John Pfitsch Interview

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  • Joanna Hooper
    Joanna: ...May 5, 1993, and my name is Joanna Hooper and I am here talking with John Alfred Pfitsch ohm in his office, and ohm to start off why don't you just tell me a little bit about when you were born and where born, and ....
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Want me to leave that microphone there?
  • Joanna Hooper & John Pfitsch
    Joanna: Sure. That's fine.John: OK. Well I was born in in Miraj, India and the name of the town is M-I-R-A-J. That's the name of the city and it's in South India. The reason that I was born in South India was that my father was a medical missionary from the United States.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And he was a missionary to the United Lutheran Church. He was a doctor, and he was a graduate of Johns Hopkin's University, and he was freshly married, so to speak, out of, out of uh, medical school. And uh and was very interested in both in the church and so forth and so he came to India.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: He and mother came to India on their honeymoon. So my sister, I have a sister whose three years younger than me, and uh we were both born in India. Actually my dad and mother stayed only six years which was one term of a missionary, because my mother's health was not good having children.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I don't know exactly why, but she didn't. It was very hot in the country and ah apparently she didn't do too well uh uh with both of us and never did get to be feeling very good.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And in addition to that, another tour of duty for my father would have meant six more years which, would have put us into school and I think they decided that we ought to be educated in the United States rather than India, so they came home after one tour.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: My father, I think enjoyed very much his work and did a lot of things but that is not what we are here to discuss. So, but I had an interesting start in life because of that. I remember only a very few things and I think probably that is not too important here but they had some influence on me, uh mainly after I got to bee...
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Well in my education I think that I respected language for example, because I learned to speak Telageau which is an Indian dialect, one of thirteen I think that is in the country, and I spoke it very well according to my parents who said I was the only one in the family who really was fluent in Telageau because they had had to learn it as adults.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And I had an Iya which was a servant, a woman servant, who uh took care of me because my mother was not well most the time. And uh the nice thing about being missionaries is, even though I guess they didn't get paid a lot they had all these privileges, so to speak, was they had cooks and servants, people who... chauffeurs for their automobile and so on.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And uh they they there was a very nice Indian lady named uh Mary, interestingly enough, who uh was my Iya who taught me Telageau. So I learned to speak Telageau before I learned to speak English. I don't know whether that did anything to my English or not.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I sometimes think it did but what I was saying is that I was very, at least I can't remember when I wasn't uh interested in foreign language and foreign people from uh just from being in uh, because I grew up with them.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And uh in India there were lots of English people in the mission fields and I can vaguely remember uh friends that I had and they were either Indian uh natives or English people or American missionary people and so, I had a, it was, it was an interesting start, should I say.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: There were also uh another thing that I barely remember although I think that uhm would be different than the average American kid would have was that my father being a doctor and having uh, was running a hospital in the uh mission field, that the patients essentially were uh native people.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And uh of course it was affiliated with the church so the object was partly to try to have a good image to the public so to speak and to convert people to Christianity or in this case Lutheranism.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I don't think that my father was so hot on that, but he liked the medicine and he thought that one reason he thought this was very good for a young doctor to have that kind of experience and they had uh they had uh languages, not languages, but diseases in India that we don't have in the United States.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Which I always wondered why that would be such a great advantage for him to come back to the United States, but anyway he always thought that it was quite an experience that he had.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Anyhow one of the interesting things that happened af ter I was uh oh maybe four years old, the Maharajha of Colapour, this is a king of a kingdom, in at that time, this was 19..., I was born in 1919, I don't think I mentioned that I , in uh uh so we're talking about the period of time from 1919 uh upwards and that was just right after World War II, or one, 'scuse me World War I...
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And the British were in India and were...colonizing it so to speak the colonial Empire of England, so that's why the English people. But the Maharajha of Colapour, Colapour was a a uh let's say might have been the representative of state inside of India in which these very wealthy Brahman people were I don't know know how they became...
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I don't know how they had the power, so to speak, to become the quote Maharajha , but 'Raja' means king and 'Maha' means great king and he I understand that that that they were very wealthy people and uh he did not do much according from my father's point of view anyway besides uh hunt boar and uh deer.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And they organized hunting trips it may be like our people do in some fashion. In the same sense at least, for recreation purposes and the Maharajha he had uh he hunted uh boar wild boar in the jungles which there were jungles here and there and all around and uh in an area near our hospital...
  • John Pfitsch
    John: and they hunted off of elephant back they had these little cupilos you've probably seen, a basket like thing that's set up and they could harness it on the elephant and they sat in this thing maybe two men could sit up there, and they had spears,
  • John Pfitsch
    John: and they would rumble through the jungle until they flushed a boar, these little pigs, or big pigs whatever they were, and they would throw spears at them they had these men on them, these bush beaters in the, in the jungle that would go our in front of the elephants.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I suppose that maybe they had two or three elephants or so in this party they would go on a camping trip, so to speak, with these elephants and all this paraphernalia and bunch of uh servant beaters and so forth that uh did this.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Well anyway on this one trip the Maharajha was a big was uh a very big man. According to my father he was weighed over 300 pounds, which is rather unusual also for Indian people, but apparently Maharajhas were able to eat better than the rest the people.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Well he threw a spear at a pig and he lost his balance and fell off the elephant or the elephant veered or like I , or something anyway fell off the elephant. He was a big guy. And he broke his hip I think or his leg and hip a rather bad fracture and so they uh they they took him to my father's hospital.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And my father was the head doctor, so he, and of course it was quite uh I guess it was a fete, would be kind of like president of something or other suddenly ended up in your hospital and had to be taken care of.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: So dad took care of him.and got to be a good friend. Well you in those days you know that people didn't have what it took a person who had a broken leg was in uh in uh bed probably for six weeks or something like... They didn't do mu...
  • John Pfitsch
    John: They didn't get out so this guy was around for a month, or two months. Dad became a good friend of this of him, and he took, and he was entertained him, and he brought him to our home, and so on.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Well when he got came to our home why he found out that uh, that uh my father and mother had a son, three year old son, who was me and uh the Indians, like most all off these uh like you have learned all of these countries most of them,
  • John Pfitsch
    John: many of them, eastern countries maybe nearly all countries in the day of the feminist movement, uh recognized that the value of a son was a great deal greater than the value of a baby girl, or daughter.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: So a son they made over all the time, and my sister was there too, but nobody's ever said anything about weather they ever worried about her. But the Maharajha , in order to pay back for the medical attention etc. wanted to do uh, and the only, the only way that he could think about it was to do something for me.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: So it was that he came to our house several times on these trips and he would always bring a present or something for me, not anybody else but for me, just the son, which sort of tells you about everything.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Well, one time he came after that and he brought his elephants and he thought that I should ride on the elephant with him. And so I can vaguely remember that and I have... I think it's mostly a picture that I have a picture of myself on this big elephant with this Indian man sitting up in this basket riding on the to... on the head of elephant.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Oh, I think all of those those actually those experiences that I had uh even just even though I was awfully young were uh meaningful in my life in many, in a lot of ways. For example in Grinnell I always get a big kick out of of uh immediately seeing Indian people that come here as students and have for all of my career here.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And I always go up and introduce myself and and then always tell them that I was born in Miraj, India which is its a nice kind a way to to meet somebody who is a stranger in this country and is coming to the college, and so on and so and.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I always have had a lot of fun um associating with them as they've gone through school and so I've had a lot of them uh Indian friends and soccer players and uh not too many basketball players that I can remember.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I think I had a tennis player, or two, that came from India so about that's all about India I came home of course with my family and I was nearly five years old. And um I could speak English pretty well, I guess. But they tell me that I quit speaking Telageau as soon as I got on the ship when we came home by uh steam ship.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I don't understand how I did it. Well I guess I understand it, but it's amazing because I have no vestige at all of the Telageau language even though I said I was interested in languages.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And I'm really not a very good linguist myself but I have always had a very interesting, I think been very interested in the people of whatever language that they had, and never have been in intimidated to go and talk to people in whatever language that I can talk to whatever language they can talk.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: But I thought, but I think my Indian was uh more interesting than the average, and it was pretty good. I do remember the trip home in the, on the big boat in the ship in. I remember going through the Suez Canal and and seeing Africa and the people talking about Africa.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I remember uh they'd tell me about uh the the the African elephant is different than the Indian elephant and and and and so uh I had a good educational start in life. Anyway we came home. I think it was 1924 or '25 I think it was closer to '25, when, and my father and mother decided that they would uh uh set up uh a their uh living in United States in San Antonio, Texas.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: They just picked it because they had gone through San Antonio on their honeymoon on their way to the West coast to go to India. And they had a friend, my dad had a friend, uh from uh he who was at Hopkin's medical school who also practiced medicine there at and he had uh asked him, or asked dad, if he wouldn't like to come and be his partner.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: So I guess that's why they went to and also San Antonio is a a a city a interesting city of mixed uh races had a lot of Hispanics and Mexican people and so on even then ah besides the black race also as well as of course the the army the United States army was in very big in San Antonio and uh so it was that I was put started school in San Antonio. And um we...
  • Joanna Hooper & John Pfitsch
    Joanna: How old were you at that time?John: How old?
  • Joanna Hooper & John Pfitsch
    Joanna: Ya, you were six?John: Six I guess, and uh I started pretty much I think the year that we came and we uh my dad started practicing medicine just like any...
  • John Pfitsch
    John: He was just a general practitioner and also a general surgeon, and uh he liked San Antonio very much I 'd say we lived in San An... An and I went to school in a elementary school and went through junior high school in San Antonio in two different schools.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I would say that from that I had uh very good education, elementary education and lower grade education by uh by beca... by most standards I can see. I had a great feeling about my education uh I liked school and I was fairly smart and I was a conformist and I thought didn't have any problem with trying to uh learn something.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And my family were very educated. And I had had a good uh well now, I can't recall that I had any problems at all. I think that if I had problems, it was the the problem of uh I think that it uh it it it I think that I am aware that I was quite interested and active physically from the time I was born.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And that was a problem in the sense in the terms of my education. Iwanted to, Imuch prefered to play ball than to read a book, or anything that was comparable to the ball playing compared to the book reading.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And although I say I was I I had no trouble academically in anyway and i was willing to con to to do it certainly do what the minimum at least as far as the academic. And I did better than that most of the time in the early grades. I don't think that I had problems with that I had a lot of problems with that.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: But that thing about playing games has stayed with me until now and I am 73 years old now, so it's uh it's a root problem in that I love to play still love to play and still do play and uh that's what I did even then even in elementary school or whatever it was....
  • John Pfitsch
    John: and San Antonio was a marvelous marvelous city for kids when I was there. This was 1925 to 1935; '33 I was there about eight years through the eighth grade.
  • Joanna Hooper & John Pfitsch
    Joanna: So you were there for the start of the depression as well.John: Pardon me?Joanna: You were there for the start of the depression?John: Of the depression,Joanna: Ya
  • John Pfitsch
    John: The depression started like '29. I am quite aware of the depression. Yes, was very much aware of the depression I was bee... not because my father was affected like some people would be, poorer people.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: My dad was a doctor he had a good practice I am sure he made money like doctors do. Not like they do now days but uh but certainly we had no there was no financial, economic problems. Except that when uh in uh well... We could jump to that.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I was gonna say something about my athletic business as a kid because that's really what I ended up doing and being and that's what I thought might be interested in terms of somebody because when you think back it is amazing how those types of things keep popping up and it was there.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: My father for example, I'll say this , that my father was very interested in academics, my dad was not an athlete neith... I think my mother probably could have been but they had never heard of that before and she was much more interested in athletics in my athletics than my father was.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: My father was a marvelous person as as was my mother. But my mother and I had what I would call a very good relationship, personal relationship, person to person relationship. I always had a great relationship with my dad, but it was different.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: He was a much more formal person, and he was really the boss and there was always an aura of respect more or less. And I was probably a little afraid of him, more so than my mother. And my mother I could talk to person to person about anything about li...
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I could say, well look I 'd rather go play baseball today than to do what they migh... I would be more afraid to say that to my father. If I thought that he wouldn't necessarily like the idea.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Well that's what I mean about, and and and and my well let me say about uh I was the only person in my family that ever had anything to do with athletics. Now I'm talking about my cousins and any, all of the immediate family not that that but genetically I don't think that...
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I think that I was just uh kinda lucky to get to have.... well lucky 'cause I liked to do it and had a little bit of the genes it took to be a fairly coordinated and and quick person. Which is what...
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And so I liked to play games. And here I was in this great place for, where it's warm and hot and stuff all year long. And you could play outside also, and kids would play outside all the time. I think if I had lived....Well, if I had lived up here I'd a probably been a ice skatin' and stuff like that, so it wouldn't uh, I don't know it would make any difference.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: But when I was thinking San Antonio was just tremendous 'cause I could play ball eeeh I don't know... I think I played ball from the time I was six years old, five or six years old. When I say played ball, we played ball out in the, in the lots the lots, since houses weren't filled like they are now days.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I'd just be a lo... houses, house and then this empty lot maybe or two empty lots. That they wouldn't have... They wouldn't have sold. And the people would just let the kids go out and play. We used to go out and dig up the weeds and roll it and do different things even as little kids.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: We'd go out, sometimes we played baseball and just go through paths of weeds that were way high. But we played uhh and everybody played. Had all these kids ya know... I can remember all the places just full of kids, and everybody played outside.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Well it seemed like everybody played outside, at least the ones who liked to play outs... So, I'd I had that... I loved to play and I had all kinds of chances to play. My mother was such a religious person, or at least she thought she was. She thought that I could... that you couldn't play baseball on Sunday. (laughter)
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And, and she got very mad at me and uh and uh she... In fact I got spanked several times, because they'd catch me out on playing baseball and I could, we had this uh conflict very early in my life with religion.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I didn't have to have anything to do with it except that my mother was more or less of a fundamentalist in religion 'cause she was a methodist. My father was a Lutheran and she was bo.. and she had joined the Lutheran church.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: But to have the family together, and we were raised Lutheran's. And there's a little difference between the fundamentalists methods by god and she never became anything but a methodist. She really thought that I was going to hell if I played baseball on Sunday.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Maybe I am but (laugher) that that we had quite a time with it and but she was such a good person that she would get very upset with me, but I could talk to her and I would say... Tell her all the time,.ya know I'd say well ya know, and I always had this strong personality, and I 'd say, "Ma, you just don't understand."
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And I really felt like I really did understand better than she did... Would convince her, "look I know what I'm doing," and when I was eight years old I would stand there and lecture and she would get so mad, 'cause she was so worried that I was going to hell.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: That's all she worried .... I used to say finally, say "I'm not, I don't care. If I go to hell, I go to hell." Or somethin'... Anyway we had a... We had a good a good relationship; I thought. It worked out pretty good, and I spent a good bit of my life out in the summer camp out in the early years say from the time I was eight years old.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I think I went to YMCA boy's camp when I was eight years old I think. I went one week the first time and that was a big deal, and I was very lonesome.. homesick when i went, but I loved it 'cause it that's all we did was play ball. In this in this particular camp, so I went to the damn camp next year.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I went for a month, and the next year, I think af ter that I never ... I stayed the whole summer, I'd go for two months. It was a great camp and it was out at Curville, Texas about ninety miles from home. And I, I lived there.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I felt like my life was in that camp, more so than any other place ever, probably anywhere else, 'cause I was there more or less every summer from the time I was eight until I was twenty one; till I graduated from the University of Texas.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And the last year I was there I was the assistant director of the camp. The year before that I was athletic director, and the year before that I ran the water front, and the year before that I was a counselor, and a counselor, and a counselor, going backward.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I did I worked in every way from the time I was thirteen until I was twenty one I had jobs in which I was... Well, sometimes I was only getting paid room and board or something, but I felt very serious about it.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And I was teaching, which is part of my life also, and I taught, and I was good enough, or so I thought, in athletics anyway. And so that I could, and I had a group of ...a cabin of kids. Eight nine year old kids, boys. And I would teach them how to play all these games and play with them.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And we were organized by cabins. We'd have ten people, and I was the tenth person. I'd pitched first for the softball team and I pitched for the baseball team. I played quarterback for the for the ca... for the camp, for the cabin, that's the way we organized all of the counselors did tha...
  • John Pfitsch
    John: They had one quote older boy doing that. Well well I had no realization that I was gonna be learning to do what I wanted to do all my life. I had learned how to teach uh little kids uh, and I don't know that there's any better way especially for sports stuff.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: So so when I... And I'll tie it in with uh my business about when I went to get educated at the university. 'Cause it has a, has a baring. But anyway I was in this camp and in the summer time and in the normal school situation and Texas is full of sport.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Ya know the whole state thinks it's uh, Ohio and Texas are the ones that have all the organized sports and they've had em for years and years and years. And uh Texas... And also has this big macho image of itself of Texas is bigger than everybody else, and greater, and everything is better, and all that stuff.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And I was just the right kind of person, so I swallowed that stuff hook line and sinker. I thought Texas was the greatest place in the world and must be heaven. Ya know there was no...nothing like Texas in the who...
  • John Pfitsch & Joanna Hooper
    John: Well it was great to feel that way about it and I admit as a kid I think I was very happy just had a wonderf ul time most the time. Playin' games that my father never thought were very valuable.Joanna: laughterJohn: laugher
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I think my mother got to begin to understand that they were pretty good. So, well, when I was thirteen. And this will be some kind of a conflict. That's when it was 1933. And that was the depression. The middle of the depression.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: The beginning was '29 I think it was. Well the last three or four years I remember hearing uh stuff about the depression. And my dad was worried not so much for himself as he was for the country and all the poor people.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And my dad was very deep into politics in the state of Texas. He was a good friend of Linden Johnson's for example, the congressmen, and he was later the president of the United States. He was a good friend of Hubert Humphry, who was a senator from uh uh... That's just because he was very involved.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: He would be like somebody now that would have known Bill Clinton or something. And he did know Linden Johnson personally and he got to know Hubert Humphry by virtue of writing him letters and and endoscing some of his programs, and they got to corresponding.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And latter- on, they got to having a fairly good relationship with him, so I remember all..well my dad going around and all that stu... So, in '33, uh the uh the development of all of Mr. Roosevelt's programs to try and solve the economic problems with the country.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Which interestingly enough in my life also is the fact that Harry Hopkins was the guy who was put in charge of the programs and dreamed up many of the programs of Franklin Roosevelt. One of which was the CCC. The Civilian Conservation Corps.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: My father was asked by a friend of his I guess, a doctor friend to, if he would like to become the doctor in the CCC. He could become uh, they would give him uh, a uh reserve officer commission as a captain...
  • John Pfitsch
    John: and he could go and be a doctor in these camps that they were going to have all these young college students who were out of college 'cause they couldn't afford it and, they didn't have jobs or people like that.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And they were CCC camps being organized all over the country. Mr Hopkins was the big guy in all that business and Mr. Johnson was a cong...congressman in Texas, who had, who was trying to become the president someday, and was really a eager fellow in the Roosevelt golden years.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And he was in charge apparently a congressional charge, or whatever of the Texas as...part of the CCC. Anyway, my father decided... He signed a contract for six months to sort of take a vacation from practicing medicine.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I remember this topic was that we hadn't ever had a vacation and he could take a vacation. And he could go with his beloved boys, which he loved boys. And said he had been a big boy scout person, as lay person, as well as the YMCA which I alluded to.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: That's why I was in the YMCA camp, and I was also a boy scout and went through all of that stuff, which I thought was also good too. My dad was all responsible for that. Well, he took the job as a contract physician and was given a choice of camps.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: He took the camp... He picked a camp that was going to be put in Fort Davis, Texas. Which is four hundred miles from San Antonio due West. Ah out in two hundred miles from El Paso, in the Big Bend country. Beautiful little mountains lovely place. Cowboy country.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Real cowboy country. You coming from Colorado, might not be so impressed, but we came from Texas. San Antonio was not too impressive in terms of the the beauty of the geography. Well dad went there in June, or something, of '33.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And he was very excited about the whole thing, but mostly from the political aspect, the national thing, and so forth, and he was delighted to...kinda felt like George Drake feels like now he's over in Africa trying to become a...being a teacher and a missionary, but doing his, quote service for his country.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Ya know, 'cause those of us who fought in the war, we got our service in, and these other people always, if they have guilt problems they have... That was my dad. I think had not fought the war, and he was a little young for the, and he was in medical school.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: In World War II. His brother ... or World War I... His brother had, he had a younger brother who actually was in the wa...,was in the service with the Canadian Airforce in, and my father always uh had a little problem with himself about that, and so this CCC business...
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Anyway he went to Fort Davis to this camp. He wrote to me and I was in the San Antonio Y camp doing my little job at age thirteen or whatever it was, and he said, "Well after you get out of camp how would you like to come over to Fort Davis?
  • John Pfitsch
    John: This just a beautiful place, and you should come out here. This is a great country. You would really like these people. And they're really interesting people. They're cowboys, and I know how you have...would like cowboys." Well I said, "I think that'd be great."
  • John Pfitsch
    John: So it was arranged for me to go to Fort Davis to spend the month of August, after Y camp was over. I was to go there before school started and dad was not going to get out of the thing. He had started in June and he wasn't gonna get out until Oct, Nov, De, for Christmas.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I think it was before Christmas. He would be home and that would be the end of his tour. Well, the little tour never ended, and I never... I went to Fort Davis and I never left Fort Davis except to go back to the Y camp in the summer time.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And my dad never got out of the CCC. He stayed in it for nine years. That thing was organized. He became a staunch, great believer in it, and he and he spent most of his time, it seemed to me like, arranging to get those kids that were in the CCC, those men, into colleges.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: That seemed to be his principal job. He didn't have to do much medicine. He did whatever medicine there was, but it was low keyed medicine as far as I could see. He would agree with that. He went from there to the United States Army.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Just switched over. Became a...and he ran a prisoner of war camp. Which we had, by that time, captured German prisoners of war over in Africa. That was... He was in the CCC '33. So nine years later this was '42. War started and we were in the war in '43 or 4.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: He was just around Fort Bliss, no, Fort Sam Houston in the medical corps. for a couple of years in San Antonio, and then he got this assignment and he wanted it 'cause he could speak German. And this prisoner of war thing was in Paris, Texas.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Is that right? Not sure it was Paris. Well anyway, it was East Texas and over there. I think that may be wrong. I may be mixed up. Uh so he stayed in, and, but I just went wherever he went in the CCC, and also my mother join ...
  • John Pfitsch
    John: my sister joined us after the Christmas when we were supposed to come to San Antonio, and then it turned out that they all came to Fort Davis. And my sister went to school in Fort Davis, as did I, of course. And I was there two years and then to Pflugerville.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: You probably have heard of Pflugerville in connection with me because I have made a big deal out of that German name. That's where I graduated from high school. I skipped a couple of years in school because of these things, and that was another good thing or a bad thing depending upon how you look at it.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Anyhow at Fort Davis, I had a fantastic experience for a young kid. I lived in the CCC camp for the first six months with all the boys. They were all twenty years old? college aged kids, and older. Twenty to Thirty years old. It was really an interesting experience.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: They were wonderf ul to me. I was thirteen or fourteen then fifteen and so on. I had a great time living with my father, which I hadn't ever done, in a tent that wasn't as big as this room. Ya know out there and it was a spectacular country and I didn't have any responsibilities.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: They had all the responsibilities. I just learned about the country, and the people like he said were great. 'At's... I won't try and tell you all the stories 'cause I had hundreds of stories in Fort Davis alone in two years time.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: That I was able to do things that most people had never heard of. Learning how to be a cowboy was one of them, but that was true. In the spring and in the fall, I would work on a on a ranch because the people were rather poor ranchers.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And they used, they exploited children, that's really what it amounted to for labor. They taught them how to be cowboys, and how to work the cattle and how to do everything. That's how I learned how to ride a horse, learned how to rope, how to do everything, to take care of a horse,
  • John Pfitsch
    John: to do everything on a round up that men were supposed to do, from castrating calves, to dehorning calves, to branding calves, to flanking calves, to doing anything with calves in terms of ...and also with controlling the herds and rounding them up, riding in round ups, doctoring calves with fly disease and stuff.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: When the flies would blow on their wounds. When they were uh cut up and uh ahh for a month or so we would ride the pasture to have to rope them in open pastures. And we had kids that were thirteen and fourteen and fifteen years old that did most of ...all of that work.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And that was great and tough responsibility, but I don't know. I was sent out in to the North pasture to check on two calves that uh that Mr. Smith had seen. If they had got blown by, they called it blowing. I don't know why, but whatever.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: The flies would would would eat, eat on the on the uh wound and uh they would (cough) transmit, lay eggs or something and it causes worms, some kind of worms. We had this black leg medicine. We had to rope the calf and pour this damn medicine right into the wound.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And if we did it enough and didn't let it get too far along, why we'd save the calf. Otherwise it would kill the calf in time. Those calves were money you know. And they wanted them alive. And you had to rope the calf, and ropin' a calf in open uh thing.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: If I told these college kids today, and told them what they did they wouldn't believe me. I don't think a kid could, would do that. Ya know it takes time to train. I had a... It was... It was... I can't think of anything that could have been more meaningf ul to me. We had a great time.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: People were... It was mostly city kids that went out there and these folks would teach you how to do it. The way they taught, another educational experience, which really had a lot to do with how I like to coach.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Well, I played football, and basketball, and baseball at Fort Davis in a high school that had fifteen boys, and we had an eleven man football team. And I came out of Fort Davis, I mean out of San Antonio where I had played junior high school football.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: But we had a wonderful big program in which they had A, B, and C teams. And they had little kids. I could play on the C team. And that's why I got to play when I was a little kid. I wouldn't have done it like they do it now. I'd a never played anything.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I was so little. I was really little. I weighed only ninety pounds when I graduated from high school. So, I was playing high school football at eighty-five pounds, when I was at Fort Davis, on a championship team.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: The other guys were bi... (laughter) were big. I just happened to walk in at that particular time, and they just needed people. They just needed anybody, that was a male. So anyhow you can get uh... Are we getting to the end of the...?
  • Joanna Hooper & John Pfitsch
    Joanna: I just wanted to make sure that...John: OK. Well anyhow, that, you can, I had this uh marvelous uh...also the school was a pretty good school, and...as far as I could tell.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And um in fact there were several things that were good about it, that were better than what I thought San Antonio had. Including a Spanish teacher, who I fell in love with, I think. Who l...and I learned quite a bit of Spanish, if nothin' else at tha...those two years.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Did, did... I think we had pretty good...otherwise. But, so Fort Davis was a big deal, and I kept up my San Antonio Y camp business. And then...and then went...and then my fa...and then the camp finished it's job out there, building roads in the mountains and stuff.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And they were moved to Three Rivers, Texas and were given another assignment. And my father didn't like it because of uh the education possibilities for my sister and I. So he transferred and was transferred ... Come in Ca...lan. We ought to turn that thing off for a minute and see what this kid needs.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: (Ian, student who just walked in says Um, I was gonn... (Tape recorder temporarily shut off))
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Well, anyhow we were um, uh uh... We moved ... My dad arranged a transfer to another place called Pflugerville. Where there was a ca... a soil conservation camp. And uh, which was just out of Austin.
  • Joanna Hooper & John Pfitsch
    Joanna: When did you... When did you transfer there?John: That was 1935. And I was...by that time I was, amazingly enough, a senior in high school. That's really because I made up... I had two uh two uh skips of a half a year.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: One full year and they only had eleven years of education in Texas instead of twelve. I was very young but uh... And Pflugerville was this German community that's named with P-F-L-U-G-E-R- ...people named Pfluger who were interesting people in themselves.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Had immigrated from Germany some years before, and were cotton farmers and had this rather amazing community that's about fifteen miles from Austin. Well, I really didn't do anything in Pflugerville except to transfer to school and play football, and basketball, and baseball, and all the other stuff, and learn some German.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And then I went to Texas Lutheran College which was in Siguean, Texas. Which was uh... I went there partly because of my father...the religious con...connection with my father, but mostly from my point of view because it was a very small school, and I thou... I was so little that I'd never play college ball and I was intent that I was gonna play. Whether I should or not...
  • Joanna Hooper
    Joanna: [pause for tape change]
  • John Pfitsch & Joanna Hooper
    John: Are we ready?Joanna: Sure.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: The college was only, had only about two hundred and fifty students. But they had...as Texas they all had athletics. So we played...I played football and basketball and tennis, and some track. I ran track.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Only because I was pretty fast, and they didn't have enough people and they let me do both. I played tenn... I really liked tennis and I had done a lot of tennis in high school, and had become a pretty good tennis player.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And so those 2 years there, and pretty good, great, another great experience at least from my point of view. I had fun, like it. Small enough. I was only 16 years old when I went there and I was just, the time that most people go to College now, 18 when I graduated in '38.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I think it was a good place for me to go instead of maybe the University of Texas which is the other thing that would have happened to me, which is a pretty good school. And I did transfer then to Univeristy of Texas, which was- and I stayed home.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: In Pflugerville and commuted. Which was, from my point of view, as far as all the other experiences I'd had, was one of the dullest to speak of the educational experience. I made a lot out of it. I did a lot of interesting things at University. What I was going to say was in the meantime, I majored in Zoology at College and I was intending to go to medical school.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Cause I thought my father wanted me to go to medical school. Now, I wasn't at all sure I wanted to go to medical school, but since I- what I really thought I would like to do, I thought would probably displease everybody in my family. I procrastinated letting anybody know what I wanted to do.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I suppose I didn't hide it well, I'm sure they probably knew, but can't remember ever talking about it (cough). And as you know, I don't have any problem talking, even at home. So, anyway, I was going to tie it to what I said about my camp work.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I got through to my senior year at Texas in which, like many people I know around here do, that's why I can understand when I hear a kid say "I don't know about my major" I say, I don't know what year it is sophmore year, the junior year and so-on and we have all these different stories...
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And they're always interesting though. My story was that I had a major in Zoology completed by the time I was through my Junior year. I'd liked it, did well, had good grades. On my major subject I would have had no trouble getting into Medical school.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: But on one of the biggest subjects that I should have know about in medical school was chemistry. And I hated it. And I didn't have- I had nothing but C average in chemistry and I didn't give a damm, that was the way I felt about it.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And that was true with several other subjects which had to do-which would have been evaluated had I gone to medical school. I think from what I knew about it, I probably could have gotten in, but I didn't think it was very smart to go in if I didn't have much commitment to medicine and I did.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And so I finally went in and told my father that I just decided that I didn't want to be a doctor and decided I had some of these problems and couldn't make myself want to be that. I really had a great desire to be a coach and a teacher.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Well, as great as father's can be, anyway, he thought that that was wonderful. He was wonderful. I felt great, I got the monkey off my back so to speak about grades and he in fact advised me as to what to do.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I said "Well, I don't know what to do", cause i've really got a year, and I had done a lot of language stuff and had gotten extra credit for all the extra hours I had done. I graduated at the mid semester at Texas, fullfilling the requirements. So he said why don't you go there and find out what requirements you need for physical education. You really don't know, do you.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: About your formal education, I hadn't had any physical education. So he said why don't you go try to find out and spend the whole semester doing physical education. Pick stuff, maybe you can pick it up and see what you can do and get somebody to advise you.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And start from there. It wouldn't make any difference. If you want to go to medical school after that or something we can do it. He knew all about that, so he was fine. I'd basically- I went over there and I tried to get advice and I had a hard time.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: It was a big school and I didn't know anybody. I didn't know anybody in terms of the physical education people and I was a little intimidated because here I was, what I wanted to do really is see if I could get a certain amount of certification for physical education...
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Without taking too many courses or without taking courses I didn't have the pre-requisites for. So I did something you probably know very well. Well, I found- I didn't think I could do it by talking to anybody and getting them to agree to that.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: What I thought I could do was just take the courses if I could get it because it was such a big place and nobody knew if they all got in, or I thought they would. And I would go take a course and see how I like it.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: At least I would know whether I thought it was good or interesting or whether I could do well in in and all that. So I ended up in the second semester. And I didn't tell you exactly what courses I took, I took 4 courses, one of which was just straight teacher training.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Well it turned out that I had no pre-requisites for everything I was supposed to have. But it was a pretty big class and turns out the guy who was teaching it was the head of the department, the graduate department. A guy by the name of Dr. Brace and he was a very big shot in the United States. He wrote books on measurements. He was a big guy. I didn't know him at that- I didn't know that but he war really, supposed to be a really-
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And he was the teacher of the teacher training. He was very proud of the teacher training. Well it was almost all women in the class, couple of boys including me. The top teacher training. And it gave me a class of black kids in the 6th grade in junior high school in Austin Texas. And gave me a unit of track and field.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Ah it wasn't so amazing. It was amazing with all the racial business in those days the way it was. I didn't even think about it but later I thought "What the h- why was it that I got this class?" I was a really tough class. I thought. But I had never had any experience.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Except my camp experience. I did a great job. I really taught that class. And I didn't know Shit from Shinola how to teach a class as far as their formal methodology. And the reason I say that is that at the end of the class I knew I did alright, I knew I got it under control.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I knew I had a rough time. I had 75-something kids and they were very active kids and so-on and they had very bad facilities as you can imagine. A black school, it was a segregated school and it wasn't anything, it was just tough. Tough in everyway.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: But I was, I did very well I would say, considering everything. At least, Dr. Brace came to watch me and evaluate me 2 or 3 times and he was always very complimentary. And I got an A at the middle of the semester and I was doing- and I knew I was doing well as far as he was concerned, I thought so, and about 2 weeks before the end of the semester, he came and called me in.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And asked me if I would mind if he brought the entire class to observe one of my classes because he said I have never seen a better taught class by a student, college student and just want 'em to see it. It was a flattering thing.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I was flattered. I said "Certainly, you can bring whoever you want" And I was scared shitless. But then he did. And I got by- and then they had to finish the class we had, he had a review of all this stuff and he was very complimentary and called me in and said "Now, what are you going to do with yourself next year?"
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Well I had gone all through this thing and I had taken about 4 classes, none of which I should have taken. Everyone of which they could have thrown me out of cause I had no pre-requisites. I managed a straight A in everyone of them and I though they were really great and I knew this was where I ought to be.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: That's the way I felt, you know. Hell, this is it. I was there. I didn't care if they threw me out of not, because I had, he told me, well as it turned out, he said "Mr. Pfitsch", he was very formal "Mr Pfitsch, I can't understand why it is that I have never known you?"
  • John Pfitsch
    John: "You are the best male student I have seen at Texas University and I've been here 20 years" he said. And I said "Well, I can help you. I'll tell you." And I told the story that I've just told. I told him, honest. He got furious. Just furious.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: He just reached over and grabbed the telephone on his desk and called up the dean of the education school and asked the dean right in front of me to come over there right away, that he had a very serious problem that they were going to solve.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Then he reached and go the registrar of the college, university, and asked him the same thing. Within 10 minutes they had 3-2 guys and 3 of them in there. And he was just reading the riot act of me and telling them the story about and asking that I get no grades for what I did.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Cause I had, all the grades were already there. Well I was lucky, in that sense, because the registrar said "You can't do that". And then, it ended up with the Dean and the registrar reading him out. Said it was his responsibility and stuff. Well he'd said it was my responsibility that I shouldn't have done itm because I admitted it, I knew I was the illegal.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And I didn't care. I mean I did care, but I didn't care. And I recognised, and I told him, I thought that if I asked, then you know, I would have gotten in. And I thought all along that I could do it.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And I did it. I had the evidence. And I'd never had anything like that. I was just proud as hell and sort-of humbled and all kinds of mixed up mess you know. Well I got all the credit. And the only thing hat he got, the last thing he said to me was "I don't want to see you here next year" (laughs)
  • John Pfitsch
    John: He didn't let me go to graduate school at Texas. And I didn't even tell him I didn't care, because I wanted to go to Kansas because Dr Allen was at Kansas and that's the next big story I can tell you, I went to Kansas University.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: As a graduate student and got my masters degree in physical education, with only taking 6 hours of undergraduate work and had the most fabulous graduate education anybody could have. I was, before I got through, I was the assistant basketball coach at the University of Kansas, under, what at that time was considered Bobby Knight of the modern day life.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Great guy, great place, great thing. And two of the most wonderful years I ever spent in my life. It's where I met my wife among other things, which had to be one of the more wonderful things about it. And coached a basketball with freshman and then the varsity and in between, well I was there 2 years.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: That was 1940, I graduated Texas in '40 and I went to KU for the fall of '40 and i was there till '42 and in April of '42 I was drafted in the United States' army. I got, I had gotten my masters degree in January of '42 and so I was just barely clear of that and got it done before I had to go in the service.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I went into the service and spend 3 and a half years in the army, during which time we went to Europe and cleaned up the mess, right (laughs). And which I was, I had one of those great experiences there, also. And so that when I got through, by 1946, '45 I came home from Europe.
  • John Pfitsch & Joanna Hooper
    John: And I was 26 years old.Joanna: How did the-John: Not married, nothing. Just 26 years old and had 3 and a half years of army, I had my masters degree and I came back and was assistant basketball coach at KU the first year back.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Which was only about half a year, it was kinda cause I was a war hero. They treated all of us like god, like we were gods and so I happen to come back and Dr. Allen was always wonderful to me. He treated me like I was his best son, always.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Anyway, but, and then when I went to war he thought that I'd won the war single-handedly, or he acted like I did, you know, and it was just, he was just- I couldn't say anything too good about Dr. Allen. And Kansas and so-on.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And so I had- then I got married, I had met Emily before and then, didn't go with her, just knew her and her brother, and she was just starting out in college actually, I knew her brother better and so I didn't really start going with her until I came back and when I was coaching, I had that year.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And then we got married August of '46. And then I had a job at the University, at Midland College in Fremont Nebraska as a head coach of all sports. I was the only person in the department. Coached all sports, athletic director, chairman of the phys ed department, had to teach a major, taught by schools. I was teaching 40 academic hours.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Some courses I had never taken myself period. And that was another experience, but, and I coached football, basketball, boxing and track in my first year. And the next I took the same thing, and golf and tennis.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And I was almost nuts after. I couldn't have made it couple years. I never had [indistinguishable] and did so little and learned so much. And then I applied at Grinnell College and got the basketball job at Grinnell College in 1948.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: We had a son, our oldest son was born in '48, April, and we were in Grinnell in September and I was the basketball coach and the tennis coach. And assistant football coach. And I've been here ever since. And we could end the story right here. Or do you want me to tell about Grinnell?
  • Joanna Hooper & John Pfitsch
    Joanna: Yeah.John: Or how much time do we have? Till 4:30 you said?Joanna: Sure. We can continue on if you want.John: Well, okay, we came- I don't know if I skipped over something or probably talked too much about previous things I think.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: We, coming to Grinnell was real interesting partly because I had never heard of Grinnell College. And I, all I knew about it was that someone had told me that in Iowa they paid a lot better than they did in Nebraska. And I was getting something like, let's see, my first year at-
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Midland I was getting something like 25000 dollars, it was less that I got in the army, by a long shot. It was 200 dollars a month. We couldn't live on it really, well we did, I had 3000 dollars that I'd saved in the army. We lived on that and when we came to Grinnell we had 500 dollars left of 3000.
  • John Pfitsch & Joanna Hooper
    John: And I spent that, I bought a house when we first came here. And I paid 500 dollars down, because we had to pay, I had to borrow 500 dollars.Joanna: Where did you live? In the house?John: To get the house?Joanna: Yeah. Where is that house these days?
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Spencer Street and 9th Avenue. Over here on the West Side. I bought the house, it was 11500 dollars, it was a pre-fab, college owned pre-fab and everybody said they wouldn't last 5 years. They're still there and they're selling them now for about 75000 dollars.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Anyway, we moved into that little house, and I was so pleased with it, because we had lived in a quanset hut at Fremont, it wasn't much, well it wasn't [indistinguishable] but this was really big to me. We had- and we went from there to a 3 bedroom house and then we built the house...
  • John Pfitsch
    John: We live in now. And that was over a period of 7 years, something like that. And, well your father was here, probably. We lived in one of those 1st houses. And we had our daughter, was born in 1951 and our younger son was born in 1955 I think it was.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And that was just before we moved into the house that we now live in which we actually built, or we had it built. We did a lot of work on it to try and save money. And we have lived within one black- all 3 of those houses have been within one block in the town. And raised 3 children here.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And so-on, I don't know how to sum up the Grinnell experience because it was marvellous, in every way, it almost seems like everything I've done was marvellous, but marvellous, in the sense that this, I felt a lot more that I was doing this myself rather than being a kid, being thrown out there and being lucky by being where my father was.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And so-on. And here, the college was so much better than any college I've seen. And the class of people, I could tell from the football team, the first team. And people say well the football team isn't very great, but in terms of class of people I thought they were tremendous. Some a year ago had to drop out because they were in the army.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: They were army veterans and they were all about my age. They were actually, I might have been a little older, like a year or two older than what were seniors in Grinnell and they had a harder, rougher time, lost out a year of something or more so.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Those guys, and I think that we had a staff of 6 people and I'd never been on a staff with 6 people but we were. And the program we had was very interesting and of course athletic business was very difficult in the sense that we, the recruiting and we never have kids that are good and so on.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: and so forth. But that all fit with my temperament pretty well and fit my being little and always fighting the tough battle supposedly because I was too small to play and nobody wanted me to play. And Grinnell was just like that, and to me, in general as an athletics. I had no trouble with that at all.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And in fact I had, I was very pleased with the philosophy of Grinnell. I thought that was what it should be. I never, and that aspect had bothered me if I had gone any place else. I think I would probably have gotten out of this business.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: For the way athletics developed in the United States. I think I would have done okay coaching wise so to speaker, but I think I'd have always been upset about the recruiting business and I don't think I- I would have probably changed it myself and I would have gotten out of it. Because there's a lot of things that I could do and found out I could have made a lot of money if I had just been a salesman.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I don't think I ever wanted to be a salesman in fact, but then some said "hell that's all you've every wanted to be". That's right. That's all I've ever done is sell. So Grinnell fit me very well, but I take myself too seriously, like I've told many people, many kids, and say well if there's one thing you don't want to do is take yourself too seriously.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: As if you could actually control that. I now believe that's a stupid thing to say, because nobody can, I doubt that anybody can control that, I don't think I could. And I mean even when I try now, after I've told other people, that I can't even control it from my own point of view.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I just take myself seriously about certain things. I'm one of thse terrible people who, I'm a big joker and have a lot of fun and enjoy life. I'm either always doing that or always taking myself seriously. It's one or the other one.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And coaching at Grinnell I could do. And I could do it without too much problem, I mean, really serious problem. If I had had really serious problem I don't know what I'd have done I'm afraid. I mean that is it. I thought I would be fired because I didn't do what people thought I should do.
  • John Pfitsch & Joanna Hooper
    John: That didn't happen. [someone comes in: Hey coach!] Hey MG. I got your note, but don't talk cause we're on the air.Joanna: [laughs] pauses tape]
  • John Pfitsch & Joanna Hooper
    John: Well I don't remember where we were.Joanna: You were talking about coaching here at Grinnell.John: Oh well, it's just philosophically I think that's a big thing and that was good for me.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And it doesn't matter so much for the kids cause I think we have a lot of coaches that came and went and the students seem to handle them all pretty well. Just we're talking about my life, I thought, I have thought, well I have coached, for me speaking about my background and everything. I have coached at Grinnell, I don't have the accurate facts, but...
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I coached, I'm still coaching, that's 45 years. I think it's 45 years that I've coached. In the first years that I was here, I coached 3 sports. I came here as a basketball, tennis and I was assistant football coach. I did that at least until the Vietnam War.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Which is '71. So from '48 to '71, through 23 years, I coached 3 teams. Part of that time, when I coached football, I coached the freshmand team and also was coaching as an assistant to the football coach on the varsity team at the same time.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I'm not trying to figure out some kind of record of how many teams I've coached, because I was athletic director also, from the 1953, '52 on, till I retired, which was '87. If you consider that that was supposed to be some kind of responsibility besides coaching, I was a very busy person to put it that way.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: I'm not crying about that because my athletic directing at Grinnell I treated it as a good job, as what needed to be done. Probably didn't- I didn't think of it as something that I was trying to make the most important thing in my life.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Whereas I thought the coaching was. And so teaching the kids was what I cared about and I thought I could do the athletic director on the back on my hand. And essentially I did it on the back of my hand. And I'm not apologising or whatever, that was the way, because I think because of the philosophy of the college and so-on I could do it that way.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: That was satisfactory to them, and they were very wonderful to me. I became a full professor here, was assistant professor when I came, The rank of assistant professor in 1948. By 1962 I was a full professor. Not that was not just because I was so fabulous, because it was the time again.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: After the war, there were jobs that were opened all of a sudden and we were, I was right in the right spot like anybody else in that thing in terms of that, so. But, on the other hand I always thought Grinnell really liked me.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And I like Grinnell, because see that was a great marriage and I went 14 years, I was top of the scale in terms of college as a professor and I never thought of myself as being a professor either you know. I liked it, I was proud of it but embarrassed by it if someone made a point about it.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: In terms, of full professor, oh boy well I'm a really great professor. I never thought of being a professor in that sense. I've always had great respect for the professors and I was pleased to be doing what I did and I was able to do a lot of stuff through the years and I learned.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And as I said, I don't know how to say it any better than to say I learned from the students and the faculty, but mostly from the students because I didn't have the time with the faculty like I did with the students. Which I had almost total time with.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: For the time that I gave with the college was always with students. And always, well I had my problems with kids that I didn't particularly like but there were not too many I would say that I didn't like that gave me hell or that gave me a bad time.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Or I had difficulty dealing with what I was trying to do and what they were trying to do and all that which is what the hell it's all about. And so that from the point of view of my own enlightened, my education, which I was supposedly not worried about, I would say I have been educated, steadily up to the present day.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Which includes a trip to Greece. Ain't the kind of thing when you talk about education. A 2 week trip to Greece with Gerry Laland, who is a professor of classics and I took, I audited his course in Greek archeology and art this whole semester with my wife.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: There aren't many places where people can do things like that if you're interested in stuff. I haven't done that much. My wife has gotten a complete education outside of Kansas University at Grinnell College. She did all of her practice teaching stuff here before she decided she wanted to teach.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And got a Spanish major here of legitimate credit but she did it because she could do it as a faculty wife for free. Free education. My kids didn't go to school here. Because like most kids they wanted to go away, but we had good arrangements for other colleges that were good schools.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Jack went to Knox, Connie went to Lawrence and Bill went to Oberlin. They all- Jack has PhD in philosophy and Bill has a PhD in ecology, he's one of your botanists, friends of yours or biologist or whatever. And so-on, he's teaching at a liberal arts college like this. Hamilton College in New York.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Jack is a philosophy professor, couldn't get a college job at the time, it was just the opposite to when I used to swim in jobs. He went into high school work and he's been teaching high school mathematics mostly but he also teaches philosophy.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And he's a fantastic person, and if you don't believe that you can just come in here and see all the people he sends to Grinnell College from some god awful rural school up in the Wisconsin. I mean, when I say god-awful I mean little or whatever, but they're pretty good. But he is amazing, because he's taken up, I'd say our family is, we're all teachers, my dad was a doctor but he was also a teacher-
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And all of my kids, they're all teaching also in one form or another. Jack is maybe, you could feel a bit more sorry for him because he seems to be overtrained with his degree, his PhD. But I don't think it's ever bothered him a bit. Well he's the father of this crazy kid that's running on our track team now and going crazy running: Holly Pfitsch. She's the only Pfitsch that go to go to Grinnell College.
  • John Pfitsch & Joanna Hooper
    John: I feel so strongly about Grinnell College, what I just said about Holly being here really just makes me feel wonderful because one kid legitimately went here. I couldn't say that, because my wife legitimately went here but she's not a Pfitsch either [laughs]Joanna: Yeah. [laughs]
  • John Pfitsch
    John: So, that's the way that is and so you know, I feel that what we, that I have had the opportunity to do, there are so wonderful and maybe they wouldn't look good to many other people, I don't know, I don't know why it wouldn't.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Of the hundreds and hundreds of boys, particularly boys, but few girls, that I have had a chance to have some influence on in their lives, to say well whether it would be teaching them tennis or in the process of teaching them tennis or soccer, football, basketball or track, I've taught almost all of them, not because I knew a lot of them, but because I filled in for one reason or another.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And my philosophy is that that wasn't what I thought was important, it was the other aspect. And well, you have a father who was one of my favourite kids, so you probably have a better understnading of how one might feel about that.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: If I had 100 kids like Phil Hooper, which I have, or more, then I would say that that is as great a gift as one could have. I don't have many that one would one. I have 3 wonderful kids of my own. But I have 1000 of everybody elses who in many, many of those people had I think I had a closer relationship with that I did with my own kids.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Including your father. That just happens to come about by virtue of the personalities match and by doing whatever you're doing. So that's what I have done, I don't know, we could talk about all these games and the process but you see all I was doing was going to a game on Saturday so to speak.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: But I took that very seriously, going to the game. So it's not just like, well I went to see a ballgame. I'm sitting around fighting my heart out all the time. For every ball game. That I think is even more important than if you're just having a recreational, fun time.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: You know, going to a ball game or whatever it is. So, I think that that's a fair summation. One other thing I might say, if it's going to go into the library is the city of grinnell, particularly, I think the city of Grinnell has also been a very important thing for us.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Our family, yeah I mean, apart from the college. Although it's hard for me to seperate it from, because the college is a big part of the city, Grinnell and most of my life has been here and still is, except I have had a chance to contribute to the college. One thing I like best is that I have an aerobics class that I have in the swimming pool everyday...
  • John Pfitsch
    John: 5 days a week. It's now 10 years old, we have been going. Including all summer long. And have had hundreds and hundreds of people in it, and hundreds and hundred of adult people. Most of them were referred to the class because they were sick. By doctors.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And it's really not much of a class in the sense that I don't do anything and I have a tape that they play and go by, it's an aerobics class, it's not even music, it's strange. But it's worked out so that these people like it and they come and go and I don't do anything, I just go and act like the minister of a church or something .
  • John Pfitsch
    John: Just greet them when they come and give them a bad time when they're there and kick 'em out when they leave, but, I recognise it's really meaningful to them and that makes it meaningful to me. And there's several other things that I could say about Grinnell Iowa.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: It's home to the kids and it's still a great little town for that. I belonged to the [indistinguishable] club and I still belong to the Gentleman's officers and stuff, so and belonged to a church, and 2 or 3 of them I guess in Grinnell, I'm not doing to well on churches. I normally go to the College Church mostly, but...
  • John Pfitsch
    John: So that's been- Iowa is our home and it's been great. I recognise it, Iowa is a great state, also in terms of, we're fortunate and in that regard also. In fact, I don't think we, the Pfitsch family is very fortunate to have stumbled into Grinnell College in 1948.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: And I really do appreciate that and I try to do a lot of things for the college. Other than the fact that I work here and so I- and that's fun because of- usually I have so many contacts, with lots of people and it's relatively easy for me to do it, you know.
  • John Pfitsch
    John: The latest one was to get Dr. Aries from Costa Rica to come here and give a Rosenfiled lectureship. But things like that. Or to to get you father to give a lecture on enchronology, I don't know, except that was through the chemistry professor...
  • John Pfitsch & Joanna Hooper
    John: My good friend Luther Erickson, isn't that good enough for my autobiography?Joanna: That's great, yeah.
  • John Pfitsch & Joanna Hooper
    John: Or, what should we do? Cancel it out?Joanna: [laughs]John: You can end it.Joanna: Okay.
John Pfitsch was born in Miraj, India, and raised in San Antonio, Fort Davis, and Pflugerville, Texas. During his youth he lived for nine years in the Civilian Conservation Corps camp at Fort Davis where his father, Alfred Pfitsch, Jr., was a medical doctor. During the summers from age 8 to 21, John attended a YMCA Boys Camp in Kerrville, Texas, where he progressed from camper to assistant director of the camp.