Mary Evangeline Kohler

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ORAL HISTORIES
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Interviewed by
Ron Doel
Location
Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, Canada
Usage Information and Disclaimer
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In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:

Interview of Mary Evangeline Kohler by Ron Doel on 1996 May 27, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/6920

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Abstract

Born February 21, 1922 in Nova Scotia; discusses her father’s career as a fisherman and her childhood with four older siblings. Describes her education at Lunenburg Academy and her decision to go into nursing at Halifax Infirmary after graduating. Recalls her early courtship and marriage with Henry Kohler and her graduation from Halifax Infirmary in 1943. Discusses the impact of Henry’s frequent absence on their marriage; recalls her various trips with Henry aboard his ships. Discusses daughter Helga’s troubles in school and her subsequent work with Manik Taiwani at Lamont. Describes Henry’s decision to work at Lamont and their first impression of Lamont. Recalls her interactions with the crew aboard the Vema and describes the social environment that existed there. Discusses the friends that she made at Lamont, especially Charles Drake, Dennis Hayes, and Angelo Ludas.

Transcript

Doel:

This is Ron Doel and this is an interview with Mary Evangeline Kohler — although you’re known to many people much better as Laney Kohler. Today’s date is the twenty-seventh of May, 1996. We are recording this is in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada. And I know that you were born in Lunenburg on the twenty-first of February, 1922. But I don’t know much about your family or your parents. Who were they and what did they do?

Kohler:

My mother and father were born in Bayport and they moved to Lunenburg. And the first place they lived was what we call New Town. And —

Doel:

This was the area very close, bordering on Lunenburg.

Kohler:

Very near the Bluenose Lodge. And the moved to Lunenburg when I was five years old — and I should say before that because I was born there. My father was a fishing captain. And mother — was mother. She was a wonderful person and we had a family of five children.

Doel:

Where were you in the family?

Kohler:

I was the baby of the family. And they say the spoiled baby of the family.

Doel:

How big was the age difference between you and your, was it brothers and sisters?

Kohler:

Three brothers, a sister and myself. And my brother just passed away, he was eighty-four. And I have another brother living eighty-three. And sister died when she was seventy-four. And I have a brother seventy-five, I am seventy-four, so, he’s seventy-five, living. I can say I had a nice life and wonderful parents.

Doel:

What sort of house were you living in when you were growing up?

Kohler:

Well I don’t remember too much about the one in what they call New Town, but the one that we had lived in in Lunenburg was a large home with four bedrooms and kitchen, dining room, two — one they call a parlor and the other one would be a den. In those days they called a parlor a parlor.

Doel:

And was the parlor reserved for Sundays only?

Kohler:

Reserved, yes.

Doel:

Or not even Sundays perhaps?

Kohler:

No, mostly, if we say we just walked past that door, you know, we went to the den. And Christmas — the Christmas tree would be in there. There was a fireplace where we hung our stockings.

Doel:

I’m curious whether did your family have a library in the house?

Kohler:

No.

Doel:

As well.

Kohler:

No. No. And I wouldn’t say — as far as reading, no. My mother was a housekeeper and my father was not home that much. And she just looked after us and brought us up.

Doel:

How long would your father sail when he was out?

Kohler:

Years ago he went away on what they call salt fishing trips. So he’d be away probably a month or two which is funny because we always laugh and say, all the other children other than me, they were born in September and then I was born in February. So it must have been a longer trip. [Laughs]

Doel:

Well put.

Kohler:

We laugh at that. [Laughs] I’m the only one in February. All the others are September and the first of October.

Doel:

That’s very interesting. You’d also mentioned off tape earlier that the house had a widow’s walk on.

Kohler:

A widow walk, widow’s walk yes. And there was one occasion when the vessel was overdue. I just remember this — coming home, running home from school and asking if Daddy was home. My mother said no. So I ran up. You had to go up the stairs to the second floor and then up to the attic. And then there was another little wooden step to go up to the widow’s peak and look out this way.

Doel:

Right. And you’re pointing out towards the harbor here in the house.

Kohler:

Yes. So I could see from there. And our house is up by, very near the Anglican Church. So to you go up there, you could look.

Doel:

Right. So it’s near the apex of the hill isn’t it then in downtown Lunenburg?

Kohler:

Yes, right. So, that’s what I did.

Doel:

You knew his ship well enough that you could have recognized it at a distance, do you think?

Kohler:

No, not at my age. Not at my age.

Doel:

How old were you do you think?

Kohler:

And if I say this my children always say, Mom, everything happened to you when you were eleven. So I figure I was probably maybe a little younger than that.

Doel:

Okay.

Kohler:

I always make reference to — oh I must have been eleven.

Doel:

Do you remember reading a lot when you were growing up?

Kohler:

Oh, no; nothing but my school work. I can’t really recall. I probably did. I sort of remember and like I must have been quite young, playing with paper dolls and having a little tea set and dressing up in grown up clothes and anybody’s high heel shoes. [Laughs] Different from Henry.

Doel:

Referring of course to your husband, Henry.

Kohler:

Yes.

Doel:

I’m curious. Did the Great Depression affect your family significantly because I’m thinking of age ten or eleven for you? That would have been at the height.

Kohler:

The memories, yes well, I certainly can remember my parents debating whether they would go to maybe a movie or something. Or maybe my mother saying well we can’t afford that. And I remember my brother cutting our hair. I also remember my father when he was home sewing our shoes. I do remember. And also I do remember wearing clothes from — I remember my mother, she had a friend and her daughter was a year older than I. And she used to get clothes from this, her name’s Janet — and I wore Janet’s clothes. They would call them hand me downs. So that’s what I remember those things. But you know nothing as far as food. You know we were always very, we were comfortable with that. It was just that you had to be saving.

Doel:

Was that generally so in Lunenburg or did you feel that your family was weathering the Depression better?

Kohler:

Oh no it was generally.

Doel:

It was generally. That’s important.

Kohler:

And I can remember maybe someone coming from Blue Rocks [Nova Scotia], and they probably were in the same circumstances. And my mother taking them in and giving them food.

Doel:

Many of the families in this area had German ancestry. Was that the case in your family?

Kohler:

Yes. Yes. Not as strongly as Henry because Henry’s father came directly from Germany. But I just remember low German, but they only spoke this when they didn’t want the children to know what they were saying.

Doel:

Of course. [Laughter]

Kohler:

But it was low German.

Doel:

Did your parents speak low German?

Kohler:

Low German but not —

Doel:

Did you learn German when you were growing up then? Did you speak it at home?

Kohler:

No. No. I took one year of German in school. And I liked it too. I enjoyed it. But as I told you that was grade eleven and then grade twelve they didn’t have it.

Doel:

Did it help you understand what your parents were saying when they didn’t want you to understand them?

Kohler:

Well at that time I would say — maybe it was only when we were younger that they would say that and I didn’t hear that much of it in the latter years.

Doel:

What part of Germany were your parents from? Or your parents’ families I should say?

Kohler:

I can’t tell you that for the simple reason when we went to Germany, Henry and I, we were looking for the names. I would say probably Henry would have an idea where they’re from. But we couldn’t find any names that like Himmelman and Corkum. But Henry would probably know have an idea better.

Doel:

Right. But when you had gone on the trip it was in part to see if you could discover some of the family or the roots of the —

Kohler:

Oh no.

Doel:

It was not.

Kohler:

Not with that. That would be too far back where Henry had family there.

Doel:

Of course he had the living, the relatives that are right there. Yes. Did you attend the Lunenburg Academy when you were?

Kohler:

Yes, I did.

Doel:

What was that like to attend? Did you enter directly into it or was that something that you entered later on?

Kohler:

Oh no. I went when I was. I must have been. I was thinking about this because I graduated grade twelve when I was sixteen. And my birthday was in February. Well probably they took — I would say they took us in in September. So I must have been four and a half.

Doel:

That’s rather young then to have started.

Kohler:

I think so. Yes because I couldn’t have been too much further. But I did graduate when I was sixteen, because seventeen I went in training in December at the Halifax Infirmary when I was seventeen. They normally take them; take the students in at eighteen. I was around home not too long. I remember working in a grocery store and a furniture store. And then there was, the first job I had was — what we called five-and-dime store years ago. And the reason I did that, I wanted I had asked my mother if I could have a permanent. She said you hair is nice the way it is. And I was determined that I was get the permanent. So I worked at the five-and-dime store. Oh dear. So I did get the permanent. [Laughs]

Doel:

Was this high school time that we’re talking about?

Kohler:

That would be high school time. That would have been about probably — I was fifteen, sixteen.

Doel:

I’m curious what kind of training you recall getting over at the Academy and your impressions of it when you think back to those years.

Kohler:

Well, now I just think of getting an education and going to school.

Doel:

Was the Academy the place where most of the children in town would go or were there alternatives?

Kohler:

All of them.

Doel:

It was all. It really was the center for all the —

Kohler:

It was the school. Because my brother who was eighty-three, he went to the same school. All of the families went to that same school.

Doel:

Did you have any favorite teachers? Any who were particularly memorable for you?

Kohler:

No, I don’t, I don’t really think so. It might have been my first one. I think maybe the first one. She was then what we call primer grades. So she would have been my favorite. Miss Cook.

Doel:

I’m sorry, Miss —

Kohler:

Miss Cook.

Doel:

Miss Cook. Okay. And the Academy was the school all the way through so it would be from grades one all the way through to grade twelve.

Kohler:

Yes.

Doel:

Were there many after school activities that you recall when you were attending? Were you involved in any that you recall?

Kohler:

I can think of what we had was track meet. I really can’t think of any, any others. That would have been in the high grades. I remember going to different places.

Doel:

Were you involved in track?

Kohler:

Yes. Thought I was great.

Doel:

When did you start in track? What grade roughly did you begin?

Kohler:

That would have maybe been grade ten. Grade ten. I would say grade ten or eleven. But I think possibly I was a lot more interested in the boys.

Doel:

Well that plays a role at that point without a doubt.

Kohler:

More interested in the boys. Baseball games also. I also played softball.

Doel:

Was there a woman’s —

Kohler:

It’s very funny. I’m not athletic at all. I don’t, you know, when I stop to think of it now.

Doel:

Was there an organized women’s team or was this more informal?

Kohler:

Softball would have been, as I remember it, I can remember being at home, and it was just a gathering near what we called the bandstand. And I hurried up and finished my supper so that I could run there to play softball. But the track meet would have been school. Organized at school.

Doel:

And you say that gave you a chance to travel to other schools?

Kohler:

Well we, yes, occasionally we’d go. Of course then you’d have to get permission from mother. I think that mother was maybe, maybe she was a little suspicious that we were only interested, that I was only interested in boys. And my very best friend was my first cousin.

Doel:

Was she also in track?

Kohler:

She also was. Yes.

Doel:

How far would you travel? Was it just —

Kohler:

Not far.

Doel:

Within Nova Scotia?

Kohler:

Within Nova Scotia. The [unclear] in that area. Sackville [Nova Scotia].

Doel:

And how much time did that tend to take during the school year? Was it a few hours every day for practice or longer?

Kohler:

It would be after school activity. Skating; I loved skating.

Doel:

How did the team make out that you recall those years?

Kohler:

I don’t even remember because I’m looking over my shoulder. I don’t even remember that.

Doel:

Speaking, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to step on your words. Thinking particularly of the — of the upper grades, were there any courses, any subjects that you found particularly interesting or found particularly uninteresting at the time?

Kohler:

Hated math. Not good at it today. [Laughs] My children tease me with my fractions.

Doel:

Was it a difficult instructor in the course or in the courses?

Kohler:

I believe so. I forget though some incident in grade ten. It must have been with math. I don’t know what happened, something with the teacher. And my brother was — he had failed along the way, so he was in the same grade with me. So he came to my defense. Whatever it was I can’t remember it. So I guess, can’t blame the teacher. Blame myself probably. I liked French. And in grade nine we had Latin — you could choose, you know, you just had to have a certain number of subjects — but I think as I remember Latin was compulsory in grade nine, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have taken it. And then I had French and German, chemistry, social studies. That would be grade eleven.

Doel:

How many years did you take French?

Kohler:

Well I took French. One, two and three. Today they start it earlier. That’s three years.

Doel:

But at that time it was starting at around, what grade seven or so?

Kohler:

No. I don’t remember French in grade seven.

Doel:

Or even later?

Kohler:

Probably basics I would say, yes, in grade seven. I don’t remember taking in grade nine. I had Latin; I don’t know why I’d choose Latin. I remember ten, eleven, and twelve we had French.

Doel:

Would one hear French spoken around town back at all in those days?

Kohler:

Never. No, you see it wasn’t a French person. It was just the teacher who was from Lunenburg.

Doel:

So there really weren’t interactions say with French-Canadians at all?

Kohler:

It wasn’t sort of like we will have nothing spoken but French in this class. It was a matter of learning it.

Doel:

How often would you hear German spoken around town?

Kohler:

Not at all. Not at all. Hear more now with German people coming here for —

Doel:

As tourists do you mean coming here?

Kohler:

Yes, as tourists and as people. We have friends now who come every year, German people, [unclear]. And they of course, they don’t speak German in our company, but I know they converse in the family. I often ask them do you speak German, you know, when you’re at home. And they say oh yes. There’s one living in, family, not a family, just a husband and wife living in Bridgewater. And we’re very friendly with them and we see them in Florida when we’re there. And then the other couple that lives in what we call [unclear], and they are very good friends. But a lot of German people are coming here and buying property; a lot.

Doel:

That’s interesting.

Kohler:

Yes.

Doel:

That’s interesting. You had mentioned that when you were getting close to graduating from high school that you were thinking of nursing, or did that come a little bit later that you began?

Kohler:

There were only three things. There were only three careers. There was a stenographer, there was working in the bank, well there was teaching also and the nursing. And I chose the nursing. I don’t know if I ever — I don’t know where it really came from. You know I didn’t grow up and say I want to be a nurse. No, never. I just chose that as a career. I didn’t use much of it because I graduated and then I —

Doel:

That would have been right around the beginning of the —

Kohler:

That was '43.

Doel:

It was '43.

Kohler:

1943 I graduated.

Doel:

From the nursing program, you mean?

Kohler:

Yes.

Doel:

Yes. So the war was already two years in progress.

Kohler:

Yes.

Doel:

What was the nursing program like? What sort of things were you exposed to?

Kohler:

Well we, it was a three year program. Today they don’t have three years really. And they come out really not, what should I say? They go to university and then they take a little bit of, it’s not hands on really, as much as it was in my day. What was it like? Well, first of all, I did get homesick a bit. Not much, but a little bit.

Doel:

I’m sorry. Where were you again when you were?

Kohler:

In Halifax.

Doel:

In Halifax.

Kohler:

At the Halifax Infirmary. This was Catholic sisters. Very strict. Very strict. I’m telling about my days at the Halifax Infirmary.

Henry Kohler:

They were pretty rigid. They were good sisters. They liked me and I wasn’t even a Mick.

Kohler:

That was the hospital Henry was in for a year. He probably told you.

Doel:

Yes. I didn’t realize that was the same hospital.

Kohler:

Same hospital.

Doel:

The same hospital. Okay.

Kohler:

And they were very strict. But we really tried to fool them once in a while.

Henry Kohler:

You were getting in trouble all the time.

Kohler:

And I was getting in trouble all the time. That’s true. I probably wouldn’t sit here and say that. I had to make up time for sneaking out with an intern. This was not allowed to go with an intern. I also lost my cap.

Henry Kohler:

For six months.

Kohler:

For six months.

Doel:

When you lose the cap that was punishment?

Kohler:

That was punishment because you’d go walk around the doctors knew you. And then they’d say Himmelman, what happened to your cap?

Doel:

To your cap? Yes.

Kohler:

So you had to make up the time. And then I worked at the hospital for special duty; did special duty for a period of time. And then there was a patient from Lunenburg in the hospital, and his wife — see at that time I was a registered nurse — so she called me and asked me if I would after he came home, if I come home and look after him. So I said yes. And I came home. And his home is just down the street here. So I was walking home from duty in the evening and I saw Henry across the street.

Doel:

Now you had known Henry from —

Kohler:

Oh yes.

Doel:

— growing up, correct?

Kohler:

Well, yes. I sort of liked him a long time again, but then you know we didn’t make too many connections.

Doel:

You hadn’t gone out already on a date?

Kohler:

No. No. But I do remember my father’s vessel came in Halifax. And my mother would go on the little train we called the Jitney. She’d go to Halifax to see him. And then when she came home in the evening, I would go to meet her. Walk up to the Jitney to meet her. Henry at that time was ill because he had had a skiing accident. I remember him sitting in a chair by the window and I would go and wave to him. So that was the only connection at that time. So I came home to look after this patient and walked up the street and saw Henry. So he came over to me, across to talk to me, and he took me, walked up the street with me. And at that time it was, they had a drugstore at Zwicker’s. It had tables and chairs. He asked me if I would like to have something to drink. I remember I had a Lime Rickey. Then it started from there. He took me home and that was I think in the winter.

Doel:

Was this around Christmas?

Kohler:

It was around December, wasn’t it Henry?

Henry Kohler:

Just before Christmas.

Kohler:

Just before Christmas.

Henry Kohler:

I was home on leave.

Kohler:

Yes. He was home on leave from Vancouver.

Doel:

That makes it, of course, 1944.

Kohler:

1944, right. So then he went away again. But in six months we were married. [Laughs]

Doel:

How long was the trip that, Henry was away six months before he returned?

Kohler:

No, we were married within six months. No, he came back within that time.

Doel:

I see.

Kohler:

It wasn’t just the first meeting.

Henry Kohler:

She knew something good when she saw it. She wasn’t leaving me off the hook.

Kohler:

[Laughs] Oh dear.

Doel:

Then as I recall it was V. J. Day that.

Kohler:

Yes.

Doel:

Were you working at that time when you were married yet?

Kohler:

I can’t —

Henry Kohler:

Yes, you were.

Kohler:

Okay. I can’t remember that Henry.

Henry Kohler:

In Halifax, weren’t you?

Kohler:

No I don’t think so. I can’t remember now if I was working. Maybe I was. I don’t know. A long time ago.

Doel:

Indeed. We’re talking —

Kohler:

Many years ago.

Doel:

We are indeed talking many years back.

Kohler:

Fifty some years ago.

Doel:

I’m just curious did you expect to continue working once you married Henry, or did that seem to be a point at which you would no longer consider working?

Kohler:

I think I might have had one or two patients in the Lunenburg area. But Helga wasn’t born; it was three years after we were married Helga [Kohler] was born. Then in those days you didn’t go to work. It was sort of unheard of.

Henry Kohler:

You lucky ones didn’t go out to work; those who had to did.

Kohler:

Not that many, Henry.

Henry Kohler:

[Laughter] Sorry to interrupt.

Kohler:

No, I don’t think Henry. It was just you had your children and you looked after them. And it was not that many people in those days who worked.

Doel:

No indeed. And sometimes a social stigma got attached to people who did work.

Kohler:

That’s right. That’s right.

Doel:

I was just curious though.

Kohler:

I suppose if I would’ve said to Henry, “I’m going out to work,” he probably would have said [unclear] I’m looking after you. That type of thing.

Doel:

Yeah. Clearly those attitudes were very common. I’m wondering if you recall how you felt about it then? Did it seem that? Do you recall being glad to now work longer or did you feel that?

Kohler:

That comes later. That comes later. No, at that time, no I didn’t; I didn’t really think about it. No. When I was sixty years old I went back for a refresher course.

Doel:

Is that correct? Okay. I want to make sure that we get to that point in the interview and I’ll make a note to return to that. How often was Henry sailing at this point? Right after you were married, after the war began to wind down.

Kohler:

He was always away. [Laughs] He was never home.

Doel:

That’s a good way to put it.

Kohler:

That’s right. He was never home. He didn’t do, you were home here in Lunenburg for a period of time, Henry; when you went on the scallop dragger.

Henry Kohler:

Yes.

Kohler:

But that wasn’t first when we were married.

Henry Kohler:

No, that was 1956 and early ‘57 about eight months.

Doel:

And this of course the time right before you got the position at the Vema at Columbia?

Henry Kohler:

Yes.

Kohler:

And he was on tankers first when we were, first when we were married. He’d get in Halifax, and then I’d go to Halifax to see him. Sometimes not in very long with tankers.

Doel:

That’s what I was going to ask, I know that different.

Kohler:

Turn around. Overnight.

Doel:

Was it that fast sometimes?

Kohler:

Was it that fast, Henry, overnight?

Henry Kohler:

Yes. Twenty-four hours and then you had your duty to do.

Kohler:

Then you had your work to do. So I didn’t see much of him. But I was living at home at that time in my mother’s home.

Doel:

Is that right?

Kohler:

My mother and father’s home. I was living there. It was a big thing.

Doel:

Realizing there may not have been a typical year in that period, but take any of the years immediately after you were married — how long would Henry be gone before he would come back for any, either for a very short visit or a longer interval?

Kohler:

Well I think first is probably, he didn’t get home very often but —

Henry Kohler:

I was in the West Indies Trade for a year or two, Laney. We’d get home every six weeks.

Kohler:

Oh that was on the Dufferin Bell, yes.

Doel:

And that was early after your marriage, wasn’t it?

Kohler:

Yes, that’s right. You were with your father, right?

Doel:

So then Henry would come home and after the six weeks. And it would be how long before the turn around?

Kohler:

Maybe a week home.

Henry Kohler:

I’m going out for just a few minutes.

Kohler:

That’s okay. I can tell Ron anything.

Henry Kohler:

Well you’ve been talking real well. You said you didn’t know anything to say.

Kohler:

It’s on tape.

Henry Kohler:

That’s all right. Is she doing all right, Ron?

Kohler:

You know, I forget, I forget years. You know dates.

Doel:

I think we’re doing fine.

Henry Kohler:

There some dates she doesn’t forget, she remembers like an elephant. [Laughs]

Kohler:

Oh dear. Yes. So he was in tankers first and then he went with his father. I guess my first trip would have been on the Dufferin Bell with Henry as mate and that I would, in fact, call that my honeymoon because we didn’t really have a honeymoon.

Doel:

And was this on the West Indies?

Kohler:

Yes, to Jamaica.

Doel:

Do you remember then getting time in Jamaica? Did you have some shore leave when you were there?

Kohler:

Oh yes. But Henry, he was mate. So he had a lot of work to do. Then of course sometimes his mother was there also. Henry’s father was captain. His, Henry’s mother was with her husband and I was with Henry as mate. He was mate. So his mother and I would go ashore. And a funny story that we were in some gardens or somewhere and we invited the whole American navy to come and visit Lunenburg.

Doel:

And what happened in that? I want to be sure I understand.

Kohler:

Well I’ve just forgotten where we were. We were certainly enjoying ourselves. She was a very, very — pleasing woman. You know, she enjoyed a drink. And of course I can go into that story now that Henry’s gone. She didn’t like me very well first when we were married. She thought he should marry the girl on the west coast.

Doel:

And this was someone that Henry had gone out with?

Kohler:

Henry had known the girl — her name was Geraldine and she lived in Lunenburg — she was actually born in Lunenburg and then her family moved to the west coast. So I shouldn’t go into that. She didn’t like me at that time. She thought he should marry somebody else. And of course by, before she died, she thought more of me maybe than she did of her daughter.

Doel:

No, indeed. These things often work out in very different ways, but they’re very real for you and the family.

Kohler:

This did.

Doel:

At the time that they happen. You didn’t feel it was a question of social status or other kinds of family dynamics? It was just —

Kohler:

I had the feeling. Yes. Sort of like, and Henry wouldn’t like me to say this because he thought so much of my father and mother. But he might have thought a fishing captain. It could have been.

Doel:

That this was lower status within Lunenburg.

Kohler:

Could be. The other girl, her father was — they were in [unclear]. As far as I was concerned it didn’t appear to me that they were in the upper social, in the higher social level. But I think that maybe Henry’s mother felt that way. But I always used to say. Henry and I more or less brought up on the same, as I say social level, or the same bringing up. In those days there was, and Henry’s sister of course, is absolutely different than him. She’s a very nice person, but she sort of appears as though — what words can I use? That she, as I say she’s a better person — but she was brought up in the same kind of home that I was brought up in and I always described it as we had the same kitchen. There’s always what we call a couch in the kitchen. Where father sat at the table and had his meal and always had a nap after. After supper or dinner or whatever. And Henry and I got the same thing in our home. And his sister often said, his sister had the same education that I had, grade twelve, Lunenburg Academy, and she trained in nursing at the Halifax Infirmary where I trained. So it wasn’t a different life. But I guess Henry’s mother — I don’t know really why she would — she must have thought I suppose that the family was in a higher social — on a higher social level. No, he, Henry’s father liked me very much. He thought I was so special.

Doel:

What sort of a person was he, Henry’s father?

Kohler:

He was wonderful, just wonderful. I know in meeting him, see he had this accent.

Doel:

Do you mean Henry, or Henry’s father?

Kohler:

Henry’s father. Often I couldn’t understand him and see I was just new girlfriend — and I was looking at Henry’s saying something to me and I’m looking at Henry to translate. But it was very guttural, guttural accent. I imagine Henry has said that he came here on a ship with my uncle, went to my mother’s home. Well he really, really liked my mother. See my mother was not married she was just a girl then — he really, really liked my mother, but she didn’t really like him because, as I say, he was German and the accent probably was scary. But I often said “What would Henry be to me if he had married my mother?”

Doel:

It would have complicated things.

Kohler:

Yes it would be very complicated. But he really liked her.

Doel:

And you say that Henry’s father had a very deep thick accent.

Kohler:

Oh thick accent. But he never, ever spoke German that I heard him. No, never. Once in a while I used to ask him to say something to me in German, but he wouldn’t do it.

Doel:

Really?

Kohler:

Yeah. He wouldn’t do it.

Doel:

Do you have a feeling why he wouldn’t speak the language?

Kohler:

I asked for, but he wouldn’t.

Doel:

Would Henry’s mother?

Kohler:

Oh I don’t know how much Henry’s mother knew any German. I don’t really know if she did. She never spoke any of it.

Doel:

I hadn’t realized that Henry’s father had also had an accident. And I wanted to make sure that I understood that right. That you had said Henry’s father had had an accident before you?

Kohler:

No, an accent.

Doel:

Accent. Thank you. I just wanted to be sure I hadn’t misunderstood. In terms of those kinds of social dynamics, did others in town feel that way? That there might be a distinction between someone who say sailed longer cargo voyages as opposed to those who were in the fishing trade? Was that shared by many, do you think or was that just?

Kohler:

No. I wouldn’t know that. I wouldn’t have realized it. It was only in my family, you know in my life that I don’t know.

Doel:

Yes. I was just curious. That wasn’t something that you picked up at school then it’s certainly a different thing than if you did get a reaction.

Kohler:

No, no we never picked it up at school.

Doel:

From others. Yes.

Kohler:

Yes.

Doel:

I wanted to ask you earlier had you sailed before you went out with Henry? Had you been on any voyages?

Kohler:

No, only going with my father maybe from Lunenburg to Halifax on an occasion. Nothing. No. Never and my mother really didn’t. She might have gone to Boston with him at one point or another, but nothing long. No long trips.

Doel:

No longer trips. I’m curious how you liked sailing when you did go that time from Lunenburg?

Kohler:

Yes, I always did.

Doel:

Did you?

Kohler:

Well I mean, I never, well I didn’t get seasick, that was one thing.

Doel:

That’s kind of important.

Kohler:

And I mean we had very, very rough weather at times. And I, at some point I said to Henry, but you never compliment me on not getting seasick. He said, “There’s no one in my family’s supposed to get seasick.” Now he had a daughter, the oldest daughter, if she’s on a boat on the side of a pier, she can get seasick. She had a rough time when she was with us as far as being seasick. But the other daughter didn’t get seasick. No I was fortunate that I —

Doel:

How about the others in your family, your brothers and sisters, did they?

Kohler:

Oh well, the one eldest brother was ship’s engineer. The next brother was a wireless operator and then he was in Air Canada, manager at Fredericton [New Brunswick], in Fredericton. And other brother, next to me, he was the fishing captain. He used to get very seasick. But I never heard of the other brothers being seasick. No. So I was fortunate in that; very fortunate. And with the rough weather we had.

Doel:

Did you and your family have much occasion to travel at all when you were younger? Did you get outside of Nova Scotia often or at all?

Kohler:

No. My mother probably had gone to Hartford, Connecticut. But no, there’s no traveling.

Doel:

What was the attraction?

Kohler:

And years and years ago it was a big day to go to Halifax you know.

Doel:

I’m sure it was.

Kohler:

Yes it was. You had to prepare for that.

Doel:

You had mentioned though that there’s a train that ran from Lunenburg to —

Kohler:

From Lunenburg to —

Doel:

To Halifax?

Kohler:

To Halifax. I thought that jitney went to — I don’t know if it went to Halifax or if it met another train. I can’t remember that because I’ve never gone to Halifax on it. They called it the jitney. I think it met another train probably in Mahone Bay which was just a little, small. So it would meet another train in Mahone Bay I would think — and from there they’d go to Halifax.

Doel:

Did you say, you say, it’s interesting, you never used it during the time that you were growing up?

Kohler:

No. I never. I might have gone to Mahone Bay but never to Halifax. Bus then. Did have buses later on when I was going back and forth.

Doel:

It sounds as if it were.

Kohler:

Not much traveling.

Doel:

That it was more of a special occasion to go to Halifax. That it wasn’t at all something that one could.

Kohler:

When you were younger, you know younger. Then later on with the buses would be, you know, you’d go occasionally, but not like we do today.

Doel:

So after you were married, Henry was as you say sailing quite often. You would get occasional time to be together.

Kohler:

Oh yes, yes. Any time possible. Then Helga was born three years after we were married. And then it was a matter of having someone to look after her cause I had trips to well — I went to Montreal. One trip I went with I guess did I go with Henry somewhere once. I can’t remember. But my mother looked after Helga at that time. When I came home she was walking. She didn’t want to come to me. She only wanted her grandmother.

Doel:

How old was Helga at that time when you had —

Kohler:

Well she was —

Doel:

When you had gone sailing?

Kohler:

She would have been probably like eight months. Nine months when she started walking. She started walking eight, nine months.

Doel:

And sure that can be a difficult time when you’re away for a time too.

Kohler:

Yes. But I wasn’t away for long. It might have been a couple of weeks. I don’t think it was a month at that time. But as I said before, first I went with Henry it might be a month and then it might be, it got to be three months, four months, and as they got older — then it got — it was longer. It was a matter of finding a housekeeper. I couldn’t depend on my mother all the time because as she got older she wasn’t well. And it wasn’t easy. And some of them they liked, the children liked some of the housekeepers and some they didn’t. I’ll tell you about that too.

Doel:

And you say your other daughter was born. They’re five years apart.

Kohler:

Five years apart. And then there was jealousy on Helga’s part. Because she was number one.

Doel:

Typical sibling rivalry.

Kohler:

Yes. Oh yes very much.

Doel:

How was it for you to, because these were then the first long sailing trips that you had taken, those that you took with Henry into the West Indies?

Kohler:

Wouldn’t it be nice if I could remember? I guess the long ones probably would be on — I remember I flew out to Tahiti. On one occasion but I can’t remember where we went after that.

Doel:

And this was early in the marriage that you had gone to Tahiti?

Kohler:

I wish I had Henry here now. [Laughs] That would have been in the early years, yes.

Doel:

What was it like to be sailing?

Kohler:

I traveled with Joe Worzel on the plane and his son.

Doel:

So this is already then closer to the Lamont periods so that would place it probably in the around the mid to late 1950s, then around ‘57 or so when Henry first was considered for the position at Lamont?

Kohler:

Yes.

Doel:

Okay. You had mentioned that Henry’s parents were sailing, of course, Henry’s father was captain.

Kohler:

Oh that would have been when he had the freighter.

Doel:

Right. That must have introduced some very interesting dynamics particularly with his mother not being as warm to you then as she later became?

Kohler:

Our trip was before, before we got married.

Doel:

Oh even before you got married?

Kohler:

Oh yes, before we got married.

Doel:

And you sailed on the ship even?

Kohler:

But after we were married it seemed to be better. Oh yes. She didn’t hold it really. No. That was before we were married it was sort of — I remember one incident, Henry said to me we’d walk out to the cars. We didn’t have a car in those days. There were cars, but we didn’t have one. And we walked out to the house. And his mother and sister were not there. They were there in the house, but they didn’t make an appearance.

Doel:

It must have been very awkward.

Kohler:

Henry wouldn’t like me to say that. He doesn’t like to think — I should say admit maybe — that his mother didn’t really care for me. The mother and the sister were upstairs and the sister, they were upstairs and they wanted to speak to Henry so they just tapped on the radiator so he would come up. And of course then I think later Henry’s father came home — but no he didn’t. I think we just left after that. They didn’t make an appearance at all. Isn’t that funny. As Henry said I have a memory like an elephant for things like that. For those things. Not for the right things. [Laughs]

Doel:

But those, that had to be an awkward if not painful moment, you know in your earlier courtship too. Those are not easy situations.

Kohler:

No it’s not easy. But when you’re very much in love, you don’t notice it so much do you? I would have been a little — wouldn’t have been very nice if it had continued on after. That wouldn’t have been very nice. We certainly didn’t have a big wedding. I guess as Henry said I was working at that time, but not that I had saved any money really. And my mother wasn’t well. And of course I said something about having a big wedding. I thought I’d like to have a big wedding. And Henry said, “If you have a big wedding, Laney, you’ll be at the Alter alone.” He didn’t want a big wedding. So we went. My mother gave me some money to buy - - this is rather unique. To buy something, some clothes or something, and we went into Halifax. You see, at that point, his mother was not, she was very cool. So we went on the bus, took the bus, went into Halifax. Now the bus must have — as I remember — must have stopped at Lord Nelson where the train station was in the Lord Nelson. And I can remember he said, who do you, we were going to get married the next day. So he said, “What minister would you like.” And I said, “Well, if we can get the Lutheran minister here,” I didn’t know him, but “If we can get the Lutheran minister here I would like that.” So he was in the pay phone calling the Lutheran minister and the Lutheran minister was on vacation. So he said, “so now what?” And I said, “Well you’re United, you belong to the United Church so call the United Church minister.” So he did and made the arrangements for the next day and that would be at the, I guess you call it the manse or rectory or whatever. He made the arrangements and that was to be in the evening. And I went out to buy a suit which I found but it had to be altered. I remember going to Eaton’s store to buy my hat. My hat cost me twenty-five dollars. Now that was a lot of money. It was all feathers. That I remember. So the next day in the morning I was to go for my suit, or noon time or something. But things were getting sort of, VJ day, it was getting. People were celebrating but I think they were afraid that it was going to be like ‘VE Day. So —

Doel:

How do you mean?

Kohler:

Well that day they had the riots in Halifax.

Doel:

That’s right.

Kohler:

Yes. So I was not living close to all the stores. So I was knocking on the door so I could get my suit — which I did. And we went to the manse that evening and we had no witness. So they had to go next door for the witness. And it seemed they were really suffering because the minister said could I get a taxi for you. [unclear] — to the Lord Nelson hotel we were going. Henry had said, “I can’t get a taxi for you.” Well Henry said, if you can’t we’ll walk. So the minister drove us there. So that was that. Yes. But then after that Henry was supposed to sail with his father, but he had an infection. He had been on a tanker and evidently, what I don’t understand was he was down cleaning out some tanks or something, and came up a ladder and hit his head. I don’t know if he said with this head injury he had what you call osteomyelitis which is in the bone marrow. And of course he had — actually an infection all over his, I say his body — but with the head injury it became badly infected and he was in the hospital several days after we were married. So and he had to have an operation on his self. But he has had like sinuses could be in his head or could be down at the base of the spine that were open for many, for a long, long time. In fact he took a suitcase to sea with him with bandages and medication, whatever.

Doel:

Was this particularly painful for Henry when those would have —

Kohler:

I think it probably was very painful because he tells about opening his sinus himself when he was at sea. You know, they had to drain and then you know it would be, I suppose feel better after it was draining. So he took, he don’t have any problem now which is wonderful because of the medications today.

Doel:

But it certainly was an issue for you during the early years of the marriage that he had to deal with this fairly.

Kohler:

Yes. Yes.

Doel:

What was the operation on his head?

Kohler:

It was from the injury. He came up on a ladder and bumped a hatch cover.

Doel:

Yes, I was curious.

Kohler:

It was right on the top of his head.

Doel:

Yes, I was curious just what the operation was to remedy?

Kohler:

Just to drain.

Doel:

Just to drain.

Kohler:

To drain, yes to drain. So he was in the Infirmary. I was there, looked after him while he was there. Then I can’t remember after that where. Must have gone with his father after he got out because he was supposed to — he was on his father’s ship at that time, but this accident had happened while he was on a tanker. But it doesn’t immediately appear that the infection it comes it works up to a point where it has to be opened and as I say —

Doel:

So this has taken some time.

Kohler:

Oh yes, took some time. We must be speak solely to Lamont. [laughs]

Doel:

That’s a fascinating story too about what it was like to try to be married on VJ day in Halifax.

Kohler:

Oh yes, different.

Doel:

Given the situation.

Kohler:

Different. Certainly wasn’t a big wedding. Well I suppose I also had the feeling too why push it when the future mother-in-law wasn’t all that in favor.

Doel:

How did your parents feel about Henry?

Kohler:

I think they did like him. Now he did go to my father, I can remember, to ask for my hand — being the gentleman that he is. And so I can remember going to the house and we were, we had supper there. And he said, we asked, said we’d like to get married. And he hoped that he would be, spoke to my father and said he hoped that he would be in favor. And, of course, my father who sort of sat there and he looked at Henry; he had a little bit of an accent also. And he said, “Not much I can do about it.” [Laughs] That was Henry’s answer. But I know my mother and father did like him very much.

Doel:

How long had they known him? Had they known him from when you were much younger?

Kohler:

Yes, because Henry and my brother Jim were friends when they were younger.

Doel:

How did you enjoy those longer sailing trips that you were able to take with Henry after you were married?

Kohler:

With Henry? I have to say I did enjoy them. Then is the matter of I was with my husband, I was with Henry. But I did enjoy it. And I can’t say too much really bad about it. You know there was a lot of as I said very rough weather, but I suppose I might have complained to Henry. Now on the Vema there are no portholes. I mean the portholes were blocked out and you couldn’t open a porthole. You were down under the deck. But it seemed when the doors were opened, you didn’t really seem to mind. You see you had lights of course. And you didn’t mind. But there were days when the doors were closed and you were there maybe for three days. If I say I was there because it was probably too rough for me and Henry would say well you know I don’t want you up on deck. You know. So I didn’t get up. I just remember one incident. I don’t know where we were. It was daytime and very rough. And I thought rather than trying to keep standing up or holding onto a chair, I might just as well go in my bunk, in the bunk, and of course I was in there with a board so that you don’t roll out; and bracing your knees when it rolls. And of course there was a cabinet across from the bunk and Henry had his shoes up on top of that and his shoes came down, and the books came down off of the bookshelf and the life jackets came down on me in the bunk.

Henry Kohler:

You can talk. Don’t tell me you can’t.

Kohler:

I don’t know where I was at that time. Henry, where was that when it was so rough?

Henry Kohler:

In the Antarctic.

Doel:

Okay. That’s interesting. That’s interesting. That must have been a surprise, a traumatic one, to have that stuff come down on you.

Kohler:

Well it wasn’t the first rough weather, but it was quite rough. Enough that I didn’t want to go up on deck.

Doel:

It doesn’t come much rougher than what you’ve had in your life.

Kohler:

That’s right. Well it was fortunate that I didn’t get seasick. It would have been horrible. Well I wouldn’t have probably gone, you know, if I had that problem. So —

Doel:

Was it possible to, how old did children, say your daughters need to be for them to come on board the ship?

Henry Kohler:

Legally sixteen.

Doel:

Legally sixteen.

Henry Kohler:

To be crew of a ship.

Doel:

Right.

Henry Kohler:

They were there after that of course and they were crew.

Kohler:

And Helga was like her father. She was at Dalhousie University and didn’t do very well.

Henry Kohler:

She’s the most intelligent one in the whole damn family.

Kohler:

And she’s the most intelligent one, it’s true. And she didn’t do very well. While we were away, she called and then they had a radio operator on board.

Henry Kohler:

Well on that one she got right.

Kohler:

And she said, oh I thought that the radio came down below and said that, Henry your daughter’s on the phone. And I thought oh dear I wonder what happened at home? And so he went up and he said, “Yes Helga what do you want, over?” It was over. She came back and she said, “I need a job, over.” He said, her father said, “What can you do, Helga, over?” She came back and said, “Nothing, over.”

Doel:

And you could hear that tone.

Henry Kohler:

She got a job, but she had a pretty tough assignment.

Kohler:

Yeah she had a tough assignment.

Henry Kohler:

She worked for Dr. Talwani first, I think at sea.

Doel:

And roughly what year would this have been that we’re talking about now?

Henry Kohler:

That would have been about 1970.

Doel:

Okay. So when Doe [W. Maurice] Ewing was still in charge of Lamont? Okay. Before we get into the Lamont period.

Kohler:

Oh I hoped we were there.

Doel:

We’re almost there. We’re very, very close.

Kohler:

I’m not telling you anything very interesting.

Doel:

Let me politely disagree with you on that. I’m curious. Henry during this period — up until the offer came from Columbia with Vema — worked a number of different ships, a number of different assignments. At that period of time, did opportunities to remain in maritime work seem fairly regular? Did it seem stable or were you concerned at any point that there might be a period of which —

Kohler:

He wouldn’t have work.

Doel:

There wouldn’t be jobs.

Kohler:

I don’t think so. Henry?

Henry Kohler:

Well, we had bad times in shipping, but I was never in trouble. I always had a good job.

Kohler:

He always had a good job.

Henry Kohler:

Did you tell Ron that you sailed with me in three ships before Vema?

Kohler:

The Dufferin Bell.

Henry Kohler:

The Federal Voyager.

Kohler:

The Federal Voyager.

Henry Kohler:

And the Moruva, tanker.

Kohler:

Oh I forgot about the Moruva.

Doel:

How do those ships compare to one another. What was different about sailing on the different vessels?

Kohler:

Well, the Federal Voyager was a large ship. The Moruva was a smaller one. And the Dufferin Bell was a different type. It was a freighter.

Henry Kohler:

She was a West Indies Trader, express service.

Kohler:

I’m so glad you ask me these questions because it didn’t —

Henry Kohler:

It was the world ranging tramp ship.

Kohler:

Occur to me to say the truth, well this is different or that’s different or I just —

Doel:

It’s actually an interesting point —

Kohler:

I went with the tide, slow.

Doel:

— that you’re making. Yes. I’m just curious how much you did perceive differences of that sort. And I’m interested particularly how those experiences later compared to being on the Vema.

Kohler:

To being on Vema? I just never gave it a thought. I was there with Henry. That’s it. Well you shouldn’t be here when I’m saying that.

Henry Kohler:

I made copies of these things for you.

Doel:

Oh, thank you very much.

Henry Kohler:

And that you haven’t seen, but its excerpts from the local newspaper, 1920, ‘21, and ‘22 so on in my life concerning family operations on ships.

Doel:

Very nice. Thank you very much. Good.

Henry Kohler:

Would you like coffee?

Doel:

Coffee would be good. Thank you.

Kohler:

I’ll take a cup of coffee.

Henry Kohler:

Okay.

Doel:

Thank you.

Henry Kohler:

And I’ll get out of your way.

Kohler:

My contact with Henry was writing letters. And after my children were in bed, I went to bed and wrote over my knee. And I told him everything that happened. You know, even if the children had a fight or whatever. It was a way of… I mean it probably didn’t get to him for a month. Well a couple of weeks or whatever. But it was my way, I guess, of relieving myself.

Doel:

Might be a cathartic.

Kohler:

I don’t know if I looked it as that way. But I didn’t think of it at that time. I just wrote everything that went on. That’s the way. I wrote a lot of letters.

Doel:

I didn’t mean to step on your words a moment ago. I was thinking from what you had said, it sounds as if that writing was cathartic. That you could get —

Kohler:

It was. Yes. It was like therapy I suppose.

Doel:

Did you save those letters by the way that you wrote Henry?

Kohler:

No. I saved just one letter of Henry’s. Not while he was away. It was something before we were married; one that he wrote. I don’t know where he was. And yeah, it may be going to school.

Doel:

During the time that he was standing for his license?

Kohler:

I would have a lot of letters because he was very good to —

Doel:

In writing.

Kohler:

I mean really good. Yeah. I say that. That wasn’t the only thing that kept us together, but it was very important.

Doel:

I imagine that had to be very critical.

Kohler:

Very, very good.

Doel:

How long would you tend to write in the evenings each day?

Kohler:

Well I just wrote I would say could be maybe an hour. You know, I mean I’m in bed and I’m writing probably. They were long letters; just telling the problems, little problems that happened.

Doel:

Two things came to mind when you said that. Was it common at all for telephone calls to be made up until the time that you were involved on the Vema, say into the mid- 1950s? Or was it a rare occasion that you could speak by phone?

Kohler:

No, we had telephone calls. No, it wasn’t rare. It wasn’t rare even when as I say when we were going together and he was maybe in St. John, New Brunswick, he’d always call me. And I wouldn’t know where he was so he would be making the calls. No telephone calls were not. And certainly every time Henry got in port wherever he could, he would call. Looked forward to it. And then actually probably knew that he was in port through I suppose sometimes. I didn’t know about it. I could always call Lamont to find out if I needed to. But then maybe in the letter he would tell me. And then there were telegrams in those days. Yes. No such thing anymore. But there were telegrams. And he might say arriving such and such a time at such and such a port. Well then, you see, I would just stay around the house expecting that call.

Doel:

That’s very interesting. You mentioned too that letters were one of the things that helped to keep you together.

Kohler:

One of the things. I would say that.

Doel:

Certainly. I was curious what else you were thinking of when you said that because clearly the sailing in general and then the sailing for Lamont introduced lots of distance between the two of you.

Kohler:

Yes, well it’s a matter of love.

Doel:

This is the nature of things in the business. And I understand that. I was curious though what you meant by other things.

Kohler:

Oh no, I was just thinking that you know, I suppose love. But then if he hadn’t written back to me. See that would have really probably, not strengthened it — the marriage. Or it wouldn’t strengthen it. You know. So, and then you know with the children. I had one daughter, well Helga, had she was in the tobogganing accident and she broke her leg and her foot, one leg and foot on the other. So I had quite a hard time with that.

Doel:

Were you on ship at the time?

Kohler:

No, I was home.

Doel:

You were home?

Kohler:

Yeah. I can remember getting the call and she was just out, she went with a friend out into the country, and they were tobogganing. And she was in the front of the toboggan and then there was a very hard snow bank and then. So the friend’s mother called and she didn’t want to worry me too much. So she said, I think Helga broke her leg. In the meantime, the doctor had taken her on to the hospital. And then I am here, of course, and I have Karla asleep upstairs and I’m thinking, I have to go to the hospital. This is in the night. And it could have been around ten o’clock. And so I’m thinking now I’m here and I can’t leave Karla. So I just called next door neighbor and asked Mr. Richey if he would come and stay with Karla while I went out to the hospital. But the really hard part was when we brought her home. And to bring her home. I had family, my mother and my father then. I don’t think where Henry’s mother would have been. But of course I would go naturally lean to my family. And my brother-in-law brought her home in the car, and then he worked in the Lunenburg Foundry so he made for a cage for over the bed. And she was downstairs lying in our bedroom so I wouldn’t have to travel the stairs. And I can remember with that one problem the teacher said that several, one or two teachers, said they would come in and she was in grade eleven.

Doel:

So this is already the Lamont period that we’re talking about?

Kohler:

Oh yes. Well in Lamont. Anyway she wasn’t a student and as Henry said the most intelligent in the family. She, the teachers said that they would come in and help her with her school work. And she didn’t want that. And I would walk around and go and get school work for her, and close the door, and she tells me that she threw spitballs up in the light fixture. And so all the snow glow from the — Is this mine?

Henry Kohler:

Yes. Oh yes you want a little white. I’ll get it. No trouble.

Doel:

We can break.

Henry Kohler:

No, no, no, no. Do you want sugar?

Doel:

No thank you.

Henry Kohler:

I’ll be right back.

Kohler:

You don’t have to, Henry.

Henry Kohler:

I know. I want to though.

Kohler:

Okay. Okay. So I’d sneak around and wouldn’t turn the TV on and thinking she was studying and she wasn’t studying. And then I got, she got that she didn’t pass the course. And then I thought well perhaps when she got feeling better I’d try to get her to school. So I’d get her in the car and I had a wheelchair. And I’d put that in the trunk, go up to park at the school, and then wait for some young, strong beau to come along because her schoolroom was up on the top floor. And they’d carry her up. But she didn’t do too much there. I think it was just an outing for her. So she repeated that I think grade eleven.

Doel:

And was this during one of the times that Henry was on one of the long Lamont voyages when they were extending up to a year?

Kohler:

He could tell you where he was.

Doel:

Okay, we’ll get to that then later in the interview.

Kohler:

Yes.

Doel:

One thing I’m very curious about and this is a good transition perhaps into the Lamont period. What do you recall of the, how you learned about the Lamont opportunity? When did you first begin to know about the Vema?

Kohler:

With Henry?

Doel:

Yes.

Kohler:

Henry found out through somebody in Lunenburg, I think. You found out through Jim [James] Kinley about the Vema?

Henry Kohler:

Yes.

Kohler:

Yes. Thank you very much.

Henry Kohler:

Before Columbia owned her and Kennedy brought her down here. He brought her up to the Lunenburg Foundry up at the head of the harbor, a marine oriented repair firm. And became closely associated with the foundry. And then when Columbia bought her, they did some work here. Some of the scientists came down and worked here. So they knew Mr. Kinley very well; the head of the foundry. And it was Mr. Kinley who called me and asked me if I was interested. And that’s when I went down to visit.

Kohler:

Where were you when Helga broke her leg? So good at this.

Henry Kohler:

Bermuda and in Cape Town when Karla had the operation.

Kohler:

Oh we didn’t get to Karla’s operation. [Laughs]

Henry Kohler:

— which then was quite an operation.

Kohler:

Was quite a thing in those days.

Doel:

Okay, let me make a note and we’ll be sure to get back, back to that. What I’m curious about I suspect is your general reactions and how you perceived Henry felt about the possibility? You say he heard from Jim Kinley about this?

Kohler:

Yes.

Doel:

The first opportunity he had he flew to New York to meet with? Had he met any of the other people connected with Lamont prior to that?

Kohler:

No.

Doel:

This was his first meeting?

Kohler:

That was his first meeting.

Doel:

How long did that last before he came back? Was it just a few days in New York to initially — meet Lamont people?

Kohler:

I think he went initially to speak to them. And I think, and if I’m wrong, Henry can correct me, I think he came back but then went out. He must have had to go out again. I would think that he would have come home really to talk to me about it.

Doel:

Right. And that’s what I’m particularly curious about. How did he feel about that opportunity and how did you feel about it at that time?

Kohler:

I never, ever — I always felt that if Henry was happy in what he was doing and I never, ever said “Don’t do it.” Never.

Doel:

Even when perhaps you were tempted to say otherwise, or didn’t it feel that way?

Kohler:

No. I just felt that — oh I don’t know. I just guess I just felt you know he’s earning a living. And if he’s happy in what he’s doing, that’s the most important thing. And you know I’m not being overly courageous or anything like that. And it wasn’t easy, but that seemed to me to be life and his work.

Doel:

Do you remember what he said about his impressions of Lamont and the whole operation at the time? What he thought about what they were doing?

Kohler:

The first trip I believe was sort of a rough one. As I remember him commenting on it. And I can’t remember even who would have been out with them. I don’t think that Chuck would have been there.

Doel:

You mean Chuck [Charles L.] Drake?

Kohler:

Just check. Just put that down because Henry knows exactly who was on ship and it was a rough trip as I remember him telling me.

Doel:

And I certainly want to hear from Henry about that.

Kohler:

And his impressions. As far as his impressions, he wouldn’t have really had too many at that time because he was just there. And it was an absolutely new field.

Doel:

Yes. No, what I’m thinking is he made the trip down to New York to talk with the principals at Lamont and then came home as you say to talk to you about it. I’m simply curious if you remember from that conversation what his impressions were or what you thought of it? This was the first time you would have been sailing for a U.S. operation too, wouldn’t it?

Kohler:

It wouldn’t upset me or bother me, you know — Not at all. Probably, I couldn’t even say at that time that I would think that — well this is a new field or since that I didn’t really know anything about it myself. No.

Doel:

Did it seem like a secure possibility? Did that enter in?

Kohler:

I didn’t know enough about it or we didn’t know enough about it to really know whether it would be secure or not. And I think previous to that was I think whether he said it or not, or if I’m right that he was on the scallop boat. And actually not for very long but then had found out that he high blood pressure. So I think at that time it was an opportunity because as we said, he was never out of a job. But then at that time he was sort of, what should I say. I don’t know if it was before that that he tried staying ashore and he was, oh where was he? Not so far away from here. On just as the [unclear] shore. I don’t know what you call them. When ships came in, he was kind of stevedore. He wasn’t a stevedore.

Doel:

Was he piloting the boats that helped to?

Kohler:

No, he had nothing to do with it. He was on shore.

Doel:

Just entirely on shore.

Kohler:

Entirely on shore — Cargo master or something; whatever you call it.

Doel:

How did he feel about that work?

Kohler:

Didn’t like it that much. You know because you’re sort of home and not home. You know, because he used to come home on weekends. And I think at that time, we didn’t have a car. But I think I can remember him saying that once he hitchhiked home. [Laughs] To get home on a weekend. I don’t know what the name of the place is, Water —

Doel:

You were saying as far as —

Kohler:

I don’t like to say that we really didn’t know what we were getting into. But I don’t think we thought of it as we are getting into, we thought of it as a job.

Doel:

Yes, that it was an opportunity coming up.

Kohler:

An opportunity at that time.

Doel:

At a time when an opportunity was welcome.

Kohler:

That’s right. That’s exactly it. Yes.

Doel:

That puts it, puts it well. One of the things that I wanted to make sure we covered at least quickly. The house that we are doing the interview in. This was something that you supervised the construction of or were involved in?

Kohler:

Oh yes. Yes.

Doel:

During the time that Henry was —

Kohler:

Henry was not home at all. No.

Doel:

Right.

Kohler:

No.

Doel:

And that was as Henry I believe said off tape almost two years that he was away in that period.

Kohler:

This is what he was saying to me at noon. I said Henry you were away for a year at one point. He said, Laney I was away for two years on two occasions. Isn’t that funny? I suppose I didn’t quite realize it because I’d fly out to somewhere to see him so then I wouldn’t really realize that he was gone for two years. Isn’t that funny?

Doel:

Usually it seems. I mean that seems understandable because you’re thinking more in terms of how long you are between seeing him.

Kohler:

That’s right. That’s what I’m thinking about yes.

Doel:

Rather than whether he’s physically here. How long would it be during those extremely long voyages between the times that you saw him?

Kohler:

Well I thought at one time that he was gone a year. Nine months to a year.

Doel:

Between the times that you had seen him.

Kohler:

Between the times we saw him and the children were small.

Doel:

Who would help design the house? Was that a joint effort by your part?

Kohler:

Yes, we picked the house out in a book. And then I think we must have talked too, because the plans were drawn up before Henry went away.

Doel:

Okay. So Henry went back then to Lamont to pilot the Vema for what seems essentially as a shakedown cruise so that they could understand.

Kohler:

Probably decide whether they wanted him.

Doel:

Take the job of Henry’s sail, perhaps is one way to put it.

Kohler:

Right.

Doel:

And what was, had Henry already inspected the Vema at that point before he went back to New York or wherever the port was that he was sailing?

Kohler:

Write down and ask him.

Doel:

I shall. I’m wondering, I’m just curious if you recall whether he discussed the ship with you and what it was like.

Kohler:

He knew; he knew the ship. I mean he knew it when it was here. But of course that would be in a different. It would be different when he probably sees it at. I’m sure he did.

Doel:

And you say that and I’ll ask Henry further details on that voyage of the shakedown cruise being rather [unclear]. When he came back from it, here I’m particularly curious what you recall of his impressions and how he and you decided this was indeed an opportunity worth taking?

Kohler:

I don’t think there was any doubt really. No. No. I don’t think there was any doubt at all. No. And it was a rough trip and I don’t remember. I’d love to remember who was there but —

Doel:

When you say rough, I gather it wasn’t just —

Kohler:

Rough weather and rough, and probably it seems to me that when I that there someone there that he sort of took to task. I think so.

Doel:

— someone on board.

Kohler:

Someone on board. I think.

Doel:

Did he speak much about Doc [W. Maurice] Ewing when he came back?

Kohler:

Always. Yes. He — There some points they didn’t get along too well, but then I think they made it clear to each other, you know. I think on some points. But then eventually it was an admiration I think between the two of them.

Doel:

What was the first time that you visited the campus at Lamont and got down to New York?

Kohler:

I wish Henry would be here for the year. I don’t remember dates. You probably wouldn’t like me at all, Ron, because I’m not a historian, you know, and I don’t remember dates.

Doel:

And I’m probably asking these questions in an unfair way.

Kohler:

No.

Doel:

I’m asking perhaps when you think back on it, how long roughly was it from the time that you first became, that Henry first became —

Kohler:

I can remember going there to visit Henry and Captain Sinclair met me at the plane when he was here.

Doel:

We’ll check on that. But what I’m really interested in is what your impressions were; what you thought of Lamont when you first got out there. It was Captain Sinclair who brought you out to —

Kohler:

Well he brought me and brought me to the office. And then I can’t remember the first time that I went down on the estate. But it was very impressive to me. Very impressive.

Doel:

What do you remember when you think back to that visit?

Kohler:

Oh I just remember the big house.

Doel:

Lamont Hall?

Kohler:

Lamont Hall, yes. Henry and I actually stayed there at some point or another in the room. I think it must have been when Vema was probably in refit or something. That we stayed right there. But no that my first in it. And then of course the grounds and just imagining that, you know, somebody had lived there.

Doel:

Yes.

Kohler:

Yes. That’s right; had that for their home in those years. I’ve seen a few estates since. But that would be my impression. Helga went there too.

Doel:

Do you mean she went with you on that visit also?

Kohler:

No, she worked at Lamont.

Doel:

That, of course, that’s a bit later when this occurs. Okay. We’ll make sure to get back to that as well. Do you recall whom you came to meet during those the first of the early trips?

Kohler:

Who did I meet first?

Doel:

Or who you came to know best at Lamont?

Kohler:

I think Chuck.

Doel:

Chuck Drake. What was Chuck Drake like in those days?

Kohler:

Oh he was just a wonderful person. He was so warm. And so, and I would meet him naturally have on the ship when I was on the ship and just a warm person. And I stayed at his house and knew Martha and the children. And Helga I think stayed there for a while. We were just — got to be quite close.

Doel:

Did Chuck Drake have one of the houses on the Lamont campus at that time?

Kohler:

No.

Doel:

Was he living near?

Kohler:

He had one, oh what was that place, Nyack. It would be Nyack. I think it was in Nyack.

Doel:

Right. Up where the Tappan Zee Bridge is.

Kohler:

Up there I think.

Doel:

Eventually.

Kohler:

Chuck was the first that I remember knowing well. The other ones I wouldn’t be in contact with. Chuck would be there; would be in the room on the Vema. Yeah, so I would say Chuck was the first one.

Doel:

Did he seem different somehow than the other scientists that you met from Lamont?

Kohler:

Oh yes.

Doel:

How so?

Kohler:

I mean in sort of you can’t, I say, you pick them out. I mean I was never, we were close to Chuck and also Chuck was not there, but then Denny.

Doel:

Denny [Dennis E.] Hayes.

Kohler:

Yes. Then it seemed as it was sort of a bond there.

Doel:

Between you and Denny.

Kohler:

Well, with Henry and himself and Chuck and Martha and Denny and his wife. Leslie, is it?

Doel:

I’m honestly not sure but I’ll make sure that this is.

Kohler:

And Henry was like a father to Denny.

Doel:

Denny when Henry first met him was still in graduate school as I recall. That he hadn’t yet gotten his Ph.D.

Kohler:

Probably. I can’t remember that. I only remember is he coming out on the Vema and meeting him there while I guess while I was there.

Doel:

And these incidents that you’re recalling. These were times when the Vema was docked say on the Hudson and people came out to the ship?

Kohler:

Yes.

Doel:

Was this the occasion?

Kohler:

Yes.

Doel:

And that was during the time that it was revictualed and —

Kohler:

Right. That’s right.

Doel:

A rather frantic time as someone had described.

Kohler:

Always, always. Yes. And I sort of had to try to keep out of the way a little bit. But then there was nice little gatherings in Henry’s room.

Doel:

What sort of gatherings took place? What do you recall?

Kohler:

Well exactly that. And Denny would laugh because Henry always had a jerry jug of martinis in the fridge. And they would remember that. They would remember.

Doel:

And Henry always had that on?

Kohler:

And they, you know, they came and they would probably talk business but then it was they’d get to the jerry jug. Chuck would remember that and Denny. Jerry jug of martinis.

Doel:

Martinis were the specialty that Henry —

Kohler:

It must have been. Oh that was his specialty, yes. That was his specialty.

Doel:

What else would go on during those times? How many people from Lamont would actually come down?

Kohler:

Only the chosen few by Henry. Not all of them; just the chosen few.

Doel:

How did one get chosen? How did Henry choose is probably the better way to put it?

Kohler:

I don’t know how he would put that. Probably — if I say this, those who were smart enough to know how to, I won’t use the word handle Henry, but for me it would just be. I mean I didn’t interfere because I know Henry at one time didn’t like Joe Worzel. They didn’t get along. But I always got along with Joe Worzel because that wasn’t any of my affair. Just because Henry and Joe were not maybe getting along at times I was always, always friendly with Joe. But as far as the other ones, the other, how would you get chosen. I suppose they were smart enough to know that Henry and knowhow and I could say get around, that’s not the word. Get around Henry, that’s not the word.

Doel:

I understand, yes.

Kohler:

But no they — and I suppose maybe Henry saw something in them.

Doel:

For those who didn’t get along with Henry, what sort of things were there irritants or the problems?

Kohler:

Would be personality a lot. Yes. It would be personality.

Doel:

Frictions between strong individuals do you mean or other sorts of characteristics?

Kohler:

No, I don’t think strong because Henry’s strong himself. I would think that maybe Henry being critical of the way they work. Or maybe they interfered with, that he thought that they were interfering with his work. That certainly didn’t go over. Because he had his department and they had theirs. But it might have been, might have been that. Personalities and that’s about what I can say, all I can say. He just told them. You know, I mean he didn’t, there wasn’t a — well I suppose there had been some big rows but not too often. He just made them understand, you know, this is his job where he was. And you see scientists sometimes can, you know, they can probably think well I want to do this. And if Henry didn’t believe that it should be, then he didn’t do it. Then that would cause a little friction, yes.

Doel:

What was Joe Worzel like in those days? What sort of person was Joe?

Kohler:

Joe was a, as I told you, I liked Joe.

Henry Kohler:

You must be interesting.

Kohler:

Yes. What did you think of Joe, Henry?

Henry Kohler:

I enjoyed him. I said the first year Joe and I didn’t get on well at all.

Kohler:

No.

Henry Kohler:

I certainly respected him for the things I saw he could do, but we would very much alike in personality. And sometimes that’s not a good mix. I suspect in the first year or it was the second year, Joe wanted to get rid of me. And we had few very serious confrontations. And Doc Ewing wouldn’t hear of it. And you know after that, as I told you this morning, we became very good friends.

Doel:

I should mention that was off tape when we were talking informally downstairs. Yes.

Henry Kohler:

I did not really. Joe doesn’t mind.

Doel:

No, I’m just saying that so anyone reading the transcript here knows that this was said off tape before we began the interview.

Henry Kohler:

I certainly admire him and appreciate him for his intelligence, his brilliance, his hard driving work, and his accomplishments.

Doel:

I should note — as is probably obvious — that Henry Kohler has joined us right now in the interview session.

Henry Kohler:

Well, I’m going to do just a little bit of work at my desk and about ten minutes. And I’m not rushing you. If you’d like to go out to your hotel and freshen up, dinner will be about roughly —

Kohler:

Well the girls said they’d be here at maybe six, six-thirty.

Henry Kohler:

And we’re certainly not going to have dinner without priming our pumps.

Doel:

Yes. [Laughs]

Henry Kohler:

Well splice the main brace is the proper term.

Kohler:

I’ll need one after this.

Henry Kohler:

Don’t rush now. Take all the time you want now and if you want to go and freshen up, go and come right back.

Doel:

That’s fine. Actually, we’re probably getting near enough to the end of what ought to be our first session here. What I’m curious about is do you remember how long the first voyage was on the Vema that you sailed later on when Henry was?

Henry Kohler:

I can look it up. It would have been about three months.

Doel:

A three-month voyage?

Henry Kohler:

Yeah.

Kohler:

First, first time?

Henry Kohler:

I think so. Was that the Galveston, Texas one or Key West at Christmas?

Kohler:

Key West, maybe? No, I believe the Galveston one was earlier. And we can. You’ve got all of that.

Doel:

And Henry is looking right into the log book right here. While Henry is looking for that, what I was particularly interested in was your general perceptions of what it was like to be on the ship with the scientists? How different did being on the Vema feel compared to being on the other ships that you had sailed on with Henry?

Kohler:

I would say on the Vema I had a closer feeling of knowing those around me because there were sailors from Lunenburg — who I knew. And then eventually with the scientists, you know, I would always say who’s coming out to the scientists’ next trip? Or usually there’s somebody I knew. So it was a warmer feeling than on the other ships — A much warmer feeling.

Doel:

Was it more hectic this way?

Kohler:

Oh yes; much action. Yes.

Henry Kohler:

Oh yes particularly at sea.

Kohler:

Yes because I was there first when they had the big barrels of TNT and put them over the side.

Doel:

Right, the depth charges for the depth studies?

Kohler:

Depth charges, yes. Right. I was there when they were doing those. And that was action. No, it was a warmer, much warmer feeling. Because it wasn’t as large as the other ships that I was on and I also had no contact with — other than going to mess room and sitting there. Or I might talk to a mate or a second mate. But on the Vema, I could go. I didn’t go back in the scientists’ area because I knew that wasn’t my place.

Doel:

Did they have a separate mess for the —

Kohler:

Yes.

Doel:

The scientists had a separate mess from the others.

Henry Kohler:

Separate for the scientists, separate for the officers, and separate for the seamen.

Kohler:

But we had wonderful times on the Vema; at Christmas the steward and I baking Christmas cakes. You really can’t imagine.

Henry Kohler:

Stockings for everyone.

Kohler:

Stockings. I used to steal the stockings from the washer. And I’d make little things to put you know in the stockings, nothing great but little things.

Doel:

What sort of things do you mean?

Kohler:

I can’t really remember the things now. But they —

Henry Kohler:

They were wrapped little gifts.

Kohler:

Wrapped little gifts.

Henry Kohler:

I also had a little bottle of booze with that that you get in planes for everyone.

Kohler:

Right. And when I went ashore. See the first day in port was always very busy for Henry so I didn’t see him. And I’d go ashore. Come Christmas, you see I’d pick up little things to put in the stockings. And I made a Santa Claus suit and we had a Santa Claus and one year we had a black Santa Claus, didn’t we?

Henry Kohler:

Black, yes.

Kohler:

Danny. Black Danny. Real warm feeling. Yes. Exactly. There are a lot of stories.

Henry Kohler:

You asked the year, Ron? I think the first year that she was with me, I can’t, oh here it is.

Kohler:

There you didn’t put it down.

Henry Kohler:

Vema sixteen. And you would have joined in New York that time. And that was on 9/16/60. September 16, ‘60. And you were there to Panama on fourteenth of February.

Doel:

Henry, you say this was Vema 16? Correct, right. Yeah. And I’ve got other notes, these are what I’m looking at what you had prepared and given to me and to Denny Hayes, noting that this was Vema’s first world circumnavigation; Voyage of twelve months duration and something over forty-one thousand miles. Let’s see you were on the ship then for a little bit less than a quarter of the total voyage.

Henry Kohler:

I think it was three months as I remember — A little over maybe.

Doel:

This is when the ship went. I’m not sure if this is the pattern North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Indian Ocean, South Pacific?

Henry Kohler:

On sixteen?

Doel:

On sixteen; Greenland and a passage from Cape Town to Mauritius. And you had one cyclone on this voyage in the Indian Ocean.

Kohler:

And we have an anniversary sea mount.

Henry Kohler:

So sixteen started in New York and went through Bermuda; Puerto Rico; Recife, Brazil; Cape Town, Mauritius, Freemantle, Adelaide, Wellington.

Kohler:

That wasn’t my first trip, Henry. Henry: Ugh. Sixteen continues at Ushuaia, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Lunenburg, Argentina, Newfoundland, Julianehaab, Greenland, San Pierre, Miquelon and New York.

Kohler:

I wasn’t there then.

Henry Kohler:

Not the whole thing, no. Not the whole trip, no. No. No. No.

Doel:

Henry, I’m curious when you give names like this on a particular voyage, can you remember particular events in almost of them?

Henry Kohler:

Yes. Yes. And sometimes when I talk to people who have been with me, not my full time but maybe even a year or some of them were five years and some were there twenty years, and talking, it refreshes my memory on incidents that meant something to them. And for me it was a general run of things. Okay?

Doel:

Thanks.

Henry Kohler:

You’re interesting.

Kohler:

I’m not interesting. I’m not.

Henry Kohler:

You’re doing well.

Kohler:

But as I say it was a warm, nice warm feeling, living.

Henry Kohler:

Yes. Yes. There were times of tension, particularly with young men, not all young, but mostly the young who thought they could handle the isolation and regimentation and discipline of shipboard life, but they couldn’t. So some would respond to direction and some wouldn’t.

Doel:

Are you thinking particularly of the scientific crew members, or all the members.

Henry Kohler:

No, all.

Kohler:

All.

Henry Kohler:

But a major problem was the scientific crew in general. We had foreigners and never had trouble with them. Only a minimum, one or two sometimes, no more — or no more than four. But with the young Americans in the scientist’s team, they generally felt if something was not to their fancy, or they were being disciplined, that that shouldn’t happen to them because I was a Canadian and they were Americans.

Kohler:

Do you think, Henry, that they thought just because you were Canadian, or do you think they just thought —

Henry Kohler:

Oh yes. But they were really reacting to their inability to accept the points which I made: discipline, regimentation, and isolation. And there were a few incidents with some that wasn’t pleasant at all. I think invariably with those, through the years after they were no longer on the ship, around the university, or even come to visit in different places, even in Lunenburg, all who came and very much appreciative of what I did for them and for the operation. I hope that’s clear. We even had one who was so upset, he wrote the president.

Doel:

The president of Columbia?

Henry Kohler:

No, the president of the United States. Of course I imagine that went in his twenty-fifth waste basket. But anyway he wrote it.

Doel:

Who was president then?

Kohler:

I forget who that was.

Doel:

Was it to Eisenhower do you mean or later?

Kohler:

Reagan.

Henry Kohler:

No not Reagan’s time — Nixon, I think Nixon’s first term.

Kohler:

Yes it would be him.

Doel:

So, sixty-eight to seventy-two.

Henry Kohler:

Yeah, Nixon’s first term.

Doel:

And this was one of the chief scientists that?

Henry Kohler:

No, just the young technician at that time.

Doel:

Okay. Henry Kohler; Now, another interesting, point may be interesting to you. The finest men in general whom I had of the young U.S. people were those who had served their time in the military. They could handle it better than those who hadn’t.

Doel:

And you feel because they had been exposed to the regimentation and the disciplines —

Henry Kohler:

Of course. Of course. They trained. And I had some troubles occasionally with my own Canadians, but they were very easy in general to direct and get them around those troubles and over their troubles. And a few very isolated cases which were almost incorrigible they’ve come back to me since too and appreciate what I did for them in trying to straighten them up. And I did straighten a lot up.

Doel:

Actually, that’s one of the points I want to go into detail with you when we resume.

Henry Kohler:

You make a note about training people.

Doel:

In fact, I have.

Henry Kohler:

Okay.

Doel:

I’m real curious with that one comment that you just made Henry about the reactions between, the feelings of American — U.S. versus Canadian. Was that isolated or did you notice that among a number of the scientists throughout the time that you were at Lamont?

Henry Kohler:

I would say the two nationalities in general lived very well together. Occasionally, they would take shots at one another. Or you’d get an individual Canadian that would say very unkind things about the Americans or vice versus. I was able to smooth those things out. And here again I’ll say when Laney was with me, particularly in the long periods, she had a very good psychological effect on the people and certainly ironed out many things that I might have reacted to in an unwise and more direct and severe manner. Because she knew what was happening; she was wiser. She gave me good advice on some of those things, many, many times.

Doel:

Can you give me one example that you’re thinking of in particular.

Henry Kohler:

Right now Rotuma, R-O-T-U-M-A. That’s one. Then in our relationship with Joe Worzel, once in the early years, when I was so upset with Joe in the first year or two, she gave me very good advice because she could see as a person, a lot more good in Joe than I could. So I wasn’t weighing it properly. That sort of thing. I had a very serious confrontation with Wally [Wallace S.] Broecker and I think on Wally’s part, he was very, very wrong. And it was generated by a son of Wally who was with us. And he wasn’t the best believe me. But Wally couldn’t believe that, you know the [cross talk].

Kohler:

Often times that’s true. We don’t see it in ours.

Henry Kohler:

And Wally and I had a pretty serious confrontation between the Singapore or on the Philippine Sea and the China Sea. But I’m sure that, and I’m certain that after some time in later years, that we had a good mutual respect and a good feeling towards each other. I think so, you can ask Wally. He’s a very direct person, as you know.

Doel:

He is.

Henry Kohler:

He’s not what fell off of a diplomat. You’re aware of that?

Doel:

I’m aware of that. [Laughs]

Henry Kohler:

But I appreciate it and so I think we had a good relationship. And I think he’s the type of fellow that doesn’t hold bitterness. I don’t either. That’s one of my good points. [Cross-talk].

Kohler:

Yes. I agree there.

Doel:

Did both of you feel, now that both of you are in the interview session here, that the trips were different substantially when Laney accompanied you, Henry, on them for instance?

Henry Kohler:

I think her influence on board was very good in a very general and almost unobservable manner unless you had something formerly, previously and afterward. Yes, definitely.

Doel:

Laney, we’ve been talking about a number of things here and I didn’t want to leave your voice out from that. How did you feel on that one question of your presence on the ship? Did you recall members of the crew saying to you that the ship was different?

Kohler:

Well, I think I told you that when I was younger, I was known as the queen. And then as I got older, I was like mother because a sailor might come to me and he say, and he was ashore, and he tore his pants. Would I look after them or you know — they just seemed to look at me as someone that they, they didn’t confide in me in a lot of things, you know, but I was there and they I guess felt that. You asked me how I feel. I feel that I was, no I didn’t feel that I was any asset to them on board. I was there. I didn’t feel it. If I didn’t. I was just there and I was me. No, I didn’t.

Doel:

I should say I think your comment about queen to mother was mentioned off tape. So it’s good that we put it on the tape for the moment.

Kohler:

Yes. And when I leave, they might go and buy me from the sailors. I have a pen and it says it’s been on it they have put queen.

Doel:

Oh is that right?

Kohler:

Fountain pen. That’s a long time ago.

Doel:

Who put names on the fountain pen?

Kohler:

Gee I wouldn’t remember. Henry?

Henry Kohler:

Pardon?

Kohler:

Who put names on the fountain pen that some of the boys got together for me, the fountain pen?

Henry Kohler:

I have to —

Kohler:

I really think about that. Can’t remember.

Henry Kohler:

It takes some thought. There may be a card on your desk.

Kohler:

I doubt that.

Henry Kohler:

Then they made you a medallion. Angelo [Ludas] made you a nickel plated medallion in the machine shop; A queen bee medallion; big one.

Kohler:

Yes.

Doel:

Is that right?

Kohler:

I wonder where that is. I wonder where that is.

Henry Kohler:

Too bad that he was gone. You’d have enjoyed him. And believe me he’d have gave you some stories on his own operation. It was a major part of it.

Doel:

You mean the ship, the machine shop. Absolutely.

Kohler:

They’d fly him out anywhere to look after things.

Doel:

Yeah, Angelo Ludas was clearly critical to Lamont.

Henry Kohler:

So good to his people. But boy they didn’t toe the line; they were in a lot of trouble. When it was party time, it was party time. I remember being in the White Horse Tavern in Bermuda for lunch one day. Angelo came down to do something important on the ship. And he had one of his first lieutenants in the machine shop with him, and one of the boys from another ship came in. We had a small ship in Bermuda by the name of — it doesn’t matter — I forget her name. She operated always as a small ship. Sir Horace Lamb.

Doel:

Yes.

Henry Kohler:

And I think who was the captain of that ship? He got pretty nasty with Angelo. I don’t know why. And Angelo was trying to put him off. Finally, Angelo’s first lieutenant got up and said, now, “If you have anything more to say, you’re going in the harbor.” So he grabbed him and Angelo stuck with him right to the bitter end.

Doel:

Yeah, they’re very loyal. All those people.

Henry Kohler:

Now that incident’s humorous and I don’t know if it means anything to you. In the same trip into Bermuda, one of the scientists had a wife fly down, and she wasn’t a real attractive woman, but she was a nice woman. And my old bosom was ashore there and he was kind of drunk. I wasn’t there. And she came in. And she had seen him before I guess in the harbor. And she said “Hello” and so on. “I just flew in,” she said. He said. “Where did you leave your broom?” Oh that was Dave [David] Sprague. I think that’s kind of cute.

Doel:

How well did you get to know Gordon Hamilton when you were down in Bermuda?

Kohler:

I didn’t know him that well.

Henry Kohler:

I didn’t get to know him very well, but he was so highly thought of at the University.

Kohler:

We did visit their home I can remember that.

Henry Kohler:

I found him a rather remote person, but people like Joe and those people they had great respect for him and enjoyed him socially as well. But I found him a little remote. Maybe he found me worse. You never know.

Doel:

There are quite a few questions that we’re going to need to continue on. We’ve been talking now for rather some time. So let me just ask at this point. Say we wifi pick up on quite a few things. Are there any particular developments into the very early years of Lamont that we haven’t covered yet that you’ve been thinking about in the last half hour to an hour or so.

Henry Kohler:

See when I first joined them.

Kohler:

I don’t know we haven’t been sequencing.

Henry Kohler:

There wasn’t much there but the big old estate house.

Doel:

Yeah, I really want to get back to, because we haven’t covered that period in depth in the way that Laney and I just have. So we will go back to do that — and you’re quite right. I want to get your impressions of what Lamont was like at that point. Let me just ask that particularly to Laney at this stage. Were there any other developments that we haven’t covered that you felt important in those early years?

Kohler:

Somebody would have to jog my memory you know because —

Doel:

Later on I’ll bring in some additional photos and the maps of Lamont, things of that sort, and we’ll continue on that point. So let me thank you and also Henry at this point for the second part.

Kohler:

And you can leave it just like this.