Robert Foster, Charlotte Williamson, and Jeremy Williamson

Recorded December 29, 2015 Archived December 29, 2015 38:00 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: atl003160


Charolette Williamson (32) and her husband, Jeremy Williams (34) interview her father, Dr. Robert "Bob" Foster, Jr. about his career in dentistry.

Subject Log / Time Code

Bob remembers growing up in Dallas, TX.
Bob talks about going to college at Oglethorpe College.
Bob talks about his eligibility for the Vietnam War draft.
Bob remembers when the Vietnam War cease fire was announced.
Bob says that overtime, he realized that dentistry is what he was supposed to be.


  • Robert Foster
  • Charlotte Williamson
  • Jeremy Williamson

Recording Locations

Atlanta History Center

Venue / Recording Kit


StoryCorps uses Google Cloud Speech-to-Text and Natural Language API to provide machine-generated transcripts. Transcripts have not been checked for accuracy and may contain errors. Learn more about our FAQs through our Help Center or do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions.

00:04 My name is Charlotte Foster Williamson. I am 32 years old today's date is December 29th, 2015 or at storycorps Atlanta and I am here with my dad and my husband Jeremy.

00:18 I'm dr. Robert E Foster Jr. And I'm 71 years old. It also is December 29th night 2015. I'm here in Atlanta with my daughter and son Jeremy and Charlotte Williamson.

00:39 My name is Jeremy Williamson. I am still 34 years old and it is still December 29th, 2015. We are Atlanta storycorps, and I'm here with my wife Charlotte that my father dr. Bob.

00:55 What one of the reasons that I asked you to come here today was because I am interested in learning more about my family before they were my family, I guess before you are my dad. So is there anything that you haven't told me that you would like to share or anything that you would like to share about your life before?

01:16 Me well to begin with of course. I was born in Chicago.

01:23 I thought what I'm told to Southtown hospital if it still exists your grandparents Robert E Foster senior and Loretta Foster.

01:34 Apparently had a home Reddit a house that at that time they weren't sure they were going to buy it. So they were just running it and it turned out it got sold from underneath them so they had to move into my mother's parents house, which was your great-grandparents house.

01:57 And that's the one that had Charlotte Duty bought from them. So we were living in the basement for the my first couple of years.

02:08 It wasn't as though it was a basement. It was a basement apartment and around 2 and 1/2 years of age or so. We moved out to the Dallas area Dallas, Texas area Community College Garland.

02:24 And

02:27 In in years past when I've gone back to for high school reunions have gone by the old houses. We lived in two different ones and intriguingly. The first one was in better shape than the old one of the second one because even though it was older but it was a two-bedroom one-bath very small little starter home. And basically it was built in a in what was a cotton field and the streets themselves were not at the same level as the house the streets were dug out of the field. So you have about a four-foot drop from the pave the group the ground level that the house was on to where the street was to get that drainage affect and there were no curbs to begin with McHale.

03:27 Was used to to pave the street and there were little kind of ditches on either side of the the street itself the street had a dome and when it would rain the drainage would go down those troughs and as a kid whenever I was old enough to play outside and have stuff we get little boats and stuff like that and put them in the that kind of drainage area and follow them down the hill till they got to the bottom and walk back up again to do the same thing all over again.

04:02 The second house was on Treasure Road. The first one was on Meadowbrook Drive second. One was on Treasure Road and was significantly bigger house. However, the interesting thing there is that the scale that you remember as a child living there is different than the scale that it is when you're an adult everything seems a bit bigger when you're a child and so the house looks smaller to me whenever I saw it later on as an adult than it was whenever I lived there as well.

04:40 Early adult

04:45 Went to parochial school went to elementary school than appropriate for school from the 4th to 8th grade. Then went to Junior High the head Junior High's there. I don't know whether they still do or whether they were.

05:00 Converted over to Middle Schools, but junior high was 7th 8th and 9th high school was 10 11 12 and

05:12 My affection for a football grew out of my experience there at Garland High School.

05:20 Everyone was off Big Al fan in Garland who was one high school town until it got to be about 50,000 people and then they have a second high school and off.

05:34 The original high school was Garland High School when they built the new one in the South part of town and it was South Garland High School and they built another one.

05:46 In the north part of town in that was North Garland High School, and I'm not sure how many more Garland High Schools they have, but they they are very staunch about their

05:58 Affection for the city under their High School whenever we would have an out-of-town game there would be Caravans of cars going out of town. It was it was an intriguing to see I was in the high school band while I was in high school. So my trips out of town typically wear on the the band bus. We actually have three buses and

06:34 We would take the band the bus out to wherever the field was to the opposing high school and then take the bus back and we have to be picked up typically buy at the at our high school.

06:48 But whenever we would come back you could see these this caravana cars at night coming back. So amazing.

07:00 Went to college while I was in Texas by went to what is now the University of texas-arlington for a year before you're transferred to Southern Methodist for a year and then went back to University of Texas, Arlington.

07:18 And about that time we moved here to the Metro Atlanta area and Grandpa Foster.

07:26 Before I had a chance to go back to school. I had a automobile accident fortunately not anything critical but it required that I stay around for a while and given the fact that the Vietnam War was going on. He had to stay in school in order to maintain your your deferment. And so I had to find some place to go to college here and that was at Oglethorpe. So I transferred Oglethorpe cuz I was the only thing that was open at the time and after about a year-and-a-half transferred to Georgia State where I finished up while I was at Oglethorpe.

08:07 I met a a fellow who was born in East, Texas, and we got to be pretty good friends during that time.

08:18 And one one weekend a friend of mine that I met whenever I was at University, Texas Arlington. His name was Johnny Blake. He had gotten it gone into the military was in the Navy and stationed at Jacksonville Beach.

08:39 And he had a friend fellow servicemen that had an aunt who lived in Decatur and he was able to hitch a ride to Atlanta if we could put him up for the weekend and spend the weekend with us. So I said sure come on out by with no problem whatsoever.

09:00 He came up and I thought well, maybe the friend the bill catch him and I that was the fellow I met at Oglethorpe. Maybe we could all go out together Johnny and Bill and I and just have a good time. So there was like a club in town called the scene that advertise pretty heavily on that radio station and that. Been to it, so I thought well maybe we could go to the scene and and just bum around see what's there.

09:32 No bill, Ketchum was about 5:10 511.

09:39 Johnny ballet was about 6 to

09:43 Johnny and I were both over 21 bill was just at 20 and at that time you had to be 21 to get into this club called the scene.

09:56 Well Johnny said hey, that's no problem. Because my Texas drivers license doesn't have a picture on it. So you can use my Texas drivers license. That was Bill and I'll use my military ID that has a picture of it. Okay, so we go to the scene get out of the car start in I'll go first.

10:19 Go through without any problems Johnny goes goes through without any problems and we're waiting there on waiting and it's like we're Isabel Bill still over by the where the bouncer is looking and the bouncers looking at us driver's license, but we didn't think about the fact that

10:37 Bill came in right after Johnny so they had the same name and there was this big discrepancy in height. Well as it turned out the bouncer wasn't even looking at that party was looking for the

10:54 The actual birth date and he wasn't familiar with Texas driver's license. So he didn't know where to look but Bill got it and it was no problem and there wasn't much happening at the scene that particular night. They they had a DJ and he was a disco had a DJ that spun records and they had a drummer that added that live character to the music and I was kind of interesting that it did just nothing was really happening. So we didn't stay but maybe a half hour 45 minutes.

11:27 We got back in the car and it's like okay where we going to go? I don't know this just tool around and see so we went from there and and the scene was at where Brookwood station is located where 85 n Peachtree Road cross. So we went in on Peachtree and went down West Peachtree and then over to Spring Street.

11:50 And around 14th Street. We saw a sign and it was actually it looked like a residential area. But there was the sign that said the bistro.

12:03 And so we pulled in and it was This Old House that they had basically taken out all the interior walls except for anything that might be supporting but they they they were able to basically take out all the interior walls.

12:22 And I think they even closed the front porch with some some glass or something like that. And on the front porch. There was this fellow playing guitar and singing it was pretty good with kind of enjoyed it.

12:36 And he did a bunch of different songs. He would every so often he would dump mimic a particular artist like Rick Nelson or Elvis this kind of a medley with different songs from the different artists. And then he said I'd like to play a song for you that I wrote and that the the the Tams wound up recording and he sang Hey girl. Don't bother me.

13:08 As it turns out he had written all the songs that the Tams recorded. His name was Ray Whitley and because of that experience.

13:21 I went back many times not Ray wasn't always performing.

13:26 And I went back not only by myself, but with Aunt Diane and with your mother, we can go there for dates and that we'd see all sorts of people that ultimately became quite well-known Ray. Whitley never had his own big hit but he had hits that were done by other people and one of the people we saw not knowing we were seeing them at the time was Jimmy Buffett. He performed there.

14:00 Overtime a competing

14:04 Club I guess since I came up it was called the great southeastern music hall and I think that ultimately it. We never went there but it was bigger than the bistro and ultimately The Bistro folded in this not been able to find any other information about it since that time, but that was that was one of those interesting experiences that we had.

14:31 Did you like Jimmy Buffett Island a different sound? It was all himself there there there was no band behind. Most of these artists. They were there either Solo or if there was a duet they would both be playing some kind of instrument but there wasn't a big band that was behind him or anything like that was very intimate sort of club and they just serve beer and pizza. Basically no, no mixed drinks. Like they got to be big enough that they had a separate entertainment area in the upstairs.

15:14 All of the location from the downstairs and then it doesn't say with the competition with the great southeastern music hall they wind up.

15:27 Ultimately closing but yeah, we enjoyed Buffett and Jose just didn't realize you were seeing who we were seeing until we sell records by him later on in the record store. Yeah, that's pretty neat. I just serving beer and pizza The Bistro wasn't ironic name.

15:51 So you mentioned that the that you were referring with the war, but I know that you were actually drafted that I would I was someone to submit to pre-induction physical.

16:09 The way the draft worked at that time.

16:12 Well, it's at the time that I became eligible for the draft when you turned 18 you were eligible for the draft. You needed to go and register at your draft board.

16:26 And if I remember you had to go and present yourself in person and given my birthday as it was I was actually in college attending classes close to the time. I had to go to 2% myself.

16:43 And so I registered in and then submitted for a deferment and educational deferment which was referred to as a 2s.

16:54 And I received it because in 1962 that wasn't as big of an event as it was later on Vietnam had really started becoming an issue at that time.

17:11 And over the next several years it became more of a of an issue and in 1969, when will actually during the time that I was in college several things happened with regards to deferments. They started requiring that you make appropriate progress towards your degree. In other words. You couldn't go and register for less than a full load and retain your two as to permit. You had to have a full load and you basically had to complete your degree plan in five years or you were at you were then eligible for the draft.

17:56 And

17:59 They wound up having IQ tests that we had to take some retainer deferment and then wasn't fair because some people don't test well, so that wasn't that was thrown out and ultimately they came up with the the lottery and with the lottery. They had two Big Ben's One been had the numbers 1 through 365.

18:31 And the other one had the days of the year the actual days of the year, March 31st, and that's how they did the lottery they would spend these big drums and then they would reach in pull out a capsule that had a date and they would pull out a capsule that had a number and that's how the ranking for the lottery got determined that date got that ranking.

19:01 When that came about

19:04 I had something like 315.

19:07 Which meant that I was?

19:10 Own up there as far as being eligible.

19:14 That doesn't mean I didn't have to go in for my physical cuz I did I was presented with the

19:21 They call it the greeting so wasn't quite the greeting screenings was whenever you actually got your notice to your orders to 2% yourself.

19:32 But I did go for the pre-induction physical.

19:36 And at that point I was steamed to be.

19:42 Partially unfit for service because my feet were too flat. They didn't want me jumping out of helicopters and they coming up but liability for them. So I wound up escaping the draft at that point and then once I graduated from dental school, I was eligible all over again because having had the deferment so I could have been eligible for up to age 35 and whenever your professional you wind up being eligible all over again in a different way. Well the thing about

20:23 A professional such as a physician or dentist is that they offer you a commission?

20:34 You would go in as some at least a lieutenant. Sometimes a captain.

20:40 But you don't have to accept it.

20:43 Now if you don't accept it, then you get eligible to be a private in a regular draft situation and you would not be doing Dentistry or medicine you would be doing everything that privates do so as it turned out. I didn't get any kind of a induction notice or anything like that. But that was eligible till I was 35 when I graduated from dental school has about 28.

21:13 Do you think that you would have taken the captain by probably would carry a rifle in you do all the other stuff the privates do.

21:32 Doesn't mean you're not in the in the war song though, because our our cousin Auto who was a physician and was basically drafted as a captain in the army.

21:45 He was in Vietnam and then I'm basically a mash unit which is not too far away from the from the frontlines far enough away that you can not get shot up but close enough that you can help. The soldiers have been wounded and not particularly the severely wounded once so yeah, I probably would have taken up.

22:11 Better to do that than

22:13 They just private.

22:17 How long did after you graduated from medical school? Was that a?

22:23 Was the war going on What's the timing with them during the

22:31 I think it was during my last year cuz I remember I was driving back from

22:39 From Atlanta of going back to Augusta to go back to school. I came home for a weekend.

22:47 And it was say I believe in early April.

22:52 Could have been later in April or early may but there was the Armistice are they the the truce?

23:01 Documents have been signed and the work to be effective as of that time. I remember the

23:08 DJ on the are announcing the fact that it was as of that moment. The war had been wet was a ceasefire. There was supposedly no more war so

23:25 It meant then that likely would I would not be called up because of the even though I had eligibility 235 without that war going on the need for the Personnel wasn't there so

23:53 I got filling in some of the Gap in the story. Did you go straight from Georgia State into med school dental school and all that?

24:05 Graduated at Georgia State 1968 and applied for and got into the graduate program there. So I was I went to they were on a quarterly basis at the time.

24:20 And so I was the summer and fall quarters of and I think even the Winter quarter. Yeah the Winter quarter of that year.

24:33 That took me into the year 69 and in 1969 was whenever I actually went into dental school in the fall of 69 out during the time that I was there.

24:47 At Georgia state in the graduate program. I got interested in that that that time Georgia state had a radio station different than the one they have now different frequency. It was actually commercial station.

25:01 And I got interested in the possibility of being on the air. So I stopped off at the converted classroom.

25:10 That they had for the radio station up on the campus and ultimately became a newscaster and then an actual DJ. How do I

25:23 Roc program and a jazz program

25:27 During that time I was there.

25:30 It will save us a lot of fun with a lot of fun. Did you keep that up when you started dental school or no? No, it wasn't time to have some time in the day to do that that was thing about dental school. It was so

25:43 Your your time was occupied you you had time to sleep and then had time to to study and do all the things that you had to do for dental school that has around your graduate degree in I'm sorry, but with your undergraduate degree in undergraduate degree was in biology with a chemistry minor my dental school class was made up of primarily science Majors. Although we had left a couple of Engineers that have gone to Tech got engineering degrees in the class behind mine actually was a guy that said,

26:32 Ben it in the space program not as an astronaut, but as an engineer and at that time, the space program was starting to wind down and he saw the

26:46 The writing on the wall as far as his job was concerned. So he wanted up by applying to taking courses that he needed to qualify for 4 dental school the prerequisites and applying to dental school got in there and graduated and practice for a for a good long while since passed away, but he he was working with the while I was in dental schools working on using fiber optics that we're actually kind of used with them.

27:20 Do in the Scopes but he was trying to adapt them to be used in intraorally as opposed to going down though esophagus and I don't know that they ever really accomplished what he wanted to but it was an interesting interesting approach that interesting time.

27:46 Have you always wanted to be a dentist?

27:49 Well, I always wanted to be a physician actually my one of my cousins Auto was a physician. His father was a physician and

28:02 I became interested in part because of a TV program called The Medic and then they had other TV programs that were oriented around medicine somewhat like Grey's Anatomy only a little more into the actual medical part rather than into the soap opera portion.

28:25 And

28:28 As it turned out. It wasn't meant to be no matter how much I tried to get into dental school. I rather to medical school. I would get on the alternate list, but I wouldn't get accepted and I took the dental aptitude test to satisfy my my father and

28:52 The year after I took it I got a call from actually a letter first and then a call from the school in Augusta.

29:01 Letting me know. They were starting at dental school and they'd seen I'd taken the DAT and wanted to know if I wanted to apply.

29:09 So I applied and

29:13 On the way over for the interview because you have to go for an interview on the way over for the interview. I was late leaving the house and at that time it Interstate 20 wasn't all the way complete dude end up getting off at just passed Covington and getting back on at Thomaston.

29:36 Actually know you wouldn't get back on a Thomaston you take

29:40 The the two-lane roadway all the way into Augusta, so I got to the motel checked into the motel.

29:52 Took my stuff out of the trunk brought it into the

29:57 Hotel room

29:59 I looked around and saw my suit. I must have not taking it out of the car went back to the car wasn't in the car.

30:07 And it took you about three and a half hours to do that trip. So if I I knew somebody who lived in Augusta, it was a friend of mine who got into into medical school, but it was around midnight at the time and I didn't feel like I should call him.

30:26 There were no shirt no stores open and most of the stores wouldn't open before I would have to present myself for the interview.

30:36 And if I drove home, I would just get back in enough time to do the interview. So anyways turned out I had my clean shirt might High.

30:50 And my car coat and fortunately not jeans but some slacks. However, the slacks had a little cut on the knees. So I made sure I kept my hand on that little Charlie RV cross my legs legs covered it and as it turns out I was the only one in my group of six who got accepted to school straight up. One of the other ones came in later on.

31:21 Someone being called up from the alternate list after actually after school started.

31:28 So it's not it's not what you look like you are but you didn't know if you really liked working on teeth at that time. Right? Well I enjoyed doing I did I put together electronic kits. So there was some small details involved. There are put together airplane automobile kits plastic kits and I enjoy doing that but you're right. Yeah. I know. I didn't know much about dentistry and the more I got into it the more

32:07 It was what I was supposed to be because I enjoy it. It's it's what I am. I remember Mark richt recently said before he was released fire University in charge of that.

32:26 Hit you when he was he wasn't.

32:30 He wasn't the University of Georgia coast coach. It wasn't who he was. It's what he did for a living.

32:38 For me

32:41 I'm a dentist. It's what I am. It's not only what I do for a living, but it's what I am.

32:47 And

32:50 It will be very difficult not to be able to do that. So I suspect there comes a time whenever you do have to give it up, but it's it's will be difficult it really well.

33:04 Was there a point in time when you are they working on someone's teeth that have really came to you that he had this is where I am supposed to be. There was not a a

33:20 A moment's it? It was an evolution.

33:23 It was it it became it's something that I asked you as you get into it and get further and further into it. You you just it becomes a natural it did there's there's the there's the technical skills that are necessary. There's the academic skills that are necessary and that was one of the reasons I think that I did not go into a specialty cuz I entertain that idea one-time general practice has such a broad spectrum of needs.

34:05 Now granted there are that kind of get the problems that it did occur occur sort of in certain areas, but there's a broad spectrum of needs and sometimes you come across something that just doesn't fit the the the pattern so you have to adapt and it's that challenge either while it's the challenge that's there and it's always there everyday kind of know what you're getting into. But then again you don't know what you're getting into until you're in it and then once you're in it, you have to figure a way out of it and there's always a challenge that's involved in in in doing Dentistry on a on a general basis ditalis specifically about one of the challenges like that 3 you had that kind of engineer a solution and

34:54 Oh well about a patient's but my whole mouth Josh I can't think of something right now of the

35:09 Of the moment, but

35:12 Yeah, it's it is it's always a challenge. Do you wind up?

35:19 Getting ready to have to do a crown on a tooth send you do your basic prep, and there's a big filling in it. You take the filling out and woe there's less to throw than you think and you have to figure out how you're going to build this back up again so that you can put the crown on or if you're going in and

35:41 You're going to be doing a filling and you go in to get the old filling material out that's there and you start to take away some of the Decay and all the sudden no, half the tooth Flix away.

35:53 Okay. Now we got to do a crown or an onlay or something of that nature. So it's those through is that challenge? Have you ever thought about teaching or training and Dentistry? It would be interesting to do that. I do have a a young man who?

36:11 While he was in high school

36:14 And he's now two years three years out of college, but while I was in high school would come in on over Somers and at least one day a week. If not more wood Shadow me.

36:29 He

36:31 Graduated from high school went to University of South Carolina graduated. There had applied to dental school did not get in.

36:40 Applied again and did not get in. He has applied and he's gotten in so I look forward to he will be starting. Well, let's see in 2016 and I look forward to him coming when he comes home spending a little time with him to find out what he's learning and you know just kind of go back through dental school all over again find the newest techniques and sugar with with him what I know and hopefully learn things from him as well.

37:17 But yeah, it did it would be interesting to be able to teach.

37:23 I'm not sure that I'm qualified to teach in that respect that it would be interesting interesting to do it 40-plus.

37:35 Yeah, it's a continual learning process as it truly is that's the obligation you have also professional.

37:46 Well, thank you for sharing all that with us and coming here to record this.

37:53 We want pleasure.