Oregon State University Libraries and Press

Robert Reichart Oral History Interview, July 10, 1979

Oregon State University
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Transcript

JL: Dr. Reichart, why don't we start with when you were born and where.

RR: I was born in New York City on March 12, 1896.

JL: Were your parents born and raised there also?

RR: My father was born in England, and my mother in Poland.

JL: How did they happen to come to New York City?

RR: Don't ask me. I don't know.

JL: Well, then how did your family get to Oregon?


RR: That I can tell you. My dad had four kids, and he said that if he lived in New York he wouldn't be able to send them to college. So he decided to come out west, and he settled in a college town. It was a very smart thing to do, because all four of his kids ultimately graduated from Oregon State, no, they graduated from Oregon Agricultural College.

JL: Why did he feel that he couldn't get his kids a college education in New York or in the east?

RR: Probably, economics... money. And, it was his idea. That's what he told me.


JL: What did he do while you were growing up?

RR: He had a dry cleaning plant here in Corvallis.

JL: And that's what he did in New York also?

RR: No. No. He was a printer by trade. Fact is, they tell me I was born over his printing shop where they lived. But I never saw it... that is I never saw it, I don't know a recollection of it. And he was an accountant. When I was a boy in New York. These things change. People change. People shift.


JL: How had he heard about the west, or thought about coming?

RR: That's an interesting question. This whole question of why people immigrated is a fascinating thing. Why... see my wife's parents... no, father was born in Corvallis, but his folks were early immigrants to the country. And they helped settle, they came out on wagon trains. Her folks the same way. And some of the 00:04:00fascinating stories her grandfather used to tell me. He was a baby when they came out. One of the stories he'd tell was that he kept crying when he was a youngster and they'd shut him up by saying they'd have to kill him because his cries would bring on Indians coming across the covered wagons.

JL: What was his name?

RR: Vanderpool. But why those people came west, all kinds of reasons. Some of them wanted to get away from people. Too many people in the east. And a great deal, economics. They just wanted a chance at a different life, possibly 00:05:00a better life.

JL: Your mother and your father must have come independently to New York City.

RR: Oh yes.

JL: And then met there. That must have been a hard decision to make for them to come there.

RR: I don't know about that decision, but that background, that family because my father's father married my mother's mother. Yea. Laughter.

JL: Is that right?

RR: Yea. You see there's no blood relationship there. But that's how they got together. But interesting enough, they never talked about that, so I know very 00:06:00little about how it happened or anything else that [unintelligible]

JL: You mentioned that you had three brothers or sisters?

RR: I had two brothers and one sister.

JL: And what's their names and when were they born?

RR: I can tell you their names but only approximate date of when they were born. (Laughter) Actually, one of them, my sister, lives here in town. She probably remembers far more about 50 some odd years ago, than I do. So that a... she might be a source for you. Her name is Natalie. Her married name is 00:07:00Knout, K-h-o-u-t. One of the brothers was, that's my youngest brother, Emmanuel. Then there was Sidney. Emmanuel was a year and a half younger than I. Sid was the youngest. He must have been 7-8 years younger.

JL: And Natalie was...

RR: In between.

JL: So you're the oldest then?

RR: Oh yes. I 'm the oldest.

JL: Why did your father have this drive to educate his kids? Had he come from 00:08:00an educated family?

RR: No. No. But is there anything wrong with that kind of drive?

JL: No.

RR: He was smart. He was one of the great many people who had a great deal of intelligence, but who didn't have the chance themselves to get an education, and the same is true of my mother. I don't think Dad ever got past the... I doubt that he ever got to high school. And of course, in his time, that was the norm. It's hard for youngsters to realize now, when I was in college here at 00:09:00Corvallis, the Dean of my school, which was Business School, bragged about the fact that he had a master's degree. At that time, I checked this one time, I hesitate to say these things but I doubt that when he was in school, there were more than half a dozen PhD's on the faculty.

JL: Now there's hundreds. (Laughter)

RR: Now everybody. But at that time, I suppose now, half the graduates who 00:10:00come to school go to high school. At that time it would only be few percentage. Just two or three percent. So that the...

JL: It seems to me that they have better edu... It would seem to me during that time there would be more educational opportunities in the east than in the west? Better reputable schools?

RR: Well, reputable schools, sure. But education, you see, is not a matter of the reputation of the school. It's what you do as a student when you get there.


JL: Did he know anybody or have relatives here?

RR: He had no one. He just came. Why he picked Oregon, I don't know.

JL: How and when did your family of six come to Oregon?

RR: In... About 1911. That's my recollection. I think that was it. It had to be close to that.

JL: And how did they get out here?

RR: By train.

JL: Do you remember that trip?

RR: Sure. My dad came out, he picked the place to come to and I came alone and 00:12:00I'll never forget that trip. Four nights and five days on that train. Snowed all across the continent, I never saw the ground until I hit the... Oh, coming down the Columbia, it was, and then I saw. And particularly coming down the valley I saw green and the pioneers when they reached here, they said this was God's country. And it is God's country.


JL: Why did you come alone?

RR: Oh, the rest of the family wasn't ready to come and I was anxious to see what it was all about and I talked them into letting me come.

JL: They encouraged your independence then?

RR: Oh yes. Yeah. I would say that I'm surprised that, looking back, at how permissive my parents were. They said, you're grown up. And I was...what would that be? I was just fifteen.

JL: What were you expecting as a fifteen year old, and to be out here and so 00:14:00anxious to come?

RR: I haven't the slightest idea, except that I'm curious and I wanted to find out. Well, this is the kind of thing... I have a story I'd love to tell. I never graduated from high school. You see, I'm banished, to fail or get kicked out of the school, the high school, in New York.

JL: My gosh!

RR: Well, as an educator, that's a very, very interesting thing to me, why, I know why I did it. My pal, that I used to run around with, very close to for a 00:15:00year, who was the same age had lost his father, and he had to go to work because he had a mother and sister, and they had to find some way of living. So he had to get a job. And if he could get a job, I thought I should get a job too. And, of course, my parents wouldn't listen to my quitting school, which at that age was too uncommon. But they wouldn't listen to it.

JL: It wasn't uncommon for students to quit school?

RR: And go to work at 15 let's say. But one way I could do it was to get kicked 00:16:00out of school. So I failed all my courses. I think I passed English by just...oh just barely passed. But I went to a school that was easy to get kicked out of. Because this was a prep school for the college of the city of New York and they did a four-year high school course in three years, and they were proud of the fact that they failed half their entering freshmen class. And their entering class was picked from the best youngsters the ones with the best grades in the city.


JL: Could this have something to do with why your father wanted to come west?

RR: I don't think so. I don't think so. Because at the time I had a job, I was working, I was earning five dollars a week.

JL: Doing what?

RR: I was an errand boy for a lace importing house. Julius Strauss and Company. Fascinating. Laces can be absolutely beautiful and they imported laces from Europe. And handling some of that stuff was fun.


JL: Why didn't you work for your father in the printing shop?

RR: He didn't have any printing shop. See at that time he was working as an accountant. So he was working for, what was that... some kind of manufacturing company. They made ladie's dresses. That's what it was. And he was the accountant. He took care of their books and ran their office for them.

JL: Do you remember anything about discussions about moving to Oregon?

RR: No. I'm surprised at how little I remember of that kind of thing. It's 00:19:00amazing to me. As a matter of fact, I think I know why. I continually look forward and very little backwards. I'm still very much concerned with what I'm doing right now at the medical school in Portland. I can't get to change their habit pattern.

JL: You've been doing it along time a certain way and they don't want to change, huh?


RR: Well, this is true right down here. I can't tell you how hard it is to get people to change. Now why at my age, I should continually want to do these things better, I don't know.

JL: Why not?

RR: I don't see anything wrong with it, but I think that the reason that I can't give as much of this old... the things that happened back there, because I haven't thought that way.

JL: So you came out in 1911 by yourself.

RR: All by myself.

JL: What was your reaction when you arrived in Corvallis then?


RR: (Long pause) Ump. I can't answer that. That's a good question though, but... let me think about that one, because that's a good question. I think I 00:22:00simply took it in stride. After all, everything was new. That is, going to work, going... evidently got bombed in New York at that time, got in a subway, went downtown, but it was definite all the time. I'll tell you in a way it was different. Summertime, working as an errand boy, twelve of us, twelve boys, see this Lace House served the garment industry, and garment industry is a very 00:23:00interesting business. Manufacturers would make up samples and making up samples somebody would have an idea of wanting one lace collar, and they would order one lace order. And one of the boys would, as an errand boy, would take this lace collar and deliver it because it had to be delivered promptly. But it was hot as blazes on the streets of New York. No air conditioning at that time. But we worked in the basement of a big brick building and it was cold in that basement, and I discovered that the way to stay in the cool basement was to find some job that I could do that would help somebody in the office. And then they would send 00:24:00all of eleven boys out, before they got around to me. And usually, almost invariably, one of the boys would be back before they'd want one, so I spent most of the time in the cool, pleasant basement. But in order to do that, I had to keep finding things that'd make me the one they didn't want to send.

JL: You had to be very innovative, huh?

RR: It's possible, yes, that's what you'd call it, innovative. Anyway, of that group of twelve, I was the only one who did that particular thing. It paid off.

JL: So how did that relate to your coming to Corvallis and not remembering your 00:25:00first impressions?

RR: Well to say that I had the kind of interests that made me look for things to do instead of saying here's my job, I'll do that, had something to do with what's it like out there. That's all. I used to reach this side of the goal. I wanted to get to it. That's all. And once I got out here, it was different enough so that after a while Corvallis at that time, my recollection is that it had fewer than five thousand people. It was a small town and I can tell you the 00:26:00things I missed.

JL: What did you miss?

RR: The theater. Because mostly before movie pictures was vaudeville, that I had a chance to see, and of course that carried on later.

JL: They didn't have Chautauqua or...

RR: They had Chautauqua out here.

JL: Uhuh. That didn't...

RR: Oh, oh that. I have some very vivid recollections of Chautauqua.

JL: Tell me about that.

RR: Well they'd set up these tents and...


JL: Where?

RR: I was thinking of that before you asked that. I'll have to ask my sister about that. My recollection is that it was down near, I started to say where the high school was. The high school I went to isn't there anymore. It's a park opposite the library downtown.

JL: Central Park?

RR: Cen...That sounds good. I've forgotten that's where the high school was. I went to school, and it seems to me that it was on those grounds, but [unintelligible] I can't be sure. I can remember the tents and the kind of a set up they had. They'd have these wooden seats that they'd stick up. They were not 00:28:00too comfortable. And...

JL: Bleachers, you mean?

RR: Huh?

JL: Bleacher type?

RR: Yeah. There may have been others but my, again recollection is that I couldn't afford the best seats in the place. But a...

JL: How much were the best seats and where were they?

RR: Oh, I have no, I can't tell you that sort of thing. Just don't recollect at all.

JL: Tell me what you do remember.

RR: I wish I could remember names. I remember being very much impressed by one preacher type who gave a very stirring address on how one should live and the 00:29:00reading sometime later of how he had to go to prison for theft of one kind or another. (Laughter) This is a different recollection, but while I was in college one time, this was a Chautauqua type thing, William Jennings Bryan talked over in Albany and I remember going to hear him, and what he talked about. Oh! I do remember what he talked about. He was Secretary of State, had been, and he 00:30:00bragged about having signed peace treaties that would forever banish war, great war. That's what William Jennings Bryan talked about.

JL: Do you remember being impressed?

RR: Oh, I was very much impressed. Sure.

JL: How did the crowd react?

RR: They were very much with him. The man was a very eloquent speaker. Fact is, he was one of the best.

JL: What year was this, do you know?

RR: Must have been around 1916, before the war. Before the First World War


JL: You were telling me about Chautauqua in what is now possibly Central Park.

RR: Yeah. They had numerous things. There were, they put on some plays, and I was trying to remember what some of them were and I can't. And they'd have dances and there were singers. It's a general feeling that I have, as far as my memory that specifically is not enough. I've thought about this thing that 00:32:00you're doing. I'm fascinated by the idea. And of course I've read a great many biographies and I'm always interested in how much some of these people remember and I've wondered often why I don't have these stories that, you know you sit down and tell people and transcribe.

JL: Oh sure you do. We all select things to remember.

RR: Well, I do know this that sometimes some of the things come back, but I can 00:33:00also tell you this, I've heard any number of these things and they bore me to tears.

JL: Tapes you mean?

RR: Yes. That's one of the great problems because, you see here I'm back talking about education. The reason tapes have not just replaced countless lectures as they should is that most of the time, students are captive parts of captive audiences. They have to be there. When you put that same talk on tape, 00:34:00it's not good enough, so that the tape has to be better than, that is to be interesting, to hold one. It has to be better than normal talk. And part of my problem is that I know that and I say, "What have I got to tell you? Nothing".

JL: Nonsense. Let's continue on.

RR: Well, I know that. Listen, I'm not trying to get out of anything I'm [unintelligible] willing to tell you anything I know.

JL: Well that's fine. You're doing fine, I'm getting exactly what I want so don't worry about it.

RR: I'm not worried. Not worried in the slightest. Do you want to go back to 00:35:00Chautauqua. No, let's leave Chautauqua. Listen, what you're doing is personally okay, because that's the kind of thing I haven't thought of Chautauqua for fifty years. That's probably not quite true, but I haven't actively said what do I remember. Next time I talk to you I'll have something, because that does bring it back.

JL: That's very true.

RR: So...

JL: Think about it.

RR: Yeah.

JL: So you arrived personally in 1911 and your father had come...

RR: Earlier.

JL: Earlier in that same year. You arrived on the train and your father was there to greet you.


RR: Maybe he was. I don't remember.

JL: Do you remember any of the structures or the river or what you wanted to do?

RR: I can't even remember how I got down here from Portland.

JL: What kind of vehicles were being driven?

RR: Oh, we used to have a train in Corvallis. Fact is, when I was in college we had two trains. There was an electric train that went to...you could go to 00:37:00Portland on it, depot was across the river and down on 6th Street it was the depot for the train. Ain't that curious. I can't remember changing train. I had to change trains in Portland. Absolutely no recollection of that.

JL: What kind of vehicles did families travel in from place to place?

RR: Walked. No vehicle.

JL: No horses?

RR: No. Oh they had horses and carriages but my family didn't have any.


JL: So had your father purchased a house or found a house for his family?

RR: Yeah, he had. He had a house. We lived down on Monroe Street between 2nd and 3rd. It's some time, oh this must have been a year or two later, it's interesting. The most vivid recollection I have was waiting up one night and smelling smoke and the place was on fire and I could remember we had a volunteer 00:39:00fire department at the time and the chaplain, gosh I wish I could remember his name, very colorful guy, I can remember he got out of the house and the fire [unintelligible] came over and they were pumping water in there and this fellow in charge was using some of the most violent language, vile language at the top of his voice, yelling at these folks.

JL: What kind of a fire engine was it?

RR: Oh, red. (Laughter) No, when you asked that question, how do you expect me 00:40:00to remember what kind of a fire engine was it? It was a fire engine. All fire engines were alike.

JL: Some 15 year old would remember that it was a certain make or that it was drawn by a horse or...

RR: Yeah. Well, that's what I was telling you that I don't have that kind of memory.

JL: What, as a young fellow in Corvallis before you started to school, what kind of things took your interest then?

RR: Well, remember, I hadn't quit school.

JL: Umm, huh.

RR: My father started a dry goods store when he came to Corvallis, so I worked 00:41:00in the store with him.

JL: Where was that located?

RR: Down there on Monroe Street.

JL: Tell me what you sold.

RR: Huh?

JL: Tell me some of the things you sold in your dry goods store.

RR: Well, selling supplies. They had some materials, I remember they had some lace too, that I remember, and it wasn't very good. It wasn't like some of the lace that I had handled in the importing outfit.


JL: How did you feel about working in the dry goods store for your father?

RR: I felt okay. This is very interesting to me because I hadn't thought about that. I made some friends, we played ball, we went swimming. I'm afraid I wasn't 00:43:00too much interested working at the store but it was just a job. You didn't work with your father then?

JL: You didn't think about taking it over at anytime?

RR: Oh Lord no. You see, at that age I wasn't thinking of the future. You live from day to day. No, that would have been the furthest from my thoughts-taking it over.

JL: Your father didn't emphasize that to you at all?

RR: Oh Lord no. No, not at all.


JL: Had your mother and two brothers and sisters--how much later did they come after you and your father arrived?

RR: Oh, I think two or three months-several months, something like that. Not long after.

JL: Would you consider yourself--you were close to your father?

RR: Oh sure. That's an impossible question because how close is close?

JL: Did you like you father?

RR: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. No, the family relationship was fine.

JL: What kind of things did you do with your father then?

RR: Nothing. Talked, that's all. But none of this pal stuff.


JL: What did he teach you about the Polish culture?

RR: The what?

JL: The Polish culture. Wasn't he from Poland?

RR: No, no. He was from England.

JL: Your mother was from Poland?

RR: Yeah.

JL: What did he teach you about the English culture then?

RR: Nothing. That's curious. Where did your mother and father come from?

JL: They were born and raised in the United States and also my grandparents.


RR: What did they teach you about their culture?

JL: Well, several generations back they were still in the United States so there was no culture but your father was from England and your mother from Poland so...

RR: Yeah, but you see my guess is... Oh wait a minute. I could be wrong. By example probably a great deal.

JL: For example, did your mother cook Polish foods?

RR: Not... If she...You see, the way that worked would be like this. If ...she probably cooked many things the way her mother cooked. But that was the norm. 00:47:00That wasn't a thing you talked about. That wasn't a thing that was any different. It was just done.

JL: It could have been different from your friends' food though.

RR: From what?

JL: From friends of yours--what they ate.

RR: Not essentially, but it happened.

JL: How about language. Did she teach you any Polish?

RR: Oh. I have kicked myself more times during my life, that is once I got to be in my twenties, somewhere in there, that I didn't learn Polish, that I didn't 00:48:00learn-- she could talk German, she could talk Polish, she never did because there was no one to talk to, and I could have learned the languages, didn't--stupid. Literally stupid! But, I didn't. A lost opportunity, actually.

JL: What kind of leisure activities did you do as a family?

RR: With the family? Very little. You see, I'm a reader. Most of my time was 00:49:00spent reading.

JL: Even as a young boy?

RR: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

JL: Why then didn't you want to continue your education? Sort of goes hand in hand.

RR: (Sigh). I did. I really did go back to school, after-- it was probably about a year or so, I decided to back to school.

JL: How did that come about?


RR: I wish I knew. I've thought about that in [unintelligible]. I don't know what... I just know. You see, I'm concerned with this kind of question because we... it's a whole question of motivation, and I don't know what started it. It could have been something that I read, but I...You see this question into something out of the blue sky, I've thought a lot about it, and I can't pin it down.

JL: Could it be from your parents?

RR: They were very happy when I announced that I wanted to go back to school. 00:51:00They had never, never said I should. I told you this they were very permissive with my life, but when I said I wanted to go back, they were all for it, immediately. But the question of why I made that decision I can't tell you. I'd like to know myself.

JL: What year was this that you started? You started at Corvallis High School, is that correct?

RR: Yeah. Must have been the next year, you see, because I started--I went to 00:52:00high school for about a year and a half. I'd gone to high school in New York for a year and a half, and at that time you could start college without having a high school diploma and you could make up the work later. That's why I can say, this is a marvelous thing sometime when you're in certain groups, you say you've never graduated from high school and you let them find out later that you've got a doctor's degree. It's very effective sometimes, for some purposes, when somebody's trying to put you down. Oh, marvelous experience that I had a year 00:53:00after I graduated, went back to New York--aft...this was after I had been in the Army, yeah. Working for Harper's Publishing. The...general manager had given me some particular job, they had... this I can remember. He said we need more space, we're just so crowded. See what you can do with that storeroom up there. They had a storeroom, probably as big as this room, crowded with advertising 00:54:00material. I discovered piles, thousands of sheets of advertisements we were able to discard for books, which had been out of print for years. I threw away three or four tons of paper and they told me "oh, when the boss finds out you've done this they're just going to have a fit." Well, actually they didn't have a fit. It was the thing to do and the boss was very pleased that I had rescued this space, but, having lunch during one of these, during this time, with one of the women who had worked there for years, we were, we brought our lunch in and 00:55:00we were sitting there eating it and she looked at me and she shook her head and said in we, "it's a shame." Here she said, "You're a bright youngster and just think what you might have amounted to if you only had a chance to go to college." (Laughter) Well at the time I had a bachelor's degree. (Laughter). Never had the heart to tell her. But what drove me back to school I don't know. I've wondered many times what the specific stimulus was. Because it had to 00:56:00be something, but I can't think what.

JL: What subjects did you enjoy in school?

RR: Well, that's another very difficult question. I suppose, I really like pretty much, it was fun going to school. I didn't have any trouble in school. I liked the English work most of the time cause that's what I was interested in. Matter of fact, I got a degree in business because the business course had more 00:57:00electives than any other course at the time, which gave me opportunity to read the things I wanted to read.

JL: That's interesting. You did not graduate from Corvallis High School?

RR: No. No. No.

JL: How did that work? You went there for one year?

RR: I think a year and a half, as I recall.

JL: But you weren't urn...

RR: Oh I know why I left. I had another year before I would have graduated. Some of these stories I remember. Some of these things are very clear in my 00:58:00mind. Corvallis High School, at that time, published a yearbook but no newspaper. And, see, I was interested in writing in literature. I wanted to start a newspaper and they wouldn't let us, another chap and I. So, Roscoe and I published a daily newspaper in this way We typed it and put it on a bulletin board only we did it without putting our names on it. We got...we just regularly posted our newspaper when we could on the...brought it out every day and sneaked 00:59:00it on the bulletin board and sometime when it was clear, that is when no one was in the hall, and then I got the idea one day, this is ridiculous, "went down to the editor of the Gazette Times, and I offered to write a high school column, and he thought, "Gee, that's a good idea." So we published our paper then, in the Gazette Times, that is, this column. The super and principle called me in, [unintelligible] it, I'm sure. They'd known who did it. I forgot. I'll have to try to look that up sometime and see what I wrote. Haven't any notion on what it 01:00:00was we did, and the principle called me in and said, "We can't assign the right to do it. But you have to have a faculty advisor," and I said "No, nothing doing. If we can't do it without an advisor we won't do it." So we quit. I said, "okay, if I can't do this [unintelligible] I can go to college." So I went to college next.

JL: How did that work?

RR: That's, apparently you could enter college at the time without having had a high school diploma. This goes back quite a few years, you know.

JL: Thats... I know that. That's why you quit high school, because the principle wanted you to get an advisor.


RR: Yeah, yeah. That's what's called, "being independent."

JL: Were your parents supportive of you when you were writing a column?

RR: I have not the slightest recollection of their having said, "Yes" or "no." There was nothing wrong with it. You see, part of this, and on thinking back I find this interesting, part of this came about because of this same being an adult. I was perfectly capable of deciding what should be printed and shouldn't be printed. That was why I didn't want a faculty advisor. And years 01:02:00later when I was teaching English and I was the advisor to a freshmen group publishing a magazine, I got in trouble with the head of my department because I said I...

JL: You started at OAC then as a freshmen in 19-?

RR: 1915. The fall of 1915.

JL: And you were studying in the school commerce?

RR: That's right.

JL: What individuals do you remember in the School of Commerce? That influenced your life?

RR: (Long pause) Hmmm. (Long Pause) That's a kind of hard question because 01:04:0001:03:00every, everyone you have any contact with influences your life to some extent. And... You see, you see it's not honest to say gee, nobody influenced me, they all must have.

JL: Nobody stands out in your mind?

RR: Well, that's what I was trying to think, think about. No one stands out in this way, this is, not in the School of Commerce, but in school later. We didn't 01:05:00have a journalism department in my time, and I think it must have been by my sophomore year they brought over from the University, in Eugene, a man named Dyment, Collin Dyment. When Dyment was in their journalism department, he came over and taught, a one credit course in journalism. And, Dyment had been, I think, the city editor of the Oregonian. And, here's the kind of influence that 01:06:00the great teacher had on me. I was on the Barometer writing stories for the Barometer, and I went to Mr. Dyment one time with a story I had written and he said, "Would you...?" He had to wait for an hour before he could get a train back to Eugene and I used that, I went in to see him, and handed him the story I had written and said, "Would you criticize it?", and he made some comments and I can still remember as he handed it back to me, holding it in my hand and looking 01:07:00at it and saying nothing. And he had turned away and he looked back and he looked up, he says, "You really want me to criticize it, don't you?" And I said, "Yes." And what Dyment did to me and that story in the next ten minutes, I can still remember. He tore it apart word for word, sentence by sentence. He taught me more in ten minutes than most people taught me in a life time. And, the highest compliment that, I spoke of a compliment that has pleased me more than anything that happened to me in college, was when Dyment told me that if he 01:08:00were still working, (this was long after), if he were still working on the journal and I wanted a job, he'd give me a job. Yeah, that, you see, what he did was show me that you can't be satisfied with what you've done, that you can always improve it, and I think in just, well, I can't, you see, I can't do this. I know what happened in that short interview was more effective than a whole 01:09:00series of lectures the whole term. But, I don't know how much was reinforced by what else he did, other things he did, other things he said.

JL: How has that lesson helped you in your life after that time?

RR: Well, I suppose what that did to me was to keep me from being satisfied with anything that I've ever done.

JL: So you're dissatisfied with everything that you've done?


RR: Oh, in a way yes. I've been working the last forty years with the dean, acting Dean, [unintelligible] school, on a workshop on scoping wood stress. And a great deal of stress comes from setting standards that are so high that you can't possibly reach them. But one way of coping is to recognize that very fact that you never achieve what you'd like to achieve. But, you still keep pushing toward it. Now, when that striving for perfection goes too far you can 01:11:00go nuts. It's a cause of a tremendous amount of stress, but somehow finding that, what shall I say, recognizing that no matter how hard you try you can't achieve perfection, but that's no reason that you shouldn't keep trying. There is a fine line there, but it's a very important one. And I think time has helped to realize that. You keep trying. But because you realize that you can't ever achieve perfection, it doesn't have what could be called, "negative effect." Now see, when you said that you're never satisfied with anything you've done, that's 01:12:00true. But that could drive you crazy, or you could say, "I know nobody reaches perfection but that doesn't keep me from trying." Now that, you see I can't attribute all of that to that night. I'm sure he reinforced it. But I remember playing baseball when I was a kid. I would try to make an impossible catch, and once in a while you'd make the thing that, one, you could have said, "Gee, you can't reach that", but once in a while you do reach it. So you see, that, same 01:13:00thing is true with teaching class. You can't ever succeed in getting an [unintelligible] across to a class, you don't want to. But you keep trying, and occasionally somebody responds and does something that is so much better than you'd expected. But that's the reward you get. But if you didn't try, I know I can't reach the whole class.

JL: Does that mean then that you control your stress?

RR: Oh, yes. That's one that we're convinced of. That most, most of us, most stress depends on the way you look at what happens to you. It's your 01:14:00interpretation. Doesn't do a thing itself. It's how you interpret it. And, I've, just the other day it struck me it's a beautiful idea. Here my tank is half full of gasoline or its half empty. Now, one causes stress the other euphoria. And it's the same thing.

JL: I see what you're talking about. Positive?

RR: Well, yeah. But even, but when you just say, "Have a positive attitude", see that doesn't, that doesn't mean too much. It's when you get down to the 01:15:00tankful of gasoline it begins to have meaning. Now there are stresses that are so great that, well, when my wife passed away, just knowing these things doesn't help, and you can't control them, well I suppose that's the way to put it, there are some things that are so stressful that you need other kinds of help outside yourself, but even... I don't claim to have the answer for that kind of stress.

JL: Is this the way your family, your parents lived?


RR: No, I don't think so. But I can't be sure.

JL: How did your, how did your parents handle stress?

RR: I don't know. It's pretty hard to know how anyone else handles stress. 01:17:00Unless, you see, unless it's, oh, when somebody breaks down, then you have some innocent underwires. I think they handle it very, very well. But you almost have to say in such and such an instance when this happened or that happened what did they do, it's pretty hard.

JL: Well how did he react to the fluctuations in his dry goods business?


RR: That goes, that goes way back. I don't... You see, if I say that they handled it satisfactorily what does that mean? I don't think any of that kind of thing means anything unless you can show it again, the specifics. I had a youngster in class one day why that was..., I was talking about gossip and this gal said that people love gossip only when they hear the gory details. And 01:19:00that's marvelous. That's true. But you see it also applies to a great many other things. You have to have details. General principles don't mean much unless you can supply any instances.

JL: You can't remember any instances where your father reacted to a low economic position in his store?

RR: Sure. When his dry good store went bankrupt he accepted it. That's all. Sure, come to think of it, he accepted it and he... there was a chap next door a dry cleaning place, he bought that. He probably bought it on...because the 01:20:00fellow just wanted to get away, and bought it on credit. And out of that, he built a dry cleaning business.

JL: What was the name of your father's dry goods store?

RR: Probably Reichart's. I forgot. I think that's what he called it. That's what he called the cleaning plant.

JL: Were you active in extracurricular activities or what extract...extracurricular activities were...?

RR: Yes, I was active, too active. Which activities? I was on Barometer. 01:21:00You almost have to ask at what period I debated or rated. Oh the Barometer.

JL: Why did you not consider going into journalism?

RR: Well, there was no journalism course.

JL: What about down in Eugene?

RR: It cost money to go to Eugene, didn't have any money. One reason was, it seemed to me, it was much harder at that time for a youngster to earn money and 01:22:00I don't see, as I look at it now, I don't see what I could have done that would have earned enough money. The folks couldn't have paid for me to go. After all, they were making a living. And living at home, do you know how much registration cost when I went to school? I don't remember now whether it was $5.00 or $10.00 a term.

JL: That was a lot in those days.

RR: Well, it was a lot more than it is now. But living at home, you see, was the big help, and so I could live here and go to school, and did. I couldn't 01:23:00have gone to the University.

JL: What part of college life was the most important to you? Was it the extracurricular activities or your classes or your friends, or your leisure time?

RR: Friends, friends and well, in your, how long have you been doing this?

JL: About a year.

RR: Has anybody told you about Mrs. Kidder?

JL: Not Mrs. Kidder, no. Tell me.

RR: Oh, you haven't heard anything.

JL: Tell me about Mrs. Kidder.

RR: Mrs. Kidder was the librarian.

JL: I am familiar with that and that she made a great impression on many students, but...

RR: Okay, I'll tell you about Mrs. Kidder. I told you I was a reader. I still am.


JL: I can see all your books over there.

RR: In author. I don't know whether I should tell you this or not. You've talked to E.B. Lemon?

JL: Yes.

RR: Oh well. I've never told him this story, but we had an accounting class. Lemon was my accounting teacher and we had an accounting laboratory, and at that time, this was when I was freshmen, they had a required course in library 01:25:00practice and library practice class, which Ma Kidder taught, came after Mr. Lemon's accounting class. Now, I practically lived in the library and I knew how to use the library. We had a set of exercises, which we had to do for library practice and nothing to it. It was easy enough, but one had to do it. You had to, right? And one time I had too many other things to do and I hadn't done Mrs. Kidder's exercise. But every time in Lemon's class Mrs. 01:26:00Kidder's set of questions were passed around, so that they were copied. Everybody copied them. I never copied them because I didn't have to. I knew that stuff, but this time I hadn't been to the library. Something had occurred, and so I copied the set that passed around in the Lemon's class, but I'm not stupid. I didn't copy it exactly. I changed the answers so that it wouldn't be just like the one I copied. But, the essence was there. Next, oh, two or three days later, I had a summons from Mrs. Kidder to come and appear at a certain 01:27:00time. When I got there I think there were eight or nine other youngsters and she read the riot act to us. She said the idea of copying this work and she said the one who's most responsible and she pointed to me. You let them copy. I couldn't tell her I had copied it from somebody else. The others had copied mine exactly.

JL: Oh no. (Laughter)

RR: Anyway. Mrs. Kidder said if you don't get straight A's from here on out 01:28:00you will fail the course, fail the subject. Well that was no problem, but Mrs. Kidder, bless her soul, did me the biggest favor that anyone did in college. The end of that, sometime during, toward the end of that term, she called me over one day and said, "Robert, the librarians keep the key to the stack room back there" and she told me where, "and it'll be okay if you want to use it." And I spent the rest of my college life, mostly in that stack room, by myself. 01:29:00You see, in those days they didn't have open stacks and hardly anyone used that particular stack room and I had a private study room.

JL: Why did she give you that honor, Dr. Reichart?

RR: I think she liked me. And she... See I was the best customer the library had. I told you I lived in the library.

JL: Why is that you liked the library so much?

RR: How do I know. I like books, I like reading, and that was lithe place where the books were.

JL: How did you have enough time for leisure, family, friends?

RR: I can tell you that too. I think when I was a junior, might have been 01:30:00senior, we had a club, writing club. No name, I don't think we ever had a formal name. But this was a group of maybe eight or ten of us, who were interested in writing, and we tried to find a time we could meet and we couldn't find a time when anyone could get there except at 11:30 on Saturday nights. So our club met every Saturday night at 11:30. And it adjourned, when we got around to adjourning. We met at the home of one of the professors. This fellow, 01:31:00[unintelligible] my memory. He taught, I think it was economics, but I lost his name. But we'd go to his house. His wife would heat some coffee or tea and some cookies and we had a marvelous time, talking, writing or reading stuff we had written, to each other.

JL: What kind of things were written?

RR: Pretty terrible, as I recall it, now. But after all, what can you expect from kids in college. I had, my great trouble was instructors in they expect 01:32:00students in their subject to know much more than they have a right to expect. I think that's true, and I decided one time when I was talking and writing, teaching English, to go back and read some of the material that I had written for the Barometer. And I've been very humble ever since.

JL: How did all these people get together in the writing club?


RR: I don't know. I suppose partly accident. One of these fellows later became the editor of the Oregonian, Phil Parrish. But Phil and I were close friends and we'd meet people.

RR: I've done that trick.

JL: I have too.

RR: Oh gosh, talk about tricks. I was demonstrating this one time some talk I gave, I've forgotten, to some faculty up here. I think it was the Ag and I was showing them how easy it was to do [unintelligible], and then I said listen, you 01:34:00can hear what I've just said, I went to play back what I had played and I'd forgotten to start the thing.

JL: (Laughter) I've done that also.

RR: So, I told them... that was a good example of what can happen if you weren't careful. Anyway, well, you know I haven't an idea other we had gotten together, but partly by accident, but there would be three or four of us first and then we'd find somebody else and invite them.

JL: Did you write poetry, news articles, prose?

RR: Stories, prose, articles. A little of everything.

JL: You were going to tell me some more about Mrs. Kidder, Miss Kidder also.


RR: Well, she was, she was interested in students and I think the sort of thing the sort of thing that story I just told you about giving me the key was a beautiful example of the kind of thing that she would do. Now, during the time I was in college she did a [unintelligible] of the students. So, you see, it was picking out the particular thing. That, that was marvelous for me. It helped me. It was the right thing. I don't know anything that anyone else could have done for me that would have meant as much to me and that, and she did it. 01:36:00And she, she was, she was crippled and she went, well she traveled on a little electric cart that, why she couldn't walk I don't know. All I know is that she was always in this cart. The library at that time was the second floor of the old administration building. What do they call that now?

JL: Benton Hall?

RR: Is that Benton Hall, the one with the clock tower and no clock? It had a painted clock in my time.

JL: That's Benton Hall.

RR: Uhuh. They changed the names on these things.

JL: You called her "Ma" Kidder?

RR: Ma Kidder, that's what all of us called here.


JL: How did she get that name?

RR: I don't know. That's all I know, that was, that what all the kids called her. That's the way we talked about her. I never called her that to her face. But that's the way she was referred to.

JL: Other students appreciated her generous qualities?

RR: Oh yeah, oh she was very well liked.

JL: You also mention E.B. Lemon. How was he as a teacher and as an educator?

RR: Oh he, he was a good teacher. If you'd turn that thing off I'll tell you something about E.B.

JL: You don't want it on tape?

RR: This I don't want. Yeah, yeah, I tend to be a non-conformist. Now that 01:38:00could be in some ways it's good, and other ways it's not so good. Part of it comes from the fact that I keep looking for different ways of doing things. And I wish I could tell you why. Now, what I'd like to know for myself is how did I get to be that way. I'd give you lots of examples. I refused to take an English course as a student. Now that doesn't make sense does it? The Dean 01:39:00called me in when I was a senior and said I've been looking at your record and there's a required course that you haven't taken. I said, "I know." He said, "you're gonna have to take it." I said, "I'm sorry," sir, but I'm not going to take it. He said, "You can't graduate if you don't take it." I said, "Then I won't graduate."

JL: Why didn't you want to take this course?

RR: Because I didn't like the instructor?

JL: Had you had other courses by him?

RR: No, I didn't like the instructor, period. I didn't think he knew enough to teach the course. Now that sounds pretty what, for a student?


JL: Snobbish?

RR: Snobbish. All I can tell you is that years later as an instructor in his department, I found that my student opinion was right. Proved to be right. But, I'm willing to tell you this. This is the only bragging that you'll hear from me. You haven't heard any yet. This I'm proud of. I swore that I would read everything published if I could get my hands on it, represented by all of the people who were in the Book of Readings, which meant that the Book of Readings 01:41:00would have one chapter by an author like [unintelligible], and I read forty novels. I think it was forty. Anyway it was a whole stack. And I did that for everyone else. This is for the course that I refused to take.

JL: Apparently the Dean allowed you to graduate without the course?

RR: Yes, apparently. Now, that probably wouldn't happen now. I doubt whether they'd do it, but things were a little looser. Now, I had enough records in my other courses, I wasn't trying to get out of anything. I was perfectly willing to take a course, I would not take that course. See the difference?


JL: I do.

RR: I was willing to pay the price for not taking it. I would have gone through it. I wouldn't have graduated.

JL: You are different.

RR: Well. I'm not...I don't think we're smart, because I could have taken the course and [unintelligible].

JL: You're stubborn.

RR: Yes. Now, it's part of that same thing that keeps me now doing what I'm trying to do. It's part of the pattern.


JL: How did you know President Kerr?

RR: I worked for him.

JL: Tell me about that.

RR: You know, I said Mrs. Kidder called me Robert. I don't think she did. I think the only person on campus who called me Robert was President Kerr. He, very, very stiff, very formal, very precise. You see, in the course of this 01:44:00business course he took I learned shorthand, typing. One of those summers my, yeah, between my junior and senior year, I worked in Dr. Kerr's office. Oh, I'll tell you another story too. Well, I said, let me finish with Kerr first. I've, I've found him very, very fair, very reasonable, even approachable, which 01:45:00is the the usual feeling. I never got very close to him. I don't know anyone who was very close to Kerr, but when I was a senior in charge of the special edition of the Barometer and I published an editorial which aroused enough opposition so that they killed the edition, they wouldn't distribute it, and for the next two or three weeks, the Barometer was filled with denunciation of this 01:46:00guy, Reichart, who had the effrontery to do this, that, and the other thing. I went to Kerr and said, "I need some advice." I told him what was happening and he said, "Robert, do nothing." He said if you do nothing in a very short while all of this will blow over. If you try to answer it, nothing that you say will be believed. So I would advise, he said, "just to do nothing." And so I did nothing and very shortly afterwards it all blew over.


JL: What was it, something to do with students? Or?

RR: Oh yes. I what it was was that there was a cliché that was trying to rig and election in some way. And some of the things they were doing I objected to. And I was trying to point out the fact that it should be open and above the board. That's all. But, the editor, this, this- the editor was Otto Ball horn, who later was president of [unintelligible]. And I had worked, I think the summer before that, down at Mill downtown and Otto and I were loading two by 01:48:00fours onto a railroad car one at a time. And I can still remember this little Scotch foreman who stood watching us for a while and then he cussed and, "Said if you two can't lift at least two two by fours at one time you better go and draw your pay."

JL: (Laughter)