About Me

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Riverside County, California, United States
I am a native of Illinois and grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. After dropping out of college, I moved to California in 1973 with my first husband. I married my present husband, Butch, in 1977 and got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me a grandmother 24 times over and a great-grandmother of 13. Three years after I married Butch I returned to school. I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication and was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 to return to school and get my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore and genealogy - and add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play a number of folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I am a Board Certified genealogist and more information on all this, as well as direct contact info, is on my Circlemending website.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Grand Rant

OK, I've been planning this post for a long time, and just delayed it. But it's time (mostly because I have a few minutes).

To begin: there is no such thing as a great-aunt or great-uncle, great-niece or great-nephew. Never has been, not likely ever to be so. This is not like "there is no such thing as Santa Claus" . . . because, well, of course there is! This has to do with basic logic. Some will say semantics. OK, I'll accept the latter; but aren't most arguments born of some semantic issue ("you say NEETHER, I say NI-THER")?

When I was about five or six I figured this out. You see, I have no aunts or uncles and, therefore, no first cousins. Sigh. I have been deprived. (Not really: I have amazing second, third, fourth, etc. cousins who more than make up for the deficit of first ones.) Anyway, I remember the conversation as though it was yesterday (instead of nearly 60 years ago). We were in my bedroom at the cottage, owned by my maternal grandmother.

Grandma - Emma Hollander Johnson

My maternal grandfather had passed away before I was born and my grandmother and her sister (my mother's "maiden aunt" - a nice way of saying "spinster") lived together in Milwaukee (in the aunt's house) and vacationed in the cottage on a lake near Hartland, Wisconsin (in grandma's house). My mother called her aunt "Aunt Mamie." I called her aunt "Aunt Mamie." This was fitting: her name was Mary Eva, but everyone called her Mamie. It worked. (FYI, she was nothing like "Auntie Mame" of Broadway fame . . . ah, would that she had been.) I never cared a great deal for her, but that is irrelevant to this story.

Mary Eva (Mamie) Hollander

OK, so there I was, with little education, but some general understanding of relationships. I knew that Grandma was my mother's mom. So I asked Mom why we both called Grandma's side-kick (I didn't use that word) "Aunt Mamie." I had friends who had aunts (something I knew I didn't have) and those people were called "Aunt So-and-so." I also had friends who called their parents' close friends "Aunt So-and-so" and "Uncle Whatshisname," even though they were not related. Was that the situation with Aunt Mamie? My mother assured me that Aunt Mamie was her bona fide (she didn't use that term) aunt, but that she was my "great-aunt." I was confused.

"Aunt Mamie is Grandma's sister, so she is MY aunt, but your great-aunt." I asked what that made me and she said I was Mamie's "grandniece."

Now, even at that young age I knew something wasn't right. My mother had told me stories of her grandfather, who was my great-grandfather, so I knew that "great-" took it to the next generation back, even if I couldn't explain that with my limited vocabulary. If Mamie was my grandmother's sister, wouldn't that make her my grandaunt?

The simple answer is: YES!

And that Mom said I was Aunt Mamie's grandniece while she was my great-aunt just felt very wrong. But it took a number of years to figure our something my 5- or 6-year-old mind couldn't grasp: Mom was wrong! (The horror of that discovery.) Indeed, I was Aunt Mamie's grandniece, and she was MY grandaunt.

As soon as we let the term "great-aunt" or "great-uncle" enter into our genealogy, we start to confuse the generations. This became exceedingly evident recently when I was doing background research for a television show. One of the producers wanted to use that term and it immediately created a generational misunderstanding for the living relative. It took me some doing (and un-teaching of an incorrect concept) to help them get the terminology accurate. I succeeded (well, I think I did; the show has yet to air, and probably won't, as it appears now). At least THAT person got it (but you know what happens next - she explains the relationship to person #2, who shares it with person #3, who explains it to person #4, who presents it to the target individual and it is anyone's guess what will actually be told. And, for some reason, people don't like the sound of grandaunt. They think great-aunt sounds better. Well, um, that is not what makes relationships.

A friend once told me that, when she was growing up, she was taught that 1st cousin once removed is the same thing as 2nd cousin. Ah . . . NO! Not even slightly. We are talking different generations there. And when people confuse "great" with "grand," we run the risk of losing (or gaining) a generation in that case, too.

So, pardon my GRAND rant, but it needed to be said. NOW I can go on to more important matters (such as "alright" is not a word . . . it's two: all right; same with a lot). Whew. 'Nough said.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

L. Roy Wilcox, PhD - Autobiography, Part 11

E7: 1938-1940

As at Princeton, I waited until I reached Madison to make living arrangements. This time I had a shorter trip from home and I had my car to carry my personal luggage. I learned where North Hall, the mathematics building, was and went there directly to announce my arrival and inquire as to procedures to find off-campus living quarters. By good luck, a Mrs. [Adelaide] Skinner, widow of a late department member, had a room to rent. In short order I went to her house and rented the room (again $15 per week). Here I would be the only roomer, and my room was very large, even equipped with a washstand. There was no shower – only a tub – but I couldn’t expect everything. On [Lathrop] street-parking was OK, but I later found that with 25° to 30° below zero temperatures, a heated garage would be needed. And there was one a block away, which I used each winter.

There were no private offices for faculty. (I had had one since the U of C.) The building was much too small for such a large department. (In fact, this was a gigantic University compared to those that I had known.) Apart from about twelve mathematics faculty members with professional ranks, there were seven instructors, of whom I was one. It turned out that the others – Don Hyers, Dick Kershner, Bernard Friedman, Bob Wagner, Churchill Eisenhart, and someone whose situation was special – were not regarded as slated for ultimately permanent appointments, but that I was. 

Don Hyers, Roy Wilcox, Dick Kershner

The department had no faculty member in the field of geometry and I had been selected to work toward the geometry slot, because of my background in that field. (Accordingly, I was getting $400 more in salary than each of the others.) If a department of 18 members seems small for a big University it should be remembered that there are countless graduate assistants, each teaching one or two elementary courses in small sections. (Often, but not here, such courses are handled through big lectures and “quiz sections.” I later came to realize that the Wisconsin system was by far the better one.)

My teaching assignment was a bit heavy I thought (14 class hours per week in for courses). The first year was uneventful. Teaching went well, due in part to my previous experience; I taught only freshmen and sophomores. Engineering majors too, a different sequence of math courses, and the faculty for them was separate from the main (liberal arts) group, though all were in the same department, headed by Prof. Mark Ingraham, who later became Dean and became very active in American Mathematical Society and organizational affairs.

My closest friends among my fellow instructors were Don Hyers, whose mathematical and musical interests were close to mine, Bob Wagner with whom I played billiards, and Dick Kershner. Dick and I didn’t have much in common during my first year, except that he and his wife Amanda liked to play bridge and sometimes invited me to “fill in.” Bob Wagner left after one year, and our association was short, though we have kept up contacts through the years.

But I felt it too narrowing to limit my contacts to fellow mathematicians. A small taste of faculty club life during my U of C Summers led me to investigate the University club. While this club was designed for, used by, and managed by faculty members, it was run as a private club with no administrative or financial connections with the University. The building was not even on University property, but was adjacent to the campus. I immediately joined, so that I could eat lunch there and use the facilities. Except for Kershner, the other male instructors had a living quarters there. Even had I known of the existence of such quarters I would have preferred the more quiet environment that I had selected.

It was at the club that I learned to play billiards seriously (not pool, but three-ball, straight rail billiards). This activity alone got me contacts, some becoming quite important to me, with non-mathematical people. The man who taught me what I learned (and know even now) about billiards, was Miles Henley, English professor, who was a renowned linguist. He specialized in American dialects and provincial usages; what a find, for one incipient linguist such as I! I spent many hours with him at the billiard table soaking up what I could about language. From here I first learned what “hyper urbanisms” are and the mysteries of “virtual words.” These latter would have given me plenty to do research on, had I carved out a career in linguistics.[1]

There were several things which were unpleasant about Madison. First, it is a city with many hills, and the campus has its share. Parking on campus was impossible unless one was a Dean or a Regent; I couldn’t even wangle a permit out of a M. Wilcox, in charge of campus grounds. So I made a practice of parking near the University Club, except during the cold weather, i.e. most of the winter, when I walked the mile or so to and from the campus, leaving the car in the garage. Also, my abode was across the street from the athletic field, the source of much noise at times. (I had learned at Princeton to try to get out of town on football weekends and of course here I could do the same by spending such weekends in Wilmette.) But there is no denying that Madison was a beautiful city, with three lakes nearby, one right next to the campus. (North Hall was so named because Lake Mendota precluded any building north of that building.).

The year was a smooth one; I had plenty to do, with my teaching, research work, and recreational activities, including tennis principally with Don Hyers, flute duets with Don, evenings with the “gang” at a local pub, etc. As to feminine company I thought that my experiences with the dearth of it during my E4, E5, E6 periods would not be repeated, since a State University would teem with females. The U of W was no exception: hordes of girls covered the campus, and it was said about their climb up the hill toward North Hall, with the statue of Lincoln (seated) at the top, that he would rise whenever a virgin reached the top. But I soon learned of the roadblocks. It was against University policy for (male) faculty members to date undergraduate students. Mathematics had a few female graduate students who were normally sought by the younger (male) graduate students. There were townspeople, a hospital with courses, even a nursing school, but there was no ready way to get acquainted with these people (unless one went to church or joined some local organization). Of my instructor friends only one, Bob Wagner, seemed to make out. Churchill Eisenhart eventually made out by cozying up to a waitress at a local restaurant and then marrying her. Somehow Don Hyers got acquainted with a girl at the nursing school, whom he dated a bit. On one occasion I joined him on a blind double date. But she wasn’t too bright or attractive, and, although I later accepted her invitation to her school dance, I had no interest in furthering the matter.

Occasionally one learns an important principle respecting one’s behavior; after all, one isn’t born wise. My first lesson along this line I learned at the end of my first Madison year. While elementary courses were large, they were taught in grade sections, as already noted. But final examinations were common, held in large rooms, and were designed by those teaching the course. In the second semester I taught such a course and all the remaining were graduate assistants. During the writing of the examination, the other instructors insisted on including a question on a book outside the course syllabus, all of them had covered it, but I had not. My negative vote carried too little weight. So at the examination time I announced that students in my section would not be required to answer that question. Chairman Ingraham learned of this later and called me on the carpet. I argued my case, but he claimed that I should have been more forceful in trying to keep the question off the examination. He was wrong, of course. More than that, the procedure was wrong in two ways: first, examinations should be separate for separate sections, since students should be tested over only the material they were exposed to; secondly, if common exams are given, they should result from a unanimous decision of the group. Here I learned that one must be more creative in going along with existing policy, however stupid it might be. It would take more experience to direct me toward a good personal policy for dealing with such matters. Later items relevant to this should get described in E8 and E9.

The next summer was spent in Wilmette where I worked on my research projects and enjoyed a vacation. There was swimming with Mort Mergentheim in Winnetka, and I was able to play billiards, since the University club had reciprocity compacts with the faculty clubs, and I could get a summer membership at the club at Northwestern University. There I played often with a returned professor who was a good match for me. During this summer the Pontiac developed transmission trouble and so I traded it for a 1936 Chevrolet two-door sedan. Again, price was $365 (less trade in).

My second Madison year was an eventful one indeed, good and not so good. On the first day I met Bob Coe, who was enrolling as a graduate assistant in our department. He had been a theater organist until sound films knocked him out of his profession, had briefly worked for the telephone company, and then decided to get a college education at Carroll College, majoring in mathematics. He was found so capable there upon graduation he was recommended for graduate work at the U of W – Madison. The day I met him, we conversed briefly, and then he told me about his background. I made a comment something like “So you are a tibia roller.” He perked up, knowing that I was no novice regarding the theater organ. This began our close friendship and association lasting until his death in [April] 1982.

Now it happened that Bob had a connection with the firm that owned the Capitol Theater* in town which he knew had a fine organ, which had undoubtedly deteriorated. Through some conniving he got permission to repair the organ and use it for his enjoyment. I was to be his assistant and thus have the opportunity to play on it. So from 8 to 12 AM [unclear if this is really 8 AM – 12 PM or 8 PM – 12 AM; the transcriptionist suspects the latter since the author was not a morning person] twice a week we worked through most of the 1939 – 40 year bringing the organ up to par and having great fun. I learned much from Bob not only about repairing and tuning but also about playing techniques. The manager was opposed to this project (since power use cost him money), but he had been overruled. Now one part couldn’t be repaired there, but had to be taken out. It was a heavy box; and we had sneak it out lest the manager see us “stealing” theater property. So one morning Bob enlisted three of his student friends; we parked by the rear theater door which was open. Luckily the theater was dark: Bob and I went to the balcony where the organ chamber was located, secured the box, tied a long electric cord around it, let it down over the balcony front to the fellows below. They received it and rushed it to my car. We had noted that the manager was there (an unusual event so early), and we knew that if the electric cord broke we would all be in the soup. What luck we had! The repair was made by the time of our next scheduled visit to the theater; we knew that no secrecy was now needed, since the manager wouldn’t object to our bringing something in.

The second important event stemmed from the fact that Don Hyers was no longer dating the nurse, but had become acquainted with a girl in Milwaukee, Wanda Deming, in whom he had become quite interested. One day he asked whether I’d like to join him in a double date: Wanda had a friend, Virginia Johnson, who would be my date. Don and I would drive to Milwaukee (in his car), and plan to stay in a hotel overnight. We could thus see the girls both Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon before returning to Madison. Answer: yes. (As it developed, the answer should have been YES!!)

Virginia’s family was by no means an academic one; in fact her father was …?... though a business man, and a good one. But she had an academic orientation having graduated from Carroll College (my second “contact” with Carroll) and had a Master’s degree in journalism from Marquette University in Milwaukee. I was especially struck by her voice – not deep but very sonorous and distinctive.

I looked forward to possibly more dates with her; if – and this crossed my mind – we were to see each other further, there was the advantage of dissimilarities in our educational and professional backgrounds. Of course there were indeed several double dates thereafter, Don and my cars alternating. I planned to spend the Christmas holidays in Madison, and so I tried to get a date with Virginia for New Year’s Eve. No soap, since she already had one. Oh well. So I spent the evening with Bob Coe and his friends. But the following spring things picked up with even some single dates in Milwaukee. Then it developed that Don and Wanda were to be married in April (1940); he asked me and I agreed to be his “best man.” After the wedding, Virginia and I had another date – an important one, based on some careful consideration by me of the pros and cons of single life. We planned to marry in December.

Throughout the academic year, Dick Kershner and I became better acquainted. Initially he and I didn’t see eye to eye on some basic mathematical ideas.[2] But slowly he was coming around to my position, and by my second Madison year we were very much in harmony; he even proposed that we might take some steps toward dissemination of the “gospel.” Suffice it to say here, we agreed to write a book and started on it the following summer. Because of WWII, we didn’t get to complete it and have it published until 1950. More on this elsewhere.[3] Our affinity led to closer social relations between me and the two Kershners. So when Virginia would come to Madison, for our date or a dance at the University Club, she would stay at the Kershners. So even before our marriage, the Kershners and Wilcoxes became very close friends.

Of course, Virginia met Bob Coe, and they hit it off quite well. On one of the visits to Madison, Bob took us to the Capitol Theater where, by that time, the organ was in superb condition. She and Bob sat in the balcony, and I serenaded her. Since the theater, as usual, was dark, I always suspected that she didn’t listen very much but instead conversed with Bob throughout the “concert.” Oh well; there would be times later when ignoring my playing wasn’t so easy. Clearly Bob was the right guy to play the organ at our wedding, which would be at Virginia’s church in Milwaukee.

Now came the first setback in my career. In April, a new governor was elected in Wisconsin – a “self-made” plumbing goods manufacturer, Julius Heil. Now Heil had no idea what a university was or how one operated. So he sneaked around the campus to find out. When he found that professors were often not in their offices on “working” days, he decided that the university was mismanaged and should have its funds reduced. (He might have asked a few questions and learned that professors are often in libraries or teaching classes, or attending seminars or meetings or working at home; but he didn’t have sense enough for that.) He had no trouble getting the State Legislature (largely ignorant farmers) to vote a 10%, across the board, decrease in the University appropriation. When this news reached our department, there was consternation, since costs had to be reduced. I still don’t know how Chairman Ingraham planned to deal with this disaster; the tenured faculty would be secure of course, except for possible payouts; but we little guys could be dispensed with. In my conference with the Chairman I was told that my job wasn’t in jeopardy, but there could be no promise of the future for me as had been envisaged. After all, no one could know how long Heil would remain as governor or how long it would take to restore proper level of financing the University. (As it turned out, Heil was voted out of office two years later; but it took ten years before the University got back to where it had been, in size, scope, quality, and the level of funding.)

My decision was clear: I would put out the word that I was available. And it was clear to me that, if I had a choice, I would prefer a private rather than public university, because too many uninformed and disinterested people could exercise power over the latter, while the former would be managed by an interested and, one hopes, an informed board of trustees. Our marriage plans remained in place; as a last resort my Madison job would be in hand; after marriage we could get an apartment and live there. The next summer, while I was spending some time at Virginia’s family’s summer home at Beaver Lake, Wisconsin, a phone call came to me from a Dr. Grinter, vice-president of Armour Institute of Technology on the South Side of Chicago (in the process of combining with a liberal arts college to become Illinois Institute of Technology). Would I be interested in considering an assistant professorship at $2400 a year? If so, when could I confer about it with him at the Armour campus? Answer: yes, and as soon as convenient.

I knew little about Armour Institute, except that I had seen from the “L” its “campus” – a few old buildings and a big vacant lot (for athletic events): hardly an impressive-appearing place. But teaching in Chicago would have its advantages, since I already had friends there, including the U of C people. I knew only one faculty member at Armour, a U of C PhD, who was rather kooky. Also, the assistant professor rank was appealing. The interview was a pleasant one; apparently the VP Grinter was satisfied with my background and promise. He turned me over to the President, Henry T. Heald, for an hour’s conference. He also presented his long-range program to me: expansion of IIT into a true University, enlargement of the 7.5 acre “campus,” upgrading faculty – especially by adding promising young PhD’s to the very meager thus …[looks like “audified”...] existing faculty and weeding out deadwood. With this story and Heald’s compelling personality, I became almost enthusiastic to accept. Leaving the President I then went to talk to the mathematics Chairman, Lester Ford. This interview was a minor detail, for he told me almost immediately that my appointment was up to the higher-ups; he evidently had no voice in the matter. In due course I got the appointment letter: things were looking up.

I had often in the past attended summer meetings of the American Mathematical Society. The meeting in 1940 was in Madison, a sort of last hurrah for me. With the opening of the fall term I would live at home in Wilmette and commute to IIT by car or train until the Christmas holidays, during which the big event would take place.

Maybe my career hadn’t been set back a great deal after all; much would depend on how Pres. Heald’s vision of the future of IIT would materialize. After all, life is made up of gambles: now I was gambling on a new career, the effectiveness of college President, and shortly a new life as a married man. Possibly this new gamble would be a success, as early will ones had been.

[1] See appendix.
* Now the Overture Center
[2] See F2.
[3] See F2.

Friday, February 7, 2014

L. Roy Wilcox, PhD - Autobiography, Part 10


The Pennsylvania Railroad was to see me from time to time in these years. An overnight trip got me from Chicago to North Philadelphia. A change of trains was needed to get to Princeton Junction, whence by a three-mile shuttle trip I would arrive at Princeton. At Christmas the trip was reversed; after the holidays the entire process would be repeated, and I would be home for the summer after the second term.

In those days one shipped most belongings in a trunk; I didn’t travel light. Although we were still poor, I learned that a trip by coach worth the small extra cost. I found the upper berth better than the lower. This was the routine until I got a car in 1937.

On my first arrival at Princeton I was a bit [unprepared], not having been able to make any contacts earlier. So I stayed one night at a hotel in town (not the best, I learned later, but with space) and the next day made my way to the IAS headquarters in “Fine Hall,” graduate mathematics building of Princeton University. The two institutions were almost entirely separate, but a close relationship existed between the two groups of personnel.

To help indentify the IAS, I quote here from the foreword The Institute for advanced study 1930 to 1954:
“The Institute . . . will permit.” – Robert Oppenheimer (then Institute director) [It is apparent that the intention was to reference this work to complete this quote, not included in the manuscript.]
Initially, the IAS was intended solely [for] mathematics and mathematical physics; later a few other fields were added.

On my first day I quickly made some acquaintances and inquired as to how I might find a place to live. By luck I asked the right person, Al Clifford who summoned another man Wallace Givens. They both were renting rooms in a private residence where there was still one vacant room. It took little time to make necessary arrangements, ending with my renting, for $15 weekly, a small room; ideally located well away from the other four rooms which were respectively occupied by Al, Wallace, a chemist Joe H├╝stenfelder, and the landlady Elizabeth Cleary, 60ish but vivacious and most pleasant. This was to be my Princeton abode for the next three years. As it turned out, I couldn’t have asked for a better “family.” And 43 Vandeventer was located only three blocks from Fine Hall.
Roy in front of the Vandeventer residence, Princeton, New Jersey

I learned the ropes easily from my newly found friends. There was an excellent French restaurant only a few blocks away. There one could have three meals a day for one dollar! (I tried that arrangement briefly but soon shifted to a dinner only plan – $.60 per day – since breakfast and good light lunches could be had elsewhere.) There were teas daily (4:00 to 6:00 PM daily) for social and professional contacts, bridge playing, etc.[1]

Soon an appointment with the Institute director, Dr. Abraham Flexner, was made for me. The main purpose was to tell me – and I remember his exact words: “Here you have no duties only opportunities” – which I had already surmised. And the opportunities were many indeed; there were six “professors”: Oswald Veblen, John von Neumann, Marston Morse, Albert Einstein, James Alexander, and Herman Weyl; in addition there were some members, including professors on sabbatical leave known all over the US, and post-doctoral people like me, and a few “assistants” to the professors. Everyone was free to conduct lectures, a lecture series, seminars, gab fests, etc.; And everyone was free to attend any of them as he chose, as well as similar offers by the Math Department of Princeton University.

My first appointment was with Prof. Oswald Veblen, friend and erstwhile colleague of my thesis advisor (Mr. Lane), and now the principal professor in the School of Mathematics. He gave me the information I needed concerning the way the Institute operated. For example, I learned that Fine Hall was open to members 24 hours per day (each member having a key), and that the library (all of the top floor of Fine Hall) was also open all the time. I later realized that this library had as complete an advanced mathematics collection as existed anywhere. It was effectively run strictly on the honor system, with a top librarian to help find things if need be. It took me little time to learn the details necessary for coping with a living and working situation of a kind new to me. I had never been away from home and family before, nor had I been in such a situation of complete self-management.

I took full advantage of the new opportunities by attending lecture series in several subjects that I had never heard of. The mathematics here was unbelievably far ahead of any I had met at the U of C and I was beginning to realize that my graduate education there was far less than it seemed and as it should have been. The reason I began to realize, was that most of the U of C professors had been students of the professors of earlier times, who had done pioneer work in their field, and that their students were engaged in focusing on more or less routine extension of the earlier work. When my thesis submitted earlier for publication was turned down on the grounds not that it wasn’t good work, but that it was in a work “pass├ę.” The full force of the need to get myself into the modern mathematics world hit me. One of my objectives, though, was to learn at least one field, new to me, adequately enough to do acceptable research in it – no small task, but my start was underway.

My career had so far exhibited fortuitous features; another piece of good luck was about to occur. Professor von Neumann had a lecture series I had attended in the first term. The Professor began a new series at the start of the second term. As it happened, his assistant had got seriously behind in his work and for some reason didn’t attend the first second-term lecture. Von Neumann, noting this absence, asked if someone would be willing to take notes. He seemed to be looking at me and I nodded: Von Neumann’s new subject was “continuous geometry” of furthering of a brand new field of mathematics lattice theory. Secretly I hoped that I would be continuing to “pinch-hit,” so that I could grow easily in the new field which excited me greatly. And this is just what did happen: the absent assistant had all he could do to complete work on the notes of the first term!

Now Flexner’s promise seemed violated, for I did indeed have duties! Typically my afternoon after a lecture was spent preparing “the notes,” discussing them with von Neumann, and getting them to the secretary, who would prepare the stencils the next morning. Then an afternoon (sometimes going into the evening) I would process them and get them back to the secretary. By the next day, the time of the next lecture, the pages were ready for distribution. This task might have been less daunting had von Neumann been an ordinary lecturer. But his speed was about three times great as the one lecture, and the size of the notes reflected that. I was now performing the exact functions of an assistant (without pay for it, of course).

With these duties, I had gained untold opportunities. In order to get to the point of doing research in any established field, even in a small one, one mainly has to gain considerable background – to learn what has been done already. But when one enters a fledgling field as lattice theory was then, there is precious little by way of background to research. And one has the advantage of participating in the building of the foundations of the subject, almost from the start.

As the end of the first year near, a decision as to the following year had to be made. But before I even inquired about a shift in role from member to von Neumann’s assistant, I was told by Veblen in that, at von Neumann’s request, I would be so named. The lecture series carried out with term ending could go on for at least another year. (I had an offer of an instructorship at UCLA, but had turned it down, feeling that I needed more of the post-doctoral work that I was doing before entering teaching.) Now I would have a salary of $1500 per year. Actually, I remained as von Neumann’s assistant for an additional year, since he had, by that time, done enough research to present a further year of lectures. As it happened, my duties in that last year were lessened, since for some reason von Neumann felt that his approach in the final year’s development wasn’t the best possible and he therefore did not want notes prepared and distributed. (I took them anyway, but did not [type] them up, on the chance that he would change his mind! He did not.)

By my second year at the IAS I reduced attendance at seminars, etc. so that I could give thought to research areas. During that year and the following I was able to work on and complete two definitive papers (one with a coauthor, Malcolm Riley,[2] an old friend from the U of C who had got his degree two years after I had), later published; and I began work on a third paper, also ultimately published.

During my last year at the IAS I had two job nibbles, the first from the University of Cincinnati and a later one from the University of Wisconsin. The first resulted in a sort of offer after I had visited Cincinnati during the winter break but it never became definite. I had little enthusiasm for the location and didn’t pursue the matter. When Prof. Cyrus MacDuffee from the University of Wisconsin at Madison [result of an IAS project] approached me with a definite offer, it didn’t take me long to decide to accept. I would be an instructor at $2200 per year.

Very few “eligible” young ladies were left in Princeton. The school was then for males only, and there were very few females at the IAS. The town “girls” were maiden ladies left over after the graduating seniors from the University had carried off the cream. There were occasional dances (one per year hosted by Dr. Flexner); for dates to these I made do with the maiden ladies available. Some members at the IAS had wives and had brought them to Princeton. These were evenings with some of these couples. At 43 Vandeventer we roomers sometimes had parties inviting town girls. But most of the social life was in the form of gab fests, games (e.g., Go, Canasta, Bridge) among single males. The exception occurred during my second year, when I somehow got acquainted with a nursing student in Philadelphia. (She was related to some people I knew in Princeton.) There were a few dates with her and after a period of inactivity I learned that she had married.

It was some consolation that Princeton was place of many musical events. There were organ concerts by famous organist at the chapel; and there was a fair amount of chamber music on the campus. (Einstein usually attended and always congratulated the performers afterward.) A few other musical matters are dealt with in F 1. Unfortunately I was able to get to New York or Philadelphia [only] occasionally, to hear their reputation-great symphony orchestras.

Once during my first IAS year at the spring break I went to Boston (train to New York, boat to Boston) to visit with Mort Mergentheim, now at Harvard Law school, during our spring break. And during my second and third years I took weekend trips to northern New Jersey where my old friend Clarence Baerveldt was living and preparing for the Presbyterian ministry. I hadn’t made those trips (by railroad) more than a few times when Clarence suggested that I get a (used) car. In fact, he took me to a dealer in East Orange; I bought a 1933 Pontiac four-door sedan for $365 (the only car I ever bought on time). 

I secured a New Jersey driver’s license (Illinois still didn’t require one). Thenceforth I had better control over my transportation. I could now enjoy more local attractions than I could earlier. Thus I could get over to Asbury Park, a delightful town on the coast, and could try a variety of seafood restaurants in the Princeton area. (It was at this time that I enjoyed my first experience with oysters, clams, crabs, etc.)

My years at Princeton added up to nothing short of a wonderful experience. I grew professionally, became weaned from my family, and learned the art of “personal administration.” A typical workday, when I became an Assistant, went something like this:
               12 noon or so:                   Arise, get a brunch
               1 – 2 PM:                         Attend a lecture or seminar (not all were                                                         where I had duties!)
               2 – 4 PM:                            Play tennis or squash with a colleague[3]
               4 – 8 PM:                            Tea, plus a long bridge game
               8 – 9 PM:                            Dinner at Lakiere’s[?]
               9 PM – 12 AM:                   Late movie
               12 – 1 AM:                          Game (usually with Al Clifford) at 43                                                             Vandeventer
               1 – 5 or 6 AM:                    Work on my research

The schedule was of course different on von Neumann’s lecture days, with the 2 to 4 and 9 to 12 periods devoted to work on lecture notes. As can be seen from the table, I had become fed up with the U of C early morning schedules and chucked them as soon as I could; I became and remained a “late” person. The main advantage to working through the wee hours was that there were then no distractions. More on this in section F2.

(One word about bridge, etc. while as a grad student at the U of C, I noted that some of my fellows’ students played bridge incessantly – to the point of addiction. So I steered clear of the game. At least one very capable but addicted student I knew substituted bridge for studying and never got his degree. But at the IAS I got interested in the game and found it possible to work it in without damaging my professional life. After leaving the IAS I played only rarely; usually people who played didn’t do so very seriously, and I wasn’t accustomed to that. While I always enjoyed games of skill, e.g., chess, Bridge, billiards, they never played a major role in my life.)

Summers during this period were by no means wasted: they supplemented the important active things at Princeton. I lived at my Wilmette home, of course, but spent weekdays at the U of C, where office facilities were available for visiting mathematicians. I was surprised to find a number of my IAS colleagues there too, taking advantage of the U of C hospitality – one of our group, a Princeton University professor, was teaching at Northwestern during the summer and rooming in Wilmette. Since he joined the group at the U of C, I got a ride home, since he had a car. The U of C gave us privileges at the Quadrangle (faculty) club, with facilities for tennis, billiards, and meals. All in all this was a most enjoyable summer.

The second summer (of 1937) was much like the first, except that I had a visiting instructorship at the U of C; many of the old group were there again. 
Roy, his mother Pauline (in car), and the 1933 Pontiac; ca 1937, Wilmette, Illinois

The course that I taught was along the lines of my new lattice theory interest; one of my students became so interested he asked me to become his Master’s thesis advisor. I readily gave him a Master’s level problem and started him off. After I left, he continued his work under Mr. Barnard[?] and, I understood, later got the degree. Another experience was to be appointed to the PhD final oral examination committee for my old friend Malcolm Smiley who had now completed his work toward the PhD. He passed, of course, and turned up at the IAS in the fall! In fact, a room at my rooming house became available and he moved in. That year we developed and wrote our joint paper.

When these years were over, I had about finished my “growing up” period; I had positioned myself well for future research work, and a proper University teaching career seemed assured. I had also grown up politically. Wilmette was my official residence, and so I voted absentee in the 1936 Presidential election – for Roosevelt (and I voted for the same candidate three more times). My Pontiac was still running well; I maintained the New Jersey registration until I got to Madison. The summer of 1938 passed uneventfully, except that I again frequented the U of C and [commentary ends here].*

[1] At the IAS the custom was to use appropriate titles – Professor, Doctor, etc. as appropriate.
[2] Malcolm eventually became a professor at …?… where he stayed until …?… was too much. His career ended at SUNY. (He died a few years ago.)
[3] Shortly after arriving at Princeton I asked the gymnasium management for privileges at the gym – locker, towels, free use of facilities, etc. They hadn't heard of the IAS, but heard my request and decided to extend a special reduced rate privileges not only to me but for all IAS personnel. I was thanked by many for my action.
* Not included here but most likely the process during the Princeton years, during the summer, after Roy got a car: his Sundays were spent taking his parents to church, then his father to the Cook County Jail to play music for and preach to the inmates and taking his mother to the Foster Park German Baptist Church on Paulina, later picking up his father from the train and driving him to the home of a German Church parishioner to join his wife for dinner at that location. (This according to oral interviews by the transcriptionist with Roy Wilcox in ca. 1979 and 1997-99.)