Shaun Illingworth: This begins an interview with Judge James Hely on April 26, 2013, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, with Shaun Illingworth and ...
Paula Long: Paula Long.
SI: Judge Hely, thank you very much for coming in today.
James Hely: You’re welcome.
SI: Paula, thank you very much for getting us involved with the Westfield Historical Society. A copy of this interview will also be on file with the Westfield Historical Society. To begin, can you tell me where and when you were born?
JH: I was born in Muhlenberg Hospital in Plainfield, New Jersey, on September 22nd of 1950.
SI: What were your parents’ names?
JH: My father’s name was Charles James Hely. He was a junior. His father was named that. My mother went by Nancy Hely. She was originally Nancy McGarrity.
SI: Starting with your father’s side of the family, do you know where the family came from and how they came to settle in Westfield ...
SI: Or in New Jersey?
JH: My forbearers are Irish Catholics. My forbearers came in the potato famine in the 1800s from Ireland and began to reside in towns such as Rahway, Plainfield and Newark. That would be in the 1800s. My great grandfather happened to be on the police force of Rahway, New Jersey. He died after working in a factory in Jersey City.
On my grandmother’s side, they were more western Union County, which is Plainfield, helping to build what is now the Raritan Valley Line, was then called the Jersey Central Railroad that runs east and west out from--in those days, it ran from Jersey City out past Somerville and beyond. That was known as the Jersey Central Line, which, ultimately, Westfield was a key stop on the Jersey Central Line. New Jersey, in the early part of the twentieth century, railroads were the dominant mode of transportation, and the old railroad suburbs that dotted the lines is essentially the history of the development of New Jersey, in terms of its spread out from the cities of New York, and then, Newark and Jersey City and the like.
My family came to Westfield first in 1915. So, coming up to the year 2015, our family will have been in town for a hundred years. My grandfather, who moved his family to Westfield, had a small electroplating facility in what is known as Down Neck or the Ironbound Section of Newark. Again, cars were, in 1915, pretty rare. Not everybody had one, and, if you had one, you had just one per family. It’s quite different than what we’re used to today. The idea, I believe, was to take the family out into what was then the country if you could still commute, and you could from Westfield, commute into the industrial cities.
Now, he purchased a house, which was really way on the southern outskirts of town, which was, at that time, very rural. The housing stock in a town like Westfield, at that time, developed around the railroad stations. They did not purchase a house close enough to town so that you could really get there easily. There was--there still is--a rail line running on the Westfield-Clark border at the far south end of Westfield, which is called the Lehigh Valley tracks, and there was a small railroad station there called the Picton Station.
My grandfather could walk to the Picton Station, because his house was on Central Avenue. He was about a quarter mile from what was then the Picton Station. There’s no station there anymore. It’s now a little park. Periodically, there would be, like, a one or two-car commuter line. Most of the Lehigh Valley tracks were freight lines, and, today, it’s exclusively freight lines and it’s still operating.
SI: That is how your father’s family came to settle in town. What do you know about your mother’s family background?
JH: Yes. My mother was born and raised in Philadelphia, in the Mount Airy Section on a little street called--I just drew a blank on her street, not that important. My father was educated. I’m actually not sure how he got from leaving high school, which he spent five years trying to complete his three-year high school diploma, he found himself at a little college in Ohio called Ohio Northern [University].
It’s very important that people understand that, in the 1930s, not that many people went to college and there weren’t that many colleges around. For example, we’re sitting here on this interview doing it at Rutgers. Rutgers was very small at the time, and the state college system that we have now was very, very minute compared to what it is now. The other colleges that were run by the state were state teachers’ colleges, so, it [was] pretty much limited to teacher training. So, there were limits on the amount of college availability in-state. That problem still exists, because we have so many more high school students graduating than can be fit into the New Jersey opportunities we have.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. My father never saw this as a bad thing. He thought getting out of town to go to college was wonderful, and he found, somehow, he found a little college out in Ohio called Ohio Northern, a small college. I think it’s in Ada, Ohio. I have never been there, but he enjoyed it, and then, was able to emerge as a student and he was accepted into medical school. He used to say that his grades weren’t that great, but, if you had the financial wherewithal to go to medical school and you weren’t Jewish or black, you could go to medical school. Of course, in those times, in the 1930s, there was still very virulent discrimination, particularly against Jews and blacks, that was really a part of our history.
So, he was able to be admitted to Hahnemann Medical School in 1938, and that is where he was, in Philadelphia, and met my mother-to-be. He completed his medical training there. Of course, in that period of time was the beginning of World War II, and there was such a great need to have doctors be with the service people all around the world that they rushed the medical students through their medical education.
When he completed his medical education and his internship, he was signed up to the United States Navy to be associated with the United States Marine Corps. My mother and he got married as he was just about to ship out to the Pacific with the United States Marines. My oldest sister, Nancy, was born in 1945 in March, which was when my father was on Iwo Jima with the United States Marines.
SI: Before we talk more about your father’s time in World War II, did he ever share any memories of growing up in Westfield, particularly during the Depression era? What was that like for him and his family?
JH: Fortunately, not only did he share stories and treasured his romanticism with growing up in a small town, but he documented this, with the help of the Westfield Historical Society, in a pretty lengthy oral history that he gave in 1976, which was part of the Bicentennial project. So, there are many things that I know, not only from him, but from being very familiar with that pretty extensive oral history.
There’s tremendous differences between what my children saw when they were growing up in Westfield and what he saw growing up in Westfield. First of all, to go back to something, there was not very many cars, and so, Westfield was crisscrossed by trolley lines. The present bus that runs through Westfield, which is now Number 59, used to be called the 49, and then, before that, it was the trolley line. The bus travels the trolley line route through town. So, when he was way down in the south end of town, to get to school, he and his sisters took the trolley, and the trolley ran parallel, not on Central Avenue, but it ran parallel to Central Avenue going north on what is now Boynton Avenue.
Of course, there were no houses at this time in the 1920s and 1930s. If you went down Central Avenue, you can pick out the older homes, and there was just a handful of them south of town. All of that is now developed with housing. So, you’re talking about a relatively rural environment. My father spent a lot of time hunting and trapping and fishing all around the southern part of Westfield.
There’s a story he told where there wasn’t enough meat. My grandmother wanted to cook dinner and she didn’t have enough meat. So, she asked my father to go out and see if he could snare a rabbit with a shotgun. He was pretty young at the time, and he really didn’t have that much experience. They only had two shotgun shells, and he tried one. He went outside by himself and he tried it and he missed. He went and told his mother, my grandmother, that he missed and he was afraid to lose the last one. So, my grandmother went out and she shot the rabbit. She was a pretty good shot.
That’s an example of how life has changed. You wouldn’t think of any woman shooting a shotgun in today’s world or hunting for dinner or part of the dinner with a shotgun. They also had, for example, chickens for eggs and also to eat. So, they raised Golden Bantams. My father became so accustomed to raising chickens as a youth that, all the way through into the 1980s, he kept chickens on his property, even though he had moved later on up closer to town, across the street from Westfield High School, where he had his medical office.
Another thing that he did as a child was, he raised hunting dogs, beagle hunting dogs, and this was something of a hobby for kids in a small town or relatively rural America. It’s hard to remember where our nickname in New Jersey comes from, “The Garden State,” but out in Westfield in those days, it was a lot of gardens and a lot of farms that no longer exist. That was the life; that is, it was a pretty rural, wooded life.
Of course, at one time, Westfield was pretty much devoid of trees, because it was farming country. As time went on, of course, the trees have gotten big, but it wasn’t always that way. There’s some forested areas now, but the way it used to be, let’s say in the 1800s, was that the land was used for farming, so, there weren’t very many trees. They were cut down, and that was changing as my father’s family grew up in Westfield.
SI: I have a question. Your grandfather had the business in the Ironbound Section of Newark.
SI: Did he still have the business as your father was growing up?
JH: Yes. That was a business that my grandfather kept going. My grandfather died in 1954 at the age of seventy. The plant was something called electroplating, which was used to clean type, which was used in the printing process. Well, as with many industrial processes, this is an obsolete process today, but, in those days, the ability to replace little pieces of metal that were formed to type, meaning to be put into printing, was a very important part of the printing process. For example, one of his main customers was Quinn and Boden, which was a firm in Rahway. You can still see the remnants of that printing house, and that printing house, based on what’s handed down to me, was the place where The Merck Manual was printed.
Of course, Merck Research Corporation, the pharmaceutical company, the research is still in Rahway. It was a big part of Rahway, and so, again, they published, for doctors’ use, a small volume, became a very large volume and still well-known, called The Merck Manual, which is a basic guide to all forms of disease and medicine that doctors can use as a quick reference source. It’s still used today. That printing process that my grandfather was a part of is long obsolete, but the business did go through to approximately the early 1950s. [Editor’s Note: First published in 1899 by Merck & Co., The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy is a medical reference guide for doctors and healthcare professionals.]
SI: As an Irish Catholic family, were your father and his family in the majority or the minority in Westfield? Did they ever face any prejudice?
JH: Okay. Well, that’s a very good and important question about the history of Westfield. Definitely, both Italian and Irish Catholic families were a very small minority in Westfield in the early 1900s. There was a single Catholic church. It was located on what is now called Trinity Place. It is now the Bethel Baptist Church, which was, as my father used to describe, a small wooden building. That church that was Holy Trinity and is now the Bethel Baptist Church is still a very active congregation for pretty much the African-American community.
The Catholic population grew enough to build both Holy Trinity Church on Westfield Avenue and start a parochial school, Holy Trinity Grammar School, where myself and my sisters and brothers went. Then, for a period of time, there was a Holy Trinity High School. That does not exist anymore, but the grammar school is still operating in what used to be the high school building.
So, the history of the twentieth century is that the Catholic population started out very small. Definitely, Westfield, in the early 1900s, was a majority, vast majority, of white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants, what was known as “WASPs.” The Jewish community was also extremely small in, I would say, the first half of the twentieth century. That changed. The black community was, let’s say, somewhere between five and ten percent, and that has probably shrank a little bit.
To keep perspective, in 1900, there were four thousand people in Westfield. That grew. In 1910, it was six thousand. In 1920, it was nine thousand. It started creeping up, so that by 1960, there were thirty-one thousand, and that’s been the stabilized number since 1960, roughly, because the housing stock is completely filled. That is to say, the land, there’s not any more significant land. Up to 1960, there was always further development that could be made.
By the way, as we talk about religious and ethnic things, it’s important to note that some neighborhoods didn’t really allow, through deed restrictions and just sort of de facto, the way it was, didn’t allow, particularly, Jews and blacks in particular neighborhoods. So, those groups were relegated to specific neighborhoods. There’s a very interesting point about this, and it’s worth mentioning. There are two neighborhoods where the black community resided and were limited to, and that was the neighborhood around Cacciola Place, which was a mix of African-Americans and Italians, and the other neighborhood was off West Broad Street, including Downer Street and some of the other streets back behind there, and that was also African-Americans and Italians.
It’s important to note that one of the great graduates of Rutgers University, Paul Robeson, lived in Westfield for a period of time in his youth. His father started the church that is now on Downer Street, the A.M.E. Zion Church. He built it, he and a congregation. Robeson, in his autobiography, called Here I Stand, made a specific point of saying he had lived in three places growing up. He had lived in Princeton, Somerville and Westfield, and he made a distinction between Princeton, where blacks were subservient and viewed as a servant class, and Westfield and Somerville, where blacks intermingled with white kids, particularly Italian kids, and lived in the same neighborhood together. They were the working class, let’s say, people involved in the trades, plumbers, electricians, and things of that nature.
Robeson was in Westfield in 1910 and 1912, that period of time, so, he’s really talking about his own childhood. Of course, Robeson’s been deceased for a long time, but I thought it was very interesting, listening to my father, and then, reading Robeson’s autobiography, that he made that specific clear point, that Princeton was different in how it treated the African-Americans, as opposed to Westfield and Somerville. Somerville, again, akin to Westfield, is an old railroad suburb town.
[Editor’s Note: Paul Robeson (1898-1976), distinguished by his athleticism and intellect, graduated from Rutgers College in the Class of 1919. In addition to being an All-American football player, Robeson earned Phi Beta Kappa honors and served as the valedictorian of his class. Robeson went on to a career as an acclaimed actor and singer, as well as an activist and humanitarian. His father, William Drew Robeson, escaped from slavery during the Civil War, attended divinity school, and later led the mission in Westfield, New Jersey, that became St. Luke’s African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.]
Just a small point is that in the Downer Street neighborhood that I was just talking about, in the 1930s, a couple of artists and writers from New York City were sent out by benefactors to go out there and write. This is in the 1930s. That’s Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Both of these facts are pointed out in the great biographies of Langston Hughes. Again, that was a neighborhood that had a mix of white and black. [Editor’s Note: Poet Langston Hughes (1902-1967) and author Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) were notable writers during the cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance.]
One other anecdote, this is from my father’s oral history, and it’s just a poignant story about changes, ethnicity, discrimination. When my father was fourteen years old, it was 1928. His father, my grandfather, said to him, “Charlie, I want you to come uptown a little bit with me. I want to show you something.” They walked up to the Sycamore area of Westfield, where the Sycamore Fire Station is now. So, it would’ve been, let’s say, halfway to downtown from where they lived.
As they came over the hill, they looked down into the valley, a small valley, and there was a meeting. The meeting was of the Ku Klux Klan. He was visualizing, he was seeing, with his father, and my grandfather wanted to show him this, that this was a Ku Klux Klan meeting in little Westfield, with men in hooded outfits and hoods over the face. The theme of the meeting is, “We have to stop any possibility that Al Smith, an Irish Catholic, would be elected President,” because, in 1928, the Presidential campaign was between Al Smith and Herbert Hoover. There was just a tremendous anti-Catholic feeling at that time. Al Smith was the Governor of New York, pretty popular, pugnacious, and he was seen as an urban politician, “urban” being a code word for “not one of us.” That was the theme of the meeting.
As it got dark, and as my father and grandfather walked away, back towards home, there was a poof, and what it was was the cross being lit, a burning cross, the sign of the Ku Klux Klan--so, hard to think that that kind of thing would happen in northern, North-Central New Jersey, but that was the reality.
SI: Was that a story that your father told you when you were growing up, or did you only learn it from the interview?
JH: I cannot remember the distinction, because the way you remember your parents is sometimes fogged and clouded and, many times, wrong. [laughter] That’s a story that is documented in that oral history, and so, I know it from that. So, I can’t distinguish whether he told me that story or whether I read it or we talked about it after he did the oral history.
SI: I wanted to get a sense of if you grew up thinking that was a part of your family history and your town’s history. Was discrimination against Catholics palpable in your experience?
JH: Well, this is a very interesting problem, and the Irish Catholic experience is varied, of course. My father, although he educated us to go to parochial school for grades one through six, then, he insisted that we transfer to the public schools. He felt that the Irish should not isolate themselves. They should become part of the greater community and not be concerned about discrimination or anti-Catholic feelings and the like.
He also insisted that we not go to Catholic college. I was one of seven children growing up, and we were not permitted to go to a Catholic college. We were also not permitted to go to a large university. It was his firm belief that we had to go to a small, liberal, co-ed college. So, when we embarked upon college, that is, my generation, he insisted that we go to a co-ed, small, liberal arts college for some kind of diverse ethnic and religious experience.
Now, to say that, probably seventy-five to ninety percent of the elite, quote, “good schools” were all-boys. So, that limited our choices. We had to find schools that had long histories of co-education. To the point of the question, which was, “Were we living under some kind of feeling of discrimination?” and the answer is, we didn’t.
Another example is, Catholics had a lot of children, generally speaking, and this is a really important point. Why is Westfield now, as we speak, [in] 2013, majority Catholic? There are more Catholics than any other religion, and more than fifty percent of Westfield identifies themselves as Catholic. How did that happen? Well, after the war, of course, everybody felt this great sense of liberation--World War II, I’m talking about--and our family was part of that. So, my father and mother had seven children. Well, that was seen as pretty large, and a lot of Protestants, let’s say, looked down their nose at that, “Who are these ragamuffin Catholics? They’re populating our town and they dress in hand-me-down clothes.” Well, we were kind of oblivious to that. We didn’t pay much attention to that.
To say that Irish Catholics were discriminated against, I don’t want to put any undue emphasis on that, because it doesn’t compare at all to how the Jews and the African-Americans were treated in the regular cultural norms of the twentieth century, and that’s one great thing that’s changed a tremendous amount. I’ll leave it at that.
SI: To go back to your mother’s experience, did your mother ever share any stories about her young life in Philadelphia?
JH: Yes, again, she’s part of an Irish Catholic family. They were not well-to-do. Her father--so, that’s my grandfather on my mother’s side--was educated as an engineer at Drexel, Drexel being a city school in Philadelphia, and much larger today. In fact, as a coincidence, Drexel, where my grandfather went to college, subsumed Hahnemann Medical School. So, Hahnemann Medical School, which is on Broad Street in Philadelphia, North Broad [Street], is now a part of Drexel University.
Another point worth noting is, when we were going to school and college, sending off to college and into the 1970s, young kids, they didn’t want to go to college in the city. City colleges were for commuters, and, in part, that was because cities had deteriorated a tremendous amount and, beginning in the time when we were in school, crime was a really, really big problem. You didn’t want to be in the cities. Cities were places where you’d get mugged, and there was rapes and murders and things. You didn’t want to go to cities. So, schools, for example, like Boston University, New York University, and even in Philadelphia, Temple, people were reluctant to go there. So, the kids that went to school there--I’m generalizing, of course--but kids that went to school there were mostly the kids from those cities.
That’s changed completely, because cities, one of the greatest things of my lifetime is the dramatic reduction in crime that has occurred steadily, and we’re still seeing it. From the worst periods of time in the 1970s and the 1980s, that’s passed, and the cities are places kids want to go to. So, kids now want to go to school in cities. They don’t want to go out into the country to go to a Bucknell or a Gettysburg College or a Colby College. They want to go to NYU or they want to go to Columbia or BU or all these great city schools, and all of them have benefitted from that.
Back to my mother, the Depression hit them pretty hard, because my grandfather, he worked for DuPont. DuPont was in Delaware, a train ride away. What they did was, they’d give you two days of work or three days of work a week if you started out with them, let’s say, my grandfather started in the 1920s, but there wasn’t enough work. So, they kind of divvied out the work. You could only work two or three days a week.
My grandfather on my mother’s side was a pretty shy person. He was able, he was educated, but their family was pretty modest. My mother, she was one of five children, and they lived in a row house in the Mount Airy Section. She had a modest background. She did not go to college. Of course, again, women, in the early part of the twentieth century, college was very unusual, so, my mother, of course, went to secretarial school.
She did go to high school with Connie Mack’s daughter. Connie Mack was the long-time manager of the Philadelphia Athletics and quite a celebrity, because he wore a boater hat and wore a suit. I think he managed, perhaps, more games than anybody else in the history of baseball. As a result, I don’t know if I already said this, but my mother was a bridesmaid in Connie Mack’s daughter’s wedding. There’s some great pictures. People in the 1930s, they dressed, when they went to these big affairs--I guess they still do that--but these very fancy, elaborate outfits, something akin to like The Great Gatsby. At least they could pretend that they were well-to-do.
So, there’s some great pictures of my mother in that wedding, and, also, great pictures from the 1930s when my parents were first meeting in Philadelphia, of them going to formal dances with what are called tails, tuxedo tails. As it happens, I inherited from my father a set of tuxedo tails, which I can still fit into and I use once per year to the Union County Bar Association Annual Installation Ceremony.
SI: You said that your parents got married just before your father shipped off.
SI: Did he tell you much about his experience in World War II?
JH: Well ...
SI: Again, he might have said some things in his oral history, but particularly things he told you growing up.
JH: No, that’s an interesting question. My father was certainly not interested in glamorizing war, and he would, in fact, say you have to be careful about people who do that, overdo it, the people that wrap themselves in the American flag, because, as many, many World War II veterans who survived would say, “The real heroes are the ones that died,” because so many did die. He would talk about his service in the Marines in both a good way, like, for example, on rest and relaxation, they would go to a ranch in Hawaii, in one of the Hawaiian Islands, where the owners of the ranch--I think it’s the Parker Ranch, still there on the Island of Hawaii--they would let the Marines both camp there at Camp Tarawa, and then, use the horses and have great times. Of course, there was no women there.
The story of his and the other Marines on Iwo Jima, which was one of the greatest fights that the Marines went through, is recounted in several books. Shortly before my father’s death, he was interviewed by a writer named Bill Ross, R-O-S-S, who then published a book entitled Iwo Jima: Legacy of Valor. My father is utilized in that book and mentioned in the book numerous times, not because of any great heroics, but he provided to the author how medical care was delivered to the Marines. Now, Marines lost five to six thousand men trying to capture the small island of Iwo Jima. It was pivotal because that would allow, if the United States troops took over Iwo Jima, they would have an airstrip to land airplanes that could then go off to Japan to bomb and invade Japan. So, that’s why Iwo Jima was pivotal.
There’s a link between something I mentioned earlier and my father’s service on Iwo Jima. My father was on what’s called the first wave. In other words, the first landing troops, he was part of the medical team. They had to land on the beach, and, basically, they were pinned down immediately by the Japanese. The Japanese allowed as many troops as could fit on the main beach that the landing took place, and that’s when they opened up from the caves that they had. This was in the shadow of what’s called Mount Suribachi, where the flag raising took place, I think, five days after the first landing.
[Editor’s Note: From February 19 to March 26, 1945, US Marines, supported by naval forces, fought against Japanese defenders on the island of Iwo Jima. On February 23rd, Marines secured Mount Suribachi, the high point, and hoisted an American flag on the summit. Later that day, photographer Joe Rosenthal took photographs of six American servicemen putting up the replacement flag. Rosenthal’s photograph of the flag raising endures as one of the most iconic images of the Second World War.]
What the doctors and the medical teams were to do was, they dug out little what they called “hospitals,” field hospitals, but there was nothing more than a hole in the ground, like a foxhole in the sand. The medics would go out and find the wounded people, bring them back to that little spot, and the doctors would wrap them up with whatever bandaging they had and give them a shot of penicillin. Now, penicillin had been developed at the Merck plant in Rahway just three years before, the first mass-produced penicillin. Of course, actually, Rutgers has a connection with the development of antibiotics through Dr. Waksman.
[Editor’s Note: The need to treat wounded soldiers during World War II spurred the research and development of antibiotics by the government, academic institutions and pharmaceutical companies. Rutgers Professor of Microbiology Selman Waksman discovered a number of antibiotics, including streptomycin, a cure for tuberculosis, in 1943. Waksman won the Nobel Prize in 1952.]
I don’t want to go over to that area, but, so, all these things link up and you can actually have a sense of history by saying, “Well, one piece is here, one piece is there.” So, my father knew that Merck had developed this penicillin, and that penicillin probably lowered the number of deaths for the United States Marines by about half. In other words, I say five to six thousand people died on Iwo Jima, United States Marines--twenty thousand Japanese died--but, probably, it would’ve been something on the order of twelve thousand, had it not been for the development of penicillin.
As a result, my father was a penicillin fanatic. So, if we got any kind of cut growing up, any kind of stitches, anything, we got a shot of penicillin. Now, we know, in hindsight, that that was probably the overuse of antibiotics, but, as somebody who grew up and saw this wonderful development of antibiotics, we were getting penicillin shots quite frequently. [laughter]
Later, through reviewing letters from my father to my mother, which I was never able to see until my mother died--she was afraid that we would see the romantic stuff that was going back and forth. They were just married, my mother was pregnant while he’s still over in the Pacific. He did actually land in Japan, after the dropping of the two atom bombs in August of 1945, which did put an end to the war. He landed in Japan and spoke of the complete devastation that Japan had suffered as a result of being at war and being bombed relentlessly in the last days of the war.
There’s an ongoing debate that’s worth commenting on, because this guy from Westfield happened to be on Iwo Jima, and then, Japan, “Should the atom bombs have been dropped?” That’s still discussed. It is estimated that if the United States’ forces had to land in Japan and fight it out with the Japanese that there would’ve been a million American deaths in trying to do that. Of course, the dropping of the atom bomb was on civilian populations. Now, there had been civilian bombing through the course of World War II as it ratcheted up--Dresden, Hamburg.
In fact, Winston Churchill once remarked, when he saw film videos of the bombings that were taking place on civilian populations, by the British on the German populations, he stood up and he said, “Are we barbarians?” because the concept of civilian deaths was an anathema and it’s still an anathema, but that’s what war will lead to. Of course, that’s what led to the decision by Truman to drop the atom bombs. As we continue to think about that and debate it, it’s important to note how many American lives, as well as Japanese lives, would’ve been lost had there had to have been an invasion, had the war not ended as a result of the two atom bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Out of that came a real appreciation for what nuclear weapons meant, and, of course, the failure of the League of Nations following World War I. The international community made up its mind to try to not repeat that failure, and, as a result, although I don’t want to get too far afield, but the United Nations is in place. It’s a forum, and I think any objective observer would say, “Well, first of all, we haven’t had another nuclear weapon used in war since 1945. We haven’t had a conflagration anywhere near what World War II was since 1945.” So, even in that way, we’ve made tremendous progress, although we have wars. They’re usually pretty limited, but there’s been nothing like World War I or World War II or even the Civil War that the United States engaged in.
SI: To tie it back to your father, would you say that influenced his views and how he taught you and your siblings? Did he teach you to think America should have a larger role in the world?
JH: No, I think all those things are themes of our childhood. Growing up, all of my friends, all of our contemporaries, their fathers had some involvement in World War II. So, it’s a huge shadow over our lives, is that all these guys had been in World War II. They’d interrupted their careers. They were young men, and, now, there was just--”now” meaning in the late ‘40s--there was just such a tremendous relief that, “Oh, my gosh, we got out of that and we survived.”
Of course, there was a sorrow about all the people that didn’t survive. There were many, many Westfield deaths in World War II, many, many, including my former doctor, Dr. Hohenstein’s brother. So, it touched everybody’s lives. There were, I think, almost four hundred thousand United States servicemen killed in World War II. So, it hung over everything. Also, there was this tremendous hope that we wouldn’t do that again.
I remember, when I was a young boy, going around on Halloween. We lived on a little street called Stoneleigh Park, which I didn’t know this when I was growing up, but, apparently, it was a hoity-toity street or a well-to-do street. To me, it was just a street, kids on the street, but the houses were kind of big. My father purchased a house across from Westfield High School, so that he could have his medical office that was entered in from Dorian Road. The back of the house faced the busy intersection of Rahway Avenue and Dorian Road, but the front of the house faced Stoneleigh Park.
Anyway, so, we would go around on Halloween. We’d go to the Mayor’s house, and this was one of the great citizens of Westfield, Mayor Emerson Thomas. [Editor’s Note: H. Emerson Thomas served as the Mayor of Westfield, New Jersey, for six years during the 1950s.] When we went to the house and asked for candy, he would say to us, “Where’s your UNICEF cups? I’m not going to give you candy if you don’t have a UNICEF box.” [Editor’s Note: The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works for the survival, protection and development of children worldwide.]
That meant that--he was a Republican, and, in those days, by the way, it’s very important to understand what it meant to be a Republican in the 1950s. The Republican Party was “The Party of Abraham Lincoln.” Just an aside, Jackie Robinson was a Republican. Why is that? Because it was the Southern Democrats who were blocking the Civil Rights Movement. So, Emerson Thomas, who insisted that we have UNICEF boxes--it’s not just for candy, it’s not just for fun--he was trying to teach us that there’s a world out there beyond Westfield, beyond New Jersey, beyond the United States, that if we all help each other, maybe we have a chance at peace.
It’s been a struggle, of course. That is the ongoing struggle of human affairs, but, if you think of, just take for example what UNICEF has done in terms of child poverty, child hunger--a tremendous thing happening right now, which is as a result of UNICEF, the Rotary Foundation and the Gates Foundation in eliminating polio. Polio, and we can talk about the development of the polio vaccine and what that meant in Westfield, we’ve almost eliminated polio around the world, which would mean a disease is completely snuffed out. We only have it now in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Those are the only three countries where any polio cases are coming up. Just recently, India eliminated their last polio case. So, it’s almost completely snuffed out, and that was just the effort of kind of an international spirit.
I think there’s objective ways of showing that, even around the world, as I’ve talked about changes, positive changes, and life being better, as I firmly believe it is in both our region, the nation, but around the world, things are better. Life expectancy is better. Infant mortality is better. I mentioned earlier, my family moved out from Newark in 1915. Why? Because the cities were seen as places where disease could fester, so, get out to the country. Don’t forget about public plumbing, which was such a big deal in eliminating health problems, as opposed to outhouses, etc., where there’s no plumbing. So, these are developments that we take for granted, but they actually have tremendous impact and have had tremendous impact.
SI: Let me pause.
JH: Shaun, I’m ready when you are.
SI: Okay. Going to your mother’s wartime experience, she had your sister. Do you remember if she did any war work? What was her experience like when your father was overseas?
JH: She would have worked as a secretary in Philadelphia. In 1944, the Marines were getting ready to ship out of Camp Pendleton in California. My father was out there. They decided, that is, the two of them, decided they wanted to get married, and my father’s family was against this. “Why are you going to get married? You might have a baby. Then, you’re going to be killed, and that wouldn’t work.” Those were the fears, legitimate fears, people had.
Remember, airplane travel wasn’t really that common at that time, so, what happened is, my mother went out there by rail. Ultimately, my grandmother on my father’s side did go out to visit, but she was very grumpy about it. Then, of course, after my father shipped out in 1944, in the Summer of 1944, after they got married, they did have a chance to live together on the base in officer housing, for a period of time, but not a long period of time. We have a lot of photos from that period.
Then, my mother came back to Philadelphia and stayed in her mother and father’s house in--I almost got the name of that street, but I can’t come up with it right now--110 Nippon Street, thank you, I just jogged my brain, Nippon Street. It’s still there. The house is still there, a little row house, what we’d call a Philadelphia row house. She went back there, and the baby was delivered, as I said, in March 1945, and she continued to stay there until my father’s service ended. He got to come back to New Jersey. He was stationed at Earle Naval Base, which is inside of Sandy Hook, still there, and he could commute back there. Of course, when the war was over, there wasn’t really that much need, so, everybody was getting released. So, he would have to show up periodically.
Then, my father made a decision, which I guess was common at that time. He said, “Okay, I’m a medical doctor. I’m going to open my practice where I know somebody.” That’s what he did. On the corner of Park Street and Summit Avenue is where he purchased a three-family house with his doctor’s office on the front of the first floor, small, little thing. In those days, doctors were pretty much all general practitioners, and so, he did all kinds of things--and he made house calls, of course. The house was shared. One story was my mother and father and the growing number of children. There were three children before I was born in 1950. Then, on the second floor, I think, was my aunt, that’s my father’s sister, and her young husband. Then, on the third floor was a family called the Brownell Family for a period of time.
You mentioned working during the war. My Aunt Mary, who was younger than my father--I think she graduated in the Class of 1937 or ‘38 from Westfield High School--she did work at the Linden auto plant, which had been turned into an airplane factory. She did that Rosie the Riveter-legendary thing where women went to work in the factories, and then, of course, when the war was over, the men needed the jobs and the women were pushed out.
SI: Jumping ahead, what are your earliest memories of growing up in that house?
JH: Well, in 1950, my family moved from Park Street and Summit to a large house, which backed up to Rahway and Dorian Road. The high school, what is now Westfield High School, was built also in 1950, and that was the year I was born. So, my family moved to the Rahway Avenue-Stoneleigh Park house just before I was born.
One of the things that was part of that was televisions had started to come into homes. My father had kind of a funny attitude that he didn’t want to be showy, and he did not want to put an aerial, a television aerial--we didn’t have cable, of course--on the house because it would be seen as showy. So, he hesitated to get a television, which required a high antenna, but, ultimately, he did. He felt a little embarrassed by it, because, if you had a television, it was almost like you were bragging. It was also like driving a Cadillac, which my father also thought was showy and wrong. So, he always, throughout his life, pretty much had Fords. He always drove a Ford convertible for the first twenty years of my life.
In those days, when you bought a car, custom was, every four years, you’d get a new car. That seems to be the way the auto manufacturers wanted it. They called it “planned obsolescence.” In other words, after four years, the cars pretty much fell apart. Our family did have two cars growing up. We had, of course, his convertible, and we had a station wagon. The station wagon was for taking the whole family. Now, think, there were nine people in our family, seven kids and two adults, and you could fit three in the front, three in the middle seat and three in what we called “the way back.” Then, behind that, there was a little storage area, we used to call that the “Wayback Machine,” and that’s from a cartoon that we knew of, the “Wayback Machine.” That was time traveling. That was, I guess, from the Bullwinkle television show.
My father worked very, very hard, as all doctors pretty much did, and do, at that time. There wasn’t really a lot of health insurance at that time, so, if you were delivering babies or making house calls, you’d send people a bill. Not everybody could pay the bill. That was a time when, for example, Blue Cross was developing as a non-profit. The doctors were very supportive, as my memory has it, very supportive of medical insurance, so that they could consistently get paid. My father worked out of both Muhlenberg Hospital and Rahway Hospital.
I think he calculated he delivered something on the order between three thousand and four thousand babies over the course of about twenty-five or thirty years. He had his office in the house, so, the patients would come up into the driveway, which is up a little hill, and then, park their cars in the driveway. We had a fairly large backyard. We had swing sets, and people were allowed to play on the swing sets.
One of the memories that sticks out in my mind is, one Saturday morning, I think it was in 1954, but it could’ve been 1955--I was still a pretty young child, four or five years old--a line on a Saturday morning began to form at my father’s office door, all the way down the driveway and up the street. What was that line for? That was the first day that polio vaccination was available to the population. The Salk vaccine had been developed, and polio was a very real thing growing up.
We knew people, I knew people, kids, that had polio, who were either living on a lung machine or they were crippled in a very significant way. Childhood disease was something that was very real, something that’s been very, very dramatically reduced now. Of course, the polio vaccine was a terrific thing. We don’t even think about polio in the United States anymore. Again, to go back, we still haven’t completely eliminated it, but we’re getting almost there.
The look on the people’s faces who were lined up, I’m looking out the window and they had a look--first of all, it was a rainy and cloudy day, in my memories, it was somewhat cool--but the look on people’s faces was one of both concern, desperation and hope. They wanted to get their children vaccinated. So, the line started forming at around six AM. I remember looking out the curtain of our breakfast room window and saying, “Dad, what are all those people doing there?” My father was so excited. He just thought this was the greatest thing, and he was happy. So, he wasn’t supposed to start until eight o’clock, but he said, “What the heck? They’re here now; might as well get going.” So, all day long, he’s one shot after another, one shot after another. He had done this [laughter] on Iwo Jima, same thing, one shot after another.
That was a tremendous ray of scientific hope being provided to the population. A few years later, of course, the Sabin vaccine was developed, which was seen as even more effective. That was delivered by sugar cubes, so, kids liked that more than shots. I remember asking my father, “Why do I have to get this new vaccine? Didn’t I already have it?” “Well, this is better.” So, that was delivered in the high school cafeteria across the street. You just went there, and they gave you a sugar cube. [Editor’s Note: In 1953, Dr. Jonas Salk announced that he had developed a vaccine against polio. In 1954, clinical trials took place, and, in 1955, a nationwide inoculation campaign commenced. The Sabin vaccine refers to the live-virus, oral polio vaccine that was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin.]
By the way, the development of the Sabin vaccine is what’s helped make polio international vaccination efforts even more effective, because people aren’t as afraid of it as shots. So, the reason we can’t quite eliminate polio to this day is, in the three countries it exists, these are backwards places. There’s rural people. They think somebody coming from the city or some fancy people, they might be voodoo or something like that. So, there’s a reluctance in the very, very poor areas, uneducated areas, to participate. That’s what UNICEF and the Gates Foundation and Rotary and other groups, World Health Organization, have been involved in. It’s not too long ago, just let me finish this sentence, not too long ago, several aid workers trying to deliver polio vaccines were killed in Pakistan, just because they were seen as interlopers
SI: Do you remember any polio scares in Westfield, where they closed pools or that sort of thing?
JH: That was something that definitely happened in my father’s time. Particularly, first of all, in 1918, there was a flu epidemic, where people were killed. Also, even in our time, in the polio scares, people were afraid to go to any place where there was a lot of people around, particularly circuses. The circus used to come to town and be out--I remember the circus grounds being off West Broad Street, where we now have the Memorial Pool complex and park. The circus used to come there every year. During these periods of epidemics, where it seemed like there was a lot of cases around, people would shut into their homes and not go to the circus. That was definitely part of the early ‘50s milieu, but it would come and go.
You mentioned pools. Well, there weren’t many pools in the 1950s. Starting in the 1950s, there were two swimming holes in the area, Echo Lake Country Club and Shackamaxon Country Club. These are country clubs. You couldn’t get in those places unless you were a member and you were, quote, “rich.” There were two public county facilities, Rahway Pool and Linden Wheeler Pool. These were quite far away. Both of which still exist, but you wouldn’t go there. That was the mores of the time. You would be a stranger, an outsider there.
So, there was a movement in the 1950s and 1960s. My father and a group of people who did their war service together, they started a pool. They bought a little land in Scotch Plains, a mile or two from Westfield. They bought the land, and they built this pool themselves. They called it Highland Swim Club. That was the first swim club that was not part of a country club in the area. Now, again, these were clubs. You had to be admitted to the club. This concept of clubs and exclusivity, it was definitely a part of our world. So, there certainly weren’t any blacks in the Highland Swim Club.
We grew up at the Highland Swim Club. Following the building of Highland Swim Club, there were several other swim clubs built--Manor Park Swim Club, Willow Grove Swim Club, Nomahegan Swim Club, and Mindowaskin Swim Club. So, club pools developed. Now, then, in the late 1960s, the town government said, “Well, what is it with these clubs, these exclusive clubs? You can’t get in. There’s big waiting lines. Plus, you might not be of the right ethnic background. Well, why don’t we have a community pool?”
It’s very, very hard for me to explain or for anybody to believe that that was a very daring thing, to have a pool that anybody could go to. You didn’t have to be of a particular ethnic background or a particular color, that everybody could swim at the same pool. It seems astounding as I think back. It was also, when the pool opened in 1970, it was a very tumultuous time mores-wise. Things were fracturing in our society. It was a very, very tumultuous, difficult time. Opening up the Memorial Pool, the Westfield Public Pool, in 1970 was done. It was controversial, believe it or not, because all races could go, any religion could go, and it was opened up. So, it was controversial.
I was the first lifeguard hired for the pool and worked the first two summers in 1970 and 1971 as a lifeguard. It was difficult. There was rumblings, and bicycles were stolen constantly. Again, crime started to take off in the ‘60s in ways that society had never seen before. So, it was difficult, but we managed. The public pool, the Westfield Memorial Pool, has turned out to be one of the most successful financial things that the Town of Westfield has ever done, because it’s so coveted. When your kids are young, it’s just coveted to get in there, because it’s such a beautiful facility. The finances from the pool support the entire Westfield Recreation Department budget, which includes taking care of fields, tennis courts and the like.
So, it’s been a great success, but it’s hard to remember that it was actually quite controversial at the time, the concept that people of all races and religions could go to the same pool and you didn’t have to get, quote, “admitted” to the pool.
SI: Can you elaborate a little bit about what your activities were when you were growing up?
SI: Can you talk about your pre-teen years and what you did for fun?
JH: Sports, participation in sports. Again, in 1960, I’m ten years old. The population in ten years had gone from twenty thousand to thirty thousand, so, in just ten years, there’s just an explosion of youth. There was the development of all these youth leagues, but pretty much sports, the key sports--and people of my generation know this--you played football, basketball and baseball as a guy. I’ll get into women’s sports in a minute.
So, there was a football little league started, and it was full of kids. Baseball was very, very popular. There was all kinds of leagues. Let’s put it this way--there’s a million teams in Westfield. So, you grew up with those three sports. Of course, you played those sports after school. You’d go out and you’d get a gang of people together. There was so many kids just hanging around, so, “Okay, let’s play a game. Let’s play football. Let’s play touch football, let’s play tackle football, let’s play baseball.” People had the beginning of having hoops in the backyard, on the driveway, everybody; not everybody, but a lot of people put them up. We certainly had lots and lots of basketball games in my backyard, in the parking area where my father’s patients would park.
I don’t exactly know how to explain this, but my father had an ethic. He played football at Westfield High School. His belief, as erroneous as this may be, is that to play football makes you a man. That’s how you learned to be a man. So, I would say that, although he wanted us to study hard and do as well as we could in school, he insisted that we all played football, myself and my two brothers. So, the three of us all played football all the way from youth all the way through Westfield High School, and each of us played four years at small college football. This was part of his thought process.
Football was very, very popular as it developed in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s and on. It was the dominating spectator sport. We would have, on a Thanksgiving Day, ten thousand to fifteen thousand people come out to the rivalry between Plainfield and Westfield. One of the things about Westfield is that it had a very successful football coach from the early 1960s through the early 1980s, who was an outstanding coach. He was a classic football coach, very serious, disciplined and keep the nose to the grindstone, and that’s kind of the culture in which I grew up, which is, “Football is important.” [Editor’s Note: A 1957 graduate of Rutgers University, Gary Kehler coached football, wrestling and golf at Westfield High School over three decades.]
We didn’t know what we now know about football and concussions and the dangers that you have. In talking back to some of the people I played football with in high school and college, we all had concussions. We all know that there’s a risk that that’s going to increase our possibility of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s [disease], but the culture at the time was, “Hey, football is the be-all and end-all.”
Now, [for] women, sports, organized sports, they were closed off from that. I mean, it wasn’t part of the culture. If you were an interested woman in sort of athletic prowess or something, the ideal goal was to be on the cheerleading staff. Cheerleading, you had to qualify, “Oh, did you make the cheerleading squad?” That was a big deal. There was just a complete disconnect between men’s participation in athletics and women’s and the encouragement of men and the discouragement of women. There was no interscholastic, that I can recall, no interscholastic sports growing up for women. Field hockey was played.
The biggest thing women did in phys ed was what we called a marching program, which was really interesting. Women would have drill teams, and it was an annual event attended by probably a thousand parents in the Westfield gym, where the women’s various phys ed classes would compete one against another. That’s a huge change that my children got to see differently than I did growing up, particularly women’s participation.
SI: For the record, can you tell me your siblings’ names and birth order?
JH: Sure. My oldest sister, who was born in 1945, when my father was on Iwo Jima, is Nancy Hely. She grew up and went to Grove City College in Pennsylvania, and then, got a Master’s degree at Duke. [She] ended up settling in Houston, Texas, where she was a teacher, then, a principal, and then, became the assistant superintendent of the Houston schools. So, my siblings, just to segue a little bit, have all dispersed, except for myself. I returned to Westfield after my professional schooling.
The second brother, second child, was Charlie. He was born in 1946 in October, and he went off to college at Colby College in Maine, and then, got his law degree at Boston College in Massachusetts and worked as a district attorney for many years, and then, became a judge, long before I became a judge. He’s a judge in Superior Court in Massachusetts, and he continues to earn his living in that way.
The next person, Dan, was born in 1948. Dan went to Gettysburg College, and he went to medical school at the College of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. He was so fortunate, because he had trouble getting into medical school, but, at the time, the State of New Jersey, and other states as well, really got excited about spending money on higher education, so that more people could be educated. So, what had been an old, flunky medical school, I think it came out of Seton Hall, had a medical school, but the state committed to what was then called the College of Medicine and Dentistry. He fortunately got admitted after a couple tries and had his medical education in Newark at the College of Medicine and Dentistry, since changed to the University of Medicine and Dentistry, and we’re all looking forward to Rutgers taking over that medical school to enhance it even further. So, that’s my brother Dan.
I’m the next child. So, I went off to Gettysburg College, following him. I did not go to law school right away. I was fortunate, again, to be admitted to a public law school, which is Rutgers Law School in Camden, and it was just the best day of my life. I’ll say it’s the best day of my professional life when I was admitted to Rutgers-Camden, because I could afford the tuition at Rutgers-Camden. I was living on my own with my wife at the time, and it’s something we could do, we could accomplish. I wouldn’t have been able to go to law school, at that time, without that benefit. I’m so associated in my mind with that law school that gave me that chance.
That law school is right in the heart of Camden, which is our most deteriorated city, for better or for worse. Rutgers University has been one of the great rays of hope in Camden, and I hope it will continue to be. We almost lost Rutgers-Camden in a political shuffle, and, fortunately, we’ve saved it. Now, I’m seguing a little bit, now, Rutgers Camden Law School and Rutgers Newark Law School, which both developed independently, have agreed to unify, so that there’s just going to be one Rutgers Law School with two campuses, so that the projection to the public is, it’s Rutgers Law School. It will become, probably, one of the finest public law schools in the country. They already are two good law schools, but making them under one administration will probably improve that better.
[Editor’s Note: In early 2012, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie proposed that Rutgers-Camden sever its ties with Rutgers University and become part of Rowan University, a plan that ultimately was defeated. Later that year, the New Jersey Medical and Health Sciences Restructuring Act authorized the integration of most of the units of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) into Rutgers University, which took effect in July 2013. Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi called for the merger of the Rutgers-Newark and Rutgers-Camden law schools into a unified institution by 2014. The Rutgers School of Law, based on two campuses, has a single curriculum, set of enrollment standards, faculty and student body.]
I had a younger sister, Mary Lou, also known as Lu Lu--at least that’s what she was known as growing up--and she went to a small college in Florida, Florida Southern College. When she got out of college, which would’ve been in 1973, women really weren’t welcomed into the business world. Women were expected to be either nurses, teachers or flight attendants. So, the only job she could get coming out of school was as a bank teller, and I remember this.
The hourly rate was two dollars an hour, and the other bank tellers were other women who had not gone to college. That’s the job that she could get, first job she could get going out, a different world, but she was pretty astute. She learned and was on the ground floor of the development of word processing and computers, and she has had a wonderful career in that field and now works in the Silicon Valley in California in very sophisticated technology and has had a long and good career.
Then, I had two twin sisters who were born in 1955, and they grew up and also went to Westfield High School, as did all my siblings and my three children. They both went to Gettysburg College--so, four of us went to Gettysburg College. Each of them have gone on to have varying careers. One lives in Colorado now, and the other lives in Los Angeles with her family.
SI: Your family obviously valued education very highly. Did they encourage the women to go after the same aspirations as the men?
JH: Well, that’s a mixed bag. Certainly, each of the seven of us were expected to go to college. I say my father viewed his greatest accomplishment in his life, and you start thinking this way when you get older, that he educated--each of his seven children earned their bachelor’s degree on time, in four years. Again, he sent us all to private, liberal arts colleges, which were expensive. They weren’t as expensive perhaps as they are now, I mean, even by comparison, taking into account inflation, but I think, at the end of his life, to have had everybody get a bachelor’s degree, in some cases, even more advanced education--although I would say our graduate school was paid for by ourselves, pretty much, if I’m not mistaken. Certainly, mine was and my brother Dan, the doctor, was.
Believe it or not, you could earn in a summer, and we all did this in college, for college, you could earn in a summer about one-third to one-half of your tuition and schooling costs. That’s not the case anymore. So, education was highly valued, but, certainly in my family, and my sisters would have a completely different version of growing up than I would--and I just know from talking to them--that they were expected to, the usual, get married. “You didn’t really have to work a serious job--you’ll be getting married soon and starting your children.”
This is one of the great things--it’s hard to communicate this to my children and young people today--the availability of birth control, both pills and other birth control mechanisms, that really exploded in use in the 1960s, has completely changed our society. You weren’t supposed to have premarital sex. That was one of the mores of the time. So, you have this tremendous sex drive when you’re twenty years old, twenty-one years old. In order to avoid that taboo of having premarital sex, in conjunction with your having a tremendous sex drive, you were expected to get married.
If you were dating somebody, your parents wanted you to get married, because you were “living in sin” if you weren’t. They wanted to know what you were doing. The concept, in even my time, was, you got married at a young age, and I did get married at twenty-three. My wife had just turned twenty-four, so, we were approximately the same age. We were using birth control, but you weren’t supposed to be living with somebody and having sex until you were married. So, that was one of the mores then.
Well, that’s completely changed. Educated women don’t want to get married right out of the jump. They want to get their feet on the ground, and so, you see women today, typically, want to wait until they’re at least in their late twenties; not everybody, I’m generalizing, of course. Guys don’t even start getting serious until they’re about thirty-five. That’s the mores of today’s times, but that’s so different than one generation ago, when people got married earlier. I guess we could argue about that, whether which is good and which is bad.
SI: I am curious. At the time, did your father ever comment on the birth control pill and whether he prescribed it?
JH: You’ve asked an extremely perceptive and important question in my particular family’s life. My father was a Catholic. He believed very strongly in the Catholic doctrine that sexual relations is for procreation. He would not prescribe the birth control pill and certainly was anti-abortion, considered that a mortal sin. Now, he’s an obstetrician. He developed an obstetrical practice. As the late ‘60s unfolded--again, this is still a time of a great number of children being born--people would come to him, patients would come and say, “Doctor, can you give me the pill?” He’d say, “No, I don’t want to give you the pill.”
Between, let’s say, 1970 and 1974, he saw his medical practice almost eliminated, or certainly diminished to the point where he had to decide to do something else. At around that time also, he had developed some heart problems, which caused him to have coronary bypass surgery. So, in or around 1974, he stopped practicing, private practice of medicine, and went to work for the DuPont Corporation at their two plants, one in Linden and one in Newark, and he commuted. So, he closed down the office and he commuted to Newark. In fact, it was Down Neck, Newark, very close to where his father had had his electroplating small shop.
That just reminds me to say, my father, who had the good fortune to go to medical school, his father had said, “You’re not going to be working like I’m working, with this dirty, scummy, dangerous work of electroplating. I want you to go get educated.” So, that was that notion, “You have to go advance yourself,” typical immigrant experience.
So, the birth control, which was very important to myself and my wife, to have access to birth control, destroyed my father’s practice because of his belief. I can remember when my wife and I were dating in college, and, of course, we were falling love and the urge to have sexual relations was very strong, the college infirmary, during this time, began to make available birth control pills, and it was just so exciting. My wife was so excited about this. She wasn’t my wife then. Of course, we were having normal, what now are considered normal, sexual relations, which now kids can have without the worry of getting pregnant, which was such a major thing.
So many people--not so many people--but we all knew people who got married in their teenage years because the woman had become pregnant and that was a pattern, “Well, you now have to get married and take care of that child.” Some of those marriages actually have stood the test of time. I can think of two of my contemporaries who were young couples, Westfield High people, and got pregnant before the end of high school. In the two instances that I’m familiar with, those marriages have withstood the test of time and been very happy. So, it did work out for them. The advent of birth control was a huge development in our society, and it had an impact day-to-day, not only on my father’s practice, but in my own personal life. It’s a wonderful thing that people could control their financial destinies a lot better by having fewer children or having the number of children they thought they could handle.
Just to go back to when I first started a law practice in 1980, you start out, you don’t have any business, so, you’ve got to go hustle some cases. I would get cases from the Public Defender, in both Newark and Elizabeth. They would say, “Okay, you handle these cases,” and you’d do them on a small hourly rate. I would go into Newark--and, again, 1980 was a very, very crazy, difficult time with tremendous crime--but I would meet the mother of some juvenile who I was charged with representing and she would tell me she has ten children, she has twelve children. Well, that doesn’t really happen anymore.
People would have ten children by multiple fathers, and that is, apparently, and I say apparently, because I’m not sure this has been totally scientifically verified, but the fact that young mothers--we used to call it “babies having babies”--they don’t have as many children as they used to. That allows those children to grow up in a little bit more wholesome environment, getting a little more care than you can imagine if people had ten children running around in a small, modest apartment. So, that’s a big change in our lives.
SI: Can you talk about the role that religion played in your life growing up, how often your family went to church, what church you went to, that sort of thing?
JH: Well, my father came back from the war, and I think he was more religious than his family was growing up. He felt just so lucky to be alive, and then, lucky to have children and lucky to be able to support his family. Even as time went on, he became, I would say, more religious. Again, he had this view that you shouldn’t just hang around with Catholic kids, you shouldn’t go to Catholic school, but he was very, very religious. We all were trained to go to Catholic school, get the basic Catholic education.
That was all part of the seven children’s lives. So, I’ve always wrestled with this question, which is, “What impact did the Catholic values have on the ethos of my generation?” that is, my siblings. I don’t want to go too far into that area, but I think I’d have to say that the nuns that we were taught by and the religious values of, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” that you’re taught in a religious environment, are an ethos that all of my seven siblings have, whether or not they are still participating in organized and formal religion.
So, it was very much a part of our youth, but, again, there were Protestant churches that were very strong. The Jewish kids had a temple. The temple in Westfield, Temple Emanu-El, just grew enormously after the 1960s and still is extremely vibrant. The Jewish population was very small. The Catholic population was larger, but still pretty small. The Protestant population was the dominant religion. We still have the buildings in Westfield of the Protestant churches, the Methodist church, the Presbyterian church, the Episcopalian church, all dotting downtown and also around town, but the Protestant churches are not as populated as they once were. We certainly didn’t have, at least to my knowledge and memory, I don’t remember any Islamic practitioners, families that practice Islam, and we didn’t have the kind of international population that we now have, people from all over the world.
When I am selecting jurors in trials in Elizabeth, where I now sit as a judge, I am so astounded about the diversity of the population in Union County, where Westfield is right in the heart of, and some areas are even much more diverse than, of course, Westfield, some areas of Union County. Man, there’s people from Ghana, Nigeria, all over Central and South America. Of course, the Hispanic population is very large. So, we all look at our own prism. We were familiar with our own experience of Irish immigration, Italian immigration, Jewish immigration, and, now, it’s so much more diverse, but it’s just the constant change in waves and waves and waves.
I’ve been reading Philip Roth lately. He had his eightieth birthday. Of course, he was a chronicler of the Weequahic Section of Newark. My family, they moved to Westfield in 1915--they moved from the Weequahic Section of Newark, which was, at that time, an Irish enclave. In Philip Roth’s time, it was a Jewish enclave, and, now, it’s an African-American enclave. Probably now, there’s people from Haiti there, people from Trinidad, and it’s ever-shifting. It’s like the waves come in and go out, but very rapid and different changes in terms of socioeconomic groups.
SI: In the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council convened to address modernization. Do you remember the changes of Vatican II having a big impact on your life?
JH: Yes, yes. Well, I mean, this would be just my own subjective view. I was in elementary school, at Holy Trinity Elementary, when that occurred and the nuns were very excited. I think some of the priests were not excited. When the Mass was in Latin, it was more of a hocus-pocus feel to the Mass. In other words, it wasn’t understood. You were just hearing prayers in Latin, and you just sort of, “Oh, yes, okay,” went along with it. So, I think a lot of people got the benefit and loved the openness that Vatican II created. For example, the nuns didn’t seem to have to wear as rigid a garment. Of course, you could understand what was going on in the Mass a little bit. [Editor’s Note: Following the Second Vatican Council, Catholic priests led Holy Mass in their vernacular language instead of the traditional Latin.]
An interesting development in Westfield is that Holy Trinity Church was the original Catholic Church, but, as the Catholic population got larger, the Archdiocese had to start a new church. The new church, St. Helen’s, they started the church or the parish and they used the Edison auditorium, the Edison Junior High School now, Edison Intermediate School, auditorium. I could remember seeing and going there as a teenager, a young teenager, to the St. Helen’s Mass.
When I was growing up Catholic, you always figured out, “What’s the best time to go to Mass?” because, based on, like, St. Helen’s had a seven-fifteen and Holy Trinity had a six-fifteen or nine-fifteen or whatever, if you were going out to work on a Sunday morning--I used to caddy up at Echo Lake--you’d try to determine which church had a Mass that you could get in and out of, so that you could get to work, because the earlier you got up to Echo Lake to try to caddy, the more likelihood you were to get a job that day caddying. I can remember seeing, the first time I laid eyes on a now colleague of mine, who’s now a judge in Union County with me, was when he was an altar boy at the beginnings of the St. Helen’s Church.
I might be talking out of school to say that Holy Trinity has, as a church, stayed more conventional, more rigid, and the St. Helen’s culture, as it’s developed, again, at the far south edge of town, a very vibrant community of Catholics, a more open, guitar-type things, singing and more touchy-feely--I don’t want to say it in a negative way, just that’s my best way of articulating a little difference. Some people like it to be more sacred, more quiet and don’t like the kind of friendly, more light atmosphere. I think there’s still a cultural difference between the two churches. I’m not positive, because I don’t go to either one of them at this time, but that’s my impression from being around the community.
SI: Did a lot of your social activity center around the church?
JH: Well, I would say in my own case, and my family’s case, this was influenced by our parents, who did not want us to be strictly Catholic. We were encouraged to do things that were not religiously connected, so, be involved in sports that everybody was there, or clubs. Again, I don’t know where my father developed this custom, that you would go to Catholic school for grades one through six, and then, public school beginning in junior high. By the way, we weren’t the only family that did that. A lot of families did that, like, when I shifted from sixth grade to seventh grade to begin at Edison Junior High School, public junior high school, a number of kids that I went to Holy Trinity with were shifting at the same time. We all continued to go through.
So, I would say, other than going to church, which we did, the Catholic Church was not that big socially for us. So, we weren’t participating in, like, CYO, which was Catholic Youth Organization, which wasn’t, in my recollection, that big in Westfield. Our focus was more to be involved in Little Leagues and public things.
For some reason, my parents thought it was important for us to learn how to ride a horse. I’m not really sure; I never really got the answer to that. We all had to go through what was called the Watchung Stables, the Watchung Troop, which is in the Watchung Reservation, which is a park in Mountainside and part of Summit, up on the mountain, the first row of the Appalachian Mountains, which is the Watchung Mountains. There was a horse stable, there still is horse stables there, where they had lessons and you’d learn how to correctly ride an English style horse. I don’t know why my mother thought that was important, but she did.
There was also something that, if I’m not mistaken, still exists; I think it was called Barclay’s dancing school [The Barclay Classes], and this was something that my mother insisted that we go to. This still takes place, if I’m not mistaken, at the Westfield Tennis Club, this organization. It was a clubby-type thing. Well, you had to be somebody, in somebody’s eyes, I guess, to go, and this would teach you manners and how to interact with women. So, we did this in fifth, sixth and seventh grade.
My mother insisted. You had to get dressed in a suit and tie. The women had to dress in dresses and gloves, white gloves. It really was about teaching you how to dress formally and how to interact formally, how to ask a woman to dance, how to thank her. Even sometimes, we’d have, like, for more formal weeks, we’d hear, “Okay, now, this is how we’re going to do the formal dance.” You had to have a dance card. The woman would have a dance card.
My father used to call me a “gigolo,” and he called me that because, when I was in sixth grade in dancing school, the fifth grade group did not have enough boys signed up. So, they paid sixth grade boys to come an hour early to do the fifth grade, so that there’d be enough boys in the fifth grade group. We were paid fifty cents for doing that, and so, that’s why my father called me a gigolo. [laughter]
PL: Can I just ask the impact? Did you feel that was a positive experience?
JH: Well, I never let my children go to Barclay’s.
JH: When we got the invitation for my oldest daughter, I said, “You’re not going to Barclay’s,” because, again, my reaction against that kind of pretend elite was a strong reaction. My father had a funny thing. This is a little funny story. My father had a very strong anti-snob feeling. I referred earlier to he thought anybody that drove a Cadillac was a showy person. It was improper, and you didn’t want to show that you had a few dollars. So, we always drove Fords. He always was telling us, “You’ve got to be careful of those people up at the country club,” and of course, he was referring to any country club, but Echo Lake was the main country club in Westfield. Shackamaxon was actually in Scotch Plains, and Shackamaxon was the country club for the people who wouldn’t be admitted to Echo Lake. So, that was for Jews and Italians and what we’d call nouveau riche.
My father was allegedly anti-country club. After the children grew up and went to college and off, lo and behold, my father had become a house member, which was a kind of limited member, of Baltusrol in Springfield. I was--I still am--quite amazed by that, that after the way he taught us to be, kind of anti these elite institutions, [laughter] he became a member of Baltusrol. I joke about it, that it’s a source of shame to those handful of people who know that little fact about me, but that those that do do tease me about it, that, “Your parents were members of Baltusrol.”
PL: Not as a golfer then.
JH: Not as a golfer, but you could go there and eat, eat fine dining, and everything would be formal and you’d be treated like you were some sense of royalty because you had made it to Baltusrol. I am not a member of any country clubs, and I’ll stand by that.
SI: Were your parents active in the community, either in civic groups or politics or anything like that?
JH: My father was very active, but, when you’re a doctor, your activity is providing that service. So, his activities were, for example, related to working with and training the Westfield Rescue Squad, which started in the early ‘50s, by, again, veterans from World War II as a volunteer rescue squad, which still exists. He did a lot of early training of the volunteers. Again, he was very familiar with emergency medicine from his time in the service. He also did, like, school physicals for poor kids who needed to have physicals who couldn’t pay for going to the doctor’s on their own. So, he would do that regularly. A doctor’s life does not allow, typically, does not allow, for outside volunteer activities, but he did instill in us, the children, how important it was and how he admired contemporaries of his who were involved in town government and the Board of Education.
When you think of the strongest single element of what makes a town like Westfield the town that it is, it is the efficient and effective running of a public school system, where kids can get a good, solid education and go off to higher education that is suitable to their own abilities. So, there’s always kids graduating from Westfield High who are going to Yale, Princeton, and all the great universities. Obviously, everybody’s not going to get into those universities, but they can get into some, and the opportunity’s there. How does that happen? How does it come to be that there’s a public school system? Well, the citizens have to support it. I don’t think I’m saying anything unusual to say that the reason most people come to Westfield in the first place is because they have young children, they want to get a good public education.
That’s the same thing that keeps the value in the homes, so that a home, a modest home, in Westfield is worth significantly more than in adjacent towns, whichever direction you go in, because of the strong public school system. My youngest son, who is now twenty-eight, he was the thirteenth member of my family to graduate from Westfield High School, because we really value that. Where did public schools come from? They came from civic involvement by volunteers. Nobody on the Board of Education gets paid. They run for office. They put themselves up to criticism and belittlement, and, yet, the school systems run and have been run very effectively, not perfectly, of course, but very effectively, providing mass education to any citizen in Westfield.
I think, to respond back to your question, is we were taught that public service was important. My mother, who was a little bit more of a shy person, and then, in those days, she was what we called a housewife, or what was referred to as a housewife, which was a normal thing for people to be and still is for some people. You’d get involved in different organizations. She was involved in volunteer organizations for the hospital. The three hospitals in the area were all non-profit, basically charitable institutions, Overlook, Muhlenberg and Rahway. My mother was very involved in what was called Twig, which is helping the patients on a volunteer basis, to deliver stuff.
Volunteers were a big part of the hospitals. Medical provisions in hospitals are completely different now. They’re big businesses, and that’s appropriate. They have to be. They can’t be little sewn-together operations, but the origin of the hospitals were all volunteer, and then, supported by charity. Of course, with the advent of insurance, that changed, and, now, it’s quite different. So, my mother’s involvement would be supportive of my father’s medical care institutions, and her volunteer involvement, as I recall, was significant, and it was mostly hospital-related. Again, I think we were all trained, all the children were trained, that this is an important part of your life, to contribute, try to be involved civically and not just how much money can you make and your own prestige.
SI: You talked about your early education a little bit. Can you give us a sense of the quality and what interested you the most in the classroom?
JH: Well, I think it would be accurate to say that I wasn’t the best student. My mother always felt I was underperforming, and I didn’t get tip-top grades. Growing up in Holy Trinity, the class size was something between forty-five and fifty children per class. We didn’t think there was anything abnormal about that. We thought that was, “That’s the way it is.” Of course, the nuns had to, as a result, run a very tight ship, very strict. Corporal punishment was part of that; seems like it’s not anymore and should not be. Again, things change. Mores change. We get better. We know more. You don’t have to spank kids in front of an entire class.
I remember, in first grade, kids getting brought up by the nun, “Okay, bend over my knee. I’m going to take this ping-pong paddle and smack you on your rear end,” a number of times, not just once, but a number of times. That was their order. I remember a teacher in Holy Trinity having a pointer, a long, four-foot pointer that she’d use for the blackboard, and, if you misbehaved, you got smacked with it or cracked on the knuckles with a ruler. This was part of it, but, I mean, we valued education.
I made a reference to television. We got our first television in 1950. Not all people realize that television was a great distraction from getting your schoolwork done and reading, just reading. If you’re watching television, you’re not reading. So, I think a lot of families were able to appreciate that and basically said, “No television. Turn off the television,” or, “We don’t have a television.” That was actually some people’s response.
Others, our family, as many families do, you’ll hear the oldest child had more strict rules than the youngest child. My own daughter, my oldest daughter, says that was the case when she was being raised, that we were really strict with her and the other two kids got everything. I think that was the case in our seven among my generation, that my parents were more strict, and then, television became something that, “Oh, go ahead. Watch television.” We weren’t allowed to watch television during the week. It just was taboo and it was a big deal if there was some special show that you could watch on a Wednesday night. That was pretty much not done.
So, my own education, again, I was kind of a mediocre student and was admitted to college probably as much [for] my football ability, to be on the football team at college, as much as my academic. I was pretty much behind and actually didn’t grow as a student until later on in college. I never would’ve been admitted to law school right out of college, but I became a better student as I got out of college and spent five years in the working world, but more educating myself. Then, I was able to do well enough in the testing area to be admitted to law school, which, again, is a great thing in my life.
Participation in clubs at schools, it was valued. My father knew, my father was able to communicate, “There’s going to be students that are better than you,” and certainly there were. One of my contemporaries, who was in my brother’s class, he was a Rhodes Scholar. He is a great lawyer and has had a great legal career in both public and private spheres. His name is Doug Eakeley. This guy was really a superstar student and, also, a great athlete, I might add, in tennis and swimming, particularly swimming. He’s now, not only continuing to practice as a lawyer, but he is a professor at Rutgers-Newark Law School, which I commend, and he’s just had a great career.
Everybody’s got different abilities. Academic ability is one thing. There’s also this concept of emotional or social intelligence. That is, it’s not all academics. It’s personality. I tell young lawyers, “Look, you can get all the best grades you want as law students. Personality counts. People, to come to you for legal advice, they have to not only trust you, but they have to think that you know what you’re doing and you have to convey that to them. Your academic ability is just one piece of being somebody who will be welcomed into the profession,” in my case, the legal profession.
SI: You entered Westfield High School in 1965.
SI: This was after the early part of the Civil Rights Movement. What were the biggest changes that you were aware of as a freshman in high school? Do you remember there being friction between different groups in town?
JH: Well, there’s so much in that question. I’ll just try to dip into it and figure out where it goes. I can remember a Civil Rights march that was led by a black man in town who had a number of children who were contemporaries of ours. His name was Morrison. He had a nice family. He wanted to have a march through Westfield about Civil Rights, and, of course, as everywhere, like, “Oh, what are these people complaining about?” So, there was animus. I will add that the black community, in doing this march, was supported by the Catholic leaders at the time. I can visualize a picture from the Westfield newspaper, called The Westfield Leader, of the Catholic priest and Mr. Morrison marching with a group towards town, to just sort of show solidarity with what Reverend Martin Luther King was doing in the real, real hot, contentious areas.
SI: Was that in the earlier 1960s?
JH: No, this would’ve been probably ‘66.
JH: Okay. As I said, one of my fellow students, Charlie Morrison, his father was kind of a civic leader, trying to get Westfield to recognize there were Civil Rights problems. Another contemporary of mine, his father was on the Town Council. So, there’s two classmates. So, the guy who was on the Town Council told his son, and then, he told me, “Oh, that Morrison, he’s nothing but a troublemaker. We don’t need that in this town. We don’t have problems in this town.” Again, it’s a very difficult thing to explain. So, most of the Westfield government, for the ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, was almost entirely Republican, but the Republican Party was, to many eyes, the progressive party, at least as far as Civil Rights. The government officials who were stopping the development of Civil Rights were the Southern Democrats. Of course, those same Southern Democrats switched parties, but that was later on.
There’s an incident that is a black mark in Westfield, but it’s real, so, it’s worth talking about. There was an annual Christmas pageant held at the Westfield High School, and it was a holiday type of thing. People would dress up, and it would be a depiction of the birth of Jesus. I can remember, in the early 1970s, I was away at college, but my sisters were participants in this Christmas pageant. It involved the singing of all these Christian songs. [laughter] Somebody, I think with the ACLU’s [American Civil Liberties Union] help, files a suit, “This is the recognition and enhancement of a particular organized religion in our school system and it doesn’t belong.”
Just to back up, so, this is in the 1970s, circa ‘71, ‘70. When I went to Edison Junior High School, and everybody would remember this, so, I’m in Edison Junior High School in 1962, ‘63 and ‘64, we opened every day with a prayer and a Bible reading, and it wasn’t the Qur’an we were reading. [laughter] We were reading the New Testament and praying to Jesus. Of course, at that time, we started to see some Jewish kids in the schools intermingling with the other kids, and so, the Jewish kids would read from the Old Testament. It was just seen as the most normal thing in the world that you’d open up a public school day, every day, with the Pledge of Allegiance, a Bible reading and a prayer.
One day, I remember the homeroom teacher said, “Okay, we can’t do that anymore.” She closed up the Bible, that was it, [laughter] because the Supreme Court had said, “Yes, that’s organized religion in the schools.” So, the formality of a prayer in school, and I can’t remember what year that was, I think it was 1963, was prohibited, a prayer and Bible reading. Okay, go forward a few years. Well, they still had this holiday pageant, and it was called the Christmas pageant. So, it wasn’t called the holiday pageant. It was called the Christmas pageant, which is, of course, a Christian holiday. Somebody brings a lawsuit and says, “You can’t do that.” Well, the Christian community went bananas. They went berserk over this, “You can’t mess with our holiday.”
[Editor’s Note: In the cases Engel v. Vitale (1962), Murray v. Curlett (1963) and Abington Township School District v. Schempp (1963), the US Supreme Court ruled that reading the Bible and praying in schools violated the First Amendment.]
The notion developed that all the merchants in town, or a lot of the merchants in downtown Westfield, were Jewish, and so, “We’ll have a boycott of the Jewish merchants until they allow us to have our Christmas pageant.” Well, this was probably one of the ugliest periods of hostility, and I have to be frank and admit that my parents were on the side of, “Why can’t they let us have a Christmas pageant?” [laughter] because my sisters were in it, and they were singing, of course, the Christian songs. “Oh, these Christian songs that we sing, they’re not really Christian. They’re just songs from history.” [laughter] That’s what the excuse was. Now, this all seems foreign to us forty years later, but that was the tone of the time.
Again, the ‘60s and ‘70s were very tricky and difficult. I just remember one other incident. In the early 1970s, Richard Nixon was President, and there was a big Republican fundraiser at the Armory, which was right across from our house. The Westfield Armory is on Rahway Avenue, across Rahway Avenue from the high school and catty-corner from my house. John Mitchell, the Attorney General, was going to come speak and other dignitaries, cabinet members, because Westfield was always seen as a bastion of the Republican Party. This place was packed, and the limousines were lining up.
Well, at the time, John Mitchell was under investigation for subverting justice in the Watergate scandal, and so, this caused a big brouhaha, demonstrations outside. Again, the Vietnam War, which was also extremely difficult for everybody, that was going on at the time. A year or two later, John Mitchell was in jail, and Richard Nixon resigned from office. So, there was kind of a chaos in the mores of our society that generated out of the 1960s, that wasn’t all good, by the way, and we spent a long time recovering. [Editor’s Note: John Mitchell served as US Attorney General under Nixon, and then, headed the President’s reelection campaign in 1972. In 1975, a jury found Mitchell guilty of conspiracy, perjury and obstruction of justice for his part in the Watergate scandal and he served nineteen months in prison.]
Crime, the notion that there was no rules anymore, that kind of permeated, and so, crime, as a result, occurred and there was a lot of racial animus. There was a very vicious crime committed in the 1970s. A young, single woman who lived in the Cacciola Section, she was an Italian and had grown up in Westfield. My father knew her. My father knew her brothers. It was the Triano Family. The woman was brutally raped and murdered in her home in this integrated neighborhood, and they never found out who did it. It really engendered a lot of animus and hostility, whites toward black, black towards white.
A few years ago, about two years ago, I’m sitting as a judge in Union County at this courthouse, and, through DNA evidence, they found out, and it’s now been determined, that an individual who was fifteen years old at the time, who grew up in back of Ms. Triano, was the one who did this vicious crime at age fifteen. [Editor’s Note: In 2012, fifty-two-year old Carlton Franklin was convicted of the felony murder of Lena Triano, which had occurred in 1976. DNA evidence recently found on Triano by Union Country law enforcement linked her decades-old unsolved murder to Franklin.]
It’s almost unfathomable to think of. I mean, obviously, crime is never going to be completely eliminated. People have deranged mentalities. Some people had no childhood. There’s something dysfunctioning in their brain. It’s almost unfathomable to think about, but, that incident, I can remember, because I was a young adult, living in Westfield at the time in an apartment on Sussex Street, just one block away from Cacciola and about two blocks from where this murder took place. I can just remember the hostility that my father had, because one of his contemporaries had been murdered and raped for no purpose.
So, those were things that were swimming around in that time. When we think of the ‘60s and the ‘70s in a romantic way, you have to think back about other things that were going on at the time. I remember I was working in the Summer of 1969 for Townsend Moving and Storage, which was a local moving and storage place, and a lot of college kids got work there in the summer. Friends of mine said, “Hey, we’ve got to go up to this festival, the Woodstock Festival. It’s really going to be exciting.” I might have mentioned it in passing to my father, and he said, “What are you talking about? You’ve got to go to work, man,” because we had overtime work on Saturdays. So, I did not go to the Woodstock Festival. I was earning what we considered pretty good money at the time doing the moving and storage work, when we were able to get work, so, helping pay for your own college.
My friends, who did load up in a car, five or six of them or whatever, they never got there. To get to Woodstock was an almost impossible task, that perhaps twenty percent of the people who embarked actually got to the festival and actually saw some music and participated in the events. [laughter] The other eighty percent [were] just stuck in mud and rain, it was terrible, but a lot of people, obviously, had a great experience. It was a pivotal moment in time, but, again, there was this sense of liberation that people had.
We had a serious what was called then “the generation gap,” which [it is] hard for people to understand that. I don’t think my own children and myself and my wife have a generation gap between our children, where they hate who we are [laughter] or hate the values that we stand for, but that was definitely happening at the time. Just to throw one other incident that had a very real impact--of course, you’re in college, you’re subject to the draft, and I certainly went through college believing that it was a very strong chance that I would be drafted at the end of college.
By that time, the Vietnam War was pretty much known to be a silly engagement, for us to continue to be sending troops there and participating, and, yet, march along we did. In participating in the peace movement, the anti-war movement, to find that four people were shot at a university, Kent State, in, I believe that was 1970 ...
SI: 1970. [Editor’s Note: In early May 1970, students on campuses across the nation conducted a strike to protest the expansion of the Vietnam War and America’s invasion of Cambodia. On May 4, 1970, members of the Ohio National Guard fired upon a group of anti-war demonstrators at Kent State University, killing four students and wounding nine.]
JH: We all marched down to Washington, because I went to Gettysburg, [which] was not far from Washington, and had just a massive demonstration there. We were just so shocked and hurt by the fact that students would be just rifled upon [when they were] just demonstrating. It was just a shocking thing. That was the “John Mitchell-attitude” that I referred to. When we went to Washington, you couldn’t see the White House, because the White House had been surrounded by buses that were parked bumper-to-bumper, completely surrounding the entire White House complex. The demonstration that I went to was at what’s known as The Ellipse.
Nixon was unnerved by this particular march on Washington. The night before the Saturday demonstration, Nixon couldn’t sleep. So, at 3:00 AM in the morning, he got a few Secret Service agents to take him to the Lincoln Memorial, where students had bedded down for the night. There, Nixon debated with students his Vietnam policy. In the middle of the night!
I think that summer, my mother said, “By the way, if you ever go to a demonstration, you’re not going to be able to live here anymore and you’re not going to be supported in college.” So, the only thing I could say was, “Well, I just went to a demonstration down in Washington, so, it’s a little too late for that.” [laughter] She had to throw her hands up; she wasn’t going to cut me off at that time. So, it was a very, very difficult time, as much as it was a time of change, positive change, and openness.
SI: At that time, what was your father saying to you and your brothers about service in the Vietnam War? Did he expect you to go into the service? Would he understand if you tried not to serve?
JH: You are cutting right to the bone. Now, again, to go back to what we’ve talked about, my father served with the Marines on Iwo Jima [in] a war that had a wonderful outcome and put to the end the imperial, dictatorial conquest of nations, Germany towards the European countries and Japan towards the countries in the East. It was very clear that World War II was a war of morality and worth fighting, and, in a sense, it held up high what we call the rule of law, civilization.
My father was patriotic, but he knew that the War in Vietnam had long since lost its way. When I was in high school and I was having some difficulty going through school and I was having difficulty with my parents, generation gap related, we used to get a magazine in school called Scholastic Magazine. You may be familiar with it. Every week, it would come, Scholastic Magazine. It would be used for discussion of current events. On the back of Scholastic Magazine, there was an advertisement for the US Army recruiting helicopter pilots, and that, to me, sounded so glamorous, and then, after you did your service, you’d get money for college. That sounded so cool, operating a helicopter.
So, I went home and said to my father at the dinner table--I can remember this very clearly--I said, “Dad, maybe I shouldn’t go to college right away. I think I want to be a helicopter pilot. Try that. Then, they’d help pay for college.” He looked at me with such anger, that I was stupid enough to think I wanted to be a helicopter pilot, and he said to me, I remember this phrase, he goes, “Helicopter pilots are sitting ducks for death. What do you think, they don’t shoot at helicopters? You try to go in low, and you see the helicopters. They shoot right back up and you’re dead. That’s why they need more and more and more, because they’re all dying.” The mortality for helicopter pilots and anybody that worked on a helicopter was very, very high. If you want to picturize that, just take a look at two films, Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter. The Deer Hunter film, made in the late ‘70s, depicts the tensions and the difficulties of the Vietnam War and particularly helicopters and what helicopters were doing.
So, that was the first clue to me. This is 1968, so, I’m still in school, and I’m thinking, “Am I going to go to college? I’m tired of this. I’m not doing that well academically. My parents are in a lot of tension with me. They think I’m not studying hard enough. Maybe I’ll just go in the service,” and my father laid into me. So, here’s a man who understood the duty of citizenship. He did not want to say to you, “Dodge the draft,” or, “Go to Canada.” That he wouldn’t have accepted, but he certainly did not want one of his sons to be into a situation of unnecessary death.
So, remember, I had two brothers. My oldest brother was in law school, and he could get a deferment for a period of time, until he graduated from law school. He graduated from law school in 1972, and he was able to sign up for the Naval Reserves and serve as a lawyer. To get that position, you had to be pretty solid academically, and he was accepted. So, his service was done. He wasn’t drafted, because he did that agreement to serve as a lawyer, and he did serve as a lawyer for, I think, three or four years in the military, the Navy, with the Marines.
My brother Dan, who graduated from college in 1969, or was expected, and he did graduate in 1969, but, in the Spring of ‘69, he did not get admitted to medical school. So, he was then immediately subject to the draft, and 1969 was the time when Nixon was President and the draft was very, very large. If you were getting out of college at that time--it was prior to the lottery, that’s an important little development later on--but everybody was subject to the draft. He got a draft notice, because he didn’t get in medical school. Medical school would’ve been a deferment.
So, he knew that he was going into his physical as soon as he graduated. He went down to the Bahamas with some friends of his for the, quote, “spring break,” and he was body surfing. In body surfing, the wave took him over, and he broke his neck. He was flopping on the beach, unable to move his arms and legs. His friends took him out, but it appeared to be that he would be paralyzed and unable to walk. Well, they did an immediate surgery down on the island of Nassau. He did break his neck, but he didn’t break the spinal cord, although it bumped into the spinal cord to cause that limitation. They were able to, basically, stabilize the vertebral column and not have permanent damage to the spinal cord.
He had to wear a halo brace. So, when he came back to college, he was in a halo brace. So, he goes for his Army physical, “You’re disqualified. You can’t serve, because you have a broken neck.” Well, that allowed him to go to graduate school for a year or two at the University of Scranton, and then, up his credentials, and then, do better on his test scores and get admitted, as I said earlier, to the College of Medicine and Dentistry, now the University of Medicine and Dentistry [of New Jersey] and become a doctor.
In my own case, I was going to college from 1968 to 1972. The draft lottery took place while I was a sophomore in college, which meant, “Okay, by your birth date, you’re getting selected out--who’s going to be likely drafted, who’s not going to be drafted, who’s going to be in the middle.” I got a lottery number that was, let’s say, in the middle. So, you had a student deferment until you were out, and then, you were subject to the draft. In the Spring of 1972, when I was graduating, your lottery number had to be, like, ten or below, maybe it was fifteen or below, to still be subject to the draft. By that time, the President and the administration had really realized that this was destroying the domestic situation for them, and they had to really wind down and do what was called the Vietnamization of the war. So, the draft was petered out by the time that I was getting out of school.
[Editor’s Note: First drawn on December 1, 1969, the lottery determined the order in which men born between 1944 and 1950 were called for military induction. The nineteenth date drawn would have given all men born on that date the number nineteen. Vietnamization refers to the US policy after 1969 of funding and arming the military of South Vietnam so that it could bear the brunt of the fighting.]
SI: To go back, when you were a senior in high school in 1968, that is when the Tet Offensive happened, and a lot of people changed their views on the war. Before that, was the Vietnam War talked about by your classmates? Were anti-war views prevalent?
JH: That was a very interesting period of time in public education. Again, this was a very controversial area, this area of, “What’s the role of the United States in the world and, specifically, should we be in Vietnam?” A group of the social studies teachers--we all had to take history and social studies in one form or the other--wanted to have discussions about this, and then, there was a group of history teachers that wanted to say, “No, history is taught by memorizing 1776 and 1812 and dates.”
So, there was a very conservative man, who actually lost a son in Vietnam, named Gomer Lewis. He was the more conservative, old-style history teacher and a good man. I still see his son’s name on the plaque at the Westfield Memorial Pool, and it makes me feel very sad. I knew other people of my era, a little older, who died in the Vietnam War. Other social studies teachers, history teachers, the faculty advisor to the Hi’s Eye, Clarkson, Della Badia, Drummond, Jackson, these were history teachers, wanted to teach sort of a Socratic [Method] or questioning. “This is how you learn, by thinking and questioning, not just by accepting and rote memory.”
That led to serious contention in the Board of Education and Board of Education elections in the late 1960s, and I should say mid to late 1960s, where ideology became an essential part of your platform running for the Board of Education. It became as politicized as we would never be able to envision today. Again, in social studies, this was talked about. There were different views about whether this should be talked about, and it caused problems up at the highest level. Some teachers were highly criticized for teaching not just the rote but the debate.
I remember, I think it was in 1968, seeing a movie with John Wayne. The name of the movie’s The Green Berets. The movie, as part of its storytelling, had this sort of skeptical view about, “What is America doing in Vietnam?” but, ultimately, it was very pro-American involvement in Vietnam. John Wayne, of course, was a recognized conservative, “America-is-number-one” figure. I’m a senior in high school, “Okay, that sounds reasonable. I mean, he sounds reasonable. Yes, I guess I’m patriotic.” Again, I wasn’t reading any particular literature. I certainly wasn’t reading the newspaper at the time.
I wasn’t reading The New York Times. Our family got The Herald Tribune, which was sort of a Republican, but liberal Republican, newspaper until it closed in the ‘60s, and then, we started getting the Times, but, I mean, I’m a high school kid--I’m not reading the Times. So, I’m not really too much aware of the intellectual debate back and forth, of whether it’s right to be in Vietnam or what is happening or what does imperialism mean and those type [of] issues. I’m just, like, a forming flower. I certainly would say I never would have dodged the draft.
Certainly, when I went to college, and the thing just kept grinding on--I remember the Election of 1968 took place when I was a freshman in college. I mean, you have to think about this. Lyndon Johnson, who never wanted anything more than to be President of the United States, when he was President of the United States, could not figure out what to do about Vietnam. He knew that it was kind of a hopeless thing. We know from the Pentagon Papers that he was getting told, “This is hopeless. This is not going to work,” and, yet, he couldn’t politically allow himself to say, “I’m the one that’s going to pull us out of Vietnam.”
So, he gave up and said he would not seek reelection. He did not decide to step aside just because of that. Eugene McCarthy had emerged as a peace candidate in the Democratic primaries in the Spring of 1968, and he was looking pretty strong, I think after the New Hampshire Primary. It was humiliating for LBJ. Then, of course, his long nemesis, Robert Kennedy, said, “Oh, McCarthy’s going to do it, I’m going to do it.” Kennedy came along. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, that is, had a very interesting and conflicted background, but he, at that time, portrayed himself as the great idealist and peace candidate.
Now, just think of that. The Spring of 1968, this is when I’m in high school. I’m about to embark on college, and I’m thinking to myself, as a football player, “Lyndon Johnson says he’s not running for reelection.” So, I think it was February of 1968, he says he’s not running for President. So, he’s immediately a lame duck. Martin Luther King is shot, and Bobby Kennedy is shot, all in the late winter and spring of 1968. The world had a view of simply falling apart. It didn’t seem to hold together, and that’s a time when everybody was just wondering, “What’s going to happen? What is all this? Our mores, our culture is breaking down.” Meanwhile, I’m trying to have the old-fashioned dating relationships and try to be a kid, but it was a little bit changed by that.
[Editor’s Note: Senator Eugene McCarthy from Minnesota came in a close second to President Lyndon B. Johnson in New Hampshire’s Democratic Presidential Primary on March 12, 1968. On March 31st, President Johnson announced he would not seek reelection. A few days later, on April 4th, Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated. Two months later, on June 5, 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy was shot and died the next day.]
SI: I wanted to turn to that aspect for a moment. I think we have about twenty more minutes. Football was obviously a big part of your experience. What position did you play?
JH: Well, I played a number of different positions through my career. I can remember when I was a very young child--so, let’s say I’m four years old, maybe five years old--my father’s in the kitchen and he opens up the newspaper and he says, “Who’s that picture of?” I said, “Well, that’s the guy that fills up our gas tank down at the Gulf Station on South Avenue.” He goes, “Yes, yes. He’s the younger brother, and we see him there sometimes.” This was the All-Union County Football Team, and this guy that filled up our gas was from Rahway High.
From that moment, and other things, the ideal thing in my young life was, “Could I actually play on the Westfield Football Team?” I mean, that was seen as, like, the biggest goal ever. From that little reaction of my father, like, to be on the All-Union County Football Team, that would be, like, the greatest possible thing. Everybody would bow down to you. You would be recognized as a preeminent “big man on campus.” So, I think I way overvalued that in my life, but that is what I did pursue, to try to be as good a football player as I could be.
Again, the culture in the high school, at the time, was, the football team was really important and it was really cool, and, if you were on the football team, you were just top of the line. It detracted, I would say--so, that involved weight training and off-season training and doing everything you could to focus on that--not as much focus on my studies. I got to know Coach Kehler. He sort of picked me out as somebody who could help him. I wasn’t doing that great. Going into my senior year, he said, “I need you to switch positions and become our center on the football team,” the ball snapper, “and then, play defensive line.”
I wasn’t that big, but people weren’t that big in those days. So, I was the tallest guy on the team, but I wasn’t the weightiest guy. To be over two hundred pounds in high school in those days was just not happening. There were very few, very few. If somebody was over two hundred pounds on a high school team, that was a big, big deal, and you were really big. So, the heaviest guy on our team--I might have been the heaviest guy on our team, I certainly was the tallest, but I think I started my senior year at 175 pounds, which wasn’t seen as small at that time.
I actually, through the season of my senior year, found myself named to the All-Union County Football Team. This, to me, was like the prayers were answered. I got what I wanted, and I learned what a hollow thing that is. [laughter] I mean, nobody cares if you’re on the All-Union County Football Team, and nobody thinks you’re that great. They might [say], “Oh, he’s on the football team.” In hindsight, of course, I realized that that’s kind of a petty, little pursuit. Nobody cares about that and what’s much more important is trying to develop your brainpower and your intellectual ability and try to be a better student, which I was not a top student.
I was probably right smack in the middle of the class. My high school senior year was 625 graduates. I remember, both myself and the quarterback of the team, his name is Bobby Brewster--he later became a science teacher at Westfield High School and the long-time baseball coach, still coaching baseball at our age of sixty-two or three--we were right smack in the middle of that class rank, three hundred and whatever. That was the ethos of the time. Certainly, it was the ethos of my family that sports would be preeminent.
PL: If I could just make a comment about sports, the emphasis of sports, and [sports in] Westfield was and still is really important ...
JH: Well ...
PL: To the people ...
JH: I’ll just ...
PL: Maybe a little bit ...
JH: It’s an important part of being involved. I think football’s too dangerous to play too much, but I’ll point out that all my three children went through Westfield High and all played sports. The two girls had the advantage of a new day, which was Title IX. [Editor’s Note: Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal law that provides for equal opportunity for women in athletics.] It came into play right after we got out of college and developed.
My wife, who was a top lacrosse player in high school and in college and started the college women’s lacrosse team, she came into Westfield and wanted her daughters to have that benefit of playing lacrosse. So, my wife started the youth lacrosse league, and then, the high school lacrosse program, which is now a very, very strong program. Both my daughters played field hockey and lacrosse, and my son did not play football. I didn’t do anything to encourage that or I probably did more to discourage it, because we never watched football at home. He was the captain of the cross-country team.
So, I definitely think that sports are a good thing to participate [in], with the right perspective, because it teaches self-discipline. I mean, I definitely think that I learned a lot of self-discipline by playing sports and Westfield fostered that, but the biggest change from now to then is the participation of women. Year after year, there are more than a hundred women running cross-country on the cross-country team. This was unheard of in my time, and women have essentially parallel rights to play sports and participate in sports.
SI: Were there rivalries that were important, being on the sports teams?
JH: Sure. There still is a long-time, honored rivalry on Thanksgiving Day between Westfield and Plainfield. It’s one of the oldest rivalries in the state. It is very, very important football-wise. We also had rivalries with Scotch Plains, particularly. They would always love to try to beat Westfield. Sometimes, it did. Most of the times, they didn’t; Cranford also, a little smaller school. I guess I’m talking about football at this point. I was never on a high school basketball team, but basketball was also something that was very, very popular as a spectator sport.
What’s changed dramatically is, nobody goes to these games anymore. Spectators are very few, very few. If you go to a high school football game or a high school basketball game or a high school baseball game, it’s basically the parents and the participants. You don’t have thousands of kids in the stands, with cheerleaders, that are all participating. I’m not saying there’s no cheerleaders and there’s no students in the stands, but it’s so different, and that’s good, because that means people are participating more.
Another dynamic about growing up in Westfield, there were all these kids that were into arts and into drama and plays, which was totally something I wasn’t a part of, but these kids are taking a train and a bus into Greenwich Village and seeing what’s happening in New York City. This was not anything that I was involved in. A lot of kids that I was in school with, I learned later, they were doing auditions and they were going to plays and doing artsy stuff in New York City that was totally foreign to me, because I was, let’s say, not a dumb jock, but “a dumb-er jock,” let’s say. [laughter]
SI: What was the impact of the social changes of the 1960s, such as hair, dress, attitudes, music, on Westfield?
JH: Well, I mean, that’s a long sociology piece. Rock-and-roll music and the Beatles, of course, were a very big part of cultural shifts. We’ve been talking about the twentieth century. My father, when he was in high school, his contemporaries loved jazz. Jazz was typically, almost exclusively, black music.
When he was in high school in the 1930s, there was a black country club on the border of Westfield called Shady Rest, and it was where elite blacks would go, play golf and that was their country club. The great jazz musicians of the time, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, and the like, would come play at Shady Rest Country Club. The white kids from Westfield, my father included, would go and hang out outside the windows just to hear the music. My father, by the way, adored Louis Armstrong, who was a black trumpet player and a wonderful personality, but just because you liked black music didn’t mean you necessarily thought blacks and whites were comfortable together. My father went to an integrated school. There were blacks in his class. He was friends with black kids, but there was this sort of recognized distinction that, “That’s them. They live in that neighborhood, and we don’t hang around with them.”
Now, I’m not saying anything unusual or brilliant by saying that the development of rock-and-roll, which occurred in the early 1950s, was a combination of black music and white Southern spiritual music, and that’s articulated in a great book, among other things, called Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralnick, which is the story of Elvis Presley and the Memphis Sun Record Studio. The phrase rock-and-roll was a term used for the music by a disc jockey by the name of Alan Freed from Cleveland, who later moved to New York. The phrase “rocking and rolling” was a black term for sexual relations, and so, it was adopted for the music. So, the music had a sexual context. I’m not saying anything new. I mean, Elvis Presley, when he broke in, they didn’t want him to show his whole body because he was rocking and rolling. It was sexual, it was sensual. Then, Chuck Berry, who was a contemporary of Elvis Presley, was a black man who knew how to write for a white audience. Little Richard, a black man, had a song, really rocking song, called Tutti Frutti. “Well, okay, let’s have Pat Boone, a white guy, make that song a little bit polished in a white sense.”
So, rock-and-roll was perhaps a contributor to the Civil Rights Movement in a big way. I don’t have to go back to Jackie Robinson, but, when Jackie Robinson broke into baseball in 1947, the American Armed Services were not integrated yet. Truman did that after Jackie Robinson broke into baseball. So, segregation was just sort of an accepted part of our society, or de facto segregation, not de jure segregation. In the South, you had de jure segregation. “By law, this is segregated.” In the North, it was just de facto. It means, “That’s the way we do it.”
Then, you had the drug aspect of rock-and-roll music. The Beatles--I’m glad you brought this up, because there’s a very profound incident--the Beatles started experimenting, and the Beatles were seen as the be-all and end-all. Their hair alone, that was seen as bad. The biggest thing culturally that happened--and, again, this helped contribute--is when John Lennon of the Beatles came back from a trip around the world and referred to India and other countries as, “We’re more popular than Jesus.”
When he said that, my father just absolutely was apoplectic about the whole cultural shift that was happening. He didn’t object to the Beatles or anything until John Lennon said that, “We’re more popular than Jesus,” and Lennon was brought under criticism for that, but he’s just saying, “I’m just stating a fact,” as he would say, “I was just stating a fact. Over in India, they don’t know who Jesus is. We’re more popular than Jesus,” but, to my father, a Catholic man, this was the big break or signified the big break. We were interested in Bob Dylan. We were also interested in soul music, and all this became part of the generational gap that really permeated the times in the 1960s, ‘70s and, to some extent, existed into the 1980s.
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Reviewed by Kathryn Tracy Rizzi 11/14/2014
Reviewed by Shaun Illingworth 4/2/2018
Reviewed by James Hely 4/9/2018