Words with Friends

Drew’s two oldest CLA graduates—New Jersey historian John Cunningham C’38 and retired financial adviser Herman Rosenberg C’37—forged a bond during the Great Depression.

[This is an expanded version of the interview that appeared in the printed Winter 2012 issue of Drew Magazine.]

University in the Forest author Cunningham (left), 96, and Rosenberg, 95, play a mean game of Scrabble. Photo by Lynne DeLade C’12.

JC: I lived in a private house on Maple Avenue. Drew had an arrangement with people whereby they would exchange a room for a student to rake the leaves and take the ashes out and do all kinds of household chores. I was lucky enough to get in with a family that gave me breakfast, sometimes the only meal I had all day. Then we’d eat at your uncle’s restaurant a couple times a week. What was his name?

HR: Isadore Rosenberg. Izzy. My uncle owned the Lackawanna Restaurant on Main Street, and I ate there every day.

JC: I ate there once a week.

HR: Twice a week, John. John used to come Tuesdays and Fridays. He would order, for 15 cents, soup and rolls and butter. My uncle had a brother who was a waiter. Couldn’t read or write, but could remember the orders of eight or 10 people. When he saw that John had finished his lunch, he would give him seconds.

JC: Your uncle was a big help to me, getting me through college. Drew was filled with students like ourselves. It was mostly a poor man’s college. We were very lucky because of all those oak trees in the fall, dozens of us raked leaves.

HR: For how much, John?

JC: Thirty-five cents an hour. Just think, for 10 hours you could get $3.50.

HR: You also wrote for The Daily Record. You got, what, a penny a line?

JC: Yeah, I was responsible for eastern Morris County. One morning I was awakened at about 5; the police called. There was a murder, and so I had to cover that. I arrived at my 7:50 a.m. class not in good shape.

HR: John and I were in the same history class together, weren’t we?

JC: Yes.

HR: Taylor Jones’ class. Fine professor. There were six or seven of us in the class. Very small class.

JC: He was a good professor. Probably the best. Now that I’ve already said it, I think McClintock was the best. I eventually majored in psych because of Jim McClintock. If you ask enough of us, I think you’ll find that Jim McClintock was both very well liked and very well disliked.

HR: He lived to be 100. He was brilliant.

JC: And he was disliked because he took no nonsense. If you were in McClintock’s class, you were expected to produce. Herman, your major was economics, right?

HR: I majored in a professor. It happened that he chose economics. He was the best professor alive. Professor Norman Milligan Guy. We had a very good faculty.

JC: Real giants, those days.

HR: Yes. The college wasn’t very old. The seminary was prominent in those days. Dominant, I would say. We were secondary. We didn’t have much to do with the seminary.

JC: Women came during the war. They came because without coming, the college would have closed. At one point, I believe, it was down to one male in World War II. My book University in the Forest tells why women came, and how they proved themselves and stayed. Although being at an all-male college had its benefits. You could go around looking sloppy. And since most of us didn’t have any money, we had no alternative but to look sloppy.

HR: I commuted from Morristown. Took the bus to school, cost me 10 cents. To save the 10 cents, we hitchhiked back home, Joe Taylor [C’37] and I. Joe Tamovitz, in those days.  There were maybe 25 in my class, something like that. You recall how many were in yours?

JC: Thirty-one. While it was a select college, it was very easy to get into, and very easy to get out of, too, because we had what were called comps at the end of the sophomore year. A lot of fellows bade farewell via the comps, the comprehensive exam.

HR: I recall, too, that since it was a Methodist school, we had to go to chapel in Brothers College twice a week, compulsory. But then it was stopped. I was almost converted to Christianity.

JC: No one ever attempted to make me a Methodist.

HR: No, there was no attempt, but it was so warm and cozy and comfortable, I was almost converted.

JC: I know that the Jews and Catholics outnumbered the Methodists by far. When you threw in the Presbyterians, the Methodists weren’t very numerous. Let’s see if we can agree on something. Who was the best mind you ever met at Drew?

HR: Professor Norman Milligan Guy.

JC: No, a student.

HR: Ralph Porzio [C’38].

JC: Porzio.

HR: No question about it. He became editor-in-chief of The Acorn. He was on the debate team.

JC: He went to Harvard, didn’t he?

HR: Yeah. I took him there in my little car, John

JC: Would you call him the brightest mind you ever met? He was for me.

HR: I would say so.

JC: He was a kid who was orphaned in the fourth grade. Both parents died and he literally worked his way through grammar school, high school, college and graduate school. I never heard of anyone else who did that. He became a very prominent Morristown lawyer. He also became the first graduate of Drew who became a trustee of Drew. He left five scholarships at Drew.

HR: I thought he would be a senator, and I would be his chief of staff. That was my dream. He wasn’t at all politically minded, though. He lost his health striving for an education.

JC: You and I both played baseball. In fact, this is Mr. Shortstop [nods to Rosenberg], and I was Mr. Second Baseman. Herm, I thought I had shortstop sewn up until I saw your arm, then I figured, “I’m going to be lucky to play second base.” I wish I’d saved my letters from Doc Young, our coach. That would have made me a much more conceited individual. He found something to praise, no matter what. Such as, “You made a great stop with your head on that ball.” Do you remember the weekly letter you got from him?

HR: Sure.

JC: Always upbeat, always on plays.

HR: Doc loved baseball. He said baseball was a religion with him at one time. He told me that he’d been going to baseball games, both sandlot and big league, for 25 years. He’d never gone to a ballgame that he hadn’t learned a new fact, or had an old fact struck home with new force. The man has a personality that just attracted you. Short, pudgy fellow. Had a paunch. One of the most eloquent men I’ve known. You wanted to be with him, and you wanted to please him. There was a clique of athletes who would be allowed to go to his office on the second floor of Brothers College. It was just a joy to be there.

JC: But we never got any preferences. That is, there was only one rule about athletics: pass or don’t play.

HR: Arlo Ayres Brown [Drew’s president] used to come watch our ballgames. He was rather religious. I remember one of the athletes was cussing away in his presence. He said, “Well, well.”

JC: But Dean Frank Lankard was more of an influence on us.

HR: Yes, yes.

JC: I was ill for about three days. There was a knock on my bedroom door in the house I boarded in, and there was Dean Lankard. It’s something that’s lasted with me all my life, quite obviously, because I’m stating it here now. That’s the kind of place Drew was, though. It was a very intimate place. We knew our professors intimately. Would you say you’re proud of your Drew education?

HR: You bet I am.

JC: I am too. Drew gave me curiosity, I believe, as much as anything.

HR: Drew opened the world for me. I had no awareness of it until I came here. I feel that John is the most prestigious graduate that we’ve ever had. I think I embarrass him when I call him the quintessential Drew graduate. He’s the best product that Drew has turned out, for my money.

JC: Thank you, Herman.

HR: You bet.

JC: I want you to emphasize the point that he is one class ahead of me. When we go down as the two oldest guys at Drew, Herm, you’ll have to be first. You were C’37, I was C’38.

HR: I’m a year younger.

JC: Aren’t you proud of that?

HR: I don’t know. Probably.

JC: That doesn’t make you very young.—Renée Olson

2 Responses to “Words with Friends”

  1. […] Words with Friends from Drew Magazine […]

  2. […] Magazine’s Winter 2012 issue featured a conversation between Cunningham and Herman Rosenberg ’37, who were believed to be the college’s oldest living alumni. The two recounted their […]

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