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In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:
Interview of John and Betty Ewing by Ronald Doel on 1997 June 30,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.
Topics include a discussion about the Ewing family and John's brother, Maurice Ewing; the development of underwater photography; his education at Harvard and Maurice's influence on his studies; the research vessels at Lamont and his experiences aboard them; trips to the Soviet Union and the Soviet earth scientists who came to Lamont, the development of the air gun, the Mohole drilling project; the Industrial Associates program at Lamont and its impact on funding; the relationships between Woods Hole, Scripps Institute and Lamont; Maurice Ewing's arguments against plate tectonics; Maurice's departure from Lamont to the University of Texas; deep sea drilling. Prominently mentioned are: Vladimir Belousov, Francis Birch, Bruce Heezen, Karl Hinz, Columbus Iselin, Xavier LePichon, Angelo Ludas, Frank Press, Manik Talwani, Gleb Udintsev, Joe Worzel.
This is Ron Doel and this is a third continuing segment of an interview with John and Betty Ewing. And today is the thirtieth of June, 1997. We’re recording in Falmouth, Massachusetts. We’re up to the point practically in our discussions to the time that Maurice retired from Lamont. Although one of the things we didn’t get a chance to talk about was your department at Lamont. At what point did it really seem to be your department? What point were you in fact in charge?
Well, it wasn’t really a — It was an ad hoc thing. They, I had this feeling that they operated pretty well. And of course there was the disruption when Maurice moved down to the west, to the coast. But I think that you mentioned Xavier.
Yes. Xavier LePichon.
Well he was just, he was just a person who had come every so often, spent a few times.
He spent, what — a couple years. Something like that.
What were your impressions of him when he arrived?
Well, he was a decent enough guy. He was a little bit picky, like all Frenchmen are. Except my Citroen. And he was, he’s a bright guy. And as I understand, when he finally moved over back to France, he got himself in a very good position. I don’t know exactly what position he has there, but I think it’s a fairly good position. Do you know more about him than that?
It’s certainly my impression as well.
Right. In the geophysics line.
How many people were considered part of that section at Lamont?
Well it depends on how you, how you count them. A lot them are mixed up with the shop people. We exchanged people with other, with other departments when we needed them. And they didn’t. And I don’t know, I suppose running average would be about ten or something like that.
Do I recall correctly that Karl Hinz was also in your section during the time that he visited or was he in a separate?
Well Karl was a, he wasn’t really with anybody that I could see. He was just looking around and finding out what we were doing there. And he took up, took up from there and moved over to Germany and started doing similar things. And he moved on very well. And Karl was a very good, solid geophysicist.
Indeed. He is still alive. Do you recall much interaction with him once he had returned to Germany? Was there much collaboration between?
Not very much. Except on occasion when I went over there with the DSDP [Deep Sea Drilling Project] or something like that.
Or he would visit Lamont periodically. He would always stop by. You know, if he was in the States, if he couldn’t come, he would always call.
He remained very friendly. And I think to me he was just very grateful for what he learned. Cause at that point, John’s group were pretty much the leading show. Right?
Yes I think so.
Yes. I mean, I’m not bragging. It’s a fact. And Karl was just very grateful. John was always, I thought, extremely generous to visitors. Whatever I could do to help you. Lamont always had a very international attitude about work. I mean, Maurice was always pleased. If anybody wanted to learn something, by all means come. We’ll find you a cubby hole someplace. And Karl was one of those people. And Xavier was too pretty much.
Yes. Several other people [cross talk], several of which I don’t remember. But there was always, almost always, a visitor or two in residence.
That’s very interesting that your impressions that it was the most vibrant and active, leading group of the Lamont divisions.
At the time.
What do you feel was it that made that so?
Might be. I don’t know. Just was the kind of people we had there worked well together. There wasn’t much, no, there was no dispute against other than, you know, some people looked at the world some way and another one, and another one looked at the other way. But we always had a similar feeling about things. Even the people that came from the West Coast, and visited us were kind and –-
Betty, you’re chuckling at the —
Well, you know, the old Scripps [Oceanographic Institution] versus the rest of the world attitude. But they were, and John had a lot of visitors from the West Coast.
Who particularly comes to mind from, say from Scripps?
Well. Well, John always had a very strong feeling about Russ Raitt. And they were very good friends.
But Russ didn’t move very fast.
No, but he, you know, they were very comfortable with each other.
And, what was —?
Yes, Bill. I got along well with Bill. And he was a little scratchy in places. But he was a nice guy. And he did his work well. And when he, when he got out of the directorship, he —
— still hung on and kept doing things, keeping things moving. He was a good guy. He was a little feared, a little weird in some places, but who isn’t?
Also a very interesting man. And he was interested in everybody, I felt. Didn’t you?
And of course Maurice and George Woolard and John were all very friendly with each other. There was, you know, much interchange of ideas. In those days of children, you know, who’s going to visit whom for the summer. There was a lot of that. They were very close.
George Woolard, of course, goes out and becomes director. Did you visit him in Hawaii when he was serving as director?
Oh yes. Sure. I knew him very well. He tried to, when he retired, he tried to make me the director there.
That’s interesting. How did you feel about that?
Well, it would have been interesting in a way. But I was quite happy here.
This, of course, is the 1980s?
No, this is still at Lamont. We were still at Lamont.
You were still at Lamont? Interesting. Betty and
What, clearly it was a smaller operation in many ways than Lamont’s, but how did the operation at Hawaii compare to Lamont?
Well, they took their leads, I’ve got to say it, by our system. Because it was the one that worked best. And George Sutton was a major person in it. And he had grown up through the system and had gotten very.
Indeed. He served as associate director of.
When you, I’m curious when you say the system, what sort of things does that encompass? Is it more than simply the techniques and the kinds of instrumentation developed at Lamont?
That’s essentially what it amounts to, I think. We borrowed technology from other people. It didn’t all go in the same direction. I don’t know what the system is. It’s just a bunch of people that tuned in to work together well.
Personality plays a role in it as well.
When you look back particularly on that time, what achievements were you proudest of? What was, what do you feel was the greatest accomplishment that you did?
Well, I think it was probably the seismic profiling.
Indeed that was a central part of the, defining part of the department.
I was curious when you mentioned earlier that people within the department, some would look at the world in one way and another. Were you thinking particularly of the emerging debate over plate tectonics, or did you have something else in mind?
I didn’t ever get into that until it blossomed out. One of the critical arguments I had with Maurice. He would not tolerate the new system, what is it?
Plate tectonics, intellectual framework.
And I was really disturbed about that. Because I believed that it probably was right. And we still wrote papers together. But he wouldn’t ever put his name on a paper with — awful stigma on it.
That’s very interesting. So this is after 1968, particularly he wouldn’t sign on articles with you.
And you feel it was because of the —?
Oh, it wasn’t so much that we wrote papers together, but he would always take out, manage to take out the —
Any reference to.
— Any reference to plate tectonics. And it wasn’t very good.
And how long did this continue after that big transition in 1968 when much of the community did come to accept plate tectonics?
He just went on about his business and ignored it. When he went down to Texas, I don’t think it was ever mentioned there either.
Why do you feel that was the case with Maurice? Do you have a sense of what factors caused him to steer so hard against plate tectonics?
I just don’t know.
Do you recall any discussions with him particularly about that?
Oh a lot of them.
I know that you and he would often talk late into the night.
Yes, we had a lot of arguments about.
What sort of points were you raising and what did he raise about it?
Well, we had evidence, pretty good evidence by that time that the earth was moving around. And had been moving for a long time probably and so forth. And.
You had, including evidence from other parts of Lamont, the magnetics.
From other parts. Yes, particularly from the magnetics. And the guys in magnetics ignored his.
And he just went on with physics. He thought that everything would still reside in physics, and his brand of physics, and nothing really happened. It did.
And many people have argued that one of the reasons that Maurice didn’t accept plate tectonics was in part the evidence coming out of the cores and the seismic profiling, suggesting that the sediment simply could not have lain, seemed to have been undisturbed for too long a period of time. As an argument against plate tectonics.
You recall that as being one of the arguments that he had raised.
Yes. We, by the time this came up, we had made several passes across the mid-Atlantic ridges. And it was pretty clear that that stuff couldn’t have been sitting there for thousands of years. It was new stuff. And then it was not long that we started getting — I can’t.
No. Well, cores was always one of the things. And you know to make a point on this. I remember the, one of the times that I was doing, I was working on the mid-Atlantic ridge. And Maurice told me to get every core I could possibly get. And look at it very carefully, and let me know what it said.
And you did.
I did. And, you know, a lot of the things we were getting were bare rocks. And broke up the core packs and so forth. But that didn’t change him.
Very interesting. What I was curious about particularly was your recollection that he was successful in writing out references to continental drift or plate tectonics in the papers that were being written.
Well, I think he did that to me mostly. Because he didn’t make those kinds of papers any more until he got down to Austin, to Texas. And there they were not faced with the rock problem. A lot of mud down there.
They had lots of mud. Yes.
Yes. And so he just — they just feasted on that. And they got some damn good data.
Indeed. I imagine that must have put you in a very difficult situation when you wanted to publish.
Oh it did. Yes, it did. And it was very not — wasn’t good, when — the last time I left him.
How do you mean?
Well, he wanted me to, still wanted me to come down to Dallas, I mean to Austin. And I just couldn’t do it. And we had quite a lot of grief about that.
I imagine. I can imagine that was not an easy situation.
And it was not long after that that he caught a, he died.
I want to get to that in just a moment, the entire transition and his decision to go to Texas. I’m — just to stay for a moment with the question of publications. I imagine at that, you probably felt at least at one point, that you might have. Was there a chance of succeeding with trying to get Maurice to allow you to say that? Why did he, why was it so?
Well, I just knew that if I wrote a paper with anybody, with — what is it?
With plate tectonics in it, he would ignore it.
So that it would be at the risk of him simply not paying attention to any other points that you’re making, or you and the group were making, if it included the tectonics framework.
Pretty much so.
I can see how that was a very difficult.
What did others at Lamont feel about that? They were aware, weren’t they, of the?
I’m sure they were. Well, Doc didn’t interfere in the magnetics and gravity work and so forth.
He let them continue right on. He didn’t try to stifle them in any way.
But it was particularly in John’s group that this pressure was applied?
I don’t know in John’s group. Particularly maybe with John.
Yes. I don’t know. It’s hard to say. As John said, he didn’t interfere with their workings at all. It’s just that he privately wouldn’t accept it. Which I guess was his prerogative. And John wasn’t about to. If he felt that strongly about it, John would just as soon ignore it than to — what, make some kind of public declaration that you think your brother’s stupid. You know, you don’t do things like that. Live with it.
Were things difficult, though, in your relations with members in other departments or within?
No. Of course, I didn’t preach the gospel.
Yes. I’m just curious in formal discussions — say in the, at Lamont or over lunch or dinner — was it clear to others like LePichon and or even Denny Hayes, Joe Worzel, that you had come to accept plate tectonics?
Well, Joe would not, would not at all interfere in that at all. He would step right in Maurice’s feet, footsteps. The other people would chat with me just as they would with anybody else.
It never became a cause celeb.
No. I just decided that there wasn’t going to be any argument about it. And did most of the geophysics stuff of a kind that could —
— Help either side.
So it did come to affect the kinds of research questions that you were doing between ‘68 and ‘72?
Yes. No question about that. But, you know, there was a fairly long period when it didn’t interfere in this.
No, indeed. Indeed. How early on had you begun to hear of the possibility that Maurice would link with Texas, with the Galveston operation?
Well, I don’t really want to get into this too much. He had — he ran out of tenure. He did, tried some squirrely things to keep himself in the saddle. Such as having his wife move into the seat and all sorts of other.
Or Joe Worzel.
Or Joe Worzel. But Joe wouldn’t have done it.
You mean at Lamont, wanting to keep.
Well, I think he just didn’t want to be emeritus, emeritus scientist. I think he.
Well, I think that the people in Columbia must have had a pretty strong voice in this. Because they must have known that things were not going to continue as it was. And they wanted them to get into the whole bit.
Was that something that Maurice readily talked about? What was happening at Columbia, his relationships?
Not very much. No, actually, I didn’t get very much. In fact, Betty might have gotten more than I did.
He used to come down and talk to me when there was nobody else to. I think he felt, I’m 65 years old, I’m not ready to quit. I think he had visions of himself with his little cubby hole at Lamont and the world going on around him, and he was just supposed to sit there like a dummy. And I think that really was what it was all about. He didn’t like that role. I don’t think he cared so much about being director anymore, because it already had become completely out of bounds. The directors of today wouldn’t even try to do the things he did. Go to sea, run the whole show, know everybody, you know. So that part, but I think that the way the science would go, and whatever, that concerned him. And I think he thought I’ll just sit here, and people will come in and they’ll push papers around, and we’ll have all this bureaucracy. And he didn’t want it. And, of course, in the meantime, Texas was dangling this very attractive carrot. Come and start your own lab. Do what you want to do. And I think that looked so much more appealing, with a small group of people. Again, back to basics. You know, a nice little group that he can work with and enjoy. I think that’s what it was all about in the end.
At the last minute, at Lamont, when he had to make a decision, he called me over and we had a very bad talk. And I just told him I couldn’t do it. Wouldn’t do it. He still invited us to come down and visit anytime we wanted to.
That must have been very painful.
Yes, it was.
And he could call me and say, there’s a lovely house across the street, you know, that’s for sale. Come and live there. And I just had bad vibes about it. I was one of the main, principal —
Well, he, I was just about to say. He was a — he leaned on people very much. And he leaned a lot on Betty. Even maybe more than he did on me. I don’t think he argued with you about plate tectonics.
No. No. No.
Like he did with you.
I’m also curious if he also talked to you about, say the Bruce Heezen matter?
Oh yes. Oh yes. We talked about that a lot. And Bruce did some very, very.
Bruce didn’t like plate tectonics either.
But that didn’t make them allies particularly. Well, Bruce — let’s face it, he was very, Bruce worked very hard and Maurice was very proud of him. And aided and encouraged him, and then Bruce kind of went over the top, as people do, you know, got a little carried away with himself. And he became, and I don’t mean this unkindly, but he became abusive, didn’t he. He was abusive to his help, abusive to other people — I need that slide right now, you know. I’ll just take it. When will you bring it back? I need it. You know, that kind of attitude. That gets old. You know, and so, people kind of got up to here with Bruce. And I don’t think he even realized it.
Is that right?
Oh, I made a lot of efforts to clear the —
— Air, yes.
I’m sure you did.
We had Bruce to the house so many times. C’mon Bruce, let’s settle it all. And.
Bruce and I were pretty good buddies for a long time. It gradually came apart.
Your relation with him as well?
Yes. We still had some relation, but not like the — well, Bruce did a very good big —
Oh, I know he did.
Favor to the whole world.
You know, no question about it.
He mapped the world in a pretty damn good way.
How did Marie Tharp fit into this matter?
Marie was a peach. She did most of the work.
She did what she was told. And she did it very well. She was a good —
She was a very, very loyal worker. Worked hard for Bruce. He wouldn’t have got that done without Marie at all.
Bright woman, hard working.
How did people feel when Marie was no longer at the lab, by the late 1960s, because of the, indeed, because of the controversy?
Oh, people would talk to her and call her. And, you know, how’s Marie? And she’d call every once in a while, have a nice long talk. She just, she just did what Bruce expected of her. And the tragedy was that they were very close friends.
But I don’t know whether she was — she was having fun doing the maps. She loved doing the maps.
But I do think she missed having a regular contact with people at Lamont.
How did that decision get made to work at home? Was it Bruce’s or did it come from elsewhere?
Oh, I think it was Bruce’s.
Yes, I think it was.
And Maurice wouldn’t interfere with something like that.
Did most of the work in Marie’s —
Like writing The Face of the Deep for instance.
There were big tables spread out all over the place, with maps. I mean it was. I remember saying, Marie, it’s a good thing you bought a big old house, because you could never do this otherwise. She laughed.
You’re referring to the one that’s at the end of Washington Road, down by the Hudson?
Washington Road, no, she was in Nyack. Is she still there?
In South Nyack.
Yes, she’s still there. Yes, that’s it. Have you talked to Marie?
How is she doing? Okay?
Great. I’m glad to hear that.
Just saw her on the Saturday last. One thing that I’m curious about too. As the maps developed, do you remember discussions about the maps themselves? How people felt about these kinds of physiographic maps and the kind of extrapolation that was certainly necessary, given the kinds of data available at the time?
And those were very good things to have. Everybody, if you didn’t look at them, you were crazy. Because they did a good job of it when they did — I’m sure they’re pretty well superseded now, with the —
With the SEASAT data that’s come in since then.
Well, in those early days of those map making. They were really good stuff. Because Bruce went everywhere he could find maps, and tracks and so forth. And put it all together. It was a huge effort. He did that, he worked on that for ten, fifteen years I guess.
Indeed. And at a time at which the kind of computers available today just weren’t available. So that compiling these data was a considerable undertaking.
Oh yes. Marie was the computer.
She was the one that did it, yes. And she was very painstaking in her work, which, of course, makes all the difference in the world.
So that aided the reception of the map then it seems. That her reputation for accuracy was as strong as it was. John and
That’s interesting. Do you think in looking back, that that whole controversy with Heezen began to affect Lamont as an institution or the kind of work that was getting done there? Did it affect the way that it did things?
I don’t think so. I think it was just one of those little blips that come along.
Yes. In other words, that it really didn’t affect the institution broadly as much as the conflicts existed?
No. No. An occasional little blow up by Bruce and then that was gone, and then everybody would go back to work. No, I don’t think it was a major. I think people often — whether it’s Woods Hole, Scripps or Lamont — people often make too much of idiosyncrasies and personalities that clash. I think I remember Maurice talk about that one night at his house. Somebody had brought up something about Bruce, and he said, I don’t really care. You know, as long as people do their work.
But I can tell you for sure that Doc had every map that, copy of —
Of course he did. He thought a lot of them.
I still have them.
Oh god, yes. We all admire them still.
I still use them.
Well, it never did stop.
No it didn’t stop, but —
It was an ongoing thing.
One of the other matters we haven’t spoken directly about in the mid-1960s, was the marriage between Maurice and Harriet [Greene]. Did he talk to you before he made the decision to?
Yes he did. He twisted my arm and made me stand up for him. And Betty almost threw me out.
I was curious how you both felt about that, since you both knew Maurice so well.
Well, it was a painful time. You know, he had these four children. And we were very fond of their mother, Midge, who was no question about it, an eccentric lady. But a very interesting lady. And I think that’s what attracted Maurice to her. And it was, you know, the whole thing was very painful. And he just called John one day and said he was getting married and he wanted him to stand up for him. And I think John rightly thought, this is my brother. Who am I, you know, to say what my brother do or should not do. But it was difficult, because we still kept close to Midge and the children. And I don’t know, somebody suggested once that Maurice married her because she was his memory anymore. And it’s entirely possible. I don’t know.
How well did you come to know Harriet even before the marriage?
She had become a central presence at Lamont. How did Harriet’s presence at Lamont, particularly in the position that she was within Maurice’s office, how did that change the way that Lamont worked or the relations that people had with Maurice?
I don’t know. Well, I’m sure there was some influence from Harriet. Because like you said, she was already, always around. And Doc tended to —
Count on her, rely on her, you know. Oh Maurice, I can take care of this. Oh Maurice, I can take care of that. Don’t you worry. You know, I’ll handle everything. She was — that was her style. And maybe she did. I don’t know. So I suspect some other employees felt it too, don’t you John?
I would think so.
But nothing was ever really said.
Did it begin to change your relationship with Maurice?
Did Harriet’s increasing role and her marriage to Maurice?
Yes. I think it had quite a big, whatever you do.
It did affect our relationship. Though John and Maurice were still as close as ever. But there was that a little.
It’s never, it’s never the same after something like that gets into the system.
Did you see less of him?
Did I what?
Did you see less of him after their marriage?
Yes, I probably did. He was always calling somebody into his office to talk about something. He was a good talker. And I was one of them. And, of course, got a lot of calls. Joe, he trusted Joe very much. Joe Worzel. And I don’t know. He just, he just worked and helped, not helped, but worked and tried to get the thing to keep on going. That’s really what he did. I think.
By then it was becoming really quite unwieldy, wasn’t it, for one person to handle — Lamont.
Really. He was just overtired all the time. On the road all the time. You know, he just pushed himself.
What were the things that were changing? What made it increasingly unmanageable?
One of the large things, whatever it was, he was losing his grip on the whole thing. And he knew he was going to have to get out of there. And he hated that. And he didn’t want to get out of there.
And it had become, you know, a lot of departments, and government agencies putting pressure. You know, I mean, the reports were ten times as voluminous as they had been twenty years earlier. You know, there were all kinds.
They’re even worse now than they were then.
And then the union business with the ships. You know all that. It was all, you know, a big strain on everyone.
Of course, the Conrad was a U.S. flag ship. And were there attempts to unionize the Verna as well?
There were attempts to unionize the crew of the Verna as well, weren’t there?
I don’t think they ever tried.
They’d not even tried. Interesting.
Not with Henry.
Henry Kohler would have thrown them overboard.
And taken them out for a ride and that would be it.
Indeed. The — you mentioned too the reports. NSF [National Science Foundation] had become an increasingly important patron at that time. I believe you were very active in dealing with industrial patrons. How active did you become in efforts like Industrial Associates?
A lot. Took a lot of patience. I did a lot of the work on that. I can’t tell you which, exactly what I did, or anything like that, because I don’t remember. But I know it was busy.
You had dealing with individuals and many of the major petroleum companies.
Yes. I worked with them and with the, I’m losing my grip. The —
Something about the oil companies.
No, I’m talking about the other side of it.
Yes, the federal thing.
I had an awful lot of grief with them.
What sort of things?
Well, they wanted, I wanted to do something else.
I’m very curious what you’re thinking about when you say that. What you wanted to do versus what NSF wanted.
Well, it just took away a lot of time from me, from doing all the things that NSF wanted us to do and the —
— ONR [Office of Naval Research]?
The ONR and what thing we were just talking about.
Between the three of them, you had no time to think.
I can imagine that took. Was it over fifty percent of your time by the end of the 1960s?
Oh yes. Oh yes. I was doing almost nothing else.
John only worked at night. That was the only time he got to. He would come home and have dinner with the children. He’d go back to work and sometimes he wouldn’t come home until two or three in the morning. That was the only time he could think. It was — So it was losing a lot of its fun.
I imagine that wasn’t easy for both of you at that point.
No it wasn’t.
But, John, you really noticed a change by the late 1960s? Did it not seem fun for you then either?
Late 1960s. Yes, it was losing its fun.
Well, that’s, I guess that was about when ONR and the Industrial Associates really started getting in there. And the NSF started to be a pretty big operational thing.
It was also, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to step on your words.
No. I don’t really have much else to say.
When you mentioned that, I was just thinking. This is also the time of the Mansfield Amendment and the student protests against Columbia and military involvement in science in other areas of the campus.
Didn’t affect Lamont too much, but it was there.
Well, for instance, when we first took the Conrad out. They forbid the rollers.
The tank. Stabilized.
The anti-roller tank.
To keep the ship stable, while floating. Who had forbid?
I can’t remember who forbid it, but we were not — I think it was the NSF. Something was not right about it. So we went without it. We rolled like a god damn tub.
Either that it was the Navy or the Coast Guard or somebody. I don’t know.
Yes, it was some, it was one of those things. It could have been the Coast Guard. Because they had some, some power on what people, how people managed.
I’d sensed from what your saying that you felt it to be increasingly regulated. That one could not do —
That’s right. Well, we eventually got the tank working and it worked pretty well. The Vema never had any such thing, but it was a very solid ship.
It sounds as if your impressions were that the Vema and Conrad were very different kinds of ships, not only given the physical structure but the way in which they were operated.
Yes, they were, well, we gradually got —
Straightened out. Some with the — There were always some people on there that were not —
Non-union. But there were always some — there were some union. But they worked together. They got to working together.
Yes, it all smoothed over. But it took a couple years.
Were there worries at any point whether it would be possible for Lamont to maintain two ships simultaneously?
I know that you did, and indeed successfully, until the Vema was retired in ‘81. How well did you know Captain [Allen] Jorgensen? Was he one of the principal people there?
He was the skipper of the Conrad. And he was a nice guy. He was a very helpful guy. I never had any problem with him.
Did you know him as well as you came to know Henry Kohler?
No. I knew Henry very, very well. I knew him, oh I knew him a lot. Because I, I didn’t put as much sea time in on the Conrad as I did on the Vema.
And also didn’t they have relief captains time and again on the Conrad so that he —
Yes, they did some. But not very much.
Not very much, no.
Jorgensen was pretty much on there all the time once he got his legs.
And by then John was involved also in the deep sea drilling ships, the other. You know, just didn’t have as much time to.
That was one of the other things I was curious about. The development of the deep sea drilling and JOIDES [Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling]. Was that, did that also become a major factor in what you were doing?
Oh yes. Still is. I don’t do anything with it anymore. I opted out of it ten years ago or something like that. But I spent a lot of time on it. A lot of trips to wherever. Everything takes away from what you really want to do.
You really felt that all of these activities were taking away from the science you wanted to do?
Well, you know, the science was getting more complicated. You had to have more things. The deep sea drilling thing. We had no way of rigging up a drilling ship. We had to go through the NSF to get that thing.
I’m curious how — please.
I was curious how important you felt the deep sea drilling efforts were for Lamont at that time?
Oh, I think it was very important. Because we learned an awful lot now. Never learn it all. But you got out on a ordinary ship and bang away and do things like that, you don’t know for sure what you did. You really have to go out in a drilling ship and drill a hole, and look at the stuff that you drilled through, and this will tell you what’s down there. And we’ve now drilled enough holes in the bottom of the ocean, that we have a pretty good idea of what’s what. But, you know, like all scientists and other people, they want to drill deeper and deeper.
That harkens back to the original proposal for the Mohole project.
That’s right. But we’ve learned a hell of a lot from drilling.
How easy was it to maintain good relations between Lamont and the other entities, other institutions, that were part of the deep sea drilling consortium?
Oh, we sort of gathered them all into one big happy family. And everybody goes from wherever. No, there was no big problem. We had a system that worked.
And again, the system being both scientific and in terms of the organization.
And scientists and different labs. We had to have people that ran that to make sure that one group didn’t take it all. And they, there must be three hundred proposals laying around somewhere over there right now. And they might get, some of them might get their hole drilled fifteen years from now.
Right. The program has certainly grown enormously. When you were initially involved in it, who else were you working with particularly closely in the deep sea drilling?
He [?] was the coordinator sort of, yes?
And he — Scripps ran it for about five to ten years or something like that. And then Lamont took it over and ran it for four or five years. And it’s now four or five years down in Texas. And they deal with all of the problems that come up, and a huge amount of — When I was — I made two trips on it and that was all I needed.
Was this on the Glomar?
It was on the first driller.
Yes, I think it was the Glomar Challenger.
We were talking a moment ago about the difficult transformation of Lamont when Maurice announced that he would go to Texas. There was a meeting called at Lamont, where he made the public announcement in Lamont Hall. Of course, you had discussed this with him? Or I should ask, you knew about his decision to go before?
Yes, I knew what was happening.
How many other people knew at that time do you think before?
Oh, I suppose quite a few people knew by then.
The word goes pretty fast.
I can imagine that affected morale within Lamont, that kind of uncertainty.
Oh yes it did.
Realizing how extraordinarily difficult a personal issue that must have been to say, no, that you weren’t going down to Texas, was there much doubt in your mind as to whether you might be able to accept the offer? Was that already very clear?
No. This young lady here was pushed off to that.
I was very, very fond of Maurice. I personally felt that he was too old to be starting that. I really felt, you know, that this is — I mean, he had all the enthusiasm of the world. Right? But he was not a child. He had high blood pressure.
That was already pretty well known.
Yes. Yes. And I didn’t want John to have to deal with Harriet anymore. Simple as that. I felt rather strongly about that. I — it sounds terrible, and maybe the woman was just marvelous. I don’t know. And I just knew it was just going to be more of the same. More, you know. And I knew Maurice would count heavily on John to do all of the things that nobody else would do. Which is okay. But I had felt we had reached a point where it was a little late for that. We were getting a little older too.
And then Joe took after when [?] Creighton had a stroke. Joe took it over for a while. But he didn’t take it very long.
So that’s when Art [?] went down, wasn’t it?
Yes. Or a little later.
When did they want you to come down, before Art took it, right? Yes. It was before Art took it, yes.
Thinking about Texas reminds me of the role that Cecil Greene in financing developments down there. Had you known him earlier, prior?
Yes. I didn’t know him really closely. I knew him.
Did he talk about Lamont, what he felt about Lamont as an institution and its work?
Gee, I don’t know.
Cecil? I think he was pretty impressed. That’s why he wanted Maurice down there.
Arid yet, he, in his various philanthropic gifts, he didn’t include Lamont. Although some of the funds did go to other institutions. I was just curious if you had a feeling of why.
Well, of course, he was what — an MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] guy himself.
I don’t know. He just felt rather strongly about building up that lab down there. I never really knew what. Maybe Maurice never asked him for any money. You know, you never know.
Did Maurice talk — you were at the meeting I’m sure when the announcement was made that —
When Maurice announced that he was going to Texas.
What were your impressions of that meeting? What do you recall from how people reacted?
I really don’t know.
I just remember John saying he left the meeting and went right back to his office. He didn’t want to get into a chit chat with anybody. And I believe Maurice just left the meeting too, didn’t he? He made his announcement and then went back into his office. He did not — you know, let everybody digest it. Chew it around and work it over and whatever. And then, of course, then it started who’s going to be the next director. And those rumors were even more ridiculous.
Do you remember who was considered as candidates once it was clear that Maurice was going to be leaving?
I don’t think so. I don’t think they went along with me. I think Manik was the proper choice. Something like Manik, two or three other people.
People within Lamont do you mean?
Do you remember whether there was much debate or discussion about appointing Manik about the acting director? How that, as you say, you weren’t on the search committee. I’m curious of your impressions of how that came about.
Manik and Walter Pitman and a couple of other guys came to my office after I came from there. And asked me what I wanted to do. And I said, I just wanted to keep going. And they were happy with that. And we left it there. I didn’t want any part of it.
You weren’t interested in, as you say, in the director yourself.
How well did you know Manik at that point?
Oh, I knew him very well.
Do you think it was a difficult decision for Manik to move into administration in that way?
I don’t think it was difficult for him. Because I think he wanted it. And I think he was happy when he got it. And I think he was really depressed when he got thrown out. But I, and I made as good a show as I could with Manik at that time. Told him I would do whatever I could do to help him, help him make it and get something else.
In 1981 when he was fired.
Well of course, when we left, it was starting — his position was starting to erode before that, I think, don’t you. I don’t know why or how, but we had gone. And I think that — I always personally felt that Manik was extremely bright and wanted the position very much. And unfortunately I think he thought he could run it the way Maurice did. And Maurice wasn’t running it well at the end because it was too much. And Manik was having exactly the same trouble. Don’t you think John?
So that he was spreading himself too thin. Wally Broecker had become a central figure.
Yes, and I think Wally wanted a different director. And I don’t think it — It was nothing personal. He liked Manik. But he wanted a director that paid a little more attention to —
— to chemistry. And I think some of the other groups felt the same way. So. It was not an easy. And I have sympathy for everybody. I mean, there was nobody at fault. It just — those things happen.
But you were no longer at Lamont at the time, if I recall correctly, when Manik was asked to leave.
Right. No. We were not.
Were there other reasons besides the factors that you mentioned just now? The, Manik’s style in leadership and the nature of Lamont that lead to the problem?
I don’t know of any others. There may have been. John never encouraged Lamont people that we would see — he never encouraged them to, you know, what’s Manik done wrong. You know, we just didn’t take that role at all. So if there were other problems, I don’t know of them. Those were the main ones I heard about. That there were too many employees who felt that he was spending all his efforts on the seismic work and ignoring.
Yes. He did that exactly.
Yes, the other departments. And when you’ve got a multi-purpose group like that, you’ve got to keep your nose in everywhere.
That’s interesting. That’s very interesting. Walter Pitman was one of the ones who lead the charge as I recall.
He lead the charge to get Manik and he lead the charge.
To get him out.
Do you have a sense of who Walter Pitman and others would think of as a more ideal director at that point?
I don’t think they had any in mind. I think they hoped. You know, wherever you get a new director — here at Woods Hole, I don’t care where you are — everybody had these grandiose ideas and then you’re stuck with a human being. And as somebody said, I guess when the, I’ve forgotten whether it was when Craig Dorman came here, “Well, do you like him.” And John said, “That’s not the point.” The point is, is he going to be a good director. You know, forget this nonsense. Being a director doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on the popularity pole all the time. So that was the problem for poor Manik, right?
Well, when Walter kicked Manik out, that’s when he went over and set up —
— Manik went over to Blue Hill. I don’t know if you know about that or not?
No. I haven’t heard.
Branch of Gulf. It was a research branch. And they set it up in Pearl River, New York.
And this was set up for Manik do you say, or had it already been running?
No, it had been set up for Manik. He just said he had people that could work, that were not happy at Lamont, and other people at Gulf, and he didn’t want to move. Well, he did go. He went down to [cross talk]
He went down.
But a lot of the other people didn’t. And so, and at that point they were going to close Harmarville [Pennsylvania] Gulf, and so Manik said “Well, why couldn’t we do our research here just as well as in Houston”, and they said fine. So that’s how Blue Hill got set up. And they did a lot of work there.
And some pretty good people went with Manik, including me. And there was Charlie Windisch, there was —
And Lee Alsop.
Lee Alsop and Tom.
Tommy O’Brien. And, oh, the guy is at Dallas now. The guy from Belmont.
Well, anyhow it was a pretty good group of people. But what about a year, a year went by. They were notified that we had to get out of Blue Hill and go down to Houston.
Well that was when [?] McKelvey got dumped, the president of Gulf, and that was when that take-over happened.
It was the president of Gulf. And then, that’s when the take-over came. When T. Boone Pickens was going to take it over, and instead Chevron stepped in and took it over. And that’s when all the — everything changed for Gulf forever.
Yes, that’s right.
When you say changed for Gulf forever?
Well, they closed Harmarville, and they brought in, took in some of the employees. They let go quite a few people like, you know, the guy who ran Harmarville there. Bill, what’s his name, and Driver. You know, a big change. And Manik.
When the word was that we were going to have to move from Blue Hill to Harmarville.
No Houston. It was already straight to Houston.
We were going to go straight to Houston. There was no in-between.
Okay. That’s when I balked and came back to WHOI [Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution].
And then Manik left and got a position at Rice. And his position in geophysics in Houston, the research center. And Paul Stoffa went to UT [University of Texas].
Yes. And Charlie [Windisch] went to UT.
And the other guy went down to — I can’t remember his name — went down to Galveston. Doug McGowan, Doug McGowan.
I guess so. But then we’ve left out —
Well, more than that.
Somebody at Blue Hill?
Yes. He was at Blue Hill.
Paul and Charlie and you and Manik. I can’t remember.
He’s now. He went out to some part of, some part of Gulf. But I guess Gulf was already discombobulated.
Yes, right. Bob Houtz.
Bob Houtz, yes.
That’s right. Bob Houtz, yes.
He was also involved in — interesting. I’m curious what inspired you to come from Woods Hole to go, to join with Manik when this opportunity came up?
It looked like a really good thing. And it would have been if Gulf hadn’t flopped.
What sort of things would you have been doing, or did you start doing?
Oh we were doing mostly, we would have been doing mostly geophysics. And working with.
Marine geophysics, sea floor.
Marine geophysics and so forth.
Did you have pretty much flexible research opportunities — you expected you’d be able to work on problems that were of interest to you?
I thought we did. Yes. But it didn’t work out that way.
That was the plan.
And while I was still at Blue Hill, our old friend —
Walter Pitman and.
Mark, Mark Langseth.
Mark Langseth. And who is the guy that, the doer at Lamont now?
Denny Hayes was one of them, but then there was one more.
They invited me over to a party, and big talk, and they wanted me to come back to Lamont.
Interesting. How did you feel about that? This is ‘82 now or so.
Yes. It may be a little later. I’ve forgotten. ‘82, ‘83.
Well, I just said, what the hell. I’m tired of it. Betty didn’t want to go back to —
Was the — at least some have called it the coup against Manik — the principal development that needed to be straightened out, or were there other big issues when you look back on it that affected Lamont?
Well, I think there were a lot of issues that had not been addressed. Don’t you? Not necessarily major, but —
What sort of things are you thinking about?
Oh, I think there was a feeling of malaise. I think there wasn’t enough excitement. You know, somebody’s got to generate, “Aren’t we doing great things?” And I think it was just too much of — Everybody just felt — I’m not saying people weren’t doing good work. That old unified feeling was gone. Right? And I don’t know that anybody could ever bring it back. But they kept thinking, somehow we can turn this around. And I just think it — you just can’t. You know, in the old days everybody knew what everybody was working on. Even if you weren’t in that department. You know, Maurice would just casually mention, so and so just did a wonderful paper on something. Everybody knew about it. And I think it just kind of got too big and too sprawly. And Maurice was such a forceful director, it would have been very difficult for anyone to take over. Don’t you think John?
You know, he was so enthusiastic about everyone’s work. Whether it was the machine shop or the electronic shop, he was around. He was an on-hands director. He knew what was going on.
Well, the main shop.
Except with the buildings and grounds, that was his problem.
Buildings and grounds.
The machine shop was getting on hard times.
On hard times, yes, they didn’t have the funding. You see, the block funding had gone. So right away you got a big problem.
Yes. And the timing probably could not have been more difficult in that.
That’s right. There were many factors, and they weren’t all human problems. And it happened to all of the labs. I mean it was not just, it was just that the timing was particularly bad at Lamont. And yet many people still stayed and seemed to be very happy there.
Well, Lamont has lost a lot of people in recent years. In recent, ten years.
I was curious both either in the 1980s or in more recent times, when you mention things like, that were affecting Lamont. Were they also affecting other oceanographic and then some of the research centers to a similar degree, or do you feel that Lamont was particularly affected?
No. I think it’s probably universal. We’ve lost a lot of people out of WHOT in the last year, year and a half. I suspect that a lot of other labs have had to lay off some.
In just the transition from the end of, after the end of the Cold War.
When you mention in the early 1980s, the difficulties when the group asked you to come back to, did you feel that Lamont’s standing among similar institutions had slipped? Or did it still seem to be a full competitor with Woods Hole or Scripps?
Well, I would have had to explore around a lot to know what you just asked.
Yes. I didn’t know if you had a general feeling of it at that point?
No, I didn’t. Because I have, I just have a sneaking feeling that it wasn’t good.
Yes. Very interesting. I’m sure that wasn’t an easy thing either, John.
And it’s better off at WHOI now than it would have been there, I’m pretty sure. May fall apart tomorrow, I don’t know.
Indeed, indeed. I’m thinking too to one question that we haven’t had a chance to address is your decision to come to Woods Hole when you decided to leave Lamont. What factors were important? What made you decide to come back here?
I think I was the main point.
Betty was the main thing. She wanted to get out of Palisades and come back up to New England. Simple as that.
That was one of them. And I felt, hard to put into words. I felt that Manik, and I don’t mean this unkindly, so I hope I make it clear, was leaning too much on John to do, the “dirty work.” Which maybe John let himself in for. Do you understand?
Yes, I do.
But I thought, I somehow think John ought to. And I thought, everybody said, oh, of course, he’ll go to Texas with his brother. Others said, oh, of course, he’ll stay at Lamont. And I thought maybe, of course, John ought to just do something entirely different.
That’s very interesting.
And I just thought it was time.
The combination of John being Maurice’s brother and personality, in terms of having worked to heal these divisions in earlier times.
And I think John worked very hard at that for the time we stayed.
This is the late 1970s that you made the decision to come back up?
I had never longed to retire, to say be retired in New York anyway. I felt it was too expensive for one thing. You know, I mean. And I thought well, why don’t we go now before —
It was an appropriate time to make a move, I think. And these idiots here wanted me back. So, I —
Did they approach you?
Did they approach you, or had they heard that you were interested?
They had approached him, over the years, about every ten years or so. Right?
What was his name? Paul [Fye] or the director would say, you know, John, why don’t you come back to Woods Hole. You know, he was always welcome I have to say. And at the time they needed a new department chairman and —
What were the responsibilities when you came up here? What sort of things did you want to do here at Woods Hole?
Well, the first thing I did was get the flu.
You didn’t intend to.
Pneumonia. Pneumonia I think.
It was pneumonia.
He had been down to a meeting in Miami and then flew right back up, and, you know, he got sick.
And they immediately sent me a notice that I was overdue in my —
— Sick days.
My sick days.
That’s a very interesting perspective on it. When you were at Woods Hole again in the mid-1980s, how did Woods Hole compare to Lamont? What were the things that particularly struck you? In addition, as you say, to the sick leave policy having come so quick.
Well one thing that was going on well, in my book, in those times is John Diebold was put in charge of the multi-channel.
At Lamont, yes.
And I know, I knew John well enough to know that he would do it well. And he’s now, he has now got the, that ship up there.
You’re pointing behind us down to the Ewing.
And he’s been doing wonderful, wonderful stuff with it. And he had been working jointly with Neil —
Neil Driscoll. Which is who is at in our department here at WHOI, and they’re really going to town. They’re making really good stuff in geophysics that we didn’t know how to do before we got these very systems.
Were there things, ideas or ways of doing things, that you had learned and developed at Lamont that you brought to Woods Hole?
Oh, yes, I’m sure there were. Because we — the multi-channel business was a good thing. It worked very well. But John just made it work better. We used to tail, have a streamer hanging out behind the ship, usually pretty long. And that was what used to be a seismic streamer. What John had put together is a set of stream, now what the streamer is here, not very big or very long, it’s now broad.
Quite wide. You probably know that if you’ve been talking to their people. And that gives a totally different view of the, of what we’re trying to get.
Yes. And you feel that was particularly Lamont’s development — John Diebold.
That was. I don’t know, some of the industrial people probably do the same thing. But this is the only one in the, in our —
In the scientific community.
In the scientific community. So they’re sitting in a very good position.
At least there. The geochemistry’s good.
Yes, well sure. I’m just talking about geophysics now.
And I’m working partly with Neil Driscoll, who is in partnership with John Diebold at Lamont. So I’m hoping to get — to keep that going. And well, I won’t get it. I hope it keeps on going so that I can still have some fun in it.
Right. Right. Understood. You —
Have you ever seen the results of these kind of things?
I’ve seen some. But it would be very interesting to see them.
The paper’s right there John because you were on the phone with it earlier.
This is what I’m talking about.
We’re referring right now to a, is this a pre-print now?
This is one line of —
Very interesting. We’re looking at a fold out right now of the results of the seismic profiling.
Well, this is all the result of that broad.
Of using the multi-channel instrument.
Yes. And although you can’t really believe it here, but there’s another — see there’s sort of some wiggles.
There’s a signal that’s somewhat above the background that’s labeled here as the Moho. So that one is getting. [cross talk]
It looks like it’s for real.
That’s very interesting. And this is one of the first times that one’s penetrating.
The resolution is quite extraordinary.
The resolution is extraordinary. So —
And this is as you say in very recent work from ‘96 or ‘97. You were mentioning that now the continued developments at Lamont. Were there particular changes you made when you came up here to WHOT based on your Lamont experiences?
Well, they had already had some experience with that when we got here, but I made it bigger. But it hadn’t, it hadn’t really developed the excitement like we see in here. Because it was a long streamer rather than a broad stream.
Where did John Diebold get the money for that, do you know? I’m just curious.
I was just thinking when you mentioned funding, Betty, was — Did fund raising change at Lamont during Manik Talwani’s administration? Did he find it harder than Maurice to raise general funds for Lamont?
I don’t really know. I don’t know how the — I really don’t know the answer to that.
You were mentioning earlier the changes that came when Maurice did move down to Galveston. One thing I don’t think I asked you, was how often did you get down to see Maurice after he had gone to Texas?
Only a couple times.
But he came up to Lamont quite a bit, one reason or another. Right? Remember he would blow in for a couple of days.
He was still calling on your advice I’m sure. Did he?
I don’t remember. Probably some.
Were you worried about his health at that point?
No. I didn’t realize that he was sick as he was. But, you know, he had a stroke and that’s it.
He didn’t know how to relax.
I mean it was just beyond his ken. He drove himself, you know. And that was — I was worried about that.
He was buried then in the cemetery that overlooks Lamont?
And I understand that Harriet had created a rather elaborate memorial for him.
You mean what, the service? Or the stone?
I was thinking of the stone itself.
The stone. I guess so. I have never been back. I haven’t seen the stone. You haven’t either, have you? We have no desire to go.
I understand. Do you recall anything particularly from the, from that service, that still stands out in your mind?
Not particularly. No. We were all kind of numb. It was, it was just a brief grave side service. And then we all went back to Lamont and had lunch. A lot of Maurice’s old friends were there from all over the country. But it was, you know, a big mob scene. So it was — and John was more concerned about his children. And so we all left and went down to our house and had a cookout that night. You know, that was — They were there, and that’s what we did. But it was certainly a stroke that was unexpected, but I guess most strokes are.
One of the questions I don’t think I had a chance to ask you was, once you came up here to Woods Hole, how often would you get back to Lamont? Were there, it wasn’t too often at that point was it?
No. No. We’d go back periodically because we had our house there. But, no we haven’t been to Lamont for what, ten years at least, or longer? I don’t know if anybody would know us. I remember the last time we did go. We were in Palisades and Barry [C. Baring] Raleigh was the director, remember, and invited us up for dinner. Which I thought was, you know, we didn’t know Barry that well. But he knew we were in town, and invited us up for dinner, which I thought was very thoughtful of him. And so we had to go through the gate. And the guard took down our license plate. And where are you from? Massachusetts. What’s your name? John Ewing. How do you spell it? E W I N G. And the guy said, “What, I never heard of that name before.” We got kind of a chuckle out of it, you know. And he told us where to go so we wouldn’t get lost and so on and so forth.
That must have brought up some feelings that —
Well, I don’t remember. But I just remember telling Frank Press about it. And he said, “Were you upset?” And I said, “No, I’m old enough to realize these things happen. What did this guy know or care.” You know. Not on his watch, you know. Just another car I’ve got to mark down.
Press, of course, had gone to MIT.
Yes, from CalTech [California Institute of Technology], right.
Did you have much contact with him in the intervening years?
Oh, they’d come down to Lamont to visit every once in a while. Right?
Not when he was with the National Academy.
National Academy. Of course, he was here in the summer. So we see them. As I say, we usually try to get together once a summer and usually doesn’t fly because something comes up.
Did you have any contact with the Presses when Frank was serving as Jimmy Carter’s Science Advisor?
Oh just when they were here visiting. You know. No, wait a minute. When was that? No, that was NSF, when he asked you to serve on that committee. Remember?
I’ve forgotten. There was some special committee they had. It was looking at USGS [United States Geological Service] somehow. And he called you and asked you. It was, you know.
I probably said no.
No, you said yes. You felt you owed it to Frank and you also thought it was important. At the time. It was a few years ago. But other than that, you know, no. We would go out of our way to see them if, you know, we were some place and they were here, by all means, let’s say hi. But, no, he’s busy, and we’re busy in our own way.
You mentioned a moment ago this committee he helped. Were there other professional committees that, where you spent a particular amount of time, or had a lot of influence? When you think back, I’m just curious what you think of as the most important of your professional — the AGU [American Geophysical Union] type committees or similar undertakings?
Oh I don’t know.
John avoided committees like the plague.
Well, I couldn’t.
You couldn’t avoid them all.
You couldn’t indeed.
You were on a lot of the deep sea drilling committees.
Those connected with those —
I’m more at ease with being in the field and doing something, rather than talking. I wouldn’t want to.
Sure. I just wanted to give you a chance if you, if there were some things that you were recalling at this point.
Well there were always meetings of some sort. Right?
I’m curious too, if, when you look back, are there any particularly strong commitments and principles either of a scientific nature, or personal, religious that you have feel have been particularly important? I really want to ask that for both of you.
You want to try it, Bet?
Well, for John I can say that he always tried to do his very best work. And felt very strongly that one must not fudge the results. This is what you got. No sense pretending. If it was not important, it wasn’t important. If it was great, swell. And just important just to get along with people because that’s the only way you get any work done. And then, and I think John was always particularly, and probably embarrassing him, I think he was particularly aware of people with big egos. And maybe that’s why he liked them, because there was no clash. John felt very strongly about sharing information. You know, what’s this big deal? This is for everyone, not for.
Well everything we did was public domain. You had no right to seal it off from other people.
Was that a particular issue at Lamont?
No. I don’t think so.
Everything was published.
He made it very easy for me to be a scientist’s wife. Because there was never a meeting or a dinner that he wanted to go to in preference to staying home. He was away a lot. And he never, you know, he never came home and said “Gee I had this for lunch, you know, at some fancy restaurant.” If he did, he kept his mouth shut about it. Very wise, very wise husband. Very wise. So my role. And I was fortunate to know Maurice quite well. And I like to think that in some ways I was helpful to him. He could tell me things he couldn’t tell other people. Didn’t always agree with him, but I liked him. He was very generous to me, wasn’t he John, personally?
Yes. You two became very, very good friends.
Very, very good friends. And that made it, that made it easy for me. And yet at times it was difficult. When somebody would start railing at Maurice, and I’d feel like saying, “Oh you don’t know what you’re talking about. Shut up.” You know, you have to listen.
Right. Diplomacy comes in.
He had his faults, but I was always very happy to be able to say that I thought a great deal of him. He never slipped me any tricks. And for the most part I think he played very fair with his employees. Don’t you?
I think he did.
Yes. He tried very hard. If there were oversight, it was probably because he was just right up to here.
He called a spade a spade.
Oh yes, yes. He could be very disarming. One brief story and then —
I’d like to hear it. Yes.
I guess we were having, it was a party for John’s department, dinner party at the house. Nobody entertained out those days. You didn’t take people to restaurants. That was considered low class.
Well, it is. I still think it is. But anyway. And so one young man came with his wife. Oh — I called Maurice. And always at these things I would say, Maurice, if you and Midge can come down, it would be lovely. But if you can’t — But if you can’t come down I understand, but it would mean a lot. You know, particularly the new employees who really didn’t get to know him. And of course he could be just marvelous at something like that. So he came in, and he hadn’t met this woman before, and they sat down and talked. And they had a wonderful time. And the next day she called me, and she said, “I just want you to know that any time John needs my husband to go to sea, he can have him any time at all. I had no idea how important this was. And I had a wonderful talk with Dr. Ewing last night. And I told him how shy I was. And he told me how shy he was. Well, you know, so anything you want of my husband, he’s all yours.” Maurice could do that very well, couldn’t he. And he always seemed to know which was the one that needed it. And he meant it, though. I mean, he truly meant it. You know, this is the most important thing your husband will ever do in his life — that kind of thing. And it just tickled me.
That’s one of the stories that stayed with you through the years.
Oh yes. That particular night I remember it. But he could be very charming at those parties, couldn’t he?
He could be pretty snotty too.
Yes. But not usually at something like that.
No, I know.
He bent over backwards I felt for the — people like janitors and whatever. He always kept thinking they never really had a chance to, you know, grow into something more exciting. He felt sorry for them that they didn’t have a more interesting time in life. And so he was always very —
Well, I want to thank you very, very much for all that you’ve contributed, both of you —
— to this session and to the preceding sessions. And I should say this on tape. You will be getting the transcripts from all the interviews coming up. And —
That’s, oh god.
Thank you very, very much.
That’s when you say, did I say that, how could I?