We asked alumni: What are your favorite memories of Winnett, the Red Door, or its associated spaces?
The original building on the site was a 16-unit apartment building previously located on Los Robles and called the Old Dorm. Chopped in half and moved to Caltech, a lunchroom called "the Greasy" was added to the buiding. When I came to Caltech on the 3/2 plan from Occidental in 1960, the Old Dorm and the Greasy were scheduled to be demolished. I remember a wonderful Halloween party there when a sophomore rode up the steps and through the building on his motorcycle.
As the Winett was being completed, we noticed the wonderful bricks that had been carved in the fireplace of the Throop Club and wanted to replicate that effort. We mostly completed the job before the administration noticed and Dr. Dubridge sent an extremely strong recommendation that we stop. Much later, Gary Lorden, PhD, negotiated to allow Tim Litle to add an LE to the LIT he had managed to complete in 1961. Another of our group didn't realize you couldn't use spellcheck on a brick and spelled his name incorrectly. It's still there.
In 1962 on our graduation day, Winett was also being dedicated. As we came out of Page House in our suits and skinny ties for graduation, a photographer called us over and five of us stood on the steps for our first and only cover appearance in Engineering and Science.
Carol Carmichael, Jean-Lou Chameau's wife, found that cover and presented it, along with our personalized bricks, to Joyce and me at the announcement of the Hameetman Center in 2012.
We sincerely appreciate the honor of having our name represented at Caltech. It is truly an extraordinary institution of which we are very, very proud to be a part.
—Fred Hameetman (BS '62)
Fred and Joyce Hameetman made possible the construction of the Hameetman Center, which will replace Winnett, with their generous gift to the Institute
My favorite space was The California Tech offices on the first floor, where I spent long hours as a reporter, news editor, and finally business manager of The Tech. I made lifelong friends there, and have spent most of my career as a science and technology journalist, so it's a place that shaped my life as much as the EE Labs in Steele.
Jeff Hecht (BS '69)
A series of Wednesday afternoons when Feynman would drop by and tell some of his stories of Los Alamos.
Steve Morse (BS ’65)
Ray Bradbury gave a lecture there. He was a very animated speaker, dressed in a white suit. He told many tales, but the one that stood out was how he came to write the screenplay for Moby-Dick (starring Gregory Peck). He said he holed up in a hotel room and read Moby-Dick over and over again, until, he said, "I was Herman Melville, and then I wrote the screenplay!"
Lance Optican (BS '72)
Jamming in the basement with Curtis and Cliff! Drums, bass, & guitar. Dang. So long, rock-n-roll memory...
David Cole (BS '89)
Angel Romero, the classical guitarist, was scheduled for an evening concert at Beckman Auditorium. The organizers of the Friday noon concerts persuaded him to give a brief preview in Winnett. He was caught in traffic, then had to warm up, and most of the crowd moved on. The twenty or so remaining sat in a semicircle for most of an hour while Mr. Romero, a gracious and charming man as well as a virtuoso, played for us and chatted about life and music.
Andrew Gabriel (PhD ’81)
South Pasadena, CA
Watching my husband (not a Caltech student) play drums in a band with several of my Caltech grad student/postdoc friends. They practiced in the jam room in the basement of Winnett.
Hannah Carbone (PhD '99)
Sierra Madre, CA
The ham radio room upstairs, to which all upperclassmen had a master key (though the room's existence was a well-kept secret). I recall nights in that room studying with friends and tuning in to conversations on the radio (though I had no ham license, nor did I know how to operate it).
Nitu Kitchloo (BS ’93)
Many years ago, after a Ruddock House formal dinner, Tom Mannion suggested he give my wife Marjory and me a tour of the newly renovated bookstore. Tom opened the back door with a key, punched in some numbers on the alarm box, and proceeded to give the tour, which took about 10 minutes. As we opened the door to leave—surprise—we were met by the entire campus guard force. Apparently, Tom really didn't remember the alarm code. With coats and ties and not toting bags of loot, we didn't look like your typical robbers. Tom said something about a tour and they let us pass. Luckily no shots were fired and we escaped the hand cuffs. But clearly a new adventure in the bookstore.
Kirk Dawson (BS, MS ’60)
La Canada, CA
The range of lunch time presenters always amazed me. The first African-American USAF General, Chappy James came to speak and was impressive. Leonard Nimoy apologized for not being very supportive of space exploration. Mason Williams did a "Classical Gas" ensemble. I most appreciated the student shop in the basement where myriad projects were prototyped, long before 3D printers.
David Drake (BS '74)
What memories? Bring back good old Throop!
John G. Goetten (BS '54)
Silver City, NM
I never would have made it as a literature major without Red Door.... I spent every single term of lit classes with a book in my lap and a Brain Freeze in my hand while sitting in a comfy chair at Red Door.
Megan Wu (BS '04)
San Diego, CA
Louise Hood [former Student Center manager], a trusted adviser or confidant to a great many students. Louise seemed to know who to talk to about anything having to do with the Institute and many suspected that she actually ran the place.
Paul Levin (BS ’72)
Manhattan Beach, CA
Memories mostly revolve around the student publication offices where I served as business manager of the Tech, Big T and Little T. Back then we had a state of the art Compugraphic type setting machine that only one person could sit at at a time. It was huge and used films to store the fonts and optics to create different font sizes on photographic paper.
Karla Peterson (BS '85)
The feeling—excitement or anticipation maybe—of going into that compact bookstore the first time, buying textbooks, including the Three Holy Red Books.
Bob Wieting (BS '74)
Simi Valley, CA
Late nights working for the California Tech and the Big T (including the sounds and smells of the pre-computer typesetter and paper waxers).
Stanley Cohn (BS ’79)
I spent countless hours practicing on the Baldwin Model 10 electronic organ in the northwest corner of the lounge—usually with headphones on. Virgil Fox gave a recital in fall 1972, not long after I arrived, and that turned me on to classical organ music in a way that the curmudgeon at church never could.
Bill Owen (BS '76)
Going to the student center on Friday evenings with 20 to 30 other students to watch Star Trek on TV. (I didn't have a TV at the time.)
Don Brabston (PhD '74)
Manhattan Beach, CA
My favorite memories predate Winnett (with the exception of the fireplace) and are about the former Throop Club. Those of us who lived within, I believe, 20 miles of campus could not get into the Houses. Throop offered a home away from home for us; we ate lunch there and thanks to the efforts of Dr. Lee DuBridge, we played poker on a table that the faculty wives provided and played volleyball and competed in interhouse athletics. My continuous playing of "Look in my eyes" by Herb Jeffries resulted in the record being broken in two by a frustrated fellow Throoper.
Ray Destabelle (BS ’52)
Rolling Hills Estates, CA
As a grad student, I attended Sunday Catholic Mass services there. The community of students was very friendly and provided much-needed support for a student 2,500 miles from any family. Years later, as an alumnus, I returned to campus on a Sunday and found the same warm spirit still alive in a service there.
James Stana (MS '74)
Mt. Dora, FL
I remember meeting Dr. Richard P. Feynman one night at the student center. He kept several of us enthralled. I will never forget that night.
George Williams (BS '67)
Memories of the student shop. I spent a fair amount of time down there in unguided explorations, at all hours of the day and night. Some of my projects came out okay and some of them were unmitigated folly.
Mike Steinberger (BS '73)
Chippewa Falls, WI
I remember the dances held in the first-floor lounge—a lot of fun for young males hoping to meet girls from Pitzer, Scripps, or Whittier College.
John Bennett (BS '69)
San Clemente, CA
Decompression! It meant finals, but it also meant free food!
Vivian U (BS ’06)
Red Door was always a favorite spot with my research group for afternoon coffee break. I have fond memories of sitting in the sunshine outside Red Door, chatting about our daily lives and projects, conducting thought experiments, and talking honestly about what we wanted out of our lives. We became really good friends, sitting at those tables!
Kate Schilling (PhD '15)
New Haven, CT