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Visitors Scientists, scholars, historians, students and community members are continuously traversing the CSHL grounds to work in a lab, research in the archives, attend a concert or bike to the beach. When did you visit the lab? What are your special memories of the people you encountered?

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Old 05-20-2004, 02:29 PM
Anders Kaufmann Anders Kaufmann is offline
Location: Columbia, SC
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 0
Default Childhood Memories of the Lab

I worked in my father's lab several summers. One year he entrusted me to extract some enzyme or other from sheep pancreas. The good news was I worked in a cold room the entire time; the bad news was I had to come out into non-air conditioned space and the summer heat afterwards. Accidentally pipetting concentrated sulfuric acid into my mouth one day may have had something to do with my not pursuing a scientific discipline, but I'm still not sure why I chose architecture instead.

Another summer job was washing dishes and other tasks at the Blackford dining hall. My mother managed the dining room one summer, and I believe she was the first manager to actually break even on the food costs and perhaps show a small profit (no doubt the starvation wages she paid the help). I think it was this summer that I first drank beer, probably as a result of slaving over a hot dishwasher all day.

We were the first lab staff tenants to live in the de Forest stables after they were obtained by the lab, and the building was re-roofed about the time we moved in. The day after the shingles were laid, work crews found a hole in the brand new roof. A raccoon had left her new litter of babies in the loft over the stable wing, apparently while she went to get food. Her passage was blocked when she returned. Naturally, she chewed through the roof to rescue her babies. Another wildlife story involved a squirrel. We returned from a trip once, and found water dripping out of the ceiling over the lower level garage area. When we went upstairs, we found the kitchen sink clogged with dirt from an overturned flower pot, and the lever handle sink faucet turned on, causing the sink to overflow. The squirrel had come down the chimney, tried to chew his/her way out through the kitchen window sash, had made the mess, and somehow pushed the faucet on in its panic. I don't know what became of the squirrel.

Law enforcement was carried out by Laurel Hollow's finest, a one-man police force by the name of Sergeant Smith. One night shortly after we moved in, a car drove into the courtyard, and a very inebriated individual asked to see Sgt. Smith. We told him that the good sergeant didn't live there, but he persisted at great length. Finally, my father persuaded the driver that he should look elsewhere, at which point the man got in his car, attempting to drive over the retaining wall between the courtyard and the gardens. He finally got to see Sgt. Smith, who we called to come tow his friend's car off the wall.

The hurricane of 1944 was the second big blow (the other was 1938) we experienced on Long Island. Bungtown Road was completely blocked by falling trees, and we had to cut our way out to 25A. We were without electricity for two weeks, but fortunately, the house had a classic wood/coal-burning stove in the kitchen for cooking and a real ice box on the back porch for refrigeration. A large locust tree fell across the garden, and I had to cut most of it with a hand saw (this was in the days before chainsaws). My parents burned the last of the wood from that tree just before they moved in 1962.

Trips to Huntington were a big event. For 10 cents (each way, I think) we could ride the four-times daily bus from/to Carnegie, spend 25 cents on a movie (with Movietone news and serials), and 5 cents for a candy bar.

Our science teacher at the West Side School (one mile up the hill towards Syosset) was Mary Demerec, the director's wife. Growing up, we all called her by her first name, so it took some adjusting to address her as Mrs. Demerec in the classroom. Going from this school with a total enrollment of 75 K-12 and grades 5-8 in one room to junior high and high school in Huntington was a bit of a culture shock, but I would not trade anything for the WSS experience. We got a very fine public school education, which was probably comparable to what was provided at Friends Academy or the other private schools to which the Laurel Hollow gentry sent their kids.

I cannot imagine a better place to spend a childhood and youth, and I hope the lab keeps its special charm forever.

Last edited by Kirill : 07-12-2006 at 11:26 AM.
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