'm guessing you used to run wild in the fields.
FQ: They used to hunt in the fields behind my house. … We used to swim in the river. When I was between junior and senior years of high school, I worked at Grand Central Station, because they used any available body, that was a male body, that they could get in the baggage department. … We used to come home on the four-twenty train, I think it was, and we would be so dirty from the baggage. We didn't go home. We used to go down to the river and wash off, you know, when it was hot, and so you'd go swimming. But now, you can't. The water, forget it.
KP: How long did you do that for?
FQ: Just for the summer.
KP: Which summer was it?
FQ: Summer of '43.
KP: Which area was it?
FQ: It was the Grand Central. We had a pass. The railroad, West Shore Division of N.Y. Central, went through Harrington Park, at that time, still does, but only freight … We had a pass, and you would go from Harrington Park, and it would end up in Weehawken. Then you took the ferry across the Hudson and the trolley to Grand Central Station. … We used to run around the station in these, they were electric go-carts, and load them with the baggage. You know, you'd throw the baggage and unload it and then bring it in for the people. That area, we knew the station in and out, because we were running around all day in these little, electric go-carts. It was a fabulous summer.
KP: It sounds like it was great.
FQ: Oh, it was great, I mean, for a sixteen-year-old kid. Well, one of the girls in our high school, her father was the man that did the hiring for the Grand Central Station, so, as I said, anybody that was a male that could lift anything, they were hired. All we had to do was go and be interviewed by her father, and then you were on.
KP: It sounds like you were doing this with your friends, too.
FQ: Yeah, there were a couple of us, three or four of us. Then we'd go on the train. I think we took the six-twenty train, the six-twenty-eight train in the morning, and we had the free pass.
KP: You probably saw quite a few servicemen at the Grand Central Station.
FQ: Oh, sure, it was loaded with them … We used to see all the troop trains that went through Harrington Park, because Camp Shanks was just north of us … When the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth, I don't know, one of them before it (Normandie) burned, why when they loaded those, the trains would just go through Harrington Park day and night, continuously.
KP: The war must have seemed so immediate to see all these troop trains going through.
FQ: It was. I mean, it was there, and not only that, we used to see, well, we didn't see him, but Roosevelt would go through up to Hyde Park. But then, you know, everything would be curtained off, and he'd go zipping through, but you'd know whose train it was, because it was obvious … Well, one thing that I will always remember, there were six kids, young men, from Harrington Park that were killed, and I knew five of them very well. There was one that I didn't know, because he lived at the northern end of town, but the others [I knew]. One kid lived right down the street from me. So it was there. But not that it was gloomy or overpowering, because I even think, even going into the service, you didn't think [about death]. Again, I guess it's youth and stupidity, but you didn't think, going in at seventeen or eighteen, that anything was going to happen to you.
KP: So you weren't scared that you might get killed.
FQ: Oh, no. I enlisted. [laughter]
KP: You didn't even wait for your number to be called.
FQ: No. Well, see, again, I was sixteen through my whole senior year of high school, and in May, I was seventeen. What the Army would do and the Navy would do and most of the services, they would test people, and if you hit certain scores, they would send you and they would call you ASTRP. Rutgers had it. So they sent me to Syracuse, and I did three semesters of work in Syracuse. … Then when I hit eighteen, they would send you to basic training, and if your scores or your grades were high enough in your Reserve specialized training, they would send you back. But when I hit eighteen, the war just ended. … I still got the GI Bill.
KP: But you didn't get to go back.
FQ: What happened was I went on active duty from Syracuse, and from there, I went to Camp Wheeler, Georgia, and from there, I went to Fort Benning in Georgia, and then I was shipped to Camp Kilmer to be shipped overseas, and they stationed me there instead. One of my duties was [where] the troops got off the train downtown. You know where the main gate is at Rutgers, in Old Queens? Well, just across the street from that, there was a little, triangle area and they had a booth there and an Army bus, and as the troops got off, we would direct them to go on the bus to go out to Camp Kilmer. … Then when they loaded the trains to ship into New York City, we had to read their names and check them off. I don't know why I was picked to be stationed there, instead of going overseas, but that's where I finished, at Camp Kilmer.
KP: You were fourteen when the war started, and you were eighteen when the war ended. What were your interests in the war? You mentioned you weren't scared of being killed.
FQ: I remember that December 7 extremely well. I mean, I remember I was just walking through one of the fields near my home, going to visit a buddy of mine, and he came, not screaming out of his house, but he came rushing out of the house and told me about that. My father was head of the civil defense in Harrington Park, so I was a messenger. … Do you know Closter by any chance? The town of Closter, that was the central area for the air raid warning spotters, so it had one of the highest buildings in the area. It was like five stories high, and on the top was a little shed, and we would take turns. I forget how long the shifts were, but we would take turns with binoculars looking for bombers, or strafers, or I don't know what we were looking for.
KP: Were you really expecting to see enemy aircraft?
FQ: Yeah, I mean, but you weren't exactly sure. So, I mean, there was this protection, supposedly early warning, air raid warning, so we did that.
KP: You mentioned that your father, when he did something, he did it well. What about civil defense?
FQ: Yes, he did. He had his own armband, where it said, "Civil Defense," and we had ours for messengers.
KP: He would call for blackouts.
FQ: Oh, yeah. Well, the cars had to have the front headlights, had to have them half black. … The one thing that helped us during the war was if you had a car, you got an A-sticker and you were allowed four gallons of gas, I think it was, a week. But if you were in business, you could get the commercial plates, but you had to identify your car. Even though it was a regular vehicle, not a truck, it had to be identified with the business name on it in four-inch letters, and … you got another designation. It wasn't A or B, but something like that, but you got extra gas for a week for deliveries, so that was one of the benefits of having a business. … Then, the rationing, I remember, you had to have the books with the coupons. … One of my favorites was fruit cocktail, and I used to always save, because, at that point, my mother was gone and I stayed in the family home and I did a lot of shopping, and I was in charge of the coupons.
KP: So rationing was not distant to you.
FQ: No, no, I did it. Yeah, because I had to go to the butcher, which was right next to our hardware store, you know, and hand out the books, tickets, and save the coupons, but I always managed to save enough for the fruit cocktail. That was my favorite.
KP: How hard was it?
FQ: It wasn't difficult ...
FQ: … We used to save all the coupons, and you'd collect them. Then he was also in charge of the scrap drive, which we had in the empty lot, which I sold and my son bought back. Well, there was a great, big, fenced-in area, and then they took the town truck and collected all the aluminum and the steel, and turned that in to the government, I guess it was.
KP: Was your father involved in bond drives or blood donations?
FQ: Not that I remember.
KP: Just the scrap drive and the civil defense. What about running the business during the war? How did the rationing affect the hardware business?
FQ: Well, I remember the Eveready batteries used to be kept under the counter, and I think only the better customers got the Eveready batteries. [laughter] That's the one thing in my mind that I remember that was kind of stashed away, Eveready batteries.
KP: What else was it hard for you to get?
FQ: In supplies in the store? Well, one of the things that my father always used to say that he would order, and you never knew what was going to happen, and we kept this in the store forever and a day, because it was a topic of conversation. My father ordered two eighteen-inch monkey wrenches, the big monkey wrenches, the eighteen-inch, and, as he said, there always, at that point, there were a lot of women going in and filling the orders, who didn't know hardware, and they were hiring anybody. … One day this woman figured, "Two eighteen-inch monkey wrenches? We don't have eighteen-inch," so she sent him this thirty-six-inch monkey wrench, which stayed in our store until I sold it, because who would ever buy it [in] a small town like that? But it was always a topic of conversation, this huge monkey wrench. That was one of the experiences. You don't remember the milk bottles with the special neck?
KP: Yes, I remember.
FQ: Do you know what we used to do with the little spoons that they used to give out? There was a regular milk bottle, and it was before everything was pasteurized, so the heavy cream would go to the top, and there would be a small, narrow neck and then the rest of the bottle. … This little spoon used to fit down and block it off, and you would pour out the heavy cream and whip the heck out of it and make butter, for, you know, a couple of tablespoons of butter.
KP: It sounds like your father and grandfather had been doing okay in the '30s, but in the '40s things got worse with the war.
FQ: They always did all right. As I said, I never felt broke. I never felt deprived. My grandfather, every time he sold a piece of property, when I came down for breakfast, he had like a five-dollar bill on my plate for me.
KP: Which was a lot back then.
FQ: Five dollars then was a lot. If he sold it, I don't think, as I remember, some of the pieces would go for like 200 to 400 dollars, something like that, but he always had the money. He always gave me some. And my mother, there was a family that lived down the street, during the Depression, with nine children, and she used to pay the milk bill. It was not a lot, [but] she just made sure that there was a quart of milk a day sent, so they could have milk in their coffee. They couldn't afford to have milk, you know, but she used to pay for that.
KP: For this family down the street.
FQ: They had nine children.
KP: So you saw families that were deeply affected by the Depression.
FQ: Oh, sure. Basically, the families that we knew up in Bergen County, you didn't see any real hardships that I remember. Maybe I was young enough that you didn't feel deprived at all. You never, we didn't have refrigeration.
KP: Did you have an icebox?
FQ: No. My grandmother had what they call a cela hole (German-English slang), which is the cellar, and all she had was a downstairs, because it was cool. She would bring everything down there and she would go back and forth, up and down the stairs for the different meals, and nothing ever turned bad. They used to do a lot of canning … My mother and my grandfather used to go out picking huckle berries, and my grandfather had a huge garden, and they would can everything. No, I never felt deprived.
KP: When you were going to high school, were you active in any organizations or teams?
FQ: I was in the band. I tried basketball. I was such a klutz. I was heavy. I was 264 pounds when I left high school, and when I finished infantry basic, I was 214 pounds. In fact, people thought I was coming down with TB. They did. There was one very good friend of mine who said, "Oh, my God, Fred you look terrible," and she thought I was coming down with consumption, but it was just the infantry basic, seventeen weeks of infantry basic. [laughter]
KP: You never were a Boy Scout.
FQ: I got court-martialed in the Boy Scouts. We had an Army Reserve captain that ran the Boy Scouts like the Army, I mean, short order drill and you had to be quiet. So one day, I forget what I did, but he set a full court-martial board, and you had to go in, and you had to report, and so forth and so on. I was a second-class Scout, almost first class, and I reported and I was fined. … The fine was something about, there was a whole bunch of us that were court-martialed, and the fine was supposed to be that we had to buy ice cream for the troop for the next week. Well, that was the end of my Boy Scout year. I said, "I'm not buying ice cream for the troop." I was court-martialed in the Boy Scouts.
KP: It sounds like your first run-in with Army discipline.
FQ: Oh, he was bananas. He really was, Captain Cadmus.
KP: Did you ever think you were going to go to Rutgers, for example?
FQ: I didn't think that much about it, although I've thought about it quite a bit. I never thought of taking anything but college prep, but I don't remember anybody saying to me, "You've got to take college prep." It was just [that] you took it, and, well, and then when these tests came along, I thought, "Well, sure, great, go to college under the Army," but we didn't think about it the way they do now, not at all. I think it was just a random thing in your mind. One thing about the war, Father, again, in our junior year, they were selling the rings, the graduation rings, and they said, "Now, there will be no gold for the graduation of the Class of '44," because they knew that they were running out of whatever they were using it for. So I came home to dear, old dad, and I said, "Dad, why can't I get my ring now?" and he said, "They're just trying to sell you those rings. They'll have plenty of them next year." I said, "No, they said there will be none for '44." He said, "Don't you believe them." So there was no Class of '44 high school rings, because they were using the gold.
KP: You mentioned that when you were senior, you were sixteen. It sounds like you were advanced once or twice.
FQ: Another story. My mother thought that I could do no wrong. I was perfect. Ask her. Anybody ask Frances if I was perfect, she'd say, "Yes." So my story is that, and it's the truer part, is when I went to kindergarten, I was born big and I was always big, and I went to kindergarten, and the chairs and the desks were too small, so they moved me to the first grade at five. But my mother always thought that I was intelligent and that's why I skipped kindergarten. [laughter] That's the truth.
KP: So the whole thing was an accident that you skipped kindergarten.
FQ: Oh, yeah. I always, even in high school, I used to try to figure out, "How come I enjoy the juniors as much or more than the seniors?" But I was basically their age, but size-wise, I was older than the seniors. It was funny …
KP: During the '30s, did you ever notice Bund activities, the German-American Bund?
FQ: No, I never witnessed it, but I heard a little about it here in Yorkville, but, no, although in Harrington Park, the butcher was German, the hardware store, my father was German, his mother and father were Germans, the baker was German, the stationary store was German. So it was loaded with Germans, but you never even questioned, I mean, as far as where their loyalty was. I mean, it was obvious where their loyalty was. No, I never saw anything like that.
KP: It was never an issue. Your father was a Republican in a very Democratic era, in the '30s.
FQ: Harrington Park was very Republican. In fact, [in] Harrington Park where I grew up, you knew who was a Democrat. … I'll always remember, one of my best buddies, his father and mother were Democrats … Harrington Park was Republican. Harrington Park, believe me, was Republican.
KP: What did your father think of Roosevelt and the New Deal?
FQ: Do you want to know? My father used to get The New York Times daily at the corner store, which was one of the stores in our building, and The New York Times came out for Roosevelt, I'm not sure which year it was, and he walked in the next day and cancelled his daily order for The New York Times. He would not have it. He did not like Roosevelt.
KP: It sounds like your father was a true Republican.
FQ: Extremely. … In fact, I was so brainwashed … that when I was in Syracuse University, I was seventeen when Roosevelt died, and I was in the house where we lived, and one of the GIs with us, who was in the same house, he heard it somewhere. He came running in, like very, very upset and crying, and I thought, ungraciously, "What's the big deal?" because my background was, "This guy is bananas," and you know, that he was not a good president ...
KP: Were other people upset?
FQ: Oh, distraught. I mean, I still have visions of him coming up the steps. I mean, he was distraught, but to me it was no big deal, you know.
ES: So I take it you didn't have too many WPA or NYA-type organizations in Harrington Park.
FQ: We didn't have them, but they put in a lot of the streets in Harrington Park, which they subsequently made into finished streets, but they were just dirt streets. You know, they were dug out, but they were put in by the WPA. … Then my trumpet teacher was in a WPA band, which used to give concerts on Westwood on, I don't know what night of the week, when we used to sit and listen to the WPA band. … The amazing thing is that this man had been the first trumpeter in the Metropolitan Opera for many years. He ended up in the WPA band.
KP: My stepfather was active in the WPA orchestra.
FQ: They were good, though. I mean, they had very good musicians.
KP: Do you remember the War of the Worlds broadcast?
FQ: No. Was that the one on Halloween? Orson Welles? No, I missed that.
KP: Was the community very close in Harrington Park when you were growing up?
FQ: Yes. Well, particularly after my mother left, the German lady who had the delicatessen next to the hardware store, she kind of took me in and adopted me. This lady is now in her nineties, but she was an absolute gem, and her daughter is six months older than I am. … She used to take, I guess, on a Sunday, or something like that, but she took us to see Radio City Music Hall … She was the one that got me going into New York City. … Another good friend of mine, his father was a cocoa broker in the city … He came home one day, and he said, "I bought tickets for you two, and you're going to go and see The Student Prince." So that was my first Broadway show, was The Student Prince.
KP: It's not a bad place to start.
FQ: No, it was great. So, you know, I remember those [people], but Mrs. Haitz, this German lady, not German, she's American, but she was born in Germany, she was excellent. She was great.
KP: So even though your mother left the family, it sounds like you have fond memories growing up, and a lot of people were looking out after you.
FQ: Oh, yeah, but as I always claim, the only thing that saved me from really being a brat was the Army, really. I mean, I was spoiled rotten. It saved me.
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FQ: My father broke his hip. … He had lived basically alone until about his ninety-fourth year, I think, when he broke his hip, somewhere around there, and he had to go into a nursing home. … He had a small bungalow all on one floor, and we were trying to decide, "What can we do for Grandpa? What do we do with him?" … My son, who is a policeman out there, came and said, "Dad, why don't I buy Grandpa's house and renovate it and build an apartment for Grandpa?" and that took me off the hook. I had to be crazy to say no. So he took a year to renovate the house, and the only thing that you really can recognize from the original house was the chimney that sticks out the front. He did some job, and he built an apartment for his grandfather. Then we had a lady from India that came in and took care of my father until [he died]. He lived another year and a half, after he came out of the nursing home.
KP: So you have real ties to Harrington Park.
FQ: Glenn is there and his wife. Sure, I go out occasionally. Sure, I mean, great town, but then [it has] changed.
KP: What has struck you the most about the changes?
FQ: Well, I've discussed this with the policeman, Glenn, and the thing that disturbs me most about Harrington Park … When I grew up in Harrington Park, it didn't matter if your father was Democrat, Republican, tug boat captain, lawyer, doctor, worked in the docks. It did not matter. If you became friends with someone, you were friends. You didn't run around [saying], "My father is this," and, "my father's that." So I said to Glenn one day, "Now, that was great. Was that the same in your period?" … He said, "Yes, Dad, it's exactly the way it was," he said, "but no longer." He said that the kids are all materialistic. It's what you have, what your father has, what your mother has, the house has. Do you have a motorbike? Do you have this? He said, "It has completely changed." So I think, in my opinion, that's the biggest change that I heard about it.
KP: It almost sounds like when you were a kid, things like that didn't matter.
FQ: We were buddies. It didn't matter. It was nothing. I mean, even in high school, there was no high school in Harrington Park. We went to Tenafly. Even the kids on the hill, the so-called "hill section," [were treated the same]. I mean, there was one girl, she used to come down with a chauffer who drove her to and from school, but in school, Barbara was Barbara. I mean, it was no big deal … I mean, we all used to say, "Oh, boy, Barbara comes with a chauffer," but, I mean, nobody treated her any differently, or thought any differently of her, because she came with a chauffer. It was different.
KP: Your son has observed that that's really changed.
KP: Now the executives' kids stick together.
FQ: It's all the materialism. I don't know if it's so much executives, but who has what and who owns what, you know, the stereos, the shoes and clothing.
KP: You didn't have that competition in terms of clothing.
FQ: None whatsoever.
KP: You almost sound as if you find this whole competition somewhat odd.
FQ: It's a shame. I think the kids have lost a lot. It's extremely odd.
KP: What else has changed?
FQ: Well, I haven't been there in sixteen years. Well, it was a real closeness. Of course, you knew everything about everybody. I don't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing, but I mean, everybody knew everybody's name, where they worked, but it wasn't like a competition-type of thing. It was just, you know, like, "Jimmy's mother and father are Democrats, but who cares?" It was not that they were dirty birds or anything.
KP: So you knew everyone.
FQ: Now you don't.
KP: When you had the hardware store, did you still know everyone?
FQ: No, we did not. You knew the good guys.
KP: Did you benefit from the growth of Bergen County?
FQ: No, the hardware store didn't, because when it was first opened, there was no hardware store in Old Tappan, there was no hardware store in Norwood, there was no hardware store in Haworth, there was no hardware store in Rivervale. We took care of that whole area … My mother used to load four or five kids on the running board, and throughout that whole area, we would deliver advertising pamphlets, so we drew from that area. … Then also, in came all the bigger, larger stores, K-Mart, and all that. So by the time I folded up, the income would stay like the same, but the expenses were rising, so you were nowhere. So I said, "This is ridiculous." The property and the buildings were worth more than the business. So that was gone.
KP: Your real estate holdings must have become more valuable.
FQ: Oh, yeah. I'm sure my son is sitting on rather a nice equity. … My father also dabbled in real estate, and he bought a large chunk of property, put roads in them, and so forth. I guess, this piece he bought somewhere in the '60s, and he was down to the last couple of pieces and somebody was dickering with him, and I said, "Dad, he offered you 4,400 dollars for this piece of property, grab it." I said, "It will never go higher," 4,400 dollars for what was like a hundred-by-125, or something like that. I mean, now the thing is worth, I don't know, 90,000 or 100,000 dollars. But I always think of that, "You'll never get a better price than 4,400 dollars."
KP: Looking back, in the '40s, you never expected things to go they way they did.
FQ: No, I mean, the homes that were built behind us, they went for 35,000 dollars ... I mean, 35,000 dollars was a lot of money when they were built. … The original house was built on a fifty-by-one-hundred property that my father couldn't sell for 6, 750 dollars. Then there was a twenty-five-by-one-hundred next door, and my father bought that for fifteen dollars, twenty-five-by-one-hundred, so it gave us seventy-five-by-one-hundred. Then behind that was a fifty-by-one-hundred … My father was the building inspector, and when the developer bought all these piece of land, you weren't allowed to build on fifty-by-one-hundred, at that point, and I went to the builder and I said, "Look, when you're ready to sell this fifty-by-one-hundred, please let me know." The lady next door, who this actually fronted on, she somehow assumed it was her piece of property, and she landscaped it and had it turned over and grassed. She never said anything about it. She just decided it was her property. So she had it cut and everything for years. … Along came the builder when he was finished, and he came to me and said, "Fred, I promised you that I would sell you this." I said, "Okay, how much do you want?" We had just joined the swim club, and that had wiped us out of cash at that point, so he said, and it was a great buy, he said, "1,000 dollars." So I said, "I don't think we can afford it right now." That was like on a Friday. I went home, and my ex and I started talking about it. We said, "This is stupid, 1,000 dollars for fifty-by-one-hundred." So I went to my father and borrowed 1,000, and I bought the piece of property. … I told the gentleman who was in charge, I said, "It's mine," and he was on the phone with me, making the final arrangements, when the neighbor walked in and said, "Well, I understand that that property, they're not going to build. I'm going to buy it." He said, "I just sold it to Fred Quantmeyer, Jr.," and she had a bird, because she thought it was hers. [laughter] She had been taking care of it, having it cut. So when we separated, my wife stayed in the old home, and this fifty-by-one-hundred, when they put sewers in Harrington Park …
KP: You redeveloped it.
FQ: Well, they originally said, "No, you cannot develop that. We're not going to put in a sewer." I said, "I want a sewer to hook up," I said, "because I have an individual deed for that." They said, "It is contiguous with your other property." I said, "I don't care what it is. I want that sewer thing put in, because it is separate." So they put it in, and my ex eventually sold the bigger house and built a small townhouse there. They did the same thing on the building lot downtown. When they had said, "No, we're not going to give it to you," and I said, "Yeah, you are. It's an empty lot, separate, so I want it." So they did. They put the sewer line in for both of them.
KP: It's interesting to see all the changes that occurred in counties around New Jersey. Going back to the war, you were fourteen when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. Did you know where Pearl Harbor was?
FQ: I don't think so. I don't think, initially, I did. No, not at all.
KP: Did you think you'd ever be in the Army in this war, I mean, initially?
FQ: I have no recollection even thinking about it, not even a worry, and not even a concern, nothing.
KP: It sounds like you were involved in the war effort, but not directly touched by the war.
FQ: The kids, you knew all the people that were going away, and you were concerned with them, and you kept hearing reports, "So-and-So was killed," and, "So-and-So was killed," but it didn't really hit you that much. You were concerned with the family that got the notice, and that type of thing, but, no.
KP: When did you have the thought that this would be your war, that in fact you were going to be in the Army, or in one of the branches?
FQ: I guess when I enlisted. Really, I think, you know, it was just something that came along. You didn't sit and worry about it. At fifteen or sixteen, you were too involved with high school.
KP: How much did the war intrude into your high school days? Did you have bond drives in school or anything?
FQ: No, not that I remember, no. No blood drive, no bond drive. No, it was just the normal going to high school.
KP: When people went off to war, did they go off in groups?
FQ: Not that I remember either. I mean, the next-door neighbor would go, and the kid down the street would go, but not as groups, no. But, I mean, it was a good percentage of the youth of Harrington Park, a vast percentage of the twenty-one-year olds.
KP: Why the Army? Had you thought of another branch? Had you thought of the Navy?
FQ: I was probably too big, for the Navy, I was too tall. I think I was bright enough not to serve in the Marines. No disparaging remarks towards the Marines, but I was going in the Army or in the Air Force, and I would never, never, never go into [the Marines]. The Marines didn't interest me one bit. The Army didn't bother me. The infantry didn't bother me, but I never even thought of the Marines. Then after having been in the Army, I wanted the Air Corps as second.
KP: Really? That's why you selected the Air Force.
FQ: Oh, sure, without a doubt.
KP: You mentioned that you had enlisted at sixteen.
FQ: Yes, they signed me up, they swore me in on the day before my seventeenth birthday, which was illegal unless you had your parental okay, and then they called me up frantically and said, "Please come back." So I went back May 8 to be sworn in correctly.
KP: If they hadn't caught this mistake, legally …
FQ: I was scot-free.
KP: You graduated from high school, and then when did you report to ASTRP?
FQ: August of '44. But the first adventure was City College, here in the city. I was first sent there, but I woke up one day with an infected leg and I went to a military hospital for twenty-eight days. … It was a great hospital. It was up at Bronx. I don't know where, but it had been built to be a maternity hospital, and it was new, absolutely new, and I had a ball. But in the room next door to me, I remember very distinctly, they brought home a wounded veteran that had been machine-gunned very badly. He was brought home just to die, and you could hear the rasping and the breathing and the family, and so forth and so on. Eventually, he died, but they did bring him home. I remember that very distinctly.
KP: You basically heard him while he died.
FQ: Yes. Oh, yeah. As I said, I was seventeen, and that was on my mind.
KP: It sounds like you got good care of the infection.
FQ: Fabulous. Upstairs they had a soda fountain that you could go up to, and there were volunteers there that you could go up to whenever you wanted a soda or ice cream soda. It was new. I mean, the Army, it was just built for maternity, and the Army took it over.
KP: Were they treating you like Army?
FQ: Yeah, you were in the Army, but you weren't paid. You were in uniform, [and] you marched to class, and so forth and so on. You did everything with officers, but you were and you weren't. You got Reserve credit, but not active duty credit for it.
KP: You were originally supposed to go to City College, but you had this infection …
FQ: Okay, after twenty-eight days, I went back, and because everything was accelerated, I was so far behind. I didn't know which end was up. So they said, "Well, we can't do anything with you here anymore," and so they shipped me to Syracuse, and I was there for three semesters.
KP: You mentioned earlier that you didn't like the regimentation.
FQ: Not as far as going to college. I mean, I enjoyed the marching, and so forth, because we were young, but I thought, "I don't want to go to college this way," you know, marching, and the instructors. You had to stand up [for them]. When they came in, man, woman or child, when the instructors came in, you stood up, you sat down, you reported how many absent, and so forth and so on, and you had designated study periods …
KP: Did you have lights out?
FQ: Oh, sure. Then one thing that happened, while I was out in Syracuse, was that there were active duty Air Corps people that lived in the dormitories. Our group, they took over private homes, and we were housed in private homes as barracks. But in the regular dormitories, they had regular Air Corps personnel, and we never really got to know them, but they marched to class, and so forth, the same as we did. … They were there one weekend and then they were gone. It was during the Battle of the Bulge, and what we subsequently found out was they just loaded them onto trucks, took them to Rome Air Force Base, and flew them directly over to Europe. They were gone. They were there and then gone. I mean, that was the shocking thing, because from what we understood, they were thrown right into the Battle of the Bulge, and these were Air Corps people, not, you know, rifle-trained …
KP: It must have made the war seem real.
FQ: Yeah, it did. That brought it on a little bit more.
ES: Do you have any recollections of Syracuse and the university other than the Army aspect of it?
FQ: Just when we finished there, I remember the chancellor saying, you know, "We'll always welcome you back if you want back," but I never had a desire to go back to Syracuse. I've gone back for a Syracuse-Rutgers game just to see how the change was, and so forth and so on, but I never had a great desire to go back to Syracuse for my undergraduate work, no.
KP: Where there any civilians at Syracuse while you were there?
FQ: Oh, sure. Oh, yeah. The sororities were still open. I don't think any of the fraternities were open, but the sororities were open, and I don't think there was much manpower as far as undergraduates.
KP: How much dating went on between the ASTP group and the sororities?
FQ: Not a lot. Some, but not a great deal. There wasn't that much free time. I think we had Saturday classes. Monday through Friday, we were locked in, not locked in, but you had your study hours, and after study hours you, the lights were out. So there wasn't that much.
KP: Did you think you'd be able to finish the ASTRP program, or did you just take it as long as you …
FQ: I had better grades in the ASTRP than I did when I went to Rutgers. I enjoyed Rutgers, but I worked at Syracuse.
KP: What was your course of study?
FQ: It was engineering, engineering, physics, chemistry, math, geography, English. It was the Maxwell School of something over there. I remember taking, we took classes over there. That was a well-known school. I forget why we were over there, but we did [take classes there]. So it was engineering. It was up through, I guess, Calculus II, I guess, that we went through for three semesters. … If your grades were okay, then you were supposed to go then to basic training and then go back either to language school or continue in the engineering, but the war ended, and they dropped that program.
KP: It sounds like it was a pretty rigorous program. I mean, the courses you were taking were rigorous.
FQ: Yes, it was. One of the physics professors, I forget which semester of the three, but he was one of the best going. He disappeared for about a week, and he came back, and subsequently, we figured it out. He said, "I have been involved with something that you people will hear about someday," and he never said anymore. But two and two makes the A-bomb, you know, but I didn't know. He never said anything more than that, but for a week, he wasn't in class.
KP: So he probably went off to the Manhattan Project …
FQ: It was somewhere. But he was good. He was a crackerjack. He was an excellent teacher.
KP: How did you, overall, like the teaching part of it? You weren't crazy for the regimentation.
FQ: Teachers were good. We had very good teachers. They were very, very good teachers. I mean, the math [teacher], she threw me out of class one day, but she was excellent. She really was. We became good buddies after that.
KP: Why did she throw you out?
FQ: I don't know. You know, at seventeen, you cut up somehow, and she said, "Out," and I thought I was out of the program. … She just put me out in the hallway. Afterwards, she gave me a dressing down, but we became good buddies after that. I'll tell you, I was a brat until …
KP: How many of your teachers were women?
FQ: She's the only one that I can remember. She taught math. The chemistry was male, the geography was male, the physics were males, the military science were naturally men, phys ed were all men, Maxwell School, whatever it was, was male. No, it was just that lady that I remember.
KP: How many people didn't make it through ASTRP? Did you have any sense of that?
FQ: They were cut out for different reasons. Some were discipline [and] some were educational, but not many, because they were fairly selective, so it wasn't a great many that really flunked out.
KP: … At Syracuse, there was a lot of physical training in ASTRP. How was it for you?
FQ: Yes, we had some, but I wouldn't say a lot. We did more, march to class, so that was physical, in a way, but, no, we didn't have any excessive [physical training]. We went to the gym, but not an excessive [amount] of it that I remember. It was nothing compared to infantry basic, nothing.
KP: You would be in Syracuse when the war in Europe ended.
FQ: Yes, May.
KP: Did you have any sense that we were close to victory in Japan?
FQ: No, because we all felt that it was going to be quite a blast, not, when I said blast, not an atom bomb, but quite a fight before the Japanese would quit. So all you felt was when that part was done, onward to the next.
KP: Did you have a sense that you wanted to do well in basic, because you wanted to come back to ASTRP?
FQ: It wasn't [because of] my ASTRP. It was just, I always felt I had an excellent sergeant, excellent sergeants. They were tops. They went to bat for us, and we had a screwy, our company commander was a complete, nicely, a complete nut.
KP: Where was this?
FQ: In Camp Wheeler, Georgia. He came back from overseas, and he came in a couple of weeks after we had started. … You have to, if you have a demerit, you have to work it off. So every demerit that everybody had had when he arrived, we had worked them off. So he arrives, and he says, "Anybody that has a demerit or has had a demerit in the last five or six weeks will again work them off this weekend." The first sergeant, who had about sixteen years in the service, said, "You cannot do that, sir." He said, "I'm doing it." So he made everybody do the double demerit, which is highly irregular. So Sergeant Cash got out in front of the company formation on Monday, and he said, "Gentlemen, there was a person who was supposed to be out here to apologize, but because he does not have enough guts to come out here on Monday morning to apologize to you, I will apologize for him." He never mentioned the name. He was clever enough. He had sixteen years, [and] he was covering himself, but everybody knew. Each platoon had a lieutenant that had gotten a combat promotion and got their combat commission. That week, each one of those lieutenants brought him candy or cigars or liquor, and the captain, sitting in his little, old room, and they all put it on his desk. Then Sergeant Cash, because the lieutenants came down, he said, "Sir, I have been in the service sixteen years, and you are the worst goddamn company commander I've ever had." [laughter] So, needless to say, the captain was not well liked, but the sergeants were wonderful. I mean, they trained you and they gave you hard lessons, but they were fair and they were decent and they were good.
KP: You did basic at a very interesting time, because you reported …
FQ: Actually, I was in Fort Dix on the day that Japan surrendered, and that's another thing that surprised me. It wasn't the V-J Day with the signature and the signing. It was when they actually surrendered. … Some character, I don't know where they figured it out, decided that we would be restricted to the base, and the whistles were going off, and we're sitting in these barracks and watching floodlights all over … That's where I sat for the surrender. They restricted us to the base. I mean, the rest of the world was celebrating like crazy, and there we were. … They put the floodlights on from the anti-aircraft, and they were circling all over, noise all over, horns going, and we sat. And then for V-J Day, by that time I was in Camp Wheeler, and we paraded in Macon, Georgia for the victory.
KP: When you learned of Japanese surrender, did you think this would accelerate your time in the Army?
FQ: I guess, well, not really, because at that point you were supposed to have so many points to get out.
KP: So you were included in the point system.
FQ: Oh, sure. No, everybody was … I forget how many points you had to have, if you had certain amounts of points for overseas and certain amounts of points in the States. There was no way that I had accumulated this, so I went to Fort Benning, the infantry school, for a couple of months. … Then they shipped me to Kilmer, and I thought, "Well, I'll go overseas, " and instead, I was stationed there, not long, because then all of a sudden, they decided, well, to cut the people in the States, too, the troops. Even though you didn't have enough points, you were out.
KP: You mentioned that looking back, you liked basic, and you liked infantry training.
FQ: I needed it, basically. It was a savior.
KP: You gave the impression that it matured you.
KP: Are there any incidents that stick out, when you all of a sudden matured very quickly?
FQ: … There are stories that I'll always remember. I don't know if it matured me enough. … This Sergeant Smith, he was built like a Greek god, and as nice-looking a man, he was a nicer personality, and we got to be somewhat buddies a little bit … Are you familiar with military formation? In a platoon, there are four squads, and I was the right pivot man, because of the height, again. … We were marching across this little bridge, and he gave orders to, and it was like a little stream, he gave orders to turn right. Well, I didn't do it, because I knew … he was kidding around, but it was like a choice, "Is he kidding around, or is he serious? Am I going to get in trouble with the sergeant or what, because I was supposed to turn, and all of us would have turned and gone into the drink?" But I caught him as kidding around with me, and, you know, afterwards, he kind of said, "What made you decide? Why did you decide?" I said, "I was hoping you were kidding me." But he was a good man. I remember their names. It's amazing I remember their names, Sergeant Smith, Sergeant Thompson and Sergeant Cash. They were good people.
KP: It sounds like you were getting sergeants who had seen action.
FQ: Well, the sergeants had not, but the lieutenants were all combat commissioned.
KP: They must have had this looming presence.
FQ: … They were different than the commissioned officers that were right out of Benning. They were more humanized, because they would come down and sit in the barracks and BS with you and talk with you, you know, and they didn't feel as if they were Greek gods. They were good.
KP: Which is interesting, because often the Army discourages that sort of fraternization.
FQ: I got in trouble with that, when I was an officer in the Air Force, because I was on a two-year contract. You knew you were on a two-year contract, so I had an attitude. I don't mean an attitude that, "Hey, what are you going to do to me?" But my life didn't depend upon it, so I was more relaxed about it. We were at a base picnic … Well, I was at Bolling Air Force Base. I worked with the APs, again, because of my size. When I went to the major, who was head of personnel, he said, "You're going to be an air police officer." I said, "Okay." What am I going to do, fight the major? So I became an air police officer, went to air police school, officer's school. … One time, I was down on the line when they had a ceremony. I wasn't marching with them, but I was just down there, and the gentleman who was provost marshal of Washington National, he said, "I want that lieutenant at Washington National." It was where they kept the president's plane, at that time, and he wanted me as his air police officer. So I was shipped over there, and they had a base picnic. Well, this one buck sergeant, he found out my name was Fred. So he was three sheets to the wind, and at the base picnic, he was standing there with his arms on my shoulder, "Fred this, Fred that, Fred this, Fred this." … I always told the troops, "I don't care what you call me off the base, but the minute we're back on the base, it's sir, not Fred, and the day you change that you're in trouble." So I didn't care. I wasn't on the base. It was the base picnic. Behind me Captain Smith was standing there. So on Monday, he called me in. He said, "You're too friendly with the troops, Lieutenant." So by this time I had picked up some scuttlebutt. I said, "But you know, sir, that's your trouble. You're not friendly enough with the troops." So he said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Well," you know, he's a career officer, so I said, "You're a little bit too rough on the troops. You've got to be a little more human with them." And I wouldn't say [this happened] just because I did it … I'm a little more human, but he was a fine officer, and he got me to come over there. … The next thing he knew he was being shipped to Korea as a flying officer, because they needed him, and I had his job. [laughter]
KP: I'm struck by how loose the Air Force was compared to the Navy.
FQ: … You know what the AP is? It's the same as military police. … It's as close to a military unit as you will basically find in the Air Force, because it's … mostly spit and polish, so it's a little different than people on the flight line. It's handled a little differently.
KP: I mean, the stuff they pull in the Air Force, you would get court-martialed for in the Navy.
FQ: Oh, yeah. In the Navy, you would be [court-martialed]. Well, the difference between the Army and the Air Force was completely ...
KP: I'm curious, what did you see as the differences?
FQ: I mean, in the Army, the enlisted man was an enlisted man, and that's the way he was treated, particularly in the infantry. … You wouldn't buck an officer in the Air Force, or a higher-ranking officer, but you could discuss things. But in the Army, if someone said, "Squat," you squatted, and that was it. … It was still that way in the Air Force, but not to the [same] degree. I mean, personally, the pilot had to depend upon the enlisted men that kept his plane going, you know, flying, and you're not going to fool around with someone that keeps the motor going, or the engine, so there was a big difference.
KP: I was wondering if that's something I just noticed.
FQ: No, no. The Navy is [that way]. I never was involved in it, but I heard. … Then the Marines, I set them back one day. This was when I was still in Bolling. We were supposed to go to Virginia, or somewhere, I forgot where, to pick up a prisoner, and I had two sergeants with me, a staff and a tech and myself in the vehicle. … Going, we had to pass Quantico, and a buddy of mine from Harrington Park was a staff sergeant, so I decided, "Before we pick up the prisoner, let's go visit my buddy." So we did, and my buddy said, "Let's go eat." So I said, "Fine," and he said, "You can't eat with us." There was an officer's mess hall, and there was an enlisted mess hall. I said, "What do you mean I can't eat with you?" You know, in the Air Force, you could eat together in the mess hall. It would all depend upon the base, but you could eat somewhat together sometimes. So I said, "I want to eat with you. I want to eat with the sergeant. I don't know anybody over here. I don't want to sit at a table alone with a bunch of officers I don't even know." So he said, "You certainly can't do that without the mess officer's permission." So I went in and I spoke to the sergeant, and he said, "Sir, I can't allow that." I said, "Where's the mess officer?" So he said, "The captain's over there." "Let me speak to him." So the mess officer came over, and I told him my sad tale. He said, "Highly irregular, Lieutenant," and so forth and so on, and I went through my sad tale again. So he said, "All right, we'll give you a special dispensation." Of course, the Marine sergeants went like bananas with this second john, I mean, but it was normal for us to eat with the sergeants.
KP: The sergeants were giving you trouble, too.
FQ: But the sergeant, I mean, he couldn't go against the base policy. … Then another time, a buddy of mine, a friend of mine, who lived across the BOQ from me, was a pilot, and they had to fly a certain amount of hours every week, even though he had an office job, and he had to fly a certain amount of hours, so he'd take a plane for the weekend. … This one weekend, he said, "Hey, I'm going down to Fort Benning. My brother-in-law is graduating from OCS. Do you want to go along?" So I said, "I'd love to. I have a buddy down there that's a candidate." I'd known him, in fact, it was his father who took me toThe Student Prince the first time. So I went down there, and I went into the office and I said, "I'd like to see Candidate Gerbis." They said, "Okay, he's coming off the field in a group," you know, [which is] the candidates with their officers in charge of them, "When they come off, just see the candidate's first sergeant and say you'd like to see Candidate Gerbis." So I said, "Okay, why not?" So I went to the field first sergeant, and I said, "When you finish with the formation, I'd like to see Candidate Gerbis." So at the end, he said, "Candidate Gerbis, there's an officer over here. Report to him immediately after the formation," and this buddy of mine, we grew up together, you know, in high school, he walks over, pops to and salutes and said, "Candidate Gerbis reporting as ordered." "Gerbis," I said, "this is me," you know. He said, "But look around, watch all the officers. They're all watching me and writing," and they were. They were writing how he was doing. So I said, "Let's get the hell out of here," so we go up to the barracks. As soon I as walked in the barracks, they start screaming, "Attention." They do it somewhat in the Air Force, but not so rigorously …
--------------------------------------END OF SIDE TWO, TAPE ONE-------------------------------------
KP: This continues an interview with Fred H. Quantmeyer, Jr. on July 17, 1998 in New York City with Kurt Piehler and Eve Snyder. We were talking about visiting your high school buddy.
FQ: So we got into the barracks, and everybody was popping to and saying, "Yes, sir. No, sir. Yes, sir. No, sir," and I'm not used to this.
KP: You got that sir in the Air Force, didn't you?
FQ: Yes, but, I mean, it was heavy, because they were on the spot, and they never knew when someone was watching. So I said, "Can't we go to the BX?" He said, "Sure," but going to the BX, if they could identify you as an officer, they would salute. I mean, in the Air Force, not that you have to come face to face, but it was closer. … It didn't matter. If they saw an officer, the candidate would salute, because, again, they didn't know when they'd be written up. … They could not get used to an officer sitting there with this candidate, because the place was only for candidates …
KP: Going back to basic training, what did you enjoy the most about basic training? Is there such a thing?
FQ: One of the things you enjoyed was having your own rifle. I mean, it was enjoyable, but it was also miserable, because you had to keep it extremely clean … One of the things that they used to do is, it was demanded that you call it a rifle. Is this a story you've heard before?
KP: I've heard it from Marines.
FQ: … If you referred to it as a gun, you would usually end up marching around the barracks, and you'd have to stop and say at each corner and raise the rifle, "This is my rifle, this is my gun, this is for shooting, and this is for fun." [laughter] They would make you parade around that any number of times, so you did not forget that it was a rifle and not a gun. Or if you misbehaved with it, or if it was too dirty, they'd make you sleep with it, you know.
KP: Did you know guys that slept with their rifles?
FQ: Oh, yeah, the rifle and the gun.
KP: I'm sure some people who were doing basic were of different backgrounds.
FQ: Oh, everybody. [We had] hillbillies. We had everything. You had everything from the ASTP students to the hillbillies that were right out of the hills, and it was all a mixture. Not that I disliked them as a person, but their music would drive us bananas.
KP: Some people that we've interviewed recollect servicemen that couldn't read and write.
FQ: I don't recollect the reading and writing, but I do remember that they were hillbillies … I guess you would consider them not too bright, but not as far as not reading and writing.
KP: Is there anything that you came to dislike about basic?
FQ: Captain Green. He was not a good officer. He was not compassionate …
KP: In many ways, you were in an interesting position, because the war was over and yet you were in basic.
FQ: All of a sudden, your life wasn't depending upon what you were learning, you know. I mean, it wasn't as crucial, but you still, I guess, you weren't sure what was going to go on in the rest of the world, and so forth and so on.
KP: But you were still taking it seriously.
FQ: Yes. Oh, yeah.
KP: It sounds like the officers were still taking it seriously.
FQ: Yes, because they were there to train you, and they wanted you trained. They were beginning to feel, I guess, somewhat about Russia. I think it was maybe the very beginning of it, but there was that thought, I believe.
KP: Was there anything ever said explicitly about Russia?
FQ: I don't remember. No, I don't remember that.
KP: You were in Georgia, at Camp Wheeler. What was Georgia like?
FQ: We didn't get off the base that much. … We went to a place that was [called Phoenix]. That was maybe when I was in Benning in Georgia. Phoenix, I think, it was called. It was supposed to be like the low-life town where anything went on, gambling, prostitution, liquor, and everything else, and that was, I think, called Phoenix. That was close to Fort Benning, but that's about the only [place we went]. You didn't get outside the base that much, particularly an infantry base. The only time I think I was in Macon was when we marched through it for V-J Day. I don't think I went into Macon that I remember.
KP: If you had to fight, which you didn't have to, did basic training prepare you for combat? Any thoughts on that? It's a hard question, since you said that you never were in combat.
FQ: Well, it was a much better place to train than what they get now, because from what I hear, the basic training was entirely shortened. … I mean, they gave you extensive training. Was I ready for combat? I don't know if anybody is ever ready for combat.
KP: But you didn't get the sense, "Thank God, I don't have to fight, because this training didn't prepare me for what I'd meet in combat."
FQ: Oh, no, no. … I think they did an adequate job, yes.
KP: You seemed to like the lieutenants.
FQ: They were good and they were knowledgeable, because they had gone through it.
KP: Did they ever tell you what combat was like?
FQ: They used to come down and, yes. … As I remember, a couple of nights, they came down and just sat down and talked with us, you know, gave us a little background, and what exactly they said, I don't remember. It was a long time ago.
KP: It sounds like you guys really hung with their words.
FQ: Oh, you did. I mean, they were, particularly, having gotten combat commissions, they were somewhat like Greek gods to you, you know, because they had earned their commission and not just going through the basic courses. You know, they'd gone through the whole thing, and some of them, I guess, were lucky that they did make it. You'd listen to them. They were good. … The sergeants, even though they didn't have the combat training, they were very knowledgeable in their field, because they had been there quite a while, going up through the ranks.
KP: This sergeant that you admired, he was a lifer.
FQ: Oh, Sergeant Cash. Sixteen years. We had a mess sergeant who was actually a German, heavy, heavy, heavy accent, but he ran a mess that was [excellent]. We had good food. He ran an excellent mess, but he was very, very demanding, and when you worked KP with him, you worked, but he was fair. Heavy, heavy accent. What a guy.
KP: After you finished basic, then what happened?
FQ: I went to Fort Benning Infantry School for a couple of months and then to Camp Kilmer.
KP: How was infantry school?
FQ: Well, it was more, it was like not going for your Master's, but it was just a little more intensified. … The thing that interested me, it was on the Fort Benning post, and the airborne school was there, the parachute school. … There were all sorts of broken legs and broken arms and broken this and broken that. You'd go down to the main post, where the parachute school was, and there was nothing but people in casts. At least that's the way it seemed. And then [I went] onto Camp Kilmer.
KP: Given your father's connections to Rutgers and then you would later go to Rutgers, what was it like to be at Camp Kilmer?
FQ: I didn't realize my father's connection that much at Rutgers, and because he hadn't said much up until after the war. After the war, he reestablished the connection with Rutgers, or Rutgers with him. … The funny thing was how I ended up going to Rutgers. I worked, after I got out of the Army, I worked a year and a half with Stuyvesant Town, and I got sick of commuting to and from Jersey. "This is no life. I'm not a commuter." So my father went to his reunion in '48, and he had been after me, you know, agitating, "You really should," and I said, "Yeah." So he came back from the reunion, and we were sitting around dinner, and he had done some background work while he was at the reunion. So he looked up, "Do you know where you're going in the fall?" I said, "No, Dad, where am I going?" So he said, "You're going to go to Rutgers," and so like a smart answer, again, I said, "Okay, Dad, you get me in the fall, and I'll go." He said, "I'll get you in." That's how I ended up, but I was ready, too, because … I was not a happy commuter.
KP: How did you get the job at Stuyvesant Town?
FQ: The man that was resident manager of, what's the big one up in the Bronx? Parkchester. There was a big Metropolitan Insurance Co. development out there, still there. I can't think of his name, but he was the general manager. He was from Harrington Park, and he was a customer of my father's. … I was a happy member of the fifty-two/twenty club, loved it. I was going to go for the whole year. As a veteran of World War II, you were entitled to fifty-two weeks of unemployment at twenty dollars a week, which was decent money. You couldn't live by it, but you could live. So I was a happy member of the fifty-two/twenty club, and my stepmother decided that I was hanging around the house too much and I should go to work. So my father talked with this gentleman, and he said, "Well, I have nothing open, but they're just opening Stuyvesant Town." So I went for an interview with the manager there, and I was hired. … They trained me up in the Bronx, and then when Stuyvesant Town opened, I went there on the payroll. I worked basically about a year and a half.
KP: It sounds like you had some initial reluctance to go to college, but then you were partly ready to go back.
FQ: I was ready to go back. Yeah, I wanted to go back …
KP: But it seems like your father gave you that final push.
FQ: Oh, he did. As I said, when he said, "Where are you going? Do you know what you're doing?" and I said, "What am I doing?"
KP: It seems that your father was absolutely delighted that you were going to Rutgers.
FQ: Oh, he was ecstatic. And my daughter-in-law is a Douglass graduate. She's '85. One daughter was selected to go to Douglass. … Her major was only over in Douglass at that point, and she did not want to go to an all-female school. He was pleased that I went. He was pleased one son married a Douglass graduate. [laughter]
KP: You were a GI Bill person. What was it like to be back at college, and this time not a regimented college?
FQ: It's the greatest way to live you could ever have. Well, I had the GI Bill as a senior. Everyone at the Teke house [Tau Kappa Epsilon] thought I was independently wealthy, from a wealthy family, and I wasn't. I had the GI Bill, I was a blind student's reader, and I was in Advanced ROTC. So with that, I had 164 dollars a month income.
KP: Which was actually a lot.
FQ: It was forty dollars, after taxes, because none of it was taxed, a week, and my room was paid for by my father. He paid the room, which was 110 dollars. I think it went from one hundred to 110 dollars in the three years I was there. … The tuition was covered completely by the GI Bill, and then we even had money that completely covered the books. You had, I don't know, it was fifty dollars for books, something like that. So I had 160 dollars, and all I had to do was pay for food and survive on it, so I was independently wealthy, you know, I was, with that amount of money.
KP: You could go out to restaurants at night and go to New York for shows.
FQ: Oh, yeah, for forty dollars. I mean, that was money.
KP: What made you to join the Teke house?
FQ: Jimmy Older, whose father was a Democrat in Harrington Park, was at Teke. … He had gotten out of the service and went a year ahead of me, but [in] his freshmen year, so I went down as a sophomore, so he was already at Teke, so he brought me into the Teke House. … I brought Bob Hall, who was also in elementary, high school, same thing, you know. So that's how we all ended up at Teke.
KP: I guess certain things struck us about fraternities. One is hazing.
FQ: No. Tekes did not haze that much. Their hazing, at that point, was the night before, I think, you joined it officially, or the weekend before, you had to take a hitchhiking trip, and that was it. You were designated to hitchhike to some place, some alumni's home, get the note, and bring it back with no money, and that was basically it. … We didn't get the house until I was a junior. My sophomore year, we didn't have the house. So eventually some of the hazing was that they had to clean, and that type of thing, but there was no hazing with paddles. Teke was dead-set against that and always has been, to my knowledge. I don't think it has changed.
KP: What about drinking?
FQ: Teke was supposedly a non-alcoholic [fraternity]. As an undergraduate, because there were so many veterans, beer was allowed on campus. You could have beer anytime. In fact, they used to sell it at the football games. … No alcoholic beverages [were allowed], but beer, it flowed. … When we got the house, some of the brothers wanted a pure house, and some of the brothers wanted beer, so we had quite a rhubarb. … We eventually got all beer, and I will say beer flowed freely.
KP: During the service, beer or cigarettes were a big part of it.
FQ: That's what I mean. There were a lot of us who were veterans. In fact, even before the brothers allowed beer, we were juniors, and the seniors had control of the house … and they were somewhat of the teetotalers. The first parties we had, there was no booze or liquor, supposedly, allowed. … There was a group of us, we decided, "Well, you can't have a house party without some booze," so we had our own little stash. This girl I knew that lived just around the corner in Harrington Park, she came in, and I was shocked to see her. I said, you know, "Gee, what are you doing here?" She came in and she said something about somehow she found out it was a dry house, and I laughed. She said, "I knew it. If there was something around, we'd find it with you." So we went and had our little party there. … Then from then on out, the brothers decided, the non-alcoholic brothers decided there was so much against the university, if we went and sneaked it in, we'd really get in trouble, so they okayed the beer in the house. … Then Dr. Gross … was the provost of the university, at that time … When there was a big dance, occasionally, we, I guess this was for initiation. I don't know if it was a dance or initiation. There was a gentleman like in the Class of '34 that had a home in the outskirts of New Brunswick, and so because liquor wasn't allowed on campus, we would have the cocktail parties at Bob Davis' house, because liquor was allowed off-campus. So at one of these parties, we invited Dr. Gross to [come], and he came, and I remember him standing out. He said, "You Tekes are very clever." He said, "First of all, the campus doesn't allow booze and then you have the cocktail party at Bob Davis' house," and he says, "To really cover yourself, you have the provost at the party," which was all legal, you know, but he was great. He was a gem.
KP: Many students were very fond of Mason Gross.
FQ: Oh, he was, I never had him in class, but, I mean, if you saw him around on campus, he was a very warm person, and so was Dean Crosby. Dean Crosby, who eventually ended up Dean of Men, I mean, I would come back to campus every five years, and I'd run into Dean Crosby and I don't know how he did it. He must have gone through the yearbooks, because you'd walk by him, and he said, "Hello, Fred, how are you?" … He was great. … Dean Boocock, did you ever hear of Dean Boocock? Well, our housemother, Hildegard Owen Rose was invited to a Princeton undergraduate dance by Dr. Clothier, who was the president of the university when we were there, so she had connections. She knew Dr. Clothier, [and] she knew Dean Boocock very well. In fact, she used to say to us, "Don't let the deans kid you." … She wasn't a snitch. She knew we were old [enough] and were not going to go [and tell anyone], but she said, "On Sunday afternoons, if you'd notice, Dean Boocock's home would have the shades drawn." She said, you know, "There'd be cocktail parties," or something like that. She said, "Not that they are hiding it, but they just didn't want to make it too obvious to the undergraduates, like rubbing your noses in it," so she said, "They enjoy a drink." But we never had hard liquor after that episode. … She knew the deans. She saved our skin. Then across the way from the Delta Phi house were the Miss Williamsons. The Miss Williamsons must have been in their seventies at that point. Their brother had been a Delta Phi, and they were old money from New Brunswick, and Mrs. Rose got to know them. On Saturday, the Miss Williamsons would call up Mrs. Rose and say, "Why don't you bring a couple of the boys over for Manhattans?" and the Miss Williamsons would have a couple of the boys, but they were usually the twenty-one-year-olds. The Miss Williamsons would have the boys and Mrs. Rose over for Manhattans. … They were two old spinsters, but they were great ladies. They really were fun.
KP: It does sounds like you had a lot of fun.
FQ: Off the record.
KP: One of the things that my students have to do is read one semester of the Targum from the '30s and '40s.
FQ: The "Rain of Terror." Have you read about that? You've never read about the "Rain of Terror?"
KP: That doesn't stick in my mind.
FQ: Anybody within Rutgers at that time [knows about it]. … What happened was suddenly the Targum came out against fraternities.
KP: This must be the great pee-in. I have heard about this. I haven't heard of it referred to as the "Rain of Terror."
FQ: That's what they called it. The Targum came out against the fraternities. Now, Delta Phi used to have in the spring a beer party in the backyard for all the fraternities, and they used to invite the commissioner of safety from New Brunswick, who was basically an alcoholic. I mean, he used to get there …
FQ: They would invite the commissioner, and he would get absolutely [drunk], so he didn't care basically what went on, as long as he got his beer. They would block off … Union Street … So all of a sudden, it started going through all the fraternity members, "Let's all go and piss on the Targum house." Now, the Targum house was on College Avenue at that point. I don't know where it is now. … They started going and going and going, and all of a sudden, it became volumes of people singing this song. So they all started to march down Union Street, while our president stood at the head of the drive and saw each one of us off. "All the Tekes," he said, "you will not get involved." … So we did not. And they went and they encircled the Targum house and urinated all over it. The Targum came out the next day, or that week, and they [called] it, "Rain of Terror."
KP: When was that?
FQ: … Of course, Bill Vannais was president, so it was our junior year. It was in the spring of '50, somewhere in there, the spring of '50.
KP: Someone else talked about the great pee-in.
FQ: Well, every time there's a reunion, I mean, the non-fraternity people, and there's no animosity now, but they always talked about, "You remember the 'Rain of Terror?'"
KP: We have noticed the rivalry between the fraternities and the non-fraternities.
FQ: There was a problem. … We got a lot of Tekes that had been independents, and they became very strong Tekes, but we got them like in the junior and senior year and they became strong, and they had been strong independents. But when I say strong, they were strong Tekes, but not fanatical fraternities.
KP: It was more than just your fraternity. One thing that struck me about fraternities, even when they numerically were not the majority, they dominated positions like the editor of the Targum and football manager.
FQ: There was nothing basically at Rutgers except the fraternities, as far as I was concerned, on weekends. To me, I loved it. I mean, it was a very fine experience, and I've always gone along with it. I think they've lost out by not having housemothers.
KP: You think that was one of the key things to have.
FQ: The one we had was a gem. You couldn't have had a better [housemother] … One of our freshmen, when he came to Rutgers, was an animal. He pledged Tekes and was initiated … [He was] a smart cookie, but social graces, none. He shoveled his food in, and Mrs. Rose said to him and said to all the brothers, "Dick will sit next to me at dinner until I release him and say he may go." He eventually became a PhD. But he did, and she would do things, I mean, she was fabulous. … She came from wealth, and her husband had died, so she wanted something to do. … She was a good friend of Dean Boocock, and he said, "Become a housemother." So she became a housemother, but she had a great many friends … You know Bayhead, New Jersey? She had a summer home there.
KP: Did she have a regular home?
FQ: Oh, sure. A regular home, she had sold her home in Montclair, but she hung onto the Montclair connections. … One day I was sitting in her room on her bed watching TV, because she was the only one who had a TV in the house, and in walked a couple of lady friends, and she introduced me. Because of my height, I didn't stand up all the way. I just kind of edged up and stood up a little bit, but not all the way. She didn't say a word. They left. She turned to me and she said, "Let me tell you something, Fred Quantmeyer," she said, "You're tall. It's obvious you're tall, but from now on, when a lady walks in the room, you will stand up." I'm like a monkey on a string, except now with my bad knees, but I was like a monkey on a string the rest of my life. Whenever a lady or a woman walked in the store and I'm seated, I was up. I was. I mean, that's what she did for us, and she was great. She used to say, "Come on, a couple of you." … She had a five-bedroom home in Bayhead. She sold that on like a Friday, and it was on the bay, and on Monday, she started building, because they owned the empty lot next door, where she called it her cottage. Her cottage still had servant's quarters. I mean, it had, I guess, three bedrooms downstairs. Upstairs [was] an attic, [in] which she just kept extra beds there, and she always invited her boys down. … Every spring, she gave a party for the Tekes. She said, "I won't buy the beer. I'll buy the food, but I won't buy the beer, so you furnish the beer." She'd open up her house for us every spring.
KP: So she really didn't need the money. She just wanted to do it.
FQ: She was fabulous. She used to bring us down for the weekend. Now, her sister was married to J Dougal White, who was well known in the city. He was a multi-millionaire. They had a great, big home near the ocean, but J Dougal White's wife, I forget, Mrs. White, whatever his name was, Mrs. Rose's sister, had bought another big home just to keep her extra antiques in, because she liked to collect antiques. … They had two daughters whom Mrs. Rose would call up, and she'd say, "I have a few boys down for the weekend. Why don't you have your daughters take them over to the yacht club for lunch?" and the daughters would, you know, take us over for lunch at the yacht club. So we got a fantastic background from her.
KP: You didn't pay for this.
FQ: No. … She'd call up the ladies in Montclair and say, "I'm coming up with a couple of boys. Why don't we go to the Montclair Golf and Country Club?" or whatever it was, "We'll go for lunch," and we'd go to lunch there with her. I mean, it was fabulous. She was good. She was quite a lady.
KP: You mentioned a German professor who was your favorite professor.
FQ: Dr. Armann. Well, you can cut this off if you want, but he used to, when it came close to the final exams, we were in the German house, and I think it's still on College Ave. It was a private home, and it was in like what used to be, I don't know what room it was, but right above it was the head of the department, his office. Dr. Armann used to say, "Boys, I will get you through this examination. I teach this course. I will get you through this, not that sniveling pimp upstairs." [laughter] That's what he used to refer to the head of the department as, "not that sniveling pimp upstairs." He was outrageous … There was one kid, one day he'd gotten a pen. His brother gave him a pen for Christmas, and it was a ballpoint pen. … Dr. Armann was dictating, and he was writing, but it would cut out on him. So he would hit it like this, and it would, "Tick, tick, tick," and it would stop and then, "Tick, tick, tick," and it would annoy Dr. Armann. So Dr. Armann looked up one time. He said, "Throw it out the window." The kid said, "But my brother just gave it to me." He said, "I said throw it out the window," but, I mean, he went afterwards and got it. … All he'd say for a homework, he said, "Do a few pages," which meant, "translate," and if you didn't translate, he'd look at you and say, "Quantmeyer, you're all screwed up, boy. You do not know what you're doing." But [he was] wonderful. [laughter] He was excellent.
KP: You joined the German Club.
FQ: Yeah. … If you were smart, you joined the German Club, because he was the adviser. It was kind of a political thing to do, the correct thing to do.
KP: You would be a business administration major. Why business administration, as opposed to engineering?
FQ: I transferred to Rutgers in city planning, which I enjoyed, and I did one semester of city planning. … Well, first semester of the engineering drawing I had done in Syracuse under the Army. Second semester of engineering drawing, I was in city planning in my second semester at Rutgers, and I went to the first lab and we had to do the pictures of screws. Have you ever done that? We'd draw it with triangles doing all these things. It was a three-hour lab.
KP: It sounds pretty torturous.
FQ: I walked out. It was the second semester and the first class. I walked out, and I said, "I will never, never, never go back into that lab." So I transferred. I spoke to whoever it was, [and] I was transferred, I guess, by the end of the week into business, which I never regretted, because I would not have lasted.
ES: Did you know at that time that you were going to go back to the service?
FQ: No, I didn't know what I was going to do. In fact, that's when Korea came along … Korea started in my junior year. … When we were seniors, in the very end of our first semester, they put out this bulletin that if you had been in ROTC basic for two years, which was required then, [you could get commissioned]. I don't think it is [required] now. It was required. You had to take the first two years, or you had to take a year of active duty, [and then] you could apply for this one semester short course and get a commission. So I thought, "Well, I'm graduating in June. This could be," you know, "a couple of years." So I think about 400 applied for the junior and senior position, and I think around forty of us got it. When I went in for the interview, I reported to this Air Force Captain, and he said to me, "I see you have had infantry basic training." I said, "Yes, sir." He said, "Where did you go?" I said, "Camp Wheeler, Georgia," and he said, "So did I." So I said, "I've got this interview made, because he has had infantry basic in the same place I did." I mean, it was just a godsend, you know, because it was like, "Oh, wow." So that was that. Then I sneaked through the physical, because I was six-seven, and the limit is six-six, without a waiver. So the medical officer, he measured me. He said, "You're seventy-nine inches tall." I said, "No, sir. I'm seventy-eight inches tall." He says, "How do you mean? Look at this. It says seventy-nine." I said, "Well, sir, if you look in your regulations, anybody over seventy-eight has to get a waiver, and my commission would be out the door by then, because by the time I got the waiver, all the short courses would be finished." He said, "Are you sure of that?" I said, "I am positive, sir." So he looked it up and said, "You know, you're right. It's seventy-eight." He said, "Let me re-measure you." So he looked and said, "You know, by God, you're seventy-eight inches," and I said, "Thank you, sir." Once you got the commission, that was it, you know.
KP: Did you have to take basic at Rutgers?
FQ: No, I didn't. If you had had the one year of active duty, you didn't have to. No, you got credit for it, and you got credit for phys ed, because phys ed was required. I don't know if it was one year or two years, but you automatically got credit for the ROTC, and you automatically got credit for having enough phys ed.
KP: Then you took the Advanced ROTC only when the Korean War came up. You weren't in Advanced before that.
FQ: One semester, you got a commission. We didn't even have to go to summer camp. Prior to that, the Advanced students had to go to summer camp for six weeks. [We had] nothing …
KP: I'm curious, why did you want to become an officer?
FQ: I thought, you know, "Why not try a couple of years as a commissioned officer?" You know, "I'm not going to spend my life there. You just go in for a couple of years …"
KP: But you could have been sent to Korea.
FQ: Could have been, but, again, I was sent to Washington, and this captain wanted me, so I went. A whole gang of us from Rutgers went to Washington National … Many of them were sent overseas …
KP: Did you have a choice between Army and Air Force?
FQ: I never would have picked Army.
KP: You deliberately chose the Air Force.
FQ: Oh, it was the only way I would. … The only thing I applied for was Air Force …
KP: What was it like to be in the Air Force during the Korean War, during the Cold War?
FQ: If you wanted to pick a job, which this captain snagged me for, I don't think I could have had a job I would have enjoyed more. It was on a daily basis. Many days, you would run into the president of the United States, the vice president of the United States. I was walking down the flight line one day, and I just saw ahead of me, do you know the insignia of a lieutenant colonel? It's a silver leaf. I saw this silver leaf ahead of me, and as you go by them, you're supposed to salute and say, "By your leave, sir." So I was walking at a pace, and I saluted and, "By your leave, sir." I looked down. It wasn't silver leaf. It was five stars, Omar Bradley. I almost passed out right on the spot. I mean, you didn't see many [five-star generals]. He was the last of the five stars on active duty. … Eisenhower was president, but he was the last [five-star general].
KP: You saw both President Truman and President Eisenhower.
FQ: I saw Truman. I saw Eisenhower, and I saw Nixon as vice president. My claim to fame with Vice President Nixon was on the flight line. You know the ceremonies you see at the White House now, when they greet with the cannons like that? Well, they used to do this at Washington National, because the planes would land, and they would put a cordon around the plane ...
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FQ: Nixon was down there to greet the person. He was vice president at that time. He was inside the cordon. Now, actually, I could get inside that cordon, if there was some real reason, but, basically, there was no reason for me to be inside. … All of a sudden, this sergeant walked up to me, and Nixon was standing there, and the sergeant said, "Don't look now, sir, but the vice president is down there to greet this dignitary, but his fly is unzipped." I said, "I am not going down and telling the vice president of the United States his fly is open." He was standing there with his overcoat, and his hands were around the overcoat into his pockets of his pants, so that kind of spread it open a little bit more … The sergeant passed it onto me, I passed it onto, I forget, one of the State Department [officials], something, and you could watch this chain of command, and it was hysterical. It went up the regular chain of command, through the cordon, and all of a sudden, someone, I don't know, the Secret Service man, or whatever it was, they walked over to Nixon and told him, and he was very cool. All he did was he took his hands out of his pockets and buttoned his topcoat, and that was it. But it was comical to watch that. Then another incident I had was with, do you the name C. Merriman Smith? Excuse me, but he was a bastard. I never worked with worse people in my life than the press corps or the photographers for the White House. … The colonel called me in one day, and he said, "These parking places out here are reserved for the press corps, but they don't park in the lines. They park wherever they feel like it. From now on, they'll be in their lines." So the next time they had one of these big deals coming in, the corps was all there, and so forth, and I went down to check up. … There's this car like parked across, whatever way they wanted to be parked. So I said to the sergeant, "Whoever that is, that car will be moved." He comes back, he said, "C. Merriman Smith's car," and I said, "Okay, C. Merriman Smith, he's got to move it." He said, "Well, he is the president of the White House press corps," at that time. He was the guy that stood up and said, "Mr. President," and all that. So I said, "I don't care. See that colonel sitting in there? He wants the cars in the lines. The colonel wants it." I said, "Bring him back." … The guy goes, wearing a .45, and he brought C. Merriman Smith babbling mad, "You can't do this to me. Do you know who I am? I'm C. Merriman Smith." I said, "Sir, I'm sorry. I don't basically care who you are." I said, "See the man in there? He's my colonel. He wants you moved. You'll either move it, or you'll be towed off the base." He eventually got in, and he moved it. Another time, the base commander called me in. He said, and very seldom does this happen, he said, "Lieutenant, I want you down in my office immediately." So I went down there. He said, "Lieutenant, this is the head of the Secret Service …" I thought, "What is going on here today?" So he said, "I'll turn this over to the Secret Service." So he said, "Lieutenant," he said, "we have definite proof," and they did have it, "they're going to try to assassinate Adenauer on your base." He was arriving within the week. He said, "What are you going to do about it?" I thought, "Me?" … He was just like pulling my leg, really. He said, "No. What you will be in charge of," which we were basically, "is the traffic and some security …"
KP: Who was planning the assassination?
FQ: I don't know. They didn't tell me that much. They told me the plan somewhat, but they didn't tell me how, where, what, and he said, "All we want you is to make sure that you know what's the plan. We want you with the traffic and with your security," and they had this cordon on and everything else. Then that day, there was a stairway that overlooked the flight line where this whole greeting takes place, and I was standing there, and that day I strapped on a .45. … I don't know if he was Secret Service, one of those, he walks up to me and said, "Lieutenant, if anybody here took a gun out, what would you do with your .45?" … I looked at him and I said, "I hadn't really thought about it." He said, "Don't touch it, because you see that person over there, he might be Secret Service, but he doesn't know me. I could be a Treasury Agent, and I don't know him, and there are lots and lots of weapons around here," and he said, "The last thing you want to do is draw that .45." I said, "Thank you very much." But nothing happened. What was supposed to happen, from what they told me, was as he left the main gate, there was a traffic circle, and as he left, this truck was supposed to come down and ram his car, but it didn't happen. I saw Field Marshal Montgomery, Churchill …
KP: So you saw all the dignitaries come in.
FQ: I never saw anybody put the press in their place like Churchill did. I loved that man from that day on. It was a rainy day, and they were supposed to have the greeting outside, and it was raining, so they took him in the colonel's office and they had this little press conference. … Mr. Churchill said what he wanted to say. I was standing back, because I could get into these types of things. I was standing in the back, and Mr. Churchill said, "That's all." Some obnoxious pressman said, "Mr. Prime Minister," and Churchill looked up and said, "I said that's all." Not another word. No one blinked an eyelid, nobody said hello. It was wonderful. He was great.
KP: Had you thought of staying in the Air Force?
FQ: I did. But I was engaged, and I didn't think it was exactly the way I wanted to spend my married life. If I'd stayed single, yes. I would have loved it. But I didn't want, no, I wanted children.
KP: It sounds like you were giving it some thought.
FQ: Oh, yeah. I loved it. I mean, I had a great time. I mean, I couldn't complain about anything. It was super.
KP: What was a typical day like?
FQ: Typical day was, there were five squads that worked a shift's work, and there was always one off, one in school, and three following the shifts. So if I wanted to, when I came in the early morning, before they were posted, which I did periodically, supposedly to keep them on their toes, basically, the sergeant would inspect them every morning when they went on, or every four o'clock, or every midnight, but at my discretion, I'd go out and inspect them. … Then it depended upon what was going on in the base. We would go out in the car. We'd check on the different posts, see what was happening, traffic, or uniform problems. … Then quite a bit we would have these big arrivals, and when we had those, I mean, I saw, I have a picture, but I can't think of who it was. It was the general who came back from Korea. He was the big four star that came back, and I had this picture of the people greeting him. … There was the chief of staff of the Army, the chief of the staff of the Air Force, the secretary of the Army, and a couple of other generals greeting. … I have other pictures of the four-star general who had command of NATO at that time when he came in. I also have pictures of Ike when he became president-elect, the day he arrived as president-elect. … That's interesting, because we were kind of told he was president-elect … and he'd resigned his five stars … They said, "You really don't have to salute him as president-elect," but all the troops [saluted]. I mean, they all popped to as soon as they saw him. I mean, you couldn't help it, you know, it was just, there he was. He and Mamie arrived. That was quite a day, when they arrived. I have been on Roosevelt's plane, Truman's plane, and Ike's plane. They were beauties. As a history major, you know when Dewey, they were sure Dewey was going to become president? Well, the Air Force was so sure they let Dewey pick out an airplane and decorate it for painting, colors, what he wanted. Truman found out about this after the fact. It was called Executive Aircraft, when I was there, 8610. … It was used then subsequently by the secretary of the state, secretary of the Air Force, any of the wheels that went overseas. But after Truman found out about this, there arrived at Washington National this package from the White House, and it said, "The contents of this package will be permanently installed in Executive Aircraft, I think it was, 8610. Signed, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States." … I've seen this in the corner in this beautiful, mahogany case, glass enclosed, was a mustache cup. … Dewey had the big, heavy mustache, so he was putting Dewey down. … They always called it, from then on out, they called this plane, they nicknamed it the, "Dewdrop."
KP: Did you actually see this?
FQ: I've seen this mug. It was there. I mean, it was a plaque. I mean, it's not a BS story. I mean, the plaque was there, and on the plaque it said, "Presented by Harry S. Truman, President of the United States," on a brass plaque on it. … That's how sure they were that Dewey was going to win.
KP: I have a student who wrote a thesis on Harry Truman, and I can't wait to tell him that story.
FQ: It's true, I mean, and as I say, I'm almost positive it was called Executive Aircraft 8610. If he wants verification, I'll sign the statement. [laughter]
KP: I'm curious about living in the Washington area in general. How did you like it?
FQ: Oh, actually, Washington was interesting then, because it was just at the point [when] it was forty-nine percent black and fifty-one percent white. It was just swinging over. So it was still predominantly a white town. From where I understand now, I've been back somewhat, and I think it's more heavily populated black as far as Washington, DC is concerned … Washington was fun. I didn't get involved too much with DC, because there were plenty of activities on the two bases. You know, I had the officer's club. I lived in the BOQ for my two years, because the club was right across the field, from the BOQ, and that was convenient, I mean, the BOQ.
KP: You didn't live in civilian quarters.
FQ: No, you could. A lot of my buddies did live [in civilian housing], and a lot of them got married before their two years were up. But, no, I stayed at the BOQ, because I enjoyed life, the bachelor life, in the BOQ.
ES: Is that where you met your ex-wife?
FQ: No. The buddy that I went to visit in the Marines, his wife was my wife's roommate in college. … I knew Allen's wife before I knew my ex-wife, because we all used to hang out in Hillsdale at the same swimming club, so we knew each other then. … Then Nancy became a friend of my ex in college, were roommates, so they were looking for a date. Allan Apple, we stayed buddies, and he used to come over and visit, and I knew all the BOQ enlisted men, and I'd get a room in the BOQ for Apple for the weekend. He was a staff sergeant, but in civvies, so he used to stay in the BOQ. … Then he disappeared for a couple of months, and I said, "Where have you been?" and he had become engaged to Nancy. … They needed a date for her friend, so I went on a double date.
KP: How did the change of enemies affect the military between World War II and the Korean War? For example, was there any concern of potential communist sympathizers in your ranks?
FQ: Oh, well, actually, in order to be on Washington National, you had to be cleared. I had to be cleared for top secret. … Any of the APs, when I say worked for me, worked in the Air Police, there were ninety of them, and they would go to air police school, and then maybe they'd be sent here, or they'd been overseas, and they would be sent to Washington National, and the personnel officer would send them up to the provost marshal's office. Well, somewhere along the line, this Captain Smith, who was the flyer that was shipped to Korea, he had this list of qualifications, "In order for an air policeman to be stationed at Washington National, they would meet the following criteria," and it was signed by a three star, lieutenant general. So when they arrived in the office, it eventually became my job and the sergeant, I had a tech sergeant, we would interview them, and you would go through the criteria. Now, they don't have to fit fifteen of them, out of the fifteen, but if you didn't like what you saw, you shipped them back to personnel. Now, the personnel officer, I was a first john, the personnel [officer] was a captain, and he'd call up and say, "Lieutenant, you have got to take these." … It was very easy. I'd say, "Captain, according to this directive signed by Lieutenant General So-and-So, I do not have to take them. I'm sending them back to you. It's your responsibility." He used to get mad, but you wanted the best, because these men all the time were in contact, because the president's plane would be kept inside the hangar. Now, the president's plane [was guarded] by twelve specific APs that only guarded the president's plane.
KP: Were you responsible for guarding the plane?
FQ: I couldn't even get on the president's plane unless the master sergeant in charge of these twelve okayed it, or if one of the officers, like the colonel, who was the pilot, okayed it. I had been on the plane, because the master sergeant would let me on, and the colonel would let me on. I could get into the hanger, but you could not get into the plane, because there were always at least two guards on that plane, even in the hangar. Wherever that plane went, the guards went with it, a full complement went with it. You did not just walk onto that plane. … They were beautiful planes. The inlaid doors, they had the presidential seal on an inlaid door. In Truman's, there was a fold-down desk, and in it was inlaid the presidential seal.
KP: It sounds like they were very posh planes.
FQ: They were posh. They were well done, a good living. A number of my kids ended up presidential guards, you know, because as some of them went off, they would pick from them, and then a couple of them ended up as the presidential guards of his plane. It was fairly good duty, because they would travel. Wherever that plane went in that era, usually about four of the guards went. … Ike was president-elect, and, you know, he promised that he would basically end the Korean War. Well, the Thanksgiving of '52, after he had been elected, we were called in, and my ex-wife had tickets to a football game, and I was going home for Thanksgiving. … We were called in, and we were told very quietly that President-elect Eisenhower was going to Korea on the QT. Now, he was president of Columbia, at that time, and he was ostensibly watching the Army-Navy game on TV. No, he was not. He was in Korea, and they kept saying, "The president-elect is watching the Army-Navy game in his Columbia presidency home on Columbia's campus." Well, what they did was they took one of the executive aircraft, and they took some of my guards and flew the plane out to Andrews and put it in the boonies. This one guard, one kid of mine, who was at the bottom of the steps, said this general was brought on board the plane, and he said, "Where am I going?" and they said to him, "Sir, when you get on board, you will be told where you're going." It was so secret they wouldn't even tell the general until he got on. So then they flew it up to (Idlewild?), I guess, I'm not sure of that, flew it up and then Ike, they got him out, and they flew to Korea. Now, how they got all his clothes out, he was receiving so much mail, as being president-elect, and he was supposedly answering, and the mailbags were going back and forth. That's how they got all his clothes out, in the mailbags, and then they got it onto the plane. Not only that, they had top sergeants, the flight engineers, spaced throughout the Pacific, because they were propeller airplanes at that point. So they had these plane's engines spotted throughout the Pacific in case they needed a spare engine. … These sergeants were there, and we all knew this. I had to call up my ex and say, "I'm not coming home for Thanksgiving," and she said, "Why aren't you?" I said, "I can't say." She said, "What do you mean you can't say? I've got tickets." I said, "Sorry, I can't say."
KP: You really couldn't say.
FQ: You really [couldn't], no.
KP: So at any rate, it must have been very exciting.
FQ: It was a ball. I mean, you were so involved.
KP: It sounds like your men didn't get you in trouble.
FQ: Oh, no, no, no. I had one kid one time, he was a smart ass. He was trying to get away with stuff. So I came in kind of early this one morning, and he was coming off his post, and I looked at him. His uniform was disheveled, he was dirty, [and] he needed a haircut. I said, "Why, you're just coming off post?" He said, "Yes." So I said, "Okay, you go back to your barracks and clean yourself up. You get a haircut and you report back to me." I said to the sergeant, whose desk was in my office, I said, "No matter how many times he comes back, we will find something wrong with him." He came back and back and back. We would send him and send him and send him. … I said, "From now on, every time you go on your post, you will report to me. You will no longer report to your sergeant. You report to me." So I put this great, big notice on the bulletin board for what I did and addressed it to the sergeant. The sergeant had a fit. He came in, "Lieutenant, you can't do this to me." I said, "What do you mean I can't do this?" "You're embarrassing me." I said, "Do you realize what you could have done to us? If any wheel came through or any of the base officers of higher rank …" Luckily enough, it was like midnight. There weren't many people, "But if somebody went through there, if the president or someone saw this sitting at one of the posts," I said, "with the hair and the dirt and everything," I said, "I'm embarrassing you? Out," you know. So for about a week or so, every time Airman Meyers was posted, he would report to me, and the sergeant and I would find something wrong and we'd ship him back. I mean, I felt I was, it was the right thing to do. I mean, he shaped up. He stayed clean from then on out.
KP: It sounds like that was more of an exceptional case.
FQ: It was. It was the one that I remember. I mean, basically, you could go through and inspect, and they were a fantastic bunch and most of them were exceptionally clean-cut looking, because they were in the public's eye. You had to have this type of person there.
KP: The Army and the Air Force were desegregated in this period.
FQ: … Truman desegregated in '48, oh, so it was desegregated. By the time I was back in, black was white and white was black, and they mixed and there was no …
KP: Did you have any black airmen?
FQ: Yes, I had a tech sergeant and I had a buck sergeant.
KP: When you got in the Army was segregated, so you saw both services.
FQ: Actually, I just remember like the movies where it was segregated, you know, in basic training. When I was in ASTP, I think we had one black student in ASTP, but that was different. … Then in the BOQ in the Air Force, there was only one black officer. There weren't that many, but it was the beginning of it.
KP: Did you ever see any conflicts?
FQ: Not at all. Not at all, no. They were good. There were Southerners there, and I mean Southerners there, "Y'all this," and, "Y'all that," no.
KP: They didn't resent that there was a black tech sergeant.
FQ: If they did, they better not do anything about it. You know, it wasn't allowed, no. They might say something behind his back …
KP: But there was nothing where you had to discipline them.
KP: It sounds like there were certain advantages to having elite duty.
FQ: No, it wasn't allowed, no. … No, they were good troops.
KP: So you must have traveled a lot in the Air Force.
FQ: … The only flights I really took were [with] my buddy who used to get the weekend trips, that we used to get a plane for the weekend. We'd fly to Lakehurst [and] leave the plane. Then we'd hitchhike over. I'd go to Mrs. Rose's at BayHead, and he had relatives in BayHead, for the weekend, hitchhike back to Lakehurst and fly back. One trip I took over as officer in charge of the volleyball team to Massachusetts, and another time I was the officer in charge of the volleyball team to California. We flew out, we were supposed to go on the president's plane, but it went earlier than us, so we went on a regular MAC's plane. I almost went to California with the president.
KP: You decided not to stay in the Air Force. What plans did you have for after your service?
FQ: By then, I decided it was time to go into the family business, and I did.
KP: It sounds like you were more accepting of that.
FQ: It was something almost as if expected, and in retrospect, I don't know if I'm sorry or glad, but it worked out. It was all right. But as I said, I don't know if I'm sorry or glad, but there are no real complaints about it, because it was fine.
KP: You enjoyed Rutgers football. You were going to the games when you were a student.
FQ: Yeah, we traveled. We had a '46 Ford, and we went to a lot of great games. Basketball games we followed and football games, and most of the home games we went to. I've gone to many of the home games. Well, my buddy, the Chinese buddy, David Lea, had season tickets, but he died. … His wife kept season tickets and she was going to give them up, and I said, "Why don't we share the wealth?" So we share the wealth. We go to some games together, we go with family, you know, whatever we felt like doing.
ES: It was in your alumni file about your friend from Columbia and your football bets.
FQ: We used to bet a dinner on who won the Columbia-Rutgers game, and if Columbia won that year, we had to wear blue and white at the dinner, and if Rutgers won that year, they had to wear red and they had to give the dinner or vice versa. Then we bet, I think it was fifty cents on every game for years and years. … He had home tickets. He went to home games for centuries. I mean, he went to the home games. He was bananas. He even had, you know the name Archie Roberts. [He was] one of the good football players that Columbia ever had. He was outstanding. He named his rabbit after Archie Roberts. He even got him to come to the dinner, because they won that year, so he brought Archie Roberts to the dinner.
KP: Is there anything we forgot to ask you about the war, about your Air Force experiences?
FQ: I think I have covered more than I thought I was going to cover.
KP: Did you ever join a veteran's organization?
FQ: I once went to an American Legion meeting. My father was an avid American Legion member …
KP: From World War I. Did your father go to conventions?
FQ: No, just local. It was not my cup of tea.
KP: How does it feel to be in New York?
FQ: I love it. I love it. I do. I've thoroughly enjoyed it. First, it was a little strange, but now, I love it. In fact, when my father was still alive, I used to go out for a week or so and stayed there with him, and I loved the first two or three days, but by four, five, or six, "Oh, but there's nothing out here." You know, everything you did you got in the car. To go to the movie, to go shopping, to go here, to go there, you know, you had to have a car. I had a car, but, I mean, here I'd walk …
ES: What made you move into the city, when most people don't retire into the city?
FQ: Because my wife and I separated, and I thought Bergen County was no place for a single man. It was not. It was disaster, you know.
KP: My wife and I often joke that we'd like to retire in Manhattan.
FQ: There are a lot of people that are retiring to Manhattan.
KP: We think, you know, if we can afford it, you don't need a car, and there's plenty to do.
FQ: Everything is there, and you don't have to plan a lot of it. I mean, you have to plan to go to Lincoln Center or the theater, but not a lot of it, no.
KP: Well, thank you very much.
FQ: I've enjoyed. It was easier than I thought.
KP: We try to make it easy. We really appreciate the iced tea and the doughnuts.
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Reviewed by Kathryn Tracy Rizzi 8/26/02
Reviewed by Sandra Stewart Holyoak 8/31/02
Reviewed by Fred Quantmeyer, Jr. 10/02