Kathryn Tracy Rizzi: This begins an oral history interview with Dr. Donna Chlopak, on May 29, 2019, in Verona, New Jersey, with Kate Rizzi. Thank you so much for having me into your home to do this oral history interview.
Donna Chlopak: My pleasure.
KR: To begin, please tell me where and when you were born.
DC: I was born on May 22, 1950, in Trenton, New Jersey.
KR: Happy belated birthday.
DC: Thank you.
KR: What do you know about your family history, starting on your mother's side?
DC: My mother was from Illinois. She grew up in a very interesting home. I just recently found out that my grandfather and my grandmother had been divorced and remarried, because my grandfather wasn't such a great provider. So, my grandmother left him, took her three kids. My mother had a brother and a sister and they lived in Springfield, Illinois, but my grandmother took them to Chicago. That's where they lived until my grandfather got his act together, and my grandmother remarried him, but I only found out about that about three years ago, which is really amazing. My grandfather worked in, I think it was a furniture store or a mattress selling store, probably furniture, and my grandmother was a pianist. She and her brother and her sister had a trio. My grandmother was amazing because she could play the piano by ear. So, when we would go visit them in Springfield, I remember humming all the popular songs, and my grandmother would sit down at the piano and play them. [She may] have never heard them before, didn't know them, didn't know the words, but she could play them. The other interesting thing about my grandmother was [that] I think she was about four [foot] ten [inches], and she had really teeny feet. So, when we went to visit them, what was really interesting for me [was that] we could play dress up and really wear her shoes, but because she was so short, she had platforms in her shoes. So, her shoes probably made you four to five inches taller than you were. So, as a kid, that was a lot of fun. My grandfather was an okay guy. I mean, he wasn't bad or whatever, but he smoked or chewed a cigar. I remember once him saying to me, "Oh, do you want to taste it?" and I did, and it was terrible. That's the most I kind of remember.
KR: How did your grandmother learn to play the piano? What kind of training did she go through?
DC: I have no idea, to tell you the truth. I don't know if she had any training. Her sister played, I think, a violin, and I forget what her brother played. I never met her brother, but her sister was also a professional photographer and she lived across the street. So, whenever we would go in the summer to visit my grandmother, we would see my aunt, and we would see my grandmother. I did know, quite well, my grandfather's brother's family. His brother was a little younger than he was, and he married quite a bit younger. So, his brother's children were closer in age to us than what you would normally expect.
KR: Did your mother ever tell you any stories about how the Great Depression affected her family?
DC: That's funny that you should ask because I was very interested, when we had our thing [recession] back in 2008, I was going to write a book that talked about depression ideas, and so I asked my mother about [it]. My father probably wasn't alive at that point in time, so I asked my mother, did she know of any stories? My mother lived, at that time, in a senior kind of area in Florida, and I was going to go around and ask her friends, but I never got to it.
My mother told me two very interesting stories about the Great Depression. One was [that] she was very mortified that she had white shoes in the summer, and for the winter they used paint, or shoe polish, and they painted them black. So, she had to wear the same shoes. She couldn't afford new shoes. The other story she told me, which I thought was interesting, was she and her brother were given a dime to go to the grocery store and buy a loaf of bread. They were fooling around on the way to the grocery store, they dropped the dime, and they couldn't find it. They were really concerned about coming home and telling their parents, their father in particular, that they didn't have the bread because they lost this dime, which is hard to believe when you think about it in this day and age. Those were the two stories she could remember from the Great Depression.
KR: What is your family history, on your father's side of the family?
DC: Okay. My father grew up with two brothers. His older brother became a dentist. He was supposed to be the rabbi because in the Jewish family the oldest one is the doctor, the middle one is the rabbi, and the younger one, who knows. My father actually went to religious school but did not turn out to be a rabbi, which probably was really good for us because we're not very religious. My grandmother was very strict. My grandfather was not that strict. I remember my grandfather taking us, they lived in New York, across the street to the playground. We would have had lunch and we would have had meat for lunch, and then the ice cream man would come by. You'd have to wait, I don't know, six hours or eight hours, some amount of time, and my grandfather would say, "I will get you ice cream, but if you tell your grandmother, we're all in trouble," which I thought was kind of funny.
[This is] a great story, and I love to share this story about my grandmother. When my grandmother was seven years old, my father said the borders always changed. So, she lived between Russia and whatever was next to it. So, my great grandfather was a Prussian soldier, and I saw a picture of him once. He had a big handlebar moustache and red hair. The picture was black and white, but you could tell he was a redhead, and my youngest is a redhead. My grandmother was in her kitchen with a neighbor and a peddler came by. The peddler was selling lottery tickets, and the peddler said, "Do you want to buy lottery tickets?" The neighbor said to my grandmother whatever the Yiddish word is for pain in the neck. He said, "Pain in the neck, if I win, I'm taking you to America," and he won, and at seven years old, she went to America without her family but with this neighbor. She grew up then in America, from the time that she was like seven, excuse me, and she-- [clock bell goes off] sorry, that's our clock. I know. Let it go. We're not in church. Okay, it's eleven [rings]; sorry.
KR: Oh, that is okay. Yes, it is no problem.
DC: I haven't counted. This should be it. Yes, okay, sorry. So, she came over by herself, and it wasn't until after the war that she had met my grandfather, I don't even know where. He had actually been born in this country, which is really unusual. His family was comfortable. I wouldn't say they were well off, but they were comfortable, and he actually arranged and paid for her two brothers and her sister to come over. Her sister, I know, had been in a concentration camp because when we would sit around at holidays, you could see the numbers on her arm.
KR: So, they were brought over after World War II.
KR: What about your grandmother's parents?
DC: I have no idea. No, I know they didn't come over. I think by that time they were dead anyway. I'm not a hundred percent sure, but I don't know. I have no idea about my grandmother's parents. I only know about my grandmother's father because we saw that picture, and it was amazing. My grandmother was really interesting. She was also short, not quite as short as my other grandmother, but she was interesting because she took in sewing. She could fix things and whatever, and she was really good at that. But I'll never forget [that] when she moved to Florida, my uncle and my father paid for her to move to Florida after my grandfather died so she'd be [in] better weather and everything else, they bought a condo for her, and the condo had an ugly green rug in it. My grandmother didn't like the rug. It was, I think, even wall-to-wall carpeting, and true to who she was, she sold it to somebody else. She didn't just get rid of it. [laughter] She sold it to somebody else and had it replaced with like [a] light color rug. So, she was pretty cool.
KR: What stories did your grandmother pass on to you about her travels from Eastern Europe to America?
DC: She actually didn't really say much about that. I only learned about the situation. She didn't talk about that that much or I don't really know. She also, by the way, had extremely good hearing because you couldn't whisper anything to somebody else without her knowing what was going on.
I remember two stories about my grandmother, not about her past, but about my grandmother. Once, when I was, I would say ten or twelve, I went into New York and my dad put me on the subway to go and meet my grandmother, because she was going to teach me how to cook Jewish. I got to her house, and the two things she was going to teach me how to cook were things I would never eat. I was like, "That's not what I came here [for]. I came to learn to make matzo ball soup, how to make your great apple pie, your this ..." She taught me schav, which is grass soup. I'm trying to think what the other thing she wanted to teach me [was], and it was like, "Ew, I don't want this." The only other thing I remember, very specifically, about my grandmother and her cooking was [that] she was a good cook. She made her own gefilte fish, as opposed to the kind that comes in the jar that's all perfectly made and whatever, but she served it with the fish head in the bowl and that was not something I was going to do. Then, I remember going to her house and staying over sometimes but having family activities and family dinners with that grandmother, because she was in New York, where my other grandmother was in Illinois. So, we saw my other grandmother maybe once a year, and this one we saw like every couple of months at least.
KR: How much Yiddish was spoken in her household?
DC: Probably quite a bit. That's a funny story now that I think about it. I know certain words, and those words would creep into my language. When I was a junior, sophomore or junior in high school, I was taking Latin and my Latin teacher was probably one of the smartest people I had ever met up until that time. Not so much deep intelligence but knew stuff about everything, and I'll never forget saying to him, something happened, and I said, "Well, that's farfaln." [Editor's Note: Farfaln means lost, doomed or hopeless in Yiddish.] He looked at me and he said, "What?" I said, "You know, it's farfaln." He goes, "What does that mean?" I said, "What do you mean, what does that mean?" I made him look it up in the dictionary, and clearly it means like, "It's gone," and it sounds to me like it means that too. So, I couldn't understand how this very smart man had no idea what that word meant, and it was Yiddish. I went home and I said to my father, "Mr. Drialo doesn't understand what farfaln means." He goes, "Duh." I mean, there are probably some words that I know. There's probably words I know that everybody knows and maybe a few like farfaln that not everybody knows. If somebody says, I can't even think of the words now, kvetcher, we all know those kinds of words. That's about it.
KR: Did your grandfather speak Yiddish also?
DC: I have no idea, to tell you the truth. My grandmother spoke Yiddish but not to us. I mean, she spoke English fine, but I think when her sister and her brothers were around, she might have. My grandmother from Illinois wasn't religious at all until she got much, much older. When I was growing up, she had little Christmas trees on her piano, but as she got older, she got, I wouldn't even say religious, more traditional.
KR: Your grandparents in New York City, how were their lives affected by the Great Depression?
DC: They weren't alive when our depression, [in] 2008, [occurred]. So, I didn't ask them. I don't really know. I'm sure they had enough food. They won a baby contest with my father when he was one or two because he was the healthiest baby, he was this fat baby. So, I'm sure food was not an issue. I never recall anything that my grandmother or grandfather, on either side, ever said about, "Oh, well, we do this now because we didn't have something in the past," or whatever. I only know the stories about my grandparents, in Illinois, because I asked my mother. Again, my dad wasn't alive in 2008. I couldn't ask him, "Do you remember anything?" So, I don't know.
KR: I want to ask you about the Holocaust and your great aunt who was a survivor. When you were growing up, how much was the Holocaust discussed, having a survivor in your family?
DC: Well, it's interesting you say that. We didn't discuss it too much at all. Interestingly, where I went to high school, we were the feeder school for Roosevelt, and Roosevelt people studied it because most of them, or a lot of them, were survivors. So, one of my best friends in high school was a boy who hated everything German. He would say to me, "I know it's irrational, but if you show me a stein, I'm going to get nuts." I do know that, when my brother-in-law was in college and he bought a VW [Volkswagen] van, my mother-in-law was not happy about it.
Oh, I know. I do have a good story. I'm so glad you asked, and it hit my head. When my friend from high school was so anti-German, I asked my grandmother [about Germans]. She was so cool. My father's mother, we were talking about hate, I said, "Grandma, do you hate Germans?" It may have started with Germany. "Do you hate Germans?" "No." I said, "Grandma, do you hate Nazis?" She said, "No, I hate Nazism." I thought, "Wow, my friend Alan better get his act together because if my grandmother can determine that, then he's got to get his act differently than what he's saying." Anything German just really made him nuts, but I remember asking her that, and I was like, "Wow, she's really cool," for an old woman who wasn't highly educated. She probably didn't go to school at all. Probably when she came over here, she didn't go to school anymore, and that's what she said. So, it's like wow.
KR: So, you knew that your grandmother's sister had survived a concentration camp because of her tattoo.
KR: But there was not really that much discussion about it.
DC: No, we didn't talk about it. I don't know if she talked about it with my grandmother. I mean, they were thankful for my [grandfather]. I was amazed because I was probably six, seven, eight, when I even noticed that she had it, and I probably asked about it. I was amazed and interested that my grandfather took it upon himself to help them get here. They weren't his [relatives], I mean, they were his relatives but not really. He loved my grandmother, and he cared about her. She wanted her family over, and he took care of it.
KR: Yes, that is pretty amazing that they were brought over after World War II.
KR: Do you know anything about that process that your grandfather used when he brought them over?
DC: No, unfortunately, I don't know anything about it.
KR: What do you know about your parents' educations? You mentioned your father going through the religious education.
DC: My mom went to high school and graduated from high school. She didn't get any college. She was a secretary. She met my dad when he was in the service, and he was stationed in Springfield, I guess. My dad went to Yeshiva. My dad had a "genius IQ." He loved to tell me that, and then when I became a psychologist, I told him, "Yes, it doesn't mean anything." [laughter] You have to do that. When he was in the service, he was quite bright, and they sent him to college. I don't know if he even got an associate's degree because he just wasn't interested.
When he was kid, his part-time job was in the garment district, so he kind of knew that business. When he married my mom, they moved to New Jersey, and I don't know if he bought an existing store or he opened his own store, whatever it was. But I have to give him a whole lot of credit because now I know the likelihood of success in an entrepreneurial business, and he was in business for twenty-thirty [years], whatever it was. He paid for my sister and my college, and he wasn't in debt [or] anything else. He didn't have this huge thing, and then they retired at a certain age, but, as a businessman, he was really smart.
These are two stories about the business. One, [in regards to] my friend who lived next door, her father came in at Christmastime to buy his wife some gifts. So, of course, my father knew all her sizes, and at the end of it, after he bought her a dress or pants or tops or whatever, he said she needed underwear, and I was mortified because my father knew what her bra size was. [laughter] "Yes, this is her size." I'm like, "Oh, God," but he knew his customers.
The two other things. One is [that] he coded the sizes of his clothes. So, when a woman came in and she said, "Oh, I'm a size five or six," he would take her to the size tens because that's what she was, and he could see. It wasn't a really fancy code, but he coded it so they couldn't look. Now, you look and you say, "Okay." Even at that time, the other thing was, "Oh, if I'm a size six and this is a size ten and it fits, [it] must be poorly made." Good stuff is whatever, which depends. Once he saw something on somebody, he knew how it fit, and he could say, if the person was normally an eight, and they said, "Oh, I'm a six," instead of taking them to the eights, he'd take them to the tens because he knew the way this was. He was amazing. He was really good.
Now, the other thing I have to tell you about my dad [is] because my dad was very smart and very liberal and very open-minded--two things. I remember at my oldest daughter's graduation from high school, there was a black minister who spoke, and my father was so impressed with him [that] he stayed after to go up and say something to this man, which I thought was nice. It made sense, but the other thing I remember [was] when we saw the movie the Green Book--I don't know if you've seen it.
KR: I have not seen it. I have heard of it.
DC: You have to see it. It's so good.
KR: Yes, I do want to.
DC: There's this one part, where here's this elegant piano player and they wouldn't serve him dinner because he was black. Well, I'll never forget. We lived in a community that was very much a farming community. So, in the summer, migrant workers were in town, and this young migrant worker, woman, came into our store and she saw a dress that she liked. She said to my dad, "Oh, I really like it, but I don't know if it would fit me." He said, "We have dressing rooms. Why don't you try it on?" She goes, "You'd let me?" He was like, "Yes, that's what the dressing rooms are for." Then, she said, "Well, the store down the street won't let me."
KR: She was a person of color.
DC: Yes. He told me that when he was in the service, he was called a "nigger-loving Jew" because people were people. My mom is liberal too, but he was more of a thinking liberal than she was. But my mom is amazing. She's ninety-seven. My mother-in-law used to complain about lots of stuff. My mother never complains, and I said to her once, "Mom." Here's another word that I know in Yiddish. I said, "Mom, you don't complain about anything." She said to me, "Donna, everybody has their own tsuris. They don't need to hear yours." [Editor's Note: Tsuris means problems in Yiddish.] I figured out that that's why, after my dad died, another guy attached himself to her. They got married. When he died, another guy attached himself to her. When he died, she's now in a senior center, senior living place, and there's a guy there who's befriended her. [laughter] It's because she's right. Everybody, and probably old men, don't want to hear old women complain about stuff, and she doesn't complain about anything. I mean, that's how she is. I wish I could be that way, not really. [laughter] As I said, she just turned ninety-seven, and up until a year-and-a-half ago or two years ago, she was in not great metal state, she doesn't remember anything, but great physical state. She fell and broke her ankle, and just to show you how positive she is, I said, "How are you?" She says, "Oh, the doctor said it was the best break he's ever seen." [laughter] [It's] the worst break he's ever seen. They had to put her under to fix it, and that made things even worse.
KR: What was your father's experience in the military?
DC: No combat, thank God. He was someplace. As I said, I think he might have been someplace other than Illinois, someplace else in the west, but he met my mom at, I think, a USO dance or something when he was in Illinois. But he never went overseas. He never got overseas.
KR: What branch of the service was he in?
DC: He was in the Army.
KR: What are your parents' names for the record?
DC: Sure. My father was Walter David Blumenthal, and my mother is Geraldine. She doesn't have a middle name. Her maiden name was Cohen, and it's Blumenthal. Oh, no, not anymore. It's Fogelman.
KR: What was the name of your parents' store?
DC: It was called Blumenthal's. [laughter] [They] weren't real creative, and [it] was interesting because when they retired, they took a trip across the country, and someplace in the west, I don't think it was Nevada, Wyoming, or one of them, maybe South Dakota, I don't know, there was a men's store called Blumenthal's. My parents went in, they got real friendly with this person. The guy gave them a clothes bag with the store's logo. They had a good time.
Interestingly, my parents' best friends were older than they were, and they owned a five-and-ten down the street from my parents. The son of that couple was significantly older than I was, and when my dad died, he called my dad kind of a Renaissance man. I don't know that he was ever [that]. He said [that] my dad got his dad to take a vacation, to go someplace to do something. I thought that was kind of cool.
It was interesting. He was a really good dad, very liberal, very open, very giving, and, unfortunately, my sister and I treated my mom pretty poorly. People would come into the store. My sister and I would work in the store, during holidays, if they needed us. You know how now So-and-So's son and So-and-So's daughter, whatever, [that] if they're a plumber, you're going to be a plumber. That sort of thing. I remember people coming in and saying, "Oh, are one of you girls going to take over the store?" I'd go, "Over my dad's dead body." He did not want us in this [business]. It was a hard business. People would come in the store, I remember, and they would go, "Oh, you look just like your parents," and we'd stand there like this. If they said I looked like my dad, I'd jab my sister, "Ha ha ha," and if they said she looked like dad--my poor mom. She was an attractive lady, but we had dad on a pedestal. That's why I wanted boys, and I got three girls. [laughter]
KR: Where was your parents' store?
DC: In Hightstown.
KR: Now, you talked about your father establishing the store. Why did he open a store in the Hightstown area of New Jersey?
DC: I don't have any idea. Possibly that he bought another store, I have no idea, to tell you the truth. I'm not even sure if I asked my mom if she would have any idea why. I'm pretty sure it was [because] they wanted to be in New Jersey, not in New York, clearly not in Manhattan. Maybe there was a store or a storefront for sale, and that's why he did that. Now, my uncle, who's the dentist, was also in New Jersey. It was only the youngest brother who stayed in New York and not in the city. He was in one of the boroughs. But I'm not exactly sure why there, but they definitely made a go of it.
KR: What was it like for you growing up in Hightstown during the 1950s?
DC: It was interesting. It was funny because it was a small town, and I remember standing on the corner talking to somebody and everybody that went by beeped and I waved. Whoever this person was wasn't from town said, "Do you know everybody in this town?" I'm like, "Yes, pretty much," because it was a small town. It was fun to grow up there, in a sense, to know a lot of people. We lived on a street that went into two other streets, and both the streets it went into dead ended after our street. So, there were fifty-some-odd children on our street. We lived right behind the school, and so you could always get a baseball game together or a soccer game together. There were enough kids that you could always field something, and that was fun. I remember, we were one of the Jewish families in the town. I remember in kindergarten, when we went home for Christmas break, my friend said, "Can Donna take the Christmas tree home because she doesn't have one?" [laughter] I don't know if I did or not. Our babysitter, the woman who babysat for us all the time, was a grandmother, and she was Christian. So, she would give us Christmas presents and we didn't have a fireplace, but we had a staircase. We would make a paper Christmas tree and hang it on the staircase and put her gifts under it. So, [we] weren't very religious at all. It was to know everybody, to kind of treat everybody as somewhat equal.
I'll never forget my best friend, when I was in first grade, was a woman, and, unfortunately, she's no longer alive. She lived in the projects, but we went trick-or-treating for UNICEF [United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund] together. Yes, people tended to be friends with their own "kind," but there was not the kind of stuff that you see or hear now, the same kind of things. In terms of being Jewish, there weren't a lot of Jews in town until we got the kids from Roosevelt that came to our high school. There were only about twelve or fourteen of them, after their eighth grade, to come to our high school, but that increased the numbers tremendously because we had very few.
I'm trying to think. There was other stuff in high school. High school was interesting. It was actually the '60s that I remember the most, because that was junior high and high school, and we didn't have girls' sports. If you did anything, you had to be a cheerleader. I was a cheerleader. I was the biggest one on the squad. They had to make the skirt special for me because the regular ones didn't fit, but I had a really loud voice and I could pick up somebody else to do a cheer. [laughter] What else can I tell you? It was an okay place to grow up.
Our high school, I think, was decent. We had some AP [Advanced Placement] courses. I took six majors, because I took two languages. I took Latin for two reasons. One is Mr. Drialo was terrific, and two is they said [that] if you knew Latin it would help you with your SATs [Scholastic Aptitude Test], because you would know the language. Other than that, I'm trying to think. Oh, my friend Alan, who hated Germans, counted awards at awards night and came up to me and said, "You've got more awards than Jody Dubell," [laughter] this woman who was like my nemesis.
I was a typical, aggressive pre-Douglass woman, because everybody that I went to Douglass with was in the top five percent or less of their class. You didn't have that in high school, and then we came to Douglass, and, lo and behold, we were all quite bright. I don't know what else to tell you about high school.
KR: You talked about your parents being liberal. What were political discussions like with your parents when you were growing up?
DC: I don't know that we had many. I'm trying to think of who was running at the time. Clearly, they would've been for Kennedy and not Nixon if that was the timeframe. I think it probably was the timeframe. I think we watched the debates, but my parents were clearly Democrats. The family who owned the five-and-ten, he was very active in the local Democratic whatever. But it was almost just like a given, it wasn't a debate. So, in terms of political conversations, I don't think we had a lot so to speak, yes.
KR: You talked about the street that you lived on backed up into the school.
DC: It was a street like this, and the school was there. So, the fields of the school were right behind the people across the street from us, their house.
KR: What street?
DC: It was called Lincoln Avenue.
KR: What was the name of the school?
DC: The elementary school was the Walter C. Black School. [For] the junior high, I think it was just Hightstown High School, and the junior high was attached to it.
KR: The director of the Rutgers Oral History Archives lives in Hightstown.
DC: Does he really?
KR: Yes, that is why I am asking, to get a sense of the history of Hightstown.
DC: That is interesting. Does he live there now?
KR: He lives there now. He did not grow up there, but he has lived there his whole adult life.
DC: Well, I heard, and I don't recall this, and I think it might have been before I was old enough to know or maybe before, they had actually had some burning of crosses in Hightstown, way, way back, I think, which is kind of interesting. Stockton Street is the main street. Downtown looks real different. They've kind of chunked it up a little. My sister still lives in Hightstown.
KR: Could you walk from your house on Lincoln to your parents' store?
DC: Yes, and we could walk to our babysitter's house, which was on the way. I remember we got real mad at my parents for something one time, and we wrote a note, "We're running away, but don't look for us at Nanny's house." [laughter] That's where we went, of course. On our way to the store, there used to be a big park, a big square [or] whatever. It wasn't so much of a park. It was just [that] you could walk through it, I don't remember there being benches. So, the Easter egg hunts were held there and other stuff. I don't know how far the store was from home, but we could do it and nobody would say, "Oh, you better be careful," and, "Do you want to take mace with you?" I don't think we walked at night there, but I probably was no older than ten when I could walk from my house to the store. My sister may not have even been with me. It was just me.
We were a very different [generation]. We didn't have our candy x-rayed or our fruit x-rayed at Halloween or any of that kind of stuff. Halloween was fun in my day. Two things in Halloween now that I'm thinking about it. One was [that] we always planned [our night]. We always got so much candy because of the kids that lived on our street, and then the street behind us on the side, the street that went up the side. We had so much candy, and then we always planned that we would go in a certain direction. So, we would hit this one lady's house in the middle of our [neighborhood] because she always served cider and donuts. You had to stay. She wanted people to talk to her. She was lonely. So, we said, "Okay, we're going to take our break at So-and-So's house." So, we made the arrangements so that happened.
The other thing Hightstown did--and evidently, they're still doing it, because one of my friends who still lives in town posted this on Facebook--for mischief night, instead of having mischief night, they had a contest, a costume parade, and they had different ages. They had different [categories like] the most beautiful, the most original, the most scariest, whatever, and, at that time, it was a big deal. If you won, you got five dollars. I mean, the big winner got twenty-five, but if you won your category, you got five. I was the Fountain of Youth one time. I wore a big diaper, in flesh color whatever, and I had a hat with a fountain with a water gun on top that made a fountain, and I won. That was Hightstown.
My sister went away to college and then married somebody she went to high school with and stayed in the town. I just could not imagine staying in the town. I mean, it was nice as a kid, but I couldn't imagine bringing my kids up there.
KR: You talked about the migrant farmers who lived in the area.
DC: No, they didn't. The migrant men, they came up from the South to work the fields, and God knows where they lived on the farms that they worked. They probably were in shacks some place, just for the summer, because they were working. They came up to work the fields. It wasn't like camp, but it was like you went away to camp. So, they were not residents of the town.
KR: How much were these seasonal migrant workers a part of the community of Hightstown?
DC: Not much at all. They would come into town, and, as I said, they weren't treated real well by most places. They would come into town probably to get groceries and do some shopping or whatever, but then they went back to the farm, and they worked most of the time.
KR: The families that lived in your neighborhood, what was their class and nationality?
DC: We were all probably middle class, and we were all white. There was the African Americans; the blacks of our town of our time lived [in] basically two places. They lived in the projects that were right near downtown, or they lived on a street outside of town called Airport Road. I would say ninety to a hundred percent of the blacks in town, that's where they lived. They didn't live among us in communities, which is really kind of interesting. When my husband and I left Berkeley Heights--we lived in Ohio when I got my degree, and then we moved East. We bought a house in Berkeley Heights that we lived in for nine years, and we only had two or three neighbors. We bought a house in Orange, and people go, "West Orange?" "No." "South Orange?" "No, we bought a house in Orange." We were one of two or three whites on the street, and our neighbors were all black and it didn't bother us. But, in my town, the whites and the blacks did not live together back in the '50s, '60s. So, things have changed for the better.
KR: What was your elementary school experience like?
DC: Interesting. The only thing I can remember about elementary school was my third [grade teacher]. Well, I liked my second grade teacher, but my third grade teacher was a nightmare, and she was really mean, and I'll never forget that, oh, we had a mean girl in our class too, our teacher told us we couldn't chew gum in class, which is fine. There was this one, she probably was a little bit older than us, very large black girl in our class who was chewing gum, and the teacher made her take it out and stick it on her nose. The kid kept crying, and it kept falling off her nose. The teacher kept yelling at her, "I said stick it on," and that's what I remember from third grade.
Mrs. Brandt was a nice lady. I remember fourth grade. Oh, now, I'm remembering. In fifth grade, I had a teacher whose daughter was one of my really good friends--and I'm trying to think if her daughter was in our class--and I think she had my sister too. Oftentimes, I had the same teachers as my sister, and most of the time that was a good thing because most of the time my sister was a good student. But I'll tell you about when I was a freshman in high school. When I was in sixth grade, the brand new teacher we had was a man. It was the first time I ever had a man as a teacher. I remember describing him as tall, dark, and needs a nose job. [laughter] He was okay. He was not great or bad or whatever. I also remember--no, that was high school because that was Mr. Drialo, I remember.
I remember having air raid drills, where we had to get under our desks, but I don't remember much else from the elementary school. Junior high, I remember. That's when Kennedy was shot. I was in fifth grade. I was in Spanish class. No, not fifth grade. What am I saying? I was in seventh grade and I was in Spanish class, and my Spanish teacher cried when she heard it. I also remember standing in line, waiting to go into school, when one of my friends was pulled out of line because her brother had been in a hunting accident, which was very creepy. His best friend accidentally shot him and killed him because he tripped with a rifle. I remember changing classes when we were in seventh and eighth grade. It was junior high, so it was off to the side from the high school, but we changed classes. So, that was kind of cool. [Editor's Note: On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed while traveling by motorcade through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas.]
I remember, then in high school, we were in the old high school for part of the year, and then we moved. They built a new high school farther out. I think I was in the new high school, maybe I wasn't. I remember being in band, starting out playing the clarinet, not being very good and not liking to practice, then, switching to the alto clarinet because it was the same fingering and not a lot of people [played it]. There was not a lot of competition. Then, I took up the bassoon, because they had three bassoons and they needed somebody to volunteer to do this, and then I could stay in the band. I also remember, yes, we did move to the new high school because I think it was freshman or sophomore year. You had to take lessons. To be in the band, you had to take a lesson, and we got a grade on the lesson. I remember getting a "D" in band, and therefore, I wasn't on the honor roll. I was third honors instead of second or first. I do recall my band teacher, his name was Mr. Richie. Mr. Richie said, "Donna, some university is going to want you because you're a bassoonist." I literally said this, I had no qualms, "Any school that wants me because I'm a bassoonist, I don't want to go to." It was like Groucho Marx said once, "Any club that would have me, I don't want to belong to." I definitely said that. He's like, "And you're getting a ‘D.'" But the good news about playing the bassoon [is that] you could still be in the marching band, and you could just play the cymbals and anybody could play the cymbals. What else do I remember about high school?
Oh, I remember I tutored my history teacher in math for his GMATs--no, no, for his GREs because he had a master's. Did he have a [master's]? I don't know if he had a master's degree or if he just had a bachelor's, but he needed to take the GREs because he wanted to go back and get an advanced, whether it was a master's or a Ph.D. This man was so brilliant in history. He could remember dates and details and everything else, and he was so terrible in math. I can't tell you how many times we talked about how to get the area of a rectangle, length times width, and I literally tutored him after school. He asked me, and I don't know if he paid me or if it was, "Give me an ‘A.'" No, we didn't play that game back then. I don't remember what it was, but he asked me, he said, "How do you know this stuff?" I'm like, "How do you not know this stuff?"
So, I literally tutored him, and whatever his grade was, it was good enough. He got into the graduate program, and I assume got his [degree]. I don't think he got a doctorate, I think he got his master's. I also remember when I was a senior taking pre-calculus, sitting in my pre-calculus class, and not paying any attention at all and doing my homework every day until the teacher looked at me and said, "I need you guys to pay attention to me," and he's looking right at me. He said, "Even if you don't need me, I need you to pay [attention]. I don't need you to be doing your homework in class." So, I stopped doing my homework in class and had forty-five minutes of work to do at night that I wouldn't have had to have.
I had a conversation with another faculty member, we were going down on the elevator, and he was telling me about a kid that was in his class, that didn't ever show up but did really well on the tests and the quizzes and the papers and whatever. He says, "I don't know how to grade that person." I said, "You give him what he earned." He said, "My ego can't handle it." Then, I told him my story. I said, "If I have a student in class who doesn't need me, that's okay. [However], if you do poorly, and you don't come, then you have nothing to stand on; but if you never come to class and you have managed to figure it out, without me, I'm not going to ding you for that." So, it came from when I was in high school with this guy who I suffered through. He had a sign over his clock that said, "Time will pass. Will you?" [laughter] It was like, "Ah." I'm trying to think. I loved my Spanish teacher, my high school Spanish teacher. She was really good. I liked my history teacher, some of my math teachers, my freshman math teacher, I adored her. I'm trying to think who else.
My Latin teacher, of course, he was very special. The story I was going to tell you about when I was--I'm trying to think if I was freshman. No, it might have been junior year. Yes, it was junior year. I had an English teacher that my sister had, and, in our town, it turned out there were a whole lot of people who had brothers or sisters three years older than them. So, I was one. So, this teacher went around the room and said, "Oh, So-and-So, are you So-and-So's brother?" "Yes." "Are you [So-and-So's sister]?" He got to me and he goes, "Donna, are you Fern's sister?" I went, "No," and all my friends looked at me. [laughter] After class, I went up to him and I said, "Mr. Sherman, Fern is my sister, but we're nothing alike." She used to talk to her friend, and he hated that. So, I was like, "No." I did okay in his class, but it was like she was the only one. The Latin teacher loved her, so, "Yes, I'm Fern's sister," but with this guy it's like, "No." So, what else do you have to ask?
KR: You mentioned before doing cheerleading.
KR: Were there any sports offered for women when you were in school?
DC: Just in gym. We didn't play against anybody else. At gym, you could do field hockey, which I hated. I'm trying to think. We didn't do tennis; I don't know if we did basketball. We had gym, that's all I remember. Interestingly, we tried, but we couldn't--if you were a cheerleader, because you had cheerleading practice and then you had games and whatever, not what quite the guys did--not go to gym. The guys who were on the football team or on the soccer team or the whatever, they didn't have to take gym. We still had to take gym, which I hated, but whatever.
KR: You talked about where in your town the African American families lived. What was it like in school?
DC: We were in classes together. We were friendly. I just had my fiftieth high school reunion, and the guy whose name I cheered for, we sat the whole time and talked. It was really nice. I don't know that we sat at the lunch table together. We were friendly, but when we had parties and stuff, they weren't invited and we weren't invited to their parties. It was kind of segregated. I mean, we're in class together. Again, my best friend [in] first grade; Wanda then had other friends as we got older. I don't remember ever having sleepovers. In first grade, I don't think we had sleepovers, but as we got older, we were pretty segregated, I think; [it] clearly is not the way it is now, which I don't think it should be because my kids went to Montclair, and Montclair is very integrated. So, yes, I think it's good.
KR: How much was the civil rights movement on your radar?
DC: I don't know. I mean, I knew about Rosa Parks, and I knew about that. I was aware, like when I said the Green Book, which you better go see or get it on Netflix.
DC: I remember my parents, when I was younger, we would take the month of January off because my parents' store was open nine to nine, Monday through Saturday, and Sunday we'd go into New York and get more, not material, excuse me, more merchandise. We would drive down to Florida through Georgia, and whatever, and I remember seeing signs on bathrooms in a gas station or on a water fountain. I remember asking my dad, and my dad was [like], "Just do what it says," kind of thing. "You don't want to ruffle the waters," kind of thing. But it was somewhat removed from where we were, because, except for that one woman coming into the store, there was not a lot of stuff that pushed it right in your face. I mean, there were African Americans that shopped in my dad's store, it was no big deal. I had friends. I remember a guy who worked at the movie theatre, who was kind of a friend, and he came into shop for his daughter. I knew his [daughter]. I mean, we knew families. Did we have dinner with them? Did we go out with them or whatever? No. Did our parties integrate? No. But it wasn't like we felt [that] they were second-class citizens. I don't think so. It wasn't like if you went to a diner and there was somebody in the next booth, you didn't say, "Well, put me over here." It just was separate. Would I say separate but equal? I don't know. Except when I talked to my dad about the Army, or whatever, it wasn't that it was smacking me in the face.
KR: What other recollections do you have of your family's travels?
DC: Okay. I remember travelling with my mom, by train, to visit her mom in Illinois. I remember that it wasn't comfortable. We did [travel] by bus too, but sometimes the train was better. I'll never forget, one time, travelling by train, the seats [were] pretty full. So, my mother told me I could go and sleep in the bathroom, because they had a bench, and some big fat lady came and sat on my seat because she wanted to sit down. So, I ran [and] I'm like, "What is going on?" She goes, "You're not supposed to sit here."
I remember, oh, in high school, I was probably a sophomore in high school, we were some of the first people ever to recycle newspapers, not our family, this was my Girl Scout troop. There were six of us that camped cross country. We rode in an Impala and a VW Bug. Our two leaders were a high school music teacher and the high school gym teacher. The high school gym teacher was married to a man who only had one leg, I think. He didn't come with us. We raised money by recycling newspapers and one of the members of our troop, her father had this garage, and we piled [them there]. You would not believe it. We filled this entire garage with newspapers, and that, and a hundred dollars, gave us [the money], I forget how many weeks we went. We drove all the way cross country.
We saw the Grand Canyon, we saw Yellowstone, we saw everything, and we camped out at night. We maybe stayed in [a] couple of hotels, a couple times to clean up. First time I ever had hot dogs and eggs for breakfast. Yes, it's like, "Ugh." There were six girls. Yes, two went in the VW Bug with the woman, maybe three, but at least two, and then in the other car there were the four, and we would switch off. I'll never forget when we were going someplace in the Rockies and we're in the bug, and we're like, "Lean forward," because we couldn't get up the hill. It was really an old [car]; it wasn't [a new model]. That's when we travelled cross country.
As a family, we would go to Florida every year. My sister's senior year in high school, we went to Vermont to try to go skiing, because they thought this would be an exciting thing, and [it would be] the last trip we would take as a family. My kids have more of a travel bug, which I'm glad about, because I now have more of a travel bug. I'm trying to think. It was Illinois because [of] my grandmother. We also went to Michigan. We went to Mackinac Island with my uncle, but it was pretty much Florida or Illinois because that's where the family was. We didn't go to a lot of exotic places or anything that I recall. I don't even remember going out of the country. Wait, that's not true. We went to Canada. We went to Niagara Falls.
KR: I'm just curious, where did you go skiing in Vermont?
DC: Mount Snow, and I decided [that] I'm not a skier. I fell down and couldn't get up because that was before the skis released. Now, we go every year, [but] I don't ski. I'll do cross country, but I haven't done it. When my kids were young, we used to go to Vermont with the kids. I'll never forget, we were driving and the kids said, "Hey, Dad, Mom's pole just flew off the car." He goes, "That's okay. She doesn't use it anyway." So, we kept going. We didn't stop. [laughter]
KR: What was your experience like with the Girl Scouts?
DC: I mean, we pretty much got along. It was interesting. You mean for the trip or just in general?
KR: Just in general.
DC: The only reason I stayed as long as I did was the promise of this trip. There was really not that much once you're a junior high and high school. I did the traditional Girl Scout stuff. My mom had been a leader, or an assistant leader, or [helped] us co-leader for my sister's troop, which was an older troop. So, I kind of knew about it, and it's what girls did [in] those days. I don't recall a whole bunch of stuff that we did. This trip was the culmination of a year's planning, and whatever, and it was a good trip and it was worthwhile. It's weird. JoAnn went and Linda went. I'm trying to think. I can name two of the girls that went. I'm not sure who the other ones were, to tell you the truth. I don't recall because I don't think my best friend from high school was part of it.
KR: How far did you make it in Girl Scouts in terms of getting your awards?
DC: After the trip, we stopped. I mean, I don't know that there's anything like Eagle Scout, maybe there is, but we didn't do that. I mean, I got badges. I went to Girl Scout camp. I did different stuff like that. I was just talking to my really good friend that I used to teach with. She has a daughter who just turned eleven, and she has another one that's seven or eight. She was talking to them about going to sleep-away camp, and the one was [like], "Oh, yes," and the other one was, "No." She was trying to tell them how much fun it was, and I was thinking back to my time in sleep-away camp. I remember the first week, the first couple days, I was there, I was ready to go home. [Clock bell rings] It's going to be twelve now.
DC: They'll go, "Were you in church?" "No, I wasn't in church." Okay, so I remember that I really was not happy, and the head of the camp brought me to her place and talked about [how] we would take pictures of animals and do stuff and that was fine. But I also remember, and I don't know if I went twice to Girl Scout camp, [that] I went to another camp in Saranac Lake that was fun. But this camp, this Girl Scout camp, there was this girl in our tent who was really strange, and she kept talking about purgatory and all these religious things that I had no idea what she was talking about. [She said], "If you don't do this …" I'm like, "Okay, I can't sleep." So, that was part of Girl Scouts but not the biggest part. The biggest part was that trip that we took. It was a very good experience. It was a good experience of us saving for it and planning for it and doing everything.
KR: What was the other camp besides the Lake Saranac camp?
DC: This was called Wanda, Camp Wanda, and it was interesting because it was someplace either [in] Pennsylvania or on the outskirts of New Jersey. The lake we swam in had cedar, or cedar trees, around it. They wanted you to have a dark bathing suit because anything white would turn red from the cedar. So, it was [an] interesting place. Camp Eagle Island was the one in Saranac, and I can't remember if that was the one that we stole the locks to the hooks for the bathroom. So, you would take your own so you would always be able to lock your bathroom, it was weird. Strange things I remember. [laughter]
KR: What role did religion play in your upbringing?
DC: A minor role. We carried it out here in this, because my husband's also Jewish, but it was more the traditions than the strictness of the religion. We would have Passover Seder at my grandma's, at my father's mother's house. We would go to temple on the High Holy Days. My dad would close the store on the religious holidays and we, as kids, would fast when we were supposed to fast, just kind of as a, "Can you do it? Can you do it?" It wasn't like, "Oh, I'm praying." We would go to temple. We went to Sunday school. I went to Sunday school. When my sister was in seventh grade, that's when girls get bat mitzvahed. She was bat mitzvahed. She married a non-Jew, and she now rings bells in church. [laughter] I told my dad that seventh grade was hard enough, and I didn't want to be bat mitzvahed because I know most of the prayers from rote. I don't know what they mean. I can sing the songs if it has the same melody. Learning a "haftorah" and doing a speech and whatever was not something I wanted to do, and my dad said, "Okay." It wasn't like, "Oh, you have to." I did, though, feel strongly, that if I had met somebody who was religious that I would keep kosher, that I would do whatever.
I went out with one guy once who was religious, but he was interesting because he became religious after his bar mitzvah. His family wasn't and he was, and it didn't last. I went out with him a couple times, no big deal. My husband's family was not real religious. I mean, they went to temple, but they weren't kosher. They were that sort of thing. So, that kind of was fitting for me.
Our kids actually were raised as secular humanistic Jews, which is a little bit different. To me, it's more about the tradition. It's about celebrating the holidays. My oldest daughter is married to a Jewish guy and they are not real religious, but they do the traditional stuff. They, actually, for Passover, have a community Seder. They invite people of different [faiths], which we used to do in our Sunday school. My middle daughter is single. She has dated a Mexican. It was quite serious until she realized he wasn't very ambitious and different. My youngest one, and to this day I would be happy if he came back, was dating a black guy. He now has another girlfriend, but we're still friends. So, if he can drop her, we'll be fine. It's interesting because the way things are now are so different than they were not that long ago.
I'll tell you this. I think it's an interesting story. It kind of relates, maybe not. My husband likes to ask my mother questions, not like this, but, "Well, what do you think of this and what do you think of that?" So, a couple of months ago, I guess, or maybe a year or so ago, he said, "Mom, what do you think about the marriage equality law?" She goes, "Well, I think people should be able," and this is like what my dad would've said too, the whole liberal thing, she said, "I don't understand it, but I think people should be able to be with who they want to be with." Then, she goes and says, "I never knew anybody ..." I went, "Mom, what about Auntie Dorothy?" My mother's aunt, my grandmother's sister, lived with a woman her whole life. It wasn't [that] they were schoolteachers, but, women, you didn't think about that. I am sure, I'm not a hundred percent sure, but I am pretty sure that they were a couple. Then, my mother goes, "Oh." [laughter] You didn't think of that.
I think we, as people--I as a person and my husband more as a person than maybe his parents were, my parents were, my dad, in particular--[are] quite liberal. I'll never forget sitting around the Passover table one night, and my mother-in-law was talking about one of her coworkers and she was being kind of derogatory about her, saying she doesn't want to learn and she's done this or whatever. She happened to be a black woman, and I think there was a slight bit of prejudice there and I called her out on it. I was annoyed because my kids were sitting there, and it was like, "Uh uh." I wish I didn't get political, we're moving in the wrong direction, and it's concerning because I've grandkids and I don't know what we're leaving them. Anyway, ask again.
KR: When you were growing up and going to temple, was the temple in Hightstown?
DC: Yes, and it happened to be an Orthodox temple, where the women sat on one side and the men sat on another side. It wasn't very big. There weren't that many people. I mean, it filled up on the High Holy Days, and we didn't have to pay money to go. You belonged, it wasn't the same kind of thing.
KR: Should we pause?
KR: We are back on.
DC: Okay. So, the temple was an Orthodox temple, and the men and women sat separately. It was a small temple. To get to where the ark was and the Torah and everything, you had to climb up steps in the basement, but the basement was at the ground level. That's where we had Sunday school classes. I think when it was regular Sunday school, it was only Sunday. If you were going to have a bar or bat mitzvah, you had to go Tuesday night too, and I wasn't doing that. We did go every Sunday to Sunday school.
All of the holidays, I remember doing what's called Simchat Torah, where you march around the thing with an apple on a flag. I remember doing the thing where you had groggers when they said Esther. So, I remember all the holidays. The only holiday I remember that we actually had like a celebration afterwards was for when we fasted for the New Year, and then we broke fast in the basement--well, it was the first floor, where they had food and whatever. We did have some Kiddushes, but it wasn't every Friday night or anything like that. Again, I don't know--there were some families that were kosher that were more religious. The people that had the store down the street from my parents that were my parents' best friends, they were more religious. She kept kosher. However, when they went out to eat, she would eat things that weren't kosher. So, it was part of our life but not a big part, I don't think. [Editor's Note: Simchat Torah is a Jewish holiday that marks the conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings and the beginning of a new cycle. Purim is the holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people, according to the Book of Esther. A grogger, Yiddish for rattle, is a noisemaker used during the Purim celebration. Kiddush refers to a blessing recited on the Shabbat.]
KR: You talked about taking Latin and Spanish.
KR: You talked about math and tutoring your teacher.
KR: What were your academic interests? What did you like?
DC: Well, [it] was interesting because I thought I wanted to be a math major. I loved math and, as a girl, my SAT scores in math and then my GRE scores in math were really, really high. I was not the reader. I never really liked [reading]. I read a lot more now than I've ever read before, but I didn't like reading, and when they say, "Oh, what's your favorite book you ever read?" I'm like, "I can't think of one." So, English wasn't my favorite course or anything; it was really math.
Interestingly, when I went to college, I only applied--actually, I really wanted to go to MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology]; I thought that would be the place for me. At that time, this will really blow everybody's mind, to go to MIT, I don't think to live there, was probably, all in without books, like 4,300 or 4,400 dollars. My dad said, "If you apply and get in, we'll find the money to pay." I think I applied to the University of Connecticut. I applied to some school in New York. I applied to Montclair, and I applied to Douglass. I think I applied to five or six schools. I got into all of them, and I didn't apply to MIT. I said to my dad, "Aren't you glad I didn't apply to MIT?" He goes, "No, whatever." Douglass tuition was five hundred dollars a year, at that time. He would've found the money, he would've paid for it, but it would've been a lot different. After I took my second semester calculus class, I decided and dropped out of the physics class because I never had physics in high school. I decided, "I don't want to be a math major. I want to be a psych major."
I had a psych [psychology] course and I really liked that. Our guidance counselors were terrible, I think. They had no idea about any schools, any ability, any strengths of any schools. I'm trying to think what the school was. I thought it began with an E, and it was in Upstate New York (Elmira) and that one of my sister's really good friends, who wanted to be a math major, went to this school. So, that's when the guidance counselor said, "Oh, you ought to apply here," she was a math major, she's going there. That didn't mean that that was a great math school. I mean, it just didn't make any sense.
Anyway, my sister flunked out of Douglass. My father said, "Let's show them that Blumenthal girls can make it." So, a little stress and I said, "[Okay]." It was a good school, and it had a good reputation and everything else. I wanted to go to an all girl's school because I wanted to wear jeans. I didn't want to get dressed up, and so I applied. I got in. As I said, I got into every place that I had applied, which was unusual. I mean, my grades were really good. I had Advanced Placement courses.
I will tell you another thing that's interesting, that maybe is interesting for the stuff or not. When I was a junior in high school, I got invited or tested into a special National Science Foundation-sponsored program for students. A hundred students, sixty-six men and thirty-four women, went to Michigan State for six weeks in the summer. We studied math and we studied either chemistry or biology or whatever. I had lost weight for the first time, and I had been heavy. I wasn't little, but I was at a decent weight. It was the first time, and there were all these geeky girls, and there was me. Well, my roommate wasn't geeky. There were all these guys, and it was just really a fun summer. Interestingly, it was the summer that they were shooting at the planes coming out of Detroit, which was interesting. So, it was probably 1966-'67.
KR: You said flames coming out of Detroit?
DC: It was the first time I had ever flown. One of my friends said, "Make sure you're sitting on something because if they shoot at the plane, they're going to hit you."
KR: The riots were going on.
DC: Yes, the riots in Detroit. [Editor's Note: In July of 1967, race riots broke out in Detroit, Michigan, resulting in the deaths of forty-three people and destruction of more than a thousand buildings.]
KR: Oh, okay, so it was 1967.
DC: Yes. So, I went to that program. I met this guy. I met lots of guys, and it was a lot of fun. One of the guys I met, we continued to be friendly. We were friendly, several were friendly [with me]. This guy was from Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He was going to Princeton. He took the Advanced Placement Chemistry Exam, and he got an "A" from his teacher. I got an "A" from my teacher. We both got "C's" on the Advanced Placement Chemistry Exam. He got a year-and-a-half credit and placement. I got a year placement. It was chemistry. I went, "Wait a minute. He's going to Princeton. I'm going to Douglass. He's getting a year-and-a-half placement and credit. I'm getting a year." All they're saying to me is, "No, you're [not] getting any credit at all; you just don't have to take the first course." I'm like, "What is going on here?" So, I knew Douglass was a good place to be.
KR: How did the opportunity come about to do the National Science Foundation program?
DC: I don't know if somebody at school [said something], there was a flyer up or whatever. I am sure that if somebody said to me, "You can do this," I'd say, "Yes, I want to do it." I may have seen something someplace. I don't think my dad or my mom were in any position to hear about any of that, just because of where they were or what they did. So, it had to be something at school. I'm trying to think who I had for math. It could've been my science teacher. It could've been the chemistry teacher, because I took regular chemistry, then I took AP Chemistry. So, it could've been him, and Mr. Eshleman was a good guy and he might have [told me]. That was an interesting thing. He had epilepsy, and he didn't know it. He actually fell on the floor and started to go in one of our classes, and [a] couple of weeks later when he came back, he was really cute. He said, "Well, let's start class, and let's hope it goes longer than last class." We were scared, but he made us all feel comfortable. That was an interesting experience. It was six weeks at Michigan State and the first time I ever flew, the first time I had been away from home, really, without my family, and I remember saying to my dad, "All these smart kids like cartoons too," [laughter] because I used to like to watch cartoons.
KR: It sounds like you were encouraged to pursue math. I note that because my mom was born in 1952, and she eventually got a Ph.D. in agricultural economics, which is semi-technical.
KR: When she was in high school, she wanted to take physics. Her guidance counselor said, "No, girls don't take physics. They take home economics," and she took home economics.
KR: I just note that you were encouraged to pursue math and science.
DC: Well, I was aggressive because my average for algebra was a 109, because we had extra credit, and I loved that. To me, algebra is like puzzles, and then I liked geometry, even though our teacher in geometry came in every morning, Monday morning, with sunglasses on because she was hungover. [I] even [liked] solid geometry, because I would look at the room and I would picture it. Trig was "eh" and calculus was "eh," but I really liked math. When I was at Douglass, I took a logic course, and I really liked that. But calculus was not where I wanted to go. When you say encouraged, let me put it this way, I wasn't discouraged. It wasn't like what happened with your mom. It wasn't like that they would say, "No, you don't need to take this." I could've taken physics, but instead I took AP Chemistry because it was the first time they had an AP course. The difference when I was in high school than now, they had the college prep, and they had the kids that were going to go and be a secretary or whatever in a business and be a mechanic or whatever, and I was definitely college prep. So, I was doing everything I could to make sure I was going to get into the school that I wanted to get into.
KR: When you were a teenager, how much were you aware of traditional gender roles for women versus what you wanted to do?
DC: Not really, because of my dad. My dad won a baking contest. My mom says now [that] she wished she was more involved in the store, but they worked side by side. I mean, did she keep the books? Not really. When we went places, she would say, "Well, that looks nice," or whatever, but he did ninety percent of [the work] to manage the store, but at home he did laundry. The only thing my dad did not do at home that my mom did was clean the refrigerator and clean the stove, and that was because she enjoyed those. When they retired to Florida, I said, "You know, Mom, I think I can get you a job cleaning people's stoves and refrigerators." She loved to see how it sparkled, that sort of thing. We didn't have a self-cleaning oven, or anything like that, but my dad cooked, my dad did laundry, my dad would clean up. There was nothing that was her job versus his job. So, in terms of traditional gender roles, I never saw him or her [in those roles].
I've got a great story, I just thought of it. So, my father was not really handy with fixing things, definitely not with the cars. I forget what happened to one of the cars, and so we took it [to be fixed]. Whatever it was, he wasn't going to fix it, or he couldn't. My mother said to him, "Walt, what are you good for?" He goes, "I'm not a mechanic. I'm a lover." She goes, "Yes, but our mechanic has eight kids." [laughter] When you say gender roles, there was nothing, and I always said I was my father's son because he took me fishing, not that he liked fishing. He wasn't into sports. He wasn't into "the traditional macho" whatever, but, again, he never went home [asking], "Gerry, could you …" that's what they called my mom, "Gerry, could you wash this?" He did it. He did the dishes.
He did whatever needed to be done. There were not [gender roles] in our household, and so that's why I never--I think most of the time he drove, but she drove too. I mean, we only had one car, but most of the time, if we went someplace, he drove. That was the only masculine [thing he did], and, actually, most of the time, when we go places here--I mean, I take myself all over the place in my car. I drive a Mini Cooper. I don't like driving his cars, but I will drive his cars, and sometimes, when we go out, I like to put miles on his car, so they're not on my car. So, he drives. When we go see my daughter in D.C., sometimes we'll stop, and then I'll take over. It's not like, "Oh." When we went to Florida, my mother would drive some. So, again, when you say gender roles, I wasn't faced with it, I don't think. I don't recall going, "Oh, well, that's a man's job," or, "That's a woman's job."
I'll tell you another story. So, when I was at Rutgers, in Douglass, we would get on this bus, and we would go across town. I always had books, I mean, I carried books. You'd get on the bus and there'd be no seats. Oftentimes, a guy would say, "Do you want to sit down?" If he said it in a nice way, I might say yes or no depending. If he said it like, "My mother told me I have to say this," I would say, "No, it's okay. I'm going to take your job." [laughter] Literally, I said that a number of times, because when I was at Douglass, it was the height of women's lib, from '68 to '72. People were burning their bras. I wasn't burning my bra. I remember my sister poo-pooing or mocking me for saying something about women's liberation. My hero is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That woman is amazing. That's why I'm frustrated with Douglass kind of seemingly being subsumed. Anyway, sorry, go ahead. [Editor's Note: Appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Ginsburg taught at Rutgers Law School-Newark from 1963 to 1972. In the 1970s, she led the Women's Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union and brought several cases concerning gender equality before the Supreme Court. Douglass College existed as the women's college of Rutgers University from 1918 to 2006, when the undergraduate colleges were consolidated into the School of Arts and Sciences and School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. Douglass then became Douglass Residential College.]
KR: When your sister was at Douglass, did you visit?
DC: Yes. I didn't stay over, and when she flunked out, because she's three years older than I am, she went to a school in Iowa. Then, she got a master's at Syracuse, but I don't know if she got her master's right away or not, because she taught in Highland Park. So, when I was at Douglass, she was at Highland Park and she had a car. So, every once in a while, she would let me use her car, but we don't look alike. We don't act alike. I have always said if we were not sisters, we'd be acquaintances. We wouldn't be friends. We're just really different people, and it's interesting because we grew up in the same [home].
KR: For the record, the years you were in high school were 1964 to 1968.
KR: That was a time when society was changing a lot. What do you remember about high school and things like activism, clothing, music?
DC: I don't recall a lot of activism, to tell you the truth. We were a small town. I'm trying to think if there were parades or marches or whatever. I don't remember anything. In terms of clothes, I only remember rules in school about how long your skirt had to be. I don't think we wore pants. The girls wore pants [outside of school]. I do remember being called out because we, as cheerleaders, were told, "Wear your uniform to school," and the skirts were to here, and we were sent home. Actually, my parents brought a different [skirt]. I could keep my sweater on and my shirt, but I needed [a] longer skirt, and I remember my mom might have still been home. I called, "Can you bring me a skirt because I can't wear my cheerleading skirt?" I had my saddle shoes and my socks, but I needed something that was not [there], and my cheerleading skirt was not like up to here. It was like here. It was three or four inches above my knee, not six or eight, but the principal called us all out and told us we had to change. I don't remember people doing funky stuff to their hair. I don't remember what goes on now, tattoos or piercings. I do remember girls having pierced ears but one hole, not more than one.
Music, it was The Beatles. I remember in 1964 when they came over and it was like, "Oh, wow, The Beatles." I'm trying to think what other music [there was]. I don't remember. Oh, probably a lot of the Motown groups were big and Diana Ross was big. I just remember The Beatles coming over, and I remember seeing them on TV at the airport, and whatever, but not that much else.
In terms of dress, I don't know. Jeans probably, a lot of jeans, but not at school. At school, I think we had to have skirts. I do remember our uniforms we had to wear for gym, which were terrible. They were blue, one-piece short deals. They were like jumpsuits, except they were shorts. What did they call them? They call them something now. Anyway, I remember, what a pain in the neck, having to change for gym, and then supposedly having to shower. We all had these things where we had big towels, we had our clothes on underneath, we put big towels on, and we wet our shoulders, and they checked us. I mean, it's not that we sweated in gym. We didn't do anything. That's what I remember.
KR: What do you remember about the spring of 1968, which would have been the year of your high school graduation?
DC: When I was graduating? Just getting excited because I was going to college. I was going to move away from home. That was well after the Kennedy assassination, in terms of politics or anything else. It was well before the Nixon ridiculous nonsense, because that was when I was in graduate school. I remember that because Ford was the vice president, at that time, and he was supposed to speak at my graduation. Because Nixon was then impeached, he was then the president and he was going to speak. I still didn't go. [Editor's Note: On August 8, 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned from office due to his involvement in the Watergate Scandal, and Vice President Gerald Ford assumed the presidency on August 9th.]
KR: He still spoke.
DC: Yes, he did. He still went there and spoke. So, I've always said, "Why should I go to graduation ceremonies? I didn't go when the president was speaking, so whatever." No, I don't remember anything that was particular during '68 in the spring. I mean, maybe you're thinking of something, but I don't recall anything.
KR: I was just thinking about Robert Kennedy being assassinated in June of 1968.
DC: Oh, okay. Yes, I mean, I was probably out of school. We heard it. It wasn't the same as when his brother was, because I was in school when that happened. In terms of Robert, I don't recall--I mean, being shocked and [thinking], "Oh, this is terrible," and whatever--but I don't recall any specific thing, whereas I remember when we heard about Kennedy, his brother, I was in Spanish class, and I remember her crying. She had just heard, and I remember her crying.
KR: Martin Luther King was assassinated in April of 1968.
DC: Yes. I don't remember riots. I don't remember anybody doing anything at school or anything. First of all, the people that I was in school with that I just reunioned with last year, I think nowadays would do a lot more because we're much more active, but I don't recall anything.
KR: What do you remember about moving into Douglass?
DC: I remember meeting my roommate. We lived in the same house three or four years. We lived in Corwin X. "It's not the X in sex, it's the sex in X," that's what we used to say, unbelievable. Who was with us? Was Fern one of our freshmen? Yes, I think. I remember a girl from New Brunswick whose father was a doctor. She was moved in by her maid, which was interesting. She actually became a doctor too. I remember being very excited moving into this small dorm. We were on the second floor. Corwin had two bedrooms on the third floor, four bedrooms on the second floor, and two bedrooms on the first floor. Then, they overcrowded for a while. I don't know if we had anybody living in our basement or not, but they did have a bedroom in some places in the basement. I remember just being excited. It was a sunny, beautiful day. I said goodbye to my parents and thought, "This is going to be fun."
KR: Did you have multiple roommates?
DC: No. I had the same roommate for four years.
KR: Oh, okay.
DC: They put us together. She was from Willingboro. She was a smoker, and we lived in Corwin three of our four years. Corwin's been knocked down. As soon as you went through the fire doors, where the bedrooms were, you couldn't smoke, and she was a heavy smoker. We haven't been in touch in a little while, but we're still in touch. She and I were almost like night and day. She would spend all night [working], she would do all-nighters. She, in our four years, probably had three or four all-nighters every semester. I could get up real early in the morning and do stuff, but once a certain time came, I had to go to sleep, but she would pull all-nighters. She was an English and a kind of fine arts minor. She was the first in her family to go to college. Her father was much more traditional than mine and kind of believed kids, girls, didn't have to go to college. She was much more social. She had done a lot more dating than I had. She was a drinker, and I wasn't. They would smoke marijuana sometimes, and I was always the [designated driver] before a designated driver was a designated driver. I remember going to a party with my sophomore sister, my sophomore sister's roommate, and my roommate, and they were passing around a joint, and my sophomore sister said, "No, leave her alone. She gets high on life." [laughter]
What else can I tell you about? My roommate, I respect her tremendously. She graduated with a degree in English, and she wasn't going to teach. She got a paralegal degree, which she had to pay for herself because her father wasn't going to do anymore stuff, I don't think. Then, she worked for the Casino Commission in South Jersey. Then, at forty or forty-five, she got breast cancer, and then she decided, I don't know which came first to tell you the truth, [that] she always wanted to be a marine biologist. So, she got a Ph.D. in marine biology, and her first job was in Arizona at a fishery, which I said, "You spend your time in San Diego at Thanksgiving, taking a kayak out on the water and feeding bread to the seals, and now you're in Arizona?" But now she's in Florida, and she's an adjunct. She teaches as an adjunct.
Yes, for four years, we were roommates, and we were very close. We got together right after, I would say, about five or seven years after graduation, and, again, we spent two or three hours in a diner just talking about how things were. She never got married. She was always single, which was kind of surprising because she was quite attractive and not heavy and went out a lot.
So, that was moving in, and it was fun. We had the room that had the fire escape. So, [me] and my parents used to go apple picking or stuff and bring us baskets of fruit, and we'd stick them on the fire escape because everybody could have them. I remember, it couldn't have been sophomore year because we weren't there sophomore year, [that] every other year that's the room we even lived in, I think. I'll never forget, there was one finals period where some girl in the next house kept yelling, "I'm going to kill myself. I'm going to kill myself." I yelled out the window, "Well, then do it quietly," because it was finals time. I mean, we didn't go out on the fire escape, but we left things there, which probably was not legal. I was the house chairman my junior year in that same house.
KR: As a freshman, what were your initial impressions of Douglass College?
DC: My initial impressions of Douglass College were, I would say, two or three-fold. One was, "Okay, you're not the smartest one here," that everybody came from being really high in their class, in terms of what their grades were. I don't know that I thought it was really hard, but everybody was smart. So, it wasn't like you could relatively easily distinguish yourself. I remember that I had decided at that point in time, my classes fell into three categories. One is that I really liked them and wanted to go. Two was that I didn't necessarily like them, but I had to go because I needed the input I was getting. The third one was ones [that] I didn't like and didn't know that I needed, but if I missed once I'd never go again. So, I went to all my classes.
First semester, I had a great calculus teacher. Second semester, I had a terrible a calculus teacher and had to decide whether I was going to get a "D" and just not see it again or fail so I can take it again. I said, "No, I'll get a ‘D,'" and there were only five of us from the thirty that started [the] first semester because this new teacher was terrible.
Also, I remember my English teacher, freshman year, that gave me, supposedly, a "C" on my final paper. I went to talk to him, just to understand what I did wrong, and he said, "Oh, you really got a ‘B+.' I was pulling your leg." He was also a very short man, and he made me nervous because I figured if I got angry, I could whack him across the room, which was not good.
I also had a Spanish teacher first semester [where] we were doing conversational Spanish, and I was in the class with my roommate. She was really good at conversation and I was really bad at conversation, and he was this really cute Spanish guy. He was just charming. He would say to me, I need to practice with her. He was nice, he wasn't mean about it. I said to him, "The next semester we're doing reading, and that's my semester." In my head, I can translate, but I can't talk. Sure enough, I did much better, and he goes, "You were right. You did what you said." I'm trying to think of what else I took.
I started taking physics, and I dropped physics. Interestingly, I had my sophomore sister's physics lab book. So, I kind of knew the labs. I knew what was going on, and they had a grad student that did labs. I saw him, oh, [my] second or third, maybe third or fourth week after I had dropped physics, I saw him at a mixer. He came up to me and he said, "I was going to come and talk to you because you were doing really well in lab, and I was going to try to convince you not to drop physics." I thought, "No, you don't get it. It's got to be dropped."
I took a music appreciation class, which was great because I had been in band. So, I could hear all the [music], [and] I know what each instrument sounds like. So, I came in three weeks into the semester, and I could do it. It was not a problem. So, that was good. That was freshman year.
Oh, the other thing I remember freshman year was western civ. My teacher became one of the deans, Hartman. Hartman was my teacher my first semester of freshman year. [Editor's Note: Mary S. Hartman came to Douglass College in 1968 as a history professor. Hartman founded the Institute for Research on Women (then called Women's Studies Institute) in 1976 and went on to establish the consortium of the Institute for Women's Leadership. Hartman served as the Dean of Douglass College from 1982 to 1994.]
KR: Mary Hartman?
DC: Yes. You know her?
KR: Of course.
DC: She was my teacher in western civ, which we had to take. History was never a thing I loved, but she was great, and I got an "A." She recommended me for the--there was like a honors or an advanced placement or something. So, I took it with Banner. Did you know Banner? [Editor's Note: Lois Banner served on the history faculty at Douglass College from 1967 to 1977. Banner is a Professor Emerita of History at the University of Southern California.]
KR: Lois Banner.
DC: Yes, I hated her. It's not so much I hated her; I didn't like her as a professor. She was nowhere as good as Mary Hartman, but, in addition, she would ask questions and you would know what the answer was based on how she asked the question. So, we're all sitting there, and she's asking this question. I'm sitting there and she goes, "Donna," and I go, "Yes." She goes, "That's right. Why?" I'm like, "Uh," because [of] the way she asked the question, and I couldn't make up anything. So, I said to her, "I really don't know why, but I know the answer's yes." She said, "You're right," and then I lost all respect for this woman after that and then I learned not to shake my head either, yes or no. You could know how she felt what the answer was, because they were yes or no questions, by the way she asked it, and I was like, "Oh, I could do that." So, that was all the classes.
I may have had a psych class because we had four intro psych classes we had to take. I may have had a psych class then too. I don't know, experimental, or I don't know who I had. Then, sophomore year, I got more into psych. I also took a sociology course, which frustrated me [to] no end because they look at things differently than psychologists, but that's okay.
Oh, I had a logic class. I can picture him, but I can't remember his name. That was cool because I loved logic. It was our final, and he had overslept. Somebody in our class called him and said, "Are you coming?" I'm like, "Why'd you call?" He said, "Yes, I'll be there in fifteen minutes, but if you don't want to stay, you can have the grade you have." So, of course, I think I probably stayed. I probably had a good grade, but wanted to do even better.
I'm trying to think. It must have been sophomore year that Kent State happened because two things. We were on lockdown. We had exams on the [University] Heights Campus, intense, in long rows, and they had dogs going around all the time. I think it was junior year. So, all the Rutgers exams were at the Heights, because there was not much at the Heights at the time. They pitched big tents, and they had rows of chairs, so that you weren't next to somebody who had your same course. They had them all labeled, and they didn't want to have to cancel exams because of bomb scares. So, the dogs walked around all night checking. [Editor's Note: On May 4, 1970, Ohio National Guardsmen fired upon students at Kent State University, killing four and wounding nine others. Some of the students had been protesting the United States' entry into Cambodia, while others had been passing nearby or observing the demonstration. On May 14 and 15, 1970, students at Jackson State College protesting against racial harassment were fired upon by state and city police, resulting in two deaths and a dozen injuries. The University Heights Campus is now called Busch Campus.]
Some of the courses said, "You don't have to take a [final]. You can take it pass/fail." It wasn't that you could take the grade you had. You could take it pass/fail. Well, I wanted to go to graduate school. So, I took all my courses, and I got screwed from my stat course in psychology--and I think this was junior year. It could've been senior year, but I think it was junior year. It had to be junior year because there were twenty-five or thirty of us in the class, and I was getting an "A" into the final. Only five of us took the final because, A, we were doing well, and, B, we were gung-ho to go to graduate school; so, we knew we had to do well. So, we took this exam, and I ended up with a "B." She was giving me a "B" for the course, and so I went to talk to her. Again, I'm saying this because the way students talk to us now is so different than how we talked to people then. I just said, "Dr. Neimark, could you explain to me why I lost credit on this? Can you tell me what the answer was for this question?" There were like five questions, all statistics, and [because of] one, I lost ten or fifteen points, which gave me a "B" as opposed to an "A". She said, "Well, in this case, you should've done A, B, C and D." I said, "Oh, well, I did A, B, C, D where you went with E." She said, "Oh, in that case, you were just too smart," and she left it at that. I thought, "Okay, I'm not fighting," but I got into graduate school. So, it was okay.
We had very interesting faculty in the psych department. We had two young faculty, Matt Erdelyi and John Santa. They actually held something for us. I think it was the fall of our senior year, knowing, if you are psych major, [that] you have to get a master's degree if you want to really apply psychology in any way. So, they held a seminar for all of us, and there must've been thirty-five or forty graduating seniors there. They told us that in order to get into clinical--which is all we knew at the time because of Bob Newhart. There was a TV show with Bob Newhart being a clinical psychologist, and none of us knew anything other than [that], what could you do with psychology. They told us you had to have a "3.5" or "3.7" or better to get into clinical. So, we said, "Okay, if we don't have that, what do we do?" They said, "Okay, tomorrow night, we're going to hold another one, and we'll talk about other areas of psychology."
So, the next night, five of us showed up. Not that the rest had the degree, they just gave up. That was when they talked about experimental. They talked about developmental. They said, "Oh, they're looking for women in IO [industrial and organizational]." I said, "What is IO?" "Industrial work and organizational psychology. It is applying psychology to the world of work." I said, "I'm a woman. I'm going," and I've never looked back. I love it. It's the perfect thing for me.
In terms of other things at school, I met my husband. It was interesting. I might have met him sophomore year. My house were friendly with the guys in his apartment because, every once in a while, they wanted to use our laundry or something. So, they would come to our house, and I had a crush on him. We were invited to his birthday party, and I made a cake. Then, he took this other girl home, which wasn't very nice, but she was engaged. I was like, "What is this craziness?" Then, we just stayed friends.
I used to work summers, two summers in a row, my sophomore and junior year, I stayed on campus, took summer classes, and worked. [I] was a dorm adviser at Rutgers, and we had coed dorms. The first year I was a dorm adviser, I was the dorm adviser for the women's [section], it was [in] Clothier [Hall], and so Clothier is like this and women were here and men were here. The second year, I was a dorm adviser for the whole floor, so it was men and women. My husband was not my husband at the time. It was interesting. He had an apartment at Rutgers, but one of his roommates was a five-year engineer. So, he was still going to be there the next year, and he had another apartment on the other side of town. There were like two weeks or a week and a half where there was no place for him to live. So, I had a dorm, and my dorm room, I was on a coed floor, had two single beds. He was a friend. I said, "If you want to stay here for the week, you can." Then, he never moved out. [laughter] That was funny because when [my parents] came to take us out for breakfast, we had breakfast, and Mick always talks about the fact that when we were having breakfast, my dad never took his sunglasses off. I go, "It was sunny out, and we were eating outside," and it's like, "Whatever," but it was what it was.
I not only was a dorm adviser, which paid for my housing, but I also worked. The DKE [Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity] house had an Upward Bound group that came for, I think, breakfast and lunch. I don't think we did dinner. I was one of the folks that helped serve for that. I didn't have to go home because, going home, there was nothing to do. So, I took a course and did that sort of thing. Other questions?
KR: You said you lived in Corwin three out of the four years. What was the other dorm?
DC: Katzenbach. That was sophomore year because we got bad numbers. We all wanted to be together, and we all wanted Corwin. One year, we had bad numbers. The other years, we were able to get where we wanted.
KR: What was the interaction like between the students at Douglass College, at Rutgers College, and also at Livingston College?
DC: There was no interaction with Livingston really. Livingston was a very poor stepbrother, as far as most of us were concerned. We thought they were less educated. They were from probably inner city. It was like an urban kind of school.
Now, I've get to tell you [that] I developed a program that nobody else continued called the Big Brother-Big Sister program. I did it between Douglass and Rutgers because I didn't like the idea that Douglass and Rutgers only saw each other as dates. They didn't see each other as friends. They didn't see each other as, "Gee, we could work together. We can do whatever." If a guy talked to you, "Oh, maybe he wants to date me." If a girl was talking to you or asked you a question, "Oh, she's interested in me." So, I set up this program where I had--I'm trying to think--I had the list of all the Douglass students and I guess I had everybody sign up who wanted to be. I went to all the fraternities, and I put up a signup sheet and whatever, and then I got these lists. I'm trying to think of what year it was, if it was sophomore year or junior year. I got from the University a list of incoming freshmen, and I randomly matched people up, just randomly, "You're a sophomore and you want to be a big brother, here's a freshman girl." "You're a junior Douglass person and you want to be a big sister, here's a freshman guy." I'm trying to think. It was just people who signed up, and I don't think the freshman coming in had a choice, to tell you the truth. It worked out kind of okay, but the next year I wasn't going to do it again and nobody else picked it up. The first year, I had a freshman brother who I was quite friendly with. Douglass always had the big sophomore sister situation, but there was nothing between Douglass and Rutgers.
I'm trying to think, it must have been freshman year when I was there, we had so many rules. We had so much difference with sign out. One of the things that was crazy, freshman year, we had three different colored cards, white cards if you were signing out to midnight, yellow cards if you were signing out to three o'clock, and green cards if you were singing out overnight. If you signed out to yellow, you had to come back by three, or you were locked out. So, if you thought you were going to be out until three and then your date went really wrong [you were in trouble], or if you signed out to three, you couldn't come back between twelve and three. There was some kind of weirdness, and there was all this crazy stuff that was going on. It wasn't until, I think it was sophomore year, I can picture the woman who became the Dean of Students, and she was a lovely woman. She understood, because I had a conversation with her, and that's why I did the Big Brother-Big Sister thing, because that was before we had twenty-four-hour parietals.
Do you know what parietals are? That's meaning a guy can be in your room twenty-four hours because, up until then, you could sign out, but nobody could be in. When they were in your room, you had to leave the door open. So, people were using matchbooks and craziness, but this notion of twenty-four-hour parietals, it was like you're assuming, because they're in your room after twelve, [that] you're having sex. Could we be having a discussion? Could we be planning? Again, it was making, there's only one relationship a man and a woman could have. So, we had this discussion, and then, eventually, we had twenty-four-hour parietals. But I think that was the initial idea of having big brothers. Let's have friendships, not just [that] the only thing I can see you in is a date. I mean, if you think about where we are now, not about sex or anything but about teamwork, and when you get to a company, and whatever, you're working. You need to know how to deal with people as people and not people as dates. Anyway, I'm off my soapbox.
KR: Was the Dean of Students Marjorie Trayes?
DC: Trayes. Yes, it was Trayes. I can picture her. I don't have to get that ... [Editor's Note: Dr. Chlopak's telephone is ringing. Marjorie Trayes served as the Dean of Students at Douglass College.]
DC: … Because they're just trying to sell me more credit cards.
KR: What was your social life like?
DC: We went out every [Friday]. By the time you were second semester sophomore or first semester junior, you never had classes on Friday, except my senior year because the one class I wanted to take was on Friday. So, Thursday night was the beginning of our weekend, and we went to fraternity parties. I mean, that was the social thing, or we went to mixers, because that's what you did. We didn't go to bars. Sometimes, we just stayed home, did not [do] homework, [and] played cards or did stuff like that. Sometimes, we went home for the weekend, but most of the time we got dressed up and we went out to parties. Yes, that was what our social life was.
Oh, I had a couple of jobs. I tutored logic, I think. I tutored something, and I also was an ID checker at the Rutgers Student Center. It was very interesting because the guys would come through and, sometimes, they'd go, "You know who I am?" and I'd go, "Yes, but I just want you to hang around the desk more." They'd then whip out their ID and run, that sort of thing. But there was this guy, a couple of times, the one, in particular, who would come by and he would say, "Do you want to go out?" So, he took me to Tumulty's, oh, we loved Tumulty's, and he ordered Irish coffee. I said, "I'm not twenty-one." He goes, "You're with me, it's okay." I didn't like it. I don't like whiskey. I like the foam. So, that was funny. I think he thought he was hot stuff because he had a corvette, but I wasn't impressed. I did have another guy that I dated. We went to the movies, but it was not that exciting. I'm trying to think if we went [to a theater]. I think there were films at schools, sometimes, that we would go to.
When I started dating my husband, I spent a lot of time in the library because he was a studier. [laughter] He's very, I guess I would say, meticulous, and he was in grad school when we started to date. We would go to the library a lot on the [weekends]. He would come to visit on the weekend, and we'd spend a lot of time in the library. I got really decent grades then. We'd order pizza from La Saletta's with the big chunk of tomatoes. I'm trying to think, I mean, [we did] standard stuff.
I do recall, and I've said this too, [that] freshman year we had to take gym and we had to take modern dance. There was a big mirror, and we had to watch ourselves. As I said, I had a weight problem. At the end of modern dance, we had to lay on the floor and relax our feet and our legs, and whatever, and when we found inner peace, we could leave. I was always the first one to find inner peace. I called home and I said, "Dad, I may have to leave this school." He said, "What are you talking about?" I said, "If I fail modern dance, because she knows I'm not finding inner peace, I'm just out of there. I'm not taking it again, and we have to have it. So, if I fail, I'm going to look for some other school." I didn't fail modern dance, but that was my fear because it was like I couldn't do this, it wasn't me. I also took bowling. I took golf. I'm trying to think. I did, maybe, archery. I can't think of what the last one was, but we had to take four things and it was like, "Ugh." I think about what goes on at school now, and it's so different.
KR: Did you have to take speech?
DC: Oh, gosh, yes, and that was a problem because the speech teacher hated people from Hightstown. When she found out I was from Hightstown, I was a little concerned. Of course, I shouldn't say of course, she happened to be black. I don't remember her name, but I do recall that my first talk was about--oh, I think it was about interracial marriage. I ended up saying that interreligious marriage was more difficult than interracial marriage, because [in] interreligious marriage there are beliefs, as opposed to interracial [where] there's just some traditions. I can't remember what I said, but I thought, "Okay." I passed it, it was okay. Yes, we had to take speech. I remember that.
KR: Was your professor Cecelia Drewry?
DC: Yes. I do remember her. She didn't hate me, but I had heard there was something with Hightstown and her, I think. I don't know because the crosses were burned on the thing. I don't know what it was, but I remember there was some issue. I can picture her too now. She was pretty. Did you have her? [Editor's Note: Cecelia Hodges Drewry served as a faculty member at Douglass College in the Speech and Drama Department.]
DC: Or you just know people?
KR: I have heard people tell stories about her.
KR: She is still alive, and she lives in Princeton.
DC: Oh, I'm not going to go visit her. [laughter] She would go, "Who are you? Why are you here?"
KR: What Douglass traditions stick out in your mind?
DC: "Blood on Antilles. Blood all around. There's a great big puddle of blood on the ground. Pity the freshman, bloody and red, because a sophomore has bashed in their head," something like that. [laughter] I remember freshman whatever day it was called, where we wore beanies. Sacred Path. I always tell the story about Passion Puddle to my students, when I talk about correlation versus causation. You know that story? [Editor's Note: The Sacred Path is where Douglass students, staff and faculty celebrate the "moving up" of classes. Passion Puddle is a pond on the Douglass and Cook Residential Campuses.]
KR: Please tell me.
DC: Okay. They found out that when the water in Passion Puddle rose, grades on exams got better. So, therefore, should I call the fire department and have them put water in Passion Puddle if I have an exam tomorrow? No. The reason grades and exams [got better], after Passion Puddle has high water, is because it rained and people weren't fooling around at Passion Puddle. They went to the library or they stayed inside and studied. So, the notion is that it's not causation. There are two things that are happening at the same time that make it a high correlation, but it's not causation. I use it all the time. Somebody else used selling ice cream and shark attacks. That's a little easier to understand. It's hot and that's what happens, people go in the water, but I like mine better.
What else do I remember? I remember going to where our mailboxes were and hoping there'd be something for [me]. I remember when Hickman Hall, I think, was built, was relatively new. Oh, whatever it was at Christmas time, where we went into the chapel. I can't remember what they're called, but the women sang or ushered us or whatever. I'm trying to think what else I remember. Oh, I remember, after lunch, going to the TV room and watching soap operas. [laughter] I remember walking from Corwin to Cooper. I remember Cooper skirts. You probably don't remember Cooper skirts.
KR: Please tell about the Cooper skirts.
DC: Okay, Cooper skirts. My freshman year--and then I'll tell you the thing about the black students that was cool. Freshman year, in order to go to dinner, you had to have a skirt on. We wore pants all the time. We all had what we called a Cooper skirt, or most of us did, and we hung them in the basement of Cooper Dining Hall on a hook and you knew your [skirt, so] nobody took yours. We'd roll up our pant legs, and it was a wrap skirt most of the time and we'd wrap this Cooper skirt and we'd go to dinner. Then, after dinner, we'd put our wrap skirt back, and we'd roll our pant legs down because we weren't going to go and change. Then, thank goodness, they did away with Cooper skirts. I'm trying to think what year it was. It probably was freshman year, and I can picture the woman who was in charge.
Freshman year, there was a big protest. The black female students had a protest. We sat at tables of eight. Dinner was served with tablecloths, and we were served dinner, tables of eight, either you had your table or they put you together. Well, there must have been three or four tables of black students, and, at a certain time, they had all been served their plates of dinner. They just turned them over in a protest, and then stood up and walked out. I had really mixed feelings because I thought it was a great protest. My roommate was a waitress at the time. So, it was very interesting because I basically said, and I can't even remember now what they were protesting, but something about discrimination I'm sure, "Wow, that was really powerful, meaningful, and nobody was hurt." My roommate said, "Yes, but we had to clean it up." I said, "Okay, I can see your point, but, again, nobody was hurt." So, it was interesting [discussion]. [Editor's Note: The Douglass Black Students Committee (DBSC) protested the underrepresentation of African Americans in the student body, faculty and curriculum. In coordination with black student groups on other campuses, the dining hall protests took place at Cooper and Neilson Dining Halls, along with at Brower Commons, on February 25, 1969.]
We didn't have an argument about it, but we were definitely on different sides. It was the first time, because you asked about demonstrations or protests or whatever, I had really been in a situation like that, and what rang to me was [that] they had a point, they were making a point, and nobody was really hurt. They weren't eating. It wasn't that they took my food and threw it. Not that I could go without food, that would've been fine. The waiters--we didn't have waiters. The waitresses had to clean it up, but no one got smacked with a plate. Nobody's stuff was taken from them. These were all the people. This was their dinner that they just made a big stink about, and I thought it was quite powerful. Again, it was probably forty-five years ago. It was a black protest, [but] I just don't know what it was about exactly, what it was specifically for, yes.
KR: What else sticks out in your mind about the black student protest movement?
DC: That was the only thing that I really remember, to tell you the truth--it's interesting, now, at reunion stuff, they're quite together, they're still a group. Interestingly, after I graduated, got my Ph.D. and everything else, I first went to work at AT&T, one of my best friends at work was a Douglass black graduate. I don't know that we knew each other, or whatever, [but] Douglass was an interesting place because it was spread out. So, if you were in Corwin, in the first horseshoe, you probably knew people from the first horseshoe, maybe not people from the second horseshoe. If you were in Katzenbach or Livingston, well, not Livingston, maybe it was Livingston, there were three dorms over [there]. Then, there was Gibbons, and then there was the other place that was right near Cooper. So, you got to know who you lived with, and you got to know some of the students that were in your classes but not even all of the students that were in your classes. I always used to say, "We don't have sororities. We're catty enough," but there were no groups. I was a psych major, so I knew a bunch of the psych majors, because we had similar classes, but there were not things that brought us together. My middle daughter played lacrosse at Northwestern, and she has twenty plus girls that she was very close to because they had practice and they had games and whatever for four years. We didn't have that at Douglass. I can't even think of clubs or organizations that we had. They may have had some, but I didn't belong to any, I didn't know of any. So, in terms of the African American students' protests, I don't recall. Except for that one, I don't recall anything. I'm trying to think. There might have been some. I don't recall.
KR: How about antiwar activism? What do you remember?
DC: Oh, this wasn't antiwar exactly, but I remember the first Selective Service drawing for birthdays. We, the girls in my dorm, sat around this table. We each had a list of our friends and what their birthdays were, and we watched everyone draw to see who was going to go. [Editor's Note: On December 1, 1969, the Selective Service held a draft lottery to determine the draft order for 1970.]
Then, I remember, not necessarily a protest because I don't know that we--oh, we did take over whatever the hall, wherever Mason Gross was. We had a sit-in. I remember going there and sitting in, and I also remember that I loved Mason Gross because he basically told the National Guard, I think it was the National Guard, "They are there at my invitation. You are not to go in. You are not to do anything to them." So, yes, I remember that. I don't remember the year.
I also remember, after the Vietnam War started, and it must've been my senior year, there was a guy who had gone out with one of the women in our dorm, and his name was Parker Worthington and he was a Cook College student. One day, I was walking from Corwin to Cooper, and he was in front of me, and I went, "Parker, Parker," and he turned around and it wasn't Parker. It was Parker's brother. Parker had been in Vietnam, and I don't know if Parker ever came back from Vietnam. I mean, he looked just like his brother. It was really kind of creepy. I also remember [that in] my senior year, The Deer Hunter movie came out and Mick, my husband, and I went with another couple. I remember coming out of that movie going, "I am so glad that Michael's," my husband's, "number," he wasn't my husband at the time, "was such that he was not going to be called," because it was creepy. Yes, that was really creepy. I only remember [that] I think we marched, and then we took over--it wasn't College Hall. I'm trying to think what it was called.
KR: Old Queens.
DC: Yes, thank you, Old Queens. We did. We didn't mess it up. We didn't turn things over or whatever. We just took it over, and I remember him saying to the National Guard or whoever would've come in, like they did at Kent State, and he said, "They're my guests." I thought, "This is a good man. This is a man that understands." [Editor's Note: Following President Richard Nixon's expansion of the Vietnam War to Cambodia, the nationwide student strike spread to the Rutgers, beginning on Friday, May 1. On May 4, two thousand protesters gathered on the Old Queens Campus, and Rutgers President Mason Gross addressed the crowd. When students seized Old Queens, Gross called them his guests. That year, final exams were made optional, with pass/fail course grading. This occurred during the same week that Ohio National Guardsmen fired upon students at Kent State. (From Paul Clemens' Rutgers Since 1945)]
KR: How did you get involved in that protest?
DC: I think one of my friends, who actually was then going to law school, she wanted to go to law school, was concerned, but I think she said, "We're doing this." I said, "Yes, you're right. We're doing this," and I went with her.
KR: How long did you actually sit-in for?
DC: I think we stayed overnight; my memory is not real clear on it. Then, the next day, he was being a gentleman, and whatever, and we left, but we were making a statement. I don't know where it went or how beneficial it was, but we were making a statement. We didn't call in any bomb scares or any craziness. It was a sit-in. That's what it was. It was a sit-in. Yes, it was interesting times.
KR: Was Mason Gross actually there when you were sitting in?
DC: I don't think so. I don't know what time we got there. I don't remember any of the details except that it was a sit-in. The biggest thing that strikes me was him saying, "They're my guests." That was like, "Wow." This is the kind of leadership you want, somebody who understands. We didn't take things off the walls. We didn't bash up [Old Queens]. We were just there as a protest. We took over, but it was a somewhat peaceful protest.
KR: How about the women's liberation movement? Were you involved? What do you remember about that?
DC: As I said, I told the guys I was going to take their job. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do, not because I was a woman. As I said, I didn't think there were women's jobs and men's jobs. I didn't know about STEM, so to speak. When John Santa said, "They're looking for women in IO," it was like, "I want to do psychology. I don't want the fact that I had an okay cumulative but not a high, high cumulative to draw me away." My GREs were great. My GREs in math were off the chart because I'm a woman, and the scores were different there. My GREs in English were good. I got into the graduate schools that I applied to. Also, it was serendipitous because it was the right place for me to be. I don't think I would've been happy being a clinician. Crazy people would have made me nuts. To me, I'm involved in business. I like the notion of business, and applying psychology to business is really important. All the jobs that I've had either deal with marketing, which is consumer psychology, which is a part of IO, or they deal with management, which is organizational behavior and that sort of thing, which is another part of IO. So, I'm thrilled. It was serendipitous, but it worked. It made sense.
KR: What was it like being a house chair your junior year?
DC: Yes, it was fun because the freshman called me mom, which was cute. One of them happens to be Jeanne Fox. Do you know who Jeanne Fox is? Okay. So, when I go to things, she goes, "Oh, it's Mom." I said, "Hi." Her roommate became a doctor, medical doctor, and it was kind of giving back. We had an off-site to begin with, to introduce us. I mean, there were no real rules or anything we had to worry about. I did have a student who had some issues. She wasn't a freshman though. I think she was a junior or senior, but it was fun. It was fun helping younger students get involved with Douglass. Most of the folks that were in the house, except for the freshman, well, were people that we knew pretty much, a couple that we didn't know.
I'm trying to think if it's that year or sophomore year, no, it was probably senior year, James Gandolfini's sister lived with us. I didn't know that her brother was going to be famous or whatever. That could've been junior year. It couldn't have been senior year. So, it was junior year. It wasn't freshman year. She and her roommate, who had been roommates for years, were really cute because her roommate ate really fast, and we'd sit together and eat. I'd say, "Gee, Peggy." Her name was Peggy. I said, "Peggy." She goes, "I come from a family of ten kids. If you don't eat fast, you don't get food." I thought, "Oh, that's interesting." Our seniors were interesting. I mean, we all had different majors. That was interesting too. [Editor's Note: James Gandolfini and his older two sisters attended Rutgers. An alumnus of the Rutgers College Class of 1983, Gandolfini, who passed away in 2013, was an actor best known for his role as Tony Soprano in the HBO series The Sopranos.]
Being a house chairman, I'm trying to think, didn't get you anything, except to go to the thing in the beginning. I mean, they didn't pay for our room. They didn't do anything. It was just something else, in a sense, to write on your resume, to give you some leadership or some whatever. If I looked back on it now, it's kind of, in my opinion, giving back and that's okay. That's a good thing, and it was fun. Also, the other thing it did for me is [that] it got me back to where I wanted to be living. So, it got us to Corwin X, and we were there again. So, that was good.
KR: How would you handle situations where you had to discipline students?
DC: I didn't actually have to. I can't think of any time. By the time I was house chairman, the rules were not sign out for this, sign out for that, sign out whatever. I do recall, my house chairman, when I was a sophomore--no, it was when I was a freshman actually--my house chairman was my sophomore sister's sophomore sister, and her roommate used to play cards in our living room. We used to play bridge with her boyfriend and somebody else, and her boyfriend was abusive and she was pinned to him. She was pinned. You talked about women's lib and whatever. I remember sitting in the living room, and they're going in. He's yelling at her for the bid she's made, and he was just really obnoxious. I said something, and she got mad at me. Then, the house chairman, who was her roommate, got mad at me. I'm like, "Okay." Funny, funny story, twenty-five years later, probably, my daughter is in private school, and we go to back-to-school night. My daughter's in third grade, and this woman is the Spanish teacher in this school. I go up to her, and I say, "Hi." We talk, and I say to her, "How's Stu, your husband?" She's goes, "Oh, we divorced." She said, "You were right." [laughter] It was like, "Okay, you can talk, Donna. You can say whatever." What I said is, "It's a card game," and he said, "Stay out of it." I was a freshman. So, yes, it's interesting. I watch a lot of reruns of Law and Order, and I remember one time a woman saying, "No man is worth so many years in jail." I mean, I never went out in high school, and so it wasn't like I needed a man or a guy. It wasn't something that I was used to having. So, therefore, when I went to college, I wouldn't let somebody walk on me all over me. No, I've raised three strong women.
KR: How would you characterize Douglass in 1968 and then Douglass in 1972?
DC: I would say we were more in tune with what was going on. It was the start of lesbianism. That sounds funny, but, I mean, it was where more women, I think, were coming out. Kay, what was Kay's [last name], I can picture her. She has hair like you.
DC: Yes, she was active. That's weird that you know all these names. That's so strange. She was active. There was a woman in my dorm that may also have been. She was a psychologist too, and one of our other people that I met said [that] she hadn't talked to her in a while. She was very, very bright. I think women's lib really started to push things, and we were more assertive. I'm trying to think who our initial dean was, but when we left, we had a new dean, I think. Was Hartman our dean by the time I graduated? [Editor's Note: Kay Turner is a 1971 graduate of Douglass College.]
KR: I think it went from Foster to Cobb.
DC: Cobb, yes.
KR: Margery Somers Foster and then Jewel Plummer Cobb. [Editor's Note: Margery Somers Foster served as Dean of Douglass College from 1967 to 1975, followed by Jewel Plummer Cobb from 1976 to 1981.]
DC: Yes, and Jewel Plummer was black. So, I think we probably progressed somewhat. I don't know. I think Rutgers was growing. The difference we had was an addition. New Gibbons was being built. They were talking about some of the communities. Corwin had the language houses, and then they were talking about other things. They were talking about building a new Cooper, I think. I don't know that they did. I mean, I felt more comfortable because I had been there a while. I don't know that I think it changed that much. I mean, I've been back recently, and so now, some of the changes are kind of amazing to me. Again, I think the times changed a little and so they changed somewhat, but it was only four years. It wasn't that big of a deal; now, it's kind of crazy. I mean, there's men living on Douglass Campus, which is a little interesting, but they don't go to Douglass and Douglass is only Douglass Residential College, which makes me angry, but that's okay.
KR: When you were at Douglass, Rutgers College started debating becoming coed and then, at the same time, Douglass was considering what it was going to do, stay a women's college or become coed. What do you remember about that?
DC: I remember thinking a couple of things. First of all, also, [in] my sophomore year Princeton went coed, and they were recruiting Douglass women, so that they didn't just have a freshman class. In my head, I debated whether I wanted to try that and have my father be broke, or whether I just wanted to stay where I was. I don't know whether they would have taken me or not. I mean, my grades freshman year were really good, but I decided I wanted to stay at Douglass. I felt strongly that Rutgers going coed would not be good for Douglass. What would that mean, in a sense, for the school? The bright, good students that were women that would go to Douglass now maybe would go to Rutgers, and what would that mean? We could take courses any place. It didn't go coed until we left, until the freshman year, [in] the beginning of '72. I don't know whether I would've been happy. I wanted to go to an all-girls' school. It takes away from what Douglass is, I think, if Rutgers is coed, and, again, now I have no idea what Douglass is. I've heard [that] since Rutgers went coed, like ten years after, that Douglass is a lesbian school. That's what I heard. I'm not saying it's true, but that's who's going there. I was like, "Give me a break." [Editor's Note: On April 14, 1970, the Douglass faculty voted 3-1 to "reaffirm its commitment to coordinate education" and keep the college as a women's college. On September 10, 1970, the Rutgers Board of Governors voted to admit women to Rutgers College, which had been all male since its founding in 1766. The first coeducational class at Rutgers College, which included 475 women, began studies in the fall of 1972 and graduated in 1976.]
We always felt that when Rutgers was Rutgers and Douglass was Douglass, that, on average, Douglass students were brighter than Rutgers students. There were really bright, Rutgers students, but the average Rutgers student was not as bright as the average Douglass student. Again, I don't know this for a fact. But to get into Douglass you had to be at least in the top ten percent of your class, maybe even top five percent. To get into Rutgers, it was more like twenty, I think, and I'm not saying they weren't bright, some of them [were], but the curve was broader, whereas ours, I thought, was higher. But then, again, there were some Douglass women who were only going there for their Mrs., which didn't make any sense to me either.
Well, let me put it back--I'm taking a step back. If I had a daughter that was interested in Rutgers, Douglass, whatever, at this stage of the game, I would say, "Go to Rutgers. Don't go to Douglass." In addition, I think a coed school makes sense if you're going to interact with males as partners, as equals. Whereas if now we've got a coed school here, now we have all girls here, what are these girls here for? Dates, I don't know. When it was two single-sex colleges, then we can work together and we can date, but other things. Now, what do they need us for? I may be wrong. My three daughters all went to coed schools.
KR: What type of interaction did you have with the dean or with higher administrators at Douglass College?
DC: I think, as a house chairman, Dean Trayes talked to us. I do remember having a discussion with her about--not Trayes, the other one, it wasn't Trayes. Maybe it was Trayes. The one who I talked [with] about in terms of this notion of we're acting like the only reason [that] a guy would be in a girl's room would be to have sex. I did have a conversation with her. I must have gotten approval from somebody to do the Big Brother/Big Sister thing, but I don't recall at all and I don't recall having any interactions with Cobb at all.
KR: And Foster?
DC: No, probably just the Dean of Students.
KR: I am wondering if you remember birth control becoming used more during the time that you were a student at Douglass.
DC: Well, I'm sure a lot of my friends used it. One in particular, I know she did. I never did, never had to. When was Roe v. Wade? Do you know what was the year? [Editor's Note: Roe v. Wade is a 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the first trimester under federal law.]
KR: '72, I'm going to say.
DC: So, I'm wondering because this whole thing that's going on now is really driving me a little bit nuts, because I do remember people talking about knitting needles and back alleys and risking their lives. I don't know if the health center gave it out or whatever. I mean, I never had the issue. I never fooled around. I was a straight kid. So, I don't know. I do know that some of my friends probably were. They had the little thing [pill pack], but I don't remember it being a conversation piece.
KR: You talked about taking classes on the different campuses. So, there was cross registration at that point.
DC: Yes, yes. I only took two classes. Well, in the summer, I took a lot of classes on Rutgers campus, because I took a four hundred-level psych course that was called "Thinking," and I can't remember what else I took in the summer. That was my Friday class when I was a senior. It was the IO psychology class because Abe Korman was the only one who gave it, and he gave it at Rutgers. I also took two other courses. One was kind of a logic. It was a second-level logic course, which was an interesting course because I took it at Rutgers. My future husband, but he was just a friend at the time, sat on this side and Bill Wahler [on another side]. I don't know if you know the name Bill Wahler; he was the president of the senior class, I think. He sat on this side. They would both talk to me, and I would turn and answer, and then professor would turn around. The professor thought I was the worst. I think I was the only girl in the class, and my husband, wasn't my husband at the time, played tennis. So, he missed quite a few classes, because he was on the tennis team, and so I gave him my notes.
We took the final. He was driving me, because he had a car, across campus. We got there a little late. The classroom was full. The teacher told us to go to this other classroom, which we went to the wrong classroom, and we sat down to take the test. He had all my notes and I had my notes, I made a copy for him, and we answered the same questions. I knew this teacher was going to say I cheated off of him, not he cheated off of me. It was fine, I got through it. But what was even worse was [that] when the test was almost over, the teacher came from the classroom and said, "Oh, here's where you are." We went to the wrong extra classroom. So, if anything could go wrong, that was going to go wrong, but it was fine. I passed it.
The other course I took, which was really interesting, and I love this story too, was physics for non-physics majors. I had to have something to fulfill a requirement, and since I wasn't a math major anymore, this was great. I took it pass/fail, and all we did was read these novels. I can't remember the novels we read or non-fiction books. We get to the exam, and we're sitting in a kind of stadium seating thing. We had blue books, and we're writing. Let's say there were five essay questions. So, I answered four of them, and then the last one I answered it in two or three sentences, and then I wrote, "A better question would've been this," and I wrote like a half [of] a blue book on this. As I said, I would only have had the nerve to do that if I was taking it pass/fail. I think the professor wrote, "Better question, thank you," or something like that. That's part of the problem with this whole thing about grades, because you're hamstrung to do what you think you need to do to get a grade. Nowadays, students are even worse because they're not hamstrung. They just kind of go, "Oh, can't you give me an "A"?" Don't get me started.
KR: I am going to pause for a second.
KR: Just in time for the chimes.
DC: Yes. [laughter]
KR: Okay, I will wait a second. It is so funny.
DC: It's only two. So, you're okay.
KR: We are back on the record. We are going to continue with a second session, and I want to thank you so much for doing this and having me into your home.
DC: My pleasure, my pleasure.
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Transcribed by Jesse Braddell 7/11/2019
Reviewed by Mohammad Athar 7/26/2019
Reviewed by Zach Batista 11/20/2019
Reviewed by Kathryn Tracy Rizzi 3/25/2020
Reviewed by Donna Chlopak 5/19/2020