John Dunlap, November 23, 2015

Title

John Dunlap, November 23, 2015

Subject

Dyslexia
Education
Vietnam
Laos
Asia
Mexico
Refugees
Religion
Presbyterian Church
Community
Marriage
Travel
Empathy
Volunteerism
Teaching Internationally

Description

John Dunlap was born in New Rochelle, New York in 1940. Dunlap recounts his struggles as a young boy with dyslexia and the ways in which his learning disability affected the rest of his educational career. After receiving help at the Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut, Dunlap was able to graduate and attend Johns Hopkins University. It was during this time at Johns Hopkins that the Vietnam War began. Not willing to wait for the draft, Dunlap joined the Air Force and became an officer after attending Officer Candidate School. Dunlap served in Laos and at a radar site on the border of North Korea. After serving for nearly five years, Dunlap came home to the United States. Unhappy with civilian life in America, Dunlap joined International Voluntary Services and began teaching English in Laos. After many of his students went missing while on holiday, Dunlap left Laos and moved to Indonesia to prepare students to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). After blowing the whistle on the improper handling of testing materials, Dunlap moved to Cooperstown, New York, where he had a small steel garage. Dunlap remembers this garage as his first place to call home.

It was in Cooperstown that Dunlap met his wife, Karen, and started his family. Dunlap moved his two children and his wife to Mexico so they too could experience life in a developing country. The experiences in Mexico and Asia greatly influenced Dunlap’s life and his willingness to sponsor refugee families. Helping refugee families is something that Dunlap is clearly very passionate about and he still assists the Presbyterian Church in Cooperstown and the refugee center in Utica, New York. Aside from sponsoring refugees, Dunlap was a restoration contractor in Cooperstown, a job he enjoyed very much.

Dunlap’s plans for the future include traveling if physically capable, but most likely staying in the house he and his wife own in Richfield Springs, New York. They enjoy gardening and raising their chickens.

The interviewer has edited the transcript for reading capabilities. In the background, noise from Mr. Dunlap’s wife’s interview can be heard, as she was being interviewed at the same time upstairs.

Creator

Patricia Norman

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta

Date

2015-11-23

Rights

Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mp3
27.5 MB
audio/mp3
18.2 MB
audio/mp3
7.6 MB
image/jpeg
3360 × 2520 pixels

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image
Text

Identifier

15-005

Coverage

Upstate New York
1940-2015
Cooperstown, NY

Interviewer

Patricia Norman

Interviewee

John Dunlap

Location

303 County Highway 27
Richfield Springs, NY 13439

Transcription

JD = John Dunlap
PN = Patricia Norman

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

PN:
This is the November 23, 2015 interview of John Dunlap by Patricia Norman for the Cooperstown Graduate Program’s Research and Fieldwork course recorded at John Dunlap’s home in Richfield Springs, NY. So John, can you tell me a little bit about where you grew up?
JD:
I was born in New Rochelle, New York in 1940. I don’t remember the early years. My father was in the army; it was wartime, so we moved out to where he was stationed, which was Morristown, New Jersey at Fort Dix. Eventually, he was sent overseas and we came to New Rochelle, New York. We stayed in New Rochelle for quite a few years, probably ten years. Dad came back, went back to work at New Rochelle hospital, where he was a surgeon. And we stayed there for quite a long time, probably I’d say ten or twelve years. We moved to Larchmont, New York, just up the road. Anyway, we lived in a couple of places up there. I went to school in a private school. Thornton-Donovan School, an interesting place that was run by two ancient ladies from England, wonderful, wonderful people. I was a dyslexic kid. I had lots of problems and Bertha, the eldest, I think, no, the second of the girls, she was about eighty-five, and she taught me how to read. I was quite a burden as you can imagine. Dyslexia wasn’t even [recognized as a disability]—they didn’t have any idea what it was. It kind of relegated people who had that kind problem. I went to public school until they asked me to leave [laughter]. Anyway, I grew up there in New Rochelle for a few years until I was about eight or nine [fourteen years old] and then we moved to Larchmont, New York. And then I started traveling by train to Rye Country Day School. I went there with my sister and other friends. Have I told you what you wanted to know or do you want me to go on? Okay, well after I went there for a while and I graduated the eighth grade or the ninth grade, my parents put me into a private school, the Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut [which was] one of a group of prep schools in the area. They were all pretty good. They put up with me for a while, I mean they didn’t kick me out or anything, but you know, I had to repeat eighth grade. Dyslexia really had an effect on me for a long period of time. But eventually I got over that and I went from there to the Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut. I graduated from Taft and I went to Johns Hopkins University. Have you had enough?
PN:
So, what did you do after John Hopkins?
JD:
Johns Hopkins
PN:
Johns Hopkins
JD:
Okay, what did I do after? I joined the Air Force in 1963-64. I didn’t ever think about the draft or anything like that, but I simply joined because I had some opportunities by joining. I went to Officer’s Candidate School and was [became] an officer. I was in the United States for a while and then guess where I went? Vietnam. I lived in Laos, actually, but it was all connected with the Vietnam War directly. And I was in Laos, about a year, I guess, and then it was time for me to be relieved from active duty. You know, you have a responsibility and I requested release from active duty. Instead of giving me a release, they [the Air Force] sent me to South Korea. This was right after the Puebla [USS Pueblo]. Have you ever heard of the Puebla [USS Pueblo]? It was a ship that was taken by the North Koreans, our ship, about that time. So, there was fear that there was going to be a resumption of the Korean War [while in international waters], you know a little history, okay. That was the justification for keeping me in [the Air Force] longer. I was at a radar site right on the border up there, not too far from Seoul, but very close to the border with North Korea. It was not a happy place to be [an obvious first target if North Korea attacked]. Anyway, so I was there for a couple of years and then. I think I got out of the Air Force then. Yeah, I got out of the Air Force; I put in my time and I came back to the United States and I didn’t much care for my experience in the United States. I started teaching school for a while and then I said to hell with that and I joined an organization called International Voluntary Services, a precursor to the Peace Corps. And then I went to Laos as a civilian, as opposed to being a weapons controller in the Air Force. I was a civilian teacher. Let’s see, I skipped a few years there, because it’s hard to keep them all together. But eventually I decided, my kids were going off on vacations or on trips in Laos and they started not coming back, and that was a very scary thing. I don’t know what happened to them, but probably they were either captured by the North Vietnamese or else they were killed or else they decided to go home. Who knows? But with that scenario, I had had enough of that scenario in my life already and so I left the [International Voluntary Services]. I had been in the Air Force for nearly five years. I came back to the United States and taught school in Middletown. I was selected to teach what they called the “locals.” The “locals” were kids who weren’t going to go anywhere. You can imagine that it was a difficult position, because the kids were—anyway we don’t need to go into that. So, I left that and let’s see I don’t remember when I left that exactly, but I became a true civilian. About that time, I moved up here to Cooperstown. Before I went to Laos, a friend of mine and I came up. I had never been to Cooperstown and he wanted me to see Cooperstown before I left. It was a really kind deed. So I came up and saw Cooperstown and I [decided] I might come back to this country, because at this time I was waffling. So, I bought a little place up on Route 20, not on Route 20, on the road going to Cooperstown. Route 80, I guess it is. It was a steel garage, one of those prefabricated steel garages. And then I went back to Southeast Asia, again. Where did I go then? I went to Indonesia. I had a Fulbright [assignment], grant. I rather liked that job, I liked teaching there, the kids were responsible and interested. It wasn’t like when I lived in Laos, where the kid would go away and get killed. I liked that, but—have you had enough? Okay. So after a while I became aware that the TOEFL, you know the TOEFL test, Test of English as a Foreign Language. I was preparing kids for the TOEFL, native Sumatrans, Indonesians. I became aware of the fact that they sent me some tests and booklets and stuff like that and they had all been opened up before they got there. They weren’t supposed to have been opened up. These things were all tests—specific instructions about how to deal with them. Well I was appalled and I called my boss at the Embassy. I was working for the Embassy then. I was not a diplomat, but I was a teacher and she told me just to forget it and that was not my way. I had enough of that in the military, you know, so I wrote to the Educational Testing Service, you know the ones who made up all of these examinations, and I told them what happened. Within a couple of weeks, I received a call from Jakarta. I went up there for an interview and I was fired. Fired, because I had blown the whistle on them, was exactly what happened. You know, people in power work in different ways and they have different rules [chuckle], so I came back to the United States. I came to this little place on Route 80 that I had purchased several years before thinking about that I’d ought to have a place to call home. And I’m still here. I met my wife Christmas caroling the second winter I was [here]. My wife was kind of a local person, she’s from Schenevus. Have you heard you of Schenevus? It’s down the road a piece, it’s not far, ten miles. She was a nurse at [Mary Imogene] Bassett [Hospital] and we went out Christmas caroling and to make a long story short, we got married, and had kids. But in there also I had made an arrangement with my church. We agreed to sponsor some refugees from Laos and since I had lived in Laos and knew the native peoples there, not their language, but I knew them, they came to live with me. There were five kids and the mom. The father had been killed in the war. Eventually, they made some contacts with Hmong. Did I tell you they were Hmong? Well it’s a group of mountain people in Laos. They located their leader, the chief, if you will, in the United States and then they moved out there. They have done very well. There were five kids, the mom died. All those kids are now U.S. citizens and have been for some years now. They got married and I lost contact with them. It happens all the time [unintelligible]. So anyway, what else can I tell you?
PN:
So you’re involved with the church…
JD:
Yeah
PN:
How does the church help refugees in Cooperstown?
JD:
Well, they help them because they sponsor them. They sponsor them and the reason they got involved—well I think the reason that they got in on it, because I was kind of on a bandwagon for bringing some over [laughing]. I was willing to house them and they were very supportive, extremely supportive. The church and also the people in the church, so that’s how I got involved in that. After that we had other refugees too, from El Salvador. These were unofficial, illegals. Anyways, that’s always been a part of my life. I’ve been dealing with the people who are getting screwed somehow or another.
PN:
What are your current thoughts on the refugee crisis?
JD:
Well, we have already talked about it in our house, my wife thinks we are beyond that. I mean you know, we are not youngsters, but I don’t think we’ve finished that discussion either. On the other hand, you know, you have to be sensitive to your wife and we’ve been together for lots of years. I have to take into consideration her desires and needs. I should tell you that it’s not easy being a sponsor of refugees. We know that, because we have done it and I’m 75 now, so probably I should have given up this kind of thing, but I guess I can’t really. Did I tell you we moved to Mexico?
PN:
No, if you could tell me a little bit more about that?
JD:
It’s a few years now, our kids were probably in the second grade and I convinced my wife that they really needed to have an experience in the Third World. Having spent so much time in the Third World myself, I realized that there were many positive things about living in these societies, and she agreed, so we took our kids to Mexico. I had a job teaching English as a foreign language at a private school there and we went. It didn’t work out; this school was more of a way of making money than it was concerned with education. I was fortunate, I left that job and went and taught at a university, the largest university in that area in Mexico and I had a great experience down there teaching these kids. It was the first time I ever had willing students. I taught in high school in the country a little bit, in this country. So, anyway, I don’t know where I was there. Eventually we came back from Mexico. Prior to leaving for Mexico, I had been working as a restoration contractor. Are you familiar with the term? Do you know what it means? Okay. I had my own business, but then we went to Mexico. What can I tell you? It was crazy. We rented our house and went to Mexico. We were there for two years. It was a difficult time, because both of my wife’s parents died while we were in Mexico, so that was really pretty grim, pretty tough. I would have stayed there much longer, I’m sure, because I had a very nice position at this very good university. I knew, and my wife knew too, that if we continued there that our kids would be given scholarships to this university, which is a prestigious place in Mexico. You may not have known that there are many prestigious places. Anyway, we came home. I had built a house a couple of hills over here and we came back to that house and then I went back into business again, but my knees were shot. They are still shot. They are artificial now, so I couldn’t kneel, I couldn’t do the things I really needed to do to be a contractor. So, not too long ago, ten years ago, we bought this house here, which is an ideal location and an ideal place to be. It couldn’t be better. We have a piece of property, you know, we have about 15 acres or so and we have a large garden area. Karen [my wife] is a big gardener, she provides a lot of the food and we also keep chickens and sell eggs, and eat chickens too, of course. We’ve had a very nice life here, I mean we’ve been here, and our kids were brought up, not in this house, but in the immediate area. They went to Cooperstown school system, which we believed, and still believe, is a very good school system. Are you familiar with that? Probably not. It’s way above the normal school system. It’s partly, probably because of the influence of Jane Clark, whom you may have heard of, and others who wanted to make sure that the hospital had the physicians they wanted and needed. They knew that if they were going to have that, they had to have a good educational system and it’s been a symbiotic relationship as far as I’m concerned, because our kids got a lot out of going to school here. They are both out of here now. One is more or less married, except not legally. Has a kid, but we’ll see, he’s doing really well. My daughter is at Cornell, working on her PhD in literature, English literature. It hasn’t been a smooth ride for her, but it’s what happens in the game of life.
PN:
So, it seems like education is very important to you, can you explain how you got into teaching?
JD:
Oh yeah, sure. Well, oh yes [chuckle], as I said, I worked [attended] Johns Hopkins University, it was a good school. This was in 1963, just about when Vietnam was opening up, so I guess I felt obligated as an adult male to join the Air Force, so that’s what I did. Now I’ve lost track of your question.
PN:
How you got into teaching?
JD:
Oh how I got into teaching. Well, when I went to Hopkins I was a humanities major, mainly because I wasn’t interested in anything very much. Except football, I also played football, not that that’s a big football school, but that’s what I did. I mean that was the thing that kept me in school, I wanted to play football and I enjoyed playing football. I managed to graduate too. [laughing] But, I went into the Air Force right after that. I was in the Air Force for four and a half or five years. Pretty bad places. So, I was released from active duty after, I think, about five years and I had a friend in Gilbertsville. Are you familiar with Gilbertsville? It’s just south of Cooperstown about ten miles. Before I left, he said well [unintelligible] you’ve never been to Cooperstown. He lived quite close, so he invited me to come up. He was going to show me Cooperstown and the area. I came up here and I said to myself, “gee whiz” you know, I’ve got to have a place that I can call home. He and I went out and looked at a number of different places and I bought a little—he bought for me, because I went back overseas, he bought a place for me up the road a piece here. So I did have place to come back to when I got out. You have another question?
PN:
Yes, how did you get interested in teaching?
JD:
Oh you asked me that earlier. Well, at Hopkins I was a humanities major as I told you, which is, you know, the concentration in English, so I was prepared to teach when I left Hopkins. I mean it’s a good school, not that I was a topnotch student, I was a goofball a lot of the time. I think it had something to do with the fact that I was a dyslexic kid and teachers really made the difference in my life. I was a difficult child, because of that, you know. Now they have names for it, I don’t know. So, it seemed like a reasonable way to go. I taught, also, when I was living in the Philippines. I studied some in the Philippines too, but I was in the military. I became interested in teaching perhaps through that, but then I was sent to Thailand during the war and I had relationships with young kids, their moms, and dads in Nakhon Phanom, which is northeastern Thailand. I taught little girls a little English, you know that kind of thing. I don’t know what your question was anymore. How did I get interested in teaching? Well I don’t really know the answer, I’ve always been interested in teaching and studying. I mean I’m still a student. I hope that answers your question.
PN:
What was a typical workday overseas when you were teaching?
JD:
Well I lived in Vientiane, which was the capital of Laos. It was a small town, though, and I would get on my motorcycle and run out to Dongdok, which was the name of the school that I was teaching in and I had regular classes. Very similar to, you know, college or junior colleges, something like that. I probably told you that I left, because my kids were going away on holidays. I told you that, so I had to leave. Vietnam was coming to a conclusion and it was clear to me that it wasn’t going to do any good for any of the kids I taught English to, so I came back to the United States and I went to teach at Cherry Valley. You know Cherry Valley, it’s right up the road. Substandard at the time anyway, it was, and I got into quick conflict with the administration over there. I always get into conflict with administrators of all sorts, because they don’t want to do things my way and they have their heads screwed on wrong. So anyway, then I left. That’s when I really became a restoration contractor. I have always been good with my hands and I’ve always worked with wood and it’s not hard if you can talk [laughter] and you know something to get a job, to make a job. I really enjoyed doing that for a long time.
PN:
What are some projects you worked on when you were a restoration contractor?
JD:
Oh okay, well mostly I was working on houses in the Village of Cooperstown. I didn’t build anything new, I was only dealing with restructuring [restoring] houses that were already built, but that had things that the folks who lived in them wanted—that were there, you know, bathrooms, whatever, I did all that stuff. I had a man working with me, Jim McCoy, uneducated, but a very smart man, very intelligent. You’re talking thirty years ago now and I’m still in contact with him. He’s seventy-eight, I’m only seventy-five and we still remain friends. It was a great experience working. I like working with my hands. On the other hand, I like working with my head, so I’ve had a great combination, because of that.
PN:
So you’ve mentioned your children, what are some challenges of being a parent?
JD:
Oh my heavens! First of all, they want to be their own people, they don’t want to be what you want them to be. You know, if you’ve interviewed anybody with kids, you must’ve heard something like that before. My kids went to Cooperstown, which is a good school system and my son was frequently in trouble over there. Sarah, my daughter, was a star, if you will. She went to Cornell and did well there and she’s a permanent student, I’d say. She’s been working on her PhD, for I don’t know how many years on some aspect of English literature, but I don’t know if she’ll ever get there, but I never got there either. [laughter] She’s having an interesting time too. And my son—you didn’t ask me this—did you ask me this already? My son is in Phoenix, near Phoenix, Mesa and he has a child and an interesting relationship with a woman. We hope that they’ll get married, you just don’t know. Anyway, we just came back from there about two weeks ago. So, whatever your question was I didn’t answer it.
PN:
No, you did. So why is marriage so important to you?

[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]
JD:
Why is it so important? Kids are really important to me as a starter. They’ve always been important to me, even when I wasn’t married, when I was teaching. What was your question? Why do we have kids?
PN:
No, why is marriage important?
JD:
Oh, why is marriage important? Well, of course, the fact that you have a companion to share your life with is exceedingly important. Then, having children is a wonderful experience and I have no regrets about anything. I shouldn’t say that, of course there are regrets. I was married previously, but no children and that failed, that’s the easiest way to put it. Lucky me, because I came to Cooperstown. Things kind of get muffled up, you know—seventy-five, you know how things are. I met Karen out Christmas caroling, and I was invited and she was invited too and we met there. We hit it off pretty well and have been married now for, I don’t know how many years; oh I shouldn’t say that. About thirty or thirty-five, I don’t know.
PN:
Did you get married in a church?
JD:
Oh yes. We are both very active in the church. Yeah, the church has been a real big part of our life, and continues to be. A part of that is, you know, the church supported us when we got these refugees and that wasn’t an easy situation as you can imagine. There were five kids and the mom, and me, [laughing and coughing] because that was before we got married. She got sucked in pretty quickly. [laughing] So, I’m into to it again, but she’s not going to go for it.
PN:
What church do you belong to?
JD:
The Presbyterian Church. The First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown.
PN:
And can you tell me a little bit more about a particular minister that’s important in your life?
JD:
Oh yeah. Well, when I came back from Vietnam, from my military service, I gravitated back to the church and I met the pastor there, Robert Hurst and his family. I was kind of a stiff-necked military type of person when I came back and Bob Hurst helped me to see things in a different light. He was very helpful to me and has been all my life, he passed away just recently, but what a wonderful guy he was. We were married in his church and Karen originally was a Catholic person, but she’s now a Presbyterian too. We are both tied into the church pretty tightly. Is that what you were asking about?
PN:
Why is religion important to you?
JD:
Why is it important to us? Well, I think that everybody needs a guide for their life, for heaven’s sakes and we’re fortunate to be Christians and that’s our guide for the way we live our life. That may sound funny, but I mean it took me a long time to get there. Well, not too long, I guess I was always kind of involved, but not in organized religion necessarily, especially when I was living in faraway places. There were no Christians in any place that I lived in. Did I answer your question? More or less?
PN:
What are some other activities you are involved with in the church?
JD:
[Coughing] There’s a group that meets once a week to study a book of one kind or another. Karen is the ringleader there, but I come occasionally. Don’t get too close to me, I’ve got a little cold. At any rate, so that’s one thing. I’m an officer in the church, I’m what they call an elder. Have you heard of that term? Well, it just means that I’m one of the high mucky-mucks in the structure, but not very high. We have a pastor too, who’s the head of all this. I don’t know if I’d be there if it weren’t for the pastor I met after I came back from my sojourn and various places in Southeast Asia. I went back and forth a few times too.
PN:
What are your responsibilities as an elder?
JD:
Well, they call them Ruling Elders and that’s kind of a catchall phrase, I guess. We have a monthly meeting and if there are difficulties or things that need to be dealt with—about the physical property or this or that, we try to deal with those kinds of things. Did I answer your question?
PN:
Can you tell me a little bit more about the current pastor?
JD:
Oh yes, Elsie Rhodes. You haven’t met her? Oh yeah, she’s a really dynamic woman. She has a couple kids and she’s married and she’s in her, probably, mid-forties. Very dynamic, good preacher, and a good person to consult with if you have a problem. She is really very active and very dedicated to her mission. Yeah, she’s a winner. What else was I going to say about her? What was your question about the pastor?
PN:
Yeah, if you could just tell me how she’s influenced you or the community?
JD:
Excuse me, how she relates?
PN:
How she influences.
JD:
I really can’t answer that too directly. She’s always trying to attract other people to come to the church. She has a wonderful kind of personality, she’s very effective doing that and she also gets us involved in doing various things in the community. I don’t know if I told you that for about twenty years now, or twenty-five years now I go down to Oneonta with a crew every month to serve at the Lord’s Table down there. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Lord’s Table, it’s in the Episcopal Church down there. We go down there and serve meals and wash the dishes and that’s it. It’s not bad, it’s only one day a month. There’s a deer going through the forest there. Can you see him?
PN:
No.
JD:
Look high to where the…he’s probably going to come out right out on the field. I’m not a hunter either.
PN:
So how does the church interact with the community of Cooperstown?
JD:
The community is such a general term; I don’t know what to say to that. She makes personal contacts with people in the neighborhood and she meets and she makes herself available. She’s a Rotarian. Rotary, you ever heard of the Rotary? I guess she does that; I don’t know anything about the Rotary. It’s a service organization and she’s in the Rotary and active that way. What was your question again?
PN:
Just how the community interacts with Cooperstown.
JD:
In Cooperstown the churches are pretty closely knit, especially the Protestant churches. We get along with the Roman Catholics perfectly well. Although, they had a great priest there for a long time, but he’s gone. We always have gotten along well with them and there are lots of communal enterprises that our church is involved individually and within the church. We have a ministry of, I hate that term, but we provide food to a food bank. We run the food bank, if you’ve heard of that. So we’re open five days a week, or six days a week. Thank goodness that’s not my job, I load up the place, you know. There are other people who are a lot better people than I am, who run it. So that’s one thing they do, but we’re involved in all kinds of things. Our church is involved in all kinds of things in the community and outside the community too. I mentioned the Lord’s Table, I guess that’s right. Even though Oneonta is a long way, we go down there the fourth Wednesday of the month and serve down there. Other questions about that?
PN:
If we could just go back to helping refugees, how do you think Cooperstown can help refugees?
JD:
Well first of all, Cooperstown is made-up of very liberal people I would say. [laughter] That’s the best way I could say it. It’s a sophisticated group, they’re well educated and interested in what’s going on in the world. That right there tells you why we’ve been involved with refugees for a long time, as I told you. I told you we had a family here, five of them. We’ve had other people come too, I mean people from El Salvador and that neck of the woods. Many of them have come up through here, through Cooperstown to escape to Canada, because you know the federal government is not as receptive as the Canadians. The US federal government is not as receptive as Canadians tend to be, so we’ve run quite a few up to the border. [laughter]
PN:
Are there any plans to help Syrian refugees in the coming months?
JD:
I have my plans and we are actually…our church is involved in Utica. They have a large refugee resettlement. Are you familiar with that?
PN:
I am not.
JD:
Okay. Resettlement, entry level resettlement, and we went up there. We don’t have a refugee family, but I know those people in the church, who are interested in that and I don’t think I’m going to convince my wife that we should do that, but others will.
PN:
So if people can’t sponsor a refugee family, what other ways can they assist?
JD:
If they can’t? Well for one thing they can go to Utica. There’s a big facility, I don’t remember the name of the place, it’s a big building that provides all kinds of services to refugees there. They’re always looking for people to come up there to, you know, do this or that. I mean they teach classes there, they do, you know, English as a foreign language and they have opportunities to recommend people for jobs, so that’s quite an operation up there. Have you been to Utica?
PN:
I have not.
JD:
It’s a pretty good sized city, you know, it’s probably fifty thousand people. Maybe more than that and it’s been involved with different kinds of…I’m going to say ministries, but you know, ways of helping people.
PN:
How have you seen Cooperstown change over the years?
JD:
That’s a trick question. You know, I really don’t know how to answer that. I’ve changed over the years, I know that, but everybody changes over the years. The communities do too, but I would say that this is a very receptive community to, you know, refugees, but also to students. We gather people at the church, the student body in the area. We have lots of activities over at the church, so it’s appealing to people. We’ve gone to pick blueberries every blueberry season and then sell them. I don’t do that, but my wife does. I forgot what your question was. What does the church do, or no?
PN:
Just how Cooperstown has changed—
JD:
How it’s changed?
PN:
--since you first came here.
JD:
I really can’t speak to that. We don’t even live in the village, but we live in the area. When people say “where do you live,” we say Cooperstown, simply because it seems like it’s a large community, with surrounding areas also kind of seeing themselves as Cooperstonians. There’s good relationships in this county and in this area on many levels. Is that my cat? Yes, it is, it’s okay. He brought a mouse in here to eat. You missed that.
PN:
How has tourism affected the area?
JD:
I don’t really know. I really can’t answer that, because we don’t have any contact with tourists, unless they’re incidental. There are a lot of people who come up here for the summer too. They’re not really tourists, they either have a summer camp up here or they come all the time in the summer. For two to three weeks they stay here or there. Some of them have regular arrangements with the people in the village of Cooperstown and they rent out their apartment for three weeks and the other people who want to go someplace. All kinds of ways that people interact.
PN:
So, what are your plans for the future?
JD:
The plans for the future? Well, I’ve given up going to China, because my knees. I don’t know, I guess I’m going to stay in the United States probably, most of the time. Unless I get forced out by the politics. I mean, you know, I’m kind of a liberal. It’s scary what’s going on in the United States. The candidates tend to be not the best people, I don’t think, for the position they’re seeking, so that’s a problem. Of course I’ve talked to my wife many times about leaving this country, but guess what? She is a Schenevus kid. You know of Schenevus? Schenevus is on the southeastern side of the county. She was brought up there. Her father was a farmer, they milked about twenty cows, that was their biggest number. She has lots of friends and relatives around here too, so the chance of getting out of here, is probably pretty slim. Although, we were in Mexico for almost two years. It was great, yeah it was great. She had a great time too. She learned Spanish, though I never learned Spanish. When you are teaching English it is hard, unless you have a facility. Some people just pick it up like crazy. My son, we were there for a year and half, I guess, he just [unintelligible] like crazy for the longest time and very quickly. Anyway, what was your question by now? What do I see for the future, something like that? I don’t think we’ll leave this particular plot, because you know we own that property up there and Karen really likes to garden. She provides a lot of food to the community and to our house and she just enjoys that, so I think that it’s unlikely that we’ll move from here. But you know, I’d be happy to go someplace else. Maybe. Until I got there, but this is a lovely place to live. It attracts a lot of very interesting people here too. Though a lot of people do things a little differently here than they do in other places. Not that many people, who live off the lands like we do, lots of people around here do though. You know they don’t have another job, they might have had one when they were younger and they’ve had a small nest egg and now they are supporting themselves. Did I tell you we have chickens? We sell eggs. Ours aren’t even out yet. Can you let me just, they should be out now?

[START OF TRACK 3, 0:00]
PN:
How, overall, do you think your experiences in other countries have affected the way you live your life today?
JD:
Radical ways! First of all, in Southeast Asia, all the places I lived in Southeast Asia, the people didn’t have the things that we have and they managed to live very well in many ways, without the luxuries that we have here. That has affected me, because those things don’t mean anything to me. Things don’t. I know that’s not because of my brilliance or anything, it’s because of my experience in other places. Did I answer your question? Oh good.
PN:
How did living in Mexico influence your children?
JD:
That’s a tricky question. Well, my son moved right into the culture. My daughter was a little older, a couple years older than he is, she really kind of resisted. She’s bookish anyway and even though she was in elementary school where nobody spoke any English, she didn’t get out of it what my son did. It has to do with the personality too, he is very outgoing and easy to make friends with. It was tougher for my daughter, as I say. What was the rest of the question or was there anything else?
PN:
Just what the impact was on living in Mexico with your children.
JD:
We really enjoyed ourselves down there and it was a difficult to come back in many ways. More difficult for me, I think, than for my wife. My wife’s mother and father both died while we were in Mexico, so that really makes an impact on you. I mean she came back, but had to come back to take care of the kids too. What was your question? How was the impact? If you live in a foreign country wherever you are, if you’re assimilated in any way, you begin to see that the people in that country have solved their problems in different ways than we have. Or deal with problems differently than we have. They are effective in the way they deal. I don’t know if that answers your question?
PN:
How do you think these experiences help you relate to refugees?
JD:
[Cat jumps on table] No, no, no you can’t get on the table, you know that. Sorry, you’ve attracted this cat to the table. What now?
PN:
How do these experiences help you relate to refugee families that come over here?
JD:
Well I mean, essentially when we lived abroad, we weren’t refugees, you know, we didn’t know the culture and the language and whatever, so you become I think, more empathetic towards people. [clears throat] Excuse me. Empathy is probably the most critical value that I’ve learned from that experience. Also, having been a foreigner in a dominant culture that wasn’t my own, so I’ve learned a lot from that, but it’s not been a hard learning experience for me. Every culture has its good points and its bad points, you know, every one. And I really feel blessed that I have had the opportunity to live in so many different places and to learn so many different ways of dealing with the problems of the world and wherever else. I think I’ve been able to pass that on to my children too. And Karen learned a terrific amount. You can imagine, her father was a farmer, a milk farmer. They had twenty cows, that was it, baby. So what an experience it was for her. We’ve been back to Mexico; we’ve had some Mexican people here too. It’s difficult to maintain those contacts, it really is unless you see people. If you don’t see them, it’s tough. Anyway, whatever you asked me I guess that’s my answer, whatever it was.
PN:
Yes.
JD:
I don’t know what your question was now or not. How can you get all of this stuff down? You have to wade through all this stuff? You have to write a paper probably, right? Yeah.
PN:
One last question, how can you pass along your knowledge from all your life experiences to others?
JD:
To others? The others have to be interested and I don’t know how you do that. I don’t know how to answer that question, I mean, I’m pretty open about my experiences abroad and I like talking about it, because they were so important for my life. [Cat scratches his arm] Oh, you stinker. Cats need to have a little training. Look at those claws, wow. Anyway, the question again?
PN:
Just how you can pass along your life experiences to help others. Whether with the refugee issue or just being more accepting and open.
JD:
I don’t really know how to answer that precisely. I have really valued my experiences in other cultures. I’ve learned a lot from people and some of those things are not easily identifiable. It’s hard lessons to explain to somebody else, but I do think that my empathy has developed over the years, inexorably. Either that develops or else you don’t go back to a foreign place. We’ve gone to quite a few foreign places and Karen and I are probably going to be going someplace else pretty soon.
PN:
Well thank you so much for your time, I appreciate it.
JD:
Well sure, it’s been interesting and fun.
[END OF TRACK 3, 8:15]

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Patricia Norman, “John Dunlap, November 23, 2015,” CGP Community Stories, accessed October 4, 2022, http://www.cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/232.