Phyllis Greenway, Oral History Interview
January 31, 2015
421 South Main Street, Northfield, Vermont
Interviewed by Sarah Yahm
SARAH YAHM: Well, first of all, let me just say that I am here with PhyllisGreenway at her house, and what's the address again?
PHYLLIS GREENWAY: Four twenty-one South Main Street in Northfield, Vermont.
SY: 421 South Main Street in Northfield, Vermont. And here we are. And it isJanuary 31st, 2015, and we're going to be doing an interview, and I'm really looking forward to it. The way this works is that I'll send it to you, and whatever you want edited out, we'll just edit out.
PG: Sounds good.
SY: And then I'll create a new file. So we can relax while we're talking withouthaving to worry, and then you can control over it later.
PG: I don't think I'll worry, because it's -- our life has been an adventure,for sure.
SY: As they should be, right?
PG: Right. Well, I'll start at the semi-beginning for both John and I. I thinkthis should be a joint recording, since we spent most of it together. John was born in Jersey City on January 10th, 1935. His grandfather owned a large funeral home there. I'm not quite sure when it happened, but their family -- John, his brother George, who is two years his junior, and then his sister, who is seven years his junior, and mother and father -- moved into the funeral home, and they lived on the third floor there for quite awhile. This went along for awhile. He first lived in an apartment there in Jersey City, which was very strange in the sense -- he lived around the corner from my future brother-in-law. And also, another very dear friend was also around the corner. It was a kind of a -- we went by it once, and it was still standing, an old Victorian house. But they didn't stay long. George, John's brother, was a pyromaniac, and he set a fire, and the fire engines came, and with a lot of damage to the home. And also there was another crisis of where John had a chemistry set in the bathroom that had joined both his and George's separate bedrooms. And they were going to shut the water off, and John locked both doors, and left the bathroom alone, and it flooded, and went down into the casket room, so that there was quite a bit of damage. So, long story short, they moved away to the town where Elinor Greenway's sister lived. Elinor Greenway had the same kind of stature as John: tall, reserved completely, precise, studied classical voice in New York, had gone with her father on a world tour. We lived with them for a little while after John graduated from Norwich. So I got to know my mother-in-law, trying to have as possibly as good behavior as I could, as we all have, for about two or three months. (laughter) Anyway --
SY: How did that go?
PG: It was interesting. I should probably even talk about that sometimes,because Elinor was my opposite, and yet she loved John, I could tell, more than other members of the family. We were married when we were still 20.
SY: How did you guys meet?
PG: When John was to go into 6th grade, the Greenways moved to Rumson, NewJersey, which is a town about five miles away from the Atlantic Ocean between two rivers and the ocean. My father had been a doctor in Red Bank, a town nearby... I wouldn't have gone to school with John, except my father died when I was three and a half. My father was chief of staff of this hospital -- Riverview Hospital in Red Bank -- and he broke his back. He still did house calls. He broke his back after a house call, coming out on the ice. And they put him in a full-body cast, and he was in that for two months, and got up. They had a big party for Doctor Gosling, funny guy, well. He went to his office, and he turned around to say something to his partner, and dropped dead of a stroke. In those days they did not have anticoagulants, I presume. My mother -- they were quite well to do, but they had moved into this large house that had been partially helped to build by my mother's family, by her father and mother. Lillian Cottington, who had lots of hats with flowers upon -- and they had the big bedroom in the house, looking out on the water, as did my mother and father did. This was in 1939 that he died. Depression. No one had money.
SY: So people owed him a lot of money?
PG: Yes. People owed him a lot of money.
SY: Because he was out of the kindness of his heart treating people --
PG: He would do it, and say, "Pay me when you can." Also in that house was myfather's mother, Florilla Hanks Gosling, who grew up in [Hunter, NY--the only girl with five brothers] I'm trying to think. It'll come to me later. In that household, Mother had -- mother, mother-in-law, and myself, older sister, and brother (both grandfathers had died,) (my father had died), but she had graduated from what is now Rutgers, then the New Jersey College for Women. The first year 1922, and she had a degree in home economics. She had gone to Philadelphia, and taught in a finishing school there. There, each student was assigned 10 young women to be taught the ways of society, from handling staff, to cooking, to parties, to whatever. Soon she and my father were married. They had a yacht at that point, a chauffeur, and a full-time cook. But when my father died, everything went. The house went. They yacht went. And my mother was left with us. I was three-and-a-half. My brother was, I think, about 14 or 15, and my sister was a couple years younger. Twelve, I think.
SY: Do you have any memories of that period?
PG: I do not. Those days -- that's a really good question, because those are thedays when there was a phenomenally well-attended funeral for my father. I would never have been allowed to go. Never. Children were spared this kind of thing. But, there's another story about that somewhere.
SY: So, what's your first memory?
PG: Beg pardon?
SY: What's your first memory? What do you -- what's the first thing you remember?
PG: Interesting. I do remember a little bit of that house. And my grandma Flo,which we would call her, would sit with me on her lap, and we would pretend we were in the ocean on a boat. And the house itself had a bulkhead in the back, and I would go along that bulkhead and watch the fish swimming below, they had speedboat races in the Shrewsbury River then, which you could hear from Rumson all the way to Sea Bright. Sea Bright now on up to Asbury Park which the coast has been decimated by the last storm that they had. I remember the huge houses there that had no berms in front of them to protect them from the storms, but little by little it's been eaten away.
So, mother -- it was interesting -- mother knew a lot of people. And first ofall what she did was go to Pawling, which was a prep school, and march herself in there in her best bib and tucker, and say, "My husband, Doctor Gosling has just died. I have no money. I want you to give my son a full scholarship." And they did it.
SY: That takes chutzpah.
PG: Absolutely. Absolutely. And then when Pawling closed, he got the same dealat Choate. And then World War II had come into the picture, and Rich was in Navy ROTC in Princeton, then to a medical school in New York at Bellevue Medical School. Anyway, he was always the focus of the family. My sister was rather heavy, and mother really wanted her to "marry a doctor" at some point, so she spent a lot of time taking my sister around. But, what was fun was -- my first memory back then -- in Rumson, even to this day, there were big estates, even bigger than today, that would stretch from one street to another. And she knew the architect -- or she knew the way to ask about a portion of this estate, and what she did was buy two acres out of the middle of one of them. The main house had burned down, and what was left was a tea house on the highest point there with Palladian windows all around. And she bought that one building. It had boxwood gardens, and a balustrade, and she put two small wings out of that. And that's my first memory, living in that. So we were in Rumson.
SY: Have you ever been back to that house?
PG: Beg pardon?
SY: Is that house still there.
PG: My house is still there, and I asked a friend to go from high school --because that's where I went to high school -- go back and see -- they have put on a new roof, a mansard. It was flat then. Mother sold it after I got married, and we -- she couldn't -- I don't know. She couldn't afford the upkeep anymore, and so on. But, she sold it for the tremendous amount of $28,000 in, I guess it was 1956. And it was on the block a little while ago for $7.5 million. Our family's always been very famous for not doing the right thing (laughs) financially at any time.
PG: Oh no, we knew this was something, but you couldn't afford to keep"something." This room, we were married there, had ceilings 18 feet high, Italian tile on the floor, and there was an inset where there was a marble statue on a pedestal. And mother sold the statue to the only guy in Rumson that had any money at that point, and it was Mike Jacobs. Mike Jacobs was a fight promoter of Joe Louis, and the rest of it, in New York City. He came and picked that thing up, and mother turned that big hole in the wall into a beautiful fireplace in our living room.
SY: So she managed to keep your lifestyle up, even though -- no cash.
PG: It was all façade in so many ways. Mother -- she would have a salon of menin Sundays to come and drink wine with her, and smoke their cigars. She -- I'll tell you this little story, too -- she was fine, but she had to get a job, which she did do. She got a job in Raritan Arsenal, which was making munitions at that point, and she was interviewing the people that would work on the line. And so she would work -- she would drive up there during the day, and then drive back. My grandmothers were there in the house alone. I was going to school from the first grade on in Rumson. And I think it was probably, maybe I was about eight, but mother fell in love with a man who was married to one of her friends. He wanted his wife to divorce him, she wouldn't give him a divorce. So he would come maybe two nights a week, at least one day on the weekend, and have dinner with mother, and the grandmothers, and I. And he would bring the meat for supper, and so on. One day he drove (and he would come, sometimes when mother was not there, because she'd be gone to work) he drove up in front of the house, and he didn't get out of the car. And Lillian looked out the door, and she said, "Flo, something's wrong. I'm going to go out and see." This man was slumped over the wheel, and Flo came back and said, "I think he's dead. Now, Phyllis, you go out there and sit in the front seat with him," which I did. I thought it was kind of interesting looking, but it didn't bother me.
SY: How old were you? You were eight?
PG: Eight, nine, ten. Somewhere in there. Anyway, he died. And that was the endof that. Mother did not go to the funeral. I still have his obituary, which said where he died. In a car, it said, and of course Red Bank all thought he was wrapped in my mother arm in some clandestine hotel in New York, but he wasn't. Later, when mother came to see us in Hawaii, when John was a second lieutenant going to Hawaii, she said, "Philly, I have to tell you this" -- my name is Phyllis, but she usually called me Philly -- "Philly, [Duke Vermader?] asked me to marry him." And what do you think I asked her?
SY: I don't know.
PG: What would your mother want to know? I said, "Has he got any money?"(laughs) Because she needed somebody to give her security. She said, "Well, he owns a large horse farm out of so-and-so." But, she couldn't make up her mind. She began to be a little independent. And by the time she was in Hawaii for a month, she learned he was married to somebody else. Later there was somebody else, too, but he didn't get very far.
SY: So how did she keep herself afloat?
PG: Good question. And it was interesting. She had her job, and she was livingin a one-bedroom apartment in Asbury Park for quite awhile. In fact, I lived with her for about a month and a half before I went to Hawaii and met John. And then her aunt, whose husband owned the newspaper in the town where Rutgers is. It doesn't come to me --
SY: New Brunswick.
PG: New Brunswick. She only had one daughter, the aunt. And they shared a house.And Jesse, who taught my sons how to yodel, by the way. Wonderful woman. Her daughter was on the other side, and Jesse wrote mother a letter that I still have of, "Dear Hazel, I never see her. She comes over. She makes me so sad." And she said, "If you would take me in, I will build a little house for you." Or, "We'll do something together." And it turned out right next to my brother, who was in Asbury at that point, in Deal -- he lived in Deal -- there was a carriage house. And the two of them finished that up. And then Jesse's daughter got cancer. Prior to that, another woman was living with her, and there was no question in those days that there might be something "hanky panky with that," but I think there definitely was. Her name was Jean. Kind of a strange person. I do remember her very well, mother's only cousin. My mother and father were only-children. I have no aunts, no uncles. So Jean came, mother gave her his bedroom, mom moved upstairs, and two years later, Jean died of cancer in that house. So mother was Jesse's only living relative. And when Jesse died, the bank president came out of the back when she walked into the bank, and said, "Mrs. Gosling, we're so glad to meet you." And it was because Jesse's husband was an owner of a newspaper that had been taken into a corporation that was Gannett. Gannett is a newspaper chain that is now no longer there. [Except for USA Today]
SY: No, it still owns most of the newspapers.
PG: Right, but somebody ran away with a lot of profits. But mother's stock split300 to 1. And my mother never had to work another day.
SY: How old was she when that happened?
PG: I would think maybe late sixties. Not 70 yet.
SY: So she had some time left?
PG: She did have some time left. And she would always come where we were. Sogetting back to my darling man.
SY: Yeah, how did you meet him? Do you remember the first time you laid eyes on him?
PG: No, I don't, because it was in the sixth grade. But we were alphabeticallyin line all the time, -- I was taller when he was when I first knew him, and that's pretty strange (laughs) -- but it was Gosling, Greenway thing. And we went that way. I think -- of course it makes a good story. In those days you went to parties where they played post office, or spin the bottle -- in seventh grade -- I wasn't really focused on him as I was John [Huntsman?] in our class -- but I think I got called into the post office closet by my friend who (laughs)... Anyway, John and I dated in our senior year. And the first time he took me out we went bowling.
SY: And you were like, "Ah, I'm going to go out with that "smelly" kid fromsixth grade?"
PG: Oh no, I knew him all along. Our class was only 72 people.
SY: And so you like -- you were friends?
PG: We were friends, yes. I liked him. Very quiet; shy. I heard a song from TheJazz Singer the other night. Remember that movie with Neil Diamond?
SY: (inaudible) [00:21:20]
PG: Neil Diamond, right. And he has written this song that said, "She was alonely girl. He was a lonely boy. And the night was warm." But I think we were both loners, not the most popular, not the whatever. With my mother working, I would stay in high school after the scheduled day when I wasn't playing intramural sports, I took a course to be an official. And of course that's a power thing, and I liked it a lot. I liked it almost better than playing. So, that was my life, and all of a sudden this guy was in it when we were seniors, and we've never been with anybody else.
SY: So what was your first date, and how did he ask you out?
PG: Well, it was tricky, because we're all, as you know, women are just -- thenext weekend was going to be a Sadie Hawkins Dance, and I was damned if I was going to ask him to, the first date, "come with me." So, I decided, "How am I going to have that guy ask me out?" And I'd been knitting socks for my brother for a long time, and I thought, "How can I do that? How can I get John to ask me out?" I said, "OK, I'm going to knit him a pair of socks, but I'm going to ask one of his best friends. 'Ed, Ed, how would you like me to knit a pair.' 'Oh, I'd love to have you knit me a pair of socks.'" And Johnny said, "How about me, too?" And I said, "Well, you have to wait." And I thought, "How can I do it? How can I do it?" So, I was a quick knitter, still, and I knit Ed a pair of socks, and plans were in at that point. And with John I designed a pair of grey socks. At the point he was studying all about the civil war. So I knitted him a pair of socks with civil war flags on the top that I designed. And they were probably too tight for him, because he has very thick ankles. (laughs) It's terrible, but it's really true. And in my cookbook, where I keep one of my cookbooks, because I love to cook, I cut off the top of one of those socks, and it's sitting in one of my cookbooks. So, he said, "How about going bowling?" I said, "OK." And then we went to the Sadie Hawkins Dance, and that was about it. That was -- I don't know when when Sadie Hawkins Day is, but it's probably some time. I have no idea.
SY: I don't remember either.
PG: Have to look it up one of these days. People don't do that anymore much.But, we had really good friends, a couple of good friends, that we go out with. And in fact, I just talked to her last week. My best friend's name was Barbara Hubbard. I asked John the other day, who is now, I might mention, he is in the continuous care wing in Mayo. It's a nursing home in Northfield. And I said to him, "Do you remember Barbara Hubbard?" "Oh yes," he says. Why would he say that? Well, Barbara Hubbard was Miss Miami Beach. And to have a best friend who looks like Miss Miami Beach, I could walk down the street with nothing on, and nobody would pay any attention. (laughs)
SY: That's like a teenage girl's worst nightmare to have a friend that pretty.
PG: That's really right. He goes on his stories about her.
SY: So you and John, you're together, you're dating, you're in love, but it'ssenior year. So, he's going to leave for college?
PG: That's right, we're both going to leave for college, and everybody thought Iwent to Green Mountain, or John went to Norwich because it was close to Green Mountain. I don't think either one was. I got accepted into NJC, because of my mother's history. I was not a wonderful student -- OK, B- kind of thing -- but they said, "Well, we're going to try you out." But I said, "No, I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to try to do something in my mother's history. Too much pressure." But the woman I was taking Spanish from said, "I know this college, and I have a friend up in Poultney, and it's perfect for you." And John -- his story is, to most people, I think he told me once he did it because he wanted to be close to me, but I think that's wishful thinking. He was always interested in military, and he got an advertising brochure from there, and a form letter from Harmon, who was president at that point. He drove with my mother to Green Mountain. I had never seen Green Mountain. I never knew what I wanted to be. I bought red towels, which was one of the stupidest things I ever did in my life, because they ran through everything. But it was the good thing to do. And he and mother drove home, and then he came up here to Norwich. And I did not see him for the "Rooks" time at Norwich. And he came down -- always hitched, didn't have a car -- and no one could have a car in Green Mountain, so I would see him periodically. But, you get an extra cut if you got on the honor roll. So I figured if I got on the honor roll, then I could go and see him more. That's the kind of thing that I have, this obsession about, this guy. And mother said, "Just relax." I didn't tell her that much about it. I saw him a lot. And he came up, and they had fraternities at that point here. He wasn't an athlete in school. He was a loner. He loved to do things by himself. His father was not a good man. He was an alcoholic. I don't think -- without going into that in great detail, I think it was something that prayed on John's mind. He was verbally abusive to his mother, the father was. And I think John will never forget it. And that's something that should be on this thing here, what kind of a history he has with his family. An implosion of his mother, who was a wonderful singer when she was young, and then stopped singing. And it was an atmosphere of tension, of where a young man pushes himself to be alone, to do things. He liked his uncle, who lived in the same town, and they built a wooden boat together, I remember. I met his cousin [Susie?], and knew her, because she was an excellent athlete. I thought I was an excellent athlete, but Susie was much better. And as soon as I would see her over the badminton net, then I knew I had it.
SY: So he's here -- I'm just thinking he's this loner, he's this quiet,introspective guy, and then here is in Rook Week, right? How did he --
PG: In what?
SY: And here he is in Norwich at Rook Week. That seems like it might have beenhard for him. Did he write you letters? Did he talk about it?
PG: I think he had a determination, and it was... Rook Week, I guess, is achallenge, I think. I never heard that much about Rook Week. I knew he didn't get along well with his roommates while he was there, except for the very last one that he had. And they didn't get along very well with him, either. He made extra money by being a busboy with Gordon Sullivan when they finally had a dining room, and also by ironing other people's uniforms on his desk, and cooking his hotdogs on his iron, that kind of thing. I'll never forget the first time I saw him with that short haircut when he came down to Green Mountain. He had a couple of really bad accidents in cars on the way back from there to here. (And we have had friends whose sons had life-changing accidents.) At those times, everybody was drinking. It's the way it was. And in Norwich then, the whole corps was required to go to football games, and would sit down. I would come up for the football games when I could, but after I finished Green Mountain, and I was studying to be a med tech down in Asbury, I'd get the night train up here from Grand Central Station, and it would go all night long, and I'd get off in Northfield, with heels on in snow. I'll never forget that. One of my favorite stories is about one of those nights I spent all night long on the train sitting by a guy, and I was knitting all night long. He saw me knitting, and it was a Norwegian sweater that had double colors in it, and he said, "Would you like me to untangle your wool for you?" I said, "Sure, thanks." So he pushed back the seat so he could sit opposite me. When I started I had the front and back done, but I needed to finish the sleeves, and to do something with the neckline. That guy sat there, and we talked about his life, and then he told me that he was taking his wife back to be buried. He would leave the seat every once in a while to go and sit by her coffin in the back. So we talked about both of our lives, and what we were going to do. It was a strange night. I got off that train, and my throat was a little raw, and I think I might have gotten strep throat, because I was sick the rest of the weekend, but it was an interesting time.
SY: What a weird -- those weird intimacies when you travel. You'll never forgetthat man.
PG: Absolutely I won't. And, you can't imagine the other things that I've beenthrough with this. So, Johnny is --
SY: Would he greet you? So you'd get out there. You'd be in your pumps in thesnow. Would he be there?
PG: Oh, sure. So what did he do while I was here? Well, he went to join a coupleof fraternities. Here's this skinny guy, not a jock or forceful at all. But he went over to Tao Delta Phi, which is right across the way. And that was the only fraternity who had in its charter that it would accept blacks and Jewish people. And he said, "I felt welcome." It doesn't matter he wasn't religious in any way. They were just so kind. And they were really a bunch of kind of crazy guys. Really good.
SY: Wait, he wasn't Jewish, was he?
SY: He wasn't Jewish?
PG: No. But Fred was. Fred Kreitzberg was there, too. That's why he's been ourfriend. I talked to him last night. He was there, and other people who are just people that call now to see how he's doing. John was the president before -- and then Fred was the president of that thing the next year. They would always get the English teacher as a chaperone, who was also a fellow that liked his cocktails for parties. And we would sing at that point.
SY: What would you sing?
PG: We would sing the most popular songs at that point.
SY: Do you remember which ones they were?
SY: Do you remember which ones they were?
PG: I remember the Jewish song. OK, here it is. Ready? (sings) "Ay yuy yuy, TaoDelta Phi, vhat have you done with my darlin' little boy?" (laughs)
SY: Hilarious. (laughter) I can just picture the Jewish brother being like,"What are you doing up there with the goyim in Vermont?" (laughs)
PG: That's right. That's really right. And all the... It was... Songs are alittle bit off. And I can still remember some of them. You don't want me to --
SY: I totally do. If I could talk you into it. I do, I do, I do.
PG: (laughs) Well I sing now, when I'm there, to the people in Mayo... A littlebit. Especially this guy at the table who was a Marine whose wife is there. And I sing, let's see what it is, (sings) "Drinking beer in a cabaret, and was I having fun? Till one night she caught me right, and now I'm on the run. Put that pistol down, babe. Put that pistol down. Pistol-packing mama, put that pistol down." (laughs) And this Marine will go, (sings) "Put that pistol down."
SY: And this is at the Mayo?
PG: Yeah, sure.
SY: Because it's a lot of old Norwich guys there?
PG: No, no. This is just... John is practically the youngest one in that sectionright now. But [Weston Martin?], who owned a farm in Randolph, is the one who was a Marine for a long time. And there's another Marine there whose wife had a stroke nine years ago, and he comes every day to give her lunch.
SY: Yeah, that's fine. I just needed to know. It's hard to see these tough guyswhen they're so frail, you know?
PG: In Mayo, there's a semblance of dignity still with John. I have seen himspeak... So often, he'll speak concisely, and so on, and he will -- his long fingers and whatever -- he keeps his dignity sometimes. Even in the most basic conditions of hygiene as he has to go through, which never -- you know, I would help them, because he's so big, for sure. So, anyway, back to our life before this. Maybe I should tell them this, I don't know. (laughs) We had been dating aggressively since we were seniors in high school, and it got to be when summers came around, John would come and stay with my mother, and take care of the property for his upkeep. And he would go, and he was a waiter out in Asbury Park. So I would be studying med technology in the hospital in Asbury, and he would leave as I came home. So, sometimes we would have trysts at night at late, late times. And mother I guess got a hold of some of my letters, which I should not have left anywhere, but she had to dig pretty hard to find them. And said, one Thanksgiving time, before I graduated, "Phyllis, I think it's time you get married." I said, "Oh, OK." I always wanted to get married around Christmas. Oh, great stuff. And we had come home from a very, very late date. Another one of his fraternity brothers was getting engaged up in Northern Jersey, and it took us awhile to get back to Rumson. Mother called Elinor Greenway right away, and I heard at the other end of the conversation, which went, "Yes, I think it's a good idea. No, she isn't. OK." There you go. And John is looking shocked. He also, though, had very formally asked my mother if we could get married maybe a year or so ahead of time, but I don't think he ever liked getting pushed into anything. That was probably what it was. Later that day, after the Greenways have gone through this, and they have made plans that this is going to take place around the 27th at Christmas, mother says when she's calmed down, but I don't ever remember her raising her voice -- I started the conversation by saying, "We had such a great time at [Gene?] and Mary's engagement party." She said, "Where was that?" I mentioned where it was. I don't remember right now. She said, silence, "Oh, is that where you were?" I said, "Yes. That's where we were." And she just silence. "You know, I really think," says mother, "we could put the wedding off to June." And I said, "Well, now that we have all these plans right there, let's go ahead." So we did. Mother, very formal, very formally, she said, "Well, I'm calling about the invitations tomorrow." Or maybe she had already talked about that. The invitations arrived printed, and my mother threw them out. She wrote all the wedding invitations by hand, which is also absolutely allowed by whatever Emily Post, or who the heck it was at that point. So we had our wedding in that wonderful room I told you about.
SY: So did he even get to ask you, or did the moms decide?
SY: Had he even gotten to ask you yet, or had the moms just decided?
PG: Oh, a long time ago we decided we'd get married. But, no, no, it was agiven, but the party wasn't supposed to do until after he graduated. This worked out much better, because it ended up as a fraternity party. It was. Everybody came. In fact, our best friend knocked over a candelabra, and burned up my mother's curtains. We had dancing, and we had everything, and it was grand. Went away for a honeymoon. Mother arranged the honeymoon -- I can't believe that -- then she came and told me the facts of life. I listened, and off we went.
SY: She really did? (laughter) You'd think that considering she pushed thewedding up a little bit, she might have assumed you already knew of --
PG: Oh no, we don't talk about those things. (laughs) Katy, bar the door.Anyway, I seriously got pregnant on my honeymoon. And I need to tell you, I blew up like a balloon. We came back up here, and I promised mother I would finish my schedule in learning how to be a med tech. "You must promise this for me." But then John called me, and he said, "Phyllis, I've rented this place, right off campus." I said, "John, I can't go. I promised mom I would finish this." "You're not married to your mother. I'm running out of money. I've got 75¢ left, and I'm coming to get you next weekend. You have to decide whether you're married, or what are you going to do." I said, "OK. I'll be ready." First time I ever did anything against my mother's wishes. Hazel. We moved into what they called, I don't know what, but they were prefabs south of campus on 12A.
SY: Are they still there?
PG: No, they've been bulldozed. I have a picture of them right here.
SY: You know, there used to be, right after World War II, they built some homesfor married servicemen as part of NU.
PG: That's right, and that's what they were, but they're not the two-story onesthat are down there, almost in the same spot. They're not there. This was a duplex house. You want to turn that off?
SY: We can keep it on.
PG: [Looking at an album] We're looking now at a very short thing of John and I.This is John with his grandfather here. Looks exactly like Ben. This is me -- my brother and I.
SY: I love that picture. You look like you're about to get into trouble.
PG: Oh yeah, I really was. This is John and I in the same school pictures. Andthis is the living room where I was married. And this was in the Latin Quarter in New York.
SY: The Latin Quarter in New York?
PG: The Latin Quarter in New York was a nightclub that my father-in-law took us to.
SY: Where was it?
PG: Downtown Manhattan. See, he still looks like he's 14. That's Norwichpicture. And the one he had of me there. And this is the wedding day.
SY: Do you remember what was going through your head at that moment?
PG: I was trying not to cry, because I was so happy.
SY: He looks like he's 14.
PG: Absolutely he does. I had to buy the beer and wine for us when he was wellpast 26. If he didn't have something there, he'd say, "Phyllis, go on and get that."
SY: It's hilarious. (laughter)
PG: So this a Norwich guy. That's his brother. These are best friends that arestill kicking. My mother made this dress. Took the lace from her wedding in 1922, and we both appliqued it to the bodice. And this is the 12A thing -- the back of that house -- the front part of it was occupied by a woman that had an extremely red history in town, and all of her rooms were pink. They had one bedroom in this place, and they had a living room, and in the middle of the living room was an oil stove that we would pour the stuff in before I came to Northfield. I called John back, "Well, do they have furniture?" "I'll get it don't worry." He said, "They have bed." I said, "Is it a double bed, or what?" "Oh yeah, it's a double bed." Well, the heck it was. No, it was two single beds with mattresses about six inches high. He paid $35 for a couch and a chair, both of which had springs that would come up, and really wake you up if you weren't sitting in the right spot. But the kitchen had a refrigerator that had one of these things that's circular on top, that looks like -- you know what I'm talking about. If you didn't turn the refrigerator off at night, everything would freeze in it. It had a hot water heater in the kitchen that you had to light with a match, and if you didn't turn that off, it would keep heating the water until it turned to steam. And a couple of times we left, and had to come back quickly, and turn on the faucets in a hurry, and have the steam come, or the darn thing would blow up. Only one... The people next door had an extremely colicky baby, and they put that the furthest away from them in their bedroom, which means it was against our bedroom wall. So this child would wake us up periodically. One day, the only time I could really remember I really got into a tussle with him, I came at him in the kitchen -- Johnny, you know -- and he just grabbed my arms, my shoulders, pushed me back up against a wall, and I went through the wall. It was a silhouette -- a pushed-in silhouette of Phyllis in the wall. And my mother was coming the next week.
My father-in-law came to see us one time. He was going to stay overnight, and Isaid, "We've got to tell him about the baby." So he sat down, and I made some chicken salad, I can remember that. And he said, "I have to be in somewhere" -- Chicago or Burlington -- "by tomorrow." It was the 28th. I said, "[Roe?], tomorrow is the 28th." He said, "The hell it is. Well, I've got to go." And he left. (laughs) So we never told him, and I wrote my mother-in-law on this whole thing.
SY: That's hilarious. How'd you fix the silhouette in the wall?
PG: Pulled it out with some sharp thing, and then put some pictures on it that way.
SY: Do you remember what you were fighting about?
PG: No, never.
SY: Must not have been that important.
PG: I don't remember. Somehow, I... If John was angry about something, he wouldjust keep it in. No yelling, no nothing, and turn on the silent motion. The boys knew that, too. That that was how he handled life. So, everybody went into Armor except those -- those people graduated who were engineers, like our friend here was an engineer, and he did well.
SY: So John went into Armor?
PG: Into Armor, yes.
SY: So at this point, you didn't grow up in the military. How did you feel aboutthat fact that you were going to be an army wife? Is that something that you thought about?
PG: All I wanted to be was with him. Really. Honest to God. It's so differentnowadays when these young women have -- it wasn't that I didn't have pride in myself, and my possibilities to do something for the future, it was just that I wanted to be with him. And it is kind of a passionate, odd thing that we have had, and still do.
SY: It's kind of a grand love.
PG: No doubt about it. So, we go down, and we're out in Albion, Michigan, whichhas the worst-tasting water on Earth. I am very pregnant, and my mother-in-law gives me a very narrow couch as our bedroom. And John -- I think it was one of these feinting couches, where you can't go straight down. And my father-in-law would come in, and I'd like to go and sit with him. He was an adventuresome guy, I didn't see his bad side at that point. I'd sit and watch wrestling matches with him, and John would just go off somewhere and read. They didn't have very much money. And we didn't have any money to do anything. Rowe [Rowland], my father-in-law, had promised John he'd get him a good job. "Now, John, I'll get you a good job for the summer you're going to be here. Don't worry about that."
SY: So why were you guys in Michigan?
PG: Because he couldn't go into the Army until the 25th of September. So we hadfrom graduation to then, where we had to go somewhere. I couldn't stay with my mother. At that point, she was still in an apartment in Asbury. And my brother already had six children, or something like that, he and his wife both physicians. All of the time I would come back to the family, they'd say, "When can John get out of the Army?" Which I didn't pay any attention to. So, we went out to Michigan.
SY: Because his family was out there?
PG: Yes. We'd stay with his family.
SY: They weren't in Jersey anymore?
PG: No. Never went back to Jersey, except for visits. So here we are inMichigan, with the worst tasting-, smelling-water on Earth, and I'm in my last dregs of -- and I try to pass my med tech exam without taking any bacteriology or anything, and I failed it by two points. I'm studying myself in my mother-in-law's living room. She and I would do laundry together in the basement, and we'd hang it out, and so on. And John gave up waiting for his father to get him a job, and he went and got one with his brother. They were meter readers for the gas company. So, he has to leave, and I'm ready to deliver. My mother has come out, and John's aunt has come out, that I knew very well, too, I knew her before my mother-in-law. Everybody is sitting around watching me, and John leaves for Fort Knox, and I'm sitting there with my mother and John's aunt, and [Ruthie?], the aunt, gives up. She said, "I don't know about this," and it's approaching the nine month to the day thing. She said, "I'm going back to Jersey." So she did. Mother's there with my mother-in-law. My father-in-law's going out of town. He decides he's going to bring my labor on by driving over railroad tracks at high speed. That didn't work. My doctor tells me, "I'm leaving on vacation next week, and I'm going to give you some castor oil. This will help bring on labor." So, I'm miserable. My mother's there. My mother-in-law's there. And the remnants of the castor oil are there. And that night, all alone, I come down, and I say, "God, I've got the worst backache." And my mother-in-law runs upstairs quickly, and gets her watch. And she sits there with a straight-backed chair. "Listen, I'll be right here. We're going to time these, Phyllis. Now, be calm." I said, "I'm calm. But it comes every two minutes." She said, "This can't be right." I said, "It's right." So mother drives me to the hospital, and here I have my doctor's father-in-law, who is as old as my husband now, is the doctor on. He finally gives me ether, which nowadays he'd be put in jail for. So, anyway, so I have Johnny. Three days later, I get out of the hospital, and my husband comes up from Fort Knox, and takes me down to Fort Knox.
SY: Do you remember when he saw the baby for the first time?
PG: When he came back from Fort Knox.
SY: Do you remember that moment?
PG: No. I don't. Because I wasn't -- you know this thought nowadays of thismagic moment when the husband sees the child. It has never been that way, or wasn't with us. He was pretty sweet to him, very kind. So we took Johnny down to Fort Knox, and we lived in a high-rise apartment there, where he went through Armor Basic. And then he was assigned to the Armor School, and hated that job. There were only a couple of lieutenants in that, and then some sergeants ran the other. The Armor School was teaching young recruits. When they finished there -- when the recruits finished their 60 days, or whatever, they sent us a packet to a single post somewhere around the world, and they're babysat by some lieutenant that goes with him. And John, he didn't tell me he was doing this, went into the assignment guy, and said, "I want one of those packets." So, he goes in, and they've got four packets that are going out: two to Germany, one to Korea -- short tour, unaccompanied tour -- and one to Hawaii. And they pick it out of a hat. And John said, "We're going to Hawaii." We had moved out of the high-rise into a duplex, which was like the Taj Mahal for me at that point. But he said, "You can't come right away, until I find you a place to live, because the cost of living is so high." (You cannot go there and look for something else, because all the time, even sergeants and their wives, their families would send them over to join their husbands, and they had to go back because the couldn't afford it.) But he said, "I need the car to do that." We bought an old car. I didn't want to much give him the car, because I was living with -- mother had come down from Jersey to pick me up with the baby. She requested that we go through the scenic part of Kentucky to go to Jersey. Well, I had all this stuff left over from the house, and we got a flat tire in the middle. There's another guy I'll remember all my life, who came, unpacked the car, changed the tire in the middle of nowhere. I went with my mother, and stayed in her apartment. Finally, when John was complaining, "If you don't send the car pretty soon, I'm never going to find you a place to live." We took it up to Bayonne, or some place like that, and they send it on a ship over to Hawaii.
SY: So, he did all this without consulting you. So, were you pissed?
PG: I don't think pissed was part of my vocabulary then. I just kind of took it.I didn't feel downtrodden. See, it's interesting for you to ask me that.
SY: Right, it's a different generation. So, I put myself in that position, andI'm like (makes angry sound). (laughs)
PG: I don't know. See, living with grandmothers, no man around, always wanted tobe loved. There's your thing. You're wondering if they're going to continue to love you, too. I think that's part of it. I think that's really part of it. I didn't want to rock the boat, maybe. But, I didn't feel sorry for myself, either. Because I had worked as a babysitter, and Lord knows growing up, and had odd things happen then. So, I thought, "Hawaii, that's really interesting." And he was assigned to Schofield. So, I sent him the car. And Johnny, by this time, of course, he's about -- I guess he wasn't quite walking yet. Maybe 10 months old. The Army pays for, at that point, first class from New York to San Francisco, and then first class from San Francisco to Hawaii in these prop planes. My uncle Clarence -- I used to have some of his furniture. I love him so much. The last time I saw him alive is when he put me on this plane. But I had to put half of my suitcase, or whatever I had, on the first plane, because they wouldn't pay for double luggage out to the west coast. Why am I telling you this? I get on the plane -- really nice plane -- and Johnny's chewing, and I have one of these -- pregnant women used to wear these short things, tops that are striped, and I had a PQ white collar with pretend strawberries that were made out of some kind of fuzz, and he ate all that. So, I'm covered with fuzz and stripes.
SY: And you're pregnant again? I didn't know you were pregnant --
PG: Yes, I was pregnant again. But I wasn't showing that much. I knew I was. Iguess I was pregnant again. Andrew is 12 months after Johnny. One of the stewardesses says, "Anybody here play bridge?" "Me, me." I'd been playing since I was 12, because they always needed a fourth. I'm sitting with these stewardesses, and a kid leans over, and he says to her, "Lady, your plane's on fire." She said, "Oh my God." She said, "Ma'am, please go back to your seat." At the end of the wing that's right out from where I was, I can just see the beginning of these flames coming over the edge of the wing, and immediately comes over the intercom, "Ladies and gentlemen, we have a problem with number four engine on the left hand side. I'm going to feather it." And it went all over the side of the wing. He said, "We're going to turn that engine off. We can really even fly with two engines. But what we're going to do is touchdown in Kansas City to make sure that everyone is fine." So, they land in Kansas City, and by this time the fire is out on the wing. And we go into the Kansas City airport, and it is non-air-conditioned in the middle of summer, and we get back on that same damn plane, and we go out to San Francisco. By that time, it's three and a half hours later. Everybody on the plane wants to get the heck off, and do whatever they were doing. Before I had left Jersey, I had had instructions that I called on what I should do when I got to California, and that is to call hotel service, and they will -- no, that's to call this main post that's right on the coast there, and they will have a room for you. I call them. I get off the plane. And I have Johnny and a metal stroller. It used to be flat like that. I go and call, and they said, "Ma'am we have no space left here, but you call hotel service. They'll get your room for tonight." I said, "OK, I'll do that." So, I called hotel service, and they gave me the address for this hotel in downtown San Francisco. I have to go and get my other luggage. I'm going. I went down to the counter, and I said, "Look, I have air freight that's come in on this plane, and I need to get it, because I don't know when they're going to allow me out of that place." And he said, "Ma'am, that's two hangars down that way. I don't have anybody to go with you." I said, "It's all right. I'll do it." So, I put Johnny in the stroller, and I went down with this. I get in this damn hangar, and it's filled with cages with Rhesus monkeys in it. And they're going, "Eek, eek, eek, eek." It's like some -- well, Spielberg wasn't around yet. So, I said, "Hello? Hello?" This guy comes out of the woodwork, and he said, "Hello? What are you doing here?" And I said, "Well, I need my luggage." He said, "Well, OK. Just stay right there. I'll get it for you." And he did. He said, "Now what are you going to do?"
SY: My batteries are low. Hold on. Let me pause. And we're going again. So,there are Rhesus monkeys --
PG: I'm still in San Francisco airport, in hangar number whatever it was. Andthe guy said, "How are you going to get this back into the airport?" I said, "Well, I'll hold Johnny, and I'll put the suitcases on top of this thing." And he said, "No, no. You come with me." And at that point, I said, "OK." And he had a Jeep. The only problem with the Jeep was that the only seat in the Jeep was his, and the rest of it was floor. I had to sit on the floor of the Jeep, but I was so glad that I didn't have to walk all the way back in again. He brought me right into the area where the luggage comes in, and so I went down to San Francisco, and I took a taxi when the bus stopped to where they were having me stay. They had booked me into a Chinese hotel. (laughs) I went up to my room. (laughs) It's true. All true. All true. I'm looking in Johnny's bottle bag, and all his milk is sour. Of course, those were the days when I was making formula out of Carnation milk. I called down the desk, and the guy says, "We no have room service here." (laughs) I said, "All right." And it's quarter after 2:00 a.m. I go down with that baby. I'm not leaving him in the room. I ask him. He said, "The all-night diner down there. You get milk down there." And I had what they call a church key in my pocket --
So I packed him all up again, and left the stuff in the room, and wentdownstairs. He said -- he pointed out an all-night diner down the street. It wasn't that far, about a block and a half. At that point, I don't know how many people remember what a church key is. Do you remember what a church key is? Sure you do. I had one in my pocket, and I thought, I'm going to get anybody that even comes up to me, because I'm carrying my baby down to this thing, where all these people were sitting around this thing in the middle of the night. Worked out fine. Next morning we went to Fort Mason, checked into a room, a very small bedroom. There were two twin beds in the room, and one crib. The crib was occupied by a poor, young child that had Down Syndrome, that moaned all night. And I really thought I was on my way to the never, never regions below. The woman left the next morning, and was very nice, and whatever. The following day I got on a plane. It was first class. There were 23 children under four on that plane. (laughs) This woman -- this stewardess comes up to me, and she says, "Can I get you anything?" I said, "Yes. You bring me a bottle of Champagne right now." (laughs) So, this is nine hours, at that point, from San Francisco to Hawaii, prop plane, of course. All you can see is blue underneath you. The plane was kind of smelly. And John wasn't there. He said, "Well, I was on Waikiki, and I waited to see the plane come over, and I drove as quickly as I could to the airport." I said, (laughs) "Hi." We spent a night at Hawaiian Village, which was charming. At that point, there was only one hotel, really big hotel, in the Hawaiian Village. There was a rule that you couldn't block the view of Diamond Head in Hawaii. Now of course, I have not been back. John has been back quite a few times on the way to Far East, or wherever he was going. He had rented a funny little house for us. It was in a town called Nanakuli. Mostly the people that were in it were Samoan, but also they're very volatile. They're kind of whatever. Next door to us was a fellow, he had nine children, and two bedrooms, and a lot of chickens, and he would chase his children around the yard with a rope. He wasn't pleasant. You had to be careful with this house, because it had over-hanging things over the doors. There were two doors to get in -- two bedrooms. The lizards would be on the door, and if you jingled the door a little bit -- I had one incident of a lizard dropping down on the back of my mumu. I had my car keys in my hand. I don't know whatever happened to that set. I just went "Woah." To get to Schofield, we would have to go through KoleKole Pass. KoleKole Pass is a place where they stored munitions prior to, and during, World War II. It was a kind of precipitous thing, of where there was just about room for one car going in. You go down in to the post, past a large cross that had been put there to mark the places that the Japanese planes had come over. They had come between the mountains before they bombed Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field, which is right next to Schofield.
Before we moved on post, we moved to Nanakuli, and then we moved right outsideof the post, in a place called Wahiawa.
SY: Did you like living off the post better than not on the post?
PG: No. I wanted to get on post, because I knew, number one, there was only oneperson that spoke English in Nanakuli -- an Air Force wife and her two sons. Later, I met her in McLean, Virginia. It's all very strange. Life intwined.
SY: You must have been lonely, too. You've got two kids at this point, right?Or, you've got one kid in your apartment --
PG: Well, I had one child, and one in the basket. Because I had such atremendously fast delivery with my eldest son, I convinced the people to let me plan to have the baby in the hospital that was closest. That was a hospital that was on a sugarcane plantation. I sat with the sugarcane workers, and there were two doctors. This was a big kind of a plantation house with a banyan tree out front. One Caucasian doctor, and one Japanese doctor -- doctor [Noda?]. John had not been there for my first birth, and he had gone down to Fort Knox, as I maybe told you. We were in bed, and indications of imminent birthing were coming in. He thought I had wet the bed. I said, "No, no. I don't feel anything, no. Get me there in a hurry." We went upstairs. We got there in about 10 minutes. We left our kids off with Doris Pennington, and whatever they had for a room, an operating room, or whatever it was upstairs. Doctor Noda was waiting for me. He said, "You want anything?" I said, "Yes." He turned around. I had that baby before he could get back, and that nurse caught it. They took me downstairs, in a lovely room, out looking a porch, looking off the front of this lovely house. About an hour later, the nurse came back, and said, "You want to walk around? We need you to get up now so you will be strong." Well, I got up. What would you think? But, I was lonely out there. You're correct, Sarah. Two of the women from the battalion that John was assigned to came all the way over the mountain to see me, and welcome me. When we finally moved close to the post itself, we entered into friendships, and relationships, with those other members. At that point, he was going to try to get into pre-med. But I think he felt that he found his niche in the world. Let's talk about him.
SY: What was his niche?
PG: His niche was the comradery, and the specific focus of soldiering, andtanks, too. That beautiful -- the battalion he was in, they were just wonderful. I still have friends to this day. In fact, one of them, who met her husband on Waikiki. People come over, and they meet them. Later, when I came back to the States, she owned a Better Homes and Gardens real estate agency in McLean, and I worked for her. That was in the future. I think John had a very good relationship with everyone, as I'd said, for the most part.
SY: So, he felt -- was it the particular work he was doing? Or just the --
PG: Yes, but often he said to me, and this is important, "Phyllis, this isn'twork. This is duty." And that's what he always -- duty was one, I think, and family was two. Maybe a lot of it was because I was very independent, but also he would leave early -- 5:30 or so -- and be home late, and tired. I don't know whether he was very confident at that time, but it was learning the whole time. That was a good thing.
SY: Do you think you've ever felt the same way about your work that he feltabout his?
PG: Beg pardon?
SY: You're saying he found himself in his place in the world at that moment.When did you find yourself in your place in the world?
PG: Interesting. I really believe that I am what is indicated by a Gemini, inthat I'm interested in so many things. I really am. One of the things that I learned there was that they would have at least one big party a month, sometimes formal, sometimes not. Some of the best cooks that I ever, ever met were from that place. So, I began to be interested in cooking, interested in bridge. But a lot of it was taking care of those boys. I was pregnant after Andrew was born -- that's my second child -- and I had about 18 months where my figure resurfaced on Earth. My mother came over to see me a couple of times. (phone rings)
Money, yes. Money was a problem with everybody in Hawaii. In fact, the NCOs andenlisted people, their families would send the wife over to join the husband, and sometimes they would have to be sent back home, because they couldn't afford to live. It was so expensive that a dozen eggs with 85¢. Well that's not very much, you say, but if you're only getting paid $225 a month, and I broke down $100 for food, and anything, because he had to have gas to go back to the -- that I could only spend $20 a month on food. It was particularly challenging, odd stuff.
SY: What did you cook?
PG: Mostly, I cooked chicken, or I could buy that -- fish used to come in thisdisgusting -- it was kind of a rectangular, frozen thing.
SY: Hawaiians eat a ton of Spam. Did you eat Spam?
PG: No, because he never liked Spam, and Spam was expensive. So, the 85¢ foreggs, but you could get issue eggs for 30¢. "Issue eggs" did not leave San Francisco until they were six months old.
SY: That's disgusting.
PG: It was disgusting. (laughs)
SY: Were they actively turned?
PG: You know, I'm often asked, "Well what do you remember about Hawaii?" Iremember issue eggs about Hawaii. So, after I opened one dozen, and eight were green, I didn't have many eggs after that.
SY: How did they justify keeping them that long?
PG: Well, they might have been in quote cold storage, but I can't imagine thatit worked in the bottom of the boats, because everything was brought in.
So I got pregnant again. I went to my wonderful doctor. I said, "You know, I'mgetting awfully big." He said, "Oh, I think you just miscalculated." And he said, "I'm going to send you for an x-ray," which they did at that point. So I went in, and this little Japanese gal came, who was the x-ray technician, and she came out of there, and she says to me -- I said, "What?" She said, "What doctor tell you?" I said, "He didn't tell me anything." She said, "I can't say it." I said, "Are there two?" She said, "Yes!" She just went up and down. She asked me if I wanted to see them, and I said, "Oh, yes, I do." Well, I was excited.
SY: I think you might be the most fertile person in the world. You're superfertile, you give birth like that. (snaps her fingers, laughs)
PG: That's right. That is exactly right.
SY: In a Darwinist world, you are destined to survive, and your children aredestined to survive.
PG: That's right. My father-in-law, who I didn't get along to, he told me Icould be the Empress of China. Anyway, I was so pleased going home tell to John -- and Andrew wasn't even trained yet -- and John was on the floor, my husband was on the floor unpacking a drier, which I had not had by then, and a dishwasher. He was on the floor, and I said, "Ramsey, guess what? We're going to have twins." And he said, "Oh my God." (laughs) There was no great ceremony of whatever, and later he said, "Well, maybe one will be a girl." And I said, "OK." The next day, I had planned to have the exterminator come in, because they had bugs. There's no way they die in Hawaii. They just multiply. And if you have multi-houses -- next to one another like duplexes, or quadruplexes -- they just go somewhere else, and they'll come back. That morning, before he left, I took all the plates out of the cabinets, and pulled stuff away from the wall. I was very tired, and dirty with greasy hair, and went to lie down on the bed. And whammo. The whole thing started. My labor had started again by the indication of water breaking. I called Johnny, and he was in a meeting. I said, "You go in and get him." The young man that answered said, "We'll have him call you back." I said, "No, you go get him now." And he just got up, got in the car, and came home. This time, the hospital was closer, but I almost lost a baby on the way up the stairs into the hospital. It was holding -- well, I don't want to get into that -- holding the baby in with a towel on both sides, like this, so this child would not come out. I got in that hospital, and some stupid nurse said, "We don't want you to have this baby now. You're too early. You're six weeks early." I said, "No, no, no! Get out of my way." It was an interesting experience, and they were 5.1 and 5.6.
SY: Why do you think the birth was premature?
PG: Because I was six weeks early.
SY: No, but why do you think you were six weeks early?
PG: Because that was -- they figure out when you had conceived --
SY: No, why do you think you went into labor early? What do you think triggered it?
PG: I was so large. If you've ever seen anybody that your skin on your stomachbecomes almost translucent with the pressure of these babies. I don't think there's any more room for them. They really were not -- that's a pretty good weight. The doctor said, after turning one guy around, "Hold on, we can't give you anesthetic. Just hold on."
My twins came. He said, "Phyllis, I'm going to send them down to the prematurehospital for children in this one ward in Honolulu. Not for them. They're all right. But for you. I want you to go home, and to take care of your other two children, and rest up for about a week. Then, you go get your babies." What a lovely man.
He also was in charge of finding placement for unwanted children, because a lotof families -- in fact, our best friend came over there, met a girl -- he was in the Navy -- met a girl in Waikiki, and she had been sent by her family because she was pregnant. A very well-to-do family, and they're going to -- her sister was living in Honolulu, but this man, the doctor, would find places for these. When she finally gave birth, she never saw the baby, and off it went. The records were cleared. I don't know what they do now. It still wasn't a state when Andrew was born. It was a territory. So, we left Hawaii. Some weird stuff happened on the way out. You don't need to hear all about that. He was going to go Fort Hood the first time we went to Fort Hood. We were offered a place on the Lurline. There was a line of really beautiful ships that went from Hawaii back to the coast. I turned it down. I was not going to take four boys under four on a boat for five days. No. We went to Fort Hood, but first we went to Jersey. I don't want to tell you all these things that went on to get out of Hawaii, unless you want me to now.
SY: Unless they're good stories.
PG: Pretty damn good stories.
SY: All right. Tell them.
PG: And then I can just say, from then on we came back to Fort... We wereleaving Hawaii with the four boys under four.
SY: So you start with one baby, and one in utero, and then you leave Hawaii withfour children?
PG: That's right.
SY: Oh my God. Those were fertile years.
PG: They call them pineapples there. They used to give Sterling baby cups, but Igot a hard time from the people with the last two baby cups that we'd been given more Sterling to anybody. We were going to say goodbye to the battalion, and we went down to Honolulu. John had failed the household inspection. Did you ever hear anybody talk about house -- every time you clean post, if you didn't have enough money to pay somebody to come, then you cleaned your quarters, and the inspectors came in to give you permission to leave post. You can't leave until you get those cleaned. John failed toilets, or something like that, and had to go back and work on that. Our plane was due to leave on Sunday. In the morning, Johnny got up, he said, "Phyllis, I don't have a tie to get on the plane. I need to be in full uniform to get on the plane. I don't have one. I didn't pack one." I said, "OK. I'll get one." I knocked on doors down the hotel, and I said, "Can I please buy a tie from you?" (laughs) The guy says, "Take it. Go away. Take it." So, we get in the car, and we arrive. The whole battalion's down there to say goodbye, and we miss our plane. They filled our seats before we got there. They said, "The next plane to leave Hawaii will be 10 hours tonight." One woman, who I didn't think I even liked, said, "Come on back to my house in Schofield. I can give you dinner, and you can rest." To this day, she has a star in her crown. So, we came home. We got on the plane that night -- ten o'clock at night, on one of these planes where you sit in a side seat. John has his orders, and he's in uniform, and he's got his -- I'm sure all these families have done this before -- and I've got the twins, and he has Andrew and Johnny, and the bottle bags, and stuff like that. Andrew gets frightened of the motors revving up, and he runs down the runway, and this guy behind is standing there with a stupid overnight bag, and I say, "Here, take these babies. I have to go help my husband." (laughs)
So we went home to Jersey. We're very fortunate to both have families. Both mysister and her husband, but my brother had a big house, because he had six kids. We stayed with them. That was good, until we bought a car and went to Texas. They got to know their cousins. It was a big thing. I don't have any aunts. I don't have any uncles. So, it's nice for them. Then we went to Hood, and so on. Then this kind of ricochet thing. Now when did you want me to talk about Vietnam?
SY: I was just going to say. When did he go to Vietnam? When is he --
PG: We left Hawaii in 1960. We went, then, to Fort Hood. When he was there, hewas there for 18 months or so, until he was given the assignment to go to the Advanced Course for people that are in Armor, which is in Fort Knox. So, we moved to Fort Knox, and got to know some people very well in Fort Knox. Another one of my friends from Fort Hood -- also was there with her husband. So, that was another friendship that just meshed again, tremendously so. I just talked to her two weeks ago, that it's still there after 1962. That's a lot of years. She's on her third husband at this point, on another weird story. Johnny went to the Advanced Course, and then he went back to Fort Hood to get a company there. Then he got orders for Vietnam.
SY: Do you remember where you were when you found out he was going to Vietnam?
PG: No, I don't. I think it was expected, because a lot of other people werebeing sent there at that point. But that was early. That was 1963.
SY: So you had no idea what he was getting into?
PG: Specifically, no. He was always interested in any kind of history, andcurrent events, and what was going on. He would sit at night, and read, and listen to music. That was his life. Very solitary, if you can imagine. I have pictures in my photograph albums of, for instance, when he was in Hawaii, of him reading, with his back to the wall on the couch, and the boys are crawling all over him. And he's just got the book like this, and they're just kind of crawling over his lap. He was close to them, but not aggressively, but not focused so. He was a lot focused on his own life, very loving. A romantic guy.
SY: How was he a romantic guy?
PG: Romantic guy in the sense of wanting things a bit formal, wanting to havedinner with he and I alone, with candles at night, and a glass of wine. This even started when the boys were young, that I would sometimes have two dinners. I would feed them first, then he and I. So, the focus of he and I, for our marriage, and even before that, was on one another, rather than outside things. The kids had -- they were in their own coven, or whatever, and it was like bringing up some puppies. Often my friends would say, "Do you know where they are tonight?" That kind of thing. Anyway, so John heard in 1963 he was going to Vietnam. He arrived in-country the day the Tonkin Gulf blew up. He was sent down to be an advisor in the delta. There were two captains, a major, and I think two enlisted men there in that village. But, it was one of the main villages in that thing. He would send me photographs. I do have photographs. I decided -- I had the choice. I could not stay on post as families can now on unaccompanied tours. I had to move off post. I found a house to rent when he was off for his last sojourn with his favorite commanding officer in the desert. They went out to a desert. What do they call them? Desert strike, I think. He loved this man. His name was [John Hooks?], this commander. And John Hooks had been in the Army for a long time, and was a cavalry officer riding the boarder of Mexico and Texas before World War II. He was charming. Oh, I loved them both so much. One night we had a party in the officers' club. The game that they played was all the men had to stand behind barriers, and take their one shoe off, and their sock off, and the women would be on the other side, and they have to go back and forth, and stand in front of their husband's foot. It was so neat, because you went along -- I could find John's easily, because he had such big feet, or has still such big feet -- but the wrangler, John Hooks' feet were the shape of cowboy boots. He always called me Philly. It was grand. These are members of family. They aren't just whatever. So Johnny went to Vietnam -- he couldn't phone. The only thing was that we had to write letters. I'd wait, and I'd hear from him, and he'd say, "OK, I have to go out on one of these" -- I forget what the name of it was. It was an exercise, but it's more than an exercise. That they were trying to find in-roads of the North Vietnamese coming in. He said, "I may not be able to write for 10 days or so." That was hard. I decided I would cross off the days. I put up a big list on the door of the kitchen, and crossed off the days. I wouldn't allow myself to cross them off until I was ready for bed after I brushed my teeth.
And then he was almost killed--
SY: Did you worry all day? How did you think about it? How did you deal with the anxiety?
PG: I guess I kept pretty busy. My friends wore out after awhile. They wererotated to another post and soon I decided I'd teach bridge. I always think I'm better than I really am at anything, but I taught it in -- that took a lot -- once a week, I'd do that. Then I'd done -- Johnny said before he left for Vietnam, "Why don't you learn how to play golf? You've always been a kind of a [jockus?]." Well, I did. That was wonderful. The concentration that has to have. I would read again a lot. Then, at night, I would take the boys to the drive-in. I had a three-seater station wagon, and you put down everything but the driver's seat, and you put an old mattress on it, and you make sandwiches, and you only pay for yourself. So, maybe, at least once a week, I take them off, and sit there with all the goings on, and all the other cars around me. I saw some of the best movies I ever had in my life. I got really hooked. I always loved them anyway. Heaven's sakes it was about a dollar and a half. Once, I drove to Arkansas to see a friend, whose husband also was in Vietnam. He was stationed in Saigon, so he wasn't really in that much danger. For instance, Russ Todd was in Saigon, too, I think. Carol spent the whole time when he was in Vietnam in the Philippines with houseboys, and stuff like that. But this was not the same.
SY: No, this isn't the same. Why didn't you go back to Jersey where your family was?
PG: That's a good question. I purposely didn't do it, because they were neverinterested in anything to do with the service, with the Army at all. They had no understanding. There were never any kind of rude things, but once in awhile, one of them would say, "When can John get out of the Army?" I didn't like it.
SY: Just because -- why do you think they didn't get it? Was it --
PG: Well that time frame, it was very unpopular, and got more so as it wentalong. But when we first were there, there was very little national coverage of that, of what was going on. My brother and his wife were both doctors. Mother was doing fine. My friends, mostly, were gone from Jersey. They had been married, or gone away, or whatever. I had friendships, and I had ties, and I knew how the post worked, and I knew where to go to get what, and to help people. I never regretted being there, although I was kind of more lonesome toward the end of it.
SY: What -- can you tell me, and when you got these letters, what was --whatever you can tell me. What was happening in Vietnam for him?
PG: Other than personal, which are probably about half of them, and enough toalmost set the box on fire, he would talk about national affairs, and how Vietnam was being managed from Washington, and the idea of what Congress was doing. He would -- I guess Westmoreland was there at that point. He got to be very close to the people in the village, too, as I maybe told you. Is that not correct?
SY: Tell me more about it.
PG: I have pictures of that. The head of the South Vietnamese unit was veryclose to him, and they would have him in for dinner. John liked everything to eat. He always ate anything we would give him, so that kind of made it -- I bet that was it. And then, that he could teach them English in Vietnamese.
SY: He learned Vietnamese?
PG: He learned Vietnamese while he was there, and then -- he's so smart. Hecould teach them English in Vietnamese before he left.
SY: He also saw some hard stuff, I would imagine. I think you told me about someof that. Is there anything --
PG: Oh yes, right, right.
SY: Are you willing to talk about any of it?
PG: There were a lot of mines. Some of the roads were mined. They would go out,and a lot of this was marsh, and that kind of thing. There would be spies. They never knew -- this was not a group coming up against one another, I think. When he got shot, and the people on either side of them -- one was killed, and one wasn't. It was a larger -- what do they call it? It was more than a fight.
SY: Can you tell me about when he got shot? What happened there?
PG: He was in an APC, which is an Armored Personnel Carrier, with the twocommanders. The commander and his vice-commander were beside him in the APC.
SY: And these are South Vietnamese commanders, or Americans?
PG: South Vietnamese, oh sure. He was an advisor. South Vietnamese against theNorth Vietnamese. They were advancing toward a fortified line. I do have a picture of that, of the line itself. John, of course, being 6'4", and the other people 5' something, the man on his right -- the commander -- got shot in the chest, and he fell against John, and John went sideways, and caught his body as he fell. Then, as John went down, the bullet went through his helmet, knocked him out for a short amount of time, but if he stood, he'd be gone. The other man got shot, too. There were quite a few casualties. At this point, he did send me photographs of the aftermath of this exercise -- it was more than an exercise -- of bodies, and so on.
SY: So you're just going to your mail, opening up this letter, how are youreacting to this?
PG: It was odd. I don't remember being hysterically affected by it, because Ihad heard these incidents from other members of the military community around me, of the things that they had had go on with their husbands. Some of them had died, some of them had been wounded, and so on. Almost an acceptance of danger, in some ways. And, frankly, I just kept going. One woman I knew pretty well said, "Now, Phyllis, why don't you go to church, and pray with this?" I said, "I'm not going to do it. If I didn't do it ahead of time, I'm not going to do it now." But I, frankly -- frankly, Sarah, if he'd been killed, I don't know what I would have done. Because, there was no place for me to go in Jersey. My mother didn't have a house anymore. Who's going to take in a woman with four kids? At that point, if you had a husband who died, I think it was only $10,000 you got.
SY: And you didn't have a way of making a living at that time, right? You didn'thave your college degree yet. You had your two-year degree.
PG: That's right. I did finally pass the exam for -- I was a certified med tech,but I wish to this day that anybody would tell any of these young woman, and I do it all the time when I see them, "Go and get your nursing degree. Just get your RN if you can't get anything else, because that's the way the world's going to go."
SY: And no one should live in fear, right? You should always know you can make a living.
PG: I think so, but that wasn't -- that's really an interesting thoughtbusiness. How did you really think about life? I always thought about life of when he came back. There was not a search for individuality, and a search for a capacity to take care of yourself that so many young women have now. I really don't know whether or not it is the influx of where divorce is accepted more, of where you don't think you're going to be married that long, your whole life. You just looked through your life, and you just hoped. There wasn't any question that I thought that I would have him around.
SY: Even though your own father had died? Even though you had been raise by asingle mother? You still had faith?
PG: I think so. And I also think that's kind of interesting. With John'sbackground with an aggressive, verbal, alcoholic father, and a mother that did not ever have any education. And as this man went further, and further down in society, and by his own goodness knows what. There's no way she could take care of herself, and here is a woman who grew up with plenty. It was a three-story funeral home that they lived. Then, when her father died, circumstances went of where they went down to Rumson where I was, that my father-in-law was not up to running a funeral home, and so on. Then it just went down. I think John was insecure, and a loner, when he grew up. I think that the military gave him a place to be. It gave him loyalty, purpose, and self-criticism like crazy, of where he will do 120% for his duty. I think in some ways, I never considered myself as being at all attractive. So, I think we both went through a tremendous insecurity of loners, and we're still loners. It's interesting, isn't it? Introspectively, I feel so pleased that all I had was an Associate's Degree, because in those years that we moved, first in Washington, then when I went to George Washington University, and took histories, and things like that, and then to Germany, where I went to University of Maryland, and then back to Kansas, where I finally got my degree in art. I don't know. Lord, I must have 135, 140 credits for just a Bachelor's.
SY: You were able to explore.
PG: Oh God, it was great.
SY: That's what's so great. People think, "Here you are. You've got a zillionkids. You're just following your husband's career." But in each place, you're like, "I'm going to learn about this, and I'm going to learn about this."
PG: That's really right. That's really right. For instance, when we were inGermany, I was going to the University of Maryland there, their adjunct, or whatever it was. The guy stood up one time -- there were only about six of us in the class -- and he said, "Ladies and gentlemen, 40 years ago today, I was arrested by the Gestapo." I loved it, and he talked about that a little bit. The way he taught us language was to sing it. He said, "We're all going to sing." He said, "You'll learn your pronunciation by singing it."
SY: What did you sing?
PG: Oh, some German thing.
SY: Why was he arrested by the Gestapo?
PG: Because he was Polish, and they thought that he was pro-something or other,that he shouldn't be. He spoke, of course, Polish, Russian, English, French, and some Spanish, he said. It was just great. Then I joined the German-American Wives Cooking Group, and I went to go to the Mannheim [Stadtkrusche?], and every month they would have a different menu, and if you were in charge that month, you had to go and have the recipes, and then you'd serve it to the people at lunch. So, there were 10 German women, and me, and one other gal, who was American, that came. Nobody else came. But, God, I had a great time with that. They were so pushy. They would call me Frau Phyllis or Frau Grünweg. When I was there -- you probably speak another language. I'm sure you do, don't you? What do you speak?
SY: Spanish. Not super well anymore. I used to be mostly fluent, but I've lost alot of it. But, yeah, Spanish.
PG: You do. You need a tremendous amount of... We'd speak Genglish. My twofriends and I, and then another woman and I, would meet, and we'd speak "Genglish." We would never bother -- I was never good about verb placement.
SY: German is particularly weird in that way.
PG: Oh, it's spitty. Spitty, cursey language.
SY: It's such a strange language. Whenever there's an emotion that I can't quitedescribe, there must be a German word for that. (laughs)
PG: I'm sure there is, and I may know it.
SY: My husband's favorite German phrase, which I can't remember, is, "A facethat cries out for a fist." It's like (tries in German) -- I don't remember what it is, but he's always like, "You know what that guy is? That guy is..." And then he'll say the phrase.
PG: (laughs) Interesting. That's interesting. I had a German here two nightsago, who was a chef in New York. He's married to my niece. A face that cries out for a fist...
SY: Gesseicken -- I don't know what it is. I'll look it up for you.
PG: Gesicht is a face. There's an interesting thing on the wall over there. See,John was stationed in Mannheim, in between Heidelberg and -- or, in between -- in Seckenheim, in a NATO unit. That was very good for him.
PG: Because they have to have their tickets punched in the service of havinginternational experience. When he finished with D.C., because he went from Vietnam to Command and General Staff school, which is in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. We had to live in sub-standard quarters there. Either live off post, or sub-standard quarters. The sub-standard quarters were old-type barracks, and they were two stories, and wooden, and all they've done to them is separate the four sections. We had half of the top, and there was linoleum on the floor. The poles were left where they normally were in a barracks. The heating vents were hanging from the ceiling, and if you talked to loudly, or listened carefully, you could hear anything your neighbors would say. Downstairs right was the only section that had control of the heat, so they had to figure out what -- for them, they were cold, but if they turned it up, we would just roast, because it was a terrible thing. There was an outside stairway to go up our back door, and to people next door. The guy next door was Eric Ebert, and I'll never forget. He was only 5'7", and his wife was 4' something. They even had a miniature dachshund. They had two kids. There was chicken wire on that back stairway. I mean to tell you, it was so strange. My kitchen was this: a stove with four burners, but all there was of the top of the stove was the burners -- you've seen the really small ones; a refrigerator, relatively small; a sink with a drain board, all ceramic. There was no counter space. The only space I had to fix dinner was on the drain board of the sink. (laughs)
SY: Sounds worse than my apartment in New York.
PG: Yes. In fact, the people that were here, I would have them draw me a thingof how their apartment was in New York, because I have to plan this thing, and I might want to move into it sometime, or build, or buy with my son. It can only be 750 square feet. My kitchen is 750 square feet. (laughs)
SY: It's an art learning to live small.
PG: I think so. But, I've done it in the past.
SY: You don't want to do it again.
PG: I don't want to do it again.
SY: It sounds terrible. Let me rewind for a second. Let me go back for a secondto Vietnam, just because we are trying to document that moment. My grandfather, who died before I was born, he was in World War II. He came back -- he's actually my step-grandfather -- he came back, and my grandmother always described how he was never quite the same afterwards, but they didn't have any language for it at the time. He was sort of more withdrawn. He laughed a little less. He, blah blah blah. She talks about living with the aftermath of that, but not having the language to talk about it at the time. So, did you live with that?
PG: I noticed a difference, and that's a pertinent question for right now,because I just finished a long, drawn out thing of getting John disability. Disability is different from retirement pay. How was he different? He was even more quiet than he used to be when he came back. One day he said to me, "I'm sure that all the people that I knew" -- and I don't know if he said love, but he meant that -- "the South Vietnamese are dead now." Because this was after when these towns were overrun, especially places like that. When he was still in Vietnam, he got the news that he was going to be curtailed, sent home early. A lot of the danger alert was out that there were a lot of small groups of North Vietnamese along the roads leading to Saigon, and that it was very dangerous for any kind of caravan to go in there. So, he got on a civilian bus, and road with the chickens, and the women, and so on, right down to Saigon, and got whatever information he had. We didn't talk about it that much. I didn't want to know. I was appalled more and more by the photographs that he sent. But, he's never been forthcoming. The man I spend a lot of lunch with, is a World War II vet, who was in the Marines. He and I talk about his experiences periodically, and I asked him whether or not he had done one of these things. He said, "No, I never talked about it that much." But when this person came up and interviewed me after I had begun the original collection of all this justification for this other funding.
SY: Oh, for disability. When someone came up and interviewed for disability.
PG: Correct. They sent a packet off to the VA, which is -- the big VA in the skyis somewhere in mid-America. It was sent back for further justification, but it was sent back, because they had accepted that John had been exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam. He was there -- not only was he in country, but he was in the area in the country when they were using that. He never realized that that was the case. We never discussed it. And later, when he was a commander of the squadron that he had, a battalion. Someone came in, an old friend that we met first when we went to Fort Hood, and said that he had been affected by Agent Orange, and John said, at that point no one thought anything of Agent Orange. It wasn't brought up.
SY: Do you think what's happening to him now was maybe because of Agent Orange?
PG: That was a big question with this. The physical justification for disabilitycan be justified by hearing, and it's all done on a percentage basis. By hearing, by maybe being around when they were testing atomic stuff, which he took a course, and he was there with that. But, with Vietnam, it was the Agent Orange thing, and guns, and so on. John has hearing loss, where he can only hear lower tones.
Are you freezing to death? Yes, you are.
SY: No, I'm not actually cold at all.
PG: Oh, OK. So, it's Parkinson's that -- the VA will accept the appearance ofParkinson's, rather than Alzheimer's, rather than this Lewy bodies that he has. When this thing had gone a little further, and there's a VA person from Montpelier, and collected all the records that I had, and went through it, and said, "I'll take this. I'll take this," and so on. He sent that in, and then White River Junction called, and they wanted him to come down to be reevaluated for both physical and mental deterioration.
SY: He can't go down there.
PG: I said, "No. Right now, this man cannot get in a van. If this hinges on youseeing him, then you just take it out of consideration. I'm not going to send him down."
SY: They don't make house calls? This makes no sense to me. People are disabled.They can't get to the VA.
PG: That's right. They called Mayo back, and they said, send a nurse clinicianand a psychologist up. So, it's just been within the last two months that the nurse clinician came, and at that point, he was still walking with person on either side but they could seem him with his feet, and his imbalance, and his hand is now like this with the Parkinson's. So the psychologist was going to come, and he was non-responsive with her to. "Aah, ooh," like this. And sometimes he does talk, or whatever. And she said, "Well, I'll talk to you, Phil." I'll talk with anybody. So, we talk for about almost two hours, and we're on a one-name basis at that point. She was very interested in his early life as well, of his negativism toward his father, or his father insisting that he does things. Only when John started to really have this -- this beginning of this mental challenge he's going through now -- did he say how much he hated his father, and that he was so cruel to his mother -- not physically: mentally, worse.
SY: Do you think it's because he started feeling like a child again that he gotback in touch with that?
PG: Oh, it very well could be. It very well could be. But, Rowe would have himsit down and say, "These blankety-blankety-blank are after me, and there always after me, and you sit there, and you listen, and this is the oldest child..."
SY: So a paranoid guy?
PG: Oh, terrible. Worse. But, be that as it may, she was continuing about thestories with this. She pretty much knew what had gone on with Vietnam experience, although I didn't know, but it was on paper with whatever...
SY: So she knew the Agent Orange exposure?
PG: Oh sure. She said, "I wouldn't be here unless it was accepted as a possible clue."
SY: What's the conclusion? Is it? Do you think it is a manifestation of Vietnam?
PG: I don't know. The last thing she said to me before she left, which I thinkis interesting, she said, "Phil, I don't think this is going to go through, because if there is true, negative reaction or change with these things, people cannot function in society well. Most of them cannot function. Therefore, John has obviously been able to function in society well, and I don't think it's going to go." I said, "OK. Well, that's fine." But, I went home that night, and I wrote a letter, and then I took it in to have it faxed from Mayo and to this woman, and this is what it said, "In the last few years, my husband has an even more evident implosion of his personality, of utter control of not even opening his eyes. He is this way. My sons feel that he might have had Parkinson's earlier, but also he, with his intellect" (and he had a big IQ, big, big) "could he have hidden these symptoms?" And I said, "I don't know whether his condition is exasperated by whatever happened in Vietnam, or his experiences in early life. I can only say this is something that you should consider that his intellect would allow him to function so many years." I said, "Thank you for your consideration."
SY: And did she respond?
PG: No. But it went through.
SY: It went through? You got it.
PG: Yes, it did. (laughs)
SY: Look at you.
PG: I was so pleased, but none is retroactive, except when it started. Itdoesn't make any difference what rank you had, how long you even were in the Army. It can be these things. If it's on a percentage basis -- 60% or whatever -- and you have retirement from the Army, they can give you 60% disability with his hand, and then they take 60% from your retirement pay. But, the disability payment is non-taxable.
SY: So it's more?
PG: Yes. But if you have a 100%, they don't touch your retirement.
SY: And does he have 100%?
PG: Yes, ma'am, he does.
SY: Because he was a general?
PG: I don't think that had anything to do with it. I don't think so. I don'twant it to be that way.
SY: Well, sure, none of us wanted -- you and I don't want hierarchy to be thereason for this, but the world we live in -- When did you find out that this went through?
PG: About a month ago. And that'll go on while he's still alive, and then itwill stop.
SY: But you'll still get some type of pension from the Army?
PG: If he signed up a long time ago for spouse whatever, then -- but he had todo that when he was a captain -- but he did sign up for it, so I'll get some of this retirement pay when he passes away. We've just always been terrible people with money. The kids will say something, "OK, here. Take it, take it, take it." Or buying oriental rugs, which is always very good. (laughs) We had come out of the War College, which was another one of these schools successive schools. He went back to Fort Leavenworth to work for a TRADOC, which is an analysis of the construction of the structure of the army, of men, matériel, whatever. He said, "Would you like to go back to Germany? Or would you like me to apply for an attaché job?" I said, "Oh, maybe, I really would." But Matthew then was only three years old. He came, and he said, "OK, they're going to send us to Austria. We're going to Vienna, and there's a special house for the defense attaché. There are three stories, and you can get 25 people for supper, and a full-time maid." And so on. Of course, I loved studying German when I was there, and the paintings -- the German Expressionist, and their calligraphy, too. Fantastic. I was pretty excited, but our boys were not that old at that point, too. They couldn't come. They were either already in college, or in the service, but Matthew was just a first grader.
SY: Oh, I didn't realize he was that much younger.
PG: Oh yes, he was 11 and a half years after his twin brothers. A caboose.
SY: How did that happen?
PG: It wasn't planned, either. My brother said, "You better get off your pills."And immediately, no matter what I did, I immediately I had another baby in 1970.
SY: Because you're the most fertile woman in the world, as we've established.
PG: I really have. (laughter) They brought me Matthew after these, and he lookedexactly like the other ones. Absolutely. And I was just going to have them burn the barn. I'm not going to wait. I always wanted six boys, but not that much after that one came.
SY: So, tell me about you becoming an artist. Tell me about -- because itdoesn't sound like -- you're in Hawaii, and you're in Fort Knox. You don't have time to paint, right?
PG: No, no, nothing. Why I became an artist is kind of interesting.
SY: I figured it would be kind of interesting. (laughter) Pretty interesting.
PG: What might be different with this thing? John is in command of this squadroncalled the 21 Cav, one of the oldest Cav things in the Army, and doing a great job. One of this troops -- they aren't companies; they're troops -- is going to be sent over to Europe for a large thing they were having there. So, he bastardized all the other things in there, and a new division commander had come in, who was George Patton's son -- looked exactly like him -- and George Patton's son is a two-star at that point, had a young lieutenant coronel came with him, that he wanted him to have John's command. So, he was curtailed. He was supposed to give up the squadron in three or four months, and it was back to a month, and you have to leave. You're going to get orders. Sad. He was lying on his back in bad, "Oh my God, my life. This is just so awful."
SY: How old is he at this point? You guys were --
PG: Seventy-three -- what would that be? Forty-five-ish in there. I'm not sure.
SY: He must have been furious.
PG: I was. He was so sad, disheartened. And there was a brigade commander, whowas the full coronel in there that did not support John. At this point, John had come out, because he had such wonderful reports before then, efficiency reports. John was scheduled to go to the War College. But it's almost sure, you're going to become a full colonel. Son of a gun almost tried to get him off the list to go to the War College. I was angry -- his wife came over, and she was very kind. She's a kind of painter, and she gave me a kind of nice oil, which she had done. I thanked her profusely, then threw it away, because I didn't want to think about these people anymore. In the meantime, the whole squadron that we're leaving, and I'm sure made it very difficult for the guy that took over. One of the captain's wives said to me, "Phil, I'm taking this oil class. Do you want to come and take it with me?" I said, "Sure, great. I used to do that when I was 12." On the table, she has a metal bowl with plastic fruit in it. She said, "Now, let's pretend this is wood with nice apples." And I thought to myself, "Why, in God's name, couldn't you buy three real apples?"
Off we went to the War College after all. This is in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.While we were there, John would take me through Gettysburg. He knew everything that took place there. In Carlisle, Pennsylvania there was a paint store run by a woman that also gives classes, and she also does portraits, and she is a graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute, knows what she's doing. Has been deserted by her husband, who was an Italian violin string maker. She and I -- I mean, we would laugh. She said, "You have to go to art school." Except, she said, "The paintings you're coming up with -- they're coming out of your head, but they can be very scary at times." (laughs) So that's how I started. When we left Carlisle, we went again to Fort Leavenworth, and that's where this college was. I walked into this college and said, "I want to major in art. I have 98 credits, nothing except art appreciation a long time ago." It was wonderful. Those nuns -- I mean, "you do" it. Have you been to schools like that? The head of the department said, "You do all of the things that you're requested to do. All of your assignments on time for class, and you will get a C." (laughs) So, it went from there. So, that's how I started.
SY: When did you start taking yourself seriously as an artist?
PG: I think that that two years that I was there, I knew I could do things ofmoving as shapes around, visualizing different colors in things, and I think the instruction had a lot to do with it, in the sense of this nun, who taught the watercolors using her hand, then forearm, then full arm and body. "You don't paint from here. You don't paint from here. You don't paint from here. You paint here." It was lovely. Lovely. After that, I did some post-graduate work at the University of Kansas. I went there, because they didn't have any figure work in the college that I graduated from. There they often had two nudes at a time.
SY: Oh, because they were a Catholic school, so they didn't have nudes.
PG: No, that's right. No, we didn't have any figure there at all. But, in KansasI did. There were no real requirements for these students in the University of Kansas. They were to fill up a portfolio that the professor was humma humma about. I was so used to over-studying, over-thinking, doing this. It was a self-challenge, I think, everything. You're like that. You know that. You have a self-challenge, and you don't react to what people tell you you should do, because sometimes it's what you don't want, but sometimes it's exactly; that you must leave an open mind to all.
SY: What's the piece your most proud of?
PG: I think it's in John's room.
SY: At the hospital? At Mayo?
PG: Yeah, at Mayo. Because, the second year I was there, one of the nuns said,"Phyllis, you need discipline. You need to take calligraphy." And we started with bookhand. We had three classes a week, two hours each, and you were expected to put in twice as much time for each hour away from there. Then you had to come up with a finished piece. I think that calligraphy and watercolor together is something that I really like. I read a lot of poetry lately. Poetry that I've discovered. There's one woman that's in her late eighties, that's still alive, that was touted in the Times Argus. There's the Vermont poobah of poetry talks about it periodically.
SY: Who is it right now?
PG: I don't know, but he talked about her. I find poems that I want to letter,but then you have design with it, too. I love pastel. It's like having every different kind of spice in your closet. I don't have many oils left that haven't all dried up, but I have pastel, and watercolor, and acrylic, because I've taught -- when I went to Virginia after all of this, near Alexandria, I would go to the Torpedo Factory, which is in the city. They had nationally- and internationally-known artists come, and talk, and give workshops. I went to those things. Then you could pay $10 for a whole day with a model, with no instruction, and you go down, and you pay. And that's just wonderful -- the process. This woman that got me started on that -- what the heck was her name? It'll come to me.
SY: The woman in Kansas?
PG: The woman in Carlisle. She did portraits on commission. She said, "Let metell you about my newest commission." I said, "OK, great." She always got more, if there were more people in it. She said, "A black woman -- and I'm not prejudiced -- but a black woman came into my store, and she said, 'Can you do a whole family?'" -- her name was [Jo Pucci?]. That's what it was -- And Jo says, "OK, sure I can do that. But each one will be another charge." She said, "Do they have to be alive? Can you do it from photographs?" Jo said, "I can do it. I can try, but I have to look at the photographs first." So, the woman went on. She said, "Well, I have three people that are dead, and then I want my mother and father, and then my children in this." So, it was going to be a sizable commission. Then she said, "But I want it in Tara."
SY: What's that?
PG: That's the house from Gone with the Wind.
SY: Oh, the plantation?
PG: Yes, yes. She wants her family in Tara's living room. (laughter)
SY: That takes chutzpah. That's awesome. Did she do it?
PG: Yeah she did. (laughs) We would just laugh, but she was serious and awonderful artist.
SY: That's really interesting. So I find myself, because I'm thinking about yourlife, and I'm thinking about John's life. And I'm thinking about how you make sense of your life, and he makes sense of his life. And you have this moment with him in Hawaii, where you feel like he really came into his own. I feel like I want -- well, maybe when you discovered art, you came into your own. But, I don't think like that's your narrative. I don't think that's the way you frame your life. I think that's just me framing your life in my head. (laughs) Do you know what I mean?
PG: I think art -- reading about it, teaching it. I'm a good teacher, I think.
SY: So you feel like that was the equivalent for you? Or maybe you didn't havean equivalent?
PG: I don't -- my big question is, doing my art, or whatever, I could drawmembers of the family, and that was like touching them, and making them part of your mind. When you draw something, whether you're outside sketching, or whatever -- I don't work usually from photographs at all -- you see something, and you can focus on that, even if it's only the lines of the top of the mountains in the distance. That's really hard to teach people. I mostly taught adults that thought it would be fun to do, and then they find out it is not only fun, but it's really hard. I don't know. I know I've been kind of hesitant to promote myself. Artists are usually -- not self promoting. Consider Kincade, which I cannot stand. Do you know who Kincade is?
PG: God bless you that you don't. It's this trite stuff of English cottages.
SY: Oh yes.
PG: Oh, God. It is just trash.
SY: Sentimental drivel.
PG: It is sentimental drivel. That is wonderful.
SY: Sort of the equivalent of Norman Rockwell in some ways?
PG: Yeah, well -- he was an S.O.B., evidently. It's fun to find out about these people.
SY: So, we started out this interview, and you said, "This is my and John'sstory, because we've lived a whole life together." That's beautiful. So, it's nearing the end of his conscious life, the end of his awareness. How do you think he would reflect on it? How do you think he would make sense of his life? How do you think he would narrate?
PG: Right now, you mean?
SY: Yeah. Or, the scope of it. If he were able --
PG: Do you mean the totality of his life, or the ending?
SY: Maybe the totality?
PG: I think he would be proud. Every once in awhile -- not in the last sixmonths or so -- especially to men, because he relates to men more than women, and he spends a lot of time with his eyes closed, and somebody came into the room, and said something to him. That was when he could still walk a little bit, or be helped to walk. He said, "You know, I was a general." But, now that's gone for the most part. It's all right. He was in interesting, reflective man. A reader. And now it's sadness to me, that no one would probably want all of the books I have of his, because of the changes of technology taking over the pleasure of holding a book in your hand. And contemplation. When we would go -- I think music, I think me. We would go (cries) -- do you have a Kleenex?
SY: Yeah, here.
PG: Good question, though.
SY: I'm sorry.
PG: You're all right. You're all right. I just left off steam. We would go toconcerts together, and because he was so deaf, he would begin to hum along, and I would give him my elbow. "Ramsey, Ramsey, be quiet." A formal. He ate in the English manner. Have you ever -- of using both fork and knife at the same time. It's very, very practical. You don't cut it and then put your fork down. You have everything ready, and even peas go into the mouth well. He loved fish. When he was a young man, he would walk into the river -- he was closer to the river than I was -- and pick up clams with his toes, and eat them right then and there. That kind of thing. He liked his uncle well, and they built a skiff together. It was an interesting relationship, but his mother -- because often now he'll call me mother, which is fine with me, as long as he knows somebody loves him there. But, I can see him imploding, but his pride in what he did was always there. When he retired, working with this four-star that he revered above all, who was a Virginia gentleman, born in China, and head of TRADOC down there in Virginia. John was his right-hand man, and would go with him to all of these conferences, and do analysis, as I perhaps mentioned to you before. Little by little, he had John take up an office by himself in well-known hotel, which was looking out on Hampton Roads there. He was there by himself. Had a secretary that would be there periodically. So, little by little he distanced himself from what else was going on in TRADOC, and would just be focused on what General Richardson needed. He was full coronel then. We were living in Hampton Roads. He had gone out to California, and he came back on the red eye from California. Richardson called him into his office, and told him he was going to be promoted. It was different. (cries) John said, "I've been in shock, just shock, because other general officers" -- that maybe we'll talk about -- "would have expected this." So, it was nice.
SY: He was humble to the end.
PG: Ah, yeah. He said, "I don't know if we should do it, because now you haveyour house and your art." "No problem," I said, "Oh," I said, "we have more adventures." And we did. We went up to Washington, and he worked there for awhile, then we went out to Fort Lewis on the west coast. He did very well there. There was a general's circle that we lived on in Fort Lewis, and that looked down this huge parade ground to Mount Rainier in the background. It was rather close to Seattle, which was very nice. Beautiful. But the coast in Washington State, as you know, the water is very, very deep there. I became pretty good friends with the commanding general's wife, Jo Harrison. When we got there, Schwarzkopf lived next door.
PG: Yeah. He was our next-door neighbor. On the other side of Schwarzkopf wasthe other two-star, John Shalikasvii -- John had two stars at that point. In D.C. he knew he was going to be promoted to major general, his commanding general, who then was still a two-star before. But his wife was Miss Arkansas and we'd known them in Fort Hood. She had a beautiful voice. They came out in front of our house in McLean, and sang the Major General song from Pirates of Penzance. Right in the street. Just sang it. It was very sweet. Anyway, we went out to Fort Lewis. That was interesting. I never told the women who I had responsibility to, that I played golf there. So, I had my golf friends, and I had my other friends. It was beautiful. My brother lived out there. Out in Oregon at the point. So, we'd go stay with him for one night. He died soon after. It's very interesting. Life, getting older, with continual deaths upon you of near ones -- you're not quite experiencing that yet, of course, but your mother is -- I'm probably old enough to be your grandmother. How old is your grandmother? Is she still alive?
SY: Oh, my grandmother is dead. You're not -- no, my mother is -- my mother hadme late, so she's 72.
PG: Seventy-two. That's a good age. A great age. She's still quite young.
SY: She had a had injury, so her vision is damaged, and her balance is messedup, so she's older than your usual 72.
PG: There's always something you can do. One of John's classmates... One got LouGehrig's, and he can still do something with his eyes, but that's about it. Two more have died within the last year. Some are very, very sweet, two of them. They ask about what's going on with John.
SY: What about -- I'm hesitant to ask this question, because it's going to makeyou cry.
PG: No, that's all right. I don't mind crying.
SY: But, so how do you think John would reflect on this grand love that you twohad on this marriage?
PG: He never did not reflect upon it.
SY: That's beautiful.
PG: (cries) Not --
SY: Ah, I did. I made you cry. (laughter) I knew it.
PG: You're too perceptive. There you go. (cries) It's nice.
SY: You had a good run, huh? You two.
PG: Yes. I keep -- I don't know if you keep little notes your husband writes you.
SY: Oh that he writes me? It's all digital. I just get text messages. (laughs)
PG: To bad. I have these things in all my books, and I have to be careful totake them out.
SY: Oh, because he's written you little notes?
PG: He'd write me notes, yes.
SY: That's very sweet. What would they say?
PG: "I love you. I'm so glad to be home. Thank you for the warm welcome." That'sall, I'd say that I would speak of.
SY: Oh, very sweet.
PG: That's right. Yes, yes. A beautiful writer, too. Romantic. The love letters,I'll say. Yes.
SY: Sounds better than text messages. (laughs)
PG: Well, see what we all lose? What we lose away from that paper. I was socalculating having him ask me out to begin with, and then I just hung on to him until we were one.
SY: (laughs) Perhaps.
PG: How we would dance in Europe. Oh man, he was elegant and grand. It wasinteresting when he was first in Mayo. He'd say, "Want to dance now?" to the girls. "Oh, John." "Come on now, come on."
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