Interview with Robert H. Axline May 23 1991

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Interview with Robert H. Axline May 23 1991
Proctor, Samuel ( Interviewer )
Axline, Robert H. ( Interviewee )
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Florida Business Leaders Oral History Collection ( local )

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Interviewed: Robert H. Axline
Interviewee: Samuel Proctor
May 23, 1991

P: I am here to do an oral history interview with Robert H.

Axline. This is May 23, 1991. Bob, one of the first things

I would like to ask you, since I do not have that

information, is t4-1lm; the address here in Punta Gorda.

A: 2021 Via Seville.

P: And it is Punta Gorda, of course.

A: Punta Gorda.

P: What is the zip [code] here?

A: 33950.

P: What is your birthdate?

A: May 4, 1907.

P: And you were born where?

A: Chester, Illinois.

P: What is the H in your middle initial?

A: Henry.

P: Robert Henry Axline.

A: Right.

P: Bob, the first thing I would like to talk with you about,

because I was intrigued with the information that you

furnished me, is your family. Let us start off with your

father. Give me his name.

A: Elmer Clifton Axline.

P: And he was born where and when?

A: He was born in Lacon [Illinois on September 13, 1874].

P: What was your mother's name?

A: Minnie Margaret Quigley. [She was born March 12, 1883, near

Clinton, Illinois. She died September 16, 1965.]

P: Now, I guess yaE-- 3m y. -.-^ erO=et heOn the history of

your familygoes back -t 1 e bei e me-s ai. i -e

before the beginning of the American Revolution. Just kind

of briefly tell me a little bit about the family background.

I am very intrigued.

A: Actually, some years ago a maiden aunt in Iowa--she had been

a schooleacher--started writing a book listing all of the

ancestors of the Axline group. The name was, I believe,

Oechslen [which means young ox].

P: r Where did jm-;rz2d the family .iad.. re -da emigrate ~-fc

A: Either from Switzerland or Germany.

P: Some area, then, of western Europe.

A: Yes.

P: And they came to America--it was not yet the United States--

at the beginning of the eighteenth century [October 2,


A: That is right.

P: And settled where?

A: In [Philadelphia] Pennsylvania.

P: It seems to me that they were moving back and forth between

Pennsylvania and Virginia.

A: They were.

P: They were farmers?

A: Most of them, to my knowledge, were farmers.

P: So that would not be an unusual sort of activity.

A: No.

P: What about your mother's family, the Quigleys?

A: The Quigleys were definitely Irish. Her mother was named

Hall, [which is] English. I do not know when they came over

here. Unfortunately, we never even talked about it.

P: So perhaps that part of the family history is lost?

A: I would say so. As far as I know, all of their children are


P: Where did your mother come from? Where was she born?

A: On a farm up near Clinton, Illinois.

P: And your father was in what kind of business?

A: His father was an importer of horses.

P: N lt~lNI. our grandfather?

A: My grandfather.

P: What was his name?

A: Axline. But I do not remember his first name.

P: Where was he living at the time that your father was born?

A: Lacon, Illinois.

P: Is that in the southern part of Illinois?

A: No, north central. [Lecon is the county seat of Marshall

County north of Peoria, along the Illinois River.]

P: And he was an importer, then, of horses.

A: The big work horses.

P: So that was his major occupation.

A: It was his occupation.

P: And your father was born there when the family was living

near Lacon.

A: Yes.

P: Presumably/ere they/living on a farda Was he importing the

horses [for farm work]? L-)

A: I believe they were.

P: So your father, then, might be called a farm boy, at least

when he got started.

A: Yes.

P: What was your father's education?

A: He just finished high school. His father died before he

finished higfh=BweP~-, so waen he fri;srhed-high schOcl- had

his mother, two sisters, and a younger brother to help


P: He was the oldest in the family?

A: He was the oldest.

P: So he had to help maintain the family, then, and take his

father's place as an economic provider for the family.

A: That is right.

P: So what did he do? -

A: He started on the railroad as a messenger boy and then a


P: What was a messenger boy's responsibilities in those early


A: In-the- eary ye-I_';- thir- he idea was to take messages

that came in by telegraph to the different people in the

office that they were addressedl-Aa

P: Where would he have been living at the time?

A: At that time in Wenona [Illinois].

P: -I=wusa.. L v11 ..i.W.e.a Was that a large enough

[town]? Was it a rail center?

A: No.

P: Wenona was a small community, then.

A: It was a small town and a station on the Illinois Central

[IC] line where he we-re4d

P: He worked for the IC, then.

A: Yes.

P: So he starts out as a messenger and then becomes a


A: Yes.

P: And a telegrapher in those days [did what]? Once again,

spell out what his responsibilities were.

A: Atea44-, Le received and sent the messages by Morse code.

P: Ml de had an office in Wenona?

A: He worked in the office.

P: Now, he is still single at that point, is he not?

A: He was single.

P: Taking care of his mother and his brother and two sisters.

A: That is right.

P: What happened to the other kids in the family, your father's

siblings, the people he was taking care of before you people

arrived on the scene?

A: He had the two sisters, and they both married and lived in


P: So those were your two aunts.

A: -waiW aeiu. He had one younger brotherA considerably

younger, e= After he got through high school my father gave

him financial help to send him through the University of


P: And that is what happened? He went on and got a degree?

A: He served in World War I,-aSZ hen he came back from World

War I he worked for Gossard Corset Company, a small corset

company [in a town] north of Wenona. From there he

eventually went on to the New York office and became vice-

president in charge of sales. He lived in New York until he


P: Did any of your aunts and your uncle have children -who-are

A: My uncle did not have any children. One aunt, the oldest

sister, did not have children. The younger sister did; she

had a daughter and a son.

P: So you had two first cousins, then.

A: Tw first didhe mi Ye a

P: How long did the family and your father stay 6'in Wenona?

A: Not very long/ because he had an opportunity for

advancement. He went to Freeport, Illinois.

P: Where is Freeport?

A: In the northern part of Illinois, west of Chicago.

P: Now, what job did he have there?

A: At that time, I think he was a dispatcher. [He routed the

trains over the tracks.]

P: Now, when does he meet your mother?

A: He met her in Freeport, Illinois. She was raised on a farm

south of Clinton, Illinois. She went to business college in

Clinton. She got a job working for the railroad and was

transferred to Freeport, Illinois. That is where they met.

P: And they met as a result of both being Illinois Central


A: That is right.

P: And by this time, you say he is a dispatcher?

A: Yes.

P: So he has moved up the economic ladder a little bit.

A: That is right.

P: What was her job?

A: Secretary.

P: And they were married when?

A: I am not sure.

P: Well, let's see. You were born in 1907, so presumably it

was some time before 1907. You are the oldest child, right?

A: I am the oldest.

P: OK. And you have a sister?

A: Right.

P: And her name is what?

A: Helen Elizabeth Dolan.

P: She has children?

A: She has one boy who went to Vanderbilt [University in

Nashville, Tennessee]. He is a doctor and now teaches at

the University of North Carolina in Ashville.

P: In medicine?


P: And she has a daughter?

A: She has no daughter; only a son.

_i -Jucte- o-on?.

P: OK. Then you had a younger brother. What was his name?

A: Elmer Clifton Axline, a n.-

P: The same as your father. That is kind of interesting that

you would not have been the junior. I wonder why.

A: My father had a good friend that worked on the railroad, and

apparently he promised this good friend the first son he had

would be named after him. His name was Henry, so that is

where I got my middle name.

P: So where does the Robert [come from]?

A: I do not know. [laughter]

P: Maybe he was reading Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure

Island at the time and liked Robert. So your younger

brother, then, becomes the junior in the family.

A: Right.

P: What happens to him?

A: He became a civil engineer. He went to Purdue and then

finished at the University of Missouri [at Columbia]. About

that time, World War II had started, so my brother worked

for a construction company, Frazier Brace, building

munitions plants in the St. Louis area. Later on he had a

chance to go to an engineering company in Kansas. The man

who owned the engineering company told him he wanted him to

go to Albuquerque, New Mexico, because he thought there was

a future in engineering in New Mexico. There were large

areas, and they had no-good roads/\this was in 1941-1942/)

asF~ e felt that they would build a lot of airports in that

area because of the distances between the towns. He sent my

brother out there and gave him enough money to start an

office. He gave him a month's salary and enough money to

hire a secretary. My brother started from scratch to build

that engineering business in New Mexico. He was very


As time passed, eventually he had twenty engineers working

for him, and he built airports all over New Mexico. Also in

the [towns and small] cities they started putting in sewer

systems, etc. Finally mr. Wilson the man that owned the

company, gave my brother half interest in the [Albuquerque,

New Mexico division of the] company. Unfortunately, my

brother drank too much, primarily as a result of his work.

He liked to hunt and he liked to fish ag he fit in just

nicely with the people who ran these small towns in New

Mexico. They also were hard drinkers. He would start from

Albuquerque with a suitcase full of liquor, and every place

he stopped andmet with the city fathers and talked to them

about a contract for sewers, etc.,they would drink. Then

he would go to the next town, and it was the same way.

P: Was he a married man?

A: He married and had one son. Eventually the man who owned

the company found out that my brotherfdrank too much] In

fact, I was surprised when my sister-in-law called me and

told me that. So I arranged with the man I worked for

[Monte Shomaker] to fly to New Mexico every other week for a

period of about two or three months. I would leave at noon

on Friday and be there Friday night, stay Saturday, and fly

back Sunday afternoon.

When I first got there, I could tell my brother was

suspicious. He said, "What are you doing out here?" (We

called him Bud, although his name was Elmer. He did not

like the name Elmer) I said, "Bud, you keep writing to me

that you have these reports and you do not know what they

mean. You know, that is part of my business. I have these

factories, and it is essential that I know what these

reports mean because they indicate what direction I should

work to improve the conditions." He said, "Oh, that is

good." So that very day we went down to his office and

brought out the reports, and we went over them. I would

read the report and the figures, and I would say, "Now, this

is 4hat this means, and this is something you should give

attention to." And he liked it very much. Then we wouldgo

to his homqe 1sit down and just talk.

At first I did not approach him about drinking too much.

The second time I went out there we had a number of things

to talk about from the standpoint of how the reports were

made out, their purpose, and so on. So again we went over

the reports, and I gave him more information. Then I just

said, "Bud, are you drinking excessively?" He said: "Oh,

no. I have a few drinks, but I do not drink a lot." I

said, "Marie, your wife, is concerned." He [again] said, "I

do not drink too much." I left it at that and went back to

St. Louis.

[We went through] the same deal in about two more weeks. I

would go out there, and we would visit. We would go up in

the mountains. They had a cabin up above the timber line.

It is beautiful up there ool. There was no indication of

his drinking when I was with him. He would not even have an

occasional drink. I kept approaching him on it, not putting

on pressure, but indicating that it was serious if he did

drink too much, that things could develop that way. He

continued to deny it, so I made no progress at all. So

after about three months I said: "Well, I have given you

all the information I can on these financial reports. Do

you feel comfortable with them?" He said, "Oh, yes. Now I

know what to do." I went back and did not return. [He

retired and was given] a good pension so he would have

nothing to worry about for the rest of his life. Eventually

he died with a heart attack.

P: As a relatively young man, though.

A: He was about sixty-seven years old.

P: He has a son still living?

A: His son is still living, and [he is] a very fine man. From

the very first, the kid liked electronics. [If] you [were

to] go into their house, his wife Marie would say, "Do not

touch that door' /t might be wired." You would turn a door

handle, and bells would ring. [laughter] So I got a kick

out of him. He was in love with electronics from the time

he startedschoojl

P: Where does he live?

A: He lives in a little town on the top of a mountain near El

Paso. He works for Lockheed [Aircraft Corporation]. He

graduated from Arizona State in engineering.

P: So you have two fine nephews--one an engineer and one a


A: Yes. My brother liked to hunt and fish, but I did not.

There is a reason for it. I told you, I think, in some of

my notes that the first thing I can remember in my life was

my mother holding me on her lap reading stories. I can

still quote some of the stories, like she would say, "'Who

killed Cock Robin?' 'I 'said the sparrow. 'I killed Cock

Robin with my bow and arrow.'" She would read that over and

over. I know I was not two years oldat that time As a

result, I liked to be in the woods. I would go out in the

woods and take our dog, but I would not even load my gun. I

would kill a rabbit and then feel sorry for the rabbit.

But my brother liked to hunt anLbecame very good. Out in

New Mexico, as I said, he fit well with those people _._

because they hunted bear, elk, deer, and the rest of the


P: At least there is one Axline that will carry on the family

name, your nephew in Texas.

A: Only for a short time. He had one daughter, and she was

studying to be a nurse. She was on a through highway, where

you have two lanes this way and two lanes the other

direction, and [there was] a girl with her. A Mexican who

was dead drunk hit her head-on in the car and killed both

her and the girl with her.

P: And this boy, then, your nephew, had no sons?

A: No sons.

P: There will go the Axline [name] that goes all the way back

to the pre-Revolutionary period.

A: That is right. There are some others that have the same

name, but our line is dead.

P: Your direct line. Now, you said you were born where, Bob?

A: Chester, Illinois.

P: How did your father get from Wenona to Chester? How did

that move take place? Whywer mairriod?

A: He had an opportunity for promotion on the railroad--I do

not even remember the name of it--in North Carolina, and he

and Mother moved there.

P: To where in North Carolina?

A: Charlotte, North Carolina.

P: And this was still with Illinois Central?

A: No, another railroad. He apparently had a friend that

contacted him [about the job].

P: still a railroad man.

A: &till a rirad his entire life.

P: Do you know what job he held in Charlotte?

A: I think dispatcher.

P: Do you know what railroad?

A: I am not sure. It might have been the Southern. Then he

was transferred to Fulton, Kentucky, a town just south of


P: Now, were you already born when they moved to Charlotte?

A: No.

P: And when they moved to Fulton?

A: No.

P: OK. So the family comes after that. Your mother and father

have lived in North Carolina and Kentucky before the family

begins to emerge.

A: And then he had a promotion as the chief dispatcher on the

Missouri-Pacific in Chester, Illinois.

P: And that is now when you come into the story.

A: That is where all three children were born.

P: Let's see. He would have moved up there prior to 1907, but

probably sometime in that area.

A: I would say probably 1906.

P: Now, this is, you say, Chester, Illinois. Tell me where it


A: It is about sixty miles south of St. Louis in Illinois,

right on the Mississippi River.

P: z==ST Vhat railroad would he have been working for?

A: Missouri-Pacific.

P: 3I, T aii Where did it go? I know little about the

railroads in that area.

A: It went [north] into [St. Louis] Missouri [which was the

main terminal for passenger trains and freight trains, then

south along the Mississippi River to a] town named Thebes,

Illinois [where it crossed the river into Missouri].

P: I know that enters your story in a little bit, Thebes,


A: That is right. It is right on the Mississippi River, again.

It was an old town that was actually a riverboat town.

P: -ut bf e thqLt Vhen you were living in Chester, do you

have any memory of that at all?

A: Very little.

P: You were very tiny, then, when your family moved to Thebes.

P: That is right. [I was five years old.] I remember when I

was first born, my parents lived not too far from the river,

and my father had a horse and buggy. He kept the horse and

buggy in a barn out back. I liked to see the horse, so he

would carry me out to the barn,%SS-ge would give me some

hay, -=-I would hold it and the horse would eat it.

Shortly thereafter he moved up to a brick house on the hill.

P: All of this is still in Chester?

A: In Chester.

P: Now, were your sister and your brother also born in Chester?

A: Both were born in Chester.

P OI(. SOu L1iZ miians that when you movrd-to Thebes yu-ar

abe ekt, at, fivo yoroed--or-theLe ts?


P: Why the move to Thebes?

A: [The dispatcher office in Chester was eliminated, and] my

father was to move to a new town they were starting to build

in Missouri. There is a big bridge that crossed the

Mississippi River at Thebes, znsl while they were building

the [new] terminal a large railroad yard, he started to

build a house in this little town. There were no people

there until they started building the town. When we moved

there after the house was finished, I imagine there were two

hundred people [in the town].

P: You move from Chester to Thebes. Was Thebes the new town?

A: No. Thebes was the old town on the Mississippi River.

P: That is what I thought you were getting ready to tell me,

[that] it was a river town, a boat town.

A: And it was actually where [as a circuit rider].Abraham

Lincoln practiced law in the old stone courthouse. The old

courthouse was still there, although it was no longer used.

The jail cells were there. The iron [was rusted, and] you

could not lock the [jail] door.

P: You mentioned in your material that that is where [a(Pdso

slave] Dred Scott was held for a while.

A: That is true. Dred Scott was brought fr- Lr-H suu'r- 3r hI-VEr=

ho.was pcar ed,-enadn-stayed overnight in that jail and taken

to St. Louis for trial. He is buried now in St. Louis.

P: So the courthouse there had two celebrities. Abraham

Lincoln practiced law there for a while, [and Dred Scott was

held there as a prisoner]. Is the courthouse building still

standing, by the way?

A: Yes, the last time I was there.

P: And they obviously have it marked with both the celebrities:

Dred Scott and Abraham Lincoln.

A: I am not sure. On one occasion I was driving from St. Louis

to Tennessee. In fact, I drove down on the Illinois side

[of the river] just to stop at this little town to see what

it looked like. I had not been there for more than thirty

years. I drove into town, and I saw the house where we

lived. It is on a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi

River; you can see it a long ways in both directions.

P: Now, this is not the brick house yet. The brick house is on

the other side of the river, in the new town.

A: The brick house was in Chester, Illinois, the second house

we lived in.

P: Wait a minute. Let me go back just a little bit to make

sure that the tape has the right chronology. Chester,

Illinois, then Thebes, and then the new town.

A: Right.

P: What was the new town's name?

A: It was called Illmo, an abbreviation for Illinois and


P: All right. Then you were a little boy living in Chester.

You moved to Thebes when 5 i lme-you were about years


A: I started school there.

P: You start school in Thebes. Then after your father finishes

the house, you move across the river to the new house and to

the new town, Illmo.

A: Right.

P: All right. Now, I want get some information about Thebes.

I would like you to tell me what you remember about the town

and your life there during the short time that you lived


A: The thing I remember, of course, was .ete=a a large front

porch that ran across the front of the house and around the

side, and we would sit out there or sit out on a large

terrace and watch the steamboats go up and down the river.

Every once in a while they would have showboats come into

Thebes on Saturday and have a show. When the showboat was

getting close to town they would start playing a steam

organ--a calliope, they called it--and you could hear it up

and down the river. By the time the showboat anchored,

every kid in town and a lot of the other people would be on

the riverbank. The band--they usually had about six

pieces--would get off the boat [dressed] in red uniforms

with gold braid and march up and down the one street the.u

-is.-and play music. The actors and actresses would follow

behind them. Then in the afternoon they would have a

vaudeville show and also a short stage show, which they

repeated in the evening.

The odd part about it is that, as I told you, I decided to

stop by that town going into Tennessee one mid ernoon,
and I went over and saw the same house I had lived in. But

they had changed it. The front porch and the side porch no

longer was on it. So I went over to the old courthouse, and

there was a sign saying something about a historic

courthouse. I went in, and there was a lady9" Che-Owa-

telling us about the history of the courthouse--Abraham

Lincoln, Dred Scott, and so on~ m said, "I used to live

in that house right across the street." She said: "Oh, no,

you did not. That house belonged to my father, Dr.

McKenzie. I have a history of everybody that lived there."

I said: "I lived there, and they have changed it. The house

used to have a porch that ran along the front and around the

south side." She was startled, and she said: "You must have

lived there"because otherwise you would never have known

that. It is true. There was about a year-and-a-half period

we could never account for who lived in that home."

P: And you appeared. ,

A: And I appeared. Another unusual incident [occurred that]

indicated to me [the courage of] my father. It was near the

Fourth of July, and we thought the kids were shooting

firecrackers. We were on a road right across from the

streetlight, and we heard the loud noises--three or four of

them. We did not think anything more about it. Pretty soon

the lady who lived behind us, a lady named Mrs. Bean--by the

way, I told this same lady [at the courthouse] that Mrs.

Bean used to live behind us, and that again convinced her

that we lived there--called to my father, aS she said: "Mr.

Bean is not home. He works at night. But Mr. Axline, I

think there is a man in your yard that has been shot. I can

hear him groan." My dad said, "I will go out and see."

It was dark. We did not have flashlights. He took a

regular coal-oil lamp and started out in the dark. On the

lawn in the backyard was a man lying that he could hear

groaning [who possibly had] a loaded gun. My mother said:

"Dad, do not go out there. You have a wife and three

children." He said: "I have to. There is a man [out there

who is] hurt."

He went out there, held the light, and he knew the man and

the man knew him. He was a watchman on the bridge that my

father crossed every morning and every afternoon as he went

on a motorcar between our home in Thebes and the new town.

He handed my father his pistol and said: "Axline, kill me.

I am going to die anyhow." Of course, my dad would not.

They got a wagon, my mother got a cover off the bed, [put

the man on it,] and took him home. He died in a few hours.

P: Did you ever discover what had happened?

A: Oh, sure. He was drunk and was going home to kill his wife,

and his oldest son got the city marshal. He said, "My

father is on the way home with a gun to kill my mother," and

the marshal came and met him across from our house where the

streetlight was. The man was drunk, so the policeman killed

him easily. He put three bullets right through the middle

of him.

P: And just left him there.

A: He did not know where he had gone. All he knew wasfthatjhe

disappeared in the dark. I think he was afraid to go look

for him because he knew the man still had a gun.

P: Reach back into your memory, Bob, and recall what your

mother and father looked like. Describe them.

A: I have their pictures.

P: Just kind of describe them in your own words.

A: My father was tall, about six feet. I always wanted to be

six feet tall; I never made it. [I stand] 5'10%", I think.

[He was] not heavy [but was] thin. He weighed probably 160

pounds. As children we were all gun-shy of him secaufse f

we did not behave, my mother would say, "Now, you better

behave, or I will tell Dad when he comes home." That was

all she needed to do. Yet he never gave a spanking to any

one of us. But the concern that he might was all it took to

make us behave.

In later life I was very fortunate. After -ed he was

transferred to Herrin, in the southern part of Illinois, to

a better job. While he was working I would get letters from

him, and he [said he] had learned to play golf. As you know
~/7/ Cs t04 /IA-^ le,1
from our conversation, I like to play golf. I mother would

say, "Dad is out practicing golf/J -fe= T left-handed._ I

saidto myself Let him practice. I can still beat him. I

was playing pretty good then. I went home--I was living in

Dixon [Illinois] at the time--and we went out to play golf.

I was surprised he beat me. He could not hit the ball far,

but he hit it straight as an arrow, and he could approach

and putt. He was the best putter I ever saw. He kidded me

all the time. From then as long as he could play golf we

were more like two brothers. It was fun.

P: You were close to your father.

A: Very.

P: What about your mother? What did she look like?

A: She was heavier then my father. She had the three children,

[and] she gained weight. As I first remember, I would say

she was about 120 pounds or so, and then she got a little

plumper. [She was] probably 5'1" or 2" tall, maybe 3".

[She was] very kind and very considerate. [She was] a good

cook and worked hard. They both liked to garden. In Illmo

my father owned half of a block. We had the house on one

corner, and the rest of it was an orchard and a very large

garden. Even as children we would work in the garden. We

grew all the vegetables we used. By the time the new crop

would start to come in in the spring, we still had old

potatoes and we had green beans that were canned and all the

other things. So except for meat and things like ice cream,

we raised our own food. She was a good cook.

The thing I particularly liked about them [was their

sacrifice for us]. Writing this story, as you and I

reviewed it, made me realize how important they were. They

gave their whole life for their three kids.

P: They saw that you got an education.

A: Every cent they saved.

P: Was this a church family?

A: Yes. My father did not go to church. He did as a boy and a

young man, but as he worked for the railroad, particularly

after he was promoted, he worked seven days a week. He did

not have to, [but he did] by choice. The only time he ever

took off was Sunday afternoon. He would come home and spend

the afternoon at home. Then he would go back to the office

for about two of three hours. My mother took us to church.

In Illmo was the first time I ever remember going to church.

I was seven years old.

P: What church?

A: Methodist Episcopal Church South, which is no longer in

existence. The Methodist Church was divided by the Civil

War, and this was the southern branch of the Methodist

Church. Since that time they have joined together, and they

have one Methodist Church. My sister, my brother, and I

were all baptized at the same time, I remember. We always

attended Sunday school.

P: This was, however, something that your mother influenced you


A: My father, too.

P: You indicate in your writings kind of a love/hate

relationship with the river.

A: Oh, yes.

P: I mean, you liked looking at it, but you were a little bit

afraid of it.

A: I was definitely afraid of it. That goes b'ck to the time I

was living in Chester, Illinois Aibt tW-ie we were

living in the brick house. I guess I was three or four

years old. Just two houses down the street there was a

family we knew, and I knew the children. There was a boy

and a girl; I think the boy was about six and the girl about

four. In those days there were few railroads, and there was

a lot of traffic on the Mississippi River. The steamboat

regularly ran up and down the river, and people in Chester,

Illinois, would go [on the steamboat] to St. Louis to shop

and come back to Chester in the evening. On one occasion

the water was high, at flood stage, and as trie to

embark, [tragedy struck]. There was a narrow gangplank,

probably three or four feet wide at the most [leading to the

boat, and there were] no strong rails that anybody could

grab onto but just a sort of a rope between there and the

boat. A large stump or log floating down the river in the

swift current hit what they call the gangplank and knocked

these people overboard, and all three of them drowned.

P: The mother and the two children. So that is your earliest

memory of a river tragedy, then.

A: That is right.

P: And that kind of made an impact on you for the rest of your


A: It did. In Thebes we were right on the river bank. In

Chester, Illinois, the last house we moved in I would say

was probably a mile from the river. There were steep steps

we had to go down--I do not remember how many, [but there

were] over 100 steps--on a bluff to get down to the

railroad, where the railroad ran and where my father worked.

The river was just on the other side [of his office]. In

Thebes we liked it because the [we could see the] showboats

[from our porch], and we would go down and watch the

steamboats load and unload. They would haul freight, a lot

of animals like pigs, cows, and chickens. They would load

and unload and take them into the city [St. Louis].

P: I think you said you started school in Thebes.

A: [My] first year of school [was] in Thebes.

P: How long did the family live in Thebes?

A: About a year and a half.

P: And then you moved to this new house that your father had

built in Illmo. That was going to be the office for the


A: It was a division office.

P: What job did he have there?

worked, and the river was just on the other side Buut fn

Thebes we liked it because the [we could seeJt4~ showboats

[from our porch] and we would go down and watch the

steamboats load and unload. They would bring freight, a lot

of animals like pigs, cows, and chickens. They would load

and unload and take them into the--e-i.'t-. j ",'-4

P: I think you said you started school in Thebes.

A: [My] first year of school [was] in Thebes.

P: How long did the family live in Thebes?

A: About a year and a half.

P: And then you moved to this new house that your father had

built in Illmo. That was going to be the office for the

c!vi ; 'S
A: It was a central office.

P: What job did he have there?

A: They may have called him trainmaster then, but he was the

chief dispatcher.

P: So he has moved up; he has been promoted from one job to the

other and is building up, obviously, some seniority as far

as railroads are concerned.

A: Yes. Along-that-line- while we lived in Illmo we had a home

with a big garden, and they had over 200 rose bushes.

Beautiful. They both liked flowers. As children we were

required by our parents to take a vase of roses to any new

people that moved into town -so-we-did-that. We did not

like to do it, but we did. We had to take turns. My mother

From then on we contested as to who would get to take the

roses to Mrs. Martin. [laughter]

P: You had a good investment there.

A: That is right.

P: Now, the three of you, you and your brother and sister, then

start school in Illmo. Is that where you finished? /p X"

A: Yes, grade school [and high school], all three of us I

went to one year of school in Thebes.]

In regard to my father, you asked about promotions. I told

you about the fact that he worked such long hours by choice.

He had an offer to be superintendent of a division. The man

came down and talked to him, and he turned it down. Two or

three years later he was offered another job as division

superintendent, and he turned it down. He said: "I have a

nice home here. I have a wife and three kids. We like to

garden; we like to grow flowers. I want to stay here the

rest of my life."

Well, unfortunately, the diesel locomotive changed [that].

They brought in the diesels. A diesel engine ran twice as

far as a steam engine before they changed crews, so it

eliminated a terminal. My father, in order to continue

working for the railroad, had to move to Herrin, Illinois.

By that time he had gotten to the age where they did not

feel they wanted to promote him. One of the things he told

me was, "Bob, anytime you get a chance to be promoted, go."

During the first maybe ten years of our married life, we

never lived in one place longer than two years.

P: You followed your father's advice.

A: I did. It was worthwhilepbecause of the added experience.

P: Bob, it sounds to me as though your family was not rich but

they were not poor.

A: They were not rich.

P: But they were not poor.

A: My father had a job even through the worst Depression, in

1929, 1930, and on through there, so we always had food on

the table. But they were very saving [people]. As I said,

we grew all the food we ate. We had fresh vegetables during

the summer and spring and fall. We had berries; we had

blackberries, red raspberries, black raspberries, and a

strawberry garden that I kept. I rotated [the planting] so

we had good strawberries as long as we lived there. We grew

potatoes. We grew corn, peas, green beans, carrots,

turnips, [lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, celery]--everything

you could think of.

P: So you never went hungry.

A: We never went hungry. During the Depression we gave a lot

of extra food [from the garden] to the families that did not

have enough to eat.

P: What kinds of fun things do you remember doing as a kid?

Were you athletically inclined?

A: Oh, yes, from the very start. First, of course, was hiking.
When school was out we iked the woods.

P: When you say mnbs= =ad we, you are talking about your

brother and you?

A: My brother ammt later on, ah- he got so he could follow me.

But [I am specifically referring to] my neighbor boys. I

had a real good friend named Robert Pierce just my age in

the same classes in school, and he and I would just take

off. Later on, as my brother got older, he too [came with

us]. We started Saturday morning after breakfast and did

not come home until dusk. We never took lunch. I think

even today maybe I could walk up and down the bluffs--the

river banks--on the Mississippi in that area and recognize a

lot of the places. I knew where the best walnut trees where

the biggest walnuts were growing, where the hickory nut

trees were, where the persimmon trees were, [and] pawpaw

trees. Are you familiar with that? It tastes like a banana

and is shaped like a cucumber. You can find them in the

woods because they smell like bananas. You could smell

them, and say, "There are ripe pawpaws around here," and you

could go and find them. It had a large seed. Also, we just

explored. We knew where the best wild blackberries and wild

dewberries were. We would swim and fish in the streams that

flowed into the Mississippi River. We did not fish in the

Mississippi River. It was difficult.

P: You liked swimming?

A: Very much. I learned to swim in small streams where it was

not too deep. Then, as time passed, swimming pools [became

accessible]. We lived six miles from Cape Girardeau,

Missouri, a larger city. It was a French settlement right

on the Mississippi River. It had about 18,000 people then;

now I guess it has 35,000 or 40,000 at least. There is a

state college there [Southeast Missouri State University].

P: I gather that the area was much more deserted, so you as a

kid could do a lot of things that a young boy today could

not do.

A: Oh, no doubt about it.

P: You could go swimming and fishing and not worry about

anybody seeing you or interfering with what you were doing.

A: /hat is right. In one case we were swimming in a little

stream--there were four of us--and we were all without

clothes, naked. Along came a farmer driving his horse and a

wagon, and he said, "Shame to you boys, swimming naked with

that little girl." One of the boys had a shape,

particularly his buttocks, that looked like the back of a

girl, kind of heavy, so we made him turn around so the

farmer could see that he was not a girl. [laughter]

P: So you had a lot of fun growing up.

A: Oh, yes. Again, talking about exploring the bluffs, you

would learn while walking in the woods to notice the

direction of the sun so that you knew pretty well north and

south, east and west. Actually I could find my way in the

woods more eai4ly than I could, for example, in St. Louis.

When I was there I got in places where the streets were

curved and I could not see the sun. 4 U .

One time we were walking up a large bluff heavily wooded

[with] old trees. You could tell because you could not

begin to reach around some of the old oak trees. Right on

the top of this bluff was an old cemetery. It still had an

iron fence around it, but the gate had been broken down. (I

always had sort of a respect for old cemeteries,

particularly the stones, because lots of times you could

almost tell the history of that part of the country. For

example, I like to go to Boston and see the Old Granary

graveyard. Benjamin Franklin is buried there, [as are] John

Hancock and other signers of the Declaration of

Independence.) So I went in this old graveyard. The stones

were still up and in good shape, although the grass had

grown up until it was about a foot tall. There buried was a

lieutenant governor of Missouri and his whole family--wife,

Szc apparently children and probably some in-laws. Nobody

even knew7it was there. PThere was] no road to it, and

there had not been for years.

P: And nobody had been there in years and years.

A: Correct.

P: What about your house in Illmo? What did it look like?

A: It was a two-story house built on the side of a hill.

P: Brick?

A: No, stucco. [It was] well insulated. [It had] two floors.

On the bottom floor was the kitchen, dining room, and living

room. There were stairs that went up to the upper floor

from the kitchen and the living room, and there was also an

entrance hall in the living room. On the upper floor were

three bedrooms and a bath. [There were] windows all the way

around the house and long eves that hung over I would say at

least four feet so the windows were shaded. We did not have

air conditioning in those days, but we could open windows

and have ventilation all through the upper floor.

P: And you lived there how long? Were you were still living

there when you went off to college?

A: Yes. One thing I omitted was that we had a basement where

my father had central heating and hot water, and there was a

crawl space where my father laid down sacks and then papers

where we kept our potatoes, turnips, and things like that

through the winter. There was enough ventilation to keep it

from freezing but yet was cool.

P: You were about seven or eight years old when you moved to


A: Exactly seven.

P: And you were born in 1907, so you are moving there in 1914&-A-

just at the beginning of the outbreak of war in Europe.

A: Right.

P: Do you have any impressions or memories of what life was

like in a little town during a wartime period?

I -

A: I sure do, and there is kind of an odd reason for it. It

was a [railroad] terminal. Apparently the president felt

that we would soon be in the world war, and as a training

exercise, I learned later, American troops were sent to

Mexico to capture Pancho Villa, who was a Mexican bandit.

He was raiding across the border into Texas and stealing


P: That is where [General] John J. Pershing was sent.

A: Exactly. _- T~1Xt 1-WmPr 'rmnfhe troop train stopped there and

changed engines. Of course, they had to put more coal in

the engine and put water in the engine, and they let the

troops off. By that time we had some paved roads, and they

would march up and down the streets, and every kid in town

was down there watching the soldiers march. We thought it

was great to see those soldiers.

The thing that is odd is that the railroad office had three

floors, and the second floor had a porch with steel strips

so that the snow or rain could go right on through. There

was a car parked in front of the railroad office, and there

were some young men [in it]--teenagers, maybe twenty or

something like that--and I noticed they were always looking

up. I looked up there, and all the secretaries from the

railroad office were standing out there, and you could tell

the kind ofpants they had on. [laughter] I thought,

"These crazy guys! Here are soldiers going down the street,

and they are looking at [these women]."

P: The soldiers were much more interesting to you, and they

were looking at a different kind of a view.

A: And had a different idea.

P: Well, you were a little bit too young yet to enjoy to a

different environment or a different perspective. Nobody in

your family, then, was in the war?

A: My father's brother, the one that went to [the University

of] Illinois, went in as a lieutenant and came out a

captain. The odd part about it is he replaced a captain in

Europe by the same name. He apparently had been a relative

and had been killed. My uncle finished the war in Europe

and then came back to this country.

P: You would still have been close enough to the Civil War in

the area of the country 1t-ht you were living ri that there

should have been some veterans of the war who might have

told stories,an1wf

A: Oh, there were.

P: And you went to a church that obviously was on the

Confederate side.

A: All the people were on the Confederate side, believe it or

not. Pro7t wt hyltieo onaer T .- I

think I indicated to you that southeast Missouri was swampy.

Did I tell you that story?

P: No.

A: Southeast Missouri was swampy, and the states of Illinois

(southern Illinois), Arkansas, and Tennessee would chase out

the so-called "bad man," troublemakers. They would take

them to the border of Missouri and say: "Now, go. If you

come back here again, we are going to put you in prison."

So they all came and settled in southeast Missouri because

they figured nobody would bother them there. It was swampy,

a terrible place to live. [It was infested with] mosquitoes

like early Florida used to be. So they settled there. They

had little towns and hunted, fished, cut lumber, and things

like that. [There was] hardly any industry. The men

settled these towns--Caruthersville, particularly--down at

the "boot-heel" part of Missouri. (The southeast part of

Missouri has a shape that looks like the heel of a boot.

They settled there/because it was the closest to the states

from which they left--Tennessee and Arkansas.

They were very southern in their attitude^strong southern

-eetfqs. We had a factory there, and I got to know them

very well. The businessmen would meet in the drugstore and

just shoot the breeze, tell stories and things like that.

They were the merchants and the influential men in town.

They told me, "If any black man comes in this town and tries

to do some of the things they let them [do] in other places,

we will not stand for it," and they would not.

I had an assistant--I was general superintendent at that

time--working for me who was from St. Louis, and he did not

like black people. (They did not call them black men in

those days.) He was walking down the street, and this black

man accidentally bumped into him, !.i Oe hit him and knocked

him down and thought nothing about it. He just went on. I

thought it was terrible. But that is the way they acted.

P: There were black people living in Illmo?

A: Oh, yes, a few. I will tell you something about them, too.

[First let me tell you] the rest about this. Their southern

feelings were stronger than the attitude of the people in

Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, [and] even Louisiana,

because they had collected together and felt they were

persecuted. As a result, they held very firmly to their old

customs. Definitely. The last black man lynched was

lynched in a town just north of there. I remember it. At

that time, I had charge of a factory in Charleston

[Missouri], only about fifteen miles from where the lynching


P: You did not see the lynching? You just heard about it?

A: No, I did not want to.

P: You say there were black people living in Illmo as you were

growing up?

A: Oh, yes, and I loved them.

P: [Did] anybody work for you or for your father, in the garden

or around the house?

A: No. The only black men they had worked on the section,0,1-

because the railroad was very hot, with t;e steel rails and

the hot sun in the South. There was a group of black

families--I would say probably ten--and the railroad would

set aside old boxcars, put them on blocks, and give one to

each family that lived there. They P~4;& ik children, but

they could not go to our schools -SaAny black child that

got an education was sent away to where they had relatives

in places like St. Louis.

P: Schools in Illmo were segregated.

A: Definitely. Trains were segregated; they [blacks] could not

ride in the same coach [and] could not eat in the


P: As you were growing up, did you all maintain contact with

your grandparents?

A: Oh, yes.

P: They came to visit, and you went to visit them?

A: We loved my father's mother, my grandmother. Her husband

died slightly before my father graduated from high school.

She had the two married daughters and my father, and she

would spend four months with each of them. We just

worshipped her and waited for the time [she would come for a

visit]. I would go down and meet the train as I got older.

She came in on a train from St. Louis that got in about nine

o'clock in the evening. I would meet her and bring her

home. We walked home; we did not have a car at that time.

With our other two grandparents, the Quigleys, [it was] the

same way.

P: Where did they live?

A: Clinton, Illinois.

P: They had not moved from Clinton.

A: Their whole life was spent there. Their children are buried

there, and they are buried there.

P: And they came to visit also.

A: They never came to our house to visit because they always

kept a home, first on the farm [and then in Clinton]. In

the case of a farm, there are farm animals you have to feed

and cows to milk [daily]. My grandfather would never use

tractors; he always used horses. He used a horse and buggy.

So they could not get away. But we would go up there the

first of July and spend two weeks. My mother and the three

children would go out to the farm. We worshipped our

grandparents and had a wonderful time. [We especially

enjoyed] riding in the [buggy and the] wagon. My

grandfather let us take turns riding on the corn cultivator.

Of course, my grandmother said, "Now, be sure they do not

fall off," because there were plows behind us. He fixed a

seat between his knees with several gunny sacks as a

cushion, and we would sit on the front of the iron seat of

the cultivator. He would keep one arm around us and drive

the horses with the other. We could see the corn stalks go

underneath the cultivator. I would pick cherries. Wy

grandmother was a wonderful cook, and [she baked] the best

cherry pies.

P: You have a lot of happy memories growing up.

A: All happy.

P: None of the tragedies or sadness that people often run into?

A: The first death in our family was my grandmother who died

while I was away in college.

P: So you grew up with grandparents. What kind of a student

were you?

A: Good. The reason is, I think, wa9-. euv s~zsfm t A.e -that

my mother read to me. Books are still very important to me.

As I told you, she would read these stories that I can even

remember [now]. That created an interest [in books] for me,

so when I got to the place in school that I could read, I

read a lot. --m--a -'atte-,

P: What were your best subjects?

A: All good.

P: You liked both the sciences and math? Of course, you become

an engineer. I was just wondering if the science and math

courses were your strongest.

A: Actually, I had the best grades in my college class by far.

They graded with grades like H for honor, A for excellent

(that was supposed to be 90-98), and then B was less (I

think it was 80-89) and then C. Then, of course, D was

failure. I never failed a course in my life. In my senior

year I had perfect grades. All H's.

P: How about high school?

A: Good. [It was] always easy.

P: Did you play sports in high school?

A: No, I was too small. The reason is that through grade

school, as I said, school was easy. I would be in a class,

and the teacher said, "You should be in the next class," and

they would move me up a grade. About two years [later],

again, they moved me up another class. When I graduated, I

was not quite sixteen. The teachers wanted to move me up

again, but/my mother said no. The disadvantage was that

when Igraduated fromjhigh school I did not even weigh a

hundred pounds. All we had was basketball. We did not have

enough students in school for football. We did not have

tennis orother sports.

P: Was this a small country school?

A: [It was] a small town, and in the same school we had four

grades of high school and all eight grades of grammar

P: But it was not a one-room schoolhouse and a one-teacher


A: No. It must have had six rooms. We had one room that

taughtctwoJclasses, and they alternated teaching [during the

day]. Then in high school we had three rooms.

P: I gather that music also played a role in your life and that
of your brother and sister.

A: It did, as a result of my father. He played the trombone.

P/Y Sq/ou isy th| your fa;r s te ieo w w sshoa4sa sumnt

'A:) He played in the band in Lacon, Illinois, and they played

for political meetings, where they get all the spirit

[built] upp V/ Bfirdti pia E He told about playing in
them frequently. /ne story/he told uswaas about a cornet

player who was on the end of the line. They were marching

down through town and the band was playinge-aa All of a

sudden they missed the cornet player. They found out the

city had been digging a ditch alongside the road and had

left it open, and by chance he fell in it. [There were no

street lights at the time.]

P: One lost musician. [laughter]

A: Right. But he was interested in music. He got the first
6;n oar a.--cQ
record played, and we had [numerous] records.

P: I think we called them Victrolas back in those days.

A: It was a Victrola, made by [RCA] Victor, with a picture of

the dog and the horn.

P: And you had to wind it up by hand.

A: Right. [We had] almost all [kinds of music]--band music and

concert music, of course, and some opera.

P: Everybody had [recordings of Italian tenor Enrico] Caruso,

A: Absolutely.

P: And [Irish tenor] John McCormick singing Irish songs.

A: That is right. Caruso was terrific. My father started us

out>, y /t ^ first my sister on the

piano. I remember my mother went to St. Louis and took her

along. They picked out a piano and had it shipped down to

Illmo. She started taking piano lessons.

P: There was a piano teacher in Illmo?

A: No. [There was a piano teacher in] Cape Girardeau,

Missouri, at the state college. They also had a symphony

orchestra. I liked the violin because my father had records

of Sviolinis' Vritz] Kreisler, and I liked it. [The

music was] beautiful. So I started out on the violin.

P: So you liked the violin inspired by Fritz Kreisler.

A: Yes.

P: You could not have done any better than that, unless you had

gotten [Italian violinist and composer Niccolo] Paganini,


A: Paganini was one of the great ones. He wrote music that

nobody could play until [violinist Jascha] Heifetz came

along. I saw Heifetz and listened to him play many times.

P: Yes, I did too, including [at] Carnegie Hall.

A: Did you? They used to bring the symphony orchestra from St.

Louis to Cape Girardeau College, and my father always had

seats there.

P: So your sister played the piano, and you played the violin.

What about your brother?

A: My brother played the cello.

P: All of you enjoyed taking lessons and playing?

A: Oh, yes. We had a string trio, and as we progressed we

played for Rotary Club conventions all over [southeast


P: So you all got to be pretty good.

A: We also played for the graduation exercises at the college

in Cape Girardeau.

P: You did not mind all the time you had to spend practicing?

A: No. The odd part about it [is] I lacked talent. Izwould7

hear a tone and say, "That is right," when the tone

[actually] was sharp. If it was right, it did not sound

correct to me. I had to develop (my ear] and learn [to

discern pitch] by training myself with the notes on the

piano and with my teacher working with me on the violin so

that eventually I could hear tones correctly.

P: Now, where is it you went to take lessons?

A: Cape Girardeau, Missouri, about six miles from where we


P: How did you get there?

A: By that time my father had bought an automobile, a Ford, and

I think primarily to take us up there. He would take us up

there once a week all the time, winter and summer.

P: Your brother did not rebel?

A: No. He hadconsiderablejtalent for music. He played and

played well.

P: And your sister played the piano well?

A: She played well. She still plays. She plays an organ now.

P: And what about Bob Axline, violinist?

A: Eventually I played well. I played first violin in the

college symphony orchestra for about eight years until I

became involved with work and college. I also played in the

symphony orchestra at Purdue University u But violin- any

stringed instrument--one has to practice constantly, and I

just did not [keep it up after college].

P: Now, you graduate from high school at about sixteen.

A: Yes.

P: Then what were your plans? What were you going to do? What

did you do?

A: My father thought I was too young to go away to school.

P: Did you really want to go away to school? Was that an

overwhelming desire on your part?

A: Not at that time. I wanted to go to Purdue, primarily

because my father had a friend that was an engineer, and

this friend talked so much about Purdue I thought being an

engineer would be interesting. sell, my father found out

that the superintendent of the division where he worked, the

Illinois/Missouri division, would need a male secretary and

that the job would be open soon. So he sent me to the

college at Cape Girardeau, Missouri. I drove back and

forth. We took turns; other students from the same little

town went there. I took shorthand [and] typing and all the

math courses they had because I liked it. I took solid

geometry and two other courses in algebra. They thought it

was too much for one person to take, but it did not bother


P: You said that the job was as a male secretary. Was that an

uncommon thing? We usually think of secretaries as females.

A: It was common on the railroads because the railroad

superintendent traveled over his division in a private car,

and their wives objected if they had a female secretary

along in a private car.

P: So that is why they wanted male secretaries.

A: That is the reason they wanted male secretaries. Male

secretaries often graduated from their experience working

with the superintendent into good positions on the railroad.

P: How long were you at school learning these secretarial

courses and taking math?

A: Nine months.

P: And then?

A: The job was ready, so I started working.

P: What was the man's name, the superintendent?

A: The first one was named Coyne. [He was] shaped like a

Kewpie doll--kind of short and chubby.

P: Do you remember his first name?

A: No. I called him Mr. Coyne. [laughter]

P: So as soon as you got out of school, Mr. Coyne was waiting

for you.

A: Yes.

P: All right. So what did you do as a male secretary?

A: When he was in town I handled all his correspondence and all
A /
of his reports. He had certain reports that went to his


P: You took the letters that he dictated in shorthand.

A: nd typed them. He would read them /5r sign them, and I

would send them out. f typedhhis reports. They were
A "
compiled by somebody else in the office and were given to

me. Mr. Coyne had regular meetings every montyhone meeting

for the engineers, one for the trainmen, and one group that

included the machinists and roundhouse people.

P: All of those were in Illmo?

A: The meetings normally were held in Dupo, Illinois, just

outside of St. Louis and just south of East St. Louis. Dupo

was a large assembly yard for the Missouri-Pacific and many

other railroads. All the crews would go into Dupo. The

crews that were there would lay over and would/have a return

rundown to the Missouri/Illinois division. The trainmen

and engineers knew when the meeting would be held. We would

go there and hold the meetings.

P: Did you travel with Mr. Coyne?

A: Yes.

P: Where did you go?

A: Just up to Dupo and other terminals. We never went far.

P: Those were one-day trips, it sounds like. You are still

living at home [at this point]?

A: I was still living at home [he Dupo trip took two days.]
/ il

P: Those are before the days when bachelors had apartments.

A: That is right.

P: What was your salary?

A: One hundred thirty-five dollars a month.

P: That was good pay.

A: Yes.

P: When did you go to work?

A: Let's see. I was seventeen years old when I started

[college at Cape Girardeau].

P: So that would make it 1924. You were born in 1907.

A: It was 1925 or 1926. I graduated from high school in 1924

and went to college that same year. I finished the

following spring6 when I was eighteen.

P: All right. Then you would have been eighteen years old when

you went to work for him, which was a young age to take on

that kind of an important responsibility. Now, that was a

period of great prosperity in the United States, the 1920s,

and it was the heyday of the railroads, was it not?

A: It was.

P: [There was] a lot of traffic, passenger and freight, on the


A: Both.

P: A lot of good business, then.

A: Yes.

P: How long did you work for Mr. Coyne?

A: Only about a year and a half or two years.

P: And then he was succeeded by someone else?
A: Yes, and it was unfortunate the way they released him. We
had hadan arbitrationjmeeting with the railroad engineers.
One of the engineers had been caught drinking. The business
agent for the engineers union was a very nice manp/Q knew
hi. And Mr. Coyne was a kindhearted man. I heard the
business agent talking in the superintendent's office. He
said: "This engineer has a wife and four kids. This is the
first time he has been caught drinking. Are you going to
take food out of the mouths of those children?" He was very
persuasive, and he persuaded Mr. Coyne to give him another
chance, which he did.

(i~ L

\. A -'i

Unfortunately, there were a number of accidents on this

division, and the general officers in St. Louis blamedthem

on the fact that they thought Mr. Coyne was not strict in

enforcing regulations and rules. They demoted him. He

became a dispatcher and was transferred to Jefferson City,

Missouri. He lived and worked there until he retired.

The next superintendent was named Mr. Charles Chapman, who

had the reputation for being strict and a tough taskmaster,

although I found him very nice to work for. I never had any

trouble, and he and I became good friends. But the
,k0 e -1*v -
accidents stopped because he had reputation f=a-hfm a he uL-XS

strict superintendent and ,'Mon would not stand for any

violations of the rules. I worked for/r. Chapmauntil the

office closed down. My father was transferred to Herrin,

Illinois, then I was transferred with Mr. Chapman to a

division [office] in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.

What was there?

A terminal. It was probably a hundred miles from Illmo.

And this is still the Missouri-Pacific railroad?

Still Missouri-Pacific. They had a lot of passenger 1g2s s

and aS3o freight trains. I worked there for about two

years until I decided to go to college.

You lived by yourself, obviously, in Poplar Bluff.

Sh a] rooming house. There was another young man that was

not married. He was older than mw. Two of the men were

married and had not found houses to live in. We four had







rooms in a boarding house. Fortunately the rooms were nice

and clean, and the lady was a very good cook.

P: I wonder how much she charged you. It had to have been

inexpensive by today's prices.

A: I think it was something like $4.50 a week.

P: That included food?

A: [That] included food.

P: You had a rare bargain, particularly if she was a good cook.

A: Oh, she was excellent.

P: In this new job, what did you do?

A: The same thing. I handled all ofthe superintendent's7

correspondence and reports. We would have meetings normally

at Poplar Bluff/bbecause it was a terminal. I would write

up the minutes of the meetings. If [someone violated

a.ies] /as the engineer had done by violating drinking

rules they would have an investigation. I would take notes

in shorthand and then type them and give copies both to Mr.

Chapman and to therepresentatives of the union.

P: What made you decide at that particular moment in time to go

to college? aa6! eba-'sn-y2a~;t .

A: I think maybe the fact that I was twenty-one years old. I

thought I ought to get started.

P: You had the money now?

A: I had almost enough money to put me all the way through

Purdue. My father helped me for about the last two or three


P: By "enough money," what did that mean? What was your nest


A: I am not sure. All my living expenses at Purdue for a year,

including tuition and books, were about $900. As I told

you, my grades were exceptionally good, and after the first

semester I found out that by making "distinguished student"

list my tuition was refunded. So from then on I did not pay

any tuition, and that helped. It was out-of-state tuition,

and at that time out-of-state tuition was not large--fifty

dollars a semester.

P: Purdue was noted then as one of the best engineering schools

in the country?

A: Engineering and agriculture.

P: And you took .

A: Engineering.

P: How did you do in college?

A: Very well. As I just said, I was distinguished student in

every semester, and in my senior year I had perfect grade

scores. They had grades of H for honor (98 or above), an A

was 90 to 98, B was from 80 to 89, and C was below 80.

P: So when you graduated in 1932, you graduated with honors.

A: Oh, yes.

P: I understand you were on the swim team.

A: Not the [university's] swimming team the swimming team for

the fraternity. Those days we were right in the middle of

the Depression, [and] the only teams they could afford to

pay travel expenses for were the football and basketball

teams, so all other activities were intramural.

P: What fraternity were you in?

A: Pi Kappa Alpha.

P: So you swam for the Pikes.

A: Yes.

P: When did you join the fraternity? ^qrTtr'tfle-

A: 1932.

P: What motivated you to become a fraternity man?

A: Primarily I became acquainted with a man that we liked in

school. My brother was there, too. We were taken around to

a number of fraternities, but the one we liked the best was

Pi Kappa Alpha. Also, Pi Kappa Alpha was a southern

fraternity. Being raised in southeastern Missouri, we had

strong southern ties.

P: Now, your brother was at Purdue the same time you were?

A: Yes.

P: Subsidized by your father?

A: Yes.

P: He had not worked like you had and built up a nest egg.

A: No.

P: He was also taking engineering?

A: Yes.

P: In the fraternity were you a big social man?

A: No. [We even went to school on Saturday. Most of my time

was spent studying.] I was [also] interesting in swimming,

and I played in the orchestra.

P: You played violin, of course, in the orchestra. [Was it]

the university orchestra?

A: Yes.

P: You did not work during the four years you were at Purdue?

A: No.

P: Either in the fraternity or on campus?

A: No.

P: Did you have a car?

A: No.

P: Cars were very scarce anyway.

A: We did not have a car until the third year we were married.

P: Where is Purdue University located?

A: Lafayette, Indiana.

P: That is the first time, now, you have moved away from

[Missouri or] Illinois in a very long time.

A: That is right.

P: Really, all of your years except your birth years were spent

in that state.

A: That is right.

P: You are moving up into big time, are you not? [laughter]

A: Yes. [laughter]

P: Although I suspect that was not a very huge community at

that time.

A: No, it was not. I think [the population was] maybe 30,000

or 40,000.

P: How large was Purdue when you were going there?

A: At that time there were, I think, 16,000 students. Today I

think it is more than 40,000. I get Purdue papers and t4eer


P: But for those times that was a very large school. Where did

you live? ap-t eefafSer 4fy%

A: In the fraternity house, and [I] liked it very much.

P: And you lived there all four years?

A: Yes.

P: So those were good years for you?

A: Oh, yes.

P: I have not found any trouble, period, so far, and you are

now twenty-five years old.

A: I did not have any.

P: Nothing but sweet dreams all of this time. Nothing on your

conscience. Your folks are still alive and well.

A: That is right.

P: So everything is going along fine except ~rfUMk the


A: Yes.

P: How did that impact your family?

A: My father and mother, of course, still had a good living.

P: Your father had his job.

A: Yes.

P: When did your brother graduate? Shortly after you?

A: He did not make it after the first semester at Purdue. He

was not a good student, I think probably because by the time

he came along my mother did not have time to read to him.

He also did not have the time to mature as I did after he

got out of high school. He bounced right from a small high

school--I think our graduating class had thirteen--into

Purdue. And Purdue was tough. About half or more of the

freshman class did not make it, and he was one of them. He

went from there to [a college in] Missouri. It took him a

while longer, but he finally graduated. I remember my

father said, "I thought I would never get Bud out of

school." [laughter]

P: But he did. Did your sister go to college?

A: Yes. She graduated from the college at Cape Girardeau.

P: I see. Now, what about you? You t out and gAf a job with

Arvin Industries in Indianapolis. What kind of a job was

that? What kind of a company was that?

A: It was a lousy job and a lousy company. Let me tell you

why. rNormally, after examinations were completed, th re won

.l~n.i;ris l, \two weeks to celebrate finishing college. The
superintendent f Arvin IndustriesTcame to Purdue,;and he

told me: "We need you very much. Won't you come down now?"

So I gave up the celebration and went down to his factory in

Greenwood, Indiana, near Indianapolis.

P: He was there interviewing?

A: Yes. He came particularly looking at Pi Kappa Alpha

[graduates] because he was a Pi Kappa Alpha graduate. I

said, "What do you pay?" and he said, "Seventy-five dollars

a month." I had interviews with many [companies]. We had

people from General Motors, Westinghouse, Ford, electric
P I ujhtzg
companies--all the big companies tc purdue [graduates

S normally went to work a matter of courtesy, awdr

:personnel managers came to Purduep tal to us. -B thi

-time thy all bai Li y wer iiun il hriing ayeei I will

never forget the man from Westinghouse that told me this

story. He said: "I am glad to talk to you, but times are

very difficult. We have the two best turbine engineers in

the world. Now, I did not say in the United States. I said

in the world. We have had to lay one of them off. So you

can see what the conditions are."

I took the job with Arvin Industries, although I was not

impressed with the superintendent. The company made auto

parts, primarily seamless tubing. One time I had charge of

the assembly of jaer parts tailpipe mufflers, and so

forth. And there were other parts, [like] the pipe that

connected the radiator to the engine. And [(i La]

dirty! I always got dirty [at work] primarily because of

the conditions. All of the parts were cut from metal and
were formed in dies that had to t~gF greased, so of course

there was grease on the parts one handled. When _ys went
home from work had to take two baths to get clean. And
home from work X5 had to take two baths to get clean. And

[the place was filled with] noise and all kinds of gases

from the welding and and annealing furnaces.

To make a long story short, there were five of us, and we

trained in different departments. I particularly liked the

machine shop. I worked for the [superintendent of the]

machinist [Mr. McIntyre] who had charge of the machine shop.

He had worked for Stutz, the auto company in Indianapolis.

At one time the center of the auto industry was in

Indianapolis. They made the Jordan there, one of the other

expensive cars. But Indiana was a farm community, and [the

city fathers did not want] all these dirty machine shops and

dirty factories. They gradually they got rid of them. They

could have been the center of the auto industry.

P: So that is how it shifted to Detroit?

A: That is right. y?

0o F w th rhet-rroiA.` a.

/A ^s-^rdva-pnpt-'B^n, ^gmd t^deflT

\ X /They hired Mr. McIntyre. He had charge of the machine shop.

[He was] a very nice man. [He was] gray haired. [He had

been] a flyer in World War I. In World War I [at first]

they used airplanes [only] for observation. They would up

and look around with binoculars and say, "Oh, there is a gun

right over there," or "[There is] something over there," and

send the word down to the artillery. So pretty soon the

Germans were doing the same thing. Then pretty soon--and he


told me about it--the aviators were taking up shotguns and

rifles and shooting at each other, and he was shot down. In

fact, he was shot down several times. They did not have

parachutes, [and when he] landed he said he broke almost

every bone in his body but lived. He was an excellent

machinist and an excellent man to work for.

The machinist had worked at the Stutz [factory]--they called

.* it the Stutz Bearcat, one of the real sports cars in those

Says. rvin Industriesfts making -s own bending dies.

They were complicated dies to make, and while they were good

machinists, they were not good at mathematics. So they

would say [to me]: "Look. Here is the thing I have. Here

is going to be the shape of the part I have to fit." They

would draw a sketch of it and ask, "Now, what angle should

this be to make the parts fit together?" That was easy for

me. I figured out the angles and the sizes and shapes of

the parts and told them how to make it. Pretty soon they

were all coming to mef they had a difficult die to make

As a result, they helped me In trainik as a machinist.

-? /-? There was another young man who was training to be a
i machinist, and he had been there over a year. He could do

little machine workbecause the machinists were not

interested in helping him. But in my case they were. So in

a short time I learned to run lathes9 milling machines
/ %shapers which were easy and
which wss the most difficult shapers which were eas and


precision grinders. I could do good machine work within a

matter of six to nine months.

P: This was all for Arvin Industries.

A: Yes. There was no minimum wage. They promised me seventy-

five dollars a month. The first check--they paid by the

week--[was] ten dollars. I went in and talked to the

superintendent. "Oh," he said, "I am sorry. We just

reviewed it, and we cannot pay that much. You get ten

dollars a week." I could not get another job. I worked

nine hours a day always at least half a day Saturday. On

one occasion [I worked] all day Saturday [and Saturday

night] until Sunday morning. I got angry and just walked

out. I said, "The hell with them."

P: Ten dollars a week, even in those days, hardly covered your

living expenses.

A: Correct. We lived mainly on eggs (which we should not have

done), and we would get bread for toast.

P: How long did you work for Arvin?

A: About one and a half years. Soon the NRA [National Recovery

Administration] came along.

P: The NRA came along in 1933.

A: That was it, 4aeere you had to sr a minimum wage. They were

paying girls ten cents an hour and men, depending on their

experience, from fifteen to twenty cents an hour. [A] good

foreman [could earn] eighteen to twenty dollars a week. One

foreman had five children, and he was a good foreman. I

asked him, "How can you raise five children on what you

get?" He said: "When I get paid every week, I do down to

the grocery store and buy a gunny sack full of navy beans,

and we buy bread. So we eat bread and beans the entire

week." [It was] the same way with other people; they could

hardly live.

At Arvin Industries we were working at these wages, and

[working] conditions were not good. The superintendent told

us: "We have a treat for you. The company is owned by two

men, Mr. Noblet and Mr. Sparks. I am going to take you down

to Mr. Sparks's estate in southern Indiana. It is

beautiful. You will like it." We drove to southern

Indiana. T a r-ph eh ? Up on great big beautiful

bluffs, wooded, you can look out over the flat land, and I

think it is the Ohio River running below there. We drove up

this[high bluffs, and we noticed there was a little creek

running down[ihe side of the bluffjinto a pool. We got to

the top of the bluff, and there was a big, beautiful house.

The living room was about as large as our family room and

living room combined.

P: Which would be about twenty-five or thirty feet.

A: Oh, more than that. About fifty feet [long and twenty-five

feet wide].

P: [It had a] cathedral-type ceiling?

A: Yes, and beautiful furniture. On the top [of the roof] was

an observation deck with a big telescope. Water was flowing

into one pool and then running down some rocks into another

pool. [It was] beautifully landscaped. The superintendent

told us about this. He said the owner liked streams, so he

built this stream. He said: "Down below he dug a deep well.

He pumps the water up to the top of this high bluff, and it

runs down through the surrounding rocks and trees,"

We returned home. That was supposed to be a treat for us!

There were five of us working for him. When we got together

back in the factory, out of hearing of the superintendent we

said, "Why, that lousy SOB!" We saw people working there

for money that they could not live on, [and] we knew what we

were getting, and yet this guy was spending money like that.

So when Arvin Industries found out there was going to be a

minimum wage, It was what? Fifteen cents?

P: It was a little bit more than that, I think.

A: Twenty-five cents for men.

P: Twenty-five cents an hour.

-A -WA7 4.-3q at the-o~s-f

--4---Phab-wae-fhe-1ohest .

-A --And-men-were[-w i-dJ t hir~F- iv

A: Anyhow, er started to wor -we did not know why--night and

day, all day Saturday, [even] nights Saturday. The factory

had a loft with 2 x 4-s across, open, on which they:laid

down boards. It was [soon] filled with completed machine

parts ready to ship. The aisles were filled so we could

hardly walk through them. The commissary was filled. We

had a shed where we kept steel, [and] it was filled. There

was no room for anything. And then they shut down.

P: Filled with what? What were they filled up with?

A: All the [manufactured] parts they were making for the auto

industry. The auto industry had told them what they needed

in advance.

P: I see.

A: -6ee*e shut down for more than six or nine months. I tried

[to find a job in] Indianapolis and went from one company to


P: In other words, you were without a job.

A: Oh, sure. All of us.

P: You had walked off, or they had discharged you?

A: They knad u's CEwith no notice to return.

P: They shut down the plant?

A: They shut down the plant.

P: OK. So you are without a job now. Even though you were not

happy with the work that you had, you had gotten a salary,-L

A: Right. o money) /nd there was no unemployment insurance

in those days.]


A I had just enough money to live on for about two weeks, and

I spent two weeks going from one industry to another. Same

story: not a single job. I called my father, and he said,

"Come on back home, Bob, to southern Illinois." He sent me

a pass, since I was dependent on him then, and I got on the

railroad and went back to Herrin, Illinois.

P: You packed up and went home.

A: Yes. [When I got back to Herrin] I would take the St. Louis

telephone directory and pick out a particular section of St.

Louis [to canvass]. I knewEhe city pretty welljbecause I

had gone up there as a boy o baseball ames nd shows from

Illmo on the train. My father had passes. We had shopped

up there. Anyway, I went from one section [of the city] to

the other, from one industry to the other, day after day.

Generally I would go home on the weekends because the

industries were not open. I would spend Saturday and Sunday

[at home] writing more letters to other industries. I spent

[the weekends] with my mother and father. They did not

charge me any boa or room because I did not have money.

After about five or six months, my dad said: "Bob, there is

a company in St. Louis looking for a place to start a new

factory. It is called Brown Shoe Company." I said, "Dad,

that is only two blocks from where I stay at the YMCA." I

lived at the YMCA for $3.50 a week, and they had a cafeteria

where I could eat for $2.00 a week.

P: So in other words, you left home on Monday, and you went up

there to search for a job, spending all week and living at

the YMCA.

A: And came home Friday.

P: I see. And at some of these places, in response to your

letters of application, they were at least interviewing you?

A: Oh, yes, many of them.

P: They responded, but they were not hiring.

A: They were not hiring. One of the interesting things that

happened in school that I did not tell you was that I took

mechanical engineering, primarily industrial engineering,

and heating and ventilatinglbecause air conditioning was

just coming in. I thought, Some day they are going to cool

buildings and cool houses." Freon had just been developed,

and [I believed] we could make air conditioners, small

units, much smaller than a TV. I went to Century Electric

in St. Louis, and there was a girl working there fromgllmo

the town where I was raised. There was also a man from

Purdue working there. I went all through Century Electric

with a young man who was very nice and very well educated.

One day the fellow from Purdue said, "Do you know who you

were walking around with?" I said, "No, but he is very

nice." He said, "He happens to be the son of the owner of

the company." I said, "Oh?" When I started back home that

week, he said, "Will you come back again next week?" I had

told him, "I think someday people are going to develop a

cooler, an air conditioner, that you can set in a window or

set in a room and cool the whole room." Freon had7beeon

developed by DuPont,/which made this possible and I told

him about the freon. He said, "Do you really think this can

be done?" and I said yes.

I went back the next week, and he said, "We have discussed

/the possibility of making room air coolersJwith the board of

directors, and they do not think it is possible."-o they

did not build it.

P: They missed out.

A: Yes. [Let me tell you about] another thing [that happened

when I was] at Purdue. You remember I had worked on the

railroad. The railroad cars( [in order] to handle fruit,

vegetables, and other perishables had on each end [of the

refrigerator car an area similar to] an old-time ice box,

:aEse you open each end of the refrigerator car and put in

great big blocks of ice--I think 200 pounds per block. The

whole train was delayed until [the spaces in] these cars

were filled with ice. [As a lab project] I developed a

compressor that ran off the wheel of the freight car, using

the same principle [as the room air conditioner]. That is

what they eventually developed years later.

P: Did you patent it? [laughter] Bob Axline, you should have

done that.

A: I did not think about it. I did not know anything about


P: Now, in the meantime your father tells you about this Brown

Shoe Company.

A: Yes. First thing when I got to St. Louis the next Monday

P: As you said, it was near where you were already staying.

A: Only two blocks. (By the way, in the YMCA there was a

[large] picture of a man named George Warren Brown. I found

out later he was the founder of Brown Shoe Company and had

also built the YMCA) I walked to the Brown Shoe Company

office and went in the door. [I went up to] a man sitting

at a desk. I said: "I want a job. I hear you are going to

start a new factory." He jumped and said, "Where did you

hear that?" I told him the story, that my father worked for

Missouri-Pacific and that he told me that word had come out

from their office that they were looking for a place to

start a shoe factory. I said: "I want to go to work. I am

an engineer." He took me to the secretary of the company, a

man named C. P. Evans. I will never forget him. We became

good friends. [He was] very unusual, very intelligent. He

finally retired and died in St. Petersburg, south of Tampa


P: C. P. stands for what?

A: I am not sure.

t CEverybody called him C. P.

P: OK. *AX/tkepg7 f 3

A: /Mr. Evan3s rp4 a page in front of me on the des --I found

out later it was wrongside up--and he said, "Fill this out."

I saw some questions. To me it looked like an I.Q. test, so

I filled it out. He said to do both sides. I turned it

over, and there were instructions what to do. I filled out

the rest of it and handed it to him. I found out that I had

finished in about half the normal time and had an excellent

score. He said: "OK. How would you like to be an office

manager?" I said: "No. I am an engineer, and I want to go

in the factory." He was sort of startled because jobs were

so hard to find. I was foolish to say that, really. He

said: "I will make you a deal. You run an office for me for

two years, and I will see you get in the factory." I said,

"It is a deal." And he did. He trained me in a [shoe]

factory in Salem, Illinois, for about four or five weeks. I

was supposed to train for three months, but they did not

have time. They decided to open the factory sooner.

P: And where was the factory going to be located?

A: Dixon, Illinois.

P: Where in Illinois is that? ,

A: One hundred miles west of Chicago. Cold. By the way, it is

the place where my wife was born. I met her there)

P: How much were they going to pay you as office manager?

P: How much were they going to pay you as office manager?

A: To train as office manager, I got ten dollars a week and

expenses. I stayed in a rooming house [with a] very nice

family. SI was a jeweler. I could ride beck to Herrin,

Illinois, on a train(pbecause Herrin was only about sixty

miles south of there. I would see my folks on the weekend

and come back Monday.

P: So you were training, then.

A: Yes. Then the word came out that they were going to start

[a factory in] Dixon, and they wanted me to report to Dixon

right away. I got on the train the day before Christmas

from Herrin. It took me into St. Louis. This train went

right by the penitentiary in southern Illinois at Menard.

Apparently just before Christmas they paroled{ome] meng-/

because there were about six or eight obvious convicts [at

the station]. They were brought down there by guards. When

they got on the train they came in and sat down. They were
all dressed in the same kind of clothes you could tell

their clothes were made in prison. They were allthe same

kind of suits, the same kind of shoes, no overcoats--and it

was winter. I heard them talking. We went in to St. Louis,

and as we got into familiar. surroundings first East St.

Louis and then St. Louis one of them said, "Oh, the same

old streets," and he called the streets out by name. "And

that street and that street." They knew where they were,

and, of course, getting home after a long stay prison,

they were so happy to see something familiar]. As one of

them got up to move to a different seat, I noticed some

change laying there. I walked over and picked it up, and it

was a handful. I saw the man get up, and I said: "Here. Is

this yours? It was in the seat." He said: "Oh, yes.

Thanks." It had fallen out of his pocket.

I found out later from reading the newspapers that he was a

gangster. There were two tough gangs in St. Louis fighting

for bootlegging rights, and he had gotten about fifteen

years. [It was] the Hogans and the Egans.

Then I changed trains and went to Dixon. I got into Dixon

that night/ '

4: (Christmas eve.

P: What year was this?

A: 1934. [It was] cold! I was standing on the [station]
platform and did not even have an overcoat. I had a light

topcoat and was shivering. A taxi came up at 12:30, after

midnight, and I said, "Would you take me down to the hotel?",

I had the name of it because I had reservations there~ hey

had a room for me. I asked, "How cold is it?" nd they

said, "Oh, about eighteen below zero." [laughter]

P: Hardly the place to be Christmas eve.

A: I got in bed, but I could not get warm. I called down, and

they sent up more covers, and I called down again, and they

sent up more covers and more covers until I got warm. That

is how I got to Dixon.


P: And that is when you started working for the Brown Shoe

Company. So you start out as an office manager.

A: anage. It turned out to be a very good thinq;

Apa j&y being office manage5 I made up all the cost

reports for the factory, all the different department costs,

production, hours worked, etc. As I made up the report, I
soon learned which were goo resulted in profits and

which were ba causag losses

D 1Y f1 Ep f The general superintendent and the assistant
general superintendent came there and would talk to the

superintendent and say--I could hear them because my office

was right next to them--"This is poor performance. You have

to improve it." As a result I learned what one had to do to

make a good profit in a shoe factory. If you did a poor

job, it caused a loss. That helped me so much later on.

P: We are at that point on the tape that I want you to tell me

about the Brown Shoe Company, what it was, what it

manufactured, where it was located, and its standing in the

nation as far as other similar industries were concerned.

A: Brown Shoe Company was started in about 1858 by George

Warren Brown, the man whose picture was on the YMCA wall.

At the time I started working for Brown Shoe in 1934 they

had five shoe factories.

P: Where were corporate headquarters?

A: In St. Louis, right downtown, 1600 Washington Avenue. By

the time I finished working for Brown Shoe Company they had

forty-nine shoe factories. We had very rapid growth. I

think there were two reasons. First, they had high moral

principles. Their general executives did not stay unless

they had good moral principles. If there was a man that

traveled for Brown Shoe Company who ran around amn drank and

raised hell, the executives would find it out, and he was

through. Both the president and the vice president were

very devout Baptists. The president was named George Bush.

fa .^S-c^/la_ lfe _-- --- "'
P: That is kind of a familiar name--George Bush.

A: But not related to the brewery.

P: And not related to the president of the United States.

A: I would guess not, but I am not sure. He came from a farm

near St. Louis, and he came to St. Louis looking for a job.

^}ll4 1e had two baskets of eggs, and he hoped to sell

the eggs maake enough money to get a room and live 0for

a week, and he did. He went to Brown Shoe, and they gave

him a job running the elevator. He was a man with

tremendous personality [and] great leadership drive. He was

not the kind toabuse you0 But if things were not right,

you could hear him hout all over the office]. He had the

capacity of [encouragement]. He would come along and give

you a slap on the back--[I saw this] as we were walking to

lunch--and say, "There are a couple of fine young menx" You
threw your chest back 0dfheld your head high and you
wentaway feeling confident that you could do anything].
As I said before, Mr. Bush's first job7was running the
elevator. After that job,he was given a job in the cut-
sole plant, where they cut out the leather [outer] soles,
the leather inner soles, and similar shoe parts. He became
a supervisor there. Then he/was promoted to leather buyer,
which is an important job. A shoe factory makes money on
its ability to buy good-quality leather at reasonable
prices, and then, more important, use it efficiently. You
cut up every little bit of scrap, but it has to be the right
leather for that particular part of the shoe. For example,
the outsole, which took all the wear of the sole, came from
what they called kip skins, an animal halfway between a calf
and a steer, fr k~1f khe leather is better at that age
and thick enough. Jj became the leather buyer. I am not
sure where on he went [from there], but he [eventually]
became president. Ijattended the partyat whicEhhe
celebrated thirty-five years as president of Brown Shoe.
P: What kind of shoes did Brown manufacture?
A: They first started Buster Brown for children, and then they
went into women's shoes.

P: Under what name?
A: At that time I am not sure. It was the old-style, high-top
woman's shoe made out of black kidskin. Either you laced

the shoes halfway up the calf or you buttoned them with a

button hook. Then, as time passed, they started making

different styles of shoes because ladies wanted style. One

other line that is still one of the best women's shoes in

the country is Naturalizer. We have many stores that sell

only Naturalizers. Brown Shoe also made Airstep [and] Life

Stride. For men's shoes they had Roblee and Pedwin. For

children's shoes they had Robin Hood, along with Buster

Brown. Buster Brown was a high-grade shoe.
t r /- i
P: Were these medium-price shoesA expensive shoes?

A: Buster Brown wasa relatively expensive children's shoe. We

put the/best3material into it and the best workmanship.

They are still [rather] expensive. [They fit well and wear


P: That was a quality shoe, then. How about the women's shoes?

A: fP14rt Naturalizer is still considered one of the [best

woman's shoe on the market]. It does not/post as much [as

some of the eastern-made or imported shoes] that sell for

over $100 a pair.




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P: Now, your job as an office manager involved supervising how

many people?

A: About twelve girls in the office.

P: And how much were you paid?

A: To start with, $23 a week. Eventually, after four years, I

got $25.

P: So you were office manager for four years?

A: Two.

P: Because they promised to put you in as an engineer at the

end of two years.

A: the manufacturing.

P: / So you went into the Brown Shoe Company in 1934, and you

f spent the rest of your working career with the Brown Shoe


A: or one short period! thought it might be desirable to work

for a smaller shoe company, so I worked for the Freeman Shoe

Company from Beloit [Wisconsin]. The reason is this. I was

working in Dixon, Illinois, between the cutting and fitting

departments, training, having just come from the office

recently. Word came--it was published in the paper--that

Brown Shoe Company was sold to Frean. I iwent-down-and

talked to-pbS superintendent. I knew him iea well he and

my father were friends though I did not know it when I

went 4)to Brown Shoe Company, i d e I said, "Are

we going to have jobs?" He said: "Bob, I do not know.

B2, p. 1

They have not even told me." So I did not do anything makti *t "

two weeks. [Then the announcement came:] "Our factory will

be closed, and Freeman will take over two weeks from today."

jer I contacted Freeman and talked to them, and they said,

"Yes, we would like to have you." Se I promised I would

stay there and run their fitting department and train all

the cutters,, ~itPad I had been a cutter I had been
trained for it.

S4 nn about two days I got a call from St. Louis saying, "We

want you to report to the Brown Shoe Company in Mattoon,

Illinois." I said: "I have just been hired by Freeman.

Why did you not tell me? I would rather have stayed with

you." But-he-re--1Tas-w T-married-now- '"T-hav-e-to-make---a-

-iv4.ngs--l reacut-to-them. OILet me talk to the4-r\vice

president, and I will see if I can arrange to break the

agreement." I talked to him, and he said, "Bob, you should

stay. We need you. You know the people here. You can help

us get started." c~ I called ~r back and told them, '!Z

I cannot leave." c- I stayed there and worked for them for

about two years.

P: What period are we talking about now?

A: I started at Brown in 1938, [siy his would have been in]

1939,-~r 1939 1/-3:-

P: You go to work for Freeman for a relatively short period of

time) 6n.

B2, p. 2

A: 9-It was i-f1T30- f" ..i a sni rt perloai Ui -i, --W hthrd

hjappened-fwa- The man that hired me was the son of the

owner. Mf> YL,^ _j

-E4 ED Freeman. M_ '.. -

. CDick Freeman. real fine young man. [He] graduated from

Williams College in the East and was doing an excellent job.

But in the past, the executive vice president was named

Cadwell, and Dick's father, Mr. R. E. Freeman, who was the

president--his brother was vice president in charge of

sales--had hired Cadwell thinking his name was Caldwell, who

was a good shoemaker. _6'Cadwell had charge of all their

shoe manufacturing--three factories (two DmoTbBi in Beloit

and one in Dixon). -ASbll at once Cadwell had to leave.

Mr. Freeman did not have anybody else, so he said, "Dick, yoDgL

get-eut-and run the factory." Dick did, A.nd he hired me and

I worked for him. He did a real good job. we-bet-h-4d".-s

goo~d jbe e got along fine.

In about four months back came Cadwell. He knew who Dick

had hired, and he fired every person Dick had hired. Hej. I.

Afed *i]E. -
P: Including youoj19-4ft= the son of the president? 4e 7aqvQ. /

A: sim-ou -aide no longer had charge or any

responsibility for manufacturing# w Vtarew"csiwTg. I felt

Mr. Freeman was wronged. He told me one time, "If my

boys"--he had two that I knew--"ever make-anythtgL here,

B2, p. 3

they will have to do it on their own. Here is a good young

man that worked hard and was capable of doing a good job."

P: But you were fired, too.

A: Oh, yes.

P: So then you had to go back to Brown.

A: I called Brown, and they said: "Come right back. We need


P: In the meantime, you have left the office manager job, and

you are operating now as an engineer in the factor es,

A: Right,-and it was engineering that they wanted me ~e o0 do.

P: You never returned to the office management, then?

A: Nog oe4mT at--I-had-an-fficeman c ager-work-for-mwhen.

-had-oharge-of-~the-factories -

P: So you start in, then, about 1940 and go back to Brown.

A: Make it 1941.

P: And you are working in what city now?

A: St. Louis, doing industrial engineering work.

P: OK. Did you spend the rest of your working life in St.



P: I want to break at this point and ask you a little about

your personal life, td4iL~ y this time you are married.

First of all, tell me about your wife, what her name was,

birthdate, and how you two got together.

B2, p. 4

A: Her name is Kathleen Marion Cotter. 8~ tJ wie sw

P: What was her birthdate Ptn i hfv ?

A: March 17, 1915.

P: And she was born where?

A: On a farm atf ee4ee Dixon, Illinois.

P: She graduated from where?

A: High school.

P: And she got a job?

A: She had a job at the shoe factory.

P: f OK.

A: did ot know her the. She said she used to .see me,/ and

Sit was rally sa. would go down to that shoe. factory,

and, see, people could not get jobs, I had the key to he

door to op6n up the office and go t6 work,nd t was

S crowded ohat I cold [hardly open te doot] /I wold think,
"I have to get in there to open the door^ eveybody can

get into the factdoy," even the people at were working.
/' po,,at were workIng.
So wou1'd let me through, and I wou unlock the 'do0 and

go in./ And she said she used to see e there. Well,' I

Iver knew it.

I liked to swim, and there was a beach on Rock River in

well Par. I as a c-a e place to swim. Sg I would
,hewell Parr. CIt wet i0/1 y:7
go swimming and peettay- asjon I would see her. We started
talking. One time I said, "Let's swim across the river."
talking. One time I said, "Let's swim across the river."

B2, p. 5

,Oh1 .t was a pppt- good-sized river, far-ther-than-f-romn-her~-
to-over-o-to-a----house. ,So6 e swam over. There was ase ,

current in the middle, butnot a lot. We could walk up/and

then could swim back to the beach. We got dMa=e, and she

said, "Whew!" I said '8? 1Are you tired?" She said,

"That is the first time I ever swam the river." I said,

"The first time.?" So I said, "Going back, you swim in

front of me, and I will swim right behind you." -But -Tat is

how we got acquainted.

P: So'that was your first meeting.

A: Yes.

P: / Then what happened?

A: Then we went to picture shows.

P: You started dating.

A: Yes.

P: Did you meet her family?

A: Yes.

P: And you passed muster?

A: I think so. [laughter]

P: When were you all married?

A: ait just a minute. I will tell you-wh. It used to be

hat eveynce in a w il I would come home from work, and

athlen ou d say "Gues what day yes erday was I/sa d:
0/ 1
"I do t ot kn"w day a /it?" She w spouti She
r / iversary." Isad w d
"Our wenniversary." I" said, "Well, why did you

B2, p. 6

not\tell me?" [She would say,] "If you cannot remember, I

will'\not tell you. So after that happened about three

/ times, ,I decided to write it someplace I could find it, so I
wrote it on the back of my Social Security card. [laughter]

You might stop this until I find it.

-OK,-you, can start it. .Thereafter that, I remembered-it. We

werd-marr-ed~-on--Sep-tember 20, 1935.

P: Where were you married?

A: Morris, Illinois.

P: At her home?

A: .There-is.kindofa.. funny story about it. Kathleen and I

were a lot alike in that we did not like big parties,

celebrations ceremonies. Shedid-not-evePn-want-to-havg-a-- -

.-funera-E-but-I- felt 'she-should--have7-although -we-practica-1-y-y

,agreed-not-to-have- [one'l--for-either-of-us-. So I called her J

one Thursday afternoon. It was during the Depression, as I

told you. At that time I was in the office, and I said:

"Kathleen, I do not have to work tomorrow. How about

getting married?" Everything was quiet. We had not even

discussed it, [although] I had been thinking about it for a
^7k/Crz W^A-S 5 ,rrl e7/JN C- a-td Atr-n_ t
good while. ~ f -F-e she came back on the phone and-be

said, "What did you say?" I told her, and she said: "I

thought that is what you said -16e I have to buy a new
/ A
dress." So she bought a new dress, and we got married the

next day.

B2, p. 7

P: Where did you go? To a courthouse?

A: No, we went to a minister in Morris, Illinois. P weite

P: nRdhen ve n qthe tar. Now, you were a

successful businessman, so I know you had a large amount of

money to launch this new project, marriage.

A: [laughter] Kathleen did not have anything.

P: Nothing?

A: She was typically Irish.

P: She had spent it on that new dress.

A: In fact, I bet she borrowed it from her mother. -As-we-

-started-going- together, either of us had,-and-we-

would w k from the factory to uptown, and I would go over

to a taven where hey had good beer and good ice cream. I

would drink one /eer with a friend of mine a then eat an

ice cream cone' Kathleen would turn lef ad go across Rock

River, and her me was right there with two blocks. But

and say, "I will see ou later," an away she went. She

made payments to every pace she owed money, and by the time
shegot home she had just noug to pay her mother for her

board.,_So .she-had-not-hing---7and I had, -I-thinky about $475

or something, t0/

P: You were a rich man for the Depression period. [laughter]

B2, p. 8


A: We paid $175 down on furniture.

P: It sounds to me like you did not go on a honeymoon.

A: We did not. We would have had to walk.

P: You rented an apartment?

A: A three-room apartment& i -gs!2 downtown Dixon, s~ bought

.the--three rooms of furniture. Fortunately, they had a stove,

so we did not have to buy one, and there was a small table

in the kitchen -sd bll we had to buy was living room and

bedroom furniture.

P: And you could do that with $175?
A: Not quite, no, but I made that much payment, and we paid it

.eS-each month. If we had a dollar left over from both of

our checks, we went to the matinee, The theater,__whie was

only about two of three blocks from where we lived.

P: And you walked everywhere.

A: Yes. In the winters we wore these high-buckle overshoes,

almost up to our knees. Sometimes the snow would be aLmoslt
+4ic& dee'p
Lt anr kren-, [and the temperature would be] fifteen below

zero. It was at least two miles to the factory, and we

would walk deww there and then walk back in the evening.

P: Was Kathleen a good cook?

A: She turned out to be. The funny thing [about that was] one

of the reasons I was thinking about getting married [was

because] she would bring me these small pies6the best pi.I

ever tasted 4-b=s--apple pie, cerry pie, ndtit-

B2, p. 9

o9~fT a-. daS I would eat the pie and then give her the pan

back. Sure-enoughw in a couple weeks there would be another
C,-% A,T7U --
pie. Eh~ao fe-9 t-da we were married they moved in the

furniture, and she said, "What do you want for supper?" I

said, "Oh, some of that good apple pie." She said, "OK."
Si?4Ad be ro- S
-Se he fixed dinner withtJg ni mashed potatoes because she

liked meat and potatoes the German part of henpe) "then
(^ ^-~--s------0
out came the pie. She gave me a piece of it, and I said:

"What is wrong, Kathleen? This is not the kind of pie you

have been bringing me." She said, "Oh, my mother made

those." [laughter] But she became a good cook.

P: She got her mother's recipe.

A: And she tried hard.

P: So you begin moving up the economic ladder, then, as result

of your activity at Brown Shoe Company, and the company

itself begins to expand. Where were you during World War


A: Doing engineering work.

P: Were you already too old to be involved? You are in your


A: I was not too old to be involved/tbecause I registered. -Csr

of-the-fttnny--thlings--[-i-s-] I came home from work one day while

I was doing this engineering work, and he;re-was Kathleen yIC

crying. I-mean, the tears were just flowing. I thought,
"M somebody r)
"My-G', somebody has die probably her mother or father."

B2, p. 10

I said, "What is wrong, Kathleen?" [She said,] "Read this."

It was a statement to report for examination for induction

into the army in St. Louis. I read it and I laughed, and

that made her mad SlTe--just gt- mad-as-could-be-.- So I

actually had a physical examination' ,dr / --

At that particular time our company was making a lot/ and-L-

wa--spend-ing-a-l-most-al-l--my-t-imeas-an--eng-ineer-.- Our

factories were-making-army shoes. They were making regular

combat boots, .

P: For the military.

A: Dress shoes for the army, dress shoes for the WACs, dress

S'shoes for the navy, Ruian army shoes--such big shoes you

-could-not-imagine-. They did not wear socks because it was

very cold over there, and they would take pieces of wool

cloth and wrap it around their feet, and then the shoes fit

over them.

P: So this went over under Lend-Lease. -, e ,

A: I would say Lend-Lease, yes. Because of the sno7they had

to have the outsole both nailed and stitched. Because I was
,I --W -: I IT -
the only one doingf~het [ was not called to active

service]. -ou--Ge d-hear _fhe unionsA "We are behind ouj

servicemen." We-are-behind-our-soldie-rs." Posters and

everything else. All I did was spend every day, sometimes

six days a week, in these factories trying to keep the f 'o/2

working. We would have meeting, with our labor relations

B2, p. 11

\ '' nt' i, ;
lawyer, ir shp steward, the jne Ia-super -A ndent, and

myself inve tigat.s. 2= a.htse complaints, alw ys for more

money. I was left hesr~eto'make an invest tion of the job.

in question, "e I could change con itions, which I

did frequently, they could make what hey considered a

normal wage. If '-i- after I changed conditions' /

still did not provi e what they thou ht was a normal wage,

our labor relations awyer, with t e vice president in

charge of manufacture g, reached an agreement as to what
rh&8 /M'/6e6 ^R C ^Shdted Ib b
e a Unfo tunatel lawyers are apt to
P / / r- e1-, Ovr
compromise, and they com romesedon/prices. Afte-r the war,
V .-'1. -
these setders were making 15,000 pairs daof combat

boots or the army, and were making. sfe- and --twenty.

doTTr-s _aTr:o- rw h-p~w a twice the going wage in

Those days. B- t

Ee-ef -Teny RIMd a-a 3o mbat-_

e---sae=-aa9~- )t ked to the union and said,
.. /. \ [ .,.<, ..
M3e. 'We can t pay these wages on these--jobs." We tried
rit-actually, making Buster Brown shoes] rnt-for children-

-but for gro ing girls and growing b s. There was nway we

could arnd-we-knew-when-we Med-thet. So they-had-

)jeM a meet g with theagent.-
standing by our guns. Either you pay th se wages, or we

wil/ not work." Thai was the f We s ut down the


B2, p. 12

P: What union were you dealing with?

A: At that time we had both the CIO [Congress of Industrial

Organizations] and the AF of L [American Federation of

Labor]y and- Ithink [this incident involved] the AFL. A.

P: During the war, did you just convert completely to military


A: No.

P: You still manufactured civilian shoes.

A: We had so many civilian shoes to make. By the way, we made-

'-; 04 eerba~ boots for the air force in Vincennes, Indiana,./

-WeweZhavi.ngouhble--etting-them. out\ and Ind-one-o~f

the ass tan general sup rintendents went \ovr there and

worked out'the problem, and e made twice many boots for

HOLLER ,/ff a certain machine as any other fact in this

U-Tnited-States. -- ------ .

P: Bob, describe the Brown Shoe Company expansion during the

war and after the war.

A: During the war, of course, we were making and selling a.-ot-. -7/:

'lf-shoes for the military. We tried to contract our

civilian shoe work out to other shoe companies that did not

have enough work. The quality of the shoes was so poor that
J -tc ., "1 .".) 3 (ct-u-j JlditO. ^'f eZtt1;-'?
we just could not afford to sell them/ -We-4JBBBD-themr--Sn-

Fhey selected their best, young factory superintendent,

named Monte SHOMAKER, and he and I were given the job of

B2, p. 13

going into these small towns in western Tennessee, northern

Arkansas, southern Missouri, and finding any kind of

building we could find in which we could make shoes. At

that time the war was going on, and the shortage of steel

made it impossible to build a modern shoe factory. The

first one was built in Selmer [Tennessee].

P: So you were looking for a sizable, multi-story building.

A: Single story or anything.

P: Anything, but large enough so that it would iav hold the

kind of equipment that you needed in order to manufacture

civilian shoes.

A: Yes. And some of the factories, some of the buildings we

used, were really too small, Out still we made shoes/ a good

number of them. One was at this place I am going to tell

you about in Selmer, Tennessee. In the meantime, we knew

what kind of shoes we were going to make in this place. It

had limited factory space, so we knew we could notltoo many

styles because style changes require time. I made time and

motion studies of every job on the shoes we were gong to

make. At the same time, I had developed aptitude tests so

we could select the best people out of a group that were

looking for a job--those that would make good stitchers wid-

those that would work on the heavier machines a~nd-ttrgs

.ike-that. Part of it was a short and relatively simple

I.Q. tested ~e6fs ome of the machines were complicated,

B2, p. 14

and you need to have intelligence to operate them properly.

P~i .'sat Ve ran tests on more than a thousand people in
this small town. They lived on small farms surrounding the

town, and they l came in applying for work. Out of that
group, we picked people with exceptional skills P-ood

dexterity they could move their hands quickly and with

accuracy and ood intelligence.

4 We first trained the operators in cutting and fittinge/
SenkVles0. Wt the same time

set up a foreman training program. Brown Shoe Company did

not have any kind of training program, either for operators

or supervisors. e started making shoes# =2-Vhen we

started, the general officers w ~=tto Monte and me-

p@QRsge "It normally takes a year and a half to show any

profit at all. If you do it in that time with the kind of

factory you are going to have, you will be doing a good

job." We made a good profit in six months, and every six

months we increased the profit. As a result, we went from

one place to the other and started factories, and 7n every

instance we made better quality shoes, we produced the shoes

they needed to sell, and we produced them at a profit We "

continued to develop new systems of machinery layout and

thgf~sf Aki-h machine parts control (inventory of the

machine parts) so that we ordered only the vZB part we

needed and not too many. They used to order -tem in bulk,

B2, p. 15

Plkt4nj pretty soon the machine would become obsolete and

we would throw thousands of dollars worth of machine parts

away. _

: To e o ee epa-r d n he amount of money we saved was

unbelievable. In one case, an unusual one, Montain

Grove, Missouri t -;had- a Masonic hal pg ~*hey said, "We
will give you the Masonic hall if you can use it." We

looked at it. It had a basement, and the first floor was an

auditorium with a stage and seats in he They said we

could take the seats out. There was a balcony where there

were also seats r the auditorium, and they said we could

take those ou There was complete upper floor where

they held the initiation Sxo we used that. Because the

cutting machines that do the cutting of leather are heavy,
rPuT 4-henTl
weept -bhosQ in the basement. We put a small lift that you ~7-tg

could pull by hand to move the cut parts up to the top floor

to be stitched p(fit together) When the pieces were VU

together, they were sent down a shoot to the balcony where

the shoes were lasted, roughed, and the bottom cement

applied. Then they went down another lift to the main floor

that had been the auditorium where we finished the shoes--

the cleaning, t~e-repai-rng, the dressing, and the packing.

: Pr H n gem n

B2, p. 16

P: When you came aboard Brown Shoe Company in the 1930s, it had

five factories. When you left, when you retired, how many

were operating?

A: Forty-nine.

P: Scattered all over the United States, or bunched together in

the Middle West?

A: Primarily in the Middle West: Illinois, Missouri,

Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, one in Indiana


P: [Are there] any in the Southeast? Florida, Georgia?

A: No, although we had a tannery in Gowanda, New York, that we


P: Corporate headquarters remained in St. Louis?

A: ThzYremained in St.i'i

P: Did you ever open any operations outside of the United

State--Canada, Mexico?

A: Oh, yes. I happened to be involved in that, too.

P: So the forty-nine factories that you are talking about

included those outside [the U.S.]?

A: No.

P: These were in addition?

A: Yes, because that was a fla subsidiary.

C ( In the meantime had finished the engineering work. They

were talking about building new factories.

B2, p. 17

aat tPn.

P: What was title?

A: At that time he was a superintendent, but then they made him

a general superintendent.

P: Where it he from?

A: Murphysboro, Illinois.

P: e s/still living?

A: No. j- -

'h: He was a year or so older than I. He had Alzheimer's. That

is the reason I was so interested in!7lzheimer's in

Gainesville.' He and I were like brothers.

P: It sounds like you had a very close business

association/working relationship.
(' u-ry^ a; w hg^hfd d Cd;pre ien i tl $7Br' S Sho^ Company,h he-"a8idr be.yauous8 faJ-juStwhat you-said-.

: So tell me about the Canadian operations.

A: We had sold, license to a Canadian shoe company that had two

factories e ane- our shoe

P: Under the brand name of Brown?

A: Naturalizer j~gA g Mutaee Buster Brown, but-Naturar-i-ze-r-I-

,am-sure-. We started getting reports the quality was not

good, Monte talked to

me. He said, "Bob, can you spend some time away from your

B2, p. 18

Yf'ta '",ctory?.JL At that time I was general superintendent and had

a group of factories. I said, "Sure, I can, Monte." I had

good assistants and good superintendents. I flew upon

Sunday afternoon and flew back ~"n Friday night. The shoe

making was .loa&ys- Vgr/ fri t '.

P: Where was this in Canada?

A: In Perth, sixty miles south of Ottawa [Ontario]. Perth and

Alexandra were [where] the two factories [were located].

Alexandra was in the French-speaking part of Canada, and

P: So the quality of work was not up to your standards.

A: It was very poor.

P: Was that a result of poor supervision, poor materials?

A: Poor supervision. One time--and this illustrates it--Monte

Shomaker attended a meeting in Washington, D.C., of all the

shoe manufacturers in the country. One of them got up and

said, "Mr. Shomaker, we owe you a lot." A' said: "You do

not owe me anything. Why do you say that?" He said* "You

set a standard of quality that we are all trying to meet.

It has improved the shoes of every one of us." I thought

that was quite a compliment.
I wrote a book, and a shoe factory superintendent wpuid

take that and read the instructions of very operation in f-I

every department, he could run a shoe factory efficiently,

//)''C S.

B2, p. 19

.;; o S" -*
make a good-quality shoe, and/make money. I gave it only to

my own superintendents.

P: "EBro~nF h'ij bard? Was Brown on the [New York] Stock

Exchange? 5 a

A: Oh, yes, and I started buying -it early. They suggested it.

That-was-.good. I said, "How about five shares?" ad They

said, "Oh, why not buy at least twenty-five," so I bought

twenty-five. When I retired just my Brown stock was worth,

oh, $1.5 million.

P: Did they give stock out as part of the bonuses?

A: Options. -~ha-t helpd.

P: Did that spread all over the company? Were the ordinary

workers able to purchase stock?

A: They could purchase, but they did not get the stock options.

M~ds-oftthe top execjtives-were-the-only-_se-esable te-do-


P: So there was no employee ownership involved in the company,


A: Very little.

P: Other than Canada, did Brown go anywhere outside of the


A: Oh, yes* after-the-imports-sa-t&rted--Aga-in, e started

im orting sandals from Italyi beautiful, beautiful shoesA

m much less than our cost here. So Monte Shomaker said,

"Bob, we can do as good work as they can in Italy." At that

B2, p. 20

time I was general superintendent of the shoe factories in

Pocahontas, Arkansas. [He suggested that we could] actually

take the same style and [make them] at the same prices. We

I. i priced--4t- so-that-we-knew-we could .go--back"on what they sold

' us-the-shoe-for-, and-we-knew -what-the costs weere. There-was

no-way-in-the-world!-I -looked-at-,him-and said,__.Monte ,,we,

-cannot-do-it-;- Buti-l wi-1-1--try--any-thing._y-ou-say. "e -SO- e

tried it. We worked on methods and equipment and/everything
we could do, ef we lost our shirt because their wage scale

was half ours. There was no way [we could compete].

P: So you continued to import from Italy?

A: Italy first, and then it got worse and worse and worse.

P: What do you mean, "It got worse"? The quality?

A: No. The quality from Italy was good. They made probably

the best sandals in the world, and still do.

P: So what do you mean, "It got worse and worse and worse"?

A: Averagg import/ because her companies started to import //
sneakers and other kinds of shoes [with] rubber soles and ,

_th-inngs--1like that. They were made in Korea, Taiwan, -aed Ve

started maki~ng-alot-of shoes in South America. At first

they were rough, but we keptmen down there training them.

P: Did you work outside of the U.S.--in Asia, in the Far East,

and in South America--because the wage scale was so much


A: That is right. We had no choice.

B2, p. 21

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