The Library of Congress Veterans History Project Home 
Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project
Home » Text Transcript

Interview with Normand Carleton [5/7/2014]

Robert Weisel:

Today is November 15th, 2012. I'm interviewing Normand Carleton at 82 Carpenter Avenue, Bristol, Connecticut 06010-4412. The interviewer is Robert Weisel, working with Central Connecticut State University. Normand, would you please state your full name, date of birth and current address?

Normand Carleton:

The name is Normand Henry Carleton, 82 Carpenter Avenue, Bristol, Connecticut -- and what was the other thing?

Robert Weisel:

Date of birth.

Normand Carleton:

Date of birth [redacted].

Robert Weisel:

And you served in which war?

Normand Carleton:

World War II, in the European theater of operations.

Robert Weisel:

And what branch of service were you in?

Normand Carleton:

Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 10th Armored Division.

Robert Weisel:

And what was your highest rank?

Normand Carleton:

Tank Technician Fifth-Grade.

Robert Weisel:

And in what general locations did you serve?

Normand Carleton:

France, Germany, Luxemburg and Czechoslovakia.

Robert Weisel:

Were you drafted or did you enlist?

Normand Carleton:

I was drafted in 1942. And then -- that was in 1942. I had been going out with this girl named Laura for a few years and we decided to get married. So then Laura mentioned the war in Europe, along with the Pacific conflict, we perhaps should wait and wed after peace has been returned. In the meantime I received an order from the Army to report in Hartford for a physical. The Army told me I would never be drafted because of poor vision of 20-200. So we decided we got married. So on June 6, 1942 we did just that. And then, about two months later, I was called again for another physical by the Army. So I went to Hartford and had it done. All this time they said was one, two, you're in. I guess they were desperate. And they said I was 1-A.

A few months later I was leaving Bristol by train, going to Fort Devens for my Army tour of duty. We were in Fort Devens for a few days, got all new clothes, and we went to lectures and were told that we were leaving on the morning train for an undisclosed location. We boarded the train and were told to pull down all the shades, never open them until we were told to do so. Finally, after three days, we were told to open the shades. I noticed a factory in the distance out the window and a sign said "Tom's Peanuts, Columbus, Georgia". I recognized that right away so I knew we were at Fort Benning.

After the train pulled off to the siding, we disembarked and they gave each person a card with a printing on it, like, for instance, "423 FA". To me it meant nothing, but I knew after a while that it meant 423rd Armored Field Artillery Battalion. They then called off the numbers and we were loaded into some GMC trucks for our ride to our destination. The 423rd was assigned to the Sandhill area of Fort Benning. The battalion consisted of Headquarters Battery, Service Battery, A, B and C Batteries, plus the 80th Medical Battalion.

I was assigned to the motor pool where all the vehicles were taken when they needed some mechanical problems -- had some mechanical problems. I was with the motor pool and I did not like it, living in grease. So, one day as I put a notice on the -- I noticed that they put a notice on the bulletin board saying that a typist was needed in the Personnel Office. Seeing I could type, I rushed and was transferred from the motor pool to the Personnel the same day. My job was to take care of insurance and personnel papers for new men coming in every day. In a short while I was promoted to Technician Fifth-Grade and I liked the job very much.

One big move was after about six months in Benning we would get ordered to go to Murpheesboro, Tennessee for field maneuvers. We lived and slept outside in the Tennessee woods for three months. The 10th Armored was then ordered to Camp Gordon, Georgia, near Augusta. The division got more training and after about four months the division was en route to Camp Shanks, New York which was about 20 miles north of New York City on the Hudson River. This was a transient camp and was taken care of by Italian prisoners of war. We were at Shanks for a few days and then boarded another train for our trip to the port of embarkation, Pier 41, Hudson River.

We boarded the ship, which was a Brazilian ship called the E. B. Alexander. We settled in our designated spot around 4:00 a.m. We felt the ship slowly back out of the slip and we were on our way. So we thought. About a half an hour later the ship came to an abrupt halt. We were allowed to go out on deck and we could see the cars along the Long Island Expressway. We were told to pack up all our belongings and get ready to be transferred to ferry boats and return to Pier 41. We could see the fleet of boats coming downstream to pick us up as we went down rope ladders onto the ferries. At Pier 41 there was another ship on the other side of the pier. It was called the S.S. Brazil with an entire Brazilian crew. We unpacked our gear for the long trek ahead.

In the meantime, the convoy of hundreds of ships continued on their way. We finally caught up with the convoy after three days on our own, which was scary. During the daylight hours we were allowed to go out on deck and enjoy the sun. After about 20 days at sea, we arrived at the coast of England where we anchored. We were to land in Cherbourg, France, but the Germans had scuttled all ships and the harbor could not be entered. We could see a convoy of DUKW, amphibian personnel carriers, coming our way and that was supposed to be our transportation from ship to shore. We could also see four-by-four personnel carriers waiting on shore to take us to our destination.

Being of French heritage, I speak, read and write French. I wanted to see France. So I took a spot right in back of the driver's cab and I had a great view of all the surroundings. But as fate had it, it started to rain very heavily and I was drenched. And when we reached our destination, a huge field just outside the village called La Thuile, France, we stayed at that location for one month, getting all new tanks, trucks, jeeps, and so forth, and then we were committed to action at a little village calls Mars La Tour.

The Germans were waiting for us, as the next target would be the city of Metz, France. There was a large fortress near Metz where the Germans were well entrenched and they had fortified it very well. The Army's leaders decided to avoid direct combat with the Germans so they decided to surround the fort and therefore forcing the Germans to surrender. Our trek continued. We advanced towards German territory and the Germans were in full retreat.

We took the city of Trier on the French-German border and rested for a few days. I also have some souvenirs from Trier which I didn't show you, it was complete silverware from a hotel called The Porta Nigra. The hotel was all blasted apart. So I took some silverware and I still have it here -- I just wanted to get that in there. Okay. We then continued our trek into Germany and very quickly advanced. Then we turned down south, going down to alpine country where there was no conflicts. It was great, and we settled in after the war as an army of occupation in a beautiful castle near Weilheim, Germany. When the war was over in Europe a point system was determined and some of us with low points remained in Europe as an army of occupation. Most of us with the 10th Armored Division were transferred to other divisions who did not have enough points to go home. I was transferred to the 80th Infantry Division and remained there until my discharge from the Army at Fort Devens, Mass., on November 9, 1946, exactly where it all started. Let's go along with more adventures, my European adventures with the 10th Armored Division.

Interpreter:

Okay.

Normand Carleton:

I thought of something that was quite unusual. We landed in France, about a month prior to this even, we were living in a small village called La Thuile in tents. I got a letter from my mother one day saying that my stepbrother, who I had not seen, was also stationed in France. I hadn't seen him in years. My brother was in the U.S. Navy. He was an officer. He landed on D-Day and established a radio communication network between the mainland and the ships at sea, that were far out at anchor to avoid firing their big guns. I asked my battery commander if I could have a day off to go to Cherbourg to see my brother. He said "Sure. Catch the ration truck tomorrow morning that goes to Cherbourg", and that was it.

I was walking down a street, down the beach area, and a GI walked up to me and -- could not help staring at him, he looked so familiar. I took a chance and I yelled "Mike Boykul!" He turned around fast and I found that it was my neighbor that lived with me on Kelly Street in Bristol. We talked for a few minutes and -- we talked for a few minutes and he left to go on his way. Imagine meeting a neighbor on a street in France!

Now I know what to do next. At the next moment, two Naval officers walked up towards me and I saluted them (indicating) and said I had a question for them. I told them I was looking for a Navy officer I believed to be in this area. They asked me what his name was and I told them. They said "Oh, yeah, he's a good friend of ours." How about that? They told me he was in a communications officer and was stationed on a cliff aboard the landings near D-Day, on D-Day. I asked for directions and they told me exactly how to get there.

When I got to Omaha Beach I saw this tall cliff. There was a military policeman directing traffic. I told him I was looking for Lieutenant Lucere and he was in charge of Navy communications. He pointed up to the top of the hill and he says -- and I could see the radio station and that was it. I walked up to the top of the cliff and there was a lot of Quonset huts. I asked another sailor if he knew Lieutenant Lucere and he pointed to a Quonset hut and he said "That's usually where he stays." I went up and walked into the hut. Nobody around. One door was partially opened. I could hear somebody on the phone or radio. I knocked on the door and was said "C'mon in". I had gone to the right place and it was my brother Oliver in the flesh.

He was smoking a cigar and he said to me "Where the hell did you come from?" I told him my outfit was encamped about 20 miles inland. He then asked me if I had any lunch and I said no. He told me to follow him to the mess tent and he told the chef to make up a meal. I was overwhelmed when the chef asked me "How do you like your steak?" I said "I'll take it raw." He made me a beautiful meal; steak, mashed potatoes, corn, rice, soft bread and coffee. It was delicious, compared to eating C- and K-rations.

He then asked me how I was to get transportation to go back to my outfit. I told him I was going to hitchhike. So he got on the phone and he called the motor pool to send up a jeep and driver. After a while I was on my away back to La Thuile. The jeep driver had a map, luckily, for by the time we got to La Thuile it was dark. I felt so sorry for this lad, driving back to Omaha Beach in the dark. But as far as I'm concerned, maybe he's still out there looking for me.

I did not see my brother for six years after that. He stayed in the Navy for 27 years in all and retired. He got out in 1939, but on Pearl Harbor Day he was recalled to active duty to go to the South Pacific and he retired from the Navy after that. This is a true story. It may bring back a lot of memories. And he passed away in 1994, is interred in Arlington National Cemetery, Washington. That's my story.

Robert Weisel:

Let me --

Normand Carleton:

Now you can question me all you want.

Robert Weisel:

Okay, let me get some dates. You were drafted --

Normand Carleton:

1942.

Robert Weisel:

1942. And you went to Devens, then you went to Fort Benning?

Normand Carleton:

Fort Benning.

Robert Weisel:

And then to?

Normand Carleton:

Tennessee, Camp Gordon, then port of embarkation and Europe.

Robert Weisel:

When did you leave for Europe?

Normand Carleton:

When did we leave from Europe?

Robert Weisel:

Yeah.

Normand Carleton:

God, I don't know. That was in one late -- early '43.

Robert Weisel:

And you went in to -- you went in to England initially?

Normand Carleton:

No, we didn't get off the ship at all. We just anchored off the coast of England, and then we were taken in by DUKW, D-U-K-W. We were taken in to the shore and then on the shore they took us by trucks where we were supposed to stay.

Robert Weisel:

But that was -- that was in France?

Normand Carleton:

That's in France.

Robert Weisel:

So that was after D-Day?

Normand Carleton:

Oh, yes. They were inland about 50 miles, the troops. We could hear firing.

Robert Weisel:

So, my guess is you went to Europe in 1944 after D-Day?

Normand Carleton:

Yes. Shortly after, yes.

Robert Weisel:

And what were your duties? Were you still in Personnel at that time?

Normand Carleton:

No. Personnel, they transferred me to tanks. So I was a driver and radio operator in a tank. See, everybody has two jobs in a tank. You have to learn somebody's else's work in case he gets injured. So I was a driver, then I was a radioman. We had to be on the radio 24 hours a day. Oh, I got to tell you a very good story and I got a picture (indicating) for you. We were in this little town -- I can't think the name of it -- in Germany and they told us "Pull your vehicles in between the houses, the tank in between the houses, get set up to stay here for a couple of days." So we did a row of houses, all little tiny houses built on a row, a little yard between. So we did just that. We set up our radio communication cables inside the house. We have to be on the radio 24 hours so everybody had a four-hour tour. At night I was on night duty on the radio. I used to listen to it all night long. That's when I did this (indicating).

Robert Weisel:

Oh -- yeah.

Normand Carleton:

I used to have a little diary, and I said "Jeez, I've got to put down what happened today" and I could remember everything that happened, you know? Anyway, during the night -- I think I was off-duty, I was in the house -- that's right, I was off-duty -- and you could hear Germans firing 88's over our head, ZOOM! ZOOM! It would go over ZOOM, ZOOM! One of them hit the house, but nothing happened. BOOM! The whole house shook. Nothing happened, though. I said "I wonder what happened? Well, I'll see it tomorrow morning." I got up the next day, went outside, looked around the house -- Oh, my God, there was an 88 shell sticking out of the house. It was a dud. It exploded, but on the outside, you know? And I got -- there's a picture of it in one of these magazines here (indicating) of the house with the shell. If you don't think that was scary -- oh, my God. If that thing would have went off that would have killed us all. Probably still be buried there. A lot of little things like that happened on the side, you know, like having that boy there work for me.

Robert Weisel:

Tell me that story.

Normand Carleton:

Yeah. Well, this was after the war. We were down in Southern Germany in Adolf Hitler's area (sic) and, like I told you before, I wanted somebody to keep my room clean, you know? So I went to town one night and this little boy was on the corner, ragged, dressed up in very ragged clothes. So I started talking. "You talk English?" "I guess so." I says "I've got a place for you to live if you want to work for me." He said "What do you mean?" I told him what I wanted him to do. "Okay, okay". No parents, nowhere he had come from. So, anyway, he did that. I got him a uniform, a GI uniform, with no decorations on it, and he used to stay in my room. He brushed all our clothes, washed our clothes, shined our shoes. The place was immaculate. Until that one day he made a mistake. He wanted to go to town and I said "Well, go to town, but don't get too friendly, you know? I mean, you don't want to get caught." But he said "No, I don't know." I said "Better not go on second thought." But he went anyway. He stole a GI truck and he went to town. He got caught naturally and I never saw him after that. But Little John, he was such a good worker. He kept that house so clean and everything.

Robert Weisel:

Do you remember his name?

Normand Carleton:

John. His first name was John. He had a Polish name, can't think of it, it's about that long (indicating). But anyway, I never saw him no more after that. That's one I --

Robert Weisel:

Did you see much combat when you were going through France?

Normand Carleton:

Oh, yes -- oh, yes. I lost two tanks. Tracks --

Robert Weisel:

Tell me the story.

Normand Carleton:

Well, we were going into this one town. We were going down a hill, Captain Samuel Z. Colon was the commander of the tanks; very, very nice little Jewish boy. And he was very strict, though; he was a GI all the way through. He was a foot doctor in civilian life. They made him an artillery officer. Well, anyway, we're going down this side of the road to cross the Rhine River. They had pontoon boats all the way across the river. So we were going down the side and the Germans were firing at us from the other side, and he says "We are going down."

He says "Carleton!" I said "Yes, sir?" He said "Are you scared?" I said "Yes, I am, sir". He said "Me, too." (Laughter) There wasn't much confidence. So, anyway, we went down there. We got down there, we had to go across the river. So we had one man go in the front and walk in front of the tank with a little tiny flashlight because all you had was two tracks and if you went off that track you went into the brook. So we went across that stream very slowly, but we finally made it. I was thankful.

We got on the other side and there was some big 140mm anti-aircraft guns firing, GI, our side , right by the edge of the river. So we said -- they told us to pull our tank off the road, get yourself a place to stay and stay there until morning when the sun comes out and you can see where you are. So we did. I said "Jeez, I'm going to sleep underneath the tank." So I got my bed roll and I rolled it up underneath the tank.

And I didn't realize that , but those 140's, about 2:00 in the morning started firing. Oh, my God -- I never was so scared in my life -- BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! You could feel the ground move, you know? So, we stayed there and all the buildings were burning, there was a big fire. And we got across the river, went into this little town and it was all destroyed. And we kept going and we kept chasing the Germans and they kept going. And I guess one time -- Oh, yes, then, just a little while down the road, they told us to pull off -- because the Germans were firing and we didn't want to take no chances -- to pull off the road and get some kind of cover, if you can. So we pulled off. As we pulled out of the road, we ran over a German mine and it blew the tank track right off. So we were staying.

We were lucky, though, because we were surrounded by our own tanks, you know? So they came and they took us and they put us in trucks, and they put us back a little ways and they assigned us to a different outfit temporarily. And then as we went on we got reassigned; they got more tanks. Can't think of the name of the outfit, but there was an outfit that took care of all the vehicles in combat. They had all kinds of retrieving vehicles and everything. So they had a spot back. They repaired the tanks and then reassigned them. And that way we got a new tank, an M-4.

Robert Weisel:

Was that the tank that you drove mostly, the M-4?

Normand Carleton:

Yeah, the M-4-A3. I've got a picture of it down in the cellar. Big wall poster, showed all the inside of the tank, showed where everything is. It's very interesting.

Robert Weisel:

Did you -- where were you when the war ended?

Normand Carleton:

Where was -- I was in Czechoslovakia, a little town called Cheb, C-H-E-B, Czechoslovakia. And we stayed there. We were living in a nice big house. We took over the house and we had our -- we set up our equipment there, you know, and so forth, and we stayed there. Then they told us we were leaving for Frankfurt, Germany -- I think it was Frankfurt -- yeah. We were leaving for Frankfurt and going to catch a train to go to the point of embarkation. So we did. They put us on a train all the way across France to point of embarkation. Can't think of the name of the town. But anyway, we were there for about two or three days. They set you up -- Oh, yeah, I got a cute story. They set us up in pyramidal tents.

You know what a pyramidal tent is? It's a tent that holds nine people. So I says -- Well, it was winter, it was starting to get cold, you know? So I said "Boy, I've got to get me a place next to the stove." The stove was right in the middle. I got my bunk right here like this (indicating) and the stove was right here (indicating) and I told the guys, I said, "I don't care if you play cards all night if you want to", but I says "Just keep that stove going." So I took my -- all my clothes, I threw my overcoat over my feet. Well, these guys put a lot of wood in the stove and they go play cards. Didn't pay much attention. My overcoat caught on fire and the back panel -- it burned a beautiful square panel right in the back.

Well, anyway, when we got ready to leave I says -- I went to the supply sergeant, I says "I want a new overcoat." "What you mean?" I says "What do you mean 'what do you mean'? I said I need a new overcoat." He says "We have got to see what the old one looks like". And I says "How's this for proof?" I showed him the piece. He says "I think you deserve a new overcoat". But he wouldn't give me one. I had to wait until I got back to the United States to get a new overcoat. I still have it (indicating).

Robert Weisel:

Why wouldn't he give you one?

Normand Carleton:

I don't know. Maybe short -- you know, shortages. Can't be more necessity than that. But anyway, I never forgot that. And I felt so silly when we got on the ship to come home and I had my overcoat on, just the front. It looked like a fake overcoat.

Robert Weisel:

You mentioned you speak and write French. Did the Army make any use of that while you were in France?

Normand Carleton:

No. No, they didn't. I thought they might, but they didn't. I used to read, write and speak. Well, I got along great with the French people naturally. Oh, yes I've got to tell you about Luxemburg. I still write to those people in Luxemburg, relatives naturally. When I was there -- well, let's see, we pulled into this town, big school called Y Col (ph) Brille B-R-I-L-L-E school, three-story building. They told us go in there, find a place to stay, you're going to be here for a while. Okay, so me and this fella from Pennsylvania, Bob Morris, I says "C'mon, Bob."

Looking out the window, looking over the city, I said "Where would you like to sleep tonight?" He said "I like that outside house over there" and I said "I like that one over there". Well, I says "C'mon, we will go see it." So we went out, went to the first house. I rang the doorbell and a woman came to the door. I asked her if she had a place for a couple of soldiers to put up. And she says "I did", she says "But I promised it to somebody." And I said "Okay, let's get going to the other house."

The woman was out in front, sweeping the sidewalk with a broom, and in French I said "Bonjour, madame", and then she says "Oh, vous est Americaine? You are Americain?" And I said "Oui". And she says "Parlez-vous Francaise?" I said "Oui". So, anyway, I had it made. The front door was opened, you know?

So I asked her if she had a place and she says "Well, I'll tell you what," she says "I promised it to a captain and he said if he's not back here by 7:00 to let it go to somebody else." So at quarter-to-seven I was waiting at the front door and then the man never showed up. So we moved in. She gave us a nice room right in the front of the house. There's pictures of the house in there (indicating).

And me and Bob Morris slept in that room, and oh, those people were just like my mother and father. They were the greatest people on the face of the earth. They had two sons, George and Willy. Willy was in the Luxemburg Army, which was almost nothing, and Willy and George -- and Willy, yeah. Well, anyway, George had a son later on in life and he named him after me, and I still write to him: Normand Grein N-O-R-M-A-N-D G-R-E-I N, Dudelange, Luxemburg D-U-D-E-L-A-N-G-E, no. 13, Pierre Curie Street, no. 13. I still remember it, those people.

Anyway, we went there, got there, and we got to be so friendly, so -- like I say, just like my mother and father. So, they were starving, those people. The Germans took all the cows, all the animals, for food. So I brought them food from the kitchen. I had gone to the mess sergeant and I say "What do you got? I've living with some people here." And I said "Jeez, what have you got that I can have?" And he said "You see what you want, take it." So I introduced them to peanut butter. They never had peanut butter. So I brought them a three-pound can from the kitchen. And I brought them white bread, GI bread. "What is that?" she says. I said "That's a loaf of bread." So she sliced it. She says "That's not bread, that's cake." Because they used to use the dark bread. All their bread was dark. So I brought them bread every so often. I bring the bread, brought them the peanut butter, and I brought them coffee.

Oh, the coffee -- they went crazy over that, the instant coffee, the powdered coffee -- they loved it, you know? So then -- oh, yes, another thing I can -- I introduced them how to play Setback, cards, and then after a while she said she would make supper for us, you know, with the food we brought there. And she says "Hurry up and wash dishes so we can play cards" and they even invited neighbors to come over.

It's like an oddity, you know? So we had it made there. It was very nice. It was a nice beautiful stucco house with steel shutters. Every night we used to close those shutters. They were prepared for war; no getting away from it. So, anyway, we stayed there for a while. Then we took off and went back to our regular duties, and I used -- every time I had a chance I used to sneak back to Dudelange to go see them. I asked the commanding officer if I could have the day off to go to Dudelange to see these people. "Yeah, go ahead". So I used to go see them. In fact, I just got a card the other day from the boy Normand. He was on vacation in Switzerland and he sent me a postcard.

Robert Weisel:

Did you say you were at Bastogne, at the Battle of the Bulge?

Normand Carleton:

Just outside Bastogne, yeah. We were in Dudelange, maybe 30 miles from Bastogne. But every night we used to have a plane come over, fire, strafe the place every night because we had a gas dump there in Dudelange. The Army had a big gas dump, GI cans piled up, and they used to come over every night and strafe. And we had .50 machine guns mounted on the street corners and our orders were to, as soon as the siren blew, we were supposed to go man those guns. Well, one night we went out. The siren blew. I ran outside, they closed all the shutters on the house. We went to the corner, put our helmets on, and the guy came over and we got him. We fired on him. We seen the smoke coming out. It was late, about 7:30, 8:00, and it was just starting to get dark. We could see smoke coming out of the rear of the airplane. We never saw it no more after that. But that was a lucky hit. "Bedcheck Charlie" we used to call him. Every night.

Robert Weisel:

I thought there had to be a nickname for him.

Normand Carleton:

Yeah, Bedcheck Charlie.

Robert Weisel:

So, after the war you came home, you said, in November of '46?

Normand Carleton:

I got discharged January 9 of '46.

Robert Weisel:

January 1946. What did you do then?

Normand Carleton:

Well, first, when we came home we took the boat from France, we landed in New York. They took us to Fort Dix, New Jersey. Then they took us to Fort Devens. I got my -- I stayed in Devens for about two or three days, I guess. In the meantime, I got -- jeez, I finally got some time off, I'd like to go home and get my car so, on discharge day, I could scram like heck, you know? So I went to the commanding officer and I asked him if I could have a pass to go to Worcester, Massachusetts. Not too bad. He said "Yeah, go ahead, I'll give you a pass."

So I took a pass and I went to Worcester. I took a bus from Worcester to Hartford and I called my wife up and she came and picked me up. And then I took her home and I went back to Worcester with my car, this one here (indicating), a '39 Chevy. And then on discharge -- they didn't give me discharge until, like I say, January 9th, and about five or six guys said "Where do you live?" I said "Bristol". "Do you want to give us a ride to Hartford? We'll pay gas money." So I had a full house of cars, drop the guys off all the way along to Bristol.

And the funny thing is -- oh, yeah, when I went to meet her at the garage, she went to the railroad station in Hartford to pick me up and brought the car, and her uncle had his car, too. So they -- when I was getting out of the car -- I mean, getting off the train, and I was walking down towards the station, she was walking up with her kid sister, the one that lives up here, and I didn't even recognize them. I walked right by them. She turned around and said "Norm!" And I said "Oh!" I didn't recognize her. She's always reminds me of that.

Robert Weisel:

How long had it been since you had seen her?

Normand Carleton:

Well, it was quite a while. I was overseas for almost two years, so it was quite a while. But when I was here in the States I used to see her almost every month. We used to meet in New York. I would get a three-day pass which was Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I used to try to get a pass. So I would take off Friday afternoon right after work, take the train to New York, get into New York Saturday morning. Laura would already be there. So we had Saturday and Sunday in New York and Monday, and then Monday night I used to get on the train and go back to Worcester and she would to Bristol. So we used to have a little siesta, a little rest period.

Robert Weisel:

Where did you work after you got out of the service?

Normand Carleton:

Well, when I got out of the service was 1946, I was working at a Stenoco gas station in Bristol here, T.C. Truten, Inc. gas station. I worked in various garages for quite a while until I got a job in New Departure, which was beautiful, beautiful. It was altogether different naturally. I worked in the pay department. And it was a beautiful job. It's all gone now, all -- yeah, all gone.

Robert Weisel:

Did you use the GI Bill to go to school?

Normand Carleton:

No, I did not. But I went to work back to New Departure when I came back from the service. Got my old job back, and I knew it wouldn't last because they used to make bearings and with no war the bearings -- would drop down a lot. So, anyway, I said "I've got to get me a job somewhere, a good steady job." So I tried for the Connecticut State Police. I tried for the Bristol police and I tried for the post office. State of Connecticut wouldn't take me on account of this (indicating). I got very high marks. But Colonel -- Hickey, I think his name was, State Police Commissioner -- and he said -- he asked me for an interview. So I went for an interview.

He said "Why did you put in for state police?" I said I wanted a job. I liked the job. "I would like to be a police officer. He says "You must have known with the eyes you got you would never make it". "I just thought maybe if I was good enough, I got a good score on everything, maybe you would make an exception." He said "We can't do that because if a bandit or bad man takes your glasses away, you're lost." So he said "We can't accept you." I said "Well, what can I do?" So I came back, and then I had the city police to fall back on. They wanted me. And the post office called up. They wanted me.

Here I am now, I've got home, I've got more jobs than I know what to do with. So what I did was I had a friend of mine that was a sergeant with the Bristol Police Department, Sergeant Cane. So I said "Jimmy, I would like to talk to you." He said "C'mon in." And I said "Jim, I've got two jobs." I said "I don't know which one to choose." And I said "I want to get your opinion." I said "I got a job here I can take with the police department with you or else I can get in the post office." "Norm", he said, "I wouldn't tell you what to do, but I would tell you what I would do, I would take the post office."

He says a lot of junk you don't have to take, like at the police department you've got to take an awful lot of junk. So I didn't. I went to the post office and I stayed there for 30-some years -- 33 years. And that's -- well, I retired from there and I retired from there in 1977. I've been retired since '77. Imagine that? That's almost unbelievable, 35 years, more than I worked.

Robert Weisel:

That's good.

Normand Carleton:

Yeah, that's, you know --

Robert Weisel:

Well, let me ask is there anything else that you would like to add, any other memories?

Normand Carleton:

Jeez, I think we covered an awful lot.

Robert Weisel:

Well, I would like to thank you for your service --

Normand Carleton:

You got enough time?

Robert Weisel:

Oh, yeah. Thank you for your service and thank you for the interview.

Normand Carleton:

Thank you very much.

 
Home » Text Transcript
  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
  Legal | External Link Disclaimer Need Help?   
Contact Us