Terry Backman

July 8, 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 Tuesday, July 8, 2008, and this is an interview with Terry Backman.  Mr. Backman 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.  Mr. Backman is a CCM alumnus and a member of the first graduating class.



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 life.

Kelsey:       And then where did you go?

Backman:   Then we moved here to Mt. Freedom, about three miles from the college.  But it wasn’t Randolph Township at that time, it was just farm country.

Kelsey:       Where did you go to high school?

Backman:   At that time there was no Randolph High School, so we were bused down to Dover.

Kelsey:       When did you graduate from high school?

Backman:   In 1963.

Kelsey:       How did you find out about CCM?

Backman:   Well, immediately after high school, I went into the 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 CCM?

Backman:   Well, it was a community college, 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 CCM?

Backman:   Twenty-two, after the Air Force.

Kelsey:       What did you major in?

Backman:   I just took the humanities curriculum here, because I knew I’d have to transfer.

Kelsey:       So you started in September of 1968 …

Backman:   Yes.

Kelsey:       … and you were a veteran.

Backman:   Yes.

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 them.

Kelsey:       When you were in the Air Force, where were you stationed?

Backman:   Well, I did my basic training at Lackland in San Antonio, and then I went to technical training school at Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas, and Keesler in Biloxi, Mississippi.  And overseas, I was stationed in Bremerhaven, Germany, up on the Red Sea, Dead Sea, way up north.  And then later in Italy, in Brindisi, Italy.

Kelsey:       And you were discharged in 1967?

Backman:   November of ’67, yeah.

Kelsey:       Did you encounter any animosity?

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 Henderson Hall

 and take 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 intentions

 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

 anything about that.

Kelsey:       Did you see any protests on campus?

Backman:   There were some protests, yeah, there were.  And I think the local newspapers came and filmed some of them.  But no violence

 or 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 protests, yeah.

Kelsey:       And there was a lot going on in ’68, right before the campus opened, as well.

Backman:   Yeah.

Kelsey:       With Tet and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

Backman:   Absolutely, it was that time.

Kelsey:       Did you notice, or did you yourself have any feelings about that?  Did people talk about that, that fall?  Or the Democratic

Convention in Chicago?

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

 upsetting time 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 Dominick

 Tolerico, 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 Vietnam,

 and I was never in Vietnam.  But we had some conversation about the protests and that basically the kids didn’t understand that this is the

 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

sort of 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 older than

 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 Henderson

Hall—that was it.

Kelsey:       Was there someplace to eat?

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 vending machines?

Backman:   Yeah, it was bad.  It was just vending machines.  (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 to the Morris County Library and using that, so I assume there was no library service at that time.  They

 didn’t have an area set up in Henderson Hall for that.  But I remember somebody saying the building was like 130% utilization.  I remember

 having class out on the patio, on the picnic tables, in November—everybody had their coats on!  So I guess they had more attendance than

 they expected.

Kelsey:       What were the rules regarding smoking?

Backman:   Ohh!  By my having been a part-time custodian at that time, I cleaned up a lot of smoking mess, 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 classrooms?

Backman:   Same thing.  Same thing with the classrooms—you could smoke.  The 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 would

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 political and 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 of what

 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

to be 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 their draft


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 this

 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

seemed to me like.

Kelsey:       So they could transfer?

Backman:   Yeah.

Kelsey:       What was the demographic of the student body, in terms of women, men, ethnic groups?

Backman:   I should have brought my year book!  It seemed to me to be pretty evenly divided between men and women—perhaps a little

 more top heavy with men at that time.

Kelsey:       And what about different ethnic groups—Asians or African Americans?

Backman:   Not a lot of that.  Mostly 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

 in Morris Plains, and then I was a student custodian here, fifteen hours a week.  So between that and studying for classes, it was pretty

 much keep your nose in the books and keep the money flowing in.

Kelsey:       When did you meet your wife?

Backman:   When I first got home, I had a part-time job at Bamberger’s, which is now 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?

Backman:   Yes.

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 women?

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 pants?

Backman:   Yeah, the big bell bottoms, for the most part, with a lot of embroidery on ’em.  (laughs)

Kelsey:       What was the social life like?

Backman:   There were a lot of clubsJack 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 to see Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, and Richie Havens.  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 to have

 a good time.

Kelsey:       What were some of the clubs?

Backman:   Oh, I’m trying to think to myself.  I know there was a big pep rally kind of club.  There were political clubs:  I remember that, there

were clubs that met and debated what was happening.  There was a cheerleading club, there was a flag football club, the veterans

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 was

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, yeah.

Kelsey:       And it was where the A&P shopping center is now?

Backman:   Yeah, in that shopping center.

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 Syracuse University for a year or so.  We used to take some trips back to Syracuse to see some of the

football games.  We’d spend a weekend up there.  We went to the old Carrier Dome, Archbold Stadium, which was before the Carrier

 Dome—to see Syracuse play.  So that’s what we did for entertainment.  We went to 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 school?

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 William Paterson.  It didn’t die until I graduated.

Kelsey:       Where did you live when you were going to school here?

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

 when 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 Mt. Freedom, really, all the time you were going to school?

Backman:   All the time we were going to school here, yeah.

Kelsey:       Describe what 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 there in


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 built later.

Kelsey:       What about traffic lights?

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

do now.

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 cents!

Kelsey:       Describe a typical day for you at CCM.

Backman:   Well, pretty much I’d bunch my classes into three days—usually Monday, Wednesday, Friday—so that I had Tuesday and

 Thursday 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, so

 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

spend a 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 places?

Backman:   Tim Patschke was our biology professor, and I remember him being passionate about his subject.  And he told me one time,

“This hand shook Linus Pauling’s 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 Great Swamp.  Because most of us were humanities majors, we really weren’t into the sciences to any great

extent.  And I remember two of the guys drawing a big footprint of what would appear to be a dinosaur, and then they called Professor

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

disappointment.  (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 wife and

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 memory?

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 time,

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

took 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 really didn’t

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 CCM?

Backman:   My wife got a full-time job at Century Insurance in Morristown, and I went on to William Paterson, and I graduated down there

with an elementary education degree.

Kelsey:       And then what did you do?

Backman:   I taught in Livingston for several years, and then I went into sales for a period of time after that.  My wife went back to Montclair

State.  She graduated from Montclair State, after I got the full-time job.

Kelsey:       She got her bachelor’s at Montclair?

Backman:   Yes.

Kelsey:       How do you think the years that you attended CCM have affected your life?

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 experience, too,

down at William Paterson.  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?

Backman:   Absolutely.  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 molding

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

good experience being here forty years later.

Kelsey:       That’s a nice note to end on.  Thank you.

Backman:   Thank you.




Anti-war activities, 4, 5

Bednarek (Professor), 13

Buxton’s Diner, 10

Cafeteria, 6, 7, 13

Center Grove Road, 5

Classrooms, 6, 7

Clubs, 9, 10

Concerts, 10

Demographics, 8

Development, 11, 12

Diversity, 8

Domer, Maxine, 13

Dover High School, 1, 5

Draft deferment, 8

Dress, 9

Early life, 1

Employment, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 12, 14, 15

Faculty, 13, 15

Field trips, 12

Gebhardt (Professor), 13

Great Swamp, 13

Hanley, Gene, 15

Henderson Hall, 3, 6, 7

Housing, 11

Kennedy, Bobby, 4

King, Martin Luther, Jr., 4

Library, 6, 7

Livingston, New Jersey, 14

Maloof, 12, 13

Martin, Jack, 9

Matalas, Chris, 10

Military service, 2, 3

Montclair State University, 14

Mt. Freedom, 1, 11

Mud, 6

New York City, 11

Patschke, Tim, 12, 14

Political atmosphere, 7, 10

Prisco, Carlo, 13

Randolph Diner, 10

Randolph Township, New Jersey, 1

Route 10, 11

Security department, 15

Smoking, 7

Social atmosphere, 7, 9, 10, 11

Students, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 12, 13, 14

Syracuse University, 10

Tolerico, Dominick, 5

Transportation, 11, 12

Verona, New Jersey, 1

Veterans, 2, 3, 5, 10

Vietnam, 4, 5

Warganz, Joe, 13

Wife, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 14

William Paterson University, 14


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.