Shaun Illingworth: This begins an oral history interview with Terre Martin on December 11, 2018, in New Brunswick, New Jersey with Shaun Illingworth. Thank you very much for coming in. I really appreciate it.
Terre Martin. You're quite welcome.
SI: To begin, can you tell me where and when you were born?
TM: I was born in Newark, New Jersey, on February 2, 1947.
SI: Now, what were your parents' names?
TM: Well, they had several names. By the time I was born, my father was Michael Williams, and my mom was Mollie Williams. But their names evolved over the years because of their status as Italian-Americans. Their names changed. Do you want me to tell you a little bit about how that came to be?
SI: Absolutely. We can jump back and forth. Tell me how that happened.
TM: My mom's story is kind of cute, I think. She was the oldest of twelve children and very poor. She spoke no English as a child at home, but she had to go to school at five years old. So, my grandmother took her to register for kindergarten. The teacher asked what her name was, and my grandmother, in very, very broken English and Italian, said, "Domenica Appicie." The teacher kept asking her to repeat it; she couldn't spell it. Finally, she said to my grandmother, "That's such a big name for such a little girl. I don't like that name." My grandmother, in frustration, said, "Call her what you want." So, the teacher looked at my mom and said, "My name is Mollie. I think I'll call you Mollie." So, from the time my mother was five years old, she went from Domenica to Mollie. So, she was Mollie Appicie until she married my father.
When they got married, he was Michele (Michael) Antonio (Anthony) DiGuglielmo, which is a very long Italian name as well. They were married in 1930. It was a very difficult time for Italians at that time. It was hard to find work, and there was a lot of prejudice and difficulties. So, my father and his brothers decided that they were all going to change their name legally. In Italian, DiGuglielmo literally means "Williams" or "of William." So, they changed it to Williams. My father became Michael Anthony Williams, and my mother became Mollie Williams. She went from Domenica Appicie when she was born to Mollie Williams when she died. [laughter] That's the evolution of the name, at any rate. It started out very Italian and ended up very American.
SI: All the siblings on your father's side became Williams as well?
TM: Only one brother, my uncle Andy, decided he wanted to keep a little bit of the Italian. His family took the name DiElmo instead of Williams, but the other brothers all became Williams.
SI: What about your mother's siblings? Did they also change their first or last name?
TM: No, no. That's an interesting story, too, in that my mother's family, her father and her mother were the brother and sister of another couple, who also went by the last name of Apice. One brother spelled it A-P-P-I-C-I-E. The other brother spelled it A-P-I-C-E. So, there were two different spellings for the same name by two brothers. To this day, on Facebook and through various means, we try to connect with our cousins, and everybody has a different spelling of their last name. We're not sure if it was done as they came through Ellis Island. We're not sure if they just did it themselves because they were not literate or if a census worker spelled it incorrectly. We're not really sure why it turned out that way. They all had different spellings, but all the brothers kept the same name. Of course, my aunts got married and took the names of their husbands, so that all changed.
I did recently discover that one my uncles, Giacomo Appicie, who was called "Jack," changed his name when he moved to California. I saw his headstone, and the name he died with was Leslie Withers. Apparently, he wanted to be a writer, and he thought that name was more lyrical.
My dad was the one brother who very much wanted to be an American. That was especially important to him. He faced prejudice as an Italian immigrant and with a name that he had--it was hard to say anyway--he wanted to be an American. Therefore, he wanted an American name. So, he absolutely needed to change it, in his mind at any rate. If I could throw this in, I have to tell you what I have found so fascinating in the last few years. Dean [Jacquelyn] Litt, the Dean of Douglass [Residential College], has invited me to be on the stage when they celebrate their convocation at the end of the year. As I sit there and watch--it's funny, because I feel emotional about it--I see these young women who walk across that stage with names that are African, that are Asian, that are Indian, that are West Indian, and they don't change their name. They are so proud to say I came from this country or that country. I can be an American and still keep my heritage, my identity. That's not something that my father and his generation felt. He felt that if he was going to be part of the American fabric, he needed to be American, his children needed to be American, we had to take on the American way of life.
I didn't grow up with a lot of the Italian traditions that some of my cousins had, because we were going to be educated in an American way. My mom had a lot of Jewish friends. My father was a barber. So, a lot of his customers were gentiles--we'll put it that way--but they could be Protestant or whatever, and he wanted to incorporate the things that he learned from them and bring it home. I knew I was Italian, [laughter] but I very much had an American upbringing, as far as my dad was concerned.
SI: Well, I want to come back to that. Before we get further from your grandparents' generation, did any stories come down about their lives before they immigrated or stories of immigration?
TM: Well, the only thing that I remember my mom telling me--again, they were from Southern Italy, which was poverty-stricken--there was really no hope for them. I think on my mom's side, my maternal grandfather and his brother came here first, and then they sent for my grandmother. Fifteen years old is what my grandmother was when she married him. The story was that he told her parents, "You will either allow her to marry me, or I will kidnap her and take her to America." Here this young fifteen-year-old girl had to marry him, but, again, twelve kids later, oh, my God.
Regarding my father's family, he didn't talk a whole lot about it. He came here when he was ten. I suspect they were not as poor as my mom's family. I think my grandfather was some sort of a farmer. I think they were having a hard time. Again, making a living in the United States was probably a better option for them. But I look back on it, and I marvel at the courage--no English language skills at all, virtually no money--just to pick up stakes and come and hope for the best. I have tried very hard to trace my family, and I can't. I don't know if they had any records. I don't know if it was because they were so poor, and they lived in small towns, or if the churches even kept the records. So, I don't know. I really don't know much about them. I haven't given up doing research though.
SI: When they came to the United States, did they go to New York first, or did they come to Newark?
TM: I think everybody settled in Newark. That's from all of the documents that I have seen. I found some old census documents. They were in Newark. But another interesting thing, and I will say this--I don't know how to say this and put it in a positive light. My father was a very prejudiced man. I think a lot of it was a reaction to the prejudice that he felt. But I remember asking him why he felt the way he did when I was a little bit older, when I was a teenager. He said that he grew up in virtually a ghetto, and because he had to fight for everything, embedded in him was innate anger toward people of a different race. Therefore, he never really got over it. I know, for him, he needed to get out of Newark for his family. Once he and my mother married, they got a--it wasn't called a savings and loan. What the heck was it called?
SI: Building and loan?
TM: Something like that. I think they bought their first house in Maplewood for like five thousand dollars. He knew that was a step up. That's where a better caliber of person lived; he had to get out of the city.
He himself managed to get through high school. He went to Barringer High School in Newark. My mother was pulled out of school in the eighth grade, because she had to go to work in a factory in order to help support all of these kids. Apparently, my grandfather was an alcoholic. [laughter] So, he never could hold down a job. My mom said he was an ice-man in the summer, and he was a coal-man in the winter. But very rarely did the money that he earned come back to my grandmother. Usually, he drank wine. That was his big thing. He drank wine. So, that's their story.
SI: What would she do to help the family?
TM: She started in a paper box factory. That was her first job. But then my grandmother, who was a seamstress, would do what my mom called piecework. The coat factories would bring to her home coats that needed sleeves put in or needed the lining sewn. Even as a young girl, my mom would come home from the paper box factory, and then she would help my grandmother, as would my other aunts and uncles, who were even younger than my mother. Everybody had to sew. So, the piecework is basically how they survived. My mother became an excellent seamstress and tailor, which is how she ended up earning her money as she got older. Everything was all hands-on deck. You sit there, and you sew. I think it's amazing that even my uncles, age eight and nine, learned how to sew and were excellent tailors even at such a young age. That was it. My grandmother had to do it all, basically.
Then, I think my dad told me what he loved about my grandmother, my mother's mother, even though she was completely uneducated and spoke very little English, she figured out a way to earn money after her kids were out of the house. She would take in boarders. But the other thing that she did is she learned to buy and sell real estate. She would buy an old house somewhere in Newark, and with her sons or whoever, she would fix it up. Then, she'd sell it and then buy another old house and live in it and fix it up. My dad always said that she had a savvy about her that he completely admired, because she had nobody to show her how to do this. She just figured it out on her own. This is how she made her way.
SI: It sounds like she really adapted and overcame.
SI: How did your parents meet? It would have been the late 1920s.
TM: Yes. My mom used to love to tell these stories. She'd be cooking or baking--we would be baking together--and, of course, I would hear stories. Years ago, weddings were an open invitation. It was a party. When somebody had a wedding, anybody could go. You could bring your friends or whomever. Apparently, they were at a wedding, and my dad saw my mom. When I look back at pictures of her, I thought she was an incredibly beautiful young woman. But she was very independent. I think she also didn't trust men, because of her father. My dad could not get to first base with her. She would not give her name or anything. Somehow, he managed to find out where she lived, and he pursued her and pursued her and pursued her, until finally she agreed to see him. Then, I guess they began what they called courting back in those days.
I came across--he used to write her beautiful little notes and little greeting cards with messages in them. My mom had saved them. When she finally passed away, and I had all of her belongings, I came across them. There was a really cute note that he wrote. I actually typed it up, and I sent it to my sister and my brother and to my kids. I said, "You've got to see this sweet note that he sent to her." In the note--my dad had developed blood poisoning in one of his legs. I'm not exactly sure the whole story, but something happened that he cut his foot and it wasn't taken care of properly and it became infected. He developed blood poisoning in his foot. So, he was at home, and he couldn't walk. He couldn't do anything. Apparently, my mom must have said she wanted to come and visit him. In this note that he sent to her, he thanked her. It's very formal. This is what's so interesting about it. Here they're courting, but yet he says it in a very formal way, that, "It's very nice of you to want to come to see me, but it wouldn't be proper because we're not married yet. So, you can't come to see me. I'm doing well. My foot hurts," blah, blah, blah. But then he sends a sweet little message to all of her younger brothers, "Tell the boys that I miss them, and I hope to see them soon." I thought, "How do you like that?" Could you imagine? Not going to see your fiancé because you're not quite married yet, and you can't go see him because he's ill. So, they had an interesting courtship.
I will tell you too, and I thought this was kind of a cute story about my grandfather, who I said was an alcoholic. My mom was the only one of his daughters, and there's like five or six of them, that got married in a church and wore a wedding gown and a veil and had a wedding party. She told me that she begged her father to stay sober and walk her down the aisle. She was the only one that he walked down the aisle. But she said that right after that, he went off on a bender, and nobody saw him for three days. He was gone. But she had a really beautiful wedding and a positive memory of her father. I still have the pictures of the wedding. They were a gorgeous couple.
My parents were different from their siblings. (All my aunts and uncles were wonderful, great people, and my cousins are all great.) The difference is that my parents took us on a track of betterment and education and culture. Being Italian to them was being cultured, learning about art, learning about opera, learning about the positive things about Italy. Again, that was my father's desire to elevate and not to be a poor--whatever they called them--Guinea, wop, whatever the heck you want to say. But out of all my cousins, my sister, my brother and myself, we're the only ones that really were highly educated. It's kind of an interesting thing. I'm really lucky that my parents were who they were, or maybe I wouldn't be here now.
SI: Well, it's interesting how these opposing forces of maintaining older traditions and also Americanization play out, that they saw Italian culture as a bonus to be cultivated. But it sounds like some things, such as how things were celebrated in the home or language, weren't as kept up. Is that accurate?
TM: Very much. Yes, my parents never spoke Italian unless--the typical thing-- they didn't want me to know what they were saying. They spoke it with their parents. Interestingly enough, in junior high, we were allowed to take a language, so I took Latin. We had French and Spanish. I chose Latin. Then when I got to high school, I was allowed to take a romance language, and I took Italian. Well, at the time--I went to Columbia High School in Maplewood--I don't think a lot of schools offered Italian. It was usually Spanish or French or German. My father did not want me to take Italian. He was very negative about it, "Why? Why do you have to study Italian? Why don't you take French?" At the time, I want to say that French was really used more on the international level, certainly not Italian. So, I said, "I really want to take it." So, I studied Italian in high school, and thank God I did, because it really opened my mind to a heritage that my father really wanted to put behind him. He never wanted to go back to Italy. I remember asking him, "Don't you want to go back?" "No, no. I never want to go back." Yet, when I talked about things that were Italian, if I talked about authors that I was reading or about songs that I was learning, he was very happy about that. But he didn't want to encourage it.
Actually, when I think about it, he wanted me to follow my sister, who was the real trailblazer. Oh, my gosh, my sister is thirteen years older than I am and a real Renaissance woman. There's nothing Rosemarie can't do. At any rate, she became a math major. My father was all about, "Be a math major." He was ahead of his time with STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics], I guess. [laughter] Long story short, I studied Italian in high school, where I loved it. Then, when I came to Douglass, I majored in it, which absolutely killed him--killed him. But it was my one form of rebellion. I never rebelled against my parents in anything. I was a very dutiful little girl, never did anything outside the nine dots, except major in Italian, and it was the best decision I ever made. I loved it. It was a wonderful major, absolutely incredible. Our Italian traditions were more a way of life, lots of family, good Italian food, lots of laughing, and lots of loud people.
SI: You mentioned baking with your mother. Would you make a lot of Italian dishes?
TM: She was a phenomenal baker and a phenomenal cook. Anybody could walk in our house at any time, and being one of twelve, we never knew which aunt or uncle was going to show up at the back door for a meal. My mom could put out a full meal in minutes. I mean, you walked in the door, you sat down at the dining room table, and my mom was in there cooking and cooking and cooking. She had an oven in the basement, and she had her stove up in the kitchen. The afternoon meal was for my father. There were no sandwiches or salads. They were full meals, like roast beef, chicken, stews, with vegetables, potatoes, fruit, and good crusty Italian bread. The evening meal was for the family: my parents, my brother, my sister and me--and any visiting relatives. I should tell you, too, my dad's barbershop was four blocks away. So, the noontime meal was hand-carried to him every day.
SI: It was in Maplewood?
TM: No, it was in South Orange. Actually, I lived on the South Orange side of Maplewood. I lived right by Seton Hall University. His barbershop was called Seton Hall Barbershop. A lot of his clientele were the Seton Hall boys, as he called them. I would come home for lunch when I was in elementary school. My mom would wrap up my dad's lunch in newspaper, and I'd bring it to him. Then at night, when he came home, she made something like eggplant parmesan. It was two major meals a day, seven days a week. [laughter] She was an unbelievable cook and a phenomenal baker. I still have some of her recipes, but I can't even begin to duplicate them. I try, and I screw up and think, "Oh, shoot. I can't do it." Yes, she was fantastic.
SI: They married in 1930. They were still in Newark when you were born.
SI: Were you born in the hospital there?
TM: The hospital was in Newark. I think it was Newark Presbyterian Hospital. But they were living in Maplewood. My brother was born at home with a midwife in attendance. But he is eight years older than me, and they didn't have the money to go to a hospital when he was born.
SI: What do you remember about that neighborhood in Maplewood?
TM: Interestingly enough, and it's funny, the one thing that I did bring--my mom was an air raid warden. My husband and I were talking about this. That was the time of the Cold War. I grew up on Essex Avenue. The reason I thought it was so interesting--my mom, as an air raid warden, kept this little notebook. She had to walk up and down the street and she had to write down the address of every single family, the names of everybody in the family, and whatever details she needed to write in this thing. I couldn't get over how many Italian names, one after another, all along. We were not related in any way, but it was just amazing to me how many Italians lived on our street, Essex Avenue.
It was a great neighborhood. It was one of those things where, back in the day, we still had empty lots on the street. Now, you can't find an empty lot anywhere in Maplewood. It was the typical neighborhood that you hear stories about. We had gas streetlights. At dusk, a guy on a bicycle would come and light the lights. We went outside and played all day until our mom called and yelled out the back window. We didn't have playdates. You went to a kid's house, and you stood under the window and called their name until they were ready to come out and play. It was great. I was much younger than my brother and sister, so I really depended on the other kids to play with. I was sort of like an only child growing up because they were so much older than I was. But it was a great neighborhood.
I remember our mailman was Mr. Lewis. Mr. Lewis knew everybody on that street. When the kids would see him, we would love to go meet him. I especially loved to meet Mr. Lewis when he would deliver mail to my house, because he always had a piece of candy for me. We had a bread man, an egg man that would deliver eggs and bring me chicks at Easter, and a milkman. There was the Good Humor man who would come every night in the summer, and you'd all gather around the Good Humor truck and buy your ice cream. It was great. In fact, I just went to the ninetieth birthday of a woman that lived across the street from my mother. She invited old neighbors. So, my contemporaries were there, and I met people that I had played stickball in the street with. It was like, "Oh my God, I haven't seen these people in ..." I don't even know how many years it's been--seventy years maybe. It's been that long because I went away to college and didn't go back. I didn't live at home after that.
It was great. It was a very typical old-fashioned neighborhood, but it was Maplewood. On Irvington Avenue, across the street from us, was Newark, actually. Ivy Hill Apartments were huge high-rise apartments. Two blocks down was South Orange and Seton Hall University, and maybe three or four blocks in the other direction was Irvington. So, I could get to almost anywhere from where I lived. We walked everywhere. We had public transportation, but everybody walked. It was just easier, and things weren't so far away, actually. It wasn't so bad.
SI: When you were growing up in the 1950s and early '60s, was Newark still the area people would go shopping and go out?
TM: There were no malls. My mom and I would catch the 52 bus on Irvington Avenue. We'd go to Irvington Center, where we would get a transfer to the 54, and we'd go to downtown Newark. That's where you did all your shopping. Back in the day, Macy's used to be called Bamberger's. There was a Kresge's that wasn't Kresge's Five and Ten; it was a really nice department store. There was Orbach's. There was Hahne's. There was S. Klein, which now, apparently, Rutgers-Newark has bought that building. I remember when I was still working at Rutgers, going up to the Newark Campus, and "S. Klein" was still on the side of the building, and I went, "Oh, my lord, that's amazing, after all these years." But, yes, you did all your shopping down there.
I do remember, after I graduated from college, my first job was in Newark. I worked at Prudential. It was after the riots in 1967, and it was a completely different city. It was a ghost town almost. Nobody shopped down there anymore. It was very, very different, very different than I remember. Going into Newark when I was a kid would be like going into New York City. It was wonderful. Malls changed everything, really, when you think about it. Shopping became very, very different.
SI: How long did your father have his barbershop near Seton Hall?
TM: Well, he passed away in 1969. When I look back on it, at the time, I thought he was an old man. He was sixty-two. [laughter] Now, I think, "Oh my God, he was so young." So, he was there probably thirty, forty years. But my brother became a barber, and they worked there together. The Seton Hall Barbershop, I don't know if they kept the name, but the barbershop is still there. There's a new owner, obviously. Back in the early 1950s, when Seton Hall was a basketball powerhouse, there were guys--these are names that mean nothing to you, but there was Richie Regan--and I can't even think of all their names. My sister knows them all because my sister was older, and she was in high school at the time. Of course, she was in awe of all these fantastic college players. This was before the NCAA, so whatever the basketball league was at that time--I forget what it was called--but Seton Hall won the championship. I remember my father saying to the coach, "If you guys win, you're all coming to my house for spaghetti dinner," and they won. I was probably five or six years old. What I remember about that night was those enormous men coming into our house, sitting around my mother's dining room table, barely fitting, and my mom just bringing out bowls and bowls and bowls of spaghetti. They just ate and ate. My sister was star struck. It was unbelievable how fantastic it was. [Editor's Note: The Seton Hall Men's Basketball Team won the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in 1953.]
My dad had a very big role in a lot of things that happened in South Orange back in those days. Everybody knew Mike, the barber. He died just before I was due to get married. Unfortunately, Doug was in Vietnam at the time. My father had a cerebral hemorrhage. So, it was like, he's here, then he's not here. The good thing was that the night before he died, my dad had seen my wedding gown. I brought my wedding gown home, and I had gotten to show it to him. But when I came home from work the next day, he was sitting in his chair in the living room. He was suffering from a terrible headache and was barely coherent. He had a cerebral hemorrhage right while I was standing there talking to him. Things didn't go well. We called the ambulance, and I didn't see him after that. I know that he influenced and touched the lives of so many people from Maplewood and South Orange and Newark and all the people that knew him. His wake lasted for three days. They could not get all the people into the funeral parlor. I mean, it was stopping traffic. He had been in the Knights of Columbus, and he was what was called a Fourth Degree Knight, which is the highest level of knight, so they had an honor guard. All of his fellow knights were coming in. It was unbelievable. It was unbelievable.
I remember I was sitting there; there's this reception line that you're supposed to be in so people can offer their condolences. I just couldn't bear it. Well, it was just before I was due to get married. I had just graduated from college. I was twenty-one. I remember I kept getting up to leave the room, and my mother would grab my arm, "Sit down. You have to sit down. People are here to see you. You have to sit down." But, yes, it took three days for viewing. Then, I remember, he was buried up in the Gates of Heaven cemetery, which is in East Hanover. I remember being in the limousine and looking out the back window. I could not see the end of the processional. We went up South Orange Avenue, up the mountain, and there were police everywhere. They had to stop traffic. They had to adjust the traffic lights, so that cars could go through, hundreds of cars. You would have thought he was, I don't know, somebody really important. I mean, I knew it was just my dad. But I never realized how many lives he had influenced and touched.
Mainly, he mentored. He mentored certainly young men from Seton Hall, from Columbia High School, and athletes. But it was all about education. I have one cousin, my cousin Victor, who came to me one day and said, "You know, I used to go sit in your father's barbershop because my father never really talked to me. I would just sit there and listen to Uncle Mike, just listen to him talking to other people. He convinced me that I ought to go to college. My father could've cared less if I went to college. He didn't care about my grades, but Uncle Mike always would ask me, 'How'd you do on that test?'" So, he was the catalyst that helped so many people. At any rate, yes, he was incredible. People still remember Mike, the barber. I run into people that are older, that, "Oh, yeah. He cut my hair." It's sort of an incredible, incredible thing.
SI: Yes, it's interesting that he had this passion for education, seeing people go on further. It sounds like it really struck home with your older sister first among the kids.
TM: My sister was brilliant. At the time, it was Montclair State Teachers College. She went there on a full scholarship. She commuted because they couldn't afford to have her stay away. Yes, she was phenomenal. She ended up teaching math at South Orange Junior High for a while. She was one of the first women that Notre Dame allowed to live on campus for a master's degree program. It was all male. I think it was a couple of nuns and maybe two or three other women who were admitted into a summer program at Notre Dame. It was groundbreaking for Notre Dame to allow women in their classrooms. It was there that she met her instructor, who was a Ph.D. candidate, my brother-in-law Frank, who took one look at her and was hooked. She was the quintessential Italian beauty. She looked like Gina Lollobrigida. She was gorgeous. He was the quintessential Irishman, tall, fair, blue eyes. It was like opposites attracting. [laughter] He was brilliant and a mathematician. She was brilliant and a mathematician. So, they met out at Notre Dame, and they married.
Everything she's done--she was an architect. She was a designer. She's a phenomenal artist. I have a lot of her paintings in my home. Then, after she had her children, she became a lawyer. [laughter] She was a teacher on the negotiating committee for their union, and she realized, "These guys don't know what the heck they're doing. I think I'm going to go to law school and teach them a few things." Sure enough, she goes to law school, gets accepted, gets admitted to three different law schools, picks Hofstra, takes a leave of absence from teaching, and focuses on her law degree and finishes, I think, in two years. She gets through law school, passes the New York Bar, the first time around, ends up getting a job in a law firm, and discovering, "I don't like doing real estate closings and divorce cases." She said, "I need to get back in education." She did a little bit of research and ended up becoming an attorney for Stony Brook University out on Long Island. She lived there anyway; she lived on Long Island. That's how she ended her career, as an attorney. There's nothing my sister can't do. She's now obviously retired. She's eighty-seven years old and living a quiet life. Yes, my dad absolutely encouraged her.
My brother John, who's nine years older than I am, was a phenomenal athlete and played every sport, excelled, and lettered in every sport. What we didn't know about John--nobody knew about it really--was that he was dyslexic and had never been diagnosed. He ended up going to Xavier University on a football scholarship. The problem is when you're in a university and you're there on a scholarship to play football, you're expected to play football. John, with his learning disability and the focus on football, couldn't hack it. So, he made it through a semester, and he failed out.
To tell you that my father was upset is such an understatement. He did not talk to my brother for months. I mean, John came home to live. He tried to get into the Army. He couldn't get into the Army because he had asthma, so he was 4-F. So, he enrolled in barber school, and that was like the ultimate stake through my father's heart, that his son should be a barber. His words were, "I came to this country, and I worked hard to educate my children to have them be better than me, not to be a barber." He was furious with my brother that he became a barber. Time marches on and you can't not talk to your son for months and months at a time. My mother finally convinced him by saying, "At least John is trying to make something of his life. He's tried other things; they didn't work out." They had two barber chairs; John had one and my dad had the other and they made peace with each other.
Interestingly enough, my brother, even though he's dyslexic, is really very brilliant in his own right. He became a day trader. When he wasn't cutting hair, he had a computer in the back of the shop. He would buy and sell stocks. He bought Intel when it was a penny stock ... a penny stock! [laughter] My brother is worth millions today. He doesn't live an extravagant life. He doesn't live like he's a millionaire. But I think my father would have been incredibly impressed to see what his son accomplished even though he had the learning disability and he didn't go to college the way my father wanted him to. He became a barber, which is what my father didn't want. Actually, being a barber allowed him the time to do this other thing, in which he ended up being incredibly successful.
SI: Did your mother work outside of the home?
TM: Yes. Well, outside and inside. As a child, I remember her customers. She was a seamstress, so she had her customers coming to the house. We always had to be careful where we sat because when my mother would sew and watch TV, she put pins and needles in the cushions of the armchair. "Be careful where you're sitting; you might be sitting on a pin." Yes, customers' clothes. She also did something called crochet beading. Oh, my God, she was wonderful at this. It's really an art form. You do it on a frame. The beads are underneath the fabric on a long thread, and there is a very fine needle that is above it. You go through the fabric, you catch the thread, which pulls the bead onto the fabric, and then you create a knot and you go back down through the fabric. It's a very difficult process. So, she did this amazing crochet beading. She would bead wedding gowns, and she would bead collars on silk blouses. She did that, but she also sewed. She did alterations, but she also created things.
In fact, I never had store-bought clothes for the longest time. I was allowed to buy slips and underwear and maybe a blouse or two, but everything else was sewn and handmade. So, I had to learn how to sew too. My ninth-grade graduation gift was a sewing machine. I sewed everything all through high school. That was what you did in the summer. You sewed your clothes, so that you had clothes for the next school year. I remember when I married Doug, he was so excited that I sewed, "Oh, this is great. My wife sews." I looked at him, "Uh-uh. Never happening again. Now that I'm a married woman, I'm buying everything." [laughter] He was very disappointed. I still sew. I sewed for the house. I made curtains, I made whatever, but I very rarely sewed clothes because I was like, "I'm so over it. I don't ever want to do it again."
I can remember my mom working in a dry cleaner. She was the tailor. I went to kindergarten in the morning. She would make sure that she would come back from wherever she was working, pick me up, feed me, and then I'd go back to the tailor shop with her while she worked the afternoon shift. I just had to play and do whatever. Yes, she always worked. That was the role model that I grew up with, that, yes, you contribute to the household. You don't just stay home. You run a household, but you also contribute monetarily to the household. So, that's what I always did from the time I first got married. It never occurred to me not to work.
SI: Talk a little bit more about your young life in Maplewood. It sounds like you're involved with the other kids in pickup games and things like that. Were there any organized activities like Girl Scouts or maybe activities surrounding the church, that sort of thing?
TM: Well, yes and no. I grew up as a Catholic. Even though my street was all Italian, the neighborhood was very Jewish. My school was very Jewish. As much as I played with the kids in school, they went off to Hebrew School, I went to Catechism. So, there was a definite parting of the ways that way. Culturally, we were very, very different. I remember my friends used to love to come home for lunch with me because my mom cooked lunch. When I went to their house, they all had--and I'm saying this because this is how it was referred to when I was a little girl--they had a colored maid. Their mothers were off playing mahjong or doing whatever, but my Jewish girlfriends had a maid who would give them their food. It was not that their mom was there. It was a very interesting thing.
My mom considered herself an older mother. She was thirty-nine when I was born, so she was not a PTA [Parent Teacher Association] mom. She never did anything like that. So, no, I didn't have any of those advantages. Later on--I guess maybe I was in fifth or sixth grade--I did become a Girl Scout. But my mom did not participate in anything. If a neighbor couldn't take me, I couldn't go. So, I wasn't a Girl Scout for long. It just became really hard. No, I didn't get to do any of those things, really. Again, I was kind of an only child. So, I spent a lot of time alone at home. If I wasn't playing outside, I was by myself. Girl Scouts wasn't so big. I've got to tell you, going to Catechism was the big thing for the Catholics and going to Hebrew School for the Jewish kids. Of course, all my Jewish friends went to sleepaway camp. That was the other thing. I never saw them all summer; they'd all go away to sleepaway camp. There was no way my parents would ever allow that. I wasn't allowed to go to sleepover parties when I was a young girl. I had a very, very strict upbringing. You didn't do anything outside the nine dots, which is why it was a good thing I was not a rebellious kid because I'd have been crying all the time. No, no big organizational things at all. No sports. The first time I was involved in sports was after I had my third child. I picked up a tennis racket, and I finally learned how to play tennis. But I never did organized sports.
SI: Tell me a little bit about your early education. Where did you go to grammar school?
TM: Clinton School in Maplewood. I loved it. I loved it. When I think back on it, it was probably odd in those days. I had three male teachers. In fourth grade, fifth grade, and sixth grade, I had men teachers, which was extraordinary. I remember the women teachers that I had were all "spinsters." They were stereotypical teachers. But the men were all married and had families and everything. I had a great education. I think one of the things that my dad said about living in Maplewood was he liked living in a Jewish community. He felt that you could always count on a really good education because the Jewish people were so education-oriented. That's what he wanted for his kids. He wanted to make sure we were in a good school district, and so I was. I had an excellent education.
Then, I went on to South Orange Junior High, because I lived on the South Orange side of Maplewood. Again, excellent education. Then from there, I went on to Columbia High School in Maplewood. I remember my guidance counselor telling me in my junior year, because I had good grades, he said, "You know what? Because you have good grades and because you're graduating from this high school, you can pretty much pick and choose which college you want to go to. You'll get into almost anywhere." Educationally, I thought it was great.
I will say this--this was kind of an interesting thing. I don't know if they still do it, but they tracked students. Throughout my education, I was always tracked. I was always in with the smart kids, thank goodness. But I remember, when I was in ninth grade, which was still junior high, I was taking algebra. Was it "Algebra I"? I forget. It was an algebra class. It was taught by one of these old spinster ladies. I remember her standing in front of the class, saying who she was going to recommend getting into the honors classes at Columbia High School. She stood there, and she said, "I did not recommend any of the girls." She said, "There's a limited number of seats, so only the boys are going to be in the honors math classes." I remember sitting there at the time thinking, "What the heck am I, chopped liver?--or any of the girls." But it never occurred to me to say anything about it or do anything about it. I felt bad about it, that I wasn't given that opportunity. I thought it was really interesting that she stood there in front of the class and said it like it was no big deal, and it wasn't to her. "The boys need this opportunity--limited seating. Boys will go into an honors class. Girls do not get it."
As far as education, I had an excellent education in Maplewood, really, really excellent. It's funny because when Doug and I finally had kids and were looking for places to live, that was always the key thing. Whenever we picked a town or a community, I looked at the schools. They had to be top-notch. If they weren't good schools, move on. That's got to be right from my dad, who was all about education.
SI: When you were in high school, was there anybody who stood out as a mentor or who pushed you towards college or taking more advanced classes?
TM: My sister. My sister was my role model and my mentor. There was also fear of not doing well for my father. Disappointing my father was worse than anything. I could take a beating; it wouldn't have been nearly as bad as having my father be disappointed in my report card. [laughter] My dad, because he was a barber, had access to all these boys that I went to school with--he would cut their hair--he also had spies looking out for me everywhere I went. My father used to tell the boys, "You keep an eye on Terre, and you let me know if she does this, this and this." So, I was looked after very closely. [laughter] But my motivation really came more from my sister, watching her and just thinking she was a goddess to me. She still is. I still admire her tremendously. She's just an amazing woman.
I have to be honest with you. I'm not giving my mom enough credit here either. I should say, my mother, with no education, incredibly strong-willed--my father was the visionary, my mother was the enforcer. Have you ever seen that movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding? The mother that says that the man may be the head, but the mother is the neck. Bingo. My mother was absolutely the force behind everything. Your father wants you to get good grades, but who made me sit down and study and [say], "Did you do your homework?" My mother was an incredibly strong woman. In fact, throughout my entire life, right up to the time that she died, she had a huge influence on me as a strong woman raising three daughters to be strong women. We all go right back. The girls will tell you right now, it's all Grandma, Grandma, Grandma. Yes, she was a huge influence on me through everything. The visionary, the enforcer. But nobody at school. It was my sister.
SI: You talked about how everyone was putting you on this path towards college. Were they also encouraging you to think about a career afterward? Women of your generation were at the breaking point, where some people see it as you go to college to get married; others are seeing a career. How was it in your family or in your experience?
TM: The experience would be that--and this is why my father wanted me to major in math, so I could be a teacher like my sister--teacher was exactly the job that they anticipated I would do. I would become a teacher. When I said I wanted to major in Italian, that's what really hit my father hard. The opportunity to teach Italian? Columbia High School had it, but Columbia was an up-and-coming brilliant school. It was innovative. They had Italian. Not too many schools offered it. My father was really upset that I was doing that. There was absolutely no idea about what I would do other than be a teacher.
Interesting, when I was looking for colleges--again, if I tell you a little bit about my personality, people don't believe it because I'm sitting here and I'm talking to you and I'm very friendly and I'm very open, but I am also very much of an introvert. I do not assert myself unless I am really comfortable in a situation and unless I get a little nudge. So, I knew that when I graduated from high school, I would go to a women's college. I did not want to compete with boys anymore. I was smart, but I knew when you ran for office in your homeroom, you could only be a secretary, you could never be the president. Maybe the vice president. Even treasurer went to the boys.
I knew I wanted to go to a girls' school. I actually really wanted to go to a girls' Catholic school. I felt safe there. I wanted to be safe. I was very sheltered. I wasn't allowed to do anything when I was a kid. So, I thought in order to keep that sheltered, safe environment, I'd go to a small Catholic girls' school. We did the rounds. We went to Seton Hill, which is way out in Pennsylvania, Marymount, which was in Tarrytown, New York; Albertus Magnus, which was in New Haven, Connecticut. There might have been one other one. Then, I applied to Douglass because I just did. It was a girls' school. It was in New Jersey. To be honest with you, I didn't think I'd get in because back in those days, only the smartest girls went to Douglass. I tell this to people, and they don't believe it. I mean, you really were the creme de la creme to come to Douglass. Not necessarily wealthy, you were middle class, but you were the smartest girls. I applied, never dreaming I would get in. I got into all my little Catholic colleges, and my father just kept seeing dollar signs. How could he afford it on a barber salary and my mother as a seamstress?
I got my admission into Douglass. I remember the excitement was just unbelievable. I felt so good about myself. I kept thinking, "Oh, my God. Oh, my God, they really want me." I was shocked, shocked, shocked that I got in. So, of course, it solved all the problems because it was a girls' school. It was affordable, and it was relatively close by. So, that's how I ended up here.
It was the best thing that could have happened to me, to be perfectly honest with you. But, again, the reasoning behind it was not because I thought I should come here. It was sort of an afterthought. I really wanted that small little cloistered girls' Catholic school. It was funny because my mom and I went to visit a couple of them. I remember we were on the train coming home, and she said, "Terre, you're not going there. I will not let you go there." I said, "Why? What's the matter?" She said, "Because you're going to come out a nun, and I don't want a daughter to be a nun. You're not going to be a nun. You're not going to that school." I was like, "All right, okay." At any rate, that's how I ended up here.
SI: I'm curious about this time period, the mid-'60s. There's obviously a lot of social and cultural change happening. You would have entered in the fall of '65.
SI: Rutgers was starting to get a reputation for being an anti-war, maybe left-leaning hotbed. Did any of that affect how your parents viewed Douglass and Rutgers?
TM: No, not at all. Not at all. Again, now that I'm on the reunion committee for my fiftieth reunion and I'm reconnecting with a lot of alumni and I'm reading their stories--especially during the 100th anniversary, I reconnected with a lot of people--there were a lot of women in my generation who were rabble-rousers. They were out there fighting and anti-war and women's lib [liberation], and this, that, and the other thing. I wish I could tell you I was like that, but I told you about my personality and upbringing. I did not question authority. None of my friends did either. It's so funny when I hear about women that were out there fighting. The group of women that were in my dorm and I associated with, that I literally grew up with here at Douglass for four years, were all pretty much the same.
The only thing I knew about the world, and I know this sounds nuts, I swear to you, I lived in a bubble. For four years, I lived in a bubble. I was in a dorm where we didn't have TVs. We had one phone. You had that black phone that hung on the wall. So, you weren't on the phone all the time. There was no alcohol. There was nothing. You had a curfew. So, you were in the dorm. There was one TV in the rec [area]. I lived on Gibbons. Back in the day, it was just a horseshoe of little houses. We had a recreation area called the "cabin." There was one TV in the cabin. When girls wanted to watch the TV, they literally had to have a consensus. If twenty girls were going to sit there and watch it, it had to be soap operas or something. I had no idea of what was going on in the world. I used to get Newsweek once a week. I would read that. That's how I knew that there was a war in Vietnam, that there was distress. I was so out of it. I was socially and politically unaware. I was focused on my education and my social life within Douglass. I can tell you all my friends were, too. When we hear of women that were doing these other things, we're asking, "Who were they? Where were they?" We didn't know them.
We had virtually no Blacks in our [class]. My senior year, I was the house chairman. I had one Black young woman, and she was from the West Indies. I remember when the other Black female students wanted to demonstrate, they came to her. I remember because she came to me because I was the house chairman, and she didn't know what to do. She said, "Terre, I have not lived their experience. This is my first time in the United States. I'm a freshman here in college. I have not known the prejudice that they have known. I don't understand their cause. I don't know what to do." I understood when they started turning over their trays in the dining halls, but that was by my senior year when that kind of stuff was happening. But it wasn't something that I lived with on a daily basis, because there were no Blacks in my dorm, except for this young woman, who wasn't even American, really. So, she hadn't really experienced the situation that these other young women had experienced.
SI: Do you recall what you said to her?
TM: No, except to say that I empathized with her. I understood her dilemma. I mean, I get it. I understand why she was having this issue. I don't recall staying in touch with her after I graduated, because I then got married and moved away, but I remember somebody telling me that as she lived in the United States longer, by the time she was a junior and senior, she got it. She got it. She understood what the heck was going on. But as a newcomer to the United States, she was treated really royally, because she obviously came from money because she was able to go to college here in the United States. She had not known anything in her country that had caused her to feel less than. She was welcomed into our dorm, although I have to say the girl that was her roommate was white. The parents did ask whether or not she wanted a different roommate because her roommate was Black. She said, "Absolutely not. I'm fine." They were fabulous roommates. She was completely accepted into our dorm. So, she did not have a similar experience to these other young women, who had grown up in the United States and had known what it was like to be downtrodden, so to speak. I do think by the time she was a senior and had lived here long enough, she understood what their problems were. I didn't live the life that you hear the outside world lived, when I was here at Douglass.
SI: What stands out about those first few weeks and months of getting acclimated to college life back in the fall of '65?
TM: Oh, my gosh. First of all, freedom. I didn't have my mother and father breathing down my neck. I didn't have boys that were spying for my father. I could do what I wanted, go where I wanted, and I could sign out. We were on an honor system. This is the other thing that I feel so bad that it's gone, but I understand why it's gone. Living under an honor system is incredibly liberating, it really is, because people trust you and it makes you feel so good that you're trusted. I could go anywhere on campus and feel safe. The campus patrol was around, and other girls were. I always felt safe here. I felt that I could go anywhere, do anything. Heck, I could sign out and I could stay out until eleven o'clock. That was the curfew. That was like, "Eleven o'clock?" I had to be in the house by like seven o'clock when I lived at home. Then, on weekends, you could stay out until one-thirty. It was such a sense of freedom. That was number one.
Number two, what struck me was, I wasn't the smartest girl in the class anymore. Everybody here was smart. It was mind-boggling to me that I had to struggle to keep up with these really intelligent young women. We'd be studying together and [snaps fingers] they were recalling facts and saying things. I was just blown away by how intelligent everybody was. So, that was number two.
Number three, I could not get over the opportunities that I had. Again, I told you, when I was in high school, you didn't run for an office that a boy would get. I could raise my hand, and I did. I often look through my scrapbooks. I kept scrapbooks for all four years of my time at Douglass. I volunteered for everything. I was the chairman of this. I was on that committee. Pick a thing, I did it. I developed leadership skills that I didn't know I had because I had the opportunity. Everybody was so encouraging, "Of course, you can do it. Go. You can do it. There are like twenty women that are going to help you do it."
I love the fact that our deans were so accessible. I had all of these women, who I completely respected, who weren't these little spinsters from my high school who were only going to let the boys take an honors class. They were intelligent women who were friendly. They lived in the dorms with us. Margery [Somers] Foster was the dean while I was here. Dean Adams, Ruth [Marie] Adams was here for my freshman year, and then Margery Foster. But the dean's home was accessible. You could get invited to dinner there. I just want to say it was a sense of possibilities, of openness, of not being afraid. I've got to tell you, it was tough on me because when you grow up like this, you're waiting for the other shoe to drop. Is my father going to call and find out that I'm not here, and is he going to yell at me? It was really such an eye-opener.
This is another thing that I thought was fabulous. When you grow up in a strict Italian Catholic family, you're told, obviously, "This one is a bad girl. This one is a ..." There's a word that Italians use. You may have heard it? Puttana. Have you ever heard that?
TM: It means tramp. My mother would warn me, "Don't do this. People will think you're a Puttana?" Well, I come to Douglass. After curfew, eleven o'clock--when, geez, I should have been asleep by nine o'clock, for crying out loud--after eleven o'clock, I remember my first week in the dorm. It was curfew, so I went to bed and I heard voices in the dormitory. I'm thinking, "Well, why isn't everybody going to sleep?" I couldn't understand why nobody was sleeping. I thought that's what you had to do. So, it took me a while, but the other girls in the dorm--that was the other thing, I was on the second floor, the other freshmen were all on the first floor--came, knocked on the door, introduced themselves, and became friendly. They invited me to chat with them in their room after curfew. I found out that they weren't Catholic, they weren't Italian, they had boyfriends, and they kissed boys and they went out on dates. You know what? They were not Puttanas! They were really nice girls. I kept thinking, "All this stuff that my mother had told me for years what a good girl was like ..." Well, they're perfectly good girls. They go to church. They're wonderful. They have good relationships with their parents, even though they have boyfriends. That, socially, opened my eyes to a world that I just didn't know existed. Honest to God, I didn't. Again, my parents probably thought this was the way it was in Italy. You only went out with the man you were going to marry. [laughter] That was it. It was just an eye-opener for me to be with girls of different races, different nationalities, different religions. We were all living together, and it was wonderful. So, it was mind-boggling for me.
SI: Did they have things like mixers and social events?
TM: Yes, absolutely. The dorms would have mixers. We used to come to the Ledge. I don't know what it's called now.
SI: It's the Student Activity Center.
TM: On George Street?
TM: We used to have mixers, and obviously fraternity parties. Socially, it was eye-opening for me. I look back on it, and this was four magical years for me. Really, I blossomed when I was here, socially, except the one thing I didn't do is I didn't have that political framework. The rest of the world was doing its thing. I was doing my thing here at Douglass and at Rutgers. Then, I met Doug, actually, second semester of my freshman year. Being with him was just--he's such an outgoing, vivacious, unbelievable person that he pulled me into a world where, oh, my God, everything was fun. We went to basketball games. We went to football games. I had an experience at the University that maybe a lot of girls that didn't date a Rutgers guy would have. But he did everything, and I was always his girlfriend. We went everywhere and did everything. It was fantastic. I had a wonderful four years here.
SI: How did you meet?
TM: Rutgers used to have these big weekends, Military Ball Weekend, Junior Prom Weekend. I can't even think of all of them. When we used to play Princeton in football, you had Princeton Weekend. You always needed a date for these things. One of the guys in his fraternity was looking for a date for one of these big weekends. So, he showed up at my dorm. He knew one of the seniors in my dorm. He was saying to her, "Look, can you help me get a date? I really need a date for this thing." So, he was in the living room talking to her, when I came home from the library. I saw him, and I thought he was adorable. I just thought he was the cutest thing. So, I walked up to him, and I was introduced. We chatted for a while. I was telling him how all seven freshmen in my dorm were single. We didn't have boyfriends or whatever. So, I thought I was making a connection with him. No. He leaves the dorm, drives back to the fraternity house. Now, this was before eleven o'clock because eleven is the curfew, so maybe this was ten o'clock. He drives back to his fraternity, and he announces to all of the guys that happened to be there that night, "Guys, you're not going to believe it. I just found a group of horny girls at Douglass who are all looking for dates." So, he said, "Come on. We've got to get over there before curfew." [laughter]
Three carloads of guys came over to the Gibbons Campus. I was now upstairs in my room studying. We were all in our rooms studying. (That's what Douglass girls did! We studied a lot!) We heard the doorbell ring. The next thing I heard was somebody pounding on a bell or something, "Freshmen, freshmen, get down here now. We need all the freshmen in the living room." We're thinking, "What the heck is going on?" So, I went downstairs. All the freshmen girls piled into the living room. Lining the living room--we had a fireplace in the middle, but these guys were on the floor, they were on the chairs, they were everywhere. These guys were all around the living room. So, we walked in and thought, "What the heck? Who are all these guys?" We're sitting on the floor. I was sitting on the floor. There were no chairs left. The conversation came up, "Well, I understand you girls are looking for dates." We're thinking, "What? Are you crazy?" Now, mind you, Doug is in this crowd, but I don't see him. I'm focused on the really cute guy that I had just seen.
At any rate, the chimes start. Douglass used to have chapel bell chimes. The chimes start--eleven o'clock curfew. "Everybody get out." So, the guys all left, and the girls stayed sitting in the living room after curfew. We're saying, "What in the world just happened? That was the most incredible experience." Maybe fifteen minutes went by, if that. Upstairs, the wall phone rang, and they start calling me, "Terre, get up here. You have a telephone call." If it was a girl, it was "phone." If it was a guy, it was "telephone." I had a telephone call. Who is calling me after curfew? So, I went up, and it was Doug on the phone. He wanted to go on a study date. Well, I didn't know him from a hole in the wall. He was just a guy sitting in the room, so I turned him down. I said, "Sorry, can't do it," and hung up. Hearing his side of the story is interesting, too.
The next time we met he saw me at the Douglass Library. He was in the Ag [Agriculture] School at the time, so he had a lot of his classes and often studied on the Douglass Campus. So, he saw me and came over to me, and he reintroduced himself. It's like, "Oh, yeah, yeah, okay. I do remember you, okay." He asked, "Would you like a ride home? I have a car. Would you like a ride back to your dorm?" "Sure, sure, that'd be really great. Thank you." He said, "All right, I'll meet you outside at ..." whatever time the library closed. So, I went around to all my girlfriends, and I said, "Guess what? We have a ride back to the dorm." So, I got in the car, and in piles five or six of my girlfriends. We all pile into his car. He's thinking, "Is this girl nuts or what? I'm trying to get a date with her, and she's bringing in all these girls." To make a long story short, the third time he called, he invited me to go to a basketball game or study date or whatever, and I finally agreed to go out with them. [laughter] I gave him a really hard time. At any rate, it was fate because it was the perfect match. Forty-nine years later, we're still married very happily.
SI: Wow, great.
TM: That's how we met, a fraternity guy and a Douglass "Coopie," as we were called.
SI: To turn to academics for a moment, you majored in Italian eventually. Do any professors stand out in your memory, either Italian professors or other professors?
TM: Yes, actually, there were a few professors that, in my mind, really stand out. I'll tell you [about] my Italian professor first. Her name was Maria Teresa Moevs, M-O-E-V-S. She's still alive. (Now deceased.) I just saw her recently at the Douglass hundredth anniversary celebration. I only really took Italian classes here my freshman and sophomore years, and then because I was at an advanced level, I started taking most of my courses on the Rutgers Campus. I don't remember the professors there. It's a blur. It really is a blur.
But the one professor at Douglass that I will never forget as long as I live, and so many other young women at the time thought he was great too, his name was Dr. Schombert. He was a chemistry professor. He used to teach "Chem 101." It was a big lecture hall. I had never had chemistry in high school, but I needed a science. So, I took "Chemistry 101." I was so completely lost because you're in a huge lecture. You can't exactly ask questions. I didn't know what questions to ask. Then, I'd go to the lab. I had a lab partner, and sometimes the lab partner would do all the work. I was floundering. I remember Dr. Schombert found me; he plucked me out of the lecture hall, "Miss Williams, I think you need a tutor." He was so kind. He was so gentle. He was so compassionate. He found me another student to be my tutor. I went from an "F" in chemistry--I ended up getting a "C," which to me was a big leap, but he helped me get through chemistry. I just remember his kindness and his thoughtfulness and the fact that in a lecture hall with three hundred girls, he found me somehow and he helped me get through that class. There weren't a lot of professors, other than my la signora, I call her, that I remember very well.
SI: You mentioned you would go to sporting events on dates and that sort of thing. What about any cultural activities that stand out? I know speakers would come, different musical groups would come.
TM: [laughter] You're talking about cultural, no. I saw The Supremes at the College Avenue Gym. Let's see. Who else did I see? Jack Jones was here for our fiftieth anniversary. Al Hirt, I don't know if you even know who Al Hirt is. He was a jazz musician. He did an outdoor concert on what is now the [Rutgers] Inn and Conference center, but it used to be the [Sydney B.] Carpender estate and it was unbelievable. We were all out there on blankets, and it was an outdoor concert. It was fantastic. In terms of speakers and stuff, I don't remember.
We always had mandatory chapel on Fridays, but it wasn't a religious chapel. You went there for lectures or whatever. Honestly, I don't remember anything that stands out to me. We certainly didn't have a Hillary Clinton come or somebody of that caliber that I remember. Oh wait, Shirley Chisholm was our graduation key note speaker. We also used to have these things called "happenings." At the time, I didn't realize how important they were. They were just what you did in the '60s; you had a happening. But I found out that a lot of the artists from Rutgers were creating these happenings on campus. Other than that, no, I can't think of anything. [Editor's Note: The Happenings Movement, also known as the Fluxus Movement, was an art movement originating in the 1970s that aimed to engage the viewer and challenged conventional ideas of art.]
SI: Can you remember any of those?
TM: No, just that they happened. It was just happening. [laughter] So, that's it.
SI: That was where somebody would do some kind of performance art.
TM: Yes. A happening could be people just getting together and making something out of nothing, like a group getting together and doing performance art or whatever. People just gathered, and all of a sudden, it's a happening. That was like a buzzword that happened a lot, not just here on this campus. I mean, it happened all over, but I do remember happenings. I probably didn't go to a lot of them because, again, my personality, I tend to be introverted rather than extroverted. So, I would not go to something where there are huge crowds, just not my thing. [laughter] So, there you go.
SI: You became--preceptor is not the word.
TM: House chairman.
SI: House chair. You did that your senior year. Did you do it earlier as well?
TM: No, senior year.
SI: What were your duties, basically?
TM: Okay. I even became the chairman of house chairmen for Gibbons. Basically, you were like a house mother. You made sure that all the rules were followed and that the girls were in by curfew. You were the "mother" if there was an emotional issue or whatever; you were there to help with that. But basically, it was an administrative thing to make sure that they signed in and signed out for curfew. I did find out later, in my senior year--I'll go back for a second. By this time, I was engaged to be married. This was the second semester of my senior year. Doug was still in Vietnam, but I was engaged. We got engaged just before he left for Vietnam. There was a new generation of young women that were coming in by 1969--nothing like me. When I was a freshman, I was wide-eyed and innocent. I just was sucking it all up. These girls were worldly-wise. They were already doing drugs. They were not like me at all. I was so unaware of a lot of what was going on. I lived on the second floor. I was totally unaware of what was happening on the first floor, as much as I tried to stay in touch.
After graduation--we graduated before school was out. The girls in the dorm were still taking exams. I remember I came back to campus to see everybody, and I came back to the house. Now that I had graduated, these freshmen girls sat in the living room and said, "Okay, Terre, now that you're gone and you can't do anything to us, we're going to tell you what we were doing while you were in your ivory tower up on the second floor." Not only were they smoking pot--and again, brains over here, I couldn't tell the smell. I was just so naive, so naive. It just didn't occur to me that people would do this stuff because I didn't do it. They were opening their windows on the first floor, and they were sneaking boys into the dorm and boys were spending the night. Talk about a shocked, I was like, "You're kidding me. You're kidding me." So, all this was happening in my dorm under my nose without my realization, because I didn't think like they thought, and it just never would have occurred to me that they would do this stuff.
I also think by my senior year, they had done away with the social honor system. I think we still had an academic honor system, but the social honor system was gone, and we started getting locks on our doors. That was the other thing. We never had to lock our doors; nothing was ever stolen. Now, we had locks. So, these girls, without a social honor system, frankly, they had no honor. They didn't care. They just did whatever they wanted. Nice enough kids, I guess, but not the kind of Douglass woman when I came to Douglass, very, very different. When I think of my friends, it was innocence, it was naivete. These girls had been around the block and had been sleeping with guys. It was the age of free love, I guess. We were still thinking, "We're going to get pinned, and then we're going to get engaged." We did things that were very different. It was so amazing how different we were, from senior to freshman. It was like we were worlds apart.
SI: Did the administration have a reaction to this new generation coming in?
RM: I think Margery Foster did the best that she could with all of the turmoil that was going on. I don't remember a whole lot. I remember they made the changes where they got rid of the honor system; they allowed locks on the doors. That was shocking to those of us who lived under the system and didn't want to see it go because we thought it was very beneficial. But you can't explain that to girls who want their way. They fought for it, and I guess the administration gave into them.
I have learned a lot more and have an enormous amount of respect for Margery Foster since reading the book, The Douglass Century: [Transformation of the Women's College at Rutgers University by Kayo Denda, Mary Hawkesworth and Fernanda Perrone]. I had no idea of the things that she was dealing with, both at a university level and at a college level. It was an amazing time. I have said this to many, many people that that book opened my eyes to the amazing leadership that the college has had over the years. If we had not had the deans, the leaders that were in place at the time, I don't know what would have become of the college. We probably would have been dissolved; it wouldn't be in existence. I think even today, in the form that it is in today as Douglass Residential College, it is stronger than ever. I go on to that campus, and I am amazed at the caliber of students, the programming, the opportunities. It's better than ever. It's fantastic. But it's due to strong women leaders who would not let Douglass die. That's all I could say.
I know that there's a generation gap at Douglass. There was a long time when Douglass was not held in high regard at the University. I know that because I was in the admissions department at the time, and it was hard to get girls to go to Douglass. My daughter, she's also a Douglass graduate, graduated during that timeframe. She goes to her reunions, and nine women show up. She said to me, "Mom, it was the lost generation of Douglass women." It was just not that same loyalty to the school. There was not that same affiliation. Girls got into Douglass because they couldn't get into Rutgers College. So, therefore, they ended up going there as a second choice. But they didn't stay. They lived everywhere else.
SI: Before we took a break, we were talking about the generation gap at Douglass and how there was this lost generation. It sounds like you had some ties already as a student with the dean level, assistant dean probably, but also some interaction with Margery Foster or maybe Ruth Adams earlier. What form would that take? What were your impressions of them as students? Was there a particular one or two that you got to know?
TM: Actually, more than Dean Foster, well Dean Adams, I was a freshman, so there was a certain awe that went along with looking at the dean. I thought it was kind of cool that they would make themselves so available to the student body. I just thought that was an extraordinary thing because--again, I'm saying this a little bit because I'm coming from an Italian-American background where respect is so important, and showing respect to an adult or a leadership figure was so important--so, absolutely, my view of the deans was one of reverence. If they took the time to recognize me or send me a thank you note for something I did on campus, I put it in my scrapbook. In my sophomore year, I was the chair of the Soph-Frosh Picnic. We used to have sophomore sisters and freshmen sisters, and I oversaw that event. I got a thank you note for doing so. I mean, that was big stuff to me. I don't know whether or not it's that way for young women today, but for me, it was a big deal. The one dean that I really felt closest to--and it's so funny because I still run into her, and she's going strong--Janet Yocum. Have you ever heard of Janet? Do you know Janet?
SI: I've heard her name.
TM: Okay. She was like a resident dean on the Gibbons Campus. Looking back on it, she couldn't have been any older than we were. If you're a senior at twenty, twenty-one, twenty maybe, if she was twenty-five, that was probably old back in those days. But she was great. She was always around. She was always available. She was always eager to help if there was a problem. Other than that, I always held my professors and anybody that was in an administrative role apart. I didn't get familiar with them.
Interestingly enough, though, I will tell you, if I can fast forward a little bit, about my daughter Cristina, who came here in the '90s, I remember being on campus. I had come with my middle daughter, who was looking at colleges. Cristina was already a student here. Nicole was on campus to look at Douglass and Rutgers, so we met Cristina for lunch. We were in the Douglass Student Center having a hamburger. One of the deans came by and, seeing Cristina, she stopped at the table. "Cristina, I've been meaning to get hold of you. Let's do lunch. I just want to sit and talk with you and chat about some things." I looked and said, "The dean wants to have lunch with you? She just stops by your table?" I thought this was amazing. Totally different generation. My daughter sees the dean as a partner or an equal, maybe not an equal, but certainly not anybody to hold at arm's length, but to embrace and to get involved and to learn from them, a very familiar attitude. That knocked my socks off. I was so impressed by that. As a result, Cristina was on a first-name basis with a lot of people. There was a woman by the name of Nycha Schlegel, who was her boss. Cristina was the student manager for the Douglass Student Center at the time, and Nycha was her boss. But it wasn't "Mrs. Schlegel" or "Miss Schlegel." It was Nycha. Everything was like buddy-buddy and very, very different from me.
Cristina was part of, as I said, this lost generation of Douglass women. It was funny because a fellow alum--we're on the reunion committee together--she asked me, "Terre, why? What happened? What happened to Douglass that it fell apart?" [laughter] I said, "What happened is Rutgers went coed." Strong, intelligent women were looking at the fact that, "Oh, all of a sudden, we can go to Rutgers. I'm going to prove I can go to Rutgers. I can handle going to classes with the men. I can do as well. I can be better." You saw a generation of strong, intelligent women moving away from Douglass, which had embraced and nurtured them, but kept them separate. They moved away from it and moved toward Rutgers College. Everything was Rutgers College, Rutgers College. Enrollment at Douglass began to go down and down and down. You still have quotas, you've got to fill the seats, you've got to fill the beds, you've got to fill whatever.
Again, I was working in Undergraduate Admissions at this point. They were developing the guidelines for admission to each of the colleges. Rutgers College remained pretty difficult to get into; you had to have a certain GPA [grade point average] and a certain SAT score. If we were going to fill the beds at Douglass, we had to lower those standards. So, you start saying, "Okay, you can get in with a lower GPA. You can get in with a lower SAT. You can get in with fewer requirements." The same thing happened at Livingston College. Requirements got lower and lower, and it really affected Douglass a lot because the women were gravitating toward Rutgers College. That's where they wanted to go. I mean, there were a few that still went to Douglass because they were first generation, and parents said, "No, you're going to go to a girls' school" kind of thing. But for the most part, you were seeing the standards lowered. Therefore, you weren't getting the same caliber of student. I will tell you this. This was another issue that occurred. There was also a perception that if you went to Douglass, you were a lesbian; only lesbians went to Douglass. That rumor went crazy all over the place.
Now, it had that going against it, and it had the lower standards going against it. Therefore, the young woman that was attracted to Douglass was changing, and they didn't have loyalty to the college because they saw it as, "Well, I'm here because I have to be." I'm not sure if you remember this, but remember, they could still go to classes anywhere. The attitude was, "I got into Douglass, but I don't have to live here. I don't have to take classes here. I'll still take all my classes at Rutgers. I'll still take all my classes on the Busch Campus. Nobody will ever have to know that I'm a Douglass student." That went on for a couple of decades at least. Again, there was very little loyalty to the college.
Now, somebody like my daughter looked around and said, "Well, they're dumb if they don't take advantage of everything that the school has to offer." She absolutely took advantage of anything and everything. I told you, she was the night manager for the student center. She was the editor of The Caellian. We used to have a school newspaper. The guys had The Targum. We had The Caellian. She was the editor of The Caellian. She was the campus photographer. Pick a thing, Cristina was there; she was doing it. She just sucked every potential thing that Douglass could offer, which I did too, when I was here, at a different level, but again, I saw the opportunity. She saw the opportunity, and she said, "I'm taking it. If they're crazy enough to not want it, I'll take it." She absolutely was an outstanding student, certainly academically, but also in every other way. Everybody knew her name. All the deans knew her. Everybody knew her because she was the go-to person to get stuff done. But, as a school, the reputation of Douglass had plummeted. Then came this whole thing when they got rid of the colleges and created the School of Arts and Sciences.
I was still working at the university. I had left admissions. I was working in--it was called University Relations, it's now called University Communications and Marketing, UCM. I was working on College Avenue, in Alexander Johnston Hall. Douglass women are throwing a hissy fit over the changes. Carmen Ambar, who was the dean, was screaming loud. I have a paper that she wrote with somebody else--I forget who her co-author is--why there still is a need for women's higher education or higher education strictly for women, why it's still so important. Her arguments are phenomenal, phenomenal. Then, you had the AADC [Associate Alumnae of Douglass College] at the time. They came out in droves. It's funny, because I have said this to Dean Litt--they've had a lot of issues between the college and the alumni association in recent years--I said, "You don't educate strong, intelligent women and then, when they become strong leaders, you say, 'We don't want you to do that anymore.' No, no, that's what you train them to be. You brought them to Douglass to build them up and said, 'You can go out and conquer the world.' Now they're saying, 'I'm at your door, and I'm going to conquer.' You can't say, 'No, no, we don't want you to do that anymore.' You created the monster; you've got to deal with it."
At any rate, when this issue was going on, that they were going to get rid of Douglass College and Rutgers College and Livingston College, I was working in this building. Media Relations was on the first floor. We were on the third floor. Who was on the second? Strategic Communications on the second floor. Community Affairs was up on the third floor. Well, you're in the same building. You're seeing each other at the coffee machine. You're seeing each other at the microwave when you're heating stuff up, and you're chatting at lunchtime. I became a pariah in the office, because they thought I was a spy for Douglass. Does the name Greg Trevor ring any bells for you? Greg was the head ...
SI: Yes, I know the name.
TM: He had been the head of Media Relations. I can remember, Greg would come up to the third floor to use the microwave. He'd be talking with my boss, and if I walked by, he began to whisper. I looked and said, "What the heck is your problem?" "Well, you're a Douglass woman." I said, "You know what? I am in a very difficult position here, obviously, because I have to remain neutral. I work for the University. I am also in the public relations arm of the university. I work in University Relations. I'm here to support my University. Do I want to see my college bite the dust? No, but I won't say anything. I will remain neutral on both sides." It was really hard, because I had my Douglass colleagues and friends all over me saying, "Why aren't you--?" I couldn't at the time because of my position. I didn't want to go in direct conflict with my colleagues. I didn't want to fight that battle.
I will repeat to you, going back to my personality, [laughter] I am not the kind of woman who--I may have very strong feelings about something, but you won't see me in a picket line. I might do it by writing you a letter or sending an email or whatever. I will do it in my own quiet way. I'm not a rabble-rouser. I'm not a fighter outwardly like that. As much as I worried about my college, I could not. I remember going to a program that President McCormick was doing. I forget what he called it, but it was at the first meeting of the university senate in the beginning of the school year. It's like a state of the union thing. He spoke in the College Avenue Student Center. I remember the Douglass women coming in with placards and, in the middle of his speech, shouting and yelling at him. I was mortified. I was mortified, again, because this is the President of the University, who I hold in respect. I may not agree with everything he does, but I respect that he's the President of the University. They were saying terrible things and awful things. I was devastated. It was a very hard time for me. Other people may feel strongly that they can openly say what they feel, but I did not feel I could do it.
I thought what was interesting, when McCormick finally said, "Okay, we'll give you the name 'Residential College,' and we'll keep Douglass as a unit," the powers that be at that time--I don't know how they developed the plan--I don't know if Barry Qualls was part of this. [Editor's Note: Barry Qualls served as an English professor and administrator at Rutgers from 1971 to 2016. Qualls held the post of Vice President of Undergraduate Education and headed the Task Force on Undergraduate Education.] He might have been part of it. But the powers that be began to develop the plan, and the future of what is now Douglass Residential College was very, very smart. I think what they did is they took the resources, and instead of making it big, they brought it down. They said, "This is only for special women. Any Rutgers woman, any woman at the University, can certainly affiliate with Douglass College, but this is a special honor to be part of this college because we will have special leadership courses for you." Everything that they do is so focused on developing a woman as a person, as a leader, as a scholar. We didn't have that for years. During that lost generation time, it was so watered down because the women were everywhere. But this residential college seems to coalesce and bring it all together. The best of anything that is available for women at this University is now available through Douglass Residential College. I am blown away by it every time I go.
I've developed a close relationship with Jackie Litt through this hundredth anniversary year that I've been working with her. She certainly has a strong vision about developing the STEM programs. They're really thinking. The other thing that I'm just so impressed by is the Big Ten affiliation. Apparently, there is not one other university in the country, but certainly not in the Big Ten, that has a unit like Douglass Residential College. When the other Big Ten universities found out about what was happening at Douglass, they were so impressed by it. I don't know when they're doing it, it's not open to the public--it's only open to members of the Big Ten, but they will be coming to our campus to hear panel discussions and conversations about the programs that Douglass offers to women. All of a sudden, we are being lifted up and put in the spotlight in the Big Ten. I hope it gets good publicity because people, certainly my friends, need to know that the Big Ten is more than just an athletic conference. It's a big deal to be in this academically. For Douglass to be singled out and be the shining star in this particular topic, I just think is fantastic.
If you look at it in the spectrum, there was a time when Douglass was for the really smart girls of New Jersey, mostly New Jersey. You had to be really smart to get in. Then, it sort of went down when Rutgers went coed. The reputation and the caliber of students hit the skids. Now, it has come back, and it is an honor--I certainly think--I think a lot of young women are seeing this as an honor to be affiliated with Douglass.
During the anniversary year, the hundredth anniversary year, one of the things that I was really big on was engaging our older alum, who actually graduated from New Jersey College for Women, NJC. I happen to live in a community--I live in Rossmoor--they have, obviously, a lot of older women. I began connecting with a lot of them. I started writing an article for the Rossmoor News highlighting these women. They would read it in the paper, and I'd get a phone call, "Well, I graduated from there, too," "Oh, really?" Then, I'd write about that one. Same thing--I'd do the interviews. Then, I invited Dean Litt to come to Rossmoor, and we had a luncheon. Again, you're seeing the arc, and it just fascinates me because there were women there, as they say it, they were students during the war years. There were no men around, so it was all about the women. Some of the jobs that they held were amazing, and nobody knows their stories really because it dies with them.
I feel like this college has an amazing legacy. I feel really, really proud to be part of it. I think during the hundredth anniversary, I felt really good about helping to flesh out some of this stuff. This book, The Douglass Century, I am so enthralled with that book. In fact, as I said, I'm on the committee, the reunion committee, because we're the Vanguard class this year. For our dinner, I invited Mary Hawkesworth to come and speak. She's going to talk about the decade surrounding our graduation year, so she'll talk about Margery Foster and the issues that she was dealing with while we were students and right after we graduated.
I have to say I'm very, very proud of Douglass, but I think, like most graduates, I graduated, and I left. I got married. I had kids. You have other priorities. You have to get a job. You move around. You leave this part of the country. In my case, I followed my husband. He was still in the Navy at the time. So, you forget about your school. Then, you come back, and you realize, "Oh, my gosh. This was the place that catapulted me out in the first place." Did I answer your question?
SI: I appreciate the answer. You got into a number of issues that I want to delve into. There are two questions I want to ask now since we're on the topic. First, you've talked about your daughter's relationship with Douglass in light of your own. When she was looking at schools, were you encouraging her at that point to look at Douglass, or were you considering those factors that it wasn't quite the school that you had gone to?
TM: Interesting. Nancy Pullen, she and I were in the same dorm for four years and are very close friends, Nancy was the head of Admissions here at Rutgers. Cristina and I looked at Villanova. We went to William and Mary. We went to the University of Richmond. We looked at a whole bunch of schools, absolutely. Then, there was some sort of an open house here at Douglass. We came to this. Cristina and I came, and we heard Louise Duus, one of the deans at that time. Louise spoke. I can't remember the other speakers. At any rate, they spoke. Cristina sat there, and she listened. Then, Nancy pulled her aside and said, "Cristina, let's go for a walk." Now, I wasn't even with her. Nancy told her about all the positive things that she would get at Douglass. Cristina was so impressed with the speakers. She was just absolutely blown away by the speakers. She said to me, "This is it. We don't need to look anywhere else. This is where I want to go." I think the personal touch made the difference. Nancy really did give her a positive spin about the college.
This is kind of a funny thing. Doug graduated from here. I graduated from here. Now, Cristina would be going here. It turned out, my middle daughter, Nicole, went to Rutgers College, so she graduated from here. By the time my third daughter came along and she was looking at other schools, her comment to me was really hysterical. She said, "No, no. I think I just want to go to Rutgers." I said, "Why?" She said, "Mom, because when you guys all go to Homecoming, I don't want to be the only one left out." [laughter] I said, "Okay. So, that's what did it, Homecoming?" We're a Rutgers family through and through. It has been a great school.
I'm going to tell you something else that you're going to think is really weird, but I sincerely believe this. I certainly can't go back to the house that I grew up in. My mother lived there for sixty-five years. When she passed away, we sold it. We can't go back there. Doug moved a lot when he was a kid. He certainly can't go back to any of the houses he lived in. In my married life, Doug and I have moved a lot. Our kids grew up in South Jersey and in Sussex County in Northern New Jersey. They've lived all over the place. So, they don't really have a home that they can go back to. The one constant in all our lives--we can always come home to Rutgers. It's here for us. Yes, it could be Homecoming; it could be anything. I don't care what it is. As much as it changes, it's still Rutgers. We can still come home to Rutgers. It's the one common denominator that my family has. It's the common denominator wherever you travel. When people see my ring, "Oh, my God, you went to Douglass?" It's the home that none of us really can go back to anymore. We can still come back here. A little bit corny, but I really do believe that's true. What was your original question? About Cristina?
SI: Yes. I was asking your own thoughts when she was making that decision.
TM: About her decision, yes. I think she was impressed by the women, the caliber of women. I think a personal conversation with Nancy made the difference. Again, as I said, she milked this University and the college for everything that it had to offer. She was very, very clever to do that. It has stood her well. I have to tell you, one of the things that she said to me--she graduated in 1994. There was a bit of a recession in the job market. She had been a communications major, and she thought she was going to come out and get a job. She could not get a job, could not find a job. Cristina was Phi Beta Kappa. She was brilliant. She had leadership credentials up the wazoo. She couldn't get a job. She had even interned for Media Relations, so she had experience writing press releases and stuff.
She ended up selling coupons door to door. I don't know how she got this position, but the guy literally would drop her off in a neighborhood and she'd be knocking on doors and selling those coupon books. That proved to be a little dangerous because of some of the neighborhoods he was dropping [her off in]. She ended up selling shoes at Strawbridge & Clothier in--I don't know if she was in Cherry Hill or wherever she was--but she was in the shoe department. She sold shoes. She said something to me, which has always stuck in my mind, she said, "Mom, when I am at my lowest, when I think I just can't do it, I have nothing left, I go back to Douglass." Again, I'm feeling emotional about it because it is so true. You feel this strength of these women of whoever you're around. She said, "It fills me up, and I go right back out again." It's something that is intangible. It's marvelous. It's fantastic. Off she went. Today, she is unbelievable. She's got a fabulous executive career at Amazon. [laughter] God bless her, I mean, she's phenomenal. She is just a phenomenal woman. She'll tell you, "It's Douglass that did it first." I would love to say it's all Rutgers, but, no, I think the seed of the leadership, the confidence, the support is the Douglass thing. The name is really Rutgers that gets your foot in the door, because people don't know Douglass, they know Rutgers. So, that's what gets you in the door. I need to get myself a tissue.
SI: I have tissues. Let me pause.
SI: I wanted to step back to your own days at Douglass for a little bit and then move forward with your career. Can you talk about some of the traditions? The traditions are always played up. Obviously, the last year or so with the hundredth anniversary, they've been reemphasized, like Yule Log.
TM: Yule Log, yes.
SI: What do you remember from your own experiences as a student?
TM: It was interesting because I met with Dean Litt, and I met with her staff, and I met with the student committee to tell them about a lot of these traditions. You're right, they reinstituted a few of them. One of the things that I tried desperately to do, but it just didn't pan out, we no longer have chimes in the Voorhees Chapel and those chimes were absolutely a part of student life. They told you when the curfew was, but it also called you to dinner. It told you when you had mandatory chapel on Fridays, which is your assembly period, so you had to be there. Our life was regulated by the chapel bells. Apparently, many years ago, when they were refurbishing whatever, they took them out, and they didn't put it back in. I had said to her, for the hundredth anniversary, I would love to see them restored. I wanted to start a crowdfunding campaign to get them restored, but the foundation people told me I couldn't do it. I said, "All right. I won't do it." At any rate, that is an important tradition that is no longer there.
We used to have--and I don't know if other campuses had it--but on Gibbons, we had what we called goozing parties. The students did have them this year, at my suggestion. A goozing party happened after curfew. Because the students don't have a curfew anymore, it was a little hard. It was usually during the exam period. What would happen is you'd wait for the chapel bells to finish, so a curfew was in effect. Then, usually, Dean Yocum would start it. She would go out, and she'd started banging a pot or something. Then, you would bang, and everybody would stop what they were doing. We'd all go to the [Gibbons] Cabin, and there'd be big barrels of ice cream and toppings and the music would be blaring. The goozing party was nothing more than showing up in your pajamas and getting the biggest container that you could possibly find and eating ice cream and dancing and just having fun, fun, fun until you were exhausted. Then, you went back to your room, and you started to study again. Goozing parties were absolutely a big, big part of our life here.
We had sophomore sisters and freshmen sisters, which they have something similar to now, but it isn't quite the same as what we had. We had traditions like you couldn't walk on Sacred Path if you were a freshman. It was absolutely forbidden. Guess what? None of us did. We really did not walk on Sacred Path until the ceremony of Sacred Path, and then you were allowed. You got rid of your green dink. That was the other thing; you weren't allowed to wear red as a freshman. If you were caught wearing red, any upperclassman could give you some sort of punishment or whatever. That was a big deal. I'm trying to think of some of the--oh, we had Campus Night. Campus Night, I mentioned this to Jackie Litt, I said it was definitely more than a fabulous great big barbecue that we had out on Antilles Field. It was in the Fall, right at the beginning of the school year. So, it was a little bit chilly, but we had bonfires and sometimes we roasted hot dogs or whatever. It was meant to be a barbecue picnic on Antilles Field. Usually, the dean would read a funny poem, or there would be singing, there would be skits. Oh, my gosh, that was the other thing we used to do all the time. Everything that we did, we always had a skit and we made fun of ourselves. We made fun of the upperclassmen or whoever it was. We just loved it.
We used to have sit-down meals. I think the young women today would think that's nuts. Plus, we were not allowed to wear pants. We had to wear a skirt to our dinner. I remember it was Dean Foster who did this. There had been a blizzard, a terrible blizzard. We had to go to Cooper Dining Hall. Cooper, at the time--it's no longer in existence--but Cooper was this great, big old all-wooden building. Apparently, when it burned down, it went quickly because it was all wood. That was our dining hall on the Douglass Campus. It was right behind the dean's house. At any rate, we would have to walk from Gibbons all the way through campus to get to Cooper. I remember after this blizzard, we were all thinking, "How are we going to do this in a skirt?" I mean, really, you're freezing your buns off. So, all of the dorms got a phone call that on that particular night, we were allowed to wear pants to dinner. Well, imagine that. But after that, we were able to wear pants more and more. A lot of us used to leave a skirt in Cooper on a hook or whatever. We'd wear pants and then quickly change so that we could go to dinner. We had sit-down meals with waitresses. I used to be a waitress. That was how I earned some money while I was on campus. That was an important tradition.
I'm trying to think of some of the other things that we did. Yule Log has been in existence since the very first dean. Dean [Mabel Smith] Douglass actually started Yule Log. There was a fireplace in College Hall. On that first Christmas, she burned it there. Then, I guess it was--I forget her first name--Mrs. [Elizabeth Rodman] Voorhees, the one who donated all the money for the chapel, insisted that they install a fireplace, so that Yule Log could go from College Hall and be held in the chapel. Yule Log has always been around. Sacred Path is another big thing. Sacred Path for us was when you moved up in your class. It's when you were able to get your college ring. It was when you could stop wearing green, and you could finally wear red. I know they do something similar now. It's not quite the same, but it's very similar.
I'm trying to think of what other great traditions we used to have. We used to have our own bookstore, which I don't know what they were thinking when they got rid of it. I mean, talk about a dumb decision. At any rate, it was a co-op bookstore. It was Douglass's bookstore. We all bought shares in it, and at the end of the year, we got a check for like ten bucks. We thought we were hot stuff. The Ag School guys could buy stuff at the bookstore, but it was really a Douglass bookstore. When Cook became Cook, it became the Cook-Douglass Bookstore. Then, when Barnes and Noble came in and took over all of the bookstores, they closed it. Look at all the students you have at that end of campus. If they want anything, they have to come to College Avenue and find a parking place to use this bookstore, which is so stupid. I understand that books now are either rented, or they can get them online. But you do more at a bookstore than just buy a book. At any rate, there's nothing like that at Douglass anymore.
Of course, we had The Caellian, which was our school newspaper, which doesn't exist anymore. What other things did we have? We used to have a Christmas formal, which doesn't exist anymore. We used to have Dad's Day. I know it's probably not politically correct anymore, but it was a day when fathers came to campus and it was all about fathers and their daughters. It was just for fathers and daughters, and it was wonderful. That was an amazing tradition. We also had a Mom's Day, but it didn't have the same cachet as Dad's Day. But nowadays, you have young women that don't necessarily have fathers, or there's a divorce situation. I mean, the world, society has changed so much that you would never have that kind of an event anymore. But Dad's Day was a really big, big deal for Douglass. I can't think of anything else, but there was a lot of good stuff.
We had the Douglass blazer. Of course, there's the Douglass ring, which I am shocked to see that so many young women don't have it. I mean, we all got a Douglass ring when we graduated. This ring got me my first job in public relations. I was looking to be a stringer at a newspaper. I go in for an interview, and, at the time, I had no experience doing this, but I needed something that I could do in the evenings. I still had a baby, and I had two other kids. I was interviewing at a paper called The Central Record, which was a small paper down in Burlington County. I guess I was using my hands when I spoke, and the publisher of the paper sees my ring. She says, "Did you graduate from Douglass?" I said, "Yes, I did." She takes her hand, puts it on the desk, and shows me her Douglass ring. She says, "You're hired." She said, "If you went to Douglass, I know you're smart and I know you work hard. You're hired." So, there you go. I had my job. I became a stringer for the paper and got a lot of experience writing press releases and doing editing. That took me on my path to my ultimate career. It was because of my Douglass ring.
I was up in Boston when I was in Admissions. My recruiting area was Boston and a little bit of Rhode Island. I was up there, and I was told that there was going to be this amazing regatta called the Head of the Charles, which is an international rowing event. At the time, my youngest daughter was a student at Rutgers and was on the crew team. Everybody said, "Rutgers is going to be in the Head of the Charles. You absolutely have to go to this rowing event." So, my husband and I went up to watch the rowing event. There were thousands of people everywhere. We were just so blown away. I didn't know what to do or where to go. I looked down by the water's edge, and I saw a couple that was about our age. I looked at Doug, and I said, "They kind of look like they know where they are and what they're doing. Let's go see if we can ask them how we can find the Rutgers team." We walked down to their location. The woman saw my ring. I'm in Boston. She sees my ring, and she goes, "Oh, you went to Douglass. I went to Douglass."
We were in Africa on a tour with the Rutgers Alumni Association. We're on a railroad, the Rovos Rail, taking a trip up to Victoria Falls. There is a woman on the train who is with another tour group called Road Scholar. Guess what? She sees my Douglass ring. I'm in Africa, and she sees my Douglass ring and she knows I went to Douglass. At any rate, this is a really important tradition that I encourage any student, any student that I meet, when they can afford it, I tell them to look on eBay; people sell them when people pass away and their estate sale goes up. Get yourself a Douglass ring. You have to. Other than that, I think I told you all the traditions I can remember. [laughter] There's a lot.
SI: You were a junior when you got engaged, or it was earlier?
TM: I got pinned in my junior year. I got engaged my senior year.
SI: Your husband went off to Vietnam right after?
TM: Well, first, he went to survival school. He went out to San Diego, and he went to survival school. Then, they shipped him off to Vietnam.
SI: This a personal question. You don't have to answer, obviously. The decision to get engaged or wait until he got back, was there much debate about that?
TM: Well, we certainly thought about it. I knew him my freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years, so I knew him for four years before I got engaged. There was never any question that we were going to get married, but it was him. He decided it was important that he survive and that we get married when he came back because he certainly didn't want to leave a widow. So, that's what we did. When I think about it now, I would really counsel my own daughter not to do what I did. He left, and he was due to come back on December 1st. So, he was gone from the end of November of '68, and he was going to come back the following year. He came back on December 1st, and we were married on December 14th. He was literally back home for two weeks before we got married. When I think about it, I think about all the guys that came back with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], who came back with various diseases, and I'm thinking to myself, what a chance I took in marrying somebody who had just come back from the war, not knowing--I mean, physically, he was okay--but not knowing what his emotional state or psychological state was. There was such a sense of, again, it was innocence and naivete, never dreaming that he could be anything but the same Doug that had left me, that he would come back and be exactly the same.
It was his decision that we should wait, and I think it was smart because I needed to finish college anyway. My father would have never allowed me not to get a degree. I had to get my degree, so it was not a big deal. But it was a good decision not to get married. There were too many young women that were left widowed or whatever. Do you have wood to knock on? I don't think this is wood. I don't know.
SI: Did you communicate much over that?
TM: Yes. Letters, letters, letters. There was this really innovative thing. There was a tape; you could record your message. I don't know where he bought them, but he got us each this crazy tape recorder. We would tape messages to one another and mail those in a special envelope. Oh, yes, we communicated a lot. Doug is a good communicator, so it was great that he and I stayed in touch a lot. It would have been awful had we not. I know there are a lot of men who don't want to talk about the war, don't want to talk about their experiences, and hold everything inside, but that's not him. It's more therapeutic for him to spew it out. He didn't tell me much about what he saw in the war. I think that would not have been allowed to be mailed out. But we did communicate.
SI: You graduated in 1969, probably May or thereabouts.
SI: What were your plans for the next step in your career?
TM: I did something that I remember being scared to death that I was going to do. I went to many interviews for a job, knowing I was getting married--shame on me--I lied in all of my interviews. I said I wouldn't leave, that he was getting out of the Navy and that we would stay in New Jersey. I ended up getting a job with Prudential in Newark at the Eastern home office. I was in personnel training, which is what it was called. What I was supposed to, which is all so archaic when you consider what we do with computers now, I wrote what was called programmed instruction. If somebody was going to be a claims clerk, I would have to go in and learn the job of a claims clerk, and then I would write a handbook. I would teach this woman through programmed instructions. She would read the book and do an exercise. I'm saying "she" because it was mostly women that took that job.
Doug was due to come home, so I had to leave that particular job. I felt so bad that I had to tell my boss, "I'm sorry. I'm getting married, and I'm leaving." He knew I lied through my teeth when I said, "Oh, no, I'm not leaving. I'll stay. He's getting out of the Navy, and we're going to stay." But he did not get out of the Navy. He was stationed in St. Louis, Missouri. He became a naval recruiter, and he recruited out of St. Louis. When I got to St. Louis, Missouri, I needed a job, right? Doug was gone all day, and I needed a job. I didn't know anybody in St. Louis, Missouri. That was a culture shock too, going out to the Midwest, coming from the Northeast. It was just very different, very, very different.
I answered an ad, and I went to work for an employment agency, International Business Associates. I became an employment counselor. Back in the day, the women employment counselors were allowed to interview other women for positions like clerk typist and a filing clerk. We could interview and place women in lower-level jobs. If a man came in or a highly-educated woman, they would go to the other part of the office, where all the men counselors were, and they got to place the higher-level positions. So, they were making good commissions; we were making peanuts, but that's the way the cookie crumbled back in those days.
I guess we lived in St. Louis for a year. So, I became an employment counselor and did that for about a year. Then, we came back to New Jersey. Again, we lived, of all places--Doug was managing his aunt and uncle's furniture store--on Long Beach Island. Are you familiar with Long Beach Island?
TM: Okay. We had a home in Ship Bottom, and we lived there.
SI: He had gotten out of the Navy by then.
TM: He got out of the Navy. He was working there. If you can imagine, and I'm sure you can't, but Long Beach Island fifty years ago, forty-nine years ago was not what it is today. I mean, it was desolate. When the tourists went home after Labor Day, Long Beach Island pretty much closed down. You didn't have traffic lights anymore. You could drive up and down the island in no time. All the stores were closed. There were just a few grocery stores that were left open. It was very, very desolate down there. Doug worked in the furniture store, and I stayed at home. I went crazy because there were no young people. If anybody lived down there, it was usually somebody that was retired and they were old. I didn't have a job. I asked Doug, "Can I come and work at the furniture store? Let me do something." His aunt, who owned the store, said, "Absolutely not. I will not have my nephew's wife working here." So, I had no job. I was bored out of my mind.
Then, I got pregnant, and I had my first child. Cristina was about six weeks old, and I'm giving her a bath one morning. It's about ten-thirty in the morning. The store opened up at ten. Cristina was born in November, so this was early December. The front door opens. I look and I think, "What the heck?" and it's Doug. He said, "I just quit my job." I said, "You did what?" He said, "I've had it with Charlotte Whalon. I quit my job. I want a life. I will not be her servant. She promised me all kinds of things because I'm her nephew, and it's never going to happen. Terre, we're out of here." Literally, I felt like a trap door opened, and I fell through it. We had a six-week-old baby. He was now unemployed. I didn't know what we were going to do, where we were going to go. He gets the newspaper and immediately starts looking for jobs. He ends up taking a job in Philadelphia with--it doesn't exist anymore--it was Connecticut General Life Insurance. Eventually, it morphed into what we now know as Cigna. At any rate, he went to work there, and we moved to--do you know where Willingboro is?
TM: We moved to Willingboro. That was our first house. He got a VA [Veterans Administration] mortgage, and we moved. It was 24,000 dollars to buy a house. I can remember our mortgage payment was 239 dollars a month, and there were months when we couldn't make the mortgage. I just remember being hysterical, "Oh, my God." I'd call him on the phone. "What are we going to do? What are we going to do?" What does the Douglass woman do when she's down and out and doesn't have any money? Well, she gets a job, of course. So, I hired a local student to be a babysitter. In the evenings, I went to work in a department store. I did good. I earned grocery money, so that's what fed us for a year or so.
There was an organization in Willingboro that was a very, very big deal. It was called the Jaycees. They had a women's part called the Jaycettes. The Willingboro Jaycees back at this time--this was like in the early '70--was a powerhouse in the State of New Jersey. It was a huge chapter, a very influential chapter. Many of the people that were officers in the Willingboro Jaycees were also officers at the state level. But they were all young. You have to remember the cutoff age to be a Jaycee was thirty-five, so you'd figure they're all young people. Doug joined the Jaycees. What was good about that is it gave young men an opportunity to take leadership roles and do something civic-minded. So, he got involved in that. I was still doing my thing at the department store, and I had another baby. Once I had the second daughter, I was feeling better about joining the Jaycettes. So, I did.
Again, it was a very active, really excellent organization--all women, though. I remember sitting there in the meetings and hearing about these projects. Women would get up and give reports. I'm thinking, "Holy cow, I can run rings around these women. They don't know what they're doing." So, one thing leads to another and the old hand goes up and Terre becomes very active in the Jaycettes. I become one of the vice presidents, and I run a public speaking course for all the women, which ends up winning an award at the state level. I become the person that does the submission for all the awards for the chapter, for each of the individuals that we've set up for awards. Almost everything that I submit--award, award, award. So, my writing skills are now through the roof. I was getting really good at this.
SI: Were you working for the paper also?
TM: No, no. I was just a volunteer and a stay-at-home mom. I took over the newsletter for the Jaycees and the Jaycettes. Doug and I did it together. I did all the writing for it, and then he and I, on the weekends, would go--we had a mimeograph machine. They didn't even have a Xerox. We would mimeograph it. We would duplicate it. It was collated and sent it out. Even though it was very basic, it won "newsletter of the year" at the state level. It was unbelievable. We were pulling in awards like crazy. I became--it was called the Mary Lee Brown Award--the New Jersey Jaycette of the year. Don't even ask me what year it was. It was probably in 1974, somewhere in there. So, I'm just ripping along, just pulling stuff in, and really feeling my oats, but still working at the department store. Doug was doing better at his job.
Cristina, our oldest, finished kindergarten in Willingboro. I remember saying to Doug, "I am not comfortable with the school district. I want her in a better school district. She's a smart little girl." For me, education is everything. So, we ended up moving to Medford, New Jersey. That's where I got the job as the stringer, writing for the Central Record. My beat, so to speak, was Shamong Township. Are you familiar with Shamong at all?
TM: I covered the planning board, the town council, and the school board meetings. It was great because it was all in the evening, and then I could go home. We had an Apple IIe. [laughter] They're the very first Apple computers. My kids could play on it. It had that green-and-white screen. It was just really funny. Anyway, I could do my articles on my computer and print them out and then deliver them the next morning for publication in the newspaper. So, I did that for several years, but I also stayed very active in my community. We belonged to a pool and tennis club. I ran events for them and did all kinds of things for them.
Once my kids were pretty much established in the elementary school, I would volunteer in the schools. It occurred to me as I would sit there--and I would go to school board meetings--I would hear all the really cool things that were happening in the school and I thought, "Nobody writes about this stuff." So, I went to the principal, and I said, "Do you mind if I start writing press releases about things that are happening at your school? I would also like to do a newsletter for the school." Of course, the principal said, "Yes, go right ahead."
The next thing I know, the teachers are begging to talk to me, "Well, we're doing this, that, and the other thing. We want that in the newsletter." Well, I was doing this, I don't know, for maybe six months or so when I get a phone call from the superintendent of schools, "Mrs. Martin, I have a problem. I think you're the source of my problem." "What's the matter?" Mr. Salati was his name. "Well, it seems that Haines Elementary School is getting a lot of press, and the other elementary schools are not getting anything. They want to know why nobody writes an article--you've really created an issue for me. I think I need to hire a PR [public relation] person for the school district. Would you come in and talk to me?" So, I'm thinking, "I've got this job in the bag. I'm going to be a PR person." No. What happens is--when I think about it, I could just wring his neck--he says to me, "I need for you to help me create a job description." So, he gives me various assignments. I have to go interview principals. I have to do this, that, and the other thing.
At any rate, we put together a job description for a public relations specialist for the Medford Public Schools. He puts an ad in the paper, which is legally what they must do. They narrow down the candidates, and it's me and one other woman. I'm still thinking, "I pretty much should have this in the bag." Heck, I wrote the job description. I should have it, right? I'm sitting there waiting to be interviewed by the superintendent and a couple of the board members, and in walks a woman in a gorgeous tailored suit with a leather briefcase made up to the nines. I'm sitting there; I am "Little Miss Housewife" in my nice little cotton dress, just being a regular mom. [laughter] She goes in for her interview first and comes out, and she's just reeking of confidence. Then, I go in, and I thought I did okay in the interview. About three days later, I get the phone call from the superintendent. "Mrs. Martin, this is the hardest phone call I've ever had to make. I'm sorry, but you did not get the job. We gave it to this other woman." Well, I was devastated. I was totally devastated.
While I'm licking my wounds and feeling really terrible, Doug comes to me and says--this is maybe about a month later--he says, "I'm taking a job transfer. We're moving to North Jersey." I'm thinking, "What the heck?" It all happened really quickly. I lost the job in Medford. He gets a new job in Hackensack, New Jersey. Long story short, we ended up moving to Sparta up in Sussex County. My daughters and I went kicking and screaming because we loved where we lived, but we ended up in Sparta. I just stayed home and was a mom doing nothing but housework and mom things for about a year.
There was a local paper called the Sparta Independent. I was reading the Sparta Independent and saw an article about a woman who was retiring as the public relations specialist for the Sparta Public Schools. So, I got on the phone, and I called the board of education office. "Are you going to be replacing so-and-so?" The woman on the other end of the phone replied, "Well, yes. Are you interested in the job?" I said, "I am." She said, "Well, would you like to set up an interview with the superintendent?" We set it up, I go in, and I bring a portfolio. This time, I'm going in, and I'm going to look like a professional. I have a portfolio. I have all kinds of things. I'm ready to roll.
In walks the craziest man I have ever met, wonderful to work for, but this is a superintendent of schools. He's wearing madras golfing pants that are all different plaids and whatever and a white shirt, and he's smoking a cigar. He comes in, sits behind the desk, and he puts his feet up on the desk [laughter] in an interview. We start talking about the job. I tell him what my experience is. I pull out my portfolio. He looks at it for like thirty seconds, hands it to me, and that's it. He doesn't say anything. "Well, you certainly do have great credentials. This is really great," blah, blah, blah. Off he goes. A week goes by. I call the board office. "You know, I never heard anything from Dr. Greed. Do you have a decision on whether or not you've hired somebody?" The woman said--this is his secretary--"Are you telling me that he did not offer you the job right then and there?" I said, "No." She said, "Oh, my God. Yes, you're hired. You're on the agenda at the board meeting. Your name is going to be approved." I went, "Nice going, John Greed."
At any rate, he was absolutely the strangest boss I have ever had, but he was also wonderful in the sense that he was very encouraging. He got me involved in a professional organization called NSPRA, National School Public Relations Association. It was made up of school PR people from all over the state. He got me involved in that, and we met statewide. I eventually became an officer in that.
I did school PR in Sparta for several years. As I became known--I was starting to get a byline--other school districts started calling me. Newton called me. Hardyston called me. Byram called me. I started getting other clients, so I ended up creating my own little company. I did school PR, but it was a part-time gig. It left me time, so that I could still drive carpools. I could still get to soccer games. I could go to swim meets. So, I was working, but I could still be the full-time mom as well. Then, Doug lost his job. He got downsized. That was the term that was used. This was in the '80s. "You got downsized." Now, I was in a tough situation.
I went to the Sparta Board of Ed. The superintendent at that time was a different superintendent. I said, "I need a full-time job. I need benefits." Two of my kids were out of college, but I still had Alison, who was here at Rutgers. I said, "I need benefits." The best they could do for me was put me on eighty-five percent. They couldn't give me one hundred percent employment. I said, "That's not going to get me benefits. It's not going to do the whole thing." So, while I was tearing my hair out, I went to a cocktail party with my old college friends. Who's there but my good friend Nancy Pullen.
By the way, I should have said that during this time, I was also a volunteer recruiter for Rutgers. There was a program called RAVIN [Rutgers Alumni Volunteer Information Network]. At any rate, I used to recruit for the University up in Sussex County. I went to all the college fairs. I went to student visits. So, I go to this cocktail party. Nancy says to me, "Terre, Annette is leaving." I forget Annette's last name. I said, "Geez. Well, as a volunteer, who do I report to in Admissions now?" because she handled the RAVIN program. So, Nancy looks at me, and she says, "You'd be perfect for the job. But you would never commute to New Brunswick." Here I'm thinking, "Oh, my God, I need a full-time job. I have experience in this. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this." So, I turned to Nancy, and I said, "Don't be so sure that I wouldn't commute. Try me." She looked at me, and she said, "Terre, there's no way." "Try me." "Okay," she says.
So, I get a phone call. She sets up an interview. Her whole recruitment team is there. I come in. Again, I've learned my lesson. I've got my portfolios. I'm so professional as I walk in there. We sit around the table, and I discover that I'm going to be writing a newsletter. Piece of cake, I've been doing that all along. I'm going to be recruiting for the university. Piece of cake, I've been doing that. I'll be working with Rutgers alumni from across the country, helping them get set up, so they can recruit for the University. Piece of cake, I can do that. I'm hired. I end up working for Admissions. It was a dream job. It was great.
SI: What year was this?
TM: I want to say it was 1999. Now, I'm in Admissions. Again, I loved it. I was running events. I was doing special events for--I forget what they're called now, but these are students that score really, really high on their SATs.
SI: Merit scholars?
TM: Yes. We were running a special breakfast. Who was before Rutgers President McCormick?
SI: Francis Lawrence.
TM: Lawrence. That's who it was. Lawrence would come, and he would do his thing. He'd go from table to table talking to the high-achieving students. Nancy Winterbauer accompanied him. I had to work with her. She was great. At any rate, I'm in Admissions. One of the things that was happening at the time was something called the Rutgers Academic Challenge. I don't know if you've ever heard of it, but it was an academic tournament that was held on the Newark, New Brunswick, and Camden campuses. It was a massive statewide program. It was meant to attract high-achieving high school students to the campuses and to Rutgers. So, it was really a recruitment tool for the University, but it was being run out of a different department. It was being run by--OPEC [Office of Print and Electronic Communications] led by Linda Bassett. Do you know her?
TM: Linda Bassett was in charge of it. She comes to the Admissions department looking for volunteers. "I need people to be proctors and judges." So, I felt it was certainly recruitment. It was an Admissions thing. So, I volunteered. I said, "Sure, I'll do it." I said that I would do tournaments in Newark because I lived up in Sussex County; it was easier to get to Newark. So, I did tournaments in Newark, and I came down here to New Brunswick. I did several tournaments.
The second year, I was still working in Admissions. I was in the Busch Campus Center having lunch with Nancy in a booth, and who comes over but Linda Bassett. She says, "I need somebody to take over the academic challenge. I've been doing it for a couple of years now. I have to turn it over. I have other priorities. I have other things I need to do. I have this job description." She shows it to Nancy and me, and she says, "What do you think of this job description? Who do you think I could get to do this?"
Well, Shaun, it was almost like she took my resume and created a job description, because I had curriculum experience from Sparta. I had worked with the director curriculum up there. I certainly had grades K through twelve experience or nine through twelve experience with all of the PR work that I had done up in Sparta; recruitment experience, obviously, because of Admissions. Everything that she wanted--I had run events. Oh, my God, did I ever run events? Pick a thing. I had done it, I had done it, I had done it, and it was a huge promotion. Back in those days, we didn't have grades; we had levels. HR had changed everything, but I was at a level twenty-three in Admissions. This was a level twenty-seven. That was four levels up. I was already fifty years old, by the way, when I took my job in Admissions, and I remember saying to Nancy, "Nancy, I'm fifty. I'm going to retire at some point, and I've got to build up my salary to a point where I get a decent pension. Earning thirty-thousand dollars isn't going to get me much in retirement."
With her blessing, I said, "I'm going to apply." So, I applied. I get called in for an interview. I interviewed with Linda and her right-hand person, who was this wild woman called Sonia. Oh, my God, Sonia was larger than life. At any rate, I go in for the interview, and I'm sitting there listening to the two of them. I'm sitting there, and I'm going, "They're crazy. These two women are nuts. I can't work for them. One is crazy, and the other one's crazier. I'm getting out of here." At the end of the interview, I shook their hand, and I thanked them. I drove back to Sparta, sat down at my computer, wrote an email to Linda Bassett, and said, "I'm withdrawing my name. Thank you very much for interviewing me, but I have set some goals for myself in Admissions, some recruitment goals, and I think I'd rather stick around for another year and see if I can meet my goals." End of story.
Well, Linda goes bonkers. She goes to Nancy, "What happened? What did you say to her? Why doesn't she want this job?" I had told Nancy, "You should spend five minutes with her. She's all over the place. She constantly runs her hand through her hair. She seems exasperated. I can't work for her." Okay, I didn't work for her. I turned down the job.
Another year goes by. The Academic Challenge is still happening. I'm still going to all the tournaments, volunteering. At the end of one of the tournaments, Doug and I stayed to hear who won everything. At the end, I went to shake Linda's hand, and I shake Sonia's hand. I said, "It was a great tournament. I really enjoyed working for you." Linda pulls me aside, and she says, "So, did you meet those goals yet?" I said, "Yeah, I met those goals. Why?" She said, "Just wondering if you've met your goals. Are you interested in moving on?" I'm thinking, "Holy moly, she's talking about this job." So, I go back, and I said to Doug, "It is strange that in a year, she has not hired anybody." I mean, the whole year has gone by. I think everybody knows she's crazy. I don't think anybody wants to work for her.
Finally, at this point, though, financially, things were at a point where I really needed to get a raise. The increments that I was getting in Admissions were marginal. I called Linda, and I said, "Can I meet you off campus somewhere far away? I don't want Nancy to know I'm talking to you." So, she and I go off, and we meet in a restaurant somewhere. I said to her, "Are you still offering me this job?" She said, "Yes." I said, "Okay, I'll take it." [laughter] So, I ended up leaving Admissions, going to work for OPEC, where I ran the Academic Challenge for another--I think it was still in existence for six more years.
What happened in that timeframe, Lawrence leaves; McCormick comes on board. McCormick no longer wants to support the Academic Challenge. It's not his initiative. It was a Fran Lawrence initiative. He pretty much says, "You've got to deep-six it or sunset it. It's over. I don't want to support this anymore." By this time, we had been moved over to College Avenue. We were in Alexander Johnston Hall. I don't know what the heck to do. What do I do with this tournament? How do you notify all these schools? How do you notify all these people who are so invested in this program? At any rate, we did it. It went under.
I don't know how long you've been at the University, but McCormick did a Faculty Traveling Seminar when he was in Washington, so the new Faculty Traveling Seminar was his big initiative here at Rutgers. That's what our office did at that point. We ran that for several years, until again, budget wise, he began to feel we should end it. We did some other really great events, too. We did something called Huddle with the Faculty. That was a great program, where on the days of a football game, on a home football game, we would bring top faculty from the university to do a talk. We would be in--where the heck did we do this? It must have been in the Busch Dining Hall or someplace that people could sign up, and they could come if they didn't tailgate. It was something that they could do. We would provide food, and then they could go to the game. Huddle with the Faculty was okay. We did it for at least one season. We may have done it for two seasons, but it didn't get the overwhelming support that we thought it would get from the "fans," so to speak. So Huddle with the Faculty died. I said we did the tour.
Then, of course, talk of Rutgers Day came up. We didn't know that it was going to be called Rutgers Day, but we started doing our due diligence and we started getting on the phone with universities from across the country, out in California. Finally, we arranged a meeting. You know Matt Weismantel, I'm sure.
TM: Matt was there. Pam Blake went. Linda went. I went. Who else went? From the Rutgers Alumni Association--the guy.
SI: Bob Marguccio?
TM: No, no. He's younger. He's still there.
SI: Michael Rutkowski?
TM: Yes. Michael Rutkowski. Mike came. At any rate, we rented a van, and we all went down to the University of Maryland to Maryland Day. Everybody was assigned their location, and we scoped things out. Then, after that, we sat, and we met with the people that do Maryland Day. They were really wonderful, very accommodating. We picked their brains about how they did it. Then, we came back to New Brunswick, and the idea for Rutgers Day began to emerge. It was a hard sell. I mean, considering now how people think it always existed and how people think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread, you have no idea how difficult it was to launch that stupid thing. People were incredibly resistant. We had issues, especially with Cook, "You're going to ruin Ag Field Day." "No, we're not going to ruin Ag Field Day." "What you guys have happening at Ag Field Day, now we're going to give the other campuses an opportunity to show off what they do." "No, no." So, Linda and Melissa--do you know Melissa Selesky?
TM: Linda and Melissa pretty much did a dog-and-pony show and had to go to get buy-in from everybody, and I mean, everybody. It was really hard. It was so, so hard. "You'll never get faculty to come out on a Saturday. Nobody's going to want to do it. Who's going to come?" Every negative thing you could think of they threw at us about Rutgers Day. I will tell you this: you never say no to Linda. Because when you say no to Linda, she just says, "Well, oh, yeah? I'll show you I can do this. I can do this. I can do this." Again, talk about a visionary. She is incredible. She is an amazing visionary. Fortunately, she had me and Melissa, who are sort of like my dad and my mom. He was the visionary. She was the enforcer. Linda was the visionary, and I was the go-to person to make it happen, get it done, do the not so much logistics, but I was able to get the committees going. I could get the people assigned. I could do the grunt work if you want to put it that way.
At any rate, you see what Rutgers Day has become. It's just gotten bigger and bigger and bigger. What happened was Melissa ended up becoming the Director of Community Relations. So, she originally reported to me, but then she ended up becoming this other director position. So, her position was open. That's when I hired Patty Kastner, which was a brilliant hire on my part. I thought that was so smart. She was so good. At any rate, Patty came onboard. Again, we continued with all of the Rutgers Day preparations.
Then, throw into the mix, McCormick leaves. We have [Robert L.] Barchi, and now we're going to do a merger with UMDNJ [University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey]. All of the events that went along with that all came out of our office. We were in Newark, we were in Stratford, we were in Camden, we were on Busch, running all of these merger events, getting old muckety-mucks where they needed to be and doing what they're doing. I'm taking you through the full complement of stuff.
The other big thing that I did while I was there--it wasn't a big thing, but it was something that I took on as a mission for me--is the Speakers Bureau. We could not get that Speakers Bureau to function at all. Every person that I assigned it to just didn't follow through. So, I finally had to fire this one woman. I felt bad about it, but she just wasn't functioning. I fired her, and I said, "Damn it, I'm going to do the Speakers Bureau, and I'm going to prove to you this thing can be successful." Well, it can, as long as you dedicate time to it. It required lots of follow up. Somebody calls and says, "I need a speaker," you call them back. If you can't reach them today, you call them back tomorrow, but you follow up, you follow up, you follow up. At any rate, by the time I left, the Speakers Bureau was doing great. We had tons of requests. I had tons of speakers that were willing to go out.
Then, I saw--this is me--I saw a lot of changes here at the University under Barchi, and a lot of new things were going to be happening. I looked at Linda, and I said, "I'm tired. I'm well over retirement age." I guess I was sixty-seven at the time. I said, "I don't have the energy and the desire to do this anymore, so I'm going to retire." So, that's what I did. I ended up retiring. It was the best decision I could have made because I see so many changes. Even when I came here today, I can't believe the Ferren Mall is down. That whole area is like, oh, my God. You look at it, and I had no idea that you could see all this stuff. All of it is just so different. So, it's gone. I took you through the whole thing, right up to my retirement. I'm done, other than my volunteer work at Douglass. I came back, volunteered, and I did the hundredth anniversary, obviously. So, there it is. I'm done. [laughter]
SI: Wow, that's great. It's interesting how the department you were a part of was taking on these missions. I think McCormick was really the first president to really take it on in a more aggressive way. But Lawrence had done some stuff in terms of engaging Rutgers with the state more, trying to build those relations. Rutgers Day was part of that and a lot of the other things you ended working on. Were there any other things that they tried in that regard or maybe roadblocks that you ran into, where you saw things that should have worked but didn't, that sort of thing?
TM: Yes. We had a lot of issues when [Jon] Corzine was our governor. I mean, he did no favors for Rutgers at all. In fact, that was the other thing, when he was trying to bring in the union. As somebody who was an employer and I had to supervise and manage people, I happened to have an employee that was underperforming. I had to let her go. Well, if you know anything about the procedures that you have to go through to let somebody go, the documentation, I remember saying, "Employees are so well protected here." I kept saying to the people in my office, "Are you sure you really want this union? You really have protections, and you're going to end up paying union dues. Trust me, I don't know what you're going to get that's more than what you're getting now." I remember coming out of McCormick's office and coming out of HR; they were starting to send emails to employees saying, "These are your benefits just as an FYI. We're not selling anything. We're just saying, 'This is what you have. When you start thinking, think about what you're going to get as compared to what you have.'"
I remember Corzine told them, "Cease and desist. No more of these emails." I remember thinking, "I can't believe he is muzzling the President of the University." He's saying, "You can't tell the employees what their current benefits are." But the governor said it. That's what I'm saying. I remember being so angry at him, feeling like he was really undermining what the President of the University could do. Long story short, obviously, the union came in, and I remember saying to my friend that worked in the office, "You are now paying union dues. I'm getting the same benefits that you're getting out of this thing, but you're paying the union dues and I'm not. Boy, I don't know. I think you guys made a mistake." A lot of them have had second thoughts about their decision. If they had to redo it, they don't know that they would have voted the way they did.
At any rate, I also remember that they developed a program, and it came from one of the members of the Board of Governors, and again, don't ask me what the guy's name is, but I could see him; he was an old guy. He started the Friends of Rutgers. It was going to be our PAC [political action committee]. He hired Rick Considine to head this. They put him in the office next to mine. I remember this guy was running from here to here to here. He's in Trenton. He's back. He's there, and he got nowhere. He got nowhere. I don't know if it was that he wasn't getting the support from the central administration. I think he took some unconventional ways that he was trying to contact people and do things, and he would get his hand slapped. He was very frustrated, very, very frustrated. Friends of Rutgers did not last. A lot of people joined it. There was a huge database with the names of people that wanted to be a Friend of Rutgers, so to speak. Rick ended up getting canned, so off he goes. What do you do with this huge database now? What do you tell all these people that are Friends of Rutgers? Well, you give it to Community Affairs, right? They'll take it. Since my office was next to his, "Oh, Terre, here, you're in charge. You take over Friends of Rutgers." Well, I have zero political savvy or aspirations or anything, so the best I could do was contact people and just ask them to be loyal to the University. I don't even remember what the heck we talked about. But the Friends of Rutgers just dissolved; it went under. I don't know how much money or time or energy--I know a lot of energy was put into it by Rick. But that really fell apart. Again, I think that was an initiative by one of the members of the Board of Governors who was very powerful, and the president wanted to keep him happy. So, it happened, but that fell apart.
I'm trying to think of anything else that was a real bust. Usually, I will tell you, when Linda Bassett took on a project, it wasn't allowed to fail. We just really closed ranks and worked really hard. We always had an extraordinary staff, small but hard working and well connected. All of us are good relationship people. When push comes to shove and we needed something, we had people that we could work with because there was confidence in one another and we knew that we weren't going to screw them over. [laughter] They weren't going to screw us over.
That even goes with Rutgers Day, for example. We had to work with Creative Services. They did our website. They did our handbook. They did our signage. They did everything. Creative Services, everything they do is based on deadlines. If I give you the copy for this on a Monday, you have to review and get it back to me on a Wednesday. My life was all about deadlines. I wrote press releases. I understand deadlines. That's how I live my life. If you tell me I have to have something done by tomorrow morning at six o'clock in the morning, I'll stay up all night; I'll get it done. I will meet your deadline because that's what I do. That's not the way other people in my department worked or other people in my office worked. "What do you mean, they want it Wednesday? Well, I don't have time to do it now. They'll get it when I finish it." "No, no, it has to be done Wednesday." What was happening was I had to maintain relationships with a lot of University people to make sure that they would cooperate with us and that they didn't get their feelings hurt, especially we needed the relationship of Creative Services. They did us a lot of favors when things weren't working, the website wasn't working, or if there was an error or something. "You've got to fix it now. We don't have time. You've got to do it now," and they were on it. But it was mainly because of a relationship; there was a trust. They knew if they asked something of me, I would do it, or I would have my direct reports do it. We'd get it done. We did not take advantage if ever we could help. We did what we did because we had to.
At any rate, I can't think of anything that failed. I think that we always had successful programs. Again, Linda, being a visionary, would see it, and we would implement it. She could tell us what she needed, and we would somehow make it happen. She was really a gift, but she pissed a lot of people off. I'll say that very low. But she did; she would make a lot of people angry because she needed things done her way and done, in her mind, the right way. She didn't want to do shortcuts or anything.
Rutgers Day didn't become the way it is by accident. I'm telling you right now; there was a plan behind it. I give all due credit to her, to Melissa, I'll give it to myself too, and to Patty. It happens because there are some hard-working people behind the scenes who made it happen and forced it to happen against the will of others who didn't want it to happen. But it's an enormous success. I love the fact that I talk to Douglass students now--I was on campuses for Rutgers Day this year, we did a booth for the hundredth anniversary--the young girl that was helping me set up the tent, I asked her something about it. She said, "What do you mean? Hasn't Rutgers Day been here forever?" No. There you have. That's it.
SI: You retired in 2014.
SI: I was curious about the 250th anniversary. You may have seen the planning stages.
TM: Exactly. I was very much a part of the planning stages, sat in on a lot of meetings. When we did the hundredth, I went and I talked to Matt. I asked him, "What did you think of this?" He was good. He gave me some good ideas. But the difference is the 250th had a really great budget. The Douglass hundredth did not. [laughter] So, all the great ideas didn't amount to much because we couldn't afford to do very much, so it didn't happen. My husband, certainly as an alum, got involved with the 250th, too. It was a big deal for him.
SI: Well, tell me a little bit about your work with the hundredth anniversary.
TM: Well, what happened was, before I retired, I was very proactive. I was a little bit concerned about the fact that too many people that I see retire either pass away, or they are so bored with their lives, they're miserable, they become sick or whatever. I said, "That is not going to happen. I need to find something to do in my retirement." I knew I wanted to stay involved with Douglass. What I was doing in the years prior to my retirement was cultivating ideas. One thing I did is I got certified in ESL [English as a second language]. I thought to myself, "Well, if I teach ESL classes--there are international students--I could still stay involved that way." So, I got the certification. I didn't really use it, but I have it.
Then, what I did is I met some international students at Douglass, and I got invited to go to a meeting that they had, it was called DISA, the Douglass International Student Association. They invited me to a meeting. I sat there, and there were young women from all different countries. But there was a group of adorable little Chinese girls who were sitting together. They gravitated toward me. They were asking me questions, cultural questions, not so much language. I said that I had an ESL certification if they needed help with language. They wanted to know things like--and I thought this was priceless--what exactly is Thousand Island dressing? I thought, "That's a good idea. Why do they call it Thousand Island?" But silly little things that, culturally, were here in the United States, they didn't understand what we were doing. How do you read a menu when you go through a buffet line? What are all those things up on the wall? What does that mean? I said to them, "Would you like to get together with me, and we can have our little meeting classes?" "Oh, yes," they said.
Every Monday evening after work at six o'clock, I would leave my office, and I'd meet them at Hickman Hall. They arranged the room and everything and would sit there for an hour. I taught them about Irish soda bread; we did St. Patrick's Day. They didn't know what little marshmallow Peeps were that we had for Easter, and I gave them Peeps. I brought in a menu, and we went over menus to see what things were. I just had so much fun. So, I said, "I know I need to stay connected to Douglass. I love it, and I want to stay connected."
Just before I retired, I went to Dean Litt, and I said to her, "I know the hundredth anniversary is coming up. I will be retiring. You know I can plan an event. Feel free to call me if you need any help with the celebration." Well, she took me up on it immediately, contacted me, and the next thing I knew, I was sitting down with her staff. The best part about it for me and the most gratifying part about it for me--she had a lot of new staff, and by new, I mean new to the University--they had not graduated from one of the colleges. They didn't know the University. I was able to be a resource. They were going to outsource everything, hire people from outside. I kept saying, "You are aware that Rutgers has in-house capabilities, that you can ask Creative Services to help you with this." I forget the various departments--Media Relations or whatever. "You need to do some outreach within the University." What I was able to do for them is I arranged meetings, and I would bring them to people here at the University so that they saw that they are not--and that's the mentality that I think Jackie has got a little bit better--Douglass itself has to realize that they are now part of the wider University. They have to integrate themselves and not think of themselves as a separate unit, that we don't do everything independently anymore.
I think that the best thing I could do for them is introduce them to the traditions, but then also say to them, "You can go to Rutgers Catering. I know people in the catering department that you can go to, and you can get this and you can get that and you can do this and you can do that." Just meeting on a regular basis with the Douglass staff was how it began. I'm trying to think of some of the other things I did for them. I did all kinds of things. I met with their students. I met with people at Mason Gross that I knew were Douglass graduates, and I helped them produce something. The 250th [anniversary] had a scroll that apparently you could sign, and it went into the archives. Rather than a scroll, Douglass has a famous Redbook, which is what it's called, which is a handbook of everything you need to know about Douglass. So, what the people at Mason Gross did for us is they created a super-sized Redbook. They bring it to every single event, and people get to write a congratulatory message in it. Like the scroll, it will be archived.
I'm trying to think of the other things that I did for them. I was making contact with a lot of different alums, reminding them about the anniversary. We used to have a singing group on campus called the Weepies; it was an acapella singing group. Nobody in recent history knew anything about them. I started to contact various people that I remembered being in the Weepies, and I started getting emails, "I can't come to campus. I don't live locally anymore," blah, blah, blah. But I started making connections for them. I did this thing with the people, the ladies from Rossmoor. They were so delighted to meet the dean and current students and hear about what's happening on campus. Of course, they love talking about their time on campus.
I helped not a lot, but I got to read some of the chapters of the book, The Douglass Century. That's how I sort of got into a relationship with Mary Hawkesworth. I think she's fantastic; I really do. She and I had some correspondence, and I actually was able to edit one of her things that was in there. It had to do with the women's basketball team. I'm reading it, and something didn't ring true. So, I did my research, and I contacted some people and I was able to give her the correct information. So, I have my finger in a lot of different pots. That's about it. It was never a burden. Let me put it that way. They did not burden me with anything. They were very respectful of my time, of my retirement. [laughter] If I didn't want to do something, I just said, "No, I'm not available." But I loved the reconnection. I loved it. It's my alma mater. What can I say?
SI: Very good. I noticed one thing that we missed in talking about your time at Rutgers--actually, it would have been a few years before, but the after effects will go into your time at Rutgers--the impact of Vatican II. You made a note on here about that and Pope John XXIII, which is a big event for Catholics in America and around the world, of course. [Editor's Note: The Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) was opened by Pope John XXIII in October 1962 and closed by Pope Paul VI in December 1965. The Council focused on issues related to the Roman Catholic Church's role in the modern world.]
TM: Yes, yes, certainly. When I left for college, we were still saying the Mass in Latin. I had a missal that had the English version of the Mass on one side and the Latin version on the other. While I was at Douglass, Vatican II came about. I remember we used to go, on Sunday mornings, there were a few of us that used to walk over to--I can't remember the name of the church that was close to Douglass. At any rate, we would walk there. Then, finally, one of the priests said that they would start saying Mass at the Voorhees Chapel, which was like, "Wow, that's fantastic." But that was the first time that we realized we no longer had to wear the little head cap; you always had to have your head covered. The thing that impressed me the most was that we could begin to say "peace be with you" when it came up in the Mass, and we could turn to one another. There was such a sense of community during that. To me, Vatican II really brought a breath of fresh air into the Mass. I was so over it. I mean, you'd sit there, and it's all in Latin. You don't know what they're saying, and you're busy looking at the stained glass windows. I mean, it was just awful. You tolerated Mass; you didn't really engage in Mass. Once Vatican II came through, it was wonderful. The fact that it was held at Voorhees Chapel made it convenient for us.
I'm trying to remember. The other thing, too, was Doug and I had to do Pre-Cana before we got married. Well, he was in Vietnam, and I was at Douglass. It was very unconventional that they allowed this, but I was able to do Pre-Cana through the church through a priest that was here on the Douglass Campus. It was questions and answers and stuff like that. That was a wonderful time. Then, I remember leaving school, going home for the summer, and going back to a very conservative old-fashioned church, where they did turn the altar around and they did start to say the Mass in English. But people didn't want to participate that way. They were having a hard time. You'd see the difference between young people who are open to new ideas and an old traditional church that was having a hard time with it. I kept looking at my mom, saying, "Now you know what the heck he's saying." It didn't matter to her because she was doing her rosaries anyway. She never really paid attention to Mass, except certain prayers. She was doing a rosary for this one and a rosary for that one and rosary for a happy death and a rosary for this. Those were her prayers. It had nothing to do with the Mass.
I really thought Pope John was like a superhero, kind of like what Pope Francis is now for a lot of Catholics, certainly for me. I feel very strongly about him. Yes, it was a very nice breath of fresh air for all of us as students. At that time, we had the Newman Club, which was really active here. My understanding, and I have to say I noticed it before I retired, the Catholic Center here at Rutgers is very active and has a huge membership. Because it was right across the street from Alexander Johnston Hall, they often would run an ad in The Targum saying, "For Advent, we're going to have a reflection for faculty and staff. Why don't you come over, and we'll have lunch?" So, I went across, and it was so neat to meet colleagues that I didn't know were Catholic. I didn't know they were religious. I didn't know any of this stuff. We would go. We would meet. We would have a real fellowship. It was really, really lovely.
What really knocked my socks off was how many Catholic students really practiced their religion in college. I just assumed "out of sight, out of mind." You leave your mother and father's house; you don't go to church anymore. I did because I was of a different generation. I was just surprised to see how many kids currently at Rutgers are observant and certainly not just Catholicism but all the religions. Hillel, I can't get over the size of that, how they enlarged it, and the Chabad House. I don't know about the Muslim community. I don't know what they've got on campus.
SI: It's growing, too.
TM: Is it? Do they have a worship space?
SI: I think they just moved to a new space, but they've had an office that has moved around.
TM: At any rate, I think it's refreshing that there are so many kids that still have faith and pray, whatever their religion is. They are connected in some manner to worship God. I thought that was really a cool thing. Actually, I said to my husband, "I would love this to become our home parish." But then, once I retired, I thought, "If I don't have to drive to New Brunswick ever again, that's fine." So, we didn't. It's not our home parish, but really, it's nice. Again, I think it was very open. When we did come to church up here, I saw a lot of students in the congregation, which is nice to see young people. Where I live now, it's all old people. So, it's nice to see young people. That's it.
SI: Well, is there anything else you want to add? It sounds like you've been very active at Rossmoor. We've done a good amount of work with individuals at Rossmoor. We've also worked with their Indian American Club.
TM: Right. I don't know if it's still on my phone or if I deleted it. Can I just show you this?
TM: I had to bring it. I told you that my mom was an ...
SI: Air raid warden.
TM: ... Air raid warden. This was actually my father's composition book from when he was in high school. You can see his name is on here, DiGuglielmo, Michael, A. So, he was a kid. He never used it, but my mother used it. What I have to show you is in here, that I just got such a kick out of. This tells you how old--these are gifts that she got for her wedding from 1930.
TM: This has the addresses in it. But then, what cracked me up--where's the stuff? This is what she got for a wedding gift. Somebody went to her wedding and gave her two bucks. [laughter] That was probably a lot of money back then. Then, what she did is--so not to waste paper, what she did is--this is all of her stuff. These are the air raid signals that we had to worry about.
TM: She went up and down Essex Avenue. This is what fascinated me. Doug even said this to me, and I hadn't even thought about it, is to contact any of these people to see if any of them are still alive and if any of them still remember.
SI: This is great. For the record, we're looking at almost a census of the street that your mother put together.
TM: Yes, totally.
SI: It's great.
TM: This is a map of the street.
TM: Yes. See, empty lots. We had empty lots. There's Irvington Avenue. Over here on Irvington Avenue, it was called the "poor farm." I don't know what the real name for it was. Homeless men--it was only men--were in the poor farm. Every now and then, one of them would get out, and they would come walking down Essex Avenue. My mom would always go out and give them money. She always felt sorry for them. Then, back in this area is where they built--they were called the Ivy Hill Apartments in Newark, and then Seton Hall is right over there. I'm trying to think of what else she did. I guess that's it. I couldn't believe it. While I was looking through things just to refresh my memory, I also came across my father's citizenship papers. He was twenty-five when he became an American citizen. I'm looking at this picture of him. He was so young, oh, my gosh.
Again, I wish I had known my father better. I was twenty-one when he passed away. I didn't have the kind of relationship--I think about my husband with his daughters. I mean, he knows everything. They know everything. They talk about everything. The relationship I had with my dad was one of respect. When my father spent time with me, it was a gift. It was a wonderful thing that he was taking time away from something else to be with me, like when he would come to Douglass for Dad's Day. Oh, my God, he would close the barbershop on a Saturday to be with me. If my mother told me once, she told me a million times, "Do you know how lucky you are that your father closed the shop? That's money that he is losing," because everything is a cash business in a barbershop. I wish he had lived long enough so that as an adult, I could talk to him and find out how he felt about things and why he felt the way he did about things. But I didn't have those kinds of conversations with him when I was too young. I don't know that I would have understood them, but I would have loved to have picked his brain about so many things.
My mother was prolific and talked about everything. I mean, she could tell you--there's a wonderful book called A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. My mother said to me, "Terre, that was my life." She said, "If you read the story of this little girl, [Francie] Nolan, that's the way ..." except she had twelve kids in the family. But the poverty and the way that they worked and the way they had to barter for food and whatever, wearing her brother's shoes to school, my God, because they had to share shoes. "I'll wear them today; you'll wear them tomorrow." It's incredible, just incredible. That's it. I guess I've told you everything I can think of.
SI: I appreciate it. If there's anything you think of later, you can always add it to the transcript. We can put in an addendum. If there's a lot more, we can record a follow up. Really, I appreciate all your time today, all the memories you've shared. It's really been great for our program. I've learned a lot. I have been on the other side as a Rutgers Day attendee, so it was interesting to hear what was happening.
TM: Yes, you didn't know the history of how it all began. I know.
SI: Thank you very much.
TM: You're welcome.
SI: We're just going to record a brief addendum on your memories of the reaction on campus and your personal reaction the day of the 9/11 attacks.
TM: Yes. I came into work--I was working in, again, the office was known as OPEC, the Office of Print and Electronic Communication. That's probably what it was. We were in one of the barracks up on the Livingston Campus. I came into work. I'm sitting in my office. Almost everybody up there, because it was the communications office, had a television in their office. I did not because I was not in TV production, but they all were. They all had TVs, and they had their TVs on. I was sitting in my office, and the fellow across the hall from me, Hébert Peck, shouts out, "Terre, come in here right now." I go in, and sure enough, we're seeing what's happening live. Well, I guess it was a replay that somebody had recorded. We see the plane hitting. There was a TV set everywhere. We were glued to the TV sets for hours. It turned out that nobody wanted to leave because they wanted to keep their eye on the television screens. So, my boss, Linda Bassett, and I said, "Well, we'll go out, and we'll get pizza. We'll bring it back in, and we can all stay in and eat."
What was so interesting is, Linda and I walked out. There were students who were--we were guessing at their ethnicity--but they looked Middle Eastern--on cell phones. I'm telling you the paranoia. You don't want to think that they're saying anything or doing anything that's illegal. They're just students. They're just students. You want to say, "They're just a kid, like any other kid, right?" But suddenly, the reality of what you've just seen on that TV screen has made you cautious and wary. While they're on cell phones and walking around campus, we're getting in our car and going to get pizza. We get the pizza, and we bring it back. But talk about being uncomfortable. In a situation where just yesterday, those kids were just students, they were just kids walking on campus and nobody thought anything about them, and now you kind of look at them sideways. You don't want to. You don't want to suspect anybody. But you're also normal, and you get frightened.
I remember, after 9/11 happened, there were several Muslim students who actually would come and speak at gatherings. I remember we were in the Livingston Student Center, and there was a young woman who came and spoke to faculty and staff about what it means to be a Muslim and how not all Muslims are responsible for what happened. This was a radical group that did this and everything. Again, you're here, and you're thinking to yourself, "These are kids that are on campus. These are my people. We're all Rutgers people together." But there is such a sense of fear, and can I trust? Should I trust? Who should I trust? You begin to question, are there cells on campus? It was a scary time, I think, for everybody.
The reason that I thought about this and was mentioning that my middle daughter was working in Manhattan very close to the World Trade Center on 9/11. Shortly after that, I remember, literally, I felt like I was talking her off the ledge. She was hysterical. She called me on the phone, and she was hysterical about life in general. "Why would anybody do this? I will never have children. Why would I ever bring a child into this world? There's such violence. There's such hatred. This is a terrible time to live." She was going on and on and on. You're trying to calm your child down on the phone. She's a grown woman, but I'm trying to calm her down and I'm trying to think of how I can help her have some perspective on this.
Then, I remembered my own childhood. It was during the Cold War, and we had the fear that the Soviet Union was going to come and drop an atomic bomb on us. The atomic bomb was out there. We would have these little drills in elementary school, where you'd have to get under your desk. You look back on it, and you think how ridiculous that was. If an atomic bomb hits, being under your desk isn't going to do anything. But you had to do something. You had to prepare in some way. You had to feel like you were providing safety for yourself somehow. But I said to her, "Nic, do you realize that there was a generation that lived with the fear of an atomic bomb? Every generation seems to have something that it fears. But does that make you want to stop living? Does it make you not want to get married and have children? Does it make you just say 'no' to everything? It's hard for you now because you're so close to this tragedy, but time will heal things, and you will go on. Yes, this is how humanity goes on. There are tragedies after tragedies after tragedies, but you still fall in love. You still get married. You still have kids. This is how it happens."
It also reminds me of a comment that my husband said when he was in Vietnam, and he would see these villagers. He was up and down the rivers around the Mekong Delta, and he would see these poor people, these poor families. He said, "During the day, we harassed them. At night, the VC [Viet Cong] were harassing them. They had nothing. They were so poor. They were so miserable. Yet, they had babies. They had little children." He said he actually went up to a woman, and he said, "Why in all of this misery in the midst of this war, do you continue to have babies?" She looked at him, and she said, "Because they bring us happiness, and it's the only happiness we have." I thought, "Well, okay. This is why human beings keep going on in the face of tragedy because something needs to bring us happiness and give us a reason to live." So, it's interesting. It was the Vietnam War, it was the Cold War, and then it was 9/11, all tragic times, where you just say to yourself, "Why? Why would I get up in the morning? Why do I keep going? Why do I go to work? Why do I do anything?" Because as human beings, this is what we do. We have to have hope. We have to continue to move forward.
At any rate, the end of the story with Nicki is that she absolutely met somebody, fell in love, got married, and has two children. She is a volunteer. She runs foundations. She's very humanitarian in her efforts, but I think a lot of it had to do with experiencing 9/11 and seeing the tragedy. So, good can come out of it, ultimately, I guess. That's it.
SI: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
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Reviewed by Molly Graham 2/24/2021
Reviewed by Kathryn Tracy Rizzi 4/30/2021
Reviewed by Terre Martin 6/9/2021