Kurt Piehler: This begins an interview with Robert Inglis on October 27, 1998, at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey with Kurt Piehler and Michael Ojeda. You mentioned your father came from Scotland.
Robert Inglis: Right.
KP: What motivated him to come to the United States from Scotland?
RI: Well going back even further, my 104 year old mother just died a year ago and she was born of Scot parents. Her father was active with Dupont and set up the Dupont works in Wilmington, Delaware and they lived in New Jersey. She was born in Paulsboro in 1893. Every few years they went back to Scotland to visit, and it so happened that in 1914 they went back for a visit and her sister to get married, and the war broke out. So they were stranded in Scotland for four years. She taught music and studied music while she was there and that's where she met my father. So, when the war was over they came to this country and he worked in this country for a while.
Michael Ojeda: Your father served in World War I?
RI: My father was an observer in the RAF during World War I. He started out in the Highland Light Infantry. "The Hellish Little Imps," they called them and so, that's how that came about. Now when my mother was old enough to qualify for Social Security, she couldn't find her birth records because her records were lost way back then. If it hadn't been for her brother still being alive to attest that she was his sister and where she was born, she would have had a hard time qualifying for Social Security, but that's another story.
KP: What did your parents tell you about World War I while growing up?
RI: Not a whole lot because my father drowned down at the shore when I was six years old. I didn't have the benefit of much of that information. I have some information about World War I from his records and things but not personally.
KP: What about your mother?
RI: Mother was too busy raising two boys to reminisce much along that line, so I didn't get much about World War I.
MO: You have a brother younger than you?
RI: I'm the oldest brother and my younger brother died a few years ago from cancer of the esophagus, so I don't have him around either.
KP: It sounds like your father came here because of your mother.
RI: Probably, yes. Well, he was dissatisfied with the job he went back to. He was a valuer and assessor for the Crown, and before the war supposedly they would hold your job for you, and when the war was over he went back to it, but he had bigger ideas than they had. I don't know if he was an entry level assessor or what, but that wasn't what he wanted after fighting in the war. I guess he was ready to come back to this country. My mother's father, my grandfather, was active and had a good job with Dupont. So, he said he could get him a job with Dupont or something like that. The job prospects were much better in this country than they were over there in Scotland at that time.
KP: Your mother had to raise you. You lost your father and she lost her husband. It sounds like that must have been very difficult for both of you.
RI: Yes, but after living to 104 I realized that she was a very resourceful person. She managed. One thing, about four years after being a widow she thought maybe she should get married, so my brother and I would have a father. She married a fellow that was a meteorologist in the weather bureau in Sheridan, Wyoming. So, we all moved out to Sheridan, Wyoming. It was a very interesting time in my life, needless to say, cowboys and Indians and all that stuff. I was twelve years old and that's where I joined the Boy Scouts. While we lived in Wyoming, a meteorologist from the weather bureau stopped by on his return from Alaska, where he set up the weather service in Alaska and I got to meet him. C.J. MacGregor was the fellow's name. That marriage didn't last, so we moved back East again after four years. I was at an Order of the Arrow banquet, if you were a scout you know what the Order of the Arrow was, and C.J. MacGregor was giving a talk on his experiences in Alaska and he said he was organizing an expedition into Greenland, and so, after the meeting I went up and introduced myself and he remembered me from meeting me in Wyoming and I said just flippidly, "If you need a Boy Scout let me know. I'll be glad to go." Big me not knowing what I was getting into. It wasn't too long afterward that I got a letter from Mr. MacGregor that if I was interested in being a Boy Scout on the expedition he would be glad to take me along. That's how I got to go to Greenland on an Arctic expedition. I was seventeen years old, didn't know any better. It was one of those experiences that you would pay one million for, but wouldn't do again for $1 million.
KP: Since we're on the expedition, you said you didn't know what you were getting into. What did you learn very quickly, like, "What was I thinking to do this as a volunteer?"
RI: I don't think I was really thinking about what the ramifications might be. I knew how to tie knots and splice ropes. That was my job. I got up in the rigging and did all of the handy stuff. Coming back from Greenland we got in the hurricane of 1938, off the Grand Banks, and we passed fishing schooners that had all of their riggings over the side and things like that. We were … "hove to" for four days. We couldn't keep a fire in the stove to cook a hot meal, and we didn't have many emergency rations and things like that in those days. So, it was really quite an experience.
KP: How prepared were you for the Arctic and Greenland climate?
RI: Well, looking back, we didn't have all the cold weather equipment we've got today to rely on and our equipment wasn't that elaborate, but the Eskimos helped us out and made us parkas and fur clothing, some of which I still have, if the moths haven't walked off with it. It was a very interesting experience.
KP: Besides the great hurricane of '38, were there any other close calls during the expedition itself, particularly in Greenland?
RI: Well, while we were in Greenland we had a fire in the hold one time. One of the engines backfired. We only had small engines and we had a 110 foot schooner that had a donkey engine to hoist and lower the sails, but we cracked the head on that before we were clear of Newfoundland. So, everything was the old man haul putting up the sails the hard way. What I didn't know about sailing I learned and I know what a belaying pin is. Like I said, I was the one that had to go up in the rigging to splice ropes and things like that. We did a lot of hand sewing of canvas for sails and so on. I still have my sail palm home for pushing the needle through the canvas. As I said, a fire broke out in the hold and we only had 10,000 gallons of gasoline in drums below deck and about 50,000 rounds of ammunition and things like that. So, needless to say, we wanted to get that fire out quick. Our photographer was a good photographer but not a very practical guy. We would hand him a bucket and tell him to throw it over the side and get us a bucket of water to throw on the fire. He throws the bucket over the side. He didn't pull it back, he just threw the bucket over the side. That's the kind of help you don't need. He was a good photographer. I also had the job of ship's carpenter, assistant surveyor. I don't know whether I brought a card or not, I meant to[searching through belongings] … I thought I had a Greenland card, well, it doesn't matter. Let's see, we were coming back from Greenland, getting ready. After being frozen in the ice all winter we were only gone two and a half days, you know two days and one night. The sun only comes up every six months up there. We were ready to come home and we pulled out of Folk Fjord a little before the ice pack cleared out of Baffin Bay. We caught up with the ice pack and the wind shifted and the ice pack closed in around us and we didn't have enough horse power to do anything but get in and around the dock in that schooner. For about fifteen days we were at the mercy of the ice pack, whichever way the wind blew the boat went. The ice was grinding into the side of the boat, so, we were leaking water pretty badly and we had to have two men on the pumps nearly twenty- four hours a day to keep the ship from sinking. Finally, we sailed clear of there and got down to St. John's, Newfoundland, and went into dry dock and got some repairs done, so we could finish our trip home. It was after we left St. John's that we got into that hurricane of 1938.
KP: What was the mission of the expedition?
RI: The mission of the expedition was to study weather and terrestrial magnetism as close to the magnetic North Pole as we could get. We made up our base camp at Reindeer Point, Greenland which is 78 degrees, 18 minutes North Latitude. Its about 300 miles from the North Pole, a little over 300 miles and about fifty miles from the magnetic North Pole. We weren't as close to the magnetic North Pole as we had hoped to get but our physicist, Roy Fitzsimmons, set up a magnetometer, which is a very delicate instrument that had to be anchored on solid rock, so it didn't vibrate. It consisted of magnets attached to mirrors suspended on threads, and a light beam was directed to those mirrors and that was reflected on to a photographic tape, and that way you could record the horizontal and vertical intensity of the earth's magnetic sphere. Anytime anybody went within one fourth mile of that instrument with a rifle or anything they had to let Roy know about it, so he could compensate on his instrument. We had some very severe magnetic storms accompanied by the aurora borealis that made those traces go clear off the chart. It was a very interesting physical phenomenon that we observed. Whenever we had those displays of the northern lights, the charts went wild on this magnetometer. We also had trouble with our radio communication with the United States. All of this was educational to me and made me realize why a lot of people said, "When you go on this expedition you'll never go back to school." I realized there was a hell of a lot that I didn't know. I was interested in learning more. Needless to say, I went back to school.
MO: Did you find that your experience in Boy Scouts really helped you on the expedition as far as leadership and outdoor experience?
RI: Well, I was the gopher. I wasn't the leader. It did help me to take an assignment and carry it out without too much problem.
KP: You saw more than what the average person gets to see and can't see anymore; for example, Eskimos don't live in igloos anymore.
RI: The Eskimos then carried double wall silk tents, which no one now uses. They had them back then because they could load them all on their sled. The interesting thing about the Greenland Eskimo is that they don't hitch their dogs up in teams like they do in Alaska. In Alaska, they have clear trails and they can follow a trail and dog teams, as such, were fine. In Greenland, where you break your own trails, they hook the dogs up in a fan shape, all of them the same distance from the sled because they have to pick their way over the ice. Lots of times if you're going along the shore line, the tide breaks up the ice, so you have pressure ridges and it's more an obstacle course. The Greenland Eskimo uses a rigid sled … that can bridge the rough ground. That way the dogs can find their way around a little better. The dog teams up there in Greenland are dependent on how good a hunter their owner is. If he is a good hunter and can provide lots of meat, he can have a big dog team, but if things get tough, you start eating your dogs if you can't eat anything else. So, you don't spend a lot of time training a lead dog to lead the pack, or anything like that. All of the dogs are separate but equal, so to speak. If any dog isn't pulling his share all they do is tie its lead about six foot behind the rest of the dogs and that dog will work his heart out trying to keep up with the rest of them. That's the way the Eskimos handled that psychology.
KP: How far inland did you travel during the expedition?
RI: Well, we were hoping to get to Ellesmere Island, Canada, where we would be closer to the magnetic north pole, but there was too much ice on that side of the bay, so we put in at Reindeer Point, Greenland and made our base camp there. We didn't travel more than twenty-four hours or forty-eight hours away from our base camp. We had an airplane with us, and Lieutenant Commander Schlossbach was going to fly the airplane, but we couldn't have anybody else in the plane because he had to have so many supplies in there in case he crashed. If he was only an hour flight away it would have taken him a week to walk back. … This single engine air cooled Waco cabin plane that we had, was outfitted with spare gas tanks. We outfitted them and so forth. We bid him bon voyage, and he made it over Ellesmere Island and back and he didn't see Crocker Land, which some explorer said he saw, and he said he didn't see it in his flight. The airplane being air-cooled was not a device for Arctic flights. When we wanted to start it we had to cover up the whole engine with an asbestos hood, and put a plumber's blow torch under it in a chimney, and run it for about three hours to get the engine warm enough to turn it over. Then we had the oil on a burner and when the oil was just about boiling hot, you pour that in the engine and pull the starter, and if that didn't start you had to drain the oil before it congealed and start all over again. So, it only took about three hours to start the engine if you wanted run the plane. Unfortunately, the thing was on full throttle one time when we started it, and it took off by itself across the ice, and, as it went by me, I grabbed the tip of the wing and it turned around and headed back for camp. Well, it hit a pile of empty drums, and broke the propeller and punched a hole in the wing. So that was the end of our flights after that. We could land right on the fjord there at Reindeer Point because the salt water ice was about six foot thick. It was like a concrete runway. We had skis on the plane because little drifts of snow here and there would make the plane nose-over if you had wheels on it. You had to have something like that. Then I went back to high school and finished my high school. Of course, I talked to the assembly at Trenton Central High School, which is a pretty good size high school. Several thousand students knew me because I gave the talk, and lots of them say, "Hello," to me to this day and I don't have any idea, the foggiest notion, who they are.
KP: You really did something that was very unusual. Today, the average seventeen-year-old high school student doesn't do what you had done.
RI: Well, I think I benefited from the experience, but I don't think I lost anything from that.
KP: In what part of Wyoming did you live and what was it like?
RI: Sheridan, Wyoming was where we lived. I started high school there.
KP: How many people lived in Sheridan when you were growing up?
RI: I don't know. Of course I tell my son I walked eight miles to school every day through the snow drifts and all that sort of stuff, tell him how tough it was when I was growing up and all that sort of stuff.
KP: How tough was it in Sheridan?
RI: It wasn't that tough. We lived in the weather bureau, and you could get around with a car. You never left in the winter time without a shovel on the bumper because that part of Wyoming and South Central Canada and Montana are the coldest parts of the North American Continent. It was a mild winter if it didn't go below fifty degrees below zero. In Greenland, we never had it fifty below zero because we were within four or five miles of open water and the bay all winter long. So, I never thought it was extra cold up there.
KP: You were prepared for the cold.
RI: Evidently, I was acclimated already, or conditioned, whatever you want to say. That was an interesting experience. Then, of course, I went to Rutgers, but my mother couldn't afford to send me to a fancy school and the College of Agricultural was of interest to me. I didn't realize that my Grandfather Inglis was a farmer in Scotland, so maybe I inherited some of his interest in agriculture. So, I went to the College of Agriculture, which is now called Cook College, of course. I got dairy husbandry, and then the war broke out. I figured that the draft board would let me know where I was needed most and so I waited to be drafted. Since I was taking agriculture they let me finish and get my degree at Rutgers. When I graduated I went to do some farm work, but anybody that wanted any farm work done wanted barn helpers, or someone like that. They weren't looking for anybody with a college education. So, I was drafted and went in the service. When I came out of the service I was looking around for dairy farms and there weren't any such things available in my price range. I was a private first class in the infantry. When I was drafted, I think the first day, they asked me if I wanted the Army or the Navy. I think I hesitated a minute, and they had stamped Army before I had a chance to say anything. That's probably because I was a Boy Scout. They figured this guy can walk, I guess, we'll put him in the infantry.
KP: Cadets at Annapolis don't get your sailing experience that you had on the Arctic expedition.
RI: I thought perhaps with my Arctic experience they would put me with the mountain troops, or something like that, but since they looked at my MOS, my military occupational specialty, as tractor driver since I was working on a farm, that was my MOS. So, I was a tractor driver. But, they put me in a heavy weapons company, and I was sent down to Camp Blanding Florida, where they gave me basic infantry training. I thought, well, they're training us for going to Japan or Pacific Theater because of the hot weather and everything. Then the Battle of the Bulge broke out and they needed troops in a hurry, so I was one of the plugs they sent over to Germany to go into the Battle of the Bulge. I'm glad I got over in the European Theater instead of the Pacific Theater. After V-E day I didn't have enough credits to get out. I just missed the Battle of the Bulge. I was in combat for ninety days, I think, so, I have my Combat Infantry Badge and can prove that those German .88s were pretty accurate, because I wear hearing aids from concussion deafness. Fortunately, after V-E day they had more troops over in Europe than they needed, so they set up I&E schools in commands. They recruited the instructors from the ranks, and, I guess, I was the only farmer with a college education, so I had three classes to teach. I had dairy husbandry, poultry management, and forestry.
KP: Where did you teach these courses?
RI: They set up command schools. They took over German schools.
KP: Where were you located?
RI: This was in Wiesbaden. This was before we went to Frankfurt. So, I only had three classes a day to teach. The interesting part of it was that any GI could take these classes that wanted to. This was set up for their purposes, until they got enough men redeployed to the United States, and over to the Pacific Theater, because Japan was still fighting then. The interesting part of that was I had people in my class that only had an eighth grade education, if that much, and I had college graduates, so, to try and teach both of them was a real challenge. I thought it was anyway. They also had a class set up for GIs that couldn't read and write. If you think teaching kids to spell is tough, try teaching adults to spell. You tell him, "This is an A," and he says, "Why?" You have to go into it. I sat in on some of those classes.
KP: Were you surprised that there were GIs who couldn't read and write?
RI: No, I wasn't surprised. In basic training there were some guys in our platoon that were from the Deep South, and all they wanted to do was get their own mule when they got out of the service. That was the object of their existence to have their own mule and do their own farming. So, I wasn't surprised because I did read letters for some of the fellows that couldn't read. They got letters from home. It was inspiring. When they finally got enough people redeployed to the Pacific, they gave the instructors first chance at European university quotas. I got the opportunity to go to the University of Basel, in Switzerland, for four months and I took German, European Architecture and Art, Astronomy and I'm trying to go think what other course. I had four courses to take. I didn't have any classes on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, so I got to know the head of the Edible Oil and Fats Institute in Switzerland, and he took us around to the Swiss cheese factories in Switzerland and showed us a little bit about that. There were four or five of us that were interested, and he arranged to get us into these places. Switzerland is very interesting because everything is electric over there, or just about everything. You go into a milk plant, or a cheese plant, and it's spotless. There's no coal burners or oiler burners stinking things up. They have the boiler right in the room they're processing the milk in. It's all electric, so there's no pollution, or anything from it. They took us out on the farms, and they fed a lot of turnips to the cattle over there, more than we do in this country, not the same type feeding as we do. They showed us how they make Swiss cheese, and they had us tasting Swiss cheese. Usually, the Emmenthal cheese is what the Swiss exported to go to this country. That's the cheese with the large holes in it. They have a Gruyere-type cheese, which has very small holes. I told them as far as I was concerned, the Gruyere is much more flavorful than the Emmenthal cheese, and that's what you see coming to … this country more than anything else, now, is the Gruyere type cheese, very little of the Emmenthal is exported. I don't know whether they took my words to heart, they must have done a survey with somebody besides me, I'm sure. So, like I say, I got out of the service and I couldn't find a farm in my price range, and a neighbor of mine, in Lawrenceville, worked for the State Health Department. He said they're looking for milk inspectors. I had the background for being a milk inspector, so I applied and I got a job being a milk inspector. At that time, the State was doing inspections of all milk plants that ship milk into New Jersey. My territory was bounded on the north, by the Canadian boarder, on the west, by Wisconsin, and on the south, by West Virginia. So, I was away from home a week, and then I was home a week, and then away from home. That got to be a drag for a newlywed, and so, I didn't relish that too much, but I found out that public health was more than just milk inspection. So, I got my food inspector's license, which includes all types of food, and then as I got promoted, in the State Health Department, I had a chance to go for my Masters in public health at Columbia in 1961. Twenty years later, I went back to school and got my Masters degree at Columbia. You wonder how a farmer got into the Health Department. That's the way I got in. You might say that a Masters degree was your ticket to getting anywhere in public health. So, I retired after thirty-eight years. I figured I was a grandfather and sixty-five the same year. I figured it was time to retire, and I retired from the State Health Department in '85.
KP: The Boy Scouts were very important to you growing up. You first joined it in Sheridan, and when you came back East, you stayed active in the scouts.
RI: Yes. I came back East and joined Troop 12 and I was a member of Troop 12 when I went to Greenland. I think I got a picture of, an old beat-up picture, I got a Troop 12 flag at our base camp in Greenland [showing the picture]. I didn't mention this, but I was a member of the Boy Scout Mounted Troop. They had a horse-drawn field artillery unit near where I lived in Lawrenceville. On Saturday mornings they would open it up to the Boy Scouts, and the Boy Scouts could ride horseback and do military maneuvers and drills, and things like that. That's me in my Mounted Troop uniform, before I was married, of course.
MO: This is where you met General Kroesen?
RI: Yeah, he was a Fritz Kroesen, perish the thought, was a member of the Boy Scout Mounted Troop.
KP: What was he like as a Boy Scout?
RI: We were typical Boy Scouts, I think. We liked horses, and to be a member of the Boy Scouts Mounted Troop you had to be elected from your own troop.
KP: So, you couldn't automatically join?
RI: No, you couldn't just say, "I want to join that troop because they have horses." You were allowed to belong for three years, then you had to get out and somebody else took your place. It was a constant turnover, but it was an interesting thing. Here is a picture of me at the camp a couple of years ago. This is the old commissioner, as they get along in years, you notice that hat is a hangover from the Mounted Troop.
KP: How long did the Mounted Troop continue?
RI: They dissolved that when they mechanized it at the beginning of the war. That was the end of the Mounted Troop, unfortunately.
KP: You also made Eagle Scout?
RI: Yes, I made Eagle Scout before I went into the service.
KP: Were you active in the troop while you were still in college?
RI: Yes, I commuted back and forth, so I was active. Shortly after we moved back here from Wyoming, I joined Troop 12, and Troop 28 was looking for a Scoutmaster because they had practically dissolved the troop. Troop 28 was sponsored by the Lawrence Road Presbyterian Church, and I was a member of the troop at the Prospect Street Presbyterian Church in Trenton. That church is, incidentally, dissolved and the troop has long been defunct. Anyway, I wasn't old enough to be Scoutmaster, but one of the parents said he'd be Scoutmaster if I'd be assistant. He didn't know anything about scouting, but he was willing to try, and we were living up in Lawrenceville at that time, so I was acting Scoutmaster for Troop 28 in 1939. I have a fifty year history with the troop now.
KP: The troop is still doing well?
RI: The troop is still active. I was down there Friday night helping the boys splice ropes and tie knots.
KP: How do they react when you tell them how old the troop is and how far back it goes?
RI: Actually, the troop is eighty years old now. It was one of the first ones. They think I'm as old as the troop, you know.
KP: Growing up, what was your favorite part about Boy Scouts?
RI: My favorite part was going to Greenland, of course.
KP: I assume you liked camping a great deal.
RI: Yes. I enjoyed camping. I remember the first camping trip I went on. We had to use a pack basket, and I think we carried everything but the kitchen sink in it. If you fell over backwards you couldn't get up without help because the weight was all on the back. In fact I still have the kerosene lantern I took with me on my first camping trip, hung up in the cellar among my other artifacts.
KP: Did you go to the National Jamboree in Washington?
RI: I was scheduled to go when I was in Wyoming, but they canceled it because of the polio epidemic. So, then they had it in 1937 and that's the year I went to Greenland. So, I didn't get there. I still have my neckerchief from the 1935 Jamboree, but, the Jamboree that wasn't." They had the neckerchiefs and everything all made up. I still have my foot locker in the cellar that has Troop 106, Sheridan, Wyoming, on it that we were supposed to take our stuff in. Everything was ready to go except getting on the bus, or train, or whatever we were going to go on.
KP: How well did the Boy Scouts prepare you for the military?
RI: Well, I had no problems sleeping in pup tents and going on bivouac. It was no problem for me, but some of the city guys near died. Hiking was no problem. I would say the Boy Scouts prepared me for just about everything, as that article that one of the veterans in Lawrence Township wrote up about me. I think he got caught up on the Arctic part. It was supposed to be about military experience. They ran a series on different veterans in the township, I thought that Nick did a nice job writing my story. [Nicholas Loveless, The Lawrence Ledger, February 1, 1996]
KP: You mentioned before we started that being a commuter was one of your big regrets during your time at Rutgers. Why was being a commuter such a regret?
RI: Well, I missed out on a lot of college life, and so on. I was raising goats at the time, so naturally I had to take care of my goats. I couldn't understand why they drafted me when I had six kids [young goats] at home.
KP: Would you have liked to join a fraternity?
RI: I pledged Tau Kappa Epsilon, which was supposed to be a non-drinking fraternity, but it ended up that every time there was a weekend, they all went out and got bashed, and I was the only one to drive them home that wasn't drunk. So, I figured the heck with this, I'll forget 'em. So, I never did join the fraternity. I did pledge.
KP: How did you feel about going to chapel?
RI: I thought it was important. I think it's a mistake to have dropped it, but then that's something else.
KP: What about Dean Metzger? Did you ever have any experiences with Dean Metzger?
RI: I don't think I had any run-ins with him, or any disciplinary things of any sort. I was a Boy Scout I couldn't do that.
KP: You mentioned that Dr. Bartlett was your favorite professor. What made him stand out?
RI: Well, I don't know whether it was Dr. Bartlett or Dr. Krueger now. I don't think that there was anything that I remember that was outstanding about him, but I do remember Dr. Krueger because we couldn't get farm machinery during the war. What we did was we would bring in old broken down farm machinery that some farmer needed fixed, and we fixed it. So, that was our training in farm machinery, and so forth. I had an old 1929, I think it was, Dodge Phantom that I brought up. The timing gear was broken on it, so we rebuilt the motor and put a new timing gear in it, and I drove it from the College of Agriculture down to go Lawrenceville without license plates on it. All I had was a little sign on the back "in transit." Nobody stopped me, so I got away with it. That was before gas rationing, so I didn't get much chance to use it. That was one way we learned farm machinery, working on old broken down equipment and old cars that looked almost like a tractor anyway.
KP: Where did your interest in becoming a farmer come from? Was it your goal to be a dairy farmer when you entered college?
RI: Like I say, I must have inherited the instinct for farming, and, then, I raised goats when I was in high school and college. I always had pets of some sort, chickens, or rabbits, or guinea pigs. It was a hobby.
KP: It became more than a hobby when you wanted to go make it your occupation.
RI: Yes. Then my experience with the Health Department became more and more engrossing, and so, I decided I probably had been on more dairy farms than any diary farmer had been on with my inspections. I went into public health and found that very interesting.
KP: Do you have any regrets that you didn't become a dairy farmer, or farmer in general?
RI: Not regret. I think I would have liked it but …
KP: Even the hours. I've been told its a pretty rigorous schedule if you're a dairy farmer.
RI: The hours, here he's talking about hours. Who works hours? When I was on out-of-state milk inspection, you had to be on deck, at the milk plant, at 4:30 in the morning because the milk started coming in at that time and you had to take samples. Then you go out and inspect dairy farms for a cross section picture of the supply, to see whether it meets New Jersey standards. Then you go back to your motel room, get out your microscope, stain your slides, and read the smears to see if the milk was of the quality that we want in New Jersey, and then if you get to bed by 10:00 you gotta be back on deck at 4:30 the next morning.
KP: So, farming hours would have been better.
RI: Yes. In fact, when I went into the service I figured the hours were better than what I was having because I was working on a diary farm, then, and working at night in the defense plant. At Heineman Electric, I worked as a circuit breaker tester on the midnight to eight o'clock in the morning shift. I'd be on the farm to take the milk over to the milk plant to be bottled by eight o'clock in the morning. I figured I had it easy in the Army.
KP: The defense plant you worked at, where was it located?
RI: In Lawrence Township, Heineman Electric was a circuit breaker factory.
KP: How did you get the defense job?
RI: I think I took a bus.
KP: Yes, but did you see an advertisement for it?
RI: I forget how I got the job. You're going back too far.
KP: When you first came to Rutgers the United States hadn't entered the war. Did you have any sense in 1939-1940 that we would enter the Second World War?
RI: When we stopped in Sidney, Nova Scotia
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RI: … On our way back from Greenland we were in a dry dock getting repairs done to our schooner, and across the dock from us was a French beam trawler that was in for repair. In the evening when my chores were done and everything, I was sitting on the dock relaxing and the captain of this beam trawler came over to the edge of the bridge, and he was leaning on the railing, looking around, he looked kind of bored. In my best high school French I waved at him and said, "Comment ca va ce soir," "How are you this evening?" He comes back with a line of French that was way over my head. All I know is the first mate came over and told me I was invited for dinner. So, I went over on the boat for dinner and in the captains cabin we had a very elaborate dinner, which I hadn't had for quite a few months being in Greenland, you know. I had on my scout uniform, due to the occasion, of course. On the side of his bridge, or behind the bridge, behind the pilot house, was a pen. They had pigs in there, two or three pigs. That was so they could have fresh meat on the ship, and they had a big swastika over the pigpen. So, I got the feeling that the French felt that the Germans were an imminent threat, didn't like it too much and of course, with our radio contacts we heard of some of the unrest in Europe. I was not surprised when the war broke out.
MO: Where were you when Pearl Harbor was attacked?
RI: I was at Rutgers.
MO: Were you there when you heard about it?
RI: Yes. I think we were. I believe we were in class when we got the word.
MO: Do you remember how you felt? Did you think that now we're definitely going to get into the war?
RI: Yes. I figured we were in it now, and, of course, President Roosevelt echoed those sentiments.
KP: You had taken ROTC, I assume. Did you apply for the advanced ROTC?
RI: I don't remember if I did or not. For some reason, or another, I didn't get approved for it anyway. I didn't get the advanced ROTC.
KP: Could you recollect how the war changed Rutgers, the Rutgers you had known your first two years?
RI: Well, of course, I wasn't living on campus, so I didn't get the change as much as some people would, but there were a lot of classmates that enlisted, and, therefore, they weren't in class anymore. One of my best friends, Bob Cochran, enlisted and he married my wife's best friend, and we were best men at the wedding, and that sort of stuff. It was a small world that way. My brother dropped out of high school and he was drafted immediately, because he didn't have a job. So, he went into the service before I did, but I went overseas quicker than he did. He was around the United States more than I was. Like I say, going to Camp Blanding and taking infantry replacement training, you're not with a permanent company, or permanent unit, so … you don't feel part of it. Then when you go overseas and are used as a replacement in another unit you're still an outsider. I don't have any company reunions, or any military rallies and things to go to because you might say, "I've never been one of the boys."
KP: Which draft board drafted you?
RI: Pennington. Yes, a bunch of farmers and they were sympathetic with my getting a degree.
KP: But they also stamped you Army.
RI: They didn't, no. The recruiting station did that.
KP: Where did you report?
KP: That's where you got stamped Army?
RI: That's where I got stamped Army, yeah.
KP: Then where were you sent?
RI: From there I went to Fort Dix.
KP: How long were you are Fort Dix?
RI: Maybe two weeks, that's about all.
KP: That's when they sent you to Camp Blanding Florida? How long were you at Camp Blanding?
RI: Yes. They had three months basic training supposedly, and you were supposed to get ten days delay en route from your training camp before you go overseas. Well, they were two days late shipping us out of Camp Blanding, and they sent us on the Seaboard rail line, which had wooden cars, and we got up as far as Washington and Pennsylvania Railroad wouldn't haul the wooden cars. So, we were stuck in Washington, DC, another day. I said, "The heck with this, I'm losing my delay en route before I get overseas." So, I went on a regular train and came home, and I had to be in Fort Meade, Maryland, New Year's Day. The day after Christmas I got home and I had to be in Fort Meade the day before New Year's. I didn't get any holiday meals at home, but I got them in the Army of course, if you like Army chow.
MO: What did you think of the replacement system in the Army once you joined your division when you got to France?
RI: It was great because when I joined my unit in France they told the first sergeant to take me out and show me how to use a mortar and a heavy machine gun. I said, "That's what I had in basic training." He almost fell over. He said, "All we've been getting is cooks and clerks and everything else," because of the Battle of the Bulge, they were scrounging for any body they could get. He said, "You're the first trained replacement we've had."
KP: Really. He said that?
RI: He told me that, yes. He was very relieved that I was qualified in the heavy weapons company and could handle a machine gun, .30 caliber water cooled machine gun, and .81 millimeter mortar.
KP: It sounds like you really were able to handle them.
RI: Yes. That's what our basic training was.
KP: The basic training had been good enough.
RI: Right, so I was familiar with them and didn't have to be orientated.
KP: You mention you had to report to Fort Meade on January 1, 1945. After you reported to Fort Meade, how did you get over to Europe?
RI: Well, they offered us a canoe [laughing]. They sent us to New York where we got on the SS Mount Vernon, which was a former passenger ship, and we went, unescorted, submarine route to Marseilles, France. I'll tell you it was a good sight to see those … British Liberator bombers over Gibraltar when we went into the Mediterranean because we had been running submarine course for three days to get there, and I spent a lot of time on deck. I figured if this thing gets torpedoed I'm going to be on top, I'm not going to be down in the hold. So, consequently, I got out of a lot of KP duty because they could never find me.
KP: Do you get seasick at all?
RI: No. If I didn't get seasick in a hurricane in 1938 that big ship wasn't going to make me seasick. No. I didn't get seasick down in the hold. There were plenty of guys who were seasick. A lot of guys didn't go to meals because they couldn't stand the thought of eating, but I ate good.
KP: What did you think of Army chow?
RI: It was pretty good. Down at Camp Blanding, we had one cook that was an auto mechanic and they made a cook out of him. On the days we had fish, he put the fish on the tray with water on it and baked the fish. Well, no taste, no flavor, no nothing. The whole bunch of us refused to eat one day and we got better chow after that. All that fish left over didn't sit good with the Army.
KP: You didn't get in trouble for not eating?
RI: Nope. We got better chow.
KP: When you landed in Marseilles, did you go to a replacement depot?
KP: How long were you in the replacement depot?
RI: Not very long, about a week, maybe. I know we arrived in the pouring rain and they took us from the ship up to the replacement depot, which was pyramidal tents set out in the field, and we no sooner got settled and they told us we've got to put up some more tents. "There are more guys coming and you have to move your tent over ten feet." So, we moved over and got the space between two other tents, which was mud. So, we got a muddy spot and somebody else got our dry spot when we took our tent down, and it was pouring rain. From then on, they put us on trains, which were, you might say, leftovers from the war from the bombings. The trains could hardly pull a car because they were so dilapidated and they had to have German POWs out on the tracks sweeping the snow off so the train could get traction. The POW didn't have to work very fast to keep the train moving. The cars we were in were passenger cars, they weren't forty and eights. Our baggage filled in the spaces, so we had a flat deck to lie or sit on. That's where I darn near frostbit my feet because we still had combat boots, which were not warm by any means. We didn't get shoe packs until I got assigned to a unit. So, we were several days on the train getting up to the … .
KP: You wouldn't think you would get frost bite because you were on a train.
RI: There was no heat in the train. They had enough steam to get the engine going let alone heat the cars. It was freezing out. This was in January, in the middle of January now. I have a book here of where I went and when I went. … That was a chronological list of events. These are old army pictures and things like that. … There he is fifty years after the service [showing a picture of himself]. I could still get in the uniform believe it or not.
MO: You mention that your brother was in the service. Where was he sent?
RI: He was in Germany for a little while, too.
MO: Did you ever see him?
RI: Never got a chance to see him, no. We were there at different times.
KP: I'm curious. There is a section here, "regular fellows I won't forget" [in a journal that Inglis brought]. If I were to go down some of the names, what would you remember about them? John Hopkins from Ferry Avenue in Camden?
RI: I don't remember a thing about him.
KP: Charles Horn?
RI: Charlie Horn I remember very well because he and I used to buddy around with each other.
KP: In Europe, or in the States?
RI: This was in basic training.
KP: You went separate ways after basic training?
RI: Yes, once we went overseas.
KP: So, these are all basic training [referring to a list of names in the journal]. Stanley Hughes?
RI: Not all of them, some of them. Howard Schaffer went on leave to Scotland with me, once. Like I mentioned, I was in the I&E program. I was on detached service for the training, and when I went to Switzerland I was on detach service. When I finally got back to my company, we had a different company commander and everything, he said, "I often wondered who you were. I haven't seen you. Your name is on the roster, but I never met you."
MO: What were your experiences with your sergeants and your platoon leader?
RI: Well, George Babic was a New Englander from Brattleboro, Vermont, who I wrote to for a while after I got out of the service. We haven't written for years now. I don't know which way he went. He was one of the guys I tried to keep in touch with.
MO: Was he a very capable soldier?
RI: He was a good corporal, yes.
MO: Do you remember your platoon leader's name?
RI: I think it was Lt. Rugg, wasn't it? I remember my first day in combat. I was digging a foxhole and he says, "Inglis, where are you?" I said, "Down here, sir." He said, "If you dig any deeper I'll get you for desertion."
KP: So, you didn't have to be prodded to dig a foxhole?
RI: When bullets are flying, you dig.
MO: Can you discuss one close call you had mentioned, with a trip wire, and how your Boy Scout first aid training helped you?
RI: We were coming back from a position, after dark, and, evidently, the Germans must have found what trail we were using and they rigged up a hand grenade on a tree about five feet off the ground and the trip wire was across the trail, and when we hit it we heard the grenade go off and, naturally, we hit the ground. Now, I got a cut on my nose, whether it was schrapnel or whether it was bushes, or what, I didn't care. I was on the ground, and, fortunately, none of us got hurt. When I got back, they wanted me to go to the aid station and I'd get a purple heart, which would have gotten me out of the service sooner, but, I had my Boy Scout first aid kit in my pack and I said, "Oh, heck, I'll put a Band-Aid on it and let it go at that."
KP: You didn't realize at the time that this would help get you points?
RI: No, I didn't. I should have worked the system.
KP: It sounds like later you regret it in terms of getting the points.
RI: I don't really say I regretted it because I got a chance to go to Switzerland, and I also got a chance to get a leave and go see my grandfather in Scotland before I came home.
MO: Was that the first time you ever met your grandfather?
RI: No. I'd met him before because in 1938 we were over there and I got to visit, not '38, 1928
KP: What was the most frightening experience you had in combat? Was there any vivid memory you have of combat?
RI: I guess, getting shot at was the most vivid. The reason I have these hearing aids is because in the drive on Saarbrucken we fired 50,000 rounds of ammunition that day. We were just below the crest of a hill, firing over the hill, but, we were just far enough back for the tracer to burn out before they went over the hill. So, the enemy, the Germans, didn't know where we were but we could see their mortars, between us and the crest of the hill, probe and looking for us, but we were too far back, and some of the guys we captured, after the drive was over, said they were just waiting for us to stop firing, to change barrels on our machine gun. We weren't going to change barrels, as long as they were firing at us, we kept firing. The tracers were coming out, end over end, that's how worn the barrel was, but we weren't going to stop shooting. Unfortunately, we had a heavy log and stuff over our machine gun position and the muzzle was inside the further most log, and the muzzle blast was coming in, instead of going out, and that pounding on your ears all day long is what gave me concussion deafness, so I have to wear hearing aids courtesy of the Veterans Administration.
KP: The concussion deafness, was it apparent immediately after you left the service?
RI: Well, my ears rang quite a bit after that, but, as I was being discharged, they detected that I couldn't hear as well as I should. Fortunately, the guy didn't gloss it over and I did get ten percent disability out of it.
KP: In the unit that you joined, how many were replacements and how many were old timers? How many replacements came after you?
RI: Well, there weren't many that came after me. I was one of the last replacements. The unit was committed to action in the Battle of the Bulge and they had never been in combat before. They were really decimated. They had about thirty percent survivors, out of the whole unit, the 70th Division I think it was. So, pretty near all of us were replacements. You might say there was no great camaraderie, but we did get along pretty good, and when they moved us into Frankfurt for occupation duties, that was not combat action, so we managed to make out all right. They usually managed to put us in a pretty nice home or something, because the Nazis all owned the best places. When they threw the Nazis out, they took them over, for barracks for the troops. One pathetic thing when they were clearing an area for SHAEF headquarters, they gave the Germans about twenty-four hours notice to evacuate their buildings because they had a six block area they wanted for SHAEF headquarters, and it was sad to see them bringing out what little they could save, you know, what they wanted to take with them. One woman had a wagon that she was piling her most precious possessions in and she asked me to watch the wagon while she went into the house to get some more stuff. Why didn't she ask her neighbor, you know? Germany just didn't trust anybody, but they would trust us. It just struck me as odd that this would happen, and then they called an ambulance down the block. It seems there was an invalid in one of the apartments and they were told that they had to leave, and the husband couldn't move his wife because she was bed-ridden, and so he shot her, and then they didn't need that house, after all. I mean, these are some of the incongruities of war, although, this wasn't combat, but this was occupational duty.
MO: Did you speak German or were you able to communicate with the German civilians?
RI: A little bit. I picked up a little pigeon German you might say. Americans are amazing people. They go through France and pick up some French, and they go through Germany and pick up some German, and then they use French, German, and English all in one sentence, but that's life. You know, the Romeo and Juliet of Germany was Alice Kaput and Nick Verstay. Whenever you talk to a German and ask him something they'd always say, "Alles Kaput," [which means], everything is a mess. If they don't want to answer you, they just say, "Nicht Verstay," [which translates to], I don't understand. So, that's why I nicknamed them the Romeo and Juliet of Germany.
KP: How long were you on occupation duty before you went to the I&E school?
RI: The I&E schools came first. Then the occupation duty came a little bit later. We were assigned, our platoon was assigned guard duty on the British-American zoned border for quite a while, and it was so far from our company area that we couldn't get meals in the mess hall, or anything. They brought us C rations once a day, with a jeep, and the mail, and that's all we got. We were supposed to stop any Germans, or civilians, or anybody that didn't have proper identification from going from one zone to the other, and a lot of people were trying to get home. They would steal a motorcycle, if they could, and try to get there and we would stop them and they didn't have the papers for the motorcycle, so we confiscated the motorcycle. We had a motor pool of about forty motorcycles and there were only ten of us. Every day, when the jeep arrived, we'd give him a dozen eggs that the farmers gave us, fresh eggs were far and few between in the Army in those days, and we'd give it to the jeep driver for his gas can, off the back of his jeep, and we would take the gas and put it in some of these motorcycles so we could run motorcycles anytime we wanted to, but the best part of it was the baker down in the village had a gas driven dough mixer, and he couldn't make bread unless he had gas, and, of course, there was no gas in the civilian economy. We would take him gas for his dough mixer, and we would get fresh bread in exchange, and fresh eggs that we could barter. So, we did pretty good in bartering, and so forth.
KP: Living on C rations is pretty …
RI: We didn't eat C rations. We bartered them with the Germans for fresh vegetables and fresh bread, and that sort of stuff. They loved the C rations because they were canned and they would keep. So, they would store them away for winter-time, and we were getting fresh food, and they were getting the C rations.
MO: What were your experiences like with the German people while you were on occupation duty?
RI: We found them very cooperative. I remember the first few weeks we were clearing villages … after we took Saarbrucken. … We didn't know how many Germans were still in Saarbrucken, so, naturally, we were prepared for counter attack, possibly. The dawn comes up over the Saar River, and the first thing we see is two GIs in the canoe coming down the river, plastered to beat heck. They must have found a wine cellar or something. They were drunk as a lord. We figured, well, the Germans will pick them off pretty quick, but the Germans had evacuated the other side of the river. We figured if a canoe and two drunken GIs could make it down the river without getting shot at, we'd cross the river, so we crossed the river. Patton's unit passed us, and twenty-four hours later, we were told to be shaved and washed and in clean uniforms. Here we were, we looked like GI Joe in Bill Mauldin cartoons.
KP: You hadn't been on the line that long, relative to other units.
RI: No, we hadn't been on the line that long.
KP: In those two short weeks you looked like Bill Mauldin?
RI: Well, we had ninety days of combat, so we got rest and R&R every few weeks.
KP: Ninety days would turn you into a Bill Mauldin.
RI: Ninety days we were just about that stage. My field jacket pockets were all sagging from grenades hanging on it and everything, and they made me turn it in when I got out of the service. That was an experienced field jacket. I wanted to keep it. Well, that's one thing in getting out of the service, when we were being discharged from Fort Dix, a lot of the guys took their uniforms, everyone was given a new uniforms to go home in, a lot of the guys took them and said, "I'll never wear this again," and threw them in the garbage can outside the discharge place. So, I picked up several uniforms that I've used for Boy Scouts ever since. So, I got my wear out of them.
MO: What did you think about your experience in France and Germany as opposed to what you had heard about the war in the Pacific?
RI: Well, from what I heard about the war in the Pacific, I think it was a more civilized war, if you can call war "civilized." In Europe, it was a more civilized war, I might say. We were clearing villages after Patton passed us to make sure there were no German military still around, and all weapons were confiscated. Cameras were confiscated, and I saw some beautiful cameras, and beautiful hunting rifles, and things thrown in a pile, and run over with a tank to smash them because they were property of German civilians that could be used for military purposes. I remember one barn we went into the hay stack looked awful square in the barn, so, I took a pitch fork and jammed it in and hit iron, and we cleaned the straw off of it, and they had an armored half track under the hay stack. I don't know what they were going to use it for, maybe they were going to plow in the spring with it, or something. If I hadn't been a farmer, it wouldn't have looked suspicious, probably, but it was too square to be a natural haystack.
KP: How much urban or town fighting did you do when you were clearing villages?
RI: None. After Saarbrucken, we had none, they were just civilian.
KP: You didn't encounter any resistance?
RI: No. I had a hard time convincing some of the Germans that I [had] worked at Walker Gordon Farms, where they had 2,000 cows milked three times a day. They couldn't fathom that.
KP: Had they heard of the dairy reform?
RI: I guess they had, but that just blew their mind. 2,000 cows milked three times a day, and certified milk besides. The farmer I worked for had 100 head of cows up there. They had to keep fresh cows up there, all the time. Any cow that went dry went back to the farm and they replaced it with a fresh one. Most of the time I was on the farm. Once in a while, when somebody was off, or sick, I would have to go up there and shovel manure behind 100 cows.
KP: A number of people who were on occupational duty recollect two things. One was the amount of fraternization that went on, and, the other was, they had a hard time finding any Nazis.
RI: Well, nobody was a Nazi.
KP: Yeah, it was always someone else who had been the Nazis. How much fraternization was there?
RI: Well, there was quite a bit. I had my sweetheart at home. I didn't get married before the war. I figured I wouldn't leave a widow and we had our fifty-second wedding anniversary last October. When I was working for the Public Health Department, there I am, with one of the Public Health nurses, on my way to do my daily job, that's a picture of me inspecting a dairy barn.
MO: Did you think you would have trouble finding work when you came back from the service?
RI: I joined the 52/20 Club, I don't know whether you know what that means? After you got out of the service, you are entitled to 52 weeks at $20/week and I got bored about three or four weeks into that. I figured the heck with that, I let that go, and, fortunately, I found a job with the State Health Department. Then after I'd been with the State Health Department ten years, I got a job with Lawrence Township as health officer. You saw the card here.
KP: Had you thought of going back to school under the GI Bill?
RI: I did after I got out of the service, in order to get my license to work as a milk inspector for the State. I came back to Rutgers for courses and they had quonset huts set up here and that's where we had our classes. I took my introductory public health courses and things here. Then in 1966, they were still doing some of those courses, and they recruited me to teach Public Health up here, and I got a nice certificate from them for being a co-adjutant lecturer in Public Health here at Rutgers. So, I didn't drop out of Rutgers, entirely.
MO: When you got back from the service, you were discharged in 1946?
RI: Discharged in '46.
MO: Then you joined the National Guard.
RI: No. I signed up with the Army Reserve but I was not active in the reserve. It wasn't the National Guard.
MO: You didn't want to continue in the military, you wanted to come back to the States?
RI: When I was discharged I was assigned to the Third Division for redeployment to the United States. The Third Division, in case you don't know it, was one of the most decorated divisions in the Army. They havefourageres and all kinds of decorations on their uniform. They asked me if I would re-enlist. I was a Private First Class. I said, "No thanks, I got more decorations on my Scout uniform." I figured I let it go at that. I figured I would protect my Private First Class rank by signing up for the reserves, so I wouldn't have to start all over, at least, if the war broke out again real soon.
MO: Did you think there would be another war?
RI: I hoped not. No.
MO: Or even if not with Germany, eventually, with Russia?
RI: As long as they had the three zones in Germany I felt there might be more problems there.
MO: Then you got married.
RI: Yes. I got a job and one month after I got my new job, I asked for a leave of absence to get married.
MO: You knew your wife while you were at Rutgers?
MO: Your mother attended Westminster Choir College?
RI: She was a graduate of Westminster Choir College, but she also got her B.S. in education here at Rutgers in 1931. Actually, Westminster Choir College is part of Rider now.
MO: Then you got married in New Jersey?
RI: I got married in Lawrenceville, yes. In my wife's church, Lawrenceville Presbyterian Church, which is over 300 years old now. Since I was active in the Lawrence Road Church, and also in the Boy Scouts down there, she transferred her membership down there when the kids were old enough to be baptized. We figured we'd better have a church for them. That's how we ended up down there.
MO: You had your first son a few years later?
RI: Yes, a few years later, in 1948.
MO: Did you want him to go to Rutgers?
RI: Not especially. He was interested in scuba diving, and he wanted to be a marine biologist. He went to Mercer County Community College for two years, got interested in photography and computers, and he went and got a degree in electrical engineering at the Florida Institute of Technology. He found out that marine biology was more biology than he wanted. He wanted more … concrete. He got interested in computers and went with electronics. So, he got his electrical engineering degree, but he did have fun scuba diving because the Florida Institute of Technology had a boat and they were in the Bahamas most of the time doing marine research and he would go scuba diving with them cheaper than he could go down in the Keys and scuba dive on his own. He'd get free air and all he had to do was pay for his food on the boat and live on the boat. He had an interesting time at Florida Institute of Technology.
MO: After the war when you were back and you started to settle down and start a family, what did you think when the Korean War started, and you saw there would be more wars after World War II?
RI: I hoped that my son wouldn't have to do what my father and I had done.
MO: Did your son serve in the military?
RI: No, he was never drafted.
MO: How did you feel about the Korean War?
RI: Well, I felt we shouldn't be there myself. The same as the Vietnam War.
MO: Why did you think we became tangled up?
RI: Well, we can't be the world's policemen. That's the United Nations job, if they want to be policemen. I don't think it's our job, but, of course, we're one of the biggest players in it because we got the money.
MO: What were your tasks as Chief of Environmental Health?
RI: Well, Chief of Environmental Health was the environmental section of the district office, and so, up there I was in charge of camp inspections, water sampling, and all that sort of stuff, food establishment inspections. When I got to be Assistant Chief of Environmental Health, or Consumer Health Services, as they called it, my job was to keep the staff of forty inspectors active in keeping the programs and inspections going in the State that we were responsible for.
MO: Did all of these jobs involve as much traveling as the milk inspector?
RI: No, those were office jobs mostly. After I left the district office most of my jobs were office jobs, not nearly as interesting.
KP: Yes, the field sounds very grueling, but very interesting. What gave you the greatest satisfaction in working in the Public Health office?
RI: The feeling that you're accomplishing something. Of course, when you work for the State, you're a small fish in a big pool, and you don't feel very important. When I became the first full time health officer in Lawrence Township, I was the whole cheese. I had a secretary and that was it. I had to make my own inspections, and that was it with that sort of stuff. You might say I started from the ground up as the local Health Department.
KP: You felt a sense of satisfaction being a health officer of Lawrence.
RI: Yes. I felt a lot of satisfaction. I don't know how I was doing. I felt I did an incredible job, but it lost some luster when I found the governing bodies, the politicians, didn't like me to ruffle taxpayers feathers once in a while like I had to in order to get …
KP: How did you ruffle the taxpayers' feathers?
RI: Well, I called them into court for having an unlicensed dog and they were good contributors to the Democratic Party, you know, or I'd shut down a food establishment where the governing body held their weekly luncheons. Those kind of things didn't sit good with the politicians.
KP: Those are good examples. So, you did find in a small town there were some of those types of things.
RI: That's one thing. I very seldom ran into any type of political influence at the state level, but at the local level you always had that in the background. One of the first jobs I did in the township, some people called up and said the brook behind them was all filled with foam. I went down and took a look, and it looked like soap suds. There was a car wash not too far away. So, I went and checked out the car wash, and low and behold, they were connected directly with the stream. Which is in violation of the state law because industrial waste can't be discharged directly to a stream, and the car wash was considered an industry. They didn't even have a scrubber or a grit chamber to take out any of the solids, like sand and salt, that comes off the cars to take it out before it goes into the brook. So, I gave them a notice to cease and desist, and fix up and shape up, and fly right. Well, I got a phone call from a state senator, a few days later, who wanted to know if I could make an exception for this place because it was permitted by the township in the past. Permitted, I don't know who permitted it because there was no health officer to permit it. So, I cited the state law that prohibited any industrial waste going on. He said, "Well, can't you make an exception?" I told him I didn't have the authority to make an exception to state law. I was a local health officer. I said, "You'll have to take it up with the State." They didn't have a Department of Environmental Protection at that time. It was all part of the Health Department. I never heard any more from him, but he was pushing for something. I don't know what I would have done if he went over my head to somebody else. It finally was connected to the sewer authority, and everything has been okay since then. That's the kind of stuff I feel I got satisfaction out of. Accomplishing something for the citizens of the township.
KP: You ultimately went back to the State.
RI: Yes. They figured that since I didn't have many people under me in the Health Department, and the chief of police had …
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RI: … A bigger staff than I had, that my salary could never exceed the chief of police's salary. Even though, I had a Masters degree in Public Health and umpteen years of experience and so forth, that was the salary cap. I figured if they're not going to give me any more money after all these years, and all I've done for them, I would look around for something else. It happened that Dr. Sussman in the State Health Department, Consumer Health Services, wanted to set up a field operations unit. He thought that having a food inspector go in one place, and right next door there was an ice cream place, and have an ice cream inspector go in there, and somebody else go in here was a waste of time. Why couldn't the food inspector do this one and the place next door? He has the same training and the same license. He wanted to set up an arrangement whereby an inspector would have a territory, less traveling to do, get more work done, and so forth. He set up a field operations idea. He wanted me for chief of field operation. I went back with the State Health Department for a job, you might say, he tailored for me. All of the requirements were just what I had, and I set up a field operations unit for them, and got it rolling. Then I got a promotion to assistant director when he left. His assistant director was made director and I was made assistant director. That's how the farmer got in the Health Department.
KP: I'm curious, you stayed with your Boy Scout Troop a very long time. What has changed about scouting and what has remained the same and what are the positives and negatives?
RI: Well, of course, the big thing in Boy Scouting is God, gays, and girls. They've challenged the Boy Scouts for not allowing atheists in scouting, and the Scouts have prevailed, I think. They don't allow girls in Boy Scouts except in the explorer program. They have more girls than boys, which is an interesting aspect. Now, the Scouts are supposed to run their own program under adult supervision. In other words, the Scoutmaster doesn't run the meeting like I used to do when I was Scoutmaster. The boys run the meeting, and they fall on their face lots of times, but they are supposed to learn how to run a meeting by themselves. That's the biggest change I think, and the uniform. I don't like the new uniform. It's too militaristic looking compared to the old uniform. I still wear my old uniform, just to spite them.
KP: Is there anything that you think has really improved with the scouting program over the years?
RI: Well, the way they go camping today is entirely different than we used to do. When we went camping they told us to ditch a tent, and that meant not to hide it, but to dig a ditch around it to keep the rain from running underneath, because the tents in those days didn't have floors in them. I told one of the guys in our Army unit to ditch his tent, and he went and hid it somewhere. When we asked him where his tent was, he said, "You told me to ditch it." The Boy Scouts … I forget the word right now, but you're not supposed to leave any indication that you've been there camping, anything you pack in, you pack out, especially in the wilderness area. They use a lot of Primus stoves. Primus stoves we used in Greenland because there is no firewood up there, they use Primus stoves. Camp stoves, bottle gas stoves, and things of that sort are a way of going, instead of building a wood fire and rubbing two Boy Scouts together to get the fire started. Flint and steel is a lost art and fire by friction. They don't even signal anymore. The Morse code is not required.
KP: When I was a Boy Scout they had just phased out the signaling as a requirement. I was a Boy Scout in the 1970s and I got my Eagle Scout in 1977. I remember it was just being phased out, the signaling.
RI: Yeah, I was assistant to the radio operator on our Arctic expedition, and he was an old Navy Signal corps guy. He used a bug when he sent Morse code. I don't know if you know what I mean by a bug. Instead of a key, which you have to tap each time for dot and dash, you flip it back and forth, and it's on a spring. He could send Morse so fast that I couldn't even read it. That's how fast it went. He could receive it that fast and type it out on a typewriter, but that's years of experience.
MO: Did your son go into the Boy Scouts?
RI: Yes. He never got above Life Scout. He dropped out before he got to Eagle.
MO: Your daughter eventually came to Rutgers?
RI: She was interested in possibly following in my footsteps, and wanted to get a sanitary inspector's license. So, she signed up at Douglass College and wanted to take, I can't think of what she signed up initially for, anyhow, it wasn't to her liking especially. So, she switched to Cook and took environmental science in Cook College.
MO: Were her experiences here comparable to yours? How were they different?
RI: She lived on campus, and, being a girl, I can't say they were the same experiences, naturally. She liked Cook College. Of course, they were worrying about what they were going to get on their diploma, whether it was going to be Cook College, which no one ever heard of, or Rutgers University. She got a degree from Rutgers University, fortunately. She met her fiancé at Cook College and he graduated. My daughter went on to get her Masters in microbiology here, and when she graduated she went with Heochst-Roussel Pharmaceuticals up in Somerville. She was with them for ten years, and right now she is with SmithKline Beecham in Philadelphia. She is in charge of a laboratory in quality control and goes all over, [I] shouldn't say the world. She goes to Britain, Belgium, and Puerto Rico to check on plants that do pharmaceutical work for them down there. She has an interesting life to lead. Her husband is a microbiologist with SmithKline Beecham in Lawrenceville right in her backyard.
KP: You lived in the same place where you grew up. You maintained strong community ties in the Lawrenceville/Trenton area.
RI: Except for Wyoming.
KP: Yes. Wyoming is the interlude. How has a town like Lawrenceville changed? Even since you were the health inspector?
RI: I couldn't do it myself anymore, the way it's changed, because of the increase in the food establishments that have to be inspected, the septic tanks that are being put in for individual dwellings, the housing developments are going up all over the place. Although, the building department would take care of most of that. The population explosion is just phenomenal.
KP: When you were growing up in that area it was farming area.
RI: Right. If my goats got loose they didn't have to go far because they had plenty to each right near by. Nowadays if they eat the neighbor's shrubbery I don't think they would appreciate it very much.
KP: You also joined the American Legion. When did you join the Legion?
RI: Shortly after I joined the State Health Department, I guess it was.
KP: Were you active at all in the Legion?
RI: Not really, because I belonged to the Grange, which is a farm organization, and I'm treasurer, and they meet on the same nights. I used to be master of the Lawrenceville Grange and I just never can get to the Legion meetings, since they meet on the same night.
KP: Are you still active with the Grange?
RI: Yes. I just came from the Ag Museum. I donated some artifacts to their museum that I had kicking around. Old farm stuff that my wife's been after me to get rid of, get it out of the house. Then I got lost coming over here. I was lucky to get here on time. This place has changed a little bit, too.
KP: How often do you come back to campus?
RI: I don't get on campus over here very much. I get over to the Ag Museum once in a while, but not over to this part of the school.
MO: I want to go back to when we were talking about how Lawrenceville has changed. Did you notice also Rider has gotten a lot bigger, I'm sure, since your wife was a student there. Has she noticed?
RI: When she went to Rider College, it was a little business school downtown, in Trenton, and she took typing and shorthand. When I bought my lot to build a house on, it was Glenn Burney Farm, and it was a hay field. They raised pure bred Guernsey cattle on the farm. When I got my house built, Rider College bought the farm. Now, it's Rider University. So, my backlot adjoins Rider University. My back fence is at their parking lot. We get along fine, except on a hot night, when it's too hot to sleep, and the students come down there and play touch football in the middle of the night and wake the whole neighborhood up. That's just a side of living near a college. The heifers I used to see on the pasture are no longer four-legged, they are two-legged. We were there before the university was there, before it moved out of Trenton.
KP: Is there anything we forgot to ask you, particularly, about your World War II experiences?
RI: I do recall that most, from an agricultural point of view, most of the farmers out there lived in villages and they went out every day to their plot of ground to farm. They kept their livestock, their horses and cows, in what we call an attached garage, or part of the house. The manure was piled out in the front yard, until it was a big enough pile and they would haul it out to their field. Their wagons were all big wheels, and high beds, and high sides. So, everything you put in the wagon had to go up and over. I tried to get through to them the idea that if you had a low bed wagon with rubber tires on, it would pull easier and be easier to work and everything. They farmed the other way for so many years, I don't think they were going to change. Maybe some of them changed by now, but at that time, right after the war, I don't think they were taking any advice from GIs or anybody else.
KP: Have you been back to Europe?
RI: Not since the war.
KP: Never back to Scotland?
RI: No. I'd like to get there, but most of my relatives have died since, so, there is nobody. I have one cousin that I still write to.
KP: Have you ever been back to Wyoming?
RI: No. I haven't been back there, either. It's probably changed. My son got through there on his way to Yellowstone Park a couple of years ago and sent me some pictures and told me about it. I don't know if you can go back, ever, if you know what I mean. It wouldn't be the same, anyway.
KP: Thank you very much. This concludes an interview with Robert Inglis on October 27, 1998 at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey with Kurt Piehler and Michael Ojeda. Thank you very much.
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Reviewed by Lauren O'Gara 1/9/02
Reviewed by Sandra Stewart Holyoak 1/14/02
Reviewed by Robert Inglis 2/02