Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Paul H. Tyson
Q: Let me stop at this point. Could you tell me a little about your family's background on your father's side, and then we'll go to your mother's side?
TYSON: My father's family is basically Pennsylvania Dutch. He was actually born out of wedlock; long, shaggy dog story involving my grandmother when she was sixteen. He was actually born in a reformatory in Trenton, New Jersey. He grew up bouncing between the family farm in Bordentown, New Jersey and Norristown and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Q: Sounds like a rather difficult life.
TYSON: Very much so. Actually he went off under-age near the end of World War II and joined the navy. My grandmother tracked him down and got him yanked out just as he was finishing basic training. At this point, I think my grandparents had separated and he came back, went to school, got in trouble, and as he always cryptically referred to it, he was a Pennsylvania volunteer in 1946, which was he was given the choice between reform school or the army, so he took the army.
He was sent to, at that point, post-war Germany, and actually was one of the guards in Nuremberg when they hung Goering - well, I guess Goering committed suicide, but other war criminals were hung. He got out, came back to the States, had sent money home which my grandmother had given to her no-account sister, so he stayed there, tried to help get her out of debt, came home one day, discovered she was still sending money to the no- account sister, so he went back in the service.
He was stationed at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and he met my mother at a USO (United Service Organizations, Incorporated) dance where he showed up drunk and one of his buddies bet him five dollars that he couldn't dance with the girl in the red dress. Well he won the bet and started going out with her.
My mother's family; eastern European, Jewish. My grandfather was born in Jersey City; my grandmother was born on the lower east side. They had moved to Asbury Park and had a grocery store that failed, and then moved to Toms River, New Jersey, just before the war and my mother graduated from high school during the war. It was actually quite interesting because Fort Monmouth (and I think she was at Camp Evans) and the communications people approached the Jewish communities and were looking for secretaries and technicians. They had problems getting people because of the German-American Bund, the Italian League, and others. So at eighteen, my mother was doing top-secret work.