Kurt Piehler: This begins an interview with Mr. John A. Gausz on April 25, 1997, at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, with Kurt Piehler and ...
David Villalobos: David Villalobos.
KP: I would like to ask you about your father, who was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
John Gausz: Right.
KP: He also served in the Austro-Hungarian military during World War I.
JG: Right, right. My dad was born in 1897, in a town which presently is called Novi Sad. At the time he lived there, it was Ujvidek and it's a town that the Germans, the ethnic Germans that lived there, chose to call Neusatz. I had always thought, ... from listening to my father when I was a little boy, that he was born in a farming town that was about thirty, thirty-five miles outside of that city, and, in fact, when I started to do my genealogy, I looked for him, and I couldn't find him, and, consequently, I became aware of the fact that he had been born ... in the city.
He lost his mother when he was about two years old. His father remarried and his father was killed, by accident. Someone stabbed him and said, "Gee, I'm sorry, you're not the guy I wanted to kill." [laughter] So, that was when he was about eight years old. So, he, basically, was an orphan, raised by step-parents. ... I didn't know what their names were or anything until just within the last couple of years. I did find who they were. They, apparently, were very nice people to him. My mother criticized me that, when I had the opportunity ... to write to them, I didn't do it. You know, when you're young, you don't do things. If you have other priorities in your life, ... those things aren't important to you, whereas as you get older, they become important.
When he was eighteen, he ended up ... in the Hungarian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire's Army, and he was in three-and-a-half years, and he was ... mainly on the Russian front, because I remember him talking about being up in the Carpathian Mountains. My father had a picture of himself in uniform with his two medals, which I have gotten, and there was an Edelweiss that, apparently, he had picked when he was in the mountains and pressed into the photograph edge. That was part of the picture. I don't know where the Edelweiss went. I have the picture of my father and, as I say, I have the two medals. One of the medals was presented to him, as ... he mentioned to me, by Franz Joseph, the emperor at that time, and I have a suspicion that, yes, Franz Joseph handed them out, but, I think he handed them out to a hell of lot of guys. [laughter]
... He was wounded very severely, and I remember him telling the story many a time, and this is why it's indelible in my mind, where he was in a bunker on a hill, with anywhere from six to eight other men, and having had an experience of being in the service, I can understand that the guys jaw and talk about, you know, bullshit, back and forth, and ... the one fellow said, "The next one's going to hit in here," as the shells were bracketing their position. The Russians were shelling them. He said, "The next one's going to hit in here," and he, my father, said, the next thing he knew, he woke up, he didn't know after how long a period of time, ... and he had his arm against a timber from the top of a bunker, and he could hear the voices of the relief forces coming up to see how they were, and they got him out and took him down the hill. He survived, but, he lost ... the eardrum in one ear and the other one was shattered. He went to a military hospital. The second fellow was pulled out, but, died going down the hill, and everybody else was dead, and my father was very severely impacted by the experience, in that his being, ... basically, an orphan, all these other people had relatives, and he couldn't comprehend why he was saved and that these other people died.
... I think that this affected him for the rest of his life, because of the things that my father did, but, after he was ... sent to the military hospital to survive that trauma, he was sent down to Trieste, which is down on the Adriatic Sea, which was, basically, an area ... for sending people that had come out of the hospitals, people that were not fit to fight, and what have you, and I think he probably served the rest of his time down there, in Trieste. Mainly, he served three-and-a-half years. When the war was over, he went back home to his town, and, somewhere between the end of the war and within the next couple of years, that area that he was in no longer was part of Austro-Hungary. It was now part of a new nation, called Yugoslavia, or, at the time, ... it had another name. I remember, it had ... a name prior to Yugoslavia. ... The Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and the Slovenes is what I think it's official designation was, and then, later on, for simplicity, they called it Yugoslavia.
... At that point, ... I think that was probably in 1920, '21, he was given three options, "You're now living in a new country. You've got to serve two years in the Yugoslav Army," and, of course, my father, at that point, said, "Hey, I just got done with three-and-a-half years and almost got killed. I don't want to be in an army anymore." Then, he told them, ... "I've been in the Hungarian Army." So, they said, "Hey, you love Hungary so much, go live in Hungary," and, of course, Hungary was a defeated nation. It was very, very bad. It had a lot of reconstruction. So, he said, "Do I have another option?" They said, "Well, you could just get out of here and go somewhere," and, fortunately, he had an aunt here in the United States who lived down in Atlantic City, and she funded him to come over here in 1921, and he went to Atlantic City, and he worked for six months for her, supposedly paying off his passage to the United States, and, in that time, he had befriended a black man who was in charge of the maintenance on something that you don't know existed, but, was the Heinz Pier. There was a Heinz Pier, which is down towards the inlet area of Atlantic City from the present piers, and he befriended this black man, and the black man finally took him aside and said, "Look, your aunt is taking advantage of you. You've already paid for your passage over." My father said, "What do I do?" and the man says, "Go to New York, learn a trade, learn to speak English," and that's what my dad did. He went to New York City, ... and then, I think, he worked for Con Edison, working as a lineman, or, you know, working with the crews.
... I think some of the things that happened to my father in the war started to impact upon him at that time. ... He got ulcers. He had sinus problems. I think that came about from ... the trauma of the explosion. So, he met my mother, ... I guess, about 1923, 'cause my mother had come over in 1921. So, they got married, I guess, in September and I came along the following July. ... Of course, ... I imagine we're going to cover my mother, but, they lived in New York City 'til 1930, at which time, a doctor advised my dad ... to get out of the city. The city was bad for his health.
My mother didn't want to leave the city, but, we ended up in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, which I was very glad for, our not having to stay in the city. To back up a little bit, my mother and father, being immigrants and being fairly poor, in 1924, I was born on the kitchen table in an apartment in what, at that time, was called Spanish Harlem. It was 101st Street, down by the East River, and the midwife that delivered me gave up on me. I was black and blue and she gave up on me. My father picked me up like you'd pick up a chicken, by the feet, and he turned me upside down, and ... that was the first of many times my father spanked me, [laughter] but, it was the most important one in my life, because I, then, started to breathe. Whatever was causing me to be black and blue, I started to breathe, and what have you. ... I have said, through my life, that I was born dead [laughter] and that ... everything since then has been borrowed time, as far as I'm concerned, okay. ... My mother worked along with my father. ... Subsequently, from 101st Street, they went to a place, I think, Webster Avenue. They probably did what a lot of people did in those days that were poor, they were supers in apartment buildings, where they had to make sure that the fires ... were always going in the furnaces, and what have you.
... My dad, I think, ... left Con Edison because of the stress of that job. I think he sold insurance for a while, and he sold insurance in a section that's called ... the Lenox Hill District of New York, where there were a lot of black and Hispanic people, and there was a lot of crime in those days, and I remember my father having an old gun, which was a toy gun, ... and the people that he sold insurance to, and it was insurance where you, like, paid a quarter a week for a policy. He would go collect every week, 'cause that's the way insurance was sold in those days, and those people said, "Look, if you've got any problem with any of the people in this area, all you've got to do is ring our bell and holler." They said, "We'll take care of it," but, he always ... had that toy pistol with him. [laughter]
Apparently, my mother and father had saved enough money, by both of them working, and pinching pennies, and what have you, that my father ended up where ... someone asked him to "go into business with him," quote-unquote. It was business, making pocketbooks, and my mother made pocketbooks at home. It was one of those things where, instead of working in a factory, you ... worked at home and you got paid for piecework. My father, being gullible, apparently, loaned out five thousand dollars to this guy, which was a lot of money in the late '20s, and ... my father never had a piece of paper or anything, and, when my mother found out that the money was going out of the bank account, she said, "Enough is enough. Cut your losses. That's it," and I always heard about this for the rest of my life. Whenever I said I wanted to go into business, my mother would always bring up ... this deal, of my father going into business, and how he was taken advantage of, and everything, and I'm mentioning these things to show how they affect your life as you go along, you know, but, as I say, finally, I think, we came out to New Jersey in 1930. They bought a lot in Scotch Plains and they had a house built. I don't have any idea of where they got the money to buy the lot. ... I don't know whether they borrowed to build the house, but, they built a pretty nice house. I go past there every once in a while, just to see, you know, what it looks like, but, that was a turning point, in my mind, ... in our lives.
... Then, we were starting to be in the deep Depression, and, I think, ... let me see, ... I don't know the sequence of events, but, I do know that my father worked as a maintenance man for the Liberty Theater in Plainfield, New Jersey, and Plainfield, New Jersey, at one time, had four theaters, and he was a maintenance man in one of them, so, ... my dad going to work for a theater opened up my ability to be able to go to movies for free. ... I think they changed the movies twice a week, or possibly three times a week, but, every time the movie changed, I got to go to the movies. So, that was a nice fringe benefit from his job, but, he got laid off as the Depression got deeper, and my mother ... was out doing housework, doing laundry for people at home, cleaning their houses, taking care of kids. My dad was out of work for sixteen months.
There was, in the New Deal, the WPA, where you could work for the government. My dad and mother always considered ... any help as welfare and that they did not want to be any part of it. ... They didn't want to get involved, but, ... where we lived in Scotch Plains was not a big piece of property, but, it was big enough where we had a garden, and we raised practically all our ... own vegetables, and we had, ... probably from the old country, ... and I know, later, in this country, where people have gone back homesteading, ... in the ground, a pit that was probably about three, three-and-a-half feet deep where we would put our carrots, and potatoes, and the cabbage, and what have you, and then, cover it with boards, and then, use old ... rugs, and coats, and what have you on top of it, and, whenever we were going to make something, like soup, or we were going to make stew, ... I had the job, to go out to, ... in Hungarian, they called it the verrem, get something for ... us to eat, and, a lot of times, this was all frozen, or it had snow on top, so, you had to shovel the snow off, and you had ... to break the ice, and get in there, and take out whatever you want, put it in whatever ... you were taking it into the house in, but, then, you had to go in reverse. You now had to make sure that that went back the way it was supposed to, put ... all the coverings on, so that this sucker didn't freeze. We had chickens, we raised ducks, so, ... we ate a lot of eggs. When the chickens ... wouldn't lay eggs anymore, ... we'd have chicken paprikash, or we had chicken soup.
A lot of people today, kids, and this is what gets me about my kids, having gone through where, if you don't eat something, somebody else eats it, and, today, ... the experience of kids where, "I don't like this and I don't like that," and, to me, that's bull crap, because I can remember when, we didn't starve, but, ... what was put in front of you, if you didn't eat it, somebody else ate it, okay, and these are the differences in just what I think is a short period of time ... in our history.
One thing that I did is, in the Depression, in an effort to try to do something, ... money was very scarce, ... I got to deliver newspapers, sold magazines, and magazines, in those days, were like a nickel. Newspapers, ... the Plainfield Courier News was eighteen cents a week. I got three cents for delivering it for six days. I went and cut lawns. I found out that the Episcopal Church had a choir, and that they paid a nickel for every rehearsal and a nickel for singing at their Mass on Sunday, and, of course, I wasn't Episcopal. ... I was raised Roman Catholic and the Roman Catholic service was just down the street from the Episcopal Church. So, I don't know whether I went to Mass first, and then, ran down the street to the Episcopal Church, or whether I went to the Episcopal Church, and sang in the choir, and ... ran to Mass in the school, but, say, today, nickels, in those days, a nickel, ... buddy, that ... got put away, and this goes to an experience I had ... when I went into the service, ... which I'll allude to when we talk about ... going in the service. One of the things, ... since money was so scarce, it was a lot easier for fellahs doing like ... a lot of the black people did way back. If they wanted to go out, or if they wanted to get something to drink, they said, "Man, what you got in your pocket?" you know, change, and they'd gather enough change to either buy gas for the car or to go buy something to drink, and our experience was that, if you went with a bunch of your buddies that you were paling with, you'd say, "How much you got? How much you got?" and gasoline was cheap, and you'd borrow one of your parent's cars, and you'd put gas in it, and you'd go down the shore, [laughter] ... and then, whatever money you had, you'd use for the things you had, and then, when you ran out of money, you went home, but, I've learned since that some of the experiences I've had with the alumni, or the people that I went to school with in high school, we often wondered why we didn't date. I wasn't going to spend money ... that I earned the hard way on girls. ... That was secondary. ... You wanted to go out with the guys, but, I went through high school, as I say, I did a lot of working. Wherever I could turn a penny, turn a nickel, I worked, and then, I graduated from high school in 1942. The one high point of my high school was that I got an award, which I never expected to get, from the Rotary Endeavor Club for the most improved student in four years of high school, and I've looked at some of my report cards from high school. In fact, ... a lot of people I went to school with thought I was a real good student, and, when I look at my report cards, in fact, my brother found my eleventh grade report card, and I wouldn't want to show it to one of my kids. I've got it put away somewhere in a drawer, but, I don't think I paid any more attention to school than I had to do to get through. Now, that doesn't mean that I wasn't smart. All my intelligence tests were, well, back track, ... when my mother and father were told that I had to go to school, they had no concept of kindergarten. I didn't go to kindergarten. All of a sudden, somebody told them, he says, "Hey, your kid's home. He's got to go to school." So, I started in first grade and I didn't speak hardly any English until I went to school, okay? So, when it came time to classify me, in those days, you had four classes, you had 1-A, 1-B, 1-C, 1-D, and you were ... put them depending on your abilities, ... like, 1-A was supposed to be this, the ones that could study the best and had it "on the ball," 1-B was a little bit down, 1-D was all the "dregs," [laughter] you know. So, they put me in 1-B. Apparently, ... after talking to me or classifying me, I ended up in 1-B. Then, when ... we got out of first grade, I ended up in 2-A, 3-A, ... you know, all the way through, but, I know, ... one of the things my dad and mother stressed was that, "You've got to have education," and one of the things ... that they had a real fit about was if you were sitting and doing nothing, and my father took me to the library, ... got me a library card, and, of course, in those days, you didn't have television. ... You had a rudimentary radio, and so, I would read seven, eight books a week. ... I read a lot. So, in essence, I educated myself on a broad spectrum of things, but, structured education? Hey, I did what I had to do to get through. I didn't realize it though. I didn't do it ... on purpose, but, in high school, I took College Preparatory, because my parents always felt that your children should ... have more opportunities than they had back in Europe. So, it was always understood that you should get the best that the school offers to you.
So, I got out of high school in 1942. I went to work for a company in Dunellen, which was a good company for kids to work at. It was Art Color Printing Company. They had magazines, in those days, Radio Mirror, Movie Mirror, all the trashy magazines, and you got fifty cents an hour, which was a lot of money in those days, if you worked the day shift, but, you got ten percent more for working the second or third shift. So, I worked from five-thirty in the evening to one-thirty in the morning for half of the month, and then, worked from eight at night to eight in the morning the second half of the month, and you got a lot of money, and you didn't pay any taxes to speak of in those days, and I don't remember much being taken out of my pay, okay. So, it didn't sound like much money, but, what money you had was great, and, of course, I put that in the bank, because my father says, "Hey, you're going to go to college," and, of course, the big decision was, "Where?" I worked during the summer. Basically, where I worked, magazines, were printed, ... they printed them in sections, and then, when they came off the press, ... you've got to jog them. That was the word, "Jog them." ... You had to work, and get them in piles, and put them on pallets, so that they would go from there to the bindery, and our hands and arms were marked with all kinds of cuts, paper cuts, from jogging these things, and some people would wear, you know, ... paper collars, or cloth collars, but, that impeded one doing the job, so, you ended up with, always, ... a lot of cuts and scars on your arms, but, then, it came time to where I was going to go to school, and, at that time, it was the University of Newark, which is now Rutgers-Newark, and that was over in the old brewery, and I started in accounting. Why in accounting? I guess I was always good with numbers, and, for lack of a better reason, my dad said, "You're good with numbers. You're going to be an accountant." [laughter] So, I went the first semester, and I met a lot of people who were probably the same type of person I am, you know, people whose parents came from Europe, and they were mainly people from up in ... the Newark area. ... That was 1942. In 1942, we were already in the war, and, of course, I said to my dad, ... "I want to go volunteer. ... I want to go fight," and, of course, my mother and father looked at each other, and they said, ... "How do you restrain him?" and I went ... to volunteer, and I got turned down, because of the bad left eye. So, I put it aside, and I said, "Okay, they don't want me ... in the service," and I think ... I was going ... to go into the service with the thought in mind that I would then go to Officer Candidate School and be an officer. That was my motivation, I think, but, then, I went back to school, and, in 1942, ... there was the call for the draft. Anybody that was eighteen prior to July 1 in 1942 had to register for the draft. Anybody that was eighteen after that July 1st would then register on the day ... that was his birthday. So, I was born on July 7, 1924. So, I was eighteen on July 7th, 1942. So, I registered for the draft there. There was an importance to this thing, in that you had a big hunk of ... people that registered by July 1st who were eighteen or older, so that the call for the draft in the Fall of '42, and through the winter, was from this pool of people, and, when they drew that pool of people down, it came to February and March of '43 where they said, "Hey, now, we've got to go through this pool of guys that registered since." [laughter]
... I got my notice, I guess, in February, and we got called over to Sussex Avenue Armory in Newark, and, by that time, ... I was aware of the fact that, "Hey, my big problem in getting drafted was the fact that I'd been turned down, because I couldn't read with my left eye," and so, I did everything I could do in the chart, you know. The chart wasn't that complex, so, I did everything I could do to pass that part of it, but, when I got to the hard part, the doctor examines me, and he says, "Jump up and down on ... your left leg." I jumped up and down a couple of times. He checks me. He says, "Jump up and down on your right leg," and I said, "Oh, shit, I've got problems with my heart. They're not going to take me," and I had been a runner ... through high school. I was a distance runner, ... not good, but, I did it, and so, finally, he calls another doctor, and ... they go through the same routine, and, finally, we go through ... all the guys, and, finally, the last doctor said, "Are you a runner?" and I says, "Yes. What's the problem?" He says, "Well, your heart doesn't pick up with exercise, you know, the beat." Apparently, from having run the mile, ... and conditioning myself, the heart was able to overcome stress. So, I breathe a sigh of relief. So, I go on ... to the psychiatrist, and he says, "Well, John, what do you do with yourself?" and I said, "Well, ... I hack around with the boys," and I caught real fast that he figured he had a winner, that ... I was gay, in those days, it was "queer," and I ran him ... around the barn for about twenty minutes. I figured, "Hey, you think ... I'm queer, I'm going to lead you around," and this goes back to the deal of, "Well, how come you don't go out with girls?" I said, "I don't want to spend my money on girls. I spend ... it going out with the guys, you know, hacking around." [laughter] Finally, we got around to it, I said, "Look, I'm going to tell you something." I said, "I got no problem with girls." I said, "It's just through the kind of conditions we have that I would rather not, at this point, be dating girls." I had girls chasing me, but, finally, he says, "Okay." [laughter] So, then, that was, I think, the 24th of February, and they told you, "Go home, settle your affairs," which were nothing, and I think, "report on the 3rd of March."
... My mother, all through this, I think, really suffered, because ... she sulked, and I remember my father taking me ... on the morning of the 3rd to where the bus was, ... and my father said good-bye to me, and, of course, they put us on one of the most rickety trains you'd ever want to find. I think it's probably one of the early trains of the Pennsylvania Railroad. ... It had wooden seats, was built of wood, and they took us down to Fort Dix, and, of course, they asked us, "Do you have any playing cards, razors, knives?" and I think it was just a ruse for these guys to knock you down for whatever you had, because I never ... was aware of what these things might have done to impact your ability to be a service person, but, we got down to Fort Dix, and, of course, my kids all looked at me and my wife looks at me, "How do you remember your first meal?" ... We got in there and the first thing they hand you is ... a bologna sandwich, either an apple or an orange, I forget which I had, and a container of milk. That was your first meal in the service, and we, then, were marched around from building to building, as they're throwing the clothes at you and throwing the equipment at you, and every time you're marching from one building to the other, other recruits, who might have been there a day or two, were saying, "Watch the hook. Watch the hook." You know, they're the big shots and ... you're the guy coming in. Well, the second day, I got picked to go work in the kitchen, handing out the bologna sandwiches, [laughter] and the apple or the orange, and the container of milk, and, of course, now, I'm superior to the guys that are coming in, because, now, they're the greenies, and we had to fall out every morning in a group, and, of course, this is where your innate ability, street smarts, ... come to play. You find out that, "Well, hell, if you are over on the left side, they're going to take fifteen or twenty guys to go do KP, and, ... from the other, they're going to take fifteen or twenty guys to go and ... clean the grounds," and all that stuff. So, you learned where to stay if you knew you were going to be picked for something. So, I always ... was in an area where I got picked to go to the rec hall, 'cause you'd go to the rec hall, ... you were on your own. You'd go there, and sweep up, empty the baskets, clean, and then, you knew not to go back, because, if you went back, they would ... pick you to do something else, like cleaning johns, and what have you. So, we shot pool. [laughter] Whatever guys were there, we shot pool, and then, when we figured it was an appropriate time, we'd go back. "Man, we really had to work." Well, anyway, we stayed at Fort Dix ... for a week, and I think we got to the point where you're tired of being there, and, every day, you'd look to see if you were ... on a roster to go somewhere, and, finally, the one day, I think ... I went in on the 3rd, I think it was probably on the 9th, my name was ... on the board with a lot of other names that were shipping out. So, man, you put all your possessions into two bags, you clean out, put everything into two bags, and you're apprehensive, because, you know, they don't tell you where you're going. Everything's a secret, and, of course, the next day, I always remember, the 10th of March, '43, was a beautiful day. The sun was out, clear, like it is now, and we had our ... woolen uniforms on, and we had to ... march from where we were to the station, the railroad station in the camp, and stand there, waiting to board ... the trains, and everybody has the conception, in the movies, of troop trains being, you know, where you had sleepers and all that kind of jazz. We got on conventional trains with, you know, the seats that come apart. ... Today's trains are luxuries compared to what the trains were in those days, but, we were assigned two fellows to each set of double seats, and we slept across each other, and you took turns for whoever's legs were across the other guy, and our bags were down in between the seats and ... up in the rack. ... I can remember leaving Fort Dix in the afternoon and ... we were stopped at, ... and I was trying to figure out where we were, 'cause that's the thing, ... in those days, the railroad stations, they blacked out the signs, so that nobody was supposed to really know where you were. So, I can remember sitting outside, as I determined later, it was outside of Philadelphia. We were sidelined, because military trains, like us, were sidelined for freight trains that were going through ... carrying supplies. ... So, we'd be on the side, waiting, 'til we got the go ahead, and I can remember seeing the sun go down at Philadelphia, beautiful sunset, and then, ... we dozed, you know. We'd sit there and you'd get tired. It's real boredom. You'd sit there, and, finally, the train would lurch, and you'd go, and, "Oh, man, we're going to go," but, ... every once in a while, you'd go off on the siding, and, finally, we managed to go to sleep, and I can remember waking up, going across a railroad bridge. It was real high above a river, and the moon was out shining, ... and the stream down below was ... so far down below that it looked just like a little ... creek, and it's amazing the things that go through your mind. I said, "What a place for a train to be destroyed, you know, by sabotage." [laughter] ... I didn't say anything to anybody at the time, but, that went through my mind. I said, "You know, ... what a place to meet your demise." [laughter]
Well, I managed to go asleep again and, ... somewhere later, the train stopped. ... You know, you'd stick your head out the window, see what's going on. Apparently, they divided the train, and, of course, every once in a while, back in those days, they change engines, 'cause crews would change. ... You'd go for 150 to 200 miles, 300 miles, and then, they would change engines, and every time they changed engines, you're, "Boom, boom, boom, boom." So, then, they split the train, and we knew that some of the people that had been with us were going somewhere else, and we didn't know where we were going. By morning, there was activity where we were passing through stations where people were standing on the sidelines, and, of course, the big deal was, "Find out where we are?" and we knew we were in North Carolina, and then, eventually, in South Carolina, and then, finally, the train stopped, and started to back up, and, of course, by this time, we were getting excited. "The train's backing up for some reason," and we pulled into a place called Camp Croft, South Carolina, which no longer exists. It's Croft State Park, today. It was a place that ... the government had bought, which was all farmland with peach orchards, and we pulled in, ... they said, "All right, get off, stand there," and I can remember, there was a band there to meet us, and, because we were mostly from New York, New Jersey, the band played "Sidewalks of New York," and then, played, "The Jersey Bounce," and, of course, you were elated at this point. "Man, ... they're welcoming us," but, then, "Okay, pick up your bags. Two bags over ... your shoulder. March." So, we had to march at least a mile to where we were going to be in the barracks, and then, of course, when you go in the barracks, ... you're not assigned a spot. It's potluck what you pick, and, of course, this starts a little bit of fighting, because, if you got a bunk and somebody else wants it, he's going to threaten you, and this happened. He's going to threaten you. "I want the God damn bunk. You get lost," and I can remember meeting, it was one of the first guys I met, ... a little Jewish guy from New York. His name was Meyer and he was about twenty-eight. I was eighteen, and Meyer, I found out later, had been a furrier in New York, and Meyer's hands were all soft from having worked ... with fur, and Meyer had glasses, a very, very sheepish fellow, ... but, I befriended him, because ... I had some sort of a feeling about Meyer, you know, that he ... needed friends.
... Later on, as we were going through training, Meyer would get packages from home, and he'd get ... kosher salami, you know, Jewish ... salamis, and, of course, you learned real fast, if you get a package from home, you didn't go for it, you know, at mail call. You didn't go for it, because you had to share it with everybody. By the time you got anything out of the package, you ended up ... with whatever was leftover after everybody picked over it, and they'd call Meyer's name, Meyer would trot down to get his package, "Meyer, what did you get?" and I can remember Meyer with his salamis, and we'd be slicing off pieces of salami, and Meyer'd end up with the heel, and, finally, one day, I said, "Meyer, ... you're the dumbest Jew I ever met." "What do you mean? What do you mean?" I says, "You don't go down to pick up your package when they tell you it's there." I says, "You sneak down there and you bring it back." Of course, I had an ulterior motive. I was his friend and he and I were going to share that salami. To hell with the rest of the guys, but, this was the mentality. ... From a sheltered living, you were thrown into an environment where, hey, buddy, your street smarts and your innate ability to survive came ... to the front. ... I feel that the period of time I was in was ... probably one of the best learning experiences I could have ever been exposed to. I think in the military, or any service like that, you are exposed to people that you'd probably never meet in your life. I met fellows who hadn't gone past the second grade. ... They were working on the farms in the South, never went past second grade. Guys who never wore shoes. I mean, this is no bologna. They had makeshift shoes, because they were so poor, and putting on a pair of boots ... was the first experience, you know, that they had with shoes on.
... We met fellows who ... had been college students, drafted. You met rich kids, you met poor kids, and we were all thrown together, and I've done some reading since ... that, in the infantry, that this is done on purpose. It's that you do want to have all strata, all representatives of the different strata, because, then, you operate as a unit, where you tend ... to all add to each other's experiences and function. I mean, we had guys that could fix anything. We had guys that were connivers. ... I had a guy by the name of Falcone who claimed that his father was in the Mafia, and, of course, we said to him, "If he's in the Mafia, what the hell are you doing in the Army?" [laughter] ... I don't know that we ever got a good answer, but, he had another close buddy, and being of the mentality that his father was in the Mafia, he had certain fellows that were around him that were like a gang, and they were ... con artists, and, of course, we were not supposed to leave the base to go out to a tavern, but, these guys would leave the base, and go out, and get loaded, and they came back the one night, ... and this kid that Falcone befriended from down Wilmington, Delaware, went into the men's room, and he busted the pipes on the urinal. I guess, he kicked them or something, busted the pipes, and one of the fellows that they went out with was a fellow who, apparently, didn't really fit in the group, but, he hid his wallet ... under the mattress somewhere before he went out, figuring that, well, if he got rolled, ... he wouldn't have his money taken, and, sometime during the night, ... when they came back, he complained that somebody stole his wallet. I mean, these are the funny things that you remember. This is fifty some years ago.
... This fellow complained, and, of course, everybody ... was wondering what all the noise was about, and, of course, the corporals came in, "What's going on?" The lights go on. "Some guy stole my wallet." ... He doesn't shut up, 'cause they told him that we'd take care of it in the morning. "Nah, somebody stole my wallet." So, the gist of it was that we ended up with the Company Commander and all the officers before us standing in line. I mean, it's almost like what you'd see in comedy on TV, and guys in skivvies, guys ... with just jock straps on, you know, all depending on how they sleep. They're standing there, and, of course, they come down, and they said, "Did you do it? Did you do it?" and, of course, this Falcone and his buddy, his buddy was loaded, the guy that busted the urinal, and he's going back and forth like this, you know, ... he's out of it, and they go up and down. ... We don't even know what they're asking us, you know, "Did you do it?" We assumed that it's, "Did you steal the wallet?"
So, they get to this kid from Wilmington, Delaware, and, finally, he figured, "Let's end this thing." He says, "I did it," and Falcone says, "You stupid ass, ... you shut your mouth," you know, ... and, finally, they said, "All right, all you guys go back to bed. We'll take care of it in the morning." Well, the next morning, this guy that said his wallet was stolen was sober and he found his wallet. "Hey, guys, I found it." That guy was ostracized for a week. Nobody would talk to him. I mean, it's like ... the Amish doing shunning. It was a shunning.
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JG: He ended up having to pay for them to fix up the urinal. Well, at this point, we were ... all at each other's throats about this thing, and, of course, ... they became aware of the fact that these guys were going off base. That was probably one of ... the things that I always remember. Living in as close a society as we lived, I befriended or a guy befriended me. He was about thirty-six years old. ... This was my first experience with meeting a professional gambler. This guy had been a gambler in civilian life and he says, "Don't you play with these guys," 'cause, you know, I liked to play cards. He says, "Don't play with these guys. They'll take you to the cleaners." He said, "If you want to experience card playing, ... you sit and watch with me while I'm playing," and this guy would play, and he set himself, I learned, ... limits, that, if he had twenty-five dollars, that's all he was going to loose. When he's done with twenty-five dollars, he says, "I'm broke," but, the next night, he'd be in another card game. ... I took him aside and I said, "Where the hell did you get money? You said you were broke?" He said, "I set myself limits," but, ... I mean, he was good. I mean, it was an experience, learning from this guy. So, this was probably somebody that I never would have met before, but, I took his advice.
... I had the experience, also, of leadership. We had a Captain who was, in my estimation, ... not a good officer. We were told, "You're going to go on a twenty mile hike." We'd get all our stuff that we were going to carry, the rifle and all that jazz, and this guy would hop in the Jeep and go. He was going to meet us at the end of the twenty miles, and, of course, motivation, we had a lot of guys who would say, "Hey, if this guy is going to ride in the Jeep, I'm not going to exert myself." So, a lot of guys dropped out along the way, and, of course, the ambulances would come along with you and pick the guys up. Well, we ended up where maybe six to eight guys ended up at the end of twenty miles, and, of course, I was one of the stupid asses that I felt that that was a challenge. I'd go the twenty miles, but, apparently, somebody became aware of this, and this captain disappeared, and we got a first lieutenant who came in, and this first lieutenant was entirely different. He was the guy, "Hey, ... we're going out on a hike," and he says, "If any of you guys want to drop out," he says, "before you drop out," he says, "talk to your buddies, or your non-coms, or ... me," and he says, "Somebody will take some of your load," and, in my estimation, this was perfect training for a unit, because this is what you're going to hit in combat. If a guy was hurt or something, somebody would pick up his load, and I can remember this lieutenant carrying as many as three, four, five rifles. Everybody would double up, take another pack or what have you, but, we ended up, most of the guys, unless a guy had a real problem, where you got to the end of twenty miles, most everybody was there, which, to me, was a good outfit.
He was fair. You could ... reach him. So, in my judgment, this was a good experience, in my mind, as I reflect upon it, in leadership, ... how different people approach leadership. I got transferred out of there. I got transferred. ... Well, number one, ... my kids all consider me a bigot because of certain things that have happened in my life, as I tell things, and I remember, in part of our training, is, we were fighting two enemies. We were fighting Germany, the Axis in Europe, Germany and Italy, and we were going to fight Japan, and I can remember, our training, ... we weren't taught to hate the Germans or the Italians. We were aware that they were our enemy, but, we were taught to hate the Japs, and we got it every day, when we were doing hand-to-hand combat, where they said, "Hey, these are the things that you have to do to the Jap, because, if you don't do it to him, he's going to do it to you," and things like gouging out the eyes, caving in the chest, kicking a guy in the balls, all the things that you learned to fight with your hands, and I have, with that experience and a work experience, ... taught my kids that you do not use the word "hate" unless you want to kill somebody. You dislike something, you don't hate, but, one of the things, in that period of time, was, anybody from Asia was a gook. Anything that you hate, anything that you hear of the military, or the experiences in the South Pacific, or in Asia, those people were gooks, and my kids all say, "Dad, you don't really mean that." I said, "Hey, in my day, they were gooks, okay." ... What I'm trying to allude to is that I have become aware, as I've come through my life, ... that a lot of things that are happening in the world are conditioned by your experiences at a particular time, or by, perhaps, ... your parents' attitudes.
... I want to backtrack to high school, because this ... is pertinent to this. Our class worked to go to Washington, either in our latter part of our junior year or in our senior year. We saved our money, you know, to go to Washington, DC. Now, ... we had some black kids in our class who couldn't go, or didn't go, because, when we went to Washington, the hotel that we were going to stay in, they could not stay in. In fact, Washington, DC, was a very segregated city. We didn't pay much attention, in those days, ... that this was so, but, ... we had a mini-reunion a few years back, and someone raised the question of the trip to Washington, and some of the black kids that finished high school, the one black, I remember him, he had been a sergeant in the Army, and Eddie says, "We couldn't go to Washington, 'cause we had to stay in a different hotel," and he says, "We couldn't eat with you, because the sanitary facilities, they had bathrooms for coloreds, bathrooms for whites, fountains, water fountains, colored only, white only," and I grew up in a town where I went to school with black kids. I went to school with all ethnic groups. Now, I remember my father and mother coming from Europe, ... they say, "Look, you say, 'Hello,' to all these people. You don't date a black girl, you don't marry a black girl. In fact, you don't marry an Italian girl and you don't marry an Irish girl." ... You know, this was your training from their experiences in Europe. Needless to say, I married a girl, Margaret Reilly, who is English, Irish, and Scotch. [laughter]
... Of course, what I'm trying ... to say is, when I was down South, in South Carolina, what really bothered me in camp was that we had black fellows in separate areas. ... We were segregated. In fact, we had a couple of battalions of black fellows, and I can remember going to town on a Saturday afternoon on a bus, and we'd pass the area where the black guys were, and they were pounding them into the ground, still working them, because they didn't want them to go to town, because Spartanburg, South Carolina, was a segregated town, and what the ... government was afraid of was that there was going to be bloodshed on the streets. So, they worked these guys into the ground.
... My having grown up in a town ... where you had some "safeguards," it really bothered me how they were treated as second-class citizens, and I can remember going to town where ... we passed fields where black people were picking cotton, and I can remember seeing the bags ... they had to fill. ... I wasn't aware of the conditions they worked under, but, I became aware, later on, as I studied in our history, you know, and stuff like that, that these people worked for almost nothing. Their job was to fill ... that bag with cotton as they picked it, and then, they got paid piecework for that bag.
Of course, later on, and ... I'm mentioning this for a reason, and, at this point, I'm digressing, but, ... we were talking about this the other night, about how social things change is, I can remember when the cotton-picking machine was invented, and between the cotton-picking machines displacing those people working from menial tasks and the war calling for a need for manpower in the factories, they displaced all those people from what I consider bad conditions, but, to them, were really not that bad, because they lived off the land. They lived like my mother, and father, and my brother, and I lived at home, where you had your vegetable gardens, you had chickens. They could go out and hunt, and they could go and fish, and what did we do, ... through the invention of a machine and the need for manpower in the factories, we displaced all these people to where they'd go in the cities, and, when the need for them was no longer there, we now have a big welfare problem in this country, and a lot of these people have left the cities and gone back ... down South.
... I think the thing I'm trying to allude to is that there are things in our history which, at the time, are justified in being done, but, that we don't think about ... the over all implications of it in how this ... affects people. I wanted to say something else, but, maybe it'll come back after. ...
Okay, we come down to where I got transferred out of ... the training outfit, and I got sent up to a headquarters outfit, headquarters of the camp, and, of course, I ended up as a clerk, and I did two things. I did, for a while, since I knew how to type, I took typing in high school, and, of course, I ended up typing laundry lists, and, to me, this was the most boring and needless job there was, in typing names of people that are getting their laundry done, and I complained about that. I said, "You know, this is the most stupid ass thing in the world for me to be doing." So, then, they took me aside. They said, "Well, you know, every morning, ... every Army outfit has to file something called a Morning Report," and this morning report ... is filed by the first sergeants, who are the top non-coms in the outfit, but, are probably the ... dumbest guys that you'll ever find, okay, and so, I ended up, every morning, where four first sergeants would come up from the outfit that I had taken training in, and come up with their Morning Reports, and the justification for a Morning Report is that you have to know how many people you have in the outfit, how many people have been sick, gone somewhere else, how many people have been transferred out, how many people transferred in. It's really ... a status report for the outfit. Well, invariably, these first sergeants would screw them up, and, of course, I was, ... now, at a point where I was, I think, a private first class, and I'm impacting first sergeants, and I'd say, "This thing isn't worth a damn." I says, "It's screwed up," and I had four first sergeants "pissed off" at me, because I was always questioning them, or I'd look through the stuff, that the math didn't add up. You know, four guys would go out, six guys would come in, and the math didn't add up, and the Morning Report was used as a justification for food, how many ... rations you would have in the outfit for that particular day.
Well, I remember that, finally, that lieutenant that I had in my outfit, ... instead of the first sergeant coming down, he'd walk it down, and I befriended him, ... and, every day, I got a chance to talk to him, but, I ... really worshipped this guy, because, in my estimation, as I've reflected on it in my later years, was the ultimate in what an officer should be. I, finally, a couple of years ago, found him. I've talked to his wife. Apparently, he's ill. He's about four years older than me. He lives in Massachusetts. I was curious whether he went into combat, and he ended up in Japan, you know, in occupation, and his wife said that he's undergoing so much medication that he's not fit to deal with. So, I figure he has some psychological problems, but, I did find him.
... I'm in this headquarters company and, at the time I'm in the headquarters company, an outfit from Panama that had been there from 1940 to 1943 came in. So, now, we had two people for every job, ... because every organization has what's called a Table of Organization. It's no different than ... any economic entity. You've got a Table of Organization for, say, 250 people and we now ... have 500. So, about that time, this War Department circular came out and said that, "If you have anybody who's in 'Limited Service,'" where I couldn't read with an eye, and Limited Service ... was just a nomer for somebody that couldn't make an infantry scout, or you wouldn't make him a commando, or what have you, but, he was still cannon fodder, because I had ... a guy who was blind in an eye, and ... I'd gone home on furlough, and they needed an infantry scout in a division that was going overseas from Fort Jackson, and they said, "Hey, you're going to Fort Jackson as an infantry scout." Well, my feeling in being ... at the right place and the wrong place, or the opposite, was reinforced at that point, because, when I came back, "Where's this guy?" "He's gone," and, later on, I found out he was missing in action. He's out in front when they got incoming artillery and they had nothing. They couldn't pick him up. There was nothing and I said, "You know, ... that could have been my behind picked. You know, he's right across the aisle from me in the barracks."
... Well, anyway, we go back to this headquarters, and, all of a sudden, "You've got to come up ... to the office. You're going home." I said, "Oh, yeah, ... how come?" "Well, we're overstaffed ... and this War Department circular says that, 'If you have more people, 'Limited Service,' than you need, then, you could get rid of them,' okay." So, I didn't want to go home. I said, "I don't want to go home." "Well, you gotta go home." ... I'm the kind of guy, if I don't get my way, and I'm not too bad now, but, if I didn't get my way, I'd sulk, and I'd brood, and ... do things I shouldn't do.
... I met ... a fellow, and this ... is another thing that reinforced this feeling I had, that, you know, God is ... looking over you. I met a guy that was a medic, and this guy had glasses like the bottoms of Coke bottles, and I said, "You know, ... I'm going home." He said, "How the hell come you're going home?" I said, "I don't want to go home." He said, "What's wrong with you?" I said, "I've got an eye I don't read with." "Is that all?" and he says, "What does it read?" I says, "It reads 20/200, uncorrected," and he says, "Is that all?" and I says, "Why?" He says, "You know, I got 20/800 in both eyes." He says, "One's corrected to 20/60 and the other is corrected to 20/40." So, this guy, ... you know, if he looses his glasses, he can't really see, ... and he says to me, "You know, ... you don't want to go home, ... I'll trade places with you. I'd kiss your ass in Macy's window," he says, "after the war's over, ... if I could trade places with you," and, you know, I started to think, ... "Maybe I'm not that bad off," and then, ... I happened to talk to this gambler, thirty-six years old. He said, "I'd take all my money," he said, "if I could trade places with you. I'd give you everything I got if I could trade places with you." Well, anyway, I, in my nasty mood, ... told an officer off. Somehow, he tried to motivate me, and I said, "You know, you can take this Army and you can stuff it up your ass," and he says, "You know, ... if you feel that bad, and ... you think you're being treated that bad, ... I'll show you how bad you can be treated." He says, "I'm going to transfer you to a casual outfit while you're waiting to get discharged." So, he sent me down to a casual outfit and the casual outfit is an outfit, when they don't know where else to put you, they put you in this outfit. ... It's a holding station, but, the first night, ... during the night, I hear a sergeant come in, he starts to call out some names for KP, and ... you asked me how to pronounce my name, well, this guy, another dumb sergeant, mispronounced my name, and, of course, I'm going ... to "play stupid."
So, I'm laying there in the bunk, and, finally, he walks up to me, he read it three, four, five times, and, finally, comes over to me, he says, "I don't give a shit what your name is. ... You're on KP." So, I went on KP and ... I was guarded, believe it or not. I couldn't go into the ... refrigerator, you know, the walk-in, the refrigerator, without somebody going with me. I mean, somebody put out the word that I was a bad apple.
So, I had a girlfriend who lived just off the base. Her father was the fire chief of the camp, and, of course, I got out prior to this. Knowing that I was getting out, I wanted to go out with her as much as I could go out, and the one day, I think it was the Sunday before I got out, I wanted to go out with her, you know, go out to dinner or what have you. It could have been at her house. ... I was on KP, so, one of the guys, one of the "operators," hears that I want to get off. He says, "What's it worth to you?" I said, "I don't know, three bucks or five bucks," which doesn't sound like much money, but, hey, when you've got fifty dollars a month, boy, but, to me, it was important that I got off. He says, ... "I can fix it up. ... I can't get anybody to take your place, but, ... I can fix it up for you, but, you've got to keep mum about it."
So, I think he was in cahoots with the cook, and so, they told me to report for KP in the morning, but, then, they would send me off. Supposedly I was going to the officers' mess on KP. They needed somebody. So, one of the guys ... that was on with me caught on. He must have ... had a gut feeling that there was something going on. He says, "How come I can't go up to the officers' mess?" He said, "Gausz is going." So, I managed to get off and I went out with her, but, I was aware, again, that was another part of learning, ... that you could, under certain circumstances, work out ... of a situation. Go back to ... bias. This girl I went with had a couple of brothers, and her mother was real Scotch/Irish, very Baptist, and her mother took me aside one day, and she says, "You know, you've corrupted my family." I said, "I've corrupted your family?" and, of course, she liked me. She was busting my horns. I said, "How did I corrupt your family?" She said, "We never played cards in this house and we never played games. We never had liquor in this house," and I said, "Gee, I'm very sorry. ... I didn't mean to offend you, you know." She said, "Well, I wouldn't expect anything better of a Yankee."
... Of course, she had a younger brother who used to come to my barracks and was ... always looking for a quarter or looking for a half dollar, borrowed, but, of course, when he borrowed it, I knew I was never going to get it back, but, one day, we're sitting there, having ... supper, and he opened his mouth, he says, "That nigger," and, of course, at that point, I said, "What do you mean, that nigger?" He said, "Well, they're dirty ... and they're dumb," and ... I reflected, and I said, "You know something I don't understand?" I said, "People down South," I said, "they can be as poor as hell, but, ... what do you hire a black person for? To cook for you, to wash and iron your clothes, to take care of your kids." I said, "You don't have any money ... to pay somebody to cut your lawn, but, when you cut your lawn, that's demeaning yourself, because a white person is not supposed to do menial tasks. You hire a black person," and I said, "I don't understand this whole concept." I said, "You know, if I was a black person and I was cooking for you," I said, "How do you know they don't spit in your food?" I said, "Or, when they're doing your wash, that they don't pee in the wash, you know?" and it opened up to them ... a whole concept that they had never thought of, because inbred in them was the fact that the black person was a sub-creature. I had another experience with this gal. I'm going to town with her, not on a camp bus, but, on a private bus, and, in those days, there was a rule that the white people sat up front and the black people sat in the back. There was no line per se, but, as the white people got on, the black people had to get up and stand. I mean, in some cases, they had to get off, and I get on with my girlfriend, and, ... when I lived up here, being far sighted, I liked to sit in the back of the bus, because I can see things better. So, I proceed to go to the back of the bus. Well, I not only had white people ticked off at me, I had black people ticked off at me, because I didn't belong back there. I had white people mad at me because I didn't belong back there, and the bus driver stopped the bus, and he said, ... "Let's sort this out," and my girlfriend said to me, "Look, don't make a case. He'll get you. He'll put you off the bus."
All these things affected me in ... how I conditioned my mind, ... that you don't judge people, per se, by a grouping. You judge them by how you treat them and how they treat you, okay? ... I'm making it for the purpose of the learning experience. I really feel, and I'm going to jump now, ... that that concept of that period of time, probably, we're losing today, because I think things today are as bad, or worse, than they were back in those days.
We've got problems ... between a lot of ethnic groups, not only in this country, but in the world, and I think it's a lack of understanding and it's a lack of education. ... Go back to the service, when you first went in, you ... were tested, and, as I say, you remember, there were fellows that didn't have much education. ... We had special education, basic English, reading and writing. We had physical things, like, if ... people had hernias, they got them fixed, people had teeth bad, they got fixed. ... You were tested to see where you might fit, and, of course, there's always the argument about, if you were a truck driver, you ended up with a wheelbarrow. If you were something else, you ended up with something else, but, I think there was an attempt made to mix people, to try to fit people into whatever categories you are, and, prior to the war, there was the CCCs, Civilian Conservation Corps.
... In my neighborhood, there was a big Italian family a couple of houses away from me, and a couple of their boys, who probably would have gotten into trouble, they were from a big family, ... ended up in the CCCs, and they were paid, I guess, twenty-one dollars a month, of which they only got five dollars. The rest was sent home to the families. So, there was an assist to the families and there was an assist to those boys, in that ... they learned ... the sanitary things, ... how to be people, you know, the basic things they could cope with, and they ended up, a lot of these fellows, when the war came, ... as non-coms in the service, and it was a good source.
My feeling, and the politicians, you get me on politicians, that's another thing, but, politicians don't want to handle this, because they don't think they can sell the United States on the concept, ... and I feel strong about this, ... that, really, all the money we're spending on welfare, on crime, on education could be ... channeled a lot differently, in that every kid, black, white, red, green, whatever, whatever their ethnic background, would know that he's got to put in time, government service. I'm not talking military, but government service, where you are tested, you then have an option of, "Hey, if I want to serve in the military, how could I serve in it? If I want to serve in a CCC type thing, or if I want to do Public Health, or if I want to work on cleaning streams, or what have you," but, with the thought that, "I'm going to get something for this, that when I'm done with this, I can go on to either trade school, or to college, or what have you."
What I think it buys you is, I don't know what your background is or where you came from, but, there are a lot of people that you've never met. There are a lot of things that you're listening to me and saying, ... "Hey, this is an old guy frothing off at the mouth," that there are people that you probably would meet if you went into a government type thing that you would never meet. Now, if, ... for the sake of argument, you come from a city where your parents came from, ... say, Spain, or from South America, or somewhere, you may not meet people that are ... from the upper structure, or the kids in the upper structure are not meeting the kids in the lower structure.
When you're thrown together, it's an experience. ... A lot of people say, "Why should I waste a year, year-and-a-half, of my life in a government service?" It's not a waste. You take most guys that managed to survive the war without being hurt, I think, if you asked them, would consider that a great learning experience, okay. It's hard for a young person to conceive this, but, again, ... I'm giving the latitude that, "Hey, if you're really hung up, that you don't want to be in the military, there are other options," and this country could use it. Hey, right now, there are so many things that this country needs that we are unable to furnish, because it's expensive or we don't have the manpower, okay.
I'm off my ... soapbox. I really feel that that experience, ... and you being ... a history prof, is that, if you don't learn about what's happened, you're going to relive it again at some point. If you're not aware of things that happened, I forget, ... there's a two sentence or one sentence phrase. ... If you don't understand something that's happened in the past, it's going ... to repeat itself at some point, and this is why we have wars, this is why ... we have bloodshed, you know, ... one group picking on another, because we don't have understanding.
Now, my wife, just recently, ... and these are ... the kind of experiences that you expose yourself to, about a year ago, there was an accident on my street, and around on one of the side streets, there are some people living there who are from the Middle East, and the street was closed off, and we said, "Hey, these cars, instead of sitting down the street, put them in my driveway. I've got a big driveway," and the lady was so happy that we offered her the ability for her to park her car and walk home with her kids, she came back ... with her ethnic cookies and stuff, cakes, and she left her name and address for ... my wife to go over and meet her. Well, my wife procrastinated, and procrastinated, and procrastinated, because she's awed by the fact that this woman's husband is a doctor. He's a surgeon.
Well, I bugged her enough where, about a week ago, she called the lady, and she said, "Look, I've been meaning to call, but, I've put it on the back burner." So, she went over to see this woman from Palestine. She's been here fourteen years, and her kids, ... she's got a fourteen-year-old and she's got a couple younger, they go to school there in Watchung, and they have Jewish kids that they're pals with, that come home or they go to their homes, and she says, "You know, ... if I were living back in Palestine," she says, "this wouldn't happen." She says, ... "We hate each other, ... but, in America, my children now know about Jewish kids and the Jewish kids know about them. We're friends," and that's the great part of America, is the fact that we've got this ... ability of people that are somewhere else, that don't like each other, kill each other, they come here and are able to survive. ... Maybe it's not a perfect society, but, ... as my Hungarian friends, who came over in '56, ... say, "Hey, it's not perfect over here, but, it's heaven." In their mind, ... this is heaven, regardless of how much they've got to pay in taxes and how hard they gotta work, this is heaven, because they go back once a year to Hungary, because their families are there, and they say, "Hey, it's not peaches and cream over there, okay."
So, I told my dad I was coming home. ... October 6, 1943, was my day to get out and I remember my last meal in the service. I was in the casual outfit and the cook that day made veal cutlet, deep-fried, you know, breaded veal cutlet, French fries, and salad. So, man, I pigged out on it, 'cause I love veal cutlet. So, I had veal cutlet, and then, I got on the train, and came home, and my dad met me at Plainfield. Well, number one, again, by this time, I'm starting to find out ... that you can con a little bit. I got the train into Washington, and you had to change ... in Washington, and I got on the Baltimore and Ohio train, which was a plush, plush line, and I went into the club car, and I sat down, and the conductor came along, ... he says, "You know, ... you're not supposed to be in here, ... not with your ticket." I says, "Well, I didn't know any better." He says, "Well, I'll tell you what, ... you stay here, the seat's not filled. ... You can sit there unless someone comes along that needs that seat."
So, I took the train, Baltimore and Ohio, into Philadelphia and the station in Philadelphia ... was a different station than the Reading. I took the Reading Line, which came into Plainfield, and I took ... the plush Reading Line in, and came into Plainfield, and I got in there about noontime. My dad was waiting for me, and my dad said to me, ... "What are you going to do?" Of course, the first words, "What are you going to do now that you're home?" I said, "Well, dad, I don't really know what I want to do." He says, "Well, we'd better sit down and talk," and, of course, my dad was working ... in a plant that was ... making the motors for the Mack Trucks, and, with all the overtime, ... he was making over a hundred dollars a week, which was, again, you'd say, "One hundred dollars?" one hundred dollars a week, in 1943, was a fortune, okay? You busted your behind, but, it was a lot of money.
... Finally, I said to my father, ... "You know, I want to go work in a factory and make that one hundred dollars a week." My father said, "You know, ... if you go to work in a factory for that one hundred dollars a week, ... that's all you'll ever do with the rest of your life." ... I says to him, "Well, what do you think I ought to do?" He says, "Well, you could go back to the University of Newark and continue." I said, "I don't want to be an accountant." I said, "I was tested in the military. ... I had the qualification to go to OCS. They tested us for ASTP. I qualified for ASTP." I said, "They were probably going to send me for Engineering." He said, "Well, you're good with numbers. You're good with that." He says, "Why don't you go study Engineering?" I said, "I don't even know where to go." He said, "Go over to Rutgers."
So, I left on the 6th. I got home on the 7th. I think I went over to Rutgers on the 8th or the 9th, I forget, well, 8th or 9th, makes no difference, and I come, and, man, they welcomed me with open arms. They said, "Yeah, you can start tomorrow." I says, "I just came home. ... I don't want to start." Apparently, they had started that term. The term had started already, and so, well, I took a day off. So, I don't know, it was either October 10th or October 11th, I started at Rutgers in Engineering.
KP: What year was this?
JG: 1943. So, of course, that was the time when they were cleaning out this place of students and you had the Army guys here. So, when ... I came here for the interview, they laid out the program. "You're going to go ten terms. These are the courses. These are the credits. If you take them all, you're going to graduate." So, I made a lot of friends here while I was here. Plus, as I told you before, I worked. ... Well, actually, I commuted. I commuted for the first two or three terms. Then, I met some guys that were going out for football and I said, "You know, if I go out for football, I could live on campus," you know? So, I went out for football and I got hurt. I hit the dummy, of course. ... I'm not athletic. During high school, we played a lot of sand lot football, and, of course, they were so desperate for manpower, anybody that walked on ... could play, and I hit ... the thing, and I split my chin open, and that was the end of it. They never asked me, "Are you coming back?" or anything, but, by that time, I'm living on campus.
... Of course, now, I'm living on campus and I didn't want to mooch off my mother and father, because they were both working hard. That's the other thing you learn as you're coming through life with parents, is that you don't want to mooch off them, and so, the fellow that lived next door to me in Winants, he was working in the cafeteria, and I said, "Hey, how do I get a job down there?" He says, "Well, they got a big line, you know, a waiting list," because that was a big deal. "They got a big waiting list, ... but," he says, "I'll talk to Min." ... She was the Irish lady that was in charge of the manpower. He says, "I'll talk to her." So, he talked to her and Min ... says, "Have him come down and have me meet him." You know, they've got a big waiting list. I went down. She hired me. We were bus boys, but, when you're done, when they're closing, you ended up where you worked mopping, and what have you, and we ended up where, if you had cake that was left over, there was always the cake that was left over, that was left out for you. If there was other things that ... couldn't get put away, it was left out for you. We had a high school kid that worked with us that knew how to slip the top on the ice cream case. So, every night, we'd have an ice cream sandwich, you know, 'cause ... you had a bar across ... with the padlocks. He knew how ... to slip it. So, we had ice cream, and it was a good deal, but, again, ... you learned, hey, if you know somebody, or somebody knows you, that this opens doors, and I'm not necessarily saying that's a good concept, but, it exists, okay. I worked there, and, of course, being a hog, I found out, ... in the Engineering Department, in the labs, they needed some guys to chip paint and take care of stuff in the lab. So, I worked there and that was ... pretty much on the honor system. You made out your slip and ... we kept honest on that thing, because you didn't want to jeopardize that, to loose it, you know.
... We came to 1944, the later part of '44, the early part of '45, when the war was winding down, and a lot of guys were starting to come back to school, and a new lady that was running the cafeteria, she figures, "Hey, these guys are getting a good deal. I don't have to pay as much." She changes the ground rules and the money, and, at that point, I said, "I'm not going to work here anymore. You're changing the ground rules. I quit." So, that last semester, I can remember eating, I didn't let my parents know, but, I probably ate one meal or two meals a day, just so ... that I wouldn't mooch off my father and mother.
What sustained me was that, I think in '44, the government passed the GI Bill. I was on a State Scholarship. That's another story, how I got on state scholarship. I came here, and I think I paid for my first three terms, and I found out there were guys that I knew, that probably didn't have as much on the ball as I had, that were ... getting State Scholarships, and I said, you know, "What are ... your scores, in grades, and what have you?" and they said something. ... I said, "Gee, I got as good as that," you know. So, I go down to Dean, I think it was Dean Mirgain. No, it wasn't Mirgain, Dean ...
JG: Metzger, Dean Metzger. Mirgain was in the Engineering Department. I went down to Metzger, after I made an appointment to go see him, and I said, real straight, ... "You know, ... I'm going to school with fellows, ... I'm paying for myself, I'm using up my money, ... my grades, I think, are as good or better than fellows that have State Scholarships." I says, "Is there anything that Rutgers can do for me?" He says, "Yeah." He pulls out my transcript. He says, "Yeah, ... maybe we can get you a State Scholarship, 500 bucks," which paid for everything, believe it or not, in those days, 500 bucks. ... He says, "But, I'll have to ... check it out. I'll let you know."
Well, within two weeks, I was told, "You have a State Scholarship, 500 bucks," beautiful. Now, I don't have to worry about that, "How am I going to eat and pay for my ... room?" you know, and that's, you know, when I got the job, working, and ... that sustained me in that last part, but, then, I'm getting down to around the latter part of February, later part of March, we changed. ... We'd gone nine terms, and then, we switched over to semesters. The tenth term was actually a semester, which is longer. So, I don't hear anything about graduating. I haven't dropped a course, and I says, "Boy, something's wrong," and I waltzed over to my class advisor, and I said, "You know, I'm just curious, I haven't heard, am I going to graduate?" He pulls out my transcript. "No, you're not going to graduate. You're short twelve credit hours."
I says, "Oh?" I says, "I don't understand that. ... My contract with Rutgers, when I came here," quote-unquote, "contract," "was, 'I'm going to go ten terms. Don't drop any courses, you're going to graduate,'" and I said, "I've gone nine terms. I'm in the tenth one, which is now a semester." He said, "Well, we have a formula for converting those term credit hours to semester credit hours," and he says, "You come up twelve short," and I look at him, and I said, "You know, ... I got a GI scholarship. ... You know, I can stay here another semester, but, I'm going to take "bullshit" courses. I'm going to end up taking somebody's place in the dorm. I'm going to take somebody's ... seat in the classroom. ... I'm not going to exert myself. I'm going to have a good time." He looks at me and he says, "You're for real?" I said, "Yeah." I said, "What is your conversion factor?" A term was twelve weeks with a week off. A semester was, I think, sixteen weeks with two weeks off, I think, or something like that. ... The factors that they used, ... instead of the credit hours being affected by three-quarters, were affected by two-thirds, okay, and that's where you came up short the twelve credit hours, and I said, "You know, ... I don't think this is fair. ... I think I've met my part of the bargain in when we started," and he says, you know, finally, ... the light lit, ... "You know, ... I think you've got a good argument," but, he said, "I can't make the decision. I'm going to have to go to Mirgain," who, I think, was the ... head of the Credits Committee, and he says, "But, I will recommend that you graduate, but, you won't hear until they have a meeting."
Well, by this time, we're coming down to May, and, finally, I get the notice, "Yes, you are going to graduate." Now, here, I'm ... in May. I'm going to graduate, I guess, in June. ...
---------------------------------------END OF SIDE TWO, TAPE ONE----------------------------------
KP: ... This continues an interview with Mr. John A. Gausz on April 25, 1997, at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, with Kurt Piehler and ...
JB: John B.
KP: You were saying that you were in a class of about seventy.
JG: I think there were about seventy-six of us.
KP: You did not know anyone.
JG: I hardly knew anybody, ... and I mention this for a reason, because ... this has, I think, to a degree, affected my feelings with the alumni and with my class in particular, okay, but, I did ... graduate in the class that I started with, ... and, again, when I started, because they were on terms, it was Class of '47-A, Class of '47-B, and I was Class of '47-B, but, I graduated in '46. So, my affinity for anybody was that class I started with, except that those guys are probably not Class of '47. They're going to be the Class of '49, '50, '51. So, because of the war, there's a jumble of those classes, so that you don't really have a feeling for them, ... as you would if you stayed with a class like I did with my high school class. My high school class I have a feeling for, which I can allude to later on, but, I did graduate, and, to me, it was a blur. I remember being over by the Gym. I remember marching up into the Gym, but, if I had to describe what went on, and what have you, it was a complete blur, okay, but, I found myself out, no job, but, again, if you remember, my mother was working, doing housework, and what have you. She worked for a family where the man was working for Western Electric, and ... he was a supervisor, and my mother must have said, you know, that I didn't have a job, I was looking for a job, and he said, "Well, I can set up an interview at the Western Electric."
This was at a period of time when the telephone system was exploding, where they were going to do television, you know, transmitting television and all that stuff, and so, he had me come down to be interviewed at Western Electric, in Kearny I guess it was, and I went down. The fellow that interviewed me, ... I was negative in my feeling of how this guy interviewed me, okay, and he offered me forty-five dollars a week to start, but, I came home, and ... my mother said, "Are you going to take the job?" I said, "No, ... I don't think they're paying enough. ... I didn't like the guy's attitude." I says, "I don't know if that's the job I want." So, my mother went back to work for this family, I guess later in the week, or the next week, and the man called me, and he said, "What was the problem?" and I said, "Well, I wasn't too happy with the attitude of the fellow that interviewed me, and ... he offered me forty-five dollars a week, and it was ... flip." So, he said, "Well, would you come back for another interview?" I said, "All right." I got nothing to loose. I go back. You know, I want to pacify my mother and my father, you know.
So, I went back for the interview and the guy, he's entirely different. Somebody must have talked to him. This time, we shake hands and he welcomed me. I'm his buddy, you know, and then, he says to me, ... "By the way, ... what did I offer you for starting pay?" and, of course, I could have been sarcastic at that point. I said, "You know damn well what you offered me," but, he said, "What did I offer you?" I said, "Forty-five dollars a week." He said, "Oh, I made a mistake. It's forty-six dollars a week." [laughter] So, I said, "I'll let you know."
I went home and ... I think I figured that any port in the storm was good. So, I took the job at forty-six dollars a week. I went to work in what was called an equipment engineering job, where we, basically, took forms that they had, and you filled them out, and you worked on setting up ... what somebody required. ... You never met the person. You never got out to do the job, but, you specified. You wrote the job up a specification where someone ordered material, and what have you, told them how to do it, and what have you, and I got into that kind of work, and then, ... as we got going in the work, ... there's certain phases of that work. ... What they did is, they broke it down into the different parts of a project, and, after a while, I ended up with probably one of the most complex parts of it, which was ... a piece of equipment which was unique to the telephone office, okay. It wasn't the repetitive type of thing that you had from one office to the other.
Well, I worked ... in that for a while, and, in Western Electric, it was strange. After a while, you got a feeling, ... you would work overtime, and that when the overtime ended, you knew that there was going to be some repercussions of moving people or laying off people. ... I was aware of that, and ... I had a friend that was working over in another location, and that was at the time when they had the crash program for the Rose Bowl being shown on TV throughout the whole country. So, we went on a crash program of writing up all the specifications for the towers, the antennae and all the stuff in the towers, and we worked ... seven days a week, three nights a week, overtime, made lots of money, but, you went home, and you went to sleep. All you did was eat and sleep. When that project was over, you knew your job was up, and I became aware of another job that was looming in another location, and I asked for permission to call the person over there, and he said, ... "I'm looking for people," and, of course, they were going to lay us off. ... I mean, this is what you learn, how to improvise for yourself, the streets smarts, which I'm saying that you learn as you go along, by the conditions that, if you don't take the opportunities, you lose out. So, this opportunity was there. I had permission to go over. I walked over to the guy. The guy says, "As soon as you get released, I'll hire you." So, now, I'm working ... in something else over there. I forget what it was.
Well, anyway, ... I put in six years with this company and I was getting good reviews, except that when it came time to get the money, they said, "Well, you're not ... meeting the units." Every job was classified as units, how many hours you spent, and, of course, because I was being used for a piece of equipment, like ... this being a rack with ... equipment in there, I would straighten out something that's screwed up before I would put mine in. If I had had any sense, I would have ... just thrown the stuff in like everybody else did, but, then, the guy that was installing would be calling up all the time and saying, "Hey, this doesn't match what's there." My feeling was, "Hey, I want to straighten it out before I did my piece of work," but, I wasn't meeting the units. I was doing them a favor by doing the job right, but, I was being jeopardized, because, when it came time, ... these guys that were doing the job that were repetitive from office, to office, to office, they could knock off these units. You could do them ... like rolling off a log.
I mentioned this to the guy that was reviewing me. He says, "Well, you know." They were very rigidly structured. Everything was books, called standards. Every time you turned around, if you had to go to the bathroom, the books told you when you went to the bathroom. That's how ... they were regulated and this particular day, I guess I was in a mood, I said, "You know, I'm really not happy with ... being treated this way." I said, "You know, I'm doing you a favor, and you're picking me out, because I'm more qualified than somebody else to do that job, and, yet, you're not recognizing that and considering it."
Well, meanwhile, I had met my wife, who was working at Esso Standard Oil, which is now Exxon, in the oil refinery in Bayonne, and her father was, I guess, the head accountant ... in the refinery, and I said, "You know, I'm thinking of packing in my job in Western Electric, ... but, I need another job." So, I went over for an interview. "I'm an engineer." They hired me in Maintenance Engineers, real dirty job, but, I worked there four years, probably under the most piggish conditions you'd ever want to work under.
When you start to talk environment, the environment back in that particular part of life in America, companies ... didn't care what they did. ... We worked in an area of acids, where the acids dripped on you, and you had people that worked in the Paraffin Plant where they got skin cancer. ... We had oil in the lagoon. All the oil would drain and go into the lagoon. We were cited all the time, because ... whenever you had a heavy rain, the water would go out of our lagoon, ... over the dam that you had, and go into the bay. I can remember, before I left ... Standard Oil, that we had enough oil in the ground that we had pumps with probes in the ground and we pumped enough ... oil out of the ground to reprocess, that it paid for us to do that.
... In fact, I recounted this last night to somebody, one of the guys who was in the Maintenance Engineers with me had a pair ... of Army pants on, you know, chinos, and a chino shirt, brand new, and he went through this area where the pipes were overhead, and the pipe let go, and he got sulfuric acid on him, and we all had short haircuts, like mineis, 'cause we took showers four or five times a day, because we always had crap on us. Well, he took off his clothes, it was near the end of the day, ... hung them up in the locker, put on his clothes to go home. The next morning, when he came back, he opened his locker to put on that chino clothes, they were all in flakes down at the bottom ... of the locker. The acid had disintegrated all the fibers. ... I said to myself, "You know, ... there's guys worked thirty, thirty-five years ... there."
Now, the other thing that I hit in the refinery was, prior to having engineers in the refinery, they were very heavily crafted, where you had carpenters, boiler makers, and what have you, and they did stuff without engineering. It was, if a pipe needed fixing, go out, and dig it up, and fix it, and we were looked down as ... "Johnny-Come-Lately," as engineers. You know, we're a class. What do we know? "You know, we've been here thirty years." ... So, you had to contend with this in your dealing with people. This is another part of dealing with people, is how to motivate them, ... how to go around their feelings of what they had for you.
I had a fear of height, I still do, and I used to have to ... go up the ladders, on top of the tanks, and there were some days that I couldn't do it, and there were other days that I could. Somewhere during that experience, ... Esso had a facility out in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and, all of a sudden, they needed some engineers out there, and this is ... during the period of Thanksgiving and Christmas. I was told on, like, today, that, "Tomorrow, you've got to go to Harrisburg for an interview." I said, "For what?" He says, "Well, they're looking for engineers out there. Go out for the interview." I said, "I don't really want to transfer." My wife had two little kids, expecting the third, and I didn't want to uproot where I was ... to go out to Harrisburg. They said, "Go out for the interview."
So, I go out for the interview, and I had to drive out, and, in those days, ... there was no roads like we have today. A drive to Harrisburg ... was a project. So, I drove out, and got out there, and they're not ready for me. I said, "I was sent out. I was told to report here at nine in the morning." Well, probably by around eleven o'clock, they rounded everybody together that was going to interview me, and it was about six people that interviewed me, ... which, to me, was strange. That's the first time in my life that I got interviewed by a group ... and, somehow, I had the gut feeling that there's something wrong here.
So, I'm asking questions. "What does this job involve?" and they said, "Well, we need somebody to go out in the field with the construction crews that are putting in pipe lines, or replacing pipe lines," and I said, "Oh, ... am I going to get to go home every night?" "Oh, no. You're out in the field." I said, "What am I going to live in?" "You're going to live in a tent, like everybody else lives," and I said, "Do I get to go home weekends?" "Well, not when we're working out there. You're not going to get to go home weekends." So, then, I said, "Well, how much of my time am I going to be away from Harrisburg?" ... They all looked at each other, and they looked at the guy that was in charge of the group that they were interviewing for, and he said, "Oh, about forty-five percent of your time."
... Well, ... you know, this was after a hesitation on his part. "I figure, you're talking forty-five percent, it's going to be a lot more than that," ... and then, we were talking about conditions, and I said, "Is this considered a promotion?" "Oh, no. You're not going to get anything more than what you're getting where you're working in Bayonne," and I said, "You know, ... in my mind, ... I don't really think that there's any incentive for me to come out here. I can't conceive of anything that's going to be good for me. It may be good for you. I don't know why all of a sudden ... you need somebody," but, I said, "I'm not too ... enthralled about wanting to come out."
So, I went back. The next morning, I go to work. My boss, who is an alumnus of Rutgers, Al Brady, I don't know if you know him ...
KP: Oh, yes.
JG: Al Brady was my boss. ... Neither one of us had a chance to compare notes, and Al went out the next day, and he's interviewed. Well, when he came back, ... I says, "Well, what did you find out?" I said, "I wasn't too enthralled," and Al said, "You know, ... they had five guys working in the Engineering Department. ... Bulova Watch opened a factory outside of Harrisburg and three out of the five quit to go to work for Bulova." So, that said that these guys were over the barrel, but, they didn't ... want to give anything. So, the assistant super of the refinery came to me and he said, "Well, what did you think of the job?" I says, "Well, ... I don't see anything for me to want to go out." I says, "My wife is expecting a couple of kids, or having two kids and expecting the third." I said, "I'm not going to take her to a strange city where they admit to ... my being away from home forty-five percent of the time. I do not want to put my family through that. ... I have no assurance how that's going to work and I understand that three of the five guys quit."
So, we put that away, and, of course, I had hurt my knee about the time. It turned out, I tore a cartilage in my knee, and, around February, I opted to go and get it taken care of. I went and got it operated on. I was off a month and I went back to work. Of course, I could tell by the way they were treating me that something was coming up. You know, ... in those days, if you turned down a company, in fact, some of it's today, ... you better start looking around, so, that was why I got the knee fixed.
So, the head guy from the refinery came to see me and he said, "You know, John, ... your job comes before your family and your health," a statement just like that. "Your job comes before your family and your health," and I looked at him, and I said, "Doctor Cogan, ... you may believe that." He was from the South. That was about the time when they were bringing up the supposedly successful executives from the Southern refineries, which were newer, and bringing them up to straighten out the Northern refineries, which were old places, and I said, "You may believe that, sir." He said, "Well, I'm sorry you feel the way you do." I said, "You know what? If it wasn't for my family and if it wasn't for my health, this whole package wouldn't be worth diddly shit." He said, "Well, that's too bad. ... I think you ought to resign."
Well, I already had my letter written and I already had a job lined up at RCA, 'cause this friend that I met here at Rutgers was a supervisor ... at RCA up in Harrison, and he said, "We're looking for people." So, I went from one rock in the stream to the next rock. I went to work for RCA. I worked for RCA for ... up in Harrison for fourteen years, but, I saw the evolution of the semi-conductors coming in, and the radio tubes going out, and my feelings for the Japanese were upbraided, at that point, by the fact that RCA licensed the Japanese to make vacuum tubes, and we were exposed to these Japanese engineers coming in, with their little pads, not big pads, little pads, and, "Ah-so, ah-so, how this work? Ah-so." Fifteen minutes, they ask you the same questions, so they would justify, in their mind, that you're not lying to them, and we know we're giving the store away, because it wasn't too long after that when they're making vacuum tubes, and we're saying, "Hey, how come the Japanese can make them for X number of pennies and you're not able to make them for that?" and, eventually, that production declined.
Well, I got to a point where, after fourteen years, I got laid off, and, of course, by that time, my friend that I befriended here, he's working in the semi-conductor division in Somerville, and they're looking for engineers like crazy. So, I mentioned to the public relations outfit, not public relations, whatever you call it, the human relations, I said, "You know, you've got jobs open in Somerville." "We don't know about them. They're not asking." So, needless to say, I got laid off, goes through the whole ten yards of getting laid off. So, now, once I got laid off, my friend says, "Come in for an interview in Somerville." I got hired as a brand new employee, for less money, in other words. That was the deal. They wanted me to come on for, maybe, about a thousand dollars a year less. They hired me. Right after they hired me, they bridged my service. All my benefits that I had in the Tube Division is now transferred. ... I'm a new employee, but, they're bridging my service. So, I worked there for a year, and the Semi-Conductor Division was going through lay offs, and, this one particular day, they went through the layoffs, and I was retained, and one of the guys that had been in the Semi-Conductor Division, ... a real hot shot, he said to his supervisor, "How come you held on ... to a guy from the Tube Division that just came in?" He said, ... "If you don't change that, ... I'm going to quit." So, at that point, I went on the list to get laid off.
At that point, I was disenchanted with big companies. I said, "You know, I'm going to look for a small company. I want to try one on for size, a small company." Well, I applied for every job that was conceivable in the engineering field, and I was called in for an interview at a place called Bound Brook Bearing in Middlesex, and I thought ... the refinery in Bayonne was dirty, but, that factory was even dirtier. It was a company that was owned by a man who milked it for everything he could milk it for, and, again, I took a cut in pay, but, I figured, "Hey, ... it's bread on the table. I'll take the job and see how I go," because every time ... I started a job, I did well, you know, in progression.
So, I went to work for this company, and I was working as an assistant to one of the vice-presidents, and I found out, later, that every other guy that had been in that job was never let out of the office. This man was a self-made man that didn't have any college, but, had learned everything in business, and he didn't trust anybody else to do something. He had to do everything himself. So, apparently, he and I got along okay, and, finally, he said, "You know, it's time for us to go on a trip." We had salespeople, and this was what was called an "Applications Engineering," but, it was also quality, as it was a small company.
I was let out into the factory. ... Of course, I had the frustration of working for people who had a bad feeling. ... I'm on the end now where I'm being prejudiced against. I'm an engineer, you know. "Where do you get off knowing what's going on?" So, I had occasion to go out on a trip ... with my boss, and, apparently, I must have done well, because, then, he said, "You're going out on your own," which everybody thought was unheard of, because he hadn't let anybody else go.
So, I traveled up and down the East Coast, working with salespeople, did very well, but, they had built a factory, ... a modern factory, out in Auburn, Pennsylvania, and they were going to close this factory in Bound Brook Bearing, and I was offered a job out in Auburn, Pennsylvania. By that time, I think we had, in '72, ... five kids, and ... I didn't feel comfortable with the company, because I could feel the vibes. They were taken over by an English outfit, and I became aware of the fact that, whenever there's a takeover, you lose a certain amount of humanity, or feeling for the people that are working, and I came home, and I said to my wife, ... "You know, I don't feel that we want to move out to Auburn, Pennsylvania," because I think it was this company and another company, and you're out in the boonies. This is like up Route 61, out of Reading, ... up into the coal mine country, and ... they had me go out, and I said, "No way ... do I want to move out there." So, I was asked, ... "Why don't you want to go?" I said, "I don't think you're going to make it. I think you guys are going to go under." They shook their heads, you know. "Where does this guy get off saying we're going to go under?"
So, they asked me, "As long as we're closing down the plant, would you stay on, on a consulting basis, at fifteen bucks an hour?" I kept my own time, you know, travel time from home to the plant and the whole ten yards. I think it took me ... close to a year to close 'em down, but, by that time, I'm saying, "Now, ... what do I do for a job? I'm getting good bucks in at fifteen bucks an hour working." ... I was in the fire company. I'd been in the fire company in town, and a lot of people in town, like the police chief was ... part of it, the mayor was part of it, and one of the older fellows said, "Would you want to be the tax assessor in Watchung?" "What do I have to do?" "Well, go talk to Ralph Barrett, he's the assessor. ... He's been the police chief. He wants to quit," but, this is when they still had to be elected, and they wanted somebody who was Republican, that would go along with the ticket. So, I went to Ralph Barrett and he said, "Well, I think you gotta ... go get the certifications. ... You better find out how to get that." He says, "You gotta go to school to learn what's going on," and, of course, I'm fighting time constraints. So, I said to him, "Where are the books that you work with? Give me those books." I started a course here at Rutgers, the first course in administration. I found out they were giving the test in March, and so, I took the books, and I boned up on them, and what have you, and the guy that was giving the course was an assessor from up in Clifton. He says, "No way you're going to pass the test," and there was another guy with me ... whose brother was working for the State in the Division of Taxation, and he was a college graduate, too, and he opted to take the test, and we're like, maybe, in this first course, maybe the first few sessions, and ... we took the test, and both of us passed, and the prof said to us, "I can't believe how you guys passed the test."
Well, I found out that the division had run some surveys as to who was ... passing the test and who wasn't, and, invariably, people that were college graduates, people that were engineers, or accountants, or what have you, could understand the things that came out of the book, and I was always good in passing tests. So, at that time, I ran for office and I won. I was unopposed and I became assessor in Watchung, very, very low pay, God, I think about 5,500 dollars a year, and, by that time, my mother had come to live with us. She was living down in Scotch Plains. She had come to live with us and I said to my wife, "You better go to work, if we want to eat."
So, she went to work ... with a company that was about a mile down the street from us, and she put in twenty-two years there, but then I was asked if I wanted ... to take another town. There were two towns together, and I worked the two towns, and then, I met a fellow who was the assessor in Bridgewater, and he wanted an assistant, and it was a lot more money than I was getting from being an assessor in two towns, so, I went to work for him, and that was 1975, and I worked for Bridgewater 'til ten years ago, which was ... '87, and, two years before I left Bridgewater, I went back into an ... Engineering Department. I had eight ... construction inspectors, which is like a barrel of monkeys. ... I had one guy that was, I would say, functionally illiterate and was supposed to write reports, but, I worked the last two years, and I befriended a fellow that was the head of the Survey Department, and he's about my age, been in the war, and the two of us decided, "Hey, let's get out here and retire," and I retired ten years ago, but, I've been working, part time, for a number of towns, doing fieldwork for the assessors, helping them with their problems.
The reason I got involved in that is that, while I was the assistant assessor in Bridgewater, I started to teach here at Rutgers, as an adjunct instructor, teaching people that wanted to be clerks in ... the assessor's office, people that wanted to take the state test for certification. By that time, the County Tax Board had a requirement that they had to take the courses. ... They didn't have to be certified, but, they would have to take the courses, and that was an experience, when I'm taking fellows who are political appointees, who now are told that they've got to take courses, and ... they're the supervisor, supposedly, of the assessors. ... They're the first step of appeal, and Ray Bodner, Ray got a hold of me at one of Rutgers conferences, he said, "I've got ... some County Tax Board people that have to have their course under their belt by the 1st of July to keep their jobs." So, I had six guys, political appointees. One guy was a hack from up in Warren County. Their big fear was that I would fail them, that, as an assessor, I would fail them. ... The first thing I had to do, I said, "Look, ... I am not that kind of a guy." I said, "It's not going to be peaches and cream. I'm not going to pass you just for the sake of passing you." I says, "You've got to try. ... I've got to have a feeling that you're going to work. ... If you try and answer questions in class, and what have you, you'll pass," and that was an experience I learned from here at Rutgers.
As an engineer, I took a course in, ... I'm saying economics, but, I should be saying something else. I took what I would call a bullshit course. I had to take it, and it required a lot of reading, but, I remember the instructor saying, at that point, ... "Look, you're an engineer. ... I don't expect you to read as many books as everybody else in the class, but, ... I want you to be attentive in class, and I want you, ... if you're asked questions, to become involved in the class," but, he says, "Being an engineer, ... you're going to be treated differently than somebody else."
... Of course, ... that's in your mind that, "Hey, there comes a circumstance when I got guys who have a fear of the instructor, because, now, they have a requirement to ... take this course, and I had to ... calm their feelings that, 'Hey, these are the books we have to do. ... The law says that you got to expose yourself to the course, but, ... unless you're dogging, I'm not going to flunk you.'" Well, one guy I did flunk. This guy figured he was going to ride, and I flunked him, but, I had the respect of all the other guys, and, of course, every time ... after that, you know, when I had the classes, I made a point of taking these county people aside, and other people. I said, "Look, I understand we have all different ages, we have all different abilities, but, you've got to have the attentiveness ... to perform in the class." So, I had that, ... and then, as I say, I decided to retire.
... A lot of the people I met, that I taught, I have found that, when they needed somebody, they'd say, "How about ... doing this?" So, I have never been at a loss for what I call "part-time work," which is now, as the weather gets good, ... pretty good work. I don't make a lot of money, but, it gets me out, and it keeps me exposed, keeps my mind going, but, I think this will be my last year working. I'll be seventy-three in July. ...
... To go back to way back, early in school, when I was seven years old, I had polio. I am now suffering what I think are effects of that polio, Post-Polio Syndrome. Yesterday, my legs, I could hardly walk, and, today, ... they're not as bad, but, I can feel it. Between that Post-Polio and arthritis, it's impacting upon me. So, you get to a point where you say, "Hey, you have to learn to adjust to things," and you say to yourself, "You're not going to live forever, either."
One of the things I did when I worked for RCA, ... and that's the other part of it, is, at RCA, I did a lot of traveling. I was picked to go out as liaison between the engineering departments and the factories. So, I did a lot of traveling to Cincinnati, Ohio. I did traveling to Indianapolis, where we had a plant. We had a fellow ... that worked in a factory in Woodbridge, our Woodbridge factory, and he was going to Brazil, on a project, and someone asked me, "Would you go work in the factory in Woodbridge, while he's gone?" He was supposed to be gone for three months. Well, it turned out it was five months, and, again, ... I was coming from an engineering department, and I was telling the factory how to do stuff, and, the next thing I know, I'm working as a Manufacturing Engineer in that environment, and what I'm trying to say is, I think one of the things that I can say, from my life, is that a very important part is interfacing with people, and understanding their motivations, and where they're coming from, and I think it has helped me ... in my work outside, the volunteer work. I belonged to the American Legion. ... When we first got married, I joined the American Legion. ... Well, actually, I belonged to the American Legion when I came out of the service, 'cause a lot of my buddies were there.
... That's where I met my wife. My wife was a post president of the auxiliary in Westfield, and I met her, and, of course, I was introduced by one of my buddies from the Community Post 209 in Scotch Plains. The first couple of times, ... she just said, "Forget it, forget it," ... but, we gradually got together, and we got married, but, ... I was the adjutant in the Post ... 209, which is the equivalent of being a secretary, and I was ... post commander. When we moved, we got our house in Watchung, I joined the fire company, and I'm a great believer in not holding a card in an outfit. Whenever I read an obituary and I see a guy that belongs to eighty-eight million outfits, he doesn't do anything.
So, I left ... the American Legion and put in over thirty years in the fire department. I was secretary. I was a captain. Never got to be chief, because of the politics. I'm not a political person, per se. I'm an exempt fireman now. I belong to the Exempt Club. I'm past president of that. I was instrumental, three years ago, in being one of the persons that started an Alumni Association for my high school. I was the first president pro tem and I've had two terms. I'm done now, because we wrote in term limits, and I found that writing ... terms limits into the by-laws is a great thing. After two years, two years plus, you run out of steam. I'll be on the Board of Trustees for three years, where I can work on some pet project. Somebody else'll be president. Outside of that, I love to work around my house, work outside. I do a lot of letter writing. I write letters all over the place. I'm a very accomplished letter writer, again, through having done it. I can sit down and draft a letter for anything, you know.
... One of the projects that I set up for myself when I "retired," quote-unquote, was to start my genealogy and that has been, by itself, a real good experience. As I told you earlier, I've learned a lot of history, a lot of geography. ... My father, who thought he had no relatives, if he was alive today, would be very surprised about what I have found.
I have, in hindsight, been very lucky that I didn't go to Europe to fight, because I had cousins who died fighting against the United States. I have a cousin, who lives in Germany, who was, well, a lot of them were in the Waffen SS, and, as soon as you mention SS, everybody figures, "They're all bastards," but, again, part of what I learned was that the Waffen SS was a lot different than the original SS. There was some ... intertwining of them at times, but, the Waffen SS were mainly ethnic Germans outside of Germany. Germany had ... two kinds of armed forces. It had the Wehrmacht, which swore allegiance to Germany, and you had the Waffen SS, which swore its allegiance to Hitler.
With the manpower needs of Germany, Germany was aware of the fact that there were fifteen million ethnic Germans living outside the German borders, and there was a lot of political persuasion to foment the Germanic backgrounds of these people, and, ... like the town that my grandfather was born in, which is in Yugoslavia, some of these people, because it was administered by Hungary during the war, went into the Hungarian Army, but, because they were considered German and were brainwashed that they were German, opted to either volunteer for the Waffen SS, or, in some cases, were drafted into the Waffen SS. ... A lot of people, and relatives of mine, died fighting in the Waffen SS. They were mainly cannon fodder in Russia.
I have a cousin of mine, ... I don't know how I found him, but, I found him. He was in the Waffen SS. ... 1942, he got sent up to Finland, on the Russian border, and he was there until 1944, ... when the Finns made peace with the Russians, and they had to get out of there, and they had no way to get out of there, except to force march for three months from where they were on the Russian border, up along the Swedish border, up into Lapland, and down into Norway, until they got to a railhead, where they were now able to get on a train, and take the trains down to Oslo, where they got on a steamer to go from Oslo to Denmark, where they got on a train, and got into Germany in the final gasps of the German fight against the Allies.
He was captured by the Americans, made a prisoner of war. By the time ... he was a prisoner, his family, back home in what is now Yugoslavia, or what was Yugoslavia, were already prisoners themselves, because of episodes at the end of the war, but, he ended up a prisoner of war of the Americans, was subsequently, like a lot of other German prisoners of war, turned over to the French, and did slave labor for the French until 1949, when he got to go home, 1949. You know, history says the war was over in May of '45. The war was not over for millions of people until much later. He got to go home, actually, not home, ... he got to go to Germany, because he couldn't go home, because what happened at home was that, when the Russian Army managed to break through in Budapest, and, ... finally, go like crazy, liberated his hometown in November of '44, and turned it over to the Partisans, and the Partisans came in and told all the men between the ages of sixteen and sixty to report to the city hall the next morning, sixteen to sixty.
The men reported. There were over 300 and some men. The Partisans picked, ... first, the intelligentsia, the mayor, the teachers, anybody that had property, then, went and started to look at people's hands, to see if they had calluses. At 212, ... they got bored and they simply said, "Well, we've got enough. The rest of you can go." The 212 men were marched five or seven kilometers, disrobed, ... dig trenches, and were killed, 212, on November 25th, in '44.
... They then told the other people that were living there that they had fifteen or twenty minutes to pack a bag and get out, leave their houses, and formed up, and they were marched off to death camps. Of that town of about 5,300 people, twenty-six percent of them died as a result of the war, ... either in the massacre as a result of some fighting for the Axis, or died in the death camps, and died of various other occasions, or in flight. That's how I've learned a lot about the history of that town, because of the people that survived have documented everything that happened.
I have a book, if we've got time later on, I'll show you, which my wife calls the "death book," which documents all the people that died as a result of the war. They have published, every year, a book the size of the Reader's Digest which indicates all the happenings of what's going on. Again, I have become aware. ... Well, another thing that happened in that town, after they were all done with the marching of the people off to the death camp, ... at Potsdam, the Allies, in their great wisdom, decided there had to be reparations for the Axis in its fight against the Allies.
... Russia, as part of its deal, besides the French getting their piece of the Germans, they took young men, young women, and marched them off, ... not marched them off, but, took them off in railroad cars to Russia, to work in coal mines and allied industries, and out of the people that they took, one out of every four died as a result of that service in Russia. I have some cousins that live ... up near Bear Mountain who survived that ... part of the history. It's very interesting. This is the part of what came about from this project, and it's a never-ending project, because I'm never going to finish it, because it's going to go with me, but, ... I have notebook, after notebook, after notebook filled with information, and I now have people coming to me, looking to see if I can help them with digging out stuff. I'm also aware of the fact, after working on stuff like this, the government, in its ... great wisdom, has a Privacy Act, where, supposedly, ... we think that we have some privacy. I can find most anybody. ... Ten percent of the people in this country, at least, have unlisted numbers. You can locate them, just like I located my commanding officer.
-----------------------------------END OF SIDE ONE, TAPE TWO--------------------------------------
JG: ... I'm involved in a little project on the side now.
KP: You are involved in what project?
JG: Oh, forming the Alumni Association in Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School. This was probably about three years ago. I called the principal and ... he, in turn, said, "You know, we're thinking about it, because we have an outfit from down in Virginia that wants to do a directory of the high school alumni," and, at the same time, he said there were a couple of other classes that showed some interest in doing it, and that's, basically, what we did. ... We got together, and formed an ad hoc committee, picked our officers, and we, this year, are giving our first scholarship, so that we have a certain feeling that we've accomplished some things, but, there's still a lot of things that have to be done, like raising money. Money's the big part of it, but, I feel that, when I go on the ... board after this, you know, come this next September, that I'm going to work on the fundraising, and I'm going to work on membership, which, I think, are very important to the whole thing, and everything else falls into place, but, I often take askance with people my age who say they're bored, they have nothing to do. They sit and watch television all the time. ... I don't look down my nose at television, but, I think that television is an opiate. ... I'm saying there's good stuff on there, there's good stuff on TV, but, I think ... the media has bowed to mediocrity and is throwing a lot of crap on.
Some of the so-called comedy is, ... in my judgment, very inane. So, consequently, I pick and choose what I'm going to watch now. I have some people that ... look at me with a little question as to my tastes. Now, I'll sit tonight and watch Homicide, from Baltimore, but, in my mind, I think that's a ... class show. I'll watch NYPD Blue, ... in spite of the fact that it's got all the disclaimers and everything, but, ... I think it's a great show. I like Law and Order. I have a neighbor of mine, ... we've given up talking to each other, because he says, "You like war movies and you like cop shows," but, again, I consider these history, you know, history and things that happened, but, I'm trying to think outside of that.
... I want to go back to one thing ... in the military. While I went to the "john," I thought of it. I think one thing that may have affected their consideration of me was, early on, when you take your shots in the service, you get shots for typhoid, but, for some reason, I had a real allergy to the typhoid boosters. ... I had a typhoid booster this particular day and ... I was out on the parade ground. ... We were doing dry runs with the rifle, you know, how to set up, and aim, and what have you, and ... it was a beautiful day, like today, and I had a field jacket on. I was cold. I was shivering and I finally said to the corporal, ..."You know, I gotta go to sick call." He said, "That was this morning." I said, "I wasn't sick this morning. ... I'm sick now." So, begrudgingly, he allowed me to go. You know, nobody goes with me. I could have dropped dead between ... there and where I had to go to, the infirmary, but, I went to the infirmary, and a fellow took my temperature, and he said, "You've got a fever, ... about a 102 fever," and I said, "What's going to happen?" He says, "Well, we're going to take you to the hospital." I said, "Can I walk there?" "Oh, no, you're sick. You can't walk there. You've gotta wait for the ambulance," and I said, "How long is that going to be?" He says, "Well, the ambulance just left. ... You've gotta wait two hours."
So, I'm sitting there in the chair, and I'm feeling worse, and I said, "How about taking my temperature again?" It's 102-and-a-half, and I said, ... "Are you going to do something or are you going to let me die here?" I said, "I feel crappy as hell."
... Finally, ... when he became convinced, after reading my temperature a couple of times, that it's elevated, he called down, he said, "I've got an emergency. Come down and get this guy." So, I ended up seven days in the hospital and the rule is that you have ... to stay in until your temperature is down to normal for three days. So, four days, I got a fever. ... I was taking sulfa, 'cause sulfa, that's all they had, and, the fifth day, they say, "You gotta get up out of bed." I said, "What for?" They said, "You're going to do KP." I'm in the hospital. I said, "Where, here?" He said, "You're going to carry trays to the other guys that are sick and back and forth."
... I said to the doctor, ..."You know, I don't "cotton" to this doing KP. I want to go back to my outfit." "Oh, no, the rules say three days without temperature." So, the next to the last day, they picked me to go to KP in the ... hospital kitchen, and, by the seventh day, oh, man, I didn't move, I didn't go to the bathroom, no nothing. I'm staying there. I got the covers off, figuring that's going to cool me off, figuring the doctor's going to ... check my temperature, and it was down. Well, the temperature was down and he said, "Now, you can go back." I had to walk from there, over a mile, back to my unit. ... You know, I'm weakened from high fever. I got to walk back. ... I got a ride over, but, I got to walk back.
So, the next time I had a typhoid booster, again, I felt a reaction right away. I said, "Hey, I've got to go to sick call." I went to sick call, temperature, five days that time, same deal. So, I have a suspicion, with that being on my record as being susceptible to the typhoid boosters, ... might have had a bearing in somebody making a judgment, too. So, I just thought I'd throw that in.
I have since found out, in my life, that I do have very severe allergies. I take shots now. I had taken shots, and I had an allergist tell me that you don't have allergies after fifty, and I quit shots, and even with shots, I still have trouble. Tree pollen, and mold spores, and I can't eat clams on the half shell. I used to go to Snuffy's Restaurant in Scotch Plains, have beers and clams on the half shell, and my lips would puff up, and, of course, loving them, I always said, "Oh, it's just a reaction," but, it got worse, and worse, and worse, until I was down at Atlantic City, to a convention, and I went to a restaurant, which is now closing, the Knife and the Fork. My wife was along with us. We went there. The Knife and the Fork was a real excellent restaurant, and I had clams on the half shell there, went out on the boardwalk, and I "flipped everything," and that's worse than being seasick, or airsick, or anything. So, now, I don't even touch them, but, ... I can have them cooked, but, not raw. So, these are the things you learn, listening to your body.
Part of the things that have tempered me in my thinking, too, is, I've been in the hospital ten times, the two times in the military and eight times since, knee operation, ten thousand dollar finger, the works, stupid accidents. So, I've tried, as I get older, I listen to my body to some degree. Of course, I'm stubborn, too. Those are attributes I have, stubbornness, but, I've learned to mellow. I've been told by some people that I'm mellowing as I get older.
All right, that brings you up to today as far as my work, as far as the things I do. My kids, I have five. I don't know whether that was to become part of this. I told you, earlier on, that ... three of the girls went to the University of Delaware. One daughter, the oldest one, she went to Rutgers Law School and became a lawyer. My other daughter that went to the University of Delaware got her Masters in the University of Delaware in health administration. She's got a good job in the health field in Delaware. Her husband, she met him at the University of Delaware. ... He'd graduated in, I guess, Business, first, and then, he went back to the University of Delaware for another degree in Engineering, and that's where they met. The other, my son, as I say, went to what is now Raritan Valley College, and then, went to Rider.
Again, I did with him, the experience I had with my father, and these are ... how things that happened to you tend to have some relationship to something later on. My son, when he was getting out of high school, my son has a problem with one eye, and ... he was not that "swift with studying," because he had that problem, but, when it came time to get out of high school, I said, "Look, ... you're not going to sit on your behind. You're going to do something." I says, "Whether you're going to learn a trade, or whether you're going to go to junior college, or whether you're going to go to college, but, you're going to do something. It's not going to be a state of limbo."
So, ... finally, after thinking about it, he says, "I'm going to go to Somerset County College," figured two things. One, it didn't cost that much. It wouldn't be a waste if it "went down the tubes," and, two, it gave him a chance to find himself. Apparently, he found himself. He got down to where he was going to get his degree, you know, his Associate degree. I said, "What are you going to do?" He says, "I'm going to go on to college, you know, get the four years," and they took all his credits from Somerset College down at Rider, and ... he got his degree in Business, and then, of course, the last daughter.
My wife and I had four kids in five years, and then, we had an eight-year period, and then, we got the surprise. It was Ann and Ann went to Rutgers, here. That's where she met her husband, who graduated, but, ... she has some credit hours to do, but, she's got a mouth like me and the ability to get along with people, so, ... she does pretty well in industry. The reason they're out in Detroit, she got transferred from here out there, and her husband is a paralegal, had worked in New York, and he's got a job out there. The oldest one, who is the lawyer, married a guy who went to Seton Hall Law School. Neither one of them works at being lawyers. I don't know what they work at, okay. So, I sort of pushed that out of my mind. I'm not happy with it, but, I pushed it out of my mind, and, as I say, ... the other four have been successful. They've been busting their behinds to try to get it together, because young people today have a tough time. I think ... the economics of America suck, to use a young term. I think we've gotten away from the concept of people being people. I think the bottom line is the dollar. I think it's going to be our downfall. This country is going to have, I think, some repercussions past my time, but, I think this country's in for some sad awakenings.
My buddy, that I met here at Rutgers, and some of the other fellows, ... we have had what's called a "card club." We've known each other for all the time, from the time we met at Rutgers. We've played cards up until maybe five, six years ago. We still get together socially. One of the fellows who we met here, that lived here, I guess on Hamilton Street, when he went into the service, they sent him up to Cornell, to V-12, I guess it was, and he graduated from Cornell. He was the first one of the group that died. He died last November 1st, which really affected me, because Bill, ... he went to Rutgers Prep, and Bill and I were probably, in the last two years, ... closer than I am to my brother.
My brother is a graduate of Rutgers. My brother started at Syracuse, and then, he finished here in Education, but, never worked at all in Education. He worked for the federal government, but, he graduated from here, too. So, my brother and I had, ... you know, the experience of being educated here, but, to go back to my class, my class had the fiftieth reunion, and, of course, ... to graduate, there were only seventy-six of us to begin with, I think, and I think they've only gotten down to where they can only account for about forty some, and they committed themselves to Rutgers for, I think, 150,000 dollars.
... I got to the point where ... I felt that, whenever I wanted something from Rutgers, with my kids, there was nothing there for me, so, I have become selfish, in that I don't feel that I want to do anything for Rutgers. I'm being, you know, up front and I'm not trying to be negative or derogatory. It bothers me. ... My group of friends, when we get together, most of whom have graduated from Rutgers, one of the biggest problems we have is Rutgers' attempt to get into big time sports. We think it's taking something away from Rutgers, really. A lot of money is being spent on sports, with the thought in mind that the money is going to come back, but, I don't think the money is coming back. ... I think it's been a rotten investment, so far, [laughter] but, when we pay the kind of money we pay ... for this lady that they hired for gals basketball, and, you know, the coaches, it's become a business, and I think ... it's tended to detract from ... the quality that Rutgers is supposed to be noted for.
In fact, I think that's the problem in the sports, is that the sports at Rutgers is conditioned by the fact that you've still got to watch ... your studies, but, when you take a guy like Wetzel, who had a rotten record of his basketball players graduating from school, I compare him against the coach at ... Georgetown University, where the tutor goes along ... with the students, and they make an effort for the people to finish. So, we're sort of disenchanted, the group of fellows, and they're going to be coming up for reunions, and I think ... they're turned off as much as I am with Rutgers and its alumni affairs, and ... it's just a feeling of mine which I'm putting ... into the record. ... I'm sure it's not an isolated feeling, but, I am very impressed with ... with what I see now, as compared to what it was when I was here, but, I ask myself, ... "Is growth necessarily good?" We're getting people out, but, I can think back, going to school here, when I went to school was probably when I went to high school, where we had a small class in high school, about seventy some kids, and so, everybody knew everybody else. You had feelings. I think the professors knew their students, ... but, I don't think that's the case today.
... I think, today, ... you have a name, but, I think, ... in the tally, you're a number, and we've done that to our society. ... My wife and I ... commented today about how, when we grew up, the doors were open. ... We didn't have the fears that we have today, that somebody's going to hit you over the head, or are gonna kill you, or what have you, and we've lost that in our society, and, in a way, when I talk to ... my peers and compatriots, our feeling is that our generation, which the young people, today, say ... mortgaged their future, I think my generation probably had a broader experience than any other generation has or maybe will have. We've seen the bad times, we've seen the good times, we've seen the sad times. ... We've ... gone from having nothing to having something through our efforts. ... I don't think the degree ... of ability is there to experience the same type of thing.
To go back to the work I'm doing part-time now, I go out and I do field work for the assessor down in Montgomery Township, down in Princeton, or near Princeton, and I cannot believe where people are coming from and buying houses, but, these people ... are on a treadmill. The husband and wife both go to work or they work at home. They have everything, but, they really don't have anything. ... I think people have tended to lose more control of their lives than we lost in the past.
... At least when I was young, I had a feeling, and some of my friends had a feeling, that if you worked hard and did things, that there was a certain security that went along with it. I talk to my daughter and son-in-law from down in Wilmington, Delaware, who are both very successful, when you look ... at what they're making in money, how they've risen above what they had, when they tell me, point blank, "Your only security is yourself. There's no security from outside," there's something's been lost. I'm on my soapbox again, guys. [laughter] You guys want to ask me some questions?
KP: I wanted to go back to your father. Your father worked in a theater and you mentioned that you saw a lot of movies. Did you see any war movies?
JG: Yes. ... I remember seeing a picture called Dawn Patrol and Dawn Patrol, today, is available. In fact, I'm going to try to buy it. ... In fact, I remember Errol Flynn the most, because Errol Flynn was the supposed hero of the movie, who flies the last mission in his frustration, rather than send other people out ... on a fruitless mission. He chooses to go out, and he gets killed, and that, in my mind, was very indelibly inscribed as having a message, that, sometimes in life, we are asked to do jobs that finally get to the point of sickening you. Another, more recent movie that's like that is Twelve O'Clock High, which is the same type of a message, where he finally breaks down ... after feeling responsible for people, and sending them to their demise, and the frustration. ... There are a number of movies like that which have a message.
There's the one where it goes back to World War I, where I think they're in the French Army and they tell them to go out. They go out. ... I forget what the name of the movie is, but, again, it's the same type of a thing that I might have seen ... back, you know, in the earlier days, but, to answer your question, ... the most was that Dawn Patrol.
KP: Did you ever see All Quiet on the Western Front?
JG: Yes, yes.
KP: What did your father think of that movie?
JG: Well, I am not sure what he thought about it, but, I will say something else, which I didn't mention when I mentioned my experience in the war. My father, ... when he was rescued and sent to an Army camp, or, no, Army hospital, one of the things ... that really dismayed him was the fellows who were recuperating from wounds who did things to themselves to infect themselves again, like, if you had a wound that was healing, how they would put something into the wound, so that it would infect, so that they didn't have to go back to the front, and that affected him ... to a degree, and ... he said, "You couldn't believe what man could do to himself to keep from going to something that's very distasteful," and these ... are conditions that tend to shape decisions that are made, that are irrational.
Now, I saw a little bit of that the couple of times that I was in the Army hospital. One of the things that we had to do in the military, part of the infantry training, you had to go into live fire, and live fire was to condition yourself, so that when ... you went into battle, ... you were already pre-exposed to the noise and frustration. I had occasion to see a couple of guys ... that freaked under that, while I was in the hospital. One guy caught it across the forehead, and then, the other guy caught it across his gut, and they were, ... both of them, in comas, and I never knew what happened to them, but, ... I can perceive in my mind, and I offset that with my wanting to be a hero, okay, that youth is ... very easily brainwashed and convinced to do things that, if you think with a rational mind, "What, me?"
This goes back to some of the reading that I've done. ... Probably the biggest pacifists in the world are fellows that have been in the service, and have aged, and survived, and are aware of what the hell goes on, and I think, ... to go back, my mother always criticized my father for being ill, and that he didn't do what he was supposed to do, like, he had ulcers, and I can remember, my father, whenever holidays came, my father would "throw a toot." ... He'd get loaded, and my father wasn't an alcoholic. My father, on a holiday, would invariably drink enough to where he got loaded, and I think a lot of the things that happened to him, his childhood, his time in the service, I think, affected him, and my dad died in 1947, and I consider him a war death, because ... he suffered very serious sinus problems from that explosion, and I think ... the ulcers came about from the stress that he was under, and, probably, ... I think, in the background, the fact that he was saved and was an orphan, I think, preyed on him until the day he died.
... He had a good friend who got wounded fighting against the Italians. He was on a rock surface. They were fighting in an area where there was a lot of rock, and he caught a ricochet, and blinded him in his eye, and I think his friend's experience ... tended to reinforce my father's feelings about war.
... I go back, something that I think is conditioned, the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, my brother and I and another friend, or friends, were camped overnight where Blue Star Shopping Center is in Watchung. I don't know if you know where Blue Star Shopping Center is in Watchung, but, it's on the highway. ... When we lived there, there was hardly any development, and we were camped, and we came home that morning, and I couldn't understand why my father and mother were crying, and I said to them, "Why are you crying?" and they said, "Well, the Japanese just bombed Pearl Harbor," and we said, "So, what?" You know, you're kids, "So, what?" but, my father ... had the perception, at that point, to know that, hey, with me, in 1941, at seventeen, or sixteen-and-a-half, seventeen, and my brother three years younger than me, then, hey, this was not going to be a war that was over in ninety days, that we were going ... to be exposed to it.
... My mother had been exposed, in Europe, to the war to some degree, in that she lived in a village tucked back in the northeastern part of Hungary, what is left of Hungary, up against ... what is now ... part of Russia and part of Czechoslovakia, and my mother, continually, until the day she died, talked about how ... the Romanians, and I had to look at a map to see how close Romania was, she can remember the Romanians coming in on a raid to her town, burning down everything, and she says, "You don't understand how bad it is when somebody comes into your town, and burns everything down, and takes what it wants," and I'm sure ... there had to be raping and pillage, which she didn't describe, ... but, it had to be that kind of thing, and so, that was indelibly inscribed in her mind.
... Then, she remembers the time, in Hungary, when the Communists were in power for about ... nine months, ... Bela Kun, I think, was his name, where they lived under Communism, and I think that's one of the motivations for her wanting to come to the United States, was, "Hey, I don't need to live like this. I'm going." ... She had a brother here that came over before World War I, and I guess in writing back and forth, he says, "You know, there's opportunities in America," and so, she came over.
My mother and father didn't know each other until they met in this country, but, my mother came over in 1921, also. ... Maybe I ought to touch ... a little bit on hers, because this would indicate a little bit of her character. She came over in 1921, in steerage. My father, I think, came first class. My mother came in steerage. She was supposed to come with ... one of her other brothers and, for some reason, he had been severely impacted by World War I. So, for some reason, he didn't come, but, because my mother was ... under twenty-one, she had to have a woman that came with her, and she came into Ellis Island, and, ... either somebody screwed up or what, my mother had written down on a piece of paper the address in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where her brother lived, and, of course, you've got to remember, my mother didn't speak any English.
... She came out of Ellis Island, and she grabbed hold of either a policeman, or a cabby, or what have you, and said, "Here, I want to go here." So, today, if that happened, somebody would take advantage of you, but, whoever it was steered her to where she was going to go, put her on a train, which was ... the train that went up to Bridgeport. She got off the train, talked to somebody there shortly, you know, showed him the paper, and she shows up at her brother's house, and he says, "What are you doing here?" you know, and she says, "What am I going to do?" She says to him, "What? Am I going to stay there?" She says, "I had the piece of paper. I did it." So, her brother said to her, "What are you going to do?" Well, no, ... he didn't tell her, "What are you going to do?" He says, "You're ... going to work in a factory," because, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1921, like I imagine a lot of cities were, they had areas where you didn't have to know any English. It was a Hungarian area. They had Hungarian factories. You had Hungarian stores.
... Her brother said to her, "You're going to go work in a factory," and he says, "You don't have to know any English. ... If you want to go to the store, you can talk Hungarian." My mother says, "No. I'm coming to a new country. I want to learn the customs and whatever of the country," and her brother says, "Well, how are you going to do that?" She says, "Well, I'm going to go to New York and I'm going to work as a governess. I'll take care of kids." "Well, how are you going to be able to communicate with them?" She said, "I'll ask the kids, 'What do you want?' and they point." So, she didn't ... have any formal education here. She learned by working with these little kids, pointing out what they wanted, and with the people. Fortunately, she was governess for people that were the same ethnicity, you know, the Hungarians. She could talk to them that way, but, she learned the English that these kids were learning. ...
Now, when we lived in New York, my being the first born, we talked Hungarian at home, and we spoke Hungarian until the time I went to school, and, when I went to school, there was no se habla Espanola as a second language. ... Hey, I was the Hungarian. There was ... a kid that came from Italy, ... or, you know, the parents came from Italy. They threw the books at us and you had to learn. There was nothing special with your circumstances. ... It was thrown at you. Now, the experience that I had, and the toughness, I'd come home and I'd tell my parents that they don't understand me, you know. [laughter]
... With my brother, ... my mother and father started to speak English at home, because they did not want my brother to be exposed to that same type of a thing, of being just thrown into it. ... You know, I thought I was the only one at the time, but, I've talked to some of my classmates since, and they say, "What do you think, you're different?" The guy I go to as a barber, you know, he graduated with me. He went in the Army with me. He says, "I spoke Italian at home. ... I went to school, I was Italian." He says, "They didn't ... do anything special. We didn't have any special teacher or anything."
... My father ... took advantage of going to night school, so that he learned that. ... I think you have this to some degree today. ... Like, among the Hispanics, you have people come from the same town in South America or Central America. ... We had the same thing when we lived in New York. My godmother was born in the same town that my grandfather was born in. In fact, I found out that she was a distant cousin of my father, which I don't ever think he knew.
... Go back to my mother, I did the genealogy on my mother. I found the church records for her town, and I came home one day, and I said, "Mom, did you know your mother had four other kids besides the ones I've accounted for?" and she says, "What are you looking at?" I said, "I'm looking at the church records for your church, the Hungarian Reformed Church, in your town." I says, "Your mother had four little kids that died in infancy." "I don't know where you're getting this from." I said, "Well, why don't you believe me?" She said, "My father never told me." Now, that's something else I found out. ... In those societies that went ahead of us, ... when there were deaths in the family, they didn't dwell on them the way we do. They were almost forgotten.
The other thing that they did in those societies is, ... I was first born, I was John. Now, if for some reason, my father ... hadn't brought me to life and we were living in Europe, if they had my brother, my brother might have been named John. ... They would use the same name, in some cases, three or four times, 'til they got one that lived, ... which blew my mind when I was going through with research. I said, "Which John are they talking about?" or, "Which Mary are they talking about?" because you had to have the death date and go on.
Now, another thing that's different in Europe than here and that affected a lot of people in their being transients, when I go back to the town in Germany that my ancestor left, and in Europe, I found out that the way that property, or assets, are passed is that ... the first-born son is responsible for the family and he's the guy that gets all the assets. Anybody else that's born, there could be eighty-eight million kids, they get nothing. So, what they had was, ... they had the ability to either be a priest, always, maybe the second son might be a priest, or the daughters would be nuns. After you ran out of the ones that wanted to be that, ... then, they had to decide, "Well, hey, if there's no future for me, I'm going to get out of here and go somewhere where there might be a future," and that's why people moved from one place to another. There were no opportunities for them. They had nothing. Ours is a lot different. The parents can decide whoever gets it.
Our mode of ... transferring assets is entirely different than Europe's was. Now, Europe's, I think, has changed, but, I'm not sure. ... I've answered your simple question by a lot of dialogue. [laughter]
DV: Actually, I am from Westfield, which is next to Scotch Plains.
DV: You went to Scotch Plains High.
JG: Right, right.
DV: It is hard for me to imagine Westfield and Scotch Plains during the Depression. How have the two towns changed?
JG: Well, okay, Westfield ... and Scotch Plains, well, let me say Scotch Plains and Fanwood, 'cause Scotch Plains and Fanwood are considered to be the same district for the school system. I often kid the people ... that I went to school with that the people in Fanwood were the WASPs. ... A lot of them, the parents had jobs during the Depression. ... They tended to be more professional in their makeup, so that they might have been the people that worked in the banks. Westfield tended to be that way. In Westfield, there were a lot of the people that worked in the banks. I'm not saying all of them, but, I'm saying ... they had a layer of professional people who commuted, in those days, to Newark, and to New York, and what have you. So, a lot of those people may not have made as much money in the Depression as they made before and later, because a lot of these places, rather than lay off people, they might have them work three days a week, or four days a week, and ... get the proportionate amount of money.
Now, in Scotch Plains, Scotch Plains tended to be more people like my parents, who migrated from Europe. ... We had Russian people, we had German people, we had Polish people, we had practically every combination you could find, plus, we had, interspersed with us, the black people. Now, in Scotch Plains, ... the majority of the black people lived in the area that was up against Westfield, what was called Jerseyland, which is, ... you know, the road that comes through Scotch Plains, it's called Plainfield Avenue, that runs where the Shadyrest Country Club is. That's Jerseyland, and you've got Morse Avenue, and, in fact, I took my wife, recently, into Morse Avenue, 'cause I knew that was the black district, and that their church had been an old frame church, and I couldn't believe the church that has been built in there. ... It would put white churches to shame. It's beautiful, a big parking lot. The church, which is a modern structure, it's got what looks like a big social hall. I understand that ... they have child care in there for their people, but, ... Westfield had, also, the impact of Holy Trinity Catholic Church.
DV: Your wife graduated from there.
JG: My wife graduated from Holy Trinity. Now, my wife, originally, came out of Jersey City, and they moved out to Westfield, which, at that time, was the "boonies," and so, she went to Holy Trinity, but, now, Holy Trinity is closed as far as the school. I don't know if they still have Masses there or not. ... Now, we've gone past there, and, of course, ... my wife and I, when we went to get married, of course, they had ... Father Watterson, I think, was the Father, a real tough ... Irish priest, and, when we went for our religious training, 'cause that was required, my wife said, "Hey, we've got to go take religious training." I got in real trouble, not with Watterson, but, with ... one of the auxiliary priests. He's going through his spiel this one particular session, we're going through, and he says, "All man is brought forth on Earth to procreate," and, [laughter] without thinking, you know, I've got the motor mouth, I said, "Well, what's the matter with the priests and the nuns?" and my wife kicked me under the table, you know, "Shut your mouth," ... but, to me, it was a logical ... question. You know, ... if you're giving me the bologna that, "All man is brought forth on Earth to procreate," then, "Hey, ... where does that exempt you and the nuns?"
... As I said earlier on to you, I think I am what I think is a religious person. I don't necessarily believe in ... a formal sense of religion with any of the religions, because I think a lot of problems of the world are religion related. People don't understand people and are ... driven by the biases that come about from the different religions.
We go back to Israel. ... You take the Israelis and the Arabs. They have a common root. You go back into history, they have a common root, but, yet, they hate each other, and, if you asked them why they hate each other, they can't give you a rational answer. You go into Ireland, the same thing. As part of Irish history, read Trinity, and, Redemption. You read that and you understand how foolish this whole deal of the strife, and what have you is, 'cause these people don't understand each other, but, yet, we bring kids over from Ireland every summer, and ... you can take kids from Northern Ireland, take them here to an Irish family, and they get along terrifically, but, over in Ireland, they hate each other.
... Part of what we have is that it goes back to education, realistic education. ... Well, you know, people are prone to, somebody pushes you, you say, "I've got to get even. I've got to push back," and it never ends, and a lot of our history ... is because of those kinds of things. Now, people today think wars are horrible, but, if you go back in history and read about wars, let me tell you, our wars are nothing compared to wars back in the early days. Back in the early days, the guy that lost was going to have any one of two things happen to him, or three things. ... He was going to get killed, because he might fight again, or, if he was able bodied, he was going to be a slave. The women were taken off for the satisfaction of whoever had conquered them and the kids were taken, at some point, to be slaves or assimilated into the society, and that ... is something that was common in the old days, but, it has happened in most recent days.
We go back to where my roots go, in what is now Serbia, 'cause there is no longer Yugoslavia. It's Serbia. There were ... 40,000 ethnic German kids ... whose parents died in the death camps or what have you. They were assimilated into the Serbian society. A lot of these kids don't even know they had German parents. They're now Serbs, and, again, it's people not understanding people. ... You go back to Yugoslavia, the Croats and the Serbs, they speak the same language, they use a different spelling, they have different religions, and, yet, they hate each other. So, that's my soapbox on religions, but, did I answer your question or do you want more?
DV: Well, I think it is interesting that you have brought up the relationship between the Israelis and the Arabs. On a smaller scale, I grew up in Westfield and we always had a big rivalry with Scotch Plains.
JG: Right, right.
DV: You mentioned some differences between the compositions of the communities.
JG: Well, ... I think people from Scotch Plains tended to think of people in Westfield as being uppity, because, again, it's social fabric. I think, overall, and, again, ... I'm trying not to use a generalization, I think Westfield ... was blessed more with having more professional people. ... It was that kind of a town. ... I think, always, there's a certain amount of jealousy in feeling when someone else has got something more than you have. ...
---------------------------------END OF SIDE TWO, TAPE TWO----------------------------------------
KP: This continues an interview with Mr. John A. Gausz on April 25, 1997, at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, with Kurt Piehler and ...
DV: David Villalobos.
KP: You were commenting on the relationship between Westfield and Scotch Plains.
JG: Okay. I think what happened, like in the case of my mother, and, again, these were differences in the social structure, my mother going out to work, ... doing housework, I don't think ... there was ever an opportunity to work for a family in Scotch Plains. I think everybody was pretty much ... on that level where people ... were going out to work for other people, so that ... she went to work for families in Westfield. This says to me that the families in Westfield probably had a higher level ... in the social structure than we had in Scotch Plains. Now, ... one of the things that came through my mother, ... a lot of my stubbornness comes from my mother. My mother would work for a family. She wouldn't broach any business of people looking down on her, if she felt that she was being taken advantage of. She worked hard. She was a hard worker and she got to the point where the people that she worked for, ... the ladies that she worked for, ... there was ... almost a family relationship, where they knew about our family, and my mother knew about their family, but, yet, there was the employer-employee deal, and my mother got paid, but, she also ... got things from those families, that, like, if they knew that, hey, they had a coat, one of their kids had a coat that the kid didn't want anymore, I might have ended up with the coat, okay.
... Then, of course, my mother ... would get references, like, if she had somebody she worked for, someone would say, "Hey, Marie is working for you. Do you think she'd come work for me?" and my mother picked and chose, because, again, my mother, coming from humble roots, had a feeling, just because she came from the humble roots doesn't mean that she had to be treated like dirt, and ... that's another thing that came through, ... in my working with people, was that you had to have a feeling for the person that worked for you. He wasn't just an entity that worked for you.
Now, a lot of that's lost in our society, because I remember, my last two years working in Bridgewater, where I had eight men working for me, and I'd go to my boss, and my boss would say, "How come So-and-So is not doing it?" I said, "The guy's got sickness at home," you know, or something, which I think conditions his ability to do a job, and my boss told me, point blank, "That shouldn't have any business in how that guy does his job," and I differed with that, because, in my mind, that has a bearing.
... We've lost this, because, today, people say, "Hey, you come into work, we don't want to know anything about you or anything about your family." Now, to go back to what we're talking about, when my mother went to work, or my father went to work, when he worked for the Liberty Theater, that was owned by a family by the name of Siccardi and they took care of my father. ... They knew that you couldn't pay him much money, but, my being let into the movie was a freebie that didn't cost them any money, as long as ... they weren't filling all the seats, and I'm sure that my father got ... other little benefits ... from this, but, again, you've got to remember that ... they didn't have the kind of things that we get from working now. You didn't have IRAs and all that kind of jazz. It was a whole different ... kind of society.
Now, the other thing that we did at home, ... to go back to my living in Scotch Plains, I don't know if it happened in Westfield, but, I think it did, is, during the Depression, as I told you, we had our own garden, we had our chickens, and what have you. We ate a lot of soup. You get tired of soup after a while. You've got a pot of soup, you get tired of it, but, we knew the house two doors away, the Capones. They had nine kids. I'd walk over with the pot of soup and say, "Here's some soup." They were glad to get it. We shared, which was another thing that a lot of people don't do today. We shared. We didn't have telephones like we do today. If you wanted to use a telephone, you had to go to somebody else's house that was luckier to have a telephone.
... We didn't have refrigerators. ... Well, when we got company, ... my parents had moved down from the city, if we had company on a Saturday or a Sunday, that was time for me to go down, with the little wagon, ... two or three blocks to Terrill Road and get a block of ice, because we'd put that in the icebox, and then, I can remember going for beer on a Sunday, and I'd go a couple of blocks in the other direction with the container, you know, the pitcher, because the law says that you couldn't sell beer in a bottle on a Sunday, but, you could sell it in a pitcher. [laughter] So, I remember, and, again, I would go get it, even though I wasn't supposed to be served, but, they knew who I was. They knew who my father was. Our society was not as structured as the society today. There's differences. ... Today, we've got all kinds of regulations. You've got regulations for regulations and the more regulations we have, the more difficult our society is. Again, you know, I'm trying to allude to differences.
... My mother, I'm sure, ... a lot of times, when she worked for some of the people she worked for in Westfield, ... she knew of people that worked that had to go on the bus, you know, or the trolley car, but, her people that she worked for felt enough about her where they'd say, "Hey, let me take you home." They'd drive her home. ... My mother met, through her work, ... I remember she talked about a black lady that she met, and my mother ... was real friends with her, but, ... she, from their talking, ... didn't necessarily agree with the way this black lady lived, okay. Go back to, again, ... the structure.
One of the jobs I had, ... when I was in high school, I worked for a butcher in Scotch Plains, a butcher and grocery store on the corner of Park Avenue and Westfield Avenue, which becomes Plainfield Avenue from the other direction, and ... Saturday nights was the night ... when we took ... all the bones from the meat that had been sold during the week, and took whatever meat was left on it, and that meat was used for making sausage, or for chopped meat, and ... I can remember black people coming into the store, and ... they wanted to know if we had a bag of stuff for a dollar. They would come in and say, "Hey, we got a bag of stuff?" ... Of course, the first time this happened, I was wondering, "What the hell do they get for a bag? Why do they ask for a bag of stuff, ... instead of, you know, asking for something specific?"
So, Tom would say, "How about ... going in the refrigerator and see what we got?" ... If you remember, ... refrigeration wasn't what it is today. ... You didn't buy frozen chickens like you'd buy today. You had chickens that hung up. You hung them on a hook and, if a chicken sits for long enough, it starts to get slimy on the outside. You don't want to eat it, but, any chickens that were left over in the cooler would come out in the bag. If you've ever gone to a store, a deli or to a store, to buy cold cuts, you know, you end up with the ends, and the ends start ... to get a little questionable. They'd go in there. Well, they ended up with the bones. We had been taking the bones. They ended up with the bones, the chickens that were starting to get modulated, ... and the cold cuts, and what have you, and they'd pay a buck.
... I remember saying to Tom, ..."How the hell do you get the nerve to sell that?" ... I said, "I know it's only a dollar," but, a dollar was a lot of money in those days. "How do you get off selling that for a dollar?" He says, "You know, ... if I didn't do that, they'd go hungry." He says, "I am really doing them a favor by being able to sell them that for a dollar," and he says, "That's the other reason why so many of them have stomach problems." He says, "They will take that food and they will cook it up in one big stew and add onions, a lot of spices, salt and pepper, you know, garnish it," and, you know, to me, that was a message, that, here, ... I was looking at it from the prospective of his taking advantage of them, but, he was really doing them a favor, okay.
This takes me back to Rutgers, when I worked in the cafeteria. I worked for the chef in my later part of working in the kitchen. I worked for the chef. I won't eat meatloaf out, now. Whenever he said, "What have we got in the cooler?" then, it was time to make meatloaf. The meatloaf that was left over, that was in the pan, that came out on the table. He'd take fresh chopped meat, the mashed potatoes, the turnips, peel some onions, throw them in, you know, get 'em all spiced up nice, and then, hit them with the tomato sauce on the top, and that was meatloaf. So, I won't eat meatloaf out, now.
I go back in the service, I won't eat something that's called "shit on a shingle." My wife has offered to make it. You know, that's creamed chipped beef on toast. That was the dregs. That was the dregs. In the Army, we never threw a piece of bread away. The bread would start with fresh bread. You'd start out ... eating it with your meal, toast, you'd end up with the ... toast with the creamed chipped beef on top, and the last thing that they ended up with it was bread pudding, but, it wasn't thrown away, and it was kept in the kitchen. You had a wire up on top, above the upper level, where we have cabinets in the kitchen. ... You had screened in places where the bread sat.
That outfit that I told you came in from Panama, they would not eat chocolate. They had their fill of chocolate down in Panama, ... but, they loved that, what we call, "shit on a shingle," creamed chipped beef on toast. So, we traded. ... "You guys can have all the creamed chip beef. We'll eat the chocolate pudding." So, again, ... it's conditions, it's opportunities, it's what you're exposed to, and, you know, a lot of these things we think of as ... separate problems, but, they're all interrelated, a lot of our conditioning.
You, growing up in Westfield, you ... probably went to Westfield High. A certain amount of ... what happened in high school rubbed off on you. Now, when I went to school, we had kids come from Fanwood. It was hard for me to understand. We always looked down our noises at them. ... They're the "blue-bloods," because their parents were working. They were supposedly better than us. I finally came to a spot in my life where I finally made peace with myself, that they were no ... better than I am, and that was part of my motivation in life, and I think part of my parent's motivation in life was, "Hey, maybe socially, we're not the same, but, through education, and applying yourself, you're going to be better," and that's where ... a lot of these immigrants that come to America, they always want something better for their people.
Now, what we've done to the present generation is wrong. ... We figured that we did without a lot of things. Now, ... we gave the present generation, or our kids, ... maybe I'm jumping a generation, my kids, now, are having kids, ... the parents figured they did without, and they gave their kids everything, and I think that was wrong. Now, my kids, early on, remember, we had them within four and five years, and I said to the kids, early on, "If you kids want to go to college, you're going to have to work. There's no way I'm going to have money to send you guys to school."
... This sounds like a little money today, but, when I had four of them going to college for three years, ... the bill, if we had to pay, was fourteen grand, but, again, if you put it in the perspective of the money you got then, as compared to the money you get today. I just had occasion to screen, with the Alumni Association and the scholarship committee, twenty applications for scholarships and I can't believe what it costs a kid to go to school today. I mean, they've got kids, twenty-five grand a year, you know, room, board, and going to school, and, in some cases, it's bankrupting parents.
Early on, part of my deal was, I says, "You kids want something, you've got to work for it," and a lot of that's been lost, and, particularly, I'm not saying all of them. Again, I'm generalizing.
DV: I think that was a very interesting point. Stepping back, Fanwood tended to be more like Westfield.
JG: More like Westfield, ... but, again, a lot of that, you understand, ... those towns came about because the railroad was run out to provide transportation into the city, and so, necessarily, the people that had jobs in the city, that wanted to use the railroads, ... tended to live in those towns. Now, I lived away from the railroads.
DV: Scotch Plains is further away from the railroad.
JG: Railroad, right. In fact, Scotch Plains is either side of Fanwood. In fact, ... at the time I ... lived in Scotch Plains, we had the north-side and we had the south-side, which was mostly farming. Now, the south-side ... has become developed and is probably, socially, a step above the north-side, which has evolved into, a part of the north-side, ... a black neighborhood, ... upper structure black people. When I go back to the neighborhood I grew up in, ... if you were not aware, or saw black people, you wouldn't realize that it was a black neighborhood.
In fact, in the riots in '69, I think it was, in Plainfield, ... a lot of the people that were creating the problems in Plainfield came out to Scotch Plains. "Join us brothers" and those people were just as afraid of those black people as we were, okay. I can remember, my fire company, where I belong to the fire company in Watchung, we had a fight on the floor of our meetings, that we wanted to carry guns. We said, "If we're going to go down and fight fires in Plainfield, you know, when they have the riots, we want to have guns," and we were dissuaded from having the guns. We said, "Hey, the cops are going to protect you. Your job is to fight fires," but, that was the environment ... of the riots, so that a certain amount of those riots have rubbed off on me, of what people can do to people.
... The first policeman that was killed in Plainfield in the riots was beat to death by a mob. ... Actually, they say they picked him up in a pulp. These people, in their frenzy, beat the crap out of him, and ... that's how low people can sink, and you go back to wars, I mean, men in war do things that, if they really thought rationally, would not do them. When I was at Rutgers. I had a guy pick on me one day when I was up here in Winants. I almost killed him, because I was not that long from basic training and learning how to kill with my hands, and ... he would pick on me, 'til, one day, I forced him into a corner and I brought him ... this close. ... I said, "I'll kill you, bastard," and I knew enough with my hands to kill somebody, but, I thought of it after, how close I came to not restraining myself to do that.
Again, I think ... the tenor of a lot of my thinking is that things ... that I have perceived, and been exposed to, and what have you, I think, tend to condition my thinking about our world, and our society, and what have you. ... I think we, as a society, are very prone to push off the problems of today to tomorrow, where somebody else might have to deal with them, and ... it's a cop-out, which is going to have to ... come to a real tragedy in the world, because ... that'll put me on another soapbox. Go ahead, ask me another question.
DV: I thought it was interesting how the railroad affected the area you grew up in.
JG: ... Scotch Plains, Westfield, you can carry it into Plainfield. Now, that same railroad ran into Plainfield, but, now, Plainfield, there are certain parts of Plainfield which, even today, if you went into Plainfield, are still really better places, nicer places, than Westfield, Fanwood, and Scotch Plains ever had. Plainfield, at one time, it was called the Queen City. In fact, a lot of the black people, prior to the war, if you go back to when ... the cotton picking machine came in and there were jobs in the North, the message was, through the whole South, that, "If you want to go to a place where you're treated decently, go to Plainfield."
I mean, ... that was an actual thing, "going to Plainfield." Now, Plainfield had the section, and I don't know ... how familiar you are with Plainfield, but, if you go into what is called the Netherwood section of Plainfield, in fact, that's one of the stations ... on the Central Railroad, ... Netherwood had, on one side, on the south-side, ... a whole section of people living in mansions, living in ... grand structured type houses, but, then, on the north-side, was an Italian section. These were the people ... who were the masons, the carpenters, and what have you, that worked for those people, but, they were separated by the railroad. Now, the Italian section has turned mostly all black and Hispanic. The south-side is not gentrifying ... as much as the north-side, but, it is changing some. You're getting some of the upper class black people, ... the black people who have ... gotten education and have the nouveau riche. They're getting these houses ... on the south-side of the railroad.
Now, you go into center city, Plainfield, that's a zoo. ... That's the Hispanics that have come in to do the landscaping, the menial tasks, you know, ... the busting up sidewalk, the labor jobs. You don't want to go down ... the center of Plainfield at nighttime. I listen to the scanner, ... but, this is true of most of the cities. Our cities have gone out of control. Now, Westfield ... has something else which a lot of towns don't have, which is ... its downtown section. They have not been impacted as much as, say, Scotch Plains or Fanwood by the malls. They still have ... that hometown ... flavor, to some degree, but, again, why? I don't know.
DV: That area has certainly changed a great deal.
JG: Right, right. ...
DV: I wondered why Westfield was like that.
JG: Well, because of the railroad. ...
JG: It was not that bad a commute out of Newark or New York. In fact, I think that's probably ... why my wife's parents left Bayonne, I think. ... No, they left Jersey City. As Jersey City was starting to change, I think they decided they wanted to go out, and he, the husband, had the railroad to go to work ... in Bayonne. The railroads ... had a big function in how stuff developed. ... The interstate highways, now, ... are that factor in describing where people are ... going to live, because, now, you find development along the interstate highways.
... I go out on Route 78. We used to have a farm up in northeastern Pennsylvania. That didn't even come into this. I owned a farm with my wife for twenty-nine years. As we would leave in the morning to go up to northeastern Pennsylvania, you'd see this wall of cars. You'd leave the house around six o'clock, 6:15 in the morning, there's a wall of cars on Interstate 78, from there into Pennsylvania, millions of cars coming. I mean, I'm exaggerating, but, I'm talking all you see ... is lights. What we've done is, a lot of people have now taken those interstate highways and managed to move their families out to supposedly better areas to live in.
Generally, people are always trying to upgrade ... themselves, not really realizing why, but, they're trying to upgrade themselves. Now, in some cases, they deceive themselves. I think people that moved out to Pennsylvania thinking it's a better life ... and the housing is cheaper, their tradeoff's in what they do to their bodies and to how much they've got to spend on transportation. I don't think they ever really sit down and figure it out.
I have a cousin that lives down outside Philadelphia, a town called Churchville. He was just laid off by the company he worked for up in Florham Park. He traveled, every day, a minimum of three hours, round trip, driving, and I talk to him on the phone now, and ... he's about fifty-eight years old. He says, "I'm in no hurry to go to work." ... He's finally getting his body and his mind ... back to some sensibility, but, that's what I'm talking about with people today, like where I go to work, and I see both husband and wife go to work, the kid goes to daycare. ... I don't call this living.
My wife and I often comment about how, when we were raising our kids, the first four, particularly, ... she was able to stay home. I was able to earn enough money, which, today, if you heard the money, you wouldn't think much of it, but, at least I was able to put food on the table, shelter. My wife didn't have to go to work until, as I said, it got to the point in '72. Actually, she went to work part-time in '70, when I went to work for that last little company, and then, of course, my mother ... came to live with us, and so, that opened it up. We had built-in home care for the kids.
... I've seen society evolve and I don't particularly care for the way society is evolving. People think they have a lot, but, ... I think that we had more, and I talk with my peers, and I reflected on that earlier. I think we had more in those days, even when we were poor, than people have today. People today are chasing something that they don't know what the hell they are chasing and, when they get to it, they don't know what they're ending up with. You're probably saying, "Boy, what a kook we had today." [laughter]
KP: As an ethnic German, in the 1930s, what did your father think of Hitler's rise to power? Did he ever talk about politics?
JG: Again, a lot of what I got from my father, ... again, go back to the kind of society they had. They had friends that came out from New York. My father was a great entertainer. So, the people from New York, ... that was their resort to go to, was to come out to Scotch Plains, and I have loads of pictures of where we sat. They sat ... on the lawn, you know, nice lawn and they'd have a picnic cookout. You know, ... some of the things ... they understood from Europe, but, ... I don't know, actually, that my father had any.
... I passed something up that I wanted to get to, is that my being a young person, ... I was privy to conversation of adults when they talked. You'd be with a group, like of kids, kids don't generally hang around grown-ups. They'd be with the grown-ups, listening and stuff, or, if you're reading, you'd hear the conversation, and then, you'd go off and play games or what have you, but, ... my father was ethnic German, but, conditioned by being Hungarian, which was a little different ... than the other people that I am aware of that were his relatives. ... I'm trying to condition my thinking. ... My father had nobody, that he knew of, outside of a couple of cousins that lived in the city that he lived in, and there was a feeling on the part of my father that, when he came home from the war, in World War I, he wanted a job, and I always heard this from my mother and father, that those people didn't help your father in his time of need, when he came out of the service.
... I am aware of the fact that conditions were such that, maybe, they couldn't afford to hire him, okay, and that my father misunderstood this, ... or chose to misunderstood it, and that my mother ... used this as an excuse. Now, those relatives, when World War II ended, they came to New Jersey, some of them, up around Palisades Park, and what have you, and my father was dead by this time. My mother said, "You don't have anything to do with those people. They wouldn't help your father." I mean, this is the kind of ... thinking that emanates from a place like Europe to a place like the United States, where we're maybe a little more conditioned ... in being open minded, and what have you.
Now, to go back to your question, I do know that my father had a cousin, and I have been trying to locate this guy and find out whatever happened to him, Adam Gauss, and ... the story, as I understand it, is that Adam went back to Europe prior to the war, and ... I can remember my father saying, "He came back a Nazi." ... That was the feeling. He came back a Nazi, and this is a cousin of my father, and the story, as I've tried to reconstruct it, is that Adam ... either was drafted into the Army, or, when he was going to be drafted into the Army, took a walk, and [laughter] that's the difficulty of my trying to find him, but, to answer your question, I would say ... that the fact that Germany was turning to the Nazi regime, that was the closest that my father came ... as to considering Germans being Nazi as bad.
Now, I'll say this, that when I went into the service, ... I had feelings for Germany. I don't know why. I reflect back on it and I had feelings. ... I had less of feelings for the British. I felt the British ... were the biggest opportunists and the schemers in the world, and ... I talked to some of my relatives that came over after World War II, and I get into trouble where their thinking differs, ... and this cousin I told you about, that ... drove three hours a day, back and forth, this guy ended up twenty-two years in the American Army. When he came to the United States, he went to college, went in the ROTC, and he ended up coming out of the Army as a major.
... Even today, he says, "People in this country don't understand Germany, and its going Nazi, ... was the salvation of the world against Communism," and I don't buy the concept necessarily, but, I can understand it, because, in Germany, ... as I understand it, ... at the end of World War I, Germany was set adrift in the world, and I'm not justifying it. I'm saying what has ... come about in a conversation, because ... I would probably would have been the biggest rebel going, living in England, or in Germany, or ... in any autocratic place. I'm a rebel at heart, but, Germany got to a point where they needed ... a messiah or somebody that would pull their chestnuts out of the fire and the conditions were such in Germany that Hitler was able to bullshit the public. He gave them jobs.
KP: Getting back to the original question, was your father in favor of this?
JG: No, no. ...
KP: What about the Bela Kuhn regime in Hungary? Did he follow Hungarian politics at all?
JG: He followed them to some degree, but, again, ... I think the conditioning of my mother and father were such that the conditions that drove them to America, I think, drove them to concentrating on how you survive in this country, ... rather than what was happening over there, and I think that's conditioned against the ... previous migration of people from Europe, which was before World War I. People that came from Europe prior to World War I came to the United States to make money, and go back, and live like kings in Europe. In fact, a lot of them came to the United States just by themselves, and they had families back home, and it's what's happening with a lot of the Spanish people coming from, you know, South America and Central America, now. They're coming to America to earn money to take care of the people back home.
... We're having ... a 360-degree turn in the evolution of migration into this country. My mother's oldest brother, I think he came over probably about 1910, 1912, 1914 and he went to work in the mines, because that's where the jobs were. He went out West to work in the mines, and his thoughts were, I think, eventually, of probably going back, but, he got married, and he had kids, ... but, they never got assimilated ... into American society. When I'd go up to Bridgeport, I'd have to speak Hungarian to them. ... Both my uncle and my aunt, they spoke Hungarian. ... They had Hungarian customs. They did not assimilate themselves like my father and mother.
... Just to give you an idea, my mother would get on a public transportation, or would be out shopping, and, if she heard people, whether they were Italian, Polish, what have you, and heard them ... talking their language, my mother would say, "You're in America. Be an American. Learn the American thing." So, I think those things conditioned the kind of response to your question, ... that in ... trying to survive and trying to earn a living, I think that was very secondary.
KP: What did your parents think of Franklin Roosevelt?
JG: Well, my father was a Democrat and my father thought that Roosevelt was the greatest thing that came down the pike. Again, my mother, ... politics distasted my mother very much. She was very offended with the fact that my father got involved in politics and that she thought this disintegrated his health, and what have you, but, I think my father did all he ... could, working ... for Roosevelt and the Democrat party. I think Roosevelt, at the beginning, ... if we hadn't had a guy like Roosevelt come along, we would have had some real problems in this country. Initially, he was good, but, I think he sold us down the river with getting involved in Europe.
KP: What did you know about the coming of World War II?
JG: ... I'm trying to place this in a prospective that I'm not thinking of this after becoming aware of the conditions, but, I think ... as Hitler came to power, I think this ... probably made me feel very, very upset that something was happening in turmoil ... that was not going to have a happy ending. ... I think when the problem happened with Czechoslovakia, where he used the excuse to go ... into Czechoslovakia, was something that was accepted by Chamberlain and ... the Allied world, and say, "That's Europe's problems." ... I think we tended to say, "Those are Europe's problems."
KP: Did your father comment on the Czechoslovakia crisis?
JG: No, no. ... I don't think, you know, strangely, ... and you're bringing it to forth, I never thought about it. ... I think my father's having suffered three-and-a-half years destroyed any thoughts he had ... of any further turmoil, and this goes back to the fact that my mother and father were crying, because they knew that what was happening was going to impact upon the family, even though they didn't want it to impact on the family, and that my father had the perception to know that it wasn't going to be like a lot of people said, that it wasn't going to be a small deal. It was going to be tough. ... I go back to something ... that I hate to admit, ... when we came into the Vietnam War.
I'm a very patriotic person. ... You know, I wanted to go into the service, be a hero and all that stuff. I'm very patriotic. I hang the flag out at home. Some of my neighbors say, "What do you got your flag out for?" I say, "Because I want to," ... but, I think that during the Vietnam War, ... I'm glad I didn't have to make the decision. I have an only son and, if that son had come up to be drafted, I think I'd have told him to go to Canada. I felt that bad about how the ... politics affected the conditions of that time, of ... what went on in Vietnam. I, at the beginning, felt that the United States was doing a big deal, you know, stepping into the void with France. "We're going against Communism," but, it was done all wrong, and I think, ... after listening to my father, and the conditions he suffered, and how close I came to maybe suffering something ...
Well, to go back, ... my brother was in the military and I think ... that had some bearing on some of my thinking. My brother, compared to me, is a very wild thing. He went to my father and mother and he said, "Look, I want you to sign for me to go into the service." He was seventeen and they knew that if they didn't sign for him, he was going ... to take off and go anyway. So, they signed for him, and he volunteered for the paratroopers, and, fortunately, my brother had broken a couple of bones [laughter] at home by doing something stupid, so, they washed him out of the paratroopers, and ... he ended up in infantry basic in Little Rock, Arkansas, in Camp Robinson, and my brother ... was out on a patrol of eight men ... on live round maneuvers. A mortar shell was ... fired by accident into their group of eight men. Five men were killed, and two suffered a concussion, and my brother, his ears rang for a week.
... He then got transferred. ... I think he took basic at Robinson, and then, he wanted to go into the paratroopers, and then, he washed out at Fort Benning, and then, ... they put him in the field artillery, ... firing artillery for the officer candidates, and ... they were unloading .105 mm shell casings, you know, Indian fashion, and my brother dropped one, and, as he dropped it, he went down to pick it up, instead of leaving it there, and, as he dropped down, the shell casing hit him in the head. So, my brother, consequently, has a service connected disability.
He had a fractured skull somewhere in either the explosion or hit in the head, and it disaffected his life in that ... he has a temper that is real difficult for him to constrain, and he's very prone to wanting ... to swing the fists, even from when he was a kid, and he's been told that, "If you get into a fight and you get another hit in the head, you might die," and so, you know, I think to myself, you know, ... how close that came to our family, where we might have had a casualty, and these kinds of things all tend to temper you, and I think back, when I think of my son-in-laws and my son, how lucky they are that they haven't had to be exposed to this kind of thing. ...
KP: In late 1930s, there was a considerable amount of isolationist sentiment in the United States. Also, there was a very active German Bund and a great deal of support for Mussolini within the Italian-American community. Do you remember any of that?
JG: ... Yes, yes, not necessarily in Scotch Plains, but, ... I do know that there were some groups. ... Well, I guess, over in Clark Township, there was some ... groups that had their parades, you know, their clubs, and what have you, and there was ... a lot of that. ...
KP: Was there any support for Mussolini?
JG: Yeah, in the home, yeah. ... I wasn't going to answer the question. Well, let me say this, to go back, the United States, ... regardless of its conduct prior to World War II, was aware of the fact that we were getting into a war. The Navy started building. A lot of our capital ships were built ... in the '20s. The CCCs, for all ... its goals of getting kids off the street and doing things for the country, was really a round about way, whether it was done intentionally or otherwise, ... to start to build up a base in the event we went into the war. We had people that were conditioned ... to military aspects. We had ... a regular Army which wasn't much. It was ragtag, but, a lot of these people that were ... in there were already conditioning themselves, in the event that we're going to go to war.
The fact that we got bombed at Pearl Harbor and suffered the kind ... of casualties that ... we had indicated ... the height of our "readiness," quote-unquote. ... We had the whole fleet sitting in Pearl Harbor. That was a mistake. The whole fleet was in there. We figured that people were going to fight ... by the rules of war, ... not hit you on a Sunday, when everybody is going to church, and what have you, but, ... we had a very strong presence, a military presence, in the Pacific.
KP: How surprised were you by Pearl Harbor?
JG: ... I, myself, being a young person, was very surprised, okay. I don't necessarily think that my mother and father were surprised, ... because they were older and understood things. Again, ... I was going to school, hacking around with the guys, selling newspapers, and what have you, but, selling newspapers, I got the opportunity, every day, to look at the headlines, and so, I could perceive that what was happening in Europe was not a healthy thing, but, ... I go back ... to the war. ... In 1943, we had orientation, every day, where they told us what was going on in North Africa. ... Rommel was a hero. I mean, whether he was German or something else, Rommel was a hero. The guy was great, but, looking back, now, as an adult, with a little more perception of reality, I think that was wrong. ... I don't know that some of the Italian boys that were in the service were any different, because they were in North Africa fighting against Italians.
KP: When you came back to Rutgers, did you notice any activities on campus by the American Veteran's Committee?
JG: No, nothing, nothing, nothing. The biggest thing that happened to me at Rutgers was the day I was working in the cafeteria when the atomic bomb was dropped, and ... I can remember, I had trays in my hand, and I put them down, and I had shivers, and ... I had the perception, at that point, that the world had changed very dramatically that day. I was not really aware of why it had changed, but, the first word was that ... the United States had ... a superior weapon. It was entirely different than every other weapon, and, I tell you, I went into, ... actually, almost close to a kind of shock, as I reflect back, but, ... I think everybody was, "Buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz," you know, over at Winants, ... and I think I went back to my room, and I said, "You know, I have just ... experienced a major turning in the world civilization."
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JG: ... We dropped, dropped or used, a weapon in Japan, it wasn't even mentioned at first as dropped at that point. They said there was a weapon used that might end the war, okay. ... That amazed me for a couple of reasons. One was the fact that it happened. Two, that I was living in a society where something that big was kept a secret, okay. I think ... the fact that that might have had some bearing that, "Hey, I'm living in a free society, but, that free society can do things that I'm not aware of," okay. ... I actually had shivers and a feeling of unsettlement. I wouldn't call it an elation or what have you, but, ... I figured that this thing was going to bring this thing to a culmination where it would end the war, ... and it did.
... Now, we have reflection. We have people say, "We didn't have to do it," but, the conditioning ... at that period of time was that, as the war wound down in Europe, ... men were being reassigned. ... In fact, I had a good friend of mine who, when he got done in Normandy, was sent back to the States and got sent over in the Pacific, because they knew, at some point, they had to deal with Japan, and ... fellows knew from fighting the Japanese that the Japanese were a ... different breed of humanity than we had to contend with, as compared to a German or Italian.
An Italian would throw his hands up. If you give him half a chance, he'd throw his hands up, ... even without too much provocation. The German, ... if he was a Waffen SS, or a die-hard German outfit, might ... tend to give you a little hard time, but, again, chances are ... he's going to act rationally when he knows ... the show is over, that he's going to throw his hands up, but, the Jap, if he threw his hands up, the grenades was going to fall out or he's going to pull some other kind of crap. So, the thought ... with Japan was that, "Hey, this is not going to be any kind of a picnic. I don't want to be involved ... in this kind of thing." So, there was that fear and I think ... that was the elation, in the fact that we were able to hit them with something that would bring them to the peace table.
KP: You did not join a fraternity at Rutgers.
KP: Had you thought of it?
JG: Again, I had enough friends that I knew, and some of them belonged to fraternities, believe it or not. I, for some reason, coming from humble roots, felt that a ... fraternity was something on a different level than ... my level of living. ... I go back to my growing up as a son of an immigrant. ... I was aware of the fact that I was on the first level of society. ... I mean, it wasn't perceived. ... I wasn't told that, but, I had the awareness that, hey, ... these are people that, maybe, have it a little better than I do. ... I could have used the rationale that this would have been a way for me to go up, but, I just had no feeling of that. ... I think the fact that I was under the accelerated program, the fact that I was working, I didn't really have time ... for the activities of the fraternities, ... and these are priorities you set in your life.
KP: What did you think of chapel? Did you attend chapel regularly?
JG: Nope, I didn't. ... I lost that somewhere along the line, ... something changed. ... Well, number one is that my father was Roman Catholic and my mother was Hungarian Reformed, okay. So, you'd probably had that as a start for not being ironclad in religion as, say, if I had been born in a strictly Roman Catholic family, but, ... they did agree that I was going to be raised Catholic, exposed to the precepts of the Catholic Church, but, that when it came a proper time, I could make my own judgment.
Now, I tended ... to lose to a certain degree of going to church before I went into the Army, ... and I think the thing that turned me off with church was the fact that, if I went to church, I wanted to pray and be done with the service. I didn't want to have to sit there for half of the Mass, and have the priest tell me they've got a collection, they collected so much money, and they've got to fix this and fix that. ... My idea of religion was not that.
Now, when I went into the service, I had a selfish reason for going to Mass. On a Sunday morning, you had the option of either going to Mass, or, if you didn't go to Mass, you then exposed yourself to duty. So, I said to myself, "I'm going to Mass," but, I got to like going to Mass in the service, because, in my judgment, the chaplains we had, whether they were Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, or what have you, were a different breed of people than the people that you have in civilian life. We had the priest. The priest told us, one of the first times we went, he said, "Look, the government is paying for the altar, is paying for the basic vestments ... and the things that we need, but, we're not hitting you over the head for a donation. If you feel that you want to have flowers on the altar or you want to have something else, it's up to you if you want to donate." Well, he got more money that way than if he hit us over the head for, you know, that it's expected, you know, pass the basket, okay.
... As I say, ... most of them were reachable, in that if you had a problem, you could go to the chaplain, you could talk, ... you know, they'd always say, "Tell it to the chaplain." Well, that was the truth. If you had a problem, you could go to a chaplain ... and get his time, to talk to him. I do not feel that ... with my church in my town. In fact, my wife, having been raised Catholic, I said to her, ..."You know, just because I don't go doesn't say you can't go." She said, "I don't feel comfortable in the church." She says, "There are people in that church who look down their noses at people," and, of course, ... we're now not at the lower strata of society. I'm not at the upper ... part of society, but, I'm somewhere in between, but, when we have people that tend to be uppity, I don't want to deal with them. I don't need people to ... tell me or show me that they're better than me, okay, because ... I think number one is, we're supposed to be living ... in a democratic society, and I hate like hell to drum this, that we're living in a democratic society, ... but, we're supposed to be judged as people, not ... by what we do in society. I get a certain amount of this bias. You know, bias works both ways. I joined the fire company and, in the fire company, I didn't dare let on that I'd gone to college, because I was considered ... uppity, because I'd gone to college. So, the shoe was on the other foot, that, ... you know, I saw it from the other end.
... All of this has tended to condition my thinking, that, "Hey, if you're willing to talk to me, I'm willing to talk to you. If you don't want to have anything to do with me, that's tough, forget it."
This was the breakdown between my brother and me. My brother and I don't get along. We've never ... gotten along, and, finally, when my mother died, I told my wife, years ago, I said, "When my mother dies, my brother and I are ... going to break off with each other," and that's exactly what happened. ... It's like what happens in the world. You get people that can't talk to each other rationally and this, "Hey, what is the problem and how do we resolve it?" and ... that is a tough thing to do. You know, if people don't get along, how do we expect countries to get along, or ethnic groups, you know?
KP: I get the sense that the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was very important to your family and that it had a real impact on them, that a number of relatives came to the United States as refugees.
JG: Well, I didn't have any relatives come, but, I had friends. Now, my mother ... ended up being a translator at Camp Kilmer and a certain amount of her experiences at Camp Kilmer tended to rub off on me. In the window of opportunity for people to get out of Hungary, there were ... some people that came out of Hungary ... who really were poor and had to get out, and, of course, my mother ... ran across people who had been probably some of the richer people, and, when they got to Camp Kilmer, they didn't have the humility of saying, "Hey, the United States is offering me a home." They tended to throw their weight around at Camp Kilmer and my mother didn't cotton to that at all. Somebody raised hell with her. ... She'd call for somebody to give them a hard time.
... I still have relatives in Hungary. ... My mother's youngest half-brother is eighty years old and is living in Hungary, back in the town my mother was born in. ... I wasn't aware of him until recent years, when I was doing research, and, of course, if you remember, my mother, being a very hard-head, and what have you, ... I think another reason she got out of Hungary was that, when her mother died, a year or two after she died, she got a stepmother, and her stepmother and she never got along, or the stepmother never got along ... with the first kids, the kids from the first family. ... I think my mother, if I remember right, got sent off to an aunt, or something, ... to live with the aunt, and so, her feelings for what was left back in Hungary, ... this half-brother, when I mentioned him, she says, "I don't remember him. I don't know about him," but, he knew about her, okay?
I will, ... next month, in a couple weeks, probably, meet a first cousin ... whose mother was my mother's half-sister. I've never met this young fellow. He came over to Canada about eight years ago. He's forty-six and his mother was forty-six when she had him as an only child. Now, just to give you an idea of their thinking, compared to our thinking, when he was in a refugee camp in Austria, he asked me to loan him 10,000 dollars that he'd pay back in a year after he came to the United States, and I said to my wife, "Number one, I don't have ten grand to give him. I'd rather give it to my kids, if I have it, and where does he get off thinking he's going to pay back ten grand in a year?" Well, I have had occasion to talk to him recently and ... his whole attitude's changed. He's living in Canada now for close to eight years, he drives a truck, and I said, "The streets over here aren't paved like you thought they were in Europe," and I said, "It's not like what you saw on television," and he speaks English pretty well, and he says, "No, ... over here, you've got to work." ... [laughter]
So, it's going to be very interesting when he comes to visit, for us to interface and see what he thought from having lived in that society. We were happy from the standpoint that Communism was overthrown, or the Russians were overthrown, in '56, but, then, I think we were crest fallen when ... they sent the goon squads from Asia in, but, a lot of other stuff that's been ... tempered in my life is, my daughter that went to the University of Delaware and met her husband at the University of Delaware, her two grandchildren, or her two children, rather, my two grandchildren, have the unique experience of being German, Hungarian, English, Irish, Scotch, Polish, and Russian, and ... having a Catholic mother and a Jewish father, and the first time my wife and I went to ... my daughter's in-laws, they put out a feast. ... Well, my son-in-law's father left Poland when the Germans came in and went to Russia. In fact, that's where he met his wife, that came from Siberia to work, and my ... son-in-law's grandparents, when the father came back to Poland, ... they died in the Holocaust.
So, I've seen ... all aspects of man's inhumanity to man, but, to get back to when my wife and I were invited down to Wilmington to sit down ... with Alex's father and mother, they put out ... a table that's got all kinds of dishes, things to eat, and we said, "Man, we're really going to chow down." "Well, that's just the appetizers." We're all done picking on ... different kinds of things, the dishes go off the table and we get a whole new set. ... "Now, you're going to have the meal." So, I saw pork on the table. I mean, ... here, he's Jewish, and ... his wife converted to satisfy his family, and I looked at my wife, and I said, "What is that?" and she says, "Well, that's pork." So, I asked ... Bernard, I says, "Let me ask you," I said, "I thought you were Jewish? How come ... we got pork on the table?" He said, "Hey, back when we lived outside of Krakow, ... we couldn't afford to eat beef. We ate pork."
So, you know, again, a lot of ... people's habits, and what have you, are conditioned by their economic straits, and then, you ask yourself the question which goes back to what I keep harping on, which is man's inhumanity to man and man's inability to get along with different people, that these things can change with education and environment, and you say to yourself, "Well, why can't they really sit down and say, 'Hey, let's use some rationale and say, 'Hey, should we all live ... miserably, or can we get together and live well?''" This goes back to a lot of the thinking I had in the World War II, is, if man took the money that he spends to exterminate other man and used it to better ourselves, wouldn't we be better off? but, it doesn't happen that way, and it's going to come in this, it's going to come now, and ... something that we push away, ... which is the growth of people on Earth.
Go back to when I went to school, ... if you look at that chart, up until 1930, ... there'd been a billion people from the beginning ... to 1930, but, then, it only ... took a short period of time where it went from that billion of people to two billion people, which was unheard of. ... Now, we're ... reaching the what, six billion? and I can remember studying ... the charts, when I went to school, where that becomes asymptotic. ... You know, and people say, "Well, what's going to happen at that point?" That's a good guess. We have people that use rationale today and say, "Hey, man is going ... to invent." We always ... live on the hope that man is going to be able ... to resolve the problems of being able to ... feed the people on Earth, but, we forget that the things on Earth are finite, that there's only a certain amount of water on Earth, there's only a certain amount of resources on Earth, but, we never think of these things, and our politicians ... tend to blind us to it. We want to balance the budget. All of a sudden, when we get down to wanting to balance the budget, "Oh, no." We've got all kinds of excuses. I should get on a soapbox, shouldn't I? [laughter]
... The other day, we sat down and a fellow says, "Gee, we ought ... to, sometime, elect a good politician," and I said, "It'll never happen, because people don't want to hear the truth. They want to hear what they want to hear," and politicians are very prone to being able to tell people ... what they want to hear, but, as long as we have that attitude in the world, ... we're going to continue to be taken ... down the shaft. ... Are we done?
KP: We can ask you some more questions.
JG: Oh, if you want to ask me questions, I have no problem. Hey, I don't want ... to belabor you guys.
KP: I got the impression that Camp Croft was really your first long distance trip.
JG: Yes. ...
KP: How far had you traveled before entering the service?
JG: ... Go back to the '30s, my father had a car, but, my father's aunt lived in Atlantic City, and we would, every once in a while, get in the car and go to Atlantic City, but, you know, you think today of getting in the car and go to Atlantic City, ... no sweat, but, when we went to Atlantic City, you had to throw ... about three tires in the back, for spare, ... extra tires. You had to take the patch kit. My father had the tool box and a trip to Atlantic City, invariably, was good ... for a couple of tires, ... you know, flats or even ruining tires. So, that was a big expedition.
... There was a youth group that we got involved in, in some way, or some friends of our had, and they said, "They're taking a trip to Keansburg." You know, that was a big deal, go to Keansburg. Of course, we went to New York City. ... We went to Bridgeport. We drove to Bridgeport, but, outside that, that was about it. So, ... going in the service, ... part of the aspect was, "Hey, I'm going to see places," and, of course, going down to South Carolina, ... that was a whole different world in those days, because what a lot of people don't appreciate is that there was still a very strong feeling in the South from the Civil War. In fact, there were some people who had been exposed to parents that had lived in the time of the war, and, of course, they were conditioned by, number one, the feelings they had that put them into the Civil War, and, two, by the experiences they had when ... the carpetbaggers went in and took advantage of them, okay, and, ... to them, our going into the South was considered an invasion, and the fact that I came from New Jersey, or if somebody came from Ohio, they had even a stronger dislike for you, because this took them back ... to Sherman.
... Of course, as soon as you open your mouth, you know, we thought they had accents, but, ... we had the New York City accent. ... I wrote home to my parents and I said, "You can't believe ... how this is." Now, the other thing, ... as poor as we were at home, we always ate a lot of meat, or poultry, or fish, but, when I was in Camp Croft, we got very little meat to eat. I wrote home to my father and he'd say, "What are you eating? How are those steaks that we're not getting?" I said, "Pop, I never see a steak." I said, "I think they're taking the steaks and they're cutting them up into chop meat," no, ... "into stew beef." ... We ate a lot of vegetables. We ate a lot of grits. The other thing, ... I came from a family where we drank a lot of milk, 'cause where I grew up in Scotch Plains, we had people that had cows. When you went in the neighborhood, when you wanted milk, you took the milk pail, and you went ... to whoever had a cow, and you got milk.
Well, drinking coffee, I hardly drank any coffee at home, because ... coffee cost money, and it wasn't supposed to be good for you, and we had milk, so, I drank a lot of milk, but, when we got down there, you're sitting at a table with ten or twelve guys, and they put out two quarts of milk, and I'm all set to pour myself a glass of milk, "Whoa, this is it. You've got to drink coffee and use the milk in the coffee." So, things that ... we had at home, in the way we ate, were different right away, when we were thrown into it, and then, of course, we got involved in rations. You know, if you're out in the field, you lived on rations, but, that's where, today, ... I can take, if I feel like it, ... a can, and open it, and I can eat a can of soup cold. My wife says, "How in the heck can you eat a can of soup cold?" I say, "Hey, it doesn't bother me. I just cut the top off, take a spoon, and I eat it," but, again, ... you have to learn to be adaptable, and what have you.
... One of the things I did as a kid, ... we didn't get as many sweets ... as kids get today. My wife goes, "Ug," when I start to describe it. We'd take a glass of milk, 'cause we had a lot of milk. ... White bread was cheap ... and sugar was cheap. So, we'd ... pour a glass of milk, you'd start breaking up the white bread, and putting it in, putting sugar in with it, and drinking off the milk as it's going, ... 'til the glass was full of white bread, soaked with milk and with sugar, and then, you'd eat it and that was a big thrill. It's good. It's really good.
... That was a treat we had. You learned to adapt. Another thing I'd do, ... which I miss today, is, we had chickens, and the rationale for having chickens was the fact that ... I went to school half session. Scotch Plains grew to the point where they didn't have enough schools, so, we went to school half session. So, my parents felt that, to keep me from ending up on the street corner, or what have you, they had chickens for me to take care of, and there's nothing nicer than throwing a pot of water on the stove, and getting it boiling, and go out, and watch a chicken lay an egg, and get that egg, and bringing it in, and soft boil it, okay, and people say, "Oh, an egg is an egg." Bull-crap, ... I can tell you how fresh an egg is by eating it. You've either got to have it soft boiled or sunny-side up, and, if I'm not sure about the egg, you scramble it, but, you know, these are ... the things you learned, you know.
... I think young kids today miss that kind of growing up, really. I wouldn't want to grow up now. ... We've talked, ... some of our group, and we have people in our class that I went to school with that are millionaires, and, yet, we sit down and we consider ourselves peers. You've heard of Burgdorff Realty? Well, Jean Burgdorff ... was a classmate of mine, ... and I can sit down with Jean, and we talk. We talk one-on-one, which, to me, is the way life should be. She doesn't look down her nose to me or I don't have to look up to her, but, today, people tend to do that. Now, European people tend to do that. My friends that come from Hungary, and ... we had a German couple lived across the street from us, they are obsessed with the fact that someone's child is a doctor, or a lawyer, or ... some professional person. That doesn't awe me. I don't think that a person that's a doctor, or a lawyer, or what have you is any different than me. Just because I chose to be something else, that person is still a person. ... Well, again, to go back, in the society in Europe, the oldest son was responsible for the family. The ones that came after were either priests or nuns, okay, ... or they became professional people. Now, in ... that town my grandfather lived in, and ... I've run across this with the ethnic German people, whether they realize it or not, they lived in a ghetto. They made their own ghetto.
They were Roman Catholic. You spoke German. If you married, you better marry a German, an ethnic German person who's Roman Catholic, or, in the absence of being German, she'd better be ... Catholic. That's how strictly they were structured.
Now, I can remember, my mother ... had a very strong feeling, coming out of Europe, and to go back to the conditions that created Nazi Germany, my mother came from Hungary, where, and I felt ashamed of it, my mother didn't like Jews. She said, "They skinned the people." ... I always remember, she said, "The Jews skinned the people of ... the ordinary people," and I said, "Mom, they were professional people," you know, the bankers, and what have you, which is what society forced them to be, but, she said, "They took advantage of everyone." She says, "I don't like it."
... So, when my daughter meets this young guy, whose Jewish, down at the University of Delaware, I said to my wife, ..."How are we going to handle this situation?" My mother's living at home, and this is ... her granddaughter, and ... first thing my daughter says, "We're only going together." You know, that was the line, ... "We're only going together," and, of course, I was conditioned at home by ... my mother's thinking, you know, and so, then, the next thing I know, they're going to get married. ... Of course, I wonder what kind of reaction I'd hear from my mother. ... "Oh, he's a nice guy." You know, "He's a nice guy," because she got to know him as a person, you know, ... which tended to offset her feelings that she'd been conditioned to in Europe.
So, this goes around to the main tenor of what I've been talking about, is the conditioning of people's minds and their attitudes by their environments and ... by their families, which is part of the environment. ... You tend to go along with what you understand and are told, and, you know, it's the same way. ... We had the four kids in five years. My mother says, "If you don't have sense enough to stop now, I'm going to run ... the window down on it." She didn't have to say down on what, but, she was going to run the window down. So, we went eight years without another child, and, all of a sudden, my wife says, "Hey, I'm pregnant." I says, "How am I going to tell my mother?" and, for a while, we didn't tell her, until it was obvious, and then, I looked at my wife, ... my mother says, "Oh, that's wonderful." [laughter]
You know, ... the lesson to be borne in that is that, "Don't always believe what you're told or that you perceive." I'm not saying to be like society, where they say, "Question everything." There was a time when ... we were in a society where they said, "Hey, question everything. Don't believe what you're told to do." I think you've got to have some conditioning both ways.
I go back to the war. ... When a man said, "Jump," you said, "How high you jump?" By the time we got around to the Vietnam War, you had a conference ... before a patrol went out. There were guys that questioned officers and there were guys that killed officers. Now, ... I didn't get this first hand, but, I've heard from guys, there were guys that were killed in the war ... that were not good officers, or not good non-coms, but, it wasn't ... as prevalent as it was in the Vietnam War, but, again, that was conditioned by how people grew up, authority. Now, at the time I went, authority, ... we had, in our town, Scotch Plains, and you wouldn't get away with it today, you had the black section up in Jerseyland. ... Whenever there was a rumble up in Jerseyland, we had two big cops in town. One guy had been in the Navy in peacetime. He was like six foot-six, six foot-five, ... and we had another guy who was about as big as he was. The two of them would go up there with their nightclubs, nightsticks, and they'd say, "What's the problem?" and hit a few of them over the head, bring them in, and that ended the rumble. You couldn't do that today. You've got to read them the rights, ... but, that was accepted in those days.
... I grew up in a society, and I can remember, my father, you asked, my father, what his feelings were about Germany? ... He had stronger feelings about Prohibition. I can remember my father ... with a license plate, you know, one of these plates on, ... "Repeal, Repeal," whatever the amendment was, because he felt that it was wrong to have prohibition, because, in my neighborhood, prohibition was no big sweat. We could get booze from anyone of three or four places within a two-block radius of my house. There were guys making moonshine. I could remember, at home, making wine. I can remember making booze. I can remember making beer. There were other people in the neighborhood. ...
... I grew up in a household where it was not ... restricted for you to have something to drink. The biggest deal for us was, we had the barrels downstairs. Whenever company was coming, "Go down with the jug [laughter] and the hose," [Mr. Gausz makes a siphoning noise] ... and then, into the wine. ... You always got some ... out of the hose. I'm just a kid and I always raised our kids ... with the experience of that. In our household, I always had beer, I had wine, or something to make a mixed drink with, and, if we sat down to a meal, I'd say, "Look, if you want something, ... you're not going to have a lot, you're going to have some, but, ... you're not going to go outside and drink behind my back," and, in my house, you know. A lot of people say, "You shouldn't have it in your house." ... The kids never, never thought to go and, on their own, take ... something to drink.
It was the ... same way with, you know, don't hold any secrets. You know, number one, I don't want motorcycles, so, we never had motorcycles, 'cause I had friends of mine that got hurt real bad. I said, "As long as you're living under my roof, you're not going to have a motorcycle," and our kids, ... when they went to school, in fact, they confided in their mother more than they did in me, but, they used our strictness as an excuse for them ... not to do anything, 'cause if somebody asked them to do something in school, you know, peer pressure, they'd say, "My mother and father don't want me to do it. I'll get killed if I do it," and they were very happy. They've expressed to my wife that they were very happy that they were able to use that as an excuse, rather than trying to argue with the peer pressure. So, I feel, ... coming through life, that maybe ... some of the good rubbed off ... on the raising of our kids.
... The biggest problem I have is ... still trying to disassociate myself with a lot of the conditions that my kids live under. My wife says, "Hey, they're grownups. They've got to make their own decisions." I'm still ... tend to be a mother hen.
You look like you're thinking of something.
DV: Going back to how you were conditioned to hate the Japanese, do you think that the Japanese can ever forget what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
JG: ... Well, I think that the people that were affected by it could never ... accept the fact that we did that to them. ... I think they've got some rationale for ... feeling hate against us, but, I'm also aware of the fact that, ... I've seen a documentary of Iwo Jima, which was probably one of the most bitter battles in the Pacific. I don't know if you've ever seen a movie called Red Blood, Black Sand. That's something you might want to use in ... some of your history. May I call you Kurt?
KP: Oh, yes, please do.
JG: It's a documentary. I've got it at home. I saw it on TV, and I felt that inclined, with seeing it, ... that I purchased it, and some of that has reinforced my thinking of what we were trained to do in service, ... how conditioned the Japanese were in ... how they thought they were going to be treated by the Americans. They were told, ... and brainwashed, that the Americans were going to ... hold no quarter, that they were going to kill them. They were going to mutilate them, which, in some cases, happened, but, their conditioning and our conditioning clashed, and I've talked to guys that ... have been up against them.
In fact, ... I've got another book which I've managed to pick up on Guadalcanal. In fact, a friend of mine that was black ... that was in the Seabees, one of the Seabee outfits that were black, ended up on Guadalcanal, and black people were not supposed to be in combat. That was the deal in World War II, or prior to that, is that black people were not qualified to fight, but, when the Marines ... needed help, they used the black Seabees, doing patrol duty, and what have you.
... Again, I got that book, and ... I said to this friend of mine, we correspond, like, I get ... a letter a week from him and he gets a letter a week from me, and ... we treat each other like there's ... no difference in our color, and ... he will reflect on, like, now, when these black kids had the ... square haircuts. He'd write to me and say, "I can't believe these dudes, these black dudes, with the ... rectangular haircuts," and, you know, if you read his letters, you wouldn't believe that he was black, but, he was exposed, in the war, to ... the conditions that existed, but, has been able to surmount them, and this is the change, ... in accepting people as human beings.
... I don't know how much else I can say, you know. I have very strong feelings, as ... you're aware of. ... To go back to the Japanese, ... when you are on a training ground, and you're one-on-one with a non-com whose standing over you with his knee or his foot, and says, "Look, I can gouge out your eyes," and he goes like that, or he says, "I can stomp in your chest or put you out of your misery by caving in your Adam's apple," and he says, "If you don't learn enough to do that to this other guy, regardless of your feelings, he's going to do it to you," and let me tell you something, that scares the shit out of you.
I went back, many a day, from having that training, go back to the barracks, and sit on the bunk, and I'd say, "What the hell did I get myself into?" You know, this was the offset to wanting to be a hero. I said, "Hey, I want to be a hero, but, I'm going to go fight against people ... that are inhuman," but, they were being taught the same thing. They were being taught that we're inhuman. So, see how ... conditioning, and brainwashing, and what have you, can affect your thinking? I mean, you know, you sit down a group of people ... that don't like each other and you go one-on-one, ... without outside influences, I think you can talk things out. So, are you about ready?
KP: Thank you very much for coming.
JG: Okay, good enough.
---------------------------------------------END OF INTERVIEW------------------------------------------
Reviewed by Shaun Illingworth 5/15/00
Reviewed by Sandra Stewart Holyoak 5/22/00
Reviewed by John A. Gausz 6/22/00
Edited by Sean D. Harvey 6/29/00