Graduate Student Memories

After the end of the University year, a few graduate students engaged in chemistry and physics research remained in college to continue their work. My memories relate to the summer of 1954 in University College when three or four of us were occasionally left to our own resources regarding meal service. Les Goodfellow, a physics graduate, said that he could recognize local edible mushrooms, which he gathered in the woods behind the Science Labs. We used a hot plate in the Castle Keep to cook them for supper. As far as I know, none of us suffered from the experience. I would like to take this opportunity, long overdue, to thank Les for his expertise. After supper, we sometimes made an expedition into the nether regions of the Castle, following dark narrow passages, until we found a slit window looking out over the town. This in turn was followed by a pint or two of Newcastle Brown Ale at the Three Tuns or elsewhere. After such an evening, we could return with enhanced inspiration to our research at the Science Labs.

During this summer, Jack Nabholtz, a Fulbright Scholar in English Literature from Dallas, Texas, joined us, and helped to expand our diet. Jack was told to expect severe shortages of soap and toilet paper and came with a year’s supply. After experiencing one of Les’ mushroom suppers, he offered to teach us how to cook and appreciate hamburgers, a completely foreign concept at the time. We went with him to the local butchers where he bought a pound of the best sirloin steak. The butcher was delighted with the order until Jack asked him to grind up the steak for hamburger. At that point, I thought that he would assault Jack for this barbaric treatment of a valued steak. After surviving that encounter, we fried the hamburger in the Keep. It certainly was delicious and a rare experience. A few years later, I met Jack in Chicago where he was teaching English at Chicago University. He introduced me to some amazing ethnic restaurants and arranged for a visit to the site of the first reactor built by Enrico Fermi to produce a sustained source of energy from nuclear fission.

My memories of Durham are characterized by the experience of a daily movement between the world of science at the labs and the medieval world on Castle Green. Every day, I went through a cycle between the two, after breakfast, a two way trip for lunch and often returning to the lab after dinner. In retrospect, I feel that this cycling helped me to retain a healthy perspective on the world and its essential values. Since leaving Durham in 1955, I have returned with my wife, with my children, and with my grandchildren. Durham is indeed a very special place and will long remain so in my heart.

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