First Interview Session (August 18, 2008)
Narrator: R. Sidney Boone
Interviewer: Allison Page
Date: 18 August 2008
Location: Forest Products Laboratory
Transcriptionist: Lauren Benditt (8/22/08)
Auditor: Allison Page (11/10/08)
00:00:00 - 00:01:40 Introduction
introduction, early years, education, background, Tennessee, high school, Forest Service, forestry
Ok, good morning. Today is Monday, August 18, 2008. My name is Allison Page; I'm with the UW-Madison Oral History Program, and this morning I will be interviewing Mr. Sid Boone about his experiences at the U.S. Forest Products Lab. Mr. Boone, if you would like to start? Maybe tell us where and when you were born, a little bit about your background?
Ok, I'm originally from Tennessee, was born in a small town near Knoxville. And, but I grew up in, went to school through high school in west Tennessee, in a town named Paris. From high school, I went to undergraduate school at Louisiana State University and received a degree in Forestry. Then I went on to Duke University for a master's degree. I worked very briefly after that with private industry, and then about a year or two with the State of Tennessee. And then went to work for the Forest Service, and spent the next thirty years at a number of locations with the Forest Service, which we can go into later if you'd, if you want to hear a little more of that, you know, sequence.
And when did you receive your degrees?
'59 and '60, so a long time ago now.
00:01:40 - 00:02:56 Preparation
preparation, interest, education
Was there anything in your either childhood or your schooling that really prepared you for work at the Forest Products Lab? Was there an early interest?
Well, when I was in forestry school, which would have been the mid to late '50s, and they were using textbooks at the time that had been relatively recently published, that is, post-World War II. There was, when you get into the forest products sections, or the books that are dedicated to forest products, there were ample references to work done at the Lab. So, I guess that was my first introduction, or my first exposure to the name, if you will. Of course, I had known about the Forest Service for a long time. But, as far as the Lab in particular, I probably started in undergraduate school. And I was aware that it was kind of, one of the preeminent research institutions in the world for forest products, along with the British and the Australians, that sort of thing.
00:02:56 - 00:03:55 Decision
decision, field, forestry, plants, parents, botany
What made you decide to go into forestry?
Oh, I've always had kind of an interest in plants and botany and whatnot. And, actually, my father was, he was sort of into it. He didn't have a degree, but he was, he was sort of what we would call now sort of at the technician level rather than the graduate forestry level. So, I was kind of exposed to this notion of trees and planting trees and growing trees and all this are from him. And I found that to be very interesting. So, I knew by the time I got out of high school that that was either---and then after I got into the forestry business, I decided, well, I think the forest products portion of forestry is the, would be of more interest to me. And so then that's basically what I pursued for most of my career.
00:03:55 - 00:07:59 Employment
employment, beginning, Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station, New Orleans, technology transfer, forest Survey, Pacific Southwest Forest Experiment Station, research
And when did you start work with the Forest Service?
Actually in February of 1962. And I started out with the, what was then known as the Southern Forest Experiment Station in, which was based in New Orleans. And I was on the forest, what was called the forest survey, which meant you'd go out and inventory. And I went from---well you want to kind of hear the chronology of my Forest Service career here?
So, I worked there for, what, a year and a half or two years. Then I went to a national forest in Arkansas for about a year. So, I went from the research arm to the national forests, so I got a little experience there too. But I, I could see then that I much preferred the research angle, and so I had an opportunity to go to, with Pacific Southwest Forest Experiment Station, and was stationed in Honolulu, Hawaii.
So, I went from Arkansas to Hawaii, but anyway. So I was there for three years, and of course that was for tropical forestry or for dealing with tropical timbers and tropical species, which was of particular interest to me anyway. And from there I went to Puerto Rico where the Institute of Tropical Forestry is, which is, these are all Forest Service entities. And I spent five years in Puerto Rico doing much the same things I did in Hawaii, trying to find uses for locally grown species and timbers. And then we were writing various kinds of publications to try to get the information out. And so then, June of 1972, then I came here to the Forest Products Lab and stayed here until my retirement in May of '94. So that's whatever that is, twenty-three, twenty-four years.
I did quite a bit of---well, I was in research most of the time. I guess because, in part because of my particular interests, but I did a lot of what was known as technology transfer or extension work. In fact, I did that in virtually all the locations---in Hawaii, in Puerto Rico, and in, and certainly here---writing publications, going to public meetings, assisting in teaching short courses, that sort of thing. And also advising private industry at their request. So, my particular tenure here was a kind of a combination of doing research, writing it up, and going out and trying to present the information. But most of my research was more along, or I felt it was, and that was my interest more along the applied research, rather than the basic research, because it had a more direct transferability, I think, to get the information out.
00:07:59 - 00:09:23 Knowledge
knowledge, career, beginning, vacancies, drying, particleboard, venire
And, so when you came to the Forest Products Lab, how did you hear about the opening here that you eventually took?
Well, I suppose within the Forest Service, if not the general, you know, how they advertise these vacancies, as I recall. I really can't remember the particulars on that too much. But, anyway, they---so when I came, I spent, I was, at that time it wasn't called the drying project, it was kind of an amalgam of a larger, larger group in which we had drying, particle board, veneer, and I think that's the three that were there. Later, as the Forest Service, at least as the Lab is wont to do, and I think the Forest Service is too, they take these research projects and they expand them and then after a few years they say, wow, this is too big; we've got to break this up again. So, they, they historically tended to go through these kinds of cycles where you have projects that are five people, and then they put them together and you've got twenty-eight or thirty people. Then they say, this is too hard to administer, we'd better break this up again. So, they've gone through that cycle two or three times. I'm going to leave that to my recollection of it.
00:09:23 - 00:11:48 Colleagues
colleagues, early career, mentor, applied technology; McMillan, John; Bois, Paul
And when you first came here, who did you work with?
Well, I guess, one of the two earliest people I worked with, one was John McMillan who's a, who was a researcher who had been here for many years. And he retired about five or six years after I came, but he was certainly, I would consider him sort of one of my mentors as far as drying because at the time I came here I was a little bit more of a generalist. I had worked in these other locations, in Puerto Rico and in Hawaii, and I had done a little bit of preservation work, a little bit of this, a little bit of engineering, a little bit of drying, a little bit. So when I came here they said, ok, this is a big enough research unit, you know, we've got everything broken up so you're. So anyway, I was with the drying group and of course John had been with the drying group basically his, his whole career here, which, probably at that time, was approaching thirty years, so, twenty-five at least. So, he was quite helpful technically. The other one that I worked with quite a bit, and I think was also one of my mentors was Paul Bois, B-O-I-S. I don't know if you've heard that name before. He was actually with the State and Private division of the Forest Service, which is kind of the equivalent of extension. And, but he was, at that time he was considered the national, the Forest Service national expert in wood drying. And, so those two people I worked with quite a bit and, I thought, got along with quite well. And, particularly Paul, of course, by nature, his work was more of the applied, let's get the technology out there, try to find some application for these things, and making sure that, you know, that people knew the best techniques and what the most current techniques were. And so I worked quite a bit with him, and traveled quite a bit with him, actually, too, after I'd been here for a while.
00:11:48 - 00:14:31 Colleagues
colleagues, memories, impressions, courses, reputation, expertise
Do you have any strong memories or impressions about the Lab when you first came?
Well, actually, I first came here, my first physical entry into the building was a few years earlier. While I was in Hawaii, I came here for a short course in lumber drying. And I persuaded them there that, you know, you've got questions over here about drying this lumber. There's no expertise here, and at that time the Laboratory conducted a two-week short course in which people came from, nationwide basically. Both, most of them were from private industry, but some from various other Forest Service units. So, I persuaded them that I needed to come here for two weeks to get, to get some more expertise on lumber drying, which they agreed to. So that was actually my first time I walked through the door, which would have been in '66 or so. So, but then when I came in '72, of course, then I stayed. Now, I guess one of the things that I was kind of surprised, after I'd been here for a while, say within the first year or two, this being a national lab and the reputation for national and international expertise, with just a very few exceptions, Paul Bois being one, I found that most of the other researchers here, for whatever reason, were pretty provincial. Most of them had gone to school over here. They'd come to work here. They'd not traveled very much nationwide, and certainly not much, you know, internationally. So, when you start talking to people at coffee break or whatever, you know, about, well, they're doing this in Berkeley and they're doing this in New Orleans and everybody's saying, oh yeah? Yeah? So, I guess that was one of the things that I was a little surprised with, for an institution with national and international reputation that so many of the researchers---this is not to say they weren't doing good research. It's just, I thought they would be able to bring more experiences and whatnot, from at least other parts of this country if not internationally. So, I guess that was one of the impressions that I had that surprised me.
00:14:31 - 00:16:45 Impressions, Change
impressions, change; Bois, Paul; transfer, mycology; Washington, D.C.
Do you think that changed at all while you were here?
Yes, within just a few years, for example, they transferred a whole project from Washington DC, which is now basically the economics group. So, all of a sudden we had five or six people here that had come from somewhere else. And that's, I think that's in part one reason I related so well to Bois because he'd been other places. And even he can back to be reassigned here, he'd worked in Georgia, he'd gone to school in Michigan, and because of the nature of his work, he'd been on field trips to California and Florida and South Carolina. And so, he also had a better appreciation for how the other experiment stations within the Forest Service worked, than virtually anybody else here because he had been there done that type of thing. So, and then over time they transferred---my recollection was that they'd typically transfer whole projects rather than individuals in here. But when they came in, then later they brought another group, the so called, or what's known as the mycology group, the fungus people. They all came as a group, and whatever there was of them, five or six or seven of them. And they came from Beltsville, Maryland or somewhere on the east coast. Anyway, so we had some influx of these people coming from other locations than just across the street over here. I mean there's not thing wrong with that.
Most of the people that I'll, and I have to say that those from across the street, most of them were the engineering groups, which the Lab's always been very strong at. So when you start talking about the forestry group or the mycologists or the economists, they seem to be the ones that come from elsewhere. So anyway, that's kind of my recollection of all that.
00:16:45 - 00:19:14 Typical Day
typical day, public relations, writing, analysis
Could you maybe describe what a typical day was like working here? Or was it mostly atypical?
Well, it depends on how, how you want to group them, I guess. As I've said, after I'd been here a while, even within the first two or three weeks, at that time we tended to get a lot of letters from people. How do you dry this kind of wood? How do you do this? This latter of course went to people calling on the phone, and now, I presume, they send you emails. But, so, I would spend, particularly after I'd been here for a while, I would respond to something on the order of 250 or 300 inquiries a year, which is basically one a day or something, you know. So a day would consist of responding to one or more inquiries; you either had to write a letter, or you had to return a phone call. And then, of course, as far as research, you were either planning or executing or, as you probably know, writing up the research takes, analyzing the results and writing it up takes as much or more time than the actual conducting the experiments. So, once you were into doing a particular research project, the actual execution of it in the case of lumber drying, this would usually go for a matter of several days to two weeks. And it didn't require all, all day. Or, it didn't require all of your time all day, so you'd have to go check on your experiments and then you'd come back and answer the phone and various things like that. So, that's the way I remember kind of a typical day; you were doing a little of all of that. You were being a sort of extension person; you were writing up the results of some of your work that you'd done a few months ago or a year or so ago, and then you were planning or executing your next research project.
00:19:14 - 00:22:26 Experiments
experiments, paperwork, writing
And, with your typical day or your work daily, did you get to spend a lot of time actually conducting experiments, or was a lot of it paperwork and writing?
Well, no. When you're in the process of doing it, in fact, the experiments concerning drying lumber basically consisted of, you'd have to stack up lumber in a---and the kind of dry kilns we had here at that time, you could load them on a trolley and push them in. So, you didn't have to work in the kiln. So, I guess, if you were doing that, at that time too, they had a labor crew here. They would supply one or two people just to assist you with the lifting. But typically what we would do; I'd go down and I'd lift one end of the board and, you know, Joe would lift the other end and we'd, you know, lift it up and get it all the way we wanted. And, of course, once it was started, then it was a question of just monitoring the controls and making the adjustments, and making the changes in the schedule according to the design of the experiment. This by way of review, drying lumber always referred to, when I was talking to these outside groups, of course, it's kind of like baking something or cooking something. You'd go in, you'd---although, it's not just like baking, you know, cookies where you stay at one temperature the whole time. Lumber drying, as you're going in and periodically adjusting the relative humidity and the temperature. So, you have to monitor that, or we later we had sort of remote, or we had sort of automatic things that were, once you made your set points it would actually follow what you told it to do. And we had to make sure that we changed it at the right time and all this kind of stuff. So, there was that kind of monitoring of what's going on. But a part of it was the physical work of loading and unloading lumber. And then when you got it unloaded, or when the experiment was finished---or when the drying part of the experiment was finished, then you had to evaluate what the lumber looked like. I mean, that's the proof of the pudding. So then we had to unstack it and then we had various techniques for how we measured the warp, or did we cut it up and look for internal defects? So there was a lot of this kind of stuff that was a part of the execution of the total experiment. Of course, all the time you're, you know, keeping your written records, and then you have to go back and look at all of this and try to make some sense out of it and write it up and so on. So, that was kind of a, in a nutshell, the way that worked.
00:22:26 - 00:25:27 Projects
projects, satisfaction, challenges, frustration, drying, travel, Southern Pine, sawmills
Was there one particular project within the wood drying division that gave you a lot of satisfaction, or was challenging, frustrating?
Well, I think one of the things that I deal with, that I felt sort of satisfied about, there had been a little work---well, to back up a little. What we refer to as high temperature drying, which is above the boiling point of water, 212°---most lumber is dried at lower temperatures, but the people that were drying the Southern Pine, particularly in the southeast had demonstrated several years ago---or several years before I started---that you could successfully dry Southern Pine at temperatures, 230°-240° or even higher. So, then the question became, can you dry certain hardwoods at these high temperatures. And so, I did an experiment in which we did some 12 or 15 different hardwood species to try to get some notion of---and we purposely chose this group because we knew that, or we suspected that some would be easy, some would be moderate, some would be difficult. And we were, it was, in that sense it was kind of a screening technique, not trying to produce absolute final results. But that was a pretty lengthy project because I had to actually acquire the logs, either by personal visits to sawmills in Alabama and Georgia and whatnot. They were shipped in by rail here, we had a sawmill here, had to get organized, saw them up, label every board so you know where it is, keep track of it. So, anyway that was probably one of the most involved projects because of all---that I was on. And that, just the execution of that took probably a year and a half or two years, and then writing it up, of course, took another several months and whatnot. At least we were able to provide some guidelines that weren't available at that time in the literature as to what you could do and how far you could push some of these hardwood lumber in terms of does it work at high temperatures? Or does it not? Or does it work with species A but not species Q? And so on.
00:25:27 - 00:29:32 Travel
travel, associations, Latin America, improvements, Pacific Northwest
This kind of brings up a point that you were just making. You talked a little bit about some of the work that you did before coming to the Lab, getting to do a lot of traveling and doing a little bit of traveling with this project that you talked about. Did other aspects of your job here take you away from the office? And, if so, where did you go?
Well, yes. It varied; anything from going to a one-day meeting in Rhinelander to present some information at one of the local kiln-drying associations. The most extensive thing is in the late 1980's they formed a team here to visit several countries in Latin America. And we made three or four trips to Mexico and various countries in Latin America. And I was involved to a certain extent with planning that and, of course, back then I was a participant; I was the drying expert, and we had a sawmill expert, and we had a wood preservation expert, and an engineering expert. I was the drying expert. So, basically what we were doing or, as I recall, the main objective was to establish contact with some of the research institutions in certain places in Latin America and try to get to know them, and they us, and all that sort of thing. So, that was of course a lot of fun. I like to travel and at least two or three of those people that we met from Brazil actually came here later as, well, I guess they were probably working on degrees somewhere, but they did their research here. So, that was a lot of fun.
And then there was also another rather extensive, that was actually, we were started about that time, but we actually executed it a little bit later, in which we made---I was part of a group of two or three that visited some sawmills in, particularly, Idaho, Washington, Oregon. And we were trying to give them tips on how to improve their drying, and we were trying to gather data at the same time. But also, the carrot for them was, well we can give you, if you let us come in and set up our instrumentation here for a week, hopefully we can give you some tips on how you can improve your drying in this box, because each individual chamber is a bit different from the one next to it, you know. I used to say that it's kind of like your own kitchen oven, but we recently got a new oven that's got digital controls on it. I'm surprised at how much better that is than the old one we had, in terms of maintaining the same temperature and all this stuff. But anyway, that's kind of the problem. So, we made---I was a part of a group of two or three that made several trips to the, to the Pacific Northwest. We'd stay for a week or two at a time, and we'd instrument these kilns with thermocouples and all kinds of stuff and collect data. And then it was the usual, you know, going to the professional meetings and making these presentations and that kind of stuff that a lot of folks did.
00:29:32 - 00:31:52 Social
social, memories, colleagues, characters, fishing; Bois, Paul
Well, we've talked a little bit about your work and maybe we could switch gears a little bit and talk a little bit about the social aspect of the Lab. Do you have any strong memories or colleagues that you worked with here? Any interesting characters?
Well, speaking of the social, I thought it was, one of the things that sort of struck me early on was, when I was in Hawaii and Puerto Rico those were much smaller institutions and so there was much more social interaction after hours and on weekends between, you know, you'd go over to somebody's house for dinner and all this kind of stuff, and that was kind of routine there. And once you got here---and I didn't necessarily feel that bad about it because it's such a bigger institution---but there was noticeably less of that kind of socializing. And, you know, you make one or two friends or whatnot that you go to dinner occasionally, but even then it didn't seem to me that it was the frequency that it was at the other places. I mentioned Paul Bois, that was another aspect of him. He sort of reintroduced me to fishing. I had, you know, fished as a teenager and whatnot, but when I was in Hawaii and well when I was in university and when I was in Hawaii and Puerto Rico I didn't do any fishing. So, it had been ten, twelve, fifteen years since I'd done any fishing. Well, I found out that Paul was a big fisherman, so he sort of reintroduced me, and of course I went with him quite a bit. So, in that sense, that's what I, some would refer to that as recreation, but there was also a strong social aspect to it. But this wasn't, this place in general didn't have the same sense of, I didn't think, of fraternization and, you know, socializing among your coworkers as the other two places that I had worked.
00:31:52 - 00:33:57 Social Activities
social activities, bowling league, picnic, socializing
I've heard from a couple different people that the Lab had social functions for Lab employees. Did you take part in any of those?
Well, the things like the summer picnics and so forth, yeah, yeah, I usually did that if we were in town. Yeah, that's true there was a, for several years there, there was at least one and sometimes there was two big, Lab-wide picnic types or barbeque or grill-outs or whatever you want to call them. I bet you'd have about 100, 150 people there maybe counting the spouses and that sort of thing. So, but I was thinking more of going to people's house for dinner or, and I'm not necessarily a bowler, so I wasn't in any of the bowling leagues. You may have heard about bowling leagues and this sort of thing, but I never did participate in that just because I didn't have a particular interest in it.
Was the bowling league pretty big here?
Well, I mean it had it's devoted following, I would say, you know, and there were some people---there's one fellow, you've probably heard of him, he was bowling when he was ninety.
He was a retiree, of course; he'd started before. And he was bowling, I think, up until the time he was ninety or something. But I just didn't participate, just lack of interest on my part. I didn't have anything against bowling or against the people in the group; it's just that bowling, oh. And then of course you'd hear about some card-playing groups, but I'm not a particular card-player either, so I said, okay.
00:33:57 - 00:36:19 Coffee Group
coffee group, drying
I think you mentioned maybe going and having coffee with people during breaks and stuff. Was that---I've heard a couple people say, "oh we had our coffee group."
Oh yes, yes that's very true. The drying group always seemed to have---and there would be anywhere from three to six or seven people there when we had our coffee break. And that was---I don't know what the current policy is, but that was, there were certain locations where they let you have a coffee pot, you know. And we didn't have them in our offices at that time. This was kind of a various kinds of places, but yeah, we would kind of gather. In fact, the one that the drying group went to, we sort of, I guess it was in part my, but we referred to it as the "situation room."
The "situation room"?
We would either solve situations or, some might say, we might even create situations. But anyway---but we discussed anything from technical stuff to what the local headlines of the morning were or upcoming trips. I mean, it was a---it wasn't all sort of frivolous fluff, but, although I suspect that you might expect on breaks a lot of it was. But there were times when we actually---because we knew the other people were going to be there---you'd bring something, you'd ask a technical question or you'd say, you know, what's your view on this particular technical thing and get other people's perspectives on it.
It sounds like the Lab had a very diverse people working here and a lot of specializations.
Oh absolutely, absolutely yeah. Have you got some kind of a follow up question there?
00:36:19 - 00:37:33 Career
career, end, retirement
Not really. Well, I guess moving into the end of your career, what made you decide to retire, and when was that?
Well, it was actually in May of '94 and I was a little bit beyond the minimum retirement time and age, so when it was May and I said, hey it's going to be good fishing this summer! Well, on a little more serious note, I had finished up some research and I stayed on about a year or so to actually write it up, to make sure it got all done. And, but then you have to set a kind of tentative date, because you don't want to start another research project and then say, well the time's up, I'm out the door. So, when I got to a pretty good, what I considered a pretty reasonable stopping place, I said, well, I'll stay until I write this up, which I anticipated would be six months to a year. And I had it pretty well finished by then, so time to go fishing.
00:37:33 - 00:40:52 Mark
mark, impact, Forest Service, manual, applied science, USDA, advances
Sounds great! In terms of your work, do you feel that you have left a mark on the Forest Products Lab, the USDA or the Forest Service?
Well, in the sense of---not necessarily as an institution. I like to think because of my participation in writing some of these manuals: the Dry Kiln Operation Manual, which is still the textbook if you will, and a couple of these other manuals that I feel that I contributed to the---it sounds a little stilted---but, whatever they say, the expansion of knowledge, or whatever the university types like to say over here. You know, that you advanced---not necessarily, since mine was more applied research, I can't say that I advanced science, but I think I tried to advance the way science is applied, or that sort of thing. But I always had, in general, I was always, didn't have any problems or was rather favorably impressed with the Forest Service. As a say, I worked at a number of locations and I always thought that they did a pretty good job, you know, taking care of their people. And they do as well as anybody---in fact they did better than some agencies. Some agencies, like the Fish and Wildlife Service, back in the '60's and '70's, had a reputation of being much more politically oriented, and not necessarily so---you didn't feel that they were looking out for their workers quite as much as the Forest Service did. The Forest Service is always---well, I don't know, in the last 10 years---but in my time they always had professional foresters as the Chief Forester. From there on down you didn't, it was above the Chief, the head of the Forest Service, where you got into the political appointees. But they were always, for many decades, they were quite good about having, keeping the political appointees out of the Forest Service per se. Now, they were in the Department of Agriculture, so they were influencing Forest Service policy, I'm sure, but you didn't have to worry about, well, so and so is going to be the director of the station here because he's a buddy of whoever, you know. So, I always felt that the Forest Service itself was, was pretty good about that, you know, keeping the political influences, however they might be, out of it.
00:40:52 - 00:43:56 Perception
perception, change, public, environmental movement, harvesting, national forest, politics; Pinchot, Gifford
Do you mind if we stop for a second?
Ok, well, we were just talking about the Forest Service and, I guess, do you feel that there's been a change over time in how the Forest Products Lab or the Forest Service has been perceived by the public?
Oh sure, sure, and I think it's changed. There was a time, I don't recall, my recollection is probably when the environmental movement really got going strongly, I think the idea of growing trees with the intent of cutting them down to make something out of them became, really fell out of the public favor. And it was kind of, from my perspective, it was kind of fanned by the extremists, but anyway the net result, of course, was that they shut down most of the harvest from most of the national forests. I guess the good news is at least trees are there waiting until somebody decides what to do next, but it's, of course, that really devastated a lot of communities in Oregon and Washington. In fact, I heard something just the other day on NPR about some of these counties in Oregon that used to get their percentage of the revenue from the sale. Now they don't know how their going to, I mean, it's really hit home now. They don't know how they're going to fix the roads, and they're going to have to close public libraries, but anyway. But that's kind of a manifestation that started probably ten, twelve, fifteen years ago. Now the whole, counties and communities are going to have to restructure in certain parts of the country because they don't have the revenue now. But, as I say, the good news is that the trees are still standing there and then if they, for whatever reason and with whatever justification, they decide they can go back. As a graduate forester, the whole notion from the very beginning was that we use this material wisely and the, you know, conservation and all these mottos that Gifford Pinchot and whatnot. So, to me, the idea that you have to stop completely struck me as sort of absurd. But anyway, I realize that's the way the political winds have blown. But, once again, I say that the trees are standing there, so when the political winds change, maybe they'll have a more moderate approach to it.
00:43:56 - 00:48:46 Personal Goals
personal goals, accomplishments, national forest system, federal Government, generation
Well, looking back at your career here, do you feel that the Lab has helped you achieve all of your personal ambitions, or accomplishments, or what you set out to do?
I, I would say so. I might mention here---I don't know if anybody else has mentioned this---but I noticed this in the last few years that I was here. For many years people came to work for the Forest Service in general, or went into public service, federal public service, with the idea that I'm going to spend my career there. You may move, and that was quite common in the Forest Service, particularly in the National Forest System, they purposely moved people around. But in the last few years I was here, say from the late '80's to the early '90's, you could see as the younger people came in, because of the kind of---I don't necessarily know why---but the idea that they came, and they didn't seem to be dissuaded of the notion, well I'll work there for six months or a year and then I'll go somewhere else. I mean, you didn't have this idea of, I'll go there and, if it looks like a pretty decent place, I'll stick with it. I mean, they came with the idea, I don't expect to stay there for ten, twenty, certainly not thirty years, until I retire. Even with the organization, I'm not talking about necessarily within a particular building. I mean, I didn't get that sense. And I think even the policy makers, even down to the Lab level seemed to kind of, from my perspective, they kind of perpetuated this notion; ok come work for a couple years, that's fine. You want to leave? All right. It was a different mindset; it was a different approach than most of the people that went to work for the Forest Service in the '60's and '70's. I think they had the idea, well I'll go to work for them, I'll work, you know, two to three years, and if things are reasonable, I'll probably make the career there, at least with the organization, if not the location. But yeah, that's the one thing I sense around here, I guess, in the last few years I was here. As the younger people came in they didn't seem to be encouraged or expected or it didn't even seem to be to be conveyed to them that the federal government's a good place to work, you've got reasonable benefits, consider sticking around. It was more the notion, or my sense was, well, you know, we need this guy here, or we need this particular vacancy. I mean, I don't know. That was kind of my overall impression of some of the younger people. And I know several of them that did exactly that. In fact, we had one nice young, female engineer that came over here right out of the University, worked about a year and a half or two years, and she says, I'm going to go be an osteopath. And I think that was because of her work experience here, almost entirely.
When you came here in the '70's, had you kind of planned on staying?
Not so much. Well, once again, my philosophy was, I'd been whatever, already six or eight places. I guess, in general, my notion was, stay with the federal government and probably with the Forest Service if that meant going to Missoula or San Francisco or, well, I didn't particularly want to go to Washington, well, I didn't want to go to any of the big cities because the federal government doesn't---it's very expensive to live in those big cities. And they don't pay you necessarily a premium to do that. So, it's not too advantageous to go to the big, expensive places like San Francisco. But, if you're going to places like Boise, Idaho or some of these places, you know. So yeah, I came with the idea that---by the time I came here, see, I had already had ten years of federal service and ten years of experience in other places. So, I had pretty well decided, yeah, this is a pretty good organization to work for. I mean, I'd stay here in Madison for the next twenty-five years, but I'd probably stay with the Forest Service.
00:48:46 - 00:50:20 Relationships
relationships, colleagues, lab, luncheon
And, since retiring, do you still maintain relationships with the Lab or employees that you worked with?
Well, I certainly---I've been retired now, what, thirteen, fourteen years, and certainly the first few years I did, when I knew most everybody. In fact, I'd come back over here for coffee a couple times a week. And then, of course, as these people retired, or most of them retired---some just moved away or transferred---but as the number got fewer and fewer, then of course you say, well. And I suspect now, there's very few people over here---well Steve---but I suspect the number of people over here, that were here when I was here, and that kind of goes back to this other notion, whether you retain people or not, there's very few people here now that were here, you know, fourteen years ago, even though they were young people then. So, I go to the retirees' luncheon or something, or that kind of thing, you know, from time to time, but that's about it. Yeah, for the last couple of years, I seldom come over here. In fact, I think the last couple times I've been here before today was for somebody's retirement party that they were having here.
00:50:20 - 00:52:23 Final Comments
final comments, stories, memories, travel, Latin America
I guess that's pretty much the end of my questions unless, do you have any other stories, memories or comments that you would like to make?
Well, do you feel you've gotten your, what you were---have you met your objectives?
I have. So, if you have anything else that you'd like to share for posterity---
I was just saying that, as I've mentioned, particularly the Latin American trips, of course, were kind of interesting. You in different cultures, and basically a different language situation, you know, and whatnot. And so, when you're in this different culture, you get into the business of foods and whatnot. So, in this particular group that I was traveling with, I think I was the only one, I think, that had any experience at all in Latin America, prior to going down there. So I, I turned out to be the sort of de facto knowledge base. In fact, we were coming from Brazil and we were supposed to go to Ecuador, and we had to change planes in Caracas. And it was an overnight flight, or we left at midnight because when you leave from the Amazon basin, all the flights leave at midnight because of the weather conditions. Well, I say, "at midnight," but you know they don't leave generally during daylight hours. You both arrive and leave because of the lift for the plane in the hot, humid air. Anyway, so we got to Caracas and we went to change planes and our flight to Quito was cancelled. Well, the gal at the counter couldn't speak any English, so she explained all of this to me in Spanish, which I understood about ninety percent of it, enough to know. So then I had to tell the guys. So, that was kind of one experience.
00:52:23 - 00:57:30 McLean, Bob
McLean, Bob; Brazil, travel, stories, memories, Venezuela; Miller, Regis B.
And then there were some other humorous experiences that dealt with when we'd go out to eat with these people. One that I told at his retirement party, and I think you or somebody's probably talked to Bob Maeglin, maybe back in the winter or something.
Anyway, one of the stories I like to tell about him---he was one of the group of whatever we were, five people or something. And we were in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and we went out to lunch one day, and anyway, this story is that he asked our host---the discussion about putting hot sauce on the food. And he asked the host, he says, what do the locals eat on here? Don't you have something that the locals, some kind of hot sauce you put on here? And the guy says, well yeah. He says, Bob says, I'd like to try that. So, the guy called the waiter over, and you know, told him in Portuguese, you know, bring some sauce. So anyway, this---I was sitting right across the table from Bob, like this. So Bob puts all this stuff on; Bob was wearing glasses. So, Bob starts eating this stuff. He starts perspiring. His glasses fog up. He can't see hardly what he's eating and he's kind of looking up. Anyway, that was just kind of one of the little memories. And so I've been kind of kidding Bob about that. In fact, at Bob's retirement party, that was one of the---they asked me to relate. Because at that time it had only been four or five years since we made these trips. And, so anyway, that was the little episode I related.
But there were, you know, those kinds of things when you, you know you get, we got to Quito, Ecuador. And that's at an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet. And so then you have to be careful, you know, when you drink beer or something, you really get your money's worth. And, of course, the whole business---the reason I say drink beer, then as now, and I guess for the last 50 years, the advice to travelers is, drink beer. Don't drink the water. Don't use the ice cubes. So, we had to be very mindful of every place you go in. I want that water with ice cubes. And, of course, even back then they had bottled water, which you had in most of the hotels, virtually all the hotels and the restaurants. So, it wasn't so much the water that you had to remember, except when you're brushing your teeth. But, stay away from the ice cubes over here. Anyway, and so there's those little kinds of stories that you remember.
We were in Mexico City and this guy took us out to dinner. So we said, we want to go to the local place. He said I'll take you to a real local place. So we went to the local place. So, I happened to know him from before. He's never been to the Lab, or he's never worked at the Lab, but I knew him from Puerto Rico. Anyway, so we go in this place, and it's kind of a dive-y looking place. So, I said, alright Bob, I said---this is a different Bob---I said what are you going to order. He said well, I think I'll order the---he had a name for it, of course it had a name in Spanish. Anyway, he orders it so I said, ok, I'll order that. So anyway, you get this piece of meat that's very thin, maybe almost this big, it's some kind of a flank steak or something. I couldn't chew it, couldn't even cut it with a knife. Anyway, that's just another one of these little recollections about, you know, culture and going with the local flow and that kind of stuff. Yeah, there's some of those little incidents, I recall.
Sounds like a great trip!
Well, actually it was. We made---and then I went back again, or several of us went back again a year or two later to Venezuela. And we were down there for about 10 days. It was kind of the same, same idea. Regis Miller was on that one though. Regis wasn't on the other one, but Regis was on the trip to Venezuela with us. And, so there's some little incidents, you know, these little things kind of stick in your mind. But Bob and his hot sauce and his glasses, that's kind of one to remember. Ok, I guess that's about it.
[End of Interview]