Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Paul H. Tyson
TYSON: The fathers definitely put a lot of it on the kids, and there's a problem with that. I'll lay it out by saying when we were in Germany, the men would go out to the field for sixty to ninety days at a time, leaving the women in the housing areas without any real language skills. With three, four, five kids, whatever, and left there to cope. So, I got the lecture, and I know my friends did: “You're the oldest. I'm gone. You need to stand in. Here's what you need to do with your mother,” and “help out with the family.” By and large, particularly since they were teaching us the language in school, I wasn't fluent, but I knew more than my mother. You're sort of the half-adult. In many ways, there's an extraordinary amount of responsibility which in my case and some of my friends cases, we more than undertook. Fine, gotta do this. Consulting with your mother on car repairs or this or that, or “How do we get the engineers out here to fix this?” And then the old men (the fathers) would come in from the field, generally having been out there telling lies to each other for sixty to ninety days about how their wives with five kids are no doubt having affairs with privates or the kids are just out of hand and will need the iron rod when the old man reappears. And he'd show up, and I mean, having done this for sixty or ninety days, help pulling things together, he's go off on a tear about something. It was almost like, “Look, would you just find something wrong so that we can get the explosion out of the way?”
I remember when I was in my late '20s, in the Foreign Service, married, back from my first tour in Germany, and I was out driving with my father and he said, “Well, I know I was tough on you, but you never lied to me.” I looked at him and said, “We lied to you all the time because you never wanted to hear the truth; you'd pop us one for telling you a lie.” So figure out what you want, get it over with, and be done with it.
Q: Where did you go to high school?
TYSON: Pemberton Township High School in Pemberton, New Jersey, which is right outside the gates of Fort Dix. We left Munich in 1963. We had gone to Germany in '61 to Ulm and transferred to Munich. And actually, I trained for my Bar Mitzvah under the chaplain there and was Bar Mitzvahed in Munich. I came back when I had finished seventh grade and I was taking a lot of advanced placement courses. I came back to eighth grade in Pemberton, which, quite frankly, I had already done. I had a good teacher who gave me little projects to do, but I had done the year already. And then did four years of high school there.
Q: Well tell me, in this family atmosphere did you have much time to read or see movies? I mean, what did you do at that time before you hit high school? What do you get active with?
TYSON: I was in Boy Scouts, but I had always read voraciously and there were always movies around on the army base.