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History of the Forest Products Laboratory

Interview #992: Lulling, Robert M. (June, 2009)

View all of First Interview Session (October 15, 2008), disc 1

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01:21:26 - 01:26:18 Employees---Social Conditions

employees---social conditions, social aspects, minstrel shows; Logan, Gordon D., anecdotes, big bands, parades, politicians, University of Wisconsin, buildings

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01:21:26

RL

Another thing we did, only once, but it was such a feature that they wanted us to repeat it but we never did and that was we put on a minstrel show.

AP

Oh really?

RL

All the men and this was for the Forest Service research group that was visiting the Lab.

AP

So what time period are we talking about?

RL

Oh god. Late '60s. Gordie Logan was our personnel director at that time and we had a fellow by the name of Frank, he was the head of the paint division. He and Logan got together and they put on an Amos and Andy deal you know. Oh it was good. But we had a tap dancer and [a complete blackface line-up]. I had my own dance band from 1950 to 1960---we played around Madison area. One of the things that occurred with that, I was a drummer and I was a good drummer and I was professional and I had taken lessons under Ronald Laylen who was a top drummer at that time, actually played big time with the big bands. And I could read drum music and consequently I was called quite a bit from other bands that needed somebody that could read music. Because I could get off during the day, take annual leave, when the politicians came in town we'd have parades around the square and I'd get called to play field drum in the parade. I had to go up to Gordie Logan and get permission to do that because I couldn't represent the Lab for a political party. It seemed funny you know, but they were very different in those days.

AP

Did you play for any famous politicians?

RL

For what?

AP

Did you play at the square things for famous politicians?

RL

There were all famous politicians. Yeah, I played for---oh god who were they all? I can't even remember now. We used to go out to the University there---what was that building by Babcock Hall? I can't think of it right now. It was a horse barn at one time.

AP

Oh the Dairy Barn?

RL

No, no.

AP

Or Stock Pavilion?

RL

Stock Pavilion, yeah. We played in there for---that's usually where the politicians would have their big talk and I'd get called to play in there. It would be more like a dance band though.

AP

So a little bit more about this minstrel show. Where was that and--?

RL

On the fifth floor.

AP

Okay.

RL

We had a piano, I played the drums, we had guitar. Oh a violin. We were a nice little band. John Black worked in the adhesives on a different floor mostly with adhesives though. He was Paul Bunyan with a big beard and whatnot and he sang "Sixteen Tons" you know. And he gave a talk while we set it up, we had a little wastebasket beside my drum with a plate of glass on it and he'd maybe chewing gum or something, or tobacco I guess it was, and he spit out towards the windows and then I'd drop the rock on the plate of glass and it looked like---everybody got a kick out of that. We had an older guy that was on the ground crew that was quite a dancer and he was in his '60s then and he could really tap. We had to line up the fellows and the two end guys you know, they sang songs and they told jokes. God I can't remember---I got photographs of it at home.

AP

Oh really?

RL

Yeah. All blackface you know and the handkerchiefs in the overalls and that sort of things. They did a wonderful job and that's why we got lots of offers to do it again but we didn't. Of course there was no women, it was all men.

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