Stephen W. Duda
Mr. Duda gave the following information concerning his Border Patrol and Immigration Service career at his home in Albany, New York on an undisclosed date in 1988. His responses were made to a prepared list of questions given to him in advance by the National Border Patrol Museum.
Tape was transcribed by Nary Anne Wright on 9-7-88 and edited on 10-24-88 by Ms. Terrie Cornell. Reproduced in its current format by members of the National Border Patrol Museum on May 14, 2009.
My name is Stephen W. Duda. I was born September 1, 1913, in Dunmore, Pennsylvania. My father was Hillary Duda; my mother was Anastasia Duda. Both parents were born in Poland and immigrated to the United States in the early 1900’s. My father was a coal miner in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and my mother was a housewife up to 1919 at which time they bought a farm in Lake Ariel, Pennsylvania. My father died in October, 1971. My mother, who is now 97 years of age, is still living and has a keen and lively mind.
I grew up from 1913—1919 in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, and subsequently at the farm in Lake Ariel, Pa.
No, I have no college. I graduated from Lake Vocational High School, Lake Ariel, Pennsylvania, in 1933 during the depression years and there was no money. It was impossible to enter any college at that time. Therefore I went to work for the Grand Union Company food markets as a manager both in Scranton, Pennsylvania; Monticello, New York; Corning, New York and Elmira, New York. In 1939, while managing the Scranton, Pennsylvania, store I took the Civil Service examination, which was head lined Junior Investigator for Customs Patrol, Customs Inspector, and Immigration Border Patrol. I was appointed to the Immigration Border Patrol in 1940 as an Immigration Border Patrol Inspector.
I became a Border Patrolman because I enjoyed the outdoor life of a Border Patrol Inspector and the fact, having knowledge of the Slavic languages; I thought I would be an asset to the Immigration Service. I reported on duty in August, 1940, at Derby Line, Vermont.
I entered on duty as a Patrol Inspector at a salary of $2,000. per year.
What training class were you in, and where? I attended the U.S. Immigration Border Patrol academy in El Paso, Texas, from October 15, 1940 to December 1, 1940. Note: I will attach my travel itinerary from Derby Line, Vermont, to the Border Patrol academy. It will be on a separate tape, because it is rather lengthy traveling with three other Patrol Inspectors from Derby Line to El Paso, Texas, to attend the academy.
During WWII, much of the time I spent was in Ellis Island, New York, and the Greenbriar Hotel, West Virginia, guarding and transporting enemy aliens. Where were you on December 7, 1941? I was being transferred from Island Pond, Vermont, to Swanton, Vermont, where I was stationed on December 7, 1941, and according to my diary it was my day off on account of Sunday this date.
Where were you stationed and at what ranks? I was stationed in Swanton, Beecher Falls, Richford, and Island Pond, Vermont, as an Immigration Border Patrol Inspector.
What details were you sent on? I was sent on various details too numerous to mention, checking lumber camps in the states of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, in addition to enemy alien details and deportation of aliens from the Canadian border to New York.
Where you detailed to any of the Civil Rights marches? No, I was never detailed to any Civil rights marches. Up on the Canadian border we had no civil rights problems.
My expertise in the Immigration Border Patrol was competitive pistol shooting both in the United States and Canada against the Canadian Mounties, and also sign cutting along the Canadian border.
What officers did you work with and which ones impressed you the most?
I worked with numerous officers on the border, too numerous to mention names. The one that impressed me most was one James Clancy, Senior Patrol Inspector who impressed me the most because he was a 24 hour Border Patrol Inspector, since about 1924. He was one of the original Border Patrol officers. Unfortunately he is now deceased.
How many chiefs did you work under and who were they? I worked under three different Chief Patrol Inspectors from 1940 to August, 1951, at which time I was promoted to Criminal Investigator at St. Albans, Vermont. The chiefs were Alfonse Fuller, Derby Line, Vermont; Eugene Lincort, who was stationed in Rouses Point, New York: and also Chet Woish, who was also chief after Lincort left at Rouses Point, New York.
What supervisory positions did you have? I was supervisory Criminal Investigator, also acting as Senior Patrol Inspector on the Canadian border.
What were the frightening situations that you can remember and the funniest? Well, I had numerous funny ones and many frightening ones. The most frightening ones as I can remember were on four different occasions when I was attacked by illegal aliens from European countries attempting to enter the United States from Canada who were in possession of knives, clubs, and some with guns after bank robberies in Canada. It forced me and my brother officers to pull our guns out of the holsters and that prevented them from attacking me or my brother officer. The funniest were several. However, one of interest was finding a car with a male and female in the car parked in the back country roads near the Canadian border on the old smuggling roads, suspected of being a smuggler. After about a three hour wait in the hideout by Senior Patrol Inspector Clancy and myself, the Senior took a walk under the cover of darkness quietly to check the car to determine whether or not it was a suicide case or what. He found that the driver was in the car and when Patrol Inspector asked what he was doing there, the driver responded, stating, “Nothing, we’re just doing a little necking.” Senior Patrol Inspector Clancy told them, “Put your neck in your pants and go on home. It’s cold to be out here watching you lovers in the back country roads.” I thought that was funny, especially under the cover of darkness and you hear the old man speak out to the waiting lovers. Probably they had in mind to bring some illegal aliens, but after a three hour wait we had to check it.
Did you remain in the Border Patrol? What areas did you work for the Immigration Service?
I remained in the Border Patrol from August, 1940, to August, 1951, at which time I was promoted to Investigator and stationed in St. Albans, Vermont, through 1956 at which time I was transferred to Albany, New York. I worked with other officers on details on enemy alien work. Also detailed to the US consulate office in Toronto, Canada, and the US Embassy in Ottawa,Canada,1960 through 1965 periodically. Mostly the details were in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
To me, the Border Patrol is one of the finest law enforcement agencies, especially for young men who get the proper training and enjoy outdoor life. Yes, I would do it again if I was a younger man and encourage any young man to get into the profession. It is interesting work and exciting.
Would you have liked to have seen any changes during your Border Patrol career? I certainly would. I would have liked to have changed and done away with Service politics and favoritism. That is not a healthy situation. Give every Border Patrol Inspector a fair deal is my motto, to encourage others to advance while in the Border Patrol.
How much and what type of support did your wife give you? My God, she gave me real support, more than 100%, due to my irregular working hours, details away from home, stationed in small isolated villages and towns, in fact upon my retirement she was the recipient of a nice plaque which was presented to Helen N. Duda in recognition for her many years of distinguished and dedicated service to her husband during his many years of government service as a US Immigration officer in the US Department of Justice, 1940—1978. That was a quotation on the plaque. It shows that some of my friends and co—workers thought a lot of my wife as a real Immigration Patrol Inspector’s wife. I wish more of you fellows would have the quality of woman I was married to. It is now 47 years since we have been married.
What did you do after leaving the Border Patrol? After leaving the Border Patrol in August, 1951, I was promoted and assigned to St. Albans, Vermont, district office which covered the state of Vermont as an Investigator, northern New Hampshire, Maine, Quebec City, Montreal, and seven northern counties along the Canadian border. Yes, my wife saw me on week—ends only as I was on the road conducting investigations from St. Albans in the district office area. About 1956, I was transferred to Albany, New York, where I eventually became a supervisor Criminal Investigator with 20 counties under my jurisdiction through to January, 1978, at which time I retired.
I mentioned previously that I would dictate our itinerary going to the Border Patrol academy in El Paso, Texas, from Derby Line, Vermont, where we were stationed. I traveled with Patrol Inspector Everett Butterfield, Roland Bell, and Lloyd Matson. We left Derby Line on October 15, in the Patrol car furnished by the Patrol sector destined for El Paso, Texas. I had cash on hand $27. We left at 6am and had breakfast which cost me $.20, lunch$.50, supper $.50. Also I bought some apples on the road at
$.25. We traveled that first day 593 miles. We lodged at Erie, Pennsylvania, YMCA where we paid $1.00 per night, having arrived there at 9pm. We left Erie, Pennsylvania, on the 16th of October at 6:15am, drove through to Indianapolis, Indiana, where we stayed in cabins at Indianapolis. In fact, I had to register for the conscription at Mento, Ohio, birthplace of President Garfield. Had breakfast $.35, lunch $.55, supper $.45. Cabins cost us $.85 per person. On the 17th of October, we left at 6:05am, Indianapolis, Indiana. We had breakfast at $.35, lunch at Highland, Illinois, at $.55, supper at Waynesville, Missouri, at $.45. We slept in cabins at Springfield, Missouri, for which we paid $1.00. We traveled 492 miles this date. On the 18th of October, we left Springfield, Missouri, at 6:15 am, had breakfast that cost us $.32, and went through Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore, Oklahoma. We had dinner at the Mason Hotel, there observed and looked over the largest collection of guns in the United States. Dinner cost us $.50 apiece, we toured through Oklahoma City, which has many oil wells throughout the business district. Supper we had at El Reno which cost us $.60 and we spent the night at Elks City, Oklahoma, in cabins which were very poor — bed bugs, cockroaches and what not — but cost us a $1.00. We traveled this date 468 miles. 19th of October we left at 6:20 am, Elks city, Oklahoma, had breakfast at $.35, lunch at Bolvina, Texas, an ideal western restaurant, took picture of dining room and the goat near by. Had supper at Tularosa, New Mexico, which cost us $.25 there, spent the night at Alamogordo, New Mexico, very nice cabins, cost $1.50 a night. Mileage traveled this day 409 miles. On the 20th of October we left Alamogordo, New Mexico, at 10:15 am after having breakfast at the cost of $.25. We arrived at El Paso, Texas, at 12:20 pm at which time we traveled today 105 miles to El Paso city. We registered at the Hotel Vogel, 314 West Missouri Street, El Paso. We secured a room and board at $35.00 per month.
We had dinner and got cleaned up and had the car washed and reported to the Immigration Patrol school and met Inspector Bowman who was in charge of the rifle instruction. He gave us instructions to report at 7:45 am on Monday the 21st, as that was their ruling at the academy on the southern border. We had supper at Waters Drug Store, as Sunday supper was not available at the Hotel Vogel. Telephone at that time for the Vogel Hotel was Main 2217. We left the car in charge of Chief Patrolmen at the El Paso Border Patrol Academy, total mileage traveled from Derby Line to El Paso, Texas, training school was 2588 miles. 21st of October, went to school at 7:45am, received instructions in what uniforms were needed to attend this school. It was to be a river uniform, total cost of $4.00 and gym uniform – shirt, shorts, jock strap, sweat shirt, and gym shoes — bought whole gym outfit from assistant physical instructor Porver, paid $3.00 for that. Had to get a passport photograph on white background and give to Mr. Nelson for placing on the picture board.
I had to buy a French book that cost $1.45 and also various notebooks. Mr. Nelson was in charge of the training school, Mr. Jackson was Physical trainer, Mr. Murphy was fingerprinting, Miss Virginia King was French instructor, Mr. Wilmouth was pamphlet and law instructions, Mr. Watkins — Immigration Law instructions, Mr. Box — physical form instructions, Mr. Smith — radio code and maintenance, Mr. Bowman — rifle instructor, Mr. Tommy Box— pistol instructor, Mr. Carpenter — Border Patrol investigations, Mr. Adcock – traffic inspections, Mr. Allen — official forms.
October 22, regular scheduled school, climbed the look-out tower and took pictures of various sights on the Mexico side of the border and the Texas. October 23, regular schedule of instructions at the school. The Border Patrol Academy at El Paso, Texas, divided 100 men attending the school into groups of 50, Groups A & B. I was put in Group B with all the St. Albans district officers. October 24, regular schedule of instructions at the school, 8 am—6 pm. 25th was also regular schedule of instructions at the school from B am—6 pm, 26th was also regular schedule of instructions at the school 8 am—6 pm. 27th of October was regular schedule also at the school: rifle shooting, 5 shots a piece, I tied 2nd place 4 out of 5 shots about 150 yard distance or 450 feet. 28th October, 8 am—6 pm, regular schedule of instruction at the school. Evenings, every Monday and Thursday, I took French lessons with Miss White and Miss King at 2917 silver Street, as I had difficulties getting French. It was wrong in the first place to give us Parisian French when we should have had Canadian French stationed on the border. They use the slang French up on the Canadian border, not the real Parisian. 29th of October, also attending regular scheduled school of instructions. Rifle shooting on the range this time 10 shots sitting and 5 shots kneeling. I received top place by shooting 14 out of 15 shots at a distance 200 yards. 30th of October 8 am—6 pm regular schedule of instructions at the school.
We had a little excitement while in school when we had physical training from 5—6PM when the Patrolman in the lookout tower notified the Patrol of a peculiar action of a man along the Rio Grande river on the Texas side. When inspected, it was a Chinaman having cut his arteries in both arms trying to commit suicide. All the Patrolmen discontinued rehearsal and two of them took the stretcher and brought the Chinaman from the banks of the Rio Grande and proceeded with him to the hospital as he was still living, with the instructions of physical instructor Jackson and Texas police. About then, a large crowd gathered about the incident and was dispersed.
On the 31st was a day off in lieu of Sunday, October 27. I took
a trip to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico which is about 170 miles from El Paso and the largest caverns in the world. November 21and 23, inclusive, were all at the academy.
Stopped at Abilene, Texas, at 8 pm central time, ate supper, and stayed at the Hotel Grace at Abilene. Paid $1.25 for the room. Left on the 25th of November, at 6:30am central standard time and traveled 545 miles. Stayed overnight at Little Rock, Arkansas, at the King Put cottages for which we paid $1.00 for the room, arriving there at 9:20pm central standard time. 26th of November, left Little Rock, Arkansas, at 6:15am and traveled 587 miles to Knoxville, Tennessee, where we stayed overnight at the Mimer Hotel for $1.00 per night. Arrived at the hotel at 9:30pm. 27th of November, left Knoxville at 7 am and traveled 538 miles to Washington, D.C., where we spent the night at the Maples, 2826 Bladensburg Rd., N.E., Washington, D.C., arriving there at 10:30 pm Eastern Standard time. It was very slow driving due to icy roads over the Virginia mountains. Room was $1.00 per night. On the 28th of November, we left Washington, D.C., at 6:15 am and drove by way of Baltimore, Maryland, through Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York, and arrived at New Haven, Connecticut, at 3:30pm Eastern standard time having crossed the Henry Hudson Cross—town Bridge and Hudson River Parkway to Merritt Parkway. Total mileage was treacherous, Stayed overnight at the Mimer Hotel in New Haven, Conn., at a cost of $1.25 a night. 29th of November, left New Haven, Conn., at 7:am and traveled through to Derby Line, Vermont, arriving there at 9:45pm. Total mileage 326 miles. On Sat. Nov. the 30th, 1940, had a half a day off, also for Saturday Nov. 23, and Saturday, Nov. 30 at which time we were assigned to different stations throughout the sub-district. My official station was to Richford, Vermont.
Having reported to Richford, Vermont, on December 1, 1940, after returning from school, I worked lpm—6pm, and 6:3Opm-9:3Opm doing motor patrol work through Richford, Enosburg Falls, and Sheldon Junction, East Berkshire and West Berkshire, Vermont, with Patrol Inspector Marshall Lovelette, who was one of the older Patrol Inspectors at that station.
Now, I made mention that I have a diary of everyday that I have worked for the Immigration and Naturalization Service from September 1940 to date. This was done on the advice of one of the old time Senior Patrol Inspectors who advised me to keep a diary, nobody can pin anything on you for some unknown excuse to get you in trouble. Therefore ltd advise anybody who works for Uncle Sam to keep a diary so he can pinpoint just what he did and where he was during the period of accusation. I am enclosing some pictures of myself in uniform, 1940-41, at which time we had to wear breeches and boots. I am sending the boots down, and as soon as I locate the breeches I will mail those down also. I also have a pair of skis and attached boots which I used for line checking or sign cutting along the Canadian border during the winter months. I preferred using the skis over snow shoes when checking the boundary lines for any activity across the border. If you desire to have those skis I’d be glad to mail them down to the Museum. If there is something else I can do to make that great Museum of ours a great success that our grandchildren will admire and enjoy seeing what our Immigration Border Patrol Off icers did for many years. Thank you.