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Robert D. Forger '49

Sullivan Museum and History Center, Norwich University

 

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Robert Forger, NU '49, Oral History Interview

March 16, 2016

At His Home in Newtown, Connecticut

Interviewed by Joseph Cates, of the

Norwich Oral History Project

JOSEPH CATES: Mr. Forger, Bob, can you please state your full name and date and place of your birth?

ROBERT FORGER: Robert D. Forger, May 24, 1928, in Norwalk, Connecticut.

JC: Talk a little bit about growing up in Norwalk.

RF: I grew up in Westport. Westport did not have a hospital. And for years we could get our birth certificates in Westport but then they stopped. If you were born in Norwalk, you can't do it. (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs)

RF: That was a wonderful place to grow up in. It was a town of about 5,000 people. I went to a high school that took in students from two other towns and had a graduating class of about 96, almost 100. And 11 were from one other town and 13 were from the other town, so the other 75 were from Westport. I got a wonderful preparation there. We had a very, very good faculty. If you can believe this, I learned all my English from the Latin teacher. I took four years of Latin. We had to diagram the sentences. Latin sentences. And I had an English teacher whom I had for three years who was hung up on the classics, so we learned very little English, but we sure know all of Shakespeare and everybody else. (Laughs)

And I got a good preparation because when I went off to Norwich, the curriculum as a chemist, I had to take trigonometry. And I said, "But I've had trigonometry." Oh, no, you haven't had trigonometry like this. This is really --, so you have to take it. So, I took it and got a 98 and the instructor said to me when it was all over, he said, "You know, I think you've had this subject before." And I said, "I certainly have." (Laughs)

JC: What made you decide to go to Norwich?

RF: I went to the physical -- I wanted to go to West Point and I have a military bend and nobody in the family knows from whence it came. And I wanted to go to West Point and as a junior in high school I flunked the physical because of astigmatism in one of the eyes in which they would not give a waiver. And it was very difficult to get into it at that time because the war was on and everybody wanted to get in and be protected for four years or maybe the three-year curriculum they were doing at the time. So, our local dentist said, "Why don't you go up the Norwich?" I knew nothing about Norwich but his nephew, who practiced not very far from where we are now, had gone there, Class of '39, and had become a dentist and he said, "You ought to go there." So, I applied. We went up to take a look at the place and I got accepted.

JC: Okay. This is a question for you. Tell me a little bit about your rook year, about being a rook.

RF: I think it was pretty darn easy.

JC: (Laughs)

RF: I don't think it was bad. A lot of people complained about it but I had read some stories about what went on at West Point, I had a book West Point Today about what they had to go through. As long as you didn't try to think as an individual, and not do what they wanted you to do, you were fine. One of my experiences was, they came in, and I doubt they do this today, came into our room. My roommate, myself, they turned the heat up on high and said, "At 9:30 we're going to have everybody in here." And they had everybody in our room and you had to bring your blankets, you had to wear your mackinaw, wear your blanket -- wrapped in a blanket and it was so darn hot in that room and then you had to jump up and down, singing "God Bless America." At 10:00 (inaudible) [0:05:08], everybody left. They left our room in shambles. And we had to get up at 4:30 in the morning to straighten it out for inspection. (Laughs) But that was -- and that was not a bad experience, it wasn't bad at all.

JC: You were also in a fraternity. Tell me about that.

RF: Sigma Phi Epsilon, Sig Ep. In the building where the president now lives. That wasn't as plush as it is now. They've added to it since those days. And it was interesting because nobody was around fraternities in my freshman year and they rushed the new pledges in October of my sophomore year. And the house president got up, I understand, later. He said -- now you have to remember, they were all civilians, because Norwich took in anyone who had been there before. To come back in civilian clothes and finish up his education. Didn't have to wear a uniform. Didn't have to participate in the military. Really a very good decision, I think. And, he said, told them, "You have to remember, we're a military school and our future is military. And you guys shouldn't be voting in people who are civilians now, just because they're your friends. You've got to stick with the military." Sig Ep took in five cadets and we were the most cadets, we were down there with cadets with 45 other civilians. (Laughs) And, we developed from there. But it was a really wise thing to say, because some of the fraternities took in only two and that was, I think, a mistake on their part.

JC: Well, how did you feel about when they did away with the fraternities?

RF: Mixed emotions. It was sort of a second-class citizenship, particularly athletically because we had a troop league and when I left there were six troops. A headquarters troop, which was the band, and five line troops. And we had an athletic league with the troops and an athletic league with the fraternities. And it ended up that the guys who were left behind in the troops, they just felt like second class citizens. They didn't play with the big boys. And I think that was one divisive effect that the fraternities had. But it was a great place to go and to relax. When you went through the front door, why military was out the window. But when you went out the front door, your tie better be straight and your cap on right and in everything else, the military prevailed.

JC: Now, you said there was an incident that happened that caused the fraternities to be done away with.

RF: Yes, this was what -- I left in June of '49 and early '50 when General Harmon came on board as the president. And I believe it was Winter Carnival that year and one of the fraternities, a guy in a drunken stupor went headlong down the stairs and did damage to his neck and his back and everything else and lost a semester of school because of the injuries. And that was the catalyst for Harmon getting rid of the fraternities. He -- it took him a while, but he usually gets his way. (Laughs)

JC: What is your -- what do you remember most about your years at Norwich?

RF: I think the camaraderie. I think it was a wonderful small school. I made so many friends. It was the type I liked and could live with and getting up at 6 or 6:15, that kind of thing, it -- the rules and regulations never bothered me. I may have been an exception but I never walked a tour in my life. When it was O.D. (?) [0:10:05] my senior year, I can remember the temperature -- 10 degrees in the middle of winter, starting a tour line with a hundred guys in it. (Laughs)

JC: (Chuckles)

RF: And they had a system, which I overlooked at the time, I knew what was happening. The first three guys in the line would peel off and go into Alumni Hall. Now when the line came around again, the next three or five or whatever number they had decided on, would peel off and the other ones would come back out, get at the end of the line. Because it was so darn cold.

JC: (Laughs) Now, Homer Dodge was president when you were a student.

RF: Yes.

JC: Tell me about that.

RF: I don't think he was -- in retrospect, I didn't have that much of an insight. I don't think he was a very effective president. He was -- he wore a uniform, but that was about it. He didn't know how to wear it. He was an eminent physicist and -- well we had Fuzzy Woodbury. We had a good physics department. He was the wrong guy for the job. And we finally got to him and he realized he wasn't doing anything. Fortunately, we had a guy, in fact two of them, that were commandants and assistant commandants that really kept the Norwich activity going. And some of the guys that returned, some of the veterans, I can remember the veterans getting after it. They got dressed up in their uniforms and they got all the sophomores together and they said, "We see that you're violating some of the traditions and these are what they are." And one of them was Jack O'Neil. "These are what they are and you've got to start living by them."

JC: Tell me about when Eisenhower came to the commencement and gave the commencement address.

RF: I don't remember anything about the commencement address, but it was allegedly his first or maybe only one of his first appearances in 1946. In my freshman year, we had three graduates. Who -- how they did it -- but finished up their last year and their last semester. And Eisenhower came, both senators were with him.

JC: (Laughs)

RF: As you might expect. And the one thing I do remember is the pushing match he got into with President Dodge. In the military, the lowest ranking guys get in the car first. And the highest ranking last, so he can be the first one out of the car. And Homer Dodge would not let -- he would not precede Eisenhower. And Eisenhower solved the issue by putting the palm of his hand in the back of Dodge's back and propelling him into the car. And it worked pretty well. But that's the only thing I really remember about the commencement.

JC: Tell me about some of the professors that really had an influence on your life.

RF: Well, I think there were probably two. Both junior chemistry professors. They were probably only instructors at the time. And one was Bill Nichols, who taught most of the advanced organic and inorganic. He was only here the one year I was there, in my senior year. He taught most of the organic and inorganic advanced classes. Whereas, the other professors taught the physical chemistry, the more difficult courses. He was a great guy and the other was Jack O'Neil who was a senior when I was a junior and a senior only because he came back. He was the Class of '44 and returned after the war. He ran most of the labs down in the bottom of Dodge Hall. He was a true Norwich guy. And one of the things I think that proved it was when our son, Gary, went up to Norwich, he was the Class of '75. When he went up in '71, we were in the orientation line and Jack O'Neil comes up and said "hi" to me and shook hands with Gary and he said, "Things get pretty rough up there. If you need some relief any time, here's my telephone number. I live right down the street. Give me a call and come on over and get away from it all." And that was really a very nice thing to do.

JC: What does the idea of the citizen soldier mean to you?

RF: This is a put-up question, because this is something I answered on the questionnaire that your predecessor sent out.

JC: Yes. It's on the first page.

RF: Read it. "Citizen soldier" by my definition is an individual with a strong interest in the military, who is willing to act in the secondary line of military preparedness, rather than full-time service. Now, that was true in my day. And up until the second Gulf War started. It really isn't true anymore because anyone who is in the national guard or the reserves is going to get called one way or another.

JC: Now, you served in the reserves from 1949 to '72, correct?

RF: '72, yes.

JC: Can you talk a little bit about that? About being in the reserves.

RF: It was a nice experience, a great experience. I got some fairly good jobs out of it. I was with a tank battalion in Stamford and the C.O. was a 1934 graduate from the University of Massachusetts. I went to my first meeting and a guy sidles up to me and he says, "You know, that isn't an army uniform. That's a Norwich uniform." I didn't have any uniforms. I graduated in June and this was a September meeting and who was this guy but Phil Marsilius.

JC: Oh. (Laughs)

RF: (Laughs) Who was the emeritus chairman of the board. He was the S2 of the battalion. And the next day when he brings up another guy and introduces him to me, he's the S3 and it's Tommy, they called him in those days, Andy I always knew him as, Andy Boggs, who was the Class of '44 and who was the S3. (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs)

RF: And I got this C.O. that I had, I got some good jobs out of it that proved to be good because I could do them. And, he went to summer camp with the Norwich guys. And he was ROTC, not military. ROTC such as Norwich. And he told me later, he gave me these jobs because those Norwich guys could do anything. And he observed it at camp, at his summer camp, they could do anything. And we had two Norwich guys. We had a bunch of lieutenants who had just come in when I left the tank battalion. And he -- so I got some pretty good jobs out of it.

JC: Where did you go to summer camp?

RF: Ft. Meade, Maryland. And we spent a week down at A.P. Hill in Virginia, living in tents in rain storms and everything, because they didn't have a range big enough. That was the closest range large enough to fire the tank guns. Now I guess they all go out to Washington some place, Ft. Lewis, I think.

JC: Oh, yes.

RF: And of course, we were at, in those days, I got a commission at Armored Cavalry Reserve. Now I think you get branch and material and you sort of get your branch when you graduate, but I'm not sure.

JC: I know if they're in ROTC, they pick which branch for ROTC now. If they want to go navy ROTC --

RF: Oh, yes. See, we didn't have any navy or any air force. And when our son was there a year and with us paying the money for him, he got offered an air force ROTC scholarship for the last three years. Which we spoke to him and said, "You've got to serve five or six years or whatever," and he turned it down.

JC: Now, one thing I wanted to ask you was -- you were at Norwich when they still had the horse cavalry, correct?

RF: Correct.

JC: Can you talk a little bit about that?

RF: (Laughs) Well, I was a stellar horseman. They brought back the horses at the end of our sophomore year, the summer between sophomore and junior. As the graduate, you had to take equitation. So, I took equitation in my junior year and my claim to fame was I led the class in being thrown.

JC: (Laughs)

RF: (Laughs) My roommate at the time was about 5'4" and every day -- every Thursday when we went down for equitation, he got assigned the biggest horse, Burma. And he couldn't get up on the darn horse, because he fixed the stirrups the way you had to and they watched over you and made sure you did this, and he couldn't get up on the horse. And they had to boost him up. It was an interesting experience and something I really didn't want to continue. And they took the horses away at the end of our junior year. So, it was over.

JC: They came and they went within about a year.

RF: Yes.

JC: Now, how did Norwich prepare you for life?

RF: I think it brought out the -- my leadership aspects. I think I had some during elementary and junior high school. I think perhaps they faded in high school but they sure brought them out in being willing to step in and do something and to take charge when you had to. And I'm really quite proud of -- when the organization of Society of Plastics Engineers that I was executive director for the last 22 years of my civilian career, I had a president whom I was not close and some you get very close to and others you don't. At the annual meeting, after I retired, he asked me to make sure I was at the annual meeting, he had a poem that he did that went on and on and on, citing really my whole life. And at the end, he said he left us with many attributes. He represented us well in the plastics industry, he did this, he did that. But most of all, was his leadership that we value. And that was brought out later on by a couple of people that I was not particularly close to. (Laughs) They told my son, who ended up with the same organization, they told my son, "We really miss your father, because he always did what he said he would do and he did it on time and we knew exactly where we stood on every issue."

JC: Another question that we ask everybody in these oral histories is what does the Norwich motto "I Will Try" mean to you?

RF: I really don't know. I think it means you'll do the very best you can under any circumstances, whatever circumstances may confront you. And we use it here every day. I go out in the car and I leave Eleanor behind and she says to me, she says, "Drive safely," and I always reply with, "I will try." (Laughs)

JC: So, what did you do after you left Norwich?

RF: I only worked for two companies in my life. One was Dorr-Oliver, which was involved in the separation of liquids and solids, starting with ores but later got into sewage and water treatment and things such as that. And then for 33 years with the Society of Plastics Engineers. Which I got aimed into with the only two electives I ever had in my life at Norwich. I was ordered with 84 or 86 credits in chemistry and so much in math and physics and all this stuff and I took a course from Peter Dow Webster; a semester of advertising and a semester of public relations. And I enjoyed it. And I ended up doing this with Dorr-Oliver after I left the lab. And I applied for some way to do this kind of thing, with the Society of Plastics Engineers and got the job at SPE. And I did virtually every job -- the meetings manager, and the local sections and divisions coordinator, the publisher of four magazines, associate executive director and then, finally, executive director.

JC: So, you didn't go to Korea right after -- you ended up with deferment, correct?

RF: Correct. (Laughs)

JC: Now, how did that happen?

RF: I was with Dorr-Oliver in the labs and I got called into active duty. And they said this kind of thing could happen and the personnel director put up a statement that if any of you are called to active duty, let us know immediately. And I got called to be a filler second lieutenant in a Tennessee tank battalion. And down south, your country. (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs)

RF: And so, they put in, or I had to put in for it but they backed it up through the Department of Mines or the Department of the Interior. And I got strictly a political deferment. And I was the first one to get the deferment and they never lost anybody in the Korean War. And interestingly enough, the deferment was signed by I.D. White, who was the chief of staff for the second army, a major general in Governors Island. And he put a handwritten note on it. "I certainly don't enjoy giving a deferment to a Norwich man." (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs) I can understand that. Now, talk a little bit about what you did at Dorr-Oliver.

RF: I was -- as a result of the courses I took with advertising and public relations and getting back to my high school chemistry teacher, I wasn't -- chemistry was not my bag and how he recognized it, I don't know. I said I would like to get into advertising or public relations and they discouraged me. They said, "Well, we just hired a second guy for the ad department. So, chances are you're not going to do it." And four years later when the deferment was no longer necessary, they had an opening and I went down there as the third person in the ad department. After a merger, I went with my boss who was the ad director, who became the ad director of public relations at the revised corporation, and got involved in being the liaison for the technical and engineering societies and the technical publications. And that's what I gravitated into and then applied to SPE for a somewhat similar type of job, and got that job.

JC: And, so you continued doing that type of work for SPE and then became the executive director.

RF: For a short time. And then with changes and everything, why I ended up doing meetings when the meetings manager left. I ended up doing division when they had nobody to do the technical divisions, only because I had a technical background. And I ended up as an associate executive director and then when my boss got fired, I got the job.

JC: Let me see --

RF: Can I interject something here?

JC: Yes. Absolutely.

RF: I believe I was at Norwich in a very transitional time. In fact, as I look back on it, it was -- you'd never know what was coming next. When I went there, we had one dormitory, Hawkins, filled with cadets. And we took in, in the summer of '49, about 50 cadets who started in July and then about 50 others who started in September. And, I made a count of this, as it might be of interest. The ones that came in July, only 16 graduated. And in my class, the September class, only 11 graduated.

JC: Oh, really?

RF: We were losing guys like crazy to the draft. And I was young enough so I didn't get drafted until the war was -- I didn't get -- I didn't have to sign up for the draft until after V.E. Day and then V.J. Day came and they were drafting people -- they evidently didn't need me. The mistake the other guys made was going up to Montpelier to register for the draft. And in two weeks they might pick them off because they came from Long Island City or Aurora, New York or someplace they weren't locals. And seeing this, I went home to Westport to register for the draft. Where they knew me. (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs)

RF: For some reason, I never came up or they never had the quotas to fill or whatever. But, we had, at one dorm full of Norwich cadets. We had two dorms, I don't know what they call it now, it's Cabot, the one right next to it at the time. It might be Goodyear or something. With -- in Alumni Hall, we had four companies of fast tracks, army reserves specialized training guys who they sent to college for a year or so and then when they needed infantry troops they pulled them right out. They were -- at the end of my first year, they were gone. And we had enough when the Class of '50 came in, to fill two dormitories, Cabot and Hawkins. And in Cabot -- in Hawkins, pardon me, in Hawkins they had a veteran troop; some guys that wanted to take ROTC but came back -- but they had to wear a uniform if they took ROTC. And we had the veterans living in Alumni and fill/Phil/Bill (?) [0:31:02] Jackman Hall. And in my third year, why the cadets took over Alumni Hall. And, we had the veterans just in Jackman. And my fourth year, we had a few of the overflow senior bucks living in Jackman with the veterans because we didn't have enough room with the three existing dormitories. But it was -- I went through my yearbook and made a count. I had a hundred thirty-six in the class. And we had 27 that started that went through for four years and graduated --

JC: And graduated.

RF: -- as you would normally expect. And it was very, very transitional and very unusual. You'd never know what was coming next. In my sophomore year, we were loaded with veterans. They could wear their uniforms if they wanted to, if they didn't have civilian clothes. We had five lieutenant colonels walking around the campus. (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs)

RF: Which was unusual.

JC: You were also involved a lot in the Alumni Association.

RF: Yes.

JC: Can we talk about that a little bit?

RF: Yes. I -- somebody put my name in to run for the alumni board. This was like 1983. No, '81. And at that time, they had an election. They nominated three reasonably recent graduates and two were elected and two of the old timers, in which classification I fit in. And two of the three in both classes were elected. But, the problem was, the guy who was the oldest class, always lost, because nobody knew him. And, so, I was on the alumni board for three years and the system was, it may still be, that at the end of three years and four years, those eight guys were eligible and we have girls on there now, were eligible to be elected president of the alumni board. And we knew who was going to be elected. A fourth-year guy who had seemed to be in line forever. And, a third-year guy came up to me and asked me if he was going to run for alumni president and would I support him? And I made an immediate decision. He'd been on the board and never done a darn thing in my estimation and I had done a number of things. When I said, no, I couldn't support him because I was going to run. And, fortunately, we had every preponderance of Boston people and the rest from around the country, although not many outside New England. And I ended up splitting the Boston vote and I had three people in the Boston group whom I knew, who were my contemporaries, and I'm sure they voted for me. And it ended up we had 19 that voted and I got 10 so I got the majority in the first ballot. That was it. I also got hell from my wife when I told her. She said, "You never mentioned it." I said, "No, not until last night was I even thinking about running for office." (Laughs) And she didn't have the right clothes. (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs)

RF: And then from there, usually the outgoing alumni president is elected the alumni trustee for that year. And in the other year, when there's an outgoing president, it's somebody else who the alumni board recognizes is worth being an alumni trustee.

JC: So, you were on the board of trustees?

RF: For a five-year term.

JC: Five-year term.

RF: Yes.

JC: And what was that like being on the board of trustees?

RF: Oh, it was very interesting. There had to be the five alumni trustees but of the 30 of them, even the board, there were 22 of them that were alumni to begin with. And they supported the president very fairly, particularly when you had a take charge guy like Russ Todd, and I would guess, Harmon and Hart, President Hart. He was there between Harmon and Russ Todd. But it was interesting and I think this is where we were interrupted, that I tangled with Russ three times when I was on the board of trustees. I look upon it as I won one, I lost one and we tied one. (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs)

RF: The first was when he had the bright idea that we should form a Norwich University savings and loan association. And it could be a bank and put out loans to parents who wanted to bankroll their kids to go to Norwich. And I think I tied that one. Fred Haynes and myself of the Haynes Stadium were the only two that voted against it. But, within a year, they had the savings and loan association in crisis and they ended up selling of -- giving the very infantile savings and loan association they had to the bank which is now ensconced down there by -- was down there by the alumni center. I think that one I won decisively.

When I was chairman of the alumni board we did a survey of eight colleges that we had considered our equals, our size, Middlebury, Babson, I can't think of any of the others, St. Lawrence. We had two people on the board go to each school and ask certain questions as to how what they did --

(break in audio)

RF: We did this survey and compared how we stacked up with other schools in a number of different things that the Alumni Association did. And I was only on the board for one year. I was only a trustee for one year. And Russ came up with the idea that we would get a -- we would subscribe to some kind of alumni magazine where we had a four page insert, all the rest would be "pat" material. And a number of previously prepared and published that a number of schools did. And I called to his attention that we had done this survey and he had seen it and we stacked up very well with our alumni communications, in other areas we did not. But the communications -- and they like the Alumni Record the way it was. And I said, "I think we're going to do this." His only comment was, "I hear you," and he dropped it. We never had anymore --

Of course, the third thing I tangled with him on was when President Schneider came. And what they did was, they kept Russ on the board of trustees. And the Alumni Affairs Committee of the board the trustees felt this was wrong. The alumni association thought this was wrong. And that he should not be on the board when the new president arrived. I guess I didn't do a very good job with my point earlier with remaining Norwich graduates around, Russ insisted on leaving the room and I said, "I don't want you to because I'm not going to say anything I wouldn't say to your face." We ended up starting to discuss it and somebody made a motion that we elect him to the board of trustees and have somebody resign so it would be a vacancy. I said, "I resign everything." And I said, "This is the wrong way to do it." And I moved to table the motion until the next meeting. And the chairman at the time didn't even hear my motion. And I said, "This is a parliamentary motion and it supersedes all others." Which is does. And he just didn't even listen to me and he called for the vote and he was elected to the board of trustees. (Laughs) And he was on it until he was 70. And it was interesting because shortly thereafter we played our last game with Middlebury, football game, which was a very disappointing thing that we should give up or have to give up that rivalry which was over one hundred years and only because the conference that Middlebury was in, the Little Ivy League, said that you can only play within your own conference. And, my gosh, we get a call from Carol Todd -- were we coming up for the game. And we said, "Yes." And she said, "Will you stay with us." (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs)

RF: And this was a month after my tangling with him. (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs)

RF: And all my son could say was, "Who is going to taste your food." (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs)

RF: But we've come along very, very well with the Todds. And he was, he was a good president, a very good president.

JC: Now, you were also a proponent of merging with Vermont College, correct?

RF: Yes.

JC: Can you talk about that a little bit?

RF: (Laughs) It was very difficult to enact. I ended up, and I kept my secretary at SPE busy for a week, writing letters. And I wrote to the class agent of all the five-year classes and we substituted the name of VC class agent in the Norwich letters and the Norwich class agent in the VC letters trying to get them to coalesce. And this was, I think my last year on the alumni board. The only person I was successful in getting to march with our class was my lady. (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs)

RF: And she marched with the Class of '50. And some guy says, "Where did you come from? I never knew any girls in my class."

JC: (Laughs)

RF: And we got to our reunion and he wasn't having a reunion and he got there and at the start, he got up before we started the program, and he said, "Bob, I would" -- in front of everybody, -- he said, "Bob, I wouldn't have said what I did if I realized she was your wife." And he says, "I apologize." And Eleanor jumped up and she said, "You don't apologize to him, you apologize to me!" (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs)

RF: His wife got up and laughed at him and said, "That's wonderful!" (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs) Let me think, what else do I want to ask you about. Life milestones. What are your major milestones in life? Can you talk about those?

RF: Well, (Laughs) I was among the first to advocate a VC/Norwich union. And did so by marrying a gal who was the Class of 1950 from Vermont College. If I got the wrong year there, she'd kill me for that. (Laughs)

JC: I'll fix it on mine.

RF: And we had -- a number of other people did. And I think it was just very natural that you had a boy's school and essentially a girl's school 10 miles away. And it worked out very well. And the girl's school were willing to relax their rules whenever we had a dance or a big weekend or something such as that.

But, let me tell you, it was difficult enough having to ring a quarter of ten every Saturday night. (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs)

RF: Of course, I dated her only during her freshman year. During her second year, I was gone. (Laughs)

I think another milestone was having our son, Gary go to Norwich. Although he was not necessarily in accord with us. (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs)

RF: He was, unfortunately, he was a very good student, but he tested poorly in the SATs. And he applied for college when they were integrating some of the men's colleges, such as Bowden or Middlebury where he wanted to go. And they were also -- with females and they were also integrating them with as far as the Afro-Americans go and diverse Americans. So, he said, when a gal got accepted to Middlebury, he ranked something like eighth in his class out of 250. And a gal who was way down in the ratings got accepted at Middlebury and all he could say was, "She took my place." And it was probably true. And Norwich was a safety school. And he went there and went through. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the love for the place that I do. And I think part of that is because of his wife. And she just doesn't have anything to do with the military and that kind of thing.

And the reunion, when I was at his reunion. It falls the same five years as Eleanor's and it was -- he was up there for a reunion and it was when I was the alumni president and placed the wreathes on the graves and gave some of the awards and everything. And it was Eleanor's reunion year. And he was there and he drifts in after the alumni parade was over and after everything is over, with his buddy. And said, "We just didn't get up early enough." Which to me was crazy. And I don't think he's ever been back. I think that's the only reunion he was ever back for. And Dave Whaley, he's having a hell of a job getting any money out of him! (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs) I'm sure. And you have another son, Jeffrey, correct?

RF: Another son, Jeffrey and he said, "You don't think I'm going to go to Norwich and be a rook, when my brother is the regimental supply officer." (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs)

RF: He said, "It's just not going to happen." He loved Norwich. He went four years to the summer camp so he says that's his alumni. And he loved the athletic department. He learned to play soccer there and he was a star of the Wilton High School soccer team, as the goalie. He -- Joe Sable and Wally Baines were just his ideals. They were the ones that ran the summer camp.

And another thing that I could mention, the Norwich camaraderie. This flyer came for summer camp and I said, "Well, maybe the boys would like to go." And at the dinner table, I brought it up. I said, "There's a camp at Norwich. You may like to go. I'll drop it on your bed." And they said, "No way."

And a week later, they came to me and said, "You know, we think we'd like to do it." So, they did it. And the first week they were up there, it shows how soft-hearted they are, the first week they were up there, they called home on Sunday and reversed the charges, of course. Called home on Sunday and they were both in tears. First time they'd ever been away from home, and (inaudible) [0:11:14], and who walks by but (inaudible) Wally Baines. He says, "What's your problem?" And they said, "Well, we're talking to him at home." He took the phone, he says, "They're finished talking with you. We're going to put them to work." (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs)

RF: My son, Gary went back another year and Jeffrey went back three years they enjoyed it so much. And Gary called at the start of his sophomore year, and he said, "I can't believe what they're doing to these rooks." He was almost in tears. He said, "They shouldn't be doing this." I said, "Well, Gary, you went through this and it makes them better people." He said, "Yes, but I don't like to see them do it." He was just soft-hearted. (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs) Now, he graduated in '75.

RF: '75, yes.

JC: And Bob Hope was the commencement speaker.

RF: Yes.

JC: Do you want to talk about that a little bit?

RF: Well, that was -- Gary told us, for almost a year in advance, Hope was going to be their commencement speaker. And I said, "That's crazy. Bob Hope is not going to Norwich-- (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs)

RF: -- to be the commencement speaker." And, sure enough, he was. And came strutting in, typical Bob Hope. (Laughs) Making remarks to the audience and everything and it was just a wonderful occasion. The great disappointment was you could get up front and take a picture of your graduate getting their diploma from Hope. Which I did. And the development company that took -- we had them developed -- lost the negative. So, he doesn't have that.

JC: Oh, goodness! Tell me about some of the places that you've traveled. You said you traveled to England, France, Switzerland, Germany, Portugal, Ireland, Canada and Mexico.

RF: Some of these were vacation. Some were business. And all of them, Eleanor went along. I think the greatest trip we ever had, I was involved in an organization, The Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives -- who were guys who were executive directors like myself. About 130 in the U.S. and Canada. I ended up as president of the organization in about 1987, I guess it was. And, they had their annual meeting in San Francisco. And it was the year I came in a vice president. And we left home and went out to San Francisco for the annual meeting on Monday. We went out and it was over on Thursday night. And on Friday, we flew home. On Saturday -- it takes all day to get back from the West coast. On Saturday, Eleanor did the laundry, I did the lawn. And on Sunday, we left for my counterpart in Great Britain, the British Isles, his retirement party. We went over on the Concorde. Went to his retirement party and came back on the QE2. So, that was the most eventful two weeks we ever had.

JC: I bet it was something flying on the Concorde.

RF: Yes. Well, we left at noon from Kennedy and we got over there in time to have dinner. Which, otherwise, it's an overnight flight.

JC: Oh, yes. I've done that one a couple of times.

RF: And, the other countries -- we were bitten on cruises, both with our close friends and our closest friends over the years, have always been (inaudible) [0:15:24] alumni, the guys that I was associated with and their wives. One time, there were 18 of us, there are only four of us left now. And well two others that moved a long distance away. And we went on a cruise with them. And then we went on a cruise with Bro Park who used to be the alumni -- used to be the PR director at Norwich. Organized after he left Norwich. And there was the Mediterranean and we went to Alaska. And for our 50th anniversary, we took a cruise from the Hawaii Islands through the Hawaiian Islands and up to Victoria, British Columbia. And that's the way we got to a lot of these places. Mexico, we went to because we had two sections down there that we visited. And never were we so glad to get back to this country and be able to have a salad and some good water in New Orleans. (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs) Well, there's always good food in New Orleans.

RF: Oh, yes.

JC: What is your favorite memory of Norwich?

RF: I don't think I could pick it out.

JC: (Laughs)

RF: I have -- no really, I have so many good memories that I couldn't have one above the other.

JC: Well, is there one of those memories that we haven't talked about?

RF: I don't know. No, I don't think so. I think maybe this time we didn't -- well, it's not a favorite memory, it's a humorous memory. I don't think we talked about it. Some of the veterans, in either -- I think it was the beginning of my junior year, pulled out by the roots, the parking meter in Montpelier. And they came and installed it in President Dodge's private parking spot. Dug it into the ground and everything. And we got up in the morning for reveille and here's the parking meter. (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs)

RF: Which the Montpelier Police came over and traded it at a later date.

JC: Well, let me ask you this. What was it like being a teenager during World War II?

RF: Well, (Laughs) I was too young to get my driver's license until my senior year. But I think the biggest thing was the lack of transportation. And I was on the football team in my senior year, and we had to take a common carrier, a bus that -- had to get dressed, walk up to the bus route, then get on the bus, common carrier, to go to Fairfield. And get off the bus and walk to their field because you couldn't get enough parents that had enough gas coupons and or you couldn't hire a bus because they couldn't get the gas for a football game. So, -- (Laughs)

JC: Was there anything else that you'd like to add, that we haven't talked about?

RF: I'll think of all of them after you leave.

JC: (Laughs)

RF: That will happen you know.

JC: That will happen. Let me see if there's anything I haven't -- we haven't discussed.

RF: I enjoyed my days in the Army Reserve. The tank battalion I was in, we had a great bunch of officers. But the enlisted men we had were out of the bowels of Bridgeport. And these guys, you never knew what kind of a scrape they were going to get into or anything, but they were the best damn enlisted men. I was a supply officer for the battalion. We got ready to turn in our equipment and (Laughs) we were short something like 40 gas cans. Where would 40 gas cans go? The resupply sergeant said, "Don't worry. Me and the boys will have them by morning." And I go over at 6:30 in the morning and here's the 40 gas cans. Lined up. And you know where they got them. (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs)

RF: I've seen them -- I've seen them stop a jeep, two of them, stop a jeep and ask directions. And in the confusion and everything, the first one is talking to the driver and the other one unhitches that gas tank off the back and that's the way they got them. (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs)

RF: They could do anything, really. And the battalion commander thought I could get anything done. (Laughs) And it was only because of these guys --

JC: Yes.

RF: -- that did it.

JC: Well, can you think of anything else?

RF: No. I'm very pleased of graduating from the general's staff school. After I'd been in the reserves maybe two or three years. I said, "I'm going to do 20 years." I said, "I'm going to go to the command and general staff school, and, I'm going to make lieutenant colonel." And I made all three of those.

JC: So, you retired a lieutenant colonel.

RF: And, as you might say, I'm on the dole now, because I did 20 years and it wasn't until about 19 -- no 2002 that Senator Warner from Virginia said, "You have to treat retired reservists the same as the regular army reservists." And up until that time, I was on my own for health care and everything else. That action by the congress -- I got Tricare and prescriptions paid for and every other darn thing. So, what was so -- and I think, now deceased Senator Warner, who was Elizabeth Taylor's last husband I think. (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs)

RF: I think that's about it.

JC: Okay. Well, I thank you very much for this interview. It will be a great addition to our collection. And I will --