50th memories: Who is that guy?

This shows the Meson Building under construction in 1972. Photo: Fermilab

It was late 1972 and the Meson Lab was just working on its first beam transport. I was a new crew chief, having just joined the lab, and a man named John was my assistant. We were operating from the MS-2 service building with the roaring power supplies. It was about 8 p.m. The Main Ring had just gone down and the Main Control Room gave an estimate of one hour. (Everything only took one hour back then, until they gave the next updated estimate of one hour!)

As I sat and fiddled with the MAC-16 control computer to see what it would do, John sat with his feet propped up on a desk watching “The Honeymooners” TV show starring Jackie Gleason on a small black and white monitor. I looked up to see a gentleman walking towards me wearing a beret and wearing a top coat. He came over and asked what I was doing, and I said I was trying to learn all about the computer. Nowadays it would be called hacking!

I mentioned the ring was down for an hour. He thanked me, turned and walked back toward the door, glancing at John as he walked past. I asked John who the gentleman was, and John just shrugged. “No idea” he said.

When I came in for my shift the next day, my boss, Jim, called me in to his office. He looked at me with a terse smile and said, “Dr. Wilson was happy to see you trying to understand the control system, but for crying out loud, don’t let John watch “The Honeymooners” when the director is there!”

That event was my introduction to Dr. Robert R. Wilson, and I spoke with him numerous times after that.

Paul Czarapata is the deputy head of the Accelerator Division.