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WILSON: This is Angene Wilson and I am doing an interview for the Oral History Project for Peace Corps and today, I'm interviewing Bill Miller who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Dominican Republic. Bill, let's start out with just the basics. What is your full name?

MILLER: Well, my full name is William Arthur Miller but I go by Bill, hahaha.

WILSON: And where and when were you born?

MILLER: I was born August 14th, 1943 in Louisville at St. Anthony's Hospital.

WILSON: Okay and can you tell us a little bit about your growing up and 00:01:00your family and was there anything in that growing up that had anything to do with joining the Peace Corps maybe?

MILLER: Well, not so much in the family, I don't think because as I think back on it, we, we lived in Louisville. We lived up around 18th and Hill Streets until 1948. Then, we moved to Shively and at that time, Shively was really an interesting area. It was a rural area but they were starting to develop a few houses here and there and we lived off Nelson Avenue which was about oh, I'd say two miles before you get to St. Helens Church, that area and when we moved out there, there were only four houses on our street. You turn off Dixie Highway and you turn onto a dirt road and there were four houses and then, over behind our house was this great big farm and it was really wonderful because for all these kids to go over there and play with the snakes and the cattle and what have you and to get in the pond and get muddy. It was a lot of fun and then, of course, the fifties rolled along and they had the subdivision boom and they bought up all the farms 00:02:00and built wall to wall to wall houses out there so that was, it was really a, sort of a suburb of Louisville and, but as I think back in my earlier years, as far as growing up, there really wasn't a lot in our family. My dad was a carpenter and he was one of those who, he worked, when he worked, he did well. He earned fairly good pay. He was a member of Carpenter's Union but generally, after about November, he was, he had to find his own employment from November through about March and it was pretty tough. We were pretty short of money from time to time and so he was not internationally oriented. We seldom if ever took vacation. We didn't have the extra money for a vacation. We never went overseas. My mother was originally from, from around Bardstown area but her father moved to Corydon, Indiana and they lived on a farm but then, she and her sister moved to Louisville because they didn't want to live on a farm for the rest of their lives so anyway, she moved to Louisville and they were just not internationally oriented 00:03:00people. They just did not think beyond, really, beyond Jefferson County. When you come right down to it so there wasn't much there but in the early years, I remember watching a lot of Cisco Kid movies and what have you and movies with folks from Latin Americans. There were some Spanish thrown in and I was just sort of captivated by that. I thought I'd like to study Spanish at some point and I just sort of developed an attachment to Latin America for some strange reason. Probably just from watching television, it was certainly nothing--

WILSON: Was there anything in school?

MILLER: Not much--


MILLER: Not much, I'm trying to think, no, in the primary school, I went to Saint Helens for about four years and then, Saint Matthias for four years and I don't recall studying, I'll have to go back and check on that. I don't recall studying any foreign languages. I did study Latin in high school. I had two years of Latin and then, two years of Spanish. Then, I had two years of Spanish at the University of Louisville when I got into college.

But no, as I think back, not much, it was a pretty provincial operation 00:04:00at the time, I'm pretty parochial in all respects. Parochial from the word go.

WILSON: And then, you went to University of Louisville?


WILSON: And did you follow your idea about learning more about Latin America there?

MILLER: Well--

WILSON: You took some Spanish?

MILLER: You're right. Took Spanish is high school and enjoyed the Spanish very much. Got A's in it so naturally, you enjoy something you do well in. If you flunking it, you're probably not going to like it that well.


MILLER: But when I graduated in '61, I laid out for about two years. I had, I'd gotten a job at Louisville Gas and Electric and it, like I said, we grew up in a blue collar family. And we were thinking blue collar, you know? You get a, you get an occupation. You don't--


MILLER: You don't go to college--

WILSON: College, okay, all right.

MILLER: You could do that but that's something that maybe is not in the cards right now because we didn't have any money for it so anyway, I got a job at the Louisville Gas and Electric and I was working as an assistant switch board electrician's assistant.


WILSON: Oh, okay

MILLER: And so, it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed doing that and I was going to an electronic training school out in Shively, United Electronics Laboratory I think was the name of it and then, they complete a, we were working on the generator, a new generator on Cane Run Road. Well, they laid off, when they completed the generator, they laid off about four hundred of us and of course, I was bottom in seniority so I was one of them that was laid off so lo and behold, I was unemployed for about three months and then, I finally ran to the job at General Electric and I was working on the assembly line putting knobs on stoves and ranges and that type of thing and so that, after doing that for about three months, I thought you know, I could stay here doing this but this isn't really challenging or I could go to college. I think I'll go to college, ha and try that. That seems a little more challenging. Well, wouldn't you know, as soon as I enrolled at the University of Louisville, then, I got a call about, I guess it was about a month after I enrolled, I got a call from the 00:06:00guy I worked for at General, at the Louisville Gas and Electric and he said hey, we want to bring you back. We're starting another plant. We're going to do another generator and I said well, I'm in college so I can't come back so anyway, I stayed at the University of Louisville for four years and I was there studying, well, I went in, I thought I wanted to be an engineer. That's what I was thinking, maybe an electrical engineer but here was a guy who'd come through high school, had really not taken many physics courses or chemistry courses or anything so I go into U of L thinking I'm going to do this and four years later, I come out with a degree in Sociology.

WILSON: Oh, okay

MILLER: And a minor in Psychology so something went wrong or something went right I'm not sure which, so I went to U of L, started in 1963 and it started out, of course, we didn't have a lot of money again so I had to work, but I was very fortunate. I got a job with the United Parcel Service first off working sorting packages. They hired college kids for about four hours a day and in order to do that, you have to 00:07:00be a member of the Teamsters Union which means you're going to make fairly decent wages when you're doing that so I worked at that. Then, they needed substitute drivers when they had drivers that were sick and around Christmas time so since I was a little bit older. I was about two years older than most of the guys there. They had me driving UPS trucks filling in part-time. Then, it dawned on me that I could leave UPS and go and work with Consolidated Freightways, Killian, Mason Dixon, some of the truck lines unloading and loading forty foot trailers and work eight, ten hours a day and kind of work what they said you work off the extra board and so you go out and you would work. You'd call the dispatcher and say can you use somebody off the extra board? And they'd say are you a member of the union? Yes. They'd say okay so come out and you'd unload the trucks so then, they, I got into the situation where I was moving trucks around, these semi-trailers, moving them around the lot and then, one day, it, I was working for an 00:08:00outfit and they needed to take a trailer from one terminal about two miles away to Consolidated Freightways and the guy must have thought I knew how to drive a tractor trailer, but anyway, I had taken some lessons but I'd never taken a tractor trailer out on the road so I took it over and I remember trying to back it in to the terminal. I just couldn't get the thing in. It took me about a half hour to get it back in but you learn a lot doing that and so then, about two days later, he said well, I've got a load to go downtown so next thing I knew I was down to downtown Louisville driving a tractor trailer. Now, today, you couldn't do that stuff but back in 1964, you could get by with it but today, it just would not work so then, I wound up driving a tractor trailer during my, well, three years of college and then, after that, I went into their, Consolidated Freightways management school and I worked for about a year and a half, two years as a management trainee but that was something that I just did not want to stay in the trucking 00:09:00industry and, but it was good, it was good money and I was on a partial scholarship so with the money I earned from driving the tractor trailer and being on partial scholarship paid my way through. Plus, I had to get a little bit of a, of a loan to help do that. I'm trying to remember the name of the particular loan. It was a government loan at the time, the Defense Loan--

WILSON: Yeah, right, sure, sure.

MILLER: Yeah, so anyway that got me through school financially--

WILSON: Through, through school?


WILSON: So when and how did Peace Corps come into your life?

MILLER: Well, when, yeah, well, like I said I developed an interest in Latin America for years and then, of course, taking the Latin and the Spanish. Kind of gave me a little bit of a feel for people, speaking another language in another part of the world and then, at the University of Louisville, I took a geography course and some other courses that had some international linkages but I just, I was really excited by John F. Kennedy when he came out in '61 and challenged people, young people to contribute two years of their lives and go overseas and to work and help people through their economic situation 00:10:00but also to learn more about people in other parts of the world and for them to learn more about us. And I remember applying to Peace Corps even before I got out of college. I graduated in '67 and I applied I think in '65, '64 or '65 and they said well, you really need a college degree.

WILSON: College education, yeah.

MILLER: So don't, you know, don't apply now, come back later so then, as fate would have it, I graduated in '67 and I applied again and I did get accepted to La Paz, Bolivia but they wanted me to go speak Quechua which is their native--

WILSON: Indian language.

MILLER: Indian language and I thought well, here I studied Spanish for four years, I'm going to learn Quechua, I'm not sure that's exactly where I could be most useful. So I thanked the Peace Corps profusely and said I don't think so, so then, I got into the graduate school in Sociology and went into that for a year and then, right after that I got another program offer for Caracas, Venezuela and I really wanted to 00:11:00go to Caracas. I really did but I thought well, now, I'm in graduate school. I better stay here for the time being and so I decided to stay in graduate school and then, shortly after that, everyone in graduate school lost their deferments, you may recall that--

WILSON: Right, I was just going to say this is the, this is the, ha--

MILLER: This is a, a pretty, pretty tricky area--

WILSON: That's to say the--

MILLER: And, and I had been in the Air Force ROTC, the Reserve Officer Training Core and I enjoyed the courses and that type of thing but I just discovered I was not cut out to get out and drill. That was not something that was in my, in my genes. The DNA just didn't register. I did not like drilling on the quadrangle every Wednesday at two o'clock in the afternoon rain and shine and standing in long lines to do things so I thought well, I mean, there's one way you can serve your country. You can join the military if you would like and then, I thought well, I think I will just check into the Peace Corps. I knew I was either going to get drafted or I would join or I would go into Peace Corps but I went knowing that, I went in the Peace Corps, it was only for two years and you, a lot of people thought if you went into 00:12:00the Peace Corps, then, you did not have to do military service and that is not true. You had to do it.

WILSON: Yes and there were people who did both.

MILLER: That's right, exactly, yes and so it was just a situation of I thought well, it'd be a good experience to go some place in Latin America for two years and then, come back and if I go into the military, I go into the military or whatever so I applied to the Peace Corps again and they, as fate would have it, they said well, we don't have very many openings in Latin America right now. They said the only one we have is in the Dominican Republic and I thought the Dominican Republic? Where is that? I remember, I remembered that John or Johnson, President Lyndon Johnson--

WILSON: That's right.

MILLER: Sent troops to the Dominican Republic in 1965 and so I thought well, that's an interesting place I'm sure. It's not too far away; it's between Cuba and Puerto Rico and so it's not a long air, airplane ride from the United States, not knowing they only let you come home once a year at that time. So I decided I'd take the Peace Corp up on 00:13:00their kind offer to go to the Dominican Republic and so in August of '68, 1968, then, I got, I went to Philadelphia for the initial screening for the teeth and the, having all the teeth cleaned up and all the cavities taken care of and this, that and the other. Went up there for a physical and, of course, before you go into the Peace Corps, you had to get approval from your local selective service board--

WILSON: Right.

MILLER: And I was in one of the toughest ones in Louisville, the selective service board 126. I mean, they were tough and I remember going in for a, for a preliminary physical and the doctor that was there, apparently he had worked in the military. He was, he had some very unkind things to say about Peace Corps volunteers and I thought well, I can't really defend them because I don't know really much about them yet but I certainly couldn't irritate this doctor so I was very polite, very kind and, and at the end of the thing, he said well, I really wish you the best of luck, and I really felt better after that 00:14:00because the beginning of the physical, he was not pro-Peace Corps. I can tell you. He was pro-military all the way, a hundred percent defense department, so anyway, we sort of had a bridging of the gulf there.

WILSON: So you went to Philadelphia for the preliminaries and then, you went to--

MILLER: Then to--

WILSON: For training?

MILLER: For training, right, to Puerto Rico--

WILSON: And what was that?

MILLER: I think that, I think it was six week, I believe it was six week training. There were two training camps at the time and they were outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico. We were up in an area called Arrecibo and both were up in the mountains. One was Camp Crozier and one was Camp Bradley and I was in Camp Crozier and we basically, there were about as I recall I think there were about, I want to say about forty-five or fifty volunteers that were in our group at that time and of course, getting into the Peace Corps was very, it was very difficult at times. They had some very stringent regulations--



MILLER: And that type of thing--

WILSON: What was, what do you remember about, about that?

MILLER: About the stringent regulations?

WILSON: Yes, right.

MILLER: That our group was one of the first, it was sort of a prototype. They said we're going to, all the people who applied who were initially screened as being eligible for Peace Corp will be accepted. We're going to take all of them. We're not going to weed them out. We're going to have a, it's going to be a self elimination process and we had that happen. We had people who dropped out during the training. We had people who came in country to the Dominican Republic who dropped out after they'd been there for three months, six months. A couple of them had been there a year or so and they had dropped out and I think when we ended, we finally wound up with probably about half of our group but they were the people who really wanted to be there and who had made a commitment to be there so but during the training, in, in Camp Crozier, our training was a little bit different. Prior to that, they used to have this, sort of this rugged fitness training--

WILSON: Outward bound kind of--

MILLER: Outward bound type, right, where you'd climb mountains and repel down cliffs and all this stuff and swim across a lake that's 00:16:00three miles wide. It was just other things to, to really toughen you up. Well, they, they really dropped that. We did sports activities and what have you but we spent most of our time studying Spanish and studying cultural aspects of the Dominican Republic so we could learn more about the Dominican Republic to better prepare us so we didn't do a lot of this physical fitness stuff. We did more of the cerebral training, if you will for the program.

WILSON: Now, your, your group was going to do what in terms of jobs?

MILLER: Well, we had a variety of things.

WILSON: Oh okay.

MILLER: We had people--when I went in, I went in as a Community Developer--


MILLER: And I was supposed to work with the Office for Community Development which is called the ODC which is, you know, Dominican acronym, and they basically did physical projects around the country. They built roads, built schools, that type of thing. We had people who were working in geology who were sinking wells. They were, we 00:17:00had other people who were teaching English as a second language. We had some volunteers who were at a Catholic university in Santiago, The University Madre y Maestra so we had a wide range of professions that were represented in, in people and of course, agriculture. You had a bunch of folks who were working, they didn't know much about agriculture when they went but they learned it and they worked with some of the agricultural organizations in the Dominican Republic so that was the, that was the area that I was supposed to focus on, the Office for the Community Development which I did for one year and then switched to the Catholic University in Santiago. The Office for Community Development was, it was an interesting organization. It was around the country but it was a very political group obviously. Most of the people who were there, the Dominicans were working for President Balaguer. They were all part of his party and that type of thing and of course, the Peace Corps tried to be apolitical but the, which we did to a large degree. 00:18:00We were not part of the Balaguer party but, which was the Social Christians as I recall, but we were still involved in a political group to some, to some extent so but after a year of doing that --in the first year I was there, I worked in Salcedo which was about, it was about oh, thirty miles away from Santiago which is, Santiago is the second largest city in the Dominican Republic and of course, I might mention the Dominican Republic is on the island of Hispaniola and it's about oh, I'd say about forty percent the size of the state of Kentucky and it has, at that time, it only had about four million people. Today, it has about eight million people and of course, Haiti occupies the other third of the Dominican Republic and Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic and today, it, it probably has about three million people by itself, four million probably but Santiago is 00:19:00about oh, four hours to the north of Santo Domingo, something that, what's called the Cibao Valley and the Cibao Valley is the bread basket of the country. This is one of the most vibrant areas of the country. It's lush. They have all kinds of plantain, coffee trees, what have you, all different, yucca, all different types of plants and it's, it's really a pretty area. It's, it's, the Dominican Republic is a very pretty country. It has a lot of diversity. It has two mountain ranges. It has a desert, has some beautiful beaches, just a, it's a glorious country. It really is so I was in Salcedo which is again, it's about, I guess about twenty-five miles from, from Santiago, the second largest city and the first year I was there, I lived in a, literally, in a little shack and it was right on the main row, what they call a neighboring road, a camino vecinal (??) and the little shack I lived in had a tin, which was really nice for the community. The community was El Rancho and it had a tin roof. It had gutters so 00:20:00when it rained, I could catch water, the rain water and put it in a big earthen jug and then, on the inside of the house, if you want to call it that. It wasn't much. It was, you walk in the front door. Now, this is a house made of palm wood that's been cut and you walk in the front door and it did have a wooden floor which a lot of people in that neighborhood didn't have wooden floors. They had dirt floors so I had a wooden floor and the room was probably about oh, ten feet wide and about fourteen feet long. That was it, that was the living room and in the living room, there was one roughly hewn table and two roughly hewn chairs, a little bench in the back that had this big earthen pot where you put your water and that was it. That was the living room. Then, you go into the bedroom and you go through a door, it's an opening and the bedroom is probably eight feet by ten feet and there's just enough 00:21:00room in there to put a cot in and to hang your mosquito net and there was nothing else in the bedroom. That was it. No dresses, no drawers, I guess I could have bought all this stuff but--

WILSON: Had a volunteer been in that house before or--?

MILLER: No, as a matter of fact, no--

WILSON: The community provided the house?

MILLER: No, I paid ten dollars a month to the son of the landlord who owned, somebody lived there before but they--

WILSON: Did you have to find it yourself or--?

MILLER: No, the Dominican, what they call the promoter, he guy who ran the Office for Community Development, he located it and it cost me the princely sum of ten dollars a month to pay for the rent for that place so--

WILSON: What about bathroom?

MILLER: There was none.

WILSON: There wasn't?

MILLER: Yeah, yeah, you had an outhouse.

WILSON: You had an outhouse?

MILLER: You went out the back door and into the, it went back fifteen feet and there was the communal outhouse for about three of the houses along there in which we shared that with the tarantulas. There's a lot of tarantula spiders in that neighborhood, so you had to kind of take 00:22:00a flash light or a candle and peer in and make sure there weren't any tarantulas hanging around before you walked in but I had a few in there when I walked in from time to time so--

WILSON: Oh my, can you remember back though to when, when you went from Puerto Rico to Dominican Republic? What was it like to arrive in the country? Did you feel as though because you'd be in Puerto Rico and that was also Caribbean that, that you already had culture shock if there was culture shock or when you got to Dominion Republic, what was it like to arrive?

MILLER: There was culture shock going from one to the other because when you get to Puerto Rico, obviously, you're still in a Commonwealth of the United States--

WILSON: In the United States, right.

MILLER: But you still, you're in a different area because they speak Spanish.

WILSON: Right.

MILLER: The boards, all of the signs are in Spanish and that type of thing and of course, in the Camp Crozier where we, where we did our training, we were in like an Army barracks. We had double bunk beds 00:23:00and we had electricity which was good. We had great food. I mean, they really, they wanted you to bulk up so you could get very heavy because they knew when you went into the Dominican Republic. You were going to contract all types of little diseases, hahaha, that were, they were going to attack you and you'd probably lose some of that weight and of course, one of the fondest things of being at Camp Crozier was taking a shower there. We had, we only had outdoor showers and of course, there was no hot water. And Camp Crozier was beautiful during the day. It was nice and pleasant. It was about seventy-five, eighty. In the night, it'd get down to about sixty but that's cool when you're or fifty-five, that's cool when you're up there and you, you're ready to take a shower at nine o'clock at night and you have cold water or at six o'clock in the morning, that, that would jar you awake. You didn't have to worry about falling asleep so anyway, then, that was a little bit of a culture shock, going to Puerto Rico but not as bad but then, we went to the Dominican Republic. We flew over and I remember they put us on a bus and we went into the downtown Santo Domingo and 00:24:00it was just night and day between Santo Domingo and San Juan, Puerto Rico. San Juan was a very progressive, cosmopolitan area, very modern area. You get into Santo Domingo, you see these ruts in the street and the one thing that really stood out was you would see these members of the National Guard standing on the corner, members of the military with sub-machine guns. And these people who were standing there were kids about eighteen, nineteen years old and you're thinking you know, do you really want a kid, nineteen years old standing on the street corner with a sub-machine gun? I'm not sure that's the best, hahaha, situation possible so that I will always remember that and of course, the, the poverty. You would obviously, even today, you see some of that when you go into Santo Domingo but it's not nearly as bad today as it was back in 1968. It, it, it was just, again, it's just a huge transition there, a marked differentiation between the poverty you saw 00:25:00then and the poverty you see today. It's still there, obviously to a large degree. But that was one of the things that really struck me and of course, as I mentioned, President Johnson had sent Marines--


MILLER: To the Dominican Republic in 1965. The Marines obtensively went in to be a neutral buffer force but the Marines really wound up working, fighting against the rebels or putting the rebels in a position where they could not fight effectively but even at that time, I felt a lot of volunteers who were there, they were apolitical about it. They were, a lot of those volunteers were running ambulances, hauling people back and forth across the lines and there's a fellow Andy Hernandez who was the first Peace Corps director of the Dominican Republic. You may know him but Andy is right now, I guess Andy's about ninety-six, ninety-seven. He lives out in Santa Rosa, New Mexico and he just has a wealth of stories and what have you to talk about how it was in the early days--

WILSON: About that time.

MILLER: Of the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic but it was really 00:26:00a fascinating, fascinating period and of course, the Peace Corps volunteers at that time where, as I said, apolitical and Andy tells one story about how, when the Americans were starting to pull out of the Dominican Republic in '65 because of the fighting, a lot of, the U.S. Embassy had to close down and so he gets a call from The New York Times and they said what are you going to do? And he thought for a second what am I going to do? I don't know what I'm going to do, I'm not too sure. I haven't talked to, to the President or Sargent Shriver who was the Peace Corps director, anybody like that. He said, he said we're going to stay. He said we're apolitical. He said we're here to help the people and so we are staying. Bingo, right on the front page of The New York Times, he had great coverage. Of course, after he made that statement, they couldn't fly him out. But they stayed, and as I recall, I don't think any of the volunteers were injured. I don't believe. They may have come close to it a few times but, but anyway, to get back to your point about things that jumped out at you--


WILSON: Yeah, right--

MILLER: Kids with machine gun--

WILSON: With machine guns.

MILLER: Really jumped out at you--

WILSON: Really jumped out at you.. So you talked about the fact that you had two different jobs--


WILSON: Well, what was, what did you do in your job the first year?

MILLER: Well, the first year--

WILSON: What kinds of things?

MILLER: I was, worked with the Office of Community Development. And that, they had already started a school project in El Rancho, this little community. It wasn't very large but maybe fifty, sixty houses in that area. They were little huts and it was a concrete school. It was going to be a very nice school so I worked on that with the workers who were there. There were all these, the Office of Community Development had the money. Most of it was put out by the American government, U.S. Agency for International Development provided the money to build the school so they hired local oh, carpenters and masonry people and folks like that to do it so really, it was sort of a minimal role that I was playing in that but I was still working on it, helping to coordinate that and that took most of the first year 00:28:00and that project ended and so then, it was time to focus on another project and one project they wanted me to work on was another what they called a camino vesinal, neighboring road but this time, this camino vesinal ran right up to the front door to a very wealthy landowner. And so I thought well, you know, this guy could probably pay for his own road. He doesn't need the Dominican government paying this but he was a very prominent member of the local political party and that type of thing so I thought well, that might be an interesting project but I'm not sure it's one I wanted to work on so I had heard, I had some friends that were four Peace Corp volunteers at the university library in Madre y Maestra which is mother and teacher in English at the, it's a Catholic university at Santiago, and they had heard that the School of Social Work was looking for someone, perhaps a Peace Corps volunteer or somebody to come to work with them so I went up 00:29:00and talked to the woman, it was, now, this was really an international department, the School of Social Work. They were probably about nine or ten professors and of that group, only two were Dominicans as I recall. Two were Guatemalans, no, three were Guatemalans, one was Peruvian. One was Chilean. And it was just a real potpourri of people who were on loan from the governments or whatever through aid agencies to this university to help it get launched and so I talked to the woman who was, she was, Dona Marta was her name and she was from Guatemala and so I talked with her and she had been married to an American years ago. He had died many years before that. They lived in Guatemala City but she was very well known in the social work area throughout Latin America so we worked it out to where I would go from Salcedo and move to Santiago and work as a professor of Social Work at the Catholic university and of course, that meant a pay increase. I went, I earned 00:30:00a hundred and forty-five dollars a month when I worked in Salcedo and I moved to the university and I earned $192.50 a month. We were, the five of us, were the highest paid volunteers in the world.

WILSON: But that was living allowance?

MILLER: That was both, that was it. That was our full salary.

WILSON: Yeah, that's what I meant, it was a living allowance--

MILLER: Right.

WILSON: As opposed to what you get at the end of, of Peace Corps--

MILLER: Well, that was, right, that was the termination pay which they would put in, I think seventy-five dollars a month in the bank or a bank would count it back in the states.

WILSON: Okay, right.

MILLER: To help you cushion your transition from the Dominican Republic after a two year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer when you came back.

WILSON: Right, right.

MILLER: But no, that was, that was just for a living allowance.

WILSON: Yeah so what was it like being a professor?

MILLER: Well, I just went from night to day. I mean, here I was living out in Salcedo in a little shack with rats running across the rafters.



MILLER: Sleeping in on a tent with a little thing, with a mosquito net around and no electricity. Of course, you had this little kerosene lamp. And then I went to Santiago, the second largest city, and had electricity when it was on. Of course, we had blackouts quite often but had electricity. Had an outdoor, still had an outdoor arrangement, sort of an outhouse but had at least had running water out there, where you could take a shower--

And so it wound up that there was another guy at the university who was teaching English and so he and I decided we would save some money by getting an apartment together so there was this Lebanese, Dominican family in, in a little barrio, a little neighborhood in Santiago, so we decided we'd rent two rooms from them. Well, we went to look at it and we walked in and the thing was really, the room was only about I 00:32:00guess about twenty feet wide and maybe about forty feet deep so there was just enough room in there for him to set up a little, he had a bed. He actually bought a bed. I never broke down to buy a bed but he did. He had a little bed so he put his bed on one wall and I had a cot that I put on the other wall and then, we had the mosquito nets hanging over them and then, that was the living room and you could bring your motorcycles. We had Honda 50 motorcycles at the time--

WILSON: That were provided by Peace Corps?

MILLER: By Peace Corps, right. They provided those and so we could bring our motorcycles in every evening which filled up that room. Then, you go into the next room and it was just a little dinky room and it had a book shelf back there. He had a book shelf and we had these books that Peace Corps had provided or he had bought or whatever and a little table and a couple chairs and that was it. That was all you had there and then, so I mentioned you had to go through, well, you had to go through the house, through the people who owned the house, through their part to get to the outhouse in the back which was okay. 00:33:00That was not a problem so, so anyways, but it was still living in an urban area but not in palatial setting obviously. It was pretty cramped but it all worked out and we'd still have folks come over and have parties and get Presidente Beer. And sit around and chat, drink Presidente Beer and have a good time. But you didn't have a refrigerator. You didn't have a stove or anything like that but, and I remember when I worked at the university, I'd go out every morning and go to what they, they called a sort of a little snack stand buy just maybe a donut or something and a cup of coffee and then, at noon, I'd get on my motorcycle. I'd drive downtown and go to a working neighborhood where you could go in with all the workers. The people who were digging ditches and what have you and go and have a lunch and I forgot what it cost. It was, I want to say it was about sixty cents or fifty cents and you'd get a piece of chicken, you get rice, beans 00:34:00and a little salad. Just a little chunk of lettuce and it was pretty tasty and it was pretty cheap and of course, living on Peace Corps budget, you had to keep it cheap and I was trying to save my money. I wanted to go to Latin America when I had finished my two years with Peace Corps so I thought the only way I'm going to get there is if I save some money here which I tried to do and I did pretty much but that's what I had for lunch and then, at dinner, I'd go to this little what they call a little store down the street, a little mercado and they sold all kinds of stuff. They sold detergent and Coca-Colas and beer and this that and the other and they also sold cheese and I would get a big, generally, every night and get a big roll and of course, half the time you had to shoo the cat off the rolls. The cat had been sleeping on the rolls, hahaha, I'd say get me one off the bottom if you could, you know? He'd shoo the cat away and then, I'd get a piece of 00:35:00cheese and I had some mustard back, ha, in my room and I'd buy a Pepsi cola and that was my dinner every evening so that was pretty much what I ate while I was there but it was still, we're in an urban area. You had access to all kinds of restaurants and then, once a month, I'd go up to a really nice restaurant called the Pez Dorado, and you could get two lobster's tails, lobster thermador for, at that time, it was about two fifty which is, has gone up a bit. But that was a lot of money for me, two fifty was so anyway, that's what I ate and then, of course, we had Dominican friends and they invited me, invite me over for dinner and what have you and this, that and the other and we'd have activities through some of the, with the professors who were with the Catholic university and we'd have parties and this type of thing. They were pretty subdued parties I might mention. But we did have parties and we had food which was good.

WILSON: So what was a typical day in your first year like and what was a typical day in your second year, like you get up and you talked about 00:36:00what you ate and what your housing was like?

MILLER: Right, well, the first year, I mentioned I lived in this little shacky place--

WILSON: Right.

MILLER: And I get on my motorcycle and go down about a half mile to the house where I, I had contracted with a lady who had, she knew the fellow who was the director, the Office of Community Development Director and she had a lovely house, big house, had a little piece of property there which was really nice for Dominican standards and so she, she had a daughter who was in New York who was working. I think she had maybe another son, I can't remember but she had several sons at home. Unfortunately, most of them were unemployed. They couldn't get a job since your unemployment rate was running forty, fifty, sixty percent in the Dominican Republic so anyway, I would go down there at usually about seven, seven thirty. Park my motorcycle and then, have breakfast and usually maybe I'd eat with someone in the family or maybe 00:37:00just eat by myself which ever and she would cook up some breakfast. Usually, egg or she would, they would take white cheese and fry it. It was really good. It didn't do much for your cholesterol. But it was good, and have breakfast. Then, I'd go down to the Office for Community Development, see what was going on with the, with the folks down there, with the other promoters or developers and then, of course, at that time, we had about, I think about five or six who worked in the office and then, go out to the project and see how that was coming along and then, we would do, you know, we'd go back down to the office later in the afternoon so it, it just varied as to what the day was. And then, during in the Dominican Republic or in Santiago, it was totally different in that we'd get up, go to the university, have breakfast. Then, usually, I had class I was teaching or I had students--

WILSON: What classes did you teach?

MILLER: Well, I taught social research. Bright and early and then, 00:38:00had students who were doing field placements out in, in agencies, individual Dominican agencies so I'd go out and see how their field placements were coming along and that type of thing so, but it was quite a contrast between Salcedo and Santiago.

WILSON: Right, to have two experiences like, that's good. So you talked a little bit about what was culture shock when you got into the country. How did you get acclimated and, and what was most difficult? What were you prepared for? What weren't you prepared for? You had the language. You talked about cultural training in Puerto Rico.

MILLER: True, true.

WILSON: How did adaptation go generally?

MILLER: Yeah, well, it wasn't really that difficult to make the transition but it did strike you when you came in the country. Again, as I mentioned, the immense amount of poverty, the young guys standing 00:39:00there with sub-machine guns that you hoped were on lock or hoped they didn't have any ammunition in them and hope they didn't go berserk. The pot holes in the road, the different things like the buses and we'd see this all over the economically developing world where you cram three times as many people on a bus as really should be on there. They'd put people on top. You had people, motorcycles were very big in the Dominican Republic. It was amazing how, to see how many people can get on a small motorcycle and how much you would stack up on a small motorcycle and move it across but the language too was a bit of a challenge because even though I'd taken four years of Spanish, took intensive Spanish in, in Puerto Rico, when you get over there and you start talking to Dominicans, it's a totally different world. You think are we all speaking Spanish? You know, the accent is the same but sometimes those words just don't come out.

WILSON: The words are different.

MILLER: They just don't come out and the Dominicans, the Puerto Ricans and the Cubans speak some of the fastest Spanish. They speak the New York English version of Spanish. I mean, they really roll it out and 00:40:00if you're talking to somebody out in the campo, out in the rural area, it's, they use all types of slang and that type of thing and of course, we studied some of the slang but it's just like somebody who'd come to the United States and you'd start talking to them in some slangy sentence, it's difficult to pick up on it so that, that still was a bit of a cultural shock to just get the language down.

WILSON: Well and when you were teaching though, you were teaching in Spanish, right?

MILLER: Mm hmm.

WILSON: Yeah so by the second year you must have been pretty good.

MILLER: Yes, well, yes, right and I understood the language fairly much better then than I did the first year. That's for sure but it still, even then, you'd run into situations where they would use some words that you didn't understand or you're, you're using middle class vocabulary. Using straight out of the book--

WILSON: Right.

MILLER: I mean, you're taking terms straight out of the book, examples straight out of the book and some of that is foreign to the students. That's alien to them. They're not used to that but, to a large degree so there were, there were other areas to make the transitions. Of 00:41:00course, other things too that would go on in the Dominican Republic. You'd be traveling down the road and you'd come around a curb and you're in the middle of a herd of sheep or goats or something like that or you're driving along at night and you've got animals sleeping on the road because it's nice and warm on the road and you'll have a donkey out there. You have to watch out so you don't hit them. Railroad tie bridges were very popular in the Dominican Republic where you have a big railroad tie and they'd make bridges out of them and they'd cross a small stream or something and of course, on a motorcycle, that's very dangerous in that you have cracks about two to three inches wide and if you fall off that motorcycle or if you fall off that tie, you fall into the crack and you can be thrown. In fact, I had a friend of mine, a good friend of mine who's in Lima, Peru right and heads up the Associated Press Office down there, Monty Hays and Monty had this happen to him. He was riding one night and he had a Dominican colleague on the back of his motorcycle, his Honda 50 and the 00:42:00Dominican, now, Monty was a slight build. He probably to this day he still doesn't weigh more than a hundred fifteen, a hundred-, maybe a hundred thirty, thirty-five, forty pounds but he had a slight build and he was going across this bridge and this Dominican looked down and got a little nervous and started to shift the motorcycle and the Dominican weighed a lot more so all of a sudden, the motorcycle falls into one of these cracks. The Dominican flies over the top of Monty. Monty flies over. His teeth hit the motorcycle, the handlebars, knocks all his teeth out, the front teeth. The blood is running out of his mouth so he has to get an emergency medical arrangement to get him back to Santo Domingo, to the capital. He was out in the rural area so he goes to the capital and he's in the hospital and at that time, the Peace Corps put out a magazine, a monthly magazine. It was called El Cuchicheo, The Whisper and I think Whisper, yeah, El Cuchicheo and so anyway, the 00:43:00fellow who was the, the editor of the magazine, he came to see Monty in the hospital and he said you know, Monty, these motorcycles and these bridges just don't mix well together. They really are dangerous and here's Monty sitting there. His teeth are all broken off and his mouth is all swollen, scabbed over, that type of thing and he says Monty, he said you could do a real public service if I could take a photo of your mouth, hahaha and put it on the cover of El Cuchicheo, and Monty said get out! Get out of my room! Monty didn't see the humor in it and he wasn't being humorous. He was serious but Monty was not in a good mood at the time.

WILSON: But, but they, but Peace Corps kept the motorcycles? I mean, even though they'd--

MILLER: They've finally taken them away.


MILLER: Today, I go to the Dominican Republic once or twice a year and today, none of them have motorcycles.

WILSON: Right, I knew, I mean that was a real controversial issue and other parts of Peace Corps as well I think. So you mentioned parties, 00:44:00what did you do for recreation?

MILLER: Well, we would do things. We had, I remember we had a colleague who was on an AID, Agency for International Development contract through the United States. He was from Wisconsin and he brought his whole family down. He came down. He was the, he was the head librarian at the university and he was there for like three or four years, something like that and so he came down and we would do things with, with them along with Dominican colleagues and what have you. There was another fellow who would have worked at the library who came, I guess he came prior to this -----------(??) as I recall and he had, he brought his car with him which was a real luxury because automobiles were very expensive. Not that the car was expensive but by the time they put the tax on, it, it was very expensive to own a car down there.

WILSON: Let's stop and we'll switch here.


WILSON: Switch

[Side a ends; side b begins.]

WILSON: Okay, so you were talking about recreation.


MILLER: Right, and cars being expensive, very expensive but, but from time to time, he would lend us his car, the fellow who brought the car down to the Dominican Republic. He would let us use his car so we'd get, get a group of our colleagues from the university and go to, to the beach for the day, go up to Sosua, Puerto Plata and that type of thing. And of course then, other times, there would be parties. We would, a lot of the volunteers dated Dominicans and so they would have parties on Friday evening or Saturday evening and at times, we would go to dances and what have you and, and in Salcedo, when I lived in the, in the rural area, it, usually, go downtown. There wasn't anything and the downtown was very small. Salcedo only had about four thousand people in the whole province. The whole state of Salcedo and in the downtown area, you probably had maybe a thousand people who lived down there and you'd go downtown. They had a movie house. You could go to the theater and they had a little orchestra, believe it or not. In this little town or Salcedo, every Sunday evening would come out 00:46:00and play for the people who were in the Plaza area and of course, that was the big thing to do. You'd come downtown with your girlfriend or whatever and go walk around the Plaza, go to the theater, maybe go into a bar and start a bottle of good Dominican rum or had some Presidente Beer which was very popular thing to do and so it, it just varied but I remember the, the group, the little band, the orchestra if you could call it, maybe more like a band than an orchestra but they, I remember when one of the first songs they played was "My Old Kentucky Home."

WILSON: Really?

MILLER: Which I thought, this is, deja vu all over again--

WILSON: Right.

MILLER: Karma.

WILSON: Right, right.

MILLER: Where'd they learn "My Old Kentucky Home?"

WILSON: Hahaha!

MILLER: So. . but there were a variety of thing to do and some of us just traveled out--

WILSON: Did you travel?

MILLER: Around the country--.

WILSON: Oh, you traveled around the country? So you, over the two years got to see most of the Dominican Republic?

MILLER: Got to see a large part of it, yes. I never got to the eastern part. I've been getting there now through our Sister Cities Program. And our Rotary Club to Rotary Club project where we get to the 00:47:00eastern part of the country but not, I got to see the central part of the country, the northern part, up along the Haitian boarder, the southwestern part near what they call Lake Enriquillo which is a huge lake and it's a salt water lake that has alligators which is kind of interesting. It's in a deserty area of the country so that, I got to see most of the country during those two years and traveled a bit outside of the country. I went to Haiti once. Went to the British Virgin Islands, I'm sorry, not the British, the American Virgin Islands and to one or two other countries but most of the time, I traveled within the country. Then, came home one year, right before Christmas came back in '69--

WILSON: You were allowed to do that in that time?

MILLER: You could come home, right.

WILSON: Well, now--

MILLER: Well, you could probably home more often but they didn't encourage you to do it so and it got expensive to do it and I can't remember if Peace Corps paid the way or if I paid the way but I came home for Christmas and that was, it was interesting. That was another 00:48:00reverse culture shock--

WILSON: I would think so.

MILLER: After being in the Dominican Republic--

WILSON: Right, right.

MILLER: And coming back. Flying into Miami, I remember the plane came in and I thought there are more lights on Miami International Airport than I've got in the whole city of Santiago. And maybe Santo Domingo, so it was, it was a reverse culture shock to some degree.

WILSON: So you came home for how long?

MILLER: Well, I was supposed to be home a week and a half and at that time, I was dating a friend of mine from down in Miami. She worked for United Airlines so I came home and spent Christmas at home and then, my brother who was in the Air Force, he was in Vietnam. He came in and his girlfriend came in with him and her sister so we could run around at that time. But then, they left the day after Christmas so there I was with my mother and my dad and ha, my younger sister and not much going on so after about two or three more days of that I decided well, I'll go to Miami. Went to Miami for a few more days and then, went back to the Dominican Republic, yeah, but it was interesting and the 00:49:00trip to Haiti was one of the most interesting that I've ever done. I don't, if you've ever read the book The Comedians by Graham Greene. If you haven't read it, I recommend it. It was about Papa Doc Duvalier and the whole corrupt Haitian government over there but I remember flying from Santo Domingo to Port-au-Prince and got off the plane and I thought the Dominican Republic is a developing country. Whoa, look at Haiti. I mean, on the main road going into from the Port-au-Prince airport, the Duvalier International Airport going into the downtown area, you had these huge ruts in the road. They're not just little pot holes; huge ruts that you'd drive down in and drive out the other side. The, the poverty is just mind boggling. Of course, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, one of the poorest in the world but it is just absolutely mind boggling but I stayed at the Hotel Olafson which was a nice hotel, had interesting history. It started out as a presidential palace. Then, when the U.S. Marines 00:50:00invaded Haiti back in around 1918, they took it over, converted it into a hospital and then, it became a hotel later. A variety of people had owned it and I stayed at that hotel and this friend of mine from Miami was coming down. She was going to come down to work for United and so I got to the hotel about a day before she did and it just so happened I started talking to some people there and the people who were in The Comedians actually existed. And they hung out at the Hotel Olafson and fortunately or unfortunately, I met most of them and it was just an incredible crowd, just an incredible crowd. The one guy who plays, probably he owned the newspaper as I recall in The Comedians but he was, he was a short Haitian. He was very slender build, very dark complexion, wore all white clothes, had a white cane, was an extremely powerful person in the Haitian hierarchy and the government and that 00:51:00type of thing and he had developed sort of an interest in all new people who showed up at the hotel so he was interested in knowing who I was, and so I, which was okay I guess. When you go over there, you have to deal with these folks and so anyway, it just so happened there was a woman who was at the hotel and she was a singer and she had been singing up and down the Caribbean. She was in Venezuela and she was sort of singing her way back to the states. She was an American and this fellow, who was a journalist, had developed an interest in her shall we say and he was very interested in learning more about her and getting to know her better so anyway, he had, we, we struck up a conversation, several of us. There were a couple other people involved so then, this friend of mine arrived to Haiti, to Port-au-Prince and so the journalist said to us one evening, he said well, he said I can't go 00:52:00with you tomorrow. He said would you like to go up to Kenscoff to the market place up in the mountains and we said well, it would be nice but we don't have any transportation. He said oh, I'll have my driver come by and pick you up so he comes by in this little car and real nice, pleasant fellow. I can't remember if he spoke English or Spanish, somehow, we communicated but it, maybe he spoke French and I spoke a little French but anyway, so he took all of us up to Kenscoff which was a real pleasant area up in the mountains which you're going up through the mountains of Haiti, you notice that it's just, the area is totally denuded. The trees have been cut away. People are just living subsistence from hand to mouth, that type of thing and so anyway, you look at the rivers. The rivers run yellow. They've got mud. As soon as it rains, the mud runs into the rivers and runs out into the ocean but we get up to Kenscoff and there was a market place and it was interesting. We got out of the car and of course, we all stuck out 00:53:00obviously. We were the only Caucasians in the whole area. And people would come up and they'd have their hands out. They wanted a dime or anything you could give them. Of course, one you gave them the first dime, you'd have five hundred more people around you which could create a bit of a tense situation but the driver, I remember, when he walked up when there were several people around us and we were just politely saying we just don't have any money to give, sorry and I remember he walked up and it was just amazing. All these people melted away. They knew who he was. He didn't have to say a word and he was obviously, probably part of what they call the--

WILSON: Tonton Macoute?

MILLER: Tonton Macoute. Which means bogeyman and they were the secret police in Haiti but they knew exactly who this guy was but it was really an interesting situation just being in that hotel and then I remember going back to the hotel and this friend of mine left and I wasn't leaving for another two days and I remember talking to one guy who worked, I can't remember the company he worked for. It was an 00:54:00American company. I want to say Colgate Palmolive but that may not be it but he, he was an American and I got talking with him one day down at the pool and of course, everybody's sitting around drinking Haitian rum. It's some of the best rum in the Caribbean and so he was commenting on Graham Greene, the British author, and those people just absolutely hate Graham Greene. Hated him! They said this guy came in, he spent a week here and wrote this horrible novel about the wonderful people down here in Haiti and he knew nothing about the situation but they just couldn't say a good word about Graham Greene but it was, I was really kind of glad to get out of here because I had found out after I had left that the week before that there had been some Peace Corps volunteers from the Dominican Republic who had come in and they had apparently made some offensive statements about how corrupt the Duvalier government was which it was and they were ushered out of the country at the end of sub-machine guns. I mean, they literally, police 00:55:00took them out and put them on the plane and sent them back to the Dominican Republic--

WILSON: Oh wow.

MILLER: And the only thing to save them was that they were Americans and they didn't want an incident with the U.S. Embassy and the American government which was funding a lot of money into Haiti so it was an interesting experience but it, anyone who's never read The Comedians, get a copy of it. It's a fascinating read and it's probably very, very accurate.

WILSON: What about interactions with Dominicans? How your interactions with Dominicans in--

MILLER: In the Dominican Republic?

WILSON: In the Dominican Republic, yeah.

MILLER: Yes, well, I had interactions every day especially with, well, in Salcedo, with the promoters, the developers. Would see them almost all of them every day, at least once or twice and then, of course, in the community where I lived, there were folks who would come over to my house. Young people who'd come over. In fact, we even started a social club there. I remember that. Yeah, that was another thing we had done in Salcedo, in El Rancho and there were some young people. 00:56:00I'd say oh, between twenty and twenty-three, something like that and they set up a little social club. I don't know if it's still in operation today but a little group in the community but I had interactions with them and of course, at the university--

WILSON: Your students

MILLER: We had students and the faculty too. We usually got together at least once a week in some social setting. That was something they were big on that, that's more prominent I think in Latin America than it is in the United States where you have more social functions and you get together for a little party or a dinner or something like that or go out to dance or whatever it might be--

WILSON: Right.

MILLER: But there was a lot of interaction, quite a bit, quite a bit.

WILSON: And so are there some of those students or people that you're still in contact with?

MILLER: There are some but the, the majority of them I've lost track of the faculty, the, the people and of course, all of them went back to their own countries. Many of them are dead today I'm sure but there's 00:57:00one that I know for sure, a good friend of mine. She lives in Lima, Peru but I have not seen her or talked to her in several years. It's been ten or twelve years but I did get a call from the son-in-law of a good friend of mine who was in Salcedo and the son-in-law wanted to bring me up to date on the family and I, I go to the Dominican Republic again about twice a year but I did not have a chance to go visit this guy with Salcedo and we do have new Dominican friends over in San Pedro de Macoris. We have a Sister Cities Program between Frankfort's Rotary Club and the Rotary Club at San Pedro de Macrois but I have not been able, had a change to get back up to Salcedo to, to visit with him but I did go to the university about two years ago and it has changed completely. Before you could walk around the university in about fifteen minutes. Now, it would take you two hours to walk around. It's just expanded! It's gotten so large and it's changed completely. 00:58:00It still has the same rector, the same president, a lone senior Father Nunez who is still the director of that university--

WILSON: After all this--

MILLER: After all these years--

WILSON: Wow, that's a lot of time.

MILLER: After all these years, he may be there forever.

WILSON: Are there a couple of things that you remember about the culture or a memorable story that you want to tell before we talk about coming back to the U.S. and the impact of Peace Corps since?

MILLER: Well, I think the, there's so many things that happened that, with the Dominicans. I think with, one thing that really stands out in the Dominicans is how warm they are and how they really are sincere people. They really enjoy learning more about the United States. A lot of them had perceptions, misperceptions at times about the United States. Of course, we all have misperceptions about where we're going, what we're going to do and how people are going to treat us and that 00:59:00type of thing but they, they really are very warm and genuine people and of course, when you have a large Dominican population living in the United States--

WILSON: Right.

MILLER: Many in New York and North Carolina, places like that, not as many in Miami where you have more Cubans than anybody. But I think the Dominicans are really interesting people and the history of the Dominican Republic, Republic is extremely interesting and of course, U.S. involvement in the Dominican Republic has been very prominent and most of Americans, most Kentuckians probably are not aware of that, that we have played such a critical role in the Dominican Republic but there are so many different things that happened over the course of those years. Something that happened like the friend of mine Monty Hays who had his teeth knocked out to well, I remember one time which again, another motorcycle incident that affected me. We were, a friend of mine, he was, we'd come through the training together and he was up in a community called Olivero so we decided one weekend, we would 01:00:00just, we hadn't gone to the beach forever so we thought well, we'll just go to the beach, up to Puerto Plata and Sosua up on the north coast. It was about two and a half, three hours away and so we got on our motorcycles and took off and we're riding along on this two lane road and I was, I remember looking to the right at an airport. It was an airstrip. It was just a little, very small airstrip over there and it had a couple single engine Cessnas and what have you. Not too many planes and I thought that's probably the airport for Puerto Plata, you know, we were only about a couple miles out of town and I remember just riding along looking at those planes and we were on this two lane road, sugar cane fields on both sides except for that airport strip and traffic was way down the road, a little bit of traffic coming this, in the opposite direction, not much and while riding along not paying much attention, just looking at those planes and all of a sudden I hear, "Look out!" and this guy was yelling, Tom Moretta was yelling at me and what had happened was the guy right in front of us that, when I 01:01:00looked at him the last time, he was way down the road had stopped. He just stopped his truck, you know, to check his something. He, he was a salesman for Grugal rub and so he just wanted to check to see where he was going next so he stops right in the middle of the road. Didn't pull off or anything like that. This is very, this is something that's very, well, it's very common in the developing world and all of a sudden, I never even had a chance. As soon as I turned and looked, I was right on him and Tom has swerved around him and I ran my motorcycle right into the back of this guy's truck. It was a little, it was a little truck and so I grabbed onto the handle bars and just held on for dear life and so the motorcycle and I both started going up over the top of the truck. Luckily, the weight didn't quite get up there and it came back down crashing down and crashing to the ground and so the whole front end of my motorcycle was jammed in here. I was like here, this guy is mad at me which I guess he should have been. I hit him--



MILLER: But I thought, you know, if you're going to stop your truck, you really ought to try to pull off to the side of the road. I mean, you know, safety first so anyway, we, I said alright, I'll pay for your truck, okay, no problem. I didn't want to turn this into the Peace Corps--

WILSON: Right.

MILLER: Because there's another accident, you know, then they'd take our motorcycles. So we load the motorcycle into the back of his truck, and we drive into town. We find this little repair shop and I mean, we're talking about basic repairs. You don't have the big fancy gas stations. Oh, they do, big fancy gas stations in the capital. They did then and they have even more now but so we pull in there, so I said can you fix the motorcycle and the guy says yeah, we, and I don't know how he pulled that front prong out, ha, but he managed to do it and the tire was crushed and everything and so we said okay, so we'll come back on Sunday and pick it up so we got on the other motorcycle and we just drove off to the beach, and went to the beach and then things got 01:03:00worse. Now that I think about it. They actually got worse, that's right. I had a bag. It was like a golf or a bowling ball bag but it was bigger. It was like a YMCA bag--

WILSON: Okay, let's take a break for this.

MILLER: Yeah. [Grandfather clock chimes]

WILSON: The story--

MILLER: So we went to the, went up to the ocean. Of course, on the north coast of the Dominican Republic is the Atlantic. The southern coast is the Caribbean Sea so we got up to this beach area and we decided we would rent a canoe and go out into the Atlantic. Well, that, people were doing that believe it or not, you probably couldn't do it today and the Atlantic side is very rough. The Caribbean side can or cannot be. It's usually pretty smooth down there but the Atlantic side, you have a lot of currents and what have you and so one of the local juveniles, we'll say juvenile delinquents, spotted us and he wanted to, to watch all our gear while we were out in the canoe. Well, I had in this little bag, I had my wallet and everything and of course, we were 01:04:00wearing regular pants and shoes and what have you so we, we didn't put on our swim suit. We just got in the canoe and started paddling out so then, the kid said I'll go with you so we said oh, okay, you can go with us and I wasn't sure that was such a good idea but Moretta thought it was so, so anyway, we were paddling around there. We didn't go too far out. We were only about thirty, forty, fifty yards out and we noticed we were being pulled out into the Atlantic and so we thought we better turn this around but this, this kid who was with us. Now, I'm talking about how nice the Dominicans are and they are the majority of them. This kid, he was a hustler and he wanted to get somebody's wallet is what he wanted to do. So the next thing I know, this kid stands up and he rocked the canoe and over it went. And there went my bag down in the water so I grabbed the bag and then, we tried to pull this canoe. We knew if we let it go, we were going to have to pay for the canoe, hahaha so we were trying to drag this thing back to shore. The kid, the kid had already started swimming back on his own so we're 01:05:00pulling this heavy canoe, this bag is loaded with water, got shoes on, pants on. They're pulling us down. Luckily, the canoe was holding us up and we, I mean, it took us at least a half hour, forty minutes to just swim that short distance because the current was pulling us. We finally started to go at an angle with it and we finally got in and we were just absolutely exhausted, splitting headaches. It was just, it was a wonder nobody drowned or we didn't lose the bag but I couldn't lose the bag. I had no money. I had nothing so it was better to let the canoe go so that was one of the not so fond memories but it was, it was one I'll remember for a long time. I'm sure there's other too but we'll run out of tape before we get to them.

WILSON: Okay, so when did you leave the Dominican Republic? What month and year?

MILLER: I left in August of 1970. And then, I was coming back to Kentucky to, at that time, to go to graduate school. But I thought well, I better go to South America--


WILSON: So you traveled first?

MILLER: I traveled. I spent a year hitchhiking around South America.

WILSON: Oh, great!

MILLER: And there are more motorcycle stories there too but anyway, I took a boat. It was a sea liner. It was an Italian sea liner from Caracas through the Panama Canal and down the west coast to (inaudible), Chile and then, got off and went over land to Buenos Aires and up through Rosario, the Falls of Iguazu, Uruguay and up into Brazil to Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and there's stories in every one of these towns but anyway, then across the Matto Grosso over into Bolivia and then, up from Bolivia up to Peru and Ecuador and Colombia and then, up into Panama and I, literally, we could fill up two or three more tapes on just the stories--

WILSON: On, just on that trip--

MILLER: But that's not Peace Corps--

WILSON: You could have your own, you could have your own motorcycle diaries, right?

MILLER: I, in fact, I bought a motorcycle in the Panama Canal. I was so tired of riding on the backs of trucks and you get on a back of a truck and you're sitting there. You're sitting on oil drums or something, 01:07:00then, the truck driver stops about every thirty feet and picks up some of the local indigenous folk and they get on and they bring their goats and the sheep and the chickens and a large number of them had diarrhea all at the same time, so it was, it was, I thought, you know, after going through South America, I think Central America, I'll do it on a motorcycle but like I said, there's a lot of stories there too. They'll be another tape.

WILSON: Okay so Bill, what do you think the impact of your Peace Corp service was on the Dominican Republic, on the people and the country and what was the impact of Peace Corps on you?

MILLER: Well, I, as, as with so many volunteers, I think it was more, I think I got more out of the experience than the Dominicans got out of it. The first year that I was there, I had minimal impact obviously helping to build the school, starting the social club. I'm not sure it continued after that. So often when you leave a project, if you haven't, if people aren't trained, then it falls apart, But this, the second year, I think at the Catholic university in Santiago, I think 01:08:00I made more of an impact working with the students in that area, in social research, in with their field placements and that type of thing but I think I had more of an impact there but again, I think the Peace Corps volunteers probably get more out of this than the Dominicans do because we come home with these memories, these experiences, with this interest in not only the country but other countries around the world and even more importantly, you see problems and issues from a different perspective. You don't see it from the American's perspective which is good. I mean, you have to see it from the way people here see it but there's always, there's always two sides to a story and when you're looking at it through the eyes of the people, sometimes, it's not quite the way we see it so I think from that standpoint, I got a lot more out of it and of course, that sort of whetted my appetite to get involved in international activities which I have done through a wide range of groups. There's the employment with Legislative Research Commission which might seem strange but we did, through working with 01:09:00the United Nations Association in the United States of America, through involvement in, with the United Nations, writing articles on the United Nations and different activities like that so I, I see, I think it impacted me more than I impacted them.

WILSON: Okay, what, let's, let's sort of go through your career path. You said that you came back and you went to graduate school?

MILLER: Right, I went to graduate school through the Kent School of Social Work, got a master's in social work--


MILLER: At the University of Louisville--

WILSON: University of Louisville, okay.

MILLER:'72 to '74


MILLER: Then, I moved to Frankfort and got a job with the Cabinet for Human Resources and that was right as they were reorganizing and they were bringing in all these social service agencies and putting them under one roof and we had a cabinet of about eleven thousand five hundred people. It was a huge cabinet. And I was part of the Secretary. The Secretary is the Chief Executive Officer for the Cabinet and he had an immediate staff of about fifteen people and I 01:10:00was one of those fifteen and I worked as a federal liaison officer monitoring what was going on in Washington and that type of thing and so I worked with that for about three years and then, I decided I thought it would be kind of nice to travel again and I like to travel in large chunks of time so I quit my job and took my retirement and--

WILSON: This is in what year?



MILLER: And from '74 to '77, I worked there. Plus, I got another master's degree at Kentucky State University--


MILLER: A masters in Public, it's now Public Administration. They called it Public Affairs in that time--


MILLER: So then I had the master's degree in Social Work and Public Administration--

So then I thought well, I'll go to Europe. I hadn't been to Europe so I go to Europe and started off with another motorcycle, wound up, had so many problems with that one, I sold it back to the guy who sold it to me and got a Eurail pass and just traveled all over the British Isles, 01:11:00Ireland, Western Europe, the former Yugoslavia and Greece for about six months. Then, I came back to Kentucky and I thought well, I think I'd like to live maybe out in Denver or San Diego and I thought about moving out there but then, it dawned on me I didn't have money again. Had just enough to buy a car so I thought buy the car, then, I'm going to have to get a job so then I came to Frankfort and got luckily, got a job at the Legislative Research Commission which is the bipartisan staff arm for the Kentucky General Assembly and I was planning to stay there about a year or two and then, move out west and some how or another, I never moved, and so I just wound up staying there and I was an assistant to the Director of the Legislative Research Commission and worked on policy and that type of thing and then, we set up what was called the Office for Federal International Relations and the Office for Federal Relations basically liaisoned with Congress, the White House, executive agencies in Washington and just tried to monitor what 01:12:00was going on and impacted Kentucky, a role for the Kentucky Legislature anyway and then, we set up the International Relations part which was really unique. Kentucky is only one of two states, California and Kentucky, have International Relation offices in the Legislative branch. They all have in their Executive branch but--

WILSON: Executive, right.

MILLER: So anyway, I headed that up and we really tried to help legislators understand how they were linked in the international activities and that type of thing and we had visiting parliamentarians from other countries like Nigeria, Argentina, whatever would come. They wanted to see how the Kentucky Legislature operated. We did a quarterly newsletter called Kentucky's Global Connection Newsletter. We pulled in a lot of articles on what Kentuckians were doing in the international arena. It might be in the Kentucky World Trade Center promoting exports. It might be with the International, I think 01:13:00it's called the International Orchestral Competition or something in Danville at Centre College. There's all different types of international, Rolex event at the Horse Park, international events, different things like that so that was the purpose of that. We also--

WILSON: And when did the international part of the office start?

MILLER: It started, let's see, it was really around 1981, '82, along there--



WILSON: Okay and that's still in existence?

MILLER: It is not unfortunately--

WILSON: It is not?

MILLER: So often many good ideas fall to the wayside when you have new directors. And the director who came in behind Vic Hellard, Vic Hellard was a visionary. The director who came in next was not a visionary; Don Cetrullo did not see the virtue in having an office for federal and international relations so it was--

WILSON: So it was from the early eighties until when?

MILLER: Until about the, around '95, '96. Around there, yeah, maybe, maybe about '97, maybe up to '97--



MILLER: But, but he did not see the virtue in having that office and it wasn't that we were traveling overseas but we had a lot of this, we didn't, the staff didn't but we had legislators who were. And one, Gerald Neal, a senator from Louisville was selected. He was only one of seventy-five Americans selected to be part of the United Nations Election Observation Team that monitored the first free all race election in South Africa in 1994. That was a tremendous honor for Kentucky and for Senator Neal and he went to South Africa and played a prominent role. We had other folks, like I remember a Representative Adrian Arnold. He went to, I believe it was Lithuania, with a National Conference of State Legislator's group of legislators and went over to help them launch their parliamentary system. They talked about the committee system, they talked about lobbying, talked about how we were going to get the public involved and drafting legislation and those types of things. Again, these are technical assistance projects but we 01:15:00have, we can help provide to people in other parts of the world--


MILLER: So there was, there was a great interest in this office at the time and we, we did other things too like we networked with the United Nations. The UN has some of the best publications that are out there being it in the environmental area or talking about human rights or you're talking about oh, health programs, that type of thing--

WILSON: So when did you get, when did you get involved with UNA? Was that about the same time?

MILLER: No, it was, no--


MILLER: Really, I got involved with the United Nations Association prior to that.


MILLER: I went to a meeting in '75 in Frankfort when I lived here. When I first came to Frankfort, they had a United Nations Association chapter here and there were about four or five around the state, most of them in Central Kentucky. And then, in '79, I was contacted. I noticed that the UNA chapter wasn't functioning anymore so in '79, they contacted me, someone who knew me said would you like to get involved 01:16:00in helping to start that chapter? And I said well sure, I'll, you know, I can do that and so I went to my first United Nations Association annual meeting, a nationwide meeting in Washington, D.C. in '81 and I thought this is really an interesting group and I didn't know much about the United Nations. I'd seen some of the programs, projects in other countries when I was overseas. But I didn't know much about them and I knew even less about the United Nations Association but I got involved with them and began to find out it was really a very interesting group. They were dealing with some extremely important issues and many of those issues, in fact, a large majority the UN deals with everyday, UN agencies like Food and Agriculture Organization, the Civil Aviation Organization moving aircraft, the International Maritime Organization doing ship safety on the high seas. Those are all public administration activities--

WILSON: Right.

MILLER: They're dealing with the same things we're deal with in Kentucky. We're just a smaller version. They're doing them internationally so anyway, I thought well, this is an interesting 01:17:00group so I got involved with the United Nations Association and I was the chair of the, what they call the Council of Chapter Division Presidents, the 30,000 members and 175 chapters, from 1988 through '91 and I've been on the United Nations Association Board of Directors oh, off and on three or four times now and I'll just be completing a, an eight year term in 2008--

WILSON: With, with the UN?

MILLER: With the United Nations Association--

WILSON: Right, right, right.

MILLER: But now, UNA/USA is not part of the United Nations. It's totally separate.

WILSON: Right. Well, let's, let's finish up your career history. So you left Legislative Research Commission when?

MILLER: Well, I retired in 19-, well, I really retired in 1999 and they asked me to stay on part-time to, to do something public information work. So then, the session came around in 2000 and they asked me 01:18:00to come back full time and I said well, I think I'm going to retire. That's my retirement so I really left about 2000 and then, I've been just involved in a variety of things. Of course, I've been a member of Rotary International since 1981 and the thing that really hooked me on rotary was the Rotary International part, where they said international--

WILSON: International, right.

MILLER: And so I've been involved in a variety of things with Rotary International. I'm chair in several of the international committees. I'm chairing the District Rural Community Services Committee right now which promotes projects between Rotary Clubs and Rotary Clubs in other parts of the world, developing countries. We've got a sister cities project between the rotary club of San Pedro de Macoris and the

Rotary Club of Frankfort where we, our rotary club along with six others, five others in the district, in our rotary district put up $10,000 to help sink some wells in the Dominican Republic for people who--

WILSON: So that's a nice connection--

MILLER: Yeah, great connection, yeah, it really is--


WILSON: With your Peace Corps site--

MILLER: Right now--

WILSON: And you said you were going to the Dominican Republic twice a year?

MILLER: Some years, I get there twice a year

WILSON: This year and is that--

MILLER: This year--

WILSON: And is that for things like Sister Cities?

MILLER: Yeah, right, I'm going in January and February of '07, right, yes. But we also got other things going on like right now, Frank Devlyn who lives in Mexico who's an American Mexican, Mexican American, however you want to look at it--

WILSON: Mm hmm, mm hmm

MILLER: He and I submitted a proposal to Rotary International to the Board of Directors to set up a Rotary fellowship for Rotarians for the United Nations. And Rotary has all types of fellowships. They have fellowships on sailing, chess playing, music, you know, singing, whatever and so we're promoting this going on rotary in the United Nations fellowship for this group because the unique relationship that rotary and the UN have had for many years. Rotarians helped 01:20:00start the United Nations in 1945. Rotary and the United Nations World Health Organization, the UN Children's Fund, UNICEF, had worked since '85 to eliminate polio and other childhood diseases from the face of the earth. You've got Rotary working with the UN AIDS program. We're working with UNESCO, United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, to overcome adult illiteracy so there's a close partnership between Rotary and the United Nations. And so we're trying to help cement that partnership and strengthen it and that's the purpose of this fellowship. But there's all kinds of other activities going on too with the United Nations Association, the Rotary. I'm also a member of the Louisville Committee on Foreign Relations, the World Affairs Council down in Louisville, so there's a lot of different groups that you network with and you tie in these international interests and that's just a small number, small part--

WILSON: A part of it--


WILSON: And so really, the impact of Peace Corps service on the way you 01:21:00think has been something that is, is affecting everything you're doing right now sounds like.

MILLER: Pretty much. It has to a large degree, yes. Yeah, some of this maybe sort of wandered into these positions through blind dumb luck. Now, starting the Office for Federal and International Relations, that was really my boss's idea. He was the one who came up with this. He said you know, we're doing more and more internationally and we need to set a formal mechanism so we can tap into this so he was really the one who came up with that concept which was good.

WILSON: But you carried it out.

MILLER: Well, in conjunction, yes, right, it was an office basically of one with a secretary, right, you know, but that's all you needed to do that, to bring that information together and to work with legislators who were interacting with people in other parts in the world and people from other parts of the world who were interacting with us.

WILSON: Yeah, right, so how many countries do you figure you've been in since you were in Peace Corps?


MILLER: Oh, about seventy-eight, something like that, right around seventy, along there.

WILSON: So you only have a hundred fifty left--

MILLER: A hundred and twenty-one to go. The United Nations has a hundred and ninety-one countries right now--

WILSON: Oh well, I was going to say--countries--yeah--

MILLER: I don't know if I'll make that.

WILSON: Yeah, yeah, they added a lot of countries.

MILLER: I'll have to start traveling now.

WILSON: Right, right, right--

MILLER: Early, early

WILSON: So what, what international experience do you look forward to in the future? What's on your list?

MILLER: Well, a couple of things, still stay involved with Rotary International. And with our potable water project with the Dominicans in the Dominican Republic--

WILSON: So you'll be going back down there.

MILLER: Right. Also, if this Rotary Fellowship of Rotarians for the United Nations takes off, that's going to be a full time type of activity--


MILLER: I, I have a feeling. Also, I'm looking at doing more television. Oh, I forgot to mention the TV program.

WILSON: Right, right.

MILLER: Global Connection TV programs, right. We've been doing those in Frankfort since 1994. It's a weekly TV show. It airs at seven 01:23:00p.m. on channel 10 in Frankfort and then, they re-air it on Wednesday mornings at nine a.m. and now, the programs being aired in Louisville on channel 98 on Wednesday evenings at seven p.m.


MILLER: And sometimes they run them over in Lexington when I can remember to get the tapes to people over there. That's been the problem. They, they will run them. It's just getting them the tapes so anyway, that program started as really to fill a void in the Frankfort community and interview people who are involved in international issues and there's so many international activities taking place. You might have a community like Lexington, Frankfort, you've got sister cities programs going on. They get very little coverage in local prep media in particular. Maybe some in the electronic media of TV but not much. Maybe a little bit on radio but not that much so anyway, we're trying to focus on those. We talk to business people who are involved in selling their goods in the international market place. One week, we 01:24:00might interview people from Peace Corps and talk about what the Peace Corps doing and, and what returned Peace Corps volunteers are doing in the community. Another week, it might be the President of the Frankfort chapter of the United Nations Association or the Lexington chapter or the Louisville chapter of the United Nations Association or the next week, it might be somebody from the International Book Project talking about what they're doing.

WILSON: Right.

MILLER: Or Rotarians who just went to India on a group study exchange program or Kiwanians who are working with the United Nations UNICEF program to eliminate iodine deficiency disorders but there's just a wealth of information in a community and so I started this program and I'm going to try to work with the United Nations Association chapters in the future in starting these global connection programs in other communities like in New York City--


MILLER: And California in various cities. For, in fact, we did start one, we started one in Miami Beach not too long ago, about two years 01:25:00ago so we've got the one in Louisville, Frankfort, every now and then, Lexington and Miami Beach.

WILSON: Great, great. What has been the impact of Peace Corps service in the way you think about the world and what's going on now and then, the last question is what do you think the overall impact of Peace Corps has been and what it's role should be today?

MILLER: Well, again, I, probably just kind of reiterate what I said before about my experiences. I think I got much more out of Peace Corps than I contributed to the Peace Corps but it did, it paved the way for I think more substantive interactions in the future. If I hadn't gone into the Peace Corps, I probably, I certainly wouldn't have the world view that I have. That's obvious, unless I'd done something else internationally oriented but it, it still would have been the same perspective. It's a totally different perspective when you're living with people in a country for two years. You eat with them. You have about the same salary they have and you ride the same type 01:26:00of motorcycles they have. You're not riding a big air conditioned car and that type of thing and it's a totally different experience so I think that probably laid the ground work in my interest in first off international travel and then, secondly, for getting involved with groups that have international programs like Rotary International, the United Nations Association of the United States of America, the World Affairs Council. Different groups like that that could help me to tap into this interest that I have so I think if it hadn't been for the Peace Corps experience, none of this would have ever happened. In fact, I'm just about ninety-nine percent sure and maybe even this Office for Federal and International Relations would never have been created. Probably wouldn't have because it was a unique concept then. It's still a very unique concept for, for a legislative branch to be involved in international relations like this so I, I think the Peace Corps has a large part of the credit or blame, which ever. I'm not sure which getting me hooked on this stuff.


WILSON: So, so what about the over all impact of Peace Corps and its role today?

MILLER: Well, I think Peace Corps has been very positive over the years. It's changed dramatically from wanted to recruit just BA generalists who are out, fresh out of college when it started in '61, '62 and '63 and then, focus more on people who have, who reflected occupations like carpentry or plumbing or something or now, looking for people who were in health specialists, maybe agriculturalists, people who get, who are programmers who get into computers. We're moving into a different era but I think all the while, Peace Corps is a phenomenal concept. It's one, it's been extremely successful over the years. It's has it's ups and downs, obviously, depending upon the administration from time to time, depending on the level of funding from time to time but I think the overall impact of the Peace Corps has been extremely positive and that it's one that should be built upon and should be strengthened 01:28:00over the years and that can be done through a variety of ways through the President, through the members of Congress, through the National Peace Corps Association, through returnrf Peace Corps volunteers and of course, the return Peace Corps volunteers really, I think have, really have an obligation to help carry out that third goal of Peace Corps to bring that experience home and to incorporate it into their lives and to really look back on what they did and what they accomplished and even more importantly, what they can do in the future and get involved especially in international projects. I'm not saying ignore the community projects but to get involved in international projects and really to parley that experience into something that can be even more helpful in the future so I think Peace Corps deserves a lot of credit. Of course, John F. Kennedy as President came up with the idea and Sergeant Shriver really implemented it, at least, launched it and of course, Kennedy says I recall he said well, I put my brother-in-law in charge. If that thing fails, I can fire him. And we won't have to worry about it but fortunately, it did not fail. So it's off 01:29:00and running and I think the future is very bright for Peace Corps volunteers. I know the ones I've met in the Dominican Republic are extremely committed. In fact, they're probably more committed that my group was to be quite honest and they're much more serious than my group was. We were, you know, on the weekends, we were more into parties and stuff, so I think that they, they've improved immensely. Now, if they can only get their motorcycles back, they'll be set, hahaha.

WILSON: Thank you Bill.

MILLER: Thank you, I appreciated it Angene.

[End of interview.]