Patricia Newman

Three Labs in a Lift | Ballad of the Arzamas Train

Three Labs in a Lift

by Patricia Newman, Sandian in exile

Commemorating the events of April 1995 when Sandia Labs, Los Alamos, and Lawrence Livermore Labs attended Chelyabinsk-70’s 40th Anniversary Celebration in Snezhinsk. Roger Hagengruber was Sandia’s Senior Vice President, Robert Kuckuck was Deputy Director of Livermore Lab, K. David Nokes was manager of Sandia’s Russian programs, Paul White and Walt Hermann had similar positions at Los Alamos and Livermore.

Read it in PDF


It happened one day in Snezhinsk town

Where lifts go up and stairs go down;

It happened, this thing of great renown,

It happened right there in Snezhinsk town.


Our Roger was there with a group of his peers

From these three labs so noble and great

When Snezhinsk saw its 40th year

And threw a party to celebrate.


‘Twas Roger himself at the head of the list,

With Newman and Nokes from Sandia Labs.

Then White of Los Alamos, he came next,

With Kuckuck and Hermann of Livermore Lab.


We had not sent our clearances in,

The secret session was closed to us.

We sat instead in an office dim

And talked of protection and built some trust.


We went to the session of all sweet words,

Where everyone praised the Institute,

And gave their gifts and smiled and purred

And pompously posed in their business suits.


Now Snezhinsk has an inn of its own

With lifts and rooms and TV sets,

And some of its rooms have phones

For some of its more important guests.


It happened right there in the Snezhinsk inn,

Where rooms are small and walls are thin;

Where doors may open and people go in.

It happened that day in the Snezhinsk inn.


We’d had our lunch with Boris a-twitter;

“Dear colleagues, it’s time, we have to go.

Our schedule will break if time you fritter,

Two minutes at most, so don’t be slow.”


We’ll go to our rooms, we promise it’s fast.

We have to get ready before we go out

To see the site you’ve promised at last

To put under wraps and end any doubt.


They entered the lift, the fellows did,

Roger and White and Kuckuck and Nokes,

They entered the lift and rose to their rooms

To brush their teeth and gather their coats.


It happened right there in the Snezhinsk hut,

It happened right then as they rode the lift up,

It happened as fast as a door opens up—

Or refuses to open and just stays shut.


For that’s what occurred in the little old lift,

To Roger and Nokes and Kuckuck and White;

A button was pushed at the very worst time,

A button was pushed—it couldn’t be right.


The lift is quite old and Russian as well,

The buttons pop out at every last floor.

You wait for the stop and then you can tell

Which button to push ere closing the door.


But someone unnamed in this little lift,

A button he pushed before the first stop.

The doors wouldn’t open, they just wouldn’t give;

Our fellows were stuck, the trip was a flop.


So White took the phone and called for some folks.

An answer came back as quick as a wink,

But Russian, of course, was the language it spoke.

It’s Russia, my dear, what else would you think?


It took them some time before they were saved,

Three fourths of an hour, with a few mins.

I came to their site when I heard they were caged

To see for myself the fix they were in.


Three labs in a lift is a sight to behold.

It’s Roger and Nokes and Kuckuck and White.

“It’s hot in this lift,” I quickly was told,

“Crack open the door and hold it a mite.”


I stood with my boot stuck firm in the door

For Roger and Nokes and Kuckuck and White.

They steamed and they stewed and they waited in there,

While I stood outside and laughed at their plight.


A repairman he came as fast as he could,

Went down in the basement and opened the door.

The fellows came out not looking so good,

So wilted and steamy and just a bit sore.


‘Twas a lesson they’ve carried from that day to this:

Whenever you stay in Snezhinsk town,

Go up to the top in that little old lift,

And push no buttons, but walk back down.


It happened one day in Snezhinsk town

Where lifts go up and stairs go down;

It happened, this thing of great renown,

It happened right there in Snezhinsk town.


Read it in PDF

Ballad of the Arzamas Train

Back to Top ^
Read it in PDF

(Commemorating the events of February 1995 when Dave Nokes took Mim John, Nancy Davis, Patricia Newman, Tom Sellers, and Clyde Layne on the overnight train from Moscow to a program review meeting at Arzamas-16, called “Los Arzamas” because it is the Russian counterpart to Los Alamos)

Now listen, my children, and you shall hear

How Sandia management handles its fear.


Los Arzamas beckoned, we’d travel by train,

A simple arrangement that’d cause us no pain.

We gathered like gypsies with bundles and sacks,

Set out for the train and never looked back.


But when we arrived, a surprise was in store

As we entered the car and looked at the doors.

Six tickets we had and thought they were fine,

A cabin for each and all in a line.


But that was a dream that wasn’t to be;

The cabins weren’t six, we only had three.

The cabins were small, two beds they allowed

For the six of us there in our Sandia crowd.


Three hims and three hers, and a pause that ensued

As Sandia minds took the problem and chewed.

Two hims in the first—like lightning they leaped!

Three hers and one him just shuffled their feet.


“Straws we can draw and try to divide,

Or,” said Mim, “it’s you and me, Clyde.”

Clyde, like a gentleman born and bred,

Said not a word, but his face burned red.


“You rats!” he cried, as he turned to Dave,

“You jumped in together your heinies to save!

Is this how management shelters its staff?”

And David and Tommy tried hard not to laugh.


Don’t worry, my children, it all ended well,

Virtue has triumphed, as often it will.

The wagon was empty, and the train crew agreed

We could spread ourselves out as much as we pleased.


We each had a cabin, our own little bower.

We partied in one till the midnight hour,

Then retired to our places and slept all alone.

See how our lab takes care of its own?


It’s directors, you see, who have special funds

To spend at discretion, whatever may come.

So Tommy forked over the cold hard cash,

Perhaps six dollars from his secret stash.


The total per person for the overnight ride—

‘bout 23 bucks and panic for Clyde.

I wouldn’t propose it to any good friends,

But it makes a great story —and this is its end.


Read it in PDF

Back to Top ^

Comments Are Closed