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MMD > Archives > September 1999 > 1999.09.03 > 06Prev  Next

Clarence Hickman #8 - University & Marriage
By James L. Brady

[ Continuing the biographical sketch by Dr. Hickman. ]

In the spring of 1912, after the school was out, I went back to Winona
College to start my studies for my A.B. degree.  In the fall I came
back to Jamestown teaching mathematics and sciences.  In the spring
of 1913, I again returned to Winona College to continue my studies and
remained there throughout the 1913-1914 terms.

In June of 1914, I received my A.B. Degree from Winona College.  I had
taught physics in the preparatory school there during the winter and
in the summer of 1914, I remained to teach surveying and mathematics in
the college.

In the fall of 1914, I went to New Albany, Indiana to teach physics and
mathematics in their high school.  I roomed in the home of William M.
Bigwood at 614 Vincennes Street.  He had one daughter, Mabel Bigwood.
During the winter we built up a romance and were engaged before the
school was out.  Mabel had graduated from high school the same year as
I, 1909.  She played the piano and we played together a great deal,
I playing the clarinet.  Her parents, Mr. & Mrs. Bigwood were fine

When Illness came to Mr. Bigwood, they moved to Jackson Heights and
lived in an apartment next door to ours on the same floor.  Mabel's
mother often said that this was the happiest time of her life.  We had
our meals together in our apartment.  Mrs. Bigwood was very fond of
Mary Lee and spent much time with her.  Even before they came to New
York, Mary Lee would spend most of the summer months with them in New

Aside from a thyroid operation and arthritis of the hands, Mabel was
well most of her life until the last three years when she developed
arteriosclerosis of the brain.  I shall never recover from that ordeal.

Mabel was a home type of girl.  She did not crave to travel and was
happiest when she was in our apartment.  She was a hard worker, good
housekeeper and cook.  Her arthritis prevented her from continuing to
play the piano but after a few years she did not suffer any pain in her
hands but could not use them like she did as a girl.  When younger,
she did lots of fancy hand work.

Life without her doesn't mean much to me.

In the summer of 1915, I went back to Winona College to teach surveying
and mathematics.  On July 17th Mabel and I were married and she went
back with me to Winona College.  She took a course in domestic science.
We lived in a tent which I had purchased the year before.  It had five
foot walls, a fly, screen doors, wooden floor, and was furnished with
wardrobe, sink, dining table, kitchen cabinet and lighted with angle
lamps.  When Mabel joined me there, I named it Oak Glenn, from her
middle name and the oak trees where it was pitched.  We also had a row
boat that I named Glenn.  We got our water from a nice spring at the
foot of the hill.

In the fall of 1915, we returned to New Albany, living with the
Bigwoods and I continued to teach mathematics and physics in the high
school.  I played clarinet in the high school orchestra and in the
Dryden Band.  While in college I had made my board and room during the
summer months, playing at the Winona Hotel.  I also got spending money
for playing at commercial dances.

In the summer of 1916, Mabel and I went back to Winona College, where
I again taught mathematics and surveying in the college.  In the fall
we returned to New Albany where I again taught mathematics and physics.

In the summer of 1917 we did not return to Winona College as I was
planning on going to Clark University to study for my Masters degree.
I used the summer to study.

In the fall of 1917, Mabel and I went to Clark University, Worchester,
Mass., where I began my studies for my masters degree.  We had three
rooms on the third floor of a three family house with bath and kitchen
privileges.  Mabel had a cousin that lived in Worchester and this was
fortunate as it kept her from getting lonesome when I was in school.

During the year I met Dr. Robert H. Goddard, who was head of the col-
lege physics department.  There were two schools at that time.  I was
in the graduate school with Dr. G. Stanley Hall as president and Dr.
Arthur Gordon Webster was head of the graduate physics department.  Dr.
Goddard was at that time working on the development of rockets and was
having trouble getting good results.  He was trying to develop a rocket
that used the same combustion chamber by feeding in successive charges
or cordite power.

The man working for him was trying to use the breech block system but
the residue from the powder would clog the mechanism so that in a whole
year they had not succeeded in getting the block to open up without the
use of wrenches.  He spoke to Dr. L. T. E.  Thompson, who was Dr. Web-
ster's assistant.  Dr. Thompson told him that he would recommend that
he talk to C. N. Hickman who had come to them recommended as being
unusually good in mechanical designs.

Dr. Goddard took his advice and talked to me.  I told him that I
thought he was trying to do almost the impossible.  However, he asked
me to give the matter some consideration.  This I promised to do and
that evening I gave the matter some thought and the more I though of
it the more difficult I thought it would be to do what he was trying
to do.  I finally gave up the job and went to my own studies for the
evening.  During my thoughts on the problem I had not arrived at a
single suggestion of how it might be done.  I went to be with no fur-
ther thoughts on the subject.

That night I had a vivid dream of a solution to his problem.  Knowing
that I would not remember it the next morning, I slipped out of bed and
went into the living room and began to make sketches of the plan.  My
wife missed me and came out to see what was the matter.  She asked me
if I were ill.  I told her that I was not ill but that I had dreamed
a solution to Dr. Goddard's problem and was making some sketches before
I forgot the dream.  She then said. "Well!  You may not be sick but you
sure are crazy".

When I showed Dr. Goddard the sketches the next day, he was very much
interested and from that time throughout the rest of the year he made
suggestions that I work for him on the problem after I had received my
M.A. degree.  I had expected to return to teaching but finally agreed
to work for him as he offered me more than I could get at that time

Dr. Goddard transferred his work from Worchester, Mass. to the Mount
Wilson Observatory Shops in Pasadena California.  After receiving my
degree, I went to Pasadena.  Mabel returned to her home in New Albany.
I arrived in Pasadena on July 3rd and on the fourth, Dr. Goddard and
I made sketches of my plan, which was to feed the charges in through
the tail of the combustion chamber instead of through a breech block.
In this way there was no mechanism to clog up.

The front of each charge had a percussion cap that, after being shot
in the chamber with a spring actuated by the recoil, would hit a firing
pin located in the head of the chamber.  This ignited the charge and
this was repeated for as many times as there were charges shot in the

In about one week we had our first test and we fired three charges and
a dummy into the chamber.  The big problem was to provide a mechanism
that would feed several hundred charges into the chamber.  It was not
difficult to take care of several charges but to provide the required
number it proved very difficult.  Eventually we decided that we should
concentrate our efforts on single charge rockets instead of trying to
develop such a rocket for World War I purposes.

(Message sent Wed 1 Sep 1999, 11:52:05 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  8, Clarence, Hickman, Marriage, University

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