The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 17, 2012

THOMAS YOUNG | Harvard friend was bound for big things

Thomas Young
For The Tribune-Democrat

JOHNSTOWN — After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, a friend of the family convinced my father that I should go to Harvard Law School. I was not consulted on this decision as I had planned my future to include advanced degrees in English Literature.

I had a free ride with Pitt if I would teach freshman English. So much for that.

My mother bought me two suits at Woolf and Reynolds on Main Street to take with me to Harvard. After an endless train ride, I arrived at Cambridge, Mass. A short cab ride and I was at Harvard.

If you haven’t visited that part of the country, you should know that Cambridge is a city very much like Johnstown. It is not like some of the New England towns whose pictures grace the better calendars. No rolling hills of grass here.

The campus of the whole university sits right on Harvard Square, which is much like the corner of Main and Franklin Streets in Johnstown. It’s separated from Boston by the Charles River, which is a little bigger than the Stonycreek. I was slightly dismayed.

I had arrived a week before school started to give myself time to get the lay of the land. I did luck out with my quarters. They were on the first floor of a three-story building called “Hastings,” and consisted of two bedrooms and a large living area with a fireplace. Very nice. Most everybody else of the 515 in the class were in box type rooms in new dormitories, small, cramped and noisy.

After meeting my roommate, a Syracuse graduate, the son of a New York clothing manufacturer, I decided to explore. Upstairs lived a tall, quiet person who, like me, had arrived early. He seemed to have a better grasp of Harvard, having visited often, so we walked down to Harvard Square, where the stores were, and the cafeterias. The MTA was there also, in case you wanted to go to Boston.

Again, by the luck of the draw, my new-found friend was assigned the seat next to mine in one of the freshman classes. Since there are 125 persons to a section, it was truly surprising that we were seated together, since the seats are randomly assigned.

Sitting next to my friend I watched him doodling in his notebook. He wasn’t really writing anything, he was drawing, but I couldn’t figure out what it was, so I finally had to ask him. Turns out he was drawing the coastline of Norway from memory, having been a geography major at Princeton University.

Years later, after graduation, my friend founded the Center for Study of Responsive Law in Washington, D.C., and he authored “Unsafe at Any Speed.” Right now there is a book of his which you should buy. It’s titled, “Seventeen Solutions.”

My friend is Ralph Nader.



Thomas Young, a graduate of Pitt and Harvard Law School, has been a lawyer in Johns­town since 1958. He is a former professor of business law at Pitt-Johnstown. Readers may send questions to Young in care of The Tribune-Democrat. The opinions expressed in this column are general in nature and may not apply to your situation. Consult your attorney for advice on specific legal matters.

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