Shaun Illingworth: This begins an oral history interview with Mr. Faszczewski. Is that correct?
Robert Faszczewski: Faszczewski.
SI: Yes. Today is July 28, 2020. I am Shaun Illingworth. I am currently in Hightstown, New Jersey. Sir, if you could just let me know where you are?
RF: Berlin, Maryland.
SI: Berlin, Maryland. Great, all right. First, I would like to ask you--where and when you were born?
RF: I was born on March 8, 1948, in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
SI: Okay. For the record, what were your parents' names?
RF: Walter Faszczewski.
SI: Can you repeat your mother's name? I did not get that.
SI: Martha, okay. Can you tell me, starting with your father's side of the family, a little bit about what you may know of the family history?
RF: My grandfather's name is Walter also. One of the reasons I was not named Walter was because we had three or four of them in the family. Their names were Walter and Sophie Faszczewski. They were both born in Poland. One of my cousins did a family history, but I didn't keep up on all of it. That's basically what I know about my father's parents. They lived in Elizabeth, New Jersey also.
SI: Did you know them growing up?
RF: Oh, yes. Many parties at their house. They lived in the Elmora section of Elizabeth. I think my father grew up in the Bayway section, which borders Elizabeth and Linden.
SI: Growing up, did they ever tell you stories about what it was like either growing up in Poland or what it was like coming to America?
RF: No, not that much. [They didn't] talk that much about the old country.
SI: Do you know what drew them to Elizabeth?
RF: Probably that it's a port city, and it was easier getting to there. They may have had contacts, other relatives or something, that made it easier to get to Elizabeth. It was a bigger city.
SI: What about your mother's side of the family?
RF: On my mother's side were William and Margaret Kilpatrick. He was born in Scotland, I believe. My grandmother, Margaret, her maiden name was Quinn, and I think she was born in Ireland.
SI: Again, did you know them?
RF: Yes, I did. They died at a fairly early age. My father's parents lived into their mid-nineties, I think, and my mother's parents died in their seventies. My grandmother had two strokes, and that's why she died at such an early age. My grandfather died after taking care of her. He had some personal problems.
SI: Do you know what drew them to Elizabeth?
RF: Probably relatives. I don't know much about their early history.
SI: Do you know what your parents were doing before they met, if they were able to go forward with their educations, or if they had to go to work at an early age?
RF: My father completed most of high school at Thomas Jefferson High School, I think, up to the last few months. I don't know if he had to quit. I think he probably had to quit to help out with the family, go to work at an early age. My mother, I think, made it until the tenth grade. She went to work also in a factory or something. My father, I don't know what his first job was. For most of his life, he was a bus operator for New Jersey Transit, but he had several jobs before going in to serve. He was in the Army in World War II.
SI: Did he ever tell you anything about his time in the service in World War II?
RF: Amusing story. My father was very good on electronics. One story he did tell--he had a newspaper clipping of him--he said, "Here's what I did in the service." He installed a sound system in an English pub. [laughter] He said, "Here's what I did in the service." There was one story too--he was a radio operator somehow attached to General [George] Patton. I don't know if it was second or third down the line, attached to him or what he was. My father was only a private, but I think he was some type of radio operator. He was talking to General Patton in his jeep the day that Patton got killed in a jeep accident. My father also acted as a translator with German prisoners of war from Poland, because he knew the Polish language pretty well.
SI: Those were Poles who had been conscripted by the Germans.
SI: Did he ever tell any stories about what he heard from them?
RF: No, he did bring home one souvenir. We didn't keep it. He had a Nazi armband that had--I don't know if it had--I think it was the names of all his buddies in the service on it. Later on, as a matter of fact, maybe twenty or thirty [years]--it was after my father died--one of his friends had taken pictures of all the guys in his outfit. He went over with the 83rd Infantry Division in the Army. That's how he shipped over, but I don't think he was attached to them. But, anyway, this buddy of his took pictures of the guys in his outfit and made a book that, after my father died, he mailed it to my brother and my brother and I both saw it, fairly interesting.
SI: Did your parents meet before or after the war?
RF: They met before the war. He got married in his Army uniform. He had just been drafted.
SI: Do you have any idea how they met?
RF: It might have been mutual acquaintances or something. I think maybe my mother's brothers. My mother came from a family of five. My father, I think, had--no, my father had four [siblings]. I think my mother's family had seven kids.
SI: Did your mother ever talk about what she did during the war years? Did she continue to work in a factory?
RF: She worked at various factories during the war years, like a stationary manufacturer. It wasn't anything directly for the war effort or anything like that.
SI: After your father returned from overseas, which part of Elizabeth did they settle in?
RF: They settled originally in Bayway, where my father grew up. Then, later on, they moved to the place I grew up, Court Street between Sixth and Seventh [Streets] in Elizabethport …
SI: Sorry, could you repeat that last part?
RF: We rented a six-room apartment there.
SI: Okay. What are some of your earliest memories of growing up in that neighborhood?
RF: It was a great neighborhood. We had a lot of fun, a lot of stickball games, a lot of buddies I had there. We also hung out at the Italian grocery store on the corner. My dad, as I mentioned, had the electronics background, and there was another grocery store where he would do radio and TV repairs for the guy who owned the grocery and that would act as barter for paying for his groceries in the grocery store. He did quite a bit of that until later on, when TVs and radios were getting very technical, and he didn't know the colored TVs and things of that sort. But he was very good with the black and white TVs, he was very good. I used to help him take apart the black and white TVs and the chassis before he disposed of them.
SI: It sounds like there were a bunch of different ethnicities in the neighborhood, like a melting pot.
RF: Pretty good melting pot. There were quite a few Polish families, but there were mainly Irish and Polish, I think, in that area, Italians, a few.
SI: How did everyone get along?
RF: Got along very well. Once in a while, you'd find a family that moved in, and they would fight with each other and things like that, but it was very, very unusual.
SI: You have a brother. Are you older or younger?
RF: He's younger. I'm the elder. He lives in Iselin.
SI: Any other siblings?
RF: No, just my brother.
SI: Tell me a little bit about your early schooling in Elizabeth. What do you remember about the schools you went to? Which schools did you go to?
RF: I went through St. Patrick School all the way through. I was in the grammar school, and then I eventually graduated from the high school. It was a great school. It's a shame that it went belly up several years after I graduated high school. Well, actually, it resurrected itself. What happened was, the school owed the archdiocese a lot of money and they ran into financial problems, but then after they left the archdiocese, they got I guess what you'd call a financial angel, or something came through. They changed what had been a parochial school into a non-denominational private school. It's called the Patrick School now, located in Hillside.
SI: When you were a student there, was it clergy teaching you, or was it lay teachers?
RF: Mainly Sisters of Charity. In fact, two of my mother's aunts were Sisters of Charity, and I had to watch my Ps and Qs because a lot of the nuns that taught me knew my aunts, so they would report back if I got out [of line]. [There were] a few lay teachers, occasionally a priest, but mainly it was Sisters of Charity. Especially in later years, there were more lay teachers because there weren't that many going into the convent. It was a great basketball school, number one or two in the country in boys' basketball for a long time. I'm always kidding my wife because she comes from Jersey City, and it was St. Anthony's in Jersey City versus St. Patrick's for first and second in the U.S. all the time.
SI: As you progressed through the school, what did you find interested you the most?
RF: What I pursued through most of my career and what I'm doing now, I guess, was writing. Another funny story. In my sophomore year of high school, my teacher assigned us book reports. He said, "You're going to do it on this and this." He didn't let us pick our own book. He said, "You do this and this." I was not a big fan of classical music. I've always liked soft rock, but he assigned me the biography of Leonard Bernstein. "Oh, this is going to be boring." So, when I was doing it, doing the book report, I was talking to a few of my classmates, and they said, "We're not going to bother doing a whole book report. What we're going to do is we're going to take the book jacket and copy it and hand it in." "Okay. I guess I can get away with that, too. Nobody's going to find out." I handed it in. Somehow, he found out. He called me up to the front of the class after class, and I said, "Oh, I'm in trouble." He paid me a really good compliment. It's probably what got me into the writing end of it. He said, "I'm reading your book report. Even though it was copied from the book jacket, I thought it was your original writing based on your past work." I said, "Hey, maybe I should do this for a living." Even though I was a very good student in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Nothing particularly attracted me. That's when I decided that maybe I should be a reporter.
SI: Did they have a school paper that could serve as an outlet?
RF: I never got on to the school paper. It wasn't that big. I didn't really start writing for school papers until college. I was on the Rutgers Targum most of the time, and there was another paper called the Press Club Weekly.
SI: I am curious. As you were growing up, going into high school, would you say you were an avid consumer of news? Would you read papers, listen to newscasts, that sort of thing?
RF: Not any more than anybody else, I don't think. I thought I was going to be a future reporter, so I thought I'd read everything. I liked reading The Daily Journal, but other than that, nothing in particular.
SI: Outside of school, did religion play a role in your life or your family's life?
RF: Somewhat more of a role in my family's life because we had the nuns who were my aunts. We went through all the sacraments and everything, not a major role, not any more than most families around that time.
SI: When you were growing up in Elizabeth, what would you do for entertainment or fun? Did you join organized sports or things like that?
RF: Not too much organized. I wasn't great at it, but stickball, basketball. We had a playground not far from us and used to play a lot of basketball on the playground. Other than that, a lot of traveling. My father would take us on what we called bus man's holidays, since he worked for New Jersey Transit. He'd take us traveling on the weekends where he would go during the week. That's how I got introduced to the area I'm in now, as a matter of fact. He took us when we were very young to a trip to Ocean City, and it was very different than it is now. Then, it was like a two-lane highway, and it was just getting started as a resort. That area always impressed me. I came back later on and decided I was going to live here. I used to love going down to the Jersey Shore occasionally, when I was a kid, and we'd go to a place in Morris County called Cook's Lake in Denville. That was pretty frequent. My father would cook out there. He would take us on a lot of trips to Ocean City and Pennsylvania a lot, wherever he went during the week. In fact, another story about him--various entertainers had charter buses reserved on what used to be Public Service, before it became New Jersey Transit. One of the entertainers was a Black jazz entertainer. I don't know if you've ever heard of Lionel Hampton. My father would take him on charter buses on some of his tours occasionally.
SI: Wow. It is interesting that he was going all over the region. Was that a regular thing or just when he had charters? Did he have a standard route in the city?
RF: He had standard routes in the beginning. As he got older, he had more charters. I think every kid that I went to school with knew my father was the bus driver on the local route that went from our area to St. Patrick's. Another story, I was about eight or ten years old, I guess. My father would often take me on the bus with him. It was a big thrill. I was sitting in the back of the bus, looked to be by myself, and a lady came up and she said, "Little boy, are you all alone?" I said, "No, my father's driving the bus." [laughter] She got a big kick out of that. He used to pick us up in the bus after his work day was finished. When he'd have a shorter job, he'd come and pick us up on our street and drive to the bus barn, the bus garage, in Elizabethport. That was a thrill, too. You used to see the buses getting washed on a machine.
SI: I am curious. With these different backgrounds in your family, the Irish, Scottish, Polish, did any old-world traditions live on in your family?
RF: For most of my life, there was a lot of Polish food--kielbasa, kiszka, pierogis, all that kind of stuff. Occasionally, some Irish food on my mother's end. It's funny, though, my father was the Polish one, but he was one of the fussiest eaters going when it came to his corned beef. Corned beef, in the old days at least, used to be very difficult to cook. It would shrink. No matter how well you would cook it, sometimes it would shrink to half its size. My father used to get so upset when my mother shrank the corned beef. [laughter] He loved his corned beef. He was very fussy about his corned beef.
SI: Did they try to teach you any Polish, for example?
RF: It's funny. Several times, I asked my father, "Teach me more Polish." I know a few words, mainly curses, and a little bit of the food. He kept telling me, "When you get older, I'll teach you more." He never got around to teaching me more. Also, he played a lot of pinochle. My uncles and my dad used to play pinochle a lot on the weekends. [I said], "When am I going to get to do that?" "Oh, when you get older." He never got around to doing it.
SI: Were there other activities that you were involved in, particularly as you got older? Did you do scouting, or maybe you had to go to work?
RF: I was in Boy Scouts. I went to Scout Second Class. I never made Eagle. I was close to getting First Class. I was in Cub Scouts also. I was in a number of hobby clubs in high school, stuff like that. For four years, I was in the Civil Air Patrol. Do you know what the Civil Air Patrol is? I was in the Civil Air Patrol in Linden for four years. We flew on private planes out of Linden Airport. In fact, I had a cannister to collect money for the squadron, and I came in third place. I won an hour ride on a plane. That was a big thrill. At Rutgers, there was somebody in one of my classes who flew. There's a story--he told me this happened to his father. You hear about UFOs all the time. His father was an airline pilot and swore he had a flying saucer hovering next to him as he flew along. [laughter] I went up flying with him. He let me fly for a few minutes. That was a big thrill.
SI: What kind of activities would you do with the Civil Air Patrol?
RF: Marching in parades. In fact, we used to march in the Halloween parade every year in Linden, and we had helmets on and everything. It was fortunate for us in one respect. Under one particular bridge in Linden, the kids used to sit there with eggs and pelt the people who were marching in the parade. Luckily, we had the helmets on and didn't get squished too much. We were also marching with a Nike missile as part of our parade. We said, "They're not going to throw eggs at us now when they see that missile." [laughter]
SI: Growing up in a built-up urban area, were you free to go around the city on your own at an early age?
RF: Pretty much. My parents usually took us until we were teenagers, they used to take us--we'd say--uptown or downtown, Elizabeth Avenue or Broad Street, in that area. When we got a little older, we'd go out and go on our own. It was a nice area at one time.
SI: Would you go into Manhattan often?
RF: That was a big treat if we'd get into the city. Once in a great while, we'd go to Radio City Music Hall, occasionally a movie, maybe to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree once in a while. Also, there was a ferry boat from the Elizabeth waterfront that went across to Staten Island. We'd take that once in a while.
SI: When I talk to folks of your age, one of the things that stands out from growing up is the Cold War's building and reaching a crescendo. Was that something that affected you or your family on your level? Was it something you thought about or feared?
RF: Yes. As a matter of fact, when I was in grade school--I was just telling my wife, she had a similar experience--in the parochial schools, what they used to do, they used to have air raid drills and we would have to crouch down in the hallways and take our coats and put them over our heads and kneel down and pray until the air raid drill was over. When I later got to Rutgers, I was fairly involved in some of the Vietnam protests. In fact, a classmate of mine--I don't know if you interviewed George Lulos--he led the sit-in in Mason Gross's office protesting the Vietnam War. [Editor's Note: In May 1970, students occupied Rutgers President Mason Gross' office in Old Queens to protest the invasion of Cambodia.]
SI: I definitely want to ask you more about that later when we get to Rutgers. As you were going through high school, what did you see for yourself in the future? Did you assume you were going to go to college? Did you think you might go out and work?
RF: I wasn't quite sure, as I said, not until about midway through high school did I decide that I wanted to go possibly toward journalism. I wasn't sure what college or which program I wanted. In fact, I got accepted at Mount St. Mary's here in Maryland, not that I had any particular interest in Maryland. It just happened to be where I got accepted as an English major because they didn't have a journalism major there. I was on the waiting list at Rutgers. I think Rutgers was probably my first choice, but I had been accepted at Mount St. Mary's. I held out and finally got on to get accepted at Rutgers. In fact, my major at Rutgers--there was no such thing as a journalism major--it was a liberal arts major and a concentration in journalism.
SI: What year did you graduate from high school?
RF: High school, '66.
SI: How did you first find out about Rutgers? Did you know people who went there, that sort of thing?
RF: Mainly from reading the paper, and I knew neighbors who had gone there. It had a good reputation. People in Jersey didn't realize Rutgers' reputation. I don't know how it is now, but in the '60s and '70s, they didn't know how good Rutgers was until they started to talk to people from the Midwest and the areas like that because people from Michigan and Ohio who went to Rutgers thought we were Ivy League. Rutgers had a very good reputation outside of the state. People at Rutgers said, "Oh, it's the state school." I was fortunate enough to win a Garden State Scholarship, which paid, when I went, about four hundred dollars a semester, which was more than the tuition at Rutgers. [laughter] Now, you wouldn't even touch the tuition with four hundred dollars. [laughter]
SI: Tell me about what it was like when you first came to campus. What were your impressions of Rutgers then?
RF: We had a really, I guess you'd say, socially-active dorm. I was in Tinsley Hall. For some reason, I acquired the name "Lord Tinsley." For some reason, they must have liked me in the dorm, and the guys gave me that nickname. I worked both in the Commons Dining Hall for part of my time at Rutgers and at the Student Center. So, that was very interesting.
I think it was in my freshman year, I had a roommate who used to go--his girlfriend was at the University of Virginia--and he used to go every weekend to the University of Virginia to visit her. He used to come back, and he was always kidding around. I'd be sleeping, and he'd wake me up and everything. This one weekend he went away, and it turned out, there was somebody who--I think a disgruntled student or something--set five or six fires to go off at various places on campus, the library, the dorm across from us, and our dorm. He set the curtains in our lounge on fire. It was like two o'clock in the morning at the end of a weekend, and my roommate came in, "Get up. Get up. You have to get up. There's a fire." I didn't believe him because he was always kidding around every time he came back, but, sure enough, there were five or six fires in one weekend during my freshman year.
Also, he had a trick he used to pull too. In those days, you had overtime on collect calls on the telephone. He used to call his girl in Virginia. They had a trick where they would time themselves, and they knew when they were getting close to overtime. They would hang up, and he lucked out every time, he would get a different operator and he said, "Operator, can you reconnect me? Give me credit. I got disconnected." He never paid a cent of overtime because he pulled that trick all the time. [laughter]
The first student center, when I came to Rutgers, was called the Ledge. Then, they built the new Student Center. I worked in the games room of the "new" Student Center. Do you want to hear about what happened on Woodstock Weekend? I didn't go to Woodstock. The guy who was the student manager of the games room at the Student Center went to Woodstock. Either he or his assistant I knew had the keys to everything we needed to lock up. We were working, and all of a sudden, there's a bomb scare and we had to empty the place out. I couldn't get in touch with either of the two people to get the keys to lock up. So, this gets a little complicated. My roommate worked on the reception desk upstairs, so I called the reception desk. Oh, I know what I did--I had to call somebody at Douglass to get the keys, so I could lock up during this bomb scare. So, I said, "Can you give me a billing code at Douglass, so I can call up?" The person at the desk, who I thought was my roommate, gave me the billing code. I called Douglass, and I got the keys and the bomb scare was over with and everything. About a week later, Campus Patrol called me in, and they read me my rights. I was really scared. I said, "What's going on?" It turned out that the guy who was actually working on the reception desk at the Student Center had gotten this billing code and had been calling his house down the Shore every weekend for two or three years at Rutgers. Campus Patrol found out about it, and they called my roommate in. They thought the calls were being made by my roommate because I told them that that was the person who was on duty at the reception desk. It turned out my roommate had switched off with this other guy. It was the other guy who did it. My roommate was fit to be tied. He was ready to kill me when he found out that I ratted him out to the Campus Patrol. [laughter]
SI: Did you have other jobs on campus or just the Student Center?
RF: I worked for a while in the Commons as a busboy, I guess you'd call it. I used to fill up the refreshments on the refreshment stand, clean up, and things of that sort. Once or twice, we had a food riot, where guys would come in and were throwing food all over the place and things like that. They'd have various different occasions and have to put out extra food for special parties and things.
SI: Do you recall any protests? I know sometimes they would turn over their lunch trays as a part of a protest.
RF: Yes, that was a favorite thing. Besides the protests, as a joke they'd turn over the most disgusting food and put it underneath a glass or a cup, so when you went to clean up the table, you'd have to lift the cup and everything would go all over the table and you'd have to clean up the mess. Yes, that happened several times. The manager that we had at the time was not the most popular guy, so that didn't help things. The students didn't like the manager at all. The food wasn't that great.
SI: It sounds like there was a lot going on at your dorm initially. What kinds of things would you do as a floor or with others in the dorm?
RF: You'd have parties on Saturday nights. Sometimes, they'd bring in a keg of beer, and you'd have your parties. One of my roommates and I went through high school together. We were best buddies in high school, and then he was my roommate in my freshman and my junior year at Rutgers. We were in what they call--I don't know if the River Dorms are still there--we were in Frelinghuysen, and he said, "You know what I'm going to do? These campus cops, they stop at …" I forget what they called the old Student Center [the Ledge]. "They stop there, and they leave the patrol car running. You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to take the patrol car and leave it up at University Heights one of these days." He took the patrol car from in front of the old Student Center and drove it across Landing Lane Bridge to the Heights and left it there. I don't think they ever found out who did it.
Another thing they did was--Chicken Delight used to deliver to the dorms. They'd call from one of the River Dorms, from the dorm next door. The Chicken Delight guy would leave the door open in his truck with all the dinners in there and go deliver one order, which had never really come in anyway. One day, they raided his truck and cleaned him out of all the chicken in the Chicken Delight truck.
Another thing is--there was one guy in, I think it was in Frelinghuysen, who every morning, he timed it so he could sleep to the last minute and then rush to class. He timed it so that he could get showered and out the door just in time to rush over to class every morning. So, the guys in the dorm said, "We're going to pull a good one on him." His roommate pulled down all the blinds in the room, and they shut off all the lights in the hallways. It was like three o'clock in the morning and they made believe it was around seven o'clock. I guess he had gone to sleep about an hour ago; he hadn't judged it that well. His roommate comes in, "Hurry up. Get up. You're going to be late for class." This guy comes running out. He's all set to go out the front door. He thought it was seven-thirty in the morning, and all the guys are standing in the hall laughing at him because they pulled a good one on him. [laughter]
SI: Did you always live on campus, or did you live off campus at all?
RF: Yes, I lived on campus in the dorms all four years. I had a roommate in my freshman year at Tinsley, and then my sophomore year, I actually flunked out at Rutgers and got readmitted. I commuted from Elizabeth until I did get readmitted. When I got readmitted, I lucked out and got a single room in Ford Hall, which was rare to get. What happened was, as I said, I was into writing. I was very much a humanities person. They had what they called general distribution education requirements or something, which required all liberal arts majors to take math and science, and it wasn't easy math and science either. So, I was a bookworm in high school, really a good student. I got to Rutgers and I kind of goofed off. I flunked out. I was making up one of the math requirements for taking a really hard calculus course during the summer, and midway through that, the dean calls me and he says, "You flunked out, but you can get readmitted with your class if you do something." I said, "Well, what do I have to do?" He said, "You have to get an 'A' in calculus or take another class and get a 'B' in it and get a 'B' in calculus." So, I studied everything, memorized all these stupid theorems in calculus and got a "B" in calculus. Then, I took this "Introduction to Journalism" course. Well, that was my field. That's what I wanted to go into. I hardly did any work in there, and I got a "B" or an "A" in that. I got readmitted with my class. I happened to luck out to get the single room, too. [laughter] I think I was at Frelinghuysen both my junior and senior years.
SI: You had a concentration in journalism. Do any of the professors in that area stand out in your memory?
RF: There was a really somewhat strange journalism [professor]. He was really good though. His name was Dick Hixson. He had a mustache and a bald head. I didn't have a bald head then, but he did. He was kind of eccentric, a good professor though. There was one really strange English professor I had though. In those days, the professors were allowed to smoke in class, and this guy had a really bad smoking habit. He was almost on his last leg. We had wooden desk chairs. He would sit on the back part of the chair and put the cigarette butts out in the seat of the chair. He just couldn't do without the cigarettes. One day, he rushed out of class. It looked like he was going to turn green. He must've gotten sick from the cigarettes. Then, I had an economics professor who had degrees from Harvard and Yale in economics and everything. But you would see him walking around campus with a trench coat that he had just draped over one arm. He looked like the Rutgers version of Columbo, this guy. He was a strange character, but he had more degrees than anybody around in economics.
SI: Are there any other professors outside your major that stand out?
RF: There was one other incident. I think it happened when I was there. It may have happened a couple of years before or a couple of years after. I think his name was Muller. He was a geography professor. Geography, by the way, is the only subject I actually failed, but I did actually pass it eventually. It was meteorology and everything like that; it wasn't just like geography, like you have in high school. But, anyway, I think this was a year before I was there. He used to be very strict, and the guys were always pulling gags on him. The year before I got there, he was up on the podium, and he used to pull these maps down and start lecturing. He didn't pay that much attention to what the students were doing and wasn't real attentive to the students, but he would just lecture and lecture and didn't pay much attention. One time, the students planted a Playboy centerfold in his map. He found the centerfold when he pulled it down, and he jumped off the stage, "Who did this? Who did this?" I also heard about--I think it was a Greek professor--talk about the MeToo movement and all of this, this is terrible--but he was up on the lecture stage and came down, and he saw a very attractive girl in the front row. He said, "Can you come with me after class? You're very nice looking."
SI: Yes, I think that would be frowned upon now. [laughter] When did you start writing for The Targum?
RF: I think it was the beginning of my sophomore year and I would write all the way through, I think, sophomore and part of my junior year, and I wrote part time for Press Club Weekly, too, which was put out by the Journalism School. In fact, the Press Club Weekly was struggling a little bit, and myself and a few of my classmates got together and we tried to save it. I think it survived for a couple of years after us. We saw it was struggling, and we tried to save it because it was a good paper.
SI: What did the Press Club Weekly cover?
RF: More or less programs on campus and things like that. It didn't cover the internal campus politics or any demonstrations or anything like that as much. It covered more programs, I think, on campus and was academic, I think. Targum was an excellent paper, too. It covered just about everything on campus. In fact, I don't know if they continued this tradition after I graduated, they did for a couple of years. Targum used to come up with an issue once a year called the Mugrat. Are you familiar with that? They spelled the name Targum backwards. [Editor's Note: The Targum, Rutgers' student newspaper, produces a satirical fake issue each semester entitled the Mugrat.]
SI: Yes, I think they continued that at least until a few years ago.
RF: One year, there was this weird-looking building near Old Queens. It looked like a lighthouse that hadn't quite made it through one of the wars or something, a real tiny thing. In Mugrat, they said it was going to be made into a new dormitory or a new classroom or something. That was one of the highlights of Mugrat that particular year. [laughter]
SI: When you were writing for Targum, was there a particular specialty you had or a type of story you would cover?
RF: There might have been. Oh, I know. Being a humanities man, not that much science, but one of the things I think it was a Physics Department up in what's now Livingston College or was Livingston College, a physics professor was working on this national project, equivalent to what they call a supercomputer now. It was called a tandem Van de Graaff accelerator or something like that, something to do with computers, something to do with nuclear reactions or something, and I wrote a story on that.
SI: You were obviously there during a time of great political, social and cultural activity. Were you involved at all, for example, in any of the protest movements?
RF: I was involved in one or two civil rights marches around--I guess it's called Kennedy Square now, where the Middlesex County offices are. I mentioned before, George Lulos, a friend of mine, was involved in the takeover of Old Queens. I'm not sure I was involved in that, but I was following that very closely. One of my biggest things at Rutgers--I'm not sure if it was my senior year or if it was right after I graduated--I wrote a story for the Rutgers alumni paper. I interviewed Mason Gross, who was the president at the time I was there. That was interesting. Yes, he was one of the most interesting guys I ever met. In fact, when my buddy George Lulos--George was one of the most straight-laced guys going, even though many would have thought he was a radical or a long-haired hippie, like they used to call them. I was long-haired back then, too, believe it or not. But when they came in and wanted to take over his office, Mason Gross agreed with the protest so much he walked out of his office and said, "Take over. I want you to take over because we have to make a point."
SI: Were you inside the building during the takeover?
RF: No, I wasn't there when it happened. Either I chose not to, or for some reason, I didn't get there in time or something. I was certainly close by when it was happening.
SI: I am curious if you can elaborate more on what you thought of Mason Gross at the time. As a student, what was his reputation on campus?
RF: I think a lot of students considered him more intellectual than the average [president]. They thought he was like that. You really had to talk to him to find out he was pretty much down to earth, but he was a very wise person. I think he had the reputation of being super academic and they thought he saw himself as being above the students or something, but, as I said, he let them take over his office. Sometimes, he'd be very strict with all the rules, and the next time, he'd be real down to earth.
SI: Were there any other administrators that you had interaction with or got to know?
RF: One of the years, there was a big move by the administration to cut back on the expenses of housing the students at Rutgers. There was this one administrator, in particular, who was in charge of housing who was hated by students. In fact, he came up with a stupid idea. We had a number of students from India and Pakistan and other areas of the world on campus as foreign exchange students, I guess, you'd call them. They also came from other countries in Europe or Asia. I don't know what he was thinking. He said, "You students are going to have to commute. We have to save money." How is somebody from India or Pakistan going to commute to Rutgers? He was hated then. I forgot what his name was. Other than that, no one, in particular, stands out.
SI: Did you follow the Black Student Movement during that time?
RF: To a certain extent, yes. I was aware of it. At that time, it seemed a lot more radical in some respects than the Black Lives Matter seems now. Of course, in those days, you had just gotten over Red Scares and accusations of people being Communists and everything. The Black Student Movement got involved in some--like Stokely Carmichael at other universities, and some of the people at Rutgers got involved in that. So, in that respect, I think it was a little more radical than what I see Black Lives Matter doing now. They seemed to be more politically radical anyway, in my opinion. Of course, that accusation of Communism was out there all the time. There was a professor who was supposed to speak at Rutgers, and they found some accusation against him, that he was a fan of Communists, and they banned him from speaking. [Editor's Note: Civil rights leader Stokely Carmichael led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960s, during which time he increasingly became drawn to the Black Power Movement.]
SI: Did you write for any other papers or periodicals, either on campus or off campus?
RF: Other than the article on Mason Gross, which I'm not sure if it was during my time there or the year after, in the alumni newsletter, no, I don't think so.
SI: What about any other activities on campus? Did you belong to other clubs or do other activities?
RF: Oh, there's one story, a little sad. The guy who was my roommate, who went to high school with me and for two years was my roommate at Rutgers, he met a high school girl during a math program at the Student Center. The following week or something, he was traveling out to Pennsylvania to see her in this beat-up Plymouth Valiant car. A deer jumped out in front of him on Route 80 in Pennsylvania, and this guy--you'll know why I'm telling you this--this guy had been a model for our yearbook in high school. He was so good looking. Well, he tried to avoid the deer on Route 80 and crashed into an embankment, and the impression from the steering wheel of his car wound up on his face. It messed up his face.
This was not a guy I would picture in the service at all. He was not a real radical, but he was for peace, pretty much the same feeling I had. He completed only up to his junior year at Rutgers, and then he dropped out, signed up immediately for the Marines, and went to Parris Island. He flunked out of Parris Island, and then I heard his life went downhill from there. This was a really outstanding guy. Eventually, I think he died at a really early age. But he did help a mutual friend of mine. It was a guy who worked with me at the Student Center. In fact, he was from the poor end of the family that founded Johns Hopkins University. His name was Skip Hopkins. He had what they call cartilaginitis in his leg. I think this was after we graduated. He was working selling advertisements for a newspaper. I got into the newspaper business selling advertising. Skip was selling advertising for the Home News. He had this cartilaginitis, which caused the cartilage in your knee to go to liquid within ten years or something. Well, they're not sure exactly how it happened, but they suspect he was standing on the corner, waiting for the bus and fell down, hit his head, and had some serious brain injuries. But the person who happened to find him was a mutual acquaintance, this friend of mine who had gone through high school and college with me, and probably saved this kid's life. I don't know if the kid's still around. He had a lot of brain operations. I heard he was recovering a while ago.
SI: You mentioned the antiwar movement several times. Were you involved in terms of being active with a group, or was it just that you would hear about a protest and go?
RF: That's pretty much it. You'd hear about a protest and show up. I'm not sure if I ever wrote letters to the editor or anything like that. I'd pretty much show up for protests.
SI: Would there be a lot of resistance either from the police or locals when you would participate in these?
RF: There were different feelings, I guess. There were people that were totally against the protests, a lot of people that were ROTC. I hope you weren't ROTC. In fact, some ROTC people were involved in our protest. Then, there were people like myself and my friends, who were kind of in the middle, and then there were the ultra-liberal people, the radical people. They were the ones that most often had the resistance from the police. With peaceful protests, usually there wasn't a problem. New Brunswick Police very rarely came on campus. I don't know if they called Campus Patrol rent-a-cop when you were going there, but that's what we used to call them when we were there on campus. It wasn't like it is now. It was not very professional, like I told you about my friend stealing their car and going up to University Heights. They weren't as professional as campus police now. But they didn't do a great deal to stop the protests. As long as they were peaceful protests, they were okay. I don't recall any real violent protests when I was there other than the takeover of Gross's office, which wasn't really violent. That was fairly peaceful, other than they had to do a big cleanup after it was over.
SI: What would you do during the summers when you were at Rutgers?
RF: I dated a few Douglass girls. I'd mainly be home. As I said, I had a few summer classes. I had a job at home. The worst job I ever had in my life, I think, was at the end of high school or some time when I was at Rutgers, a food processing company on Trumbull Street in Elizabeth. The filthiest place you ever saw in your life. They were a Kosher egg place. What they would do is they would process the eggs for restaurants and places like that. Do you know anything about the egg industry? Blood eggs? Do you know what they are? They're non-fertilized eggs. That wasn't Kosher at the time. Anyway, the rabbis would come in. What we used to do is break the blood eggs into an ice cream can, where they used to pack ice cream. Then, they would put the lids on them. Every Friday, the rabbi used to stamp them Kosher and make sure there were no blood eggs in the batch. The bosses would, the day before, have us pasteurize all the blood eggs, so the rabbi wouldn't know. This was done to their own people.
Another time, they must have had somebody in the Elizabeth Health Department that would tip them off when they were going to have an inspection. They had this big vat, in which they used to pasteurize the eggs. They were moving a piece of heavy equipment. On top of the vat was an ultraviolet light that they used to see if there were any bad eggs. They were moving this piece of heavy equipment onto the second floor, and it hit the floor and broke the light into the vat. You'd think they'd empty the vat out? No, they just pasteurized it all together.
In fact, this friend of mine that went through high school and college with me--I don't know if you've ever seen a bad egg. Eggs, when they get rotten, build pressure in them, like black tar. Terrible. We used to have the terrible smell all over the place. Well, these guys didn't care too much about their employees. They paid us next to nothing. They didn't like my friend Tony for some reason. They gave him half a day's notice that they were going to let him go. Well, they had a loading dock outside, and they had huge fans to circulate the air on this loading dock. He got a hold of some of the bad eggs the day that he was fired and put them right underneath that fan, and it blew through the whole factory. [laughter] The smell went through the whole factory. That's the worst job I ever had, I think. Summers, we would go to Cook's Lake a lot. We also used to go there even when I was in college.
SI: When you were at Rutgers, there were a number of important historical events. For example, do you recall the day that Martin Luther King was assassinated, what was that like on campus?
RF: I'm not sure of that one. What year was that, '69?
SI: It would have been April of 1968, so your sophomore year, I think.
RF: A lot of very shocked people, I know that. I don't recall exactly. Well, they had several memorials for him. It was around the same time that Bobby Kennedy got shot, or was that later? [Editor's Note: Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. Robert Kennedy was shot in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California, on the night of June 5, 1968, after winning the California Democratic Primary. He died several hours later, on June 6th.]
Well, after Bobby Kennedy got shot--another story--my father's best man lived in a duplex house on Westfield Avenue in Elizabeth. This guy, who I think was his neighbor, was in his mid-fifties and had just gotten engaged to a woman. It was the second marriage for both of them. I think he was a widower, and she was a widow. But when Bobby Kennedy's funeral train was passing through the Elizabeth Station--I don't know if you ever heard this story--the crowds were kind of surging forward when the funeral train passed, and these two friends of my father's best man, who had just gotten engaged in mid-life, were hit by the funeral train and killed. [Editor's Note: After the funeral mass for Robert Kennedy at St. Patrick's Cathedral on June 8, 1968, the train carrying Kennedy's body left New York City for Washington, DC and passed through Elizabeth, where two onlookers were struck by a train.]
RF: Yes, it was a great shock.
SI: Well, in your senior year, there were protests against the invasion in Cambodia, the Kent State shootings, and then the shutdown at Rutgers.
RF: That was horrible, Kent State. I was shocked about that. [Editor's Note: On May, 4, 1970, members of the Ohio National Guard fired upon a crowd of people at Kent State University, killing four and wounding nine. Some in the crowd were anti-war protesters and some were observing the protest.]
SI: Do you remember what it was like being on campus during that? How did you feel about the shutdown?
RF: Yes, we were in favor. We wanted something to be done about the war. I don't remember anything specific about it. We were glad that something was apparently going to be done about it. We saw it coming, but other than that, I don't recall.
SI: As you were getting towards graduation, what were you thinking about for the future? Did you have plans to go on in your education or a job lined up?
RF: I didn't have a specific job lined up. In fact, I went through quite a few jobs right after college. I wanted to get into journalism, but I wasn't sure how to go about getting my first writing job or getting into journalism. I wound up selling advertising for the Union Leader for a couple of years. I had a couple of short jobs until 1978, which was my first actual journalism job.
I was made assistant editor of the oldest weekly newspaper in New Jersey at that time. It was called the Rahway News-Record, and they had just bought the Clark Patriot--a guy named Kurt Bauer was the publisher. I was with the paper for about eight years. About midway through, they sold the paper to a free newspaper called the Atom Tabloid. They were called, believe it or not, the Vigilante Family, an appropriate name for somebody in journalism. [laughter] I worked for them for a couple of years. [Editor's Note: Constantine L. Vigilante bought The Atom Tabloid, The Rahway News-Record, and The Clark Patriot.]
Then, I was looking to make a move and heard that--wait a minute. Oh, I know what happened. I went from there to the Millburn Item. I was with the Millburn Item for about five years. Then, a family took over, who I didn't think fit in with my future. I had heard that the Bauer Family, who had owned the Rahway News-Record when I was there, had bought the Westfield Leader, and I went to work for the Westfield Leader. I was there for about eight years.
After I left, they had an incident happen to the guy who was the publisher when I was there. Kurt Bauer died of AIDS, and his brother came to take over for him. In fact, that may be my second book. I'm writing about this, although I'm fictionalizing everything. His brother Jeff came to take over. Jeff had been in the military and also had become a landlord in multi-family housing. He was very big in that. He had a lot of money. He had married a woman and lived in North Carolina. She had recently gotten divorced before he married her. One of the reasons they got married was that her former husband had been really tormenting her--a lot of problems. Jeff had intervened and straightened out the situation. That's one of the reasons they got married. But the former husband knew somebody that was in a legal establishment down in North Carolina and trumped-up charges accusing him of attempted murder on the ex-husband or something. The charges were dismissed after a couple of weeks. It didn't amount to anything.
Anyway, they were married for a few years, and then the marriage started going sour. She had mental problems. After Jeff's brother died, he came back to Westfield to take over the paper. One afternoon [in 1996], she came into Westfield with a .357 Magnum and went into his office and killed him and killed herself and wrote, "Do not resuscitate" on her stomach. His seventy-eight-year-old mother had been in the office when this happened, too. This wasn't when I was [working at the Westfield Leader]. This was a year after I left, I think. I'm trying to base my second book [on these events].
I'm writing now. I've been writing a lot of fiction. I just finished my first book called Taming the Timeline about various things that happen in the future. Superheroes will come back from the future to save people from the present that go into the future. I'm trying to develop a novel based on this murder of this publisher in Westfield, but I never realized how difficult it is to get from a short story to a novel. A short story is maybe five thousand words, and a novel's five times that. So, I'm not sure if this is going to be another short story or series. My first book has been a series of short stories, so I don't know if this will be the same thing.
SI: Was that your first time writing science fiction? Had you done it before?
RF: This book is the first time I'd done anything outside journalism. Even though I enjoyed a lot of what I was doing when I was a reporter, covering Jersey government and politics, after a while, it does begin to wear on you. I got tired of that. I figured I'd try my hand in fiction. I didn't think I'd be that good at it. I started this when I came down here, which was a little over a year ago. I got one or two articles published in mystery magazines, and then all of a sudden, I got three or four more published. I said, "Maybe I'll take some of these and make a book out of it." I just came out with a book that I self-published. They say you need to sell two hundred copies to make a profit, so I don't think I'll be making a profit anytime soon. [laughter] So far, I've sold one copy to the janitor at our apartment complex here. [laughter] It's in a local bookstore, and the self-publishing outfit that helped me print the book--Salt Water Media--has it on their website. So, I'm hoping that's going to [sell some copies]. It's more or less a hobby for me, but I enjoy it. I'm in two writing groups down here.
SI: I have one question going back to your time at Rutgers and that era. You probably, in some way, had to contend with the draft, at least getting a notice. Do you have anything to say about that?
RF: Yes, I was 4-F. I had some minor problems but enough to keep me out of it. A friend of mine, though--I don't know if you've read this story--they had a lottery for the draft. If your number came up, that's when you had to go. Well, he thought they were going to pass his number by, and then all of a sudden, his number came up. He was joking that he was going to sue his parents for the fact that he was born a certain day and he was drafted. [laughter] But I didn't go. My friend Tony, as I said, enlisted in the Marines, and that didn't turn out too well for him at all. Skip Hopkins probably had 4-F also because of his leg problems.
SI: When you first started as a reporter in Rahway, were you covering local government and state government even then?
RF: Well, in my reporting career, I was covering local government, although I liked writing an occasional feature story. That's why I think I'm doing the fiction now because I like the feature stories. In one story I covered in Rahway, there was a guy who was an art lover, and he had a lot of paintings in his house. His daughter was brain-injured. It was an accident, or she was born that way. But he made her the "curator" of this home art. He made his home into an amateur art gallery, and he made her a curator. I thought it was a great thing. I did a story on that, and that story ran on WOR-TV, Channel 9, New Jersey. They came, and they interviewed him. I was sitting there when they did the interview, so I got on TV for that.
Another story, when I was on the Rahway News-Record, there was a program called Meet the Mayors. I got a call from WOR for the Meet the Mayors program since I was the local reporter for Clark at that time, Rahway and Clark together. They said, "We want you and we want the reporter from the Daily Journal to interview Mayor Bernie Yarusavage of Clark." So, we're doing the program. We're about halfway through the interview. It's at least two years before the mayoral election in Clark. I don't know if you remember the equal-time rule that the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] had.
Anyway, we're very close to the break for the commercial, and I said to Bernie Yarusavage, "Do you intend to run again?" All of a sudden, the moderator got all excited. I'm thinking, "Why is he getting so disturbed?" So, we go to commercial, and he says, "You have the equal-time rule. If the mayor answers this question, his opponent has to have a chance to respond, even though there's no opponent yet." It was two years before the election. He said, "But since it's been asked on the air, you have to answer it." So, we get back from the commercial, and the moderator says, "Mayor Yarusavage, you've been asked a question. Are you going to run for another term? Do you have an answer to that?" He deadpanned and said, "I like being the mayor of Clark." This way, he wasn't committing himself to anything. He wasn't saying he's running again or anything. He just said, "I like being the mayor of Clark," and that was it. But we couldn't figure out why the moderator got so upset. It was the equal-time rule thing.
I did work for a short time for The Courier News in Somerville. When I was there, one of my feature stories, there was an old gentleman who sang cowboy songs on the radio, I guess, back in the '40s, and I interviewed him. My story was picked up by the Associated Press, and it ran statewide on the AP wire. That was one of the highlights of my career. But, other than that, I was mainly covering local government and suburban towns, Rahway and Clark at first and then Summit and many towns in the Watchung Mountains later.
Then, at the end of my career, I was working for a strictly online news service. I made that contract through Rutgers, as a matter of fact, a guy named Mike Shapiro. He and his wife had been attorneys in New York, and he had been a journalism minor at Rutgers. Their son, when he was an infant, came down with a heart problem. They both decided to quit their jobs as attorneys and form this online newspaper, so they had more time to care for their son. It was first called the Alternative Press, back in 2008, when they first formed it. They had Summit, Berkeley Heights, Providence, and I think one other town when they first started. I think I started a year after they founded it, doing freelance work for them. I was doing other things. I was working for LexisNexis. I was doing other things during the day, and at night I'd be covering stories for them. Now, it's called TAPinto, and you've probably heard of it. They have like fifty-some outlets, I should say, throughout Jersey, New York, and parts of Pennsylvania.
SI: You spent so much of your career in this field and particularly in weekly papers. What are the biggest changes that you have seen in the industry?
RF: Of course, technology is beating the heck out of the weekly papers. In Jersey, there aren't that many. Down here, in our area in Maryland, and I guess in this whole area, the big thing is free newspapers that cover the same thing we used to cover when we had paying weekly newspapers. I can pick up three or four of these papers and get all the news for the whole area for free at the supermarket. Part of that is coming in, in Jersey, it's probably hurting competition-wise and digital--that's why Mike Shapiro made a good move when he did, making all of his coverage digital because that's the wave of the future. Covering local news can be profitable, I guess if you do it the right way. He's in it the right way. I've heard mixed reactions that other outfits are not doing well, especially when the big dailies come in and they take over weekly local papers and then local outlets are not doing well. Technology has done a lot for getting the news out quickly, but it's also taken a lot of jobs away.
The profession is not looked upon as much of a profession anymore. It's more like everybody can be their own reporter because of the internet. The internet is a great tool. When I was covering, for the Springfield edition of TAP--it happened to be taken over by a former mayor of Summit, so I went to work for her. I was covering the Springfield Board of Education big controversy about how they were arranging the grades or something, how they chose how the kids wound up in certain classes with the same teacher from the year before. The parents were real upset about it. I said to some of the parents, "I've been writing about this," and I told them the name of the outlet. "Well, we never heard of it. I get all my news from the Springfield moms website." I think that's hurting you because you don't have people that are real professionals. They just write based on their own biases, to a certain extent. That's hurting, too.
I also found that people don't know the difference between the various levels of the press either. They assume that everybody is The New York Times, everybody has the money and all, and everybody has the prejudice or whatever of the big city newspapers. That's not necessarily true. You have people that are fairly liberal covering some of the most conservative towns in Jersey; you still get really objective local news. They think that everybody's the same as the national papers. That's a hard thing to overcome.
SI: Maybe you have already discussed it, but what would you say is your most memorable story or what you enjoyed the most?
RF: Probably covering that father who had the museum for his daughter. Also, there was a woman from Westfield I dated--a fairly decent story--her father was the secretary of the local antique car club in Jersey. That was interesting to cover that.
SI: Outside of your career, have you been involved in any community activities or anything like that?
RF: I'm volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. They have a store here. They sell furniture and goods for the homes and things like that, and the profits are used to--their main thing, as you know, for Habitat for Humanity is building homes, but also, when they don't have a build going on, they also offer repair programs to those that can't afford to do repairs. That's very rewarding, a lot of fun. I meet a lot of different people that way too. Although, of course, with everything else with the pandemic, they were closed for three months, and it's gradually picking up. They're very short on donations now. We don't have all the furniture that we did before. We need a lot of donations of goods mainly. But that's interesting.
SI: Did you move to Maryland after you retired?
RF: Yes. I officially retired from--the last newspaper job I had was for TAP, and that was November 2018. I gave that up, and then I was working for LexisNexis. Are you familiar with LexisNexis? I was an editor for them for a couple of years. About a year before I had planned to officially retire, they decided that my position was going to be cut. They took a campus in New Providence that had two big buildings with 250-300 people in them and started cutting back and cutting back. Eventually, they cut my position. I heard they eventually sold that because they had so few people left there. The people that are left in that division, a few people are actually home-based now--everything's home-based. So, I left there. Then, for about a little over a year, I worked for an outfit called ExamWorks in Roseland. ExamWorks arranges examinations of people that are suing doctors for malpractice to see if their claim is legitimate. By the way, after I left the Westfield Leader, I got my paralegal certificate from Middlesex County College. I worked for two different law firms. That's how I made the connection to LexisNexis and combined the journalism with that. I was in that for ten-fifteen years. I had the legal background for that.
SI: Well, is there any other aspect of your life that you would like to talk about that we did not cover?
RF: That's pretty much it. It has been a lot of fun in parts, sometimes not so much fun.
SI: Going back to Rutgers, what would you say was your most vivid or fond memory of your years there?
RF: Probably the football games. I liked going to the football games. I wasn't that much into sports myself, but I went to the football games. The times of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War demonstrations, that was exciting. Occasionally, working on papers at Rutgers also. Working in the Student Center and the dining hall had their moments when it was very exciting. I met a lot of interesting people there.
One incident--when I was working the games room--I don't know if it was the same weekend as Woodstock or what--when people in the games room would take out pool equipment [for] billiards, they'd have to give their ID card. A guy came in. We had a time limit. That's what it was. We had a time limit. You could only keep the tables for so long because other students wanted to use them, and you were supposed to surrender your student ID until you checked in the equipment. So, this one guy didn't give me his ID. He gave me some other ID. I said, "Okay." So, he finishes his game. I called him in. There was a list, I remember. There was a list you had to sign with your name on it. It was a famous pool player, which I think The Hustler was based on, with Paul Newman, Willie Mosconi. Willie Mosconi and the other guy were big pool players at the time. Anyway, this guy comes in. He didn't have his ID. That's what it was; I took his driver's license or something. He happened to live up near Livingston Campus someplace. He signed himself in as only "Mosconi" on the list. I call him in. "No, I'm not turning my stuff in. I'm going to keep playing." I said, "Okay. We have a right to hold your ID if you don't turn in your equipment." Well, he started arguing that he can't get back home without his driver's license. He jumps over the counter after me. Luckily, we talked it out. We had a little scuffle, and the manager came down and talked to him. That was the end of that.
SI: It is interesting you bring that up. I was looking at another interview, and they said Mosconi actually came to campus and gave a demonstration.
RF: He may have. This guy, instead of saying Willie Mosconi, I said, "Willie Masconi," and he came up, yelling and screaming, "It's supposed to be Willie Mosconi. That's my name." I said, "Yes, I know it's your name, sure, right." [laughter]
SI: Do you remember any acts or bands or speakers that came to campus that you went to see?
RF: One thing, and my mother got the biggest kick out of this, at graduation, the university, they've always had funding fights with the state over whether the state is going to provide enough money or whatever. [William T.] Cahill was governor at the time, and he was particularly stingy to Rutgers. He wouldn't give Rutgers anything. Well, the people that were graduating, somehow, we got together with the other Rutgers schools that were graduating. Everybody used to graduate at the same time in Rutgers Stadium. They were giving Cahill an honorary degree. We decided, when they announced Cahill's name, we were going to turn our backs on him. We had like five hundred people turn their backs on the governor when he was getting his honorary degree. I thought my mother would be mad, but she got the biggest kick out of that, that we turned our back on the governor. [laughter]
SI: That just came around by word of mouth.
RF: I don't recall how it got out, but somehow they got out the word that we were going to all turn our backs. Maybe it was that day or something. By the way, talk about the demonstrators, a friend of mine--very similar to some of the stuff that's happening now--he was in a demonstration against the war in Rutgers Stadium, and a National Guard guy wanted to Mace him. Instead of just Macing him from the back, he grabbed the front of his face--and this guy had eye troubles to begin with--and sprayed the Mace right into his face, and it got a lot worse after that incident.
SI: If there is anything else you would like to add, feel free, but I think we have covered everything on my list. If there is anything else you want to talk about down the road, you can always let me know, and we can do another session. Also, when you get the transcript, you may want to add some things, or that may jog your memory about other things you want to add. Particularly with this web setup, it's easy to do a very brief interview. If you have even just a few stories that you want to add, you can do that. Thank you very much. I really appreciate all your time today.
RF: Thank you.
SI: We went up to about the time that we allotted. I appreciate it.
RF: Did a lot of my classmates participate?
SI: A good number so far. I think as more interviews are done, and particularly when they get put online, more people will get involved.
RF: George Trapp, one of my classmates, was an interesting guy, who had a career in PR.
SI: Yes, I spoke with him. Hopefully, it will get out through the alumni stuff.
RF: Yes. He had something to do with Madison Square Park in New York City when he was in PR [public relations].
SI: If you happen to talk to anybody and they are interested, feel free to let them know that we are interested in interviewing them.
RF: One in my classmates, who through high school, we were always hanging out together, his name is Orlando Estrada, not a real outstanding student. I didn't think he was particularly interested in history or politics. After we graduated--he was from Cuba, he was very interested in Latin American affairs, of course--he went to work for the State Department and had a career for the State Department for twenty or thirty years. When they had the evacuation of Haiti with all the dictators, he led that evacuation. I touched base with him recently. In fact, he was so good with the State Department, after he retired, they asked him to come back. That was interesting.
SI: If you want to mention this to him, that would be great.
RF: He may have gone to UVA [University of Virginia] or something. I don't know if he went to Rutgers.
SI: Well, thank you very much. I am going to stop the recording now.
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Transcribed by Jesse Braddell 9/29/2020
Reviewed by Molly Graham 12/3/2020
Reviewed by Kathryn Tracy Rizzi 12/11/2020
Reviewed by Robert Faszczewski 12/17/2020
Reviewed by Kathryn Tracy Rizzi 1/8/2021