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Canning, Howard F.

 

Robert Lipschitz: I think I'd like to start with what you remember about your parents. Can you tell me about your parents, where they're from and how they came to New Jersey?

Howard F. Canning: I'm not exactly sure, but I think that my mother was born in New Jersey, and that my father came from Ossining, New York. Dad's father came from Brighton, England, and the woman he married was already in the United States. My parents were wonderful [people] who lived in an apartment in Jersey City, New Jersey. We were there for about five years when my maternal grandmother and her second husband moved out of Jersey City, which was really harrowing, new ground at the time. My mother's stepfather had a new house built, around which he did a lot of earth moving. (The property was a corner lot that sloped down to a general store and a reservoir). In moving the soil about, which he was not accustomed to doing, her stepfather had a heart attack and passed along, virtually before they moved into the house. So, Grandmother asked my parents if they would like to live with her, which they did. So, I grew up in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey.

RL: What do you remember about your childhood in Woodcliff Lake? How did you get along during the Depression years?

HC: I was an only child and my parents would have had more children if there existed a better economic situation. They wanted to do as well by their offspring as possible, so they did not have any more children. So, I was, as a lot of people thought, spoiled, but I think my parents worked to see that that did not occur. It certainly did happen in some regard, in that it did take me longer to adjust to the world, especially in the teenage years, and thereafter, in joining the world or work, than it did others. It took more time for me to adjust, to make the transition, because I had been somewhat protected. Protecting me was a natural thing, for primarily my mother to do, I think. I don't fault her for that. I think it was an error on the right side. Certainly, I can see today how parents are exposing their children to many more opportunities very quickly and early in their lives and helping them to become more aware of the world around them than I certainly was allowed to do.

RL: What did your father do for a living during the Depression?

HC: He worked with his brother in a garage in Jersey City, which was primarily a welding repair shop, but that didn't last too long, because the brothers somehow weren't totally compatible. My father left and joined Air Reduction Company or Airco, which was a pretty good-sized outfit in Jersey City at the time, where he advanced in the welding field. Later, he was transferred to Murray Hill, New Jersey, which was a longer commute than to Jersey City, twice the time. He was an excellent individual, a worker of the "old school," knew his craft very well, but he was not fully appreciated because he didn't have a fabulous education. His schooling was limited. Whether he graduated from elementary school or not, I'm not sure. He didn't take additional courses. He just tried to learn and gain experience on the job, which he did do very well. Towards the end of his career, he was sent out to set up tube mills in the Pittsburgh area and in Rockford, Illinois, as well as St. Louis. Sheet steel was formed into a cylinder and then welded together. There were a lot of problems to get this assembly line process set up, and he would spend long hours and many months away from home working to get this automatic tube mill operating.

RL: Did you have a car during the Depression?

HC: My parents had a car, yes. I guess, there was one car. It was a Buick and, I remember, Dad and I cleaned it every Sunday morning, before going to church. When I was younger, I sat between my parents in a convertible. I recall sitting on a little box, a wooden box, between them, riding to Asbury Park and Ocean Grove, New Jersey. It was a big trip, because the Jersey Parkway was not available at that time but we were a happy group, anyway.

RL: You mentioned that your father traveled to St. Louis and other places. Did you ever go with him?

HC: No, I never did. I was in school. That was primarily the reason. I was busy with school and activities that I enjoyed, such as sports, playing basketball and starting to follow my inclination towards journalism, reporting on games. My parents, in the protective mode, I guess, primarily my father's influence, didn't want me to play football, seeing how many players had knee problems, and so, he kept me out of football. I didn't resist his advice. I recognized his experience. Children of that era listened to their parents and didn't fight with them, as they do today. So, I honored what he said, and I became a reporter, a sports and news reporter, for the local paper, reporting on high school sports and planning boards and boards of education.

RL: This is while you were in high school?

HC: Yes. I began with sports reporting and branched out to covering local government meetings.

RL: How far had you traveled? Had you been out of New Jersey, out of the general New Jersey, New York area?

HC: Not really very far, until the war took me afield.

RL: So, the war was a ...

HC: It was a ticket to see the world. I guess, we see posters to the effect, "Join the Navy and See the World." It was true.

RL: Drexel was the first college you attended?

HC: Drexel Institute of Technology, yes. I didn't know exactly where I wanted to go to college and the finances were certainly a problem, and here, again, I listened to parental and school authorities. The orientation of Park Ridge High School in Park Ridge, New Jersey, was to get students into engineering schools. I really didn't fit that mold, but, not knowing my own mind, I felt I had to follow their advice and give engineering a try. The school principal and math instructor, because I was beginning to blossom and showing some signs of understanding trigonometry, did ... push me toward giving engineering a try. They recommended Drexel because it had a program where one could finance their education by working in industry during alternating semesters and take five years to get the degree. So, that's where I went.

RL: How did you like Philadelphia and Drexel, when you first went there?

HC: Not very much. Growing up in countrified Woodcliff Lake, I did not appreciate the surroundings, too citified. There was no campus to speak of. The institute was a large factory-like structure with sidewalk around it. And the pressure of the engineering studies made life difficult. I lived in a fraternity house, Lambda Chi Alpha, where I was the subject of jokes or pranks every weekend. I remember being told that they had to test the fire emergency system. That system consisted of a rope coiled up and attached to the wall alongside a window. You threw the rope out the window and then, hand-over-hand, let yourself down the rope. While going down, I was pelted with buckets of water from above. Everyone had a happy time at my expense. I went along with it, because you couldn't do anything about it.

RL: How long did you stay at Drexel?

HC: About two years. When the war started, all eligible male students were automatically enlisted in the ERC (Enlisted Reserve Corps). I had an Army uniform and, as a corporal, I put my squad through marching drills. You either stayed in the ERC or opted to go into another service branch. I chose the Navy and was sent to join the Navy's V-12 program at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). And that was another disaster. I lasted one semester in that accelerated program. We were housed in the Graduate House, located across the street from MIT, at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Memorial Drive, facing the Charles River and Boston. The building was about five or seven stories tall. On a typical day, classes were interspersed with physical education, which meant going up five flights of stairs to change, exercise and work up a sweat, run back up the stairs and change, with no time to shower, and race down stairs and across campus to the next class, "Phew!" It was exhausting. The result was that I didn't fail any subject, but being in the lower third meant "washing out" of the program and joining the fleet. We were sent to the Newport Naval Training Center in Newport, Rhode Island.

RL: So, is that how you got into the military at that time?

HC: I was in the military when I was in the ERC. Some of my classmates continued in the V-12 program, graduated and spent some time on duty, but I don't know whether that would have been so rewarding, because by the time they graduated, the war was about over. Not that I was so gung ho and anxious to go to war, but the experience did enable me to see some of the world. Yet, from a formal education standpoint, they were far ahead of me. Going to Newport was the lowest point in my life. After boot camp, I went to the Naval Training Station at Bainbridge, Maryland, where I learned to be a signalman. The war in the Atlantic was winding down, so I was sent to San Diego, where I was assigned to APA (Auxiliary Personnel Attack ship) 118. It was under construction in San Pedro, which is next to Long Beach, California. While standing watches on the ship, I wondered if it was going to hold together, based on the hurried workmanship. After sea trials off Long Beach, we sailed for Pearl Harbor. We boarded Marines and they practiced landings. We were then assigned to a convoy that took part in the invasion of Saipan.

RL: How long was your training to be a signalman?

HC: About three months. You had to do a lot on your own. Given cards showing the various arm position for each letter of the alphabet, you practiced forming each letter. Achieving some proficiency, you practiced sending messages with another signalman trainee. Then, we learned the Morse Code and sent it to other signalmen on other ships via blinking, large lights that were one to three feet in diameter. If the signalman could "read" or spell out, mentally, the incoming flashed letters, he held his light open and did so until he missed what was sent or until the end of the message. Then, he flicked two quick flashes, signifying that he had received the message. Occasionally, long distances between ships necessitated reading the light via a telescope that was steadied by resting it on the ship's compass, cradled in a single support on the signal bridge to minimize the ship's movements. A second signalman stood alongside the fellow looking through the telescope to write down the letters that were shouted out. Either the shutters on the light were held open or, in the case of messages sent by semaphore flags, the right arm was held up so long as the message was being understood. To become proficient, you practiced as much as you could when the ship was at berth. You discussed everyday items, certainly nothing classified.

RL: You were on the USS Hendry? What kind of a ship was it?

HC: It was a personnel attack ship. It carried the personnel and the craft that the Marines used to storm the beaches during an invasion. There were two sizes of landing craft, one that took a vehicle such as a jeep and personnel and those that took only personnel. There were two of the larger vehicle-bearing units and about twenty of the personnel-carrying type carried by this type of ship.

RL: How many people were aboard the ship?

HC: I think it numbered between 1500 to 2000.

RL: So, it was a good-sized ship.

HC: Yes. It was about three hundred feet long and sixty feet wide. It had a flat bottom and was certainly not built for speed. It had one large propeller. The superstructure was in the center; the smokestack was also centered and our signal bridge surrounded the smokestack. The captain's bridge was immediately below us.

RL: You were considered a private ...

HC: No. The lowest grade in the Army is called "Private," but, in the Navy, it is Seaman, Third Class.

RL: Ensign?

HC: No. Ensign is the first grade in the commissioned officer ranks. I wasn't in the officer corps. The V-12 program led to the commissioned rank of Ensign, which I did not complete. I became a noncommissioned officer, whose Naval grades consisted of three seamen classes, three signalmen classes, three Petty Officer classes, Chief Petty Officer and then Warrant Officer. It is possible to move up to commissioned officer rank, but, by the time a fellow attains the upper noncommissioned ranks, he is respected, paid more than low-ranking commissioned officers and about ready for retirement. While at Bainbridge, I applied to get back to commissioned ranking by looking to study at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. I was unable to do so, because by the time fall classes began, I would be six months beyond my twenty-first birthday.

RL: You were considered too old?

HC: Too old to apply.

RL: Were there other signalmen aboard?

HC: We had a complement of about seven.

RL: So, were you considered all equals or were there some higher-ups?

HC: There were regular Navy fellows who formed the experienced core of the squad. A First Class Signalman headed the squad, followed by two Second Class Signalmen. The rest of us were all Reservist trainees. The Navy is made up of regular and Reserve personnel. Regular officers graduate from Annapolis; those officers who come from civilian jobs are members of the Reserve Corps. The same grading applies to noncommissioned ranks. And, of course, those who have chosen to make the Navy their career consider themselves superior to those who join for a short enlistment of three to five years.

RL: Have you kept in touch with the men in the Signal Corps?

HC: No. I really didn't relate to them. I was looking to go back to college; they had graduated from high school and planned no further schooling pursuits. All of the other squad members had come into the Navy expecting to be noncommissioned officers. So, I was the strange one, the oddball. Realizing that I had messed up, I spent a lot of my time reading and increasing my vocabulary, and noting the meaning of words in notebooks, trying to make up for lost time. While waiting for the ship to be built, for example, I took a shorthand refresher course to enable me to take notes in college. There was also a comprehensive questionnaire that I completed that analyzed an individual's characteristics. Its results surprised me, as it indicated I possessed great persistence. This meant I should pursue selling, which I did not care to do. I was unaware of this trait.

RL: What did you do during the battle at Saipan? Were you signaling other ships to keep in contact? What were your duties during the actual battle?

HC: No signaling tasks were required approaching the island. The ships knew where they were to stop offshore and no signaling was required during the invasion. We sailed to the island early in the morning, after the island had been blasted throughout the night by the Navy battle wagons to soften up the landing for the Marines. When sailing close to the island, an APA to our rear took a kamikaze hit. The ship soon listed to the port or left side and fell out of formation, but it did not sink. It was able to move closer to offload their personnel and return to Hawaii for repairs. I never heard what happened to it. Our personnel debarked and hit the beach. We watched and grieved over the wounded that were brought back to the ship's hospital facilities. If they needed more intensive care, they were sent elsewhere.

RL: Were you at the Battle of Guam?

HC: No. But we were in the Battle of Okinawa. We did land at Guam, which was secure at the time. We were not there long and we were not given liberty there, i.e., permission to leave the ship. When we were not at an invasion scene, we spent time giving the Marines time to practice going ashore or we withdrew from enemy aircraft by zigzagging around a rectangular course.

RL: Did you have shore leave at any of these places: Did you go to the Philippines?

HC: Yes, we went to the Philippines. Manila Harbor was full of sunken ships. Once ashore, we found the place was eerily quiet. We also had the distinction of being the first to go into Nagoya, [7 October 1945] Japan, where we traded with the local people for artifacts. We didn't have much to trade with, mostly items from the ship's PX. The Japanese were nonetheless happy to obtain such lavatory necessities, but it was disappointing that they seemed to be most pleased to obtain cigarettes than any other item that we had to barter with.

RL: What was your reaction to Nagoya?

HC: It was quite strange. The natives peeked at us from behind their shutters. It was quiet, damp, dismal; you didn't feel happy walking about. The natives were quite submissive and most cooperative. I didn't want to exact anything from them and certainly didn't want to act like the "Ugly American," an attitude that described visiting Americans in later years. We were happy to have seen the place and to get back aboard ship, where you were more comfortable. We didn't see many people as they kept out of sight.

RL: Did you see other soldiers doing anything to the people? How did others react to the population?

HC: We all reacted in the same way. We were young; they were the older generation, because their young were at war. You certainly didn't feel at ease because of the circumstances. We knew that our forces had reigned bombs on them, but it was not the fault of those that we met who were innocent people. They had been victimized and, if we had been able to communicate in their language, it would have been difficult to converse. I wished that we could have been better able to heal their sorrows.

RL: What did you think when the atomic bomb was dropped? What was your reaction to that?

HC: I approved of it and felt that it would shorten the war, and that we would soon all be able to get out of this unpleasant situation that we were suffering through and not really very happy with any longer. We all wanted to get on with our lives. I was increasingly aware of the time that was being lost. So, I hoped that the bomb would bring about a quick end to the war. I was not aware of the great number of lives lost by the bomb. Our task was now to bring Marines and other personnel back to the States as fast as they could be mustered out. We made several trips between San Francisco and the South Pacific. Then, our ship was slated for decommissioning. We traveled down to the Panama Canal and up to the colder temperatures of Norfolk, Virginia, where I left the ship and traveled to Montauk, Long Island, where I was mustered out of the service. I took the train to Times Square, where I had a joyous reunion with my mother, who had sent me many letters, about one a day, and prayed often for my safe return.

RL: What was the first thing you did when you were discharged? What was the date?

HC: I think it was March 15, 1946, and I was very happy to take the uniform off. I really felt that I didn't have to put it on again. But I did about two weekends ago for a USO reenactment in Gardner, Massachusetts, to raise money for veterans. Our church soloist was singing there and, to please her, my wife and I went. There weren't too many others in uniform. It wasn't a particularly fun evening. Times had changed; the party was for a worthy cause, but, aside from that, it felt uncomfortable as it reminded me of those who had not returned. I cannot ever forget the tremendous sacrifice that so many paid for our continued freedoms.

RL: What happened after the war?

HC: I wanted to continue with my interrupted education. It was March and I was looking forward to going to school in the fall. I enrolled in the Donovan Business School in Hackensack, New Jersey. I learned accounting, touch typing and refreshed my shorthand skills. The law required that the institution that you left to join the war effort take you back, but I had found that journalism was more to my liking, which was offered at Rutgers, but more liberal arts courses were required before I could matriculate. Thus, I went to Paterson State Teachers' College in Paterson, New Jersey, now William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey. I was there for one year, and then, after passing an all-day State-administered test, went to Rutgers in the fall of 1947.

RL: What did you think of Rutgers when you first got there?

HC: I enjoyed it. It felt good to getting back to normal. I was lodged at the Raritan Arsenal, located about five miles from the campus. I met my roommate there, a smart, cocky fellow who was a sharp playboy with a Plymouth convertible. He was far more worldly than I, despite my Navy travel and war experience. He pursued engineering and I journalism. We had a fine time together.

RL: I read your application to Rutgers. I found it in your alumni file. In it, you said why you were applying to Rutgers. You said that you did not like engineering, and then, mentioned, "Heroes are made, not born." Do you remember saying that on your application? I was wondering what you meant by that?

HC: Well, the only thing I can conceive of is that, through a Rutgers education, you can aspire to become something worthwhile. You do not achieve greatness by just being born into it. You may be privileged to be born into a wealthy family, but that does not assure that you will be equipped to implement a noteworthy life. Those so fortunate have had a very different kind of life than I have experienced. They undoubtedly went to an Ivy League school, which Rutgers is not, but the latter met my need perfectly. I felt we were a good match.

RL: When you first got there, you lived off campus?

HC: Yes, and some time after we arrived, we were able to move into the Quad, which was so much better. My roommate smoked, drank and was going steady with the girl that became his wife. We were exact opposites. On weekends, he went south, to Philly, where he lived with his parents and I traveled north to my parent's home. I met another fellow who was a year behind me, but had a car and the transportation he provided made my senior year that much more enjoyable.

RL: In your alumni file, it said you had several jobs while you were in college. You were a bagger for a supermarket and you were a messenger and a stenographer. What can you tell me about those jobs?

HC: The messenger work was while at Drexel. I would take two suitcases to specific banks and get cassettes containing copies of checks, get on the train and go to New York City, where the cassettes were processed. Then, back to Philly for a few hours sleep at the fraternity house, and then, it was off to classes. Trying to study on the train was disastrous. The light was poor and the train vibrated. I was glad to let another fraternity brother take the job over.

--------------------------------------END OF SIDE ONE, TAPE ONE--------------------------------------

RL: How do you feel about the GI Bill?

HC: It was a godsend. That was, I think, one of the finest things that the government did for the returning veterans. My parents had enough money to pay for my first year of college. If it hadn't been for the GI Bill, I wouldn't have been able to complete my education without working part-time. Even so, it meant eking it out. I was always looking forward to that check. I ate parsimoniously in the cafeteria. It was a challenge, but I am eternally grateful for the education it afforded me to obtain.

RL: How did your parents feel about you switching to journalism from engineering?

HC: Oh, they recognized that I wasn't destined to be an engineer. It probably hurt my mother the most, as she had great desires that I become an engineer. I could appreciate engineering to explain or write about it, which did come about in my becoming a technical writer, and, thus, the two disciplines were combined.

RL: The journalism class, I believe, was one of the few classes that was integrated with women at the time. Do you have memories of women from New Jersey College being in any of your classes?

HC: I think so. I didn't think anything about integration. Boys and girls had been in all my elementary and high school classes. Being I matured slowly, according to my high school principal, I wasn't much interested in women. Maybe more correctly, women required money and I needed to have a job and some money saved before I could consider letting any women into my life. So, I concentrated on the studies, looking to make up for the lost war years, as if that were possible.

RL: I have a report by your preceptor from Hegeman Hall and I will read a bit of it, "I believe that Howard is the type of person that will go far. His personality is accented by his pleasing smile, which sets everyone at ease. To me, he is a born leader." I guess that people thought highly of you, in that sense. Do you remember? You say you were ready to graduate and get out into the world.

HC: Oh, yeah.

RL: Is that basically what you felt during college?

HC: Oh, yes. The people I associated with were other veterans and we felt very much committed to our studies. We felt a little ill-at-ease in some classes with non-vets, but, overall, we were very anxious to obtain our education and move into the business world.

RL: You felt that the war really did interrupt your education and your life. Others that I have interviewed felt that the war matured them and looked back with great memories. Did you feel that it was more of an interruption and that you would have rather just been in college and gotten your education?

HC: Very definitely. I can appreciate the fact that it broadened, matured me, yes, but I would have preferred to have matured within an educational institution. I am sorry that the world had to experience World War II. War is of no value. You don't win by war and men must learn that we fought these wars to eliminate having to go to war again. The First World War was not successful. We had to go through it again a second time. We must learn to talk things out and get our differences behind us. We must learn to get together, learn to live with one another. We have to appreciate the cultural differences between peoples of the world. Each one has something to give, as opposed to being at one another's neck. We're being forced to live, because of the growing population, in proximity with one another and we just have to help one another in a rational, meaningful way. It has been said, "That the poor we are always going to have with us." The poor are to be taken care of, but the rest of the population must be free to move ahead. Those on welfare must not be permitted to make welfare a career. We must educate, we must train those on welfare, and they must learn to contribute where they can. We must not pour money down an endless hole, enabling those on the dole to use food stamps to buy lottery tickets, cigarettes and drinks without contributing to help themselves live respectable lives.

RL: During the three years at Rutgers, I noticed that you worked for the Targum, you worked for the New Brunswick Community Chest, which I assume is some kind of small daily paper or weekly paper. Can you tell me about your writing experience with the Targum?

HC: Well, I was looking for experience, and so, I did dabble with that college paper. I was not one of the "big guns" on the staff, but, I did write some feature pieces. I didn't get too involved because I was primarily devoting time to studies and trying to get the best marks that I could and because I was pursuing radio journalism. It was probably publicity work that was done for the Community Chest. Most of my extracurricular activity was spent on WRSU, the campus radio station that was just getting started. Experience with the station and in classes was most helpful. Local professionals were invited to speak to the students. As such, I realized that I did not want to pursue radio.

RL: You did not enjoy the WRSU experience?

HC: Radio meant long hours and low pay. I was looking to earn more earnest money and I didn't want to be tied down. I wanted to live a little and to have weekends free. So, I moved to the print side of journalism.

RL: It mentions in several places that you played a lot of sports, not necessarily organized, at Rutgers, but that you were out playing basketball. It says here, in extracurricular activities, "Takes part in many sports." Do you remember playing any sports, pick-up games or any kind of other sports at Rutgers?

HC: I guess it would be pick-up games, because I was never of the stature to play varsity at Rutgers. I enjoyed thoroughly playing basketball in high school, but that was primarily it.

RL: Do you have any other memories from Rutgers? You were only there for two years.

HC: Yes. My association with a fellow named Chuck Cataldo and his buddy, who were fraternity brothers, was memorable. We found a lot in common to chat about. (I did not associate with Lambda Chi Alpha at Rutgers. I'd had enough fraternity life.) Fraternities signified cliques and drinking and hazing that I felt did not contribute to the betterment of mankind. I have been whacked with a wooden paddle for minor so-called infractions innumerable times, and if you don't bend over completely, so that the bottom of your spine is not hit, you can be hurt. It's such foolishness that needs to be outlawed and I believe that is being done.

RL: At Rutgers, there are quite a few of them, but they are fairly strictly controlled. There are 48,000 people at Rutgers and twenty-five fraternity houses.

HC: I never did feel that, at Rutgers, fraternities had very much power, which I was happy to see. I visited the Lambda Chi Alpha chapter at Rutgers, but I kept my distance from them. It's a kind of atmosphere that's there for partying and I just no longer appreciated that. [laughter] It's not the kind of partying that I cared to get involved with. I guess I'm different in that regard.

RL: So, you did see a division between the fraternity people and the non-fraternity people.

HC: Definitely. I don't think that fraternities are a worthwhile thing. Joining a specific group instills the wrong concepts in people that you are different and superior. There needs instead to be a sense of equality free of special interests. Some organization that one joins can influence members adversely.

RL: Did you see divisions between commuters and non-commuters, of people who lived on campus and people who drove in or took the train in?

HC: I didn't have any great sense about that, other than that I was aware of it.

RL: After Rutgers, you got a job at Carrier Air Conditioning Corporation.

HC: No. There were two other jobs before joining Carrier. The first one was at Caltex in New York City, where I did clerical work. I had worked there the previous summer. Jobs were hard to come by in 1949 when I graduated. I was there about two weeks when I received a postcard from the Rutgers Placement Bureau saying that a Mr. E. M. Van Duzer at Eastern Air Lines was looking for a journalist to take charge of an in-house publication called The Great Silver Fleet News. My first day on the job, Mr. Van Duzer called me into his office, set me down and, banging on his desk, said, "Young man, I know that you think you're a hotshot because you're fresh out of college, but I want you to know that you're just an ordinary 'jamoke' and that you don't know very much and that you are to take orders from me and do what I say." Well, he succeeded in making me feel insignificant, but he didn't have to come on so strongly, as I did not feel puffed up or special or pompous. I was glad to finally be starting my career that looked exciting. Nevertheless, I was glad he expressed his feelings and we did get along well in an our employee/employer relationship.

RL: What exactly did you have to do for this Silver Fleet magazine?

HC: I became the editor; that required collecting, editing, writing and laying out the bimonthly publication. I also selected the cover photo and instructed the outside art designer in laying out feature articles. It served to inspire employees and I believe that copies were placed on the aircraft. Printed on glossy 8-1/2 x 11 inch paper, it was expensive to produce and was suitable for public consumption. It required that I travel to research stories and company inspirational pep meetings chaired by Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, the airline's CEO.

RL: Your next job was for a chemical company.

HC: Reichhold Chemicals, Inc., was headquartered across the plaza at Rockefeller Center, from Eastern's offices. I couldn't go very much farther at Eastern and I needed more and varied experience. Eastern's publication was primarily internal; Reichhold's was internal/external, called By Gum. I was also to do some public relations work for the firm, but, the very first day, I found that the PR part of the job had been given to an outside agency. Disappointed, I stuck with the job for a year when a placement agency informed me of a public relations job in Syracuse, New York.

RL: That was with the Carrier Air Conditioning Company?

HC: Yes. Air conditioning was a booming industry at the time, growing very fast, and every media outlet wanted information about it, particularly the trade and public press. Emphasized by Carrier's PR department was the preparation of copy about window units, central systems for residences and entire systems for large office buildings and shopping centers. I had thought that I had become a fairly good writer, but my copy got heavily edited by the boss, who was a real taskmaster. I wasn't too happy about writing for the room and residential market, so, I found a niche working with the people designing and installing systems for large buildings. This worked well, until the boss obtained an assistant and the heavy editing began all over again. I did learn to adopt their methods and that led to writing and placing articles in trade journals about different big air conditioning and refrigeration installations. After three successful years, averaging one major story per month for three years, the Machinery and Systems Division was forced to supply only equipment, as architect and design engineers were taking that business away from Carrier. Once again, it was time to move on.

RL: And that was all in the 1950s and '60s?

HC: Yes. I left Carrier just after the start of 1963.

RL: What did you do after that?

HC: There was a fellow I had met at church in Syracuse, New York, who, invited by a friend of his, left his former employer to join him at Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts. After a short while, these two fellows found that they needed someone to be a technical writer in the Publications Department. They encouraged me to fill that opening, which I did. Shortly after starting work, the boss left for another job and the other friend was forced to resign. I was left "exposed," so to speak. I could have looked for work elsewhere, but I knew the situation where I was and thus decided to stick it out, which I did for twenty-one-and-a-half years. I left to go into business for myself, which I had always wanted to do. The Laboratory called my termination "early retirement."

RL: I saw in the alumni file that I read, in 1964, you filled out a survey, you listed yourself as an Independent/Republican, leaning toward Republican. In 1968, you wrote that in as a conservative Republican. I take it that you were not a Johnson fan.

HC: Johnson, he's a Democrat.

RL: Yeah, but was there some reason you went over from Independent/Republican to strictly conservative Republican.

HC: No. I've always been pretty much of the same political philosophy. I'm an Independent because I like to look at things objectively, but I have rarely been able to vote for anyone but a Republican, even though I tried diligently, and still do to this day, try to keep an objective viewpoint. However, I am very much disappointed with the Republican Party. I was high on Mr. Nixon, but thought he was a fool to have allowed himself to get caught by this Watergate debacle, which was totally uncalled for. He did not act in the form, to my understanding, in the way the GOP is supposed to operate. Again, in the case of Mr. Reagan, I was high on him. I recognized his shortcomings, but, I thought he would fulfill the idea of being just a grand leader. I didn't look to him for a lot of thought processes. I thought that he was well backed up by other people in government. I was disillusioned, in a way, and when I expected that he was going to downsize government, but it went the other way, ... and then, for him to have gotten connected with this Nicaragua situation ... was a terrible disappointment. These two presidents have not fulfilled the objectives, or the principles, to my mind, of the GOP. So, I have currently moved in the direction, politically, of the Libertarian group, which I think is, for the most part, where the country needs to go.

RL: Is there anything I forgot to ask about what you have done, or your Rutgers years, the war years, or anything?

HC: No. I think you've been rather thorough. I don't have a great story. I appreciate the preceptor's comments, but I don't think I have fulfilled his forecast of being a leader. I would like to be a leader. I am, in a way, but my career requires working alone. To succeed in this capacity demands one to be flexible and disciplined. My difficulty in leading may be because I have a short fuse. Yet, I can be very patient with people, but I can't really stand for people to take the attitude that some do, namely, being lackadaisical about their work.

RL: Do you feel that being a Christian Scientist affected the way you lived, during the war, during your years at Rutgers, or in your career?

HC: I think it has had a major impact on how I feel and how I react and how I am perceived by others. Sometimes, I thought it was not favorable, but, I really can't blame Christian Science, or it's teaching; it's the way I am, I guess. I'm basically an individualist and that fits with the principles of the religion. I don't want to condemn it, because it is the best thing going. It's for everyone, and everyone is really practicing it, to a degree. You don't have to be a Christian Scientist to do good or live uprightly. The beauty of it is that it enhances your growth, spirit, work, or material situation. I am disappointed that knowing what Christian Science teaches, that I haven't achieved or accomplished more, because there is nothing, theoretically, hindering me. I should have advanced a lot more than I have. Yet, on the other hand, I have nothing to be ashamed of and I'm very content. I'm really not trying to be too hard on myself, but I guess, as my wife will say, I always am.

RL: Do you feel that your education at Rutgers prepared you for what you were going to need in life after school?

HC: Yes, I do. I felt that it was very worthwhile. I really have a lot of good feelings for Rutgers and the New Jersey ethic that was there. It was right on. It's on the money. It's a solid school. I think they've done very well, and I've always felt that the legislature was a damnable problem that didn't enable the school to go the way it should have, to advance. I mean, the progress made at the school was visible, evident, for the legislature to see. Why the legislature gave the school so much resistance, I could never understand, but, happily, the school has survived, despite the legislature.

RL: Yeah, they keep cutting our budget.

HC: Yeah, it's an asinine attitude. I don't know why they have that attitude. Rutgers is a great institution that is benefiting New Jersey. It's all for New Jersey. It's an incomprehensible attitude.

RL: You mentioned before that you have not been back at all.

HC: No. I did go back for the tenth reunion. I like to do things that are worthwhile. To play golf and drink and reminisce on foolish stories is not my idea of a happy time, and certainly not the drinking. My religion that counsels against drinking is a natural fit for me.

RL: Is there anything else that you want to discuss?

HC: No. You've been a very fine listener and I don't think this needs to go on too long. I think it's really been very fine. You're a very good operator in what you are doing.

------------------------------------------END OF INTERVIEW----------------------------------------------

Reviewed by Jonathan Gurstelle 6/20/02

Reviewed by Sandra Stewart Holyoak 7/1/02

Reviewed by Howard Canning 8/27/02

 

 

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