Joan Holl

July 7, 2008


Interviewed by Ann Kelsey

Filmed by Michael O’Hagan

For the County College of Morris, Learning Resource Center

Randolph, New Jersey

County College of Morris 40th Anniversary

Transcribed by Jardee Transcription, Tucson, Arizona


Today is Monday, July 7, 2008, and this is an interview with Mrs. Joan Holl.  Mrs. Holl is being interviewed at the Media Center, County College of Morris, Randolph, New Jersey.  The interviewer is Ann Kelsey, Associate Director, Learning Resource Center, County College of Morris.  The interview is being filmed by Michael O’Hagan, Producer, Learning Resource Center.  This interview is for the County College of Morris’ 40th Anniversary Oral History Project.  Mrs. Holl was one of the original members of the support staffin the Learning Resource Center.

Kelsey:   When and where were you born and raised?

Holl:       I was born in Milton, Massachusetts, 1927, and I was raised in various communities.  We moved to Ohio as a youngster, I lived in Cleveland, Lakewood, Berea.  And then I went back to Boston, and I came down here when I was fifteen years old.

Kelsey:   When you moved here, where did you live?

Holl:       I lived in Rutherford, New Jersey, and entered Rutherford High School.

Kelsey:   And when did you graduate?

Holl:       I didn’t graduate from Rutherford, I’m a graduate of New Jersey’s GED program.

Kelsey:   So you left school before you got your diploma.

Holl:       That’s correct.

Kelsey:   And what did you do then?

Holl:       I went to work.  I worked in Newark, New Jersey.  I worked for Bond Clothing Stores, in the credit office.  And then I worked for the Credit Bureau in Newark, and got married.

Kelsey:   What year was that?

Holl:       I was married in 1949.

Kelsey:   How did you find out about the County College of Morris?

Holl:       Well, a few years after we were married, we moved to Denville, New Jersey, and my children were approaching college age, and I really wanted to go to work, help Charlie with the expenses of college for two children.  And there was an ad in the paper.

Kelsey:   Which paper, do you remember?

Holl:       I believe it was what we know as The Record, Morristown Record.

Kelsey:   So how were you recruited and hired?

Holl:       I came to the college.  Of course the library wasn’t open at the time, so I went down to the main building, main offices down below.

Kelsey:   In Henderson Hall?

Holl:       Henderson Hall.  I couldn’t think of the name of it!  That’s terrible.

Kelsey:   When was that?

Holl:       That had to be in 1969.  I had been working with St. Mary’s Church in Denville, New Jersey, as a volunteer school librarian, and really kind of liked it, but it was a volunteer situation.  With my oldest child going off to college, I thought, “I’d better get a job!”  And I had just enough experience and enough nerve, I guess, to say, “I’ll try for this library job.”

Kelsey:   And what was the job?

Holl:       I was just a clerk of the works, in the sense that I was to assist the head cataloger, Virginia Chang.

Kelsey:   And when did you actually start working?

Holl:       I cannot recall the date.  I know it must have been in September of 1969.

Kelsey:   And where was the library located when you started working?

Holl:       It was down in Henderson Hall initially, such as it was.  We came up here in October.  That I do remember.  It was late October.  The windows behind the circulation desk were not in place, they were not installed, and it was cool.

Kelsey:   When you first started working and you were still in Henderson Hall, can you describe what it was like there?

Holl:       Cramped.  And I’d had the first experience of working with somebody who was Asian, getting to know her.  And of course this was a new experience for her, although she had worked in library service in other communities.  I don’t honestly recall all that much about it.  I do remember it was cramped.  And of course I really didn’t have any background specifically in cataloging.  The things we took into the school were already cataloged by the Library of Congress, and so all I had to do was put them on the shelf—make up cards.  I could make up a card for the card file—I knew how to do that.  But I had to be trained in something that I had no real familiarity with.

Kelsey:   And who did the training?

Holl:       Virginia.

Kelsey:   Do you remember how many people were in the library when you first started?

Holl:       It wasn’t a full complement of staff that was for sure.  Probably about a dozen, probably about twelve people:  Mr. Bunnell, his secretary, the assistant director—her name was Virginia as well, as I recall.  She’s gone, she has died.  I would say about a dozen people.

Kelsey:   And they were all in this one little room in Henderson Hall?

Holl:       No, not really.  I think some of them were up here—I’m not sure, we were kind of scattered around.  I don’t remember being in one little room at all.  I don’t remember where Mr. Bunnell was.  I don’t remember working, sitting beside him, or having him in the same space that I was—not at all.

Kelsey:   Were there books for the students to use at that point in Henderson Hall?

Holl:       Not really, no.  I don’t recall books—there may have been a few, but not really.  And we may have been in two or three different rooms.  We may have been scattered around a little bit.  But I’m not able to recall—I wish I could.

Kelsey:   Describe what it was like to work in the new library with no windows.

Holl:       Well, as I said, it was cool, very cool.  But of course there was a lot of hustle and bustle and getting books on the shelves so that the students would have access to the materials that they should have.  Of course the college had operated someplace down in, I believe, East Hanover.  I don’t know how much of a library they had.  I don’t remember being able to dispense books to students when we were down in Henderson Hall.  Maybe I’m misremembering.  But the object, when we came up here, was to get the books on the shelves, get a card catalog set up to use.  Nothing, of course, as we have it now.  I’m sure everything’s on a computer now.  It was hard work in many ways and sometimes very confusing.  But we got it done.

Kelsey:   Did you actually open for business in October when you moved …

Holl:       No.

Kelsey:   … or was there a time period before….

Holl:       There was a time period when we were getting set up, yes.

Kelsey:   And when did you actually open?

Holl:       That I don’t recall.  I would probably say on into November.  And somewhere in there, the windows arrived.  (laughter)

Kelsey:   What was the physical campus like at that time?

Holl:       Well, of course, as far as acreage was concerned, I believe it was the same as it is today.  As far as building facilities, it was very much smaller.  And I haven’t been on this campus in about ten years.  I think I came up here for something for the library at one point.  But I’ve watched it, driving by it, living close by it, too, watching it expand.  No, it was very much smaller.  It was just Henderson Hall.  Phys Ed Building wasn’t complete, as I recall.  And the library was up here.  And there were three academic buildings, as I recall.  I hope that’s accurate.  I’m not doing too well here!

Kelsey:   Where did you park?

Holl:       I generally parked down below, down under the hill.  I think I was on an exercise kick at the time.  I thought, “Oh, that’s just great, I’ll climb the hill every day!”

Kelsey:   So you continued to climb the hill, even when the library opened?

Holl:       Oh yes.  And if it rained, of course I would come up and park behind here.

Kelsey:   Do you remember where you ate, where you had lunch?

Holl:       I believe I had it at my desk.  I don’t think I was spending money for lunch at that time.  And I don’t recall when the student community building opened—I really don’t.  That wasn’t open when we opened the library, that I recall.

Kelsey:   Do you remember a cafeteria in Henderson Hall?

Holl:       A place to grab something, yes.  Not that much was offered, I don’t think—again, a space problem.

Kelsey:   What were the rules regarding smoking in the library?

Holl:       Well, if it was a no smoking situation, it was not observed.  (chuckles)  And there were sometimes some very fragrant smells of smoke.  There was no question about that.  That would be—I imagine it was marijuana, I’m not sure.

Kelsey:   Well, that’s interesting!  Did both the students and staff smoke?

Holl:       Some [faculty] smoked.  I don’t remember the students smoking.  There were people on the staff that definitely smoked.  Definitely Mr. Bunnell was a heavy smoker.

Kelsey:   And they smoked in the building?

Holl:       Yes.

Kelsey:   What was the atmosphere like on campus when you first arrived?

Holl:       I think the sense of newness, the idea that Morris County had a community college, and for those of us who were adult, even then, of a certain age, we felt that this was one of the best things that could happen to the community of Morris County—that students who couldn’t tootle off to Rutgers or some of the more expensive schools up and down the East Coast, had an opportunity to test their own need for higher education, or ability to pay for it.  Many of these students did pay for their own education.  That was very apparent.  Not all of them, but many were paying their own freight here.  And I found that quite gratifying.

Kelsey:   Do you remember what the age range of the students was?

Holl:       By and large they were eighteen, nineteen, twenty years old.  Of course you had your evening students as you opened up the evening programs, and of course those people were older.  And some of the younger students would have to go to an evening program, if they found that they had to earn more money.  There’s no question about that.  But there was a sense of newness.  I think the other thing that I felt—and I think many of the students did too—was that it was a pretty campus.  It was up on this hill, up on this rise, and it was attractive.  It didn’t have the feel of a community college, something tucked in the corner of Trenton or something like that.  It was pretty up here, and attractive, and I think the students felt it.

Kelsey:   What was going on in terms of political involvement?  That was a time when there were a lot of anti-war protests.  Did you see that kind of activity?

Holl:       I don’t think that….  I don’t remember any overt activity in that regard.  Yes, I can remember what the nation was doing, but I don’t remember anything too outstanding up here.  These people were, at the time, again, involved with both going to school, and by and large, going to work.  I think they were too busy to get….  There would be a few maybe that might have gotten involved in that kind of thing, but I imagine the other students just didn’t have the time for it.

Kelsey:   Do you remember if you ever encountered any veterans?

Holl:       Yes, we did have veterans here.  I remember a fellow in a wheelchair, and I cannot recall his name.  I believe he went on to Rutgers.  But that was the first….  Well, it wasn’t, for me, the first time seeing a veteran.  Of course I remember World War II.  But different atmosphere, obviously, about those wars.  And so he was….  It’s hard to explain.  His peers certainly looked after him, but he was an oddity somehow.  “There comes that kid in the wheelchair.”  I don’t know what his injuries were that caused it, but everyone knew he was a veteran.  A little later on, there were a few that came in with the beards and the caps and that kind of thing—kind of designated themselves as veterans of the Vietnam experience.

Kelsey:   But this was later?

Holl:       A little bit later.

Kelsey:   In the early seventies, into the early seventies.

Holl:       Right.

Kelsey:   Do you remember this gentleman in the wheelchair from that ’69-’70 time period?

Holl:       No, he was in the early seventies.  He went off to the war, as I recall.  Again, I’m not recalling well.  But he was probably very early seventies when he came here.

Kelsey:   You said his peers kind of looked after him.

Holl:       Yes.

Kelsey:   Did you notice, was that pretty standard?  Did you notice that he suffered any negative consequences because he was a veteran?

Holl:       That was not apparent, no.  The answer to the question is no.  I kind of had the feeling—and I never spoke with him, really—well, I spoke with him just very casually—it was a different experience for him.  You know, I kind of wondered if he felt if he was going to be accepted here, and I would say certainly by his peers he was.  And I’m sure the faculty recognized his needs.  I don’t know what sequence he was in, I don’t know what track he was on at all.

Kelsey:   What was the world like for you, what concerned you as an adult who was working and had college-age children?

Holl:       Was I going to be able to keep up with it all?  And I wanted to go to school myself, and ultimately I did.  And I had started some college work with Kean, and then when I came here, I started taking courses, and I did get the A.A. ultimately.  I was working, I was a student, and I still had a home to keep, and a husband to take care of, and a home to take care of.  It was a new experience for people like myself.  I was then in my forties.  You know, it was a real turnaround, even though I had been working at St. Mary’s.  But I hadn’t been out in the real serious labor market, by no means.  So this was the beginning of my working life.  I had worked before I was married, but not for long afterwards—not at all.  So I had a good twenty-year period—more than twenty years—when I hadn’t worked.  And suddenly I’m turning around and going to work.  And I don’t think my husband much appreciated it, but I kept saying something about, “Well, how are we going to get these kids through college?  How are we going to get these kids through college?”  Well, the salary I had wasn’t going to put them through college, but I could keep myself going, and to a degree contribute to the household budget, while he paid college bills.

Kelsey:   So you took advantage of the….  Did you have a tuition waiver at that time?

Holl:       Yes I did.  I think I paid two dollars a course.  I was smart enough to take advantage of it.

Kelsey:   What was your A.A. in?

Holl:       Humanities/social science.

Kelsey:   Was the student body and also the staff diverse?  Did you notice a diversity in terms of gender and ethnicity?

Holl:       Probably.  Of course Virginia was Asian.  We didn’t have any African Americans on the staff initially.  We had women like myself who were along in years.  Virginia was one of the professional women.  The assistant director was a woman.  There was Mrs. Angoli on the desk.  Of course she was clerical.  We had a male reference librarian, and David Jones—he was media at that time.  I don’t think I was aware enough, and I don’t think it was that pronounced here.  I really don’t think it was that obvious here.  Mr. Bunnell was very good.  He was a very diplomatic fellow, and he was a good man to work for.  I enjoyed working for him.  I think he knew how to keep an even keel.  He certainly didn’t have….  I think he liked working with older women, in the sense that they had a sense of being on time, doing what they had to do, that kind of thing.  And of course he had male companionship in his reference librarian.  The first reference librarian wasn’t Bob Wessels—another fellow.  Wish I could remember their names—I’m doing very badly in that regard.

Kelsey:   What was the social life like for people who worked at the college at that time?  Did people go out together, were there places where people congregated?

Holl:       No, we did not.  If anything, we stayed here.  No, with the exception of Virginia.  I was friendly with people, and I meant to be, but I didn’t form any lasting or ongoing friendships with anybody here.  I had a lot of respect for them, but those of us who were in our forties and returning to the workplace, again, it was that business of, well, as soon as we left, we stopped at the A&P which was across the street over here, and go home and fix a supper and throw a load of laundry in.  So there wasn’t a whole lot of time for it.  We had parties here for holidays, among ourselves, and brought things in.  But no.

Kelsey:   How did you dress to go to work?

Holl:       Well, Mr. Bunnell said we had to, for the first few weeks we were here, we had to wear slacks.  And then I think he kind of expected us to wear skirts and tops.  And of course it became more prevalent to wear slacks to work, and for most of us that was a godsend, it was great.

Kelsey:   And that was probably also the early seventies.

Holl:       Yes.

Kelsey:   What kind of car did you drive?

Holl:       Well, my husband was a Chevrolet salesman, and as a matter of fact, I had a Camaro.  I had two or three of them, one after the other, because I would then … they would sell.  I don’t think Chevrolet makes Camaros any more—in fact, I know they don’t.  And so I had these red or green or blue Camaros, and they were very much admired.  They were a sports car of sorts.  If I parked down below, the kids were eyeing it.  In fact, I sold one off the parking lot one time.  He had to go down to the agency where Charlie worked, Connor Chevrolet.  That was fun.

Kelsey:   Describe what Route 10 looked like at the time.

Holl:       It was more narrow, and it wasn’t nearly as busy as it is now.  There wasn’t nearly the traffic.  There was some traffic coming in, in the morning.  I came in not the Dover-Chester Road—Millbrook.  Generally it was a little cramping when you had to cut off at the end of that road and get down to the college.  Other than that, it was a breeze, comparatively speaking.  Now you can scarcely get from where I live (laughs) which is up near the motor vehicle agency, down to the A&P on any of these roads, Route 10.  And you have to pick your times.  We didn’t have to worry about that kind of thing.  It was much easier, much less traffic on the road.

Kelsey:   You mentioned there was an A&P on the corner where there is currently an A&P.

Holl:       Right, it’s in the [same] place now—it’s just expanded now.

Kelsey:   And do you remember what was on the other corners?

Holl:       The diner was there—smaller, as I recall.  Where there’s a bank on the southwest corner, there were two houses, and they’ve been torn down.  That’s fairly recent, as I recall.  Hm.  The A&P had Morris County Drug in it, which is down on Sussex Turnpike now.  That’s about all I can remember.

Kelsey:   Describe a typical day for you on campus.

Holl:       Hm.  I came in—we could get in the back door of the library.  I wonder if you still can do that.  And I simply had to see what Virginia had catalogued.  I was in charge of student aides that worked with us, with Virginia and myself.  And so I had to line up their work, if they were going to shelve, were they taking books to the back room, who was going to do the labeling, that kind of thing—set up the student aide work, and then make sure that the typing of the catalog cards [was accomplished], and also making sure that as soon as the cards were typed, that they got into the card catalog.  And usually I had to train students to do that.  And some were very good at it, knew their ABC’s very well, and others were not.  And I can always remember that.  I was astounded how poorly they understood how we use the alphabet.  But it was tricky, too.  The rules of filing in a card catalog were not always easy to understand.

Kelsey:   So how many student aides did you supervise?

Holl:       Usually two or three, and that varied.  They were on a student aid program.

Kelsey:   About how many hours a week did they work?

Holl:       I think that was actually restricted, as I recall.  I’m not sure of that, but most of them worked four to six hours.  It would depend on the class load that they were carrying.

Kelsey:   How did students dress?

Holl:       Oh, it was jeans.  For the young people, they were beginning to really wear jeans.  Some students wore dresses, but not a lot.  We were really getting into the jeans period.  I had sent my daughter off to college, Eastern Pennsylvania, with two or perhaps more, three or four outfits that were skirts.  When I picked her up at the end of her first year, I can always remember they had hardly been worn, and she managed to find herself a couple pair of jeans.  And this was down in Amish—which was in Kutztown, which is Amish country.  And it kind of surprised me that they would permit it down there, but of course they had, really, no control over it.

Kelsey:   How did students behave?

Holl:       Generally very well.  We rarely had any real upsets here.  Some of them were dozing at the desks—probably had been out too late the night before, avoiding studying for a test, whatever.  But generally the students were well behaved.  We rarely had any problems here.

Kelsey:   But you did mention you thought you smelled marijuana.

Holl:       Yes, I did, and I may be wrong there, but marijuana has a very sweet smell, so every once in a while, I think somebody was….  And it was easy to come by.  My daughter was in Catholic high school—they had it over there, there’s no question about that.

Kelsey:   What do you remember most about that first year that you worked at County College?

Holl:       How much I learned about working with people, the business of being in a library, what I had to do, what I shouldn’t do, how to behave in a work place.  I consider myself fortunate that I had an Asian manager—I really do—because I learned a tremendous amount from her, and she often….  I don’t think she bargained for somebody like myself, because I can become a little independent.  But she was very patient with me at times, when I don’t think she really wanted to be.  Virginia comes from a very well-educated family, so she was dealing with somebody that was minimally educated, to supervise.  And I think it was her first real supervisory position too.  At first, I think she assumed that I knew more than I did, and didn’t realize I required some training.  And when she caught onto that, then she did very well.  She did very well.  It pleases me that we’re still friends, even though we don’t see each other a great deal, but we can get together and enjoy one another’s company, and that’s a joy.

Kelsey:   Have you kept in touch with anyone else that you worked with?

Holl:       No, I haven’t.  In fact, when I was with people that were associated with the college yesterday in the diner, among that party they recognized Ken Leary, and were chatting with him.  And I’m saying to somebody else in our party, “I can’t remember who that is.”  I know I’m getting older, but I don’t expect somebody like Ken to get older.  I expect them to look like they did when I was here.  I just flat-out could not recognize him.  And then I was reintroduced to him, which was fine.

Kelsey:   How do you think CCM or colleges in general and their students have changed since ’69?

Holl:       I think more young people take college for granted in that they will go to college.  We still weren’t in that groove yet where it was assumed that parents were going to send you to college, or that you would go off to college—even in a fairly wealthy county, as is Morris County.  Only the group of students with very good grades and with money were going to get into college.  And that’s changed, I think, for the better.  I certainly can’t speak for the quality of education that they’re getting, and I certainly can’t speak for CCM.  I assume it was good when I was here, I’m assuming that they’ve grown in that respect.  I’d like to think [so].  I’m sure that there’s a very much larger, a greater variety of tracks that they can get on, degree programs that they can get into.  The nursing program has always been outstanding.  I am acquainted with a young woman in my apartment community that has been applying, applying, and applying to get into the nursing program, and she’s qualified, and she’s finally been able to get into it, which is great.  In other words, the enrollment for the nursing program is still—this is the school to go to if you want to get into a good nursing program.  So I’d like to think that CCM and any university is growing in that respect.  And the requirements for the workplace have so changed in this period.  You’re talking 1970 to 2000.  I mean, it’s almost impossible to make a comparison, what’s required of people going out into the workplace.  You have to be prepared to go to college or certainly go beyond high school.  And you have to work like the dickens if you want to get into a good program.  Everybody—I was in the company of my son, his wife obviously—they both have master’s degrees.  His oldest boy is four years at New Jersey Institute of Technology, zippo, isn’t paying anything.  He’s our family nerd.  But Kevin anticipates that all four of his children will go.  Kevin’s wife is an identical twin.  All three of her [nieces] are going.  One’s going to be a physics major, one’s going into early education major, the other one’s into theology, that kind of thing.  You didn’t hear about that very much—I’ll use the term—in my class, and in my age group, when I started to work here.  It’s very gratifying.  My daughter has a master’s.  Her son will go on for a master’s, his wife will have a master’s.  That kind of thing.  That’s what has expanded, almost beyond measure.  But now that’s the way it is.  That’s very different from when I came back to work, and into the workplace.

Kelsey:   And do you think that having community colleges and the opportunity to go to college at a reasonable cost contributed to that?

Holl:       Yes, I do.  Yes, I do.  And it offers anybody who immigrates into this country—legally, preferably, obviously—a chance that they may not have even in their own countries today.  And I’m talking about those who are going to be—I don’t like the term—but working-class people, who are going to go out and work.  But they come to this country with the idea that they have that opportunity, and get here and realize that if they don’t take advantage of it, they’re going to not fare as well.  And I think that’s great.

Kelsey:   Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Holl:       Not really, no.

Kelsey:   Okay, well thank you very much, this was a great interview.

Holl:       Thank you!




Anti-war protests, 7

Bunnell, William 4, 6, 10

Cafeteria, 6

Chang, Virginia, 3, 10, 13, 14

Denville, New Jersey, 2

Development, 12

Diversity, 10

Dress, 11, 13

Early life, 1

Education, 9, 10

Henderson Hall, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Jones, David, 10

Leary, Ken, 15

Marijuana, 6, 14

Newark, New Jersey, 2

Nursing program, 16

Parking, 5

Rutherford, New Jersey, 1

Smoking, 6

Social life, 11

Staff, 1, 4, 6, 10

Students, 4, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15

Transportation, 11

Typical day, 13

Veterans, 8

Wessels, Bob, 11



County College of Morris opened its doors in September of 1968. Join us in celebrating 40 years of connecting learning and life. Read about THE EVENTS that shaped the times, remember THE CULTURE, and join the founding CCM students, staff, and faculty as they share with us THE MEMORIES of those early days.