Kurt Piehler: This begins an interview with Mr. Joseph W. Katz on February 17, 1995 with Kurt Piehler and ...
Darren Purtlebaugh: Darren Purtlebaugh ...
KP: ... at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. I guess I'd like to begin with your parents and why they came to the United States.
Joseph Katz: How did you know my parents were immigrants, which they were?
KP: Your pre-interview survey.
JK: O.K. Why they came? I guess just to get away from where they were. It certainly wasn't beer and skittles for them. They were quite young, I think, in their teens when they came over ... to live with relatives, or to go to work, really. They came from the pale of Jewish settlement of Eastern Europe, Russia then, Poland now. Went to work in the sweat shops. And they got married, my father somewhat late in life, my mother, I guess also. He was 37 or 38. She was in her late 20s. And then ... they had me. They bought a little candy store in Irvington. I think they paid $1,800 for it, probably borrowed the money. Then they had me in '27. Had three rooms behind the store and lived in 'em and took care of the baby and waited on customers. I don't remember anything that happened. Then they moved on to other candy stores and finally, by 1938, worked their way up to what they called a delicatessen and liquor store. It was a little corner grocery with a liquor license, package, in Kearny. And that's where I went to ... junior high and high school. And on to Rutgers.
KP: Were your parents victims of the Pogroms at all? ... Did they remember that or talk about the pogroms?
JK: They talked about it, but I don't think they were direct victims of them. ... I guess it was just the general air of ... feeling of deprivation, discrimination in Czarist Russia. Over the men, of course, was the threat of going ... into the army for 10 or 20 years, or what, having to eat pork [laughs]. ... All I know is that they hated Europe. Later when I grew up and was taking a trip to London, Paris, and Rome, and I told my mother I was going to Europe, London, Paris, and Rome, ... [she said], "Why do you want to go there? I couldn't wait to leave."
KP: So your parents were pretty happy to be here in America?
JK: America was the greatest. They weren't very happy a lot of the time, but they were happy to be here, rather than there, yeah.
KP: Your parents, were they observant at home?
JK: Yes, I don't know how deeply believing they were but, they kept kosher. My mother did, ... Up front they were selling ham and things like that in the store. We lived behind the store, until they finally retired, in '54. ... That didn't mean we didn't indulge in the store in a ham sandwich or something. Not too much, though.
KP: Were they able to attend services often?
JK: Not often. They sent me to a Hebrew school and the whole works. My father didn't go regularly, but on the high holidays, pretty much. But they were more active in the synagogue than I have been. Especially since my kids have grown.
KP: Your early life must have been the store?
JK: Oh yeah, mostly then I helped out .... Particularly in Kearny; we lived in Freehold for seven years, and we had a store there too. I remember that. I was about five when we went there, and I go back through there sometimes. They worked seven days a week. And ... [then] World War II came. It was a liberating experience. First, they closed half a day on Sunday. They weren't allowed to sell liquor on Sundays, it gave them an excuse. Finally they closed the whole day on Sunday. So they became members of the privileged class. They worked six days a week, about 16 or 17 hours a day. My father would get up at 5:00 or 5:30 and open the store. My mother would awaken about 8:00 or so, when she got us up for school, and then he'd take a nap during the day. She worked, she cooked, she tended the kids, and tended the store better than my father did. He got nervous when two customers were in there. She'd cook supper. She wouldn't, she wouldn't even ... buy ground hamburger meat because she didn't think it was clean enough. She'd grind it herself between tending customers, in a hand grinder. Make us orange juice by hand on a glass grinder. It's not like that anymore.
KP: Who did the books for the store?
JK: My father did the books. [laughs] Not very well. [laughs] His checking account, business checking was always out of kilter and finally he'd be a couple of thousand dollars off, and he'd reconcile it by changing banks and starting again. [laughs] ... My father was more literate than my mother. She could sign her name, and she could barely read and write English. She could write [in] Yiddish. My father was self-taught. He could write English. I don't think he went to school here. ... He did math and all that stuff.
KP: How much Yiddish was spoken in the household?
JK: Oh, it was interchangeable with English.
KP: You moved around between Freehold and Newark and Kearny?
JK: Well, we moved successively. Irvington, Bloomfield, Freehold, Kearny, that was with the stores. In between we lived in Newark, like in the Weequahic neighborhood, or something like that while my father looked for another store.
KP: What prompted the moves?
JK: My father's restlessness, I think. My mother would have stayed in the first place.
KP: Did he think the grass was greener on the other side?
JK: Yeah, sure, I guess it got pretty boring to stand behind the counter in one place. Remember, a good part of this was in the Depression. It was really tough.
KP: One person I interviewed who had a store, his parents had a store in the Depression, and one of his distinct memories was only really keeping the front lights on [in] the store, and then when a customer came in, then you turned on all the lights in the store, to save money. It didn't quite come to that, [did it]?
JK: Although I remember, when we were in Freehold, we sort of had a general store, we had a soda fountain and we had groceries. It was right across the street from the Karagheusian rug mill there, which the whole town depended on. I think that's the mill that Bruce Springsteen sang about. And they went on strike, and when they went on strike, people almost would be starving. I remember, we used to get Bond bread. They'd give us bread, and we'd sell it for a penny or two cents a loaf to people that worked in the mill. ... We never had a telephone in the house. We always used the telephone booth in the store. That was my mother's recreation. She would talk to her sisters on the telephone. For long periods that drove my father crazy. "What's she doing out there?" he'd complain. I remember once I was doing my homework, I guess I was in high school, this was in Kearny. ... The telephone booth was at the front of the store, near the street. It was a small store ... and there was a counter near the rear. Behind the counter stuff was the door to our kitchen and our house. And I was doing my homework upstairs and ... I hear some yelling, really screaming. I run down and there is my father, he's cowering in the kitchen behind the door to the store and screaming, "They robbed me, they robbed me!" He had been held up. And I came out, and went in and heard that they had pointed a gun at him. Meanwhile, my mother was up at the front of the store in the telephone booth talking to her sister. And all through the robbery and the screaming, she was still talking. [Laughs loudly] They came in and robbed my father and went out past the telephone booth and my mother kept on talking.
KP: So it was an actual booth?
JK: Oh yeah, sure.
KP: Did they ever catch the guys who robbed the store?
JK: I think so. It wasn't like now. In Kearny, most of the crime was by hobos who hung out in West Hudson Park about a block away or something like that. To steal a bottle of wine.
KP: You mentioned that I think it was in Kearny with the mill, or was that Freehold?
JK: That was Freehold. Kearny depended on mills too. We lived in a working class part of town. People worked in factories in Harrison, Kearny, everywhere around there.
KP: Would your father give credit to people?
JK: Yeah. [laughs] They didn't like to. They had to. They put it on a, they'd write the charge, on little parts of paper stuck onto nails. They didn't have air conditioning. I remember once they turned on the fan in the store, and all of their accounts receivable blew all over the place. And people wouldn't pay them. ... This was both in Kearny and in Freehold. My father would chase them, "You owe me 75 cents," or something like that, ten cents here, fifteen cents there. They'd get particularly pissed-off when they'd give somebody credit all week, and on payday they'd see 'em coming with big bundles from the A&P up at the other part of town. They'd walk right past 'em averting their eyes. They'd still owe 'em the money.
KP: So your parents had the competition with the larger market?
JK: Well, there was some competition, sure. Mostly competition was a couple other little stores. [It was] a little, tiny part of town. It was a secondary business district. And there were three stores ... with package licenses .... Another one was just like ours and the third one was a candy store. A lot of little, corner competition there. And they'd all wait to see who was going to close first .... Feel they'd lose a customer.
KP: So that's in part why the hours remained so long, ... the competition?
JK: Sure. Free market.
KP: Your parents were Democrats. What did they think of Franklin Roosevelt?
JK: They thought he was God. They weren't very different then anybody else in there.
KP: You mean with your father being a small businessman?
JK: He was, I think he was a Socialist, to start with. I remember once he would take us for rides. Once we were getting gas ... in Freehold, at a station, my sister and I, and my father said, "I want to introduce you to somebody." And getting gas, at the next pump was Norman Thomas. ... He was the perennial Socialist candidate for president. He was speaking in the area. I never forgot that.
KP: So your father thought very highly of Thomas?
JK: Not as highly as Roosevelt. Ruzevelt [sic] as they called him.
KP: It sounds like you weren't able to travel very much when you were growing up?
JK: No. Once I went to Philadelphia. My father used to go down there because he couldn't get a hat big enough for his head size in New York. [laughs] And I went to Atlantic City once or twice. My mother got somebody to drive us down there, her and the two kids. We never went anywhere.
KP: So those were the big trips, Philadelphia and Atlantic City?
JK: Oh yeah. Over to the Asbury Park. With my relatives in Newark ... if I was up there we'd go to Brighton Beach, in New York. Coney Island next door was quite a place, I liked it better than Atlantic City. They had better things to eat on the boardwalk there. I liked deli.
KP: You moved a lot and you went to a lot of different schools. What do you remember about your early schools you attended and the students in your class?
JK: Well, I really only went to three school systems, Freehold, then Newark for a year, and then Kearny.
KP: I guess Freehold is a smaller community.
JK: Yeah, 7,000 people, or something in town. I went to the local school until about the fifth grade, maybe sixth grade and we moved. I remember we went a whole year in a class, you didn't have half-year terms. My relatives and friends would skip in New York and Newark because there were half years. And if they were smart, they'd skip ahead. That was considered an advantage in those days. Because, I think, our parents, had to squeeze in as much education as they could before they went to work. With us it got to the war, and you wanted to squeeze in as much as you could. And the Depression too, you didn't know how long you could go to school. So there was always a push, unlike today, to get it over with, get through, and get it done. I had a cousin who was an orphan, very bright, he graduated from City College at 18, he had a Ph.D. at 21. And he got a master's in between. And there was that kind of drive. Of course, the war slowed everybody down a bit.
KP: Was education important to your parents?
JK: Absolutely. There was no question that I would go to college. They were kind of advanced in sending my sister. She is four years behind me. She went to Newark-Rutgers. I remember my father's older brother thought my father was being very extravagant to send his daughter to college.
KP: When you say he thought he was extravagant ...
JK: "Why does a girl have to go to college?"
KP: Why do you think your parents felt so strongly that she go to college, your sister?
JK: I don't think there was any question that she was going to go because it was her due, her thing, so she'd get a better guy. [laughs] They didn't have many career ambitions for her. She did get a good guy. I guess if she hadn't gotten to college she might not have.
KP: The Kearny High School, what kind of expectations did your teachers have for you? Did they expect you to go to college? How many of your friends went to college?
JK: You know, everywhere I went when I was a kid, it was two worlds. You had a Jewish world and a Gentile world. And I never lived in a Jewish neighborhood, except for a year in Newark, in between businesses. So I was always like an outsider. In high school I had friends from all over. I was pretty popular. I was editor of the paper and things like that. But my closest friends were my co-religionists. I knew them in the fraternal group. In Hebrew school ..., "AZA" [it] was called. We all anticipated going to college. And, I think, there [were] ... strong class divisions in Kearny, too. Kearny is two sections: ... the lower section towards Harrison, and then there's Arlington, ... a section of Kearny ... up toward North Arlington, and there they were more WASP's, more Republicans, more middle class, nicer neighborhoods. We lived in the working class neighborhood. So there was a much greater anticipation that people from Arlington, Jewish or Gentile, were going to go to college. And Kearny, was working class. There were working class kids in my neighborhood who went to college. Some of them did pretty well but not generally. But the Jewish kids were generally the children of storekeepers, very few had parents who went off to work like other people did, somewhere else in an office or factory. We were in Kearny because our parents lived there to make a living, in the outland. There was anti-Semitism, particularly in our part of town. And in the high school there was exclusiveness, sororities and fraternities you didn't get into. Then at Rutgers, there were two worlds, in the fraternity world, a complete division. I think in my latter years here there was a non-sectarian, bi-partisan fraternity started. I think they even took in blacks.
KP: Which was exceptional at that time?
JK: Sure. They didn't have any place to go. Maybe the Scarlet Barbs for the commuters, or something like that or the Independents, that's an organization. But you had Jewish fraternities and Gentile fraternities. Until the Georgian Society, which was mixed and advanced.
KP: You had mentioned that, except for living in Newark, you had not lived in a Jewish community. What were some of the differences you saw between your year of living in Newark versus your year in Kearny?
JK: You were judged on your own merits, and you were like everybody else. In Kearny, you were somebody different, in addition to being whatever you were. I felt that, my neighbors in Kearny thought they were one group, but we were another. My kids have never had that experience, thank goodness.
KP: When do you remember your earliest incidence of anti-Semitism directed at you? Was it at school?
JK: Oh all the time in Freehold. They'd call me "Jew ball," "Jew boy," and later, too. I had a very strong [sense of being an] outsider, because I had this facial paralysis from a mastoid operation when I was very young. And so the kids were very cruel. ... They would imitate you. They would talk out of the sides of their mouths to mimic me. So I got it both ways. And I was fat, and not very athletic. So I should be on a couch now. [laughs]
DP: But you did get into intramural football here at Rutgers?
JK: Oh yeah, sure. Fraternity play, I was fat so I could play ball. [laughs] It wasn't very well organized. I thought I could push people. I went out for the varsity in '44. They were so hard up. But didn't put me on the training table, I said, I'm not going to take this beating if I don't get free meals. [laughs]
KP: ... What did your parents think of what was going on in the 1930s in Germany particularly, with Europe, in general?
JK: Hitler was like the devil [for] my parents. .... My grandmother was alive then. Everybody they didn't like was a Hitler. It was scary. I think they were scared but they didn't know it was going to become the Holocaust.
KP: How much family did they still have in Europe?
JK: Not much, they were fortunate. I think my grandmother lost an elderly brother. A cousin of my mother's, a husband and daughter were taken away in Belgium .... Most of my family, [had] come to this country. That's why they loved America.
KP: Where were you when the attack on Pearl Harbor took place?
JK: I was up on the second floor, near my bedroom in Kearny, lying on my [father's] day bed, listening to ... [the] Giants play the Redskins. I'll never forget, I came running down. It was a Sunday. My parents were in the store, working away, and [I said], they bombed Pearl Harbor. And they said, where's Pearl Harbor? [laughs] ... But I remember in Kearny High, we all went into the study hall on Monday, and we heard Roosevelt talk about the day of infamy.
KP: How did you think at that time that it would affect your life, in December of '41?
JK: You know, my mother was talking to somebody--Frank Dalto who owned a little butcher shop across the street, she and he were saying, "our kids won't have to go." Because I was, in '41, I was 14, going on 15.
KP: How did your parents feel about American intervention? Had they supported it earlier, say in '40, or '41?
JK: I think so. They used to follow it. We'd get a couple papers. My father's bible was the Forward, the Yiddish paper. The Daily News, or the Newark Star Eagle. We always had a lot of newspapers there.
KP: So your father sounds like he was a very avid reader?
JK: My father was. Later when he used to take the New York Times Magazine, he was very impressed by big words. He'd say to me, "What an article I just read. I couldn't understand a word." [laughs]
DP: You tried to keep up with things that were going on in the world then?
JK: I think so, I think so. I mean, you had, I used to read newspapers a lot because I was interested. I was on the school paper in high school. My parents were, they both read the Forward. My father would read the daily paper. I would too. I read the comics and the sports, mostly, but .... [laughs]
KP: Growing up, did you ever have any interest in aviation?
JK: No, some of my friends joined the Army Air Corps. They were all going to be pilots, and they wound up being gunners or navigators ... enlisted men. They all used to go to Keesler Field, Mississippi. These were the guys a year ahead of me, the class of '43. A lot of them served, joined the Army. They took 'em in as pilots. They got them to join, washed them out and they wound up, as I say, as gunners or mechanics.
KP: Much of your high school years were spent while the war was going on.
JK: Yeah, I started in '40, so I guess, in '41, I was in the second year, yeah, sure. Kearny was a big war town. We had the Federal Shipyards. That was the theme of our yearbook, the Kearny Shipyards .... They were launching a destroyer or two every week.
KP: In terms of your parents' business, many of their financial worries must have disappeared during the war?
JK: Yeah, we always made a living, you know ..., not because they did too well in the business, but because they didn't have anything to spend it on. So, business improved, and there were black markets and things like that.
KP: When you say black markets, did your parents participate at all?
JK: To get gasoline they'd have to get stamps and ...
KP: So there was a trading of stamps?
JK: Gas stamps and, I don't what, for money. You'd buy some stamps. They didn't have that much access. I remember we'd get chocolate and keep it under the counter for their favorite customer. When they couldn't get good booze, in order to get some Scotch, my father would have to buy a case of tequila. After the war was over, he was loaded up with tequila that he couldn't get rid of. [laughs]
KP: Were you a Boy Scout?
JK: I was a Boy Scout for about two months, three months, until our scoutmaster got drafted. [laughs] That was in 1940, in the first group that got called in, before the war. His name was Harry Finkelstein. He started a troop in the synagogue in Kearny. We had nobody to replace him.
KP: Did your parents ever send you to camp?
JK: One year, for two weeks, in one of which I was sick.
KP: What camp was it? Was it a Boy Scout camp?
JK: No, it was a private camp. This was, we were living in Freehold. They had sold the business and for a few months we lived in a real house. There, while father was scouting around, he wanted to do something nice, they sent me to a Camp Pine Grove, in Jamesburg, New Jersey. Most of the kids there were from the upper class Jewish neighborhood of Newark, Maple Avenue School and the Weequahic neighborhood, lower Weequahic toward the park. And interestingly enough, I wasn't there long enough to make many friends, but the year we lived in Newark, which immediately followed that, they were in that school that I went to, Maple Avenue School. The kids were a lot better off than I was, because my parents were between businesses, and we lived in a four-family house. It was in the Maple Avenue school district, rather than the more modest, Chancellor Avenue district. I knew it all, because my grandmother lived in that area.
KP: Did you notice any difference in schools, in teaching, between Newark and Kearny?
JK: One hundred percent. I really noticed it when I came to Rutgers because the kids from Weequahic or Columbia High, in Maplewood and South Orange were like a year or two ahead of us in math and things like that.
KP: There was a ...
JK: Oh sure. Kearny was very ordinary. We had some inspiring teachers. I was inspired to go into journalism by the journalism advisor on the paper.
JK: So your interest in journalism was a long standing one?
JK: Yeah, I liked it. I went out for the paper in my second year, you know. I used to like to go down to the Newark papers and get the cuts of the, the football action photos, and they'd let us have the metal engraving, and we'd use it in the school paper. I liked the smell of it, the offices, I'd go to. And I was a stringer, too. I was a stringer for the Star Ledger and the Sunday Call.
KP: While you were in high school?
JK: Oh yes. I was their correspondent.
KP: For Kearny?
JK: For Kearny High. I was pretty good though. Working for the Star Ledger who, they used to farm it out ... Newhouse always had deals to save on taxes. They subcontracted with a separate company, run by Sid Dorfman, to cover high school sports and I worked for them. They sent me to other towns to cover a couple of games..., once in Elizabeth it was about ten below zero, and I'd taken five buses to get to it. [laughs] And the game was called off. [laughs] I don't think I got paid. I did get bus fare. You remember those things. We had a good basketball player at Kearny High. He was all-state, best in the state, so I made some money because, we'd get paid by the inch. They gave us many inches for Bob Kirk, "Kirk and Company," he was chairman of our 50th reunion, a couple of months ago. He lives down the shore now.
KP: It sounds like you liked following sports quite a bit?
JK: Sure. I used to go to New York. We'd go to see the Giants and Yankees, Dodgers, and the football Giants. Even the football Dodgers. There were football Dodgers then. I had some friends who were into that. They were from North Arlington, and we'd meet. I'd take a bus, ... one bus line went from North Arlington and up that way to Jersey City. There was a Garden State Bus Company. It came to Nutley and into Kearny, down into Journal Square, and I'd take that. It cost like 15 cents, rather than a nickel into Newark, and I'd meet my pal in Journal Square, and we'd take the Hudson tubes into the subway, and we'd do a lot of things. I used to get three dollars allowance a week, and I always had about five dollars surplus on me. We'd go out and have a full course Chinese dinner for 69 cents.
KP: It sounds like you had a good, part-time job in high school?
JK: Well, I helped out in the store.
KP: But also being a stringer, that helped you get some spending money?
JK: We made, six, seven, eight dollars a week. And they'd let you charge expenses for admission, but I had a press pass to get into games, so it was a little expense account swindle. When I went to work as a newspaper man, that was institutionalized. You didn't make it in salary, you didn't make it on the expense account either. But it helped.
KP: How did the war change Kearny? One of the things you mentioned was they were launching a destroyer practically once every two weeks.
JK: Well, the destroyer operation was not in the town. It was in the industrial section, actually much closer to Jersey City, than Kearny. But there were a lot of other industries, there was Congoleum, and DuPont. I worked in a war plant, that's right, in my third or fourth year of high school. I got a part-time job, 40 cents an hour they were paying us. Then they hired some other kids at 56 cents or something like that. We almost went on strike. We used to drag, schlep materials around to the work benches, we didn't know what they were making, we thought parts of shells for artillery. It depended on how the boss liked you that day what you would drag around. ... That taught me one thing. I wanted to go to college. [laughs] People would line up waiting for the bell to go home, and they'd run out of there. It impressed me a lot.
KP: How long did you work in the factory?
JK: Oh, maybe six months or so. After school, and I think I worked full-time, yeah, I worked full-time in the summer, then I quit and I spent my savings with a couple of guys and went up to the Borscht belt to some hotel. I was 16, we took a train up there. It was fun. We wanted to chase the girls but we didn't know how. [laughs]
KP: So you spent the weekend at the Borscht belt?
JK: We spent a week, I think. We went to some place in (Fallsburg?), New York. I can't remember the name of the hotel.
KP: Do you remember anything else about your week?
JK: Yeah, a lot of food. A swimming pool, the girls in their bathing suits, and we drooled, we didn't have any idea. None of us made much headway.
KP: You mentioned that your high school Boy Scoutmaster drifted off to war ...
JK: He didn't drift off, he got drafted. ... A teacher, no. I don't know what he was. I think he worked in a factory.
KP: When you were living in Kearny, did you see people just drift off to war?
JK: My classmates, even in our junior year, a lot of them were joining the Navy. Some even lied about their age, I guess. Many would get drafted, I guess they let you finish high school. But you didn't get drafted until you were 18. Some kids were 18 or 19, I guess in high school. I was 17 when I graduated. Also, there were some good programs to get into. ... There was a V-12 program that trained you at Columbia and places like that. And you had to take a test. I was pretty smart and I and only one other guy in my class passed the test. And we both flunked for physical reasons. I flunked because of this paralysis, and he had a heart condition. My mother was pretty happy, she said, "Oh, you won't have to go." I wanted to go. I was patriotic. And then when I enlisted in the Navy, and was accepted, she was consternated.
KP: So your mother would have preferred that you stay?
JK: Oh, yeah. She wasn't that patriotic. She wasn't that anti-Hitler. She didn't want to give me up. [laughs]. But, I passed the physical. I was elated. Because, you know, it was not like Vietnam. ... I had always felt left out, and here was the chance to be in the mainstream. I never regretted it, being in the Navy.
KP: Did you help out with the Civil Defense in Kearny at all? Do you remember the blackouts?
JK: I remember there were wardens. I don't think so. My uncle was a warden in Newark, but my father wasn't. We used to have to turn the lights out, in blackout or air raid drills, and things like that.
KP: What about the bond sales?
JK: I remember Paulette Goddard appeared ..., she was a movie actress, by the town hall. And this was the first real, live movie actress I'd ever seen. She was speaking about bond sales. Pretty good looking I thought. A little old looking, long in the tooth. She had been married to Charlie Chaplin.
KP: Your high school, did your high school do anything special to help the war effort?
JK: Oh they had victory gardens and stamp collecting, and ... kids knitted for the servicemen. A whole bunch of clubs. I still have the yearbook around, victory clubs, I remember. Very patriotic.
KP: You mentioned you wanted to join the Navy. Why the Navy?
JK: Like a lot of kids, I kind of liked the idea of it. It was pretty popular in Kearny. And frankly, I didn't want to kick around in the mud. I'd seen movies about the trenches in World War I.
KP: Which movies did you see? Do you remember?
JK: All Quiet on the Western Front, I guess I saw all the John Wayne movies about World War II. If I am going to get killed, I might as well be warm until I hit the water and drown. I had never flown in an airplane and didn't intend to start.
DP: You said that you wanted to be part of the mainstream when the war came along. Did you feel that once you were in the Navy that you were part of the mainstream? Or did you find that there was any segregation or discrimination?
JK: Well, actually, I was fortunate enough to get into a program where we were sort of an elite group. We passed the test, and I was a radio technician, it later became an electronic technician's mate program. It was an Eddy test, named after Captain Eddy. ... We went in as Seamen First Class, which is like a corporal, and got paid $66, instead of $50 a month. We went to school for about 11 months, to go through the program. As it turned out, that 11 months was how long it took the war to end. So I never got shot at. But we didn't know that when we went in. So we were kind of an elite group. It was an odd elite group. The group that went from here tended to be a lot of Jewish guys from New York and Newark. And then when we arrived at the Great Lakes--the whole country trained at Great Lakes--we had different types, but there were a lot of college guys, some graduate engineers. Actually I think their IQs were higher than the OCS. I was not technically able. I was good at algebra, I guess. ... I couldn't fix things. I wasn't good with my hands. I muddled my way through the program. We had some nerds. Instead of going on liberty, they'd stay in the barracks building superheterodyne radio receivers, and things like that. [laughs] Real ham operators, and people like that. ... I was awe stricken, but that's why I got into physics when I came back here. Because I tried to get into the engineering school, and they had no room so somebody says, "Why don't you take physics? Electronics?" Somebody told me that the government spent $20,000 on educating us. And that's the new field. It didn't work out, thank goodness. I would have made a very mediocre physicist.
KP: But you definitely were exposed to this technical side. Had you even considered majoring in physics before the war?
JK: No, I was a journalism major, but I never took any courses in it. I got back to journalism, but I went to graduate school for that later.
KP: So you finished a physics major?
JK: No, I switched in the middle of my junior year, in this very building [Van Dyck Hall]. I got a six on the final exam in physical mechanics, out of 100. [laughs]
KP: That's when you knew that ...
JK: So, I knew what I was going to do. I'll go into history, that gives me some breathing time. Maybe be a lawyer, maybe get into journalism. I was pretty shook up.
KP: You mentioned that you enlisted in the Navy because you wanted to avoid the trenches, and that you were also fortunate to get into the ...
JK: Yeah, I took the test afterwards. I think it was afterwards.
KP: Where did you initially report to when you joined the service?
JK: New York, Grand Central Palace. I don't know, it was somewhere downtown. I remember we took a physical, and they gave like 150 guys an instantaneous rectal exam. We were naked and you ought to see some of the guys. Everybody thinks he's a little funny. Some guys looked like hermaphrodites. There was a whole circle and your rear faced toward the middle and the doctor stood in the middle, and he said, spread your cheeks, and he checked everybody for hemorrhoids, 150 people. I don't know what he saw. [laughs] I think we reported to New York and ... it took us three days to get to Chicago. We went on railroads that I'd never heard of. We went on the Lackawanna Railroad. We went through the Oranges, and Dover, Scranton, towns I'd never heard of. You see I'd never traveled. We wound up in Buffalo and then we got on the Nickel Plate railroad. And then we got to Chicago, two days later, or three days. And then we took the North Shore railroad up to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station. They told us to bring one overnight change of clothes and three days later, we got to Great Lakes, in January. And they were taking inventory, so we had no clothes, except the one night change. And we had pretty dirty underwear and everybody had colds and one handkerchief, miserable. Then they slept us in the gym, on springs, not mattresses, three high. 'Cause we didn't get our mattresses there, (or) blankets. It was awful. We arrived at the worst part of the war. And they fed ... us cold cuts and cottage cheese. We got in on a Sunday night. The Navy had colorful terminology for it. They called it horse cock and cheese. [laughs] I remember I woke up that night, and I went to the lavatory, and all these guys from our train, they were throwing up, like I was. Great Lakes was about the nadir. Everything got better after that.
KP: What did you think of your train journey? You never had really traveled.
JK: Well, it was interesting. Oh, I remember, we had a bunch of guys from City College of New York, very smart, but really provincial. We got out of the train at the LaSalle Street station in Chicago, and it's right in the canyons, like Wall Street, New York, down there, big buildings. They were hot shots from New York there. They got out on the street and looked around and sneered, "What a hick town!" [laughs] They'd never been out of New York, except to go to the Catskills.
DP: You were in this training up until the end of the war ...
JK: I was in training school, yeah, electronic training. After basic training, at Great Lakes I went to Michigan City, Indiana, for one month. And out to Monterey, California, Del Monte, and the war ended in Europe when we were on a troop train, I was in Utah. No wait, I'm sorry, when Roosevelt died, I was on a troop train in Utah. "How's that little jerk (Truman) gonna be president," they were saying. I must have been in Monterey or so, when the war in Europe ended. And then I remember V-J day. We had just arrived at Treasure Island, in San Francisco, for the last and longest part of the program. And everybody got liberty to go into San Francisco, except the newly arrived company, which was us. And we heard the wild tales of the guys making it with women up in the civic fountain, and we were confined to the base. We went out the next night. We had nothing like that. [laughs] Yeah, we were only 18 years old.
DP: Were you concerned that you might have to be part of the invasion of Japan?
JK: When we first went in, sure, very much. In fact, when we finished Great Lakes somebody started a rumor. We were going to go in ahead of the landing craft, sneak on and set up radio posts to let them know where to bring in the landing craft, and all that. I said, "My mother's not going to like this." [laughs] That was hog wash, we thought, certainly. Then we thought we might have to fight in Europe, this was in January, February of '45. The war ended in April. Roosevelt died in April.
KP: You mentioned you spent four weeks in boot camp in the Great Lakes, which you noted your arrival there was not one of the more pleasant experiences. What else do you remember about boot camp?
JK: It was just horrible. I remember we went out to learn how to fight aircraft fires on ships. And they had these oil fires. We went out to some corner of the base, and they gave us these little, long gloves, and it was freezing, so cold out in Chicago. Just cold, and they gave us these awful cold cheese or peanut butter sandwiches with stale bread and your dessert was an orange. I remember the drips of the orange froze on you, on the backs of your hands. And this acrid smoke made it hard to breathe, and you protected yourself by keeping a halo of water, from a hose, in front of you, so the smoke couldn't get through it. We weren't ... good at that, and the smoke was getting through, and we were all black and choking. The food was terrible.
KP: So the food stayed uniformly bad during the ...
JK: Boot camp, on purpose. You learned new eating habits. Pork and beans for breakfast. I used to like S.O.S. [shit on a shingle]. Do you know what that is? We had that twice a week. Not too much food, either. You got no liberties. You had four weeks, and you didn't get off. Your clothes didn't fit you. They gave us dress uniforms. Oh I have a lot of stories. If a kid was in three days, he was like a veteran. To show how seaworthy you were, they call you "mate". As we were standing in chow line, some kid behind the counter asked the guy in front of me, "Do you like buttermilk?" When the guy said, "sure" he flipped some, a pat of butter into the guy's milk. [laughs] They had these canvas leggings, which the boots had to wear, the recruits. Everybody wanted to look like he was a veteran. So these guys were scrubbing the leggings to make them look worn and bleached. Just like now, when they bleach denims.
KP: Your instructors at boot camp, your petty officers, what were they like?
JK: They were seamen first class. You called them "sir". You called everybody who wasn't a boot "sir." You saluted. And they made you stand four hour watches. And I couldn't stay awake. I guess I was subject to court-martial. We were in this huge camp, the Great Lakes Naval Training Station. We were guarding the doors to the barracks. I guess it was just to teach you discipline. I remember guarding the laundry room door. ... For four hours, from midnight to four. I would just lie down on a washboard and hope that nobody came by. Nobody did. I guess if I'd been there a full eight weeks or so, I probably would have gotten caught and court-martialed, or something.
KP: How many times did you do that midnight to four shift?
JK: A couple, a couple, awful nights.
KP: Was there any hazing that went on at boot camp?
JK: Yeah, there was general hazing of everybody. They called it the Great Lakes shuffle. You'd be sleeping in this huge barracks, and they'd blow a whistle in the middle of the night. "Everybody up, you've got to steel wool the floor!" And you'd put your clothes on, and you put a piece of steel wool under each shoe and you'd go up and down with steel [wool]. At that time, I forget what naval district that was, sixth naval district, there was a scarlet fever epidemic. What they were doing was spreading the disease. There was pneumonia around. And you'd be breathing in these pieces of steel wool. And with germs, guys were dropping like flies. Guys died from a combination of scarlet fever and pneumonia. What a way to die, in boot camp. And then we had guys who would come into our company, like men of the past. They had been in boot camp in October, this was January. They had been in the hospital, and everything they owned was wrinkled. It was fumigated or some process--their blankets, their uniforms, everything, a mass of wrinkles. Luckily I didn't get scarlet fever.
KP: Did a large number of people in your ...
JK: Sure, substantial. You'd see them around. ... Guys so, a couple friends of mine from Rutgers, I was in company 138, all the RT companies ended in eight. I was in company 138. There were a couple of guys that were, that had been in the [Rutgers] Class of 1948A. And they went through the program. We used to see each other.
KP: You mentioned that you learned how to fight fires.
JK: Oh, that thing, yeah.
KP: What else did you learn in boot camp?
JK: What did I learn? Nothing. I mean, ...
KP: What else were they trying to teach you?
JK: They were just going through the motions. Oh, I don't know, I guess we learned how to salute. I fired a gun. They had a anti-aircraft drill, but ... I was on watch that day, and didn't get that. I went to the pistol range one day, and I fired, ten shots they gave me. I hit a bullseye with one shot, and didn't hit the target with the other nine. That was it, that was my military training. I don't think we learned how to tie knots. I think I learned that in Boy Scouts, a little bit. I don't know what we learned. How to wash our clothes, maybe.
KP: Did you have a lot of close order drill?
JK: A little bit. Not much. I wasn't very good at it, terrible. We got shots and things like that. We took aptitude tests. I don't remember learning anything in boot camp.
KP: Did you write your parents often?
JK: I think so. I remember I used to get postcards. My parents always communicated with postcards, for a penny. They'd write these tomes on the postcard. My father used to write me in English. My mother couldn't write in English very well.
KP: So your mother would write you in Yiddish?
JK: She didn't write. I couldn't read Yiddish script. I could make it out in printing. My father wrote. He'd sign the postcard, "Your loving father and mother, Max Katz." [laughs] I'll never forget that. He was pretty funny without meaning to be.
KP: While you were in the service, did you go to services?
JK: No. Once we tried. We were at Treasure Island, California. It was Yom Kippur. That's the high holy day. A bunch of Jews got together and said, we shouldn't have to go to class now. We went to the commanding officer, and we said, we think we should have the day off, so we can go to services. He says, "Is this the day you don't eat?" We said, yeah. He said, "You can go at lunch hour." [laughs] I don't remember going to services.
KP: Do you remember any chaplains in your years in the military?
JK: Once, when I got out of Del Monte in Monterey, I really wanted to go to secondary school at Bellevue, in D.C. So I could go home on the weekends, show off my uniform and all that. And I was on the draft scheduled to go there. All of a sudden I got scratched, and some guy who had some political pull somewhere, a guy from Massachusetts, got to go there, and I was sent to San Francisco. Now I see that it was a great opportunity. I got to spend six or seven months in the San Francisco Bay area, I got to know the city a little bit. I was broken hearted. I think I ran to the chaplain. He gave me a punch in my card. [laughs] I don't know, I think he was an Episcopalian.
KP: It sounds like you were very relieved to leave the Great Lakes training district.
JK: I was what, oh, yeah, it was a good place to leave.
KP: Relieved, but you were sent to Michigan City. What was that like? How long did you stay there?
JK: Interesting, it was a month. They had a bunch of junior colleges in Chicago, that were used for that too. Herzl was one school ... and Michigan [City] was good. You got liberty there, and you went out. Working girls would come into town. That's my first encounters with women. I was 18, yeah. We were not as precocious then, as today's generation.
KP: You didn't date in high school?
JK: No, I think I went out and necked a little while on graduation night with some girl. I didn't go to the proms. As my mother would say, I was a back number. I remember I had this factory girl in Michigan City, she came over from a nearby town, I can't remember the name of it. She wanted to make it. I didn't have a place, or know how, or what to do. I had to be back at ten o'clock. What frustration that was. [laughs] My big chance.
KP: Were you a bit surprised at this? That sort of outgoingness and her eagerness?
JK: I was so naive, I remember one of the guys, his name was Laskowski, he was in my company, either at Great Lakes or at Michigan City, I can't remember where, we were pretty good friends, 'cause you were friends with guys whose names started with K and L, if it began with J or K. And he had just gotten married in the service. And I said, "Tell me about it, will you." [laughs] I couldn't really believe it. You never came close, I never came close. I went out with girls when I was at Rutgers, yeah, sure. At NJC as they say, they were really desperate, they were freshmen, they were upper classmen.
KP: The men shortage really affected them.
JK: Oh yeah, we learned how to soul kiss here in my two trimesters here.
KP: I was going to talk about all of your semesters here, maybe we should just talk about your two semesters here. Because you mentioned that you had to ...
JK: By the way I'm being very candid, are most of the interviews like that?
KP: Yeah, a good number are.
JK: I'm talking about soul kissing and all that.
KP: People have even been more candid. Oh no, some people have told me to pause it, but most people haven't. And if you have second thoughts, we could always delete it from the transcript.
JK: No, its o.k.
KP: You had been to college before you'd been to the Navy, here for two semesters. How did that go, and how did that affect you?
JK: I loved it, I thought this was great. They had me down to the Sammy house here. They invited me. I got an invitation to a fraternity house before I started. I was admitted. Of course, they were desperate too, to get members to keep it going. I think there may have been three Jewish fraternities here before the war, but two of them closed. The Tau Delts were still open then? So, gee, I get invited to this house right here on, where the ... river dorms are, that was open. It was a big house. All these kids were in there, they're running their own. In my experience at home, my mother put food on the table. Here were kids, 18 year olds. They gave us a nice meal, it was pretty good stuff. This house with big, leather chairs. It was a house they rented from another fraternity that had closed down for the war, the Phi Gams. ...So I joined it. Later, when I was in the Navy, that house burned down, a couple kids were killed, including a couple girls. Did you know about that?
KP: Actually, I had interviewed Bart Klion.
JK: Bart Klion?
KP: Bart Klion, yes.
JK: He was a fraternity brother of mine.
KP: Yeah, he was an acting president at the time.
JK: Yeah, he was a kid. Bart Klion, and there was a kid named Ray Berger, he was a cripple, he was killed. He was from Jersey City. And some girls. Apparently they had some chaperones, I remember that. We used to leave the party and then the chaperones would go home. Then they'd all come back to the fraternity house. It was football season.
KP: Did it surprise you? Had you ever thought of yourself joining a fraternity? Or did you know what they were?
JK: We didn't know about them.
KP: What did you think college would be like, growing up?
JK: My only experience with college was my father, when he was a young boy, he came over from Europe, he went to join his brother in Syracuse, and his brother, he used to repair umbrellas, he'd buy and sell old clothes. He used to walk around upstate New York, during the week. My father had gone to Syracuse, Cornell, all those places, buying old clothes. He said "I know all the colleges." [laughs] I was a little afraid of Princeton and I thought it was hard to get into although I was pretty smart in high school.
KP: Did you think it would be hard to get into because you were Jewish?
JK: Yeah, I was wary of the Ivy League for some reason I knew I could get into Rutgers. They had state scholarships, but I didn't know about it back then. I looked at the catalogue and I saw a scholarship made to order for me. It was for a student in journalism from Hudson County. Kearny is in Hudson County. I was probably the only guy that applied for it.
KP: So you did in fact apply and get that scholarship?
JK: Yeah, they said "Don't you want to apply for a state scholarship?" I said "No, I got this one. This is great, why take a chance?" A state scholarship was worth more. I could have gotten that too. They had more scholarships than students in those days. But that's how naive I was.
KP: Had you applied to any other schools?
JK: No. I liked it when I visited here. I said to my father "What do you think of Rutgers?" "Oh that's in New Brunswick, I know where that is."
KP: Did you live in the fraternity house?
JK: Yeah, sure. When I came down, I lived right here on George Street. It was fun, it was the best time I ever had in my life, that six months.
JK: Yes, I started going with girls. I was still a virgin when I went into the Navy. But I came close. [laughs]
KP: What about your professors then?
JK: I had a great professor here. Edward McNall Burns. He liked me. ... I had a great writing teacher, a young man, his name was Hirten. I can't remember his first name. I think he was probably an instructor. H-I-R-T-E-N, I think he had a graduate degree from Fordham, I'd call him Doctor Hirten. And the classes were held in, a lot of them were held in Queens Campus there, and here [Van Dyck Hall], and history was in Bishop House. And Burns, of course, wrote Western Civilizations. He was reputed to own half of New Brunswick from the royalties on that book. He was a kindly gentleman. And he gave me, let's see, a one was the best grade in those days, now it's a four. I got ones in that, it was good. And I liked this guy Hirten, I was always interested in writing and boy, he really made you write. And he had draconian standards, if you misspelled two words, you flunked. But he kept ... two sets of books, I think, on you. But you were afraid to misspell words. It was good. I was a good writer, but I learned a lot from him. He also taught me about using four-bit words when you could get by with a two-bit word and tell the story better. I learned lessons in that short period that stood me in pretty good stead. Because I have made my living from writing, in one way or another.
KP: So in a sense, you had a real blossoming in college. You were a fraternity member, you were dating a lot ...
JK: ... not a lot, but enough ...
KP: ... you enjoyed classes, you were going to football games.
JK: Yeah, yeah, they only played five games. Two against Lafayette, two against Lehigh, and one against the ASTP here. That was it. That's why a guy like me could go out for the football team at the time. The football field was right here where the Alexander Library is. We had a stadium, I guess we played there, too.
KP: What do you remember about the ASTP? Did you have any interaction with them?
JK: No, we saw them, they went to separate classes. There was ASTRP, which was for students before they were in the Army. The reserves or something. As soon as they turned 18 they were pulled in. I don't know if they went on to school or went in the infantry. Because the Battle of the Bulge broke out as I was waiting to go in. We finished up in December. I had enlisted and I was going to go in in January, when school was starting. But I didn't start that third trimester. The third quarter they called it. I remember hanging around the fraternity house here, in those days. This is very rambling; how do you put it all together? I jump from one thing to another.
KP: We basically do the transcript as you talk.
JK: Because I'm going back and forth and up and down and around.
KP: That's o.k.
JK: Is that how these go?
KP: Some do, some ...
JK: Some stick to the subject? Yeah, Rutgers, that was a good time. That's why I wanted to come back to Rutgers.
KP: So even though you had gone in the Navy and seen a good part of the country?
JK: Yeah, I saw Berkeley, I used to hang out there. ...When I was at Treasure Island. I don't think I was too familiar with too many other colleges, then. I know we used to go over and hang around Berkeley though.
KP: You got to see a good part of the country.
JK: Sure, on the train, you didn't fly, you traveled. I saw a lot of corn fields, days of 'em.
KP: What did you think of the country after seeing it and living in parts of it?
JK: Big, it was so immense, 'cause you don't get that feeling today. It would take you, to come home from San Francisco, it took you two or three days to go to Chicago. Then it took 18 hours on the New York Central, 16 hours on the Pennsylvania, depends which way you wanted to go to get home. I remember you'd be covered with soot. I got a leave after I finished my training. The war was over already. And so, I came home. I remember I took a sleeper, I splurged to Chicago but then I took the coach from Chicago in to save a little. I was just black, my underwear was just black, the steam engine, I think they were using coal, on the Pennsylvania Railroad. An interesting experience, eating in the dining car. Going out in a troop train, I was lucky, though, I slept in regular Pullman cars, they had some cars with troop cars, that were not so hot. I remember going into, places like Kearney, Nebraska. They'd feed us donuts, the Red Cross ladies, they'd be there, highlight of their day. And I spent a good part of my Navy career in Chicago. That was a place where you could get to meet women too. The poor girls in the Middle West were hard up. On the coasts, you know, in Norfolk we used to be told they'd have signs "Sailors and dogs keep off." But in the Midwest you were a hero. Milwaukee was legendary, I never got to it. You go there, they'd give you free beer, free women, free everything. [laughs] At least that's the rumor.
KP: So being in uniform was a real social plus?
JK: It was even a social plus ... here at Rutgers, I remember. We all had to take ASTP, no ROTC. And in the summer time, when I started, we had tans, you know, the khakis, just like you were in the army. And I remember we were in the fraternity, hazing, they would send us out to different chapters of the Sammys, and they'd give you a quarter, you'd go for a weekend, they'd assign you various things you had to bring back. Our treasurer who was called the exchequer, had us bring back, a hair from the testicles of the exchequer at the MIT fraternity house. And we had to carry an unboiled egg up and deliver it, or something like that. And we had to start out with a quarter or fifty cents. We wore our uniforms, we hitchhiked. We'd get picked up because everybody thought we were in the army. The ROTC symbol was a flaming torch. And so you had a ROTC button on your overseas cap. And they'd say to us "What outfit are you in son?" "Flame-throwers, ma'am." [laughs] I remember this other kid and I got picked up in Connecticut. We were hitchhiking up to MIT. And these two good-looking older women, like 19 or 20, in a convertible car. And they wanted one of us to sit in front and one in the back with the other. This kid's name was Morty Amster. I remember they had a flat and he knew how to fix it. They were going to a dance at the New London Navy officers' club. And we wanted to do something. And we didn't know quite how to do it. After they let us off we said "You know they might" we were kicking each other. And we went on to our duty. We got to Boston and back and everything, got the hair from the scrotum. [laughs]
KP: Had you been up to Boston before?
JK: Never. I've been there many times since. It was an adventure. It was a memorable time. I liked the food. I didn't like my mother's cooking. There was good food here, except when I had liver.
KP: How did your training in Michigan City, what did you study, exactly?
JK: I think we did basic math, electricity. It was the basics of electronics and things like that. Then we went on to, later in the next level, at Del Monte, at the old hotel Del Monte, we learned about capacitors and resistors.
KP: And that lasted for ...
JK: Well, one month there and three months in Monterey, Del Monte. That was a great place, there. This had been one of the country's leading hotels before World War II. And then it had been a naval aviators' training base. Then they made it into pre-radio school for us. They'd put four guys in a room that was meant for one. Well we had our own bathrooms and we had waitresses serving us, they didn't take our orders, but they'd bring out platters of mutton and things like that.
KP: But the food sounds like much better.
JK: I stuffed myself with food so much the first day at Del Monte, I got off the train, they took us to this dining hall, it was a beautiful Moorish dining hall, with potted plants all over and they brought out french toast, all you could eat. I ate so much and we were marching out and all of a sudden I upchucked into a potted plant. [laughs] I ... remember ... the troop train into California and I woke up and looked out the window. This was after the deserts and the cornfields. It was like coming into Shangri-La. I remember seeing a sign and it said "almond tree" on it. I come from Kearny, New Jersey. I said "Look at the Aamond tree." And everybody was scoffing, "ah mond tree." I saw orange trees later when I went to L.A. It was a different world. It was sunny. Who'd ever been in a resort like that, even though it was a naval training station? One of my roommates, his father had won the PGA tour. He was quite a golfer, this kid, he'd go out and play golf. He was from UCLA. He was Jerry Dutra. These were all college boys so it was a good group.
KP: Did the people you'd mainly gravitate to in the Navy, go to college?
JK: Well because I was in that program. They were either college or technical whizzes.
KP: So you didn't really encounter very many sailors?
JK: Not until I got on a ship.
KP: Then you encountered more.
JK: Yeah, radio operators, radio operators and ... It was a very privileged group. We were smart kids.
KP: Besides the facilities and food being very good at Monterey, how did you enjoy the climate?
JK: It was nice. I missed my mother. [laughs] I was far away. That's why I wanted to go back. I liked it. Looking back at it, it was fun. Hitchhiking to Salinas, we were always hitchhiking. San Jose was a little city of 75,000. I used to compare it in my mind to East Orange.... Now it's 750,000 or more. East Orange is just a mess. [laughs] San Jose probably has a slum like East Orange. ... I think I got up to San Francisco once. I went down to visit a relative who lived in Pasadena too. I remember Christmas of '45, another guy and I hitchhiked to Fresno. And that was a miracle. The Central Valley was all green at that time of the year, its Christmas and everything was green. Of course in the summer time, its like the Gobi desert, there, you know. But that was an experience. Everything was new.
KP: ... Growing up and reading about it, ... were you surprised by seeing these different ...
JK: Everything was new to me. That's what you miss when you are older, that's one of the wonders of being young. I don't care what kind of background you come from, you were getting new experiences all the time. It was like ... turning a book for the first time. I liked that, ... I think every phase in life has its satisfactions. Now we have the satisfaction of wisdom, but we're jaded about things like that. [laughs]
KP: You mentioned that you would be sent to Treasure Island. You were unable to get into the program in Washington. So you were so disappointed.
JK: Yes, I was terribly disappointed.
KP: But you said that you got to spend seven months in San Francisco.
JK: Oh, yeah, it was wonderful. It was fine. It was great.
KP: Where did you live there?
JK: I lived on Treasure Island in the barracks. And they had the secondary school there. And then I went to, after leave, I went back and I went to Camp Schumaker. Which was later discharging people. It was a distribution center, and they put me on a ship. One morning I woke up, I had been the last guy there, and I didn't know where I was going to go, I woke up, and they said, "You're finally going. You're on a draft." I wandered around San Francisco Bay and I wound up on a ship at four o'clock in the afternoon. I come aboard, I said, "I'm the new electronics technician's mate." "What's that?" [laughs] I saluted like they tell you. I had never been on a ship before. "Is that something to do with the radio? Go down to Sparky there." They saw my rating, I was a petty officer and I had never been on a ship. [laughs] I encountered my superiors, two or three guys above me. They said, "Guess where we're going kid at 11:00 o'clock tonight." I said, "Where?" "We're going to China." "We are? How am I going to tell my mother?" [laughs] "I'll write a letter from ..." I did send her a postcard in the mail. "Maybe I can call her or write her from, I guess the first stop must be Hawaii." There were no stops as it turned out. We were out thirty some days. About ten miles an hour going to China. We didn't stop. It was fun, as it turned out.
KP: Before going to China, I guess maybe we should just finish up your experiences in California and San Francisco. How often would you get leave?
JK: Oh, most weekends. I toyed with the idea of staying there, of resettling there. But I liked Rutgers. We had a pretty close family, my aunts and particularly on my mother's side, around Newark.
KP: But you were tempted by California?
JK: Yeah, sure. I've often thought, I said, "I wonder," because California of course, was going through some kind of boom. New Jersey did do pretty well. I wonder what would have happened to me.
KP: You were most familiar with New York, and to a certain extent, Chicago, you got to know a little bit. What did you think about San Francisco?
JK: I loved it. I still love it. I like it. Nicest town, one of the great cities of this country. My wife and I just took a trip to San Diego, I'd been there once before the war. It doesn't compare. And I don't like L.A. that much. I would not mind living in San Francisco. With the fog and all of that. It is just a charming city.
KP: You mentioned that you had gotten out to Berkeley quite a bit.
JK: Then, when we were stationed there, yeah.
KP: You were actually stationed at the university?
JK: No, I was stationed on Treasure Island. Which is in the middle of the bay, so you could go over to Oakland and Berkeley one way, or go into San Francisco the other way. We had a stop on, the rapid transit. Before the war they had a rapid transit, they had an electrified trolley car. It went across the bay bridge, to the station there at Yerba Buena Island, which was the natural island. You know the bridge is hinged on that island? Well, Treasure Island was a man-made island attached to Goat Island. Yerba Buena. It was built for the 1939 World's Fair out there, it was landfill. In fact I think the landfill came from one of the bridges there, the Golden Gate Bridge, or something. And so there was a stop for the orange colored trains. I always liked to go over there, Berkeley. There was the Clairmont Hotel, there was the famous place, the big bands would play there. I don't know if I ever heard the big bands play, but I was in the Clairmont lobby. In those days in Chicago and San Francisco, the big thing was going into a hotel lobby and watch the crowds walk by. You didn't have any money. So you'd sit there as a sailor and hope something happened to you, which it never did. [laughs]
KP: You mentioned that in the Midwest, the girls were fairly desperate. But what about in San Francisco? They were more used to seeing sailors?
JK: I don't remember any girls in San Francisco. I remember a lot of loneliness too. Even though it was a nice city. We used to take the water taxi in, too. A boat that would drop you off at the Navy pier in San Francisco. Not the Navy pier, what am I saying? At the ferry building. Navy pier is in Chicago. We'd walk around by ourselves. I got tired of walking around, up and down Market Street. ...I remember some good times. There was some bar some guys, the Navy electronic technicians, knew. It was like our bar. It was some kind of French restaurant. And you'd get a great meal for like 85 or 90 cents. Remember we made only 66 bucks a month. They had a special drink you could get drunk on with one drink. I never got that drunk.
KP: Your instruction, how good was it at Treasure Island?
JK: It was good. Well, it was fast. It was very practical. You learned about electrons chasing those little men, going around a little circuit. It worked. But they pumped so much into our heads that, by the time you finished the seventh or eighth month, you couldn't remember what you learned in the first month. You'd have to re-learn it, but it was in there. I only made two trips across the Pacific. On the first trip I had all these guys above me. Second trip I found, they all got discharged, I was the lead technician. Talk about the blind leading the blind, I had one guy under me, an apprentice. I had to tune up, tune means to get the transmitter to work on frequency, you know, the big things, with vacuum tubes. We were in San Francisco. I was on the ship and I had to tune, our emergency transmitter was set on 500 kh, and if the ship was sinking, that's what you send the S.O.S. on. Because they always monitor that. It was out of kilter, so I said "Geez, I don't think I remember how to tune this up." Because we learned that in the first month at Treasure Island. I doped it out. But I was lucky the war was over because there was something they still have, I.F.F., which we were in charge of, Identification - Friend or Foe. It's passive, it's triggered by another ship or airplane. And it turned out that when we came back from my second trip, to Japan and Okinawa, we found out it wasn't working. Lucky the war was over, because the American Navy or Air Force might have sunk us. Of course if the war had been on, I wouldn't have been the senior technician on board. [laughs]
KP: You mentioned your training ended very abruptly and you were put on ship right away.
JK: It ended in due course. Actually, I had an extra month because I flunked one month back at Del Monte. I flunked capacitors, or condensers. And they almost sent me out to sea as a deck hand. They gave me another chance. I got a 100 on the exam the next time. I wanted to finish the program. It ended and, well, the war was over, too.
KP: Where were you when the war ended?
JK: I had just arrived at Treasure Island. The first day. It was V-J day, and we were the company that didn't get liberty.
KP: Did you think at the time that you were just going to go home shortly?
JK: I almost signed over to go over to Bikini for the atom bomb trials. They almost induced me then. But I decided that I wanted to come back to Rutgers and finish college.
KP: But you were tempted by that too?
JK: Yeah, they'd give you some, there were some inducements, I forget what.
KP: Are you glad that you didn't go?
JK: Yeah, I almost joined the Naval Reserve. When I did get home ... I went down ... I was a second class petty officer. I was only in 18 months. And they said "Gee, you stay in the reserve and after 20 years you go to a couple of meetings, you get a pension and all that." Yeah, we're going to work, college graduates were going to work 30, 35, 40 dollars a week and retire and get a pension. So I went down to the New York Federal building, the post office, to enlist. I didn't want to sign up when they were discharging me, at Schumaker, in California. I ... wanted to talk to my parents. They thought it was a pretty good idea. So I went down to enlist and they said "You got to go down to an LST, in Port Newark, to sign up." So I thought "Hell, I don't know how to get to Port Newark." So I went home and didn't enlist. And not long after, the Korean War broke out. I would have been there. With my rating, they would have called us in, too. I was working that summer as ... a reporter on the Newark News. I would have had to go into the service, then. I didn't.
DP: Do you feel that your training that you got in the Navy would have been sufficient had you had to go to war?
JK: Well, I probably would have had to, if I were in the reserve, ...
DP: I mean the first time, if the war hadn't ended on V-J day?
JK: Oh, then. Yeah, I could do certain things. You had to, its like being an intern in medicine and you learn more by doing. Oh, some of the wasteful methods. I went onboard and ... something was wrong with one of the radars and the senior guy, his name was Bill Bergua, he was from Seattle or somewhere, state of Washington, good guy, he was on this one trip, and ... we isolated the circuit, that the trouble was in. He said "Hey kid, change all the tubes in there." I said, "Change them all? You have a tube tester, why don't you find out what tube is bad?" "Nah, don't bother." ... section, I forget what they call them, section something, which means throw it overboard. And I put 30 vacuum tubes in, new ones. That was [what] I learned about the military. [laughter]
KP: What else did you learn aboard ship?
JK: How to play Hearts. I played it for 30 days. I should have learned Poker. It would have stood me in better stead. Or Pinochle. I learned how to play Hearts.
KP: The ship you were on going over, what was it?
JK: A troop ship.
KP: What was it like?
JK: It was interesting. It was called the U.S.S. Bronx. Built in the Kaiser shipyard in Portland, Oregon. Never near the Bronx. APA 236. It was a K-ship. It was actually a communications flag ship. We had more electronic gear than most. And if there, it was designed to be for a landing, it would carry a higher officer on there, a commanding officer, 'cause it had more ...
DP: It was a command ship.
JK: Yeah, for landings. It wasn't the command ship for a whole big fleet, but for a small part of it.
KP: Who was the captain?
JK: You know, his name was, I think his name was Hahnemann, the same name as the Hospital in Philadelphia. And I think that was his name, or was it Lankenau, an imposing looking man. The captain, that's like a colonel, a four-striper. He was from Philadelphia. Maybe it was the same family. ... I don't remember much about him. I remember our executive officer, I couldn't believe it, he was a lieutenant commander. His name was Frankel. I think he was a Jew from New York .... We landed on the second trip in Japan, at Yokosuka. And I got my mail. I got a letter from a great aunt of mine, who said "If you're ever in a place called Yokosuka, Japan, your cousin Paul, (her son) is stationed there." So I went crazy. I thought, "My cousin's here." I was coming across the world. And I wasn't due to get liberty that day, so I went up to this guy Frankel ..., I said "My cousin's here." He said "O.k., you can go off." My cousin was looking at Mount Fuji that day. I did meet him the next day. He was heavily engaged in selling cigarettes. He gave me a Rolleflex camera to take home, and things like that.
KP: Going back to your first trip, though, were there any aboard ship that were regular Navy? How much of the ship's contingent were regular Navy, on the Bronx?
JK: I don't think many.
KP: Any Annapolis grads among the officers?
JK: Maybe the captain. I don't know. I would not get into that. I remember, there was a section officer, we were under him. His name was Lieutenant Dodge. I think we didn't like him. I don't really remember.
KP: Who do you remember from the ship, going out on the Bronx?
JK: I remember a guy named Bergria, and I remember a guy named George Polhemus from Asbury Park. He was a veteran, he had been in there for a while, a thin guy. Never saw him. He was an electronic technician's mate. And I remember a kid from Bound Brook, named Gelbard, who had gone to Rutgers, or went to it afterwards. And we went to a house of ill-repute together in Shanghai. These two Rutgers men. We were very drunk in Shanghai. We were servicemen. We could get all the scotch we wanted for a dime a glass, or a quarter, or something like that.
KP: You were in Shanghai in 1946, then?
JK: Yeah, I remember ... we were in an enlisted man's club. It had been the American consulate there, or something like that. And I remember right next to us, all these little kids, there was a big building, some kind of institution that had been a mansion, all these little blond kids. And it turned out that they were German-Jewish refugees from Hitler, who spent the war in Shanghai. I never forgot that. I remember when Carter was president, this guy, Michael Blumenthal, was Secretary of the Treasury, and he, apparently, he wasn't one of the little kids, he was older, but he was in that group. They survived Hitler in Shanghai. In a sea of Asian faces, you know, you'd see these Europeans, the little kids.
KP: Shanghai, was that the first foreign port that you had seen?
JK: I think so, yeah. Shanghai was the first port. I went back there many years later, twice. And it hadn't changed that much. The Whangpoo River. I had no idea where I was, the Whangpoo, the Yangtze?
KP: You remember drinking a lot in Shanghai.
JK: I passed out. I remember waking up, I was chained into my bunk. I've never been too good at handling alcohol. I was particularly bad then. I'd never been drunk before, I think.
KP: How much time did you spend on leave in Shanghai?
JK: Just one or two days. We went to Tsingtao, which was an old German treaty port. And then we went to some other place, I don't know.
KP: And what was your mission? To pick up troops?
JK: We brought some ... troops over, and ...
KP: You brought them over from the United States?
JK: Yeah, and we took the guys back. We were on the magic carpet. I remember every time we'd come in, the bands would be playing, and I felt like a war hero. [laughter] With the bands and the people on the pier, we brought the real guys. I'm a little mixed up, I remember, one trip, I think we went to Okinawa and Japan on the same trip. I think the first trip was only to China.
KP: What was it like to bring people into China? You were bringing troops into China when the war was over.
JK: It was not too much pressure. But this guy Mao was up there and he, when we got to Tsingtao, that was up near Tientsin. It was like 40 miles away. I think the Communists had taken it about then. You heard echoes of it.
KP: Were you concerned at all in China that you might be under attack?
JK: No, not at all.
KP: But you went on battle stations, or were battle ready?
JK: No, on neither of those trips. The only thing we were worried about were floating mines. We did intercept a few of them and sank them. Once we spent all morning shooting at one. We kept missing it. The captain was jumping up and down, "What kind of gunners have I got?" It turned out that it was a floating buoy and it wasn't ... I was worried, we were coming closer and closer and I looked out the porthole and there's this thing right there, and I thought it was going to blow up. So I hid behind a radio transmitter.
KP: Life aboard ship, having been on one just as a tourist, seeing some ships, they're very small.
JK: Yeah. I had it good on that ship. On the second trip, 'cause I was the leading technician and we had an emergency radio shack. And I had a desk, it was about from here to here, from here to there. And I had a little office and a radio transmitter and some other stuff in there and we stored a lot of Spam and food that we could cook on a hot plate, coffee. And guys would come down and play cards in there. It was my office. Yeah. The food was not good when we took troops over and back. I think we went to Japan the second trip. I think we came back, went over empty and came back full. But when we had 'em both ways, so in between, they fed us wonderfully for a few days when we didn't have any troops aboard. 'Cause we had to eat the same thing as the troops. We had like meatloaf and mashed potatoes every day for 18 days in a row. But in between, they were feeding us steak three times a day. A breakfast steak, good food. You know, we had good appetites, we were kids. It was adventuresome. It was, as I say, a new book. I was a kid who had only gone to Philadelphia and Atlantic City, my big trips. New Brunswick was sort of an adventure.
KP: And this is China.
DP: A whole other country.
JK: ... a whole other world, like going to the moon.
KP: What surprised you about China? What didn't?
JK: Well, it was teeming, it didn't surprise me. I had seen the movies and all that. I was surprised, everything was new to me, here and there, so everything was a surprise or everything was accepted as new.
KP: What did you think of the poverty that you saw in China?
JK: Well, everybody was selling their sister. "Hey Joe," everybody knew my name. [laughter] "Hey Joe, I got girl, I got my sister. Yeah, she's virgin." Yeah, reality, yeah. Well, it was expected. Americans, the American soldier in the Third World, before then and since then. I'm sure in the First World, when they were in Europe.
KP: What was the military's attitude towards your leave?
JK: Well, one thing I will always remember, when we were in Japan on the second trip, I remember how they packed the Japanese into those trains, the commuter trains. I went up to Tokyo, Yokosuka, Yokohama, and they were so crowded. I remember reading about the pushers that push them in. But they had one or two cars in each train with a blue stripe on them. That was for the Allied soldiers. We were sitting there like lords. There were empty seats.
DP: I just wanted to jump a little bit ahead and ask, just being in the military do you think that that helped you when you did finally come back to Rutgers, in your studies, or did it help you scholastically?
JK: It helped me financially, the G.I. Bill paid my way through Rutgers. You got 12 months for being in plus a month for every month in service. So I had 30 months of credit. It just, I got my bachelor's degree on the G.I. Bill and I got paid $66 a month, or whatever it was all the way through. It was a good deal. I mean, the war was great to me.
DP: Do you feel that your grades improved having been in the military?
JK: I don't know. I had pretty good grades. I wasn't Phi Beta Kappa or anything, but I think I would have had pretty good grades otherwise. I suppose I was a little more mature. But everybody ... had been in the military. We had two classes of students afterwards. And I was somewhere between the older guys, 25, 24, who had been in the service, and then we'd have the kids who had never been in. Just out of high school. I was more toward that younger group, 'cause I had only been in 18 months. ... So there were always guys much more mature than I. So I couldn't put that act on.
DP: Were you treated any differently once you came back? Than when you had been here before?
JK: Rutgers was a different place. Oh sure, you were like lost in the sea of students. Before that we knew everybody. We didn't have the faceless guys in the army uniforms ...
KP: There weren't very many of you.
JK: Of us? No. I think by the spring of '45, I wasn't here then, there were maybe 200. A few 4-Fs and some guys that had been discharged and that's it. After the war it was a different world. Everybody wore Eisenhower jackets and military uniforms and everything. And we had guys from the class of '42 and guys from the class of '51, '52.
DP: Were you looked up to as a war hero?
JK: Nah, I wasn't because there were guys who were older and real heroes in the Sammy House. I had a roommate who had been a prisoner, Sid Harris. He was learning the clothing business in Toms River, he had been a prisoner of war, ... shot down in a bomber. Had another guy I was friendly with, I used to walk out by the College Avenue Gym with him, his knee would pop out. He'd been a paratrooper.
KP: When you were aboard the troop ship, when you were ferrying troops, especially coming home, did they talk about the war at all? And their experiences to you? Did you get to know any of the troops?
JK: I knew a guy on ship's company, on my ship, he had been hiding out, no, he had been a prisoner on Guam. For two years, he had been hiding out. A few war stories. Some of the people on our ship had been in, seen some action. ... No, the troops we brought back, actually I remember bringing back a couple of guys from my Kearny High School class. From Okinawa. The Kretzmer twins.
KP: Which must have been a strange meeting.
JK: Yeah, we had a reunion. I had a reunion with about four or five kids from Kearny High, at Treasure Island. One kid was in the Merchant Marines. One was in the Navy. I don't recall much about war stories. Real action stories.
KP: On your second trip out, when you were in charge of the electronics section, how much experience was on that ship, from the captain on down?
JK: Not much God. I remember, we had two radars, two main radars. One was for long distance and one was surface. And I woke up one morning and the radar operator--they all thought they were technicians. They told me, "Our radar's been blowing out. We've been changing fuses, you know." So I checked up and we were down to three fuses. I isolated the trouble, but I couldn't find it, I couldn't fix it. So we came the rest of the trip without surface radar. But the war was over and we got on. They called in an engineer in from Westinghouse, where they built it, and we went up and checked the antenna, climbed the mast, and it turned out there was a tube on which a piece of carbon that went from one prong to another, but didn't quite touch. But intermittently it would flash over and burn a fuse. I couldn't find that trouble.
KP: On your second trip out, was it the same captain? Were you on the same ship?
JK: I think so. His name was Lankenau. That was his name. No Hahnemann. Isn't there a Lankenau Hospital in Philadelphia? I think so. I think I've heard of the name. L-A-N-K-E-N-A-U. A very distinguished looking man.
KP: On your second trip out, you ferried troops back home.
JK: Yeah, yeah, from Okinawa, I believe. ... I think we took, or maybe it was the second trip, time out, we took them to Japan and picked them up at Okinawa. That's what happened. I never went ashore at Okinawa.
KP: Just in Japan?
KP: When you were on shore in Japan, what did you think of Japan, that had at one time been feared and viewed as a treacherous enemy?
JK: You know, I was so naive, I took the train into Tokyo, and I said, "Gee, they have a lot of vacant lots in this city." They had cleaned everything up. It was the bombing. And I went by the Emperor's palace and MacArthur's headquarters. And the Japanese were very servile, obsequious to us. With the usual American military kid arrogance, I didn't think much about the atomic bomb or anything. I think I did feel a glimmer of sympathy for the poor people being squeezed in while we were, I didn't like the idea of being privileged, sitting in that car. It bothered me a little bit, not too much. I still enjoyed it. Yeah, yeah, I wasn't that socially conscious. I never liked MacArthur, though, the Navy didn't. There was a tradition, they called him Dugout Doug.
KP: That was still, even in '45, '46, that was still the phrase?
JK: Sure, I didn't like him afterwards. When Truman fired him, I thought it was a great move.
KP: Both trips you were now part of ship's company. What did you think of many of your enlisted men who were outside your particular area? What kind of range of people did you ...
JK: Well, we had a scandal. We had some kid that was attacked in his sleep, by a gay guy. And that was, it was, they found him, it was a ship's painter. We asked the kid why he didn't say something to this guy? He said he woke up in the middle of the night and this guy was doing things. We all thought it was a big joke. He said, "I was too far gone." That was the big scandal.
KP: What happened?
JK: Oh, they locked him up in the brig. They didn't know much about gays. I remember, some of the guys had been in the school with me, they were, they had a whole stockade of gays at Treasure Island. And some guy who was at school with me, his job was guarding them. We didn't know from that. I guess there was a lot of that. Now we know.
KP: But at the time, this was something that you didn't fully ...
JK: No, it was scandalous, I guess. I think that some, the ship's painter, yeah, the pharmacist's mates, were, I think there were some gay guys there, I must have talked about it. You joked, the shower joke. Pick up the soap was the big joke. [laughs] I never had any encounters.
KP: Had you thought of staying in the Navy?
JK: No, only of joining the reserves. I stayed in an extra couple of months. The Bikini test, yeah. I thought it would be an interesting experience, but that conflicted with getting back to college, which I liked a lot. And the whole idea we talked about of getting done so you could make a living. Get your degree and go to work.
KP: So you were eager to get on with life?
JK: Oh yeah. 'Cause you didn't know that the Depression was over. You thought it was going to continue.
KP: And your family wanted you home?
JK: Oh they wanted to see me, sure.
KP: How did you get home?
JK: I was discharged. I decided rather than get discharged in Long Island. You had your choice. I worked it so that I could get out at Camp Schumaker in California, and then I got the travel money. And I flew for the first time. All these veterans were starting these airlines buying these surplus C-17s, whatever they were. And I booked passage on one of them. We were sitting in these seats, bucket seats, I think they called them, along the sides. We flew to Cleveland, and we ran out of passengers. We only had me and another person. And then they transferred us to another two-man airline. [laughs] They were all starting these, I think the Flying Tigers got started that way, but on a more organized basis. They gave you a cup to throw up in. I almost got sick, though. I never was seasick in the Navy.
KP: Really, not even your first trip?
JK: When we flew over the Rockies, I almost got sick. Yeah, it was my first flight. When I was discharged.
KP: Which, having taken the long train trip to travel out ...
JK: A lot better. Well, it took us a day or two, because we had to lay over, I think it took three planes, because they kept running out of passengers. I think we landed in Newark. I got home. Every Summer, we had something, the 52-20 club. You'd get unemployment comp. You applied for this, they advised you when you got discharged, "Tell 'em you want to work as a toothpick sharpener". And so we'd get 20 dollars a week. My father couldn't believe it. He said, "You're not doing anything. You get 20 dollars a week for doing nothing?" I said, "You know we won the war!" [laughs] I used to help him out in the store. Every summer vacation I would get $20 a week. On top of the, of the G.I Bill during [the school year]. War was not hell, if you were born at the right time.
KP: Did you consider yourself lucky for your war experiences?
JK: Yeah, sure, absolutely.
KP: Because if you had just been a little bit younger your war might have been different.
JK: A little older, I might have gotten killed. A year older. Oh, there was a kid in the class of '42 here, yeah, he was my neighbor in Kearny, his name was Eugene Rudomanski. His sister and my sister were best friends in college. They were a working class Polish family. They lived around the corner. He went to Rutgers. He was two years older. He was in the class of '46. He was the class of '42 at Kearny High. His family was hard working. I remember. The pride of the family was his uncle; he was a doctor, the only doctor in the neighborhood. And Eugene was going to be a doctor. He went here to Rutgers. He commuted from Kearny, because his father worked in the factory. And then he went in the Navy, he was in the same program I was, the RT program. He was two years ahead of me. He was on a ship called the Indianapolis, which was sunk the day before V-J day, or two days before, and he was lost. And I remember that. His mother used to confide in my mother. So that could have been me, you know. Same neighborhood, same kid.
KP: When you said she used to confide in your mother, what would they ...
JK: My mother was the neighborhood psychotherapist. She used to sell booze in the store. These women, some of them tippled a bit, they would always come in and tell their troubles to Mrs. Katz.
KP: So your mother knew what was going on in the neighborhood?
JK: Oh, yeah. She was a nice woman. She was a good woman. People liked her. And I used to run into people from Kearny, "Oh, I used to buy pickles at Mrs. Katz's store. I used to buy pickles from her," or something.
KP: Coming back to Rutgers, how hard of an adjustment was it?
JK: It was an adjustment, because it was different. It was fun. There were a lot of guys that I'd never heard of. See, we didn't have a fraternity house, because they had been banned from the campus (after the fire). I think Buddy Klion probably told you. The first year back, I roomed out, I couldn't live in a dorm because, because ... I lived too close to the Pennsylvania Railroad. They wouldn't give me a dorm room. Because they were over subscribed, by a lot. My close friend, my former roommate, Jack Ballan he lived in Fairlawn, and he was in the quad up here, Hegeman Hall. He got a room off campus with some guys from his hometown. He said "Why don't you take my room?" So I was in this room as Jack Ballan, from Fairlawn. Everybody knew who I was, but I decided to go back to playing the violin. My mother had made me take lessons when I was a little kid. I had no talent. I used to practice the violin in the dorm. So they handed me up. [laughs] "He's not Jack Ballan. He shouldn't be here." So I was evicted. I lived out by Douglass, NJC. In a boarding house. Then the Sammies got a house my second year back, at Hardenberg Street, over by Middlesex Hospital, now, Robert Wood Johnson. It was a different--I don't know if I liked fraternity life or not. In some ways it limited you. You just knew the people in the fraternity.
KP: In many ways, from what people have told me, there were the fraternities, and there was non-fraternity, and they were very different worlds.
JK: And there were two fraternity worlds. I didn't like all that segregation stuff. No sir, that's what there was. It solved a lot of social problems. You know, you attended the socials ... there wasn't intermarriage like there is now, good or bad, I don't know. My kids are all intermarried.
KP: Does that ever surprise you? The rate of intermarriage and the barriers that have been broken down?
JK: Yeah, sort of. I'm used to it now, sure.
KP: You know, in the 50s and 60s, when these barriers were coming down.
JK: Well, I was not aware of it then. My work life was integrated.
KP: What did you think of Dean Crosby?
JK: He had just come on the scene. I didn't know him so well. I think Buddy Klion knew him. I wasn't that big in extracurricular activities. I did go out for Targum, I was the oldest reporter there. Because when I switched to history, I thought I might be going into journalism. So in the middle of my junior year, I became a reporter, for the Targum. ... But I didn't know much about Howie Crosby.
KP: Did you attend chapel at all?
JK: It was compulsory when I was here the first time. Fraser Metzger was the dean. He was a Dutch Reform minister. ... We Sammys, we didn't like that. 'Cause he'd always say, "we ask this in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." It was supposed to be non-sectarian. It would get us very upset. But what were you going to do?
KP: So you would go under Dean Metzger?
JK: You had to go apparently.
KP: Do you have any other stories about Dean Metzger? He's legendary in the class of '42.
JK: I trust you mean crazy Metzger. I got to know his son Carl Metzger, later when, he was the registrar, wasn't he? There was a guy, Luther Martin, who was the registrar then.
DP: He became the registrar.
JK: That was quite a name, Luther Martin, Martin Luther. He must have been registrar ... for 100 years. There were some very old-time professors here. There was a guy named Johnson, Johnston, he taught from the same lecture notes, that he first ... drew up [in] English in 1919, or some time like that. He used to pop little lozenges in his mouth. I had him here in '44, when I was here. It was a different place between '44 and '46, wow.
KP: What was different? Besides being bigger and there were more veterans. But what else struck you as being very different?
JK: It was alive. I mean it was, millions of students around. ... Everything was different. The trees were the same. But it was like going from some little town in Kansas to Philadelphia.
KP: You had a lot of veterans coming back, like yourself, then you had a lot of people who were 18, and 19, what was the interaction between the two?
JK: ... Oh well, in the fraternity there was patronization and the kids would look up to you. I had one kid who used to look up to me; he still, he later became the Attorney General of New Jersey. He was Irwin Kimmelman. He used to say to me, I was a lobbyist in Trenton, he was the Attorney General, "I'd do it for you. You were my mentor." [laughs] He was in the class of '52. So when I was a senior, he was a freshman.
KP: Did you haze the returning veterans?
JK: No, they had a lot of it, when I was first to pledge in '44, ... they'd paddle you. It hurt. I went through the whole ritual. It was sadistic. I don't think they had paddling, maybe they did, when we returned. There might have been some of it. I never got to paddle anybody. [laughs] I kind of rued it then, but I'm glad now. I was a paddlee though. [laughs]
KP: You had mentioned that your two favorite professors were Edward Burns and Henry Winkler.
JK: Oh, Henry Winkler, later. He was a fine teacher, he later became president of a college somewhere. He was a good man.
KP: What did you have him for?
JK: History. I was a history major. I think it was American History. Burns, I only had before the war. Ethan Ellis was a good man here.
KP: So overall, you were very pleased with your education here?
JK: I thought Rutgers was fine. I was proud of it. I went to graduate school after. I went to Northwestern. I thought I was well prepared. We had a student body, the graduate program there, from all over the country.
KP: How did you find the social life after the war? Because it was great for you before the war.
JK: It was sort of good, it was pretty good. It was religiously oriented. We'd go to Hillel downtown and all that. I had a big romance in my last semester, that continued afterwards. She went to work in New York, she was in the class of '49. She threw me over New Year's Eve then. Between '50 and '51.
KP: Which sounds like a big disappointment?
JK: Oh, yeah, the love of my life. [laughs] We only went to school for about six months together.
DP: Was there much in the town of New Brunswick for the students to do?
JK: It was busy downtown. Probably busier than now. It was livelier. Well, all the cities were centers of activity, then. Trenton, Newark, we'd go to the movies .... New Brunswick has held up a lot better than other towns. Whether they tried harder ...
DP: What sorts of things were there to do?
JK: Oh, you'd just go to the store even. You'd go to the Hillel, that was the Jewish students' .... As I say, you had two societies here. So you'd go to dances. I'd come down on a Sunday night. I'd go home, everybody went home on weekends, here. You lived here, you went home. Because most everybody lived in New Jersey. I'd come down on the 7:15 train out of Newark. I forget if it left at 7:15, or arrived here at 7:15. And walk over to the dance at the Hillel. You'd meet girls there. It was pretty nice. The girls didn't go home as much, I don't think. I remember them going out, they had a curfew of, midnight on Saturday night, and 10:00 or 11:00 on other nights, 11:00 on Friday night, 10:00 during the week. Fast kissing would go on. [laughs] There was a Douglass campus, what's that called now? The one down by Cook College... It was Jameson, Douglass, and Gibbons.
KP: Yeah, I'm not sure how they quite break it up. I know Gibbons, but ...
JK: The college became Douglass after, but there's one with small houses.
KP: Oh, the Corwin circle, yeah.
JK: Corwin, that's what it's called now, huh? It used to be called Douglass then. Because there was a Dean Corwin then, yes. So they named the college after Dean Douglass and named the residential thing after Dean Corwin, o.k., all right. It was pretty interesting.
KP: When you were in college, you had changed majors.
JK: Delightedly, yeah.
KP: And you went to graduate school for journalism.
KP: How was that, in a sense going back to Chicago, which you had seen in the military?
JK: I had seen it in the military, yeah. I really wanted to go back. I liked Chicago. It was a pretty good time there, in Chicago, at Great Lakes. It was fine. I enjoyed Northwestern. I learned a lot. It was hard to get a job in journalism and I was able to get a pretty good job. It was all going there.
KP: What was your first job?
JK: With the Newark News. I got a summer job with them. And then they hired me. And I would have had a job in Buffalo, which was hiring. But the Newark News had hired me and I started there in March of '51. I didn't formally graduate until June, but I was already working. I finished my work in March, and I never went to the graduation.
KP: You worked as a newspaper reporter for ten years.
JK: Ten years, yeah.
KP: What were your beats?
JK: Politics. It evolved into that. And that laid the foundation for what I did for the rest of my life. One thing led to another.
KP: What were you initially in?
JK: Originally, I was a suburban reporter. I covered Kearny, no, I covered North Arlington and Lyndhurst out of the Kearny office, other towns in Bergen County. Then they liked me, I covered the '53 campaigns, as the odd man, the weekend man. I got to go to Trenton. And then later a guy died and I became the state political writer. And then in '61, I got a chance to be the press secretary for the guy who was going to be the Democratic candidate, Hughes, and he got elected. I was his press secretary, among other things. He was re-elected and I went out to be a PR man. I had been his PR man. It turned out that people equated PR with being a lobbyist. They wanted me to get bills passed. And so from PR I went mostly into government relations and lobbying. I did that from '65 until '93, when I retired.
KP: You've covered a good part of New Jersey's political history. In some ways the crucial years for New Jersey.
JK: Every year is crucial. [laughs]
KP: What are some of your views on various New Jersey governors? One you worked for, but what about the others?
JK: Well, he [Hughes] was a great governor. I have views.
KP: I guess maybe starting with Governor Driscoll.
JK: Well, I have a friend who is still writing for a newspaper, he thinks that Driscoll was the greatest governor the state ever had. I came in at the tail end I remember I was ...
................................ END OF INTERVIEW ................................
Corrections Reviewed 2/19/96 by Melanie Cooper