Oral History Transcript — Dr. Sally Nafe
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Interview with Dr. Sally Nafe
Sally Nafe; July 8, 1997
ABSTRACT: Family and educational background, both herself and Jack (John) Nafe; life in Annapolis while Jack taught at the Naval Academy (1941-9145); moving back to Columbia University to complete his PhD (1945-1948); University of Minnesota (1948-1950); Adjunct professor of Geology, Lamont Geological Observatory (1954-1980); assisting visiting scholars at Lamont, including Gleb Udintsev, Inge Lehmann, John Day, Eric S. W. Simpson, Dr. Vening-Meinesz, Dr. Uyeda, Gerard Kuiper; social life at Lamont; rioting at Columbia University and its after effects; faculty politics at Columbia; interactions with the early group at Lamont, including Joe and Dottie Worzel, Frank and Billie Press, Maurice and Midge Ewing, Angelo and Lenora Ludas, Jack Oliver, Marcus Langseth, Charles Drake, Bruce Heezen, Marie Tharp, Manik Talwani.
Levin:This is an oral history with Sally Nafe and it is the eighth day of July, 1997 and we're recording this in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. And this is Tanya Levin doing the oral history. And Sally, I know you were born in Media, Pennsylvania, on the ninth of June, 1917, but I don't know about your parents or who they were or what they did. Can you tell me a little bit about them?
Nafe:Well, they were a Philadelphia Quaker family. And my father was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and my mother had been a headmistress of a Quaker school. I was brought up in Media, went to a tiny Quaker private school, on to George School, which was a prep boarding school, and then on to Swarthmore College.
Levin:Interesting. You said your father was a university professor, what did he teach?
Levin:When you were growing up what kind of books did you read?
Nafe:Everything I could get my hands on. We used to invade the library and read everything around the children's shelves.
Levin:Did your house have a library?
Nafe:Oh yes. A lot of scientific stuff around the house what I made of it heaven knows. A lot of reading went on around the house.
Levin:Do you remember any scientific books in particular, any like biology or chemistry that interested you or you found to look at?
Nafe:There was a lot. My father like Jack [John Nafe] was very interested in fossils. There was a lot on that sort of thing, a lot on animals. And we had a really old good Book of Knowledge which I knew cover to cover. Just sort of full of scraps of information, which was great for rainy days?
Levin:And you said your father was a Quaker. Was religion of much issue in your home?
Nafe:Well Quaker religion doesn't have a creed. It's just a way of life really more than anything else. Service and simplicity, and we went to an old Quaker meeting house. You didn't have a minister, you would sit in silence and various people speak. It's sort of a tough thing to understand because it's not a formal kind of religion. It's kind of an attitude. And both my parents had been brought up in it so I was brought up in it. And both George School and Swarthmore are Quaker. And I must say since then I haven't done a thing about it. Although Jack and I were married at Providence Friend's Meeting in Media in a Quaker ceremony. But Jack didn't have any sort of religious background at all. Our children, our two daughters have been brought up without really any sort of religious institutions around them.
Levin:When you were a child in elementary school, what subjects particularly interested you?
Nafe:When I was when?
Levin:When you were a child in elementary school years.
Nafe:Well I always liked my biology classes. And I just found it all kind of fun. But because it was a funny little private school, we were steeped in a lot of things like Latin and French and read, as many of the classics as they could stuff down us. And I enjoyed it. I think I was particularly interested in the biology classes. However that was probably because I heard that sort of chatter around my house because of my father's interest.
Levin:Did your biology class feature experiments? Were you allowed to do some hands on learning?
Nafe:Oh, very simple. Very, very simple.
Levin:Would you classify it mostly as cookbook experiments or real learning experiences?
Nafe:It was more book.
Nafe:It was a very uncomplicated school. I mean, it was very tiny; there were four of us in our class the whole time. So you can guess. But so much for that.
Levin:Were you receiving any journals into your home at that time?
Nafe:I beg your pardon?
Levin:Were you receiving any journals into your home? Do you remember any magazines that were coming in?
Nafe:No, I can't remember — National Geographic I — it must have been pretty new at that stage of the game. I remember being taken into Philadelphia to a lecture given by someone named Johnson, who had a lot of stuff in the National Geographic about going among the wild animals in Africa which I thought was just too marvelous for words. Much envy. I thought I would love to go among the wild animals.
Levin:When you were in high school, did you know that you would go on to college?
Nafe:Oh yes. Swarthmore was sort of a tradition in our family. My great grandfather was one of the founders of it. So nobody ever asked me where I wanted to go to college. It was just assumed I would go to Swarthmore. So I did. I liked it. My brother, however, went to the University of Pennsylvania. Both my parents had gone to Swarthmore. All the aunts and uncles and the cousins had gone to Swarthmore. No, it was just assumed.
Levin:What kind of classes did you take there? Did you come in knowing what you wanted to major in?
Nafe:No, I didn't know what I wanted to major in. I wanted, actually, to major in biology. But I discovered that at George School I had not taken enough science and math and so that was a mistake. And so I majored in English and minored in economics but I took a lot of philosophy and not nearly as much biology as I should have. Had my parents still been alive, they probably would have sat me down and said, just get yourself ready with your missed math and sciences that you didn't take at George School, and I would have majored in biology. But I majored in English, and then after college I went up to New York and had a year there because I wanted to get into children's publishing. I was always interested in children's books.
Levin:In the publishing end or in the writing?
Nafe:Both. But, I didn't. I taught for a year out on Long Island [New York] and met Jack. And the war came along. We were married. Went off to Annapolis, where Jack spent the war teaching physics to the midshipmen at Annapolis. Then we went back to New York to finish his Ph.D. at Columbia.
Levin:So that was at the start of the war?
Levin:He went to —?
Nafe:Are you still talking about me or Jack?
Levin:Jack was an instructor at Annapolis in, was it 1941?
Nafe:Yes. He went there. Well the draft came. And he drew a low number on the draft. He was at that time at Columbia University, had just started on his work on his Ph.D. with Dr. [I. I.] Rabi. And his number came. So the Navy gave him an appointment as an Ensign which is the lowest rank of officer, and told him to report to Washington to do research. Instead, somebody at Annapolis saw his record and said, no, we'll take him over here to teach physics. So he went over there and taught physics the whole time.
Levin:And you were able to go as well?
Nafe:Well, at that point we were engaged to be married — he went in June — and in September we were married, and then I went down and joined him in Annapolis. And we had a fifth floor apartment a — it was an old attic that we had refurbished in an ancient prerevolutionary house — which was right, at the gates at the Naval Academy. So we had five flights, high flights to go up and marvelous view out over Annapolis. We loved that place. And Jack went from Ensign to Lieutenant Commander, but he just continued to teach.
Levin:So he was teaching physics?
Levin:Was it any particular type that he was teaching? Or was it just basic physics?
Nafe:I think basic physics.
Levin:So he was there from '41 for just a year?
Nafe:Oh no, he was there the entire war which was '41 to what, '45. '45. Our daughter Mary Malcolm [Nafe] was born there in '44. We were married in '41 and the war started in '41. She was born in '44.
Levin:What was it like living in the community where he was teaching in Annapolis? Did you have much contact with the other wives?
Nafe:Oh yes. It was quite an eye opener to see the world of the navy officer and it’s funny little formalities. Exactly what calling cards you had to put down to go where. And even though the war was on in Annapolis everything just went on in its usual, rather pompous way. But so many people who were there teaching were like Jack. Not Navy people, but civilians who had come to fill in while the naval officers were all off on their ships fighting the war. And it was a great bunch. Very, very bright. We had delightful friends. And, of course, we were all deeply concerned with what was happening. There was a lot of sadness around. Things went badly for the Navy. However, had a happy ending eventually. No, we liked it. We lived up on our fifth floor apartment which we adored. But then when Mary Malcolm turned up, we moved to a little house right on the Severn River that was a joy. And a funny old dog came with it. We had a delightful time out there. Seems a shame to say we enjoyed the war not that we were not aware of the significance of what was going on. As a matter of fact, they wanted Jack after the war was over to stay, and it would have been a soft and pleasant life. But we knew we never would accept it.
Nafe:Because Jack wanted to finish that doctor's degree and get on with his physics.
Levin:But they were willing to accept him as an instructor even without the degree?
Nafe:He already had his master's. And most of the people who were teaching at Annapolis didn't have doctor's degrees. I don't know what it's like now.
Levin:So he went straight back to Columbia from there?
Nafe:Yes, he went back to Columbia.
Levin:And there wasn't any problem getting back into school, being readmitted?
Nafe:No. No. In fact, in a way, it was a shame that his number had come up so very early because — it was before Columbia saved all of its physicists. It was only a matter of weeks that he would have been saved — Most of the people we knew at Columbia in the physics department stayed right on during the war and did a lot of fascinating research.
Levin:Do you know some of the people who stayed on and what they did?
Nafe:Yes. What they did? Well, a lot of them were with the so-called Manhattan Project.
Levin:And so Columbia, their scientists went —
Nafe:Yes. And they were all in that sort of research. But Jack's number came up so very early that he was not rescued. Scientifically he probably would have had a much more interesting three years, four years, had he stayed there with the others, whom we rejoined really after the war was over. They stopped doing their war research, and he came back from Annapolis, a sort of a reassembling of the people who had been there prior to the war.
Levin:And did he go back to work under Rabi?
Nafe:Yes. I.I. Rabi. We became quite close friends of Rabi's. As a matter of fact, after we moved here to Vancouver, Rabi and his wife came and spent three weeks here with us. And when we lived on the grounds at Lamont, we used to often scoop Rabi and his wife up from New York and take them off on various adventures into the mountains or down to Atlantic City, or heaven knows wherever they happened to want to go. We enjoyed him. He was a wonderful, a remarkable man. Our two daughters adored him too. Such a lovely twinkling sense of humor and interested in so many things, like Jack.
Levin:So Jack got along very well with him, and he was his main advisor?
Nafe:Yes. And Jack spent three years setting up the equipment for his hyperfine structure research, and one afternoon doing it. [Laughter] And he worked with Edward [B.] Nelson. And actually his works, that work, was put up for a Nobel Prize.
Nafe:Yes. And didn't get it — should've. But apparently it was one of the great pieces of physics work that was done in that period. As I say, it took three years to build the apparatus and one afternoon to get the results. So during those years we lived right next to the campus.
Nafe:In Manhattan. Yes. Actually Edward Nelson married Judy Willets, and Judy Willets and I were both at Swarthmore. And after Swarthmore, we had an apartment together in Greenwich Village and through a cousin of mine who had just graduated from Princeton [University] and was working for his doctor's degree in physics, I met Jack and Judy met Ed. And when the war was over, it was Ed that Jack did his research with.
Levin:So you were a close group.
Nafe:Yes. Yes. It was a great group that was there. All the people who were working in the physics department at that point, were our friends. They all did marvelously well.
Levin:Was this in, what building was this? Was it in Schermerhorn?
Levin:Pupin. At that time was anything known about Lamont, what Lamont was doing?
Nafe:Lamont didn't exist.
Levin:Oh, that's right. That's still in the 40's. Okay.
Nafe:Jack Oliver was there. And I think he was younger than Jack. But he turned up after the war. And Jack Oliver was a physicist who became interested in geology and then went to Lamont. Later he left and was chairman of geology at Cornell. I'm sure — you've talked to Jack Oliver?
Levin:Yes. So he was, Jack was actually in the physics department until he graduated in '48 and then he stayed there for another year at Columbia?
Nafe:Jack's career was a little different from all that. Jack, should we get on to Jack?
Levin:Well, have we skipped something interesting?
Nafe:Well, you wanted to know about my beginnings.
Levin:Yes, we would.
Nafe:But how about Jack's?
Levin:Okay, if you'd like to.
Nafe:I mean that's much more significant than mine which is really very minor to Lamont. Jack was born in Seattle, Washington, in July of 1914. July 22, 1914. His father was a lawyer and his mother was a journalist.
Levin:That's an interesting career for a woman those days.
Nafe:His father had been brought up in Boulder, Colorado, and his mother had been brought up in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. But somehow or other they both landed in Seattle. And Jack was born there. But his father joined the Chrysler Motor Company, and his work took him to Detroit [Michigan] and Ohio and St. Louis. So Jack lived in various places growing up. But he went to high school in Michigan. And then his parents moved to Philadelphia. He had a year at the University of Pennsylvania. He was majoring in chemistry or something he decided he hated. So at the age of about eighteen, he went to sea.
Nafe:For two years as the lowest sort of seaman.
Levin:What intrigued him about the sea?
Nafe:That it wasn't the University of Pennsylvania [laughter]. And it wasn't living at home. And he just was curious and so he just did it. And he had a marvelous time. He went down to South America and he went over to Europe. And knew and liked all these people who worked on these ships. And he loved the sea. He loved the whole thing. But, he decided he better stop it after two years. So he went to the University of Michigan and majored in math and physics. His parents weren't enthusiastic about this cause they wanted him I guess to be in Philadelphia. But he earned his way by working in the kitchen of his fraternity house. He graduated with highest honors and then he went to Washington University in St. Louis for his master's degree and worked on cosmic rays; spent a lot of time in Mexico City.
Levin:What did he think of work there?
Nafe:Oh he liked it; worked with somebody named Schremp. I think the reason he went there was because he had an uncle who was chairman of the psychology department at Washington University. And they had a good physics department. So, he got his master's degree there. Then he was intrigued by what he had heard about what Rabi was doing at Columbia with molecular beams. And so he was given an instructorship there. And set forth and bang, along came the war. And then you had it from there. We went to Annapolis. And then when the war was over, we came back to Columbia, spent three years. And I think his work got a lot of attention. He was getting offers from all kinds of places. For some reason or other, he chose the University of Minnesota. I don't know just why. He could have gone to all sorts of places. So we went out there.
Levin:Did Columbia ever offer a position at that time?
Nafe:Not at that time. Rabi said later he didn't know why he didn't. He said, he always felt that Jack wanted to go back to the Midwest. Jack didn't want to go back to the Midwest. But Rabi, because he knew that Jack had been brought up around Michigan, thought this was a Midwest boy, wanted to go home. So we bought a house and we settled down. And we had our two years at University of Minnesota. And Rabi telephoned and said, how would you like to come back to Columbia? That they were setting up the Hudson Laboratory in Dobbs Ferry to study underwater sound. And Jack would be the research director. Would he come? And Jack said, yes. But he would have to get leave of absence from the University of Minnesota, and so we were given leave of absence. We sold our house. We knew doggone well we weren't going to go back although we liked the University of Minnesota.
Levin:Do you remember what was seen as the advantage in moving over and starting up Hudson Lab?
Nafe:I think Jack's heart was still back at Columbia. And I don't think he found the University of Minnesota's physics department all that inspiring. Also, it was a tricky place to live. We had two little girls at that point. And it just was hard living there because it was so very, very cold. And, I don't know, all our friends and our hearts were back in the east. When we settled that Jack was to come back for this underwater lab at Columbia, we technically were on leave of absence, but we knew we weren't going back and after while Doc [W. Maurice] Ewing asked Jack to come over to Lamont.
Levin:After he had been at Hudson?
Nafe:He'd be an adjunct associate professor of geology. And that sounded rather odd since everything had always been physics in our lives. But we realized that Doc Ewing himself was a physicist.
Nafe:Yes. He was not trained as a geologist; he was trained as a physicist. And actually so many of the people, who were there at the beginning, were basically physicists, and geology was a young, untried thing. So Doc Ewing at that point was being moved into this glamorous house that was built for the director. And so he said, why didn't we move into his house? So Columbia very nicely fixed up that house and we moved in.
Levin:So that was about 1953?
Levin:So it was after your time at Hudson?
Nafe:Yes. Yes. Well, while we were at the Hudson Labs we lived in Hastings. And Mackie started school there. Katy was a baby. And so we moved over to Lamont.
Levin:And during the time there most of the research was military funded, wasn't it?
Nafe:Hudson Labs was really, an underwater sound lab. It was for the detection primarily of submarines. And it was military.
Levin:Was Jack able to talk to you about what he was doing?
Nafe:Well, just where they were going and so on. But we didn't discuss the details of it particularly. I realized it was probably unwise to ask too many questions. But we enjoyed our three years there. Eugene Booth was director. And Jack was research director.
Levin:And did he, you said, he would tell you where he was going. Did he go a lot on trips?
Nafe:Well, they did a lot from a station in Bermuda. And he was often off on a research vessel and so on.
Levin:Did he like being able to go back to sea?
Nafe:Oh lord, he loved anything that took him back to sea. So, that was really one of the things that fascinated him about Doc Ewing's suggestion because he realized he would be doing some research at sea. And it wouldn't be pure physics. But it was interesting. I remember old Dr. Rabi was talking to him about this change and Rabi said, well, he thought all the real excitement in physics was behind him; that the really exciting work now was in geophysics. And he thought Jack was lucky and wished he were in his shoes. So I think Jack had the same feeling that this was a very new and exciting field that was opening up. And the place to climb in was at Lamont. So we moved over there and there were four families. Frank Press had a house, Frank and Billie Press, and their two little kids; Joe [J. Lamar] Worzel and Dottie and their children and Doc Ewing and Midge and their children. And then living up in the, in the woods was Angelo Ludas. Have you heard of Angelo Ludas?
Levin:Yes I have.
Nafe:Angelo and Lenora had four children. They were a Greek and Italian family. He was a marvel at creating equipment that nobody had ever needed before. And we used to all, on Friday nights; go up in the woods to Ludas's house. There would be all those of us who lived on the place, and Jack Oliver and Mark [Marcus] Langseth, and all of the people who were around at the beginnings. And we'd have Friday night parties at the Ludas's. They always said in the kitchen they had hot water, cold water and beer, taps you know. And they were very warm and delightful people. It was like one big family. And all of us had children of somewhat the same ages. And the working places were only Lamont Hall and the brand new geochemistry building.
Levin:So you were very compact.
Nafe:Yes, we were small. There weren't too many of us and then of course it grew and grew.
Levin:So did Angelo Ludas's gift for putting together equipment, did it ever extend into helping to say, supply somebody's kitchen with an appliance that broke down or?
Nafe:Well, no he created the equipment that was used on the ships, and in the labs.
Nafe:But it had nothing really to do with domesticity. Eventually, you know, there's that great big building near the pond just for Angelo's work.
Levin:The machine shop.
Nafe:Machine shop. The original machine shop used to be where the nursery was. You know a little greenhouse. I think that greenhouse is still there, isn't it?
Levin:I don't know. I haven't seen.
Nafe:Next to the rose garden.
Levin:Next to the rose garden.
Nafe:The glassed in greenhouse.
Levin:Ah, yes, that's right.
Nafe:But I think the glassed in greenhouse now is offices. But it was a little machine shop. It was a little tiny place. And he performed miracles at creating equipment for the Verna and for the lab use. And then eventually, became master of that great big affair.
Levin:So you had these Friday night parties. Did you have other holiday get-togethers, for Christmas, Thanksgiving or?
Nafe:Oh yes. All the children at Christmas time would sing in each other's houses and outdoors and parties at various houses. It was interesting; there was a town and gown problem always with Lamont, and I think still is as there is around almost all university towns and college towns. There was slight resentment from the village. I don't know why really. I suppose somebody could analyze it very happily. But Sneden's Landing, I think somehow or other looked upon itself as a sort of very elite area of the successful theatrical person at that time. Anybody you can think of in the theatrical world had lived there or was living there. And you could name drop gloriously. And, of course, here were all these scientific people and they didn't know what we were. And we really didn't look all that, sophisticated I guess. And also there was that marvelous amount of land up there which I think they thought could have been turned into gorgeous homes and so on, and we were sitting on it. The person who was really marvelous in softening that resentment was Midge Ewing. Midge was a Bryn Mawr graduate and loved literature. The heart of Palisades was the local library. Everybody was on a committee running that library. Not a public library. It belonged to the town and had been going on since the end of the eighteen hundreds. And Midge was very involved in that, was very much liked by everybody and was obviously extremely knowledgeable about books. And so when I moved over there, she got me involved in it. Midge and I for years ran the children's end of that public library and ran some of the Christmas fairs which raised all the money. All sorts of delightful things happened in the library. And after Midge left, I sort of carried on with that, particularly with the children's end. And then finally I was chairman of the board of that library. It happened to be the year that we doubled the size of the library.
Levin:Wow. It must have been quite the responsibility.
Nafe:That was, I think, in 1964. And that really got the whole village going. We raised the money. We had a wonderful architect who had been working on the Williamsburg houses. And he knew just how to take that old building and add to it, keep it in correct sort of architecture. And so the library softened a lot of the blow of town and gown. But still, there were some people who really worked themselves up into a stew over us. And so that was when they blocked off the road, you know, that goes down into the Landing because they didn't want us rushing down there and bothering their children. And of course we weren't doing any such thing. There really were one or two or three families of fussy ladies who really made it very uncomfortable. And that was after Midge and I had stopped being involved with the library.
Levin:And, of course, the children went to the local schools.
Nafe:Went to the local schools. But even the school business changed. When our children were all there everything was going merrily, and all our children were young up on top of the hill. They all went to that little school which was from kindergarten through eighth grade. Well, by now, after our children grew, all that changed. Now everybody goes off to Tappan [New York], to grammar school and off here and there. But the local warmth of that school is over which is too bad. However, can't stop it I guess. But when we first were there, speaking of roads. The road up to Ludas's house — I think you know which one that is — was just a little winding rutty dirt road that you wouldn't want to take your car over if you cared about your car. And the Ludas's I think mostly walked. And all of us walked up there to parties. You didn't take a car. And then gradually that was turned into a real road. And that was when everything changed at Lamont physically. And the buildings began going up. You know the oceanography building and the great big emporium for Ludas; just one by one. The old barn that was across the road from our house was turned into a laboratory of some kind. That was fascinating. They weren't allowed to build a building there for some legal reason. So they simply did it as if they were repairing the barn. And so they repaired and repaired the barn until they had a laboratory. [Laughter] It was kind of fun.
Levin:Did you always know that it was going to be a laboratory?
Nafe:Yes. And then, of course, the core storage building went up and then other buildings. They don't seem to have identifiable names. But anyway, gradually the place got to be big.
Levin:So as it grew did the parties?
Nafe:On that all ended. It ended about the time that the Presses left. The Presses left, I've forgotten when. But he went on out to California Institute of Technology. And then his house was turned into a place for visiting professors; very interesting various people that we had in that house. Actually, I made a list of them thinking about your coming. And it was kind of fun to remember. All sorts of people turned up. One of the most interesting people who lived in that house was Gleb Udintsev.
Levin:Oh, the Russian!
Nafe:The Russian. You obviously know about Gleb.
Levin:Yes. What did you think of him?
Nafe:Oh I loved him.
Nafe:We all loved him. He came alone, because they wouldn't let him bring his wife along. And he spent the entire year trying to get his wife. Finally, he came over about March one day and said. I just give up. Two days later she was there; just turned up. And they bought a second-hand car and disappeared; just disappeared for about two weeks.
Levin:Were people worried about them?
Nafe:No, we knew what they were doing. They were just deciding to go free and see the country, and they did. But Gleb was such a warm and bright person and so wise. He had certain restrictions. Actually, he had amazing freedom at that point.
Levin:What restrictions were placed upon him?
Nafe:Well, then things were sort of odd, you know, with the Russia and USA relationship. He had to keep reporting. He was given a movie of Russia which every two weeks he was to show to Americans. So about every two weeks there would be a little knock on our door. Sally, would you come to see a movie? So Jack and I would troop over and we were the Americans. And, of course, he was using Frank Press's former house. The sound track was geared for an auditorium. So we had this crashing music and all these pictures of beautiful women riding around, and churches, and happy children, and flowers and all of merry, merry pictures of the joys of Russia. And we would sit there for an hour and listen to this. And enjoy it because we enjoyed being with Gleb. Then he could report he'd shown it to Americans.
Levin:Did they ever report to you and say did you really see this?
Nafe:No, never. But there was one famous day when he phoned and said, Sally, could you rent me a movie house? I said, I don't think I could. What do you want a movie house for? He said, I have an eight hour film reproducing the World War II done in Russia which I am to show. And it will require a movie house. So I said, let me think about this. So I remembered that there was a Russian department at the university. They were part of the international scene there, and there was a large auditorium for various reasons. So I called up and suggested that maybe. And of course they were delighted. It was to be shown in three different sessions because it was so long. So all of us were worried that Gleb would not have an audience. So we went trooping into the international building. It was a fascinating movie. They had really gone to monstrous trouble to re-create the war from the point of view of Russia. And further it was quite interesting and well done. Gleb had to come up front to introduce it. And say what it was and so on and so on. And Jack and I looked in the back and there was a long row of obviously Russians, I don't know, people representing Russia to see how we all took it and how Gleb was doing. Fortunately, it was a large audience. All the university people were fascinated and it was well received. And I think it helped. I must say Jack and I didn't go back for the second and third showings.
Levin:When you say we all trooped over, it was you and Jack. Were the Presses there?
Levin:Who else went with you and Jack from Lamont to see this movie?
Nafe:I can't remember who, but there were several people.
Levin:Were Bruce — were Bruce Heezen and Marie Tharp there?
Nafe:Oh Bruce was there, probably. I really don't know. I can't tell you specifically. All I know is that we were not the only ones who went.
Levin:Were you aware that this was very much propaganda? Was it obvious?
Nafe:It was obviously propaganda, but it was palatable propaganda in that you saw the way Russia viewed the war. And after all, we were working together during the war. So, and just impressed with their ability to do it. And it was good acting. It was all right. Anyway, we all admired Gleb.
Levin:As a scientist or?
Nafe:As a scientist and as a person. And he'd reappear after his year. Every once in a while he would come back. Just appear at the door, here for some reason or other. And we were always so glad to see him. He was particularly friendly with John Ewing. And I think still keeps in touch with John.
Levin:Was there any sort of, how was he helped to sort of blend into the culture, not blend in, but adjust?
Nafe:Are you talking about Gleb?
Nafe:Well, amazingly well. He was always curious about what we were doing, what could be bought. And we all asked him a lot of questions. And we knew that his general thought was that everything was going to come around in Russia, but it would be slow.
Levin:Come around, meaning?
Nafe:Well, the worst of it, the worst of it would soften, but it would be slow, and he kept emphasizing that it would be slow. We didn't want to question him too much because we didn't want to step on his toes, so that when he had to report back that he said this, that and the other thing. He was a very good scientist. And he was very generous with wanting to bring various people over to Russia.
Levin:Were you invited to go, you and Jack?
Nafe:Well, yes. But Jack didn't go. All of our sabbaticals were at Cambridge University in England although Jack was invited to go to various places. We had a marvelous collection of international people that turned up at Lamont from the very beginning; Old Inge Lehman. Do you know about her?
Nafe:She recently died at the age of a hundred and four. She was from Denmark. She was a woman who had been head of their largest geophysical institute over there. She was always credited as the first person to discover the inner core of the earth. She had her picture on the cover of Time Magazine — very well known. She came over a lot. And she would stay in one of those swimming pool apartments. She was very rigid, and she became very ill at one point. And she said, no one may come to see me. So I went to see her. And then when she came back from the hospital there was nobody to take care of her. We all tried to, but she wouldn't let us. And then I saw her at the head of the hill at Lamont, starting to walk down the hill. And I thought, my gosh. So, I parked the car and I said, Inge, I don't know where you're going, but let me take you. No, I'm just going to Sparkill. [Laughter] So I waited at the foot of the hill cause I thought by the time she gets to the bottom of the hill, she'll want a ride. So, I said, Inge, how about it? What are you doing here? I am walking. She did. She walked to Sparkill and back. And she was supposed to be in bed. She was an amazing woman.
Nafe:There was a couple from South Africa that used to turn up a lot. And they always stayed with us. One was John Day. He had lost one complete leg during World War II. Shot down in a plane. And got himself a wooden leg and got back in planes and science eventually. He would turn up on research ships, rocking ships with his metal leg. He was amazing. He always stayed with us. And the girls adored him. They would take him down to school, and he would talk to the children at Palisades School about Africa and his experiences there. The kids adored him. And the school then kept waiting for John Day to turn up. They all knew he had a metal leg. "Now, anybody want to come see my leg?" And he'd pull up his trousers and show the schoolchildren how the knee worked and all this sort of thing. He was an amazing man. Then there was Eric Simpson, but Jack always, everybody always called him East South West Simpson, because he was E.S.W. Simpson. We liked him very, very much. Who else?
Levin:Was he also from Africa?
Levin:Or was he?
Nafe:Yes, he was. They were both from Capetown [South Africa].
Levin:Did you meet any of the South Americans, [Alberto] Lonardi or [Nestor] Granelli?
Nafe:Granelli, yes. Jack was asked to go down to Rio de Janeiro [Brazil] to lecture for about six weeks. He had a marvelous time down there lecturing. And he said next time I go, you must come along. So the next time he was invited it was to Bogota, [Colombia], something to do with oil; something to do with the United Nations. I never quite knew what. So I went along. He would be picked up in the morning and I would be there all day. So I walked the streets of Bogota, investigating everything and being absolutely horrified with the way children were treated. The children were just turned out, thrown out, and they took care of each other by robbing and begging. They obviously had no school, no hospital. They slept together at nights in bundles to keep warm. It was horrifying. We had a little five year old that was always in front of our hotel, no matter what time of night. And so I got upset about it. And Jack said, well, before you start a revolution. [Laughter] Before we go, we'll go down to the Amazon jungle. So we went down to Leticia [Colombia] which is where Peru, Brazil and Colombia meet at sort of a point. When you fly down there, it's like flying over broccoli. We came down in this little old nowhere and all to the right and left of us were the planes that hadn't made it. So we rode in a funny little boat, went out and visited Indians and so on. And Jack got along marvelously with them. He just had a way of treating everybody, he just liked everybody. And they all liked him. So they showed him how they used blow darts, to put down animals and so on. We had a fabulous time. The children in the jungle were very happy, in contrast with the children on the streets of Bogota. But while we were there the Avianca building burned down. It had all the records of where everybody was. So nobody knew we were in the jungle. And so we were stuck down there for an extra three days until somebody figured out where we were. They brought in a plane for us about four o'clock in the morning, couldn't get the plane going. And I said to somebody, "What's the matter?" And they said, "We can't get the door closed." After a while we took off. And I said, oh, door closed. They said, yeah, we tied it. [Laughter] Oh well, anyway.
Levin:Did you get to go on a few other travels?
Levin:You, as well as Jack.
Nafe:No. I didn't go because most of the traveling was done by sea, at sea.
Levin:And you couldn't go on the boat?
Nafe:None of the wives went. The only wife that went was Verna, Captain [Henry] Kohler's wife. He was a wonderful man, she a lovely woman. But, no we all took turns at being the ones that were left behind. It was kind of nice living as we did. Because when Joe Worzel was away, Jack was there. When Jack was away, Joe Worzel was there. And we sort of, like a big family, took care of each other, to some extent. Not that we needed it a lot. But also there were some awful things that happened. Like the time that John Hennion was killed. And then Jack was out one time on the Verna in the Antarctic area. There was a violent storm, and for one week no communication. They didn't know whether the Verna was up or down or who was alive.
Levin:That must have been very difficult for you back at Lamont.
Nafe:And finally, after one week, suddenly it came back on. They got back in communication. So they had their moments. And then, of course, whenever the Verna came in to dock in Piermont, everybody turned out.
Levin:So it was like a party at the dock.
Nafe:Oh yes, welcoming people home. There was one wonderful day when, after everybody got back, they were going to take the Verna down to be refurbished. And a tug boat came to take her. They let us, some of us, ride on the Verna. And so we took our two little girls on board — Katie was about six and Mackie was about nine. Mackie kept leaning over and looking at the tug, and looking at the tug. Finally the tug boat captain said to her, you want to come over here? And I've forgotten how but they got her over there. And the next thing I knew, I looked over and there was Mackie steering the tug. I have a photograph of one day when they all turned up. And you can't see the floor of the Verna. It's just coated with children of the various people at Lamont. And everybody laughing and grinning. And one of the people is Manik Talwani and his wife and their brand new first child in her arms there on deck. Everybody was on the deck. It was lovely. Then the Verna changed character quite a bit when they took its sails off. That table over there is the teak deck of the Verna. Dottie Worzel's father, who was a delightful retired farmer, was very, very clever at making things. He got hold of the wood, the teak deck of the Verna that was taken up to be, I guess, thrown away. And he made all sorts of furniture and what not as gifts for various people. And we have that little table. It was a very kind thing to do.
Levin:I know Jack was very interested in collecting fossils. Did he bring fossils back from his voyages? Did other people, when you met the ship, did people carry some odd things off?
Nafe:Yes he would bring fossils; very often, shells. And I think a lot of the men brought something back for the children. And our girls had a wonderful shell collection. And they still do somewhere. Jack's fossils were not necessarily got on his research voyages. He'd been collecting those all his life. He would go off weekends, and we were always hiking the New York hinterlands hunting out some sort of fossil. Then when we were over in England, on sabbatical, we spent a long time down at Charmouth [England], Lyme Regis [England] where there's terrific fossil hunting. At Cambridge University was a professor — well they don't call them professors, they call them dons or something — was Maurice Hill, who edited the series "The Sea." His family had a summer place in Dorset, right at the cliffs where all the fossils were. So we spent a lot of time there. In fact, I just two weeks ago came back from spending five weeks with Maurice Hill's widow, Philippa Hill. And we went down to their place in Dorset, looked for fossils, didn't find any. During World War II, we would go fossil hunting at Scientist's Cliff in Maryland where you can find sharks teeth. So a lot of our vacation time was spent poking around among fossils. Now, let's see what else would there be to tell you about early Lamont. There are a thousand different things. What did you want to ask?
Levin:It's interesting. About Gleb coming in as he did, from the Soviet Union. During the '50s, of course, you had the McCarthyism ages and the scares. Was there any concern that you had about that? About Russia and about Gleb's visiting?
Nafe:Obviously no, because he was, perfectly free to see what was going on and participated. But of course he was tightly supervised, not by our government, but by his. But I think actually it was rather amazing that he was allowed the freedom that he was by his government; to live, essentially unsupervised, on our campus. All of us were a little puzzled by it. But pleased for him. And also a little frightened for him when his wife turned up and they just decided to pick up. I did hear, and I really can't say — John Ewing can probably tell you much more precisely — that after he went back, he had his library taken from him and was stripped of a lot of his standing. But then it came back to him later. Now just what that circumstance was I don't know. And whether it had anything to do with his year at Lamont, I don't know. But other than Gleb — It was really interesting, we had so many various nationalities, and we used to joke a bit. There was the Japanese year and the South American year. We would have certain years when we seemed to get a great clutch of one country turning up and living, usually in Frank Press's old house.
Levin:Did you speculate as to why, you know, for each year, why was it this country that was coming?
Nafe:I don't know if there was any real reason for it. It was really a United Nations going on in that house. Dan McKenzie was there from Cambridge University for a year. And he's sort of the star billing now at Cambridge in geophysics.
Levin:Were there any people that came over that just had a really hard time a culturing themselves. Did you remember any cultural miscommunications; any problems of that sort?
Nafe:No. I don't think particularly. I think they were very glad to be here and very curious as to what was going on, as to what they could find out and take back with them. And it was a very welcoming place, on the whole, because the research was so international and the men riding in the Verna and did so much traveling. We joined, and worked with, with other ships. For instance, I remember the Bahia Blanca was a Spanish ship. We would work with. Then when it would come in to port in New York all of the Bahia Blanca people would come up to Lamont and there'd be a great spree. Usually they'd be entertained in various houses including ours of course. And then usually entertaining in Doc Ewing's house because that's where the space was. I remember one famous night Jack came in at suppertime, and he had seventeen South American officers with him; seventeen of them. Our little house wasn't all that big. And I suddenly realized they'd come for dinner. So I got into the car and went whooping down the hill and off to a butcher, got a whole lot of meat that I could fix quickly, London broil, and scooped up a lot of vegetables and so on — then did an instant dinner for seventeen. And apparently the same thing had happened to Betty Ewing. John had appeared — I don't know how many he brought home. She went somewhere and got a bunch of chickens. But I was used to having Jack just suddenly turn up with visitors and Dottie Worzel was used to this too. We would have to suddenly feed the unexpected. Because where Lamont is located, it's very awkward for somebody who is not there with a car to know where to sleep, where to eat. And so there was a lot of sleeping and eating that came along unexpectedly. And of course we had a close affiliation with Woods Hole [Oceanographic Institution], Dottie and I were practically a boarding house for Woods Hole people who'd suddenly turn up.
Levin:Like for instance, did Columbus Iselin come?
Levin:Columbia Iselin, was he a frequent visitor from Woods Hole?
Nafe:Well, let's see. There would be Brackett Hersey, a very frequent one. And then there was a wonderful woman, Betty Bunce. Have you heard of Betty Bunce?
Levin:Yes, I have.
Nafe:She's great. Betty Bunce was back and forth a lot. Who else? Charles Hollister. Charles Hollister used to be part of Lamont. He's become a major part of Woods Hole.
Levin:Was there much interaction between you and, say Dottie, and Midge, the wives at Lamont?
Nafe:When we all lived there?
Nafe:Oh it was like one great big family.
Levin:I was wondering then, what about, say the women that worked at Lamont. Like Marie Tharp or Alma Kesner. Did they have the same interaction among you as well?
Nafe:They were not as close. And yet they were friends. But then, you know, they would come and do their work and go home. If there was a great big party, they often turned up at the Ludas house on these Friday nights. But then, then the place got so much bigger. It grew enormously and enormously fast. And then it got to be much more individual parties. Dottie and I were the ones that would get, you know, the loners that would turn up from here, there and the other place that needed to be fed and taken care of. But we didn't so much do the overnighting once those campus apartments were established. Although there was a moment when Dottie and I fixed up the area that's right next to the Worzel house where all those labs are now where they store cores and all that sort of thing. It had been in the Lamont's day the butler's house. And Dottie and I discovered it and thought why don't we turn this into a little guest house. This is before there was the one in —
Levin:In Lamont Hall?
Nafe:Formally set up. So we fixed that place up used to put people in there. But that meant that we had to feed them. So it got to be a sort of a nuisance. And so we were very glad when the guest apartments in Lamont Hall and in the old swimming pool went up, as well as the cafeteria.
Levin:I imagine too in the early years you had probably had graduate students that would come to you home.
Nafe:Yes. But there wasn't too much of that. The first year he was there, there was Bob Wall. Because we had known him as a little boy; his father taught physics at the University of Minnesota. And so we saw a lot of him. Not too much because he was a graduate student, but just because he was the son of a friend. And when Manik was a graduate student, he used to come by quite a lot.
Levin:Mostly Jack's students were they Lamont; were they at Lamont or were they all at Columbia?
Nafe:Most of them, you see Jack was a little different. He went almost every day down to Columbia. He did a lot of teaching, and then for a while he was chairman of the graduate faculties in science and all that administrative stuff that he didn't like very much. Because he was good at it, he was always doing it. And then he became chairman of the department. And he couldn't wait for his four years to be over. Each of the three people who succeeded him only stayed very briefly, and each time it was handed back to Jack. Chuck Drake took it briefly, and then he went to Dartmouth. And then Ian Dalziel took it briefly, and then he went off to South America. I've forgotten who else took it briefly but anyway, poor old Jack. It very much hampered any research he wanted to do and kept him off of going to sea and so on. He did a lot more teaching at the university than most of the other people at Lamont. And also he often went down to Washington for various reasons.
Levin:To Washington, really?
Nafe:Well, he was always being stuck on committees in Washington. He was unfortunately good at it, though he didn't like that. He wanted to be at his research. Also Jack was somewhat unique, as he had so much background in mathematics, physics and a general all around background. Increasingly people who came had just one little corner of geology that they were terrific at. And some of the rest of their background was not all that complete. So that Jack was sort of the person who looked at everybody's Ph.D. thesis and so on to pick up what others had missed. And unfortunately there was a lot that was being missed which also took a lot of his time and made a lot of people sort of unhappy. But it had to be done. He was in many ways the person that was the link to the overall university, probably more than anyone there.
Levin:Yes, this is very interesting to find out about his work. Do you know what committees he was working on when he went down to Washington? Was it in the government work?
Nafe:Well it was mostly money, the sources of government money for the research and for the university. And then when the Mohole thing came along, for a while he was head of that, but he didn't want to be. So then Harry Hess took it over, Harry Hess from Princeton. I don't know why Jack backed off of that, but I think he felt that was just going to completely tie him away from what he wanted to do.
Levin:He was quite close to Chuck Drake was he not? They collaborated a lot.
Nafe:Well, the Drakes lived up there for quite a little while in a little house on the grounds of the Fox estate which adjoins Lamont. It was practically next door to the Worzel's house; if you had leaped over the fence there was a little house there. Chuck and Martha Drake and their little girls lived there for a long time. And he worked along with Jack a lot. The two men liked each other very much. And so their work mixed. We had a very warm relationship with Chuck and Martha. Chuck's real strength, one of his great strengths is sort of being politically good in geology. And in running meetings because he has a charming way of talking. And everyone likes him thoroughly. And so he was the ideal — There often are people that are just the ideal person to run a conference or to run an organization, and do it cleverly and charmingly, and Chuck was one of those and very good when it came to raising money and this sort of thing. For instance, since he got to Dartmouth he's been a dean. He would be very good at that sort of thing. When Jack was having his retirement dinner, Chuck came down and spoke. It was delightful. Rabi was there too, and Rabi decided that he was going to speak. So he just rose up and spoke. And Chuck spoke when Jack died last year. Lamont put on a very nice service for him; Chamber music and all the rest of it. And a lot of folks turned out, Chuck was a speaker; also someone from the physics department, Bill Havens and Joe Worzel. Marcus Langseth really put it together; sadly, not knowing that somebody was going to have to do it for him in about six months — Such a sad summer. Did you know Marcus?
Levin:No I didn't meet him. By any chance did you read Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring when it first came out?
Levin:What did you think of it?
Nafe:Oh we were all very carried away with it. It was really the beginning of people’s being — alerted to it. Then she really was sort of a springboard for a lot that came afterwards, which was very good.
Levin:Do you remember talking with the people, like your husband or people at Lamont, about the use of pesticides or what pollution or even the start of the environmental movement?
Nafe:Well, it was a subject that was often mentioned — The idea that we were using up things; not realizing that they were not endless in resource.
Levin:Was it mostly a dinner table conversation or were there any seminars that you remember?
Nafe:Well, I didn't participate in seminars. I would just hear the conversation, the social conversation because the wives pretty much stayed away from the lectures and so on. I've often wondered later why we did. But we did.
Levin:Did you go up to Lamont at all? Lamont Hall? Well I guess Jack was at Columbia.
Nafe:Jack's office was at Columbia — He had an office in Lamont Hall for a long while — and then he had, but then when that oceanography building, Jack had a lovely office. And Chuck Drake was in the office next to him. And they shared a secretary. He was there for many years. Mark Langseth took over that office. And I don't know who took Chuck's office. But it was fun going back last April and seeing how little everything had changed really. And a lot of the old faces turned up, most of them new, but so be it. The grounds of Lamont are always sort of interesting. When we first moved there, they had the same gardener that the Lamont’s had had. He was an old Swiss man. I cannot remember his name, Bill perhaps, but I can see him. And we all loved him, and he was always bringing flowers to Dottie or to Billie Press or me. Surrounding our house was just a field of rhododendrons. It was just beautiful. And all of Lamont was just a big garden. The field in front of Lamont Hall had thousands of daffodils every spring. And all the ladies clubs from Columbia University would come out pick them and sell them for various good works. The place was just glorious. Then he died and we didn't get a new gardener which was nuts. They let the grounds crew take care of, take over. The ground crews were great guys, but they were not gardeners. And the place just deteriorated. And finally I started fussing about it. And I fussed to Manik about that.
Levin:When he was the director?
Nafe:After Manik was the head of the place. By that time the place really was not anything like as lovely as it had been. And they were doing a lot of awful dumb things. So the first thing I knew he sent around Tom D somebody, and Tom knocked on the door and said, Dr. Talwani told me to come over and ask if you thought I would be a good gardener. So he came in and he was marvelous. He had been trained at the Botanical Garden in New York. And he was a real professional. I can't remember Tom's last name. I said, go to it. So he took over, and by golly he just transformed that place. He worked like a beaver. But there's a lot he couldn't bring back. For instance, somebody or other had gotten on a mowing machine and mowed down the daffodils right after they'd been picked. So they never came back again. They just wiped them out. And somebody or other had decided that mulching was a great idea. So all of the leaves they got up they dumped around encircling our yard and killed all those rhododendrons. It wasn't anybody was mean. It was just they didn't know any better. However, when I went back in April I realized things are really looking pretty, very nice again. And I don't know whether Tom's still there, but I think he is. Then there was the bird sanctuary that the Lamont’s kept adjoining the campus. They made a committee of people to take care of it, and stuck me on the committee.
Nafe:And they kept asking me questions, and I said, the person you really want to ask these questions of is Arnold Finck because Arnold Finck is in charge of that sort of thing. So he got on the committee. I was still there but I didn't do very much. They wanted to make rules about going into that place; I don't know what's happened to it now. But it was a nice place to go into. Have you ever been back in the woods there?
Levin:Yes I have.
Nafe:Lovely. There was always a very touchy relationship between the university and Lamont. Mostly having to do with money, I think. And Doc was always having scraps with the university. And Jack was the person who tried to keep the peace.
Levin:Really? How did he try to do that?
Nafe:I don't know.
Levin:He must have had a very tough position being in between those centers.
Nafe:Jack was just a very reasonable person. He didn't get fired up. Doc was a remarkable man, but he also could be very emotional. And often took a little bit of quieting down at the university. And the year that everything sort of blew up was the year Jack was away on sabbatical at Cambridge. Next thing we knew, Doc had left.
Levin:So that was '71-'72?
Nafe:Yes. Doc and Joe Worzel had left. And there was a great uproar.
Levin:Well, was there talk before he left about —? Well he was of course approaching sixty-five, Doc was. Was there talk about a successor even before you left?
Nafe:No. I don't think Doc thought of himself as retiring at all because what he did was to go down and start up another organization in Texas and took Joe with him.
Levin:So you didn't hear any rumors of a possible successor to Doc?
Levin:So there was no, you didn't hear talk of anybody of retiring that Doc?
Nafe:No. I think Joe had always assumed that, and I think most of us assumed that Joe would be his successor. But then there was this confusion, and Joe and Doc both left.
Levin:Before we get into that, let's see if we can cover the, end of the sixties. We talked a little bit about the environmental movement, but what about the rioting that was going on at campus at Columbia? I know it was going through a lot of upheaval over the Vietnam War. How did Jack feel with this? Was he concerned about going on?
Nafe:Oh Jack was deeply concerned. In fact, at that moment Jack had taken on quite a lot more at the university, the chairmanship of the graduate faculties of science. And so he was going to be down there more and more. I think he was the chairman at that point of the geology department. And so he was very much down there. I remember one night he spent the entire night out on the campus trying to help. He had a very stabilizing effect; he was a very calm person. And I remember I had the radio on all night long wondering what was going to happen down there, worried about where Jack was. Although I knew nobody would hurt Jack. And he came home with some rather wonderful stories and very disgusted with some of the other faculty who really were almost firing this up, for the best of, in their minds, the best of reasons. But — he was disgusted with them frankly. It was an interesting period because it was suddenly a revelation of sides of people that you had known for years that good manners and general conversation had covered up. And it was a shattering time in many ways. There were certain faculty members that really were feeding into this thing; certain departments in particular.
Levin:Which departments do you remember?
Nafe:Well, I think, right or wrong, the anthropology department, Margaret Mead and all the rest of them were sort of lighting fires. And a lot of it, a lot of the students, you had the feeling, were going along, because in a big city like that, a lot of those students were lonely people. It isn't like a small college campus. And it was something to belong to — to be part of. Whether they had any depth of feeling about it, they belonged suddenly. And were one of. And there was a lot of that.
Levin:So you think perhaps that more than the war itself was a cause of the rioting?
Nafe:Well, war was certainly a lot of it too. But I think it only took just a few fiery leaders, and a few fiery faculties. It was sort of a mob psychology thing. Jack was very upset about it. He said he didn't think the university would ever really recover. And, you know, I don't think it ever has.
Levin:Did he mean just Columbia University or the university —?
Nafe:No he meant all universities. And the interesting thing was that the man who was head of the law department at Harvard, I've forgotten his name, [Archibald] Cox, came down to do a study after it was all over — Of why Columbia had had this problem. And he ended his report — couldn't bear not to — of course this would never happen at Harvard. Well and with that Harvard took off. And I think they had a worse explosion really than Columbia. Can we stop this for a minute and have some coffee?
Levin:Left off and we took a short pause and we're returning — Talking a little bit about the sixties. And I was wondering that one night that Jack did get stuck at the university, and he came back with some interesting stories. What did happen to him?
Nafe:Well, of course — He understood what was behind it. But he realized that it was a permanent damage being done to the university. And it was. David Truman was really slated to be the next president. And he would have been a very good one. But he was so affiliated with the current administration that they had to pass him over. And he became president of Mount Holyoke. But I can remember while this was going on, the night of the assassination of Martin Luther King, I was talking to Ellie [Eleanor] Truman on the phone. Because like Ellie I was very active with an organization of faculty wives that among other things ran a thrift shop downtown which earned thousands of dollars for foreign students. I remarked how devastating the news was. And she said what news? And I said Martin Luther King has been assassinated. She said, that will really inflame what's going on on campus. And David is over there. And she said, if they're going to get him, they're going to get me too. And she dropped the phone and she went right across the campus to be with her husband. Because it was that frightening that she would think that they would harm him. He was a gentle, splendid man; would have been a great president. Also it was during that week, the faculty association was to put on its annual formal dinner for the president. And because I was secretary, I got all of the yes’ and no’s from all the faculty of the whole university. I put in a paper bag yes, and in a paper bag no. The day before the dinner was supposed to occur, I had taken my entire paper bag of yeses into the city and a whole lot of us sat in somebody's apartment; Ellie Truman and Mrs. Peckham and all the people who sort of ran the shows at that point. We wrote to everybody that the dinner was canceled. You couldn't get on the campus. We thought it was pretty obvious that it was canceled. And then we sent cancellations all through the mails of the university, although I understood that that night, some couple turned up in their long evening dress and so on, and tried to get on the campus to go to the party. The assassination of Martin Luther King was throwing gasoline on the fires. But anyway, Jack came home with, sometimes some funny stories. He said, one of the leading boys was getting up there and telling everybody about what they should do, breaking into this and doing that. While he was talking, an older man came onto the campus, walked up to him, and said to him, "Son, your mother says you're to come home." [Laughter] And the boy left. Jack said that just shows you the depth of his feelings. That when his father said, ''Your mother says you should come home," he just climbed off the platform and went. A means of escape really from something that he had gotten into that he probably didn't know how to get out of. And Jack was enormously amused. But I have a feeling that it was indicative of perhaps the lack of depth of the feeling of a lot of them that got in and didn't know how to get out and didn't want to seem to be deserting ship. However, it stirred up the faculty in such a way that it never did calm down again. People knew things about other people's points of view that they had never known. And people got sort of categorized. There was sort of a lack of respect that permeated the place —
Levin:Was there much attention focused as you saw it on the source of funding for a lot of Lamont's research, the government funding?
Nafe:Was there any?
Levin:Concern voiced over that.
Nafe:Oh there was always concern. I mean this is the life's blood of keeping things going. And there were some people on the faculty that had a genius for going down to Washington and saying and assuming attitudes and cooperation that weren't there. For instance, at one point Jack, in the very early days of Lamont, went down to Washington with some plans for doing some research in the Indian Ocean. And they just said to him, we have no interest in this country in the Indian Ocean. You ran into this sort of attitude. And consequently, it made some of the people just explode, and then of course, damage their chances for getting a warm reaction in the future. Again, Jack was very often the person that was sent. He had coped with Navy people during our Annapolis days and government people to know what you were apt to run into. And he knew pretty much how to approach them calmly. He just didn't get emotionally carried away, although he may have been boiling inside. So he spent a lot of time going down there doing some repair work. After various ones would go down there and get —
Levin:Well Ewing was awfully, you mention, he was very emotional. Was he one of the ones that Jack had to repair the damage after?
Nafe:Well Jack usually wouldn't tell me who it was. But I could make some very good guesses — Not only with Washington, but with the administration in the university. Because the administration in the university was always thinking that they should get a cut out of all this money that was coming into Lamont. And Lamont had the feeling that no, they shouldn't get a cut. That was the source of great deal of trouble. Anyway, I have a feeling that actually it was because Jack took on so much of correcting somebody's Ph.D. thesis, that somehow somebody had missed, then all this bickering between Lamont and the university, and so on, and having to take on the chairmanship when he didn't want it which really contributed to Jack's terrible stroke — eventually killed him. And I remember Lewis Thomas; you may have read some of his work. Lewis Thomas came and sat in Jack's bedroom at the hospital. He had known what was going on. And he said, "Where are the grownups?" [laughter] And I thought, that's right, where are the grownups? Because everybody was so busy with his own little corner of the world. Nobody was taking care of the overall picture except Jack. And it just about, oh he survived it but of course he was never the same. In fact, they told me, after he had spent ten weeks in the hospital he'd only live very briefly after he came out. He lived twenty years. But still he tried like the dickens to keep going. And he did teach small groups. And he did whatever he could. But eventually we had to forget it. But he kept going for about four years. And then it really got to be impossible. So we moved here.
Levin:During this time, of course, you mention that the professors were finding out, the faculty was finding out things about each other that perhaps they shouldn't have known or were hidden before. Their views —
Nafe:Not shouldn't have. It's just points of view. The kind of thing that happens when there's a national election, and you find out about people's political points of view. And you're often shocked. You know, because you assume everybody feels the same way you do. Jack and I happened to be ardent Democrats. And consequently we were always so surprised when we found out some of our closest friends were ardent Republicans. And we used to say, how could they possibly have this point of view? And I'm sure they were thinking how could the Nafes possibly have that point of view? Well, there was a lot of that sort of attitude.
Levin:What about towards science, I know Jacques Barzun was dean. And he published a book called Science the Glorious Entertainment, and sort of ridiculing the scientific point of view. What did you think of that? Did you run across that much?
Nafe:Well, I didn't read the book. But I know that point of view, heaven knows. And all people in the sciences run into this — the assumption that there is some sort of freak problem in somebody who is interested in these things. In fact, Jack's own parents were absolutely dumbfounded that he wanted to major in physics said A: you can't earn a nickel with physics. What is physics, and then he mentioned mathematics. The acceptable idea seemed you should take a business course or a law course. Money is a part of it. I mean, you assume that, these scientific people are peculiar enough not to be interested in money are interested in something impractical. Also, I've never quite understood this attitude because science is such a fascinating world that not to want to know about it — is just beyond understanding. Also, I think the sciences were getting money from the government and from business people. The non-scientific people in sociology and English and philosophy and so on, they weren't getting that kind of money. This is part of it. That they didn't realize that it took greater money to run science. Although I remember Rabi used to regret the fact that it did. He said it was much more fun when we didn't have that kind of money. We could be more independent. But now things have to be done in the millions. So I think there's perhaps an unrecognized jealousy; financial jealousy among the departments.
Levin:So in '71 you were in Cambridge when, of course, Ewing decided to leave and go to Texas. And you heard about that? Who contacted you? Did Ewing call? Did he ask you to go to Texas with him?
Nafe:Well Jack saw it brewing.
Levin:He saw it coming?
Nafe:And we stayed in touch with Lamont by phone and by letters and so on. And a lot of people would come over in the course of their work to Cambridge. So we were not caught by surprise but saddened. And sorry that it had come, sorry that it had come in the way it did. It could have been done more gently than that. But it was such an explosion. They almost – And then the phoning back and forth. To decide, after Doc left, who should take over? I was really surprised frankly at Jack's refusal to come back to fight the battle. And he said, no, we're going up to Scotland. And we did.
Levin:He refused the directorship?
Nafe:Well, it was just to be considered for it. Apparently, as I understand it, Doc Ewing wanted Jack to be the director. And, of course, and I'm not sure Jack — Jack was, I guess he never said so, but I imagine he was sort of touched that Doc had wanted him. But he did not want it. He had just gone through so much of all that had been going on that he felt somebody else, thank you, could take that. And when he got back it was Manik and —
Levin:Was it a little uncomfortable at first to come back — was he worried?
Nafe:Well I was uneasy. Because you see when we came back, Joe Worzel had gone. And he'd been our neighbor. And Doc was gone. And we were coming back to a new world. But we just rode with it and did the best we could. Only Jack never discussed things like that. He was very quiet. But I think he was uneasy and hoped for the best. Somehow or other he felt there'd been too much of a shakeup, and that it was not going to settle down. And it didn't. And then of course he had his stroke and that was that.
Levin:Was there no communication at all between Lamont and Doc, once Doc was in Texas? You're shaking your head no.
Nafe:Presumably the new group wanted it that way.
Levin:With the whole group, not just Talwani?
Nafe:Well, I really don't know how they stacked up. But I think that there were a lot of people who were glad Doc was gone. But I have a feeling that a lot of them also realized that a lot of the glue had gone too and that there really wasn't anything in particular to take its place. However, again, I'm only talking as someone who was not one of the people directly involved. And Jack was not someone who talked. Except that people would come to the house and talk to Jack. He did mostly listening as usual. So it hadn't shaken down. I gather by now everything's simply marvelous there. It's all put together.
Levin:But certainly, it would have been hard for the people that did want to remain in contact with Doc, like Jack, to have this communication cut? It must have been a very difficult thing to see happen.
Nafe:Well, yes. It was coming, but the university and Doc were so much at odds with each other. As I understand it and I may be wrong, again somebody closer to the reality of it is a better person to tell you. My understanding is that over finances or something, Doc simply said either you do it this way or I'm leaving. And they said, all right, go, goodbye, essentially. So that sort of was the shocking end of it. And there were people who really adored him and were really loyal to him; Worzel and others. Jim Dorman?
Levin:Yes. Jim Dorman.
Nafe:Went with him down. They started a very good establishment in Texas. But Doc's health was broken. He and Joe had houses across the street from each other in Texas which is interesting. And it was sort of a fluke. They hadn't planned it that way. They didn't know until they had done it that they had done it which was kind of nice. But I've forgotten how many years Doc lived. It wasn't very long after he left. But he did get back. I remember particularly that one day when he was up in his old office ranting.
Levin:And he was ranting to you and to Jack.
Nafe:He called us up and asked us to come over. I felt very sorry for him. He had done so much in his lifetime and then to have it end feeling so unappreciated. It was sort of a sad business. He was a very complicated person. I liked Doc. He also had a wry, wonderful sense of humor. I remember one time we were heading down to the polls to vote. And I said well I'm going down to vote for the Democrats, and I know what you're going to do, you're going to go down and vote for the Republicans. Why don't we just stay home? He said, “I would like to.” I would like to make that arrangement with a whole lot of people. We thought that was pretty nice. You know if you told a whole lot of people to stay home because of me. Just think of all the help you would be to your party. He was quite devoted to his children. He was a very nice father.
Levin:He must have been. Well you mentioned of course off tape that the children did leave and Lamont must have left —
Nafe:Well the children were very sorry about his break up with Midge. And let me see, his youngest child stayed with him for a little while, but then she left too. So they all, all his children sort of vanished.
Levin:And Lamont sort of lost that, the family flavor.
Nafe:They really completely lost that. And Harriet [Ewing] was a lovely, capable woman. But she really — I think she had a tough time because everyone realized she wasn't Midge, and we had all adored Midge. So I think it was a happy, sad time for Doc. They were very devoted and I think she made him a lovely wife, very caring wife. I don't know where she is now, do you?
Levin:She's in Florida right now.
Nafe:I hope all's well.
Levin:So you came back, and now Manik has the directorship. What things did you notice? What kind of style change did Manik have? What innovations was he proposing or were there any changes?
Nafe:Well, you see it's very difficult for me to say that because I was not one of the scientific staff. And at that point I was pretty much totally devoted to Jack because of his illness. The night that Jack collapsed, I called up Manik. It was four o'clock in the morning. And Manik came over. He was the only one who was left on the hill that I knew. You see, because Joe had gone. Frank had gone. And Doc had gone. So I called up Manik. And I sort of remember really Manik from the days when he was a graduate student. And he came over and he was marvelous. And then he came that night into the hospital at Columbia and took me home. And I sort of felt I had Manik back again in a way. But later I didn't see him, so — And what changes he made I really don't know because that was not where I was involved.
Levin:But for that one night you had Manik. But as a director he was more removed?
Nafe:As a director, I didn't really see him. Well there was the time he sent that gardener over and then the night, when Doc's picture finally came in to us. I called up Manik and said you ought to come over and see this thing.
Levin:Yes. The picture that was painted of Doc that now hangs in Lamont Hall.
Nafe:You know it's not a great portrait. Let's face it. It was done with a lot of love, but not a lot of sense in some ways. And so we had the thing sitting down in my living room looking at it. And I said, did you notice the Verna's coming out of Doc's ear. And we all laughed. And again, it seemed like the old Manik. And I commented, we really have to put that in a prominent place in the main house.
Levin:Because at that time it was where?
Nafe:It was in my house.
Levin:It was in your house.
Nafe:But it had been paid for by Joe and Frank Press and I've forgotten somebody else was involved. It had to be framed. So I had gotten it framed by our very good friend Wailes Gray, who did a beautiful job. I think for a while it was over the fireplace in that main lecture room on the ground floor of Lamont Hall. And then it got moved to the side. Now you say it's in the —
Levin:One of the study rooms on the first floor, I believe.
Nafe:That's a pretty room; probably a good place for it. Because you know, it's not a great painting. If it had been a great painting, then that would have been a different story. Another poor old thing that kept getting moved around was that picture of Mrs. Lamont and Eisenhower.
Nafe:The person in the Lamont family that continued to be interested in Lamont, was only one and that was Corliss. He's died now. But he was on that committee that I was on for the —
Levin:The bird sanctuary?
Nafe:The sanctuary. At Palisades Library, the day we dedicated the library after — I was running that show when we doubled the size of it. He was there. And he had contributed money towards it. I had written to the various Lamont’s to ask if any of them wanted to contribute to this doubling the library size — And of course immediately I get a fat check from Corliss. And then I got a letter from one of his brothers saying, I will not contribute a penny. I didn't like Palisades. No, I will not contribute. So I wrote him back a letter, and said I can well understand how you might not have liked living here. Often one doesn't. However, I thought you might be interested to know your brother's contributed and that we are getting along just fine. We have just about completed what we need. And I immediately got a fat check back from him.
Nafe:Sibling rivalry. He had blown his stack and then he was, I guess, a little ashamed. And so I got a second Lamont check. That was not really my milieu sending around for money, but it was kind of fun to see what would happen.
Levin:It worked very well. You were telling me, and this is interesting about how Ewing wanted to be buried at Lamont. Could we put that on tape about the dispute about what Arnold Finck, his reasoning?
Nafe:Well it wasn't his reasoning. He did exactly the right thing, as Arnold always did, because he was a very efficient person. He simply found out that you cannot bury somebody legally in a non — what do you call it? — consecrated — area. And so it just couldn't be done. So then the idea was, well, where? And I'm not quite sure, whether it was he or somebody, came up with the idea of up there at a cemetery on the crest of the hill overlooking the Hudson which was really quite nice in many ways. [John C.] Freemont is buried up there; all sorts of interesting people. And I think Harriet was happy with it. I think by that time John Ewing wasn't there because obviously John was the person they should have contacted. John was, I think by then, in back at Woods Hole. I'm sure you've talked to John.
Nafe:He would be a marvelous source: he and Betty. Charles Hollister is at Woods Hole. Has anybody contacted him?
Nafe:Of course he was simply a graduate student. Jack Oliver. Has anyone —
Nafe:And Chuck Drake.
Levin:Were you at the, I guess it was the Christmas party, when Manik was essentially fired by the staff?
Levin:You just heard about it later.
Nafe:We were gone.
Levin:Oh you were gone.
Nafe:We left in '80.
Levin:Were you back in Cambridge?
Nafe:No. Jack retired in 1980.
Levin:Oh but Manik was left in '77.
Nafe:No, I am confused. '77?
Levin:'77. I thought so. Maybe I'm remembering wrong. Perhaps he didn't leave until '80. Probably '81 and by that time you have already left and come here to Vancouver.
Nafe:That's an interesting question. I think we were here when Manik left. We came here in June of '80.
Levin:I think he did leave in — must have been '81.
Nafe:That sounds more like it. Because I thought, again, don't hold me to it that he left shortly after we got here. Jack retired the middle of June of '80, and we came right out here. And Mackie found us this apartment, and I thought, we couldn't possibly live here, it was too small. Well we have. We lived here seventeen years and loved it. So you just don't need a lot of space. We were sorry when we heard what happened because again, it was like Doc's leaving. It could have been handled so much better. There's something sort of immature about the whole thing. Again, where are the grown-ups as Lewis had said. Have you read Lewis' books?
Levin:Yes, I have. They're very good.
Nafe:Of course he's dead now. But his wife is still alive. She's lives out on Long Island. We have long telephone chats. We've known them for years. We found them a house right next door to us in Minnesota. When Lewis came back to New York he came to our door, "Want to live next door to you again;” I said, you can't. We're going to move to a little house on Lamont Observatory's grounds, Doc's old house. There's no house next door. And so I went to a party at Johnny Ewing's house that night. There I heard that there was a house on Sneden's Landing for rent. So I called up Lewis, and he came to pick me up and we went right down to that house. He walked in, didn't even look around, he said, I'll take it. So the Thomas’s and we were essentially next door again.
Levin:Do you think there's anything about life at Lamont, about the committees, or things that you've served on, any topic that you think we haven't covered in the interview this far?
Nafe:Well, I can't. Again, about the scientific aspects of it I can't help you out. There's plenty of help on that.
Levin:That's no problem.
Nafe:Somebody I think should make notes somewhere, of the wonderful contribution of Dottie Worzel.
Levin:Of Dottie, really? In what manner?
Nafe:Well, she was the person that to all of us who lived up there was sort of a linchpin. Everyone went to her to talk — Anybody in trouble — coffee at Dottie's. Joe was always bringing people home and she was, was sort of a home for people who were re-visiting from foreign countries and so on. It was a place where they were always welcome. She was just basically a very kind person. And I remember at one point she attempted this was while I was away, to have a committee of women organize some sort of way for people who were coming in from foreign countries with their husbands for sabbaticals and so on to be, acclimated. I moved into this too, but Dottie really tried very hard. How do you get around in New York? How do you live around Lamont? It wasn't obvious if you're coming in from Japan or coming in from Argentina. Where do you live? Who do you have for a doctor? Where do your children go to school? All these, these practical things that so many people faced coming to Lamont, which is not in a comfortable little community, where it would be obvious. It's way off on the top of a mountain. And she really worked hard to try to do this. But somehow or other, it didn't quite gel because it really ended up you have to almost do it with individuals. And I know you can spend a lot of time telling people the simplest things about to live in a foreign country and what to do with your children and this sort of thing. Dottie did a lot of this. I did some of it too. But I don't know who takes care of that now, at Lamont, because I think all of that is gone. I remember when we were leaving; I wondered who would take our house. And there was one family that was the Simpsons. Do you know Jim Simpson? Somebody else you should talk to. He and his wife were simply marvelous. And just the kind of outgoing warmth and sensitivity to people's needs and so on that was needed up there. That we'd all tried to provide. And I realized that all that was going. The Worzel house, the Press house was now transient. We were the only ones there and Manik's. It was not certainly at Manik's house. And I thought there has got to be somebody left up there that people could come to the way they had been coming to Dottie and me for all those years. I thought the Simpsons would be perfect, and they would have been. In fact, they had lived in our house while we were on sabbatical or something of the sort. Well anyway they were familiar with it. And so I went to Finck and said, you know, I think I've got the perfect suggestion. I think the Simpsons should have our house. He said, there's no need to have permanent people up here. Absolute. What do you think Dottie and I have been doing all these years? And he said “there's no need for that sort of thing.” He said, “I don't know what you've been doing, but those houses are needed for our people who come, transient, come for a year or something like that.” And I, it was just like somebody had poured ice water on us. And I thought nobody has really known what had gone on. It had been almost a half time job to take care of all these situations that were always on the campus. And I imagine there's none of that now. I don't know what people do who come from foreign places and so on, and bring their families. Is there no one?
Levin:They probably get some advice from Columbia University proper. I mean, probably they have an office for foreign students to come to.
Nafe:But, no this is specifically Lamont's problem because so many of them come to Lamont, not to Columbia. They come to Lamont. And those are the ones. For instance, when Jack had invited old Sir Harold Jeffreys to come over from Cambridge for six months, Columbia promptly set him up with one of those nice apartments in the city on the campus, Butler Hall. He was appalled because he didn't want to be there, he wanted to be at Lamont. So he kept coming out on the bus, this old fellow. And finally he just wound up staying with us. He kept the apartment but he stayed with us — Columbia doesn't figure in this. This is Lamont's problem. And I'm not sure anybody's taking care of it. Probably somebody is; The Mia Leos of this world or something. I'm surprised you don't know Mia Leo.
Levin:Mia Leo, no.
Nafe:She and Carol Mountain, do you know her? She was sort of the heart of this place for a while. I'm sure she's still there. You ought to make a point of going to Mia Leo. She's in that, what do they call it, the geophysics building or the —?
Nafe:Geosciences. Carol Mountain is in that too. Her husband, Greg Mountain works at Lamont. He's a scientist, very good one.
Levin:Is there anything else that you feel that we need to cover?
Nafe:I'm sure there’s a lot but I can't think of it offhand. The Palisades School, too bad that that folded. But then, of course, there aren't any children at Lamont to go down there anymore. Lamont was a marvelous place for children. They all had dogs and cats, ice skating on the pond, woods to explore. Great. Chuck Drake and his wife were very much for a few years part of that. They were delights.
Nafe:Unless there are certain personalities up there that you wondered about. But again, so many of them were there. Is Dave Ericson still alive?
Levin:I don't know if he's alive, but he's not there anymore.
Nafe:He was, there for a period you know, there was Dave Ericson, and —
Levin:[Goesta] Wollin? You remember him and Heezen? They were a trio.
Nafe:Yes. Heezen and Marie did some marvelous work with those maps. Heezen was also a marvelous cook. He had rented a house down in Sparkhill right on the water. Is Sparkhill what I mean —?
Nafe:Not Nyack, on your way to Nyack.
Nafe:Piermont. It was in Piermont. He had a house right on the water that was really very well organized. He invited us for dinner and I was amazed at what a gourmet cook he was. He was an interesting man. And I remember the night Marie Tharp's apartment burned down to the ground in Nyack. He went up and rescued her. I suppose you talked to Marie?
Nafe:They were a marvelous team. John Hennion and his wife were very much a part of everything. They lived up in Nyack. Then that horrible death — that was so unnecessary.
Levin:What about Roels? Did you know Oswald Roels or Bob Menzies?
Nafe:Menzies. Roels. Their names I know, but I didn't know them particularly.
Levin:Okay. Well I'd like to thank you for this session that we've had today.
Nafe:Well, have you turned the thing off now?
Levin:I can right now.
Three visitors to Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in the mid-fifties as remembered by Sally Nafe:
There was Dr. Vening-Meinesz from Holland, of imposing height and presence. He sat by our fireplace showing us snapshots. I admired their quality, asked about his camera. He replied, "I use a most remarkable American camera, the Brownie." That, of course, was the simplest of boxes, usually given to youngsters.
There was Dr. Uyeda from Japan. He startled us by going straight from the front door to a very old Japanese print on our wall, asked what is that doing in the United States and seemed upset too many Japanese treasures were spilling out into other countries. At lunch Jack asked him about Japan's population. He replied several million. Five-year-old Kate asked, "Does that include you?" Uyeda, I believe, was responsible for planning the education of the Crown Prince, now the Emperor. There also was Dr. Kuiper, the astronomer. I think there is an observatory named for him. At supper Kate was fascinated by the discussion of his moon research. A moon is a piece of science a small child can cope with. After she was put to bed, we heard her call upstairs, "Mr. Moon Man." Kuiper obligingly went up, sat by her bed for a long time, telling her more about the moon. Days later she received in the mail a roll of his work, the earliest clear photos of the moon's surface.