Oral History Interview with Robert O'Connor

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Record 113/959
Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
Classification Archives
Collection Gordon Doule
Dates of Accumulation 1993 - 1993
Abstract Cassette recorded oral history interview with Harry Meleus by Gordon Doule. He discusses his experiences in the Army Air Force as a B-29 mechanic in the Pacific Theater during WWII.

Interview with Dr. Robert O'Connor
Conducted by Gordon Doule

(Interviewer Doule cannot be heard on this tape.)

O: Well, I don't go by the Dr. Robert anymore but….this is Robert O'Connor. I live at 519 Franklin . You want the dates we were born. Born March 11, 1920 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Spent my younger years going to grade school at Longfellow School. And I consistently followed up at Oshkosh High School. Graduated in January of '38. Had no great surprising events up until that time. Went to college at what was called Oshkosh State Teachers College at the time. Now of course its called WU-O. And I had in mind going into the field of dentistry. I took a pre-professional course there that would fit dentistry, medicine and so forth. Oh, you got a picture? And ah, didn't graduate from college. I went into service in ah, I signed up for the ah, cadet program in 1942. Went into active duty in 1943 and ah, first assignment was at Miami Beach, Florida. Received some preliminary training then went through various air force bases. Learning ah, the technique of ah, airplane repair. And ah, didn't make it in the cadet program more than six months. So I went into B-29 program. This is too detailed Gordon? And ah, eventually ah, took off in 1944 for Guam and the Marianna Islands.

By that time, I'd married a year before in 1943 to ah, Regina Quinn, from around Corning, Iowa. And, and ah, ended up in Guam on active duty. Our 331st ah, Bomb Group was assigned to ah, bomb Japan which they did do. They had altered their ah, flight plans to ah, include extra gasoline in one bomb bay so they could fly round trip from Guam to Japan and back again. I was only over in the Marianna's for about ah, eight months, nine months. Then the war came to a halt because of the bombing of Japan. It surprised us all. We weren't expecting it. But in about four more months I was ah, taken off the island and took a ship back to San Francisco. And from there ah, I went back to Iowa where my wife's family lived, and eventually decided to live in Oshkosh

By this time, all the young G.I.'s were looking for jobs, including myself. So I ah, had various jobs that didn't work out too well. I worked for Gear-Murray Advertisers as a copywriter and a layout artist under the G.I. Bill of Rights. Never got to first base with that. The program was never approved. The employer had to contribute to part of your program as pay. So not working out, I went into the radio business, WOSH, in sales. Stayed there for about six-eight months. And finally I thought I had ended up my career when I went to work for Sears and Roebuck selling building materials - roofing, siding, and certain other building materials.

Along that line I ah, met a neighbor who was going to chiropody school in Chicago. I got to know him pretty well, we had some good laughs together. I became interested in this profession. I'd never heard much about it before. So ah, he encouraged me to check into the chiropody profession and I had an interview with the president of the college. And ah, he said I was qualified to ah, to ah enter school as a freshman. Four year course. And when the next fall period opened up, fall session, I was a freshman at Illinois College of Chiropody and Foot Surgery located in Chicago, Illinois. I spent four years there, studied harder than I'd ever studied in my life. And graduated with honors. I was about ten years older than most of the students by that time. That really did give me a little bit of an advantage because I was very serious. And I didn't work nights and go to school days like some did. My wife worked all the time, had an excellent job [ ] Company in Evanston. Manufacturers of tubing and galvanized pipe.

And ah, in 1953, I opened an office after much digging around and seeking a good spot to go in. I checked in Iowa and Wisconsin and decided to go back to my home town because I was acquainted there and knew a lot of people there. So in '53 I opened up this office in the First National Bank Bldg. And I put in quite a few years at that profession, which has now changed to podiatry. Podiatrist. And ah, I was in practice for about twenty nine years. I enjoyed it very much. Podiatry was a rather rare profession. You didn't find too many in the state of Wisconsin. There were only 150 practitioners but they are well organized. I belong to the Society. And your main objective there was to…. Well all societies originate to benefiting the profession; keeping it at a high level. Doing the best work possible.

Along in the middle 80's I rather ah, I felt that physically I wasn't up to doin the work and I tapered off a little bit and sought the medical profession for diagnosis. And came up with a positive diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease. This made it rather impossible for me to work. At the present time I am living very comfortably with the disease which has specific medication for which I take on a daily basis. I'm able to enjoy most everything in life except your activities are cut down quite a bit.

So that kind of gives you a brief thumbnail sketch of my life. I don't think I left out too much. I covered the highlights of it anyway. I've always lived in Oshkosh except for those brief periods when I was in service and in school. And I'm very proud to live here in Oshkosh. It's a wonderful town. I haven't found anything that I liked any better. I did see quite a bit of country too. Well, I guess that's about all. Was that thorough enough?
Event World War II
Category 6: T&E For Communication
Object ID OH2001.13.19
Object Name Tape, Magnetic
People O'Connor, Robert
Subjects World War II
United States Army Air Force
Pacific Theater of Operations
Title Oral History Interview with Robert O'Connor
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Last modified on: December 12, 2009