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Interview with Alan Sagner - Center on the American Governor

Interview with Alan Sagner - Center on the American Governor

ong>Sagnerong>: Well, I said it was the fact we were poor. Q: What did your father do? ong>Sagnerong>: We were in a family clothing business, my grandfather, my father, and all my uncles. We manufactured men’s clothing, which was something that I was so happy to get out of when I had a chance to go into business ong>withong> my brother-in-law, because-- it’s ironic-- I’m colorblind. If I don’t have a companion who cares how I look, I really don’t care much about clothing. And the irony of it is, while I was at the Port Authority, I was selected among the 10 best dressed men at the time, which was such a joke, it’s hard for me to believe. Another story on dressing, about politics, when Frank Lautenberg decided to run for the senate, he thought that-- I was chairman of the Port Authority and had been in business administration-- that I would be interested in doing it. In fact, my wife had said, “ong>Alanong>, why don’t you run?” And I said, “No, I’m never going to run for public office.” But Frank didn’t believe me. We went to lunch one day in New York . He said, “Don’t tell me you’re not interested in running. Look how you’re dressing now.” He says, “You have that blue shirt ong>withong> the separate white collar.” I said, “Frank, this is an old blue shirt. When the collar wore out, I took it to the tailor and he put a new collar on.” So I’m not a fashion person, and the reason I’m interested in politics but I never considered running for two reasons. First of all, I wasn’t in the war, and not to have been in that war-- I was in college when the war started. People who had children who were of age during the Korean War, the Vietnam War or the Iraq War can’t identify ong>withong> what it was like being a relatively able-bodied young man in 1942 and not be able to get into the service. But I was at University of Maryland , and I had always had service asthma as a young man. I had to drop out of the ROTC because of the asthma. When the war started, I tried to get in the Air Corps, and they wouldn’t take me. I thought I’d get in the Navy. They wouldn’t take me, and I was turned down by the draft. So I realized that somebody at my age not having been in the service would be a very big how about. Evidently it’s not a big deal today because our president and vice president went over that hurdle. Also, I think I have dedication to detail but a lot of impatience. When I see the things that a person elected to office has to put up ong>withong>, catering to people’s irresponsible requests and going through a lot of boring meetings, many of which I set up for Brendan-- I mean, it was eight meetings a night for him-- but to have to do that campaign after campaign is something that I just couldn’t do. Q: I notice you say “ Baltimore ” differently than most of us up here. How do you say it? ong>Sagnerong>: "Baldimer" Q: Baltimore . ong>Sagnerong>: Yeah. Q: Baltimore . ong>Sagnerong>: Baltimore . You can tell is somebody is a native because we don’t use the “T.” I’m not aware of it until somebody else brings it up. I don’t know what the basis of that is. Q: How did your family get to Baltimore? Where does your family originate? ong>Sagnerong>: My grandfather came to this country in the 1890s like many Eastern European refugees. Q: Do you know what country he came from? ong>Sagnerong>: He came from what was either Poland or Austria . We’re not quite sure. The borders changed from where he came from, and I never did any real research on it. He went to work for a very big company called Stough Plus [ph?], which was one of the first large ready-to-wear manufacturers of men’s clothing, in Baltimore , and my father and he both worked for it. Then they started a small business. We lived in Baltimore . I have two sisters who lived there. -6-

Q: Do they still live there? ong>Sagnerong>: No. My older sister has died, and my younger sister lives in Washington now. Q: And your mother? What was her lineage? ong>Sagnerong>: My mother was just a house-- never did any work. Just around the... Q: Where did her people come from? Was she from Baltimore ? ong>Sagnerong>: Yeah, she was there. Her parents came from Europe at the same time my father’s parents came. Q: Were you raised in a strict Jewish household? ong>Sagnerong>: No. We belonged to an orthodox synagogue, but there was never any-- that’s part of the interesting things that we were-- belonged to an orthodox synagogue, but there was no real identify ong>withong> religion. I went to Hebrew school three times a week. I think I learned a lot from some of the things that I learned there. I became bar mitzvah when I was 13, and then I stopped my Jewish education. But you reminded me of something that was more important for me than anything else, was the Boy Scouts. I joined the Boy Scout troupe about the age of 13, and all through high school this was a major focus. Maybe that’s one of that things that, besides my left-wing cousins, that influenced me on proper behavior and responsibility. But we were very fortunate. We had a cabin not far from where we all lived. You could take a trolley car in those days and go out there, then walk three or four miles, and we would spend lots of time there camping and cooking and doing craftwork. Q: We, meaning the Boy Scouts, or your family? ong>Sagnerong>: No, the Boy Scouts. It was strictly a Boy Scout thing. And that was a very good influence, and one of the big first disappointments. I was very active in the troupe-- I was senior patrol leader-- and we had a competition, because in 1937-38 there was going to be an international Boy Scout jamboree in Washington , D.C. , and I was selected by my troupe to represent our troupe. It was one of the first things I ever one. We had to get all new uniforms and outfits, which was a question in our family, but they agreed to do it. And then there was a polio epidemic, and the jamboree was called off. So it was one of the first big disappointments, besides losing the Humphrey-Muskie campaign. Q: Did you go to public high school? ong>Sagnerong>: Yes. Went in Baltimore , Forest Park High School , which was a coed high school. Then I went to University of Maryland . I started in mid-year, and I went to Johns Hopkins for two summers to make up for the time that I had missed starting at the mid-term. Q: I’m sorry, you went to University of Maryland ... ong>Sagnerong>: But I started in the mid-term. Q: Oh, because you graduated high school in February. ong>Sagnerong>: Right, right. Q: And you got a degree in what? ong>Sagnerong>: Bachelor of Arts. I had no idea what I really wanted to get out of college. I enjoyed it. I was active on the newspaper. I was the sports editor of the newspaper, and played lacrosse. -7-

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