AVS Historical Persons | Nancy Hammond - 1994

Nancy Hammond - 1994

Oral History Interview with Nancy Hammond

Interviewed by Ed Greeley and Rey Whetten
December 14, 1994

GREELEY: I'm Ed Greeley, with the American Institute of Physics. I'm here at AVS headquarters on 120 Wall Street with a fabulous view. I'm here with Rey Whetten and Marion Churchill from the AVS, and a retiree from the AVS, Nancy Hammond, who I first met...

HAMMOND: Executive Secretary Emeritus or some such thing.

GREELEY: Executive Secretary Emeritus! I met her in the late '60s, at 335 East 45th Street, which the AIP sold last November, 1993, to the Republic of South Korea. Nancy and I have been together working on AVS affairs since...


GREELEY: '68, when you came here from...?

hammond_n.JPGHAMMOND: Well, there was a guy at AIP named Wallace Waterfall. Wallace Waterfall had three jobs: he was the Secretary of the Acoustical Society, he was the Secretary of the American Institute of Physics, and he was the Secretary of the Acoustical Materials Association. And he had a secretary for each job. At the time that the Acoustical Materials Association merged with the Insulation Board Institute in Chicago, where I did not wish to go, the AVS was looking for somebody, and Wallace said, "Fine, they can have Nancy." So I changed jobs without moving from my desk. 

For the first six months it was kind of weird, because Wallace said, "Well, you know, these other people, they're merging, and they're going out of business, so there won't be any work to be done," which is a laugh if anybody's had anything to do with that kind of thing. And the AVS was kind of weird, because nobody around there knew anything about it. They didn't know how it was supposed to function or anything else. I had Dr. Lafferty I could call up on the phone and things like that, but... 
We went up in a truck, Rose Littow, and...

GREELEY: John Lentini?

HAMMOND: John Lentini, who drove the truck, and I, to Boston, to get the AVS office, which was being run from two filing cabinets and a bunch of boxes under the bed in the spare room of the people who were doing it part-time.

GREELEY: Was Wilf Matheson1 still there at that time, or was this an empty office where you picked up the materials?

HAMMOND: It was the second bedroom in these people's house, literally. The stuff was under the bed. And you know, we pulled it out and took it down to the truck. I've forgotten what their name was now. I'm losing my mind, I guess.

GREELEY: Wilf Matheson was the...

HAMMOND: He was still there, but I don't think he was - I didn't have much to do with him. I remember going to one meeting where he was pounding on the desk, and it reminded me later of Krushchev!

GREELEY: He was one of the founders of the AVS, wasn't he Jim?

WHETTEN: He was not a founding member.

GREELEY: Okay. He was there from early on, and not too long after Mr. Welch2. So you first did which meeting?

HAMMOND: '68 was my first meeting - Pittsburgh. Jack Singleton was the local arrangements chairman, and he told me everything I was supposed to be doing; without him, I don't know what I would have done! 

GREELEY: Jack was great. I guess Bill was President, Bill Lange3, at that time. He was President after Jim4, I believe. In DC, he took over.

HAMMOND: The only person who ever got nominated by - was he the one who got nominated by petition? No, that was Paul Redhead5.

GREELEY: So you were counting the ballots for the Vacuum Society in those days, with Bill Schleuning6 looking over your shoulder, and doing all the details? 

HAMMOND: I would count the balance and then Schleuning would come in and sort of cast his eye on them. But there was one year when it was so close that three different people counted them. He counted them; I counted them...

GREELEY: Oh, that was the election for President when there was a one vote difference7.

HAMMOND: Yeah, and then we got somebody at AIP to count them. Nobody could believe it. 

GREELEY: I think that happened once again. Didn't it happen twice?

HAMMOND: Not when I was there. 

WHETTEN: I think it was just four votes this year.

HAMMOND: Yeah, this year, it was extremely close. The Nominations Committee should be congratulated for making that very difficult choice.

WHETTEN: Who was the winner that year? Do you remember? 

HAMMOND: I don't even remember who was running that year. I just remember counting those ballots over and over and over again.

GREELEY: But you went to the meeting and took care of all the local arrangements there.

HAMMOND: Oh, yeah. Well, for quite a few years, I was the one and only Indian in this tribe of chiefs, and everything that went in and out of the office went in and out by me. I even, a lot of times, went downstairs and packed up things for shipment. I had to go out...

GREELEY: They had an International Vacuum show in 1971 at the Boston Auditorium. You had a core of stuff at the International IUVSTA. I-U-V-S-TA. I shouldn't say "IUVSTA"; Ted Madey will burn me out! You were working with the international organization, too? I guess either Dan Bills or Ron Bunshah8 was President.

HAMMOND: Rointon Fremrose Bunshah! 

GREELEY: Yes. Did you have to do a lot of work with the International, or did you...?

HAMMOND: Not as I recall. Not too much. That was a good thing, because English, unfortunately, is my one and only language.

GREELEY: Well, that's the language of science, so it's okay! We can hack it. In those days, we had all the membership records for the... I mean, AIP handled membership records for the American Vacuum Society on a little script-o-matic thing downstairs in the cellar. 

HAMMOND: Yeah, yeah. 

GREELEY: For record-keeping.

HAMMOND: Well, basically, what AIP was doing was running a membership-- I mean, not a membership; it was a subscription. 

GREELEY: Maintain the records.

HAMMOND: What we knew about the membership we had to keep ourselves, and then, when we got the computer, they started putting the back information, when people joined and that kind of stuff on the computer.

GREELEY: We had divisions in the early '70s, Rey? Is that when we started up? Or was this just a couple divisions early on? 

HAMMOND: Started up with the Metallurgy Division, which I think was the first one, and the Thin Film Division9.

GREELEY: Vacuum Technology must have been early on, too.


WHETTEN: It was actually later. In a sense, the whole society was considered vacuum science and technology, so divisions really started-- and then Surface Science was before Vacuum Technology10.

GREELEY: Before Vacuum Technology? 

WHETTEN: Then it got to be that there were so many Divisions that the vacuum science decided they should...

HAMMOND: Yeah, Vacuum Technology was the fourth one, and then Applied Surface Science11, and then some others came after that. 

GREELEY: Were board meetings so structured in those early days that you met four times a year?

HAMMOND: Six. Six times a year. It seemed like we were always going somewhere for a board meeting.

GREELEY: So every other month, you were going someplace else to... Was it a turnout of what, 25, 30 people?

HAMMOND: Just about. 

WHETTEN: Were they in Chicago most of the time?

HAMMOND: We used to meet in Chicago at this funny, little place...

WHETTEN: The Flying Carpet? Is that the...

HAMMOND: The Flying Carpet. Moose heads on the wall and stuff. 

WHETTEN: Very convenient to the airport, yeah?

HAMMOND: But it was nice. They treated us right, and they had a nice, little place to sit outside, and they had books in their rooms, so if you didn't have anything better to do, you could read yourself to sleep or something. I thought that was kind of nice. It's not every place that gives you reading material. I think they got it at a secondhand book dealer, and it isn't anything you would want to read, but still in all, the attitude was good.

GREELEY: The Society grew a lot in the late '70s, as I recall. There was a burst of membership there, or in the early '80s. Quite a few members came aboard, and you had to keep track of all those - and student members...

HAMMOND: In the beginning, it was just this little form with a name and an address, and check off any Divisions you wanted, and enclose your money and send it in. And then they got a Membership Committee and they started requiring people to tell us something about themselves, and that was just so the Membership Committee could get into fights over whether or not somebody was going to get in. Everybody got in! No, one guy didn't get in! He sent in an application, and he belonged to something like 16 or 17 organizations, including the Helicopter Society of Peru or something like that - weird things. And he didn't have a sponsor. So they turned him down because he didn't have a sponsor. But the comment of the then-chairman of the Committee was, "We don't want anybody in who's going to include us with all those other names on the bottom of his letterhead." 

GREELEY: Helicopter Society of Peru. There was an article in the New York Times about-- I don't know, several months ago, they mentioned the American Vacuum Society, and it was one of the most strange of all societies. They couldn't figure out what it really meant! 

WHETTEN: I read that, too!

GREELEY: It made David Letterman's top ten, I believe. 

WHETTEN: The rocket societies. That and the American Vampire Society was another one. [Laughter] 

GREELEY: You were essentially Executive Secretary in those days. Marion's12 role is really to take care of the meetings. So those days, I guess, the Local Arrangements Committee took care of the whole thing.

HAMMOND: Yeah, they did.

GREELEY: You didn't have to worry about everything that Marion worried about.

WHETTEN: You didn't have anything to do with registration? They probably didn't have pre-registration.

HAMMOND: Yes, they did!

WHETTEN: They did? Would that come to you, or to...

HAMMOND: They had pre-registration even when they were doing it in Boston up from under the bed!

WHETTEN: Yeah? And who handled that?

HAMMOND: The office handled that, which was, in the beginning, me.

GREELEY: And that was pen and pencil, before we went to those credit card imprinters. I guess it was about ten years ago when we went to the credit card imprinters to make pre-registration a little bit easier. In those days, you wrote out this thing, or the person did it on site, or had it typed out. It made for long lines. I recall a couple of horrendous lines at different meetings where it stretched out quite a...

HAMMOND: I recall one, and I don't remember which meeting, it was where things got so hairy that they finally said, "Everybody just go in and come back later for your badges." 

WHETTEN: I recall that at the last two meetings, too. Partly it's because the attendance has grown enormously. There have also been problems with the registration equipment, the printers. 

GREELEY: You always get those people from the West Coast, when there's an East Coast meeting, they have the 8:00 flight, and they get in at 5:00 all at once, and it's like a huge line-up of people. Conversely, it happens on the West Coast when you take that noon flight out. 
You've seen a lot of different changes over the years with the Vacuum Society. Any strange incidents, besides the incident in Boston when we had the FBI all over our back? There was something that happened one time, something in the mail, or something... I think there was an incident in the office.

HAMMOND: Oh, every now and then, funny little things happened! In the Americana12, when the Local Arrangement Chairman and somebody else got stuck in the elevator, and they had with them one of those walkie-talkies, and they got kind of excited, and everybody standing around in the hall with the walkie-talkies was treated to a rare verbal show, as it was! 

GREELEY: Something about the Americana. I recall at the equipment show that year, there was a lady who was dressed in some pretty tight tights, and I went up to her, and you know, she had gone around asking a couple of exhibitors some questions, and so I asked them, "Hey, what did she just ask you?" She went to the booth, and the guy at the booth asked her, "Are you an engineer? Are you a member of the Vacuum Society?" She says, "No." He says, "Well, what are you in?" "I'm in the entertainment business." "Okay, miss. Out of the hall, please. We don't need you at the show." So I had to escort her out of that particular show. Entertainment business? Nice little wording!

HAMMOND: At a meeting in Seattle, things got stuffed into odd corners, and one of the things that got stuffed into an odd corner was the journal office13, and they put that in the cloak room, and they were down at one end of the room. And all of a sudden, in come these people and hook up their little tape recorder, or whatever they had, and start playing music and practicing, I don't know, the Highland Swing or something, down there! And Paul13 was just going nuts, and it turns out they had a performance scheduled, and they were rehearsing, and they weren't leaving for anybody! 

GREELEY: The Theatre for the Performing Arts was next to the convention center, so it was about a nine-iron away. It was adjacent to the convention center.

HAMMOND: And they didn't leave! 

GREELEY: Nancy, tell us a little bit about your retirement and how you're enjoying what you're doing. I understand you're on the volunteer police?

HAMMOND: I quit that. That was very boring.

GREELEY: The volunteer police was boring?

HAMMOND: Oh, yes. What I was doing, was, let me tell you! I thought to myself one day, "Hey, I'm doing things for these people that I wouldn't do for myself when I was working. What am I doing here?" So I quit going. I was not comfortable putting on that uniform and stalking around the streets, and working in the office was just a dead bore. 

GREELEY: But you still live in midtown Manhattan. You still enjoy New York City with its theater and restaurants and all those things.

HAMMOND: Yeah, I do like running around. 

GREELEY: That's good. Any closing words for this momentous occasion?

HAMMOND: I don't think so. Just sorry that they didn't get the beautiful view until after I was gone. I would have enjoyed it. 

GREELEY: We can't have everything! Thank you. 

1. Wilfrid C Matheson was AVS President 1959-60 and Clerk 1961-65
2. Medard W Welch was AVS President 1957-58 
3. William J lange was AVS President 1969-70
4. James M Lafferty was AVS President 1968-69
5. Paul A Redhead was AVS President 1967-68. He was nominated by Petition, as allowed for in the AVS Constitution. 
6. Hubert W Schleuning was AVS President 1966-67 and then acted as election scrutineer for many years
7. John A Arthur was AVS President in 1983
8. Rointan F Bunshah was AVS President from Oct. 1970 till Dec. 1971
9. Vacuum Metallurgy Division was formed in 1961; Thin Film Division was formed in 1964
10. Surface Science Division was formed im 1969. The Vacuum Technology Division was formed in 1971
11. Applied Surface Science Division was formed in 1985, but Electronic Materials and Fusion Divisions were formed in 1978 and 1980, respectively. A full list of the dates is available on the e-book "50 Years of AVS" on the AVS web site www.avs.org 
12. Marion Churchill was appointed Meetings Manager in 1981
13. American Hotel, New York City in 1979
14. Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology. Paul Redhead was Editor 1970-74. The incident probably occurred at the 1969 Symposium in Seattle.

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