TRANSCRIPT

AUBURN UNIVERSITY SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES


MARCIE RICKENBACKER

INTERVIEW WITH DR. DAVID LEWIS

OCTOBER 8, 1998


 

DL:  We are in Chalfont, Pennsylvania, on October 8, 1998, the 108th anniversary of Eddie Rickenbacker's birth.  We are interviewing Marcie Rickenbacker who is going to give us some information about how Rickenbacker's remains were brought to the United States on an Eastern Airlines jet.

MR:  I had just returned about, I think, the day before, I think it was about July 18 or 19 or so from a trip to Europe and I was woken by, a phone call, it was early about 5:00 in the morning our time and it was somebody calling from Switzerland saying Grandfather was very ill and they needed to talk to my father.  I'm not able to recall who it was who called whether it was Sheppy or whether it was the help-aid who had accompanied Grandmother and Grandfather and Sheppy on this trip. So, I can remember getting my dad and I think that day he left or the next day he left to go over to Switzerland. It think it was really fairly soon. It might have been a little later than the 19th because Grandfather died on the 23rd.So what happened. Farr had said in his book that my dad talked to Grandfather from the airport and that's what I remember being told was that Dad called as soon as he got into the airport in Zurich and his dad was aware of it was and always referred to him as Pal and knew who he was but by the time my dad go to the hospital he had slipped into a coma. The doctors also felt that Grandmother was dying of cancer. She, I think, had pleurisy. I don't think she had cancer. But the Swiss doctors kept saying, well, she had the cancer mask, this power, and they gave her no more than about three months to live. And she was coughing a lot and she probably is the one who gave the cold and whatever to Grandfather because she was coming down with this before they left. So, what I understood was that Eastern sent the jet over and that it was staffed by Swiss air personnel. I could be wrong on this. I also was told that normally it would have taken about a week to get permission to have a body released to be cremated and so there probably was some kind of intervention to help speed up the process so that everybody wouldn't have to stay over there so long, especially considering Grandmother's health. The thought was to hurry up and get her back to Florida as soon as possible. It could be that Ed Garnell--it probably is true that Ed Garnell was on that flight, that he went over with the plane because out of all the Eastern people I think at that time he...I don't know if he was still the manager of the Miami station or not. But he and Jane lived right near Grandmother and they spent many, many Sundays over with Grandmother doing New York Times crossword puzzles and stuff like that. They were practically on call all the time. So, what I was told was that the jet when it left the airport it was pouring rain and that there was a Swiss official who was to salute the jet when it took off. Somehow there was some delay and the official was standing there in the pouring rain waiting to salute the plane and also that the airport in Zurich was closed and that was the only plane that was sent out as a tribute to Grandfather. Then it started back to the United States. Now, I told you previously that my mother's mother had had a stroke so once Grandfather was ill my mother, my sister and I had planned to go to up-state New York to Utica to go visit my grandmother in the nursing home or hospital. I think she was in the nursing home at that point. So we were up in Utica at the time that Grandfather actually died and so my mother had to hurry up and get, or maybe, I think that's where we were or else we left the day that he died and went up to go visit my grandmother. So when we heard that everything was arranged and the jet was going to be coming back then I had to drive my mother from Utica to Syracuse to the airport to pick up a flight there down to Miami so she could be there when the jet arrived. She said that when she got down to Miami she was with Floyd Hall and they were in some kind of room where you could track jets or whatever and she said she could remember that Floyd said all the jets that were coming down the coast of Virginia doing this and so on whatever, you know, giving her some idea of how much longer it was going to be before the plane arrived. So it probably is true that Grandmother didn't want the ashes brought out right at that point and what I had always heard was that there was this honor guard of Eastern personnel and that when the plane landed then the Miami airport supposedly was closed and no other flights came in and out except for that one. So my mother was there when the jet arrived. So the people on the jet were my dad and probably Ed Garnell and Sheppy and Grandmother and the help-aid, I don't know who he was, he was a young guy somewhere in his thirties, I think, and he used to have the day shift after Grandfather had come back from Mercy Hospital. He had the seven to seven shift or something like that and then there was another young guy who had the overnight shift who would be available to help Grandfather get to the bathroom or whatever and during the day the aid would drive him off on little jaunts during the day and stuff like that. So when they went to Europe they wanted to have this extra help and my mother kept referring to him as the keeper. She said it was like the lame, the _____, and the blind or whatever, you know, all these eighty some odd year old Sheppy, and eighty some odd year old Grandmother, eighty-three-year-old Grandfather, and they are going off to Switzerland and he was the only one who had all his faculties. Anyway he was there and then my dad, and my mother said despite my grandmother's illness and her blindness, she couldn't see very well, but she looked at my mother and said Oh, I see you are wearing that dress I bought for you. " She could see the pattern of the dress well enough that she knew what she was wearing. So they went back to the villa and I don't know at what point Bill came in with Sandy. Sandy is someone that you should interview and Bill's third wife, Gay. You really should get in touch with her. She's got all her marbles, really. So they all went and got together in the villa and they wanted to get Grandmother to bed and Bill went off for a walk on the beach and came back and announced to everybody that he was going to be married to the love of his life by the end of the year, Carole, the dingbat helicopter or whatever who's "bing bong," Lady Bing, do you remember--do you know anything about her?

DL: Yes, we've heard of her.

MR: Well, anyway...So, then my mother wanted me to call after I drove back from Utica and I had a car accident on the way back and the right fender of my car hit a tractor trailer and rebounded and almost hit a guard rail. We were okay and we could drive the car but my mother wanted to find out how I was so when I got home I had to tell her that I had this accident. Then Grandmother insisted on getting out of bed in the middle of the night and she didn't have enough strength and she got up and she fell and hit her head on the bed and it started bleeding. She had to go to the bathroom so my mother said, Adelaide, don't get up. If you need any help I will come get you." Anyway, I think she tried to get up again and they finally got her to the bathroom, got her back in bed and my mother said "I'm going to sit up all night and I will be right here and I am going to sit in this chair in the adjoining room and if you need anything I'll be right there." My mother said it was the worst night of her life. She kept thinking about me having my accident, and Grandfather having just died, and Bill dropping this little bomb shell that he was going to porce Sandy, and Grandmother having fallen and cracked her head and supposedly she was going to die in two or three months.

DL: Aside from that everything was fine?

MR: So, she said it was a stiff chair and she just sat there like this all night just thinking I don't believe this night of my life.

??Other than that everything was great?

MR: Oh, yes! Everybody wanted to kill Bill for his timing. So, anyway...

DL: May I ask at this point one of the books about Rickenbacker and I can't remember whether it's Farr or whether its [Serling] says that the purpose of this visit was that Eddie wanted to take Adelaide to an ophthalmologist in Zurich, that she was going blind and that at least one of his purposes in going to Zurich was to take her to a Swiss specialist. Does that ring true?

MR: I don't know anything about that. I know that Grandmother had pursued an awful lot of avenues when it came to her sight. I was living in Boston in between high school and college and she came up to go see a specialist at the Leahy Eye Clinic in Boston and she couldn't travel by herself because her sight wasn't good enough so she asked my mother if she would accompany her. So Mom came up with her and they stayed at the Ritz and she went to the Leahy Clinic and I think she pretty much was told that there was anything more that they could do. I think she had glaucoma. I always was under the impression from what I had heard that Grandfather wanted to go back to Switzerland, he loved Switzerland, and he just wanted to go one last time to Switzerland.

DL: Back to his ancestral home.

MR: Yeah. Now, I don't know if it was actually to go back there but he and Grandmother had traveled a lot and I don't know if it was let's go back to see where my parents came from. I don't know if that was actually...My mother would better be able to tell you what the reasons behind the visit were. But we couldn't believe it when they said they were going to go because here he had this sought of stroke like episode in October and then made this miraculous recovery and I'd gone down to visit him--Grandmother and Grandfather that following March. I think he must have just gotten out of the hospital a couple of months before.

DL: Now you said Mercy Hospital.

MR: Yes, Mercy Hospital.

DL:I n Miami?

MR:  Yes. And that's what Farr says and that's true. Now, Farrest says something about him being moved to a nursing home and I don't remember that and my mother said that is a log of bologna. I remember being told that he stayed the longest of anybody in the intensive care at Mercy Hospital. He was in there for almost two months and couldn't get that and managed care these days. But anyway, and he came out and the gruffness had been sort of taken out of him. He would get frustrated if you asked about something that had happened maybe five months before. His short-term memory was not very good at that point. His long-term memory was fine but he would get a little agitated if you asked him about something that happened five or six months before.

DL: It wasn't a stroke you said?

MR: No, it wasn't a stroke.

DL: Could you go into whatever length you can about just what it was that Eddie suffered? If it wasn't a haymaker stroke as Farr says, what was it?

MR: It was the membrane in the back of the brain where your excess fluid is supposed to drain through had somehow that whole mechanism had just stopped working. So the fluid built up in the brain which is hydrocephalus, so it caused this major episode and when I read what Farr said about it, its a bunch of bologna because I read it to my mom and she said that's not how it happened at all. And he made it sound like Grandmother and Grandfather had moved down together to be in Key Biscayne and that's not true at all. I mean he was going to stay in New York and he was going to move down to Florida and the only reason he was down in Florida was to celebrate his birthday. And they didn't have a big party for the 50th anniversary. That's a lot of bologna too. There was no party. They wouldn't have one and he made it sound like it was down in Florida. They were still in New York before and that was September 22.

DL: Can you clarify that? Were they living in Key Biscayne or were they living in New York City or...?

MR: What had happened is and it probably had started happening sometime that summer or later. But Grandmother, I think, came to the decision that New York was not the place for her and they had an apartment in the Dorsett Hotel and Mom said they were in the penthouse. Many of her friends had died and she wasn't able to play her cards any more, canasta. She loved to play canasta and she loved to get together with her friends. She was very concerned about not being able to see and she couldn't walk along the street very well. So they sort of came to an understanding that they were going to separate." I don't like New York. It's not the life for me. My friends have died and I can't take it any more. You like New York, it gives you, you know, you get good vibrations from it. Fine. You stay here and I'm going down to Florida." So she moved down to Florida. She and Grandfather had rented a villa at Key Biscayne for many years and I think they got a little bit of a bigger one and she got the management to allow her to furnish it with her own furniture. So at that time, probably sometime in September, something like that, they broke up the apartment and Eddie got a smaller, more like an efficiency kind of apartment, not in the penthouse.

DL: Were they still at the Dorsett?

MR: Yes, still at the Dorsett. Some things went into storage and some things came back to our house and I don't know if...he must have still had his--I think he still had his office and that's where all of his file cabinets--like there were like four or five file cabinets, big, tall file cabinets and all the photographs and stuff like that. She got her stuff moved into a villa down at Key Biscayne and they were in New York still when their anniversary came around and my mother said that she and my dad and Bill and Sandy wanted to have a party for them, a big celebration and Grandmother said no, no, no, she didn't want a big party. So they had a very quiet celebration.

DL: This was in Florida?

MR: No, this was in New York. They were still together in New York. They stayed together until, I guess, just after the anniversary and so they had a very quiet dinner and it was just Bill and Sandy, and my mom and dad, and Grandmother and Grandfather. I think Mom said it was in the apartment and they had the woman who used to do the cooking, she came in and prepared a meal for them, a nice special meal and my mom said that she and dad, and probably Bill and Sandy paid for the meal, and for the maid and everything to cook it and stuff. Grandmother apparently insisted on not having a big celebration. Farr makes it sound like they had this big to do in Florida which is not true. They were in New York. Then after that Grandmother went down to Florida. That was September 22.So then his birthday was October 8, so he came down to Florida just to be with her to celebrate his birthday. It was just going to be for a short visit and then he was going to go back up to New York to his little apartment up there. Now what Farr says is that he had this stroke in front of Grandmother and Nedra and Mom said that's not exactly the way it happened. She said, first of all it wasn't a stroke. She said that he was watching the world series and they had noticed apparently before that that he had started to not speak clearly or something like that in the days before that. She said that apparently Grandfather just stood up and just started talking gibberish and he was trying to tell them what he had just seen on the television when he was watching the world series about some play and he says October 12 which would make sense because the world series was probably still going on at that point. So, and then I don't know if he just dropped in front of them and whatever. Then he got taken to Mercy and he was in Mercy for--I was under the impression that he was there for a long time and at some time shortly after he got there they realized that it was this hydrocephalus and that's when they put in the shunt to help drain off the excess fluid. Then he came back to the villa and in between the hotel apartment got closed up and boy, that stuff came back to our house because more of it went into storage or whatever and when he came back to the villa is when he started having the round-the-clock aids.

DL Now when you say the villa this was Adelaide's quarters at Key Biscayne?

MR: Yes. And the way the villa was set up it had--you came in foyer and there was sort of an area set aside not on the ocean side but on the back side and it was a bedroom area there. It had like an accordion kind of privacy kind of thing and that's where Nedra would stay sometimes when Grandmother...

DL: Now tell us more about Nedra.

MR: Nedra was--she's still alive. She's out in California. You've got to get her address from my mother. She probably is in her late seventies, I think. She is the daughter of Grandmother's sister and from what I remember being told her mother died when she was very young and her father was very harsh to her and made her do the household work when she was very young.

DL: So she was Adelaide's niece?

MR Niece, yes. So, then she came to live with Grandmother.

DL: In Florida?

MR: No. Way back when she was young. Grandmother sort of rescued her from this awful situation and then I got the impression that she was sort of raised by Grandmother, that it was just this not this very good situation because her mother died, I think she was an only child. My mom could probably clear that up better than I can.

DL: Okay.

MR: She pretty much, I think, came to live with my Grandmother and Grandfather. My dad, if he was alive, I think he would be seventy-three. Nedra was maybe three or four years older than my father or something like that.

DL: Okay. How long did she live with your grandfather and grandmother?

MR: I'm not sure but she was always very, very close to Grandmother and she married a man by the name of Herbert Swayze. She settled in Florida and she married a man by the name of Herbert Swayze and had two girls, Vicky and Sandy. This was back in 1949 or something like that. He was driving a baby sitter back home on a Saturday night and was killed by a drunk driver and left Nedra with these two little girls. Nedra worked, I think, for Eastern Airlines and she lived in Miami for many, many years. Now, Mom said she is out in California near one of her daughters.

DL: We'll get her address.

MR: But yet she sends Christmas cards to my mom but she never includes a note or anything. My mother has heard in years past more from either Vicky or Sandy about what's going on but Mom hasn't gotten anything from Nedra in terms of what Nedra is doing, what her life is like, she just sends a card with her name and that's it. But Mom and Dad were never on any bad terms and with Nedra so I don't know what the story is there.

Grandfather, really, as I said earlier, he sort of lost his gruffness and his episode in being in the hospital in '72 really scared me a bit and I wanted to go down and visit over my spring break. I was at Boston University at the time. I was a sophomore. So, I called up the Yarnells who lived not far from Grandmother and I asked Jane if I could come and visit and stay with them because I wanted to come down and see Grandmother and Grandfather because my feeling was if the episode happened then who knows how much longer he was going to have because at that point he was eighty-two. So I had it all arranged that--and I got my flight and was going to be coming down and I was just going to bop in when it was convenient for Grandmother and Grandfather and I visit them. So I called up Grandmother and explained to her what I wanted to do and she got all upset. "Oh, this is terrible. This is an imposition. You know, you can't stay with Jane, blah, blah, blah, blah. She was just going on and on and on. I thought, Oh," because she--I think she still thought of me as being a little kid and that I would need to be entertained and I was almost twenty at that point. I used to joke because she would refer to Mom and Dad as the children are coming over or we are going together with the children for dinner and I would think, "God, what are we, embryos? I mean if she called us the children she must have thought we were pre-existent or something. So, I think she just had it in her mind that, oh, she was going to have to entertain me, she was going to have to be bright and sparkly or something and all I wanted to do was just sort of slip into their life for a couple of days and I was going to come down on a Tuesday and leave on Thursday. I mean I was barely going to be there. And I tried to explain to her that I was not going to get in their way or anything. Well, then she said, "Oh, you just can't stay with Jane, that's just an imposition. You have to stay here. " This was what I was trying to avoid. But she said Oh, you have to stay. So I said "Okay, Grandmother." So I flew down and I had my reservations going down and coming back and I think that it turned out to not be as bad as she thought it was going to be because after the first night she asked me to stay longer.

DL: Now, Eddie was out of the hospital by this time.

MR: Yes, he was home and had been home. This was March. This was like March 10-13 or something like that and he had been out of the hospital for maybe since January or something like that. And I don't think he ever went to any nursing home. Mom said "What?" No, he never went to any nursing home, which is what Farr wrote in his book. He came home and the villa and two bedrooms upstairs and Grandmother's was the one that faced on the ocean and Grandfather's was the back one. There was a little dining area and then a small kitchen and there was a full bathroom downstairs--I guess two full bathrooms upstairs. So he had his own bedroom in the back and his bureau from his apartment was there, his beds and things that were familiar, all the furnishings were furnishings from their apartment. His routine was to get up and to go with his attendant and to go up to the hotel restaurant and have his breakfast over there and I think Grandmother maybe slept a little later. He pretty much had a bunch of cronies that he would chit chat with over there. Then he would come back and I think that he enjoyed going for drives and Grandmother had a Cadillac so the attendant would drive Grandfather and there was an orchard that was down south of Miami and that was one of the little day trips. They would go across the crossway and...

DL: Is that what is now the Rickenbacker...

MR It has always been.

DL: Okay.

MR: Yes. I've got a story to tell about that. So then they would go down maybe to this orchard and by some fruit and then they--just something to do and then they came back. I went on one these drives with them. Apparently they'd go on drives an awful lot and every time they would go through the crossway they'd have to pay the toll and Grandfather just got really annoyed that he had to pay this toll on the crossway that was named for him. So he kicked up a fuss and I don't know if he was given a toll plate so that he wouldn't have to pay the toll but that was pretty much what the routine was. I don't know if he took his lunch over in the hotel dining room as well but he and Grandmother would have dinner together and the Yarnells would come over and Nedra would come over. The little accordion kind of bedroom area that was on the first floor that was in the back that's where I stayed when I was there and that would normally be where Nedra would spend maybe three nights out of the week just to be...

DL: How long were you there all total?

MR: I was probably there for about four days instead of just two. 

DL: Okay.

MR: But it was just so funny the way she kicked up such a fuss about me coming and acting as if she was going to have to entertain me and that it was going to be such an inconvenience for me to stay with Jane and then for me to stay there. She was talking about some dish and I said, Oh, my mother makes that." It turns out the rendition, the version that my mother made is so entirely different from hers so she said, "Oh, well, if you know how to make do you want to make it?" So I made it for dinner and she let me know that this is not what she was used to. She still had her vinegar about her. Grandfather had really mellowed out an awful lot and he was very funny when I went to breakfast in the hotel dining room with him showing off his granddaughter and very proud that I was there visiting.

DL: He had lost his rough edges by that time?

MR: Yes, he would get agitated if somebody him, as I said earlier, if somebody asked about something that had happened a little while before that. That was probably the most time I ever spent with them because when I was a child and they would come out from New York for Sunday dinner we'd have to get all dressed up and look nice, and Mother would say Grandmother and Grandfather are coming for dinner and they would arrive around 3:00 or 3:30 or something and they would come out in a [ ________ limousine]. In the beginning the limousine would just sit outside and Mother after a while said Why don't we drive you back instead of having ______ driver sit there for hours waiting until you finish. So as children we would come out and we'd greet them and we would say hello and then we would march back down to the basement and hang out down in our finished basement and watch TV. But it meant that we couldn't have our friends come over and I think some of our friends did meet Grandmother and Grandfather.

DL: Now where were you living at the time?

MR: In Montclair. ...after Grandfather died her world had really pretty much gotten microscopic. It was very small and Nedra was there three or four nights a week. She had her own house in Miami.

DL: Nedra did?

MR: Nedra, yes, but she was spending many nights in the villa with Grandmother. Of course, there wasn't an attendant there so Nedra was acting more like an attendant. There was a cook or a maid or somebody who would come in during the day and prepare meals. The Yarnells were wonderful, loyal, devoted friends and spent many hours over at the villa.

??:There was or was not an attendant?

MR: There was not, no. Grandmothers health other than her eyesight really wasn't too bad in the years after Grandfather died. You know, it was four years or whatever. I didn't--oh yeah, we did go down to see her. She wasn't feeling well enough and up to coming to our wedding which was in '75, May of '75, and she called my mother about a month or two before we got married and she asked, she said that she couldn't come up to the wedding but that she would like us to come and visit her, my husband and me. She said that perhaps it was a selfish wish of an old woman but she wanted to be able to meet my husband. So we flew down the end of June in '75 and that was the last time that I saw her. We had a very nice visit. Nedra was around most of the time. We stayed in a hotel room at the Key Biscayne Hotel. We spent an awful lot of time with them. I think we were only there for a short time, maybe a weekend or something, a long weekend. But she seemed in pretty good shape. She loved to do crossword puzzles, the New York Times crossword puzzles, and my mother and my father always did them, and the Yarnells did them. The Yarnells would come over on Sunday and spend Sunday afternoon with Grandmother and they would all do a crossword puzzle. My mother said it was amazing. Grandmother couldn't see and they would tell her what the clue for twenty-four across has got "a blank blank letters," whatever and they would tell her what letters there were and what the clue was and she would be able to keep the whole puzzle in her head. My mother and father used to talk to her on the weekends, on Sundays, and my grandmother would say I can't get such and such on, you know, its a real stinker this week, and they would have conversations about the puzzle and this was something that she couldn't even see. The day that she shot herself it was a Sunday and it was just a typical Sunday. The Yarnells had come over, they worked the crossword puzzle, I think she might have said she was feeling a little tired or something. A few days before, I don't know if there had been any reported police activity or something but she did say that she wanted to have her pistol, that she didn't feel safe. I don't know if it was because if there had been a break in or some violence had happened nearby. I can't remember. I think that there had been something that she could use that as an excuse for why she wanted to have her pistol. So this was a premeditated thing. This was not a spur of the moment kind of thing. So she said that she wanted to have it and Nedra gave it to her. And I don't know how many days before it was that she asked for it before she shot herself. So the Yarnells left and I don't know if it was before dinner or if it was after dinner, I think the routine usually was that they would come in the afternoon and they would do the puzzle, they would have dinner, and then they would leave, this kind of thing. So she went upstairs and I think the only person who was there was Nedra and Nedra heard a shot and ran upstairs and she was about to go in Grandmothers bedroom and I don't know if she called out to her or what the story is and Grandmother said "I missed, goddamn it, don't come in here or I'll shoot you too." Nedra went "whoa" and she ran down stairs, I believe and called, I don't know, the police or the hotel, notified somebody and then heard another shot. Grandmother did not die. She was taken to the hospital and Bill got in on things and he wanted to go and have every means possible, you know, hooked up to machines, all that kind of stuff and Mom and Dad were absolute adamant. Grandmother had been appalled at what had happened with, I think, Truman, and how he had been sick for so long and she felt that that was just horrible. So she had made a very strong living will saying that she was not to be resuscitated, she was not to be put on life support, she was not to have any extraordinary means and she had sent it to Dad and she had sent it to Bill. I don't know how soon before but it was some time in the year or so before and it was prompted by what had happened with Harry Truman. So, here she was still alive and she got taken out of the hospital and Bill started kicking up a fuss about...

DL: Did Bill and your father come from wherever they were at the time?

MR: I think they did. Bill probably was in Greenwich. By that time he was married to Carol. I think they were living in Greenwich because if he went into New York he was considered a bigamist because his porce wasn't recognized there.

DL: So at any rate your father was summoned or...?

MR: They were called and then Bill started calling the hospital saying stick her on life support and then it was made known that he had this living well and that she should just be...

DL: So your father was not on the scene?

MR: No, neither was Bill.

??:Where did your father live at that time?

MR: We lived in Upper Montclair, New Jersey.

??:Oh, you were still there?

MR: Yes, yes. No, no, wait a minute, I'm wrong. They moved up to Vermont in 75.So he was up just outside of White River Junction, Vermont, and that was February 2, 77.

DL: How long after that did Adelaide die?

MR: Oh, just--not long. I don't think that--it was like it happened that evening and I think probably by the end of that day she was dead. But Bill was trying to go and get all of this extraordinary measures taken and so I think my father was able to point out to the doctors that's not what she wanted.

DL:____ ____ ____?

MR: I don't know that she could have been saved. I mean she had a head wound.

DL: Yes, so she shot herself in the head?

MR: Yes. Twice.

DL: Twice. She said she missed the first time but she meant by that that she did not inflict a mortal...?

MR: Yes. I think it was just like a ______ or something. She was one heck of a spunky lady. I don't advocate suicide but when you look at the life that she lead and the fact that she was at that point probably eighty-seven, she was probably somewhere up in her nineties at that point. We think she was born about 1885, 1884, something like that, and this was 77.So she really had lived a number of lifetimes in those years.

DL: So as far as you know, her motive for committing suicide was simply that her life had become barren or microscopic?

MR: Yes. There was not much more for her to live. She had no friends...

DL: It wasn't the sudden health problem...?

MR: Well, I don't know that her health was all that great, I mean, considering how old she was. When we visited her in '75 I know that she still probably had a little bit of lung thing and her coughing, a little bit, and stuff like that. 

DL: But this thing about her having a stroke or something like that does not...?

MR: I don't know where Bill got that. You can ask my mom about it. I mean some of the things that I've read that Bill said is like where did he come up this.

DL: We're asking about David Rickenbacker and whether Ms. Rickenbacker knows anything about the circumstances under which he was adopted by Eddie and Adelaide?

MR:  I don't know anything more than I believe he was born in New York City. I now that this was sometime in the '70s when people started trying to find their natural parents and so on and when Bill went out and tried to find who his biological parents were I think my father's feeling was that it was just ridiculous that Bill was doing this, that it was not something that he ever, ever was interested in, never expressed the slightest hint of curiosity as to who his biological parents were. For all his concerns his parents were Eddie and Adelaide and he never went out of his way, never did anything to find out who they were.

DL: To the best of your knowledge he was born in New York City?

MR: I believe so. I didn't even know that he was adopted until, I cant even remember, I probably was about twelve or thirteen and I don't know what brought it out but my mother somehow said something about "Oh, well, your father is adopted, and I think I probably found out about that time that Grandmother had been married before as well because that's why Grandmother and Grandfather adopted because Grandmother wasn't able to have children. She had a hysterectomy when she was married to Clifford. So I was just amazed that he was adopted because I had never...

DL: He had never discussed this?

MR: No, he had never, ever, ever said anything about it. I don't think I ever said anything to him about it either. It wasn't as if it was something he was ashamed of, you know, like some big dark family secret or something, but as far as he was concerned his parents were Adelaide and Eddie and that was that. He went with them as an infant and never looked back and I think he thought Bill was just very foolish to go and spend the time and the money that he spent because I think he felt what was the point.

DL: So you would have no knowledge of how old your father was when he they adopted him?

MR: I believe he was an infant, really newborn. My mother has some really neat photograph albums and they have pictures (we were just looking through them at the end of June) and they have pictures of him just practically newborn or something and they are dated and it says David and the date, and stuff like that, and Grandmother put them together. Apparently it was a big thing back in those days to get a professional photographer to come in all the time and people exchanged photographs of their children with their friends. It just really surprises me. But there are just tons of photographs following his progress as he got older so I think that he was an infant, fairly soon after he was born. I have no idea who his parents were, his biological parents and he never wanted to know, and my mother, I know, will tell you the same thing.

DL: Now switching forward a considerable number of years did you live at the ranch in Texas?

MR: I was born in Texas.

DL: You were born in Texas at the ranch?

MR: Yes. I was born in [Kerrville], Texas, which is the nearest big town near Hunt, Texas. At the time I guess my parents had moved down to Texas in '51.Dad graduated from Hamilton College.

DL: I taught there, incidentally.

MR: Oh! He loved Hamilton. He had joined the Marines. Apparently he went off--I think it was March of '43 that's when he would have been eighteen, and my mom said that Adelaide signed the papers or something thinking that he would be rejected because he was about 125 pounds sopping wet, this skinny, scrawny, oh, he was very skinny, very skinny, and she thought, Grandmother thought "Oh, they won't take him. "And she was just astounded when he called and said...

DL: I'm a Marine.

MR: Yes, I'm a Marine. He was, I think at Admiral _____ Academy in Toms River, New Jersey, which I don't think is in existence any more, and he might have been only maybe a junior or something. He had bounced around from a whole bunch of different schools. He had gone maybe from the age of eight onward gone from one boarding school after another. I think he might have had--he was a lefty--and I think he might have also had a dyslexia kind of problem or something.

DL: I had heard that.

MR: He was not a good student. It was very hard for him to write. It took a lot of effort for him to write but he was a bright guy. So I think that he just had what they say these days some kind of learning process problem.

??:____ _____ auditory?

MR: I don't think it was auditory because he went to Arizona for Boys and then he went to Asheville, he went to Admiral _____, probably there were others, Brownsville Country Day or something when they lived up in Brownsville and that would have been in the '30s, somewhere in the 30s I think they lived in Brownsville. So he, I think, was at Admiral _____ and I don't think he was a senior, because when he came back from the war he went to Worcester Academy in Worcester, Mass., and was a graduate of the class of 1947.So he would have gone in their and maybe done like a year, a year and a half, or something like that.

DL: And then he went from there to Hamilton?

MR: Yes and so he was the class of '51 at Hamilton. He met my mother in October of his sophomore year, '48, I guess that would be. One of his fraternity brothers was married to a very good friend of my mother's and my mother had gone over to Herb and Betsy Hanson's house for dinner and it was a Friday night and they said, "Do you want to see if I can get one of my fraternity brothers to come over and we can play bridge?"

DL: Your mother was in college?

MR: No, my mother was living in Utica at home. She had gone to college. She went to Abbott Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, which merged in '72 with Andover. So, anyway, she had graduated from there and had worked for the phone company and worked at a couple of other things. She was living at home and she was--I don't know what she was working at at the time--but she was at the Hanson's for dinner so the fraternity brother that Herb Hanson got to come over was my dad and that was in October. So they got to be, I don't know, dated or whatever and I think my dad first asked my mom to marry him in January right after she had been in a car accident. She had two black eyes and a broken nose and he had come up on his birthday from New York and his birthday is January 4, so he was always having to leave to go to school. He had been going off to boarding school from the time he was probably eight, so he was never with family or anybody and he had called from the apartment on Eastern Avenue, 130 Eastern Avenue, called to see what my mother was doing and she had been in a car accident so she was home after the car accident and she said "Do you want to come up and we'll fix you a birthday dinner? "He came up on the train up to Utica and my mother's mother fixed him a birthday dinner and a cake. As I remember the story, he asked her to marry him then and she _____ Are you out of your mind? He didn't take no and he asked her a couple more times and their engagement was announced in March and they got married in July.

DL: Of 19--?

MR: Of 1949.

DL: '49?

MR: July 2, '49, so it was in between his sophomore and junior years. So he moved out of, I guess, the fraternity. He was doing an awful lot of jobs. His father only gave him a very small allowance.

DL: That would fit.

MR: Huh?

DL: That would fit. That would be characteristic.

MR: Yes, and when he got married he said just because you're getting married doesn't mean I'm going to up your allowance. Meanwhile, Grandfather wasn't paying for dad's education because he was going on the GI Bill and he was only giving him something like, I don't know, a hundred bucks a month or fifty bucks a month--some really insignificant amount and Dad was working two jobs. He would go around to all the dorms and stuff and pick up dry cleaning and he delivered dry cleaning and he'd sell peanuts and stuff at the hockey games. And he did all kinds of things like that and then my mom had a couple of jobs. They were living in what they called the "tar paper shack" and it was Vet Village. It was down the road...

DL: Down the hill.

MR: ...beyond some of the fraternities.

DL: I've been there.

MR: It was raised up and, oh God, I've seen pictures, its just...

DL: I've been there.

MR: I don't think they are there any more.

DL: No, I would doubt it.

MR: Yeah, and Mother said the winter wind would just whistle underneath...

DL: I can believe.

MR: ...and come up through the floor boards and there would, you know, all these guys who had gone to the war and they were older students and so, I think, I don't know if it was built originally for the vets or if it was built to house people who had come to take classes during the war for training or something like that. But it got turned into Vet Village. Dad was real clever and he was a tinkerer and they used to have a kerosene heater and it stunk and the tank was right in the little house so he worked up some kind of thing where the tank would be outside and it could be fed by a gravity system so that he didn't have to have the tank inside and smell it. They spent that Christmas with Grandmother and Grandfather on the houseboat down in Marathon and apparently Mom got pregnant then and she found out, I guess, it was...I think they called her, they called her--it was on some significant day--I cant remember what it was and Grandmothers comment when she found out that she was going to be a grandmother was very acid and sort of "Guess you can't fight mother nature, can you?, and they didn't here from her again until who knows how long. She was not at all happy with the idea and this would have been January of 1950, let's say January or February, somewhere around in there. My brother as born at the end of September 1950.That was my dads senior year. So he had, I guess, a major in political science and a minor in economics or something like that, but his dad had bought the ranch down in Texas and I don't know how it came about, my mom obviously is going to have a better tape on that, how it came about that he and Bryan and my mom went down there and he managed this ranch and Mom always just laughed they went from the tar paper shack to the log cabin. The ranch house that they stayed in was a log cabin, modern version. So that was in '51 and I was born in June of '52 and we lived there until--probably about March of '57.We moved up to Montclair and my mother was pregnant with my sister.

DL: What was your father doing in Montclair?

MR: He got a job with United States Trust Company and I don't know if it was sort of with some connections that he was able to get this job. I think U.S. Trust was the trust company that handled the pensions for Eastern or something like that or if he was able because he was coming in. I don't know if any strings were pulled, I don't know what the story is, but he was an investment advisor for accounts and he had like the ______ family. He would have a few named family accounts or whatever and very quiet money.

DL: Was it '57 that Eddie gave the ranch to the Boy Scouts?

MR: Yes, and that's what prompted the move. If it hadn't been for him doing that then we would have still been down there.

DL: From what I understand Eddie expected that ranch to be a kind of paying proposition. Does that jive with...?

MR: Could have been.

DL: Stock raising? Was that the kind of...?

MR: Well, he had a chicken farm with caged layers and Dad would go over there and I can remember him candling the eggs, I can remember him telling me that eggs were always supposed to be pointed-end down, and that's the way they are supposed to be put in the cartons. I can remember walking through that huge chicken house and the caged layers and the eggs would run down or whatever.

DL: Okay, it was a poultry farm then primarily?

MR: That was a small part of it. They had long-horn cattle when long-horn cattle wasn't any big deal. Now people look at them as, you know, something special but nobody wanted long-horn cattle. They had [Charlet] and they had Angus, they had beef cattle, and I think they had either sheep or goats, I can't remember. And then there was a game hunting section. Did you know about that?

DL: Well, I knew that Eddie liked to have meetings of the board at the ranch and that there would be hunting.

MR: But this was run as business where there were brochures that talked about coming to Rickenbacker Ranch in Hunt, Texas, and there was a price list, and if you shot a gazelle it was so much or a ______ for so much, or whatever. So there was this section of the ranch, I don't know if it was like an enclosed perimeter or something, because when you came into the ranch--I might be exaggerating. It was 2,800 acres--2,600 hundred acres--small by Texas standards. But there were a number of gates that you would go through as you came in and so the gates were set up in different sections, keeping them separate from each other. That was one of the duties that Dad had was when people came down and I don't know if they stayed in the main house or if they stayed some place else, but Dad would take them around to the different blinds and, you know, be their hunting guide and entertain them. They would be in the main house, I know, for cocktails and stuff like that. That was something that--the kind of thing that a board would do or you would try to get other people with money who could take the time to come and do something like that. A macho kind of thing. I mean a real 50s kind of thing.

DL: And he raised and sold livestock?

MR: ...Ernest Hemingway kind of, I mean, just...

DL: Yes.

MR: I'm trying to remember the names of all the different kinds of deer and they were imported. I mean they were from Africa, Asia. The original stock was I think imported and then they just bred the stock.

DL: The ranch was partly to raise and sell animals, chickens, partly for hunting expeditions?

MR: Yes. Then there was the beef cattle and then there were the long-horns ____ certain more ornamental. When the ranch was given to the Boy Scouts the long-horns were given to Charley (I think I'm going to draw a blank on his name). He's near Hunt and he was a temporary of my dad's and he's now got a big operation with long-horn cattle and stuff like that.

DL: Is it true that Adelaide did not like the ranch, that she was unhappy there?

MR: I don't think she much liked it. I think that when she did come down that she'd end up spending a lot of time in San Antonio which was about ninety miles.

DL: Eddie and Adelaide simply visited the ranch from time to time. Your father and mother lived there?

MR: Oh yes, Mom and Dad lived there.

DL: Eddie and Adelaide would visit?

MR: They'd come down and they, you know, they'd be together, I guess, and then Grandmother might go into San Antonio, about ninety miles away, and she had friends there. Grandfather, I think, thought it was pretty neat, there were cages that had exotic birds--peacocks, and they wandered the grounds of the main house and all different kinds of just...

DL: So they didn't really reside there but ____ _____ visited it?

MR: She kept some stuff there. I mean my mother said she can remember getting phone calls from my Grandmother saying, Patty, I want you to go over to the main house and up to my closet on the second shelf, top right hand side, blah, blah, blah, blah, I want you to get my such and such shoes and take them to the bus in [Kerrville] which was not two minutes away. It was something like fourteen miles to Kerrville, two miles to the main gate kind of thing and it wasn't--this was a command.

??: You had to do it.

MR: Of course you are going to do this. This is Adelaide speaking. Anyway, you'd put them on the bus and send them to me in San Antonio, that kind of thing. They really didn't live down there all that much and around that time too, I think maybe about in '59 is when they got the house in Coral Gables. I think they sort of went from, I guess after having the ranch and giving it to the Boy Scouts, then they got the house in Coral Gables.

DL: Why did Eddie want to give the ranch away?

MR: I'm not sure

DL: Was it not making money, was he tired of it?

MR: There was a drought the whole time that they were there for something like five, seven years or something like that. It was, I think, making ranching not very profitable. I don't know if maybe he wore out his interest in it. The thing that I always had heard could be just something really stupid that's not true at all is that the reason he got the ranch in the first place is think of the time and the Cold War starting up that he was convinced that the Soviets were going to start a war and that the safest place in the United States was going to be some place in the middle of the country. He wanted a safe haven in the middle of the country and the McCarthy hearings were starting up and people were seeing communists under every rock. He admired Joe McCarthy.

DL: I know he did.

MR: In fact at one time he even said that somebody is going to erect a stature in McCarthy's honor.

DL: Yeah, I know that.

MR: He was very much by the book an American and "I love this country and anybody who says anything wrong about it ought to go back to Russia. Don't live here if you don't like it," that kind of thing. I don't think he ever bought the ranch from Frederick because Frederick Air Conditioning in the first place to have it be a money maker...

DL: ...lady being forever one time wife of Emperor ______ feels entitled dealing with Carol Douglas who had been married to Bill Rickenbacker. This says the Daily News so I presume it's the New York Daily News, Sunday, September 7, 1997, page 30.

??: You wanted a citation of this? Where did you get this?

MR: That came from White Horse Studios.

DL: I know White Horse Studios and I...

MR: And that's the same as this.

DL: Oh, okay.

MR: It's just that's the version that they sent me.

DL: This is a tape called "Ace of Aces, Eddie Rickenbacker in the First World War," recorded by White Horse Studios, 1634 Southwest Alder Street, Portland, Oregon 97205, telephone: 503-222-0116, fax 503-222-3658.Also www.whitehorsestudios.com.

??: You were talking about Sandy?

MR: Sandy, yes, it is Alexandra Leys Rickenbacker. She was someone whose family lived in Brownsville, the time that Dad and Uncle Bill were living there. That would have been in the 30s.I think that they all were very good friends as children and Sandy also has a brother named Dirk and he was a good enough friend of my friend of my fathers that when my parents got married in 49 Dirk was one of my fathers grooms' men which I didn't realize. I saw Dirk and Sandy at, I guess it was Tommy's wedding which was about--I'm trying to think how long ago it was--maybe about eight years ago or something.

DL: Now who is Tommy?

MR: The younger of Bills two boys. So there's Jamie who probably was born in--he's about nine months younger than Nancy, my sister and Nancy was born in May of '57 so he might have been early January, February of 58 or something. Tommy, I think, is two or three years younger than Jamie. Tommy and his wife live in Andover, Massachusetts, and Sandy and her mother, Tony's wife's mother, lives near them some place. After she and Bill divorced I think she continued to live in the house, Briar Cliff Manor, for a while and her family had a house up in South Egremont, Massachusetts. Egremont, that's like E-G-R-E-M-O-N-T, anyway in the [Burk Shears], and she went up and lived there for many years. I think it was only in the last few years that she moved to Eastern Massachusetts so she could be near Tommy and his wife. Tommy and his wife have two children, a little girl and a boy. So Sandy is still alive. She had numerous problems with mental breakdowns when she was married to Bill. You have to wonder if perhaps he sort pushed her to the limit, that he knew what buttons to push. She went to places, I think, like Silver Hill in Connecticut, in these fashionable mental kind of places or whatever. I think she is a manic depressive or something like that because it took a while for them to get her medication adjusted to the point where she took it then she would be able to not be in a big funk. So she apparently is doing okay and has been independent for many years. Then the second wife of Bill's was this Carol Douglas. I'm not exactly sure how they met but Carols then husband was in movies or productions or something like that and Bill somehow met her and Carol and her husband who was considerably older than she was at the time, he was probably in his sixties and Carol was in her late twenties or thirties or something. So, somehow Bill met her and she was over, I think, on the west coast of Florida, the Naples area, something like that, and after Grandfather died then Bill used to try to do things so that he could get Grandmother to meet Carol and he told Grandmother one time that he had just the person for her to have be an attendant to come in and help her and this person was a nurse, and blah, blah, blah, and it was a bunch of blah, blah, blah, blah. He was trying to get Carol to come in and get to meet Grandmother and ingratiate herself because Grandmother had said she didn't want to have anything to do with this woman who was going to be in Bill's life. She really had gotten very angry with Bill after that whole business with him. I think she felt that he inflicted a lot of mental pain on Sandy throughout their marriage and that Sandy was getting the short end of the deal here. Bill had gone to the Dominican Republic and gotten a divorce which was not recognized in New York.

DL: Like Victor Newman. 

??: Yes.

MR: And we laughed and said "Oh gees, he's going to stay out of New York because he could get arrested as a bigamist in there." Then he married Carol and then they lived in an apartment in Greenwich and he asked Dad to be his best man and Dad _____ "uummm" because he was Bills best man for the first time and I think Dad was the best man the second time but then when Bill divorced Carol and wanted to marry Ada Gay then I think Dad said "No," he wasn't. The first two times weren't any big help so I'm not going to go and do it a third time, forget this. I don't know what the attraction was to Carol. I don't know, maybe he was trying to recapture his youth or something at that point, but she has this spread, if you go into People magazine about 19--Im trying to think of it, it was after Grandmother died, I think. No, maybe it wasn't because she was at the Air Force rededication ceremony, Carol was. Carol was wearing this bizarre hat and this pant outfit and I was like, "Oh my God." Anyway, Bill was trying to push her as a pilot or something and then he was going to try to get her into helicopter training and this is when People magazine heard about it and they did a little spread on Carol and they have a quote there where she said something about "I want to learn to fly like Daddy. You know, she never even had met Eddie and here she's trying to take on like she had some kind of relationship with him. Well then at the Air Force or whoever it was--whatever group or the arm services that she was supposedly going to try to get into helicopter training they found out that she was too old and wasn't qualified anyway. So she just sort of very quietly let die after that because I don't know when it was in People magazine, it was like "Oh, you know, here's this daughter-in-law of "Captain Eddie" was going to become a helicopter pilot and she was very delusional--I mean, there was sometime that she was going to do something ____ _____ take the helicopter and go rescue the Pope or something, I mean just really bizarre kind of. She has all of her affairs managed by her brother and sister. I mean she doesn't have both ores in the water for sure.

DL: Now what about the third wife, Ada?

MR: I don't know how Bill met Ada. She was introduced to us as Ada and then sometimes as Gay. So we never knew what she was...

??: _____ her name was?

DL: He called her Gay.

MR: Gay. Well, her apparent given name was Ada. I think that Mom said that "Gada (that's what Mother used to call her, Gada, Ada, Gay) her husband (first husband), I think Mom said, was Bill's roommate at Asheville, so somehow the acquaintance got renewed and I don't know if her marriage was on the rocks or if she was already divorced, but anyway they got married. They ended up buying a house north of Boston (I'm trying to remember [Botsford]) and right at about a few years before my parents moved up to Vermont and they bought this 1777 brick house. I think my mother owned this spot like Bill had sort of now trying to sort of take on what my father had done because he took on trying to restore this house or return it to its earlier glory or something like that. I think by his investments he realized that Massachusetts was not the place for him to be. People referred to him as "Taxachusetts" instead of Massachusetts so he realized he needed to get out of there and then he moved up to Frances Town and bough the house up there. Off and on we saw him because when he was living in Botsford because we were living in the Boston area at the time, my husband was in graduate school, and sometimes--usually when one of the boys like Jamie or Tommy was somehow in the picture or something, every now and then we would get a call. One time we went to the house in Botsford, one time we went to a Mexican restaurant in Boston and had dinner with them and one of the boys or something. We didn't see that much of them and I really didn't want to see a whole lot of Bill anyway. My husband couldn't tolerate him too much either. So they moved up to Frances Town and all along Gay was involved in horseback riding and showing, ______ _____ and that kind of thing.

DL: Yes, we knew that.

MR: The story I heard was that she had decided that they should move down to Connecticut or something like that and they supposedly had sold the house or leased it or something like that, so Bill went down there and they were supposed to be moving down here and so on. That he went to one party and decided he didn't like the people there and said you can stay here I'm going back up to Frances Town and that's when Nancy showed up on the doorstep because she was the person who was supposed to lease his house or buy it or something and it was "Oh, well, you've got the house and me too," kind of thing. So that's how that relationship started and I don't know at what point he divorced Gay and then married Nancy.

??: The story we got somewhere was that she was having an affair with a stable boy.

MR: Yeah. Did Bill tell you that?

DL: Yes.

MR: I had heard--I think Mother had said there had been some suspicion on Bill's part that Gay was having an affair with somebody connected with the horses or something.

DL: That's what we heard.

MR: I guess it was all the more obvious and maybe the attitudes of the people in the area of Connecticut he just felt like this is not my kind of people, I don't want to have anything to do with them and he just turned tail and went back up to New Hampshire. I think they either sold the house or leased the house or something, but I mean Nancy shows up with her older teenage son or something and it's like...

??: With the house?

MR: You've got the house but now you've got me too. I mean that's bizarre.

DL: I want to ask you about several people, one being Sheppy Shepherd. Is she dead?

MR: Oh, yes.

DL: How long ago did she die?

MR: I'm trying to think. She probably died sometime in the early '80s. Keep in mind she was as old as Grandfather and her name was Marguerite and when I read the information in Farr's book about how she had come to be his secretary way back in the '20s and stuff, she was very efficient. She was like a member of the family. I mean when we moved to New Jersey and Grandmother and Grandfather were in New York in whatever hotel apartment they were living in then Sheppy wouldn't come over all the time but there were times when she would be included. When my parents had their 25th wedding anniversary Sheppy came to that. My father sent a car to New York City and it picked her up in the Mexican whatever mariachi band that came then to this French country inn in New Jersey.

DL: Where would be a logical place to look for an obituary?

MR: She was living in New York City at the time. She had moved down to--I could probably get you an old address book. She was living at about 54th Street or something like that. Her sister and her sisters family were in Hamilton, Ontario. She was from Hamilton, Ontario. And I know that she used to go back there and visit with them and stuff. So Id say you probably... I don't know whether she died before my dad or not, probably because she would have been even at eighty-one or something she would have been, you know, eighty-one.

DL: She played an awfully important role in Eddie's life as his...I just have a sense that he leaned on her very hard.

MR: Oh, incredibly. When we were growing up we always got Christmas, no, birthday cards and Christmas checks and the only reason we ever got a birthday card was because that was part of Sheppy's job, that she went off and got those cards and she was the one who kept track of the birthdays for all the grandchildren and everything. I think she was a very, very typical and loyal secretary of her generation, that she was not married, this was her life, was to keep him organized. She wasn't a particularly attractive person. 

DL: No, I've seen pictures.

MR: She was just a really, really nice efficient lady. She was definitely a lady.

DL: Who had writing skills.

MR: I think so. I don't know.

DL: I don't want to put words in your mouth here but I suspect that one of the crucial functions that Sheppy played for Eddie was that she could write.

MR: You are saying she probably wrote the letters for him?

DL: Yes. I've read literally thousands of letters by Eddie Rickenbacker and they all have the same style and I have a hunch--I always have the feeling that I am reading Sheppy Shepherd.

MR: Probably.

DL: Eddie through Sheppy Shepherd. In other words I don't have the sense that Eddie was a polished writer ever.

MR: Oh, no.

DL: And whenever a book was written it had to be written by a ghost writer. In the first case by Lawrence Driggs, Fighting the Flying Circus, by ____ [Herndon] in the case of his autobiography, and I have always wondered what role Sheppy may or may not have played in writing Seven Came Through.

MR: I don't know what role she did but I don't think any of those scrapbooks that you have would be in existence if it weren't for Sheppy. I mean that's the kind of thing that Sheppy did. I think she just kept him organized and I think that after having worked for so many years with him that she knew what he _______ ______ she probably knew what he wanted to say so she just polished it up because after all, he was a grade school drop out. He didn't have the ability probably to put forth a really good written letter on his on.

DL: That's what I've gathered.

While Ms. Rickenbacker has gone for lunch she has an assortment for materials dealing with Eddie, one of them being a copy of Time magazine, April 17, 1950, with Eddie on the cover and a feature article about Eddie. She also has a copy of Time magazine. August 6, 1973, which contains an article about Eddies death. A number of newspaper articles relating to Eddies death, especially the New York Times, Sunday, July 29, 1973. I presumably have this at Auburn but I thought it would be better to read this into the tape just in case I might have missed that Time magazine article. Also an article from an unidentified newspaper dealing with the change of the name of [Lockborne] Air Force in Ohio to honor Eddie Rickenbacker after his death. A bill asking for the name change was introduced by Representative Sam Devine, a Republican from Ohio. I don't know what newspaper that is from but I thought I would read that into the record. Also an article "Rickenbacker's Ashes Returned" from an unidentified newspaper. The ashes of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, America's World War I flying ace were flown back to Miami, Wednesday, from Zurich, Switzerland, accompanied by his eighty-two year old widow.

DL: ...if you want to add anything. Start out with Eddie.

MR: Well, I described to you earlier what the kind of interactions I had as a child where it would be Sunday dinner, that kind of thing, and we really didn't spend that much time with them except at the meal itself. Many times they would have gone on a trip, _____ trip, or a trip to the far east or something like that, one of their many trips to Switzerland, or to Italy. There might be things that they had purchased when they were there that they would give to us when they came to visit. It was a very distant kind of relationship. He was not a warm grand fatherly type of person. My mother told a story one time about how they came for Sunday dinner when we living in our first house in Montclair and Grandfather went out in the back yard and played catch with my brother who was probably only about seven years old or something and Grandmother caught sight of him and called him in and said "What are you doing out there making a fool out of yourself?, or something like that, and he never did anything like that again. She was a very dominant, domineering person. She had very definite ideas about the way things should be. Oh, she had an interaction with my mother when we were down in Texas and she felt that it was inappropriate for me to have long hair. I was probably about three or four. My baby pictures show me with dark red hair that just went off in every direction. I looked like a monkey, very unattractive, and Grandmother used to call me her little Irish [Nick], apparently.

DL: Mit?

MR: Nick, like Nicky, Nick. I don't think she was very fond of the idea of being a grandmother and you know how I told you what her reaction was when she found out that my mom and dad were expecting. She, I think, even more didn't particularly care for me after we went on a long plane ride, picture this, I was a year old so it would have been in 53 and my mother was going to come north and visit her family up in Utica. My mother told me that she had kept me on the bottle until I was a year so that it would be a source of comfort when we were on the plane. I think when she told me this story another time I had Libby and Libby was still on the bottle at a year and a half and I remember thinking she kept me on the bottle until I was a year, but that was the days before people tried to toilet train kids by age two and that sort of thing. I think it was on the flight home, I think everything was okay. Grandmother went along with them and it was on an Eastern flight so everybody sort of knew who grandmother was, this kind of thing, and I think it was on the flight home that it was the disaster where mother asked the steward if he would get me some milk. She gave him the bottle and asked if he would please get me some milk. She said that it took forever and I started to whimper when I saw the bottle going and finally he brought it back and he heated the milk and she said no, she didn't want heated milk, all she wanted was cold milk. So then the bottle went away again and she said I started crying and I started crying even more. You know how babies can cry. Finally the bottle came back and it was cold milk but by that time I was so worked up that my mother couldn't get me to drink any and Grandmother was sitting with my brother in the seat ahead and he had gotten some flu bug or something and he wasn't feeling well at all. It was something like an eight-hour flight and I cried practically the whole flight and I think Grandmother practically just wrote me off like from that point until maybe when I came down when I was twenty or so. And I always used to send her birthday cards and stuff like that. I think I was always trying to sort of show her that I wasn't as bad as I had shown when I was a year old or something. I mean it was just absolute hard.

DL: Would you call her a very proper person?

MR: I think she was perhaps but I think she was concerned about appearances, about propriety and that's why she didn't want Grandfather out there. She didn't think that was proper for him to be out there throwing a ball around with my brother. You know, you're out there making a fool out of yourself and that kind of thing. She, I think, really sort of warmed up to me finally when she realized that I was all right when I was about twenty or something like that. I think I came down to visit...maybe it was only that one time...I was thinking maybe I went down another time, but I think that when I went down that time in March before he died that was a pretty good visit and it sort of showed her that I was okay. I mean, because we had this family dinner one time and it was in the year or so after Kennedy had died. Mind you, we would usually sit down at 6:30 or 7:00 or something like that, probably 6:30, and they would have arrived at 3:30.And he was probably, you know, sitting around in the den with my mom and dad and grandmother drinking Early Times and so by the time dinner rolled around everybody was a little oiled. So grandmother was talking about Kennedy and apparently people were in a big rush to rename things after Kennedy. She couldn't stand Kennedy. She went on to say how she thought it was just totally unnecessary or something like that. I would have been about twelve and I was stupid enough to open my mouth and I said, oh, I was sitting next to her, and I said something like Oh, maybe it would just be a good idea, something on the line of if somebody wants to name something for Kennedy why don't they just name something new instead of renaming something because that was around the time that Idlewild was from JFK to Idlewild and that kind of thing.

DL: Yes.

MR: ..."It was a perfectly good name before and why are they going to go and change it to JFK or whatever. "She jumped down my throat for me having an opinion and I didn't say anything for I don't know how many years after that. I was like, ah, okay, I'm going to just be seen and not heard at these meals because its not worth trying to say anything because remember I told you she referred to mom and dad as the children. 

DL: Was that how she interacted with them when they were growing up or she...?

MR: I'm not sure. I'm really not. She was a real tough lady.

??: Not real affectionate towards her own children do you think?

MR: I don't think so. I really don't think so. I mean she was not affectionate to us. She just was not an affectionate kind of person. I don't think she had all that great a life and...You know, her mother died when she was very young. I don't know how soon after her father remarried but I don't know how much affection she was shown when she was growing up.

DL: We were struck by a statement in Eddies honeymoon diary. We have a copy--we have the original of Eddie's honeymoon diary at Auburn.

MR: Oh, you do?

DL: The 1922 honeymoon diary.

MR: You know they both kept diaries.

MR: Really.

??: What happened to hers?

DL: What happened to hers?

MR: I don't know. My mother said that it was so fun to sit there and read what he wrote in it and what she wrote was like WHOA. It's like night and day sometimes.

DL: I could believe that. Well, the thing that touched us very much is one of the very first entries if not the first entry he had just gotten married and he talked about how he would now have a pal.

MR: I think that's mentioned in the...

DL: What he wanted in marriage was a pal and another thing that comes out and he doesn't mention this in his autobiography, she hurt his feelings very much early in their marriage by continuing to wear the wedding ring that Cliff had given her. Eddie felt very bad about that and confided that to his diary.

MR: Now from what I understand she met Clifford when she was seventeen or something--seventeen or eighteen, and he saw her when she was singing and then wooed her and won her or whatever. From what I understand it was his father said you know you've got to learn about the auto business or something and they lived in--Grandmother and Clifford lived in a fifth floor cold water flat or something like that in Detroit, I think. The memory that I have that I think my mother told me was that this was sort of--this is where you will live, that they were told this what you will do and this is where you will live and they were told that by Dad Durant who was a very strong personality as well. But Clifford unfortunately didn't inherit any. It sounds like my mother ____ ____ ____.I mean he was just a spoiled brat. So then after that had done that for so many years then he got sent out to California and they had this fantastic mansion out there. I wish I can remember--before you leave I should show you this hand-tinted album, photo album, of the estate. I think it was in Oakland. It is now the sight of the Oakland Zoo. They went from a cold water flat, fifth floor or whatever to this hot and cold running servants kind of thing out in California. Just this notion of having to put up with Clifford and his antics and his drinking and bringing people home and stuff like that. And then after they divorced then mother said that Grandmother was ill with something, I don't know. I don't think it was tuberculosis but it was something. She went and lived in the Grand Canyon either on the rim or someplace in the Grand Canyon with a companion for six months. I think that was a very physically and spiritually healing time for her. She got an oil painting of the Grand Canyon from around that time I guess to remind her of that. My sister has that oil painting.

DL: Did she live in a cabin or...?

MR: Mother told me when I talked to her the other day, she said something about "on the rim," and yet when we went to the Grand Canyon years ago she told me that she lived at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and that the only person, that some Indian guide was the only one who knew the way in and the way out and that if he had died then she and...

DL: She and a friend?

MR: Yes, it was a female companion and that they wouldn't have been able to get back out and that Grandmother was so tall, you know those little burrows that people ride on the [Bright Angel Trail], that she was tall that the burrows went around the switchbacks and her feet practically were touching on the switchbacks or something.

??: Now old was she at this time?

MR: We think that she divorced Clifford and did all this, say around 1911, 1912, or something, and she was probably only married to Clifford for maybe seven years or eight years.

DL: I can get you a copy of the...

MR: We're really not sure how long it was.

DL: What all did Clifford do?

MR: I don't think he did too much. He drank and partied and hung out at the track. I mean that's...

DL: He was an automobile racer.

MR: Yes.

??: Well, there was some kind of theory, I don't know where you read this about why Adelaide had to get the hysterectomy was that he gave her a venereal disease or something from all his playing around. Do you know anything about that?

MR: Well, I'd heard that she had something like five miscarriages and that the doctor told her that she had to have a hysterectomy because she wouldn't have the stamina to--she would die if she was to go on and try to have another baby. That's why she had the hysterectomy. That may be the sanitized version that came through the family, the reality might be what you said. I have no idea.

DL: As you say, Bill liked to _____ _____ _____.

MR: Oh, yes, I can hear him in some of those passages ____ ____ _____, but like "Oh, Bill, I mean he just...

DL: Bill told us that Cliff Durant was bisexual. Have you ever heard that in the family?

MR: I have no idea.

DL: He also indicated that after the divorce Billy Durant continued to like Adelaide very, very much.

MR: You're talk Dad Durant?

DL: Yes.

MR: Well, you see, he married Kathryn who was probably only a couple of years older than Grandmother. It was his second marriage. Grandmother and Kathryn were very, very good friends and she is one of the last people who died in New York when Grandmother just sort of, you know, "This is it, I've had it."

DL: Kathryn Durant.

MR: Kathryn Durant.

DL: Okay.

MR: And she was part of Grandmothers canasta bunch and there was somebody named Sheila Driggs and I wonder if she was...

DL: Sheila Driggs. That's interesting. The name Driggs keeps popping up again and again.

MR: I don't know because when I read your thing and it same something about Lawrence whatever Driggs and I was thinking, "Wow, well didn't Grandmother have a very good friend Sheila Driggs? I'm pretty sure the name was Sheila Driggs. I think Dad Durant, how I've always had it referred to, I think he really admired Grandmother and felt that she had gotten the short end of the stick by being married to Clifford and that she had put up with more than her share of crap (excuse my French) and that that's why he set her up with the General Motors trust fund. I don't know if it was before or after that that she went on this trip where she went to northern Africa and went to see the pyramids.

DL: This is Adelaide?

MR: Yes. We have tried to figure out when all this could be in relation, let's say, to World War I starting and this kind of thing. We think that she was over in North Africa like in 1914 or 1913 or something like that. But if she wasn't divorced from Clifford then--we thought that the things she did were as a single woman after she had divorced Clifford.

DL: The story we get from Nancy, Bill Rickenbacker's widow, which she says Bill told her was that Eddie was more or less appointed by Billy Durant, whom he called Dad Durant, to help Clifford become a better racing driver, to give him, sort of coach him in how to become more proficient as a racing driver. Also to be a kind of chaperon for Adelaide when Cliff Durant was out on his various escapades.

MR: Oh, like an escort?

DL: Yes, as an escort. That Eddie was an escort and that what started out as a platonic relationship eventually developed into a romance.

MR: You know, whatever I had heard about Grandmother knowing Grandfather before they married it was told to me when I was younger that--and I don't even know if it was supposed to be in California or if it was supposed to be out--I'm trying to think of when it would have been--but I thought it was more like in Detroit or something that supposedly some of the riff-raff from the track that Clifford had brought home, one of them was Grandfather and that she had me him then but didn't pay him any attention. I mean that's what I'd always been told was that this was just one more of the crowd that was hanging out at the house and that was that. 

DL: At the house in California or in Detroit?

MR: I don't know. If Eddie was racing and he did meet her when he was one of the rift raft hanging out at the track, then it would have to be before...

DL: Eddie didn't race any more after 1916.

MR: That's right so it would had to have been so she must have still been married to him.

DL: Eddie went to California after the war because he really wanted to stay in California. He wanted to settle there and what we heard through Bill, from what Bill told Nancy, it was when Eddie was in California and before he went to Detroit to become an automobile manufacturer that Billy Durant more or less asked him to be a kind of driving coach for Cliff to help him become a better racing driver because Eddie was no longer racing but Cliff was, and that he was to be an escort for Adelaide. That is all that I knew about the genesis of their relationship. It seems that you have a different picture of this.

MR: Yes.

DL: Your mother might have a ...

MR: She might because she did spend time with Grandmother. You know I mentioned how she brought Grandmother up to Boston to the Leahy Clinic. I guess it was after Grandfather died Grandmother was very ill for a while. But I don't think it was that. I think maybe after she recovered that time but my sister and my mom went down to Florida (I think they were down there for almost a month or something) and I know Grandmother was very, I want to say agitated--that's sort of too strong a term--but she was quite concerned about my sister being down there all that time. You know, "What am I going to do with this child?, my sister was maybe eleven at the time, and How am I going to entertain her? My mother said you don't have to worry about Nancy she can just go off and do her own thing and my mother was down there to sort of help with Grandmother because she wasn't well. So she did have opportunities where Grandmother would share things and Mother never pressed her and asked things. But, if during the course and Grandmother saying something and Mother might have said Oh well, was that when you did so and so, or "Is that how you got this and that?" She never would initiate a conversation. So she did have quite a few times where she was with Grandmother. I was telling you something earlier about Grandmother was very controlling. I got my perceptions mixed up but when I was talking to my mom I thought it was when they had moved up to New Jersey and they had gotten their first house and Grandmother and Grandfather were concerned they had gotten a mortgage and had taken on that much debt. My mother said no, no it wasn't then that they got upset it was when they moved from the smaller house to the bigger house and was why aren't you happy in your smaller house, why are you moving up and this kind of thing. Grandmother very pointedly said she didn't think that they needed to do that, it was a nice house, why did you leave that one for this one, and this kind of thing. When we were in Texas, I'd started to tell you about my hair and it had gone from this wild dark red hair to the long blond hair. My mother said she called it my crown and glory. Grandmother felt it was inappropriate for a young child to have long hair. She told my mother that she should cut my hair and it wasn't a suggestion.

??: It was an order.

MR: Yes, and my mother said nobody is going to tell me what to do with my child and my grandmother let her have it. So they had an adversary relationship in the beginning but over the years I think my grandmother developed a fondness and a grudging admiration for my mother for seeing what kind of woman my mother was and that she had a brain in her head and that she was good for my dad. So she had a good bond where as I don't think Grandmother had that with Sandy. I think my mother was smart enough in her dealings with Grandmother to understand when to accept something and when to say no and when to hold her ground and when to back off. When she stood up to her when she was a young bride, she was twenty-four-and-a-half when I was born, so when Grandmother was trying to tell her what to do she was only probably twenty-seven or twenty-eight or whatever, but my mother just--gonna be pushed around just because you are my mother-in-law. But there were times when they did have to get pushed around because Grandmother, as I said, would call and say go into the house and do this, get my shoes and you send it to here, and Grandfather used to call every Sunday morning and there was an hour time difference. He would go to his office every single Sunday and he'd promptly call at 8:00 New York time or 7:00 New York time, I don't know what, but anyway it was still an hour earlier in Texas and he'd call. They were young and they had a good group of friends and they'd go out, and they'd go to parties and stuff like that and they wanted to be able to sleep late on a Sunday morning and he would wake them up every single Sunday morning. So they finally got smart and they would take the phone off the hook before they would go to bed at 2:00 Sunday morning. So then Herschel, the house man, would come over from the main house and that was a good hike, and he'd come over and he'd knock on the door," Mr. David, Mr. David, your father is on the phone and he wants to talk to you." I mean and he would want to know what was going on at the ranch and he wanted to know to the penny what was going on.

DL: Yes, that makes sense.

MR: You know, he had to know everything and this was when he wanted to call. He called even though they asked him could you please wait and it is their one morning David doesn't have to get up at who knows what hour to go out into the fields and do all this stuff with the cows and the chickens, you know, oversee other people doing all these things. For six years or whatever they were under Grandfather and Grandmothers thumb.

DL: Bill told Nancy that Cliff Durant met Adelaide when she was singing in a burlesque house. Have you ever heard anything?

MR: I've always heard that it was sort of something nicer than that but, you know, more like a cabaret kind of thing, but I don't know.

DL: Finis Farr has a kind of veiled reference in his....

MR: Yes, he said something, you know, that...But he has almost got a quote from Bill saying that she started singing in churches in every county and then she then she was singing such and such and not singing.

DL: Yes, and there is an innuendo there but I'm sure that comes through Bill. Bill indicated that Cliff Durant met Adelaide by frequenting one of the places that Cliff Durant would normally frequent. I don't think he meant a bordello necessarily but she had a beautiful voice from everything that I understand. She was singing in a theater that was not of the highest caliber, shall we say. I didn't know whether any thing of that sort had come down.

MR: I just heard that he saw her singing and I never really heard it described as to where. The person who would know more if she would be willing to share would be Nedra.

DL: Another thing that I'm trying to remember the name of the individual in Minnesota who, he's a conservative who writes a journal and who was a good friend of Bill Rickenbacker and wrote a very long article in Bills memory after Bill died. In that article this person says that Eddie's marriage to Adelaide became very severely strained in the 1930s and that there was a period where Adelaide was even thinking of leaving the marriage. When I talked to Lawrence Rockefeller, my first interview with Lawrence, I said Tell me about Adelaide? and he said "He parked her like a car." And I said, "What?" He said, "You heard me. He parked her like a car." He said that he was always away from home. He was never there for her. He took her out to Texas and she was climbing the walls because she didn't want to live on a ranch in Texas so he got her a nice house in Florida but he was never there for her. He parked her like a car. A lot of things that I have heard about Eddie and Adelaide indicate putting this together with what Bill said about how savagely they fought with one another, I gather that this was not an idyllic marriage.

MR: You know, one of the things when Doug and I went down to Florida after we got married my grandmother said I want to share a bit of advice with you. Since she hadn't been able to come to the wedding, she said, "Take my advice, don't ever go to bed angry." She said, "It was something that I should have followed and I didn't," something along those lines. Just, you know, that if you go to bed angry then it is going to eat at you and when you wake up in the morning it is going to still be with you, always make up before you go to bed. I think that because they were two such strong personalities that neither one of them was willing to say back down and say I was wrong in that or to take the others needs above theirs kind of thing. I just think they probably were not a very good match for each other in terms of in relationships because they were such strong personalities. I think there was definitely very warm feelings for each other.

DL: Bill said that two, that they cared very much for one another but they fought incessantly. I asked Bill, I said "Is there anybody of whom Eddie was ever afraid?"

MR: He told me that.

DL: He shot back immediately, Yes, my mother. He was terrified of her. I tried to ask him what did he mean by that. He would not elaborate. He just said he was terrified of her. I said "Why?" He said she had his number.

DL: What does that mean?

MR: She probably just really knew how to get to him. I don't know, make life miserable, I'm not sure. You know, when you think of the life that he lead after he came back from the war the impression I got from things that I had read or heard sounds like he was made into the hero all the more. The press really had a field day. Its very hard to not--it's probably hard to be a human when you have been made to be a hero on that scale.

DL: Yes.

MR: So you probably always have to try to look at your actions and everything as well, "Would a hero do this?", that kind of thing. As you were saying earlier, that--I think it prevented him from being as much of the person that he wanted to be. Maybe he always thought well, is this appropriate for my stature in life. I don't know. Maybe she had some dirt on him. Who knows.

DL: Well, one dealer who was showing me some books that had belonged to Eddie, some of which I bought for our collection at Auburn. I bought a four volume run of the great silver fleet which I'm glad we have. But we were going through these books and there was a book there about--oh, what was her name? ...about a great female photographer.

MR: Not Margaret Burke White?

DL: Yes, Margaret Burke White. He says he probably picked up--Eddie had an affair with Margaret Burke White. And I said "Where did you get that from?" He wouldn't elaborate.

MR: Who said that? Bill?

DL: No, no, no. Not Bill.

MR: The steeler?

DL: The steeler. And there is a picture of Eddie and Margaret Burke White at the Indianapolis 500 in the late 1930s dressed to the nines and I know that Margaret Burke White had a thing for aviators. I mean her autobiography indicates that and I know that she did contract work for Eastern Airlines in the late 1930s as an industrial photographer. That is the only place I have ever picked up any indication that Eddie had any kind of involvement with another woman and I don't know that it is true. My on tendency would be to think that Eddie has a very strong sense of propriety in what a heroic figure should do and how he should comport himself in that way. I did ask Bob [Serling] "Did you ever hear of anything about Eddie Rickenbacker having improper relationships with women?" He said "I've heard a lot of things about Eddie Rickenbacker but I never heard anything like that." I suppose it is an indelicate question but what about Margaret Burke White?

MR: I don't know anything about Margaret Burke White. I think Grandmother suspected at one time that he was having an affair with somebody but I don't think it was her.

DL: Would that have been in the '30s?

MR: It might have fit. I'm not sure.

DL: I just have the feeling that there are a lot of clues that not all was well with Eddie and Adelaide in the late 1930s, and yet, I don't have the kind of hard evidence that would, you know, enable me to state that something was going on but there, again, I do have the feeling this was a marriage between two people who had different objectives in life and that rather early on Adelaide liked fine china, she loved to dress well, she loved to play bridge and canasta, and Eddie did not have those kinds of... That is not exactly the kind of thing that Eddie was interested in and I have a feeling that he spent most of his time at work and she spent most of her time with her circle at home.

MR: You know, that probably was true. You know, when he said that he was, maybe he found a pal, he may have thought that he had found the kind of--I'm not saying that he wanted to do this but the kind of woman that would maybe go to an Adirondack camp kind of thing. You know, that kind of relationship, somebody who would support him when he went fishing or something like that. They did have different pursuits. Its true, she did like really nice things. I can show you some of her really nice things before you leave because I've got them.

DL: I get the picture from the honeymoon diary that she was always getting fitted up for new clothing, which she could never have afforded to buy her.

MR: Something about Hope, I don't know if it is in Farr's book, but there is about her losing things and it just drove him bananas the way she kept losing things and it didn't seem to phase her in the least that she had lost a ring or ...

DL: Yes.

MR: ...it was very expensive and...

DL: Here is a man who had grown up in poverty.

MR: Yet she had grown up in poverty too.

DL: Yes, but she had known what it was to be rich, I mean through her marriage with Cliff.

MR: Yes, when you see the photographs in the album you'll see what I mean.


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