Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Donald R. Norland
NORLAND: In June of 1924. So from about '26 until '31, we lived on the farm.
The Depression hit, and my father couldn't make a good living by farming (and by this time there were five of us in the family), so he returned to Laurens to resume his duties as the superintendent of schools. He was very popular, I think it's not unfair to say. So I had eight years, from '31 to '39, living in Laurens.
As a matter of fact, I went back to the 50th high school reunion although I didn't graduate from there. In '39, things having improved, my father, having done his stint in educating, returned to the farm near Kensett, Iowa. So from '39 to '41, I finished high school in the town of Kensett, named for a painter, John Kensett, I believe. It was a poor school. There were 25 in the graduating class, and it was really an improvised arrangement—a tiny little gymnasium, no football team, all the things that I'd wanted. I graduated from there in 1941.
That fall, what more natural thing to do than to go to the school where my father had taught and my mother had gone to school, Iowa State Teachers' College. So I went to college beginning in September '41. Pearl Harbor was bombed that fall. And in 1943, like so many others (I was 19 and I knew the time was coming) I joined the U.S. Navy. And that began the period of detachment from my roots, you might say.
Q: For so many. World War II had such a profound influence on our whole generation, and the generation later, of the Foreign Service.
Q: It got us out of the small towns.
NORLAND: How true! While in Laurens, I had gotten interested in something which one could never dream would play an important role in my life—the sport of football. I became a lineman. (I was big enough then; I weighed about 40 pounds more than I do now.) And when I got into the Navy V-12 program at Northwest Missouri State Teachers's College (Maryville, Missouri), I went out for the football team. In May of 1944, having spent eight months at this pre-midshipman training at Maryville and several months at Asbury Park, N.J., I was sent to Cornell, where I got my ensign's commission in September of '44. And then, in a great bit of luck, I qualified for PT Boats; people thought being a football player gave you a special ability to resist the particular kind of beating you take in PTs.
Q: PT means a small motor boat...