Eric Ash: conditions at Stanford compared to postwar Britain

Eric Ash contrasts austerity Britain to 1950s America, from his experience at Stanford University.

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Well, I mean you could buy things. In ’52, in London, we still had rationing and I think you were allowed one egg a week, or two eggs a week, or something of this sort. And nobody was starving, it was done fairly and, erm, and there was enough food. But it certainly was difficult, and shopping was difficult. And whereas in, erm, in the States you went to the supermarket, which were open late at night, that was really exciting, the idea that you’d go at midnight and buy things. So things were very easy. I was able to buy a car for $250, even allowing for inflation I don’t know what they would be these days, but it was an affordable luxury.

How did your salary compare once you got to the States?

Oh, it, I was rich. My elder sister had a baby and I sent her a cheque for a refrigerator. Well, that was the greatest thing that had happened to her. I couldn’t splash a vast amount of money around, but I mean it was that sort of feeling. You know, one, it – it was not a tight constraint.

How did the facilities there compare to your experience in the UK?

Oh, superb. Erm, everything was laid on, it was like being transferred into heaven. Not only was all the gear there that you needed but there were technicians who were prepared to do things for you. There was a little bit of that at Imperial College, but not really very much. But there, you know, there was a real – there was real support. So the fact that Stanford turned out then to be very high in the pecking order in this area, and in fact in most sciences, was attributable to splendid resources that were put behind it. And it’s true to this day.

What was the working atmosphere like there?

Oh, really very free and easy. I really liked it, enjoyed it. There were enough exciting things going on, that people didn’t feel that they, erm, needed to be secretive about what they were doing in case somebody else got there first, or something, you know. It really was, I think, a pretty liberal atmosphere. I think it worked – worked very well.

  • Interviewee Eric Ash
  • Duration 00:02:28
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Thomas Lean
  • Date of interview 1/29/2013
  • Shelfmark C1379/92

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