Norwich University logo

Richard H. Cummings '51

Sullivan Museum and History Center, Norwich University


Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search This Transcript

Richard H. Cummings, Class of 1951, Oral History Interview

May 31, 2016

Hanover, New Hampshire

Interviewed by Joseph Cates

JOSEPH CATES: This is Joseph Cates. Today is May 31, 2016. I'm interviewing Richard H. Cummings. This interview is taking place at his home in Hanover, New Hampshire. This interview is sponsored by the Sullivan Museum and History Center, and is part of the Norwich Voices History Project. Mr. Cummings, can you please state your full name?

RICHARD CUMMINGS: My name is Richard Haven Cummings.

JC: What day were you born?

RC: I was born January 19, 1929.

JC: Where were you born?

RC: I was born in Woburn, Massachusetts.

JC: Woburn?

RC: W-o-b-u-r-n.

JC: What Norwich class are you?

RC: Class of 1951.

JC: Tell me about where you grew up and what you did as a child.

RC: I spent the first ten years in my life in Woburn, Massachusetts, where [sic] we moved to Lebanon, New Hampshire, establishing E. Cummings Letter Company, which we had in Woburn. I worked at D.B. because of the second world war. Labor was very much needed and that's when women started to work in industry. And teenage boys that weren't in the war, or in the service, worked -- I worked -- after school, three hours from 3:00 in the afternoon to 6:00, Monday through Friday and eight hours on Saturday. All vacation days, holidays, we worked in the factory. Upon my 15th birthday or so, I was registered at Kimball Union Academy where I attended two years in preparation for Norwich.

JC: What was is like working in the leather tannery? Is that the right way to say it, "leather tannery?"

RC: E. Cummings was a company which was a tannery. You couldn't work overtime and you couldn't work on machinery if you were under 18. It was hard work, particularly, depending on the season, the drying areas in the summer were very uncomfortable. However, the pay was very good. The people in the community benefit from the location of the tannery because of the pay scale. I was fortunate that I could save my money to go toward my education costs.

JC: What made you decide to choose Norwich?

RC: I think it was probably the recommendation from the faculty at Kimball Union Academy at that time.

JC: What was your major when you went there?

RC: Government.

JC: Government? Why did you choose government?

RC: I have always been interested in government. I did well in the courses, and all my adult life I've been involved in local, county and state government. Topping off as being one of the original members of the Public Employee Labor Relation Board in the State of New Hampshire.

JC: Who was your roommate and Norwich, and where -- what dorm -- what barracks did you live in?

RC: My first semester, I was in the band, so that's what we called Headquarters Company. And I lived in Hawkins Hall all the time I was at Norwich. My first semester roommate was Bud Moffett from Braintree, Mass. And my second semester roommate was Seth Wiard from Norwalk, Connecticut. My roommate my sophomore year and junior year was Bruce Kenerson from Lynfield, Mass.

JC: What was it like being in the band? Describe the band for us.

RC: Well, I think it brought, every member, all the band closer together in a military environment which Norwich, the entire school was, at that time. We were always together and never breaking up after freshman year or sophomore year and we practiced together, we lived together, we worked together.

JC: What instrument did you play?

RC: I played the E flat alto horn, which is an easy way to say French horn.

JC: Was there a favorite song you liked to play?

RC: "On the Steps of Jackman."

JC: (Laughs)

RC: And, "The Thunderer."

JC: Do you remember "On the Steps of Jackman?"

RC: Yes.

JC: Can you sing it?

RC: (Singing) "On the steps of Jackman, crying like hell, eyes a new born baby--" [0:06:44], and it goes on from there. (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs) And what was the other song?

RC: "The Thunderer," which was a marching song which we always opened up with in pass and review.

JC: Oh, ok. As a member of the band, were you part of any fraternity?

RC: Yes, I joined. I was pledged to Phi Kappa Delta. I was the last class to join Phi Kappa Delta. The next year, they became affiliated with the national fraternity Sigma Nu. So, I was the first class to be initiated at Norwich in Sigma Nu.

JC: And, what was the fraternity like?

RC: Well, at the time, about a third of the population of the cadet corps were in fraternities. At the time, there was Phi Kappa Delta, SAE, Sigma Phi Epsilon, Theta Chi. Shortly after that, two or three other fraternities were brought on campus. But the originals were those first ones I mentioned. It was -- it was the only social life we really had and it was necessary because of limited facilities to feed to corps of cadets. So, the fraternities ran dining rooms. In our fraternity, there was a man and wife, and a young daughter and they lived up on the third floor. And they provided all the meals, seven days a week. The cost to belong was $55.00 a month, $5.00 dues, $50.00 for the food.

JC: Was the food good?

RC: Very good.

JC: Good. What company were you in?

RC: Headquarters Company.

JC: Headquarters Company. You said that. Did you play any sports or did you just --

RC: No.

JC: No. What did you do to relax when you were at Norwich?

RC: Well, as I said, we had the fraternity house, where we had a small library, we subscribed to magazines and living room couches and so we could -- that was our [sic] really place to relax. Many times, we brought friends that were not in the fraternity would come, particularly the big weekends of the year, Homecoming, May Day -- when we got the ring dance.

JC: The ring ceremony?

RC: Yes. What'd they call that? There were three major weekends a year.

JC: Was there --

RC: Homecoming, Winter Carnival, Junior Week.

JC: Junior Week.

RC: And, we had to sign up if we had a date. We had to find the facilities, rooms in town if the girl came from out of town. But, most of them came from Vermont Junior College. And several of my classmates married girls from Vermont Junior College.

JC: Talk about what Homecoming was like back then?

RC: Oh, I think it was a -- for the cadets. For the alumni, it was a big affair. But for the cadets, it offered no classes on Saturday, which means they were really free Friday late afternoon until Sunday. And, believe it or not, we'd go up to Montpelier. And, there was a restaurant up in Montpelier called The Gardens. I forgot the name of the street, but I can take you to it. It was on the street where -- of the state capitol, on the right before you got to the state capitol. A little street, no sidewalk and you could sit at a table and a car would come up to park right by the window because there was no sidewalk, and one spring day, this gets off Homecoming, but one spring day we cut class. Section leader was Russ Todd. He asked me one time not to repeat that. And we asked Russ to cover for us, because we were going to cut that class and go to Montpelier, which he did. While we're sitting there having a pitcher of beer for a dollar, a car pulls up, gets out, and it was Professor Willey, our class professor that we cut. Now, he knew there was no way that we could have cut there and be in that restaurant and also have attended class.

JC: (Laughs)

RC: But, we used to go up there -- at one time, we're talking homecoming, we all sat down at the table and said, "Let's go to Montreal." "Well, first of all, how much money do we got [sic]?" Well, I pulled out my $2.00. Somebody else had a dollar and a half. Somebody else had $3.00. So, we had a two-door 1936 Ford. Ooh. First thing we did was go to the gas station and gassed the car up, and went off to Montreal. Drove up to St. Catherine Street. Went in and had a bottle of beer. In those days, it was -- the measurement was probably a liter. One. And passed it around. Got back in the car and drove back to Norwich. That was our outing.

JC: (Laughs) Sounds like a pretty good outing.

RC: Oh, it -- and once again, it isn't -- to have a good time and enjoy yourself doesn't necessarily mean you have to have money. You have to have just have ideas and something different.

JC: What was Winter Carnival like?

RC: Well, it all hinged on the dance and the parties at the fraternities. We would have -- we were not supposed to have alcohol in the fraternities. But, we did. I'm sure it was known, but we kind of covered it up. We built a bar in that fraternity house downstairs on a rail. And when it was closed, it was a library (?) [0:15:33]. When we pushed it back, it was a bar. We had a buzzer upstairs, and if any of the faculty members came into the house, they pushed the buzzer. We'd get out from behind it, pull the bar forward and sit down.

JC: (Chuckles)

RC: And, we had -- as I said, we had very good meals. Our entertainment was there. We'd go to the dance and from the dance at the fraternity house.

JC: What about Junior Week?

RC: Junior Week was probably the highlight of the year. Not only because a long winter season was over, and school was wrapping down, I think we got out somewhere around the 20th of June in those days. Somewhere in the third week of June. And, also it was the highlight of your Norwich career to get your ring. I got my ring when I was stationed at Fort Sill, I made the mistake of going in the latrine to wash and shave and leave my ring on the -- by the sink and when I got back, it was gone.

JC: Oh, no.

RC: I went down, went all through the pawn shops and there are a lot in Oklahoma, trying to find it. I didn't. But, several years later, after I was home and married, my mother got me one for Christmas. But Balfour was a dealer, was in Hanover. I can always tell because my mother's handwriting and printing was terrible. So, it says, my initials are R. H. Cummings and this is R. M. Cummings.

JC: Oh! (Laughs) What does the ring symbolize for you?

RC: You belong. It still does. It's probably (?) [0:18:11] my choicest [sic] possession, the Norwich ring. I have, I think I had it built up once. It gets a little thin there. And I wear it probably 75 percent of the time. My roommate said when he stationed at Germany, at the officer's club the trick was [taps ring on table three times] and that meant all the West Point guys.

JC: (Laughs)

RC: So, you went into an officer's club and did that, and all the West Point guys looked up and said, "What's that?" It's Norwich University. (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs) What were the instructors that were most influential to you when you were at Norwich?

RC: One of the advantages at that time at Norwich was, in your advanced classes, junior and senior year, you had, as actual instructors, the head of the department. And, at that time, we had some very good professors. I had him, but I didn't major in the subject, I think of Shorty Hamilton, professor of chemistry. Under him, was O'Neill who was a, ranked first lieutenant so he was an instructor. He was a recent graduate of Norwich and he stayed there and he went on to head the chemist [sic] department at Norwich. I had K.R.B. Flint was a government professor. Excellent professor. I had Pop Peach, English. Pop Peach was a graduate of Middlebury. K.R.B. Flint graduated Norwich. Shorty Hamilton graduated from Norwich. They all went on and got masters degrees. In my junior year, I mention now (?) (inaudible) [0:21:01] because of the professors. In my junior year, it was suggested that I probably had better take a fifth year towards my degree. I explained this to my father who said that that would be alright, however, after that I would go to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, which offered, in their engineering department, offered a special course in leather and tanning technology. And he wanted me to take that course, to which I responded, "If that's the way it's going to be, I'd rather go now."

So, I went to Pop Peach, K.R.B. Flint, who was my academic advisor, and told him what I wanted to do. And if I could, my second semester of my junior year, if I could take senior courses in comparative government, constitutional law, advanced public speaking and he allowed me to. So, I took all the courses that Norwich offered for a government major. So, in my junior year, the second semester, all my classes were with seniors. I remember once again, Russ Todd was in all those classes with me. So, as the years went by, they always thought I was in their class. But I learned a great deal from -- that I carried out all through my life, in my work with the Public Employees Labor Relations Board in the State of New Hampshire. Chairman of the Republican town committee in Hanover, co-chairman of Grafton County Republican Committee, delegate to the state republican conventions three times. I learned a great deal from those men in how to present myself and understand the field that I was endeavored in.

JC: What was your favorite class at Norwich?

RC: Comparative government.

JC: What was your least favorite?

RC: Spanish.

JC: (Laughs) I was told you had some stories about General Harmon.

RC: Well, my stories about General Harmon, are not to criticize the man because he was a fine soldier. And he was a combat commander, as against political generals, Bradley, Eisenhower, Marshall, they were political generals out of the pentagon. Patton and Harmon, they were combat commanders. Harmon took over the university at a time that it was probably, nearly going out of business. For lack of money, lack of endowment, lack of students, the faculty needed to be built up, the student body needed to be built up, the physical plant needed improvement and Harmon accomplished those things in his time and put the school on the road to recovery. Very successfully. He brought in speakers. He got Eisenhower to the university. He brought in a great deal of capital. He built up the endowment. He improved the faculty as I said. Built one new dormitory plus of course he built Harmon Hall. The mess hall was in the White Chapel and that's why, when he moved the mess hall into Harmon Hall, he needed all the student body in that mess hall to make it pay. So, he closed down the fraternities. And the way he closed down the fraternities is a lesson in parliamentary procedure. If you want to get something across, you wait until the chairman closes the meeting, to which he closes the meeting and says, "Is there anything else to brought before this meeting?" That's when you introduce your bombshell, and which Harmon did. He said, "Yes." He said, "I'd like permission to close down the fraternities and sell the property or buy the property to enlarge the facilities of the university. If I do not get a favorable vote, you have my resignation." And whereupon, he got up and left the room. He got what he wanted. As you know, they took Sigma Phi Epsilon as the president's house. And Theta Chi they made into a club or -- it was Flint Hall or Flint -- it's right there next to the armory. Not SAE, the big one. The little one, across the street from the president's house, I think it's a club. I don't know what it is.

JC: Do you think he did the right thing, closing the fraternities?

RC: He had to. Yes, yes, he had to. And, he also improved the discipline of the cadet corps. There was (sic) a lot of things he did, he had to do because the school was really sliding. And, I have -- my father-in-law, Nancy's (?) [0:28:35] father, was Class of '28. Civil Engineer. And, as he was telling the president at one time, that Norwich engineers built these interstates. Because, when those interstates were being built, what, in the 1960's were they?

JC: Yes.

RC: The civil engineers were from Norwich. They were in the intra-highway department, and they were in Vermont highway department. He was -- in my -- I had two nephews who went to Norwich. One, last I knew, was with the FBI in Hartford, Connecticut and the other one owned a dental school and he had a practice in the western part of Connecticut. And they both dropped their affiliation with Norwich because they didn't agree with letting in girls and they didn't agree with letting in civilians, so they dropped their affiliation. I don't say I agree, but I realize that they really had to in order to keep the student body up and fill the classrooms and bring in tuition money.

JC: So, is there anything else about General Harmon that you'd like to say?

RC: I think I generally said he put the school on its feet. And, he did. But, I think the catalog (?) [0:30:32] put it, he really saved the university.

JC: Now, it was after your junior year that you left?

RC: Yes.

JC: And went to Pratt Institute?

RC: Yes. And then of course, I'm out from cover. Up comes the draft board. I got drafted. Well, if you can imagine, I spent three years in military discipline at Norwich University, showing up at Camp Chaffie is a buck private. Teach you how to make a bed. And they didn't like the fact that they could bounce a dime off my bed.

JC: (Laughs)

RC: So, they tore it apart and made me do it again. To which you're supposed to get mad. Your Norwich training. Yes, sir. Don't do that again. And then, that's where you get your respect. And then I belonged to the Vermont National Guard for five months. I wrote home to my mother, send me my discharge. Which I took to the CP and they went to E1 to E2 immediately, which meant $5.00 or $6.00 a month. And they made me squad leader. And, sometimes the sergeants didn't like that because I could drill better than they could. And then, instead of going overseas to Korea, or far east or Europe, and there was three in Alaska. A few went to Alaska. A lot went to Europe and a lot went to far east. I went to far east. But before that, after I got through basic training they sent me to code school. I took code. And then after code school, at Chaffie, they sent me down to Ft. Soda, radio repair. So, I went into radio repair. Then they shipped me out. So, I had a year here. And, then they shipped me out and assigned me to the 38th Infantry Regiment, the second division. And, I went by ship to Tokyo. And then, down at -- then they flew us to Inchon. No, the ship took us there because I remember going over the side of the ship with the bag. And, they put me in as radio operator. Hey, I've been away from radio operator for six months. Code. I'd lost it. So, they were thinking what they were going to do with me. Well, I finally said, "Look, I'm rotating home. Give him my job (which was signal supply)." All signal supply came from division, but division was too far away to make it manageable, so we just took it up by the regiment. It was closer by. So, I set that up. I requisitioned. It was a great job and in other words, another thing is don't ever have a driver's license in the military. Because you might get picked to drive ammo up. And, so I could requisition a vehicle to go to Seoul to get supplies. But, what did that mean? Go to Seoul, have dinner, a few drinks. Trip around for an hour or two and go back up again with the supplies. And, anything you wanted, what you need, I bought a nice bamboo pole, a fishing pole over there in the PX. A big, huge PX in Seoul. I shipped home. Then, I had all those supplies and everything, I was in contact with all of our regiment, including the Dutch, which were assigned to us. And the Dutch had a good deal. They had a -- there was a Dutch colonel that was their commander and he was a real nice guy. He always came to shows with his troops and sat with his troops at the shows and things. He was (inaudible) [0:36:39] over the guy. And, in later years, my daughter and her husband lived in Holland and I was over there Memorial Day at the America Cemetery and there were the Dutch that I served with in Korea. And so, we got together much later in life. That's about it.

JC: When you landed at Inchon, where did you go from there?

RC: (?) [0:37:23] Up to Seoul.

JC: Up to Seoul?

RC: Yes.

JC: I've got us a map.

RC: Oh, yes. Went up to here. And this is where I was.

JC: And where's that?

RC: Pork Chop, Old Baldy. We went up Old Baldy twice. And it literally, we bombed the hell out of them. We'd go up there and they bombed for over an hour. And we pull off and blow it. And then, this was always kept quiet. The ROKs, Republic of Korea soldiers, they were an army of their own. We'd go up Baldy and they'd go with us. On our right flank or our left flank. And we get up there to do our work, and we'd look over and our left flank is not covered. Word came from here. They bugged out. And that's when we very quietly broke up the ROK division and infiltrated them with us. And, it didn't do any more bugging out. If it did, we shot them. That stopped it. And the good side of it is I had a poor boy with me, (?) [0:38:56] in the radio repair tent, he lived with us. We taught him English. We taught him radio repair. We gave him clothes to wear. His mother did all our laundry for us. Ironed our clothes on hot rocks. He was really a great kid. I'm sure when we left, he had a head's up in society because of his training with us.

JC: And that was in July '52?

RC: Yes.

JC: Where did you go after that?

RC: Oh, we stayed right here. All the time.

JC: Oh, okay.

RC: And we'd pull off hill about -- I think it was three months. And they'd pull us off. And it was New Year's Eve 1952, New Year's Eve. And we pulled off, off, off and went down. All that means is that you've got to move your communications, you've got to move your mess hall, you've got to move your water, your latrine. Everything you had to do and we moved that day. And a telephone rings from the company that replaced us up there. And there's noise, and I got the phone. "Who's this?" "This is Lt. Swift." I said, "Rollie?" He says, "Yes.' I said, "Dick Cummings." "Oh, for God's sakes! How are you?" I said, "I'm fine. What's your problem?" He says, "We don't have anywhere near enough equipment up here." I said, "Really? I'll tell you what I'll do. It's snowing to beat hell. The roads are slippery. I'll load up a deuce and a half." I go down to the motor pool and find the soberest driver. And in those days, blacks were in either the motor pool or the mess hall. "Go down to the motor pool and find the soberest driver and I'll come up there and you give me a jeep, because I don't want to stay. I'll swap you a truck with equipment and you give me a jeep." "Fine." Now how are you going to take care of this equipment? Battle fatigue. (inaudible) [0:41:51] Boom! Truck gone. (Laughs)

JC: (Laughs)

RC: That was Rollie. I never saw him. I just talked to him.

JC: What did you do after Korea?

RC: I came home. And I went to work in the factory. Tanning. My -- our company corporate lawyer was an uncle of mine. Ray, his last name, my mother's brother. And he suggested that I, I got discharged the 3rd of July. They got us out for the 4th of July. Really rushed us down (?) [0:42:52] to get us out. Instead of having a hold-over for the 4th of July weekend and wait until like the 6th of July. So, that got us off the 3rd. Discharged. And, my uncle said, "Don't be in a hurry to go to work. Because this is the last time in your life you can do what you want to do. Once you start to go to work, you're plugged in for the rest of your life." (Laughs) So, my roommate and I, he got home from Germany and we got together and went to work August 16, 1953, 2, 3. Yes, '53. That's when I went to work, 1953. And Bruce and I traveled New England. He got new a Chevrolet, I had a new Chevrolet, all paid for. Paid $2,000 for it. Brand new. And, -- with money that I sent home. I made money selling whiskey over in Korea. We had a liquor allocation, particularly if you were in combat. A private got a fifth a week, a month. A corporal got two fifths a month. A lieutenant got three fifths a month. So, and for $2.00 a bottle. And even the liquor was Cadillac, Cadillac Club or something like that. So, you got three fifths a month but you only wanted one. So, I'd give you $4.00 for your two fifths. And, I'd build up, oh, about a dozen bottles of whiskey, and I'd keep it under my bunk. And I had a little dog. And word "little" in Korean is "scosh (?) [0:45:13], so I used to call him Scoshie. He stayed right under my bunk and got into (?) my whiskey.

JC: (Laughs)

RC: And, so on the 10th of the month I had three bucks and the 15th of the month I'd get maybe 5, 6. 28th of the month or so, 10 bucks, whatever traffic will bear. Ship the money home. $2,000. And so, when I got out, we had the money and Bruce and I went to Montreal together. We went to Eastern State Exposition together. We just played for about six weeks. And he went to work in the family shoe lasts business. I went to work in a tannery. Got up in the morning to go to work. We got to work at 7:00 so we were up and having breakfast at about 6:15. Got up. Put a suit and tie on, jacket. Head down to the office (inaudible) [0:46:35]. Went in a little locker room. Opened the door and says, "There's your clothes." Old wool pants and old wool shirt. "You're not going to wear any suit. You're out there."

JC: (Laughs)

RC: (Laughs) And that's where I started out, working every department. Doing every job in every department from bundling a green saw hides from cutting the rope off and shaking the sod out and preparing them to get washed and that whole process all the way through to rolling them up, finished leather to go to the shoe factory. All the way through. Then, I became kind of like a shop foreman. And around Christmas time, we had hired a finishing foreman. He's in charge of the black finish, the brown finish and the colors in other words. And we were closing shop up for Christmas weekend and he was drunk. So, I fired him. So, Christmas at my father's house, we were outside, said, "Yes, we've got a problem, we've got to find somebody to replace him." My father says, "I already have." I said, "Yes, who?" "You." Oh, I had to study damn fast!

JC: (Chuckles)

RC: Like a day! (Chuckles) And I ran that finish room -- I think I was running it when we got married. Yes. At least a year. And then my father's health was going. In 1960, I took over as, in those days we called it superintendent, and then I started organizing the staff, and organizing the foremen. I got a letter here somewhere, my nephew found here, a few months ago when my father was in Florida, came home from -- (?) [0:49:13] in very poor health. He had colitis all of his adult life. Never weighed over 140 pounds. Never. And he wrote my brother, my older brother that came back and never found the shop in better shape in the 20 years he'd been in Lebanon. And I had taken it, and I really worked hard. And when he died, I really went to town and I borrowed money, which is a no-no. And I got modern equipment in. Like I got one piece of equipment, run by one man, one shift. It would replace four machines that were run two shifts. That's eight men. Pretty soon, paid that thing off in two months. I did start doing that. And we belonged to the Tanners Council, which was housed in, headquarters in New York City. And they called me up one time, he said, "We usually don't do this, because everybody is under a code name." So when they send out asking for information, and your code -- your name's not on it. There's a code name only they know who it is. He said, "We usually don't do this, but we thought under the circumstances, we'd call you up and tell you that you have the lowest labor costs per foot in the country."

JC: Wow.

RC: Well, anyhow, that was -- and then of course, Uncle Sam put us out of business, all of us. There's not a tannery in -- I believe there's one tannery, and it's Prime Tanning in Berwick, Maine. And I heard a few years ago that a shoe company out in St. Louis bought them. So they could be sure of having a source of leather.

JC: So how did the government put them all out of business?

RC: Environmental. See, we're on the river and we need -- and I used to have those figures, and I really have forgotten what they are -- it was thousands of gallons of water a day. And there was no way any municipal water system could supply us. No way. That's why they're on the river. To pump the water out of the river. And, they got a problem there. In the wintertime the water is 30 degrees. You got that 30 degree water you got to raise it to 70 degrees, that's a hell of a lot of steam. And in summertime, the water can get up to 75 degrees. And you got to lower it to 70 degrees. So that's a hell of a problem. How are you going to -- this is only a short time, a matter of a few weeks, you know. So, we'd buy ice and dump it in. It took a hell of a lot of ice to do it. That's what we did. That's why -- and then you surge. A hell of a surge. Everything, you wash and rinse, wash and rinse. Into the river. Out into the Connecticut, down to Long Island Sound. All the town (?) [0:53:29] sewer system, dumped right into the (inaudible) [0:53:32] lake, up until a few years ago. The woolen mills in Enfield (?) dumped into the lake. The lake went down the river, the woolen mills, and leather and the tanning, dumped into the river. And half the woolen mill, all the way down. What could we do? I mean, that's how the government, you say, put us out of business.

JC: Oh, okay.

RC: I think the largest producing leather today is Argentina. Because that's where the (inaudible) [0:54:13] cow hides were. Used to ship them by boat. To New York, Boston.

JC: So, when did you meet, how did you meet Nancy? When did you meet?

RC: I got out of the army. I came home. And, went to church. And coming out of church, Brownie was there. And I spoke to him, I said, "Who's that good-looking daughter of yours, Nancy?" He says, "She's over at Colby Junior College." And I said, "I think I'll go see her." So he gets home and calls her up. (Chuckles) And I went over to see her. That was in the fall. We were married the next September. (Chuckles)

JC: And how long have y'all been married now?

RC: 62 years in September.

JC: Wow. Congratulations. What did you do after the tannery closed?

RC: Find a job. Sitting down reading the paper, not knowing what the hell I'm going to do. Big tanneries out in the Midwest. That was a consideration, in some capacity. Night foreman or night shift superintendent, anything. And, reading this paper, department of resources and economic development, officer industrial development needed. Industrial agent for the northern three counties in New Hampshire. Paul Gilderson (?) [0:56:25], telephone number. I knew Paul. He says, "I was hoping you'd call."

JC: (Chuckles)

RC: Had 60 people call him. He interviewed me about 10:00 in the morning, over in Plymouth, a bank in Plymouth. And, the next day Paul called me up, says, "You got it." So that's -- I spent 16 years doing that. And I loved it and I was good at it. I -- even today, I see television ads that I'm responsible for. When I ride up country, I see factories that were built by companies that I moved in, from Canada, Sherbrooke, outside out Montreal. Massachusetts. My objective always was not to hit them hard but suggest a branch, suggest a satellite, suggest the reason why. Taxes, labor costs, transportation costs is less expensive and it's offset by your savings on labor. No union. One of my -- I picked this up from my father, when he was asked a question about the labor, in New Hampshire against Massachusetts, he says, "All the labor are capitalists. They own a piece of land. They own an animal. They cultivate vegetables. They buy grain. They buy fertilizer. They sell their product. They're all capitalists. And that's exactly right. You just don't get a guy off the street. He's got a reason to where he's really working for cash, supporting himself.

JC: Well, let me ask you a couple of questions back about Norwich. What was your favorite part of going to Norwich?

RC: Well, if you're talking socially, I'd say membership in a fraternity. If you're talking academically, it's those three professors I mentioned.

JC: What was the -- is the most important thing that Norwich taught you?

RC: I wrote that out somewhere, because I gave that some thought. And I --

JC: I think it's on the back.

RC: Respect for authority and responsibility.

JC: What did the school's motto, "I Will Try," mean to you when you were a student?

RC: Say that again.

JC: The school's motto, "I Will Try." What did that mean to you as a student?

RC: Basically, I'm in college and I will try to finish this course, I will try -- and it's been my motto all my life. On my tombstone.

JC: I was going to ask you, has it changed any since you were in college?

RC: No.

JC: No. What about the idea about citizen soldier?

RC: I think it's an excellent education.

JC: And why is that?

RC: Because it teaches you responsibility, authority, respect. You have to -- in order to be able to lead, you have to know how to follow. And Norwich teaches you that. I had a classmate whose sons went to the Citadel. Three boys and they all went to Citadel. Because of his experience at Norwich.

JC: You think they regretted going to the Citadel instead of going to Norwich?

RC: I have no idea why he picked it.

JC: (Laughs) How do you think your professional life would have been different had you not been a Norwich graduate? Or had not gone to Norwich?

RC: Not as disciplined.

JC: It seems like discipline was a very major part.

RC: Yes. If you take, in my day and my era and my location, kids went to the University of New Hampshire. First of all, a large percent of them flunked out after the first semester. Another big chunk flunked out after the first year. So, those that really got in to graduate was a lot smaller than those that got accepted to go there. Reason why, they weren't prepared for it. In my era, they came from these little towns throughout New Hampshire down into the more metropolitan area, Portsmouth area, New Market area and open campus and open lifestyle that they weren't used to. And, if affected them. Very few percentage of them really ended up graduating from college, at that time.

JC: Do you think going to Norwich has opened some doors for you that might not have been opened otherwise?

RC: Oh, yes, I think so. But, particularly in my later line of work. I can remember having a meeting up in Woodsville, New Hampshire. And, I was working on locating a company, it was Bass Shoe as a matter of fact. And, Bass Shoe was a Maine company and I knew that I couldn't deal with the management of Bass Shoe, because they were favored to Maine. Bass Shoe, and I forgot the name, but the parent company was in Greenwich, Connecticut, so I just, on my own, drove down to Greenwich, Connecticut. No appointment. I had a name and an address. And I knocked on the door, and went in and they listened to me. They're located in Haverill, New Hampshire. While I was doing that, talking with local people in the Woodsville/Haverill area, and a ___(?) [1:04:47] sat and he says, "I knew there was a reason why I liked you." So, I said, "Well, yes, you went to Norwich."

JC: (Chuckles)

RC: And he had gone to Norwich.

JC: Do you think Norwich folks have a special bond that other military and civilian institutions lack?

RC: Oh, yes. A great deal. The corps of cadets brought that about. And, from my day to this day, wherever we meet, we always, always get together. Homecoming is an uplift, particularly now at my age because all my roommates are gone. All my closest friends are gone. My brothers are gone. My cousins are gone. But, we go up there and Eddie Barrow's (?) [1:05:51] there, always a joke from him. And Louie Swift, all my cousins, great bunch.

JC: Have you continued to be involved with Norwich since you left?

RC: I have been very interested in the museum. And I contribute to it. Not much, but I do every year. Because I think they're doing a tremendous job of carrying the history of the institution, from when it was almost nothing, on. And I can remember being involved with Todd's wife because she really worked hard on that. And she used to come down to affairs in the town of Norwich, over here, and I'd meet them over there. They dedicated a stone plaque over there in the town of Norwich a few years ago, and she was there. And I think you've all done a wonderful job up there with that. And the improvement on that library was very interesting. By the way, I have it here somewhere and if I can't find it, I was on the committee that resurrected bricks from the barracks in Norwich.

JC: Oh, okay.

RC: And clean them up. I got a picture here somewhere and I'll mail it to you when I find it. It's a group of us in Hanover, by the field house. What's the name of the field house? (inaudible) [1:07:47] The great big field house there. And we dumped the bricks in there. And literally we cleaned them up, put them on pallets and took them -- they all ended up at Norwich. And some when out to national headquarters of Theta Chi and some you have there in the vestibule of the library. I was in that group that worked on that.

JC: And the rest of them are downstairs in the museum.

RC: Yes.

JC: Did you stay in touch with a lot of your classmates?

RC: Yes. As much as possible.

JC: What advice would you give a rook today on how survive through that first year?

RC: Well, it was a hell of a lot tougher my first year than it is today, I'm sure. If you can't survive it, you don't belong there. That's just as simple as that.

JC: Was there anything else you'd like to add that we didn't talk about that we should?

RC: To run it all up together, the best thing about Norwich was that it was an institution with traditions, small in size, closeness to faculty and classmates. And we acted together, lived together, worked together and played together. That would be Norwich. In my day.

JC: Anything else you want to add?

RC: No.

JC: Well, thank you very much.

(end of audio)