The various technical support shops that serve the Department of Physics are critical to any success the department and it members might achieve. To compete nationally and internationally requires research technology at the cutting edge and beyond. Support staff that create one of a kind devices, solve difficult technical problems and train faculty and students to design, specify, and assist in construction, have enabled the department to establish a premier research and teaching program recognized around the world. The department has been fortunate over its many years of its existence to have outstanding staff supportive of the department’s mission. Much is owed them.
The control of the machine shop was transferred from the School of Electrical Engineering to the School of Physics with the understanding that four days each week are to be used for Physics and two days for Electrical Engineering.—Transactions of Board of Regents, June 7, 1909.
The Physics Machine Shop has always been considered a much treasured asset by faculty and students. The department was blessed with excellent machinists and a number of high quality tools. The shop, day in and day out, created the custom devices and precision work necessary to conduct cutting edge research. The staff provided valuable advice in the design of often “one-of-a-kind equipment.” The special character of the shop personnel was demonstrated in the following incident that occurred in the shop on January 17, 1989, at 11:43 AM.
Ralph W. Blake, a fine machinist, was completing a project for Professor Jeff Kimble, who had moved to Cal Tech. It was the last day of work for Ralph, as he was retiring. He had a few holes to drill and completed those that morning. He reported to Les Deavers in the supervisor's office that he was finished. Les told him he could do whatever he wished as there was not time to complete another project. Ralph left the office and returned to the shop. A short time later, Les heard a sound which he described, "It was a noise you do not hear in a machine shop and you knew instantly it was not good." One of the staff came rushing in and asked Les to call 911. He reported that Ralph's sleeve had gotten caught in a metal lathe, and he was badly injured. Les made the call and entered the shop to see that Ralph was bleeding profusely and his arm was severely damaged. It was clear that this was a life-threatening injury. The staff's response to this critical situation was what can only be described as heroic. They comforted Ralph, they quickly cleared a pathway in the shop to provide quick access for the emergency personnel, and several of the men raced outside to clear a path in the parking lot for the emergency vehicles. They directed EMS to the shop. Their quick actions were key contributions to Ralph's survival. He lost his arm, but not his life. The two letters below attest to the exemplary performance of our shop staff.
The physics workshop experienced a major upgrade in 1898. Below is an account of that major improvement.
Report of the School of Physics, University of Texas
The Physical Workshop
“The rapid development of laboratory methods of instruction in the natural sciences has rendered it imperative that every institution should possess a well equipped workshop for the construction and repair of the large amount of apparatus required.
"Recognizing this necessity, it was determined by the Regents to establish such a workshop in connection with the School of Physics, for the use also of the other schools of science. During the summer of 1897, a beginning was made, a few tools being purchased and a competent mechanic being engaged. The large room on the north side of the west wing basement was set aside for this purpose. The equipment, however, proved quite inadequate to the demands made upon it, and early in 1898 additional appropriation were made for its extension, these being further increased by a gift of one thousand dollars from Regent George W. Brackenridge, of San Antonio.
"Owing to the character of the work demanded, it was decided to purchase tools of the highest grade only, and to carry out the details of equipment and arrangement as far as possible on the lines of a model workshop. At present there are in daily use the following machines:
14” Hendey-Norton lathe complete with all attachments.
No. 0 Waltham milling machine, specially designed for the University.
15” Hendey shaper.
Challenge wet and dry emery grinder.
13” Dwight Slate sensitive drill.
7” Stark watchmaker’s lathe with numerous attachments.
Two polishing lathes with a large amount of polishing supplies.
12” Egan wood turning lathe.
Colburn patent saw bench with cross-cut and rip saws and all attachments.
Hall and Brown buzz planer.
The above tools are driven by a 5 HP Westinghouse motor through the medium of lines of shafting arranged to cause as little noise and vibration as possible.
"In addition there is a very complete line of the most modern machinist’s and carpenter’s tools, arranged in artistic cases, with the usual workbenches, etc. A large amount of supplies of various kinds in also kept on hand in order that work may be handled in the most economical and rapid manner. “
Written by Associate Professor of Physics William Tyler Mather 1898. Published in The University of Texas Bulletin."
Louis Henry Gruber (b. 1872–November 13, 1960) was the machinist for the department for many years. He built much of the experimental equipment in the first half of the 20th Century for the Physics Department. At right we see Louis with Professor S. Leroy Brown discussing Brown’s Harmonograph, used for solving polynomial equation. Born March 8, 1872, in Macon, GA. His wife was Rosa Maude Smith. Daughter Gladys Lee Gruber was an Austin singer, (1897–1982).
Louis was Master of Austin Masonic Lodge, 1915–16. He is shown in the 1914 Cactus photo, second row, extreme right.
He retired from UT and went into private employment until his health forced a second retirement. He died November 13, 1960. His wife died November 14, 1963.
Machinist Louis Henry Gruber, Sunday ready for church, Main Building Machine shop, Rm #24, ca. 1932.
Adolph Gruber, (brother of Louis Gruber) and Earl Dickens, mechanicians, in the equipment supply room, Main Building, 1931.
Adolph August Gruber (b. June 29, 1867–March 19, 1936) Laboratory Assistant and Machinist during early part of 20th Century. Adolph was the older brother of Louis Henry Gruber, machinist in department. Adolph was born in New Orleans, Louisiana to Anton and Eva Gruber, both from Bavaria, Germany. Anton was an Austin brewer. Adolph and his sister, Agnes (maybe Mrs. J. H. Williams), attended the private school run by Jacob Bickler. Adolph and his wif,e Mary Allison, were married in 1889 and had no children. In 1910, Adolph was an electrician with the telephone company. In 1920,he was a laboratory assistant in physics department and in the 1930 census he is listed as a teacher with the University. His wife, Mary, died September 6, 1912. A death record for Adolph has middle name as “Anthony.” Honoray pallbearers at Adolph's funeral were W. T. Mather, S. L. Brown, J. M. Kuehne, Arnold Romberg, A. E. Lockenvitz, J. J. Miller and L. J. B. LaCoste. Adolph was buried in Mount Calvery Cemetery in Austin, Texas
L. Earl Dickens(1898–1990), Mechanician, born October 29, 1898, to George B. and Annie Eliza Stone Dickens in Austin, Texas. His father died when he was under two years of age. He, his older brother, Pleasant Lionel "Lon", (1888–1946), and his mother lived with his widowed grandmother, Melisa C. Stone. Melisa was married to Thomas B. Stone. Pleasant was a master stage carpenter who worked at the Paramount Theater in Austin. He was a veteran of WW, I CPL 527 Motor Truck Co, (June 14, 1918 to July 19, 1919). Earl's half-brother, Everett died in 1910 at the age of 5. Everett's father's name is listed as W. R. Dickens. The 1917 World War I Draft Registration Card showed Earl working as an automobile mechanic for Anderson & Bensen in Austin. In 1920, he worked as a storeroom manager in a battery room, likely UT. During his long career at UT, he cared for most of the equipment in the physics department. Earl died July 17, 1990 in Austin, Texas.
Here we see Earl at the left in what appears to be a battery repair room. There are batteries on the left workbench. Below the bench between the two men on the right appears to be a box with discarded battery internal plates. Man at right has elbow resting on distilled water bottle. Photo taken in Old Main. Earl had an older brother, Pleasant Lionel Dickens, might be him on the right. Pleasant was 10 years older than Earl and was a master stage carpenter at the Paramount Theater. The young man in the middle looks like Earl, so might be a cousin.
Robert Hubert Brandt (b. 1893–1983), Machinist. Robert was from Altona, Germany, a suburb of Hamburg, which operated as an independent Prussian city until 1937, when it became part of Hamburg. Because of restrictions on the number of Jews who live in Hamburg, Altona became a major Jewish community. Rampant inflation and shortages following World War I contributed to Robert’s decision to move his family to America. To accomplish this he worked as a seaman and steward for shipping lines, carry immigrants between Hamburg and New York. There is a record of him visiting Chicago in 1907 as a 15 year old, apparently there were relatives who had come earlier. He made over twenty voyages between 1922 and 1927 to earn enough funds to bring his wife, Bertha Wilhemina Frieda Maria Augusta Lamps Brandt and daughter, Ursula, age 3, to New York. He worked in the furniture business with a brother, later moving to Austin about 1928 or 29.
After working for a short time as a machinist for a bookbinding business, he joined the physics department as a machinist. In 1948, his salary was $280/month. His work was highly prized. Professor Jim Thompson remembers, “ There were 4 or 5 fine machinist in the shop, one of which, in my opinion, stood out: Robert Brandt. He was German and had been trained in that superb way in Germany. He had very high standards. The other shop workers called him "Brunt". Most of his work was for Professor Hughes, as his requirements were very exacting in the high pressure work he did.” Professor Romberg’s grandson, Arnold, shared the following story, “LaCoste & Romberg hired two German machinists who had fled the trouble in Europe before the start of WWII. My father enjoyed praising their skills by telling of the time he asked Mr. Brandt to machine something to a given dimension “plus or minus two ten thousandths” (of an inch). Mr. Brandt replied, ‘Well, Fred, do you want it PLUS two ten-thousandths or MINUS two ten-thousandths?’” Another story was told by Les Deavers, who worked in the shop, “Brandt worked off in a corner by himself and the didn’t mix much with the other machinist. He was quite protective of his equipment. I needed a special boring bar to complete a job. Apparently Brandt overheard and he invited me back to his corner. He pulled a tool out of his case and said this is what you need. I said, ‘that is exactly what I need.” Brandt replied, “ You should make yourself one” and put it back in the case!”
Les also described Brandt’s formality, “ Each day he showed up for work in a suit and tie. He would change to his work clothes. At noon, he would change back to the suit and tie and leave for lunch, returning to his work clothes at one. Before leaving work, he would change back to the coat and tie.” Brandt was reluctant to retire and worked well after age 70, however, a special letter had to be submitted to the president requesting special permission to finish an important project. After about three years, and submission of the same letter, the president suggested the project would likely never be finished and did not approve a further extension.
Bertha worked in the State Archives. Brandt’s daughter changed her name to Sue (other students had trouble with Ursula) and later married Frank McBee, one of the founders of Tracor. Sue was a journalist and was an important part of the cultural scene in Austin. She wrote a poem that reflects the family background:
The gift they gave me
After World War One
My parents—young, war-torn, afraid—
Left their mothers’ graves,
North European ways, old friends
To find new hope
And make their infant child
This gift: America.
They found new friends, hard times,
The cowboys he had loved
In boyhood books.
They found new English words,
A capitol, a university,
Land of their own, a small bright house
In which to live in peace.
The gift they gave me,
Meaning more than life,
Was then, still is, America.
–Lines for a Texas Town
Sue Brandt McBee, 1998
Main Machine Shop, Painter Bldg, 1934
George Henry Olewin, served as machine shop supervisor and in the demonstration equipment storeroom. He had previously work at Northwestern University in the Astronomy Department. Born December 16, 1908, his parents were Stanley (1873–1940) and Hedwig Nowicki (1878–1950) Olewinikowski. His father and both sets of grandparents were bornn Poland. George married Helen O'Donnell (1912–1989) on November 10, 1937, in Chicago, IL.
George was a skilled technician. He invented a portable cabinet for use as a science laboratory. He applied for a patent Mar. 26, 1957. He was issued a trademark in 1958. George was coauthor on the paper: "A High Vacuum Valve", Arthur E. Lockenvitz, Darrell S. Hughes, Leonard B. Lipson and George H. Olewin, Review of Scientific Instruments 19, 272 (1948). In 1967 he was Research Sciertist Associate II. In 1936, George gave a talk to the Amateur Telescope Makers of Chicago.
George died February 11, 1983 at the age of 74. He was survived by his wife, Helen "Vickie?' Olewin, a son, George Olewin of Houston, daughters, Carol Olewin of Manor, Kathleen Kincaid of St. Louis,MO and seven grandchildren and one great grandchild. He is buried in Assumption Cemetery, in Austin, Texas.
Guenther R. “Kayo” Wittig, (1913–94) Guenther was born in Fredericksburg, TX and died in Austin, TX. His grandparents were German immigrants. During WWII he worked for Brown Instruments in Philadelphia. Brown Instrument Company was a firm known for high-quality instruments such as pyrometer, thermometers, hygrometers, tachometers, pressure gauges, flow meters and electrical meters. While visiting his Aunt in New York City he attended a dance and met Edna E. Hickson(b.1914) from Gloucester City, Camden, New Jersey. They were married and had three children, sons, Arthur Walter(Annapolis Navy pilot) (b. 1945-), and Bruce Harold and daughter Sandra Wittig Timmons. In 1946, Guenther and Edna bought the family dairy farm in Fredericksburg started farming. The severe drought of the middle 50s forced them to abandon farming. Guenther worked a year for a machine shop in Fredericksburg. Edna took their three children and moved to Austin where she enrolled at UT, her goal to be a teacher. She graduated and taught in the Austin School District. Edna saw a position in the University Power Plant advertised on a UT bulletin board. Guenther applied and was hired. He later transferred to Physics and eventually was placed in charge of the Student Machine Shop. Les Deavers helped him when Professor Hughes wound his research down following the death of his wife. In 1963, Harold Hanson, the new chair, appointed Wittig as the supervisor of the main shop. Wittig asked Les to join him; Les doing the scheduling and Guenther doing purchasing. The division of responsibilities continued until Guenther’s retirement in 1977.
Following retirement, Guenther and Edna traveled extensively, including China and New Zealand where they participated in a favorite activity, square dancing. Guenther did not like to fly so they went by ship. They are shown aboard the Kingston Flyer Steam train which operated between Kingston and Fairlight on the South Island. The rolling stock used on the line consists of seven wooden passenger carriages that date as far back as 1898. Unfortunately the Kingston Flyer is no longer in operation.
David Cowan, a graduate student in the 60s remembers him, “I think that Wittig established the first student shop. He was a kind man and was very helpful to graduate students. I learned to do crude work on lathes, milling machines, etc. and when I went to Gettysburg where they had a nice shop, but no machinist, I was the one-eyed man in the valley of the blind.”
From Edna Wittig’s obituary:
Edna E. Wittig died March 26, 2016 at the age of 101. She was born December 18, 1914 in Gloucester, New Jersey, to May Ellen and William H. Hickson. The family moved across the Delaware River to Philadelphia, PA where she met and married Guenther (Kayo) Wittig from Fredericksburg, TX. Kayo died in 1994. After business school, Edna worked as a stenographer/secretary for a patent attorney and later as a secretary to the Director of the Eastern Regional Research Laboratory, USDA. Edna and Kayo were blessed with three children: Arthur (and Joyce) of Prince Frederick, MD, Sandra (and Rick) of Greer, AZ and Bruce (and Nancy) of Austin, TX. The family moved to Kayo's birthplace, Fredericksburg, TX and then to Austin in 1956. After receiving a BA in English, Masters Degree and additional library science courses from the University of Texas, Edna was a teacher and librarian for AISD until retirement.
Edna and Kayo enjoyed square dancing and traveled widely, including square dancing in New Zealand. She spent almost 20 years following retirement volunteering at numerous places including St. Martin's Lutheran Church School library, Legal Aid Library, Senior Citizen Activity Center and Govalle School. In 1998 she was honored as Austin's Volunteer of the Year. In addition to her husband, Edna was preceded in death by her parents, brother Bill Hickson and two grandchildren: Shannon Wittig and Scott Timmons. Besides her three children, survivors include four grandchildren: Allison Timmons Romero of Cozumel, Mexico, Gretchen Wittig of Dallas, Wesley Wittig of Richmond, TX and J.J. Wittig of Austin and nine great grandchildren.
Leslie "Les" Marvin Deavers
Les Deavers was born in 1936 in Smithville, TX to George Luther (1889–1964). and Suzie M. Cox (1893–1966) Deavers. George worked for the Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad, known as “the Katy of Texas” for 41 years. The Katy had a rail roundhouse and maintenance shop in Smithville. Les' siblings were brothers Luther Ray Deavers (1908–1965), Jewell Guy Danny" Deavers, (1912–1964), J. W. Deavers, George Luther Deavers Jr. (1925–1995), and Floyd Leroy R. Deavers (1930–1972 ) and sisters, Willie Ruth Deavers (1910–1997) (husband Cecil Clyde Chapman), Della Faye Deavers (1916–2007) (husband Nolan L. Howard) and Zula Maye Deavers (Bush) (1922–1995).
Following graduation from high school, Les immediately went to work for “the Katy” as a welder. The work required him to travel to various shops in the South Texas district. Les next moved to Houston to work for Stewart and Stevenson, a Diesel engines and oil field equipment distributor. He trained as an apprentice in their machine shop.
Les married Vivian Sophia Walla of Smithville on September 14, 1957, in Houston, Texas. They had attended the same school. Their son Randall was born in 1958 and they decided to leave Houston. Les found a position in the machine shop at the Austin City Power Seaholm Plant on First Street and they moved to Austin in 1960. At the power plant, Les met Bill Wollett, who had worked for Jim Thompson in the physics department. Wollet heard that Professor Darrell Hughes was looking for a machinist to work with his high pressure equipment, which required high precision machining. He recommended Les and Hughes hired him in May of 1962. Les and Vivian are shown below, right.
Not long after coming to work for Hughes, there was a call to the lab, which in Hughes’ absence, Les took. The voice on the other end asked for Hughes. When told he was unavailable, the woman abruptly said, “Who are you?” Les told her, she then asked, “Do you have a car?” , “Yes,” Les replied. “ Then pick me up at the El Toro restaurant on Guadalupe Street and take me home.” Which he did. This was Les’ introduction to Leah Belle Hughes. Les enjoyed his work with Hughes and his graduate students.
In 1969, Mrs. Hughes died on a vacation trip abroad. Funeral arrangements were very difficult. Dr. Hughes took her death very hard. He lost all interest in his research and thus Les had little to do. Feeling the need to contribute, he would go down the hall and help in the student shop. He was invited by Guenther Wittig, then supervisor of the student shop, to join him. Soon thereafter Wittig was put in charge of the main shop, replacing George Olewin, and he asked Les to come with him. They worked well together, Les doing the scheduling and Wittig doing purchasing. Les was appointed Supervisor in 1975. Wittig retired in 1977 with Les assuming his responsibilities.
The faculty, staff and students had great respect for Les, his knowledge, his cooperativeness and his high standards. Les remained as supervisor until his retirement in 1998 after 37 years at UT. In 1988, he and his wife moved to Georgetown where he and his son have a small pasture on which they run some cows and horses.
Chuck and Vivian joined First Baptist Church in Georgetown in 1989 where he served as a greeter for 30 years. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge for 50 years and became an ordained Deacon in 1974.
Les died October 30, 2019, in Georgetown. Survivors include his wife, Vivian Deavers; son, Randall Deavers (Wren); grandchildren, Landon and Alyssa Deavers.
Allan Schroeder was born on December 18, 1955 in Taylor Texas to Elton William (1920-2003) and Ruth Helen Samuelson (1921-2007) Schroeder. Elton and Ruth both grew up on family farms, Elton in the Coupland community and Ruth in the Type community. Elton, who after the eighth-grade, quit school to work on the family farm. On February 26, 1952, Elton and Ruth married, and in February of 1957 they moved to Elgin where Elton started his own farming and ranching operation. Allan had identical twin brothers Bruce (1954- ) and Brian (1954-1973). Brian was killed in a car accident in June of 1973.
Allan has two adult sons James (1983-) and Jim (1995-).
Following graduation from Elgin High School in 1974, Allan attended Capital City Trade and Technical School in Austin where he completed the program as a certified welder. Allan’s Dad encouraged him to learn the trade, which would be helpful on the farm repairing equipment. Instead of following his family’s history in farming, Allan pursued the welding trade going to work for Elgin Craftsman, who manufactured patio furniture. It didn’t take long to realize that production work was not what he wanted to pursue. So, in 1977, Allan went to work for Balderson Berger Equipment Company who fabricated equipment for Alcoa Aluminum. This was very interesting work building large pieces of equipment and learning the machining trade at the same time. In 1987, work at Balderson Berger had slowed down and the future did not look good.
In 1987, Allan heard of a job opening in the Physics Machine Shop at The University of Texas at Austin. Because of the future not looking good at Balderson Berger, Allan decided to apply for the Scientific Instrument Maker I position in Physics. In May of 1987, Allan contacted Les Deavers for an interview. That evening, following the interview, Les contacted a mutual friend that lived in Elgin and asked him to contact Allan. Les felt that after the interview process, Allan knew more about machining than was listed on his resume. After updating his resume, Allan contacted Les for a second interview. Shortly after that, Les offered Allan the position and he started working in the Physics Shop on July 1, 1987.
In 1998, Les announced that he was going to retire as Supervisor of the Machine Shop. The department decided that they would give current Instrument Makers the opportunity to apply for Les’s position. There were four faculty members on the hiring committee, Ken Gentle, who at that time was Chairman, Jim Erskine, Jerry Hoffmann and John Keto. After the interview process was completed, Allan was selected as the next Supervisor of the Physics Machine Shop. Allan took over these duties on August 1, 1998.
The Physics Machine Shop for decades has been known as being one of the best for providing technical support to faculty and students. The Physics Shop has always provided very high-quality instruments for the department. This reputation was not going to be compromised, as Allan soon found out after taking over the supervisory position.
The shop had machined parts for Dr. Mark Raizen’s group and after these pieces were completed and taken to Dr. Raizen’s lab, Dr. Raizen returned to the shop because he was not satisfied with the quality. During his discussion with Allan, Dr. Raizen stated “My students could do a better job.”. Allan immediately called Les about what had just happened. Les reminded Allan that the faculty were used to receiving very high-quality machined pieces and that was his [Dr. Raizen’s] way of saying that he expected that to continue. After this incident, if there was ever a question about the quality of a machined piece, Allan would always respond “Make it as if it were for Dr. Raizen. If we do that, we will never be wrong.”. During Allan’s time as Supervisor, this was a reminder about what was established decades ago and what was expected in the future. Allan retired on December 31, 2019 after 32 and ½ years at UT.
After retirement, Allan plans to stay in the area and spend more time with his family, especially granddaughters Kinsey and Maelie, as well as his fiancé, DeeDee Skidmore. Allan enjoys the outdoors, hunting, fishing, and working in his garden.
Marynell Leidalter Gamboa
James (Jim) Lyle Buchanan
MSgt USAF (Retired) James Lyle Buchanan died December 24, 2010. James Lyle Buchanan was born to David Clyde Buchanan and Jessie Lillian (Dean) Buchanan on July 25, 1919 in Grove Center, Kentucky. He attended schools in the area and graduated in 1937 from Morganfield High School. Jim enlisted in the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937 and was sent to Woods Cross, Utah. He worked building a levy to separate fresh water from snow melt in the Wasatch Mountains from the salt basin below. He returned to Kentucky in 1939 and, after a short stay, enlisted in the Army Air Corps on September 30, 1940.
In 1942, while working in a machine shop at Waco Army Air Base in Waco, Texas, Jim met Edith Cole in Dallas and accompanied her on the trolley ride from Dallas to Waco. She was returning home to Gatesville for the weekend.
Edith Cole Buchanan was born December 9, 1922, to Stephen Alexander Cole and Eva McGlothlin Cole on December 9, 1922 in Bruceville, Texas. She attended schools in the area and graduated in 1940, from Gatesville High School in Gatesville, Texas. She was a member of the 1939 State Champion Girl's basketball team in high school. Edith is third from the left on the front row in the photo at right of the championship team.
Above is Edith Cole's high school graduation picture in 1940.
Jim and Edith corresponded throughout the war. Jim served in the Pacific Theatre in World War II. He sailed from San Francisco on July 25, 1943 to Townsville, Australia. He moved through the Pacific with his unit to Oro Bay, New Guinea, the Philippines and Clark Field, Okinawa. He was discharged on October 1, 1945 and returned to Texas to visit Edith and friends in Waco. Edith entered the Baylor Nursing School in Dallas, Texas during the war and was studying toward her nursing degree at war's end. Jim and Edith were married on Armistice (Veteran's) Day, November 11, 1945. Jim, Edith and son, Bruce Cole are shown at right.
Jim reenlisted on December 20, 1945, as a tech sargaent; a condition of his reenlistment was a tour in Hawaii. As with all military families, transfers were a fact of life. They went from Texas to Tampa, Florida where a son, Bruce,was born. A transfer to Fairbanks, Alaska followed and then to Fort Worth with a final stop at Bergstrom Air Force Base in Austin, where they retired from the Air Force. After Jim retired, Edith returned to the University of Texas School of Nursing and completed her nursing degree. She obtained her RN and worked for the City/County Health Department, in tuberculosis control, until her retirement in 1985. Edith was the last of her generation in the Cole family.
After Jim's retirement from the Air Force in 1961, he went to work for the University of Texas as a scientific instrument maker (machinist). He worked in various machine shops on the campus until his retirement in 1986. Jim was a proud member of the Austin Baptist Church, where he was a Deacon, and he was also a member of the Masonic Lodge. He kept active as a fierce competitor in the Friday Night Domino Club, a gathering of long time friends. Jim was the last of his generation in the Buchanan family. He was preceded in death by his wife, Edith (1922–2009), his parents, one sister, Ella Dean Collins, and two brothers, Aaron Clyde (Buster) Buchanan and Newton (Newt) F. Buchanan. He is survived by his son, Bruce Cole Buchanan, and his wife, Virginia Goetze, as well as several nephews.
Jim and Edith were married for 63 years.
Jim is buried in Cook-Walden Captital Parks Cemetery and Mausoleum in Pflugerville, TX.
Carl Atkins (1960s)
Willie Walter Burk (1907–1989), Instrument Maker (In 1948, he was appointed Scientific Instrument Maker, $294/month). He was married to Thelma Lee Watson (1912-1976) who worked for the Texas Employment Commission. She was daughter of Edwin Wilson and Minnie Mae Cole Burk. Willie and Thelma had two children, Walter Wade Burk (1937–2017 and Carl Allen Burk (1942–1941). Willie and Thelma are buried in Austin Memorial Park Cemetery.Thelma Lee's photo at left.
John Phillip Doty (1931–2002), Born in Webb City , Jasper, MO. Died in Huntville. AL. He served as a 1st Lieutenant in US Army.
Terrell Louis Hickman (1906–81), Laboratory Machinist (In 1948, he was appointed Laboratory Machinist, $267/month)
A. S. Jackman (1940s), His status is changed from 1/2 time Scientific Instrument Maker($1602/12 plus overtime) to full time Instrument Maker at a salary of $3999.48 ($333.29/month.)
Billy J. Killgore
Cone Johnson Land (July 26, 1909, Tyler, TX–Nov. 25, Austin, XT, 1973). Son of Joseph E. Johnson and Katherine Perdue Land. Siblings included Fannie, Jeffie, Lexie, Ella, Jim, Mattie, and Reba. Father was a butcher. Cone married Myrtle Velma Sloan in 1928. She died in Victoria, TX on Dec. 29, 1996. Cone worked first in the demonstration equipment area and then moved to the shop. He retired in 1971. According to Tom Cloud, Cone converted a school bus into a homemade RV to use for travel after retirement.
Bill Ryan worked for Bengtson
Donald Scott 10 or 12 years
Orian W. Shipman (1940s), In 1948, He is transferred from 1/2 time Scientific Instrument Maker to full time on the Military Physics Research Laboratory staff at a salary of $294/month.
L. E. Aldridge (1940s), He is transferred from 1/2 time Scientific Instrument Maker to full time on the Military Physics Research Laboratory staff at a salary of $289.07/month.
Jerry Douglas Spillar
Jerry was born and grew up in Austin and graduated from McCallum High School in 1961. He owned and operated a trucking company and was a machinist for the University of Texas Physics Department. Les Deavers described Jerry as a very talented machinist and a very likable person. Jerry married his wife, Gail, on October 17, 1970, and they made their home in Round Rock where they raised three children. After retiring from U. T., Jerry and Gail moved to Rockport where they enjoyed entertaining family and friends. Jerry loved racing cars, fishing the flats in Rockport, and hunting whitetails.
Jerry died February 2, 2011, at the age of 67, after a brief illness. He was preceded in death by his parents J.D. and Mary Ethel Spillar and his sister Barbara Burke. Jerry was survived by his wife Gail Spillar, his children, Connie Sturgill and husband Roger, Jeremy Spillar and wife Eryca, Derek Spillar and wife Brynn, grandchildren Conley Williams and Ava Spillar and great-grandson Owen Williams, sisters Addie Renfro, Joy Purcell and Peggy Spillar Biros and numerous nieces and nephews.
David Sykes long time
Dudley Lowe came from rain horst company in austin deceased
Daniel "Danny" Boyd, wife, Carol
Joe McGuire and Les Deavers
Deacon Jesse Martinez wife Nelda
William Boyd Wollet (1924–74), Recollection by J. C. Thompson, “My best stroke of luck came one summer afternoon during my second year when Bill Wollet appeared in the lab. It is and was a wild story. He was as well muscled as the 90s weight lifters, with tattoos on his arms and a curl or two in the front of his short hair and did not convey any great impression to me. But in his wallet was a "to whom it may concern" letter from Rice Professor C. F. Squire's best student, John Pellam, at Cal Tech. The letter said that Wollet was a superb technician who knew helium liquefiers inside and out and that his departure from Cal Tech was a very sad event. We talked for two or three hours as I tried to explore the accuracy of the letter. Towards the end of the afternoon, Bill said that his wife and son were sitting in the car somewhere waiting so the interview ended for the moment. Over the next 10-15 years, before Bill quit UT for the last time, I found that everything in the letter was true. He was truly a superb technician. Lacking an assignment he would prowl the building looking for something to do rather than goof off.” (Jim Thompson and Bill Wollet shown at right.)
Another account of Bill Wollet’s entry into the department is provided by Ben Younglove, a student of Thompson, “Regarding stories I thought of the time that Bill Wollett appeared in your lab doorway one morning. He said "I am a low temp technician. Do you have anything for me to do?" You immediately took him over to the Collins LHe cryostat and related your efforts to make liquid Helium. You had put thermocouples in the well - looking for hot spots, I think. And then you went off to teach a class. When you returned after class Bill W. was standing there leaning casually on the Collins and you sensed something big was up. Taking the flashlight you peered into the cryostat to see LIQUID HELIUM. You almost threw the flashlight, but your mood was now too happy to do that.
Tom Cloud provided this description of Bill Wollet, "Bill Wollet, was working at Tracor in the same division with me maintaining their huge high vacuum pumps and he encouraged me to go to U.T. to work. (Bill was an incredibly nice guy -- and strong. He could pick up an oxygen or acetylene cylinder with his arms extended. I watched another technician, Ben Wright, accidentally hit Bill's thumb with a cutting torch. His thumbnail came off immediately and it smelled really bad and all he said was "darn, Ben". I also remember watching a rocket engine test go off from the top of the 40 foot high vacuum chamber that held it and that it ate a hole in the 1/2" solid steel vee that was to deflect the exhaust. I had hooked the ignition wires to it just an hour or so before and they required plastic safety goggles be worn while I hung above the rocket engine connecting the wires. Bill told me they would just be melted on my skull if anything went wrong, and he was correct.)"
Edward Monroe Griffin (Aug 1, 1911–Mar 19. 1981)
Edward M. Griffin was born August 1, 1911 in Caldwell, Burleson County, Texas to William Lee and Mary Blanche Mayes Griffin. Will was a farmer who had come from Mississippi. His mother was from Texas. Ed was one of five children. Ed married Allyne Jackson and they had two children, Neal and ?. He was first employed at the University as a janitor in 1939-40, however the war made it necessary to find good employees to replace those drafted. Ed was promoted to Laboratory Assistant. He is listed on a department appointment sheet in 1948 with a salary of $171/month. In 1966, during the Whitman shooting, Ed and others were lying on the floor when one of the bullets came through the window striking a table. They stayed down! Ed suffered a stroke in the 69, but continued to work for a number of years. He retired in 1970-71. Ed died in Austin, Texas, March 19, 1981 and is buried in Memorial Hill Park, Austin, Travis County, Texas. His wife Allyne died in 1994.
Stanley B. Hudler
Stanley B. Hudler was born in 1925 in San Angelo, TX. He enlisted in the Marines on June 28, 1942 and attended Tarleton State in Stephenville, TX under the ROTC Program. He was called to active duty in July, 1943. The picture at left, taken in San Diego, CA shows an 18 year old, USMC Private. He became a Marine Corporal, an Army Sergeant Major and retired as a Navy Master Chief. He served 6 years in Marines, 15 in Army and 14 in the Navy, totaling 35 years of military service. Most of his military work was either in the areas of electronics, communications or intelligence. On June 28, 1985, his 60th birthday, he retired. After retirement Stan applied for a position with the University. Bob Little interviewed him and he was hired that day to work in the Center for Nuclear Studies, however Emmett Hudspeth was in Europe for a year and someone was needed to oversee his nuclear physics lab at the Balcones Research Center. Hudler volunteered and spent 12 years assisting the Balcones nuclear accelerator lab. Following closure of that facility he spent 10 years as a lab supply room supervisor. His wife Katherine worked for J. Neils Thompson at Balcones and later was a staff member in the Psychology Department. Both retired in 1985. Stan had a small computer consulting and repair business for a number of years after retiring from UT. He and his wife had two children. Stan died in Gatesville, TX, May 24, 2011.
Ric arrived in August 1970 working as a work study student. Mr. Griffin had suffered a stroke and needed help. In 1972, the Supply Room was moved to RLMoore. Mr. Griffin retired and Stan Hudler took his place. Ric graduated from UT in summer of 1973 with BA in English and minor in psychology. He became full time in January of 1974. Following Hudler’s retirement, Ric was put in charge. He partially retired in 2005 but remained supervisor of the room with a half-time appointment. Ric was married to Marie Cervantez in 1977. They have a daughter Laura who is an alumnus of Colorado State University.
Tom came to UT from Tracor, where he worked with Jay Kaufman in the Ground Test Division. Jay joined UT first to design equipment and Tom asked him to be on the lookout for an opening. When one came available, Tom applied and was hired. Tom remembers the Electronic Shop being in Painter 209 across from the glassblower shop. After Jay left UT, Tom and John England became the equipment designers. At right is Dennis Wagner and Tom Cloud, Oct. 10, 2016.
Tom recalls some history from his time in the shop, " I remember building a 100 KV power supply for Dr. Manfred Fink and some equipment to monitor magnetic fields for the NMR experiments of Dr. David Gavenda. I built a high current magnet supply for Dr. Alfred W. Nolle. Dr. Nolle bought a white Mercedes convertible and he came and got me and took me driving in it -- he drove real fast through the neighborhoods around U.T. He built a pipe organ for his home. I don't remember what I did for Dr. Lothar Frommhold, but he hired a microwave technician and I wanted that job. I'm glad he didn't hire me for that as I was over-confident in my ability to learn anything I set my mind to.'
"Andy Mickel helped me set up a stockroom of electronics parts for the department. I worked with some state purchasing agents to set up a revolving account for the stockroom so we wouldn't run out of money at the end of every fiscal year. We charged a small amount for parts that faculty and students took from the stockroom. Most of the things in the stockroom came from government surplus and cost us nothing, so the shop ended up with enough money in the account to purchase our first digital voltmeter.'
"I remember a number of the graduate students -- "Sister John" was a nun who got her PhD and went to the University of Chicago and was murdered there by a gunman in a stairwell. I built a power supply for her to maintain a constant current in a plasma in some gas I don't remember, and I think it also modulated the current (I designed it using an 829-B vacuum tube for the high-voltage part). (Dr. Gavenda also had a nun as a graduate student, but I don't recall her name ... and I believe it was Dr. Collins who had the outside business where he was working on timed-release plant fertilizer.) Page Nettles Graves worked with quadrapole mass spectrometers and I built a number of things for her. She went on to get a second PhD in mathematics and we met again at Hyde Park Baptist Church where she led a woman's quartet and married my friend Charles Graves after his wife was killed in a car accident. Karl Trappe was a graduate student who became my friend. He subsequently went to work for the department running the lecture demonstrations. I last saw him at Austin Community College where he was teaching math or physics -- don't remember if he was a part time or full time instructor there."
Tom graduated with Doug Spillar from McCallum High School. Doug worked in the physics machine shop. Ater leaving UT , Tom had a very productive two years at Accelerators, Inc. where he worked with particle accelerators and ion implanters. He wrote of his time there here.
Tom worked for four different departments at the University of Texas. He commented "The physics department was where I learned the most and enjoyed the most." (Many thanks to Tom for his recollections—Mel Oake).
Andy Mickel (Work Study Studnt)
Jack L. Stephens
Geza Dombi was an early glassblower for physics department. From a 1966 National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) newsletter, “Geza has a working knowledge of the operating principles of high- vacuum systems. He is experienced in making and assembling pumps, cold traps, valves, gages, and other components that go into such systems.
Geza started working with glass in 1957 when he was a part-time student at the University of Texas. As his skill and experience grew, he decided to take up glassblowing as a full-time occupation. By 1963, when he moved to Boulder to join the NBS staff, he was chief glassblower for the University of Texas Physics Department. He came to NCAR in December of 1965 to take on the job of setting up and running our glass-blowing shop.”
When Yates entered a Houston glass shop at the age of 18 (1957), he "didn't even know where the glass came from." For six months, he blew glass bubbles used to sample acids. "I must have blown 10 million of them," he said. "At the beginning, I put more of them in the trash than I put in the oven. One out of six was good." In 1964 he joined the UT Physics Department as its glassblower. Over the years he faced some major design and construction challenges. He always seemed to find a way despite the difficulties. Some of his projects were described in a1967 Alcalde article by Carolyn Barkley titled An Ancient Art Goes Modern”:
“A 20-inch rectangular dewar (a complicated thermos container), used to keep solutions at a certain temperature, is the latest apparatus Yates has constructed. It is also, one of the most difficult objects he has been asked to create in his 10 years as a glassblower. Resembling a cylinder with a long, rectangular-shaped section on one end, it has an inner and outer section so the air can be pumped out, creating a vacuum. A physics student(Jim Thompson’s student) doing research to keep certain metal ammonia solutions at a given temperature asked Yates to construct the complex item last Spring. One manufacturing company representative had asked $800 to make the parts he needed and $1.200 for the finished product because of the problem of making a rectangular end. The student hoped that Yates could construct the apparatus for less money. For three weeks, Yates mulled over various methods for constructing the rectangular end. How to work inside the 1/2 x 3 x 8-inch rectangular end and how to make the parallel walls of the dewar one—sixteenth of an inch thick, filled most of his "thinking time." The rectangular end of the dewar had to be made so the end would fit into the alloted space in the student's experiment. Through his mental glassblowing, Yates discovered two possible trouble areas: Would the dewar withstand 360 pounds of pressure per square side without imploding and could the glass be slipped off its carbon pattern?
Before Yates tackled actual construction, he had to design a carbon mandrel—a form over which he could shape the rectangular end of the dewar. The mandrel was an 8-inch carbon rectangle attached to a 14·inch round wooden handle. The highly intricate job required carbon because of its minute rate of expansion and resistance to heat. Twice, Yates discarded the dewar's rectangular end because of imperfections in the mandrel's slope. The variance of .002 of an inch in the mandrel's slope prevented him from slipping it out of the rectangular end. On the third try, though, he slipped the mandrell out, proceeded construction, and completed the dewar without further problems. The raw materials for the dewar cost only $50.
Sometimes it's necessary for the glass-blowers to help a student design the apparatus which is needed for a particular experiment. One student told Yates he needed an involved cooling system for his project. Examining the student's detailed drawing, Yates decided that an ordinary 2-gallon plastic bucket would do the same job as the student's proposed apparatus.
When they're discussing needed apparatus with the students, the men try to determine the type of glass which will be needed. "You have to be careful in each thing you do," Yates commented. "Usually a mistake means beginning all over again." Mistakes occasionally result in burned fingers and clothing. Besides these obvious dangers. silicon from the glass is poisonous. The men work constantly on the brink of danger—they are surrounded by vacuums, fire and electricity.
Some objects like the much-used dewar, require a silver coating to reflect and lower heat. To mix the liquid coating, Yates and Somerville(glassblower in the Chemistry Department) combine silver nitrate, potassium hydroxide, nitric acid and ammonium hydroxide. An explosion may occur when the potassium hydroxide is added to the silver solution, but, fortunately, because of their extreme caution, neither man has experienced such a disaster. Glassblowers are cautioned against breathing any solutions' vapors or spilling the liquids which will adhere to any surface. including human skin.
To construct the physics and chemistry apparatus, large amounts of glass are used each week. Once, Somerville used 200 to 300 feet of glass in a network of tubes that contained many outlets. A large quantity of natural gas and five containers of oxygen are consumed each month by the torches needed to mold the glass. After a glass object is heated and shaped in the blue torch flame. It is placed in an oven and heated for two hours at 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit to allow the molecules in the glass to rearrange themselves.
Besides making scientific apparatus, the glassblowers create novelty items. After hours and on weekends, they blow glass ships, centerpieces, animals, mermaids, windmills, spinning wheels and vases in their home glass shops. Glass ships are the most popular items. Six-inch ships, which take 40 minutes to make. sell for $15, but the price varies depending on the intricacies and the problems of design. For a Department of Drama production. Measure For Measure, Yates created an 8-inch hour glass, complete with fine, tan sand. For a local pediatrician. Somerville made a stork carrying a baby. One man requested the glassblower to make two hands shaking as a gift for a friend.”
I began working at the Dept. of Physics in 1964 and left in 1981. Jay Campbell, an accomplished glass blower, joined Cleon in the glass shop, (and in later years, also joined Cleon’s company. In 1981, Cleon left the department to found a company, Cryco Quartz. Cleon comments, “ My time at UT was well spent and prepared me for my role as President and founder of Cryco Quartz, Inc. Cryco became a major manufacturer and supplier of finished quartz products to the semiconductor industry. Motorola, Intel, IBM, Texas Instruments, etc... were typical clients of our special-design products. Later, we formed another company, Cryco Twenty-Two, Inc. Cryco Twenty-Two became a design center and focused mainly on mechanical wafer loading and handling equipment combined with our own quartz products. We were awarded five US patents for our efforts. Our patented wafer handling quartz/mechanical devices soon were recognized internationally as was our reputation as a quality partner and provider to our clients. We also earned our industry's highest quality manufacturing award, ISO 9001 in 1991. In 1995, I sold both Cryco Quartz and Cryco Twenty-Two to Tosoh, Inc., a Japanese holding company. I continued to work and served as President of both Texas companies until 2000.”
In 1996, Cleon sold of his company and “because of our deep-rooted faith”, he and his wife Juda (at right) purchased 10 acres of land on Hwy. 1431 in Cedar Park, TX and began construction of Victory Baptist Church at a cost of 1.5 million dollars. Today 500+ people attend the church on a regular basis and they have 120 missionaries spread throughout the world. They donated the facility a few years later.
In 1995, Cleon formed the Men of Music, a Southern Gospel Singing Quartet, purchased a tour bus and traveled extensively singing in churches, concert halls and other venues until he developed voice problems in 2002. With professional treatment, he was able to fully recover from his voice difficulties in a few months. The Men of Music recorded five CD's, sang in the rotunda of Texas State Capitol, appeared on several TV shows, were honored to sing the National Anthem for a Spurs game and officially declared "Singing Ambassadors of Texas" by the Texas State Senate (75th Legislature), Senate Resolution No. 745 on May l5, l997. He dissolved the group in 2002.
In February 2003, Cleon formed Cryco Healthcare, Inc with the help and able assistance of talented CAD design engineer, Joe Guthrie. Joe and Cleon received two patents from their work on an Automated Med Dispenser designed to help alleviate difficulties experienced by impaired and older citizens in taking prescribed medicines on a timely and routine basis.
In 2004, Cleon and Juda dissolved Cryco Healthcare and moved to their 1000 acre ranch in Burnet, TX where they reside today. He writes, “My days are spent caring for our cows, horses, goats, white-tailed deer as well as in my special music room equipped with recording gear. There is never a dull moment here. It seems something is always busted, rusted or leaking.”
John Kerrigan, Group Manager
Eric Jon Rostetter
John Kerrigan, head of Physics Department Computer Group
Physics Shops Photo Album