Interview with Rob Rudolph, 04/26/2018

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
Jacob Zietlow, Interviewer | uwocs_Rob_Rudolph_04262018_uc.mp3
Campus Stories Oral History Project (UWO Audio Series 51) |


JZ: So, today is Thursday April 26 at around 7 13 p.m. And then my name is Jacob Zietlow and I will be the interviewer. And then Rob if you could please state your name and the time and where you are for this interview please.

RR: I'm Rob Rudolph. I'm in the same time zone and the same date.

JZ: All right thank you. So then this interview is for the Campus Stories Oral History Project then I have the deed of the gift which I'll send you after the interview ends and then the interview is going to be around 60 minutes long. And then are you ready to get started Rob?

RR: Yes I am Jacob.

JZ: All right so then first we will start -

RR: Fire away.

JZ: All right. First we'll start some background questions so you could tell me where you grew up and just a little bit of your community that you grew up and please.

RR: Well, I grew up in Plymouth, Wisconsin. It's not where I was born and it's not the first years of my life. I was actually born in Minneapolis and moved to 1:00Wisconsin. My parents moved to Wisconsin when I was just about six years old. So all my school years were spent in Wisconsin in the same community up until I graduated.

JZ: Why did your parents move from Missouri to Wisconsin?

RR: They didn't move from Missouri.

JZ: Oh, my bad.

RR: Minneapolis is in Minnesota.

JZ: Okay, yeah.

RR: And my dad moved here for a job. He -- my parents were immigrants. My father was -- actually, my father came here. He was a German pilot in WWII. He was shot down, became a prisoner of war, and his home was in what was at the time turned in East Germany. His parents advised him not to go back to Germany because that 2:00was the commie side of it. There was no food and little opportunity. So he was able to immigrate to America. And he had an uncle - my grandmother's brother - that was living in Minnesota and was able to sponsor him for a visa. So he ended up starting out in Minnesota. He didn't speak real good English at first. So, you know, as things developed he was able to learn trade there and eventually worked himself into sales and found an opportunity to advance himself by moving to Wisconsin. It was a big change moving from a larger city like Minneapolis to a small city like Plymouth. You look at Plymouth or generally any small city. Today you go into a small town - Plymouth at the time, it's bigger now, probably 3:00about 8,000 people, but at the time it was right around 5,000 people. And small cities in Wisconsin when I grew up, which would have basically been from going to school through the 1960s, they were very vibrant communities. You had a downtown like a lot of small towns. Businesses were all open on Friday night, you didn't have Walmarts, you didn't have strip malls. You didn't drive to another city. Everybody congregated downtown. There were places that were alive. They were alive with activity. They were quite pleasant places to grow up. Sure, they had their problems, but if you go to a city that size now you look at it mostly you often see boarded up storefronts, empty storefronts. Most of the 4:00retail stores are gone from places like Main Street. You know, moved out to the suburbs. Even Oshkosh is like that a bit now

JZ: Yeah, the smaller businesses kind of go out.

RR: Sure. Your big mall when I was there used to be Park Plaza right down by the Fox River there. You know, now everything is out on the edge of town where there used to be nothing. But the small towns were much different than they are today. Today, I think some is maybe more of a bedroom community for Sheboygan County, but at the time they had yet little business there. You were completely self-contained. You know, have the traditional rivalries with the towns around you, you know, and that was your -- you didn't really need to go any other place. I look back on it today, you know, with the experience of having lived difference places and different cities, and say "Who the hell could live in a 5:00town like this?" You know, you look and you say, "Man, I wanna get out of here! I want to go to a place where there's something happening."

JZ: Yeah, exactly.

RR: But at the time growing up there, you didn't think like that.

JZ: Um, so then what kind of grades did you get in high school? And were you involved in any sports or any extracurricular activities like that or not really?

RR: I was involved in - I mean I mostly did intramurals. I wasn't very athletically gifted. I was like a lot of kids. I had a big growth spurt. I think I grew more than a foot from the time I was a freshman to a junior. Yeah, I didn't I didn't grow much in grade school. Then all the sudden I just shot up like, you know, went up to 6'4 from about 5'4.

JZ: That's crazy.

RR: Like a lot of kids that grow up fast, you tend to be kind of uncoordinated when you're growing up. You know, you never know where your hands and feet are 6:00plus, you know, when you're growing that fast, you tend to be pretty lightweight. So, I was not very solidly built -- I was, you know, people used to joke and say, "Jeez, you have to run around to get wet in the shower!"

JZ: Yeah, what kind of work did your parents do?

RR: My grades sucked if that's what you're wondering!

JZ: Okay, yeah, yeah.

RR: I wasn't - I was not a serious student. Not academically. The high schools, you know, they were pretty good. Grade schools pretty good. But, you know, probably like a lot of kids, more interested in, you know, finding a party, getting drunk, generally having a good time and seeing how much you can get away with.

JZ: Yeah. Okay, so -

RR: We didn't get in any serious trouble. The high schools are really -- you 7:00didn't really have drugs. I mean, it wasn't because none of us were really against smoking pot. In fact, I think most kids probably wanted to try it, but we didn't have a clue where to get something like that!

JZ: Yeah, because it's all small, oh yeah. What was the -

RR: It was like the kind of life you would imagine on "Leave It to Beaver" or something. One of those old TV shows.

JZ: Yeah. So, then what kind of, like --

RR: It was --

JZ: Oh, sorry.

RR: It was kind of like stepping into the movie "Pleasantville."

JZ: Yeah, yeah. What around size was like, your graduating class then in your high school?

RR: Boy, I don't remember. Um, maybe 200 kids? Something like that.

JZ: Ok, yeah, so pretty small.

RR: I think it might have been around 200. Maybe less, maybe more.

JZ: Okay. So then what --


RR: I was probably right in the middle of it academically.

JZ: You were what?

RR: I was probably right -- somewhere right in the middle of it academically.

JZ: Okay, yeah, so like Bs and Cs pretty much?

RR: Yeah, right around there.

JZ: What kind of work did your parents do then when you were growing up?

RR: Well, we were a one income family, so my dad was a salesman. Um, at that time he worked for a small company based in Plymouth. Their biggest product was tap markers. I don't know if you know what a tap marker is.

JZ: I have no idea.

RR: Ok. So if you go into a bar -- you have been a bar, I assume?

JZ: Yeah. Yup.

RR: You wouldn't be a Wisconsin boy if you hadn't. But when they draw the beer from the keg, they usually have a little thing with the brand of beer on it.


JZ: Oh, okay.

RR: So that's what called a tap marker.

JZ: Okay.

RR: And in those days every town used to have their own breweries. So, you had small breweries. Actually, there was a company in Plymouth that made tap markers, and they were one of the biggest tap marker manufacturers in the country.

JZ: Really?

RR: But even a city like Oshkosh had two brands, two or three brands of beer. You have People's, you had Chief Oshkosh beer. There were still local breweries around in the area. Those are probably all gone now unless you got -- 'till you got craft brews started coming back and reintroducing that. But you would go around to these little breweries in all the little towns and sell your tap markers to the breweries who would then distribute them to the bars that carried their beer.

JZ: Um, did you have any siblings growing up?

RR: Did I have what?


JZ: Siblings, any brothers or sisters?

RR: Oh yes, I had two brothers and a sister.

JZ: Mhmm. Were they older or younger than you?

RR: I was the oldest one, so they were all younger.

JZ: When did you about decide that you wanted, uh, to go on to extra schooling after your high school education? Like, did you think you were going to throughout high school, or did you just kind of decide senior year around?

RR: You know, I think, uh, I think I kind of decided -- I don't know if it was really until -- I don't know if there's really a lot of thought that went into it. Uh, I do remember why I picked Oshkosh, um, at that time school newspapers -- mind you, this was before the Internet, before text messaging, before cell 11:00phones. And you grew up with that stuff, but it really -- it's hard to put yourself back into another era when that didn't exist if you grew up with it. Kind of -- how limited your knowledge and how limited your communications with other places were. So, we found out about schools by reading the college newspapers that were sent down to the various high schools. And you'd hear the stories of guys that went there. In my case, I had a job in high school working at a gas station. Worked also as an auto mechanic. And, uh, one of the guys that used to hang around the gas station, you know, was -- like when I was sixteen and seventeen, he would have been like 20. And he went to Oshkosh. Partied a lot 12:00and flunked out after one year, but he used to tell great stories about Oshkosh! What a wonderful place it was. Yeah, you know, even though he wasn't going there anymore. He just made it sound so attractive between that and, uh, the Advance Titan was a very well written newspaper. Probably better than any other -- any of the other Wisconsin schools. So, that influenced my decision to go there. In fact, it was the only school I applied to.

JZ: Oh, really?

RR: Yeah, and I -- I mean, you just took it for granted that you were going to, uh, that you were going to get admitted. My grades were, you know, good enough that I was, but the idea of going to school in another state just -- I don't think it ever even occurred to me! The idea of even going anywhere else, you know, it just didn't -- didn't occur to me. I did think, maybe I wanted to make a career as a mechanic, uh, 'cause I really enjoyed working on machinery and 13:00cars, and I was getting pretty good at it, but people influenced you and tell you "Eh, you can make more money doing this, you can have a more interesting life." You know, do you really want to stay in Plymouth, WI, and work as an auto mechanic for the rest of your life? And it wasn't that I didn't enjoy working as a mechanic. I guess the idea of just staying in one place, uh, kind of, uh, influenced you, so. And then the other thing that was influencing you at the time was -- which again, is probably something you don't think about nowawadays, but the war in Vietnam was still going on the in the 1970s, in the early 70s, and there was a draft. And if you didn't enroll in college, you were subject to get drafted. They had a lottery at the time, but you didn't know when you applied for college what your number was going to be. So it was kind of, uh, 14:00they picked people for the army based on a lottery based on your birthday.

RR: Oh, really?

JZ: So you were doing the college application process before you had any idea whether you were going to be number 1 or number 365. It used to be a big thing. They would have a lottery, and they would pick out every birthday and like, order them by priority for the draft. So, you're making your decision -- and a lot of kids in those years thought, "You know, I don't know if I want to go into the military at this point." The war in Vietnam was probably pretty well already considered lost at that point. Things were winding down, and nobody wanted to be the last one to die in that war. Um, you know, it was a crapshoot, so a lot of people, uh, said, "You know what, college doesn't sound like such a bad idea." I can't say it was really a conscious decision on my part, and probably not on any 15:00of my peers' parts either. But it was something that was always in the back of your mind.

JZ: Yeah. What did your parents think about college? Did they like, want you to go, or were they kind of like, hesitant about it, or what was their thought on it?

RR: Oh no, my parents were big supporters of getting an education. That was one of my dad's things was he said, "You know, I've been on the losing side of a war," he said, "I came to this country; I lost everything I had." He said, "One thing nobody can ever take away from you, though, is what you know." He said, you know, "The one thing you can do for yourself no matter what that nobody can ever take away from you. They can take your house, they can take your car, they can take your job, they can even take your freedom, but they can't take away what you've learned and what you know." They were big supporters of getting an 16:00education and in those years, at that time, getting a college of education was just -- at least in my parent's eyes, it was something sacred.

JZ: Did they kind of like, tell you like want to go for, or was that kind of your own decision?

RR: So, it was my own decision. And I went pretty much as an undecided major.

JZ: Ok.

RR: I had an idea of what I wanted to do. I just thought, well, I'll give it a try. My parents, I have to say, they sacrificed a lot to help me get started in college. You know, it was, they weren't poor -- I mean, I always had enough to eat, but you know, they weren't rich either. It was a sacrifice. Of course, I always worked and had some of my own savings. Applied for scholarships, but 17:00because I wasn't particularly athletic and I certainly wasn't very academic, you know, scholarships for those things were few and far between.

JZ: Yeah.

RR: You know, you look for things -- I mean, I was kind of like, well, "What can you get? I was an Eagle Scout, does that count for anything? Um, I used to be a paperboy, does anybody have any scholarships for paperboys?" Uh, you know, stuff like that, but luckily college was still affordable then. So, you know, I did, you know, I made the decision to go, and my parents were very supportive of it. But neither of them had ever been to college. So they had no idea what to take, they just knew college was good.

JZ: Yeah, did any of your friends go to the same college as you, or was it pretty much is you from your class that went to Oshkosh?

RR: Oh no, there was a group of us that went up there. It wasn't that we were 18:00all - it wasn't like we were all friends, that close of friends, that made an agreement to all go to the same college. It was just that it was what 45 minutes, 45 miles away from home. People - some people in groups went to Platteville, Stevens Point. It was more common practice, you know, to go to one of the state schools which at that time Oshkosh wasn't a branch of the University of Wisconsin, it was completely separate. It was called the Wisconsin University. And it was much -- there was a lower cost than going to a place like Madison.

JZ: Yeah. Ok, so then let's go on to your Oshkosh experience. So what was your first impression that you thought of when you like stepped on the campus for your first year as a freshman. Do you remember it at all?


RR: I'm 18, I'm away from home with no parents. The drinking age in Wisconsin was 18. I've got some money in my pocket. This is a much bigger city than where I'm from. What a wonderful experience! Who could not like it?

JZ: Yeah. Did you stay in the dorms then?

RR: I think most people [unclear] through the same thing.

JZ: Yeah, did you stay in the dorms when you were here then, or did you have your own house right away?

RR: I lived in Scott Hall.

JZ: Scott Hall? That's where I lived freshman year.

RR: I was in room 859 and then room 863.

JZ: What do you remember like from your first day of like actually attending classes? Like, were you interested in them, or was it kind of just like, you just want it to be over and then go have your fun?

RR: Well, I can't say I remember any particular experience. I mean, you have the 20:00usual -- first of all, just the registration process was kind of intimidating.

JZ: Yeah.

RR: In those days, they had cardboard boxes full of what were called "IBM punch cards." Lots of stuff that you'd only see 'em in a museum now. You'd have to figure out your schedule, and you'd have to go into this big hall, grab one of these punch cards and [unclear]. There were [unclear], there were no slots left in the particular class. So, just going through that and looking at this and trying to get your cards-- there were requirements, you know, required classes you had take, um, you know sometimes you'd end up with something stupid like in my case, you know, taking an 8am calculus class. It was not the smartest thing. 21:00So, uh, you know you would end up with stuff like that, and then you'd try and trade cards with other people and stuff, and it, uh, just getting into that. Of course, just finding your way around! I'm from a small town, the campus was a little bit intimidating. Um, I will say even at the time Oshkosh was not a very attractive place. I'm sure it's much more attractive today, but some of my classes, I think at Clow Hall, you'd have to walk by this big Rockwell Standard Truck Axel Plant, and if you're coming back late, you know, especially when its warm out, you could feel the sidewalk shaking. [unclear]

JZ: Oh really.

RR: No, you -- I don't know if the place is still in business, but you know, [unclear] quite what you know, I saw these movies with guys walking down ivy 22:00covered campuses with their girlfriend. Isn't quite what I expected walking about the Rockwell Standard Truck Axel Plant. All along the riverfront was really pretty ugly at the time.

JZ: Oh really?

RR: Yeah, I think, maybe -- I don't know what it looks like now. I haven't been back in so long, but, uh, there was just -- it was not attractive -- there were attractive parts on campus. Um, I just remember thinking, "Boy, you know, this is just not what the movies made college campuses look like." Uh, some of the things like the [unclear] planetarium were impressive. The facilities were just pretty good. Uh, I think before I got there Oshkosh had done tremendous growth 23:00in terms of building projects. The Chancellor was Guiles, Roger Guiles, he was getting on. He was getting close to retirement.

JZ: Yeah.

RR: Uh, but the overall impressions of the buildings and facilities was one that was pretty good. Everything was pretty contemporary. It was up to date. Uh, landscaping in the area around the campus was not particularly attractive at the time. The facilities themselves really impressed me. [unclear] Dempsey Hall, of course, was still old. [unclear]

JZ: Yeah, it still is.

RR: Older now.

JZ: Yeah.

RR: So, a lot of the stuff was quite -- quite -- still quite new. It was quite impressive.

JZ: So then what was going to ask you, too, is about technology, kind of like how you said how their facilities were so good. Like, what was technology back 24:00then? Did you see any like, progression in technology as you went through school your years here, or was it just kind of that it stayed the same as your first year?

RR: So, technology did advance. It's funny, if I were to look back on my old [unclear] course. One of the classes that was required for -- a prerequisite for other classes -- uh, we had to take a class called Slide Reel. Which was -- I don't even know if you know what a slide real is, but you had to learn how to use a slide reel to do your, uh, calculations in classes like physics or chemistry and even mathematics used a side reel. It was very common in engineering. If you look back there were no calculators or computers [unclear]. So you had to take that, and you had to learn how to keep track of your decimal points. Absolutely [unclear] now. You know, somebody would look at it and say, 25:00"I have no idea how to work this!" [unclear] So that was the state of technology. In the dorms, [unclear]. Every floor had a pay phone. You know, and if somebody wanted to call you, they would have to dial that payphone number, which everybody had, and somebody have to call, and somebody would pick it up and then go knock at the door. A lot of times they'd pick up the phone and hang it back because they didn't want to bother. So, communication was really-- you get on today with text messaging, you know all the different ways to keep track of people, those didn't exist during school. There's things you take for granted like social networking and stuff; it wasn't there.


JZ: Yeah.

RR: Computers -- oh jeez, I think we had an IBM. Data systems were [unclear] state of the art computer at the time, but it filled up the whole room. So-- I did take computer classes. We had to learn the computer language. [unclear] You would write -- you would have to practice writing your computer programs, you'd have to come in and punch 'em out on cards. Get somebody to run it and then get the print out and troubleshoot your logic. [unclear] Very time consuming by today's standards. At the time, it was state of the art. In the journalism school, you had to learn things like typesetting, you had to learn how a linotype machine worked, so technology was all mechanical. No digital 27:00technology. But yet there was still something impressive about it. When you press this crank knob and set the type and everything. There was a lot of machinery, not much intelligence with the machinery, but a lot of moving parts. And in its own way, you know, it was very impressive technology, but by today's standards it was laughably primitive.

JZ: Um, so then like, how long until you decided what major you want to go into would you say at your time at Oshkosh?

RR: Uh, I think I was probably a-- I started playing around with it when I was a junior. Uh, so my academic career at Oshkosh wasn't all that stellar either.

JZ: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that.


RR: So, my first semester at college, uh, I got -- I think my grad point was like a 1.64. Um, again, my father took one look at the report card and said "This is a waste of money. Good luck with your life! You're not getting anything from me." And, again, they sacrificed, you know, [unclear] about being a mechanic again.

JZ: Yeah.

RR: And, uh, so I ended up, uh, I went to school part time which stretched things out and worked at a variety of jobs up there. During the summer I worked for an excavating company driving a dump truck or operating a bulldozer. I probably had, though - the best college jobs I got part-time during the school year. I was actually a city bus driver.

JZ: Oh, really.

RR: At that time, the bus company was privately owned transit lines. And, uh, 29:00they put busses on during the morning hours, morning rush hours, and afternoon rush hours, [unclear], and they hired college kids to drive the buses. We had to go in and get a stoker license, which is what they called a professional driver's license at the time. At that time it was called a stoker license, maybe it still is, I don't know.

JZ: I have no idea, yeah.

RR: But you'd get paid two hours just for showing up, and once you got a little bit of seniority, you could generally get the important bus routes done in probably about an hour 10 maybe 20 minutes at the most. Uh, the bus garage at the time was only a couple blocks from campus, uh, so you could get down there, plus you got a free bus pass too. You'd drive your morning route, schedule your 30:00classes around that, go to class, and make sure you were free for your afternoon route. You were sitting up 20 hours a day, and then with a little bit of overtime on the weekends, [unclear], you could do pretty well. So, I had a pretty full load at school while still driving the bus. Uh, then because the, uh, a lot of the load in those things was -- we didn't have school buses within the city limits, a lot of the extra trippers, bus trips, were students going to school. So, once school was out, they cut back on service, so you could get a full time summer job and then, uh, put in a lot of hours. I worked [unclear] construction which if you want to work that you [unclear] so, uh, you know, it wasn't uncommon to get 800 dollars in and then work overtime so you could make really good money in the summer. And, uh, go back to driving the bus part time 31:00in the school year, so. There were a couple of us college guys that had, I mean, it was just a great job. Probably don't do that anymore.

JZ: Yeah, I have no clue here for that stuff. So then one thing I forgot to ask you earlier is when you like first showed up here, how like did they help you transition into the college life? Or did they kind of like just let you do want you want a bit?

RR: I don't remember any help or program. You know, helping you transition to college life. Uh, there wasn't a lot of emphasis on that. Mostly you were left on your own. I think it was one of the bad things, maybe I wouldn't say bad, but a lot of students knew why they were there, you know, they studied, and there 32:00were people like me that just said, "Wow, all this freedom is great!" but we didn't how to -- we made bad choices. I think they're called bad life choices, I guess, today. You know, and sometimes I think "Wow, I can't believe I survived that." You know what, like uh, the redneck path, "Hey y'all, watch this!" Just like, okay.

JZ: So it sounds like you spent quite a bit of time at the bars and partying. Can you tell me a little bit about that? You have any like, fun memories that you have from that that really stand out here?

RR: No. Yeah, if I could remember those memories, that'd be great!

JZ: Yeah.

RR: Well, there was a whole series of bars that were actually -- if you lived in Scott Hall, you were really on the edge of campus. Walk out and go to your 33:00classes and walk a couple of blocks, or you could go half a block and you were already at a tavern. A lot closer than the classrooms. Uh, and if you were living -- with the dorms, the way they were laid out and still are, every night there was always some group of another that would just come down the hall, and it was common in those days when you were trying to study at your desk or something, [unclear]. There was a slight in the dorms -- because everybody's getting thrown together for the first time, and it was always a "Hey, let's go out and have a beer," or -- in fact, even some of the professors would take you out in the afternoon. You know, "Hey, let's discuss something, let's meet over a beer." That's how my journalism professors [unclear]. Especially the ones that had been actual reporters who were not noted for being light drinkers. So, yeah, 34:00that was an important part of it, and like I say, you know, after my first semester I was also working. I had all the guys I worked with. Somebody told me once that, uh, when I was in Australia years later, that culture in Australia "started on a surfboard and ended in a pub." In Oshkosh, we didn't have surfboards. But we sure have pubs!

JZ: Yeah. Um, you said something about professors, and how you like, talked and hung out after class a little bit. So, it sounds like they were kind of much more close with you, like as students. Can you like, do you think that was a good thing? Or kind of a bad things that you were closer with them and they would have drinks with you and just like, talk outside of class?

RR: Well, I think it was a great thing.

JZ: Yeah?

RR: Uh, I think it was a great influence. You know, you have -- yeah, coming 35:00from a small town you were exposed to very different thoughts and very, very different experiences, you know, people in a small town, you don't even realize it, but they tend to share a common value system, they tend to think the same thing. Now, don't get me wrong: people still disagree with each other, but you have so much in common. And, uh, you know, I mean where I went to school, you know, culture clashes were Norwegians versus the Swedes for heaven's sake. You know, there wasn't a lot of multiculturalism, that's for sure. But, uh, you know, this was in many cases -- for kids coming from small, rural towns, this was your first exposure to, uh, you know, seeing people that maybe lived 36:00completely different circumstances than you grew up in. And when you would go out with the professors, you know, these guys, especially in journalism school at the time they tended to hire people with practical experience. The department chairman of journalism, Dr. Lippert, had been a reporter for the Madison Capital Times, you know. [unclear] My academic advisor, one of the professors, Jerry Cheney, had, uh, he had done with a Los Angeles paper and he had taught as a riveting professor -- when he switched to academia, he had taught on this ship that spent a semester -- it was called the semester as sea -- it went around different ports in the world and, you know, did kinds of things that like, boy -- what great life experiences!

JZ: Yeah.

RR: You know? And you realize, what are the professors at Oshkosh -- I don't 37:00know if you've ever heard of an old musical group called Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen?

JZ: No, I haven't. Yeah, I wouldn't --

RR: One time was a University of Wisconsin Oshkosh music professor! Here is now, you know, making rock and roll music! That was you know, it was just wow! I actually know somebody that, you know, made something of themselves! People have heard of them. Like, again, it was just a good experience from living in a small town. So, that mentorship in a lot of ways -- you learned more than you learned in the classroom.

JZ: Um, you mentioned that you were a bus driver. So, you got to probably travel around the city of Oshkosh much. What were your impressions of Oshkosh? Like, the city itself?

RR: Yeah, "Sawdust City" it used to be called.


JZ: Yeah?

RR: Oregon's Board Plant. It -- it didn't look so different from other Wisconsin cities similar sized. You know, I had been to Sheboygan. Trust me, there much -- very similar [unclear]. Similar to Fond du Lac, only a bit bigger. And with more lake flies at certain times in the summer. Um, it was -- you know, Oshkosh had very pretty parts of it. But, you know, the residential areas -- the buses typically stuck to the main streets. Um, there were poor parts and good parts. I guess what interested me more than the parts of the city were the different people you would pick up on your bus route. Um, I remember one semester I 39:00started, I got this bus route, which was actually the -- I was working some extra trippers during the summer, they would come on and, you know, you could sometimes juggle that, and the excavating company was pretty understanding. I wanted to keep my bus job, so if the bus company needed something during the summer sometimes they didn't want to staff some [unclear]. Uh, I got a route once which I thought was going to be a great route. Uh, I could see why none of the other bus drivers had 'em. Buses in those days weren't air condition. Uh, it was a really hot day, and I got this lady that got on the bus. She sat right behind me. And she just -- she stunk of perspiration. It was just -- [unclear]. 40:00It was like, "Oh, man!" I drove through the whole bus route, and she didn't get off! And I was getting to end of the bus route, and I was like "This is the last stop," I said, "Where are you trying to go?" And she said, "Oh! I don't really want to go anywhere, and it's just so hot out, and I don't have a car, so on hot days I just like to pay my fare and they let me ride around on the bus all day." It was pretty comfortable when the bus was going. And sure enough, she sat on the bus for like, close to four hours. Like, wow. It was pretty bad.

JZ: Yeah.

RR: And the other bus drivers were kind of laughing at me. I can't remember what [unclear]. It's just bits and pieces that stick in your mind, things like that. [unclear] the south side of town [unclear] where 45 comes in on the south side 41:00of town, there was a guy I used to pick up at [unclear]. The Coca-Cola plant was down there, bottling plant, and sometimes lake flies were just so thick in certain [unclear] you couldn't see the sidewalk! [unclear] stick out in my mind, there used to be a bank downtown on Main Street, the Oshkosh National Bank. And they had -- which for me was just amazing technology, I think [unclear] in the 30s -- but they had this little curbside teller. It literally sat on the curb. There was no drive-in banking at the time, but you would go there and this thing would have an elaborate system of mirrors, where you could deposit your money or [unclear] with cash, or actually got to the curb. [unclear] You could see the 42:00lady in the mirror, it was a system of 4-5 mirrors that would send the reflection off the ground, no [unclear] video surveillance, just a system of mirrors. Sort of like talking on a tin can telephone. But, uh, I just remember bits and pieces like that. A lot of the college students would go [unclear] on Algoma Blvd and walk. [unclear] Used cars, find something for 50 or 100 dollars that you could drive. This -- just things like that that stick in your mind. Um, Oshkosh, WI was, at the time, it was a wonderful place to be. Probably the main attraction was it was bigger and had a lot more activity, a lot more people your 43:00own age, that shared a lot of common interests and were, you know, [unclear] that just made it a very vibrant community. I think the presence of the college in Oshkosh, uh, really gave the whole city a vibe that a similar sized city without a college didn't have. The energy of the city that just didn't seem to exist in a similar sized city like Sheboygan that didn't have a college.

JZ: Yeah. Um, would you say, in your time here, that you saw Oshkosh as like a city grow? Or did you not think that it really grew that much when you were here? I'm just curious about that.

RR: Yeah, it probably did grow. And I did see a lot of it because of my summer job working for an excavating company, building things. Uh, I don't know if it's still there or not, but I remember, uh, I actually got started during the soccer 44:00field they were building. Um, when I first started for the excavating company, actually, my job was not to start up driving the dump truck, my job was digging rocks out of the soil. So, the college -- the athletic field [unclear] for the college, I can't remember which, probably still there, it's not too far from campus. It was somewhere along New York Avenue, I remember that. [unclear] from my memory. But, you bend of your and you're pulling all these rocks, and you put 'em on -- you put 'em into piles, and you collect them up, and you have to get all of the rocks out of the soil. The glaciers that were in those areas, I guess, at the time left small rocks. All of this stuff had to be picked out of 45:00the dirt, though. It was a very manual process. And -- not that the rocks weren't a [unclear], but it was back-breaking work that kept up all the time. On the second or third day I was there doing this, uh, one of the truck drivers didn't show up on time. And the boss came to look for somebody that -- said "Hey, whose driven a dump truck before?" And I had never driven a dump truck before, but I knew it was better than picking those damn rocks! So I raised my hand and he said, "Go drive this truck today!" And we got our driver back, and the driver didn't come back for two days and ended up getting fired. So, I got in this truck, and it's got five dang levers coming out of the floor, I have no idea which one was which. But I figured it out and kept the job after that! But, you know, we built that soccer field. We ended up -- there was a car dealer 46:00being put in. It was a Mercedes-Benz dealer called [unclear] Motors. And it was -- the site for it was in a very low area, so we had to haul a lot of [unclear] dirt in. The city of Oshkosh was built on a stream, you know. [unclear]. So we hauled dirt, [unclear], to that site to fill it up. And that was literally so much [unclear] dirt. We're driving dump trucks constantly up there as we were building something. But I always remember the guys I worked with, uh, you know, a lot of these guys weren't college, you know, there were some college students working, but there were a lot more guys that, you know, this is what they did for a living. Uh, you get a lot of satisfaction when you look back and you say, you know what? You go by a house, you go by this field, you say, you know what, 47:00I built that thing. To this day, I -- I went by that Mercedes-Benz dealer, I'd look at it and say, "You know what? I know what that was like before that car dealership was there, and I hauled in all the dirt that that place was built on top of!" And you know, there's something kind of satisfying about that. Satisfaction you get with a job where you don't work with your brain, you [unclear] with your back or your hands. I always -- I always did enjoy that. So, um, but because of that job, I could to know how Oshkosh was expanding in different areas. So, it was growing. I wouldn't [unclear] it was growing fast, but it was growing, and, so, I got to see that maybe more than most people. It was kind of spreading to outskirts. Yeah, you have a wonderful thing in Oshkosh 48:00-- the EAA convention, too. Boy, that was -- that was just a wonderful experience. And that only lasts a week, but the field, which used to have at one time scheduled aircrafts [unclear]. More central airlines were coming there. In fact, I went out there one time, and -- this is a funny story, actually. There was a baby doctor, Dr. Benjamin Spock, he wrote this book that was real famous among mothers. About how to raise your baby. But in the 70s, he was an anti-war protestor. So, uh, he came to Oshkosh once. I went out to Witmann Field [unclear] I asked a few questions, and you know, I covered his arrival at the airport. Years later after I graduated from school, I was in the Army. I was 49:00performing [unclear] control, [unclear]. He was still protesting things, in this case the [unclear]. He came over the fence [unclear] and I had to arrest the guy!

JZ: Really?

RR: [unclear]. Yeah, and he was old at that time. Couldn't even get over the fence, so I had to have someone [unclear] over the fence so he wouldn't hurt himself! [unclear]. The time I met that guy, my mother, who had been a nurse before she was married, was just so impressed that I had met Dr. Benjamin Spock. But, you know, again, I mean Wittman Field was the [unclear] airport at the time. I don't know how I got off on that tangent! The memory here.

JZ: So, you mentioned a lot about the war going on, and what kind of things were 50:00going on on campus about that? And the presidency race and all that kind of stuff? Can you describe to me like, what the surrounding was about that? Was like a big deal or was it kind of just not really that big of a deal?

RR: I-- don't think-- I don't, well I won't say it was a big -- that it wasn't a big deal. But you did not have the kind of general antiwar liberal [unclear] you might have seen on a campus like Madison.

JZ: Yeah.

RR: That wasn't -- I think-- I don't think students generally liked the idea of the war, but I think there was probably a lot more sympathy, a lot more 51:00identification with all those people that were actually serving there. A lot -- most people knew somebody there. [unclear], who was a guy down the hall, didn't come back from Vietnam.

JZ: Oh, really?

RR: Home from the dorms, you know. There was a fellow named Dave Crusius(?) who came back and was a student at Oshkosh and actually ran for city of Oshkosh alderman and won his election. People called him the alderman and everything but, you know, he was -- I remember him as being a real good guy but he was actually more political than most of the students at Oshkosh. Just -- it wasn't as contentious an issue in Oshkosh. There was campus politics, there was, you 52:00had student government, there was a group of people that, uh, created what they called a political party. It's called the SUN party. Students for Unity and Non-Violence. And they ran a slate of candidates and won the election. Actually, that brings an interesting memory up, too. So, their candidate for student government who was elected was a guy named Tom Albers. And he was elected president of the Oshkosh student association. I was a reporter for the school newspaper at the time. And like, you know, I was generally sympathetic to these 53:00guys but it was -- they serve one year and they got elected twice, you know, [unclear]. Anyway, this guy did a financial audit, and evidently some parties or Tom Albers was running -- he had some unauthorized checking account. And this guy would write checks to himself which were supposedly for expenses, but, you know, nobody tracked the money down. And I had to interview him. I actually wrote some stories in the paper on him while covering him. And the guy said, oh gee, you know, "You should just trust your elected representatives!" You know, this was at the time -- by this time Nixon had been elected president. People didn't trust Nixon. Um, you know, of course he was close to being impeached at 54:00the time and all this stuff was coming out about Watergate.

JZ: Yeah I was going to ask some stuff about that too, that went on was there talk about that on campus or not so much?

RR: Absolutely, you know, people were just disgusted with it. In fact, we had a big party the day Nixon resigned. I still remember it. It was called the "Nix Out" party. You know, talk about [unclear]! Everybody just got drunk and celebrated. But I remember the things Nixon was saying at the time of Watergate, you know, how "You just have to trust me," and 'I'm not a crook," and all this stuff. You had the student body, you know, the president of the student body basically was saying the same thing. I wrote these stories and-- it caused an outburst. People, I don't think, looked at [unclear] funny, that's for sure. 55:00Anyway, the guy committed suicide awhile later. Oh, I don't know -- after all this came out, I don't know after the story came out what the story was -- or he was a nice guy, but jeez, it was so similar to what Nixon was saying.

JZ: Yeah, that's crazy.

RR: You know. Because the other side's saying the same thing, you know, the president was not well-respected on campus. Kind of a sad story there, you know. But I always felt kind of bad. I wonder if I did the responsible thing, you know, writing the story and what not. You know, you'd hate to think that this somehow contributed to this guy's depression.

JZ: Yeah.

RR: Obviously, you have other issues as well, but it is kind of a sad story.

JZ: Yeah, I was going to ask you, too, how did you get like, involved in the Advance Titan? Did you just like, decide to do it, or did anybody kind of 56:00influence you into it?

RR: Uh-- yeah, I think I wrote -- you know, you had courses -- you're a journalism major. You had to write stories anyway. They strongly encourage that, and I was a journalism major. I don't quite remember. After a while, you just started hanging around down there. It was in the basement of Radford Hall at the time. I'm sure it's been relocated several times since then. It was a very small and informal operation. The journalism school wasn't very big at the time. Everybody knew who everybody else was. Uh, I -- I was one of the leaders because, you know, I was trying to strike a balance between working and I was always worried about college as much as I was getting ahead (?). It was still, 57:00you know, it was pretty informal. We'd just show up and whoever was there -- a lot of things were [unclear] as far as, you know, picking out types sizes and type styles. I'd sit there and, you know, make the headlines. It was fun, though, it was a lot of fun.

JZ: Yeah. Is there anything specific that you really like took away from your time here at UW Oshkosh that you used on later life or anything like that?

RR: Well, I think you always do, uh, take away things, but you don't always realize at the time you are going through the experience what's going to be of value and what's not going to be of value. I would say that-- reporters, newspapermen, journalists, they're storytellers. If you looked at today's career 58:00prospects for journalism, you know, you'd have to be crazy to think you're going to have an exciting career at a newspaper because newspapers are dying.

JZ: Yeah.

RR: The ability to tell a good story, to relate an experience, the ability to communicate clearly in the written word are skills that actually have a place in the Internet age and still have a place, an important place. [unclear] with each other, how we record our history, how we share our experiences, and I'd say those things that I took away from that -- look, I'm a salesman today. You know, after worrying about joining the army, eventually to finish school, I had to [unclear] with the army. Ended up, uh, going into the army and retiring from it, 59:00and, you know, started a second career there. Something I [unclear]. But-- throughout those different careers, the ability to communicate, the ability to put thoughts on paper in a way that is persuasive and understandable, uh, I would say I learned that at Oshkosh. And I was able to practice that skill working with AT. Working at the newspaper probably gave me more experience than any single thing, and it wasn't even a class! It wasn't graded.

JZ: Yeah, yeah.

RR: It was practical application of what you were learning. And-- one of the classes I took gave me kind of an interesting perspective. Uh, it was, um, the 60:00name of the class -- I'm trying to remember, it was "Press Around the World."

JZ: Yeah.

RR: And as part of that class, we had to study translated newspaper stories. Uh, of different things that occurred in different countries, and look at the coverage. Things stuck out to me. One was Nicaragua. Which, at the time, was not just ruled by a dictator named Somoza, but the guy wasn't content to rule the country, he also wanted to own it. I mean, everything, from the Somoza bank to the Somoza department [unclear], Somoza bus line running from Somoza street to the Somoza presidential palace -- the guy wanted to own everything, you know, and the newspapers were just so incredibly biased. And just [unclear]. It was -- 61:00which at that time, you know, China was still this big unknown. It was studied in grade school as this red communist monolith block that nobody could ever see inside. [unclear]. We definitely were interested in China, but it was a mystery. We were brought up believing it was a rigid dictatorship with no freedom of expression or thought. I still remember one of the stories that we read in [unclear]. I don't remember the name of the person, but the title of the story was "Who Killed--?" and then a certain person's name. Trying to tell this person's living conditions, uh, had just been so bad, and they had just been harassed, to the point that he committed suicide.

JZ: Really?

RR: He was even harassed from [unclear] positions, which you wouldn't expect a 62:00newspaper in a communist country to openly cover a story like that, exposing people who were misusing their position. It was -- it was a very, very interesting story, and it was just one of those big [unclear]. This is so different! [unclear] And that class, uh, with all of the different areas you look at, it kind of opened your eyes. You know, I was born in Minnesota and I grew up in Wisconsin. [unclear] It's a great place, but you tend to think the center of the universe is wherever you are. A little bit like monks believing the orbit revolved around the Earth instead of [unclear]. Suddenly you start realizing there's a whole world outside. As much as Oshkosh was a world outside Plymouth, WI, suddenly you're realizing, "Wow, Oshkosh really has opened my eyes 63:00that there's so much than Plymouth, Wisconsin." Now all of a sudden: "Wow, there's a whole 'nother world outside of Wisconsin, even outside the United States!"

JZ: Yeah.

RR: And now it's much more common for students to take breaks. "I think I'm going to go backpacking in Europe, I'm going to go, you know, hike in the Himalayas. I want to go see the Great Wall of China." When I grew up, that was unknown.

JZ: Yeah.

RR: I mean, you took your class trip to a place like Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. You spent the day, you know, looking at the submarine and just thinking, "Wow, that's really amazing." And now you have so much more opportunities. But it was-- really the experience in Oshkosh that started opening me up to the idea that, "Wow, I wonder what's outside of Wisconsin!" And 64:00it's a little bit like the movie Pleasantville. What's outside of Pleasantville?

JZ: Yeah. Um, so one of my last questions for you is, how did you feel when you finally graduated college? And then, what did you do, like, after college? Like, all of the careers paths that you did, and just little briefly about that kind of stuff?

RR: Um-- I felt very relieved after graduating.

JZ: Yeah.

RR: I felt really like-- you know, you were sad to leave, but you were happy to actually get on with life. And in my case, where I was going, I went to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Um, I had applied and been accepted to law school down there. I went to law school. And then from there I kept, uh, I joined the army to pay for law 65:00school. [unclear] But that's a whole 'nother story.

JZ: Yeah.

RR: That's where I ended up and then, you know, that launched me in a whole different direction.

JZ: Yeah. Um, so my final question for you is what advice would you give to current students going to college now?

RR: Well, that's a broad subject, you know?

JZ: Well, yeah.

RR: As far -- as far as advice goes-- you know-- I would say, you know, first of all, you gotta pursue your dream. Um, you gotta do something that you're going to enjoy doing it. But you have to check for if its practicality. Make sure you 66:00can make a living.

JZ: Okay.

RR: At what you're doing. So-- and if you can do that, you should pursue it. At Barbara Bush's funeral, uh, she had some good advice. You know, nobody ever wished -- you expect another day at the office. Wartime -- at war for taken another beating. Love your job [unclear]. Make sure you know what you're doing, but life is about balance. You have to balance [unclear] professional work, but you should have a life too. Um, it's a wonderful world out there. Get out there. See as much of it as you can. Enjoy the experience. But always make sure you can take care of yourself.


JZ: Okay, thank you. I just want to thank you for your time. I really appreciate you doing this interview for -- with me. And just for the whole campus, I'm sure, is going to really appreciate it, too, listening to your story and what you went through.

RR: I doubt anybody's going to listen to it!

JZ: Yeah, but I think everybody -- if somebody does, I think they'll be -- it's definitely interesting. I really had fun.

RR: Okay, I'm glad you did.

JZ: Okay, and then --

RR: Good luck in your career, wherever it takes you!

JZ: And then I'll send you the deed of the gift. Which you have to sign, and then just return to me whenever you can. And then-- um, would you like a copy of like, the iBook thing that we're making? Because I can send you that, too, if you want a copy. It will contain, like, clips from the interview and pictures and all that kind of stuff.

RR: Okay.

JZ: Okay, so then I'll get back -- I'll call you later on when that's done, and 68:00I'll ask you how you want it, 'cause I'll send that up to you then. But yeah, then I'll do that for you, too. Alright, thank you very much for all of this. Thank you, I really appreciate it.

RR: Good luck to ya.

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