First Interview Session (May 5, 2008)
Narrator: Russell C. Moody
Interviewer: Lauren Benditt
Date: 05 May 2008 (Monday)
Location: Forest Products Laboratory
Transcriptionist: Lauren Benditt (06/03/08)
Auditor: Allison Page (10/29/08)
00:00:00 - 00:01:46 Introduction
Introduction, education, background, early history, University of Wisconsin---Platteville, structural engineer
Great. Well, today is Monday, May 5th and I'm here with Russ Moody, and he's going to tell us a bit about his experiences at the Forest Products Lab. Maybe, if we can start out with, sort of, pre-Forest Products Lab. What was your education and your background? And what brought you here?
Ok. I graduated from college in 1964, University of Wisconsin---Platteville, Engineering, and was married at the time. We had a daughter, and I was interested in graduate school, but I had a considerable debt after going through school, and we'd talked about it, and my---I'm originally from a small town, Belmont, about sixty miles southwest of here---and I had other job opportunities in, I guess, California and some other places, but I, and I looked at the Forest Products Lab as one of the places that was hiring, and I came and I talked to somebody up here, and yeah, they were interested in hiring somebody with my background. I'm a structural engineer. And so I'm, because I had the opportunity to go to graduate school here and it was, it wasn't a total disruption, as far as away from the family---ah my wife's parents and my parents. And so ah, I decided well this, I met the people here and it seemed like a great place, so I came to work here two weeks after I graduated from college. So this is the, really the first full-time job I ever had---as it turned out, the only one.
00:01:46 - 00:03:32 Forest Products
Forest products, interest, timber engineering; Koening, John; Kurtenacker, Bob; packaging department; laminated products; Bohanan, Billy
Great. Did you have a specific interest in forest products before coming here?
Oh yeah. I've always loved the woods, trees and stuff like that. So I, I did, and I had, I had a timber structures course at the University of Wisconsin---Platteville, and the instructor in that had had a lot of experience in timber engineering. And so he, I guess it was encouraging talking to him. He knew of the Forest Products Lab, and we actually came here on a tour my senior year, but I'd already been hired by then. So I was already on the, already been hired by the time I got here. And I went to work, to start with, I went to work in the Packaging group. So I was there for about two to two and half years, something like that, working with John Koening, and Keith Kellika, Bob Kurtenacker, in the packaging area. And really enjoyed that, it was challenging a lot of great people to work with.
And one day they came to me and said, Russ, we, we think we have a different position for you here, and that it would probably be the---they encouraged me to, really didn't give me a choice. I don't think they said this was a, and it was working in the structural area, laminated products, and I'd be working in that area with, I think Billy Bohanan was the head of that group at that time. So I went to work in that area. And that's really where I spent my entire career, in that area. I worked as a research engineer, and then became the project leader, and then, ten years ago, retired from that position as project leader.
00:03:32 - 00:07:40 Knowledge, Wood Handbook
Knowledge, Wood Handbook; FPL reference materials; Warren, Fred; first impression, first day, 1964, finances
Great. So, prior to your interview here, and being hired and then going on the tour, had you heard of the Forest Products Lab?
Probably not until the last semester of my senior year---taking the timber structures course, which was one of my final courses. When you study wood design, you inevitably come up with the Forest Products Lab because of the Wood Handbook and as a basic, kind of a basic reference. And then we had some other texts. But, when you, when you learn---as soon as you get into anything timber-engineering related, you're going to find that a lot of the basic references come back to the Forest Products Lab here. And, so I'd heard about it, never really had visited it until I was interested in the job, and came here on the job interview, before I visited here on my---. And I, I don't know when it was, probably in February, March, something like that, I came here. I'd have to find out for sure. But it was somewhere in the early part of the second semester of my senior year of college. I came here and met Fred, I remember Fred Warin took Nance and I on a tour, and we sat down with Fred and talked to him about it and then we, soon after that I had the job offer.
And what year was that?
Fabulous. So, I guess from the, your timber structures course, did you have any particular impressions of what the Forest Products Lab would be once you came here?
I don't really think I knew what I was getting into. I really didn't. And it, strangely enough, one of my weakest parts of my engineering I think was report writing; I dreaded it, and stuff like that. And I'd had courses in report writing and stuff like that, so I knew the basics of it, but you soon found out you had an awful lot to learn. And, but now that you know, in retrospect, that's really why you hire college graduates, it's because they have the ability to learn, the proven ability to learn. And so, it, but that was a, probably one of my biggest struggles was how do you write these reports and make them sound sensible, you know. And you could read other people's reports, and they sounded so great, and then you tried to write, tried to write like that, and pretty soon everything you wrote sounded so dull.
Wow, so, I guess, when you came here for the first time, what were your experiences? What was the first day like?
I don't remember. No, no thoughts of that. I know, I know that my first paycheck was just---well, first of all, the paycheck was going to be nearly a month away from the time you started, and it was two-week pay periods, and then it was sometime after that. And we were interested in that, because, quite frankly, with just graduating from school, and with a daughter, and stuff like that we were, we were not very healthy financially-wise. And, and I don't know how, the word got out here someway, and somebody found out about it And I don't know whether it was John Koening or Keith Kellika, or something, said well we've got the credit union here, and they would loan you money. So, I think one of the first, within the first week I was here, I went and got a loan from the credit union, and probably paid it, probably paid it back. Then, I guess, you know your first job, you, I was given---I worked with John Koening right away and some with Bob Kurtenacker, and we were given some, we had some experiments to do with corrugated containers and, and I worked with John, John was fairly new too at that time. But John was always enthusiastic and always had lots of ideas, so we were always chasing some, some ideas.
00:07:40 - 00:08:42 Typical Day
Typical day, coffee breaks, humor in the workplace
So, I guess, going from that, could you describe a typical day, or was there a typical day?
I don't---I know one of the, well I mean it was eight to five then. It was eight o'clock, an hour lunch, eight to five. And then the ten to fifteen minute coffee break at ten o'clock and three o'clock, and in the packaging research, that was quite a ritual. Actually, there was, in addition to a lot of joking, stuff like that, there was, it was kind of like a staff meeting---the coffee break. I mean that was, the guys would all get together, and, and in addition to a lot of other stuff there was, you know, talk about what's going on and stuff like that. And so, it was, it was a mini staff meeting, the coffee breaks were in the room. And the technicians and the engineers all got together, including the supervising engineer, and it was kind of---nobody really ran a meeting, but it was kind of like a meeting.
00:08:42 - 00:11:42 Projects, Satisfying
Projects, satisfying; Selbo, Leonard; Frieze, Allen; USDA, Research, Douglas fir, Southern Pine, ASTM Standard, relationship with the industry; American Institute of Timber Construction
Interesting. How about some of the interesting projects that you worked on---what was maybe the most satisfying for you?
Over the whole time?
Over the whole time.
Well, I think, I think in the, the most satisfying thing for me was accumulation of things. When I started in the laminating research in 1967, I guess it was, there was a, there was a technical bulletin called, Bulletin 1069, it was kind of the bible of the laminating industry. It was a USDA technical bulletin by Allen Frieze and Leonard Selvo. And that was the basic reference for everything that was done as far as engineering was concerned, as laminated timber. And that was published, I think, in '54. And so, by '67 and then the research that we did over the next, I would say, ten years, we found out that a lot of that needed to be supplemented, the information that was in there, because the resource had changed, the experiments that had been done back in the '40s, '30s and '40s was all on pretty old growth material, a lot of it on Douglas Fir, and the, the laminating industry was using both Southern Pine and Douglas Fir, but mostly second growth material by that time. And it was different characteristics of the wood. And so we, the work that we did, I would say, we slowly developed supplemental information that had to go along with this Bulletin 1069. And the way we put it all together was to write an ASTM standard. And I think, probably the most satisfying thing for me was working over the years on that ASTM standard, and we finally got it to the point that it was adapted, adopted by ASTM. And then, and then I think, we immediately found out there needed to be lots more changes on it. So, the development of a national standard for procedures to develop engineering properties for, for laminated timber, I think was probably what I enjoyed the most on it, in addition to working with the people.
We had a pretty good relationship with the industry at that time because they relied on the Forest Products Lab very heavily for their engineering data, and for their development of standards and stuff like that. And, so we worked closely with the association of laminating manufacturers which was called the American Institute of Timber Construction, or AITC. And there was some excellent people there to work with, and they were; they came through and helped us a lot as far as providing research material and providing funding for travel when we didn't have funding, stuff like that. So, and we thought it, the research that we do, we were able to implement it pretty darn quickly through that association.
00:11:42 - 00:20:25 Travel
Travel, Norway, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Slovenia, Spain, Portugal, meetings, international standards Japan, Department of State, trade, flying, coach, negotiations, politics, industry
So you mentioned travel. Did you get to go anywhere interesting for your job, or spend any time anywhere else?
Yeah, I did. I guess, over the first twenty, twenty-five years I'd say, we generally did, most of the researchers had one or two significant trips a year, most of it domestic, but national type, either professional society meetings or standards meetings or something like that. You could generally get one or two trips a year in the budget. And then, once I became project leader and became involved in more, more international stuff, then I, I actually made quite a few foreign trips---that was to Scandinavia, Norway, and Sweden, related to some research we did. I was to Australia, Australia, New Zealand, and I got, the most travel I did, let's see, where else? Oh, I visited Slovenia, we had a co-op contract in Slovenia, Spain, I was to Portugal, Spain on some national, these are some national meetings for presenting papers and stuff like that.
But, and then the last five years I worked, in that mid to late '90s---I retired in '98---I would say over the last five years we were involved with the Department of State, in international standards for wood products. And a lot of our trade at that time in wood products was with Japan. And, like any country, Japan had an interest in protecting their own industry so their standards were written to protect their own industry, and yet our trade agreements with, with Japan said that we were supposed to, they were supposed to harmonize these standards, so that you'd look at a U.S. standard and look a Japanese standard and say lets bring these together some way. And the U.S. interest was, of course, to try to get the standards as near like ours as possible, so that a product produced here, could be immediately adapted in Japan. And Japan, of course, the industry over there was interested in just the opposite. They wanted their own products to be, to maintain their price structure and stuff like that. And, at that time, our wood products could be imported; we could compete very well with their products at that time. And so, that was, it was very interesting; they wanted a technical expert on these engineered products in the trade negotiations, and so I probably made eight or ten trips to Japan, and, with the State, paid for by the State Department. And of those times, I would sit in meetings and sometimes I'd sit two days and never say a word, and the Japanese counterpart, they had a Japanese expert, whom I knew, and we had, we had met before and stuff like that, but they just wanted the people there in case something came up. And very seldom did something come up because it was mostly controlled from the political standpoint rather than the technical standpoint. And, and you'd try to get some tech, try to figure out how to get the technical part in there to support some of the political stuff. But it was interesting, and it was frustrating in some respect, because you'd go over there for a while and it just wipes you out as far as the trip is concerned, and stuff like that.
I'll never forget the flying coach class, you can see by my size, coach class is not a very comfortable way to go. And a thirteen hour trip, something like that, a thirteen hour flight---and I remember one time I woke up, and you're crowded, and this little Japanese woman had her head, her head on my shoulder, sleeping. So, and my knees---I have bad knees from football, many years ago---and my knees would cramp up in there. I talked to my doctor; I talked to them and said, look, can't I get some different seats? Well, it's coach class only for U.S. government travel. So I, and I thought there's got to be some way to do this. Well if you have a doctor's excuse that you need something like that, so I got my doctor to say that he needs more room when he travels because his legs cramp up. So I was able to use my miles to upgrade.
Oh, that's pretty good.
Well, nowadays, of course, they get to keep their miles. Back in those days when you traveled with U.S. government and you earned miles, you had to use them for government travel. I understand, nowadays, that's changed a little bit. But that's just a little trivia.
So what came out of the Japan negotiations? Did that affect your work at all?
Not, not really. No, it didn't affect my work any, and I guess we were able to successfully develop some markets in the thing. But, just like everything else---the yen versus the dollar changed so much over a period of years that there came to a point where the competitiveness was not nearly as great. I mean, we still export stuff to Japan, but it wasn't near as lucrative many years later. I don't know where the standards sit today, but I know, I know we were able to accomplish some changes in the standard and they were, we got them closer---we thought we knew how to write the standard, and, of course, they thought they knew and we tried to inform them on the background of some of this stuff. And, but we were able to successfully do that. And, for a time, there were several manufacturers in the US who had a significant market in Japan, would export a lot, a lot of material to Japan. So, I think we played some role in it.
So, was your job political in any other sense?
Not really. Nope. I would say that was one of the nice things about here was the---well, we were pretty isolated from that. And, I mean, industry always had an interest in, there was always industry interest, we would have meetings annually with advisors, a lot of them were industry people, and they were always trying, you know, trying to tell us what research we could do to make the products more competitive and stuff like that. Or, but, that was, I would say that was a minimal - you know, you're trying to do things, I mean, research you want to do things that are eventually applicable, and, and they were probably in a better position, often, to look at the short-term marketing and see what was applicable. But we, again, we had interest looking longer-term. We say that may help us in the next year or two, but let's look at ten to twenty years, where we want to be. And we said our role should be more in longer-term stuff, rather than solving the day-to-day industry problem.
And how was that reconciled with industry? Or was it ever?
Well, I think, I think we did a mix of things. But I think our, I like to believe that our mission was guided more by long-term stuff. And, and we were, I mean, we would---annually, our advising, advisory committees would make recommendations in certain areas. And they, oftentimes these, these reports would be, you know, many pages long. And they would be, maybe twenty, thirty recommendations that may affect different things and stuff like that. And, and I remember each year before the meeting we would look at last year's reports, and we would make a report on what we've done in answer to that. And in some instances, I remember we said we decided this is not an appropriate area to work on, that this should be, it's an issue that should be more addressed by industry themselves or something like that. And, I don't recall that those things ever became big political issues. We would do some things, and we would try to---one of our jobs was to try to educate the industry people, too, on what some of these longer-term research needs are.
00:20:25 - 00:26:36 Challenges
Challenges, supervisors, project leaders, training, management, personnel; University of Wisconsin, graduate education, funding, Engineering Mechanics, Colorado State University
Was there any particular project or part of your job, other than report writing that you found to be the biggest challenge?
Well, I guess the challenge, I didn't realize it, but once I became a supervisor, as a project leader you were a supervisor, but you were also a lead researcher. And, I would say, the biggest challenge had to be the people aspects of it---trying to work with people, and try to figure out what motivated them, and in some instances try to guide their research, to some extent. But you still had, as a project leader you were still responsible for---you had to have a major research area of your own. You weren't just saying I'm going to sit back here and watch all of these other people. You had to have a research area plus you had to somewhat monitor what they were doing. If you had junior scientists, of course that took more close supervision, I guess the senior scientists---I had scientists that were roughly my own level, who were in other areas that required minimal supervision.
And so, did you have any training in management?
Oh yes. Oh yeah, yeah. In that, I mean, you had all kinds of---I would say we had lots of opportunities for training in management. And, but management philosophies change too. You had, you go for a one-week or two-week management course, and they'd teach you one way to, you know this is the way to do it. And then five years later there'd be a different theory on how to do it. So, these were moving targets all the time.
Did you have other opportunities for training in different areas?
Yeah, I did take advantage of---as far as technical is concerned. I, one of the reasons I came to the Laboratory was to do some advanced work, advanced degree work, and I did. I worked a year at the Lab, and then I pursued, I said I want to take some graduate courses at the University of Wisconsin. And the Lab said ok here's the deal, we'll adjust your work schedule so that it's not eight to five, but it's, whatever your class is, we'll give you, we'll work around that and you make the time up in the evening, or something like that. And so I paid for my own coursework, and still worked a forty-hour week for the first year, and I just took a course at a time. So I did that for a year or two, and then once I petitioned my supervisor and said, well look at it; I'm doing fine in this; I'm doing great; could you help me some? And I think, the first, they allowed me time to do it, and then eventually it was paid for by the Lab. So I got my master's degree through a mixture of my own sponsorship plus Lab sponsorship. So I got my master's degree---it took five years, a course at a time. And, I'll never forget some of those courses---I'd go, after travel or something like that you'd have to work these courses around that. And, I got home, there was a meeting or something like that, and I had to fly home late to get home, and got home, and got to the lab, and went to the class, and came back. And I remember my secretary, she came out and she said, Russ, you really should go home; you're tired. I was just shot. I made it back for the class and then I took the rest of the day off, I think.
Wow. And in what department? Was it also in structural engineering?
Engineering Mechanics, which is part of the engineering area. And then after---let's see, nineteen---so I completed my master's here in 1970, in the---Engineering Mechanics was kind of theoretical engineers, theoretical structural engineering, which really complimented my bachelors degree. And then, I graduated in 1970, and then in 1979 I made a proposal to the Lab, I said, look I've been out of, really been out of the structural engineering area sixteen years now---even though I took engineering mechanics, it wasn't structural, it was theoretical structural mechanics, not applied. I said, I really should go back to school again for a while. And so I petitioned the Lab to send me back to school. And I put together a package with Colorado State University, and, that would get all of my coursework for a Ph.D. out of the way, but it was all applied to this, to structures. So I actually took a year off and moved to Colorado State, moved to Fort Collins, Colorado from August of '79 to August of '80. Took the family out there and I went to, took a lot of credits for coursework. But in reality, we were, we were working cooperatively with some of the Colorado State professors, and we had money out there doing cooperative work. And so, I mean, sure I got, I got time off, but I really worked with the professors out there on some of the jobs too. And so, and coursework, but it was a great experience as far as getting back in the swing of things. And I was, obviously, with students that were twenty years younger than me, and who were fresh out of just having a master's or a bachelor's degree, and it was, it was a lot of tough competition, I'll tell you that! And, but I, we had a great experience, and so I did get out of my coursework for the Ph.D. out of the way, but I never did write the thesis to finish up my Ph.D. So, I'm not a Ph. D. in engineering, but I have all the coursework, and I actually did a partial thesis, but I'll never regret it. It was a great experience, and I think we did, we did accomplish a lot.
00:26:36 - 00:29:56 Fishing
Fishing, Boundary Waters, Minnesota, Youngquist, John; Youngquist, Wally; socializing, colleagues, stories, memories; Warren, Fred
I guess, well, are there any particular colleagues or people that you worked with that you have strong memories? Or any particular stories about?
Well, there's a lot of stories I guess. One of the things that---back in 1973 there was a group from the Forest Products Lab here, a group of guys in engineering that every spring would go on a fishing trip in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. And, actually, they asked me in 1972 to do it, and they were doing it over Memorial Day, and we had other commitments and I couldn't do. And then they asked me again in '73 if I'd be interested in going then. So, I'm certainly interested in going; I love fishing; I love camping. So I went, I went with this group, and practically everybody was at least twenty years older than me, I guess, fifteen to twenty years older than me. And we went back and had a great time---I think there were five of us that went that year---and it was, it wasn't the Boundary Water Wilderness Area then, it was the Boundary Water Canoe Area, and you could actually use little motors on canoes. So we went back several hours by over portages, stuff like that. That only lasted about a few years. Actually, I went in '73 the first time, and I'm leaving this Wednesday for the forty, thirty, thirty---
'73, it's thirty-sixth, because I went in '73 and if I go in 2008 it will be my thirty-sixth trip back there. So, we're planning to leave on Wednesday. I've been able to take my son along with me a few times; he's going again this year. And, maybe someday even my grandson will go up there with me. But we've got some friends up there, been a great trip. But that, there's a lot of stories on the people from the Lab from that trip. And, I really can't pick out any of them; I think you've interviewed John Youngquist, and his father was one of the ones who was the ringleader of that. And, and there's enough Wally Youngquist stories to write a book on. He's written some books on it, but there's a lot of great stories on that trip. And then Fred Warin was one of them, and Allen Frieze, Allen was all---I mean, yeah, all of the original group that I went with have passed away now. And I guess the group was more a social thing. Fishing was not the main objective. In fact, most of them were not really good fisherman, they were just, they just loved to get out and they'd always catch fish. And, and it was a big social occasion, and the planning for it, the actual doing it, and then the talking about it afterwards. So that was a fun part of it. See any other things I guess. The [pause] see your question was, was there any particular people?
People or stories?
And we can come back to this.
00:29:56 - 00:32:03 Packaging
Packaging, FPL building, "Root Beer Stand"; restroom, stories, practical joke, restroom, retire, volunteer; Shimming, Milo
Yeah, yeah, well I guess one of the things that I'll remember forever. That was while I was in packaging, probably within my first year of being here, we were in the building that was down---we used to call the root beer stand---the building on the other side of the parking lot here. And it has, I think at that time it was all men in there. And there was one restroom, it was kind of a locker room, restroom, and it had a stall in it. And I remember one morning, one of the older gentlemen that worked there came back down the hall and said, you know I think there's something wrong with one of the guys in there, because you could in the, in the room, and the stall was locked but there was room underneath, you could see. And there was, something's wrong, that person's been in there all morning. And so, sure enough somebody went in, and yeah sure you could see feet there, and hollered at them, nope, nothing answered. So finally, the door was locked of course, what do we do? What do we do? So we---somebody got down and crawled in---well, somebody had put shoes there, put sticks down, and put pants hanging down. We're pretty sure we knew who it was, and we're pretty sure it was Milo Shimming, because anything associated, you could always, though Milo would never admit to anything, but we're pretty sure he was behind that. Because---there were practical jokes being played, and stuff like that.
So a lot of collegiality around here? A lot of friendships? Good rapport?
Oh yes. Yeah.
And as far as, I mean, I'd, when I retired---a lot of people come back and volunteer and stuff like that---but I, I had enough other interests that I, I pretty much, when I retired, I pulled away. But I do get together once a month or so with a small group of people I used to work with. We have coffee and talk about the old days, and stuff like that.
00:32:03 - 00:35:58 University Of Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin, Forest Service, cooperation, students, timber bridges, emphasis, impression, Senator Byrd, West Virginia
So to sort of move to a different topic, generally, I guess the Forest Products Lab is jointly run, or partly affiliated with Forest Service and then also with the University. Did you feel more connected with either of those entities?
Well, I guess our connection with the University was pretty loose in that---though we did some cooperative work with some of the people at the university, I would say, it probably wasn't as close a relationship as it probably could have been, I think. I think we could have done more things with the university. There was certainly---graduate students did their theses here and, and I actually supervised a few, a few, very few I guess, several of them. And I think we could have taken more advantage of that. There may have been ways to do it, but I guess the rewards were probably not---I mean you didn't get rewarded for doing it or something like that. And the, it would have been nice, in retrospect. We had, in the early '90s I guess it was, we had quite a bit of money to do work on bridges, timber bridges. And we had a, a strong effort in Washington to promote this and stuff like that. And, one of the big promoters was Senator Byrd of West Virginia. And Senator Byrd was successful at getting a lot of money that he had routed up earmarked for West Virginia, so it would come through here and head right to West Virginia. And we, we really struggled with that because it was---they knew they were going to get it, and so how do you control, how do you motivate them to do the work that you want done? And stuff like that, because they knew they were going to get it. So we tried to get some competition between the engineering and the forestry schools to bring proposals on what to do and stuff like that. But, if we just could have had the same type of thing with the University of Wisconsin here---if they would have said look here's, here's the money but you've got to work with the University of Wisconsin on this, then, then there would have been some motivation. But, in reality, the University of Wisconsin had to compete with everybody else, all the other universities for funding. And, so, but I mean, certainly I, I got to know a lot of people in the engineering area, and we worked, we worked some with them. But, I think we could have done, we could have done a better job of working with them.
And how about with the Forest Service?
The Forest Service---we were, I mean, there were some other projects in the Forest Service that did some things roughly related to what we do. But, they didn't have any strong engineering emphasis. I would say their engineering emphasis was peripheral, and so we, we really didn't do a lot. In my area we didn't do a lot with other Forest Service research units. We were the main utilization laboratory for the Forest Service and, I mean, some of the other stations would have a unit that did some things with that, and we were, at times we were encouraged to work them, and at times we did. We did work with them. But again, the motivation is---where was the motivation to do it? Because we really didn't have many peers at those locations that you could work with kind of one-on-one.
00:35:58 - 00:41:55 Forest Service
Forest Service, impression, utilization research, timber, sale, policy, industry, harvest repercussions, politics, harvesting, USDA, politics, budgets, changing perception
Well, sort of in the same vein then, what were your impressions of the Forest Service? I guess, before you came to work here and, and then as your job here progressed?
Ok, I, I guess I really didn't have any impressions before I came here. I didn't even know what it was. And then, slowly, I learned that yeah, we're part of the Forest Service, and a part of the US Department of Agriculture. But, the, the mission of the Forest Service seems to be so much different from the mission of many of the other of the other USDA, that the Forest Service kind of sits by itself as far as an agency. And then, as far as our Lab, we were---so much of the utilization research in the Forest Service was right here that, that there wasn't a whole lot for engineering to do with other stations. And as far as the Forest Service is concerned we were mainly---how should I say? The chief of the Forest Service always had big issues with utilization, as far as harvesting's concerned. Well, I shouldn't say utilization---the big issue was timber harvests, we need to have sale quotas and all that kind of stuff. And, and I guess my impression was that, that the timber industry in the South and the West, for a long time, pretty much ran the Forest Service timber sale policy. That was my impression of what happened. What used to happen is that the, these mills would---little western towns, southern towns would have a lumber mill, and it would build up around, around a national forest sale, or something like that. And then they say we, well, you know, we really need to, in order for our mill to be competitive, we need to be fifty percent bigger. And so, in order to get fifty percent bigger, we need more wood. And the way to get it was to get it from the Forest Service. Well, and if the Forest Service managers said, no this is our sale, this is it, well, politicians got involved. And politicians would say, look you guys got to come around here and get us some more wood. So I think, well, in my mind---I have no direct evidence---but, in my mind, the timber industry had a real influence on the Forest Service timber sales in the South and the West for many years. And then, by the, coming in to the '80s more and more activists got involved, and then it went the other way, where all of a sudden we're looking at, we're setting aside more wilderness areas, which now comes, you take that out of the bank of potential harvest. And so it, now sustained harvest is, in order to sustain [harvest all this rest?] you've got to reduce that. And when that got reduced mills had to shut down. And when mills shut down, all of a sudden there wasn't any way to utilize this stuff. So, it was, it kind of---the pendulum, I think, swung one way and then it swung back the other way. And so the down-shot of this was a lot of our, at least in the West, a lot of our small communities lost their timber industry because they had the feeling they had to be so big to be profitable or, and they became part of a bigger corporation or something like that. And they'd look at it and say well this little thing over here isn't getting us any money, so we'll shut it down. And so markets dried up in some of these areas and, and I don't, I guess I've been retired ten years now, but I know the struggle is still how do you, how do we remove some of this material from the woods because it's causing tremendous fire loads, and we got to figure out a way to get it out of there.
Did you feel that any of the repercussions of sort of the political nature of the Forest Service here?
I don't know what---[pause] I suppose budget cuts were eventually what, what happened. The Forest Service became less of a contributor to the timber industry and so I expect they got less support for budget, which ended up being less support for budget for utilization being one thing, and then they've got cuts. So I think over the last twenty, ten to twenty years that's, that has taken a cut. Because we had, we had some great years for a while where budgets were increasing and staff was increasing and stuff like that. And, but, but I think, I think this is all part of the pendulum where we were, we were probably over-harvesting the national forests at the chagrin of some of the forest managers. And they finally, I think there was finally a group within the Forest Service that just finally said look, we can't put up with this anymore, and got enough environmental groups involved that it, it did make a change.
So, ultimately, did you see a change in the way that the Forest Service was perceived?
Oh, I think so, yes. Definitely, the, yeah, the word, I guess the changing word was ecosystem management, back in the, and that's probably twenty years old, now that wording. And, you know, let's look at the whole system and how we can sustain the whole works. And, and this level of harvest that we've had in the past doesn't fit in with this. And so we've, we ended up reducing timber cuts and sales and stuff like that.
00:41:55 - 00:43:05 Project
Project, interesting research, pressed laminate wood productions, multiple disciplines
I guess, before we move into post-Forest Products Lab, were there any other projects that you worked on that you found particularly interesting that you wanted to mention?
Well, the, we had a research team on what's called [pressed-lam?], manufacturing square products from round timbers by peeling them and putting them back together. It was kind of like, you know, thick, thicker veneer and making lumber-like products out of it. It was an interesting approach, and we pushed the limits to how thick you could peel, and stuff like that. But, I mean a lumber made that way is pretty standard now, and actually was being done to some extent before then. So, it was interesting working as part of a research team, we had different, different disciplines involved. And so we, we would---and so a significant part of my time over two or three years was spent on that project. But it was interesting working with different people.
00:43:05 - 00:47:08 Retirement Reasons
Retirement reasons, property maintenance, career, service, ASTM
Alright, so sort of moving on into the end of your career, was there any particular reason why you chose to retire, or was it just time?
Well, I, I had thirty-four years of service in; I had a year of sick-leave, which gave me, you could use your sick-leave toward length of time of service. So I had thirty-five years, and when you start doing the calculations, you find that every year you work you gain a little more, but you really don't gain that much. I had both my daughters were out, had graduated from school, were on their own. We owned quite a bit of property. I own, between partners and I, we have about 1,100 and some acres of mixed timberland and farmland out west, an hour west of here. And, I found out that, that at that time I was doing the forest management on the whole works, which is about 800 acres, over 800 acres of forest to work on. And I was doing that and I love that; I love being out in the woods doing some of it myself, working with loggers, consultants, stuff like that. I love to fish and I love to hunt and---I've told this story many times---the last five years I worked, and if you analyze my time, you'll find that May, June and October were awful tough months for me to put a full day in the office, knowing that I had all this property out there that, that I loved to be at. I have a cabin out there that we built, and from the early '80s we have accommodations at one of the other places I go and stay. And finally my wife and I said look, our kids are on their own, we've got everything paid for, we just bought a bunch more property about five years before that, we had all that paid for. And I looked at what my retirement income would be versus what we were actually doing, and I, even though I loved what I did, I had a great group to work with, it was, just figured, it was the---what was I going to gain by working at it a few more years? I talked to some people who were five to ten years older than me who had retired and they said why are you working? If you like, you know, if that's the only thing you had to do than that's great, but I had a lot of other interests. And it's been an excellent move for me.
So do you still keep up with forest products research at all?
Not much. I---not really very much---I get their newsletters and I get to a retirement dinner once a year where they fill us in on what's going on. But it's, I mean, in ten years with the way staff reductions, stuff like that, there's not a whole lot of people I know anymore here; I haven't kept up that much on it. So, but I've got plenty of other things on the table.
And, so do you feel like your work left a mark on the Forest Products Lab or on the Forest Service or on sort of the industry?
I think so. I said that the creation of that ASTM standard---I mean ASTM standards don't have authors, per se, but I was very influential in the establishment of it, and we made modifications over the years. And, I feel that a lot of the reports that I wrote do contribute to some of that. So that was probably the most significant thing.
00:47:08 - 00:49:31 Final Comments
Final comments, memories, stories, colleagues, working with students
And, so I guess we can come back to any other memories or people or stories or just memories of the Lab that you want to record.
Let's see, what other thoughts do I have? Well I guess, I certainly, I think sometime before I retired I made a list of all the people who had worked for me and where they were and what had happened and stuff like that. And I think, even though some people worked here maybe only a short time, and, and then had obviously better job offers other places, I feel that, in talking to them that their work experience here had an impact on their career. And then some of the students who went through here, we had students that worked for us part-time, we had some students who did thesis work here, and I always thought that was one of the rewarding things was looking at how maybe the Lab and maybe myself had some influence on people's careers. And it's great to see some of them go on and be very successful.
So did you enjoy working with the students?
Yes, yes I did. I did very much so because they're, it seemed, energetic and they could, I mean you'd mutually come up with some ideas on what way a thing should go. And it seems that things would go a lot faster with students than with staff, because they were often motivated differently. They wanted to get that done and get their degree and get going.
I think we're getting close to an hour. If you have any other thoughts, otherwise---
Oh, I think that's interesting, now tell me what's going to happen with this information, what do you do?
[End of Interview]