Monday, June 20, 2011

A small personal note

This blog has been and will continue to be about modeling the SP. But a recent discovery impels me to adding a small personal note.
     I still remember the first thing I ever published, which was a rock climbing guide to an area near Boston, created when I was in graduate school and a fairly regular climber. The area is in Quincy, south of the city, and happens to be at the site of one of the very first railroads in America, the Granite Railway, built to haul cut granite from the quarry for the construction of the Bunker Hill Monument in 1826. It had iron rails, supported on small granite blocks (not ties), and was horse powered.
     The remnant of that first quarry was later called “Little Railroad Quarry,” and I worked with another experienced climber at the quarries, William (Willie) Crowther, who had written a small guide earlier, created only as a mimeographed text and long out of print. He and I created a new and expanded text, and I made drawings of the cliff areas from photographs, to show the climbing routes. I organized the layout and printing, and it was published in 1968 by the M.I.T. Outing Club, and was reissued in 1970 with a supplement. It was just 5 x 7.5 inches in size, intended of course as a pocket guide.
     What brought all this up? I wondered what had happened in the interim. It turns out that Boston’s Metropolitan District Commission has purchased the land and created a public reservation, so climbing continues. And to my surprise, the Wikipedia entry about the area mentions Willie’s and my guidebook (see:
     My next challenge was to find if I could locate a copy amongst my belongings, and despite the passage of years, I succeeded. Here’s the cover:

And remarkably, you can buy this little 24-page booklet through and ABE Books, at staggering prices. (The 1970 reprint is also available; it had a yellow cover.)
     Although the railroad connection of this tale is minute, it was a real discovery for me to make this connection to my own past. Hope you don’t mind hearing about it.
Tony Thompson


  1. *That* William Crowther, famous for the first text-based adventure game? You hung around with some interesting people in grad school, Tony!

  2. Yep, same guy. He was an avid caver (and a superb rock climber), and he said his "Adventure" game was stimulated by his caving experiences. It sounds impossibly primitive, but "Adventure" was written in Fortran to run on a PDP-10.

    I never climbed much with WIllie, because he was far better than I was, but we became friends through the MIT Outing Club. His wife at the time, Pat, was also an amazing climber. She was a slip of a woman, probably weighed about 80 pounds, and had a dancer's balance. She could climb many delicate routes that most guys could only shake their heads at. It made many a "macho" guy rethink the importance of strength in climbing.

    I knew a few other cool people in grad school too, but let's not go there today .
    Tony Thomson