|The Whole World Was Watching
an oral history of 1968
Ashley Johnson: Mr. Fetter where were you born?
Edmund Fetter: I was born on the campus of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
AJ: Did you grow up there?
EF: My folks lived there. We lived there for the first six months of my life. Then we moved to Cambridge, Mass. So actually I'm not a Midwesterner.
AJ: Could you briefly describe your family or your neighborhood, their ethnicity, religion or your parents occupation?
EF: Yes my immediate family, my wife I have two children, a son Tom who went to South Kingstown High School and then to MIT. He is an electrical engineer and he works as a research development engineer an electrical engineer for Hewlett Packard. And his wife is also an electrical engineer and works in the same development lab. My daughter grew up here in Kingstown in this house and went to school at South Kingstown High School and the University of Rhode Island. And she works for, she is a specialist in the development of program for computers. Computer programming. She has two kids. I have two grandchildren.
AJ: Oh that's great! How about your parents occupation when you were a child?
EF: My parents? My father grew up in Pennsylvania moved around a bit. He was a, what they call a university pastor for the American Baptist Churches and he worked in Cambridge for most of his life and then in New York City. My mother was a school teacher; taught fourth grade in Pennsylvania went to Bloomesburg State Teachers College. Now it is a state college. My wife is a school teacher. She taught third grade in Wickford for a number of years.
AJ:You already said how your mother worked outside the home? How did your family, like, react to that? Was that just like a normal thing to do in those days?
EF: My what?
AJ: Your mother. Your mother when you were growing up.
EF: When I grew up, yeah, she was in the home.
AJ: Oh she was?
EF: Yes she's- my wife taught school. I see what you mean- yeah. My mother taught school before she was married, and then she did not teach school. So I grew up in a home where my mother was home all the time which is quite different today.
AJ: Did you have household chores or duties?
EF: As a kid?
AJ: Yeah, when you were growing up- as a kid.
EF: Yes, I had to help clean the house. We lived in a very large house. We, I use to wash the paint, clean the wallpaper, vacuum the rugs, and as I got older I helped my mother wallpaper and paint in the house and as I got older I had to take care of the yard. So yeah I had a lot of jobs.
AJ: Where did your family get their information about politics and other events?
EF: About what?
AJ: About politics and other events, like, where did you get most of your information about current events, and things that were going on in the world?
EF: My, okay my, my growing up as a kid you listened to the radio. And I remember doing that because my father did. We listened to Lowell Thomas who was one of the early radio broadcasters. And my dad read the New York Times and news magazines. (Telephone rings interruption) We talked about politics at dinner a lot, because we always ate dinner together, and it was fairly formal compared to running back and forth and in and out and so forth today. Like my Dad his time was busy in the daytime and often the evening too, but we always ate dinner whenever possible. So we did talk about affairs as we grew up and what was going on in the world.
AJ: Oh that's good.
EF: But we also- the newspaper and when there was exciting news that you hadn't heard about there were news boys that would come down the streets calling "Extra, Extra. Read all about it! Linburg crosses the Atlantic Ocean!!" (laughs) I remember that one.
AJ:Wow! How about when you were a child or in high school around then what were your experiences with dating and friendship?
EF: I went to a prep school, which would be during the time of high school. And it was all boys, but I did take dancing lessons at a dancing school and there you danced, learned how to dance, ballroom dancing and there were gals of course and the first thing you know people were throwing parties. Also in our church; a young peoples group in the church and the kids would get together and dating was with, at parties or you'd get called up to go to somebody's house for an evening to dance and it was ballroom dancing to records. Fun!
AJ: Sounds like it, a little different from nowadays though.
EF: It is different from nowadays, yeah.
AJ: What did you want to do when you grew up? Did you know what you wanted to be? Did you turn out being.?
EF: I wanted to be anything, but what my father was doing. (Laughs) Last thing in the world, as it turns out I did the same thing (still laughing) Oh I wanted to be an architect. Mainly I was very much interested in that, but of course that changed many times after I got into college. When you learn about other things in the world, and then you get a chance to try what you can do and what you can't do and I did not go to college with a real purpose in mind or a particular field. It just kind of happened.
AJ: Were you aware of any discrimination against people in your family or neighborhood? How did people deal with ethnic groups back then?
EF: I didn't have much exposure to minority groups, except that, because we lived in a very large house, we had to have- my mother had to have- help to keep the house. And we had a woman who lived in our house and would help with the cooking and help with the cleaning. Hired through an employment agency. And there was one woman in particular who was black and we grew very close to her, but there were no blacks in our community. So it was a little different, and then her sister had grown up in Virginia and her older sister the one women that was working for us, wanted to get her out of the routine of the southern family and brought her up north and her sister lived in the house with us. She was a kid who was maybe five years younger than I am, and she played with us with the gang of kids in the neighborhood. This was when we were in the very early teens about fourteen. So we had a black girl who lived with us, which was completely accepted and no problems at all. However we weren't really exposed in the city of Cambridge and the schools that I went to in Cambridge. In the prep school there were no black students. At college hardly any black students. We just did not have that exposure, unfortunately.
AJ: How about your work experience after high school?
EF: Did I work after high school? No, I didn't. There was kind of a thing about kids working, that you just didn't do it. That was certainly after The Great Depression and you just didn't take jobs away from other people. You weren't offered and you didn't go out and seek them. I did learn each summer as a kid I went to my grandfather's farm in Pennsylvania during the summer, the entire summer. And I learned about work there. I guess a couple of summers in high school I worked for my uncle. Who was a farmer. I lived in his house all summer- two summers. I did everything from driving tractors to pitching hay. Farming in the old-style, he had a lumber mill and I worked in the lumber mill. I worked in the woods sawing trees by hand- no power saws. So I really learned what it was like to work at point of view in my life, and I appreciate it now as I look back on it very much and understanding of old-style farming. So different than today. These were individual farmers and not like Tuckers' grape fields. My grandfather and his relatives before him farmed to live. To raise their food, their vegetables and so on. They made butter and eggs and all those things, but I learned to do that.
AJ: That's good!
EF: But its so different and so primitive, but I had experiences doing that but it was fun; as I look back on it.
AJ:Yeah, that stuff was neat as a kid. How about your work after college?
EF: Well in my junior year in college I was drafted. A city of a hundred thousand people Cambridge at least then maybe more. I was early on, and originally the war was on in Europe, the Second World War, before we had gotten into it. I was drafted in June for a year! And that's where it really started out. We finally decided that- in this country most people talked about isolating ourselves from Europe-when the war broke out. We didn't want to get involved. And at college, what they all called us was the Isolationists. And then I found out that our apparently the powers of the inner government were a little bit concerned that we might be getting involved in the war so they established a draft. For a one-year period- I went in- I was delayed to finish my junior year. And I went, boom, right in. I stayed in this country until well, that December the war broke out. And then I realized I was going to be in for a long time. And I was in the service for four years, four months, and four days or something like that. I spent about a year in Europe. First in England and then over on the continent and then working our way inland into Germany and Austria, to the border of Czechoslovakia and the Danube River. And that was when the war ended. I came back to this country and my wife was in the service- my wife to be. And we decided through the mail to get married when I got back, because I was going to be sent back for a month and then on to the eastern theater over in Japan, the Far East. So we got married, now that I was back in the country, in August 1945. On the day we were married-we were married in Washington DC, and we went to the reception afterwards, and at the reception they had the radio on and it announced that the war was over.
AJ: Wow, incredible!
EF: We had a hotel room back in Washington DC - and some of our friends for the reception-we were across the Potomac into Virginia. We came back and the hotel was almost within view of the White House, and as we got back from the city the cars became filling the streets, because there had been gas rationing and they said, apparently had told the people when the war was over they could then drive their cars again. So everybody filled up. We got about three blocks from the White House and the cars all met and jammed. We got out, and walked. Hardly able to get through the crowds in front of the White House, and into our hotel. Then, we went back that fall to college. I had senior year to finish. And we got back a couple of weeks late because of the time sequence, but I finished my senior year then. Then I went on to graduate school and in the mean time my wife worked for her college bachelors degree. So one year of college afterwards and then three more years of graduate school.
AJ:Where did you go to college and graduate school at?
AJ: Where did you go to college and graduate school at?
EF: I went to Bucknell University, Louisburg, Pennsylvania. And my father had gone there hundreds of years before (laughing). And it was a small liberal arts school. Compared to colleges today it was tremendously small. It's bigger now of course. It was an excellent university. And then my graduate work was at Colgate Rochester Divinity School in Rochester, New York. I was in graduate work for three years. I got masters degree from that. That prepared me then for being as a minister, as a Protestant minister the same day I graduated. And went to a, served a church in Onieda, New York. That's between Syracuse and Utica, New York, upstate New York, they call it.. I was there about four years came here in 1953.
AJ: When you were first married, when it first happened how would describe the relationship between men and women during that time? Like did your wife stay home or did you both work?
EF: Yup, yeah. When I got married, she was not to work that was the, that's what I. What should I say? I knew that's what you did. It would be, I was responsible as the husband. We didn't get much of a salary. But, uh, yeah. Goodness gracious then when we lived here and then after we had our kids my wife announced one day that she was going to go back and take some more courses so that she could get a teacher's certificate. So she specialized in education. She majored, I believe in, sociology. So she took some courses here at the university for a couple of years, to prepare her for teaching elementary school. At that time that was acceptable to me. quite different from when we were first married. Not many wives were working then, but she said she wanted to work and I didn't feel badly. I thought that was a good thing for her. Our kids were old enough to stay home `til she got home in the afternoon from teaching. So that was not a problem sending our kids out to day school. We just didn't do that. They hadn't, daycare had not really come into existence yet. Yeah, but that very expectable thing and I think a very fruitful thing for our lives.
AJ: How about music? Was music an important thing in your life then?
EF: Yes, my father's mother played the organ and taught music. My father played the piano. My father played the guitar, back before playing the guitar was like today. Most of the kids, I don't know if they're doing it now or not they have been for years. Kids grab a guitar and start playing the guitar. He sang in a Glee Club and he sang in a small group. I took piano lessons when I was a kid. For seven years I learned music. I learned how to play the piano and I learned a seven-year course in basic harmony. Where you understand music how it's created how it's built and how to write music. So I played the piano. I sang. I sang in college in the Glee Club in college and music is extremely important. I got introduced, in prep school, to classical music by hearing on a record a real record, before LP's (laughing) before long playing records. Revel's Bolero are you familiar with that?
EF: It is marvelous! It has a tremendous beat to it. I was in love with it! But we did not have the sources of music like CD's like I own today, but I had several trips to hear the Boston Symphony when we lived in Cambridge. So as I grew older in college I took courses- in the liberal arts college you had to take a course in music. An introduced to listening to music, which was wonderful! I've been in love with it ever since. I exercise every day, for a half-hour, listening to classical music. It makes the half an hour go (makes swishing noise) (laughing). It's wonderful! I have a nice collection of jazz and I just love it!
AJ: Yeah, my dad's really into that too!
EF: I like to lay on the floor and turn it up real loud! (Laughing)
AJ:Did you attend concerts? And how did you feel about Woodstock? When that was going on?
EF: Well, when Woodstock I was, yeah, that's my son's era. And my kids liked the Beatles. I liked the Beatles and I enjoyed that. I have much more difficulty with music today, because I don't have the course of appreciation. (Laughing) I guess. We had our own music in college, records, which were the big bands. The big bands would come to college to play and have a dance- Senior Ball; everybody went to these things. It was wonderful! The big band in the college gym. Then you'd have a lot of fraternity dances, which were record dances or a small group, but you played the music of the big bands. That's what was in.
AJ: So what did you think when Woodstock was going on? What did you think of that whole ordeal with the music and them playing there and everything?
EF: What did I think of what?
AJ: What did you think of Woodstock- the concert that lasted for days?
EF: Well it was a new adventure for everybody and it was the talk of everything. An amazing event! I worked on the college campus with students, I don't know if you know this or not but I was a chaplain at the university, the university chaplain for Protestant students, but you saw students. So I was very aware of these things. Woodstock came at an age when students were beginning to open up lifestyle, changing lifestyle. On the campus, I came here in 1953 and during the Fifties everybody faculty, I was actually like faculty, we tried to get students to wake up and respond, and do things get excited about something and blahh, (laughing). Women had to be in at seven o'clock in the dorm room, sign in. Women had to get permission to go to the library. You got eleven o'clock nights on the weekends and big dances or something maybe you got a 1 o'clock, but boy it was controlled. You controlled the women. You controlled the students. That didn't prevent them from sneaking out the window sometimes, but you know. Hear your parents talk about the good old days well I know about the good old days (laughing). It was the beginning of the awakening, what took place in the Sixties, which was far different and finally students began to wake up. Another event that's important, and I don't know how people really realized, the advent of the pill. Do you know what I'm talking about?
EF: Birth control brought new lifestyle and just flipped like that. It had it's joys and it had it's problems. Students awakening in that sense dormitories even later on coming into mixed male/female same dorm. They're still arguing this, in the Army, even today. That's when that began and basically a good thing, with anything with responsibility and as we grow up we have understand responsibility too. Sometimes you learn without hard trouble but sometime you learn it with trouble, but that's how you learn in life. It was a different decade.
AJ:Where did you get your information about the Vietnam War? And how did you feel about what was going on?
EF: I was beginning to see it on TV, and boy that's something new too. We didn't get a. I came here in 1953 pre-TV. Really, it's amazing! I think of my father pre-automobile and I laugh! (laughing) Me pre-TV and I laugh. I remember when radio first came in.
EF: There's the first speaker we ever had (pointing towards an old speaker on a shelf) and it still works.
EF: 1920, Twenties. Yeah, we finally broke down and bought a TV set in the late Fifties. You saw what was going on in the world a different kind of world. You not only, having been in a war people didn't know what war was. Unless you were there, but you know you see movies you see newsreels. This source of information I've forgot is newsreels. When you went to the movies and during the war, people went to the movies. There wasn't much else they could do. The theaters were jammed. The newsreel had the news where you could actually see events and then when TV came you could see events and war correspondents would show up with cameras. So it would was a different things. I worked with the community on campus, the students, and faculty. It began to have much more of an impact on people, and I think that's what was also part of the stirring of young people, because that drove the concept of war conflict real close. They began to talk and argue about it.
AJ:Did you participate in any political, community, or religious groups?
EF: Did I what?
AJ: Did you participate in any political, community, or religious groups, around that time period, around Vietnam, around that time?
EF: Not really political groups although I was involved with the students. Two things were going on: one was the marches in the south. The students were, I was politically, I guess you would say political when you go and have a rally up at the State House, that's political. Protesting for housing. I remember one time with one of the other chaplains we got a group of students together we had heard that black students couldn't get haircuts locally. So we got some students together and some white students and some black students and went down to the barbershops to see whether they could get their haircut. What we did was send a kid in and then follow in as an unrelated person supposedly to see whether or not what was happening and they were being refused. And we took another student with us who was on the school newspaper. And he wrote a story and turned it over to the Journal Bulletin so it became headlines in the Journal Bulletin. So this was back quite a ways it was during that Sixties period. Some people were very upset with that. Some people said we shouldn't be doing it. I was amazed one of my friends who called me and really chastised me for doing it, because that meant he couldn't get his haircut and make an appointment for it. This interrupted his life. So we had a little chat about that and I don't know if he ever came around to my side or not. Things of that nature.
Students were beginning to get concerned about the war. They got worried about the war; they got worried about being drafted then because that came along. It was not always fair because students were sometimes exempt and other kids had to go. There was a question of conscientious objection, which is a pretty tough road. For a person to declare, that student would have to declare that he was a conscientious objector; have it verified by people in the community, go before a board and you were looked down upon very, very much. But we tried to give students an opportunity. People have to make their own decision and it's not fair, in my book, if you don't have information. The same thing about health, birth control, whatever. You need information to be able to form opinions. Your opinions may be right may be in your eyes, my eyes, somebody else's eyes but you need to make an opinion, because it's serious matters involved.
It really was a good time to be on the campus because students were asking questions. They had sit-ins they had, learn ins, teach-ins. What this was it was kind of an informal thing, but groups would get together during the noon hour at one the villages on campus and have some faculty or some other students talk about what is going on in the world with the war. They argued and asked questions- they call them teach -ins. It was a glorified bull session led with some content. Then the students got excited about making themselves heard and they did this by sit-ins take over the presidents headquarters on campus. Big deal, go lock yourselves in! But it was in the college paper. But this was all a process of learning and expressing and coming to opinion, making decisions. What do ya wanna do? Did you want to finish college and get deferred? You know what happened with Clinton he got talked about and talked down about by many people, because he was different.. Students were being deferred all over the country; he was in my book what most kids did. They wanted to get their education they thought they could serve their country better with a completed education. Always the fact that they weren't being shot at of course, but those were the kind of issues being discussed back and forth. So as it was not the dull Fifties but the exciting Sixties. Quite different.
AJ:Do you recall your responses to any of the following things that happened: desegregation of public schools, or Martin Luther King's leadership? Do you remember how you felt about them when those things occurred?
EF: Well, we live here in South County unfortunately we don't get much exposure to black students. We still don't at the university. I know I worked along with some other faculty to help get started the program talent search for black students - to get them to come work with me. We worked with the university officials and with the state higher education commission, or the commissioner, to develop or help get set up a Talent Development Program, which hired a couple of black leaders on campus to help black students get the course work updated so on to get to come to the university because the university had hardly any blacks. That's one thing as far as education is concerned that's a college level. At public schools they just don't have very many blacks, there aren't many blacks at your school are there?
AJ: No, not really. I mean there's some but.,
EF: And we do not have the Latino population like they have in the cities. We don't have the Vietnam or the Eastern Asia people that have come in to our larger cities so we don't get that much exposure. So far as the south is concerned the tremendous concern is what was happening with Martin Luther King and the marches, and students wanted to go down and march.
AJ: How did you feel about that? The Martin Luther King's leadership? What did you think?
EF: Tremendous, one of America's heroes that's my opinion. I think people, I don't know if people realized it was non-violent. I don't know if that carries through today but influenced by Gandhi. There was violence against them. And some of our students went to the south to march and it was tough, because numerous people in the south looked upon the whites that went down from the north as rebel rousers. It was tough. I was asked on more than one occasion not to encourage students to go south because they should be here getting their education, by one or two college officials. That was an attitude, which I ignored, because if students wanted to go, I tried to help them make connections, which wasn't very hard to do. There's not a large number that I know of that went down from school. It was a pretty hard thing to do and I don't know how much it helped. It was supportive I'm sure to see whites marching with the blacks.
AJ: What do you recall on the Black Panthers, Malcolm X, and Black Power? How did you feel about all that? Were you all for that?
EF: Understandable, but difficult. That wouldn't be my approach myself. The approach of non-violence the approach of education I think had much to do in the long run, much better in the long run. I know you've got to get attention, maybe that's okay to wake people up, as long as it doesn't win that many enemies. I think you have to look at a situation and look at the outcome. I am more on the, myself by nature, experieineced more peaceful approach. I spent four years in the service abroad so I speak from that experience for background. The results of oppression of opening up of concentration camps you have to begin to ask your self at what point do you have to stop that.
AJ: When did you first become aware of the war of Vietnam? Did you approve or disapprove of the US involvement with the Vietnam Conflict?
EF: Well, I tell you I was sure surprised when we went there because we thought the war was over for good and all. I guess the guys in World War I felt the same way the war to end wars and wars don't end wars. It snuck up on us at least myself and the people around us, around me it was not like we sat down and debated the issue before we, all of a sudden we fooound we were there, our people were there.
AJ: Do you think the US did the right thing in becoming involved in the Vietnam War? How did you feel about it then?
EF: I was opposed to it all during the war. I joined those who were speaking against it. An utter waste. A terrible waste and we lost the war. That's nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to be, we shouldn't of been there. It was nothing. Body counts we heard on the news everyday, frightening! And they're your people. Well, they're the Vietnamese also. A complete waste. We do have conflicts and, boy, it sure pays to do everything in our power to, from my feelings, to talk about it. A conflict, everybody has conflict, you and I, my wife. Kids you talk about it. You got to learn to talk.
AJ: Do you think avoiding the draft was morally correct or not correct?
EF: It depends on the individual, absolutely morally. If a person feels strong about not fighting then I don't think they should have to do it.
AJ: Do you know anybody who did this? Who was interrupted by the draft or left the country to avoid the draft?
EF: I don't know of people who left the country. I can understand. I sympathize with them I really do. I don't think you can make judgments until you talk with them and understand why. I think it's totally unfair to categorize them or make judgments about a person in anything unless you understand the reasoning, their reasoning. And then you can agree or disagree.
AJ: Right. Do you know anyone who served in Vietnam or was killed in the war?
EF: Do I know people that served in the war? I know kids who went over, yes.
AJ: Did this affect your family at all?
EF: No, it did not affect my family and my kids. My son was not old enough at that point to get involved. And I didn't have any relatives, cousins or so forth that were within age.
AJ: Did your opinion of the war change as the war went on?
EF: I don't think it changed very much. I didn't want us there in the first place.
AJ: Did these feelings get stronger, do you think?
AJ: Did these feelings get stronger, do you think?
EF: Oh yes! Oh yes! The more you watched the news, the stronger you felt. (laughing) Then you know, listening to the conversations going on at the university. I keep saying the university, because that was where my life was.
AJ: Did you attend any demonstrations or carry any demonstrations or rallies or anything?
AJ: Can you describe what happened at them.
EF: Oh, mostly you call a rally for at 12 o'clock at the campus somewhere. You stick a soapbox and a microphone and argue it out (laughing). Somebody making speeches. At the same time a lot of fun things were going on too. Getting a soapbox and microphone and making speeches, at noon time, is kind of a fun thing to do. I don't know if they do this anymore or not. They use to do this at Harvard Square in Cambridge. Have you ever been there?
AJ: Yeah, I was there last week actually.
EF: Yeah, you've got.
AJ: We went to the Peabody Museum on a field trip.
EF: Oh yes, right in the little square you've got Harvard, Radcliff, MIT, and a bunch of other schools. Well those right around there. There was always someone there on a soapbox all the time. It was fun. I use to go back to watch (laughing). But, yes protesting on the campus, yes.
AJ: Were you attracted to any of the woman's movements that were going on?
EF: Yes, I was. I was very much concerned about. I've attended women's rallies where I was the only man. I remember I used to subscribe to what was it, the woman's magazine, is it NOW, National Organization of Women? I had that in my office, mostly what I did was in the area of counseling and all the women would come in and say , "Oh, this guy isn't too bad he has the NOW magazine" (laughing) That didn't mean I read it. I did in fact. Concerned for liberating any person very much. Still am.
AJ:You said before about the new use of birth control, the pill, and do you think this led to more sexual freedom?
AJ: Do you think at the time it led to more sexual freedom? Like when it first came out?
EF: Well that's what was going on. Yes it did. This is what I meant when I said earlier, when I mentioned the pill- sexual freedom. How do you use the freedom? All of a sudden the campus realized that women were getting pregnant. The pill was there but they weren't using it. But the lifestyle didn't change because not everyone was using it or knowing how. I worked with the; what we call it on the campus, infirmary, which is your health care center, your doctor office. We had some woman physicians and I worked with them and we established and founded a group with students, to teach birth control and to answer questions about sexuality. And we developed, we brought a health educator to the campus, and she and I co-taught a course in human sexuality, education. It was for credit. And the student then agreed taking the course. It was a normal college course, one semester course, three hour course. The students agreed to put time in for an organization called Speakeasy, which they named. Speakeasy rated way, way, way back to alcohol. I don't know if you know that story or not, but Speakeasy you went during Prohibition, back in the First World War.
EF: To make a long story shorter(laughing). This was group of students who put time in an office on campus where students could come in or come and visit and ask questions about it, birth control or issues of human sexuality. We felt, we taught the course because we felt, we knew, people were ignorant. Nobody, here kids are in a college not knowing there own body functions. It's amazing you learn higher education and nothing about yourself so we taught a course. For ten twelve years starting in the Sixties and then through that whole period. Students would even go out in the dormitories, when asked, people to teach them how about the various methods of birth control and how to use them. We were a supportive not only educational but supportive. So I was involved in that. The new freedom came without education that was the problem.
AJ: Which foreign policy or issues other than Vietnam concerned you? Like for instance the Arab- Israel conflict, or the events in Cuba that were going on, or Guatemala? Do you remember any others that concerned you?
EF: Well concerned me yes, and frustration because you know, what does little old me; what can I do about that? I spend my time trying to do a lot of things about a lot of things, how do you contribute, well you vote? You do vote. Yeah, it's frustrating. Ireland. I heard a man doing a book review on T.V. last night on public television news hour. The seven o' clock public television news, which I watch every night. Whether this country we are really advanced like we think we are. There is a big argument today that we are still racist, we're still this, we're still that, we're not getting along, but we're sure getting along a lot better than in some areas. I, after the break up of Yugoslavia my wife and I traveled there. And in all of the countries there were nine, nine ethnic groups in the country called Yugoslavia. They spoke two languages, no what was it seven languages? They had two alphabets and a dictator to hold them together. And when he left they broke apart. And you start reading the history; they've been fighting for centuries! And it's amazing when you think we have made some progress in this country. We have every color, every race, and every country living with us we had our squabbles and we are not over the prejudices yet. We are making it work, but you have to work on it. And you see the way the things go on in Israel and the Palestinians- it' s unbelievable, centuries and centuries of the hatred and they can't get over it. And what can you do about it? It gets frustrating.
AJ: Did you support the limiting of nuclear testing or think that this was an important issue?
EF: Nuclear testing?
EF: I don't think we should, no it's too dangerous. We have not only nuclear testing but we've, but we have these plants and we still have no place to put the waste.
AJ: Did you feel that veterans were treated with respect and courtesy? Were the people in general appreciative for what they had sacrificed?
EF: I didn't, I was not in Vietnam and that was understandably one horrible situation for soldiers. Although I did serve in Europe. My reaction coming home was to get out of the army and forget about it. And I tried to live my life that way. So I would say I don't have I'm not interested in getting recognitions and so on. I suppose I can understand some guys who had horrible experiences and still have horrible nightmares, but I think they've gotta work on those problems. I think, I hope we have to our Veterans Administration enough support for them, I don't know. But if they are simply crying for excuses I have no sympathy. You've got to get yourself on with it, whether it's the war, or death, family members, or whatever. You've got to lift yourself up by your bootstraps and move ahead. I have a lot of memories of bad experieinces. I've got scars- I've got scars from the lawnmower, I've got scars like this (showing me a scar). They are scars on my life, but I've still got to move ahead. And make something of myself.
AJ: Which of the following events from 1968 made an impression on you? Could you describe your feelings or responses? The escalation of the Vietnam War conflict. That obviously made a very big impression on you. Like the US bombing of North Vietnam, troop build up, and Vietcong alliance.
AJ: How about Lyndon B. Johnson's announcement on TV that he would not be running for the presidency for a second time? How did you feel about that?
EF: Well, I thought it was good, because he had made some poor decisions in the war and we needed to get out. It wasn't such a big deal for me as an issue. I don't look at it as a big deal, he goofed. It's just as well he went out because he- he did some great things! You know you go back and you read some of the things that Johnson did, in terms of civil rights and so on. He helped the cause, but if he said he's had enough, he's had enough. The war aspect, I just didn't feel sorry.
AJ: How did the assassination of Martin Luther King, you know what kind of impression did that leave on you? How did you react and feel about that?
EF: Of Martin Luther King?
EF: Terrible surprise, terrible blow. We reflect back upon it why you can see how it might have happened. There were strong feelings and opposition for him. He was changing lifestyles of people; he was getting into their way of, their backyards. Getting into their lives negatively for some people. There is plenty of nuts in the world. The campus was saddened very much, very sorry very sorrowful. Tremendous man, boy what a speaker, tremendous powerful man.
AJ: How did you also feel about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy?
EF: Again, unbelievable. It was one of those things you thought you just didn't do anymore or happened anymore. The campus was extremely upset. The people began to ask the chaplains if they could have a service for us. Before we got our heads together thinking you couldn't believe the stuff we were hearing, of course this comes on radio. You know you're in your office and so forth and all of a sudden this happened. You couldn't believe it. You had to run home, well of course it was on television too. What a waste. It was the kind of a thing that you didn't expect and you couldn't believe when you heard it.
AJ: How did you feel about when you heard of Columbia University sit-ins and other students' demonstrations against the war and the draft?
EF: Well, we were doing the same thing. So the more power to them. I don't know whether there's along scale of the event at Columbia. I don't think it shut the university down. It didn't shut the university down.
AJ: How was the election of Richard Nixon?
EF: The election of Nixon, I think I voted for him, and then I rued the day! (laughing) It's tough in any election so many times I've had to vote for the lesser of two evils, instead of being on fire for somebody. We need somebody to come in and take over, for my perspective. His election I think I voted for him, but I don't remember much about it, I really don't.
AJ:\ Do you remember the Women's Liberation demonstration or the Miss America Pageant? Describing in the media the bra burning and all of that?
EF: I don't think much of the, as a matter of fact on TV last night I was surfing, looking for something that was decent to look at and I was tired, and they were having a pageant. I thought it was the Miss America Pageant?
AJ: I think it was, yeah.
EF: I couldn't believe it! I have known something about the pageants; they're so commercialized. You know you had a college queen, or a high school queen. That's fine, that's great! But when it's nothing more then commercialism, I'm not interested. All it's almost degrading, all that was going on last night in a sense is degrading. They are beautiful women, but they're kind of parading themselves. I will ogle a little I'm sure but it is; in a sense degrading, when you really think about it. When it's commercialized.
AJ: What was your impression of the expulsion of the Olympic athletes for the black power salute, during the playing of the National Anthem at the medal ceremonies? Do you remember that? Do you recall that?
EF: Yes I do, I do remember that. Somewhat sympathetic, maybe not the place to do it, but I wouldn't have done it myself- if I were in the circumstances to do that thing, I wouldn't have done it. But I can understand it. It's not a horrible, big deal. So he expressed himself, maybe that's good. Maybe we should all express ourselves. I don't think it defamed the country or anything like that. It's a good thing to stand up once in a while and declare yourself.
AJ: How did you feel about the space program and circling the moon by the US astronauts? Do you recall that?
EF: We were amazed, that summer I took my wife and two kids almost across the country towing a tent trailer and visiting national parks. When we got home that summer we all sat down with amazement, the television had on screen the landing on the moon! Unbelievable! You couldn't believe.. Thank goodness it was summer time, you could sneak off and watch television, wonderful absolutely marvelous! Marvelous step of exploration, but we're doing great things too. You go out to California, San Francisco, Monterey, and the big Monterey Peninsula and the big bay out there, Witches Canyon and in Monterey there is a museum, a marine museum of fish and so forth. They have, talk about discovering they have the same kind of thing. Scientists are going down in that bay, which is a tremendously deep canyon in discovery. We are doing exciting things just as exploring the Moon, still, and there is more to do in many ways. Just as exciting.
AJ: Overall how would you say the Sixties affected you and the United States in general?
EF: Well it was a big opening up, an awakening. Basically positive absolutely, I think it was. The 1950's finally woke up! Sometimes in ways people didn't like, but people were waking up and being themselves, and that's a wonderful thing!
AJ: What were some of the most important changes of the 1960's that you think?
EF: Important changes?
EF: Everything we've been talking about.
AJ: Can you think of any others that really made an impact on you?
EF: Well we've covered a lot of stuff.
AJ: Which do think were the most positive and negative?
EF: What did you say?
AJ:Which do think were the most positive and negative?
EF: Most positive and negative things? I look at that in terms of learning responsibility and being involved. Although there were some setbacks that were negative to that concept. When participation didn't make things happen. Part of that was the Democrat Convention [Chicago, 1968] where students got on fire and tried to make themselves heard at the Democratic. I know you see films of that. The fact that you could be put down, the youthful exuberance that we should all have not just youth- gets tempered and hopefully it is not then lost. Because you lose some battles, but you've got to get up and stand up and go at it again. So if it cuts people back that's negative, but on the whole a very positive period of time. Hopefully people learned positive things from it.
AJ: Some people feel that drug use and counter-culture was the most important aspect of the 1960's, and others feel this aspect was over played by the media. How do you feel about all that?
EF: Yeah, always over-played by the media. The media is getting worse and worse in terms of honest reporting, factual reporting of not asking important questions; concerned with trivia. So that, give me your question again?
AJ: Did you think that the drug use in all the counter-cultures was an important aspect of the 1960's, or that it wasn't as big as the media made it out to be?
EF: Yeah, it's not as big. No I don't think it's as big as. I think it was an important step for opposition to be heard is great it makes people stop and think. If it is honestly done by the media, the media over-plays. The counter-culture overplayed it's self like that too. It's like the Olympics, over-played your fist in the air to make a point. It's fine to make a point. Everybody overplays. The media is getting worse.
AJ: How would you compare the presidencies of Kennedy, Nixon, and Johnson?
AJ: Nixon, and Johnson. How would you compare their presidency?
EF: Kennedy, Nixon and Johnson. Kennedy was the idol of the young people because he was young. As a matter a fact it was true practically all across the world they were amazed that such a young person could, and he was young looking even to his age, his youth. Nixon, pretty sad character as it turns out, pretty sad, a disgusting person a matter of fact. Johnson did some very good things for this country, but he kind of got mixed up in the end towards the war. The trouble is we look back over history. Tremendous enthusiasm for Kennedy when he was here. Nixon so, so. Johnson he was able to get things done. He knew how to do things as long as he was on your side, your side. He knew how to accomplish things politically. He had been in Congress a long time. You look back at them now and you can see their foibles we all have our, even thee and me have their good points and their bad points. So, history comes back and Nixon is not the shinning example for a presidency at all.
AJ: Do feel that the changes in women's right's and their positions in society has not gone far enough or has gone too far? How do you feel about that?
EF: Well, it's got more ways to go, it's got more to go. It's amazing to see some of the women in businesses and politics but we still have a lot more to go. In my lifetime, my heavens there were changes a lot of changes. Changes from the Sixties, good heavens, maybe they got some stock out of the Sixties, I think it did. And in all of the professions, on the campus with the faculty. The church, except the Roman Church which hasn't woken up yet. Medicine (know idea what he says here) I went to a doctor who was a woman, marvelous wonderful, very capable. If she wasn't the best I wouldn't have gone. Business, running businesses and stuff . But a long ways to go to being fully equal. Equal pay, battle for years on this campus, same job less pay. It's a shame but it just takes a constant pursuing.
AJ: Do you feel that the African-Americans have accomplished the goals of the civil rights movement? Do you think racism is still a problem today?
EF: We sure do, oh yeah we still have a lot. When I think of my father; my father was a minister and if I think of some of the things he said about blacks, I am ashamed. That's what he learned or learned it was the mind set that had to be shaken. It really was. That's two generations from you. I look back today; and I think my dad was a wonderful guy and I learned tremendously from him. He was an extremely liberal and thinking person in a more pure sense than liberal or conservative. He had a liberal approach to life and yet he had his built in prejudice. It goes on, it goes on. So many blacks in professional positions today, we've come a long way but we still have a long way to go. And the poor, the poor people in the cities we don't see that here you know we don't experience that in good old South Kingstown. The chances of a young black in the big city what is it a 1 in 3 in prison or was it 2 in 3? I don't know which.
AJ: It's really unfair.
EF: It is. It is unbelievable. A great deal of it is education, opportunity, and they're just not having it and they're just not having it, they've just got to get out of it. They have a long, long way to go.
AJ: When the war finally ended what were your feelings?
EF: When the?
AJ: When the war, the Vietnam War?
EF: Well it was a sad ending. What a relief, what a relief, well I guess that's the best word. Absolute relief.
AJ: Have you visited the Vietnam War Memorial? Or have you seen a replica of it?
EF: How do I feel about it?
AJ: No, have you seen the Vietnam Memorial?
EF: No, I have not. I have not been to Washington in a number of years. No I have not seen it.
AJ: How do you feel about young people like us, striving to answer questions about America's involvement in Vietnam War? And the whole decade of the 1960's?
EF: How do I feel about?
AJ: About us doing this, looking into all this stuff, striving in to asking questions about America's involvement in Vietnam and the decade of the 1960's? How do you feel about it what do you think?
EF: Are you asking whether or not we should be involved? Oh, yeah this is what it was all about as far as I was concerned. What are we doing there, and trying to figure out how we could make our voices heard was what it was all about.
AJ: How do you feel about us looking at it?
EF: About what?
AJ: About us, like me like us as a younger generation looking at like looking into the 1960's and the whole Vietnam and the whole decade? How do you feel about me asking you these questions? Do you think it's good?
EF: Yes, I think it's a very positive thing to do. I never realized how much you could learn from history until I got older. I am fascinated with history now. I feel very glad that I didn't spend enough time in the subject of history when I was a good in school - it was pretty dull, pretty dully taught (laughing). This kind of a thing intrigues me, educationally, what you guys are doing, it intrigues me I think it's the way to learn. I don't know how do you feel about it?
AJ: I think it's great that we re doing this activity; I mean I've never really done anything like this before out of classroom things, sure field trips.
EF: I think this how you learn. This is the way I tried to teach while I was on the campus and it was different. I call it experiential learning.
AJ: That is what our teacher called it too!
EF: Is that what she does?
AJ: Yeah she said you're the guinea pigs! We're experimenting on you to see how this thing goes.
EF: Yup well that's what I called my course. The kinds of things you are doing, I think, are the way you learn, because you get an in-depth feeling for something. You're, when you put this together you a whole bunch of ideas and you're going to see whether you agreement with or disagreement with, what new angles come here. To me that's exciting and fun and a fun way to learn!
AJ: Yes I agree with you. What advice would you give us on all of this that we're doing, or me what advice would you give me on this whole learning experience?
EF: Maybe use it as a example of how you even yourself can get involved in something to learn. You're learning an approach and a way to awaken your thoughts and maybe you can apply them to other aspects of your life not necessarily in the classroom cause you don't have control of the classroom. You go to college and you get some dull and some exciting people and learn to if you have any choices you have a better idea which way to go if you have choices in who teaches what and how. Be willing to ask those questions and be demanding if you're not getting your money's worth sound off. There are simple examples on a college campus where I think you get ripped off you can't take courses because it is filled "this is my major I need it" and you can't get in, "come back next year" you've got to demand your money back, you've got to battle for what you want. This is an example learning from something has been a good experience for you and the learning experience and be demanding in your future, because if you don't do it who's gonna do it?
AJ: Right absolutely.
EF: The lecture is over (laughing)
AJ: Well thank you very much for your time and all your information that you have given us. This concludes our interview.