About 1976, so I’d been a student for a year, I was sharing an apartment, a little dumpy house on a road that’s not there anymore, much less the apartment house is not there anymore—I was sharing it with another student named Bob Howell, who’s the fourth one who came in my year. It was a miserable place. It was up by Grant and Alvernon.
Of course we would ride our bicycles in the morning because none of us could afford cars or anything like that. It’s cold riding your bike that far when it’s January in Tucson. We heard about one of the other guys who was looking for a place to live, and had found a house that was close to campus, on Hawthorne Street near Country Club. Only it had five rooms. It was the only way that any of us could afford to live in it—we were making 300 dollars a month. That was our entire stipend that we had to live off of and pay rent. So rent was like 90 dollars a month; that was a third of your stipend. But if we could find four other guys to move in, we could rent the place. This was the origin of Hawthorne House.
Hawthorne House was an institution among graduate students from’76 until about three years ago. Because after each of us graduated, someone else would move in, and it was a regular house for grad students in the Lunar Lab. I was one of the originals, Bob Howell was one of the originals, I believe John Wacker was one of the originals, Mike Feierberg, and I want to say Bruce Wilking.
Then Bob Howell decided to move out because it was too close to campus, and he wanted to bicycle. Bob was a biking fanatic. Sundays he would get on his bike, bike to Kitt Peak, bike up the mountain, visit whoever was observing that he knew that day, and bike home. 108 miles. That was his Sunday entertainment. After Bob moved out, I believe this was when Nick Gautier moved in, so that was the core of Hawthorne House.
I just found out that someone has bought the house and put it on sale for 900 thousand. If that house gets 900 thousand I’m going to be very sorry, because there’s no way that house is worth that much. The house had five rooms, maybe 1,900 square feet or so, and just a backyard of dirt. That became the house where four or five grad students stayed, and because there was a concentration of grad students, the parties would always migrate there. It always gave people someplace to go when they didn’t want to go home.
We always had people bouncing around the house for one reason or another. Some people have a hard time living in a house with a lot of other people, so there will always be some turnover. I can honestly say I’ve lived with a fair fraction of the field.
The first thing that happened when I got to LPL was the graduate students all took me in. They were very protective and sharing and open with one another, and they formed a gang. Typically we would do a lot of things together, especially as I continued on, but even right away they took me under their wing. Individuals would ask me out for lunch. The interesting thing was they had a map of the world up on the wall, and they told me to stick in a pin in the place that I called home.
I said, “Is this where I’m born?”
They said, “No, the place you call home.” So I stuck it right in Tasmania, which is the area in Australia that I spent most of my time, and I’m still very fond of. There were pins from all over the world. That made it easy too.
For a while we were having dinners in the evening on a regular basis, mid-week—I forget what day—when we might have the inhabitants of Hawthorne House and then another three or four outside people would also come. Or we would just spontaneously say, “Oh, let’s make spaghetti this evening” and then we’d all head over there on a Saturday evening.
There was always something going on. Sometimes it was just a couple people watching TV, drinking a beer in the evening. It was a great place to be social. It was always a mess, as you can imagine, with five graduate students living there. No one was ever sure who was supposed to wash the dishes or clean the floor or anything. Some people kind of recoiled when they came in the door. We got used to it.