Fred Jones and Rachel Schmidt

Recorded October 31, 2021 Archived October 31, 2021 40:15 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby021202


Rachel Schmidt (41) sits down with her father, Fred Jones (79), to ask him about his young adult years. Fred shares stories from his time studying at the Georgia Institute of Technology and from his time serving in the U.S. Army before they both reminisce about the good times they have had together.

Subject Log / Time Code

RS shows FJ some old photos to jog his memory of former times.
FJ remembers his impression of Vietnam from when he served there in the U.S. Army.
FJ reminisces on the adventures he and his friend "Rusty" had together.
FJ talks about his army roommates.
FJ remembers his Aunt Nora.
RS and FJ reflect on the kindness they have both received throughout their lives.
FJ remembers some of the teachers in his high school who greatly impacted his life.
FJ tells the story behind the many college majors he declared while at Georgia Institute of Technology.
FJ explains how he ended up leaving college and serving in the U.S. Army Aviation Branch in Vietnam.
FJ remembers the time he ran into a friend from Fort Gaines, GA in Saigon, Vietnam.
RS and FJ share their favorite memories of one another.
RS and FJ discuss how FJ and his wife (RS' mother) make their relationship work.
RS expresses gratitude for what her parents have taught her.


  • Fred Jones
  • Rachel Schmidt

Recording Locations

Columbus Public Library


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00:03 Hi, I'm Rachel Jones Schmidt, age 41. We're sitting in Columbus, Georgia, on October 31st. 2021 Halloween. And I'm talking to my dad, Fred Jones. I'm his daughter.

00:19 And I'm Fred Jones. I'm almost 80.

00:24 Also, in Columbus, Georgia, with my daughter, Rachel.

00:30 Okay.

00:32 All right. So Pop Let's see. What should we talk about first. This is exciting. I have you tied down literally. You can't leave at this moment without some serious social, awkwardness and I get to ask you any question. I want. Don't you know, I took advantage of that opportunity, but truly this is a continuation of Rachel's radio radio show from the 80s. I used to get my little. What was it? Like a little boom box. Like this big and we would press record and we have all these recordings from Mama Sila and I think we have Aunt jeans, singing. And we have Uncle Luke telling a story from back in the day. And I think I got, I think I got granddaddy singing to

01:22 On these little cassette tape, so I thought you know story for would be a little groovier more professional get out to continue the radio show and you won the prize and being my conversation partner because you're old.

01:36 Yeah, I said it. You're the oldest one. Do we have to document you first had you not been willing to come? I would have just brought Mom or Taylor or somebody else, but I think it's a good idea. So I hope will document something, you know, funny or noteworthy. I'm going to use some of their great questions and I also brought like a whole bunch of pictures to jog your memory cuz I thought it might be fun for you to tell me stuff about things. I don't know about because they're your life and not mine.

02:05 Okay, so let's start with the picture. All right. So this one Zoom it up so you can really see this guy.

02:16 Can you see him?

02:19 It's like me. It is you is it me, it's you Sam. Hua. That's right. There you are. Now the word Army is written backwards on this picture. So I guess that was just a function of how corabel flipped the pictures. So, recently, my daughter, your granddaughter, Cora took a whole like rolls of film, right? From back when you were in the Army in Vietnam, and she flipped them all to a digital format and you got to see him for the first time I think maybe at her graduation party.

02:53 But I thought we could just like talk about some of the things cuz obviously this is a whole are of your life. That's like a blank for me cuz I wasn't there.

03:03 I asked her the photo has the word Army written backwards because of that digitization, but the word Army is on a small aircraft and there's a water tower in the background. There's several other aircraft, you know, lined up neatly across the Airfield and it's a blue sky day with white puffy clouds, and my dad is in the foreground, which kind of stage left, and, and he's holding his. I think it's, your cap is like, over your heart, like you're just being like Beetle Bailey, right? You're just being like goofy. Probably, right? We would get it. Okay. So, what were you doing, or what was this era of your life had already been and come back?

03:53 As I was coming back, the Army asked me if I had a preference of stations in the US that I wanted to go to, and I say anywhere in the Southeast. So, naturally, I got four door. California right now was in the Army for 20 years. And so, he certainly says, that's that's pretty par for the course even today. So they weren't, they weren't discriminating against you personally. Okay. So, do you want me to bring up another picture, maybe from the time, in Vietnam, will see? I know there's some more that are clearly Vietnam. I'm always really interested in the women and I don't know if these women or significant or not, but what about the women in Vietnam? Cuz you used to always tell us stuff about getting around like talking to him like getting to know folks and I think the women they're kind of fascinated you

04:49 I did as they always have all kinds of women, but what was fascinating about Vietnamese women?

04:58 Well, they were just so dainty for one thing. The standard dress was called the out. I was the long pajama pants.

05:12 Some kind of smoke over the top, right?

05:17 And here you say I'm riding riding bicycle. So it's a always did. This was in not trying. Okay, which was on the coast. It had been a French Resort City. Okay, and the French of course, left right left, right? Cuz, you know, I went on to study French and all that entails, and I read about people even like thoughtfully, adopting Vietnamese babies and just taking them away when the French kind of rolled up and left. Do you think like, could you feel anything about like how the cultures were colliding back then? Cuz I mean, like, for you, coming from south Georgia and being dumped out in the Vietnam, you're already having a culture Clash. Did you feel like you could relate to like the Vietnamese having like any of that feeling to of like these French people coming and going and he's American people coming and going.

06:14 I think they had become used to it often conquered French.

06:24 Japanese.

06:26 Everybody wanted to conquer Vietnam. Easy target, do you think?

06:32 Say again, you think they were an easy target?

06:35 In that time, it was

06:39 Rich country.

06:42 Lots of the rice production, so everybody wanted to control it.

06:50 And as you can see, now nobody did.

06:58 Yeah, have you ever wanted to go back?

07:02 Just for you, do arguments, take to compare.

07:08 Now, this lady doesn't look kind of your standard Vietnamese. This is quite a fetching photo. Was she? Somebody special is she somebody different? She was a businesswoman, a few of the Vietnamese people were allowed to have businesses on the military post.

07:28 She had a laundry business and see was also real cute. And yeah, she looks super cute pictures. We have of Aunt Gene that we later also had of her daughter Vicky and how they were just like, so like the dark Beauties, you know, with that long hair and

07:54 Okay.

07:56 So let's say I see a lot of like rickshaws and then I see a lot of bites but I remember there were also pictures that got into this set that were from later on. So that's when I knew you were in a different town. Remember there was some oh, here's a great one. All right, who's that? Since it's audio. We have to say it out loud. That is my friend for life Rusty Cooper Albert V Cooper and his wife Judy.

08:32 And that is actually in front of

08:35 His parents house in Fort Gaines, okay.

08:41 So when was this in the span of like your life in that era, where you had you gone to Vietnam, had you come back?

08:48 I went to Vietnam then he got married soon as I got to weigh it so I couldn't stop him, right? And I was, I guess I was home from Vietnam and in Georgia on leave.

09:03 Waiting to go to California.

09:07 How long did they give you for leave back? Then when you would come home from from the Wawa?

09:16 It was pretty liberal.

09:19 Did y'all get into trouble and that era? Good?

09:24 Okay, so there's another famous picture. I don't have here. Right? But the famous picture of you and Rusty Cooper. Looking like you are Western thugs, you know, cowboys. So who came up with that idea, to take the picture with bullets, like across your chest, you know, which nowadays people pay people money to make them look like that but somehow y'all accomplished it all by yourselves. We had been to see the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid movie and Dothan.

09:58 It was on Sunday afternoon, and it was our custom to

10:03 Buy as much beer as we could and ride around on Sunday and drink the beer riding around and drinking. Before that was illegal. We decided that we wanted to be a Butch and Sundance so we went back home, got all our stuff.

10:22 And the camera on the tripod, right? We went to the the old Depot in Fort Gaines, black and white now, like where would I find that in Fort Gaines? Will if it still. There you go down down, down the Old River Road in pain and

10:45 It got to run into it. Okay?

10:48 From downtown like that. I know about like the theater, like the pharmacy. Where would it be from that north towards?

10:58 Our place turn on one of the city streets. Okay, then there's a stream that goes down the hill from the tennis court eventually leads to the depot. Okay. So when the train was running through Fort Gaines, does that mean it ran? And we're now there is Lake like did it run across when when the lake didn't exist yet?

11:29 I'm not sure if

11:32 Cuz you know how right at the end of the street where the church is where mom is still in granddaddy or buried. I feel like one of y'all told me there used to be a bridge there like that that road used to not run out and I'm wondering if that was a queen like the lake wasn't under. It was just a creek and there was like a bridge. So I'm wondering if that could have even been like where the train ran went from Fort Gaines to Cuthbert East. Okay not along the river.

12:04 I love riding trains. I think I'm going to ride again. This year. Weight. Is this Las Vegas. Maybe?

12:11 It's turned backwards again. So in for the record, but that is Vegas in 1964. Probably cool on this one roll or at least several rolls right that Cora found like how many years elapsed do you think in this bit of footage that we have digitized?

12:32 20K. Wow, how the hell of a 03 years? You did a damn thing. You had survived. That's almost certain death. Right? Might as well.

12:49 Okay, who are these guys? You look you look cute in this picture. You're standing by like a I don't know. Is that like a cactus that looks like a tree? It has like lots of cacti pieces. We always wear my Army roommates. Okay.

13:06 We have in our room. We, we had four corners of the United States represented. One guy from California. One guy from Washington. I love the symmetry of things like that. Don't you? It feels like you're in the right place at the right time like like maybe you won't die because this is the right configuration of people. Did you ever notice that all four of our grandchildren are the four sides of the of the months that each child has a whole quadrant, right? That's what I knew Taylor and I had to stop, we couldn't have another baby after he retired from the military, cuz it would mess up the whole leg symmetry of our family.

13:54 Okay, let's see. I don't know what that city is. Are these the same for guys when y'all were remaining?

14:03 No.

14:05 I was on a temporary assignment to Paso Robles, California where there was a small army installation used for training the National Guard. Now, is there a system?

14:22 So these are different for guys.

14:25 Y'all are cute there though. That's such a like like it's such a pose picture. Like the one guy's got his leg caught doubt to the side and one guy was leaning back in the other guys, up against the wall. It's like, it's like the cover of a movie, you know.

14:39 If it were a movie, what would it be called that time in your life? What's the movie of your life called?

14:50 I have no idea for dumb guys. Just sitting around waiting for something to happen.

15:02 Alright, so here's some more with the girls and the little girls going to school you standing by the cactus.

15:12 Okay, there's Uncle bae.

15:15 So, you know, the pictures are all out of order there, just kind of in here the way that they dumped into the thing.

15:21 All right, Sam.

15:23 That was cool.

15:26 So, let's see. You told me one time about grandaddy's parents and I think was it his mother who had died at some point.

15:38 And then he got a stepmother.

15:41 No, no. His mother. His natural mother divorced, his natural father.

15:50 And they would have been living in Fort Gaines, the mother, and the child got on a paddle boat and went North to Eufaula where her family lived.

16:04 And so the Father and Son were separated for years man settled in Blakely, Georgia and was a typesetter for the newspaper.

16:18 And he eventually married to a redheaded woman named Norma that became your de facto grandmother.

16:28 Well, we called her aunt Norma. But yes, she was. Okay. Our grandfather's redheaded wife. We loved her. So, she was sweet quite unlike what you would think of the stereotypical redhead.

16:45 The first question on the story card list is like, can you tell me about a kind person, you know, and it's funny when I read these I was thinking like what will pop say, you know, like trying to pick questions. That would be interesting and I remember you remembering how kind she was which is cool that like some woman. I've never met, you know that so far back you can still remember a feeling, you know.

17:11 Well, my life was filled with kind people, everybody. I knew practically was kind to me.

17:21 And it helped me a lot. Why do you think so? Do you think it was so nice and good according to your sisters? There might be there. I was going to name them until you said that they were kind to you in general in the broad spectrum after they had had got grown and got married and left the house yet. They were kind to me. Yeah you now, I mean, I see that two of them had already left it through Atlanta by then.

18:00 And my youngest.

18:04 His name is Willie.

18:07 She's the son. My father never had to try and lie, Lamar Jones.

18:13 She was mean to me but as real sweet now she is. And she loves loves loves my kids, which is kind of like a normal, right? Like so many generations away that it wouldn't have to Matt. Like she wouldn't have to love my kids cuz she lives in Jersey and like we never see him, but she, when we showed up at her house in New Jersey last year when we were trying to go to Europe and we never made it, she had on her bedroom door, a calendar with everybody's birthday on it, in the family like handwritten in like every year she gets her new calendar and every year, she decides to write people's names in, right? And my kids names were already on her birthday calendar, and I think they were blown away. That likes his woman. We never see who lives.

19:02 A world away like knows about us and thinks about us. I think they even went out and went to like a movie or something while I was asleep and just went out with their cousins who like we never hang out with Tracy, was there. And then that night, Amy came over and like brought other people and like the house was full of people, just because we showed up, which I think is very kind, you know, cuz we didn't even plan to go there. You know. It really just kind of begged me to come because I was so desperate and sad at that point that trip is not going well.

19:38 All right. So is there anybody else you want to talk about for their kindness? Any notable people along the way?

19:46 I like I said.

19:49 My life was filled with kind people.

19:53 And I traded that to my own radiant personality.

20:00 I, it's funny you say that because I interview the kind people who are kind to me to the fact that I got lucky.

20:07 And had good parents. So maybe I attributed it to you too as well as made the biggest impact on your life and I hate these questions cuz it's like how do you compare everybody from your whole life, but who's somebody who made a big impact on your life? And what did they teach you? What was that impact?

20:32 Well, a couple of my high school teachers, made a tremendous impact.

20:39 Edna, gay was my math teacher and she encouraged me from day one. She probably is the reason I went to Georgia Tech.

20:50 Cuz she taught me math. Yes.

20:56 I also like my French teacher Maureen, nice.

21:04 She was a.

21:07 A very elegant woman and, and

21:11 What's a good French teacher? May we may we and you still try at it even today?

21:23 All right, cool. So why on Earth did you choose to go to Georgia? Tech? Was it was it at all competitive back in those days? Or was it just one of many state schools that a kid from Georgia would be like, well, that's one of my choices. Well, as a Georgia resident assuming

21:43 I had the academic qualifications. I could go to Georgia Tech. They had to take me to Edna, gay and others. I had the qualifications. Okay, the impetus though was when I was a child, I got the obligatory tinkertoy set for Christmas.

22:09 And I put together something.

22:13 Pretty rudimentary. I'm sure but my daddy saw it and he said, that boys are born engineer. He's going to Georgia Tech. Just like that, just like that. So it was ordained from pouring on.

22:26 No matter what. Edna gay said, I had to go to Georgia Tech thing. You didn't even consider any other blood. I think we should document your mini list of Majors. So, how did you choose your major at Georgia Tech?

22:46 I was right off the farm eighteen-year-old kid. They literally drop me off in front of Harrison, dorm with a trunk full of my stuff, which is right near where Korra is now.

23:03 A few days later. We had to go to registration.

23:07 We had these little guards, call time cards that that was our time to appear at the, the old gym to register. I went in the old gym with my card and

23:22 Every wall was filled with with black boards with courses and their courses were being checked off.

23:32 I'm standing there like a country boy, looking around and some adult at a table said,

23:39 Son, what are you here for? And I said, I'm here to register. He said, what's your major?

23:48 I learned at that time, that from day one, you are labeled with your met your major at Georgia Tech. So I said, I don't know. He said you go over there. I wanted to another table that went to that table and they threw a big course, catalog on the table Hughes thing and they said, pick one.

24:12 I opened it up. It was alphabetical. I picked architecture architecture. Major had no idea what architect did.

24:30 I knew they didn't do farm work though.

24:34 So after one quarter as an architect.

24:38 Major. I learned that I couldn't even Master mechanical drawing, which was a basic course, so I went to the office and I said, I need to change majors.

24:53 And she said, but what do you want to change to? I looked at the list, again, chemical engineering was next in the alphabetical order. I said chemical engineering, and she said, okay, go to room 212.

25:09 So, how'd the game a chemical engineering major?

25:13 And after,

25:15 About a year. I learned that chemical engineers.

25:21 Made stuff most of which had an awful odor.

25:26 And I had no desire to be a chemical engineer. So back to the book. The next major was.

25:40 Shucks.

25:45 Did you go back in the list at some point to accounting? Was that every major industrial management?

25:57 It today would be call business administration. And actually do I change the name at Georgia Tech to that, but

26:08 A third major was the industrial engineering. I had to come to grips with the fact that I was naturally lazy and Industrial Engineers back then and worthy so-called efficiency expert. Yes, and I knew I could do that figure out the easiest way, not to work at something.

26:31 I hated it. I flung The introductory course it was so boring in like 2012 or 13 or something. I dated, for a short time, a guy who was a Productions operations like manager, and I was like, oh, it's so boring. I remember you just telling me that like right then nothing. No, I think production operations, management rate.

27:03 I think now they call it is why industrial systems engineering still boring though. You never changed your opinion of that. But meanwhile in between some of those Majors, didn't you leave, Georgia Tech and come back?

27:21 Cuz they asked me to leave cuz he would flunk something and maybe you would get on like probation or something.

27:27 I look back recently. I was on every academic standing that they had. Ya from good standing all the way to drop right now. I think there are four or five steps in between. Wow. So at this point,

27:44 My grade point average had some from

27:49 Almost 3.0 down below 2 and Below to you're in trouble.

28:01 So, I did.

28:04 And that's when the the fine people that the draft board said will G. If you're not going to be in college, we want you to go to the Army. If I was drafted and I was living in Atlanta. At the time. I had to go back home to Fort Gaines and eventually got on the bus and went back to Atlanta within a mile of where I was living difficult.

28:38 And in the induction process, you know, they test you and

28:45 Talk to you about stuff.

28:48 After they saw the test, they wanted me to to enlist which means instead of two years in the draft, three or four years and and the regular army.

29:02 One of the things they wanted me to consider was.

29:06 The Army Security Agency.

29:10 Which is like as an enlisted man, you were trained to be a Barracks Niche. You would go into an army barracks and posed as a regular Soldier, and gets the petty thieves, who were rifling.

29:29 Footlocker's and such.

29:34 Nat, I don't want to do that boys. Professional snitch, no, thanks to the intelligence Corps enlisted man. In the intelligence Corps, you did stuff like

29:50 Look at aerial photos and interpret what you see on the ground.

29:57 And I considered that it said, well, a three-year enlistment and you difficulty don't even wear uniform.

30:06 And I said, that sounds real good.

30:10 I said, no. I'm not you. I think I'll just take my two years and get out. Take my chances. You going to the basic training and then you go into the Infantry and then you go into Vietnam. I don't think I want to do that either. So

30:35 Enlist. I said, if you can just guarantee me a place where I'll be assigned. I would consider enlisting and he said, where you want to go get me close to Fort Gaines, Georgia. He looked at his map and there was Fort Rucker, 40 Mi away near Dothan.

30:59 I said, how about that? He said, done.

31:04 I had no idea what they were doing at Fort Rucker turned out into the Army Aviation. So,

31:12 Rent Fort Rucker.

31:15 Qualified in Army Aviation.

31:18 And got sent directly the Vietnam, Vietnam the Army way. So from the moment you sat down with that guy to the moment. Your feet are on Vietnam soil. How many weeks was that? Or months or what? The basic training courses?

31:37 They call Advanced Training was 18 months, 18 weeks.

31:49 But I got the fly.

31:53 You did I did. I went on a Pan Am commercial flag.

32:04 Me and the tourist.

32:07 Yeah, we stopped in Hawaii.

32:13 Wake wake Island Guam. Did you get off? Did you actually see those places on your way in the airplane that I could look out the window Adam, right? And eventually all the tourist got off in the rest of us. Landed in. Saigon, and I was there.

32:34 I had a couple of days in Saigon went downtown.

32:40 The first night and I'm walking down the streets of Saigon and this I hear this voice. Hey, Fred.

32:49 It was hard. We were from Fort Gaines, Georgia chat.

33:03 But the next day I was moved on to not trying the headquarters of the 18th Aviation company, right? Where I spent my

33:12 One year and one day and in Vietnam, like a Georgia jail term. Yeah, it sounds like

33:21 Yeah.

33:23 So sexy.

33:29 Let's talk about me.

33:32 It's on the list. All right, so let's talk about our family like our nuclear family here in Columbus. It says, what is your favorite memory of me? And that's what made me think we could talk about our family, too.

33:48 Moving up to the present day or the 41 years prior.

33:54 41 years. That's how old I am today.

33:58 I never would have thunk it. I know. I look pretty good for my age. I think so.

34:05 My favorite memory of you.

34:08 Maybe the time I felt closest to you was.

34:12 We were home alone, your mama and your brother had gone on a trip yet. And you and I are staying home, and you got sick and you threw up, and you went from every orifice in your body.

34:37 And then it would happen again and you were so Beauty, so sick.

34:46 But,

34:47 It really endeared you to me. I said, I want this kid to live after all this.

34:57 I remember I'll see what I remember about you. So, I don't remember much about you, like super young. I just seen it. I remember our old house on buckhout way. You know, I remember waiting for Aunt, Judy to come, visit us one night there, in front of that house. I remember driving down the road in the old Audi by accident breaking through that cow fence and our neighbor's yard, because what was his name that bad kid on the street told me to do it. I remember when I was in high school that remember I trained for that Marathon for like, a whole year and then me and Katie ran, that Marathon my knees. Just about gave out which funny cuz present-day, we're also about to go see the knee specialist again.

35:49 And in that time though, I remember thinking I was like done with training and I was looking for my next big challenge, you know, and I'm sitting there in the den member where your Your Rocker is there, right? You're you're sitting chair and you and Mom are on the couch and there used to be that member that awful glass table that we had in front of the couch for a while cuz we would all bang Ernie's on it anyways glass. So you can see under it and I'm telling you all this big idea has like what's my next big you know challenge going to be? And mom was like, oh Rachel and I can just see this face. It's like pain you do and you were going like this with your, your arm was pumping under the table, like go get them, you know, so that's that's my memory of growing up with the two of you in, in short because, you know, mom always spent three times as much money if she could. And you always vent 1/3 or 0.

36:49 And mom took us on all the vacations cuz you just didn't want to go anywhere but Paris, Georgia and Rome Georgia, right? Cuz you did all your traveling in Vietnam in the Army. And so Mom, took us to like, you know, the beach. She took us to fancy hotels, in New York City. We went to the Broadway show, but you raised us to be frugal. Right? And you still have the same jeans from the last 20 years in your closet, as do I in mine. Which is why when the tree fell on my house last year and I thought they were going to take all my clothes and throw them away because of the asbestos risk. I was like, oh my God, I can't even imagine how I would start over.

37:38 Growing up with you guys. I feel like there was like this balance between, you know, the good and the evil of the Abyss into that the right side, the left side like anything, which you could imagine. You guys would have, maybe a disparate choice or view of it. But how do you think you'll have the same vision? Like, how do you think you got together and stayed together being as different as y'all were and still are to this day? You tell me? I mean and you did though, I don't live with her. She made that quite clear. When I came home after college. I was never going to come back and live there.

38:21 How do you make it work?

38:25 You just do it.

38:27 I don't know. I mean, I agree with you. It makes no sense. But

38:35 Looking back. I don't think I wouldn't have it. Any other way. You made a damn good choice. Good Wife.

38:45 When people tell us how attractive we are me and Jeff, you know, what I always say, you don't like your friends will see us at like your Christmas party and you and your brother just so good-looking them. Like have you seen my parents?

38:57 I just think we had good genes. We just came down through nice and maybe even the kind people made us look better. You know what I'm saying? Cuz I don't think we're startlingly good-looking people. I just think we're

39:14 Considerate. I think in the end even though you fussed at Mama even today, sometimes you respect her. You don't talk her down. You don't put her under your thumb. You don't, you know what I mean? So I got to be raised in a household where women had ideas that were always considered and didn't get to win either. She wasn't a spoiled brat who could just win a fight because she was your wife, you would fight back with her, but it would be a, you know, it would be a war of words, right? It would be a war of ideas, not of like

39:50 Exerting your will on somebody else, right?

39:56 Alright. Thanks, Bob.

39:59 My pleasure.

40:02 All right.