Marty was born in 1926. When he was younger he moved around a lot. He shares about his family and what is was like to live in the various places he was raised.
My name is Robert Martin Amundson. Amundson’s a Norwegian name, but, uh, uh, I’ve been going by Marty for 85 years now, so– [LAUGHTER]
INTERVIEWER: I think that works, then.
MARTY AMUNDSON: So– usually it’s R. Martin, if I sign something. Amundson.
MARTY AMUNDSON: A-M-U-N-D-S-O-N. If you need that, but–
INTERVIEWER: OK. And we’re at the, um, Westminster library and it is, um– oh, goodness– April 23, 2011.
MARTY AMUNDSON: Oh, I just made a check out for the 24th.
For the library. [LAUGHTER]
INTERVIEWER: Can you tell us a little bit about your childhood? Where and when you were born?
MARTY AMUNDSON: Well, I was born June 16, 1926. In uh, uh, I guess it was just north of Milwaukee County. I can’t think of the name of the county now. But, um– and then we lived in kind of a rural community. We just had a 4-acre place. My dad was a newspaperman. And, uh, but we lived out in the country. We had a– it was wonderful. And, uh, then I think when I was about 6– 5 or 6– we moved to, uh, north-central Wisconsin, to Trempealeau County.
MARTY AMUNDSON: And, uh, lived on my grandfather’s farm for about a year, because, uh, jobs were tough then. So Dad, uh, had a newspaper job– found one in Chicago, which was fine– and, uh, so my mother and my sister and I lived in, uh, Trempealeau County for a little over a year. And that’s– I remember that very well. And that was beautiful. Yeah, it was a– we had a river going through the back of the farm.
MARTY AMUNDSON: The Trempealeau River, as a matter of fact. So– and Grandpa had– he was a rural mail carrier. He delivered mail with a horse and buggy. So he had a couple of horses that I used to help feed. And, uh– then of course we had all the– everything we needed for self-sufficiency. Cows and chickens and– I remember there was a goose who used to chase me.
MARTY AMUNDSON: So I got wise to how to handle that– [LAUGHTER] –without hurting it. But, uh, it was just a wonderful place to– to grow up. And then we, uh, my dad went to work for a newspaper in Milwaukee. And, uh– which is where my mother had come from originally anyway– and we– uh, so we went back to the big city, sort of thing. But we lived in a suburb, which was nice. And– and, uh, we had about four acres there, so my– a dairy farmer and a vegetable farmer across the road would, uh, plow up a couple of acres of our property. My sister and I got plenty of exercise pulling weeds and things like that.
MARTY AMUNDSON: And, uh, we had enough room, we put in a baseball diamond. So all the kids played at our place, which was wonderful.
MARTY AMUNDSON: And, uh, a lot of trees to climb, that type of thing. And we, uh– my grandchildren don’t quite believe it. When we lived in northern Wisconsin, they didn’t have– the rural electrification hadn’t come through. So we had, uh, uh, kerosene lamps. And, uh, flypapers hanging down from the ceiling ’cause we didn’t– the screening wasn’t that great.
MARTY AMUNDSON: Houses weren’t insulated real good. And it did get cold, uh, during the weather. And the evenings were quite cold. We had a wood stove, but, uh, uh– and if it was super cold we’d sleep downstairs around the stove. And we didn’t have indoor plumbing.
MARTY AMUNDSON: Which– and they can’t even believe we didn’t have cellphones and TVs, some of the younger ones.
INTERVIEWER: No iPods? What?
MARTY AMUNDSON: [LAUGHTER] Yeah. No, no. I do have an Apple desktop now.
[LAUGHTER] But, uh, ah, when we moved back to the Milwaukee area, um, I went to– uh, a– it was a six-room grade school, I think. And, uh, I think several teachers taught a number of the classes. And, uh, it was– it was enjoyable. I’ve always– most of the time I’ve lived sort of in country-type areas. Like–
MARTY AMUNDSON: –right now we live about, uh, 2 miles below Bullocks here in Westminster.
MARTY AMUNDSON: And we have about 4 and 1/2 acres. We have a stream in the back, and–
MARTY AMUNDSON: and we’ve got a a wonderful dog. [LAUGHTER] And, uh, a lot of work to do outside, which I enjoy.
MARTY AMUNDSON: And so does my wife, um, Christine. With a C. [LAUGHTER] Daisy’s with a D. [LAUGHTER] But– oh, so–
INTERVIEWER: So when did you move to Carroll County?
MARTY AMUNDSON: That was in 19– don’t write it down yet–
MARTY AMUNDSON: I think it was 1958. I worked– when I– when I got out of grade school, I just– you don’t have to write this down, but we went to a suburb of Milwaukee called, believe it or not, Wauwatosa.
MARTY AMUNDSON: It’s an Indian name. But, uh, then I went to high school –middle school and high school there. Which was– that was great, too. I still have a couple of buddies I used to walk to school with I talk to on the inter– we get together on the email.
MARTY AMUNDSON: One lives in uh, Arkansas, and one in San Diego. So, yeah. So there’s still a few of us around. [LAUGHTER]
MARTY AMUNDSON: But then, uh, in 19– I graduated in June of ’44 and I went in the Navy, uh, the next day. Well, two days later. And, uh, and then I spent two years in the Navy. And most– about 3/4 of the time I was on a destroyer escort, which is a little smaller than a destroyer. And we were in the North Atlantic for a little while, and then, uh, we went over to the Pacific. And, uh, at the end of the war, we were out of Okinawa. Uhh– and they were– everybody was preparing for the invasion of Japan.
MARTY AMUNDSON: Which, of course, didn’t happen. But, uh, uh, and I wasn’t sad about that. None of us were.
MARTY AMUNDSON: Um, so I came back and I went to the University of Wisconsin. Fortunately, I had the GI Bill. Because I– I used to get a kick out of people who’d say, well, you got your college for nothing. And I said, well, it wasn’t exactly for nothing. [LAUGHTER]
INTERVIEWER: Yeah. Definitely not.
MARTY AMUNDSON: But– when I graduated from the University of Wisconsin, I got a job with a machine tool building company in Wisconsin. And, uh, I worked with them for 41 years. And– so it’s the only full-time job I ever had. And I retired at 65– so, uh, which I shouldn’t have. I wish I hadn’t. Because it was fun.
MARTY AMUNDSON: I loved the job. And I loved the customers. But, uh, um– so I didn’t have a very interesting– it was to me–
MARTY AMUNDSON: Many of my customers were also my very good friends. And, uh, there aren’t many left that I– that I know of. [LAUGHTER] But, you know, it was– it was a nice association. And then, uh, my wife worked at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics lab,
MARTY AMUNDSON: So, she walked to work. We lived about a half– we bought a new house where it was being built and, uh, and she walked to work for a little while, and then we bought this land out here. And I– I cleared the land myself. It was all trees. Mostly red oaks and white oaks.
MARTY AMUNDSON: Some chestnut oaks. And, uh, we had a place in northern Wisconsin, also, 160 acres around Mill Pond in Nicolet National Forest my dad bought years ago and he left to me. And, uh, so I had a lot of experience in cutting down trees. So I–
INTERVIEWER: Yeah, I guess you would.
MARTY AMUNDSON: I cleared the wood. ‘Cause some of those devils were that big around [INAUDIBLE]. When they’d hit the ground, they’d shake. But um– so it’s kept me busy. And, uh, although one thing– I never encourage anybody to retire if they like their job. Keep working. My goodness. [LAUGHTER]
MARTY AMUNDSON: Where were we? Well, so I– not too long after– I went from the Navy, to the University of Wisconsin, to my job. And I– I started in engineering.
MARTY AMUNDSON: Mm-hmm.
MARTY AMUNDSON: And, uh, tried to, I guess, sow wild oats, you know type of thing. And uh, uh, and Wisconsin’s a wrong– don’t put this down, but it’s the wrong college to go for that because it has a terrible reputation for drinking. And, uh, I think they’re right up there. They haven’t lost it, either. Of course, there’s a lot of colleges in that category.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah, yeah.
MARTY AMUNDSON: But that’s no excuse. But so I’d gone from high school to a couple years, and about a year and a half I was overseas on a little ship in the middle of wherever, so you know, I thought, well, this is great being back home. And so engineering, you really have to– you have to work steady.
MARTY AMUNDSON: And you’ve got do all your homework. Well, I– I, uh, well, at any rate.
MARTY AMUNDSON: [LAUGHTER] So I– took a semester off after a year and a half, and I worked in a railroad car repair yard in Milwaukee. And that convinced me I was going back to college.
MARTY AMUNDSON: And I switched to journalism, in advertising. And I was hired by my company, and I took over the advertising department after about a year. But, uh, uh, then I found they had a sales training program. And, uh, and that sounded a lot more interesting. So I– I started out as a service man. You go– I traveled all over the country installing and repairing machinery. Uh, and then, uh, the sales training program took over. And that was part of it. And, uh, and then when this territory opened up, I got this in ’58, and I’ve been here ever since.
So when I retired in, uh– I was there 41 years, so you can do the math. Wait a minute, I started before ’58. We moved out here in ’58. I started in 1951. Right out of college. And, uh– started for the company, but I didn’t move out– I got in sales and got transferred out here in ’58. And– and then I retired at age 65.
And soon after that I started taking some college courses [LAUGHTER] and then we– I took some at, at, uh, right down below uh– in the Laurel area. What’s the name of it? Is that– not Catonsville. Is it?
INTERVIEWER: Oh, I don’t know.
MARTY AMUNDSON: A community college. I took some of electronic courses because I was selling computer con– well, by that time getting into computer-controlled equipment, and that wasn’t–
MARTY AMUNDSON: Any specialty in journalism school. So I– I took courses in that. And I was going with people like your age, but it was– I was a lot younger then. [LAUGHTER] And I– I didn’t learn as fast, I don’t think. But my customers thought I knew a lot about our equipment, which was good.
MARTY AMUNDSON: And I did. But in– mechanically, I could do anything, or hydraulically or electrically, but electronically, that’s something else.
MARTY AMUNDSON: So, uh, that’s how I got to know my customers so well, because they– we were the most expensive equipment on the market, but if anything happened to theirs, I used to go there on weekends.
MARTY AMUNDSON: Lockheed Martin– it used to be, uh, used to be Martin Marietta years ago. Glenn L. Martin many years ago. Aerospace, in East Baltimore. Uh, they’re still one of the largest defense builders nationwide in the– in the world, I think, Lockheed Martin. But, uh, I remember one of their vice presidents called me when I was on vacation one time, and he was upset because a machine he’d just spent about a million dollars for was not working properly.
INTERVIEWER: Oh my.
MARTY AMUNDSON: And he couldn’t get a serviceman. So I went in from my vacation [LAUGHTER] and then I got a guy out of our factory in Milwaukee, and I borrowed parts from another customer so we wouldn’t have to wait to get them. And uh, I was their hero. [LAUGHTER]
MARTY AMUNDSON: But I mean, I knew how important it was for them.
MARTY AMUNDSON: I’m jumping all over the map. But old people talk too much sometimes. [LAUGHTER] Anyway, I’ve enjoyed my life very much. And we have– as I said. Oh. [LAUGHTER] Between the two of us, we have, uh, uh, five children. I have two and my wife had three. And I was married for 24 years, single for three, and have been married for 33 years. So–
MARTY AMUNDSON: And we’re all friends, everybody. But [LAUGHTER] So that’s why we’re getting all these grandchildren. In fact, Chris has a lot more than I do, and she’s five years younger than I am.
MARTY AMUNDSON: But they all married early.
MARTY AMUNDSON: [LAUGHTER] Uh–
INTERVIEWER: Have you noticed any changes in Carroll County since you’ve been here?
MARTY AMUNDSON: Since I’ve been here?
MARTY AMUNDSON: Oh yes, well, of course. The uh, the uh, suburban areas have all built up so much. And when we bought this land 17, 18 years ago, even then it didn’t seem, uh, you know, not– it’s not crowded, but–
MARTY AMUNDSON: But the roads can get a little crowded. So I’m glad I’m not driving to work in Baltimore or Washington and some of those places.
MARTY AMUNDSON: But, uh, and I like Carroll County very much. Now– not for publication– [LAUGHTER] but it– it’s one of the few relatively conservative Republican counties in the– in the world, I think.
MARTY AMUNDSON: Um, Milwaukee was– or Wisconsin was the birthplace of the Republican Party, but it’s pretty much a Democratic state now. Except the new governor’s made a lot of noise, but he won’t get very far. But uh, that isn’t why we came to to Carroll County.
MARTY AMUNDSON: Howard County was nice, too. That’s where I first moved. Uh, we first– no, I first moved. Uh, but we like it here very much. When my wife saw downtown Westminster, she said, oh my goodness, this looks like you’re going back 75-100 years. And I said–
INTERVIEWER: All the little antique shops.
MARTY AMUNDSON: Isn’t that– isn’t that wonderful.
MARTY AMUNDSON: Yeah. Well I– I used to live in a little town called Blair, Wisconsin, which back then had, uh– my grandfather not only was a post– mail carrier, he also owned the newspaper, [LAUGHTER] the Blair Press. They’re still in business. But uh, then my dad and his– one of his brothers learned the printing business that way.
MARTY AMUNDSON: And, uh, Dad ended up with the Milwaukee Journal, which is, uh, it’s the paper in Wisconsin as far as advertisement and circulation.
MARTY AMUNDSON: Although you’d probably never hear of Gene McCarthy from Wisconsin. Senator McCarthy.
INTERVIEWER: It sounds familiar. Yeah.
MARTY AMUNDSON: Well, he was a character. But, uh, they used to call it the Milwaukee Daily Worker. [LAUGHTER] I’m jumping all over the map.
INTERVIEWER: That’s fine.
MARTY AMUNDSON: But, uh, well– and Chris, my wife, came from a little town called Sneedville, Tennessee, and I met her here.
INTERVIEWER: Oh! In Carroll County? Or–
MARTY AMUNDSON: Well, I met her when– yeah, because– that’s right. [LAUGHTER] My first house I bought was in Reisterstown when I moved out here. My first wife and I did. And, uh, and well, at any rate, so the– some years later I met Chris. And, uh– but not in Carroll County. Her father was a dairy farmer down in, uh, Howard County– or not her father. Well, yeah, her mother owned part of the farm. But her father had already passed away. But, at any rate, I met through a friend, uh, when my little single period there, and we just took to one another.
MARTY AMUNDSON: And she’s wonderful. But, um, umm– [INAUDIBLE] with an 85-year-old brain you get kind of drifted off. [LAUGHTER]
INTERVIEWER: Well, you mentioned that you have a dog, and–
MARTY AMUNDSON: Oh, that’s Daisy. She’s a schnoodle. S-C-H-, you know, half schnauzer, half poodle. Oh, she’s the love of our life. Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Do you guys do things together in the– in the community? I think someone else mentioned football games?
MARTY AMUNDSON: Oh, well. But Chris isn’t much interested in football, but Daisy likes to go. And we always take a long walk before we go to the game. But– and there’s a number of dogs there, which, if you go to any of them you know there’s a few dogs around, but– and then usually somebody like your age says, oh, can I pet your dog? I say please do, she loves it. [LAUGHTER] And then a number of them have tailgating, which, which is a big deal at Wisconsin. I always thought tailgating in Wisconsin was–
MARTY AMUNDSON: [LAUGHTER] –wild. But, so they’d say, well, is it OK if she has a hot dog? And I’d say, well, sure, that would be all right.
MARTY AMUNDSON: But I would break it up so she– cause she’d try to eat the whole thing. But she’s– she’s about 12 pounds, about like that big, you know,
MARTY AMUNDSON: And she’s 11 years old now, but we
MARTY AMUNDSON: She was a used dog when we got her. She was–
MARTY AMUNDSON: She was 6 months old. And uh, a young couple had her and they both work. They’d never had a dog before.
MARTY AMUNDSON: And my wife had never had a dog, except they had farm dogs, but farm dogs are not house pets.
INTERVIEWER: No, it’s different.
MARTY AMUNDSON: They live outside and they warn you when somebody’s coming, you know, that type of thing. But, uh, Daisy owns our place.
MARTY AMUNDSON: She’s gonna be 11. But anyway, she loves going to them. Part of going to the game is she sees all these people–
MARTY AMUNDSON: –and she’s a people person.
MARTY AMUNDSON: But we both are, so it works out good. [LAUGHTER]
INTERVIEWER: Good. Would you say that doing that kind of thing has helped keep you young? Going out and you know, I guess–
MARTY AMUNDSON: Oh, sure. And I used to be in– in a church choir and things like that.
MARTY AMUNDSON: But I haven’t been doing that for a long time. But I used to sing, uh, when I was at Wisconsin. I was in a little local road show we had of the musical Brigadoon, if you’re familiar with that.
MARTY AMUNDSON: That was a long time ago. I loved to sing. I still do, but I don’t have the voice.
MARTY AMUNDSON: And I never did, probably. I was– I was supposedly an Irish tenor. My mother’s family came from Germany and my dad and his family came from Norway, but the–
MARTY AMUNDSON: that’s all right.
INTERVIEWER: [LAUGHTER] Um, can you think of any other things that have maybe helped you age a little bit better than if you didn’t?
MARTY AMUNDSON: Well, I– I’m sure I look like 85, but– whatever that is, but, uh, no, I don’t think old. And neither does my wife. She’d– she’s got some problems. I mean, everybody does, but–
MARTY AMUNDSON: –but I just don’t think that way. I have people– neighbors that are a lot younger than I am that talk about their health and all–
MARTY AMUNDSON: –how do you feel, and I say I feel terrific. Even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t say it– [LAUGHTER]
MARTY AMUNDSON: –because who cares, and that’s not gonna help. No, but, no, and I– I, uh, I go to the Y. My wife was doing it. Up until recently, she would with a group that– that started when they opened in the morning, like 6 o’clock, and spend a couple of hours there. But, uh, I usually go in the early afternoon. ‘Cause– just a treadmill and some of the weight machines. But then, I do maintain my own property. And I–
INTERVIEWER: That’s a lot of work
MARTY AMUNDSON: When I bought the property, I– I bought several sizes of chainsaws and I cut the trees down myself. And, uh, and then I had a fellow that, uh, had a portable sawmill, and I had him saw them into boards. And I built a couple of sheds out in back. One is, uh, like a carpenter shop with a little porch, you know, a little slope roof on it. And then I built another one for a small tractor and a few other things. And I love doing stuff like that. But– uh, oh, but Chris and I are always doing something. We like working outside.
INTERVIEWER: Oh. So you retired from your job, but you still–
MARTY AMUNDSON: Yeah, well, my job. See, I traveled a lot in the area–
MARTY AMUNDSON: And I– I would stay out maybe a couple nights a week, depending upon what part of the territory I was in. I always had Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia, and Maryland and a little bit of Pennsylvania. And, uh– now, but– nowadays it wouldn’t be– you’d have to have a lot bigger territory, because a good share of the metal cutting– I sold metal-cutting machinery.
MARTY AMUNDSON: Some of it is half the size of this whole building, and some fit this room, you know. But, uh– they did milling, drilling, boring, reaming, tapping, if you know what any of that is.
MARTY AMUNDSON: And then we got into computer control, where you clamp a part down on a palette, which goes through a series of machines electronically. Automatically.
MARTY AMUNDSON: And they select and change their own tools, and– and inspect the parts and all without any–
MARTY AMUNDSON: –manual intervention, unless something goes wrong.
MARTY AMUNDSON: And then it tells you that real quick. But it was fascinating. But– back in the old days, when they were– everything was pretty much manually operated, uh, I did know, by working in the plant and getting to service machinery in customer plants, I got to know the machine so well. It helped me coming into a new territory like this, because I– I already had a list of who had what machines and [INAUDIBLE] Some of them went back to– they started building them in 1895. But there’s a lot of machines from World War II still in use, and, uh, around here. And, uh, some from World War I.
MARTY AMUNDSON: But most of them and so you go in there, you’d say, well, you still have such and such models, and, oh yeah, we’ve got a lot of trouble with it. So, why don’t we take a look at it. And usually within a few hours I could show them how to fix it, or if it was something relatively simple I could fix it myself. I used to carry a shop coat because I always wore the white shirt–
MARTY AMUNDSON: –tie and a suit. [LAUGHTER] And polished shoes and all that, so I got so I’d carry a, a working, uh, outfit.
INTERVIEWER: Well, I know you’re kind of in a hurry, so was there anything else?
MARTY AMUNDSON: Well, I hope I didn’t disappoint you.
INTERVIEWER: No, no! That was exactly what I was–
MARTY AMUNDSON: I could tell you minor war stories, but they’re not that interesting. [LAUGHTER] No, I– I like what you’re doing. I– I, uh, when I switched to journalism from engineering [LAUGHTER] I, of course, I also was the sports editor of the, of the high school paper. The, the Cardinal News, we called it, and uh, so I did a lot of that. In fact, I– my mother saved a lot of my clippings, so I– my mother was 101 when she died.
MARTY AMUNDSON: And my dad was only 85, but he had a problem nobody knew about until it was too late, but– ’cause he was very active.
INTERVIEWER: Right. But mother, she was fantastic.
INTERVIEWER: [LAUGHTER] That’s incredible.
MARTY AMUNDSON: She didn’t take any medicines. Yeah. [LAUGHTER] But uh, my sister, she graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee. And, uh, she worked for– she, well, ended up being credit manager of a company in the Milwaukee area. But used to travel to their places around the country and all, and set up offices. She’s fantastic. She died a couple of years ago, but uh, um, she wrote for the, uh, a couple of the local papers. Oh, I used to write for the Wauwatosa News, too, which was a, uh, paper like the Carroll County Times.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, OK.
MARTY AMUNDSON: Yeah. They’re still in businesses, too. ‘Cause I remember, when you’re doing this, I interviewed a guy that used to be whatever they’d call a leading insurance salesman of the– of that particular period. And he also had played for the Chicago Bears professional football team.
MARTY AMUNDSON: And he lived right around– about two blocks from where my parents lived. John Sisk, I remember him. He was– I mean that– I thought, gosh, this is great. I still have the article I wrote. [LAUGHTER] Well, my mother had it, and then she saved everything. OK.
INTERVIEWER: Well, thank you.
MARTY AMUNDSON: Well, sorry if I bored you. [LAUGHTER]
INTERVIEWER: No! No, that was perfect. Thank you so much for your time.