Interview with Gerry Gonyo, 05/04/2018

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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JR: And I just realized, Gerry, that -- this is what I tell all the students. "Get that --" There's a Deed of Gift that they're supposed to -- that you're supposed to sign -- and I forgot it. So, this is how often I do this, I tell them to do it, but I don't. But I'll mail that to you, and you can just mail that back to me. It's essentially a, sort of a legal document saying that we own this recording.

GG: Oh, okay.

JR: Alright?

GG: Okay.

JR: So, um, today -- I'm Josh Ranger, and today is Friday May, 4th, 2018, we're at the Alumni Welcome and Conference Center, and this interview is part of the Campus Stories Oral History Project. So, we'll begin by telling us who you are.

GG: Well, my name is Gerald George Gonyo. Uh, I'm from the class of 1964. At UWO. And graduated in '64, and graduated from Oshkosh High School in 1959. Am considered an official townie. So basically, 77 years ago I arrived on the 00:01:00scene. And I'm back!

JR: And you grew up in Oshkosh, you were born in Oshkosh?

GG: Yes.

JR: So, tell me --

GG: Yesterday was my 77th birthady.

JR: Oh, well happy birthday!

GG: Right.

JR: Um, so tell me about what Oshkosh was like when you were growing up here?

GG: Well, I lived down on -- off of Algoma, where Riverside Cemetery is in that area, Plymouth Avenue. And, um, I lived there from the time I was six months old until the time I left town. And basically, I grew up, uh, at St. Joseph's School, parochial school, for 8 years, went to Merrill High School, Junior High, for one year, and then I went to Oshkosh High School, which was down on Algoma, Oshkosh High School, I graduated in '59. And then basically I walked from my home to campus as a townie, and then I walked from campus to uptown, or 00:02:00downtown, into my job down there at Stillman Hardware, which was a hardware store. And prior to that, at the time I delivered the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern and Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee Sentinel, uh, did a lot of odd jobs, had a lot of contacts because I had a lot of relatives here.

JR: Okay, sure.

GG: And family and so forth. And I basically grew up in the area. Wasn't that different. A lot of sports and stuff, but had a lot of other events and so forth.

JR: So, um, for your -- what did your parents do?

GG: My father worked with -- at that time, was it Wisconsin Axle? Which was the, um, I think, I don't know what it is now, [unclear] and so forth.

JR: AxleTech now.

GG: Yeah, AxleTech. But, um, my father worked there for many years until he retired. And he was active in there, and he started the credit union, the 00:03:00original credit union here. It was under the "Wisconsin Axle Credit Union." And basically, um, worked until he retired. Um, and enjoyed the lifestyle and so forth. I don't think he went beyond high school as far as he graduated from -- he lived in Berlin, Wisconsin, basically, that's where he was brought up. My mother was basically born and raised in Redgranite, Wisconsin. And she was -- her name, maiden name, was Wehoski (?), and she basically took a two year program, I forget what kind of school it was, but she ended up being a teacher.

JR: Oh, okay.

GG: Out there, and that subsequent -- that's where my father and my mother met. He was her Santa Claus for her school and so forth, so, uh, and my aunt, my mother's sister, graduated from the Normal School here. Several other aunts and 00:04:00uncles over the years graduated from the local -- over here at Stewart, on the campus.

JR: That's Swart.

GG: Swart, right.

JR: Um, so college was something a lot of the people in your family had some exposure to? Your mother, your aunts and uncles and so on.

GG: Right, right.

JR: So, was that something that you knew early on was something they wanted for you to pursue?

GG: Well, basically, after graduation, basically, at the time I said, "Okay, what do I do next?" type of thing. The opportunities were there, I mean, I wasn't a high scholastic student in Oshkosh High School because other things were going on and other fun, but basically, um, being local there, we decided to try it out. And find 'er there. And the courses, at that time, there was big schools and so forth, I mean, they came in and more or less -- my degree was a Bachelor of Science in economics basically, but it was a long haul, and I got on 00:05:00probation one semester and took a breather, and came back. So basically, I should have graduated the year before, but, uh, but I graduated and took a lot of different courses, kind of general courses, but a lot of them were -- today, basically, looking back, um, the economics teachers, we had a teacher from Russian Lithuania, we had a Korean teacher, we had a lot of diverse, um, instructors coming in that were a little different, and we had some of the standbys. Dr. Gunderson, and Dr. (Coddle?) and some of the old-timers, basically, here. And, um, and the unique thing is that basically I used to work at the hardware store, and these gentleman would come in over the weekend, doing some weekend projects, and say "Well, what kind of bolt should I to do this or do that?" kind of thing, so it was a type of give and take.

JR: Yeah, you were the teacher on the weekends.


GG: Right. And I remember Dr. (Cull?), "You take care of me, and I'll take care of you."

JR: I like it.

GG: But, uh, yeah, it was, you know, being a local person and lot of, you know, and my uncle, uh, was on the police force, and eventually when I was in -- in high school, he was head of the youth bureau at the time, and eventually became chief of police of Oshkosh. So basically, I had to behave myself so-to-speak.

JR: He was chief of police during like, '68, right?

GG: In the 70s, yeah, especially late 70s.

JR: So, like when Black Thursday and the protest here, I think --

GG: I don't exactly know the timeline, but I know that he came up the ranks. He basically, uh, came back from the service in, uh, '45, '46, started with the police department in 1947. Of course I was only seven years old. That was my godfather, so basically a lot of family contacts.

JR: So, in high school were -- did your friends go to college? Were you sort of 00:07:00unusual in that group, or in your cohort, was everyone sort of college bound?

GG: I would say basically it was a smaller percentage, you know, when I look back and keeping in contact with some of them. As a matter of fact, next year will be 60 years ago that we graduated. You know, some of the reunions and stuff would spread out to the [unclear]. That type of thing. So, um, a lot of them went to the tech school, there was a lot of opportunities here to work in the factory levels and entry level, and so "I'm going to go out and make some money," or whatever, then a lot of people started families and so forth. So, uh, they weren't as -- going to go to school. My mother's background of teaching and things like that, there was definitely a say "Hey, go out there and do that," type thing, and, uh, some of my aunts and uncles and so forth, so it was [unclear]. But as far, uh, people basically who graduated high school, there was 00:08:00a small percentage.

JR: You have siblings?

GG: I have siblings. I have a sister, um, she still lives here. She's -- she was the oldest child. And, uh, then had a brother, and he basically was older than I was. Basically, he went into a two-year program and eventually ended up as an x-ray technician type. He went to tech school, I think, in Beloit or some place. And so he was in that area. And my younger sister, um, worked, uh, in the area. Graduated from high school, but she didn't go to college. But the unique thing is that basically, I look back, my older sister worked for the university for 23 years in the admissions department. The "registration department" as she calls. My, um, brother --

JR: What was her name?

GG: Barbara Gonyo.

JR: Okay. Did she always have Gonyo as her maiden name?

GG: Right, until she married, and then my brother-in-law worked in the 00:09:00maintenance department there for 30-some years. And -- and basically, he, you know, all of a sudden got all these contacts, and I count up basically twelve of my close relatives that worked at the university over the years.

JR: So, did you think of any other schools to come to, or this was your -- your one choice?

GG: Well, it was right in the backyard, two miles there, why, you know, room and board was free and stuff. And basically, uh, it -- it was convenience. Hey, let's try it out. You know, you've got interest in it, and basically, um, got an interest level, I basically, um, like I said I was on maybe the 5 year program, took a semester off, not of my choice, but they --

JR: Okay, we'll get to that.

GG: And then, that was kind of a wake up call, and say "Hey, if you're going to do it, you better buckle down a little bit."

JR: Right.

GG: It was -- there's a lot of -- besides the college thing, basically, in 00:10:00college I was vice president of the Economics Club and basically involved in some other different, uh, clubs and stuff on the campus and so forth. Out there I was a Delta Kappa fraternity brother at that time. So it was, you know, got involved. And, uh, you know, my original thought was basically, uh, Frank Lloyd Wright was, you know, a Wisconsin guy, so some connections to that was my ultimate goal when I was in high school.

JR: Architecture?

GG: Was to be an architect. And I had some drawings and stuff in my days back in Beach School up the road, and thought "Hey, someday," but I got to the point, basically, I got through high school and the first couple years of college, and says, that's not -- probably not the long term goal because there's too many other specifications that go into it. So that's when I got into the world of economics. Just a general overall thing. And I graduated in 1964 on August 4th 00:11:00on summer school on a Saturday, and I started my new career in Racine, WI the following Monday.

JR: Is that right? Where was that at?

GG: That was at a company called Turn Style, um, it was like a Walmart type store. But it was part of Jewel Company, which was basically the Jewel Tea stores in Chicago.

JR: Yeah.

GG: And, um, they had Osco drug, Jewel food stores, the old door to door home route centers. I started as a graduate, and I was -- I looked at several places through Wisconsin at an employment agency. The state could set up a lot of interviews and so forth. And so basically, that's one of the interviews I had through the university. Well, I think it was through Wisconsin employment group, 00:12:00or whatever it was.

JR: It was like a state agency?

GG: Yeah, a state agency in which you lined up a lot of interviews. But I started down there in Racine, WI basically as an assistant department manager in the drug and variety department, which was mostly, if you take a [unclear] through like a Walmart, the front end part of it, cosmetics, the - what we call "drug and variety," in the pharmacy and all that stuff. And, uh, I started my job in August, and basically my new boss at that time, I spent a month with him, and he says, "Okay, I haven't taken a vacation for a couple of years, I'm going to be gone for a month on a vacation, so you're in charge." And that was, uh, September, October. And the following January, basically, he says, "Hey, I got a promotion, I'm going out to Boston." And basic -- so now, who's in charge? So basically, from 1964 to '67 I was in Racine, WI, and I moved from -- in December 00:13:00of 1966, uh, the big shots were making a tour of the stores at Christmas time, and my sales manager, my boss -- my immediate office boss, he says, "We got some people to talk to, come up and have a cup of coffee," and they offered me a job in Chicago as a buyer. So basically in two years in there and then I went to move to Chicago in January of '67. That was the same time that the big snowstorm in there. And I started my new job as a buyer for, um, toiletries, cosmetics and different health and beauty aids and so forth, and my career at the headquarters --

JR: Just took off.

GG: And basically I was in the different positions over the years, uh, from 1967 I bought categories everything from appliances, health and beauty aids, candy, tobacco, and different commodities, and that was for the Osco drug store, the 00:14:00Turn Style, and eventually they bought more. Save on Drug in California, and a lot of different commodities. But the biggest fun part of the job, basically when I look back, when I took international economics as one of my classes, and in 1977 I joined the import department. And basically that as an in-home corporate group that did importing for all of the companies. A corporate level job. And basically I got to travel overseas twice a year, six to eight weeks as a time, going over and working on different import projects. We started in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, China, different commodities over the years. And basically we bought everything from toys to general merchandise, and that was a 00:15:00growing business relative to there, and so basically I look back at international economics, you know, different courses I took and say, you know, basically it was a merchandising thing, and it's a background basically. I worked in the hardware store, you know, the old style type thing, but basically 1977 and onward I used to go out and travel overseas with some of our buyers and sometimes independently, but usually be gone about 5 to 6 weeks. And the tour -- I'd usually go in October, November, we were working for next Christmas, a year from now as far as the planning. So basically we did a lot of work from there, so basically that was in '77 until the time I theoretically retired in 2001. Um, I was involved in the import product line.

JR: Do you feel like, uh, the -- so your career took off really quickly. Do you 00:16:00think that UW Oshkosh prepared you well for that?

GG: Well, I mean, you know, being a townie and saying, "What else is out there besides Winnebago County and Wisconsin?" you know, then all of a sudden you hit the floorboards and all of a sudden you took off and say, "Jeez." One recollection that basically we -- when I moved into the office in January of '67, I was in Melrose Park, which was the corporate headquarters for Jewel Companies, and basically was on the second floor, and, uh, I crossed the aisle and in the big open window was Don Perkins, who was the chairman of the board, the president of Jewel Companies, and a really down-to-earth guy, he'd come over in the morning and have a cup of coffee and say, "What's new Gerry? What's the hot items?" and stuff like that, so, uh, and got to know more of a personal type thing, so you look back and say, "Was he my background mentor?" basically, when I got -- say "Hey, maybe Gerry should have that job, that job," over the 00:17:00timelines, but basically, you know, in a corporate level you gotta have some kind of a sponsorship.

JR: Yeah, I got ya.

GG: Because the environment was very competitive.

JR: Right. Sure.

GG: A lot of people came from different areas of the country and backgrounds and stuff like that, local in the Chicago area, and all over, but Osco drug and Turn Style was more of a national company, and Jewel was the number one grocery store in Chicago, so it was well-respected. And -- and the incentives were there. I mean, they had a good bonus program, they had a good k401 type of thing, insurance and stuff like that, so yeah, the benefits, so you didn't have to worry about all of that stuff, you just go out and do the job.

JR: Yeah, nice. Um, so you call yourself a townie. When you were growing up, what was the perception of the -- I guess the Oshkosh State College and the Teacher's College before that, uh, within that townie community? What did people 00:18:00think about the school?

GG: Well, I think they said "we and they" type of thing, you know, uh, "What are they doing over there?" vs we type of thing. But basically where the [unclear] in my case was the, uh, you know, we knew it was there, and the opportunities were there, basically, of course with the background of my mother and some of the other people, they said, "You gotta try it out, it's right here," type of thing, but, uh, there was some -- probably there was local -- to quote the townies vs. the others -- and of course no more -- as the university, I mean, the college grew, basically there was more outsiders coming in.

JR: Okay.

GG: All of a sudden, you know, Radford Hall or the dorms, which we delivered the hardwood for --

JR: To build?

GG: Yeah, to put the nuts and bolts in the place, because we did a lot of contract hardware, but, uh, so it was "They're going to build there?" type thing. You know, it was, uh, I think as more people saw it was a strong part of 00:19:00the community, uh, you know, let's partner up with her.

JR: Yeah. Did you go to like, Oshkosh football games or anything like that growing up?

GG: ?

JR: They had their games over at --

GG: At Jackson field.

JR: Yup. Right, or before that on Congress fields.

GG: Yeah.

JR: Do you remember -- did you ever go to those games?

GG: Not during my -- not during my non college days, basically, uh, there was enough other stuff going on as far as local things going on.

JR: Sure. So, what was it like, um, going to school and then coming back to your home? Did you feel like you were -- you got active, you said. Did you feel separate from the rest of the students who were -- who were coming from other cities? Or did you feel like you were -- like you were getting the same experience?

GG: Yeah, same experience, you know, meeting new people and of course, uh, more 00:20:00of the international -- I remember Dr. Zemikis (?), which was a professor that came from Lithuania and Russia type thing, and, uh, he taught some classes, and he used to bring the [unclear] newspaper in and read it in the morning and tell us all about why, who and what type of thing. And -- and different fields, and another professor, an instructor from Korea, he taught business statistics or something, you know, all of a sudden you got more of an outside, worldly type thing, you know, and, like the Economics Club that we belonged to and started.

JR: You started that?

GG: So, I was one of the vice presidents and stuff, we had different speakers come in and stuff like that and organized that kind of event that wasn't quote a fraternity type thing but it was more of an essential, kind of an interest level 00:21:00-- and people who'd come there were interested in that field, or more of a networking type thing.

JR: Sure. And then Delta Kappa? That was the fraternity that you belonged to?

GG: Right, that eventually that -- in 1964, when I graduated, they went over to Delta Sig. They changed the affiliation but basically I was involved in Delta Kappa.

JR: Yeah, Delta Kappa was kind of circling the drain at that point in the national organization, right, they had moved from New York to Milwaukee, I think.

GG: Yeah, and then they had, you know, different -- different things, I think they had hooked up with Delta Sig.

JR: So, uh, tell me about that, that was the -- they didn't have a -- at the time you were here, they didn't have a house or --

GG: Well, they had a house.

JR: Oh, they did.

GG: Over on Titan Court, right by Jackson.

JR: Okay, sure. So they were one of the Titan Courts --

GG: By Jackson Field, in the Titan Court, it was one of the six or seven buildings that were built over in that area. That was in the early 60s, I think, basically pretty much to --


JR: Did you every live there?

GG: No.

JR: Okay. But you had parties there and-- ?

GG: Yeah, parties there and, uh, frat boys or whatever lived there and basically the out of towner people, the townies didn't live there, and basically, uh, you know, but I didn't have -- at the time, besides, working and going to university/college, I didn't have a lot of time off my hands, basically, because I had the job, lived at home, and I had family connections and stuff, and then going and taking and trying to keep up with grade points and stuff like that and doing your studies, basically it was, I wasn't really actively involved in the frat, but, you know, somewhat over the years I contacted a few of the alumni I know out in Arizona who were basically in the same situation and I've come back for the some of the local things.

JR: What was the motivation to join then?

GG: I think it was just a networking thing. You know, basically as you got 00:23:00involved in there and see -- there's more people, places and things to network with, but it was the Economics Club, it was the fraternity, and stuff like that, and you got to meet a lot more new -- newer people that maybe you didn't meet in town and stuff. Because in town you knew everybody, basically, you know, okay, I mean, each neighbor would have a certain -- not stigma, but basically the south-siders were there, we're the north-siders, that was another -- another group in town and stuff like that. And of course, you know, everybody knew everybody, it was still a small town.

JR: One high school, right?

GG: Yeah, one high school basically, and a lot of the rural communities, Berlin, or Redgranite, or some of the other areas, basically, I had relatives out there, so I said, "Well, that's Uncle Henry's beef farm on 21 and so-and-so's dairy cattle over there," so I mean, it was, you know, you didn't -- like you didn't 00:24:00know anybody.

JR: So you had said you had a little bit of trouble -- academic trouble? Did you find a lot of your classes challenging?

GG: Yeah.

JR: Yeah?

GG: I mean basically, you know, high school was kind of a general education, but you got into statistics and some of the mathematic part of the overall program that, uh, you know, you had to kind of bear down and learn it and take some classes over. To the point of basically -- until you got it right. Because you weren't going to get out of there because you needed those parts of the total package.

JR: It sounds like you had a good relationship with at least some of your teachers.

GG: Oh yeah.

JR: And that was through multiple classes, I assume, within economics?

GG: Everything from English literature for different classes you took because they were under a liberal arts, you would call it.

JR: Yup.

GG: You know, because you'd really, uh, when you say "Bachelor of Science" it 00:25:00wasn't really no specialty, you would specialize in accounting or, uh, stuff like that, so it was kind of an overall thing.

JR: That's right, because at that point they were still in that liberal arts model. But this was sort of the proto-business program you were doing was essentially --

GG: Starting, yeah, right, coming the old quote teacher's college. Okay, we got teachers, we'll take care of them, but let's branch out type of thing. So, I mean, basically as the instructors and the courses were offered, it was a more broad major type of thing, and say, "Well, I'm not going to be a teacher," and so basically I want something more type of thing.

JR: Right. So, uh, a little bit more about extracurriculars. So you were in the clubs, um, Delta Kappa and, um, was this where most of your friends then, your college friends were within there?

GG: Yes, some there and then some in, of course, my classes and stuff like that as far you met the out of towners or some of the local people that you didn't go 00:26:00to high school with. But, uh, I was, I -- like I said, the Economics Club, Delta Kappa as far as campus activities and stuff, I wasn't a big sports type person because I didn't have the time, you know, and even in high school basically, I didn't play any sports and stuff. I had paper routes and a lot of other things going on so basically there was other things to do. And -- and keep going. But basically, you know, is -- it was here, so I said, "Well, let's try it," you know, it's right in the back door, less than two miles from home type of things. And I had a mother that had at least some education, who taught, and some other aunts and uncles and so forth. So.

JR: So did you go to any of the college games? I guess we were the Titans by then. The Titan games? Basketball or football or?

GG: Uh, probably a couple of football games and stuff, but yeah, because 00:27:00basically, again weekends were busy.

JR: You were working.

GG: Friday night I worked till 9'o'clock and all day Saturday and then Sunday, you know, you gotta spend some time with the family and go to church and all that other stuff, so it wasn't really -- once you left campus, you took your books and stuff and that was it. Because you had another life out there.

JR: Did you feel you missed out on stuff?

GG: Yeah, somewhat, I mean basically looking at the other ones that eventually they were living in their private homes until they got the dorm environment but basically I'd say, "Oh, you live over on Elmwood, that's right next to my Uncle Bill's house."

JR: I'm fascinated by that because I have had a lot of chances to talk to people who had experienced the rooming house environment pre-dormitory.

GG: Yeah.

JR: Did you visit any friends that were in rooming houses?

GG: I would never go back.

JR: What's that?

GG: I mean, they were pretty -- pretty bad houses.

JR: Were they?

GG: I mean, they were supposed to take care of their own place, you know, a lot of these people moved from a home to, uh, keeping up -- I remember some of the 00:28:00older frat houses, you know, they had some work to be done, but, you know, again, you probably missed out on some of that social life or some of that, like I said, once you get done on campus, you were done for the day. And you went home or you went to your job and stuff like that. But so the day-to-day activities -- the one time, basically, a lot of times you came back to the old Polk Library.

JR: In the -- Dempsey?

GG: Did some studying. Stuck in Dempsey. And part of that stuff or got involved in some group discussions or things like that.

JR: Do you remember when, um, Reeve Union was started on campus in a house?

GG: Mmhmm, yup. And then basically the, uh, I forget the guy, director that was there --

JR: Summerfeldt?

GG: Summerfeldt, yeah. But one [unclear] I remember was sitting up in Reeve 00:29:00Union in the early 60s.

JR: This was after the new building was built?

GG: Yup.

JR: Okay.

GG: I graduated in '64, I think that was in '62.

JR: Yeah.

GG: When it was up for re-elections for the president. And Kennedy visited here. And we were up just hanging around the fireplace in the second level of the old Reeve Union, and they came over and asked us if we could move because he had a press review or some kind of interview. Here comes this guy walking in and he says, "Oh," [unclear] "Thank you guys for moving out so --"

JR: And that was Senator Kennedy!

GG: Yeah.

JR: How 'bout that!

GG: Yeah, so basically it was a, you know, type of thing, you kind of remember. We were sitting around, BSing so-to-speak, around the fireplace at the Union -- 'cause that was a new --

JR: Brand new.

GG: Social environment. You know, all of a sudden you got a gathering place, you could go and get something to eat and sit around and talk and stuff like that, 00:30:00so that was quite an experience there. I don't know exactly the timing, but I remember the situation when he said that we could move away from the fireplace because we're going to do a -- I don't know, a televised interview, or some kind of --

JR: No, yeah, I mean he was on the campaign, um, I'm not going to do the math right, that'd of been 1960?

GG: Mmhmm.

JR: So the union was brand new. We have some photographs of it, so.

GG: Yeah, a matter of fact, a lot of the hardware and stuff was Stillman Hardware. Besides a hardware store, my boss, Joe Meyer, was really -- he was a rotary, and a lot of connections politically and social -- he did a lot of contract work and hardwood. So like the dorms and different buildings were bid on, we would have to deliver the hardware to the contractor, put the doorknobs on and stuff like that, that type of thing. And so, yeah.

JR: That's economic impact as they say.

GG: Yeah, right. Right.


JR: Now, you know, when they -- when the building -- you were right there when the university was really starting to expand quickly. And you were just -- you were to the north a bit, but do you remember some of the conflict within the neighborhood of the university buying up land and they were taking out houses to build property. Do you remember people talking about that?

GG: Oh yeah. Back on Elmwood and some of the other streets, we kept moving out and moving out, you know, basically changing [unclear] say "Hey, they took over our stuff!" or they'd complain about the traffic, you know.

JR: Traffic?

GG: Sure, yeah, I mean, uh, even though we had a -- not a big out of town population, but basically all of a sudden, fall came we had more people in town. You know, you had to wait longer to do this or different traffic patterns and stuff like that. So the local people, I mean, basically, I saw my friends and stuff -- they didn't lose their home, but they had to move and stuff from their 00:32:00old neighborhoods because it was being [unclear] for the dorms. A lot of those homes were bought up and used as student housing so-to-speak, so it was, you know, I would say somewhat of a we and they type of attitude, you know, I think eventually the community came and said, "Hey, this is a good resource for the community," type of thing.

JR: Were you able to date much in college?

GG: Not -- not too much. I mean, we had, uh, basically more of the dating was basically more of the local people that you knew.

JR: Okay.

GG: Not with an outside, I mean, the university type thing.

JR: Okay.

GG: And basically, I was married, basically, November of 1963.


JR: Oh!

GG: And basically I graduated in May of '64.

JR: So, you had a -- you had a steady girl in most of your college then? Or when'd you meet?

GG: Well, basically, uh, well yeah, pretty much, and basically my wife was originally from Wausau, WI. And she moved here in 1958 because her father was transferred to here -- he was working for National Foods, and she transferred here, I think, her senior year of high school.

JR: Is that where you met her?

GG: I didn't meet her until afterwards. Later on in basically December of '59. And then on and off dating type things, and that was basically started up and then it ended and it went back type thing. And at that time it was, you know, 00:34:00basically, I was a Catholic, she was a Methodist, and say "Okay, whose church are we going to get married in?" So big issues, you know, so basically took a year off and found out, basically, that there might be some hope, so we got back together.

JR: Was that really the issue that broke you up?

GG: Part of it.

JR: Was religion?

GG: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it was a strong, you know, Catholic background and stuff like that, you know, and she wasn't that strict, but it was, you know, there was some, back then, there was a saying [unclear] type of thing, "Oh, you're one of those," and "You're one of them!" and whatever type thing.

JR: And her -- her parents felt strongly, your parents felt strongly about -- maybe you finding a Catholic girl?

GG: Well, eventually we got married in the Methodist church.

JR: Okay. And they came? Your parents came?

GG: No, they couldn't, the priest wouldn't let 'em come, so basically they came to the reception in my -- my new in-laws basement.


JR: Wow. Because it was a mass and they weren't allowed to --

GG: It wasn't -- I mean, it was a Methodist ceremony --

JR: Oh, right, of course, I'm sorry, I mixed, right --

GG: And we were Catholic, so --

JR: And the pastor wouldn't let them --

GG: They wouldn't let 'er go.

JR: Wow.

GG: And even my sister says, "Ah, I couldn't go to your wedding!" [unclear] It's like, okay, you know. But, uh, you know. And basically, you know, we were married and then we left town, basically, less than a year later. And then -- that, you know, that was our new life. We moved to Racine, WI, lived in the Chicago area for 32 years, different positions, um, basically my wife worked in the Chicago area for Union Oil and then [unclear], um, as an administrative assistant and secretary and so forth. So we raised two children there in the Chicago area, and basically then we moved to Arizona in 1999 and have been there 00:36:00for 18 years. And now I moved back to Bloomington, Indiana, and my wife did -- my wife as Alzheimer's.

JR: Okay.

GG: And basically it's been a battle the last ten years or so forth. And got good background support and support groups in Arizona, but my children -- one lives in Chicago, and one lives in Bloomington, and basically said, "If something happens to you, dad, what do we do?" And so basically I moved to Bloomington, Indiana. Um, with my daughter. Live with her and my three grandkids there, and my daughter and my son both went to IU.

JR: Okay.

GG: In the 80s.

JR: Yeah.

GG: And she is the finest director for their music school, and my son has his own venture capital company in Chicago, so basically my return on investment in colleges was there and so that's presently where we live. My wife is in a nursing home. So. But basically, you know, I have the philosophy [unclear], I've 00:37:00been there and done it, could have would have should have, and take one day at a time.

JR: And now you've got winters again.

GG: Yes, right.

JR: Indiana winters aren't Oshkosh winters.

GG: And when I moved to Scottsdale, I stayed in the import business, so we formed a new company in 1982. Thirteen of us left the corporate environment and started our own import company and we continued to service the same people that we used to work for and now we can go out and sell our services to other people. And -- so that was a big change in the sense of direction so to speak and "Well, should I take that chance?" and so we did, and it was, you know, because we had the background and experience in the work that we'd done, we'd take more customers, the thing is, some of the biggest corporate buyers, they [unclear] to Scottsdale. So basically, my boss says, "Gerry, your job is in Scottsdale, and 00:38:00that's the only place it is." So I says, "Okay, 2-4 years, I'm out of there," so I moved in '99 and I retired in 2001. So basically, looking back my experience at UWO and Oshkosh Teacher's College or whatever it was, Wisconsin University? You know, I look back, I drive through the streets around here and says, you know, you know, like I say, "Been there and done it," but it was a good experience.

JR: What do you think of what's -- I mean, you were there at the cusp of a huge expansion. You witnessed part of it. What do you think of what UW Oshkosh became compared to what you grew up with?

GG: I think it's a good thing. You know, there was a lot of effort and [unclear] surprised. I've taken some of the tours and stuff like the nursing school and stuff, where did it come from? We didn't have nurses. The nursing hospital was the only thing, basically. Some of the other programs [unclear] different 00:39:00schools they have now, basically, it's not like one is "Hey, there's one group over there and one over here," so I think it's a, you know, of course there's a lot of competition today in the scholastic world of the university as far as what -- what's happening. All the students are coming in on a more competitive basis. I look at my two grandsons who are going to be basically 18, graduating this May, and basically looking at, you know, what they have to go out and look at colleges and search coast to coast and look at what they want to do, and then -- then look at my one grandson, of course, his mother working at IU, a IU graduate, he says, "Okay," and he looked at course loads and other colleges and stuff, and she gets a discount on tuition and he gets a scholarship and it's like in kind of a no brainer.

JR: Go where the money is.

GG: My son has got his son is gonna go to Butler University and basically they 00:40:00did a lot of research coast to coast and stuff like that, and our granddaughter, she's interested in engineering, so she just might go to Purdue. So basically, you know, type of thing like that, but you know, I look back, and I didn't make a big bid for him, but basically I says, you know, "A smaller school or a state school," of course, Iowa, I mean, Indiana, was -- [unclear] a lot of schools available there. I look back and say, you know, uh, I probably would have never made a big cut in Madison, so if it was, I could make a starting point in Oshkosh. You know, and say, "Okay, well let's test it out," because the first two years you're just taking basics anyway. And that's when, basically, like I talked about, being a Frank Lloyd Wright guy type thing, so you know, someday I can build something like that or go over to the place, what was it, Spring Green? And then, of course, I've thought about that a lot over the years, but, 00:41:00uh, saw a lot of his stuff down there.

JR: Arizona, yeah.

GG: Said, well, [unclear]. You know, overall, I think, basically the classes and environment, you know, there's enough incentive there to keep you going. Getting into a particular job was a lot of fun, you know, and retailing is not a fun job, basically, you grew up into it and there was a lot more opportunity. In my case, the development -- two years I was in, half a year I was in the store and I always had a promotion, then I got another job and two years later I'm down in a big city. Two years and working in the corporate ranks. And politics, uh, you know, basically, it was more of a, you know, like scholastically, classes, I mean, you know, you got an A, B, C or D type thing, basically, so you did a good 00:42:00job in that environment you got promotions.

JR: I want to sort of blow your mind here maybe. Do you remember, um, writing this letter to the editor, what was it, 1962? About civil defense on campus.

GG: I have a copy of that.

JR: Okay, alright, so I'm not going to blow your mind.

GG: I'm working on my -- working on my memoirs.

JR: Okay.

GG: Okay, and I've got a lot of collections of stuff, so basically I came across this clipping as far as civil defense in 1962.

JR: Right. So, I was curious if that was -- was there a big concern on campus about nuclear war at that time? Was it something that you were alone interested, and that was why you wrote the letter, or was there others on campus?

GG: I would say there was concerns, but really the world was changing very fast, and, you know, of course the media blew it up a lot and stuff like that, but all 00:43:00of a sudden you had shelters and things like that and talking about that, and, you know, it was a new -- new culture. As far as, "Hey, there's other people out there, what do you thinks going to happen?" You know, and the past experience, back in 1945, you know, look what happened in Japan. You know, it could happen here. Today between Korea and all that other stuff, it's the same, you know, concerns.

JR: So, were there other political -- were you starting to awaken politically then in college? And were there other political things -- you talk about meeting Kennedy, there's this, I know this sort of transcends politics, this issue, that you should worry about nuclear war, but were you involved politically as a student?

GG: Not really. I mean, again, when you left campus you didn't -- I mean, you had to go to your job and go home and stuff like that, you didn't get really 00:44:00backed [unclear] whether you went to some of the -- some of the things like that. I think, basically, is economic things. Of course, my father was a staunch union Democrat. At the plant there, I remember him telling me how they locked themselves in there, in the Axle plant before, when they were organizing a union type thing and stuff like that, and, uh, you know that history [unclear] there. Basically more of a Democratic environment. And then my mother's side, her father was more of a Republican, so, type of thing, a farmer and [unclear] so there was a lot of changes and stuff like that, but I think the 60s were the start of a lot of changes. You know, with the Vietnam War and all of these other things, of course, coming off of the Korean War and some of the other things, 00:45:00but basically it was, uh, I think a lot of turmoil, basically, people's sense of direction, and say, "Oh, I'm going to get drafted," you know, type thing.

JR: Right. That was always a concern.

GG: Right. Right.

JR: Were there a lot of veterans on campus that you remember?

GG: Not that many if I remember. Not -- not a lot of vets I remember. Basically, at that time the war wasn't [unclear]. There was a couple of 'em in my fraternity.

JR: Yup.

GG: That had some previous military experience and stuff. And pretty much, you could tell, basically, by the leadership. [unclear].

JR: And I want to be clear, what did your dad do at the Axle?

GG: He was a -- he was a machinist.

JR: Okay.

GG: He did machinery. Uh, machine work, and then basically, he was uh, lost one of his fingers one time in an accident at the shop. And basically because he 00:46:00couldn't run a machine, he got to be a setup man. He would go in and set up the jobs for the guys who would come in and do the machinery work and stuff like that. And, uh, so he spent the time doing that. Of course, like I said, he was a -- he started the Wisconsin Axle Credit Union. He and several other guys put their five dollars in their pockets and started a credit union.

JR: Did he -- was he active in its administration? Or was he just on the board?

GG: He was on the board and stuff in the administration and stuff like that. And then where we lived up on -- on Plymouth Avenue, basically, we moved [unclear] when I was six months old, that was still the old outhouse and septic tank type environment, and he was active in getting the city of Oshkosh to move the water and sewer out there.

JR: That's North of Murdock?

GG: Yeah. Yeah, North of Murdock. You got, uh, city services out there, so he 00:47:00was kind of proactive as far as some of that stuff goes.

JR: I'm sort of curious -- I know that you were here during the day mostly, um, it just -- but I'm curious about your actions with other students while you were on campus. Particularly what you might have observed in the difference of experience between men and women on campus at this time. Do you think that they had wildly different experiences?

GG: Yeah, I think, uh, basically they kept their space, and I don't think the women were politically involved as much as they are today relative to there. They had different sororities and things like that but even in the classes, I mean, basically, they're thinking -- [unclear] a lot of the business classes were not a lot of females. [unclear] -- something more literary or some of the other classes there was [unclear]


JR: Did you observe any, like, discrimination against women in any of the classes?

GG: No, I didn't -- I didn't -- I didn't really recognize anything like that. They were all there to get educated, they were paying their tuition. $125 or 150 bucks or whatever. And to go back to the time, but basically when I was off that semester, uh, taking a break so-to-speak, uh, my mother and father says, "Well," they says, "You got a job and stuff, but you're not going to school. We're going to charge you room and board."

JR: Yeah.

GG: You know? Not all this free, willing space and stuff. I didn't have a car until I got married, so I used dad's car whenever I needed a car and so forth, but basically they, um, so basically I was off a semester working and stuff and I went back to summer school because I figured [unclear] -- says, "Well, you're back in line then," she comes out with a wad of cash, and she says, "Here, 00:49:00here's a bumper start." So, I paid for most of my schooling coming up and stuff like that, working of course, and still continuing on with the [unclear].

JR: She had saved the money you had paid?

GG: Yeah. The money I had saved for room and gave it to 'em, room and board, so much a week or whatever, she just put it in a pile. And when I came back, she says, "Here, take this, this is a starting point." Yeah, yeah.

JR: So, ah, how was it? I mean, you were able to make that money for the fees for school? Well, I think technically they didn't call it tuition at that time, it was called the fees, right? Tuition was for people out of state, um, was that a hardship for you to find the money? Or was it really easy to save that amount of money for fees?

GG: Well, my -- my dad was starting the credit union, and the credit union was [unclear] on High Street.


JR: Sure, yup.

GG: Down by -- next to the factory there and stuff. And I had an account there and basically I had to put so much a month or week in there, you know, without going out to the beer bars. [unclear] and The Rail or whatever in a college town. Of course I graduated in '59 so, you know, there was a savings type thing that kinda -- pretty much funded that part of it relative to dad. The room and board was free which was a big part of it. But what I earned at the hardware store and stuff like that. And that money, basically, I put towards [unclear] and books.

JR: Do you remember any of your friends having -- struggling with costs associated with going to school?

GG: Yeah, I -- some of them. Some of my high school friends and stuff. You know, basically, their parents couldn't afford it or couldn't, you know, cut it, so some of them came back and got a job for a year or so and came back and said, "Okay, I got some seed money now to go back to school," type thing. So I mean, a 00:51:00lot of 'em were in just the four year program.

JR: Right.

GG: And it was over a period of time. Either economically or scholastically.

JR: So that wasn't unusual? Your approach.

GG: No. No.

JR: So you got married. And then you finished. So what was that like? You moved in to a place together, or did you live with your - ?

GG: No, we got -- we got married and then we moved over on 6th Avenue.

JR: Okay.

GG: And we got married and basically a year later -- only a year later after I graduated we moved to Racine, Wisconsin.

JR: Right. So, but that year -- you were a college student, but you were a married college student.

GG: A married college student --

JR: How was that? Was that an unusual with people here?

GG: Very unusual, and I was basically, you know, going through a change. My wife was [unclear], she worked at the Wisconsin Telephone Company.

JR: Okay.

GG: Down on Algoma there. And now, I think, what's it? ATT? Basically, so we 00:52:00started out. And the day I graduated I had a job the day I graduated -- I had a job in line before I graduated. I did a lot of interviews in Milwaukee and different areas around the [unclear] there. And, uh, so it was a big move, you know, basically, kept moving on. It was a different -- different change moving out of town.

JR: Yeah, I imagine.

GG: All of a sudden, you know, you were out on your own. You didn't have any kinfolk or anything.

JR: Right. I also saw when I was looking in the newspapers, um, you were trying to recruit people up here. You had ads from Turn Style in the Northwestern.

GG: Yeah.

JR: And, uh, you know, "Looking for -- for workers, c'mon down, talk to Gerry."

GG: Right.

JR: Said that in the paper. I liked that.

GG: Yeah. And that work [unclear] the old fraternity people and some folk from there.

JR: Okay. I am fascinated, if you don't mind, I just -- I also haven't really been able to talk to a lot of people who lived or, you know, were part of the fraternities that were on Titan Court at the time. So, could -- do you have any 00:53:00stories about Titan Court that are fit for -- for recording?

GG: You know, the preferred beverage was a beer.

JR: Yeah.

GG: Yeah, and basically, but it was --

JR: Was that a Friday night, Saturday night thing? Or did they go all week long?

GG: Um, it's not-- I think it was more or less a weekend type thing, but of course, I wasn't in that environment, but I'd go over there to the house and say "My God, this is -- you guys aren't studying, you're partying!" type thing. And it was -- it was a whole different change. Titan Court was a big change in culture 'cause most of the -- if they had sorority or a fraternity it was in a home. On campus here, I remember there were some older homes that were converted into frat houses or sorority houses and stuff like that. So, they had their own thing going on, but I think it was more of a competitive type thing with all the fraternities and sororities around Titan Court.


JR: Competitive in what way?

GG: You know, basically, [unclear] whether it was sports or whether it was activities and stuff like that --

JR: Contests between them and so on.

GG: Right, contests and stuff like that, and now you look at -- I mean, I live in Bloomington, Indiana, 40,000 students here. That's a whole different environment. I live one mile from campus.

JR: Is that right?

GG: Where I live in Bloomington, and basically it's -- it's amazing. I mean, all of a sudden this week -- this weekend is graduation, so when I get back it will be like a ghost town.

JR: Yeah, sure.

GG: And the first -- first week in August, it's like "Okay, 40,000 people" [unclear]. But it's a whole different -- I don't know if I could ever take that large of a university. I think, basically, when I went to school it was a small university. And to see the growth over the years -- and that's why -- I always kept in contact with the alumni and stuff, and basically even in Chicago there were groups and stuff. And, as Crystal would attest, [unclear] down in Arizona 00:55:00[unclear] very actively [unclear] an alumni group I kept alive of people that I knew. I'd send some old fraternity brothers out in Arizona and some other people, and hosted events back at Arizona and some Chicago events and stuff like that. And kept track, of you know--

JR: Yeah, that was actually one of my last questions was -- I understood that you were quite involved, and I was curious as to what your motivations were to -- to remain involved, since you --

GG: Yeah, well once you've been there and done it, you basically said, well, you know, you look at other people that were in the same position, younger and older, type things, and then you look back, you've got these alumni coming in, they were -- been successful in their careers and stuff like that, and you gotta talk about the bars on High Street or the Magnet bar downtown there. I mean, I remember going to the Magnet bar downtown on lunch breaks when I was at Oshkosh High School and have a beer and a hotdog.


JR: Is that right?

GG: But, I mean, basically, the alumni type of thing, we at least have some commonalities.

JR: Sure. Shared experience.

GG: And all of a sudden, you run across some alumni, um, maybe in a business relationship, and say "Oh, you went to Oshkosh!" or "You went to Madison," or whatever, you know, that type of thing. And, of course, in the Chicago area, there's probably a broader base of different alumni type people. In Arizona, it was [unclear] people of retired ages, or had basically been transferred down there and were still actively working, in my case I was still actively working, but, uh, found a network, you know, and got involved in it. So then, being with a fraternity, the Delta Sig fraternity, and, um, got involved and also my, um, through UWO and then also Osco Drug, and I'm on the board of directors for the Osco Drug Alumni Club.


JR: Oh, is that right? Okay.

GG: So we have a lot of alumni throughout the country and [through not only?] Osco drug, but when you work in corporate, different companies, Jewel Companies, all of us worked for different positions, and you look at your resume, and you start out in Racine, WI, look at all the different jobs you had, and some of the people that we have -- we just had an alumni group down in March, it was down in Arizona, you know, some of the people I worked for and some of the people who were there to work for me. Of course, an older generation that, you know, today I think you don't get that rapport, it's a whole different-- feeling I think. You know, I look at my son, who graduated from Indiana University and then got his CPA and stuff and then went to Kellogg and got his MBA, you know, and now he's got his own venture capital company and stuff like that. And I look at my daughter, basically, uh, she got an accounting degree at IU, and you say, "Well, 00:58:00how did you get down to IU?" Well we did a route and looked around for schools, of course I couldn't get 'em back up here, "Oh, dad, you went there, we gotta go other places!" so we shopped the market, so-to-speak, and they both went down there.

JR: Great school.

GG: And basically got a good education, and my daughter went back and raised a family, and she's now the finance director at one of the biggest schools, the music school. You know, and so you say, okay, you know, you invested time there, and now you got your five grandkids coming up. Boy, in another year I'll have four in college.

JR: Is that right?

GG: Yeah.

JR: So, I guess, um, sort of just to cap this up then, um, you know, my last question is, what do you think you learned at UWO? I guess, Oshkosh State College.

GG: Well, people say I'm a planner -- things to do list, and basically, you had to go to class, you had things to do, you had enough outside things going on in 00:59:00your life. Your family, your friends, and stuff, but you also, hey, when you hit campus, this is it. Uh, it's a little different from high school. You know, basically, it was a big change in there. And today I still work on the premise, I worked on -- I think it was some kind of seminar or something like that, some kind of little thing that they introduce students to say, well, it's a different environment. You have to do some planning and stuff. You gotta get your classes down, do this here, and that culture, you know, like I said, you know, doing it, and then thinking about what you're going to do ahead of time and stuff like that. Not only the scholastic [unclear] to work on, but also you got your life together. You gotta have a plan to do and stuff like that as far as to get things done. And it worked well for me over the years as far as that goes. I mean, nobody's going to do the work for you, basically, it's there, it's your opportunity, so that's the way I looked at it. And it was a great opportunity.


JR: Well, thank you so much for this time. I really appreciate it.

GG: Good.

JR: Got anything else to add?

GG: Mmhmm, I just say, take one day at a time and go from there. It's a long haul. But it was a lot of fun.

JR: Wonderful. Thank you so much.

GG: Good.