Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

The College Pump

Yet More Expansion?

May-June 2006

"Your wooden arm you hold outstretched to shake with passers-by."

Has Harvard staked out another new campus? On February 2, Christopher S. Johnson ’64, a contributing editor of this magazine, emerged from the four-story brick building at 371 Harvard Street, where he has a condominium, to discover two bewildered young ladies standing on the sidewalk. One clutched a bunch of flowers. Their friend had broken her tailbone, they explained, and was hospitalized at the University Health Services, which according to Verizon is at 371 Harvard Street, Cambridge—in apartment 2D, specifically—and they wanted to give her their bouquet. As anyone who has broken a tailbone knows, the infirmary is in Holyoke Center.

The general public may be forgiven their confusion, for the University does appear quietly to have moved a large number of facilities and staff to the Harvard Street residential site two blocks southeast of the Faculty Club. Evidence of this putative new expansion may be found by browsing for “Harvard University” on Verizon’s on-line telephone directory (www.superpages.com).

Verizon alleges that among the other pieces of Harvard housed in 2D—which is 875 square feet in size—are Harvard Real Estate, the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Human Resources, Phillips Brooks House, Sanders Theatre, Widener Library, the Alumni Records Office, the Graduate School of Education, the Division of Continuing Education, the Graduate School of Design, the Institute for Learning in Retirement, and the University Press Display Room.

A ridiculous assertion, of course; the University would never be so sneaky. The actual occupants of 2D are a couple of medical interns. In the past year and a half, they and numerous other residents have plunged into Kafkaesque struggles to correct the error, but have finally subsided into acceptance, like the woman at Harvard Mail Services who said, “Trying to fix this problem is not part of my job description.” The regular FedEx and UPS drivers on the Harvard Street beat have wised up and no longer deliver misaddressed packages (although substitute drivers do). The letter carrier wields his rubber stamp: “Return to Sender.”

Nutty Harvard squares. Primus reported (March-April, page 84) on a recipe discovered on the Marshmallow Fluff website for a chocolate, coconut, walnut, and fluff dessert item called “Harvard Squares.” He wondered why it was so named. Two readers knew.

“Had Primus V looked elsewhere on the site (viz. www.marshmallowfluff.com/pages/history1.html),” wrote William Ira Bennett ’62, M.D. ’69, of Somerville, Massachusetts, “he would have learned that Marshmallow Fluff was first made and sold around 1917 by Archibald Query of Somerville [next door to Cambridge]. Thus, the name ‘Harvard Squares’ for a confection made with Marshmallow Fluff is hardly further-fetched than the moniker for ‘Fig Newtons’ [first made in Cambridge and named after nearby Newton]. Come next winter’s holiday season, Primus would be welcome on Somerville’s annual tour of Christmas Lights, which usually passes close by Query’s old homestead.”

“‘Harvard’ is a common Mid-western and Great Plains adjective for a product improved, tweaked, enhanced,” wrote M.R. Montgomery, Nf ’84, of Lincoln, Massachusetts. “For example, boiled beets with an addition of sugar and vinegar and a bit of cornstarch to thicken the juice (not pickled, but served hot from the pan) are ‘Harvard Beets.’ Ask your Uncle Henry (who knew a thing or two) why, and he would say, they’ve been ‘educated,’ pronounced distinctly with equal stress on all syllables: ‘ed-you-ca-ted.’ I once remarked to a store clerk in Cody, Wyoming, that a certain sophisticated trout fly looked like a more common pattern that had been to Harvard. Respondent understood without further explanation.”

Oh yeah? Sez who? Quantitative social scientists are lodged in the north building of the new Center for Government and International Studies that straddles Cambridge Street. They got the architect to put up outside their offices a four-foot-wide whiteboard surface all along the curving corridor on which the scholars could express themselves in colored inks. After yards of formidable equations, someone has written: “Optimism is not a policy.” Someone else has quoted the late economist John Maurice Clark: “An irrational passion for dispassionate rationality takes the joy out of life.”      

~Primus V