Oregon State University Libraries and Press

G. Burton Wood Oral History Interview, May 25, 1979

Oregon State University
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JL: Why did your family move back to Corvallis?

GW: Well, partly because of the fact that I was the only one who was working.

JL: Even though the money you earned was needed to pay for your education?

GW: Well, I had to pay room and board somewhere so I contributed it to my family, and then we took in some student boarders. We had two boys living in with us and I was living there, so between that income, why, we were able to keep the family together; my sister was younger and in school so this was important. So Oregon State was very good to me in the fact that they gave me enough employment to sort of hold our family together during that very critical period.

JL: What was the feeling on campus during those early Depression years?


GW: Well, there was a lot of discouragement because things were very, very, very difficult. I think I may have mentioned this, but I know that a pound of butter at that time got down to where it was selling for about 15 cents a pound. It was very hard and very difficult. Students were having problems. The student loan fund was drawn on very heavily and, as I recall, there were times when they just didn't have enough loan funds to really help all the students who needed help.

JL: Tell me how you went about getting the student loan fund.

GW: Well, you simply filled out an application which identified your need; then you presented that application to the student loan fund, and it went before a faculty committee; and the faculty committee reviewed your statement and your 00:02:00needs and, on the basis of this, they were able to grant you 50 dollars or 100 dollars. It wasn't very much. A hundred dollars was a pretty good-size student loan. There weren't the available matching funds from the federal government then that we have now, so the total amount of the student loan fund was pretty small; there was hardly enough to go around.

JL: What percentage of students applied for this student loan fund?

GW: I really don't know what number would do that, but most of the kids that I knew at that time were having trouble. All families were in difficulty; unemployment was extremely high. Many of us wondered whether the economic 00:03:00recovery would ever occur where we'd get back to where people were employed once again.

JL: So people were pessimistic?

GW: Oh, yes, very pessimistic.

JL: Even the students?

GW: Even students. Because many of them were worried about their parents who were suffering financial losses. Many of their parents lost heavily in the stock market and the financial crisis that followed. It's hard to believe that I could have had a very fortuitous experience at that time. I was extremely fortunate that this occurred for me. One of the very attractive, very desirable student 00:04:00jobs on this campus, at Oregon State, was the position of being a chauffeur for the president. It just happened that, at the end of my sophomore year, the driver for the president graduated-his name was Kenneth Courson. He later became a registrar at Eastern Washington State College at Ellensburg. Kenny Courson, whom I knew because he was in the School of Commerce, was graduating, and so I heard about this job; so I made an application for it. I knew it would be a good 00:05:00experience, but it also paid 50 cents an hour, which was pretty good money in those days. So I filed an application, and gave my references, and finally I had to go to the president's office to be interviewed by President Kerr. You can imagine a sophomore going in to be interviewed by the president! There wasn't quite the familiarity then between students and the president's office as there is now when there's a more casual type of rapport between the administration and the students. So anyway, I went in and I was interviewed, and he President Kerr wanted to know why I felt I was qualified to be a driver. I tried to stress the 00:06:00fact that I had always been interested in automobiles and that I would understand how to take care of a car--I could keep it washed and I could keep it serviced--and that I could be punctual and I could do many of these things. It was a very fortunate thing that I had made some little extra money by washing the dean of agriculture's car some. So anyway, I was very fortunate and got the job. I started then as a student driver for Presi-dent Kerr.

JL: Why did President Kerr need a chauffeur?

GW: Well, President Kerr, at that time--it's hard to understand this now, but at 00:07:00that time, President Kerr didn't drive a car very much. He knew how to drive a car but he was not skilled at it and he would get to thinking about his problems of administration and be less attentive to the driving task, and it worried his family a little bit. So, as a result of that, the College provided him with an automobile and they worked out an arrangement whereby he would have a student driver, so that he could completely relax and not have to worry about driving from one point to another. He was a very active president, very busy president.


JL: It seems to me that would have been considered a very great luxury during the Depression.

GW: Well, it was. It was a luxury and yet, in retrospect, I think it was a good thing that he used a student driving strategy because it relieved his mind of a lot of pressures and tensions. He could concentrate on things that were important to Oregon State University rather than have to worry about driving. See, in those days, back in the twenties and thirties, the proportion of people that drove was not as high, I think, as it is today. Many people just didn't learn to drive a car; or, they didn't drive enough to be proficient at it. He 00:09:00had no automobile of his own, and so he simply used this University car for official business and, on very rare occasions, for private business, which I'm sure he was authorized to do. Once in a while, he would take the car out himself; but he always worried his family and worried some of us when he did that because, as one of the men said at the time, he always took his half of the road right down the middle.

JL: What kind of a car did he have?

GW: He had a 1928 Cadillac seven-passenger limousine. It was a nice automobile. It was a beautiful maroon-colored automobile with a black fabric top and six 00:10:00wheels. That is, it had the spare tires mounted on the side. It had a monstrous big trunk, a separate piece, which was mounted on a rack that was built on the back of the car. That was very common in that period. I remember when I was a student, or living in Corvallis, rather, President Kerr and his family had another car. They had a Cole, with an eight-cylinder V-8 engine. It was the first car in Corvallis, as I recall, with balloon tires. You know, the older cars had high pressure tires, and then about 1923-1924 they came out with a 00:11:00balloon tire which was a low pressure tire.

JL: When you served as chauffeur for President Kerr, you drove him around only for official business? Not for private business?

GW: That's right. That's right. Occasionally, I would drive him for private business, but he was very careful about that. If he wanted to go with somebody on private business, he'd usually ride with somebody else, and he would only use the official car when it was a, sort of a semi-related-private-university trip. 00:12:00He was very careful, and so my driving was mostly just for official business-many trips to Portland because he had much business to take care of in Portland for the University. He would call me, usually give me two or three hours' notice, and then I would go get the car, and back it up over the curb on the main walkway into the Commerce building, Bexell Hall now. Then I would go up to the office, and he would have volumes of material; I would carry out as many 00:13:00as three arm loads. This trunk was about 36 inches long and about 15 inches deep and about 18 inches high, and I would usually fill that with various kinds of official documents and reports, and many times I would never even take it out of the car. I would load that trunk up and we'd go to Portland. He always stayed at the Imperial Hotel which is a downtown hotel near Broadway and Washington. I would get a room there also, but I would very often not take anything out of the trunk. I would drop him off at the hotel and then take the car down to the 00:14:00Imperial Hotel garage, and put it in the garage, and just leave it there until he called me and he wanted to go someplace if he had an appointment with a member of the Board of Regents or with some other individual involving University business. I remember one day I was taking this stuff out of his office, getting ready to take to a trip someplace, and he said to me --he always called me "Mr. Wood"--and he said to me, "Mr. Wood, I suppose you wonder why I ask you to carry all this material down to the car, load it in the trunk, and many times we don't even take it out." And I said, "Yes, I have wondered why we do that." And he said: "Well, you know, Mr. Wood, there could be a time when I 00:15:00would need some of that material in order to press something to an advantage for Oregon State College. If I had the material with me, I could win the advantage; if I didn't have the material with me, I could lose it. So in order to be on the safe side, and to be sure that I would always be prepared for whatever comes up, I always take it along with me." So that was a very valuable lesson to me, you know. I learned something as a student that was useful to me all the rest of my life.

JL: And that is to be prepared.

GW: Be prepared, yes. And don't be afraid to take along things that you may or 00:16:00may not use; and don't worry about it, because if you need them and don't have them you could lose an advantage, but if you need them and do have them, then you can press your advantage to a satisfactory conclusion. So it was a very valuable experience for me and, as I say, it helped me in all my professional career, just that little observation while working for him many years ago.

JL: Had you quit school by this time?

GW: No, no. I was a junior...

JL: This was in 1931?

GW: This was 1931, as I recall. I was a junior and he would call me out of class. I would sometimes be gone for a day or two or a week, and other times it would be an afternoon or a morning, and I missed some classes. I worked hard to 00:17:00keep up my grades during this period, but professors were tolerant and willing to work with me on it. They understood what the situation was; they had been through it with other students. It wasn't me; they were respecting the position of the student who was trying to earn a little money, but, at the same time, they were trying to help the president of the University. So I was able to make up my classes. I had to miss some and they were tolerant with me, but I still was able to maintain a reasonable G.P.A. When I'd be in Portland, I'd have to sit in my hotel room; sometimes all day long and I had lots of time to study.

JL: Just waiting for a phone call from President Kerr?


GW: I couldn't leave, because if I left and he would call me and I wasn't available, then I knew I would put him at a disadvantage. So the only way I could be sure of fulfilling my obligation to him was to just be there. It got to be tiresome being confined to your hotel room, you know, but, occasionally, he would call me and he'd say, "Now, Mr. Wood, I'm not going to be using the car this afternoon or this evening." I appreciated that because it would give me a chance to get out and go for a walk, or do something different.

JL: He was very considerate of you then?

GW: Oh, he was a very wonderful person. He was very thoughtful and was really very well-liked by the faculty and the students. Many people just loved the 00:19:00gentleman. He was a kind of austere person in many respects, but he was a very human individual. And he was a kind of a frustrated engineer-scientist, in a way. Every once in a while, when we would be in Portland for example, he would say to me, "Mr. Wood, could you bring the car around?" And I would go get the car and bring it to the front of the hotel; and he'd get in, and he would say, "Can you take me to St. Johns?" and I'd say, "Yes." So I would take him to St. Johns area in Portland, and he would ask me to park the car by an off ramp of 00:20:00the St. Johns Bridge-that beautiful structure. I don't know whether you're familiar with it or not; it's a beautiful structure that spans the river. Then he would get out of the car and walk down this little trail together and go underneath the bridge. He would look at the engineering aspects of the support and the foundations and how everything was all tied together. This was sort of his relaxation. He would sometimes spend an hour or two just walking around and studying the engineering design, the structural characteristics, and examine the various abutments and foundations. He was just fascinated with this sort of 00:21:00thing. So I knew that he had an engineering sense. We would do that, oh, several times on occasion.

JL: Would he talk to you about what he was observing?

GW: We would do this occasionally, but he was very reflective, very studious. On

occasion he would visit with me. I remember one time we were having a sandwich some place--I think it was in the Memorial Union building, in the tearoom, one of the places. It just happened that it was convenient for us to be there, and 00:22:00he was talking about students. Ordinarily when we were together he was always thinking about what he was going to do at the other end; but this time, we were having a sandwich and a glass of milk, and he said to me: "You know, you see a lot of students at a university like this. Many of them are very bright young people; but many of them, while they are so bright, are not so practical." And he said, "If I had my choice, and were going to hire a young student, I would 00:23:00probably hire a student with a strong 'B' average rather than a strong 'A' average because I think, on the average, that I would get a more practical, a more well-balanced, a more well-rounded student who had been interested in many things while he was going to Oregon State other than just grades." I thought that was interesting to come from him to have some reason to make this kind of an observation. Typically, when we would get in the car in front of the Commerce Building where his office was located, he would sit in the back seat until we drove out of town. I always kept a lap robe on the robe rail in the back of the front seat. And he would take off his hat and put it up in the window. He would 00:24:00take off his topcoat always when he got in; he always wore a topcoat; always wore a hat, very formal. We always kept a couple of pillows in the back, little automobile cushions, and he would lie down and curl up on the back seat, pull this lap robe over him, cover himself up and he would go to sleep. He would completely relax as he had the great ability to recuperate that way. He could have had the most difficult morning and the most active morning, and yet he 00:25:00could lie down in the back seat of that car and go to sleep--beautiful self-discipline. I was supposed to always awaken him about 15 minutes before we got to Portland. And so I would always watch where I was, and I knew from experience about where I should awaken him. He would allow me an hour and 45 minutes usually, to an hour and 50 minutes to get to Portland. If he had an appointment in Portland, why he would gauge it on this. And this was in 1931-1932.

JL: That's fast driving.

GW: And that was fast driving, yes, it was. But I would move right along. I would move along 50 to 60 mph depending upon the moving traffic, but the car was a heavy car and had good brakes. It was well maintained because I made sure that it was well maintained.


JL: He never talked to you while you were driving?

GW: No, he never did.

JL: On any trips?

GW: Never. He wanted me to spend my full time operating the vehicle, so we never visited. He would just tell me where he wanted to go when he got in the car, and he would tell me when his appointment was. Very, very seldom did we have a complication that caused us to be late. He was a very punctual individual. When he called me and said, "Mr. Wood, I want to leave at 1:15 p.m. or 1:10 p.m. I have a 3:00 p.m. meeting in Portland;" why I would know that I would get there and I'd be all ready to go at one o'clock. I'd have everything loaded in the car and he would come down at 1:10 p.m. and we would be off to Portland.


JL: You had to be notified ahead of time if you were spending the night?

GW: Yes, usually a couple of hours. When I would be called out of class I would be given a couple hours' notice. I could usually go home and put on a suit. But I kept a bag packed all the time. I had a bag that I kept in the car so that I never had to worry about it. I always kept fresh and extra clothing in it.

JL: This job must have helped your financial situation with your family?

GW: Oh, it did because I was making sometimes $60 to $80 a month. In those days, that would go a long way.

JL: Would he treat you to meals in special places?

GW: No, usually not. We were not out many times where we would be needing a meal.


JL: So you dined alone then?

GW: Most of the time, yes. If I were in the hotel, I'd let the hotel know where I would be. So it was a very active thing, and it kept me going, and I made good money. I always tried to be very punctual and tried to be very careful. We never had an accident. We didn't have any problems at all. I always kept the car washed; he had a gas pump in the garage next to his house, so I would keep the 00:29:00car filled with gas; and I would always make sure it was serviced properly.

JL: Where was the car kept?

GW: Well, he had a house right on campus that was located very near where Rogers Hall is now and he had a two-car garage; this car was always in one stall and I would go in periodically. Sometimes we wouldn't go anyplace for a week, you know, and then other times we could be gone two or three times in a week.

JL: How long were you a chauffeur?

GW: I was a student driver during my junior year. I was to graduate in 1933; and then in the fall of 1932, as I recall the date September 6, 1932, he was named 00:30:00the chancellor of the new State System of Higher Education. It was at that time that he wanted to move to Eugene, and he asked me if I would have any objection to continuing my education at Eugene, so that I could go over and continue to drive for him. Apparently, he was a little reluctant to break in someone brand new while he was new on the job, and he knew that I was familiar with his routine and knew many of the people that he would see. I was flattered at being asked to go with him, and I was still interested in holding the family together, and so I told him, yes, that I would be pleased to do this. I really did not 00:31:00want to leave Corvallis; I was going with an Oregon State University girl at the time, and I didn't want to leave her, but I decided that this was the best thing to do. One of the reasons was because my major was in the School of Business and they stopped that as a major at Corvallis; and so I was somewhat comforted by the fact that I could not graduate from Oregon State and would have had to have transferred anyway, and to be able to go over there and have a job just seemed to me a very fine arrangement. So I transferred in my senior year from Oregon 00:32:00State to the University of Oregon. I moved over there and lived in Friendly Hall which at that time was a dormitory right on the campus and almost across from Johnson Hall where his Chancellor Kerr's office was. Now, we did not take the Oregon State University car. The president over there had a different car, so I drove that car, and it wasn't nearly as nice a car as the one that I had been driving; but it worked fine. So I moved over and started classes. But it was a new job for him, and I spent most of my time on the road with him. In fact, I worked almost full-time for him and I had to drop out of school. Coming from 00:33:00Oregon State, I was not very well received by the University of Oregon faculty.

JL: You mean personally?

GW: No, not personally. There was enmity and unfriendliness between Oregon State and University of Oregon because rivalry for the budget, financing, and this sort of thing caused considerable unpopularity between the two schools. The purpose of this new higher education system was to put all universities under one head, and to have only one Board of Higher Education, in order to minimize this rivalry of everybody trying to outgain the other. And so I got right in the 00:34:00middle of this. The fact that he came from Oregon State as the new chancellor was a sore spot to the University of Oregon people. They were hoping it would be somebody who was completely independent, in the sense that he had no interest in either institution. Some of the professors were very nice to me; my professors in the School of Business were just outstanding; they were very gracious and very kind and very helpful. It was in the Social Science Department where I had most of my trouble.

JL: How was this enmity manifested?

GW: Well, I would come to class, after having been gone for a week or so, and my 00:35:00economics professor would say, "I see that our special student, who has this special job on the campus, is back in class today. I wonder how long he's going to be here this time." He would say things like this to me as a student. I was very sensitive about it; it was very cutting to me and it bothered me, and I wasn't very happy my first quarter over there. But I met some very fine people who lived in the dormitories--students--and they accepted me. I met other professors who were very good. One of the young men at the University of Oregon with whom I became quite well-acquainted was a young fellow by the name of Richard Neuberger, who was the editor of the University of Oregon student newspaper. He later became a United States Senator from Oregon 1956-1960. He was a very able man but he suffered a very unfortunate, early death; the reason for it I don't remember now died of cancer, March 9, 1960, at age of 42. The Legislature opened in January of 1933 and, as the head of the new combined 00:36:00higher education system, Chancellor Kerr was demanded in Salem. He was there a week at a time; often two weeks at a time, so I found that I was spending more and more of my time in Salem. It was trying and very difficult, and I finally 00:37:00had to drop out of school the second quarter because I just couldn't go to classes. I worked for him full-time in 1933 and part of 1934. In 1934, I got back to school on a serious basis. I was driving for him part-time, but the demands were so great, and I realized I had to finish my education, so I finally just had to resign the position. I didn't want to but I had to. When I decided I just had to go back to school, I took a job working at Firestone Tire and Rubber Company in Eugene. I worked at that job from 6:00 to 9:00 every night. It was a good job. I enjoyed it. I didn't get back to Oregon State until I was out of school.


JL: You resigned in 1934?

GW: It was 1934, I think. I think I worked for him 1932-1933, 1933-1934; and in the fall of 1934. I went back to the University of Oregon as a full-time student. I did some part-time work for him, but I just couldn't drive.


JL: He resigned shortly after that, too?

GW: I don't remember the chronological steps that came along in that.

JL: I think I read that he resigned in 1935 retired September 1, 1935. Would you get paid for just eight hours of work...

GW: That's right.

JL: Or was it for the overnight, too?

GW: No, I got paid for eight hours of work while I was gone, my same rate of 50 cents an hour; but I was making $100, $125 a month. Lots of times I would put in overtime where I would just get straight time, but I would get more than eight hours where I would go to a meeting and just sit waiting for him to come out, 00:40:00you know. It was very demanding. We were in Salem, I recall, in March of 1933 when the Depression was so bad that President Roosevelt decided to close the banks because there was getting to be concerned about the stability of the United States banking system. So he closed the banks, and President Kerr found himself in Salem without any money to buy his food. And so he said to me, "Mr. Wood", he said, "Would you happen to have any extra money?" And I said to him, "Yes, I have, I think, $15." He said, "Do you think you could loan me $10?" And 00:41:00I said, "Well, of course, I'd be pleased to do so." So I loaned Chancellor Kerr 10 dollars simply because the banks were closed and no one could get any money and he wasn't prepared for it. That got him through that crisis until he was able to get some money. It was an extremely tight situation. You just don't know what it's like when you don't have any money.

JL: I am sure that was a very difficult time.

GW: It was.

JL: Not only because of the Depression but because of the changes in the higher education system. Are you familiar with the Higher Education Unification Act or 00:42:00bill of 1929?

GW: Oh, yes. I don't remember the details of it but I remember the bill.

JL: What was the reaction to that bill?

GW: Very unpopular.

JL: Both at OSC and U of O?


GW: Yes, because it was going to consolidate all the liberal arts at University of Oregon and consolidate all of the technical programs at Oregon State. And they were able to bring it about. They shouldn't have; but to many people at that time it made a lot of sense. Many things are logical, you know, but practically they're very difficult to handle. What they were trying to do was to consolidate schools in order to avoid duplication. Instead of having a full-blown university at Eugene, and a full-blown university at Corvallis, why 00:44:00not have a strong school in engineering and a strong school in some of the sciences here, and put the arts and humanities and the law there? Liberal arts was taken away from Oregon State; liberal arts was given to Eugene. The School of Science was taken away from the University of Oregon, and brought to Corvallis.

JL: What was the student reaction to the consolidation?

GW: The students didn't think about it too much as I recall. They were less concerned than were the faculty. The faculty was terribly concerned. They wanted to put the School of Business at Eugene, and so the faculty that were in the School of Business here at Corvallis were forced to transfer to Eugene and become members of the School of Business over there. The School of Business at Oregon State was wiped out, as they wiped out their School of Science at Eugene; and it was not right. In retrospect, I think it was not a smart thing because 00:45:00you cannot have a full-blown university when you eliminate degree-granting programs in some of the basic fields of learning. As I look back on it, the students were less concerned because they didn't understand this--they were involved in schools.

JL: Did a lot of the professors from OSC transfer down there?

GW: Yes.

JL: So you had some of the same professors?

GW: Yes, I did.

JL: Which ones stand out in your mind?


GW: Well, Professor Newel Howland Cornish, for example, was in the School of Business. He was in merchandising and marketing, and a very erudite, active, good teacher. He went to Eugene. Professor Edward M.J Mittelman who was an economist, went to the University of Oregon. These two particularly, I remember. They had a good business school at the University of Oregon. I gained, but Oregon State School of Business became only a supplemental-program school; it couldn't be a degree granting school. And they the University of Oregon lost their School of Science; they couldn't grant degrees in science, and to have a university without a degree-granting program in science just doesn't make sense 00:47:00today. It didn't really then, but there was this pressure to minimize duplication coming out of the Depression; you must remember this. Dollars were so hard to come by for higher education; and so there was great public pressure to concentrate areas of emphasis at one institution or the other, to eliminate duplication, eliminate waste, bring about greater efficiency, and all of these things.

JL: So why did the two schools not want this?

GW: Well, they didn't want it because it was disruptive of the status quo, and people who had strong feelings about each institution and its relative autonomy 00:48:00just weren't happy about this at all. They could see that the big university concept and philosophy was being eroded because, as I say, to have a full-blown university without a strong liberal arts program at Oregon State, or to have a full-blown university with just the technical schools here, just doesn't make sense because our engineers need liberal arts classes. That's why we got started back in business, and we called our school of business, Business and Technology. We couldn't call it business. It became known as the B and T School -- Business and Technology School established 1945.


JL: Did President Kerr support the reorganization of the two schools?

GW: I do not recall what his particular position on it was. He was pretty well mandated by the events that took place. I mean he was an administrator; he was employed to carry out a responsibility and I'm not sure what discretion he had.

JL: In the years you were driving for him, there must have been a lot of discussion about the conflicts between the two schools. Do you remember him making any comments about these discussions?

GW: No.

JL: Or showing his emotions or anything?

GW: No, he was always very discreet with me. And the interesting thing was, during that period, I would hear lots of things, and people would make comments and observations to me; why they did it, I don't know, but they would make comments and make observations to me that they shouldn't have really been telling me.

JL: Can you remember anything that was told to you?

GW: No, I don't remember them the comments now.

JL: Comments about what?

GW: Oh, comments about what was going to happen and that somebody was going to 00:50:00do something. So I became kind of a listening post for Chancellor Kerr during that period. I picked up a lot of student gossip, and a lot of faculty gossip, and other things; and when I thought it was appropriate to do so, I would pass it along to him.

JL: What kind of things would they talk to you about?

GW: Oh, it had to do about faculty moves that were going to take place to try to embarrass somebody. When I thought that they might help the Chancellor to blunt something or to stabilize something, why, I would pass them along to him; and he was able to act on some of these things and contribute to stability when it 00:51:00might have, you know, gotten out of hand. So I had a lot of fun doing that; I enjoyed that.

JL: Do you remember any particular meetings where he would come out troubled?

GW: No, I don't. No, I don't. I do not recall any particular meetings. We're going back 40-some years. I should have kept a diary, I guess, but I don't 00:52:00recall many of those meetings. I know that the strain was extremely great on him.

JL: How could you tell that?

GW: He would be physically tired, mentally tired, nervous, you could tell this. And I know from talking to members of his family that were always nice to me. Mrs. Kerr, she was just a sweetheart.

JL: Tell me about her.

GW: Oh, she was a lovely, lovely lady and she was always very friendly and very concerned, and, of course, she would always ask me to look out for his well-being which I would try to do; but, being a student, I had to be very careful of my place, you know, and I didn't want to ever be caught off-base.


JL: It doesn't sound like he would have much time to spend with his family.

GW: He was a very busy man. He was a very devoted family man. He was, as I say, really well-loved and respected by the faculty at Oregon State. He could make a decision-and this is a great characteristic-he could make a decision and normally it would be a good decision, the right decision; but there was no procrastination about the man at all. He was always one to assemble the facts, to weigh the facts, and to analyze them, and then, on the basis of the facts, to make a decision, and he would not procrastinate. So everyone respected him and 00:54:00loved him for this, because they didn't get put off, or turned away, or eased out of the situation. They always knew where they stood with him. He was a good administrator.

JL: How did you know that he had these characteristics?

GW: When you're in a situation like mine you cannot help but hear these things: you hear others talk; they know that they can trust you, so they-talk in your presence. I couldn't disclose these things, but I knew that Dr. Kerr was a man who could make a decision. I could hear him make decisions with respect to our problems, for example, if we had a question come up. And he could always just snap it right off, and say, "This is what we'll do." And I liked that. He 00:55:00wasn't, "Well, let me think about it," "Call me tomorrow," "See me tomorrow," "Come back some other time." It was right now. If you needed to know something he could tell you, yes, or, no, and I liked that. I would hear these things; you can't help it. And you can't be around a man as much as I was and as close as I was, without some of these things rubbing off on you. And other people around the President's administrative family would confide things in me. So it was a rich experience that helped me all of my professional career.

JL: I understand some of his interests were music and math.

GW: Oh, yes.

JL: Did you ever take him to a concert?


GW: Oh, I'm sure I did, but those don't stand out. He loved to play golf and occasionally, he would put his golf clubs in the trunk of the car, when I would take him over to the Oregon coast for a meeting. While he was there, he would play golf at the Agate Beach Golf Course. I remember going up there several times. I didn't play golf, so I didn't play with him, but I was invited to play with him. He was always very thoughtful about me in that respect.

JL: He was a very formal man, I understand?

GW: Very formal. Extremely formal.

JL: He never let go and talked to you about his job?

GW: No. No, he would never let down. Once in a while he would make some little humorous comment--he had a great sense of humor-he'd make some humorous comment, 00:57:00but he was very formal with me.

JL: Did you have any impression of how he really felt about moving to Eugene?

GW: I don't think I really had any sensing of this. I know, when he talked to me, he told me it was going to be a very difficult period, and that it was a very challenging period; it would not be an easy time for him. He said that I could help in the transition if I would not mind finishing my degree program at the University of Oregon.

JL: I know that during this period of consolidation there was no president at eithernschool.

GW: That's correct.

JL: Do you remember hearing anything about this situation?

GW: Well, I don't remember that so much. I just remember hearing the comments from faculty members about their being concerned.

JL: I read that Oregon State College lost more than any other institution in 00:58:00the 1932 reorganization.

GW: I guess I would have to agree because all of the ancillary schools that are so critical in rounding and developing a complete program of a technical school were taken away. And it's just no good. Just not good. I think we lost our School of Education; we lost our School of Business; we lost our School of Liberal Arts. All of those broadening influences for a student, and those who wanted to specialize, were stripped.


JL: Makes you wonder why there was so much animosity from U of O faculty members.

GW: Well, they lost a great deal. All that they had left were the humanities, the School of Law, and the Arts and Architecture. They just didn't have any program in science. And for a university... Of course, there had always been jealousy between the two schools--intense rivalry.

JL: And that was manifested in athletics, and what else?

GW: In athletics, in student activities, in student relationships--rivalry was intense. You just can't believe what it was. It's mild now compared to what it was at that time.


JL: Did you ever go to a game between the two schools?

GW: Oh, yes.

JL: What was it like? How was it different from today's games?

GW: We used to have what was called a freshman bonfire at Oregon State. We used to call it the rook bonfire. It was a big student-body event and students would work and work and work and work, gathering trash and lumber and boxes and everything, to build this thing 30 to 40 feet high. One of the expectations was that somebody from the University of Oregon would attempt to sneak over in the middle of the night and set it off prematurely. And this kind of thing would 01:01:00lead to other attacks that would deface buildings. They would paint U of O on our buildings; they would try to move in and destroy things. We would do the same thing; we would send a gang over there to try to disrupt the orderly process of things. This was just a great sport. It was very intense; and I remember, on one occasion as a student here, when I participated in an automobile trip to Eugene for the purpose of being involved in some kind of a disruptive thing to vent my strong feelings against the Ducks. It was just kind 01:02:00of built into us. We were the cow college, and they were the waddling ducks, and so anything we could do to humiliate them, to embarrass them, to get one up on them, was just the big sport of the day.

JL: Are you thinking of personalities, or what?

GW: Well, I remember when Dick Neuberger was editor of the University of Oregon Daily Emerald, and I believe it was our Oregon State Barometer-I'd have to go back and verify this, but my memory teases me that somewhere we came out with a 01:03:00comment: "Boiga, boiga, limboiga, Neuboiga, hamboiga," see? It was an unfortunate personal attack on Dick Neuberger, and it was primarily because of some of the things that Neuberger was saying in the Oregon Emerald that were not complimentary of Oregon State. So we came back and, not putting it on a journalistic plane, we put it on a personal plane, which is always unfortunate. And we got down to the "boiga, boiga..." bit, you know. Dick was Jewish, but just a fine guy, and it was just unfortunate because Dick was simply doing what an editor of a newspaper would do. I just really liked the guy and I felt badly 01:04:00about it. But I remember when that happened.

JL: When you transferred down there, weren't you looked upon as a turncoat?

GW: Well, I was not respected. I was respected here because I'd been very active in student body affairs, but, I tell you, members of my own fraternity at U of O were tolerant, but they were not very happy with me, and I didn't affiliate with them. I was looked at as an outsider and as a kind of a carpetbagger.

JL: Especially since you were friends with President Kerr?

GW: When I drove for the President it did not help. But I made some very fine friends in the Friendly Hall Dormitory. Many of those people are just as warm 01:05:00friends today as they were back 40-some years ago.

JL: Do you remember any people that President Kerr especially admired?

GW: Well, of course. The man that he really admired is a man still living in Portland, E. C. Sammons. Mr. Sammons was, at that time, active in the United States National Bank; he was their president. And he was on the Board of Regents. President Kerr had great respect for E. C. Sammons, and he trusted Mr. Sammons. It would be nice someday, if you are interested in pursuing it, for you 01:06:00to get up to Portland and meet Mr. Sammons. Mr. Sammons is in his eighties. He's just as alert and knowledgeable as he has ever been. Mr. Sammons was a very bright man and a very effective, very highly respected man. President Kerr liked him and thought highly of him; he admired him and they worked very closely together in the inter-est of Oregon State. One year President Kerr invited Mr. Sammons, as a member of the Board of Regents and as a friend, to come down and address the graduating class. And Mr. Sammons will tell you that he told this 01:07:00graduating class that people who think by the inch and talk by the yard will soon get kicked by the foot, (chuckle) Which is a very interesting observation when you stop to think about it, that people who think by the inch don't think very much, but they're always very expansive fancy talkers who will soon, you know, get their come-uppance. But Mr. Sammons was a very good friend. The other man that President Kerr trusted so much on the Board of Regents was a man by the name of Irvine; I think his initials were B. F. He was the editor of the Oregon Journal. Mr. Irvine was blind, but a brilliant man and a very 01:08:00talented and gifted man, so they he and President Kerr had a great rapport, one with the other. And President Kerr trusted him. He was a tremendous individual. He got around by himself. Mr. Kerr would pick him up on occasion and they would go to meetings together. He would come down and meet with Mr. Kerr here, as did Mr. Sammons. These two men I remember in particular because the President seemed to have a great rapport with these two men; he respected their judgment; he respected their ability. And President Kerr was a very good operator. I recall 01:09:00one time that one of the men with whom he worked in Portland said, "President Kerr is a most remarkable man.", that "if there was a piano keyboard stretched between Corvallis and Portland, he is so skillful and so clever that he could walk from one end of that keyboard to the other without making a sound." I 01:10:00remember him telling me that when I was driving for President Kerr. I don't recall who said this, but it was an interesting commentary on the man, that he could do things like that.

JL: The only times you can remember his doing something pleasurable or leisurely was playing golf and walking underneath the St. Johns bridge to examine its structural characteristics?

GW: Oh, yes, that was the time that he relaxed. He was a man that was all-business--mostly--and very consumed by his responsibility, and very serious I know he played with his family. Occasionally, we would pick up Mrs. Kerr When she was with him, we would drive out east of Portland at a kind of a leisurely pace; he would relax, and they would just kind of drive along. She would ask him 01:11:00if he had any change; she wanted to stop and do something. You know, people often referred to change as pocket money or pin money; she always referred to it as chicken money; she would want to know if he happened to have any chicken money with him. She had a wonderful sense of humor and he had a very mischievous twinkle in his eye. I could always just see the smile kind of curve, start to form around his mouth, and his eyes began to sparkle and he would respond to her. He would, of course, relax with her. But he was always very careful never 01:12:00to be too informal when a non-member of the family was there. He was a very formal person. And I respected this.

JL: You were not included as almost one of the family?

GW: No, no. They were always very nice, and they were always very friendly, and just charming. I never felt uncomfortable. I was not a member of the family and I never felt that I should be. I was an outsider, and I felt that I should keep my place, and I should be formal, and I should not listen; I should kind of close my thoughts, this sort of thing. I felt very strongly that way and I still do: that one should not abuse this informality.

JL: What about his children? Did they ever go with him up to Portland?


GW: Well, not very often. His son was away at law school most of the time. I have gotten to know his son very well since he returned to practice in Portland.

JL: Is that Robert?

GW: Robert, yes. And I knew the daughters, one who lived in Salem Leonora Kerr Shinn and one who lived in Spokane Genieve Kerr Henry. I got to know them very well and knew their husbands.

JL: How did you get to know the children?

GW: Oh, we'd get together occasionally and they got to know me; and then, after I quit driving for them, I became active at Oregon State. They were both in the agriculture fields these two daughters and their husbands. One of them, Ernest E. Henry, I knew very well because he was very active in agriculture. I followed 01:14:00his career with great interest. The other one was Mr. Robert E. Shinn who ran the cherry growers' plant over in Salem; I knew him and we used to go by and see them occasionally when we would be going through Salem. So I knew them post my experience working with President Kerr, rather than concurrently.

JL: I read about an incident involving Robert Kerr when he was at camp. Apparently, he got hit in the head with a baseball. It knocked him out.

GW: Oh.

JL: President Kerr was called and, apparently, they were something like four hours away from Corvallis, and Kerr drove immediately up there. He stepped out 01:15:00like he had just left his office. He was meticulously dressed and so forth, and saw that his son was all right and got back in the car and drove home again.

GW: If it happened, I don't think it happened to me. I think that happened to some previous car driver because it did not happen to me.

JL: Do you remember George W. Peavy Dean of School of Forestry, OAC, 1912-1940; Acting President, OAC, 1932-1934; President, 1934-1940 and his friendship with Kerr?

GW: Oh, yes. Very well.

JL: What do you remember?

GW: Well, he liked George Peavy because George Peavy was a very informal person. George Peavy had a very good sense of humor and Peavy and President Kerr 01:16:00just hit it off beautifully.

JL: Peavy was informal and Kerr was formal.

GW: Peavy was very informal. Of course, being a forester, he was accustomed to wearing old clothes, and putting on boots and some tin pants and an open shirt and going out and being with the boys. And if Peavy wanted to relax and go up to the Arboretum and cook a steak out at the Arboretum, he would call up one of his friends and say, "What are you doing? I feel like I'd like to have you bring a 01:17:00bottle and I'll bring some steaks and we'll go up and have an evening and visit."

JL: Would Kerr do this with Peavy?

GW: Kerr would not. I doubt if he ever did take a drink. I don't think he did. I never did see the man in anything but a formal or very semi-formal environment.

JL: So why do you think he was attracted to Peavy?

GW: Oh, I think he enjoyed Peavy because Peavy was a gregarious person; he was an outgoing person; he had a good sense of humor; he liked to kid people; he was intelligent; he was a good administrator. And President Kerr respected the man; 01:18:00he liked his informality, I think. I can't tell you more than this.

JL: Did they ever go anyplace together, to Portland or to meetings or anything?

GW: Not that I'm aware of. Not that I recall.

JL: How did you know that they were close friends?

GW: I got to know George Peavy in an entirely different way so I really knew of their friendship that way more than I knew of it from my contacts with President Kerr.

JL: I'd like to ask you about that later. Were you aware at the time you were driving that President Kerr was a Mormon?

GW: I believe so.

JL: He never discussed his religion with you at all?


GW: No, no. No. I'm not sure that I fully understood that as a student, but I know I did later understand this. Well, he was the kind of man that I always hoped that I could be, you know. He was smart, and he was intelligent, and he could make a decision, and he was very personable and very kind, could be very strict, but he was honest. You know, as you go through life, certain people rub off things on you. I know you've had this happen to you, and it happens to everyone. And as I went through life, I always thought, well, if I could just be 01:20:00part of the individual that William Jasper Kerr was, I'd consider myself very fortunate. And part of this was the association that prevailed between--I think all of his student drivers carried that same--it just sort of rubbed off on them.

JL: Did he have any major faults?

GW: If he had any I never did know of them. No, he was a really great man, in my opinion.

JL: I read that somebody said that Kerr had two distinguishing characteristics that placed him above others. One was poise and the other was his magnanimity.

GW: I'm sure you're right. Of all the men that I've met--I've met men in 01:21:00government at all levels, including presidents--and he's one of the great men that I have known in my experience; I mean just being what I think is a great man.

JL: Was he charismatic?

GW: Oh, yes.

JL: Did he ever discuss your goals with you or your academic career?

GW: No, we really didn't have much of a personal relationship. I always felt that if I wanted to discuss something with him, I could have done it, but I was 01:22:00always kind of awestruck with him because of his position, and, as I say, because of his being formal. He was always crisply dressed; he was always crisply prepared personally. I remember when I would awaken him outside of Portland, he would immediately sit up; he would comb his hair; he would adjust his shirt; he would adjust his tie; he would make sure that he was impeccable. To me he was "the impeccable man," and so he did not convey to me a kind of a father son image. Some people are kind of fatherly in the sense that you just 01:23:00like to be buddy-buddy; he wasn't this kind. When you were with him, you maintained a respect; the dignity of the man and the poise of the man was such that, well, you just were a little bit set apart. I liked that and I always thoroughly enjoyed it.

JL: Can you remember any professors on campus that Kerr respected or admired more than others?

GW: I would have to think about this because I would have to go back and think about the professors who I knew on this campus. Oh, he had many confidential people with whom he had close rapport while he was on the faculty. And, of course, one of the men that he respected very much was his executive assistant, William Arthur Jensen, W. A. Jensen. He respected him very much, but he liked so 01:24:00many men. He trusted his deans; he picked his deans very carefully; he trusted them. He trusted everyone. I remember one man that he liked very much was the athletic director, Percy Locey, who was a student here at Oregon State. He became a faculty member He graduated from OSC in 1924; joined OSC faculty in 1936. You should talk to Percy Locey. He knew President Kerr very well. He's still living here in Corvallis. He's in his eighties. Have you thought about 01:25:00talking to someone like Percy Locey?

JL: I'll write his name down. Did you know of anyone President Kerr disliked?

GW: I do not know of anyone he disliked. He was very discreet. He never did talk about those things with me, and I'm glad that he didn't. I could sense where the trouble spots were and so I was able to be helpful in a quiet way.

JL: You resigned in 1934, you said, and then you started school at the U of O. So did you graduate that year, 1935?

GW: No, because of the complications, I was about eight credits shy of 01:26:00graduation. But the dean of the School of Business down at the University of Oregon and I kind of hit it off all right together and a good job came along at the end of my senior year and he encouraged me to take it. So I decided to take it without completing my work, and I did.

JL: What job was it?

GW: I had a chance to take a position with the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company were looking for people, and they 01:27:00were taking one or two from the universities. They picked me from the University of Oregon and someone from Oregon State. They picked about 25 or 30 people around the United States and took them back to Akron, Ohio, and we went to school for about six weeks at the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company factory in Akron, Ohio.

JL: To learn managerial skills?

GW: It was for future managerial skills, yes.

JL: Why were you chosen over other students?