00:06:54 - 00:11:15 Impression
impression, first day, memories, colleagues, freedom, research, typical day, technicians, research, chemistry research division; Saeman, Jerome F.
So when did you start working with Forest Products Lab and do you have any memories or any kind of impressions of your---stories of your first days on the job?
Well I started in October of 1964 and I had come from a large oil based research organization that had tons of money and lots of space and every imaginable sort of equipment that could be used and I really came to an organization that had many things, but much of it was older; the conditions in the laboratories were more crowded, there was less space, you didn't get an office. You had a lot of freedom but you ended up working in conditions that were not bad, but certainly more primitive than the rather elegant conditions of a major industrial research organization. So the first impression was it's a great place, built in 1933 and you just have to tolerate that it's going to be a little more inconvenient than it was or what I had been used to. But they were not bad impressions just that I had to appreciate the fact that it wasn't modern elegance. It was a wonderful friendly sort of family oriented place in those days. It still is to a degree, but not nearly as much. But they just---when you came you were greeted by people, you were taken around and they had lunchtime poker---not poker---cribbage games and horseshoe in the summer and people playing catch, it just was a nice relaxed atmosphere unlike the sort of thing that I had left out of New Jersey.
So could you describe a typical day while you were employed at the Forest Products Lab? What do you do in the projects and the different positions that you held?
Well I guess that they are---sort of a typical day would be---first of all, in those days you worked on your own; there were no laboratory technicians, there were people you could go to for help: the librarians, the analytical test laboratories, the engineering test labs. But if you wanted to do a laboratory experiment as a new person you did it yourself, you did all of the preparation, gather together of whatever chemicals or equipment you might need. So you would spend a lot of time planning your experiment and then getting the equipment running and getting parts for them and ordering them. You worked at a desk that was right in the lab where you were and again the lab was, by today's standards, unacceptable to work in, the hood was homemade and didn't have the best ventilation system and chemicals would have been sitting around without any real control. But it was again so much more like an academic environment that if it was not safe, you were expected to be safety conscious on your own and deal with any problems on your own. So you spent much of your time doing work, even though you had an advanced degree, you were a good laboratory worker. Of course there would be occasional meetings---there was a group called Chemistry Research Division, C-R-D yeah, Chemical Research Division, and the main head of it, Jerry Saeman, who turned out to be very influential in my career there, had a big office just two doors away from me and once again the entire group of some twenty-plus people would go in and talk about what they're doing and what problems they're having, what progress they're having and exchange thoughts and ideas and equipment. It was again a very sort of family feel to it, each person helping each other out. A typical day was mostly non-typical as you would do so many different things in a given day.