Special Collections Oral History Program
Interviewer: Carole Morris
Date of Interview: June 21, 2003
Location of Interview: Western Washington University, Viking Union
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This interview was conducted with Arthur Heald (BAE 1954) in the Viking Union on June 21, 2003. The interviewer is Carole Morris. This was part of the Golden Vikings Reunion weekend.
CM: First of all, Arthur, why donít you tell me a little about yourself? Why did you choose to attend Western?
AH: I chose to attend Western because it was here and cheap. I think I paid $18 in fees for the first quarter that I attended here, plus books.
CM: Great! And you were from New Jersey?
CM: Demarest High School?
CM: So howíd you hear about it?
AH: My mother re-married, and we moved to the west coast. Thatís why I didnít start in fall; I started in January, because I didnít start the application process until August.
CM: And what year was that?
AH: It was August of í48, so I started January of í49. I started the day they broke ground for the Auditorium Building.
CM: Oh really? The Performing Arts?
CM: Thatís interesting.
AH: Yes, there was a huge crane in there digging up dirt the day I drove onto campus, January 3rd.
CM: Great. What town were you living in?
CM: Oh, you were?
CM: (Laughter) I live there now.
AH: No, my step-father was the pastor of the Nooksack Valley Reformed Church, and he and Mother met on a transcontinental train trip, and that was in í47. And I finished high school in í48, and she came out in July of í48, and they got married. I lived with them for the first two years at school, and then, while I was playing soldier, he transferred to a mission here in Bellingham. And so I lived with them on G Street.
CM: So what were your parentsí names?
AH: Well, Van Bronkhorst, Alex Van Bronkhorst was my step-fatherís name. Mother was Cornelia MacArthur Heald.
CM: What degrees or certificates did you receive from Western?
AH: I got a BA, and I think it was a series of minors, rather than a major and a minor. It was general, geography was one, economics was one, maybe history. I donít remember.
CM: A variety. What other degrees, if any, did you receive elsewhere (before or after your attendance at Western)?
CM: What was your first job after leaving Western?
AH: I went to work as a teller at the Bellingham National Bank, and I stayed there for thirteen years. After a couple of years (I donít remember how many), I was elected as auditor of the bank. Then after being auditor for awhile, they put the responsibility for hiring and firing the clerks in my lap. One of the interesting things that came out of my experience was, as auditor, I was in charge of making sure that all the assets were there and not overstated or understated, and I was pretty good at that. But, then, while I was looking after the assets of the bank, it came to my attention that the President of the bank was trying to steal the bank.
AH: And I was responsible to the Chairman of the Board, so I had a visit with him and he said, "Oh, yes. I know what heís doing."
And I said, "You going to do something about it?"
And he said, "Iím too old."
I wonít mention who his name was, but he was chairman of the board at that time, that would have been in í63. So I did something about it. I passed the information on to a stockholder, who was incensed. And he got together a group of fellows, and they blocked the merger. There was a proposed merger with the Peopleís National Bank, and the President had bought a whole bunch of stock in his name and his daughterís name and his son-in-lawís name, and he was lying to his Board of Directors; and, as Vince Wilder said afterwards, "If this had been a listed stock, what he did was illegal."
And so, it was immoral to start with.
CM: So your job had a pretty big impact on the business community in Bellingham.
AH: Yes, it did, yes, it did. But then I went on to a bank as a loan officer in Salem.
CM: Was that at the end of the 60ís, too?
AH: Yes, I was there three and a half, four years, something like that, í63 to í66?
CM: So three years.
AH: And, as a loan officer, you passed the duty around of passing on the overdrawn check accounts, and I noticed that every time this one particular account would go overdrawn, thereíd be a check to the same payee. And, this is, you know, something you just notice over a period of time. And, so I went and looked in the paid check file, and there was a quarter of a million dollars worth of checks to the same payee, and they only did a half a million dollarsí worth of business a year, and so I thought, "Theyíre kiting checks!" And so we sent a couple checks back drawn against uncollected funds, and the President of the bank said, "Thatís the largest check kite Iíve ever seen in my career!" And, itís just a matter of being alert to what goes on.
CM: So you were a successful banker, it sounds like. Did you changeÖ
AH: I did all right.
CM: Ö professions after that?
AH: Yes. After three years or four years at the commercial bank, I realized that I was in the wrong business, and then I went to work for New York Life. Thatís a highly organized company, and weíd get a monthly bulletin with all the changes and how to do paperwork, and I would read them and file them, and then, in time, Iíd use it if there was a new procedure, I would take advantage of it. And typically the response I would get: "You canít do that."
And Iíd go back and get the bulletin and put it in front of the clerk and say, "Yes, you can do it."
And so I got used to hearing, "Only Art would think of something like that."
And so, while I didnít get any, you know, advanced degrees or special commendations, I think I served my employers pretty well.
CM: And do you think you learned some of those skills when you were at Western, or maybeÖ?
AH: Oh, you bet.
CM: Some thought, processes that helped.
AH: Yes, yes, I would have to say that when I left school I didnít have a teaching certificate, you know, so I wondered, "What did I get out of all of that?"
But I wasnít much of a reader. Books were not big in my familyís household, but I moved seven big boxes of books yesterday, because weíre going to live in Bellingham next year.
CM: Moving back.
AH: And Iíve got a bookshelf of books that Iíve read since weíve lived in this one house; so Iíve learned.
CM: So youíre self-taught.
AH: Learned how to read and learned how to correlate information.
CM: Have any other family members attended Western?
AH: My step-brother was here briefly. I donít remember how many years he was here, but he went on to a navy program, and he got his undergraduate degree at Michigan or Michigan State, I donít know what.
CM: And what was his name?
AH: Heís David Van Bronkhorst.
CM: OK. Are there any other personal achievements youíd like us to know about?
AH: No, there are the ones Iíve covered.
CM: Your work.
AH: They were the interesting ones.
CM: Those were big, Iíd say.
CM: Where did you live most of the time when you attended Western? At home?
AH: At home.
CM: And that was, again, on G Street?
AH: The last two years was on G Street.
CM: And then prior to that? Nooksack.
CM: Any favorite memories of your family and home when you were attending?
CM: Who were your favorite or most influential teachers and why?
AH: Well, Iíd put down Larry Wright, he was the one that I think back on fondly. He taught economics, and he had a good way of presenting his material. Thatís where I learned about balance of payments, long before it was in the popular press. He wasnít here long. There was an ad for a stockbrokerage firm in San Francisco in Time Magazine, featuring a picture of Larry Wright, and it strikes me that I wrote to him, but I didnít get any comment back. I congratulated him on having done very well.
CM: Any other teachers that have stood out in your mind?
AH: I hate to say it, but there was one (laughter), another one in the economics department that they had a reception for him down in Seattle a couple years ago. And right off the top of my head I canít think of his name, but he was, I think heís still alive.
[Editorís note: Erwin S. Mayer]
CM: That might be one reason you were interested in banking was your interest in economics.
AH: Oh, yes, oh, yes. I mean today I read the local paper, but I get my information from the Wall Street Journal and the Economist magazine.
CM: So youíve kept up that interest?
AH: Oh, yes. It cuts you off from general conversations because nobody else reads them.
AH: Oh, I mean, nobody no. Business people do, but when youíre socializing with people, you know, youíre not talking about the Wall Street Journal or the Economist.
CM: When you were here did you have friends, other students that were in the same areas of interest?
AH: No, no. Iíve been a loner.
CM: So you didnít participate in any sports or other clubs or anything like that?
AH: No, living at home, you know, I had part-time jobs, full-time jobs. I worked for Johnny Westford, who had the Westford Funeral Home. His son still does. But I drove an ambulance for them during I think it was into my senior year, and we went to work at 5:00 every other afternoon, and we were off at 7:00 in the morning. And, then, every other weekend we started at 5:00 on Friday afternoon and worked straight through until Monday morning. And we just lived at the funeral home. On an hourly basis, I was grossly underpaid (laughter), but, on a per call basis, I think I averaged about $2.50 a call. But -- my girlfriends would come down to the funeral home and weíd sit on the couch in a slumber room (laughter). And weíd go out to eat, weíd take the ambulance and weíd go eat someplace. It was an interesting job.
CM: Did you get any of his good barbecued salmon?
AH: I came up for homecoming a couple years ago, and out at the ballpark was a guy cooking salmon, and he said, "Hi, Iím Jack Westford." I said, "Well, of course you are." (I could see his father in him).
CM: Did he remember you?
AH: He didnít know me because heís too young, but his older sister married a long-time friend of mine; they were since split up. But, the long-time friend is now a cousin of my present wife. So we see him occasionally.
CM: Thatís great. So what was the hourly pay? Iím curious now.
AH: It was just months, maybe I made seventy-five bucks a month. I donít remember exactly.
CM: What other jobs did you have?
AH: Oh, I worked in the Fountain at the Student Union Building at one time, did family workÖ
CM: Where was that? Where was the Student Union Building?
AH: It was up on High Street, across from the library, right across from Menís Residence Hall (I donít know what you call it now, MRH is what we called it). But that was the building that they broke ground for the day I started school. [Editorís note: Auditorium Building had a Student Lounge which included the Fountain].
CM: Oh, I see.
CM: And, Iím sorry, what were the other ones you started to tell me about?
AH: What, the other jobs?
CM: Like the Student UnionÖ FountainÖ
AH: Oh, I did some cannery work summers and worked in a freezer, or a processing plant one year. Did a little part-time bartending, kind of an all-purpose, non-jock.
CM: So, do you have anything else before we finish up?
AH: No, I think weíve finished.
CM: The last question is, please take a moment to consider the impact on your life of your education experiences at Western and any comments that might help Western enhance its message to legislators, policy makers, and fellow citizens during a time of great challenge for higher education in Washington State.
AH: Well, I felt at the time that there was a lot of, not pressure, but all the students were working for basically a teaching certificate. I had always had an idea that college was for a broadening exercise, and that after we graduated from college, then you went out and learned how to make money. I went to work for $200.00 a month at the Bellingham National Bank, which I could not have done if I wasnít still living at home. But when I got married, the first time, that was when I moved away from home, and my wife moved away from home, but she moved from Seattle.
CM: So, you feel like education is liberal artsÖ
AH: Yes, yes.
CM: Öfocus, or should be? OK, anything else to add?
AH: I donít think so.
CM: Thank you.