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History of the Forest Products Laboratory

Interview #932: Miller, Regis B. (June, 2009)

View all of First Interview Session (June 12, 2008)

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00:27:56 - 00:39:33 Employees---Social Conditions

employees---social conditions, social aspects, Men's Club, Forestettes, Women's League; Mitchell, Harold; parties, FPLEA, Forest Products Laboratory, clubs

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00:27:56

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LB

Did that change anything about the social aspect of the Lab?

RM

I think, I think, well, the social aspect at the Lab, for instance, when I got here, there was a, I thought, a big, huge social factor of people at the Lab. And they inner---they worked together, but they also socialized a lot. And I don't know if that was typical of other places, of government or other places of industry or not. But I think it was true back then, even though as a summer student I wasn't here all the time. I just knew that that's what was going on, and in fact was part of it for, at least in the summertime.

00:28:47

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LB

And what sort of social groups were there?

RM

Well, they had something called the Men's Club; they had a women's club---what did they call it? They had the Men's Club, and they had something called the women's club---it was really called Forestettes. And then they had another one for the wives of the scientists; I'm not sure if all the wives were invited or not, and I forgot what that was called, that was League or something, Women's League or some such thing. And that was still around in the late '60s, because I got married by then and I think my wife was invited to go, but she didn't really care to go. I mean but it, a lot of was some of the older women, and they would get together and have lunches and teas. But, I mean, the Men's Club would have two or three parties a year. Men's Club would put on card parties, cribbage tournaments---and that's the one's I remember. And then I hear stories about some of the people who did Men's Club parties and they had, I don't know, they had all sorts of stuff going on, year round. And now we're lucky---I mean today, if they get one party in I think that's about it. We used to have Christmas parties, I mean, well the guy who is, Mitchell, Harold Mitchell, was the division chief at the time when I was a summer student. Or even, yes, when I was a summer student, and also when I was a grad student and I remember going to, when I was finally here for Christmas, and went to one of his Christmas parties, or maybe two or three, wow. I mean, he invited the whole, the whole, all his people in the division. I mean, so he had, I don't know, thirty, forty people and spouses and stuff at his house for a Christmas party. And boy they yukked it up good. I mean, I remember I had a great time. And then we had Christmas dances, which was the Lab dance; it was kind of a Christmas party. And, I mean a lot of people went, and they dressed up, none of this shorts and like I'm in. But I mean, none of this, you know, just. It was a big deal. And that certainly waned in the '70s and certainly in the '80s, for sure by the '80s. Anyway.

00:31:34

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LB

Do you have any idea why that might have been? Was it changes in the workday?

RM

I'm not sure when the workday really started changing, but I do know it did. I think the workday partly changed. I think society partly changed it as well. It, people had other things to do. There was more social events that people could attend themselves, or, you know, outside of work. Or, they didn't depend on the Lab and the people at the Lab as their main social function, or even part of their social function. And it just got less and less and less, I mean, to the point today, I mean, there's almost nothing. And it's amazing, you know, I kind of miss some of it, but I understand why it happens, at least I think I do. And I think that there's just so much going on that people don't have time to take advantage of some of the things that the Lab might offer. And they've tried. I mean, I know that the people in charge of the Men's Club, which is now disappeared, Forestettes, same way. Now, the Forestettes have done better. But the Forestettes now is not just women, it's both men and women, and it's kind of a strange sort of evolution of what happened. The Forest, Men's Club really became, or got merged with something called FPLEA [Narrator pronounces: Flea-pee] which is Federal---FPLEA, F-L-E-A, well boy, Federal what? Federal Employees Association or something, I don't know. Employee Association, Federal, or Forest, Forest Lab, Forest Products Lab Employee Association, something like that, FPLEA, what is the acronym? Anyway, never mind, I think that's what it was, F-P-L-E-A, FPLEA. And that was a big organization as well, and the Men's Club, and the Forestettes, and then this women's thing. I think they were all existing. Forestettes sort of hung in there, the League disappeared first, I think, and then Men's Club and the FPLEA merged into FPLEA. They just, Men's Club just disappeared essentially. But they, I remember, they used to have a banquet every year, and a couple of pig roasts every year I worked on and stuff. Yeah, anyway, but I don't think any of that's happening.

00:34:17

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LB

So, none of the clubs seem to have really survived, except for maybe FPLEA?

RM

FPLEA and Forestettes have survived; FPLEA isn't much of a club at all. It's kind of an association that does some things. Forestettes has survived. I do know that they put on a couple of things a year, but it's mostly for the women. Now, there are men that go to it, but it's sort of like, me for instance, I wouldn't, I mean, I wouldn't go---only because it's, to me it's still a women's organization. And I just don't, you know, want to, think I should be involved in that. You know, bake sale---well, I'm not going to do a bake sale, because I don't bake. And, you know, some of their other---now, their banquet might be ok, but, but my wife goes. She used to work here. And she's retired, and she used to work here, so she goes to Forestettes, and she doesn't want me to go, frankly. And she doesn't want any of the other men to go, really, because she always thinks of it as a women's thing. And she said, you know, you get the guys there, well, it gets different. Never mind, that's the way it was, and, I mean, that's the way, that's what happened though. And I think that's what happened to Men's Club; that's why, part of the reason why it kind of disappeared, because of the problems with the women wanting to join the Men's Club. And it wasn't, I forgot what it really, the name was always called the Men's Club, I mean, but officially the name wasn't really the Men's Club. It was something like Forest Products Club, but everybody called it the Men's Club. In fact, I didn't even know that; I was here for I don't know how many years before I found out that it wasn't even the Men's Club; it was really something else, Forest Products Club or something. But the Forestettes was, you know, Forestettes, it was women's club and they had Men's Club and I don't know. I mean but that, that, really when the women decided that they should be involved in this, and they wanted to be involved in it, it just, you know, we just, I think it just kind of crumbled then. But you did need to have people who were willing to, you know, take over and be president, organize stuff and blah, blah, blah. But, yeah, anyway, that's some of the things that have changed over the years.

00:36:41

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LB

Were there any other sort of social organizations, athletic teams or anything?

RM

Oh yeah. There was a softball team for sure, for a long, long time. I don't think they have that anymore---and the bowling team, the FPL Bowling League or team or whatever, is still, I think, in existence. And it may be one of the longest in Madison without any breaks, I mean consecutive years, because it goes back, I think, to practically the day the Lab opened. And they formed a bowling team, and they've been in existence ever since. And I still think they are, some people are still bowling on that team. And they also have Golf League, which for sure is still going. Golf League is much more active than the bowling team, I think, now. I bowled for a while on the bowling team back in the day. And then I golfed a little bit, so then they used to have---I don't know who organized that, I think it was just somebody; I don't think it was a club, I don't think it was the Men's Club or Forestettes---but they used to organize golf outings. And they would have, I swear they had about one a month. I think they had like four of them throughout the year---and maybe started in May or June and would have four or five of them and then maybe in September they would have an outing and, you know, banquet, whatever. And those golf outings, I went to those golf outings a lot, back---that was a long time ago, my goodness---those were probably in the '80s, late '70s maybe even, late '70s, early '80s something like that. They lasted quite a while, but then I gave up golf and bowling sort of at the same time, because I was getting to the point where my, I told people my, my golf score was higher than my bowling score, and I decided to quit both. So, I said that's enough, well now, just this year, I started up in the golf league. And, you know, most of the people in the Golf League, I still think half anyway, are retired. You know, and the other ones are employees here at the Lab. And there's, I think there's one or two people from the outside, although boy, not many, there's only about one or two, and they may only be subs; I'm not sure. Anyway, a lot of retirees in the golf league, and I think also a lot of retirees in the bowling league as well. But I can't see taking up bowling again. But, never mind.

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