CGP Community Stories

Dr. Ted Peters, November 13, 2010

Title

Dr. Ted Peters, November 13, 2010

Subject

Boy Scouts
Armed Forces
Medicine
Chemical engineering
Clinical chemistry
Biochemistry
Radar
Submarine forces
Serum albumin
Medical research personnel
Haunted houses

Description

Dr. Theodore Peters has had a distinguished career as a biochemist, and he currently resides in Cooperstown, New York. Dr. Peters was born in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania in 1922 and had an interest in science from a young age. He has a BS in chemical engineering from Lehigh University and a PhD in biological chemistry from Harvard University. Dr. Peters began his career teaching biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Medical Schools. In 1955, he came to Cooperstown as a biochemist at the Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital’s Research Institute. He is an expert on the protein serum albumin, and despite his official retirement in 1988, he remains involved at the Research Institute. Dr. Peters has also applied his expertise to local conservation activities, studying the chemical composition of Otsego Lake. Dr. Peters served in the United States Navy as a radar and communication officer in World War II and the Korean War. He has traveled throughout the world and has four children and seven grandchildren.

Dr. Peters tells his life story as a medical researcher, community member, naval officer, husband, father, and grandfather. His medical experience allows him to speak to how scientific research has changed over his long career. His conservation activities on Otsego Lake help him talk about changes to Cooperstown’s landscape. Some recollections of note discuss his wartime experiences, losing friends in the war, his world travels and international guests, living in a haunted house, and meeting his wife.

Dr. Peters’s narrative is informative and easy to follow. On the audio recordings, Dr. Peters makes an occasional factual error. However, he has corrected these errors, and the corrections are bracketed on the transcript (e.g. he corrected the number of grandchildren in college on page 17). Likewise, missing words that Dr. Peters intended to say are bracketed (e.g. “[a] typewriter” instead of “typewriter” on page 9). Other bracketed items include: guesses at inaudible words (e.g. “[sea]” on page 38), vocalizations (e.g. “[laughter]”), grammatical corrections (e.g. “[it’d be]” instead of “is it” on page 24), and clarifications (e.g. “department [the Upstate section]” on page 35). Extraneous vocalizations are omitted. Researchers are encouraged to consult the audio recordings for clarification and best comprehension.

Creator

Amanda Cohen

Publisher

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

Date

2010-11-13

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Format

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Language

en-US

Type

Sound
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Identifier

10-114

Coverage

Cooperstown, NY
1922-2010

Online Submission

No

Interviewer

Amanda Cohen

Interviewee

Theodore "Ted" Peters Jr.

Location

85 Lake St.
Cooperstown, NY

Transcription

TP = Dr. Theodore Peters Jr.
AC = Amanda Cohen

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

AC:
This is the November 13, 2010 interview of Dr. Theodore Peters, Jr., also known as Ted Peters, by Amanda Cohen for the Cooperstown Graduate Program’s Research and Fieldwork course, recorded at Dr. Peters’s home in Cooperstown, NY.
So, Dr. Peters, when and where were you born?

TP:
Thank you. I was born in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania at home on May 12, 1922. That’s eighty-eight years ago.

AC:
You look great!

TP:
Thank you.

AC:
So you were born at home—was that a common thing back then?

TP:
Yes it was. My father was a general practitioner who did a lot of [obstetrics]. He delivered 3,000 babies and many of them were at home, in farmhouses out in the country and so forth. Usually another doctor would come in and assist if you were in town, but some people were born in the hospitals. But mostly at home, I think.

AC:
Were your siblings born at home too?

TP:
No, my one sister, she was born in the hospital, but that was down in the military, in [pause] Georgia, in World War I.

AC:
So your father was a doctor in World War I?

TP:
He was a doctor in World War I, yes.

AC:
Was he in World War II also?

TP:
No. He was too old then. He was at home and he was one of the few doctors left and there were a lot of sick people. We had flu and stuff. He really worked himself into a sort of nervous breakdown in the 40s from the over work.

AC:
Oh no. Was that difficult to deal with?

TP:
It was just so much. There were so many calls and very few doctors.

AC:
Of course. What was your father’s name?

TP:
Theodore Peters.

AC:
Oh yes, that would make sense! And what was your mother’s name?

TP:
My mother’s name was Miriam, she was Miriam Lenhardt, which is a German name.

AC:
How did your parents meet?

TP:
He was an intern down near Philadelphia and was rooming with his sister, Jen Peters, in Norristown, PA, which is about 20 miles out of Philadelphia. That’s how they met. My mother at the time, she was teaching German in a nearby school. She was a graduate of Wilson College in Chambersburg, as is my wife.

AC:
Did she only teach German or did she teach other things?

TP:
I don’t know. I just heard about her teaching German and I just found that the school she was teaching in is now being made into a museum, which I think is a nice tribute.

AC:
And your sister? Was she older or younger?

TP:
She’s four years older—Elizabeth. She went to Wilson College in Chambersburg. She was a Red Cross worker in World War II. She met her husband in a military hospital in Tennessee, and he had been wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. They lived in the Norfolk area most of their lives, and she died last May at 91.

AC:
I’m so sorry. It sounds like she lived a full life.

TP:
A good life. Yes she was, pretty much.

AC:
What was your relationship like with your family?

TP:
It was good. It was just the four of us, and we were pretty close. When I was seven, the Depression started—‘29. So we didn’t do a lot of fancy things, we learned to do our own work and to live carefully. They were going to build a new house, I was going to have my own room, but that all went by the boards when the Depression hit. So we always had dinner together, we’d sit around the fire, we would sing together—hymns a lot. We would go picnicking, [have] birthdays together. My father and I did a lot of hunting and fishing together, even though it was hard to get away from his work. His office was part of the house, so we all learned about answering calls: we learned to find out how far apart the pains were on a woman who was pregnant and about to deliver [chuckle], and to take messages, be respectful on the phone, so that was just part of all of our being together.

AC:
What were some of your hobbies when you were growing up?

TP:
Oh boy—I would go fishing. [I had] a buddy, we used to fish a lot. Chambersburg is a town of about 12,000 and you could go all over on a bike by yourself. [There were] fishing streams and things. I did a lot of biking, I would roller-skate after school. But hobbies—I did a lot of reading, I took up the trumpet, that certainly became a hobby.

AC:
How were old were you when you started playing trumpet?

TP:
I took it when I was a freshman in high school. That’d be about thirteen. Then, I liked to fool around with tools and electricity and I was inquisitive. In those days, you didn’t have circuit breakers on your electric supplies, you had fuses and I blew a lot of fuses in the house, including in the office. [Joking] I’d put my finger in the electric socket. Then [I’d] build things out of electrical [parts], some woodwork too. I took a typewriter apart once, a rifle—couldn’t get them back together. So I’d liked to see how things worked.

AC:
So how did you really develop your interest in science? Was it through this exploration or were there other factors?

TP:
Well, I think it was this wanting to know how things worked. I always loved outdoors, nature. Tried to learn the birds and trees. I loved to go to camp—Scout camp. [pause] Science was just part of it. I liked math.

AC:
What did you want to be when you grew up, when you were that age?

TP:
Well, I first thought I wanted to be a forest ranger because I loved being in the woods, and then I wanted to go to the Naval Academy. All through grade school, high school, I wanted to go to the Naval Academy and I would follow the Academy. I read every book on it; I knew all the things that plebes are supposed to recite, things like that. I couldn’t get an appointment when I came out of high school, and I went into military school for a year. I had a scholarship in their band, which was a wonderful thing. This is Valley Forge Military Academy, which I told you of. I took the exam, I got a 4.0 on the math, I got down to the Academy all packed, and they turned me off on a minor physical problem. I had two operations that summer that didn’t work so I went onto Lehigh and gave up the Navy as a primary career. I did get in later. [pause] Now, you asked, “how did I know what I wanted to be?” I had had chemistry that year after high school at the Military Academy and I liked that, and I knew I liked engineering, so I majored in chemical engineering at Lehigh, and I think I got the chemistry prize each year. Then I went on in graduate school. Then after the Navy, I went into biochemistry because I wanted to learn more about nature and how it works. So that’s how chemistry came in.

AC:
Oh sure. And that’s interesting that it can start so early with something like Boy Scouts or exploration.

TP:
Oh yeah, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts.

AC:
How far did you get as a Boy Scout?

TP:
I only got to be a Star, but I was a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster, so I was patrol leader and so forth like that. It was fun.

AC:
So when you were talking about the Naval Academy and you said you couldn’t get an appointment and it was a medical thing—could you clarify that? You said something about an operation?

TP:
Oh, I had a couple operations and I kept trying to get into naval programs during the war. They kept deferring me as an engineering student. Finally, when I was at MIT in 1944, I had another operation that worked, so I got in the Navy in May of ’44.

AC:
If you don’t mind me asking, what operation was it for?

TP:
It had to do with my plumbing. Pretty simple operation.

AC:
Sure. In terms of talking about how you came to Valley Forge and then to Lehigh, what was it like being away from home for the first time?

TP:
Oh, I didn’t mind that, I had gone to Scout camps and gone off on trips with a friend for several weeks and I didn’t get homesick. [pause] At Valley Forge they keep you so busy with all the regulations and stuff, that homesickness wasn’t a problem. I missed my dog.

AC:
What was your dog’s name?

TP:
Well, that one was Tarzan. Black cocker, called Tar.

AC:
Do you have some memories of that dog?

TP:
Oh yeah. A lot of them. We’d go hiking in the woods, and he had these long, furry ears that would get full of burrs. But he was killed by going out on to the street, by a car, just as I got home from Valley Forge. We were very sad. Well, we lost several that way. It’s very hard to keep a dog in town like that.

AC:
Sure, in the days before electric fences.

TP:
That’s true. Someone always leaves the gate open or something.

AC:
Of course. So what was your college experience like?

TP:
Well, this is Lehigh. I hadn’t even seen it before I went there. I never have to take any College Boards or anything. It was mid August when I found that the operations—this is in [trying to remember dates] ‘40—wouldn’t work. When I picked Lehigh, because it was a good engineering school, and they took me on the basis of my high school grades. I never even went there. In those days you pledged a fraternity right away, and I did pledge my father’s fraternity, which was Sigma Phi, not [Sigma] Chi but Phi, and he had been at Hamilton College. You moved right in and so you have this group of about 20 close friends. I supported the fraternity system. They ended up drinking too much and, well, they drank themselves out of existence, in that chapter. But they helped you. The first semester when you’re a pledge, they make you do all kinds of things, take care of the house and all, and you learn a lot of songs and all [the] jokes. But they were there to help you. If you were having trouble, a fraternity brother would help you with your studies. I used to tutor some guys, and I think it was a very good thing. It taught you a lot of values, too. One of them who took me under his wing, he was a year older, he’d been a very good friend ever since, and he persuaded me to get out and into activities right away, such as the school paper, which I probably wouldn’t have done, but I ended up being the editor-in-chief after my senior year. So getting an early start like that, you’re much better off than just dropping into things later. I did go out for freshman tennis, which was not too successful. I didn’t go out for other sports. I did play in the band, of course. Oh, a bunch of clubs- math clubs, things like that. It was pretty busy. I was taking 20 credits, I guess, should be about six and a half courses or so. The second year—that would be ‘41—we immediately went on an accelerated program. The war broke out, so we didn’t have any more summer vacations and I graduated in three years. But your summers were all taking courses and then the guys started to get off into the service. A lot of activities were curtailed. We had a sportsman’s club. We used to go deer hunting and we folded that up. But it was still a great experience. It wasn’t as happy as it would have been, if it hadn’t been wartime. Just before Pearl Harbor, I met my wife-to-be. She was going to college in my hometown of Chambersburg. Went to Wilson College, which I mentioned before. We really seemed to get along very well. She came up to a house party [inaudible]—this would be the spring of ‘42.

AC:
Where was Wilson College?

TP:
In Chambersburg. That’s where my mother, my sister, my aunt, my wife, my mother-in-law, all, went there. My father was a doctor there. I knew it well. It’s a good school. It was all-girls, liberal arts. I’ve often said this: I’d had other girls up for weekends. I was always happy when it was time for them to go. But it wasn’t the case. I drove her back to Chambersburg that night. Something seemed to be working and we’ve been very close ever since.

AC:
So you met at a house party. Can you talk about exactly how you met for the first time?

TP:
I’d love to tell you. Her mother had lived [in Chambersburg] earlier and had a lot of friends. She went to Wilson. One of these friends had a party—a cocktail party or something—and included her and included her daughter Margaret, my wife. My father came in and he always had an eye for a good-looking girl. He promptly went over to her and introduced himself and said, “Well, you must meet my son at Lehigh. He’s coming down for a dance next week with his high school girlfriend.” So she introduced us at a tea dance and we arranged a dance.

AC:
Even though you were with your high school girlfriend?

TP:
Yeah, I’m afraid so.

AC:
[laughter] How did she feel about this?

TP:
I’m afraid from then on, it was about Taps for her. I felt very bad about it, because she was a very nice girl. Pretty, very talented, great piano player. She played accompaniment for trumpet solos I would play. But a few weeks later, I was in town and I asked Margaret to go to a movie. She reminds me it was The Woman of the Year—Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. Then—this is funny—because that next Monday I got back and I was working on the school paper and I had a date with a girl from Dickinson College in Carlisle—very voluptuous blonde. She called up in tears that her dean wouldn’t let her out. I think she flunked something. So I called my mother to see if it was all right and I sent a telegram to Margaret seeing if she’d come to a house party that weekend. It was pretty quick. She said to her friends, next time he’ll ask me first. [laughter] But her mother mailed her prom dresses and all. We had a great time. So that was all fun, we talk about it a lot.

AC:
It seems like college back then was so different—I mean, in some ways similar—but very different than it is today. Could you speak to that, as you see your children—and I don’t know—are your grandchildren in college yet?

TP:
One, two, three, four, [five] of them have graduated. Out of seven. I have one in college and [one in sixth grade]

AC:
Could you talk about—seeing their experiences in college—how the college experience has changed over time?

TP:
Well I see it now only from a distance, but it seems colleges are a lot more party. They get there and they go on binges because they’re free. It’s the unusual [students who are] really disciplined, doing studies and still enjoying themselves. Certainly down in Oneonta, I think, the big party schools. They’re wasting their parents’ money, a lot of them, I think. But they’re still learning a lot. It’s just not as [pause] dedicated. You don’t get the same values, I don’t think, that you used to.

AC:
Did you have similar restrictions on your campus, like the woman who couldn’t leave Dickinson?

TP:
No. You didn’t have to go to class if you didn’t want to. Of course, you’d lose out on the quizzes. I think Wilson might have had it. We had to have her in at 10 o’clock every night and so forth, and get permission to do things. She could get an overnight permission to stay at my parents’ house and that was very nice. But no. The women’s colleges were more strict.

AC:
Do you have any traditions from college that stick in your mind? Either from your fraternity…

TP:
Well, there were a lot of fraternity traditions…

AC:
Which you can’t divulge! [laughter]

TP:
Well, like singing fraternity songs. I still play them a lot.

AC:
On your trumpet?

TP:
Yes, mostly on the trumpet. [pause] Well of course, initiation times were always fun, with a lot of singing and some drinking. I didn’t drink through college, but I put a bunch of drunks to bed, or in the shower. [laughter] But you took care of them, you know? We kept losing these guys to the war. That was quite a big factor. I was just looking, April ’42, that was the house party that [inaudible] Margaret came up for. There was one of our guys and he had just graduated and he was a midshipman in the Navy. Four months later, he was killed on the cruiser Quincy off Solomon Island in Guadalcanal—I was just reading about him. Another graduate had been shot down, in a fighter. One of our classmates in the fraternity, there were only five of us—sweet young guy from Utica, full of songs and he’d stand up and sing “Hard Hearted Hannah (The Vamp of Savannah)”—his grades weren’t good, and he went in the army promptly, and in ’44 he was killed in Burma by a Japanese sniper. A second one out of our group of six, actually, got into submarines, after a fellow who later got me in—a fraternity brother—and he waited and waited to get on the submarine out of Guam, and on his first patrol, they went into the Sea of Japan and were sunk—June ’45. It was real sad. These things sobered you up a bit, you see.

AC:
I want to ask more about the War in a little bit, but I’m kind of interested to hear you talk more about how your experiences with your friends in the War—and you being in the War—really affected how you saw the world.

TP:
Yeah, I wasn’t really in the War. I finally got in in May of ’44 when I got the third operation. They put me through a year of mainly electricity, radar, radio training, so I’d be a radar officer. From there I got into submarine school, and I was in submarine school when the War ended, in New London, Connecticut.

AC:
But just in term of seeing people going off to war, your friends, and them not coming back.

TP:
Yeah, well, going off, you’d always just wish them well, and think the best. But then when you get the news they’re not coming back, it is terribly sad. You think, every Memorial Day, [inaudible], Armistice Day. Here they were, age 20, 22, 23. They gave up their life. They didn’t have any kids, any fun any more, and so they did that for us.

AC:
Could you talk more in depth about how you came to join the Navy?

TP:
Well, I always loved the Navy, as I said. I kept trying to get into the naval officer programs. V7—you’d become a midshipman in college. They wouldn’t take me till I finally had that third operation and they took me in in May ’44. They had a program then, if you were a graduate of an engineering college, they’d take you in and give you a commission as ensign—that’s the lowest naval officer rank—and those were the ones, mostly, that got into radar. So I got in, but they tied me up for at least a year with courses. But I was so pleased when I first went down and bought my uniforms in South Boston. To think I’d finally got it, you know?

AC:
Was this with the Engineering Defense Training program at MIT? Or was that later?

TP:
No, I was at MIT as a graduate student in chemical engineering, after Lehigh. However, the Navy sent me to New York City for training. Then they sent me to Bowdoin College in Maine for radio work, and then, they sent me to MIT again for radar work. That was fascinating because radar is fascinating—how you can bounce a sharp wave off of something and get its distance, bounce it off the moon if you’re powerful enough. Later, when I was a radar officer, when they shot a gun, you could see the shell go out as a little blip. It’s an amazing thing, and it was a big advantage to us during the war, because we were ahead of the Germans and the Japs, especially the Japs. So that part I loved. I loved submarines. Submarines were one place I would’ve been something other than just a deck officer. Because they’d only have about five officers—seven officers. So you’d all be standing deck watches and things. Also, they’re so full of gear and equipment that it’s a lot to learn on a submarine. The crew is highly picked, and they are very dedicated. They know that your life depends on them not fouling up. One time, I do remember, I was a diving officer. We had students on the stern planes and the bow planes, and one kid jammed the stern plane so on hard dives, so the submarine started to go like this [diagonal hand gesture]. What I’d been trained to do was all stop, all back full, blow bow buoyancy tank, and that wasn’t doing much. So I reported this, of course, to the OD, who was above me, but [inaudible]. I then said blow all main ballast, which is what we’d been told to do. Meanwhile, the chief, an enlisted man who was on the air manifold, went over and shut off the after group of tanks, because if I had blown all main ballast, the air would have gone [aft] and made it worse. So he saved my neck. The great enlisted men, they knew what to do.

AC:
How did you feel about not seeing action?

TP:
Well, I was sorry. I was prepared for it. But, I say, I was in submarine school when the War ended, and that was a huge celebration. I did get as far as Pearl Harbor afterwards, but not in action. [pause] I was just so sorry that people were lost. We knew a lot of the Medal of Honor skippers and things, too. I was called back so I [served] in the Korean War. I was the communications and electronics officer for a squadron there, in New London. But I did a lot of traveling around, arranging fleet maneuvers and things, communication, which I had had some experience in. I did spend a month on one submarine, going to Bermuda and operating with the Canadians—very seasick again. But, it’s a great feeling to be an officer of the deck, alone at night out there, you and the quartermaster, under the stars. The ship depends on you being alert, for radars and things, you know. I was an Officer of the Deck when we came in under the Golden Gate Bridge in ’46.
[END OF TRACK 1, 30:00]

[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]

TP (continued):
So that was a thrill. Got a five-knot current against you. So I loved [those things].

AC:
What was it like living in a submarine for one month?

TP:
Well, we would operate in and out. We slept on board. It’s sort of like a Pullman train. The officer has a bunk, maybe four to a stateroom. Enlisted men have a hammock—not hammocks—but they’re bunks, but they’re about four high. So you have to swing up in there. [But surely], you’d get very good meals. You just learned to shave in a cup full of water, and to economize some water, because you’d make your own. You have to keep alert. You’d learn to listen for things when you had the duty at night. You’d come into a compartment and [it’d be], “What’s that motor running? What’s this doing?” It helps you tell if things are working all right, just listening, when you get used to it.

AC:
How long did it take you to listen to something and say, “Oh, this is wrong”?

TP:
Well, probably a couple of months. When you have the duty, you’re up every four hours making a tour of the boat. Waking you at night to do it and [such]. So it’s very quiet and you learn to listen then.

AC:
And you said people made their own water? How did that work?

TP:
Well, the submarine distills its own water from salt water. It’s both vacuum and heat that they do it with. But it’s not in great supply. [pause] I guess most ships do that, and there are better systems now.

AC:
And you were talking about you got the opportunity to travel while you were in the Navy. What kinds of places did you get to go to?

TP:
Well, in the Second World War, I was down in a submarine in San Diego and we went to Pearl Harbor and back. I was very seasick, and I put in to go to a bigger ship. It so happens that our squadron commander in San Diego had been the skipper of the submarine school when I went through. I was number one in the class, so we had met and talked. He was our squadron commander, so he didn’t forward the letter, he ordered me to his staff, to be his communication officer. He would be in charge of fleet maneuvers, maybe around Hawaii. He’d send me on ahead to arrange communications, so I had several trips to Hawaii and back. He’s the one who got me called back in the Korean War, because he was the aide to the admiral of the submarines of the Atlantic, and he really thought we were going to be at war with Russia in ’51. He was going to go to Iceland to head a group to intercept Russian submarines coming down, and I was to go along as his communication officer. Well, he had gone by the time I had got back to New London, so that never happened. I ended up not of the submarine force but the submarine squadron under them in New London. But again, I was all over the place arranging fleet exercises—San Juan several times; Bermuda; Argentia, Newfoundland; Malta in the Mediterranean. That was a neat trip. I flew in through Germany, and we spent a week on Malta. In World War II, Malta was bombed terribly. The British survived in caves—not caves, but underground facilities—and we operated from there, which was very interesting. I got to know the British Navy fairly well. We were touring around then. You can drink on British ships, you know? They’d invite you in, and you wouldn’t get off till the skipper, the officer who invited you, was too drunk to get up to see you off [chuckle]. Anyway, [pause] I did see a lot then. Maggie was stuck on a little farmhouse up there in New London with two kids.

AC:
When were you guys married?

TP:
We were married in June ’45, right after she graduated from college, and I was in the Navy then, you see. So we stayed an extra year in the Navy because we both enjoyed it, and we were saving the submarine pay, which is 50% hazardous duty pay. So we stayed an extra year, so we had a pretty good savings for our situation. We came back to go to graduate school at Harvard, and we were probably the only graduate students who bought a house—7500 dollars paid for a house. We bought it from a law student who still had a semester to go, so they stayed with us for that semester, paid us rent. He and I would study in the basement and the girls would be upstairs, and it worked out very well.

AC:
Was she a graduate student too?

TP:
No, we had [pause] two kids by then. [remembering dates] We had two children while I was in graduate school, so she didn’t have any when we lived with the law student.

AC:
When were your children born?

TP:
One in ‘48 and one in ‘49. Then the next one in ’55 and then ‘57. Those were the two broods.

AC:
Was it difficult raising children while you were in grad school?

TP:
Well she did a lot of that. The mother was very important then. Teddy would come crawling to the door when I’d come home. Because I’d have a lot of work to do at night, I’d try to be home every evening. We would go off on picnics and things. They were good kids, they weren’t real problems or anything. But we were young, with no experience in raising kids.

AC:
Did you have help from friends and community members? Or were you guys doing it by yourselves?

TP:
Not particularly, then. It was an Italian and Irish neighborhood. They were friendly, but they didn’t help us much. We didn’t really need it. We had one car, and I needed that to get into school once a day. Once a week, I’d try to leave it and take the bus so she could shop and do things. So you don’t live high on the hog.

AC:
How did you come to switch from chemical engineering into biochemistry?

TP:
Good thought. When we were in San Diego in ’46 [pause], just before we got out, we had been able to take some trips. We went to Yosemite Valley and some of the beautiful California parks and valleys, and I kept seeing the big knobs on the Redwood trees, and wondering how they got there. I decided, I’d really like to know more about how living things work. Engineers are tuned to do things well, but the most cheap way. I didn’t think to make a cheaper toothpaste was what I wanted. If I had gone back to MIT and gotten a doctorate, we’d probably have been with an oil company in South America and done very well. But I thought, well, I don’t really want to do very well. I just want to be at a small college studying things like this. I was prepared not to make much money. But that’s why I switched, to learn more about biochemistry. [pause] I visited UCLA and a guy at Berkeley, asked them if they thought it was possible with the background I had. They said, “Oh, I think so.” Coming east, we interviewed at Madison, Wisconsin and at Harvard. The guy at Harvard was a gem. He liked very much my transcript from Lehigh, because I was summa cum laude there. So to get in, he suggested that I might want to get a little more biology. That summer, I went to Gettysburg College and took embryology and comparative anatomy. I learned quite a lot there, too. So [that cemented] getting into biological chemistry.

AC:
So MIT was before you came to Harvard?

TP:
I was in the Navy. Before that, I had been at MIT in radar, and before that in chemical engineering, about six months each time.

AC:
And I know that you’re an expert in serum albumin, if I’m pronouncing that right? How did you get interested in that?

TP:
Well, what you’d do, you take a year of courses. Then you’d get to qualifying exams. Then you’d pick a thesis professor and a thesis project. So I shopped around, I [elected a] guy Christian Anfinsen. He later got the Nobel Prize. He was a young guy, just coming back from a fellowship in Sweden. I sort of thought, well, I’ll probably see a lot more of a guy like that, who’s young, than one of the established, older profs. He was a great guy—very relaxed, very smart. We got along well—not later, but then. The atomic pile had just started as a result of the studies in atomic energy, and all. We had radioactive isotopes to deal with for a change. You could trace compounds through a body that way, give a little bit and find where it ends up. He suggested I start working with liver slices, and seeing where amino acids, which proteins are made of, would go. I did that. In tracing down, I found that the most active thing they made was this secreted protein. I isolated it at different steps and found it to be serum albumin. From then on, there was so much to learn about. First of all, how it’s made, how [it gets] out of the liver, what its structure is—whack it up into pieces and study them, so there was plenty to do with albumin. I was able to get grants. In those days, it was easy. I had the longest-running grant at NIH in the blood division—29 years or something. [pause] Those were halcyon days, I’ll tell you. So that’s how I got into serum albumin. [pause] This sort of ties in. Well, after Harvard, I went to teach at [the University of] Pennsylvania, School of Medicine, my first job as instructor. We weren’t real happy there. I didn’t get much support on my work. The people were dull and I got called back in the Navy after a year, to the Korean War. They wanted to me to go into the Medical Service Corps, be a public health officer or something, and I didn’t want to do that. The chairman of biochemistry was a Quaker. I remember him saying, “Patriotism is not a virtue.” Well, oh boy. So we didn’t go back there, we didn’t have to. When I got back, two years later, we got out of the Navy, and I was asked back to Harvard, where I had graduated. So I was on the staff of biochemistry at the Harvard Medical School. Just to complete, a guy in charge of research here [in Cooperstown], a brilliant man, Joe Ferrebee, he had come from Boston, and the Clarks established a two million-dollar endowment for research. So they got Joe Ferrebee looking around for people. He called up his old friend at Harvard, said, “Is there anyone you want to get rid of?” or something like that. That’s how he got my name. This is a good story—I was in the Harvard freshman biochemistry lab teaching, in the medical school, and it was the day that my daughter—this was ’55—was due to be born. Maggie had been going in. I got a phone call, so I ran over. Well, it was Joe Ferrebee in Cooperstown, and he talked to me about coming here for a position [chuckle]. So when I settled down, I did come out later that month, and we all came out, and I loved it. I love the country. Commuting in Boston was hair-raising on Friday nights. Maggie loved Wellesley, where we were living, so she cried all the way down from the Berkshires. But she has come to love it here, I think, after a while. So we came out here that fall, and that was lovely, because I was independent researcher. I could work on whatever I wanted. Joe Ferrebee helped me get grants. So, for 33 years I did that here. It was great [chuckle].

AC:
Before we get to that, because I’m definitely interested in your experience in Cooperstown, what are some of your memories of teaching?

TP:
Teaching. Well, when I first went to Penn as an instructor—and I hadn’t really done much teaching—I got a book on [pause] information for college teachers or something like that. One of the things I remember from it is: don’t call a student’s name and then ask a question, because all of the others will just forget it and relax. So you ask a question, and then you look around and call a name. [chuckle, pause] I do remember, at Penn, I was giving lectures on amino acids, and to a big class here, and I guess I gave them too much material, because halfway through, I pulled down some more blackboards with a lot more structures on them. They were very unhappy about that. I thought it was wrong of them to express emotion. [pause] I didn’t get to know many of the students well. They were busy. They just looked forward to the quizzes. Medical school isn’t like college. You don’t give them a lot of individual attention, really.

AC:
So were you a lecturer?

TP:
Yeah, I did give some lectures, and helped run some of the labs.

AC:
Ok. But not tenure-track, correct?

TP:
Well this is medical school. They’re all taking the same courses. That’s their track.

AC:
No, but for you, as a teacher. Were you tenure-track?

TP:
Oh! They didn’t use that word then. I wasn’t an instructor at Harvard. I was a step above that, called an associate. Then I left to come out here, where there wasn’t really much teaching. I did have an appointment at Columbia, because we’re affiliated with Columbia Medical School. I also had an appointment at Albany Medical School, because I used to go consult there a lot, just to keep in touch with another biochemical department. It’s great being here on your own, your free lab and all. But you do have to keep in touch with your colleagues and what’s going on. You go to a lot of meetings and such.

AC:
So you ended up coming here around the time your third child was born?

TP:
Exactly. She was born the [fourth] of May, and she was three weeks old when we first came out here and looked at it and three months old when we moved here. She’s a dedicated Cooperstonian.

AC:
When you first came here, did you feel welcomed by the community?

TP:
Oh yeah. I was a PhD, which they had about 15 MDs, and they were so nice to us. There was never any discrimination or anything. They were great people. Three of us came at the same time, and they had a party for the Peterses, the [Thomases], and the Ashleys. Oh, they really welcomed us. We made very good friends with those people.

AC:
Could you talk a little bit about the work that you did and are still continuing to do at the Bassett Research Institute?

TP:
What I did. Well, as I said, I did my own basic research—I had a technician after about a couple months—on albumin. We would give the radioactive amino acid to a rat, say, by a tail vein. Then after certain periods, take the rat’s liver and grind up the [pause]—painlessly [making foreboding, decapitating noise]—and take the cells apart, grind it up, and—I don’t know how much biology you’ve had, but there’s the nucleus in the cell and the mitochondria and some other organelles—and you could find where this albumin was in a minute and where it was after twenty minutes, and how it got out of the cell, that sort of thing. Then we also did a lot of work with that, with the liver slices, where you can vary the environment of the slices and see how it’s affected by different substances you put in there. The other thing that I ran into here, I was the only chemist, and so I was put in charge of the clinical chemistry lab that does your bloods and urines and things. I didn’t know much about it. I’d gotten a quick cram-course with the clinical chemist at Boston VA Hospital, where I’d been. While I was here, a group started the Upstate section of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry. I went to that, there were only about seven or eight of us. But it was a big help to have friends at Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, that you could call up and say, “How about this new machine? Is it worth getting?” Or, “What’s the best test to do for this?”, and all. So, we would have meetings about four times a year. I think the first one I went to was in Batavia, near Buffalo. I’d been in Albany, conferring with people in the biochemistry department there, and the meeting was in Batavia, in the evenings. So I would drive into Albany, into Batavia, and then back that night, so [chuckle] that was a big day. [pause] Through that I got into that clinical chemistry group, and I was [later] chairman of that department [the Upstate section]. Then I made some suggestions about measuring proteins, and from that, they put me on their standards committee, which I ended up being chairman of, and then—

AC:
This is the AACC [American Association for Clinical Chemistry], right?

TP:
That’s it. Good for you. Then I did then run for secretary—I ran for the board, I guess, and was elected. Then I ran for secretary. Then I ran for president, which is a three-year—pre-president, president, post—in ’88. That’s the year I retired here, so I had more time. That’s been invaluable. We’d try to have meetings all over the country, and I met a lot of nice people there, a lot of good friends. Maggie liked those meetings too. So that was a fair portion of my effort after a while. Another interesting thing, in [1962], we had the Cuban Missile Crisis, and [pause] the chemistry professor at the high school was called into the Army for service, and we were good friends with the superintendent, and he asked me if I’d take over the chemistry classes, at least that semester.

AC:
At Cooperstown Central School?

TP:
At the high school, yeah, which I did. I learned a lot, because you really have to know your basics if you’re going to have kids asking you about it. But there were two sections, including labs, and I did that, plus my work at the hospital. You see, I’d run back and forth, and that was fine. I also got me a bunch of good friends among the teachers. That class had their [pause] sixty-fifth reunion or something recently, and they invited me to it, which I thought was so nice, real nice bunch of kids. [pause] So I’ve been pouring out things in a disjointed manner here, I’m afraid.

AC:
No, that’s fine! I know you got to travel a lot through the AACC. Could you talk a little bit about those travels and maybe other travels you’ve done for different work and for leisure?

TP:
I’d love to. We think of our travels quite a lot. With the AACC, we’d go to Washington for meetings, which is our headquarters. You’d go to section meetings, maybe in Hartford or Boston. Then you’d go to their national meetings once a year, which are in the summertime, when it’s a little cheaper to get hotels, like [pause] Las Vegas in the summer, and San Francisco, New Orleans, Chicago. [pause] They needed big cities, because they’d have a lot of exhibitors—big, heavy, lab equipment. So you needed a place that had room for them, and all. So that was fun. The year I was president, I could say where the annual meeting was, so I chose San Diego. So we had a great time, stayed at a hotel there on the water. There were some foreign groups you got into through them. There’s an International Federation of Clinical Chemistry, and they would meet in Copenhagen, [pause] a whole bunch of places and, [pause] well, talk of travel, let me just digress a minute then. I’ve had two sabbaticals. I got one three years after I came here, because they were going to be rebuilding the labs, and that was a good time to get away. I went to Copenhagen for the winter with four kids. We took a ship over. Billy was one after we got there, and that was charming. I worked in the Carlsberg laboratory, which is affiliated with a brewery. They would bring in this old, big horse and wagon, and bring the free beer into the lab. It was a really traditional, old European lab, where you’d crystallize your own reagents and so forth. I worked with a great protein chemist there, Linderstrǿm Lang. We were there. We traveled into Sweden. We traveled down to Brussels for the World’s Fair in ’58. I went to a meeting in Vienna—the International Biochemistry—and Maggie flew down and joined me, and then we took the train back, and that was a lot of fun. Then I had an Australian colleague who worked here, from western Australia. His name was Evan Morgan, he worked on another plasma protein than albumin, but our work tied together very well. He was a hard worker, and we’ve been very good friends of theirs ever since. He invited me to Australia for what ended up being a five-month sabbatical. I guess just the two of us went to that, because the kids were out from under by then. So we flew to Australia. We arranged to fly through Tahiti, and we arranged from Tahiti to take a small plane up to Bora Bora, which is [pause] a part of the South Pacific—movie and so forth—and stayed three nights in a shack with crabs crawling on the sand floor, you know. Then we went from there to Australia. We spent a couple weeks in New Zealand on the way, which is a beautiful place, and they love Americans. In Australia we saw the eastern parts—Sydney and Melbourne. Then we went to Perth, that’s in the southwest corner. Perth was a lot like San Diego had been in the ‘40s. It wasn’t crowded, it had beautiful weather, great people. I loved the marsupials and everything. We toured with our Australian friend. They’d take us on trips down along the coast. [pause] Well, we’d see where the troop ships left in World War II, went up to Gallipoli, where Australians suffered so much, you know. [pause] Coming home, we thought, we’re here, why not go on around the world? So we flew to Italy via Burma and India, just stops. We were invited with Navy friends we’d met in the Korean War. This was Bill Crowe and he did very well in the Navy. I think by that time he was the admiral in charge of all southern Europe, another submariner. We stayed with them in Naples—beautiful quarters they had, looking out over the [sea], had a thirty eight-room house or something. Oh, we stopped in Greece for two days. We should’ve stopped for a week, there’s so much to see in Greece. We had a one-day bus trip up to Peloponnesia. We saw where [pause] [Paul spoke] in the main square up in Peloponnesia. Then we took a cruise among the islands the next day. There’s so much to see in Greece, you know. We wished we had planned more time. But we went to Naples and then we flew home.
[END OF TRACK 2, 30:00]

[START OF TRACK 3, 0:00]
TP (continued):
[pause] The other big year of travel, there was a meeting in Europe we were going to, we were scheduled to go to a meeting in San Francisco. [pause] I’d been asked to speak at an International Biochemistry meeting in Konstanz, which is in Germany—southwest Germany—on a beautiful lake. You stayed in an old monastery in the rooms, and you’d walk through the cloisters down to the meeting room. Maggie loved that, she walked downtown and learned a little German. From there, we went to Denmark, saw some old friends. We flew over the Pole to San Francisco, which was fun. We could see the top of Mount McKinley through the clouds like that. Then we came home, and I got asked to go to a pathology conference in Rio and give a paper. I said, “We’ve traveled so much, sure you want to do this?” She thought about half an hour—“Let’s do it.” So we got to Rio that year as well, and that was a beautiful trip. [pause] That was the big year for travel—’78. Now we don’t get to travel at all.

AC:
But I understand you guys get international visitors, though.

TP:
Oh yeah! I should show you our guestbook. When I came here, she said, “No one will ever come see us out there.” So I said, “Well, let’s start a guestbook.” We’ve had people from all over the world—South Africa, everywhere, England—good friends would visit. I’d ask a colleague from Europe in to give a talk, you see. They’d come.

AC:
So have you been keeping this guestbook since ’55?

TP:
Yeah. I’ll show it to you. We’ll come back to it.

AC:
And about how many entries do you think you have in the guestbook?

TP:
Oh my Lord. A couple hundred, I would bet, I don’t know. [pause] So we’re not isolated here. Okay. But we do often go over our travels and talk about it, you know. We had a lot of fun. She loved traveling. When we would drive to meetings, she would plan, along with a travel agent maybe, and she’d sit there always with a AAA book and a map to know where we are, and check every motel you go by. So we traveled together very well.

AC:
Have most of your visitors been colleagues?

TP:
No. I’d say in the early days, they were mostly colleagues. Then it got to be friends and relatives, friends from New England, from our Watertown days and graduate school days, [pause] family, things like that. The colleagues were more in the early days, I think.

AC:
I would imagine that you’ve worked with different generations of scientists since you’ve been in the field so long. Do you see those different generations of scientists doing and thinking differently?

TP:
I don’t know too many, there’s a guy at the hospital now who’s very bright, very informed. The field has changed so much; I’ve tried to keep up on the Internet and all, with the journals. But they’ve gotten so much farther into the cell and receptors and stimulators and things, and they’re tracking these down. If here’s the cell, if, say, insulin comes in and touches the membrane of the cell, [there’s an] insulin receptor. Well, that sets off a chain of phosphorylations and activations of proteins until it gets in and tells the nucleus to start making some other proteins. They’re deep in this. We were much more on the surface then, much more crude, I’m afraid. So it’s moving so fast.

AC:
But even in terms of their approach to science, or their attitudes, or their education?

TP:
Oh, the ones I know are dedicated, having a tough time getting grants, which we didn’t. But they used [pause], well, a good bit different equipment. They do a lot of sequencing now, of DNA and proteins, which you couldn’t even do then. We only knew that DNA had to do with heredity and RNA had to do with making proteins. But now they have all the details and stuff. It’s fascinating to watch.

AC:
Could you tell me about your sort-of semi-retirement that you have going on now?

TP:
Well, I retired at 66 in 1988, as I said that to you earlier, I was the president of the clinical chemists, because it was a good time to do it. But I said, “I think you’ll keep seeing me here,” and they let me have an office, oh, up until last year, when I gave it up. I’d be in the lab, I didn’t do experiments then, but I’ve had about 15 papers since then published. So I kept up with the field and I wrote [pause] with some other guys generally—papers. Oh, you can’t just stop. I think the MDs are at a disadvantage here, because if they stop, it’s hard for them to keep up with their field. So they play golf [chuckle] and go to Florida, and they don’t have the stimulus that a PhD or a scientist would have. You also want to keep active. I used to jog a lot. I jogged for almost 30 years, which I was one of the few. I can remember being at a meeting in Cleveland, and my daughter was there, she’s probably in her teens, and she saw me jogging across the square, she said, “Oh, I wish he wouldn’t do that!” [laughter]. Now it’s all over the place, people walking and jogging all over, it’s great. So that was it. I’d be in there pretty much all the time. The nice thing about retirement is you could set your own hours and take a day off if you wanted, and I’d go in. Now, I’m still tied in with the chemistry lab. I’m officially on their staff and I do go in and approve some of the results every other week. So, it keeps your hand in.

AC:
Do you see a divide between the MDs and the PhDs?

TP:
No, not really. When I came, there certainly wasn’t. They would come up to my office and ask me questions on biochemistry [pause] and I’m still on that relationship. Now, the PhDs, [pause] we don’t have many. There are some of the psychologists and things like that. I don’t really see much of a divide here. We’re all on the senior staff, it’s called.

AC:
What are/ were some of your other hobbies?

TP:
Tennis. Used to play a lot, I love tennis. I got into playing squash in graduate school. You could go over for 20 minutes at noon and come back and I did that. Here, you could go to the gym after work, and there would be about six guys. You’d just walk around and play a few games with each one and then go on home. It’s a great game, because it’s quick and you get good exercise in a hurry. Never got into golf, much. But it was running, walking, tennis, squash, I guess. I can’t do much of any of it now, except walking.

AC:
Can you talk a little bit about your conservation activities in the area?

TP:
Oh boy. Yeah, that’s another field. [pause] When I came here, I realized this lake is the charm of the area. It’s beautiful, it’s historic, it’s clean. So I started taking an interest in the chemistry of it and I got in touch with the people at the field station down here—Dr. Harman, Bill Harman—we became good friends. One of the first things I did, I looked back through all the records in the water plant of chloride analyses and made a plot of them. They’re really quite low until ’51, and it started it up linearly, and that’s when they started salting the roads. So you found more and more chloride in the water. It doesn’t hurt. But it was an indicator of things getting in the lake. Then I started tying in with the water treatment plant, down at the foot of the hill, below the hospital there. I would tabulate. Every three months, they’d have to get a whole big list of organic chemicals tested, and I would keep these and tabulate them. We never had any problem, but at least we have the records now. [pause] Then the field station would do studies. They sampled around the lake for bacteria. They could find an area near the cabins that had more than others. About [pause] ’70, ’71, I was in on the founding of the Otsego County Conservation Association—OCCA. Not AACC, but OCCA [chuckle]. I organized their Lake Committee, and I had some really good people working with me. We sent out a questionnaire to all the people who lived on the lake, about 300 or so and got a lot of members from that, big boost to the Association. [pause] I could see more and more that the biggest threat to the lake is overcrowding, building on the shores. I could see that land use planning was very important. Well, it was very hard to do back in those days. I had a buddy who was on the Town of Otsego board, and they started to put up a land use plan—[they’d meet him] with a shotgun out here, you know? But we did sample septic systems. In ’82 or [’83] I was on the Water Board for the village by then. We came in under Public Health Law 1100, which gives us the authority to monitor the watershed, because it’s our drinking water, the lake. From that, a few years later, we founded the Watershed Supervisory Committee, which is a branch of the Water Board. That’s really been quite effective. I don’t know if you’ve ever met Win McIntyre, he’s an engineer, [bright], very organized, and he is our lake manager. At first, we did a census all around the lake. We found 351 septic systems living along the lake. We have them all mapped now by GPS and such. We started with some financial support from OCCA and others—annual. Well, we started testing all 351. That had to be the time we’d get a guy down there to pump their tank, so you could look at it, and the owner there. We did about 70 a year, so within five years we did the whole thing. This is the sixth year now. Half of them failed—this was predicted. And of that half, which would be about 170, 150 had been fixed, which I think is pretty darn good, because it’s very slow to get them and pretty expensive in some cases. But that, we think, has been a big help to the lake. We’re now starting on our second, five-year round. About 15% are still failing. But it’s a big improvement. Now, it’s disturbing to me, the other part of the land use planning is that they’re being allowed to build houses on the shores of the lake, up above Five Mile Point. They cut trees, which increases erosion and silt going into the lake. Of course, it decreases the view, which is very important. If the Clarks didn’t own that east side, that wouldn’t have been preserved. You can’t build there, it’s so natural. But on the west side, there’s a big demand—everyone wants a view of the lake. I said, they’re going to kill it with kindness. [chuckle]

AC:
Could you talk a little bit about how Cooperstown has changed, in terms of not just manmade structures but also the landscape, since you came here?

TP:
Well the landscape and the lake hasn’t changed that much. They put in those condos at Five Mile Point, back in the ‘70s, and I was very upset about them, but they’ve really blended pretty well. Only a couple houses have gone up on the east side, way up high, and they’re hard to see. So I think the beauty of the lake is still there. The village, I don’t think it’s changed too much in trees, attractiveness, and so forth. [pause] Well, they built Lakeland Shores in the ‘50s. Two of my boys now own places over there. I swore I’d never build a house on the lake, myself. I could buy one maybe. Main Street has changed a lot. We had four hardware stores, a shoe store, a couple of ladies’ stores. Now it’s baseball. The tourism is really rampant. August is a mess downtown. They don’t get out of your way. All these people with the Yankee uniforms, [chuckle] don’t get me started. But taxes are up quite a bit, a lot of people are very put off by them. They interviewed me a couple of years ago on something like this, much more brief, and said, what would I recommend? I said, “Why don’t we send the Baseball Hall of Fame down to [pause] New Jersey,” [laughter] which I don’t think is practical. It’s too bad they didn’t move it out of town when they built the gym. Because people come in, and here’s this structure across from the post office. You expect to see a shrine on the hill. But it’s a good deal, and it attracts a lot of people, but it sure brings in the crowds.

AC:
When was there that shift on Main Street from local stores where you can get what you need to those baseball stores?

TP:
[pause] I mean, it’s very hard to buy clothes here, for instance. So people go to Oneonta or Wal-Mart.

AC:
But when did that happen? Was it a gradual process?

TP:
Oh! It was gradual, the baseball stores crowding things out. I’d say it started in the 60s.

AC:
And how do you think that affected the local economy?

TP:
Well, it kept it alive, especially in the summer. Otherwise, we’d be more like Cherry Valley, which is pretty dead, pretty quiet. We wouldn’t be destitute because the hospital employs more than the population of Cooperstown. The population of Cooperstown is [2038], and they employ 2500 people, and not all here, but I think most of them are, though. So they could carry the economy. That, and having the county seat with county activities. So it’s just baseball on top of it.

AC:
I kind of wanted to switch gears a little bit. I know that you guys used to live in Greencrest, the haunted house. I was wondering, first of all, for the record, if you could tell the story of how the house is haunted in case the listener might not be familiar with this piece of Cooperstown folklore.

TP:
I always loved Greencrest when I saw it. We managed to [pause] move there in ’59 when we came back from our sabbatical in Denmark, and we lived there for, well, till ’71. Until Steve Clark didn’t want to take care of old houses, and he said to my friend who was the head of the hospital, “Tell Peters we’re going to tear it down. If he wants to make an offer on it, okay.” We anguished over that, and we offered 10,000 dollars and he took it. So we got that for 10,000 dollars. The hospital took care of it before that, you see. They repaired all the walls and such. But, then it was on our own. When we sold it in ’97, [pause] we sold it for 250 [thousand dollars], and that was a nice couple. But they sold it for 830,000 [dollars]. Can you imagine? The story was, I’ll go into that, have you ever seen her portrait, Mrs. Worthington, the huge portrait there? Well, she was the niece of James Fenimore Cooper, Jenny Cooper. She married this fellow, Worthington, whose father lived in the house on Main Street, right down, Worthington House, it’s called. She died, I think she was 19 maybe, of a disease of the lung. The portrait is painted of her later, and she was on the beach in Newport, I think, in that picture. Then he built the house, and then he got the portrait put up. But he married again, Cora Lull from Morris, who was supposed to be quite a good singer. Well, Cora, coming out of her bedroom, she looks her right in the eye, and she’s bigger than life. My father loved her. He would even close his door when he was changing clothes [laughter]. Melissa and her kids would try to creep across the floor and see if her eyes followed her [laughter], which they did, of course.

AC:
Melissa is your daughter?

TP:
Yeah, she’s 55, she’s back here all summer. She was president of the country club, she loves it here. But the story is, Cora had the portrait taken down, and they stored it over in the Smithy on [pause] Pioneer Street. In that case, she would haunt the house. When we moved in, it was still down. They had modernized the house quite a lot for our predecessor, because the hospital owned it by then, and we felt it belonged there, so we asked Cooper friends [Dr. Henry Cooper], a Cooper. They gave us permission to put it back. We got it [pause] down from its storage in the attic of the Smithy, and the pigeons had broken in and messed up a quarter of it. But a huge frame! It took four men from the Leatherstocking to put it up. They were already there, these bolts. They go through the wall, you can see that. But I remember them doing that. But I think she still haunted the house. I mean, you’d hear your doors squeak at night, she’d move car keys around, she’d squeak the floors. I got interviewed by the TV station in Binghamton one Halloween about this. So it’s a lot of fun. My son-in-law, 6’4”, he swears he felt a presence in the back hall at night. Other adult friends come in, and they won’t sleep in the house, they’ll sleep in their trailer. So, it’s a great story, I think.

AC:
Do you think she was a friendly ghost or not-so-friendly ghost?

TP:
Oh she was friendly, I’d love to have met her some night. I’m sure she’s a friendly ghost, and she is [present]. If you haven’t seen her picture, I have pictures of her. [pause] Have you met the people that are in there now? The Matsons, they’re so nice. They bought it about five years ago. She’s the granddaughter of Irving Berlin, lovely girl, Elizabeth. She worked in the library at NYSHA for several years, and they would know her out there. Lovely girl, very pleasant. She has his piano, Irving’s. It’s a small piano, she has it in the corner. “He only played the black keys,” she said. Her husband, Sasha Matson, is a great piano player. He teaches at Hartwick, I think. They’re just nice people. They had a small party and we got in to see, and they’ve done very nicely. They’ve done the basic things like tighten up the stairs and the banisters and fix the floors and all. So it’s in good hands, I’m pleased to say.

AC:
I realize, I haven’t really asked you about your children or your grandchildren yet.

TP:
Oh my gosh, how much time do you have left?

AC:
Oh! As much as you want or as little as you want.

TP:
The first one was born, as I said, [during] my first year in graduate school in [’48].

AC:
And what was his name?

TP:
That’s Theodore. Theodore D. Peters. We gave him a middle initial because I didn’t want to start a dynasty of numbers. He resents it I think. We took a rare night off from studying and went to a movie in Allston, in Boston. When we were there, Maggie’s waters broke in the theater. So we went outside and while I went to get the car, an Irish policeman stayed with her, [and said], “That’s all right, honey.” So we dashed down to Mass General, and he was born a while later. 20 months later, Jimmy was born. Ted’s the one that’s now teaching at Hartwick. Jimmy’s now chief of radiology at the hospital. I think her waters broke again about a month early, and they kept her in bed on antibiotics for that time. Then she went in to have the baby, and that was fairly uneventful. Her mother came up from Pennsylvania to be with us then. It was unexpected, because we had three lobsters to eat for that Saturday night. She was in, so her mother and I ate all three [laughter]. She fusses about it ever since. He was a good kid. We called him the Sergeant. When we’d go on camping trips, he’s the one to get up and make the meals and chop the wood. He was a big Boy Scout, he loved scouting. [pause] He and I did all kinds of hiking together. We backpacked all the 4,000-foot peaks in the White Mountains. There were a whole lot of them in the Adirondacks. Those were some of my happiest days, to get off with maybe 40 pounds on your back, but you’d have food for a week. You don’t need to be anywhere else. It’s a wonderful feeling. We both loved the mountains. He’s into golf now. And the others, I said, Melissa was born the May we got the job here. We were in Wellesley then. [pause] She grew up in the schools here, and Billy was two years later. They were quite inseparable. She would take care of him, and he’d do errands for her, and they’ve been very good friends. All four of the kids went through the schools here. Now Ted went off to Bowdoin College; Jimmy went to Wesleyan in Connecticut; Melissa went to Wheaton in Massachusetts, which is where one of Ted’s daughters has graduated from; and Billy went to Lehigh, my school. He was going to be an engineer, and he got in trouble with sophomore physics, I guess. They knocked their transit over during surveying, so he switched to business. He’s been in finance, with a bank. Ted has two girls. The older one has graduated from Wheaton, and she’s been into dance, and she’s out in San Jose, California. She’s doing both teaching of underprivileged kids and doing dancing studies. His second girl is a sophomore at [Towson College]. Jimmy has one daughter who’s graduated from SUNY Albany, I guess. She’s done very well. She’s an assistant vice president of this big, new nanotechnology complex they’re doing over there north of Albany, and she’s about to get her master’s at night. Beautiful girl. She has a boyfriend who’s a New York State Trooper, whom I think a lot of. Jimmy married a second time to a girl who has five kids, so he has five stepchildren. They live out of town, and they’ve just bought a place across the lake, on the water. Melissa is near Concord, New Hampshire. She married a peach of a guy, they met at Amica Insurance office, where he worked, and she did for a while. He’s just the greatest guy in the world. He comes out here, he loves to play tennis, has a lot of good friends here. So she’d come here for the summer, and he’d come every weekend. It’s a four and a half hour drive, which I think is pretty good. They’re coming this next weekend to watch Maggie when I go off to the community band festival in Lake Placid, gone to it every year. They come about once a month, great friends. She does her own insurance business now. She’s an independent agent, can work from home, from here, a lot of it. They have three kids. The two girls, Heather and Brenda, both work for Amica in the office up in Massachusetts. The boy, he’s in between them, Tim, peach of a guy. The older girl is a graduate of Rhode Island and the next two of University of New Hampshire.
[END OF TRACK 3, 30:00]

[START OF TRACK 4, 0:00]
TP (continued):
The boy took off after graduation, drove 48 hours west with a friend, he’s been there ever since. He got a job in a sailing marina. He’s actually now a captain, can take out 50-ton boats. Every morning, he’s surfing, and he just loves it. He’s on his own. So he has a girlfriend, the problem is, she’s a Californian—we don’t know if we can get her east. So now we’re moving on down to Billy, who’s the youngest. He’s a vice president of a bank in Baltimore—Towson, the northern part of Baltimore. He married a girl, actually from Oneonta, but he met her down there, and they were 40 or 41 when Michael was born, so he got their full attention and still does. He’s 10 now. He’s a good athlete and a nice kid. He’s quite short and [pause] his academics are generally pretty good. So that’s seven grandchildren and four kids.

AC:
How frequently do you get to see your children and grandchildren who aren’t living here?

TP:
Well, [pause] not very frequently, because none of those live here. In the summer, there are more visits from the ones in New Hampshire. They get out here when they can. They love to come to Cooperstown, because they used to spend a fair amount of time here when they were growing up. We had a nice time with Melissa and Tom. He was stationed in Phoenix in insurance out there for 10 years, from ’85 to [’95]. So we elected to drive out there every year, and rent a place for several months in Phoenix. We were within a mile of them, and so we’d see them a lot. I’d bicycle, I’d go over and have breakfast with them, and we’d meet them several nights a week, so we got to know those kids real well. Went to all their Little League games and soccer games and things like that. So we got to know those three quite well, more than the others. [pause] Those were good years. I loved the drive west and back, too. I was writing a book then, and I could take a laptop and work in the car while Maggie drove and work out there in the mornings and go to Cactus League ball games in the afternoon, it was a lot of fun.

AC:
So, looking back, what has been your proudest achievement?

TP:
Oh boy.

AC:
You don’t have to pick one if it’s too hard! [laughter]

TP:
[pause] I think one of them was being number one of the officer submarine class, which was 90% Annapolis graduates and 10% reserves. I just found myself listed in Who’s Who in America, which just came.

AC:
The most recent issue?

TP:
Yeah, first I’ve been in it. It’s this thick now, in two volumes, not very exclusive. [pause] Well, having a nice family who [hasn’t] gotten into trouble. No drugs that I know of. And then marrying my dear wife, who’s the prettiest girl I’ll ever see. So if you asked me to pick one of those, I don’t know.

AC:
You don’t have to. [laughter]

TP:
I’ve been very lucky, had a great life, so many breaks and all.

AC:
What important life lessons have you learned?

TP:
Lessons have I learned? When you see a camera, smile. [laughter] I learned that from some friends. [pause] Be nice to people. Praise them, don’t criticize them. If you can’t boost, don’t knock. Try to say something nice to them.

AC:
Is there anything I’ve forgotten to ask you?

TP:
Oh my Lord. I don’t think so. I used to love sailing on the lake. We did a good bit of that, we’d have small boats and go sailing. We used to sail with good friends in Boston from our graduate school days, and they’d be on the Cape. We’d go back with them and have wonderful times. They’d put on minstrel shows at the churches, and we’d take part in that. These are they days you did blackface and all that. And I was one of the end men.

AC:
One of the…?

TP:
End men. A minstrel show has blackface guys on the end, who do songs and jokes. You have the head guy, who’s the interlocutor and say, “Well, Mr. Bones, how are you today?” You know. “What happened to the firefly when he sat on a buzz saw?” “He was delighted!” [laughter] Junk like that. Some great friends, and so many of them are gone. [pause] I think of my parents often, they were very nice to me, good friends. I just had a great life, can’t complain.

AC:
That sounds like a wonderful note to end on.

TP:
Oh, please do!

AC:
Thank you so much for your time and for all the information you provided. It was a wonderful experience.
[END OF TRACK 4, 6:34]

Duration

1:38
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6:34

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps
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Files

Citation

Amanda Cohen, “Dr. Ted Peters, November 13, 2010,” CGP Community Stories, accessed July 19, 2019, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/84.