Oral History Transcript — Harriett Greene
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Harriett Greene; March 19, 1997
ABSTRACT: Born Sept. 22, 1925 in Bristol, CT; discusses family life and childhood. Undergraduate education at Smith College interrupted by marriage to Roger Bassett in 1944. Discusses her three children with Roger: Ellen, Martha and Paul. Obtains a secretarial position at Lamont under Arnold Finck in the mid-1950s. Assigned to help organize and handle administrative duties for Maurice Ewing. Recollects her impressions of a number of different people at Lamont and her perceptions of their activities, especially Joe Worzel. Comments on the difficult transition of Ewing to the oceanography building. Describes she and Ewingís activities in securing the Doherty funding; discusses her developing relationship with Maurice Ewing that resulted in their marriage. Comments on Ewingís talents and his views on instrument design. Comments on memories of Charles Drake; discusses the connections between Ewing, Lamont and the NASA space missions. Comments on various international visitors to Lamont: Russian, Argentinian, Japanese and others. Explains Ewingís and her own views on the Alaskan pipeline and politics at Lamont. Discusses the transition in funding and expenditures at Lamont; comments on the tension between research and teaching. Describes Ewingís confrontations with Bruce Heezen; describes the qualities of a good chief scientist at Lamont. Recalls her role in fund raising activities, especially Industrial Associates. Discusses the process of finding a new director to replace Ewing; describes the transition to Texas for her and Ewing. Recalls Ewingís excitement at his discovery of oil deposits in the Gulf of Mexico. Describes the events following Ewingís death and her volunteer activities.
Session I | Session II
Doel:This is Ron Doel and this is an interview with Harriett Greene. Today is the nineteenth of March, 1997, and we are recording in Ozona, Florida. And I know that you were born in Bristol, Connecticut, on September 22, 1925, but I donít know much about your family or about your parents. Who were they and what did they do?
Greene:My fatherís parents were immigrants from Sweden. And they came to Bristol, Connecticut. I never knew my fatherís parents. Perhaps his mother was alive, but only when I was a baby. They came from a town in Sweden, but I donít remember its name. I was told that it was the same town in which Bjorn Borg was born. They were very poor, of course, as immigrants. When they were at Ellis Island [New York], (and I didnít know this until just a few years ago,) the family name was Bjornsen. I never knew that because we were just brought up as Greenes. One of my cousins told me about the original name. So Greene isnít my real name either. Itís hard to find a real name. My motherís family was from Windsor, Vermont and earlier from Claremont, New Hampshire. She had been all her life in Windsor. She was a Mayflower descendent on both sides.
Doel:How did your parents meet?
Greene:They met during World War I. My father was working at the New Departure Ball Bearing Company in Bristol, CT, which entails a very fine kind of ďprecision valleyĒ sort of work. They sent a crew to Windsor, Vermont, where such work was also done. New Departure sent a crew from Bristol to Windsor to show them how to make whatever they were making for the war. He met my mother in Windsor. They married and moved to Bristol, Connecticut. We always spent a lot of time in Windsor, Vermont with my mother and her family.
Doel:Very interesting. I was curious. Have you ever been back to the, on your fatherís side, the place in Sweden where the family came from?
Greene:No. Iíve never in my life been to Sweden. Iíve been to many other places and I love to travel. I donít know anyone in Sweden and itís very expensive. And I just have never been there.
Doel:In your fatherís generation did the family still speak Swedish at home do you recall?
Greene:No, I donít know. Both his parents were gone as far back as I can remember. I believe his father had left the family and gone back to Sweden and his mother died when I was a baby.
Doel:Your father became Americanized in that sense rather.
Greene:Definitely. That was rather plain. I didnít realize what he was doing, but I would think he wanted to be sure that people knew he was American. He was a very successful businessman. He was the personnel director of the New Departure Division of General Motors. He was very well thought of in the town.
Doel:What sort of person was he when you look back?
Greene:I donít know. Both my parents were never, ever mean to us or anything. When I read about the things that other people say of their ďrecovered memoriesĒ, I canít recover a single memory that wasnít wonderful. They were very loving parents. My father used to take us for a drive every Sunday. They made us go to Sunday School. And my father would pick us up after Sunday School and weíd go on some trip, visiting people he knew in town, roaming around. We got to go on picnics. He was (probably as a result of being poor and trying hard) a rather proud man. And some things that we might have enjoyed, he would have thought werenít right. My sister and I were always completely unaware of whether or not we were asking too much. We were spoiled in fact, but didnít know it. And wouldnít have had to be spoiled but we didnít realize. We didnít know anything about money. We didnít know anything about what they could and couldnít afford. We just assumed we could have everything we wanted, and we did, which was very selfish, but we didnít know any better.
Doel:But that also comes out of communication or what isnít communicated.
Doel:And youíre saying it was very clear to you that if you asked for something that it would be provided.
Greene:And it was also clear that he liked to be considered a person who would do everything for his children. He wasnít close with his brothers for some reason. I donít know why we kept in touch, but that part of the family was never close. My mother kept in close touch with her family. We were there all the time. But I donít know what my father was rebelling against. It never occurred to me to wonder at the time.
Doel:Were they living close by?
Greene:He had two brothers who lived in the same city, and two sisters. I knew the sisters.
Doel:But they werenít relatives that you saw often?
Greene:We visited back and forth a few times with my aunts because my mother was friendly with them. One of them, Aunt Agnes, was a hairdresser and mother always sent us to her for haircuts. But I didnít know them on the other side, no. Strange.
Doel:Interesting. Was your mother working during the time that you were growing up?
Greene:No. She had worked in Windsor, in some school I think. She never worked while we were growing up. She was at home. [cross talk]
Doel:That certainly was much more common.
Greene:She kept busy with club meetings and church meetings and the DAR [Daughters of the American Revolution] and that sort of thing.
Doel:You mentioned that she was well aware and could trace her ancestry back to Mayflower generation.
Doel:Did she talk to you much about it, do you remember?
Greene:No, not really. But she had it all written down. My sister and her husband, have since been trying to document everything, but thatís very, very tedious.
Doel:You mention a sister; how many were you?
Greene:Just one sister.
Doel:Just your sister?
Greene:— Martha and I. Sheís a year and a half older than I and lives in Tucson now.
Doel:Iím curious, how important was religion when you were growing up? You mentioned going to Sunday School.
Greene:I would say not very important except that my mother thought that it was very important that we go to Sunday School. And she insisted that we go. And so we did. We didnít particularly like it, but had some friends there. I, from an early age, could read music very easily. So even as a small child I played the hymns at Sunday School and I loved doing that.
Doel:I can imagine.
Greene:My sister and I were very close. They donít do it now, (and itís probably a good thing they donít do it now) but I was an exceptionally good student and when I was in second grade, they put me into third grade, which was the same class my sister was in. So she was in the delightful position of having to say ďthatís Harriett, the bright one.Ē [Laughter] So the poor girl suffered with that until high school age, at which point my parents had come to the conclusion that something had to be done about this bad situation. So Martha went to boarding school. I, still very confident that I was the bright one, didnít do a lick of work and she was valedictorian of her class. [Laughter]
Doel:Right. When did she go to boarding school? Was that —
Greene:She went to boarding school as a sophomore in high school, and she was valedictorian at Oak Grove School in Vassalboro, Maine. Sheís a very bright person.
Doel:Those are difficult dynamics to be growing up with.
Greene:Terrible. They wouldnít think of doing that now.
Doel:You say youíre close to her now. Did it create difficulties between the two when you were growing up?
Greene:I donít think so. Iím sure she had a more difficult time than I was aware of, but when she went to boarding school, I inherited all her boyfriends as well as mine.
Doel:Because boarding school was how far away?
Doel:In Maine, yes. You had a sizeable inheritance then at an early age. [Laughter] One other thing I was curious about was what kind of house your parents had. What was it like?
Greene:It was at 58 Walnut Street in Bristol. It was a small house, I guess. But I always thought it was great. My sister and I each had our own room. We had four bedrooms, and I remember very well the time that my mother and father brought me to a furniture store, and said theyíd like my room to be the way I wanted it. It was wonderful. And we had a beautiful garden out back. It was a very nice house in a good neighborhood. As in many towns thereís one section thatís the nice one. Excuse me. [Interruption for phone call].
Doel:You were saying — weíre just resuming after a quick telephone interruption — that you had felt the neighborhood that you were in was one of the more comfortable neighborhoods.
Greene:Yes. It wasnít anything elaborate, but all the New Departure executives lived in that area. It was very nice. I took my son and his wife and four of my granddaughters over there a few years ago. My son was living in Hartford [Connecticut] and I wanted to show him where I came from. So we drove over there and passed the house. It looked very sweet. And I showed, I tried to show them the school that I went to, and it was now an apartment house. [Laughter]
Doel:Given, of course you were growing up during the Great Depression, do you recall times when your father felt concerned about his?
Greene:He never showed concern, and I think one reason was that his job was secure which was really quite remarkable. I do remember that we used to go to Long Island Sound for the summer to East River, between Madison and Guilford. We rented a cottage there as many people did. The fathers would drive down on Friday night and drive back to their work on Monday morning. It was a wonderful way to spend the summers. One summer we didnít go and a lot of our friends didnít go away for the summer either. That was my recollection of the Depression. It turned out that the Barnesí family, (they were the owners of something Associated Spring, a big company.) invited all of Carlyleís friends to come swimming every day in their swimming pool. So that was wonderful; we had a great summer. We would all walk over to the Barnesí beautiful big stone house. They had dressing rooms and a wonderful big pool. Mrs. Barnes was a very gracious lady! So we didnít suffer during the depression. Maybe my parents were worried, but they didnít show it. And I think my fatherís job was really very secure because he was head of the Personnel Department and they couldnít do without that.
Doel:And as you say, concerns about money are something not raised to either you or your sister.
Greene:No. We didnít live lavishly. My mother made most of the clothes for us and enjoyed doing it. I would say that we lived modestly, but comfortably, without worries.
Doel:Did you get to travel much when you were growing up besides the trips to the Long Island Sound?
Greene:No. I donít remember any trips. I guess we went to New York once. We went to Vermont quite a lot.
Doel:But no voyages or not to say, the West Coast, or?
Greene:No. This was the pre-jet era. We took the train somewhere one summer. When I married [William] Maurice [Ewing], he used to introduce me to his friends, ďand this is Harriett, sheís never been west of the Hudson.Ē [Laughter]
Doel:So he took some delight in that. Thatís interesting. I was thinking a moment ago when you were talking about the house, was there a library in the house? Were there books that you had found particularly?
Greene:No. There were books. We didnít have a library room. We had books, certainly. When we were children, my mother read to us every night. My sister and I had been through a lot of books. I remember once my grandmother had asked my mother for a better picture of her with the girls. My mother had a picture taken, you know, with the three of us together, sort of lined up. And her mother said, ďno thatís not what I wanted.Ē So they had another picture taken of my mother, my sister on one side and I on the other, and my mother reading to us. Thatís the way they saw us, and thatís the way we were.
Doel:Thatís interesting. What sort of stories did your mother read to you?
Greene:All the classic childrenís stories.
Doel:Do you remember any particular favorites?
Greene:I remember the Louisa May Alcott books and all of the fairy tale books. And I remember getting into trouble at one time. Someone had given me ďThe Five Little Peppers and How They Grew,Ē and I was walking home from school deeply into the book, reading, and nearly got hit by a car. The person who nearly hit me called my mother and said, ďYou know, you should do something about Harriett. Tell her to wake up, and not cross the street like that.Ē I read a lot. Still do.
Doel:Were there newspapers and magazines that were coming regularly to the house?
Greene:I think my mother got Good Housekeeping. I donít remember. I donít think we got many magazines. The Hartford Courant was a good paper and we always got that.
Doel:How was the library in the school? Did you start frequenting that?
Greene:I donít have any recollection of any library in any school.
Doel:Or in the town itself?
Greene:Yes. Oh, definitely there was a town library. A very good one. It was across the street from the church; I was there quite a lot.
Doel:That was a point I imagine you were beginning to read more broadly on topics.
Doel:Did you have any particular interests that when you think back on it now, say junior high into your high school years? Things that you were particularly interested in reading or did you really read broadly during those particular years?
Greene:I wouldnít say I did a lot of reading of it, but really struck a chord with me. I read some Bertrand Russell and that sort of thing. I remember from rather early on trying to imagine infinity and not being able to.
Doel:This was something that you were doing privately; it wasnít coming out of a class?
Greene:No. It wasnít coming out of a class.
Doel:Did you have teachers who were particularly memorable?
Greene:I remember my first grade teacher, Mrs. Curtis. I should remember some of my high school teachers, but I donít, though I liked them. I liked school. I guess I would still like school. I went back to school after Maurice died and I loved it. And I found that, if the professor criticized a paper of mine, I could get just as upset as I did when I was a young girl, even though I might at that time have been twice his age and well-established in life. He doesnít understand what the fine points are. Heís wrong. Just as though I were a twelve-year-old. [Laughter]
Doel:Brought back a lot of feelings didnít it?
Greene:It did. But thatís what made me love school.
Greene:The give and take.
Doel:The give and take and the interactions. Thatís interesting. Thatís interesting.
Greene:Perpetual. Never got over it.
Doel:So it sounds as if, in class as you say in high school, that you were an active participant —
Doel:— in the discussions and things. Did you have favorite subjects?
Greene:I liked math, perhaps because you were either right or you werenít.
Greene:And also and I liked the fact that not so many people were good at math. It made me feel special.
Doel:What kind of classes did you have in math?
Greene:On up through calculus.
Doel:And the calculus was offered in high school?
Greene:It was differential calculus in high school. And afterwards went up through probability theory etc.
Doel:This was afterwards, out of high school, later.
Doel:Thatís very interesting because there werenít that many high schools, at least prior to the 1950s in the U.S., that actually did offer calculus. Interesting that you did get exposed to that.
Greene:It was a good high school. I took Latin and math and all the usual subjects. But they offered them all and had really good teachers.
Doel:Do you remember any courses in English or history or the other sciences that were particularly attractive?
Greene:In college I liked the required literature course ďFrom Beowulf to Thomas HardyĒ, I liked that.
Doel:Thatís very interesting. I want to get decisions about college and all of that. Were there other things that you were involved in your high school period? Were you involved in school activities?
Greene:No, not really, I was a Girl Scout and later a Mariner and I liked both those very much. The high school was a good way from my house, but we always walked. A group of us would walk home together, and weíd stop downtown and get a soda. And weíd stop in and see my Aunt Marion who was a lot of fun. Every Friday night thereíd be a basketball game followed by a dance. And every Saturday night the Boy Scouts, the Sea Scouts, would have a dance and weíd go to that. We had a busy and happy life.
Doel:Of course, World War II had started at that time as you were finishing high school.
Greene:Yes. Yes. I do remember a boy in my class, Nathan Boyko was telling us about Jews being killed and the detention camps. People didnít know whether to believe him or not. I mean it was awful. I do have a vivid memory of that.
Doel:Was this after the war in Europe had ended that you started —
Greene:No. No. This was during.
Greene:By the time the war in Europe ended, I had been married for a couple of years and had one child. And was waiting out the end of the war at my in-laws farm in Rochester, Vermont, a vacation farm. My father-in-law was Preston [Rogers] Bassett. He was president of Sperry Gyroscope. He was a distinguished scientist, a member of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, the predecessor of NASA. He invented the searchlight used in the Michelson-Morley experiment and participated in that experiment. He worked with Elmer Sperry on gyroscopes and had a major interest in such stabilizers.
Doel:The old NACA.
Greene:He was active in that. And he was president of the American Aeronautical Society. He was a very interesting, scholarly man. So we were kind of aware of what was going on in the war with the radar and the atom bomb and that sort of thing. My husband at that time, his son, was in the Navy and was on a destroyer off Japan, where they were gathering a flotilla for an invasion. So I was very glad when that war was over, and I remember it very well.
Doel:I can imagine you did. I want to get to the marriage in a moment. I was curious how much interaction did you have then with Preston. Iím sorry I was recalling his last name.
Greene:Preston Bassett, Senior.
Doel:Bassett. Yes. Yes. How much did you see him? It sounds as if you were.
Greene:I admired him very much. When I was a freshman in college, I met the man I married, Preston Rogers Bassett, Jr. And so I was introduced to his parents of course. And I liked them, and they liked me. They were wonderful to me. I was very impressed with some of the things that Roger told me about his father. For instance, when they were little kids. They lived in Rockville Centre. He took them outdoors and they looked at the stars, and he showed them the stars. I donít remember how long, but years later, he took them out again and said, ďRemember the star I showed you. Thatís how long it took its light to get to us.Ē
Doel:Really. They would do things like?
Greene:Oh he was a wonderful man. He died at the age of a hundred.
Greene:His wife, my husbandís mother had a beautiful voice. I used to accompany on the piano for her. She had a truly lovely voice.
Doel:You had mentioned earlier on that you were reading music very early.
Doel:You also played piano?
Greene:Yes. I still do.
Doel:Did you pick up other instruments as well or did you concentrate?
Greene:No, I wish I had. Although, now I can play recorders, but theyíre a relatively simple instruments and theyíre not used in orchestras, — too quiet.
Doel:But you had concentrated on piano?
Greene:Yes. And I wish I had learned more instruments, because I would really enjoy being in an orchestra. But Iím nowhere near the kind of pianist who could play a concerto with an orchestra. So I regret that I didnít learn more instruments. I love music. Thatís been a constant thread. Iíve always had a music room. Thatís one thing I miss down here.
Doel:Thatís something I want to ask you about when we talk later on about Maurice. Clearly he had a wide appreciation of music?
Greene:I donít think so.
Doel:You donít think so. Because he had written a number of things that suggested that.
Greene:He said that. He would always be telling me how much he loved music. Finally after a few years (I might have been annoyed about something) I said, ďI never yet heard a note out of a Ewing.Ē [Laughter] Perhaps he appreciated it, but he didnít do much in a musical way. I was playing with a chamber group, just kidding around, we played for fun. And once he went with me just to sort of listen in, and I think he was bored. Truthfully, but it is boring to hear other people mess around.
Doel:Of course with his famous impatience.
Greene:He played the trombone.
Doel:Yes he did.
Greene:Yes. I used to have his old Rice sweater from the days when he played trombone in the band. Finally it disintegrated. I kept that sweater until about 1980.
Doel:Did the trombone survive?
Greene:Not that I know of. I never saw it.
Doel:You were mentioning a moment ago that you did go straight on to college after, after high school.
Greene:Yes. I went to Smith.
Doel:What were you thinking? Iím curious. Actually let me hold on that question to ask you just one other that you had raised that was very interesting a moment ago. When you found Bertrand Russell and began reading, how did you become to be aware of literature of that sort? Was that your own discovery or was it something else?
Greene:I really donít remember.
Doel:Cause that sort of thing wasnít common for anyone at high school age.
Greene:And I wouldnít say that I poured over it, but I just do remember reading things. And I was struck by one thing that he said. He said that if someone were suffering in India, you ought to be able to know that, feel that. You ought to be able to transfer and feel for other people.
Doel:Was that something that you were able to talk about with others in the family or close friends? Or was that a private?
Greene:No. No one ever stimulated conversations of that nature. I just thought by myself.
Doel:Thatís interesting. When you were in senior year, beginning to think about college, what sort of options did you perceive at the time, or did Smith seem to be the clear first choice?
Greene:My decision was very, very superficial although Smith was a wonderful choice. Because I didnít really know much about colleges. I knew which ones were supposed to be the correct ones to go to, the Seven Sisters etc. I had an acquaintance who was in the same set, you know, the Sea Scout dances and the country club dances and all that. Someone I admired. She had a very dashing convertible and pretty clothes and was right up to date. I knew, she went to Smith. So I thought, ďOh, Iíll go where Betty goes.Ē And we were good friends. We still are. I saw her last year. So it was as simple as that.
Doel:Had you seen the campus of Smith College before? Had you been to the college?
Greene:Weíd driven through there because we often took the ride from Bristol, Connecticut, to Windsor, Vermont. That was on the so-called ďcollege trailĒ. So weíd eaten in Wiggins Tavern and been through Northampton [Massachusetts]. I knew the general area. But I just knew that thatís what a college looks like.
Doel:Had either of your parents gone to college?
Doel:This was the first generation.
Greene:My father was working from the time he was twelve, I think. He had to. He helped support his brothers and sisters. And my mother went to various courses but not a full-time college.
Doel:Did you have an idea of what you might want to study when you got to Smith?
Greene:Yes. I was principally interested in math and in music. And I studied both. They have a wonderful music department and I had a fine teacher. It was a revelation to me and not entirely favorable. When I was living in Bristol, (which is a small city) as would so often happen, I was my teacherís best pupil. She was very wonderful to me. And sheíd give me things to do that probably I wasnít really that good at. But when I went to college, it was a much more serious situation. And I remember that I went one entire year learning one stupid little piece. Youíd learn the approach, the attack, the release. You could teach an ape to play that piece the way I was taught to play it. Because you had to do every little motion of every little muscle. But by golly when it was done, it was perfect.
Doel:Did it feel mechanical to you in that process or was it just that the practice was so difficult?
Greene:It felt frustrating because I was used to going ripping on, right or wrong. And of course I was being taught correctly at Smith. And that was quite a set back. Though I had a wonderful, a very musical, very thorough teacher in Bristol. She was a graduate of Oberlin [College], which still produces the best music teachers. And she was great. But as I said, she kind of indulged me because you donít get that many good students. But I was also very lucky. I used to think that I would be a professional pianist. But one of the boys in my class in high school, Leonard Seebers, was truly gifted, and Iím not. I could see the difference. He went to the Hartford School of Music. In the afternoons, he was excused from high school so he could practice. I understand the difference between his ability and mine. I used to go to his recitals and hand out programs. I could see that I was not that good. But I loved it. I had a certain facility but not a real gift.
Doel:Did you have an idea what you might want to do after college? Was that something that was a clear idea?
Greene:No, it wasnít a clear idea. I was still interested in music, and I thought I might teach it or be an accompanist. I probably could have been that successfully.
Doel:Youíve mentioned, of course, your interest in mathematics. Did you have an interest in other sciences at that time as well?
Greene:I enjoyed them. I donít know that I was that good. And I really liked physics. I never took any earth science courses.
Doel:Was that something that was offered in high school? Or do you mean in, when you were at Smith you had?
Greene:It was not offered in high school. It might have been offered at Smith too, certainly there was a Geology Department, but I only went two years and then I was married.
Doel:I wanted to be. I was curious about when you had met Roger Bassett.
Greene:As I told you, I went to Smith College because I admired my friend Betty. I still do. She was Betty Murden. Bettyís boyfriend was a Bristol boy, John Beckwith. I knew both of them. Johnís roommate was Roger Bassett. And so Betty was always after me to double date and come over to Amherst with her. And so she was kind of egging me on because she liked to go over and see John. So thatís how I met Roger. When my parents came to visit me at Smith, my mother said, ďHarriet, you seem to know a good deal more about Amherst than you do about Smith.Ē [Laughter] Which was true.
Doel:What year was it that you and Roger were married?
Doel:Ď44. So one year then before the war ended.
Greene:Yes. His aunt told me that somebody asked, ďwhoís the bride?Ē And she said, ďsheís a little girl who still has braces on her teeth.Ē Which was true. I was eighteen.
Doel:So you had, of course, because you were accelerated through high school. You had graduated from high school when you were only. Were you sixteen or seventeen?
Doel:Sixteen, yes. It must have been difficult just being in accelerating.
Doel:Or did you not notice it at all?
Doel:When you married Roger, were you thinking that you would be able to continue at Smith at least at some point once the war was over?
Greene:Well, we were married in May, and I traveled with him. He was in the Naval Reserve and stationed three weeks here and two weeks there. We traveled around. I ended up pregnant. At that time you didnít go back to school when you were pregnant.
Greene:So my friend Betty, the same Betty Murden, and I organized little music classes and other things. She was very good with children. That was her specialty. And I continued my piano studies with Mrs. Phelps at the Hartford School of Music.
Doel:And where were you living at the time, once, you had mentioned that Roger later was getting ready to go.
Greene:I lived with my parents at that same house, 58 Walnut Street.
Doel:So these music classes were organized then back in Bristol?
Greene:Yes. Betty was back in Bristol too because her husband John was overseas. We kind of stuck together.
Doel:Those were difficult years. The invasion was uncertain.
Doel:When was he finally discharged, Roger?
Greene:He was discharged quite a long time after the war ended. He was discharged the following June. You know they discharged people in sequence so that everybody wouldnít come back at once. And it did seem a very long time. It wasnít a year, but it must have been nearly a year.
Doel:Late, middle to late 1946?
Doel:What did he do then? Were you working at the time?
Greene:No. I was not working. Roger had majored in biology and genetics at Amherst. And he was looking for a job. We were staying at the farm in Vermont, which we loved, in Rochester, Vermont, for that summer. And he was looking around for a job. Finally he found one in Bennington [Vermont]. And so he worked in Bennington for Union Carbide. They were making plastic draperies and shower curtains with screen printing on them, and he was working in that area. We lived in Bennington. It didnít take him long to realize that a liberal arts degree wasnít going to get him anywhere in that kind of work, and he liked the work. So he went to RPI [Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute] which was a one-hour commute. And got a degree from RPI as well. And from then on, he could get the jobs he wanted.
Doel:Right. What degree did he get from RPI?
Greene:It was another bachelorís degree in chemical engineering.
Doel:Thatís interesting. How long did it take him to do that? To get that second degree?
Greene:Iím guessing a year, maybe two. Iíve forgotten. We lived in Bennington at first, and then we moved to Troy.
Doel:Which is of course where RPI is located.
Doel:Right. As you say, it was a possible commute from Bennington —
Doel:— but not an easy one, by any stretch.
Greene:No. It was an hour.
Greene:Typical of people on the GI Bill at that time. We didnít have much money and I raised all our own food. I made fish chowder a lot and things like that. Thereís a long hill, downhill, from Troy to Vermont, and he used to coast down that five-mile hill to save a little gas.
Doel:Things were tight in those first years.
Greene:But we didnít mind it. It was sort of a lark. I guess it could be because my family would always have taken care of us. And his family was very generous. We didnít require any money, but there was not the slightest question we could have it if we wanted it. So itís easy to be poor in those circumstances, because it was just a fun challenge.
Greene:So, I donít ever say I was poor because I wasnít. I wasnít a worrying poor person [voice fades out]
Doel:Yes. Thereís a big difference.
Greene:Yes. Huge difference.
Doel:How often did you see your husbandís family?
Greene:Pretty often. I canít think why. Probably we just used to go down and see them. I was friendly with his sister Peggy. I still am. And he has two brothers, Billy and Allen. Theyíre both Ph.D. geologists from Columbia. Billy teaches at Cornell. Theyíre a very, very nice family. I always enjoyed their company.
Doel:You mentioned you had one child.
Greene:My daughter Ellen.
Doel:Ellen. And was she born in Ď45, right around there?
Greene:Yes. March 2, 1945.
Doel:Did you have further children?
Greene:Yes my second daughter was born right after Roger came home from the war. That was Martha. It was Marthaís daughter who telephoned today — Zoya. Martha was killed in an auto accident at the age of thirty and she had a seven-year-old daughter. After Martha died, Zoya lived with me in Middlebury. Martha and her first husband, Sergei [Geacintov], were divorced when Zoya was two. Zoyaís been a joy to me. We miss Martha terribly. But Martha and I were always very close, so it was a good thing that Zoya came with me. We talked about Martha a lot. I knew Martha always and I knew the man Martha was about to marry, Chuck Meyer. They even had the wedding dress ready. Chuck and I were good friends. So we could continue Zoyaís familiar life as best as we could. And I think that helped Zoya. Sheís a wonderful girl.
Doel:We should say this is the person whose phone call we didnít record a moment ago. So you had the two children.
Greene:No, three. In 1950 I had a son, Paul. Paul is now a Russian Orthodox priest. He lives in Cincinnati with Barbara, his wife, and four children.
Doel:Iím curious how his life developed that he moved into the church?
Greene:I would say, weird is the word. Letís see, my daughter Martha went to Syracuse University. While there, she met Sergei Geacintov, whose parents had come from Russia. They had a most dreadful time. They were refugees. Sergei has two older brothers. He himself was born in Austria as they were fleeing. They had a very hard time. They settled in Syracuse [New York]. In upstate New York, in a town called Jordanville, thereís a most remarkable Russian monastery. Paul used to go there with Sergei, when Sergei and Martha were married. So Paul was acquainted with the monastery and liked it. He was very fond of Sergei. Paul was a child of the sixties. He got into all kinds of trouble. Bad sorts of people. And he and his friends were buying drugs, taking drugs, and I suppose, selling drugs. And he was very disobedient. Always hopeful about cars, that he could fix this, he could fix that. I kept trying and Maurice kept trying to help him, but we couldnít. Anyway, Paul had a van. I urged him, ďdonít go anywhere in the van. You donít have it registered right. Itíll be another week. Just give it some time.Ē He went anyway. So he was arrested on the New York thruway. He looked like the kind of person you would arrest. He was dirty, in ratty clothes, in a beat up old van, and didnít have the right papers. He was arrested, and given his choice of going to jail in Utica or being put in the care of the monks at the monastery in Jordanville. It was an easy decision. He loved it at the monastery. It turned his life around. First he took care of the cows and he helped them package the honey they sold. Then he got more and more deeply into the religion. He took all the seminary courses and was ordained by the Bishop. He is a wonderful man.
Doel:Thatís very interesting.
Greene:He was finally ordained after several years. And heís a masterful priest and has been for a long time. He has a wonderful wife whoís just as religious as he is. He really turned around. Some of his secondary school friends got in awful trouble, suicides and jail and arson. You know these were boys who seemed to be well brought up by parents who tried everything. It was a very difficult time for parents of teenage boys.
Doel:The sixties were an extraordinary decade.
Doel:Extraordinary decade. Let me pause just to turn — You mentioned a moment ago that Maurice was trying to help, too. What ideas did he have for dealing with situations like that?
Greene:He would talk to Paul, when there were opportunities about his early life and the things he had done. And he was always very inspiring about whatever he was working on at the moment. Maurice always, unlike many professionals, if he were just telling you something really spectacular about some new phase of geophysics, he wanted you to understand. He would put it in terms you could understand. And he was doing that with Paul. I tried to get jobs for Paul, helping out in various places in the Observatory. And none of it really worked. I think Paul told me, it was Maurice who finally threw him out. He told Paul, ďyou cannot do this to your mother.Ē Because it was very hard on me. So he left. And thatís when he reformed.
Doel:Thatís when that series of developments happened.
Greene:Tough love. I wasnít tough enough, but Maurice tried to help him. He finally did help him by saying weíve done what we can. Now you do it.
Doel:Interesting. Did you have other children in addition to —
Greene:Those three? No.
Doel:— those three. Where were you living primarily at that time? Were you and Roger moving from —? You mentioned that he had gotten different positions that he had wanted, that it worked out as he had hoped.
Greene:It really did. After he got his degree from RPI, he got a job as a chemical engineer in Pearl River, New York, at the Lederle Laboratories. Heís been with Lederle Laboratories ever since and has done very well. I donít know what his title was. Heís a vice president or something. He traveled all over the world for Lederle. Now heís retired. But heís been with Lederle ever since RPI in increasingly responsible positions.
Doel:So thatís what brought you down to the —
Greene:To Pearl River.
Doel:— to the New York area.
Greene:We lived in Shanks Village in Orangeburg, NY. We were having a house built. So in the meantime we were living in Shankís Village, which you may have heard of. It was the largest point of embarkation on the East Coast during the war and had been converted into student housing for Columbia and then later for just low cost housing for temporary people. So we lived in Shankís Village while our house was being built, which was in itself quite an experience.
Greene:Well, theyíre bright people down there. But the quarters were small. The kids were all jammed into one bedroom, and you never had a moment to yourself or any privacy. I had seen women in supermarkets screaming at some cute little kids and about to cuff them. Iíd think ďHow could anybody be like that?Ē You live cooped up with three kids for a few weeks, and you can easily see how it could happen. [Laughter]. But we werenít there very long. And well in general, a very nice experience. We had a lot of co-ops. We had a co-op babysitting group, co-op canning. It was very nice.
Doel:Was it more than a few months that you were living there?
Greene:No. Less than a year. Because our house was started almost immediately. I donít remember exactly how long.
Doel:And was the house in Pearl River?
Greene:Pearl River, yes. Actually, a suburb called Naurashaun, a very nice place.
Doel:You werenít working at this point?
Greene:No. I had three small children at home. Well, two in school and Paul still at home. When Paul was old enough to go to school, it was just a very short walk. I could see the school from our house. And then I tried to get a job and I did. I had a friend who used to teach at Katherine Gibbs. I had no marketable skills. So I had her teach me shorthand, which isnít very hard and is a useful skill. And then went and got a job.
Doel:And was this the job at Columbia?
Greene:Yes. I was interviewed by Larry [J. Laurence] Kulp who needed a new secretary. I was interviewed for that job and didnít get it. But apparently, he wrote things that were favorable; favorable enough so that Arnold Finck kept me in his ready reserve and called me when another job opened.
Doel:Thatís interesting. So that the literally one of the first jobs you had applied to was one that was connected with Lamont?
Greene:Yes. And I did that because, I think it was Billy Bassett who told me that thatís a very interesting place. Youíd like it there.
Doel:So you knew about it.
Greene:So when I saw an ad from them in the paper, I responded.
Doel:So you hadnít had contact directly with Columbia as much as simply being aware of Lamont. It was closer.
Greene:No. I didnít even know Lamont was there. But then, I think it was Bill Bassett. It might have been Allen Bassett. They were graduates, Ph.D.s from Columbia in geology, and they said that Lamont was a very interesting place and Iíd probably like it. So, when I saw their ad, I applied.
Doel:Were you actually interviewed by Larry Kulp during that time?
Doel:What were your impressions of Lamont that just as you think back coming on to the —
Greene:Well I thought Dr. Kulp was very nice. And he was very nice to me. That was a beautiful spot, you know, the Lamont estate. The only buildings existing at that time were the geochemistry lab, which was new, and beautiful Lamont Hall, where everything else was.
Greene:And the little machine shop, which was in the old greenhouse.
Doel:Do you remember when that was, that first interview? Was this the middle 1950s?
Greene:Yes. Paul was born in 1950 and I didnít even consider going to work till he was in kindergarten, so that would be when he was five or six.
Doel:So then 1955 or probably Ď56 given the [?]. How long did it take till you got the second, was it the second call from Lamont?
Greene:Maybe a couple of months. It wasnít long. Maybe not even that long because I donít remember being interviewed anywhere else. Arnold Finck hired me to work for him in administration. We were all, the total administration at that time, down in the front hail of Lamont Hall. You know the little, cubby hole office under the stairs, Arnoldís office. The switchboard operator key, somebody else, and me, with a desk and a typewriter, and then the port captain, we were the administration. Well, purchasing was behind me and then port captain, all strung out there.
Doel:Iím really curious what it was like for you to be working in that environment at that time. What sort of things comes into —?
Greene:Since I had not worked before it was all a revelation to me. I had practiced typing on my own portable. I practiced doing things like copying the Sears catalogue, doing things that donít make any sense. You know itís good for you. So I did that. So I could type. And I learned to take shorthand pretty well. That was all fine. But I didnít know how to put paper in the typewriter. So I remember the first day, looking around very furtively and hoping I could do it and didnít have to ask anybody. And I learned the rigors of the coffee break. How one likes it this way and one likes it that way. And it is your turn today, and that sort of thing.
Doel:Did you rotate turns or were you it?
Greene:Yes. Oh there was system, believe me. And you had to fit in with it. But I liked it.
Doel:This has to be between Arnold. Did Arnold get the coffee for instance in the — Or did —?
Greene:I donít think Arnold ever did. It was mostly the girls. The girls.
Doel:The girls. Was Alma Kesner already there?
Greene:No Alma wasnít the purchasing agent at that time, it was Catherine. Iíve forgotten her last name, but she was a very nice woman. Well, a girl I guess. I remember that her husbandís field of work was urban planning. And I remember her complaining to me, whenever we go on vacation, we go to slums. [Laughter]
Doel:Rather near term things.
Greene:Yes. She had to see them.
Greene:Well, I hadnít been there very long before Arnold sent me up to work in Dr. Ewingís office because his secretary, who was a friend of mine, Nancy Barnett, was absent. Nancy and I sang together in various choral groups. She was from Smith also. Nancy was sick a lot, and Maurice was away nearly all the time. Things had gotten in a terrible state, and Arnold sent me up to see if I could straighten it out. So I hadnít met him yet.
Doel:Okay. So primarily, youíre working on the first floor in Lamont. And Arnold Finck had then the office that was, what had been originally one of the large bathrooms as I remember. So that he uniquely had a bathroom right in his office.
Doel:A private bathroom as close as I remember.
Greene:Yes. Arnold was a wonderful person to work for.
Doel:What was it like to work for Arnold? What sort of things stand out in your mind when you think back to that working relationship?
Greene:Well, he was very kind to me. And he would tell me what he wanted done clearly enough so that I could do it, which is not always easy. He was just a good person to work for. Very friendly. Very helpful. When I made silly mistakes, he would laugh about it.
Doel:There was a good-humored acceptance —
Doel:— in general that you felt.
Doel:Who else did you meet in those very early —? How long does it take before you were asked to go up to help?
Greene:I think it was only a couple of months. I wasnít there very long. Kitty, at the switchboard would get packages that theyíd make her sign for, and she wouldnít open them. And later I learned they were bones of children sent from South Africa for Larry Kulpís radioactivity things. And I learned about, something about the operation of the Verna, because Sig [Sigourney] Romaine was behind me. And you could hear, everybody could hear, everybody elseís conversation. And that was very interesting. Very congenial group.
Doel:Was Sig Romaine the port captain?
Greene:Port captain, yes.
Doel:What sort of person was he?
Greene:He was a very dignified. Sort of a, funny, he could be very funny. And sort of a socialite type. He was with the Blue Hill troupe that sang Gilbert & Sullivan and did all that, a very nice man. Sort of a yachtsman type.
Doel:Would you see him actually singing at certain —?
Greene:No. I never heard him singing, but I could imagine him as a good actor.
Doel:I could imagine. Yes. I was just wondering if he went to, say some of the parties that Angelo Ludas had or if it was something that you had.
Greene:Iím not. I would be just guessing, but Sig Romaine was really quite a socialite and mixed with the folks.
Doel:That makes it clear. One thing you just said that was very interesting about Kitty — Iím sorry, do you remember her last name?
Greene:Iím afraid I donít. Later she managed the new mailroom.
Doel:Thatís okay. We can always —
Greene:She was from Palisades.
Doel:We can always add any names to the transcript later. How much did you hear about what was later known widely as Project Sunshine? Were you aware of what was going on at Larry Kulpís lab?
Greene:Not really. I knew they were trying to find out about the radioactivity in the bones for dating and other purposes. I didnít really know what it was about. But I knew that nobody wanted to open creepy packages of preserved feet and things like that.
Doel:Which — and those were coming in, it sounds like, fairly regularly. [Laughter] How did people feel about that, about that aspect of the work at Lamont?
Greene:I think Dr. Kulp was admired. We knew he was doing important work. Thatís the way I felt about it. We didnít know exactly what.
Doel:Speaking of, many of the people who worked at Lamont just given the nature of much of the work then, needed clearance. Were you asked to get a security clearance?
Greene:Yes. I had a clearance. You needed it if you were going to do anything like typing or proofreading technical reports.
Doel:Right. And did that come about fairly soon after, after you arrived at Lamont or was that [cross talk].
Greene:I guess so. I donít really remember it very well. I applied for clearance and got it. I didnít have much classified work to do. I think it was Dr. [J. Lamar] Worzelís secretary and Dr. [John E.] Nafeís secretary who did most of it. [Voice fades out]
Doel:Did you get to know in those early months any of the other Lamont scientists? Particularly.
Doel:Which ones in particular, do you?
Greene:Well everybody. It was a small place. We got to know everyone; I didnít know the geochemists, because we were physically separated. But I knew most everybody else. Chuck [Charles L.] Drake and Walter Beckmann. I think Chuck Drake was one of the ones I liked the most. He was good company.
Doel:What sort of things made Chuck good company?
Greene:He had sort of a wry sense of humor. And he was kind of a ďwith itĒ person. Jack [E.] Oliver was a very interesting man. Jack was another one who would like to tell you what he was doing and would like to tell you in a way you could understand. They didnít pretend that there were mysterious things that you werenít smart enough to know.
Doel:Did you get that feeling from some of the people?
Greene:Sometimes, from time to time. Well, maybe, maybe itís just that I am too dumb and dull to understand some things. I never could understand when they put up those triangles with chemical signs on them. Oh, the mineralogists.
Doel:Iím thinking back to other people who were at Lamont in those very early days. You mentioned Joe Worzel and I imagine you knew him.
Greene:Yes. I knew Joe.
Doel:Thinking of your musical interests, I recall Jack Oliver had been involved in those bands that —
Greene:I didnít even know that.
Doel:— happened at Lamont. Chuck Drake was also involved. And Iím wondering if that was something that you were aware of.
Greene:I wasnít aware of that. At the time I got the job at Lamont, I was deeply into working with a singer, Betty Koster, who sang at the City Center Opera Company. Betty and I had very slowly and painstakingly worked up a pretty good Lieder program. And we did that around the various clubs. Betty was very professional in her attitude. We would practice and practice and practice, and then weíd go in and play and sing it for her coach in Manhattan. And finally present the program. We figured we were probably making about a nickel an hour by the time we figured the hours we had put into learning it and then paying her coach to give a final analysis. But Betty and I did a lot together, and with other musicians too. We worked in the churches. And we did the Lieder program for clubs. The Unitarians liked us. But we were always very tactful. Instead of some biblical title we would say ďair for soprano,Ē so as not to disturb their thoughts. But we did that quite a lot. So when I got the job at Lamont, I was still working with her, and we still had a couple of places we were supposed to do our program. And I remember asking Arnold if I could have a certain afternoon off because Betty and I had a program to do. He thought I meant to go and listen to it. I said, ďNo, Iím m it.Ē And he was very nice about it. But at that point, I was still doing that sort of thing with Betty. I was also playing in an early music recorder group, and we played around.
Doel:You had a very busy schedule.
Greene:Yes, and I was also active in the United World Federalists and sang with the American Bach Society. But thatís why I didnít know anything about Chuck Drake and Jack Oliverís musical interests, because I already had my own in quite a different direction.
Doel:How much time did those other activities take? How often for instance would the recorder group meet?
Greene:Well once I started working, I had hardly any time for anything but working and the family — children. So I didnít do that much afterwards. Guess our recorder group met at least once a month, perhaps more often.
Doel:You kept it up at least occasionally?
Doel:Just to keep in it.
Greene:And affiliated with various groups from time to time when I could.
Doel:How often were the performances after you started?
Greene:Not a lot. The final one that Betty and I did was just after I started working. Her husband was helping us. He had made publicity photos; we were all set to really, really push it. And we didnít. I had to drop out.
Doel:Did you feel bad when it happened?
Doel:Did you wish that you could have just kept —?
Greene:Yes. Yes. I thought we were doing very well. And it was certainly something I enjoyed a lot. I enjoyed playing with Betty. She was good. Very good.
Doel:You would have wished that the job or something of going back to work had been delayed a while?
Greene:It would have been good to be able to do both. I really wanted to work and had to choose. One canít have a really time-consuming hobby and work too.
Doel:Yes, indeed, those difficult choices come up. I was just wondering if, if you had considered not going to work at Lamont as the other activities were developing.
Greene:No. I wanted to work. I wanted to work. However, when my daughter Martha returned, after graduating from college, we went together to Bach Society rehearsals together. They gave a memorial concert for her the year she died.
Doel:Some of the other people who were there. You mentioned also Jack Nafe. How well did you get, how much time did you actually have to interact with people like Jack Oliver and Chuck Drake? Were you meeting them as they came through Lamont or was it primarily [cross talk]?
Greene:Well, since we all worked in Lamont Hall we continually saw one another. When I worked for Maurice, I was in the outside office there. So Iíd be up and down the hail all the time. Iíd stop in and see what they were doing, or theyíd come in talk to me about something that they wanted, and that sort of thing.
Greene:They were all very friendly. Jack Nafe was quite reserved, but very sympathetic and wise. Chuck Drake and Walter Beckmann were in the next office. Bruce Heezen and Marie Tharp worked at home quite a lot.
Doel:Even at that point?
Greene:Yes. Because they were interrupted less frequently. Marie was around some of the time but not a lot.
Doel:What were your early impressions of Bruce?
Greene:Bruce was very helpful in explaining whatever you needed to know, helping you get the terminology right and showing you where something you needed was. I remember Marie putting up beautiful maps along the corridors. Sheís a very nice woman.
Doel:Would she talk to you about the drafting she was doing?
Doel:Of the ocean floor.
Greene:I donít remember spending a lot of time with that, but I guess somehow you were always aware of what was going on around you, because we were all kind of thrown together. And that what was one of the good ideas that Joe Worzel had in the Oceanography Building. He put the offices all around the edge, and had a big room in the center where a lot of support services were so that everybody would see everybody all the time. And I think it does help. With that setup, you donít have to have conferences or meetings or set up a time when you can ask someone something. It just, it just happens.
Doel:Yes. Architecture can be very important.
Doel:For encouraging that kind of.
Greene:And we had that until the oceanography building was built, and then most of the people moved out of Lamont Hall. David [David B.] Ericson and Goesta Wollin had the core laboratory downstairs.
Doel:Did you see them pretty often?
Greene:Yes. Yes. Goesta was always very lively to talk to. David Ericson was very quiet, reserved, but very nice, very nice.
Doel:Impression is that he was rather shy as an individual.
Greene:Yes. Very much so. But always, always pleasant to people. Always willing to show you what he was doing. That was one of the nice aspects of my job because in answering letters when Maurice was away, I had to find out what to do. To do that, I had to ask people, what did you do about this? Where is it? Do we have core number so and so? And that sort of thing. I would just go and see people, and I learned a lot that way, throughout the time, I was at Lamont.
Doel:I was curious when you had said Arnold gave you the opportunity to work in Mauriceís office, particularly when he was away. Did it seem a particularly daunting assignment? How did you feel about it?
Greene:Well I didnít know what he was doing. I didnít know what Maurice was doing. I was completely unaware of it, but the first thing I noticed was what a mess his affairs were in. It was all travel on government contract, and if you want to be reimbursed or if you want it off the books, you have to fill out a travel voucher, naturally. Maurice had not had the patience to do that, and Nancy had not done it for him. There were thousands of dollars that had to be explained. That was the first thing I tackled. I had no idea where he had gone or why. It took a lot of unraveling. When he came back, he would dictate letters and do that sort of thing. But really, for a lot of it you were on your own. I just tried to keep things going.
Doel:When, how long did it take before you first met Maurice?
Greene:I donít know. It was at least a month. I remember being alone in the office for quite a time. And then he came back. And once we met, lightning struck almost immediately. I donít know why.
Doel:I was going to ask how you felt when you first saw him.
Greene:And he too. I donít know why. I canít explain it. We didnít know each other at all. And I knew, I knew he was an important man with a big reputation, but I didnít really know that much. And I was used to people who were important.
Doel:Clearly things were happening on a different level entirely.
Greene:Yes. Entirely. And mysteriously.
Doel:And you say he knew it right away too?
Greene:He told me later he did. Though we worked peacefully without any social interaction of any kind for years.
Doel:Do you think he knew your feelings towards him from early times?
Greene:I donít know. I donít know that. We got better acquainted as we began having lunch together. There was no cafeteria so we always brought lunch. And Maurice and I got pretty busy with a lot of things. He had a tremendous amount of mail and many projects going. So sometimes, Iíd eat my lunch at his desk while he was dictating letters. Or heíd talk to me about something that he was concerned about. We just began eating lunch together and we got to know each other then.
Doel:What was it that you found particularly attractive about Maurice in that early meeting when you think back? I realize this can be very hard.
Greene:Thatís hard to say. Itís hard to say. I donít really know what. I wasnít looking. I always did like the way he would explain what he was doing. And he had a very contagious passion for his work. One couldnít help but be interested in it. And that I liked. I got caught up in it too. I cared as much as he did about what was going on in his work.
Doel:Do you remember some of the other things that he would talk to you about when he was explaining to you the sorts of things that you were interested in? When you think back at least to that early time that you came to know him, what was it in particular?
Greene:Oh god. When I was first working for him, he was working on the galleys of ďElastic Waves in Layered Media.Ē
Doel:The [Wenceslas S.] Jardetsky, [Frank] Press.
Greene:Yes. I must say I havenít to this day the foggiest idea what that was about. And so I wouldnít say I was interested in that work. For that book, we were mostly trying to make sure that subscripts and superscripts were in the right places. And thatís the work I remember he was doing immediately, but he was doing other things too. I just donít remember what. Always organizing the next leg of the Verna, always. That was interesting to me.
Doel:What was it like in those very early years or so, was there such a thing as a typical day? What would you expect when you came in, what sorts of challenges?
Greene:I would say there was certainly no typical day. Iíd come in and usually have things left over from previous day that I was trying to finish. Iíd go through the mail and sort out the ones that should go to somebody else. But you never could depend on people to answer them. So usually, Iíd answer them first, you know, ďWe have asked Dr. Jeckell to tell you about this or that.Ē Some would, some wouldnít. Just to let the sender know that you got it and passed it on. Otherwise, I would try to find the answer and draft up the information and bring it to Maurice. He was not at all good about attending to things. Iíd even answer the letters and get them all ready for him to make a few notes and comments so I could finish. It was hard to get five minutes with him to get him to do it. So there was never a routine. Iíd have to kind of sneak in when he wasnít absolutely tied up with somebody else and show him a whole sheaf of things that he needed to look at, that he needed to give answers to.
Doel:I can imagine. What Iím curious about too is how many letters of that sort did you have that you were dealing with? Was this often several dozen in the course of a day? Or?
Greene:There wouldnít be several dozen that required substantive replies, or if they did, it might be something that was so much out of my field of knowledge that I couldnít even attempt it. But thereíd be maybe five or six every day that did need definite answers, like support for a foreign student at Columbia, and was there an opening in this kind of work or that kind of work? And Iíd have to go and find out. Iíd talk with Arnold about any possible support available and that sort of thing. The phone and the mail — endless, endless. And in between drafts of various papers, filing, plotting points.
Doel:And youíd be doing that too?
Greene:I did a little of that, not much. One summer a graduate student from another school came. He was working on the ocean bottom photographs. He and Maurice, and sometimes I, were plotting points again and again. The track was never on whatever scale you had to deal with. Maurice would call out the coordinates of a point. On and on and on. And the boy said, ďBut when does the real science start?Ē And Maurice said, ďThis is it.Ē [Laughter]
Greene:Yes. [voice fades] Checking references. Handing out reprints to people who were interested in certain subjects.
Doel:It sounds as if as the job developed, you had to take on more and more responsibility? Did you find that?
Greene:I had not worked before. So I was unaware that somebody should tell you what to do and what is your responsibility. So I was just kind of shipped up there, and anything that came there I was supposed to deal with.
Greene:I remember once early on, the phone was ringing and it was the Secretary of the University. And I told Maurice that the Secretary of the University was on the line for him. He said, ďGive him hell.Ē So I did. I didnít know any better. I hope I sharpened up gradually, but whatever came up, I was supposed to do. So he didnít ever say, ďYou do this and Iíll do that. You do this and bring it to me.Ē None of that. I would take responsibility for trying to help him through what he was supposed to do. And usually it was hard to get advice from him, as he was always busy with something else or talking with people. You know, everybody wanted to see him, and they had good reason to. A person might have a good new idea or notice something remarkable and bring it in to show Maurice. And for hours, theyíd talk about it, till they could make sense of it. A lot of his time was spent that way. It was hard for the day to day things to be worked in. But he was using himself in ways that really were the most important. And I understood that.
Doel:When would you be in? How early in the morning did you tend to be into Lamont?
Greene:We began at eight-thirty.
Doel:Until five or at least maybe —
Greene:Yes. Eight-thirty to five.
Doel:In the early years did you find you had to stay after frequently to get the work done?
Greene:Well I didnít because I had to get home to the children. At that point, the three children went to three different schools. Each had bus transportation, so that wasnít a problem. But they got home about an hour earlier than I did and I didnít like to leave them alone for long.
Doel:Were there exceptions though where you really in fact had to stay late or were you pretty much able to maintain?
Greene:Once in a while, I needed to stay late. I donít even remember it as staying late, just that if I were working on something that was almost done, Iíd want to finish it. There was no time clock.
Doel:When you think back on those earlier years in the fifties, what was the most difficult part of being secretary to Maurice Ewing?
Greene:I think the most difficult part then and always was that he couldnít even get himself to set aside say a half hour a day where we would deal with issues and business that had to be decided, letters that had to be signed. He just couldnít do that. He would see something on his desk and go to that. The phone would ring. Someone would come to see him. And that made it very hard to progress with these things in an orderly way. It might be months before he would deal with something that I thought I had the answer to, but needed his input. That was very hard. Frank Press was the only one that I saw who could get him to have a really organized day. I donít know how he did it, but he would just make sure that they werenít disturbed when he was working. And no matter what came up that I needed Mauriceís help with, Frank wouldnít let it happen. He was a very good administrator in that way. Nobody else could really do that with Maurice.
Doel:He was unique in that sense —
Doel:— in being able to help manage Mauriceís time?
Greene:Absolutely. I think so.
Doel:Was it his personality or was it the way that he organized?
Greene:I donít know, I wasnít there when Frank was actually working at Lamont. This was one summer when he came back to work.
Doel:When he came back, right? And that was the —
Greene:So, thatís what Iím remembering about Frankís work there. That he would let nothing interfere with it, absolutely nothing. In a calm way. He had that way of doing things.
Doel:Were there, again Iím thinking back to those, to the 1950s, were there other people at Lamont you felt you could talk to, to work through the inevitable difficulties of trying to manage Mauriceís research and the different responsibilities of the office?
Greene:I donít think so.
Doel:Or did you really feel that you were learning this, even that office as you went?
Greene:I was learning it as I went. There wasnít any very similar position. Annette Trefzer worked for Joe Worzel, but mostly doing drafting. Joe was very well organized.
Doel:I was wondering if there were issues that were possibly very difficult or ones that you felt that really needed attention to, Mauriceís attention. Were there other times when others were able to help you besides?
Greene:Joe Worzel could do some of that. Joe would take care of a lot of the Navy business and that sort of thing where I couldnít get answers. And, of course, Arnold Finck could always manage the administrative stuff. And Iíd go to whoever was the appropriate one for scientific things.
Doel:How was it working with Joe Worzel?
Greene:He could be very, very helpful. He could be very negative.
Greene:Very much so.
Doel:What sort of things are you thinking of [voice fades].
Greene:Iím trying to think of an example. Well, when we were down at Galveston [Texas], for instance, we needed a ship. Joe, Maurice, and the others were constantly complaining about it. We need a ship, we need a ship. And I was trying to persuade Maurice and Joe, that nobody can help them if they wonít say specifically what they want. If you just say, ďWe need help.Ē You canít help a person who says that. They need to know what kind of a ship you want? How much is it going to cost? What is it going to do? At least something. And I couldnít get any answers out of any of them. We were in good touch with Cecil [H.] Greene, who was a very fine man and very interested in the work. And I had talked with Cecil from time to time. At one point the seismologists needed quickly for a field trip some of the little hand computers that Texas Instruments was the first to make. So I phoned Cecil, and I told him that they needed this because they were going to Alaska in a few days. And he said, ďHarriet, Iíll take one right out of the assembly line for you.Ē Which was really nice cause you couldnít buy them. So we had a very good relation with Cecil. And Cecil would call me once in a while and ask how things were going.
Doel:Cecil would initiate the call?
Greene:Yes. I told Joe and I told Maurice, ďCecil Greene wants to give you a ship. He wants to help you.Ē I finally for the first time went over their heads and went to President Truman Blocker. Cecil Greene wants to give us a ship, but nobody will ask him. So Truman organized it, and Dr. Wolf (who wasnít a geophysicist but he was one of their sort of fund raisers among other things up there) got together with Maurice, and I guess Joe was there, and me, and we visited Cecil and got them finally to explain just what they needed. And he gave the ship to us. But Joe was very negative. Iíd tell him these things over and over. And that was just one example.
Doel:Thatís a really interesting story. And Joe was negative and Maurice didnít expect that Cecil would help or —?
Greene:I donít know. I think maybe Maurice was uneasy because he did not know as much as Joe did about where such ships were available, the rules what could not be done in refitting etc.
Doel:I was curious particularly about that because I know that Maurice had long known Cecil.
Doel:And Cecil had not given funds to Lamont.
Greene:I donít really know why. But I know one thing that I think might have been a factor. See I was very naive. To get to Palisades in those days, you took the bus, the Red & Tan Bus from the George Washington Bridge, and you ended up in Palisades. Well they didnít have, at Lamont, a courtesy van, and sometimes a man as important as Cecil would arrive, and Joe and Maurice would say theyíre too busy to meet him. I should have gone out in my own car, but I wasnít the one he wanted to see, and I really didnít know any better. When I saw how he was treated in other places, he must have thought we didnít appreciate anything.
Doel:There was one incident in particular, wasnít there, where Cecil was left without getting transportation?
Greene:I donít remember exactly, but I think so. I thought that was terribly rude that people just didnít pick up on that kind of thing. But they didnít. There wasnít a smoothness up there. Theyíd always think that the science was so important that you shouldnít get people a guest room, take them out to lunch. Where would you get the money? They didnít realize it how rude they were. And I didnít know that either at that time. I was following the lead. And it was pretty callous. I realized that after a while, and tried to remedy it as best I could.
Doel:Thatís a very interesting story from the time you were in Galveston. What did Maurice say once you had finally gotten the entire relevant group assembled with Cecil?
Greene:Well, he was glad he had the ship. And Ida [Greene] came down to christen it and it was grand. Oh everybody liked Ida; sheís wonderful woman.
Doel:How well did you get to know Cecil and Ida?
Greene:Well, we visited them and they visited us. This was only in Texas where I got to know them. They were so nice. I really liked them. I loved their house. And theyíre both so wise and so friendly. They had us in the guestroom.
Doel:Yes. Let me pause, just to. In the guestroom.
Greene:They had us in the guestroom and a few things of Idaís were in the closet. Among them was a very beautiful, heavily embroidered Indian jacket. And I said at breakfast, ďOh Ida, thatís such a pretty jacket in there. Why donít you ever wear that?Ē You know, just chitchat. She insisted on giving it to me. She did a lot of nice things like that.
Doel:Do you have any particular memories in addition that come back to mind when you think about your times with Cecil and Ida Greene?
Greene:Cecil took us to his country club, which was really nice. I didnít know him before we went to Texas. When at Lamont heíd talk with Maurice about scientific things. I was usually not in the room. I didnít know them really well. I just got to be friendly with them when we were down in Texas and there we enjoyed their company very much.
Doel:How did Maurice feel about his dealings with Cecil and Ida? How well do you feel that he came to know them?
Greene:He really liked them. And he certainly admired what they had done with Texas Instruments, intellectually and scientifically. And Ida was every bit a part of that. She worked for Cecil from day one. He admired the whole bunch of them.
Doel:Ida had been with Cecil since the very early exploration, geophysics?
Doel:Did she talk much about their early lives together?
Greene:No, she didnít really. But I didnít really see her quite that much. We were busy and we kept to ourselves, but I do remember enjoying very much our visits with them. Nothing really lengthy.
Doel:A lot of things we need to talk about with regarding the move to Galveston. Iím curious, as you generally were becoming aware of issues involving Lamont as Mauriceís secretary, were there particular priorities that you began to set in your mind for things that you felt needed particular attention?
Greene:Well, we needed a library. Thatís definite. We did get some help with the core laboratory and thatís a useful thing. One of the most helpful things, and it really helped the relationship with other people at Columbia, was this jitney service back and forth between Lamont and the main campus. That was a real breakthrough in my opinion, and could have helped even more than it did. But it certainly helped the isolation. And I thought that was very important. It made for better ties with the Geology Department, of which we were a part.
Doel:Interesting. Was the jitney idea one that [voice garbled] particularly.
Greene:I was at some of the meetings where I pushed for it. And I certainly pushed to be at the meetings so I could push for it. [Laughter] But I was very thankful that that worked because it helped in a million ways. If youíre going to have an interdisciplinary research institution, youíre not going to try to teach advanced chemistry and nuclear physics and branches of mathematics you know little about. So you need to have students going back and forth at will. And I think that was wonderful. That helped a lot.
Doel:When did you first start getting to go to the meetings? These are the higher level advisory or the [cross talk].
Greene:Never comfortably. And I think thatís another thing that Dr. Worzel would try to make sure that I didnít do. So more often than not I didnít know what Maurice had committed himself to doing, nor what some of the broader aims were.
Doel:Joe would work against you?
Greene:Oh I think so. Because I needed to know some of the things they were working on, because one has ways, just your ordinary way of doing things, which can work towards a goal if you know what that goal is. But I couldnít if I was shut out of what they were trying to do. And heíd put a nix on it.
Doel:Youíre putting your hand out as you say that.
Greene:Not necessarily on me, but on the whole idea. That it would be too expensive to have a jitney, anything like that. And Maurice in cases might have felt differently, but it just wasnít the kind of thing heíd argue about. So there were a lot of little things like that. The people who needed to work with the everyday part of programs were not kept informed. Gary [V.] Latham was very careful about that. Gary was another one who was very helpful and would try to let people know exactly what he was doing and why he was doing it and how you could help. Joe was one who shut people off. And I felt deliberately so.
Doel:We were talking a little bit about this off tape. That you had felt he had in some ways helped to bring relations between Maurice and Columbia to the, to the brink and past it, making it necessary for him to —
Greene:Chan Newlin was probably the principal player in that. Chan had listened to Maurice complain for years about not being allowed to have professors because we didnít have the endowment and needed the endowment. And the Doherty gift would fix that. But then Joe and Maurice too, would talk about the problems with the overhead. We had all this overhead coming to Columbia University as part of our government contracts, and yet we could never have anything we wanted. The University said they needed the overhead. And that got to be a huge problem. I always thought it could have been smoothed over. But there wasnít a real attempt made, and Chan would not give the seven million dollar gift until he had assurance from Columbia University that the income from that seven million dollars would not be used to replace university funds which traditionally had come to Lamont. And that got to be a big sticking point, and it now seems ridiculous. Joe Worzel could have, and should have, taken the lead in working out a solution with the Government Contract Division, but he didnít. Instead, he goaded Maurice into becoming more and more obsessed with the problem. I was never more angry about Joeís activities than when I found out he had told The New York Times that the R. D. Conrad would be operated by the group going to Galveston, — which was, of course, not true, and a very arrogant supposition. And it seemed so to me at the time because things, things change. You have one president who is friendly to Lamont and another who isnít. I mean these things can be worked out. But it just —
Doel:Was this all occurring during the [William] McGill period? Andy [Andrew W.] Cordier was acting for a short time, and then McGill.
Greene:I donít know if it happened also during Grayson Kirkís regime, but we always got on well with Dr. Kirk and Maurice admired him, liked him, felt he was very friendly. You might have thought that Maurice was almost paranoid about Dr. McGill, but I think he was right. I think Dr. McGill was playing mind games with him.
Greene:I liked Dr. Cordier. He tried to smooth things over. I think had Joe not been sort of fueling the lire, things could have been worked out. And someone could have persuaded Chan Newlin, well we can do it, but we can do it a little different. None of that happened. It just got worse and worse. So that Maurice couldnít work. Heíd be thinking about this all the time. And arguing with people and wondering what to do next. But he wasnít doing the things that he wanted to do. He had almost ceased his real work by the time he accepted the Galveston job.
Doel:When did this, this was gradually unfolding then when the Doherty gift discussions really started in Ď68 or so. It was somewhere in the late sixties.
Greene:I donít remember the date, but I remember it was very much part of Columbiaís big fund raising campaign. And that was very, very helpful and successful. They were wonderful. I learned from them how the fund raising is done.
Doel:From the Columbia operation?
Greene:From the group, that Columbia had coming in to do this, to raise the funds. They were a professional group. They cleared whomever they thought would be the one appealing to a certain foundation and they would make sure that nobody else at Columbia asked for funds from that foundation. They would try to make a good match, which is a sensible thing to do. So they asked Maurice to approach the Doherty Foundation, which was known to be interested in oceanography and had offered money to Woods Hole [Oceanographic Institution] and perhaps Scripps [Institution of Oceanography] or not. So Maurice contacted Chan Newlin and Chan Newlin was expecting the call. The fundraiserís preliminary work made it all much more comfortable. And I remember very well that Chan came over on Saturday with his wife Janet who had sort of an Alzheimerís problem, though we didnít know it at that time. So I took care of Janet. I didnít know what was wrong, but I stayed with Janet. Maurice toured Chan around on Saturday, showed him all the labs, and told him what he thought a research institution should be and the role of the university in it. They had a very good talk. We were supposed to ask for seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars for an endowed professorship. Before leaving, Chan said, ďWhat would you do if you had seven million?Ē
Doel:[Laughter] You have to be ready for things like this.
Greene:So all the next day Maurice worked on the proposal. He wrote the proposal and I helped him with it. And I typed it up. And we had it on Chanís desk Monday.
Doel:This was all that day Sunday that you were working on that proposal.
Greene:And Chan told me later that heíd asked them the same questions at Woods Hole and had received no answer. And I guess, in a normal way, theyíd form a committee and decide who should be on the committee, and meet for a few months, and pull together various things and finally put together a proposal. So Maurice was surprised and excited about the prospect of such a big endowment. So he worked on it all Sunday and gave Chan an answer on Monday, — a well-thought-out proposal.
Doel:So he was able to say by that point I need help with getting this seven million dollar proposal put together.
Greene:He wrote a very good proposal, a very inspiring one and got the money.
Doel:Iím real curious about that. Do you remember that Sunday particularly well, what happened, how early you both started working?
Greene:I guess we started right after breakfast and we worked till it was done.
Doel:What were the priorities that you felt needed that?
Greene:Well these were Mauriceís ideas. He wanted to be able to have security for the senior staff. What was happening was that some of the scientists who worked at Lamont were really giving up a lot. They were giving up tenured posts at other universities and at Columbia. They were just simply on contracts that would be renewed every year by the grace of Congress. And they were giving up a lot. And they couldnít have the title of professor, as that would put them on a tenure track and, if contracts were inadequate, Columbia might be stuck with them when they didnít have the money. So he wanted money for professorships. He wanted that privilege, to be able to have professors or senior scientists who were treated the same as other Columbia University professors. That was very important. And I think that was one of the main things. But put in a more philosophical way he knew we needed this kind of freedom to keep and to gather the critical mass of people to accomplish the best scientific research. Itís the way I remember it.
Doel:Thatís very interesting. And so it stayed focused particularly on one set of issues?
Greene:I think so. I couldnít swear to it. But we had the Conrad; we had the Vema. I guess we needed buildings, but I donít remember that as being critical. We needed a library for sure.
Doel:What sort of person was Chan Newlin?
Greene:Janet Newlin or Chan?
Greene:Oh, well Iím forever grateful to Chan because Maurice was so wrapped up in his work and really, he felt guilty when he wasnít working. So he never wanted to take vacations. But Chan as treasurer was the, actually the most active person in the Doherty Foundation. He had proposals to the foundation, which came in from all over. He also had clients for White & Case, the law firm in which he was a partner. Chan wanted us to go to Florida with him because he wanted Maurice to be the Doherty Foundationís scientific advisor. That was something that Maurice could justify in his own mind that he should do it because the Doherty Foundation was going to help Lamont. That was known, and now the Doherty Foundation wanted his help. So we went to Florida and got to visit the other institutions, which had made proposals and learn what they were doing, and talk with some of the professors. We traveled with Chan and got to meet his clients, which was wonderful. They were charming, interesting people. Mr. W. T. Grant was one of his clients. Mr. Grant lived in Palm Beach in a cottage at the Breakers Hotel, and he had a yacht. Mr. Grant was not at all well, but he was still pretty savvy. He loaned us his yacht. We were up and down the intercoastal waterway. We had a terrific time with Chan. A lot of fun. With Chan and his friend Sid, we traveled around together in Florida. On those trips, we also enjoyed very much the company of John and Edie Muma. Edie was touring institutions in much the same way we were, — i.e. evaluations, proposals, — in her case for the Noyes Foundation. There were some useful things too. Screening all these applications and meeting all the people. That was great. So from my point of view, it got us into a little more fun.
Doel:And you feel this was a deliberate action. That Chan recognized this is what Maurice needed.
Greene:He did. He did.
Greene:He did. He could get him to travel and have fun, and he thought he could justify it in the line of duty. And he had a great time with Chan, always did. After Maurice died, Chan remained a firm friend to me. The summer of Mauriceís death, Chan and his wife, Mary, took me to Santa Fe for a week of opera. Chan and Mary and I were good friends all our lives. Mary outlived him. She died in 1996, and I miss her.
Doel:Did you meet other people from the Doherty Foundation?
Greene:Oh yes indeed. Walter Brown, a real Virginia gentleman, wonderful man. We knew the Browns very well and visited back and forth with them. Dode Brown was a very good friend of mine. In fact, I saw her last year. She has a condo in Sarasota where she goes in the winter. Dode and I had a little visit. I had met a couple of the others Maurice and I went out to West Virginia with the Brown family. I met a few of them, but the Browns and the Newlins were the ones I really knew. I knew them very well.
Doel:Sounds like the Newlins were the most critical of your contacts with the Doherty?
Greene:Yes. Because Chan was by far the most active. Now the Browns were very interested and always very helpful and we were really quite close to them, but Chan was the one who followed up on grant proposals.
Doel:What was his position in New York? What was he doing in addition?
Greene:He was a lawyer with White & Case, mainly concerned with corporate matters, financial things. He was a partner.
Doel:Right. Was the Doherty Foundation reviewing proposals from many areas of science at that point, or did they really tend to focus on the earth sciences?
Greene:They intended to focus on oceanography. They had some very good proposals from the Florida Institute of Technology, other places.
Doel:Whatís the connection? Iím sorry.
Greene:I donít know what the connection was, but they decided to focus on that. Because before they came to Lamont, Chan had been to Woods Hole and I think heíd been to Scripps. They decided to try to use the money to make a difference, and therefore try to focus. How they fixed on oceanography, Iím really not certain. Walter Brown was interested in the law of the sea. The Foundation made a major grant. I believe to the University of Virginia, for studies of the laws regarding exploitation of the oceansí resources.
Doel:From the time that you first got to Lamont, say around 1956 to 1960-61, did you notice Lamont changing in major ways? Or did you feel that there were more similarities in the way that it was operating? Clearly, things were beginning to change quite a bit in the latter part of the 1960s. Iím wondering how much?
Greene:I donít remember dates and all, but the biggest change came when the oceanography building was built.
Doel:Right. That would have been around 1960.
Greene:Well that was a big change.
Doel:What made it such a big change?
Greene:From my point of view, the biggest change was that it put Maurice in isolation. It was not a good idea. He could have moved to the oceanography building. I mean he was very welcome. Itís just that it was an impossible situation for him because he had all this stuff, physically.
Doel:It was literally the way the office had evolved —
Doel:— that there were just that many things.
Greene:He would never let anything be filed and it was just all over the place.
Doel:How did you keep track of all the things that?
Greene:Iíd look around for what I needed and copy it and file it, as best I could. But it was always difficult, very difficult.
Doel:So you had one of the early generation of copiers or did you literally have to type a copy of?
Greene:We had, we had everything as it started. First youíd have to retype everything as many times as you had to. Then you had the copiers where you rolled it through and it had a positive and a negative. And itíd all stick together. Everything that came out we had. Alma Kesner kept us up to date. When she learned of a product she thought would be helpful, sheíd tell me about and arrange for me to see it. When the shipsí reports came back after each leg I always remember that as a really big load of copying. Getting all the messages out to the people who needed them. That was very laborious.
Doel:And that was a very hectic time whenever the Vema or the Conrad leg reports came back.
Greene:Well, they would send messages from each port. The Chief Scientist would bring back all the data and all the memos for everybody, and weíd have to go through and make sure that everybody got things. It was always very interesting. Youíd have to do it as quickly as you could. They used Chatham radio for the radio messages back and forth. But usually the chief scientist packet would have a lot of other things that were new.
Doel:I remember seeing photographs of Mauriceís office and spread through an enormous area.
Greene:Enormous. And that was just one. It was very difficult.
Doel:When you say just one of them, which?
Greene:He had another room.
Doel:Right. But still in the Lamont Hall?
Greene:Yes. Oh yes.
Doel:In that wing there?
Greene:Yes. He had two rooms there. And moving these things would have been very difficult. In retrospect I think we should have done it anyway, whether or not he wanted to.
Doel:Did you discuss it with him?
Greene:A little bit. But it wasnít for my decision. Maurice made his own decisions.
Doel:Was he aware of the change, once oceanography was built?
Greene:I think so. He never discussed it specifically. But I do think there was a big change. It might have been harder for him than for me to be.
Doel:You were just saying and I want to make sure itís on the tape. You felt you should have moved to oceanography no matter what.
Greene:Excuse me I have to go to the bathroom.
Doel:This is Ron Doel. Weíre resuming after a good lunch break. You were telling me about the changes that were coming to Lamont when the oceanography building was put up. And I was just thinking too the seismology building, didnít that come about around the same time? Were that also the early 1960s?
Greene:Yes. Thatís true. Somehow I donít remember the seismology building as being so isolating. Though it was too bad when Jack Oliver moved out, but then he had to. Lynn Sykes. I donít know why I didnít feel that that was as isolating as the big oceanography building.
Doel:I think probably so many of key people went to oceanography.
Greene:Well, the seismologists too. Maurice always was very interested in working with Jack Oliver and Lynn Sykes and the others. Lynn Sykes was a very, very wonderful scientist. Is Lynn still there?
Doel:Yes he is.
Doel:What sort of things do you remember most about Lynn Sykes?
Greene:I remember Lynn as being very scholarly, quiet, and gentlemanly.
Doel:Thatís interesting. One thing I brought here is a somewhat whimsical drawing of Lamont from 1962.
Greene:Oh. Oh sure. Yes. Thatís right. Iím trying to think of the name of the man who did that. Thatís when we put out the brochure. I did that.
Doel:You had had a hand in getting the brochure?
Greene:Absolutely. I worked with David Lindsay on it. I think David and I did most of it. He had a friend who did these little people drawings. And I canít think of his name. Begins with D, it was something like your name. Anyway. I remember it well. Roy Doty is the name, I think.
Doel:What sort of things are coming back to mind as you take a look at how things were at that time?
Greene:David Lindsay was the one who actually wrote it all. And I worked with David and Chuck Drake on getting most of the information and helping to decide what should be in it. And it was very good I thought. Before that we didnít have any brochure that people could be given. And Lamont really wasnít included in the annual bulletins of the departments in Columbia.
Greene:It wasnít there at all. So when people wanted to know something, we had nothing to give them. So that was the purpose of it. And it did help a lot. And ever after, the Lamont bulletin was part of the regular Columbia University bulletin series. At one point David was thinking about what we should do for the cover. And I said well just put Lamont Hall; thatís beautiful. He said, no. When you look at that picture, what do you think of? You think of a well-endowed girlís school. You donít think of somebody who needs help. So David had all the records put on the cover to show what we were doing. He was very clever. Itís funny, just yesterday, I wrote a letter to his widow, Alice. We keep in touch. David Lindsay was, for most of his working life, a staff member of a major magazine. Iíve forgotten which one. Then he quit and started his own magazine, and within a year he had a stroke. So he had no benefits, nothing. And then Alice came to work at Lamont. She kept the family together as best she could. Weíve been friends a long time. So usually when I see Davidís work now, it kind of brings Aliceís sad fate to my mind.
Doel:Back to mind.
Greene:But pretty much what was envisioned came true, didnít it?
Doel:The one exception in the vicinity of the oceanography building, that plan still calls for other buildings to be constructed up on the ridge.
Greene:And it doesnít show the big core lab.
Doel:No, it doesnít.
Greene:And the machine shop.
Greene:But you can see how it would have been, the communications would have been almost automatic when it was all even this close.
Doel:Yes. Right. Youíre pointing to the bottom part of the map right now from Lamont Hall on over to geochemistry.
Greene:Going through the rose garden and the machine shop.
Doel:Right. That there was a clear access that people could walk through, it wasnít that far. But oceanography is further.
Greene:Itís a separate trip.
Doel:Yes. Did anyone discuss that as oceanography was being planned and built, how it might effect the dynamics of Lamont?
Greene:If they did, I donít remember it. It was really too far away. I suppose it was far away because it was envisioned as the first of a complex. Joe Worzel was the most heavily involved with that planning. And I donít remember what else took place.
Doel:In just preparing that fund raising, or the brochure that told about Lamont, do you remember discussions with Maurice about how others could be interested in Lamont, the nongovernmental patrons? Was that something that you and Maurice talked about?
Greene:Yes. I believe they were already interested. Except that we had a very hard time communicating with them because we had nothing to give them. All we could do was to show them around and send them a few reprints. But to put the whole program together, it was much more satisfactory to have something you could sit down and look at. But there were already people interested. We had many visitors. People would come and need to be toured around. We finally started an annual visitorsí day. People who had a legitimate interest, or school classes, they all wanted to come, and it was better to have them do it all at once. Because it was sometimes difficult to get someone to show a guest around. And also they might not know whatís going on in certain laboratories, not their own. It might be nothing thatís of any interest to them. So the visitorsí day worked out very well.
Doel:Do you remember whose idea that was? Was that primarily yours?
Greene:Actually Alice, Alice Hoffer (who worked for Joe Worzel) recognized the problem and she was the one who worked out the details of our Visitorís Days.
Doel:That first visitors day, was that not in the very early 1970s, 1970 or had it occurred earlier? So it was not long.
Greene:No, it was not long. Thatís right. It was very popular and it did very well. But before that we showed people around one by one when they were interested. That meant they had to focus their interest because we couldnít show them everything. People would have to interrupt their work, get out their records, and explain them, and usually if they had deadlines and other things they were trying to do, being courteous could be a strain. People were in general very cooperative when we had visitors. Often I was the one who knew they were coming and got to take them around, and I did have to kind of interrupt people. But they were usually very nice and very cordial about it.
Doel:Iím thinking of, well I mentioned Cecil Greene, some of it that certainly Maurice did for a long time. Were there other major potential patrons that Maurice was particularly concerned with in the early days?
Greene:Iím sure there were. And we did get gifts. But more often than not he would be interested in what they were doing and they in what he was doing. And just hoping that on the side itíd be nice if theyíd support something.
Doel:Did Maurice feel frustrated about having to play the role of fundraiser?
Greene:I donít think he did. The fund raising eventually came to be nine million dollars per year, which had to be raised every year on contracts. They were usually ONR [Office of Naval Research] contracts and National Science Foundation grants (Bureau of Ships kind of faded out). Those were the only places where you could reliably expect to be continuously supported at the level needed to keep all the work going. And so that he did. And then there was this major grant from the Doherty Foundation. Of course, the Vetlesen Foundation too gave money.
Greene:And that was very good, good relationship with them.
Doel:Do you remember how that relationship came about?
Greene:Iím trying to remember how exactly. Henry Walters [Jr.] was the person we knew the best there. And he had in that organization a similar role to Chan Newlinís with the Doherty Foundation. I think that the Vetlesen Foundation first contacted us. The Vetlesens had built the Vema.
Greene:And then they sold it to the Posts. Mrs. Post had it for years. And they were sort of tracking down the history of the Verna and got in touch with Maurice in that connection. And then they made friends. And several of the trustees of the Vetlesen Foundation were very good friends of his.
Doel:George Rowe was.
Greene:I donít remember that name.
Doel:I may have been incorrect.
Greene:Henry Walters, and of course, Barry Brown. Barry Brown was his continuing friend there as well as Henry Walter. Barry Brown was a very important influence in his life. Because Barry sort of took over his financial things, and that was so wonderful.
Doel:Mauriceís financial arrangements?
Greene:Yes. He was the head of Pressprich, and he just took over Mauriceís investment portfolio. And Maurice trusted him with it, and he just got it off his mind. It was wonderful. Jerry Ewing worked there right after he graduated from Harvard. Jerry still is at Pressprich. Pressprich was disincorporated and then re-incorporated, or something like that. Mr. Brownís long since dead.
Doel:Iím curious what sort of person Henry Walters was when you met him?
Greene:Oh heís very, very charming, very knowledgeable. Very sophisticated. He was the head of the International Flavors and Fragrances.
Greene:I liked him a lot.
Doel:How often did they meet? Did you meet socially with them as well? Was that something where you were involved in.
Greene:On social occasions, like at big Columbia dinners. But we didnít have much of a social life. We were busy all the time.
Greene:What we did for a social life was not much seemingly. Sunday morning weíd say, well letís go out and get the paper. And then weíd decide to tour around and go somewhere. Weíd be riding around all day Sunday. Maurice used to tease me because he being from Texas and I from Connecticut, weíd drive for a couple of hours and heíd say, ďWhat county did you say this was?Ē But weíd been all through New York State or something. [Laughter] But we didnít, we didnít go out much. Hardly ever. Iíll add here an example of how our so-called ďsocial lifeĒ worked out in practice. Dr. Chin Chen, a young scientist from Taiwan, invited us over dinner. I donít recall how it happened that he was speaking with me alone and Maurice was not present. Anyway, I said weíd love to come and I accepted. When I told Maurice about it he said he really didnít want to go out, and when the day came to go to the Chensí he just simply couldnít go. He was not angry. He just wouldnít go. So I went alone. Dr. and Mrs. Chen were most gracious and we had a pleasant evening. But Iím sure that they were disappointed that the man so important in their lives had not come. When we left to Galveston, the Chens gave us an embroidered tablecloth and napkins and to this day every time I see the gift I feel sorry that I disappointed them. Anyhow, I learned my lesson and after that incident I never again even attempted to make social plans for us unless Maurice specifically wanted me to. Mind you, Iím not complaining. I had much to do and was generally very happy to be home. So if ever we went to a social thing, it was some big Columbia do or somebody that he was supposed to be seeing having a party in New York or something.
Doel:Of course youíre talking about after 1965, when you and Maurice were married?
Greene:Yes. Yes. But I donít think he had much of a social life before then either because he was always much too busy and he was tired in the evenings.
Doel:When you first met Maurice, were you already worried about his health, about him driving himself too much? Or did he seem able to handle the schedule that he was working?
Greene:He seemed able to handle the schedule. He always did really work long and hard and then exhaust himself. That was his way. I didnít know his health was bad. He had a very good cardiologist from New York, Dr. Menard Gertler. And he was coping with everything. Dr. Cushman Haagenson was his good friend and a wonderful doctor. He guided Maurice long before I came into the picture, and afterwards, too. If anything were wrong, youíd tell Dr. Haagenson and he would tell you immediately what to do, which doctor to go to and who was good and who wasnít. I had such complete faith in him and so did Maurice that we never even worried about it. If Cushman Haagenson said to do it, we did it. So we didnít really worry about our health, either one. In 1992 when I learned I had a colon cancer, my first thought was to ask Dr. Haagenson what to do. But, alas, I learned from Sam Gerard, his son-in-law, that he was dead.
Doel:Thatís interesting. Thatís very interesting. And essentially he felt that although Maurice was pushing himself, he was still basically doing all right.
Greene:And he was.
Doel:One of the things, as you worked further into the job with Maurice, did it? Clearly there were, as you say, there were lots of people who always wanted to find time for Maurice, wanting to come in. Did you find that your role included playing in some ways as a filter to try to —
Doel:— make more time available for Maurice.
Greene:If he were with someone, another person could no see him unless it seemed really urgent. People got very annoyed about that, but I couldnít do anything about it. And Maurice was not very good about that sort of thing. He hated being interrupted and he hated equally not seeing everyone who came to see him. For instance, and this would be typical, when I left to go home and get supper, heíd say, ďCall me up when supperís ready.Ē And I would say, ďNo, just come when you want to.Ē Otherwise I knew he would say, ďIf you hadnít called me home Bill [William] Donn (or whoever) and I could have finished this.Ē So I was always in the middle and itís a position I declined as much as possible. So Iíd say, ďSupper will be ready ten minutes after you get home.Ē I would try never to interfere. I would sort of do the same thing as his gatekeeper. Because if someone whom I knew he needed to see and wanted to see came, and he was with someone else and deep into something, I would tell him so and so was there and leave it to him to decide what to do. But I would never interrupt or it would be the same thing all over again. ďJack Oliver and I were just finishing this up when you had to come inĒ, and things like that. So, I couldnít do that or I would have made everybody mad. Everybody. And I know that, but there was not a thing I could do about it.
Doel:Nobody had really played that sort of role in Mauriceís life before at Lamont.
Greene:Well, Nancy Barnett didnít. I donít know why. She was the one before me. You couldnít, you couldnít really do that for him. I donít think it was something that would work.
Doel:You mean playing gatekeeper, being the gatekeeper or?
Greene:I couldnít plan. I had to try to be the gatekeeper because there were conflicts and you had to know who was there and who wasnít. But you couldnít plan a reasonable schedule for him in which he could do all the things he promised to do that day. Because he wouldnít do it, and everything that he did do, he would get mad at you that he didnít do something else.
Doel:And you in this instance, a reflective you.
Greene:Mad at YOU!
Doel:And youíre pointing to yourself.
Greene:Exactly. And so I couldnít reasonably plan a sensible day for him.
Doel:Yes, and you mentioned already that he wouldnít give you the half-hour that you wanted him to spend in the morning to try to do.
Greene:Thatís right. We just carried on as best we could.
Greene:And some things we did work together on.
Doel:Do you think these, how did that actually work? How did you know who to let in, those to tell you canít meet with Maurice?
Greene:Well he would do that. If he had agreed to see someone and to go over a paper, and other people came and wanted to see him, Iíd just tried to explain that he canít do it. And Iíd just tell them he canít see anyone now. Heís working with —
Doel:What did he do when he would let you in here say, and Iím just thinking in terms of a hypothetical example. Iím real curious about. If one of the more senior graduate students had come in, but he was already in a meeting with the Lamont staff, did he make, was he inclined to get back in touch with the graduate student rather quickly or did the press of work then generally —?
Greene:He would like to, and he did whenever he could. He really liked working with the students. He liked that a lot. And he always had good ideas for them and from them. It was a very good exchange. He loved these long talks with the people he was working with. And Iíd see so many times someone going in puzzled and excited, uncertain, and come out two hours later, the two of them together, just joyful. They had had some wonderful ideas on this by talking. He could inspire people, and they could inspire him. So he liked to work with the students. He liked to work with nearly everybody. And the conflict was that there was more than could be managed. He wanted to do it all. He couldnít plan ten minutes for this man, and ten minutes for that man, couldnít do it. He couldnít get that organized and didnít want to be that organized. Didnít want anyone else to do it for him. He was acutely aware of that, everything he did meant he did not do something else, and he complained a lot about that.
Doel:Did he resent in some ways the role that you felt you had to play?
Greene:Absolutely. He resented it and he depended on it both. He wanted to have uninterrupted time on whatever it was. But uninterrupted time means that two or three people whom he would have liked to see, he didnít see.
Doel:What was the most difficult part of having to do?
Greene:I knew what he wanted to do, and there just werenít that many hours in the day. That was difficult. And also I would know some things that really he should do and he needed to do and he wouldnít.
Doel:What sort of things?
Greene:Well, for instance, I canít name a specific thing. But when he was working with Dr. Wilhelm who was retired from Shell, Dr. Wilhelm worked very long and hard on various projects and heíd get the results, and in good, corporate style, heíd write it all up and send it in. And Maurice would never sit down and read it. I would bring it to him and show it to him, but there was never time. There was always somebody else. A lot of little things like that, where I knew he was interested. I knew he wanted to know it, but he was just doing something else. It was unfair to men like Dr. Wilhelm. And there were others.
Doel:Did he call on you to summarize certain developments that were going on? Did you end playing that role as well?
Greene:Sometimes. Typically after we were married and I would go to meetings with him, which we both enjoyed a lot, we would cover different sessions. And he would tell me what heíd heard and Iíd tell him what I heard. And Iíd tell him, ďYou know, you really should talk to this fellow, heís good.Ē And things like that. I developed an instinct for it after a time. You do, — an instinct for the serious people and the good ideas, as opposed to the showmen. You pick that up after a while. And I could do that for him.
Doel:I realize it may not be easy to articulate, but when you think back to the way in which that instinct worked, what was it that gave you prudence for all this important?
Greene:I think itís just experience.
Doel:Based on your own growing awareness of the big problems in the geophysics area.
Greene:Well, looking at the data with him and reading what he was writing, and talking together about what he was doing, and what he wondered about. And then Iíd see somebody who just would bring up a question like that and have something very interesting to say. You know, itís just, itís just experience. And we did talk a lot so I knew the kind of thing he was interested in. Iím no scientist, but pick up on things.
Doel:Pause. You mentioned Bill Donn a moment ago. What sort of relationship did Maurice have with Bill? How well did you get to?
Greene:I knew Bill very well. I liked Bill very much. And they had a good relationship. Bill worked at City College and whenever he could heíd come out and theyíd talk about climate change. And Maurice liked to work with Bill. Bill was a very good companion and a good worker. He liked him.
Doel:What sort of person was Bill?
Greene:He was soft spoken, very determined, and he always knew exactly what he wanted. He had a nice wife. He married Rene Brilliant. She was a musician. I didnít know her in her early days. She lived in Brooklyn till they were married. And then she gave that up and became a physician.
Doel:She had been at Lamont for a time as a student, hadnít she?
Greene:For a time as a graduate student. You can see she was a woman of varied talents. She wrote a paper with Maurice. Iíve forgotten about what. Anyway. Then she was a very fine piano player. And then she became a physician. After she married they lived in Grand View, across the road from my former home. She was one of my childrenís doctors. Dr. Brilliant. [laughter] But Maurice worked with Bill a lot, and he liked him. Bill would usually come late in the afternoon or in the evening, cause he had a lot of work at City College. Betty Friedan, before she was famous, was doing a piece for one of the newspapers, a long piece, on climate change. She was working about the Ewing-Donn theory of ice ages. And Betty would come, hour after hour, to interview both of them.
Doel:Youíve seen the published piece that she did?
Greene:Yes. Yes. Thank you Betty. After that, Betty and her family moved to Grand View, where her children and my children were friends. When she was guest editor of the Ladies Home Journal, right after the Feminine Mystique came out, we were neighbors. She knew that I was at Lamont and sheíd seen me sort of running a lot of stuff there. So she thought this is an ideal woman, big house, three kids, great job. Betty is one of these people who talk a lot and donít listen. She wanted me to be interviewed for her piece in the Journal. Whenever I could get a word in edgewise, Iíd tell her, ďBetty, I donít want to be in it.Ē But she didnít listen and she wouldnít listen. She sent photographers out and I was in the magazine piece. And before it came out, I had left my husband. She called me up and she was furious with me. I had told her I didnít want to be in the article and she wrote me in anyway. But that was partly a result of getting to know her a little when she was doing all this interviewing with Bill Donn and Maurice. One summer later, my daughter spent several weeks on Fire Island with Betty, helping with the children.
Doel:That must have been difficult when she wasnít listening to you.
Greene:Sheíd do the same thing with Bill and Maurice. Iíd be in the other office and sheíd be supposed to be getting material for the articles. She did all the talking. But somehow she put it together.
Doel:That would have been about maybe Ď64?
Greene:I think so.
Doel:Or at least during the time that —
Greene:When the Ewing-Donn Theory of Ice Ages first came out.
Doel:That certainly was in the early sixties.
Greene:Bill Donn was very good. He wrote a book on meteorology for college students, an excellent book. He had a good way of explaining things.
Doel:Did Maurice feel that that was one of the most satisfying collaborations that he had? Did he give you a sense of those people with whom he was working?
Greene:Yes. He never said that in so many words, but he liked working with Bill. I know that. And Bill was a nice person to work with. And Frank Press, of course, was one he liked very much to work with. I think he enjoyed John Quo as well. He enjoyed working with most of his colleagues and students.
Doel:When was he particularly working with John?
Greene:I donít remember exactly, but they were working on earth tides from, among other things, measurements. John had a lot of interesting ideas on that. I never worked with him on that sort of thing. I just sort of heard his comments and saw papers that he left for me to type.
Doel:Youíve mentioned some of the main collaborations people think about with Frank Press. Of course that had gone back before times that —
Greene:He always had great respect for Frank Press.
Doel:Did he seek Frankís opinions on big decisions that he had to make at the Observatory? Was he in that kind of —?
Greene:No. Not that Iím aware of. Frank was a very good administrator Iím sure, but he never had that much influence on Mauriceís administrative practices. By the time I came to Lamont, Frank was in California, so I saw him and Maurice together only on Frankís occasional visits. It was kind of catch as catch can.
Doel:Thatís a good way to put it.
Greene:He could spot talent too. As you may know, a full professor may sponsor a student no matter what kind of a mess of a record the student brings in. Invariably Maurice he could pick those who would really turn out to be good people, good workers.
Doel:Are you thinking of any one in particular?
Greene:I can see him, but I canít think of his name.
Doel:Thatís okay. Again, we can add.
Greene:Phil Rebinowitch! He worked on the ship and he didnít have much of a record, but he turned out to be a sterling student. Maurice has done that several times, — i.e. given someone else another chance and been very pleased with the result.
Doel:Walter Pitman had worked on a ship.
Greene:It wasnít Walter. Yes. Walter was very good. And I think everyone liked Walter. I certainly liked Walter. He, I never forget when he showed me the records that they were getting on Eltanin. Absolute symmetry. Oh. I went rushing back to the office to tell Maurice. You should see what Walter brought back. [Laughter] It was fantastic.
Doel:Thatís interesting. So you saw them first?
Greene:I saw them before he did. Not first, but. Although Walter had just got back.
Doel:Yes. Thatís what I meant. First of the two of you.
Greene:Yes. Walter had just got back. Oh, gosh!
Doel:How were you convinced before at that period of time that plate tectonics or what becomes [?] symmetry —?
Greene:I was, I was very much persuaded by the work of Maurice and by his correspondence with [Felix A.] Vening-Meinesz about the convection cells in the earth. The implications of sea floor spreading seemed to fit in very comfortably with that. But I donít know beans about physics. And I, when Maurice showed me the seismic reflection records of the sediments in the South Atlantic and how thick and how absolutely undisturbed they were, I could see that was a difficulty. But it doesnít matter whether or not I was convinced, but I could follow what he was doing.
Doel:Iím just very curious if you recall having discussions with Maurice about the relative merits of the different theories as they were?
Greene:We did sometimes. He thought some people were just going too far with it, and wanting to find an attractive and appealing solution and just jumping into things. Iím trying to think, who was the Princeton?
Greene:Harry Hess, yes. He thought Harry Hess was really jumping the gun, that he didnít have any data, that he was using other peopleís data to make spectacular guesses, which would look good. Not to say he was against continental drift, he just thought other people were trying to steal the thunder of people who were actually working it out. Now [Robert S.] Dietz and company he certainly appreciated, thought it was very sound work.
Doel:Bob Dietz, yes.
Greene:But he always had an aversion to people who would pick and choose from the most interesting parts of other peopleís data, and then publish some idea that anybody could put together if they had the nerve.
Doel:Did he feel that way about [J.] Tuzo Wilson?
Greene:To some extent, but not really, he had a great respect for Tuzo and a liking for him. I think he, as far as I know, he never felt the least bit of resentment for their disagreeing on some points.
Doel:But it seemed that he had concerns with those who were trying to develop very broad theories of the earth?
Greene:Yes, in some ways. But I think it was more from the point of view that, if youíve worked on something and youíre gathering data, and youíve been studying a problem for decades, and then somebody just takes the idea that youíre still thinking about and still making hypotheses about and testing them — that somebody will just jump in and say something dramatic. The facility of it all, can be annoying to a serious worker in that field.
Greene:I think a lot of the scientists feel that way about whatever their field of work is.
Doel:Indeed, and thatís a very good point.
Greene:Just get a clue from someone elseís data, and jump in with all the appealing ideas.
Doel:When you mentioned Harry Hess, I was also thinking of much earlier concerns back into the mid-1940s, where I believe Ewing hoped that Hess would be able to get him a position in Princeton which didnít work out. Was that something that he ever —?
Greene:Thatís nothing I know about. I donít know anything about it. I never knew that. I know that they were. He told me that they were trying to get him at Harvard, I believe.
Doel:Early on there was an attempt to get him at MIT, with the offer of the Heddy Greene estate just during the same time.
Greene:Was it? Anyway, I thought it was Harvard, but it may have been MIT. He said he went up there, and they gave him this splendid lunch, were trying to make everything look good. And he met all these wonderful scientists whose writings he admired and all that. But it turned him off, that they interrupted all these peopleís work, and made them come to a lunch with a nobody. So it had the exact opposite effect.
Doel:Is that right? That was something that really bugged him?
Greene:Yes. I thought that was really amusing. So I canít imagine him actually trying to get a job at Princeton. I donít know. He may have. He worked with people at Princeton when he was at Lehigh.
Greene:His graduate students were from Princeton.
Greene:I donít know. He told me once of one of his escapades at that time. He was picking up George [P.] Woolard at Princeton for a field trip. It was night, and around — I forgot the name of the geology building. Funny name for a geological feature.
Greene:Guyot. Guyot Hall. Landscape designers had staked it all around to plant trees, each stake meant a certain tree was to go there. And he and Woolard went around; they switched them all around. [Laughter] He was always wondering if they actually did it that way. How it came out.
Doel:There are some very eclectic looking trees growing around —
Greene:Well that might be the work of —
Doel:— around Guyot Hall.
Greene:— Woolard and Ewing. [Laughter]
Doel:Thatís a good story. Thatís a good story.
Greene:So I never heard him speak of Princeton except in connection with the several students he worked with early on. ó Crary, Peoples, Woolard et al., but never wishing he was there.
Doel:Did he talk much to you about what life was like for him growing up in Texas?
Greene:Many, many, many times. He would very easily and very willingly recall everything for anybody who asked. Heíd go through the whole thing endlessly. He talked about it a lot. He had recollections from the time he was a baby in a baby carriage, being on the front porch of the little two-room place where they lived. In later years, there were seven children, and they all lived in that two-room house. Maurice liked to sleep on the porch because it was the only place he could be alone. He was extremely devoted to his mother and father. Maurice told me when he was washed overboard and thought that he was going to be paralyzed for the rest of his life, he thought of his father and how he had never been able to say goodbye to all his children. Thatís why he dictated that letter to his children, because he was thinking of his father and thinking about how his father never did get over his stroke.
Doel:Never could communicate that.
Doel:Thatís very interesting.
Greene:And his father died after that. Maurice wanted to leave something for his children. But that was partly from his great love for his father and what a sad end he had. And he and his mother stayed in touch. She used to go from child to child visiting. And he was close to his sisters and brothers. We used to visit when we could. When we moved to Texas, we saw more of them. We were able to visit around. He kept in touch with his sister, Rowena Peoples, and her husband, Jim. We were also very fond of Jim Peoplesí brother, Joe Webb Peoples, who taught at Wesleyan.
Doel:How, so clearly you were getting to know a lot of members of the family?
Doel:But in those years that you were living down in Galveston.
Greene:Yes. I loved it.
Doel:Did he talk particularly about the relationship he had with his mother?
Greene:I canít remember his talking about it specifically. But he had a great admiration for his mother. She was a strong woman. Sort of meek and mild acting, but with a strong character. She was a wonderful woman, very insightful, very hard working. His mother was a woman who spoke very well. She had a wonderful way of expressing herself. He really had the greatest love and respect for her. He had a very hard time in the early days in Texas.
Doel:He had such a strong character and personality himself. He had an intensity —
Greene:Yes he did.
Doel:— very few other humans —.
Greene:Very much so.
Doel:Did he reflect on that with you? Did he have an understanding what kindled that intensity?
Greene:I donít think so. He just had it. He told me that when he was at Rice, he was a math major. He said, ďThen I realized the physicists were having much more fun. And I didnít want to be the one who counted the fibers in the rug. I wanted to be the one who could actually go and do something.Ē He said another thing about instruments, ďAsk me to design a dishwashing machine and I wouldnít have any idea how to do it. Ask me to do the dishes, the next day you will have a dishwashing machine.Ē [Laughter] So thatís how he did all the wonderful instruments for the ships. Itíd be for some bit of data that he had to have.
Doel:Yes. You had mentioned off tape and itís worth putting on here that your recollections of his collaborations with Angelo Ludas on instrument design and that one way in which they had developed lightened the weight, if Iím recalling right, of the corer, was simply to drill holes through.
Greene:That was one of the instruments. And the fins, you know, have big holes in them. The dynamics were all right, and it made it lighter. Angelo Ludas was very clever.
Doel:How well did you get to know Angelo?
Greene:We used to go and call on them. You know, they had a little house on the Observatory grounds. We used to go over there some evenings. Weíd sit with Angelo and Lenore and have a great time, drinking wine and chatting. I liked the Ludases.
Doel:That was before, of course later both Angeloís daughter and wife had died.
Greene:Yes that was before that.
Doel:This was well before that.
Greene:I didnít know his daughter had died.
Greene:Lenore died after we left. Angelo was very close to his family. A strong and jolly and funny person.
Doel:I understand the parties really became a social center for Lamont.
Greene:Yes. Thatís right.
Doel:Before you and Maurice were married, did you get to go? I would imagine that going back, back home, you didnít have much chance to do that or did you?
Greene:No. No. I didnít really. Even after we were married we didnít go to a lot of parties at Lamont. When weíd go to the Ludases, that was fun. Weíd go and see John [Ewing] and Betty [Ewing] and theyíd come up to see us. We did that quite a lot. The Nafes were more quiet, but always friendly.
Doel:By the middle 1960ís, Ď64, was it gradually that you became aware that it seemed that you and Maurice were going to be together? Was it a set decision you both came to?
Greene:Well, my own big transition point was from a health problem. Maurice had some heart problems and Christian Haagenson had sent him to Dr. Gertler in New York. They were very friendly. He was very fond of Dr. Gertler who always had good jokes. I didnít know him at that time. Maurice and I were having lunch. As I said, we used to have lunch at his desk when I brought my lunch. And he said, ďFeel this thing.Ē And I felt his pulse. And then he said, ďLet me feel yours.Ē He did and said it didnít feel all right.
Doel:He thought yours was too slow or.
Greene:Not slow, but completely wrong. So he sent me to Dr. Gertler and it turned out that I had very serious heart trouble.
Greene:Thatís right. So, anyway, it finally got fixed after a year or so. It was most peculiar. It was a miracle I lived. I nearly died and was sick a long time.
Doel:You hadnít been aware that you had an illness or heart problems?
Greene:I think it was gradual. I did have a weird pulse and thatís why Maurice said I really should check with Dr. Gertler. What I did. I went to him for about a year. Over that time, it got much worse. I might be feeling fine, then without any warning Iíd go into fibrillations. My heart wasnít pumping, only flapping and Iíd sort of faint. And that wasnít good. I was on quinidine medication, and it wasnít working. Dr. Gertler tried everything and nothing worked. The next step was going to be to send me to a psychiatrist to learn if it could be psychosomatic. But then it got even worse and I had congestive heart failure and was in the hospital in Nyack [NY] and then I was rushed to the hospital in New York, and was in the hospital a long time. My trouble was freakishly found and it was almost too late. I had two x-rays in rapid succession. One was ordered by my supervising doctor and another had been ordered by somebody else who didnít know about the one. So I went down to x-ray twice in a rapid succession. After that first one, they tapped my chest. As you know, with congestive heart failure, youíre full of fluids and you canít breathe. Itís a terrible way to go. Anyway, so they tapped it. And the other guy had me for another x-ray, and the heart was slipped aside because of the chest cavity just having been drained. The second x-ray revealed a small tumor on one of the arteries too the heart. So that was fixed by radiotherapy, also arranged by Dr. Haagenson, who snatched me out of that hospital, saying, ďDonít let her have it there, they will kill her.Ē And so Maurice intervened in that to get me to the right hospital for radiotherapy, which was Fraces Delafield. I realized how close Iíd been to death and that I was very lucky. And it really changed things for me. I realized that I should not lead a life, which I felt was wrong for me. And so I left my husband. My children were pretty well grown up by then. One was left in high school, the others were in college.
Doel:Your son was the only one?
Greene:Yes. So I left and I moved into a house I already owned in Nyack, the one I owned and rented. And at that point, I knew I wouldnít be with anyone else. Nobody else. I didnít know if weíd ever be married or not, but I knew I would not be with anyone.
Doel:Did you know that you loved Maurice soon after you had met him or was that something that —
Greene:No. It took no quite a long time. Quite a long time. Not till we worked together a long time. I knew there was something. I was kind of floored by him. It was something chemical I guess. But I just trudged on with life and tried to hide it for a long time. We were close, very close, by the time that I had this heart problem. After that, I realized you just canít go on leading one life when thatís not really the life you want. You canít do it. So I didnít. I havenít ever since. I try to face up to things.
Greene:So. And then it was just a matter of time. We didnít know if we could get married or not. And he certainly was very, very reluctant of course to do anything to disturb his children and disturb his relationship with his children. That was very, very difficult for him. He and Midge were long since at such vibes with one another that didnít even like to be together. (She had long had a problem with alcohol.) It was just a matter of how best to act for all concerned.
Doel:They were still living together though at that point in the house? Correct?
Greene:Yes. But he was away an awful lot at meetings and Antarctica and on the ship or staying in his office and working with people until late. And I donít mean with me. Just that was his way. He worked late. And people wanted to see him, like Bill Donn who could only do it after hours. And other people had great ideas and wanted to work, but couldnít get in during the day because he had so many other things he was doing. It was his custom. I doubt that he was home very much.
Doel:How well did you know Midge [Marjorie Kidder]?
Greene:Very little. I only saw her when there was something like a big Lamont party. I really didnít know her at all. Iíd spoken to her at parties. And, you know, I admired her. She was a very clever with words, she really was. I remember one of the first times I met her. We were just talking about the Hudson River problem or something. And she said, ďThe water would be bluer if only we had a sewer.Ē [Laughter] She was clever. She was fun. She was from Bryn Mawr, a very intelligent lady.
Doel:She had been a, she was a kidder.
Doel:Did she talk much about her family and her upbringing on those occasions when you did visit or was this something?
Greene:No. I never knew her that well. As I said, when I would see her it would be at like a big party, where you might have a few minutes to chat and pass an hors díoeuvres. Thatís about it. After they were divorced, and she wrote to Maurice and wrote to me, and then I got to know her a little better. I knew what she was doing and some of her concerns, but I never had known that much about her before. And after Maurice died, as I said, she was so kind to me, unbelievably kind. Here is a little more about Midge Ewing. As I said I really didnít know her. She had a problem with alcohol and Maurice was not at all understanding about that. Maurice was hard to get along with and quick to blame his nearest for whatever was wrong. So I can well imagine that when Midge had been drinking and he blamed her for something, it was hard for her to hold her own. This is a guess on my part, but a guess from experience. Shortly after we were married, Maurice and I were sitting in the back yard. I asked him something, — something of not much consequence, as I recall ó and he wouldnít answer me. I said something like, ďWhatís the matter?Ē He replied in a severe tone, ďYou know what you did.Ē I told him I didnít know what he was talking about (which was true). It dawned on me at the time that for some reason he was trying to intimidate me. But it didnít intimidate me, so he ceased trying that kind of thing. My guess was that when Midge had been drinking she might have been unsure about whether or not she had done something displeasing to him, so she just assumed that he was right and she was wrong. Maurice liked to drink and I liked to drink with him. When I caught on to how he (usually unjustly) blamed Midge for various wrongs and how easy her drinking made that, I told Maurice that I would drink nothing that he did not hand me I stuck to that and it was fine. I think we sometimes drank too much, but it was always when we were having a good time, (and I never made a drink for myself) and he never got angry with me about that particular flaw of mine.
Doel:You had mentioned this off tape. That she had come to visit after Maurice had died.
Greene:Yes. She came and she stayed with Dottie Worzel, who lived across the street. And she came over to see me, and to take care of my granddaughter Zoya who was down visiting me to calm me down. Midge was very considerate and kind. And I believe it was she who took me to the funeral home, where I didnít want to go. Yes it was Midge. Yes it was. I remember her holding my hand, and staying with me.
Doel:Must have been an extraordinary moment.
Greene:She was a wonderful woman.
Doel:Was there a moment when you knew that you were going to marry Maurice? Did that, did he propose or was it something that after a certain point, you simply? How did that?
Greene:He was talking about it for quite a long time, on and off. But he just couldnít. You see, Midge was in the university-owned house and the kids were in school. I understood all that. That it was very difficult and upsetting to everybody. Midge had mostly moved to 72nd Street by that time. And Hopie was in Greerly[?], so Hopie spent quite a lot of time with her mother since she was right nearby. And Maggie too was living in New York with her mother. It was all kind of mixed up. Finally one day, he decided they would get divorced and they did get divorced. We had a mutual friend who was a lawyer, a man who belonged to the same swimming club. Maurice called him up, and he said, ďTed, could you marry somebody tomorrow?Ē or something like that. And Ted said sure. And they set a time to go over to his office. So we went over there with Betty and John, Maurice and me, and somebody else I guess. And Ted didnít know at first who was marrying who. So we just got married in the office, came back and told the office staff, and had a little party. So it was all kind of, maybe so, maybe not. Finally he made up his mind, yes. But I had a nice little house in Nyack.
Doel:Were you both in that house for a while?
Doel:Only yourself, and then eventually the directorís house. I, knowing Maurice, does one dare ask? Did you actually have any of a, did you have a honeymoon?
Greene:Not at that time, and I didnít mind. I was perfectly happy there. There was no place I wanted to go. And then Maurice was invited to Australia to give the first David Rivett Lecture. And that must have been in the early summer. We were married in May. Anyway, it was during the next summer. And he said he didnít want to go anywhere without his wife. And so they said, well, weíll get you a first class ticket and you do as you please. So we turned it in for two tourist tickets and they arranged a wonderful tour for me, as well as for him. It was like being a queen. They gave me a little booklet and they gave him a little booklet. Mine might say ďThursday morning, meet so and so, drive to so and so.Ē And then the next page, ďlunch with so and so.Ē And we each had a separate booklet. It was fantastic. With drivers and interpreters. We had a great time. That was a wonderful trip. That was a six-week trip in Australia. Part of the time he was out on the (was it the Verna or the Conrad). I think it was the Conrad. So part of it I was touring by myself. But they had arranged wonderful tours for me too. I remember a visit to a tobacco farm in Mareeba and into the Chillagoe caves to see the cavern deposits there. I also went to the Great Barrier Reef and to Dunk Island. That was great. That was a honeymoon. We were together most of that time, just separated while he was on the ship. I canít remember whether it was the Vema or the Conrad. It might have been the Vema. Henry [C.] Kohler would remember. He slipped and fell when he was on the ship, Maurice did. And he hurt his arm. If it was the Verna, Henry would remember. He was all right. But it was, you know, a painful injury.
Doel:You did have it just one.
Greene:Fantastic trip. They received us in Canberra, toured all around there and the universities nearby. We went to Sydney and visited the university there. The graduate students took me on a separate trip out to the Blue Mountains and showed me all the marvelous formations. We had a great time. Adelaide, Kangaroo Island, Tasmania. It was a wonderful trip. Brisbane, Townsville, and Cairns. Oh beautiful.
Doel:Sounds like one of the more memorable trips.
Greene:It was. It would have been memorable for anybody. It was, you canít imagine how nice it was. It was as though in the United States you were sponsored by the Agricultural Extension Service and the National Science Foundation. And they showed us the best of what they had. The most interesting. It was like that. Unbelievable.
Doel:Sounds indeed quite memorable. And there are lots more, please go ahead.
Greene:This was the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. So it is the combination.
Doel:Okay. It was the combination.
Greene:And it was great. They did a super job.
Doel:There are lots more things that at some point we need to talk about. But I did promise that Iíd bring this to an end after about an hour. And weíve just about come up to that point. Let me thank you very much for this long first session. And you will be getting the transcript from this part of the interview.
Greene:It was a pleasure.
Thank you very much.
Session I | Session II