When Letty Belin purchased 96 Riverside in 1976, the house had at last found
a family to live in it, for the first time since the
Nethertons left in the 1930s. Letty, her boyfriend (later husband)
Doyne Farmer, their friend Norman Packard, his girlfriend Lorna Lyons,
and many, many others lived and worked together in a house perfectly suited
for communal living, so common in a college town of the era. They brought
their "Project" and Eudemonic Enterprises to the house, and
inspired subsequently the Friends
who bought the house in 1993.
Doyne and Norman were graduate students in physics at UC Santa Cruz.
They were also interested in gambling, using physics to beat roulette,
and using their winnings to fund the enterprises of their own choosing,
free of academic research grants, corporate affiliation, or need for profits.
The story of their project and its near success is told in Thomas A. Bass's
Eudemonic Pie. The book is, at this writing out-of-print, but will
soon be available.
The excerpt from Eudemonic Pie is reprinted with Thomas Bass's
permission. It not only describes the house, but gives an accurate description
of the town and neighborhood of the time.
After their summer at Professor Nauenberg's the Projectors moved that
fall into a house of their own. Doyne, Norman, and Letty had searched
the county for someplace large enough to hold the first Eudemonic household.
They finally found a rambling, woodframe structure at 707 Riverside
Street, a few hundred yards from the beach and just back from the levees
that keep the San Lorenzo River from flooding the town built along its
banks. The house and its barn had once presided over this stretch of
riverbank as their sole occupants. But the acreage had long since been
sold off for beach bungalows and condominiums, the barn was sagging,
and the house itself was in need of cosmetic, if not structural attention.
The Riverside neighborhood, in its democratic receptivity, held a smattering
of every element found in this sun-drenched town of fifty thousand.
Tourists unloaded children and baja chairs into cottages rented by the
week. Retired couples turned their gardens into min-citrus groves or
Shangri-las overrun with bougainvillea and fuchsia. High-tech emloyees
from Intel, after an hour's commute over the mountains, wheeled their
Porsches into the front yards of otherwise unadorned condominiums. Other
citizens, surviving somehow in an economy dependent on fish, Brussels
sprouts, the university, a Wrigley's chewing gum factory, food stamps,
silicon chips, and tourism, used their front lawns for planting snow
peas, fitting skylights into Dodge vans, rigging Windsurfers, grilling
vegetables over hibachis, or reading Good Times, the local newspaper
whose masthead slogan is "Lighter than Air."
The flower-lined mall and cafes of Santa Cruz lay just across a bridge
spanning the San Lorenzo, or one could stroll instead to the harbor,
an expanse of blue water situated where Monterey Bay takes a final nip
in the coastline before rejoining the Pacific at Lighthouse Point. Surfers
off the Point shot the curl in Steamer Lane, one of the best surf breaks
on the coast, while back in the quieter waters of the Bay one found
a yacht harbor, a wharf with fishmongers selling the catch of the day,
and a boardwalk complete with arcades and a roller coaster. The only
incongruity in this pleasant neighborhood --which soon went unnoticed
by its residents--was the screaming of riders on the roller coaster
as they took the big plunge.
Besides its location, 707 Riverside had much to recommend it. A stone
foundation, having already survived numerous earthquakes, supported
a bank of stairs, a pillared porch, a clerestory gable whose eaves and
upturned roof made the house look vaguely like a Chinses pagoda. Despite
its loftiness, the structure contained only one habitable floor, although
one so extensive that it contained along its perimieter six bedrooms,
as well as a living room, dining room, and kitchen built on a grand
scale. The basement held two more rooms, with windows, facing out onto
a large backyard and the barn.
Then in her third year of law school at Stanford, Letty paid slightly
over fifty-thousand dollars for the house. "Norman and I were considering
buying it ourselves," said Doyne, "but no one at the bank
would give us the time of day. They thought Letty was pretty suspicious
too, until she produced her stock certificates. It was clear sailing
Norman moved that fall from Portland to Santa Cruz and began his first
year as a physics graduate student at the university. Letty came down
from Palo Alto as often as possible. Juano, on being wiped out as a
poker player in the card rooms of Montana, drifted back to town. The
house filled up with other residents that included, over the years,
scientists, teachers, lawyers, a pianist, a nurse, a volleyball coach,
two Dutch film stars, and an Italian leftist from Milan. A way station
for travelers and the headquarters of Eudemonic Enterprises, 707 Riverside
acquired the air of a commune, a physics laboratory, and a casino all
rolled into one.
The Eudemonic family fenced in the yard and planted a garden. They
built tables and beds and bought other furniture at the Sky View Drive-in
flea market. In a small white chamber off the front hall, Doyne set
up the new computer in what come to be known as the Project Room. He
lined the walls from floor to ceiling with shelves that he filled with
shoe boxes containing electronic parts, technical manuals, spare chips,
wiring diagrams, and other paraphernalia needed for assembling and programming
What is the KIM? Keyboard Input Module--a computer
development kit which included an Intel 6502 microprocessor. And it was
going to become a computer, that could fit in a shoe, and beat the roulette
tables of Nevada.
Eudemonic Pie: from the paperback blurb:
"Why would anyone," asks the auther at the end of his prologue,
"play roulette without wearing a computer in his shoe?"
"The story of how a group of young 1970s computer enthusiasts, physicists
and sunny California riffraff together developed a complete microcomputer
cum communications system for predicting, using Newtonian machanics, where
on a roulette wheel the bouncing ball would halt. Written in the style
of electric gonzo journalist, the book shuttles back and forth between
the group's Santa Cruz commune and the Las Vegas scene. " --The New
Eudemonic means "conductive to happiness" and is based on Aristotle's
concept that a life governed by reason brings happiness. The characters
in this book sought to live their lives accordingly--and to finance with
this adventure their kind of scientific research, free of corportate
or academic constraints. The gambling profits would be divided fairly,
each Eudaemon receiving a share (a piece of the pie) equal to the time
and money he or she invested.
"As gripping as it is insanely comedic... One is positively awed
by the achievement--even The Double Helix that classic about the
discovery of DNA, seems to fade a little in memory" -- The Cleveland
"A saga of near epic proportions." --The San Francisco Chronicle
Plans for this section:
Photos from residents
The Duplex becomes a home