Monday, December 16, 2013

3 Tips for Successfully Directing Overly-Talkative Interview Subjects

Interviewing is a skill that varies from person to person, with factors ranging from personality, history, health, circumstance, and more.  This series of posts about successful interview techniques shares solutions to common problems encountered while interviewing individuals for their personal and family stories.

Interviewees come in various levels of talkativity.  On one end of the spectrum, there's the stoic Man of Few Words; on the other end is the Babbling Brook, who just keeps talking forever about anything.  Babbling Brooks are the kind of people that, before you know it, it's been thirty minutes since your last question and somehow you're listening to a detailed account of a steak dinner twenty years ago (true story - that happened to me) when your last question was "Tell me about your wedding day".  You don't need to feel overwhelmed by the torrent - you just need to follow three simple guidelines to dam and guide the flow.

Babbling Brook types love to tell stories - the trick is
hearing the stories you want to learn more about
(Digital artwork by criminalatt)
One good example of a Babbling Brook type comes from inside of my own family:

My grandmother Liz was an energetic force to be reckoned with; because of her strong personality, it's not surprising that most of my memories of my grandparents are of my grandmother talking (often over others) and my grandfather sitting quietly on the sidelines.  After my grandmother passed away, I sat down to interview my grandfather and was shocked to find him in the Babbling Brook category.  I guess he didn't get much chance to talk when I was growing up, and now, with a recorder in front of him, he wouldn't stop talking long enough for me to take a bathroom break.

As the hours passed (he talked for NINE HOURS), I realized that I was hearing a lot about his career and very little about his marriage and the raising of his family, the latter being topics I was more interested in.  So I had to figure out how to turn the flow of memories from work to family.  The following three strategies that I developed that day have continued to help me in my work with other Babbling Brook-type clients as well.

(1) Interrupt Them Mid-Sentence
I know, sounds rude and risky, but sometimes it's the only way to redirect the conversation.  Babbling Brooks usually have such a volume of word flow that there are no breaks for you to naturally cut in.  With a smile and a warm tone, simply break in by saying something like, "I love hearing these stories about your career, and I'd like to hear more about your years as a teacher, but we haven't talked much about your wedding and I'd really like to hear more stories about that."  In that way, you affirm the value of the stories he obviously likes to tell, while still redirecting him to a story you want to hear. Sometimes they'll insist on finishing the story they were telling, so agree with a laugh and bargain lightly with them: "OK, but after this story I want to hear more about your wedding day."  Odds are good that he'll try and tell another career story anyways, but if you playfully remind him (possibly mid-sentence again), "Hey - we had a deal!" he'll probably honor the bargain and share a story or two about his wedding.  (A good thing to keep in mind is that interrupting them carries surprisingly little risk.  Babbling Brooks are so happy to have attention and a listening ear that often it almost doesn't matter to them what story they're telling; it's a compliment to them that you're interested enough to request a specific story or detail.)

(2) Persistently Ask Specific Questions
Every person has a set of stories compiled over the years of their life, some of them sweet and some of them painful.  Some stories are more difficult to share than others, and when you're seeking out someone else's painful stories it can be nearly impossible to draw them out.  In the case of my grandfather, he had a happy childhood and a successful career, but his marriage was difficult.  He was a Babbling Brook when it came to childhood games and the students he caught cheating, but questions about my grandmother were met with a gruff two-sentence answer before he went back to childhood stories.  I did not want our time to turn into an uncomfortable interrogation, but I also really wanted more information about my grandmother, so I had to adapt.  In order to learn more about his marriage, I had to be patient, persistent and very specific.  Between stories that made him happy, I would ask short specific questions: "Where did you and Liz go on your honeymoon?"  "What was the name of the church you were married in?"  "Why did you pick the name 'Diann' for your first child?"  It worked: while he would not talk in length about his marriage, he would faithfully give me one or two-sentence answers when I asked specific questions, and even remained in a good mood.  Sometimes I could even press him with a couple questions in a row before he changed the subject; each time, I would tactically retreat for a couple stories, and then press him again with another question a few minutes later.  Because of the painful nature of these memories, the stories and details I wanted to learn involved much more intentional effort to glean, but it was more than worth it.  So don't give up when a certain topic seems closed: some stories are just harder to learn about than others, and gentle persistence can go a long way toward opening a closed door.

(3) Use Photos Related to What you Want to Know
Photos are far and away my favorite interview tool, and for Babbling Brook types they offer the perfect assistance for redirection.  Almost everyone has a photo album, scrapbook or shoe box full of sentimental photos, and if you have that spread across your lap or opened on the coffee table it becomes a powerful and natural segue into a more desirable topic.  Page through it while they're telling stories, pick a picture that relates to a time of their life you want to learn more about, and use it to redirect them when necessary.  Since Babbling Brook types often need interrupted, as discussed earlier, I often soften the break-in with a compliment:  "Look how beautiful you are in your wedding dress!" or "Your boys were so CUTE!  Look at this picture!"  It's usually more than enough to redirect their attention to the photo, and give you a chance to ask, "So, you got married in July - was it hot that day?" or "Your boys were only eleven months apart - was that planned?"  You also gain the added benefit of the photo's memory assistance, which is often enormously helpful.

Want to learn more about successful interviewing techniques?  Follow Memories in Print on FacebookTwitter or Google+ to keep up to date on upcoming interview posts, such as how to draw out a man of few words, creative strategies for interviewing subjects with memory issues, and more.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Five Minutes of Fame: Promoting Memories in Print on "Daytime Columbus"

So, this happened:

"Preserving Family Memories", The Daytime Columbus Show,

That's me!  And my books!  On TV!  Crazy, right??

I owe a lot of thanks to a lot of people for both getting to do this and looking halfway decent at it:

First, to the Daytime Columbus team at NBC4 who cued me, miked me, filmed me and gave me a complimentary bottle of water - after seeing the final cut, I know they did wonders to make me appear more polished and coherent, for which I'm exceedingly grateful.  Also, Gail Hogan was a very sweet and personable host whose warm professionalism did a lot to calm my desire to throw up on the coffee table.  Every minute in that studio was an enjoyable experience.

Second, to the unequalled Beth Buxton of Edwards Funeral Service.  She called me up, asked me to share one of her weekly TV spots with her, and helped guide my preparations with continuing generosity and good humor.  And when the first airing of the segment I was in got blotted out by a presidential announcement, she again went above and beyond and insisted that my clip air AGAIN the following week instead of filming a new segment.  In short: Beth is amazing - do yourself a favor and find a way to work with her.

Third, to the brave handful of previous clients who gave me their permission to share their beautiful books on camera: to Rachel and Dennis, Jane and Earl, and to Shelli.  I loved working with each and every one of you more than I can describe. Thank you for letting me share your books and stories so that I can continue to do this work for others - you guys sell me better than anything else.  (A special thanks to Rachel, specifically, who drove more than an hour to Columbus to try and watch the clip air the first time - without her efforts, we wouldn't have known that the clip needed a second airing!)

Fourth, to the support I received from friends, family, everyone, for this video.  For every person who asked "how'd it go?", every hug, every phone call, every text, every "like" and Facebook comment and repost and shared link, you guys rocked my world.  Every time I began to panic that I would screw this opportunity up, I always received a perfectly-timed piece of encouragement that allowed me to continue preparing with renewed confidence.  Thank you so much for that invaluable gift.

And, last and most, enormous thanks to my husband Dave.  Not only does he support me in every way as I grow my business, he bought me new makeup, picked up undone chores without complaint, rehearsed interview questions late into the night, and encouraged my ability to nail the spot.  All confidence I exude in this video is thanks to him.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ice Dancing in Troy

(click here to read previous story: The First Son)

When the Boyer family moved from Cuyahoga Falls to Troy, OH in 1960 (or '61), they came with two baby girls.  In their short time in Troy, they welcomed their first son to the world, and when they moved back to Cuyahoga Falls in the summer of 1965, they brought back two little girls and their new baby boy.

However, an accounting of the family's years in Troy would not be complete without stories of Liz and Dinon's involvement in the skate club at the Hobart Arena.

Hobart Arena in Troy, OH
"It was a big part of our social life in Troy," Dinon said.  "Most of the people that belonged to it were pretty well-to-do, so we rubbed shoulders with the [higher-ups].  I was personnel manager of the plant down there, so I guess that was high enough to warrant me being able to join."

Dinon especially was deeply involved in the club and participated on all levels, from casual skating to competitive ice-dancing, from records keeping to managing the annual ice show.  

"We heard about the skating club when we moved to Troy.  I don't remember who mentioned it or told us about it, but I said to Liz that that would be a fun thing to do," Dinon said.  "So every week we had lessons from the [local] skating pros [who did the choreography for the ice show], and they would teach us different moves, and then we had some free time to skate around and do what we wanted.  So, it was an enjoyable time to go there and learn.  We'd get a babysitter for the kids, and then we'd go skating."

He liked it so much he brought coworkers with him, too.

"I remember there was an engineer that we hired from India, so he had hardly ever seen ice or snow.  So I enticed him to join the skating club," Dinon said, chuckling.  "He was so scared, he would hold on to the edge all the way around, and if he started at all to fall, why, he'd grab on with both hands!"

Liz never liked ice skating quite enough to go by herself, but Dinon often went alone during open skating just for the exercise.

Carol Heiss, winner of the gold medal
in the 1960 Olympics and
five-times world champion (1956-1960)
"For fifty cents, you could get in for the whole evening, so it was real cheap entertainment," Dinon said.  "I'd go for exercise and skate fast and really work up my energy level, and maybe work on one of the moves that I would have to do in the ice show ... I was never gonna be one that could twirl or do some of these things, but regular skating, yeah, I enjoyed that."

The skating club put on an ice show for the community every year, pulling out all the stops.  "We got props and costumes and we always had somebody who was well-known, a top-notch skater, come out - Carol Heiss came and skated for us one year."

Dinon had loved to go out dancing when he was in college, so it was hardly surprising when he ended up competing in the ice show one year.

"The lowest level of ice dancing is skating the Dutch Waltz," Dinon said.  "Oh, I loved the Dutch Waltz.  I mean, when I was in college, I danced a LOT.  [For the competition] I skated with another woman, a single lady, I don't remember her name now, but she and I practiced.  Liz wasn't really a good enough skater to do it, she couldn't concentrate enough [because] of her ADD.  So anyhow, this other woman and I skated to the Dutch Waltz, and we got our names put on the trophy - it's permanently there, and we were the first ones to get on to it.  I think they had several couples dancing the Dutch Waltz and we did it the best.  I enjoyed it.  I never advanced beyond that, because the other dances were, well, they were more complicated.  Part of the time you were skating backwards or twirling or something, and that was beyond my skill.  But I loved to dance, so I'd make these real wide curves, and had a ball, because the Dutch Waltz was something I could master."

Diagram of the Dutch Waltz
He liked the experience well enough to repeat it and performed on ice again.  In March of 1963, Dinon ice-danced in lederhosen at the Alpine Festival's International Ice Review.  All of the skaters in the Review received a 12-inch tall copper mug with the inscription of the event and date - and it still sits in a place of honor, on a high shelf in Dinon's study.  "I've always kept this," he said.

The club appealed to Dinon for many reasons, from his natural love for dancing to his meticulous attention to detail.

"Part of the time I was in the club, I kept track of the levels of the various skaters," Dinon said, "and these records were very important as they progressed.  For a while I judged the figure eights, and I kept the records for one year.  It was fun, it was just an enjoyable thing to do."

He even volunteered to manage the ice show one year.

"Different people became the general manager of the show ... it didn't really rotate, but different people volunteered, and we always had a budget, and we'd get different things - some for costumes, some for special lighting - I mean, all kinds of things," Dinon said.

Now, there are two important things to remember about Dinon: first, that he was raised by frugal Depression-era parents and second, that he is naturally very literal and extraordinarily detail-oriented.  Therefore, when Dinon Boyer is given a budget, he sticks to that budget.  Period.

"During the time I was there, the only year that the club made money was when I ran the ice show," Dinon said with evident pride.  "And I ran it with an iron fist.  We had a budget, and we all agreed on it, and I kept them to the budget, so we didn't have any wild spending like we always did other years.  Somebody always wanted to do something, and in the past they'd say, 'Yeah, go ahead,' and they'd do it and submit the bill and be way over budget.  So I was determined that we were gonna be on or below budget, and that we were gonna come out and have some money for the club.  And I accomplished that because I kept tabs on what the different groups were spending and doing, and kept reminding them about the amount of money they had, and I told them that if they wanted to do more they had to get innovative about it because they only had this amount of money ... and it worked.  We had a good show, we made money, so that was my legacy to the skating club."

It's a legacy he's proud of, and in line with the rest of his life.  Dinon was always an excellent provider for his family and wife.  And, decades laters, he still takes pride in having been a good provider during that ice show for the skating club he loved in Troy.

"It was a good time.  I'm glad we had the opportunity," Dinon said.  "After we got transferred back to Cuyahoga Falls from Troy, we tried to find a place to skate nearby.  We found out Kent State had a rink, but it was never in really good shape.  I don't remember if they even had a zamboni or not.  We soon lost interest in going out to Kent.  We probably had other priorities."

(to be continued)


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The First Son

The Boyer Family with New #5, Todd Marshall 
(click here to read previous story:

It was in July of 1964, a couple of months after Sharon's 5th birthday, that Liz gave birth to their third child, a son they named Todd.

The +5 year gap between Sharon and Todd is notable because it's by far the largest: Diann is just 16 months older than Sharon, and Todd is only two years older than the youngest child, Scott.  Sharon's medical problems probably played a big part in the size of that gap.

"Liz was stressed, to say the least," Dinon said.  "I mean, I was stressed, too.  And there wasn't much I could do."

In that stressful time, Dinon did the best he could to help his family ... and sometimes had a little help, too.

"During Sharon's last kidney surgery, Diann and I had to come back [from Boston] to Ohio early because Diann was starting school," Dinon said.  "So, I'd get her up, and comb and braid her hair, but ... it was not the best."

Diann and her long hair, obviously
braided by her mother
It just so happened that, while walking to school, Diann and her neighbor friend Patty always went right past the house of one of their teachers.  On one of the mornings that Dinon braided her hair, the teacher looked out her front window and could tell that Diann's dad had, well, tried to help.

"So while Liz was gone, she'd watch for Diann to come walking by, and then she'd call them into the house and rebraid Diann's hair," Dinon said, chuckling.  "I didn't know anything about it, I mean, Diann never said anything and of course I didn't realize her hair was being rebraided."

In 1964, the family was finally healthy and resettled, just in time for the birth of Dinon's first son, Todd Marshall (his middle name came from Liz's maiden name).

When Dinon was asked if he was excited to finally have a boy, he smiled and shrugged.

"I think I just, y'know, accepted it, thinking, 'OK, I've got another child to feed'," he said.

However, Dinon's blasé answer was met with quick objection.

"Outstanding" Baby Todd
"That is NOT the story I heard from Mom," Todd broke in from across the table.  "Mom said that Dad was OVERjoyed, that he was THRILLED to finally have a boy, that his face lit up and he could barely contain his joy.  She would say, 'Your father, Todd, he's not really very expressive emotionally, but that was as happy as I've ever seen him.'  And I believe every word of it!"

"That's the mantra, uh-huh," Dinon said, chuckling.

Continuing to argue his infant likability, Todd retold a story from his pre-crawling days:

"At the house in Troy, there was a tree right in the middle of the front yard under which, Nanny [Liz's mother] said, that I used to just lay there under the tree and I would stare up and look at the leaves and just be totally content."

Dinon smiled and shrugged, genuinely assenting, "Yeah, he was an outstanding baby.  He was SO good."

Todd grinned. 

"You hear that?  I was OUTSTANDING."

(Next story: Ice Dancing in Troy)


Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Hospitals, Doctors and Surgeries

Itty-bitty Sharon helping
with the vacuuming
(click here to read previous story: Family of Four)

In 1962, Dinon's three-year-old daughter Sharon developed a urinary tract infection.  The infection was successfully treated with antibiotics - but then it came back.  And came back again.  And again. 

"You could cure it temporarily with antibiotics, but it wouldn't stay cured," Dinon said.

He and Liz were worried about the persistence of the infection, so they began a long string of hospital visits with Sharon.

"She was not only at the hospital here [in town], we took her to the hospital in Dayton, Columbus, and New York City Presbyterian," Dinon said.  "And, well, we just couldn't seem to find anybody that knew how to cure it."

Finally, Liz ended up in the Boston area and stayed at her mother's house while they consulted a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Grandma Boyer with her
two granddaughters
"Unbeknownst to us, Sharon had some reflux action between the bladder and the kidney," Dinon said, "and a physician there said that he could reimplant whatever-they-called-that tube so that the reflux action would not be a problem."

They agreed to proceed with the five-hour operation.  It went well, and aside from a restless desire to get out of her hospital crib (which the staff foiled by putting a net over the top to contain her), Sharon handled it well.  She was eventually dismissed and headed back home to Ohio with her mother.

"However, the physician in Boston did not provide adequate follow-up instructions," Dinon said.  "So the kidney over-healed, and the scar tissue shut off the tube."

Sharon, now four, was dealing with the same physical problems all over again.  And when the family returned to Massachusetts to confront the physician, he became defensive.

"The doctor in Boston, he blamed Liz for the over-healing, he told her it was her fault!  And she bought it.  It was NOT Liz's fault," Dinon insisted.

Family of five with new baby boy, Todd
But the damage was done: the doctor had shifted his blame and guilt onto Liz, a vulnerable young mother trying so hard to care for her sick young daughter.  And now, as a result of the doctor's mistake, the operation would have to be repeated: a consequence that Liz felt responsible for.

"Then, about a year after the second operation, when Sharon was about five, why, we found out that the over-healing had killed the kidney.  So, at five years old, she had the kidney removed," Dinon said.  "Once again, it was a long operation.  So, one year apart, three and four and five, she had major surgeries in Boston."

And finally, finally, after her kidney was removed in 1964, Sharon was back to full health.

It was a stressful time for the young Boyer family, but it was finally behind them.  And in July of 1964, they became a not-so-small family of five when the first son, Todd Marshall, was born.

(Next story: The First Son)


Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Family of Four

Dinon with his two 
small daughters
(click here to read previous story: Baby Diann)

At the beginning of April of 1959, Liz was more than 8 months pregnant with her and Dinon's second child, Sharon.  Shortly before she was due, Dinon made arrangements with his parents to take Diann home with them to Wisconsin for a couple of weeks so he and Liz could focus on bringing the new baby into the world.

When the time came for Liz to give birth, Dinon dropped her off at Akron General Hospital and went back to work ("I didn't think it was necessary for me to stay," he said).  Later that day, either April 14th or 15th, he decided to walk from work over to the hospital to see how it was going.  

Grandpa Ralph Boyer with
his granddaughter, Diann
"It was a very very warm day," Dinon said, describing an unseasonably hot mid-April afternoon, "and because I was so heated after walking, well, I got to the hospital and I fainted."

But he was brought back around pretty easily, and on April 15th Liz gave birth to their second daughter, Sharon Leigh.

Diann stayed with her grandparents for a few days after her sister's birth so that Liz and Dinon could more easily transition back home with the new baby.  After having had Diann for a total of 2-3 weeks, Ralph and Alma traveled back to Ohio to return Diann and to meet their newest granddaughter.

"When my parents brought her back, they came to the front door, ready to hand Diann back to me, and Diann didn't come!  She was not interested in coming to her father because she had bonded with my folks!" Dinon said.  "I mean, I was not ready for that.  I felt badly about it."

Grandpa Ralph Boyer with his
two small granddaughters
For Dinon, who is not an emotionally expressive person, such a sentiment is meaningful.  And to this day, of his four children, Dinon is still closest to his oldest daughter, Diann.

In 1960 or '61, Dinon was transferred, and the young family moved 200 miles from northeast Ohio to the town of Troy, just a little north of Dayton in midwestern Ohio.  The Boyers settled in well, everyone was healthy, Liz found a social circle that she enjoyed, and Dinon found a new hobby competing locally in ice dancing.

But in 1962, three-year-old Sharon developed a urinary tract infection.  And then another one.  And another one.  Antibiotics would temporarily clear up the infections, but they always returned. So they made an appointment at a nearby hospital, the first of many.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Baby Diann

Baby Diann and Daddy Dinon
(Click here to read previous story:

After two years of marriage, baby Diann Elizabeth arrived as a belated Christmas present to her parents on December 26th of 1957.

Mama Liz and Baby Diann
"I was pretty happy about it," Dinon said.  "She was planned, I was through with grad school, and I was working for Goodrich.  We were living up in Cuyahoga Falls, which is next to Akron on the north side.  We were in a small apartment on the second floor of the house that we later bought, but, at the time, we were renting."

Since Dinon was the oldest child for his mother, who was herself an only child, this meant that Diann was a highly-celebrated first grandchild.  The abundance of baby photos, and the level of doting around Diann in each, speaks to the same.

Diann took after her father's light hair color and by her first birthday it hung in a thick blonde bowl above her chubby cheeks. For her birthday, Diann happily sat in a high chair at the same table her father had grown up around, and a big round cake, frosted in white, sat on the table with a single lit candle in the center.

Baby Diann with
Grandma Alma 'Babe' Boyer
"We were glad to have her," Dinon said.  "She was a pretty happy child."

Blessed with the financial stability of Dinon's job, the young family of three took a camping vacation to the Gaspé Peninsula in the autumn of 1958.

The Gaspé Peninsula, a piece of Canadian land northeast of the state of Maine, runs along the St. Lawrence River and ultimately overlooks the St. Lawrence Gulf. North of Maine, it is, as one might expect, rather cold in September.  However, this detail did not deter Liz from making sure that Diann remained clean on their camping trip.

"Liz was pregnant with Sharon when we were on vacation, and she didn't realize she was pregnant at the time.  And Liz, on that trip, Liz thought that the baby needed to be bathed every day, every single day," Dinon said, beginning to laugh.  "This is fall in Canada.  Picture Diann, bare as can be, and Liz is bundled up with a jacket and everything trying to stay warm, and then we've got Diann out there in a pan because she had to be bathed.  Liz and I laughed about that later – it’s a wonder Diann survived.  I mean, she didn't get sick or anything.   I mean, it's just [that Liz was a] new mother and she thought that that was the thing you had to do.  Oh golly..."

Baby Diann with
Great-Grandma Henness
Diann was also the only one of Liz's children to meet her father, Joseph Marshall, a handsome English immigrant with a beautiful singing voice.

Liz's parents, Joseph and Ernestine Marshall, had separated in September of 1942 due to infidelity on Joseph's part.  Liz, the youngest of four, was just eleven years old at the time.  The children continued to live with their mother when Joseph moved out; Liz did not maintain a close relationship with her father, even though both parts of the family lived near Boston.

Liz, Diann and Dinon
in front of their home
in Cuyahoga Falls, OH
"We did see her dad after Diann was born, Diann was just a little baby," Dinon recalled. "I think it was the first time I met him.  And he was remarried.  I do remember seeing him, and him holding Diann, but he died shortly thereafter."

In September of 1959, Joseph died at the age of 61.  "We didn't get a chance to go to the funeral because we were in Ohio and it was down in the Boston area," Dinon said.  In addition to the +650 miles and 21-month-old Diann, Dinon and Liz had also recently added a fourth member to their family.  Baby Sharon, born in April of '59, was just 5 months old at the time of Joseph's passing.  "At that stage, it was a big deal to travel that distance, so we just couldn't do it," Dinon said.  

After the news of Joseph's passing, the small Boyer family of four settled back into their routine in Cuyahoga Falls, OH, unaware of the coming medical challenges for their newest daughter.

(Next story: Family of Four)


A Pair of

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New Wife, New Life

Wedding day cake: August 26, 1955
(click here to read previous story:

In May of 1955, Dinon was released from the army after 21 months of service.  Three months later, on August 26th, 1955, he married Liz Marshall.

After leaving the army, Dinon decided that he wanted to use his G.I. Bill benefits in order to return to school.  So, in the autumn of 1955, Dinon found himself at the University of Wisconsin once again, this time in the two-year graduate program for his master's degree in business.

The young Boyer couple decided to wait until after Dinon finished graduate school before having any kids.  While Dinon was studying, Liz was working at a nearby church as the church secretary.  Their first year of marriage was a quiet one and the biggest speed bump they ran into was Liz's tonsillectomy.

"We were newly married, and we found out that she had to have her tonsils removed.  So she said, 'Well, I'll have it done on a Friday so I can be back to work on Monday' ... but it was a week from Monday before she got back!"  Dinon laughed. "We don't heal like we're kids, it just takes more time.  It was funny, because she was SURE she was going to be able to recuperate over the weekend.  It was kind of fun to tease her a little bit about what she had said."

Young Liz and Dinon
All that year, Dinon worked hard in the two-year graduate program and, impressively, managed to earn his master's degree in a single year.

After graduating in 1956, Dinon accepted a job offer to work at Goodrich in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, where for the next ten years he was the personnel manager. It was a career that constantly frustrated inquisitive Liz.

"Liz used to get upset when I wouldn't tell her what was going on in the office," Dinon said.  "I said that she might have contact with some of the other spouses of people in the office, and they might ask her a question, and the way she responds might give it away, and it was supposed to be very confidential.  The only safe thing was - just don't tell her!"

The young couple moved to Ohio at the end of 1956, and in March of 1957 Liz became pregnant with their first child - a little girl they named Diann.

(Next story: Baby Diann)

A Pair of
Fort Sam

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fort Sam Houston

(click here to read previous story: The Move to San Antonio)

Dinon was drafted into the army in August of 1953, just two months after graduating from college.  His first stop for basic training was in Fort Riley, Kansas, followed by a few months in Camp Pickett, Virginia, before it closed in June of 1954.  Between Camp Pickett and Dinon's release from service in May of 1955, Dinon spent his time - "over a year" - at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.

"When I got down to San Antonio, I was assigned to a training battalion headquarters as a clerk typist." Dinon said.  "I did not, of course, go to a typing school, but they assigned that to me.  I had to run the message center at battalion headquarters."

According to Dinon, it was an easy job, consisting of four plain eighteen-inch square boxes.

"One was Company A, B, C and D, and my job was to take the mail, and if it said ‘Company A’, I put it in the ‘Company A’ box.  I mean, it was ‘really tough’, ha," he said, chuckling.

In addition to sorting, he was also the driver for the colonel.

"He was a light colonel, so he was a lieutenant colonel, he wasn't a full bird colonel (full bird colonel has eagles as a symbol – he only had a silver star, a full colonel’s is brass)," Dinon explained.   "So I had to pick up the jeep every morning, drive it over there, and then when the colonel wanted to go watch his troops being trained, why, I drove him to wherever they were training.  And if he noticed some training on the other side of the valley, there was no road, you just went straight there, which means you’re going cross-country in the jeep with the colonel next to you.  Then he’d get out and inspect the troops and all and see what they’re doing, and then I’d bring him back, and then at the end of the day I had to wash the jeep and leave it at the motor pool where all the trucks and jeeps were kept."

Example of a 2-1/2 ton cargo truck
Another part of his driving responsibilities was learning how to operate a two-and-a-half ton truck, AKA, 'a deuce-and-a-half'.

"It was one of these great big things with the canvas over the back, monster things," he said.  "I remember at the very end [of the driving test], driving that thing out in the field, and here’s this steep hill.  So I come up to the hill, and I brum! revved it up, and all I could see was sky!  The thing was almost vertical – I couldn't see the road!  I’m looking out the windshield, and the windshield is pointing up!  But I passed, and he gave me the driver’s license for it ... I don’t think I ever had to drive one after the test, but I was certified.  They do that, they train you in a number of things in case you need it."

Dinon never went overseas or saw military action.  Even though he had been drafted for 24 months, he was released in May of 1955.  "I only served about 21 months because Congress would not appropriate enough money to keep the army as big as the military wanted," Dinon said.

Dinon left the military and did not return.  On August 26, just three months later, he and Liz were married.  And, in that same year, Dinon used the benefits of his G.I. Bill of Rights to re-enroll at the University of Wisconsin to pursue a master's degree in business.

(Next story: New Wife, New Life)

A Pair of
Dorms, Food
and Studies