Kelsey: Where were you
born and raised?
Backman: I was born in
Verona, New Jersey,
and grew up there for the first twelve years of my
Kelsey: And then where did
Backman: Then we moved here to
Mt. Freedom, about
three miles from the college. But it wasn’t
at that time, it was just farm country.
Kelsey: Where did you go to
Backman: At that time there was
Randolph High School,
so we were bused down to
Kelsey: When did you
graduate from high school?
Backman: In 1963.
Kelsey: How did you find
Backman: Well, immediately
after high school, I went
Air Force, and I
came out in November of 1967, and
County College was planning on opening in September of ’68, and they
were advertising at that time, so I applied.
Kelsey: And why did you
decide to go to school at
Backman: Well, it was a
and it was inexpensive. The
Air Force was going
to pay for my education. But to be honest with you,
I really didn’t think that I was college material, I
just wanted to give it a try.
Kelsey: So how old were you
when you started attending
Backman: Twenty-two, after the
Kelsey: What did you major
Backman: I just took the
humanities curriculum here, because I knew I’d have
Kelsey: So you started in
September of 1968 …
Kelsey: … and you were a
Kelsey: Did you know other
veterans on campus?
Backman: There was a veterans’
group on campus, but I was working two jobs, a
full-time and a part-time job, while taking a full
load here of classes, so I didn’t
have a whole lot of time for interaction with them.
Kelsey: There was a
veterans’ group in the fall of 1968?
Backman: There was. Yeah, they
started right away. I guess a lot of the guys had
come out of the service at that time, and started
here as well.
Kelsey: Do you have any
idea how many veterans there
were in that first class?
Backman: No, I can’t remember,
but it was a pretty good number. I think it was
about twelve or thirteen of them.
Kelsey: How were you
personally treated? Did other
students know you were a veteran?
Backman: Other students knew
that I was older than them. Obviously most of them
were eighteen or nineteen years of age, and I was
twenty-two. I didn’t spend a lot of time on
campus. I came here for classes, and then it was
pretty much go to work at that point, so I didn’t
have a lot of interaction with the other students.
But they were all good kids, they were all nice
kids. You could tell, from being in class with
Kelsey: When you were in
Air Force, where
were you stationed?
Backman: Well, I did my basic
San Antonio, and
then I went to technical training school at
Goodfellow Air Force Base
And overseas, I was stationed in
up on the
Dead Sea, way up
north. And then later in
Kelsey: And you were
discharged in 1967?
Backman: November of ’67, yeah.
Kelsey: Did you encounter
Backman: You know, it was
interesting. I was a student custodian here, and
one of my jobs was to go up on the roof of
the flag down. And one of the professors thought
that I was taking the flag because I was a
protestor, and I
had to explain to him
that I was a custodian, and it
was part of my job to take the flag down. So he
thought that perhaps I might have had some illicit
regarding our flag. So there was some
feeling like that, but none of the
students said anything to me
about being a veteran. Nobody said
Kelsey: Did you see any
protests on campus?
Backman: There were some
there were. And I think the local newspapers came
and filmed some of them. But no violence
anything like that—mostly just kids expressing their
thoughts about the
war. In ’67,
Vietnam was at its
height, I guess, pretty much. There
was a lot going
on at that time. So there were some
Kelsey: And there was a lot
going on in ’68, right before the campus opened, as
Bobby Kennedy and
Martin Luther King.
Backman: Absolutely, it was
Kelsey: Did you notice, or
did you yourself have any feelings about that? Did
people talk about that, that fall? Or the
Backman: A lot. Yeah, there
was a lot of talk about that. And
Bobby Kennedy and
Martin Luther King
being so close together, it was an
for me. I know a lot of the kids had the same
feeling—some of the younger students. Yeah, there
was a lot going on at that
Kelsey: You didn’t have
that much interaction with the other students?
Backman: Not really. I kind of
came and went for the most part.
Kelsey: But you did—it
seems like the veterans who
were here did identify themselves to each other.
Backman: Yes, absolutely. I
guess they had an affinity based on the experiences
that they had had.
Kelsey: How did you all
determine that you had shared that experience?
Backman: Well, as I said, I
didn’t have a lot of conversation with them. I
remember there was a gentleman here by the name of
that I had played baseball with at
Dover High School,
and he had been in the
Army. But it was
interesting, he wasn’t in
and I was
Vietnam. But we
had some conversation about the
protests and that
basically the kids didn’t understand that this is
greatest country in the world, and that we were
fighting to keep it that way—fighting to keep our
rights and our freedoms. And I guess we
agreed that the kids took that for granted, which
obviously is something you can’t take for granted.
Kelsey: But you didn’t
actually express that to these younger
students—or did you?
Backman: No, I didn’t have a
lot of conversation with them about it. I guess
just based on our age difference, I was four years
most of them, and as I said, I was quite
busy. Plus I had met my future wife
at that time, we were spending a lot of time
together. They were
good times, good times.
Kelsey: What was the
physical campus like at that time?
Backman: (laughs) I remember
stopping on Center Grove
Road, and it was a big mud
field, all the way from Center Grove Road all the
way up to Henderson Hall. What I remember the first
year was a lot of mud—mud everywhere—a couple of
parking lots, and
Hall—that was it.
Kelsey: Was there someplace
Backman: The whole bottom
section of Henderson Hall, in the middle, was a big
cafeteria. But it was
really a very multi-purpose-type
room. There were a
lot of classes that took place in the cafeteria at
any point in time. The clubs would meet there. It
was really the central
meeting point. There was no
game room. Upstairs in Henderson Hall there were
biology labs, chemistry labs, there were other
classrooms along the
periphery of the building. But the middle of the
downstairs was a huge cafeteria.
Kelsey: Was there hot
food? Was it
Backman: Yeah, it was bad. It
(laughs) There were no cooks or anything of that
nature, as there are now.
Kelsey: What about the
library, what do you remember
about the library?
Backman: The library opened the
second year, and it was interesting, because my
wife—who was my fiancé at that
time—worked in the
library in 1969 when it opened.
She was a student aide. She
worked at the circulation desk. But the library was
the same size that it is
now, with the exception of
the new addition.
Kelsey: And what about the
first year, before this building was built?
Backman: There was only
Henderson Hall in 1968, period.
Kelsey: Do you remember any
kind of library services in Henderson Hall?
Backman: No. I remember going
Morris County Library and using that, so
I assume there was no
library service at that time. They
an area set up in
Henderson Hall for that. But I remember
somebody saying the building was like 130%
utilization. I remember
class out on the patio,
on the picnic tables, in November—everybody had
their coats on! So I guess they had more attendance
Kelsey: What were the rules
Backman: Ohh! By my having
been a part-time custodian at that time, I cleaned
up a lot of
because you were allowed to
smoke inside the
building, and the cafeteria
was always a mess. There was always a haze that
hung over the cafeteria, and a lot of
smoking mess to be
cleaned up at all times.
Kelsey: What about the
Backman: Same thing. Same
thing with the classrooms—you could
professors used to
smoke in the
classrooms as well. I
was a nonsmoker, and I used
to get there early, and I’d sit over by the window,
and I’d open one of the windows. Kids came in, they
say, “Shut that window, it’s cold!” And I
would tell them, “I will. I will shut the window,
as soon as all the
cigarettes are out,
I’ll close the
Kelsey: What was the
social atmosphere like on campus?
Backman: Most of the kids were
here to get their education, and I don’t think they
were really too involved with the political climate
was going on outside, for the most part.
They were eighteen-year-old kids, and they had other
things on their mind. They seemed to me all
very serious students at
that time, to take their scholastics very seriously.
Kelsey: Do you think they
took it—well, the men, in any case—took it more
seriously because if they didn’t, they might lose
Backman: I didn’t get that
feeling. It seemed to me like both the men and the
women all knew that they had to matriculate, because
was a two-year school. So they all were very
serious about keeping a good grade point average so
that they could do that. That’s what it
Kelsey: So they could
Kelsey: What was the
demographic of the
student body, in terms of women, men,
Backman: I should have brought
my year book! It seemed to me to be pretty evenly
divided between men and women—perhaps a little
top heavy with men at that time.
Kelsey: And what about
different ethnic groups—Asians
Backman: Not a lot of that.
Caucasian at that
point. I guess that was the demographic in the area
at that time.
Kelsey: What was the world
like for you in 1968?
Backman: Well, it was a busy
time, as I said. My wife was
working here, and taking classes. I had a
full-time job at a
hardware store down
Morris Plains, and
then I was a student custodian here, fifteen hours a
week. So between that and studying for classes, it
much keep your nose in the books and keep
the money flowing in.
Kelsey: When did you meet
Backman: When I first got home,
I had a part-time job at
Macy’s. It was at
Christmas time, it was November
’67, and she was
working there, and that’s where we met. And then
she decided that she would come here and take
classes with me in ’68.
Kelsey: So you both
enrolled at the same time?
Kelsey: How did you
dress to go to school?
Backman: A lot of sweaters at
that time, a lot of turtleneck sweaters, and still
blue jeans—the same as the kids dress now—except, of
course, big bell bottoms, you know. (laughs)
Kelsey: And what about the
Backman: A lot of flowered
shirts, big collars, hats—a lot of girls wore big,
floppy hats. I guess that was a sign of the times.
Kelsey: And did they wear
Backman: Yeah, the big bell
bottoms, for the most part, with a lot of embroidery
on ’em. (laughs)
Kelsey: What was the social
Backman: There were a lot of
Jack Martin was the
basketball coach, and the basketball team was doing
very, very well. So a lot of
it revolved around
that. The last year I was here, the gym opened—the
Health and Physical Education Building opened, with
the gym inside
of it, and they used to have
concerts in the gym. We went
Gary Puckett and the Union Gap,
Those are the two
concerts that I remember. But
they put 2,000 or 2,500 kids into that gym to see
those concerts, so I guess the kids would come out
a good time.
Kelsey: What were some of
Backman: Oh, I’m trying to
think to myself. I know there was a big pep rally
kind of club. There were
clubs: I remember
were clubs that met and debated what was
happening. There was a cheerleading club, there was
a flag football club, the
organization that I mentioned. There
were, yeah, a lot of clubs. I guess the kids did
want to enjoy their experience here, even though it
a commuter college.
Kelsey: What about places
to hang out, clubs, restaurants, off campus?
Backman: There used to be a
Buxton’s Diner right
across the street where the
A&P is now. I
remember Buxton’s was a big hangout
where the kids
used to go quite a bit. I can’t remember if the
Randolph Diner was
there at that time. But Buxton’s was a big hangout,
Kelsey: And it was where
A&P shopping center
Backman: Yeah, in that shopping
Kelsey: Any other places
you all would go to?
Backman: I’m trying to think.
I met my best friend of forty years, here—Chris
Matalas. I mentioned to you earlier he was
about my same
age, because he had attended
for a year or so. We used to take some trips back
Syracuse to see
some of the
games. We’d spend a weekend up there. We went to
which was before the
Syracuse play. So
that’s what we did for entertainment. We
New York City, we’d
see plays in the city. The younger
kids, I don’t
know what they were doing.
Kelsey: How did you get to
Backman: (laughs) When I got
out of the service, I bought an old 1963
Chevy Nova, which
was a hot car at that
time, you know. It served
me well, served me well
through here and also at
It didn’t die until I graduated.
Kelsey: Where did you
live when you were going to
Backman: When I first got home
in ’67, I was living with my parents over in
Mt. Freedom. And
in 1970, when I graduated from here, that’s
Diane and I got married. And
our first apartment was in
Mt. Freedom, a
small little apartment in a four-family house. So
that was fun.
Kelsey: So you lived in
really, all the time you were going to school?
Backman: All the time we were
going to school here, yeah.
Route 10 looked like.
Backman: (laughs) Well,
obviously it was not as heavily traveled as it is
now, because the population in 1968 was not what it
is now. But
otherwise, pretty much the same, two
lanes in each direction. I don’t remember the big
off-lane for the college. I don’t think that was
Kelsey: The left-turn lane?
Backman: Yeah. It’s supposed
to be the longest in
New Jersey, but I
don’t think it was there in 1968. I don’t think
they had a need for it at
that time. I think it was
Kelsey: What about
Backman: Yeah, there was a
traffic light at both Center Grove and
Dover-Chester, but I can’t remember them backing up
the way that they
Kelsey: Do you remember the
price of gas?
Backman: Yeah, I do, because I
was working at a gas station at that time. It was
28¢ a gallon for regular! (laughs) Twenty-eight
Kelsey: Describe a typical
day for you at
Backman: Well, pretty much I’d
bunch my classes into three days—usually Monday,
Wednesday, Friday—so that I had Tuesday and
to work at my other job, the
hardware store job.And most of the classes were
early in the morning, usually eight o’clock classes,
I was usually out of here by eleven or twelve.
Usually a one o’clock class would be the latest that
I would have. So as I mentioned, I didn’t
lot of time on campus, but I remember the professors
were very young, for the most part, and very
dedicated to what they were
Kelsey: Did the professors
ever do field trips, take
students to different
Tim Patschke was our biology professor, and I
remember him being passionate about his
subject. And he told me one time,
“This hand shook
hand.” And Professor
Maloof, who’s still here, started in 1969—it was
Professor Maloof’s job to take us
on a field trip
down to the
Because most of us were humanities majors, we really
weren’t into the sciences to any great
I remember two of the guys drawing a big footprint
of what would appear to be a dinosaur, and then they
Maloof over, “Professor
Maloof! Come quickly, you’ve got to see this!”
And Professor Maloof was so excited, he thought they
had found a
fern or something to ask him, and they
wanted to show him the footprint that they had drawn
in the mud. And I remember his
(chuckles) So there were field trips, yeah.
Kelsey: What do you
remember most about that first year?
Backman: I had a good
relationship with many of the professors:
Maxine Domer was my
history professor. Joe
Warganz I had for
philosophy. I had
Professor Bednarek for
sociology. And Carlo Prisco
for Spanish. And I don’t know if it was that I was
a little bit older, a
little bit more serious about
what I was doing, but I remember meeting with them
after class. I had
Professor Gebhardt for math, my
I. They always had time for you, they
always had time. Maybe that was a sign of the
times, there were less than 600
students here at that
time. But they always had
time to meet with you—in the infamous
cafeteria area. I’m not
sure they had offices at that time.
Kelsey: What is your best
Backman: Well, my best memory
here would be the good times that I spent with my
wife here. Of course she was my fiancé at that
but we spent a lot of time together, and we
had a lot of fun here. We had a lot of the same
classes. When we both graduated from here, we
our final exams on Friday the 12th, and
we were married on June 13th, the next
day, so that was a hectic time.
Kelsey: That’s a good
memory. What’s your worst memory?
Backman: Hm, I guess my worst
memory over here would have to be all the
memorization that went along with the biology. It
catch my interest, but it was
a-lot-a-lot of memorization to do.
Tim Patschke was
passionate about his subject, and he wanted all of
us to be
passionate about it.
Kelsey: What did you do
after you graduated from
wife got a full-time job at Century Insurance in
Morristown, and I
went on to
and I graduated down there
with an elementary
Kelsey: And then
what did you do?
Backman: I taught in
several years, and then I went into sales for a
period of time after that. My wife went back to
She graduated from
after I got the full-time job.
Kelsey: She got her
Kelsey: How do you think
the years that you attended
CCM have affected
Backman: I notice, working here
now, that a lot of kids that graduate from here and
go on to four-year schools, come back here and say
what a great time, what a great memory it was. I
think it’s the sort of small-college feel, even
though we have over 8,000
students now. The
kids still seem to return and
say that it’s so much more of a homey feel than
their four-year school. And I had that same
I guess the first school that you attend is the one
where you leave your heart, for the most part.
Kelsey: And do you think it
had a positive effect on your life?
Absolutely. I remember Gene
Hanley, in the English class, used to give us
thirty words a week, on a Monday, and
by the end of
the week we were expected to use them in a
sentence. And I remember a lot of the younger kids
hated it. They just hated it.
They looked at it as
torture. But I loved it, because I’ve always been
interested in vocabulary. So those were the kind of
experiences that a lot of the professors put
forth. They were all just very dedicated to what
they were doing.
Kelsey: Is there anything
else you’d like to add?
Backman: Just that it was a
very nice experience. I took a brief
twenty-two-year hiatus, then returned in 1992 to
work in the security
department. It’s a lot of fun,
working with young kids.
They tend to keep you young. So it was a good
experience being here, and it’s still a
experience being here forty years later.
Kelsey: That’s a nice note
to end on. Thank you.
Backman: Thank you.
[END OF INTERVIEW]