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Working before university

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Learning to play the clarinet and the piano
Eugene Garfield Scientist
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When I worked for my uncle I was still going to Stuyvesant. I would work there... during the summer it was a very busy time in the coat and suit industry because... you’re now shipping and... winter calling, okay, and, and in the winter you were doing spring, right. So, I would go to school and then work there. I was earning - at that time the minimum wage in New York was 30 cent per hour. I think this is around 1937 or ’38. I was working there a while and I... said to my uncle, I said, 'I would like to... I think I need a raise'. He says, 'What do you need a raise for, you’re making 30 cents an hour, that’s a lot of money'. I was only 13 or 14. I said, 'Well, I want to buy a clarinet and...' So, he says to me, 'How much is the clarinet?' I don’t know, I think it was, like, $12 or $15, it was a Peddler clarinet which, in those days, was a very common brand of clarinet made in Elkhart, Indiana which I think is still a, you know, a place where they make instruments. And, in, in Stuyvesant you could get free clarinet lessons, you know, if you had... you, you could probably even borrow a, an instrument but you couldn’t necessarily take it home, but I don’t know, in those days. Anyhow, I, I wanted to have my own, and he says to me, 'Well, as your uncle, no as your boss I’m not going to give you a raise, but as your uncle here’s the 15 bucks, go and get the clarinet'. So, that’s how I got my clarinet. And, I used to... and so I got the clarinet. I was a freshman at Stuyvesant and the way they did things there, and this is how I... people wonder how I can be sitting, you know, in, in a room of people, or... and not hear anything, you know, you learn to focus. In order to practice, or, or to even take lessons at Stuyvesant, the... we would sit in the balcony of the auditorium of the school, and the guy would give you a lesson and there’d be somebody three feet away getting a lesson with somebody else. It was just... you, you just had to be able to, to block out anything else that was around you. And the same thing when I travelled. I mean, people don’t understand how I can, I can read on the subway, or read in a moving car. I, I did all my homework on the subway. Remember, I had to go from the Bronx all the way down to Union Square and, and that was, you know, 45, a 45-minute ride, you know, from the, from 168th Street in the Bronx all the way down to 14th Street. So, that’s how you develop certain habits, but after... so, that’s how I, I first started studying the clarinet, and I, I didn’t, I didn’t... after I left Stuyvesant I don’t think I continued it. I don’t know why, but... my mother had originally wanted, had gotten us some piano lessons and I, I don’t remember... I remember the teacher used to... this piano teacher, if you made a mistake she would take your hands and bang them on the piano, I hated her. An incredible way to teach you to play. So, I, I didn’t stay with that very long. My sister, I think, remembered that too. But we had... you know, in those days, when we lived... even in... we... couldn’t afford it otherwise, people would literally pay you to take their piano away. So, it was enough to cover the cost of moving the piano in, you know, because we couldn’t afford a piano and, you know, there were people who were... in 1929 an unbelievable amount of people, you know, who, who were - the Crash - they, they lost everything and they had to sell everything, and it was difficult. There were so many pianos available you, you know, you could... just for taking, you could take them but how are you going to take a piano? You’ve got to get the damn thing delivered up to, get it up to a third or fourth floor apartment. It was quite a feat. So, it reminds me of the time when we opened up the office at 1523 Spring Gardens Street and we were up, we had the third floor tenement for the office of ISI. It wasn’t ISI then. And, we bought a desk somewhere, I don’t know, a cheap desk and in order to get the desk, we couldn’t bring it up the steps, we had to take it through the window. And I used to tell the story about this. There was, there was a, a, kind of, a, a homeless alcoholic, or whatever he was, a homeless man who used to hang around here and he, he always wanted to be, somehow be helpful so we were moving this desk. I remember my brother-in-law came and he was helping me move this desk. We were hauling this desk up through the window with a rope. This guy comes along and he, he sees us doing this, he says, 'Let me hold this for a while for you', I had to do something, I forget what it was, and he, he took a hold of the rope and as soon as I started to let go, the guy was flying out the window with the, with the desk. Oh God, what a, what a, what an experience. So, but those desks were unbelievably heavy, you know, the old fashioned wooden desk.

Eugene Garfield (1925-2017) was an American scientist and publisher. In 1960 Garfield set up the Institute for Scientific Information which produced, among many other things, the Science Citation Index and fulfilled his dream of a multidisciplinary citation index. The impact of this is incalculable: without Garfield’s pioneering work, the field of scientometrics would have a very different landscape, and the study of scholarly communication would be considerably poorer.

Listeners: Henry Small

Henry Small is currently serving part-time as a research scientist at Thomson Reuters. He was formerly the director of research services and chief scientist. He received a joint PhD in chemistry and the history of science from the University of Wisconsin. He began his career as a historian of science at the American Institute of Physics' Center for History and Philosophy of Physics where he served as interim director until joining ISI (now Thomson Reuters) in 1972. He has published over 100 papers and book chapters on topics in citation analysis and the mapping of science. Dr Small is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an Honorary Fellow of the National Federation of Abstracting and Information Services, and past president of the International Society for Scientometrics and Infometrics. His current research interests include the use of co-citation contexts to understand the nature of inter-disciplinary versus intra-disciplinary science as revealed by science mapping.

Duration: 7 minutes, 8 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2007

Date story went live: 23 June 2009