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R. William Pemberton '49

Sullivan Museum and History Center, Norwich University


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R. William Pemberton, NU 1949, Oral History Interview

April 24, 2015

Interviewed by Sarah Yahm

R. WILLIAM PEMBERTON: (inaudible) [00:00:01]

SARAH YAHM: I think our levels are perfect, actually.

RWP: Did I forget something? Good voice?

SY: Good voice. So, could you introduce yourself for the tape?

RWP: OK, I am R. William Pemberton, and a, was a student at Norwich in class of 1949. Now I'm being interviewed by a young lady named Sarah, and we're going to talk about my life, I guess, we're going to talk about it.

SY: We are, we're going to talk about your life. So, where were you born?

RWP: I was born in Greenport, Long Island, New York, 20th day of June, 1926.

SY: And what'd your parents do?

RWP: Well, my parents? That's a very interesting story. My mother, Gladys Kruger, came to Greenport as a schoolteacher, she was born up in -- a pure German parentage -- up near [Lockport?], New York, on Lake Ontario. And she came to Greenport as a schoolteacher, for art, teaching art. And then met my Dad. My Dad was the oldest of 13 children, and he had hardly any education at all because he had to go to work right away to help support the family. So, this was right during the Depression era. And because, back in those days -- when women, teachers weren't married, and they didn't have babies and so on, so -- they both went to work for my uncle, on a truck farm in Orient, Long Island, which was seven miles east of where we lived, and then -- we were there until I was five years old. And --

SY: What's your first memory? The first thing that you remember, what is it?

RWP: First thing I remember. I don't remember being any, a child, naturally. In Greenport, I remember being on the farm down there, I can remember that, when they rebuilt the road, and realigned the road and made it concrete to Orient Point, to the Point. And that would have been, probably in 1928, '29.

SY: Nineteen twenty-eight.

RWP: Nineteen twenty-eight, yes.

SY: Twenty-nine, OK.

RWP: Yeah, and, like I said, we were there until 1931, when I was old enough to go to Kindergarten, so then we moved back to the village of Greenport. But I have one, one story I'd like to tell, I don't know whether (laughter) -- because that was during Prohibition times. And the farmhouse that we had was right near the Long Island Sound. And, this one night, my dad got my mother and I up, and there was a lot of shooting going on and so on, and had -- rum boat pulling out of the village, and. But they caught this one, the Artemis, right up in back of our farm. They shot the boat up quite a bit, then the, the crews had thrown off part of their load, and couple of men got wounded and so on and so forth. And after it had all quieted down, I -- never heard the conversation, but -- my father said to my mother, "You know," he says, "Glad, I'm going to go up and" -- he was quite a swimmer -- and he says, "I'm going to go up and we're going to find some of that booze." And by God. He went up in that rowboat, and that whole farmhouse attic was full of [Haig & Haig's Pinch?] bottle scotch, and Goiden Wedding whiskey (laughter). I can remember that we had a lot of parties then. And, he carried that into the village, and -- I'll continue with this, OK? -- and of course, back in those days we had no radio, we had no TV and things like that, we didn't even have a vehicle, a car. And lo and behold, I got into music quite a bit, and there was a place in the village that sold records. So this one Christmas, Dad shows up with a Philco, that's a radio that's pull the front open and it had the place for the records and that, he bartered whiskey for that.

SY: And what music did he play --

RWP: -- but that, at that --

SY: -- on that record player?

RWP: But prior to that, that was another thing, too. Prior to that, we always, we sat and talked a lot after dinner. And that was, that was one of -- as far as parents, I couldn't have asked for better parents in my life.

SY: What'd you talk about?

RWP: We talked -- everything. I mean, you know, we'd discuss everything, you know what I'm saying. And I can only remember one time that my mother was crying because we didn't have any money. We had a dollar left in the whole house, you've got to know my dad. "Well," he said -- it was a Sunday, and it was a rainy day -- he said, "We've got a dollar," he says. "Why don't we go to the movies this afternoon?" So here we go, we put on our raingear and we head down to the village, we're walking down through. And wouldn't you know, I'm walking ahead of him. And here's a dollar bill, floating down in the gutter. So I picked it up and handed it to my father, and there we had two dollars. So we had a dollar, we to the movies, and we had another dollar left over. But that was the only time that I ever remember that there was ever anything said or done about the fact we had nothing.

SY: So you don't remember growing up with anxiety about it, even though your parents must have been frightened?

RWP: No. No. Well, they never showed it to me, and they never argued, never. There was never any coarse words ever, and that was the wonderful thing. And I learned an awful lot. And my mother was, like I said, a very learned person. And my dad, of course, had no education. And she taught us to read a lot, and we read an awful lot. And my father, for what education he had, was the most knowledgeable person I've ever talked to. He was, he was really great. And oh, it was, it was a wonderful upbringing, you know.

SY: Did you play outside a lot, on this farm?

RWP: Oh, yes. I was outside all the time. I was in the water all the time. I swam like, you know, an eel, good lord's sakes. And, and -- from the Depression, I will never eat another rabbit, we ate too many rabbits, you know. And at that time I was allergic to seafood, and I couldn't eat seafood, which was very prevalent at the place there, but I'm out of that now.

SY: Did you catch the rabbits? Did your dad catch the rabbits?

RWP: Dad shot them. They worked on the farm, we always had fresh vegetables, and so on, from there.

SY: So you always had food to eat?

RWP: Just regular food. Well, it was regular food, it was, you know, nothing special. Just potatoes, the meat of the rabbit or whatever, chicken. Of course vegetables, they have all kinds of vegetables. You had the cauliflower, you had the onions, you had the beans, you had the cucumbers, and all that sort of stuff. And with the meal, desserts (inaudible) [00:06:43]. The folks smoked an awful lot. Everybody smoked back in those days. I mean, I never did, but whatever. So. But it was good. And of course, I went through the school system there, in the village, and I played a lot of sports. And that gets to the point, working towards how I came to come here. I played a lot of sports then, when I turned 17 in June of 1943, my dad gave me permission to enlist in the Air Force. And so with his permission, I got on the train, rode 100 miles into New York City, enlisted in the Air Corps, Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet Program, and was accepted, physically and mentally, and they recommended that I join the Civil Air Patrol unit, which, when I got back home, I did, it was out of [Patchogue?], Long Island, which is in the middle of the island, we call it McArthur Field, and I flew quite a few missions as an observer, looking for German submarines, from Patchogue, or McArthur Field, up into, up to the Cape, and then back down again, it was about a two-hour flight.

SY: Let's back up a second, let's rewind a little bit. So do you remember Pearl Harbor?

RWP: Yes, I do, very much so.

SY: Where were you, what were you thinking?

RWP: I was, -- we had a daybed in the living room of the house that we rented, and I remember, we had the radio on at that time. And that's when I heard about Pearl Harbor. And actually, the very interesting part about the war, too, was the fact that my dad was too old to go, he was, just too young for World War I, just a little bit too old for World War II. But he had six brothers. His youngest brother was a year older than I am. So there were seven of us that were in service, plus three brothers-in-law. So there was a total of ten out of one family, and only one got shot up pretty bad he was in the Marines. And he got shot up pretty bad in [Guadalcanal?], out in the Pacific. But he, he made it.

SY: But only one?

RWP: Only 1 out of 10.

SY: So do you remember, you were a young boy, you might have been a bit of a hothead, were you like eager to get into the fight? Or --

RWP: Yeah, well definitely. I always wanted to fly. You know, I was always, always, you know, I built model airplanes and all that. As a matter of fact, I got a whole bunch of them out here I'm trying to get rid of, --

SY: Had you seen an airplane before, at that point?

RWP: Yeah. Well, that's another thing. I don't know where the money came from, I -- when we moved back to the village, I was over five. Probably seven or eight years old. A barnstormer came in, an old biplane, open cockpit, and landed in the field up there, and somehow Dad -- I don't know where Dad got the money, but -- we, he and I, went up in that plane, and I was hooked right from that day on. I mean, you know, ... And I flew a few other times, in private aircraft, before I went in the Civil Air Patrol.

SY: So you knew, you knew that's what you wanted to do?

RWP: Oh yes, definitely.

SY: From when you were a little boy?

RWP: No. No, I always wanted to fly and I wanted, and all that. I, you know, a lot of guys went with the Naval Air arm, I wanted to go with the Army air, you know --

SY: Why did you want to go with the Army and not the Navy --

RWP: I don't really know, you know? I, I think about it and I laugh because I had to land on a carrier. I thought, you know, I might have trouble land-- but no, I never had trouble with that. There was, you know, short field landings and takeoff, I always was good at that, but. I don't know, most of the guys went in the, in the Army. Matter of fact, whole backfield of me, I've got a football picture, the whole backfield went, the whole team went and was in service. It was great; we only lost one guy out of the team. He was killed in Normandy.

SY: So it was expected that you would go in?

RWP: Yeah. I mean, it was expected --

SY: And that you would volunteer --

RWP: Yeah.

SY: -- not wait to be drafted?

RWP: Yeah, oh, I volunteered, no, I wouldn't be drafted.

SY: So OK, so tell me about these flights from the island up to the Cape and back, what were you thinking about on those flights, what were they like?

RWP: Well, it was -- in a way, it was stupid. We were looking for German submarines. You don't see a German submarine during the day. There were German submarines all over the place up there, at night, and they came up to charge their batteries, they'd come up at night, or they'd come up on a foggy day and you couldn't see them. But we flew and we looked, and I saw a lot of whales and so on and so forth, but never saw any submarines.

SY: Was it still cool, though? Did you still enjoy it?

RWP: Oh sure, I enjoyed it, it was good, lord. Saying, here I am, about 17 years old, (laughter) it was all --

SY: Seventeen years old?

RWP: -- private aircraft.

SY: You're in your own plane, you're looking at whales?

RWP: Looking for whal-- well, we'd see whales, yeah, you'd see whales and stuff. (laughter) No German submarines.

SY: Did you each, at a certain point, were you like, "We're not going to see the submarines," or did you still hope to see one, or think you'd see one?

RWP: Always hoped, you always hoped. It was, there was a chance. You know, there was always chance. Of course you had, we had -- in the village, we had shipyards, and they were making wooden minesweepers, and they had another section that they made the metal landing craft that they men, the LSTs. So that was a, a spot that could have gotten shot up a little bit. And then right across the way, in the Sound, we had New London, Connecticut, which -- you had the submarine base over there. So there was, it was very possible that you could have seen. But not during the day, oh yes.

SY: Do you remember what it was like? Because you were, because you were still in the US during the war, do you remember -- were you living on base, or were you living --

RWP: No, I commuted. I had, and I had special gas privileges so I could go with the car, Dad's car. We had the car by that time. He went to work in the shipyards. He did the bright work on the, well, the varnish work and stuff, on the wooden boats. And he, we had to get gas rationed, of course. So I would drive the 50 miles to -- no, I wasn't on base, no.

SY: You commuted to the war. (laughter) Did your mother go to work in the factories then, was she one of the Rosie the Riveters?

RWP: Well -- my mother? No, (inaudible) [00:12:50]. But by that time she had, they, both parents worked all the time anyway. We never had anything. By that time, she had gone into the library. And she was, she was to become the librarian. And she had to go, she went back to Syracuse in the summer, the early summers, before I went in service, to get certification, and I used to go up and stay with my grandmother up in Occott, New York, which is right on Lake Ontario. Oh no, we had, you know, it was the usual thing there, they had the war bond drives, and they had the victory gardens, and so on.

SY: Do you remember rationing, did you have a ration card? Rationing?

RWP: Oh, rationing. Yes, we were rationed for everything, yeah. Good lord, yes. Even the cigarettes-- of course I used to make the cigarettes for the folks, they had a little machine. You put the stuff in there, and you roll it, and so on and so forth. And you had to correct it, you know, so it wasn't too tight and all that sort of stuff, for them. But they all smoked pretty hard, Dad smoked a pipe a lot.

SY: But you never smoked, why not?

RWP: Oh no no, I never did while I was in service, and I never did until I got out, and I never started smoking until I went to work for [New York Tel?]. Then I started with cigars, and then I smoked pipe, I quit about 20 years ago.

SY: Well, it certainly didn't --

RWP: My wife, and my wife --

SY: -- cut your life short.

RWP: -- and I quit about the same time. You know, no problem, we just said, "We're going to stop," so we stopped. (inaudible) [00:14:15] a lot of people have problems and all that, is what I'm saying.

SY: Yeah. But you didn't. Any other, do you remember -- I don't know. Blackout curtains, and things like that?

RWP: Oh, yeah. We had blackout curtains. And of course we had the, the lights on the cars, to dim the (inaudible) [00:14:31] all that sort of stuff. We had a -- antiaircraft battery, stationed right there in Greenport, they had, up on the Sound, they had guns in placements places, and of course there was [Fort Terry?] off the end of Long Island, which is now, was a hoof-and-mouth-disease lab, but at that time it was a fort and had heavy guns there, and quite a few people, who were in the artillery, that came from Northfield. And there were guys stationed there that I knew.

SY: Interesting.

RWP: But no, it was, it was an interesting time. I, I don't know what else I can talk about, about it, we've --

SY: What music were you listening to, and what were you doing for fun?

RWP: Well, it was big band stuff, mostly. Of course, when I was a kid before the war, at that time, I'd jump on the dawn train and go down to New York City and listen, you know, you could go to a movie down there, and before the movie -- or, after the movie -- they'd have a big band, one of the big bands would come up out there, and they'd play, and then I'd go on the train, got on the train, come on home again at night.

SY: When your dad traded whiskey for the record player, what records did you buy?

RWP: I, well, the record -- probably got, still, a lot of them -- well, most of it was [Artie Shaw?], Benny Goodman. Tommy Dorsey and Jimmy Dorsey, and on the big, all the big bands and stuff.

SY: And is that still your favorite music?

RWP: And then it was on the radio, too, they had the -- and Martin Block were on. Make Believe Ballroom. And he played for an hour at night, he played, all the big band stuff. And then they had, at that time, there were two magazines out, the Metronome and the Down Beat, came out every month and told who was in the bands and all that stuff. It was interesting.

SY: And did you mention before that you played music?

RWP: Yes.

SY: What did you play?

RWP: Well, I played saxophone. I had a big band in high school. And, and after the war, of course, came back here and, and then from here, when I went down home, one of the guys from town had, was a saxophone player, and he had gotten wounded pretty badly in the Pacific, and so as a rehab situation, we put together a six- or seven-piece band for him, and we played up until '64, I guess, played real steady.

SY: Really? What steady gigs?

RWP: It was good stuff.

SY: All over the island?

RWP: Yes, all over the island, all over the end of the island, worked mostly nights. Played country clubs, dinners, and weddings. We played American and Polish, had a lot of Polish people down there. That was another thing about my village, it was very diversified. And I have to laugh to tell you -- to talk about diversification in Burlington and so, it's not diversification. When I grew up down there, we had every nationality in that village you could think of, I was --

SY: So who was there, in the village?

RWP: -- I was at their house, they were at my house, you know, we, you know, I ate all the different foods.

SY: So your mom was German, there were a lot of Polish folks in the village. Who else was there? What food were you eating when you were at their houses? What do you remember?

RWP: Well, that, people we had, we had Swedish, we had a lot of Irish, German. We had every national-- no Chinese, we didn't have any Chinese. They had the two brick yards in the area.

SY: Any Jews?

RWP: Hmm?

SY: Any Jews?

RWP: Yes, we had a very good Jewish community. Very good community. And then -- mostly merchants, of course. No, it was, it was a very, a great place to grow up, really.

SY: And who had the best food?

RWP: It's a good question. There was a restaurant in town called Mitchell's, and we used to end up there quite a bit. And -- always had good hamburgers, and all that, and beer. And during the war, it was great. When I went home a couple of times the (inaudible) [00:18:21] back with people and guys, and, guys and gals, and. A lot, and the summers were very interesting, you had a lot of, you know, city people would come out and so on. The boats and things.

SY: What were they like?

RWP: Nice. A lot of fun.

SY: What were the city people like? And did you guys, was it, did you interact with them?

RWP: Yeah, somewhat. I wasn't, I didn't chase women, I could have chased the girls, but there were quite a few girls around there with me. They had a Jersey colony, they were in what they called Sandy Beach, they had all the cottages there. They, they were all nice people, you know, they had nice people. I had the Hamptons of the district, I don't know if you knew the Hamptons and all that, Montauk and so on.

SY: Oh boy.

RWP: Yeah. And. (laughter) But no, they were nice people. And the whole village were nice people.

SY: Do you remember --

RWP: I could tell one story about, about the colored people. I don't know what you're going to do with this, but.

SY: Well, we're going to --

RWP: We had a gal named Josephine. She was colored. She was ahead of me in high school, a couple years. She married a fellow named -- we called him Beano. And he ended up, after the war, as our mailman. And Josephine was in the organizations, and everything (inaudible) [00:19:47]. In '66 we moved back here, in that summer, Beano and Josephine show up with their little RV and the kids, they stayed around here, and that following morning, we were sitting here at the kitchen table, having breakfast and everything, I said, "Josephine, how's the village doing these days?" She says, "Bill," she says, "you know, if it wasn't for those damn niggers, it would be fine." And I don't --

SY: But she herself was black --

RWP: -- know what you might call it, black. The reasoning was this. Coloreds that I knew and grew up with were real old colored people, they were very proud. They knew enough. We had an, an area, a time there when they couldn't get people to work on the farms. They'd bring the, the coloreds came up from the South, and they had their colored, you know, they had their camps that they stayed in. And every year, a certain number of them would stay on welfare. And the poor people -- I mean, I saw it when I went into the service --

SY: Do you want to get some water?

RWP: No, maybe in a minute. They, they got freedom and they couldn't handle it. And consequently, they, you know, it was, they got to be bad, it's bad right now, they tell me, down there. But that's what she meant. She was one of the proud, you know, the proud type that was there before.

SY: Interesting. So let's go back to the end of the war. Do you remember the day the war ended?

RWP: Which one?

SY: World War II.

RWP: Of course I wasn't in service, and I went to Camp Dix first, and. Before I went down to -- Biloxi on the troop train, my work, for a couple of weeks, with a German prisoner. That German prisoner was there --

SY: Wait, wait. So you're, you're flying up and down, that's for the Army --

RWP: That was before, Army, yeah.

SY: OK. And then --

RWP: Right, I reported to the Air Force, but I reported to Fort Dix. And then from Fort Dix I went, troop train, to Biloxi, Mississippi, for basic, basic training. Went through basic, did more testing and all that stuff, qualified for fighter pilot, and you asked me about the end of the war. Well, OK. So we went into training, [first line?], so on and so forth, that came to an end and about the time it ended, the war in Germany was over. So that relieved all of these pilots, bombardiers and navigators, to be used wherever they needed. And we never did go to -- we got wings and stuff, but we never went to, through into transition as to what we're going to fly, end up flying. So I never flew a fighter.

SY: So did you think, for a while, you were going to go to the Pacific?

RWP: No, well. The guys came back from Europe, what they needed they took to the Pacific and so on, they had, you know, they had a lot of guys that had the experience, and they took them. So another guy and I, Teddy Sutherland, ran a, they send us to Scott Field, Illinois, we ran a mess hall there. And then the war in Japan was over. So there wasn't any, you know, they ask if you want to stay in, no. I'd had enough. I didn't, you know, I could see that it wasn't going to be what I really wanted to do --

SY: Why not?

RWP: I don't know. Because it's, I really wasn't the (inaudible) [00:23:25], I was a maverick anyway. So.

SY: You didn't want to be told what to do?

RWP: I went by the rules but I wasn't, I was, you know, anyway. I had a lot of, I was quite a guy. But I liked to fly, loved to fly. Anyway. So I got out, and...

SY: What about those, you said there were German prisoners of war?

RWP: Yeah.

SY: Where, where?

RWP: Down -- oh, yeah. Oh, they were all over the place. They had them in Maine, they had them over in New York, they had them down at the camp, Fort Dix, working on the warehouses.

SY: Did you have any interactions with them? Did you speak German? Your mother did.

RWP: I spoke to them, they couldn't, no. They, very little, you know, English, they couldn't. Very little German I knew. They weren't very friendly, I mean. They were, but that was just for a couple of weeks, and then we, I was gone. So I got out of service, I didn't know what, we are getting to the point now. We've still got to go back to high school, you know. I played quite a bit of sports, OK? So it got down to the last, last baseball game of the season, and I'm going to graduate from high school, and I'm going to go in the Air Force. And at the last baseball game, and I was supposed, I knew I was supposed to be in school, I didn't go to school in the morning. I (inaudible) [00:24:42] at noon, and I went in to get dressed in the afternoon, right before the game, and the coach called me over, he, "Billy," he goes, "you can't dress." I said, "What do you mean, I can't dress." He says, "You didn't go to school this morning." I said, "So? But you need me." He says, "Yeah, we need you, but the rules say you can't play." And this is not me at all. I got mad. I went in, got my uniform, and I threw it on his desk. I says, "I quit." OK, that's Friday. Monday morning came over the -- thing in the room, to the teacher, that Bill Pemberton report to the coach's office. I went down, it was my father, who worked at the school. It was the coach. The coach says, "Bill," he says, "I hate to tell you this, but that little thing you pulled Friday afternoon cost you a full four-year scholarship at Ithaca."

SY: No.

RWP: Yeah.

SY: How did it? Really?

RWP: Yeah.

SY: You didn't know you had the scholarship?

RWP: No, I didn't have any ideas. I mean, I didn't care. I was, I was, wanted to go off, go flying anyway. So anyway, after the war, I came home, I didn't know what I was going to do, Mom wanted me to go to New York City, to school. I didn't want to go to college in the city; I'm not a city guy. And I, one of the instructors I'd had in the Army, he went to North Carolina, work of the Scotland Flying Service, and he wanted me to come down there and go crop-dusting with him, I said, I might go do that. Then I got a letter from Norwich. Would you want to come up there and play football for us? I said to my mother, "Where the hell's Vermont, and what is Norwich?" (laughter) So anyway, I did show, and I did, I said, I saw your flyer, then they... I went back to school down there for a month, and then brushed up on some of my math, which was not that great. And then next I reported up here, and I started school here and --

SY: As a cadet, or as a civilian?

RWP: No, no. I was civilian. We, anybody that, we had World War II, had experience. And so that's how I came here, I came here in January of '46. And at that time, the feeling was very negative between the village and Norwich. Very negative.

SY: Why?

RWP: And I have to think. And I have to say that the group, the people that I came in with -- nobody talked about the war anyway. I mean, they never did. Three guys were in my room, two, three of us, and all three pilots, nobody ever talked about who was where, and wherever.

SY: Why were things hostile between the town and the college?

RWP: Because -- I hate to say this, but I, I think that, you know, they, they always figured that the people, this was a -- Vermont is Vermont. And back in those days, we were, you know, you were, it was really rugged people that lived there. Not very much education. And the people that came here, and got educated, and went on, they felt, well, they didn't like it because they were, they thought they were better. And I guess they had that attitude, that they were, they felt they were better than them and they really weren't. I mean, I --

SY: It wasn't because the cadets were rabble-rousing?

RWP: No no, not that much. No, they weren't downtown that much anyway. So as, like I said, I worked all over the place. There, I was, there used to be a Firestone store down, down across the way, [Nobby Knees?] is down there now, I worked as a lowly saw mill or wherever, Cumberland Farms is out, further outside of town there. I worked up at the airport, worked there. I was a, matter of fact, I've got a picture over there someplace, a lifeguard. The first lifeguard that they had at the pool, in '46. Myself, and another guy named Frank, from Norwich. That's, I've got a picture of that over there somewhere.

SY: What were you saying about the guys in your room? You said you didn't talk about the war, and then I think you were about to --

RWP: Didn't talk about the war at all.

SY: -- to go somewhere with that.

RWP: Matter of fact, one of the guys, the other guy, my bud, Buschor, was in my class. Bud Baschor and Bob Cole. Bob was a Navy pilot, and Bud was Army, big. Four-engine guy.

SY: That's the picture of you as a lifeguard?

RWP: That was me when I was at Norwich, anyway, that one, there. (inaudible) [00:29:32]

SY: Look at you, that dapper young man.

RWP: That was.

SY: And you're lifeguarding. In those little short-shorts.

RWP: Oh, yeah. I still do. (laughter) I still do. I still do, by golly. And of course that was high school there, too, but anyway. This was my uncle. He was in the Marines and got shot up during, in Okinawa, Guadalcanal.

SY: Did he survive?

RWP: He, he survived, yeah. He just, matter of fact, he just, he just died, just a few months ago.

SY: Just a few months ago.

RWP: Yeah, he was 92.

SY: Wow. There's a lot of longevity in your family.

RWP: Yeah, very much so. Not to have made it, of course, I was home on one leave.

SY: OK. So you're at Norwich, you're working in town, you're playing football --

RWP: Yeah, I'm going to school. Going to school.

SY: -- You're going to school, and what was it like for you? How, did you like it?

RWP: Oh, I loved it, I loved it. But it didn't love me. And the fact was that I had trouble with the higher math. And I had, and I did my two years, and by that time I was married and we had a daughter, Jo-Anne, who was born in Montpelier.

SY: How did you meet your wife?

RWP: I'll tell you a story. (laughter) I was working at the airport up here, Barre/Montpelier Airport. And one of the guys that came in there was a fellow from town, I'm not going to mention names on it, and he was taking flying lessons, and so on. And he says, "Well, what are you doing for excitement?" And I said, "Nothing," I says, "I'm working, and I'm going to college." He says, "Do you, would you like to go out with me sometime on a double date?" I said, "I guess so." So I said, "You set it up," so he did. And we went out on a double date, he set me up with a girl named Doris Gokie, from up on Main Street, I didn't really care for Doris too well. And he, at that time, was going with my wife, Winona. So at night -- of course, at that time, the corner store, down there, was open at night. So I'd walk down, get a cup of coffee, and she'd walk down to get a cup of coffee. And i started walking her home. So it got to be a thing after a while. Roger's a nice guy. Anyway, but. That's another story too. We were both at Scott Field. I didn't -- of course, he says, he said, "Well, I was going to radio school at Scott Field." I said, "Well, I was at Scott Field, anyway." He said, "I was going with this girl in [O'Fallon?], Illinois. I said, oh, is that right? He says, "Yeah, I got her picture." "Oh, I says, yeah, her name was" -- I forget what it was now -- I was going with the same girl. (laughter) Didn't know it.

SY: You guys.

RWP: She was also high school. It was, it was platonic. It wasn't any big deal, no, no. But I didn't -- that little redhead. Isn't that so. Anyways, so. So it came to pass that Winona and I did get married. I was still working at the airport. And at that time, what I would do, I, they'd drop me off down at the, in Montpelier, and I'd hitchhike home from there. It's, you know, hitchhike. So this older couple picked me up one night, and we're driving through, I'm in the backseat of the car. The guy says, "You know Roger Sears?" And I, I'd mentioned that name, OK. I says, "Yeah, I know him well." "God," he says, "terrible what happened to him." I says, "Well, what happened to him?" He says, "some guy stole his girlfriend." I said, "Oh, is that right." (laughter) I wasn't about to say, "Me."

SY: Yeah. They'd throw you out of that car.

RWP: Dump me right on the road somewhere.

SY: Exactly. That's hilarious.

RWP: But no, it was -- I loved Northfield, I loved the people; it just did remind me so much of home. But the, the main thing is, I think, and I had two brother-in-laws that never, never went to school. And they -- I wonder what word to use, but I can't think of it now -- they always felt that they were inferior, but they were not, you know. My dad's the same way. He never felt that way, though, because he, like I said, you could talk to him about anything in Eden, and these guys were the same way. They were really workers. They just, an inferiority complex, is what they had.

SY: OK. So you were, were you an engineering major?

RWP: I was mechanical, supposedly.

SY: So though the math was hard.

RWP: Yeah. And of course, like I said, I (inaudible) [00:33:58] not going home, then when I went home, and I worked, you know, I started work or what.

SY: So how did you end up leaving Norwich?

RWP: I didn't, I couldn't pass. I -- calculus and stuff, I could not see. And then --

SY: You didn't want to switch majors?

RWP: No, I couldn't, back in those days, if I remember, I'm trying to remember. There wasn't items to switch to. That's when I went back down there, and I -- because I figured it'd be more employment down there -- and a friend of my father's worked for New York Tel, and he said that they were hiring. So I went into New York City, and I interviewed, the man says very quietly, he says, "You know, Mr. Pemberton, I can't hire you." I says, "What do you mean, you can't hire me." He says, "You're overqualified." I says, "Oh, my." He says, "You had two years of college," I says, "Look. I just got out of the service, I'm married, I got a daughter. All I know about the telephone company is, they drive green trucks." I says, "I want a job." He says, "All right, if you're so smart, I'll start you out at a dollar an hour." I said, "Fine." And I went seven years, I learned the business, and then I was, of course I was in management. I didn't know it, but I was in the management pool. And one in engineering. And I, they, and -- this is what I like about this compared to Norwich -- Norwich is a hell of a good school, don't get me wrong, but what I had to do, I worked at what I did and earned my education as an engineer. And I did what I did, you know. And I did, and I proved it. And I never, I always loved every bit of it. It was, and it was recognized by the honor society, you know, the National Honor Society, because of being an engineer. But I did better by going there, and doing that, than I had if I'd finished here.

SY: You learned, you're a person --

RWP: You see what I'm saying? I worked right at it, I learned, you know, I learned the whole job. I worked the seven years, knew the business, then I, and applied myself to it.

SY: So did you ever end up getting a degree? Getting the college degree?

RWP: No, no.

SY: No? But you didn't need it because you knew how to do it?

RWP: Didn't need it. I know, I did, I did it, and I had my titles and everything else. And then in '66, the, I did, I mean, it's surprising, what I did. I even surprised myself. I never brought it home, that was one of those things, I never discussed it with my wife, with the family, or anyone else. Pressure never bothered me, I just went at it, but I always took care of it. In '66, I was very disenchanted, became disenchanted with Bell.

SY: Why?

RWP: Because the fact was, number one. Our growth, on the island, was dropping down. They had, what they had done, had centralized the engineering, put us in Patchogue, which is the middle of the island -- in my district, I had the Hamptons, and so on, which we will, we can discuss if you want to discuss -- and it meant, and I had to commute 100 miles a day, 50 miles to work. Then to get a company car and go all the way to Montauk Point, or Southampton, or something like that. And then they started to, they started with their college hiring program. Where they hired these new guys right out of college, put them in second- or third-line jobs, and... They didn't know the business, and all they worried about was the bottom line, which is fine, but you're there to provide service. You're there, and that's what I did for 50 years, provide service. And -- intimidation came in, and stuff like that, which we'd never had before, Bell was a, a fun place to work.

SY: Intimidation? Who was intimidating who?

RWP: The, the management people, you know, were intimidating the working people. You know, you make my name bad if you don't do a good job, and I get a bad name out of it, you're not going to get your raise, you're not going to get anything. What the heck is this, I've never heard of this before. So anyway. So that's what happened. So in '66, I contacted -- one of the guys in the band was, [Walt Henry?], he played guitar. And he, he lived up the street here, I of course, I had an apartment over in my, you know, up there. We went to school together. He became [Dufresne and Henry Engineering?], out of Springfield, Vermont, hell of a nice guy. Very good friends with General Todd, I know General Todd real well, too. And he, I told him, I was looking for work up here. And of course, he said, "I don't have any use for telephone engineer on my -- but," he says, "Gardener Hopwood does, do you remember him?" I says, "Yes." Gardener started here. I knew him, and I knew his wife, and then quit here and went, and he finished at UVM. He and his dad bought up a lot of small telephone companies. They put them all together, and they sold it all to Continental Telephone. And that's when I happened to call Gardener. He had just made the sale, and he was looking for a plant engineer. He says, "Can you come up," I says, "Yes, I can." So I came up, and we rode all over, all the properties and everything else, and he hired me. I was the first management person to ever quit the Bell System.

SY: Really?

RWP: Yes.

SY: And was your wife, your wife wanted to come back home?

RWP: Not really.

SY: Really, she didn't want to?

RWP: No. She didn't -- well, she didn't care. I mean, you know? But it was the best thing that ever happened, to have take her down there. I mean, she met a lot of really nice people and stuff like that, she's -- not that, you know, she was a country girl, but she still -- and we were country people, even down there, but it was, it was a different life. 18 years' difference, you know, and she did well here. Did well.

SY: And were your parents still alive?

RWP: They were still alive, yes. That was the sad part of it, was I had to leave the folks down there, and we had adjacent properties. And, but, you know, and stuff like that. But they saw the kids and all the grandkids. So I came up with Continental Telephone, and I built an empire. And it got to the point where I still worked right out of the house here, and this, I still had to thank Norwich for all of this, you know? But you know, you've seen how I happened to get here. I mean, if I'd gone to Ithaca, who knows what would have happened, I have no idea. No idea. Because Rick, he -- my son, Rick, was in Vietnam, and he said, "Dad, why didn't you stay in the Air Force?" I says, "Yeah, if I'd stayed in the Air Force maybe I didn't make it, and you wouldn't be here either. So it came to pass that we had quite an operation, I had three engineering groups reporting to me, blah blah blah, and so on, big time. And they bought a bunch of properties on the West Coast. And they called me out to Liverpool, which is our headquarters, and the boss sat me down, he says, "Bill," he says, "I want you to move down to Dulles Air Force, air base, down in Washington. Take over all the engineering for the country." I said, "No." He says, "What do you mean, are you afraid?" I said, "No." I said, "I can do it, I know I can, but," I said, "I'm not going to move into a city. I'm not going to move my kids and my wife again." So of course they made it, you know how it happened. They made it bad enough for me so that -- not, they didn't, you know, give me a hard time or anything, but -- so I left them and went to work for here. Telephone, you know, telephone, [TDS?], down here. And I, and I worked their stuff for quite a while. And then they got to be kind of weird, too, so I didn't like what they were doing.

SY: What were they doing?

RWP: The fact was, I was with TES, not TDS. And I was billed out very heavily to all these telephone compan-- which I did not like. I thought, you know, the cost for engineering was too much. You know, I'm here to provide a service, yes, but it was, the cost of the other companies was too much. And I got a lot of pressure from, from Wisconsin, to try and get extra work on the outside, and I had more work than I could take care of, it would, I only had two men. And they were trainees, at that time, so. Consequently, I never said I'd never go back to Bell, but I went back with Bell. I went back with Bell up here. And my son-in-law, at that time, was alive, he was working for Bell. I went and interviewed, and they said, "We didn't realize there were people like you with that much experience." I said, "Well, it just so happens that I am." So I went back with them, and had a good time. And then, in '94, I retired, spent five years bridged the Long Island time, 18 years. In '94, I retired, and I went, and I knew [Bob Hayden?] from -- he headed up the building and grounds at Norwich. And at that time, Norwich was affiliated with Vermont College. And they were looking for a plant superintendent, over there. So they hired me to go over there, and I signed a contract for a year, as superintendent for the grounds over there. That's what I enjoyed; I did the time, got along good with the teachers and everything else. And then Bell went back and started hiring contract engineers, so I decided, I went back, I worked for an outfit called, [Mountain Ltd?], out of Maine -- Sacco, Maine -- as a contract engineer. And I went on for a few years, got my office, had an office right out here. And that's the story of my life, then I finally retired, and. And here I am.

SY: And what do you do with yourself, now that you're retired?

RWP: You won't believe this, but I have a camp. In Roxbury, which is only five miles from here, and I love that. And I'm there. Not only that, I do my plants here in the summertime, I have a big garden with plants, a flower garden, out back. I don't do carpenter work like I used to, I built the porch out here and so on and so forth, but. I've stayed busy. And I'm not lonely, I have a lot of good memories, a lot of good pictures. Oh, then the Grenadiers, too, that was another thing we were going to discuss, weren't we?

SY: Yes. I think so. What -- the Grenadiers? What's that?

RWP: Oh, that was another, another thing, too, yeah. This, I got other Grenadier pictures. It's a Grenadier dance that we had, after the war. They had had -- they had the Grenadiers here before the war. But it was affiliated with Norwich. Some of the guys came back -- Tommy Boggs, Joe Bergen, Al Bucci, Brad Cook, Donald R. Martin, they were all -- and that's 99% veterans there -- and we just, they just started talking about starting to have another dance band. So we did, and we rehearsed where the clinic is now.

SY: And were you good?

RWP: Of course I've got other pictures that show that, but. What they did, they said, you can have, and we won't use the Grenadiers. We weren't affiliated with the college at all, we were separate. Warren Mell came back as the manager.

SY: And where'd you play?

RWP: We played here, we played in the armory downtown, we played a dance in the -- we substituted for -- oh, what's it, what was his name. One of the dance bands, couldn't make it from snow, we played that, we played Middlebury, we played UVM.

SY: Did you ever want to be a musician? Did you ever think that --

RWP: Oh I was, I was a musician though.

SY: I know you're a musician, but did you ever decide that you wanted to, to do that to make a living?

RWP: Only, no.

SY: Why not?

RWP: No. Because I mean, I wanted, I loved that, I mean, I liked, I wanted to fly, I flew. I wanted to play the horn, which I did, and I played dances and everything else, which I did enjoy that, I enjoyed that. But I was, I love, the telephone business was fabulous. I was, you know, providing --

SY: What did you love about the telephone business?

RWP: What I loved about it was the fact that I could -- the, the, being in the rural areas, you know, I had the northern part of the state of Vermont for a long time. And the country, the people, and, like my mother had always said to me, she said, "You know, Bill, the best education you're going to have, is with people." And it's true. And I just enjoyed, you know, giving, providing service for people, it was in order, they're paying the bill, you provide service for them.

SY: So you met a lot of people.

RWP: Yes. And I just love people.

SY: That makes sense to me.

RWP: I just love people.

SY: So when did you stop playing the saxophone?

RWP: A couple of years ago. It's out there on the rack, it's out. I have, I have CDs that I can play right along, like I'm in a band.

SY: Do you miss it?

RWP: Yeah, it's, it's one of those things. I just, it's just I dropped it, I don't do it any more.

SY: Is it harder to do because, as you age?

RWP: You have to blow, yeah.

SY: It's harder to get the breath?

RWP: Yeah, yeah. But when we started out -- I don't know what I've got here to show you but -- what have I got here. Oh, that's the plant, the band we had down on Long Island. But. What, we had to, in the beginning, we had to wear un-- they said, the only thing. "You can use the engineers, use the, the what-you-call-it name, the Grenadiers, but you've got to wear the old uniform, so." And we did. And that's, there, see the old uniforms? And they were hot. They were really too hot to play in.

SY: Yeah, you guys all look kind of red-faced, even though it's black and white, I can tell that you're a little bit red-faced.

RWP: And the guy next to me's Hazen Maxwell; he was a fighter pilot. This is down in the -- where did we play. We played a dance, and my wife's in one of these things, I don't know which one it is. And I think, I'm not sure, but I think some of these pictures are in, are in the history up on --

SY: In the museum?

RWP: [Jim Bennett?] was the music teacher here for years, and he and I got on real well. And he knew about, he found out about this, and I took some stuff up there.

SY: Let me go check. I might, I don't remember them being there, but I -- there are parts of the museum that I've, that I've missed.

RWP: (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) [00:48:37] stuff.

SY: So wait, I had a question.

RWP: There's me playing a solo, believe it or not.

SY: Ah, what were you playing?

RWP: Probably "Eager Beaver," it's a jump tone.

SY: Look at that.

RWP: Yeah, that's a good one right there. That's down in the Armory, down below here.

SY: Yeah. This is, these are great pictures. So do you remember? Somebody was telling me that, after the war, there were a lot of vets who were living off-campus --

RWP: Yup, oh yeah.

SY: -- in this, like --

RWP: Oh, yeah. There was a, a lot of us. Well, I had an apartment, a two-room in an apartment with other folks. They were all over the place. A lot of my class married girls from town, here. And a lot of them, and they had, oh, let's see. Where was that. You know where the Norwich Apartments are now, on 12, they're just used for storage there? That area in there, all, that was all, like, what do they call them. Pre-fabs, little pre-fabs.

SY: And they, and it was like a little --

RWP: I had pictures over here at one time, I don't know where they are now, it is now...

SY: And people were scrambling to make a little money, too, right? There were like sandwich operations, and do you remember that?

RWP: What's that?

SY: I remember, other people have told me that a lot of those vets, they had families, and they were in school, and they were really scrambling to make money --

RWP: Oh, yeah. Well, we all worked, we all worked on the side, had to. I mean, I forget what we, have a GI bill, but it wasn't a heck of a lot, even if they got married, it wasn't a whole heck of a lot. I mean, you know, a lot of them went to school, not, not like today's world, but. But it was, it was a good experience. Hell, I was only, what. 21, 20. About that old.

SY: You were a kid. You were a kid. So when you look back on your life, what have been the parts that have given you the greatest joys and sense of accomplishment?

RWP: The whole life.

SY: The whole thing?

RWP: I mean, my beginning, my parents, the way I was treated, my schooling. I could have been, I should have done better academically, no doubt about that. The sports that I played, the music that I played, learning to fly, being married, having a family. And now it's, and I saw this happen with the folks, too. My whole life, I feel, is great. A tremendous life, and you know, there must be other people like me, too, but, you know, I'm not different that way, but. I don't see my grandchildren as much as I'd like to right now. I don't travel any more, I won't be traveling. I don't like to travel, let's put it that way. And they're all over the country. So. But that's, that's, right now, it's a little slow. But I'm not lonely, I'm happy. I'm still affiliated with Norwich, I know Tony Mariano, I know Gail real well, I know Richard and Jamie Schneider, they're good friends of mine, General Todd. The whole bunch, so.

SY: How was North-- you've lived in Northfield a long time. How has Northfield changed since you first showed up here?

RWP: A lot. It's changed a lot. It is, it really has. And it's, it's not --

SY: Are there parts for the better, and parts for the worse?

RWP: I'd say it's all, it's all for the better. It's, it's the way that life is, today's world. There's not much you can, I can say about it, I think -- you know, you've got this, you've got that, you know, you've got. Like my mother, in the beginning, she says, "Oh, my goodness," she says, when we said we're going to move to Vermont, "Good Lord," she said, "what do you have up there?" And I said, "Mother, all you have to do is, it's got everything." I mean, if you want anything. Drama, you got -- Burlington's only 50 miles away. You've got everything there, you've got everything in Montpelier, you know, it's available to you. As far as, you know, oh, whatever. But I, I -- Vermont has changed, no doubt about it. Like, the way my camp is, I have a camp that I love, and I've had it for 50 years, and houses being built around it, you know, it's, it's one of those things. I can't see them, they can't see me, but still, in all, they're there.

SY: Yeah, and you know they're there.

RWP: Know they're there. And I, I don't go to Norwich as much as I used to, I just, you know, I don't. When I was with the Bell System and everything, I used to make, you know, decent donations, and because Bell would make their matching funds, too. But I had a good life, I've had a wonderful life.

SY: Any regrets?

RWP: No. No, I don't, I have none whatsoever. I think I would have regretted -- I don't know. You know, you did, that, you often wondered, what would have happened if I had gone to Ithaca instead of coming here, you know? Would have, would I have met a woman as nice as I met here? See, that's the main thing. I met a good lady, nice lady. And we had some good kids, we got some good kids, very nice kids. None of them are graduating college, but the grandchildren are. So.

SY: That's interesting, I wonder why not.

RWP: Well, Rick started. He tried, what's the, what's the small college up in Burlington. Ah.

SY: Burlington College?

RWP: No, not Burlington College. It's just --

SY: Champlain.

RWP: Champlain College. He went, he quit that, then he went through with one in Vietnam. Mike never cared for it, and Pat? My son, Pat, went to Vermont College for one year. Jo-Anne went to a teacher's school over in New York State for one, one semester. But they never, they didn't. I thought that, seeing my mother, my mother went through high school in three years and went through Syracuse University in three years. But she was, she was a very nice person. Nothing, you'd never know it, that she was that educated, and everything else. But she was, she was rightly down-to-earth, with it.

SY: Sounds like you all, your whole family, all more practically-oriented. You're --

RWP: I think so.

SY: -- do-ers.

RWP: It was a practical, you know.

SY: You're do-ers.

RWP: Yeah, but -- no. I, I, thank God I came here. And the way I got my education, the way I got my engineering title, I still think I did it better than if I'd gone through here.

SY: Yes, that makes sense. I feel like I'm running out of questions, here. I'm wondering if you have any last things you want to, you want to add.

RWP: No, I don't, I can't think of anything, questions I want to ask. I wonder how you're going to use this.

SY: Well, the way it works is that, I have an assistant who transcribes this, so types it out, and then I'm going to send you a CD, and a written version of this transcript, and then you're going to look at it, and if there's something that you want to take out of the record, we'll take it out of the record, and then we're going to make it public, so that if somebody's researching World War II, they might read the story of you flying up and down the coast, looking for submarines, and that they weren't there.

RWP: Yeah, submarines, there weren't any submarines out there.

SY: So the idea is for students to search through these oral histories, right? Maybe to use them in the museum for some reason. I have a feeling that we might be really interested in some of these music stories. It might be great to have some of those photos and have some audio of the music itself.

RWP: Yeah. There were, there were two records. I think one of them, Jim might have had up there, "Eager Beaver," and "Stardust," I, that we made. That was, we made that in the old armory.

SY: Really, you made two records.

RWP: Yes, there were two records we made, then of course, as you, the Grenadiers, after that, they really got back into school again, and I think I've got the records. Yeah, I never played them, I don't have my regular. But we had the, a fellow named [Ralph Armor?], who would, was a vet, and he had been with special services during the war. He set us up in the, in the armory, we had the saxes, and stuff, right around the, the one, I had one mike. And trumpet and trombones off over here, and had the rhythm over here, what, you know. And we played, it sounded just like we were miked together, you know?

SY: How does "Eager Beaver" go?

RWP: Oh, it's a Stan Kenton tune. And - (laughter)

SY: You want to sing it for me?

RWP: I can't, I can't really. It was a jump tune. It was really, it was really fast. I can't sing it, I can't sing it.

SY: You can't sing, yeah. Do you still listen to those old records?

RWP: I don't, what I do is that, D-E-V. On D-E-V, the radio station, they have dinner jazz on, from 6:30 until 9:00. And, when they don't have baseball, and so on and so forth, basketball. And I listen to that.

SY: When you listen to it, what do you think about?

RWP: Well, I think about the old days. When I used to, you know, play and everything.

SY: What did it feel like, to be in a band?

RWP: It was great. It was great, and, and you take a good outfit, like this, this -- that's another thing, I forgot to tell you. I never thought that I would get back to do something at Norwich. And the Norwich Project. I, in '70, '74, is it? I engineered, and we put in, student (inaudible) [00:58:22] up there, all over the (inaudible) [00:58:25]. And then all the buildings had a, connection point, run in back of the chime tower.

SY: Yeah. Do any of your kids ever want to go to Norwich?

RWP: No.

SY: They weren't interested?

RWP: No.

SY: Why not?

RWP: I don't know. I don't know, I have no idea.

SY: Your son went into the service?

RWP: Yeah.

SY: He was in Vietnam?

RWP: He was, well, he was in Thailand. He was in the B-52s over in the Air Force.

SY: Do you remember what that period was like, were you frightened for him?

RWP: No, I wasn't frightened for him. He said that they got attacked a few times, you know, and stuff, but. He, yeah, he sees some of his buddies every once in a while, when he comes up (inaudible) [00:59:13]. He's got one guy in Connecticut, Tom, he stops and sees him. Dom, down in Connecticut. But, no. No, I wasn't too worried about him, he was, you know, a little harassment that they had at the air bases, wasn't, you know, nothing that really serious. But, no. I can't think of anything. I, like I said, maybe it's -- I just enjoyed life, I just enjoyed people. I like to talk to people, you know?

SY: You lived in these small towns where you knew everybody.

RWP: Yeah. That's, that's the whole thing of it.

SY: That sounds like it gave you a lot of pleasure.

RWP: Oh, yeah.

SY: You were like, I'm not going into a city, you liked the intimacy of a small town.

RWP: Yeah.

SY: I don't have any more questions. This was great. I feel like I should have some more, but I think you talked about everything so efficiently, that I don't have any more questions. Now, what are these.

RWP: What is, what does it say.

SY: It says, "TD's Pictures, '50s and '70s."

RWP: Oh, now that's me, I --

SY: Oh, tell me about Montauk.

RWP: Of course, that was another thing, that, to get the engineering title. Back in those days, we had a bunch of small New York Tel officers down there, with operators, you know? And they were concentrating them, and moving, making one office out of -- I did that, I worked for the off-- i worked for, oh, I bought the properties, and, that they were going to put the land on, and that was a real quiet thing, and so on and so forth, and. And in Montauk, and they drove me all the way out from Patchogue, to take that stupid picture.

SY: And what were the people like in Montauk? That's fancy --

RWP: Nothing, there was nothing in Montauk --

SY: -- fancy territory.

RWP: Montauk was a nothing place. It was a, fishing there, little fishing shacks up on the north, on the bay.

SY: Have you been down there and seen how it's changed?

RWP: No, no, I don't want to go out there.

SY: You don't want, it would be too painful?

RWP: No, not really. I just don't care for all the people, it's just, you know, it's just packed.

SY: Yeah, it is packed.

RWP: I don't know, some of that stuff is redundant, whatever, some of these same pictures.

SY: So I didn't realize that Bell had their own engineering certifica-- school, and that was how you got the, your engineering certification, was through Bell.

RWP: That's right. Well, though some of those pictures that you saw, there, too, I went to school, and we had a management school, up above where you're from. Not in Rockland, but. That's right, I had to try this track there, at the school.

SY: Like, Bear Mountain or something?

RWP: No, no, no --

SY: Monroe?

RWP: No. Oh, God. Why can't I think of that name?

SY: West Point?

RWP: No, it was further inland. It was inland, in the southern tier.

SY: Like, Poughkeepsie?

RWP: It was above Poughkeepsie. It was Goshen, New York. Oh, it didn't make a difference. We went to school up there. And I can remember, my boss at that time was Lloyd Crisfield, I had my title, at the time. And he says, "Rip," they called me Rip. We call, well, my father's name was Rip, Richard I. Pemberton, Richard Isaiah, Rip, they called him, Rip, oh, always, it. But my boss, Crisfield, said, "Well, you, you're going to go to two weeks up there," he says, "[Frank Maloney?]'s going to be there from New York City, a little short guy with glasses, he's an older man." He says, "He'll have two suitcases, one will be full of clothes, the other will be full of booze. But," he says, "all I'm going to tell you is this," he says. "You listen to what they have to say, but you're going to find out more, in the bar and the evenings afterwards, by talking to the guys, which we did. We had engineers from all over the state of New York. And I never realized the amount of independent telephone companies that there were, or are. And that a lot of New York was, I had independent companies over in northern New York that I had, I took care of, over there. And that was interesting, too. I didn't, I didn't mention that before. But when we would buy property, I would go in ahead of time, and meet the people, critique what they had for equipment -- people, buildings, outside plant -- and report back as to what, you know, what it was worth, and so on and so forth, which was very interesting. I never, I didn't believe in firing anybody. I knew that could be a very bad situation, you know, when you walk into a place, and you're an unknown person, and start firing people, you know you've got problems. But that did get worked out anyway. But it was a lot, it was very interesting. I still think that the, there's a lot of times, well. And then, of course, I could not go back today. I mean, I still could do structure. But everything is computer. And they'd even do the jobs on the computer, they don't even look at them in the field any more, they just punch them in and do them, you know? And it's just done. I couldn't, you know, I wasn't going to fit in today, but.

SY: Yeah, it's a whole different world.

RWP: Different world. It's too bad that, like I, like I had, that they don't have something like that at Norwich, where you're hands-on. Germany does it, I think, with a lot of their students, over there. You work as a person, and then you get you, whatever you're going to get out of it. But. But then, I agree with that. I, I really do. Because, like I said, you learn. Boy. And I, I learned a lot. the first job I ever did, when I went into management. They had a, a whole stack of pole records. And then engineer I worked for was one heck of a man, and I can never say enough of this guy, Floyd Bolles, and he taught me, and he was great. But he told me, the first, he says, "First job for me," he says, "you take all of these records, these are done by people in the field, pole inspectors, you put out jobs for what they say. You know, replace the poles, do this, do that, and then another, my first to start. I threw out all these jobs. About half of them came back. And I learned a lesson. I will not put a job out unless I see it. My name's going on it; I'm going to see it. And that's the way it was.

SY: Yes, you were very hands-on.

RWP: Yeah, hands-on. I get calls every once in a while, and go back to work.

SY: Really?

RWP: I help them go in the road. Good lord. They know, I know structure. Buried cable. I, you know, I did, I buried cable over the United States, I mean, all over New England. It was a lot of fun.

SY: Have you ever gone back to the house you grew up in, in Long Island?

RWP: I haven't, but my daughter has been down for class reunions, my class is pretty well-decimated, my high school class. And she said, she told me, you know, the last time she was down there, she says, you don't really want to see the house that the folks lived in, because it's been bought by people from New York City, and it's, they don't live in it, it's, it's going to wreck and ruin. Now, they were on one corner, over here. The properties both joined, we were over on this street, over here, we had a story and three-quarters, we bought it over here. When we sold, bought that house, we paid 6,500 bucks for it.

SY: Wow.

RWP: Wow. When I moved in, moved up here in '66, we received $12,500 for it.

SY: What do you think it's now, what do you think it costs now?

RWP: The last time it was sold, this is well over a hundred years old, it's, so that, in the village, it's not near the water, $765,000. That's what my village is going to.

SY: Do you miss the ocean?

RWP: I never missed the ocean, I never liked the ocean.

SY: You didn't like the ocean?

RWP: No, I liked the bays and --

SY: You said you swam all the time.

RWP: -- the bay and the sound.

SY: Ah. Well, do you miss the bay and the sound?

RWP: The bay and the sound, oh yeah.

SY: Do you miss the bay?

RWP: I miss the bay more than I miss the sound. Matter of fact, just before you came, I was watching the, that reality show on, about buying houses, and they were in [Southold?], Long Island. Are you, are you familiar with Southold at all?

SY: A little bit.

RWP: I mean, you've heard of it.

SY: Yeah.

RWP: Yeah, they were buying houses there for $500, $600,000. (laughter)

SY: It's a different world.

RWP: A different world. No, I, I miss the trip down, I don't. But right now I have no relatives there, no place to stay. It would cost me, just a weekend, or three or four days, just to go down, take the ferry, and stay, and then, about $1,000. You know? I mean, it's -- and there's no, about to, I mean, I, we have too many good memories of the place down there.

SY: Yeah. All right.

RWP: Anything else?

SY: No, I think this is good. But luckily you're right in town, so if it occur -- (whispering) hold on, reloading. So, what were you saying.

RWP: No, I was saying, I had no war experience, you might say. But, coming up here, and I've found that, over the years, the people who have seen and done the most don't talk about it. I don't know what you're going to get, I mean, there's, there are some people that will carry on at great length.

SY: Your generation, people don't talk about it. Later generations, people do.

RWP: Yeah.

SY: It's, that stoic --

RWP: Because we, even when we came back here. Even though, would, we used to go to Montpelier to drink, you know, Northfield was dry. Used to ride the, go over, get on, and ride the train back, and they'd drop us off down here. But I can remember the first couple times. Oh, we did, we just had a lot of laughs, had a good time. Nobody talked about the war. Like I said, there was three of us in that room, and alumni. Nobody ever talked about the war. Even though we saw -- the only time you saw, it was when we, we had to take group showers, of course, and you could see the guys were wounded and stuff. And there were a lot of guys that were wounded, that came in here.

SY: And nobody mentioned it?

RWP: Nobody ever said. Nobody, never talked about it. You knew they were all in service, that was, we all (laughter) wore the old uniforms. I mean, what was left of them. We had no, had no clothes, we had no money.

SY: Do you think that, did you ever see signs of, you know, we talk about PTSD a lot now; did you see signs --

RWP: No, I never did. I never did, and it was never talked about. And it was never, I never saw it. This uncle that was shot up pretty bad in the Marines, he had an attitude, a little bit, a problem. I figured it was due to something, he got shot up, but. But no, it's, it's, I never saw that, what they call it now.

SY: Were you relieved that you didn't have to go into combat, or did you feel guilty about it --

RWP: No. No, I would have gone, I would have gone. No, hell, no, I, that's what I wanted to do.

SY: Were you upset that you didn't get to go into combat?

RWP: Yes. Yes. Definitely so --

SY: Why?

RWP: -- but I was glad the war was over, because, you know, a lot of my friends had gotten hurt, and some killed, and so on and so forth. And then we'd had enough. I would have, you know, I missed it by a year. If I'd been born a year earlier, I would have, you know, I would have, I would have gone overseas, probably. No doubt about it.

SY: I'm still confused about this, though. Because your first assignment was, was flying up and down the coast.

RWP: That was just with the Civil Air Patrol.

SY: That was the Civil Air Patrol.

RWP: Civil Air Patrol. Oh, yeah.

SY: And then, later, you went to basic. So how old were you when you were doing that, was that after high school?

RWP: 17, I was 17.

SY: OK, so you could join the Civil Air Patrol at 17 --

RWP: Yeah, that's right.

SY: -- but you didn't actually join the service until you were 18.

RWP: Right. No, no, they let me finish my senior year in high school.

SY: I see. And so you were flying while you were in your senior year in high school. So it's just, like, on weekends, kind of.

RWP: Yeah, yeah.

SY: Got it. And then you went to basic --

RWP: Right.

SY: -- and so you missed it, you missed it by a year. Yeah. That makes sense, that makes sense. Do you remember hearing about the Holocaust?

RWP: Oh, yeah. Everybody heard about the Holocaust.

SY: But you didn't know -- during the war, you didn't know anything like that was happening, right? It was only after?

RWP: Oh, no, not until the war was over. We had people hearing from (inaudible) [01:12:06], then other places that were, that freed these people. And yeah, it was in the, I guess, you know, it wasn't, it wasn't fun, I mean, it was something else.

SY: Did anybody ever mention that to you? Did anybody ever talk about that?

RWP: No. Never, not that much, we never talked about it. It, it, oh, you have to, I have to feel bad for, about the people that say it never happened, because it did happen.

SY: I interviewed a guy named [Jack Pimm?], who was at Norwich when you were. John Pimm, Jack Pimm. And he was in the first group to go into Buchenwald.

RWP: There was a guy here in, oh, God, I forget where he was from, too, up your way, he's Montpelier or over. And he was, and he was one of the first, they had big write-ups on that, too. When he went in. He was -- Pimm?

SY: Pimm.


SY: M-M. P-I-M-M.

RWP: P-I-M-M. Oh, I'm trying to remember names.

SY: He started out, before the war, at Norwich, and then they all mustered out, and then he came back --

RWP: Oh, no, I didn't --

SY: -- and finished, just two years, two years afterwards, though. So it might have been the same time that you were here. Yeah.

RWP: I left in '48.

SY: Now, what about your son, does he ever talk about the war? So, he was in Vietnam, or no?

RWP: He was in Thailand. And then the B-52, they flew, they dropped the bomb (inaudible, talking on top) [01:13:25]

SY: But during the Vietnam War.

RWP: Yeah.

SY: Yeah. Now, does he ever talk about it.

RWP: No.

SY: No.

RWP: He talks about it more now, well. Not -- getting together with his buddies, that's all, he doesn't talk about what happened over there. No. He's, what. Sixty-five, something like that.

SY: Hm. That's interesting, though, what you're saying, about the people who saw the most not talking it, and being in the showers, and seeing it. Yeah. And what, I mean, you would just look away?

RWP: No, I mean, what the hell.

SY: Yeah, it was what it was.

RWP: That's what it was. Norwich was, as far as I'm concerned, I think Norwich has done real well, I know that, during the Vietnam era, it was, hard time keeping it going. I, I firmly agree with bringing the girls in there. I think that's a great thing. I agree with what they're doing about off-campus, on-campus, and so on and so forth. I think that they're, I like it, it's a good school. It's really a good school.

SY: And you think it's going in the right direction?

RWP: Oh, yes. Definitely. And I've told Schneider that a few times myself. I think that, that new clinic is going to be a big plus for everybody.

SY: I think so, too.

RWP: Yeah, because I was just up to the old place the other day. But no, I just, I like the small town, I like it here. I can't see myself going into senior housing down there.

SY: To Mayo?

RWP: Yeah. No, not Mayo. I mean the, the senior housing, I mean there's nothing involved with the (inaudible) [01:15:00].

SY: You're doing OK here, by yourself.

RWP: Oh, yeah. I, I get some meal, I'm very selective on meals, and I don't eat as much as I used to. And I'll do my own, I have my own breakfasts and I have, if I have lunch down there, like tonight, I'll have yogurt and crackers and cheese, or something like that.

SY: And you can still drive.

RWP: Yeah, I'm fine.

SY: Yeah, you're fine.

RWP: I, I had a, I've got a pacemaker, put in here in 19, 2013. But other than that, it's good.

SY: Other than that you're doing OK. Knock wood.

RWP: Yeah.

SY: All right. You know --