Shaun Illingworth: This begins an oral history interview with Janice Janka Hartmann on August 10, 2022, with Shaun Illingworth, as part of the Pioneering Women of the Rutgers College Class of '76 Project. To begin, can you tell me where and when you were born?
JJH: I was born in Philadelphia on June 18, 1954.
SI: Tell me your parents' names, and I also want to know a little bit about them. Starting with your mother's side of the family, can you tell me what you remember about the family background?
JJH: Yes, my mother was Genevieve Rose Kender. She grew up on a farm in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Her grandparents immigrated from Poland in the early part of the twentieth century. She was one of nine children, the seventh of nine. She had a high school education, as did the majority of her siblings, not all of them, but the younger they got, the more they went to high school.
Interesting thing is, after World War II, she went to Japan for four years and worked on General Douglas MacArthur's staff as a secretary in occupied Japan. So, she left Wisconsin, left the farm at age twenty, and moved to Japan, where she knew no one, for four years. [Editor's Note: General Douglas A. MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, oversaw the occupation of Japan after the end of World War II in 1945 until 1952.]
SI: Wow, that is really remarkable.
SI: Did she share any stories or anecdotes about that period of her life in Japan?
JJH: She ran into MacArthur on the elevator one day, so that was pretty cool. If you think about it, in 1948, he was a pretty prominent person. She had a great time there. They lived in a hotel. It was an all-women dormitory, so all their needs were taken care of. They had maids to clean up. They had somebody to do their laundry. They had all their meals in a hotel. She actually lived quite the life. They worked during the day, but they went out at night, spent a lot of time in the officer's club. She went skiing, traveled around Japan. She had a great time. Her initial tour was two years, and she upped for two more.
JJH: She was pretty much an inspiration. She brought a trunk full of things home. As a kid growing up, everybody else was eating off of Melamine; we ate off Noritake China because that's what she had brought back. [laughter] Yes, she had Japanese artifacts, Imari plates and dolls and things all over the house. Even now, a lot of times the gifts that we would give her had an oriental theme. I make my own greeting cards, and for her birthday, I would always make one that had an Asian theme to it. She came back, moved to Washington D.C. for a few years, worked as a secretary there, and then she moved to Philadelphia, which is where she met my father.
My father was from Philadelphia, again, born from immigrant parents from Poland. He grew up in the Bridesburg section of Philadelphia. He was the youngest of five boys, and they all had a high school education. He wanted to go to college, didn't have any money, enrolled for a semester at Temple, and just really couldn't afford it. So, he never went to college. He was a tool-and-die maker, a machinist.
My parents met at my mother's cousin's wedding. My father was friends with my mother's cousin, and he was an usher at the wedding. My mother, because she recently moved to Philadelphia, went to the wedding, and that's where they met.
SI: To go back to your mother's early years, her maiden name was Kender.
JJH: Kender, right.
SI: Do you know if the name changed at all when they came to the United States?
JJH: Actually, this is really interesting. I was talking to my aunt, my mother's youngest sister, the other day, and my grandfather came to the U.S. to avoid being drafted in the German Army around 1912 roughly. I don't know exactly the year. He came under an assumed name. He did not use his real name on the ship. Then, when my aunt was eight or nine--and she just turned ninety--my grandparents had been here for quite a while and my grandfather applied for citizenship. He was going to get denied because of this false name that he used to come to the U.S. under and they just wanted to send them back, and his boss where he was working lobbied for him to stay and he stayed. My aunt said that his name when he came over was K-Ę, with the little squiggly thing, whatever the little thing underneath it is [ogonek], K- Ę-D-E-R and Ę with a squiggly is pronounced with an "en." So, that's how Kender came, which I really just learned this week. Yes, not a very Polish name but whatever.
My parents both spoke Polish growing up. Their parents all spoke Polish and English at home. My paternal grandmother never really learned a lot of English. It was really difficult to communicate with her when I was a kid because I didn't know any Polish. My parents, when we were little, would speak Polish when they didn't want us to know what they were talking about. But my sister and I soon picked up on key nouns and verbs, so we could kind of pick up the thread of the conversation, so we knew what they were talking about. [laughter] Of course, we learned to call each other names in Polish, and we still do.
SI: You said at least one grandmother was still alive when you would have known her. Did you get to know your other grandparents as well?
JJH: I knew all of them. They all lived to at least in their mid-eighties. I come from a line of very long-lived people. One grandparent died in '67, one in '72, one in '81, and one in the early '90s. They all lived quite a long time.
SI: From either side or maybe both, do you remember any stories they would tell about either the Polish heritage or their early lives, that sort of thing?
JJH: They never really talked about the old country very much. My maternal grandparents actually went back to Poland several times. I remember, as a child, picking them up at JFK [John F. Kennedy International Airport] or whatever it was at that point from a trip to Poland, but they never really talked about it. It was always life was so much better here and they were never going back, so why dwell on it? When I talked to my aunt the other day, she said life wasn't easy for her parents with nine kids growing up. My grandfather was a truck farmer and then also worked in a local factory, and my grandmother cleaned banks at night to make money. So, they did what they could. My aunt said that she never heard my parents complain about anything, and she said, "I think it's because it was so much better here than what they left."
My father's parents, again, they were in Philadelphia, twenty minutes from where we lived. I grew up in South Jersey in Moorestown, M-O-O-R-E-S-T-O-W-N, not the North Jersey place, but they never really talked about the old country much. They did keep up with some Polish traditions, like the Polish Christmas Eve. Yes, that was probably about it.
Both sets of grandparents read the local Polish language newspaper, so that was always around growing up. Some of my cousins in Philadelphia learned Polish, but they lived within five blocks of my grandparents in a very Polish neighborhood. So, there was just a lot more stimulation there than where I was living out in New Jersey, out in the country. I didn't get that day-to-day conversation. They never really talked about it a lot.
There is a good story connected to that though. My best friend from Rutgers, Janet Weber, was my maid of honor at my wedding. My grandparents, my maternal grandparents, came from Wisconsin to Moorestown for my wedding. My other grandparents were gone by then. There was a lot of conversation in Polish during the wedding. Janet had just started graduate school in Slavic languages at UVA [University of Virginia], and she needed to pick a language to study. After being at my wedding at the end of August and starting school in early September, she decided Polish was going to be her language. She wound up being assigned to Poland several times while she was with the State Department, and I actually went to visit her in Poland. My husband and I did a trip to Poland in 1995 because I had always wanted to go to where my grandparents were from and we visited with her and stayed with her in Poland.
SI: Just to stick with that for a minute, what was that trip like for you? Was it meaningful to go there, where your grandparents came from?
JJH: It was. My grandparents were all gone by then, so I didn't really have any connection. I didn't know anybody there except for Janet Weber, but it was very meaningful to see all these places that I had heard about. There's a shrine to Our Lady of Częstochowa, the Black Madonna, and both sets of grandparents always had a picture of the Black Madonna in their house. So, we went there, and we went to the salt mines, which my maternal grandparents had told us about when they had visited. We went to Krakow and other places. It was nice. It was really nice to hear the language that I had grown up hearing, even though I didn't understand it growing up. It was just nice to hear it in the background and to eat the food that I had grown up eating. I still do a Polish Christmas Eve every year. The Polish word for this is Wigilia.
SI: Tell me a little bit about that. What is involved in a Polish Christmas Eve?
JJH: Okay, the really traditional way was if you were Catholic, you didn't eat meat on Christmas Eve. It was still fish, but we've kind of changed that. It's traditionally an odd number of dishes on the table. The way I do it is, we make our homemade pierogis. My husband is of German descent, but he loves Polish Christmas Eve. It's his favorite meal of the year. We make our own pierogis. We spend a whole day a couple weeks before Christmas and make a hundred pierogis. Then, we invite friends over. When my parents were alive, we would invite my parents or uncles, whatever. It is a rotating cast of characters that come. We have two kinds of kielbasa, smoked and fresh. We have three or four different types of pierogis, potato, potato and cheese, prune, sauerkraut, whatever hits me that year to make. My mother would always make this sauerkraut dish called Kapusta; you take sauerkraut from the store and then you doctor it up with bacon and apples and raw cabbage and some brown sugar and some onions and you cook it for an hour. It makes it much better and less acidic than the store-bought sauerkraut. We make that, and mushrooms in wine sauce. Mushrooms were always a very traditional part of the Polish Christmas Eve. My mother, as a child, hated mushrooms and still to this day does not eat mushrooms. I love mushrooms. I could eat them every day. Their parents made them have at least one mushroom, so she and her younger sister would gag them down. So, my mother makes this wonderful mushrooms in white wine sauce. Most of the recipes I use are my mothers. For the Christmas Eve dinner, we also have homemade apple sauce, herring in sour cream. That was always my father's specialty. Polish mustard. Pickles. That's about it. Then, for dessert, I veer off the Polish thing and I let my guests bring dessert. It's fun.
I have a whole array of Polish dishes that I use for the Christmas Eve dinner. I have a lot of beautiful dishes from Poland. We brought back some really beautiful plates when we went in 1995, and they sell a lot of Polish pottery around here. My sister and I give each other Polish pottery as gifts. Actually, I live near King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, which has a huge mall in it, and there's a Polish pottery store there. I was talking to the guy there one day, and I told him about my Polish Christmas Eve with all my dishes. He's like, "Oh, send me a picture." I sent him a picture of all my dishes. It's really a nice evening, a nice way to have friends over. It's really actually an easy dinner to cook because your guests can help you. I always have somebody frying the pierogies while I'm doing something else. We do it every year, and if we have traveled, we do it wherever we are.
SI: What about Easter? Is there any unique Polish-American slant to that?
JJH: When I was young, we kind of did the same meal as Christmas Eve, but as we got older, that kind of dropped off and we didn't do it anymore. My mother always had ham on Easter. That's kind of a Polish thing, but, yes, we didn't do much on Easter. I do have the Polish Easter eggs, decorated eggs. They're called Pisanki. That's a real folk art form. When my friend Janet was in Poland, she sent me, I don't know, a dozen and a half of those eggs, and she also sent a dozen and a half to my mother. My mother still displays them, and I do, too. I change my foyer decorations every year, and that's where my eggs go.
SI: You talked about how your parents met and your mother had, at that point, been a secretary for about six years or so. Did she continue to work after?
JJH: No. My parents got married. My father was a machinist working at Westinghouse in Philadelphia, near 30th Street Station. Then, he and his brother decided they wanted to own a tavern. So, they bought a tavern down in Folsom, New Jersey called Johnny and Al's Tavern. I was very little, so this must have been like 1954, 1955. My sister just found the incorporation papers in the house actually. My mother passed away recently, and my sister is cleaning out the house. She's like, "I found all this stuff you're not going to believe." My father and [my] uncle had this tavern, so my dad was running the tavern at night and working during the day. My mother was the cook in the tavern for sandwiches and stuff and raising me and then my sister. No, she never went back to work after she had kids; she was a stay-at-home mom.
SI: Was the tavern his business for a long time?
JJH: No, they had it--I don't really know, I was so little--I would say maybe three years. It was a long haul into Philly. It was a forty-five-minute ride into Philly for him to work and then come back and then work nights. They sold it. Then, we moved into an apartment in Pennsauken, and my parents bought four acres of land in Moorestown and built a house. My father actually built the house brick by brick. He and his brothers built the house, and that's where I grew up.
SI: What are your earliest memories of growing up? It sounds like you have some memories of this earlier period before Moorestown.
JJH: Yes, we lived in Pennsauken for four years, from '57 through '61. We lived in an apartment in Pennsauken, and that's where I went to kindergarten and first grade. We lived on the second story in a two-story building, a two-bedroom apartment. It was a nice time. My sister and I, there was a little newsstand across the street, and my dad used to take me there for ice cream. I don't remember much about it, just playing in the yard. There were a lot of kids around. I walked to school. School was probably a couple blocks away. I don't remember much about it. My sister and I had a bedroom with two twin beds. When my aunts and uncles would come over, they would be playing Pinochle at the kitchen table. My sister and I would be jumping up and down on the bed or whatever, making the people below us very unhappy. It was just me and my sister at that point. We had a little play kitchen, a cardboard play kitchen. We had bicycles. That's where I got my first bicycle. It was a pretty good childhood, no bad memories, just hanging out.
My dad spent every weekend, we all spent every weekend, at the property working on the house, and my dad literally built it. He put the cinder blocks in the basement. He did everything, everything, with his brothers. We would all go there. My mother would go make a picnic lunch, and my sister and I would just play all day. It was four acres, and there was a peach orchard next door and an older couple who were old enough to be our grandparents on the other side of us. Other than that, there was nothing around. There was an apple orchard across the street. We were in the country, so we would just play. We had our bicycles, and there were big mounds of dirt where they had dug the basement, excavated the basement, and they just dumped them on the side. My sister and I would spend days sliding down the hill, digging. It was great. We'd go into the woods and pick blackberries in the summer, blackberries and raspberries and mulberries, and try and stay out of the way. That was the rule--don't get in the way. Keep yourself busy; don't get in the way. It took my dad four years of nights and weekends to build the house, and then we moved in in August or September of '61, just when I started second grade, because my mother wanted me to not change schools in the middle of the school year. And my sister started kindergarten that year. It was pretty cool. It was a nice 1,500-square-foot rancher, three bedrooms, living room, kitchen, I guess what you call now a great kitchen. The kitchen was the back quarter of the house. Attached garage. My dad had built a small shed to store his tools and stuff. It was a great place to grow up, out in the country.
SI: Did he continue working in the Philadelphia area?
JJH: No. He left Westinghouse I don't know when and ended up working for a tool-and-die maker in Maple Shade, New Jersey, Research Tool and Die Company. Then, at some point, let me think about this, at some point, I have to go back and look, he went to work for Campbell's Soup Company. In Moorestown, New Jersey, they had a small facility that was a tool-and-die shop, where they made prototypes for cans and packaging. He would come home with these protypes for cans. Remember when you always had to use a can opener to open a can? There was no pull tab. So, they were working on like the pull tabs and stuff like that. He worked there. He retired from there. He was there twenty--I don't know that he hit twenty-five years, but he was there for a long time. It was nice, because it was close to home. He worked both day and night shifts. I think he started out on night, then he moved to day, and then he became a supervisor on the night shift. A lot of my time growing up, in high school, he was working nights, so he wasn't home for dinner. But, when I was dating, he would be home when I would come home, so he got to chat with the boyfriends. [laughter] I don't know, it was either good or bad. My dad was very gregarious. [laughter]
SI: You talked a little bit about religious-related stuff, but can you talk a little bit about what role, if any, the church and faith played in your family life?
JJH: We all went to Catholic grade school and high school, all four of us kids, the local parish grade school for eight years for everybody except me, because I started late, and then we all went to Catholic high school. We went to church every Sunday. I wouldn't say religion was an overriding factor in everything. We always said grace before meals, and we still do, even though I don't go to church anymore. My parents stopped going to church probably in the 1980s, I would say. It was there as a foundation to how you live, but it's not like we sat around and said the rosary every night together or anything like that. We did all the sacraments, and I got married in a church. My brother, John, got married in a church, and my other two siblings aren't married. I would say it was the foundation.
SI: You went into the Catholic school once you moved out to Moorestown.
SI: Yes, I realize I say both towns the same. My wife's from Williamstown and Sicklerville.
SI: I am familiar with that area, but I tend to say Morristown and Moorestown very similarly.
SI: Going into Catholic school, did your parents do that because it was just the closest school, or was it more for the religious training as well?
JJH: I think it was for the--they never really told us--but I think it was for the religious training and they thought it was a better education than the public schools. I never really talked to them about it, but it was really kind of weird because I grew up in Moorestown, which has a really, really, really good school district. They paid a lot of money in real estate taxes and then they were paying to send us to Catholic school, so I never quite understood that. All of my cousins in Philadelphia went to Catholic schools also, the local parish Catholic school and then Saint Hubert's or Father Judge in Philly for high school. So, I don't have a good answer for that. I think they thought it was a better education. There are some things I know that I learned there that were much better than the public school, like writing, how to write an essay or how to write a story. The Catholic schools really honed in on how to craft a good written document and I don't think that the public schools did that fifty-odd years ago. They may now. It was a sacrifice for my parents to send four kids to Catholic school. It was a single-earner income. My father wasn't making a boatload of money, but they did it.
SI: You have three siblings.
JJH: Yes. I have a sister Karen, who is twenty months younger than I am. She now lives in the house we grew up in. I have a brother John, who is eight years younger than I am. He went to Duke and UCLA Law School, and he is an attorney and lives in Vienna, Virginia. I have a younger brother David, who is thirteen years younger than I am, and he went to Northwestern and lives in San Francisco now. My brother David started kindergarten the same day I started college. My father drove me to Rutgers, and my mother saw my brother onto the school bus for the first time.
SI: It sounds like based on what you and your siblings did in college and beyond that education was really valued in the family.
JJH: Yes, absolutely, critical. We were all really good students. Education was important. You had to study. We all had desks. My father built--my sister and I shared a bedroom--he built us a desk, so we didn't have to do our homework at the kitchen table and then leave when it was time for dinner, but we had a dedicated place to study. Reading was very important. We all got library cards as soon as we were able, and going to the library to get books to read was a real treat. We always were read bedtime stories, and I remember reading stories to my brothers. I remember when we were kids, my sister and I would go to the library after school, and then my dad would pick us up on the way home. Reading was very important. There were always books and magazines in the house. We often got books as gifts at Christmastime and for birthdays. Education was very important. We all graduated college, and two of us have advanced degrees.
SI: You have described a very rural Moorestown that you moved into, peach orchards and lots of space. Did that change maybe within that first ten years that you were there or a little later?
JJH: No, it was rural until the 1980s, when some of the farms started being sold off, but when I was a kid, there was nobody around. There were ten houses in the quarter mile of the part of the street where we lived; there were ten houses with some kids. My parents, if we said we were going down to the Simcoe's house, that would be like, "Fine, just be home for dinner." It was a big treat to be able to ride our bikes on the street. The street was not well traveled at that point in time. It's a little busier now, but we were allowed to ride our bikes on the street. It was a big treat to be able to ride past our house and then a big treat to be able to ride a mile up to the stop sign without anybody. It was really idyllic. My dad had built this little merry-go-round in the backyard, this spinning platform, and the neighborhood kids would come over there. We would play on there, and it was a ship and we would have to jump off and avoid the sharks or whatever. There were swings, swings and a tree, and a swing set. We just played with the few neighborhood kids that there were and explored the woods. We had four acres to explore, and the people next to us had four acres. Then, there was the peach orchard on the other side. We just ran all over the place. All that land was ours, and we just walked all over it, explored. It was really a great place to grow up.
SI: You mentioned the Simcoes. Was that a store?
JJH: No, it was the neighbors. It was just the neighbors. They had kids our age.
SI: Oh, okay.
JJH: No, there were no stores. There was nothing. There were the houses; that was it. The nearest store was three-and-a-half miles away in town. There literally was nothing out there.
SI: Okay. Was it far from your grade school? It seems like it was far from your high school, but was your grade school in Moorestown?
JJH: It was three-and-a-half miles. We were on the outskirts of town. We were right by the Rancocas Creek, and it was three-and-a-half miles into town. The high school, I used to ride my bike probably another four miles, just in a different direction. It was isolated, but it wasn't that far to go for groceries or anything. It was just very rural. Then, in the '80s, the farmland started being sold off and there's a huge Toll Brothers development where the peach orchard used to be.
SI: Was the grammar school run by an order of nuns?
JJH: Yes. It was mostly nuns, Sisters of Saint Joseph from Chestnut Hill. They were not the black-belt Dominicans. They were actually pretty calm compared to what I've heard from a bunch of other friends. There were a few lay teachers; maybe a third of them were lay teachers. Most of them were single. The big controversy was when I was in eighth grade, they actually hired a married woman to teach. I remember that. [laughter] It was like, "Whoa, a married woman teaching." It was a good education, probably not as strong in math and science as you would want these days, but it was a good education. I certainly learned how to read, write and spell. I've been good at that my entire life. I worked for a man for fifteen years, he's a couple years older than I am, he could not spell for anything. He would freely admit it. He says, "I never learned how to spell." If he had to write memos or things, if it was serious, he would bring it to me and say, "Can you just proof this?" Yes, a good education.
High school, Holy Cross in Delran, was a good education. There were nuns there, and for the life of me, I can't remember what the order was. It was mostly lay teachers though, a couple of priests, some nuns, a bunch of lay teachers.
SI: Unless I am mistaken, it was probably more than a half hour to get there or a significant amount of time.
JJH: Well, when you take the bus and you go the roundabout route. It was probably twenty minutes.
SI: Oh, okay.
JJH: It really wasn't that far. It's just the bus route. It wasn't that far. Holy Cross High School was a regional high school for Burlington County. So, I was close, but there were kids that came from Florence or Pemberton. They all had forty-five-minute commutes each way, but I lucked out because ours was pretty close.
SI: Okay. Were you able to take part in school activities and that sort of thing?
JJH: I did. I worked on the stage crew for theatrical performances my junior and senior year. I was in Future Teachers of America. I can't remember what else; it's been a long time, nothing that really stuck with me. The stage crew was the most fun. Most of that time, we only had one car. My dad was working nights, and it made it a little difficult. I usually had to bum a ride home, or that's when I started riding my bike because then I could control my transportation.
SI: You mentioned Future Teachers of America. I always ask, what did you see for yourself in the future career wise? What did you think were your options, or what were you hoping to go into, at that point, when you were in high school?
JJH: I figured I would be a teacher because I really didn't know about a whole lot of options for women at that point. You could be a nurse. My best friend Carolann because a nurse. I thought I would be a teacher because I didn't really know what else you could do. There weren't a lot of female role models. There weren't a lot of female attorneys or doctors. Most of the women you saw were teachers. That's what I thought I would do, which I didn't wind up doing. I did a little but as part-time work.
SI: You also mentioned that your whole family read a lot, got a lot of news and that sort of thing. Were you staying up to date, particularly as the '60s unfolded, as you were getting into high school, on civil rights, Vietnam, politics? Were those things discussed around the dinner table? How aware were you of the outside world?
JJH: Very aware because we got the newspaper every day. We got The Philadelphia Inquirer every day and two papers on Sunday when the Bulletin was still being published. Even as a kid living in Pennsauken, I remember going across the street to the newsstand with my dad to buy the Sunday paper. We always had the newspaper around. We didn't really discuss politics and what was going on in the world. I guess we did, but I don't remember any really heated discussions or anything about it. I do remember when Kennedy died that they brought the television into the dining room so we could watch certain things when we ate, which we never, ever, ever watched TV while we ate. Eating and television were two separate activities, but when Kennedy died, I just remember that TV being in there. Even until they died, my parents never watched TV while they ate; they just didn't. I was aware of all that. I read a lot. I would read the newspapers a lot, but I don't remember a ton of discussion about it. I remember the riots from '68 and watching it on TV and looking on the map to see where these places were, "Okay, where's Newark?" When you live in South Jersey, Newark is another world. "Where's Los Angeles?" blah, blah, blah. I don't remember a lot of activity or a lot of discussion about it. I don't remember, even with my relatives coming over for a cookout or to play cards, I don't remember a lot of discussion that involved kids or that we heard about it. There may have been, but I don't remember hearing about it. [Editor's Note: President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. Over one hundred cities across the United States experienced civil disturbances in the wake of King's assassination.]
SI: Did they talk much about Poland then? In these gatherings, would they talk about maybe people that were still over there or just in general what they thought of what was going on in the Cold War as Poland was involved?
JJH: No, it's like they left and they started a new life and they were here and that was it. No, they really didn't. Again, everybody in our family read. I remember, my paternal grandmother came to live with us. I must have been [in] eighth grade, eighth or ninth grade. She had her Polish newspaper, and she read it from front to back and it was pretty tiny print. Apparently, she was keeping up with what was going on, but, again, because of the Polish, I couldn't really communicate with her.
SI: You mentioned some activities in school. Were there any organized activities like Girl Scouts or anything like that as you were growing up or in high school, outside of school?
JJH: No, my parents didn't have a lot of money. I would have loved to have been a Girl Scout, but my parents just didn't have the money. My mother had four kids at home, and it was just like another activity to shuffle somebody to. We did take piano lessons as a kid. My sister and I took piano lessons for four years, and that was at the grade school, given by one of the nuns after school. So, [I had] piano lessons. I did glee club when I was in grade school, but that was it. No sports. No sports in grade school, high school, no travel teams. I don't think they even existed then. I'm sure there was CYO [Catholic Youth Organization] baseball and basketball, but I don't even know if that was available for girls. Yes, I did no sports in high school. There just wasn't a lot there.
SI: Did you work at all in high school part time or in summers?
JJH: I babysat in high school. My sister and I both babysat in high school. Then, there was a lady that lived across the street from us on twenty-seven acres, and she had a dog kennel and she raised dogs. I would go work in the dog kennel. Yes, we all worked our way through college. We all worked in the summers during college.
SI: As you got to high school graduation in the spring of 1972, when did Rutgers become something you were looking at, and how did you hear about it?
JJH: I don't remember how I heard about it. Obviously, there was Rutgers-Camden, which was an easy commuting distance. New Brunswick was forty miles away. It was an hour [away]; that didn't seem to be commuting distance. I honestly don't remember how I heard about it, but I knew that I wanted to apply and I knew that it was the first year for women. I remember going to my guidance counselor, and everybody in my high school went to Saint Joe's, La Salle or Villanova, and some people went to Drexel if they were going to be engineers. That's where everybody went, and all I could think of was, "I'm so tired of these people. I've been with these people since second grade." I was so tired of sitting next to the same kids. You sat in alphabetical order, so it was the same kids around you all the time. I had a crush on the same guy from fourth grade through senior year of high school. I thought, "You know what? I just want to get away from this." So, I thought I would apply, and my guidance counselor, I remember him very distinctly saying, "You'll never get in. Why are you wasting your money and your effort trying to get in?" I'm like, "Okay, whatever." Then, I remember when I got the acceptance, I saw him in the hall, and I still remember this, it was the biology hall, and he was like, "Congratulations, that's great news."
At that point, it was like, "Yes, I'm going to Rutgers." Number one, it was a lot cheaper. It was way cheaper than any of the private Catholic schools, and number two, it was a chance to get away and do something different. I think I got my mother's travel bug: get off the farm and go do something different.
SI: I am curious, the guidance counselor, do you think he was just trying to push people towards these Catholic schools, or was he just kind of down on women going on to higher education? What do you think?
JJH: The guidance counseling in a Catholic high school was pretty poor and pretty useless. I don't remember any decent college advice, career advice, any kind of advice; I just don't remember anything. It was like, "What was the point?" I think it's a lot different now. I don't have any kids, so I don't know what it's like. From what I read and what I hear my friends talk about it, it's a much more involved process than it was in 1972. Who knows? I don't know if they were getting kickbacks from colleges. My guess is that's what they knew and that was their comfort zone. People from my high school just didn't go to Rutgers. There was one other guy in my class that wound up at Rutgers, and he wound up at the Pharmacy School. That was it, out of 333 people. Some people went to Rutgers-Camden, they commuted, but New Brunswick, nope. It was like another world.
SI: I have a lot of aunts and uncles who went to Catholic school during the same period and they always talk about how society was changing, longer hair, different clothes. They had to still wear a uniform when they went to school itself, but there was a lot of bumping up against the heavy hand of the school and the church. Does anything stand out in your experience, as you are kind of developing your own personality and identify, that maybe ran counter to the high school and what they were trying to mold people into?
JJH: Nothing specific. It was a pretty sheltered life. It was high school, and that's really all I knew. I didn't have any friends except a couple of neighbors outside the school. All my friends were from school. My relatives in Philly were all in the same mold. I just didn't know any better. I was still pretty young when all that started. It was kind of at the beginning of all of that, so it's not like I was deep in the throes of it. I don't really remember anything specific, any restrictions or anything. We had the uniforms; that was it. We did an Earth Day celebration. That was a big thing. I remember when Earth Day started, whenever the first one was, in '70. [Editor's Note: The first Earth Day occurred on April 22, 1970.]
SI: It was in 1970.
JJH: Yes. I remember I worked on a committee for that, and we did a bunch of stuff at the school. That's actually when I started riding my bike to school. That was my social activism, Earth Day, and it's funny because that's stayed with me through my life. I did recycling at Rutgers. I don't know if you've ever heard of Freecycle. Freecycle is an online website whose purpose is to keep things out of the landfill, so people can offer things for free on the website. If your kids have outgrown their bicycles, you can put it on Freecycle and somebody else can take them. Then, if you need something, if you've got a kid that needs a tricycle, you can post for a tricycle and somebody will give one. I'm very active in that community here.
SI: Yes, my wife and I do that in our community as well.
SI: Tell me about the process of going up to Rutgers and what those first few days and weeks were like for you. What do you remember about getting adjusted there?
JJH: My father took me up, dropped me off. I had no idea who my roommate was. My dorm was Davidson. I think I actually requested that because it was kind of rural and out in the country, whereas most of the other people that got stuck up there didn't request it. So, it was quite a unique existence. My roommate was a pharmacy major, she was a freshman too. She was from Bloomfield, New Jersey. There was none of this Facebook, get to know your roommate, choose your roommate. You just got assigned a roommate. It was nice.
There were four buildings at Davidson, two wings each, and two of the wings had women. A quarter of the complex were women, and the rest were men. I was in Davidson D. Davidson C also had a wing of women. The guys were very nice, very friendly. Everybody was really friendly and excited to be there. It was just a lot of fun. I would say most of the women did not know each other. Most of them were from North Jersey. There were two in my dorm from New York that I remember and I don't remember the other dorm, but it was predominantly New Jersey.
Everybody was very friendly. There was a lot of socializing. It was a lot of fun. The first couple of weeks were just a lot of talking. I don't think anybody slept a whole lot because we were all drinking beer and hanging out and eating pizza and just getting to know each other and having a good time and settling into the class routine and figuring out the bus system. It's the Busch Campus now, but it was University Heights Campus then. None of my classes were up there. They were all down on the main campus, so I had to plan my timing with the busses and all of that. It was a lot of fun. It was a very welcoming atmosphere.
SI: By this time, in loco parentis was no longer a factor, but did they try to guide you in what you should do, or did they have any special advice for women coming in?
JJH: I don't remember anything. It's like, "Here you are." I remember the general freshman orientation. There was something down on the main campus. I remember we were supposed to read Future Shock the summer before, and there was discussion about that and sort of this whole welcome to Rutgers thing. I can't remember who gave the speech, but I'm sure somebody else can. That was very welcoming and that sort of set the tone for what was going on, but there was very little structure, guidance, anything. It's like, "Okay, here you are. You're at college. You'll know what to do. This is your schedule." You had to go down to Records Hall and sign up for your classes. [Editor's Note: Future Shock is a 1970 book by Alvin Toffler.]
SI: Were they still doing the punch card system?
JJH: I think so, I think so. I just remember waiting in line and holding your breath, hoping your class is going to still have space. It's much easier now, way easier now.
SI: Getting into your classes, how did you start developing what you would be interested in? Did you come in with an idea that you were going to study a particular subject?
JJH: I figured I was going to be a history major because I liked history and I wanted to work in the National Archives to be a research person. So, I picked a history major. My parents were not good at guiding me, because they really had no experience with college. My father was the youngest, so we were the youngest grandchildren out of ten and none of them had been to college. There was no support system, nobody to lean on, nobody to offer advice. My mother's family was in Milwaukee and some of them had gone to college, but at that point, nobody had graduated. Again, there was no support system. My parents didn't have a ton of friends, and, again, anybody that they had, their kids weren't in college. Nobody on our street was going to college. It was a big thing for me to go to college. I was the oldest in the family. I was the first one on my father's side to go to college. It was a big thing, but I had no guidance, no structure. It was like, "Okay, you're in college. You'll know what to do." What I do remember about Rutgers was the placement office, the guidance counseling, was pretty much non-existent. I don't think I ever went. Placement, as I got into my senior year, I think I visited the placement office a few times, but I don't think they were very helpful. I really went to college having no idea what I was going to be doing. I really had no idea. I figured I would be a history [major], but I didn't want to teach because I didn't do the teaching track. I think I really wanted to work at the National Archives and do some sort of research.
I worked my way through college in the summers, and starting the summer after my senior year of high school, I worked in the accounting department of a local company in Barrington, New Jersey, Edmund Scientific. I don't think it exists anymore, but I used to babysit for Robert Edmund, whose father owned Edmund Scientific. One night, when he was dropping me off after babysitting, he says, "Do you have a job for the summer?" I said, "No, I'm still looking. I'm applying to McDonald's," whatever. He says, "Well, do you want to come down and work in the office?" I'm like, "Sure." I was clueless. I was seventeen. I was totally clueless. So, I went down, and this was the best summer job ever. I worked in the accounting department for four summers straight, and I worked as a substitute for people who were going on vacation. If it was the woman who was doing accounts payable, I would learn how to do her job while she was gone. If it was the women who did accounts receivable, I learned how to do her job. I learned every single function in detail, and it was the absolute best training because you could always get a job in accounting or bookkeeping. It was an inside job. It was eight to four. It was great. The pay was decent. It was air-conditioned. It was really nice. I developed a lot of skills.
Then, I actually never really used my history degree, and I wound up always getting a job in accounting. When I got out of Rutgers, I couldn't find a job at the National Archives. I'll get to that in a minute, but I found a job at a local hospital in the accounting department. I have always made my living doing accounting. So much for Rutgers and my history degree.
My friend Janet and I both graduated early. We had all of our credits in by December of our senior year, and we both decided it was time to leave. We had enough credits. Money was an issue; it was another semester of room and board and tuition. We decided it was time to make our mark in the world, and we both went to Washington, D.C. together. She was from Brooklyn. She had gone to Rutgers and was one of the people from New York. We went to Washington, D.C. together to find our ideal jobs at the National Archives, and we didn't. We did find some jobs, but even at that time in the spring of '76, they didn't pay enough money to live on. We stayed, while we were there, at the Salvation Army Home for Business Women on K Street. It was the cheapest place to stay. We both went back home, and I got a job in accounting. I worked for a local hospital.
SI: Let me go back to ...
JJH: Yes, that was a long segue.
SI: No, that is good. Actually, it brought up a question. I will just ask it now. There is always this debate within academia about should you get a liberal arts education and then specialize in something versus the business school thinks you should learn the practical stuff. You are paying all this money; you should learn all the skills and then get a good job. You did the learning of the liberal arts discipline and then went into accounting. Do you feel like that helped you more than, say, colleagues who had just studied accounting?
JJH: I don't know. If I had to do it over again, I probably would have done it differently. I probably would have gotten a business degree and taken all my electives in history just because it was more practical. My sophomore year, I did take a lot of business classes. I took macro and microeconomics, and I took accounting. I was kind of moving towards the business track, because at that point, I didn't know what I wanted to do. Also, at that point, I had studied Spanish at high school and I continued at Rutgers my freshman year. I remember, second semester freshman year, somebody came in and talked about the junior-year abroad program, and I'm like, "Oh, wow, this sounds wonderful." Then, I thought, "Okay, if I do the business degree, I won't be able to go to Mexico because I won't be able to take my business classes and then I'll never be able to graduate on time because I won't have all of the requirements that I need for the business degree." I'm like, "Okay, what do I do? Do I go to Mexico?" because I really wanted to go to Mexico to learn Spanish and, again, to just see the world--my mother's influence behind me. I thought, "If you do the business track, you'll get a job and fine, but you'll never be able to go live in Mexico, whereas if you stay with a history degree, you can go to Mexico, you can take your courses, and you have the basic skills, so you can always get a bookkeeping job and you can always go back to school later to take more accounting classes." That's what I did. I decided to stay a history major, to go to Mexico for my junior-year abroad, which was two full semesters in Mexico City, and then to come back and do my history degree. Then, when I left, I got a job in accounting.
I never really used my history degree, but I will say that one thing my liberal arts degree taught me, and this kind of goes to your question as to the value of the liberal arts education and what it teaches you, I really learned how to read critically and how to write really well, which has really, really helped me in my career because I've done a lot of writing. I was a CPA [Certified Public Accountant] for thirteen years. I worked in public accounting, and there actually is a lot of writing and there is a lot of reading. You have to do a lot of reading of contracts and things, so you need to read critically. You also write footnotes to financial statements that need to be clear and succinct for the reader. I mentored a lot of younger accountants who could not write a footnote, could not take the basics of a contract and distill it down to two paragraphs. I really think Rutgers taught me that.
Then, later in my career, I worked for this company, Haas, and it did a lot of mergers and acquisitions work, and a lot of that was analysis of contracts. Before that, before Haas, I worked for an M&A [mergers and acquisitions] consulting firm. We had to write reports, and being able to write a really succinct report, laying out all the pertinent facts about a proposed acquisition, was a real skill. I had a lot of junior staff that couldn't write, and I can't tell you how many nights I sat up rewriting reports because I had junior staff that really couldn't write well. That is one thing that I gained from Rutgers is the ability to write really well.
I don't know, I would do it over, but I wouldn't trade that year in Mexico for anything either. If there was a way I could figure out how to get all the required courses in for a business degree and be able to go to Mexico, I probably would have done that, but I probably should have started thinking about that in September of '72, not the next year.
SI: I want to talk a lot about the year in Mexico, but before that, are there any professors or courses that stand out in your memory?
JJH: I had Sam Baily for a lot of my Latin American history classes, and he was pretty spectacular. I really liked him a lot. He was also the program director for the junior-year abroad in Mexico, so I got to know him really well. I remember some lectures by Tom Forstenzer. I remember a class on the French Revolution and I remember walking out of that class and it was like, "Now I understand the French Revolution and Bastille Day and all of that." I took an art history class my first semester. I don't remember who the professor was, but it was a really good class and it was really difficult. It was really tough. I think I probably got a D in it, but it was a really good class. Other than that, off the top of my head, I don't remember anybody in particular.
The first year, I took the usual English comp [composition], psych [psychology], art history, a history class, and Spanish, so it was kind of all the intro classes. Sophomore year, I did more Spanish and then a lot more history classes and then some of my electives, like an ecology class and some other stuff. I don't remember a ton of people in particular, other than Sam Baily and Tom Forstenzer.
SI: Do you think professors were receptive to now having women in Rutgers College, or were there any who were not as fair with their female students as they were with their male students?
JJH: I don't remember any problems at all. The big lecture classes, you had Scott Hall full of people; at that point, it didn't matter what your gender was. Most of the other classes were fine. I really don't remember any discrimination, any difficulty, but also if you think about it, the first two years are a lot of large classes. By the time you get to junior and senior year, you get much smaller classes where that type of discrimination or difficulty would be difficult. But my junior year I was in Mexico, so I was out of that whole three-hundred-level class thing. Then, I came back for my senior year, so now you were into the fourth year of women at Rutgers. At that point, I was just so intent on getting through my eighteen credits that all I did was study and I didn't really focus on what was going on. I was just there to learn my material. I don't remember anything. I went back and I read through my diaries and stuff and there were no incidents that came up that I could remember that really impacted me, that would have stayed in my memory or that I would have written about.
SI: Have you always kept a diary, or was it just for college?
JJH: I've always, since I was ten years old, not consistently, every day, but off and on.
SI: As you look back at the Rutgers years, what comes up most often in your diary entries?
JJH: The people, the people in my dorm, that's really what came up the most, how much fun we had together and how they were always there when you needed somebody and all the great times we had together. Being up at Davidson, we were pretty isolated because most of us didn't have cars, and there was a campus bus and that was it. We weren't really into the whole frat [fraternity] scene down on College Avenue. We had to make our own fun, and we really did. I met my husband at Davidson. A lot of my friends, I was thinking about this beforehand, there's five sets of people that I can think of off the top of my head who married somebody they met at Rutgers and are still married, which is a lot these days. We just had a lot of fun together. It was really the people, and the people that I met at Rutgers are still my best friends.
SI: Were you in Davidson the next year, your sophomore year?
JJH: Yes, and pretty much everybody came back the next year, same roommate, same room. Some people moved around. One woman in my room became a preceptor in C. I just stayed there the second year. It was a known quantity at that point. It was like, "This is where my friends are." It was nice; having grown out in the country, it was kind of rural. It wasn't the city and all the buildings and all the concrete of the College Avenue Campus. There were fields. We could walk. I could bike. We could bike all over the place. You had the golf course there. It was really nice up there. That was before they built everything. It was when they still had the grad [graduate] student shack apartments across the street from Davidson. I don't know if you know about those.
SI: The trailers or something like that?
JJH: They were little bungalows. They were probably really substandard housing, but they were cute. There was a little store, Rutt's Hut, where you could go buy milk and eggs and cheese and stuff. It was nice. Living at Davidson was a familiar feeling to me from where I had grown up, so maybe that tempered some of the being away from friends and family and in a whole new atmosphere. It just made it more comfortable.
SI: Did you get involved in activities? You mentioned recycling and environmentalism.
JJH: Yes, I did a little bit of recycling in the dorms, set up some recycling programs in the dorm, just a way to recycle stuff in the dorm, and then they had big recycling bins across the street in the grad student apartment parking lot. That was about it. Other activities, there was some program where you could mentor a kid in the New Brunswick Public Schools, so I did that. I can't even remember what it was called now. I did that once a week, this little Puerto Rican girl, and helped her with her reading, and that was about it. I didn't really get involved in a lot of activities. I didn't do any sports, again, because that wasn't my background. It just wasn't a thing I would even think to do from the way I was raised. Some people in my dorm did. One of my friends ran track. Other people played basketball and stuff, like intramural basketball, but there weren't a ton of programs for women those first two years either. I really didn't do much. Most of my social life was the dorm; all my social life was the dorm. Anything else I did was short term and no impact, but you try stuff.
SI: Other women from this period that we have interviewed have pointed out that there were different things that would happen that clearly pointed that Rutgers had not planned for women to be there, such as missing facilities, or just had never thought of women as part of the student body before then and had not planned ahead. Does anything come to mind in your experience?
JJH: Well, there were still urinals in the bathroom. Looking back now, there was no program to guide women, no structure. I would say there was no structure. It's like, "Okay, open the doors, here they are," and that's it. There weren't activities. There were no sororities the first year that I know about. I know they happened later, but I think a lot of that happened when I was in Mexico. Again, the sports thing, I don't think there was a lot. I know that some women, Nancy Deschu, I think, was one of the founding members of the Women's Glee Club. I just don't remember anything welcoming us, activities for us. We were just there. Maybe that was better; I don't know. I don't know if we needed to have special activities, but I don't remember anything missing either. I don't remember anything about health services, if there was anything that was missing there, because I rarely used the health center. Again, sports, I don't know about locker rooms or any of that. I'm not much help on this one, Shaun.
SI: Everyone's experience is different.
SI: Let us talk about Mexico. Had there already been a program? Did this start at the same time that women had entered or around there?
JJH: I don't know. I don't know the history of this program. I remember second semester of my freshman year somebody coming to Spanish class one day and talking about this program, that Rutgers was doing this junior-year abroad in Mexico. You would be living with a family in Mexico City, going to the foreign school at the University of Mexico. It was two semesters. You would get thirty credits. The cost would be X and it would be led by Sam Baily. I don't know if that was something new that year; I have no idea. Was it new that year?
SI: I am not sure. I do not think it was there in the '60s. It may have been either just before women came to Rutgers, but, anyway, the program was there.
JJH: Yes. My parents said, "Okay." My mother was very encouraging, given her four years in Japan. My father was like, "How much is this going to cost?" Again, I was working through the summer, and by sophomore year, I was working part time in the Commons at Davidson for spending money, and babysitting for one of the preceptors, one of the grad school preceptors, Mark Bromley. I decided I wanted to go. It's like, "Wow, I get to go to a foreign country. I get to practice my Spanish. I get to earn college credits. It sounds like loads of fun." It was scary because there weren't many students from Rutgers there. I can't remember how many kids were in the program, maybe twenty. It wasn't a ton of people, but there were students from various colleges. One of my roommates, one semester, was from Drew University, and another one, I can't remember what college she was from, but she was from Connecticut. There were a couple people from, I think, Montclair State. They pulled in people from a bunch of places in New Jersey to this program. There were a couple people from Rutgers. I do remember Patti Sellers, she goes by Patricia now. Have you guys talked to her, Patricia Sellers?
JJH: You really need to talk to her. She has had an outstanding career. She went to the University of Pennsylvania, where she got a law degree and she has specialized in prosecuting war crimes against women in The Hague. I will send you what I can find on her. She is spectacular. I opened up The Inquirer one Sunday morning when I was living here, and there was her picture. I'm like, "Oh, my gosh, Patti Sellers from C." Anyway, she went to Mexico in my program. She was Black, so that must have been a really difficult transition for her. She and somebody else, Ava, I can't remember her last name, they were both friends from Rutgers and they both went together and they roomed together in Mexico City. There might have been a couple of other people, but there weren't a whole lot of people I knew. Patti and Sam were the only familiar faces in Mexico. [Editor's Note: Patricia Viseur Sellers, Esq. is an international criminal lawyer who has worked at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, Netherlands. Sellers graduated from Rutgers College in 1976.]
Best year of my life. I loved it. It was great. I lived with a Mexican family, went to school. School was challenging. It was mostly in Spanish. Sam would do, for extra credit, he would do seminars at his house, so we had seminars at his house that he designed. He and his family did Thanksgiving dinner for all of us with the turkey and everything. I traveled. I didn't travel a lot the first semester because I couldn't find anybody to go with me. Everybody wanted to stay in Mexico City. I'm like, "Let's go. We've got this whole country to explore." Second semester, I just decided that if nobody wanted to go with me, I was just going by myself. Thursday afternoon, I'd go to school and say, "I'm going to Oaxaca this weekend. Anybody want to come?" Sometimes I had a companion; sometimes I didn't. It was great. I would recommend to anybody anywhere to do at least a semester abroad. It makes you grow up. You get out of your comfort zone. You see a new country, you meet new people, you see a new culture. It was the best year of my life. It was great.
SI: Tell me a little bit about some of these excursions you would go on. Do you have any memories of people you met or places you went?
JJH: Yes. Mexico has this Day of the Dead ceremony on November 2nd. Do you know about that? One of the women from my class, Wendy, I can't remember her last name, said, "I'm going to Pátzcuaro, this small lake town, for the Day of the Dead ceremony. Do you want to go?" I'm like, "Sure." We took a bus and went to this rural town, where they had this fabulous ceremony. Did you see the movie Coco? Okay. Do you remember, at one point, the boy looks over the wall and he sees the whole cemetery full of marigolds and candles? That's exactly what it was like in this town. That part of the movie was so true to what it's really like. I went there, and that was really spectacular. [Editor's Note: El Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday typically held from October 31 to November 2, All Soul's Day. The concept of the 2017 Disney film Coco centers around the Day of the Dead.]
I went to Acapulco one weekend with some people I had met, and it was just okay. I went to Oaxaca one weekend. That was the only time I've ever gotten bus sick in my life. It was an overnight bus trip down these twisting winding roads. I remember getting off the bus in the morning like, "Oh, this is not good." Fabulous food. I went to Veracruz one weekend. I went by myself on that one. I just went as many places as I could. I explored as many museums as I could in a city. I went to everything I could find. I lived right down the street from Frida Kahlo's house. That was really cool, and that was before she was so popular. It was like, "Yeah, I can go in any time and go to the museum." The food was great. I would eat on the street all the time. I cannot believe I didn't get sick. I actually got sick when I got home, but I never got sick in Mexico. I ate on the street. I went to Taxco, Silver City, where they do a lot of silver mining, with my roommate. My first roommate had a boyfriend in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and that's why she was in the program, to be close to him, so I never saw her. I had to get out on my own to do stuff. I just saw as many cultural things as I could. I bought two guidebooks to Mexico, and every day, I would sit down and it was like, "Okay, what can I see today?" We had a lot of free time because our classes were from eight to two, so we'd get home for lunch and then we'd have the whole afternoon free. There was plenty of time to go into the [city]. We were in the city; we lived in the city. You could just take the bus or the subway and go to the museum, go to a park, go to a theater performance. I saw the Ballet Folklórico. I went to the pyramids. [Editor's Note: Ballet Folklórico is a traditional Mexican dance company that performs at the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts) in Mexico City.]
In the break, in January, Sam organized a trip where we did a ten-day tour of the Yucatán Peninsula and all the Mayan sites and that was fabulous. One of my friends from Rutgers wants to do that trip now. She found it on a Road Scholar tour, and she sent it to me and said, "I don't think you'd be interested in this since you've already been there." I looked at it and I thought, "You know what? Fifty years later, I think I would love to go back." We went to Chichén Itzá and Palenque and Tulum and Mérida and all these really iconic, really important places, and it was great. It was wonderful. I just had so much fun.
My Spanish wasn't great. Most of my classes were in Spanish. My accent was really terrible, and I still have that problem. I'm taking French now, and my accent is really bad. I think it's just my ear. But I could read and write, and it was fine. It was fun. It was great.
I came home at Christmas for two weeks and then went back and then came home in May. Nobody I knew came down to see me. There were no phone calls. The phone cost a fortune. I remember a couple of phone calls but lots of letter writing. I lived with a family. It was a fairly wealthy family, or they had been wealthy. They rented the room out to the two of us. The woman was a widow, Señora Padilla, and her son was a pilot for Aeroméxico. I remember that. It was interesting. We ate in the kitchen. We didn't eat in the dining room. We ate in the kitchen every day. Fried eggs twice a day. For forty years, I would never eat a fried egg after I came back from Mexico because we had them for breakfast and we had them for supper. I hate fried eggs. But the other food was good.
The university was lovely, a twenty-minute bus ride from where I was. It was a school for foreigners, so we weren't in with the rest of the university population, but there were people from all over the world there. The teachers were good. I remember this translation teacher, this little old lady. I don't remember her name. Now, I think she was ancient; she was probably sixty, a very tiny woman, teaching translation. She was so good. She really made the point that when you translate, you don't translate word for word; you have to translate the sense of what is being said. Sometimes, there are idioms in there that don't get translated word for word because when they do, they don't make sense. I think I took two semesters with her. So, it was a wonderful experience.
Again, it was totally different from Rutgers, but it was a wonderful learning experience. We had the Rutgers connection with Sam there, so he was making sure that we all went to class, we were where we were supposed to be. We were in our houses when we were supposed to be. He was there but not overbearing. His home was welcoming; he and Joan were very welcoming, if we needed a shoulder to cry on, if we were homesick, whatever. It was a great year.
SI: Wow. Before that, had you really had any opportunities to travel outside of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania area?
JJH: No. I had flown with my sister to Milwaukee to see my grandparents. That was it. We never took vacations as a kid really because we didn't have a whole lot of money with four kids. We went down the shore every Saturday. It was an hour away. We went to Beach Haven for the day, packed a picnic lunch, went to the beach for a day. We did a lot of day trips as a kid. We would find historic sites and drive around. We'd go to Valley Forge, we'd go to the Franklin Institute. We would go to the zoo, but we never really did vacations. My parents did that after my sister and I were grown, and then they started taking my brothers places. I think they had more money and less mouths to feed. No, I never really had been out of New Jersey. I had been to Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York City, because we had a relative there, Wisconsin to see my grandparents, and that was it. Going to Mexico was another world. My parents were really supportive, which is really nice, because one of my friends from Rutgers, Janet Weber, was a Russian major and she wanted to do a summer abroad in Saint Peterburg. I think it was the summer after our junior year, I forget whether it was after sophomore or junior year, and her mother was dead set against it, "No, you shouldn't go. Why do you want to do that? Why do you want to be so far away?" Her mother didn't talk to her for months about this. My parents were like, "Okay, we'll take you to the airport. What do you need? What kind of clothes do you need? What's the weather like?" It was great.
SI: Coming back, you said you only did the first semester of the senior year, that you had plenty of credits to graduate.
JJH: Yes, I did. It was weird coming back because I felt I missed a lot because I had been away for two semesters, so whatever happened on campus, whatever was going on at the University, whatever was going on with my friends, I had missed all of that. It was different coming back. I moved into Silvers Apartment with Mary Frank, who had been my roommate the first two years, and then two other people, who were awful, for my senior. Really, at that point, I needed eighteen credits to graduate, and I just hunkered down and I did my eighteen credits and I graduated.
One thing that I did when I got back that year, there was a social club forming, the Polish Student Social Club, and it was a bunch of grad school students. I remember three people from the graduate school that had started this. I was really into my Polish heritage, and that was the year my grandparents were celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary. My heritage had always been important to me, so I joined this Polish Social Club, which really was a reason to drink beer. [laughter] It was a lot of fun. We went to some dances, mostly sat around and drank beer. We did a Polish Christmas Eve in somebody's apartment. We invited Edward Bloustein to come and he came. I have a picture of us with Bloustein. We were so thrilled that he came, and he was so charming and so nice. He just showed up at this party, "Here I am." [Editor's Note: Edward J. Bloustein served as the President of Rutgers from 1971 until his death in 1989.]
I kept in touch with some of those people from that Polish Social Club. One guy, John Janowski, was a grad student in urban planning at Rutgers, and he wound up down in Cape May. I would go down and see him. After I left Rutgers, I came back and lived with my parents, and he actually wound up coming to my wedding. He spoke Polish. He was half Polish and half Ukrainian. He was from Havertown, Pennsylvania. He came to my wedding, and he was thrilled that he could speak Polish with my grandparents. Again, that's that Polish thing and my friend Janet hearing all this Polish spoken. What I remember is, that night, my wedding reception was in my parents' backyard, so we had a lot of room. I had a small wedding, like fifty people. My husband and I came back to the house the next morning, and there, at ten o'clock in the morning on my front porch, are my maternal grandfather, my father, and my friend John drinking beer in rocking chairs on my front porch at ten in the morning. They were just hanging out. My parents had told John that it was too far to drive back to Cape May and he should just spend the night on the couch, and he did.
Yes, the Polish Social Club was a lot of fun, and it was kind of a break from studying. I don't remember much else that I did that senior year, hanging out with my friends, but I studied a lot. All my credits, I think, were history courses, so I just remember writing a lot of papers, reading a lot, spending a lot of time in the library. I just worked hard the whole semester, and then I really wanted to get done and have everything wrapped up, so I just really needed those eighteen credits because I didn't want to hang around anymore. I was ready to go. I think going to Mexico really changed me. I think I really grew up a lot and it was like, "I'm done with college. I want to move on. I want to do something else." So, I left Rutgers at the end of the first semester of my senior year.
I walked. The graduation actually was in May. I came back with all my friends and we all partied together. We all graduated on time. There was none of this taking five or six years to do the program that so many people do now. You had four years, and then you did whatever. That was it. An extra semester didn't seem to be an option for anybody. It was like, "Four years, we're done."
SI: Before we leave Rutgers, since you mentioned Ed Bloustein, what did you think of him in particular, and did you have any other interactions with any administrators and that sort of thing?
JJH: I had another interaction with him at one point, and again, he was very kind and very sympathetic and his door was always open. That's what I remember, his door was always open. There was a woman in our dorm, in Davidson, so this must have been my sophomore year is my guess, and somehow, she had a fire in her dorm. I think she had one of those immersion heaters that you weren't supposed to have and it fell out and then it caught on her curtains and caused this great big fire. They were going to throw her out of school, and it was this whole big thing. She was really good and it was an accident and whatever, and we didn't want her to get thrown out of school. I actually went down and had an appointment with Bloustein and begged him not to throw her out of school, and he didn't. I don't know whether it was because I went or what. His door was open, and you could go in and talk. It was a very welcoming atmosphere.
SI: You described how you and your friend went down to D.C. and then you said you came back and went to work at a hospital.
JJH: Yes, I don't know what it is now; it's the hospital in Cherry Hill. It was Cherry Hill Medical Center then. It's changed names about eight times since then. Anyway, I got a job in the accounting department, because I had all these skills that I had honed during my four years of summer work and two accounting courses from Rutgers. I went there, and then I worked there fifteen months. I married a guy from Rutgers, from the Pharmacy School. He was in the Army at that point, and when I got married, I moved to Louisiana. I left New Jersey for the second time.
SI: Just so that I have an overall sense, how long was the military commitment, where you were a military dependent?
JJH: My husband joined the Army in 1975. He stayed active until 1985. He was active for ten years, and then he was in the Reserves for four years. He never made it to twenty. He just got out. He was traveling a lot for work, and it got to be too much.
This is interesting. He was born in '51, so when he got out of high school, Vietnam was raging. He really wanted to join the Army right out of high school, and his father was like, "There is no way you are joining the Army and going to Southeast Asia. You are going to go to college and get a degree in something that will give you a career." His father was a chemical engineer with Exxon. My husband chose Pharmacy School, went to Rutgers College of Pharmacy. His last semester senior year, he decided he wanted to join the Army. So, he signed up in the Army as a foot soldier, an enlisted person. The July after his graduation, he went down to Fort Polk, Louisiana, did his basic training and advanced infantry training in Fort Polk, Louisiana. All of his drill sergeants are like, "Why are you here if you have a college degree and you could be a pharmacist? What are you doing here?" He's like, "Yes, maybe I really need to do what I went to school for." He became a pharmacy technician while still enlisted, while he was waiting to pass his pharmacy boards. Then, once he passed his pharmacy boards, he applied for a commission and got a commission. He went from Fort Polk, where he was an infantry soldier, to Fort Lee, Virginia, where he worked as a pharmacy technician. Then, he got his commission as a first lieutenant, and then they shipped him back to Fort Polk, which he hated. Fort Polk is …
SI: Not the garden of the world.
JJH: No. It's in the middle of pine forests in Louisiana. It is in the middle of nowhere. It is five-and-a-half hours from New Orleans. It is three hours from Houston. It is two hours from Shreveport. Anyway, so, he got his commission, and then that summer, we got married. I moved to Louisiana with him, and there was no housing on post, so we bought a house trailer. We lived in a twelve-by-fifty house trailer for two-and-a-half years. Then, he got an assignment to Panama. The Panama Canal was being turned over to the Panamanians, and it was a whole transition thing under Jimmy Carter at that point. This was 1980. [Editor's Note: After constructing the Panama Canal between 1903 and 1914, the United States controlled the Panama Canal Zone until 1999. The United States agreed to eventually turn over the canal's control to Panama in the 1978 Torrijos-Carter Treaties.]
At this point, I had been working in accounting for a construction company in Louisiana at a paper mill and realized that I could do my boss's job better than he was doing his job and spent a lot of time being really frustrated. This was actually the first time I had come up against any discrimination for my gender. There was a guy that left the office, and I applied for his position. It was still accounting, still pretty low-level accounting. I applied for his job because it was twenty-five cents an hour more than what I was making, and they told me they couldn't give me the extra pay because I was a woman. At that point, I didn't know what to do about that, so I just accepted it because I didn't know that you could really fight that and it was discrimination. Again, I'm in rural Louisiana with no support system.
During that time at Brown and Root, I realized I could do my boss's job better and I didn't know what I was going to do next, so I told my husband I wanted to be a CPA [Certified Public Accountant]. We decided that I would go to grad school to get an advanced degree in accounting and then take the CPA exam. He decided to go to Panama, and then I was going to join him, because the program that I wound up at was a year and a half and his tour in Panama was three years. So, I was going to go to grad school for a year and a half and then join him for the second half of his tour. That's what we did.
I moved back to New Jersey, got a little basement apartment in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, walking distance to the train and the bus, and I enrolled at NYU [New York University] at the Graduate School of Business Administration. I had actually wanted to get a master's in accounting, but they told me I was overqualified for that and that they wouldn't let me into that program because I had too much accounting background. I went to the MBA [Master of Business Administration] program, which was better. I wound up, [after a] year and a half, four semesters straight through, including that summer, starting in January of '80, I wound up with an MBA from NYU. Then, I moved to Panama. At that point, the CPA exam was given twice a year in May and November in person, and I started studying on my own for the CPA exam because there were no review classes in Panama, because I was, again, living far away from most things. I just studied on my own, and I flew back to New Jersey, took the CPA exam over the three days, and passed it on my first try, all four parts.
I worked in Panama in accounting. I could not get a job in public accounting (with a CPA firm) because there were really strict rules against Americans working on the Panamanian economy. So, I had to stay in the former Canal Zone, and I wound up working in internal audit for the Department of the Army, so it was fine. It was an auditing job, so it was good. I was working in my field, doing what I had gone to grad school for.
Also, before I got that job, I taught English as a second language on a volunteer basis. I did that at Fort Polk also. I did teach at some point in my career, just nothing ever really formal. I also taught business writing at the local college. Every Army base is affiliated with a college where they have classes. I guess now it's all online, but then it was in person. They had classes for any Army personnel who wanted to work on a degree. So, I taught a three-hundred-level business writing class while I was there and a GMAT [Graduate Management Admission Test] prep class.
Then, we moved to Fort Sam Houston for six months for training for my husband, and then he got assigned to Fort Detrick, Maryland, which is in Frederick, Maryland, northwest of Washington. We stayed there for almost three years, and then he decided to get out of the service. He had been working as a pharmacist in the Army and decided that he wanted to get into industry, and he worked in the regulatory affairs department of a start-up drug company. We lived in Maryland for thirteen years. [Editor's Note: Fort Sam Houston, now a part of Joint Base San Antonio, is an Army installation near San Antonio, Texas.]
SI: Do any memories stand out about the year and a half in Panama? It sounds like, again, you were removed from any major cities or anything like that.
JJH: We were actually right next door to Panama City, but the Canal Zone, if you look at an aerial shot, there's a lush and green Canal Zone and then there's Panama City. So, we could walk into Panama City, but, again, it was pretty segregated. There was the Panamanians and the Americans. It was nice. We had a lovely house. Our house had been built in 1913 as Pan-Canal housing, and it was one board wide. The same board was the inside and the outside of the house. It was built on stilts to make it cooler. It had beautiful mahogany floors, jalousie windows, and a big corrugated roof, so you could leave your windows open when it rained. It was a lovely existence. It was really nice. We would go to the beach every weekend, go fishing on Gatun Lake, ate lots of fish. We were also really far away from friends and family. Panama is really far away.
One friend from Rutgers, Janet Weber, came down and visited us for a week, and my parents and an aunt came and visited us for a week. Other than that, we just made friends down there, and it was fine. My husband hated it. It was really difficult career wise because there was a lot of resentment of the Army taking over the hospital where he worked, so it was just really difficult. Most of the workers didn't want the Army there, so there was a lot of resistance to the Army's way of doing things.
Finding a job for me was difficult. I couldn't work on the local economy, so I wound up teaching English as a second language. I worked in the business office of the local college for a little while, and then I got the job with the internal audit department. I came out of New York with an MBA and was all ready to make my mark on the world, then I came to Panama and there were a lot of roadblocks, but we made it through. The internal audit job was really good. Again, it was a really good place to write, to hone my writing skills, and to do some research. I worked with two Panamanians, so it was an introduction, like being in Mexico, to a different culture. It was just a different way of life, but my boss was really good. She was a Panamanian woman. She was really wonderful, a good teacher.
Then, we moved to Fort Sam Houston for the six months, then to Fort Detrick in Maryland, and when I got there, I finally got my chance to work in public accounting. I found a public accounting firm forty miles away in Bethesda, Maryland, and I started there. Two-and-a-half years after I got my degree, I actually got into public accounting.
SI: Was that Strack-Hartmann?
JJH: Yes. I started as a junior associate there. It was Frantz, Warrick, Strack and Associates when I joined. Then, six years in, some people left, and that's when I became a partner. I did that until it stopped being fun. I just got really tired of public accounting.
SI: Was it the repetition, or did something change?
JJH: Some of it was repetition. I was the audit partner, so I was running all the audits. Our business base was not-for-profit firms, because there's a ton of not-for-profits in the D.C. area, and small local businesses, single-proprietor businesses. It was an interesting mix. It was fun to help people solve their problems, figure out a way to structure a deal tax wise, a better way to run the business, introduce new accounting software. But I got tired of auditing, and I have a philosophical difference with how the whole audit world is constructed. I think it's not right that the company that's being audited pays the auditors. I think there is a lot of pressure on the auditor, because that's where their paycheck is coming from, to say anything negative. For as much as I hate government and don't want government interference in a lot of our lives, I really think the whole audit atmosphere should be outsourced to an independent agency that audits, where the company being audited pays the agency and then the agency supplies the auditors, so that the auditor doesn't have a direct financial connection to the auditee. Anyway, that's my personal philosophy. I decided after thirteen years, I'd had enough of auditing and I wanted to do something else. I wanted to be proactive instead of reactive is really what it was because when you're auditing or doing tax returns, you're always after the fact. You're just looking at what's been done. There was some opportunity for tax planning and I certainly did that and I had some really interesting clients to do that for, but for the most part, you're reactive, not proactive, and I wanted to be proactive.
My husband got a job in King of Prussia, [Pennsylvania], and we moved up here to Phoenixville, which is where we are now. I went into industry. I got out of public accounting. I kept my CPA license active for probably about ten years, and then it just became too much to keep up with the continuing education and there was no point because I wasn't using it. So, I went to work as a controller for somebody that I had met when I was in Maryland who was in Delaware, and I worked for her for a year. I told her I wouldn't be there forever because I knew the commute was going to get to me. It's an hour away, and an hour away when the weather gets crappy is two to three hours away. They had a lot of financial and tax problems. I solved some of her problems, got them on strong financial footing, got them a loan, settled things down for them. Then, I left, and I temped for a while at a consulting agency just while I was looking for a permanent job. I've always been able to work for an accounting temp agency while looking for a job, because if you have a skillset that's transferable, you can do that. I worked for this consulting firm in King of Prussia for a while.
Then, I found a job as a controller with a startup telecommunications company that was in the business of leasing sites for people to put cell phone towers on. It was a really new industry then, and that was 1998-1999. It was interesting. A funny thing, my brother worked in the telecommunications field, and he actually knew the two principals in the company. I was researching the company because it was new, and I couldn't find out anything about them. I called him and he was like, "Yes, these are good guys." I worked there for, I don't know, fifteen months, and the job didn't turn out to be what I wanted it to be. We were writing software for this industry while we were growing the industry, and it was just really difficult and it wasn't fun. The software was not very good. The company got bought out not that long after I left.
While I was working there and looking for a job, I saw an ad in the paper. This was when there were still ads in the newspaper, and it was the consulting firm that I had temped for before this job at the telecommunications firm. They were looking for an analyst. I look at the job description and I'm like, "Yes, I can do this." I sent my résumé in, and in my cover letter, I wrote, "Just to remind you, I temped for you guys," and I gave them the dates that I had temped for them. So, I went in, and the interview was really easy, because I already knew everybody and it was just like, "Well, what have you been doing for fifteen months?" I got the job [at Acquisition Management Services, Inc.], which was fabulous. It was a mergers and acquisitions consulting firm, a niche M&A firm in King of Prussia, and they dealt in companies that were trying to roll up small closely-held business into a company that would eventually go public. It was really interesting work. I just realized we are almost at two hours. I cannot believe I have talked for this long.
SI: Do you want to go for maybe a half hour more?
JJH: Yes, I can go for half hour more, if you've got time.
SI: Yes, I have plenty of time.
JJH: Okay, yes.
SI: According to your curriculum vitae, that was from '99 to 2003.
JJH: Right. The way I wound up at Haas is that Haas was actually one of the clients of that consulting firm. Haas was a privately-owned chemical management services company in West Chester, PA, and they were looking to buy a division of URS in Austin, Texas that had developed this chemical management software. The CFO [chief financial officer] of Haas needed somebody to do some due diligence work. He didn't have anybody on staff that could do that. So, he came to Acquisition Management Services, and because I'm a morning person and this guy wanted to come in at seven-thirty in the morning, which was not the norm for this firm, they assigned me to the case. I met with this guy, Jim Gutknecht, and he had a trip coming up to Austin for a week to do some due diligence. This is what I had been doing for a couple years there, looking at documents, crafting a report on what the business was. I went to Austin with him for a week and did our due diligence, and then we went back for another week. That was in March. Then, we went back in September. Haas wound up buying the software division from URS. Then, I went back for another week in the spring to help with the integration, and then Jim offered me a job. He said, "The company is growing, I need another person." I decided to take it. I already knew this guy; I knew I could work with him. He's really good to work with. Anybody you can sit and work with for sixty hours a week on three or four business trips and travel and get stuck in the airport, you know you've passed the test. I went to work with him, and I stayed there for eleven years. That was my last full-time job.
I started out as manager of budgeting, forecasting, analysis. He had a controller. I was doing the budgeting and the analysis and looking at potential acquisitions and doing all of that, and then I did the tax work. They had an outside firm doing the tax work, but I would prepare all the tax work papers. I took care of the sales tax and a lot of the regulatory stuff. We had companies in Canada, Mexico, two or three in the U.S. We were in a bunch of different states, so you had to do tax returns and all these corporate filings in all these states. I wound up doing a lot of that work, organizing all that. They didn't have any in-house legal staff. The job kept on growing. The HR [human resources] person got fired, so I stepped in to do HR, which I didn't know anything about, but you can always learn.
The family that owned Haas sold it to a private equity firm in 2007. I worked on all of the due diligence work for that transaction; putting all the work papers together the private equity firm needed. Again, this is what I had been doing when I was working for the consulting firm; I was just on the other side now. I knew what they were looking for. I kept my job, which I didn't know whether I would or not, because you never know. Then, my boss Jim got moved from CFO to another position because the private equity firm wanted their own person, their own CFO, and that's when I became controller. At this time, we were acquiring companies. The private equity firm bought four or five companies and rolled them into us. We were doing a lot of consolidation and integration work, training these acquired companies in how to do things in our way.
I spent a lot of time traveling for these integrations. I remember one time, on Friday afternoon at three o'clock, the CEO [chief executive officer] came in and said, "I need you in England on Monday morning." I'm like, "It's Friday, three o'clock." I went to England and learned what the finance director did and met some people there, figured out how to integrate all this accounting into our work.
Then, they hired somebody else as controller, and I moved on to become treasurer. I just kept on moving up and doing more things. At the end, this was a five-hundred-million-dollar company, and when I started, it was fifty million dollars. They had grown tremendously. We were twenty companies by the time I left. We were all over the world, not in Africa, but we were in Asia, we were in Europe, North and South America. It's a pretty interesting company.
Then, that private equity firm sold--private equity firms just hold on to a company five to seven years--so they sold Haas in February of 2014 to a publicly-traded company called WESCO. At that point, I'm like, "Okay, I'm going to be sixty this year." I kind of looked at the new management and I kind of looked at what they had in store for me, and I'm like, "I don't want to do another computer conversion. I've done enough of these in my life. I don't want to be doing this anymore." So, I decided to retire.
I retired that summer, and I was sixty. I had done a lot, done a lot of good things. I had eleven wonderful years at this company. I started out doing budgeting and tax work and wound up controlling all the cash for this five-hundred-million-dollar company, dealing in multiple currencies, moving cash around, making sure that each country had the right cash and the right currency to pay its bills, because all of our European companies dealt in dollars, in Euros, and in Pounds, so everybody had multiple bank accounts. It was just making sure everything was right. It was good, but it was time to go. So, I retired. My husband had retired a couple years before, three or four years before, so he had been home, waiting for me to retire. I had stock options, so I knew that I needed to wait until this company got sold before I left. My stock options paid off and it was a very nice amount, and once they paid off, then I left.
Then, I retired and got into some volunteer work. I live in a small town right outside of Valley Forge, PA. It's an old ironworking town, and there's an old theatre here called The Colonial Theatre. It's an art and independent films theatre, built in 1903. I was asked to be on the board, so I joined the board and then I became treasurer. Then, fast forward to a year ago, their executive director left, and we were trying to figure out what to do as a board to run the place on a day-to-day basis while they searched for a new executive director. My husband said, "You can do this job. You can do this job. You know all the people." I knew all the finances because I had been treasurer and I'd helped develop the budget and I knew the numbers.
I had recently negotiated a new bank loan for the theatre. They bought the building next door in 2007 and then they renovated it and opened it as a new space with two theatres in 2017. There was a construction loan at that time that then needed to be converted to a permanent loan. So, I worked on all the bank documents, all the loan projections, finding loans, interviewing the banks, doing all of that. I just did the whole loan negotiation process, because that was something I had done my entire career. This was like nothing new. It's just a different owner.
So, I knew the numbers, I knew the people from volunteering there, and so I volunteered to be the interim executive director, which was something I had no background in, running the theatre, and the board said, "Yes, that'll do." I did that from September through April, until they found a new executive director.
That was really different. I hadn't expected to go back to work. It was very interesting. It was a lot of hard work, but now I know how to program a live event. I know what you need to do to get an act on stage, what you need to do to bring [singer-songwriter] Gordon Lightfoot on stage. I learned how to program films. I learned the different ways companies get paid for films. I learned all the different contract rules, managed the staff, made some organizational changes. I put a lot of structure in. The organization was about twenty years old and had been really kind of homegrown from the beginning, a lot of volunteers. It was a real startup, and there just wasn't a lot of structure about anything. I put a lot of HR structure in place and guided the staff, redid the org [organization] chart. Basically, I told the board, "My goal is just to keep this ship afloat until we get somebody new in. I'm not going out looking for money. I'm not going out, interacting with the community. My goal is, inside these four walls, just to keep this place running." That's what I did. Then, the new director came in, and she's been great. I saw her earlier this week. We had an hour-and-a-half meeting about some stuff. I've kept busy. I retired, unretired, and now I'm retired again.
SI: Working against the backdrop of the pandemic, did that affect your time with the theatre?
JJH: We had actually just opened up again. I came onboard in September 2021, and they had just opened up again full time that July. Yes, it did actually because there were some things that we really needed to think about. There was no vaccine policy in place, and the staff was uncomfortable having large amounts of people in the building. We'd had no live events for almost a year and a half. This is a theatre that has three venues and does both films and live programming, such as concerts and comedy shows. No stage plays, just one-night concerts, Judy Collins, Psychedelic Furs, Jon Lovitz, that kind of thing. This was the time when all of the performing arts venues in Philadelphia were putting vaccine mandates in place. They were not opening their doors to any patrons unless you were fully vaccinated. The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, the premiere arts venue in Philadelphia, they were putting a mask and vaccine mandate in place. As a board, and with me as interim executive director, we sat down and came up with a policy to require patrons to be fully vaccinated and wear masks while in the theatre. So, we implemented that policy in September 2021.
Then, we had to come up with the process on how to check vaccinations, and then how do we deal with patrons that aren't vaccinated and are difficult. We decided to really heavily involve the board in this process, and so we had a staff member and a board member checking vaccines status. In the nice weather, September, October, we did it outside. All this took place outside the theatre on the main drag of the town, before you even went into the theatre. For the most part, it was fine. The first couple of events, we decided to have a police presence. We hired the local police just to have somebody in the theatre in case we had a problem because we didn't know how this was going to work. This was a year ago, and there were people that were really belligerent about things and we just didn't know what it was going to be like. We dropped the police presence after three concerts because we didn't have any problems, and for the most part, things were fine.
Last month, the theatre dropped both the vaccine and the mask mandate. We dropped the mask mandate in March because what we were finding was people were coming in for a live event and then as soon as they bought the refreshments, the masks were coming off and they weren't going back on. I would be in the balcony just looking around, and I would realize that nobody was wearing a mask anymore. It's really hard to enforce at that point.
It was interesting navigating through the situations from fully masked and fully vaccinated in September 2021 through to March 2022, dropping the mask mandate, and then in July 2022, dropping the vaccine mandate. It's just been interesting as things go on, what you do with the public. Before we dropped the mask mandate, we polled all of the staff, the full-time people and the part-time people who are the concession and the box office staff. It was really interesting. They were evenly split between no masks and masks, but what I've noticed is all of the box office and concession staff wear a mask when they work, which is fine. Some patrons do, some patrons don't. It was a challenge.
We had to develop policy for our website. We had to change the website with a pop-up screen that says, "Before you buy this ticket, you have to understand that you must be masked and vaccinated." Then, we changed our policy, because a lot of tickets for the fall had been pre-sold from two years ago. A lot of these concerts were postponed from 2020. People bought these tickets without a vaccine and mask mandate in place, so we refunded people if they couldn't or wouldn't comply with our policies. So, that was a change in policy. It was interesting navigating through all that.
SI: Are there other activities that you have been involved in since you retired from your main career?
JJH: I do a little bit of consulting for some not-for-profit firms on the side, mostly accounting, but, again, this is what I've been doing since I was eighteen. There's a little not-for-profit in town and they're a bunch of musicians and I just try and explain the financial statements to them and explain how to run things and what they need to look for, and then I do their books at the end of the month. This is like eight hours a month. It's not much. I answer questions for another small non-profit. Their treasurer is not an accountant, so he'll call me with questions.
The biggest thing I do is totally different from accounting, totally different from my history background. My sister and I started a little business where we design and make greeting cards, and we sell them at a local farmer's market in Burlington County and in Rancocas Woods at a consignment store. That is totally different from everything else I have ever done in my life, and it's actually working out really well. That's what I should be doing now, but it's too hot to make cards. It's fun to work with my sister again. We've been close and far apart and close, but this has gotten us closer. It's fun to have a little business. It's fun to be really creative and to do something different.
SI: It sounds like you are doing more of the artistic side of it.
JJH: Yes, I do the design and production work, and she handles the marketing. She was a marketing major at Rutgers, so that's her deal, the marketing. My husband and I have also traveled a lot, as much as we can, although we haven't really much these past three years.
SI: Have you stayed involved with Rutgers during the last couple of years?
JJH: No, I really haven't. I will say I've grown disgruntled with Rutgers and some of the things they've done. I don't believe in the Big Ten thing at all. I think it's a bad use of resources and time and energy and money. Money could be better spent on education. Some of the politics I am very unhappy about, specifically when they disinvited Condoleezza Rice to commencement and then they turn around and they invite Snooki and give her an honorarium. It's like, "Where are our values here?" No, I have not. I keep up with my friends from Rutgers. I read what goes on, but it's not really part of my life anymore. It's different than when I was there. [Editor's Note: In 2014, Condoleezza Rice withdrew as the Rutgers commencement speaker after students protested the invitation due to her involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the treatment of detainees. Rice served as National Security Advisor from 2001 to 2005 and then Secretary of State from 2005 to 2009 during the administration of George W. Bush. Tom Kean, former governor of New Jersey, and Eric LeGrand, former football player who suffered a severe spinal cord injury during a game in October 2010, were the commencement speakers in 2014. In 2011, Rutgers paid reality-television star Snooki more than 32,000 dollars to speak at the University.]
SI: You were in roughly the same field of accountancy for many years. Were there major changes or challenges over the years, maybe new regulations or just a change in the business?
JJH: Tax law changes were always a challenge. Every time a major tax law came through, it really changed some of the planning. A lot of what I did involved, from 2003 on, acquiring companies and, really from 1999, analyzing companies to buy and buying companies. A lot of that was involved in just really understanding how businesses run, and that didn't change a whole lot over the years. What did change was how things were financed over the years and, again, how the tax rules worked on all of that. No, once I got out of public accounting, all the rules, the audit rules, I really got away from a lot of that. Then, I never worked for a publicly-held company, so I never had to deal with Sarbanes-Oxley, which would have been really difficult. That was one of the reasons that I retired when I did because we had been acquired by a publicly-held company and I knew they were going to bring all this Sarbanes-Oxley in, and it was regulatory stuff. I like to be proactive, and that was, again, reactive stuff. It wasn't doing anything to help the business grow, to help the customers, to improve efficiency. It was just more time-consuming stuff. Sarbanes-Oxley, I don't know if it's good or bad. I don't know that it did what it was supposed to. I'm kind of glad I got out of the regulatory stuff because to me, that's not fun; I would just rather do the proactive stuff, figure out how to do things better, figure out how to manage my money to take advantage of currency swings and just keep my people happy. [Editor's Note: In 2002, Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to help protect investors from fraudulent financial reporting by corporations. Enacted in the wake of financial scandals at publicly-traded companies Enron, Tyco and WorldCom, the law set strict new rules for accountants, auditors and corporate officers, imposed more stringent recordkeeping requirements, and added new criminal penalties for violating securities laws.]
SI: When you first got into accountancy, was it mostly a male-dominated field? Has it changed at all?
JJH: Yes, it was mostly male dominated. My class at NYU probably was fifty-fifty by that point, but, yes, a lot of the accounting firms were all men. There were very few women partners. If you saw an article about a female partner at an accounting firm, it was a big deal. It definitely has changed. It's probably more sixty-forty now, although as you get up in the ranks, I think women tend to fall out because of the hours and the pressure and if they want to have kids, it just makes it really difficult. Public accounting is not an easy life. Yes, there aren't as many women in the top ranks. There's a lot more than there used to be, but it's not the same proportion as the women that start out.
SI: Is there any other area that I missed or anything you want to add?
JJH: You've asked a lot of really good questions, so I think you've got it all.
SI: Okay, good.
JJH: I think the best part of my Rutgers experience was the people I met, lifelong friends. Good education, I will say it was a good education. There were some really stellar teachers there. Some of the big introductory classes were what you'd expect, but once I got to my second year, there were just some really, really good classes. I'm assuming that continues.
I ran into somebody the other day who's actually the development director at a not-for-profit that I support in town. We met in front of their building, and Paul (my husband) noticed a Rutgers sticker on her car and he's like, "Did you go to Rutgers?" She's like, "Yes." We started talking about Rutgers, and she graduated in the late '80s. So, she had a very different perspective. We talked a lot about what it was like for her, and there were a lot more opportunities. It was just a lot different than when I went. She was an English major, and she loved it. Again, she came from a very small town in Pennsylvania a couple of towns over, so going to New Brunswick for her and her family was a really big deal. It was moving out of state, not commuting to the local Penn State campus, and going to another world. She was like, "Yes, it was really different," but she loved it. Actually, her son is going there, so that's really nice. She was really excited.
SI: Thank you for answering all my questions. I really appreciate it.
JJH: Thank you for letting me amble on and on. I really did not think I had that much to say, so I'm surprised.
SI: Everybody says that at the beginning, and then they are surprised how much time has passed.
SI: Let me conclude the interview, and then we will just stay on a minute longer.
JJH: Okay, yes.
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Transcribed by Jesse Braddell 8/29/2022
Reviewed by Kathryn Tracy Rizzi 10/17/2022
Reviewed by Janice Janka Hartmann 4/9/2023