I recall the winter of 1973 as one of the coldest in New Jersey. Due to OPEC’s oil embargo, the price of oil had shot up from $3 a barrel to $12 a barrel, which stressed Princeton’s finances. The University encouraged all students to return home during winter break and shortened reading period to save on the cost of heating. I, however, had a number of courses with papers and decided to stay on campus for an extra two weeks to finish my research. I found a comfortable used wood chair for $10, and my roommate Phil Hooper ’75 helped me carry it up the four flights to our living room in 10th-entry Patton, where we placed it in front of our fireplace. During the following week, I was lonely and very cold since the University had put the temperature down to 45 degrees.
After about a week of freezing, I came up with a solution to the lack of oil at Princeton and my need to stay to finish my papers. At the hardware store, I bought an ax for $3. The University police looked at me strangely as I returned to campus, and I promised not to cut down any Princeton trees. The new wood chair, however, was not covered by that promise, and the fireplace was fed for the next few days. My freezing hands could turn pages again. When my roommates returned and looked for the chair, all I could do was point to the ax, which remained on the fireplace mantel for the rest of the year.