Interview with Connie Weiss, 05/06/2016

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
Derek Hermanson, Interviewer | uwocs_Connie__Weiss_05062016.mp3
Campus Stories Oral History Project (UWO Audio Series 51) |

0:00

DH: Alright, so I'm here with Connie Weiss. Today is May 6th, 2016. Um, we're gonna talk about her collegiate career.

CW: Yep.

DH: So, I guess it's easier just to start from the beginning. Um, what was it like growing up in your neighborhood?

CW: In my neighborhood? Well, I had been in - I'm a native of Fond du Lac since, um, I was 12 years old. So, um, it was fine. I mean, it was great. I lived on Main Street for the most part so it was really busy and active, but, um, growing up was great. My mom was a single mom for awhile and so, um, dad kind of was a life change for us and my two brothers, but I had a fantastic childhood so. And growing up in the neighborhood? It went fine. It was fine.

DH: Um, was it like younger families, or... ?

CW: It was a mixture of everything because we were closer to the downtown area initially. Um, you know, I would walk to school and yes, there were families all 1:00over the place, but it was a big mixture because we were also on Main Street.

DH: Yeah, so there's businesses -

CW: There were businesses and some of the elderly, but, um, there was an area school I went to so all my friends were in that area and I could walk or bike to see them.

DH: Yeah, very easy access. Yeah.

CW: Yeah.

DH: Um, you said your mom was a single mom. What did she do for work?

CW: Well, she, um, she waitressed, and then she eventually became a Greyhound bus agent. So she waitressed third shift at a restaurant right next door. It was my uncle's restaurant right next door to our house.

DH: Oh, okay.

CW: That's how we ended up in Fond du Lac. Because my uncle had a job for her after the divorce and a house for rent right next door, so it was ideal.

DH: Yeah, worked out well.

CW: It did. It did.

DH: So then, uh, the transition from your old elementary school to Fond du Lac elementary school - was that something difficult? Making friends?

CW: No, no. No, that wasn't a problem. Um, no, I just sought out those who were 2:00willing to have conversations with me. (laughs) And if they weren't then I just moved on. No, but it was not a huge transition. And plus I had, um, a cousin in the area, too, so I had people that helped me through that transition.

DH: Yeah, helped to make friends and integrate.

CW: Right.

DH: Um, how'd you do in school? In elementary school? Was it... ?

CW: I was a goodie two-shoes in elementary school. I - I think I was, um, when I was younger I wanted to please my teachers. Um, and so I became teacher's pet. And - and - not in middle school, but in elementary school. I think it was my way of making it through that transition time. You know, parents divorcing and all of that stuff. Um, I found security in those people who I felt were stable. And most of the time it was the teachers. So, um, I really was teacher's pet for those three years in grade school when I was in Fond du Lac.

3:00

DH: I'm sure, obviously making friends with teachers would help to keep something -

CW: Yeah! I never thought about it but really and - I'll tell you, when I worked in Milwaukee much later on after I married and had my career, my, um, sixth grade teacher looked me up. Her husband was in government in Milwaukee; she was there. She looked me up all those years later, recognized my name right off the bat even though I was married, knew who I was, so I - I had really close relationships with teachers in elementary school.

DH: Yeah, definitely pushed, um, so you said your mom was a single mom. Did she push education super hard? Was it - ?

CW: No, she wasn't a pusher, but she was a big supporter and she was one of these people "You dream that you can do it!" And I wanted to go into television, so that's what I did for the first part of my career. But she was one of those people that said "You can do anything you want to do." But she was a Type A personality just like me. And because she was single originally, um, I ended up 4:00taking care of my younger brothers a lot. So I learned how to be very independent and sure of myself. And I think being a single woman in the 70s for my mother was very difficult. She had limited access - even to credit cards, they wanted a man's name on it and she wasn't married at the time. So, um, she became somewhat of a fighter for her rights and, um, to establish a new identity outside of that old marriage. So it was, it was very influential for me, too. So she was wonderful. We were very close. But, um, basically, um, always encouraged. And encouraged to dream big.

DH: How um, how much younger were your brothers?

CW: Oh, one brother is two and a half years younger than me, and the other is eight years younger than me.

DH: Okay. Um, when did your mom remarry?

CW: Actually, I think she remarried when I was 12. I was just doing the math because I suck at math. Okay, so, she remarried when I was 12 - oh gosh, I can't 5:00remember now. And... I moved when I was 10 into Fond du Lac. So I'm thinking... I was 12 or 13. So we had been in Fond du Lac at least 2, maybe 3 years. Yeah.

DH: Something around there?

CW: Mmhmm.

DH: Um, so then I assume you went to high school in Fond du Lac?

CW: I did. Um, it's known as "Fondy High," but back then it was called "Goodrich," and I had 565 people in my graduating class. I never forgot that number because I thought it was so incredibly large. And for some it is, you know?

DH: I was - I came from Mukwanego.

CW: Oh, you came from Mukwanego?!

DH: Yeah.

CW: Really?

DH: So -

CW: Okay, I have friends out there.

DH: So, 300-ish type, um, and that was supposedly a big class for my high school.

CW: Okay, sure.

DH: Um, yeah it's actually very large especially for that time. Um, 500-something graduating class.

6:00

CW: Yeah, it was big.

DH: Um, so you said you kind of got away from the goody two-shoe... ?

CW: Well, I -

DH: Towards middle school?

CW: Well, I didn't - I didn't ever, um, change who I was. In fact, I, um, it was a real clique-y school like most - starting middle school and going into high school. And I just... I wasn't one of those who fit into a clique. I was more into the arts versus sports. Um, but I hung around with, um, the loners, too. I - I was very active in my faith so I just - I just befriended anybody and anybody. So, it didn't fit me into a particular group. So, um, I was active in high school but not a front runner until I got into college. That's when I burst on the scene. I was just, uh, because people - I think in middle school and high school a lot of kids really want to fit you into a category. And I didn't fit 7:00into any of those. So I was, um, a lot of times I was uncomfortable with it, but I was active outside of school, too. Because of the activities I had there in my church and other things. So, um, I just - I just refused to be anybody's, you know, we had freaks and jocks. That's... that's...

DH: Two distinctions.

CW: Yeah, and then here I was in choir and art. And, um, my brother was the big sports jock. He was Homecoming King two years under me and all this other stuff. For me it wasn't about making a name for myself or what group I hung out with. I just kind of bounced around which kind of, um, kept me under the radar a bit.

DH: Mmhmm. Not - not a frontrunner, but not necessarily one that gets targeted.

CW: No, 'cause I was an excellent student, I did well, I had great aspirations. But, um, I don't - I don't still have - I don't have a lot of those same friends I did in high school.

DH: Yeah, uh huh. Because you bounced around, not really stuck with a group...

CW: Yeah, yeah.

DH: Um, yeah. I've - I'm similar in that way where it was kind of... you don't 8:00really fit into one, but you can kind of talk to everybody?

CW: Exactly. That's what I did. But I, you know, but I wasn't always with one certain... group so.

DH: Mmhmm. And I'm sure being outgoing and like, if you can make friends with teachers, like you said in elementary school, I'm sure being outgoing kind of allows that transition a little bit easier to... from group to group.

CW: Yeah, you kind of learn that. As an - it's a work of survival, too, if you... I think I learned that as a kid. Early on, especially, you know, moving into new neighborhoods and stuff. That if you reached out first then you weren't just twiddling your thumbs and being alone. So, it was - I think it was the art of survival when I was a kid, and I just honed into that and got comfortable with it later on.

DH: Mmmhmm. Um, so you said you were into art and choir in high school. Was that kind of where you thought you were going to go in life?

CW: No, I - well, I, uh, love art. And I struggled between being an art teacher, but I really wanted to be on television. And so my mom said "Do whatever you 9:00want to do!" So, um, I decided to, um, I went to UW Fond du Lac for my first years to save money. My family didn't have lots of money, and I thought, "Well, I can save money and stay at home, and make this transition." I made the decision. So, um, I got an Associate's Degree in communications. But the communications - the head of the communications department and I became really good friends, and we still are friends. And she - she really took me under her wing, and I was in every play, I was doing all these extracurricular activities with her, having coffee. And then I minored in art. And had coffee with my art professor, and made friends... so I really took off. My first two years in this junior college really - and some of the people coming out from high school were still in their cliques, and I didn't fit into that. But at - I decided to claim this part, this college career. This was going to mine. I was going to own it, I 10:00was going to be in front, I was going to do as much as I could and not let anything stop me. So, like I said I did the plays and the art projects and did all of that kind of stuff and had a blast. And so it really built my confidence and I saved - like I said, I saved money, I had little school debt. So when I transferred to Oshkosh, which I did, um, I decided to stay on campus those last two years for the whole college experience. And, you know, feel like I was really, um, set up well for my - to finish the career there.

DH: Yeah, the fuller university experience.

CW: Exactly.

DH: Um, one more question that I had. Um, for the Fond du Lac college - were you just at home then, and then commuted?

CW: Well, you know, yeah. I think I was, um, maybe, 2, 3 miles at the most? Away from, um, so I could go back and forth for classes. I could come home and eat if I wanted to. I could do anything I wanted 'cause I was so close, so, um, it was 11:00just a - a convenience thing for me.

DH: Yeah, just easier to... um, so at the junior college compared to Oshkosh what... you said the students were more clique-y, more, still kind of... ?

CW: They were in Fond du Lac because I think, uh, a lot of people who stay local, um... well, the people who go to, like a university, uh, those junior colleges, they come from the neighborhood.

DH: Yeah.

CW: So the same - the same demographic is there, the same make up.

DH: Just high school 2.0?

CW: Yes. Yeah, so, I watched a lot of them struggle because they were still trying to have the same outlook and attitudes, and not breaking out of their familiar zones. Um, and um, I remember this speech class. Huge story. Speech class, and my mentor is in the back. And I'm getting - I'm going to give a speech, and a few of the girls who were really popular in high school were giggling and talking during my whole speech. You know, started to. And I was 12:00like... so finally I just stopped. I thought, "I'm owning this." And I stopped, and I looked right at them, and I said "Just tell me when you're ready." And they got so embarrassed! (laughs) They actually didn't - two of them didn't even finish, um, school there. But, um, there was Judy in the back going "Way to go Connie!!" Because we - we would talk and I'm like, "You know, I'm not part of this - this isn't comfortable for me yet. My world is bigger than this." And so, um, I think the smaller classrooms really helped me. It - it, um, gave my face - my name a face to the professors. And opened doors for me quicker than I could have done going to a bigger school right off the bat.

DH: Yeah, instead of being a number or just another face in the crowd. I'm sure it also probably helped your confidence in being able to call out -

CW: Exactly. So, I - I walked into Oshkosh feeling pretty sure of myself. For the most part.

DH: Um, yeah I'm sure that helped to kind of build it up and then it's like "I 13:00can do this! I'm in college - I'm an adult!"

CW: Yeah!

DH: Um, was - you said, um, in Fond du Lac you kind of became friends with the professors and stuff. Did you - was there like, clubs the same way as Oshkosh, or ?

CW: Um, yeah there were clubs. I was in, uh, I think the drama club. The reader's theatre club, or whatever they were. Art clubs. Yeah... they weren't as organized - well-organized back then as what I experience now with student orgs now. Um... I - there was more of a - less of a formality there, so I could come in and out and do my own thing, or set up something individually or hang out with a group and... so, yeah, I think it was a theater club. I was really involved in there. Um, I don't know if that's what it was called. It's been a long time. So, I kind of was encouraged to get involved and things like that. Um... but I cannot tell you exactly which things... I know I won little awards and things 14:00like that through these clubs, but.

DH: Do you think it was your professors that kind of pushed you to be involved more?

CW: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

DH: (unclear)

CW: They just - they just saw me, how attentive and how excited I was... and, and, um, I'd ask questions. I learned to be a really good question asker. And that's - that's a formula for success. Because if you're - if you want to know more that's somebody who is worth investing in.

DH: Mmhmm.

CW: You know, because you're like, you want to know more. You want to get involved. So, um, I - she just recognized that in me. How badly I wanted it, yet... she could see where she could guide me. And so she just prompted me to get involved. And I said "Yeah, I think I could do this!" "Do you want to do this one?" "Yeah, I think I could do this." So...

DH: (laughs) I can make time for it, yeah.

CW: Good mentors, good mentors for me. And that's always been my mantra throughout my growing up. I always had really great mentors.

15:00

DH: Mmhmm. Really push you to open up and to get involved. Um, so then in, um, in Fond du Lac you said it was a lot of the same people as high school. Was it, like, ratio-wise, gender-wise, was it about equal, or... ?

CW: Not - it wasn't very diverse. Fond du Lac at the time, and it still is a little bit behind, um, not very diverse. Um, but, um, yeah I'd say it was pretty equal gender-wise.

DH: So then when you came to Oshkosh was it kind of a.... ?

CW: It was more diverse.

DH: Yeah.

CW: Just because it was a state -

DH: State college, yeah. More people. Um, did you have any like, kind of shocks with that?

CW: No.

DH: Or have any experiences?

CW: Because I did a lot of things. I would go on mission trips through my church, I was always out and about. And I lived in St. Louis prior to my parents divorce, I - I was - so I was part of a, in a suburb of St. Louis, but I - I was 16:00part of those demographics, too.

DH: Yeah, had exposure.

CW: Right. So, but, a lot of mission trips and conventions and things that I participated in, so I knew there was this great big world beyond Fond du Lac and Oshkosh. And um, so, no it didn't shock me at all. In fact, what I liked about it was I saw a lot of nontraditional students, too. So, um, and I'm - then it was not a problem for me, too, so I could get along with anybody that I met.

DH: Again, being the outgoing, um, easy to get along with person that you were.

CW: Yeah. Not too many demands. (laughs)

DH: If you can have a conversation with me, that's enough!

CW: Yeah, yeah!

DH: Um, so then when you, um, got to Oshkosh from Fond du Lac you said you got your, um, communications degree in Fond du Lac. And then UWO because you said you wanted to go into TV you got your RTF.

CW: So, radio/TV/film, yup. And I did a fine arts minor. It wasn't really supportive - I know it is now, but it wasn't supportive at the time. They wanted 17:00me to go into journalism or do something different. And, um, instead I went for fine arts which helped me in the future when I started doing storyboards for myself and other things. I just love to draw. I love it! I love to do art of any sorts, so I - that really kept me fed, but radio/TV/film with a performance emphasis was what I went for.

DH: Mmhmm.

CW: So I got real busy and active with the club and the TV and WRST and all that stuff.

DH: Did you know what you wanted to do in television, or was it just kind of... ?

CW: Oh yeah, oh yeah. I was going to be the host of Good Morning America. (laughs) In fact, I'm going to New York as my youngest who's now - 19? 18. And, uh, we're going to New York, and I haven't been, but that was my dream. I was going to go to New York. And, um, do that kind of stuff. So, um, yeah. I - I 18:00loved it, I did that - that here on campus.

DH: Yeah, um, so anchor was top of the list.

CW: Anchor was my - my original dream.

DH: Mmhmm. Um, so when you came to Oshkosh did you live in dorm housing, or did - ?

CW: Yeah! Fletcher Hall at that time was an upperclassmen -

DH: Ooo!

CW: (laughs) It was an upperclassmen dorm! So I came in as a junior. And I, had, uh, my first roommate was awful. She was an arrogant and very selfish gal, but that taught me - I learned even more tolerance. I made friends in the dorm and eventually switched, but... um, yeah, I stayed at Fletcher for those two years. Um, um, I stayed on weekends once in awhile, but you know Oshkosh is kind of a commuter college. A lot of people have homes close by. So I'd find myself going home on the weekends. Or, or going home, like, Saturday night through Sunday and then, maybe doing things at the Union with my friends or the occasional house 19:00party or something like that. 'Cause we would - Fletcher, on Cherry Street, I had a lot of friends who lived in the housing behind -

DH: Mmhmm, right there!

CW: So, yeah.

DH: Nice access.

CW: Yeah, so, you know, it was... uh, I would say, besides taking in what I needed to do for my studies, um, I really wanted to experience college life and so I immersed myself into it. My - my grades never suffered, but I immersed myself into it because I felt this was my time to experience that, too.

DH: Again, kind of bursting out of your bubble from Fond du Lac and Oshkosh.

CW: And - and Fond du Lac, "Oh, gee!" You know, there's not a lot. You know? To do. Um, outside - I mean, sure, the junior college had some things, but it - they were limited. And, um, at the time the drinking age was 18. So I could do to the bars. But that wasn't even satisfying. It just felt small town to me. So, it was really nice to immerse myself in the college culture. You know? And we'd 20:00see, um, oh... um, Rocky Horror Picture Show, and I'd wear my raincoat. We'd throw water in the Union, and we'd see concerts there and just do all these different things, you know? So, walk to the, you know, downtown and then do other things and just all the activities they had posted. So it was... I mean, sure I experienced that stuff.

DH: Yeah, got the whole picture of, um, so then when you came to, um, Oshkosh from Fond du Lac did you have friends here, or did you kind of make new -

CW: I did not, I made new friends again. Um, and the friends I made at the university... um, a few of them I still stay in contact with on Facebook and things like that, but nothing really, really, really close. And so I - and I, my hometown church is some - I had friends there, too. So I had this base of 21:00friends in different areas, not only in through school. But, yeah, I made some close friends.

DH: Yeah. Easy to stay in contact with and stuff. Um, so when you came to Oshkosh from Fond du Lac, and obviously you had your communications major and you go into our RTF, um, what was the - was the communications specifically for to go into radio, TV and film, or was it just kind of something to get you going?

CW: Well, they didn't have a, uh, you had to pick if you were leaving there with an Associate's degree you had to pick the field of study and communications was it. That was what it was called. So, then coming here, um, I had to be more specific. And it was definitely radio/TV/film, but back then they didn't have radio/TV/film -

DH: At a junior college, yeah.

CW: Nope, it was just communications at the time. I think it's changed now. Um, but at - you know, then, then I could finally "Yes! This is what I want!" 22:00Because it was more specific and, you know, and I had lots of hands on experience, too.

DH: Yeah. Um, and then was, um, the housing was it female only on your floor?

CW: Yes.

DH: I would assume?

CW: Yes. Um, on the floors it was. But that didn't mean anything. Now it's so different, but um, yeah it was.

DH: Um, did you make a lot of friends, or was it just kind of acquaintances through the housing?

CW: Um, acquaintances. I mean, I made friends. We hung out a lot, um, one gal I got close to lived in the house behind me. I met her through an art class. And she and I say in touch. She lives in Mukwanego with her husband!

DH: Oh really? (laughs)

CW: Yeah! Um, John and Sandy Martin. So I don't know if you the Martins. But Sandy I met in college, and I met her in a 3D art class. And stood up in her wedding eventually and she has kids, I - we both have grown kids, and so... um, 23:00and then my roommate I stayed close with for awhile until she got married and kind of moved away. So I made a few close friends, but I had lots of acquaintances. People I knew I was safe to hang with and have fun with or, or go study with.

DH: Yeah, but not necessarily share your inner most thoughts type people.

CW: No, I - I chose only a few people to do that. And plus, when you're an upper classmen you have a lot of stuff to do, you know? So my social life, you know, was fun to unwind, but there were just a few. And plus, I was 20 - 30 minutes away from home. And I'm close with my family, so.

DH: Yeah.

CW: I had that, too.

DH: Um, so because you said it was a commuter college and you kind of went home, was it - was it very inclusive, um, clubs wise and event wise? Was there like a lot of people there, or was it kind of dull because it was more of a commuter college?

CW: Hmm... no, I don't think it was dull. Um, I felt... I mean, it's a very 24:00specialized thing like anything is once you get up to... the club was pretty exclusive. I think it's changing, clubs are changing to be a little more inclusive. Back then it was a little more exclusive, um, very competitive. Very competitive in RTF. Um, you know, everybody was starting to kind of position themselves and, and all of that stuff. So especially in the club it was extremely competitive. And I got my first taste of what it would be like in television and in corporate media.

DH: Mmhmm. The hierarchy-type.

CW: Oh, just yeah. The egos, the, you know, make sure you position yourself and promote yourself well and all this stuff. I got a taste of that. Something I didn't really like, but the love of it was enough to keep me going.

DH: Yeah, mmhmm. Um, so then, um, I know you said you went home a lot but was 25:00there - did you partake in any like, very memorable events besides, you know, clubs?

CW: I'm trying to think, I - my memory is... to take my back... I think, um, hmm. Besides the basic - the things at the Union. There was always something going on, and I'm trying to think of what famous band came... and I had a blast with that. Um, was it Joan Jett? Joan Jett came, or something like that. It was just wild. And back then in the 80s - that was the 80s! - um, it was a big deal.

Um, really I'll never forget - I had a bad experience with a boy. Um, who tried taking advantage of me. He was in my drama class. And, um, he got physically abusive. And back in the 80s - back then you didn't really - because I was kind of dating him, too? So, I... he kind of beat me up one night because he didn't 26:00me to leave. I wanted to go see a speaker. And it was Christine Craft, I'll never forget. She was fired from television because of her age. Yeah, and so that was a big controversy. She was in all the headlines. I'm like "This is somebody I can see!" So I was excited to see it, but I went to leave this guy, and he kept trying to get me to stay. And I said, "No, I wanna go." And so the one thing is the culture back then in - I didn't feel like I was justified in complaining about how I was treated by this guy. I got away, but my wrists were out of joint, I was a little bruised up. And I went straight to the speaker. (unclear) I was going to see her! Um, the thing was, um, I ended up handling it on my own. I'd go back - I went back into drama class and sat next to each and every person in front of him and told them what he had done. And he ended up dropping out of school. So, um, I handled it on my own which empowered me, but now, working with students as I do here on campus as a campus minister, there 27:00are so many more resources. There is more, um, that's lifted up, and, um, you know to support you in those things.

And, um, so... for me, it was like the speakers... I loved the people that were brought in by the university. That was huge to me. Just all the - the constant fun. There was just a lot of different things I could do going to the Union. Um, and um, that was - that was a blast. Um, yeah. So that's... I think that's about it.

DH: Ah, the most memorable...

CW: Yeah, well, that -

DH: For better or worse.

CW: That night was really memorable for me because it was like, I wasn't going to let anybody stop me. And that was already - that was my experience with somebody, um, that wouldn't take no for an answer. And um, so, I remember that. And I remember how I - I solved the problem on my own. Because I didn't think I 28:00could do anything more beyond that. Um, it's just a different day and age with the university.

DH: Very much masculine-focused back then as opposed to -

CW: Well, and if I was kind of seeing him, and I wasn't - I wasn't raped. I was just... I mean, I was just pulled back down and kept from going. And by the time I just was a mess. I was pretty bruised. Um, I just felt like, um, I did not have the social justice in me for me. You know what I mean?

DH: Yeah.

CW: Yeah, I was like, "Well, I'm kind of dating him..." We were kind of seeing each other, and, you know, we went to class together, and who's going to believe me?

DH: Justifications for the time period.

CW: Yeah... So, I didn't want to cause that kind of trouble for myself, and that's how I saw it. And um, I've always been pretty tough, but boy, that... you know?

DH: It rattles you.

CW: Yeah! So, that - that hit me. So when they talk about the amount of, um, 29:00abuse on campuses with students, I believe it.

DH: Mhmm.

CW: You know, there are different forms of it. But...

DH: Um, I'm on the wrestling team here at Oshkosh, and, um, just the other day we did the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes rally.

CW: Oh, did you?

DH: Yeah. My calves are still sore.

CW: So, what - I want to know your shoes! I want to know what kind of shoes you wore! (laughs)

DH: Um, they were -

CW: Were they pumps?

DH: Uh, they were white, um, they weren't wedges, but they had a wider heel to them. So I was doing okay.

CW: Okay, that's good. (unclear) (laughs)

DH: I had these nice, tall, red stilettos at one point, and I was like "Oo... that's a long mile."

CW: I've seen some guys walk in those shoes, and I'm just blown away! They do pretty good.

DH: Yeah. Um, but that's just another something that has progressed. Um, like they said, it was the third or fourth year they did it this year.

CW: Yeah, yeah.

DH: So, you know, even just that is more than what's been done.

CW: I know. I think that's what I see coming back to campus and being on the outside but, you know, just right outside this - across the street. Is that the 30:00social justice - I mean, social justice has always been around, but just the opportunities and the awareness is so different now. Than it was 20, 30 years ago. (laughs)

DH: Yeah, it's, you can - um, studying obviously about the past university, you can definitely see the change and the progression as it goes. And I'm sure being, you know, part of - understanding that there is really no resource for you at the time and then seeing now, I'm sure it's nice to - to see the change.

CW: Right. Right.

DH: Um, so then coming out of college how did you first, um, what was it... I didn't right it down. That's not smart! Um...

CW: But you probably know what you want to ask me.

DH: It's Vision... VisionPlus?

31:00

CW: Visuals Plus?

DH: Visuals Plus, that's what it was called!

CW: No, it was actually WXUZ TV 32 in Appleton.

DH: Oh! Okay! (laughs)

CW: Visuals Plus was my first production company job in Milwaukee. So, um, I moved back home. I sent tons of resumes out to every television station, even to Oprah. I got a ton of, um, rejections, but seven months out of college I started at WXUZ. I worked there for three years. I became mid-management. I was their promotion coordinator. So I was introduced to behind the scenes which I... I learned in college. Where I was directing their little movie segment, and I was editing all my on-air promos. I won awards for that. I - I loved the creativity, and I started doing a lot of writing. I did on camera stuff, and I did some commercial work, but I fell in love with production. I fell in love with being in charge. So I became a director and producer. And then three years after that, 32:00they let all their mid-management go. I hated television, um, because the creative people at that time were not paid well. It was the engineers and the sales force. And it was a real shame because the whole look of the TV station was mine. That was really hard.

DH: Mmhmm. Everything people liked was you, but they don't see you.

CW: Yeah, so, um, eventually I went into the Milwaukee market, and I worked for two production companies there. In corporate television, in corporate, uh, video production. And directed and produced and wrote and... there you were in groups - you were in corporations that appreciated and needed the - it was the creative people that really drove that.

DH: Really understood what your worth was.

CW: Yeah. Yeah, so I found a niche there, too. Um, but, um, I did television for a little bit but then fell in love with behind the scenes and loved the control I had. Creative control from conception to completion.

DH: Yeah, seeing that process and being part of that as opposed to, um, your old 33:00aspirations of anchor.

CW. Yeah. (laughs).

DH: Um, kind of shifted toward what you understood.

CW: Well, here's - here's something, um, I told Alex, too. Doc Snyder used to run the RTF department. He's very famous. In this - in this neck of the woods, but in the broadcast community. And it was getting closer to graduation, and he said "Connie, I've got the perfect job for you if you'd like me to introduce you to a friend. You can be a professional reader for an up and coming network." I said, "A professional reader!" Yeah, what is that? You sit in front of the camera, and you just read. And I got mad at him! And I said, "Doc, I'm a - I am more than a professional reader! I am more than that!" And I stormed off. Well, his best friend he was talking about was Ted Turner, and they had just started CNN. And I turned it down! (laughs!) I was like - he was like, "I'd like to introduce me friend!" I didn't know who Ted Turner was! I was such a dummy. I was like, oh my god. And now I turn on CNN and it's all that stuff. So - life 34:00goes the way, you know, there's purpose to it, but oh my gosh. I laugh at that now because I was - I just felt like, I'm more than that. I can produce, I can do everything! And just that he called it 'professional reader.' I was like, "Oh..."

DH: Especially when he phrased it like that.

CW: Yeah!

DH: It's not, "Hey, you can be a news anchor!"

CW: Both of us - he was a nice - he was a great guy, but he was very arrogant. So I was like, you know, I thought he was being sexist at the time, and here he was really trying to give me a big break! (laughs)

DH: He was actually trying to do the opposite!

CW: Yeah!

DH: Um, so do you think it was kind of the progression from Fond du Lac to Oshkosh, finding yourself to understand you want more than that? Do you think that's what - professional reader, that's why it was an insult?

CW: Yeah, yeah. Because I - I really believed in myself. And I, and I read it as - because he had never spent a lot of time, um, mentoring me. Doc, um, and so he - when he brought that up I thought he was just throwing me a bone or, um, you 35:00know. I - I had more to prove. And I believe that's probably some of my inner struggle originally, or I really wanted to prove to the world I was more than just - I mean, that comes from kids being divorced, you know, suffering, families that have divorce in them and all of that, but, um... Yeah... it's always been that, you know, I just want to show 'em there's more to me than what they see.

DH: Mmhmm. Mhmm. Um, my parents are divorced, too, so I kind of understand where you're coming from on that -

CW: Okay, okay.

DH: - on that front. Um, so then you went to the, uh, the local TV station in Appleton. How'd you kind of get into there - it was just a resume and they were looking for somebody, or?

CW: I sent a resume, they asked for an interview, I interviewed, and I was hired right after. I - actually, I think I was hired right there. Um, but that is where I was born. That's my mother's hometown, so I lived there when I was a kid. In fact, we moved back to my grandparents before my mom could find a home in Fond du Lac. So Appleton, my grandmother was there, my aunt was there. I had 36:00people there, a support system, too, and it wasn't too far from Fond du Lac. And it was a small station, so I got to do a lot. Um, but yeah, um, it was just the luck of the draw. You just send tons of resumes out there and then you call and follow up, call and follow up. And, so, I got some good experience.

DH: Um, and then obviously through the Appleton TV station, is that how you kind of came in contact with the Visuals Plus?

CW: No! No, no, that - and I did - Visuals Plus was not my first job in Milwaukee. When I got let go along with a few other people at the TV station because they were having budget cuts, I - I slept on my parent's couch for awhile. That was really hard for me. And, um, I had the resumes out there again, but one day my mom said "Enough's enough! Just go to Milwaukee and knock on doors!"

So, um, I think she went with me, and I just went and visited every production 37:00company. Every one. And the last one I visited was this placed called Taylor Video. And this guy ran it by himself - he's a musician, he's kind of, he wears all black, um, he did a lot of music videos, he did a lot of drugs, too. And he's there at the front desk with his feet up in the air and he says "Well, what do you want to do?" And I said, "I want a job. This is who I am." He says, "Oh, you wanna work, uh, Monday?" I said, "Sure." So I managed his office. I was the office manager and the producer. I produced and I did video tape duplications, and all of a sudden Andrew Dice Clay would walk in and he'd want to video something, I'd be running camera for that, or we'd go travel across the country for PBS 'cause they hired us. So I worked on music videos with him. So I learned how to do everything. I worked with artists and editors and, I got my feet really, really well in that world. In that community.

And then I went to Visuals Plus, which was one of the top ones there and there were, um, three of us producers and an executive producer, and we had the 38:00basement. And so then I started doing bigger things for like, Harley Davidson, and, um, Walgreens, and we'd go to Chicago and do things like that. I did corporate videos. And I loved it 'cause I got to meet people and do things and... but not, it was just - it was just me knocking on doors and meeting this character. I worked for him for three years. And he was dysfunctional. But I basically ran his company. And so that gave me a good sense of everything that goes into a production company.

DH: Yeah, um, so you basically had an exposure to basically everything through this small TV station, being in charge of a lot, and then going over there.

CW: And then being in charge of crews! And then I went freelance after that and eventually moved back to Fond du Lac with my husband, and, and did some documentary work and all of that stuff.

DH: Oh, documentary work?

CW: Yeah, I did, um, some - Fond du Lac County, The Gathering Place. I was - a local guy wanted to break in and do something, and when he saw my background and I worked for the Historical Society. Won a national award, actually, and I did 39:00that. I did some other freelance work, and I kept my ties to Milwaukee. And eventually my mom got sick and, so I helped her with her Greyhound station. Eventually she did and then all of a sudden my church contacts, two people were on the board of directors at The Gathering Place. They said "We - somebody needs to help this dying ministry. Do you want to come?" I said, "Why not?" So I went totally - totally different. Totally wacky different. But about 20 years in the field that I had put into, from television to video production. Um, yeah. And it was good - it's still a very good program here at Oshkosh. Um. And that's why I chose it. Not only because it was close, but because I felt it really had a good program. And I still believe that.

DH: Mmhmm. I was - actually, I was going to ask you how you went from radio/TV/film direction to campus ministry.

CW: Well, it - my faith has always been a really important part of me. And I've 40:00always been active in that. And, um, so the Lutheran campus ministry at the Gathering Place. This thing - they just, slowly were dying. And, um, the two board members who were a husband and wife team at the time, um, knew I had just - I was a different person after being with my mom for so long as she was dying, and it reshaped me. And so they said, "How'd you like to use your promotion, you know, your creative and promotion thing to come to The Gathering Place part time?" And - and they just had a pastor who had come in and out. And so by the time - I came there and within months they had a national review by the national ELC, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. They come and do national reviews of campus ministries. And they said, "Make her full time." Well, they didn't have the money, but they took a chance. And I just poured all my energy into it, fell in love with young adult ministry. Loved it. And at - my girls were teenagers at the time, so, it helped me to raise my girls! Helped me to 41:00understand my girls (unclear) because I listen to the gals all the time talking. And, um, fell in love with it. So it'll be nine years in May. But the funny thing is eventually I - not only was I full time, the visting pastors went away, and I started doing it. And then the - and then we grew for awhile, we're really small again, but for awhile we were two nights having worship services. And the bishop said, "I'm going to give you special permission to do communion yourself." And after I did that I'm like, "I'm a pastor."

DH: Yeah.

CW: And I always felt that I kind of was a pastor? I kind of had that feeling since middle school. You just don't say those things when you're in middle school! (laughs) So I love it. And I love the, um, I love the, um, the specialized setting of something totally different than a church. Although I am serving a church, too, I'm the sole pastor. I - I haven't been ordained yet. I've got about six months to go. But I'm over at a little church called Christ 42:00Lutheran on Church Avenue, six blocks away. So I split my time between them, um, running those ministries.

DH: So like - again, it's kind of, um, going back to all the way, um, when you're in Fond du Lac, it's kind of... finding yourself again, and being outgoing and stuff, I'm sure that helps you to talk to people -

CW: Sure. And just - just immersing myself into that culture, so knowing how everything is done and just doing it I - I think my producing background helps, my writing background helps, my writing background helps with my sermons, um, I'm very comfortable in front of groups and presenting, so, I love to run worship, and I, um, love to just be with people. I'm a people person. And so - but I always love to promote and, and lift things up so people - I communicate, so people know about things. And that's been really helping to build awareness. Which these places need to.

DH: Mmhmm. Yeah. You've - like you said, you've been through everything so it's 43:00nice to kind of hone it toward something you've had your entire life.

CW: Yeah! And it's - well, I just say "God has a sense of humor." It just was the right time. And, um, you know when you have something major - because my mother was my best friend my whole life. When you have something major like that, when you're with your mom as she's dying. It's - it's a life changing thing. And it was a beautiful thing, but it - it changes you. And so, I just - I just couldn't go backwards. I had to move forward, and I felt a new direction. Being called in a new direction.

DH: You have set your priorities and perspective.

CW: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Well, you know, you're like, well, I'm no longer afraid of death in a way because I've seen it, but on the other hand you just didn't want to waste any more time in your life. What's - what's really important? Like you said, the priorities, so.

DH: Um, so when you were in Visuals Plus you were living in Milwaukee.

CW: I lived in Milwaukee for about six years.

DH: For about six years? Gotcha. And then - upon your mom getting sick you moved back to Fond du Lac with your husband?

CW: Well, we - I met my husband in Fond du Lac, but we found out we lived six 44:00blocks from each other in Milwaukee. (laughs) And then, um, we were - we got married, and we were still in Milwaukee. And then we were thinking about having kids and then we saw the crime rate in his neighborhood, and we're like "No way." There's a lottery system with the schools and everything, and Rick was like "You know... no..." So we saw how my parents live on the lake - it's just a small little house, but we saw a lakefront property, and Rick's like "I always wanted to have a lake on - I mean, a home on Pewaukee Lake," or something like that. We saw how cheap lakefront property was in Fond du Lac, and he's like "Hey, maybe we could buy a house here!" I'm like "Let's do it!" So that's what brought us back. And then eventually my mother got sick, and...

I worked for an ad agency in between that, I didn't tell you that, so I was free-lancing when we moved up to Fond du Lac because the - the firm I was working with went bankrupt, like the weekend I moved up to Fond du Lac. Visuals Plus went bankrupt! Boom! Closed the doors. I had no clue they were in that much 45:00trouble! And um, and so, um, the freelancing, but then I - I worked for awhile with, for, uh, a ad agency and I hated it. Hated it. Different mentality. Oh, I hated it. I hated writing, they wanted to use me to break into video yet they had different expectations... it was just not a good mesh. We didn't work out. And that's okay. (laughs)

DH: God obviously had a plan for it!

CW: Yeah!

DH: So just - just got out in the nick of time from Visuals Plus, and then...

CW: Holy mackerel! I mean it's - it was crazy. It was crazy. My husband continued to commute to Milwaukee for years. Um, which is not a big deal. Especially when you live in Milwaukee... a commute, like, you can spend an hour going from one end of, you know the area of Milwaukee to another, so it's not a big deal. But, uh, yeah. That was wild. "Just don't come back. We're - we're 46:00closed!" Like, whaat. Everybody was calling me, "What's going on!? This is crazy!"

DH: (laughs) "What's going on!" "I - I don't really know to be honest!"

CW: That's real life stuff, though. And, uh, I - I guess the one thing I did learn was how to be flexible. Just roll with it. Sometimes, you know, some people could really let that - you could stew on it, but life's too short.

DH: Yeah.

CW: But that, that one threw me. Yeah.

DH: Well, I think, uh, I think you're answering all my questions. (laughs) And very much so beyond it. And I thank you for that.

CW: Oh, oh no problem! I - I love - I just love to talk. I love to have conversations.

DH: Yeah!

CW: And I rarely looked back at my life like this, so it's kind of - I'm going down memory lane with you.

DH: Mmhmm.

CW: (laughs)

DH: Well, I'm glad I could accompany you on this ride!

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