Interview with James Fischer, 11/23/2016

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
David Mantes, Interviewer | uwocs_James_Fischer_11232016.mp3
Campus Stories Oral History Project (UWO Audio Series 51) |


DM: State your name

JF: James H Fischer

DM: James let's just do a little background, can you tell us about your current occupation or?

JF: I'm retired I was in the IT for approximately 37 years

DM: Okay, location, so were in Wauwatosa, is that where you're from?

JF: Actually Milwaukee

DM: Ok

JF: but close enough

DM: And any wife or kids

JF: I have a wife, I have a daughter who just graduated from Oshkosh in May.

DM: Awesome

JF: she has a criminal justice major with honors and an animal behavior as a minor

DM: Cool, very cool, so let's do a little bit more background, where did you grow up?

JF: Milwaukee, the north side

DM: Parents? What did they do?

JF: My father was a machinist model maker and my mother was a registered nurse


DM: Awesome, in the community you grew up in, what was that like? What was the neighborhood like?

JF: Everybody looked out for everybody, this is in the Garden Homes area, approximately 35th and Hampton, walked to school once I could walk by myself and then as I picked up other kids that were in the class and we gradually got larger and larger in a group until we got to school and I lived the furthest away so by the time I got to I think his name was roger nefser left I had about 6 blocks to go by myself

DM: That's awesome, so you knew all your classmates, did you know your neighbors too? What was that like?

JF: Oh yeah, we knew everybody, everybody looked out for everybody, everybody had practically kids, there was some nasty kids, of course, we tried to avoid them, just growing up, things like that.

DM: Sure um ok, so where's the rest of your family from? Aunts, Uncles, 2:00Grandmas, Grandpas? Were they close?

JF: Mainly in West Allis, My grandmother, I had an aunt and uncle in St Louis, another aunt and uncle in Brownsville Texas, another aunt and uncle in Oconomowoc and another aunt and uncle in Bettenworth Iowa

DM: Okay so it seems like they were spread out all over the place, were they a big part of growing up for you? Did you travel?

JF: We would yeah, we traveled a lot, regarding the aunts and uncles and cousins, we used to have an every 5 year reunion for the people, and then as people got older, people started dying off faster and we tried to have it annually

DM: Sure

JF: And then that fell through because most of them are dead now.

DM: Right so growing up you said as soon as you could walk you would go to school...

JF: Mainly we would run, we were running all of the time


DM: Oh yeah?

JF: We would run home, and it was maybe a good 20 minute run with our little legs

DM: Wow!

JF: Yeah

DM: Enthusiastic

JF: We would run on the playground playing dodgeball, we would run playing tag football and baseball.

DM: Yeah so that's, yeah, so you said, you mentioned dodgeball and baseball and some tag football, what other hobbies and sports did you participate in with you or your family while growing up?

JF: Well actually my family, we did a lot of outdoor stuff. Camping around the United States and Canada, he worked for outboard marine research and he had about 6 weeks of vacation every year, so we would travel for 2 weeks at a time

DM: Wow that's awesome

JF: Yeah that's why I don't like to travel anymore because we would start at about 3 o'clock in the morning, car would be already packed, and we would roll out. He wouldn't stop until he needed gas, and he always said my mother had like 4:00say a 250 mile bladder because he wouldn't stop, you had to hold it.

DM: I was going to say that must be tough for the bathroom stops!

JF: yeah, yeah

DM: I've definitely been in cars like that before

JF: We would make South Dakota in one day, cause he would do 15, 16 hours of driving

DM: Sure, sure, he's one of those wow, that's interesting. So you talked about school, what schools did you attend in Milwaukee?

JF: Okay the grade school was garden homes elementary for 9 years, because it was 1 through 8 and then kindergarten, and then for 2 weeks I went to Rufus king because it was a normal transition, and I didn't want to go to king because it was a rough school back then, really rough. Plus the fact that being on the border, I would have to walk a mile and a half, maybe 2 miles to king, and they 5:00didn't have things like people driving their kids to school and all that stuff. I went to Edison junior high school as the 9th grade, and that was no problem. Then I went to the senior high school Custer on Sherman, and I lasted about, oh a couple of hours in there and I was called into the principal's office--holy crap, you know, what did I do now? He said literally I lived on the wrong side of the tracks. The tracks were on 32nd st, and I lived on 30th st. so My mother, my parents in one week found an apartment to move into, and I went to school there. I was on the tennis team, running of course, and biking, back then, we thought nothing about taking our bikes, we all lived around 47th, I lived on 47th and Fairmount, my buddy lived on


Hopkins and about 35th. Wed take our tennis rackets and go to whitefish bay high school, and play about 3 hours of tennis in the summertime, we wouldn't carry water bottles. If we found water, fine. If we did not? Fine.

DM: Hard to imagine now (laughs)

JF: Yeah people are always suckin on somethin now, Jesus

DM: Yeah that's a ways

JF: Yeah and one time we got on our bikes and headed west, and figured we should probably turn around because we were on the west end of Pewaukee lake. And from that we learned that experience, do not go out with the wind because on the way back you have to go against the wind. It was a killer

DM: Exactly! Yeah how many miles would that have been?

JF: Well it was about 12 and a half from where I worked so I'm thinking about 15-16 miles to the west end

DM: Sure and then back in the wind

JF: Yeah exactly, not good at all

DM: That's the stuff you remember though!

JF: Oh yeah

DM: Umm, your parents, were they strict on your schooling, when you were growing 7:00up, were you expected to get all A's and?

JF: No, no, but just try my best, but you know I had to do homework, and I couldn't go out to play until it was all done

DM: Would you say they had an influence on you going into higher education?

JF: Oh yeah definitely

DM: Did they go into higher education? College?

JF: Well he was a machinist model maker and I went through his books after he passed on and I've had oh god, I think 4 years of high school math, algebra, trigonometry, and geography, and 1 year in college only because I didn't need math in college, and the stuff that he would have

too, just his reference books, I'm looking what the heck is this. Because he was big on trigonometry because you had to as a machinist model maker you had to 8:00interpret the drafting plans of the engineers and create something

DM: It's not like it is now, I mean with computers. Back then

JF: Yeah, there was no "undo" you make a mistake, you're working on something for weeks, and you dig a little bit deeper into it, and guess what? Its shot and he actually worked on radar guidance during ww2 which was really something, it was called friend or foe radar. We had our night fighters in the pacific and they had both transponders and receivers, and if you had like the radar and you sent out a pulse because you knew something was ahead of you because you saw it on the screen. If they didn't send a pulse back saying I'm a friend or whatever they did, they'd shoot em down. They Japanese were getting so frustrated that there flights would go out overnight, cloudless nights, moonless nights and a lot of them wouldn't return. It was because of that

DM: Interesting, and that was what your dad was working on


JF: And he would work like 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, doing these projects, and they had military guards, he was working at AC spark plug in West Allis, and they had military guards, and you couldn't talk about that. And in the 50s he was working on guidance systems in preparation for the moon shots, but these were smaller systems like the vanguard moonshots, and I actually got ahold of some pictures. Showing the moon coming up closer, it had those grid lines on there, closer, closer, closer, and all of a sudden *wind noise* nothing. It was really cool.

DM: Interesting, very interesting, umm. So after high school, what made you decide to go to higher education and college?

JF: Well, that was the thing, I just wanted to go

DM: Just what you did?

JF: Yeah

DM: Was that common for a lot of your friends too?

JF: Yeah, tennis buddy Dan. We both went to UWM for 2 years. Then I hated UWM, 10:00well both of us did. We didn't have cars, we had to take transportation. We were on the bus 2 hours, sometimes 3 hours a day

DM: Just getting around? Getting back and forth?

JF: Yeah right! and one year they had a bus strike, and they had tv stations and radio stations saying if you see a kid with a sign saying UWM. Pick him up! And we actually had people picking us up like a taxi stand, piled kids into the car, and we would get to school in about a half an hour, and it was free for 2 weeks. We hated it when they settled the strike. But you know what really ticked me off was... never once in the 2 years that I was there did I have no classes on just one day. Some days I had 1 class on one day and I would have to go in or what really was a bad thing was when I had an 8 o'clock class and then a 3 o'clock class.


DM: So you're waiting around all day

JF: What do you do there, you just study all of the time. You go from room to room because they are kicking you out because of the next class, and you know that was no life. I didn't hang in the union, because I had better things to do

DM: Right

JF: so, then I went up to Oshkosh

DM: Sure

JF: I was a mid-termer so I started in January. Oh I did know a student up there because my mother was a nurse, who went to nursing school at county with this other lady. Well she had 2 boys. Well the one boy was up at Oshkosh and he started directly up there. And so I got up there when I was a junior, and I think he was a sophomore at the time so at least I knew somebody.

DM: Yeah Definitely. So when you got there, what was housing like? Did you go into dorms or did you find a place with this guy you knew?

JF: No, this guy was staying at a place called east hall


DM: East hall?

JF: Yeah nobody knows about that

DM: Yeah, no!

JF: New York and Jackson, there's a big field there now

DM: Oh okay! Yeah there's a soccer field there now or something

JF: Yeah at the time there was a couple of football fields and a stadium and whatever. But the main door was on the east end and they had a big circular driveway. Now there's trees there and you can see approximately where the circular driveway was.

DM: Huh

JF: Yeah and this was a rehab home for elexian monks, who kind of went a little bit nuts. It was built in approximately 1886. It was 4 floors. The first 2 or 3 floors were terraza was like lathe and solid cement walls or whatever they put in there right?

DM: Sure

JF: And one time I actually measured the thickness of the wall by figuring okay, 13:00here's the door, here's this distance, here's the door, and here's this distance. Those walls were over 2 feet thick.

DM: Oh wow, it's like a bomb shelter.

JF: And we all had steel doors, reel thick and they had peep holes in them, because the people wanted to see what the monks were doing. The first 2 floors in the frames. You could see where there were bar holes. Bars!

DM: This is crazy I've never even heard of this thing.

JF: We loved it. We had maybe it was a horseshoe shaped building area. The dorm was this general description here *hand signals horseshoe layout*. We had a laundry area, then over here another section part of the U, that was where the day room was.

DM: Okay

JF: And then there was a head resident, and this guy he was going for his masters, and his wife also, and they had a little boy and so the little kid had about 160 uncles.


DM: Oh yeah all of the students

JF: And when I first got there he says this is so and so, this is so and so, and oh this is little bummer! And you know back then, a bummer, yeah. So the dorm the head resident he was pretty cool he says there one rule in this place. There are no rules...... whereas the main part of the campus had rules against women, booze, and drugs. We had woman, booze, and drugs!

DM: Holy cow, so this was like a Coed deal?

JF: No, no but there were no hours either. I'd walk down Sunday morning to get breakfast or whatever. Get something, and see woman leaving the dorm... they must have talked all night long I think, you know?

DM: Yeah, yeah exactly... because from what I understand, in other dorms, you'd have to check in at night and in this one was like


JF: Yeah they had locked doors and this place was like open!

DM: Weird

JF: Yeah, it was cool!

DM: This is the first I've heard of this place

Kind of wish it was still there

JF: The only bad thing was because we were like 7 or 8 blocks from campus

DM: Right

JF: Uh if they had something like whatever, a pantie raid, or whatever going on. You know, out of sight out of mind. We would hear about it the next day, maybe.

DM: Sure, wow, that's crazy. East hall you said?

JF: East

DM: East Hall

DM: Yeah, okay so you were pretty far from campus then what that like was, you had to walk, well yeah you had no problem you walked all your life

JF: Yeah we walked in the winter time, no big deal. Lucky me that uh I was going through the sciences, letters and science. So Halsey was pretty close.

DM: Right on the edge yeah

JF: And there was Elmbrook Commons, I think that is a religious place now

DM: Hmm not sure

JF: I don't know I forgot

DM: So you mentioned letters and science, what were you studying?


JF: Geology Minor, and Zoology as a major. Oh I forgot something. At East Hall I used to make balloon wine

DM: Balloon wine?

JF: Yeah you take a great big gallon glass thing like this *makes bottle shape with hands* and you put in the yeast and the water and Wyler's grape drink powder, and the pink stuff tasted pretty good. I don't know why. Add the sugar and the water, and you're supposed to keep the oxygen out and the CO2 in for carbonation

DM: Right

JF: So you know in college, you don't have balloons, so what do you do? You use condoms. So you call it balloon wine and after the recipe I'm not sure why they did this but after 20 days, you have the maximum CO2 in your wine

DM: Okay

JF: And an indicator of that is the condom starts getting bigger and bigger and bigger until it's staying straight up and the wine is ready *laughs*

DM: What a crazy, who would have thought


JF: And there was this guy I told him how to make it and he lived on the 4th floor also and facing west. Up on the 3rd and 4th floors you would open up your windows like this, and we didn't have screens, so you could fall out!

DM: Yeah we can't really open because the screens block, well you would know because of your daughter

JF: Yeah and so we used to have coffee cans hooked onto the sides and we'd keep our soda out there in the winter time and keep it cold, stuff like that. But there were the hippies that lived across from us they had a room that had about 4 rooms, it was huge, but the 3 of them lived in there and 1 time I peeked in and they had it completely covered in aluminum foil. Don't ask me why, and at night they would stuff underneath the doors and everything and you could smell stuff comin out of it.

DM: Oh yeah

JF: Well one time the cops had a bust on the room and people were yelling--the 18:00cops are outside! Well this guy who I taught how to make this wine, no kidding was, well I suppose I uh,

It's a strange name, you can ex it out if you want Gerhard Hackenmueller. He was totally, he was German but he was totally paranoid, he takes his bottle of balloon wine and instead of just stashing it somewhere in his room. He throws it out his window, 4 stories up! CRASH, aw what a waste

DM: What a waste

JF: Yeah, but it was cool there was except for the 2 gay guys on the first floor and the 3 hippies, we all had double rooms, but we all had private rooms because nobody really wanted to live out there that far

DM: Sure yeah exactly, I mean

JF: So it was great!

DM: I mean where I'm at now it's like perfect because I'm on campus so everything is right there but it seems like that would be so beneficial in 19:00itself because you have your privacy, you're kind of out there

JF: Oh and we actually had a chapel in that place, and a laundry and they actually had mangles. I figure out how to use that so I always had nice pressed jeans and whatever and

DM: Oh yeah! Life's good

JF: Oh there was this one time uh we had some strange guys. There was denny, who was an army, no Navy corpsman who was coming back to get some more school. We had Noah who was just out of high school, complete idiot, uh that was his nickname. Uh Ron, I know his last name but I won't say it

DM: Yeah you don't have too

JF: He used to moon, because on the 4th floor, every 1st, 2nd, and 3rd floor had a solarium on the south side. On the 4th floor we had a sun deck, so Ron would hop up on the concrete and when the high school girls would walk past, he would 20:00moon em *Laughs* and he would say a few things too. Jim is gesturing come on in! Come on in! There was this one time, Noah, him and myself and a few other guys wanted to get basically have a good time and get drunk, and there was a little liquor store just east of the dorm and we told one guy who was the older one to go in and get some brandy and some soda. So what does he do with the money we had? He comes out with 1 bottle of soda and 2 bottles of brandy. NO, what do we do? I guess we had to drink it right? So we got cups and we went to New York st or New York Ave track I don't know if it's still there


DM: I'm not sure

JF: And they had bleachers and on 1 side they had a nice track, and we are getting juiced and there were some, uh, what do you call those darn things, uh

DM: Hurdles?

JF: Yeah hurdles, I'm not a track person, and dumb Noah, he's swearing and everything, and he says "I can jump over those hurdles"

DM: Yeah

JF: And so yeah "no you can't" "yes I can" "no you can't" so he goes down there and I'm in this fuzzy frame of mind to and it seems like time slowed down and he starts up, and he's running and running and he starts to leap, and he leaps like this *leaping motion* and his legs are like this *leg spread motion* and he stops in midair comes straight down on the hurdle. He and the hurdle go over and he's howling his head off because he just hit his cajones and were laughing our 22:00heads off! So we had to medicate him I guess

DM: I suppose

JF: So on the way back, East hall had a fence except for the east side and the middle south side, it was like a cyclone fence maybe about 7 ft. or 8 ft. or whatever, and we didn't want to walk all the wind

DM: No

JF: And were not in the greatest frame of mind right now, so what do we do? We try to climb the fence and Noah was kind of a large guy, so a couple of us got on his rear end and legs, and were kind of pushing him over and were just almost getting him over and he says "no I don't want to do this" Yes you are doing this! So we gave him a big push, we pushed him over this thing and he landed. I'm surprised he didn't break his neck, but you know, he was drunk and relaxed, and

DM: Sure

JF: And then there was this other time--how he got his name Noah. He was really obnoxious, be only lasted I think 2 semesters because he was on probation after 23:00the first one and he was always partying, so and he come in drunk. He'd be loud and he'd be pounding on peoples doors. A couple of the upperclassmen decided to take these great big waste buckets that were about 4 feet tall. Filled it with water and tipped it against his room, and he's in there, and now we're beating on the door and he opens it and this thing falls in there and there was a big flood and that's how he became Noah!

DM: Oh! Interesting

JF: And then you got the flaming lighter fluid, and you could do that because the floors were terazza and the doors were steel, so you would shoot lighter fluid underneath it and light it and it would flame up on the inside of the door

DM: Incredible

JF: No damage!

DM: Truly a different time

JF: And then there was the usual shaving cream and the *splatter noise*

DM: It seems like you guys were some party animals!


JF: Yeah, but we studied!

DM: Oh absolutely

JF: Except for the few losers, and then they weren't around anymore, and then the guys who would start playing sheepshead from Friday afternoon to, I don't know Sunday night. What a waste of life, god!

DM: So let's talk about your studies, you said you were doing Zoology did you say?

JF: Zoology, yeah

DM: Okay, what was that like

JF: Well eventually I wanted to be a veterinarian so I was taking those biological courses so biology was divided into um zoology and botany. I had to take a couple of botany courses. That was the requirement and for the geology, I always just took that because I was interested in rocks, you know, being a boy. There was this professor, Dr. Burton Carges? Really a nice guy and I thought he was maybe in his 70s at the time and I was taking uh, well there was an 25:00oceanography course I was taking too that I came down here for coring on the lake. But it was also Glaciology, and he took us to the north Kettle Moraine and there was about 4 of us in his car and this was during summer school, and summer school was great up there. And it was in June or July and it was really hot, and we stopped in this one little place, and he went in and brought out a 6 pack, a cold 6 pack! So we're sharing this and he's driving back on 45 and he's got 1 hand on the steering wheel and 1 hand on the can of beer that was our professor!

DM: Oh gosh

JF: Yeah, then there was another one, Dr. Jacob Shapiro, he was the director of the biology department, and he was enlightened. Back then, you couldn't even talk about condoms, or contraceptives. He would come to the dorms, and then the 26:00higher ups heard about this and he almost lost his job even though he had tenure. They said, if you continue doing this, you're going to be fired. I remember at east hall, and we didn't care, nobody ever ratted on him. He had these display things that folded up. I'm thinking when they were open, they were 5x10ft. Huge, with every type of contraceptive, and practice stuck on em, and he would ask us questions and we would ask him questions and he would answer em and be a straight shooter and we respected him for that. So after he got ragged on by the higher ups, then he went to private residences and he had these same displays.

DM: Okay

JF: But I heard when I was in the air force that he was on 45 and he had a fatal accident, what a waste of a good person


DM: Wow

JF: Yeah

DM: So it says you did some grant research work on campus, tell me about that.

JF: Oh yeah, so I started in January, I think one of my first classes I had was entomology with Dr. Gene Drecthra and he still lives in the same place that he lived when I went there, In fact I saw him I think a couple of years ago, and also for Jennifer's Graduation. So he had this research grant in which he was going to analyze the insects of lake butte des mortes, and he had it all planned out. This semester he was going to do this this one, this one, this one. So the first semester in the summer time I dove down and got samples and we did water 28:00clarity stuff with I think they pronounce it a seshy disk. It's the black and white and you just drop it down and at so many meters you can see it and at so many meters you can. Uh water samplings, which was mainly grabbing handfuls of this stuff, putting it in alcohol and then the next semester, that's when the grunt work started, you'd get rid of all this (not sure) and pick out all of the insects. The next semester after that was getting all these insects and putting them in areas as to what they were, and I think the second to last semester I was with him on this grant, I actually had to mount these things, that was rough stuff. You were working under a binocular microscope and you have a certain time frame to do this because the stuff is hardening

DM: Sure

JF: You get an air bubble underneath it, between the slip and the cover slide. An air bubble, you had to try to tweeze it out before it got so hard you 29:00couldn't do it anymore and then the last semester was actually classifying these things. I don't know what he did after that but that was super interesting. Plus I had my own lab. That was when halsey was, the new halsey was first opened for occupancy and my lab was down in the sub basement and you had to go through like no kidding about 4 other rooms to go to it because it looked like it was a big locker, and I strung copper wire on the ceiling because I couldn't get decent radio reception down there, it was so far down in there. You know I have to work with music, I always have.

DM: So you spent basically your whole time there working on that then.

JF: Yeah oh yeah, well I had 3 jobs. I had that job, an RA's job, and I also worked for crown food service because it was kind of neat, because I was the one taking the truck, well, walking the truck to elmbrook commons and I was the one 30:00taking to food to east hall because during the weekend and during for breakfast they wanted to feed us but because it was so far into the commons, the guys weren't going. I got a whole bunch of stuff, like on the weekends, I guess I was supposed to do this, they said "well give them some doughnuts or whatever" I'd take a couple of great big boxes of doughnuts, juice, milk, cereal, stuff like that

DM: That's nice!

JF: 3 jobs

DM: So you said you were an RA, where did you RA

JF: That was during summer, which one is the one on Algoma, is that Scott or Gruenhagen.

DM: The one is on the north side of Algoma and one on the south side of Algoma. The Scotts are on the north side and Gruenhagen on the south side of Algoma and is more accessible off of high, so I think you were probably in the Scotts

JF: Okay, yeah because that was near the union, was that Scott? They had about 3 31:00floors or 4 floors during the summer time, and woman residents, and we used to charge the students 25 cents if they locked themselves out, so by the end of summer we had a pile of money, so we went out to the Heidel House on green lake

DM: Oh yeah I've heard of the Heidel House

JF: Uh huh, we got wasted, came back the next day. My parents were supposed to pick my up that day, which they did, and I called em and says don't pick me up until about 3 because we still had money left so we went out and had pizzas. So when they finally picked me up, they said, are you feeling okay? I said, no I was hung over. That was another good memory. Aside from a few of those things, I didn't really go out and get drunk


DM: Not a big Bar Scene?

JF: No, not really

DM: But when you did though, what kind of places were people going to back then? Do you remember the names?

JF: Uh the BI, the Bavarian Inn, that was on oh great, uh, what's the street that goes past the union?

DM: Uh Algoma

JF: You head east on Algoma and I'm thinking it was either on Jackson or it wasn't on main st, I know that, That was a dive, they only had one entrance and one bathroom, a lot of people, and it was a beer bar so you could go in there when you were under 21

DM: Ok

JF: But the challenge to that place was to get out as many empty glasses as you can Of course

JF: But then you start ratcheting up the challenge. Can you get out a full beer glass without the bouncer taking it away? A couple times I got out a full 33:00pitcher, because one guy was running interference and one in the back and I had a large coat and it was in the wintertime of course and you just kind of hide it, so we're walking on Jackson, in the middle of the street and well, you gotta go, you gotta go, so nevermind

DM: Oh right *laughs*

JF: Yeah so, I would say maybe I did that once a month, because I was studying

DM: But I mean it also seems like you had a lot of fun doing other stuff too

JF: Right, I knew this lady, uh she was a music major, and I just found out about 2 months ago actually that she died, but she invited me to the Oshkosh harmonic, because they were hosting the Moscow harmonic there. They were touring 34:00the country, and were looking around and I'm looking at these Russian guys down there and everybody is tuning up and all this, except for one cellist, and he's looking around and I think boy that's kind of weird. 2 weeks later I found out that 1 of the members defected, and I'm thinking maybe that was him.

DM: Defected?

JF: Defected, asyluming in the United States. These are Russians

DM: Ok

JF: You know they watch them like dogs

DM: Wow interesting

JF: But she had some sort of muscular problem, so but yeah she was a nice lady.

DM: So while you were on campus other than the partying type stuff, did you do any intramural sports, or was going to the sports big at all when you were there?

JF: No not really

DM: No big football games or anything like that?

JF: Actually I don't think I went to one football game


DM: Interesting

JF: Yeah, I was working on the research grant, because I wanted to really excel in it.

DM: Sure

JF: And there was this guy I know in genetics and always I know in entomology classes too. We were always up against each other. Who got the highest grade. Challenge, that was the nerdy stuff coming out

DM: That's good stuff!

DM: Um what was the food like?

JF: I liked it

DM: Yeah, dining hall style? Was it still called Blackhawk commons back then?

JF: That was the one by the river, no this is elmbrook commons

DM: Elmbrook commons, okay

JF: Yeah, how much X-rated can you make this?

DM: *signals uncertainty but approval*

JF: Okay, there was this Ron Capacio, Italian, well when you're coming out of the dining hall you have to come down stairs, and while you're going down, people are coming up, and sooner or later, somebody is at crotch level with your eyes, and he decided to take, and they had these huge chiquita bananas, shoves 36:00it down like this *down pants motion* and we let him go first watching the look on these coeds and eventually his crotch gets to be eye level and they're all going *wide eyed expression*

DM: Oh my

JF: Oh yeah, the cheap laughs we all had. But I remember the riots we had, around Kent state, 1970. It was just before I graduated, and I was in Scott again because we got private rooms because they transferred us out of east because the population was so far down, they had to close it. I remember going up on the roof and seeing these uh, troops, basically.... Cops, from brown county Dane county, Winnebago county, and it was like looking over a battlefield because you could see these guys moving in different areas down the blocks, and 37:00you could see students coming around the corner and nobody knew the other ones were coming and all of a sudden there was a clash. Some of the cops had these great big long night sticks and the ones that had the little red button. Those were the electric ones. And they had 2 tiny little prongs on the end, and you would hit the button and *zap noise*

DM: Ohh interesting

JF: Yeah they were cattle prods basically

DM: And what was the riot, was it referring to what was going on at Kent state? Or?

JF: Uh huh, everything Vietnam, that's why the national guard in Ohio busted the kids there. Because they were rioting and protesting against Vietnam

DM: Interesting

JF: Yeah, I think that January, that's when they came out with the ping pongs and the draft numbers, and I got 43 so I knew I was going


DM: And did you go?

JF: Yeah

DM: Okay

DM: During the time that you went there, so you mentioned the Kent state. Was there any other big political, cultural, social events going on like that?

JF: I think it was just the year before I got up there, so maybe 67 or so, uh Simon and Garfunkel were there and it was like, I don't know, 3 bucks for admission. They weren't known then

DM: Okay, um, so you went there between 68 and 70 you said. Do you know anything about Black Thursday?

JF: Uhhh yeah that rings a bell, the protesters and the blacks?

DM: Yeah there was a large group, all of the African American students on campus, there was a large riot, and you said you went there at semester right? Or midterm?

JF: I was a midterm, I started in January of 68, and I graduated in May or June 39:00of 70, yeah I remember black Thursday.

DM: Um, anything

JF: Yeah but then we were still at east hall so

DM: Oh so you weren't really, yeah you were still away from it

JF: Right yeah, they never bothered to say, oh yeah there's a riot out here, come and join it

DM: Sure

JF: Yeah we were pretty darn isolated.... Oh and there was this other bar called Andy's library, and that was a 21 bar. My genetics professor, I think he was a full professor, he was maybe about 35 years old. He was about 5'5" and he looked like he was just out of high school. Anytime he wanted to go there he always got carded, and we'd laugh our heads off. But my girlfriend at the time, we would go there, she was one year older than I was and we would play cribbage, she taught 40:00me how to play cribbage, and we would play for drinks, so you know you start winning and you slam back a few and pretty soon, then your mind goes, well then she takes over because she's winning and the same thing. So it was good entertainment, we had a few drinks and. But that was a nice name because whenever somebody's parent would call the hall for somebody. It would be "Oh he's at the library"--. All right! Andy's library

DM: I've definitely heard similar stories about the library

JF: But It wasn't all drinking and stuff like that

DM: No

JF: Being an entomology student we made these aspirators. What they are is basically a couple of tubes and a container. You would suck up small insects. It would go here *points to mouth* because the insects would go in the cylinder first, and we'd be actually sometimes crawling on our knees, or I would be 41:00crawling on my knees, sucking up insects and you know the guys would laugh at me. "What are you doing down there again?". So my nickname was the bugman.

DM: The bug man? Awesome

JF: There was a place called the match factory and that's where that parking lot is just east of Polk. They were tearing that down at the time and this guy that was the son of my mother's friend that lived also in east hall. He was a junker so we both went into that place and got a whole bunch of junk out of it.

DM: Umm let's see here. So

JF: There was fletcher, called the animal house

DM: That's where I stayed, what do you know about fletcher?

JF: Oh these guys were rough

DM: Yeah

JF: Yeah

DM: They called it the animal house?


JF: Yeah

DM: Interesting

JF: And there was donner hall, and Evans hall for the woman, and Taylor. At that time, I'm pretty sure they didn't have mixed dorms. I know Evans was a women's dorm because my girlfriend lived at Evans.

DM: So when you wanted to hang out she came by you because you couldn't go in there

JF: Well I could go in there but if you want to be supervised and watched

DM: Right

JF: Doors had to be that far open *makes several inch space with fingers*

DM: So several inches open at least

JF: And she had a car too so she could. So yeah we watched the submarine races down by Winnebago Park or whatever they called that park and we'd watch the submarine races

DM: Sure, interesting

JF: Do you know what submarine races are?

DM: Nope

JF: I didn't think you did, no you take some innocent person down there. She 43:00knew it before I did, she says lets go watch the submarine races. Well if submarines are racing, you can't see them because they're underwater. And besides Winnebago is about 10 ft. deep anyhow

DM: Yeah that's about it

JF: So she'd be sayin "oh there's one, did you see the periscope?" no, well we might as well do something else while we're here.

DM: Ohhh okay

JF: I still email her and she still emails me about once a week. She moved from here to Colorado, and about 2 years ago, she moved down to Arizona. Hates it down there

DM: So you're still keeping in touch with some of the people that you spent some time with down there?

JF: Just her

DM: Just her?

JF: I tried getting in contact with this sally person, only to find out that she died a couple of years ago

DM: Okay

DM: None of the guys though or any of that?

JF: I don't know where they are

DM: Interesting

DM: Umm, okay here's one. So say I'm on campus and I said "Hey there's this 44:00James Fischer guy, what's he about" what would they say? What would they say about you?

JF: Nerdy, always got my face in a book, if not in his research lab. But occasionally knows how to party

DM: Nice, that's not bad at all. In fact ideal

DM: So since going to UWO what kinds of things have you done? So you went to UWO for Zoology, what was your first occupation outside of college.

JF: Military, Air force

DM: Oh right, so how long did you spend in the military

JF: Uh well for years regular, 2 years active reserves

DM: And you went to Vietnam?

JF: I went to Thailand, but I did slip over into Vietnam a few times, I was a medic. Like I said I knew I was going to go because I was number 43. What was kinda strange is selective service, when you registered, they asked you if you 45:00were going to college full time. Everybody checks it off. So you automatically got a 2s deferment. A couple of years later they changed that where you got a 1A. You had to send in something. It asked if you were a college student. Yes you are, then you got a replacement card from the 1a to the 2s. The last year I was there, you got a 1a right away and you had to prove by your tuition statement that you actually are full time and actually paid.

DM: Okay so you're not trying to dodge right?

JF: Yeah and there was this one guy who said "I'll do it sooner or later". Military MP's actually came to the dorm, handcuffed him, and hauled his but out!

DM: Really?

JF: Yeah

DM: So it was pretty serious then

JF: Yeah and then with the, I was serious with Peyton to, I told her I was going to be gone for 4 years and Vietnam was getting real hot and heavy then. I says 46:00"I don't know if I'm coming home" don't wait for me. I hated saying that, but I wasn't going to keep her around. So I guess for about, well we corresponded while I was in Texas and then I think about a year later she found her high school sweetheart and married him *laughs*. That's Okay

DM: Yeah, that's how life goes

JF: Yepp

DM: So after the air force, what did you get into?

JF: Well I wanted to become a veterinarian but when I was in the air force, I found out I was severely allergic to certain small breeds of cats. I did large animals. I moonlighted with the base vet, and he did large animals and I didn't like that.

DM: No?

JF: No, but I got a private pilot's license out of the air force, I got a master's degree out of the air force and this is kind of crazy. They had rotating instructors from California from through what they call the CCAF, community college of the air force and they would come out in the winter months, 47:00like November through April, in Maine where I was stationed and would stay for 3 months at a time. I chose this one course leading to an MS, and it was Systems Management. That's computers, and here I had no intention of doing that. I just got the grade and got the letters and shoved the book away somewhere, and I tried to get into the health field her in Milwaukee and they were having an exam and there was like 150 applicants and I placed #2, but there was only 1 position. I had to find something so I got a certificate in data processing and that was the start of my career. 36-7 years.

DM: Wow, so do you have any, so I was going to ask if you had any regrets, but you said with the allergy and you weren't really into the large animals so you feel that you aren't upset that you didn't use that degree?


JF: I am very disappointed that I couldn't do it, however at that time I didn't know enough about the veterinary career. When my daughter was, when we were checking out whitewater and all of that. We were talking with the guys who were actually in the veterinary department and they says, well you don't have to do small animals or large animals, you can go into research for feed and other things like that. Well I didn't know enough to ask the right questions

DM: Well and at the same time, the resources that they had back then for, weren't as broad as they are now or steering students in the right direction

JF: I was tested for the allergy in the air force, you know the pin prick test? So they gave me this (unrecognizable) and I was reading the contraindications and one of them was glaucoma. Well how can you do a job if you're going to get glaucoma in your eyes?

DM: Right

JF: And you know it did help, you could probably put Vaseline in my eyes and it 49:00would have the same effect. You are looking through this hazy water type thing, no forget it.

DM: Umm so, let's talk about, so you've been in Milwaukee ever since

JF: Yeah I came back and I moved to downtown for a while, and then I moved out to Brookfield, and I stayed out there, oh I don't know, 5-6 years and then I moved back here, and then I was working at the Northridge, It was the FW Woolworth accounting office as a programming analyst and I knew I wanted to get out and have a house of my own. I didn't like renting, and I knew I couldn't 50:00afford this area, over in the parkway. There's like 4 grades of houses, over from this area and west, and I kept forgetting to look at this area, and I would do it on a Friday. This was before online searches for houses, you had to look in the paper or just go up and down the street and see what happens and so, I finally put a post on my steering wheel, and this house was for sale, and this was in March of 1989. I actually did see another house, and I actually had an appraiser go in and that was between 93rd off Burleigh, and I didn't like it, it had bad vibes. So then when I called the Appraiser, or the inspector again, I asked if he gave volume discounts. He said "sure, why not" and so he inspected 51:00this place, and it was an estate sale. Nobody in here, all brand new carpeting, brand new paint and everything. Couldn't find a darn thing wrong with it, and he gave me the estimate and I low balled him because this thing was on the market, and later on I found out from meeting the neighbors that it was on the market since September of the preceding year.

DM: Okay

JF: And now this is April, no march, and they're paying, you know, taxes, electricity, some for water, and this is where I low balled him and I said cash. No mortgage, no financing, just cash and so I cut him a certified check, and signed, sealed, and delivered.

DM: There it is

JF: Yeah

DM: You've been here ever since

JF: It was a good neighborhood.


DM: So this is where you raised your daughter then?

JF: Yeah, well I was single for about 4 years, and it was starting, well it's kind of a party neighborhood around here and they all thought I was kind of nuts. You know, a single guy, 3 bedrooms. It's actually got 5 stories. It's got sub-basement, basement, a family room here, and an upstairs, and a double attic.

DM: Okay, so a big place for a single guy

JF: Yeah, but it has a useless backyard, once you go out about 10 feet, it slopes down about 45 degrees, but it's a nice patio we had. So yeah, single for about 5 years, then I got married, and somehow that bad water in Wauwatosa caused her to get pregnant.

DM: Oh yeah

JF: So I think I was about 45-46 when Jennifer came along, and about that time, 53:00I was working in the IT field, Jennifer was born in May, and there was a problem with the IT field around the country. Massive layoffs, so I got laid off. So I was unemployed for about a year and then Jennifer comes, and so Jane goes back to work after a month so then I do the daddy bit here during the time, and then I find a teaching job at the same place I got my data processing degree from.

DM: Which was?

JF: MBTI, at about 6th or 7th and Wisconsin, and so my wife. She used to work for about 22 years at Etna here on Center Street. She come rolling in at 5 o'clock and I'd have supper ready to go, and I'd leave at 5 o'clock and I wouldn't come home until about midnight

DM: 2nd shift yeah

JF: Yeah and I really enjoyed that, you would see some, trying to pound 54:00something into the people especially like one. There's always 1 that doesn't get it, until that one person gets it, and you can just see it, the light goes on, and they've got it. But there was a lot of Russian students in there, and they would cheat like son of a guns. So then I tried different things, so every other seat would be empty, then they'd still whisper over, you know "what's the answer to this". Then I switch up the exams, they had like 3 different exams, and a lot of people got a lot of stuff wrong, I'm not sure why. Or they would start talking in Russian or some Slavic language and I would start questioning them in German. Oh then they started speaking that common language we all had. But that was really interesting, I really enjoyed that.

DM: So you found teaching to be pretty rewarding then?

JF: It was, It was


DM: So you taught for how many years then?

JF: I would say about 4 and a half years, until I got a job as a contractor then, and I liked that too. So Jennifer was brought up with me as a house daddy during the daytime and I would never say I didn't like that. There was some times when it got a little minor frustrating especially when. She hates it when I say this. Umm, she would lay a load in her diaper and I would change it right away. Right then I would clean it up, change it, come back in the room a half an hour later, and "oh come on"-- you know, diapers are expensive.

DM: Yeah

JF: I let her go a couple of urinations, sometimes it's a couple of drops, I'm not going to change a darn diaper like that

DM: So would you say that the fact that you went to Oshkosh influenced her to go to Oshkosh?

JF: Somewhat, when we went to, we did Madison and she didn't like Madison, It 56:00was a big meat factory there, too many people. She didn't like white water because at that time, it was about a 2 block length of stores, and she likes shopping and that just wasn't enough for her. And then she didn't want to go to UWM because I told her about that stuff. She didn't want to go to Mt Mary which is about a 5 minute walk.

DM: Oh right, its right over here

JF: And now it's a university standing, it used to be college. Uh basically, I think there was a couple, oh and Milwaukee Lutheran, we were checking out that. That would have been super expensive, and likewise Marquette. You know you have to be a graduate or know somebody, or give big donation bucks to donate to Marquette. So we went up to Oshkosh and she said "look at all of these stores". I think that was the first words out of her mouth.


DM: Sure they have the outlet and everything

JF: Oh it's amazing, it's like 10 times as much as when I went there. Of course they did have this road house on the way to Omro, and it was an old roadhouse. You had to go down this back road. Is that 23 going into Omro?

DM: 21

JF: 21, close. You go west, and it was on the south side where this old dirt road was and you go way back. I don't know ¾ of a mile, and there was a stand of these old trees, and that's where the old farm house used to be and this was a huge old farmhouse. Well it was a stripper club, and there was this stripper and her, we'd call her favorite strong, or the one she was known for was by the doors, It was called touch me. And she used to take the winter off and we would always say, she would go down to Florida to get her penicillin shots.

JF: And then there was tommy's, just north of main street, where 45 goes over 58:00must be over main street, way up on the north end of town, that was another strip club that was convenient for the guys at East hall.

JF: you must think all we did was drink and watch strippers, but we studied, we studied, except for these losers who were there for 2 semesters and then you never saw them again

DM: Exactly

JF: well it was known for its partying attitude back then!

DM: And to an extent, it still is today

JF: one time I hitchhiked to Platteville, because my buddy, we went to junior high school, high school, and 2 years at UWM. He went to Platteville and I went up here, and it took me several hours to get out of the city of Oshkosh, because 59:00at the time the townies, hated the students.

They would not pick me up

DM: okay

JF: when I got to the expressway, I trucker picked me up, and he was going to Platteville, so I had to walk maybe a mile or 2. It took me shorter to get from the outskirts of Oshkosh to Platteville, that it did for me to get out of the city limits of Oshkosh

DM: Wow

DM: So Umm now that you are experienced, what advice would you give to our current generation going through school?

JF: I wouldn't recommend the career of IT, it is very stressful, you put in some long hours sometimes. I don't know if you want me to go into that

DM: You don't have to

JF: okay, were talking about 3 18 hour days in a row. That was rough. I would 60:00leave the place and I would come home here and I don't remember anything in-between.

DM: huh

JF: Or I would wake up in the middle of the night because I was on call and I would think I'm hearing the phone ring, and it's not.

DM: That's something

JF: Yeah I wouldn't recommend it, however, when I got out of the air force, I did apply for the DNR from Wisconsin, and after like 3 jobs, I was working at a bank then. Then I got the call to go interview for the DNR. They wanted, well this was like 1985, I think they were offering like 7000 Dollars a year, and I was making double that at the bank as a junior programmer. It would have been nice but who knows. I would have been posted up in Ashippun WI or something.

DM: Right, you never know

DM: Besides from a career standpoint, what kind of advice would you give, how do 61:00you feel about our generation

JF: Well like my daughter, she has this great and wonderful degree and she's not applying it, she's doing what she wants to do in the animal care field. I'm just thinking that's her choice.

DM: okay

JF: I'm a little bit disappointed in that, my parents had no pushing me, I only went into etymology because my uncle who did live in Peoria at the time was the head etymologist for Pabst Brewing at the time.

DM: ohhh

JF: so ever since I was a guy, I little guy, I always had a bug box and a butterfly net. That was me, I was always doing that. Yeah, there was things I 62:00wished I could have changed, I wished I had better eyesight because I wanted to become a navigator in the air force, but that didn't happen, and about 10 years after that, the Russians starts to do RK and PK uh with the eyes. You know laser surgery, take your eyes from 2200 - 20/30 or something like that or 20/20. Always late or too early or something

DM: yeah I suppose that's the way it goes

JF: yeah you always play the "what if" game. What if this, that, and everything happened. I wanted to become a helicopter pilot, but then I didn't want to join the army. But that's why I got my license in the air force so I could at least get up there.

DM: Well I think I have pretty much everything I need for this

JF: hm okay

DM: Thank You very much for taking the time to do this interview with me. Learned a whole lot about stuff I didn't even know that happened at Oshkosh


JF: That's history at Oshkosh

DM: That's why we're doing it

JF: Oh I remember one time with Dr. Carges, we were out west somewhere and it was in a little oak tree forest, and I discovered Morels, and you've heard of them?

DM: oh yeah, morels

JF: so I brought a bunch of them back, and at East Hall, each floor except the 3rd and 4th had big kitchens. And I went to the store and got butter and they had all these pots and pans there, and a gas stove and so I washed these ugly looking things up, cut them up a little bit and put them in the pan. The guys are looking at me like what's that junk. And they were morels! "Oh I'm not eating those things"

DM: oh yeah a delicacy

JF: well they disappeared, well the sautéed mushroom smell started to go around the dorms, and people started coming around thinking "I bet those are pretty good" Oh yeah they are really good, and I didn't give em one!


DM: That's awesome

JF: But overall like I said before I even started this, if I could go back to one time in my life, I would want to redo Oshkosh

DM: You wouldn't want too?

JF: I would want to redo Oshkosh, go right back there as a junior like I transferred in. Those 2 years were the greatest of my life

DM: That's awesome

JF: I wasn't getting shot at, I was just getting potential going. My own direction to see where I was going to go

DM: well it's that feeling of, you were from Milwaukee and then you moved away gained that independence.

JF: Plus with my father's travels I think we had about uhh 48 well actually 46 of the continental united states, states on vacation, and about 5 Canadian 65:00provinces. So then I had no problem when I was in the air force with leaving home. I was gone for about 3 years. I was doing too much traveling and temporary duty, all on the dime of the government

DM: Well thank you very much

JF: okay

DM: That should do it!

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