Cousin Merv

Mervyn Stephenson with his three sisters, Condon, Oregon, ca. early 1900s.

Mervyn Stephenson with his three sisters, Condon, Oregon, ca. early 1900s.

[Ed. Note: The Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections & Archives Research Center (SCARC) is, of course, home to the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers, a collection of some 4,400 linear feet held in 2,230 archival boxes.  Also included among the 1,100 collections held in SCARC is the Mervyn Stephenson Collection, which consists of eight file folders. Stephenson was Linus Pauling’s older cousin and was an important early influence in Pauling’s life. We spend a lot of time sifting through the Pauling Papers as we prepare these posts, but we thought it might be fun to engage with MSS Stephenson for a short while and learn a bit more about a man who, in some respects, served as a kind of surrogate big brother for Linus Pauling.]

Part 1 of 2

If he’s lucky, every young boy has his partner when he plays ‘Cowboys and Indians,’ or when he roams the streets getting into mischief. For Linus Pauling, his cohort in crime was his older cousin, Philip Mervyn Stephenson, also referred to as Merv but who also liked to be called Steve. He was born on March 23, 1898 in Condon, Oregon to a Condon native, Goldie Victoria Darling Stephenson, who married an English immigrant, Philip Herbert Stephenson.

Mervyn was about three years older than Linus, but when they were young school boys, the gap made no difference. The Paulings lived in Condon, off and on, until they moved to Portland for good when Linus was eight years old, and it was in Condon that Pauling and Stephenson spent the most time together. As they wandered the town together and explored its hills and gullies, they hunted rabbits, swam in streams, collected arrowheads and, in the winter, took sleigh rides. In later years, Pauling also recalled watching with his cousin as the area’s wheat was being harvested and bringing water to the farmhands.

Sometimes Mervyn’s father asked him to mind the store that he owned. Stephenson and Pauling looked forward to these occasions because these were times where they could sneak sweet treats and other good things to eat. Being left alone to watch the store also led to a few hilarious run-ins. One day the chewing tobacco was left out. The boys decided to try a small piece, probably swallowed a bit, and both got sick. Needless to say, neither of the boys’ fathers were pleased.

Another time, Pauling was asked by his father to watch the family pharmacy. Stephenson, of course, joined and the two decided to try the port wine—it was used for several prescriptions that Herman Pauling wrote. The boys tried a bit of wine, soon became drowsy, and fell asleep in the back of the store. The two got in trouble, once again, and that was the last of their major stunts. By 1909, after the Paulings moved to Portland, time spent with Mervyn never held the same childhood aura or imagination.


Mervyn and Linus at Kiger Island, 1918.

Mervyn and Linus at Kiger Island, 1918.

The Stephensons bought a family car in 1912 and, at the age of 14, young Mervyn immediately learned to drive. People in town called him a fast driver, and his father had only to call the local store or neighbor to see where his son had gone, because Stephenson would have most likely zipped by in the new car. Stephenson would also frequently hike down a nearby canyon with other kids from Condon and was a big fan of the regional county fairs. He was an adventurous young man and went on numerous excursions, including following local legends in search of a secret lake in the woods.

As he grew up, Mervyn’s parents thought him to be too thin and “understrength” for his own good. To combat this, they would send him, sometimes for a month at a time, to Charles and Nell Underwood’s house, where they would feed him well and work him hard in hopes that he might gain weight and muscle. It was here that Stephenson collected many arrowheads for his collection.

Mervyn was also becoming an upstanding citizen. He was, for one, the lead organizer of the athletic boys club of Condon until he left for college. More importantly, in 1912, (the same year that the family bought their car) he was marked as a town hero for being the first on the scene of a fire in a hotel. Mervyn had heard the siren in the middle of the night, rushed over to the fire station, and then hurried to the hotel to help. The town awarded him with a prize of one dollar for acting promptly and courageously.

Around the time of Mervyn’s graduation from Condon High School in 1915, Professor Gordon Skelton of Oregon Agricultural College (OAC) came to town to recruit students. He met Stephenson and they talked about what he might want to study should he attend OAC. After their conversation, Skelton had convinced Stephenson to give Corvallis a try and to major to civil engineering. Mervyn visited the Paulings on his way to OAC, and he talked with young Linus, at the time fourteen years old, about his plans to study highway engineering. The two also discussed other programs available at OAC and from this conversation Pauling learned that the college offered chemical engineering, which he believed to be the profession that chemists pursued.


Mervyn Stephenson (far right) with OAC classmates, 1917.

Mervyn Stephenson (far right) with OAC classmates, 1917.

Mervyn worked very hard as a freshman. Room and board ran to about twenty dollars a month, and he found a campus job that paid twenty cents an hour. He made it through his first year working full time with a full class schedule. During summer break, he was hired by the county to work on road construction, and that helped to make ends meet.

Stephenson concentrated on his ROTC training during in his second year at OAC; he moved up as a cadet captain and continued to progress forward. This year was also exceptionally tough because, midway through, his parents were divorced. His sister and mother then moved to Portland. That summer he worked on his first bridge, and as the break came to a close he was offered a job to continue to work on bridges. In order to take the job he would have to take a year off college. He would be paid a fair sum, but following the advice of his father, he decided to finish school and then pursue a career.

The United States was in the middle of World War I through Stephenson’s third year at college. As such, Stephenson transferred from the ROTC to the SATC (Students Army Training Corps) to receive training for combat, if needed. This same year, Linus Pauling, though only sixteen years old, began his studies at OAC. The only reason why Pauling’s mother, Belle, allowed him to go to college at such a young age was because she knew that Mervyn would be there for him.

Little did she know that no college junior wanted to spend his time watching over a sixteen-year-old freshman. According to Pauling’s recollection, soon after Belle left to return to Portland, Stephenson gave Pauling some advice about being in college, and then left him to fend for himself in the boarding house where they were supposed to be living together. Pauling did not stay past the first year in the boarding house, due to the cost of rent, and he did not see much of his cousin while in college.

In Stephenson’s handwritten memoir, titled P.M. Stephenson’s Life Stories, he recalled living with Pauling the entire first year and never mentions leaving Pauling behind. On the contrary, the manuscript focuses mostly on Pauling’s brilliance, describing a young man who would finish assignments quickly and then immediately find something more to teach himself. We learn from the memoir that one of the scholarly hobbies that Pauling picked up as an undergrad was teaching himself Greek. Stephenson was impressed, but being a more veteran college student, he spent ample time studying and his free moments socializing. Perhaps it was these diverging interests that led the two cousins to spend so little time together.


Mervyn Stephenson, training at the Presidio, summer 1918.

Mervyn Stephenson, training at the Presidio, summer 1918.

The two young men were very much together in the summer of 1918 when they left for San Francisco for intensive officer training at the Presidio military base. Stephenson recalled Pauling as having been a strong supporter of the war effort while at the camp. With the completion of his officer training, Stephenson was promoted to the rank of cadet major. He was then one of ten men at OAC to receive recommendation for commission as second lieutenant in the Officer’s Reserve Corps. That summer the cousins also worked together when they stayed in Tillamook, on the Oregon coast, with Stephenson’s mother. The two worked in a shipyard for the summer, building wooden-hulled freighters and taking small holidays in their off hours to go with Stephenson’s mother and sister to the resort town of Bayocean.

Stephenson’s senior year looked as if it would begin with a move overseas to serve in the war. Mervyn had received his second lieutenant commission and was notified that he would report to Fortress Monroe, Virginia, but his orders were never received because the war ended on November 11 of that year. He finished his senior year in due course, graduating from OAC’s College of Engineering, and was granted membership in the Zeta chapter of the Sigma Tau engineering honorary society. Mervyn and Linus then parted ways as Pauling continued his studies and Stephenson moved forward in his career as a bridge builder all across Oregon.

The Life of Belle Pauling – Linus Pauling’s Mother

Belle Pauling with her infant son, Linus. 1901.

Belle Pauling with her infant son, Linus. 1901.

(Part 1 of 2)

We begin the story of Lucy Isabelle Pauling, Linus Pauling’s mother, with Linus Wilson Darling, Belle’s father and Linus Pauling’s maternal grandfather.

In 1863, Linus Wilson Darling’s father abandoned his family in Collingwood, Ontario, leaving his wife to struggle financially on her own. As a result, she sent her four eldest children, including Linus, to a foster home in New Jersey.  When he was fifteen, Linus ran away from this home and made his way to Chicago, where he both worked and lived in a bakery.  From there, he set out west, eventually settling near Salem, Oregon, and began teaching high school.

One of his students was Alcy Delilah Neal.  The two began courting and were married in 1878.  As they moved around Oregon, looking for a place to settle, they began having children.  Their second daughter, Lucy Isabelle “Belle” Darling was born on April 13, 1881, while the family was living in Lonerock, a tiny town in eastern Oregon.

The family had arrived on hard times there and were, in fact, facing starvation. But they were saved when Linus bet his saddle against fifty dollars on Grover Cleveland to win the upcoming presidential election over James G. Blaine.  Funded by those winnings, they moved twenty miles northwest, to Condon, where Linus opened up the town’s first general store selling patent medicines and running the post office – enough to keep him a busy man.

Three years after moving to Condon, when Belle was seven, her mother Alcy gave birth to a stillborn son. Badly injured by the traumatic birthing process, Alcy also passed away, one month later.

Linus however continued to lead a busy life. As he began to study law he occasionally hired a woman to help take care of the household, but mostly left it up to his four daughters – Goldie, Belle, Lucile and Abigail, all born in a span of five years – whom he called the “Four Queens.”  (A fifth queen, Florence, was at the time too young to pitch in.) The bulk of this work often defaulted to the oldest daughter, Goldie.

Linus eventually remarried, finding a younger widow who owned a large wheat farm and an extra ten thousand dollars to her name.  This new-found financial support allowed Linus to become a gentleman farmer and begin his law practice.


Belle Darling posing with her father on her wedding day, 1900.

Belle Darling posing with her father on her wedding day, 1900.

For Belle, this period was one of contrasts. Her mother gone, the household responsibilities mounting, and her father mostly a distant man, she began suffering from bouts of depression.  On the other hand, her new family’s wealth and large home made her one of the Condon elite as a teenager.

Indeed, the family resources offered some measure of protection from the economic depression plaguing the country, and the family was occasionally able to take shopping trips to Portland for dresses and other fineries unavailable in the small farming town. In 1895, Belle and Goldie also took advantage of the opportunity to attend boarding school at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon.  Belle did fairly well academically, earning marks of 85 in Bible, 91 in grammar, and 98 in arithmetic.  But she did not enjoy the boarding school experience and came back to Condon after her first term.  Her older sister, Goldie, was able to make it through the rest of the year before coming home.

Returned to Condon, Belle slipped anew into her role as one of the town’s elite young women.  One day, in the fall of 1899, Goldie invited the seventeen-year-old Belle over to her home, to meet Condon’s new druggist, Herman Pauling.  Herman quickly earned the respect of the town and was the guest of honor at several dinners and dances.  At these events, he and Belle often ended up talking with one other.  The more time they spent together, the closer the two became, and by Christmas of the same year, they were engaged to be married the following May. Their lavish wedding was attended by nearly the whole town.

The fairy tale ended quickly, however, when Herman was forced to look for work: the investors backing his Condon pharmacy had pulled out, forcing Herman to search for a new job.  Since the Condon area was not big enough to support Herman on its own, he and Belle moved to Portland, finding a residence near Chinatown.


Linus Pauling with his sister Pauline, 1904.

Linus Pauling with his sister Pauline, 1904.

Belle was eager to take advantage of the entertainment and shopping possibilities that had once only been accessible following a long trip from Condon.  Yet she was pregnant before she and Herman had left Condon and on February 28, 1901, she gave birth to their first child, Linus, named for Belle’s father.  Soon after the birth, Belle took Linus back to Condon to visit her family.  While there, they both came down with an illness, but quickly recovered and were back in Portland by May.

Linus was quickly followed by his first sister, Pauline, born in August 1902. Frances Lucile (or “Lucie,” named after one of Belle’s favorite poems by Owen Meredith) arrived on New Year’s Day 1904.

When Herman found a job as a traveling salesman, Belle was frequently left alone to care for the children.  Her unquenched desire to enjoy the city, her absent husband, and her mounting responsibilities as a parent all combined to engender a growing resentment. Frustrated, she repeatedly wrote to her husband while he was on the road, admonishing him for not making enough money and spending so little time at home. Herman usually responded that he was doing all that he could to provide for Belle and the children, and that their future as a family would be brighter.

In 1904, attempting to arrive at this brighter future, Herman took a new job – one that still required travel but was based in Salem. His hope was that doing so would give him more time at home since Salem was more centrally located in the Willamette Valley.  The job did not last long though, and Herman was soon searching for new opportunities.  Once again, the family turned to old territory: Condon seemed promising as Herman could open up his own store there with the help of Goldie’s husband.  And so it was that, in April of 1905, with Herman already ahead of them, Belle packed up the remainder of their belongings and moved with the children to her old hometown.


A group photo including the Pauling children: Pauline (front row left), Lucile (front row right) and Linus (back row right).

A group photo including the Pauling children: Pauline (front row left), Lucile (front row right) and Linus (back row right). 1906.

The Paulings’ new home was above the general store that belonged to Goldie’s husband, Herbert Stephenson.  Here, little Linus was free to roam around the town, while Belle stayed at home looking after her daughters.  During the harvest period, Belle would also help at the Stephenson wheat farm by cooking for all the temporary workers brought in to process the grain.

Moving to Condon meant that Herman was always close by and that he made a good income, albeit with a brief interlude of lean times caused by yet another national financial depression.  Condon was able to bounce back due to its rising population of homesteaders taking advantage of the free 320 acres being offered by the federal government, a boon that combined nicely with a run of increased wheat harvests and the addition of a Northern Pacific rail spur.  Nonetheless, Belle was not happy in Condon:  Herman was still working over twelve hours a day, she missed the culture and excitement of Portland, and the summers were unbearably hot.  The latter two issues were solved, at least in part, by annual summer trips to the milder Portland suburb of Oswego, where Belle and the children stayed with Herman’s parents.

While visiting Oswego in the summertime allowed Belle to take in events like the centenary celebration of the Lewis and Clark expedition, she did not like being away from Herman. Letters to her husband sent during this period are full of anxiety over Herman’s fidelity and the family’s financial situation.  By the end of the summer of 1909, Belle had convinced Herman that the family should move back to Portland, though Herman did not need too much convincing on his part, as he was also ready to leave behind the heat and petty small town politics.


Belle Pauling, early 1900s.

Belle Pauling, early 1900s.

The family moved to East Portland, where Herman opened up another drugstore in a fast-growing neighborhood.  Again he worked long hours, leaving Belle to take care of the children.  But Belle also took advantage of being back in Portland by enrolling in German classes at a nearby high school.  Since Herman’s business was slow to start, he used his free time to study German as well, providing Belle and Herman with a rare leisure pursuit that they could share as a couple.

The happy times were not destined to last. In April 1910, the dark clouds began to gather when Belle’s father passed away.  While Belle had never been particularly close with her dad, his passing was still difficult for her.

Three months later, Belle, her sisters, and their children were attending the Rose Festival in Portland and when they returned they found Herman at home in tremendous pain. Herman’s stomach aches, the result of an ulcer, were a recurrent issue for him, but they had never struck so severely.  The attack, as it turned out, was fatal – he died soon after they returned.  Belle was emotionally devastated, financially imperiled and, widowed with three children, staring at a very uncertain future.

Herman Pauling: Striving for a Better Life

Herman Pauling with his three children in Salem, Oregon, where the family briefly lived.

Herman Pauling with his three children in Salem, Oregon, where the family briefly lived.

(Part 2 of 2)

His family settled in Salem but not happy about it, it did not take long for Herman Pauling to look for new employment opportunitiess, and in March 1905 he traveled to Portland to explore the possibility of opening a drugstore.  After visiting the Skidmore Drug Company, his old employer, and deciding that Portland was not going to work out, Herman once again set his sights on Condon.

With the help of Belle’s brother-in-law, Herbert Stephenson, Herman was able to locate a storefront and a place for his family to live.  The logistics settled, Herman wrote to Belle back in Salem, asking her to come join him so that they could start their life anew.  Herman’s letter also revealed a deeper motivation behind his relentless work ethic:

We cannot imagine what it is but I feel that either ourselves or our children will someday stand before the world as a specimen of a high standard of intelligence.


Linus Pauling, a Condon Cowboy at age 5.

Linus Pauling, a Condon Cowboy at age 5.

Condon was in the midst of an economic boom when the Paulings came to town.  The Northern Pacific Railroad had built a spur to Condon to help connect the area’s abundant wheat harvests with the rest of the country.  The town’s favorable economic conditions helped the population to grow and, being the only druggist in town, Herman benefited from the rising tide.  He brought his store to the town’s attention by placing large ads in the weekly Globe newspaper, announcing products like “Pauling’s Pink Pills for Paling,” “Pauling’s Improved Blood Purifier,” and “Pauling’s Barb Wire Cure.”  Herman also sold postcards featuring his son, Linus, dressed up and captioned:  “A Condon Cowboy.”

Condon brought its challenges as well.  The summer heat was hard on Herman and Belle too had also grown accustomed to the milder summer of the Willamette Valley.  To escape the heat, Belle and the children would travel to Oswego for long stays with Herman’s parents, while Herman himself stayed behind to manage the store.  By his second summer in Condon, Herman began conjuring up ideas for how he could get out of eastern Oregon, but it took a few years and more struggles before that would come to pass.


Promotional calendar offered by H.W. Pauling, druggist. 1907.

Promotional calendar offered by H.W. Pauling, druggist. 1907.

The financial panic of 1907 reached out from Wall Street to all corners of the country, including Condon, and it made a negative impact on Herman’s business.  To help shore up his income, Herman partnered with a jeweler who promptly died the following year, leaving Herman to take over his role while also expanding into other areas, like selling eyeglasses.  Herman’s associations through his many fellowship organizations, including Woodmen of the World and the Odd Fellows, helped to keep the drugstore profitable both through and after the panic, but staying afloat did not come easy.

Combined with his continuing need to engage in business travel, Herman’s long hours at work brought more and more pressure on his marriage.  Belle was outspoken about her disappointment in Herman, while Herman tried to do what he could to keep their problems out of the range of the children.  In one letter, Herman let out what he had been holding back.

I have quite enough to worry me without asking you to peck, peck, peck at me.  But I guess you cannot help it, as that blessing is characteristic of the Darling family… Were it not for trying to get a start financially so you and the little ones may live in an abbreviated form of luxury in later years, I would not stay in this God forsaken hole a moment.  You have discouraged me so often in my efforts that I would think you would eventually come to a conclusion to encourage me a little by discontinuing your nonsensical jealousy.

Ground down by the pressures of life, Herman’s health began to suffer.  He developed insomnia and what he described as a “tummick ake,” a condition that would sometimes incapacitate him, leaving him bedridden.  More often that not however, his stomach problems could be soothed simply by eating something.  Armed with an easy method for treating his symptoms, he pushed along as best as he could.


The Pauling children, 1908.

The Pauling children, 1908.

Though he was unable to spend much time with them, Herman adored his children and sought to be the best possible role model, always hoping that they would grow up to be “an asset to the human race.”  He brought his son to work with him and Linus maintained memories of watching his father concoct various medicines, using careful measurements while also testing the compounds through various chemical reactions.

Herman also looked after Linus, who could get into trouble when he was not at home or in his father’s store.  One day Linus was exploring a building that was in the process of being constructed.  One of the workmen saw him there and was angered.  Linus tried to climb out the window, but the workman caught him before he could escape and ended up giving the young boy a beating.

When Linus came crying to his father, Herman immediately went out, found the workman, and punched him to the ground.  As Linus later remembered, his father was arrested soon afterwards.  Though Linus had associated his father’s arrest with assaulting the workman, according to biographer Thomas Hager, the arrest was more likely tied to charges of bootlegging that had been levied against Herman. (He was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing.)

While most of the town appreciated Herman, some locals felt otherwise.  After Herman had organized a Fourth of July celebration and run advertisements in the program for the day’s baseball game, the other jeweler in town wrote a letter to the editor of the Globe, attacking his competitor for his advertising tactics.  Herman did not stand for this public affront and retaliated by writing a lengthy response, titled “The Truth Will Out,” that described how “Sorehead Charlie” was being unfair and that, in business, having enemies is helpful, but not at the cost of fair play.  The exchange went on for several weeks until both sides eventually calmed down.

As time passed, Herman and Belle became increasingly eager to get out of Condon. Herman did not like dealing with the recurrent diphtheria and whooping cough which a few of the area’s children.  Belle, as had been the case since they first married, wanted Herman to work less, frequently complaining about his work schedule, which often ran to fourteen hours per day. In early 1909, the final catalyst for a move came about in an unexpected fashion, when Herman’s store caught fire. The local firefighters who responded to the blaze wound up causing even more damage by breaking the store’s front window and the glass figures that were on display.  Badly shaken, Herman focused intently on relocating and, by the fall, had saved enough money to move his family to Portland.


190-i.029

Back in the big city, Herman spent some time at the Skidmore Drug Company before opening up a new store on the growing east side of town.  In Portland, Herman took a different approach and got out of most of the extra lines of merchandise that he had sold in Condon – jewelry, phonographs and the like.  He did, however, add a soda fountain.

But business was slow.  Herman kept himself occupied by taking up German – Belle had been enrolled in classes at the local high school, and Herman thought it would be fun to join her as she learned.  It was also something to make him look busy when customers came in.

Herman likewise continued to encourage Linus’s growing curiosity by teaching him Latin to help supplement his budding interest in ancient civilizations.  In May 1910, Herman also wrote to the editor of The Oregonian asking for advice about books to provide for his nine-year old son’s new interests.  The editor responded by suggesting Plutarch, Herodotus, and Thomas Arnold’s The History of Rome.

Sadly, Herman did not have much time to follow up on the suggestions.  On June 11, while the rest of the family, along with Belle’s sisters, were at the Portland Rose Festival, Herman was back working when he started to get one of his stomach aches.  He went home and ate some of the roast that Belle had prepared for dinner which, as usual, helped to settle his stomach and allowed him to return to the store.

But the pain quickly returned and ferociously so. Herman collapsed and had to be carried home where he lay until his family arrived.  After seeing his wife, son and daughters one last time, Herman soon passed away, leaving Belle to care for their three young children.  He died at the age of 34, the victim of a perforated ulcer and attendant peritonitis.

A Sentimental Trip

Ava Helen Pauling, June 1981.

In the final months of 1981, Ava Helen Pauling was slowing down and making her final public appearances. She was spending as much time as possible with her husband and children, but encouraged Linus to stay busy and travel because of his difficulty dealing with emotional distress. She had been diagnosed with a form of inoperable cancer, and had decided against the use of chemotherapy.

According to his family, Linus Pauling was convinced that he would be able to save her through the use of vitamin C and other supplements. He was unable to talk about her final arrangements so preparations, including Ava’s memorial service preferences and her desire to be cremated, were discussed with her daughter Linda over a long weekend. After surgeries, a long term fight with cancer and a number of other medical complications, Ava Helen died in her home on December 7.

Following the death of his wife of nearly sixty years, Pauling was, understandably, quite lost. His children helped guide him through the funeral arrangements and Ava’s memorial service, andthough he gladly accepted their help, he was very resistant to other offers of assistance in the every day aspects of life. He stayed as busy as he could, and over the course of 1982 published three papers on the nucleus of the atom – a highly abstract program of work that afforded him some measure of escape from his grief.

He remained very lonely however, and was often lost in thought. According to those who knew him, Pauling was having trouble accepting the reality of his wife’s death. Biographer Thomas Hager wrote:

He still talked to her, holding phantom conversations as he spooned his vitamin C powder into his juice in the morning. He still looked for her, expecting to see her in the doorway, asking him to stop and take a walk, to come to lunch. He would cry and look out to sea. Then he would get back to work.

Though he was managing to get by under the circumstances, maintaining his health and taking care of himself during the following months, there remained a need for some kind of a mechanism that would allow him to deal with his grief. Just such an opportunity came in the form of his sixtieth Oregon Agricultural College class reunion. He decided to attend, and set off on what would become a long and meaningful journey.

Sixtieth anniversary reunion of the Oregon Agricultural College class of 1922.  Lucile and Linus Pauling are located second row from bottom, left.

His first stop was Dayton, Washington where he had worked for the Warren Construction Company in July 1923. He and his wife had spent a month there just after being married, and Pauling wished to revisit a number of locations that had meaning to the couple. He went to the intersection where the hotel they had stayed in once stood, and he walked around town and noted the place where Ava had outscored him on an IQ test they had taken.

The following morning he drove across the border into Oregon, visiting Arlington and then Condon, where he visited the grave of his grandfather Linus Wilson Darling for the first time. He spent the next day on the Oregon coast, seeking out former vacation and employment spots in Seaside and Tillamook, and then drove to Corvallis for a few days before attending his class reunion at Oregon State University.

The day after his reunion, Pauling spoke on the capitol steps in Salem, discussing nuclear weapons and the need for peace. He spoke later that same night, once again on peace topics, at the First Methodist Church in Portland. The next day he met with his sisters and a cousin to deliver to the director of the Oregon Historical Society the diaries that Linus Wilson Darling had kept in the late 19th century.

After lunch with his relatives he began his drive back home, stopping at a portion of highway along Grave Creek – he had spent five months in 1919 working on the highway there, sleeping in a tent near a covered bridge. At the time of his visit, the covered bridge was still in existence but the highway was partially destroyed, having been intersected by the construction of Interstate 5.

Pauling finally made it home two days before his wedding anniversary, having driven a total of 2,400 miles. It appears that the trip was just what he had needed, providing a frame of reference and partial relief from his loss. In a letter to an old friend, Pauling described his travels simply and decisively: “I went on this trip mainly to visit places where I had lived long ago.”

Linus Pauling, June 1982.

Following his return, Pauling decided to move out of the Portola Valley house that he and his wife had shared together. His youngest son Crellin moved in with his family, while Pauling bought a condominium on the Stanford University campus. He moved some of his belongings to his ranch at Big Sur, and others to Stanford. He decorated his new home with pictures of Ava and himself, framed awards, and furniture from their travels. The changes helped, but only to a degree. In September he wrote to his best friend, Lloyd Jeffress, “I am getting along pretty well, but I still feel quite lonesome. I have been working hard.”

Pauling became involved once again with his institute, and in early 1983 settled a lawsuit that had been consuming valuable time and resources. He spent half of his time at his ranch, and the other half in Palo Alto. He developed a routine, waking up before five in the morning, and reading himself to sleep at night after a full day of research and theory. Despite his loneliness, Pauling would live for another twelve years, continuing to pursue his scientific work, speak on world peace and manage his affairs.

Checking in on Condon

Main Street, Condon, Oregon. August 2009.

Main Street, Condon, Oregon. August 2009.

Over time we have written with some frequency about Condon, Oregon, the small farming community where Linus Pauling spent much of his youth.  And though we have come know a fair amount about the history of this little town in Gilliam County, it was not until recently that the Blog had an opportunity to actually visit the area and take a few pictures.  Here are a few things that we saw:

Herman Pauling’s pharmacy building, written about here, no longer exists.  In its place is a lovely little park.

Former location of Herman Pauling's drugstore.  Now a park on Main Street, Condon.

Former location of Herman Pauling's drugstore. Now a park on Main Street, Condon.

Gone too is Pauling’s first school – the Condon Grade School built in 1903.

Condon Grade School, built 1903.  Photo courtesy of the Gilliam County Library.

Condon Grade School, built 1903. Photo courtesy of the Gilliam County Library.

Linus Pauling (far right) with his Condon elementary classmates, 1909.

Linus Pauling (far right) with his Condon elementary classmates, 1909.

We had known about Pauling Field at the Condon State Airport, but this was our first glimpse.

Pauling Field, Condon State Aiport.

Pauling Field, Condon State Aiport.

We had also known about Linus Wilson Darling’s (Pauling’s maternal grandfather) grave, which is located at the Condon City Cemetery, but did not realize that he was buried next to Florence Darling, one of his six children, a toddler who died twenty-two years before her father at the age of two.

The Condon Cemetary.

The Condon City Cemetery.

Linus Wilson Darling's marker, Condon cemetary.

Linus Wilson Darling's marker, Condon City Cemetery.

Grave of Florence Darling, Condon cemetary.

Grave of Florence Darling, Condon City Cemetery.

Close inspection of L. W. Darling’s marker indicates that he was very proud of his fraternal memberships – the plaque notes that “Here Rests a Woodman of the World” and elsewhere bears a symbol of the Knights of Pythias.  And though most of the marker has not been restored, the spherical stone at its peak appears to have been turned to a more symmetrical position, at least when compared with this 1988 photo.

Linda Pauling Kamb, Linus, Pauline and Lucile Pauling at the grave of L. W. Darling, Condon, Oregon. 1988.

Linda Pauling Kamb, Linus, Pauline and Lucile Pauling at the grave of L. W. Darling, Condon, Oregon. 1988.


Our trip to Condon was rendered decidedly more fruitful by a visit to the terrific Gilliam County Historical Society museum which features, among other artifacts, an antique bicycle-powered jigsaw.  The society’s collections also include a few very rare images of William P. Murphy (Condon’s “other” Nobel Prize winner) who, as it turns out, was a member of Condon High School’s first graduating class in 1909.

The Condon High School class of 1909.  William P. Murphy (incorrectly identified as Will J. Murphy) is seated at the far right.

The Condon High School class of 1909. William P. Murphy (incorrectly identified as Will J. Murphey) is seated at the far right.

Here’s an Oregonian image of Murphy and his family as they set off to Sweden for the Nobel festivities in 1935.

William P. Murphy and family en route to Sweden.  Image first published in the Sunday Oregonian, July 21, 1935.

William P. Murphy and family en route to Sweden. Image first published in the Sunday Oregonian, July 21, 1935.

The Historical Society’s Pauling-related collection includes a fabulous vertical file of stories that appeared in the local media throughout the years.  One such article, written in 1969 during Pauling’s trip to Corvallis for the centennial celebration of Oregon State University, recounts many of the more interesting details of Pauling’s colorful family history.

All the Darlings were highly intelligent people, although some had quite a percentage of oddity.  W. L. Darling, ‘Bill’ a brother of L. W. Darling, was a paper hanger and a painter.  He was also a confirmed spiritualist.  His control was an Indian named ‘Red Cloud.’  Chatting with the spirits was an every evening affair with Bill.  He was trying to get the spirits to tell him the location of the lost gold mine in the Lonerock Country.

The article further notes that

Pauling’s aunt Stella Darling was a safe expert.  She could open any safe and had a national reputation.  She once traveled to London, England to open a safe.

The vertical file likewise includes documentation of various births, weddings and deaths, most of which are written with a great deal of local flavor.

Announcement of Herman Pauling's wedding to Belle Darling, Condon Globe, May 1900.

Announcement of Herman Pauling's wedding to Belle Darling, Condon Globe, May 1900.

Announcement of the births of Linus and Pauline Pauling, and the death of Herman Pauling. Condon Globe and Condon Times, 1901, 1902, 1910.

Announcement of the births of Linus and Pauline Pauling, and the death of Herman Pauling. Condon Globe and Condon Times, 1901, 1902, 1910.

Announcement of the birth of Lucile Pauling, Condon Globe, 1904.

Announcement of the birth of Lucile Pauling, Condon Globe, 1904.

Our favorite item though, is this announcement of the marriage of either H. C. Pauling or Louis Carl Pauling to Miss Ava Helen Miller, as reported in the Condon Globe Times on June 29, 1923.  Note, in particular, the flipped ninth line of the first paragraph – part of the cost of doing business during the era of handset news type.

"Former Condon Boy Married," Condon Globe Times, June 29, 1923.

"Former Condon Boy Married," Condon Globe Times, June 29, 1923.

Condon is not an easy place to access – it was built to serve the needs of area farmers and is nowhere near a major highway.  Our afternoon in the town was, however, defined by the kind of small-town hospitality that would seem a cliché were it not so genuine.  We’re already planning a return visit.

For more stories of Linus Pauling’s life and times in Oregon, see our continuing series commemorating the Oregon150 celebration or visit the Linus Pauling Online portal.

Oregon 150

Pauline Pauling (1902-2003)

Pauline Pauling with her sister Lucile, 1916.

Pauline Pauling with her sister Lucile, 1916.

My name is Pauline Darling Pauling Stockton Ney Dunbar Emmett, and you can see I’ve had an interesting life…

-Pauline Pauling Emmett, 1994.

The sister of one distinguished scientist and later the wife of another, Pauline Darling Pauling, the second oldest of the Herman and Belle Pauling’s children, led a long and eventful life. Once a record-breaking typist, a famous women’s athletic director, and a successful designer and businesswoman, Pauline found success in a plethora of careers and hobbies. Although she remained close to her Nobel Prize-winning brother over his lifetime, Pauline harbored more artistic aspirations than scientific ones. In addition to her professional success, she was a seamstress, quilter, painter, and coin and doll collector.

Pauline Pauling was born in Portland, Oregon on August 2, 1902. She remembers her childhood in Condon as “very stark,” remarking that “it was a wonder [the family] survived.” Following her father’s death in 1910 and the family’s ensuing financial trouble, her mother, Belle Darling Pauling, opened a boardinghouse to support the family. Linus, Pauline, and their younger sister, Lucile, were responsible for the many domestic duties of the boardinghouse as their mother, suffering from a general weakness (later diagnosed as pernicious anemia), had become increasingly dependent on the help of her children.

Pauline Pauling on a hiking excursion in the Oregon forest, 1921.

Pauline Pauling on a hiking excursion in the Oregon forest, 1921.

Pauline, an extrovert by nature, couldn’t wait to escape the small-town life of Condon. An energetic and pretty girl, Pauline became something of a socialite as a teenager.

She dated a string of boys, frequently attended swimming and singing events, and often arranged social get-togethers. As a student at Franklin High School in Portland, Pauline dropped out for a year to attend the Behnke-Walker Business School. There she learned Pitman shorthand and the touch system of typing. She would later become known for her speed typing, breaking the world record on a manual typewriter in an unofficial test.

Pauline Pauling participating in a filmed athletics demonstration, Los Angeles, 1920s.

Pauline Pauling participating in a filmed athletics demonstration, Los Angeles, 1920s.

She met her first husband, Wallace Stockton, while working as a secretary for the Elks Club in Portland. The couple later moved to Los Angeles, where Pauline worked as the Women’s Athletic Director for the Club. Known as the “Elkettes,” the women’s group, attracting some of Hollywood’s most famous stars, gained much publicity for its numerous activities and events. Pauline and Wallace Stockton divorced in the late-1920s.

On October 6, 1932, Pauline married Thomas Ney. After living in Santa Monica, the two moved to Inglewood, California, where their son, Michael Ney, was born on December 23, 1934.

Pauline Pauling, posing for a Paddies, Inc. promotional photograph, 1940s.

Pauline Pauling, posing for a Paddies, Inc. promotional photograph, 1940s.

It was around this time that Pauline took notice of a men’s slipper in an issue of Vogue. Using the pattern, Pauline refined the design to create a women’s slipper. Soon after impressing her friends with the prototype, Pauline began making the slippers and selling them from her home. Subsequently, her initially-modest business (Paddies, Inc.) grew rapidly. She began marketing the “Paddy” slipper to upscale department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, and I. Magnin. Unfortunately, Japanese manufacturers were able to copy her design and thus flooded the market with a cheaper model. Pauline lost her big accounts and, as a result, decided to sell the company.

In 1950, Pauline and Thomas Ney divorced. After returning to Santa Monica, California, Pauline became interested in numismatics, eventually opening her own coin shop in 1960. It was during this time that Pauline became acquainted with Charles “Slim” Dunbar, a coin shop owner from Inglewood. The two were married on August 25, 1973. Sadly, Slim, in ill health, died just 23 months after their wedding.

Pauline Pauling, Paul Emmett, Lucile Pauling, Ava Helen and Linus Pauling, 1976.

Pauline Pauling, Paul Emmett, Lucile Pauling, Ava Helen and Linus Pauling, 1976.

Following Slim’s death, Pauline returned to Oregon. It was there that an old friend, Dr. Paul Emmett, re-entered her life. Dr. Emmett, a prominent catalysis scientist, was a longtime friend and colleague of her brother. Emmett was, as Pauline recalls, “underfoot every minute until [she] accepted his proposal.” The two were married on May 22, 1976.

Pauline Pauling with her big brother Linus, 1993.

Pauline Pauling with her big brother Linus, 1993.

Pauline, lively even in her later years, cared for Dr. Emmett (who suffered from Parkinson’s disease) until his death in 1985. Following her husband’s passing, Pauline continued to live in the Portland area until her death on October 19, 2003. She was 101 years old.

Check back next week when we’ll discuss the life of the youngest Pauling sibling, Lucile. For more stories of Linus Pauling’s connection to his home state, please see our growing Oregon150 series.

Oregon 150

Pauling’s Best Friend: Lloyd Jeffress

Lloyd Jeffress, extracted from Physics Today, December 1977.

Photo of Lloyd Jeffress, extracted from Physics Today, December 1977.

As a child, Linus Pauling had relatively few friends. After moving from Condon, Oregon to Portland, the death of his father and subsequent poverty forced him to work when not in school. The remainder of his time was consumed with studying and household chores, leaving little room for companionship. Pauling, even as a boy, was also exceedingly introspective and self-reliant, capable of quietly entertaining himself without supervision. Nevertheless, even the busiest and most independent children need friends.

In 1913, while walking home from school, Pauling began talking with another young boy, Lloyd Jeffress. The two quickly discovered a mutual interest in science and natural phenomena, and Lloyd invited Linus to his home to view a chemistry experiment. Pauling readily agreed and, within the hour, Lloyd was performing a series of basic chemical reactions that bubbled, fizzed and smoked, transfixing the young Pauling. It was on this day, in Lloyd Jeffress’ little Portland bedroom, that Pauling decided to become a chemist.

From that point on, the two boys were inseparable. When not at school or work, they were performing crude, and sometimes dangerous, experiments in the makeshift lab that Linus built in the Pauling basement. Using donated or pilfered chemicals, the boys created noxious gases and exploding powders while dreaming of getting rich as corporate chemists.

Video Link: Watch Pauling recount his and Jeffress’ early chemical experiments

As an adult, Linus Pauling often told a story of Lloyd Jeffress to friends and interviewers. At the age of fifteen, Pauling had imagined himself as a chemical engineer, working for one of the United States’ major companies. When Pauling told his grandmother this, Lloyd chimed in saying, “No, he is going to be a university professor.” Jeffress’ words proved prophetic, as Pauling spent more than thirty years as a professor at the California Institute of Technology.

Following high school, Linus and Lloyd both attended Oregon Agricultural College, where Pauling studied chemistry and Lloyd majored in electrical engineering. Jeffress, however, developed an interest first in physics and later in the medical field, eventually graduating from the University of California with a Ph.D. in psychology, while Pauling, of course, took at job as a chemistry professor at Caltech. Despite the divergence in their interests, the two stayed in intermittent contact for the following sixty years.

Lloyd Jeffress served as best man at Pauling's wedding.  Linus and Ava Helen also gave their second-born son the name Peter Jeffress Pauling.

Lloyd Jeffress served as best man at Pauling's wedding. Linus and Ava Helen also gave their second-born son the name Peter Jeffress Pauling.

With Pauling at Caltech and Jeffress at the University of Texas in Austin, it was difficult for the men to meet. They visited one another as regularly as their schedules would allow, sometimes engaging in the tomfoolery of their youth. In a short manuscript written after Lloyd’s death, (see below) Pauling recounts their deceiving the guests at an academic event with Lloyd’s “mind reading” abilities, a hoax successfully planned and orchestrated by the pair. He also tells readers of Lloyd’s wedding, a hurried affair conducted by an unknown minister in Linus and Ava Helen Pauling’s small California apartment with only the Paulings to act as witnesses.

Jeffress, like Pauling, was a highly successful member of the academic community. Though his career began slowly, the breadth and depth of his research expanded considerably as he aged, with the vast majority of his papers being produced after his 50th birthday. As an expert in experimental psychology, focusing on psychoacoustics, he served as the chairman of the University of Texas psychology department, and even worked with various military-based programs.

Additionally, his longstanding interest in physics led him to take over some physics classes while serving in the university’s psychology department. Perhaps more surprising, his experience with wave transference resulted in work on mine-detecting devices for the United States military. Over the course of his career, Jeffress earned a series of awards and commendations for his excellence as an educator and for his contributions to the field of psychoacoustics. Pauling personally took great pride in his friend’s successes, expressing special interest in his scientific papers.

Following Lloyd’s death, Pauling was asked to write a brief narrative of their relationship as part of a tribute. In it, Linus described their meeting as boys and their lifelong friendship. In closing, he stated “I have many friends, but I continue to think of Lloyd Alexander Jeffress as my best friend.”

For more on the life of Lloyd Jeffress, please see Pauling’s typescript below, as well as this lengthy memorial resolution (PDF link) prepared by members of the University of Texas faculty.  For more on Pauling’s links with Oregon, check out our continuing Oregon150 series.

“Life with Lloyd Jeffress,” by Linus Pauling, June 5, 1986.

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Oregon 150