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Darrel Nicholas


Roots

I was born in South Dakota where my father was a farmer. Times were tough, with periodic dust storms that caused endless problems. A few years later we moved to Springfield, Oregon and settled in on a farm there, where all of us participated in the normal chores associated with farming. I attended grade school and high school there and graduated from Springfield High School in 1949. Following graduation I worked at odd jobs and attended Southern Oregon College of Education (SOCE) for a couple of semesters until the Korean War broke out. Rather than being drafted in the Army, I enlisted in the US Air Force. After boot camp in Texas, I was transferred to Cheyenne, Wyoming and began working as a dental technician and achieved a rank of Staff Sergeant. After nearly four years, the war was winding down and I was fortunate to be able to obtain an early discharge and returned to Oregon and resumed my studies at SOCE.

Education

After a couple of semesters at SOCE I decided Wood Science would be a great profession and transferred to Oregon State University and enrolled in the Forest Products Department. After receiving my B.S. in Forest Products at OSU I accepted a job with J. Neils Lumber Co. in Libby, Montana where I gained my first experience in the wood preserving industry, by working mainly at the wood treating plant, where I served as plant manager. After a few years I was tired of shoveling snow so I returned to Corvallis as a MS student in the Forest Products Department. My assistantship was in the area of genetics which entailed measuring the length of about a zillion wood fibers.

After graduating from MSU with a MS degree I obtained an assistantship in the Wood Science department at N.C. State University and moved to Raleigh N.C. My research efforts at N.C. State were directed at wood structure using electron microscopy, concentrating on the chemistry and structure of pit membrane in Southern Pine. Working with Dick Thomas we were able to dry wood without pit aspiration, providing beautiful pit membrane structures that you see in wood anatomy publications. The chemistry of the pit membrane was also of interest and through enzymatic analysis we were also able to determine that the pit membranes contained high levels of pectin.

Career

After completing my studies at N.C. State in 1966, I accepted a position as Technical Director for Honolulu Wood Treating Co (HWT). in Honolulu, Hi. Clint Hallsted was President of the Company and we developed a strong relationship over the years. During my years at HWT I was able to conduct extensive research, which was directed mainly at attempting to improve the penetration of CCA in Douglas-fir. However, success in this area was very limited. Other efforts were directed at developing an oilborne preservative system to replace water repellent penta used in millwork. This work was successful and lead to the development of Tribucide which solved many of the problems associated with the original penta formulation. During this period by working evenings I was able to organize a couple of wood preservation books to replace the old Hunt and Garrett wood preservation book. In order to accomplish this goal I reached out to several experts in the field to contribute specific chapters. The books were published by the Syracuse University Press in 1973 as part of a series of wood science books organized by Wil Cote. During this time frame I became a member of IRG and was very active in the American Wood Preserver’s Association (AWPA) and served in various positions.

In 1976 HWT was sold to Koppers Co. which had a profound impact on the company, so I decided it was time to move on to greener pastures. Accordingly, based on encouragement of Anders Lund I accepted a position as a Senior Research Scientist at the Institute of Wood Science (IWR), Michigan Tech. University in Houghton, MI. Needless to say, the climate change was drastic and I did not even own a coat at that time. However, it did not take long to acquire a few.

At IWR we were able to obtain substantial funding to develop a new wood preservative to replace CCA and most of my research effort was directed in this area. After we received a large contract to develop alternate wood preservatives, we decided we needed additional personnel so we reached out to Sandy McQuire at FRI in New Zealand to see if he could help. Sandy highly recommended Alan Preston, who was one of his staff members. We made an offer to Alan which he accepted and he soon joined or research group at IWR. Alan proved to be a great addition to our staff and we enjoyed several years of collaborative effort and have remained good friends over the years.

Eventually fun in the snow became old stuff and when Warren Thompson offered me a position at the Mississippi Forest Products Lab (MFPL) in Starkville, MS I didn’t hesitate to accept. So I loaded up my sail boat and headed South where I have been every since. During my tenure at the MFPL I have mainly been involved in wood preservation research, but also served as Department Head and Associate Director for a number of years. My main research goals in the wood preservation area are development of accelerate test methodology for evaluating wood preservatives and the search for new environmentally friendly preservative systems.

During this time frame I have remained active in AWPA where I served as president and participated in many technical committees.

I also remained active in IRG and my wife Carol and I attended numerous meetings around the world and enjoyed the many friendships we established. One of the most memorable meetings was the Honey Harbor meeting in Canada. A group of us rented a pontoon boat and were out cruising in the harbor—and naturally drinking beer—when we were accosted by the police who informed us it was against the law to consume alcoholic beverages while cruising on the harbor. One of our party members tried to hide his beer by putting it in his coat pocket, but it did not stay upright. One of the officers spotted this and said “Sir your coat is leaking”. After relinquishing all of our beer they let us go with a stern warning not to do it again. End of cruise.

Extracurricular

While in Oregon my main recreational activities were fishing, white water rafting on the pristine rivers and hiking in the Cascade Range. I also played golf on occasion.

In Hawaii my main recreational activities were golf, sailing on a small catamaran and viewing the pretty bakini’s on Waikiki beach.

In Michigan I made a stab at skiing as well as snowboarding and enjoyed power and sail boating on Lake Superior.

After moving South to Mississippi my main recreational activities were softball, golf, sailing and fishing on the Gulf.

End of the Story

Alas, all good things come to an end and it is now time to wind things down and sit back in the rocking chair and recollect all of the good times that have been bestowed on me. So now it's a new chapter in life that has yet to unfold.