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Oral History Transcript — Billie Press

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Interview with Billie Press
By Ronald Doel and Mike Sfraga
In Falmouth, Massachusetts
July 30, 1997

 
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Billie Press; July 30, 1997

ABSTRACT: Born October 15, 1925 in St. Louis, MO; discusses her childhood growing up in New York. Describes her father’s impact on her upbringing and his career as a proofreader for the New York Times; discusses her high school education. Recalls her undergraduate studies in literature and her courtship with Frank Press; describes she and Frank’s marriage and its ups and downs throughout she and Frank’s careers. Describes the social and family environment at Lamont and compares it to her subsequent experience at Cal Tech and MIT. Recalls her close relationships with the Worzels, Ludases, the Drakes, and the Ewings; discusses the strain between Doc Ewing and Frank Press upon Frank’s decision to leave Lamont. Describes she and Frank’s family (Bill, Paula) and their travels in Russia and Japan; explains her own research in early education and her numerous projects in education policy, teaching, and research

Transcript

Session I | Session II

Doel:

This is Ron Doel and this is a continuing interview with Billie Press. Iím recording this with Mike Sfraga and weíre making this interview on the thirtieth of the July, 1997, in Falmouth, Massachusetts. A moment ago we were talking, pardon me, off tape about Chuck [Charles] Drake and his recent and very untimely death.

Press:

Right. This is a particularly sad time because we very recently got news of Chuck, who was our friend in our earliest days at Lamont and Frankís colleague. A couple of years behind Frank, because he had been, I think it was the Navy, and that had delayed him. But then when he came and joined us at Lamont with Martha [Drake], and I donít think they had any children yet. And they were, she was really young and shy. And he was and always has been, and I saw him just a couple of years ago when Jack Oliver, the Olivers and the Drakes and the Presses went to a jazz day in Connecticut, I think it was. They all liked jazz and we women like it too. And we like each other more than jazz maybe. But, whatever. And we had a very interesting time. And I, it brought back all the memories of Chuck when we were young, when we were in our twenties, and just starting out. And Chuck was, and I canít, I want to say was and is, because it, I canít — you canít grasp these things.

So Iím going to say is, because heís not dead to us yet for quite a while. The most urbane, extremely knowledgeable, cultivated, a very good scientist, with an enormous literary and grasp of the knowledge. And I was an English major and come from a family where this kind of thing is extremely strong. My dad became head proofreader at the New York Times. I used to hold copy for him. And words and literature and such were my earlier life. And Chuck and I always argued over fine points and what not. And I wouldnít have argued with him when I was younger, and now I was really arguing with him. You know, a middle aged or older woman gets her full feelings. But anyway, we used to have the best parties with the [Angelo] Ludases, the [Dottie and Joe] Worzels, and Doc and Midge [Ewing] used to come for part of it. Midge was really an odd ball in the group, and Iíll tell more about that if you want me to. But the parties were mostly at Angelo Ludasís, our wonderful machine shop head, up the road there. But Chuck was, when he had a get together at his home, he was the most gracious host. He looked after his guests. He just was, as I said before, absolutely to the manor born.

Now I understood that Martha was to the manor born too, being a Churchill by birth, but she was such a modest, I want to say little thing, even though she was a good deal taller, that you never thought of her as being other than the sweetest, nicest, most pleasant, and easy to be around person. And Dottie and I and Lenore [Ludas], who were extremely close, loved her and Betty Ewing, John and Betty Ewing were a part of our gang, and we used to get together we girls, and we then were girls. Dottie was my dearest friend, Worzel, and Joe Worzel was Docís closest student because heíd been with him at Allegheny College and then came with him and all that. When our little kids woke up from their naps, and of course the Drakes started into the family formation right off. And Jack didnít marry until much later, until quite a while after he left Lamont. And all of us were always curious about his love life and what not. We sort of tried to keep track of who he might be dating, but it was hard to find out. But, of course, Bruce Heezen was there and later on had big fights with Doc, that was all sad history.

But, you know, and it lead to the big split from Columbia. I always remember, we had a support system, we gals, of sitting around in my backyard, which was the biggest backyard and the most protected, where we had an old red wagon from when it had been a barn, and Frank had sanded it, and we painted it a beautiful bright red. You canít imagine how gorgeous it was in the snow, but on nice summer, spring and summer and fall days, we were all out there with the kids. Sometimes the guys would come home while we were still having a great time carousing with the little kids, and you know it was time for us all to scatter like good little wives, good little chickens when the roosters showed up. They didnít usually show up too early.

Doel:

Not with Ewing.

Press:

So those are some of the memories. I guess I didnít talk that much about Chuck, but, you know, they had a terrible tragedy of their daughter. One of their daughters, they had three daughters, falling off a horse and breaking her neck, and I think she was in her early twenties at the time. And theyíve got two daughters left. And he had a distinguished career, and you can read about it in the obituary and everywhere else.

Doel:

You mentioned his upbringing and many people have remarked on that, and also on his sense of humor.

Press:

Yes, terrific sense of humor. Very wry, never did any hah, hah, hahs, but a small and very wry, very witty. I always wanted to give as good as I got, you know, especially as I got older and more sophisticated, more willing to challenge a guy when I became a matron. Although I left there when I was quite young, and was very much part of the culture. And the culture was that Doc, used to call for the guys, even on Sunday.

Doel:

I remember you telling me in the first interview —

Press:

Sunday morning.

Doel:

— that he had come knocking on the door early and wanted Frank.

Press:

Yes. It was in the morning when we were having Sunday morning breakfast about ten oíclock. He just, knocking on the door, ďExcuse me Billie.Ē You know, the back door, the kitchen door — we never used, nobody used the front door. But Frank, you know, thereís work to be done, or something. Frank, were you thinking about that problem? And off Frank would scurry. And they all did that. And I thought that that was the way it was supposed to be or had to be for a scientist making his way in the world. Oh boy, what a revelation I got when we moved to CalTech under Beno Gutenberg and it was so different. The men were home on Sunday. Not only that, they werenít even supposed to work Saturday.

Doel:

It was made clear, and did Frank did not come?

Press:

Well, a lot of guys went to the Seismo Lab [seismology lab] at CalTech on Saturdays, and Frank always did. But I had a rule. I mean this was a real rule, and boy I really gave a terrible face if he wasnít respectful of being home by three oíclock.

Doel:

On Saturdays?

Press:

On Saturdays. So that that was the beginning of the weekend. Right. And I had one more stipulation, and that was something like every six weeks, we did a little weekend trip with the children. Always that, in California, in Palisades, everywhere. Often on the six weeks, we went to visit the parents, so, you know, we didnít have any money whatsoever, but in California I wanted to explore a new life. So, I mean — but that was the culture where, when Herth Gutenberg heard how we lived there, that was amazing to her. They didnít live like that there.

Sfraga:

Your stipulations on weekends, was that a direct result of the situation at Lamont or was it because of just California?

Press:

Well, yes. Well, when I saw that they didnít do it like that here, and that Frank used to tell me when he went to seismo lab Saturday morning that Charlie [Charles] Richter was there, that Beno Gutenberg was there, that [Hugo] Benioff was there, and they were all there, and all the young students were there. You know, Frank was very young and accelerating and everything, so we went there, and him to be head of the seismo lab when he was thirty and I was twenty-nine, and the children were four and a half and just turned seven. So they spent their babyhoods there.

Doel:

He had been appointed full professor, hadnít he, when he went out to California?

Press:

Yes, oh yes. Oh yes. And he was offered a full professorship because [University of California at] Berkeley was trying to get him, and they offered him a full professor. They were all, you know, when a person gets to be hot, and Doc certainly gave him marvelous opportunities. Marvelous. The way Doc didnít put his name first — youíve heard this in so many places — on papers. He was eager for his students. If they did more of the work, then they got first billing or second billing if there was more than one. And he showed his students off. Frank always remembered how when he was working in the seismo lab, which was right next to our house, it had been the root cellar of Lamont, and Frank had his seismographs in there, and the root cellar was always nice and cool in the summer. When we were sweating, I used to say, ďGod you have a great air conditioned place down there. Iíd like to work in the root cellar. You stay up here and take care of the kids.Ē Well, that was — just try that and see how hard youíre working.

Doel:

But it was still difficult, wasnít it, when Frank told, when Frank told Doc Ewing that he was leaving to go to —

Press:

Oh my god! Doc didnít forgive him for years and years.

Sfraga:

He took this very personal.

Press:

He did. He took it so personally.

Sfraga:

That he was abandoning —

Press:

That he was — he was abandoning ship. That he was leaving what was the best place to be, at the best time, with the best people. That he was a traitor. Really, it was terrible.

Doel:

I can imagine.

Press:

He, and if he saw Frank or anything, he just gave him scant courtesy. For years. It was quite crazy.

Sfraga:

Did you ever talk to Doc Ewing about this?

Press:

Yes. I was really responsible for getting them back together. When Doc remarried.

Doel:

When Harriett [Ewing], when he married Harriett?

Press:

Harriett, when he married Harriett, yes. And Harriett, of course, had been his secretary, you know. And he was very happy with her. And you couldnít grudge him. You never know cause and effect, but Midge had a terrible alcohol problem. And, of course, he was the lousiest husband. But the two together, terrible. She used to come half lit to every get together and stumble around, hit her head. It was awful. She also didnít treat the other women nicely. She was a terrible snob. She just wanted to mingle with the patricians at Snedenís Landing. Really said the cruelest thing about both Dottie and me, about each of us. And it was, she didnít say anything cruel about me, but she didnít want little Billie Boy, our son, the youngest full professor at Harvard in astrophysics, our Bill Press, William Henry Press, named after my father. So she didnít want my full professor when he was two and a half in a playgroup with Peter, who was her youngest and a year older.

Sfraga:

Did she give a reason why?

Press:

She said it wouldnít work out. And it was by a licensed teacher and an incredible teacher, really, of all the ages. And I offered to have a play group formed. And I thought sheíd be delighted. And then she made up some cockamamie excuse.

Doel:

Iím sure that hurt to hear that.

Press:

It hurt me beyond words. Now, I donít want this in because I feel extremely private about this. But whenever anything like that happens, although Iím a woman of the world, and my family is mixed blood, and my parents are American born and well-educated. Nevertheless, you wonder if itís something anti-Semitic or something like that. And I never dealt in that coin, I didnít live that way, I didnít live in Jewish neighborhoods, I lived in the world all my life. And although it wasnít until many years later that I asked Frank — you know, he had three girlfriends. Was it the fact that I was so comfortable in the wider world and with every kind of person attractive to you? And he said, ďWell, I didnít think about it in quite those terms, but, yes, it is, honey, I liked the way youíre comfortable with everybody.Ē You know, and donít carry chips and all that sort of thing. And he wasnít, he lived — brought up in a Jewish neighborhood, and yet heís such a soft spoken, gentlemanly fellow, he never speaks unless he thinks carefully and he always spoke very well, with no trace of, very little trace of regionalism. I guess he really trained himself without willfully doing it. But he was very comfortable in the world. Although I know of his experience, especially on the boats, when the boat, because he wasnít being strong. You know, the sailors would throw things at him and torment him [voice fades off]. But, I mean, those have been such rare kinds of things, and there was never anything like that from Doc Ewing. Never, never, never. Nor from any of the colleagues. And the only one that I used to hear anti-everything was Joe Worzel, but particularly, anti-women. I mean, and when I was nursing Bill, and I used to have quite a bosom and a figure to begin with anyway, but I got to be a forty when I was nursing. Ye gods, I was so embarrassed.

Doel:

Youíre holding yourself.

Press:

Because this was a bit much. And I got back in shape. And here was I looking like Jane Russell or Mae West. And Iíd come in and heíd say, ďWell, Billie!Ē And Iíd say, ďI wish,Ē to Frank, ďI wish youíd say something to JoeĒ Worzel. So Frank said, ďOh donít pay any attention to him. Heís just a primitive.Ē We got to love, I mean, Dottie I love. He used to say it in front of Dottie. He would say in front, ďNow look at my wife, nothing there.Ē In front of her, in front of the kids.

Sfraga:

And what would her comments be?

Press:

Nothing. Sheíd just turn away. But she — he got to love her and he depended on her. Boy, they are the sweetest old couple. When she fell ill, and even before then, when he retired. I mean, he mellowed out. He was the toughest father. Oooph. He was tough.

Doel:

Did you come, Iím sorry. Did you come to know Sam [Samuel] Katz pretty well during the Lamont days?

Press:

Only a little bit. Sam was on the periphery of things. And just a little bit. He wasnít part of our inner circle. No, another one on the periphery was Bernie [Bernard] Luskin. And, in fact, since they live in Connecticut, we havenít seen them in some years, although we exchange Christmas cards, and Bernice [Luskin] and I were in related fields so I liked her. Well, the Bernies, as we called them, the Bernies and we. Bernie went to City College [City College of New York], so did Frank. We dated as a foursome when we were all just courting.

Doel:

Interesting.

Press:

So that was long before Columbia. And I think — I donít know if it was Frank, or who got Bernie involved in that. Bernie went on to make a lot of money in business. But they were going to join us in Connecticut, and then she broke her foot and I got this. But they ski, theyíre fine. He had bypass and now heís back on the slopes. Thatís Bernie. But, no, I didnít know Sam Katz well. The big thing about Sam to me was that he was courting Rene Brilliant who was a geophysicist. And also a terribly self-effacing girl. She had lovely features, and terrible skin, terrible skin, and one of the — also these girls who didnít do anything to fix herself up and walked around. I mean, she never stood up so you could see she had a figure. Itís just one of these girls who doesnít know how to or care to or whatever, look like an attractive young woman. But, so she was — they werenít part of our group, of our gang. They were on the outskirts. And youíll have Frank about Sam Katz. I liked Sam very much. Whenever I had him as a dinner partner or something like that or we were together, I certainly liked him. I found Rene colorless, odorless, I couldnít get any. She was just so shy, and she couldnít seem to engage in just small talk. And I used to want to know what she was doing. I couldnít even get anything coherent there, and Iím very comfortable talking to scientists. So, then when she switched to medicine and so on, and then they got married, I thought that was just wonderful but I didnít keep track. So we had a very in group, the first guys. We always sort of ridiculed — a little bit of ridicule, a little bit of not quite ridicule at one of the beginning guys - Nelson Steenland, whose wife and probably him too, had values of materialism that we all eschewed at that time. And he wanted to make money in Texas. And she came from some kind of money. They had a whole different life. But we really looked down on them for being money mad and giving up [whispers] what really counted — science.

Doel:

How did it differ socially during the years you were out at CalTech compared to Lamont?

Press:

Oh god. For one thing, the women didnít just stay in their own little clusters. [Laughter] The women were at parties with the men, enjoying the men, and mixing. I think in some ways at CalTech there was a little too much mixing. I learned later. [Laughter]

Doel:

Iíve heard that too.

Press:

Yes. We were a mixed. I mean, thereís no — Frank and I are, you know, very straight laced, old fashioned, or whatever we are. And Dottie and Joe and our inner group, our inner circle. So we didnít mess around at all. Really didnít. If anybody messed around in our inner group, we certainly — I think they were so damn busy trying to make their way in the world and having little kids, that nobody messed around.

Sfraga:

What was the difference —

Press:

The difference —

Sfraga:

— between CalTech and Lamont.

Press:

Well, I told you the most important difference was that families had weekends together. That out there, I particularly loved my life because Frank was the head of the seismo lab, so that gave me an opportunity to do something that I deeply enjoyed. Now, I very quickly went back to full-time teaching. And I had — I left with a masterís degree in child development and child psychology from Bank Street. I had a major in and almost a masterís degree in English as well. I had a fellowship from NYU. But so I went there and I was substituting at the time. So I was teaching. I got a housekeeper — Vine did all the work. And I had a wide circle. But what I loved about our life was that, of course, the kids were elementary age kids, was that I loved being a partner to Frank in ways that I felt that I could help him. Even though he didnít see it as a help at the time, I would say, ďIíd like to have a picnic for your colleagues and the kids and the families.Ē So heíd say, ďOh, you donít have to do that. You know, youíre busy and youíre teaching.Ē And then Iíd always have to say, ďI want to honey. It would be fun. Theyíre interesting people. It would be fun to get to know the wives and kids. We have kids.Ē Heíd say, ďWell, if you want to do it.Ē You know. Ugh. So I did do it. And I made very good friends with the wives and with the husbands. They appreciated it. When Frank wanted — I want to say, ďDad,Ē because I feel like Iím talking to sons or, you know, family.

Doel:

What it was like for you and Frank?

Press:

Yes. Yes. Yes. Well, so I enjoyed the women. Oh and Frank was wanting to get a new guy. And it was always a guy in those days. It was only at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] then he wanted Tanya Atwater and that was the first that he went — you know, when things had changed that way. But when he was at, no, at MIT, did I say MIT? When he went to MIT.

Doel:

Yes.

Press:

When he went to MIT. Sometimes I get Palisades, Pasadena, the whole thing jumbled up in my head and I say one thing. I always knew whom he would like to get and for what. To fill what niche and what responsibility. And I always asked him questions. He always took a great interest in what I was doing. He was proud of me. He encouraged me. He used to take care — at Lamont, he took care of the kids on the weekends so I could go to his office down the road at what we called the big house, the big house where the white folks lived — we called it the big house. But I used to go down there and I took my bag of food, Saturday afternoon, he even came home earlier on purpose. He was very motivated to have me, as he said, amount to something. Because I graduated number one in the class from high school and not only number one in scholarship, but first — oh god, my mother appreciated this — in character, scholarship and service. I was editor of the yearbook, you know. Now, Frank was a big shot too. But he graduated in only three years. But, okay. So I, anyway, I used to help him, I really did. For example, and it became especially enormous when he was really changing the whole department around at MIT.

Doel:

At MIT.

Press:

Yes. At MIT this came into full flower. Because then when Bob [Robert] Schrock stepped down and finished it all and got all that wonderful money from Cecil [H. Green] to build the earth and planetary sciences building, and then they all picked Frank to be the first chairman of the department. And he had a hard time deciding to leave CalTech, that was a very hard decision. I had a hard time leaving because my career was — I was then the curriculum supervisor in charge of programs for the academically talented and gifted, Kindergarten through 12. And I had written the proposal which got the federal and state funding. So I became —

Doel:

It must have been a really difficult decision to leave.

Press:

Yes. It was hard. It was more than that because I keeled over at my desk at work one day. I had these stomach pains, and stomach pains, because I kept asking Frank, ďHoney, have you made up your mind?Ē I didnít want to assume the primary responsibility, even though I was doing very well. After all, he was the man of the family. He was the main breadwinner, and he was my first child. And he was always my best child. And, I mean, heís really protective and fatherly to me and probably, weíre sort of motherly, fatherly, whatever we are, you know, in our different ways. But I was always very proud of him — I identified with his goals. And I wanted him to amount to the best and contribute. We were both very contributing in our notions in how one lives oneís life. That was really very attractive about us both. Very idealistic. And so at MIT especially, but I also helped him at CalTech in that way. And I didnít have any kind of role like that, or know that I was so good at it. Where Frank was just making his way. I mean it was really time for Frank to leave.

Doel:

I was curious about that. Did you both perceive that at CalTech?

Press:

No. No. At CalTech? Yes. Oh yes. Boy.

Doel:

What was it that youíre thinking about when you say that?

Press:

Well, the way the men were expected to have weekends. The way men werenít expected to show up at the seismo lab.

Doel:

Right.

Press:

And it was — guys did. But I remember when our Bill was a little boy, Frank used to go on Saturdays and take him to the computer lab, which now is on one tiny lap top that Frank has upstairs and then used to be a four-sided large room. And Bill at seven was learning to use a computer with Frank all day, with their lunches there. If he took Bill and they were doing something worthwhile, I didnít mind if they didnít come home until five, provided it wasnít the one weekend in six. So I was always wanting everybody to get furthered.

Sfraga:

But this was not possible at Lamont?

Press:

Are you kidding? First of all, Frank was very junior. Doc was the autocrat at the breakfast, lunch and dinner table. And that was the way it was. And we women were devoted to it. Our men were younger. Doe was the only full-fledged — everybody was Docís student. So it was an entirely different role. And, of course, they were dependent. These guys had a lot of dignity, and Iím sure they didnít feel themselves dependent upon his good graces or something. Because he was a fair and decent person. But he was such a workaholic, that that was the tone. And we wives had a tremendous support group. You canít imagine. I was the youngest of the babes in the woods. I went up there at twenty, Dottie was thirty-two, and Lenore was about Dottieís age. And they were like big sisters. I had become good friends with Dottie the two summers. One summer, three summers, when I was a bride, and had her little children to love all summer long, age three and one and a half. They were my honeymoon lovers. [Laughter] And then the next year, I taught at the nursery school. And then the following year I came up with baby sonny boy Bill, and I had been sick, and Frank went out to sea. Oh, what a mess.

Doel:

You were saying that it was a very difficult decision to leave CalTech for MIT.

Press:

Yes.

Doel:

Was it equally hard for Frank — clearly it was for you because your position had worked out so well?

Press:

Yes. Yes. Yes. And I was about to get a doctorate at — what the hell was that — University of Southern California. Does all my swearing get on there? Yes it does. Oh well fine, never mind. Yes. It was hard for me to leave there. I was really going great. So I kept asking Frank, ďHoney, what is it?Ē He would always say, ďItís fifty-fifty. Fifty-fifty.Ē So one day I keeled over with a terrible pain. I had been having a lot of stomach pain, and I didnít have that. And I went to the doctor and he did all these studies, and I had a duodenal lesion which is on the way to becoming an ulcer. Nowadays they say thatís caused by viruses. But I think you get a virus and then aggravation or whatever can eat you up. I worried about it and worried about it. He would say to me, ďWell, you can be the deciding factor.Ē Ye gods, that is horrible. If he was unhappy or unsuccessful, sit back. Sit back. Sit back. Thatís the most wonderful. Come here. Here. Sit back. This is a chair for a back. And I bought this, when I bought this thing. Here. You know, Iím a mother first. Mother, grandmother, teacher, all of the above, a wife. Frank canít stand that heís the last child left for me to fiddle around with. Okay. Well, we wouldnít want another for sure.

Doel:

Understood.

Press:

Yes. Yes. Well, what was I saying before I couldnít stand his discomfort a minute later.

Sfraga:

That Frank kept saying that it was fifty-fifty.

Press:

Yes. And I keeled over and it was duodenal lesion. And he said such a funny thing. He said, the doctor said you were on your way to having an ulcer. Now three guys in the earth science department have ulcers — this was the larger department, you know, this was the seismo lab, I think one guy at the seismo lab and two guys in the greater department — he said, three guys, but not one wife. It was his jest. But it was serious. He said, ďNow, how come you have an ulcer? You know, are getting an ulcer.Ē So it was — it was funny. I mean, itís his sense of humor. And, yes, yes, Iím laughing. And he said, ďIím going to cure you. I know just what to do. Iím going to cook for you. I know the diet youíre supposed to have. Then it was all wrong. No salads, no this. Iím going to make you cereal, oatmeal in the morning. Thatís what youíre going to have.Ē He decided he could deliver a baby too and just was dragging the wheels when Paula was coming, the second child, so fast. And he said, ďHoney, I read a book, I know what to do. Take it easy.Ē And then I had this enormous pain and he said, in the back seat [Interruption, Frank Press walks in and says hello], he said, ďDonít make a mountain out of a mole hill.Ē [Laughter] Remember that?

Doel:

Hello Frank.

Press:

Remember that? You usually denying this, all our memories. Or you donít remember them, right?

Frank Press:

You remember better than I do.

Press:

Oh, well, I remember the important things. Frank, you know I didnít remember about Sam Katz. Yes. I remember Rene Brilliant and stuff like that. And how they got together later.

Frank Press:

With Donn, Bill [William L.] Donn.

Press:

Bill Donn. Oh it wasnít Sam Katz who got together with? See, I got that wrong.

Frank Press:

He knows that.

Press:

Oh, he knew that. He should have told me.

Frank Press:

He knows the whole truth.

Press:

You should have told me that. I donít like pairing up the wrong jerks.

Doel:

I wasnít sure if they had been going out prior to the time that Bill Donn.

Press:

Oh, no. No, no. I got balled up. Sam Katz married nobody that we knew, right?

Frank Press:

Yes he did. He married Sylvia, he married his secretary.

Doel:

He married Jean Parker.

Frank Press:

Jean Parker. Remember Jean Parker?

Press:

Jean Parker. Gee, I forgot that whole chapter.

Frank Press:

They sent us a letter recently.

Press:

They did. Did I see it? Did I see it?

Frank Press:

Yes. Remember the picture of me on Lake Superior in the middle of a wind storm?

Press:

That was Sam sent that?

Frank Press:

Yes.

Press:

See, recent memory is escaping me. It isnít. I donít know if it isnít.

Doel:

All of us have memories that when we reach back arenít quite what. It takes prompts.

Press:

There are so, I do remember, see what I remember about Rene Brilliant was really true. But I just had her paired up with the wrong guy.

Doel:

So just that weíre sure right now, it was always with Bill Donn. That there hadnít been earlier —

Press:

No. No. We didnít have hanky-panky in the world.

Doel:

I wasnít implying that. I didnít know if they dated before.

Press:

No. I mean, if anybody hanky-pankied, it had to be Doc and we didnít know about it. He wouldnít want to be a bad role model after all.

Doel:

After all. What ultimately did make the decision for both of you to go up to MIT?

Press:

Well, it wasnít my decision. But I was — all I wanted was him to decide. Because that would take away the indecision and the burden on me. And I felt that somehow or other, I mean I always looked at life like that, that I would land on my feet. I would find other related career alternatives. I had a wonderful vita and experience, and I just felt that way about it. The end of my generation, you know. So, what decided him was that Bob [Robert] Sharp, whom we liked, we all liked him. I mean Frank and I, Bob and Jean Sharp. Bob was great fun. Jean was the wife. They had adopted two kids.

Doel:

He was one of the leaders in the geosciences division of CalTech.

Press:

Thatís right. The kids turned out bad. All adopted and bad. So anyway, but, of course, thatís not part of this, not at all. And so Frank had wanted very strongly to introduce planetary science to their department. And he had — Frank doesnít, I mean, if a guy is in charge, heíll talk to him rationally, but he feels thatís the captain and heíll try to convince him, but if a decision is made, thatís it. So heís a very good, heís a good team man, he likes to work on his own or he likes to work with guys, but, colleagues, but heís very respectful. He wouldnít stay with a guy that he didnít respect to begin with. But he thought a great deal of Bob Sharp, professionally and personally. So he used to say, ďI wish I could convince Bob to expand the department in — to get a couple of people in — planetary science.Ē But Bob didnít want to. And so Frank, of course, they were gung ho about it. He already knew.

Doel:

He was already involved in the lunar work, the Apollo, or at least the —?

Press:

Yes. I think so.

Doel:

In the very early 1960s.

Press:

In fact, look. Because we have a wonderful picture of him in the CalTech journal. Oh, I have something wonderful about that that I did thatís in Washington. That when Frank got the Japan medal in Ď93, I had to do a biography of Frank. And I have this wonderful picture and thing of him on the cover of the CalTech journal, alumni, or maybe just the journal, of him at his seismograph. But with Doc they built the first, and heíll have to get this right, because I can have, you know, Rene married to the wrong guy. (lawnmower noise)

Doel:

Can I just close that?

Press:

Yes, close this. I guess Manny decided to mow, which was long needed.

Doel:

Thanks. Okay.

Press:

You can close that too if you like. Although Manny will move around.

Doel:

Itís probably better just to let some air through.

Press:

All right. So he already knew that CalTech, that MIT wanted to give him carte blanche anywhere he wanted to go, any professors he wanted to get. And thatís how he then decided to go for [Keiti] Aki, and I helped him get Aki from Japan. That was a fun story. But so the fact that when he. So then one day I said, ďIs it still fifty-fifty?Ē And he said, ďWell itís fifty-one, fifty.Ē And I said, ďIn whichĒ — This a guy who makes fast decisions you see. They had wooed us at MIT. So it looked nice there. But I didnít have a career there. I didnít have nothing. Iím saying a double-negative on purpose. I really. And I was into all this stuff. Right. And was already working on a thesis. So the kids were big and happy and Bill was in a special program, our Bill, in the gifted in math and science in the public junior high school. I mean, we were set. We bought our house. Dad had loaned us the money for the down payment, and now we were getting really — Frank was voted outstanding California scientist of — young California scientist — of the year. Five thousand dollars.

Doel:

That was big money in those days.

Press:

That was the down payment on our first sailboat. Oh, we had a great life out there. Really. So, but when he said fifty-one. And I said, ďIs it because you want to move into planetary sciences?Ē He said, ďYes, thatís the main reason.Ē

Doel:

You know, thatís really interesting, given too that CalTech was operating the JPL and the JPL was becoming.

Press:

JPL.

Doel:

Yes. The Jet Propulsion Lab at the time that the space program was beginning. So there were many connections between.

Press:

Yes. Yes. I donít know what the rationale was. You see Bob, he was a hard rock guy. He was a classical geologist. And Frank had different kinds of interests. And in work, you know, it was, I donít think he was old enough to be our parent, but he was close to that. He certainly was at least fifteen, maybe twenty years older, something like that. So it was a — it was a difference. That was really the deciding factor. And so thatís what we did. Big change. Big upheaval in our lives. But he was very glad he did it. Iíd like to tell you how we got Doc back together.

Doel:

I very much want to hear that.

Press:

Yes. And Frank wonít remember these details at all. And some of my details maybe, Iím not totally sure, but if Iím not totally sure of the specifics, Iím totally sure of the climate. And I believe that Harriett had contacted me for some reason, that Doc was going to be at a meeting. Now, itís possible that somebody had told me about this. I donít believe I would have taken the initiative on that, although itís not impossible. But Harriett liked people to be friendly and nice, and I liked it too. Good, friendly collegial relationships. The women friends, the kids friends. Or at least a happy environment. You know. No rifts, crap. So, and Frank certainly liked that although he isnít a person person. But heís a mannerly, respectful person. So, I donít know if heíll remember. Frank, honey, did you have any lunch? Did he bring lunch on the boat?

Frank Press:

I had a great lunch. He wants to work with me.

Press:

No, honey, I just want one small detail. Here. Just, honey, Iím just finishing one story.

Frank Press:

Finish it.

Press:

No, but I want you to fill in anything that may be not quite. Listen. Do you remember, it was Harriett and I who got you and Doc back together after the coolness that came for years on the heels of your having left Lamont. Left him and being kind of a traitor in his eyes. So. Did Harriett contact me because Doc was going to be at a meeting that she thought you were going to be at and she wanted to get us all together?

Frank Press:

I just donít remember.

Press:

It was something like that.

Frank Press:

Yes.

Press:

All right. Iíll tell you the best of my remembrance.

Frank Press:

Iíll be out on the deck.

Doel:

Okay. Iíll join you shortly.

Press:

Okay. Okay. That Harriett and I both felt the same way. And, of course, I didnít feel particularly kindly to Harriett. Because even though I didnít like Midgeís behavior as one of the women there, and her arrogance, what, all of it. I didnít like her personally at all. She wasnít a nice lady. And very unhappy. But I canít understand all that. I donít like to see a woman shafted. And with a secretary has always not been in my scale, nor Frankís, of acceptable behavior. But, of course, Frank and I have never been that unhappy as Doc and Midge became. So we understand. But, but anyway, I donít cultivate the new wives of the deposed somebodies. Although I can see, you know, and sing a different tune when I see something different.

Frank Press:

I have to quit at four-thirty today.

Press:

Okay love. Iím just going to finish this.

Doel:

Weíre going to.

Press:

Theyíre going to split. I want to finish this, honey. Honey, be respectful like I told them you were. Yes. Not like Chuck Drake was to Martha.

Frank Press:

Oh do you recall that stuff? Are they writing a torrid novel or something? No?

Press:

Honey, three minutes. You took up two minutes of my time.

Frank Press:

Yes. Iím going to go get my e-mail then.

Press:

Okay get your e-mail. Well, weíre going to call you so you wonít have time for all of it. What did he say? I couldnít hear.

Doel:

Go ahead. You were saying about.

Press:

Yes. All right. So the end was that through, I know it was through some sort of intervention of Harriett and myself, we all were there as a foursome at some pleasant neutral, on neutral grounds, where there were nice social things. And I was very fond of Doc. Doc had been very good to me when — youíre not taping this and this is good.

Doel:

We are.

Press:

Oh. And Doc had been very good to me. Like when Frank was out doing research on Lake Superior as he did a few winters studying ice, sound waves in layered media, that he wrote a book with Doc and [Wenceslas S.] Jardetsky.

Doel:

Indeed.

Press:

Doc, and I had a bad cold, used to come and shovel the ashes out and stoke the furnace.

Doel:

I remember you telling me that in that first interview.

Press:

Yes. And Doc was very kind and protective of me, and I liked Doc. I mean I could kill him for interfering with our family life. But he was so winning. And he had such a good sense of humor, especially with one small drink. And we had some marvelous New Years Eve parties, where I actually got lit enough — I never get really lit because Iím always quite uninhibited — but I sat in his lap at a party. I remember. And he just said, and I just lay my head, and he said, ďYouíre a nice girl, youíre really a very nice girl.Ē

Doel:

And youíre stroking your shoulders as you say that. He was stroking your.

Press:

He was stroking my — ďYouíre a very nice girl.Ē And he was the patron of the place. And I said, ďAnd we admire and love you very much.Ē You know, I mean, it was very sweet. It was — this really happened. Does it sound crazy?

Doel:

No. It sounds very much like a man who looked upon you and Frank as part of his family.

Press:

Yes. Yes. He looked at all of us there. And all of us who lived at Lamont, ye gods. And Doc for a long time was right there in that tiny compound with Midge before they built the big house. You know, his big house. So, and Frank was a student that he was enormously proud of. I remember in the root cellar when he first brought Cecil Green. Because Cecil Green had been trying to get Doc, you know, to go to MIT. And he introduced — And Cecil told me years later, because I didnít know Cecil until Ď63, that he remembers Frank from then. He hadnít met me then, but he remembers Frank in the root cellar, and that Doc said, ďHereís a real comer, hereís somebody whoís doing great science, going to do great science.Ē And Doc always said he always kept his eye on Frank, which he did, he watched his progress. So we got them all together, and it had been quite a few years before, since I had seen Doc. But I sort of got Doc to myself a little bit. And by then I was a very comfortable and accomplished woman, but, you know, young. Maybe it was ten years later. So what was I — in my early thirties. And I just said to him, you know, Doc, Frank and I feel terrible that you two have been estranged. Just terrible. So he goes grump or something like that. I said, you canít imagine how Frank loves you. What a role model you are. How grateful he is. But you surely must understand that he grew up. He was ready for the next challenge. It doesnít mean that he isnít deeply appreciative, that we both donít totally realize what youíve done for us all. And so, I said, Doc, Harriett and I all wish you would forgive Frank and understand. And so he did, and became his friend again. And they became good friends from then on.

Doel:

And they stayed close then until Ewingís death.

Press:

And they stayed, yes, yes. I mean I donít know. He didnít see him constantly. But loving friends. Where he was proud of them, where he wasnít like Bruce Heezen or somebody, somebody cast out of the family or a traitor. And then I used to see Harriett at various things and stuff, and, you know, became friends with her because I saw her in quite a different role. And he was so happy with her. It was very nice. Very nice.

Doel:

And I just want to pause here for a moment. Weíre going to continue. But since, we want to make sure that we get a chance to set up with Frank. Why donít we just tell Frank. [Pause]

Sfraga:

This is Mike Sfraga and we are resuming after a short break. Where we left off was, if Iím correct, we were talking about the reintroduction of Maurice Ewing and Frank and how that all came about. And it came about at a meeting, at a conference. And Iím wondering if you recall the first, then, interaction between the two after it was decided that they would then re-start their relationship.

Press:

Well, I wish I did more specifically. I just knew that we were a foursome then with Harriett, his wife, and myself. And it was just very congenial and sociable, and just as if there was no hard feelings or bad blood. And that they became friends from then on again after, however many years I forget, Iím sure it was at least ten, that Doc had really snubbed Frank at meetings and Frank felt very bad and hurt. But also felt that Doc was wrong in this. That that isnít the way you do with students who do well under you, and then are ready to take flight. And he felt that he always made Joe so dependent on him, so tied to him. But Joe really loved Doc, and couldnít, just couldnít possibly leave him. And I think perhaps even didnít have the tremendous opportunities that Frank got. And Joe did very good work under Doc and moved with him to Galveston, and thatís the way Joeís career went. Dottie and I have always been the closest of friends. Sandy Worzel, their oldest child, is my goddaughter. Iím very close to her even now. Weíve never, ever lost track of each other.

Sandy and her husband come to Washington when they have their own work conferences and stay with us in Washington. Sandy is as close to me and I to her as though I am her favorite auntie, and she is my favorite niece. Itís been a wonderful relationship that began from when I first met this child in Woods Hole when I was twenty, and then they moved two years later and became our neighbors at Lamont. I loved little Howard [Worzel] who was then a year and a half. But somehow Sandy, you know, and Adrian [Worzel], she married this wonderfully interesting Englishman. Theyíre just special, special folks. Her middle boy is getting married and I wish I could go to the wedding. I would, but itís just when we have to get Laura on the plane to go back to Chapel Hill and school. But I sent them a present. You know, we stay very close. And I stay close to Dottie. And Joe, when he had an opportunity, was very generous to the Academy. And Joe had not been elected to the Academy. I always wish he had been, and a lot of it is not quite right or fair or whatever. But he wasnít. And neither was Chuck Drake. And it was always uncomfortable for us when very close, good friends and outstanding scientists were not elected to the Academy. But, of course, the president does not interfere. Each section is totally autonomous. And you just donít do that. And Frank is so meticulous about his behavior in all things. And he just wouldnít, he wouldnít stand it done to him and he wouldnít do it. And he couldnít really.

These guys had their own minds. So, but Joe then gave the lovely present to the, contribution to the Academy when he was in some position to do so. Which I thought was extremely kind and generous. And then a few years, several years ago I gave a fiftieth, when Frank was still president of the Academy, I gave a fiftieth anniversary party when Joe and Dottie were going to be up here on their way down from Toronto visiting Sandy and her husband and also another son, Richard settled there and his wife. And I had all the old crowd from Woods Hole who knew them, who were still alive, from way back then. It was really something. And Howard and the other kids came. It was, it was, god, more than one tear was shed. Dottie had been very ill. So thereís tremendous ties of love and closeness among us. Of some of us who stayed this way together.

Sfraga:

It must be, itís probably a very difficult situation to be in when your friends and colleagues are perhaps up for nomination in the Academy, and they do not get it.

Press:

Yes. Well, the way it works is if you get, usually you get nominated a few times, and then you get on the list or something, and then youíre sort of there. But I donít — I could ask Frank and try to find out, but that would be confidential information. I would like to know for my own part — certainly Chuck might have been closest, closer to it. I just donít know. Joe was in Docís shadow. It was always that he was Docís, you know, colleague and it was Doc. And I just donít know if they ever got on the short list. But usually once you do, and you can be on it for a few years, and thatís very tough. When I know now, very close friends whom Frank feels that thereís no question, and that really gets to stick in my neck. Iím so glad wives never ask me anything. Never.

Sfraga:

I was just going to ask you that. If there was ever any conversations?

Press:

No. No. Iíve been really raised by Frank in these, in this regard — warm and open and everything is right out. Iím very respectful of all that. You know, we, when we were, he was twenty-three and I was twenty-two, or maybe twenty-four, we were certainly under twenty-five, you know, a year between us, we went to Washington. We all went to Washington. Certainly, Iím sure it was Joe and Dottie and Frank and I, for Docís inauguration into the Academy. And I was really young then. And to see Doc in his tuxedo, walking down the aisle, and Midge there, and his whole family. Well, Iím not into hard science — you know, child psychology in education, but thatís not hard science. And so I was acculturated to knowing about what all this was, and admiring Doc as we did, we really thought — And I remember how Frank and I used to say, ďOh, honey, you know.Ē And Iíd say, ďFrank, if youíre ever elected to the Academy.Ē He said, and Frank would always say what he says, ďWell, donít count on it. Itís very hard to get into the Academy. You have to be very distinguished, you have to do very good work. I just donít know yet. Itíll take a long time of publishing and, you know, research and all of this.Ē So, but I was really getting trained into this whole stuff. So when Frank was elected to the Academy he was at the time the youngest man in his time. He was only thirty-three. He was at CalTech, and he had so distinguished himself. He was Docís student. But he had opportunities with Doc, just marvelous opportunities. And we never — we feel great gratitude toward people who have been good to us. Life long gratitude and love.

Sfraga:

Do you remember when Frank told you that he was nominated to the Academy? How he told you and?

Press:

Well. No. I donít remember that. Iím sure I must have screamed all over the place and yelled and, of course, called my mother immediately back in Brooklyn. And Frank his parents. Because my parents understood very well about Doc being elected to the Academy, about our yearning that some day Frank might, that Frank was doing so well. My parents used to come out to California. They were enormously proud of Frank. They had had a son who was five years my senior who had died, when I was not quite four. And he died of a blood clot following an appendectomy, just a sudden, terrible death. And it was horrible for them, so Frank was dear to them. He was lovely to my parents. My parents — my dad came to live with us some years after my mother died when the neighborhood changed and they were setting the building on fire and I was really worried about his survival. And he still was a proofreader at the New York Times, very competent and fine, although he was eighty by then. You know. They had a strong union, and he did his work. He was good. He had all his marbles then. And so I persuaded him to come up and live with us. And the way he would, Frank would bother, Dad would bother Frank when Frank had that inviolate Sunday morning time to read his Sunday Times, New York Times.

Wherever he is, youíve got to get that. And Dad would come and sit on the ottoman where Frank would, heíd just sit and push Frankís feet over, and Frank was very obliging and very mannerly, you know, he always respected his elders. More than I did with my parents. And certainly, you know, my father. And, although my father would say, ďYou keep a civil tongue in your head, young lady,Ē and it was, you know. And he would always talk to my father about the same old stuff. His few sheckles, as my mother called it, and how it was invested, and was he in the right thing. And it was the same thing over and over. He was eighty. He lived with us from eighty to eighty-five, and then he had a horrible stroke, and then we got him in a nursing home and were visiting him all the time. But I tell you, our love became, I mean, the different stages of where you put up with an awful lot of stuff. And youíre disappointed about so many things that you thought would be different about the other person. Or your ideal of how your life would be. And certainly with all the Hollywood stuff that we all grew up on, the romance of marriage, and especially since we loved each other a great deal, it was very exciting romance and I was always kind of romantic and wanted romantic situations, and that kind of thing.

So, Frank enjoyed, you know, he was responsive. Get his mind off something else. And he liked that. But itís awful to be married to a guy where thereís no question that — and Iím facing it right now — that work is, his work is more important to him than anything else in the world. Itís his whole ego strength. His whole self-image. Itís — heís had hobbies. Heís had sailboats and heís a good sailor. He learned to ski more or less. He writes his books. His second edition of that just came out. Heís very proud of that. But to continue to be in, in it, respected by scientists, other scientists, or in the world that heís gotten into, got into later, in the world of science policy, of being influential, helpful. Those things are so important to him that even though my idea of our seventies would be that weíd really smell the flowers together, I felt that especially in our Washington days was when he was science advisor to President [James E. Jr.] Carter, that I really gave my all for my country. And I, you know, everything Iíve done, Iíve really tried to accept when it was getting me so depressed that I couldnít stand it.

Sfraga:

And youíre touching on some issues that I do want to talk about, these are very important.

Press:

Yes. No. No. This is just, this is us, and youíre not doing biographies of us.

Sfraga:

The one issue is though that you have shared him, throughout his entire career and your marriage, and that must be an incredibly difficult thing to do to share the very person that you want to spend you life with —

Press:

No.

Sfraga:

—because you never have them all. Someone from the outside, like me, might see that as sharing a part of them with someone else.

Press:

Oh no. Oh no. Everybody has a right to be his own person and to have his own thing, as they say. I always thought in terms of his doing his work, loving his work. Iíd hate to be married to a man who hated his work and who was doing something that we werenít both proud of. I admire his work and love what he does. I just, I had wished in past years that he could have sort of done both more readily to share himself as we got older, and as he made it so abundantly. But there was always the next thing that fascinated him. It fascinates him. Excites him. He used to say the only time he has stress is when he comes home, I mean, during our years when he was at the Academy or when he was a science advisor, the only time he had stress was when he came home and I was picking on him or bothering him or complaining. That was his stress. But at work he never had stress. Well, when he was science advisor that was the most stressful four years of his life. That was a terrible time. But youíre not doing a thing of him, and that was really the hardest time of our lives, of his time. But all the other times, you know, working with Doc, he had a goal. He was totally captured and enraptured. And, oh he loves us. Heís been the most faithful man. The children think the world of him. Bill is terribly competitive toward his father. Bill is like his father, except not a gentleman quite like his father. Heís a buck, who speaks his mind, who likes to challenge authority. Heís got a lot of me in him. And heís got both our intelligences, enormously. Although his view of the world is much less kind and accepting. He thinks everybodyís got an angle. Well, it doesnít preclude, even though you can see a place where it could help you, that thatís not, that thatís only an auxiliary perhaps or a side bar, and thatís not your main thing. I donít quite understand Bill. He likes to be a mystery. And heís my oldest, and absolutely, heís very brilliant, very, very brilliant. Itís hard to understand your own kid. I understand Paula very well. Sheís a fellow woman, my daughter. Iím her mother, weíre very close. Okay, never mind about Bill. So Frank did a great deal to inspire Bill. He shared science with Bill. Bill loved it. Bill always, you know.

Sfraga:

Well, sort of a competition, a natural competition. His father has been very successful. Extremely successful.

Press:

Yes. Very successful.

Sfraga:

Maybe a daunting shadow at times.

Press:

Yes. One time when Bill was about eleven, I used to sit beside their beds, when theyíd go to bed, until, oh until maybe they were twelve, thirteen, each of them. And discuss, sort of talk about things, anything on their minds, as it was getting dark. And Frank was away so much that I invented the idea of the happy thought at night. Because he was away when they were real little and all these years, and we all missed him terribly. So I got the idea of a happy thought, and it kept me from getting depressed. It helped me. And what was our happy thought? I remember one happy thought was when we lived in Pasadena was to eat on the weekend at Lubyís Cafeteria. Or maybe Luby was a different place. One of the cafeterias. The Beetles, I remember Beetles on the main street there, on Colorado Blvd. Go to Beetles and we had another one. That was a big deal. They also had a Nelson Eddie [Actor], Jeanette MacDonald, bringing them all back. You know, they hardly show them on TV even now. And I took them every week when Frank was gone to another Nelson Eddie, Jeanette MacDonald. And they used to laugh. Because they stick their noses in each otherís mouths and sing at each other to fit them on a small screen. Of course they saw all the Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, which their father loves. He can do without Nelson Eddie. But we managed. We had friends. We went to see Hertha Gutenberg a lot. But from the very beginning.

So when Bill was eleven, by then it wasnít such a happy thought. We didnít deal in happy thoughts so much as, Iíd say, ďAnything on your mind, Bill.Ē Or a lot of things used to come out. Some things a few weeks old that he had on his conscience. Like when he jimmied the lock at the school and got in to look, and he and his best friend Glenn Rankin to see what Deniseís IQ was, Denise Cox because she was very imperious toward them. And each room in the Pasadena is built on a hill, had itís own lock, I mean, to the door. So they jimmied, they became expert. This is eleven, twelve years. Expert lock pickers. And they jimmied the principalís office. And this was about three weeks ago, and he told me, you know, it was getting dark, and whatever time it was. That they jimmied the lock and they got into the principalís office, because he — So I said, ďOh my god, Bill, youíre kidding me. You must be kidding.Ē So, he said, ďNo, because we had to see Denise Coxís IQ. We wanted to see if she was really smarter than us. Because you know how she acts like sheís the greatest.Ē And the mother used to call and say they went on their bikes on the backs of their bikes on two wheels, doing tricks on their bikes all around her place. I mean itís like something out of Tom Sawyer. But they really did it. So I said, ďOh my god, our family is ruined.Ē I almost wasnít kidding. Because this is a terrible thing to do.

Sfraga:

Sure.

Press:

I said, did you make a mess? He said, we were very careful to put everything back very carefully. I said, ďDid you look up anybody elseís IQ?Ē He says, ďWell a couple of people. And ours is very high, and Deniseís is about as high as ours.Ē I said, ďBill, do you know that,Ē I said, ďIím the head of the gifted program in Pasadena.Ē

Sfraga:

I didnít think about that angle.

Press:

Yes. Maybe I was just a teacher then because that may have been a little later. Yes. And I said, ďIím known because I do curriculum development. Iím known by the superintendent.Ē And three houses down on the street we lived on is the editor, his name was Merriweather, Lee somebody, of the Pasadena Star News. Your dad is the head of the seismo lab and a famous professor at CalTech. That would be front page copy. And his father was at JPL, a scientist at JPL. So, you know, I was scared. Because this, these guys were up to a lot of mischief, a lot of this kind. They were figuring out how to make long distance calls. And when he was a freshman at Harvard, if it had been another school, he would have been kicked out or disciplined, but as it was, they never let him use the computer for a whole semester. Because he found a way to get into their computer when he was a freshman there. Smart-ass. But, fortunately, he didnít become — heís very smart, heís very legal.

Sfraga:

Heís bright and legal. Thatís always good to be.

Press:

I mean, that was his last foray as a freshman. But it was an interesting life with that guy. Very interesting guy.

Sfraga:

And it continues today it seems.

Press:

With Bill?

Sfraga:

Yes.

Press:

Bill and his father get along fine, but Bill and I donít. He likes to press my buttons and do things that are outrageous.

Doel:

But children know which buttons to push on their parents.

Press:

He doesnít do that to his father because Frank never has any buttons that he can push. If the children didnít behave, you know what Frank did at the dinner table, heíd just get up and leave. And then Iíd say, ďYou see what you did. Now Dad left the table. Now what? Now we donít have Dad with us at dinner.Ē Oh and I used to look daggers at them, and they were so crushed. Oh they behaved when Dad was at the table. I remember when Frank used to be away, and one time Bill put his feet up on the table. I said, ďWhat are you doing?Ē You know, testing, testing. He said, ďBut Dad isnít here.Ē I said, ďWhat, did we ever do that when Dad isnít here? Donít you dare.Ē And then another time, he was reading and I said, ďYou know, do this and do that.Ē And he said, ďDad isnít here. This isnít a formal dinner.Ē I said, ďWe donít read at the table, we talk.Ē So this guy, he was taking over. And Paula, [makes noise of children laughing], enjoying it to the hilt.

Sfraga:

She just watched the mischief.

Press:

Yes. She enjoyed that as long as it wasnít aimed at her. So we had a fun life. I mean, you know, there was a trial. He could outbest me by the time he was ten or eleven. In the arguments about why he didnít need to take a bath, at eleven, and why the Indians didnít have a scent, and thatís how they couldnít be, they could creep up on the animals, and that all the research that he got about that people dry their skin out, and you donít need a bath, only so and so often, and anyway, and this and that. Oh, my god.

Sfraga:

This was at age eleven that this research was done.

Press:

Yes. Oh, he — all this. He could give you chapter and verse. This guy I knew was meant for something. If he didnít wind up in jail, like your friends. But Iím not talking about whatís your subject.

Sfraga:

Oh this is all fine though, because this is part of your —

Press:

Why?

Sfraga:

This is a part of your life and a part of — I would like to go back to something that you raised before about Doc Ewing, and that is your first discussions with him after you decided, that Frank decided that you were going to leave, and Doc Ewing was so upset. Did you speak with him about the move at the time of the break?

Press:

I donít remember it. I just remember us feeling very guilty and chastened and sad that he felt like that. All our other friends had a wonderful party for Frank in our backyard. They gave him a shotgun. Joe Worzel gave him a shotgun. And this was funny. We had a big tree at the end of our yard, and he was teaching Frank how to fire the shotgun at the tree. And the idea was, this is what he said, ďThis is the way they read seismological records at CalTech.Ē And he had a target up there. And Frank, you know, hit that. You know, he wasnít a marksman. And it was all over the place on the tree. And he says, ďThere, hereís your first seismograph record from your new life at CalTech.Ē So that was Joe and that was funny. But they were happy. I mean, I —

Sfraga:

Was Doc Ewing there? Did he come to this party?

Press:

I donít. I donít think he was at it. I donít think he came to this outdoor party. I donít remember him being there. It would have been nice and I would have remembered. But he wasnít. But everybody else. It was all very lovely. A lot of beer. A lot of fun. Sadness. The gals. They were losing a colleague they enjoyed working with. We left with the warmest relationships with our colleagues. I felt, I really felt. And I think itís evidenced by the fact that we kept up friendships that are very deep and warm, even into all these generations. Certainly with the Worzels. The Ludases too. We loved them. You know, he was head of the machine shop. They had tragic, early deaths. But thatís — Ludas was very important in our social fabric there. Because they used to give the parties. Angelo was Greek and she [Lenore] was Italian, American born, first generation. You know, he was the head of the machine shop. He was a working class man. And she was a gal who had gone to high school. But they, she was, they were rough and tumble characters. We always remembered that they had only linoleum on all their floors. Now linoleum is fine in a kitchen, but we all had either rugs or very nice wood floors or with little rugs here and there. I mean, thatís taste. But Lenore immediately on this nice old wood floor put down linoleum, and literally linoleum, linoleum. But we, I mean if Dottie and I ever sort of laughed at their taste, which we didnít think was haute couture, we never made fun of them. They were too dear to us. And when you like somebody, you donít make fun of them. And I felt thatís the way we felt about each other. I certainly had my ways and means, and I donít know how they probably made fun of me. But it was with kindness and affection. [Interruption]

Sfraga:

When Frank decided to leave, and although it was very cordial and nice with all of your friends, your group, and perhaps Doc Ewing was not involved in the social send off, were there any comments about then the relationship between Frank and Doc in terms of who might need who more? Frank was his student. Was there mention of Frank finally perhaps moving away from Doc and that would be bad for Doc? Or were there some questions as to whether or not Frank would be able to keep his scientific pace because he was moving away from Doc?

Press:

No. Frank had no doubt, in Frankís mind. There were colleagues at CalTech who were doing work that he was interested in. Beno Gutenberg was the then head of the seismo lab and fingered him as the guy who he was so proud to have brought on board. And he brought him in as a full professor. Beno Gutenberg was then head of the laboratory. And a bad thing that happened that we felt terrible about was Frank and I had assumed that Hugo Benioff, who was an older man and an excellent scientist, was going to become the head of the seismographic lab. And what do you know, when two or three years later, when Beno — I donít remember two or three, something — is going to step down, he wants Frank to be the head of the seismo lab. And somehow they put it, I donít know, to the seismo lab people. Youíd have to get the details or to the department as a whole, and they agreed. And they wanted — now Frank was worried about this. And I who always liked nice relationships, and we had liked the Benioffs. They had been so nice to us. Everybody was welcoming us there. You canít imagine, the husbands and wives had nice relationships, including one another. They took us out to their kind of ranch out in the cottonwood trees. To listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees. And it was all new to me in the southwest. And in the cabin with them, the kids were little, and it was so exciting, and I have so many pictures of it. They were wonderful to us. And here was Frank, an older man who he thought so much of, and he was going to — it was like Frank was shafting him. And Frank would never do that.

Frank left CalTech rather than. Iíll tell you something. I was dancing with the president of CalTech, Lee Dubridge, who wanted Frank to stay very badly. Now, Lee Dubridge had not been courting me before Frank decided to leave. But we were at some kind of faculty party, and Lee Dubridge who was always and his wife was very nice. They were very nice president and first lady of CalTech. Youíve heard of them, you know. And so Lee was dancing with me. I loved it. Very proud, you know, I was thirty-nine then. And he said, ďBillie, we canít let him leave. We canít let him leave. You know, are you happy here?Ē ďVery, Lee, very, very.Ē So he said, he said, ďWe just canít let him, canít let him. Is there anything?Ē You know, some conversation. Now, I wouldnít say anything of the sort. I wouldnít say, ďWell, if you went into planetary science,Ē because if they did that then Bob would have resigned, and this would have been, it would have been horrible. I couldnít live with that. Frank couldnít live with that. And that would have been like with malice of forethought almost. And since Frank now had really burned his bridges behind him, and was getting gung-ho to go there, that was, it was a fait accompli really. And, but, it was, I didnít know if Lee realized how far along it was. And maybe it could have been reversed. But it was interesting that Lee was doing that. Lee had used me in another way when I lived at CalTech that I forget. I went to, when I went to Russia with Frank in 1958 — oh yes — I had studied and Lee gave me permission — you know, I called him Dr. Dubridge — to sit in on the graduate studentsí class in Russian. And I was a star. No women were there. And I had to take all the exams and everything. Of course, I didnít get any credit. I always remember the guys who werenít good in language and were good geophysicists. And David Harkrider, gad, was he funny in foreign language.

And so then I went to Russian in Ď58, and we spent a better part of a month there for a meeting, and I got around to all the schools, and I wrote a professional paper that got published on womenís lives and education in the Soviet Union. And that was my first trip. I went there eight times in all in all these years. The last was in Ď89 and I never want to go back. Donít like it when it isnít the Soviet — I mean itís worse. If thatís possible, itís worse. So he put me, Lee put me on a panel with guys to tell about this, about my experience and about the women in education. Particularly education, what I found in all the schools. And special programs for the gifted which I was particularly interested in. That was my job then. So, Lee liked me a lot. And we even, I think, had, maybe it was during that period even but before Frank had absolutely made up his mind, that Lee went into high gear to try to court us. And I always remember something funny. When they were taking us out to dinner, alone, and I was going to sit in the back with Frank, you know, couples. So I always remember that he was driving, and Doris dutifully got in the back seat. I mean, you know, she was kind of looking for signals. So he said, ďBillie, you get in the back seat, you sit with Doris, I want and I want to talk to FrankĒ. So then I had just read the book, oh gad, one of the, about social class. I canít remember the name of it. Oh, itís a well known book. Packard, Vance Packardís book, about social class, and how something is either u or middle or lower. But u is upper. And, you know, if they serve just peanuts, thatís upper. If they serve much more of an array, thatís middle. If they serve green canapes, thatís lower. And then he talks about the seating.

So I said, ďLee, do you know that weíre sitting in a lower class formation?Ē to Lee and Doris. So he said, ďReally, Billie, where did you, how did you decide that or whatever?Ē You know, I used to like to kid, and the guys always liked to kid with me. So I always got very — and anybody with a sense of humor immediately warmed to it, and it was very pleasant. So once Lee gave me an entrance, obviously. So then I, and I felt we were kind of in a certain position here. You know. So I said, ďYes, I just finished this book on social class. Status Seekers, or some name like that.Ē And I said, ďIt said, the way you sit in a car tells your social position or your social background or your social experience. And this is another manifestation of it.Ē I said, ďOf course, itís ridiculous.Ē But I thought that was very funny. ďAnd I always prefer this because I certainly love to talk to my lady friends.Ē You know. But it was just fun. It was just fun. And he said, ďWell Iíll always remember that, Billie.Ē Not that he cared at all, nor would Frank, nor any of them. So that was fun.

Sfraga:

But he tried to —

Press:

Oh yes.

Sfraga:

— he tried to use you to —

Press:

Well, I wouldnít see it, see it using. I used to — Frank didnít ever ask me. Things were much more fluid there. They were much more, you know, for me to try to intervene in any way with them was very unheard of. The women were much more subdued. But I was very young, and I was very junior. We were the youngest in age. But Frank was certainly not the youngest in accomplishment very early on.

Sfraga:

That must have been an incredibly difficult situation to be in when he is selected to be the next in line, when a very, very good friend.

Press:

Yes. Yes. Well, you know, he became a friend there. I mean, I wouldnít say he was an old intimate. They had befriended us as newcomers. We had appreciated it. He was certainly the next generation. He was old enough to be Frankís father. This was his second marriage, and she was somewhat younger. But she still, they were — she was at least fifteen years older, he was probably twenty-five or more years older.

Sfraga:

Did this strain the friendship at all?

Press:

Yes. He was very hurt. I think it was hard for him to, to really accept that we hadnít tried any of that. I always say we, but it wouldnít have been my place at all. I wouldnít have, I would never intervene in anything like that. The only thing I ever did was to try to make things better. Like with Doc. Or when Frank wanted to get somebody and I knew, what I remember particularly at MIT and he wanted Keiti [K] Aki so badly. And but he never thought he could get K away. Keiti Aki, a famous geophysicist with very recent lurid recent history. Crazy, nutsy, whatever, I couldnít believe this, horrible. Now, Shota is my godson, his oldest son. Shota. Yes, he was conceived in my bed. Conceived. Right. We let them have our house for the summer. Because we first met them at CalTech, but thatís a whole digression. Thatís an enormous digression.

Press:

When they were, when Keiti came as a visiting professor with a young bride.

Sfraga:

Because Frank wanted K.

Press:

This is at CalTech.

Sfraga:

Because Frank wanted K.

Press:

No, he was brought to CalTech. I donít know what Frank had to do with that, if anything. I just donít know that detail. But I think Frank had something to do with it, because K was principally a seismologist from the University of Tokyo. Hiroko, the wife, she was very young at the time. She was no more than twenty and he was about twenty-six or seven. And they had no children. They were just newly married, you know, a year or so. And K was a real star. And Frank wasnít in any position to offer him anything then, and anyway, it would never have been in the cards, because she was a brand new bride, he was the important son, or the only son. He owed it to his parents. He had a professorship at University of Tokyo. Her father had been the mayor of Kyoto [Japan]. She is the sister of, hereís another famous oceanographer, of, oh gad, what the heck, oh how can I forget. I havenít forgotten. Oh god, whatís his name? Oh, heís a very famous oceanographer, geophysicist, and heís her brother. It will come to me. And they were roommates, K and the fellow.

So, anyway, I befriended Hiroko and the first child was conceived, I think, in Pasadena. We gave them the house for the summer, or something like that happened. So she always told me, because she said every time she saw my bedspread, she thought of that. She had told me that later so, and Iíd figured the months but — It was very bit of social, you know stuff. And I remember when Finny, you know, Finny, Bob Finny had been one of Frankís students, and he went on a distinguished career at Princeton [University], and when his first wife had her first child, I stayed with her in Pasadena. My kids were then, you know, school age kids, and so I just stayed with her, and looked after, maybe it was already another kid — I donít remember all the details — but I really mother henned. I was like a big sister, and I looked after the girls that heíd had, that were Frankís students and so, and I loved it and I wanted to do it. It gave me a lot of joy. So, okay, well, about Doc, I was happy to get them together. I think I told you that I contributed to getting them together. I told you as much as I can remember about the climate of life there. We lived in the house that had been the original farmhouse, the cook and butlerís house [now known as Sutton House at Lamont Doherty], and we were the first occupants of it. I remember that there was such — it was built in about 1860 — and there was such, there were a couple of inches, I may have told Ron [Doel] this before, between the wall of the downstairs wall of the house and the floor, an inch at least. And I had to wear fleece lined stadium boots all winter long because the wind whistled in there. And there was no way of keeping warm, except that we had an old fashioned coal stove in the kitchen that we always kept going in the kitchen.

My mother couldnít believe, here, you know, that this is the way I was living in, starting 1948. We lived there from Ď48 to Ď55. And I always felt bad, but I donít think this should go into it, but we — well, we were the first people there. And Frank has had a very illustrious career. And famous earth scientists stayed there for a period when they were working at Lamont following us. But we had been the first and long-term inhabitants of it. And then, the [George H.] Suttons lived in it for a period at one time. And for ever more they called it the Sutton House. And it may even have a plaque on it, Iím not sure. But when I went back there, I just felt so wounded. Now, thatís silly, and we were fond of the Suttons. But, I felt Frank had had such an illustrious career, and had been so important in the beginning of Lamont, and with Doc and some of the wonderful work that they all did together. It would have been very nice if they put up the Press/Sutton, something like that there. Of people who lived there long times and who made a significant contribution at Lamont. It would have meant a lot to me. But Frank isnít sentimental at all. He doesnít seem to care about any of that. I love history and the history, the continuation.

Sfraga:

That was the foundation that the life that you know was built upon.

Press:

Right. Right. And Lamont got, I mean, Larry [J. Laurence] Kulp came on when we were there. Went into geochemistry. All of that. It was all just a big farmhouse. When we moved there, oh the crops. Dottie was a farm girl, and you can be recording if you like, and Dottie was a farm girl and there was a big area that she could stake out, and she hired somebody to get it all prepared. What do you do to prepare the soil for planting?

Sfraga:

Till it.

Press:

Tilled. Tilled, I guess. Plowed. Plowed. Plowed.

Sfraga:

Till, plowed, same.

Press:

Right. And then she taught us all. Some of them knew better than I did or Frank did. But boy we took to it. How to plant, how to sow, how to reap, how to this, how to that. We all had our pieces. And we had corn and tomatoes and it took forever there to get them staked. And all kinds of vegetables. It was so interesting. We liked it.

Sfraga:

The garden was also a social center.

Press:

Well, we had plenty of socializing at Angeloís [Ludas]. He introduced us. Frank and I had never had an alcoholic beverage, I think. Maybe Frank had with the guys when he was a prospector, when we were engaged, out in Oklahoma and Texas with the rough guys, for summers. Maybe he had a beer then, but my fatherís father had had a lot of trouble with alcohol. And I was raised that you take one sip my father told me, and then you get hooked. So I was real scared. And he told me if a boy offers you a drink, heís trying to get you drunk to do bad things to you. So, what acculturation. And so Frank and I just didnít drink, you know, we didnít drink. And then at Angeloís, they used to tease us and say, have a beer, have a beer. Well, I didnít like beer because it disagreed with me. Gassy. So they had wine for people who didnít like beer. So I liked wine. Fortunately, they didnít make us drunks. But we had the best fun. And Jack [Oliver] used to come to that, and Chuck and Martha [Drake] and of course Betty and John [Ewing], who were very much a part of all our lives then. Betty and John. All of — this was the inner crowd. Midge used to come to Angeloís party — sometimes that wasnít so hot. Or sheíd leave. But Doc, when he stayed and she didnít come, was great. Just great. He didnít have to watch her. Weíd have a lot of fun. And the pizzas. I never had a pizza, but pizzas werenít a big deal in those days. Oh they made pizzas.

Sfraga:

Angelo made the pizza?

Press:

Oh, Angelo did all of this. Angelo and Lenore were the great social cement. For the men and the women together. Because then we were all together. It was true, the women in short order were out in the kitchen, but after the guys had a few drinks and we all joined them, it was great. That was the center of social life. We did our farming on our own when we went to do it, but Dottie was our main consultant. Dottie was so special in this whole operation. She was so good to everybody. She was so kind. She was the best mother you ever saw. She was the best person. She was so kind to me. When my mother-in-law came out to visit us, Frankís mother and father, and weíd had a stray cat that was part of the house. A big torn, neither of us had been allowed to have a pet when we were kids. So this big torn is mewing there. This was one tough sinewy grey cat. Boy. Formidable. And so we invited him in, and he liked it there in cold water and we got very attached to him. We called him Stanislaus. I donít know why or where we got that. But we called him that. And what was I going to tell you about that? What was the relationship? Where did I?

Sfraga:

Dottie was such a part of, Dottie made it all happen for you.

Press:

Oh yes. Oh yes. Oh boy. My mother-in-law and father-in-law, maybe they, I think this may have been their first visit. Of course, my mother was shocked that the heat in the winter time was this stove and that I was stoking the furnace and all that. But she was an adventurous woman, and, you know, if I wore my stadium boots and what not. You know, she could get into it. And we were a young couple making our way, and the kids were coming along. So my mom and dad just thought this was quite remarkable. No pejorative remarks at all. At all. But then when weíd finished and we got to love him, Stanislaus, although god knows he could never be tamed, you know, the kids, they learned to respect him. I put the scrapings of all the plates on a plate, and I set it down for Stanislaus. Of course, no chicken bones or anything bad for him. And my mother-in-law looked aghast, aghast. And I was pregnant with Paula then, right.

So we had moved there when Bill was about six months old. From Astoria, Queens, where we had our first apartment. Now, but anyway, where Bill came from where we went to the hospital to have him. And, you know, that was, we didnít stay there very long because then Doc got this Lamont and we were moved out fast to join the crew. Because he was Docís student at Columbia for two years or so before this, you see, when they were doing it long distance and Frank was putting things together. So when, so she takes me aside and she says, and Mother Press says to me with a lovely Russian-Jewish accent, ďYouíre beautiful, youíre pregnant like a flower.Ē Oh, I was so complimented because I felt a little unwieldy and large with the second child. And she says, youíre pregnant like a flower. And she says ďBut when I think of my beautiful professor living here,Ē and she points to this black stove in the kitchen, ďAnd eating out of catís dishes, I could die.Ē You know, I may have told Ron this, out of catís dishes. So I was — talk about aghast, I couldnít catch my breath. Did you ever hear of such an insult? Youíre pregnant like a flower and my beautiful professor. All I could manage was to say, heís not a professor. Heís not even an instructor yet. Now, maybe he was an instructor. Heís an instructor, heís not a professor. And then I left running out to Dottie. Crying, you know, there was Bill. And Dottie, and I told Dottie, and Joe may have been there. And Iím sobbing all this. You know, and Joe, of course, thinks itís mildly funny. And it is mildly, it is funny. But it wasnít funny to me at the time. It became one of our favorite anecdotes. [Another person enters the room] And you know the story of eating out of catís dishes that Mother Press said to me? Oh well, Iíll tell you another time. Boy, do you need a hairbrushing. Okay, so anyway, I poured. I said, ďIím never going back, Iím never going back, not ever. Not until they leave. Never, never.Ē And so Frank, after a while — maybe he never remonstrated with his parents, honor thy parents, period. Maybe they didnít tell, ďWhat did I say? What did I say?Ē You know, ďWhat did I say,Ē she would have said. So I donít know how long I was over there crying, crying, carrying on. And after a certain interval, he called up and he said, ďBillie, youíve got to come home. My parents are getting ready to leave.Ē So I said, ďIím not coming home until after theyíre gone. Iím sorry. I love your father, but your mother is impossible. Iíve never endured such an insult.Ē

Another person:

What did she say?

Press:

Frank is eating out of catís dishes. So, he had his own dish. So, then finally Frank comes over. And somehow or other he talked me into it. And he sort of assured me at some time or other that he would tell his mother that that was — that he loved the cat too, that we washed everything careful and that he was happy and thatís the way it is. I donít know what he did. He never could talk to them about —

Sfraga:

Were you able to talk to her much after that?

Press:

Well.

Sfraga:

But it damaged the relationship.

Press:

I tell you, it damaged it. It damaged it forever more. However, however, I felt sorry for her that she only had three sons and no daughters. She had such a terrific accent. Frank was younger by far. The boys were seven and nine years older than he, and he was sort of a postscript. And they wanted to keep him a baby, but he couldnít wait to get out. Like you. So he got out, you know, fast, twenty-one, he had a degree. And I never really trusted her after that. And, of course, the relationship wasnít the greatest, even then, though, although I tried to please her and I was proud she loved little Billie boy who was born then. It was because she had done it, she had tried to prevent our getting married. When we had agreed to it. And then he was supposed to tell his parents, and weíd been going together. And I had even taken him all over New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where my parents came from Philadelphia [Pennsylvania] where their families had spread out, introducing him as my fiancť when I was nineteen and he was twenty and we had a wedding date. And he said they would both have heart attacks.

They both had weak hearts. But so every week when we had our date, Friday, Saturday, I would say, ďDid you tell your parents,Ē and he said he was about to, but they didnít look good or something. And he couldnít do it, but he would next week, he promised. And then one time I told him, ďIf you donít tell your parents next week, weíre finished, thatís all. Iím not going to be engaged to my family and disengaged with your family. Itís humiliating. I wonít stand it. The likes of me doesnít have to put up with the likes of that.Ē And he said, I always remember, this was so funny. He said, ďYou would say goodbye to me. Why, that has the force of an atom bomb.Ē Thatís what he said. The hydrogen bomb hadnít been invented. So he was certainly wanting us to get married. He just couldnít do that to his parents because they expected him to save up enough money to have a down payment on a house.

The brothers had gone to the service and theyíd saved their money, and theyíd done this and that, and they did it the way the parents expected. So we were going to branch out on our own, and there were no places to live, just after the war in Ď46. We lived in a cockroach and bed bug infested place. In one room we did, my mother fumigated it. So she called my mother to say theyíre too young. So my mother was funny. She said, ďWell, maybe Frank is too young, but Billie is not too young.Ē I told her, I said ďMa.Ē So she said, ďNever mind,Ē and she said, ďIs there anything else Mrs. Press?Ē So Mother Press couldnít think of a thing to say at that point and that was the end of that. So then, what, oh yes, I think I called her up and told her. Oh I know what Frank did. He went to see a man who had been his teacher for three years in junior high school, who not only was his teacher, seventh, eighth and ninth grade, a remarkable man who figured very heavily in our lives as did his wife. But starting at that age of thirteen, and he had it all boys at first, he invited all these immigrant kids — He and his wife didnít have any children — to their home.

Sfraga:

Do you remember his name?

Press:

His name was Louis Hay, H A Y, and he was a teacher in the junior high school. And he, I donít know, he started inviting these boys, the very bright boys, to his house every Friday night to listen to classical music, to, and he would teach them and so would Clara [Hay]. And to read, to read, they used to read everything. And he was a Social Democrat. And theyíd read across the whole spectrum about capitalism and all these various political philosophies and a lot of history and really develop these boys. One became a great labor leader, and Frank was a scientist, and various ones. And then I came in and started coming from time to time when I was sixteen. But they got to know me. We each dated other people. We didnít do steady stuff until we were engaged. But he had asked Lou for his advice about his parents and what should he do. And Lou had told him and then Clara had come in on it, and she was very wise and very educated in psychology, that you two are a very good pair and donít, in other words, donít blow this. ďThey will not have heart attacks. Frank, they will not.Ē But then when I knew, when Frank came and told me Lou and Clara both said, we ought to get married, that it would be the best thing for Frank to get married. And, of course, I thought it would be great. And then the next week when I saw him and he hadnít told, you know what I did? I went, I was at school the next day, and I said ďWhatíll I do? Will I kiss this precious boy goodbye, because heís so kind to his parents? When I know he really loves me?Ē I called her up, and I said, at a phone booth at NYU, where I had an undergraduate scholarship, ďMrs. Press, this is Billie, Billie KalakĒ He had brought me there. So I didnít visit his house, I never visited boysí houses. Never. One guy got me there on false pretenses. I was furious. You know, but I didnít know we were going to his parentís house. I didnít do that. Youíre engaged, youíre engaged. So I said, ďMother Press,Ē — no, no ďmother.Ē I called her Mrs. ďMrs. Press, Frank and I are getting married.Ē ďWhere are you? Where is Frank? Where is Frankela?Ē

Sfraga:

Frankela.

Press:

Frankela she calls him. ďWhere are you Billie darling? Where are you Billie darling?Ē I said, ďIím in a phone booth at NYU.Ē And she says, and I said, ďFrank isnít here.Ē ďDonít do anything. Donít go anywhere.Ē I said, ďMother Press, we picked, weíve got the date. Weíve got it all set up. Now itís up to you to invite the people you want to come. Itís June 9th.Ē So then she calls my mother, and my mother said — you know, my mother and I cooked it up. Because my mother didnít think he hadnít told. I mean, this was crazy. And my mother even told me, ďHeís a good one. Heís the best of the lot.Ē My parents thought a lot of him. He was really fine. The way he endured my father, even then, in the living room. I was always late getting ready. And he was so polite. And oh my family, my father liked to talk to him, and find out everything about him and his work. And he used to get a nervous cough. He never coughed from the day we got married. He used to get a cough, talk about a cough and a paroxysm. Mother said, ďDonít get engaged until you have his chest x-rayed. He may have consumption.Ē Thatís the only thing about him that they worried about, he had this cough. He only coughed around my father. My father was grilling him non-stop.

Sfraga:

Cough is the least thing.

Press:

It was funny. I mean, he didnít have to talk when he was coughing. It was so funny. Oh such memories of our, I call them that. And of course the Lamont experience was a big piece of that, and then the Columbia part, you know, just before that and then after. And then the CalTech and MIT. My own very interesting career, which has been great. And it would be interesting for you very much and I must send it to you, the biography I wrote of our family which I had to get ready for the Emperor of Japanís presenting the 1993 Japan Prize, which is, you know how much money? Nearly five hundred thousand dollars. Unfortunately, now, you have to pay. We had to pay so much tax because they had just two years ago changed that. I mean, you donít, that was our nest egg, but good. Isnít that great? Isnít that terrific?

Sfraga:

Thatís wonderful.

Press:

They wanted to compete with the Nobel Prize. So Frank, and I shouldnít tell the money but you know. So thatís a great thing. A great thing. Our kids nest egg.

Sfraga:

And please send the biography. Iíd love to read that.

Press:

I have to. I have to write. Whereís my calendar? Okay.

Sfraga:

Billie thank you so much.

Press:

And I told you so many things that are us and not Doc.

Session I | Session II