Shaun Illingworth: This begins an interview with Robert James Twitchell on March 14, 2013 in Haddonfield, New Jersey with Shaun Illingworth and ...
Rich (Kunleth?): Rich (Kunleth?)
Nan Madis: Nan Madis.
SI: Alright. Thank you very much for coming in today Mr. Twitchell.
Robert Twitchell: Thank you.
SI: To begin, could you tell us where and when you were born?
RT: I was born at home here in Haddonfield. I always say that my dad couldn't get the horses hooked up in time to get us to the hospital so I was born at home. It was in February.
SI: So you just celebrated your ninetieth, congratulations.
RT: Correct, 1923 was when I was born.
SI: What were your parent's names?
RT: My father was Oscar Twitchell and my mother was Hazel Twitchell, Hazel Edith Twitchell.
SI: Starting with your father's side of the family, what do you know about his family background, where the family had come from before they settled in the Haddonfield area?
RT: The family originally came from England and settled in New England and worked its way down to Philadelphia by way of Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island to Philadelphia, Haddonfield. There were five children. My father was the oldest. They all lived here in Haddonfield. They were all, but my dad, born in Haddonfield, and he was born in Philadelphia.
SI: Do you know what your grandfather did for a living and why the family moved?
RT: I'm not sure why they moved from Philadelphia to Haddonfield, but they were basically in the bottling business--made bottles and sold extracts for soft drinks and that type of thing. I believe [they] started up in actually Rhode Island, came down to Philadelphia, and then they moved to Haddonfield. The business was located, actually, in Philadelphia.
SI: Okay. Do you know what the name of the business was?
RT: Yes, I should know it quite well, S. Twitchell and Company, for Selden Twitchell, that was the founder of the company. They [morphed] into other types of companies. They still exist, but no way does the family have anything to do with it.
SI: When your father's family moved to Haddonfield, do you know what part of town they moved to?
RT: Yes, they lived up on Chestnut Street. I'm not sure whether they built that house or not, or whether it is still there. It's on some very old maps showing the house or its location. But the family, they were my father, two brothers and two sisters. He, as I said, was the oldest. The two brothers, one built here in Haddonfield, lived here until he died. My dad built his own house and I built our own house, so we've lived in our own homes here the whole time. My grandfather died at an early age and it caused some hardships for the family, obviously, in those days, because he was partner in the business, but I don't think he was the ruling partner, so that's why the business kind of went out of the immediate family on his death. My grandfather died at a fairly early age, as I said. In those days, my father, being the oldest, sort of became the caretaker of the family. I can get into his education. He didn't go very far with it because he had to work to support the family. But whatever you want to know about the rest of the family...
SI: How old was your father when had to basically become the major breadwinner for the family?
RT: Well, he was quite young. My grandmother was [the one who] really held up the family for a while. Dad, I think, was around seventeen when his father died. Maybe he was even a little bit younger. I don't know if there was even a high school in those days, but I know he didn't go beyond grade school in any of his education except to a business school, subsequently, over in Philadelphia.
SI: What did he do to contribute to the family?
RT: My dad?
RT: He did a number of things. He was kind of a jack of all trades, but mostly in the selling business. He worked with some "wood" people, wood that was used in furniture. He went South, traveled around buying the wood, having it come back up to Philadelphia where some of it went into furniture and things of that sort, but he eventually got into machinery and he did develop his own business as a distributor of road construction equipment. That went pretty well until the [Great] Depression came along and then it was a complete fiasco from that point on for him. But he eventually kept in the selling game and again got into selling hydraulic truck-mounted equipment. To drag the story a little further along quickly, if you will, I eventually went to work with him after I graduated from college. Then our son, my son, took the business over and continues to run it today, such as it is.
SI: I want to talk more about the business, particularly when you were growing up, but let's go to your mother's family. What do you know about your mother's family history?
RT: Well, mother had an interesting career. My mother was eleven when [her] sister was born and my grandmother died. Her father was a very successful advertising man with a big department store over in New York City. However, he contracted tuberculosis and ended up down in Tuscan, Arizona. He was successful down there, but the illness finally caught up with him. In the meantime, she, my mother, was taken care of by relatives and was more or less adopted by a family who she grew up with both on Long Island and then, I don't know how she got down to Philadelphia except her ancestors on my father's side were natives of the Pennsylvania Dutch area, so they had relatives down here and she came to Philadelphia and worked. I don't know what her schooling was truthfully. One of the sad things about life today is in my generation we regret so much that we didn't have the ability or the knowledge or the whereabouts to delve into our family and know exactly what went on. That generation didn't talk about it either, so it's a big struggle these days to try to capture all that information. But at any rate, she applied for a job at my father's business and when she walked in the door my father said, "I knew she was going to be my wife." So she didn't work there too long before they were married.
SI: Had she worked at other jobs before then?
RT: I'm not sure. I really don't know what experience she did have. I dare say she didn't have too much, because she was kind of bounced around from pillar to post while she was growing up, if you will. There was no consistency with the family that she lived with. I mean, they were relatives, they were friends, but it was kind of a hodgepodge of a career, if you will.
SI: Did she stay in touch with this surrogate family that she lived with on Long Island?
RT: To some degree. She kept in touch with her sister who went off to an entirely different career out in the Chicago area and then California; that's where she ended up. She had an interesting career, however. My aunt, she ended up as a nurse in a field hospital under General Patton in the invasion back into France, but she married a doctor that she met in the service. They have no children. She was my closest relative, my only relative, really, on my mother's side.
SI: So it was just the two daughters on that side?
SI: When your mother went in to get a job from your father was he still in the wood business?
RT: No, he was then a distributor of road construction equipment.
SI: Okay, alright.
SI: That was based in Philadelphia?
SI: Alright. So, they met and they married, I think, in 1918. Did they ever talk about what World War One was like for them?
RT: No, because my father, being the oldest in the family, didn't go into the service because he had to take care of the family at home; however, his two brothers did. They were both in the service. They were both in France, but there was nothing out of the ordinary in their careers over there. They fortunately survived and came back home after the war.
SI: When your parents married where were they living here in town?
RT: Let me just think where they did settle immediately. They settled here in Haddonfield from the time they were married, definitely.
SI: You said that your father was raised on Chestnut Street?
RT: On Chestnut Street, yes.
SI: Okay. Where did your parents start their family?
RT: Well, they actually did live with my dad's mother for a short bit until their home was built and then they moved into their house on Jefferson Avenue where my brother was born. I too, was born there and that was the extent of our family.
SI: Was that the house that you grew up in?
SI: Okay. Tell me a little bit your earliest memories about growing up in that house and in that neighborhood.
RT: Well, it was interesting, when I say that my generation you didn't know what had gone on before and we didn't know too much of what was going on in the present, because that wasn't the way people lived. However, I was brought up in that house until I was in high school and then we moved to a smaller house down the street as it was. But the basic thing with growing up, something that I've taken a lot of time to realize what went on, my dad had been very successful at his business up to a point when the [Great] Depression came and it was really wiped out to the point where it was catastrophic as far as where we lived or what we did. However, I never was aware of it. They never poured out their problems to the two of us, my brother and myself. It wasn't until afterwards that we began to realize what they had gone through, particularly to help us, to keep us going. But I never heard a word of complaint from them the whole time and it took me a long time to figure out what was going on.
SI: So you were about seven or so when the [Great] Depression started, six or seven?
RT: I'd say, probably the hard times hit roughly... No, I would say more like I was ten or twelve.
SI: Okay, so in the early '30s.
SI: Okay. You know, you said you didn't realize a lot until later on.
RT: Could you see any changes in your neighborhood or things that changed?
RT: Not really. Everything appeared normal in a way, if you will. I mean, I realized we were taught to do things differently, which I still do--go around turn off my electric lights in the house to save money--but not desperately aware of it in that respect. It wasn't until later on that I began to see what was what. Mainly, I realized it to its fullest extent when my brother graduated from high school. He had every opportunity, quality wise, to go on to college; in fact, he was accepted at several colleges, but there just wasn't any money to send him. In those days, there wasn't scholar ship money like there is today. So he never got to college and then he went on into the war from there on.
SI: He graduated in the middle of the [Great] Depression in the '30s?
SI: Just to step back for a minute, can you describe what your street was like, what your neighborhood was like, who the people were?
RT: My favorite story in that respect, people are getting tired of hearing it, but I can't help but tell it. We lived in a very nice home at that time and in the hot summer nights the normal thing [was] we would have all of our windows open because you didn't have air conditioning. I almost can see it to this day, on a hot summer night if it was so hot you couldn't sleep, you woke up. In those days, we had police there that went by foot patrol, you know, patrolmen who went through your neighborhood, and at certain points, and right outside on the corner where we lived, was a telephone pole and on it was a box for a telephone. We had two types of telephone service in those days, Keystone--not network but telephone system--and the Bell system, and there were two operating it. Some of the merchants were on the Keystone business, but homes were always on the Bell system. But the Keystone had their phone on the telephone pole and it was hooked up to the borough hall. In the middle of the night you could hear Tom Peters, the policeman, go over, pick up the phone and say, "All is well. Everything is fine," and hang up. So you'd [say], "Fine, great." and turn over and go back to sleep--far from what we hear today. There was some wonderful aspects of life for my book, because you knew your neighbors, you knew all the trades people, such as the milk man with his horse and wagon. The same thing was true with other goods and services. I will say here, one of the prize things in growing up in this town for me were the merchants on Kings Highway. There were all individual stores. There weren't any chain stores. There was a grocery. There was a meat store. There was a hardware store. All were individually owned and operated. Those merchants, to me, were our mentors. They liked kids. The kids were good. I can name a good half dozen merchants in this town, but I owe whatever character I might have to their influence. They were a wonderful group of people. You may remember some of them, the Raegensbergs, Neumeyers. They were just terrific people and their influence and their character was great, nothing like it is today. I just think that was good learning for a lot of kids.
SI: You just got that through going into their stores and talking to them?
RT: Exactly. They knew you and you knew them. You knew "doggone well" that if you did something wrong somebody was going to hear about it. There are so many memories of those people. If you went downtown, you'd go to this little store. You'd go to that little store or whatever the case might be.
SI: Was that part of your daily chores? Would you have to go out and get meat or get produce and come back?
RT: We would do that. Although, at one grocery store here in town they had a fellow that delivered on his bicycle. In fact, you'd call them up and tell them what you want to the Raegensberg brothers and an old friend, the guy on the bicycle would come around to deliver it.
SI: I had done an earlier interview and the person I interviewed said that the merchants used the horse and wagon. The movement over to trucks didn't come along until later one, almost after the war.
RT: Right. Well, a little story about that. I can remember certain wagons being pulled by horses through town. If a horse came down your street and made his "deposit" on the street, you picked up the phone and called Maryanne Wood and she would come rattling over and scoop it up and take it and put it in her garden. [laughter] So you knew you could get rid of the waste in the street by calling Maryanne Wood. [laughter]
SI: I heard that during the Great Depression a lot of families had to do different things to get by. People have reported that they had to go collect coal down by the railroad. They had to grow some of their own food. Do you remember, particularly as you put things together later on, if your family used any of those strategies to stretch out their budget?
RT: Oh, yeah, very definitely. We were taught to be conservative, to be careful, not realizing why so much, but it was just the thing to do. I have to draw a comparison here. My brother was a little over five years older than I and I felt that when I look back on life he recognized what was going on. Since I was five years younger, I didn't. But I was taught to do things a certain way and I think he probably felt, he wasn't objecting to it, but he realized what was going on. I always said that because of what happened and not being able to go on to college, he suffered from the [Great] Depression, but I profited from it by learning to do things, to be conservative and to save. Then of course when it came along time for me to go to college, I was fortunate by a lot of sacrifices by my dad that I realize now and things he sold and got rid of so he could send me to college for one year for 300 dollars, [laughter] for room, board and tuition. So that's what happened. But that's helped me get started and to realize the importance of an education of that college level.
SI: When you were still just a young kid, ten to twelve, did you have to take any part-time jobs in order to help out?
RT: No, I didn't take any part-time jobs, but one of the highlights of my upbringing was in those days I got involved with the Boy Scouts. We did a lot of things in order to conserve and earn money. We collected newspapers. I can remember our scout master's garage was filled with newspapers and eventually they [would] get taken away and money was received for it. So those types of things, yes, we got involved with. Not that it was necessarily profiting my family directly, but indirectly you knew that you were doing some good with it because the money was needed.
SI: Was the Boy Scout troop organized through your church or was it through another organization?
RT: No, but the group I belonged to was through a church organization. Backing up just a second though, if someone went out to eat, I mean they didn't have the money to do it, but it was interesting. I can name several locations around here, one out by Woodcrest and one over in Haddon Heights, where people opened their homes to serve Sunday dinner. You would go to their house and they would serve you a chicken dinner. I don't remember what it cost, but it was very inexpensive, compared to a restaurant. We never went to a restaurant. We only had one restaurant in town that I could remember. That was just a small thing. I take that back. The Haddon House served meals, down here on the corner of the highway where Grove Street comes out, facing the Haddon House. That was a place that served meals. I remember eating there once and once only. That probably was about as much as we could afford.
SI: Was it a special occasion?
RT: I don't know, must have been. [laughter]
SI: What was the other restaurant in town?
RT: It was called the Haddon Trading Company. It was really where you could get a lunch or a very simple small dinner.
SI: When you were growing up in this time period, you said your fathers business had suffered terribly. Did he lose his job?
RT: He lost the business.
RT: I mean, same thing. That's when he started working for some other people selling equipment.
SI: Was he still commuting into Philadelphia?
RT: To some extent, yes. I remember though, one of his jobs was with a company that sent him all around the state of Pennsylvania.
SI: Okay. Was he gone often?
RT: Frequently, yes, definitely.
SI: After they got married, did your mother work outside of the home?
RT: No. She was active, I know, in the Red Cross and things of that nature but she didn't have a job, per se.
SI: Since your father commuted, did your family have a car or did he use public transportation?
RT: We always had a car. It might have been a bit of a wreck, but we always had a car. That's another interesting aspect of the town. There were two automobile dealers here on Kings Highway. There were one, two, three, four, at least five places where you could by gas on Kings Highway. Interestingly, two of them, had gas pumps at the curb. One fellow had a bicycle shop, so he sold bicycles, and he had a gas pump out there at the curb, too. I can remember that gas pump being there until the 1960s or '70s. Heaven forbid that it be there now. There were at least four places where you could by an automobile. They weren't big showrooms. One was a garage in back of a store up on the highway by the railroad. The other was in a back alley. The alley still exists and you can still see the concrete block foundation of the garage where Jordan cars were sold. You never heard of Jordan cars?
RT: [laughter] It was a whole different ball game, that's for sure. I always remember, as a kid that the railroad ran right through town. It was the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Line. That was was what it was called. One of the things that occurred was: Every day, of course, people would get on the train to go to Philadelphia to work, but then kids from what we call down the line, down toward Berlin and that area, would get on the train and come up to Haddonfield to come to the high school. I have to reminisce if you want.
SI: Sure. That's what we want.
RT: One of things I remember so clearly, I can tell you when it was because it was timed in with my brother's high school years. In 1934 or '35, I don't know who did it, but they engaged a professional movie photographer to come in town and record all aspects of the town's life. I can still see that guy with a camera on a tripod in the rumble seat of a car slowly going up and down Kings Highway panning the activity. Later on we all went down to the high school where we could watch this movie and it was fascinating. It was on thirty-two millimeter film. You know, you got eight, you got sixteen, this was thirty-two, like professional movies were. They had to have an arc light projector to show it. You could see what was going on. It was absolutely fascinating. I tried my best to see if I could find it back in the '50s thinking about it because I thought, for instance, my wife, who came from a farm down in Maryland, would love to see what life was like. It showed the kids getting on and off the train, it was inside the school rooms down at the high school and people coming and going from church--but I couldn't find it. I got together with a man who was my high school principal and was still living, and we tried to find that movie. I had talked to Eastman Kodak and they said, "You get the film and we can reduce it to sixteen, put it on new film." I had people say, "Yeah, we'll chip in to do that." But it just disappeared. It's just a crime--a bit of history that would be out of this world. But that's why I remember so well. But I also remember the train course going through the town at street level. You could be in the Raegensberg grocery store there on the corner, it had a big plate glass window, and the train would come in, and the track wasn't any further away from that window than that door, and the kids would see this big train coming through and stopping. But people traveled on that train, using it exclusively to get in and out of Philadelphia, and of course, if you wanted to go down to the shore you could do that, too. But we had a "brass" line on the railroad that went over to Marlton and Medford and I can remember the tracks being there and I can remember there was a trestle for this train line that went across Cooper Creek. As Boy Scouts we used to walk or hike on that railroad, cross the trestle out into what's now Cherry Hill and camp, literally camp overnight in a place down there. So the Boy Scouts were to me sort of a salvation, if you will, in my childhood. I just enjoyed it immensely. I have always followed what they do. But the culmination of the benefits, I thought, were I was drafted initially and you go into a barracks and you have all of these fellows coming in from all walks of life, all aspects of it and in two minutes you could figure out who had been a Boy Scout, because they knew how to get right into things, nothing disturbed us. We were used to camping. We were used to that sort of thing, the discipline, if you will, and the attitude just stood right out as to who was a Boy Scout and who wasn't.
SI: When you would go camping with your troop was it always in the area? Did you ever go further than that?
RT: Well, it was further sometimes, yes. I remember we went one time up in Vermont and to the Poconos. And locally, we were able to look forward to the weekends, the Saturdays, doing something with the scout troop or group of scouts.
SI: How large was the troop?
RT: I guess we had probably twenty or twenty-five. Someone, a man in town, gave us the use of a piece of property he had up on the Rancocas River, so that was a place to go and camp out over a weekend. So we had a lot of opportunities.
SI: So what rank did you go up to in the Boy Scouts?
RT: I did get beyond tenderfoot. [laughter] I think I got first class. Of course, a scout could go on to be an Eagle Scout, the ultimate. Some of the fellows did make it. It took a lot of work to do that, I mean you had to really pay attention to it, jump right into it. I did not go that far.
SI: What role did your church or religion in general play in your family life growing up?
RT: I think like most families in town we belonged to a denomination, but we weren't necessarily tied into it, how do I want to say, forever. I mean, we changed back and forth, you know, as your views change and your feelings change, but it was a part of it, no question about it. It's like I maintain, no matter how you feel today you respect what somebody else's thoughts are. The churches are a factor that can't help but stabilize society, because people need something that they can join and get to and be with others regardless of what their feelings might be, what their attitudes might be. Churches do serve an extreme benefit. Well, it's in flux right now, for sure.
SI: Were most of the churches in town Protestant? Was there a mixture of Protestant, Catholic?
RT: The town was settled by Quakers and there was a pretty strong Quaker influence or group even when I was growing up. The other denominations had come in later on, after the town had been founded. Some of them became, you know, very successful and very big, being the basic churches in town. I don't recall whether we had a Roman Catholic Church in town when I was growing up. There were groups here, but I don't think the church really got established until later on. It came in later as far as being a factor. Now I say being a factor, being a part.
SI: In some towns that I've studied in these interviews, there are clear lines of distinction between different religions, different ethnicities. In other towns it's a melting pot or some degree. How would you describe Haddonfield?
RT: Well, I would say it wasn't a melting pot in those days, but in time it has become that, obviously, like everything else. We have a, I'll say, racial... Yes. We had a group of Afro-Americans who settled in what we call the Douglass Avenue area and a very fine group of people, always were and still are. They contribute a lot to the town. Of course, right outside of Haddonfield you have a major settlement of Afro-Americans, that being Lawnside. I think, I said interesting because that was a big factor as far as the Civil War was concerned and the Railroad. I heard of a group recently that took a tour down to Lawnside there to see the new museum they have featuring the Underground Railroad and somebody in the group said, "I don't see it. Where are the tracks?" [laughter] Couldn't figure out, didn't know what an Underground Railroad meant. But [they have] been a very fine group to have as neighbors. I know I feel so grateful that my parents--obviously, I had to pick it up from my parents--were very open and understanding of these folks and that we indeed had any opportunity to help them, particularly during the [Great] Depression, one case in particular. Because they came and lived with us during part of the [Great] Depression because they didn't have any place else to live and we happened to have some extra space.
SI: Was it a whole family or was it one or two boarders?
RT: It was just a man and wife at that time.
SI: How long did they live with you?
RT: I really don't know. I know, interestingly enough, they were with us when we were in the big house. And then we had to move to a smaller house, which fortunately it offered the same opportunities, so they moved there the same time as we did...
RT: to a smaller house. I don't recall how long it went.
SI: Was that considered unusual within that community?
RT: Probably. [laughter] I never heard anybody's reaction to it, let's put it that way.
SI: So you said that you moved when you went into high school or while you were in high school?
RT: It was when I was in high school. What happened, we moved out of the big house to let somebody rent it and run it like a bed and breakfast. We moved into a smaller house, but when these folks didn't pay their rent we had to move back to the original large house. We were there for a short time. Now I don't remember the details, I'd love to know it. Shortly, we traded houses again just down the street, Hickory Lane. They wanted a bigger house and we wanted a smaller house. Obviously, there was some financial advantage to do it or we wouldn't have done it. It probably got us out of a hole, if you will. But then we moved to a smaller house and that's where I remained until I was married.
SI: That was still on Jefferson.
RT: No, on a different street. Hickory Lane, but nearby. But I mean, there were obviously, you know, to get back to one of your original questions. Things of that sort, obviously, my dad had to figure out how to do it in order to keep going, to survive. I know the big house was a burden, obviously, or he wouldn't have done what he did to try to rent it out, let alone flip it with a smaller house.
SI: In Haddonfield or maybe nearby communities, did you see the impact of any New Deal relief programs that were put into place to deal with the Great Depression?
RT: Not in the town itself, although, I was very much aware and recall the CCC program. [Editor's Note: The Civilian Conservation Corps was a public work relief program and part of the New Deal. It ran from 1933 to 1942.] Now the impact was not that they came in and worked in the town, but Haddonfield entertained them because they had an encampment right down here on Cooper River. Do you know where the county now has a facility, out on...? Well that was a CCC camp where they lived. They did all sorts of things. They did a lot of work in developing the Camden County Park System. That was one of the things they did. But to what I'm getting at is I was very much aware of them because they would come up to the firehouse on weekends and there would be some kind of entertainment to give them an activity. Again, through the Boy Scout movement, I guess, I was conscious of it because they did so much throughout the country improving our national park system. But long story short, I began to realize the goodness that it did and after World War II, realizing what was going on, I thought, "Oh, if we only had the CCC program again." I wish we had it today because it would be such a help to some of the things that are [allowed] to deteriorate from an environment viewpoint, but you'll never get that program started again. Because it took people off of the street that needed work and they not only got work but they got a healthy lifestyle and they learned some good characteristics that you would like to see everybody have. I wish we had it today, but there's no way. So that gets back to your question about what did I see going on during the [Great] Depression. That's the main thing that I can remember.
SI: Did you know anybody who joined the CCC or worked for the WPA or something like that? [Editor's Note: The Works Projects Administration was another New Deal employment program. In contrast to the CCC, which focused on the development and preservation of natural resources, the WPA focused on infrastructure.]
RT: I knew somebody who was involved, somebody who was in the army, because the CCC, the army sort of supervised them. But that's the only contact that I ever had or knew of.
SI: Okay. Tell us a little about your early education, where you went to elementary school, what you thought of the school.
RT: Okay. I started out what we call kindergarten and first grade in the Friends School here in town. I can remember a few things from then but then the [Great] Depression made it impossible to continue that, so that's when I went into public school at second grade and was in public school throughout the whole time, which I'm very appreciative and glad that it worked out that way. Your question was where my education...
SI: What the schools were like.
RT: I enjoyed my public school experience and to the best of my knowledge I said either if I don't understand it's because I was asleep or they didn't teach it. [laughter] But to me it was a good education and our high school principle was one that I thought was just a wonderful person. I'm now a very close friend of his son here in town. But he was real disciplinarian and to me that's the essence of, you know, making things work right. Do you know who I mean, Bill Reynolds Sr.?
NM: I was going to say, didn't they call him "Bull," "Bull Reynolds?"
RT: "Bull Reynolds," because he was a big man and if he went like this to you, you know, "What have I done now?" [laughter] If I could digress on that score.
RT: Subsequently, years later, he married the school secretary and later on. Jan, my wife, and I were attending a wedding reception here in town and Bill and his wife were there. At one point he looked across at me and he went like this, you know. So I went over and I said, "What did I do now?" He said, "Edwina, my wife, wants to speak to you." So I went over to Edwina and I said, "Edwina, Bill says you want to speak to me. What's it all about?" She thought for a minute, "Oh," she remembered. She said, "When you and Jan went away last winter..." We left the house, we had four children, Becky was the oldest and she was in college at the time in charge figuring everything would be okay. Well as soon as we got back home we realized that something had gone awry, because daughter number three, was ready to tell us all about it. It appears that daughter number two had told Becky that she was going to invite some people over and Becky said, "No way, they cannot come into the house, no way." Well of course they didn't come in the house, but they setup in the backyard. Edwina, at that point Bill, her son, was commissioner of the town and Edwina had a police scanner and she almost turned the police scanner on all the time. She heard the call go out to "Go to the corner of Oak and Pomona, there's a party going on." Edwina said, "Ah, that's Bob Twitchell's house." Well the police, as we learned from daughter number three, came and the party dispersed and that was the end of that. But I said to Edwina, "I'm glad you told me this." She said, "Why?" I said, "Well, feel free now. We'll go away and we'll just tell the kids, 'We're going away and we're going to call the mayor's mother and tell her to turn on the police scanner.'" Now where can you do something like that? What kind of a town? [laughter]
SI: Sounds like a very close knit community. [laughter] So what did you think of your classes in school? What interested you the most?
RT: I'd say math. I wish fervently, now, that I had taken history courses, because at this stage of life I can't get enough of history. I just keep want to reading about history. I spent the last year and a half concentrating on the Civil War and I can't deny [it's] unbelievable what I didn't know about it. I guess my grades were alright, I don't remember. But my favorite subject was P.O.D., Problems of Democracy. So that type of thing was what appealed to me most. Language, I wasn't very good with, even with the English language to a degree. But math and history were... Or let's say anything mechanical I was interested in.
SI: Did you have shop?
RT: We had shop. Yeah. I think courses that were, well, physics and things of that sort and that type of thing more than the classics. But it was later in life that I got more interested in the classics than I did in the other stuff.
SI: So your older brother had not been able to go to college because of the [Great] Depression.
SI: As you were going through high school did you think that you wanted to go to college? Did you think that you might be able to go to college?
RT: I guess so. I think I recognized the importance of it. Except that it was one of those things if you could do you should do. Most of my peers went off to college. The interesting thing there was that I went away to school with two or three other kids from town, same school, because one of the churches-in-town's assistant had come in and had been a graduate of that school and he got people. I think he married one of my classmates, not immediately, but eventually. But that developed our interest in school and then to find out that it could be done so reasonably in those days. So I went down to Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee and that was an interesting experience in that part of the country. But the longer I was there I realized I was grateful to be there, to get started, because I knew it was important. But I didn't want to continue there because it didn't offer the kinds of things that I was really interested in. So I went home to my mother and dad and said, "I really would not like to continue here, but come back home, get a job and work to make the money to go to someplace that I really think would be beneficial." So they agreed to it, I think, gratefully at that time. I came home and that was in '41 and I wanted to get a job for the summer. So things, of course, were developing World War II wise and so I had someone here in town who had gotten me a clerical job over in the New York Shipbuilding Corporation here in Camden, huge place. At that time it was building up and there were thirty thousand people, three ships a day. So I went to work and of course I realized I would stay there for a bit because it was, in those days, good money, realizing what was developing and not sure if anything was going to come down the road. So I worked there for a year and a half until I was drafted.
SI: I'd like to step back for a minute. Growing up in the '30s, before you even went away to college, obviously, a lot had been happening overseas in Europe and also in Asia with the Japanese expanding into China. Were you aware of that? Did you follow the news regularly?
RT: Not what was going on in the Far East so much as Europe, because Hitler was on a rampage in those days and I was very much... Problems of Democracy brought a lot of this out, what he was doing and the problems he was creating in Europe. Not, unfortunately in a way, until later, not that I recognized what he was doing to the Jewish race so much as what he was doing to those countries and conquering them. Austria in particular, I don't know why, but I remember kind of following that quite closely as to what happened there. So, yes, that developed an interest for me as to being more knowledgeable to what was going on.
SI: Did you find that a lot of your friends from high school were also following it? Were people talking about the war and what was happening after the war broke out?
RT: Not too much, because most of my friends started college and were continuing college, so they really weren't around. But I just think, yes, everybody was aware of what was going on, but not realizing exactly what was going to happen.
SI: Do you want to take a break?
RT: Yes, let me clear my throat.
SI: Let me turn this on so you don't have to repeat. Do you want to ask the question again, concisely?
RK: Okay. Is it on?
RK: Haddonfield is today considered somewhat of an elite, well-off, community. How was it viewed back in the 1930s and '40s? Did it have that same, somewhat elite, status?
RT: Rich, I would say no. Understand there was obviously some wealth in town. I mean, look at some of the homes. Look at the churches that had been built by various families. But it was more level than it is today, for sure. The other thing about it is that in those days you had the feeling that we could accommodate all levels. One of the worst things I think I have seen develop is that the town has become unaffordable to people that I want to see here. I enjoyed and appreciated knowing all levels and playing with all levels. But when a young couple can't afford to come into town and find a home it bothers me to no end because we've lost something. I credit my parents obviously. I don't know where else it would have come from, but I knew all levels. I knew the folks who lived down on Douglass Avenue. I knew them personally. We used to ride our bicycles to high school, about four of us. I would see them and I would wave to them, and they would speak back to me and my friends would say, "You know them all in town like that?" I said, "I don't know. I guess I do." Because they were good people and I appreciated them. They didn't have the opportunities, economically, that others did, which is unfortunate, but even though they might have had a good education. [There was a] family that we had been very close to for a long time. The wife taught school. She was very well educated. She did come help us at home, no question about it. But my parents were as common to them at talking to them as I am talking to you and we grew up that way and my wife is the same. She comes from an entirely different type of background. That's a whole different story. But we felt there was no reason we couldn't do things with them. Why couldn't we be with them? Why couldn't we show that we appreciated them? The town has grown beyond that, unfortunately.
RK: What obstacles, Bob, did you see for African-Americans back then within Haddonfield?
RT: The obstacles?
RT: Probably I would say attitude. They weren't brought up to appreciate these folks. That's the only reason I can see. But you know, it was normal, whether you want to call it normal or not, to say, "Will you come and work for us at home?" But it was just the way things were. Not to say that it was right or it was wrong and that's the battle that's still going on. I have a very good friend, you probably know who I am referring to, and when I look back at what that man has gone through it greaves me because he's far above the normal. I have to say that I'm afraid the Civil War is still going on, (briefly?).
RK: Did you witness discrimination in the shipyard?
RT: No, Rich, I didn't. I'm sure it existed because with thirty thousand people there had to be, but I never saw it or [was] aware of it.
SI: Going back to the year you spent in college down in Tennessee, was that your first time in the South?
SI: What was your reaction to being down in the South for an extended period of time?
RT: It was interesting. I never felt, in the area I was in, any rift, if you will, between Afro-Americans or Americans. It was that type of community. Actually, it was because it was East Tennessee and as I learned history wise, East Tennessee was a whole different ball game from the rest of the state. They were more democratic in the best sense. There wasn't that kind of attitude there. I had some interesting experiences with moonshiners [laughter] and a way of life, but not with respect to race, then.
SI: Were people that you knew at the college from that area or were they from all over like yourself?
RT: I don't know. It was a very church-oriented school which probably was one of the reasons that I felt, no, I didn't want to continue with that kind of situation. I think they were all good academians, by and large. Maybe they came from a broad range.
SI: Which denomination was the school affiliated with?
RT: I guess it was Presbyterian, I'm sure it was, because of the fellow who recommended it.
SI: What did you study while you were there?
RT: [laughter] Just general.
RT: Yes, I was a (freshmaneer?). Now on the educational aspect, just to fill you in, I went there for a year. I worked for a year and a half, I was drafted. I went in drafted into what they call the Army Air Corps, before it became a separate branch. I had developed an interest, up to that point, of skiing. It was the only athletic thing that I've ever really got involved with, and I finally recognized, because it was a solitary achievement, I wasn't very well coordinated to do team work. But skiing was something that I just latched onto. So when I was drafted there was that time they were developing the ski troops in the army and I thought, "If I get there they'll really teach me how to ski." So the sergeant over here at Camp Dix said, "What do you want to get into?" I said, "I'd like to get into the ski troops." Well next thing that I knew, I was on a train going to Miami Beach, and I thought, "I don't think this is exactly what I had in mind." I was grateful that that's the way it was because I subsequently discovered those poor fellows really had a rough time of it from a military stand point and I probably wouldn't have survived. So I went to Miami Beach for basic training, and making a long story short, in the Air Corps, I got into mechanical work, which I felt that it was very beneficial. But then, they came out with what they call the Army ASTP program. It was the Army Specialized Training Program. It was like a thirty-day wonder. If you got into that they allowed you to continue your education somewhere and eventually you would come out with an officer's commission. I thought, "Well, this is one way to get advancement, but also continue some education." Well, I was accepted into and then I never got assigned anywhere. I began to wonder what was going on. Well, somehow they lost my records and I lost my opportunity, for which I was eternally grateful because the Army Specialized Training Corps was where the Army plucked thousands of fellows out when they needed bodies at the Battle of the Bulge, and of course we all know what happened there. So as I said, I wouldn't be sitting here if I had gone to ASTP. But I did, nevertheless, get an opportunity to be accepted into another program which eventually brought me to Yale University for training and I was graduated and commissioned as an aircraft maintenance officer.
SI: Before we get deeper into your military career, I wanted to go back.
SI: You joined New York Ship before Pearl Harbor, right?
RT: Yeah, before Pearl Harbor.
SI: It was before Pearl Harbor?
RT: Yes, I was getting a summer job there the summer before "Pearl Harbor".
SI: Okay. You were a clerk there. What were your daily activities like at the shipyard?
RT: It was interesting. I was at what they call the time office where they kept track of thirty thousand peoples time to pay them. But as such, I got the opportunity to go through the whole shipyard, every department, for one reason or other in this job. As such, it allowed me to see everything and I was fascinated. Complex beyond belief, I enjoyed it, the opportunity to see what goes on in something like that. From there, however, that didn't exempt me from serving in the service.
SI: Looking at it just before Pearl Harbor and then after, did you see a huge increase in activity?
RT: Oh, yeah. Yeah, when Pearl Harbor came along I think we all snapped to, as we say, and realized we had a job to do.
SI: Did they hire a lot more employees after that?
RT: I'm sure they did, yes.
SI: Okay. From this position where you were going into all these different departments, could you see them bringing in non-traditional workers, women into the workforce, African-Americans?
RT: I knew a number of women who were working in the office end of it. As far as the actual labor is concerned, I don't recall that there was. There probably was, but not to any great degree, I'm pretty sure.
SI: Now, were you there when Pearl Harbor was attacked?
RT: Yeah, I was working there. Actually, the specific thing, I was at home because it was a Sunday and I was underneath my car putting in new springs. I had an old car that I bought for 150 dollars to go to work and it was three years old. It was five years old when I bought it, and it had gotten me back and forth to work in the shipyard, but the springs and a lot of other things had to be improved. I used to go into Pep Boys and buy a five-gallon can of oil and put it behind seat behind me, set the odometer to zero, and when it got up to seventy miles I knew I had to stop and put in a quart of oil. [laughter] So, I kept it and it was still at home. My mother used it while I was away in the service, but I eventually came out in '46 and sold it for 250 bucks. I made a hundred dollars on it toward a new car. [laughter] Your question?
SI: About Pearl Harbor.
RT: Pearl Harbor, yes. So, I was home and my dad came out of the house and told me. Of course, it sank into us no end because my brother had been drafted and was in the service.
RT: He was a captain down in Fort Benning.
SI: When you went back to work at the shipyard the next day or sometime that week, was there a change right away? Was there more security? Any new procedures?
RT: Probably, but I can't really say I recall, specifically, that happening. It was pretty heavy to begin with because of the work that was going on there.
SI: Does anything else stand out about your time at New York Ship?
RT: I worked there a year and a half and then went into the service. I was in the service for three and a half years, and, if you want this part of the story, came out and I was bound and determined because, as I say, the one year of college was really helpful because I knew I always wanted to get back and go finish it, so I wanted to continue, but I wanted to transfer. Well, I started to look around at where I could transfer and it was difficult because that meant putting me in a sophomore class when these colleges all had their own people coming back and they just didn't have room to take transfers. So, again, Bill Reynolds, I went to him and I said, "What do I do?" He said, "Well, I think you better start over." I said, "Well, I don't mind," I said, "because I've forgotten half of the first time anyway and that was six years ago." [laughter] So, he said, "Well maybe I have an idea." He said, "A school up in Easton, Pennsylvania, I think, would be just right for you." [It was] where he had graduated, obviously. So he picked up the phone and he called somebody he knew up there and talked a little bit. He hung up the phone and he said, "Okay, here." He wrote down the name and he said, "You go up to Easton and see this man" and I did. I got in the car and I drove up. I walked in and I talked this man, a very fine guy, and I don't think that I talked to him more than thirty minutes and I came out and I was a student. I tell that to the kids today. I say, "There's nothing to getting into college." [laughter] "It took a half-hour conversation and I got in." So finally, I graduated from there in 1950. So if you talk to my wife, she'll tell you that it took about ten years to get through college. [laughter]
SI: In that period between the attack on Pearl Harbor and when you went into the service, could you see any ways in which the war affected Haddonfield? Any civil defense activities, that sort of thing?
RT: Oh, yes. I was an airplane spotter up here. I went down to the stadium at nighttime. I said, "If I hear anything, I won't know who it is that's for sure, but nevertheless..." I remember I had some friends; we went and did a couple things. We went down to a house that we had use of on the beach in Long Beach Island and we had to make sure that we allowed no light to shine at night from that house. So that kind of thing was very obvious. Then, yes, we were all very much aware that things were not good in that respect. Daily, people were leaving for the service and that type of thing. That would have been '46. During that year and a half, I had an opportunity to go down to Georgia a couple of times, once with my family, once to visit with my brother who had become a captain at the infantry school at Fort Benning. You know, the activity then was very obvious that things were buzzing like nobody's business.
SI: Was it difficult to travel to the South during the war?
RT: Not too much. In those days everything was by train, very little by flying if any.
SI: Civilians traveling had low priority.
RT: Yes, but I can remember many a time standing up in a train, no matter where it was going, every seat was filled. My mother and dad went down one time to visit with John, my brother, and at some junction, the train stopped for water or whatever, and passengers got off to stretch their legs. But Dad, he had thought the train wouldn't leave for a while; however, when he looked up, the train is going down the track without him. Mother, of course, was on the train. Dad found a place where you could send a telegram, I guess, and tell my mother what was happening. So, finally, somebody came down the aisle and told my mother that she was to get off at the next stop and wait for him to come through on the next train. It was a challenge to travel, that's for sure, to answer your question.
RK: When you graduated from college what degree did you have?
RT: What degree?
RT: A bachelor's degree in maintenance engineering.
RK: Okay. Was there something about administration that you had studied also?
RT: Yeah, Rich. To qualify, you're correct. I think the degree reads "Engineering Administration."
RK: Engineering administration.
RK: What influenced you to obtain that degree? Was it your experience in the military or was it your experience at the shipyard?
RT: My work in the military was, as they say, maintenance engineering on aircraft and aircraft was mainly hydraulics in those days. It's not so much today. Hydraulics was what I really picked up on. When I went to work with my dad we were dealing in hydraulic equipment.
SI: After you were drafted into the service, you said you went to Fort Dix for a while and then you were sent down to Miami Beach.
SI: What did your training in Miami Beach consist of?
RT: I don't think there was any classroom. It was all calisthenics, drill, what they call basic training. It wasn't until I was transferred from there to my first post that I got into the mechanics, the engineering or that type of thing.
SI: Okay, so they didn't test you and you tested better in those areas.
RT: Basic training is just what it says, basic training, nothing really specific.
SI: What was your next post, Gulf Port?
RT: Yes, Gulf Port, Mississippi. There was a little airbase there and it was while I was there that I got involved in these other things as far as going into the ASTP or eventually even going up to New Haven. Actually, I was transferred up to New Haven, not in the program that was there, but to assist in the training of those fellows that I really wanted to be one of. To carry that one step further, we used the facilities at Yale University, it was fabulous. One of the things that I will always remember was that you ate in their big dining, beautiful, absolutely gorgeous, room with paintings and so forth. There was a balcony at one end. Glenn Miller, whom you are familiar with, was in the Air Force. He had his own orchestra. Glenn Miller's orchestra was stationed there at Yale for a while. They would sit up on the balcony and play while we were eating. It was fantastic, except I figured they wanted to do that so that we would eat fast with a tempo and get out of there quickly. [laughter] So as I say, I finished that course and that was interesting, there were a lot of different things involved there. But from there I was posted down to Hobbs, New Mexico to an airbase and then from there, eventually, up to an airbase in Harvard, Nebraska. So I always tell people, "During the war I went to Yale and Harvard." "You did?" they say and I'd say, "Yes." [laughter]
SI: How long was the officer training program at Yale?
RT: I'm going to say maybe four or five months.
SI: How intense was it? Were there a lot of cadets who washed out?
RT: I don't really recall anyone's washing out. What was frightful, truthfully, was they reached a point and they stopped the program. I was in the last class going through the program and nervous as a cat because, previously, if you had been out sick, okay, you were out sick and you joined the next class coming through. I wanted to stay healthy and not get caught doing anything that I shouldn't. I had a good friend who was getting married and he wanted to go celebrate and he asked me to go out with him one night, which I acquiesced to but I thought, "If I get caught out here, I'm done," [laughter] because I wasn't supposed to be doing that. So it was the last class that went through that particular program.
RK: Why was it the last class? Do you remember?
RT: I don't know why except...
RK: Was the war coming to an end?
RT: I think they probably figured they had enough, if you will, because obviously I think they realized things were drawing down which, in truth, is what did happen, even though I was in the service for at least another six months. I eventually was posted down to Hobbs, New Mexico. Well, that's when I went to Hobbs, New Mexico and then up to Harvard where I was assigned to a B-29 squadron that was going to go to the South Pacific. Well, you know, we got up to that point, which fortunately for me didn't happen because the war ended. So I think people, the powers that be, realized that they had no more need to carry this program any further.
SI: So when you're trained as a maintenance engineer are you in charge of the system for doing repairs, ordering parts, that sort of thing?
RT: Yeah, it wasn't flight engineer in the air, while you're flying. There's that category too. We were down there where we were involved in the maintenance of that aircraft, whatever it needed.
SI: Would you have been doing any hands on repair work or just managing the men that were doing the repairs?
RT: I would say managing, but you know, if need be you'd step in and say, "Hey, you know, we do it this way" or whatever.
SI: When you were in training, did you do any work on the engines that the B-29 uses? Were you familiar with them before you got there?
RT: Yes, this was before jets, of course. The two major engine manufacturers, one was in Hartford, Connecticut and the other was in North Jersey, Pratt and Whitney and White. Interesting, I went up to Hartford one time to Pratt and Whitney. One of my classmates (this is when I was down at Yale), the father of one of my classmates, was a "biggie" up at Pratt and Whitney so we got a tour of the factory. There was a place where there were aircraft instruments on a panel as they would be in an aircraft and there was something vibrating that panel. The explanation was that they were trying to test these instruments for jet aircraft where there is no vibration, and where the reciprocal engines created a vibration which the instruments were designed to work against. So if you are going to put it in a jet you have to have something shaking it to make sure it works right. That's what happened.
SI: So once you got to Harvard, Nebraska, you were in an actual operational unit?
SI: Tell us a little about your daily activities in that unit.
RT: Most of it, I guess, was more training in what we would be involved with occasionally taking flights. This was always a fascinating thing to do. I used to fly, sitting in the nose of a B-29. One would look down on the Earth. Then I had a good friend of a major who was on the base and he was a pilot and those fellows have to put in so much actual flying time in order to qualify for their pay and be up, so once in while he would ask me to go with him. We would get in a little Piper Aircraft and fly around. I loved that even though the B-29 was something else again, but in the little Piper you look all around, so it was more the feeling of flying.
SI: Even though the unit stayed state's side, obviously these planes, as they are flying, need constant maintenance.
RT: Oh, yes.
SI: Did that ever become a difficult job? Did you get the supplies that you needed, that sort of thing?
RT: Well, by regulation, after so many hours you had to take it out of flying and do whatever you needed to do to recondition the engine, change the spark plugs, or whatever was involved. So, yes there was actual maintenance going on all the time.
RK: On the B-29 base in, what was it, Montana?
RT: This was in Nebraska.
RK: Nebraska, it seems so far removed from the Pacific Theatre. Why was it stationed so far inland and not along the West Coast?
RT: Well, I think, this was a staging position, Rich. It might have been the more expedient thing to do from a time viewpoint, and from an economic viewpoint because if it's going to go to the South Pacific it doesn't make any difference if it was here in Nebraska or there in California. It'll get there to the South Pacific. There's no real advantage to doing this type of thing back in the open country, rather than concentrating everything in their area where you've got too much in one spot. That is what I'm trying to say, from a security standpoint.
SI: Were you out in Nebraska when the war ended?
SI: What was the reaction like on the base?
RT: Relief, yes, absolutely. You could see it coming, I mean, you knew what was happening, because once it was cleaned up in Europe it was just a matter of time before the Pacific would be cleaned up. I always say I didn't go to the Pacific because Uncle Harry decided to drop the bomb.
SI: Were you able to communicate regularly with your family back here in Haddonfield?
RT: By mail. That's an interesting subject.
NM: Snail mail, right.
RT: Yes, snail mail. Because we all sit here absolutely amazed at what's going on today, technology wise. I have a granddaughter who is over in Rome right now; she works for an outfit that sends her over there. So, Becky her mother, was with us last night, and she says, "Oh, well Liz called me today." I said, "Really?" [laughter] It was a long conversation. You know, it was just mind-boggling. I couple that with readings I'm doing about the Civil War and I'm really surprised at how much mail did exist in the Civil War. I mean, there's scads of material that's out there. People save their letters, which is a factor that won't happen anymore, unfortunately. But communication was no problem at the level that it existed. Yes, a few phone calls now and then, but you had to watch yourself because of the cost of money to make a call then, if you talked too long. I can't get over the fact that now you can pick up the phone and talk forever and it doesn't cost you anymore than the basic cost.
SI: Now, your brother, unfortunately, died in the service?
SI: Was he killed in combat or was it an accident?
RT: No, he was in a training accident here in this country.
SI: Alright. Were you able to get an emergency leave to go home?
SI: You were out in Nebraska when the war ended, so how quickly were you discharged and able to come back to civilian life?
RT: When the war ended, anybody know for sure?
SI: That's August, 1945.
SI: Well, the surrender was September 2nd of '45.
RT: Of December...
RT: Okay, September or December?
RT: September. I came out; I think it was about the first week in January. Yes.
SI: Were you still at the base in Nebraska and then just sent home or were you sent anywhere else?
RT: [laughter] I was at the base in Nebraska and I got a leave to come home, and so what you normally did was take a train all the way across. Well, I was able to get a flight, an Air Force flight. I mean, they would carry you around if you were going somewhere legitimately and so I was able to book myself, as it were, on a flight going to Chicago. Well, to do that I had to get a parachute and carry a parachute with me, so I did. But I had to hang onto that parachute because I had to turn it back in otherwise I'd be charged for it. So, I got to Chicago and I felt so silly getting on a train with a parachute, [laughter] but I did.
SI: So you told us before about what led to your going to Lafayette. You'd just come out of the military. What was it like readjusting to college life and civilian life in general?
RT: Well, it wasn't a case of my readjusting, because I had had some experience. I knew the kind of things to expect although this was a different type of environment than I had had before. But my favorite story wasn't about my adjustment as much as the adjustment for those freshmen coming in right out of high school, not from the service, but from high school. This was at the point that I developed the feeling that, by and large, those kids--I'll refer to them as kids (in a way they were)--of their coming to college at that age and that's when I just thought what this country should have is a compulsory year of service between high school and college. Not only to develop maturity, but secondly, to come to a conclusion, "Do I really want to go to college or not?" I saw far too many young folks coming into college that really shouldn't be there. They were coming because the old man wanted them there or they wanted that, "I want my kid to have a college education." Actually, they were better qualified to be a plumber and wanted to be a plumber and would make a good plumber, rather than going to college.
NM: How old were you then?
RT: That was in '47. I was twenty-three.
NM: Yes, a lot of them are eighteen when they graduate.
RT: I was twenty-seven when I graduated from college, finally, as Jan, my wife, will tell you. That's when I thought this is where a CCC program would be useful--a lot of these programs such as CCC where one could work for a year for the government or something similar. Too much money was wasted and too much talent that didn't exist, was of no use. I've had enough discussion of that with some other folks too who understand that. But the point was we were mature. We had had some experience. It was tough competition for those kids coming in. But there used to be the usual hazing of freshmen. So one time, as freshman, we were all told to get up and go all the way up to the top of the gym where there was a circular track and sit up there because there was going to be some hazing. The deal was they told us to take our shoes off and throw them down onto the gym floor. They wanted to see us scramble to find our own shoes. Well, nobody moved. Finally, this one guy sitting at the top of the gym, who had been a tough sergeant said, "Come up and get us." [laughter] That was the end of that.
SI: I know that for a lot of colleges during that time there were so many GIs coming back that they almost couldn't fit them on the campus.
SI: Was that the case at Lafayette? Did they have adequate housing and classrooms?
RT: To my knowledge, yes. I wasn't aware of anything other than campus living at the time. Go back to that, just one little episode that you would find interesting. Going back to the ASTP program, I didn't know this until after I had graduated and went to a reunion some years hence. They brought back all the alumni they could from that particular area to find out that there had been this ASTP program, and this one fellow was talking about it. He said, "Oh yeah, we had one." I guess that maybe he had been in one of them. But he said, "One of the people in our group was Henry Kissinger." He said, "You know, we had to fall out for roll call every morning and if somebody couldn't make it for whatever reason somebody would answer for him. You know, say, 'Joe's here,' 'Smith here,' "you know, that type of thing, and get away with it. But for Kissinger who was there, nobody would say he was there for him. [laughter] They didn't care much for him.
SI: Did you live in dorms all four years?
RT: No, I lived my first year there. I did get into a fraternity and I was there for three years.
SI: Which fraternity was it?
RT: Theta Delta Chi. I don't think that they have it at Rutgers.
SI: They probably had a chapter during your time, but there have been so many changes with the fraternity system.
RT: To comment on that bit, it was a good experience because I had the opportunity to be the leader of it and made a lot of development there and it was good to have, and we had some great times, both socially and contributive wise. We brought orphaned kids up to the house all the time and things of that sort. But my observation, at least on that, subsequently, when my son, in particular, went to college at Lehigh I took one look, I went back to Lafayette and looked at theirs too, I didn't want anybody. It's just degenerated into a social thing and not with the best aspects whatsoever.
SI: When you were going to college, was it a case where if you weren't in fraternity you might as well not have a social life? Was it very important?
RT: Probably not as much because we had some great times and that's how my wife and I finally got together. Meeting her was a whole different ball game, but they were great times, thoroughly. I invited friends to come up and join us with their mate or whatever. But I think today, my observation is that the college is doing a better job in providing for social groups by individual dormitories, particularly if they have a particular interest. I was interested in my grandson, Tom, going to Rutgers. He is with an honors group, which kind of on their own, and of course he's just there for his first year, but it sounds like they've kind of got their act together as to how to offer social groups than they used to. He has belonged all four years to a mock trial honors group. He has been president of the group all four years. He earned a plaque that was engraved "Perfect Attorney" in February 2016.
SI: Yes, I know there is a lot of specialty housing and interest-based housing.
RT: Yes, exactly.
SI: Were there other social organizations that you were involved in or campus activities?
RT: Well, campus activities, yes. They weren't necessarily social, but yeah.
SI: What types of things did you get involved in?
RT: Well, I have to stop and think, the purpose of the. [laughter] The one I got involved with in particular was not particularly academically oriented. I mean, there were those kinds of groups, obviously, but this was more of a group that was formed to be of help to the campus, the college and to the town. We used to have some great activities in that respect.
SI: Do you remember the name of the group?
RT: It was called The Knights of the Round Table.
RT: I was King Author once. [laughter] I tell a story. We would have an affair for all the parents to come and my mother was fit to be--I mean she was always teasing me because I had to run the meeting with a whole place full of people. I know she was sitting down there, saw me, probably (two of you?). Well, what was going to happen? Well I learned a trick and I tried it and I said I would take some blurring, if you will, on public speaking, and one thought that was brought out, if I were to get up and [was] not really sure of my audience, just pretend that they are all sitting out there in their underwear. [laughter] I said then you'll calm down completely. I was fortunate with being on good terms and good activities with the faculty, even the president of the college, which was a funny story.
SI: You had some personal interaction with the president of Lafayette?
SI: Do any of your professors stand out?
RT: Yes. There was something that we did as a fraternity which I know that they got out of the way of. Almost once a week we had to put on a coat and tie. We could have dungarees on, but we put on a coat and tie for dinner. We would invite a faculty member to come join us. We had invited a couple that I had no teaching experience with, but I admired them completely and so enjoyed that opportunity to have some back and forth with them. One was a Spanish professor, which I probably say now that I should have taken some Spanish. The other one was the geology professor. I went out into the world afterwards and the kind of activity I was particularly interested in the mountains in New England. I wish I had taken his course in geology; I enjoyed him so. I forgot what I was going to say, for the moment.
SI: In the summers between college semesters, did you go out and get jobs or did you continue going to school?
RT: No, I didn't at that point because I was very fortunate in another way. My mother and dad had bought a little piece of land in New Hampshire in '46. It was our love of the area. I first went there when I was eight years old and never wanted to go anywhere else when I had the time. So he bought an old farm house in the 1940's that had no running water, and no electricity. So from February of '46 until September when I started school, I was up there either living with a friend down the road, but also redoing this house, making it livable. In those days all you had to do was tell the government, "I need electricity" and they had to put polls in a quarter mile of road to get to it--no cost, rural electrification. We brought in a pump and motor so that we had running water in the house. Very small house, wonderful old house, and we heated it by three fireplaces when it was necessary. I went there any time I ever got the chance. In fact, I went there on my honeymoon. I took my wife too, in February, and she had never been out of the state of Maryland until I had met her over in Vermont the previous summers. We had to snowshoe into the house and use the fireplaces and work from there, but to me that was real living.
RK: The GI Bill, did you benefit from that or was that after... [Editor's Note: The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the GI Bill of Rights, offered funding for college or vocational education, as well as one year of unemployment and loans to buy homes, to returning World War II veterans.]
RK: Okay. When did it start then?
RT: Rich, I think it started right after the war, right with the war. I think it was in place at the end of the war. Because even though it was relatively inexpensive there compared to today, it was still a bit of a struggle, unless I had found a scholarship, for dad to help me do that. Because he was just beginning to come back to be, you know, where he wanted to be, not nowhere near what he was, but at least he was comfortable.
RK: So you would not have been able to complete your college without the GI Bill.
RT: Exactly. That isn't to say I couldn't have found work to do in the summertime, because I went back to New Hampshire. All three summers because there was plenty of work for me to do there not only with the property, but with the neighbors. I used to help them farm and spread gravel on tar roads and things of that sort and plus get in a little mountain climbing, which was really why I went there. [laughter]
SI: Did you get back into skiing after the war?
RT: Oh, yes and taught my wife too. That's why we went on our honeymoon to the North, to do that.
SI: Did you use any other aspect of the GI Bill aside from covering your education?
RT: I had made a little money at the college. I have to take that back, because I got into a little instructing work in one of their departments. I got paid for it so.
SI: Okay, alright.
RK: Do you remember what instruction you were providing at that time?
RT: We had a little foundry, and I did some foundry work, teaching, I should say. It was very small scale, but it was the principle.
SI: You said that your experience in the military led you into your studies at Lafayette.
SI: Did you find that they were teaching you things that you had already learned in the military or was it new material?
RT: I would say new material with a little polish. I regret, on that score, like I said, I would have loved to have taken geology, just for the human interest. I wish I had taken a language or something in the arts, but you can only do so much. Digressing, my son went to Leigh, excellent school for engineering as you well know. I think he benefited from it very well, he got a good education, but I know he himself misses the fact that there wasn't a little bit of the fine arts or classical in there, because he gets interested in some things and he wishes he had a little training in it. It's a good school, but I say it's a little too concentrated.
SI: Tell us, you said that you met your wife in Vermont? Tell us that story.
RT: [laughter] Yeah. I had some fraternity brothers, three of them, who got a job with a boy's camp through a connection up in Vermont. So they did that the first year and I would go over and visit with them when they had a day off or they came over, because we were only about forty miles apart. They would come over to New Hampshire. So the second year it happened there was a lake in Vermont that had, let see, three boy's camps and six girl's camps. I said they were in heaven--six girl's camps. So one time they said, "Come on over because we're going to get some dates from the girls around there and go on a picnic. Do you want to come?" I said, "Oh, sure." So she was a blind date. She had come up from Maryland. She taught school and she was looking for summer work and she, through a connection in Washington, got involved with one of these girl's camps on the lake in Vermont, and that's how we met.
NM: How many years ago?
RT: I should know this by heart. We were married in '51. I graduated in '50. Forty-eight was when I first met her. So we dated then, and subsequently I would go down to Washington to meet with her. Her father was a dairy farmer, just fascinating, I loved him. I mean they were wonderful people, I mean her mother in particular was a beautiful woman, and I enjoyed her sister and her brother. They didn't have running water in their house. No, they didn't have any indoor plumbing, same thing, when I first met here. Of course, she finally told her mother when we realized that we were probably going to get married and I was to come down, I went down to meet the family, but then after that she told her mother, "If we don't have a bathroom in here, I'm not getting married," [laughter] so they got a bathroom. But those days were so different than today. The picnic we went on was to a state park in Vermont nearby and we had a great time, and met the ranger of the park there. We were looking for raspberries. We got talking with him. He didn't know who we were or where we were from and all that bit. He said, "Well, they aren't ripe yet, but I always say, 'Well, I'll let you know.' " But anyway, I went back to Holderness, New Hampshire. We were up a lane and had to go down a quarter of a mile to get the mail. One day my mother walked down to get the mail and she came back and she had a card in her hand and she said, "Oh, what's this?" Well, I looked at it. It was a penny postcard. It was addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Twitchell, RD3 Holderness. [laughter] I turned on the back and it was by Ralph Plum, the ranger. It said, "Dear Mr. and Mrs. Twitchell, Raspberries are ripe. Feel free to come and get them. Signed, Ralph Plum." [laughter] I took it and I laughed and I said, "He just thought that we were married." I said, "I never told him that we were married." [laughter]
RK: Do you still have that postcard?
RT: I do. [laughter] I do. I had given him my name and address, you know, and he probably just figured, "Well, they're married."
SI: So when you were going through Lafayette, it sounds like you joined your father's business right out of college. Was that a plan that you made during your time in college?
RT: I had given thought. Again, Bill Reynolds, he interested me in going to what they now call a Rotary Scholarship for studying overseas. Jan and I had really talked about getting married. If we got married and we took that, "I'd go over and study. You could go over with me and you could find work" and you know. But then I got talking to my dad and I realized he was coming to the point he was forty years older than I, so here I was twenty-eight so he was sixty-eight, almost seventy, but I could see that he kind of needed help because he was doing this on his own, and he offered me the opportunity. So I gave it a lot of thought and I knew exactly what it was. Jan and I talked about it and we thought, "You know what? What we were thinking of was like pie in the sky in a way." So, I took up that opportunity and went into business with him. A little interesting story along that if you will. My son, Jim, who had gone to Lehigh with the idea of getting two degrees in four years. Well, he reached the point where he said, "It's more than I can handle," and I said, "Well, by all means, make a change." Well, he made a change, but in so doing he had almost six months vacancy. I said, "But in that six months, you know what I think would be ideal for you, then you'll know for sure, go out and get a job and something like it, because then you'll know whether you really want to come with me or not." I said, "I don't want to say 'You come with me,' I want you to make the choice." So he got a job out in Oregon. Well I said, "But I want you to get away from home. Go out of the area." Well he did, he went to Oregon and with another small company, father and son. It was perfect, because they fought like cats and dogs. He said, "If we do that, ()fight like cats and dogs) I'll never do it." And I said, "No, I think it's fine. I know how to get rid of you if you want to argue." So it was a good experience for him to have that work. We got along just fine.
SI: Now when you joined your father, did he own his own business?
RT: No, we were a distributor for a manufacturer.
RT: I mean that's what it boiled down to. So yes, we were independent, if that's what you mean.
SI: Can you describe for us what the business was? Where it was? What it did?
RT: My son is doing it now, what there is left of it these days. We get orders and we buy the equipment from the manufacturer, our order, and sell it to the buyer.
SI: Okay. Was it the same business when you joined it in the '50s?
RT: Yes, right, correct.
SI: Where were you located?
RT: [To unknown party] You don't have to tip-toe. [To Shaun] Question again?
SI: Where was it located?
RT: Well, we used to use an office here in Haddonfield, but now we for about thirty years have been out in Cherry Hill in our own office.
RT: Just maintain an office and a shop for maintenance purposes.
SI: Okay. How large was the business in terms of employees?
RT: It ranged as many as six, but now two. Everything is so different today than what it used to be. So basically, it's a firm of two people where it used to be six.
SI: The clients that you serve, that you buy the equipment for, are they in industry?
RT: It started out basically ninety percent to industry. The DuPont Company is an example. We dealt with their plants all over the country, but now it's anything but industrial. It's all either private contractors who serve with the equipment, to the industry, or to municipalities as the case may be.
SI: Okay. Now when did you and your wife settle in Haddonfield and where did you build your house?
RT: We married in '51. We came right to Haddonfield, had an apartment for about two years. When we found a piece of land we bought the land and then built on it subsequently, and that's where we are today. We've been in our house almost sixty years.
SI: Now at that time, was there still a lot of room to develop here in town?
RT: Lots of places. We were surrounded by fields, really, over into Barrington, but also there were lots of vacant lots in Haddonfield, lots of them, because as kids we used to [play]. That's the other thing about what happened. We would play, you know, in somebody's lot. They would say, "Sure, help yourself." We would make our own fun. We found plenty of things to do.
SI: How did that change during your first decade living here as a married couple? How did you see Haddonfield change?
RT: Well it was starting to change, of course, before then. There was a vacant lot next to where my mother and dad lived and dad had a victory garden there during the war. There was another thing that was going on in the town. I would say it was probably in the '60s it's really starting to turn. Actually, somebody will build a house ten years ago and they sell it today, it's torn down, and build something bigger, it's horrible.
SI: Did you join the planning board around that time, in the '60s?
RT: In the '60s.
SI: Is that something that you ran an election for or where you appointed?
RT: [laughter] No, I learned you don't run for elections in our town. One time I was asked and I got nominated to serve on the board of education, which my wife did get on, by the way, eventually. But I went and I was hooked up to another candidate. You know, "This would be a good pair." Well, I went to one coffee for the two of us and I sat there and I thought, "You idiot. What are you doing in this situation?" He was a professor at Penn, but there had been a slight tinge of pink about him that got around and I thought, "I don't want any part of this." Well, fortunately we had the election and I lost by nine votes. I can't tell you, I wanted to go shake the hand of every one of those nine people, because it wasn't my game. Al Sharp was mayor of the town. He was a good friend of my brother's, a contemporary, and he appointed me to the planning board.
SI: So you ran for the board of education before you were on the planning board?
RT: I'm pretty sure I did. I wouldn't have tried to do both at the same time, I'm sure of that. [laughter]
NM: Who was the mayor that you mentioned?
RT: Al Sharp.
NM: I don't think I've ever heard his name.
RT: Yeah, he was a very intelligent guy, Princeton grad. He hadn't lived here for years.
NM: Oh, okay.
RT: His family home was down on--well he lived there too with his wife--Washington Avenue where Rich (Romash?) lives.
NM: I've never heard of him.
SI: Is he still alive?
RT: No, because all of those fellows, they'd be ninety-five.
SI: So at that level, in terms of boards of education and that sort of thing, is it mostly independent politics or are there other parties involved?
RT: Well, the board of education was non-political in that respect. But to get back to the commissioners, that's the other thing. We've had a commission form of government, three commissioners and historically, they've been completely independent of politics. Because if that fellow was intelligent enough and you would be, or if she was a worthwhile, I don't care what they were, they were elected. But today it's just like our national politics, which is a shame.
SI: So it was three commissioners and they would take charge being a mayor?
RT: No, I think historically it's just whoever has the most votes is mayor. I mean, they work it out among themselves, but that's the way it works or has worked, let's put it that way. [laughter]
SI: So tell us a little bit about your time on the planning board. What were the major challenges that you faced in the sixties when you joined?
RT: I guess the biggest thing that we dealt with was developing a historic district, which we now have, which limits the kinds of things that you can build that are not in keeping with the environment of the district. In other words, you wouldn't want a glass office building. Those can't be had. Now how you restrict it, kind of forget how that happens. There was need for it because we were seeing things start to deteriorate that would not be in keeping. We felt that we had something here that is attractive, that the people would enjoy, in other words the historic aspect of the town and so this was an effort to accommodate that and it wouldn't have happened except for one woman. She had no office, although she headed up a historic district committee let's say or whatever it was. I have to say this about her because we all knew who she was and what she was, she was the pain in you know what.
NM: This Joan Akin?
RT: Joan Akin.
RK: You can say her name.
RT: When she kept at it and kept at it, I submit it wouldn't have happened if she hadn't kept at it. But she irritated everybody that came down the street. But she got it done. She probably was right, I don't know if it could have been done any other way except to just hammer the people to do it because there was a lot of opposition to it. That was probably, I would say, the major thing that occurred. The other one that we had hoped for, kind of interesting, behind the library where there's now a brick office building, there was a wooden structure called the Estelle House.
NM: There still is.
RT: There was a move by the Friends, the Quakers, and they wanted to tear it down and build something more accommodating. It was an old thing, limited in size. I had personally felt, "Great, I'd like to see it," because there was need for some senior citizen housing for our older people and this would hopefully achieve that. Well, "Not in my backyard" in a nutshell, "Absolutely, no." It went down the tube and that's when the Quakers, if you're familiar with it, they went out and purchased land called Medford Lees and that's how Medford Lees came about because it was rejected here in town. Well, I know a couple of fellows, one in particular has since died, Lou Barton, a very good Quaker, wonderful guy, and he's head of it. I said, "I admire what you did, because you could have never done that here." I mean, it's a facility beyond belief. It's not for my way of living, but it is a fantastic operation. It's "a Monmouth." They've got houses. They've got condos. They've got everything, including full medical care. But I said, "The only benefit of our not having it here is because it made you go out, do what you did, which you wouldn't have done otherwise." So that [would be it] as far as the planning board, other than hankering over whether you could have a sign painted pink or blue and that type of thing.
NM: Who remembered the man who kept painting his door every morning with a different color?
RT: His name is Roger Wells. He's a well-known landscape architecting business. He now lives in New Hampshire. I see him occasionally. He went up there, he was kind of driven up there because he wasn't working out too well here, but he had been very successful. He did a lot of the design work for those big corporate layouts up on Route 1 outside of Princeton, as an example. I remember they were in a parade one time. It was, you know, a Fourth of July parade, making much of that painted door bit.
SI: I never heard of painting like that.
NM: He just painted his front door a different color every day.
SI: Wow, every day?
NM: Then the whole town was mad at him. What started, it's right on King's Highway, and they (kept with it?). May we take a break?
SI: Oh, sure. Let's take a break.
SI: Okay. So, before our break we were talking about your time on the planning board and the development of the historic district in Haddonfield. Over lunch we talked about people involved in the project other than Joan Akin. Do you remember their involvement at all?
RT: Well, I think that I mentioned, maybe I already did this, repeating myself, but the three commission government used to be very effective in this regard because those individuals were independent of any political aspirations or desires, so that they themselves would get into these things. Al Sharp was one, I think I mentioned, who was very instrumental in all of those things. It's like putting in the speed line. That was a true civic effort to get that depressed. I don't know if you ever knew that story or not.
SI: Was that during your time on the planning board?
RT: Yes, the railroad used to be up on grade with Haddonfield's streets. In other words, they had to put the gate down on Kings Highway so the trains could go back and forth, but these folks got to work to get it depressed through Haddonfield. They were successful in doing and it did take a lot work because there were a lot of underground streams that had to be taken into consideration. But where other towns didn't want to bother with that, they got it elevated in their town and it makes two parts to such a town. You've got a railroad elevated throughout the transit service that splits Collingswood, and Haddon Township right in half and it makes a big difference to the whole civic attitude and community attitude if you will.
NM: Is this when you were on the board?
RT: Part of it, yes. We had nothing to do because it was actually not planning so much as the commissioners, the town, agreeing to doing it. It was more of a community rather than planning.
SI: When was the historic district actually established?
RT: I'm going to guess on this. Cathy might be able to help you on that, but I would say it was no later than the '70s. If you were asking me just when I was on the planning board I'd have to go check it out. I don't recall that. I know I was on it in mid-60s and I think sometime in the early to mid-70s that I went off of it.
SI: Was it a set term or did you decide that you had enough?
RT: I just decided to retire or resign from the board and somebody else would be picked up. There was no election involved in selecting people for the planning board and it was only within the board that members would select a new chairman.
NM: Do the commissioners appoint who's on the preservation committee and some of these other things or no?
RT: The commissioners didn't do anything. They would appoint people to the board, period. I say it was Al Sharpe, when he was mayor, he asked me if I would like to. I said, "Okay," so then it happened. Because I think there was, as I say, it wasn't political, so if Al Sharpe says, "Okay, let's do it," then they say, "Yeah right, let's do it."
SI: During your time on the board did the issue of the rate of housing development come up? Was there a plan in terms of limiting or encouraging development?
RT: Yeah, the one issue I recall was a move to develop the housing at the bottom of Ellis Street. Are you familiar?
SI: Very vaguely.
SI: Okay. Well, there were some double houses along there that weren't in the best of shape. Then there was Lincoln Avenue that came down, curves around, and out to Ellis Street. There was Lincoln Lot all the way down to where that new church now stands and we had hoped that that could be developed into some affordable senior citizen housing, but here again, "Not in my backyard." Then the problem arose that if you used federal money to make that development then you were obligated to open it up to anybody from anywhere. Our hope and intention was to provide some affordable senior citizen housing for our own citizens, so it kind of flopped on that point. It never went through. Then it was finally developed privately.
SI: You said in a few places that this sense of not in my backyard kind of torpedoed a few projects.
SI: Would this be members of the community working through the planning board or was it just an outcry and the planning board deciding not to go in that direction?
RT: Well, basically, you could sense the citizens were against it. Maybe they would make up a petition. It never came up as a referendum that I remember. It was just public opposition to what you were trying to do and for the sake of, I guess, the peace and quiet of the community a lot of it wasn't fought. I remember another issue that came up a civic way and I think it was before I was on the planning board. Where my house is it's on the highest point in the town. I mean, it's not by a great distance, but it is the highest point and there were two or three vacant lots down below us, and I guess it was the commissioners [who] considered putting a water tower up there. We have one water tower down off of Walnut Street and that's the only water tower we have. But at that time, water was always a problem, was then as it is now. I personally had to be careful because I didn't want to upset my neighbors, but I was in favor of it because I was more interested in having a water supply than whether... I said, "You know, water towers don't have to be ugly. They can be attractive. The can be done well." Well it really upset some people because they didn't want that kind of thing in their backyard, so it never came about. In the meantime, instead of having a water tower they now have developed a pumping station over on Lake Street, near the Friends School. So, theoretically, we don't have a potential water supply problem as we would have. But it was that kind of thing that got bantered around and it didn't come through and I guess it's probably alright.
NM: Isn't the pumping station gone off Lake now? I don't know where it is?
RT: You're not aware of it, right?
NM: No. Hasn't it...
RT: It's there.
NM: been replaced?
RT: Oh, on Lake Street? No there was never a water tower. I said there was a pumping station there.
NM: Yes, but I don't think the pumping station is there anymore. I don't know why I think that.
RT: Well, you might be right. You might be right, because now we get some of our water from an independent source.
RT: I think we still have a well down by Mountwell Pool area, down by the water works.
NM: Yeah, I okay.
RT: I think some of our water comes from down there pumped up, but the one on Lake Street, I think you could be right.
NM: I'm not sure what relation it had to Christ the King.
RT: It was a brick building.
NM: Yeah, is that the one that at one time was a pottery?
RT: No, the pottery wasn't that far down Lake. The pottery was more up toward across from the Friends School.
SI: It seems like earlier in the twentieth-century the town's African-American community had been limited to one section of town, like the Douglass Street area.
RT: Interesting, I will say it has been limited. It worked out that way. In other words, I don't believe the town ever said, "You can't do this. You can't do that." It was just the way things evolved. It was and still is, to a fair degree, a group of Afro-Americans, a very interesting case, which I am pleased to report on. This is the block that we live on. Here's Oak Avenue. Here's Chews Landing Road. Then here's Pomona Avenue that goes down to Bellevue. We live on this corner right here. We bought the property. We hadn't started to build yet. Down over here, on that cattycorner of Pomona Avenue, a new house was under construction. I didn't know anything about it--who was doing it, why, or where. We got a call from a neighbor down in there wanting us to come to a meeting. So I went to find out what it was all about. What I found was that these folks, a lot from all this neighborhood in here, were concerned because they had discovered that who was building this house was an Afro-American couple. Actually, what happened was a white couple contracted to have the house built with a contractor. They went into settlement to get the house turned over and this Black couple came in and sat down with them. They picked up the house and immediately signed it to the Black couple and everybody went, "Oh."
NM: "Not in my backyard."
RK: What year was this Bob?
RT: Well, it had to have been in the '50s.
SI: Because it was when you built your house?
RT: Because it was when we built our house. So it would have been like mid-50s, '55 maybe.
RT: I discovered right off the bat that the gentleman was a surgeon, a doctor. It's funny. I sat on the floor back by the radiator listening to all of this going on. I couldn't wait to get home and tell Jan what was going on. I wanted to raise the question, "Okay, so he moves in and you're next door and someone has taken deathly ill in the middle of the night. What are you going to do? Are you not going to run next door and see if the doctor will come and see them?" So they got nowhere with it. They went through it and it was a beautiful couple--the Bascom, B-A-S-C-O-M Waugh, W-A-U-G-H, I think was the name. I won't say the country club set, but the people were really just, "What's going to happen to the value of my property?" That's all they were saying was, "My property value is going to go zoom." There were times that I wanted to go to them and say, "Well, where do you think your property value..." Of course, it kept going up because of the neighborhood, his too. I said, "What happened to your property value? What happened? They were supposed to sink." I didn't, but that's the attitude I felt. I came to find out another very interesting thing. She was a beautiful woman, a lovely personality. Jan got to know here quite well. They did develop friendships and they were well received in due time. Interestingly enough, I was in a Cooper Hospital a couple of years ago and as you walk from the parking lot in there's a long glass thing having to do with the history of Cooper Hospital. Come to find out Bascom Waugh was a flight surgeon for the Tuskegee Air Force Group. I wish I had known it earlier because I heard one of the members of that flying group give a talk one day. I wish I had known about Bascom. [Editor's Note: According to Cooper Hospital, in 1950 Dr. Waugh became the first African-American doctor on staff of any area hospital.]
NM: So how long did they stay there?
NM: Did they really?
RT: Yes, they both finally died. They had a daughter. A builder bought it and built a bigger house. I can't tell you the nice houses that have been torn down so bigger ones could be built. We've got two right across the street from us.
NM: So they were always well accepted in your neighborhood.
SI: At the meeting, were they trying to get people to somehow not move in?
RT: Truthfully, I don't remember. I can't say everybody made, "Well, this is what we ought to do." I think they were just moaning and groaning.
RT: Because, you know, we've got at least a half dozen Afro-Americans living in various parts of the town now.
NM: Oh, many.
RT: Probably more than that.
NM: Quite a few.
RT: Probably more than that.
SI: That is what I was getting at. When you were on the planning board, were there any efforts by any groups to limit where African-Americans could live?
RT: No, I would have chomped down on that flat out.
NM: So as long as you've been here there has been a section that has had Black families?
RT: Douglass Avenue?
RT: Oh, yeah. Actually, if you go down Douglass Avenue at the very end, there's a house up on a little elevation and when you look at it you can appreciate what it was. It was a school house, in its day, for that area. It's near where Tarditi Towers is or whatever they call [it], on Lincoln Avenue.
NM: Tarditi Commons.
RT: Commons. When I was a kid that was a school building. It was a white building. It was a school for up to, I think, including eighth grade, for Black students. As I remember, it was a Black school when I was little kid. I know it was gone by the time I was in high school, because I know we had a couple of Afro-Americans in our high school, but initially, that's where the Black children went before it got to private use.
NM: Did they come originally as help for white families?
RT: I wouldn't say when they came. As far as I know, they were always here. But to answer your question, I think they all were of help throughout the town. I don't think there is any question on that. The interesting one I was familiar with involved this couple I referred to earlier. He was of a family of four boys. (Winthers?) was his last name, Curtis (Winthers?). He was just a very nice gentleman. His brother Dewitt used to ride around town, riding a bicycle and smoking a cigar. Do you remember ever seeing anybody like that?
RT: He had a bicycle, smoking a cigar. [laughter]
RK: Now, with the all Black school, did students have an option to go there or was it enforced segregation?
RT: I'm just going to assume that if you were Black or lived on Douglass Avenue that's where you went to school.
RT: It's like if somebody lives over there where you go to Elizabeth Haddon.
NM: Were there any white students?
RT: I don't think so.
NM: I know there used to be several private schools over in that part of town, like boarding schools, weren't they? Or does that go way back?
RT: That goes way back and that would have been around Centre Street toward Mountwell Park. I think there was a girl's school out there and there was also a boy's school. If you look through Lost Haddonfield Kathy Tassini and Doug Rauschenberg's picture book, you'll find some pictures in there.
RK: African-American students attending this African-American school, did they try to, or were they allowed into the white school if they so choose to go there?
RT: I doubt it.
RT: I've never heard or knew otherwise.
NM: Now the houses that the Blacks live on, what's the street down from Acme? Douglas Avenue.
NM: Yeah, but what's it down by the ballfields and so forth?
RT: Okay, that's Ellis Street.
NM: Is it true? I've heard that they've torn them down a couple of times and rebuilt them?
RT: The housing?
NM: The houses there.
RT: As you go down on your right?
NM: Yeah, where the Black people live.
RT: No, that's the one I was referring to a moment ago. It was a vacant field from Lincoln Avenue, where Lincoln Avenue swings down.
RT: Like from Lincoln on down, well there's some Black folks living there now, but most of that, facing on Ellis Street was a vacant lot. Then on this side of Lincoln Avenue there were two or three double houses. They are still there. They've been completely remodeled and so forth. There's still some Afro-American folk who live up Ellis Street on the left as you go up Lincoln Avenue. So they aren't strictly down there on Douglass Avenue.
NM: I believe there's still, how many, what two or three Black churches, correct?
NM: There's one up there?
NM: I don't know what denomination that is. If you go to Tarditi's, if you go this way there's one there. There's the one that burned.
RT: Well as you're coming down Lincoln Avenue, just as you turn to come down to Ellis, there's a church there on the right, there at the corner, you know it? Then there's the one that had the fire and has been rebuilt. They're the only two that I know of.
NM: There are two? Okay.
SI: You mentioned that there was an opportunity to bring in some federal funding, but you declined because it meant you had to open it to everybody. When you were on the planning board were there successful efforts to bring in federal funding?
RT: No, there was no effort. I think it was a given from a legal standpoint that if you do go out and get federal money then you don't have the kind of control of what you might want to do to limit it to, not race, but to citizens of the town. Because we were seeing if we could find a solution for the citizens to have a place to go to, regardless of race, but long in years.
SI: So that was for senior citizens, but what about low-income housing? Did that issue ever come up?
RT: Not when I was on the board, but that's been a hot issue from time to time. I'd be the last to be able to explain what's happen to you from a legal standpoint. It's been back and forth. There's been arguments. I don't know where fair housing stands within the state anymore. That kind of got put on the side here for a while from what I'm reading. Now maybe it's going to come back, but it was all this consternation as to just how much you'd have to do. There was concern that they're going to force areas to be developed for low income when that area might be right within an area that's not within the same economic frame. I think that's what the concern was. It's like the concern that arose on this Bancroft issue about Radnor Field. It's an athletic field over in the middle of a residential section and I picked up there was concern that if the Bancroft deal went through, it took care of the school needs, this Radnor Field, which was, school property?
RT: School property would be reverted into some undesirable crowded housing development.
NM: I'm not sure how that happened, yes, because when they built, what's your section called?
NM: Fargo, that lot was designated as a school and I think that's the only way the school board comes by the ownership is that it was designated to be a school, which they never built. Now there're athletic fields up there and something. But there's this huge thing that you would not like to see.
RT: Yes, because they are fearful that the schoolboard would sell that property to developers and have that ability to do that still.
SI: So after you left the planning board, did you have any other civic involvement, any boards that you served on?
RT: No, I'd get involved in a project one at a time. I got very involved on the dog issue in Crows Woods. We had a lovely, really nice piece of wooded area in town. It's now primarily used for athletics--wonderful setup for athletic activities and community gardens. Also, people would walk their dogs. I say, walk their dogs there, too. It got to the point where they would turn their dogs loose and it became a safety hazard for children in particular. Some bad situations did evolve. And that became a real hot issue. I was amazed. I never knew people were so attached to dogs.
RK: It became a big election issue.
RT: I love dogs. I grew up with dogs. But, you know, unfortunately, I had dogs when there was lots of open land in this town and I could open the door and let the dog run. But you can't do that anymore because there are too many people, too many dogs for that matter. So it was a big battle regarding that problem. But finally, and I could never understand, I'm always amazed at legal people who were fighting us about keeping dogs under control. From just a legal viewpoint, a safety viewpoint, I couldn't believe they would say this about letting dogs run freely.
SI: You've been involved in a lot of community activities as well. You have been very active in your church. Do you want to tell us about how that developed?
RT: Well my church activities were pretty deep at one time. I'm frank to say they aren't today. I mean, I support a church financially to some degree. I feel that churches and their social activities are very important to a community, whether it's my beliefs, or not. I think churches are getting on too thin ice to talk anymore. But I think churches as a whole are having a real tough time. There was a bishop in the Episcopal Church of which I was associated who wrote a book called Christianity Must Change or Die.
RT: By Bishop Spong, and, you know, I think he's got a strong point, because with the way society has evolved and changing, we've got to change. [Editor's Note: The full title of the book is Why Christianity Must Change or Die by Bishop John Shelby Spong.] But yes, I was very active at one time mainly from a physical aspect. We had a big expansion. A woman died and left us two million bucks, so we spent it and put on a big addition on the church and along with another fellow co-managed that construction and development which was very interesting. I enjoyed it. But it keeps you busy.
SI: What church was this in town?
RT: This was Grace Episcopal Church.
RT: But you know people say, "What church do you belong to?" I say, "I like them all. I'm Ecumenical." [laughter]
SI: You're involved in Interfaith Caregivers. Tell us about that.
RT: That was started by a woman in town whose brother I grew up with in Boy Scouts, but she conceived a need to be able to accommodate senior citizens, particularly, in their needs for getting to doctors and doing things of that nature. So she was a good spark plug and both Jan and I got very involved. Jan was president at one time. I was on the board. It was, you know, gratifying work. It was fascinating. I used to go, and I still tell them I'm available for it, to do respite where somebody, maybe their mate, had Alzheimer's and they needed to get out, so we could go in and sit with the person or talk with them for an hour or two just to give this person a respite. I met some very interesting people. There was a man here in town (he and his wife lived on West End Avenue) and they literally adopted I think at least seven children.
NM: I think it was twelve by the time they got through with it all.
RT: Okay, I know it was a goodly amount. They brought adoptees into their home to feed them and to care for them as parents would.
NM: They had more than three or four wheelchairs at one time.
RT: I don't think they were appreciated to the degree that they should have been by the town or their neighbors. But in any event, she died a very sad death. I got called to go to a restaurant with him and I said, "Sure." I had never met the fellow, but when I did, I found he was fascinating. I enjoyed him immensely.
NM: He was wheelchair bound.
RT: Yes, well he was in home hospice right then.
NM: Oh, okay that's...
RT: When I went to visit him.
NM: More recently, yeah.
RT: Come to find out one of their "daughters" is in the "special" home out on Marlkress Road next to the property that we own, where my son has his office. Jim is more of a mechanic than I ever was and this gal will come to Jim every once in a while in her electric wheelchair because something is wrong with it so he takes it back to the garage and fixes it. But at any rate, it turns out this fellow had been an architect in his day, back up in Freehold. I wish that I could remember his name. But the first thing he...
NM: I was just going to say I can't remember it.
RT: It'll come to me.
NM: It'll come.
RT: I'll call you at two in the morning and tell you.
RT: But at any rate, we got talking. I went to see him a couple of times. Now the second time I went back, because of our conversation he knew of my interests in the mountains and the trails and so forth and gave me a book of a fellow who hiked the whole Appalachian Trail. Well that got me started with more conversations with him. Long story short, he was an architect who designed a little building for a Presbyterian minister in Rochester, New York for a property on Squam Lake in New Hampshire that we had rented for the summer. Can you imagine? [laughter] It shows you, I say you have to be careful at what you say and what you do.
NM: I can't think of their name. It will come to us.
RT: Yes. But a fascinating man and you know, it was so neat, not only to help him out in his life, I guess, but to have somebody like that to talk with. So there were those kinds of people that we would come upon. We'd take them for dialysis treatment, provide the transportation.
SI: That was independent of your church?
RT: Oh, yes.
RT: That's an independent ecumenical operation.
NM: She had a terrible ending, tragic ending, his wife.
NM: His wife.
RT: Oh, yeah. I don't know what the story was but there was a fatality involved in something that they were doing. I went to their service, for him, and I met some of these [people]. They were nice people.
NM: I had given my genealogy class, which was interesting. I'm thinking wait a minute, you've got twelve adopted kids and none of your own. But he was interested in his own genealogy.
NM: Yeah, it is. I can see her face and I can't [remember her name]. One of the adopted kids' fathers came here, during the bad year.
SI: You were also involved in environmental groups?
RT: Yeah, Jan used to say I belonged to every environmental group in the country--National Park, Sierra Club. I've not been physically active too much, but I always supported them, Appalachian Mountain Club, there's so many of them. But it's a problem.
SI: But no local environmental groups?
RT: Well, locally we have the Crows Woods ...
RK: It's gone through several different names.
RK: Yes, all related.
RT: To protect Crows Woods, which is that area that I explained to you where the dogs and the ballfields are.
SI: So you really have seen a lot of changes in that regard, environmentally, from when you were a kid and you could just march out and camp in what's Cherry Hill now.
RT: Oh yeah.
SI: What do you think has been the major environmental changes, and any negative changes, that you've seen in the area?
RT: Well, I choose to think there have been some good strides made. We do have a very good Shade Tree Commission. It's real tough this day and age as far as money is concerned, but by and large I think it has done well.
SI: Do you guys have other questions about the history of the town from the postwar period?
RK: The swimming pool that used to be here in town, what can you tell us about that?
RT: Interesting you raised that, Rich. It's a large pool called Mountwell Pool and it came into being as there is a stream that runs down in the area and empties into Cooper Creek, and I don't know who or when, but I'm going to say it had to be back in the early part of the twentieth century, maybe during the 1910s. The town constructed a swimming pool and it was immense. It was big in area. It wasn't terribly deep. It was a great place to go. However, I only went there once or twice, because I came into the area when polio was an epidemic and most parents were wisely concerned about their children going into Mountwell Pool and picking up the virus. I know many of us really never went to Mountwell Pool at that time. It had a "changing" building, grandstands, and concrete grandstands down there. Somewhere along the line the town gave it to the Camden County park system. I don't know what brought that about, but they did, and that I guess was a little consternation to a number of people because it opened up the pool to everybody in the county. I guess it was pretty popular at one time. Now that would have been probably, maybe in the '40s and '50s, somewhere in there. But it came into disuse because that stream runs underneath the pool. Well, finally the floor of the pool fell into the stream, so it became unusable and I think the town had taken it back. The town now owns it and there's probably some things that could be done to turn it into something, but the money is the big, big factor.
NM: Already is, it's a playground.
RT: Oh is it?
RT: Thank you, Cathy. [Editor's Note: Cathy has just entered the room and document to Mr. Twitchell.]
NM: Jeepers, I don't know whose [it is]. Cat?
NM: Whose playground is down where Mountwell [Pool is]. I know the mothers had fund raisers for years. The playground down where Mountwell used to be.
Cathy: Oh, I don't know. What group did that?
NM: Was that maybe Central School parents?
Cathy: Oh, I have no idea. I think the Junior Fortnightly, the junior women's club, was behind that.
NM: I think it was private funding.
Cathy: Yeah, it was privately raised and I think it was the junior women's club, the Junior Women of the Fortnightly.
RT: This dear soul was put on the front page. [laughter] This is my grandmother's house on Chestnut Street. [Editor's Note: Mr. Twitchell is referencing a picture in the document given to him by Cathy.] Wait a minute.
NM: (That should be the interview. The house?) is still standing.
RT: This is a water fountain, huge; diameter is probably like the length of this table and it stood in the front yard of that house. Then somehow or other, it disappeared and somebody found it years ago. I think Fred Fox found it back down by the waterworks, on its edge. So somebody had taken it up and put it over there. He researched it and found out it belonged to my family's house. So they brought it back up, there it is without the centerpiece. It now sits where the library point is. There's a fountain right there at the end with an eagle in it and that's that fountain.
NM: I was talking about that the other day when I walked by there.
NM: Of course, the town was very happy when that happened to Mountwell? Is that what the pool was called?
RT: Mountwell Pool.
NM: Mountwell Pool, because in the meantime they were busing in loads and loads of kids from Camden, so it was all Black, the whole pool was Black. So they were very happy when it collapsed because...
RT: I don't remember when it happened. I just knew it happened.
NM: Yeah, but they were very happy because then they didn't have these busloads of kids coming every day.
RK: You might add that Mountwell Pool now is abandoned, overgrown and in great disarray.
NM: No, no, I think this is near where they have built this playground. All these...
RK: No, it's not the same.
NM: It's not?
NM: Same area though.
RT: Wait a minute, the playground, perhaps this is what you're thinking of...
RK: Centre Street.
RT: Is, if you come up the hill, it's up on the top of the hill where there's a little ball field and then a playground.
RK: That's right.
RT: Where Centre Street comes in and starts to dip down, that's Rileywood Avenue, Rileywood Avenue and Centre Street. If you turn in Rileywood from Centre Street and then you go down the hill to Wedgewood.
RK: It's two separate pools.
RT: It's a very nice playground. The playground was done some years ago because I know we lost a little grandson about the time they did the first playground and it was good, but it kind of fell into despair. Somebody's done a very nice design. I think one of the women's clubs did it.
NM: Yeah. Yes, whatever, and that's not exactly where the pool was?
RT: No, the pool is down the hill toward the waterworks. You know when you go to the dip?
NM: Um hm.
RT: Alright, just to the left of the dip, if you went left there you'd find Mount well Pool.
NM: Well I didn't know that.
RK: It's out of sight from where you moved.
NM: When we moved here we went to Mountwell. I took my kids to Mountwell...
NM: and I thought to myself, this is very, very strange. We were the only white people there.
NM: I said now wait a minute, right here in the middle of Haddonfield...
RT: What year was this?
NM: Oh, I don't know, maybe in the middle '70s or something like that.
RT: Yeah, you're about right.
NM: We did not know what segregation was and what it meant when they said this town has segregation. We had no clue what they meant by that.
RT: Yeah, what did they mean? Because if you were to ask me, I'd say yes, there are neighborhoods that are Afro-American, and there are neighborhoods that are white, at the time. It wasn't an enforced segregation, that's what I'm trying to get at.
RT: I don't think there was ever enforced segregation.
NM: No, there never was.
SI: Earlier, when you were growing up, going to high school, had that pool been white only?
RT: I would say it had been white only up till '35, somewhere in there. But we hadn't been swimming in it because the polio, at least that's what we were told.
SI: In town, were there public facilities like parks and pools where only African-Americans went to one and only whites went to another?
RT: No, I mean, not by law, not by overt evidence. Now that isn't to say some pressure of some sort was exerted. I'm not denying that because I don't know. But there was no signs, "White Drinking" or "Black Drinking" fountains, that's for darn sure.
RK: As far as the stores in the center of Haddonfield, was there any overt or covert discrimination toward African-American shoppers or people of color?
RT: Selling [to] them?
RT: Rich, I don't think so. I think by and large that the Quaker influence was enough that it wouldn't [have] gotten to that.
RK: Okay, yeah.
RT: I mean all I can say is the Afro-Americans started to live over here. They started to live in Lawnside and they sought their own. I mean, I think by and large that was the natural thing of it. You can't live there. Well, you didn't want to because they weren't your race.
NM: It was much subtler in the past, discrimination and as you said, they would like to be with their own, have their own churches because that were somewhat different.
RT: Yeah, I think that's how it works, absolutely
NM: It wasn't so overt.
SI: Alright, do you guys have any other questions? Was there something you wanted to say?
RT: Do I have anything I want to say? I think I've said too much. [laughter]
NM: No. No, no, no.
SI: If it's not anything that we've already discussed, what would you say were the biggest changes that you've seen in Haddonfield over the course of your life?
RT: Well, there have been changes that I don't get excited about or enjoy seeing. It's like all of our problems, there's too many people. [laughter]
RT: There's too many people in the world. You know it's kind of interesting, how everybody addresses problems of one form or another, but you seldom hear anybody saying we have too many people. Well, there are problems if you start to control the number of people, I grant it. But too many people bring about these kinds of changes that you can't get used to, that are difficult to get used to. I didn't say you shouldn't. I am gratified, if you will, that more and more, bit by bit, people are coming to realize and they have to realize you can't have segregation. You've got to be able to work together be it Black, be it Spanish, be it whatever. But it's interesting; I think it's absolutely fascinating. One thing about being at this stage of life, I can't see it being anymore fascinating that it is and the changes that are taking place and have to take place. I mean, when you look at the last election as to how many Spanish were out there voting, how many Afro-Americans were voting. Now the thing to do, you've got to fight is the moves are trying to restrict them from voting by making them wait in line, which is bad.
RT: That's what so bothers me the whole way. There's so many problems that could be answered by common sense, but people refused to do that.
SI: Well also, just to complete the record, we talked about your starting your family. Could you tell us about your children and grandchildren, how many you had?
RT: Gee, one-two-three-four. [laughter] We had our first child, it was a daughter. She and her husband run too many restaurants. They run two, but it's two too many. That's a twenty-four seven no matter how you look at it over in Chestnut Hill. Daughter number two lives with her husband, and daughter up in Hopewell, New Jersey, she used to work in New York City and thankfully got out of that. She works in the Princeton area. They all work they're tails off and they have to in today's world. Daughter number three lives out in Louisville, Kentucky. None of us thought this would happen, but she's now working on here PhD in teaching (librarian) and nobody can get used to calling her doctor. [laughter]
NM: In what field?
RT: Library work by the way, interestingly enough. My favorite son, my only son, he went to work with me and I couldn't be more delighted, but I grieve because it ain't what it used to be. I mean, I was very fortunate that things worked out well and he, like his sisters and their spouses all work. That is good, but it's sad because developing a good family, a lot will get lost with both parents being so tied up. Something doesn't get the way it used to be. We are grateful that we had that opportunity. Jan did not go to work until the last child had left the house. When they were in college she finally went to work as a legal assistant to the guy who put... No. Is that the one?
NM: This is the new bulletin.
RT: Oh, okay. To a lawyer who did a lot, Bill [Farr?], do you see the name? He was a lawyer and he did a lot of historical work both in Haddonfield and Camden County. So we've been grateful in that respect. We had nine grandchildren, but one died at an early age.
NM: Wait a minute, you left off the last child. You haven't talked about your last child.
RT: Yeah, Jim and Jamie were twins. It was Becky, Susie, Jim and Jamie are twins.
NM: Oh, they're twins.
RT: We keep telling them that if they had been the first they would have been the last. [laughter]
NM: Nine grandchildren?
RT: I had nine and lost a little fellow, Jim's first son, when he was three so we have eight and they are all busy.
NM: Are they married, any of them?
RT: No. Somebody said, "Do you have any great-grandchildren?" I don't think so. I better check. No.
NM: Are they of marrying age?
RT: Yes. One, two, three of them are, so yes. They're getting close, might not be too far off.
SI: Alright, do guys have any final questions?
RK: What would you like the community to remember you for?
RT: That I was part of a neat family. [laughter]
RT: Let it go at that.
SI: Alright, well thank you. Did you have any other questions?
NM: Uh uh.
SI: Well thank you very much. We appreciate all of your time today.
RT: Oh, it's a pleasure. When I've talked so much I don't dare go home and tell Jan.
SI: [laughter] Thank you.
--------------------------------------------END OF INTERVIEW--------------------------------------------
Reviewed by William Buie 3/15/16
Reviewed by Jan Twitchell 5/16/2016