Loree Pugh Rackstraw '53 and Norma Tong Dang '53

  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Loree: Hi, my name is Loree Rackstraw. I live in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and my class year was 1953.
  • Chelsie Salvatera
    Chelsie: Okay.
  • Norma Tong Dang
    Norma: My name is Norma Tong Dang and I currently live in Honolulu, Hawaii, and I’m a member of the Grinnell College Class of 1953, also.
  • Chelsie Salvatera
    Chelsie: Awesome, OK. So, why did you come Grinnell College? What is your first memory of the campus?
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Loree: I came to Grinnell College because friends of mine had gone here, and it sounded very intriguing to me and my parents were very impressed by the friends of mine who had gone here because they were very bright young women. So, I think they thought, maybe, I would be a bright young woman, too, if I came here, and I, immediately it was very clear to me that I had made a right choice.
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Loree: The first memory of the campus is: "Wow, awesome, and I get to live in this marvelous old dormitory called Mears Hall," which, alas, is no longer in use.
  • Chelsie Salvatera
    Chelsie: Thank you. Norma?
  • Norma Tong Dang
    Norma: I came to Grinnell College because, I lived in a small town, called Hilo, Hawaii and I just wanted some adventure and to get away and also to experience the Midwest, and a high school counselor was an Iowan and she thought that coming to the Midwest and a place called Grinnell College would open up my experiences in life. So, on her recommendation I came to Grinnell.
  • Norma Tong Dang
    Norma: My parents brought me here, and it was my first trip to the mainland. We came by train, and walked up to the campus and I looked all around the campus and I’d never seen more beautiful buildings than on campus and that was my first memory. It was just, looked like a very awesome, exciting place.
  • Chelsie Salvatera
    Chelsie: Great. Was there a professor, student or staff member who had a particularly strong influence on your life?
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Loree: You know for me, there were professors. Paul Kuntz was my advisor in Philosophy to begin with, who was very important to me. The head of the Psychology department was important, as well, because I ended up majoring in Psychology, but of all those people, I think, I will say Miss Evelyn Gardner was the person who influenced me most. She was the Dean of Women and a rather a stern woman but had a very British accent, knew British literature quite well and was sort- we were all sort of in awe of her but I came to know her better.
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Loree: She was very- she counseled me in a number of occasions when I became deeply concerned about various ethical questions or even perhaps in some ways intellectual questions, but more, I guess, it was a time of war, a time of cut budgets and various stresses on the College. She helped me understand the complexity of maintaining an institution like this, which I’m terribly pleased did happen and I still am totally, utterly proud of Grinnell. But, she gave me the first start at knowing what this College really was, or is.
  • Norma Tong Dang
    Norma: For me, probably the professor that I remember best and that helped me the most was in the department where I majored in. I was a Zoology major, and his name is Dr. Guillermo Mendoza, and he taught Biology. Because he was the professor of the department that I majored in, he also helped guide me after Grinnell to go to his Alma Mater, which was Northwestern University in Chicago. But, I liked pretty much all the professors and students that taught me here.
  • Chelsie Salvatera
    Chelsie: What are your best memories of your time at Grinnell College? Can be academic, non-academic, crazy stories, anything...
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Loree: There was a lot of political action when we were here. I recall, that was - an exciting thing to do. One of the shocking things was, that I remember was, that I had a picture of Adlai Stevenson, full size on my door my senior year, and my father unexpectedly came to visit. My father was a very conservative Republican. Adlai Stevenson was not. He was a very radical Democrat. That was an interesting- I don’t know if that was the best memory, but I certainly haven’t forgotten it.
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw & Chelsie Salvatera
    Loree: Let’s see, what crazy thing was- My senior year, not Norma but a different roommate who had her horse in the stable here – at this time you could do that, in fact I even took a course in horseback riding, how ‘bout that? – but she had a, her horse was a mare and gave birth to a filly, a little baby pony. I mean, not a pony, a horse, and that was a big exciting thing. How’s that for an intellectual memory, right? Norma’s much more smart than I, so she can take the next intellectual memory. Norma?Chelsie: Any memory?Loree: Any memory.
  • Norma Tong Dang
    Norma: For me, coming from Hawaii, I’d never experienced the seasons here. So, I always remembered and I enjoyed very much all the seasons. Seeing my first snow fall and how beautiful the campus is in the fall. The good time is actually as a freshman, because everything was so new to me. My roommates and the friendships that I immediately made here and have been lifelong. Memories of the good times we had. Dorm life was a lot of fun for me, but I really had to study hard for those years that I was at Grinnell. To me, those were good memories because I learned so many new things that I’d never been exposed to in my life before I came to Grinnell.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Loree Pugh Rackstraw & Norma Tong Dang
    Chelsie: OK, oh, since you guys talked about dorms, what did your dorm room look like? Any dorm, or all dorms.Loree: Are you OK with talking about Read?Norma: Yeah, OK, do whatever- no, you do it.
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Loree: Well, Norma and our friend Marianne and I all roomed in one dorm our junior year. It had attached- a fire escape was on the second floor of Read Hall and one of the things that- it looked pretty strange. We had two beds in the main room and then there was, wasn’t there kind of an adjacent room? I think you and Marianne were in the main room and I was in the adjacent room, and what we liked to do was to entertain our friends by putting on art shows. So, I would pose outside on the fire escape to try to conform to whatever title Norma gave to me, to the artwork we- was being exhibited. So she’d y’know, put me through great, a lot of contortions being able to pose whatever she titled. There was, “Man Standing on Head” was difficult.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Loree Pugh Rackstraw & Norma Tong Dang
    Chelsie: See there was a big opening to this fire escape and there was a curtain you could pull like a curtain in the theater, and I’d be the curtain puller and she’d be behind that curtain and doing her art poses and then we’d open the curtain and then wait for the audience to....Loree: And the audience was people that were our fellow classmates, that would come and, we didn’t serve popcorn or anything but they would be the audience and they would clap. Outrageously.Chelsie: So you guys were the popular bunch.Loree: Oh, yeah.Norma: We were- a lot of- It was a lot of fun.Loree: We could have made a lot of money, if we just had 'em...
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Norma Tong Dang
    Chelsie: Should’ve charged ‘em for each. OK, so, clothes. What kind of clothes did you wear everyday at Grinnell as a student?Norma: Oh, gosh. I think at that time they were kind of like, you had to conform, kind of. Y’know, not like now. So, it was mostly skirts for me. Skirts and sweaters, saddle shoes, socks, I was always bundled up in the winter time because I was never that used to cold weather. But, it was not fancy. But then, on Sundays we did have to dress up. We had to wear hose, and shoes. We couldn’t wear slippers. I think at times, on special occasions, we had to wear gloves to dinner and to the dining room. But we had to look really nice, like we were going to church.
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw & Norma Tong Dang
    Loree: The important thing was dressing for dinner. It wasn’t just Sundays, it was-Norma: Oh, well, that’s right. It was for dinner, too.Loree: Remember? We had to- We would, all the house mothers sat at one table, and we had to come dressed and I, hose, I think, was required.Norma: Yeah, we had to line up.Loree: Everyday, it wasn’t just Sundays.Norma: Yeah. OK, maybe it was every day.Loree: I think it was. Yeah. And we would, we would play little games of popping, y'know, see if you could pop the pea with your spoon, or things like that, without the house mothers seeing us. We were very well-behaved, mostly.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Chelsie: Was it separated? The boys in their own-Loree: Oh, yes. Yes, the women ate only on what was called the South Campus.Chelsie: The Quad.Loree: The Quad, in the Main dining room. Is that still in use even?Chelsie: Not as a dining room, but we use it for special occasions, like Waltz.Loree: Well, that was where we dined every evening.Chelsie: It's a beautiful place.Loree: We'd walk down the loggia and with - y’know, shivering, ‘cause we didn’t bring coats or anything. We just went to- in the winter. It was pretty chilly. But yeah, it was... we dined there every time, every day. Yeah. In the evening.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Loree Pugh Rackstraw & Norma Tong Dang
    Chelsie: So you guys mentioned house mothers. Can you guys talk a little bit about house mothers? I know very... little things about how strict it was.Loree: Every dorm had a house mother, who was in charge. It usually was a fairly elderly woman. Do you have any good or bad memories?Chelsie: Do you remember..?Norma: They were kind of, to me they were kind of grandmotherly like, you know? They listened to problems if we had any and they checked us to be sure we were in at curfew time and we didn't get out on the fire escape and try to sneak in, that kind of thing.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Loree Pugh Rackstraw & Norma Tong Dang
    Chelsie: What was the curfew? 10AM? Oh, 7PM? Sorry.Loree: It wasn- Wasn’t it 7 on weekdays? And you could be out-Chelsie: Wow.Norma: Yeah. It was early.Loree: Yeah.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Chelsie: I wonder how you got all your homework done.Loree: You stayed and did your homework instead of going out.Chelsie: Oh OK, you stayed in your dorm. You didn't have to be a-Loree: Yeah.Chelsie: You didn’t have to be asleep or anything.Loree: No, no, no. No, no, no, but there would be bed checks occasionally to be sure we were there. For every minute you were late coming in on whatever the curfew was, you had to go to study hall for that- for a day for each minute. For each minute, yeah.
  • Norma Tong Dang & Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Norma: I think the study halls were in the basement, were they? Or they-Loree: The basement of one of the dorms.Norma: Yeah.Loree: Yeah.
  • Norma Tong Dang & Loree Pugh Rackstraw & Chelsie Salvatera
    Norma: It’s kind of like you were really penalized. You know?Loree: Yes.Chelsie: Did anyone have detention- or, did anyone have to-Loree: Oh, yes. All the time.Chelsie: Any of you, I mean.Loree: Oh, surely not.Chelsie: Where were you sneaking off to?Loree: Only Norma was. I didn't.Chelsie: Only Norma?
  • Norma Tong Dang & Chelsie Salvatera & Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Norma: See, the library, you couldn’t even go to the library at night, y'know, like you do now.Chelsie: That's odd.Loree: You had to do it all- yeah.Norma: Yeah. It's- it was odd.Chelsie: I'll be in the library until 1 AM.Loree: Sure.Norma: Ah, yes.Loree: Now, that’s no longer the case. I mean, it was not the case when we were there. That's for sure.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Loree Pugh Rackstraw & Norma Tong Dang
    Chelsie: And would the men dressed up as well for these dinners?Loree: Well, they ate in a different campus. I don't even know where.Norma: Yeah, and they had house mothers in their dorms, too. We really were separated because we didn’t know what- what’s going on up there, y’know?
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Loree Pugh Rackstraw & Norma Tong Dang
    Chelsie: So the campus was divided? How-?Loree: Yes.Chelsie: By the to-Loree: Well, what is called the South campus is where we are right now, where the dorms are here, and then across the railroad tracks was the North campus and that’s where the men were.Chelsie: Okay.Loree: Yeah.Chelsie: I understand.Loree: But they were all- Yes. We never were in the same dorms at all. No co-ed anything, hardly.Norma: Yeah.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Loree Pugh Rackstraw & Norma Tong Dang
    Chelsie: So, next question: What book influenced you most in college?Loree: I don’t even feel I can say that.Norma: I don’t have an answer for that one, be-Loree: Isn’t that strange?Norma: Yeah.Chelsie: You’re not the only ones. Don't worry about it.
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw & Chelsie Salvatera
    Loree: I wish I had- could tell you because I can remember one book. I don’t remember the title of it.Chelsie: Okay.Loree: It was a very thick one and it was fiction and I read it more than once, it was very powerful for me. But I wish I could tell you what it is. Time flies.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Norma Tong Dang & Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Chelsie: Norma, you have any-Norma: Y’know, I never was that much of a bookworm, and I never bought extra books other than the textbooks that we had, y’know? So, there was no book that I can remember that influenced me most. Probably was the dictionary, for all I know.Chelsie: It's a good source.Loree: That makes good sense.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Norma Tong Dang
    Chelsie: What memories or images do you have of the town of Grinnell?Norma: Y’know I didn’t get into town that much. I had a bike, and- the bike was mostly going up and down the loggia or out to classes, but I really didn’t spend that much time in town. Once in a while on weekends we’d go in- go to a restaurant to eat dinner, ‘cause we didn’t want to dress up I guess and y'know, eat in the Quad dining room, but I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in town, I don’t think.
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw & Norma Tong Dang
    Loree: Remember the spaghetti dinners we were talking about?Norma: Oh, OK.Loree: There was a couple that had-Norma: It was an Italian family, right?Loree: Yeah, and they served- on a weekend, on a Saturday. You had to make a reservation and tell how many and everything - in their home, in their dining room, would serve spaghetti, and they made rhubarb wine. They made wine out of rhubarb. Now, women could not drink on this campus ever or off the campus so that was a very special occasion. We would have, y’know this...Norma: Yeah.
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw & Norma Tong Dang & Chelsie Salvatera
    Loree: don’t think there was any alcohol content that you could even have.Norma: I don’t even remember how much it cost to-Loree: Well, I don’t either, but it was a significant experience because it was, y'know, we would have sort of a party. It was always women. For us, it was-Norma: Yeah. It was always gals, yeah.Chelsie: It was an escape.Loree: But it was- Yeah, it was kind of an escape. We felt-
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Chelsie: So the men could drink off campus but the women couldn’t drink?Loree: Well, I- I’m sure they could go as dates. I don't know, but we didn’t go as... We just had a group of women that would go.Chelsie: That's awesome.Loree: We were the first feminists.Chelsie: Woo! Yay!
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Norma Tong Dang
    Chelsie: How has Grinnell changed since you were a student?Norma: Tremendously. It’s almost unrecognizable. I’d say, fifty times, sixty, seventy-five times better in many ways, yeah. Physically and academically and... but the spirit hasn’t.
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Loree: That's well put, and I’d say, yeah, the spirit hasn’t. But for me, I have been so deeply influenced this weekend on the emphasis on international study, and particularly South Africa. It just is- makes me feel so proud of this College for what it’s doing and the intellectual challenges and the international understanding that is being created here. Cultural exchange and all of that is just, so much improved and I feel certain that the intellectual experiences have grown deeply. Not that they weren’t challenging and valuable to me, but - at that time - but, and I was encouraged here to do graduate work, as was Norma. But, I’m so proud of this College and you students here are very very fortunate to be where you are.
  • Norma Tong Dang
    Norma: It’s changed so much that, y'know, over the years I’ve always worked with admissions, for Hawaii students to come to Grinnell, and over the years I’ve just watched how it’s changed so much and I just get so much more enthusiastic about, and envious actually of the opportunities for students wherever they are. Especially students from Hawaii because, so far away we don’t get these things in Hawaii that Grinnell offers to us here. Boy, when I- I’m able to get students to come here I just think, "Well, they’re gonna really be somebody in this world," because it's just gonna open up the whole world to them like it did for me. For me this was the stepping stone of my life. I just- I don't- I think if I went to any other place, other than Grinnell, I wouldn’t be what I am today. Just truthfully, it just opened up my whole world.
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Loree: You know, the opening of the mind is what I experienced here and I see it happening even more. But that certainly was one of the major things that I’m proud of the school for doing and for consistently building upon that.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Norma Tong Dang
    Chelsie: How has Grinnell changed - oh, I’m sorry - Describe something that is no longer available on campus but that was meaningful to you. For example: buildings, programs, activities?Norma: Oh, gosh, everything that’s no longer available, well, y’know like Loree said, we were here and there are a lot of veterans at- on school here at that time, so physically the campus has completely changed as far as I’m concerned. Y'know, right across from the railroad tracks there were Quonset huts there. There was a heating plant there.
  • Norma Tong Dang
    Norma: When the train came by, we’d have to just wait on this side of the campus ‘till it went- started up and going, and a lot of times it was the end of the train that would be on the campus and there were hobos, y’know tramps that would be on the last cars. Sometimes there were open cars and we’d just sit there and talk to them, and wave to them. They kind of became our friends. And I, y’know, coming from Hawaii I didn’t know what a hobo was, or a tramp. I always remember that, and I noticed the train doesn’t come by anymore, or not stop, y’know? That’s kinda like, I don’t know if it’s available but something that no longer happens.
  • Norma Tong Dang & Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Norma: Meaningful? Really, everything. The programs are so different now and better. Activities? I can’t imagine having the facilities that you have now, and many many and most campuses and schools this size, y’know, small campus.Loree: I sort of-Norma: And y’know they’re better than some of the universities and bigger schools in this country. Go ahead, Loree.
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw & Norma Tong Dang
    Loree: Well, just from a nostalgic point of view, although I agree, definitely, with what you just said Norma, I miss Mears Hall. That was our, that was my first, yeah-Norma: Yeah, that was-Loree: We all. We lived there first year.Norma: -our first place to live.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Chelsie: And that’s Mears Cottage?Loree: Mears Cottage, yes. And still to this day when I drive into this town on sixth street, I see that and I have just this little wincing of memory and tenderness for that dormitory. It’s too bad it can’t be used anymore. I guess it’s used for offices or something else.Loree: Yeah, so it was the admissions, and now it’s like English profs' places.Loree: Well, that’s appropriate, wonderful. It was, y’know, my first taste of this school came from that dormitory and the people I met there. It was a very special place.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Chelsie: Have you been... since you came back?Loree: I haven’t seen it since- We're here this weekend, no.Chelsie: You definitely need to go and- Loree I will, thank you. I will do that. Yeah, yeah.
  • Norma Tong Dang & Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Norma: Yeah, and the programs part too, y’know, you offer so much to students and make available like, your programs to go overseas and to travel, and I think learning is easier for you folks because you’ve got all the props here that we never had in learning. The visual props, y’know? And all the new tech that you learn with, so you end up as- being better people I think than we had a chance to be. We had to think a lot harder I think, in a way, to accomplish things, whereas you can pick it up so much faster than we did. Learning, I think, is easier for you nowadays than it was for us.Loree: I wonder-Norma: For me, let’s put it that way. For me.
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw & Chelsie Salvatera
    Loree: I think challenges must be fairly profound here though, for undergraduates, from what I’ve just been hearing since I’ve been on campus. I don’t think I had the intellectual challenges that you guys are having, because of being able to have the experiences of those...Chelsie: Right. Experiences and-Loree: -as realities. Yeah, right. And challenges, yes. Yeah.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Norma Tong Dang
    Chelsie: Describe your favorite academic experience or class at Grinnell College.Norma: I can’t think of anything right offhand.
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Loree: Let me try this, as a Psychology major, in those days, I don’t know if it would be favorite but it was transforming to me for our, our psych class to go... It was in my senior year, but we had a field experience of going to the mental institution of Independence, Iowa, as visitors. And, it was a total and utter shock to me to see what was happening in that institution. We were allowed to see shock treatment and y’know, rather horrific experiences of people in catatonic states and that kind of thing. It- it turned me into thinking very, very- or rethinking seriously about my major.
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Loree: I- and it helped me eventually decide not to pursue further study in it, but I think it was important for us to be there but it also gave us a little edging, because when we left after spending that entire day there, we met, at one time I was talking to a physician or a doctor, a psychiatrist that turned out to be a patient, and I didn’t know. I couldn’t tell that.
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Loree: And, when we left and we were saying goodbye to a group of patients and some patient in the back row raised- stood up and waved and said, “Everybody from Grinnell, stand up and yell!” So I began to rethink my Grinnell experience, and had quite the time talking with Dr. Lovell, who was head of the department at that time, about the, what that all meant and what I should think about all that. It, the experience helped me, I think, once I became a professor, so I could have better sympathy for students.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Chelsie: Describe your favorite place on campus. So, I know Mears-Loree: I’ve already said mine is Mears Hall.
  • Norma Tong Dang
    Norma: Yeah. I love the whole campus, really. I didn’t have a favorite place where I hung out all the time. I think for me, the dormitories where the people were, y'know, after our classes we could hang out and relax, I enjoyed the most. It’s the people really, that I enjoy, my classmates. I wasn’t that active in the activities. For me it was studying, y'know. I had to study. Most of the time I- I had that pressure from my background to do well at Grinnell so, that was my main focus here at that point in my life.
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Loree: I think I would’ve been less timid in the classroom, or, although I, I would've tried to do more and, y’know, would bring up more challenging questions than I did. I think I gradually came to do that as I grew older as a senior, but... and rebelling perhaps more than I did. We had, we were very strictly handled and probably we would have, well, that just didn’t- Norma and I were such well behaved young ladies.
  • Norma Tong Dang & Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Norma: I was influenced by all these roommates I had.Loree: That- beca- She became very shy.Norma: Yeah.Loree: And well-behaved like me. All right, never mind.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Loree Pugh Rackstraw & Norma Tong Dang
    Chelsie: Going off of what Loree said, if you knew what you know now, what would you have done differently during your time at Grinnell College? So, continue off of...Loree: Just what I said, more... perhaps rebellious, or less timid, for sure.Norma: I agree. Ditto.Loree: And neither one of us met a spouse or partner.Chelsie: Neither?Norma: No.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Chelsie: Okay. But you guys met each other, so that’s very important as well.Loree: Yes. Indeed.Chelsie: Great friendship. How would you compare the students of today with your classmates?Loree: I think we both already suggested that they’re much better students,. They’re better informed. Again, they’re understanding and pursuit of understanding international history and international affairs is just tremendous. I’m terribly impressed with what I’ve seen here and I think they’re, we had lots of bright students, classmates, but these.... everyone is better informed than I ever was. Even when I graduated, for sure.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Loree Pugh Rackstraw & Norma Tong Dang
    Chelsie: Describe student and campus life as you experienced it during your time at Grinnell.Loree: I think I sort of have. It seemed very confined, very structured. I loved it in many ways, but... I did everything I was supposed to do, almost.Norma: Almost. I like that word.Loree: I diverted Norma, who always...
  • Norma Tong Dang
    Norma: No, I liked student life and I was very naïve so I didn’t know any better. That's just, I mean that’s the truth. So, I just conformed to most everything, y’know, and yet we had our little moments of exciting fun and adventure, but I don’t regret anything that I ever did there and I don’t think I would’ve done anything differently.
  • Norma Tong Dang
    Norma: But it was unforgettable, memorable, and probably, looking back, one of the best times in my life. ‘Cause I learned so much and it, and from the four years that I spent here I think it molded a great deal of what happened to me in the rest of my life. The way I lived it, and what I did, and have done, y’know. When you get to this age you do look back, and you... for me, I think Grinnell really molded my life.
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Loree: I can only echo that. The stretching of the mind that’s going on here now, and it did in our day too, I don’t think there’s any question about that. But you know, information has expanded exponentially since that time. I mean, we had no computers. Y’know, everything came from a book. Books were limited in many ways. The access to information and experiencing of history, traveling abroad as many students do, it is just so much better in so many ways.
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Loree: But still I learned how to love learning at this school and I’ll always be grateful for that. I think that was at the top of everybody’s mind, but there’s just many more ways of learning now that are available to young people and I’m terribly pleased that that’s happening here, more so than in most schools that I experienced.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Norma Tong Dang
    Chelsie: If you were writing a history of Grinnell College what would you include from your years here? That goes along with the…Norma: Yeah, I think it kind of goes along with what I said before, too. For me, it was a stepping stone to the kind of life that I have led and it gave me the chance, I think, to become what I am, really. I, like I said, it was one of the best investments that I could- my parents and everybody made in my life, y'know? Yeah.
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw & Norma Tong Dang
    Loree: Yeah, I- Same thing as what I just said, too, to learning how to learn and now the opportunities for that are so much improved. One of my sons has gone here and I encourage other people. Any young students I talk to, I emphasize - they’re in high school -Norma: Ditto.
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Loree: What- how important this would be. And y’know, it’s a challenge to come here. It’s not at all cheap, and y'know, you have to really, really want to do it, and to have the opportunity to do it, and my mind opened here as I never even realized it could. I still am grateful for that, and I still love seeing that happening here right now. It’s very precious, and I’m hoping that everyone here appreciates it and I think they do, has been my experience in meeting students, like you for instance.
  • Norma Tong Dang & Chelsie Salvatera & Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Norma: Yeah, and y’know the fact that Loree went into education too, afterwards, you know. That's...Chelsie: Tells a lot.Norma: Yeah, that tells a lot.Loree: I learned how to learn here and really, y’know.Norma: Yeah. And of course you’ve passed it on to your students, too, that kind of background.Loree: I- yeah. I believe I did, yeah.
  • Norma Tong Dang
    Norma: That’s why I went to alumni admissions, too, as a volunteer, ‘cause I benefitted so much from this and I wanna kind of share it with and try to impress kids, ‘cause life goes on very quickly I found out, y’know. We’re at an age where we reflect and we look back and we realize, if you miss that opportunity it really means something in your life so I said, "Don’t miss this opportunity. Come here if you can."
  • Norma Tong Dang
    Norma: Y’know, that was my thing for the Hawaii students that I, they’re the only students, actually, that I know now that are going away, and because we live so far away in the middle of this ocean y’know? "Get away. Come to a completely different environment and expand." It is, it’s just exactly what the brochures say: it’s limitless. There’s no limit here, and it’s true.
  • Chelsie Salvatera
    Chelsie: Just because you guys have a lot, I feel like you guys have a lot since you guys graduated class of ’53, can you guys talk a little- I’m sorry, I know you guys have to go to lunch but just briefly, - I mean, during this time, the war and just all of that, if you can talk about that impact, while being a Grinnell College student. And just, how that affected your academic social life, and relationships with students, faculty. I know that you talked about earlier…
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw & Chelsie Salvatera
    Loree: Well, in the barracks that, living over by, on the - again, that would be the North campus - it was, maybe where ARH is now?Chelsie: Yes. Oh, ARH is-Loree: Yeah, past that- Yeah, we’re in it but, somehow over there, I can’t even remember where it was, but some of the classmates were, returned veterans and the Korean War, of course, broke out while we were here. We came back from Christmas, was it our junior year? From Christmas vacation? And half the men were gone on the campus. They had volunteered. There was a draft at that time, and yes, the impact of war was stunning and scary.
  • Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Loree: We didn’t have much access to information with what was going on at that time. Many of us, I mean if we were in a history class, sometimes we would be able to get more information just from the faculty people that were, knowing a little more than we did, too. But still, in all, most days you had a Des Moines Register newspaper and that was it. There was no television. There was no computer. There was none of that.
  • Norma Tong Dang & Chelsie Salvatera & Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Norma: You can’t imagine that, can you?Chelsie: I can, yeah.Loree: I’m sure, it’s just impossible to even, y’know.. So you think how limited we were and again, I guess I’ll stress what seems to me was learning something about, 'What’s Korea?' and 'Where is that?' y’know? We had maps. We could look at the map at the wall and try to learn something more about that.
  • Norma Tong Dang & Loree Pugh Rackstraw & Chelsie Salvatera
    Norma: It’s true, yeah, it’s not global like it is now. You come here and you know about the whole world. We never had that opportunity in the way you do, y’know. Hawaii was like a foreign country to many people.Loree: True.Norma: And there very were few minority groups here on campus. I came and they thought I was, I don’t know what they thought I was ‘cause I'm Chinese but I don’t look Chinese, I don’t speak Chinese. They thought I was a Hawaiian and that we lived in grass huts.Chelsie: Still applies to today, though, right?
  • Norma Tong Dang & Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Norma: Y'know that- But that was truly the thinking, and in a way, it was kind of nice for me ‘cause I never went home and so I got invited to places like Loree’s place in Clear Lake in Mason City and I got to see Iowa because people... We had to leave campus during breaks. I had nowhere to go. One Christmas I spent in the Quonset huts here on campus.Loree: Oh, that breaks my heart!
  • Norma Tong Dang & Loree Pugh Rackstraw
    Norma: Yeah. But I thought it was neat, because the campus was, nobody was around, y’know? We had to do our own cooking. We didn’t have to go to the dining room. The veterans were all gone. So those kinds of experiences for me were really, not really meaningful but y'know. I think that gave me that adventurous spirit that I developed in Grinnell. From then on in my life I loved adventure. I hope you do too.Loree: Yeah. That's good.
  • Chelsie Salvatera & Loree Pugh Rackstraw & Norma Tong Dang
    Chelsie: Oh, my good- It was great talking to you. Do you guys have any final words to say before we let it..?Loree: Just, appreciate every moment you’re having here and soak it up.Norma: Soak it up, yeah.Loree: Follow the dream for- when you leave. it's...Norma: Just remember, your opportunities are limitless here, so take advantage of it. The four years will pass faster than it did for us.Chelsie: My first year went like this. (Snaps)Loree: I'll bet. That’s great. Continue to love learning and all of that. You can’t go wrong.Chelsie: OK. Thank you so much.
Alumni oral history interview with Loree Pugh Rackstraw '53 and Norma (Tong) Dang '53. Recorded 2011.
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