Monday, December 8, 2014

Farewell to the Barus-Holley parking lot

Barus-Holley and The Parking Lot
My favorite memory of the soon-to-be-gone parking lot just south of BH had to do with (the late) Engineering Prof. Don Avery, one of the most outrageous people on campus, who often rode his motorcycle to the office. To protect the bike, he used a heavy chain and special lock when he parked it in that lot.

Motorcycles with helmetless riders wearing aviator sunglasses were popular around the parking-challenged Brown campus in my student days. These bikes were very hot theft targets – a fraternity brother had his BSA swiped and was told by the police that odds of recovery were less than 1 in 10. For him they proved to be zero.

Mr. Avery was constantly trying new tricks with materials, and loved putting them to the practical-use test. He had put a special ultra-hard hasp on the motorcycle lock, and then did some sophisticated case-hardening on the heavy steel chain. “Case-hardening” the steel gave each link a very hard but tough surface “case,” difficult to cut or crack. Meanwhile the inner part of each link, under the "case," retained the toughness and strength of steel. Being steel, the outer case was not brittle like cast iron or other hard metals.

One mid-winter night about 6:30, Mr. Avery took the elevator down to the BH lobby, bundled up and ready to unlock his bike for the chilly ride home. From the lobby, he could see in the darkness that two men with a 4-foot pair of bolt cutters were testing his chain’s performance. One was holding the bolt cutters on the chain while the other was jumping up and down on the end of the cutters, trying to get enough force to cut it. Technology forever! The case-hardened steel was winning the battle.  

Mr. Avery retreated inside to the nearest phone and called the police, who arrived promptly and discreetly. The would-be thieves were so involved in trying to cut through the chain they did not notice the armed audience arriving to watch their act. The police took two motorcycle thieves off the streets that night, and after filing a preliminary report, Mr. Avery unlocked his motorcycle, bundled up his slightly-nicked chain, and headed home.

A lot of other historic things happened in that lot, I’m sure, but I liked this one. 

- Bill McNeely, Sc. B. in Engineering 

No comments:

Post a Comment