00:08:42 - 00:18:39 First Impression
first impression, wood drying, typical day, punch-block; McMillan, John; military, budget, travel, Andrews Air Force Base; Garret, George; Yale University
Now, what were your first impressions when you started work with the Forest Products Labs?
My first impressions. Well, lets see, I was assigned to - my research work that I'd been doing in Michigan had been in the area of wood drying, and I suppose for that reason in particular they assigned me to the wood drying section at the Lab. And there was, at that time, a lot work being done on providing a strong basis for drying woods, particularly the more difficult to dry hardwoods---economically and safely without splits and cracks and so forth. And I had been working in that area in Michigan, as a graduate student. My impression was that here was a rather immense organization with tremendous history, and I wondered how I could ever really become part of such a very large institution, that had already become rather well established in the field of forest products research.
Now, can you describe a typical day working at the Forest Products Labs? What were something you did on a regular basis? What was the-?
I'm sorry; I couldn't understand what you were saying.
Sure. Could you describe a typical day at the Forest Products Labs?
A typical day?
Something that's hard to believe now, at that time there was a whistle, and the eight o'clock whistle at the Lab called people to work all over the west side of Madison. And, as I recall, we even had a punch-block, this was back in 1951. And I would check in, and I was working with a gentleman by the name of John McMillan on some drying research on Northern Red Oak. And my job was to prepare sample boards to go in the kiln to determine how it was drying, and to go into the kiln and set them and occasionally during the drying process to take them out and measure them, weigh them, determine the rate of drying, and so forth. And I would do that, and so I did quite a bit of work with the lumber dry-kilns. And, when I was not doing that, I began to get letters, to answer letters, written not to me, but to the Laboratory, about wood drying and various kinds of woods. One of the questions that I think of now, that I often received then, particularly now being down in Virginia, in what has been a strong tobacco country, was, "how can I convert a tobacco dryer to a wood dryer?" And I used to answer a lot of letters about that. And also, I answered letters about various woods and how they could be used, or not used, effectively---particularly foreign woods. And I built up quite a reference listing on that topic. And so my days were filled with that kind of thing.
And then another factor of the Lab's support at that time changed the course of my work. During and for some time after the war, the Lab was very much supported by the military. I recall the military provided about half the budget for the place, and after I had been there about a year, I was transferred to the packaging group, and assigned to a team working in the packaging to write an air cargo packaging manual. Well, knowing nothing about air cargo and nothing about packaging, but a little bit about wood, I learned quite a lot on this team---we had about four people. And we did most of our work from reference there at the Lab, a little bit of traveling---I remember traveling to Andrews Air Force Base in Washington to get more background on this. And so this was a completely new field, and the thing about the Lab was it was involved in so many things that one could wind up doing almost anything. And this matter of military support was still a very strong factor, because, as is usual in such an institution, keeping it funded is always a problem. I found out more about that later. And so, during '52 and the first part of '53 I worked in packaging.
And then I decided that if I were really going to get somewhere in research I should really get a Ph.D. And, at that time, George Garret, who was Dean of the College of Forestry in Yale was very familiar with the Lab. He'd been working at the Lab as one of the group of university folks during the war, and he talked to me about coming to Yale. And one of the other wood scientists I had gotten acquainted with at the Lab, Herb Fleisher, had been at Yale, and between them they talked me into accepting Yale's offer of a teaching assistantship and fellowship to go to Yale for a year, and I began that in the fall of '53. So that was another dramatic change, and I spent the academic year, '53-'54, in New Haven at Yale. And the folks at the Lab told me that I could work on my dissertation research when I got back, and I began plans for this at Yale. And actually, and I did pick it up, working in stresses that developed in wood drying and the related physics and mechanics as I got back, at the same time carrying out quite a bit of work related to military support for work on orthotropic materials which the Lab had a unique knowledge of. Orthotropic materials are materials that have perpendicular mechanical properties, in fact in three directions. And so, this could extend to glass fiber glaminates, and many other kinds of things. And so I came back from Yale, spent the next three years working on my dissertation research, mostly at night, and carrying out military supportive research in wood mechanics, and composite mechanics, plastics mechanics, during the daytime.