CGP Community Stories

Hugh MacDougall, November 14, 2012

Title

Hugh MacDougall, November 14, 2012

Subject

Diplomatic service
Cooperstown, NY
James Fenimore Cooper Society
Foreign Service Institute (U.S.)

Description

Hugh C. MacDougall is a former diplomat, a scholar, and a civil servant. He was born in Boston, MA on August 30, 1932 to Hugh MacDougall of Ontario and Ursula Cooke of Cooperstown, NY. As his parents both traveled considerably in their careers, MacDougall grew up in homes throughout the northeast, from Boston, to Vermont, to Cooperstown, and to Manhattan in New York City. His parents began the continually progressive Putney School (high school) in Putney, VT, which Hugh attended. He continued his studies in Sociology at Harvard College and later Law and International Affairs at the Columbia Law School.

Foreign Affairs first became a part of his life in Luanda, Angola, where he accompanied his father for a hydraulic engineering project. In 1958, he was admitted to the United States Foreign Service and served for twenty-eight years in a variety of posts: Conakry, Guinea; Recife, Brazil; Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire; Lourenço Marques, Mozambique; Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania; Rangoon, Burma (Myanmar); and assignments in Washington, D.C. and New York City. During one of his stays in the United States, MacDougall again met his old friend Eleanore in New York City, where she was working for the Welfare Department. They married in Cooperstown on December 26, 1970, and traveled together overseas afterwards.

Upon retirement in 1986, the MacDougalls moved to Cooperstown, where he invested himself in community action and scholarship. He founded the James Fenimore Cooper Society in 1989, was involved in village planning, and began teaching classes at the Center for Continuing Adult Learning at the State University of New York in Oneonta. Today he enjoys his research and continues to be an important source for James Fenimore Cooper knowledge.

MacDougall has always had an interest in Africa and the Third World. His comments on the Foreign Service address daily life, work environment, Cold War tension, transportation, marriage, interaction with the locals, and several exciting international affairs. MacDougall played a minor part in the Cuban Missile Crisis and helped deal with a bombing of a South Korean delegation in Burma, among other things.

The following conversation often began with false starts from both Mr. MacDougall and me. I have removed most of these, but some remain in times of deeper thought or reflection. Extra words and conjunctions have been omitted for flow. I place some aside remarks in parenthesis, whereas words in brackets denote emotions, pauses, or clarification.

Creator

Patrick Dickerson

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta

Date

2012-11-14

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Format

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Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Identifier

12-007

Coverage

Cooperstown, NY
1932-2012
West Africa
East Africa
Northeast Brazil
Burma (Myanmar)
Washington, D.C.
New York City

Online Submission

No

Interviewer

Patrick Dickerson

Interviewee

Hugh MacDougall

Location

8 Lake St
Cooperstown, NY

Transcription

HM = Hugh MacDougall
PD = Patrick Dickerson

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

PD:
This is the November 14, 2012 interview of Hugh MacDougall by Patrick Dickerson for the Cooperstown Graduate Program’s Research and Fieldwork course. The interview is done today at 8 Lake Street in Cooperstown, NY. Thank you, Hugh, for sitting down to talk with me today. I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say. I wanted to start off with what you were telling me before about your parents and what kind of work they did. Could you tell me a little more about that?

HM:
Well, my father was Canadian and a hydraulic civil engineer by profession. My mother was an English teacher who grew up here in Cooperstown.

PD:
You said that at some points in your life your father was abroad.

HM:
Oh yes, much of his later work—he did a lot of work for a New York hydroelectric company both abroad and in this country. And then the last ten or fifteen years of his life he was working for the United Nations, in terms of supervising their hydraulic projects around the world. [He was] both living in other countries and traveling to them.

PD:
What kind of things did your mother do?

HM:
She was an English teacher and a writer. She had a short story in the best short stories of 1937. She grew up here in Cooperstown, went to Vassar College. My parents met on a boat going to Europe in 1926, I think it was, and were married by the British consulate in Paris. And subsequently, she taught English—both my parents taught English [Hugh’s father actually taught Physics and Biology] at the Putney School in Vermont, which they were involved in founding back in 1935. And in 1942, with the war on, my father went off back to Canada to serve in the Canadian armed forces for a while. My mother and I, and my seven-year-younger brother, moved down to Cooperstown for a year, then down to the Bronx for a year, and then down to an apartment in Manhattan across the street from the Dalton School, where my mother taught for many years.

PD:
You all moved around a lot. What was it like continuing to move from place to place?

HM:
That part was, I suppose, fairly normal. Of course, later on as a Foreign Service officer I was switching countries or going back and forth from service in a foreign country to service in Washington every two or three years for a period of about twenty-eight years. So I was doing a lot of traveling, and I met up again with my wife, who’s from Cooperstown. We’d known each other since we were kids, but we met up again in New York City in 1970 and were married here in Cooperstown on the day after Christmas in 1970. She served with me at my last three overseas posts.

PD:
How did you both first meet in Cooperstown?

HM:
Well, [her and] my parents knew each other. In fact, my mother and Eleanore’s father were in the same class at Cooperstown Central School.

PD:
That’s fantastic. So, when you were moving as a child, you went from Boston to Cooperstown. What was it like growing up with your parents and the different work that they did?

HM:
Except almost all my life they were both working, so as a kid we would usually have somebody living in the house, in those days, to sort of look after us kids. I was, say, about the age of three when we moved to Putney, Vermont, founding the Putney School, so I was there until 1942 when the war came along.

PD:
What kind of things did you like to do? You had your younger brother too?

HM:
Yes, he’s seven years younger, so he was quite a bit younger. I suppose, in some ways, I’ve always been something of an intellectual. They say I learned to read long before I actually entered school, and I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing, and developed an interest in doing research. Hence [I] went on to about eight years in university and graduate school after I left Putney in 1950. I went to Harvard College for four years, where I majored in Sociology and graduated in 1954 cum laude. There I was involved in sociology courses, a lot of them, primarily, and enjoyed that. Then I went on to law school at Columbia Law School, and got involved in a four year program in which I got both my law degree and a Master’s degree in International Affairs from the school of International Affairs at Columbia. I was a member of the board of the Columbia Law Review while I was there, and did better, in fact, gradewise did better than I did in college.

PD:
What started you off with sociology?

HM:
I guess when I was in Putney, in particular, I became very politically concerned and interested in pretty much a left wing direction, so that was a logical thing to pursue when I got into college. [It] was the Department of Social Relations, as they called it then, and specializing specifically in sociology. I did my undergraduate thesis on the rise of the middle class in the Soviet Union. This, of course, was back in 1954, when the Soviet Union was still alive and well.

PD:
Can you tell me a little more about your thesis?

HM:
What I was interested in was the fact that as I looked into a variety of cases, some from Soviet fiction, some from facts, that in fact, a lot of people had risen into the middle class in the Soviet Union despite its supposed proletarian connections. And indeed more of them came from the upper and middle classes from the pre-Soviet period than would be the case in the United States. I took two or three examples and wrote them up: the kind of intellectuals who had just retreated from the whole political system and involved themselves in political, in literary or scientific affairs; the kind of people who rose as bureaucrats in the system, some of them believing in it and some of them not believing in it but just sort of pretending to be while they lived their own lives on the side. It was an interesting thing to do and although I had studied Russian in high school, I didn’t really use Russian in preparing it, so it was not the kind of thesis that they really liked to have at Harvard. But I got through with a cum laude anyway.

PD:
That’s great. Was this something you had been reading, pursuing these kinds of social relations issues while you were younger?

HM:
While I was in prep school, among other things the Putney School was on the whole of the very liberal political persuasion. I got involved in 1948 in the campaign for Henry Wallace, [who] was running as a Progressive Party, third party candidate for president. And, as it so happened, the Secretary of the Vermont Progressive Party was a teacher at the school. So I became quite involved in that, and even to the left of that I subscribed to the Daily Worker, until I realized there wasn’t much difference between it and the Daily News except for its slant. We got very much involved in the project to form a World Government. I helped form the World Government organization at Putney and continued on to be president of the Harvard World Federalists while I was in college there. So that was the sort of background in which I approached Sociology, at least to begin with. I became more moderate over the years, but I still remained very much a liberal.

PD:
Leading that kind of organization, did that start any feelings toward wanting to be in the Foreign Service?

HM:
I suppose, in a sense. What really got me interested in the Foreign Service was that the summer after I graduated from college, from Harvard, in the summer of 1954, my parents were working in Angola, which was in Portuguese West Africa, where my father was directing a river development project. And, as a sort of a graduation present, I got to spend the summer with them there before I went on to law school. That got me very much interested both in Africa, which remained a longstanding interest, and to some extent in the Foreign Service because of the people we got to know at the American consulate in Luanda, Angola. So I went on to law school, thought of going into international law, discovered that there really wasn’t anything in a career position going there, even though I had very high grades. I decided the last thing in the world I wanted to do was spend my life incorporating soap companies, so I applied for the Foreign Service and was duly taken in. [I] basically graduated from the law school, went on to take the bar exam and get admitted to the New York State Bar, but then immediately went on into the Foreign Service in the summer of 1958, and then spent the next twenty-eight years doing that in seven different foreign countries as well as in assignments in Washington, D.C.

PD:
When you were in Angola, what was Angola like?

HM:
Well, it was a Portuguese colony. This was in the days—when I was in the school of International Affairs for a year at Columbia as part of this Law-International Affairs combo, I was taking a course in African colonial administration; it was in the government department, not the history department [chuckles]. So this was still in the days when, if you drove around the back roads in Angola, the natives would take off their hats and bow to you as you drove by. On the other hand, there were some very nice ones that we got to know. I was able to travel quite a bit in northern Angola, anyway, with the various groups from my father’s organization.

PD:
What kind of people did you meet in Angola?

HM:
Most of our dealings were with the Portuguese and foreign community in Luanda, certainly, as well as with the people working for my father’s company who were engineers themselves, quite a few of them Mormons from Utah who I guess were into water projects, and very nice guys. So I got to travel with them. I can’t say that in Angola I got to know very many Africans. Well, I mean other than the—we had obviously household servants, as one does everywhere in Africa. But, it was the notion of Africa in general, and the Foreign Service as something in the back of my mind that stuck while I went through those four years at the Law School and School of International Affairs. I ended up back in the State Department in ’58.

PD:
What did it feel like when you first came over to Africa? Was there a general feeling of a different culture?

HM:
Oh yeah, well certainly. As I came to realize later, after having served for lengthy periods in four African countries as well as some other ones, that somehow there’s quite a difference between the way you first feel about a country when you first visit it for the first few weeks or couple of months, and that it’s only after that that you really begin to get quite a different feeling about it as you go on living there, and I would normally be living in my assignments in countries where I would be spending two or three years, and getting to know a lot of people and traveling a lot until it became, in a sense, a sort of a second home for a time. And I think that’s typical of Foreign Service officers, generally, that your feelings about a place are quite different after you’ve lived there for a while than they would be just as a tourist visiting a place briefly. And indeed, I’ve never had any special desire to go back, though I have on a couple of occasions, gone back to a few places where I’d actually lived.

PD:
Did you make any longstanding relationships while you were abroad?

HM:
I certainly made some that lasted through the periods in question, while I was in a particular country. [I] did not have many that lingered on afterwards. I’m still in regular contact with a man who’s a little old, he must be ninety by this time, who was an originally mixed Portuguese-Goan from Portuguese India, [a] mixture who worked for me while I was in Mozambique in Portuguese East Africa in the early 1970s, with whom I’ve kept in touch ever since.

PD:
When you first came in Angola, what was it like when you had the servants in the household?

HM:
It takes a while to get used to, that in a sense you don’t have much privacy [chuckles], in your house. On the other hand, given the problems of living in a Third World country, where just the going out, getting the food and preparing it would take up a lot of your time if you had to do it all yourself and you’ve got other work to do. And so that was true, whether, when I was a bachelor [in] my first set of posts, and then of course as we were married, Eleanore was with me at our last three posts. She [had] to run the household and also do all the things in the local community that diplomatic wives are expected to do.

PD:
When you had the servants working in the house, what kind of things did they do?

HM:
They would be doing the cooking, the cleaning. In our last post we had a driver who lived on the premises and drove us everywhere because it was a country where we were only allowed—this was in Burma—and we were only allowed one car per family. So it wouldn’t be possible for me to drive to work because, then, how would my wife get around during the daytime? In one country, in Tanzania, we had two cars, Volkswagen Beetles. So we each had a separate car, but usually, either it would be just one car to the family, but not as [many] problems in arranging to both get to use it, as it was in Burma.

PD:
What was the reason for that rule?

HM:
I suspect, well, you never could tell what Burmese rules were going to be like. They had adopted this rule that diplomatic families were only allowed one vehicle, and to further confuse the issue, they had just switched over a couple of years before from driving on the left to driving on the right, but they hadn’t changed any of the signs or stoplights. And half the cars had the steering wheel on the old-fashioned side. That I ran into when we were in countries like Tanzania and Mozambique, where you drove like the English fashion, you drove on the left, and your steering wheel was on the right. But the embassies, our embassies there all had a lot of vehicles that were brought over from the States and were of the American variety. And there’s nothing rather more annoying than having to drive with a car that’s got its steering wheel on the wrong side, because you can’t really see. In fact, you really need to have somebody like your wife sitting beside you [riding] shotgun [laughs]. In some countries in Africa, also you would have roads that were just, only the center lane would be paved with dirt on each side for passing, so you sort of had to keep an eye out for what was coming the other direction.

PD:
Were there a lot of other people driving at the time?

HM:
Sure, even in these colonial countries there were plenty of cars around, I mean there are probably more now, largely-driven, either commercial or by foreigners. In Burma, there were very few modern American or European-style cars—there were some—but there were a lot more trucks and pick-up trucks, and trucks which had been turned into buses from old World War II British stuff that had been left behind, and that sort of thing. But, as in every country, the roads get filled up to the extent of the vehicles; they tend to fill up whatever roads there are, and then somebody decides to build some more roads. I remember early in my career when I was assigned to Brazil, I found myself having to drive several thousand miles from Rio de Janeiro, from São Paulo in southern Brazil up to Recife in northern Brazil, when my assignment was suddenly changed after my car had been delivered [laughs] and the only way to get it there was to drive it. And there was only really one paved road, and that was paved sort of for some of the way, for a really long distance because Brazil is a huge country.

PD:
Did you get around in any other way? Besides a car?

HM:
In many countries, yes. I mean, quite frequently the embassy would have a vehicle you could use for traveling a country. Sometimes you’d use them, sometimes you’d use your own. Sometimes you’d use an embassy vehicle, but also in most of these countries you flew around quite a bit, and some of them you would occasionally take a train somewhere.

PD:
What was the train system like?

HM:
Varied, they were certainly. I remember, certainly the trains in Burma were pretty old. And indeed, even in Mozambique you had old-fashioned trains. And people, American naval ships would often put in a stop there, and the crew would always be startled to see these, you know, the old-fashioned coal-burning locomotive as opposed to the kind they were used to in this country. But there were old-fashioned trains, and, to some extent, old-fashioned airplanes, too. I traveled a lot in old DC-3s and their equivalents, and oh, DC-3 is a wonderful plane. In fact it’s the only plane that will ever last forever because it doesn’t have any structural struts in it. It’s just, basically the wings are bolted on and as long as you can change the wings and that sort of thing you can fly them forever. There’s no structural stuff to wear out and become dangerous, the way that modern planes are built.

PD:
Where did you fly?

HM:
I would fly within countries, and of course we were flying to get to them and get back to them and go on leave from them and to come back. We were flying long distances all the time, both before and after our marriage. We had a cat that we took all the way around, literally around the world. We went one way going to Burma and another way when we were coming back to the States. So, you got used to a lot of flying on Pan-American, which was the standard American airline that was available in those days. And then I’m flying on these internal flights on the local airlines that would be flying around whatever country you were in, and that would depend to some extent on the size of the country. But I flew over a good deal of Burma, certainly, and I flew around in other countries as well. That’s the way you get around. I remember once on a Burmese flight, it was a regular airplane, two-engine airplane I think, and the pilot and the co-pilot got in and there was no door between them and the passengers. They got in, and the pilot, as soon as he takes off, he proceeds to take out newspapers and scotch tape and cover over his whole side of the window and go to sleep, while leaving the job to the co-pilot who only had half a view [chuckles]. But that was the sort of thing you got used to.

PD:
Did you ever feel concerned for Eleanore while you were doing these kinds of travels?

HM:
No, not especially. You know, you’re taking a certain amount of chances, but you’re quite probably in less danger of actually getting killed than you would be in New York City. That never particularly bothered me.

PD:
I wanted to back track a little to when you first got started [with the Foreign Service]. Where did you do your training?

HM:
Well, [when] I started out, I joined the Foreign Service in 1958. They give you a basic training course at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia for new members of the Foreign Service. This was back in the still pretty old days in ’58. Because our classes were in Virginia, which was still segregated, for instance we had a cafeteria we could go to and it had two doors side by side. One just was the regular door, and the other said “Government Employees Only,” which meant the blacks could go through that one. And my first job in Washington for a couple of years was in the Western European Intelligence section of the State Department. My boss there was a black who, when he first came into the Foreign Service, was not allowed to eat in the State Department cafeteria, and as a result refused to do so now, so we would often go out with him together to other restaurants and things. I and a couple of other officers got an apartment in Virginia during this training, the lease provided that we were not allowed to have anyone of the Negro race on the premises. That all changed, thank goodness. I swore I’d never live in Virginia again, and I never did [laughs]. I lived in the District the rest of my career, and am one of the few people who has actually lived in all four quadrants in Washington, D.C.

PD:
When did the Service integrate?

HM:
The Service itself was integrated by the time I got in it. But it was still the case that African [American] officers were very likely to get shipped off to Liberia, or Haiti, or some other black country. This was before there were very many independent countries in black Africa. That was my, my interest was in black Africa, and I got sent to my first overseas post to Conakry, Guinea, which had just broken away from France about a year before and declared its independence, and had become very closely connected to the Soviet Union and China, the communist world. It was a place where Yugoslavs counted on our side, and that was interesting as well.

PD:
Can you tell me a little more about that?

HM:
Well, Guinea was run by a leftist one-party dictatorship headed by a man named Sékou Touré who had been responsible for getting Guinea its independence. The Guineans themselves were convinced that the French, in leaving, had destroyed infrastructure and so forth, though I don’t think there was very much evidence of that. Nevertheless, there was still a French embassy, and so forth, and a number of Frenchmen still living in the country. But it was very much a left-wing sort of place, with both, all the communist countries represented and some Western countries,

[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]

but not all. We got quite a name for ourselves when they had a big international exposition. And we, the United States, our building was in the form of a geodesic dome. There were supposed to be a bunch of specialized Italian crews to come down and set it up, but they refused to come. So we had it set up just by the local Guineans. That worked out fine, and got us a lot of Brownie points [laughs], as it did when our ambassador who was an amazing man, part of the Kennedy crowd, Bill Atwood, he and a number of other ambassadors had these big houses right on the beach. He was the one who let the kids from the local school come through his and use his beach, which the other ambassadors didn’t—including the communist ones [laughs]. So we did pretty well, even though we were from the horrible capitalist West, we did pretty well in winning friends and influencing people.

PD:
What kind of things did you do to further develop that relationship?

HM:
It was just a matter of little things like that, pretty much. We treated the Africans decently, and to some extent we had to because we had to get along with them. It was a fairly bureaucratic country. I started out as Consular Officer, so I was doing all the consular work as well as doing all the customs clearance for our country, which meant that I was spending a lot of time driving around in my little Volkswagen beetle in the port area, clearing stuff out, which sometimes could be a bureaucratic nightmare [that] would take months. But [it] came in handy when the Cuban Missile Crisis came along. At the end of that crisis, one of the things was that the Soviets were bringing their nuclear warheads back to Russia, and Soviet ships, particularly freighters, usually stopped off as a—stopping point I suppose—to get fuel and water and such things at Conakry because it [Guinea] was the left-wing country in that corner of Africa, and right across the fairly narrow part of the Atlantic to Cuba. The ship carrying these things did come back, and I was on the watch for it because I knew my Russian alphabet. I recognized the name when we saw it, that it was a Russian Soviet name, and later we had a car I was driving, and it had a Geiger counter under the backseat to go down and check that there was nuclear stuff out there on that ship, and there was. So, the Russians had lived up to their promise, bringing the stuff back. We didn’t know all the background of it at the time, of course, at least I didn’t. I was a junior member of the staff. Then I moved on from being a consular officer to being a junior political officer, and the rest of my career was almost entirely [as] a political officer, sometimes doing other things as well. Which basically meant you were reporting to Washington on the situation in whatever country you were trying to get Washington to understand what was going on there, and similarly trying to get the local officials, the local Foreign Ministry, or whatever, who were concerned with American affairs, to understand what was going on in the United States in order to hopefully improve and keep our relations going on an even course, as well as learning as much as you could about the country itself. And I found that very satisfying.

PD:
What kind of things did you do to build that relationship?

HM:
Well, there wasn’t any sort of checklist of things. It was whatever was [happening at the time]: going along and getting to know people in the Foreign Ministry or elsewhere [in] the country, the Africans and getting along with them. Ultimately, in my course in Africa, I was awarded four medals by the State Department, two silver ones and two bronze ones, for my success in working with local people. In one case, one of the bronze ones from Tanzania—that was another exciting moment, when three Americans and a Dutch woman who were working at the Gombe Chimpanzee Reserve on Lake Tanganyika were suddenly kidnapped in the middle of the night and carried off to nobody-knew-where on the other side of the lake and into the Congo, which was [then] Zaire [now Democratic Republic of the Congo]. We spent about four months getting them out. I was much involved in that, especially when, after about a month or so, one of the students had been released, but the other three were still being held. All of a sudden the top guy among the guerillas, who was—well, he was the number two guy among the guerillas—and his sidekick showed up at the Embassy. They were saying, “We’re here to negotiate,” [chuckles] and since I spoke Swahili reasonably well, and I spoke French, and this pair didn’t speak any English; one of them spoke French and the other one spoke Swahili. So I was playing “good cop” with them for a while. I was in on all the negotiations and back and forth. After about three months we finally got them out.

PD:
So these were guerillas from the Congo who…

HM:
Yes, it was a rebel organization of the Congo. Well, actually, they were opposed to the then government in Zaire. It [the guerilla group] was run by a man named Laurent Kabila, who later became president of Zaire after the end of the previous regime in the Congo, and his son is president of it now. The kids who were kidnapped, they raised some question about why we were so happy to go along with letting these characters come into power in the Zaire. We just let our relations go on with them happily and, I must say, I [have] some sympathy for [them].

PD:
Well, of course.

HM:
But that’s the way things go. So, where do you want to go from here?

PD:
Well, we can continue, I wanted to ask, what other kinds of things did you do while you were the political officer?

HM:
Well, as I was saying, it was just a matter—it was extremely varied, because the political officer is sort of the “Lord High Everything Else,” in a diplomatic post. The economic officer sticks to studying the economy, and American commerce and relationships with business men, investments, and that sort of thing. The consular officer is involved in issuing visas to foreigners and passports to Americans, and getting Americans out of trouble when they get in trouble, which is not too infrequent. Then you have the administrative officers who were administering the posts, and making sure you had buildings, [that] the food came in, and all the other things you needed to survive with. Then, slightly connected with the Embassy in those days, but now completely integrated would be information officers from what was then the United States Information Agency, and charged with propaganda and public relations with the local population. The political officer is the “Lord High Everything Else,” we sort of do everything that doesn’t fall in one of these specialized categories, so there’s no really telling what you’re going to be doing day to day in many ways, which is also interesting. Only occasionally would things get very exciting, the kidnapping case in Tanzania was one. Another was when we were in Burma. I was the number three at the Embassy at that point. I was Counselor of Embassy for political and economic affairs; I had a political officer under me and an economic officer under me. And it so happened, at this particular moment we were between ambassadors and the number two man, the Deputy Chief of Mission, was off on a trip up-country. And, the South Koreans were paying a visit, an official visit with high officials to Burma, which was an unusual country in that it recognized both North and South Korea and had embassies from both who assiduously refused to talk to each other. But we had this big South Korean delegation and, I think it was on a Sunday morning, there was this big explosion in the distance. It took me a while to find out what was going on, but what had happened [was] the North Koreans had sent three guys ashore in a submarine. And they had landed with bombs to try to blow up the South Korean delegation when it was presenting wreaths at the special place of honor that the Burmese kept for their war heroes. As it happened, some of them were killed, but the heads of the party hadn’t gotten there yet. But the local band that was there to welcome them was practicing the Korean national anthem and these North Koreans who were off in the distance with their fingers on the button, [and] assumed that that meant the delegation had arrived, so they pushed their buttons and at least one of several explosions went off, I think another one didn’t. And there were a lot of people killed and wounded, so that was the only time I ever sent off, on my own authority, what we called a flash message, to basically wake up the president. [A sort of] “Something’s happened,” because we were immediately concerned with a) what was all this about? And b) would the South Koreans decide to attack North Korea, would we get the whole Korean War going again? I helped arrange for a plane to come in from the Philippines, a hospital plane to take off with some of these, both the South Koreans and the Burmese wounded, and take them off to a hospital in the Philippines, and that sort of thing. So that was an exciting few days. That sort of thing would happen occasionally, but not all the time, certainly. Most of the time you were enjoying yourself and getting to know and understand a very different country,
whatever it happened to be.

PD:
What was it like interacting with the other communist country ambassadors?

HM:
We would be polite with them; our ambassador in Guinea, as I recall, [showed us] a movie about, I forget what the title of it was, but we had a copy of it (we’d get sent movies). It was about a relationship between somebody in the Soviet Embassy and somebody in the American Embassy. So we showed it, and we invited the Russian ambassador over to join us in seeing it, and he did. We were reasonably friendly. I noticed when I went over to the Russian embassy, or the Soviet embassy, if I was meeting somebody, I would always be met down at the entrance. I would never be taken up to anybody’s office. And I would have to go there occasionally because one of the things we were doing all through the Cold War was exchanging hydrographic, oceanographic information between Russian and American institutions on the subject. These packages of this stuff would be dropped off, first airmailed in or dropped off by a ship in Conakry, and I would have to pick them up, give them a call and take them over, take them over to the Russian Embassy and hand them over. This went on throughout the time there. We were always polite to each other. But, as I said, you didn’t get to know them very closely, certainly.

PD:
Why oceanographic [information]?

HM:
Because this was the kind of scientific, international scientific collaboration that was going on all the time. It continued to go on right through the whole Cold War. We were exchanging our information and the Russians were giving us theirs on these scientific matters that were not of any great, any strategic, or classification variety, but we still needed a procedure for exchanging this stuff.

PD:
Were there any kind of rules the government wanted you to have in diplomacy? Etiquette, or something like that?

HM:
You always had to be very careful of what you say, particularly if you were talking to journalists and other visitors; we got journalists fairly frequently. You have to be careful of what you say and what you say to anybody that you’re not going to a) obviously, you don’t want to reveal anything that is considered a classified secret by the U.S. government, and b) you don’t want to say anything that’s going to embarrass anybody, including the local government.

PD:
Did you ever run into any of those problems?

HM:
I don’t think I did, particularly or personally. They certainly do arise from time to time. We didn’t have any serious problems with that, as I recall, in any of the countries in which I served. But we were all pretty well-trained, professional diplomats.

PD:
How did it feel to represent the United States?

HM:
It’s, in some sense, awe-inspiring I suppose, to be a representative. And I was never the head of the mission, but to be an official who’s looked upon as representing the United States by the local government and so forth [phone rings, Hugh responds to Eleanore], I suppose it’s one of the psychological benefits of being a diplomat, as you do represent a big and important country and are recognized as such by the people with whom you’re dealing. You don’t very often get into serious problems. I remember rather amusingly when I was in Recife, Brazil, in the northeastern part of Brazil, this was in 1964, and there was a coup d’état in Brazil in which the army took over from a left-wing government in Rio de Janeiro. The army up here in northeastern Brazil, where we were, the local state had a communist governor, so we awoke one morning to look down from the Consulate, which was the upper story of a small multi-story building. We looked down on a park on the other side of which was the governor’s palace. I looked down there at all these soldiers milling around, setting up guns, and cannons and things. One of them had his cannon, in effect, pointed where, if it fired, it was going to go right through where my car was parked. So I went down and asked them politely if they’d mind if I moved my car, and [he said] “Well, please go right ahead.” The Brazilians are very polite people. Later in the day, we saw the Brazilian army forces moving towards the palace, jumping from tree to tree with their full battle gear, and all that stuff they learned in training school. At the palace itself, the governor’s palace, you had these local militia guys standing around, watching all this. The whole affair was made silly because this was all going on in the park, and people were wandering back and forth in the park, and there were dogs running around, licking the faces of the soldiers as they hid behind the trees. Ultimately, there was no violence. The governor duly surrendered and was sent off for a while to a Brazilian island out in the Atlantic Ocean, but I think he came back and became governor again later [laughs]. Interestingly enough, both he and the head of the army who took over were both related to each other. Not too closely, but they were from the same basic family in the state of Pernambuco, which is where Recife is located. I enjoyed all these posts. Burma was perhaps, in some ways, the most interesting because it was the most isolated, the most entirely different culture, and [with] the fewest foreigners around. I remember once, I was up visiting a large city up in the northern part of the country, and people said that “You know you’re the first foreigner we’ve seen in twenty years.” Often when I was traveling upcountry I would wear the native costume, which is sort of a sarong affair. We didn’t normally wear it in Rangoon, our ambassador didn’t want us to—some Americans who were there with private organizations did—but our ambassador didn’t think it was seemly for us to have a pretense of going native that way. So we wore, basically, safari suits. In Burma at that time, the only Burmese wearing trousers would be soldiers and policemen.

PD:
Did you ever have to adopt any other dress in other countries?

HM:
In Tanzania, you wore these safari suits, a short-sleeved jacket and trousers, matching trousers. I’ve still got some. That was what everybody wore, including the president. In fact, I was told at least, that when the president, Julius Nyerere, who was the founder of the country. I met him a couple times; he was a very impressive man. He was having a state visit to the United States, and all the protocol people were around trying to make up the rules for how that was going to be. They would say, “The American president will be wearing black tie.” And the protocol officers from Tanzania would say, “And President Nyerere will wear his safari suit,” over and over again. He wasn’t about to get into coats and ties, and didn’t. When you’re president you can do that, and of course nobody objected. But it was an interesting life. I spent twenty-eight years at it, then retired in 1986, and we moved back here to Cooperstown. Eleanore’s mother was still living in this house, which was her family house that her father bought back in 1940. We rented, and then bought a little house on Elm Street, while my mother-in-law was still alive. We kept her in the house until she died; she wanted to stay in the house. And when she did, then we were still living on Elm Street, so we engaged in what I always call “a hundred and fifty years of deferred maintenance” on this place, including redoing all its systems, internal systems, though making very few changes anybody could see. And then, when that was done, we moved, got rid of the other house, moved in here, and we’ve been here ever since.

PD:
I wanted to ask about you and Eleanore. You guys met again in New York City.

HM:
Yeah.

PD:
What was that like?

HM:
I was assigned for a year to the Office of Economic Opportunity in New York. They thought every now and then—for a year—they thought every now and then a State Department official ought to have a look at real American life, the sort you didn’t get just [being] in Washington. While I was there, I ran again into Eleanore, who was living, as it happened, a few blocks away from where I was living, and she was working for the Welfare Department as a case worker, for the New York City Welfare Department. She was living in Manhattan, probably a few blocks from where I lived, but was working up in the Bronx, black districts in the Bronx where, she no doubt will tell folks the welfare notebooks and things she was carrying were her, in a sense, her life preservers. Everybody knew who she was and what she was doing, and nobody was going to bother her. She was there to give out money [laughs]. So we met again, and we got to know each other again, and at the end of the year we moved back, came back up to Cooperstown for Christmas and were married the day after Christmas at Christ Church.

PD:
Why did you both decide to get married?

HM:
Well, like most people, I guess we fell in love with each other. Neither of us had ever been married before. It was a while ago, and we’re still going strong.

PD:
There you go.

HM:
We don’t have any children, which is too bad perhaps, but that’s the way it went down, but Eleanore kept herself very busy while we were overseas in all these various posts, both because a lot of work descends, in a sense, on the wife of any significant officer in the post, also because she was involved in music. She would get involved in musical organizations in these countries as she has done here.

PD:
Did you think about having any children?

HM:
Yes, but it just sort of never happened, and we certainly didn’t have any objections to the thought. But that’s the way it went. She has two brothers, both of whom have children and grandchildren. I have one brother, who lives in Australia and who has one son, who also lives there. He’s married and has two children, a great niece and a great nephew. But that’s about all, I don’t really have, I’ve got a few more distant relations still up in Canada, but that’s about all the family I’ve got.

PD:
How did Eleanore feel marrying into the Foreign Service?

HM:
She was happy enough to do it. I mean, I don’t suppose she knew what she was getting into, but she had been living in New York for a few years, so it wasn’t that she was coming out of the hicks, where she didn’t know about big cities and that sort of thing. We had a good time.

PD:
Did things change after she started coming with you?

HM:
Yes, in a sense, I suppose because there were both of us and also because I was rising in rank, and so we were increasing in social responsibilities in the local communities we were in, and of course she very much was involved in those, with the help of whatever local staff we had in living in the house, whatever house we were assigned to. All the posts in which I served, except for the year in Paris and my time in Brazil, we had government-supplied furnished housing, as you have everywhere in the Third World, in the embassies. It’s a lot cheaper to do that for the State Department than to be shipping people’s own furniture around the world all the time. And, of course, given the time intervals in sending stuff by ship, it’s a lot more convenient for the officers as well. You send over your personal stuff, but [with] the furniture, you have a good well-furnished house supplied for you by the government. You stay there, and you will be succeeded, perhaps, by the guy who gets your job when you leave.

PD:
Did you and Eleanore ever take any new houses, new quarters that were set for ambassadors or people in the service?

HM:
We were assigned housing, and it was usually pretty good housing. In Burma, we had the very large house that had been dated back to the colonial period. In Mozambique, we had very nice housing in all three posts we were assigned to together. They got bigger as you went overseas. The only time I had a house where I had to actually do the furnishing was in my three years in northeastern Brazil. And indeed, a lot of the furniture we have here [taps arm rest] is left over from that. [It would], go into storage when I went elsewhere, and then we’d have it out in those years when we were living together for a while. We bought a house in southeast Washington that we went to live in while we were on Washington assignments after we were married, so we had the furniture there, and then moved it up here. We got other stuff, the cupboard we had made for us in Burma, and other stuff, as you can see—African art, and stuff from all over. The State Department treats you pretty decently overseas, [or] at least that’s my opinion. You’re going to get fairly bland kinds of furniture, but it has to suit a variety of officers who come and go. It’s going to get moved from house to house, so it tends to be all about the same sort of stuff that everybody at the embassy has. But we managed not to end up having to live in these closed off American communities you sometimes have at posts, probably increasingly so now for security reasons, as we’re

[START OF TRACK 3, 0:00]

having everybody living side by side. If you’re a political officer you don’t want that, you want to be where out where the locals are not afraid to come and see you [laughs].

PD:
How did having Eleanore affect how you interacted with the locals? Did anything change?

HM:
Yes, in a sense, because she was getting involved with the locals herself, both with the Americans and other foreigners at the post, and also with the women of the country, and some of their organizations. And she’ll be telling about it when she tells her story, but she got involved at a number of posts, she got involved with local women’s organizations in the country.

PD:
Did you find yourself in any kind of similar involvement to that?

HM:
As a working diplomat I did indeed get to know people in local organizations. I mean, I think I even have a couple of membership cards to prove it, particularly with organizations that were primarily black in these countries where there were still a great many foreign colonial people, like [in] Mozambique. It was still a Portuguese colony when we were there; it was just before it got independence. I made quite a point to get to know the Africans that were living there. It was reasonably successful, I guess, as the medals indicate. I think in this thing [his résumé, which he then rustles on the table] I’ve quoted some of the things that, what they said about me [with] the awards I was given. I did reasonably well, but I realized, finally, after finishing our tour in Burma, I came back for another two years back in Washington, that I’m not an administrator. I didn’t want to go into these—the minute you get up to being a number two or a number one at a post you’re spending half your time just administering the darn thing. That’s not what I like to do. I like to get around in the country, and get to know the country, and get to understand it, and understand its people. [It’s] not being worried about running an organization, an American organization there.

PD:
How else did you get to know the country? I know you traveled.

HM:
You traveled as much as you could. And in some countries like Burma, where there were very few foreigners, you had to get all kinds of permission to travel. Though, every now and then the government would decide to take a group of diplomats and cart them around somewhere. I certainly did as much traveling as I could, sometimes by myself or with Eleanore, sometimes with other officers from the embassy. They kept a pretty close eye on you mostly while you were in Burma upcountry, the local officials and so forth. On one occasion when that didn’t happen, we went up to the far northwest corner, across the Bay of Bengal from Bangladesh, on that coast where foreigners didn’t get to very often to begin with. We’d been given permission to go there, and when we got there we found that the local officials had been alerted that we were coming, and allowed to come. They hadn’t been told what to do about it, so their notion was, basically, that they weren’t going to do anything about it. [That] was fine with us, because that meant we could go out and do what we wanted. So we rented a boat and went up rivers to small villages and had a wonderful time, just doing our own thing. We picked up a local guy of Chinese origin, who spoke excellent English and was running a sugar refinery, which was big stuff in Burma. He took us [under] his wing, and he knew all about how to get around, and who to talk to. And that was what you often tried to do is find some local who might, well, show you around and introduce you to people, who knew what was going on. And then sometimes you would go on pure recreational things. In Tanzania, we got to see a lot of wild animals, because that’s probably the world’s best place to see African wild animals. We got to see them in a number of places.

PD:
Where did you go to see them?

HM:
In the Serengeti plains, which is up in the northern part of Tanzania, which is where their big game parks [are], but we also were in big game parks elsewhere in other parts of the country where there weren’t so many [foreigners]—which foreigners didn’t see so much. I remember one place we were staying we had a sort of tent, with walls, but a tent roof where they were putting us up at this park. All of us during the night [heard] this growling going on right outside the tent. The next morning we see these lion tracks wandering about it [laughs]. But we never had any unfortunate incidents with these things, and we got to see a lot of animals, a lot of people, and a lot of fascinating stuff. I certainly never forgot about it, and I never had any second thoughts about what I’d done with my life. Then we came back here. I decided first off when I retired I was not going to stay in Washington the way quite a few retired Foreign Service officers did. I wasn’t going to stay in Washington looking for crumbs falling off the table, doing bits and pieces of contract work and that sort of thing. I wanted to start doing something entirely different, so we moved back here to Cooperstown, and I’ve become involved in all kinds of things here. The year after we got back here I was elected a village trustee and served at that for two years, and at the same time served on the village planning committee, which you could do both in those days [and] you can’t now. Then I got very much involved, both in Otsego 2000 (which is involved in conservation, protection, and at the moment anti-fracking activities), and I have been on that board since we got back to Cooperstown. It was founded [and] run by Henry Cooper. I started attending conferences dealing with James Fenimore Cooper, which were given every other year down at SUCO [State University of New York-College at Oneonta] in Oneonta. In 1989, since nobody else seemed to be doing it, I founded the Cooper Society and ran it singlehandedly for twenty years. They now have a proper organization, but I remain on as its Corresponding Secretary and also its Webmaster, answering questions that come in about Cooper by email. I also got involved quite [some] years ago with the Center for Continuing Adult Learning, when I was involved in helping found it back in 1993. I give short courses there, one or two every year, ranging from two to eight hours of lecturing, usually. I’ve done twenty-eight of them over the last twenty years. I’m in the middle of doing one at the moment on Leif Erickson and the Vikings in America, both in reality and [on] the fascination America developed with Leif Erickson in the nineteenth century. I’ve been the village historian now for the last seven years, answering questions for anybody who asks, frequently genealogical [ones]; I like doing online genealogical research. Since 2009, I have been on the Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board of the village. The five people, we are responsible for approving any changes that anyone wants to make to the external appearance of any building or structure in the village, under a law that was passed back in 2008. And I have a weekly column I’ve been running since 1995 in the Cooperstown Crier, based on the newspaper of exactly two hundred years before, the old Otsego Herald, [from] which I excerpt articles, but then research them, write them up, and comment on them at length. I’ve been doing that since ’95, and am continuing to do that. And I’ve had other columns on Cooper matters and so forth, from time to time, sometimes in the Freeman’s Journal. So I keep busy.

PD:
You do. How did you first get started with Cooper?

HM:
Well, I was a Dickens person; I still have a book case full of books by and about Dickens. In 1980, I think it was, when we were basically going off to Burma, we first began to think that we might end up retiring back here to Cooperstown, so I thought, “Well, I better look into this Cooper guy.” I didn’t really know much about him. So I started reading his books and books about him, and the more I read the more interested I [became]. When we left Burma in 1984, I rushed back to attend my first Cooper conference down at SUCO, and have participated in every one since. And in 1989, I started giving papers there, and have given a paper at every one since. That was when I founded the Cooper Society, with help at first from an English teacher at SUCO. But I keep thinking of things to do.

PD:
You said you were first thinking in Burma about coming back here. What was the draw? I know you had family too.

HM:
We knew we were going to have to retire somewhere. My mother had died in the late 60s, and my father had remarried to an old friend of the family and was living in Connecticut. So the closest thing we had to a hometown was here in Cooperstown. In fact, after 1970, when we married and gave up the rent-controlled apartment that my parents had had for twenty-five years in Manhattan, I transferred my official address to Cooperstown. I always kept it as my New York address, among other things, so that we could vote here. As Foreign Service officers stationed in Washington, we didn’t have to acquire a residence there. We kept the residence here, and as I said, [in] about 1980 we were starting to think, “You know, sooner or later, we’re going to be retiring,” and Eleanore’s mother was still living up here. That was when I thought I better start looking into Cooperstown’s author. I did, with results which have been considerable.

PD:
When you came back here, did you feel like there was an adjustment period?

HM:
There always was. I mean, we would be coming back for a couple of years in Washington, stationed at the State Department from time to time, and with home leave to come when we could spend time up here, visiting parents. Sure, there’s always a reverse cultural shock when you come home, in part because you’re, in a sense, you’re not really expecting it as much. But it’s not as serious as the one going overseas. I mean, you readjust faster—I think we did. It’s part of the game when you’re switching countries and cultures every couple of years.

PD:
Do you think there’s anything you carried with you from your foreign experiences that shaped how you set yourself up here?

HM:
Well, I don’t suppose [it has] directly. Among the short courses I’ve given for the Center for Continuing Adult Learning, I’ve done a number and Eleanore has joined me in one or two based on our overseas experience. For some time, I kept up my Burmese connections. I got a subscription to what was then the Burmese English language newspaper, and for about ten years I wrote up and published a summary of it, a monthly summary of it which was sent around to Burmese scholars. Ultimately, the whole files of it got put up online, where they are today. I kept it until after about ten years it was no longer that hard to get hold of materials from Burma, so I figured it was time to stop. I did keep up something of the Burmese connection; we still know people who are involved in Burmese matters.

PD:
When you first started teaching, what kind of topics were you interested in?

HM:
Well, I don’t know. I’d say there’s a list of them, they’re listed in order here somewhere [looks to résumé and rustles through papers], more or less. I guess they’re listed in whatever my listing is of CCAL. [Picks up paper] Did I list them there? Well, I guess I didn’t. Let’s see where they are here—here, CCAL. This isn’t all of them, because I started before, but these ones I had enough writing material to start putting online on my own computer. I did one “From Africa to Otsego,” in 2001, which was based on the African American experience, first in the country and then in New York State, primarily up through the Civil War, and then finally just in Otsego County. Because that African American experience (because of [my] African background), has always been of great interest to me, I got involved with the African American organization at Hartwick for some time. I’ve done a number of courses dealing with African American subjects. I did one on a guy that nobody had ever heard of, because nobody every writes about him, an African American named Steven Swails, who in 1860 was a hotel waiter here in Cooperstown. In 1865, he had become the first black commissioned officer in the United States army, and five years later, in 1870, he was president of the South Carolina Senate. After the Reconstruction Era he got kicked out. A fascinating guy, but nobody has ever written about him, so I did a course about him. I’ll do a great deal of research because I really do it for myself when I do these courses. I also make a point of never doing the same one twice. I’m doing one right now on Leif Erickson and the Vikings in America, [and] I’ll be doing one next spring on the War of 1812.

PD:
How do people normally react when you’re teaching?

HM:
The classroom that they usually give me, we are provided classrooms for our organization by the two colleges, as well as other campus privileges, and the room I usually get, we usually get, is room for forty people, and mine is usually oversubscribed [chuckles].

PD:
That’s good.

HM:
It’s fun.

PD:
Since you came back to the United States in the 1980s, what kinds of things have you and Eleanore done together to get back and involved into the community?

HM:
As I said, I’ve been involved in these things. Eleanore plays the piano, and has been involved in musical things overseas. Here she started teaching, she taught piano to private pupils for a while, for many years up until this last year, last spring when she was looking after me. She’s been involved in the Fly Creek Philharmonic and its annual March production of light comedy, light musical comedy. As I said, she’s been involved in that a long time. She’s played both piano and organ both at the Baptist church and sometimes at Christ Church.

PD:
I know you both have had that kind of art connection even when you were abroad. I’m looking at a couple different African art pieces here.

HM:
We got a great deal of African art, most of which we disposed of, but we kept ones we really liked. When we first came back up here at Cooperstown, Hartwick had a whole exhibit; they took their whole museum main floor and did nothing but MacDougalls’ African art, which went on for a while. After that we picked out the stuff we wanted, that we really liked and wanted to keep. [We] didn’t have room for everything, so we sold the rest at auction.

PD:
Where did you get your pieces?

HM:
A lot of them came from when I was in Ivory Coast, which was a wonderful place for getting African art because every time you came out of the embassy at night there would be rows of Africans with burlap sacks filled with African art, not just from the Ivory Coast, although that’s a big producer of it, but from all over West Africa. [They would] line them up on the sidewalk and you’d go around and dicker for things you wanted. So there was no shortage of it, but we also got some things from Mozambique and Tanzania, and we got stuff from Burma too. That would be different. [We got] a lot of textiles from Burma, but they didn’t go in for statues so much, the masks and things. You can see some of them, some of their stuff scattered around here.

PD:
So you had these cultural connections with people, did you ever have any, Eleanore was involved in music groups, did you have any gatherings at your home?

HM:
Not so much, we’re usually so cluttered with stuff. Of course, Eleanore was teaching people here, and piano teachers have to do an annual recital with their pupils; that sort of thing we do here. Although it’s a big house, we don’t seem to have any trouble keeping busy in it.

PD:
Did you have any piano students while you were abroad?

HM:
Yes, Eleanore had some, as well as becoming involved in musical organizations in some other countries. Of course, I was involved in all my Foreign Service work, traveling, and getting to know people and so forth. [I was] trying to getting to know people in organizations that involved the local population, not just the colonial or formal colonial power. That would vary from country to country.

PD:
I did want to ask, with the colonial power, you were in a couple different places where there was that shift…

HM:
Well, the only time, back when I was in college I was a summer in Angola, which was still very much a Portuguese colony. The rest of the countries we served in were basically former colonies, except for Mozambique, which was in the last stages of being a Portuguese colony. We left in 1974, which was the year that they had a revolution in Portugal, the result of which all its colonies were given their independence. And in fact, I came back and I brought Eleanore for the summer of ’74, after we’d gone back to Washington. They wanted me to come back for a while during this interim period after the Portuguese had given up and before the Frelimo guerrillas took over. That’s what I used to call their “Kerensky summer,” after the Russian [laughs]. We were there, back in Mozambique again that summer for a few months in this interim period, when it was nominally independent but hadn’t really organized itself yet. And the other countries, Burma had been a British colony and in many ways an Indian colony. Two countries I was in, in West Africa, had been French colonies. Angola and Mozambique had been Portuguese, and Tanzania had started out as a German colony, but then after World War I had been a British mandate under the United Nations, then a trust territory after World War II until it got its independence in the 60s, I think, some time. We were almost always in countries that had a colonial background in which [they] still largely used the old colonial language for dealing with foreigners, and frequently among themselves as well. There were lots of other local languages. Where there were still a lot of people both in the diplomatic service and frequently as business men and things from the former colonial power.

PD:
So how did that post-colonial atmosphere affect your living?

HM:
It affected it, I suppose, because these were the lot of people of this sort that we were largely dealing with. Certainly, in many posts where there were a lot of foreigners, there would be organizations of basically expatriates, or “expats,” as they call themselves, with whom we were involved. In Tanzania there was this so-called club that almost all the foreigners belonged to, I guess we did too, that sort of thing. The same would be true, to some extent, in other countries. Each country had its own differences that way, and of course we were in countries that had been British, that had been Portuguese, and in my case also that had been French. We had a good variation that way. I got to speak pretty good French and Portuguese, still can more or less. [I] studied some other languages but don’t retain much from them.

PD:
And which other languages did you study?

HM:
I studied Swahili, which is the language that’s spoken as the first language along the East African coast and on islands like Zanzibar. But it’s spoken as a second language throughout much of East Africa, even into Central Africa, and in Tanzania it had been made the official language. Now I didn’t get as much training as I wanted to because I was in the middle of it when I got called back to Mozambique for a few months, and it interrupted everything. There were other people at the post who spoke it better than I was ever going to, but I’d used it for reading in the local newspapers, particularly, the local Swahili language newspapers, but I wouldn’t want to try to do it now. But the Portuguese and the French, I switched back, started in French and moved to Portuguese, and moved back to French and moved back to Portuguese. And having done it both ways twice, suddenly both of them began to stick.

PD:
In a broad scope of a question, what has it been like to travel all these places and have Eleanore there with you?

HM:
Well, fascinating, and even more fascinating when she’s been around to come along. Our marriage came halfway through my overall diplomatic career. I was a bachelor for the first half and married for the second half, all in different countries of course. And we were able—after we married—she was able to come with me on trips. Sometimes, when I was stationed in Washington, I would get trips back to Africa to do things, and in some cases I could take her with me, and did, at my expense [laughs]. Not at the State Department’s expense. She very much enjoyed seeing the rest of the world, too. That worked out very well.

PD:
Well, we’re almost done with our hour and a half, is there anything else you would like to talk about?

HM:
I can’t think of any other, I think I mentioned most of the great excitement moments that came along while we were there. Oh, one other was more amusing in some ways. Towards the end of our assignment in Tanzania, there was a sudden breakup of the East African Federation, which had grouped Uganda, Tanganyika, or Tanzania, and Kenya. The airline, the East African airlines stopped flying. Eleanore and I were headed up to attend a ceremony up in the northern game park area. We got there to be informed by the Americans who had a small aid mission there, a U.S. aid mission there. “Are we glad to see you,” [they said] “because they just closed the border, and we’re swamped with all these tourists who had come over to see the animals and now can’t get back to Kenya to catch their planes home!” [laughs] Their vehicles had been taken away from them, and they weren’t their vehicles, but the vehicles of the safari companies that had brought them over. Fortunately, there was plenty of room in the local hotels to put them up with, so I arranged through the embassy in Dar-es-Salaam to have Pan America fly a plane down from Kenya to pick up all these

[START OF TRACK 4, 0:00]

Americans up. Tanzania says, “Ok, fine, they can come up into the airport up there, but we aren’t going to have anything to do with it.” So I had to invent an airline. We had to make, mimeograph boarding passes and boarding forms for people who were getting on board and all that sort of stuff. So we briefly ran our own airline, and when the plane came in we got them all off. And we took a few Canadians when there was some extra room. Then other countries started doing it. The British sent in a plane, I think maybe the French did too, to pick up their people. And they would pick up the leftovers of Americans who hadn’t got back to the airport in time to catch the plane I’d organized. I got a very nice letter of thanks from the Canadian embassy up in Kenya. That was another [affair that] kept us busy. It was hardly a frightening affair; it was kind of lively for a few days.

PD:
Sure.

HM:
I certainly never missed for a moment having spent those twenty-eight years. Oddly enough, having got back here, I have no great interest in traveling. I sort of have been there, done that. I also got the notion that I like living in other countries more than being a tourist in them. So we stay here of course, and nowadays with the computer and the internet you can do so much right from your own home in terms of research and writing, and all that sort of thing. It grows incrementally, so it’s very convenient. I turned eighty last August, and this whole last year I spent a lot of the time recovering from cancer, apparently successfully. That kept me from doing too much this spring and summer, but now I’m back in pretty good fettle.

PD:
We’re glad you are. Well, that’s about it for our time. Thank you very much Hugh, I really appreciate you having the time to talk to me.

HM:
Thank you Patrick, I hope this sort of thing proves useful for the records you’re keeping of Cooperstownians.

PD:
Don’t worry, it will. Thank you very much Hugh.

Duration

30:00 - Track 1
30:00 - Track 2
30:00 - Track 3
2:42 - Track 4

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Files

Citation

Patrick Dickerson, “Hugh MacDougall, November 14, 2012,” CGP Community Stories, accessed February 21, 2018, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/123.