Sunday, September 10, 2017

This Blog On Hiatus While I'm in Ireland

Updates to History Right Here, explorations of Santa Cruz history from the perspective of a single location, is paused while I'm in Ireland.  

If you are interested in my stories of Ireland, see After Santa Cruz. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The First Geek House in Santa Cruz. Part 2: The Nethertons

Modern Santa Cruzans of the Early Twentieth Century


I knew who lived in my house at 707 Riverside in the Seventies, but nothing about the original owners. (Read Part 1: Inspired by Chaos.) Who built this house? 

Everyone who asks this question starts as I did, with a chain-of-title search, as is suggested in Every Structure Tells a Story. I spent vacation time from work to spend days at the County Recorder’s office. I learned that the house had been a duplex through the Sixties, Fifties, and Forties. In 1931 it was sold from the courthouse steps to pay a $2500 loan. Then I spent days searching back through page after page, year before year, to find the next record, all the way back to a deed from 1906, where a Mr. and Mrs. William P. Netherton bought a lot on Riverside avenue. Who were they?


Mr. and Mrs. William P. Netherton bought a lot on Riverside avenue for $10 from Edwin G. Shafter on June 30, 1906.  The house was built the following year.


netherton home.png


City Attorney and the City Clerk.
W. P. Netherton is building him a fine new house next to City Clerk Wright's home. Mr. Netherton is taking great pains to have a home for comfort and an object of beauty to the passing throng. March 10, 1907, Santa Cruz Sentinel


The house is an early Craftsman, which would have been called “a modern cottage” at the time. People would continue to build "Victorians" for another decade; they built is a modern house for the new century.

In those days, the house was numbered 96 Riverside. Originally the house had a small office, a "jack and jill" bathroom, and two bedrooms on one side of the central hall, and a living room, dining room, and kitchen on the other. Porches ran the width of the house on the front and back. The front looked out onto a residential street and the gardens of the Riverside Hotel on the corner; the back porch looked over the river. Pocket doors neatly seal off the private areas from public; a perfect, modest house for community-minded people.




Margaret Glassford Netherton, her mother Mrs Glassford Thornton, her daughter Hazel Shepherd Netherton, her husband William P. Netherton, and two unidentified guests in the dining room of 707 (96) Riverside, Thanksgiving 1911.


Afternoon light still streams over the Thanksgiving table every year, and as it has every Thanksgiving more than 100 years.


This is the only photo I have of the interior of the house and its original inhabitants.

How did I come to have such an intimate family photo?

Although I learned who had owned my house, I knew nothing about them until I was at the local historians' meeting in the early Ninties. When I announced to the group that I was looking for information about William Netherton, nobody had heard of him but Esther (Fields) Rice, who grew up on Riverside a block away. She muttered next to me, "His son-in-law lives out in Live Oak."

Mrs. Rice's brief comment changed everything. The next day I called this son-in-law, Haswell Leask, and we later met for two interviews. He told me stories, gave me photographs, and brought the Nethertons and their town to life.

My few hours listening to Haswell Leask was the closest I'll ever get to a trip in a time machine. I treasure the memory of our meeting. Mr. Haswell's daughter visited me a few months later, and shared her memories and family photos with me. Mr. Leask died a few years later, age 103.

The Nethertons As Remembered by Haswell Leask

Interview by Linda Rosewood at Mr Leask’s home in December 15,1994 and March 14, 1995.


Haswell: What can I tell you about 96 Riverside Avenue? I think I've got a story for you. My family would always eat dinner–supper–together. There were five of us children and my father and mother. One night, my father, during the course of the meal, put his hand in his pocket and brought out a handful of tickets, and said that he had gotten these tickets and that there was going to be a show at the Opera House that night . And maybe some of us would like to go. I was fourteen, and of course anything to get away from the home for the evening. So I grabbed a couple of tickets and got a hold friend and we departed, about three blocks we traveled down to Knight's Opera House.

hazel.netherton.jpg


We lived on Green Street at that time. We had no idea what we were going to see, but anything was clearly satisfactory to us. Well, the show started. It developed to be a program, sort of a vaudeville program, put on by the children from an orphanage. And it started. There were several acts and eventually a little girl came out and she sang and she danced, and she had a monologue, and I was tremendously impressed. The show ended.
The next morning I was having breakfast with my mother; we were alone. She asked how I'd gotten along the night before. I started in and told her about the show and told her about this wonderful girl and must been very enthusiastic because in the course of my discussion of thing I said I'd like to marry that girl. Well, my mother must have been very much amused. I went back to school. And the show was long gone and that was that until about six months later that girl appeared in school. And it developed that they had put the children out overnight at various homes. And this girl had been placed at the Netherton's. They must have been affected the same way that I was because they adopted her.


gthome.gif
The cover of a newsletter-type publication by the Good Templars. From the collection of the California State Archives in Sacramento. No date, but probably the home that Hazel's family lived in. According to Mrs. Epstein (Haswell Leask's daughter), Hazel's birth mother, Mrs. Shepherd, was widowed when Hazel was 8 years old. She kept her daughter, Grace, age 2, but Hazel, Dan (age 4), Russel (age 6), and Freida (age 10) were sent to the orphanage at Vallejo. Laura (age 14) was sent to work on her own. Freida left the orphanage in a few years and started working. Hazel took a tour of Good Templar branches in northern California, as Haswell's story goes, and while they met her on this trip, the Netherton's decided to adopt her. Mrs. Epstein described the Nethertons as loving people, hungry for children.


Linda : That was 1909.
Haswell: It was.
Linda: It was in a newspaper story.



Haswell: Well, she was attending Branciforte school. She went on a visit to Mission Hill. Which was my school. Well, I lost no time in getting acquainted with her. And we stayed friends for the rest of her life. We were married in 1918.
Linda: What month?
Haswell: June 19th. I was in the Army and we went to—we started our married life in Fort Sill where I was with the school there.
Linda: Was she still living at Riverside when you married her?
Haswell: Oh yeah–we were married in the home. We were married there.
Linda: In the living room?
Haswell: Yes.



The wedding party took photos in the front yard. L-R: Mr. Samuel Leask, Mrs. Margaret Netherton, Haswell Leask, Hazel (Shepherd Netherton) Leask, Mrs. Samuel Leask, Mrs. Shepherd, Mr. Netherton. Mrs. Shepherd was Hazel's birth mother. 

Linda: Were you sweethearts with Hazel all the way through school?
Haswell: Good friends. I never asked her to marry me, never, we just knew we would. After we were married we stopped in Los Angeles, and Zazu [Pitts], who was just getting started, she steered us to a photographer to get a picture taken. Peggy must have them.

Hazel's cat.

Haswell: We went to high-school, I think I was in the seventh grade, that was 1909. It would be about that time that was when she was adopted. Well, we soon went high-school and of course that's where we formed our real acquaintanceship, in high school. And then I went off and left Santa Cruz and attended the University of California at Berkeley. And then I went into the first officer's training camp. And I got my commission and at that time I was a first lieutenant living on a $133.33 a month. Which wasn't quite enough. But then I got a promotion to second lieutenant and I got $166.66 a month.


And we decided we could get married.

wedding.announcement.gif


Soon we went back there to Oklahoma and lived there for several months. And then she made a trip back to Santa Cruz, and while she was away, I got orders to report to Jackson, South Carolina, for embarkation to Europe. And then she came back to be with me until I left. And then the Armistice came along and I never got to Europe, which I always regretted.


Linda: And then what did you do?
Haswell: After my discharge, we came back to Santa Cruz , and then to Davis, to the agricultural branch of the University, and we lived there for not too long. And then bought the ranch in Waterford, in Stanislaus County, east of Modesto.


So then we moved to the ranch in 1918, no 1920, by that time we had our daughter Peggy–Margaret–named for her [pointing at photo of Mrs. Netherton]–and we eventually had four daughters. They grew up there and eventually married and left home, and they're scattered around all over the state. One of them passed away.


Linda: How long did you live on the ranch?
Haswell: 50 years.
Linda: Why come back here?
Haswell: My wife wasn't well, and we decided that we should move. We came back here about 24 years ago. And she lived about three years after that. She was eventually very ill. She had come out of the hospital and was in the bedroom. I wandered in there. She asked me, "Do want to spend some money on me?" I said "What you have in mind?" She said "I want to take a trip." I knew she'd never take a trip. "Where do you want to go?" "Australia." I said OK, knowing I was pacifying her. Eventually she got better and was able to leave the house. Never said anything more. She improved. Once we were driving to the doctor. We'd been there at least twelve times. I said "You ever talk to the doctor about that trip?" She said she was planning to ask him today. The doctor said it would be wonderful idea. We got a ship, went to Hawaii, Tahiti, Australia, New Zealand, and the Fiji Islands. A wonderful trip. We got home. Things went on and it wasn't too long before she passed away.

Linda: What happened to her parents after you got married?
Haswell: Well, that was a sad story. Will Netherton was a wonderful man, kind, competent and a real good person. But he was the worst businessman in the world. He was a born optimist. He had a well-established legal practice. He invested in a large tract of land in Texas. And he hung on to that until the day he died. And I know he never got a cent of income from it. He always had visions of developing it, you know, into a very large place. During the war he involved himself in a mining enterprise. And that was not all successful. I think he borrowed a lot of money. And eventually, the Depression came, and he lost everything. He was destitute. Unfortunately, he became very ill, he had a stroke, and didn't live very long.
mrs.netherton.jpg
Mrs. Netherton 
mr.netherton.jpg
William P. Netherton, Bank Director and Early Adopter 

Linda: I knew that they lost the house.
Haswell: Yes.
Linda: That was in the court records.
Haswell: So he died in the early 30's. He must have died about 1933. And his wife died a short time later. She [pointing to the photo of Hazel] had a wonderful opportunity, because she took care of them. There were very, very close. Of course, that was a long time after we were married. When her parents were ailing .... They were living in Oakland. She went up there, and spent a lot of time with them.
Linda: So that is where they died?
Haswell: Yes.
Linda: Do know what happened to his legal papers?
Haswell: Oh, I threw away, we threw away, oceans of paper.
Linda: I was afraid you'd say that.


peoplesbank.gif
Plans Of the People's Bank
The Watsonville Register says Mr. Weeks has also drawn plans for the new People's Bank at Santa Cruz. This is to be a $60,000 fireproof stone building. It is to be one of the finest banks in the interior of California. Mr. Weeks makes a specialty of bank buildings having made a study of this style of architecture. (Santa Cruz Surf, Sept 9/28/09)


Haswell: Well, when he died, and his wife died, there were still twelve shares of the Farmers and Merchants Bank that were worth about $10 to $12 a share. Hazel had them, and we would never sell them, for sentimental reasons. Until finally, they ended up as 2000 shares of Wells Fargo stock! [Later he told me the stock was sold and land was purchased to augment Big Basin park. There is a bench on the path to Berry Falls that commemorates this gift as “Leask Grove.”]


courthouse.smaller.jpg
This is the corner of Cooper and Pacific, sometime between 1900 and 1906. The building in the center of the postcard is the Courthouse. The "Octagon" was the county Recorder's office or "Hall of Records." It is the dark low building to the rear and right of the courthouse. To the left is the Santa Cruz County Bank. To the right of the courthouse is the
IOOF building, with its clock tower. (It is this clock tower that was restored and sits at the end of Pacific at Mission and Water.) This photograph was taken from the second-story offices of the People's Bank. Mr. Netherton kept his office at #6, the center office, and its window still looks out at this same corner.


***
Haswell: When was your house built?
Linda: The year the Leask store was built is the same year the house was built–1906.
Haswell: That must have been a real new house when I had anything to do with it.
***


Mr. and Mrs. Netherton in front of 96 Riverside around 1912. The Netherton’s granddaughter told me that they considered themselves “very modern” and their new home was in keeping with their approach to life. She said Mrs. Netherton was very proud of the electric cooker installed on the utility porch behind the kitchen. 

Mrs. Netherton and her new dress. 


Mr Netherton, Hazel Netherton, her grandmother Mrs. Thornton, Mrs. Netherton. Behind them is the original back porch. In this photo one can see a corner of the house that was once next door, 100 Riverside that burned in the 1960s. One can also see the gable of the house that was across the street, 99 Riverside. It is similar to houses from the 1880s that remain on the block.


Haswell: Well, the strange thing was, that my mother and father, were married by an uncle of my mother's. Named Salem Haswell. Salem Haswell was a Minister who had a ... in the early days, he had a series of churches or groups up the Sacramento river. And he used to go through from place to place in his work. Much later on, he became the head of the California Odd Fellows Lodge, and that the same time, he founded the Good Temperance orphanage, that by trick is fate, she [Hazel] was placed in. Strange world. And of course Will Netherton was, later on, a trustee of the orphanage.
Linda: So that is more of his social conscience.
Haswell: Oh he had a lot of that, yes, yes.

Linda: Do you have more photos you'd like to show me?
Haswell: There is one I'd like to try to get you a copy of. It is a photo of him, in front of the house, in a car, called a Sunset, which was manufactured and built in San Jose. It's got right hand drive and it's an open car, and it has in it a bunch of children, about five or six kids, and I'm sure that when this traveling troupe of youngsters came to town, that he took them for a ride in that car, and she's in there. I'll try to get you one.


Mr. Netherton, Hazel Netherton, Mrs. Netherton and Mrs. Thornton in their car in front of 96 Riverside. The names of other man and the little girls are unknown. The house across the street is similar to others which are still on the block. Riverside Hotel in the background on the right.


Haswell: van Torchiana was a character. He designed the two main rooms of the house, the living room and dining room. Margaret, she was kind of shy person, a wonderful woman. But I think she let Torchiana, who was a law partner of her husband, make most of the decisions, and I think I would agree with her, they could have been improved on, and she ended up with a house that just wasn't her. She was a wonderful cook. I think she liked the kitchen all right.
Linda: What about that little room to the right of the front door?
Haswell: Maybe Mr. Netherton used it as an office. His father lived with them until he died. His father was a farmer of course. When I used to go over there the old man was there then. Hazel was very fond of him, that I remember that she is to have a lot of fun lacing up his shoes for him. He was an old, old man. He had someplace where he was sleeping.


Linda: You mentioned before that Mr. Netherton had the Cadillac dealership. Where was it?
Haswell: He never had it... he never had a place of business. He was just supposed to sell cars, and furthermore I never knew him to... I suppose he sold a car once in awhile, but I never knew about it.


According to Haswell Leask, William Netherton was the city’s first Cadillac dealer. He also said that he probably never sold a car. However, when the garage was demolished in the Ninties, we found a pair of license plates, unused, and still wired together. While I could find no newspaper articles about Mr. Netherton’s dealership, he did own a Cadillac in 1911.




Another New One
W. P. Netherton is enjoying a new automobile—a Cadillac forty, self starter.
—Santa Cruz Sentinel, October 15, 1911, page 6.

One might wonder why the newspaper would publish a story about someone buying a car. In 1911, buying a Cadillac that didn't need to be cranked over by hand showed the world that you were an early adopter of leading edge technology. Could it be that Will Netherton was... a geek?


"A Trusty Friend, and a Stern Foe"


According to various newspaper accounts, William Netherton came to town in the 1880s. He and a partner ran a grocery store on the ground floor of the Lodtmann’s hall on the East Side on the Doyle Triangle. The Nethertons were leaders in that Templars, a prohibitionist fraternitity and they met upstairs in Lodtmann's hall. One of the service projects of the Templars was to provide an orphanage for Californian children; the idea being that alcohol abuse destroyed children’s home life as well as their parents. The Nethertons adopted Hazel Shepherd from there when she was eleven.


Netherton was Justice of the Peace for the East Side when that neighborhood was not yet in the city limits, and then later ran for several local offices. Most races he lost, but he served as City Attorney a few terms around the turn of the century. Election coverage indicates he was supported by the liberal Santa Cruz Surf, and subject to excoriating editorials in the Sentinel. He was a founder of the People’s Bank, and his offices were on the 2nd floor, overlooking Pacific Avenue, and the rival bank across the street.


William P. Netherton
A born leader of men, a shrewd organizer, a true man, a trusty friend, and a stern foe, weld to a character like this, judgment, prudence, and a knowledge of the law, augmented daily by study and there you have W. P. Netherton. This is no machine-made puff, it is the truth, spoken from an intimate knowledge of the man and a great admiration born of the knowledge. Mr. Netherton in the prime of life as years go, but in all that goes to make the sober sensible citizen he is old and ripe. He's the grant secretary of the IOGT, edits the monthly official paper of that organization, is City attorney of Santa Cruz, and besides all these duties, attends to a private practice as large as that of anyone in the county. A good man, a good lawyer, the soul of truth and honor, may his shadow grow broader as long as he lives. (Beautiful Santa Cruz County, Phil Francis, 1896)


For a while, the Nethertons were friends and business partners with H. A. van Torchiana. Torchiana is known to historians as the author of The Santa Cruz Mission (1933). According to Haswell Leask, the Torchianas adopted two girls from the same Good Templars orphanage at the same time that the Nethertons adopted Hazel.


Jan 11, 1911, Santa Cruz Sentinel


The Nethertons were friends with more well-known Santa Cruzans of the era, especially city officials and the legal community. Besides being affiliated with the Leasks and the van Torchianas, the Nethertons’ social lives appear in the papers beside others in prohibitionist and legal circles. Silent movie star Zazu Pitts was a classmate of Hazel’s at Santa Cruz High School and they were friends their entire lives. Another family friend was Eva Whinery, a supporter of early efforts to restore Evergreen Cemetery. The wedding dress of Eva’s mother is in the MAH collection.


Hazel Netherton and friend in the front yard, 1912. The house at 100 Riverside is visible; it burned in the early 1960s.

William and Margaret moved to Oakland in the late Twenties as their health failed and they were cared for by their daughter and family friends. They were unable to pay back a $2500 loan from Edna Scott, the well-known educator. The house was auctioned from the courthouse steps in August 1931, and purchased by Martin and Arlie Moore, who later also borrowed $2500 from Edna Scott. (The fountain at UCSC's Cowell College is a memorial to Scott.)

In 1940, the house was purchased by Glen Ellis, who owned other houses at this end of the block, and who built the Hidden Motor Court next to the river behind the house. Correlating the building materials and the dates of ownership, it was probably Ellis who converted the house to a duplex in the 1940s. Someone painted the wainscoting in the dining room with 1950s-era pink enamel. After Ellis, a succession of real estate investors owned the duplex; its tenants include the R. V. Gregory family who ran a grocery store at the end of Riverside, the R. L. Richeys, and Mrs. Alma Payton.


In 1977, 707 Riverside was purchased by a young law student as a home for her friends while they were in graduate school. In addition to their scholarly activities, they were working on a project that combined their knowledge of Newtonian physics, betting systems, and the nascent art of computer programming.


Haswell Leask told me, very emphatically, that “Santa Cruz hasn't changed a bit. ” What he meant was that there have always been people like Will Netherton would build a “People’s Bank” right across the street from the bank owned by the local elites. There have always been people here who see that with the latest technology they can make a pile of money, and build with it a better world.

If you missed it, read Part 1: Inspired by Chaos



The First Geek House in Santa Cruz. Part 1: The Eudaemons.

Inspired by Chaos


Before everyone had a super-computer in their pocket, “computer geeks” had computers in their bedrooms. In the late Eighties and Nineties, college students who used computers for work—and more importantly, play— would pool their resources to support their online lifestyle. They purchased a relatively expensive service from the phone company that allowed them to connect to computers at universities continuously. Once a household had this “always on” network connection, they existed as a permanent place on the expanding global network, and could easily communicate with other households and virtual communities. These households later became known as “geek houses.”  In Santa Cruz, one of the earliest geek houses is known as The Armory, and it still has its webpage: http://www.geek.org/geekhouse.html.


Ten years before those geek houses, a community of physicists, artists, musicians, and other creative young people lived at 707 Riverside, and formed what I will call an early Santa Cruz geek house. Although there must have been other households of scientists, it wasn’t until 1976 that a programmable microprocessor was available to hobbyists —and enterprising students. Because of the technical nature of their project, and because their community was as much a part of the success of the project as the hardware and software that they created, it is reasonable to claim that 707 Riverside is the earliest documented “geek house” in Santa Cruz.  (If this claim prompts counter-claims, I couldn’t be more delighted.)

The best source for this period of 707 Riverside’s history is Eudaemonic Pie, by Thomas Bass. It was reviewed in the Sentinel when published in 1985.


"The book is about a group of UCSC students, mostly physicists and engineers, who came together in the late 1970s as a community. Their purpose was to "beat the game" of roulette in Las Vegas casinos, to do better than chance would normally allow.

"The purpose became a reality when the group did just that against a game long considered unbeatable. The story of how it was done, the mathematical equations, technology, and people involved form Eudaemonic Pie. ...


"The Eudaemonic community, usually seven or eight in a shifting cast, set up housekeeping at 707 Riverside. For five years, the group tested theories and equipment in its attempt to overcome the house advantage on roulette. While Nevada gaming laws forbid tampering with games of chance, predicting an outcome is perfectly legal. This is what the Santa Cruzans did. …


"The desire to beat roulette was born in the physicists' dread of finishing school and entering the not-so-shining path such wizards normally follow — working, usually in research, for the military or teaching at a university. ...


" "This is a book about Santa Cruz," Bass observed," about that special coalescence of talented energy in this town — and about its relationship to Silicon Valley and new technology. I think Santa Cruz is much more intricately linked to Silicon Valley than it thinks — not just economically, but in terms of ideas and a zany kind of inventiveness involved with computers.


"In this, the organic movement and high tech came together, with a social consciousness also found in Santa Cruz." (Santa Cruz Sentinel, June 12, 1985)


The excerpt below (by permission of the author) introduces 707 Riverside, which is as important character in the book as many of its humans. It not only describes the house, but gives a fairly accurate description of the town and neighborhood of the time.


After their summer at Professor Nauenberg's the Projectors moved that fall into a house of their own. Doyne, Norman, and Letty had searched the county for someplace large enough to hold the first Eudemonic household.  They finally found a rambling, wood frame structure at 707 Riverside Street, a few hundred yards from the beach and just back from the levees that keep the San Lorenzo River from flooding the town built along its banks. The house and its barn had once presided over this stretch of riverbank as their sole occupants. But the acreage had long since been sold off for beach bungalows and condominiums, the barn was sagging, and the house itself was in need of cosmetic, if not structural attention.


The Riverside neighborhood, in its democratic receptivity, held a smattering of every element found in this sun-drenched town of fifty thousand. Tourists unloaded children and baja chairs into cottages rented by the week. Retired couples turned their gardens into mini-citrus groves or Shangri-las overrun with bougainvillea and fuchsia. High-tech employees from Intel, after an hour's commute over the mountains, wheeled their Porsches into the front yards of otherwise unadorned condominiums. Other citizens, surviving somehow in an economy dependent on fish, Brussels sprouts, the university, a Wrigley's chewing gum factory, food stamps, silicon chips, and tourism, used their front lawns for planting snow peas, fitting skylights into Dodge vans, rigging Windsurfers, grilling vegetables over hibachis, or reading Good Times, the local newspaper whose masthead slogan is "Lighter than Air."


The flower-lined mall and cafes of Santa Cruz lay just across a bridge spanning the San Lorenzo, or one could stroll instead to the harbor, an expanse of blue water situated where Monterey Bay takes a final nip in the coastline before rejoining the Pacific at Lighthouse Point. Surfers off the Point shot the curl in Steamer Lane, one of the best surf breaks on the coast, while back in the quieter waters of the Bay one found a yacht harbor, a wharf with fishmongers selling the catch of the day, and a boardwalk complete with arcades and a roller coaster. The only incongruity in this pleasant neighborhood --which soon went unnoticed by its residents--was the screaming of riders on the roller coaster as they took the big plunge.


Besides its location, 707 Riverside had much to recommend it. A stone foundation, having already survived numerous earthquakes, supported a bank of stairs, a pillared porch, a clerestory gable whose eaves and upturned roof made the house look vaguely like a Chinese pagoda. Despite its loftiness, the structure contained only one habitable floor, although one so extensive that it contained along its perimeter six bedrooms, as well as a living room, dining room, and kitchen built on a grand scale. The basement held two more rooms, with windows, facing out onto a large backyard and the barn.


Then in her third year of law school at Stanford, Letty paid slightly over fifty-thousand dollars for the house. "Norman and I were considering buying it ourselves," said Doyne, "but no one at the bank would give us the time of day. They thought Letty was pretty suspicious too, until she produced her stock certificates. It was clear sailing from there."


Norman moved that fall from Portland to Santa Cruz and began his first year as a physics graduate student at the university. Letty came down from Palo Alto as often as possible. Juano, on being wiped out as a poker player in the card rooms of Montana, drifted back to town. The house filled up with other residents that included, over the years, scientists, teachers, lawyers, a pianist, a nurse, a volleyball coach, two Dutch film stars, and an Italian leftist from Milan. A way station for travelers and the headquarters of Eudemonic Enterprises, 707 Riverside acquired the air of a commune, a physics laboratory, and a casino all rolled into one.


The Eudemonic family fenced in the yard and planted a garden. They built tables and beds and bought other furniture at the Sky View Drive-in flea market. In a small white chamber off the front hall, Doyne set up the new computer in what come to be known as the Project Room. He lined the walls from floor to ceiling with shelves that he filled with shoe boxes containing electronic parts, technical manuals, spare chips, wiring diagrams, and other paraphernalia needed for assembling and programming the KIM. [Keyboard Input Module--a computer development kit which included an Intel 6502 microprocessor, the first programmable computer small enough to wear.]


After The Project ended, that’s where I came in. I was an undergraduate at the end of spring quarter of 1982, I answered the following advertisement in the Santa Cruz Express.




The physicists had graduated and were moving out. Lorna Lyons, the remaining housemate, told me it had been a boys’ house for five years, and it was time for the house to be there for women and support our lives, and our projects. While we lived together, Lorna introduced me to her friends from the earlier household. I was in the middle of my undergraduate scientific education, and the best lesson I learned from the Eudaemons was that scientists are also artists, and to cultivate passions separate from one’s field of study.

While we didn’t do anything as ambitious as building a computer in a shoe, in that house I became an adult, and learned that cheese can be sliced, women can be lovers, drugs can be illuminating, and careers don’t necessarily extend in a straight line from your major.




This statue of the Three Graces was purchased at a yard sale by one of those first housemates. They have been my household gods since. Though severely broken in the 1989 earthquake, they preside as ever.


I lived at 707 until June of 1984, and the next year Letty Belin sold the house to a family who raised their children there, and rented rooms to college students.


In 1993, myself and a friend who I had met in the dining room of 707 Riverside ten years earlier were looking for a house to buy. We wanted a property where unrelated adults could live together easily in community. We thought we might buy an old motel. She happened to drive by 707 Riverside and saw that it was for sale. We bought it, and celebrated the close of escrow on October 31, with a party we thought a worthy descendant of the Halloween parties we had read about in  Eudaemonic Pie. Since then many people have lived here, and most of them have been inspired by the Eudaemons to use the house to support our artistic and technical projects.


Thirty years went by. Unlike the familiar Victorian-era history stories, the people in this chapter are still alive, and their accomplishments at 707 Riverside were at the beginning of long careers of scientific, technical, and artistic achievements; far more extraordinary than building a roulette-playing computer. While living at 707, Doyne Farmer, Norman Packard, Rob Shaw, and Jim Crutchfield worked with Professors Ralph Abraham, Bruce Rosenblum, and Michael Nauenberg. on the very earliest groundbreaking foundations of chaos theory and nonlinear dynamics. They and other members of their household who are not public about their lives went on to adventures and innovations, in science, art, and politics. So many stories to tell.

Jim Crutchfield, Rob Shaw, and the late Bruce Rosenblum pose in front of the computers used for chaos simulations, 1978. Photo provided by Jim Crutchfield.




Photo of the exhibit at the UCSC Physics Department, provided by Jim Crutchfield via Eugene Miya. Original  photographer unknown. See The Eudaemons and The Shoe Computer. How it worked.  

In 2012, researchers published a paper on how to beat routlette using a similar physics model. Responding to this paper in New Scientist, Farmer commented publicly on his model for the first time,  “I kept silent because I did not want to communicate any information that might prevent anyone from taking the casinos’ money."

You can watch an hour-long History Channel documentary about the Eudaemons on YouTube called “Beat the Wheel." This documentary relies on reenactment to tell the story, but interviews several of the Eudaemons. A NOVA documentary about early chaos research, is available on YouTube: "The Strange New Science of Chaos." Rob Shaw, Peter Scott, and Ralph Abraham appear.


Who lived here before 1977? I started my research with a chain-of-title search, as is suggested in Every Structure Tells a Story. In my obsession, I used vacation time from work to spend days at the County Recorder’s office. I learned that before Letty Belin owned it, the house had been a duplex through the Sixties, Fifties, and Forties, owned by investors. In 1931 it had been sold from the courthouse steps to pay the judgement on a $2500 loan. Then I spent days searching back through page after page, year after year, until I finally found the original deed, where a Mr. and Mrs. William P. Netherton bought a lot on Riverside avenue for $10 from Edwin G. Shafter on June 30, 1906. Who were they?