I was a second child, an unplanned surprise child ten years younger than my older brother. Our family was 'comfortable'. My mother, Cathryn Joseph Jenkins, was the only child of older parents. She had a sheltered childhood in which au pairs, governesses, and servants looked after her. She was schooled at home, until high school. After she graduated from a local all girls' high school, she went to an exclusive women's college in Switzerland. Mother was a very beautiful woman. She was also very delicate and emotionally sensitive. Roselawns, our large home on several acres on Long Island, had been in the Joseph family since before the Civil War.
In many ways, my early years were much like my mother's. Two German wet nurses cared for me as an infant. They spoke only German around me. A young French au pair primarily cared for me until I was seven. She spoke only French to me. My primary schooling was provided at home by a young French teacher until I went to Phillips Academy at Andover. Mother wanted us to be fluent in French and understand German.
The other dominant person during my childhood was my maternal grandmother. She was the sole heir to the Saco-Lowell Corporation, a company which manufactured textile machines and knitted garments. Most of Saco-Lowell profits came from manufacturing stockings and socks. Saco-Lowell also had extensive commercial real estate holdings in New York City, especially in the garment district. My maternal grandfather inherited large blocks of stock in du Pont and GM; he was the sole shareholder of St. Joe Paper. When he was young he swapped his stock in Florida East Coast Railway to his brother to gain sole ownership of St. Joe Paper. St. Joe Paper owned hundreds of thousands of acres of timber and pulp forests in the Southeast and Northwest. Grandfather enjoyed the woodlands and forests. He died before I was born.
My paternal grandfather and father graduated from Yale and Columbia Law School. My father worked in the family law firm, Jenkins & Jenkins, in New York City. Grandfather and father were the only partners in the Wall Street firm which specialized in securities and banking law. Grandfather kept the firm small, very exclusive and very profitable. Grandfather led a staff of specialized technical securities and banking attorneys. Father was second in the firm's management hierarchy, but he primarily ran the family's small investment bank in New York City. The family had acquired the bank during the depression. Will, my older brother, worked in the bank during his summer vacations from prep school and Yale.
My father and mother met when he escorted a family friend to a debutante 'coming out' event, where mother was also being 'presented' to society. Father was captivated by my mother's beauty and innocence. For him, it was love at first sight. His mother arranged for him to be invited to call upon Cathryn, and a romance blossomed. The mothers saw Howard and Cathryn as a good match and they encouraged the romance.
Father was the only man Mother ever dated. After a formal and proper courtship, they were married. When they returned from an extended honeymoon trip in Europe, Mother was pregnant with my older brother, William. When told of the pregnancy, mother's family gave Roselawns to Mother and moved to Wakulla Springs, Florida. My grandfather was in poor health when they moved. He died nine years later.
Mother's father's death and her difficult pregnancy and delivery with me sapped Mother's physical and emotional health. She withdrew from New York society and retreated to Roselawns or to the family's compound on Martha's Vineyard. Mother kept me close to her. Mother and I visited her mother in Wakulla Springs every winter, until I started upper boarding school. Grandmother loved to visit St. Joe Paper's woodlands. Mother, my tutor/governess, and I accompanied Grandmother and a servant on train trips around the woodlands in the family's private car. Grandmother and I enjoyed the trips and she told me about the woodlands, which she had grown to love from my grandfather. When she died, she left me the entire stock of St. Joe Paper and she left Wakulla Springs to the State of Florida as a memorial to my grandfather. Mother and I had lifetime use of the lodge and admission to the Springs. When we were not using the lodge, the state rented it to guests.
As a youngster, I spent my summers with my mother and grandmother on Martha's Vineyard. The Joseph family compound on Martha's Vineyard included three houses a boathouse. Grandmother stayed in the smallest house when she visited. My father joined us most weekends. After Grandmother died, I was my mother's main summer companion and she preferred my company to others on the island.
During my brother's prep school and college breaks, Will stayed in the City with my grandfather and father. Most weekends, he stayed at the Joseph's beach house in the Hamptons, where he partied with friends. Will rarely came to Joseph family compound on Martha's Vineyard.
I looked like my mother and was reserved like she was. Will was more like my father's side of the family in appearance and temperament. The family expected Will to carry on the family tradition in securities law and banking, but they had no such expectations of me. Grandmother Joseph hoped I would be active in conservation, forestry, and St. Joe Paper like Grandfather Joseph had been.
When I was twelve, Grandmother Joseph died and Mother became even more possessive of me. She discouraged me from having summer romances and replaced the attractive young governess and young women on the housekeeping staff, women who Will had frequently romanced, with older unattractive staff. The changing of staff encouraged Will to avoid the Vineyard and to stay in the City during the summer. After Will graduated from Yale, he went to Wharton and Penn Law School. He rarely came home while he was in school in Philadelphia.
Mother was an artist or, at least, a patron of the arts. About the only time she left the family compound in the summer was when she and I attended the small galley openings and concerts on the Vineyard. She usually slept late, and after waking, she painted. I played golf most mornings, and then ate a late lunch with Mother. In the afternoon, we generally read, painted, and listened to music. On the rare occasions when Will visited, we sailed. On the weekends I sometimes shot skeet with my grandfather or golfed with my father.
I didn't have a girlfriend or close male friends, and didn't date. When I wasn't in boarding school, I stayed with Mother. I related better to older adults that with my age group.
When Grandfather Joseph had died, Father convinced Grandmother to liquidate the garment machine manufacturing part of Saco-Lowell. Father invested the proceeds primarily in commercial real estate outside the garment district in New York City. Will worked with Father as they diversified the family's real estate holdings and built a strong trust department of the bank. Will gained valuable experience in commercial real estate and investment instruments working with Father on those activities.
When my maternal grandmother died, her family trust passed a fifty-one percent interest in the remaining Saco-Lowell to me and forty-nine percent to Will. I inherited the cash and securities that she held in her family's off shore trust accounts, as well as my Grandfather's St. Joe Paper, GM, and du Pont stocks.
While our family bought and sold securities, we almost never sold real estate. Most of our property and stocks were in trusts. My trusts owned a great deal of commercial real estate in New York City which Will managed.
I attended Phillips Academy at Andover as had Will and then attended Yale, like the Jenkins men had since my great grandfather. But I wasn't like Will, who was not only a lady's man, but was also a very popular and good student. While at Penn and Wharton, Will became part of a small group that pioneered the aggressive use of junk bonds in Merger & Acquisition activities. Will was intelligent, confident, and hardworking. Though he didn't practice law, he was a member of the New York and Pennsylvania Bars.
While Will was at Wharton, he started an investment bank, The W & R Bank of Philadelphia. Will and I sold the profitable hosiery business, which we had inherited from Grandmother, to Burlington Industries. Will used the proceeds to start the W & R Bank. W & R put into practice aggressive use of bonds and new debt instruments in M & A and arbitrage activities. My willingness to invest in Will's bank brought my brother and me much closer together than we had ever been before and erased most of his hard feelings over grandmother's preferential treatment of me in her bequests. W & R was very aggressive and a ruthless raider. From the first, the W & R was very profitable.
Grandmother's trusts provided more money that I needed. I wasn't concerned much about W & R or Jenkins & Jenkins, which I left as Will's domain. W & R was so profitable that Will lost the resentment against me that Grandmother had left me most of her assets. Will's world was finance, banking, and commercial property. He wasn't interested in the woodlands and paper mills of St. Joe Paper.
During my first semester at Yale, my class performance was poor. I received a gentleman's C in all of my subjects. I didn't like Yale much. Part of the problem was I wasn't interested in anything, and the school just didn't feel right to me. Strangely, it was a physical education class at Yale that had the greatest future impact on me of my Yale classes. The class got me into jogging and lifting weights. After a semester in the class, I lost weight and was in better condition than anytime before. Jogging became a meditation like activity that I enjoyed very much.
I was a triple legacy at the Yale chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon, where Will had been very active and had been elected chapter president. I didn't want to disappoint my grandfather, father or brother, so I pledged. During my second semester, I tried to fit in at the fraternity and spent a great deal of time in pledge activities. As a result, I fell even further behind in my studies. My second semester midterm reports were very bad. In addition to problems in class, I wasn't able to keep pace with the social life of the other pledges. I made it through pledging but I didn't develop a close relationship with the other pledges.
Soon after my early spring initiation into the fraternity, Father had an unexpected fatal heart attack. Mother had to be hospitalized because of emotional stress and I withdrew from Yale to be at home near Mother.
When I withdrew from Yale, Yale notified my draft board. Not long after I was home, I received a Selective Service reclassification and a pre-induction notice.
When I got the draft board's notice, I called my grandfather, "I got a pre-induction draft notice. What should I do?"
Grandfather answered, "I'll call you back. Let me talk to someone who knows about the draft."
About two hours later Grandfather called back. "Bobby, it doesn't look good. Clayt says we can appeal that you are needed to care for your mother, but he thinks reclassification from 1-A is a real long shot. He recommends an appeal to allow us time to get you in the National Guard. The Guard is a six-year part-time commitment and you would have to go away for five months of training. I can have him appeal your reclassification and delay your induction."
"What are we going to tell Mother?"
"We won't tell her anything now. It would upset her too much."
"I think I should get it over with. I'm floundering at Yale."
Grandfather said, "We can find you a National Guard unit. It would be safer. A lot of draftees are being sent to Viet Nam."
"It's time I grew up. Maybe the Army would be good for me? And getting away would be good for me. I rather get it over than fool with it for six years."
Grandfather didn't disagree that I needed to grow up, but he was unsure what it would do to Mother. Grandfather took his duty of protection of his daughter-in-law seriously. Grandfather was an old school gentleman.
I decided to get it over and volunteered for the draft. Before I was inducted, the family bought a large condominium in West Palm Beach, Florida, for Mother and a separate small guest unit for family visitors. Mother's unit included senior care and had a facility with a social area, a complete cleaning staff, and a medical staff. A nurse/companion was hired, who lived with Mother. She traveled with and looked after Mother. The facility had gourmet quality meals in a first class restaurant which was open to the public. The facility was very upscale and didn't resemble a nursing home. I helped Mother get settled in her condo before my induction date.
On my induction date, Grandfather rode with me to the induction center in New York City. "Be careful. You are dealing with a different type of person than you have dealt with before. Be very careful."
I signed in at the center. There I received a physical exam and a mental test. Most of the other men going through the induction were very rough looking.
After the exams, an officer spoke to the assembled men, "Congratulations, you have passed the entrance requirements for the Armed Forces."
The officer administered the oath. We were separated by branch. Those of us going into the Army got on a bus that took us to Fort Dix, New Jersey.
We were let out at an area called the Reception Center. A PFC took us to a barracks. "Lock your things in a locker and then we will go to the mess hall."
For the three days, I took tests, got shots, had a dental exam, had an identification dental x-ray, and filled out the forms the Army required. I got an issue of clothes and boots. Before I went to basic training, I boxed and sent my civilian clothes home.
The fourth day, a bus carried me and a load of other trainees across post to the basic training area. We were assigned to a platoon in alphabetical order and to a bunk. The assortment of people in my basic training company scared me. Several were street toughs from New York and Philly. A few were from small towns and rural areas. Several men in the company were from the Tennessee National Guard. Most of one platoon was from the Puerto Rican National Guard. In the bunk above me was a heavyset fellow from the Tennessee National Guard.
It scared me when I thought that I might have to depend on these people to stay alive. I wished I had followed my grandfather's advice and had gone into the New York National Guard.
The senior drill sergeants were E-7s, sergeants first class. Most were short black men. The only white drill sergeant was a junior drill sergeant, and I sensed that he was really dumb.
I was assigned to a platoon with a senior drill sergeant who was reasonable. He was no nonsense, but he was not mean or malicious. He really scared me when told me, "Pay close attention. You US (draftees' serial numbers started with a US prefix) will probably need this. Most of you are likely to go to Viet Nam. The VC and NVA that I went up against were damn good soldiers. I was lucky to get back." He said it in a casual matter of fact tone. My drill sergeant wasn't a gung ho type and I listened to what he said.
The first four weeks I tried to stay invisible. I did what I was supposed to do and stayed out of the way. Because of the Yale PE class, I didn't have a problem with the physical aspects of the training. The mental aspects of the training were almost laughable. I was in much better physical condition than most of the men. I lived off the money I was paid during training. I didn't talk about home or Yale. None of the men knew I was 'comfortable'.
I pulled KP, where I washed pots and pans. Once I even peeled potatoes. I tried not to appear different from the other trainees.
After the fourth week of basic training, we were allowed to go off post on the weekend. Grandfather sent a car for me. On the Friday afternoon of the fourth week, I took a taxi to the post main gate, where grandfather's chaffered car took me to the City. I stayed the weekend in our city apartment (the family owned the building) on Park Avenue. I enjoyed the privacy and talked with Grandfather about the training.
I felt sorry for the heavyset guardsman in the bunk over me. He didn't have any money. He even did his own laundry and didn't purchase snacks or sodas.
Bill Jensen told me, "I have a wife to support in Tennessee. I can't afford laundry service."
Bill and I talked, but neither of us talked much to the others. After four weeks of basic together, he was the closest thing to a friend I had ever had. I was guarded with what I said to him, but I gradually opened up to him.
Before our fifth weekend, I invited Bill to go with me into the city. We got USO tickets to a Broadway show. I had never sat so far from a stage, but Bill ate it up. We had a good time. I enjoyed it because he liked it so much. We went to a restaurant Grandfather recommended. The food was very expensive and the portions were small.
When I asked Bill how he liked the meal, he replied, "What I would really like to try sometime is deli food. I heard New York has really good deli food."
I hadn't spent much time in the City and many of the thinks Bill was interested in were new to me also. We talked with Grandfather about things to do in the City. He said he would have someone put together weekend packages for us.
We had large prime steaks before we went back on Sunday.
After Bill saw the family apartment and that we were 'comfortable', he wasn't so reluctant to let me pay for things. He understood not to talk about my situation or our weekends while we were at Ft. Dix. When we got back from the weekend, I gave Bill twenty dollars to pay for the Army's uniform laundry service. I told him, "Take it. You are keeping me awake."
The next weekend we had guard duty. Since we hadn't qualified with our rifles, we carried axe handles when we walked guard. As I walked around the building on two-hour shifts, I thought, Nothing is likely to happen. These building are probably empty anyway.
The rifle instruction was the worst. I was glad Grandfather had me take lessons to learn to shoot skeet. In basic, we marched four miles to the range and fired two rounds. Bill's father also shot sheet and had taught him to shoot. Neither of us had any trouble with rifle qualification. We both qualified expert. I scored high expert.
I found that the reservist and National Guard trainees were smarter than the draftees. I didn't have much in common with any of the other draftees. Most of the RAs selected specialty training that avoided the combat arms, especially infantry.
I received orders to continue at Ft. Dix for advanced individual training (AIT) in MOS 11B, infantryman. Most infantrymen trained at Ft. Dix went to Viet Nam. I knew then that there was a good chance I would be sent to Viet Nam also. I didn't say anything to my grandfather about my MOS assignment until the second weekend I was home. Bill was continuing at Ft. Dix as an 11B also, but after his AIT, he went back home. He took the chance that his unit wouldn't be called to active duty to go to Viet Nam. If it wasn't called, the active Army was mostly over for him.
On our second weekend trip to New York City, Bill and I took a Gray Line bus tour of the city. I had never been to many of the places. We went to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Empire State Building, Coney Island and to a show at the Radio City Music Hall. After the tour, Bill and I went to a deli and sampled different deli sandwiches.
Bill didn't tell his wife about our trips. It seemed to me that she only wrote to bitch about not having enough money. I convinced Bill that as my guest, I should pay for everything. I was glad that my orders to AIT were to the same unit where Bill was going.
Bill had a hard time passing his physical training test to graduate from basic training. He was heavy and had trouble on the rotating bars and the mile run. When we started the test, sergeants assigned numbers us to wear. The examiners recorded the results by those numbers. I took Bill's number and did the rotating bars on a different set of bars a second time. The bars were like monkey bars, but the bars rotated when grabbed. The trainee had to swing from one end of the bars to the other, turn and come back four times, without touching the ground to get the maximum score. Down and back twice got the average score needed to pass. Passing the test was based on the accumulated total score so I failed portion could be made up by high scores on other portions.
I knew I had accumulated enough point to pass before the last event, the mile run, so I wasn't in danger of failing. When Bill and I calculated his scores before the last event, Bill needed a 75 on the mile run to pass. I just needed to finish. So we switched numbers again for the mile run. Bill was a plodder and finished; and I ran fast enough to get him a 90 on the run.
The company's drill sergeants didn't administer the PT tests. The battalion S-3 sergeants administered the tests. But the drill sergeants must have watched. When I got back to the company area, my drill sergeant laughed and said, "Jensen really looked sleek in the run." Nobody in my platoon was recycled, but two men in the company didn't pass the PT test and were recycled.
Bill and I graduated from basic and went to AIT to be infantrymen. We had weekend leave between basic and AIT and we went into the City. We had large steaks with Grandfather on Friday night. Saturday, Bill and I went to a Yankees game. Neither of us had been to a major league game before. I took my grandfather's advice and sat in the firm's box seats near the field, instead of USO seats at the top of the stadium. We wore civilian clothes, drank a few beers, ate peanuts, and had a good time at the game.
In AIT we stayed in the field a lot, so Bill and I weren't able to get back to the City as much as I had during basic training. And one weekend we couldn't come in because we had guard duty. This time on guard duty we carried rifles but weren't allowed to have ammunition. One weekend we went to a Giants NFL game. Neither of us had been to a NFL game. We sat in the firm's seats that were near midfield and enjoyed the game. Bill had been a lineman on his high school football team and understood a lot more about the game than I did. After the game, we ate at a deli before we went back to Ft. Dix.
During the fifth week of AIT, I received orders to Viet Nam. Before AIT ended, we were able to get back to the City twice more. Both times we went to Broadway shows and through museums.
I finished high enough in my AIT class to be an honor graduate and was promoted to PFC. Bill graduated but wasn't an honor graduate. His rank was PVT2. Bill separated from active duty and went home to Tennessee, and I had a week's leave before I was sent to Viet Nam as a replacement in a company in the field.
I spent the Saturday after graduation on Long Island with Mother. I told her I was going overseas to Okinawa, which was true. We neglected to tell her I was going on to Viet Nam from there. I noticed Mother had deteriorated during the four months I was in training. Sunday morning early, I went to the apartment in the city.
I received a phone call from Bill late Sunday night.
"Oh hi. Did you make it home okay?" I asked.
"Can you believe that Darla moved in with some guy while I was gone? A Negro."
"I'm sorry. Do you want to come up here? You could get Piedmont up here tomorrow. I can have a ticket waiting for you at the counter at Tri-Cities Airport."
"I have to get a job and a lawyer. The bitch!"
I could tell from his voice that he had been drinking.
"Don't do anything stupid. Get a good lawyer and nail her ass. Do you need some money? God knows I won't have much use for any for a while."
"There's nothing to get or take. I got the car back. I'm okay. I have enough cash. I'm really sorry to bother you; you have enough on your mind."
"Don't be silly. I would have been pissed if you hadn't called."
"Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. I'll be all right. You take care of yourself," Bill said and ended the call.
In the week I had until I had to report. My grandfather found out what was in short supply in Viet Nam and arranged for me to receive regular shipments which included the new nylon mesh combat boots with steel reinforced soles, socks, underwear, sugared Kool-Aid mix, toiletries, and vitamins. And he also arranged for me to be able to get cash from our French affiliate bank while I was in Viet Nam.
When my leave was up, Grandfather rode with me to McGuire Air Force Base where I checked in for the long flight that took me to Okinawa.
"Bobby, take care of yourself. The bank will be here when you get back, don't worry about us. I will make sure your mother is well cared for. Don't worry about her."
Grandfather and I hugged and then I formed up with the other soldiers and got on the plane.