Mardie MacKimm, W&M Class of 1955
Mardie MacKimm arrived at William & Mary in 1951. During her time at William & Mary, MacKimm participated in Pi Beta Phi, the Colonial Echo, Panhellenic Council, Political Science Forum, Pep Club and Philosophy Club. She was also a President’s Aide and was a member of Mortar Board.
After receiving her Bachelor of Arts in English in 1955, MacKimm ultimately came to work for Kraft, Inc. as Senior Vice President of Corporate Communication and landed on the Chicago Tribune’s list of “Chicago’s Most Powerful Women.”
In her interview, MacKimm reflects fondly on her experience at William & Mary, despite being plaqued by a number of illnesses during her time here. She seredipitously became president of Pi Beta Phi her sophomore year, enjoyed her position on the Colonial Echo staff, and credits her education as getting her a position with a newspaper years down the line because the interviewer "was so blown away that I had gone to William & Mary."
William & Mary
Interviewee: Mardie MacKimm
Interviewer: Carmen Bolt
Interview Date: June 29, 2017 Duration: 02:22:12
Carmen: My name is Carmen Bolt, the oral historian at William & Mary. It’s currently around 10:45 on June 29, 2017. I’m sitting with Mardie MacKimm at her home north of Chicago, Illinois in Highland Park. We’ll get started by talking about the date and place of your birth.
Mardie: I was born July 14, 1933 in Chicago, downtown at St. Luke’s Hospital.
Carmen: And what years did you go to William & Mary?
Mardie: I went to William & Mary from 1951 to 1955.
Carmen: You were born in Chicago, so is that where you were raised?
Mardie: I have spent every day of my life, as far as living is concerned, places in Chicago, its surroundings, except for the four years I was at William & Mary.
Carmen: And what was it like growing up in Chicago?
Mardie: For me it was fine. There were all kinds of things to like about it. I came to understand Chicago had some of the nice things that I thought about, most particularly Lake Michigan, but there were a lot of things about it that weren’t so good. And as we go on talking, I’ll tell you about one thing that I learned from my government professor.
Mardie: About Chicago.
Carmen: Okay. Don’t let me forget to bring that back up, okay? If I don’t, you bring it back up.
Carmen: What about your family? What was your family makeup?
Mardie: There were three in there with me. My mother and father married, met at the hospital. My father became a surgeon. My mother was a nurse. And they married and had four children, as I say, three and then me. And I have an older sister who’s eight years older than I am, a dear brother who was seven years older, who is now deceased, and another brother who was in Minnesota with his family, and he was four years older.
00:02:09 And then I…I like not to think I was unexpected, but I think I was.
Carmen: Well, I’m sure that was a great surprise, nonetheless.
Carmen: So you’re from Chicago. How did you find yourself in Virginia, in Williamsburg? When did you start thinking about college?
Mardie: You see, this is part of the whole story. Do you want me to tell it now?
Mardie: Because of what was going on with secondary education in Chicago, my father became somewhat disturbed about what kind of education his children were getting, and the brother that I told you about, his name was—he was a Junior, but we called him [Bick]. And Bick was…I think we all understand now, and Bick certainly does, that he was dyslexic.
00:03:06 And he used to have to go to the library in the grammar school and meet with the librarian and do remedial reading, that kind of thing. Nobody understood dyslexia in those days. But in any event, my father decided that wasn’t proceeding too well, so when it was time for him to go to high school, they checked out certain things and agreed on Wayland Academy in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. One of my father’s colleagues had grown up in Beaver Dam. And Wayland was really a nifty place.
And I’ll just insert this. Bick was there for…he went his sophomore year in high school, so he was there for three years, and played football and basketball and all those good things, and did the best he could academically.
00:04:03 And the principal of the school mentioned to my dad, when close to the end of senior year, when we were up visiting, and he said, Doctor, you need to understand that I think you and Mrs. Pontius need to start planning on some kind of a more manual occupation for Bick, and so we don’t think he’s going to make a really very happy college student. And my father said, well, that’s very interesting, Mr. [Hicks], thank you. Whereupon he then got on the phone and talked to his alma mater, Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana.
00:04:54 My father grew up on a farm in Indiana, and so on, and his mother was…well, his father left his mother and she was a real difficult person. I could understand anybody leaving her. But in any event, he really didn’t have a father around all the time, and he more or less grew up with his grandmother and grandfather. We used to call them Little Grandma and Grandpa.
And the town doctor took a shine to him, and so when it was time for him—he was a good student—and he played the trombone, and he, you know, played basketball, as everybody in Indiana did in those days, and still a lot do, and so on. And Dr. King said there’s a wonderful school, it’s a Quaker school, and it’s a wonderful school down in Richmond, and I’m going to talk to somebody and see if they have room for you, and I’m going to pay for your college.
00:06:09 And so…well, there’s an offer you can’t refuse, and he didn’t, and went to Earlham. And then three years went by and he knew he wanted to be a doctor. He always had known. Because he used to ride in the buggy with Dr. King around to the farms and take care of…Dr. King would be taking care of patients and my father would just be watching and so on. So then he got some kind of a scholarship at University of Illinois to start med school.
So anyway, moving on to the problem my brother had, my dad came home and called up Earlham and said I have a son that doesn’t read terribly well and he’s been at Wayland, and they think he can’t do all that well in college; I want you to take him.
00:07:06 They said absolutely we’ll take him. So he went there. He…both my brothers thought they needed to be doctors. Actually, my older brother, he went to Earlham, too, because he had to go and serve in the Navy in World War II. He never left this country, but nevertheless he lost all that time, and he got out of the Navy like the first of September or something. Well, it was too late to go to college. Once again, Earlham. And so anyway, they were there, and Bill thought he needed to, you know, do all the premed stuff, and he just really liked chemistry, and he really didn’t like anything else.
00:07:59 So that was the end of that and he became a chemist. And Bick, any time he could get a chance, he took an elective dealing with economics. And the economics professor said to him, in his senior year at Earlham, look… It wasn’t that. It was the sophomore year.
He said I don’t think you’re going to be a doctor, and you’re much better at economics, and you like economics, and you get the theories and so on; change your major. He did. Then his senior year he told them that he had a former colleague and continuing friend at Harvard, in the graduate school of business, who always said if you have anyone that you think you should send me, let me know.
00:09:01 He said I’m going to tell him that I think you should go to Harvard. Bick said I barely got out of high school. And he said that doesn’t matter anymore. So he went to Harvard, got married in between the two years, to his high school sweetheart and what have you.
And it was my father’s great… You know, I was at William & Mary when he was finishing, and he was doing the Harvard thing. And it was my father’s greatest joy to write Mr. Hicks at Wayland and say just thought you’d be interested that we now have a graduate of the Harvard School of Business. Thanks for all your encouragement. And so it was a nice story.
00:09:57 Mine was not like that at all. It was determined that I should go to the Faulkner School for Girls. I lived in the southwestern edge of Chicago. We called it Beverly Hills. Well, it is called Beverly Hills, but it’s not in California. And the Faulkner School for Girls was in Hyde Park. It was a good 40 minutes to get there, unless you were going on public transportation. Then it was a good hour and a half.
And I thought…I really hated the whole idea, and I said I’m going to a girls school, and I’m not even going to be going with all my friends from, you know, this, that and the other, you know the kind of thing you would expect. And I was a little snip, because after about eight…seven months, I really loved it and I didn’t want to let them know I did and so on.
00:11:04 But there I was at Faulkner. Had an absolutely marvelous secondary education. There were 16 in my graduating class. You can imagine the individual attention. And the principal of the school was Miss Elizabeth Faulkner. And she taught Latin. And you read Latin. You learned—I remember “Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris.” And my goodness, we had all of these old, you know, kinds of subjects.
And so my senior year I had friends who had gone the year before to Denison University in Granville, Ohio, and I went to visit.
00:11:58 And I just loved Denison, and I loved my friends that were there, and we had two or three wonderful weekends, and so on and so forth. And I applied and was accepted, and so that was that.
And one night—it was apparent my father had been thinking about all this. And he said he wanted to talk to me, and said, you know, I want you first to understand that I think Denison is a fine school and I agree with you, you don’t want to go to a big university, etc., etc., after coming out of a class of 16, and so on. [Laughs.] So he said I think, you know, that was… But he said there’s one thing that concerns me, and that is we are Midwestern. We have always been Midwestern. We have not traveled a lot because of my work.
00:13:01 We used to get the family in the car in the back of the house and so on and be ready to go away for a week or two—well, usually to the farm in Indiana, but nevertheless. And then the family retainer would appear at the back door and say, “Doctor, Doctor, hospital on the phone. Got to talk to you, Doctor.” My mother would say, “Let’s just get out of the car.” And we’d never go. Or we’d go three days to Indiana. And once in a while we’d go to Wisconsin fishing.
But basically, he said, what you have no way of knowing is that Midwesterners have an outlook, just like Westerners have an outlook, Southerners have an outlook, Easterners have an outlook, but when you travel, you’ll get to know all of that.
00:13:55 We have not traveled and you do not know that. And you want to be a writer of some type. You need to understand that people living in a different part of the country, thought process is different from yours. And you need to understand people have different viewpoints, and the reasons why they do.
And he said, from that standpoint, Denison seems like more of the same Midwestern approach to things, and because you are the last of four to be educated, I can send you away, and I want you to go away. And I don’t care if it’s East, South or West, but I think part of your education has to learn about why people think the way they do in different places.
00:14:57 And even if you just get one place and find that out, you will understand that they do. Well, I was totally bowled over, had no idea he’d had all these thoughts, and I didn’t know whether it made a lot of sense to me or not, or if I cared about that or not. But I was sort of bewildered, and I did kind of like Denison. So anyway, he said I suggest you talk to Miss Elizabeth about it.
Well, she was thrilled. Here’s this old lady, she said oh, I want to call up Wellesley and Vassar and Smith and all of them immediately, and of course you will go there. And I said no, Miss Elizabeth, I will not go there. Now they’re wonderful places and so on, but I have now spent four years in the Faulkner School for Girls and I would like not to be going to another girls school, thank you. And she was disappointed.
00:15:56 And then she said, well, I have another thought, but I don’t know. She said there’s a school in Virginia that I am very, very strong on. We’ve not had a girl be accepted, and I’ve tried. And she said its name is the College of William & Mary. I said, well, what’s that, a Catholic school or something? To have that name, you know. She said, no-no-no, where is your history? King William, Queen Mary. And she explained. And so she said this would absolutely speak to your father’s issue. It’s a totally different part of the country than Chicago and so on, and there is no doubt in anybody’s mind you will receive an excellent education.
00:17:00 So the problem is going to be that it is a state supported school, and they don’t take very many students from out of state, and I really don’t know of anybody from the Chicago area—there may be one or two or something, but I don’t know who they are—that have gone there. And actually, as it turned out, there were a few, but they were mostly men, so that’s why she didn’t know them, from this girls school.
And so we applied. And lo and behold, was accepted. And I didn’t appreciate the value of that at the time. I knew what she had said, but I was still thinking it was awfully far away. And it had been made clear to me that if I went away, far away to school, I wouldn’t be running home every now and again.
00:18:02 And I thought when am I ever going to see my friends, and all that kind of business that young people think about and dwell on rather than the important things. But I didn’t respond. And Dean Lambert called one day and said we have a response from you within a week or your acceptance is now declined. And I thought, well, who’s this telling me what I’m going to do? And so of course he got my goat and I said okay, I’m coming. And he turned out to be one of the most important people in my life.
Anyway, I then also discovered that in order to get there you took two trains and it took 24 hours, and I thought maybe I spoke a little too soon. [Laughs.]
00:19:00 It was a terrible train ride and what have you. It turns out, oddly enough, that the school informed us that there was another student accepted—there was more than me from Chicago, the Chicago area, that particular year, and I never understood why exactly, and Dean Lambert could never explain it either, it just happened.
But one girl was from Evanston, and she called me and said I think you should come up here and we should spend the weekend and get to know each other, which was great, and we did, and so on. So she and I at least had met and so on, and sat next to each other in this 24 hour train ride. We had to change in Cincinnati. And then these people…we would stop along the way.
00:19:59 It was the New York Central and then the Chesapeake & Ohio, and we’d stop in these places in Kentucky. And I will never forget stopping in Maysville, Kentucky, and somebody named [Ann Parker] got in, and was just the belle of the ball, and so on and so forth, and Miss [Sally Stoker], who was sitting next to me, said, oh, geez, is this what we’re going to have? The Southern belle was getting on the train, and all the men could hardly wait to get her typewriter and put it away, and get her bag, and are you comfortable and everything. And Sally just sat there and glared. And I thought, eh. Well, anyway. We got to Williamsburg eventually, and while I knew this, until this it was hard to understand.
00:20:56 We were out of state students mainly, for this particular year, going to live in Ludwell apartments and were not going to live on campus. And we would be bussed back and forth to class. And it wasn’t that far to walk, as you well know, but we were to be bussed and all this. And I just thought that was, you know, kind of weird. It turned out to be just fine, it really did, and Ludwell was really an interesting experience, and met lots of wonderful people. And our house counselor was a terrific gal. And so anyway, Ludwell was really fine. And then the next year most of us moved into Barrett.
00:21:55 But I went to some orientation kind of thing, and here was this sort of getting older, rather than middle age man came up to me, and took my hand and said, I think you are Miss Pontius. And I said yes. And he announced himself as Dr. Somebody-or-another. He said I have noticed you have not registered for Latin. And I said no, that’s right. He said, but you read Latin with Miss Elizabeth Faulkner, and I heard you were coming, and I want you in my Latin class. And he was a dear person, but I didn’t want to take anymore Latin, and I never did. And so on. That was a great experience.
00:22:57 We had Dr. Guy in chemistry. He was from the University of Chicago. He was an exceptional professor. They were all exceptional. And I had thought at the time I probably would major in chemistry, and toward the end of the year he said, you know, your lab work is great, you understand the theories and valance and so on and so forth. Your math is just terrible. You’re not doing well, in calculus. And I don’t see how you’re going to manage. He said you’re too bright to be stuck in second year chemistry with all the math that is required. Which, you know, I thought basically he didn’t have to tell me all that, but he did. And so I became an English major and went on with what I had originally…
00:24:00 I thought I needed a chemistry background so I could get chemistry textbooks or something. I don’t even know what I was going to do with it, but I somehow had to combine all this. So I became an English major, and the joy of my life, because every class was in the Wren Building. And it was…it had not been recently restored. You almost went blind taking a blue book exam because the electric light was so terrible, like my library, and you could hardly see to get through. And we sat on these old benches and these funny old tables. And we had modern dance class in the Great Hall. I mean, the Wren Building was just whatever needed to be done. And I loved the Wren Building so much.
00:24:58 And I’ll fast forward. I had to go back to summer school one year because I got hepatitis and I had to come home and be sick and so on and so forth. It was my junior year and I needed to make up…I had to drop nine hours. I needed to make up some hours in order to be for the senior year. Nobody wanted me to go there because of the humidity and being very difficult on recuperating from any kind of liver issue. So anyway, I talked my medical family into letting me do this. When I came through the Wren Building that first morning and saw all the crepe myrtle, I’d never seen it before. It was so astoundingly gorgeous.
00:26:00 And we called it, you know, the sunken gardens, and I thought what garden? I’d never seen a flower in the place and what have you, and here it was. And the magnolias were all blooming, and I thought it really is just… You know, I was a junior then. I mean, it wasn’t as though it was new to me. But that particular part was. Anyway, that was that.
And for some reason, my sophomore year whomever—oh, I had pledged Pi Beta Phi, and for some reason the woman that was sort of intended to be elected president wasn’t, for some reason. And I never did quite understand why.
00:26:57 But anyway, she wasn’t, and I was. And they talked to me about it first, and I said, you know, I’m just a sophomore, did you forget that? And no, but we think that you can do it, and we’d like you to do it. And you’d have to move in the house and out of Barrett, and into the house.
So that was a major transition for me. And it was interesting, because now I was associating with upper class girls instead of, you know, my own class, but [unintelligible] 00:27:39. And Pi Phi was great. In the course of all that, and keeping up with my studies and what have you, I…you know, there was no journalism of any kind at William & Mary in those days.
00:27:58 I don’t have any idea if there is now. But you didn’t learn how to put anything together, either, from a publication standpoint. And so I got myself onto the staff of the Colonial Echo, which I understand doesn’t exist anymore. And then I just, you know, learned. And one of my sorority sisters, and still a dear friend, who now lives in Williamsburg, married the then editor of the Colonial Echo, and Johnny taught me everything I knew about it all and so on and so forth. And I just really fell in love with all of that kind of activity.
00:29:01 And that was one of the reasons—well, we had the sexist thing in those days, the beauty queens in the Colonial Echo. And they had to have their pictures professionally taken in Richmond. So I would go back and forth to Richmond in these wonderful Greyhound bus experiences with them and what have you, and we would get the pictures taken and what have you.
Well, as it turned out, I began not to feel so good, and didn’t feel very well, and I went to Midwinter’s Weekend my junior year, and my date said, come over into the light, Mardie. And I did. And he said, you know, your eyes look jaundiced.
00:29:59 And I said, really? And he said, yeah. He said, are you feeling okay? I said, I’m exhausted. I’d really like to go back to the house. And he took me back to the house and what have you. And so the house mother, Mrs. [Thurelson], became all disturbed, and she…one of my sorority sisters that lived in the house then was a premed.
She spoke to her, and so I went the next morning with Jane [Kessler], my sorority sister, to Dr. Baldwin in the Biology Department. He was the head of the Biology Department, and a very…not a soft-spoken person. And he said, have you ever had jaundice before, Miss Pontius? And I said I have not. And hm, and everybody… I mean, he’s teaching a class, and I’m coming in, and he’s taking the blood.
00:31:04 And so all of a sudden I said, oh my god, so what is going to happen to the blood? Well, we’re going to put it on the Greyhound bus and send it up to the medical college in Richmond. He said there’s no way to test blood here in Williamsburg. We’re going to send it to Richmond. I see. That was when I knew I needed to see a doctor. There was a doctor in town. His name was Dr. [Painter]. And I had been in the infirmary because I didn’t feel well and I kept being given a shot of penicillin or something. And I went to see Dr. Painter, and I told him Dr. Baldwin had sent the blood.
00:31:53 He listened to the whole thing. He said, you have either hepatitis or mononucleosis. He said, now I can put you in the infirmary and treat you as a private patient or…he said you’re already jaundiced. We need to wait for the blood to get back. Or you can go home. He said you’re going to have some bad time ahead of you.
And he said I understand your father is a surgeon. I said, right. And he said, I think I would like to talk with him on the phone. And so we got through to him in his office, and I explained who Dr. Painter was, and I said he wants to talk to you. He thinks I have mono or hepatitis. And my father said, I’d very much like to talk to Dr. Painter. So they went through. And I could hear on the other end. The blood is where?
00:32:59 On a Greyhound bus. I see. Going to? The medical college. That’s in Richmond? Yes. And when would you expect it back? Not till tomorrow. I see. He said, awfully nice of you to offer to treat my daughter in the infirmary. I would like her to come home. So of course it was pronounced hepatitis.
My roommate scrounged around and got a car which belonged to the editor, Johnny Westberg, of the Colonial Echo, because he delivered laundry. She got me to the airport in Richmond and I came home. And that’s why, you know, and I had to go to bed and be ill, and all this had me out of things for quite some time. And my wonderful English professor at the time, Dr. [Neiman], sent me assignments and made sure I had my textbooks, and that was a savior and so on.
00:34:01 So that’s, you know, when I insisted on coming back to school and did the senior year and the Colonial Echo thing, which was a great joy.
I want to tell you one other thing about the government professor, which was all sophomore year. This was 1953. He was Chinese, and he had, after World War II he had become a…I don’t remember what the term is, but Douglas MacArthur had some kind of Chinese person to help him, you know, figure things out, and so Chiang Kai-shek had sent this Dr. Cho to—well, he wasn’t a doctor then—to be MacArthur’s man.
00:35:00 And he was just a fascinating man. He would tell us stories about his mother selling matchsticks and so on during the war in order to buy food and all this, that and the other thing. So he would introduce Government 201 to all of us that were in there for the first time. And he said—and I’ll just talk the way he did—“Things you need to know about class of Dr. Cho. Dr. Cho think [famous] Morgenthau—that was the first professor—Morgenthau is good textbook author from University of Chicago, Miss Pontius, Hans J. Morgenthau. Very good government author and historian.
00:35:58 However, when come to final examination, not what Morgenthau say, what Dr. Cho say.” So you immediately knew you were going to take notes, take notes, take notes, take notes and so on, and we all did in that class. And he also said, “Certain things not acceptable to Dr. Cho as references, such as, Miss Pontius, Chicago Tribune. Never use Chicago Tribune as reference in Dr. Cho’s class.” So I thought, whoa. And you see, that was when I began to understand certain things about Chicago that I didn’t know, that Colonel McCormick was, you know, an absolute Republican conservative, and the newspaper was run that way.
00:37:02 And of course Dr. Cho was not accepting any one side or the other kind of reference and what have you. And he was kind of that way. But he was a fun person. He baked cookies and would have us over to his little house and so on for cookies and discussion, and this, that, and the other thing.
Along about January of that year…well, I should tell you first that because I didn’t come home all the time I was fortunate to have an aunt and uncle who lived in Chevy Chase, and my uncle was a member of the White House press corps. And he was a towering person, six feet four and so on and so forth, and fascinated me.
00:38:00 And we had great discussions. And he was very happy to have me at William & Mary. And I would spend Thanksgiving with them and some other weekend or what have you, and they’d come down and see me once in a while. And so he sent me—he called me and he said watch your mail now. I’m sending you invitations to the inauguration. And I was so excited, and I said, Uncle Larry, really? And so they came.
And then, you know, when you’re in college you’re not paying a whole lot of attention to what day it is or what day something is going to happen. And I realized, I thought oh my god, so here was all this fancy stuff from the White House and this, that, and the other thing. And I called him and I said, Uncle Larry, I can’t come. Well.
00:38:59 He was the type of person, when I would get off the Greyhound bus there in Washington, we wouldn’t go to Chevy Chase immediately. We would go to the Library of Congress and we would read documents, and he’d stand there and say, isn’t it wonderful? Isn’t it just amazing? Think of what those men did. And now, I want you to read this over here. And we’d go and, you know. And he was such a patriot. He just was consumed with how wonderful the United States of America was, and the men that put it all together. And here he was, you know, very…not a young man, and he just…that’s the way it was.
I’ll tell you this one little funny story about him. He was in the White House press corps when Herbert Hoover was President. And of course the Hoovers were very proper and what have you.
00:39:57 And I never quite understood what—they were taking a tour of two or three countries in South America and they went by a ship, and of course the press corps went, too. Well, not only was it customary, of course, you know, to have a formal first night out at sea, but most everything with the Hoovers was formal anyway.
And this fellow press corps member thought it would be fun and they threw his dress shoes overboard and all he had were his tennie pumps. And so that was that. And he went through the receiving line, and the President, who was not nearly six foot four, was a rather short man, looked up at him and said, “Very interesting foot attire, Sullivan.”
00:40:59 And Mrs. Hoover would hardly even shake his hand, appearing in such a situation and what have you. And his friends were just getting the biggest hoot out of the whole thing.
Well, anyway, so here we are, can’t go to the inauguration. He was horrified. He said why can’t you come? And I said because it’s my government examination that day and, you know, this is happening all in the middle of finals. And he said, you talk to your government professor. You will learn more government coming here to Washington and seeing Dwight Eisenhower inaugurated than you will taking a government examination. So I said, well, okay, and I sort of, you know, got myself all revved up to do this. And I went to see Dr. Cho and I told him what he had said.
00:41:57 And he looked at me and he said, “Uncle correct. You go. Dr. Cho will make final examination for you upon your return. You go to inauguration.” So I did. And it was great.
But one of the things that I’ll never forget was going to their house in Chevy Chase, and my aunt said…I stayed in his den that had a day bed in it. She said, Larry has a stack of papers on his desk and he wants you to look at them. I said, well, I don’t want to look at anybody’s mail. She said yes, he wants you to. And I said okay. Because it had just been announced that this was, you know, after many years the Republicans were going to have control of the House of Representatives and they had chosen him to be the coordinator of information of the House of Representatives.
00:43:06 And of course I did know what that meant, and I was very excited about that. So I went—and my cousin hadn’t come home from school yet, and he was a little bit younger than I, and he… Anyway, I went upstairs and there was a stack of letters there, and I picked up the first one and here was, “My Dear Sullivan, I’m very happy to know of your appointment. Kindly look after your foot attire. Sincerely, Herbert Hoover.” And it was so funny. And I thought for goodness’ sakes, the foot attire. We’re going to be the coordinator of information of the House. And, you know, it was that kind of a thing.
00:44:00 I guess the only other thing—there are two other things I want to tell you about William & Mary while I was there. And one of the things was appalling to me because I never experienced it in Chicago. And that was the segregation and the separate drinking fountains. And I, as a little coed, would walk down Duke of Gloucester Street toward the capitol or deviate to the palace and go for a walk in the gardens or something, and if a black person were coming the other way, they would get off the sidewalk and walk in the gutter while I passed. And it just gave me such an awful feeling. And there was all that kind of thing.
00:44:59 One of the first times that I went to Washington to see my aunt and uncle, I think probably the first Thanksgiving—and of course the buses were segregated. And I sat down and I was one or two rows before the black section began—colored, of course, is what they called it and so on. And in those days the bus would stop along the road, pick people up. And here came this ancient black man. Oh, my goodness. And he had white hair, and he had all these parcels, and he was obviously going to visit family or something like that. There wasn’t a seat left in his section, and so he was trying to get his bundles all together and hold on when the bus started and everything. I thought I don’t believe this.
00:45:59 So I got up and I said you sit down here and put your bundles over there. And the bus came to a screeching halt, and the bus driver said, “White student, get back where you belong! And you get back where you belong!” He stood all the way to Washington. Not one black person got up and offered him a seat. But I couldn’t offer him my seat. It wasn’t permitted.
Well, I had no idea about that kind of thing. I don’t know if I would have done it anyway. And I was so shaken by the time I got to Washington, and I told Uncle Larry about this. And he listened to me and he explained. And he said one thing you need to understand, and maybe it’s also part of your dad’s thinking about learning about other places and the way people think, he said, Mardie, what you don’t understand is Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in the country, if not the most.
00:47:12 And if you look about Williamsburg, you will see there is a black community, but people don’t worry about it, whereas they do in Chicago. He said you stop and think about it when you go home sometime. He said I’m sorry this is an experience that you’ve had, but file it away right now as one of those experiences of learning that your father might have wanted you to have. Not this one particularly, but differences. Well, I tried to deal with that. It always kind of bothered me.
00:47:56 Then I was a president’s aide—they would still have them—senior year. And there was going to be some enormous something about the law school, the 350th anniversary of something or another of John Marshall and this, that and the other thing. I don’t remember all the details now. And the Lord Chief Justice of England was coming, and Ear Warren was coming. And we had this awful president, Alvin Duke Chandler. When I went to school and arrived as a freshman, we didn’t have a president because we had the football scholarship—or…
Mardie: Scandal. And they had left and the president resigned. And so we had Dean Lambert, thank goodness, and he just filled in until the awful Alvin Duke Chandler, whose father had been a president of William & Mary.
00:49:00 And he…oh, he, you know, I shouldn’t make disparaging remarks about him, but he wasn’t a scholar, let’s put it that way. Anyway, we had a meeting of the president’s aides with the president and the major issue was what do we do now that the Supreme Court has acted the way it did, and what do we do with all of the black people in Williamsburg that come to these ceremonies and so on, because there was a roped off section that they had to sit in. And I said, whoa, you can’t have a section for black people with Earl Warren sitting on the dais.
00:50:02 And of course the governor of Virginia would not come. The lieutenant governor came. And this was a terrible thing. And I could not understand. They kept mulling this over, mulling this over, what was going to be done about all of this. And even some of my fellow students could appreciate why it was such a problem. I just thought it was outrageously silly to even be talking about it. And so it was.
And of course the people, the black people would love to come to the outdoor convocations, and they loved the singing, and they loved everything about it, and they came in droves. So, sensibly, it was decided that they could no longer be ushered to their section and there would no longer be the rope sanctions and what have you.
00:51:06 And it disappointed me so. They all came and sat where they’d always sat. And that was just the way it was. And it just crushed me. I was so disappointed that they felt they needed to do that. But they felt they wanted to be together. And they didn’t know that such an issue was being made of it. It was an eye-opener. It was a learning experience for me. And in many respects, I’ve remembered that at various different times in Chicago over my life.
So one thing led to another, and we published another Colonial Echo, and it was time to graduate.
00:52:00 And by that time I was engaged to be married to, oddly enough, a nice young man from Denison, but also from Chicago. And I had met him the Christmas before, home at Christmas, and one of my Faulkner friends who had gone to Denison had a Christmas party and so on, and that’s where I met him. And so anyway, I really didn’t have time for an early career, and I graduated, and I was married the next first of October. And his family were meatpackers. Back of the Yards Chicago meatpackers. And the history and so on was fascinating to me.
00:52:58 And I loved his father. He was the epitome of Scotland just appearing before me, with flowing white hair and big, bushy black eyebrows and so on. I just…he was good. Years later, when his son and I determined we needed to get divorced and so on, he asked me to come downtown and meet him for lunch, and I did. And he said please don’t do this to my son, please don’t do this. And I said, but I have to. I have to live my life and I can’t do it this way. My husband turned out to be a gambler, and I just…we tried and tried and tried and so on.
00:52:58 And I said I’m not spending my life like this. So we got divorced, and I thought now what? And I thought, well, best begin at the beginning. So I called up the local newspaper editor in Northbrook and asked if they had any jobs, if I could come in for an interview, and they said, well, we’re not particularly interviewing. We don’t particularly have any jobs. But you can come in and I’ll talk to you. And so I went over, and he looked at me and he said, no, you didn’t go to William & Mary. I said, yes I did. You went to William & Mary in Virginia?
00:54:57 I said, Williamsburg. You graduated? I did. How did you get in? I applied. Huh. Really? Well. And what did you do there? I said, I edited the yearbook, and a few other things. He said, I see. He said, do you know what a stringer is? I said, my understanding of a stringer is you write articles and hope somebody will publish them. Right. Want to be a stringer? And we can talk about what you might write about in the community. And community journalism is what it is, it’s community journalism. And so he gave me the job strictly because he was so blown away that I had gone to William & Mary.
00:56:01 And it wasn’t exactly a job. You got paid $10 per article, and I wouldn’t say all my articles got published, but we saved up in the beginning. Of course by that time I was receiving child support and what have you, and we could stay in our house, and the boys… The boys were, let’s see, 12, 8 and 6 at the time their father and I divorced, and so it was difficult with the children. But anyway. We saved up the first few checks, the $10 checks from the newspaper, and Tim and Dan and Dave and I went to the Schwinn bicycle store and bought Danny his first two wheeler.
00:57:05 And we were all so excited. And I think his brothers were almost more excited than he was and what have you. And we did things like that. And the newspaper kind of became part of everything.
Well, I was assigned to fire prevention week, which is a terrible thing to have to write a story about and, you know, the second grade going to sit on the fire engine and meet the fire chief. I thought, well… We had a company in town called General Fire Extinguisher Corporation, and I had heard from a couple people that the guy that ran it, that owned it was kind of an eccentric type, and I thought, well, let me see about that.
00:57:54 And so I called up and told his secretary who I was and that I would like to write an article about the company and have it published in fire prevention week. Well, she said, that idea is good because that’s our business, fire prevention, and what have you, but Mr. Hudson doesn’t give interviews. And I said, well maybe you could ask him about it.
She called me back the next day. She said, I’m sorry I touted you off of this because he has said he would. Well, we had a very interesting conversation and so on and so forth. He had a stocking cap on. It was apparent that he had lost his hair. And I asked his secretary about it later, and he was dying of cancer. He had…a man of foresight, and he had all these interesting sidelines that he did, and he had certain animals out at his farm in Libertyville and what have you.
00:59:01 I mean, camels and, you know, different kinds of animals, and a chimpanzee. The motto for the company was—General Fire’s Charlie was a chimpanzee and was dressed up like a fireman, and he would go to the International Amphitheater down in the stockyards and so on for their huge livestock expositions and all that. Different stuff that he had. He was concerned about pollution in the Chicago River, and he had heard about this little vessel that could scoot around boats and so on and get the debris out of the water. It was called the…well, it doesn’t…it’s a detail. Anyway, I talked to him.
00:59:53 He took a liking to me and he said, you know, are you married? I said I was. And he said, you have children? And I said I have three. And well, he said, it’s getting on toward 3:00, don’t you have to see about your children? I said, actually, I do.
And he said, well, I’m going to put you in touch with Mr. [Bossert] over at the factory. He’s the president of the company and he will show you about, and you can talk to people about fire extinguishers and this, that and the other thing and so on, but you better get home and see about your children, and be there when they get home. And that’s the kind of person he was. Well, it was a great hit. The story was terrific, and it ran in all the North Shore papers of Pioneer Press. So that was step number one.
01:00:54 Step number two was the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team played in the old Chicago Stadium downtown. For some reason something was going on—we always called it Circus Week. The circus would come and then they couldn’t play basketball or hockey in the place, they had to find other—that wasn’t this. There was some repair that had to be done.
Northbrook had an Olympic size ice arena that the park district had built at great cost a few years before, and so the Blackhawks made an arrangement with the city of Northbrook to use that facility for their practicing. And so I said to my editor, I think we should write a story about that and see how the Blackhawks like the facility and if it suits their needs and so on and so forth. What do you know about hockey? I said I know everything about hockey.
01:01:59 He said, why? I said, I get up at 5:00 in the morning and take my oldest son over there to practice hockey. He’s on a very junior hockey team and I know all about hockey. He said, well, I don’t care. If you want to write the story, you know, be my guest.
So I went the first morning and I sort of observed what was going on. I could see where they skated off the ice. And the next morning I went. And I’m talking about people that I don’t think any of you would know, unless you’ve been ardent hockey fans all your life. But here cam Stan Mikita, one of the greatest hockey players there ever was. There were two of them at the same time on the Blackhawks.
And Stan Mikita came skating off the ice, and I was standing there and said, Stan, Stan, could I talk to you a minute? And he, whew, you know, with his skates, and he stopped, and he said, yeah? And I said I work for the local paper, and people in Northbrook want to know how you guys feel about the facility.
01:03:00 Oh, he said, you know, and he went on and on, and he said, Bob, Bob, come over here. And here came Bobby Hull, the next greatest Chicago Blackhawk of all time, and they both stood there and talked to me, and we had the greatest time, and I wrote a fabulous article all about it. And my editor was blown away. And they published again in all of the papers, and
I said okay, now, the sports desk is open and I want that job. It was a regular—no more of these $10 articles. And he looked at me and he said, you’ve got it. So I am now—and he made some crack about from William & Mary to the community sports desk.
01:03:59 Well, he said, you’ve got it. And I didn’t like it. It was boring. Mostly you were on the phone getting Little League ball scores and things like that. It wasn’t as thrilling, but it did pay a little more. And one day in the middle of all that—in the meantime I had also…my former husband had worked at one time for a trade magazine. He was a salesman selling advertising. And a Geyer-McAllister publication, and it was called Gifts and Decorative Accessories.
And the owner of Geyer-McAllister called me one day and he said Mardie, are you writing? And I said yeah, I am. And he said we just lost our Chicago editor. It sounds like more than it is, but it’s a monthly column about the gift and decorative accessories business, and we need a Chicago column. You want to do it?
01:05:07 And he said, you know, you have to go down to the Merchandise Mart a lot. And so I said I’m going to be…sure I’ll do it. I can do that with this other thing I’m doing. And I could and I did. And so there were kind of the two things.
And then one day Mr. Hudson called, his secretary, wanted to know if I’d come over to General Fire and talk to him, there was something he wanted to talk to me about. I did. He offered me a job. He said we’re going to put a sales promotion and public relations department together and we don’t have anybody that can write anything, and so how would you like to work for us? And I said, well, Mr. Hudson, you know the issue. The issue is the children come home from grammar school at 3:00. He said I can make an arrangement about that and you can leave at quarter to 3:00 and get home and so on.
01:06:07 So we did that for about six months, and then I went to his office again at his summons and he said I need to tell you that you’ve got to find another arrangement for the kids. We need the full day now, and you need to go on full salary, and that’s what has to happen now. So we did that. And I did. It was kind of catch as catch can as far as the kids were concerned, but it seemed like it was going to be okay. And I was upset about it. And we had a big old shaggy sheepdog, and she became the children’s nana dog. It was very interesting how she did that.
01:07:03 And I was talking to my next door neighbor one day and I said, you know, this worries the life out of me. The kids are coming in the house alone. And she said, would you stop it, please. That dog welcomes them home more than you ever did. The dog is waiting in the window and she sees them coming down the street, and my god, you know, she said, I think the dog’s going to crash through the window sometime, so just relax. And that dog enabled me to get through this part of the whole thing.
And it was a fun job. We used to take General Fire’s Charlie around, and he also had this cross between a Holstein and a Charolais that was an enormous steer, just enormous. And he was broken to bridle and saddle, and he had trainers from the university.
01:08:00 And they kept him down in Champaign and they’d bring him up and we’d take him around. One year we took Charlie to the…what’s the parade before the Kentucky Derby? I can’t think of the name of the parade. Anyway, we took him in the parade.
And Hugh Grant, who was a fellow alumni from William & Mary, a couple years ahead of me, and he became a famous cartoonist—Hugh Haynie, that was his name. And Hugh was there at the Louisville Courier Journal. And I called him and told him I was coming down there with this parade unit. He said parade unit? I said it was from an inauguration and the company bought it, and it’s got a calliope in it, and it’s several old fashioned toy cars long, and it has this engine, and it plays music, and it goes in parades.
01:09:03 And we take it around to places that need fire protection, and we have a lot of fire extinguishers established and shown on the train. He said, my god. So I arranged to meet him at the paper this night when I got there. And the crew was bringing the train down. And I watched and he said I’ve got to finish a cartoon and then we’ll go and meet my wife and we’ll have dinner. And he was drawing the bombs dropping on Cambodia. And think how long ago that was. And he was writing some snippy comment about Nixon and so on.
01:09:58 But it was very interesting to me. That was a part of the whole spectrum of journalism. I didn’t know anything about this cartoon drawing, and certainly political cartoons. He was a master of it. And we talked, you know, a lot about William & Mary and had a wonderful time.
He said I have a favor to ask you. And I said, what’s that? He said, can my son’s Boy Scout troop ride on that train in the parade to the Pegasus? That’s what it was, the Pegasus Parade. I said, oh, heavenly days, yes, we’d love to have Boy Scots on the train. And so we would do that in a place like that and then go to daycare schools and orphanages in the area, so we did that all around Louisville for a weekend or so and what have you, and that was kind of a fun thing that went on.
01:10:58 I’ll fast forward now. The long and short of it, my superior at General Fire moved on for some reason, and so back into Mr. Hudson’s office, and he said, I think you should have [Jacque’s] job, and I don’t know anybody else that could do it, and so on, and you and I seem to get along, and I won’t have too much longer to get along, so I think you should have Jacques’ job.
And I said, oh, I’d like to have Jacques’ job. I appreciate that very much. And so he said, now, what do you think I should pay you? And I looked at him and said, well, exactly what you pay Jacque. Why should you pay me anything different? And he looked at me and said, I can’t think of a reason. So that’s when I first learned you can do it that way, because men don’t understand it.
01:12:05 And if they thought about it, they’d think, huh. Well, anyway, I worked for General Fire for another couple years or something and then he died, the son took over, it wasn’t the same, and I thought I really think I’ll take the summer off. The boys seem to be in a little more need of mothering, and I think this would be a good time to do it. So the timing was very bad because when September came and they went back to school, there were no jobs to have, so I just started… I was still doing the Gifts and Decorative Accessories, so I wrote a few more feature stories for them.
01:13:01 And a guy I had worked with at General Fire, he was involved with advertising for that company, but he also had his own little agency. He said you can write, you know, can you write ads? And I said, well, you know, I don’t think I’ve ever written an ad, but I don’t know why I can’t. And so I just started, you know, picking up freelance work, and I edited a couple of books for people and so on.
And then, curiously, while that was going on, and I was looking in the Sunday papers, you know, for jobs, and there were very few, and practically none for my kind of work, and I noticed and kept hearing from people that Kraft…
01:14:03 And Kraft was always a huge Chicago name. Kraft Foods was always located downtown on Ohio Street, and they processed cheese there. I mean, it was a big… J.L. Kraft came from Canada to Chicago and established this business. J.L. and Paddy. Paddy was the horse, and this old wagon, and that was the beginning of the business to go around and sell cheese to grocers.
Well, one thing led to another and so pretty soon they began to process cheese down there. And many years later they built the research and development facility in Glenview. And then they became part of an organization called National Dairy Products Corporation, and so Kraft was the largest division of that corporation.
01:15:03 They also owned Breyers ice cream and Sealtest dairy products and so on and so forth. Humco down in Tennessee was a refined vegetable oil business, and all food related and what have you.
And the president of National Dairy Products Corporation, which was headquartered in New York on Madison Avenue, had been a former president of Kraft. He did not like working in New York. It takes them so long to get there. They don’t get there till 9:00 in the morning. Whoever heard of going to work at 9:00 in the morning, blah-blah-blah. And he and his wife lived in Greenwich, and he hated that commute, and he just hated the whole thing.
01:16:00 So this was very early ‘70s, maybe 1971, ’72, and so he decided to move the headquarters of the company. Well, I guess in those days, you know, we didn’t have so much shareholder activity. You’re doing what? We need to be near the research and development organization of our largest division, and it is in the shareholders’ interest that we do that.
So they bought this big property in Glenview and proceeded to fence it off and do all these things and created a huge stir in the town of Glenview. And people were distraught, and he could care less, and later told me they just wanted to walk their dogs over there, that’s all, and then we were building, they couldn’t, you know, blah-blah-blah.
01:17:06 And it turned into a nightmare. So I thought, aha, here’s a new client for me. So I wrote the guy who was head of corporate communications. His name was Donald J. Martin. I found that out and I wrote him a letter in New York and told him that things were not going well in Glenview from a community relations standpoint, and that was right up my alley, and I would be glad to become a consultant for the company on the move and try and straighten things out with the local media and the neighborhoods and so on and so forth. The next thing I knew I got a call from a woman named Joan [Richter], who had been a former Navy ensign.
01:17:59 And she was an amazing person. She ran human resources. And they had set up an office for her at the research and development facility and she called and said Mr. Martin had referred my letter to her and he had hoped that I would come in and have an interview with her, and she would like me to do that. We established the day.
And it was midwinter. It was very cold. I was like, well, okay. So I went and talked to her, and wore my very nicest pantsuit, which I… Anyway, we talked. She said… We talked a lot, and then she said one of the things you need to understand at the outset here is that Mr. Martin doesn’t hire consultants, he only hires employees.
01:19:02 And I said, oh, well then why are we talking? I said actually, as we speak, it’s getting time for me to go down to one of my clients at the Merchandise Mart. Oh, she said, really, you’re going to the Merchandise Mart? I was admiring your pantsuit. Do you wear them often? I said, I certainly do when I’m going to have to park and then cross the Chicago River in the middle of winter, yes I do. And it’s very, very cold on the bridge. I said, why do you ask? Why do you care? Well, because in a corporate office, it’s considered better to wear dresses and skirts.
01:19:55 And I thought boy, is this something else again. And I thought, well, I don’t care about that anyway, so I said oh, well, okay. And so we said goodbye and that was that, and I thought this whole thing is really odd.
Then I went on downtown about my business, and a couple days later I got a call from Mr. Martin, who was coming in to do some interviewing, and would I meet with him. So I said I would, and I did. And we talked a lot, and he… I don’t know if I should tell you this or not, but he asked me if I had connections in Chicago with the Wall Street Journal and I said, well, everybody knows John because…I didn’t even read the Wall Street Journal in those days.
01:21:02 But John was the Chicago bureau chief for the Journal, and he was an outstanding journalist, and anybody that ever wrote anything knew about John. And he was a graduate of the journalism school at University of Missouri. That and Northwestern were the two.
And I forgot to ever say my plan was to only go to Northwestern—or go to William & Mary for two years and then transfer back to the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern. I loved William & Mary. I couldn’t transfer anywhere. I said this is such a nice school. I’m staying here till they throw me out. That was how much I loved it.
01:21:52 So John was driving down to Missouri to deliver a lecture and what have you and had a god awful, awful automobile accident, and he became a paraplegic. [Harlan Berne] worked in the bureau, and when John was able to come back to work, Harlan did everything with him. I knew Harlan, and that’s how I got to know mostly about John. But when he came back that day, the Dow Jones wire service was blank, and then two words crossed, “John’s back,” his first day back in the wheelchair, with a pencil in his mouth to type. And that’s what he did for a few more years.
01:23:00 Don Martin was quite taken with that story. [Laughs.] He said, oh my god, so if we…when the building gets open you can arrange for Bill Beers, our CEO, to be interviewed down at the Journal? I said of course.
Well, it turned out that we were talking about a job and not being a consultant and so on and so forth. And I said—he said first, this was the first thing—he said, we need…do you know how to write national press releases, and can you organize putting together an annual report? Well, you know, you do or you don’t, but of course you say you can, and so I said, well, of course.
01:23:59 And he said good. And he said, we’ll give you some help when you first come. The guy that has been doing that and what have you is not moving. We have a lot of people that are not moving. And Don had come—he had gone to Northwestern. He knew the Chicago area, and he was very happy to move. He and his wife liked it a lot. And so anyway, he kept talking about how it was all going to work and so on and so forth.
And he said there is no doubt in my mind that you need this job, and think how much closer you will be to your children than running down to the Merchandise Mart all the time and going to gift shows here and there, and so he says that’s, you know, leaving your children in Northbrook, and you’re somewhere else, whereas you would be right here in Glenview, and if you’re needed at the school or something happened, you know, this is why you need this job. You need to be right here.
01:25:00 And I thought, I beg your pardon. I was really taken back. And I said, I think I’m the best judge of how to raise my children, and furthermore, you haven’t even told me what you would consider paying me, and I don’t think I could work for you. And he said, I’m convinced I could not work with you, either. So that was the end of it.
And he said, however, would you mind driving me over to the new site? He said the offices are almost done now, and I haven’t seen them. And I said no, I don’t mind. So we drove over, and we put hardhats on and what have you, and we walked around. And he said, well, here’s where your office would be and your, you know, your desk would be and so on, but of course it’s not going to be, and this, that and the other thing.
01:25:57 And the department’s back there, you’d have people, but whatever. And I said, right. So we parted. I drove him back to R&D and I said, well, it’s been very interesting, and goodbye, and thank you and so on.
A week later he called me and said I was out of line, I’m sorry, can we start over again? And so we did. And that was the beginning of my being at Kraft. And it was 1972. And a year and a half later he left and went to Scott Paper, and the CEO, Bill Beers, the one that moved the company, called me into his office and told me that Don had left and so on and so forth, and would I please keep body and soul together in the department. He said, you know, it’s almost time for second quarter earnings.
01:27:01 Well, at least by that time I knew how to do an earnings release. And I got a lot of help from a man by the name of Conrad J. Olson in the accounting department, and I’d appear in his doorway, and he’d say, come on. And I’d say, well, we want to say this and this, and he’d say, well, you could, except it’s not factual. So we’d tailor the earnings release to its appropriate audience and that kind of thing. But we all managed.
And I…we’ll go back to the story about my brother Bick just this one time. And we had a cousin that lived nearby in Northbrook, and there was something going on, I don’t remember what now, a family reunion, and the boys and I were there for Sunday, and Bick and Joan and their children had come down from Minnesota, and so on and so forth.
01:28:00 And we were…well, we’d had dinner outside. It was a nice summer night. And I told him that I needed to have a couple minutes with him. He was a vice president of BBDO, which was a big advertising agency in those days. And what was interesting was he was hired in New York, he worked in New York, and he was hired there to run the Scott Paper account. Was that it? No, some other account. I can’t remember what. Anyway, in Minneapolis. Scotch tape, that’s what it was, at 3M. He was hired to run that advertising program. And by the time they got the movers and were in the car driving to Minnesota, BBDO lost the account.
01:29:00 And so he arrived at the office with no account in Minnesota and just proceeded to find other accounts. And he won a great Clio advertising award for those wonderful, wonderful commercials where the trains are motoring along from the Pacific Northwest to the Midwest bringing you your food. It was at a time of high food inflation. But we don’t, you know, so on and so forth. And I told him once, I said, how could you do this? You’re just bad mouthing my company. He said we were not calling you by name and so on.
But I said to him, I said, you know, I just don’t know what to do. It’s been so long now since Don Martin left, and I thought they were going to hire this guy from Kraft downtown, and that hasn’t happened, and I don’t know what’s going to happen.
01:30:01 And, you know, it’s time to get to work with a designer for the annual report, and I’ve got another, this coming. And he just sat there the whole time and looked at me on [Larry and Ann’s] patio and said, so? I said what do you mean, so? And he said, so why aren’t you getting on with it? If you know what has to be done, and it has to be done, why aren’t you doing it? I think it was typical of my age and stage, generation of business women then, we never thought that we should take the initiative like that, that it just…you were told what was to be done.
01:31:00 So I was kind of mad at him. I thought, gee, I asked my brother for help and he says what are you waiting…well, just get on with it. And I said to the boys, come on, it’s time to go home. And so home we went. And I thought about it that night and I thought, geez, I think maybe he might be right.
And the next morning when I went to work I got everybody in the department together and I said, okay, Tom, you’ve got to do this, [Bob], you’ve got to do this, Shirley, you know. Let’s get the designer, get them in here, let’s talk about this year’s annual report and this, that and the other thing, and pretty soon things began to happen. And so then we also had the annual meeting coming up, and it was in Philadelphia, in that hotel that later had Legionnaire’s disease. Well, we didn’t have that at that time.
01:32:00 We had some kind of burglary that went on. And I think it was the Cardinals, the St. Louis Cardinals that were staying in the hotel because they’d been playing a series with the Phillies or something and Jesus, this famous catcher, whatever his name was, I don’t remember now, was locked in his room, he couldn’t leave the floor. And I had a couple of the directors and their wives were, you know. And it was a very peculiar time.
Anyway, the hotel finally got things settled down and the next day we had the annual meeting. And it was always the habit to have the security analysts that wanted to stay—they had been at the annual meeting, but any local media come and meet with the CEO after the annual meeting.
01:32:58 And so we had to organize that, had a little press conference with Mr. Beers and what have you, and he walked into the room and said, before you ask any questions, I just have an announcement to make. The board of directors has just met after the annual meeting, we’ve declared the dividend, and we have elected Mardie MacKimm the first woman vice president of the company.
And the reporters who I barely knew in Philadelphia, were, yay! You know, they were so… He was so tickled that they were tickled. Everybody was tickled. My department was just weeping. We were all so happy about it. It was wonderful. And it was a particularly meaningful time to me because about four months after that my mother died suddenly. She had an aneurism, and she hadn’t been sick, and she just, you know, had an aneurism and that was that.
01:33:59 But she knew it had happened, and it made her very proud and very happy and so on. So there we were, and 20 years later I was still there. And by this time I had become a senior vice president of corporate communications and so on.
And every time there was a new and different thing I was always so grateful to William & Mary. It got me that first stringer job. And how one thing leads to another. It was kind of like you never forget your roots. And all those wonderful professors. I think of Dr. Guy, who steered me out of chemistry and into English and, you know, just all kinds of things that went on there. And Dean Lambert.
01:34:52 And I’ll never forget when the Wren Building was crumbling and one of the development department people’s parents lived here in Highland Park, [Jean Lebeque], and she called me, asked if she could come and see me, and told me all about the Wren Building and what a mess it was, and so on and so forth. I said, and so what’s going to happen? She said you and other people are going to give us some money so we can fix it.
And I just so loved it when I went back and saw that it had been put back the way it was. And it made me extraordinarily happy to have that building go back to its roots. And I was happy to be a financial part of that. My son Dan has always been kind of a Thomas Jefferson freak, and he sells television programming for Warner Brothers.
01:36:00 And he runs the New York offices, but he has a lot of East Coast places, and he would go to Charlottesville regularly. And so a few times when he was doing that and I’d be in William & Mary and I’d stay with my friend Patty and what have you, Dan would come and we would walk about the campus. He just couldn’t get over it and so on and so forth. And I couldn’t get over it.
We stumbled upon the statue of young Thomas Jefferson looking at Barrett and on this lovely city. It had never been there when I was in school. And Dan looked at it—is that Thomas Jefferson? And I said, well, I think so. I wonder what it’s doing here. It was never here when I was here.
01:36:53 And so we went and read the plaque, that UVA had given it to William & Mary. I said, you know, the schools were such rivals, never liked each other, and here they’re giving William & Mary this great treasure. It’s such a wonderful, wonderful piece, and the setting is so perfect for it. So that was fun, too. So anyhow, is there another thing you want to know that I can tell you?
Carmen: Well, I will tell you this, just to start. You must intuitively just know what an oral history is all about because you just answered so many of my questions just in giving us your memories of that time and how William & Mary contributed to life after that. I do have a couple other questions, and they’re really just to fill in some of the details of your time, if that’s okay with you.
Carmen: First I wanted to say, though, you mentioned Dr. Cho said you couldn’t use the Chicago Tribune as a reference.
Mardie: Oh, you know what I never told you about Dr. Cho?
Mardie: You know, he said, “Uncle right, you go inauguration.” It was the worst exam I’ve ever taken. It was so hard. I got a C and I knew I deserved a B in the class, and he gave me a C. But that was Dr. Cho. I loved him. I could never—I took a class from him junior year, but then he went off to Harvard to be an executive in residence or something like that. They used to, you know. And so I never could…
Carmen: Oh, my goodness.
Mardie: And the same thing happened to my favorite English professor. And he was absconded with by Harvard, and so on, for my senior year. So, but anyway, yes, back to Dr. Cho.
Carmen: Well, maybe if Dr. Cho would have read the Chicago Tribune’s “Chicago’s Most Powerful Women” that came out when you were listed in it, that would be allowed.
Mardie: Well, that was a long time after Dr. Cho. [Laughs.]
Carmen: That’s okay. Maybe he came across it and it would be like a final here you go, I’m now in the Chicago Tribune.
Mardie: I don’t know what happened to Dr. Cho after all the years. Obviously he was a special person to me, and to a lot of students. He was a terrific professor. He was fun and he had a sense of humor, but he knew what things he didn’t like, such as the Chicago Tribune.
Carmen: So along with Dr. Cho and Dean Lambert, were there any other mentors or advisors that were particularly influential to you during your time at William & Mary?
Mardie: Well, that Dr. Guy, yeah. He was. I think… I mean, interestingly enough, you know, the editor of the Colonial Echo was a mentor to me, and he was just a couple years older than I when I started out with the yearbook.
01:40:01 He taught me everything, absolutely everything. And the yearbook was published in Nashville, and we used to go to Nashville and watch. The editor always went and he took me with him this one time, and he said you’ve got to see how it’s all put together and how it all works and so on and so forth.
And he…Johnny Westberg was a special person to me. He and Patty got divorced after many… You know what he did? He went on to UVA law school and so on and so forth, and became an attorney. I’ve forgotten exactly, and we’re not doing his oral history. He has now gone to his eternal reward.
01:40:57 But I can’t remember if it was a law firm or it was the government, somebody sent him to Iran and they lived in Iran for several years. In fact, their oldest daughter Chris has a lot of Iranian friends that have, you know, later come here to this country and so on. And John, years later, married an Iranian woman and so on.
So, you know, as we got older and left school and everything, it was always very interesting to hear about what was going on over there. And Patty was…is upset about what was going on with women there, as I had been previously, until I understood it, what was going on with black people in Virginia, and later came to understand in Chicago.
Carmen: I was hoping to ask you a little bit more about that experience at William & Mary as well, being confronted with just really obvious and overt segregation in Virginia. Did you know Hulon Willis, Sr.? Does that name ring any bells?
Mardie: Tell me again.
Carmen: His name would have been Hulon Willis.
Carmen: He would have just been referred to as Hulon Willis. So he was the first African American—
Mardie: The first. Was he in law school?
Carmen: No. So he was in the school of ed. Edward Travis became the first black student in the school of law.
Mardie: That was the one that happened while I was there, or happened immediately after or something.
Carmen: Sure. Do you recall any conversations that occurred on campus or unfolded over those two events?
Mardie: I don’t. No, I really don’t.
Carmen: And was the topic of segregation a topic of conversation, or was it really just accepted as—
Mardie: Well, you see, most everybody that went to William & Mary was from the South. Now there was a big conclave of people from Indiana, and New York, and New Jersey, and Alexandria and so on. But a lot of those people didn’t think anything about it because they grew up with it, and it was, you know.
And to tell you the truth, just like other things, I got a little bit used to it when I was there. It was just like freshman year, when I went to the first football game, and like I always did here, in September, I wore a skirt and a cashmere sweater. I almost perished at the heat.
01:44:00 I thought, my god, this is just terrible. And perspiring, and so on and so forth. I thought how can you have a football game when it’s this hot? And I absolutely couldn’t believe it. Well, I began to get used to it, you know, that kind of thing.
I’ll tell you a nice story, though. The captain of—makes me think of football—the captain of our football team was a man by the name of Charlie Sumner. And I’m always a little angry at somebody I talked to in the development department about Charlie after he died because I wanted to establish a scholarship and nobody ever got back to me on that. Anyway, Charlie, that whole year of…the Indians, we were then, they played both ways, offense and defense.
01:45:00 And the place kicker was a little guy named Quinby Hines. He wasn’t that much taller than I was, and in those days, before I began to shrink like an old lady, I was five feet five and a half. Quinby might have been about five feet six. And it was just the most hodgepodge put together football team, and they were just terrific. Because we, you know, it was after this big football scandal.
And Charlie was from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and so on. Charlie and a woman by the name of Barbara Sumner, who was in the freshman class. And Barbara, I didn’t know her, had come from wherever she was, and their family moved to Chicago. Her father was in advertising.
01:45:58 And she ended up at William & Mary. And so we got to be friends and what have you. And anyway, Charlie, I don’t know why, but took it upon himself—he was majoring, as many of them did, in phys ed of some type or another, and he would go to Matthew Whaley regularly to coach the black kids in sports, but particularly football and so on and so forth.
And he just got along with them beautifully. And they’d call him Coach and what have you. And you’d see him on the street, yeah, Coach. And he knew all their names and everything. And Charlie was just, you know, able to deal with it all, and I never thought anything about it.
01:46:52 Anyway, ultimately Barbara and Charlie got married and had [Collin and Terry], and they were really two of my closest friends. And Charlie graduated in my class. He should have graduated the year before, but he didn’t. We graduated at the same time.
They got married in the chapel here at Northwestern, and he had his rookie year with the Bears, and so that was tons of fun to go to the Bears football games and watch Charlie play. He was a defensive back. And then he had to, after that he had to do his service, so he went into the Army and they moved back to Williamsburg and so on and so forth. So all of that is a long story about moving along.
01:47:59 And one homecoming—no, I have to tell you first he returned to the Bears. He played, I don’t know, four more years or something with the Bears. He then became part of an expansion draft when the Minnesota Vikings were becoming a new team in the NFL, and they took Charlie and somebody from every team and what have you.
So he and Barbara went to Minneapolis. She said we’re going to freeze to death. And I said, well, okay, I don’t think you have any choice. And she said no. Well, they loved Minneapolis, they really did, and he played there for two or three years. And then he really wanted to coach.
01:48:59 And he got his first coaching job with the Oakland Raiders, with Al Davis, who was very much a transplant New Yorker, and called him “CHAH-lee.” And “Once a RAY-dah, always a RAY-dah, CHAH-lee,” and so on and so forth. And Charlie played with the Raiders for two years and then he became a defensive backfield coach there, and he coached there for a while. And then he went and coached for the Pittsburgh Steelers. And he was—I don’t remember all these old football teams—but the Steelers, for a period of time, had unbelievable linebackers, and Charlie was their coach. And it was just…I mean, no other team had a group of linebackers like the Steelers did.
01:50:02 And the other thing about the Steelers—of course Barbara was horrified. And Charlie used to do this wonderful thing. When he was at the Raiders, they used to have to do scouting after the season and before, you know, the summer practices, and so he would ask for the Big Ten. And so he’d get the Big Ten to scout. And Al Davis said to him one day, all right, where are you going to go? And Charlie said, I’m going here. I’m going to go to Northwestern. Northwestern? Northwestern hasn’t had a player that could put on a Raider uniform ever. And Charlie said, well, you never know.
01:50:54 And what he would do was come to Chicago, stay at my house with the kids, take the kids out on the street—this was after my divorce—take the kids out on the street, toss balls with them, talk to their friends, you know, this kind of thing, and then the next day he’d go on to Northwestern, and he’d come back a few days later, and he’d go up to Madison or he’d, you know, that kind of thing, just to spend some time with my boys. And they loved him, Uncle Charlie, and so on and so forth. He was just…it was so thoughtful.
And then this time he called and said he was just coming for an overnight. He said I’m going to Pittsburgh. And I didn’t pay any attention, and I thought, well, why is he going to Pittsburgh this time of year? So it turned out he was going to Pittsburgh to interview for a job, and Barbara was going to leave her city by the bay. She was horrified.
01:51:56 To that ugly steel town? You know, she was mortified. It was her most favorite place. They adored Pittsburgh. And old Mr. Rooney, the owner, just took to Barbara and Charlie. Barbara was Catholic, Charlie was not. And Mr. Rooney subtlely worked with Charlie about that and what have you, but very nicely, and ultimately Charlie did become a Catholic for a short period of time.
But Mr. Rooney said I would like to be Terry’s sponsor for his first communion. And Barbara understood the full meaning of that. She was just beside herself with joy. And Mr. Rooney always wrote to Terry and wrote to him on his birthdays and on his communion days and everything. It was an amazing…he was an amazing person.
01:53:00 So one day Chuck Knox, who was the head coach now at the Pittsburgh Steelers, called Charlie into his office after the season and said you’re done. And Charlie was, I’m done? Well, why is that? And Chuck Knoll said there is one reason, Charlie. You are breathing down my neck and I don’t like it. He didn’t like the relationship that Charlie was having with the team owner.
Carmen: Oh, my goodness.
Mardie: So then, okay, looking for a job again. They ended up in New England. That was the undoing of Barbara. She was…it turned out actually Barbara was bipolar and it began to become more apparent. But Charlie called me one day and he said don’t you ever come to Boston for any reason? And I said, well no, we don’t really have anything around there for me to go to, but… So he… I said, look, when I’m going to be in Washington sometime I’ll come up, and so I did soon after. And we talked and he told me about Barbara’s issues, and this, that and the other thing and what have you, but they stuck it out for a while.
And eventually Al Davis called and said, like he always did, “Once a Raider, always a Raider, Charlie. We need you here.” So he left Boston, New England, and went back to the Raiders and so on.
01:55:02 And he did a great job there, and the Raiders then moved down to Los Angeles for a while. But all these times of coming and going we stayed close and he stayed close to my boys, and that was…
Carmen: That’s great.
Mardie: It was yeah, really special and so on and so forth. Just an absolutely terrific guy. And he ultimately went on as long as he felt like it and retired on Maui. He and Barbara had a place on Maui for a while, but they finally got divorced and Charlie stayed there. And a couple years ago he died and what have you, and his boys are coming up, still close to them.
01:56:02 But what I wanted to tell you about Charlie, after all of this—see, I get going—we had been at…this is after he and Barbara were no longer married, and we’d been at homecoming, and we went to The Inn to have dinner, Charlie and Patty, my friend Patty and me. And we were having a wonderful dinner and so on, and this black man was waiting on our table, and he kept looking at Charlie, and Charlie kept looking at him. And finally this man said, “Coach Sumner?” And here was one of his Matthew Whaley people.
Carmen: Oh, that’s a great story.
Mardie: And Charlie had his Super Bowl ring on from when the Raiders won the Super Bowl, and the guy was looking at it.
01:57:01 And Charlie took it off and said, would you like to try it on? And I thought this man was going to faint. And he put it on his hand and he just looked at it and looked, and he looked at Charlie, and he said, congratulations, Coach. We all followed it because we knew you were there. And gave him the ring back and went on to bring us our dinner and so on.
But that is a story speaking a little bit to—and Charlie grew up, as I said, raised by his grandfather in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. And there was somebody that always said thank God for William & Mary. And he never had a problem. And his players were black.
01:57:55 And I remember one year he called and said he had two players that somehow had gotten screwed up—and this was when he was at Oakland—screwed up with their transportation and could they just get off the train near where we lived in Beverly and so on and pick up—well, I’ve forgotten what it was they needed. And so these two enormous things, they were just huge, appeared at the front door and so on. And I said, did Coach Sumner send you? He did. I said, well, come in. And they rested for a while and this and that, and then it was time for them to get on their way again.
And they were just part of his great backfield and his defense. And he was always a defensive coach of one type or another. But I said what do you do with somebody that size? How do you treat them? How do you teach them? He said, carefully. Carefully.
Carmen: He sounds like he was a great friend and coach.
Mardie: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Mardie: And a great…he loved William & Mary.
Mardie: Jane Kaplan—you all know of Jane and Jim Kaplan—he was a dear friend of Jim Kaplan’s. You ask him about Charlie Sumner sometime.
Carmen: Oh, I will. I will definitely do that.
Mardie: They were great friends, and Jane as well. And she and Barbara were good friends and so on.
Carmen: So I was wondering—now we really have to wrap it up, and that makes me sad because you have such great stories, and I could talk to you all day, but I thought I could ask just a couple more questions before we close it out. So one thing we haven’t really referred to yet are the clothing regulations, dating regulations. What did you make of those at the time, and did you try to subvert those in any way, or are there any stories of that?
Mardie: Well, no, we didn’t try and subvert. But the worst thing, as far as I was concerned, the dopiest things. We didn’t wear pants or anything. Girls had to wear skirts and all this. And, you know, it makes me think of Joan Richter in the early days at Kraft. But to go to gym class of whatever type it was, you had to wear a raincoat over your shorts. And at God knows what temperature and so on. And you were in all these clothes to go to the tennis court.
Carmen: Oh, my goodness.
Mardie: Or to go, you know, anywhere. You could not appear in anything less than that, not a jacket or anything. I mean, a coat covering the legs.
Carmen: Did you ever forget your coat?
Mardie: Oh, you couldn’t, no. You couldn’t forget it because somebody would say where’s your coat. Because you’d be in trouble.
02:01:02 And then we had sexless Monday. You know about that. We could not date on Mondays. And actually, it turned out to be the week that the sororities and fraternities would have their meetings. But you could not. And if you were apprehended with, you know, a young man, you would be campussed, they called it, and so you couldn’t go anywhere and what have you. And too many of those absences you would have to appear before the honor council and all of that and what have you.
But the attire, you know, in those days it was the bobby socks era, so it didn’t bother us all that much about wearing skirts and that kind of thing.
02:01:54 But this covering up the gym attire or to go to modern dance in the Great Hall, which, I mean, all—I hated that. I hated that with such a passion and what have you, but…
Carmen: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think we’ve gotten that kind of response from a number of individuals who hated having to wear the raincoat over their shorts or who were frustrated that there were different dress regulations for men than women.
Mardie: Well, I don’t remember that so much. I guess there were. I mean, men wore pants, but they did. And so I don’t remember that too much. But anyway, it was the raincoat that was, I thought, the worst thing possible.
Carmen: Sure. Yeah, I am very thankful I never had to do that.
Mardie: Yeah. And of course in those days, you know, the skirts were down to here, so that fit right in with their program. [Laughs.]
Carmen: Yes, of course.
Mardie: But that was the style, yeah. And then saddle shoes and bobby socks. Oh, it was a lovely combination.
Carmen: Do you miss those outfits?
Mardie: I do not.
Carmen: Okay, well, this has been wonderful, truly. And because it is all revolving around being conducted in advance of the celebration for 100 years of coeducation, I just thought I’d ask you, before we close, if you could tell me what you believe to be the contribution and the value of women.
Mardie: Well, my goodness. You mean anywhere? I would never have been a member of the board of directors of F.W. Woolworth Co. had I not been a woman. I would never have been the second woman director of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company had I not been a woman. I think I was a very good director of both companies. And they specifically—Irv Shapiro, who was then the CEO of DuPont, came to see my boss at Kraft.
02:04:06 Now they had talked before, but he… And Bill Beers told me that Irv Shapiro wanted to speak to me. I knew who he was because there was a thing called the Business Roundtable, which still exists, and so on, of CEOs of major companies. And it was essentially a lobbying group for Washington. And business just didn’t have any vocal mechanism in those days, and the roundtable was supposed to help that. This was right up Irv Shapiro’s alley. He was an attorney, not a chemist. Most everybody that had led DuPont over the centuries, actually, had been a scientist.
02:05:02 And so anyway, I didn’t know why Irv Shapiro—I thought maybe it was the roundtable, because I had served…my boss was on the Business Roundtable and they had a communications committee, and I was on that and went to various meetings from time to time and so on and so forth about business communications matters and this and that. So he came one day. And we talked. And he said I may as well tell you exactly why I’m here. He said I would like to invite you to become a member of DuPont’s board of directors. I said, well, that is very thrilling, but I can’t possibly do that.
02:05:59 And he said why can’t you possibly do that? I said I have a big job. By that time I was running all of corporate communications—the security analysts, the employee relations, the public relations, this, that and the other thing. I said I have a very big job here, and I’m also on the board of Woolworth, and I have to go back and forth to New York for that. It meets every month. And I have three kids I’m raising, and I just don’t think there’s another minute in my day for another responsibility, which I would consider it to be—a joy, but a responsibility. And I said and also, it’s been a long time since I had Chemistry 101.
02:06:53 And he said, I have chemists coming out of my kazoo. I don’t need anymore chemists. I need somebody that understands Washington and somebody that understands communications and government, and getting government to pay attention to business. That’s what I need.
I had only been on the board about six months at this point in time. And this, you know, I didn’t know how I felt about nuclear things at that time. But they had been asked by Harry Truman to make the fuel for those things that happened, and to always have it in stock, and that it was a war effort. DuPont was never—paid a dollar a year to build this plant and do this whole thing.
02:07:58 And so now here we are going through that. Maybe a lot of directors had been there before, but I certainly hadn’t. And you looked down in this wide open space, which was all glass enclosed and what have you, and here were these two ingot-like things glowing down in the bottom, and they were oblong, like this.
And I said, my god, just like cracker barrel aging. And I had them all for friends forever after that. They thought it was the most funny thing they had ever heard. And it just came out. It looked like extra sharp cracker barrel. It has to age so long. And that’s what this stuff was doing down there, was aging, and glowing. I thought, oh, geez, I think I want to get out of here and so on.
02:08:56 There were a lot of wonderful experiences. During the course of time at DuPont, they had always wanted to have their own source of raw materials, which, I mean, of course in chemicals is energy, fuel. And so by George, it finally came along. Seagram Companies, of all companies, made a run for Conoco. And Conoco did not wish to become part of a liquor company. And so all the investment banker types that busy themselves with things like that said okay, DuPont, here’s your shot, be a white knight to Conoco. And so that’s what happened.
02:09:53 And I…and my secretary came in and she said, you know, somebody called from DuPont and said I’m making you an insider, Lois, so I’m an insider now, and I have to tell you that you have to go to DuPont like five minutes from now, they need you in a meeting. And I said, geez, Lois. She said I’ve already gotten you a plane. Do you know why you’re going? I said I think so. And she said okay.
I said the problem is I really can’t tell you why I’m going, and I certainly can’t tell John Richmond, who was then my CEO, because he was a director of Exxon. So I had to go to the general counsel and I said, Bill, I have to make you an insider. And he said, what are you doing now? And so I told him. I said I’ve got to go to DuPont, and it’s on a subject I can’t discuss with John, and so I’m telling you, and I don’t think Lois should be the only one to know that I’m in Wilmington.
02:11:00 And I said, John, I put it together in two minutes, and I can’t do that. He said all right. He was from the South. He said, I’ve got you covered. But now I don’t know about taking care of those boys. And I said you don’t have to do that. One is old enough now, he can. I went home. They were still in school. I left a note and said Timmy, I have to go to the East Coast overnight, take care of your brothers, I’ll see you tomorrow. And off I went.
And so that was that. We acquired Conoco. And then we ended up with the DuPonts on the board, a couple of company people, and three Seagrams—Edgar Bronfman, Charles Bronfman, and Irving…what was his name? I can’t think of it. He ran Goldman Sachs at the time.
02:12:02 He was on the Seagram board and I had known him for a long time and so on because he was an investment banker working for Goldman Sachs. Anyway, that was a very interesting experience, too.
And DuPont had also been—well, DuPont was founded on the gunpowder business, right there in Wilmington on the river. And so part of the heritage of the company was gunpowder. And so by the time I got there they didn’t sell gunpowder anymore, but they owned Remington Arms Rifle Co. along with all of their chemicals and fibers and so on and so forth, and Coragen and this, that and the other thing, and nylon.
02:13:08 Remington Arms. And I thought, hm. By this time Edgar Bronfman, Jr. had replaced this other guy on the board, so we had Edgar, Charles—Edgar Bronfman, Sr. was kind of something. Charles Bronfman was a really nice man. I really liked him. And then Edgar, Jr. And I was on the audit committee, and Edgar, Jr. was put on the audit committee, too, when he joined the board, and so one of the things that we did annually on the audit committee was sit and read this portfolio like so of all the lawsuits that were being brought against the company.
02:13:56 And here is a whole section on Remington Arms, where somebody shot his foot off or, you know, something like that, and this, that and the other thing. And I thought why do they have this business? And Edgar got on that, too. He said has anyone ever told you why we own this business? I said no, it’s just always been there.
And I said, you know, it doesn’t make me very happy. He said it doesn’t make me very happy, either. And I said if you add up all these lawsuits and so on, and all the time that’s being spent to defend them, and we’ve got enough problems with the chemicals, why is that happening? Well, then I began to realize that several of the executives and so on were hunters, and I thought this is going to be tough. But by George, we did it.
Mardie: And ultimately, I did get a call one day from the then CEO and he said you’ll be happy to know the executive committee has just decided to sell Remington. And I said I am happy.
Carmen: Oh, good.
Mardie: And it’s still living today, but I just thought, oh, I don’t want to be part of guns, and so…whatever. But that was a great experience.
Carmen: It sounds like it.
Mardie: Yeah. It was… And Woolworth was interesting, too. It was such an old company, the old F.W. Woolworth, and the first five and dime and all that kind of business, and moving on. Basically that part of the company just got too old to exist anymore. But they owned Footlocker, and Footlocker was really fun to see develop and grow and become what it is now.
Carmen: You really kind of had a hand in everything.
Mardie: I don’t know about everything, but I’ve enjoyed the ones that I have. I really have. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people and have had some great experiences. But I actually attribute most of that to Kraft. If they hadn’t given me a shot—and the CEO did tell me—this is one thing that in those days women never thought about, and I don’t know if everybody does now, but I was finally told by that CEO, who I thought was awfully good to think about doing this, as far as he was concerned it was the most practical thing in the world. Our consumers are basically women. We don’t have a woman for the shareholders to look at, for consumers to look at, and so on.
02:16:56 We have Dorothy Holland who runs the Kraft kitchens, and she’s wonderful, but she’s not a corporate officer. So he had that. And here was one, you know. I mean, he was very frank about it. Here was one.
And I went around—he told me this like a year later—I went around to your colleagues, you know, the head of government relations, the chief financial officer, the corporate secretary, all these men and so on and said, what do you think about Mardie MacKimm? Do you think she could do it? Do you think she can do it? Oh, never thought about it. Well, I thought you were going to hire John Thomas or something. He said, I thought so, too, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought this might be our opportunity to have a woman.
02:17:56 And that was the thinking back then. He was ahead of his time thinking it, but nevertheless. And he said so that’s what we waited for all that time, was all your colleagues to say I think she can, we’ll help. And they did.
Carmen: And they did.
Mardie: They were great.
Carmen: It sounds like it was a wise decision on their part.
Mardie: You know, it was a wonderful paternalistic old company, and it had a lot of nice people in it. And they really…we’ll help her. Let’s give her a shot.
Carmen: It sounds like it was one of the smarter decisions they made.
Mardie: Well, I don’t know that it was. It was sure great for me and what have you. And I was…you want me to tell you another local thing?
Carmen: We might have to wrap it up soon, but yes, I would like to hear—
Mardie: Okay, because this is fine. After I became an officer, I then had to have executive physicals every year.
02:19:03 And so my colleagues had been going to this physician down at Northwestern Memorial Hospital downtown, and so I was told I needed to see Dr. So-and-so, and I did. And, you know, to go through all the tests and chest X-ray, blah-blah-blah, and so on, the things that you do, and then I ended up in this man’s office at the hospital.
And he said, well, I haven’t seen you before. I said I wasn’t that important before. Oh, well that explains it. So he said okay, up here on the table. And he poked here, and he did this and that. And then he said, you go to a gynecologist, my dear? I said oh, no. And I said of course I do. Well, make an appointment and go.
02:19:58 I said, so am I to understand that the part of my body that is not the same as all of my colleagues is not important to you or my company? He said just go to your gynecologist. Well, I didn’t really want him providing that kind of examination anyway, but it ticked me off.
And I’m driving home, and I get to the office, and I said Lois, is Jack Mitchell in? And she said I just saw him go into his office a few minutes ago. I said I’ll be there. And I knocked on his door and I went in and I said, can I speak to you privately? He said, yes, of course. And so I told him what happened. But I told him first, I said Jack, I want you to understand something, I’m telling you this as a friend. I am not going to sue the company. But there will be somebody coming along who will.
02:21:06 And I told him the story and he just sat there like this, and he said oh my god, who would have imagined? He said you’re absolutely right, someone will sue over something like that.
Mardie: I said absolutely. He thanked me profusely, and I felt better, and that was the end of it. And about three months later the executives all got this memorandum saying we could now go to the Mayo Clinic for our physical examination. I said to Lois, oh my god, two days out of the work week, and now I have to find somebody for the kids. She said, you’re going. It’s all your fault. You’re going to the Mayo Clinic. And so that was that.
Carmen: Oh, that’s a great story. I’m glad we had time to add that one in. That’s great.
Carmen: Well, Mardie, this has been…I mean, it’s just been incredible. Like I said before, I could talk to you all day. And I hope I do have the opportunity to do so in the future.
Mardie: Well, I’ve enjoyed talking about myself, too, but you’ve all been very patient.
Carmen: Thank you again for participating, Mardie, in this oral history.
Mardie: You’re very welcome.
02:22:12 [End of recording.]
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