Mixsonian Morrs and Barbara Larry

My Lab

I started spending more time in Dad’s workshop working on my own projects and before long had shelfs filled with all my "equipment", electronic gear, old TVs and radios, wood working projects, chemistry projects and so on and soon it became known as Larry’s Lab.  The thing that made it a lab versus just a workshop was my chemistry experiments which started with a hand-me-down from my Uncle Corky, a chemistry set. Chemcraft Master Lab Not just any chemistry set, as Corky always got the best and most expensive toys, it was the top-of-the-line Porter "Chemcraft Master Laboratory" chemistry set.  It was like brand new as Corky had no interest in chemistry or science. It was a big thing, a foot high with four sections that opened up almost four feet wide.  It had everything, chemicals, experiment manual, test tubs, balance to weight the chemicals, alcohol lamp for heating and even a manual on atomic energy, radiation test strips, and the sample of true uranium ore.  The manual explained Expirment Manualchemistry, elements and how they were classified in the periodic table, chemical reactions and how to perform over 700 experiments.  I performed many of the experiments, measuring, mixing, testing, and seeing the results.  It was great fun, but I soon found it was limited and the experiments mostly simple and wanted more and soon found additional experiments in books from the school library, but I needed more equipment and chemicals.  No problem, Dad worked in the chemical and supply room at the Chemistry Department, so I made up a list of chemicals glassware and asked Dad if he could get them for me.  He looked the list over and said he would take me to his work the coming Sunday afternoon and we could get a few things

Leigh HallLeigh Hall Archway Entrance

Leigh Hall Archway Entrance That Sunday Dad drove us down to the Chemistry Department which was in Leigh Hall, a majestic old building, built in the Gothic style, towering over three stories tall, with walls of red brick, parapets, stone copings, dormers and a steeply gabled roof.  It was like Harry Potter seeing Hogwarts for the first time. Built in 1927, the building was a year younger than my Dad who had been working there since returning from the war in 1948. We turned off University Avenue driving about halfway down the building coming to an archway in the side of the building,  just big enough for a car to drive through. Dad drove turned into the archway, through a short narrow dark tunnel into an interior courtyard of the building where Dad parked the car next to the department’s pickup truck that Dad sometimes borrowed.  I got out of the car and looked up,  it was like being in a well, four stories deep, with the sky far above.  The walls overlooking the courtyard had dark windows like some medieval castle with perhaps an imagined ghost or two in the windows looking down on us. 

Dad started walking to the door and I follow looking around. The courtyard held all sorts of interesting things, cylinders larger than me painted in different colors which Dad explained were different types of gas, oxygen, hydrogen, argon, neon and so forth, gases I had read about in the chemistry set manual. There were various pieces of equipment in various stages of disrepair, pieces of metal and stuff I didn’t recognize.  We crossed the courtyard to the door on the opposite side which Dad unlocks with his key, and we enter the building which was dark and gloomy with all the lights off.  Dad flicks on the light switch and were in a short hallway with the door to Dad’s office a couple of steps to the left and the storeroom down the darkened hall to the right.  We turn left, entering Dad’s office which was a mess with boxes and stuff piled everywhere, with several bookcases filled with packages and catalogs from chemistry equipment suppliers.  On his desk were six or eight more catalogs and piles of papers, orders, packing slips and the like.  The room was dimly lit, sunlight coming through the window overlooking the courtyard so dirty it turned the light yellow as it streamed down on Dad’s desk. Dad’s job had come a long way since he was hired as stockboy on the G.I. program back in 1948.  Dad grabbed and empty box and we headed to the storerooms.

Audio OscillatorDevice that was on the shelf

The hall to the storeroom was spooky, going off into the dark in front of us until Dad steps forward and turns on the lights, big glass globes in the twelve foot ceiling above lit up.   Both sides of the hall were lined shelves filled with all sorts of boxes and interesting things. One shelf that caught my attention was filled with what seem to be really old scientific instruments, strange electrical contraptions, with wooden bases looking like something you might see in an old Frankenstein movie. I had no idea what most of the instruments were even though they had plaques saying what they were.

BalanceTriple Beam Balnace like Dad got for me

We proceed down the short hall into the stockroom where Dad turns on another light and there behold were floor to ceiling wooden shelves towering over Dad’s head and filled with every imaginable type of glassware and apparatus. Dad looked at my list and started off down the aisle between two rows of shelves, getting different items, a half dozen test tubes and an antique wooden stand to put them in, several beakers and flasks of different sizes, glass tubing, Bunsen burner  and tripod, rubber stoppers, stopper hole punch, filter paper and a few more items even an old triple beam balance that was no longer used and a few more items.  It seems Dad couldn’t throw out anything so when older equipment got replaced, Dad would stash away older stuff instead of throwing it away.

Test Tube HolderTest tube holder

We then headed to the chemical supply room for my list of chemicals, crystal iodine, sulfur, magnesium powder, strontium nitrate (burns red), copper chloride (blue), barium nitrate (green),

Cork hole borerCork hole maker and sharpener

sulfuric acid and acetic acid which he put in small bottles.  After completing my list, he added one more, a bottle of ammonium dichromate which was a bright orange and he said he would show me when we got home what it was.  Dad never really questioned me much about what I was going to do with the chemicals, I don’t recall what I said but he trusted me.  Dad was quite knowledgeable about every chemical in the supply room after ordering them, stocking them on the shelves, supplying the professors and students with them for their experiments, Dad knew something about each of them.  In the following few years, I would occasionally go with Dad to his work, and it was this this behind the scenes view to the Chemistry Department that I only knew.  Later when I was a student at the University would I realize there was another whole side of it.

Updated: 08-18-2023

The Volcano