Dan Strafford: This begins an interview with Mr. Carl Fleming on September 26, 2002 with Dan Strafford
Shaun Illingworth: And Shaun Illingworth.
DS: First off, Mr. Fleming, where you were born and your date of birth?
CF: I was born in a small town in New Jersey called Washington, in Warren County, and that was on May 22, 1929.
DS: Your parents' occupations, your father was a farmer, from you pre-interview survey, what kind of work did he do farming?
CF: Basically, when I was born I was in my grandmother and grandfather's house in the town of Washington, and it was during the Depression, and I can remember early that he, really, was trying to get jobs with the WPA and ... it was just a poor time and we moved in with my grandmother and my grandfather and later on, in 1939, we moved to my grandfather's farm in a little town called Hampton in Hunterdon County, which was even smaller, outside of town. So he did, actually, have a rough time in the Depression, trying to find a job and I remember him telling me that we moved, when my grandfather died early, apparently he was pretty well off. He ran a fish market in Washington and had a good reputation and there was an old hotel next to the fish market. That was a good customer. But he died and my grandmother lost the house for $500.00. I remember talking to my father years later and saying "Why couldn't you get $500.00 to pay off this mortgage?" He said, "I couldn't get five dollars." There was no money. The banks closed and the banks went under and the depositors lost all their money. Then they just foreclosed on everything. So it was, kind of the early memories were of being very, "Life's unfair and things are pretty miserable," and we were really forced to go on the farm.
DS: There were three other siblings, is that correct?
CF: Yes, at that time. I only have a vague memory of my grandfather, the one who had the fish market and he died, I remember sitting on his lap. ... My brother, who was a year older, a year and a half, ... that's right, my sisters would have been born by '39 when we moved. They were born in '34, I think, '33 and '34, and my brother '27, yeah, around that time, '32 or '34, so they would have been small.
DS: What was early childhood like with your siblings?
CF: We got along. We were in school and I remember my grandmother was a very, very wonderful person, I was very impressed at an early age that she was so giving, never asking anything. She'd come from Germany in about 1910, with her older brother Henry, because World War I was threatening. He would have been drafted, so they sent him over here with her to avoid the war, so he wouldn't get killed in World War I. But the rest of the family never came, the parents. She worked as a maid, she had worked as a maid in Heidelberg Castle, and she from very low, you know, economic status and she always took care of us kids. It was always we were first in her life. ... It was so obvious to me, even as a youngster, that she had that great loving affection for us and that was the overriding feeling I had. In a sense, a sadness when we had to move from her house. Yeah, my older brother, I seemed to be the bright one in the family, ... he was not doing too well, that didn't sit too well with him, I guess. So he seemed to have problems, I know, in school. We were from the country, so as we got into the school it was almost, school wasn't important. It was getting the crops in, milking the cows, and a lot of guys, as soon as they got to be sixteen just got out school, as sophomores and freshmen, and that kind of bothered me because I realized, at an early age, that that isn't what I wanted to do. "I want to get out of here." It's like being a coal miner, I guess, in Pennsylvania, no place to go but down the mines where your father went, and all I could see was poverty. There wasn't any future there.
DS: As far as your education, what kind of education did you get in elementary school and middle school as far as World War I was concerned? Do you remember anything specific?
CF: World War II?
DS: World War I as far as your education in elementary school, did they cover World War I as it being the end of wars?
CF: I don't remember, no. I remember, basically, it was strictly the "Three Rs," reading, writing, arithmetic. There wasn't much history taught at that time when I started. In fact, one of the things that was unusual, I was five years old, I was born in May, I started the first grade. They didn't have a kindergarten in Washington. So, by chance, I didn't think I was exceptionally bright, I got out of high school when I was sixteen, because I started at five, no kindergarten, I went straight through. I turned seventeen May 22nd and graduated May 28th. So I was really a young guy. I was very young getting out of high school by the fact that there was no kindergarten.
DS: Moving on to high school, World War II had began to break out in Europe as you were entering high school, correct? Or in eighth grade?
CF: Yes. World War II was in '39 and '40, the invasion of Poland. We were secluded. We were out there in the country and, you know, we just get up, five o'clock in the morning, milk the cows by hand, and go to school and come home and at four o'clock, they start the chores, milk the cows at night, and then, you know, get the hay in. So we had, we had a radio, but there wasn't a lot of, I don't remember ... a lot of news, things that we were aware of. We were vaguely aware that there was something going on. I remember Pearl Harbor, that Sunday morning, we didn't hear anything and then we're going to school, I guess, the following Monday and the teacher, you know, "Something terrible happened, there was this thing at Pearl Harbor." That would be in 1941, so I would have been like twelve years old, in eighth grade, but, you know, we heard there's something going on, but we were, sort of, you know, real country guys and we were insulated from, you know, seeing those things, at least, I was.
DS: Did the township change at all during Pearl Harbor, or after Pearl Harbor? Did your general township change at all, the mood around?
CF: Well, the thing I noticed, immediately, was that guys that are older than I was, a couple of years older, they were, usually they were. I was a freshman in high school, with my two uncles, all right. My uncles were is in the same class for about three weeks, which was very embarrassing, they moved to Washington, but that's the way it was. You would quit high school for two years, working in the farm, and then come back and most of my uncles, they did graduate, but were like twenty-one years old out of high school, because, what's important? So what we saw was ... the principal would come around and say, "If you enlist in the Army, or if you get drafted, you'd get your diploma automatically. You don't have to go to class." So a lot of guys ... had their pictures taken in the yearbook with their Army uniforms on and that was the thing that you noticed and that was all the guys, who were two or three years older were going, were leaving, were going in service, Army, Navy and that was a big thing. You saw some older guys enlisting, you know, guys, in their forties and fifties, who really wanted to get into the thing, so that was the main thing I saw. Yeah, the town was emptying out. Everybody was going in the service.
SI: Did that have an impact on the local economy?
CF: Oh, yes. As a matter-of-fact, in 1944, we had a small farm, like sixty-five acres and twenty-seven head of cattle, and one day this pick-up truck came down the dirt road and on the side of the truck it said, "W.W. Smart." I heard him talking to my father and he ... had a big a registered Holstein Frisian herd. These are the black and white cows you see on Gateway [computers]. Had like a hundred cows, and his top man had been drafted or enlisted in the Army and he said, "I hear you got two boys here and I need somebody to help me on the farm, because we got to get the milk out, you know. We got to keep the home front going." I think I was fourteen years old, about fourteen, and I said, "Pop, let me go." Smart says, "I pay forty dollars a month and found." Which means you just live on the farm and you got your meals, you had a room, and you work, just doing the same thing. But at home I got nothing and, of course, this was like, "Wow, I'm gonna get forty dollars a month." So I went to work that summer for Smart in Penwell; it's a little town outside of Hackettstown, between Washington and Hackettstown. Two kids from the city came and they couldn't stand up in the hay wagons, and stuff, but they were high school kids, they tried hard, and Smart was a great man. I really got to know him and we would talk. I really ran the farm as a fourteen year old, because I knew, that's why I was brought up that way, that summer, and then I went back to school that fall. Smart was interesting because we were talking one day, he was a World War I veteran, and he said that he was in the trenches. There were five of them, five guys, they were all buddies, and the war was almost over and he said, "It was a beautiful day." and he said, "It was the end of a perfect day," so they said, "Let's go get a bottle of wine or something." He says, "I'll go get it," and he left and he was gone about two minutes when a German shell came and killed everybody else. So he became a God-fearing man and we went to church on Sunday. Every morning, an hour before we went to work, and we got to milk the cows, we come in and he'd be there, either his wife, or his wife's sister would read a whole chapter from the Bible before we go back in the field, because he said, "If I ever get out of this alive, I will dedicate my life to God." He was quite an interesting guy. When he told the story, I could see, he made the promise then, so that I really remember that about him. He was quite a guy.
SI: Can you tell us more about the farm, what it produced?
CF: Mainly, it was dairy. It was pure bred Holstein dairy cows, and they give a tremendous amount of milk, and I remember some of them would give like fourteen quarts of milk and that's big, that's more than a pail full, and it was going to Port Murray Dairy, which was in the area. So, apparently, it was a dairy farm, and it made a living on selling milk. The rest of it was raising, the important thing about being on a farm is that you have to raise enough feed, or food, so you don't have to buy it. So it had hay and grain, the rest of the farm was; we put that in his silos and store it in the barn, so you could feed your cows all winter, which if you had to go and buy feed, you know, all the little money you made on your milk was gone. That was part of our problem in our small farm. We never really raised enough hay and grain. We'd have to go out and buy some during the winter time, so it was always on a poverty level.
DS: Did you notice at the onset of the war that the Depression kind of sunk away, and that things got better as the war continues?
CF: Yes, I was, especially, we'd get Sundays off sometime, ... and I'd hitch hike into Washington, where I was born, and, you know, to me it was quite a thing to walk into Washington, to see the high school kids. They had a band there; they were imitating Harry James, you know, they were called the Star Dusters. Star Dusters and the kids were dancing and to me this was like, you know, big city. It was only 5,000 people, of course. I had forty dollars a month, which I saved, and I bought myself a little Victrola-type thing with Frank Sinatra records and, oh, yeah, I was like, things were getting much better.
SI: When did you develop your lifelong love for music?
CF: I don't have any talent. I've always appreciated it, you know, you're right. I guess, about, eighth grade or so, I started collecting records and enjoying, different artists and things, mainly popular music and I like a little classical music. I'm not into opera too much... I've always enjoyed it, and still do. One of my sons is a musician. He just took a job down in West Windsor, I think, teaching cello and bass to grammar school kids and he wanted to try it and I say, "Give it a shot, see how it goes." He just started. His life has been, Hartford College, University ofMusic. So there's talent in the family, but I don't, as far as playing, you know, just listening is my talent. I can't sing a note, but I do enjoy good music.
SI: Was music an outlet from the farm life?
CF: Yeah, early, I was interested in sports. I think that was another reason. I loved baseball as a little kid. I was running around, in Washington when I was five or six years old, and I had a little glove, costs fifty cents, and followed the players around, and they liked me and they'd throw the ball. I could hardly catch it but I was always there, everyday. I was a good athlete in high school. We only had two teams, soccer and baseball. Great soccer team, we were known as the Mighty Mites. We were small. We only had like eleven guys in our high school to make up the team, no substitutes. We were three years undefeated, we were champions, against the other schools. But we just clicked, we had eleven guys that could, you know, play and everyone would play a different position. In fact, when I came here to Rutgers, George Dochat was the soccer coach and he talked to a couple of guys, "Get Fleming off the football team, because he's a great soccer player," but I said, "I'm gonna try football."
SI: When did your brothers go off to the service?
CF: My uncle Ozzie went first. He married and had a baby boy. He was in New Guinea during most of the war serving in the PT Boat squadrons. He knew JFK was commander of PT 109. JFK was very aggressive. Always, "Let's go! Let's go!" Ozzie said that it was standard to strain all the high octane gasoline thru a chamois cloth to get out any water or other pollutant. He always said he thought that JFK would sometimes skip the procedure to get into a raid. He said he would bet a hundred dollars that's what happened. When the engines died on PT 109 and they were sitting ducks on the water. They all jumped overland immediately before the PT 109 was sunk. My uncle Bob went into the Air Force. He was married with no kids. He trained to be a pilot for a long time. Just before he was to get his wings, they found out he was color blind. So they sent him to navigator school. As far as I knew he spent all his time in the USA going base to base. Interesting story. My uncles went first. They were not much older than I was and Martin was, I believe, he was in Washington High School, very soon after that, in '43. He was in the D-Day invasion. I was very proud of him, because he was in the infantry and in the engineers, and I talked to him not too long ago, and he was wounded twice, so, probably, he was in the front lines ... He won the Bronze Star and being in the service myself, if an enlisted man gets a Bronze Star, you're doing pretty good. You did something good. My Uncle Markley, he then was drafted. He was a year behind Martin. I understand that he was on his way to Europe when VE-Day, when the war in Europe was over ... He got there and, I think, he stayed for occupation duty for a while. I don't know if he got there when the war at that point, he was just about, you know, there, either on the boat or landing, when the whole thing was over. They're still alive, I talk to them, but he never talked much about it. Then my brother, he was sixteen, and he came to my father, which made me fifteen, he was seventeen ... He was not good at school, he dropped out at seventh grade, and so he was sort of wandering around. He said, "I'm want to join the Merchant Marine," and my father said, "If that's what you want to do, do it." So he shipped out and I know he was in the South Pacific for about nine months on a supply ship, Merchant Marine. He came back, and I'm still in high school, he came back from this cruise and apparently had some problems with the Japanese, and he says, "I'm not going back." I remember him saying, "I don't want to go back, I don't want to go back," and my father was pretty tough with him, he says, "Look, damnit, you signed up, you're going back." He didn't go back, but as an alternate he enlisted in the Navy, because now he was a year older. I never knew what happened. He's still alive, I've talked to him, but for some reason, apparently, in the service back then ... you have to do ninety days of service and, I guess, it's sort of a trial period, but for some reason he was discharged, I guess, on his eighty-ninth day ... which means that for some reason, you give him a general discharge, and, well, you go home, and there's no problem, and it was at Great Lakes. So that always kind of bothered me, but it was his life and he never discussed it and I never discussed it with him. So that was the extent of his service. Why he didn't stay in or why they let him go, I don't know. I was always curious about it. So he didn't get any benefits, except now, apparently, he's seventy-five, they just gave benefits to Merchant Marines. So I don't see him that often, he lives in Pennsylvania, and I thought you know, maybe if he needed anything, you know, he might go get it, but I haven't talked to him that often so, that was pretty much the extent of my remembrance of what happened with his service at that time.
SI: How did your parents react with them going to the service?
SI: The first two, your brothers?
CF: My mother always was, "Oh, no, don't go, don't go," you know, and so on and so forth, and my father said, "If that's what you want to do, go do it." So the same thing with me because that was the way it was. So it's always the mother you know, "Don't, stay home, don't go," and my father would say, "Look, go do it."
DS: Were you able to communicate at all with your relatives while they were serving or was it ...
CF: No, when they got back, I was still home when Martin got back, and I know he had been wounded and he was hanging around and was a big guy. He was a very handsome guy, about six foot four, you know, but he was pretty wild and ran around with a couple of guys, drinking and all, I guess, and getting in fights and all those kinds of stuff, and I would hear about it, and he met a little farm girl and got married, settled down and, I guess, did okay after that. But now, during that time there was no communication that I knew of from overseas. Foreign people are funny. I don't even know, I shouldn't say that, but I wrote when I was in Korea. I would write back, you know, to my grandmother especially. The feeling was always there in my family, and so on and so forth. But there was no communication during the war that I remember. Because we knew they were over there someplace and something is going on and their in danger somewhere, and some weren't, you know, some never got out England. Some guys stayed here, some guys stayed there, you never knew where you were going to go.
SI: Did their leaving affect the operation of the farm?
CF: No. My uncles ... they moved from the farm when we moved in, so they moved downtown, and moved toWashington. No, then when the war started, my father got a job at Hercules Powder Plant in Belvidere making gunpowder, and we ran the farm with hired men, five dollars a week, and room and board, and it was just a losing proposition, because there wasn't enough food for the cows to go through the winter. I remember we'd go to the brewery in Easton to get beer grains, feed the cows beer grains, which there wasn't too much of it, which was very good, and always scrounging up and going out and try to buy hay and buy things to get the cows through the winter, so there's not much money. But he also had, we had a milk route, Fleming's Dairy, so my father had that for a while. I remember when I was ten years old getting up at three o'clock in the morning, we would milk the cows, we'd go to Parkdale Dairy where we sold our milk, they'd bottle it for us, and I go around delivering milk, you know, to different houses. In the winter time, you see the caps pop up, you know, freezing. Then they came up with the new cap. ... It wasn't homogenized; we sold raw milk. ... He had the ice business in high school. So then he went to work for the Army at Belle Meade and he was over there three weeks, got his hip crushed, no money in the family. His compensation for a year was like, got it at a 100%, so it was like two hundred and sixty dollars a month for all the kids. We had no indoor toilets, it was outhouses until we got off the farm. We sold out on the farm, there was just no money, it was just not feasible. After he left, he got a job with Belmeade Army Supply Depot on the railroad. It was an Army railroad, and apparently the curves at the rail were too tight, so night-time he got pinched between the bars and he was in the hospital for a couple of years and they cut the compensation to twenty-six dollars a month after two years. Of course, my mother was always coming on, "What are you gonna do? What are you gonna do? We have nothing." So when I was in high school, he got out and he drove the truck and I peddled the ice. I was the iceman for two years. I was about sixteen. So I was a pretty good help because I was running up and down with a hundred pounds of ice on your back, you know, when you're in high school and played some soccer and baseball. There was always a sense of, you know, "Poor Dad, he can't make it. So always, everything turns bad," and I, that always got inside me very strongly that "This isn't going to happen to me." So I started thinking about "What I'm going to do, where I'm going," and, how am I going to get out of here? All the other kids are quitting school at eighth grade, getting a job in the factory someplace, and get a car, ride around. I was only seventeen, couldn't even get a driver's license. I did have a driver's license at fourteen to drive a pick-up truck at the farm, so that was an emergency in wartime. ... The big thing, I remember, was that I always had older people taking interest in me, my teachers, and I was in freshman high school, apparently what happened was, when I left Washington School at fifth grade and went to Hampton, I missed my decimals, or something. There were something going on with math and I didn't understand what was going on. So I became very, I guess, what's the word, truculent, in class because I didn't understand it, and I would not do my arithmetic homework. So that led to problems but and I did very well in everything else. But I was pretty bright, I guess, passed, got good grades except arithmetic. So I went as a freshman in high school, very luckily, I was taking a commercial course and we had a man come in, Dr. Archibald Alexander Acton. He was a Doctor of Divinity fromMcGill University, in Toronto, who apparently was a widower and had married a woman from a little town called Asbury next door. It had three hundred people in it, and became the pastor of that little Presbyterian Church, and they ran out of money, so he decided to come back to teaching. So we were lucky he came to teach in littleHampton High School, and he stopped me one day. He was quite an impressive guy to get a PhD ... with that background, he come to our small school and he taught everything and he was our soccer coach, our baseball coach, you know. His kids went to Lafayette, they were college kids, they can't help him, you know. So he stopped me one day and he said, "Why are you taking a commercial course?" I said, "Because I can't do math." He says, "Well, don't you want to go to college?" I said, "Yeah, but I can't do math." He says, "You take algebra; I'll teach you, don't worry about it." I was a year behind but I took algebra two years, I took geometry, trigonometry and the principal of the high school taught trig and, you know, I picked it up and even my high school principal, he lived across the street at the time, I went to his house every night. Trigonometry, I was having trouble, and so, with geometry, and all of a sudden, you know, he kept saying, "Don't you understand what I'm saying, logarithms," and I said, "No." One night the light went on and, you know, I picked it up. So I had to back in then you had to take physics, chemistry, scientific or classical course, and with languages I wasn't so hot. ... I got good grades in English but I realized I didn't really know my English grammar and I couldn't translate the French, the only thing we had was French, so I took two years of French, and the teacher was a nice gal ... I took my final exam in English on French history so I would pass. So that's how I got to college, because if those teachers had not taken me aside, and saw something in me that I had the ability to do this, and talked to me. I had listened, but, I guess, that drive was to get out of there, you know, got to get someplace else, do something.
SI: Did working on the farm, did you notice if the rationing policies had any effect on your work there?
CF: Yes, I did notice that. The farmers, we had, there were A.B.C., all those stickers, and so much a gallon, as farmers we could get, it wasn't as bad, because we could get, you know, we had special receipt thing or something, you'd get more gas. But the effect of rationing you saw mainly was, there was no cars being made. So everybody drove an old car. One of the kids, one of my classmates had a '29 Essex and you see a guy riding around with a '34 Chevy, you know, patching it up. My father also had a Texaco garage for a while so a lot of the kids would come in with their old cars and he fixed them up for them. That was a big thing; you notice that there was no cars being made after, you know, '44, '45, during the war. I guess '41 was the last year. So, yeah, rationing was there, sugar, things like that, you would notice ... everything was on the farm, we grew everything. There was never any money, everything was like a barter system kind of. Fishman would could come Fridays, we called him "Fishy" because he smelled so bad, his name was Kreidler, I remember, from Asbury. He always came last, at dusk, down at the dirt lane to our farm. He had fish left over. My father would always haggle with him, get porgies, or whatever was leftover. Now I remember that. So we never saw, my God, lobster or things like that, you know. So today I like shellfish and don't order chicken in a restaurant. Chicken and eggs, chicken and eggs, "go out and kill a chicken for dinner." I had my own shotgun when I was twelve. My brother had his. We'd go out hunting; catch a rabbit, kill a rabbit, that would be your dinner. So there was always that there was not much money to buy things.
SI: Either on your farm or on the Smart farm were you selling any milk to the government for the war effort?
CF: I don't know. Basically, what the system was, Port Murray Dairy was a big dairy and almost all the farmers from that area, Warren County, sold their milk to them. We went to Parkdale, in Washington, which was a smaller dairy. Now, what Port Murray did, after the farmers sold it to the middleman, Port Murray Dairy they bottled it and they sent it out. So I don't really know where that milk went. We were the producers of it and we didn't sell directly. We'd sell to the dairy. We got so much, forty gallon cans; so much a quart, and they would do the bottling and the distribution. I know they were big. I don't know, probably, I would not be surprised if it did go to the service.
SI: Did your parents or maybe in a discussion with Mr. Smart, did all of these ever come up, both the politics andRoosevelt?
CF: Oh, my father, he was anti-Roosevelt, and probably that's where I come from, as being a life-long Republican . There were no Democrats in that area, it was all hard-rock farmers, and they were strictly Republican and Herbert Hoover was the smartest man that ever sat in a chair. "Roosevelt sold us all down the river," and we heard that, but as kids, you know, it was okay. All we knew was that there wasn't much around. Sometimes in summer you're barefoot and in the fall you got a pair of shoes and pair of pants to go to school. Of course, being farmers, we were going to this little school house, we would be milking the cows in the morning and you have your head against the cow and we pick up that odor, which I happened to like, I still do, when I smell a horse or a cow, but I remember going to class like in fifth or sixth grade and a girl would hold her nose. Of course, I smelled of cow, you know. You remember those things, but I could never understand why it bothered them. I thought it was really nice. So it was that little feeling of you were always, like, on the low side. You were not a towny, you didn't dress up, you didn't have anything. As a matter-of-fact, one thing I remember was that we had an ice customer or milk customer who was on the Board of Education, his name was Charlie Tampiere, whose daughter was in my class and that fall came, I guess, it was my freshman year in high school, when I first met Dr. Acton. My uncles were still there. My father bought home this pair of white shoes with narrow toes, now I've been walking barefoot all summer that he got from this guy, Tampiere and he said, "He gave me these shoes, he doesn't wear them. You can wear them to school." So I put them on, the first day of school, I guess, and we got into the classroom, we were like forty-three people, I think, forty-five people in the classroom and I sat there and my feet started to swell, started to hurt so bad. I was sitting in the back row, so I went in the cloak room, a little cloak room in the back, I took off my shoes. Then all of a sudden, Dr. Acton didn't know where I was, and, "Where's this guy, Fleming?" "He went in the cloakroom." "Come out of there. Come out of that cloakroom." When I tried to put the shoes on, my feet were twice as big as the shoes. "You got a hundred demerits. Come out now." I was embarrassed because, maybe holes in my socks, I couldn't get the shoes on. So anyway, I racked up like a thousand demerits in about half hour, five, ten minutes. So even though I was a star athlete and all my letters I won, and I was a good student, you know, I did everything perfectly, I never got on the honor society because I never wiped out the thousand demerits, because of the shoes my father, made me wear, because he didn't want to spend two or three dollars for a pair of shoes. That's kind of like it was.
DS: Did you want to go into the service? It was just kind of the next step; did you see it as your next step out of the farm?
CF: Well, it actually was, a lot of my life has been accidental, I guess, because the underlying feelings are there, and the thoughts are there, and the drive is there, but it's funny how things happen. I was a senior in high school and everything was going fine. I was very popular and we had a great class, very smart class, out of nineteen kids, which was the second largest in the history of the school, and the next class had six, but we had a great class. Everybody was going to go, everybody was smart, bright kids, six boys and thirteen girls. My mother said to me, "I want you to go take something to the post office," and the post office was in Washington, four miles away. So my father had an old '36 Pontiac he got for a hundred bucks. He worked in the Studebaker/Pontiac garage, and he got it for a hundred bucks, a nice old car that he fixed up. So I remember getting in the old Pontiac and going to the Washington Post Office to take this letter for my mother. As I was in the post office, I saw this poster, you know, "Uncle Sam wants you." There was an Army guy there with stripes on his arm and I went over and I said, "What's the story? What's going on?" "Well," he said, "the war is just over," he said, "and we don't have anybody on occupation duty and we need soldiers and they have extended the GI Bill of Rights to the end of 1946." This was like, maybe March, or April of '46 and I'm going to graduate in May. I said, "Well, you mean I can go to college?" He says, "Yeah." I said, "How does it work?" He said, "Well, if you sign up, you get twelve months free of tuition, and you get one month for every month of service." Then I said, "Well, what are the options?" He said, "Well, you can sign up for eighteen months, two years, or three years." I said, "Well, if I sign up for two years that gets me thirty-six months or three years of college." I'm thinking, "I don't know if I want to sign up for three years because I might be too old then and I don't want to go to college anymore," you just don't know. So I thought about it and I went home and I said, ... "You know, graduation is coming and I'll be seventeen and I can join up. You can volunteer, you won't be drafted." So I talked to my dad about it and Dad said, "Well, whatever you want to do." Then I asked the sergeant, I said, "Well, you know, my father's crippled and we don't have any money and I got my two other kids, my kid sisters, and my mother gets twenty-six dollars a month," so, "We pay for your dependents," and I said, "How much is that?" I don't remember, it was like, the salary was fifty dollars a month, but, "the dependency allowance for your mother and father and two kids, is like two hundred sixty-five dollars a month. So, I guess, when I told my father that, he said, "Go." My mother said, "Your father got crippled by working for the Army, and they gave him twenty six dollars a month. They're not gonna give you all that, that's all a big lie." I guess, I sat and thought and I said, "Well, where else? If I don't go, I'm stuck here. I have no future. Where am I gonna go, where am I gonna get a job? Even though I took all my college prep courses, I'll never get to college." I remember over the years, I remember, my mother going, when I was much younger, maybe twelve years old, we went to, there's a little grocery store in Hampton, Terribery's, where we used to go down and buy some things, I had to be a junior, and we used to take ice there and milk to that store when I was younger. I remember, I guess, the clerk was there and he talked to my mother and I'm standing there and he says, "He's a smart kid." It made me feel pretty good, and my mother said, "Yeah, isn't it a shame that he'll never be able to do anything. Isn't it a shame he'll never amount to anything because we can't afford, if he's gonna go to college we can't afford anything." That hit me like, you know, the button, hit the hot button. I'm saying, "Well, I got to find a way." When the Army thing hit, all these things that happened, because I ran down to the post office, I don't know if it would have happened, so I went back and signed up. So I was seventeen on May 22nd, May 28th I graduated from high school, and June 6th I was sworn in. That was a funny story, being someone to, talk about a country hick or a farmer. I asked my father, I said, "We have to go to the Phillipsburg Post Office in Phillipsburg," which was like nineteen miles away, on the Delaware River, "to be sworn in." So, he said "Okay, I'll drive you." My mother went with him, so I figured, "Well, they're gonna take me down to the post office and swear me in, and I'll come back home, I guess, and wait for orders." So my father pulls up to the lot and I walked to the front door of the post office, a big, a nice big building for me, and we go in there, there's about ten or twelve guys in there. The guy says, "Raise you hands. You're now members of the ... You're now in the army, go out that backdoor and get in that truck." So I never told my mother and father [good-bye], they sent us out the backdoor and to FortDix. I was so naïve, you know, that I never went out to tell them, "Hey, they're taking me. I'm not coming back home." I don't know how long they sat in the parking lot, probably not too long, but that was a funny story, that I just assumed that and I never went back and said, "Hey, Pop, you better go home, I'm leaving on the truck." That was my introduction to the Army.
SI: What happened to you once you got to Fort Dix?
CF: It was kind of a melting pot. I didn't know much. They gave us our shots and I remember lining up in our raincoats and they were giving all the shots. I don't know if it was there that somebody said, the guy in front of me was tall and thin, he said, "You'd be perfect for the airborne." I'm listening to this guy saying, "You'd be perfect for the airborne?" He came to me and I said, I don't feel like, I came here to do my time and go someplace. Maybe I'd go to Germany, go to Berlin, they have all these problems there, and get shot at or anything." So he says to me, "You'd be perfect for the airborne." I say to him, the guy behind me was about five feet tall and he said the same thing. I remember that I said, "I don't want the airborne." I guess, at that time; we're all the same, high school kids and seventeen, eighteen years old. So, I guess, at that time the infantry was where they needed, you know, young guys seventeen, eighteen years old. What do you know? You're out of high school, you go in the infantry, which they say is that the way you don't want to go, if you can avoid it, but, you know, what do you know? There you are. So here we are, only a couple of weeks, and we're shipped to Fort McClellan, Alabama, for the infantry basic training. During the hot summer time and I noticed that, again, it was, we were all kids from North Jersey, I was a farmer, but, most of them are North Jersey and, I guess, New York City area, and they were all kind of city slickers, you know, but they're all young kids, all of the same age, different guys, different walks of life. I basically enjoyed basic. ... I was intelligent enough to know that you're there to be trained, and have a number, and you do what you're told. I remember, in basic, one guy, one of the sergeants, most of the drill sergeants were from the South, and not too well educated, especially the corporals who were there, he's giving us a hygiene lecture in the field saying that water boils at one hundred sixteen degrees and one of the kids says, "No, no, you're wrong. It's two hundred and twelve degrees." So he wound up digging a ditch. "Like hell, it's a hundred and sixteen" and all of us said, "Yeah, it's one hundred and sixteen when water boils." That was the kind of thing that went on, but I enjoyed it. I was in very good health, in very good shape, you know, I was an athlete and apparently a lot of kids, lot of guys had some salt dehydration. That didn't bother me either because I like salt, and I was in good shape for five mile hikes, I was running all the time and I enjoyed it. I didn't have any trouble with basic. I sort of fit in the middle. I don't want to be gung-ho, and get a stripe, or anything. That was a funny thing, because it was my first time, being lost in the Army. We had graduation, came out and we lined up in the company street, which was a dirt street, with our rifles. I had the oldest rifle in the Army, I guess. I had 303158. You never forget your rifle number, and the others had seven numbers. So, apparently it was packed in cosmoline someplace, which is a black grease, and you never let water touch your rifle, your weapon. Now, every time I'm up for inspection, no matter how I clean my rifle, black grease would run out. Not that I was going anyplace anyway, didn't have any money, didn't get off the camp, off the Fort. Two guys came in, World War II vets, there were always a lot of guys coming back, there was Sergeant Clark, and a Sergeant Easterday, and they were great guys, because they were combat veterans who, apparently, had come back to the states, they just went back in service. They were bringing them back in, I guess, to kind of help, you know, with us and they were more like your father, or your uncle. So Easterday, I remember, Easterday, he only had one eyelash. His head was bald, his whole body, apparently, not one hair on his body. Somebody said that when he was in combat he was standing in front of one of these big eighty-eight millimeter guns, it went off behind him and scared the hell out of him, all his hair fell out. He's got one eyelash. That's all he had. He had no eyebrows and he said, "What's the matter, kid, what's the matter?" I said, "I can't get this rifle clean. It is full of this black grease, cosmoline." "Come over to my barracks," he says. He takes out a big helmet, hot water, soapy water, takes the whole gun apart, we're not supposed to take them apart, he takes the whole gun apart, all full of black, and he washes it, puts a little coat of oil on, puts it all back together and says, "Here." So, you know, this is the Army; you learn that the old guys know. So I was fine after that. They were great guys both Clark and Easterday. The funny thing was, that as we were lining up, that you're through basic, thirteen weeks ready to go home, you get your assignment. There was a guy named Fintak, he was a big Finnish guy, on this side, who was going airborne; there was a little guy named John Fleming on the other side of me, he was going airborne. I'm standing there and the sergeant says, "Fintak, you're going to Fort Benning, Georgia," what was the name of the camp for airborne? [?] "Fleming, John, airborne." The funny thing after everybody goes down from A to Z, here I am, standing all by myself with my rifle and he says, "What the hell you doing standing there, Fleming?" I said, "You didn't call my name." He said, "Jesus Christ, don't you ever listen to me? Of course, I called your name." He said, "You farmers are all alike, stupid." I said, "All I know is you didn't call my name." He looks down at me and says, "You're right. I didn't call your name, not on the list." I said, "Well, what should I do now?" He said, "I don't know. You're not on the list." So I said, "I guess I can go home." "I'll tell you what," he said, "I know there's a casual company forming down the street, Company C. Go down there and report in." I think, I could have gone home, nobody would know where the hell I was, but I said, "Okay." So I grabbed my duffel bag and rifle and I go down to Company C. I walked in they said, "Who are you?" "Well," he said, "grab a bunk." It so happened that Company C was mainly all World War II combat veterans coming back who had gone from being butchers in Detroit and could not assimilate, could not come back to their old life because they'd, you know, they'd been in Europe, they'd been all these places, done all these things. So I was thrown into that older bunch, which was a great education. They were all, I didn't know their whole backgrounds, but there was a guy named "Butch," Walter Plavionich, he was of Yugoslav descent. He had been a butcher in Detroit, and he was with the 45th Thunderbird Division in Italy. He was wounded a couple of times, and I was a young kid, and he sort of looked after me. I think that had a big effect on my Army life. Because first, I'm getting lost, that happened two or three times in the Army, and I was always being sent someplace else by myself. So we were all there, of course, nobody knew who we were. I finally went in, so somebody said to me, "You know what? You're a bright young guy." I said, "Yeah." "You know the best deal in the Army, there's a CIC, the Counter Intelligence Corps in Baltimore," and they told me, "you go there and see the Inspector General."
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CF: So he said, "Thanks for coming in, I'll check it out right away and I'll see what I can do for you." I remember when we came out a few days later, all of us who were there, mainly, say older veterans, you know, all the names are posted up there, my name too, and it said "Chosen." "Chosen? That doesn't sound like Baltimore to me. What's that?" They say, "It's a nice place, you'll like it." That was the name of Korea, apparently, back then. TheRepublic of Korea, apparently, was formed some years after we were there. So it wasn't Berlin. It wasn't the home of my grandmother, where I wanted, you know, to do some duty over there, and I didn't know where I was going. So we got on the train, and we had eight days enroute, came home for eight days, you know, saw a couple of my high school friends, my mom and dad. It was called "delay enroute". It wasn't taken off your furlough time and went to Fort Lawton, Washington and shipped out for Chosen, which turned out to be Korea. We got on a little ship. There was like a whole bunch of us, I think about thirteen hundred guys on this little ship called SSAiken Victory. There was a senator named, Aiken, George Aiken from Vermont, it was named after him. We had a typhoon. We went to Yokohama. We were on the ocean, I think, nineteen days or seventeen days. It was supposed to be an eleven day trip and I thought for sure that the ship was going over. Everybody got sick. I was up on deck and I said, "I have to go to the bathroom, go to the head, take a leak." You go down there, everybody is throwing up and I started throwing up and that boat is rocking. There were six hammocks in a row and I took the top one. It turned out to be a mistake, because all the foul air rises to the top of the hold. So finally, I went up on the hatch cover, on top of the deck, tied myself to the hatch cover, and I said, "I don't care if I live or die, but I'm not going down below." I slept on that deck through the whole damned thing and when the storm got over, you know, it was okay. We finally got to Yokohama. I guess, it was so much longer than we were supposed to be, we had to stop for supplies and gas, or whatever they needed to run the ship, plus, you know, food and everything. We didn't get off the ship. Then we sailed around up the Yellow River into, it was called Inchon. I don't know why, but we didn't go into Pusan, it was still mined. They said the port had been mined by the Japanese. Everybody had to go up around and come into Inchon, where they had what they called a replacement depot. It was "Repo Depot," they called it. Again, I was with all my buddies. Now, my first group I was in basic with had left. I don't know where the hell they were, and I had all my new guys. So we got to Yong Dong Po which was the replacement depot, and I looked up, I see all the names of my buddies, you know, Butch, Walter, 31st Regiment, 7th Division and here comes Fleming, 6th Division Headquarters Company, Pusan. Now, why am I picked out to go? All my friends are going this way, I'm going that way. You don't ask questions, you never ask questions. So you get on a little rickety train, all straw and everything, and I guess I fell asleep all night and we wind up the next morning in Pusan, Korea, which turns out to be the southern most part. It would be like Miami, whereas all the other guys went up the 38th parallel, which is where all the problems were. It was almost, just before Thanksgiving by the time we got there and I was assigned to headquarters company, a rifleman. Our job was to protect the general, or the higher officers in the headquarters, and we had an infantry regiment, a platoon, basically. That's where I was stationed. We were all enclosed with Quonset huts and barbed wire; heavy, ten-foot, barbed wire ... to keep the Koreans out, not to keep us in. Poverty was incredible, you know. They had been occupied by the Japanese for forty years. Most of them were drafted into the Japanese Army, and some of them worked for us, you know, as in the kitchens and things. We could talk to them and most of them said "Yeah, we were this and that, so on and so forth." But, basically, the overriding poverty of the country [was incredible]. There was no sanitation. All the human waste was carried in wagons, you know, to some place. People would urinate on the street and, you know, just a little trolley car with people hanging on it, all over the place, and some guys jump on and knock a woman off and ride on it. But it was just a horrible situation. I don't remember seeing a tree, and I was there quite a while, and just, you know, there was overriding misery. We were lucky that we had, never had any rice, because the president at that time, as I understood later, Syngman Rhee was the president, and he wanted us to invade the North. After I was there a while, I got my corporal stripes, because at headquarters, one thing about headquarters was that if you were with the generals, you got a lot of promotions real fast. The general's secretary was always a master sergeant, all he had to do was type. So I didn't know that, but I got in a fight with a sergeant that I didn't like, he was my superior, we had a disagreement. I had a great captain, Sam Dutterer was our captain, and I went before him and I said, "I want to transfer out of here because I just can't, just don't like this guy." I mean, I say that rank was an important thing, I said, ... "I feel I should get my promotion and he's not letting me get it, there's a personal reason here, and I don't want it, just let me go, give me a transfer." He smiled. So about a week later he called me in, he said, "Well, Sergeant, here's your promotion and here's your transfer." I got both and I was sent out to Taegu to Company H, 1st Regiment, that George Washington commanded back in the Revolutionary War, it was the first, I guess, first regiment ever in the Army, 2nd Battalion, and I got an eye opener of what life in the Army was really like in a line company. I was the only sergeant I ever saw. There was nobody above me. I was only eighteen, and all the young kids were coming in one at a time. Our full strength at the time was eight hundred and though we only had one hundred and eighty men. So you could see there was nobody coming in to replace ... all the eighteen-month guys had gone home. So I was a two year guy and I was there. There was a major and me and everyone else was a private. We had the stockade out there and we had to guard the stockade and I was the sergeant of the guard every night, because there were no other sergeants, and my job was to stay up all night and make sure ... everybody on guard duty won't fall asleep and then work all day, you know, drill and do all these things, and take care of everybody and it was pretty, you know, pretty tough racket because you're not getting any sleep ... My time was up in June of '48 and I've been there eighteen months and it was pretty much a grind because the thing I remember, as it got closer and closer, we knew that the North Koreans, I didn't see a U.S. tank. I was a sergeant, I was responsible for all these kids and I'm eighteen years old and I'm saying, you know, "I don't see any, we don't have any defense here. We have rifles." There was no tanks, no airplanes; there were eight divisions in Japan with MacArthur. In fact, I got to go to Japan, and wound up in the hospital over there and I found the guys I was in basic with, and there were a lot of them in MacArthur's Honor Guard, and there was like a whole new world in Tokyo. I saw an American High School. I saw the American girls walking around in bobbysox and all those like going back in time and it was like a whole different world. It's like New York City. Again, I got lost. Went over to go to school, I apparently got some kind of a thing like I got now, and they put me in the hospital in Yokohama. I had a 104 fever. I said, "What is this?" "We don't know, we don't know." So I was in the hospital three weeks, getting penicillin every three hours, got some kind of Korean disease. So then, I said, I get out of the hospital, I missed school, so I said, "Well, what should I do now?" "Well, go down to Tokyo, there's a place you could stay," and that's where I ran into these guys. "Just go down to the Air Force guy and get a plane going back to Korea and get on it." So I said, "Okay." I could have stayed in Tokyo I think for another six months. It was crazy. So I went down, that's where I ran across the guys in MacArthur's Honor Guard that I knew, I went in and I told them, "I came and I got sick and I've got to get back." I went down every morning, I checked in, I stay with the guy, the captain in the Air Force, just like Kennedy airport, and I'd say, "Got a plane, got a place for me to go back to Pusan or Taegu?" He says, "Nope. Come back tomorrow." I go back and then I could talk to the guys and I saw a little bit of Tokyo, didn't have any money to do anything. So, except, I was just impressed with seeing all the Americans with families there and smelling perfume, you know, because I didn't smell a woman in like two years, I think. You know, Jesus, it's like being back home. Then one day I went down and I said, "You got a seat on a plane?" He says, "Yeah. Get on." It's sort of funny that, you know, I was always getting someplace else, and always going by myself, and getting lost. I was getting very nervous at the end. We knew ... Taegu, which was south of the parallel. But we knew we would be called right up if they invaded and there was, you sense that there was a, I'd be getting, you know, getting a fear because I was ready to go home when my time was up, and I says, "Once they invade, I'm gonna be stuck here. Probably get killed." There was no question we'll get killed because we, really there's nothing there. This is what exactly happened. Except that I always remember walking down the company street with the major and he said, "You're a good soldier, Fleming, good soldier, sergeant," he says. "Thank you, Sir." Then he said, "If you will reenlist for eighteen months, I'll make you a staff sergeant," and I'm saying to myself, very quickly, I said, "Eighteen months," this would be on April 18th, I said, "In eighteen months I could be dead, because they are coming here, sooner or later." ... If I had stayed, I would have just missed it. I said, "Sorry, Sir, but I have been accepted inRutgers University and I'm ready, if I go back and pass my college entrance exams, I can start this fall." It wasRutgers' policy was they sent me letters saying "if you're a veteran, you're in as long as you pass." So I go toRutgers. Princeton said, "we'll let you know," except the tuition at that time, Rutgers tuition was like, I think, we got six hundred dollars a year, Princeton was like eighteen hundred. The GI Bill covers Rutgers but it didn't, no way it's going to cover Princeton's tuition. So, I guess, it was local school and I didn't really know the difference, you know, that much at that time. So I graciously declined the offer and, you know, I was saying, "I would love to but," you know, because I figured, you know, I don't want anyone angry at me, and then one day I'm going out to look at the company board on the company street and it said, "Fleming, go to Yong Dong Po." So I said, "What do I do now?" So there I go and we were on a ... we got on a general ship called the William S. Hahn. A general ship was bigger than a Victory ship, I found out. I was a buck sergeant. So we get, when we got all done and we get on the ship coming home, order comes out, "First three grades," was staff sergeant and up, "pull no detail." Anybody else has to pull detail. "Ah," I said, "I'm a buck sergeant if I had that rocker I wouldn't have to do anything." So they said, "There are six sergeants here," he said, "You guys work with the crew, and paint the deck and wash down the hoses." The fire hoses, I guess, fire is a dangerous thing on a ship. The best thing ever happened to me because I stayed with those guys on the crew. I was on deck all the time. It was beautiful weather. There were three hundred guys on this big ship. We ate with the crew and I never got sick. I have never been seasick since. I said, ... "You take a five gallon can of gray paint with a bluish big handle." ... We had a ball ... It's funny how you think what you want isn't sometimes what you think you're gonna get. So we came back toFort Lawton, a very nice trip, I never got sick; I was out in the sunshine with the guys. One thing I'll never forget, we got back and we got off the ship and they called us out. I remember standing in a big long line, there must be three or four hundred of us and this captain got up and said. ... He had guys, veterans who had been in the service ten, twelve, fifteen years and now coming back with me; guys who had been in Europe, been over there, career guys. He said, "Well, you're coming back from Korea, you're all in quarantine for three weeks. You can go home then, after we disinfect you," or something. "But there are a lot of veterans here," he said, "anybody who wants to reenlist now and will sign up for another three years take one step forward; you can go home right now." I looked down the line. Not one person stepped out. I'm talking about, you know, guys in 10th Mountain Division, 45thInfantry, I said, "Wow." It wasn't so much us, I mean, it was just the misery of the country. The experience was so sad, what we saw, that nobody wanted to go back there. It was just so dreary, it's all dreariness and there's nothing you could do there. So I'll never forget that, that no, not one guy. Now maybe later on, we all done, this captain said, "There you go. You can go home now, it's all right." The next day we all went home. So that was the story of my Army life as far as most of it.
SI: What was it like for you having grown up on a farm to all of a sudden go into the Army where you get a very regimented life? How did you adapt to that?
CF: Very easily. I saw that people asked, "Where are you from?" Normally I say, "New Jersey." "Come on, you're from Nebraska or Kansas, you don't talk like you're from New Joisy." I said, "Where I come from, believe me, New Jersey is not Jersey City. We don't talk that way." "No, you're from the Midwest somewhere." I think that, yeah, that the roots of the farm, and you're very naïve, you know, in that sense, but you adapt to it very easily, because there's a strength from that, you don't have any preconceived ideas. Whereas a lot of city guys were known as kind of hotshots in high school. Where, you know, running around, being so young, not having a car, you know, these other guys were hotshots and some who were great but there was a big variety in the guys that were coming from New York City and North Jersey, I thought. Some were completely, couldn't adapt at all. I met these two guys in basic, one's name is DiMarco and he had this silly grin, I guess, and the other guy was Costa, I think. I don't know where the hell they were from, maybe Brooklyn. Just to give you an example, this guy, DiMarco, had a, sort of little guy, scrawny guy that, you know, apparently weren't very healthy and how they got in the service, because they were taking everybody, and DiMarco is in the front row, F-D. The captain's out there, ... we had a hard day drilling and running in basic training, and he said, "Now, remember one thing," he says, "This rifle you have, you sleep with it. Never let it hit the ground. Never let it touch anything," and that's your defense when you get to combat, you need that rifle, it's got to work, "Don't let it get wet. Dismissed." This guy DiMarco tossed his rifle on the ground and runs off. The captain, we were all looking like, "Why did he join the Army? Why, if he didn't want to get out, or is he that stupid?" ... We always had those guys, there are always two or three in every company that didn't fit, or couldn't adjust or something. Pretty sad. So, yeah, I think that the country life made you very adaptable to most anything, and I think that I was intelligent enough to understand that, you know, this is what I'm doing. I going into the service and I am, I remember my serial number 1227-1467, and the whole purpose of basic training is to get you to listen to your corporal or your sergeant and ... do your job. You're a number, you're not an individual person, and you adapt to that. That's the purpose of it. I think a lot of these guys felt, "I'm going to," I don't know what they thought, but they just didn't understand that, "I'm an individualist, I can do what I want," you know, but apparently it's not the way it works. You might want to be, but, you know, because if you're in the service, you bought the deal, you do what you're supposed to do. So I felt my background was very good for that, blending in. Never wanted to be, you know, the big shot, but just, you know, sort of in the middle. As I said, I had a goal and I thought, "If my mother was wrong, and they kept their word, I'm gonna wind up going to college and change my whole life," which is what happened.
DS: When you saw that you're going to Korea, you mentioned briefly that you were sort of shocked about it. Did you have any sense of where you were going or did you have an idea at all?
CF: No idea, just it's an out. I'm getting off here. It sounded like, if I do the right thing, it's going to work for me, and wherever I go. Since my grandmother came from Germany, I was so fond of her, and I thought, "Gee, maybe if I got there and I could see some of the places where she grew up in Heidelberg." She was on a small farm, too. That was the thought, that Germany, the Berlin Airlift, and, of course, Korea. The war, which is just over, so it was still, you know, who the hell was where, or what, and, I guess, without anybody there, "how are we gonna occupy this country if we had no soldiers?" So they were, really, the Army and the Navy were building, training and there was just no, there wasn't enough people, enough young guys, who wanted to join up. So most everybody I saw was like me, you know, that maybe some wanted college education. Maybe others, I don't know, but most of some of the guys I saw there was no way they were going to go college because they were too stupid.
SI: While you were in Korea, did you ever get an opportunity to visit a Korean village or interact with Korean people?
CF: Yes. As a matter-of-fact, in headquarters company they had, in my barracks, we had three Japanese GIs, one from New Jersey, one from Chicago, and one from LA, and we had a Korean GI from Hawaii, Yong Da Moon. Bill Tatieshi [Standing Rock] was from New Jersey ... Dave Hoshiyama [High Mountain] was fromChicago, and Osajima [Green Island] was LA guy. Hoshiyama, and Bill Tatieshi, and Moon were probably my best friends. ... Moon was great because he was Korean, from Hawaii, and he was an American citizen. They told us never to go outside, never to eat the stuff, fish eggs, that they used to sell, and I was coming out of the barracks, I see Moon sitting there eating this stuff and it smelled, looked like white rice but it was fish and it smelled bad. I said, "Moon, how the hell can you eat that?" He said, "That's good, that's good." I said, "You're gonna die from that," because they told us not to eat that. He said, "Don't worry about it. I won't die. I was eating this stuff all my life." But what we used to do, we'd take him out in a jeep. There was a lot of blue shirts, a lot of young high school kids, who were, I think, they were high school or college students. They all had little blue uniforms like, I guess, the Chinese Communists and they would have these riots all the time. They would stage these riots in Pusan, "Yankee, go home," and so on and so forth, so we think that it was a right wing thing. I think that Rhee was trying to, I mean looking back, I don't know why he'd want to us to go home, but it wasn't communist, the sort of government thing. "You're eating all our rice, and you're doing it, you're here, you're taking everything. We're so poor, you have everything." That's what we did, you know. We'd go out with Moon, we had a jeep, and ... we'd tie a rope around his waist, and he'd talk Korean. He'll tell them, "We're your friends, we're here to help you." Then when they started hitting him with stuff, we'd start the jeep and pull him on the rope or something. "You're always getting beat up," I said, "These are your people?" He said, "They're crazy people." So that happened a lot. The Japanese guys, because all the Koreans spoke Japanese, because they were there forty years, so that they were more like interpreters, but they were not as well liked by the Korean people. So I was in that a lot, you know, into the villages, maybe, into the city. We would walk, yeah, we'd walk downtown. We would go out, and they couldn't get in. Basically, because there were a lot of thievery because they had nothing. I mean, I was standing guard one morning and this one guy who was kind of a red-neck, I forget his name, he was from a different barracks, apparently, he had been robbed three or four times. ... It was like three o'clock in the morning, the kitchen opened up, so I went in for a cup of coffee. I was by the main gate and, gee, I heard this carbine and I ran out and there's this kid right by the front gate, his throat all shot away. This guy is down there, he said, "That son of a bitch, string him up, and let's show these bastards." So this guy, he killed this kid because this kid had robbed him. But they were like, you know, so light-footed, and light-fingered, they'd actually come in while you're sleeping and take your wallet or take your stuff. I thought if, of course, I hadn't gone in for coffee, I was standing there, I probably would have caught the kid. I don't know if somebody stole my wallet, or stole something, I mean, I wouldn't shoot the kid. But he only lasted a couple of minutes.
SI: Did anything ever happen to that soldier who shot him?
CF: I don't think so. The Koreans wouldn't say anything. You know, I thought, "Well, if he had been smart enough he would have, you know, hidden because they would not have found him," I guess he didn't know the guy had a gun. He was over that fence so fast, when he got on top of the fence, and, you know, I didn't like those kinds of guys because you know the kid was twelve and thirteen years old, and they stole so they could survive. But we would go downtown and take a bar of soap, there was this little kid, that we could get haircut in a barbershop, a little kid like ten years old, with a straight razor standing on a box. He'd shave me and I give him a bar of soap. A haircut and a shave for a bar of soap. It was just pretty bad, you know. I didn't smoke, I never smoked, and we get a carton of cigarettes a week ... and they all got to know me so they said, "We buy you cigarettes, how much, five dollars American money?" I don't smoke so I just said, "Take what kind you want, Lucky Strikes, Camels, whatever was there." He gave me American money, five dollars, we had script, you know. A lot of guys would take cigarette cartons and stuff, take the money, and give them empty cartons with stuff in it. It didn't make any sense, you know, to do that but ... for a pack of cigarettes they could get just about anything you wanted. It was just a miserable situation. It didn't make any sense, people just had nothing, and they tell me now, that I talked to some Koreans I know, that it's like in New York City in Seoul and Pusan. I don't know if I ever want to go back there. Yeah, we could move around. I have some pictures, mainly Bill, he took a lot of pictures, and he gave me a lot them in albums. I have a lot of them home and, you know, this picture of a Korean sailor, he had a wristwatch, he had his picture taken, he's got his wristwatch, you know, out there showing it. A British ship came in once to Pusan and I organized a soccer team, because we had two guys who played soccer, and we played the B team, and we lost four to one. I scored a goal, so it was great. The Korean people all came out to watch us, our guys are football players, you know, but the Korean A team was very good. They beat the British team ... pretty bad. Things like that, you know, but you would have been kept kind of segregated because of the disease problem we were concerned about you, know. Well, the human waste, the streets are just loaded with waste, and they don't want you to get too close to that. But we went to, you know, the USO was down the street, and we could walk the main streets and once I was at a movie theater, they were showing in Korean, old movie theater, they're showing a Clark Gable movie, San Francisco Earthquake was the name of it. It was in San Francisco like in 1930s. So we walked in the theater ... there's a couple of us but the smell was pretty bad, so we didn't stay, we walked back out. But, basically, it was a grim, it was just a sad, sad, situation because all you could do was get out of it, you know, and there was nothing there for you to do as an American, I mean, there were no, nothing normal about it. There were no women there at all; a couple of nurses, but if, you know, if you got sick you went to Yokohama to the hospital ... It wasn't the best duty. I think the guys in Japan, we thought they had it made, I always thought. Maybe the officers could fly back and forth, to get there; their families were there. I guess, some of them had [their families there], and I always wondered about the major, I said, "I wonder what he did wrong to be here? All the other guys are in Japan." But, you know, same old story, the breaks of the game. You go the way you were sent. When Tom Bach was my fraternity brother, about 1950, asked me about this, "You were in Korea?" I say, "Yeah, but I didn't do anything." He said, "I was in during the Korean War, but I only got to Japan in Hokkaido. I never got to go, or saw any combat, and we don't have anybody there that was in Korea." I said, "Well, that's how I got involved in the Rutgers Oral History Project."
SI: What did you see in Japan when you were on leave? Can you tell us about that why you went to the hospital?
CF: Yeah, I was supposed to go to school and the school's in Yokohama.
SH: What kind of school?
CF: I had a friend who was a cook and he said, "You're in a rifle battalion and you're really not going to get any place but, cooking is a good deal and if you go to cooking school you can become a cook. You only have to work an eight hour shift every three days. You get two days off ... you're everybody's friend because you have all the food. The supply sergeant gives you anything you want and you give him the food?" So I said, "This is the best deal in the Army." So, being a young guy, I said, "That sounds better than being on guard duty every night and marching around and drilling all the time, so I signed up for cooking school, which was in Yokohama. I went on a cargo plane from a little air base in Korea called Kimpo and ... all they had were cargo planes. So if you want to take a ride to Tokyo airport you just got on a cargo plane. Apparently, it was very warm when I got on and I had fatigues on and I had my jacket cut. One thing about Korea, get a bar of soap and get all your clothes tailored, you know, for a bar of soap. So we were sharp. We had all our clothes, they were cut down and special caps made for a nickel, bar of soap, or a cigarette. Apparently, on that cargo plane I fell asleep and it got very cold, and I caught something, I felt kind of woozy. One thing, I get a high temperature, it doesn't bother me that much. So we got to Yokohama and I was supposed to start school when I got up that morning, wherever I was, and I said to somebody, "I don't feel well." Some guy gives you the look right away. "Here you come, 'I don't feel well,' you know, sick, lazy. Well go down to the dispensary. Have a guy look at you." I'll never forget it, I go in the dispensary; they had a black guy there. We were segregated at that time and he said, "What's the matter?" and I said, "I don't feel well." So I says, again, you get that look like, you know, goofing off. So he slipped the thermometer in my mouth and I'm sitting there, then he comes back in a couple of minutes later, takes the thermometer out of my mouth, and I see this black face and his big, white eyes and I says, "What's the matter?" He says, "You got a high temperature." "What is it?" "103.6." I said, "Is that bad?" He says, "Yeah, that's bad. So you go right to the hospital." So in the hospital I had a terrible fever and they said they don't know what's wrong. I was sweating. I remember that they started, the nurses would come in and tell me, "Roll up your pajamas," and start rubbing my legs with alcohol and the fever still won't break and I was sort of delirious, I guess. I'm getting penicillin every three hours. So finally, this is another funny story, they brought in an old nurse, apparently, she was in the Bataan Death March, in her fifties. They brought her and she looked at me. They said, "This guy, we don't know what the hell is wrong with him, can't break his fever." So she says, "I'll take care of it." So she says, "All right, sonny, strip down, take off your pajamas." So I get up and rolled up my pajamas like I did for all the other nurses and she comes right back and she says, "I told you to take off your pajamas." I said, "I rolled 'em up like you said," and she says, "Look, sonny," she says, "you haven't got anything I haven't seen. Get them off." She ripped them off and she gave me a rub down. That night, I remember waking up, my sheets were soaked and the bed I was in, it was like it was in water. The fever broke and to this day they never figured out what the hell it was. But every time, after I got out of the service, if I get strep throat, or something, and I get penicillin, I get a rash. So I think it was all that penicillin, three weeks, every three hours. So I make sure I don't take penicillin. But that was something else, because she said, "Get them off." She's in the Bataan Death March, and I'm worried about if she's gonna be upset if she sees my penis. There are some of things that happen to you that you never forget that are great stories.
SI: So what did you see in Tokyo after you got out of the hospital?
CF: That was when I got lost again because I said, "Where should I go?" I missed that school, school is, you know, already half way through, almost all the way done, three weeks. "I don't know what should I do?" "Well, go back to your outfit. Where's that?" "It's in Korea, Pusan." "How did you get here?" "I came over on a plane from Kimpo in a, cargo plane." "Well, go down to Tokyo and find this place and check in everyday till you get a place to go back." Then I just hung around there for about a week and finally, one day, the guy said, "Yeah, you got a place." They're not fancy planes, they don't have seats or a place for you to sit and when they had room I went back and again ... In fact, when I got back no one ever said, "Where were you, what did you do, or, you know, what happened to you?" It's just, "Oh, you're back, okay, grab your rifle." I found during my entire career, I was getting lost and people would say, "Oh, just go take care of it." I always wondered why ... but I needed the GI Bill. I needed it and I was gonna do my time and I wasn't going anyplace so I did my two years.
SI: The service was segregated the entire time you were in the Army?
CF: Yes. ... We had some black troops there, but mainly truck drivers, and I used to see them, you'd see a convoy come through, they were all black, you know, sitting on the side, you know double clutching like this, big smile on their face ... We had the Oriental guys there, Nisei guys, and they were there for a specific reason. They were there for intelligence, they could speak the language. But the blacks were, you know, definitely segregated.
DS: You were getting out of the service when Truman came down with the integration decision?
CF: Yeah, I got out early because I had forty-five days unused leave. I was getting very nervous because ... I didn't know if they were gonna pay me for the leave and keep me until June. Because you're wondering, "When is the invasion going to take place?" If it did, all bets are off. If you're not discharged and there's an invasion, you're going to be kept on until it's all over. It was a pretty grim situation, because we had nothing there to stop them. There was not one tank in the whole place or any air cover, it was all in Japan.
SI: What made you think that an invasion was imminent? Were there threats from the North?
CF: Yeah, there was. The guys that I knew out the 38th Parallel would, get the communications back and forth, you know, and they were just loaded with guys, hundreds of thousands of North Koreans, and tanks all lined up. They were saying, "Now what?" You know, we had nothing. I used to go down to Pusan, go look at the river, go look at the harbor and say, "I wonder how far I can swim?" But, you know, you say you'd jump in the water. I really think that when it did break, the one thing I was very upset with Truman about and I found out just recently, I guess from the History Channel, I thought that a lot of the guys I was with got stuck there but, apparently, all the US troops were withdrawn and were in Japan when they attacked. They didn't attack until after they were all gone and only the South Korean Army was there, the ROK Army, and they had nothing either. We didn't give them anything because Truman knew that Rhee would probably attack the North, and he didn't want a war. In the North, the Russians and the Chinese kept supplying the North and they did attack. So almost everybody seemed to know it, we all knew it, stayed there, and if you want to be a hero, stay there, you wind up getting killed, wrong place, the wrong time.
DS: Did you take the forty-five days leave or did you stay?
CF: I didn't stay. I didn't do anything, and I didn't know, but just that one day I walked out and there was a notice on the board that I was, it was April, that meant that they were ... not gonna pay me and I was going to go home early, forty-five days early, and that was okay with me.
DS: You had said that you kept up communication with your grandmother. How was that, as far as how often did you write? How much did you tell her as far as the grim details of Korea?
CF: I wrote about once a week to my mother, father, and my grandmother. I didn't say much other than, "I'm okay," you know, and, "How are things at home?" There was a little V-mail, things you would send and didn't say too much. I don't think they were censored then but there wasn't much to say other than, "I'm okay," you know, and send home a picture. I had a picture taken by a Korean photographer, didn't look like me, but I sent it home. I was very concerned about them because of the financial problems and how they were doing and how things were on the home front. We were pretty safe, really, as long as there wasn't an invasion. I was in the Southern part,Taegu, so the first guys, really, the guys you worry about were the guys on the Parallel. All my buddies were up there ... what are they gonna do? There's nothing they could do except let tanks run them over, I mean, you had a rifle. The South Korean Army, they just came over, they just retreated. You could fire at a tank all you want with a rifle, or a BAR, you're not gonna stop them. They're gonna run over you, and you got a thousand guys behind each tank, yelling at you with rifles, that's what you got. I mean, you know, it's not a nice thing to think about, so, you think about that, "Yeah, you guys are better off getting out of here."
SI: While you were there was the US Army working with the South Koreans to build up their army at all?
CF: Yes. Oh, yeah, we trained them, yeah. I didn't see too many, we were segregated again, but we primarily trained them. I think that's probably when we pulled out. They said that they felt that they had enough training to defend themselves. But they didn't have any tanks, didn't have any real air cover, you know, and I think that being in Pusan most of the time, that when they got to the Pusan perimeter, and going down to the waterfront looking around, that one of the reasons we held until we got our troops in Japan over there and got the Air Force in, and got the Navy there, they had to hold. Because, you know, if the North Koreans drove you into the water, they just kill you in the water, so it's a matter of you are going to be dead if you go into the water, you might as well be dead fighting. Of course, they had to get all their troops down three or four hundred miles and they had these long supply lines, and we had all these guys that said, "It's either get killed here or get killed there." They held and they couldn't break through. So that was quite a feat, I would say that, they held it. Then finally, they got all the reinforcements in, got the Air Force cover and, I guess, then MacArthur pulled the Inchon invasion, coming around and cut them off, cut them in half and they held. So they had no choice. I saw something on the History Channel a couple of years ago about Korea. You know, I like to watch that stuff, some of it, and it was poignant because it was a film clip, all black and white, and the narrator was saying that these guys who just landed in Korea and they're looking on the bulletin board at where they're gonna be assigned, this was during the war, coming off from Japan and all of a sudden, there's like ten of them, they were jumping up and down and hugging each other, smiling, laughing, and he said, "They just saw they're being assigned to field artillery," That means the rear lines and they're not going to be infantry. Because if they saw the infantry that means chances are you're gonna get killed in the frontline and this was on the Pusan perimeter, and it just struck me as like, these guys couldn't stop themselves that they were gonna be in the artillery. It's the way we all feel, like, you know, the poor guys in the front. It takes nine guys in the back to put one guy in the front line. Nobody wants to be there, but somebody's got to be there. I was very lucky.
SI: While you were there did you see any efforts through the Red Cross to aid the plight of the Korean people?
CF: We didn't see that much. The Red Cross was there. They helped us. I think there was definitely ... always an ongoing help. We had that feeling, that, you know, there was a lot of shipments coming of rice and things coming in to feed the Korean people. I think we really were bringing a lot of things in, staples, and to help build that country. I feel so. I know that one experience I had was that my first buddy ... when I got to Pusan at the headquarters company was a guy named Nick Cosenza, who was a blue-eyed Italian guy, a hillbilly from West Virginia, and a great guy, but his father had a heart attack. He was only there three months and the Red Cross sent him home, and that was something, I thought. You know, they thought he was gonna die, and his father survived, and I saw Nick after I got out, went out to Pittsburg to see him. In Pittsburg in 1948, we met at the Club Copa, a little roadhouse. There was a singer named Nellie Lutcher who had a hit record called "House of Blue Lights." She introduced a young new unknown singer who sang several Billy Eckstine songs. After his bit he came over to the bar and I bought him a drink! He asked us how we liked his singing and I said, "You'll never get anywhere imitating Billy Eckstine, he's got a better voice then you!" I had a few beers by then. I guess he listened because his name was Harvey Belafonte who became famous several years later with his Calypso style. I thought that was, you know, pretty nice of the Red Cross, thought his father was gonna die, he didn't.
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DS: This continues an interview with Mr. Carl Fleming with Dan Strafford ...
SI: and Shaun Illingworth. Would you mind telling the story about your friend Nick?
CF: You mentioned the Red Cross and there was a guy named Nick Cozenza and it was unusual for me because he was Italian and he was a hillbilly from Wearton, West Virginia and, you know, you always find a buddy in the Army. The story was that his father had a heart attack, and we were there three months and the Red Cross sent letters and they took him and he went home. I thought that was quite good, you know, being in Korea and ... all the guys there. His dad did survive. I saw him afterwards, after I got out of service I went to Pittsburgh and met him there, just to see him because we were that close. I was telling Shaun that he was the strongest guy I ever saw. I said he was, apparently, as a kid in Wearton, he was handling beer kegs and stuff, throwing these things around. He wasn't big. He was not as big as I am but, you know. One day they were talking about trying to break an egg, you know, this was the old story, that eggs, you can't break them with hand pressure from the ends. He stands there and said, "I can break that egg." "Come on." He took the egg and we were in a Quonset hut and the ceiling was like, I guess, fifteen, sixteen feet high and when that egg broke it hit like a bullet, hit the ceiling, like a boom. He didn't fake that, because you could see the pressure that he took to break that egg. I told Shaun a story about him. We had a Quonset hut, it was our Enlisted Men's club, where you can get beer. There was no liquor served, they could have 3.2 beer and that's where you hung out. Just that he was there and there was a bartender named Slick, who was a Korean guy, had been in the Japanese Army, apparently. Most of them were drafted and he was a Jujitsu, Judo expert ... We were all seventeen years old, eighteen years old, and he was the bartender and he was a friendly guy, he got to know everybody, and they say, "Show me a hold," you know. So he would get these guys' arms around their back and the guys are begging him to let go, and all this stuff. Well, Nick didn't like that. It upset him. I wasn't there, they told the story, the guys who were there, because I knew him well and I knew he was pretty strong, and when this was all going on, he said to the guy, he held his arm out, "Here do it to me." When Slick grabbed him, he took the guy like this with his wrist, and threw him at least twenty feet across the room, wrapped him around the space heater and they're still talking about that and I said, "Yeah, I know he's very strong." I think that was the end of Slick doing this. Of course, it wasn't his fault but the guys were asking him to do it, you know. Nick didn't like that because, "These are American soldiers and this is a Japanese guy doing this to you." That was the story.
SI: When you finally got back, released from the Army to go home, what was that trip like back to your town?
CF: Well, that was a funny story because I got, we got into Fort Lawton and my great uncle was in Seattle and I saw him when I went out. He was quite a character. I was named after him, my father was also, Carl Michaelis, and he had a little store there. He had quite a background. He was a sergeant major in the 7th Cavalry or the 5thCavalry in the Philippine Insurrection, he told me some stories that were incredible stories. His name was Jack Hamilton, at that time, in Seattle because he'd killed a couple a guys and he had to change his name from Carl Michaelis to Jack Hamilton ... He would take me to the cowboy movies, and see the cowboys shoot up all the Indians, and he had this big gun in his grocery store, a big, huge handgun. He kept saying, "I hope they try to break in. I haven't shot anybody in a long time." ... Because I was the first thing he saw of the family. I was in the service, I was going to Korea and he was telling me some stories about the Philippines, with the Moros ... He was, being a sergeant major, he'd come out and see these guys with heads chopped off, never see it coming. The guys were so scared. They were shooting themselves in the foot, in the leg, in order to get home because, you, know, that was like almost committing suicide to go on guard duty. He's got these bolos. He had this big background and he was in World War II. I said, "How did you get in World War II, you're sixty-three years old?" He said, "I was a sergeant major. When you're a sergeant major, they had to take you back." Sergeant Major in the Army is like way up there. It's the highest rank of an enlisted man. So I said, "Well, what happened?" He said, "Well, they put me in the Air Force. They said, "You're sixty three years old." He said, "Yeah, but I want to go fight, kill somebody." They said, "You're kind of old," and so they put him in the Air Force and he's in the mailroom counting mail sacks. He was there three weeks and he got a hernia from throwing and they sent him home. So at least they got rid of him. So he laughed at himself, but, you know, he was one of those, the stories went on and on. I saw him on the way home, too. I stopped in again and I told him, "I'm out," back two years later. I was going home and I spent a few days with him. He was quite an interesting guy, a Yellowstone Ranger. My father told me stories about him but he was a, saw a lot of that stuff. Coming home was, you know, again being a farm boy is funny, because he said, "Well get yourself some civilian clothes." I had two duffle bags full of all kinds of Army clothes and you take everything home. So I kept them. Poor boy, poor kid, I wore them all through college. I was four years in college with my khakis. They said, "Everybody buy a sports jacket or tie." I bought a blue shirt, like a flannel over the top, because I never had a jacket or tie. I remember it being, gee, it just was foreign to me. I had never worn a jacket or tie because I had never had one. I got on the plane, because everything else was by train going out, but this was now coming home. They gave us money to get home, as I remember. I had saved about seventeen hundred dollars, because of the little money I needed over there, there was nothing to buy. I would sell this kid a pack of cigarettes and I got a five dollar bill and I put that as a deposit. I think I saved more than I earned. Nobody ever said anything, because it's black market but it was only a pack, a carton a week, whatever I sold the kid. So there's nothing to spend money on ... But again, trying to save money. I had never flown on a plane before other than that thing from Korea, the cargo plane and it was an unchartered flight and they said it was cheaper than the other flights, the regular flights. I said, "Well, I can save some money." I remember, I landed in Milwaukee, I guess it was not a regular airline, I don't know what it was. But I remember that part. I didn't know any better because, you know, get off the farm, in the Army, out, then back out again, I was going home. Then I got to New York, got a bus. I was in New York, I guess, for the first time, got a bus and the bus got me to Clinton, which was about six miles from home. Clinton, New Jersey, you know, nice little town, well known, and we were out in the outskirts. From Clinton, was the Blue Coach Line, went from Clinton toWashington, and Hampton was a stop. I knew the bus driver was Billy Butler, who was an old time guy, he had a garage there, and when I left all his boys were in the service, Jack and Paul and Chase were all in the service. Paul was like with me, a couple of years ahead of me, I was in Clinton at one o'clock in the morning. I never called because you're farmers. I didn't call home to say, "I'm coming home." They didn't have any idea where I was, I was on my way home, because it never entered my mind that you have to, this is the thing to do. We didn't have those graces. So it was one o'clock in the morning and I got into Clinton on this bus, and he comes in there, Billy Butler is still this old, fat, little guy with glasses about sixty-five years old ... My nickname was Mush, in high school, and I'd been gone two years. So he sees me standing there. "Mush," he says, "Where have you been? I haven't seen you in a couple of weeks." I didn't say anything. I say, "Yeah, I've been gone." So I go on the bus, I was the only guy on the bus. It took me home, got home about three o'clock in the morning and went to bed. I guess ... My parents were sleeping, next morning I was there, I woke, I said, "Here I am, I'm home." That was kind of tough because there was no, there wasn't much room, you know, the rent was twenty-six dollars a month. There was no bathroom there and stuff like that. I was a little spoiled by then ... There's nothing in town, just this one little store. It was just one little store, Lusardi's Ice Cream Store, downtown. One of the girls that I went to high school with, the one that held her nose, she was my best friend now, she gave me free ice cream. It was April, end of April and, in fact, it was close to May, and I'd been accepted to Rutgers so I was talking to her about it. So I said I had to go to Princeton High School to take my college entrance exams and so I immediately got home and I made the necessary applications. Just by luck, in August, I got in on the last exam and I remember going to Princeton was a big adventure for me even then, ... took the test and I remember it, I got the letter that I passed and I've been accepted in Rutgers in the fall of '48 and I remember going to see Clarice down there and I said, "I got my letter." There was nobody else in town, it was just her, she was working at the soda store and I said, "Guess what? I passed, I'm going to college." So, in a sense, I was very lucky, you know. It's like here I am, seventeen, I got off the farm, I took a chance, I joined the Army, got sent to, probably, the worst place at the time it could be, but I was lucky and that didn't bother me, there's no war, nothing started and it's like going to prep school. Here I am at nineteen and I'm going to Rutgers in the fall and I'm still a young kid. I remember being very thrilled when I got in. It's like, I could have lost the whole year if I hadn't gotten in August. So everything just seemed to have been very lucky for me. Everything seemed to break. I get lost but I always find myself in a better spot that I was before. It's been the story of my life, I guess. It's always been that way. So I started at Rutgersthat September, quite a few veterans, started in phys ed, wanted to be a football player ... I said, "I'm gonna try it. I've been a good soccer player," as I told you before, but I went out for football and I didn't, I wouldn't give up until I made the varsity ... I was good, I mean, but there were so many of these star guys that they were coming from all over the country. We were recruiting very heavily. You give a full football scholarship that's a big star. Jimmy Monahan came out of Deerfield Academy, he was our best, a tremendous football player. Of course, he was All American at Deerfield, you know, all prep school, but that was interesting, too ... If you listen to older people, they take interest in you. It's amazing how things work out for you. I was in my freshman English class, I had a lot of, I got good marks in high school in English, As and Bs, and I was a great speller. But, apparently, I didn't know my English grammar. If I'd ever learned it, I had forgotten it. I took three years of German here atRutgers, but I always got Cs, and I studied so hard. I didn't know why I couldn't get As. So, in my freshman year, there was a professor named Walter Roy Harding. I never hear his name much. He only was here two or three years and he was secretary of the Henry David Thoreau Society in the United States. He, apparently, got the job as chairman of the English department at the University of Virginia. Let me tell you, the guy is talented. Again, I was in his class and he took a liking to me, I guess, because I was a phys ed football player, right, in his class. I had to take the Davis test three times because I didn't know commas, you know. It's all grammar. You put a comma in the wrong place, before "and" and it wasn't supposed to be there, you didn't pass. So I took it for the third time. He said, "If you flunk the third time you flunk English 101." I said, " ... I'm gonna take it," and I studied, studied, studied and I passed it. So I got put in his class and I enjoyed writing, creative writing, and I enjoyed English very much. He was a great, great professor and one day he said, "I want to talk to you." He said, "What are you majoring in?" I said, "Phys Ed." He says, "You know, you have a talent for English." I said, "I like it." I enjoyed reading, and I said, "I've always enjoyed literature and I enjoyed writing." He said, "Why are you Phys Ed?" I said, "Because I want to be a professional athlete, to be a football player." Baseball, I was a good baseball player. He says, "Realistically, what are your chances of becoming a professional athlete? You're a freshman atRutgers here and not even starting on the freshman team." "I know." He said, "What do you think your chances are?" I said, "Maybe one percent." He said, "That's right. So you have any trouble besides that?" " ... no problem." He said, "Well, what if you don't? You say you got a one percent chance, the rest of your life you're not going to become, you're not gonna make it. You know that. How many guys make it?" Then I said, "Well, I'll become a coach." He said, "Oh, where are you gonna coach? You're gonna coach college? Don't do that, you know. It's hard to get, into college coaching, you know." I said, "I'll coach high school." He said, "You're right, that's where you'll wind up." Now, he said, "You're gonna major, spending four years of your life, studying Phys Ed, doing nothing, taking a free ride, you're gonna wind up being a high school coach and high school teacher. Is that what you want?" I said, "No." He said, "Why don't you major in English and you'd have the whole world in front of you, the best, English, history," he said, "You're a liberal arts major, you can go to law school, you can do anything you want to do and you'll have a challenge, you'll have to study." I switched. Now, if he hadn't taken the time, same old story like with Dr. Acton in high school and the principal, and I'd done that throughout my life, that if you listen, especially if you ask and somebody tells you, that's the time, and he just took me aside and he says, "See what you're doing? You're going to waste four years of college going through stuff that's a snap for you, nothing to do, and there's no future in it and you could always coach." He said, "If you're an English teacher, they'd love to have a coach, in high school. ... Why don't you do something with your life?" I said, "Quite a guy." There were several teachers I had like that. Rutgers had great professors, great professors. Helmut Von Erffa was head of the art department. I took art in my senior year ... my senior year I really got into it, trying to learn, really learn. I realized I missed, you know, my first two years just trying to get a good grade instead of trying to learn something. In the last two years, I really tried to learn and wound up taking Greek. I had classics with Professor Clarence Hall. He was another fabulous person, fabulous professor. I took Greek just to be around him, and my last year I was taking Greek. He was incredible man, you know, from Princeton, apparently, very wealthy man. He had a big mansion down there ... There were only six of us in Greek class and most of them were with the seminary [?], they're going to be ministers. So I said, "I know, I don't understand this." I said, "I'm having trouble with German, I got Greek," I said. I said, "You gave me a 1." He says, "Yeah." I said, "But I don't really understand this Greek language and I don't really understand what I'm doing ... you know, I just want you to know that I don't deserve it." He says, "Any guy who's got the guts to take Greek deserves a 1." He always wore the same thing. He'd wear a tweed suit, beautiful clothes. Always wore a blue shirt and he had a gold collar pin, vest, always took out his watch on the desk, beautiful gold pocket watch. I used to ask him all these questions because I had sociology after that. I was senior and I got a 1 in sociology from him. Because I said, "What's this thing about discrimination black and white?" So he said, "See this?" He looked at the front of his wrist. "Isn't that kind of ugly? It's white with blue veins. Someday we're all gonna be nice and tan, and we'll never see it." So right there, you know, he had the answer. I remember that, back then, we had the Russian Cold War and he got in one day ... He'd take his watch out, fifty minutes for class. We'd be studying Herodotus, [speaks in Greek]. Easiest thing ever written in Greek, that's why we studied it. He'd be in the middle of a sentence and he'd say, "Oh, time's up. This is the University, we go by the minute." He did have a great disdain for administration and he told me the story. He said one day he got a call, because he was considered eccentric, I guess, he was a multi-millionaire and he came in one day, and I digress. There was an ambassador to Russia, the guy was named Bohlen, Chip Bohlen, and he was recalled for some reason, came back to Washington. Stalin was there. There were some problems and his [?] assistant was Jacob Beam, who then became the ambassador, and that was his brother-in-law. He came in, he said, "Jacob Beam is now the Ambassador to Moscow and he's my brother in law." One day he [Professor Hall] got a message to please come down to Old Queens, they want to see him about something. I guess, he was always on, he was a little different, so he walks ... in and a young lady says, "What can I do for you?" And he says, "No, what can I do for you? You called me." Of course, she was all a flutter. She didn't know what he was talking about. He was quite a stickler for that. He never says 'Easter Sunday' because, he said, "Easter is an important noun," the noun, so you should always say 'Sunday Easter.' We had it all backwards. Quite a fascinating guy, and he waited and she didn't know what to say to him, so he said, "Well, I waited two minutes, I'm going to go home, I'll see you. Goodbye." Never called him back. He was the kind of character that you met, that you really enjoyed, they were so great. But they had such influence on you, because he was saying that being an individual is important, doing your thing. My German professor, Amann, he had a very guttural accent and he was quite a guy, Bill Amann. One day I came into German class and he says, "I was driving around Princeton, and I got lost, and I come up this big driveway, I come to this big castle there in Princeton, I'm lost, I knock on the door and who comes to the door but Professor Hall. I said, 'What are you doing here?' He said, 'I live here.'" So I knew he had a lot of money from his family, and the whole bit. So Rutgers was full of individual guys, you know, that really took an interest in, I guess it still is, I've heard that. Our class at the fiftieth reunion said that the best thing about Rutgerswere the professors.
SI: Can you tell us about when you joined your fraternity?
CF: Yeah, I went out for freshman football. They didn't cut anybody, so I stayed on the squad. But I was not, you know, didn't know a lot about it because I didn't have the background ... I met this guy, Ron Warner, and he had a football scholarship from Pittsburgh, a high school called Crafton, and he didn't do so well either. He had a full scholarship. But I got cut, after it was over I went out for the baseball team, which was hard to make, because I was late from the football spring practice, but they didn't have a first baseman so I got into a couple of practices and got lucky, I got some nice hits, so ... I'm a first baseman, and Ron didn't play football. He went out also, he made the team as the right fielder. So we got together at freshman baseball. One day he said to me, "Come on to the fraternity house," because he was rushed right away because he was a big, you know, handsome football player ... So I went over to this house, Kappa Sig house. So I met the guys and he said, "This is Les Fleming," and my name was Carl. The thing was there was a professional baseball player named Les Fleming, who had played with the Cleveland Indians, he lasted about ten years, big heavy guy, good hitter, slow guy, then he was traded, he played for the Pirates. So when Ronnie was growing up in Pittsburgh, he was the Pittsburgh Pirates' first baseman. So as a joke, he introduced me as Les Fleming when I played first base on the Rutgers freshman team, so that's how I got my nickname, "Les" for years. I went to the house and, of course, I was in. I was his buddy, so I was in. I wasn't too much into it. But the GI Bill was great because it paid seventy-five dollars a month and all my tuition. I never bought a pencil because it covered everything at Rutgers. I pledged and I was a veteran, so, you know, the paddling, all that stuff, I didn't go too much for. There was a guy from Pittsburgh name Chicereli who was also a Kappa Sig. He and Ronnie were kind of buddies, I guess, and when I came along, you know, I kind of busted it up a little bit and he was a little jealous, I guess, didn't like me too much, but, anyway, he flunked out and he went to University of Miami. He had all Bs in Miami. Over here, he couldn't stay in school back then. So, you know, I pledged and became a brother and still watched my money, and I became the breakfast cook, so I got free room and board and I would cook breakfast and then we had a great cook, "Cookie," we called her. She cooked lunch and dinner. It was a diverse house. It was, you know, we had a few athletes, but not many, and we had different guys, but still very, it was very prejudiced. You had to be white and non-Jewish. We had a sad case there, and I was just a freshman, when I came in and I didn't know too much of what's coming, to me it really wasn't important. I don't think it mattered except for Ron, you know, ... being my buddy and we were good friends. I just saw him at our fiftieth reunion. Stopped at his house in Orlando a couple of times over the years. There was that fellow named Burke from Trenton, a little guy called "Mousy." He was a senior, I remember that, and he used to bring a guy around named Herb Rosenblum, it was Herb Rosenbaum or Rosenblum and the guy was around the house, I didn't know him, he was a senior, too. I was not much aware of what really, what it's all about except, you know, I only heard the story, because at that time I was a pledge. I guess, that they put Herb's name in it to be a brother and there was a blackball system, one blackball and you're out. There was a little fellow there named Eddie Beers, a crippled guy who was a brother. Of all people, you think he would be [understanding], you know, disabled and whatever. In fact, I remember seeing him, you know, but I was just a freshman, you know, coming in, and he blackballed, after the guy had been coming around and a nice guy, nicest guy in the world and he said, "As long as I'm here, there will never a Jewish guy in this fraternity." That was the brush with, you know, prejudice that, you know, kind of didn't make any sense, you know, but that was the rule. So back then it was strictly, you know, Jewish fraternities, and then the Gamma Sigma came along and they had black guys and they had Jewish guys and they had football players there with the guys. They were sort of the rebels there and they were right across the street from us. They were called the Zoo. It was pretty much segregated back then.
SI: I get the impression from reading the Targums from that time that fraternities really sort of ran the campus.
CF: I was so interested in football and baseball that I didn't always spend a lot of time ... Well, Dave Pressler was president of our class and I've seen Dave a lot ... They had the Scarlet Barbarians, they called themselves, Scarlet Barbs, and I remember that they were pretty much into, you know, getting to be somebody and getting to do things. But most of the guys, back then the fraternity system was pretty darn strong. You had a lot of Jewish houses and a lot of, you know, whatever you call it, Protestant, Catholic, whatever the heck they were, but, I guess, the inner fraternity council, yeah, and there were a lot of projects that we did. I never quite, you know, got deeply into it, you know, as a veteran, a little older. I got married in my senior year, so I moved out of the house and, you know, I would come back and then I was sort of drifting away. So, I guess, you would say probably the fraternities were pretty strong back then and they were conscious of trying to present an image. Although, we all drank, we had beer parties and all the stuff. One thing I remember about our house was that we had a two-car garage in the back and we had a beautiful bar, well, for us it was beautiful. We had beer on big weekends and beer parties, and again, as I, being a veteran, I was a little older, and we had a guy named, Luther Martin who was the treasurer of the University at that time, and he was a Kappa Sigma. He was on our board, like the alumni adviser, very straight-laced, guy with his hair parted in the middle and looked like an All-American Gothic. He was the University treasurer. The President of the Board, named Jim Handford, these are older guys, you know, and he said, "Well, I'm a teetotaler and I don't believe in drinking. I don't think you should drink on campus, so, if you will demolish the bar, I will build you a new fraternity house, whatever, remodel it." So then we had this big meeting, and we said "Who's this guy telling us we can't drink beer," and I said to them, "Fellows, I'll tell you what, he's going to give us a new fraternity house, because this thing is old, he's going to throw a couple of hundred, three hundred thousand dollars to this fraternity provided we don't have a bar, you got to be stupid, got to be crazy not to take it. If you want to have a beer, go down to the Corner Tavern and have a beer. Or you can have a beer in your room. You can have a beer in the basement. You don't have it in that damn two-car garage out there." But they were not going to give in. So we never got a new fraternity house. I remember that. So we were college students, but I was a little older so I was in ... a little different category there, I guess.
SI: What was the ratio of veterans to students that were coming straight out of high school?
CF: I don't know exactly. I have my yearbook and it did say, under my name, Carl, it said US Army, or would say US Navy. I would think at that point, I don't have any scientific basis for it, but my hunch would be about twenty percent, twenty-five percent were veterans, mainly in my shoes. They were mainly guys, I think, that joined out of high school and were on occupation duty someplace, put their two years in the service and came out.
SI: Probably in your freshman and sophomore there's more ...
CF: Yes, I remember our freshman football team we were undefeated. We were so happy that we're gonna have this powerhouse, you know, the first undefeated team in the history of Rutgers football. We had some fantastic ball players and most of them flunked out. Heinie Beinkert was the coach, he was All-American in 1924 at Rutgers, Little All-American, Homer Hazel was Big. Heinie Jr. came out of the Marine Corps with a guy named Bob Dentz, two Marine guys, expected he was All State in East Orange High School wound up playing third string, dropped out. Dentz dropped out. I remember our first game, talking about Al Twitchel, he was our line coach. He said, "You're playing Columbia." Columbia back then was very strong. They got a heavy recruitment program. They had the touchdown twins, Gene Rossides and Lou Kusserow, and Lou Little was a fantastic coach. So we and the varsity played, and Frank Burns was our quarterback, he was perhaps the best football player I ever saw. The varsity got walloped by Columbia like 44-28. We scored all our points in the second half. Coach said, Twitchell said, "I know you're not gonna win the game. They are loaded, they got the best team in the East and here's the film of the varsity game, see, they're running the sweep off tackle, and he pitches out the last minute and commits himself, he goes after this guy, he keeps the ball and goes for twenty yards." They ran the varsity ragged, couldn't stop that option play. So we had this guy Hal Corizzi who went on, he was a very good football, basketball, player and this guy, Dentz, on the other end. I'm sitting on the sidelines watching the game and this Columbia team comes out. He says, "Guys, you can't win but just try to hold them down." Well, these two guys on the end, they stopped every play. This guy, Dentz, who stood there on the end, and it's like he saw this guy and then boom; we beat them 12-0. You didn't kick extra points because it was a freshman game. We beat Princeton 18-6. They had a guy named Bobby Unger, who was All State at Montclair, who was gonna be their next quarterback, left-handed guy. They take him out in the fourth quarter, they put in the third string tailback. They went on a single wing, Ohioguy had a scholarship, they go, they get a touchdown, so we won 18-6. The guys name was Dick Kasmaier became All American, won the Heisman trophy, two year undefeated. They never got in the game. After that, all our guys dropped out, the veterans, the guys, and we never reached our potential, we should have continued with the Frank Burns thing, but we just didn't click. We had that, great, great freshman team, but half of them were gone ... most of them were veterans. We had a guy named George Marinkovich from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. [He was] married, had two kids, running back. We were practicing the freshman team and the coach was watching, Don Jones was head coach, and I'm watching, [I] want to stand next to the coach, you know, "Put me in," and this was a scrimmage, all of a sudden, you know, this guy is running with the ball and two guys coming after him, he goes around the end, and he put in the afterburner, he goes, "Who's that? Who's that? Who's that?" [It's] Marinkovich, who nobody knows, right. The guy was the best, you know, back you ever want to find. I'm walking down College Avenue one day and he says, "I don't like it here." "What's the matter, George?" "Well, you got to read and write. I got a wife and two kids. I was gonna go to Duke, they gave me an apartment and a car for my wife and two kids, and they said I can play baseball. I was All State baseball player, centerfielder, and I came to Rutgers, they said they'd match everything. I'm here, they didn't give me a car, they gave me an apartment for my wife, and they won't let me play baseball." Plus, the fact that he got all zeros and he never went to class. They got him through the first semester of his sophomore year. This guy was one of those that had an extra fourth gear, which nobody has naturally, winds up playing this football season, sophomore year, got him through the first football season, winds up playing defensive safety, intercepting six passes. We never had a guy intercept that many passes at Rutgers. He was so good on defense. He never played offense, but then he flunked out, disappeared. So that was the story of our freshman team. But there are more memories that, you see it, then why not, why couldn't it have been this or that?
DS: Did you feel you fit in more with the kids coming out of high school or the older veterans coming back from service?
CF: Definitely the older veterans, because in the fraternity I saw a lot of the young kids, in fact, we had the WRSU show and this kid Carl Kumpf came in, and, you know, I was a poor kid even then. I stayed at the fraternity house because my father and mother, my father moved out, he didn't want to pay the twenty-six dollars a month rent, so he moved into the gas station. We had a little gas station for ten dollars a month and they lived in this little room, so there's no room for me home anymore. So I was kind of thrown out and I remember playing baseball, back home. I rented a room from Mrs. Mullen, down the street, for five dollars a week. I got a job at the Reformatory [?], nice, night watchman, played baseball, but I was on my own, but I was older, so I'm a veteran ... experience wise. So I saw these kids come in, Bill and then Carl. "Spider," had beautiful parents. Bill Cady came fromOakmont, Pennsylvania. Went out to his house, beautiful parents, everything, spoiled, full baseball scholarship. This guy, Cady, I met him at the barracks, you know, he's gonna be our lead pitcher. He never went to class. All he did was run around, go to Highland Park, trying to pick up high school girls ... He said he had a full baseball scholarship. Back then, you didn't get those things ... chasing girls. So I said, "Going to class? Your parents had paid all this money." Mine is the GI Bill. "Your parents are paying all their money for you." They all flunked out. Cady never pitched a game and then when he said to me, "I love baseball," I said to myself, I said, "Well, why don't you go to class?" He got a full baseball scholarship. The first game we played Seton Hall, freshman baseball, and there were thirty-four walks in the game, thirty-four walks. We had five pitchers, nobody could throw a strike and they had five pitchers and they won in the last inning by walking the guy from third base. We lost by one run and Cady never played because he was ineligible, already, he never went to his class. So that summer he said, "Are you playing in the Hunterdon County league?" He says, "Can I come pitch for you?" I never saw him pitch, I said, "Sure." "I love to play." "Why didn't you go to school, you know, you got this baseball scholarship?" We had the worst team in the league. He wore my Rutgers uniform, I wore an old uniform. We never lost a game he pitched, never lost a game. I'm trying to remember now, if he ever gave up a run, that's how good he was, right, and I took it for granted that if we got one run, we're going to win the game. That season he comes on, he pitched every game, and we beat them. We always had had the worst team. So that's how good that guy was and, yet, being a young guy coming out of high school and having, really, the world at his feet with parents who were very concerned about him ... and just no interest. So I sensed that I had to, if you flunked out you lost your GI Bill, too. I did fool around a little in my sophomore year. I got to be very cocky, that I was, you know, a big shot and I got scared, so I buckled down, because I had no place to go with my career, you know. If I got kicked out of here, I was dead.
SI: What about the Korean War? Were you concerned that you might be called back?
CF: No. In fact, it happened while I was here, sophomore or junior, and there was a lot of hubbub about it, a lot of guys in ROTC. I really had my fill of it. Two years was enough of military life and I knew what I had to do, and I did it, and I was lucky, and I didn't want to get back into ROTC, marching around. The campus was much abuzz with it, and I remember in the fraternity, we had a couple of guys, a little guy, named Joe Cserhika, who was about eighty-five pounds, played the accordion, and the worst health in the world and another tall, skinny guy, named Frank McKinney, who was there studying on some of kind of pills, or something, and they were seniors. They were ready to graduate. About a month before graduation, they walked in the fraternity house, they have on Air Force uniforms with silver bars and I said, "What are you guys doing?" They said, "We're in the Air Force." "You guys are the worst looking soldiers I ever saw," and they're laughing. I said, "What do you mean?" They said, "Well, we're graduating next month and they called us and ROTC said, 'You have two choices, fellows, we have a war. If you want to join the ROTC now, we'll waive everything, we'll give you a commission, you go in the Air Force, or else you're gonna get drafted and go in the infantry.'" So there was no choice, they had no training, or anything, "They gave us these uniforms." They graduated, I think. McKinney, as a matter-of-fact, became a career man. I think, but I'm not sure ... but that's the kind of thing that was going on, you know, that there was an emergency and there was a war. I've been there for two years and I said, "Well," I didn't volunteer to go back and ... I got married in my senior year, so, yeah, there was definitely a lot of feeling on campus that, you know, this was a serious thing, and they mobilized. I think there was a draft.
SD: You mentioned before about hearing about the Cold War, did that have any influence on campus at all? Was that talked about in classrooms or in discussions?
CF: No, not as I remember. The only thing I could remember was these guys that I would know, most of us wore Army clothes, because we didn't have a lot of money and you see a guy with a field jacket on, you knew he was probably a veteran. I wore khakis, I didn't wear field jackets. I remember wearing my khaki pants all through my senior year. When I got to my last semester I had to go down and buy a pair of corduroy pants for two dollars, from a store downtown, 1951, so it was a big joke around the fraternity house, you know, "Fleming, GI clothes," you know, or something like that. But, you know, it was all part of my culture, my background, it didn't matter as long as it was clean, you know, no matter what you wore. Anyway, it's very comfortable, it's what we all wear today, Chinos.
SI: When you were in the service did the Army ever try to indoctrinate you by saying the Communists are the enemy of the future? Did they ever talk to you about the Communists?
CF: Never, we never heard that. Now, it was almost like, you know, "We need bodies here to fulfill our occupational duties and this is what you have to do. This is what you know. This is your number. This is your rifle number, and don't forget it, and this is what you have to do." And you knew that was it. You had to learn to fit in. This is a unit and whatever the sergeant says, you do. What the corporal says, you do. If you're the sergeant, then the lieutenant tells you what to do, and it goes down the line, and you do it. I understood that, I think, pretty well. I had no trouble acclimating to that.
DS: After the war and with the GI Bill, even though you didn't really know Rutgers before World War II, was it a booming university? Did you see it growing as you were here, as far as veterans coming back and using the GI Bill?
CF: We were the first wave, I think. I was overseas and when I joined I knew I wanted to go to college and I wanted to play football and I knew Fordham, in the '30s, they had a great team. I had no advice. I just had to do it on my own ... and I knew that Rutgers, we had a small high school and our principal came from LafayetteCollege. So the few kids that went to college all went to Lafayette and, of course, I'm saying, "One thing I don't want was to go to Lafayette." It was nineteen miles away, in Easton. "I'm not going to Lafayette." I knew Rutgers was in New Brunswick, that's all I knew. I knew that they had a good football team; Frank Burns, and that would look good. Princeton, I knew, was in New Jersey but I had no concept of cost, or knew that it was Ivy League, or what. So I sent letters when I was still overseas. In Korea I started sending letters. I sent a letter to Fordham, and I sent a letter to Rutgers, and I sent a letter to Princeton. I got a letter back from every one. Fordham sent me back a catalogue with a letter saying, "Yes, this is what we offer," and I opened it up and I'm sitting in my footlocker, and I'm reading it and, apparently, not knowing what I'm reading, I don't know, it looked to me like it was a dental school. I was reading the wrong part but there was no one to talk to that could say what I should do, and I said, it didn't seem to offer a Phys Ed program, you know, which they must have, somehow. I ... didn't know Fordham was a Catholic school. I had no concept of Catholic or Protestant.
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CF: So, Princeton sent a nice letter, and again, said, "Yes, when you come back, we would entertain interviewing you. The tuition is eighteen hundred dollars a year." The GI Bill paid up to six hundred. Rutgers was like four hundred, plus, you could get your books and everything else. I saw the eighteen hundred dollars and I said, "There's no way I'm gonna go," and Rutgers sent a very nice letter saying, I guess it probably said that, "We're now a State University." I guess, this thing was happening or was just changing then, you know. "You are accepted as a veteran, provided you pass." So I said, "It looks like that's where I'm going." I didn't know Rutgers, I didn't know, you know, this background, Old Queens. That was the logical place that I could afford. They wanted me and all I got to do is my part. I read in The Sporting News, overseas, that, you know, that they had a pretty good football program going, and it was not Lafayette.
SI: Can you tell us about some of your other activities on campus, like the radio shows?
CF: Yeah, that fellow Carl Kumpf, he was a real Dixieland nut, and he loved Sara Vaughn, and he loved music, and he got me into it, and he played a little trumpet, he wasn't too good, but he was all for it. He was all for WRSU getting the show so he said, "Come on, come on, you like music." So I had a record collection of Billy Eckstein and things like that, and I was kinda like his older brother. I looked after him and I said, "Why did you do that?" I met his parents. He got the show, we are on a half hour, "Dixieland Review." I learned a lot from him. We went to New York a couple of times. A young kid, but we saw Stan Kenton, June Christie and things like that. modern music in '51, and I learned to appreciate a lot of Dixieland things, easy jazz stuff. I never got into Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and those guys ... I was very active in that stuff. In my sophomore year, they started theAmerican Cancer Drive on campus and I somehow got to be chairman of that. I was pretty cocky then, because I was not studying hard, and I was getting good grades and I got a philosophy course, and Mason Gross who was a fabulous guy, I'd see him on campus all the time, he's just incredible, and he had a lecture hall of about five hundred students ... I was having a problem, and I was, you know, mentally trying to figure things out, and I realized at the time, I was trying to figure out the difference between inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning, and he was giving this fabulous lecture. I raised my hand, asked a question with all these people and he said, "Yes?" "Professor Gross, can you tell me, what is progress?" "Well," he said, "That's the one of the best questions I've ever heard." ... "Is progress getting from many things down to the truth of a single thing, or is it taking a single thing and building it into something?" Of course, I was confused, because I was thinking the difference between progress probably is what you think it is. But he went into a big philosophical discussion of "... We don't know what the hell progress is, whether we're going forward or backward depending on where we are." So I always got a kick out of that I asked that question. He was a great guy. I got into creative writing. I was in creative writing for my English background. I had three stories published in The Anthologist and a great teacher. The Cancer Drive, I got into this thing, there was a gal there who, nice looking red-headed gal, older woman, and I was thinking I was a big shot and kinda thought she liked me and I spent most of my time taking canisters around the campus, you know, not going to class. When I got my grades that second semester, my sophomore year, I got a lot of 4s ... I thought I could go and take the Greek philosophy test and get, you know, and I didn't do so well because I didn't go to class. That was a rude awakening. You know, "wake up" because, I didn't get on probation, but my average dropped to the point where, you know, you can't get away, you got to study. Then next year, in my junior, and senior years, I got into it very heavy, and studied hard, and I really learned a lot. Creative writing was interesting. I had a professor named Twiss, he was great. I had stories published and we had a contest and there was a guy, named Alan Novrse, who wrote a short story that was published and I came in third. Allan Novrse won first prize ... so I went to Twiss, I said, "How come I didn't win first prize? I'm a better writer than he is." He says, "Because you don't write short stories." He says, "A short story has to have form. You have to have an introduction, you have to have rising action, you have to have a climax. You write episodes, you write character studies, and it's not a short story." I said, "Okay, thank you, now I know why I didn't win." ... Kappa Sigma was, we had a couple of varsity wrestlers while we were there, so we won the intramural wrestling championship every year. We all had to wrestle. The guys who were on the varsity would show us a couple of basic holds and you had to wrestle. I don't care if you were the weakest guy that ever happened. If you loaded up the categories you get by, your guys would come up at the top, sometimes. I was on the football, I wrestled a guy from Chi Psi named Neil Burton, he was a tackle, and we had spaghetti dinner that night, I wound up two pounds over the limit. I wrestled the heavyweight class, he pinned me in about one minute, probably would have pinned me anyway, because I couldn't wrestle. This guy Spider Kumpf he was so weak, he got byes all the way to the finals. That's how he got nicknamed Spider. ... He's in the finals. We had him convinced he was a champion wrestler and the guy that he wrestled, a guy named Joe Meyer, who was the second best wrestler in his weight class and he didn't make the varsity because the guy in the varsity was better, but he wrestled this guy all the time in practice. It's the same old story, almost had it, but he just wasn't quite good enough. Now we all went up to see this. We won the championship because he got three points for second place. This guy, Joe Meyer, grabbed him and pinned him in about three seconds. But we won because he got three points [on byes], never wrestled. This is the kind of things that you remember. The things you did.
DS: You were saying that you were married your senior year in college. How did you meet your wife?
CF: Well, it's good old Spider, again. He was chasing a girl named Sue Hornsby at Douglass. He said "Ah, she's so fabulous, but she can't go out on a date because she has a house mother who is a senior, she's a freshman, and I can't get a date and I want to know if you will take out the house mother?" a senior. So I said, "Okay, so, you know, you can get this date with Sue Hornsby" So we went on a couple dates and I was with this girl and we got along very well together. She thought I was just great, I guess, and I thought she was great. So we started going out and I had this thing with my family, and I was now twenty-two, I guess, twenty-three. That is when my father and mother moved into the gas station and ... I really had no home. There was nothing there and I'm getting to the point where I'm saying you know, "What's next?" you know, and, "Gee, the GI Bill pays a hundred and five dollars a month, if you're married, instead of seventy-five." She has signed up, in her junior year, to become a Navy officer and in her junior year she went to Great Lakes Training School. Her parents were from Sussex County, a farm girl. She was gonna go back. She was graduating, she was a year ahead of me. She was graduating and that summer she was going back to Great Lakes to finish up and become a Lieutenant, or an Ensign in the Navy when we met. She said, "I never met a guy like you, you're wonderful, you're fantastic, you're a creative writer, write short stories and you're a football player, I'm ready." I said, "Yeah, I think you're pretty nice, too. I got no family. It might be nice to have a home of my own. We'll go out on the campus here, get an apartment, and we'll start raising our little family. I'm ready." The big thing was that she said, "Well, I know if we don't get married now, I'll be in the Navy for six years and I'll never see you again. So it's now, or never." We talked to her parents, they were against it. They wanted her to go to the Navy and we had just met. It was one of those things, and we were young, and we said, "Well." We got married, moved out on the Heights, near the little Army barracks out there, then and I took a fifth year, another year of Greek and I was in my creative writing stuff. She got pregnant. We had a baby and the refrigerator broke down one day, paid fifty bucks for it, had to go out buy a new one. I was working with the University mowing the lawns out at the stadium, you know the big gang mowers? Got a job as a waiter at a restaurant, we both waited on tables, and when the refrigerator broke down I had to buy a new one. So I saw an ad in the papers for getting into real estate sales in Metuchen. So I answered the ad and started selling real estate in Metuchen and never got out of that. Went from selling real estate, I had my own company for twenty years, Fireside Realty, sold a lot of houses, tried to do the best I could. I had a very good reputation, sold it for stock, the guy went broke. I got into the appraisal business, designation, and I've been doing that ever since. Developed a family business, my three sons and my nephew, and we have a nice little reputation in MiddlesexCounty. We did the Chabad House, my nephew, Mike. We did a lot of stuff around here, but it's all commercial, we don't do houses.
SI: It sounds like this wasn't something you planned on in your studies. Was there another career you had in mind?
CF: Yeah, I really wanted to be a career writer and become a famous novelist, short story writer, and I found that was a lot of hard work. In fact ... one of my classmates was a guy name Michael Shaara who lived on campus and we were in the same class and we would read each other's stuff. I didn't see him too much because he was married and he had a son, Jeff, who is now a famous novelist. Mike was working on a World War II novel. I was working on Korean stuff, and he was in Europe. Of course, it was great to see when Gettysburg came out on TV. He wrote The Killer Angels and he got the Pulitzer Prize. He had written for several years before that and couldn't get anything published. He went to North Carolina and he died young and then his son, Jeff, wrote three novels using his dad's stuff. So he went from World War II to Civil War and finally the end. He had a pretty rough life, I guess. But Mike, last year I said to Marguchio, I said, "How about Mike Shaara? I see his name in the yearbook, they spelled it wrong, they said Shannon. He's won the Pulitzer Prize." "Oh, no," he said, "he's in our Distinguished Hall of Fame now." It was like Gandolfini, I guess. "He's one of our guys now," you know, got the same story. Nice to be famous. I thought that would be nice, too, and I liked it. I thought I would be pretty good at it and I started writing a novel. I wrote short stories, but then I got lazy, I guess, and then we had the kids start coming and I said, "Well." The hardest part I had in real estate was, I guess, I thought, "This is just a way to make money to get some place to do something." I did have problems with that in the early years, but I, finally, convinced myself that, I guess, that if you put your heart and soul in that, and you really are helping people find a home, and you're honest, that you are doing something that is creative. You tell them what the closing cost is gonna be and, you know, that they have fears and doubts about what they're doing, and you're above board, that you are doing something worthwhile. It's like now, in the appraisal business, that, you know, people just don't know much about it and I know when I'm doing something I understand what's going on. So I sold myself on the idea that I was being creative in this field and it's very lucrative. It's a very, you know, nice field to be in. You can make a lot of money by what you know, especially when you realize most people don't know what's going on in your field. Yeah, I taught high school for two years when I first started out and it was a revelation. I needed extra money and a Woodbridge High School teacher got thrown out of the class; there was a lot of gang stuff back then, this would be in the '50s. The principal said, "You want to teach high school?" I said, "Yes." He said, "You look pretty strong." I said, "Yeah." He says, well, and then when he heard about my background, I had no teaching certificate, I was a liberal arts major, he says, "No, as long as you don't beat these guys up, it's all that matters." They were pretty big guys. So I started teaching. I never had any teaching experience. My wife's sister was teaching in Highland Park High School, taught there for years, Patty, and she said, "You're gonna teach?" I said, "Yeah. I need the money. It's $3,000.00 a year." So she says, "Here's the book by a woman called Dorothy Dakin, it was published in 1938 called 'Talks to Beginning Teachers in English.'" I just looked on the Internet the other day and it's still available. I read this, open the page. Now, I had three years of German, two years of Greek all right, two years of French in high school. I couldn't pass the tests, I passed the tests, but barely, got all Cs. Dorothy Dakin says, "Well, English is like, you know, patterns of speech. Everything starts with a verb. The verb is the engine, the engine pulls the horse, the train. You ask the question, who, or what, in front of the verb, that's the subject, who or what behind it, that's the direct object, like fourth grade." I'm saying, "Oh, my God, that's German, that's Greek, it's all the same and I never knew it. I wasted my life reading and writing ... all these things and never understanding the grammar." I didn't know whether I was writing an object, or indirect object, and all of a sudden I'm in this book, "Oh, my God." So in the two years I taught, in the first year I was pretty tough because the kids were gang kids, you know, they just want to get out. In the second year, I don't know why, they put me with all the college kids. They were great, bright, and they were all going to college and I made them take grammar and I told them, they said, "Look, ah, grammar, we hate it, we hate it." "Do me a favor," I said, "I'll give you a test. When I give you a test and you pass the test, we won't ever study grammar." "Oh, that's great, that's great." So I made up the test. "What do you understand by the phrase 'parts of speech?' What do you understand when you hear the word 'subjective complement?' What do you understand when you hear the words 'predicate nominative?' What do you mean when you hear the word 'case?' What does the word 'tense' mean to you?" Nobody passed the test, because the terminology was so, you know, Latin, or something, it was not English. ... This is what they taught us, you know, in grammar school. I will say that one of the satisfying things with those kids; they all went on to college. They all listened. "You've got to memorize the helping verbs, there's twenty-four." "Why?" "Because once you see the helping verb, it has to have another word ending in ING, that's part of it. It can't be anything but part of the verb and you got your verb. When you got your verb, everything else fits in." I never knew this. I told them, I said, "I went to college, and I was terrible and I got to tell you, if you do what I tell you, you go to college and any language you take you get a ninety." A lot of them came back and said, "You know, you're right." It makes you feel good. But if I hadn't read that book I wouldn't known until this day what the hell I was doing in English. I got As and Bs in high school.
DS: How involved did you get in veterans groups?
CF: When I got out of the service ... my Uncle Markley had been, he got to Germany, I guess, and I don't know how involved he was. I came back in 1948 or '50 and he said, "I'm going down to the VA to see if I'm getting some compensation. You were in the hospital?" I said, "Yeah. I was in twice." I said, "I was in Korea, I was in and I had a stab wound under my arm, but I didn't go to the hospital for that, when I was with Moon." I said, "But my feet got all frostbit and broken down because we had thirteen days when we were marching and, you know, I went to the hospital to get some sleep, mainly, and get my feet fixed up." So he said, "You want to go with me?" I said, "Okay." So we went down and he went in to be examined by the doctors and he came out and he said, "I went in, got seen by the doctors." So I get a letter another month later, "You got a disability. We're gonna give twenty percent or thirty percent disability." He didn't get any. So for about forty years I've been getting this disability. So I thought, you know, the DAV and the VFW would be, life membership wasn't too expensive and I was young, I felt, well, maybe I would join and contribute a little bit. I have never been too active.
SI: You were stabbed during one of the riots?
CF: I didn't know it, because I had a parka on, until I got home and I got back to the barracks and I saw I was bleeding. This guy Shockley sewed it up.
DS: You were chairman of your reunion committee?
CF: Yeah, forty-fifth and fiftieth.
DS: What did you have to do for it?
CF: ... I was not active. I was pretty active in my business, I was president of the Real Estate Commission inNew Jersey. I was active in politics for a while, Republican politics, and I was very busy ... I live in Colonia and I said, maybe I got some mail, I was always an alumni member, I said, "Maybe I should do something, get active, because I'm so close. It seems like we're gonna have trouble getting our class together." I wasn't gung-ho, or anything. I came to a couple of meetings in Winants Hall and Dave Pressler was here and then some guys, nobody really close to me back in college, but I knew some of them and, gradually, got back into it, and we were planning our forty-fifth reunion and I was coming to meetings. I said, "Great! Meetings are on Monday nights," beautiful dinners, you know. I was bringing wine and then, all of a sudden, they started bringing wine, for the fiftieth which is really neat. But, I guess, I got up to go to the bathroom and when I came back they all said, "Fleming, guess what? You're chairman." I said, "That's what I get for having weak kidneys." So we had the forty-fifth reunion and it worked out very well and, of course, I was drafted for the fiftieth. That was a little harder because there's lot more guys getting back, but ... in the end it worked out well. I've been drafted for the fifty-fifth, so it's just a matter of being available and being close by, and it's not that difficult to do, once you do it.
SI: What did you do for the Republican Party? How active were you?
CF: Well, coming from the farm country, which was all Republicans and the Flemington newspaper was called theHunterdon County Democrat, which I always thought was funny, because I only knew one or two Democrats in my life up there. Coming down here, I got to Woodbridge Township, Middlesex County was heavily Democratic, and there were very few Republicans, and they asked me to run for council on the Republican ticket. I did it because I didn't know what I was doing, you know. It was something to do back in 1960. So I stayed active, because, I guess, where you're born, this is what you do, your father is Republican. I never got too active, but funny thing happened in 1970, I wasn't too active, and there were five guys in the Republican Primary. There was guy named Cahill, came from South Jersey. Bateman, I don't know if Bateman was in that one. Yeah, there was a guy, there were five of them, Ozzard and Pat Kramer was the Mayor of Paterson vying for the nod, and Bob Meyner had been the governor of New Jersey, from Philipsburg, local guy, Philipsburg guy, and Democrat, and he had been governor and he served two terms and then he went out but he was coming back, if it's not consecutive you can come back again. I really wasn't that interested because I knew Ozzard from Somerset County and I knew a couple of the people, but I didn't get involved. So the primary came and this guy Cahill won the primary,South Jersey guy. So I hadn't endorsed anybody because I didn't know, really wasn't that interested. So I got a call from this guy, Lyncheski who was municipal chairman, Republican Chairman in Woodbridge. He says, "Will you do me a favor?" And I said, "What?" He said, "I need a chairman in Middlesex County for 'Cahill for Governor.'" I say, "Why?" He says, "Well, I endorsed one of the other guys and these two guys from your hometown, they sent letters to Cahill saying that they were his chairmen," and they said that they should be chairmen for Cahill and I was a bum, I didn't support him, and I did all these things, and you ought to see this letter, I'll show it to you. He showed it to me, this vicious letter to Cahill, who probably never read it. He said, "And I don't care." He says, "You're the only guy that wasn't active in this whole primary and I don't care what happens to me, but I won't have those guys taking over my job because they insulted my character, my wife, my family." I said, "Okay, I'll do it, I'll do it." So I knew all the time that Meyner was an ex-governor, that Cahill doesn't have a chance to win, and I had a little empty store, a little empty store on Route 27. So there were a lot of high school kids, who are young Republicans then, who were pretty active. So I said, "Let's make this a big Cahill headquarters." They had a big poster of Cahill. Nixon was President, Agnew [V.P.], and we had this big thing going on. Cahill was coming to Rutgers to campaign at the football game. I think it was on a Saturday. He went to Perth Amboy first, and he said to somebody, "I'd like to see a local headquarters for 'Cahill, for Governor.'" So ... I had this big store all fixed up, and we knew he was coming, so we had cake and ice cream and soda and all the stuff, and had all the kids down there, plenty of people. He pulls the caravan in on the way to Rutgers Stadium, in comes Cahill. We were all there and everybody cheering him. So, lo and behold, he leaves and he wins. The past governor had made a lot of political enemies, the past Governor <eyner, he="" was="" very="" independent="" and="" a="" lot="" of="" the="" political="" leaders="" in="" two="" counties="" didn't="" want="" him="" back.="" they="" wanted="" somebody="" that="" would="" listen="" to="" them,="" not="" do="" his="" own="" thing.="" so="" cahill="" won,="" i="" had="" forgotten="" it.="" lynchesky="" called="" me="" said,="" "what="" you="" want?"="" "nothing."="" says,="" "well,="" said="" remembers="" place="" had,="" wants="" something="" for="" you."="" i'm="" real="" estate="" broker,="" there's="" commission,="" don't="" much="" maybe="" can="" get="" on="" and,="" know,="" we="" need="" new="" test="" with="" ets,="" got="" bring="" it="" up."="" so,="" "i'll="" put="" your="" name="" in."="" my="" told="" couple="" friends="" mine,="" who="" were="" mainly="" democrats,="" "hey,="" that's="" hell="" job.="" good="" deal."="" "yeah,="" but="" why?"="" "you="" grab="" i'll="" help="" bob="" vogel,="" democrat="" councilman,="" an="" attorney,="" "believe="" me,"="" "if="" fight="" this="" now,="" there="" are="" gonna="" be="" ten="" guys="" it's="" appointment="" if="" they're="" give="" else="" tell="" you're="" interested."="" "i="" know="" hap="" farley="" he's="" republican="" county="" chairman="" atlantic="" county.="" uncle="" judge,="" democrat,="" friendly.="" they'll="" find="" out="" always="" at="" top."="" me,="" go="" around,="" every="" monmouth="" all="" say,="" 'do="" have="" guy="" job,="" appointment?="" make="" it,="" contention,="" will="" support="" as="" second="" choice?'"="" listened="" others,="" again,="" did="" lo="" behold,="" sure="" enough,="" before,="" going="" out.="" appointed="" metuchen,="" been="" one="" year,="" taking="" place.="" offered,="" chairman,="" $10,000.00="" contribution="" ditch="" keep="" him.="" what="" buddy="" me.="" "it's="" gone="" too="" far."="" "fleming="" has="" support.="" republican,="" democrat."="" care="" $20,000.00,="" i'd="" like="" commission="" youngest="" state="" changed="" things="" around="" eight="" years,="" lasted="" through="" brendan="" byrne's="" first="" term="" replaced="" by="" way="" is.="" enjoyed="" that,="" traveling="" ...="" ran="" national="" president="" organization,="" narello,="" great="" story,="" colorado="" springs,="" knew="" sooner="" or="" later.="" fellow="" frombritish="" columbia,="" california,="" really,="" whole="" organization.="" western="" division="" sixteen="" states="" between="" british="" columbia="" alaska.="" northeast="" only="" eleven="" virginia's="" central="" district="" eight,="" never="" president.="" guy,="" dermot="" murphy,="" sitting="" having="" martini="" wife,="" came="" sat="" down="" drink="" us,="" very,="" nice="" high="" class="" guy.="" "i'm="" thinking="" about="" running="" president."="" do,="" vote="" "why="" because="" west="" california?"="" "no,="" time="" change="" here,="" shake="" thought="" lose?"="" talked="" few="" people.="" "yeah."="" from="" virginia,="" charlie="" fox,="" black="" yeah.="" we'll="" back="" 100%.="" someone="" east="" coast."="" right="" now,"="" "when="" serious="" see="" getting="" votes,="" call="" midwest,="" nebraska,="" midwest="" controlled="" everything,="" votes.="" "wait="" till="" next="" year."="" can't="" wait,="" replaced."="" "okay,="" remember="" wife="" home="" before="" election.="" woman="" hampshire,="" she="" realtor="" also="" head="" commission.="" convention="" springs.="" heard="" debating="" against."="" chap="" georgia="" jimmy="" carter,="" dan="" blackshear="" shoe-in.="" style,="" talking="" about,="" done,="" us="" some="" blood="" these="" years."="" "will="" vote?"="" think="" nineteen="" votes="" twenty-four.="" blackshear,="" georgia.="" starting="" roll="" states,="" guess,="" alabama,="" arizona,="" per="" state.="" just="" standing="" hall.="" walks="" up="" big="" silver="" tie="" pin,="" colonel="" tom="" seagroves,="" tennessee.="" "fleming,="" talk="" "yes,="" colonel?"="" tennessee,="" mad="" "why?"="" ask="" vote.="" asked="" everybody="" you,="" me."="" tennessee="" is="" georgia,="" same="" southern="" district,="" why="" me?"="" you?"="" "no."="" win,="" nominating="" year?"="" "yup."="" calledtennessee,="" goes="" won="" vote,="" took="" them="" three="" ballots="" no="" chance="" winning="" funny="" how="" happen,="" crazy.="" "blackshire,="" 23"="" "holy="" christ,="" something,"="" 24."="" alaska="" voted="" "sure."="" "want="" hear="" program?"="" ever="" really="" riot.="" funny.="" "landslide="" fleming,"="" necktie.="" television="" cameras,="" tv="" carter="" lost="" everything="" taken="" celebration="" all.="" story.="" ups="" downs.="" then="" happen="" you.="" work="" well.<br="">
SI: What did you do on the national level?
CF: It was great. I had to pay my own way through a lot of it. Basically, you're really trying to modernize the real estate industry and mainly with education, I guess, because every state had their own laws, their own examinations. Ours was true and false for like twenty years, you know, fifty years. We got ETS to come in, give us an exam. I signed the contract. They said "You can't sign that contract. You have no authority." I said, "Well, put me in jail." I signed it. Then we had a problem that nobody could pass the test. Everybody is complaining, all the real estate brokers. "I can't get a salesman because they can't pass the test." Then we had to set up new schools that teach them to pass the test. So one problem led to another, but it, basically, was, you know, we were trying to upgrade the morals of the business, and we all tried to be professionals. But basically real estate comes down to trying to make a buck, and the average sales person, "I see that commission," they cut corners, they want to make the deal. "The thing is," I said, "You don't have to cut corners. If somebody really wants to buy that house, they're gonna buy it, whether you tell them the closing fees are $2,000 or a $1,000." But they get afraid, and don't tell them about this, or don't tell them about that. So we try to make it more professional. We haven't gotten too far.
SI: Any other questions?
SI: Is there anything else that you'd like to put on record?
CF: No, thank you very much. I didn't expect to be here and I didn't do much, but Tommy [Tom Bach] said ... they had no one who had been on occupation duty in Korea.
DS: We're moving on to the Korean War, and your oral history will be a nice bridge to bring the two together.
SI: Thank you.
CF: Thank you guys.
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Reviewed by Kevin Bing 6/16/04
Reviewed by Sandra Stewart Holyoak 7/5/04
Reviewed by Carl Fleming 11/16/04