Michael Norwood and Robert Norwood

Recorded July 11, 2020 Archived July 11, 2020 36:44 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby019900


Michael Norwood (62) interviews his father, Robert Norwood (88), about his upbringing, college, the years in the army during the Korean War, and finally, his career and retirement.

Subject Log / Time Code

M.N. asks R.N. about the place he was born and his earliest memories.
R.N. talks about being born in the prairies of eastern Colorado. The house they lived in was built by his father and uncle.
R.N. asks M.N. what his most vivid and youngest memories of the house are.
R.N. talks about grade school.
M.N. asks his father what he would have done if he didn't go to college.
R.N. discusses being drafted into the army for the Korean War after graduating from college.
R.N. says he had not seen the ocean before. He "was sick for 18 days in a row."
R.N. says his career of 10 years of high school teaching and 30 years of high school counseling were very rewarding.
M.N. recalls that his brothers and he weren't known by their names, but as "Mr. Norwood's kids."
M.N. asks his father what's on your bucket list. R.N. responds to stay healthy as long as possible.


  • Michael Norwood
  • Robert Norwood

Recording Location

Virtual Recording


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00:03 82 years old today's date is Saturday. I'm going to stay here and I'll be right back. Okay?

00:21 See this all light goes on when she's recording it went on the first time.

00:27 Erase it up.

00:34 My name is Mike Norwood. I'm 62 years old today is Saturday the 11th of July 2020. I'm in Walla Walla, Washington. I'm here with my dad Robert Norwood.

00:49 Am I I'm Robert Norwood. I'm 88 years old. Today's date is Saturday, July 11th, 2020, and I'm also in Walla Walla and my conversation partner is my father might your son. So I wanted to kind of go through your life today and talk about the significant events that occurred during your lifetime and get your memories and your Recollections of those so I'd like to start by you talking about where you were born. What the the location was like in your earliest memories of your early life, okay?

01:48 I was born at Alvin the Prairies of Eastern Colorado in December of 1931 and it was pretty sparsely populated and the house that I lived in was one that was hand built by my father and his brother. It was a two-story structure with the front of the bottom half was for the gas station that they were going to build rest of the house was a living room with a bed in it and two beds upstairs and I was born there the doctor drove out from town 15 miles away in a snowstorm in the Model T and completed the delivery and then left went back to town.

02:45 And so that's where my life started grew up. There was out on the Prairies very Serene quiet place a good place to grow up difficult to get into difficulties. My parents ran the gas station for. Of time. And when the 1930s depression came along that was a difficult way to make a living as specially out in a sparsely populated area. So my parents decided to raise turkeys and so they started out raising turkeys and and tell me a little bit about your father. Oh, well, my father was born in Alabama and he married my mother in Louisiana. My father was a pumper for an oil company in Louisiana.

03:34 And I guess he wanted to be his own boss and he wanted to make his own way. So we had a brother in Colorado that was running a gas station and thus we decided to go to Colorado require little land and build a house and start a gas station. That's where it all started in tell me about your mother all my mother was born in Indiana and her thought her mother died when she was five. So her and her father moved in in a covered wagon from Indiana to Louisville Homer Louisiana, and that was where she worked with high school completed high school and where she met my father.

04:23 He was born in 1899 and she was born in nineteen to so the house that you were born in you said was built by your father in your uncle. Right and so describe. Did you have Plumbing electricity that they do all that kind of work on the house, you know, there was no electricity in rural areas. And so everything that was hand tools and his brother had built his own house where he lived in another part Colorado and so he came and helped my dad to build our house and both of them seem to acquire some skills in being able to build it. But no there was no indoor plumbing. There was no electricity the it had a hand-dug basement under the house and it was it was

05:23 Built, but it was not very large what it what did you use for light or use Lantern in that Filling Station a lantern, but he had three gas pumps Atlanta Beach gas pump. However, there was never much business after Dark.

05:42 And then how about did you have an outhouse is that do that? What the the bathroom facilities were ham Doug and then during the Depression when times are difficult and a lot of people were out of work the WPA works progress administration would hire people to build an outhouse on anybody's property that they wanted and it was a little fancier within the ones my dad and uncle had built this one had how do you get the drop-down went out the door when you open the door of system ropes and pulleys drop the lid over the seat and it had more ventilation.

06:42 What did what did your mother cook on and my mother had a gasoline stole and you filled a little tank with gasoline and then you're pumped up for pressure in it and that a demise the gasoline so that there were two burners and when you got ready to light the stove or you turn that gas on and let it with a match and it did have an oven on it. And that was the med the stole that we use for for cooking for heating Since There were so cold Winters in Colorado. There was a chimney that my dad built that went to the center of the house and it served the front room of the store and the back room where the kitchen in the show called living room wall.

07:41 And the chimney came out the top and it was coal fired. So if you and have a stove and each side of the wall, so you could start a fire in the so-called living room and heat that portion of the house and start a fire in the other side of the wall and stove in that heated the front part of the station. What should that time was used for the station part and of course the upstairs would get heated as a result of you starting the fires commonly used and so each winter we would have my dad would have a load of coal put on his two-wheel trailer that he pulled behind a 1928 Dodge go to town to the End Lumber Yards are the ones that sold in the coal so you can load of coal and bring it home and dump it out there. So then

08:41 We got ready to build a fire with death go out and get coal and get a fire started. That's the way we eat at the house and how about brothers and sisters in the house? I had one eight year old one brother was 8 years older than me and one sister that was two years older than me and so my brother and I slept in one of the bedrooms upstairs and my sister slept in the other bedroom and in our living room was a bad and my dad and mother slept in that and that was a sleeping arrangement for several years until we made some additions to the house if we had added on to the house.

09:34 1940 yacht with added on to the house and she was she started out enough baby pitbull.

09:44 So what are your what are your most Vivid memories your youngest memory you have of living at the house will my youngest memory of that was I have a tricycle and I wrote it throughout the house. And as I went around through the house The Handlebar scraped part of the furniture part of the walls and left a mark that remain there forever. That was one of the things I remembered that I was chastised about my inability to ride a tricycle in the house in the house summer time spent outside. It was Summers were very pleasant. They were clear air and warm a lot of sunshine and so it would be outside.

10:44 Catching Grasshoppers and catching frogs at night and just entertaining myself.

10:52 So then I wanted to talk a little bit about your Elementary education. So when you when you started Elementary School you remember how old you were so I was for going on 5 and the

11:09 Thrall country one room country grade school that is kind of like the Little House on the Prairie and whoever is a few miles there would be a one-room country grade school out of school house for grades one through eight. And wherever the major population was meeting, wherever the farmers around this had children and the most children were kind of centralized. That's what school would be open. So one time one school might be open for five or six of us never probably more than six students in a one-room country grade schools grades one through eight one teacher and that teacher would be a high school graduate who went to college for two years to what was called a normal school and that gave her a certificate to teach and of course.

12:09 What was talked mostly in those years was the 3 R's and then eventually they added history and geography to the curriculum but throughout your 8 years in grade school. You went to one as I went to three different ones because the population shifted and so I think I never attend the school with more than seven or eight students everywhere. You went was a one-room schoolhouse one-room schoolhouse. Yes it did. You want me to describe describe what I look at one room Schoolhouse. All right. Well, it was headed out in the Prairie.

12:59 And they weren't just right next in the body. That was the farm or anything. It was kind of centralized to the population. And so you had the went in the front door and there was a petition there that petitioned off the hallway. We called it from the rest of the school and that hallway was the purpose for washing your hands in the wash pan for spilling the crock with drinking water for hanging up your coats in the winter time. You're over shoes in winter time and then half of that hallway was sectioned off as a cold then because this a school for also heated by Kool and so before the fall started if there wasn't enough coal in the cold in there for the winter than the

13:59 Do you know the president of that school board would order a load of old and pitched in there fluid have cold and you went through the doorway into the main room. There was a stove in the center of the room the desk located out around that there was always a stage towards one in the end of the of the schoolroom and the teacher's desk was up there behind her was the black boards around the top of the blackboards was the were the ABCs because we had to start out in first grade learning ABCs and the

14:44 In one corner, almost I think all three of those in one corner was a foot pump organ. And so if the teacher was capable of playing the pumping the Oregon and playing it then with I think every Friday would have a little music which meant that we stood around the around the Oregon and we got to choose a song out of the Playbook and she would play it and would sing it and that was the extent of our or music education and ended those did those one room School houses have electricity or Plumbing or anything like no electricity around the perimeter of the schoolyard. There was a barbed wire fence to keep out and at one school, we had a merry go round and second school. I went to we had the slide and the third school. I went to head to swings and that was the extent of the

15:44 Playground equipment we had a hand pump. Well that serve for drinking water. We had a flag pole that everyday we put up the American flag has had two toilets one for the girls one for the boys. And those were old hand-dug Twilights and all of them would accommodate each one would accommodate two people at the same time. And then there was a horse barn built within that to influence her because a lot of the some of the kids would ride a horse to school in in cold weather you had have place to get your horse in and had to head have room. So the owner that horse could bring some hay to feed that horse in winter time when when the student is writing to school. How how would you rate the quality of your one-room schoolhouse education?

16:44 What was very basic very basic, you know what it was. We didn't have access with what we had was we have a set of encyclopedias. We had a dictionary and that was about the extent of the books except the ones that they had for each grade level for reading and then for learning spelling and doing arithmetic and so forth. They each year you started out with a workbook and that's how you how you learned the wrestler chicken and the workbooks were a major part of the learning and so there was really not much other educational materials. I think one time there was a production publication called a Weekly Reader and our district.

17:44 Scribe make one subscription to that and then it would come to the teacher. She would bring it to school and then all of us kids would read that and that was about the only other subscription we had that you know, it might be crazy. Then it might be something about healthy living or something and something and then you went to high school and nearest high school was 12 miles or about 12 miles away. So did most kids so that would have been in the early 1940s. Probably right? Right did most kids go on to high school during that time. Most of them did not compulsory education was grades 1 through 8. And so if those if there were no school buses, of course for

18:44 Or anyone and so with that student lived out in the country like I did he either drove a Model A or a car of some kind High School each day. If his parents could afford it or they often times. I went into town if they had grandparents there and live with grandparents. My sister and I are my parents rented the basement of where the sheriff lived in two burner kerosene stove for cooking and no Refrigeration. No refrigerator anything like that. And so it was expected that my sister would cook for us and we'd go in there on Sunday night and then go home on Friday night and my mother would give her $2.50 to buy groceries each week for us.

19:44 So we lived week in town and lived in that basement for she was two years ahead of me. So we live there and back and then when she graduated then I started Living with a family and my parents were paying $7 a week for boardroom for me. And that was my junior year senior year. I went to another a family and lived with them and I think the weekly rate had gone to $12 a week by that time and it was that way all through high school still never had buses now.

20:28 And then when you got done with high school

20:33 You went to college, right? And why do you think you went to college when you know, we had no counselors in high school and we never had any conversations about what we would do after high school with any of the teachers or anybody and that was not part of the curriculum. So I decided that was 1940 that was 1945 and they would gotten in the war. So I decided that I would join the Navy because it sounded good not really knowing what joining the Navy met but I hit my best friend in high school said why don't you come and go with me to college I'm going to go to Greeley and Greeley was the teacher's college and I thought well, that sounds good to me. So I went along with him. I decided to know that I had a brother that my brother 8 years older than me.

21:32 Had graduated from this high school and he was good a good student and good in math and his teachers recommended that he go to Colorado to Colorado State College, which is that time was in Fort Collins was called Colorado State College and it was Agriculture and mechanics college and so he started there and the war came along and he was about to be drafted. So he he quit college and join the Airforce and so I had learned a little bit about his college experience. And so that he'd give me some information about what it was like to go to college.

22:19 What do you think? What would you have done? If you wouldn't have gone to college, you know, I didn't think you would have joined the Navy. Well, I don't think I would have cuz I really wasn't that him. I would probably gone found some job some job that probably paid mental pay pay wages because I didn't really have any great skills when I got out of high school. So that decision to go with your best friend to call each other pretty dramatic effect on your adult life deciding factor right there. Yes and course. I went to college not being well-versed in how to study and so I did get on probation of my freshman year because I really didn't have a method of study and some of the first courses I had to take was Humanity's which was Greek and

23:19 Roman mythology and that was like a foreign language to me. So I wasn't too interested in it. So my grades were not good until the dean of students told me I was going to have to shape up or else drop out and so I decided I better get at it. So I did then I taught myself how to study and after I did that I got off probation and then when my

23:48 When I got old enough to be eligible for the draft during the Korean War my strap board said if you keep a b average or better in college will defer you but soon as you graduate from college must be ready to be drafted to go to the military. And so I didn't want I didn't want to spend I didn't want to volunteer for 4 year military steps. So I let them I went ahead graduated and was drafted. Did you graduate in 4 years? I did Wayne when you graduated from college and when you were left when you were in the Army, well by draft board had sent me to Denver to get

24:48 Physical so I would be ready to go as soon as I graduated. I graduated on May 27th and June 6th. I had been sent to I've been given a ticket done before the train to go to Camp Crowder, Missouri and on June 6th. They were handing me an army uniform and we're getting ready to send me the Arkansas for basic training and then and then when you got done with basic training in Arkansas, where did you go over to Fort Sill Oklahoma and cents

25:21 Since I was a college grad, they sense that maybe I was a student loan. You think I could learn some do artillery work until I became a specialist you would say there was not on the canyoneering level, but I was one that helped us plot enemy Targets in the locations and coordinates and was kind of the forward Observer. So I shipped out of Seattle and went to pusan Korea has had you ever seen the ocean before I never seen the ocean.

26:06 18 days from Seattle to pusan Korea

26:10 On a on a Troop Carrier Troop Carrier 3 decks down winter time December and was seasick for 18 days in a row. And and then what are your memories of being in Korea? Where where were you located in Korea bunker that the engineers when the fighting stopped the engineers have come up and they had filled the Doug and built bunkers along the DMZ for those of us who were watching for intrusions across the DMZ and we had the scope with a scale on it so that we could do with other weather please we could do a triangulation Cordon of coordinates map coordinates and we could call back.

27:10 To the battery Target and somebody had to be in the observation part of the of the bunker at all times and it was dug into the face of a mountain or face of the hill and it had been open the opening to it was back behind the hill you dropped into a French and you walked in a trench till you got to a homemade door and you open that in that let you into the bunker and in the bunker where places for you to put a cot and put the sleeping bag and so we lived in that bunker and then there was a flak wall and on the other side of the flak wall was the

28:10 Observation room and had an aperture there that looked out over the DMC and we had our communication was a field telephone and the field field telephone and a field radio. And so you do a week 10 days on duty there and then you'd be taken back to what they called a battery where you had showers and hot food and how many how many soldiers were there in the the observation post at a time there was you there about 5 about 5 o clock to find that because somebody had to be on the scope around the clock and you don't have enough people that we could divide all that up and have somebody sleeping and somebody on the scope.

29:07 C rations with food later on for 18 months a year and a half later on they got so they bring us on the backside of the mountain there. They would have a central kitchen and they would cook food and bring us hot meals one hot meal a day and mermite cans so we did start getting one hot meal a day for a time. It was kind of rough in it. It's up when you finished your tour of Duty in Korea.

29:48 You are married by then married by then and you started teaching and you ultimately ended up in California you moved from Colorado to California. What what was the reason you left?

30:06 Colorado and went to California. Well, the reason was I use the GI bill and I wanted to get a master's degree. And so I use the GI Bill for that and the pay in Colorado was not too good and I was looking for a better income. And so we move to California by that time. I had completed the Masters and then I went on and got the counseling credential and it was better pee a lot better pay with a good retirement system and then I continued on and got an administrative credential. So if I wanted I could be high school administrator, which I really never wanted to do because I did the 10 years of High School teaching in 30 years of

31:00 Been 36 years of High School counseling and so the counseling was so satisfactory and such a great career until I really didn't want to do much of anything else. But what was it about being a high-school teacher in a high school counselor that you found satisfy College selection of help them do make entrance into the Air Force Academy Naval Academy USC

31:35 Universities and colleges all over the United States and help them in their decision-making about what they like to do after high school based upon their abilities in their opportunities. They were looking for and so and I have foreign students from Thailand from Japan from England several countries who came to the United States to get a u.s. Education and so it was just such a rewarding career until I really didn't want to do anything else.

32:12 Died I think growing up.

32:17 My brother and I we we weren't known by our names we were known as mr. Norwood's kids your parents worked in the local high school in a small town. You couldn't get into trouble because everybody knew you and neuter your parents were perfect career for me. Once I learned how to study and that was one of the things about getting parole and probation in college was I found out what you had to do to study. And so when I have students counseling students that we're having academic difficulties, I had had the experience of what you had to do to teach us through the help study. So that was one of the finer experiences I got out of college was how to avoid failure and I think very helpful a lot of students.

33:17 We could devise a plan of study that would make them successful. And and what year did you start?

33:23 Teaching 1955 right soon as I got home from Korea got discharged from the military. Then I started I got a teaching job and all Colorado and the pay was not good but it was good experience that we were there for years and then realized that started at $3,000 a year in 1955 in all I worked and got a master's and By Night by four years later, I was up to $4,000 and so we decided it was probably time to make a move to state that they better and what did California offer for salary Auburn system superintendent came through recruiting came to Greeley recruiting and I went to talk with him and he said now I'm going to call you in about a week.

34:23 I'll offer you $6,700 a year. He said will you have an answer for you for me? And I said, you know, I'm making $4,000 now that's a $2,700 raise. I think I could do that and if it's a mistake, I think I could pay for it. So I took picked up your family and moved to California California. And what year did you retire from? 2001 but my retirement pay the last as long as I live and then my wife gets the same amount as long as she lives equal what I was making so I really thought it was time to retire and that was 21 years ago and what have your retirement years?

35:24 Been like I've been delightful just yes lived lived in Bakersfield until a couple 3 years ago and then moved up here and you have how many grandchildren at 4 no great grandchildren yet?

35:48 What what do you think? What plans do you have for the future? What's on your your bucket list that you want to make sure you you do know. I really don't have any significant plans just to stay as healthy as long as possible and be able to an end course, you know with the with the retirement my wife and I have why we are financially, okay, so we don't have to worry about the financing our retirement and so a successful career and retirement.

36:37 I think we're done.