Thursday, 1 July 2021

The Pad in Madison, and my late Uncle

I have, in the past, made a few posts with obituaries, or at least reminiscenes, about nuclear physicists who have died.  Here is one about a relative of mine who died earlier this week, who has perhaps a rather tangential link to nuclear physics.

To the extent that I have knowledge of my family tree, I am not aware of any origins outside the British Isles, but my dad's sister Jean did leave the UK for Los Angeles where she married an American man by the name of Murray Winer.  He died earlier this week (on 28th June).  It's been some years since I last saw him - in fact, it must have been when I attended the Nuclear Structure conference in Berkeley in 2010 - when I also went with my partner to a conference in her field in San Diego first and we made out way up to the Bay Area stopping in with my aunt and uncle in Lake Temecula, where they lived at the time. 

As a young child, my summer holidays were in places like Aberdeen (camping - the first and only time, as my mother refused to camp again after that), Berwick-upon-Tweed, Lythm St Annes, and then later to places on the south coast when we moved from Scotland to England.   After my aunt moved to LA, when I was around 9 or 10 we started to go on overseas holidays and managed to alternate going to stay with her and Murray in LA.  For me these were wonderful and memorable holidays.  I got to go to theme parks like Disneyland, Magic Mountain, Knott's Berry Farm, places like Sea World, Universal Studies - as well as to the beach, and many other tourist places, all while staying with family.  I knew Murray, then, in the context of my aunt's husband, in LA, where he worked in car sales.

Before LA, though, Murray lived in Madison, Wisconsin where he opened a coffee house called The Pad.  I was vaguely aware that it had some connections with the likes of Bob Dylan, who played there while Murray was managing the place.   I don't know exactly where in Madison it was, but presumably a cool place to hang out like this would be near enough the University to draw business from it, and in a newspaper story from 1997 that Murray's son in law posted on facebook (below), it mentions that it was frequented by 'university professors [and] students' as well as musicians, beatniks and poets.  The University of Wisconsin, Madison then as now had people doing nuclear physics research, so it is just possible that people I know now, also met my uncle in the 1960s.   The person I thought of was our emeritus professor Ron Johnson at Surrey, who I knew was a postdoc in Madison sometime around the 1960s between his PhD in Manchester and his permanent position in Surrey.  I asked him if he had any memory of The Pad, but he told me that though he was there at around the right time (1963-4), hanging out in such places was not his thing.

Do any readers have links with the University of Wisonsin Madison from around this time, and remember a place called The Pad?  I'd be very interested to hear.

Below is the newspaper clipping I mentioned above, along with a picture of Murray taken some time within the last 10 years, and later than the time I last saw him.  RIP Murray.