Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with David J. Fischer
FISCHER: The first thing about it, it was extraordinary liberating. I traveled from Minneapolis to New York. It must have been late August of 1958 to board the then New Amsterdam. I'd certainly never been on an ocean liner before. I knew very little about the American west. I was essentially an East Coast person although I'd moved to the Midwest. So the first night at the bar, when I met a very attractive woman by the name of Dixie Jones, I'll never forget that. Dixie was a Mormon from Salt Lake City. I said, can I buy you a drink? She said, no, I don't drink. I said well can I get you a soft drink, a Coke, whatever. She said, no I don't do that because it has caffeine in it. So I said, what do you like to do? Well, you get the punchline and for the next five days, I never surfaced out of my cabin.
Q: Other than that what were you doing?
FISCHER: I was bumming around. My year in Vienna was extraordinary. I went there with no interest in classical music and ended up being a member of a clack, a paid clack at the Vienna state opera house, so I got to go to operas every night. Not only that, but I got paid for it, five shillings (the equivalent of 25 cents.) In those days five shillings was enough to buy me a very, very good meal. My studies at the University were extraordinarily easy, largely because I think the professors figured since I was an American I knew nothing, and I wasn't worth their wasting any time trying to teach me anything. I got exposed to an embassy, the Foreign Service. The real reason I guess I joined the Foreign Service, I had never been in an embassy before in my life, and two experiences happened. The Marine guards at the embassy in Vienna were selling scotch on the black market out the back door of the commissary. So you could buy a bottle of scotch for I think we paid, three dollars, which subsequently I learned they were buying for seventy-five cents! It was a good business for them. I was interested in Eastern Europe, Eastern European history. And in fact I went to Vienna with the idea of doing some work on a thesis I would be writing my senior year at Brown on Polish-German history. Although many people find it hard to believe, if you remember, in the days of 1958, you had a big green passport and on the back of it, it said this passport is not valid for travel to the following countries, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the whole list of communist states in eastern Europe. I wanted to study in Eastern Europe; I wanted to go to Poland. So I went to the American Embassy, and if you gave them any cock and bull story they usually would validate your passport.